Saturday, November 19, 2005

BBM3 from Kristina

Early this week I received a wonderful package from Kristina of Clivia's Cuisine. What a shock! I thought that this BBM was confined to our neck of the woods. My package came all the way from Sweden and due to Kristina's careful packaging the contents arrived all in one piece. At this writing I already finished the Nut Tops she sent. They have very little flour and are almost an hazelnut macarron. Can't wait to try the recipe myself. Lussekatter are leavened saffron cakes and are delicious. I had them for breakfast, warmed in the oven and dripping with butter. Heavenly! Blåbärstryffel are wonderful white chocolate covered blueberry truffles and I'm enjoying them as I write this. Very rich, to be sampled slowly and enjoy the goodness. Rounding up the package she sent a Christmas tree ornament, a potholder decorated with a gingerbreadman, Pepparkakor (ginger cookies), Salt Lakrits and Polkagris, a salt licorice candycane (to die for) and mint candycane. I also got a package of Glöggkryddor, the special spices to make glögg (a Swedish mulled wine) and, last but not least, a jar a loganberry jam which Kristina says is essential in Swedish cuisine, being served with both savoury and sweet dishes.

Kristina also sent a beautiful letter telling me all about the Christmas traditions of her family, some postcards of her hometown and of of Stockholm and pictures of herself and her family and, of course, the recipes. Thank you Kristina for a lovely package.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Working on another house

One of these days people will ask me how come I have a cooking blog, since it looks like any construction job can get me away from the pots and pans in no time at all. My last post is dated almost a month ago. During this time I've tried to keep in touch and read and comment on my favourite blogs, as a way to let people know that I'm still breathing.

My son bought his first house, a nice house in a great location with "good bones" but in need of quite a bit of TLC. In the photo you do not see the jungle of vines that was hiding the front door. I wish we had taken a picture before we started the work. By this time I had cleared all the vines and was about to start painting the windows white. Although the windows themselves were white, the surrounding metal was black, as were all the doors. As it is, and since we can only work on the weekends, it was a bit of a race against time - once the temperature gets below 10ºC you cannot paint. We had some frustrating weekends full of rain but we lucked out in the last weekend of October. Mild weather allowed us to finish all the exterior repairs. There was much work my son did but I will not bore you with the details. Suffice to say we are now ready to start working inside. Here is viewew of the backyard before we cleared the weeds and mowed the lawn.

During this time I spent my weekends going up and down ladders either painting or sanding. By the end of the day me knees were killing me and I was so tired that either cooking or blogging was just too much work. Fortunately Loblaws, my favourite supermarket has an excellent selection of delicious prepared foods. I love their Vegetable Lasagna with 7 Cheeses, which is enough for six to eight servings, the Shepherd's Pie (they say it is enough for 4 people, but I liked it so much I had seconds), and the Moussaka.

Last week I made another pot of soup, this one losely based on Clotilde's Une Simple Soupe. I had it several times with a fat slice of organic bread and some unsalted butter. This recipe of hers was the first recipe I ever tried when I first discovered the blogosphere back in December of last year. I tried her soup recipe and was hooked on Clotilde's blog and her recipes. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Chickpea Spinach Soup

Sopa de grão com espinafres (chickpea and spinach soup) is one of my favourite Portuguese soups. Full-bodied and satisfying I make it often once the weather turns colder.

When I make this soup I always make a large quantity because it freezes so well. When the weather is cold and you come home after a long day at work, it is nice to just take a portion out of the freezer, nuke it in the microwave for 5 to 6 minutes depending on the quantity, and presto! A wonderfully satisfying bowl of hot soup that will warm your body and soul. Many times, this soup a melted cheese sandwich and some fruit is all I will need for supper.

In this recipe I used potatoes. When I was following Atkins I made this soup without them and actually I prefer it that way. The chickpea flavour is much more pronounced. So, in the recipe below, feel free to leave the potatoes out.


Chickpea and Spinach Soup

1 lb dried chickpeas (about 420 gr.)
2 medium potatoes, quartered (optional)
2 large cloves garlic
2 medium onions, quartered
10 oz. spinach, fresh or frozen
2 cubes chicken buillon (optional)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Soak the dried chickpeas in three times their volume of water for about 8 to 10 hours.

Drain the chickpeas, rinse with fresh water and put them in the soup pot. Add the quartered potatoes, quartered onion, and whole garlic cloves. Add water to cover or, if you prefer, chicken broth. If you use broth, leave out the buillon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 2 hours or until the chickpeas are tender. Remove from the heat.

Remove about 1 1/2 cups of chickpeas and set aside. Now using a hand blender, blend your soup until you have a creamy puré. Add more liquid if necessary. Bring the soup into a boil again and add the spinach and the olive oil. Let cook for about 10 to 15 minutes until the spinach cooks through.

Correct the seasoning, add the reserved chickpeas and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Index

I finally spent some time creating an index for my blog. You can see on the right, a button that will take you to the Index and also another button HOME, to get you to the main page, a feature that has not been available since I created my banner.

Once on the index page, on the right, you will find the different categories. Click on each one to go directly to that page.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Marlborough Pie

I had two cups of homemade applesauce languashing in the fridge. I took it out of the freezer about a week ago but can't remember what exactly was I planning to do with it. So a search into my "Cooking Light" electronic recipe book brought me this.

Since this is "Cooking Light," the recipe has low-fat/low-cal ingredients for the sake of saving calories. Mostly I ignored; I used wheeping cream instead of the evaporated skim milk which I detest, and I used unsalted butter instead of calorie-reduced margarine. The pastry recipe however was interesting and I followed it to the letter. I had never heard of making a paste with water and flour in order to add it to the flour and butter mixture, but I actually had less trouble mixing it in.

I rolled the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper. The recipe recommends plastic wrap but my plastic wrap was not wide enough. The pastry was not easy to roll as the parchment paper kept creasing underneath. Eventually I got a weel of pastry large enough for my pan. The remaining of the recipe went smoothly as per instructions and the pie behaved as the recipe said it would.

The pie also passed the taste test with flying colours. The pastry was tough, especially at the border, but the filling was heavenly. The next time I will use regular pastry.

From Coking Light Magazine, September 1997

Marlborough Pie

1 cup all-purpose flour, divided
3 1/2 tablespoons ice-water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
2 cups sweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk (I used whipping cream)
2 tablespoons reduced-calorie margarine (I used unsalted butter)
2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used lime juice--did not have lemons)
2 tablespoons cream sherry (I used vintage Port)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I made a mistake and used 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teasppon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 400º.

Combine 1/4 cup flour and ice water; stir with a whisk until well-blended. Set aside. Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in shortening with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water mixture; mix with a fork until flour mixture is moist. Gently press mixture into a 4-inch circle on heavy-duty plastic wrap; cover with additional plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into an 11-inch circle; chill for 10 minutes or until plastic can be easily removed.

Remove top sheet of plastic; fit dough, uncovered side down, into a 9- inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Remove bottom sheet of plastic. Fold edges under; flute. Pierce bottom and sides of dough with a fork. Bake at 400º for 8 minutes; cool on a wire rack.

Combine applesauce and remaining ingredients in a bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Pour into prepared crust; bake at 400º for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325º; bake an additional 55 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

This recipe makes 8 servings.

Per serving (original version): 247 calories, 1 gr. fibre and 8 gr. fat, Weight Watchers: 5 points

Per serving (my version): 286 calories, 1 gram fibre and 13 gr. fat, Weight Watchers: 7 points

Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Kitchen Meme

This meme was created by Cenzina, from Rome Italy. In her blog il cavoletto di Bruxelles, you can read about what gave her the idea of creating this meme.

