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May 20, 2009

Dim Sum Mismatch

In celebration of the end of the semester, a friend of mine and I undertook an expedition to Emerald House Chinese Restaurant in Mississauga, Ontario where we ate many and varied things. For example, I got to try tripe! It was a wonderful experience and the restaurant probably deserves its own review-type write up. However, this is not that.


You know those sensory driven moments when you smell or see or hear something and it reminds you of something else, but the memory of what it reminds you of gets caught in the machinery of your brain and you can't quite recall it because the ringing of the bell, if you will, in the present isn't quite in tune with the past so you are incapable of perfect recall?


I had that experience whilst eating dim sum. Specifically, while eating this:


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Now, it looks like some sort of fried dumpling. Crispy on the outside, filled with goodness on the inside. Great. No problems there. I was exciting about trying this, the only fried thing we ate. And, then I bit into it. It was a pork dumpling, which was great as I enjoy eating pork. Except, there was something off about it. Something that just didn't belong as part of the experience. And, I just couldn't put my finger on it. The pork was in some sort of gravy that was creamy and a little sweet and it was surrounded by some dough that had the consistency of mashed potatoes. I puzzled over this for a really long time and then it hit me: this fried dumpling tasted a little like the Chinese equivalent to biscuits and gravy. Only, instead of the biscuit (made from dough with a consistency similar to mashed potatoes) being smothered in sausage gravy it was surrounding it. And, because everyone interprets the dish a little differently, the gravy was made with chunks of pork and mushroom instead of pork sausage and it was slightly sweet and not at all peppery. This little dumpling was one the oddest food experiences I've had in a good, long while. It even trumped my first experience with tripe.

March 23, 2009

Shopping? Cooking? Cost of food?

So, I'm watching CNN, waiting for the last of the home grown sweet potatoes to finish roasting and I'm watching this piece of Victory Gardens and how people are growing their own veg in an effort to save money. I think they were trying to connect this to Michelle Obama's brand new kitchen garden (Which is obviously where they got the "victory garden" nomenclature as the First Lady's is the first working food garden at the White House since World War II.) I've been thinking about growing some of my own veg this summer. A friend of mine suggested that since I already have the grow lights (for my orchids) I might as well make it an indoor/outdoor garden. This isn't a bad idea. I need to ask my building manager if she'd mind if I had large potted plants (in the corner of the parking lot, maybe?) The large pots would be so that I could move them inside and outside.

There are a number of things that can be grown on a shortened season so that you have a rotating crop that is replanted every three months or so. Many lettuces can be grown this way.

Its a good budgetary thing, being able to provide some of your own produce, because here's my thing: Money should never be a factor when it comes to getting all the nutrients you need. I know that it is, world wide, a phenomenon that people who can't afford to eat, don't. But, at the moment I'm more concerned by being able to afford to eat, just not being able to afford to eat right. That sounds stupid, right? But, when you can get all kinds of crap off of Fast food dollar menus, why spend the money on the fresh broccoli or fish or other lean meat. Especially since the things that are typically better for you are also typically more expensive. Which makes me think of the KFC commercial that says, "Hey, you can't make our bucket meal for what you'd pay for a bucket meal." They show a family flitting around a grocery store adding up the cost of a flour, spices, chicken, corn, potatoes, etc. I think this is a little unfair. I'm a baker. I'm on my second five pound bag of flour. And, with that I've made my own chicken strips, I've made a dozen cupcakes, 2 dozen scones, a dozen blueberry muffins, and lavash. King Arthur (an amazing company) sells their unbleached bread flour in a five pound bag for $4.95. Maybe I'm underselling KFC, maybe they do the math right, but I still think there's something wrong here.

Although, honestly, I have a feeling that the problem I have isn't that the better food is more expensive, but rather that I don't know how to shop to minimize spending and maximize the use of what I've got in my kitchen. Maybe this isn't a good food being expensive problem. Maybe this is a shopping/cooking knowledge problem.

March 07, 2009

My Frist Foray in Persian Cooking

I got this amazing cookbook for Christmas. Its a Persian cookbook, with wonderful stories and photos (Oh, the photos...) and absolutely unbelievable recipes. And, I say unbelievable because I'm pleasantly surprised by the kinds of combinations that are apparently commonplace in Persian food, but that I would never have thought to put together.


For example, I would never have thought to stuff a chicken with apples, prunes, apricots, onions and garlic. (Sausage and apples and basil, yes. The rest of those things, no.) And, all the jams and pickles and cakes (Cakes!) with dates and pistachios and pomegranate.


In short, I'm in love with this cookbook. Except, I've not cooked out of it before. Can you believe that? I've had it since Christmas, and I've done nothing more than open it an ogle. That is, until today. I'm having people over later for a Potluck style meal in for which I'm making a chicken stuffed with the previously mentioned ingredients, an egg and cheese dip (that is supposed to be served with bread, but I'm going to serve with crackers) and some Lavash bread. That's right. I'm making my own Persian Style bread.

I took pictures of the process, but of course I can't find my card reader at the moment to retrieve them from the camera. Trust though, that the stuff looked pretty good. I think it turned out well. There will definitely be more adventures in Persian food to come!

February 06, 2009

Back on the Wagon

So, I bit the bullet and started a diet today. I've been trying to do this/talking about doing this for nearly a year now. And, now I've done it. I joined eDiets, which is convenient in that it tells me exactly what I'm supposed to eat and prepares a shopping list for me. Usually, I like that part of things. Its fun to plan meals and decide what you're going to eat. However, this semester I have a lot on my plate so instead of letting my health and well being continue to slide, I'm outsourcing.

Good for me.

