Monday, June 23, 2008

Magazine Monday #4: Mmmm Cookies

It's that time of the week again.

It's also that time if the month, and that means cravings. On Friday, I had a huge burger and fries, and today my palate screamed for sugar. I could have been wimpy about it and gone to buy some chocolate, but since I have baking/cooking on my schedule for Mondays, and this little blog event started by Ivonne, I caved and baked instead.

This recipe came from the November 2006 Bon Appetit issue, and, now that I reread the accompanying article, is actually a Dorie Greenspan recipe from her book Baking: From My Home to Yours. It's one of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes I've made. I know, I know; everyone has their own special chocolate chip cookie recipe, and there are bazillions of them out there. This one just happens to be one of my favourites.

I used my #16 cookie scoop and it was a bad idea. The cookies spread quite a bit and the #16 is actually equivalent to 1/3 cup - too large for a cookie in a home-baking situation. I could only get four per sheet. For the final bit of dough I used my #70 cookie scoop, which is equivalent to about 1 TBSP, and they turned out much better.

I highly recommend cookie scoops, by the way. They make cookie-baking so much easier and far more consistent. The number is engraved on the inner slide of the cookie scoop, and it tells you how many cookies you get per quart of dough (it's an American thing, I assume). So, #16 gives you 16 cookies per quart, etc.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, by Dorie Greenspan, via Bon Appetit November 2006

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
12 ouncs bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Sift, cream, blend, fold. Yadda x3. Bake at 350F (the original recipe says 375F, but chocolate is extremely heat sensitive and I don't bake anything with chocolate in it above 350F).


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Restaurant Review: The Flying Steamshovel

There aren't a ton of dining options in Rossland anymore, and when you're in the mood for a burger and fries, we have less than we used to. There was a popular place up near the museum that did great Mexican take away and also had the best burgers ever on their menu. Alas, the business was bought and it's now a more expensive Mexican place - without the burgers. Now, The Flying Steamshovel is probably Rossland's best bet for the ultimate burger.

The name may sound odd, but yes, there is an establishment in Rossland named The Flying Steamshovel. The building was erected in 1896 and used to house miners during the gold rush days. Now, The Shovel, as it's called locally, houses a liquor store, a small hotel, and a pub.

I do enjoy pub grub. Rossland has another pub, The Rock Cut, but, although I had a really good meal there a few weeks ago, I noticed that the prices have increased recently, and all other anecdotal evidence I've heard is that the food really isn't that good, or it's really inconsistent. You also need to drive out there, or hike for 45 minutes.

The Shovel is under new ownership. Granted, I was not around during the previous ownership, so I don't really have anything to compare the food or service to. The only time I've ever been there previous to 2007 was when I was 19 and I went out drinking for a friend's birthday. Back then, it was very much a drinking hole and less a restaurant. I will say that the interior of the pub is dated and needs some new furniture and updated decor. There is a sizeable patio out back, and on Fridays you can have a burger BBQed to your specs and a pitcher of beer for $10.

Last night I dined at The Shovel with my brother, Jem. Both starving, we started off with the spring rolls, which were very fresh and very hot. And because we were both in burger & fries moods, we each ordered the John Candy Burger. For $9.95, this enormous meal contains a whopping 1/2lb all-beef patty topped with caramelized onions, back bacon, and aged cheddar. With the generous portion of crispy, salt & peppered fries, I couldn't finish my meal. And it was an awesome burger, not just in size, but in flavour as well. You can't beat caramelized onions and back bacon on a burger!

Last night was actually the fourth time I've eaten at The Shovel in 8 months. Each time, I've had a really great meal. I've had The Hangover (a sandwich made with egg-dipped bread, chicken, ham, caramelized onions, swiss cheese) which was very filling and very good; I've had the clubhouse, which is made with garlic toast; the Italian club, made with focaccia bread and proscuitto. The side salads I usually choose instead of fries are always fresh, and the house dressing, a feta and dill combination, is tasty.

So yeah, The Flying Steamshovel gets two paws up from this coyote. And she gets to go back on Monday for a girls-only lunch!

