Covid-19: Revealing What We’ve Become and Why We Need to Change.

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Everyone agrees that life in 2020 is a big blur. Last week was long. Monday dragged into Tuesday and the rest of the days slid into each other like thick gooey gravy. There was much of the same when it came to news about the Covid-19 pandemic except that certain cities and regions were heading into lockdown again with the number of infected cases increasing rapidly. Nationwide, red zones were popping up like mushrooms and provincial leaders were caught in the middle of the tug of war between small business owners, certain to lose everything with another lockdown and the medical professionals calling for immediate action in order to save lives and to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

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The 2019 coronavirus

This is pandemic news. This is pandemic life. The world is being attacked by an enemy it cannot see, only feel. It is the one thing we all have in common right now, no matter what square footage of the planet we occupy, and it is showing us who we are.

This pandemic has shown the good, the bad and the ugly sides of human beings. There is a lot of good. People who are putting their safety and health on the line to care for the sick and most fragile hold a special place in my heart. I am proud of others not on the front line, who find ways to support local small business who supply the goods we all need while we hunker down at home. I respect those who have made the decision to go out only when necessary and the people who wear masks without fail or complaint. I admire those who respect the arrows on the floor of the grocery aisles that allow for less crowding and contact while shopping, and the people who sanitize their hands and shopping carts prior and after use. They are all a part of a greater good. These people are the ones who do the small unselfish things to keep the most vulnerable of the species safe. It’s the least anyone can do yet somehow, many people can’t and, in some cases, won’t.

I understand that Covid-fatigue is a thing.

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Covid-Fatigue is wearing us down.

It is essentially cabin fever and yes, we are all a little tired of staying home. As a mother of sons who were hoping to launch their adult lives this year, I know how frustrating it can be to have your young life on hold. It is also hard for the elderly, many of whom have been cut off from friends and family and much enjoyed activities because of Covid-19. It is more tragic to hear that those who have died of Covid-19, have died alone. The novelty of staying home has worn off. No one is looking for their fifteen minutes of pandemic-on line fame anymore. The live-streaming of varying abilities of musical talent and the endless walking in support of this or that during the pandemic, is over. The endless posts of sourdough bread creations are no longer interesting. It’s over. It’s over because we all want this pandemic to be over. But breaking up with Covid-19 isn’t easy. It wears you down. And when you’re weary from the state of your life, you might stop caring and choose to live dangerously. In our small city, our numbers are extremely low and convincing people that remaining at home will keep them that way is getting harder for our municipal government. Young people are having bonfires and parties in remote areas

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remotePeople are ignoring the advice of health officials

and older people are tired of being told what to do to stay safe. In the summer many of them (sans masks and distancing) could be seen gathering at outdoor events they were accustomed to attending before the pandemic. But is getting tired of our situation a good reason to be reckless? I am starting to question if there are indeed more good people on this planet who abide by the rules. Are there instead more selfish people in the world? Is it ignorance or arrogance that is driving this selfish, uncaring attitude about going against the pandemic protocol?

I look at the news and see the rising numbers and I am beginning to think that there is less good in the world than bad and I find myself examining people’s behavior and I’m disappointed by what I have come to realize. I also wonder if Covid-19 was not a respiratory virus but one that presented with vomiting and diarrhoea or worse, if it was similar to Ebola, would people stay home, stay distant and wear masks without issue? I feel that too many people perceive Covid-19 as a bad cold or just a threat to the elderly and no matter how many stories you hear about the virus also killing younger people, there are still so many who have decided to shun pandemic protocol. And while those who choose to “take their chances” and venture out to weddings and parties and social gatherings, doctors and nurses are reduced to tears every time they pronounce a covid patient’s death.

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When day after day, there is nothing you can do to save them.

I believe we have evolved rapidly as a species. Too rapidly. With convenience comes laziness and selfishness. Many of us rarely sacrifice anything to get what we want. We point, click and it appears at our doorstep. We have all seen progress change our behavior and no one can deny we live in a world society where bigger, faster, stronger, easier, and better have created the desire for more in all of us. It is reflected in what we buy, what we needlessly accumulate and what we waste. There is an attitude of “someone else will do it”, “it’s not my problem” and live in a bubble where tragic things happen to “other people”. Everyone is out to make a fast buck, and it does not matter who or what we inadvertently step on to get what we want. Humans seek the most attention from each other all day, every day. With the existence of social media platforms and new ones popping up everyday, our species has managed to turn something that is great for connecting us with each other into a way of hurting each other and ourselves. So, instead of occasionally connecting with each other, we are on every day, sometimes chatting, sometimes judging what someone has posted, sometimes downright spewing hate and cyberbullying each other. We are on our phones so much, there is a muscular-skeletal condition called Postural Kyphosis, which is basically a hunch due to our neck and upper back posture when we are on our phones.

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Looking down at your phone much?

Just think what humans are going to evolve into to adapt to our lifestyle. I wonder if C-section numbers might increase as women’s bodies are unble to adapt to allow for the safe entry of our future little hunched-back babies.

It’s not only our abuse of social media that is to blame. Social media is just one example that illustrates the degeneration of our species’ character. Long before cyber connectivity, we were crushing each other and the planet to get what we want. We’ve taken land from indigenous peoples and suppressed them for generations. We’ve turned a blind eye to the poisoned water and deplorable living conditions we would not accept, but they have had to endure for years.

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The Neskantaga First Nation has lived under a boil water advisory for 25 years. They have been evacuated from their homes in the thick of the pandemic with no clear knowledge of when they will be able to return.

