Browse Author by dria
Food & Cooking

Milk & sour cream braised pork

Made this tonight, riffing on a recipe I stumbled across a while ago. I changed it up a lot (it originally had no sour cream, onions, or garlic), so I’m calling this my own! Woo!


  • pork loin roast, 2-3 lbs
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2-3 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 c vermouth (optional)
  • 10-20 fresh sage leaves, torn into thirds
  • 3 tbsp butter


  1. Preheat your oven to 325F.
  2. Generously salt & pepper the pork & let sit at room temp for 20 mins or so.
  3. Heat olive oil in a smallish dutch oven or stock pot (with a lid!) large enough to snugly hold the roast & liquids. (Mine’s a 5 qt oval cast iron pot.)
  4. Brown the pork on all sides, and set aside.
  5. Let the pot cool a little so the butter doesn’t burn, and add the butter. Throw in the onions and saute those for a bit over med-low heat ’til translucent.
  6. While the onions are doing their thing, mix the sour cream and milk together in a bowl until well blended. This just eliminates any sour cream lumps. Add the chicken stock to this mixture as well.
  7. Back to the pot of onions — add the lemon zest and garlic, and saute those for 4-5 mins.
  8. Turn up the heat a bit and add the vermouth if you’re using it. Let this cook down and reduce for a bit.
  9. Throw in the sage leaves, and stir until wilted.
  10. Put the pork back in the pot, and pour the milk/sour cream/chicken stock mixture over top.
  11. Cover and transfer into the now heated oven.
  12. Braise at 325F for 4-5 hours, checking every hour or so to make sure it’s all nice and happy.
  13. About 30 mins before you plan to eat, take the lid off the pot, give the sauce a nice stir, then stick it back in the oven to reduce and thicken (leaving the pork in there…the pork is happy).
  14. Remove from the oven, move pork to a plate to rest for 10 mins.
  15. Slice pork, put it on some egg noodles or rice or mashed potatoes or something, and spoon over a generous amount of the sauce. Yum.

Food & Cooking

Beef Rendang recipe

Like most things, there’s a story behind this recipe, but I’ll keep it short and sweet: Rob and I both lived in Ottawa for years (separately, then together). We also both went to a Malaysian restaurant in the East end of Ottawa that served this blow-the-top-of-your-head-off beef rendang recipe (separately, then together). We left Ottawa and never had beef rendang again. Until a few months ago, when I stumbled across a recipe on the interwebs. Then another, and another (I was Googling at this point). I delved in.

The first attempt was awful. The next, less so. Then I kept at it, basically taking a hack at it any time stewing beef was on sale. Tonight, I finally nailed it. Or at least my version of it. This is the recipe.

Note: this is effing spicy. I love spicy food and this is damn near the top of my current tolerance. Adjust the number of chiles you put in the spice paste to slightly-more-than-feels-sane-for-you. It should be hot. The Ottawa version would make you break out in a sweat. Make it hot, but you do you. Ok, the recipe.

Ginger, garlic, shallots, peppers.

Ingredients (this makes a huge double batch — it’s worth it)


  • 6-7 good sized shallots, peeled and halved
  • 10-12 peeled cloves of garlic (to taste — basically however much you think would be a sane amount of garlic, then double it)
  • 3-4″ peeled ginger, chopped into chunks
  • 12-16 fresh thai chiles (cut off the stems, leave the rest — again, tone this down to what feels sane…this is A LOT OF SPICE)
  • a good-sized pinch of dried chile flakes (1 tsp or so)
  • 1/2 tsp or so of salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp or so of pepper (to taste)


  • 3.5 lbs (~1.5 kg) stewing beef
  • 4-5 tbsp cooking oil (I use peanut oil, but sunflower, canola, safflower…etc. Olive oil doesn’t really work.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 4″ long)
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 star anise
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 5-6 stalks lemongrass — cut down to the bottom 4-5″, peel the top layer off, leave the root, mash lightly to release oils. You fish these out later, so don’t chop them up.
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (this stuff is thick and normally separated in the can — I dump the can into a mixing bowl so i can whisk it back to being milk-like rather than chunky)
  • 1.5 c water (whisk this in with the coconut milk…it’s just easier)
  • Zest & juice from two limes mixed with 3 tbsp brown sugar (this replaces the tamarind paste and kaffir lime leaves that are in most rendang recipes…it’s delicious)