This is, technically, my first full day on the diet. I signed up yesterday, so last night was the first "on the wagon" meal. I made my own turkey burger. This is going to sound bizarre, but its nice making your own burger patty. Its therapeutic, chopping and mashing things together. I didn't use my fancy blender/food processor last night to chop the onions for the burger, but in the future I will. I'm pretty proud of myself for taking this small step. Of course, I'm also pretty pissed that I put all this weight on in the first place and that this step has to be taken at all. Ah, well. Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad.

November 26, 2008

What are you doing then?

So, I arrived in Brooklyn last night. Got to my sister's around midnight. Hung out for awhile. Went to bed. She left me a nice little note telling me where I might want to go and what I might want to do, which trains or buses to take. Which is important because when I said that I would come to her house for Thanksgiving and volunteered to cook since she would have to work today and on Friday, I told her not to sweat anything but the turkey. That I would swoop in on Wednesday and take care of the shopping.

She took me at her word. Around 9 this morning, I had her last cereal bar and a diet coke. The diet coke, by the way, was pretty much the only thing she had in her fridge. So, she literally took me at my word. Sadly, I didn't really get her much in the way of staples or useful things. I'm not even sure I got everything that I needed. But, we're going to go with it.

Of course, the first thing I do is get on the wrong train. I followed Beth's instructions and get off at the stop she said I should. And, it didn't look anything like she described. No shopping center. No Buffalo Wild Wings. No Target. Fuck. But, there was a gourmet deli. So, I thought, what the hell, I'm in Brooklyn, lets see if they have rubens.

Oh, did they ever. Thin-sliced corned beef. Sauerkraut. Rye. Amazing. Also, directions that included the sentence, "Go back the way you came." Brilliant.

Shopping the day before Thanksgiving is a little like playing a game of dodge ball whilst in a bumper car hunting easter eggs. Loads of fun. We're having pie, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, brussel sprouts, stuffing and magical butter-bacon turkey. At least, that is what I now have the ingridients to make. Also, I bought some cheese to go with some crackers for before dinner. It is the way forward. And, some breakfast food.

Now, I have to go back out because Beth gets off work soon and then we are going to see Twilight. TWILIGHT! I'm so very, very excited.


Happy Thanksgiving E'en, everyone!

November 02, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Today, I had some friends over for Sunday brunch. It was lovely. I've had a pumpkin in the house, and I'd been thinking about exactly what to do with it. A couple of days ago, it occurred to me: Curry it. I got the recipe from this website. I'm not sure I used the right kind of chilies. (Or, at least not the right kind of chilies for my poor little tastebuds.). It was very spicy but so super creamy.

Even if it looked a little odd.

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Plus, I got to serve it in its own shell.


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It took a little longer to make than I thought it would. I always forget just how long it takes to hollow out a pumpkin. (Well, really, a squash of any kind.)

Stuff wasn't ready when my guests arrived, so we had coffee and some crackers and cheese. Then we moved onto the pumpkin, which I served with green beans and this:


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That's stuffed chicken breasts in a honey mustard glaze. It was so luscious. My guests brought au gratin spaghetti squash and some scones made with lavender essence and clotted cream. After brunch, we sat around chatting, drinking chai and finishing off the meal with the scones. I really enjoyed planning the menu and getting up and cooking this morning. I'm thinking I may make this a monthly thing. Today was unintentionally squash themed, which means I have to think up a theme for next month. Any suggestions?

October 08, 2008

If You want to make an omelette...

It is Yom Kippur and I do not have class tomorrow. I had a fabulous plan for this evening. After Speech Perception Lab and UB Knitters, I was off to the grocery store to get a frozen pizza, some mozzarella, and some mushrooms. I was going to tart up the pizza (with the mushrooms and mozzarella) more myself a glass of wine and watch me some Spooks. (Its on Netflix under MI-5). But, I can't just buy one meal whilst at the shop. I have to get meals for at least three days. So, I did. And, when I grabbed the bags out of the car, the bag with the eggs in it slid out of my hand and introduced itself to the ground.


Swell.


Now, this really isn't that big a deal. I bought the eggs so that I could use the leftover mushrooms to make a tasty egg omelette. I just wasn't planning on doing it tonight. Or, doing it on a nine-egg scale. That's right, I bought a dozen eggs and had to cook three-quarters of them tonight because they were already broken inside their lovely little insulated case.


The good news, I suppose, is that I got to watch the Spooks episode from the first season with Hugh Laurie in it.

September 23, 2008

Now, That's a spicy meatball!

I had a list of things that I was running low on, so I killed two birds with one stone. That's right, I went on a grocery shopping study break. The things on my list were simple: yogurt, veg, fruit, fake lunch meat...you know, stuff. I was only intending to get lunch box fruits and veg. That is, until I saw the wide array of just-now-in-season squash.


Oh, squash, how I love thee.


I did what any squash-loving human would do. I remembered that my parents, on the recent whirlwind visit (that's right, they were here and you missed them. Now they are not here, and I miss them.) had brought me a stack of cookbooks including the weekday-vegetarian's best friend: 5 a Day cookbook. (Even if you are an everyday meat eater, I highly recommend checking out this cookbook. It is incredible and has a number of tasty,meaty recipes like Pork tenderloin in orange-basil sauce and catfish with tropical salsa. Yum.) And, instead of making note of the lovely and delicious squash that is now in season, I decided to wing it and buy what I thought went into the recipe for their "South of the Border Squash Soup". I bought vegetable broth, one large and lovely butternut squash (I had to go back out for tomato puree and a carrot). I was sure that the recipe also included garlic and onions and I had both of those at home. And, peppers. The recipe called for jalapenos, but I was in the grocery store milling around the produce and therefore was not looking at the recipe. I went for the lushest-looking local peppers I could find. I bought three of them. The sign said they were Hungarian hot peppers. Well, that's not quite right. It said they were Hungarian HOT peppers.

