Monthly Archives: January 2008

winter stew

It is cold, cold, cold right now in Toronto. So cold, in fact, that all I want to do is make stew. Even though this is a vegetarian stew, I still opted for the
slow cooker. Unnecessary, maybe, but it worked and I’m still learning about the thing (so far, it seems to be foolproof…). And, though I wouldn’t typically describe sweet potatoes as “melt in your mouth,” these sweet potatoes actually did just that. This stew is easy and delicious, with a bit of kick, and now my freezer is stocked with leftovers in case this cold snap doesn’t actually snap. Usually I am bad at saving leftovers, as I am perfectly content to eat the same thing all week, but I think my second batch of baked beans cured me of this. The slow cooker is so big that I could literally be eating stew for three meals a day for at least a week. It’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I’d like a bit of variety, I think.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow pepper
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 5 cups peeled diced sweet potato
  • 1 28-oz can of tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 28-0z can of chick peas
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

I just put everything (even the fresh coriander) into the slow cooker, and cooked it for probably around eight hours. If you’re going to make it on the stove, I guess fry the onions, then add the celery, pepper and garlic. Then add everything else and bring to a boil. Pretty easy… It was a bit soupy, I guess, and Meg’s made it with potato starch to thicken it, but I like having something to soak up with rice or bread.

dessert cheese?

Awhile ago, I was watching the food network, and Barefoot Contessa made this amazing looking yogurt. The woman who does everybody likes sandwiches also made it, suggesting that it was probably awesome, because seriously her blog is wonderful. Basically, all you do is put yogurt in a cheese cloth and drain out the water, then add some more fresh juices, along with nuts and dried fruit, to essentially make your own yogurt. My problem, though, is that I seriously lack patience when it comes to food. Plus, I found the draining process to be pretty mesmerizing.

So, although this recipe might have the highest impressive:effort ratio ever, I decided to cut out most of the steps.  I’m not such a fan of fruity yogurts, so I didn’t really want to re-hydrate the drained yogurt.  Instead, I opted for a vanilla yogurt.  Once it was drained, it was pretty much the consistency of a mousse and it was perfectperfect as something to dip into apples.  I definitely love this as a nice treat.

My main question is whether I am being silly by using low fat yogurt.  Is the only difference between regular and low fat the amount of water added, in which case by draining it, am I just yielding less?  Or is there some physical difference in the yogurts?  Using higher fat yogurt would make this less of a virtuous treat, which I am obviously fine with.

vegan corn bread

Maybe you’ve noticed my frequent mention of animal products, but the truth is I am really quite fond of vegan food too. I really prefer vegan food, on it’s own, rather than vegan-friendly alternatives, just because. Awhile ago I went to a pretty awesome American Thanksgiving, and I was supposed to bring corn bread. This is a generally easy task, made easier by my earlier go-to corn bread recipe featuring cheddar cheese, but one of my friends is vegan so I went on the hunt for a vegan corn bread. Most recipes that I found called for bacon and cheese (two things I love), but this recipe from Cooks Illustrated apparently won the blue ribbon of some mid-western state fair without any animal products. I was admittedly skeptical of the whole thing, but this bread is totally delicious, without bacon, cheese, milk or butter (shocking!). It’s not too sweet, and I’m not sure what the flax seed does, but it’s pretty awesome.

• 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
• 6 tablespoons water
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 cup cornmeal
• ¼ cup sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• ¾ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup soy milk
• ¼ cup canola oil

Preheat the oven to 425. Spray baking dish. Bring the water to a boil, add the flax seed and reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the ground flax seed in the water for 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-combined. Add the flax mixture, soy milk, and canola oil to the flour mixture. Beat until smooth, but don’t overbeat. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and remove from the pan. No joke, including the baking this recipe takes less than 40 minutes.

I’ve made this bread with cow’s milk before, because I’m actually not a huge fan of the soy milk in coffee or tea which is generally what I have milk for, and it doesn’t work as well. Seriously. The soy milk is key.

more cheese.

Maybe, I think, two years ago, we had some sort of potluck and our friend Marc brought an amazing leek and potato soup.  This was seriously the best soup ever, and we pretty much demanded the recipe.  Marc, though, cooks a bit like me, without real measurements (writing everything down this way is kind of helping that, but really I do a lot of mid-way taste tests…), and he ended up giving us a rather amazing two page explanation of the soup creation featuring such gems as “Leeks!  Be sure to wash these notoriously dirty plants well!  You do not want dirty soup!”  In short, I love the recipe, though I haven’t exactly been able to recreate it.  (Also – one of the reasons for Marc’s superior soup is that he uses cream and I just can’t bring myself to drink a bowl of cream.  But, if you can: do!  It’s so so good!)

