Friday, December 30, 2011

foodie manifesto

I have been thinking about what it means to be a foodie lately. More than one of our introductory posts on here have taken a definite stance - either we are and embrace it or are not - and shun it? feel sheepish about it? I am unsure of the tone. So it got me thinking - is being a "foodie" seen as a snobby thing? I certainly hope not.

To me - my life kind of revolves around food. From parties or breastfeeding, tea breaks to hospitality tips, the Eucharist to community supported agriculture and "beyond organic" theory, from the whole foods movement to gardening, from food photography to penitential fasting, from butter-love to fresh veggies to wandering through the market in summer... to picnics, to co-ops... yeah, my life essentially revolves around food, and I think that's fine. I think food and eating are major natural sacraments. I think health and wellness come first from eating right and treating the earth, the animals, and our farmers with respect. I love to eat. I love to learn to appreciate what I am eating better. I love food. To me, that's what being a foodie means.

What about you? Why do you say you are or are not a foodie?

christmas foods

rosemary and onion foccacia: a Christmas eve tradition

with egg nog.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hello! Natalia here...

Hi everyone!
Amy had invited me to join this foodie blog (flog?) and I tentatively joined. I say tentatively because I don't see myself as much of a foodie. I mean, I love food. But honestly, most of the time I don't like making it, unless I'm sure to get accolades! But I'm pretty good at it when I do it, so I guess that's something.

Now that I got that disclosure stuff out of the way:

Top culinary influences: Pictures in magazines, the desire to impress, celebrities with crazy particular diets (like macro or paleo)
Favorite cook books: Quinoa 365, The Kind Diet
Favorite 5 ingredients: chocolate chips, flax seed, olive oil, quinoa, garlic
Favorite 5 dishes: Nori Rolls, Gnocchi, Vegetarian Pizza with Mango, Pancakes, Chickpea Curry
How did you learn to cook?: I didn't! Ha. My parents didn't cook, I was raised on microwave burritos. So when I got engaged I decided I better learn how to do it (I was also a caregiver for an elderly woman and I made her dinners) so I started trying stuff out. I think my husband is fairly happy with it all so far. I guess that's my main motivator. 
Your week in cooking: So far this week I have made a tofu turkey with delicious herb stuffing, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato pie, corn bread, whole wheat bread, soup, carmelized green beans with shallots, portobello burgers... that's all I can remember so far. Wow. That list impresses me more than I thought it would.
Culinary fascination of the moment: Pies. So far this fall I've made a few pumpkins, a sweet potato and apple.
Culinary ambitions: I would really like to cook with more Japanese stuff like seitan and all their crazy spices, but they're hard to track down (and Indian spices too sometimes)
Top serving tips: Well, the thing that always ends up being the biggest problem for me is that not everything is ready at the same time, so I guess my biggest tip would be to check how long everything will take well in advance of the serving time so you know what order to do things in. That's a pretty basic one, but it's where I'm at!
Your dream kitchen: A kitchen with a Jarvis-like talking computer!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Moroccan Preserved Lemons


What's your take on this? I've only just heard about preserving lemons. Personally, I'm on the fence about this one. When I think lemons, 'fruit flavourfully decomposing in a jar' isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind (more like, 'squeeze it into my vodka, please'). But it definitely looks interesting, and probably smells amazing too.

When life gives you lemons... well, I guess it's free lemons, so you can do whatever you want with them, Moroccans.


Damn lemons, you whack!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

cranberry chutney

On day 2 of fermentation presently - with onion, garlic, scotch bonnet, raisins, and some lovely spices and things - to add some heat to tomorrow's turkey. Will let you know how it goes! It's a lovely colour; will post pics asap!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Toasted Quinoa, Carrot, and Kale

I don't really know what to call this dish, because you can serve it as a whole hot meal, or chill overnight and serve as a salad the next day. Kind of magical, right?

Last week, I was hit with a wave of inexplicable depression (the sun setting as early 3:57 pm could do that to you), and I knew just what would cheer me up...LOBLAWS, WENCHES!

I blissfully stocked up on a colourful array of veggies and noticed some leafy greens on sale (kale, and collars, and chards, oh my!)...but it gets BETTER. When I got to the cash, the sale was not yet entered in the computers. YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS: La loi d'exactitude des prix! I got a head of kale for FREE! I felt like an outlaw, first-class.

