About Chatty Kathy

Living in the beautiful Okanagan Valley in BC, we have an abundance of fresh food to cook with, and believe me, I do! We have 5 daughters, 3 grand daughters, and lots of honorary daughters ...I love cooking for family and friends and they all keep me busy in the kitchen. Here is hoping that this blog will allow my entire family to access those recipes they ask for, and maybe even enjoy a few travel photos!

Kampong Chhnang

90 k from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang by bus …. and it took over 2 hours! We think every road in Cambodia is being worked on, and Cambodians agree.  The city of Kampong Chhnang didn’t in any way wow us, neither with food or accommodation, but the aspects we loved were unreal.  So many memories to flash on.

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The water isn’t very deep but we were still grateful for the lifejackets just to give us a bit of padding at the back!  How do they manage hard wooden benches as they do?

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Shortly after arriving we were on a long tail boat touring floating villages on the Tonle Sap River.  It was incredible to drift through just observing how people live in such a small area.  Why do we in North America feel like we have discovered something new?  Tiny houses have nothing on these folks.  In general the people were so friendly, waving and calling hello – they don’t have enough tourists yet to make this seem like an intrusion into their world, we are more like a novelty, just like their way of life is to us.  On the ecological side of things it was very challenging to see the garbage floating and the outhouses for the homes nothing more than a privacy shelter built out over the river.  We spotted “general store” type of boats pulling up at homes and we were surprised to notice how many homes had satellite dishes on the roofs, with many of them also having solar panels on their roof.  I’ve included a few of the photos I took of the floating homes, just to show the variety.

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These fish farms were everywhere on the river – they subsist mainly on fish for their protein.

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These little girls stopped to ask my name, and laugh at my tentative steps as they ran back and forth! 😳

This rickety bridge is just as unsafe as it looks.

 

That took about two hours, and then we were off to the next adventure.  A tuk tuk driver took us to a local pottery village and it was simply fascinating.  The government now legislates people pulling clay out of the mountains, and so it is all regulated and paid for. One family home we stopped at is the largest producer of clay ovens for Cambodia.  They had just received an order for thousands of these ovens – in Cambodia each family has at least two of these on the go in the kitchen, one for rice and the other for whatever they are cooking that night.  The entire family was very hard at work, and yet still welcomed us with smiles and allowed us to wander around and didn’t mind me taking a few photos.  Our driver knew them all, and was able to explain to us what was going on.

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Grama sits here in the dirt all day, pulling out the chunks of clay.

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Next it all has to be cleaned – water poured in and then they clean all the impurities, bits of rock etc out of the clay.

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Meanwhile these guys have a really efficient process on the go – they are creating molds, which will later hold the oven for firing and then be painted.

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Under the plastic tarp is a huge mass of soft clay, this lady is filling the molds, and creating the oven shape, removing from excess from the centre.

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The kids have to trim all the surfaces, and etch in designs.  No such thing as playing with the mud around here, they are all valuable members of the team (they do go to school in the morning).

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look at all her wooden tools and implants around her

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Black ash is rubbed inside and outside the pots before firing – these are all waiting to be fired for 24 hours in an open air type of fire – huge pit.

 

 

The next stop was a totally different pottery experience.  This woman learned the craft from her mother and is carrying on her work.  She exclusively makes pots for cooking on those ovens, in all sizes.  She allowed me to work with the clay, and even do the designs on one of the larger pots she was working on.  Again, she had so much work to do, but seemed genuinely happy to be explaining to us (through driver again) how things work and how to do what she does.

 

The third and final pottery stop was with someone using a potters wheel to create many different pottery items.  It was so much fun to have her show me how to do it, and my own pottery bowl didn’t even turn out too bad.  So wish I had been in the area long enough to have it fired and finished to bring it home …. but they carved my name into it so someone in the world that buys it will have an original “Kathy” design …

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So patient, showing me exactly where to put my hands.