We’ve torn down forests, polluted the ocean, and expanded our habitat by infiltrating and displacing animals from theirs. We plough over wildlife daily

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We’re still doing this …

with our cars and have over fished and hunted animals to the point of near extinction. Child labour, cheap labour, longer hours of labour, deplorable labour conditions — we step on those less fortunate by paying them very little so we can get a lot. Our factories have puffed noxious gas into the air we

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…and this. Wonder why our health is declining?

breathe and because money speaks the language of politics and economic success for a select, powerful few, we still drive cars that rely on gasoline. What we have lost along the way is respect and honour for ourselves and others. And we are all guilty. Think of a time when you failed to return a grocery cart to the collection rack. Regardless of the signs pleading for customer compliance, did you leave it on the curb, or in the parking space beside yours? Were you careless because it was it too cold, too hot, or too far for you to walk the cart back to the designated area? Was it because despite the weather, it’s the cart person’s job to gather the carts wherever people have left them? This is an example of our laziness and entitlement. I was raised to respect and follow rules and to return what I’ve borrowed in a timely manner. I was taught that in order for a business to keep their costs and the cost to their customers down, they relied on us to do simple things like, return the cart to it’s station in the parking lot. Now, we pay anywhere from a quarter to a dollar to use carts as incentive for us to return them so we can get our coin refunded, yet, if you walk along the river, you can see at least three stolen and abandoned grocery carts rusting in the water. When I’ve slipped up or dabbled with the idea of being lazy or selfish, I always came back to how my parents raised me, especially if I was in the presence of my young children. When you have children you have to present the best of yourself and teach by example. If everyone checks themselves and stop doing little selfish things every day so much will change for the better in the world.

The Covid -19 pandemic shows how little human beings care for each other and the planet. The pandemic is telling us we have taken too much for granted. When there is a sale, or in keeping with the times, the threat of a lockdown, we hoard. We always want the most for ourselves which is not necessarily the best for ourselves. When we are uncomfortable, we complain that rules about mask wearing, physically distancing, and queuing for goods infringe upon our rights and freedom. What right? The right to be ignorant

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and selfish and get others sick? What freedom? The freedom to spread this virus just so we can be with our friends? I feel we crumble easily in times of struggle. We flounder without our conveniences. I look at our forefathers who lived through war, financial depression, and widespread pandemic but they put their heads down and did what they had to do to get through the tough times. There was a sense of duty and responsibility that they had that I have trouble seeing when I look around today. I think they had a greater sense of honour and respect than we do and much of what we have today is due to the sacrifices they made for us way before many of us were born. They made do with what they had and were very careful to not be wasteful. They were more polite, mannerly and generous than we are and while they did have their flaws, if we could adopt some of their qualities, we might learn how step out of our singular little worlds for a moment to look around and see what we can do to make another’s life better. We have a chance at making our planet a better place for everyone and everything on it. A few years ago, I decided to change the way I do things in my life. I challenged myself to pick one thing and do it differently and do it better. Whether it was choosing more sustainable products, donating more regularly to the food bank, donating gently used clothing instead of selling them — there was always something I could do better to make myself less of a problem and a part of the solution. I challenge you to do the same. It’s not difficult and it wells up feelings inside of you that you didn’t know you could experience. Tomorrow is Monday. Monday is a day when we put plans into action. So…Watch the news tonight and decide to use your power to make a difference, starting tomorrow. Decide to change so collectively we can help each other cope. Decide to be kind and lift others not push them down. Decide to speak out against corruption and the catering of politicians to the select, wealthy few. Decide to fix what is wrong on the planet so that it can sustain life. Decide to do more than wave a hand, shrug, or utter a prayer. We must DO. And it is so easy to DO. Easier than NOT doing. DOING is fun and heart warming and it makes you feel good about yourself in a way social media cannot. Respect others and think beyond yourself and raise your children to do the same. Keep the golden rule in mind every day because we are not alone. We share our homes, our communities, our countries, our planet. We share it. Act like we share it. Decide to not always be first. Accept to not always be right. Understand that no person is more important than another. We all share hard times. This pandemic is a hard time for everyone. Follow the protocol so we don’t make it harder for others who are more vulnerable to this disease than we are. Learn to cope and help other’s cope. Your phone can be used for more than just shopping or taking a selfie or posting a video that starts off with you saying, as usual, “So guys… um… I just wanted to share this crazy, amazing thing I found about with you ….” Use your phone to check in with a friend or loved one. Have a text chat or a verbal conversation. Don’t just talk, LISTEN. Let’s be MORE than what we have become. We can be MORE. We ARE more. Let’s all be better HUMANS, because every one of us absolutely can be.

What are Bacon Bunnies You Ask?

My husband’s favourite childhood breakfasty snack

I was reading a post by Kate Bittman called Here’s the Dish to Cook When You *Really * Don’t Want to Cook, which was a wonderfully warm piece about a simple treat her dad used to make her called the Egg in the Hole. It was toast with a just-runny-enough egg embedded into it and it looked tasty and comforting. I liked the post and I commented to her that it was nice to see someone have such a fond childhood memory of a simple treat that satisfied not just the belly but the soul. I told her it reminded me about how my husband, boys and I feel about his mother’s comfort treat, Bacon Bunnies. So, Kate messaged me back and asked, “What are Bacon Bunnies?” and so, I figured I’d post this to answer her question.

Bacon Bunnies are the bacon, cheese, toast version to her Egg in the Hole. It was a simple breakfast snack my mother-in-law would make her kids. My husband made them for me when we were dating and as soon as our boys could eat solid food, he made it for them and it has maintained its status as a James family favourite breakfast/brunch snack. First of all Bacon Bunnies don’t look like bunnies at all. If you ask why they are called Bacon Bunnies you will get the answer, “Cause that’s what they’re called. They’re Bacon Bunnies. They are cute,”. Fair enough. You don’t have to have a reason for everything. Some things just …are.

They definitely do not look like bunnies

Bacon Bunnies are the simplest of the simple when it comes to ingredients and preparation. You need a few slices of bread, each cut into 3 strips, a strip of your favourite cheese on each strip and a strip of cooked bacon. The bacon should be cooked just enough that they would crisp up in the oven but not burn. It takes about 10 minutes in the oven…maybe? and that’s it.

This might hold the active teenager for a few minutes.

The baking sheets are brought out of the oven and the smell of bacon wafts through the house prompting the thunderous hooves of man-children who make their way to the kitchen to devour them in what seems like seconds. We went from making maybe making two baking sheets of bunnies to making four sheets (depending on how many man-children are at home) which is pretty much a loaf of bread, otherwise there would be none left for my husband and me.

Bacon Bunnies are certainly not a healthy snack but it is a happy snack. There is some nutritional value to them if you really analyze the ingredients, but it’s no quinoa salad nor is it supposed to be. So, here’s to all the Bacon Bunnies and Egg’s in the Hole or whatever makes you smile when you reflect happily on your childhood! They may not be the most nourishing combinations but they certainly nourish the soul! They are simply little traditions that taste great that make you happy. And as I see it, the world could do with a lot more happy.