I marvelled, of course....immobilized and slightly hunched over in triumphant glee.

Then, I got home. My dad looked at me witheringly and said, "you better believe you're cooking some of that tonight, because the fridge is FULL." I set my jaw. Bring it, Dad.

I whizzed through several kale recipes, and this one looked the most appealing...and it's easy peasy.

What You'll Need:

-4-5 carrots, grated or coarsely chopped..whatever floats your boat, really
-1-2 cups quinoa, rinsed
-1/2 head yummy kale, chopped to bite-sized pieces
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 cup leek (or onion)
-2-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tbsp grated ginger
-pepper, to taste
-1 cup water

What To Do:

1) Put a large frying pan on the stove at medium-high heat.

2) While the pan is heating up, rinse and chop your kale. Rinse your quinoa.

3) When the pan is hot, put the quinoa into the pan. TOAST for 10-15 minutes (trust me on this one) or until you see that the seeds turn a couple of shades darker and the kitchen is mm mm fragrant!

4) Once your quinoa is done toasting, pour in 1/2 cup water. Cover, keeping on medium heat. When the quinoa is almost cooked, reduce the heat, and move it to the edges of the pan and drizzle some olive oil in the free space, and toss the leek in. Sautée the leek gently--watch, because it burns easily! After 1-2 min, toss in minced ginger and your grated carrots. Cook for another minute or two, and serve HOT, with freshly ground pepper.


Yields a lot of servings.

NB: The only thing I would change about this recipe is that it is admittedly, a little bland. Up the ginger, pepper, or think about adding red pepper flakes, sage, or some other spices you think would make a good combination.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sam's partay

I threw Sam a party for her bird-day.

The lesson here is: presentation is everything.

I once heard a great example of this in the realm of pastoral ministry for youth. The writer emphasized the importance of using good and beautiful things to serve others to make them feel valuable. If you use vessels of value, it sends the message that your guests are of value. When having a tea party for the young women who come to youth group, or the drop-in center, whether they are Christians yet or not, use lovely things, and they will feel lovely, and the teaching of the dignity of the human person will be easier to believe. The writer included a thought experiment: imagine a tea party where 14 year old girls come to the center and are served tea in disposable wax and paper cups, and cookies from a box on paper napkins. They would probably have a fine time and not notice - many young people today do not have homes where they would expect any more than that when serving guests, or in daily use. Now imagine they were served in the center's plain mugs and simple (mismatched) plates. Ahh, that feels homier, right? The girls might even help wash the dishes and share a sense of accomplishment. Finally, imagine using the finest, fanciest china you own, with homemade cookies, of course - what does this say to young girls who so often feel objectified, uncared for, put down, unloved? It says yes, they are worth it, yes, we believe in you and your ability to live up to this, yes, we care about you enough to spend some extra time baking and washing dishes to please and delight you!

I am never insulted per se when I go to a party and am served food on disposable plates. It is normal. That is how I grew up. That's how my mom and aunts and uncles still do it. But for me, I have made an inner vow: to not serve the salmon on the shiney cardboard it came on, to not let people eat out of tupperwares, and to just say no to plastic forks.

Because you are worth it! Happy birthday, Sam!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

St. Nicholas Day Cookies

Late, as usual! Sorry about that!

The paper outline I used is from here (print and cut), the recipe that follows is adapted from the Brown Bag Cookie Art recipe booklet I have. I went with the recipe I did because cookies made from highly detailed molds require very little to no rising or puffing, so that the detail is not lost - hence, no baking powder or baking soda, and a very controlled quantity of egg and butter compared to flour. You can use this recipe or others from their website whenever you need detail that will hold - I plan to use this kind of recipe for my gingerbread house this year. (As a digression rant - why on earth is there so much baking soda in the recipe "Making Great Gingerbread Houses"?? Why bother measuring, using stencils, etc. if the walls puff up and become asymmetrical... in a totally fixable way?? Remember my fiasco from last year? I have decided to totally blame the silly, over-leavened recipe and go ahead with my elaborate fantasy for my house this year and depend on the recipe below - stay tuned, it will of course be hosted here instead of Hosheana this time around!)