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Done, pretty good if I do say so myself!  If we were around in a few days it would be fun to see the finished product and even take it home.

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Cows, everywhere there are cows!!!  And red dirt roads.

I was going to put everything from our stay in Kampong Chhnang on one post, but that would just make it too long.    We spent 2 nights here, and saw so many amazing sights that it is just a lot to take in.  All this was just one day!  I will save day 2 and our trip to Kampong Leaeng for the next post.  After all even I can only listen to me for so long, and look at so many photos.

Usually Wilson is with us, and he often reviews for rambling run on sentences, sentence structure or even spelling mistakes, and I’m sorry if you are subject to all that.  Grant is here for accuracy, but missing Wilson & Vivi’s input on the writing!  Next time guys???

 

Phnom Penh

Our first time to Cambodia, and we are loving it.  Until we arrived I didn’t realize we’ve been mispronouncing Phnom ….. that is not a silent P!!

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The marathon travel is over!  Arriving in Phnom Penh and climbing into our first tuk tuk of many for our Asian adventure.

What a chaotic city.  Anyone who has ever travelled with us knows that we walk and walk and walk …. 5 blocks anyone??  Mexico City has often seemed challenging for walking, you are so often looking up, down and all around for obstacles.  Well, Phnom Penh is insanity compared to that!  At first we thought maybe they don’t have sidewalks, but technically they do ….. it’s just that their purpose is for parking, small businesses or restaurants and even scooter or motorcycle driving (in any direction).  In fact even in the lanes of the road, the direction of traffic is ONLY a mere suggestion.  Pedestrians, walk at your own risk!  Every time we crossed a street we breathed a sigh of relief.

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If this was a video you would see that guys head swivelling in all directions as he tried to cross, at a crosswalk!  There is no way I even got a photo of us crossing or walking anywhere, just too perilous, each walk was dangerous ….

They do however, have a beautiful walk way along the Tonle Sap river which is wide, well lit and very busy.

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Wats and feral cats everywhere!  I’ve never seen so many stray cats of every description. They don’t bother you at all though, certainly no begging for food or attention.

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These salted snails cooked with lemongrass and lime leaves with chili are a very common snack. No, we didn’t try them …. always a wee bit leery of seafood sitting in the sun (plus Reid tried them and said the texture was off putting).  Well maybe that isn’t the word he used but you get the idea.

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These mangos though!!!  Outstanding and so very plentiful.  We ate them in salads, for breakfast and just for snacks.

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Love the way two different factions of buddhism are side by side in Cambodia.  They have a strong influence from both Chinese and Indian.

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Always monuments!  This was in the centre of another pedestrian walkway.  It is obviously the only place for safety in activity as entire families were out there walking, joggers were jogging, badminton games and roller skating – the place for it all.

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In order to recover from our arduous journey we went for a traditional Khmer massage.  Was it relaxing???  Not on your life it wasn’t.  Grant had plans to nap, as he usually does in a massage.  Not a chance of that happening as we both moaned and groaned and yelped throughout the entire hour.  (ever had a aThai massage? ha ha ha) By the time it ended we were absolutely glowing however, and enjoyed our relaxing cup of tea with the hand stimulator going.  Even two days later our calves were still tender from the experience, but we’d do it again!

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Loved staying at Corner 9 Bassac Hotel …. an oasis in the middle of a very hustling bustling city.  The rooms were quiet and comfortable and it was great to have the pool to relax with.  Their breakfasts were the best we’ve had.

The best breakfast were delicious ….. they bring the ingredients for your noodle bowl and you put it together as you like.  The pork with rice had a dipping sauce that was a bit sweet, spicy and salty … so good.  And, have you ever had rice fresh from harvest?  It is incredibly tasty.

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We did go to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh.  This peaceful garden was once a secondary school before Pol Pot took over with the Khmer Rouge and their horrific methods of removing any citizens that were scholars, artists and effectively wiping out generations of Cambodians.  Cambodia is still struggling with recovery.  This is the only photo I took there, where it is now once again a peaceful garden with monks gathering alongside people coming to learn about the genocide that took place as well as pay respects.

