Sunday, December 5, 2010

Going to the chapel...

I've been meaning to write a bit about Kimmi and Seanno's wedding, which went down on October 16th as part of the Weeks of Insanity.  It was most definitely the high point of that busy time!  It's been put off  as I've been finding myself blogging less, simply because I've actually been going out and doing things... apparently, I seem to have gotten a bit of a life here in the 'Peg!  Regardless, the writing bug is still festering... and I can only watch so many episodes of anime before a serious sushi craving kicks in.  Maybe I should attempt a bento box at some point in the future...

Sorry.  Way off track there.  Let's talk about my most favourite newlyweds.

And here they are, the new Mrs. Kimmi and Mr. Seanno!
  Kimmi and I have a lot of interests in common, a love of good food among them.  So, I've known for some time that her wedding celebration would feature delectable edibles.  In a way, though, I feel like a terrible friend... due to my desire to document said food, and a significant intake of wine, I think I took more pictures of plates than of people.  Ah well, that's what the professional photographer is for, right?  On with the show!

At the rehearsal dinner, which was held at Aroma, a Portuguese restaurant just a few blocks from my old apartment.  This was some delicious chicken, with a hint of the piri piri pepper that seems so central to Portuguese cooking.
The rehearsal dinner was absolutely fantastic-- wonderful people, lovely entertainment in the form of a live singer, and delicious food.  In addition to the above chicken, bitoque was also on the menu... a fried steak topped with a fried egg, and french fries.  Mmm.  Hubs, being the consummate red-meat carnivore, opted for that... I got to taste a bit, and it was to die for.  We got to start off with caldo verde, as well, which was a delicious potato, kale and chourico soup.  Hubs really enjoyed that as well, so Kimmi's mom offered to share the family recipe.  To finish off, in keeping with wanting to save the best for last, we got a Portuguese custard tart.

Image from this cookbook website, which incidentally boasts a simple recipe for these beauties.  I may be tempted into another Portuguese baked-goods DIY project here...
Let me talk to you about these tarts for a minute.  If you don't like custard, fine... just skip this paragraph.  But these things are, simply, amazing.  They're about the size of a standard buttertart, but much better, in my opinion.  Instead of a dense shortbread-like crust, the shells are a bit flaker.  Not as flaky as phyllo, but closer to that idea... according to the above link, puff pastry is used.  The filling is a fantastic, not TOO sweet, firm yellow custard.  What really does it for me is that the tops are caramelized, almost brûléd, which adds a great depth of flavour.  This isn't just some sickly sweet pastry... it's an art form.  We had a huge platter of these at Kim's sister's baby shower, and I'm ashamed to admit that I ate about three of them.  They're just so worth it.

Next up, the food on The Big Day!

Sweet potato soup, with the delicious white wine, my bridesmaid flowers, and a DJ in the background.  I'd never had a soup made with sweet potato before, but it was fantastic... and very much in keeping with the sunset-hued fall colour scheme of the wedding.  The only downside?  We ladies all stuck our napkins in our necklines to prevent drops of this scrumptious concoction from splashing on our fancy dresses.  I'm considering trying out this recipe to see if I can recreate the experience, since I doubt that The Delta London Armouries is willing to give out theirs.
Main course!  Chicken breast with a roasted red pepper sauce, combined with a well-prepared medium/medium rare beef tenderloin au jus.  Parisienne potatoes and steamed veggies went alongside.  DELICIOUS, and very filling... good thing we relaxed for a bit listening to speeches before the dancing began!  As a testament to how thoughtful and considerate Kimmi is, she'd specially arranged for Hubs to receive two pieces of beef to accomodate his poultry prejudice.  What a sweet bride!
Dessert #1.  Fresh strawberries atop chocolate and vanilla mousse, held in a caramelized sugar tuille of sorts, which was cemented to the plate with dark chocolate.  Oh, my.  Yes, please, and thank you.
Dessert #2.  Much later in the evening, we enjoyed the delicious pétit fours created by Seanno's talented cousin.  This was an excellent way to soak up some of the inebriation we were experiencing (as evidenced by my flushed face and the many glasses on the table... these belonged mostly to Hubs, I swear).  A toast to the happy couple!!
As the holiday season approaches, I can't help but reflect on how central food and drink is to celebrations and family gatherings.  Sometimes (not at this occasion, but at certain other, completely overdone Italian weddings), I can't help but groan at the lavish overabundance of food... but really, aren't we just carrying on the medieval tradition of feasts?  Sure, we might not dine on whole roast animals so much anymore (though still popular, if the success of Danny's Whole Hog is any indication...), or take our used bread trenchers and toss them out back for the poor to scavenge, or binge and purge like the Romans... but the overall celebratory feeling is still there.  Everyone, gather round, sit, eat, talk, drink, and revel in the pleasure of good food and good company.

