D’oh! or is that Dough!?

Does this ever happen to you? You buy a 5 kg bag of unbleached white flour, but when you get it home and open it you realize you’ve bought a bag of whole wheat flour instead? This happened to me not once, but twice in a row. And the second time I was being careful not to make the same mistake again. I suspect that the bag somehow transformed after I picked it up and before I got it to the checkout. Or maybe the magical transmogrification occurred at home in the cupboard? In any case, now I have more whole wheat flour than I can possibly use, not being, you know, a commercial bakery. 

Crying While Cooking

Jean Poutine came for supper the other night before we went to see the movie Monsieur Lazhar, a lovely Canadian film that is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. I didn’t feel like going out for groceries, so I did what I often do in those circumstances: take a look to see what I have and Google the ingredients for a recipe.  I had onions and feta, and I found several intriguing recipes for onion and feta tarts. I based mine mainly on the recipe from A Pot of Tea and a Biscuit.

I used both red and yellow onions. They were pretty powerful and I had a pretty good crying jag going, when I heard my cat meowing from her regular perch on top of the fridge. She was shaking her head and had tears pouring from her eyes. The poor thing had been overtaken by onion fumes.

I wiped her tears and put her outside for some fresh air. I didn’t take a video of her crying – it seemed too mean – but if I had, I could have put it onto the Crying While Eating website. Although strictly speaking, we were crying while cooking.

I caramelised the onions with brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper using the recipe from A Pot of Tea… Mine took a couple of hours, and you really have to watch it near the end of the cooking time so they don’t burn.

I used a frozen store-bought crust instead of making my own and it turned out fine. I just thawed it in the fridge and then rolled it flat between two sheets of parchment paper, mending where needed with a bit of water and my fingers. I loaded some of the caramelised onions into the bottom of the tart and crumbled 150g of feta cheese on top along with some thyme.  For a rustic look I folded in the edges of the crust and brushed them with an egg wash. My baking time was shorter than the recipe – you just have to watch it. It’s done when the crust is browned and the cheese is melted.

I had some quinoa on hand so I made one of my favorite salads which is basically cooked quinoa with whatever you have in the fridge that seems like a good idea to throw in there. The secret is the dressing: 2 Tbsp of melted honey and 2 Tbsp of lemon or lime juice. This time it had arugula, red onion, avocado, roasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries. The cranberries were a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law.  They are from Cranberries Naturally in Fort Langley BC and they use orange to flavour them – delicious!

Both Jean Poutine and The Man With Whom I Keep Company gave the meal two thumbs up, so I’ll definitely be adding it into the rotation!

Foodie Christmas Gift

One of the gifts that I received this Christmas from The Man With Whom I Keep Company was a lovely little vintage Hankscraft Automatic Electric Egg Cooker. These egg cookers were manufactured from the 1920s to the 1950s and are both beautiful and simple in design.

It will cook up to 4 eggs soft, medium or hard boiled depending on how much water you put into the unit.

For a soft-boiled egg, put in 2 tbsp. of water, and plug it in. It shuts itself off when the water boils away, and that also means it’s done.

There you go – a perfect breakfast!

Meals on Wheels

Jean Poutine and I answered Edmonton’s Meals on Wheels call to Food Bloggers on Monday. We were greeted by Meals on Wheels Manager for Marketing and Fund Development, Kerryn North, who provided us with some background on the organization. All the staff and volunteers who we met along the way were friendly and genuinely dedicated to the cause. And cheerful – especially for a Monday!

Along with our fellow food bloggers/kitchen compatriots, the Edmonton Journal’s Liane Faulder of Eat My Words, Maki of In My Element, and Marianne and Charles of Loosen Your Belt, we helped the good people of Meals on Wheels prepare some of the meals of the day in their bright and bustling industrial kitchen.

L to R: Charles, Marianne, and Maki on the hot food assembly line.