She says: "So, as I was saying in the Italian version , it's raining, it's cold, so why not have a little fun: five questions about your kitchen, a place where you're presumed to spend quite a bit of time..."

For this meme, I have been tagged by Elvira, from Tasca da Elvira, a wonderful blog chockfull of delicious Portuguese recipes.

1) Show us your kitchen (a picture) and tell us what is it about this place that reflects your own personality.
This is a picture of my kitchen, the only place in my house that is more or less renovated. There are final touches missing, and the floor will be redone(I'm thinking in linoleum), but basically this is it. Probably this Winter I'm also planning to enroll in those ceramic making places that let you purchase prepared objects, you paint with ceramic paints and then they fire them. I'm planning to make copies of 17th century Portuguese tiles to put in the backsplash. Colours are blue and yellow. You can see here and here some tile arrangements that I am considering. This picture of the kitchen was taken yesterday night and I was making Marlborough Pie, which will show up in this blog sometime later. Here is another view, seen from the dining room. Notice that I have not yet started plastering the sheetrock joints in the dining room. How does this kitchen reflect me? Well, I like things close at hand so my counters will always have stuff in there, even if I know that everything in its proper place would look much better.

2) Open a cupboard (the one you feel to open), take a picture and tell us what we see.

I do not have a cupboard yet, so I can only show the pantry. What's inside, are everyday staples: flour, sugar, cereal, baking chocolate, canned tuna and salmon, sardines, tissue paper, you name it. I also have an old-fashioned oak kitchen cupboard with marble top. It is presently in the dining room and I keep some of my serving dishes there. On top of the marble top there is another marble stone, which I use when making and kneading bread. In my old house this marble stone was always available since my kitchen was bigger. Here, I know that one day it will be stored in the kitchen but right now is has plants on top. Sigh!

3) Present us your favorite kitchen-based electric tool.
The electric kitchen gadget that I use the most is probably the hand blender. I also have a countertop blender, but the idea that I have to wash it after use makes me choose the hand blender 80% of the time. Same with other tools. I have a Sunbeam mixer but I end up using my handmixer most of the times. Another gadget I really like is my kitchen scale. It measures both pounds and kilos and I would be lost without it.

4) Take out the ingredients you like the most, the ones you always keep stored.
These would be Portuguese sardines in olive oil, organic whole wheat bread flour, dried chickpeas, canned tuna and salmon in water, and Nestlé Rich Blend Instant coffee. There might be others, but these I always have.

5) My little steel friend: present us to your favorite cooking/baking recipient.
My pans are my favourite baking recipients. You have all seen the foods I bake in them. The loaf pan is steel but unfortunately the ring pan is aluminum. If I ever find one like that in steel I will purchase it.

And I tag Lyn, from LexCulinaria and I hope she has the time to do it and has not been tagged by anyone else.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Shrimp Avocado Salad

Dieting or mostly thinking that I should really go on a diet, has been a constant since I was a teenager. I cannot say that I've tried all the diets I know of (I do not count those I tried and could not go past the second or third day), but I've tried Weight Watchers and Atkins with some success. I managed to follow Somersize for a couple of months, the Schwarzbein Principle and the South Beach sound like too much work. On the positive side, all diets have some dishes that are so good that you keep making them even after you ditched the diet.

For Weight Watchers it was the applesauce and fat-free cottage cheese sprinkled with cinnamon. I still love it and make it often. Basically you add 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce (if you make your own using sweet apples, you can still call it unsweetened even if it tastes sweet), 1/3 cup fat-free cottage cheese, mix the whole think, sprinkle with cinnamon et voilá! A tasty low-cal desert.

Today's salad is one that I concotted when I did my stint into Atkins. True you loose weight fast on that diet, but I'm a carb girl and living without bread, and muffins, and bagels, was not fun. I tried the low-carb flours which are basically a mixture of soy flour and some gluten but it was not the same thing. So another diet went by the wayside and, as expected, when I went back to my old stapples I put back all the weight I had lost, plus some. Well, that's life I guess!

But this salad is delicious, great to take to work and I make it time and again. It is very satisfying. With a piece of fruit you have a good and healthy lunch.

For this salad I usually purchase one of those packaged 250 gr. rings of shrimp. They are very flavourful, you only need to shell the tails, and they are usually cheap. I get several boxes when they are on sale, for about $2.99 or $3.99 per package. Considering that our cafeteria charges $5.75 for a platter with about the same portion of food, this is a good price indeed.

Shrimp Avocado Salad

1 shrimp ring (about 250 gr. / 10 oz.)
1 avocado
6 brazil nuts, cut up
1 tablespoon vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Peel and dice the avocado, put the shrimp on top and the cut up brazil nuts. The nuts give this salad a crunch that I do very much love. Add the vinaigrette, mix lightly and cover. I add the vinaigrette right in the morning when I make the salad. There is no green to wilt and the flavours have time to meld.


1/3 cup roasted garlic olive oil
1/2 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs or 2 tablespoons finelly chopped fresh herbs

Mix all the ingredients in a jar. Give it a shake before using.

I usually use dry oregano and thyme or fresh lemon thyme and basil. These are my favourite herb combinations.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

23/5 Meme

I was tagged by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen for the 23/5 Meme. The way it works is you go to your 23rd post, find the 5th sentence, and then ponder a little and write about it on your blog.

My 23rd post was the recipe Gnocchi with Red Pepper Sauce, one of my favourites, and the 5th sentence read:

It is an easy recipe to make, very filling and the intense flavour of the red pepper in the sauce is just scrumptious.

I absolutely stand by what I wrote in that post. It is even better if you make the gnocchi from scratch, which I did not do at that time. Actually, I'm getting somewhat lazy when it comes to gnocchi. I can find wonderful fresh gnocchi in a small Italian shop close to where I work and it is very easy for me to just go and buy them instead of going through the trouble of making them.
Maybe one of these days I'll make gnocchi from scratch again.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Rhubarb Cornmeal Cake

I've had this post semi-prepared for such a long while and I think it is about time I finish it and publish it. Yesterday I finally ate the last slice of this cake, which I've kept in the freezer, wrapped individually in parchment paper and then aluminum foil. Still full of flavour and moist like it was when I baked it, maybe by the end of July.

From a recipe by Nigella Lawson in How to be a Domestic Goddess, this wonderful cake was published by Angela, of A Spoonful of Sugar, in her entry of May 1st, 2004. The picture looked so scrumptious and I happen to love just about everything with cornmeal in it so I knew I had to try the cake. I was not disappointed. I warn you that it is very easy to overeat, so be prepared to either share it with friends or freeze it. Fortunately, it freezes very well, as I was able to prove yesterday. The recipe makes a fairly large cake and even if I gave half to a friend, I still managed to freeze seven good-sized portions.

In the picture above I ate it while warm, "a la mode", meaning with vanilla ice-cream. It was good but I actually prefer it on its own.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Toaster Oat Bread

Today I tried one of Kelli's bread recipes. This is a quick bread, full of fiber and it tastes delicious. I followed Kelli's recipe almost to the letter. The only difference is the buttermilk I used, because I had it, instead of milk and lemon juice.