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FROG!  and not just frog legs.  Marinated and fried, then tossed in a ginger lemongrass sauce that was finger licking good.  

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Betel leaves wrapped around marinated beef with peanut dusting as well as a lime pepper dipping sauce.  The pepper is so fresh (grown in Kampot, Cambodia) which means it is fragrant and very tasty without being overwhelmingly hot.  Just look at all that pepper in the dipping bowl, and yet it wasn’t too spicy.

We ate at Mok Mony 3 times over our few days in Phnom Penh, it was that good.  The owner Peter was very entertaining, and I loved his philosophy.  Go ahead and order whatever you want to try, if you don’t like it (for whatever reason) he simply takes it back.  At the end of the night they reheat all the leftovers, make rice and serve it to the homeless.  This was our first taste of Cambodian food and we were immediately hooked. We actually hadn’t heard much about the Cambodian food culture like we do for Thailand and Vietnam so this was a real bonus in our books.

 

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The streets around the Royal Palace are for pedestrians only, and you will be sure to spot plenty of monks around.

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This old colonial building is for sale or rent ….. just a wee bit of a fixer upper.

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This old abandoned building has been taken over by squatters, and is full of families.

Phnom Penh has been great, a busy hustling and bustling city that was our introduction to Cambodia.  Now on to smaller areas as we make our way up to Siem Reap.

 

Moist Delicious Corn Bread

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Easily the quickest of quick breads, moist and tender …. this is absolutely delicious and one you must try.  Just another fantastic use for your cast iron skillet.  Serve this alongside some hearty chili or stew and you’ll have such a comforting meal.

  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 425 and place a 12 inch cast iron skillet in to heat up while you make the batter.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl whisk up the buttermilk, eggs, and 7 tbsp of the melted butter.
  3. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 and remove the skillet.  CAREFULLY … remember it is hot.
  4. Coat the skillet with the remaining tbsp of melted butter.  Pour the batter in the skillet and place it in the oven.  Amazing to watch …. it right away starts to puff up around the edges.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm, and a tester comes out clean.  Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.
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This comes together so quickly – whisk up dry and wet ingredients separately and then quickly combine them.  Stir until you don’t see any lumps, but don’t over mix the batter.

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As soon as the batter hits the hot pan it starts to smell amazing and I loved the way it puffed up around the edges of the cast iron.

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It might be difficult, but let it sit for 15 minutes after removing from the oven.  Still warm enough to melt butter but holds together like a dream ….. try it, and I bet you love it.

Have you checked out http://www.jocooks.com ??  I got this recipe from her blog and it is most assuredly the best cornbread I’ve tried.  In fact, I think every recipe I try of hers I love!

Buttermilk Ranch Dip or Dressing

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Vegetables first!  The kids absolutely love a big platter of fresh vegetables, but this ranch dressing really makes it a favourite.  Ready for them to arrive from the ski hill today and this platter will disappear in minutes.

This is the best creamy dressing to have on hand for those hungry moments. .. … or when the kids are arriving home from school or the ski hill.  In general, we prefer vinaigrette’s for salad dressing, but this is so comforting and delicious we love it too.

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (you could use regular milk but I like the tang from buttermilk)
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 1/2 tsp each dried basil, oregano & parsley (in the summer of course fresh is best)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice (according to your own taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Give the whole thing a good mix and allow to sit long enough for all the seasonings to fully wake up and join the party.  This is perfect as a dip, for a salad dressing I would thin it out a bit with either a bit more buttermilk or even a touch of water.

 

Beer Bread

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Today I created an extra crunchy crust …… first the melted butter, then sprinkled on some grated aged cheddar, and topped with the seasoned sesame seed mixture left from the dregs of the nuts and bolts mixture I made this Christmas – Y U M

This is the easiest, simplest quick bread!  The most difficult part of making this bread is waiting for it to come out of the oven while amazing smells are drifting through the house …..

