Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Walking in a Winter Wonderland

no hunting
om nomKeetah on a leash
snowy trailsnowflakes and dog face
walking in winterblue birches

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Skor Bars

layers of deliciousness homemade skor bars

So Christmas is essentially over. Most of you are now probably suffering from turkey and stuffing induced comas, or are in the process of recovery, and have already dug out the sweatpants of shame from that dark corner of the closet. In any case, I hope everyone has enjoyed this past day, in whatever way, in gluttony or otherwise, and that it was full of laughter and love. Or, if your family is anything like mine, it was full of danger and pain - the kind of danger and pain that comes of attempting to have a fondue fest, which, theoretically speaking, seems like an awesome idea, but when made into a reality, turns into survival of the fittest, in which a group of people, armed with sharp and pointy objects, crowded around a stove in a kitchen corner, fight for the space to cook their food in pots of boiling hot oil. As it turns out, combining starving people, fork swords, small spaces, and boiling oil, results in a kind of turmoil that leads to burns, blisters, and a great deal of confusion.

I'm pretty sure my grandfather had no idea what the hell was going on - he stood in the kitchen, staring at the violence taking place around the stove, looking confused and lost, as if he was wondering where the food was and if he had wandered into the wrong house and been taken in by a group of actors now rehearsing the opening scene of Macbeth. I myself remained in the safety of the living room, drinking tea and eating a balanced dinner of Ferrero Rocher (all three flavours!).

I had fun, I hope you did too.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roasted Garlic Broccoli Soup

Roasted Garlic and Broccoli Soup

There was a time when I ate broccoli on a weekly basis. I was eating my greens like a pro. Lately, however, not so much. Lately, I've been craving Tostitos, cheese, and roasted potatoes. And chocolate. But obviously eating just those things is not a good idea. And I don't. Unless I drink a lot of sangria...after which, anything goes. But shh, we won't talk about that.

Because I'm here to bring you broccoli. This soup is basically a giant bowl of broccoli, only minus the chewing (you could feed it to a baby...if you have one, or know someone who does). It's also full of roasted garlic, which, if you haven't had it before, you should. Roasting garlic gives it a sweeter, richer taste, much milder but more nuanced (yeah, I just called garlic nuanced) than raw garlic. It's amazing. And you can totally use a whole head in this soup and not be overwhelmed by garlic or be afraid of speaking to people afterwards.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Spiced Sweet Potato, Spinach and Chickpea Stew

Indian inspired chickpea dish

Sometimes the best recipes happen by accident. Like this one. It was born out of a fear that the spinach in my fridge, if not used Immediately, was going to transform into a horrific swamp thing reminiscent of B horror movies.

I confess that I have something of an issue with spinach. I don't dislike it exactly. At least as long as I can't taste it - or can't taste it very well. Because, let's face it, despite the fact that it's one of those Really Healthy Vegetables that we all know we should eat more of, it tastes like dirt, which is not something I put in my mouth voluntarily. Even Popeye, the classic spinach advocate, could only promote spinach as a viable food option through its benefits, because no one would eat it for its own sake. Popeye taught us to eat spinach because it will make you strong, sexually attractive and - and this part is key - sexually successful. Spinach was the original steroid. (Only it gives you biceps and grateful women, not breasts. At least according to Popeye.)

So anyways...I do eat spinach. Not because I want to attract women, punch large people senseless or crush trains with my fist, but because I want to be healthy. And eating greens makes me feel like I'm succeeding at life. Sort of.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

pumpkin pie, smoothie-fied

I'm going through a pumpkin phase. I seem to want to make a pumpkin version of everything. Soup, breakfast, ice cream...and why not? Pumpkin is delicious. Pumpkin pie is delicious. Only it involves a lot of butter - at least if you want to do pie right. Not that butter is a bad thing. I love butter. All people should love butter. But pie for breakfast isn't always the greatest idea. It may look like a great idea if you are hungover or have spent the entire night writing a paper and it's five a.m. and you need motivation to live. But it's still not a good idea. Trust me.