This bread is dense and very flavourful. I calculated 16 slices and it does give me 104 cals., 5gr. of protein, 1 gr, of fat, and 3 gr. fibre per slice. Kelli says that its flavour is enhanced by toasting. I've already ate almost half of it and I did not toast it. It is delicious with butter and jam. Now I have to try the toasting.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

WCB # 13 - Ms. Beije does not like the camera

Ms. Beije having trouble with the flash from the camera. I tried to take another photo, but she decided to beat a hasty retreat. She really has little patience for my photography efforts.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser: Pistachio Fruit Delight


I'm not very familiar with Southern food, except maybe having heard of Southern Fried Chicken and Blackened Fried Fish. The cuisine of Louisianna seems to include a lot of hot food, which I shy away from. However, I wanted very much to contribute to Amy's event in any way I could.
Browsing my recipe box, I found this recipe that I had copied from one of those church fundraiser cookbooks. The little blurb said that this was a Southern recipe although it did not specify where from. This is a typical 70's recipe all made out of canned ingredients but it is one of my favourites. This is one instance in which I don't care if the ingredients are not "natural." It has to be "good for you," because it is just plain good.

Please join Amy's Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser and/or click the Red Cross banner above to donate. Thank you.


Pistachio Fruit Delight

1 package Jello instant pudding, pistachio flavour
1 cup milk
1 19 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, drained
2 cups miniature marshmallows
1 large container of Cool Whip

Mix the pudding and milk and let thicken. Add the drained crushed pineapple, marshmallows, and Cool Whip. Mix until well blended.

Transfer into a large glass bowl to serve, or divide into individual containers. Makes 13 1/2 cup portions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blog Day 2005

blogday2005_logo I just found out today that August 31st is Blog Day. The brainchild of Nir Ofir of Sparkarmada the idea that August 31st should be Blog Day was born out of the fact that "3108" looks similar to "blog". Today we are asked to link to five blogs that are distinctly different from our own, in the interest of promoting traffic.

Foto Ben
Foto Ben is the blog of Benjamim Fonseca e Silva, a young professional photographer in Lisbon, Portugal. He started his blog in April 2005 and publishes a photo a day. His photos are very artistic and a pleasure to look at. He shows us aspects of Lisbon and its inhabitants that I had not seen before.

Vitriolica Webb's ite
Vit'n'Madge is a graphics artist. A Brit married to a Portuguese she lives in a small town south of Lisbon. Fluent in both the spoken and written language of her adopted country, Vit draws and rambles about the idiosyncrasies of life in Portugal and of the Portuguese people. Winner of "Big Blogger 2005" this blog is one of my daily musts.

One Whole Clove
Let me introduce to you Lou Plant, fellow Ottawan. Lou started her food blog this month but she writes like a pro and her pictures are excellent. Definitely worth a visit.

Enon Hall:
In 1999 William Hathaway Chapman bought sight-unseen the ancestral home of the Virginia Hathaways, which had been in his family from 1762 until 1939. The restoration of the house and grounds has been a labour of love for Bill and his family. Although not a real blog, the journal feature which Bill updates regularly, makes it look like one. I highly recommend that you peruse the weekly account of this historically faithful restoration. It has plenty of photos and is a pleasure to read.

We are also asked to include this code in our post so everyone can be updated by visiting this link in technorati, . So here it is.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

WCB # 12 - Ms. Beije

Good morning everybody. My name is Ms. Beije and my human pet finally got around taking one decent picture of me. Now I don't necessarily have the patience to pose for her and to do it on her own time, but you know how finicky humans can be so I humoured her. Besides she is been sick the poor dear (big feline sigh here).
Hopefully you will be seeing some more of me from now on. I've been in this family for 10 years now and this is our second house. The renovation is somewhat of a bother but Ana seems to enjoy it so I play along. What the heck, let's keep the peace in the family.

I love to go outside and Ana has some mature trees and wild corners in her property. This is heaven. There are squirrels around that I love to chase, to my utter enjoyment. I think that they like it too, since I'm careful and made a point of never catching one. Wouldn't know what to do with it if I did, they are not that tasty anyway. When we moved in I was able to find some mice but haven't seen one in ages. Ana likes to plant flowers and clear up spaces so the mice population must have moved somewhere else. It's a bother since they were fat and good, but then I'm not getting any younger so I guess what's in the food bowl is it.

Tata and see you next time!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Roasted Zucchini with Feta Cheese

When I was flat on my back, many times I though of all the vegetables I had languishing in my fridge. That Saturday, I had purchased quite a good quantity of beautiful fresh vegetables at the Parkdale Farmer's Market. Little did I know I would not have much time to dedicate to them. Some, sadly, got lost. But since the vegetables had been picked that very morning the day I bought them, some lasted what I consider an unusual long time. Like the zucchini and green onions above.

As soon as I was able to stay on my feet for more than fifteen minutes I decided to try Lex Culinaria's recipe of Feta and Dill Baked Mushrooms. I even had in the fridge 2 punnets (16 oz) of regular button mushrooms, and figured that half her recipe would be enough for one or two complete meals for me. Who was I kidding? I ate the whole hog for supper. But man, are they good mushrooms!


I am not going to reproduce the recipe here since I followed hers not to a capital "T" but at least to a small "t". I did not add dill because I had forgotten to purchase it and I did forget to add the lemon juice, even though I had lemons at home. Only when the mushrooms were half-baked did I come to the desk to check the recipe on the computer and noticed the lemon juice. Honestly, I did not miss it.

Four days later, feeling a little better, I decided to do something with the yellow and green zucchini's I had purchased. They were still firm but I was afraid would not be like that for too long. In the fridge I also had 2 bunches of green onions. The green leaves were going but the white portion was firm and good. Those mushrooms were still fresh in my mind so I decided to use the same recipe for the zucchini and green onions. Again, I did not use either lemon juice or dill. Why mess with perfection? Unfortunately I did have about 1 cup of feta cheese left. For the quantity of vegetables it would have been better to use about one-and-a-half cups of feta. I have added the right amount in the recipe below.

Roasted Zucchini with Green Onions and Feta Cheese

4 medium green zucchini
2 yellow green zucchini
2 bunches green onions
6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons sea-salt, or more to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

Wash and cut zucchinis in the middle and then each piece into four lenghtwise. Clean the green onions and slice into about 1/2-inch slices. Put into a square pan.

In a mortar mash peeled garlic and salt until all the cloves are roughly mashed. Add the olive oil and mix well. Drop the oil mixture over the vegetables and mix well with a wooden spoon until it covers all the vegetables. Por over the crumbled feta cheese.

Put the pan into a 350F oven and bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Mix the vegetable-cheese mixture once or twice while it is baking.


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Backyard bounty

It is fitting that I should start my blogging activities showing off two beautiful cucumbers I picked from my backyard, some two weeks ago. You cannot get any more local than this.
I had the pleasure to eat my first backyard cucumber just sliced very fine, skin on, and seasoned with nothing but salt. They tasted divine.

The so-called "grape tomatoes" plants grew huge and the wire loops I bought at the store were simply not strong enough. The tomato plants are a mess of long limbs all over each other. I am going to put some stronger stakes in the ground and hope I can tie some of the branches to it. Certainly a learning lesson for next year.

Having said that, the "grape" tomatoes are growing to look more like cherry tomatoes and although both plants have lots they are still green. Hopefully, in a week I will have some grape/cherry tomatoes for my very local organic salad.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Blogging hiatus due to pinched nerve

Two weekends ago I had some "destruction" around my house, in preparation for some more upgrades. It so happens that this beautiful bungalow of mine, having started its life as a summer cottage in 1937, does not have a vapour barrier. The mold problem this house had, when it had aluminun siding, was caused by this lack of a vapour barrier, which allowed the hot humid air to go through the walls, find the aluminum, condense and be trapped there. Over the years, a bad case of mold was the result. When I bought this little gem in 2000, I knew I was in for serious renovation. Getting rid of the aluminum siding was the first step and it got rid of the mold, since the house was able to breath again.

