Eggplant Chicken Instant Pot Pasta

20170925_eggplant pasta

This is a one pot meal.  The Instant Pot is great for making spaghetti and sauce meals so why not add fresh vegetables?  Here’s my experiment.


  • 1 lb ground chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2 cups chopped and peeled eggplant
  • 1 cup chopped zuccinni
  • 1/4 chopped red or green pepper (or both)
  • 1 square of frozen chopped spinach (that’s about a cup frozen or cooked)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • Italian Seasoning to taste (I put about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 can of diced tomatoes (400 mg/14 oz)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup pasta
  • 1 bay leaf
  • parmesean, salt, pepper to taste


Cook the ground turkey in oil on sauté (about 10 minutes).  Push the ground meat aside, add a little more oil or liquid if necessary to deglaze the pot, saute the garlic for a minute then add the chopped vegetables and sauté for 3 or 4 minutes just to soften.  Add the spices, liquids and pasta.  Cook manual on high for 8 minutes.  NPR for 4 minutes.

Note:  This is all approximate because it really is to taste – adjust the liquids if you want soupier or drier; also the time should be adjusted depending on the type of pasta and how soft you want it.  Basic thing is 2 cups liquid to 1 cup pasta, in general it’s 8 minutes manual to cook.  I put longer because I was using macaroni and I need to make it on the soft side so when I did 10 minutes it was very soft – 8 is better.



Lady Ashburnham Pickles


There’s a story behind these pickles: .  The reason for me making these is that they are a local signature food, and last year I had purchased a lady ashburnham cucumber out of curiosity because it was huge.  It was also a bit sour so I wondered what purpose they had.

This year I found the story and the recipe so I went back to our wonderful Country Pumpkin  where I found the cucumber last year.  It’s the only place I’ve seen those cucumbers.  They’re also the only place I’ve seen potato squash (delicious, I stocked up this year).

Next was trying the recipe.  There are several versions which is why I’m posting what I did so I can add my middle of the road attempt.  The Barbour Cookbook is one of the sources quoted online as that person’s source.  I’m not familiar with that cookbook but I will look for it.


  • 6 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
  • 4 cups combination of onion, red pepper, cauliflower
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1 tbsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp celery seed


Wash, peel, seed and chop the cucumbers finely (relish style).  Cover with the 1/4 cup salt and let sit overnight.  Drain and rinse the cucumber.  Put in pot.

In a bowl mix together the spices and sugar, stir in the vinegar.  When well disolved add to the cucumber and the 4 cups of chopped vegetables and bring to boil.  Cook on medium for 1 hour.

20170924 pickle1

Wash and sterilize the jars and lids.  Fill your jars and do a 10 minute hot water bath then tighten lids.  Let sit for a few weeks to set and serve.

Makes 6 500ml (1/2 pint) jars.

Note:  You can chose whatever vegetables such as green peppers and carrots or just use cucumber and onion.  The amount of sugar seems to be to taste because I’ve seen recipes with 4 cups.  Personally I don’t like very sweet pickles so I was pleased with the taste of the 2 cup version when I mixed it together. I found this recipe very liquidy, I’m not sure if I should have used more salt or perhaps smaller pickles but we’ll see later on after it’s set.

Also, if you’re not familiar with making pickles that are jarred (not refrigerator pickles) and aren’t sure how to sterilize or what a hot water bath is, please see this site before attempting any pickling:

Magnetic Shifts

This is a great big world
We live in, you and I
Footsteps falling on earth
Joined by molecules and miles
We are all connected.

Once we were too
Blood is blood after all –
We were close or
So I thought;
Turns out
We’re not.

You won’t see this
I don’t expect you to
I won’t apologize
For doing right by you
Even if you think
Right now.

Someday when the dust settles
When misdemeanors turned
Epic tales of horrible thoughts
Are calmed and
A little bit of fond remembrance
Trickles in
I hope you think kindly of me.

I said this before:
You can only be you
I can only be me
And that’s how it is.

Time is a fickle creature
Endless and long at first
There comes a day you wonder
How did those ten years
So swiftly disappear?

The Earth is huge
There are infinite places to hide
If you choose to
But sometimes just next door
Is more distant than Lac Marville
Time and space is funny that way.