NB: The picture of the spring rolls was taken after we'd already consumed two of them!

Edit @ 3:30, Monday June 23: Skip dessert. Especially the Key Lime Pie.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Magazine Monday #3: Shrimp Dumplings

Although I had quite a productive day today, my mood was low and I was craving comfort foods. Since I don't have a car, giving into the urge of chips and chocolate would have entailed walking downtown to the local overpriced grocery store, and I just couldn't be bothered. I wanted something filling and satisfying, not necessarily junky. I considered pasta, but this recipe for shrimp dumplings has been in my mind for a few days now, since I went through my magazine collection the other day. I happened to have the ingredients on hand, including won ton wrappers left over from my Beyond the Great Wall meal.

This is, once again, a Canadian Living recipe, and can be found here. I left out certain things, like the hot sauce (don't like it), the cooking wine (don't have any), and the edamame beans (purely for presentation). I also left out the egg white; when I made the pork dumplings for the BtGW meal, I didn't need it, so I figured I wouldn't need it here, either, and I was right.

I just wanted to dig in, so I didn't bother dressing this up at all to photograph it. I did use my new Asian noodle bowl set for the first time, which was kinda cool. To serve, I splashed some soy sauce over the dumplings and accompanied them with a simple Asian cabbage slaw made from shredded savoy cabbage, grated carrot, some green onions and cilantro, doused with seasoned rice vinegar and soy sauce. It was everything I wanted: yummy, fresh, filling, and totally satisfying. And the work wasn't so bad; much more worth it in the end than hiking down to the store for chips & chocolate (though, tomorrow is another day...).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hummingbird Cake

I first heard of Hummingbird Cake last summer when I was away at a friend's wedding. I stayed with another friend at her parents' house, and one night we had Hummingbird Cake for dessert. It was fabulous! I think that version had blueberries in it. I found this recipe in an old cookbook while I was bored one day at the hospital. I finally had a chance to make it the other night for a pair of family dinners. It was awesome. It's very simple to make and is one of the most moist and wonderfully-textured cakes I've made.

I have no idea why this is called Hummingbird Cake, but if anyone has any insights, do let me know!

Hummingbird Cake

1 cup plain flour
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour*
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (or, I subsituted the same amount of apple sauce and it was great)
3/4 cup crushed pineapple, drained

Icing (optional)

100g cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup icing sugar

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare an 8" square baking pan (i.e. butter & flour).

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in the centre.

In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, banana, pineapple together. Pour into the well. Stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50 minutes or until done.

For the icing, cream the cream cheese until soft and gradually beat in the icing sugar.

* Self-raising flour is available in Canada, but you have to look for it. Brodie is the brand I have and it comes in a white bag with blue writing.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Magazine Monday #2: Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

This recipe is from the June issue of Canadian Living, a magazine I've subscribed to for several years now, and a magazine I grew up with because my mother subscribed to it, too. I can't tell you how much I love getting this in my mail every month. The recipes are always reliable and pretty much foolproof, and there are tons of ideas in each issue that can inspire you do to your own experimentation.

I made these chocolate biscuits for the dessert that finished off our fish & chips meal. The original recipe calls for ice cream and chocolate sauce as an accompaniment, but I stuck with sweetened whipped cream and didn't bother with chocolate sauce. It was a good thing, too; the meal needed to end on a slightly lighter note after such a hearty feast.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

3 cups sliced strawberries
1 1/2 cups cold whipping cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar

Chocolate Biscuits (makes 8 - 9)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cocoa powder
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp each baking soda and salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1tsp vanilla

1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients with a whisk.
2. Cut in butter until crumbly.
3. Whisk together buttermilk, egg, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, stirring to make a soft dough.
4. With lightly floured hands, press dough into a ball. Knead gently about 10 times. Pat into 1" disk. Using 3" round cutters, cut out rounds. Place on parchment-lined sheet.
5. Bake at 400F for 15 - 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

When you're ready to serve, slice the biscuits in half with a serrated knife. Place strawberries on the bottom half, then a generous dollop of whipped cream on top of that, then top with the other half of the biscuit. Voila!