What I'm doing now is strip the outer walls one at a time and putting in new insulation, vapour barrier, sheetrock, etc. Replacing the windows is done at this time too. So the living room was what I worked on this time. My kids helped with the destruction part however, somehow, during the clean-up part (ever noticed that kids disappear for clean-up?) I must have overdone something which resulted in a pinched sciatic nerve. So I've spent about 4 days flat on my back and it took the remaining of the time to very slowly and painfully get back on my feet.

To stand or sit for long periods of time is still both painful and unadvisable and so I have been unable both to cook a lot or to blog about it. I have been trying to keep up with what everybody else posts and to write some comments too, but that's the extent of what I am able to do right now.

Unfortunately I will have to miss many of the events going on. As I get better, hopefully I'll get into the swing of things again. And yes, I'm living in the house as its being renovated. Not always fun!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

5 Childhood Food Memories - yet another Meme!

This meme, sent to me by both Tarzile, from Quebec and Elvira of Tasca da Elvira (Elvira's Pub). Tarzile has a beautiful blog that features many French-Canadian recipes. It is definitely worth a visit. Elvira was born in Portugal, raised in France and returned to Portugal to live permanently not long ago. She is a journalist and her beautiful blog, written in French, has wonderful Portuguese recipes and photos of Portugal. Many times I browse Elvira's blog just to look at the pictures and remember.

And memories is what this meme is all about. It asks for five food-related things you miss from your childhood. It did not take me long to compile this list and thinking about each one of them brings back memories of the flavours and smells of my childhood.

Sweetsop/annona: When I was a little girl in Mozambique, no matter where we moved to there was always one or two of these trees in our backyard. The trees do not grow very tall and some of its branches are low, making it easy for us kids to reach up and pluck this most delicious fruit. They become mushy when ripe and do not travel easy. One day, some seven or eight years ago I found one small basket of sweetsops for sale in one of the Asian markets in our Chinatown. I paid $2.50 for a lonely smallish fruit which was flavourless, a clear sign that it had been picked green and ripened under duress.

Young coconuts: Are another tropical delicacy I miss very much. Its flesh sweet and soft is eaten with a spoon. I do love coconut and many times, when my supermarket gets a fresh batch I purchase one, open its "eyes" to remove the water and then peel it and keep it in the fridge to much on as a snack. Alas, what I get here is not young, but fully mature fresh coconuts. While researching for photos for this post I found out that Melissa from California does sell a package of 3 young coconuts for $US26.90, not including postage. Mmmm! Pretty steep, and I wonder if it is worth it.

Whole cashew nuts roasted on an open fire: As I've had opportunity to mention here before, my maternal grandparents had a farm in the north of Mozambique, where I spent many wonderful times. In the farm there were all kinds of tropical fruit trees native to the place (papaya, banana, mango, sweetsop), and some others planted by my grandfather (mostly lemon, orange, and grapefruit). The place also had plenty of huge cashew trees, that must have been almost a hundred years old, or seemed so to me. The cashew-nut, a bean-shaped nut at the end of the fruit, is covered by a thick meaty cover. It was not advisable to try and cut open this cover because the oils would "burn" your skin. These nuts were roasted over coals until blackened at which time they could be opened to retrieve the meat inside. The cashews were unevenly roasted. Some areas were a little burnt some quite pale, but the flavour was incomparable. The commercially available cashews do not even come close.

Beach Clam Stew: Beaches in Angola and Mozambique, if you lived far away from the main ports, were big expanses of white sand and clear water uncluttered by civilization. On Sundays, we would go to the beach and for lunch we carried a big pot where the cook had put olive oil, lots of chopped onion and garlic and some chopped tomatoes. We also carried some fresh bread and, of course, drinks. Pick the clams was easy. Every wave that splashed on the beach seem to bring tons and we easily picked them up as they tried to bury themselves in the sand. As we picked them, we dropped them in a big pail of salt water. Close to lunch hour a fire was lit using wood foraged from the vicinity and some rocks to support the big pot. After the onions were translucent the clams were taken from the water pail and dropped into the pot just to open. In about 5 to 8 minutes lunch was ready and we all dove in eating the clams with our hands and sopping the bread on the flavourful broth. Divine!

Chicken Piri-piri at grandma Adelina's: Chicken piri-piri is a typical dish of Africa. It is nothing but a whole cleaned chicken opened in the middle and flattened, seasoned with hot chillies and cooked over the coals. It probably was being cooked this way by the native people's of Africa when the Portuguese navigators dropped in around the 1500's; and it could be that our best contribution was the copious amounts of garlic we added to the basting sauce. At my grandmother's farm, chicken piri-piri was always cooked over the coals outside in the backyard. Grandma's marinade/basting sauce was simple: garlic, salt, lots of piri-piri (African hot peppers) the whole thing mashed in the mortar, then add olive oil and rub the whole bird with it. Put the "butterflied" (split the down the center enough to allow it to lie flat, but without cutting it into two pieces) chiken on a rack over the coals, high enough that it will cook slowly. Keep basting with the marinade, as you turn the chicken. It was to cry over, literally... sometimes the basting sauce had one hot-pepper too many for my taste.

Now, how this meme works:Choose four bloggers to tag (none of whom are obligated to take part):
1. Elizabeth of Blog from our Kitchen
2. Michelle of Oswego Tea
3. Ruth of Once upon a Feast
4. Dawna of Always in the Kitchen

Now, remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog's name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired effect.
1 - Becks & Posh
2 - Clea Cuisine
3 - Station Gourmande
4 - Tasca da Elvira /
5 - Pumpkin Pie Bungalow

Friday, July 29, 2005

Grape vines, cucumbers and tomatoes

Here is a glimpse of my very small vegetable garden. In the photo above you can see one of my grape vines. I've planted two, on opposite sides of the deck and last weekend I spent sometime pinning horizontal wires to the deck side. It seems that the vines prefer to expand horizontally. I had assumed the vines would climb the vertical wood banisters but they were instead moving into the deck itself. Hopefully the horizontal wires will keep them in the right path.

This year I did not have the time to propare the plots as necessary so my vegetable garden, besides herbs has two grape tomato plants and one cucumber. I just had to take a picture at the little tomatoes growing. I expect them to redden soon, as they are not supposed to grow big.
Here is the cucumber plant and the little cucumbers growing. Soon I will be able to make myself a salad with produce from my garden.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Granola, finally!

I've been wanting to make my own granola since I saw Michelle's Taste Canada entry featuring maple granola. I do love granola and I find that the purchased variety sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. Too much sugar, too little fruit and even less nuts always leaft me somewhat disenchanted.

I always thought that making granola was difficult. Don't ask me why because just by reading the recipe one can see that it is not, however something always made me uneasy about it...until I read Michelle's recipe and did feel a crave to make my own that I could resist no more. Other of my favourite bloggers have made granola and I've checked Heidi's Honey-toasted fruit muesli, Niki's Granola?, and Tarzile's Granola maison à la noix de coco. In the end, I opted for following Michelle's recipe. All the other recipes looked very good but Michelle's used less ingredients, all of which I happened to have on hand or had a good substitute for.