Anyone remember the I Love Lucy conveyor belt scene? Don’t worry, it wasn’t like that. The Meals on Wheels people were very nice and we actually managed to keep up with the action on the conveyor belt without having to stuff any food down our shirts.

Monsieur Poutine and I were at the head of the line adding the cold food items to the delivery boxes and making sure that the right things went into the right boxes before the hot food items were added by our team-mates. There are a lot of things to consider: one meal or two, medical conditions, food allergies, pre-cut, soft food, etc.  Fortunately our Meals on Wheels trainer, Cook Rachelle Semnovitch, was gently guiding us at the front of the line, and Chef Glen Francis was doing the quality control checking at the end of the line.

Jean Poutine and Truly Scrumptious at the head of the food line.

We ended up as the featured photo in Liane Faulder’s Eat My Words blog post about the event. We feel that it was because we looked the cutest in our hair nets.

There were many activities that the Food Bloggers were involved in for the day. Here are a few:

Liane Faulder measuring flour for blueberry muffins with Cook Rachelle in the back, keeping an eye on things.

Truly and Jean cutting up bread for turkey stuffing.

Marianne and Charles packaging desserts. Note Charles' fashion-forward beard net.

Meals on Wheels makes all their food on-site with fresh ingredients – no processed food! They follow Canada’s Food Guide (to my surprise I discovered that I need to eat 2 to 3 more daily servings of vegetables. I’ll get right on that - the vegetable family is one of my favorite highly functional families).

Meals on Wheels is an amazing organization that offers a valuable service to people who are housebound or can’t prepare their own meals. They depend on volunteer help and cash donations for much of what they do. Check out their Annual Christmas Fundraising Campaign on now until the end of December.

Merry Christmas from the Meals on Wheels Food Blogging elves!

Photographs by Katherine Dalusong and Liane Faulder

 

May Contain Spam

Not this kind

which can be quite delicious (in a guilty pleasure kind of way), but this decidedly less appetizing kind:

Yes, that’s 921 spam comments in about a month since the last time I cleared it.  It’s not happening on any of my other WordPress blogs, just this one. I suppose it may have something to do with the six month “hiatus” we took – you know, like squatters moving into a vacant house – but we’re back now and posting (somewhat) frequently and it hasn’t abated. Is anyone else being bombarded by comment spam? Luckily we’re able to set our spam filters so none of it actually makes it to the site.

How does my garden grow without me?

I planted my garden in the spring, watched it start to grow, and then abandoned it for three months for a trip across Canada. Well, not totally abandoned – a friend was taking care of it. But I missed a lot of it from August through October. Some of it did pretty well without me, and some of it didn’t.

I have a plethora of store mannequins (more on that story for another time). So I decided to use a couple of them for bean and pea trellises, with the addition of willow-branch cages around them. I think my neighbors were a bit worried about me for a while, especially before the peas and beans started to grow:

The sugar snap peas grew faster:

But the pole beans made the nicest mannequin dress:

And after the vines died off, one yellow bean remained as an earring for the mannequin:

I planted nasturtiums between the trellis mannequins as well as around a mannequin torso on the deck and in the vegetable garden:

Fresh nasturtium flowers, leaves and seeds are edible. They have a tangy, peppery flavour and are delicious in salads and look very pretty. Nasturtiums also help to keep some bugs out of the garden. I harvest the nasturtium seeds every fall and replant them in the spring. I leave them in a flat container to dry completely before storing them for the winter:

I also harvest and dry marigold and calendula seeds and petals. Their fresh flowers are also edible. The petals have a stronger flavour, so I use them more sparingly in salads. Calendula officinalus (a particular type of calendula) tea can be made from the dried petals, and has many health benefits. Steep 2 teaspoons of dried calendula petals in a cup of boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes.

Root vegetables were another story. On the not-so-successful side, the beets did not fare well. Apparently the beet leaves were being enjoyed by some creepy crawlers who ignored the warnings of the nasturtiums, and the beet roots never really grew. The yield from the garlic was actually less than what I planted. How did that happen?

