Enhance enjoyment

The definition of a condiment has something to do with enhancing flavor and enjoyment. I would have to agree with that. In the condiment category there are so many options to choose from.

You start out as a youngster with ketchup. A mystery combination of ingredients suspended in a tomato base. My children choked down so many meals with the plate swimming in a sea of ketchup. It was so disappointing to see the real flavour of their food being drowned out by the ketchup. But they matured and got over that habit. Thankfully.

Then there is the world of mustard. That is not overstating the different choices in the mustard category. There is something to suit any taste. I usually have 2 or 3 different kinds on the go. Right now we have a basic hot dog mustard, a spicy hot and dijon. We just finished a jar of turmeric mustard.

It would take a very long post to go through all the other condiments in my kitchen. And the rotation at any given time is temporary. We are often trying out new ones. And I’ve taken to making condiments fresh. The difference of a fresh version to a store-bought is really night and day. With my strong preference being toward the fresh options. I like the taste better and I can feel in my bones, how much better it is for my health.

I’ve been experimenting lately with salsa verde. It seems like the taste can be quite similar to chimichurri. It also depends on where the salsa verde recipe derives from. Mine is from an Italian version, rather than Mexico, Spain or Germany. Back to the Italians, again.

I think salsa verde can be used with anything and everything. Top corn on the cob, instead of using butter. Use as a dip for vegetables or chips. Add to anything coming off the grill. Or even use as a marinade before going on the grill. When I taste salsa verde I am taken back to warm summer days. Even in the dead of winter. It is so easy to make up large batches and freeze in flat “sheets” in plastic bags. Then re-constitute with olive oil.

Classic Italian Salsa Verde

  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, (or onion)
  • 3 anchovy fillets, (or anchovy paste)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley
  • 3/4 cup cilantro, (or basil, mint, or combinations)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard, (whatever is on hand)
  • juice and zest from 1/2 lemon, (could use vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, (could use another type of oil)

I put everything in the Magic Bullet and shake it as it blends. You get a sauce this way. It is super quick and easy. Alternatively, the vegetables and herbs can be finely chopped. The result is thicker and not as creamy.

I would say that this sauce enhances enjoyment of whatever is on the menu. I like it with eggs too!

Salsa Verde with bean

Roasted Roots Salad

This is a recipe that I use all the time, but it constantly changes depending on what I have in the house. I seem to always have some root vegetables on hand. Lettuce, kale, spinach or arugula are always in the fridge. Quinoa is in the pantry. While this takes some time to prepare, it is worth it to have 4 days of salad ready to pack and go in the morning. As well, when vegetables are cooking, I can do other things. So in that sense, I only need a timer to make sure nothing gets forgotten. I should also mention that I am usually not so precise on measurements, but for the sake of accuracy and my attempt to watch calories a bit more, I have tested all these values and they produce good results.

Roasted Roots Salad_web

Roasted Roots Salad

425 grams 2 small sweet potatoes
375 grams 3 small turnips
200 grams 2 small beets yellow
200 grams carrots
150 grams 1 medium red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
300 grams 2 small zucchini
2 teaspoons jalapeno chiles finely chopped
3 tablespoons lemon juice +lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup quinoa
200 grams Romaine lettuce

Directions:

ROAST ROOTS
Chop and or slice the root vegetables according to taste. For example slice the sweet potatoes and dice everything else. In a large bowl add olive and paprika as well as salt and pepper to taste. Toss root in the large bowl and shake to cover evenly with olive oil mixture. Lay sweet potatoes on a parchment lines cookie sheet. Spread everything else on another. Roast the potatoes for about 20 minutes at 400F, turn and cook for another 10 minutes. Repeat with second tray.

ZUCCHINI
Spiral the zucchini and then cut into smaller lengths. Finely chop jalapeno. Zest the lemon and then add to zucchini along with juice and 1T olive oil.

PERFECTLY COOKED QUINOA
Rinse the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. Place in a pot set over high heat with 1 3/4 cups water and a big pinch of salt. Bring to boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa’s germs look like little spirals, 12 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, place a dry paper towel between the pot and the lid and let the quinoa sit for at least 5 minutes before giving it a fluff with a fork.

ASSEMBLE
Cover the bottom half of the container with lettuce. Layer on quinoa, roots and finish with zucchini and some of the dressing that runs away from it.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 471
Calories from Fat: 144
% Daily Value
*Total Fat 17g 26%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 134mg 6%
Total Carbohydrates 68g 23%
Dietary Fiber 12g 47%
Protein 12g 21%
Sugars13g
Vitamin A 440%
Vitamin C 59%
Calcium 12%
Iron 16%

Serves: 4
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

Ultimate PBJ

Creating the ultimate PBJ was not my intent. I stumbled across an inspiration for this recipe at, “Oh She Glows“, last night. Turns out, searching for breakfast recipes all evening can leave a person feeling very hungry. This recipe was the last straw. I had to call it a night.

