Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cookie Time

I live on a small income and can't afford to buy presents most of the time, as one would for a birthday celebration or similar, but I can afford to bake cookies. Sunday Aug. 17 was a bittersweet day. Sweet because I got to go to the lake and swim and refresh my body from the horrible heat wave we'd been having. Bitter because it was the last time I'll see my brother and SIL for a long time as they're moving way across the country. They set out the next day to drive from BC to Nova Scotia, and they needed snacks. Both of them love cookies (who doesn't?) so I made them a huge whack to take with them for their trip.

I made three kinds: Farmland Flax (recipe here), Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip, and Applesauce Raisin Chews. The latter two came from one of my favourite cookbooks, The Cookie Bible. I've made lots of recipes from this book and they've all turned out wonderfully. Also, since I do mail cookies every so often, this book has really good advice on how to send cookies via the post. If you can get a copy of it, I highly recommend it.

As for the cookies...

Applesauce Raisin Chews (not pictured...I forgot and then it was too late), page 80 of The Cookie Bible

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups oats
1 cup raisins

Oven: 350F. Cream, beat, fold, scoop etc. You know the drill. Bake 12 - 15 minutes.

Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe is an adaptation of the Double Chocolate Cranberry Chunkies recipe on page 56, a recipe I make often to give as gifts, however, I haven't any cranberries on hand so I winged it - with excellent results.

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips
1 tsp pure peppermint extract

Oven: 350F. Cream, beat, fold, scoop. Etc. Etc. Bake 10 - 12 minutes. It is best to underbake these ones slightly so they come out fudgey. Be sure your oven is no hotter than 350F because otherwise your chocolate chips will burn.

Mailing cookies is quite easy. What I recommend is using a metal cookie tin, and I find mine for 25 cents at my local thrift store. You'll need something really sturdy for the mail and I'm afraid that most cardboard might not cut it. Once you have your tin, line it with paper towel or tissue paper. Then wrap the cookies tightly in saran wrap in groups of 3 or 4, depending on their size and the tin's size, making sure to keep different types of cookies separate (some ingredients will impart or soak up other flavours of other cookies). Pack the cookies in tightly, using more paper towel or tissue paper to plug any big gaps. Wrap the tin in bubble wrap, then put the whole thing in whatever you plan on mailing it in. Mark the package FRAGILE or have the post office people put on "fragile" stickers. If possible, freeze the cookies between baking and mailing, and if you have a few days between packing them in the tin and mailing, stick the tin in the freezer. This helps keep the cookies fresh and gives them as good a start as possible on their journey.

Chocolate Covered Bacon: So Right, or So Wrong?

I found this article on Yahoo! this weekend. I couldn't help but feel that the picture in the article (different from the picture here, which came from the NY Times) made the idea seem extremely unappetizing.

I don't know. I'd have to try it before coming to a conclusion, but I would definitely give it a sporting chance.

What do you think? Yay or nay?

Friday, August 29, 2008

100 Desserts

Just for fun...I enjoyed the Omnivore's 100 so much. I have tried to include some more obscure stuff, and although I did some research here, most of these come from my own travels and experience.

1. Bold what you've tried.
2. * What you've made.
3. Cross out what you wouldn't like.
4. Italicize something you've tried but didn't like.