Not that I've eaten pie for breakfast. I may have...eaten cake for breakfast. (I had to prevent it from going to waste!) Although then there was that time with the cookie dough...and the marmalade...which I ate with a fork, because toast seemed like an unnecessary accessory. Yeah, I've made poor breakfast choices in my life. I admit it.

But here is a version of Pie For Breakfast that doesn't involve guilt or send you into a sugar coma. So get excited. Pie for breakfast! It's win-win.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Whole Grain Apple Muffins

whole grain apple muffins

These muffins came about because of a promise made to friends while drinking. Please note, however, that I say "drinking" and not "drunk." Because, while in the past I may have consumed certain amounts of alcohol and then proceeded to make use of electrical appliances, in this case I was perfectly sober. If completely exhausted. But I promised my perhaps slightly inebriated friends that I would make them muffins and have them over for tea. Because I'm cool like that.

This also served a practical purpose for me, as there is nothing like the prospect of company to send one into a cleaning frenzy, which my apartment sorely need.

And oh, did I frenzy clean. I am already a neat-freak by nature, but I'm also incorrigibly lazy. Except for the kitchen, which I neaten and wipe down obsessively, other rooms tend to be neglected. Until, that is, I am struck by the Cleaning Urge and Everything Must Be Cleaned and there is no stopping until order and cleanliness reign once again. And then I fall over, but glorify in the new-found cleanliness of my surroundings.

So Friday I cleaned. I cleaned so hard I had to turn on the AC. Full blast. I mopped vigorously. I found rotting things. I was horrified. I dealt with them. I vacuumed the stairs with violence. I probably strained my muscles. And I sweated. It was not pretty. I had all the horrible kinds of sweat - the neck sweat, the back sweat, the...well, I won't go on. But the apartment was clean, and so I was filled with joy.

And then I made these muffins, which I then fed to my now not-drunk friends. You should too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple Celery Salad

green crunchgreen crunch b&w

The other week, I got together with some friends for a potluck. And ate. So much food. I know, I should be speaking of the massive overeating that is Thanksgiving, but it's actually been several years since I've experienced an authentic Thanksgiving meal. This year I went out for Indian instead. I highly recommend it.

But anyways, to return to the over-eating incident. We went from eating vegetable chips and quinoa salad to devouring banana bread, brownie cake, and peanut butter cookies. And alcohol. There was some of that involved as well. It resulted in the kind of fullness that makes you understand the plight of beached whales. The kind where you go to bed and can't sleep properly because your pajamas don't want to accommodate the extra five pounds you've brought to bed with you, without an invitation. The kind of sensation that tends to follow Christmas dinners and leads you to make a New Year's Resolution to only eat broccoli and cucumber for a month.

Well, suffice to say I didn't make any resolutions regarding cucumber diets or lemon juice fasts. I'm not totally crazy. Or so I tell myself.

What I did do - the day after, mind you, when I no longer felt the need to lie down and die, and I could walk with ease, instead of lumbering around on all fours like a poorly coordinated child - was make this salad. It's crunchy, refreshing, and full of green things, and doesn't reduce your mobility to that of a sloth's.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spicy Corn Salad

Spicy Corn Salad, take 1

I've been obsessed with creating the perfect corn salad for the past month, so it's somewhat bittersweet to finally succeed in creating one just as the corn season is ending. I have to confess that, just being able to have in-season corn available for longer than three weeks in August has been a bit of a new experience for me. I've been supremely lucky to have a green-thumbed father (whose passion for his garden sometimes borders on obsession) who has always - or at least as long as I can recall - had a corner of the garden set aside for corn.

As I've mentioned elsewhere, however, Red Lake is not exactly the Fertile Crescent. In fact, it's more of a Hostile Crescent, and the things that do grow in it are either things that will kill you, things that never die, and a few edible things that die almost instantly. Basically, Red Lake is good for blueberries (abundant for about two seconds in August) and deformed Christmas trees. Oh, and moss. There's a lot of that around too. And clover, which I ate once. When I was five. Kind of like the poor man's arugula.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Curried Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup

curried pumpkin soup

Almost one month ago, I arrived in Toronto, full of terror and excitement, and suddenly surrounded by Starbucks.