NB: the picture of the finished product above is light on the strawberries and heavier on the whipped cream because this was my serving and I'm not the hugest fan of strawberries.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Restaurant Review/Rant: The Colander & The Colander Express

I am probably going to get death threats for posting this. But, I'm willing to take the risk.

Trail has a locally famous eatery called The Colander. Around WWII or shortly thereafter, there was an enormous migration of Italians who settled in Trail because there was well-paying work to be found at Cominco. The Italian immigrants have given the city a bit of cultural flavour. There is a Columbo Lodge, and Italo Canadese club, an Italian-run and influenced local grocery store, and if you look through Trail's phone book, you'll see that there are dozens of Italian surnames listed. If you go to the local graveyard and mausoleum, you'll see a lot of Italians are buried there. Growing up in the area, I remember shopping in Trail and hearing Italian spoken on the streets, and I knew that some people, especially the oldest in the community, barely spoke any English. Why bother when you could have your services, social networking, and neighbours all speaking Italian? And what better way to make your mark in the new world by starting a restaurant featuring Nona's famous spaghetti recipe?

The Colander (no web site, unfortunately) is a local icon. Boasting "authentic Italian" food, it has a sparse menu consisting of spaghetti, meatballs, chicken, potatoes, salad, buns, and spumoni for dessert. I believe they do ribs now, too. There is also a fast food version of The Colander in the mall, The Colander Express. It is here that I ate last night, in the vastly uncomfortable food court at Waneta Plaza. (The food court, incidentally, contains only two other places to eat and both are pretty bad.)

You can't really grow up in this area without knowing about The Colander and eating there at least once. I've eaten there several times, but not for a good 15 years. There was little atmosphere; you went in and were seated on uncomfortable, rickety chairs at long trestle tables with paper table cloths. The floor was cement, there was little adornment on the walls, and what was on the walls was cheap and silly-looking. There were some dividers set up so you had the feeling that there were smaller rooms within the big room, but the noise told you otherwise. It's basically a big hall/warehouse hybrid and thus the atmosphere wasn't that of a mom & pop bistro. It had more the atmosphere of a church potluck, only the menu was limited, church pot lucks are a little more jolly and pleasant, and the food is much better. And the kids tend to be better behaved.

My family was never fond of The Colander. My dad thought it was a waste of money because it lacked what, in his wannabe upper crust opinion, a proper restaurant should have, namely atmosphere, or at least an attempt at atmosphere, a decent menu, and decent food. In the three times I ate at The Colander that I can remember, it was always the same greasy spaghetti, greasy potatoes, and greasy chicken. The same people always dined there, and though it was a lot of food for not too much money, I could never really understand what the draw was. Although I don't consider myself to be too much of a food snob, I still don't get The Colander, and after eating at it's mall rat offspring last night, I am not inspired to give it another chance.

The Colander Express boasts sandwiches and various other items in addition to the famous spaghetti and meatballs. Having had a sandwich for lunch at work, I decided, against my better judgment, to have the spaghetti. What a huge mistake.

For $6.50 (or thereabouts) I was given a whack of spaghetti noodles, a generous ladle of The Colander's famous sauce, two meatballs, and a spoonful of that dreadful Parmesan cheese that looks like white powder and doesn't require refrigeration. Flavour-wise, I could have had something more tasty from a can of Chef Boyardee. The slick of tomato-coloured oil that coated my meal was unappealing to the eye and hard on the stomach. Had I not opted for meatballs, the dinner would have been over $1 cheaper, but when I actually ate the meatballs (which weren't that big), I didn't think they were worth the extra money. The meal sat heavily in my gut, which took a while to settle down. It was, in a word, terrible.

And this is part of what I don't get: everyone loves The Colander. It is consistently the best reviewed, most recommended place around. And I just don't understand why!

It doesn't help that I've been to Italy. I spent two months there and went from north to south, to Sicily, to Rome, to Milan, to Lago di Como. The food I ate during my trip came from a variety of sources; bakeries, delis, restaurants, bistros, pizzerias, grocery stores, market stalls. None of it ever, ever remotely resembled anything like what The Colander produces. Either this group of immigrants came from a very remote, specific part of Italy where this kind of food was common, or they were just bad, backwards cooks. And, I ate a hell of a lot of gelato in Italy - like every day, practically - and never once did I see spumoni. And do not get me started about antipasto!