Looking forward to the continuation of feasting as we get closer to Christmas,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What do aunts and cows have in common?

Whatever terrible, offensive thing you're thinking, you've got it all wrong!  In my experience, aunts and cows both have the makings for delicious chip dips.  In the case of my relatives, though, it's more culinary knowledge than raw ingredients that they bring to the table...  I feel as though I might be digging myself into a hole here.  Maybe I should just get to the stories and recipes.

For Halloween a few weeks ago, I was asked to bring a suitably-themed appetizer to my coworker/friend's party.  So, I whipped out my dear Aunt Lois' recipe for tortilla dip.  It's a lovely orange colour, and I thought it would be appropriately festive with blue-black corn chips.  Mmm. 

I first tasted this over a decade ago.  Aunt Lois would always have the most wonderful parties at her beachfront house, with some very tasty treats-- this was one of them.  Being the ever-gracious hostess, she shared the recipe with me and my sisters, and I still have it to this day.  It's a great one to throw together for a game night, potluck, etc.  I love to put it in my fondue pot and keep it warm with the little candle flame... the temperature makes all the difference!

Didn't have time to present this nicely... just whipped it out of the microwave and snapped a few shots.  Forgive me!
Aunt Lois' Tortilla Dip
No clue what her original source was... and I hope she doesn't mind me sharing!

Makes enough to accompany a large bag of tortilla chips
  • 1/2 package cream cheese
  • 1/2 regular-sized jar of Cheez Whiz
  • 1/2 regular-sized jar of salsa (you can shake things up here and use spicy if you like; I kept it medium since I was making this for a large crowd)
  • 1/2 regular-sized jar of queso cheese dip (for example, Tostitos brand)
  1. Cut up cream cheese into cubes.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl
  3. Microwave on high for about ten minutes, stopping to stir every 2 1/2 minutes or so, until all the ingredients have melted together are smoothly and fully incorporated.
  4. Serve with tortilla chips; keep warm in a fondue pot if you desire (it really is best warm!)
To give you an idea of scale... this is my second-largest mixing bowl.  It barely fits in my microwave.  I made a double-batch of this dip, not wanting its constituents (*coughcheezwhizcough*) to be lurking in my apartment, waiting for me to do all sorts of terrible fattening things with them (like pouring melted cheese-like edible oil product over cooked pasta... mmm...) Ahem.  Sorry.  As it turned out, much of the leftovers went to Sherri, who doled out containers to those who enjoyed it.
On to aunt #2, my fantastic Aunt Lisa.  Being only about 15 years older than me, I've always thought of Lisa as more of a big sister than an aunt.  She would do my nails, let me put on her lipstick, let me watch as she and my Uncle Peter played Nintendo games (now I'm really dating myself here...).  She was (and continues to be) a fabulous baker, cook, and hostess.  Even now, she still makes me a special birthday cake every year to help distinguish my special day from Christmas.  It's so incredibly sweet of her.

Among her many amazing dinner party exploits, every year Lisa and her husband Dave host a Boxing Day feast at their home.  It's characterized by great wine, family, good conversation, fabulous appetizers, tempting holiday pastries for dessert, and... wait for it... some of the best Windsor-style pizza for an entree.  After all the work of the holidays, it's nice to kick back and not have to cook the main dish!  I look forward to this day every year, for all the reasons above... and also for Lisa's dill and green onion chip dip.  I could eat this, and only this, the entire day if I were allowed to (somehow I think my mother would frown upon this).  I wanted to make some for a welcome party I hosted for Hubs when he came to visit in July, so I called up Lisa via Skype and she kindly gave me the recipe.  Hubs absolutely loves it.  I made it again recently for my American Sign Language 101 class this past weekend, since I was hosting a study group.  It was (unsurprisingly) well received... Hubs even requested that I email some to him!  If only technology had come so far...