#23

TOM……

THANK YOU….

FOR BEING MY TRUE FRIEND…..

Me & Tom -2018
Photo by Stephen Attong

MARRIAGE CANNOT EXIST WITHOUT FRIENDSHIP……

Photo by Stephen Attong

Photo by Stephen Attong

FRIENDSHIP GROWS DEEP ROOTS AND LOVE BLOOMS AS DOES TRUST, FAITH AND JOY. AND WITH YOU THERE IS SO MUCH JOY…..

SO MUCH LAUGHTER…..

SO MUCH NONSENSE, WEIRDNESS AND LUNACY ALL THE TIME….

….. ALL THE TIME…

ANTIGONISH 2018

THANKS FOR KEEPING INSIDE JOKES ALIVE ….

THE GIANT YELLOW BAG

FOR ALWAYS PRETENDING TO BE A SHARK OR SOME RANDOM SEA CREATURE WHEN WE ARE IN A POOL…

AND FOR TRYING TO STEAL YOUR SONS’ THUNDER (medals…team gear…you really need to get on your own team)

IN SPITE OF THE INSANITY, WHAT AN HONOUR IT IS TO SPEND MY DAYS AND NIGHTS WITH YOU….

FROM DAWN ….

LABADEE, HAITI

TO DUSK….

CHRISTMAS 2019

ANYTIME…..ANYWHERE….ANYHOW…..

THANK YOU FOR CREATING THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING WITH ME…..

CALGARY, ALBERTA – 2006

WE MADE THIS ONE……

JOHN-ADAM, MONTREAL , QUEBEC
JAN. 2000

AND THIS OTHER ONE…..

LOGAN, 3 MONTHS – EDMONTON, AB 2002

AND THEY ARE PERFECTLY OURS…..(even though they were really, really, big)

Photo by Stephen Attong

WE MADE NICE ONES, DIDN’T WE?… THEY ARE WELL MANNERED, GOOD, KIND AND GENEROUS YOUNG MEN…. WHO PUSH THE ENVELOPE AND DO NOT SLIP AWAY QUIETLY WHEN THEY SEE THAT THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT. THEY STAND UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE .

JOHN-ADAM AGE 5 – BANFF, AB
JOHN-ADAM CROSSING THE COUNTRY – SPRING 2007
HUFF ESTATES – CIRCA 2010
JOHN-ADAM’S 5TH BIRTHDAY
JOHN-ADAM AT HERITAGE PARK – CALGARY, AB 2003

THANK YOU FOR COOKING WITH ME….

FEEDING THE HUNGRY BEASTS 2018
CORDINATED MOVES LIKE A DANCE
Photos by Stephen Attong

AND FOR BAKING BECAUSE I WONT….(I’m not a baker)

HE BAKES EVERY WEEK WITHOUT COMPLAINT
(he really likes it)

THANK YOU FOR THE TECH AND THE MUSIC….OH, THE MUSIC…FLIPPIN FANTASTIC!

THEY ARE HOME COMFORTS THAT MEAN SO MUCH TO BOTH OF US.

THANK YOU FOR GOING ON THIS PARTICULAR JOURNEY….

OUR SWEET JOHN-ADAM

FOR TRUSTING MY JUDGEMENT ALONG THE WAY – TRUSTING ME TO TAKE CARE OF THE MAJORITY OF IT, WHILE YOU WORKED. THANK YOU FOR MAKING IT SO EASY TO TRUST AND BELIEVE IN YOU WHEN YOU SAID IT WAS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.

THANK YOU FOR STAYING ON THE JOURNEY ….

AND ….

SEEING IT THROUGH!

IT DID TURN OUT ALRIGHT…

(to quote Fall Out Boy…yes, I said Fall Out Boy)…. YOU DRAIN ALL THE FEAR FROM ME….

Photo by Stephen Attong

I LOVE THAT YOU STILL REACH FOR MY HAND.

THANK YOU FOR TEACHING ME TO LIGHTEN UP AND UNLEASH MY INNER CRAY-CRAY…..

APPARENTLY MY CRAY CRAY IS TRYING TO DO A SHARK BITE…ALWAYS …

THANK YOU FOR WORKING SO HARD AND BEING SUCCESSFUL.

THANK YOU FOR FOR BEING THEIR FATHER ….

FOR TEACHING THEM, GUIDING THEM, COACHING THEM, BEING THERE FOR THEM AND LOVING THEM. THANK YOU FOR BEING THE EXAMPLE OF THE MAN THEY ARE EACH SUPPOSED TO BECOME

THE COUNTY MARATHON 2015 WITH JOHN-ADAM
GOING TO SEE THE WORLD JUNIORS WITH LOGAN

THANK YOU FOR CONCERTS ….

WAITING FOR ONE REPUBLIC
JOHN-ADAM’S FIRST CONCERT AS A TEENAGER 2015 – THE SCRIPT @ MASSEY HALL

AND FOR MAKING A FLYERS CAKE FOR PENGUINS FAN ON HIS BIRTHDAY

THANK YOU FOR MY FRONT GARDEN ….

AND MY BACK GARDEN TOO.

THANK YOU FOR BEING ANNOYING, ODD AND STRANGE…

THANK YOU FOR HAVING SO MANY INTERESTS. YOU HAD A GOOD RUN AT BEING HAMMOCK MAN …

UNTIL YOU DECIDED TO BE GRIDDLE MAN, CONQUERING OUTDOOR COOKING.

THANK YOU FOR PERSISTING WHEN YOU ARE MOST TIRED, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO STEAL A MOMENT TO RELAX (and have a lil’ lie down)

FIRST TIME FATHER

THANK YOU FOR MAKING MILESTONE BIRTHDAYS SPECIAL AND FOR THE ANNIVERSARY GETAWAYS, GREAT AND SMALL….THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A ROAD TRIP WITH YOU!

