Monday, July 28, 2008

Magazine Monday #7: Reprise

I'm cheating a bit today because I haven't baked anything and don't plan to. Tomorrow or the next day, perhaps. Instead, I thought I'd repost something from the archives of this blog, which is now over three years old!

I first posted this recipe for Two Grain Cranberry Bread back in May 2005, here.

The recipe came from - where else? - Canadian Living, and can be viewed in its original form here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Restaurant Review: Chopsticks

So, this week was my birthday. On Tuesday evening, I celebrated with my family, and I chose to go to a place in Castlegar, BC, that does the most amazing sushi around. Now, here in the boonies, good sushi is hard to come by. My local overpriced grocery store used to do a decent line, but they stopped making it on site and instead started to bring it in from elsewhere. I tried the new brand once and it was terrible. Other grocery stores in the area have average, grocery store sushi, that will do in a pinch but is nothing special at all.

Enter Chopsticks (no actual web site, unfortunately). Apart from my dad, I come from a sushi-crazy family. I'd had take out from Chopsticks a few times and it was always very good, but I'd never actually been there and had a meal, and I was the only member of my family who hadn't. Everyone I've known who's eaten at Chopsticks has raved about it, and along with the fact that I've been craving a good sushi feast, it was a natural choice for my birthday dinner.

Previously, I'd had the Dynamite Roll, made with prawn tempura, and the California Roll. The Dynamite Roll is my favourite, and Chopsticks does an excellent one. This was what I was particularly looking forward to. But, I had a take-out menu at my disposal before the dinner, so I was able to plot out in greater detail the sushi I wanted to order for my birthday. The one that struck my fancy was the Dragon Roll, because it has BBQ eel in it, which seems quite exotic to me. Also, the Caterpillar Roll has BBQ eel, along with avocado.

My sister-in-law ordered the sushi - and she ordered a ton of it. My dad wanted just Chinese food, as did my youngest brother, and I fancied chow mein for some reason. The result was an enormous feast. My other brother ordered Wor Won Ton but was shocked at the size of the "small" serving, so we split it. We all ate very well.

The food was excellent. The Chinese food (lemon chicken, chicken & mushroom chow mein, sweet & sour pork, and beef with ginger and green onions) was not greasy or overly salty, and it was hot and the veggies were fresh.

Our sushi feast was incredible. Some of it came in a gigantic wooden boat, beautifully presented. Some of it was elegantly plated on large platters. The most stunning presentation was the Caterpillar Roll that actually looked quite caterpillar-like. As for the BBQ eel - it was amazing. I was expecting it to be chewy, like calamari, but it had a texture more reminiscent of mussels or oysters. The sauce was perfect. The Dynamite Roll was up to it's usual high standard, and we also had a grilled salmon roll which was excellent.

The restaurant was extremely busy for a Tuesday night, and the table we had was too small for our many dishes. But those are small matters; it was a brilliant meal all 'round. If you're ever in BC's southern interior, Chopsticks is highly recommended by this coyote.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Magazine Monday #6: Tomato Jam

I come from a condiment-crazy family. My brother has more condiments in his fridge than anything else. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to make a meal out of anything in his fridge, but you know you'll have a great selection of sauces and chutneys to accompany that meal. My dad has more than one cupboard in his tiny kitchen devoted to condiments.

I'm not condiment-crazy like the rest of my family, but I do like the basics: ketchup, mayo, a nice home-made relish. My ketchup ran out this week, and I thought this recipe for tomato jam would be a good replacement. From the August 2008 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, this tomato jam recipe was simple to make and was great on a bison burger. But...I do need ketchup for oven fries, so I did replace the bottle of ketchup after all.

The full recipe is here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Getting All Philosophical...

You may have noticed that I have added some advertising to this blog. Foodbuzz is a foodie social networking site along similar lines to Facebook. The ads, thank God, are far more elegant and easy on the eye than AdSense, but I have yet to figure out exactly how much money this is going to make. I wasn't lured by money, though; I was lured by the potential for more traffic. One of my New Year's resolutions was to update this site more frequently than I had in the past, and build up my readership. I am toying with finding a new template, too. This one is starting to bug me.

Foodbuzz seems to have great folks working for it. The communication has been very good and the people I've dealt with have always been friendly and answered any questions I've had in a timely manner. I've also gotten some cute loot: an organic cotton shopping bag and some mini business cards with pretty pictures on them. I have no idea to whom I'd give business cards, but they are very cool, and there is something "grown up" about having them. I've never had business cards before; never had the need. But I have them now, and they even came in a nice little box!

