Archive by Author

What I Ate On My Summer Vacation

4 Sep

by Marsha Taichman

Everyone I know seems to be holidaying in Maine this year. I was tired of hearing about the ocean and eating lobster, so I decided it was time I went somewhere and did something before I got perceptibly jealous. I ended up in Toronto. I wanted to go to the Toronto Islands, dine at good restaurants and go to museums. After getting too much sun on my second day away, which resulted in an afternoon on the couch with a fan and the Food Network, I decided that the beach was a bad idea. You can’t do it all. I ate, I went to museums, and had a good time without the thrill of sun-stroke.

In Toronto, I stayed with my oldest friend Annie, who I have been lucky to have in my life for the past twenty-five years. The two of us have shared many culinary adventures, perhaps the most memorable culminating in potatoes prepared in every way we could imagine sometime during middle school. As we have matured, so have our palates and our cooking skills. Annie has a pretty incredible food blog called The Egyptian Kitchen, which can be found at http://abissadacooks.blogspot.com/ . I hope that a publisher realizes how great it is and offers her a cookbook deal stat.

Since Annie and I don’t live in the same city anymore, we rarely cook together these days, and cooking seemed like the perfect thing to do on my last night in Toronto. With the house to ourselves, we made a feast of mushroom ravioli with pesto with a side of roasted yellow peppers.

Annie and her partner Dave have a beautiful garden, and we picked piles of basil for our pesto.

basil

I wish you could smell the sheer amazingness of this basil.

We ground pine nuts with grated parmesan in a small food processor and added the fresh basil a few leaves at a time. Then we added oil to bind the mixture, and seasoned the pesto with sea salt and cracked black pepper. We put that sauce aside to finish the pasta.

pesto

Presto pesto!

I got the easy job and worked on the ravioli filling. We bought a medley of mushrooms at the Saint Lawrence Market, which included mostly creminis, but also oysters and a few beautiful chanterelles. I chopped them up finely and sautéed them with butter and nutmeg (Annie’s great idea).

mushrooms

The mushrooms were magnificent.

They cooked down into a meaty, satisfying paste that I kept eating while Annie slaved away on the pasta.

filling

The filling, which looks deceptively like ground beef.

I don’t know what recipe she used for the dough, but a recipe I have always wanted to try can be found here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/02/seven-yolk-pasta-dough/.

dough

Annie makes the dough. Note the gorgeous beet greens in the sink, which were also from her garden.

The next time Annie makes ravioli will be easier because she’s going to buy an attachment for her pasta machine that will produce an assembly line of little pouches, but we ended up rolling the dough thinly, dabbing some mushroom filling on it, folding another sheet of dough over, and then cutting out the ravioli one by one with a postage stamp-shaped cutter, which simultaneously sealed them.

rolling dough

Rolling the dough out into even sheets.

Voila! I slid the ravioli into some boiling salted water, and they cooked up like champions. We gently tossed the ravioli with pesto and proceeded to eat way too much.

ravioli

The tasty results of our labour.

It was a delicious way to end an urban getaway.

Check out Marsha’s bio on the Contributors page.

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Christmas in February!

8 Feb

By Carrie Schmidt

There is something so sad about an abandoned blog. I check the ol’ Digestive Librarians’ Digest blog every once in a while, to see what other food lovin’ librarians are writing about…… and nothing. Over two months and no new blog posts: I don’t want this blog to die!

As a winner of a box full of goodness, I should have plenty of material to write about, right? And it’s coming… slowly… but here is the truth: blogging is hard. I’ve had a personal blog for almost five years now, and I don’t get very much traffic at all. Small audience, very little feedback; it feels like I’m rambling/screaming into the void.

It takes time to write, and even more time to write well, and then with the uploading and adjusting of photographs… I’d rather be cooking, or eating, or, after a day of librarianing, I’d much rather just watch TV and not have to use my brain for a while.

But I like the idea of blogs, I like the idea of this blog in particular, and I will not let the sucker die.

Behold, more than a month after the fact – an obligatory Christmas meal post!