I used all three of them in the soup. My lips are still red from last night's feasting. To had injury to injury, I thought this lovely soup needed to be served with chicken nuggets. I selected Quorn's Southwestern Chik'n wings which have a lovely chipotle and lime coating. Dipped in the soup they added fire to the FIRE. It was awesome, in that what-kind-of-an-idiot-would-intentionally-set-themselves-on-fire sort of way. Although, I did end up dropping a dollop of sour cream on the top, which mellowed it out a little.

In case you needed more incentive to check out the cookbook, this lovely soup (is not as spicy when made correctly, but still packs a punch) has something like 126 calories a serving (it makes 8 of those) and provides you with two servings of vegetables and 5 grams of fiber. How awesome is that?

September 16, 2008

Experiment Q

If I am honest with you, I would have to say that I only really ever cook one thing for dinner. And, that thing is called "Experiment Q".

Q is the result of adding R S and T together. What are R, S, T? They are whatever happens to be in my fridge (which, at least for me, is why it is so important that I have so many vegetables in my fridge.)

This evening, that happens to be salmon with mushrooms, broccoli, onions with a peach and pepper glaze. However, just because it sounds good, doesn't mean that it will be good. Or, that my cooking process (meat, veg, foil) is the way forward. (400 degrees, twenty minutes. Although, I started it at 350...) Tonight I got lucky. The salmon needed an extra 15 minutes in the oven, but the veg was nice and, well, anything involving a jam glaze is hard to say no to.

September 10, 2008

Experiments

I'm a little weird. In my (not so copious) spare time, I like to read diet books. I read all the low carb books. Then, I read all of this psycho-spiritual diets. Recently, I've been moved to read things by Naturopathic Doctors. One of the books (I forget which one) suggested that you try to be a vegetarian during the week and only eat meat on the weekends. I have two caveats to my weekday vegetarianism: I get to eat fish. Fish is brain food. And, bleeding women get to eat as much red meat as they like. (How's that for a reason to look forward to "that time of the month"?)


This week, I've eating Yves's veggie turkey and cucumber sandwiches. I've also been eating tuna salads.

The Yves meat is nice. Its very moist and the texture isn't bad. Plus, four slices is only one hundred calories. That is so much (fake) meat! Especially, on a diet. Its very exciting. One of the other flavors they have is bologna, and I'm thinking about trying it. It all depends on how brave I'm feeling.

The other benefit is that I have inadvertently discovered that cooking once on one weekend can make food for three weeks. Last Saturday, I made lasagna. More than half of it is in my freezer now. It might not be three weeks of meals in a row, but I figure having my freezer full of tasty food will be handy at the end of the semester.

September 06, 2008

The Inaugural Smoothie

Kohl's had a two day sale. And, I've been without a blender. I was just going to buy a twenty dollar blender at Wal-Mart, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to take a look. So, I was wandering through the store and I found a blender. But, not just a blender...a twelve speed blender with an extra attachment so that you can use the motor to run a food processor.

Have you ever tried to make squash soup without a food processor? Its a pain. Also, you can make salsa without all that chopping and hummus. I love hummus.


I took the blender out for a spin tonight. I used the last of the fruit salad that I made earlier in the week with a little milk and a little vanilla ice cream. It was delicious. And, purple. (It had the end of the blueberries in it.)

September 04, 2008

Chickpea Salad

All of this week I've been having chick pea salad for lunch. Don't turn your nose up at me, its good. Or rather, the idea of it is good. There is something about my implementation of it this time around that is a bit off.


For example, I used to be able to get this magnificent feta in oil. I would mix the feta with a whole mess of vegetables (grape tomatoes, cucumber or zucchini, onions, and peppers) a hard boiled egg, the chick peas and maybe just a little bit of bacon. I would then add vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. It was always lovely. This time around, I couldn't find the feta and I decided to forgo the hard boiled egg. Without the feta, I didn't have the oil for a do-it-yourself vineagrette, so I bought a bottle of low-fat roasted red pepper salad dressing.

Yesterday, I had to break down and buy some (non-floating in tasty, tasty oil) feta to add to the salad. It livened things up a bit. Next time, however, I think I will stick to the plan and keep in the egg (and maybe just a small, small bit of bacon.)

September 03, 2008

Five Dollar Dinner

Every now and then, reasonable and learned grownups forget about the food pyramid and/or the food groups and feed themselves like they would have if they had been in charge of dinner at the age of five.


I have an example.


Tonight, my friend E and I took a break from studying and went to Aldi. Now, there is a secret to shopping at Aldi. You can't go with a list. You have to go with fuzzy categories of things that you need/want. Like, "Meat for two or three meals" or "fresh fruit for lunches." If you go with a list that reads "two apples, one ripe pear, six ounces of Orange Roughy", you will be disappointed. That is just the way it is.

So, we went to Aldi with the fuzzy category of "something to have to eat for dinner" (and, I needed some sort of hard, crumbly, preferably low fat cheese). And, what did we get? A bag a stir-fry vegetables (not bad),grapes (pretty good), macaroni and cheese (not bad, but also not good), a box of scalloped potato mix (again, not bad but not good), and some oatmeal craisin walnut cookie dough. While any combination of these things probably would make a lovely meal, it was probably unwise to eat them together. But, we did eat them together. We had a grape course, followed by a pasta course, followed by a potato course and rounded off by a cookie course.

While there is part of me that is tsk-tsking about having pasta and a potato in the same meal, my inner five-year old is happy as a kitten with a new ball of yarn. And, I have to tell you, it is hard to complain about life when your inner child is that happy.

September 02, 2008

Fresh Fruit is Problematic.

I have discovered that taking a number of snacks with you is advantageous if you are going to be gone all day. It doesn't matter where you are going, it is just a good idea to go prepared. And, one of my favorite things to snack on is fresh fruit. After you've eaten the piece of fruit you get a little sugar buzz, you're ready to go. (Plus, you're getting a whole mess of fiber and phytochemicals.) While there are some fruits that I find to be good a little under ripe, I've noticed that most fruit has about a forty-eight hour window in which it is perfectly ripe and entirely delectable.