  • leeks (3, ish)
  • potatoes (5 big ones, about)
  • milk (half a litre?)
  • roasted garlic (1 head)
  • sharp cheddar cheese (as much as possible!  this is key!  maybe two or three handfuls?)
  • butter (2 tablespoons)
  • soup stock (4 to 6 cups?)

Roast the garlic.  Boil the potatoes.  Cut the leeks into one-ince pieces, and fry the leeks in butter.  Add the roasted garlic, minced after roasting.  When the potatoes are boiled, add them to the leeks and garlic.  Add the soup stock.  Mash the potatoes, but don’t purée them.  Add the milk and let it simmer.  Add grated cheese and serve.

The cheese is really key here.  Definitely do not try to leave it out.  It adds a texture and a sharper taste, and honestly, the soup is kind of lacking without it.  This was a bit stressful at first, because trying the soup as we made it was a bit of a let-down.  Don’t worry!  The cheese really brings it all together.

bacon and eggs, plus.

I am so lucky to have friends that love food as much as I do, and I think some of our best events are the brunch parties we have semi-frequently. Rather than going out, we do a brunch potluck, and it’s generally a huge success and we sit around talking about how amazing we are and how amazing the food is and we don’t feel rushed or limited in space and never ever limited in food. At our last one, Paige made the much-celebrated prosciutto nests. Now, our brunches are never short on bacon, but a typical problem with bacon is that it’s hard to make sure that there is a good bacon:otherfood ratio. The bacon weave is one way of fixing this dilemma (eee! can’t wait to try this!) but the prosciutto nests offer another solution.

Basically, all you do is lay prosciutto in a cupcake tray, then break an egg into it and bake at 350 for twenty minutes or so. There are many benefits to this technique:

  • they are cute
  • they are impressive
  • bacon in every bite!

Admittedly, I am not so into eggs, but I am working on it, and I do love these ones. A major bonus is that Ashley is making them RIGHT NOW! I am really lucky in the roommates department!

accidental pizza

Usually pizza is a good way to clear out the fridge. You can pretty much throw anything on dough and it will kind of come out okay. But you know it’s a success when you go out and buy all the ingredients you just used up because the pizza was so, so good. Which is exactly what happened with this pizza. I was in Montreal visiting Emma and TIff, and we were discussing dinner over coffee (maybe my second favourite thing in the entire world, after discussing dinner over lunch…). We decided on pizza, and they realized that they had a lot of pears and some almost-over brie that would either have to be incorporated or would be thrown out. When we got home, Tiff made the dough from the awesomely straightforward Joy of Cooking:

• 1 1/3 cups warm water
• 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
• 3 ½ to 3/ ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
Let the yeast dissolve in the water for about five minutes. Mix everything together for about a minute, and then knead it for 10 until the dough is smooth. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly coated with olive oil and turn it once to coat with oil. Cover with a kitchen cloth and let it rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in size, about one to one and a half hours.

This is the hardest part: waiting for the dough to rise. Basically, I spent that hour thinking about pizza. I also find it’s helpful to cook the raw pizza dough for maybe ten minutes when it’s spread into pizza shape, which Jen showed me. Sometimes if you put a lot of toppings on, it’s hard to cook the dough in the middle.

We opted for a simple pizza, with the brie and pear and some walnut pieces. For the sauce, we decided to try to add a bit of kick, so we mixed together some dijon mustard with balsamic vinegar. You might be skeptical, but this is so amazing and really brings it all together. When I came back to Toronto, one of the first things we did was recreate this pizza with Hannah, Ashley and Mike. So much for emptying the fridge…

sweet sweet squares.

I have to be honest. I did not make these squares: Meggie did while I was in the shower. But! Continuing in this line of honesty I will also say that I both showered and dressed in about twenty minutes, so these are either very easy, or Meg is very awesome, or both. I absolutely love all the ingredients, so it’s not a surprise that these were amazing.

Chocolate and Coconut Slices

• ½ cup butter, diced
• 2 ½ cup crushed graham crackers
• 1 ¼ cup white sugar
• 1 cup dry unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1 ½ semisweet chocolate chips
• 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
• 1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, and stir in the crushed graham crackers, sugar and salt. The crust was a little too crumbly, so maybe more butter than this? It’s really not a huge issue, though. Press the mixture evenly over the base of an ungreased 9 x 13 inch dish. Sprinkle the coconut, then the chocolate chips over the base. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the chocolate. Sprinkle the walnuts on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for as long as possible (this, too, could also account for the crumble, since patience is not my thing when it comes to treats).