My spouse person and I have been very lucky for quite a few years: we have been too poor and too far away to go to either set of parents for Christmas. Mine live in Edmonton, Alberta; his live on Salt Spring Island, B.C. We lived in Montreal for a good five years, and that was five years of developing new traditions – or piggybacking onto friends’ traditions. We became obligatory family friends at Christmas dinners, which has it’s own set of challenges. If I had my druthers, I would be very quiet on Christmas Day, spending it in the company of chocolate, inebriants, and a pile of DVDs, speaking to no one, and pretending that no one else existed.

But I don’t have my druthers, I have family members who think tradition is really important, and it’s just a day, right? Christmas = Compromise.

Here is how I spent my Christmas 2010.

It started with a ferry ride; the people pictured here are family members and I believe the expressions captured here say everything there is to say about obligatory family traditions:

ferry ride

Of course, all this Christmas fuss started because of that guy, so sure, let’s give him thanks:

"thank you jesus" mug

For breakfast there was bubble bread and grapefruit and other things:

bubble bread

I did not participate in any of the food making. But my mother-in-law and two of my sisters-in-law did – maybe my father-in-law, too? But definitely the ladies. Talented ladies. Susan made this deliciously tart and tangy cold cranberry soup that started off the Weston Christmas Dinner 2010 Extravaganza:

cold cranberry soup

And of course there were vegetables:

vegetables

More cranberry goodness:

cranberries

Somehow, everything mashed together on a plate doesn’t look as appealing as when each dish is separated – but it was still delicious:

A massive turkey:

turkey

And two desserts. A trifle – which was 100% totally delicious:

trifle

I didn’t have any of this flaming Christmas pudding.

flamin' pudding

This particular pudding was mildly controversial. You see, there was a newly pregnant lady in the midst of all this Christmas hoopla (not me), and there was massive discussion surrounding the brandy that goes into the pudding. I was very grateful that I was at work and not helping with food prep for Christmas, because apparently there was quite the emotional dither-dather over the amount of brandy in the pudding. (The pregnant lady was also not around when the pudding was being made.)

I think it would have been a much less pleasant Christmas had I been there for the food prep because

  1. A tablespoon or two of brandy in a Christmas pudding is NOT going to cause the child to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. And I would have made a big stink about being overly cautious. My eye rolls would have ruined Christmas!
  2. I knew the pregnant lady wouldn’t be having any of the Christmas pudding anyway … she doesn’t even like it.

In fact, there are quite a few traditional dishes that various family members don’t actually like, but there seems to be a lack of communication amongst the family members regarding said dishes. Lots of “if I say I don’t like this, feelings will be hurt” which is maddening, but oh-so-true.

Next year, it’s my mom’s turn to stress out about making a bunch of dishes that are only made once a year; the plan is to head to Edmonton. I don’t think that preparing Christmas dinner is worth the stress that it seems to bring to so many people – but then I’ve also heard that Christmas dinner is a really wonderful experience for so many. Of course, I also used to believe that Santa was real, so…… maybe the joyful Christmas dinner is also a myth?

Check out Carrie’s bio on the Contributors page.

Priorities

15 Nov

By Carrie Schmidt

It has been said that moving is one of those things that causes major stress. Divorce, the death of a loved one, moving – oh yes, and unemployment. THE major stressors, according to people who make lists and conduct studies and like to categorize something as nebulous as stress.

Boxes stuffed and stacked

I’ve moved house a few times: Edmonton to Banff, Banff to Vancouver, Vancouver to Edmonton, Edmonton to Calgary and back again, a few different locations in Edmonton, then off to Montreal (two different places in Montreal), Montreal to Vancouver…. I like to think I know a thing or two about packing prized objects and breakable things, and I’ve developed some very handy time management and negotiating skills along the way.

But planning ahead around moving time with regards to meals has been a black hole. My most recent move was within Vancouver, at the end of July, and we used a local moving company, as my fella and I have reached a stage in our lives where rounding up our friends and promising beer and pizza in exchange for heavy lifting is no longer an option. Hiring professionals is well worth the cash when it comes to certain things, and moving is one of those things.