1. Baklava*
2. Chocolate Cake*
3. Blueberry Pie*
4. Real Italian Gelato
5. Dessert Pizza
6. Lemon Meringue Pie*
7. Rice Pudding*
8. Spotted Dick
9. Amaretti
10. Jello Chocolate Pudding
12. Spumoni
13. Angel Food Cake
14. Creme Brulee*
15. Deep Fried Ice Cream
16. Chocolate Fondue
17. New York Cheesecake*
18. Fruit Crumble or Crisp*
19. Sacher Torte*
20. Jam Roly Poly
21. Crepes Suzette*
22. Quark Cake
23. Maple Sugar Pie
24. Key Lime Pie (the real stuff!)
25. Bananas Foster
26. Creme Caramel
27. Oeufs a la Neige
28. Baked Alaska*
29. Gingerbread*
30. Blancmange
31. Linzer Tart*
32. Carrot Cake*
33. Steamed Pudding
34. Nanaimo Bar*
35. Flan (the South American kind)
36. Sernik
37. Pastel de Nata
38. Wagashi
39. Marzipan
40. Dulce de Leche
41. Gulab Jamun
42. Tiramisu
43. Moroccan Date Cake
44. Black Forest Cake*
45. Scottish Shortbread*
46. Halva
47. Clafuti
48. Pumpkin Pie*
49. Gajar Halwa
50. Plum Pudding
51. Pflaumenkuchen
52. Makroud el Louse
53. Eclairs*
54. Palmier*
55. Financier
56. Napoleons*
57. Pastel de Tres Leches
58. Wagon Wheel
59. Treacle Tart
60. Date Squares
61. Eve's Pudding
62. Pears Poached in Red Wine
63. Snickerdoodles*
64. Churros
65. Artisan Cheese Platter
66. Caramel Apple
67. Sex in a Pan
68. Devil's Food Cake
69. Red Velvet Cake
70. Mousse*
71. Chocolate Dipped Strawberry*
72. Coconut Cream Pie
73. Semifreddo
74. Granita*
75. Tortoni
76. Sticky Toffee Pudding
77. Peanut Buster Parfait
78. Zucchini Cake
79. Cannoli
80. Mont Blanc
81. Haupia
82. Eight Precious Pudding
83. Trifle*
84. Popcorn Balls*
85. Ambrosia
86. dessert soup
87. Pasha
88. Berry Fool
89. Sweet Potato Pie
90. Bread Pudding
91. Raisin Pie
92. Strawberry Shortcake*
93. Apple Duff
94. Fruit Cake
95. Pineapple Upside Down Cake
96. Waffle Cone
97. Mango Sorbet
98. Truffles*
99. Cherries Jubilee
100. Rice Crispy Square*

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garden Bounty: Lettuce Surprises

One of the things I was looking forward to this summer was my lettuce crop. I planted two rows of romaine, and they were among the first plants to sprout up out of the ground. But, they were also, therefore, among the seedlings at most risk during our June snow/monsoons and general late growing season. For a week in June, I was covering my lettuce plants with cardboard so that frost/snow/hail didn't kill them off.

Well, they survived! The plants didn't get too big, though, in comparison to the heads of romaine you see in the grocery store. But, who cares? Size isn't everything, right? Right?

I don't know. What I do know is that lettuce at my local overpriced grocery store goes for between 89 - 99 cents per head, and for the last two summers, the lettuce available in the stores has been crappy - really crappy. Brown-edged, buggy, slimy, and without much shelf life. Last week at work, when I was washing the lettuce for the next day's sandwiches, I had to throw quite a bit of our three heads of leaf lettuce away because it was in such rough shape. And it wasn't just at the local overpriced place; everywhere seems to have icky lettuce this year. I have also noticed that other produce has been looking iffy as well. I couldn't find a decent potato two weeks ago locally, but did find a couple that were OK at Save-On Foods, which is in Nelson, and hour away from here. Cabbage has looked off, as have peppers. Many of the apples at my local place also have appeared on the sketchy side. I don't know what is going on, but it's pretty bad. I was hoping to have beautiful lettuce that I didn't have to pay for.

I got more than I was bargaining for.

The big thing I haven't liked about gardening is the bugs. I'm not an insect fan. I planted marigolds in hopes of warding off some of the nasty beasties, but to no avail. My lettuce has been crawling with ants, wasps, earwigs, spiders, beetles, and God only knows what else. Someone - I have no idea who - laid some eggs. I was not happy to see this, and needless to say, I got rid of this leaf immediately and checked all other leaves extremely closely so that I wouldn't be ingesting any extra protein. This was lettuce surprise number 1.

Number 2 was the fact that when I went to cut off the leaves from the plant, a milky white substance oozed forth from where the stems attached to the rest of the plant. It looked like dandelion milk. When I think of dandelion milk, I also think ew, because...well, just because. So, when I saw romaine milk, I was all of a sudden put off my own lettuce.

Surprise number 3 was pleasant: lettuce regenerates itself after you cut the leaves from the plant. I had no idea this would happen. Who'd've thunk it? Certainly not I. I was just expecting to have a finite amount of romaine and I was fine with that. It looks, however, that I'll have more than I know what to do with.

Finally, the verdict. I made my favourite lettuce dish, Caesar Salad. I used Renee's light Caesar dressing, some organic croutons I bought cross border shopping the other week, and some parmeasan from the local overpriced grocery store. I made sure my lettuce was extra squeeky clean and free of unwanted reproductive deposits.

Unfortunately, I didn't like it. It was tough and bitter and I nearly cried because I was so looking forward to it! I could barely chew it. Now, I'll have to pawn off my lettuce to anyone unsuspecting enough to take it from me. I don't know if the newer, regenerated stuff will be better, but man...What I had just wasn't good.