However, this is problematic.


Traveling anywhere, even just to school, with a piece of perfectly ripe fruit is a recipe for disaster. Take the pear I had for lunch today. It was fine in the morning, lovely and firm and green with that lovely pear aroma wafting off of it. And, by lunch, it was a little bruised. Just imagine how it would have looked if I had kept it for a mid-afternoon snack. Its skin probably would have started to peel off where it had been bruised and that would have caused a sticky mess. I hate having to clean up sticky messes in my backpack.

So, while I was eating my pear today I brainstormed of ways to keep this from happening. The way that seems to be the easiest would be to put all future pieces of fresh fruit in its own tupperware container. But, that means that I'd have to carry around extra plastic all day. Perhaps I will try wrapping it in foil. While this won't stop the bruising, it will certainly help with the mess.

August 23, 2008

In Which I plan to make jam.

I had such a good time last weekend being a domestic goddess, that I have decided that there may need to be more of that in my future.

Although, maybe instead of baking, I would branch out into the world of jam making. I like toast and jam, so this seems completely reasonable. Also, I was pretty sure that you can't make just one jar of jam, you have to make some multiple (that will most likely be larger than the amount of jam I consume in a year.) I had all these thoughts while knitting a pair of socks.

A pair of socks that I've recently decided would be a perfect gift for someone. You know what also makes a good gift? A jar of jam. Its true. You can look it up.

While I was making pie, I found this fantastic website PickYourOwn.Org. It has the blueberry pie recipe that I used and a number of other awesome resources like where to find pick your own farms in your area and a number of recipes. So, of course they have canning instructions. I've been reading about the process all morning and I'm more than sure that it is within my realm of capabilities. However, it doesn't seem like a one day project.

So, I think I might do the prepping today and then tomorrow I will do the jam making. I'm pretty excited about the prospect of it.

August 18, 2008

Am something of a Domestic Goddess.

I'm sitting at my kitchen table, drinking Pomegranate Cherry Crystal Light and finishing off the only blueberry scone I didn't freeze. And, I'm thinking, "They could have used more blueberries." And, "I shouldn't have worked the dough as much as I did." But, given that they came from a Weight Watchers recipe for two point scones. I think they came out pretty well. And, I'm sure that come November when I'm defrosting them for a quick breakfast before I jet off to class, I won't have any complaints. (Plus, the thought of eating a scone that was at one time frozen that isn't going to make me itch with some crazy allergic reaction pleases me to no end.)


I have noticed the last couple of days that I've had a number of Bridget Jones moments. For example, the title of this entry. I find that I've been making statements, typically about myself, without including the subject. (Which wouldn't be odd, except that English isn't a pro-drop language.) Now, if I were speaking to myself in Spanish...things would be different. I've also had a number of moments similar to Bridget's "This is Bridget Jones for Sit Up Britain, Searching for Tuna." Only in my case, its more like, "My name is Kate, and I approve this scone."

Yesterday saw the accomplishment of the following things:

1. I eyeballed the amount of blueberries and decided I could in fact make three more recipes from them.

2. Went to the store and procured the odds and ends that I didn't have to complete these three recipes. (You know, important things like baking powder and buttermilk.)

3. Blueberry Buckle. My Blueberry Buckle didn't actually buckle like it was supposed to. It rose. Significantly. I think maybe my pan was a little too small. But, the bit that I snuck tasted pretty good so I'm not complaining about that, either.

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Doesn't that look tasty?

4. Blueberry Scones. A dozen of them.

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Mmm...Scones.

5. Blueberry Muffins. These guys came from another Weight Watchers recipe. While I'm not really a big fan of the Weight Watchers program, Weight Watchers dieters have a knack for creating tasty, low-fat, high fiber recipes. (I have a lot of respect for the whole point system. And, I can see where it would be helpful. I just seem to go better when I eat a lot of vegetables as opposed to counting a lot of points.)
There were a dozen of these bad boys as well.

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Yummy.

6. Since having a house full of baked goods isn't necessarily good for the waist line (even if two of the recipes were diet recipes) I decided most of the goodness needed to go in the freezer. Not really trusting my quart sized ziploc bags to be seriously freezer proof, I followed a suggestion from my Mother and wrapped everything in foil. The blueberry buckle was easy. The muffins and scones were more of a challenge. In the end, I decided to wrap each piece individually (thus making the easier to thaw one at a time). I also tossed some of the blueberries I had left into the freezer as well. It'll be nice, come December, to have a little taste of summer (even if they are a little squishy.) Besides, frozen berries make the best smoothies.


7. After everything was cleaned and sorted, I finished knitting a pair of socks I'm making for my Father. I had intended to do a bit of the Knitting Olympics this year, even if it wasn't going on officially anywhere else (Which isn't true, Ravelry has been holding the Ravelympics.) So, the plan was I cast on during the opening ceremony, I knit while I watch the games, and I'm done by the closing ceremonies. That didn't quite work out. But, I have been knitting while I've been watching everything from rowing and boxing to Jamaica sweeping the 100m finals last night. Now, these socks that I started in December ( I know! Eep.) for my Father are done!

8. My night didn't stop there. As if all that wasn't enough, I cast on a brand new sock once I was finished. I haven't knit a pair of socks for myself in over a year now. I have decided its time. Plus, this is giving me a chance to check out the patterns in a book I found at Barnes and Noble. Simple 1-2-3 Knitting has a lot of really cute things in it. The sort of things you make and give away to people you love. I'm knitting the "ribby sock" out of it. It took a few rounds to sort out what I was doing (I hardly had to back up at all. Although, I did try to knit needle four as if it were needle one once.)