Experts say to do the kitchen packing last, and for good reason – if your pots and pans and dishes and utensils are in boxes, how do you eat? And, if it’s a relatively short move, you also need to pack up whatever is left in your fridge, but you don’t really want to have a full fridge, so….. meal planning gets a little dicey around moving time. Not to mention coordinating with a cleaning schedule: I don’t want to clean the stove and the fridge and then have to deal with cleaning them again due to some sort of foolhardy food mishap.

I decided to treat the fridge like an art object – complete with curatorial photographs. A few days before moving, I removed all things moldy and rotting, and set aside a box where perishables could be transported to their new home.

Before cleaning:

Before fridge

After cleaning:

After fridge

The pristine condition of our now organized and somewhat attractive refrigerator proved to be intimidating; we didn’t really eat too much out of it before moving. We became reliant on fast food, sadly. If I had done a better job at not letting all that moving “stress” get to me, perhaps we would have been eating things more like this:

Delicious salad

instead of what we ended up eating (and regretting), due to not being 100% sure of where the grocery store is, but all-too-aware of those damn golden arches.

Disgusting burger

And in case you’re wondering about our nutritional priorities, this was the very first object that was unpacked – not just the first kitchen thing, but THE FIRST THING:

Coffee

Check out Carrie’s bio on the Contributors page.

Pumpkin pie perfection

3 Nov

Hello blogosphere!

My name is Alison, and I currently reside in Winnipeg. I don’t know how it feels where you are, but it is most certainly, undeniably fall here. And fall really makes me want to do three things:

1) knit

2) drink tea and

3) bake delicious, spicy, wholesome foods

Since this is a blog dedicated to yummy foods made by library folk, I have decided to share my first pumpkin pie baking experience.

It began with me heading to the Organic market; sadly, they didn’t have pumpkins yet, so this baby hails from Superstore.  I brought my orange baby home, and opened my laptop and went right to Martha Stewart’s web site. Regardless of how you may feel about her, one cannot deny the woman is a genius in the kitchen. I also feel her recipes are really easy to follow, and every one I have used has turned out super yum. I grabbed this recipe from her site.

I began poking several holes around my pumpkin, placing it in about an inch of water, and shoving it in the oven. 45 minutes later, I had a steamed pumpkin.

Steamed Pumpkin

Steamed Pumpkin

Next, I cut off the top, peeled off the skin and cut the pumpkin into small chunks. I then used my food processor to mash it up.  It made a LOT of pumpkin puree.  Enough for seven pies and at least two batches of pumpkin cookies (to be made on a later date).

Pumpkin Pieces

Pumpkin Pieces

For the crust, I elected to use the Press In recipe Martha suggested. It’s an easy shortbread crust and it’s super tasty. Though, don’t use a mixer. I tried on my first go (I know I shouldn’t have, I just really wanted to get the crust going) and it pretty much failed. It turned all gooey. The second go around was a lot more successful. The dough was pretty crumbly, which made me concerned that it would end up dry and sandy, but it didn’t. It ended up absorbing moisture from the pie filling.

Press In Shortbread Pie Crust

Press In Shortbread Pie Crust

Next, I began the pie filling. Om nom nom!  I threw together the pumpkin, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and eggs in a large bowl and whisked it. After tasting it, I thought it needed more allspice and cinnamon.  I added twice as much.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Pumpkin Pie Filling

Pre-Oven Pumpkin Pie

Pre-Oven Pumpkin Pie

I then stuck the pies in the oven for 60 mins. After pulling them out, I waited about an hour before I gave them a taste. They were pretty good, but the next day they were really good!

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Pumpkin Pie Slice

Overall, this was a very easy, yummy recipe.  My first attempt at pumpkin pie turned out a success! You should note, I made a double recipe, which made seven pies. There were six mighty happy people after I made this. 😉

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed my post and as Julia would say, Bon appetit! 🙂

Alison Pattern

Check out Alison’s bio on the Contributors page.