THANKS FOR THE VACATIONS AND ADVENTURES – YOU WORK SO HARD TO MAKE SURE YOU GIVE US ALL THESE WONDERFUL THINGS, YET THE TRUTH IS, YOU ONLY HAVE TO WAKE UP EACH MORNING AND SAY HELLO… BECAUSE YOU ARE ENOUGH FOR US AND WE LOVE AND APPRECIATE YOU.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME FEEL BEAUTIFUL AND CONFIDENT AND MAKING ME FEEL LIKE A WOMAN…A BETTER WOMAN.

YOU MAKE LIFE MORE INTERESTING AND SPECIAL…

THANK YOU FOR ASKING ME TO BE YOUR WIFE…

AND FOR THE HOMEBREWED COFFEE EVERY MORNING….

AND FOR SAYING I DO ALL OVER AGAIN.

10TH ANNIVERSARY – VOWS RENEWED – MAUI 2007

FOR THE PATIENCE AND THE LOVE…. YES…I KNOW…

THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME AND US….

YOU ARE THE LOVE OF MY LIFE… I LOVE WATCHING YOU WHEN YOU WALK INTO A ROOM. I LOVE HEARING YOUR VOICE. I APPRECIATE YOU AND YOUR ARE (according to Phoebe) MY LOBSTER.

AND I BELIEVE IT IS IMPORTANT TO SAY THESE THINGS NOW AND EVERY DAY SO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I CARE AND HOW I FEEL ABOUT YOU.

MOST OF ALL, YOU ARE MY “BEST-GOOD-FRIEND”, (Bubba)

AND TO CONTINUE IN THE IMMORTAL WORDS OF FALL OUT BOY…(yes, them again)

YOU ARE THAT ULTRA-KIND OF LOVE YOU NEVER WALK AWAY FROM. YOU’RE JUST (one of ) THE LAST OF THE REAL ONES.

I’M INCREDIBLY LUCKY AND BLESSED TO HAVE FOUND YOU (under a plastic coconut tree) AND I AM TRULY HAPPY. I HAVE BEEN HAPPY FROM THE MOMENT WE MET. WE HAVE KNOWN EACH OTHER MANY, MANY A HAIRSTYLE ….AND THROUGHOUT ALL THOSE HAIRSTYLES, YOU’VE MADE, AND STILL MAKE ME HAPPY AND I AM HONOURED YOU CHOSE ME TO LOVE. NOTHING COMES CLOSE TO THIS LOVE WE SHARE OR THIS FAMILY WE’VE RAISED. IT’S STILL AN INCREDIBLE RIDE. NEVER BORING. STILL SPICY. WORTH EVERY SECOND. HAPPY 23RD MY LOVE. I LOVE YOU. YOU ARE THE ONE. YOU ARE THE BEST. YOU ARE MINE. I AM YOURS. ~ “elephant shoes”

AND BECAUSE I AM CAPABLE OF A REAL QUOTE …..

LOVE YOU ~ YOUR DANIELLA

Cooking in the Time of Covid 19: Thanksgiving Lasagna

Thanksgiving has come around and Covid-19 is in it’s second wave in parts of Canada. Families have been discouraged to mingle beyond their immediate households to prevent community spread but somehow, Canadians have a way of making the most of what can be done during trying times and they did enjoy the long weekend albeit low key. I am Trinidadian and Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in the Caribbean but having gone to school in the U.S and calling Canada home for 32 years, it’s a holiday I have learned to cook and eat my way through just like any other. My husband comes from a family where a traditional holiday meal would be prepared. For Thanksgiving and coming to think of it, Christmas too, his mom would prepare a turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes and either brussel sprouts or broccoli or green peas with cranberry sauce on the side. While my mother-in-law always did a good job on the turkey, (I have only made a turkey once in my life and take my hat off to all who do) not one of the 4 in our household is in love with the bird outside of a turkey bacon sub. Since turkey is such a big bird and not beloved chez nous, over the years I have subsitiuted it with roast beef, cornish hens, or chicken and side dishes that ranged from a wild rice and vegetable medley, seasoned corn on the cob, garlic bread, some kind of jazzed up pasta dish or interesting and flavourful potato and if Adam has his way, it is boiled for 5 minutes then generously seasoned and baked for 20 minutes until crispy. If Logan has his way, the side would most definitely be sharp, cheesy Trini macaroni pie. Tom, on the other hand is just happy to have anything but turkey, however I have spent all the years I have known him dissuading him from his desire for Thanksgiving pizza. The childhood bland pallette does rear its odd head in my husband from time to time and I know for a fact if he weren’t married to me, A, would have had his way and B, he would not have woken up his taste buds the way he has over the 28 years of eating from me and my family. My man eats it all, from callaloo to curry but the turkey is a no go. In his defense regarding pizza, he has perfected fire oven pizza to the point of gourmet so maybe I’ll bend next Thanksgiving , weather permitting and we shall have his excellent fire oven pies.

So, what did the James family have for Thanksgiving this year? Well something from The Chef Show on Netflix, of course, and we gave thanks with a HONKIN’ MEGA LASAGNA! We watched the episode about 3 times and Tom watched it again to make notes and we showed it to Logan to psyche him up for the meal, not that he ever needs psyching up for meals. Adam has moved away from pasta except in the form of Macaroni pie so he swung by and picked up a meal of garlic bread, meatballs with a side salad that I made for him and cinnamon muffins he baked himself. With him taken care of, Tom and I excitedly went about preparing our dish.

The twist for us making this Lasagna was the sauce, which was a tomato sauce with the ricotta melted into it. That was the sauce for the bottom of the baking dish and to drizzle throughout the layers. We also had to make a rich red tomato sauce made with ripened tomatoes, garlic and seasonings that we used throughout the layers and on the very top what we like to call the lid layer.

Another difference for us was the meat. Instead of a meat sauce, this recipe calls for ginormous meatballs that you pre-cook then dice and spread over the noodles on each layer so it makes for a chunky dish that is flavourful and cheesy with that rich garlic and tomato tartness that makes you smile with satisfaction with every bite.

