Monday, December 29, 2008

new gadgets

Paul gave me a new cookbook for Christmas--yay! That means more tasty ideas for meals are in my future! It is Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver. Because he bought it in Canada, it is the North American version, where the ingredients are converted to cup measures, which I find a lot easier. And I went out and bought two new kitchen gadgets; one was this new palm peeler. It slips onto one finger and then you hold it in your palm. Ant and I both tried it out and found that it worked well once we got the hang of it.

And we also bought a lovely mini mandoline--which has a very sharp double-sided blade in the centre. It makes perfect eighth of an inch slices, as seen in these photos.

On Christmas Eve Ant and I were out with Mum buying our vegetables for our special dinner. We were at Farmer Clem's and we saw this fantastic squash! I wish we had bought it but really, we would be eating squash for days.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

lamb kofte kebabs and borscht

In my continued quest to find meat dishes I enjoy I have discovered this recipe for lamb kofte. Simply in Season cookbook has it as "middle eastern meatloaf" and one of its variations is to grill it it in small cylinders to use in pittas. We like the taste better than the ones we buy at the kebab shop.
400g lamb mince
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ground coriander
Mix and then shape into cylinders. Grill and serve in pitta pockets with tomatoes and parsley salad.

I made Borscht, a Mennonite dish, for the first time yesterday (also from the Simply in Season cookbook). It is made with beetroot and so it comes out really pink in colour. It's really easy to make with chicken, carrots, potatoes, dill and parsley. Justin is staying with us for a while and we enjoyed it together last night with toasted pitta.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

spice drawer

I have taken a huge step forward in the organisation of my kitchen. I labelled all my spice bottles on their tops and I have put them in the bottom drawer. Now every time I need one I can just reach down and see everything! The drawer seems good to me since I know that light is bad for spices.

After I took this picture I decided to roughly alphabetise them as well (I know, a bit nerdy). So they run alphabetical left to right, give or take. At least I know approximately where to look to find the cinnamon and where to put back the paprika.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

birthday cake

It has been a lovely birthday this year. Two close friends came over last night and helped me eat the Harvest Cake that I have been dreaming about for quite some time. Matt and Helen and Ant all agreed that it was very tasty--success! it is a recipe that really suits me; it starts off with grated beetroot, carrot, and courgette.

The batter is a mellow pink colour, not unlike the beetroot spice cake I made recently.

The icing is made with goat's cheese and cream cheese sweetened with maple syrup. So delicious. Although I chilled the icing as directed it was still a bit runny and so I tried to convince everyone that it was really a sauce. We served it with some Merlot, and enjoyed it heartily. (Nice photography, Helen!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

lunch salad

Another salad recipe, this time by request. :) I made this cauliflower and chicken salad at lunch today, from the Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cauliflower Salad
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 large russet potato, sliced into rounds
2 T olive oil
dash of salt

4 c spinach or salad leaves
2 T chopped parsley
8 olives

2 T vegetable oil
2 T olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
2 T cider vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t fennel seeds
1/4 t salt

Roast the cauliflower and potato slices, tossed with olive oil and salt (about 20 minutes). Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Arrange the salad leaves on plates or a platter. Mix the red pepper and roasted vegetables and place on the salad leaves. Drizzle the dressing on top, sprinkle with parsley and olives.

When I made this salad today I increased the quantities of cauliflower to a whole head and used several potatoes. I omitted the olives since Ant is not a big fan (and hence we never have any in the house). And I added grilled chicken on top to make this into a meal. I cooked the chicken on our new, bigger George Foreman grill.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

planning in advance

I am so obsessed with food that I plan our week's meals in advance. I do this so that I can decide which recipes I want to cook and make sure I have all the ingredients on hand. Tonight I had planned two recipes to make from my new Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook.