My Obsession with Aux Vivres’ Dragon Bowl Sauce

19 Oct

by Marsha Taichman

If you know me, and we eat together at a restaurant  more than once, we will probably go to
Aux Vivres (4631 St. Laurent Boulevard in Montreal) if I have my way. This is the sad truth for my friends (all three of them). As far as I am concerned, everything there is tasty and nothing hurts my stomach because there is no dairy to be found anywhere, and I am lactose- intolerant. The restaurant/cafe serves fresh and often organic foods and is a proudly vegan institution. The food is so delicious there is no need to apologize for its meatless-ness or mimic meat and dairy, but they do have a lot of foods that feature creams made from tofu or nuts, and tempeh bacon and tofu scrambles are popular items on their weekend brunch menu. My boyfriend and favourite dining companion, Henry, pictured below, always gets the BLT on chapatti bread, which is composed of lettuce, tomato and smoked coconut with a white spread that is reminiscent of good old mayonnaise.

Henry

Henry and his BLT on chapatti bread

The sandwich is smoky, salty deliciousness. Every week there are specials that showcase seasonal items, and recently they had a beet latke plate and sweet potato burritos.

I order the same thing every time I go to Aux Vivres, which is the Dragon Bowl. Just typing “the same thing every time” makes me feel a little, how do you say, boring. In my defense, I have ordered other dishes there, thoroughly enjoyed them, and then pined for the Dragon Bowl all the way home. It is a bowl of organic brown rice topped with piles of fresh vegetables: spiraled beets, shredded carrots, chopped lettuce, two kinds of sprouts, and daikon radish. This mound of goodness is sprinkled with gomashio (unhulled black and white sesame seeds and salt) and is served with Dragon Bowl sauce, which is liquid gold.

dragon bowl

dragon bowl

I eat the vegetables and rice in the Dragon Bowl because they are a vehicle for said sauce. You can purchase it bottled at Aux Vivres, but then you have to cut up all the vegetables and cook the rice and I figure I will never be able to do it as well as they do (I have yet to invest in a mandolin for that perfectly thin daikon slicing), so I am happy to pay about ten dollars to feel like someone is looking after me for an hour or so.

Recently, my friend Lorie pointed me to a recipe for Dragon Bowl sauce written by the talented jae steele, who used to make Aux Vivres’ desserts. Her sauce calls for:

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
2 tbsp. maple syrup
2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
2 tbsp. filtered water
1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic

Blend all ingredients with a hand blender, or in a blender or food processor. Makes enough sauce for 3 Dragon Bowls. Store any leftovers in a sealed glass jar in the fridge for up to 1 week.

This version is good, but not as good as the one I long for when it’s been a while since my last fix. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that I used regular soy sauce rather than tamari soy sauce, and my olive oil might be a little off. Next time I will follow the recipe and maybe add a bit less than 2 tbsp. filtered water. But try it! Or just go to Aux Vivres and have a Dragon Bowl. You won’t be sorry. At least, I never am.

Check out Marsha’s bio on the Contributors page.

Can you can?

3 Oct

By Tara Thompson

You know canning food is not popular when you are in Real Canadian Superstore in mid-September and learn that all the canning supplies have been cleared to make room for Halloween candy. But never fear, I found my needed 250mL jars and proceed to continue our family tradition.

Canned tomatoes in the canner
Canned tomatoes in the canner

I remember going to my Gran & Poppa’s house every fall to can peaches and pears. We would all, usually about 5-6 of us, sit around a card table set up in their kitchen and proceed to blanch, peel, cut, pack, and process about 30 jars. I even remember my Mom making pickles and relish when I was a kid. When I met my husband, we incorporated his family’s tradition of canning tomatoes, making tomato/vegetable sauce, and creating jams. Now each year is a little different depending on what is needed (tomatoes and peaches) and what recipes strike our fancy (pickles and pickled pears).

Canned pears and peaches
Canned pears and peaches

I think that besides the tradition of  “this is what is done in the fall”, I like that I know exactly what is in the jars. It’s similar to when we make stocks; I can’t figure out why there is so much sodium in store bought stock, as we never add salt to stock. This made me think of tomato juice. Whenever I’ve tried any of the store bought tomato juice, I’ve found it too salty; maybe next year I’ll try making my own.