  1. Put the garlic, ginger, shallots, thai chiles, chile flakes, salt and pepper into a food processor and process until very finely chopped. BE CAREFUL, it will try to blow your face off when you open the lid.
  2. Heat the oil in a stew pot and toss in the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods, and cloves. Let these heat on med-low for a bit, then plop the spice paste in on top. Turn up the heat and stir-fry the whole mess for 6-7 minutes. Your house will now smell insane.
  3. Add the beef and lemongrass stalks, stir well to combine. The beef should all be covered with the spice paste. Let that cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Pour in the lime juice/zest/sugar mix and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk/water mixture and stir to combine. It will be alarmingly soupy at this point. Do not be alarmed.
  5. Once it all comes up to a simmer, cover (leave a gap so stuff can evaporate) and simmer on low for 1.5 hours, stirring every 20-30 mins.
  6. Take the lid off and continue simmering until the sauce reduces by at least half (another 1-1.5 hrs). It will turn into a lovely rich, thick, glossy gravy, and the beef will be super tender. Remove the lemongrass chunks and obvious spices towards the end of cooking – you will miss some, but that’s ok. Also, keep an eye on it as it thickens — the bottom can get a bit crusty, so stir more often, scraping at the bottom, until it’s as thick as you want (it should be thick, but not dry).

Yeah, that’s it. It takes a while to simmer down, but prep is pretty quick once you get the hang of it. Serve with rice and naan. A cooling yogurt chutney never hurt (have yogurt on hand either way, in case you overdo the spices a bit.)

The end. Send me a note (@dria on Twitter) if you have questions or feedback! *kissyface emoji* *thumbsup*

Lemongrass chunks


Richard Sennet on Making

“The way the capitalist economy is designed sacrifices the logic of craft, which results in poorly made objects and a degraded physical environment. This capitalist model of productivity then feeds back into the schools, so the very training of people becomes industrialized. The craft model of education—slow, concentrated, repetitive—is seen as something dysfunctional and irrelevant in the modern world.”


Quilt block & pattern – Autumn 1

A little while ago I picked up a copy of Electric Quilt 8, a quilt design software package that is fairly rudimentary, but that has some very useful tools that don’t exist in Photoshop or Illustrator.

I’m in the process of learning how to use this software, and designed this pattern this morning. It’s fairly simple, being a bunch of on-point half square triangles made with strip sets, but I love the impact of the small blocks and repetition.

As designed, this quilt is made with 5 x 5″ blocks and would finish at around 64 x 64″ — it could be scaled up or down just by adding / subtracting blocks, however, so it’s pretty versatile.

Yardage estimates! This is one of the super-duper-extra-handy tools that EQ8 provides. So so so so so so so useful. These estimates are based on standard 43-44″ yardage and a scant quarter-inch seam allowance.

And finally, the block design…again, super straightforward. Make a bunch of strip sets, then chop ’em into HSTs. I can’t wait to give this a try.

And that is my first actually-written-down quilt pattern design. It doesn’t include cutting or sewing instructions, but that’s something I’ll have to figure out how to do on my own — EQ8 doesn’t do that stuff, unfortunately.


Rainbow Quilt #1


A new quilt, using a new pattern!

I had a blast putting this quilt together — I had this batch of pre-cut strips that were burning a hole in my stash, and I also wanted to practice a new technique for making half square triangles. Et voila, Rainbow Quilt #1 is the result.

This quilt is for sale$650 Canadian + shipping — and is ready to ship if you need a quick gift or something to keep your toes warm this winter. Please email me if you’re interested!

And now…some more pictures!


Spring has finally sprung – garden update, Apr 29 2018

It’s been rainy but warm for the past few days, so I did a quick tour of the garden this afternoon to see how things were coming along. Pictures!


All four beds of garlic are showing signs of life, with loads of sprouts up and starting to reach for the sky. The softneck seem to have a solid headstart on the hardneck varieties, but they’re all going strong.


I am absolutely thrilled with how happy and healthy the blackcurrants are — we just planted them last year, and did basically nothing to protect them for the winter (bad me), but they survived and are happily putting out new leaves and branches. They’re doing well enough that I’m tempted to plant some more this year, because blackcurrants are amazing and one of my favourite fruits. Homemade cassis! Jam! Dried currants for salads! Maybe we’ll plant red and white currants as well, because why not?