The Tunisian pumpkin soup was delicious and came with a "spice swirl" (pictured below). The spice swirl is an essential part of the soup, I discovered. It was the tastiest little thing I have ever eaten! And I served the soup with a bulgur salad with artichoke hearts and a little feta. The steak on top is not part of the Moosewood recipe but is an addition to satisfy my carnivore husband.

My food obsession means that once I find a cookbook that fits my style I start working through it pretty regularly. I have been fortunate to get three new cookbooks in the last two months and I am using them to plan all our meals at the moment. On a quiet evening, I make a list of all the things currently in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. Then I pick recipes from my current favourite cookbooks that use up these ingredients. I add in a few more recipes and ingredients and order it all online. I keep the planning notes on the fridge so that when I get home from work I know can get to work without the dreadful feeling of having to think up what we are going to eat each night. We get to eat a lot of different things this way and I get to try out loads of new recipes.

Tunisian Pumpkin Soup
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

2 c chopped onions
2 T olive oil
1/2 c sliced carrots
1/2 c sliced parsnips
1 1/2 t salt
2 1/2 c water or stock
1 1/4 c apple juice
1/2 c tomato juice
1 t cumin
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t paprika
1 3/4 c cooked pumpkin (=15 oz can)

Spice Swirl
2 T olive oil
1 t minced garlic
4 t coriander
1 t ground caraway seeds
1/4 t cayenne
2 T lemon juice
2 T chopped cilantro
1/8 t salt

In a large soup pot, saute the onions, then add the vegetables. Saute for five minutes, then add stock, juices, and spices. Cover and bring to the boil, simmer until veg is soft. Add pumpkin and then puree the soup until smooth.

To make the spice swirl, heat the oil in a small skillet and briefly saute the garlic. Add the spices and cook, stirring constantly. Remove from heat after two minutes and add the lemon juice, cilantro, and salt.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with some spice swirl.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

happy thanksgiving

I remembered (Canadian) Thanksgiving this year! And I also managed to cook my first real big meal. And we had a few friends round and we used my Canada maple leaf napkins. Sadly there are no pictures but it was a really good time--quite relaxing as well since I paced the cooking better than usual. Everything was ready in time and the kitchen was also mostly clean when everyone arrived--that contributes a lot to my enjoyment. We had some lovely rose wine (thanks, Matt and Lucie) and everyone seemed to have a really good time. Lucie and Dave had a vegetarian nut roast (which may or may not have been pre-prepared). Others had lovely turkey breast (which may or may not have come without the rest of the turkey). We had loads of food, but I completely failed to remember to make gravy, so the stuffing was a bit dry. Oh, well. The pumpkin cheesecake with whipped cream made up for this! You know a big meal, so the saying goes, by the number of vegetable side dishes. Well, we had brussel sprouts (with garlic--actually very nice); roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and parsnips; carrot and fennel salad; and mushroom stuffing. Afterwards we sat around in the living room, chatting, watching TED talks, and yawning at each other. Mmmm. A lovely evening.

Oh, and aren't real turkey sandwiches a wonderful thing for lunch the next day?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

slow release energy

I am really trying to stop my 3:30 space-out time at work. I find that at the end of the day I am exhausted and also swamped with work to do that I have a hard time motivating myself to keep going. The pile that builds up just seems so insurmountable by the end of the day but everything is also so urgent. I feel defeated and I have grown accustomed to eating mindlessly at this time. I am also in need of perking up, though, so it is hard to stop myself. So I am trying to substitute better foods at this time of day.

Tonight I made some oatcakes to try to insert into this snack attack. I think they are a bit bigger than they were supposed to be according to the recipe, since I made 12 and I was meant to make 16. But I am hoping that one will be substantial enough for me to get the energy to make it through my day. I need to have the energy to cycle home, too.