Am I back to grocery store lettuce? I'm not sure yet. I just know that if I plant a garden again next year (still undecided on that front) I will try another variety of this veggie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Anadama Bread

Sometimes we have to branch out, right?

I needed bread, and it's cooled off considerably in the past few days, so I thought I'd make myself a loaf. Previously, I have made Anadama Bread, and posted about it here. Coincidentally, that was almost exactly two years ago...I wonder where this impulse came from, eh?

Anyways, I searched around on the net for a new Anadama recipe and came up with this one here. It involved way more molasses and it also required cooking up a cornmeal mush mixture, rather than just adding cornmeal raw to the flour mixture. I was game, so away I went.

When I was kneading the dough in my mixer, though, I thought it was a little dark. In fact, it looked a lot like gingerbread. But I plowed on!

Well, all I can say is this: I probably would have enjoyed gingerbread a whole lot more. This loaf was way too molasses-y and the taste was really intense. I like molasses well enough, but not this much. It was nearly unpalatable for me. I was hugely disappointed! The texture was great, however. I called my dad up to see if he would like the loaf, as he's much more flavoured bread.

Ah well. Not everything we make is a raging success, right?

During my research on Anadama Bread, I came across this site, which has a page telling the "real and authentic" story about the invention of this loaf.

Who knows? I just know I'm going back to my old tried and true recipe.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Blueberry Apple Crumble

Yes, another berry post!

My local overpriced grocery store recently had blueberries on sale (Fraser Valley-grown, I believe, so, though not local, they are at least from the same province), 4lbs for $9.99. Out of this, I got 11.5 cups of berries that I promptly froze. In June, I bought frozen blueberries from a huge big-box store that is extremely evil but also the cheapest place around for many grocery items. I wanted to use the frozen ones up before baking with the newer berries. Last weekend, I had a family dinner to attend, and since my family and its extensions all love blueberries and I needed enough for 12 people, I made a blueberry crumble. I also had some apples kicking around, so I added them for good measure.

For the filling, I used:

5 cups of blueberries and about 1.5 cups of sliced apples
2.5 tbsp cornstarch
juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup sugar

For the topping:

1 1/3 cups oatmeal
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup butter

Bake @ 350F for 40 - 50 minutes, or until golden and fruit is bubbling.

Now, I must admit this wasn't the greatest berry crumble I've ever made, and I think this had to do with the difference in quality in the frozen berries versus the berries I bought at the local overpriced grocery store. The crumble was a tad bland, and although I cut down on the sugar considerably because some people in the family are watching waistlines, one person had a fine enough palate to tell me that some of the berries seemed sweeter than others. Ah-ha! I can only imagine which berries were sweeter.

I learned, that for those of us who love to bake yet are on small budgets, buying fresh berries in season and freezing them is far cheaper than buying pre-frozen berries out of season. A good lesson.

Incidentally, I have no pictures of the dessert served up because we had dinner at the lake and it was dark out and busy and I just couldn't get it done properly.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quinoa with Black Beans

Quinoa has become one of my new favourite things. As versatile as rice with a high nutritional value, it's now a staple in my pantry. I came across this recipe in the September 2008 issue of Bon Appetit, and I had everything on hand, so I made it for dinner the other night.

This dish is beautiful in its simplicity, and not only is it healthy, vegetarian (and easily made vegan), high in fibre and tasty, it's also a one-pot meal - something that comes in very handy quite frequently. I used crumbled feta cheese on mine, and the saltiness this addes made for a very well-rounded flavour.

Quinoa with Black Beans & Cilantro

1 tbsp veg. oil
2 cups chopped white onions
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup quinoa
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water (I used chicken stock I had kicking around)
1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Crumbled Cotija Cheese or feta cheese, optional

Heat oil in heavy medium sauce pan, over medium high heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until they begin to soften. Stir in the next four ingredients. Add water; bring to boil. Cover; reduce heat to medium low and simmer until quinoa is almost tender - about 14 minutes. Add beans and 1/4 cup of the cilantro; cook uncovered until heated through and liquid is fully absorbed, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl and sprinkle with remaining cilantro, and, if using, the cheese.

I found this is great not only hot out of the pot, but cold the next day. Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Omnivore's 100

I got this from Jen, the Leftover Queen, and it was originally posted here.