In other news, I made something the other night that I really don't like. This doesn't happen very often, and it rarely happens with ice cream, of all things. Yet, I made an ice cream I don't anticipate eating. It's maple pecan, a flavour combination I'd normally enjoy. In this case, it made a mediocre ice cream I have no motivation to consume. This is a shame because I used up the rest of my pecans in the recipe, a signifcant amount of maple syrup, and whipping cream I could have put to more fruitful use. Alas, I might have to foist this on my family, who might be less picky. I didn't follow a recipe, but rather was inspired by one I saw in a magazine. I winged it, and it didn't work out. Not mapley enough, not as creamy as most ice creams I've made (probably because the addition of an adequate amount of maple syrup changed the liquid composition of the mixture, and so it froze differently), and a kind of crumbly texture. I'm really disappointed.

Blogging is interesting on a lot of fronts, and when you blog about specific things, like food, or mental health (as I do here), you get a certain kind of audience, and you gravitate towards certain things. Recent events in my life have punctuated the fact that we as bloggers are more than the sum of our parts, and that although we may blog prolifically, the blog is never an entire picture of who we are as individuals. We may blog about food, but we are each far more than our foodblogs. It may seem obvious here, but on my other blogs, it's more complicated.

Forgive my philosophical mood tonight! I have no recipe to offer today, but I am curious about this:

What life lessons have you learned through failures and/or disappointments in the kitchen?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Russian Lasagne

This is a regular hot special entree where I work, and I have to say it's pretty popular.

What is it, you ask? I like to call it Death on a Plate. But, a less sarcastic response would be that it is layers of lasagne noodles, mashed potato, bacon, onion, and cottage cheese, topped with more cheese. And it probably has lots of butter in it, too.

I say "probably", because I cannot share the recipe with you. I might not be so appreciated at work anymore (similarly, I cannot share with you the recipe for the best ever borsht, which I make on a regular basis - sorry!). I have never actually made this myself, but, if you've read my previous posts on lasagne-making (here and here) you'll see that lasagne is actually a simple meal to prepare, and that this Russian version, which we describe to customers as "a perogie in lasagne form," is a good example of thinking outside of the box. (And speaking of boxes...Hint, hint: you can't use oven-ready lasagne noodles, OK?)

We divide a 9x13 pan into 12 portions. Trust me, you don't need a big helping of this stuff because it is very, very rich. The picture is of the piece I brought home for my dinner, and I could barely finish it. Usually, I'm not a fan of anything with mashed potatoes in it, but this is an instance in which the addition of bacon will make me eat just about anything.

Please - try this at home, and let me know how it goes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Magazine Monday #5: Blueberry Corn Bread

This recipe from Canadian Living's August 2008 issue caught my eye because it seemed a little different from your ordinary corn bread. I love corn bread, but don't make it that often to be honest. It's often associated with chili, which I can understand, but as I'm not the hugest chili fan in the world, I guess that's why I don't have a lot of corn bread. Since I just bought blueberries on a recent shopping trip, I was happy to see Canadian Living feature them in this month's issue. Combine that with an inexplicable hankering for corn bread in general, I decided to make this recipe for this week's Magazine Monday post.

Sweet Corn & Blueberry Corn Bread (courtesy Canadian Living, Aug. 2008)

1 1/4 cups cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup cooked, thawed, or canned corn kernels
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/4 cups blueberries
2 tsp granulated sugar

1. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, salt.

2. In a food processor or blender, puree the corn kernels with brown sugar until lumpy. Add buttermilk and eggs. Puree to combine.

3. Make a well in the flour mixture. Pour in corn mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in butter. Fold in blueberries.

4. Pour into a greased 9" glass pie plate, smoothing the top. Sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake at 375F until deep golden and cake tester inserted comes out clean - about 30 - 35 minutes. Cool on rack.

Coyote's Version:

I skipped the puree step. I admit, I was lazy about it and didn't feel like dirtying the food processor. I put the brown sugar in with the dry ingredients, combined the buttermilk & eggs, and folded that into the flour mixture. Then I folded in the corn, butter, and blueberries. I also used raw turbinado sugar for the topping instead of regular white granulated. And, as you can see by the picture, I didn't bake this in a pie plate, either. I wanted something easy to freeze since that's where the bulk of these are going. So, I made muffins, and I got exactly 12 from this recipe. They weren't too sweet, they smelled nice and corny, and the sugar on the top added a nice crunch and extra bit of flavour.

The result: just fine and dandy, thank you very much. All in all, an excellent recipe - as usual coming from the fine folks over at Canadian Living!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Chicken & Pineapple Curry - Hold the Flies

I love pineapple - it's one of my favourite fruits. They had pineapple on sale at my local over-priced grocery store this week, so I decided to get one. I'm pretty picky when it comes to my fruit, and since it's sometimes hard to gauge the ripeness of pineapples in the grocery store, I kinda have to go with my gut. I picked on out and went with it. I sat it on my counter as I usually do, partially because I was too lazy to chop it up, partially because I was waiting to see if it would ripen any more.