I think I will also need to take another snack food--maybe some fruit to nibble on because the act of snacking also seems to be a motivator (and it has been for me since uni days when I snacked my way through exam time). Either that or my brain needs reprogramming. It's quite bad news when there are chocolates of something left over from my tutor group and I end up mindlessly eating my way through the ten that remain in the box (after all, ten does not split between 28 students very well). Then I end up feeling ill and disappointed in myself.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

chard utopia

Mum and Dad gave me a new cookbook while we were visiting with them in August: Simply in Season. It's a companion cookbook to the Mennonite classic More with Less, which I have loved and used for years. Today I used it to make a variation of spanikopita called Chard Utopia (!) for our church harvest lunch tomorrow. It was my first time working with filo (or phyllo) pastry and very exciting it was too. First I chopped up mounds of greens, including chard, rocket, and the one that Sainsbury's simply labels "greens".

I added feta cheese, and garlic.

Then I layered the greens mixture with the pastry sheets, each one brushed with olive oil. It came out a lovely golden brown colour, but we will have to wait until tomorrow to see if it tastes good.

Monday, September 22, 2008

soup for the week ahead

Tonight I did something I have never done before in preparation for the week of work. Perhaps it is the healthy living magazine (Zest) I have been reading. Or perhaps that my mother told me she is totally eating low GI now (what an inspiration!). I prepared a soup tonight to eat over the week and I made the first two days of salad to go with it.

I made Caribbean Sweet Potato Coconut Soup from my new Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook (page 29 for the one reader who may be interested!). Here I am defrosting 2 cups of stock that I had frozen in cup measures, then popped out into a freezer bag. (Hey--I forgot to tell you that I roasted my first chicken two Saturdays ago and then I made my first stock the next day with the bones. All with the help of Mr Bittman.)

And the soup is made with lots of lovely sweet vegetables and coconut milk and orange juice. I had a small bowl tonight and I have a flask I will use to take it to school this week.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

food for my British party

I had such a great time last night celebrating my citizenship with some friends who came over. It was really nice to have my friends mix as well--not something that happens very much. I had some colleagues, some church friends, some new friends, and some of Ant's friends there. I wish I had taken more pictures! I guess I was too busy pulling things out of the oven and topping up (or was it emptying?) the Pimm's pitcher.

Dave was pressed into service when he arrived and he constructed this amazing cheese and pineapple hedgehog. Ant told me that this was a food he always ate in Liverpool when he was young, and my British guests confirmed that they remembered it from their childhoods.

Ant made the cucumber sandwiches and they were snapped up. I managed to get a photo just before they were all devoured. Very British with the crusts removed.

I ordered most of the other food from Sainsbury's: toad-in-the-hole, steak and kidney pies, cocktail sausages, onion bhajis, vegetable spring rolls and samosas, quiches. I did make the puddings, though, chocolate trifle and cream scones. I am so pleased with the scones (from my new Bittman cookbook), which we ate with clotted cream and Grammie's strawberry and raspberry jams. Yummm--it was delicious.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

party food

This is turning into a place to do some scratch paper thinking when I know that I need to find it again.

British party food
scones with clotted cream and jam (strawberry and raspberry)
other drinks: need mixers and juices, squash
cucumber sandwiches
sausage rolls
toad in the hole
steak and kidney pie
veggies with dip
scotch eggs
cheese and pineapple hedgehog

things that need to heated:
toad in the hole

things that need to be made:
cucumber sandwiches
dip and veggies

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

veggie bread ring

Ant and I have almost slept off our jet lag and we're pleased to be in Halifax with the parental figures. Yesterday Mum helped me bake a veggie bread ring. Baking is not really my thing, but I gave it a go because this recipe sounded really interesting. Here is the veggie filling, made with purple cabbage, broccoli, shredded carrot, chives, cottage cheese and cheddar cheese.

Then I rolled out the zucchini bread dough and spread the filling on it.

I rolled it up and cut it into a ring like this. Fancy, eh? We ate it when Kevin and Sonya came over for dinner last night. The recipe is from Simply in Season, a cookbook which my Mum bought both for herself and me.