So, without further ado...

1/2 c softened butter - cream by hand with a wooden spoon in a bowl.
cream in: 1/2 brown sugar, then
1/4 molasses
add in:
1/2 jumbo egg, pre-beated (medium egg is okay)
2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
2 dashes cloves
2-3 dashes cayenne pepper (we like it spicey!)

375 d F x 1-12m.

The royal icing I use is 1 egg white, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar, 1 1/2 c icing sugar, and just a dash of water. Beat the shit out of it. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer. You can also use an electric hand mixer. I don't recommend using manual power to make royal icing.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Asian Mushroom Soup, Take 2

I say "Asian" because 1) there's actually a mix of Chinese and Thai ingredients, and 2) I've been quite politically incorrect lately, and now that I'm back in school, the time is nigh to change my ways.

I'm sure you've all felt the below-the-bell weather last week, and cold weather pretty much drives me into the kitchen for some comfort food. AND, with advent season upon us, what better than to simmer some healthy, delicious, vegetarian soup!

Anonymous compilation cookbook from TJ Maxx, Seattle!

The recipe calls for some ingredients that I didn't have in my pantry:

-mirin (which I wasn’t familiar with)

-rice vineagar


...not your typical Middle Eastern fare. So a grocery adventure (yay!!) was overdue. I passionately despise major grocery chains, which is why I’ll make it a point to purchase from farmers’ markets, or dusty, cheap fruiteries in Parc Extension. Major chains give me this chilling sense of fakeness, because they put on gaudy façade of freshness, goodness, and trust. But how do you build trust without establishing a dialogue, or like...having a face? What is Metro? Who is Metro?

So I cruised over to two places this week: Eden, an Asian specialty store, owned by an Asian (I'm tempted to say Chinese?) family, headed by a kindly Grandpapa whom I absolutely adore, in the same complex as Cinema du Parc. I also visited the super-tiny, super-ghetto Thai Hour, located right in the hub of the Jean-Talon market.

Eden: Where I picked up Steve, my leek lover in Post #1

Going to Eden is kind of like walking into this organic, wholesome, vegetarian heaven. It's beautifully designed, rocking an endless array of imported chocolates and biscuits (Amy, I know how you feel about imported stuff, but I must admit it’s my weakness); displays glittering with rows of organic apples, persimons, and peaches; noodles; teas; gluten-free foods; eco-friendly cleaning products (I'm sure you get my enthusiasm). They also have a cheap deli counter where you can get THE best tuna sandwiches in town. Seriously addictive, healthy, and generously portioned. Mirin is sweet fermented rice wine, but when I looked at the ingredient list of the cheapest brand, every other ingredient was some form of refined or derived sugar. So, no thanks. I picked up the rice vinegar (2.99) and a package of rice noodles, which boasted of ginger, pumpkin, and organic rice (3.99), and was immediately sold on the spot.

I mean, just look at it. You'd've been starstruck too.

But they didn't end up tasting like anything at all, so I checked the packet later in simmering betrayal and disbelief. Only 5% pumpkin was present in the noodles. I mean how much does that come out to? A thimble? I thought I was shrewd about these things--shame on you Sam!! my brain screamed.

Goining Thai Hour, however, is like scoring a free trip to Bangkok, minus the jetlag. The store is a tight 20 x 20 space full of shelves and freezers crammed with Thai essentials such as fish paste, squid sauce, 5 zillion types of rice noodles with no English or French ingredients on the packaging, and dried mushrooms (ditto on the packaging), frozen chopped lemongrass. My mother, who introduced me to the place, loves it so much because you can get a bulging pack of fresh chinese chives, bok shoy, or whatever your pretty heart desires, for next to nothing. They also have a ludicrously cheap (but cleanliness optional...) seafood counter, where you can get a whole tilapia for about $5, and generous slices of salmon steak for about $3 each, and shrimp for the best price on the market. I've had all, which in all fairness are quite fresh, and am still alive and well. The recipe uses bok shoy as the principal veggie, but I find bok shoy a tad rubbery and chewy, just awkward to eat as a whole. I opted for a bright vegetable I'd never tried before, yu choy, a greener, stalky alternative. I also got some fish sauce. I cringed at the ingredients--mostly composed of sodium, so I fished around (haha) for the brand with the lowerst sodium content.