In my rendition of the recipe I've increased the amount of oats in an effort to reduce the sugar and fat, and then I've doubled the portion of almonds and raisins (to cancel out???), but I love almonds and raisins so much, I have to have lots. I've also used honey since I did not have any maple sugar.

The granola was very easy and fast to do. Actually, to my delight, it took longer in the oven that it took to prepare. I guess I can say safely that I'll never have store-bought granola again!

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
2 cups non-instant large flake oats
1/2 cup almonds, cut up
1/2 cup raisins

In the roasting pan melt the butter and honey. Add the oats and almonds. Mix well and put in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes. Then add raisins and cook another 10 minutes on until the granola showns the shade of blond you are looking for.

Remove the pan from the oven and let the granola cool in the pan. Once cooled, break up the lumps with your hands (they fall apart easily) and store.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Blueberry Smoothie

On Saturday I had an appointment with my hairdresser and that meant go across the river to the small little city of Aylmer, on the Quebec side. On the way, on the Lower Aylmer Road, there are always one or two stalls usually selling one type of fruit or vegetable in season. In June it was the strawberries and now they are offering wild blueberries. Wild blueberries are very small but bursting with concentrated flavour. They are not cheap, but by the time I came back the people were getting ready to leave and I was able to purchase all the berries they have left over for about half-price. I did not have enough money and the seller would rather sell cheaper than take it back.

So now I'm trying to figure out what to do with all the blueberries. Muffins and cake are in order, and even maybe pie. I will also wash some and freeze for later use. Today, my lunch was carrot sticks and almond butter and blueberry smoothie.

For the smoothie I whirled in the blender:
2/3 cup yogurt
1 packet splenda
1/2 cup wild blueberries, picked over and washed

This quantity will make enough to fill my glasses, as you can see in the picture. No leftovers. The book in the background, that I was reading during lunch is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Banana Nut Bread

This recipe for banana bread was given to me by my friend Nancy who got it from her friend Daphne. It is by far my very favourite banana bread. The ratio of bran to flour is quite high and it is the reason why I like it so much. I like to fell the bran when I eat it. I do love both the flavour and the texture of this bread.

It is specially good when the bananas are very ripe, as they impart their full taste and aroma to the bread. I usually roast the walnuts a little to enhance their flavour, prior to adding them to the batter. You can eat it with butter as befits any bread, but I like it as is, with a cup of Earl Grey tea.

Banana Nut Bread

1/4 cup butter
1 large egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup bran
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and stir in bran. Add mashed bananas, water and vanilla. Stir in nuts. Mix together flour and baking powder and add to previous mixture. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 50 minutes.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My new cookbook

I have added several new cookbooks to my collection. Today I want to mention the one I was anxiously awaiting and which arrived a couple of days ago.

I found out about this cookbook from Jennifer, our gifted chef from Vancouver's "Roast Chicken Reasoning". If you remember, her entry for "Taste Canada" was Gambas al Ajillo, a specialty from Chez Piggy, a Kingston Ontario Restaurant. Jennifer actually worked in the kitchens of this restaurant one summer. I enjoyed very much reading her post and checked this book at The more I read the more I felt I had to have the cookbook. I was not disappointed.

Gambas al Ajillo is definitely a dish I want to try. Leafing through the book other dishes begged to be tried, for instance Curried Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk, Cashews & Coriander, Moroccan Chicken Salad with Couscous, Pollo Verde Almendrado, and others.

The book also includes recipes from their bakery Pan Chancho. The bread usually takes three days to prepare. For whole wheat bread, rye bread, multigrain, or even regular white bread on day 1 they prepare the starter, on day 2 the continue the starter and finally on day 3 they bake the bread. I would like, one day, to give this a try. Please don't tell, but I've really never been very successful with the breads I made entirely by hand. No matter what I did to help rise the bread (cover the whole thing with blankets, put inside the microwave, put in the oven with the pilot light on) the truth is, my dough never doubled-up within one hour as most recipes read. That's probably why I was so proud of my recent success with bread-maker-prepared, oven-baked bread. I finally felt like a pro in the bread making department.

I was hoping to try a recipe from the book before posting about it but with time at a premium it was unfortunately not possible. I will have more time during Fall and Winter, once the renovations and the garden do not command so much of my attention.

Before long, I also plan to make a trip to Kingston, Ontario.


Saturday, July 16, 2005

Simple lunch for a very hot day!

Today was unbeliveably hot and muggy. I spent quite some time working in the yard, clearing an area which used to be beside the garage, before I moved it. The work was hard as there were maples that had been allowed to grow somewhat. Taking them out means digging the roots out and it is no small job. Then I leveled it, put garden fabric and then crushed stone. It will be nice when it is ready.

At lunch hour I was too hot and tired to do much. Luckily I had one big vine tomato and some bocconcini. Sprinkle some dried oregano, get some fresh basil leaves from my mini herb garden above, and voilá, that was my lunch! After that I had some Coconut Cream Pie ice cream which in the opinion of yours truly, is out of this world.

Friday, July 15, 2005

SHF # 10 - Bolo de Mel (Honey Cake)

From my mother's recipes I chose Honey Cake, a very typical Portuguese Cake. Thanks to Nic from Bakingsheet to host today's Sugar High Friday event and for having chosen honey as the theme.

The unusual thing in this cake is the use of olive oil as the fat ingredient and this is another of the Portuguese cakes that you will find everywhere. Every region has its own version of the recipe: Bolo de Mel da Madeira (Madeira Honey Cake), Bolo Podre (Rotten Cake or Putrid Cake). There are versions of Rotten Cake in all provinces of Portugal, each one a version specific to that particular province. The base of the recipe remain the same: olive oil, honey, eggs, flour, cinnamon, lemon zest and baking soda. Each area has variations in the spices they add (ground cloves and/or ground anise seed), and the addition of nuts (mostly walnuts and pine nuts) or dried fruits (raisins or citron). This unusual name was given because of the colour of the cake, a light brownish hue, but of course the cake is not rotten, it is very good indeed. My own cake has a deep brown colour due to the large quantity of cinnamon. It actually looks more like milk chocolate cake. The perfume is unmistakable though.

Mom's recipe is simply called Honey Cake but this was not the only recipe of this type (olive oil and honey) she had in the book, each with a different title, and I looked at several before deciding on this one. The other recipes include other spices and/or dried fruits or nuts.

I made 1/2 recipe only. The batter is quite liquidy and I was afraid it would not cook well, or that it would remain gooey inside but, as you can see in the pictures, it came out well, except that it got a little burnt on top, probably because I cooked it in my toaster oven and the top did not have enough clearance from the element. Since I had no indication of oven temperature I started at 350F (180C), but I think that 325F is probably better.

The cake is tender and moist and surprisingly not too sweet. The taste is subdued and I think that the next time I will add a little ground nutmeg or cloves. It needs a little kick.

Bolo de Mel (Honey Cake)

4 eggs
1 cup honey
1 cup olive oil
1 cup milk
Grated rind of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
250 gr. all-purpose flour
200 gr. sugar

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil. Pre-heat oven to 325F (160C).

Mix all the ingredients. This cake should not be mixed for too long. The batter will be fairly liquid and there might be little lumps of flour still floating around by the time you are ready to pour the batter in the pan.

Bake for about one hour on until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and wait for about 10 minutes before unmolding onto a rack.

You can eat it on its own or with a little cream. I tried mine with a little sweetened yougurt, as you see in the picture above, but actually prefer it on its own.