We planted four different haskap bushes last year and I swear to god I thought they were dead. They went completely weird in the fall and just looked dead. But they’re alive! And super happy! They’re still just little, but in a few years we’ll probably have more haskap berries than we know what to do with. I’m looking forward to having that particular problem.


No pictures because they’re not really doing a whole lot just yet, but they are alive and putting out little buds. We planted 3 different types last year. They’re in the berry patch with the blackcurrants and haskap.


I thought these had all died, too. I planted three last year, and had to replant one because it just rotted in the ground. Two have survived! We love (love) rhubarb, however, so I’ll probably plant a few more this year, probably out on the other side of the shed where they’ll be more protected and happy. May move these ones as well — one is just in a bad spot down by the vegetable beds, and the other is in the soon-to-be-herb garden. Rhubarb can get huge, however, so I don’t really want it taking over too much space there, so i’ll move it once I figure out a better spot for it.


Last year I planted 5 little chive sproutlings in one of the raised beds (along with oregano, sage, thyme, cilantro and a few other herbs), and they’ve survived! In fact they’re going bonkers already. They will be moved from the raised beds into the new soon-to-be herb bed along the side/back of the house.

Hot peppers

I have five flats of hot peppers that are currently living on shelves by the back door in the kitchen. They’re doing super well, but I did start them a little early. These will be planted out in mid-June, along with the tomatoes, tomatilloes, and cucumbers. Hot pepper varieties this year: Jalapeno, Poblano, Hungarian Hot Wax, Cayenne, Guajillo, Anaheim, Orange Habanero, Peach Habanero, and Carribean Red Habanero. Five flats will fill three raised beds and give us enough peppers (hopefully!) to make a year’s worth of pickled peppers, dried peppers (for chili powder, etc), and hot sauce.

And that’s the story for today. More soon, since this week (if the weather cooperates), I’ll be planting leeks, onions, shallots, radish, scallions, turnips, and peas!


Garden beds: tomatoes, garlic, herbs & greens

Yesterday was the first Very Seriously Nice Day we’ve had this spring, and I spent a goodly chunk of it outside starting our spring clean up, prepping beds for planting, devising a plan for new garden beds for herbs & greens, and weeding what will become the new squash patch. Progress was made, but this is going to a few days (weeks) to finish.

Weeding and prepping

Moncton is located in Plant Hardiness Zone 5a or 5b (depending how you squint at the map), giving us an average last-frost date of roughly May 20-24. That’s still a month away, but there’s already plenty of stuff we can start planting now, including onions, shallots and leeks (from plants we started indoors); and radishes, spring onions and peas (from seed planted directly in the garden).

Since we can start planting those things now, I focused most of my effort on weeding and prepping those & the asparagus beds since I didn’t really do a thorough job of it in the fall. And lo, the results:

Tomato beds!

In the fall I did, however, properly prep this years’ tomato beds, amending them with well-rotted sheep manure, a few handfuls of blood & bone meal, and a generous scattering of ground up eggshells (tomatoes are notorious for calcium deficiency problems). Last year we also learned that tomatoes should be heavily mulched, so we got a few bales of straw in and just took care of that before the snow fell.

We’re using the “no dig” approach for all of this, so all we need to do now is build trellises and plant the tomatoes right through the mulch. Crazy easy, and the straw will help retain moisture (tomatoes are also notoriously finicky about consistent moisture levels) and suppress weeds. We will, in fact, be mulching everything with straw now, basically forever.

Here’s what the tomato beds currently look like. There are four of them (the bamboo is to hold down the straw since it was windy when I was spreading it out in the fall):


Garlic is a “plan ahead” sort of thing, since it has to be planted in the fall to overwinter in the ground. We planted ours in mid-October, getting new (and much, much better) seed garlic from The Cutting Veg. We planted roughly 420 cloves of 8 different types of organic garlic including:

  • Tibetan (8-10 cloves)
  • Romanian (8-10 cloves)
  • Polish (25-30 cloves)
  • Israeli (35-40 cloves)
  • Former Yugoslavian (55-60 cloves)
  • Sicilian (full bed, 100-110 cloves)
  • Russian (full bed, 80-90 cloves)
  • Persian (full bed, 100-110 cloves)

All of these are hardneck varieties except Sicilian, and you can read more about them over on the Cutting Veg’s Garlic Varieties page. Each planted clove will turn into a full head of garlic. It’s magic!

