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

 

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!

Steamy kitchen nights

The windows of our Newfoundland vacation rental home have been steamed up pretty much every night lately. Yep, you guessed it, The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I have been making jam. This is our first attempt at jam making, and it has been highly successful. After a couple of tries that produced “sauce”, we landed on a formula that has produced beautiful, tasty, healthful blueberry jam. That’s not to say that the sauce isn’t pretty amazing too.

The Man With Whom I Keep Company caught Blueberry Madness soon after we arrived in Newfoundland, and has been picking buckets of blueberries from our property at Bacon Cove. It is an obsession that I have encouraged. Newfoundland’s acidic soil creates blueberry-growing heaven. You can sit in one spot and fill a bucket without having to do much more than turn around. There is a Newfoundland saying about blueberry picking: “Don’t pick the red ones – they’re green”.

Newfoundland blueberries hug the ground, so picking them can be a bit of a back-breaker. But if you get tired, you can just have a rest and take in the ocean views and fresh salt air.

We’ve had big bowls of blueberries in the fridge at all times and have eaten them fresh every day on cereal and ice cream, in yogurt, salads, sauces, muffins, pancakes, crumbles, you name it. I’m afraid that we may have developed an expensive habit that we will not be able to support when we get back to Edmonton, but we’ve been reveling in the free berries in Newfoundland while we have them.

We have also picked some partridge berries, but they are harder to find and tend to hide under club mosses and junipers. They are known elsewhere as lingonberries. They are a more tart tasting berry and are not so good raw, but make great jam.

While we’re at it, we’ve been picking a few rose hips too, and making tea out of those. The ones pictured below are pretty close in size to Alberta rose hips, but we have seen some that are as big as grapes. Earlier, the rose bushes were all heavy with rose blooms. Roses seem to love the salt air here too.

Unfortunately, we cannot haul fresh blueberries back with us, so jam seemed to be one way to bring home some of that goodness, anyway. The Man With Whom I Keep Company has been primarily involved in the Harvesting and Production Departments of our jam making enterprise. The house that we are staying at didn’t have any pots big enough for what we needed, so we borrowed some from friendly neighbors.

I have been primarily involved in the Quality Control Department: removing stems, leaves and insects from the berries (The Man With Whom I Keep Company advocates the catch-and-release program for live bugs, but I favour the down-the-drain program) and I also comprise the Design Department: high-art hand-made labels.

M&M Jams – a satisfying and yummy cottage industry.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Minor Miracle – One Pot Bread

Since I retired, I have been wanting to bake bread, but my first experience years ago was so discouraging that I hadn’t worked up the courage to give it another go. (I had attempted a loaf of bread and some buns but what I produced was a door stop and some paper weights). All of that punching and kneading doesn’t appeal either, and yet the smell of bread baking in the oven appeals greatly. So I decided to do some research on the good old internet and I came across a no-knead one-pot bread by none other than a man who I greatly trust – Jacques Pepin. (The recipe comes after the Cheesy Breadsticks on the YouTube video).

The house that The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I are staying at in Harbour Main Newfoundland has a beautiful cast iron pot that I used. The bread is mixed, proofed and baked in the same pot. Easy clean-up! No kneading – just a bit of stirring after the first rise. Easy method! I used whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the flour in the recipe. I get the first part done in the evening and then bake the bread when I get up the next morning. Here is the bread after it has risen the second time in the fridge for 12 hours.

And here it is after baking at 425 degrees for 40 minutes.

After it cools, just loosen it around the edges with a knife and out it pops.

It makes a nice moist loaf with a good crunchy crust.

And here it is toasted with some home-made blueberry jam (watch for the blueberry jam post coming soon!)

A true  minor miracle. Thanks Jacques!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious

Newfoundland home away from home

The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I have been staying in a beautiful heritage vacation house, Terry’s Bayside Getaway, in Harbour Main, Newfoundland for the month of September. The house was built in 1927 and is attached to what was the family’s store (on the right in the photo) which is now closed.

The kitchen here is huge. Especially compared to our cute little kitchen back in Edmonton. This photo shows the main part of the kitchen with a view of the pantry (door on the left) and a separate room with the sink, dishwasher &  prep space (door on the right). 

Here is a view of the sink/prep area. The counter goes farther to the right. Those are some rose hips that I am drying on the counter.

And here is a view of the cooking area. We’ve been getting our exercise walking back and forth between the kitchen areas. At home we can be sitting at the kitchen table and we can pretty much reach the oven, fridge and kitchen drawers without even having to get up. Advantages can be found in every situation.

Upcoming posts will show what we have produced in this kitchen!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.