But the potatoes and carrots produced admirably. I just harvested the last of them and I have put them into moist sand in burlap-lined baskets in the cold room that I made in the basement. I insulated a small room that has one uninsulated concrete wall. The carrots will be put into a separate sandy container, and I will spread another layer of moist sand over both the potatoes and carrots so that they are covered completely. This is my first try at a cold room (other than the one I grew up with. It had salamanders that terrified me when I had to get potatoes for supper). I suspect there will be no salamanders in my cold room, and if there are, it will be worthy of some scientific investigation.

Happy harvest!

Tradition

Hello my far-flung friends! How was your Thanksgiving? Here in Edmonton, the family and I had a traditional meal yesterday. That tradition, however, was not ours, and not Thanksgiving. We made a Danish Christmas meal. This is something we were planning to do last year at Christmas time but it got put off for various reasons and didn’t happen until now.

This is where the inspiration came from: The Time-Life Cooking of Scandinavia book, published in 1968. If you want the recipes, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding this book (or any of the Time-Life cookbooks) in just about any thrift store in the land.

The centrepiece of the meal is roast goose – something I’ve long wanted to try. The Bro-in-law has made goose before and knew what to do. He pricked the skin all over before roasting to allow the grease to stream freely. Goose is very fatty – there was a lot of grease in the roasting pan, which my sister poured off into a container to throw out. Doing some reading today, I discovered that goose fat is “culinary white gold” (for things like roasting potatoes), so I phoned her to see if it could be saved. Luckily it was still in the fridge – another victory for procrastination.

Goose is delicious – it’s all dark meat, which I love. The crispy skin was heavenly (and much coveted by my parents).

The bird was stuffed with apples, prunes and onions – all of which gets thrown out because it becomes drenched in grease. It’s there to impart flavour and moisture. Apples and prunes are part of the meal though.

Poached apple halves with prunes soaked in sherry (should be port, but sherry’s what I had in my cupboard).

Brunede kartofler (caramelized potatoes). You brought this to a party at my house once, Truly Scrumptious. Yours were better. For some reason the caramel didn’t adhere to the potatoes, so it was more like potatoes in toffee gravy. We’ll have to compare notes.

Also, peeling all those little spuds, while not difficult (the skins can mostly be pulled off with fingertips), sure is tedious.

The rødkaal (braised red cabbage) was much more successful. Even my sister (who’s unable to eat raw cabbage) loved it. Here’s the recipe:

Rødkaal

1 medium head red cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 lbs.)
4 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup red currant jelly
2 tbsp. grated apple

Wash the head of cabbage under cold running water, remove the tough outer leaves, and cut the cabbage in half from top to bottom. Lay the flat sides down on the chopping board, cut away the core and slice the cabbage very finely. There should be approximately 9 cups of shredded cabbage when you finish.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, water and vinegar in a heavy stainless steel or enameled 4 to 5 quart casserole. When it comes to a boil and the butter has melted, add the shredded cabbage and toss thoroughly with two wooden spoons or forks. Bring to a boil again, cover tightly and place in the centre of the oven to braise for 2 hours. There is little danger that the cabbage will dry out during the cooking, but it is a good idea to check on the liquid level occasionally. Add a little water if it seems necessary.

About 10 minutes before the cabbage is finished, stir in the jelly and grated apple, replace the cover and complete the cooking.

The piquant taste of red cabbage will improve if, after it has cooled, it is allowed to rest for a day in the refrigerator and then reheated either on top of the stove or in a 325 degree oven. In any case, serve hot, as an accompaniment to a stuffed loin of pork or goose to complete the traditional Danish Christmas dinner.

Dessert was something more traditionally Canadian:

While the guys made dinner, the ladies had a cat nap.

And what did you have for Thanksgiving?