Aunt Lisa's Chip Dip
Again, original source unknown

Makes enough for a jumbo bag of Ruffles plain ridged chips, which I recommend as a vehicle for this dairy-based deliciousness.
  • 1 package cream cheese, at room temperature (I use light, it works just fine too)
  • 1 small tub of sour cream (again, light is okay here)
  • About 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill (don't ignore me and use dried, you'll regret it!)
  • Three green onions, chopped
  • About 1/2 tsp of salt, to taste
  1. Using a mixer with beater attachments, blend together the salt, cream cheese, and sour cream until fully incorporated and smooth.
  2. Stir in the dill and onion.  Check for seasoning; add more salt/dill/onion, as you like.
  3. For best flavour, chill and let the flavours meld for at least a couple of hours (I chilled mine overnight).  Serve with plain ruffle chips.
Suggested serving!!
It's entries like this that make me miss my family.  I know I'll be seeing Lisa at Christmas, but since moving to Ottawa, I haven't seen Aunt Lois in some time (except for when I Skyped into my family reunion!)  I'm just looking forward to the impending nuptials (the planning for which has been keeping me quite busy) to bring everyone together.

Using my current illness as an excuse to eat chips and dip (it's comfort food!!),

God Bless America!

Ed. note: Alright, folks, I feel as though I've been failing you all here a bit.  After the Weeks of Insanity died down at the end of October, I guess I never fully bounced back.  As it is, it's the middle of the day, and I'm dozing at home due to some sort of stomach/flu/throat soreness bug that I can't seem to shake.  I'm all "sleeped-out" for the moment, so why not regale you with tales of some of the delicious food I've been eating?  Here goes...

As many of you know, I did my Masters degree training in Detroit, which isn't that uncommon for a lot of Canadian students.  Crossing the border every day to get to school (and being subjected to the whims of the U.S, Border Patrol) was a bit of a drag, but it meant that I had daily access to things that Canada (as wonderful as it is) couldn't offer me.  Things like Cherry Coke, Chipotle, Panera Bread, Target, and a "local" Ikea... fantastic.

I seriously pine for this stuff... particularly the "Zero" version.
Back in October, before the Weeks of Insanity, I took a trip down to Lincoln, Nebraska to visit one of my former classmates (who became a dear friend), Steph.  She and I are very much in the same boat: we moved away from our friends and family to a city where we didn't know a soul, all for the sake of being a practicing clinical genetic counsellor.  Hooray for work experience!

It should come as absolutely no surprise that food played a prominent part in our weekend.  Let's start with IHOP, as we did for breakfast (brunch?) several hours after my 3 am arrival.  I am a HUGE fan of the International House Of Pancakes (or potatoes, if you ask Kiks...),  even if they fall a little bit short of good international representation.  Given that it was Thanksgiving weekend, I opted to try their special pumpkin spice pancakes.  These were fantastic... pretty much the best combination of pumpkin pie flavour and moist pancake texture that a girl could ask for.  Top it with butter pecan syrup, and you've got yourself a meal!

And here they ar--uh, oops.  Sorry.  Must've devoured the pancakes before I could get a picture.  The advert on the table will just have to do!
For dinner that evening, we went to a local brewpub chain called Lazlo's.  It had a bit of a Chili's/TGIFriday's kind of feel to it... standard American food fare (not that I'm complaining... I mean, who DOESN'T need cornbread AND fries as side dishes?).  I had a major red meat craving, so I went for a burger.  I was NOT disappointed.  It was juicy, well-cooked, and came with tons of deliciously drippy toppings.  This suits me perfectly.  And the crinkle-cut fries were perfection!  It was a bit finer of a crinkle than I'm used to, which increased the critical surface-area-to-volume ratio (I can hear my old physics teacher cheering), coated in cracked black pepper and sea salt.  Yummy!!