In total, this dish took us 2 hours from start to finish and that was because we don’t like using oven ready noodles. It was worth every second and it was a very delicious version of the way I make lasagna. We decided we aren’t huge fans of the meatball chunks so when we make this again, we would brown the ground beef and layer it with the sauce and we would use a bit more oregano in the meat. We are definitely keeping the fresh basil on the layers and the ricotta tomato sauce in addition to the red tomato sauce. We captured the recipe in photos and have included photos of the instructions Tom noted while he watched the episode. So whether you are like us and your tradition is to let go of tradition and try new and odd things, or you are looking for a variation on a HONKIN’ MEGA LASAGNA give this a shot. It is fun to make and tasty as all get out and there are enough leftovers to feed an 18 year old who is in hockey training camp and eats five meals a day. We also had enough to put into the freezer that we can have in a couple weeks when we don’t feel like cooking. It’s a perfect one dish meal that you can serve to guests as well (when having guests are a thing again) or if you are suddenly asked to do the catering for an event lol. The best part for us was the time spent in the kitchen. Tom and I cook together quite a bit but this was the first time we tried something new together. I was reminded of the moments my parents shared in the kitchen. My dad did more cooking later in his life but he was always the Special Holiday Helper in the kitchen. Mom would have it all under control and dad followed her instructions here and there, putting the ham, for example in and out of the oven, helping prep ingredients for the stuffing, garnishing dishes and of course making the drinks. You can’t do big Trinidad cooking without a few drinks. And as I manoeuvred about our oddly shaped kitchen(we will be remedying that) with the love of my life, I realized we are the same age as my parents when I remembered them cooking together. It made me a little nervous because I realized our ages – that middle age period where life starts to make you aware of your mortality. But, I was also really happy because it shows where we are in our journey. We have done so much together and we will do more and I hope even much more than that. As our sons launch into their adult lives we uninterruptedly get to have each other back and as much as I love going places with Tom, my absolute favourite moments are the simplest ones like making a special meal. Happy Thanksgiving Canada – ableit a more down played Thanksgiving because of Covid-19, it was warm and loving nonetheless.

I prepped meat with seasonings, egg and onion puree. The texture of the meat becomes squishy and gluey. Tom took care of boiling noodles and making the tomato sauce.
Garlic confit was added to the sauce.
Layering and the finished dish.

Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Pandemic Pakoras

I always wanted to try ro make Pakoras so I made them during the pandemic because we have all this extra time now. So here is my take on Pandemic Pakoras. They turned out pretty good and didn’t last long which is the best evidence that something I made was a tasty success.

You need:

2 white potatoes peeled and grated

1 medium white onion peeled and finely sliced

1 medium egg and  1 1/2 cups chickpea flour

1/2 cup combination of chopped coriander,chives, garlic, thyme, parsley, cilantro and taragon.

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of sugar

2 teaspoons of curry powder and 2 teaspoons of salt

2 green chopped chillies and sunflower oil for frying

Literally combine everything slowly. Make sure the batter isn’t too wet …use extra chickpea flour if you need to, to dry it out a little. Make sure your oil is HOT and using something the size of a soup spoon, scoop some batter and slide into the oil and fry until they are golden brown and float.

I have hungry athletes so I couldn’t just make pakoras so I thought let me make a meal as a side dish for them lol. So using the Instant Pot I prepared some curried beef and chickpeas.

I boiled some rice and voila, dinner as a side dish for a delicacy lol just the way we like it in our topsy turvy family! try the pakoras and take them with you as you venture out of your home if you are able depending on where you live. It’s a pandemic but its summer, take the necessary precautions, stay safe and have fun before the seasons change. I’ll be enjoying the weather as much as I can in a safe way and I probably wont be posting too many more dishes for a while, but, I’ll be back, blogging away. ~ Daniella

 

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Cooking with What’s Growing in the Garden.

The family took a break from cooking new dishes. Logan continued to cook twice a week, re-doing the recipes he was taught and perfecting them. The days in between were officially cheat days. Tired of cooking and baking everyday, we decided to support the restaurants in our community by ordering take out. It was a good three weeks of Tom framing and putting up a wall in the basement to make an enclosed office space for himself. He and the boys were also busy making me a new backyard garden bed and vegetable garden box, measuring, cutting, shoveling and hauling 8 yards of dirt.

 

While they did this for me, I gathered perennials at the local garden centres and binge watched Showtime’s “The Affair” (super comfy under a blanket with my hubby’s hoodie during the rainy chilly 2 weeks we experienced before it got super hot.

On our  hiatus from cooking, Hubby and I also went for walks and checked out the moon during the month of Ramadan. Having grown up in the Caribbean where we celebrate every culture that makes up the populations of the islands, I hadn’t really been as aware of the various cultural and religious holidays as I used to be since moving to Canada 32 years ago. But now, even in the smaller communities, people (including me) are more aware of the different cultural celebrations now that Canada is more diverse. This is a good thing. Canada isn’t perfect and we are not untainted by racial discrimination and other social problems, but Canadians as a whole, try to do better and try to evolve and this makes me very proud and comfortable living here.

Anyhow… when food was made at home during this time of hiatus, it was quick and simple with nothing left over. Here is one of the meals we made that was super quick and easy:-

Lemon Pepper Chicken

       

For this meal, I handed Logan a bag of thawed chicken thighs and told him to make dinner for the family. Chicken thighs are great because they are cheaper and even cheaper still if they are bone with skin on. If you aren’t roasting or frying the thighs maybe you will want the skinless boneless option but either way, its a great alternative to chicken breasts which are a drier meat and more expensive.

Logan seasoned the thighs with lemon juice of 1/2 a large lemon and lemon pepper seasoning. The lemon pepper seasoning I buy also has salt in it so make sure you read the label before you add more seasonings. Logan likes using onion, garlic, chives, basil, tarragon, parsley and thyme to season meat. With all the herb plants transplanted into the garden, everything but the onions was fresh picked. He brushed the baking dish lightly with olive oil and poured melted garlic butter over the chicken thighs and baked covered with foil at first (15 minutes), then he placed lemon slices and lemon zest upon each thigh and continued to bake them at 350 for 8 -10 minutes.

While the chicken was in the oven, he grabbed one of the Uncle Ben’s Wild rice instant dishes which microwave in 90 seconds and are a worthy side dish when you are in a hurry. We also had some corn hanging around in the fridge so he figured he’d boil them and use them as a side to complete the meal.