And, that's where it ends. I was pretty tired at that point, and can you blame me?

August 17, 2008

Blueberries.

As it turns out, four and a quarter pounds of blueberries is an awful lot of blueberries. I baked the pie yesterday, complete with a crumble topping and it turned out really, really well. I was pretty excited about it. But, I thought that I'd be putting pounds of blueberries into the pie and not cups. Turns out I was wrong.

So, I figured buckle was the next thing on the list. Now, I don't really need a house full of tasty baked goods. That just seems unwise. My solution? Everything else I bake with all this blueberry goodness is getting properly wrapped and tossed into the freezer to be retrieved when company arrives. (Assuming I know that it is blueberry eating company.) The next thing on the list of things to bake after the buckle? Scones.

My friend E. is a dedicated knitter and in the last three years or so, she has started spinning her own. Her theory on this is that by adding extra steps to the process you are both reducing costs and increasing the fun. I agree with her. Seeing a project all the way from fiber festival through washing, combing, spinning and dying all the way to pattern selection, knitting and the finished project. Well, that sounds like a fun to me, too.

I think this theory also applies to cooking. I've spent at least an hour this morning pouring through cookbooks and googling recipes. And, I have found, among other things, a recipe that makes 1 (weight watchers) point blueberry scones. I think I may have to try them out. (Although, I found a 2 point recipe that I like just a little bit more, so I will probably end up making those. I'll let you know, though.)

August 16, 2008

Making Friends with Western New York

So, I live near the The Niagara Wine Trail. I know this because I've driven past the "Niagara Wine Trail Begins Here" sign at least one hundred times since Monday.

I figured, I should see what its all about. Apparently, you can purchase their "vino visa passport" and with it you get a wine tasting at all of the vineyards on the trail.


I went to the first one today. The Warm Lake Estate Vineyard and Winery was Wine Spectator's highest rated Pinot Noir in New York State in 2007. The wine tasting consisted of five wines all made from the pinot grape. The two Estate wines (which were nice and smooth and a little sweet and a little spicy. I'm thinking the bottle I bought needs to be served with a lovely steak.), one I think was called "Mountain Road", (I should have taken better notes.) This one I didn't like as much, it had a huge black peppery kick at the end which I didn't care for. And, then the last two were their Glacé Noir. The first one was way too sweet for me. Although, apparently it is fantastic when mixed with pomegranate juice and chocolate martini mix. The last one was a mistake. It was meant to be the Glacé Noir, but instead ended up being more like a pinot brandy. It was fantastic.

From there I did a little exploring. I got lost for a minute on the way to where I planned to have lunch. I finally gave up looking for it and decided to go to the next place where food was served (that wasn't a fast food chain.) The next place I drove past was a bar and grill next to a take out sub place. I didn't feel like eating in my car, so I walked into the bar and grill.

Let me rephrase that. I walked into the BAR and grill. At this point, I just had to go with it. Yup, I had lunch down the bar from the two guys who had decided that Happy Hour started at 2 pm.

Then, I found Lake Ontario. Which isn't hard because it is huge.


But that's not where the excitement started. The excitement started after I breezed past the second vineyard I was planning on visiting. Looking for a place to turn around I found Russell's U Pick Blueberries. Russell gave me a bucket and let me wander through his twelve acres of blueberries.

When I first arrived here in Buffalo, we went to the grocery store and the first thing I saw was a huge flat of blueberries (that I had to be talked out of.) And, for the past week I've been thinking about going back to the store and buying blueberries and doing a lot of baking. Right now, I have four and quarter pounds of blueberries chilling in my fridge. Tomorrow, I'm going to make a pie from scratch. And, then maybe some blueberry buckle. Goodness, I couldn't be happier.

After that, I stopped at a fruit farm and bought some super cheap fresh veg (and a pint of apricots!). And, I drove past some orchards that I'm hoping are "U Pick" apple orchards once apples are in season. I think Western New York and I are going to be very good friends.

September 09, 2007

The Fresh Lychee Experience

The other day I went out in search of some fruit and veg to compliment the things I had to eat in the house. I picked up a bunch of grapes and thought it was settled but before I went to pay for the grapes, I gave the stand a walk through, just make sure there wasn't anything I missed (I was having noodles, and sometimes you find random things that would be great with noodles.) And, before I got to the gigantic eggplants in the back I noticed them....Lychees. Now, I've had lychee juice boxes and lychee flavored smoothies and ice cream, but I've never had a fresh lychee. So, I picked up about six of them and went straight to the counter to pay so I could rush home and try them.


A lychee looks a like a gigantic raspberry in armor. They are red and bumpy and hard. The skin almost feels like a crust surrounding the precious fruit inside. When I picked them up, they felt like fresh fruit should feel, fruit yet soft. And, they smelled divine.

A Lychee smells how I would imagine a jungle would smell, floral and humid. Its the sort of smell that when you inhale, you can feel it on your skin. Like humidity, its almost like a pressure but its not opressive. Its tense and mysterious. Of course, I was hooked on the smell.

After I returned home from my impulse fruit shopping, I had to google the lychee because having never eaten a fresh one before, I didn't know how to eat it. I found this entry on WikiHow. It was the first return on the Google search "How do you eat lychees?" I followed the step-by-step instructions. I peeled it. It mentions eating the white/grey fruit. I found this description to be unappetizing. My mind immediately jumped to Halloween parties as a child where Mothers turned out the lights and passed around peeled grapes telling you that you were feeling a bowl full of eyeballs. Now, I understand that this description might put you off the lychee eating, but please don't be put off. The experience is nothing like those childhood parties that make you dread people saying, "Hey, feel this." The lychee is a disconcerting white-ish color but its texture is much firmer than that of a peeled grape.