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 can or bottle of beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sift dry ingredients together and stir in 1 12 ounce bottle or can of beer – stir just until it all comes together and turn into a greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.  (I like to line the pan with parchment paper – it makes it so easy to lift out of the loaf pan.).

Drizzle the melted butter over and bake.

Bake for 1 hour until a tester comes out clean.

Rest for 10 minutes before removing from loaf pan, then let sit for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

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Aged white cheddar and Italian seasoning added today.

 

You can mix this up however you like – add in herbs, grated cheese or some seeds.

My cousin Vivian used dried dill weed in the flour mix, and put olive oil on top … try it!

I’ve had people ask if you can use soda instead of beer ….. not unless you add 2 tsp (or 1 packet) of instant yeast.  It is the beer that helps the bread to rise and not be a heavy lump of dough!

Did you know that you should sift your flour, and SCOOP (using a spoon) into your measuring cup instead of scooping with your measuring cup?  This helps make your flour lighter and in turn, your bread lighter.

 

Yams with Miso Tahini Sauce

Slow roasting yams bring them to another flavour level entirely!  The skin gets lightly charred in spots, and the insides get creamier and smoother than ever.  Normally I love yams with just a simple touch …. butter, salt and pepper.  Lately I’ve been seeing recipes for a version that included a Miso Tahini dressing in place of the butter.  Given that I love all three ingredients, I decided to give it a taste test.  Instant winner – so delicious.

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I had some cilantro around so tossed a bit of that over top as well.

How easy is this?  Dead simple.

Mix with a fork in a small bowl until smooth.

  •  2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. miso (I used white)
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Garnish:

  • thinly sliced scallions
  • toasted sesame seeds

Wash and poke yams with a fork.  Give them a little love by massaging them with olive oil – season with salt and pepper.  Cook yams at 375 degrees until super soft and lightly charred.  (how long will depend on the size, have you ever noticed the variance??). You could also cut them into a few irregular pieces, toss in olive oil and bake on a tray, which would be faster.  Count on at least an hour though.

When deliciously soft, split open, season again with salt and pepper – scoop on the sauce and sprinkle over the scallions and sesame seeds.  Absolutely satisfying.

Candy Cane Sugar Cookies

Just in time for Christmas!  I bought a small bag of crushed candy canes at Bulk Barn, probably about $2.00 worth …. thinking it would be great for decorating the sugar cookies we make every year.  Well, Sloan had a different idea and decided they should go in the cookies, so that’s what we did.  What a hit!

Peppermint cookies 1

  • 3/4 cup soft butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup crushed candy canes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together butter and sugar.  When light and fluffy add in eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy and smooth.

Sift dry ingredients together and stir into butter mixture.  It will be a stiff mixture, so you may end up using your hands, we usually do.

Last, stir in the crushed candy cane.

Knead lightly until you have a workable dough, then cover tightly and put in the fridge for at least an hour.  (you can do this days ahead or even freeze it at this stage)

Roll out dough on lightly floured board and cut into desired shapes.

We always decorate our cookies before baking them, in place of the added sugar you get with decorating with icing.

I used to use raw egg, but find I get better results using evaporated milk and gel food colouring.  Just put a little milk in a cup and stir in enough food colouring to get the colour you want.

Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes, watching carefully – every oven is different.

 

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Get your kids involved!  Sloan is 9 and has been rolling and cutting dough for years now.

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So many fun sugars and sprinkles available now for decorating the tops.

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We do a  cooking class on Fridays – these four work so well together, and we have a great time with Pearl and Leo joining Sloan and Stella.

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Each of the kids made their own dough & we baked up two batches – each family got to take one batch home for baking another day.

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Pearl has this tray ready to go in the oven, love all the vibrant colors.

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The most important part is taste testing ….

 

Stay tuned – more cooking classes to come!