Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas time pictures

I should have titled this pictures in the month of December. Oh well, too lazy to change it.

Place setting for one of my good friends' birthday!

Cupcake tower (cranberry orange white chocolate)

festive salad with apples clementines cheddar and cranberries

Christmas Eve supper, brown rice with garlic mushrooms and shirmps

Quick topping for apple spice rhum caqke: melt some butter, toss in apple slices and pecans, add some brown sugar, pour over cake. BAM instant fancy thing.

I had dinner with Captain America at our annual D&D Christmas feast. Ladies, I wish I could have taken a proper picture of this kitchen. It was magazine worthy. Puts Martha to shame, it does.

Bacon wrapped chicken breast in iron cast with leftover baked taters and onions. Death to my arteries!

Drizzling fast caramel over vanilla spice cupcakes. Disregard the asthma pump,
its my secret ingredient to ensure proper breathing.
My (our) direct response to this morning's snowstorm (dark hot cocoa with minty marshmallows).
Close shot of the previously mentioned muffins.
So I think for my cooking/baking inspiration for this year's December, I was hardcore channeling Paula Deen, which was, in two words, sinfully delicious. But now I must strive to be more like Sally F. Oh wait, New Years is coming! :D

Sunday, December 23, 2012

homemade coconut milk


check the YT video below...

I mean, fo reals?


quick takes

Quiche! Rolling out the corn-rice dough made me spit and yell, so I just patted it into the pie plate. Easy peasy! Really the exact same process and proportions as glutinous flour pastry dough.

Candy candy candy! It cooks low in the pot, then soon before it's done cooking it foams up and grows like crazy.

After cooking. Looks pretty and glossy, yes? I also drizzled on some chocolate. (It's for a Christmas present; I won't say whose!) For the record, I had two other batches that got crystallized and ruined, and a third that burnt (I was also making biscotti, and I had company, so you know, I didn't blame myself too much, but it sucked.)

Getting out keebler elf on!

We packed 16 tins and a couple of bags with three varieties of biscotti for Christmas.

We slipped these little eco geeky Christmas greetings in each tin, put on glittery "de/a" stickers, and stacked them in the office. I'll be bringing about half down to the freezer shortly, for people we won't see for a couple of weeks.
Sweet potatoes, sliced medium fine in the mandolin, with oil, lime juice, salt, paprika, and red chillis, OH MY GOSH.

Keeler's out of dry food and we haven't had a chance to go somewhere cheap for her in the last few days, so we've been giving her our backup cat food, which is a wet food I made her that we keep in the freezer. It has beef liver, quinoa, chickpeas, onions, red pepper, hmm maybe some other stuff but I forget. She loves it. It isn't really scientific or anything, but I figure it has to be at least better for her than most dry food, so we let her enjoy it, and we let ourselves enjoy feeling like extra good cat owners when we bring it out.

Pasta! On candy day I also made corn-rice pasta dough and again, rolling it out made me want to scream, so I put it in a bag in the fridge ("I'm sending you to the fridge, and I want you to think long and hard about what you've done!!"). After we both had had time to cool off, I decided to break the dough into little bits and roll it into thick noodles between my palms for our lunch today. It worked really well! The sauce was made with long-roasted eggplant, cooked in advance last night, 3 cloves garlic, rose wine vinegar, white wine, olive oil, about a tbsp tomato paste, sundried tomatoes in oil, parmesan, sliced black olives, black pepper, oregano, and parsley. It was SO GOOD, I can't lie. I still taste it. Mmm, garlic.

Tonight I'm going to try this crazy paleo pizza basically made out of cheese. How could it be bad? I also have a piece of salmon in the freezer from when the valiant Samantha came to cook for us while we were sick that I want to make salmon jerky with (except what the heck are coconut aminos??).

Tomorrow, as per my Christmas eve tradition, I'm going to make a little gingerbread house, I think. If I find the courage, again, to roll out GF dough. I'm going to use coconut flour that Sam gave me, maybe 70%, and 30% buckwheat. Oh boy oh boy oh boy! And okay, if you don't have Pinterest, you need to see these. SO CUTE! Okay, it's all in Polish, but you get the point, right? Tiny=cute. So maybe I'll make a whole freakin teeny Polish village of gingerbread cuteness.

