In the new year I will broach the subject of gluten, it disappeared from my life for a while and after things fell apart (remember how 2010 wasn't that great?) it came back with full force. And that's okay.
Friday, December 31, 2010
This year has been an extraordinarily long one, filled with some ups and a lot of downs. It is easy to focus on those downs when it feels like we are faced with so many so while I am happy to let go of this year and all of its difficulties I am most definitely looking forward to what 2011 can possibly be. I haven't properly prepared to write this post and I feel a touch fragile about it, mostly because an ending makes me feel prickly and touchy, disoriented in my own skin and so with that, some of my favourite food photos from 2010:
Sunday, December 19, 2010
This Christmas my presents have come from local stores, book fairs or I have made them and while this has been necessary because we do not have a lot of money, it was also a lot of fun. When you make a gift for someone you can take the time to really think on what they like then create your vision. The mall won't offer you that.
I began to wonder, what if every month I made something, whether it was a few jars of jam, a casserole or even a favourite plate of cookies and gave it to someone in my life. Spontaneously pass on just a piece of kindness to anyone at all, even the couple next door who are tremendously quiet against my raucous family. Perhaps, especially that couple. As a whole, society is very concerned with giving at this time of year, definitely to family and maybe to a charity; come January life settles back into normal and that giving seems to end. I'm not asking for altruism here but there have been a number of "pay it forward" hashtags on Twitter recently but most are consumer based: "I bought Starbucks for the person in line behind me!" was common. That's kind but what if you made a jar of hot chocolate with homemade peppermint marshmallows and gave it to the shivering postal worker on your doorstep one morning?
What I am proposing is that each month I (or another terrific blogger) will choose a theme and make something for someone in my (and your) life then blog about the experience of being the nut who gives loved or peripheral people in her life food gifts. I'm thinking that I will announce (that makes me sound so official) the theme at the beginning of the month and then about two weeks later blog the recipe and what happened. Feel free to join me in doing this random act of foodie kindness and I will link to your post on a designated date. I think this could work.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The other day I was seriously craving hummus but the only chickpeas in the pantry were dried and seeing how it was already lunchtime, I couldn't really make Bubs wait 2 hours for chickpeas to hydrate. Instead, I start washing, chopping and throwing things into a pan without one clue as to what I was doing. The tastiest meals can come out spontaneity. This plate of crisps was perfect for Bubs and me as a light lunch, add in a glass of milk and a piece of fruit for lunch and it's a surprisingly healthy lunch. It is also a potential party food, spiced up a bit with slivers of smoked salmon and a bright drizzle of olive oil.
bag on spinach, washed
half onion, diced
3 tbsp. apple cider
2-3 tbsp. soy milk
S&P to taste
15 stoned wheat crackers (mine had caraway seeds and I strongly urge you to do the same)
1. Bring water to boil. Gently lay (with a spoon) two eggs in the water. Set the timer for 10 minutes.
2. In a pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil until it slips easily across the pan. Add the onion and cook until translucent.
3. Add the spinach and the apple cider, cover. It should take just a few minutes for the spinach to wilt, even though you will be blending it and breaking it down you do not want the spinach cooked to mush as it will destroy the flavour.
4. The eggs should be finished at this point. Dump out the water and run under cold water. Leave to sit in the water, you could even add a few ice cubes to speed up the process. Once cool, peel and slice.
5. In a blender add the cooked spinach and the soy milk. Pulse - I didn't make mine into a smooth purée because I wanted the texture. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
6. With a spoon, drop a spoonful of the spinach mix onto a cracker and flatten with the back of the spoon. Top with a slice of egg. Salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
A month and a bit ago I inherited a lot of cookbooks from my father. I knew that he liked to cook and I think everyone who knew him knew that he loved food but I didn't realize that he had amassed a pile of cookbooks. Flipping through the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook I found my dad's name and the date in his precise cursive on the title page, 1973, I think this particular cookbook is my favourite. Through his travels, his storytelling and his search for the new, Dad kept testaments to his past hidden on the bookshelf. What we know of ourselves and how we reveal it is in the titles on our bookshelves and standing in my father's quiet bedroom, this nearly 40 year old volume of recipes in my hands, these thoughts swirled in my mind. The cookbook, with its wide array of traditional recipes that border on the quintessentially wacky (Pink Snow Bars - which I want to make purely out of a sense of homage) are my father. The other cookbooks are too, but he held on to this one for 37 years, through all the changes, the moves within the city and out of the country, when he was no longer a teacher and once again a student, all of it; this little cookbook sat on the shelf.