Here’s what to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi (I had to look this up; here's what I found)
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (again, I had to look this up; it's a cheese)
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn or Head Cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I'm not a fan of anything this spicy)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Soudough Bowl (though I have had lots of clam chowder and I have had other soups in sourdough bowls)
33. Salted Lassi
34. Sauerkraut (this is disgusting!)
35. Root beer float (I hate root beer)
36. Cognac
37. Clotted Cream Tea (one of my favourite things!)
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more (whiskey gives me nasty acid reflux)
46. Fugu (AKA pufferfish)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV (I hate beer)
59. Poutine (YUCKY!!)
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads (blech, and I'm not a fan of organ meats)
63. kaolin (what? why?)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings (ew! no!)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost (I had this in Norway and didn't like it at all)
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose Harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (sorry, don't drink coffee)
100. Snake

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Shortage of Lemons

While cruising the aisles of my local overpriced grocery store the other day, I happened to notice that they were out of lemon juice. Plenty of lime juice, but no lemon. I didn't really think much of it at the time because, let's face it, grocery stores run out of stuff - it happens. I didn't need lemon juice, and usually, if I do need it, I buy a fresh lemon. But, at this particular grocery store, lemons are about 79 cents each, so I really have to want lemons if I'm going to spend that kind of money.

On the way out to the lake last weekend, my SIL was telling me that she and her mother, who run a catering business on top of their day jobs, were having a really hard time finding lemons and lemon juice. At Save-On Foods, they found a few lemons, but they were exorbitantly priced at 99 cents each. Lemon juice was also in short supply and they got the last bottle in the store.

Way back in the mists of time (which in this case was probably a couple of weeks ago), I do recall hearing about a citrus shortage of some kind, but had it in my mind that it had more to do with grapefruit, which I regularly buy on sale, but I have noted that there haven't been any on sale lately.

My roommate, J, works at the local overpriced grocery store part time, and I asked her what she knew of this lemon thing tonight as she baked huckleberry cornmeal muffins. She confirmed that there is a lemon shortage.

Lo and behold, the CBC has an article posted about this very issue.

But...I was in the States last week cross-border shopping. I cannot bring fresh produce over the border (nor, as it turns out, can I bring beef-flavoured cat food into Canada from the USA, but 5kg of beef for human consumption is just dandy) so I don't normally bother to look at the produce on offer. I did this time, though, and saw that lucky Americans can purchase a 2lb bag of lemons for $3.99 - and there were plenty of 2lb bags available! I am lime green with envy! (Limes, it appears, by the way, are not in short supply.)

The facts, as much as I can suss out:

  • 25% decrease in global lemon supply causes widespread lemon juice shortage
  • Freeze, wind and drought responsible for drastically reduced lemon yields
  • Despite shortage, experts claim supply should return to normal in 2009

The CBC story quotes someone from the Canadian Grocery Council, saying that lemon juice stocks should be replenished by the end of this month, though it does specify "large grocery stores."

Hm. I hope I'm not SOL for long!

In the meantime, A) I wonder why oranges are still readily available to me, B) I guess I should pay more attention to the 100 mile thing, and C) I hope I don't get a lemon craving anytime soon!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Huckleberry Pie

This year, according to everyone, has been an excellent year for huckleberries in the area. Probably because of the late spring and even later summer we had. My brother likes to pick huckleberries and has his own special little patch he won't even share with me. My roommate, J, and her mom are also huge huckleberry pickers, and many an evening this summer, they have gone to their special patches and come home utterly laden with berries. J has about 20+ cups of huckleberries stored away in the freezer, as a matter of fact, and Saturday she decided to make some pies.

She got up at 5:30 to do this, because, in case you didn't know, it's bloody ridiculously HOT here right now, and baking is the last thing anyone - including me - really wants to do right now. Since it's cooler first thing in the morning and J is a morning person to begin with, she got up at the crack of dawn to bake these pies, and I got a piece for breakfast.

This filling recipe is courtesy J's mom, and I have J's permission to publish it here. I do not have permission to publish the location of their berry patch - not that I know where it is anyways!

Berry Pie Filling

1 beaten egg
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cups berries

pastry for double-crusted 8" pie

Combine the first 4 ingredients, then fold in the berries. Put berries in pie shell and dot with butter. Put top crust on pie. Bake @ 450F for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350F and bake for an additional 35 - 45 minutes. J made a good call and baked the pies on a baking sheet because the filling can boil over and spill onto the floor of the oven, so I'd recommend doing this, too. I generally do that when making a fruit-filled pie.

The result: excellent! The initial poof of the hot oven helps make the crust nice and flakey, and the filling was delicious - tart and sweet at the same time.