Since that day, which feels strangely distant, I've learned many things, such as how to use the subway, open fancy apartment lobbies (not by hitting the touchscreen with your brother's wallet, apparently), to expect and even embrace the random stench of garbage that feels like a punch in the throat, how to use a cellphone (screaming when it rings is not exactly useful as it turns out), that pitchers of sangria are the best thing ever, to always distrust public washrooms, and don't ask women with toddlers for directions - especially when it's raining.

It's been a good time, in short. And now it's almost October, which means several things. Things like the sudden ubiquitousness of all things orange, increased coffee intake, decreased sangria intake, coats, and the end of sandal-wearing days. Some of these things are, clearly, to be lamented. But I'm not here to focus on the negative. I'm here to focus on the orange.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

"Ice Cream" Cake


Several weeks ago I was in the grocery store, wandering through the produce section, when I found myself face to face with a banana box, full of ripe bananas, marked down to $5.

Now perhaps a normal person would have merely glanced at it and thought, "Now that's a lot of bananas," and continued about their business. I, however, stopped, stared, and began to visualize the smoothies, loaves of banana bread, ice cream and who knows what else that I could make with several kilograms of bananas. For five dollars. Which worked out to something like five cents a banana. I wouldn't have to buy another banana all summer!

So, without further ado, I hoisted the giant box of bananas and waddled, huffing and puffing, over to the cash register, plunked it down, and then repeated the huffing waddle process again on my way to the car. Despite the weight and the heat, and the overall awkwardness of stuffing a giant box of bananas into one's car, I was full of glee.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Iced Latte

iced latte, b&w

My parents have been retired four years now, since the moment I graduated high school and their nest was finally empty, of both myself and my brother - at least periodically, with both of us away at school, supposedly becoming grownups. With the house de-childrenized and their new found release from the workforce, my parents hardly wasted any time before planning trips across the globe, to the United Kingdom, Portugal, Egypt and - rather to my surprise - Las Vegas. So this summer, in their usual retirement glory, my parents went away for the month of July to gallivant around Turkey and Greece. And so I found myself an independent once again, adult responsibility dropping on me out of the sky like Dorothy's house from Kansas.

Not to say that I was crushed by this turn of events (I should really cut this metaphor short) - on the contrary, I looked forward to feeling independent again. And also to being able to have the entire kitchen to myself. And to be able to leave my laptop and my (somewhat unwieldy) speakers out on the dining room table without fear of their being moved or tinkered with, and of course having the freedom to blast music from said speakers with abandon. I had free reign of the household - and it was awesome.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rhubarb Sauce

aerial rhubarb

Rhubarb crops up every spring, and everywhere, in Red Lake, one of the only vegetables tough enough to actually flourish in a northern climate on its own, what with our long winters and paltry soil. It grows wild almost anywhere, making its appearance on nearly every Red Lake resident's property, whether they want it there or not. It still has its designated patch along the side of my parents' house, and has been there as long as I can remember.

A seasonal vegetable, which I have never once seen in a supermarket, it's always been firmly rooted in those fading days of spring and the early weeks of summer, when days began to lengthen and I could start running through sprinklers on the front lawn. In the kitchen, it always figured most prominently in the form of jelly. As a child, the sight of large mason jars, holding sacs of cheesecloth filled with pureed rhubarb, slowly draining its juice, was both familiar to me and yet odd, a part of some strange science experiment my mother conducted annually. The sacs of cheesecloth, stuffed with rhubarb and stained a dark pink, looked a bit like...well, a bit like harvested organs. Suffice to say, I was always a little put off by them. Yet I delighted in taste testing the batch of jelly (but then, I loved eating just about anything sweet), happily spooning the still-warm sugary goo into my mouth.