Since "peeled grape" was the first thing that came to mind when reading about it, I assumed that the experience of peeling it would be similar. I was expecting sticky. It wasn't. Peeling a lychee was similar to peeling an orange, if I had tried I probably could have gotten the skin to come off in one piece. It also reminded me of shelling a peanut with the skin really acting as a protective armor around the fruit. Once you peel it and seed it, all of that milky white flesh is yours.

I say all of that as if there was a lot of flesh in each lychee, but there wasn't. They are bigger than most berries but smaller than an apple. I could probably hold two lychees in one hand and keep a good grip on them. I ate the six of them that I bought on consecutive days, two or so a day. And, the taste. Oh, the taste.

Considering that the smell had me busy constructing mental images of myself relaxing under the high canopy of a lush jungle, fanning myself in the midday heat, I couldn't wait to actually try the fresh fruit. The taste was less intense than the smell. The lychee is juicy. Its flavor was first fruity and then the floral hit. The end of the taste was intense, as if the fruit had condensed down to a floral powder, which I found surprising since the smell of it made me think of humidity. The texture of the fruit was firm with a strong fibre feel to it without being stringy. The feel of it was very self contained, like you really had to bite it because it couldn't be relied upon to fall apart in your mouth. Deliciousorganics.com describes the lychee as "sweet" and "exotic tasting". It also recommends that you eat it right as you peel it so that the fruit does not dry out. I peeled them and didn't eat them right away on the last day I had them, and I didn't find that they dried out. However, I did find that the fruit on the last day wasn't white or grey, but more the color your clothes come out when a red sock inflitrates the whites wash and the bleeds. Of the fruit, this pinkish one was the juiciest. When I bit into it, I got a huge gush of yummy, lychee flavor.

If you see lychee at your veg stand or in your supermarket, I highly recommend that you pick some up. They are tasty and excitingly exotic.

June 27, 2007

Feta

Feta is one amazing little cheese. Its so versatile and wonderful and it can be used in so many things.


Since we've moved and now have a real kitchen, I've been doing what I can to make a mess in said kitchen. Last night, the mess turned into a goregous pasta salad.

I think the key to any pasta salad is the vinagrette. If its too oily, you end up feeling sick, if its too vinegary, you end up making faces instead of enjoying your meal. So, you have to find the balance in order to actually enjoy what you are eating. (Also, have you have to choose the right oil and the right vinegar or it won't matter if you have the balance right because the whole thing will just be wrong.) When making pasta salad, I cheat on the dressing. How do you cheat on the dressing, I hear you ask. Simple, you buy a jar of feta in oil. The oil will have some sort of herb concoction in it (not to mention the chunks of feta) so you won't have to worry about adding any extra seasoning. You simply cook your pasta, chop up a few vegetables and toss it all with the entire contents of the jar. Now, all you need is the vinegar. I recommend a healthy dash for three of a nice balsamic vinegar. Toss it all again, and you're good to go. Although, I must say this is a dish that gets better with time. Let it be for a few hours (or in the fridge overnight) and its absolutely perfect.

Cheese makes me happy. So, when I can find a way to eat cheese (especially the crumbling, salty goodness that is feta) while also getting in a few veg and making a meal out of the whole thing, it just makes me want to jump for joy!

April 15, 2007

Anthony Bourdain

My friend Father Tom read A Cook's Tour about four years ago. While reading the book you could say that he developed a bit of a man-crush on Anthony Bourdain. He'd have lunch and he'd tell me about the places that Bourdain mentioned in the book and how he was a hard-cooking, hard-smoking New Yorker in a leather jacket and was, in fact, the very definition of awesome. Now, that alone should have been enough of a recommendation to read the book. But, if you know me, you know that my sister basically brow-beat with Wuthering Heights before I actually picked it up.

Well, they made a TV show out of Bourdain's cook tour and I've caught a couple of episodes this weekend. Its amazing. I'm going to have to read the book now. In the last episode he went to Portugal and France, feasting his way through pig and duck and....Tete de Veuax (totally misspelled.), Veal's head. How sweet is that? The French have a dish that is sweet breads with the face of the veal. I almost want to go try it.

December 21, 2006

Review: The South Beach Diet Parties and Holidays Cookbook

I love food. I love eating it. I love cooking it. It makes me happy. And, awhile back I lost nearly hundred pounds using the South Beach Diet, so I was excited as all get out to hear that they were putting out a holiday and party cookbook. Because, if there is anything better than cooking and eating food, it is cooking and eating food with or for people you like!

The cookbook is divided into two parts: Parties and Holidays and has set menus that all include a "game plan" so that you know what can be done ahead, and how ahead things can be done and what absolutely has to be done on the day. Also, at the beginning of the book there is a "Checklist for Success" that includes important things about party planning that are things that I always forget but are extremely helpful like under a reminder to decide where you'll have your guests put their coats. (Which I never would have remembered to do for a Christmas party I'm hosting had it not been for the book.)

The general parties include things like "Phase 1 kickoff party", baby shower, brunch, hors d'oeuvers, and a Super Bowl party. The second section includes menus for New Year's Day, Valentine's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Hanukkah, and of course Thanksgiving and Christmas. The recipes are all labeled as to which phase they are in and at first glance they all top shelf. The moment I made it through my first read of the cookbook, I knew I had to dive right in and try a few recipes. I haven't tried any of the recipes for a party yet nor have I made an entire menu, but all of the recipes serve generally betwenn 8 and 12 (except for Valentine's Day, for which the recipes appropriately only serve 2). So, when I do use the recipes for a party, there won't be any awkward doubling or tripling.

I started with the stuffing recipe for Thanksgiving. Turkey Sausage and Pear Stuffing is a phase 2 recipe that was easy to make and was also very tasty and the sausage combined with the sage and pear were an excellent compliment to the turkey. This was an excellent whole grain answer to a traditional dish. And, I tried Easter recipe of Herb and Garlic Roasted Leg of Lamb for Christmas Dinner was amazing. The recipes were easy to follow, and weren't too complicated, which is always appreciated.