Cook'n Recipe OrganizerIn fact, I now have some very serious recipe creating and organizing to do. All of that work is going to be a breeze thanks to Cook’n Recipe Organizer. I know. That sounds like some kind of endorsed statement, like I’m being paid to be a raving fan. But I do think this program is pretty good for a $74 investment.

  • I can finally capture all the recipes from the web in an easy process , (no re-formatting!)
  • All my printed recipes, including those in cookbooks, I can take a photo with my cell phone and capture the data, (no re-typing!)
  • Menu creation for a day, a week or a month!
  • Grocery shopping list generation!
  • Nutritional information can be entered via a detailed data set sorted into brands and whole foods, (only down side is having a close look at the levels of sugar, fat, sodium and cholesterol.)

But I feel like Julia Child in the movie, “Julie and Julia” when she was about to start her tres gourmand cooking school in France, she wanted “precise measurements to yield predictable results”. Something like that. It is not really the way I cook, but I think there may be something to it when you are throwing around ingredients where you could do with less. Liberally spreading butter, versus a light touch only saves your heart. It does not sacrifice flavour. At least, that is my new story and I’m sticking to it.

Speaking of butter and bread and spreads….OK. This sandwich is in the “once-in-awhile” category. No matter how light of a touch you have, this dish packs a lot of calories. My son was halfway through when he asked if he could have another. Normally, I might have said yes, but today I said no. If you are still hungry, eat an apple. Turns out, he didn’t need another. It is rich.

Ultimate PBJ_web

Ultimate PBJ

  • 3 slices bread
  • 2 T jam
  • 1 T peanut butter
  • 2 t butter

Nice hot cast iron frying pan. Spread peanut butter on one slice of bread. On next slice, spread half of the jam. Face these 2 spread sides together. On the top of this spread rest of jam. Top with 3rd slice of bread. Butter top, lay into frying pan, butter side down. Spread butter on plain side in frying pan. Flip when golden.

For an extra flair, take a can of coconut milk from the fridge where you keep it, handy for this kind of thing. Whip it into a cream. Dolop on your plate and dip sandwich into it.

Now play with different butters and different jams. I used fig jam with cashew butter, WOW!

Fig_Cashew Butter Sandwhich_web

Nutritional Information, (high fibre bread, cashew butter and cherry jam)

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 496
Calories from Fat: 59

  • % Daily Value *2,000 calorie diet
  • Total Fat 16g 25%
  • Saturated Fat 16g 82%
  • Cholesterol 25mg 8%
  • Sodium 524mg 22%
  • Total Carbohydrates 76g 25%
  • Dietary Fiber 8g 32%
  • Protein 9g 17%
  • Sugars 29g, **
  • Vitamin A 10%
  • Vitamin C 15%
  • Calcium 7%
  • Iron 35%

**according to the World Health Organization this should be considered about half your daily intake of sugar, but the USDA has not set a guide on daily intake of sugar.

 

 

 

Smooth finish

New smoothie recipe breakthrough. After many days of rich food and drink, a little cleanse to get my body topped up with fresh produce.

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 2 large leaves kale, remove main stem
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 green apple stem removed chopped in large pieces
  • 1 cup frozen mango
  • 2 tbsp omega 3 flax oil
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 tsp cashew butter

Blend in wild side container on smoothie setting TWICE. Ends up with a super smooth drink with virtually no pulp.  Excellent.

Smootie_web

Cookbook problem

This is becoming a problem.

  • The space I have dedicated to hold cookbooks is overflowing. There are piles of cookbooks and recipes everywhere.
  • I have recently acquired 3 new cookbooks and only begun testing recipes from one of them.
  • I’m buying some of these new cookbooks for just one or two recipes and then not really liking the rest of the content.
  • I have so many cookbooks, I can loan them out for months at a time. I don’t miss them.
  • I own cookbooks which I have never cooked from. Sometimes these are gifts, but they also represent my good intentions. Everything in due course.

But I get so much pleasure out of cracking open a new cookbook and reading all the bits of the story hidden within. I feel the sharing of recipes to be deeply personal. These are the techniques and the ingredients which the author consumes themselves. (Or at least I like to think so).

Then there is a fantastic meal which ends up amazing me. Both for the pure joy of the taste and the wonder that, “I made this!” It still happens to me. Sometimes from a new cookbook and then  sometimes from a golden oldie where I dare to try something new.

The wonder at my talents is not something which is universally shared by my family. I suppose those who are closest to us don’t appreciate our internal obstacles, the dedication required to learn something new. And then there are children who just plain old don’t like the taste. But I’ve tried to show patience with that. Quite frankly, it is their problem, not mine.