Trail never was the culinary capital of the Kootenays (I'd have to say Nelson always was and still is) but it's much better than it used to be. If you're coming to town, let me know and I'll gladly recommend some other places where a way better meal will be served to you. Hell, I'll even cook for you and it'll 1000% better than The Colander.

Failing that, there is Dairy Queen.

NB: Photo from here. There don't seem to be many pictures online; there is probably a good reason for that.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


If you want to read about some really, really bad food, go here.

Only the best on this blog, let me tell ya.


Since my mom has been here, the feasting we've done as a family has been astounding. My sister-in-law is a brilliant cook, and runs a catering company with her mom in their time off. My brother, Jem, recently came back from an Alaskan fishing trip, a perk he got through his job. He returned with 35lbs of fish - mainly halibut. The resort cleaned and filleted all the fish for him, flash froze it and vacuum-sealed everything. The freshness is indescribable.

Last night, my sister-in-law made fish & chips with the halibut, accompanied by coleslaw, roasted asparagus, and stuffed mushrooms. It was a truly amazing meal.

Mom goes home tonight.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Magazine Mondays Inaugural Edition: Coconut Blondies

Ivonne over at Creampuffs in Venice started Magazine Mondays last fall, just to give some of us foodbloggers a bit of help with content and inspiration. Sometimes, I know for myself, I need that kind of structure.

I have subscriptions to Canadian Living, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet. It's like getting a series of cookbooks in my mailbox every month, and I love it.

The June 2008 issue of Gourmet featured four brownie recipes on the last page, which I just discovered yesterday. While I love a good brownie, I also adore a good blondie. I have a recipe I've used for a few years now, courtesy Granny Annie, that is wonderful and quadruples nicely for more commercial purposes. But this coconut version caught my eye last night as I re-read Gourmet over dinner.

Recipe here.

The result: OH.MY.GOD. Warm with vanilla ice cream: OH.MY.DOUBLE.GOD. Definitely a keeper!

Nutritional breakdown here.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

101 Uses for a Roasted Chicken #5: Chicken, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne

After recovering from my lasagne-making phobia, I seem to be plotting my next lasagnes on a regular basis. It's just so easy and satisfying to make a pan of this stuff, and the oven-ready noodles are a God-send. Usually, I make my own pasta sauce, but once in a while, buying one is perfectly acceptable to me, especially if I want to make a lasagne quickly and with even less fuss. This chicken version is awesome.

You will need, for a 9x13-inch pan (lined with parchment paper for ease of both serving and clean-up; or line pan with foil and spray liberally with cooking spray):

both breasts from 1 roasted chicken, skinned and diced or shredded
1 large tub (500g) 1% cottage cheese
1 egg
1 tsp each oregano and basil
3 cloves garlic, crushed, finely chopped or grated
1 bunch spinach, washed, dried and coarsely chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 cups pasta sauce, your choice (I used Ragu because it was on sale; it was fine)
2 cups part skim mozzarella cheese, grated
approx. 15 oven-ready lasagne noodles

Assembly: the golden rule with lasagne and oven-ready noodles: sauce, noodles, sauce.

So, here is how to assemble this version: 3/4 cup sauce, noodles (3 length-wise, one broken in half at the width end), sauce, spinach & mushrooms, noodles again as previous, sauce, cottage cheese mixture (mix cottage cheese with the egg, chicken, oregano, basil, and garlic), noodles again, the rest of the sauce, mozzarella cheese.

Cover with foil and bake at 400F for 30 minutes. Stab it in the middle with a knife and see if the noodles are pretty much softened, and, if so, remove the foil and continue baking for another 30 minutes, or until a deep golden brown.

When it's done, let it sit for about 15 minutes before serving. This gives your lasagne a chance to sort of "tighten up" and absorb any extra cooking liquids. It'll be much easier to serve and less soupy.

Nutritional info here.


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