He mixed up some lime juice and voila (or wah-la as he used to say when he was little), dinner was served. Quick. Easy. Delicious. Da Boy Can Cook!

Cooking in the Time of Covid-19: Super quick and easy to prepare – Pasta Daniella

If you can figure out what is too much and what is too little; if you have a functioning tongue and can figure out what tastes bland or just plain bad, you can cook. If you can pay attention to what you have cooking, baking or simmering while turning your attention to another dish without burning everything; if you can multi-task even just a little, you can create a dish out of whatever you find in your kitchen pantry and fridge.

Every pasta dish I make up off the top of my head with whatever I can place my hands on in the kitchen is Pasta Daniella. Here’s what you do:-

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Boil pasta – any pasta you can put your hands on.

I found spicy Genoa salami, mushrooms, green onion, garlic onion, lemon, capers, green olives, Kosher salt, black pepper, oregano, thyme, olive oil and garlic butter. I chopped the veggies and squeezed in some lemon juice added the seasonings and a splash of white wine. I sauteed the seasoned veggies and spices in the olive oil. Next, I added the salami and then the pasta and shredded some Parmesan onto the pasta and tossed it all again.

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And here it is – prep and cook time maybe 1/2 an hour. Tasty and satisfying. Bon appetit!

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Quick, Feel Good Food.

One view that has solidified for me since the world has been dealing with this virus is that we have to be happy. We have to home in on who we are, what we have and find happiness. We spend too much time planning to be successful, figuring out how to earn more, do more with our time and we pass that stress on to our children and grandchildren and it is a failing life plan that puts way too much emphasis on everything but happiness. If you know how to tap into the simple things that make you happy you wont spend precious days, months and years putting in time to a lot of useless and unfulfilling things that are supposed to lead to happiness, but never do. During this pandemic isolation, cooking has made us all very happy. Today I thought I would look at some of the quick and easy to prepare treats that made us feel good.

Throw Down Chicken and Cauliflower Tikka Masala

When my children were small, like all kids,they went through the occasional reject of the good food that you wanted in them and not on the floor, or on the table or in their hair. Like any mother, I too hid vegetables in pancakes and put stuff in wraps but as they got older and I revealed what they were gobbling up made for young men who have their favorites but pretty much eat any food of any colour and texture of any flavor and colour. So here is a dish that takes no time at all. I am going to tell you right away, if you want to do this from scratch, you can totally look up how to make the sauce but if you have a tight schedule or just a hungry family who can’t wait long for food, USE THE JAR SAUCE! IT’S OKAY. I recommend having Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Coconut Curry sauce and Pad Thai Sauce in your pantry. Today I decided on Tikka Masala sauce as I had thawed seasoned chicken and cauliflower which in my past recipe for fritters you found out that I have an over abundance of frozen cauliflower.

I diced the seasoned chicken and set aside.Then I poured the bottle of sauce into a skillet. I added chopped onions and a clove of garlic and stirred it in and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes. Next add the cauliflower and the chicken and fold in with the sauce. When the sauce has covered the chicken and the cauliflower, cover and simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.

The smell of this sauce is amazing. It’s inviting and there is spiciness and fruitiness and it is just a happy dish. Serve over Naan bread or rice for a satisfying meal. To quote my son Logan when I asked him how his meal was, “Loved it. Tasty and lots of good flavours and the cauliflower was a nice surprise. I thought it all looked like chicken!” It was a nice touch that is exactly how I got them to eat cauliflower in the first place. And there you have it, a hearty meal in just over 20 minutes, and why not take the shortcuts? You can add to it if you wish to make it more spicy or you can leave the sauce as is. In spite of the pandemic, we have a busy next couple of days with baking and planting and Logan has on-line presentations, we have webinars and Adam has schoolwork to catch up on.  I made this and stored it in the fridge knowing that I wanted to serve it to Logan for dinner the evening after and to Adam for dinner the following evening when he comes to pick it up. Tom and I will have it for lunch tomorrow. Nothing like a heat and eat dish that makes you smile. While this dish was simmering, I started my …

Cinco de Mayo inspired Buffalo Chicken Dip cups.

Last Monday was Cinco de Mayo and we had chili cups for dinner. It is more like a snack made with tortilla wraps and chili and that recipe will follow this one but I decided on this variation on Wednesday as this chicken dip is my husband’s favourite and I wanted to make it for him and we needed dinner anyway so while the Tikka Masala was cooking, I started on this tasty snack and turned it into a meal.

Cook 1 1/2 to 2 chicken breasts in a pot with salt, pepper, a 1/4 cup of water and a teaspoon of garlic butter. Once the chicken is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, put the chicken into a separate bowl and pull the meat apart. Add 3 teaspoons of sour cream and 2 table spoons of cream cheese. The sour cream and cream cheese should be enough to cover all the shredded chicken. If not, add a little more of each without making the chicken soggy. Add some fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and either red pepper chili flakes or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper. I also recommend adding a 1/4 teaspoon of the buffalo seasoning powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of the Hidden Valley powdered dressing for a really nice flavour.Shred a cup of cheddar cheese and set some aside for topping and fold the rest into the dip.

Add a generous dash of Frank’s Red Hot or equivalent and a decent dash of Buffalo Chicken sauce.This dip is all about intense, satisfying flavour. Cut up a stalk of chives or green onion. Save a bit of it to garnish the dip and fold the rest in. Lightly brush some tortillas with olive oil, Cut in half and then into quarters. Line the muffin pans by taking a quarter of the tortilla and pushing it into the hollow, oil side down. Put in a bit of the chicken dip and a little cheese.

  Then place another tortilla quarter on top the layer of cheese and repeat with a bit of the chicken dip and cheese. Place in an 325 F oven for 20 minutes. Tortillas will get slightly brown and crispy. Top with a dot of sour cream and cooked crispy bacon. Variation – Using Red bean and meat chili.

Logan wanted more than mini tortilla treats so I took some left over chili that Tom made a couple days before and put it in a wrap. I put some chicken dip in the other. Top with cheese,then fold and roll and wrap in foil and place in oven also at 325 F for 25 minutes as they need a little more time than the tortilla cups to cook.Place the rest of the dip in an oven ready container. Top with cheese and bake again for 20 minutes at 325 F or at least until the edges brown and the cheese bubbles. Top with bacon and the rest of the chives.