Magnetic shifts –
What is close
Gets pushed away
Until the pole turns.

Well, this is where you’ll
Find me
Just where I’ve been
All along.

©Catherine M. Harris, 14-September-2017


Well, I didn’t make the long list again for the CBC Creative Non-Fiction contest, but that’s okay, that means you get to read this now.  Here’s my essay on some of my memories of 1967.  It was an incredible time to be 5 in the capital of Canada.


My dreams twirled in front of me dancing like the minnows I caught on the end of my fishing line the year I was five.  I’d spend my days in tomboy glory, my little blonde beagle Cookie that my dad bought me running by my side.  My bicycle was my trusty steed riding me to adventures unknown, or maybe to freezies at the corner store.  I was a bit of a free-range child I will admit.  We lived in a two bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a building very close to the shores of the Rideau River on what is now called old Ottawa South.

In the morning after breakfast of the typical 1960s sugary cereal the dog and I would climb out the window and meet up with our friends in the grounds at the back.  My friends were mostly boys because boys did fun things like fishing and climbing trees.  If a stranger asked me if I was a boy or a girl, I’d say boy.  My long hair had been cut short by this time and I did look like one.  It was a fun change from the frilly dress gloved and hatted girl I would be on Sunday when attending church with my family.  Tea parties weren’t for me; I melted my Barbies on the radiator just to see what would happen and while my dad insisted I wear the pretty dresses he bought for me when he visited, my mom let me be who I wanted to be, which in that year was Stefan.  We lived just us three, my mother, sister and I in the apartment.  My dad lived in an apartment near Rideau Street.  Cookie was a birthday present from him.

On the weekend when he would take my sister and me out we often wound up at the Mayflower Restaurant on Elgin; it had undergone a renovation and I remember it had a colourful maple leaf in tile on the front of the counter where there were stools.  It was put there in honour of the 1967 centennial in Ottawa.

The centennial was a really big deal for Canada, and certainly for Ottawa.  It was an exciting time to be a child, there were numerous parties and celebrations and in addition to that, there was Expo 67.  So many things happened that year for me that I can truly say that this was the first mostly full year I can remember.  A lot of it is in glimpses:  playing on my aunt’s piano in her living room in her apartment upstairs in the same building we lived in.  Standing in line at Dairy Queen on Bank Street near the Mayfair theatre.  Being lectured by a policeman after my friends and me, playing with a Coke bottle accidently threw it through a store window.  Oops.

Some of these are funny:  there was a grassy area on Elgin Street close to where the National Arts Centre was being built.  Ottawa, tourist mecca that it is, was teeming and I was totally enthralled with the colorful fun clothing people wore at that time.  Walking past there one sunny summer day, I saw a guy dozing on the lawn, his curly long red hair flowing behind him.

When I think back I remember a lot of music. I was frequently at my aunt’s where she played the piano often and very well; she had been a concert pianist and played for the precursor of CBC radio during a mine disaster up in Northern Ontario all night one time I was told.  I loved it when she played her version of Onward Christian Soldiers, full of fierce chords and trills, it always made me laugh.  The Beatles were huge at that time and I remember sitting with a baby sitter in a cafeteria somewhere – they had the radio playing the Beatles and they were excitedly talking; one weird thought I had was seeing one of the girls’ hair – it was blonde at the bottom with a couple of inches of dark at the roots and I wondered if that’s what my mom meant when she said blonde hair goes dark over time.  I was a strange child.

My mom had friends who lived in Montreal and had a cottage in the Laurentians.  I remember her excitement at us being invited to their place for a week or two so that we could go to Expo 67 and then to the cottage.  I loved riding the train so not knowing what an Expo was I still loved the idea of travelling by train to Montreal and being able to swim in a lake maybe, now that I could swim.

Being able to swim was actually a fairly recent development for me at the time; my mother loved to swim and grew up spending summers on the Rideau River at the cottage her father owned.  In memory of his youth in PEI he hand built a lighthouse for the kids to play in and change their clothes.  So when we moved to the apartment building we spent many an hour at the indoor pool my sister and me splashing around, my mom doing the breast stroke and encouraging us.  My sister tended to be a bit of a bully sometimes like older siblings can be; one day while swimming she pushed me under and held me there.  I fought and managed to kick myself away from her grasp; then I realized: hey, I’m swimming!  I was underwater and knew just what to do.  Mean as it was, that action was just what a four year old me needed for it all to click.  To this day I love swimming underwater; I even dream of it.  It’s so peaceful there.