This cookbook is an excellent addition to my South Beach collection, and I can't wait to cook out of it in the New Year!

Party at My House!

December 12, 2006

The Art of Coffee

Today, between walking to the post office and getting a hundred little errands out of the way (like buying a few more Christmas cards (that aren't in Welsh) and purchasing a bucket full of hob nobs to mail to my parents) I made myself a pot of coffee.

There is nothing like a good cup of coffee on a cold, rainy day in December. Today it was mizzling out (misty and drizzling) while I walked from shop to shop so it really wasn't worth the effort of bringing an umbrella. Its the sort of weather where you are basically walking through a puddle, so regardless of what you do (unless you're walking around in boots and waders) you will end up damp.

A few years ago I read a Cosmo that suggested a list of things that a girl should be able to do by the time she turns 30. I found the list to be lame, and joked that it was things to learn to do on a long weekend. It included things like make a proper introduction (for an example of this, I refer you to the seen in Bridget Jones's Diary where her friends coach her on the subject:

Shaz: Sheila, this is Daniel. Daniel, this is Sheila. Sheila enjoys horse-riding and comes from New Zealand. Daniel is in publishing....

You get the picture. You tell people things about each other so that they can have a getting to know conversation. (The goal is, of course, to say things that you know the other person would be interested in. Like, you wouldn't introduce a physicist friend to an astrologer by saying, "Oh, you're both into stars!" because you would likely offend one or both of them. I digress. ) and how to make a proper cup of coffee. I laughed out loud when I read the last one because I've been making proper cups of coffee for nearly ten years now. But, while I was drinking my cup of coffee, I realized something.

Coffee is an acquired taste. But, more than that it is something that separates people. You can tell something about people by how they take their coffee. There are people that drink because it is a cool thing to do. These people tend to prefer coffee drinks that have a lot of milk in them and also frequently something sugary. There are people that like it as a vehicle for caffeine, and drink copious amounts of it. There are people that don't love it but have come to appreciate and will have the occasional cup. And, then there are the people that love it. That prefer it black but have been known to also take it with milk and sugar and whipped cream or over ice. And, it is my opinion that these people make the best coffee. They make the best coffee because a good cup of joe is more art than science and art is born out of passion. Now, it is true that the water and the beans effect the coffee. How the beans are roasted and what temperature the water is heated to before it is poured over the grounds. And, the grind of the coffee itself. And, you can appreciate coffee and be nit-picky about all of these things, getting the water to the right temperature, using good beans from reputable growers that are properly roasted, making sure you have the right grind for your machine, but even with all of that you could still be missing something.

December 07, 2006

Compote

I have a deep and abiding love cranberries. I absolutely adore them. And, this is cranberry time of year. I am so happy. Of course, my first task during cranberry season was to make cranberry orange relish for Thanksgiving. I had to use frozen cranberries, but it still worked out fine.

Then, I was at the store and I came across fresh cranberries. FRESH CRANBERRIES! Well, I had to buy them. Then, I had to do something with them. So, I bought a few pears and figured that I would boil the lot with a little bit of sugar and make a sort of cranberry pear sauce. So, I did. I like to think of this as a "compote", but I don't know if it quite qualifies.

But, do you know what cranberry pear compote/sauce is good with? Homemade trifle.

I've never made trifle before, but it didn't seem to be too difficult. Some jello, some custard a few lady fingers, some freshly whipped cream and the fruit sauce. Oh, yes. Its lovely, I do declare.

October 19, 2006

A Year Gone...

When I first moved here, I wrote some spectacular emails home about the experience of having to do everyday things in a strange land. Now, I mostly just whine about it. How did it come to this? After reading some of the letters, I made a little commitment to myself to whinge less and write more about the neat things that I encounter as a foreigner (because there is still a ton of stuff that I find totally bizarre.)

The people of the island love their potato. Specifically, they love their potato cut into wedges or strips and then fried. I am, of course, referring to the "chip" or the "fry". I've come to prefer the British bit of lexis "chip" over the "fry". It just sounds more fun to me. And, since fries were always something a little naughty and fun that we ate when we were kids, I appreciate getting a little of that back in my adult life. Plus, it has lended itself so fantastically to slang term "Chippy" for the chip shop. There is nothing like chips from a chip shop. Now, maybe I'm just excited because the chip shop is "Classic British" like getting a shake at The Hamburg in is "Classic Americana".

Chip shop chips are made from actual potatoes. Cut up on site. You know, instead of from actual potatoes flash frozen in a factory in Idaho and then shipped in a freezer truck over I-80 to a supermarket near you. The chip shop that I seem to frequent most is an award-winning shop on Albany Road in Cardiff called, are you ready for this, The Albany Fish Bar. They almost always have a line. The chips come in two sizes, small and large, and they are reasonably priced. The chips are served wrapped in butcher paper, as is typical. They are AMAZING! Which I suppose is what happens when you eat fries made with actual grease alongside other foods instead of eating fries that have been seasoned with "natural flavorings". AMAZING!

But, what I really wanted to talk about is that chips go with everything here. Even things they probably shouldn't. Like, lasagne for example. That's right, you can walk into a pub and order lasagne and chips. Or, if you're Welsh fiance is making you dinner, you can sit down in your own kitchen and eat lasagne and chips. Its wrong, but its not as bad as it sounds. I've given up trying to talk him into a salad, lasagne and chips is just the way it is.