And here is my Buffalo chicken Dip end result. It made 3 dishes – buffalo chicken tortilla cups, a wrap and a moreish dip for tortilla chips. I wanted to make it for Tom because I know how much he loves it and usually we have left overs to heat up for later but we had nothing left. Not a scrap.

 

 

Tom’s Homemade Bread – We are now into making different kinds of bread. Here is Tom’s recipe for Basic Homemade White Bread. You need 1 tbsp margarine or butter. 1 tbsp shortening. 1 cup boiling water. 1 cup scalded milk. 1 pack yeast and 1/4 cup warm water. 1 tsp sugar. 2 1/2 tbsp sugar and 1tbsp salt. 6 cups flour. Makes 3 smaller loaves or 1 bigger loaf.

 

Here is how to do it – In a large bowl, place boiling water, scalded milk, margarine, shortening, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm.Add 1 pk yeast to 1/4 cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar. Allow to foam up then add to lukewarm milk. Mix. Add sifted flour using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula.

Knead bread on a floured surface. Place n greased bowl (with butter) and turn to grease surface. Cover preferably with a damp cloth and allow to rise double in bulk. Punch down to release sour fermented aroma. Divide dough int 3 equal parts. Roll out 1 part then knead and shape into a loaf. Repeat with other 2 parts of dough. Place in greased bread pans. Next cover with a damp cloth or cover with another bread pan and allow to rise double in bulk.

 

There is NOTHING like the smell of fresh baked homemade white bread. Nothing is as tender and soft and satisfying. It reminds me of my childhood and I still cut the first warm slice and smother it with butter. Mmmmmmm

Recipe for the cream cheese frosting I made for some box red velvet cupcakes I made :8 oz cream cheese softened to room temperature. 6 tbsp softened salted butter. 1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar. 1 tsp vanilla extract. Mix cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl (use an electronic kitchen mixer low speed until combined). Add vanilla and sugar and continue to mix on low  then mix on medium-high for 2 more minutes. Use a spatula to break up air bubbles. Immediately frost onto a cooled cake or pipe onto cupcakes and ENJOY!

The finished cupcakes. They were light, soft and tasty. I liked that the frosting was not heavy or overly sweet as some cream cheese frostings can be.

Apple Pie, Cherry Pie, Pumpkin Pie, Bread, Cupcakes and Cookies

We are mostly cooks and not bakers.Tom is the more likely of the pair of us to bake as he likes the precision and accuracy of baking…it’s very scientific and that satisfies Tom’s mind incredibly.Once in a while we throw down a batch of cookies and cupcakes and loaves of bread and pies as a treat for the guys mostly as they aren’t training as hard now that we are in a pandemic and it satisfies the occasional sweet tooth craving they may have. Here, in the photo above,we see a half eaten apple pie that our younger son basically claimed as his own. The week before he claimed all of the pumpkin pie I made the week before. Missing from the photo is the cherry pie I made for my sister for Mother’s Day. Hid it so I could actually give it to her as a present bite free – lol. I make pies using frozen fruit which I boil into a chunky sauce and add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or star anise. I used store bought pastry shells (because why not?) and my glaze is either honey and water, sugar and water or a beaten egg yolk. When I make cookies I use store bought cookie dough because I hate making cookie dough and add to it  – more fruit, chocolate chips of chunks, dark chocolate pieces or white, Skor bar pieces or almonds or some other nut just to give it my flare. I make cupcakes now because the storage is easier, easier to transport to the guy living in his own place and they usually take one or two at a time which is healthier than them cutting a huge hunk of cake with twice as much frosting.

That concludes the Quickies recipes. There are more but this is enough for one posting. I am feeling like we are coming to the end of our pandemic lock down but I think it will be a slow transition back. So I think there is a lot more time left to cook and bake and share. I think once we are back on schedule with life, we are really going to try and carve out the time to do more cooking and baking at home. We have proven to ourselves that we can and Logan is really learning to cook very well, so there is no reason why we can’t look at our schedules and set aside some time for cooking more than we had been before. Fingers crossed we will be able to resume our lifestyles gradually soon. Spend the time with the family well and stay healthy. ~ Daniella and family.

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Dear Logan,

Dear Logan,

We have been home doing our part to stop the spread of this deadly virus and keep each other healthy. Today, we have been home for 53 days. We are doing our part to keep our family safe as well as preventing the spread of this virus that abruptly ended life as we know it. This virus couldn’t come at a worse time for young people like you who are on the brink of so much growth and change. You have always had to fight to get where you want with your passion and now it seems you have to wait and be patient just a bit longer. I struggle to understand why things happen when they do and I try to ground my belief that things do happen for a reason, but this virus occurring now, has me frustrated and my heart aches when I think of how it has interrupted your and your brother’s life. I think if it were just Dad and me, I wouldn’t feel so frustrated, angry and disappointed at the timing of this virus. If it were just Dad and me I wouldn’t care that I was home for 53 days. But, I look at you, son, and you are patient, resilient and you are finding ways to utilize your time and be happy. You also keep us happy around here and once again, you have earned the right to be called pure joy. Some days are better than others and cabin fever does show up from time to time but for the most part, we have all been okay while stuck at home.

I wanted to let you know that including all these recipes on my blog is primarily for you. If people try our recipes and learn to cook as well, that is just a wonderful sharing bonus, but this is all for you. You have embraced using this time together to learn to cook and take yet another step to independence. I have gotten to know you better during our time in the kitchen. I have always known you but finding out more about who you are becoming has made my heart full. You are ready to head out and forge your way in the world and I cannot wait to see the coming chapters of your life unfold. I hope you have a long and happy life, filled with as many experiences as you can gather. I hope you see thousands of places, eat thousands of dishes, swim in many oceans and lakes and embrace many cultures. I wish you joy and peace and the strength to stick to what you believe in and get back on your feet when life knocks you down. I want you to tap into the reservoir of our support, belief and love for you when we are apart from each other and know that when we do see each other we will re-fill that reservoir with every hug, kiss, smile, kind words and laughter. It is a pleasure to cook with you, to teach you and to learn from you. It is reassuring to know you are independent and capable of taking care of yourself. You can call me, text me or video chat with me anytime you want, but I think more often than not, you will refer to the blog for anything you need to know about the dishes we have taught you. This blog, in all it’s virtual locations will be here for you now, for when we are not available or able to help you and it will be here long after we are gone. I think I can safely say this blog will be here not just as a reference for cooking but for comfort and will serve as a a bank full of beautiful memories we have created together.