FANTASTIC.  Definitely beat the cow craving right out of me.
Steph, enjoying some barbecue pork roast, fries, and cornbread.  That counts as two vegetable sides, right?!  Potatoes and corn? Ah well, when in Rome...
Your very own Honeybee, tucking in to the burger deliciousness.
After our filling dinner, we headed to downtown Lincoln to see the sights.  There was a huge railway display, and some funky sculptures and so on.  One thing in particular did stand out to me:

NEBRASKA wine sampling?!  Nebraska makes wine...???!
I'm a firm believer in the saying: "You learn something new every day."  Based on my drive into Lincoln, I was already overwhelmingly aware of how much Nebraskans love their corn (more to come on that below...), but wine grapes?!  When I really stopped to think about it, though, Nebraska is approximately on the same latitude as northern California and southwestern Ontario... so it seems less ridiculous now that they could produce wine.

The little giftshop/wine store displaying this sign was staffed by a charming, witty guy.  I have to admit, the wine we tasted was pretty delicious!!  The whites tended towards the sweet end of the spectrum, which was great for me.  I very nearly bought a bottle of white wine in a bright red glass bottle, for the sheer novelty of it... but I'd already used up my booze importing limit at Target.  Seriously, though, when your favourite Barefoot Pinot Grigio is only $5.50 a bottle, how do you NOT buy one??

In addition to wine, this gift shop was practically blanketed in the red and white of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.  It was EVERYWHERE we went.  And, akin to the cheese hat worn by Green Bay Packers fans, the "Huskers" fans have been known to sport this extremely corny (heh, heh) headgear at games.  It's mortifying, really, but I posed for this pic at my dad's request.  Hope he's happy.
Steph and me, decked out in Husker gear.  We couldn't help poking fun at the families we'd see walking around, all dressed in Huskers gear (and it wasn't even a game day!!)  Sadly, this was not at the aforementioned gift shop... the local J.C. Penney actually had all of this gear in a special section.  I bought a shirt for the sheer hilarity of having "Cornhuskers" written across my chest.  And those N-bedecked women's jean capris?  Designed by Alyssa Milano!  Who knew...

Ahem.  Sorry.  I think I'm done insulting the locals for their obsession with football.  Back to food!!

One of the things that Steph introduced me and my classmates to while in the U.S. was Chipotle Mexican Grill.  I understand that there are a few of these fabulous burrito chains located in Toronto now, but they certainly haven't made their way to Winnipeg as yet.  These things are, to put it simply, AMAZING.  I fell in love with them in Chicago, and most definitely smuggled a few of them back to Windsor for quick dinners with Hubs.  I shall let the pictures speak for me:

And so it begins, with a mystically foil-wrapped package of goodness.  This weighs, no joke, probably around three pounds.
Cross-section.  Allow me to orient you, from top to bottom: fluffy cilantro lime rice, vegetarian black beans, Monterey Jack cheese, mild tomato salsa, spicy chili salsa, guacamole, lettuce, and barely peeking in (though I assure you there was plenty of it), barbacoa beef filling.  I made barbacoa once, to try to recreate this deliciousness... it's basically beef stewed in chipotle pepper adobo sauce.  I cannot even accurately describe the flavour to you... it's just a huge party in your mouth, all surrounded by a warm flour tortilla.
As the wise and gastronomically inclined Professor Albus Dumbledore once said: "TUCK IN."  Eating these are a challenge, though I pride myself in having successfully eaten these behemoth burritos while driving.  TWICE.
Steph opted for the healthier and tidier option: you can have all your burrito fillings, minus the tortilla, as a salad instead.
I love that Chipotle is all about fresh, naturally raised ingredients.  They're also pretty funky, for a fast-food chain.  Check out the soliloquy on chips that one patron sent them... they put it on their cups!  Cool!  Added note: I love that Dr. Pepper is so easy to find in restaurant soda fountains in the States.
We left Chipotle, my inner burrito-craving beast sated (for now).  After more sightseeing, shopping, and enjoying the University of Nebraska at Lincoln's dairy program's ice cream (yummy!), it was time for me to say goodbye and start my drive back to Winnipeg.  I wasn't about to leave the States, though, without a couple more special treats...