The new template

TADA!!!!!! Here is the new template. After lots of weed-pulling (trying to save my scalp here!) in frustration I finally got the test blog to work after which it was surprisingly painless to transpose the code from the test blog to this one.

For a first effort, I am very pleased with the end result. Please let me know what you think and how do the colours show in your monitors.

Of course now that I understand a little more of CSS I think that I really would like to have three columns instead of two, and maybe a better design, and so on, and so on. Well, I'm going to take a breather and cook and bake some more before attempting to mess around with my template.

Like a kid caught with his hands in the cookie jar, my modem is behaving beautifully this evening. Tomorrow the ISP technician will be here to look at the "problem modem" and I will be very frustrated if it continues on its best behavious, only to start having problems again as soon as the techncian clears the front door!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Problems with cable modem

I have two posts started and saved in draft mode and I'm actually posting this during lunch hour at work.

After intermitent bursts during the past two weeks my ISP provider finally arrived to the conclusion that the cable modem is acting up and will probably need to be replaced. The technician will come over by next Friday and I'm taking the day off to be home both for the ISP technician and for the central air conditioner technician. Another one that has been a bother in these sweltering days we're having.

Posting has been painful to say the least. The connection to the Internet at home goes on the blink every 2 minutes or so, making the work of either posting, reading other blogs, or commenting, extremelly time consuming.

I've tried to keep up with my favourite blogs (my bloglines feeder lists 87) and at the same time work in my new template. For a while now I've been first thinking and then slowly changing my template to reflect something that is only mine. Since my knowledge of Cascading Style Sheets is minimal I started to slowly change elements in the template I now use, publishing and seeing the results, changing it again... you know the drill! I have a test blog called Ana's Test Blog (how's that for originality) which I used for the first time to play around with the list commands when I decided to document the history of the 5 Cookbook Meme.

I am very pleased with the way my new template is coming up, but I'm having a hard time with some unexpected glitches. Hopefully, I will be able to get them out of the way so that I can transpose my new template to this blog. It probably will not be before the weekend, if I'm so lucky..

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Turkey Carrot-Nut Loaf

I did make this loaf some time ago but never managed to post about it. The recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks, the How-to Book of Healthy Cooking. It is the first time I tried this recipe and it is very tasty, and at 361 calories per serving and only 4gr. of saturated fat it is healthy indeed. I have to admit though, that my version of the recipe was fatter as I used full-fat ingredients where the recipe called for low- or non-fat items. I had it with fresh asparagus and a Rainbow Coleslaw salad, also from the same book.

The interesting thing about this book is that it chooses a main theme, in this case a Vegetable and Nut Loaf, explains the cooking technique "mix chopped vegetables with nuts and bake like a meat loaf. Use any combination of unsalted nuts", followed by pictures of all stages of the recipe preparation. Then it adds two or three variations of the same basic concept. My turkey loaf is one of the variations.

The original recipe for the Turkey Loaf suggests that we sauté the vegetables in 2 teaspoons of oil. I understand that this reduces the amount of overall fat, but I always had trouble sautéing in a smidge of oil so I used a little over 1 tablespoon (4 teaspoons). I decided on the Rainbow Coleslaw salad because I had all the ingredients on hand and the white cabbage needed to be used. Unfortunately, the colour scheme is about the same as the turkey loaf so it ain't that smart on the photography department. Oh! Well!

Turkey and Carrot Nut Loaf
From "The How'to Book of Healthy Cooking", page 199

2 teaspoons olive or canola oil (I used 4 teaspoons of olive oil)
1 lb carrots, coarsely shreddeded
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used 4)
8 oz. mushrooms finely chopped
1 1/2 cups unsalted mixed nuts
8 oz lean ground turkey
1 cup cooked long-grain rice
1 egg white (I used 1 egg)
2 scallions, chopped
Salt and pepper

I chopped all the vegetables in the food processor with the steel blade. The carrots were a litle finer than "coarsely shredded" but it did not detract from the final product. I actually think it made it better.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Stir in the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes more or until softened.

In the food processor finely chop the nuts. I used a mix of almonds, peanuts, cashews, some walnuts and sunflower seeds -- a little bit of what I always have around. Remove the vegetables from the heat and stir in the nuts with the turkey, rice, egg, scallions, salt and pepper, until blended.

Pack the mixture into a foil-lined loaf pan. Bake for about 50 minutes in a 350F (180C) oven, or until firm to the touch in the centre.

Serves 6

Rainbow Coleslaw
From "The How'to Book of Healthy Cooking", page 294

2 oz white cabbage, shredded
2 oz green cabbage, shredded
2 oz red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1/2 cup spinach, shredded
1/2 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons non-fat yogurt (I used full-fat)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon reduced-fat mayonnaise (I used regular)
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (I did not use)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of curry powder (I did not use)

Thinly shred the cabbage leaves cutting lenghtwise or crosswise across the cabbage, depending on the size of the shred desired. For this I used the mandoline. Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl with the shredded carrot, spinach, red pepper, and red onion. In a small bowl, make the dressing by mixing all the remaining ingredients together.

Pour the dressing over the cabbage mixture and toss together until well-coated. Cover and refriegerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 6.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Tourtière, by Loblaws

I know that I should be making this tourtière from scratch but the truth is, I might not do as good a job as Loblaws.

Says in the package that "is made according to a traditional Québécois recipe, with pork, beef, veal and a rich pastry crust," and it is "made without artificial flavours or colours". It is already baked so all you have to do is pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes or take it out of the aluminum pie plate and plop it in the microwave.

The pie is not too big, about 8-inch diameter and 1lb in weight. The filling is well seasoned with a hint of cinnamon and the pastry is just melt-in-your-mouth heavenly. And all this for $2.99.

So today, I had tourtière and steamed broccolli. It was very tasty, and I did not have to cook. Some days, that is heavenly..

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Whole-wheat Bran Oat Bread

I have to thank Kelli for the wonderful idea of making the bread in the bread maker using the dough cycle and then put the dough in a pan and bake in the oven. Just take a look at this beauty.
I've had my bread machine for a while now and although I liked the breads I made in it, I hated the large cube format of the finished product. I know the booklet shows how you can program the machine for dough and then take out and make small buns, pizza, and other free form breads. I was always afraid that once I took it out, it would get cold and not rise at all. But I've seen in Kelli's blog, loaf after beautiful-looking loaf and lost my fear. After all, it seemed simple enough. Thanks Kelli!

The recipe is from the book Favorite Bead Machine Recipes, by Norman A. Garrett, page 112, and I made the 1 1/2 pound loaf. Besides the bread flour, it also includes oat flour, oat bran and whole-wheat flour. For the oat flour I used large-flake oatmeal that I ground in batches in a small coffee grinder that I use to grind flax

Whole-Wheat, Bran and Oat Bread

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used rapid-rise)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (I used regular sugar--that's all had)
1 1/2 tablespoons gluten powder
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/3 cup oat bran
3/4 cup oat flour
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
2 scant teaspoons salt
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/4 cups warm water (I used room-temperature)

Put all ingredients in the bread maker and program for dough cycle (about 1 hour and 30 minutes). Grease the pan you are going to use to bake the bread.

Once the machine beeps, take out the dough, press down to deflate a little and with your hands quickly make a rectangle with the larger side about the length of the bread pan. Roll the dough and put into the pan, seam-side down.

Now you are supposed to put in a warm place and let rise for about 30 minutes. I put mine inside the oven with the pilot light on. After about 30 minutes I switched the oven on and let the temperature go up to 400F. The bread cooked in about 25 minutes.