I guess I should go out into the bush and find my own huckleberry patch, eh?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Russian Borscht

Not too long ago, I wrote about Russian Lasagne, a dish we regularly serve at work. I said in that post that I cannot give out the recipe because my boss would not be too happy with me, and I mentioned also that I often make borscht at work, and that I cannot share that recipe with you because it could get nasty around the shop.

So, I'll provide you with some pictures instead, some background info on borscht, and give you some hints as to what you can to do make a borscht similar to mine - making sure to be careful that I reveal nothing at all of the much-protected secret recipe.

Here is a good Wikipedia article about borscht in general. Indeed, most borschts I've had in my life have involved beets, and I am not a fan of beets. Thus, I've never been a real fan of borscht. Until this one came into my life with its two cups of cream and one cup of butter. This hearty soup, that contains a whack of cabbage and more than two but less than four pounds of potatoes, is quite common in these parts since we have a significant Doukhobor population here. Many Doukhobors in this area are vegetarians, and so this soup doesn't contain any meat. Root vegetables, as evidenced in this article, are very important in borscht. Indeed, apart from the potatoes already mentioned, a certain orange root vegetable with a vaguely phallic shape is also a part of my borsch. Also, more than two but less than three cups a huge ton of those things that are round, contain many layers, and make you cry when you slice them are required.

Since the work recipe doesn't contain beets, it must have something to give it a red colour. Use three tins of diced tomatoes your imagination. In terms of seasoning, think of a popular pickle flavour and triple it. Salt & pepper. Etc.

Now, I don't always add the stipulated green pepper. Though I know it's kind of traditional, see here, sometimes I can't be bothered, and no one has ever said anything when I don't add it. But, when I do at it, it does brighten the soup up a bit and make it look a little perkier.

This is a spectacular soup, we always sell out, and I never work on Fridays when it's served. I do, however, savour the moments I get to adjust the seasonings, using several tasting spoons to get it all just right. I love it. What else can I say?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fresh Strawberry Pie

I have to admit that I'm not a berry person. I like working with them and putting them in baking, and I'll eat the baking with the berries, but I don't like to just sit and pick at a bowl of berries. I am also not a huge fan of strawberries. Unless they're dipped in a lot of dark chocolate, I can think of a few dozen things I'd rather eat. But, for some weird reason, this dessert caught my eye when I started going through the June 2008 issue of Gourmet. It seemed different to me, and it was a simpler, summery recipe that looked easy to make. I recently had the opportunity to make it for a family dinner, and it also worked out that I could get 2lbs of strawberries for $5 at my local overpriced grocery store.

Recipe here.

Regarding ice baths...I rarely have enough ice hanging around to use as an ice bath, so what I did was cool the filling down to cold in a bath of ice water, then I set the pie in the freezer as opposed to the fridge. This worked like a charm.

It was a pretty impressive pie, in the end, and my family gobbled it up. It was so refreshing, and a nice change from the traditional baked berry pies. This had a few steps to it, but over all, it was an easy recipe, and the crust was fantastic. I felt it needed more than the 5oz of cookies because it was thin and I wasn't able to make the crust go to the top of the pie plate, but this is a minor adjustment for the next time I make this. I can also see this being easily adaptable to use other berries, like blueberries or huckleberries. Definitely a recipe I'll be keeping around!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Restaurant Review: Sunshine Cafe

Back when feta cheese was exotic in these parts (no, I am not kidding), the Sunshine Cafe was Rossland's semi-fine dining mecca. A great lunch and dinner place serving fresh salads, good burgers, chef-created dinner entrees, and it had good house-made cheesecake. Their signature was a feta and dill dressing whose recipe was a closely guarded secret. I had many a meal at the Sunshine, as it is referred to by locals, and they did take-away, too. Eventually, they branched out to breakfast. I worked for two years at a business kitty corner to the cafe, and I frequently ordered lunch from there, and the chef was a regular at my workplace, too. He was a nice guy and he had the market cornered.

I left in 1994, and when I came back in 2006, feta cheese was easy to come by at the local overpriced grocery store and the Sunshine Cafe had changed hands. And according to all sources, it had gone down the toilet considerably. When the new owners took over, they got the feta dill dressing recipe as part of the deal, but the Sunshine was never the same. I never went back, and I discovered that The Flying Steamshovel does a decent feta dill dressing now anyways.