Panera Bread, known to us GC students for its fantastic sandwiches, bagels, baked goods... and yes, breads.  This is a pretty big chain of stores, too... and they make some top-notch nosh.  We used to get their sandwiches as a free lunch once a month for cancer genetics educational presentations... mmm.
My sierra turkey sandwich, on asiago focaccia, with some sort of delicious aioli.  It WAS Thanksgiving Monday in Canada, after all... I had to have SOME of the bird to celebrate.
In Grand Forks, North Dakota, I stopped for dinner... and enjoyed a U.S.-only sandwich from the golden arches: the Southern Fried Chicken sandwich.  It's a different chicken patty than they use on their typical chicken sandwich... this one is thicker, juicier, and in my opinion, less processed.  Topped with a few pickle slices on a slightly sweet steamed bun, this thing is delightful...
...especially when paired with McDonald's fresh-brewed Sweet Tea.  This is NOT the same as the lame Nestea that Canadian McD's have.  This is The Real Deal.  It's things like this that make me wonder if I was a Southern Belle in a previous life...
So there you have it.  A successful weekend in the U.S. of A, visiting a dear friend and pigging out on all the unique and delicious foods that I've missed.  I have heard rumours that Winnipeg will be getting an Ikea and a Target in the relatively near future... is it too much to hope that some of these American gems will follow?

Unashamedly proclaiming her admiration for the red, white, and blue,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You are what you eat!

Alas, my time this weekend grows short, so I'll just finish up with a post I've been planning for awhile.  While I did fit some fun food exploits into this weekend (namely, going for dim sum at Kum Koon Garden, getting bagels at Harvest Bakery, and scoring some free peanut butter ice cream with raspberry mixin at the Marble Slab), I did also keep busy with some wedding planning.

How does nuptial stuff relate to this post?  Well, my dear sibs keep telling me that they plan to embarrass the pants off of me during the wedding reception with a puppet show (starring miniature versions of me and Hubs) in lieu of a more traditional speech.  I'm about 99.9% sure that they're bluffing.  Hopefully.  Maybe.  Anyway, I happen to have a few embarrassing food-related items for them.  Call it a preemptive strike.  These just make me hope that the titular idiom for this post is false.

Ahh, Sar.  Why on earth are you holding tuna and dog food?  Oh, that's right, you thought the dog food was chili, which might be nice to take to school to heat up for lunch.  Please, put the Ol' Roy down.  That's for our subservient quadruped, Cindy.
Moving on to the next sibling: I'm pleased to announce, for the first time on "A Weekend, in Food", a video!

Yes, that's Al, the chef-in-training, chugging a container of McDonald's pancake syrup.  Hmm.  A total class act, that one.

Don't even get me STARTED on what Ni has eaten, particularly if there's a monetary wager involved.  The tamest of these has been about a teaspoon of freshly crushed garlic, straight up... I won't get into the most disturbing.  Let's just say, my bearded dragon Max would've shared in the meal with her, given the chance... *shudders*

Hoping my sibs, as wonderful as they are, choose not to retaliate on The Big Day,

Belly Up to the Bar

I've had a few occasions over the past weeks to make various types of bars.  We're not talking the tiki variety with mai tais (though this makes me miss my dear friend Jer), but more the baked-goods variety.  I love bars; they're so versatile, easy to prepare, and are great for making large quantities of treats in one go.  They also give you the option of portion control- just cut them into smaller squares, and you instantly have less fat and sugar per serving! *wink*

At any rate, first I wanted to revisit a childhood classic with my cousin** Sally's butterscotch brownies.  These would make their way to big family campground picnics, and I liked them so much that I requested the recipe when I was probably 14-15 years old.  These are so easy to throw together, and give you a bit of a different take on the usual brownie fare.  They sort of remind me of a mash-up of chocolate chip cookie flavour with traditional chewy brownie texture... definitely delicious.

