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

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.

Jiggs Dinner

The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I had just settled into the house that we are renting in Harbour Main, Newfoundland for the month of September (more on the house and especially its kitchen in future posts) when one of our neighbors dropped by to invite us over for a Jiggs Dinner the next day. That is very typical of friendly outport Newfoundlanders. They are a very warm and hospitable people. Our niece and nephew-in-law were visiting with us from Alberta at the time and had never had a Jiggs Dinner, so we jumped at the chance.

Here are our hosts, Rose and Hugh, hard at work. That’s a big bag of local turnip greens on the counter. Those bags are ubiquitous in Newfoundland this time of year.

A Jiggs Dinner is a traditional Newfoundland meal served mid-day on Sundays. Its main focus is salt beef, which has a taste similar to both corned beef and ham. A turkey is also often roasted to go with the meal, because you might not have enough food, you know.  Turkey seems to be the second most popular food on the Island after cod.

Salt beef and cabbage, and roasted turkey.

After soaking the salt beef to remove some of the salt, it is boiled with cabbage and root vegetables such as potatoes, turnips and carrots. Sometimes a pease pudding is cooked in a cloth bag in the broth. Turnip greens are added in the last few minutes before serving. A Jiggs Dinner is made with local meats and local produce that can be bought at road side stands this time of year and at pretty much all local grocery stores, including the big supermarkets.

Turnip greens, potatoes and turnips.

A Jiggs Dinner is a very hearty and delicious comfort meal, and one of my favorite Newfoundland dinners.

After dinner, we went up to the top floor deck at Hugh and Rose’s house for a beautiful view of Conception Bay. A lovely day all around.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

West Coast Excursion: Part II

I thought I had better get Part II of my west coast trip onto the blog before I forgot the details. This is especially for you, King Crabby, since you accused me of “fancy pants” island living in my Part I. This food experience was many things, but fancy pants it was not.

The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I were introduced to Duffin’s Donuts by Friend GC, who lives a stone’s throw from Duffin’s in Vancouver.

Duffin’s Donuts is a neighborhood fast food hangout – very interesting clientele, very basic decor (mostly consisting of abundant signage), pretty darn good food,  and very affordable.

If Duffin’s Donuts don’t have it, you probably don’t need it. It is fast food from an assortment of countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Mexico, El Salvador and probably a few that I missed.  And then there are some good old North American standards: burgers, fried chicken, ice cream, and of course, donuts. To find what you want to eat you just sort of walk around the place, look in display cases and look at the sign boards, try to deal with sensory overload, and then order at the front counter.

Perhaps you would like some Chinese food – just browse the display case:

Or check out the Chinese menu board (it includes such delights as Szechuan Shrimp, Wonton Soup, Chicken Curry, Kung Pow Chicken, and a Japanese offering of Chicken Teriyaki. Or perhaps you would like some fried chicken (see poster to the right of the ice cream menu). And of course, you can’t miss the ice cream selection (24 and more flavors).

You can also peruse the Latin American offerings: maybe some Pupusas and Empanadas for you? But don’t forget the fried chicken (poster to the right again), and why not have some bubble tea?

And while you’re at it, check out the Asian bean desserts. They look very pretty and jewel-like in their rotating display case.

Vietnamese Subs and Mexican Tortas are a specialty. You can also get burritos and less adventurous subs.

And if you are not feeling adventurous at all, you can go for burgers and fries, or fish and chips, or maybe some poutine. They are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so you can also order up some breakfast: how about some bacon and eggs and hash browns? Or maybe some pancakes?

And don’t forget its namesake: there are plenty of trans fat-free donuts, although we were there late at night so the numbers of donuts were dwindling.

We both decided to go with the specialties: a Vietnamese Sub and a Mexican Torta. They were delicious: a warm crusty roll with lots of fresh crunchy veggies and cilantro, and yummy saucy chicken.

We figured we should finish off with a few offerings from the donut case: a glazed sour cream (my favorite), a chocolate dipped/custard filled, an apple fritter, and a coconut cake donut. Our total bill for the meal, including drinks (juices from the display case) was under $20.00 for the two of us.