We love you Logan and we are so grateful and honored to be your parents. You are an incredible gift of love, light and life.

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Last Monday’s dinner was part of what I call phase 2 of learning to cook. In phase 2 we cook the dishes we have learned for the second or third time. So far he has done lasagna twice, shepherd’s pie twice and has done chicken and broccoli pasta twice. For Monday’s dinner, he prepared chicken and broccoli pasta for his dad and did a shrimp variation for us. This is how he he did it:-

First, Logan cut up the chicken, seasoned it  with oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and put it in a pot of olive, a little Worcestershire sauce and a little water. He covered the pot and let the chicken cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes, reducing it to low heat for 15 – 20 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked but tender. Once the chicken was cooked, he turned off the burner and set the chicken aside.

Next he boiled the water for the pasta (with a little olive oil and salt in the water). While he waited he rinsed the shrimp and seasoned them. Logan chose, salt, pepper, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic and diced onion.

Once the water came to a rolling boil, he put in the pasta of choice which was rigatoni and boiled until al dente. He drained the pasta, rinsed it and set it aside. Next he cooked the broccoli in a teaspoon of butter until it softened a bit and turned a brighter green.

He added the pasta to the pot and folded in the Alfredo sauce  and some freshly grated Parmesan and left on low heat.

 

Lastly, he cooked his shrimp in a separate pot (only because we were doing two versions of the dish – otherwise he could have cooked the broccoli with the shrimp. Once the shrimp turned light pink, Logan added the juice of 1/4 of a lime, stirred and set aside.

He added some of the broccoli pasta Alfredo into the pot with the chicken to make Tom’s dish and then added the shrimp into the remainder of the pasta and broccoli Alfredo.

Once the meals were plated, he topped them with some Parmesan and black pepper and served.

When a dish is made right and is tasty, it satiates you and leaves you wanting for nothing more. Since the pandemic it has been difficult not to snack but generally I eat and stop when I am full so often I will have one big meal a day with  two very light ones. If I am hungry, I eat.The second time he made this dish (and with a variation) it tasted even better. He is learning so quickly and so well that I forget I am teaching him. I give him the freedom to season how he wants to and the freedom to choose how great or how fine he wants to cut his ingredients. He makes me so proud when he tastes the food as he cooks it, cleans as he cooks and puts ingredients away while he waits on the food as it cooks ….and….he smells his seasonings and in a short space of time has learned to flavor meat by eyeballing how much he thinks he needs to make his food tasty.

If this is round 2, I can’t wait to taste round 3 of these fabulous dishes.

Stay well, wash your hands keep 2 meters between yourself and strangers and hang in there, This too shall pass.  ~Daniella and family.

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Logan declares Meat Monday – Tonight he tries Steak Frites

Wanting to learn his way around the grill, it was Tom’s turn to teach Logan today. Like baking, I am not in love with cooking outdoors. I like eating it, but it’s just not my department. Tom does it splendidly and I am happy to let him do it as he is so much better at it than I could ever be. He also wants to make sure Logan remembers grilling with him. We don’t have daughters so this is a real father/son thing. We always want to do right by our kids. We always want to give our kids what our parents couldn’t or just didn’t give to us and tonight my husband gave his son a memory. As they grilled steaks for the first time, I heard them laughing and talking and I could see how special this time was for them.  I introduce to you, THE PLAYERS at the grill:-

LOGAN – TEENAGER LEARNING TO COOK BEFORE HE LEAVES THE NEST WHENEVER THAT IS, CONSIDERING THIS PANDEMIC

and this guy …DAD WHO ALSO GOES BY TOM….Can you imagine grilling with people with these expressions? Expressions that are quite normal for them on a daily basis….

Here is what the grilling action was like – the goal – medium …maybe medium/well…

HERE ARE THE MARINATED STEAKS I GOT AT MY BUTCHER’S  

                                   EVEN SOME FLAME ACTION HERE 

MEANWHILE IN THE KITCHEN I WAS TRYING SOMETHING NEW:-

We usually use our air fryer for making fries. No oil is used and it is a healthier way to make light crispy fries. However, as usual, the things that are not as good for you always tastes better. Yearning for a little “bad for you”  I decided to find a way to make fries in oil with a light crispiness.

Cut up a couple large potatoes – for our family of 4, I washed 3 but they were so large, by the time I cut 1, I realized I overshot so I cur up 1 1/2 for the family’s dinner and the rest I cut up and put in the freezer for another time.

 

Next, boil a pot of water. Season the water, or not but when it comes to a boil, add your cut potato and boil for 5 minutes. Any longer and you will have mashed potatoes. drain and rinse in cold water and set aside for all the water to drain. In a large bowl, mix together equal parts of flour and potato flour. Season with seasoned salt, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper or whatever seasonings will make your fries taste best to you. Toss the drained fries in the seasoned flour mixture making sure each fry is coated properly. Then, heat some oil in a pot. Tom has ruined this iron pot of mine by poorly frying  food in it over the years. It is now known as the fry pot. Once the oil is hot, put in the fries, portions at a time and with a strainer spoon or a mesh ladle, gently stir occasionally to prevent fries from clumping.

Cook until the fries are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and salt them before transferring them to the plates. These fries can be kept warm and crispy in the oven at about 300 F but tonight, the steak landed on the plate and seconds later so did the frites.

Here is Logan’s steak, accompanied with my fries for Meat Monday’s Steak Frites. The meat was tender, juicy and the fries were light and crispy and the food was enjoyed by all. Adam’s portion was picked up after his run and we three settled down to a great meal and some fun conversation. Nothing like family dinner and soon, there will just be dinner for two, Use this time at home to teach your teenager to cook. Enjoy the slower meals together. Enjoy not having to head out to somewhere after dinner. Lockdown is hard but being ill,or dead is worse. Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. This too shall pass ~Daniella and family.