On Christmas morning I'm going to make bacon, mm bacon. I'm also going to make this bread for the boys. I've had it filed on Pinterest for a few months, but only today actually looked at the pictures and saw how easy it is to shape. So excited!

What's cooking in your kitchen??

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

guilt, gluten & goodies

So all last week I was in pretty awful pain constantly due to my eczema. My pinkie was bent right over, it was really flaky and raw and itchy and just, yikes, I had to curl it up inside of my dishwashing gloves because straightening it out made it feel like the nail was being pulled off. The pressure & increased blood volume to the area was making that nail grow faster, so when I trimmed it I saw that there was also an underlayer of fine nail growing over my finger's skin, which I had to peel back (ouch) and trim - some relief followed, thank God. I decided to do gluten-free again (I've been back on the wheat-free bandwagon for awhile) and it's just incredible. Stretching it out with no discomfort at all. My eczema is still present, and dry, but NO PAIN. Hard to explain how that feels. I share all these gruesome details because I am constantly amazed at the food/symptom connection, and how the mainstream medical profession does not explore this enough. I don't really have answers on why gluten seems to do this to me, but whatever. We can't afford fancy testing or naturopath visits right now, and while maybe MDs also test for food sensitivities, I don't have a family doctor, and waiting around in doctors' offices for 1-2+ hours with a toddler is not how I want to spend my afternoon, only to risk disappointment, especially when I can use trial and error to sort of figure things out. Plus, gluten allergy testing is quite complicated and mainstream methods seem controversial, so again, it seems easier to just try a GF diet and see what happens (who knows! Maybe Tony's IBS will resolve as well!). That's the gluten update.

Here's the guilt - I am trying to relearn how to make breakfast without gluten, and really preferably without grains, and I've realized that I grew up with, and have interiorized, the idea that while breakfast is important to eat, it should be as CHEAP AS POSSIBLE. This goes with our culture's whole obsession with cheap food. I've grown into a healthier understanding of the value of nourishing food, but breakfast in my mind is still best when cheap. When we have company, I splurge on eggs, or meat, and whatnot, but for just myself I usually stick to simple grains (which yeah, usually have me hungry again by 10). So I am trying to think outside the box (and now I am excited with something I have in the oven, more on that later!) but there's kind of this false guilt I am trying to put in its place. Yes, I deserve good food for breakfast!

Now the goodies! I am making a modified version of these - I used about 2lb 5oz sausage, cooked in the microwave and broken up, 10-15 oz spinach, 1 leek, presliced and frozen, maybe a cup of grated cheese, about 2-3 c leftover cooked quinoa, and a ton of eggs (a dozen eggs plus 10 egg whites from the freezer), and some seasoning (not a lot, as the sausage has quite a bit - just oregano and pepper). I've been planning something like these for awhile for Tony, as he often leaves in the morning without breakfast, and I'm constantly trying to brainstorm how to better entice him to eat. The fact is, he'll only be bothered for something fairly exceptional, preferably with meat, so we'd been toying with sausage dishes that could be made ahead... and reading lots of gluten-free stuff last night, then finally just googling "paleo sausage muffin" today made the light go DING! (Why did I google paleo rather than simply gluten-free? Several reasons, but definitely motivated in large part by an overall impression I have that the gluten-free world is a lot about imitation goods - about using somewhat denatured products to "fool" you into thinking you're not missing out. But you know, that never works in life. I've been trying to just accept that gluten-free means no noodles, no bread, and less grains in general, trying to replace those things with meat and vegetables, rather than try to live life as normal. This entry on gluten-free girl about guar and xanthan gums had me nodding along last night, as did this one on living a truly healthy GF diet. I'm not saying I'll never eat bread again, but I'm trying to see bread as a somewhat finicky treat, rather than a staple.)

Okay, all this (virtual) yipping & yapping later, the first batch is done!! Behold:


Will Tony get up 3 extra minutes to heat up and eat these? I daresay he will, if I don't eat them all first! Muahahahah! Now back to the kitchen for me, for batch #2!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas Day!!

