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!.