The recipe I used was actually called "Lemon Biscuits" and was a lovely basic recipe for lemon shortbread but since I had neither lemons or a love for following a recipe I made mine with orange. I know I have orange extract somewhere but whenever it is needed it always disappears so I had to rely on orange juice and if you plan on making these, I'd ensure you have orange extract. The zest and juice do add a lovely flavour but it's not enough to explode orange, it's more of a persistent and gentle murmur. I had originally intended these cookies for Christmas but I have been promising Miss N the chance to decorate some cookies and we have all the icings and sprinkles but not the time. It took her about three seconds of turning her big (and gorgeous) brown eyes on her Daddy and they broke into the tin of cookies. It was completely worth it. Not only that, but the bold splashes of colour across cookies was an even more perfect homage to my father.
Adapted from "Lemon Biscuits", Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook.
Preheat oven to 375º.
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
3/4 cup butter or shortening, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
zest and juice of one orange, medium sized
2 eggs, room temperature
1. Sift together the dry ingredients.
2. In a separate bowl cream the butter or shortening. Slowly add the sugar and mix until fluffy. At this point add the zest and juice of the orange.
3. Add the eggs and mix well.
4. Ad the flour and blend together until it is a stiff dough.
5. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut into squares or use cookie cutters. This is the time to break out the Christmas tree cutters!
6. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. The directions call to lightly grease the cookie sheet, I lined mine with silicone baking sheets which keeps the bottoms significantly lighter than parchment paper.
If you are so inclined you can ice these babies with some fantastic icings. I'm looking forward to working with some royal icing; this time I used packaged icing scribbles which were great for small details but still had a bit of a weird flavour from the colouring.
Monday, December 13, 2010
It's that time of year when we are surrounded by sweets, people and if you are anything like me, you have flour handprints on your bum. A few weeks ago I attended a cookie exchange and Tammi was gracious to invite all of us social media types into her home. I was terribly nervous, anxious even to waltz into a stranger's home, laden with cookies and just myself. I am extraordinarily introverted and while I wanted to just stay home and not put my baking on the line and expose myself to people (gasp!) but when there's 80 cookies lined up on the dining room table, you don't mess around and you pack them up and go. An aside, Tammi and the ladies at the cookie exchange were all very sweet and I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few who felt the same as me, after all, we're social media types, right?
When faced with an impending cookie exchange, a good bet is a slightly sweet, tangy cookie with a rich white chocolate drizzle. I had tossed around a number of ideas, lemon poppyseed, orange poppyseed; basically anything with poppyseed because they were stuck in my mind. In typical "me" fashion I bought the bag of poppyseeds and the pack is still in the pantry waiting for their intended project, whenever I figure out what that may be. The dough for my cookies was just a basic chocolate chip cookie dough because it can carry the variety of flavours I wanted to add without taking over, not only that but it's great because you can play with the texture based on whether or not you use butter or shortening.
Adapted from the chocolate chip cookie recipe from Joy of Baking.
1 1/2 cups butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
zest and juice of 4 clementines
2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dry white wine
1. In a medium bowl cover the cranberries with the wine. Allow these to soak while you collect the ingredients and preheat the oven to 350º. Allow to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes.
2. In a separate bowl cream butter or shortening and add the sugars. Beat until fluffy (at that really tempting point when you kind of want to stick your finger in and try but remember it's straight butter and fat). Add the eggs at this point and the zest of the clementines. The specks of orange are beautiful but not entirely enough for flavour, hence adding the juice at this point.
3. In a separate bowl sift the dry ingredients.
4. Combine the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture of butter and sugars. When it is fully mixed, add the cranberries and mix until cranberries are evenly distributed. I found the mix a bit dry so I ended up using the wine too.