I have not tasted it yet. Will update this entry tomorrow.

Update on July 5, 2005: The bread is indeed very tasty. I prefer it toasted with a little bit of butter and the strawberry jam I just made.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Strawberry Picking

A friend and I went strawberry picking yesterday. The picking season started maybe a week ago and this field is actually only about 20 minutes from Ottawa.

The strawberries are smallish but full of flavour, much better than what we get in the supermarket. We went at about 8:30 a.m. and I had just finished breakfast. Bad move! I was too full to enjoy eating as much as I picked. Next time I'll plan better.

At home I prepared some to freeze some in 2-cup mason jars, with about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of sugar per jar. Once thawed, they are excellent with vanilla ice cream. I also made some light jam but unfortunately the picture came out fuzzy.

What a nice way to spend Canada Day! Happy Canada Day everyone!.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Taste Canada -The Pre-quel

Right around the corner, here comes the first Taste Canada started about a month ago by Lyn and Jennifer who thought that there was high time to have a Canadian Food Blogging event.

The idea caught the imagination of the rest of us Canadian bloggers. We wrote to other Canadian bloggers we knew, thought of ways of promoting this event and Tara created the beautiful "Canadian Food Blogger" logo you see on the right.

Jennifer graciously asked me to do a pre-quel on the participants by writing a mini-bio or just a description of their blogs and where in Canada they are from. As it is we got some participantes from the US too. Some were easy to do. I'd known the participants and knew their blogs. For others, it was the first time. I have enjoyed doing this as it gave me the opportunity to read blogs I did not know and to get to know the others even better. I hope I did everybody justice.

À la cuisine!
A media designer, entrepreneur, and cooking afficionado from Toronto, both Clement's recipes and photos are of superb quality. I consider Clement's desserts his signature productions. This site is worth a good perusal.

A Day in the Life of a Canadian Girl
From London, Ontario, Jennifer writes about her life, her city, her cooking, and things that make her pay attention.

Always in the Kitchen
Dawna, from Vancouver B.C., says that even when at work, asleep, or stuck in traffic food is always on her mind, and it’s a passion that she loves to share. In 2003 Dawna started a web page, also called Always in the Kitchen. Her blog, started last February, allows her to share her passion for food and recipes on a more frequent basis.élices
What can I say about Martine Gingras that people do not know yet? Martine started her blog in 2001. In it she talks about food, health, gardening and leisure (where you can find everything from interior decoration to carpentry). Her blog is mostly in French, but Martine also communicates with the wider English-speaking blogland via Suburblicious. Take a look. You will enjoy it.

Only recently in the blogscene, Vegcat is a university student in Southern Ontario and is an ethical vegan who, according to her own self description, has the bad habit of killing house plants. In her blog, Vegcat shares her views on life, the treatment of animals, and a recipe or two.

Blog from Our Kitchen
Elizabeth is also an old-hand at blogging, having started her blog in 2003, which is also part of her other website. You have tons of wonderful recipes, sewing and crafts articles, gardening and even a discussion forum. Definitely worth a visit.

Blork Blog
Ed, a.k.a. Blork is in Montreal and like to write about food, Montreal and himself (in his own words). Perusing his blog, I found that Ed was tagged by the 5 book meme, the non-cookbook version. Now, I'm trying without much sucess I might say, to find out the originator of this meme which entered the cooking blogosphere in late May. Hopefully, a new lead!

Edible Tulip
Food writer, food columnist and part-time chef Daphne is also one of the participants in Digital Dish, an anthology of some of the best food blog writing from around the world.

experiment in writing...
Welcome to Lady X a brand-new Canadian food blogger who started with a contribution to Paper Chef. How about that for gutsy? I love her photos too.

Food Ninja
Templar hails us from Winnipeg, Canada. He posts with humour about food and whatever else is on his mind, but mostly about food.

I Like to Cook
Hailing from Calgary, Sara has been blogging about food for quite some time. She writes about life in Calgary, eating out, some know...regular foodie posts. And she is the only other person in blogland, besides me, who did a post on turkey legs...obviously, a woman of good taste.

I like to do stuff....
Christine is in London, Ontario and she likes to cook and bake stuff. Perusing her blog, I found out that she has the ultimate recipe of caramel corn, so if you like caramel corn and do not have a good recipe, take a look at Christine's.

Linda, an aspiring chef, attends Dubrulle Culinary School in Vancouver. In her blog she tells about has days at school and also has some nice pictures about dishes she prepares there.

Kitchen Savvy
Kitchen Savvy is the blog of Dave Katz who enjoys answering questions about the “how” and “why” of cooking. In his blog you will also find a list of recommended cookbooks, articles, and some recipes. A good resource site.

Knife Skills, a chef-in-training
Christine says that her blog documents her career change: from the office to the kitchen. A journalist, she enrolled in the Professional Culinary Diploma Program at Dubrulle Culinary School in Vancouver. I enjoy reading about what she learns, food safety considerations and seeing the pictures of the prepared dishes.

Lex Culinaria
What can I add about Lyn, the other co-creator of this event? A beautifully designed blog, excellent writing, wonderful pictures and the other blogger I know who makes cheese at home. A kindred spirit!

M's Cooking Diary
A resident of Montreal, Mirko works in software sales and so he travels a great deal. In his blog he talks about the foods he cooks at home and the foods he tastes abroad. I enjoyed reading about the "cassava latte" and the Brazilian "farofa".

Mrs. Pink's Blurty Entries
In this beautiful manga-inspired blog Mrs. Pink shares recipes, concerns, and day-to-day thoughts.
Although Toronto freelance writer's site Nancy Fielding is not about food, she graciously decided to participate.

Once Upon a Feast
Ruth, a cooking teacher in Toronto, started her blog just last month and I'm glad she did. She has this recipe for "Bife à Portuguesa" (Steak Portuguese Way) so she has my vote. Go take a look. Now!

Oswego Tea
Michele is the person behind this very beautiful blog. In it she writes about her recipes, food places in Heidelberg, Germany where she lives, and European culinary discoveries. Her photos are beautiful to look at.

Roast Chicken Reasoning
Jennifer Rudder's is a graduate of the Stratford Chefs School in Stratford, Ontario. Although she has chosen a different career path, her love of good food has remained. I like to read the hows and whys of food preparation. In this her professional training shows through.

Pizza Ottawa
Jim and Mike, just around the corner here in my hometown have this blog dedicated to pizza. If we had any doubts that Canadians love pizza, just look at their blog. Also, if you ever come to our neck of the woods, you have this fantastic reference about our best pizza places. Enjoy!

Seven Spoons
Tara, in the Niagara region, left university behind and is now starting to establish the way she cooks, the flavours and the recipes that are becoming her repertoire. In her blog, she shares her recipes and beautiful photos with the rest of us.

Stella Bites
An American that loves Canada, Stella comes up our way fairly often and writes about it in her blog. I specially like her "Potato and green Bean Flip-Flops" recipe and the "healthy snack" post.

Taste Everything Once
Spokane resident Jennifer Olsen is also participating in our Taste Canada event. In her newly redesigned blog she shares her recipes and fabulous pictures that make me crave the foods.
I "met" Tarzile at the Blog Appétit #3, a blog event in France that has a huge following in the francophone blogworld. Her recipes are beautifully illustrated with professional quality photos that leave me hungry all the time. Take a look and you will see what I mean.