September 10, 2006

Crazy Pasta Salad

So, I've been working on my thesis. Given. But, I've also had occasion to take in what is a lot of TV for me. I've seen some Scrubs. I've seen some Grey's Anatomy. I've seen some House and some Stargate SG-1 and some Only Fools and Horses. I've also seen an advert for Feta over and over and over again. Its a clever little commercial. All these little feta cubes are bouncing around as if they were at an art gallery with little headphones on. Only, instead of art they are looking at food with feta in it. One of the things that they are looking at is a big bowl of pasta salad. And, it just looked so good. So, I bought some feta which we added to some pasta with a little Italian dressing and some peppers and tomatoes. Then, we added some hard-boiled egg. It was decent while it was still warm (we were hungry), but it is so good cold. Which is great, because we made a ton of it. I myself think it could use maybe a little onion and some meat (bacon?) next time. We'll see. Feta just makes things so good. I

August 28, 2006

Things I Love: Space Raiders

I have a great thing noshing a delightfully salty things that have a tendency to be bad for you.  Namely, crisps (or chips for my American friends.)  So imagine my delight when I moved here to Wales to discover that I now live on an island with people also enjoy crisps and who flavor them in strange and exotic ways.  While there are no sour cream and onion (at least not that I've found) nor are there cheese and sour cream (they don't really do sour cream here like we do it.  Which is a shame, but you have to take the good with the bad.)  they have made up for the lack of both of these by having Cheese and onion flavor.  Oh, but that's not all.  They make chicken and thyme crisps, sweet thai chilli crisps, beef and onion crisps, marmite crisps ... the list could go on. 

 

But, recently, my love of crisps has focussed on one particular brand known as space raiders.  They are lovely.  They remind a little of cheetos because they are a corn and wheat puff that is obviously fried and then rolled in some delightful flavoring dust.

 

space raiders image from ilovecrisps.comThat, ladies and gentlemen is what a bag of the pickled onion flavor of space raiders looks like. 

Continue reading "Things I Love: Space Raiders" »

August 01, 2006

Trouble.

So, John's boss (who is also a friend of his) was supposed to call on Sunday night and tell him where to be to paint yesterday morning.  John tried calling him Sunday, yesterday and five minutes ago and he's gotten no answer.  So, John's not working.  I'm trying to not think that this is going to be a problem.  But, I can't help but wonder.

 

It started raining again the other day, we'd gotten about two weeks off.  And, let me tell you, those two weeks were fantastic.  I spent most of them inside working on my dissertation,  but I could see outside and they were still marvelous.  Its hard going two weeks without rain, it makes me worry about the crops.  But, all the plants around us seem to be okay so I suppose I shouldn't worry.  

 The sun just popped out from behind a cloud.  Oh, now its gone away again.  Today its really windy but as I plan I sitting on the couch just working on my dissertation I'm not particularly worried about the weather.  I might go out later to buy a potato peeler, but then I might not.  John's mother has gone on holiday to his sister's house and has left her husband here in Cardiff to fend for himself.  So, we're going to make John's dad dinner tonight.  We're thinking maybe sausages and mash (hence the need for a potato peeler).

 

 

July 27, 2006

I feel like I'm spinning my wheels

So, I'm sitting here listening to coffee brew and munching on a carrot and some pasta salad.  There is bacon in my pasta salad.  As I eat I wonder why it is that everything on this island somehow ends up having bacon in it.  No, seriously.  If they can put bacon in it, they have.  Except beans, for some reason.  I've seen baked beans with sausage but I have yet to see a can of baked beans with bacon.  There is also about 800 calories in my pasta salad. That's why I'm eating it with a carrot instead of with the 400 calorie fresh cream banana boat I wanted to eat it with.  I'm making a fresh pot of coffee because John said to me recently, "I don't think its good to drink the same pot of coffee two days in a row."  I think its fine, but then my coffee habits have always been questionable.

 

So far today I've been reading for my dissertation. Soon, when I'm done with my carrot and pasta salad I will pour myself some coffee that I will mix with milk and ice and fake sugar and I will get cracking on some writing for my dissertation.  I can't wait for this to be done.  Even if it sucks.  I keep thinking about what I'm going to do once its done but that just makes me sad.  I feel like I ought to be asking someone for advice, but I have no idea who that would be. Every time I come up with a plan something happens to nix it.  Like its doubtful I'll be able to make enough on 20 hours a week to live off of.  Or, my fiancee tries to talk me out of staying in Wales because he thinks I'm too good for him.   And, then I read about what everyone else is up to and everyone else seems excited and happy about where they are and what's going on in their lives but I feel like fate is conspiring against me and that I can only be happy for 37 seconds at a time.  This sucks.  I hate it.

June 24, 2006

Breakfast the morning after my birthday

Potato scones are the Scottish version of Aloo paratha.  Giving my family's Scottish origin, I suppose I should be a little embarrassed that I had its Indian counterpart first.  I'm not particularly bothered. The potato scone is a thin layer of potato in between a soda bread crust.  They can be fried or heated on a grill (or in a broiler).  I've been told that they are made to soak up grease, like the toast in your bacon, egg, toast and hash brown breakfast.  And, I say that's a good call because they are a bit dry on their own. 

 

 

So, I get up the day after my birthday and make myself breakfast.  I don't have bacon or hashbrowns, even though I did think about buying bacon yesterday.  So, I just have egg and potato scone.  I make  my eggs sunny side up so I have something to dip the scones into.  Also, I fry them because, why not?  You only live once.  They are nice fried and (even though I really don't have the patience to make an egg sunny side up) the potato scones are complimented by the egg yolk.  They don't overpower it and are salty without being overly salty.  We don't have a salt shaker in the flat yet, so this made the potato scone the perfect acompaniment to egg which needed a little salt.  I know, that's quite possibly the least helpful description of anything ever, but we are talking about something made out of potato and soda bread.

 

I rounded the whole meal out with a cup of day old coffee in the best birthday present I got yesterday: a new mug.  It has kitties on it.  Okay, now that breakfast is over, I should probably go finish cleaning out the house on Whitchurch Road.