Canning isn’t complicated, but there are a number of steps. To get started, some basic supplies are needed:

  1. Mason Jars (we like large mouth jars)
  2. Two-piece lids (sealing disc & rim)
  3. Large pot to prepare the recipe in
  4. Canner (to hold the jars… water must cover the jars)
  5. Accurate measuring spoons and cups

When you find a recipe, follow it precisely and make sure that it is a modern recipe, current with today’s health guidelines.

This year’s new discovery was Pickled Pears (with a few adjustments for our tastes):

1 large lemon
8-1/2 cups water, divided
12 medium ripened Autumn Star pears (with red skins)
1-1/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
4 to 6 bay leaves (1 for each jar)
12 to 24 pink peppercorns (4 for each jar)
12 to 24 green peppercorns (4 for each jar)

Prepare the canner, jars, and lids for canning.

  • Start the water boiling in your canner (it takes longer than you think).
  • Sterilize the jars by either submersing them in boiling water or the rinse cycle of the dishwasher.
    Also while you finish working keep the jars warm to keep them sterilized.
  • Sterilize the lids by keeping them in a small pot of hot water to soften the seals. To prevent them from sticking together, put them in the water opposite each other: bottoms together, tops together.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the lemon peel from the lemon in one continuous spiral. Cut vertically into pieces (1 for each jar) and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl and add 4 cups of water.

Peel, quarter, and core the pears, placing them in the lemon juice solution to prevent discolouration.

Place the sugar, vinegar, and remaining 4 1/2 cups water along with the reserved lemon peel in a large pot and bring to a boil.

Drain the pears and add them to the boiling syrup. Return to a boil and remove from the heat. The syrup should be a pink colour (from the skins).

In each sterilized Mason jar, place 1 piece of lemon peel, 1 bay leaf, 4 pink peppercorns, and 4 green peppercorns. Pack the pears into the jars to within 3/4” of the top of the rim of the jar (headspace). Remove any air trapped in the jars by sliding a rubber spatula down the sides of the jar. Fill with syrup, to the 3/4″ headspace.

Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth. Centre the canning lid on the jar. Apply the screw band (rim) and tighten until just finger tip tight.

Place the jars in the canner and when the water is boiling time the process for 10 minutes. The water should cover the jars by at least 1”.

When 10 minutes is up, remove the lid from the canner and wait 5 minutes before removing the jars. Place the jars on a tea towel or wooden board. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Check that the jars have sealed properly: sealed lids curve downward. Remove screw bands and store them separately (we don’t do this, but it is to prevent moisture and rust). Wipe jars clean, label and store them in a cool dark place until ready to serve.

Makes 3X500mL jars or 6X250mL jars.

    Adapted from “Picture Perfect Pickles: Pickled Pears.” Harrowsmith Country Life. October 2009 (No. 208) pg 86 (also available online through EBSCO’s MasterFILE Premier – check your library’s e-resources!).

    Other canning recipes are available in many places.  Two good books that I found are:

    Put ‘em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

    You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling ed. Jan Miller

    Check out Tara’s bio on the Contributors page.

    Creamy Chowder on a Chilly Autumn Day

    28 Sep

    by Amanda Halfpenny

    My last guest blog post described a cool refreshing smoothie that I made on a hot day this summer and so I thought it would be highly appropriate if my next post be on a warm autumn dish.  I spent my summer eating mostly salads because I wanted to avoid turning on my stove or my oven in the suffocating heat! Now that fall weather is clearly here to stay, I have found myself fantasizing about warm creamy comfort food. Although other librarians on this blog have already posted their suggestions for yummy soups, in the autumn, you can really never eat too much soup so when I saw this recipe for a Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar chowder posted on a friend’s Facebook page, I knew I had to try making it myself! Since today was my first autumn day wearing gloves (it was extremely chilly and rainy in New Brunswick today), it was so much fun to make this creamy chowder that succeeded in filling my apartment with a cozy warmth and flavourful smell.

    chowder

    Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

    You might also note in the picture that I am reading (Heat Wave by Richard Castle) while enjoying my meal. With delicious chowder and great reads who cares if the autumn weather outside is chilly? Happy eating and reading!

    Check out Amanda’s bio on the Contributors page.