Expo 67 wasn’t my strongest impression of that trip to Montreal.  Oh I do remember it; the Habitat Pavilion intrigued me and I was totally amazed by just how many people were there.  I hadn’t been anywhere with that many people before.  There was an electric sense of something incredible, something important going on.  There was music, lots of music, and food of all kinds to try.  It was fun.

What I remember most of that vacation was the cottage in the Laurentians.  I wish I could remember the name of that man and his wife, they were very kind and the man walked around the grounds with me talking and showing me stuff.  We had this conversation about his toenail and how they froze it and pulled it out.  I was fascinated.  I thought he meant they held ice cubes on his toe and I didn’t have the nerve to ask him why.  I just was intrigued by the fact that nails could come off.  One thing that really stood out for me was their old hand crank party line telephone.  It was the real thing – you held the ear trumpet in one hand and spoke into the mouth piece on the phone body, and you cranked a handle to get the operator.  You knew who the call was for by the number of rings.  Ring ring pause ring ring – well, that was two rings and it wasn’t theirs so you didn’t answer it.  Except, with a sly smile, our host showed me that if you quietly took the ear piece off the hook and held your hand over the mouth piece, you could listen in on somebody else’s conversation!  It was our little secret, this conspiratorial thing between us because we knew if anyone else had caught us listening in we’d be in trouble.  It saddens me to think that if he’s still alive, he’d be well into his 90s.

I could ask my mother, she is still with us.  However going on 98 her mind is lost in a world of its own; she spends her days in bed mostly, sometimes lucid more often not.  Now is not the time for questions.  Perhaps I don’t want to know the answer anyway.

As we settle into the year that Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary I won’t be at Parliament Hill on July 1st.  I’m not in Ottawa anymore. For 1967 I was in that crowd on that hot summer day. It was my dad’s 36th birthday and I sat on his shoulders as we listened to the Queen and later watched fireworks.  My mom and sister were there too of course.

My dad and my mom did get back together shortly after the apartment got flooded and after I lost my fishing pole forever as punishment for biking downtown by myself.  But like many families, in the 1970s ours didn’t last and that was the right thing to do for us.

My dad, like so many in my half century on Earth is no longer here.  So for now I think I’ll be that small girl on his shoulders on a historical day in a wonderful place for just few minutes more in my mind.

Happy sesquicentennial, Canada.

Taco Soup


20170903_234653So Jim wanted some soup with flavour that could be puréed in the blender.  He just had oral surgery so is limited in what he can eat.  Liquidy, not too spicy.  He thought the idea of taco soup sounded great so here we are.  In searching for the recipe I realized that there’s as many recipes for this as there are cooks.  So this is what I’ve come up with, written down at Jim’s request.


  • 1 lb ground meat (I used ground turkey)
  • 2 cups broth (I used chicken bone broth)
  • 1 large can of puréed stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can of creamed corn (or put about a cup of frozen corn)
  • 1 cup spaghetti sauce (if you want it spicier, try a cup of salsa)
  • 1 tsp Tex-Mex spice (use more, I toned it down for Jim)
  • 1 tbsp minced cilantro
  • olive oil (to coat bottom of pan)
  • 1 cup cooked kidney beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • shredded nacho cheese

I made this in the Instant Pot but really any soup pot on the stove would do.

Pour a bit of olive oil in the pan and sauté the ground meat until brown.  Remove from pan and deglaze the bottom with a couple of tablespoons of the broth.  Cook the onions and garlic until the onions are soft.  Add all the remaining ingredients including the cooked ground meat, except the shredded cheese.  Feel free to add whatever spices you like that you would normally add to tacos; taco sauce would be great.

Cook on soup setting for 30 minutes and NPR for 15.  If you’re cooking on the stove I’d bring it to a boil, bring the heat down to simmer and simmer with a lid on for about 45 minutes.

Put the shredded cheese on your bowl and enjoy!  You could also put sour cream and avocado on top, that would be nice.

For Jim, I whizzed it all in the blender and he was a happy guy.  Me, I added a wee bit more spice 😉