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.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

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

Apple pie

I was in a huge rush this morning. I was only back to work from vacation for 3 days and then off today on my annual August trip. There were so many other things that I should have done today, and I am sorry to say that I left the house pretty messy.

There are so many knitting projects, unread books and magazines, just little piles of stuff everywhere. The bags were formally put away from vacation, but I wasn’t really back yet. Then to pack for a work trip, took over an hour! That is a really long time for me.

Anyway, to the apples. On the trip home, we stopped at Pedro’s in Salmon Arm. That is the fruit stand we always go to. This time I picked up some transparent apples, my husbands favorite for pie. I knew I was stretching my ability to deliver a pie in the limited time I had, I was more than a little worried I wouldn’t do it.

But the morning was so perfect. A nice sleep in, a lovely hot tub with a great new book. A lovely chat with my Inlaws on our new deck in the sunshine. Then I mustered the courage to make the pie.

I don’t have the touch when it comes to pastry. It always has a problem performing the way I want it to. But I watched my brother in law make this pie just a week ago and he made it look easy. So I busted out his recipe (handed down from his mother), and just went for it.

I didn’t get a piece of it before I left, but I had a little of the leftover crust that I baked with egg wash and sugar. It was devine. I have no doubt the pie will be lovely.

Cory’s Mom’s Apple Pie

Ingredients
1 cup Shortening, vegetable
2 cups Flour, white
1 teaspoon Vinegar
1 large Egg
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/4 cup Butter
6 large (3-1/4″ dia) Apple, raw
2/3 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Spices, cinnamon, ground

Instructions
Cut shortening into flour and salt to pea size pieces.
Beat egg, 2 t water and vinegar together, add to flour mixture.
Mix until forms into a ball. Turn out on floured board and roll into bottom and top crust.
Skin apples, slice, add sugar and cinnamon. Add to bottom crust.
Add butter in pea size chunks over apples. Lay top crust over. Brush with egg wash.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then lower to 350 degrees for another 40 minutes.

20120811-175629.jpg

Boozy cherries

I have been processing produce every week with what I find at the local markets, and from the limited harvest of my garden. I have frozen rhubarb, strawberries and cherries. Made and frozen a bunch of chive pesto. Dried a 1L jar worth of oregano. Still to come for early fruits are raspberries and blueberries. So far, we have been eating raspberries as fast as we bring them home, and blueberries as fast as we can pick them.

To change it up, today I put up 5 jars of cherries in the easiest way possible.

Wash the cherries and de-stem, but no need to take the pits out. We have access to Okanagan Bing cherries.

Add sugar, about 1/4 of the weight of cherries in the jar.

Top off with the booze of choice. Today I drained the remainder of a bottle of Jack and a rather nice bottle of brandy.

Shake to dissolve the sugar and then store away in a cool, dark place for about 3 months. Refrigerate after opening.

It is going to be great this fall and winter to pull out one of these lovely summer treasures to enjoy.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere

Isn’t it strange when you talk about something, (Hurricane – drink not storm) one day, (yesterday) and then something else happens that reinforces that same thing, (Alan Jackson singing about Hurricanes – drinks not storms).

Pour me somethin’ tall an’ strong,
Make it a “Hurricane” before I go insane.
It’s only half-past twelve but I don’t care.
It’s five o’clock somewhere.

For those of us that have not been to New Orleans, (and even those that have), but have not indulged in one of these bad boys, a Hurricane is a drink of epic proportions. It is an interesting story how this drink was created at its original location of Pat O’Briens. Essentially it is a 50/50 mix of juice and alcohol.

How to Make an authentic Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane
In a 26 oz. Hurricane glass, mix

  • 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Rum or a good Amber/Gold Rum
  • 4 oz. of Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane Mix
  • Fill with crushed ice
  • Garnish with an orange and cherry

So if it 5 o’clock where you live, and even if it isn’t – here’s to some nice summer days, sipping cool drinks.

 

First time

I had never cooked broad beans before. Bet you weren’t thinking that from the title?

But seriously, I have seen them in the market and always wondered about them. Because I am trying to eat what is local, fresh and therefore in season, I had to give these a try. The only way to describe them is delicious. They taste like no other bean or pea, but maybe a lovely creamy mixture of them all.

I lightly steamed the pods, plunged into an ice bath. Then peeled the long shell and the outer pale skin covering each bean. What was left was a nice bright green bean. These were added to a lovely Spring salad.

Included in the salad is local butter lettuce, local onions (caramelized), green and yellow runner beans (blanched), chopped basil, feta cheese and lemon olive oil. And of course, the broad beans.

Along with some spiced almonds, makes a great dinner.