My giddiness about St. Nicholas Day grows a little every year:

- My giddiness about Christmas seems to grow every year, so there is a corresponding increase in general December joy (during which we celebrate Tony's birthday, our anniversary, and five friends' birthdays in addition to Christmas),
- My list of recipes grows a little in the passing months, so each time St Nicholas day rolls around I'm a little better prepared,
- Our relationship with Eastern Orthodoxy grows a little more deep, loving, conflicted, alienated, and infatuated all the time, bit by bit, so I just LOVE having a saint recognized by both East and West to make a fuss over, and take the day to meditate on ecumenism (this article has been a really wonderful read, and I am now totally into dropping the filioque in the name of fraternal love!),
- Tony's parents are from Turkey, like St. Nicholas, so I can cook Turkish food and feel that I am honouring the feast while imparting heritage to Ambrose,
- St. Nicholas slapped Arius (see "The First Council of Nicaea", 4th paragraph), and every year there are a few people I wish I could slap but didn't, so I enjoy the triumph vicariously,
- I enjoy being defiant of cultural norms I think are ridiculous, so I get satisfaction from sticking it to the man and refusing the Coco-Cola commercialism Santa nonsense, intensified to the point of hysterical giddiness when we told my mom this week (for the 5th time at least since I got pregnant with Ambrose) that we are NOT doing Santa with him, and she was so appalled that she got really quiet and sombre (if you know my mom you know this is Rare And Serious) - it was delightfully absurd - so being really emphatic and over-the-top about St. Nicholas gives Ambrose a firm base from which to make sense of the Santa phenomenon,

and so many more. Really.

Anyways I have dough prepared for St Nicholas cookies, like last year (this year I halved the recipe, using one egg yolk and about half the white for the cookie dough, and beating the rest of the white with the other icing ingredients - we want to keep the sugar intake a little more moderate), and I am also making some Turkish food for supper: Turkish rice (which is first fried in butter before cooking, sort of like risotto, but unlike risotto, once the water is added you let it cook undisturbed), spinach & yogurt salad, possibly something with beets, and St Nicholas Stew, inspired a few Turkish recipes (here, for example). It's simmering now and smells SO GOOD.

You'll notice it has heart - aside from what I learned about the health benefits of organ meats in April, I just think there's something really honest and important about eating whole animals. If you didn't grow up eating whole animals, it's okay to have a bit of ick factor, but that can and does wear off if you apply yourself. It's so important to have integrity and align ourselves with God's sustainable patterns he set forth in nature. Chickens don't just have breasts. Cows don't just have limb and belly muscles. And so on. It's really an exercise in humility, gratitude, and eco-awareness to continue to try cooking with new organs and "weird bits". We should constantly be open to challenge and examination, willing to look our inconsistencies in the eye and wither prune away the whole (that is, become vegetarian) or else surrender totally (eat tongue and heart), especially at this time of year. But if you really can't handle it today, substitute an equivalent weight of non-organ meat.

As another note, I chose pork deliberately though it's not really a part of Turkish cooking, to emphasize the freedom we enjoy in Christ.

Anyway, enough of my preaching. Onward!

St. Nicholas Stew
In the morning, or as late as lunch-ish, or the night before if you're a working girl and want to put it in the crock pot in the morning-
Place in a bowl:
1 pork heart, cubed (about 1 lb)
2 lb pork leg or other stewing cut, trimmed and cubed, bone on
[note: these can be tricky to cube neatly, so if sinews are holding bits together, or it gets slippery, just cut it up as best you can and separate it once cooked]
about 1/4 c apple cider vinegar
a few glugs oil
1-2 tsp or whatever, some good shakes, of each: salt, pepper, granulated garlic (or equivalent), cinnamon, oregano, cumin, and coriander (be generous with the salt and garlic)
Massage it all together and put it in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Plop the mixture into a big pot, cover with water, add two sliced onions and two handfuls dried apricots, and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer a long time. I'm leaving mine for 4 hours or something. In the meantime, browse some other Turkish recipes to prepare. At least, do rice! When you judge it to be done, strain out the meat and bones, let that cool a bit, then break apart the meat into smaller pieces as needed, and cut away the bones. I'll probably cut up the apricots a bit then too. Bon appetit! And happy St. Nicholas Day!!

Update: It was delicious! The meat breaks apart very easily, you don't even need utensils, so just break away the bones and any really big hunks of gristle or sinews that remain. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Catching up


my culinary life has been completely devoid of anything thoughtful lately. Im having a hard time adjusting to my new (much extended) schedule. After driving home through traffic, I have just about zero motivation to do anything, and more than likely forgot to take something out anyways. I havent made my usual menus, and grocery shopping has been quite minimal.