What a mistake! Less than two days later, I caught a whiff of my pineapple at the opposite end of my kitchen and knew I had to take action. When I cut the peel off, I could see that it was way past ripe and verging on...yucky. I chucked what parts of it seemed inedible and chopped & refrigerated the rest of it. The scraps went into the garbage. This was yesterday.

Today, I have an infestation of fruit flies in my kitchen garbage can. They are feasting on pineapple cores and peels, and seem to be making their way around the house. My roommate has a fruit bowl well away from the garbage and there has been some action there. I have also noticed the buggers fluttering around my office - and there is no food up here.

Garbage day is Wednesday, and it's hot out. We have special bags we have to put our garbage in in this town in order for our garbage to be collected on garbage day. These bags cost $1.50 each, so we can't just replace the bag and put the old bag with the peelings in it somewhere else. We live in bear country, so garbage has to be kept under lock and key until the day of collection.

So, what to you do?

You make curry.

I have no idea what to do about the fruit flies in the garbage, but I do know that pineapple goes well with curry flavours. I happened to have a bottle of Maya organic curry sauce on hand that I got in the bargain bin at my local over-priced grocery store for $1.99. I had an onion. I had some chicken and some rice. I even had some wilty and nearly finished cilantro in my crisper.

I managed to use half of my fresh pineapple in this recipe. And it was a very good dinner, if I do say so myself.

As for the flies, there were no left overs for them, but I doubt they'll be any the wiser.

Chicken & Pineapple Curry (serves 2 or 1 hungry person)

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup (or to taste) curry cooking sauce of your choice (Patak's is my favourite brand, and you could use, instead of a curry cooking sauce, some curry paste, a bit of tomato sauce, and some sour cream or yogur to get a similar result)
basmati rice, to serve

Brown the chicken in a TBSP of olive oil. Add onions & pineapple. Saute for five or so minutes. Add sauce and garlic. Simmer another 5 - 10 minutes. Top with cilantro; serve over rice.

I suppose you could use canned chunks of pineapple if you really must - but there is no comparison between fresh and canned, in my opinion. Canned does have its place, for sure; I just prefer the fresh, and once you know how to peel and core it, it's very easy to just chop it up and put it in your fridge.

Also, pineapple contains an enzyme that helps the digestion of protein, so it's a good idea to have it with meat, actually. I could have made any number of desserts, but for some reason, this idea appealed to me the most tonight. And I have enough left-overs for a second meal tomorrow night.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Camping Grub

I went camping last weekend for the first time in 10 years. It was awesome, and I realized I really miss camping. I got too much sun and a bad sunburn, but I did eat some pretty awesome food.

I love cooking outdoors, and there's pretty much nothing that can't be done over a cookstove or campfire.

The occasion this time was my brother's birthday. He loves Black Forest Cake, and I made him one last year for his birthday trip, too. This time, I needed something that would travel better, so I opted for the chocolate biscuits I made here, which turned out great (note, I added extra butter and some extra buttermilk to get a much cakier biscuit). Since I couldn't whip any cream at the campsite, I bought a can of the whipped topping stuff, and a can of cherry pie filling. I topped it off with chocolate sauce. It was totally excellent and everyone enjoyed it. Who says you can't have a gourmet dessert while camping?

I also made Eggs Benny, which is something I treat my family to on special occasions. I've made a lot of EB in my professional cooking life, so it's really not a big deal for me. For the camping version, I didn't poach the eggs, I just fried them. As you can see, it wasn't a totally roughing-it camping trip; my sister-in-law brought out her parents' trailer which is equipped with a small stove. She made the Hollandaise sauce and toasted the English muffins with her nifty camping toaster, while I fried up the eggs and ham on the camp stove outside. It was just as yummy - even yummier, in fact, than traditional EB made at home or in a restaurant!

Then of course we have the ultimate, traditional camping food: 'Smores. I was only introduced to 'Smores last year and honestly, they don't quite do it for me. Although I love the concept of melty chocolate, graham crackers, and a nicely toasted marshmallow, I'm not overly keen on...well, nicely toasted marshmallows. I like 'em raw well enough (sort of), but I've never really been into the roasting of marshmallows, though I've tried my hardest to get into them. Anyway, here's the one and only 'Smore I ate on the trip. I over-roasted my marshmallow and the chocolate didn't melt, but you get the idea. I don't know; frankly, next time, I'll just have the chocolate and the graham crackers and skip the marshmallow.

And, just because I want to show off my cool wildlife shot to anyone who will look at it, here is a picture of the Columbia Ground Squirrel who came cruising for left-overs one morning. Isn't he sweet?

A few more wildlife shots can be seen here.

The rest of the camping story is here.


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