5. Drop onto a lined baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until a light golden colour and crisp edges.
4 squares white chocolate
1 1/2 - 2 cups icing sugar*
1. In a double-boiler melt the chocolate. Take extra care, white chocolate is quick to seize. Carefully add a dribble of cream.
2. Remove the double boiler from heat (but keep the bowl on the pot) and add the icing sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Mix quickly so there are no lumps to desired consistency. Mine dripped off the tines of a fork but was not overly liquidy, it kept its shape on the cookies.
3. Drizzle over the fully cooled cookies. Cool for about 2 hours.
*I think it was this much sugar, I was adding it slowly and lost count at one point.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
It's a funny thing about beef tongue - it really looks like tongue, complete with taste buds. It is also very large, again not terribly surprising but still a lot to wrap your head around. As Mr. said, "You know that a year ago we were vegetarians and now you have a beef tongue in the sink." Of course I used the innocent brown eyes tinged with a bit of indignation, of course I have a beef tongue in the sink! Of course I'm going to eat it! Of course it freaks me out because it kind of feels like pinching my own tongue in a very over-sized sort of way but I was determined to do it. As much as my hubby loves me and no matter how adventurous he may be, Mr. made himself a vegetarian taco that night.
This hasn't been the greatest lead up to dinner. What you may not know is that beef tongue is incredibly tender with a very subtle beef flavour that easily soaks up flavour. For the quantity of meat you can get out of the tongue it is very economical. I know a lot of people use the meat in sandwiches and I can see why, the tender slices are a nitrate-free, natural alternative to lunch meat. To be honest, the reason I made tacos was to disguise some of the more "tongue-like" features and I would highly suggest it. There is a reason why mothers never tell their kids what it is until after it has been eaten, it's tasty but can give you a bit of a shaky knee reaction.
I am still torn about the experience. I enjoyed preparing and eating this dish. It was undeniably delicious and to think that such a large portion of meat was not carelessly thrown away is reassuring when so many people are quick to throw away, particularly in light of the offal movement. I gave up being a vegetarian because of something a friend said to Mr. and I: "You're proud of your vegetarian for ethical reasons but is it environmentally friendly? You got your protein from imported almonds or whatever but it's not from here. My meat from down the hall from a fellow farmer. I traded him vegetables for it." We were standing in the farmer's market when we ran into Ted, the lanky farmer from whom we bought our vegetables and he made a valid point. We meekly stated that our tofu was local but was it enough? As much as we enjoyed our vegetarianism in some respects we had an uneasy relationship with it. So much was imported, shipped in from dots on the map. We slowly started incorporating meat from local producers, people we knew and had worked alongside at the market. We knew the farmers, their ethics and views on how to properly raise animals without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones and anything funky. I do not fault anyone for being a vegetarian, how could I? I do believe that we need to think about where our food comes from and what we do with it, eat natural foods in their whole state (despite my ravenous sweet tooth) and just start thinking about our impact on the world.
A note: We have a policy of full-disclosure with our children (kidded down of course), so after pretending to lick Miss N's face with the cooked beef tongue and explaining what it was, the kids still ate it. In fact, Bubs had seconds.
one beef tongue
one onion, diced
250 mL red wine
2 overly ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
1. Boil the beef tongue in water for about 3 hours.*
2. Once you are able to handle it, you will have to peel the skin off of it. I made an incision down the centre of tongue then using a paring knife peel it kind of like a apple. The skin will peel off fairly easily but it does take some encouraging. Reserve.
3. Heat olive oil on medium heat until it slips easily across the bottom of a high-sided frying pan. Add the onion, cook until translucent.
4. Dice the tongue and add to the pan. Lightly sear and add the wine. Keep the temperature high for just a few minutes to burn off the alcohol.
5. Add the tomatoes, garlic, cover and allow to reduce on low heat.
6. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. All of this is to taste.
7. Serve with ribbons of spinach (instead of iceberg lettuce!), diced tomatoes, grated cheese and any other favourite taco toppings. Enjoy!