**Being a genetic counsellor, my "party trick" is to teach people how they're actually related to their "cousins".  To be absolutely precise, Sally is my first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (that is, the wife of my father's first cousin).  Most people don't understand how the once-removed thing works, and would incorrectly label Sally as my second cousin.  This is not the case.  I shall refer you to Robin L. Bennett's book, "The Practical Guide to the Genetic Family History".  Hubs and I have debated this one to death, and this book was sort of a tie-breaker.
Butterscotch Brownies
From Cousin Sally

Makes 24 brownies (or more, depending on how you slice 'em)
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Cream brown sugar and butter together thoroughly; beat in eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Add flour and salt, folding just to combine; stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Spread into an 8-inch square greased pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan and cut into squares... resist as long as you can before devouring (they continue to cook as they cool).

Look good, don't they?  I'll confess... these didn't make it to the office.  I enjoyed them over the course of a long work-week, with milk and/or coffee and/or tea.  Mmmm.
 Next up, also from the family archives: zucchini fruit bars.  If you've ever lived in Southwestern Ontario, you probably know someone who grows zucchini.  Perhaps multiple people, as in my case (both Nonna and my future mom-in-law have quite the green thumb).  At any rate, it seems like everyone is always looking for ways to use up this summer squash before it goes bad.  As a result, my intelligent future M-I-L, Carla, has quite the repository of zucchini recipes.  This is one of them.

Zucchini Fruit Bars
From Hubs' mom Carla (who doesn't remember where she got it.  I asked.)

Makes about 24 squares, again, depending on how you slice them
  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (sometimes mom pre-shreds hers, freezes it, and then thaws it out)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF
  2. Cream margarine with the white and brown sugars.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  3. Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.  Add to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.
  4. Stir in the coconut, dates, raisins, and zucchini.
  5. Spread into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Carla's recipe also includes a glaze that can be poured over the baked bars, but I think they're just fine without it.  If you want to go ahead and add it, mix 1 tbsp margarine, 1 1/2 tbsp milk, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1 cup icing sugar until smooth and pour over the partially cooled bars while still in the pan.  You can also sprinkle on chopped nuts if you want.

I brought a batch of these moist, "naked" (i.e. no glaze or nuts) bars to work, and they seemed to be an instant hit.  I think I got more compliments on them than any of my other baking endeavors so far!  Could it be because they had some semblance of healthy ingredients?  Who knows!  At any rate, thanks again to Hubs' mom for sharing the recipe with me!
Last up: the classic favourite, chocolate brownies.  I was asked, as a "voluntold" member of the social committee at work, to bring something "small and sweet" to celebrate a coworker's impending nuptials.  This request came the day before the congratulatory event, on a night when I had American Sign Language class to attend.  Hrm.  A quick mental inventory run-down told me that I had everything needed for these suckers, so I quickly tossed them together, threw them in the oven, and whipped them out in just enough time to get down to the Deaf Centre Manitoba.  Whew! 

 This is apparently Anna Olson's go-to brownie recipe... though I found them to be just a tiny bit too cake-y for my liking.  Two things that could remedy that: a larger pan (for thinner brownies) and less cooking time.  I did approve of my swapping of toasted walnuts (in the original recipe) for chocolate chips... I suppose that makes the double chocolate brownies, no?

Whatever you call them, they were pretty good.  One of the geneticists I work with kept going back for more... I think his total count was five or six.  AND he's thin as a rail.  Jealousy, thy name is Honeybee.
All of these were relatively simple and worked well... but I've been feeling like I need to up my game in the bar department.  For example, I LOVE Nanaimo bars and date squares, but have never had the guts to take a DIY approach to them... I'm thinking that's got to change.

Looking forward to more rectangular treats in the future,

Catching up: Meatballs by request

I'm back!!  After a couple of crazy weeks of work and play, I'm finally in possession of some spare time to get back to noshing and writing about it.  Hooray!  Now we get to play catch-up.

First up: hot and spicy meatballs.  An old friend from elementary school, who's been following the blog, requested that I put these up for the enjoyment of all.  I can distinctly remember making them for some sort of French class potluck... which, if I recall correctly, was only for the teachers and staff.  We students just got to translate the recipe into French, bring in the finished product, and help transform the resource room into a romatic bistro.  Looking back now, I'm not sure if that counts as child labour... ah well, c'est la vie.