What You'll Need:

-1/2 cup-1 cup dried mushrooms. The book recommends Chinese wood ear, but any will do, really. (if you use a lot of mushrooms, your soup will be a bitter mess.)

-1 packet dried, thin rice or egg noodles

-vegetable stock + 4-5 cups of water (I use Harvest Sun's organic, low-sodium cubes. They are excellent. I use 1-1.5 cubes).

- 2 inch thumb of fresh minced ginger, or to taste

-2-4 cloves garlic, minced

-1 cup chopped leek

-3 tbsp dark soy sauce, or to taste

-3 tbsp real mirin (I'm sure it exists), honey, or apple juice

-3 tbsp fish sauce (if you can make your own, even better.)

-2-3 cups yu choy (or green veggie of your choice), washed and coarsely chopped into bite-size peices

-green spring onions (chopped, for garnish)

-sprigs cilantro (chopped, for garnish)

What To Do:

1) Try to do this step an hour before you start cooking. RINSE your dried mushrooms well under running water. I always forget this step and end up with crunchy, sand-filled mushrooms. Soak your dried mushrooms for at least 50 minutes in cold water OR, 30 min in boiling water. Cold water allows the mushrooms to reconstitute themselves, without sucking out the flavour. However, if you use hot water, most of the flavour will end up in the soaking water, so add it to the soup itself if you want a more robust, bitter flavour to your soup. If you'd rather the mushrooms retain more of their flavour, use cold water.

2) While your mushrooms are chilling out (or whooping it up in a jacuzzi), put the garlic, ginger (while reserving some for later), and leek in a large pot and cook for about a minute on medium heat, or until fragrant. Add the veggie stock/cube, and keep mixing for another minute. When the cube has dissolved, add 4-6 cups water and bring to a boil.

3) Depending on how you like your noodles, you can opt to skip this step. If you like your noodles al dente, then fill a medium-sized pot with water and bring to a boil. Boil noodles for 3-4 minutes, then drain and run cold water over them to halt the cooking proccess. If you like them mushy and comforting, then just add the noodles to step 2.

3) Fill a large pan with 1/2 cup water. Bring it to a boil, and toss in the yu choy. Let it cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, or until it turns a bright bright green, then drain in a colander. Run ice cold water over the veggies to preserve their bright colour. Marvel at the green.

4) Are your mushrooms done soaking yet? If not, fold your laundry while your wait. Or tend to your baby. Or just creep someone on Facebook, like I would.

5) Add the mirin/honey, soy sauce, fish sauce, and swirl around with a spoon. Then add your soaked mushrooms, yu choy, and noodles. Ladle the soup into colourful bowls and sprinkle the cilantro, spring onions, and minced leek into the individual bowls.

6) Breathe in the aroma. And smile. You've got comfort and love in a bowl, right here, right now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


KIMCHI - you either love it or hate it. If you're like me, you LURRVE it! But if you are on a budget, the price of store bought kimchi can get expensive (especially when you have a hungry hungry hippo.... I mean husband). When I lived alone in downtown Ottawa, I used to buy a large tub of kimchi for $12.99 at the Korean grocery store which would last me a month, at T&T the smallest container (like one meal's worth) is roughly $5 bucks. Btw I have no idea how much kimchi costs in Montreal.

So what do I do? I make it... the easy way.

Chop two Napa cabbages into 2 inch pieces. Peel and chop one daikon (Lobok) radish into inch pieces. Put into a large pot. Mix one cup of water with a quarter cup of coarse sea salt. Pour over cabbage and radish. Let sit over night on counter. I usually put a plate on top of the cabbage then a lid.

The next day it looks like this.

Remove the salt water and set aside.

Chop 4-6 green onions into 2 inch lengths. Add to pot.

Add some minced ginger (2-3 tbs).

Add some fish sauce (2-3 tbs).

Add hot pepper flakes and lots of minced garlic (7+ cloves).
MIXY MIXY and.....

Put into jars. Pour reserved salt water on top.
Let sit on counter for 3 days, then put it into the fridge and to let it mature for a week.
This should last me a month. Happy Kimchi'ing! :)