We planted four beds this year (up from three), and fewer cloves over all, so each bulb will have more space. We’ve also mulched this year (again, with straw), since last year’s crop suffered from a lack of consistent watering, several weeks of near-drought and, frankly, lackluster weeding on my part. I just checked yesterday, and we do have some garlic sproutlings already! Yay! (You have to squint…they’re the little greeny things.)

And finally, the soon-to-be beds for herbs & greens

I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a permanent herb garden since we moved in a couple of years ago. After coming up with a few different plans that involved renting a tiller and digging up a bunch of lawn, we realized it would just be much, much easier to just turn the existing flower gardens along the back and side of the house into beds for herbs and greens.

This actually eliminates two problems, since those beds have been basically neglected and need to be renovated heavily either way. We will be creating a new flower bed since we want to have somewhere to put the irises and other perennials, but that will be smaller and out in the full-sun where most of these flowers are going to be happier. Many herbs & greens are completely content in partial shade (some prefer it), so this is a better use for the shady side of the house.

We haven’t done anything to these beds yet, but each is roughly 22′ long and 4′ deep, giving us another ~170 square feet of garden space. I am slightly tempted to tear up another foot of sod along each side, but we’ll see how I feel after actually cleaning up and moving everything.

Pics of the current (sad) state of these beds, so I have something to compare them against later:

Back (south-facing, full sun)


Side (east-facing, partial shade)

This amount of space should do for a few years, but I am mildly obsessed with herbs and will still probably need to make space for more herb gardens at some point. Also dye plants. Ahem.

That’s today’s update! If you would like to comment or have any questions, you can find me over on Twitter or Facebook.


Herb seeds started, woot woot!

As per my previous post, we’re going to renovate the (currently sad, overgrown, and neglected) flower gardens along the south and east sides of the house and turn them into a permanent garden for herbs and greens.

To kick that off, I started herb seeds today! Woo! These are all multisown in 3″ pots, and the second column is the number of pots for each. Marjoram and Lion’s Mane chives aren’t done yet because I am still waiting for those seeds to arrive, but those should be along soon enough.

I have sketched a rough plan for the herb/greens garden layouts, and…well… it turns out you can cram a lot of plants into 160 sq ft of garden. In addition to the herbs on the list, it will also contain: kale, chard, shiso, mustards, dandelion (yes, shush), mizuna, arugula, and spinach. I don’t really bother with lettuces ‘cuz why would you when there are Much More Interesting greens to grow & eat? Yum.


Our 2018 garden plan (and its ongoing evolution)…



We built 10 raised garden beds the first summer we were in our new house and, even though we started pretty late in the season, we grew zucchini, peas, snap beans, chard, kale, lettuces, tiny little tomatoes, beets, and a handful of other things. We knew it was going to be a short season, but we wanted to get some stuff in the ground.


The second summer (last year), we added 15 more raised beds and grew tomatoes (so many), garlic, hot peppers, radishes, spring onions, onions, ground cherries, cucumbers, cucamelons, tiny little watermelons, dry beans, snap beans, zucchini, winter squash, strawberries, peas, beets, carrots, parsnips, chard, kale, a ton of different herbs, and probably a bunch of other stuff I’ve forgotten.

Last year we also dug up four of the original raised beds and planted asparagus, which (if it works) we should be able to start eating in…oh…two or three years. We also planted raspberries, blueberries, black currants, and haskap which should also be full size in 3-4 years. Some gardening is a longer play.


This year we’re not building any new raised beds, but we will be changing the back flower gardens into the permanent herb/greens garden, turning the hill by the driveway into a huge squash patch, and expanding last year’s squash beds for corn & pole beans (and also squash). We may also plant some fruit trees (apple and plum, maybe cherry, maybe apricot, etc.) if we get that sorted out soon, but it may also wait for next year.

Anyhow, I will probably blog about all of this more as we go — last year I mostly posted about this stuff on Facebook & Twitter, but those posts may as well be gone since trying to find older stuff on those sites is a fool’s errand. So, here we are.