The Domestic Goddess
I actually wondered if I should leave Jennifer's blog out, since she is probably the best known of the Canadian bloggers and the organizer of this event to boot. What else could I say that everybody did not already know? Well, Jennifer's blog has a new design and it is gorgeous.

The Kitchen Geek Jim Cowling is a writer, a systems specialist, but mostly a guy who enjoys cooking and, if his recipes are any proof, does it well. Take a look.

Truffle Mutt
Liz, from Calgary, loves the challenge of trying something new and is always on the lookout for new ingredients and intriguing recipes while still loving the old stand-bys.

18THC Cuisine
I am a big fan of Carolyn Smith-Kizer's blog. Always in character, her foods are the foods on Nouvelle France and her cooking methods are pure 18th century. Definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Taste Canada - Barbecued Ribs

To honour Canada Day and this great country of ours I am a proud participant of Taste Canada, the brainchild of Canadian Food Bloggers Jennifer The Domestic Goddess and Lynnette of Lex Culinaria.

For me Canada represents barbecues, fast food and getting your meal ready-made from the supermarket, all concepts that were utterly foreign to me when I arrived some 20 years ago.

I came from a culture and a time that still had maids, where food was prepared daily, where shops and businesses closed at noon and re-opened at 3:00 pm so that everybody could go home have a leisurely meal and rest a little before going back to work.

Canada was very different: it was fast-paced, you had half-an-hour for lunch and you ate supper at 6:00 p.m. And then on Thursday and Friday shops stayed open until 9:00 p.m. so that you could shop some more...on the other hand, on the other days of the week, you could not find a café open past 6:00 p.m., if your life depended on it. It was so different from what I was used to...

The rushed life that greeted me in Canada was a little daunting at first, but I immediately discovered that Canadians had ways to cope that I was eager to try, for instance...Minute Rice. I had never seen Minute Rice before and could not believe that you could add broth to rice and have it come out flavourful and fluffy 5 or 10 minutes later. In those first years in Canada I used Minute Rice with the abandon of the newly converted. Other staples like mashed potato flakes and frozen food for a while dominated my culinary horizon.

One day, in those early times, a friend invited us for supper. It was summer and we were to dine in her backyard. The menu featured barbecued pork ribs, Ziggy's potato salad and Ziggy's coleslaw, beer and fresh strawberries and vanilla ice-cream. I never forgot that supper. The newness of it all, the wonderful new flavours, the contentment of slowly fitting in and starting to feel at home.

So this Sunday past I recreated that supper even to the detail of the Ziggy's potato salad and coleslaw. And the beer was my very favourite Sleeman's Cream Ale.

For the "barbecued" ribs I loosely followed a recipe in my brand new "The Pressure Cooker Cookbook - 100 Contemporary Recipes for the Time-Pressured Cook", by Gina Steer. I know it sounds like cheating, but with a temperature of 32ºC (89.6F) I was not able to stand in front of my barbecue in the full sun. So I made my ribs in the pressure cooker and then finished them off under the broiler. I have to admit that, tender and moist, they tasted like the real McCoy (sorry but I had to use another expression I learned in Canada!). And for dessert, some strawberries bought at the farmer's market Saturday morning, fresh from the fridge, with just some sugar.

Barbecued Pork Ribs
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 pounds pork ribs
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves, smashed
4 celery stalks, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Watkins Mesquite Barbecue Sauce Concentrate
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup vegetable broth
2 medium vine tomatoes

Put half of the oil in the pressure cooker and brown the ribs on all sides. Remove the ribs and set aside. Add the remaining oil and the add the celery, onion, and garlic to the cooker. Sauté for about 5 minutes and them return the ribs to the cooker.

Mix well the tomato paste, mustard, barbecue sauce, sugar and broth and pour over the ribs. Quarter the tomatoes and add them to the cooker. Close the lid.

Bring the cooker to full pressure, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Depressurize under cold running water and open the cooker. Take out the ribs put then in a foil-lined broiler pan and keep them warm.

Strain the contents left in the cooker to remove the solids and return the liquid to high heat and reduce for about 5 minutes. Put the ribs under the broiler basting with the reduced sauce and broil on each side until the ribs are crisp.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Cook Next Door Meme

Thanks to Nupur and Kelli for tagging me for this meme. I would also like to thank Nicki and Oliver for coming up with the idea. I just love this meme. I have been reading the entries as they are published and it is fun to learn a little bit more about the people behind the recipes.

What's your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
I must have been about 10 years old and I was spending some time with my maternal grandparents at their farm. I used to love spending time there. I always felt free as a bird and my grandparents, let's face it, spoiled me rotten. For them I could do no wrong. Grandma loved to cook and bake. As a diabetic she could eat none of the fantastic cakes and cookies she baked, but her house was always full of people who had no trouble polishing off whatever she made. One day I said I wanted to bake a cake. She gave me an egg and said to use sugar, butter, and flour as I needed. So I started beating some butter and sugar, added the egg, added flour until I got the consistency that I remember her cakes had, put the cake in a greased pan and into the oven. To everybody's astonishment, most of all my own, the cake came out pretty good. Nice and moist. Grandma coudn't stop singing my praises and I walked around more inflated than a baloon. In my second attempt, full of self-confidence, I did not pay as much attention to the consistency of the batter and my cake came out dry and hard as a rock. I was crushed. But the memory of that first success in the kitchen has never left me.

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
I would have to say the cookbooks and also my grandmother and my mother. They were both very good cooks and I saw my grandmother cook when I spent time at the farm, but in my parents house, in Africa, we always had a cook so mom and I mostly baked or made dessert. When I got married it downed on me that I was sadly unprepared to feed my husband, unless he would go for a strict diet of cakes and puddings.

Do you have an old photo as "evidence" of an early exposure to the culinary world?
This picture was taken when I was about 16 years old, again at my grandmother's farm. I'm showing off the first "Southern Belle" cake I made.

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
Flaky pastry. I made it once and wasn't pleased with the results. As a result, I have't worked with flaky pastry that much. I don't necessarily like to use store-bought and I have't come up with the guts to try again.

What are your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?
For most used I would have to say my hand blender. I use it all the time to pure soups, beat sauces, even make mayonnaise. My best friend in the kitchen. The biggest letdown was the mandoline. I used to have a cheap one which I discarded because it was cumbersome to use. I recently bought a better quality one but still find it cumbersome to use. I am affraid to purchase the top-of-the-line just in case I end up not able to work comfortably with it.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else does.
Condensed milk, which I eat by the teasponnful straight from the can. This is a long-standing love affair. In Africa, specially in the middle of the jungle, there was no fresh milk available so families relied on both powdered milk (Klim) and condensed milk (several brands). When I was a kid I used to eat toast with condensed milk and my very favourite cooked "cereal" was a thick paste of cornstartch cooked with water to which I would add about half-a-can on condensed milk.

What are the three edibles or dishes you simply don't want to live without?
Milk, bread, and cheese.

Any question you missed in this meme, that you would have loved to answer? Well then, feel free to add one!
Three quickies:

Your favorite ice-cream

You will definitely never eat...
Can't think of anything I will not try at least once.

Your own signature dish...
Sopa de grão com espinafres (chickpea and spinach soup) and Favas Guisadas com Chouriço (Braised Fava Beans with Chorizo).

So now I would like to tag fellow Canadian Food Bloggers Elizabeth, from Blog from our Kitchen, Sara, at I Like to Cook, and Templar, from Food Ninja. Hope you'll enjoy this as much as I did.