In the last few months, the Sunshine has again changed hands. It had been for sale for the two years I'd been back, and finally someone bought it. It's been renovated and repainted, the menu has been updated, there is fresh specialty baking and decent coffee on offer, and from all accounts I'd heard, it was now a great place to eat for not a whole pile of money. Shortly after it opened, I stopped in to take a look because the signs outside touted home-baked goods, many of them gluten free, sugar free, and/or dairy free. I had a brownie that was pretty darn good. Earlier this week, my brother and I went there to have lunch.

The menu is colourfully displayed on a board at the front of the cafe, and as you can see, there is nothing earth-shattering on it. There is an all-day breakfast option after 11am, and twice a week there is a dinner menu with four specials that change each time. Simple though it may seem, the lunch we had today was great - back to the fresh and well-prepared food of the Sunshine heydays. Because I love Clubhouses, that's what I had. It was your typical triple-decker, and contained sliced Black Forest ham, turkey, and swiss cheese. The soup today was butternut squash, so I opted for fries. My brother had a chicken burger (there is also a beef, veggie, and salmon option) with ham, swiss cheese, and mushrooms, also with fries (we're not a squash-loving bunch). Because the kitchen has been opened up, I could view other dishes as well, and the salads looked well-portioned and appetizing. The baking on offer included banana huckleberry muffins, a huckleberry turnover, and a gluten free cranberry brownie. For dessert, opted for the brownie. Now, it is gluten free, so I didn't quite know what to expect. It was dry. Though it was tasty, the texture left a lot to be desired, but I guess if you can't have wheat, it would be a pretty good treat.

The Club with fries was $9 and my brother's burger about $10. For not a lot of money, we had a really nice lunch, and I can say with confidence: the Sunshine Cafe is back! Woo-hoo!

Edit @ 2:45pm: This post was actually written on Monday. Today, I once again had lunch at the Sunshine, this time with my other brother. I had a chicken burger with bacon, swiss, and sauteed mushrooms. The burger was served on a multigrain bun with spring mix, tomato, mayo, and red onion. It was excellent! Once again, the Sunshine delivered!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Carrot & Pork Dumplings

In May, I reviewed Beyond the Great Wall by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, and I did this dumpling recipe for the meal I made for my family. Out of the seven items I made, the dumplings were by far the most popular.

I'd never made Asian dumplings before, having written them off as too fiddly and not worth it. I learned, however, that they are soooooooooo worth the effort, because nothing is as comforting, warming, and nourishing as a bowl of steaming hot noodles filled with yummy stuff. For a Magazine Monday post, I made a Canadian Living dumpling recipe using shrimp, and they were awesome.

My SIL just had surgery on her right arm, so I was thinking of what I could make for a family meal that wouldn't require cutting, and, since I'm in comfort food mode these days due to my ever-fluctuating mood, the dumplings seemed to fit the bill.

Carrot and Pork Dumplings, adapted from page 150-151 of Beyond the Great Wall

1 medium carrot, grated
1/4lb ground pork (or ground lamb)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp roasted sesame oil
(I also added some finely chopped green onion since I had some left over)

NB: While the recipe in the book has us making our own dumpling dough from the Kazakh Noodle dough recipe, I have chosen instead to go with the easier and lazier route of using won-ton wrappers found in my local over-priced grocery store. I also double the recipe to feed four hungry people as a main course. The original recipe also instructs the cook to parboil the carrot, but I get around that step by just grating the carrot right into the filling mixture.


Mix all the ingredients together until well-combined. I used my hands, but if you want, a fork works well, too.

Place a scant 1 - 1 1/2 tsp filling in each won-ton wrapper (I have a #100 cookie scoop that works perfectly for this). Wet a pastry brush with some water and brush the edges of the won-ton wrapper. Pinch to seal and set aside on a baking sheet.

Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil. Ten at a time (or thereabouts), toss in the dumplings and wait for the water to come back to the boil. After about a minute, the dumplings will float to the surface and bob around. Cook them for about another half a minute or so, then, using a skimmer, spider, or slotted spoon, scoop them out of the pot and put them into a bowl. Repeat. Serve piping hot with dipping sauce.

Soy Vinegar Dipping Sauce (page 151)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar (the original recipe specifies Jinjiang, a black rice vinegar, but I don't have any Asian specialty stores close by, so I just used the rice vinegar I could find)
2 tbsp shredded ginger

For this particular meal, I served the dumplings with a cabbage slaw I made using shredded cabbage, grated carrot, grated radishes, chopped cilantro, and sliced green onions, dressed with a Tamari Peanut salad dressing purchased from the "reduced for quick sale" bin at my local overpriced grocery store. My SIL made a Thai rice noodle salad with a peanut butter and lime-flavoured dressing. All in all, a totally satisfying meal.

