A few months ago, I spent some time doing volunteer work in Kenya through the volunteer agency International Volunteer HQ. I stayed with a Kenyan family and volunteered at an orphanage, Internally Displaced Persons camps, and with the Masai (warrior tribes in Kenya). It was an extremely moving experience. Read more.

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    Lucy Waverman’s A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen

    Filed under :Chocolate Slices, Lucy Waverman, Sunday Dinners, Thai
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    A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen, by Toronto superstar Lucy Waverman, has it all.  Divided by month, it showcases seasonal ingredients and comfort foods, highlights individual recipes but also puts togethers 2- 3 menus per month, and tops it off with Lucy’s husband Bruce adding innovative wine pairings.  Themes of dinners run the gamut from Cooking for the Cousins (when Lucy’s family comes to town) to Paris in the Spring, and the recipes smack of creativity and taste.  A lot of love and work clearly went into this.

    I’ve always been a little intimidated by Lucy.  As the food editor for the Liquor Board of Ontario’s Food & Drink magazine, and a weekly food columnist for The Globe and Mail, her recipes look complex, though well worth the time, I’m sure.  So I was excited to give this book a try.

    I decided on Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew and Easy Chocolate Slices, featured in the December section.  Not the hardest-looking recipes of the bunch, but I had some Thai red curry paste I needed to use, and who doesn’t love chocolate?  The explanation was intriguing- an Australian specialty, something that’s found everywhere?  Hmmmm.  I’ve been to the land down under but was too busy trying to figure out vegemite to look for chocolate slices.

    I was, as usual, tempted to change a few things as I went along, but decided to stick as close to the recipe as I could.  I had my doubts about the plastic wrap, for example, that lies between the baking dish and the chocolate- won’t it melt when the hot chocolate is poured on it?  Won’t it stick to the bottom?  Best to stay with it though, since I haven’t had much success with recipes that use waxed paper either.

    The Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew is an easy crowd pleaser.  If I hadn’t read the title and cooked it myself, I wouldn’t have identified it as Thai- perhaps more curry paste or the addition of fish sauce and other Thai staples would remedy that, if desired.  The measurements were difficult to work with- how many onions is two cups of onions exactly?  how many cloves equal one tablespoon of garlic?- so I altered them to be more shopper-friendly.  I omitted the salt in the first step since the curry paste has salt, but don’t forget to season the chicken, it makes a big difference.  Lastly, I exchanged the coriander for Thai basil since I grow it in my kitchen herb garden.

    The Easy Chocolate Slices consist of a base of melted chocolate chips mixed with butter, corn syrup, and crushed shortbread cookies.  The top layer contains melted chocolate bar pieces poured on top, then chilled and cut into bars.

    The amounts in the recipe were a little tricky.  The base made a lot of liquid so I wound up adding an additional 50 grams of crushed shortbread cookies.  The top layer didn’t seem to be enough for the bottom layer.  Lucy calls for 200- 300 grams of chocolate; I used the full 300 and still suspected there was too much base.  Granted, I could have used different flavoured chocolate chips to make it more interesting; she does suggest a few options for the cookies and chocolate bar.  I used semisweet chips, guessing the milk chocolate bar on top would balance nicely.  For the top, I used Fruit and Nut Toblerone, and Fruit and Nut Dairy Milk, gambling that fruit and nut pieces would be a welcome addition.

    My worries were for naught.  The Chocolate Slices were awesome.  They’re rich and yummy and the two kinds of chocolate balance beautifully.  It’s best to leave some cookie pieces in the base as bigger chunks; they were a delight to bite into.  No problem with the plastic wrap either, it worked perfectly.  The only flaw?  The recipe leaves your pot a mess- it’s going to be fun to clean that up.

    Both recipes were hits, and I think I’m now brave enough to work through a few more.

    All recipes adapted from Lucy Waverman’s A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen.

    Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew

    2 tbsps olive oil

    2 medium onions, chopped

    3 large cloves garlic, chopped

    1 tbsp gingerroot, grated

    1 tbsp Thai red curry paste

    1 can coconut milk (Lucy calls for 1 cup, my can was a little more- approx 13 oz)

    1 can chopped tomatoes (Lucy calls for two cups- again my can was bigger, approx 540 ml.  I drained off some of the juice but not all)

    1/2 cup water (I would omit this in future)

    2 tbsp lime juice

    1/2 tsp sugar

    Approx. 1 1/2 lbs/ 750 grams boneless, skinless, chicken thighs, cut in half and trimmed of excess fat

    salt and pepper to season chicken

    a handful of fresh Thai basil, chopped

    Heat oil over medium heat in large skillet.  Add onions and cook for approx. 10 minutes, until golden.  Add garlic, ginger and curry paste.  Cook, stirring, for approx. 2 minutes.  Lucy notes that if the spices stick, you can reduce the heat and add a little oil.  Mine didn’t stick.

    Curry Paste, Ginger, Onions, Garlic

    onions, garlic, ginger and curry paste

    Add coconut milk, tomatoes, water (if using), lime juice, and sugar.  Scrape up any bits stuck to bottom.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer approx. 10 minutes.  (Note:  in future I will simmer a little longer as I found there was a lot of liquid left, probably because the amounts I added are more than what Lucy calls for).

    Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Add chicken pieces to pot, cover, and cook for 8- 10 minutes over medium-low heat until chicken is cooked through.  Stir in basil.  Serve in bowls over rice (bowls hold the broth better than plates).