If you prefer fancy pants dining, or if you have trouble making decisions, Duffin’s Donuts is not for you. But if you’d like a cultural experience in fast food, give it a try the next time you’re in Vancouver.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

West Coast Excursion: Part I

Went on a whirlwind trip to the west coast recently. I slept in 5 beds in 10 days, but that’s another story.

A delightful start to the trip was a visit with Niece CS in Victoria. My niece is a foody, so we had a great time in restaurants and cooking together at home. I especially liked the Superior cafe, which she thought I would enjoy because of its artyness, botanicalness and good foodness. Here is the entry into the cafe and patio.

We looked inside first. The cafe hosts art exhibits and live music. The decor is very arty.

The tables have glass tops with nature dioramas within that are changed to new and wacky ones all the time. This one has bones and shells on sand and pebbles.

Even the washrooms are arty.

It was a gorgeous sunny day (I had to go to the west coast to get sun), so we sat outside on the patio. We got there in the middle of the afternoon so we had the place to ourselves.

It is  a beautiful rain-forest type patio, lush and cool. The artyness continues outside. There was a snake tree the day we were there, but on another day you might find shoes in the trees.

The tables outside are made of slate with fresh flowers in bowls in the centre of the tables. The staff write different random table names in chalk every day.

We sat at the Apple table and had yummy root chips and dip with a lovely glass of Zanatta Damasco. It is from a Cowichan Valley winery, King Crabby! The Week in Alcohol blog describes it as having a Bride-of-Frankenstein lineage. We thought it was a perfect summer outdoor wine.

It seemed only appropriate to order the Smoked Tuna & Apple salad. It also included crisp strips of kohlrabi, pea shoots and a creamy goddess dressing topped with black sesame seeds. It went perfectly with the Liberace flatbread (figs, prosciutto, goat cheese and caramelized onions). Both delicious.

We finished off lunch with a Ginger Cake topped with salted caramel sauce and caramel ice cream. The waiter, who is also one of their visual artists, suggested Tea for Sad People. She insisted that we didn’t look sad – she just thought it would go brilliantly with the Ginger Cake. And it did – it was a minty, floraly, something else – made by a friend of the cafe owner. The Ginger Cake was dense and warm and completely satisfying.

So if you’re in Victoria, make time for a visit to the Superior cafe. It lives up to its name.

A not-sad and well-fed Truly Scrumptious and Niece CS. Thanks Niece!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

Red Deer Road Trip

On Saturday King Crabby, Betty Cracker and I took a road trip to Red Deer to see our dear friend and former colleague Jane Fondant. We did some visiting, poked around in thrift stores and ate a morsel or two.

After checking out Jane’s new digs, our first stop was the Red Deer Public Market in the parking lot of the Red Deer Arena. We got there about an hour before 12:30 pm closing time but many vendors had already folded their tents, no doubt because of the cold and rain.

Crabby checks out some funky wind chimes.

I had an excellent bratwurst on a bun from Rocky Mountain Meats of Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. The onions frying on the grill (you can see them on the right) called out to me like a siren song. The others wanted to have a sit-down lunch out of the rain (and I was okay with having lunch #2) so we headed downtown to look for Restaurant 27, about which we’ve heard very good things.

Turns out the address we found online was their old location, which is now a Japanese restaurant called Momo. Jane had been there before and liked it, so we went in.

It’s a narrow, elegant space.

The lunch menu was very reasonable. For $10.50 I had a “sushi & sushi box” which consisted of a dynamite roll, a spicy tuna roll (with cucumber and avocado), two pieces of nigiri sushi, gyoza, salad and miso soup. The gyoza was very unusual – it wasn’t a dumpling but a deep fried roll. I really liked Momo – if I lived in Red Deer I’d eat here a lot.

Then we hit the thrift stores. The Bibles for Missions and Bargain Treasures stores downtown are dirt cheap. Crabby picked up a record for a quarter and a stack of cookbooks. Jane and Betty found some nice bits and bobs for their kitchens.