Yesterday afternoon Ant and I spent some time with Tawnya. Since it was raining we headed into Perks and had a hot beverage. Tawnya has become a lover of espresso after her time in Italy. She said the Perks double espresso was not very smooth and was burnt. Ant had a "coffee crisp", which was very sweet. And I had this green monstrosity, which smelled like seaweed and tasted like vanilla had been added to mask the real flavour. Apparently it is very healthy, but I was unable to finish it because it was quite vile.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

four great places to get food inspiration

There are lots of places on the web from which to get cooking ideas. Here are four of my favourites.

1. The Kitchn
This a big cooking blog with writers in the US, Canada, and (at least one!) in Europe. What I like about The Kitchn is that the posts are very accessible and friendly, with a community discussion feel. They always have nice ideas to share, but also talk about their cooking failures. I have enjoyed reading, for example, about what they tried when too many cucumbers built up in the fridge.

2. Cookthink
This is a searchable recipe database that lets you type in keywords such as ingredients, meal type, cuisine type, or even your mood. The recipes that come up are invariably very good. At the moment, it's still a small-ish database, but all of the handful of recipes I have tried so far have been excellent. Last night i made Seared Cumin Lemon Lamb Chops, which was easy and delicious. There are always suggestions of what recipes would go with the one you are viewing, and also an informative weekly email newsletter that spotlights an interesting ingredient and how to use it.

3. Bitten
I am new to Mark Bittman and his writings in the New York Times Dining and Wine section, but I loved his post about how to make mix-and-match rice salads.

4. Other Bloggers
I read the blogs of other food-lovers, like Clotilde at Chocolate and Zucchini and David on Book the Cook. My friends blog about food on their personal sites, too, like Sonya (her's is a gated blog, so email her [or me] to get added to her readership). I also see some interesting food-related stuff on Facebook, like Carolyn's homemade wholewheat pasta.

Foodies, tell me, are there any great cooking sites online that you like to look to for inspiration?

PS. You do not need to be a Blogger member to be able to comment. Furthermore, if you comment you can use your name or remain anonymous as you wish.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I pulled up all the rocket left in my growing tub yesterday. It was getting a bit woody and too peppery to eat raw. So I was excited to use it all up in a soup recipe from my new favourite cookbook, GI Meals Made Easy.

The soup also uses finely chopped onion, courgette, new potatoes, and garlic, shown here from right to left. After some sauteing and sweating, and stock added, the soup is blended with the wonderful invention of the handheld immersion blender. Ant did this part because I am notoriously messy with the blender.

The addition of some goat's cheese topped off the lovely light green soup.

Rocket and Goat's Cheese Soup
adapted from GI Meals Made Easy: 150 Quick and Delicious Meals for All the Family

1 T olive oil
10 g butter
1 leek, sliced
1 medium or large courgette, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 new potatoes, diced
600 ml vegetable stock
100 g rocket
75g firm goat's cheese

Heat the oil and butter and saute the leek, courgette, garlic, and potato over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Then reduce heat, cover, and allow to sweat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add rocket and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend the soup.
Crumble in goat's cheese when serving.

Monday, August 4, 2008

for whom are the potatoes named?

Last week we ate some Anya potatoes. They were on sale at Sainsbury's so I thought I would give them a try.

Here is what the package said about how they got their name.

This got me thinking. Usually a new item is named after the discoverer/inventor/researcher. What I want to know is how often is an item named after the discoverer's/inventor's/researcher's spouse? Can you think of any other examples?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

pink spice cake

I made this pink fruit and nut cake last night. It was a delicious spice cake that I made with the help of my new cookbook.

The cake has raisins and walnuts with spices. This cake also has a secret ingredient. Let me show you the process in reverse and you see if you can guess what is in it.

The batter was really pink and thick. Next time I will add more milk because it was also not as moist as I would hope.