This sauce, well tarter and more intensely flavourful, accented with the bitterness of orange and the warmth of cinnamon, I would as happily spoon into my mouth.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Running Revival

orange ginger punchcubular

Years ago, I used to be a runner. And by "runner" I mean I used to jog a few kilometres on a relatively regular basis during the summer months, and sometimes in fall and spring. I was on the cross country team a few times, but basically anyone who could run three km without passing out or vomiting could be on the team. I wasn't half bad myself, probably for those reasons. I could jog several kilometres without stopping and usually managed to muster a sprint at the very end, and I never came absolutely last, but I never progressed much beyond the average jogger.

A few years back, though, I started going for longer jogs than before, up to 13.5 km, which, to me, was like a miracle. I even began to almost enjoy it, which was even more miraculous. Running, though I'd done it for years, was never a pleasant experience. I did it for the high at the end, the feeling of accomplishment, the "Look! I put my body through all this pain and lived!" And of course I did it because it was exercise, it required minimum gear, and I didn't have to pay for a membership to get myself out on the road at some ungodly hour and pound the pavement.

All was going well, and I was even thinking of training to run a half marathon, but then I made the very bad mistake of going out for a long run just twenty minutes after eating. Despite the severe cramps that made me feel like I was getting knifed through the intestines, I stubbornly stuck to my route. Eventually, however, I had to acknowledge the reality of my situation, but resolutely believed that I could make it in time to the beach near the end of my route where there were public washrooms. When I got to the beach, nearly crippled with pain, I half ran, half hobbled up to the washrooms like a maimed dwarf, and desperately pulled on the door. It was locked.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Cashew Milk

cashew milk a fresh glass

I recently decided, in an attempt clear my skin and improve my overall health, to eliminate all dairy products, refined sugar and coffee from my diet, and while I initially thought I would fail, as I do most times I get up in the morning and say to myself, "No sugar today, Liz," or, "You can't eat ice cream for breakfast, Liz," etc. etc, this time, I've - so far - managed to succeed.

I have been loading up on dates, raisins, and currants, as my sweet tooth still calls to me powerfully, and though I feel that, ideally, I should cut out such luxuries and convert to stevia (which I have never really liked, unfortunately) and really go sugar-free, I'm taking this one day at a time, and may even get there yet. I'm still surprised that I've made it this far - I thought it would be impossible for me to refrain from tasting all the cakes, brownies, and cookies I make at work. Say no to the cheesecake that always clings to the knife after you've cut it? Don't lick the spoon covered in chocolate ganache? Inconceivable! And yet, just saying "no" has turned out to be the easiest of solutions. Before I always allowed myself to give in, thinking, "Oh, I'll just have a little bit," or "I need to know what it tastes like so I know it turned out." There was no real commitment to not eating sweet things. I thought I wouldn't be able to live properly if I couldn't eat desserts. They're my thing, how could I give them up? I'm pretty sure that most people at my university were convinced that I lived off cookie dough. I can honestly say, though, that this feels like one of the best decisions I've made in a while. I feel so much more in control over my diet and my body, which, ironically, gives me a feeling of relief. Even freedom.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Chocolate Nut Spread

just a scoop, or two

The first time I made chocolate nut butter coincided with my first encounter with cannabis, followed by a daylong hangover and a neutered cat.

It involved vodka strawberry smoothies, Risk (in which I lost all of Europe), and My Neighbor Totoro, and then a slightly drunk, possibly high stumble back to my apartment, where I forced my friend who had kindly walked me home to eat my homemade nutella. Which I then ate to get rid of the horrible memory of marijuana from my mouth, throat, and mind, as trying it had made me think that my esophagus was going to shrivel up and die and that, in general, I was losing the ability to breathe.

That was at four in the morning, and I was awoken rather abruptly less than four hours later at 8 a.m. by the ringing of the doorbell, the sound of which always made me feel like I was about to be attacked by a SWAT team. With the questionable use of my limbs, I answered the door to an old lady carrying a cat carrier, because today (or that day) was the day that Dorian was getting neutered.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Peanut Butter Coconut Truffles

There are times when I am gripped with inexplicable urges to bake, or create something dessert-ish, and I so I find myself in the kitchen, agonizing over some ridiculous creation until 1 in the morning, determined to produce something edible, even if it means losing hours of precious sleep before I find myself in a different kitchen, on my feet for another nine hours or more, stewing over some other recipe (my job, I mean).