Yummy start

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Maybe this first meal, after the all night fast, helps kick-start the body’s metabolism. Maybe the body expects food at certain intervals and starts to behave badly otherwise. Maybe it helps our brains function better. Whatever the reason, I just like breakfast.

There are just not enough ideas for breakfast in cookbooks. I know because I have a pretty decent collection of books in my home library. In fact, most books I own are related to cooking.

I have concluded that this must be a cultural thing. When you look to Mexico, for example, the selection of breakfast options in both recipes and restaurant choices is impressive. They seem to pay more attention to this beginning of the day meal.

Weekend mornings are a good time to try new things. To expand my repertoire. Today I made Apple Pancakes, and they were a huge hit with everyone. (That is amazing all in itself).

Apple pancakes
Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients
1 medium Apple, grated
1 large Egg
5 tablespoons Honey
1 cup Milk, 1% fat
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
1 cup Flour, whole wheat
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3 tablespoons Butter
1/4 tsp cinnamon, ground

Instructions
Grate apple into a large bowl. Add milk, beaten egg, 1 tablespoon honey and vanilla.
Add flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Mix batter.
Add 1 tablespoon butter to a 12 frying pan. If you use a 9 frying pan, you can get 6 pancakes. Add 1/4 of the batter.
Cook pancakes until bubbles form and flip over. Add 1 tablespoon of honey. Once brown on the second side, slide out of the pan and serve.

Nutrition Info (per serving)
Calories 331
Total Fat 11g
Saturated 6.4g
Polyunsaturated 0.8g
Monounsaturated 3.0g
Cholesterol 79mg
Sodium 258mg
Total Carbs 54g
Dietary Fiber 4.9g
Sugar 30g
Protein 8.0g
Vitamin A 127mcg
Vitamin C 2.2mg
Calcium 210mg
Iron 1.8mg

Around the kitchen

It is a great start to the day when I can putter around the kitchen. The weather Sunday morning was chilly from the windstorm of the evening before. Perfect to stay inside for the morning and see what I can come up with.

I like to surround myself with a few things that are inspirational. Some fresh herbs from the garden. Pieces of beach glass. A salvaged piece of houseplant setting roots in a cup of water. Pottery art. A couple of glass bottles from imported lemonade.

Mornings like this end up being more of a brunch serving instead of breakfast. 10:30am when the kids have started to really argue, the already high pitch of their voices becoming shrill, that is the time to bust out some hearty grub.

Potato & Salmon Frittata

  • 500g yellow potatoes, cubed
  • 3T olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cream
  • 2T chopped dill
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • S&P
  • 1 can wild sockeye salmon, drained

Put potatoes, water and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until potatoes are soft and the water has evaporated.

Whisk the eggs, cream, dill, zest, S&P. Pour over potatoes. Add salmon. Cook over low heat until the outside is set. Put under a broiler until golden.

Serve with whatever kind of sauce you prefer, and maybe over a slice of toast.

At the same time as the eggs, I was making iced tea. This is a brilliant habit to get into. The selections of tea on the market is endless. I love creating a new taste sensation every time I make it. All you have to do is create a concentration of tea in about 4 cups of boiling water. Let is steep for 20 minutes and then put into whatever container you like with a bunch more cold water. It doesn’t even need sugar.

That was all I could accomplish in about an hour. I dream about what my life might be like if I could really devote myself to this kind of stuff. Would I be happier, maybe. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Create your own

My daughter thinks assembling her own plate is akin to making her own dinner. She feels in complete control. And she likes that.

So every once in a while, I come up with a way to offer a “create your own” dinner. Tonight it was a Thai inspired salad.

I like to watch people mix ingredients to their own taste. The head tends to tilt to one side, sometimes a tongue peeks out of the corner of the mouth in concentration. There are a whole range of thoughts and ideas clicking through the brain, until the creation is “just right”. It is worth the time and effort to prepare all the ingredients for a dinner party to sit back and watch rough and tough men – create for themselves.

After all, a good deal of cooking is really understanding what flavours to mix together. Everyone has a unique sense of what combinations they like best. Through practice and experimentation, we learn and challenge ourselves to enjoy new things. That is the spice of life, I think.

Thai Noodle Salad

  •  200g thin rice noodles
  • carrots finely sliced or shredded
  • pea shoots
  • yellow bell pepper, finely sliced
  • cilantro
  • mint
  • cucumber sticks
  • almonds, or whatever nut you like
  • 200g firm tofu, diced
  • fresh limes
  • sauce of ponzu, sesame oil and fish sauce
  • sambal oelek

Pour boiling water over noodles and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place noodles in individual bowls. Build your own to taste.