I pretty much bought the cookbook because of this one recipe. Otherwise I would never have the patience to do so much mixing. Here I am trying to fold the stiff egg whites into the mixture. I ended up using three bowls (!): one for the dry ingredients, one for the wet ingredients, and a third to whip the egg whites.

Here are the wet and dry bowls. I like that the recipe calls for wholemeal flour and not very much sugar. (These two items are clearly factors in making this a low GI recipe, and hence more healthy.) The wet ingredients are very pink, eh?

Have you guessed? What is the mystery ingredient that makes this cake so pink? Well, you've heard of carrot cake; this one was beetroot cake. The books says the practice of sweetening cakes with root vegetables is actually centuries old. I was so inspired by the idea of a beetroot cake that I had to buy the book when I read it. Here's the recipe in case you are similarly inspired.

Pink Fruit and Nut Cake
adapted from GI Meals Made Easy: 150 Quick and Delicious Meals for All the Family

2 cups (250 g) wholemeal flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon, allspice, and ground ginger
1/3 cup (75 g) sugar
2 medium (200 g) beetroot, peeled and grated
1/2 cup (50 g) sultanas
3/4 cup (50 g) walnuts, chopped
100 ml vegetable oil
1 ripe banana, mashed
3 eggs, separated
50-75 ml milk (but next time I am going to use double this)
Greek yoghurt or reduced fat creme fraiche, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) and line a 20 cm (8 in) round pan.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, spices, and sugar in a large bowl.

In a second bowl, mix the beetroot, sultanas, walnuts, oil, mashed banana, and egg yolks.

In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to the stiff peaks stage.

Add the beetroot mixture to the dry ingredients. Add enough milk to make a dorpping consistency (what does this even mean??). Gently fold in a tablespoonful of egg white before folding in the rest.

Pour the batter into the lined tin. Bake for about 1 hour, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool on a rack and serve with Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

eating while sick

I have been off sick today and really needed the extra rest. (Amazing--I have just had a week's holiday!) I have spent most of the day sleeping; I also ate some roasted vegetables with polenta, my first recipe from my new cookbook, GI Meals Made Easy.

Monday, June 2, 2008

books for cooks

Yesterday I made it over to Notting Hill to visit Books for Cooks. It is just off Portobello Road; I read about it online at The Kitchn, a website that regularly inspires me. I had a seat on the red squishy sofa, browsing through their floor-to-ceiling shelves of cookbooks. It was a lovely, relaxing afternoon destination.

I am becoming more and more convinced about the health of eating low GI meals. I already have the original GI Diet book by Rick Gallop (formerly president and CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario). I am starting to cook and eat according to his suggestions and so the cookbook I bought was GI Meals Made Easy: 150 Quick and Delicious Meals for All the Family.

Low glycaemic index meals don't spike blood sugar or insulin production and so they help you feel full for longer and give you a more stable energy level. They are also high in fibre and nutrients--really the GI diet is less a temporary diet and more a healthy way of eating forever.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

first fruits

Well, today was an exciting day on which the fruits, er, vegetables, of my labour were tasted. I took the first snips of mixed salad leaves from the box I planted for our lamb burgers tonight. I have used Sonya's lamb burger recipe three times recently since she shared it with me. I was looking for a way to get into lamb, since it is so popular here and I have little experience with it.

Minted Lamb Burgers

0.5 kg lamb mince
1/2 cup crumbled (low fat) feta cheese
sliced green onions
2 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon cumin or other spices (eg. garam malasa)
1 egg

Shape into six or eight burgers. Serve with mixed salad leaves, crumbled feta, and red onion marinated in balsamic vinegar. Yum, yum.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

food fight, anyone?

Our online shopping arrived today. I love buying the value priced vegetables because they are cheaper only because they are oddly shaped. Every week we get a big box of mushrooms. Sometimes they are all minuscule, other times they look like three-headed monsters. And today there was the mother of all mushrooms! I have never seen an edible fungus this big!


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