Result: Subways & the caf at work has been getting alot of my hard earned money as of late.

Unfortunately for us both, we cant afford that sort of lifestyle. So I need some tips of some kind. Have any of been/are in the same situation? How do you overcome it?

I would write more but my break is up. -_-'

Thursday, November 29, 2012

common weights

These are mostly based on my own measurements, but a few also come from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Some products' weight vary by company, so if in doubt, do double-check. All flours listed are La Milanaise organic flour except where indicated by an asterisk. A good intro to weighing ingredients is here.

Weighing ingredients ensures accuracy (sifting flour is unnecessary) and efficiency (no having to scrape and wash measuring cups with honey, molasses etc.!). You can get a good electronic scale for about $10 at Canadian Tire - what are you waiting for? I write the weight of ingredients called for right into my recipe books next to the volume given - and of course, UK recipes all use weight, so all your bases are covered with a scale!

When cooking, just put your mixing bowl right on the scale, measure in, mix, return to scale, measure in, and so on. 

I keep this chart in my pantry cupboard, and I encourage you to print this off for your own use, adding whenever you see fit.

Whole wheat bread flour: 142g/c
White wheat flour: 141g/c
Whole wheat pastry flour: 153g/c
Buckwheat flour: 160g/c
Spelt flour: 147g/c (I didn't note whether this was whole or white, but I think it was white!)
White kamut flour: 154g/c
Whole kamut flour: 137g/c
Sprouted spelt flour*: 130g/c
Quick oats: 93g/c
Wheat bran: 59g/c
Cocoa powder: 80g/c (Camino brand - I think No Name is 110g/c - I have both weights written down on my list but I didn't note which the 110g/c refers to, so I'm going on memory - if using a different brand, measure it once and write the result and brand in your chart.)
Brown sugar: 206g/c packed
Molasses, fancy: 320g/c
Honey: 333g/c
Maple syrup grade #2: 333g/c (note that the weight does change depending on grade - I have tried grade #1 as well and there was definitely a difference, but unfortunately I didn't write it down!)
Yogurt: 280g/c (full-fat homemade)
Butter: 250g/c
Liquid vegetable oil: 220g/c
Coconut oil: 180g/c
Water: 225g/c
Chicken egg, shell off: 52g/egg (large size)
Duck egg, shell off: 85g/egg

Feel free to submit weights of products not listed here - nut flours, blackstrap molasses, and other brands' weights would all be useful to have, for starters!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sacred Heart party

Yesterday was our household anniversary of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart - I also blogged about it last year! I made beef & vegetable stromboli to celebrate, complete with a little heart dish full of mustard and sriracha. I also threw together a simpler version of last year's lemon cake at the last minute - I skipped the syrup and glaze altogether, and just increased the sugar to a slightly heaping 1/2 c instead of a 1/3 c. I also used all spelt flour, as we had no almonds. It turned out really well, not too sweet but sort of extra crunchy and amazing toward the circumference. Yum! We're making that cake our official Sacred Heart celebration cake. :)

Friday, November 23, 2012

date night & more!

no leeks were used, but I wanted to show you I bought some, cause you know, that's our blog name and whatnot. see see! I really buy leeks :D (using in soup tonight)

frog legs!

garlic, butter & parsley sauce

breadsticks with oil and balsamic vinegar

ready for nomming

Ambrose really enjoyed the breadsticks.

I'm experimenting with breakfast pies! These were apple, egg & cheese. I want to make some with sausage and spinach for tomorrow. they are basically like mini quiches. The little casseroles are 2$ apiece at the Dollarama, and have lids. They are microwave, oven & dishwasher safe.