This weekend and next week, (I’m home the whole time, which helps), I’m dedicating my efforts to a new cookbook from Curtis Stone called “What’s for dinner?” He has a great way of summarizing the home cooks mood on the days of the week. Phrases like “Time-saving-Tuesday” or “One-pot-Thursday”. We’ve all been there, we know what it means to be in the trenches trying to crank out healthy dinners.

Curtis Stone What's for dinner

Writing a book

“I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done.”   ~Steven Wright

“Write drunk; edit sober.”   ~Ernest Hemingway

Nothing fancy. I am a lot of things, but a proper author is probably not one of them. But, I love food. And photography. Cookbooks, too.

In fact, I have a bit of a cookbook buying problem. There are almost 9 linear feet of shelves in my dining room lined with cookbooks. Those are the ones that are neatly put away. There is usually a pile about 14 inches high in my kitchen with tabbed pages of “active” recipes. It is no wonder my husband asks why we can’t have the same thing twice. Simple answer would be,”I can’t find the recipe for a second appearance!”

Then I borrow cookbooks from the library. Add to all that, the loose sheets of recipes printed from the internet. There are neat piles of those all over my house.

As luck would have it, I have a reasonably good memory for food. It is a bit strange really. I can remember exact dates, who attended a particular business meeting, for example, because I relate it to a meal we shared at a great restaurant.

It is time to start making sense of all these bits and pieces. Some favourite food moments, recipes, photo’s and habits. The way we eat. If nothing else, I’d like to organize it all.

I turned to the internet for a quick, easy and free way to compile everything. A 3-ring binder would be the cheapest, but something that looks like a real book would be better. I found what I was looking for in a program called blurb. It is iPhoto meets comic life with great built-in templates. So far, I am loving it. I have 3 pages done in a test book.

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Now, I run around taking pictures of all sorts of things. The guy re-stocking carrots at the market the other day probably thought I was a bit off. But they did look great.

carrots_450 pixels

The trick will be to condense the book into the most important pages, or it will be $100 per copy. But, for my purposes, the ultimate cookbook with page after page of my favourites, my thoughts and memories is easily worth that price.

Stay tuned.

Beans

“A bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. “You want to be careful with those,” Ron warned Harry. “When they say every flavor, they mean every flavor – you know, you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a booger-flavored one once.” Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully, and bit into a corner.
“Bleaaargh – see? Sprouts.”   ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

I’ve never paid beans much attention before. They are kind of low on the totem pole of pantry supplies. It seems like they are thrown into recipes to “fill” them up. I’ve been, (all puns intended), known to skip them altogether because they have so little flavour, what’s the point?

Recently I’ve learned to respect beans. They are a blank slate where the cook can create whatever is desired. The nutritional value is impressive. The work they do inside the body is fantastic. So why the bad rap?

You don’t get an instant sugar rush from eating them. That is what compels people to eat these days. The immediate feelings – sweet, salty, sour, spicy. But you can have all that, with just a little work. No, you can’t get this from a crinkly package at the supermarket. So roll up your sleeves and create your own “taste sensation”, (as my kids like to say).

I prefer small white beans. Oddly they are called navy beans. The research I did today relates that name to US Navy rations, it has since stuck. Here in Canada, they can also be called Great Northern beans, if you can find them. I usually end up with white kidney beans, which are more readily available, but different tasting and larger.

So I took the up the task of making my own. Be prepared – this takes a long time. But I think the effort is worth the taste. Once you get into this habit, it will become a second nature routine in the kitchen.

First comes the soak:

  • check for rocks and shrivelled or broken pieces
  • rinse well
  • pick a container that will allow for 2 to 3 times the volume, (they puff right up)
  • for each 1 1/2 cups of dry beans add 2 T of acid, (I like apple cider vinegar)
  • cover with water, 4″ higher than the beans
  • let this sit for 2 nights

Then comes cooking:

  • on the 3rd day, rinse the beans and place in a large pot
  • add 4 cups of water for each cup of dry beans
  • bring to a full boil and skim off foam, (I don’t find the navy beans produce any foam)
  • turn down to a simmer
  • add a piece of kombu or seaweed
  • add garlic and bay leaves, (I also throw in a chipotle or two)
  • simmer until the beans are tender, with a soft middle which is easy to squeeze
  • add 1 teaspoon of salt per cup
  • let cool to room temperature

Finishing:

  • weight and volume are the same, so 540ml can size equals 14 ounces of weight
  • drain well
  • put in glass jars or plastic BPA free bags and freeze until ready to use

beans_web

Finally, before freezing everything, I like to make a really nice dip for vegetables, or maybe a spread for some bread. So simple, just scoop out some freshly cooked beans with a slotted spoon. Be sure to grab a couple of cloves of garlic. With the back of a fork, mash the beans, adding salt and olive oil as desired. The spread below was gone in minutes yesterday about 4pm.

snack_web