And so that's what happened this past Sunday. I created, and then I brought them to work, and my coworkers loved them, more than I had expected, so I felt compelled to recall my mad midnight experimentation and share the recipe. I've been meaning to post this all week, but, alas, my habitual laziness, combined with the physical exhaustion resultant of working in a restaurant, and also (more probably) my obsession with finding a nicer blog layout (despite numerous failed html codes, endless googling and confusion), has delayed this post until now.

I hope you won't delay in making these, however, as they really are quite delicious. You could probably even get away with eating them instead of meals, especially if you're doing something like serving in a restaurant, running around like a very confused and very dumb bird, sweating in more places than you feel comfortable talking about, and then getting so desperately hungry that you feel prepared to eat your customers' faces off. Or maybe just their food.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Coffee

I am a coffee fiend. I have not yet reached the point that a day without coffee leaves me shaking, suffering from headaches, or screaming at innocent children and punching old men (although I do hit my father on a regular basis - I'm preparing him for elder abuse for when he gets put in a senior home), but I do love coffee. A good cup of coffee, that is. (Although I enjoy Tim Horton's coffee, which some people consider synonymous with swill.) For the longest time, however, I have been unable to make myself a good cup of coffee, or at least been able to consistently make a good cup of coffee. And more often than not, I ended up making a cup of coffee so strong that it was capable of burning a hole straight to your colon. An image I'm sure most of you will cherish.

Finally, however, I have mastered the Damn Good Cup of Coffee, using this little gadget my brother gave me for Christmas three years ago. Yes, three years ago. In my defense, I didn't use it very often. But since being back home, I've gotten the hang of this thing. I highly recommend purchasing this doohicky, especially if you're a student like me, with limited funds, a year of late nights looming before you, and very likely campus coffee that tastes like it was filtered through the lunch lady's hairnet.

So I bring you aeropress coffee, perfect for sipping on a Sunday afternoon whilst reading a ridiculously large novel, or any time of day, really. Because, as far as I'm concerned, whenever one has a cup of coffee, it should be good. Especially should you find yourself awake at some ludicrous hour of the day, when most sane people are sleeping, and your brain is struggling to remember the order in which you put on your clothes, or what day of the week it is. It's those times that demand a cup of coffee like this.

Damn Good Cup of Coffee
Coffee Beans (whole or ground)
Hot Water

1. Coffee quality is crucial here - I generally buy Just Us coffee; I especially like their dark roasts. I find that, with this method, it produces a very rich tasting coffee, so you can really taste the coffee bean flavour. So go ahead and splurge on coffee (if you're snobby like me) - I guarantee you'll taste the difference.

2. If using whole bean coffee, measure out (using the aeropress scoop) two scoops of beans into your coffee grinder, and grind for about 10 seconds. If using ground, scoop the coffee directly into your aeropress tube.

3. While assembling your aeropress and grinding your coffee, boil some water. Right before it boils, take it off the heat or (if using an electric kettle) turn it off. You don't want the water to be boiling temperature when you add it to your aeropress, as that will kill some of the flavour. The recommended temperature for making coffee is 195 - 205˚ F (92 - 96˚ C). Once your aeropress is ready to brew, and your water is at the right temperature (I always just guestimate, but feel free to use a thermometer if you want to be exact) pour the water over the coffee grounds until it reaches the number that corresponds to the number of scoops you used.

4. Using the stir stick, stir coffee grounds and water together for about ten seconds. Then take your plunger, insert it and push down gently (Aeropress recommends for about 20 seconds).

5. Once you pushed all the water out through the filter, you're left with espresso (minus the $1000 a machine would cost you). To clean up your aeropress, just unscrew the filter cap and, using the plunger, pop the puck of coffee grounds into the compost. You can compost the filter as well, or reuse it (each one is good for at least 3 cups of coffee).

6. You can now either enjoy your espresso as is, add milk and heat it up for a latte, or, as I do, add boiling water for American style coffee and then add your fixings.

7. Savour and delight in the joy of a damn good cup of coffee.