I thought about buying this portrait of “Mr. Squarejaw” for 3 bucks but walked away from it.

At the south end of Gaetz Ave. we hit the Salvation Army store and Value Village. Thrifting is hard work, so naturally we needed to boost our blood sugar levels with donuts. We kept going south to Gasoline Alley and the venerable Donut Mill…

which made Crabby jump for joy.

Jane is crazy for the Mill’s old fashioned coconut donuts…

which were fresh and still warm.

Zesty lemon cream.

We headed next door to Cindy’s, a shop that sells tacky tourist tchotchkes and loose tea. It’s next to Glenn’s Restaurant (the place with the big tea pot sign, only it’s down right now), and run by Glenn’s sister. We sniffed from the vast array of their samplers.

I bought a smoky blend of black teas called Czar Nicholas Russian Caravan. Good, but not as good as the alder smoked tea that Betty brings me from Vancouver (which I’ve become quite addicted to).

On the way back to Jane’s, Crabby suggested we stop at Big Bend Market in Southpointe Common. They sell hormone and antibiotic free meats (bison, beef, poultry, pork, lamb, elk, etc.) from local area producers and carry other local products as well (pickles, cheese, bread…).

Crabby was upset that they were out of her favourite meat treat, pepper bacon. She consoled herself with some bison jerky.

After a quick side trip to Sylvan Lake (no culinary adventures to report), we headed back to “the Deer” for dinner at Thai Gardens Restaurant. Not five minutes after being seated, who should walk in but…

Truly Scrumptious and The Man With Whom (etc. etc.). We did not in any way plan this or know that we would be in Red Deer at the same time. Cosmic and freaky, wouldn’t you say?

Green papaya salad (I don’t know what any of this is called in Thai/Lao – I can’t find the menu online and I didn’t think to photograph it).

This lovely red curry with chicken was my favourite dish.

I also really liked this green curry with seafood – squid, shrimp, scallops and plump, meaty mussels.

Pad Thai with a beautiful carrot garnish. The food was excellent – though not as good, I think, as my two favourite Edmonton Thai/Laos restaurants, Boaluang and Syphay (and they didn’t have Thai iced tea).

But they do have a piano for patrons to play. Too bad Jane didn’t have her sheet music with her.

A fun day out. I have to say that Red Deer is not the gastronomic wasteland it once was. I look forward to another visit.

Posted by Jean Poutine

Island Livin’

The best part about going to the Island each summer is the seafood. This year there was a fantastic sockeye run in the Alberni Inlet. So the Family and I went fishin’. That’s right, fishin’. When I get to the Island I have a tendency to drop the letter ‘g’ from ‘ing’. The fishin’ was so good we caught our limit in under 2 hours. Warning… dead fish in next photo.

My mom canned most of the fish, but we kept some for eatin’ that week. I made a salmon dinner with potatoes and green beans from my dad’s garden. I also sautéed some BC spot prawns my parents caught earlier in the year. It was so good I took a bite out of the salmon before I took the picture.

Boyfriend and I rented a cabin by Cedar where my family has vacationed for the past 37 years. I only missed one summer in the last 29 years. At the cabin I pass the time by fishin’ (for cod), readin’ (cookbooks), crabbin’, osyterin’, clammin’, and eatin’ (seafood). I took a lot of the seafood I had harvested plus some of my parent’s prawns and some local shrimp and made a chowder. I even made the seafood broth with the prawn shells.

When I wanted a snack I would feast on some red rock crab.

I always eat the crab on the beach. That way you can just throw the shells in the ocean when you are done with them. I also use a rock to crack the shells. Since I had some leftover shrimp from the chowder I made several shrimp sandwiches. This one was made of bread from a local bakery, greens and tomatoes from a local farmer, and a slice of brie.

I made another delicious shrimp sandwich, but I never had a chance to take a photo. It was pink shrimp with chives and finely chopped celery with a lemon mayo. If I can find shrimp of the same quality here I will make it for you. I wonder if I would eat seafood everyday if I moved back to the Island? Me thinks yes.

Posted by King Crabby