The one thing I did learn, though, is that not all won-ton wrappers are created equal. The new ones I bought for this meal were very thin, broke easily when stuffed, and dried out very quickly. The older ones from the BtGW meal where thicker and sealed better, and were definitely easier to work with. So, I'll go back to that brand next time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sour Cream Polenta Bread

During a recent stint in hospital, the activities coordinator asked if I'd like to bake, and provided me with a pile of old, probably donated, but decent cookbooks. I wasn't really in the mood to bake, but this cornmeal bread caught my eye. I didn't get to bake it while in the hospital because the activities coordinator got busy with other stuff and she has to be in the kitchen with patients to supervise, but I copied down the recipe so I could make this at home.

Sour Cream Polenta Bread

1 ½ cups fine cornmeal
½ cup plain flour
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 ¼ cups sour cream
2 Tbsp veg. oil
½ tsp poppy seeds

  • Sift together dry ingredients
  • In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients
  • Combine contents of both bowls
  • Sprinkle with seeds
  • Bake 30 min. at 400F, then reduce temp. to 350F. Continue baking for 15 – 20 minutes, or until loaf is golden and baked through.
Yeah, it came out looking like a brick! But, I guess I shouldn't be surprised because there isn't much flour in this recipe. It tasted great however, and had a nice, corny crunch. It could have been a bit sweeter, but some jam would fit the bill very well. It's dense enough that it can be toasted for breakfast, too!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Garden Bounty: Beans and Dill

This year I planted a garden. I haven't done this since childhood, but in the spirit of the 100 Mile Diet and general greening, I decided to plant a small veggie patch this year. It's been quite the adventure, and I'm not sure I'm enjoying it as much as I thought I would.

My garden has seen its share of adversity. First, we had a really late spring and summer, so our already short growing season was made even shorter. We had snow on June 10, necessitating my scrambling to cover up my little seedlings - only planted two short weeks previously. The plants I started indoors didn't all survive the transplanting process, which was frustrating and unfortunate. I also had a seriously nasty, bitch of a weed that has caused me nothing but strife! And, let's not forget the neighbourhood cats that were digging around in the garden shortly after I planted it. We also had huge hail twice and a very damaging wind storm.

But, I am glad to say that some things have survived all the adversity! I have an actual bean crop. At first, it didn't look like I'd get many beans, and I jokingly said to my family that I had a whole four beans, but I guess I should have been more patient, because then I had nine beans, and then enough to actually count as a decent serving. And there are still more popping up on the plants! The other night, I harvested the wax beans to have with a meal. I also have healthy dill, which I'm very pleased about. Sockeye salmon is fresh in the stores now, so I made a dinner of wax beans, rice, and salmon with my dill and some lemon.

The beans were good. I mean, they're beans, right? They tasted beany. The dill was dilly - no surprise. The salmon was baked to perfection if I do say so myself. It was quite a lovely meal, actually, and for a few moments I was able to forget all the annoyances I'd experienced in bringing this dinner to my own table. For a few moments, it was all worth it.

Next up: I have a bumper crop of basil and a whack of lettuce I need to do something with.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

I cannot say enough about my Cuisinart ice cream maker: it's easy to use, makes wicked ice cream and frozen yogurt, and it's just plain cool.

During our recent run of really ridiculously hot weather, it seemed only natural to get out my little machine and make myself some ice cream - even though my favourite flavour was on sale at my local overpriced grocery store.

I decided to make mint chocolate chip, my perennial favourite.

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp pure mint extract (or to taste)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 (100g) bar of your favourite chocolate (I used a bar of Ghirardelli baking chocolate I had on hand), chopped up
green food colouring, optional

I have a large (1L) glass liquid measuring cup that I mix the cream, milk and sugar in to begin with. Then I add the flavouring, tasting and adjusting as necessary. I start the machine up and pour it all in, adding the chocolate chunks closer to the end of the process because you just need to mix them in. Easy peasy!

Some other frozen desserts I've made with this machine:

lemon ice cream
grapefruit sorbet
lemon-ginger frozen yogurt

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Restaurant Review: The Preserved Seed

The small city of Nelson is about an hour away from here, and it's our local mecca for...well, what I'll refer to as "alternative lifestyle" stuff. It's also where some of the best restaurants in the area are located. If you ever visit this city, which is perched on the mountainside overlooking a beautiful, glacier-fed lake, you can be assured you'll eat very well.