Tony accidentally threw out my kefir grains a couple of weeks ago, so when I was cleaning out the fridge the other day, I decided to dig out some old kefir grains from months ago I'd been using to ferment juice. They were stored in a solution of sugar-water with ginger and cardamom. They've been dyed brown from juice, so you can see them clearly here - and you can clearly see that THEY STILL WORK! Incredible! I don't know if this is because "gingerroots are rich in yeasts and lactic acid bacteria", as are "other similar rhizomes, specifically turmeric and galangal" (Sandoz Katz, The Art of Fermentation, Chelsea Green 2012, pgs 150-151), which helped keep the SCOBY alive, or what, but... I'm impressed! I've been so sad about my lack of dairy kefir in my life I actually bought some commercial kefir made by Pinehedge Farms. It was delicious but WEIRD! Really thick and sweet, not in a sugary way but just in a mild way. The fermentation agent listed on the label is simply "live bacterial cultures", which I find a little suspicious, as real kefir SCOBYs also have yeast. I know some stores sell technically real kefir starters, as all of the components are on the label, but it comes in powder form and can't be resued the way a SCOBY can. I wonder how Pinehedge Farms, or any other large-scale kefir producer, make their products? Anyway. I'm a happy hippie here with my kefir!

As a housekeeping note to the LG crew, please try to remember to use labels in your posts so the blog is easier to navigate. Before publishing, click "labels" on the right menu, then select whatever ones we already have that apply to your post, or inventing a new one/new ones if nothing really fits. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

super simple cookies

I follow a wonderful fitness blogger named Casey Ho Her main thing is short workout youtube videos, along with having a fitness apparel and bag line, but she also blogs a lot about what she eats. She's all about eating "clean" (her word not mine) which usually means no sugar. But she loves to eat, and always shares things that look delicious. Here is my version of her healthiest cookie in the world recipe.

1 banana
1 cup oats

--> mush together

a handful raisins
a handful of coconut shavings
top with a pecan!

bake 350 degrees for 15 minutes

These cookies dont even require raisins. They're good just oats and banana, kinda like a baby cookie. They filled my sweet craving for the afternoon. My current tea love is Creme Brule Rooibos a David's Tea blend. Looooove it hot and cold with honey or without.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bipity Bopity...BOOOOOO!

just say no... to canned pumpkin

I have this weird fascination with canned goods, even though I should know better.

I always imagine the contents to taste amazing, as magically tasty as the packaging makes them look.

I am weak.

But I can attest that this. Stuff. SUCKS. Stay away from it. It also has an odd, bitter after-taste. I was also expecting a completely different consistency than home-roasted squashes, but alas, the result is the same. Roast your own magic pumpkin and have the bonus of having the house smell like pumpkin pie heaven, too.

Now, back to (holy) sex....

Sunday, November 11, 2012

over-ambitious, fun anyway!

It seemed like a good idea at the time... but maybe a little over-complicated. The idea was for a ravioli dish that would replicate an amazing Jamie O salad Tony made on my birthday, featuring mixed greens, proscuitto, peaches, cheese, and excellent oil and vinegar. We made a mix with a heavenly aroma - proscuitto, diced apples, spring onions, thyme, egg, parmesan, and black pepper. Sounds delicious, yeah? Trouble is, I was still doing a gluten-free trial, so the noodles were not all that happy about being made into parcels (would have made nice cut noodles though - corn flour, rice flour, psyllium husk powder, egg, water, oil, and beet purree for colour) - they tear rather than stretch (you can see the filling sadly escaping in the picture of the pasta cooking, above). The sauce was made from roasted red peppers, sour cream, and a roasted garlic sauce I have otherwise used with great satisfaction. Somehow it was all sort of pasty and bland and disappointing. Ah well, our pride was put in place! Anyway, Sam brought filled chocolates that made for a very balanced meal (I kept taking half bites and making Tony finish them, haha!) But where true deliciousness was lacking, wine, candlelight, and friendship made up the balance. Le'hayim!

As another weekending note, I made and was very satisfied with these crackers. I just soaked them a couple of hours. Super simple. I made them with wheat flour - it's been over a week since I made anything with wheat and it was so silky and dreamy to work with, wow. They need more salt though, maybe like 1 tbsp. I also used some ground flax. I made half plain, for peanut butter enjoyment, and half with spring onions & pepper, for cheese enjoyment. Delicious. They are so rich from the butter and yogurt that you don't have the same danger and worry of burning as you often do with crackers - so many cracker recipes have a very fine line between underbaked soft minibreads and overdone kinda-burnt crackers  - not so here. While all crackers have to be watched closely, I found these had a good 5+ minute period during which they were happy to hang out in the oven and stay pretty much the same, just browning a bit more. Practical.