And! If you are lucky enough to have some leftover sweetened condensed milk and can’t wait for dessert, it is amazingamazing in coffee, with ice or without.

Edith Piaf cheese!

This morning I had a meeting on Roncesvalles, and I passed right by the Thin Blue Line cheese shop. Now, I love the Cheese Magic boys as much as any other Craigslist Missed Connections nutbar, but the Thin Blue Line has my absolute favourite cheese ever, the Pied-du-Vent. The Pied-du Vent is a soft, sharp, ish cheese from Quebec. I originally picked it up because of the caption “If you like gin, dark chocolate and Edith Piaf, this cheese is for you.” I do, in fact, like all of these things, and also love the cheese. It would seem, I guess, that I am a sucker for quirky advertising, or something. Anyway, try this cheese!

high tea.

It is a well-known fact that I am very into tea. Pretty much the only “errand” I run is going to Tealish, which is just the cutest tea store ever near Bellwoods. Seriously, you should go! This is not only my thing, many of my friends also love the Tealish, and, by default, the tea, too. For Tony’s birthday, we went for high tea at the Windsor Arms. This was part exciting and part stressful and part very tasty.

Very posh things tend to stress me out and this seemed a bit more posh than my usual bodem teapot (which I love and would not trade for all the fancy in all the world!). Anyway, I was wearing a skirt that reminded me of Phyllis Neffler in Troop Beverly Hills, but didn’t even compare to the woman whose laaaarge hat matched her cuff links (leopard print!). Basically, we got tea and fancy treats and the best scones ever.

These were lovely and luckily we all preferred different ones. I so wanted to like the caviar and smoked salmon but the caviar was huge and a bit too much. I was hoping to love the treats more, but I think the amazing scones were worth it. Plus, it was fun, even though I was wearing painfully high heels. So, success!

garlic jelly!

This summer, on the way to the cottage, we saw mid-sized signs saying “I ♥ garlic.” This is obviously an awesome sign, so we stopped at the Verona Garlic Fest. Zack and I were the youngest people there by at least twenty years, and we were pretty enthralled by all the garlic possibilities. Though there were no “I ♥ garlic” t-shirts, there was a huge variety of raw garlics, and garlic spreads, and pickled garlics and general deliciousness. We had just eaten, but we couldn’t not try the ice cream with garlic topping. We were, I think the first people of the day to try it, and the woman seemed impressed. I’m pretty sure it was just roasted garlic with brown sugar and butter, and it was basically amazing.

garlic topping

We also bought a jar of garlic jelly, which was just the most amazing thing ever. We usually had it on bagels, I love starting the morning with a garlic kick. When we were running out, we headed to the St. Lawrence Market to find more, but even the jelly stand looked at us funny when we asked. From there, we tried the google, but again, no luck. We did, though, find a recipe, and we decided to try. A million years ago I saw a canning process go awry on Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman, so I was kind of apprehensive about the whole thing. Then, Kaili warned us against garlic and botulism. In the end, I think the woman on television didn’t go blind from a can exploding in her face, and google told us that botulism from garlic is very rare and actually only pertains to garlic kept in oil, so I got over my fears. I have never canned anything, and this is really no exception, since we didn’t properly can this either, but it was fun and totally delicious.

garlic jelly

We ended up combining the internet’s recipes and the one from the pectin box, and it worked pretty well. We also used the pectin that’s activated by calcium, not sugar, but I think it’s pretty much a figure-it-out-as-you-go recipe…

  • 1 cup chopped garlic (not from a press, hand chopped)
  • 1 1/3 cups white wine vinegar
  • 2 1/3 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pectin powder
  • 2 teaspoons calcium powder

If you know how to can things, then use your own process. We just heated up water and put the jars into very hot water to prepare them for the boiling mixture. Bring the vinegar to a boil and add the garlic. Simmer the garlic for 5 minutes. Note that this will make the strongest, craziest smell ever. We were literally crying because of the insanity. Stir the pectin powder into the sugar, and add to the vinegar mixture and stir. Dissolve the calcium powder in water and add it to the mixture. Stir well, pour the liquid into jars and wait.

This was really garlicky, but I really love garlic. Good on bread, bagels, and with a baked brie. Probably good with many things, really, but I think that’s what we stuck with.