The Preserved Seed is run by the Twelve Tribes living and farming in the Nelson area. The food is locally grown or farmed, mostly organic, fresh, well-prepared, and many dishes on the menu have vegan and vegetarian-friendly versions. Some of the food is even grown and harvested from their own farm, located 15km outside of Nelson. They also specialize in yerba mate teas. Additionally, you can purchase their organic salad mixes for a reasonable price at the cafe.

The restaurant is located in a converted house, and you can, weather permitting, sit outside under the shade of some giant maple trees, or if you want, go in and enjoy your meal in a mellow atmosphere. The staff are extremely friendly and the service, though not traditional table service, is excellent.

The food at the Preserved Seed is simple. The menu consists of a few sandwiches made with high quality ingredients and home-baked bread, wraps, fresh salads in a house-made vinagrette, some rice dishes, and homemade soups served with sourdough bread. The specials are listed on the huge chalkboard near the bar, where you order from. I almost always get the Deli Rose sandwich, which is organic, hormone-free roast beef served on a spelt bun with spicy ketchup, onion, tomato, mozzarella and mustard (which I always request to have omitted). They also have a chicken reuben I've never tried as I'm not a huge fan of sourkrout. The rice medley dishes can be served with meat or tofu and are totally yummy.

But the reason I love the Preserved Seed so much is the coconut cream pie. OH.MY.GOD. It is excellent! Obviously, the coconuts are not local, but it doesn't matter. This is the most exceptionally amazing coconut cream pie I've ever had. It's just perfect in every way a coconut cream pie can be perfect. The filling is creamy and rich and full of shredded coconut, and the graham cracker crust is always ample (I hate thin graham crusts!). It's served with real whipped cream, and as you can see, simply plated with a slice of orange. They also do a totally awesome key lime square that I have tasted and thought was wicked. These two desserts go for $4 each, and I know that in the case of the coconut cream pie you can buy a slice at the Kootenay Co-op market for $4.

For local, organic, high-quality food, this is a very affordably-priced eatery. The Deli Rose sandwich is $9, as is the reuben. You'll have to forgive me for not including a picture of the sandwich; I tucked in before remembering to photograph it!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Real Gingerbread

I know it's summer, but... I just had this craving for something autumnal, something warm and spicy. Since Magazine Monday is on hold until Ivonne gets back from holiday next month, I'll post this magazine recipe today instead.

I was recently gifted with a bunch of baking supplies from my brother and SIL, who are moving across the country at the end of this month. I took what I would normally use, and they had a lot of molasses they wanted to unload. While molasses isn't necessarily that expensive, these things add up, and I do like gingery-molassesy things. This recipe, from the March 2007 issue of Gourmet, uses fresh ginger, not the powdered kind. And it's great. The texture of this cake is wonderfully moist, and that is in part attributable to the hot water you add to the batter, so don't get all lazy and add cold water instead.

You could totally dress this up with some creme anglaise or some other reasonable immitation of a vanilla custard, or serve it warm with vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream.

I have gobbled down two chunks of this already today, before it was even cooled. Um...I'm going to gift the rest of it, I think, to a convalescing family member.

The recipe can be found here.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Homemade Pizza

According to my brother, I make the best pizza. He'd even rather have mine than the stuff from the local, gourmet-ish pizza place two blocks away at Idgie's. Well, who am I to argue? This week, he requested pizza and yesterday I made two for a family dinner.

It was a bit of a team effort. I made the dough, caramelized the onions (recipes and method for these two items are here), and did the baking and assembly. My dad provided ground buffalo (he has a ton and wanted to get rid of some to free up room in his freezer), buffalo pepperoni from a local butcher, campari tomatoes for his portion of the pizzas (my brother and I hate tomatoes), and some sharp cheddar cheese to blend with the low-fat mozzarella I bought.

It's always advisable to saute down your veggies when making pizza because otherwise, they'll lose their liquid in the pizza-baking process, making for a watery pizza. Taking the time to caramelize the onions creates a great flavour contrast for your pizza: sweet with savoury. It's worth the work!

I love buffalo meat: it's lower in fat that regular beef, is more humanely kept, isn't full of hormones and other iffy chemicals, and it has a great, rich flavour. The buffalo pepperoni was wonderful, too, and not too spicey.

We finished off the meal with ice cream my dad brought. What could possibly be better, for someone like me, whose two favourite foods are pizza and ice cream? My brother was also in heaven - and both of us came home with left-over pizza; he'll take his for lunch today, and I plan on eating mine for breakfast.


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