    Thai chicken tomato stew with basil

    Everything bubbling away

    Finished Thai chicken and tomato stew

    The finished Thai Chicken and Tomato Stew


    Easy Chocolate Slices

    1 cup (2 sticks) butter

    1/3 cup corn syrup (Lucy calls for Lyle’s Golden Syrup, if you can find it)

    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (can alter flavour if desired)

    1 pkg/ 350 grams shortbread cookies, broken into coarse crumbs and chunks (can use other types as well- Lucy suggests digestive, oatmeal or chocolate chip)

    1-  300 gram chocolate bar, broken into pieces (I used fruit and nut milk chocolate Toblerone and Dairy Milk, feel free to use whatever pleases you)

    Shortbread coarse crumbs

    Shortbread cookie chunks and crumbs

    Melt butter and corn syrup in large pot over medium heat.  Stir in chocolate chips until melted.  Add cookie chunks and stir to combine.

    Pour mixture into 8-inch baking dish lined with plastic wrap.

    melted chocolate and cookies

    Bottom layer

    Melt chocolate bar pieces over medium-low heat.  Immediately pour over chocolate-cookie base.  Chill until set.  Cut into bars.  Eat as many as you can- yum yum.

    With top layer


    chocolate slices

    Easy Chocolate Slices- yum


    Melted chocolate in pot

    The messy pot

    Thai Red Curry with Asparagus

    Filed under :Asparagus, Chicken, Curry, Folate, Thai, Vitamin K
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    Thai Red Curry

    I’ve been experimenting with making Thai red curries for a little while now.  It’s one of the things I love to order at Thai restaurants, bargaining with the waiter on how spicy to make it (I prefer mild to medium).  I seek out recipes from cookbooks and the internet and pore over the differences in how various cooks personalize theirs.  Although I’ve tried delicious versions with beef, mangoes, seafood, and more, in this version I’ve made it with chicken strips and yummy-but-rather-untraditional potato chunks.

    I like to add asparagus to my curry.  I love the vegetable and it holds up well to cooking, keeping a nice crunch.  Asparagus is a great food to have in your diet; it’s a great source of thiamin, folate, phosphorous, potassium and vitamins A, C and K.  Studies have linked it to helping prevent cancer, controlling blood sugar levels, and preventing bladder and urinary tract infections.  It’s great for pregnant and nursing mothers as it protects against neural tube defects and stimulates milk production.  I learned a lot from this article on buzzle.com which gave some history on asparagus and discussed the health benefits.  Did you know there are more than 300 varieties of asparagus but only 20 are edible?  I also didn’t know asparagus shoots can grow up to 10 inches in one day!  That’s practically a super-plant!


    There’s even a Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board who are “dedicated to spreading the good word about the virtues of asparagus, one of nature’s most perfect foods.”  Wikipedia informed me that there is a recipe for asparagus in the oldest cookbook known to man, Apicius’ third century AD De re coquinaria, Book III.

    Of course you can really put whatever vegetables and protein you want in a Thai red curry; it’s the curry broth that makes it.  Red curry paste, which these days can be found in most supermarkets, and coconut milk are the two key ingredients.  After that you can add whatever flavour enhancers you want- in the below recipe I’ve used fish sauce, lime juice, grated ginger, lemongrass, and brown sugar.  I had intended to use honey instead of the sugar but didn’t realize I had run out.

    Mise en Place

    As for protein and vegetables, I’ve used chicken, asparagus, water chestnuts, mushrooms, baby corn and sweet potatoes, because we like those around here, but really you could use whatever you want.  If you’re using something hardy such as the potatoes, you need to add them before the chicken and other veg as they will take longer to cook.


    1 tbsp olive oil

    2 cloves garlic, minced

    1 1/2- 2 tbsps Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to your taste)

    1 can coconut milk

    4 1-inch pieces lemongrass, from the bottom part of the stalk (or buy them in a jar from your supermarket)

    2 tsps fish sauce

    1 1/2 tsps brown sugar

    1 tsp lime juice

    1 tsp ginger, grated

    2 sweet potatoes, cubed (I use the pre-cut chunks from the supermarket)

    2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch slices (make sure to cut them thinly for quick cooking)

    1 can sliced water chestnuts

    1 can baby corn

    1/2 container mushrooms, sliced

    1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends removed, chopped into 1- inch pieces

    1 bunch fresh basil or thai basil, leaves

    Heat the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the garlic, and cook until golden.  Add the curry paste, and fry until fragrant, about 30- 45 seconds. 

    Add the curry paste and fry until fragrant.

    Add the coconut milk, turn the heat to medium-high, and whisk in the curry paste.  Bring to a boil.  Add the lemongrass, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and ginger.  Whisk everything in and taste.  Adjust the flavour by adding more of any of the flavour enhancers to suit your taste.

    Add the sweet potato cubes and cook until almost cooked through, about 5- 6 minutes.  If you are using any other hardy veg that needs longer to cook, you can add them in with the potatoes.

    Add the chicken and cook until almost cooked through, about 1- 2 minutes, depending on how thin your slices are.

    Sweet potatoes and chicken in red curry broth

    Add the rest of the vegetables and half the bunch of basil, and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables have reached your desired consistency and tenderness.  I like mine with a bit of a crunch, so this step generally takes me another 2- 3 minutes.  Remove the lemongrass stalks.

    All the veg... mmmmmm.

    Serve with the rest of the basil, and steamed rice.

    The finished product