Regardless, these little cocktail meatballs are definitely worth an entry.  My mom used to make these for potlucks or "finger-food" parties, where they were always a hit.  How could they not be?  They're the perfect size for spearing with toothpicks, and end a hot component to the otherwise chilled selection of cheeses, dips, and crudités typically found at these gatherings.  Of course, as pre-cooked frozen boxed cocktail meatballs became more prevalent, this homemade version became too much work.  In fact, it took my dear sister Sar quite a long time to dig the recipe out of the archives.

THE ARCHIVES.  Stand in awe.  We weren't sure if the recipe would be filed under "meatball" or "Swedish"; turns out, it was under H for "hot and spicy".
EUREKA!  Thanks Sar!  The hilarious part: my fifth-grade handwriting still graces the page.  Sar thought it was our brother's clumsy scrawl... which doesn't saying much for my manual dexterity at age 11.
Once we found the recipe, and Sar immortalized it in digital format (thanks again seester!!), I could re-create the meaty goodness that were these little gems.  And now, Jo, for your enjoyment:

Hot and Spicy Meatballs
From my wonderful mother (whose primary source, alas, is not known)

Makes about 50 meatballs and lots of tasty sauce

  • 1 ½ lb ground beef
    ½ lb ground pork
    2 eggs
    ½ cup breadcrumbs
    ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
    1 tbsp horseradish
    1 tsp salt
    ½ tsp pepper

    ¼ cup brown sugar
    1 tsp dry mustard
    ½ cup each ketchup, chili sauce, water, & grape jelly**
    ¼ cup cider vinegar
    1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
    ¼ tsp Tabasco sauce
    1 onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, minced

** Don't laugh.  The grape jelly is key.  You can find chili sauce in the condiments aisle (Heinz makes one), but I substituted hot salsa with no ill effects.
  1. Meatballs:  mix all ingredients and shape into small balls.  Bake at 350ªF 10-15 minutes until well browned
  2. Sauce: In saucepan combine all ingredients.  Bring to a boil, sturring constantly.  Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Add meatballs and simmer 15 minutes.  Serve warm.
Yes, folks, that cookie portioner can do more than just sweet dough.
Sauce in the making, with baked meatballs.
Marriage of the happy couple: meat and sauce.  Mmm.
While traditionally these would be served as an appetizer, I made a meal of them with some red-skinned garlic mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli.  Quite a delish dish.
 To me, the great thing about these meatballs (aside from their complex flavour and universal appeal) is the fact that they're baked instead of fried, allowing you to quickly cook up large batches.  It also saves on the mess of pan-frying.  I may apply this procedure to other meatballs, as well.  Which reminds me... I need to make a point to watch Nonna like a hawk next time she makes spaghetti and meatballs.  Hers are always PERFECT.

Still enjoying leftovers of these spherical carnivorous delights,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Brief hiatus!

Hello all!

Just wanted to apologize and inform everyone that, due to being in the middle of an insane couple of weeks, my kitchen has been largely abandoned.  Last weekend, I filled up on all things American while visiting my classmate in Nebraska; this weekend, I'll be enjoying the luxurious offerings of the Delta Armories in London (Ontario, the "less exotic" London) at the spectacular nuptial celebrations of Kimmi and Seanno.  The only food being served in my apartment during weekends these days is dry kitty kibble.  Fun for Chief and Figaro, but not exactly blog-worthy.  I do have plans to come back with a bang... I made some delicious goodies prior to the Weeks of Insanity that I need to post, and I'll most definitely do a blow-by-blow of all the delicious food I've missed from the "land of the free and the home of the brave".

Steph and I, displaying the ardent love that Nebraskans have for their university football team, the Cornhuskers.  I'm not kidding.  I bought a shirt just for the pure hilarity.
Be back in a couple of weeks!!


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sunday Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Pancakes

 Some mornings just call for a large, pampering breakfast.  For example, the morning after the consumption of a bottle of wine at a dubious “wine bar” and copious amounts of dancing at Gio’s… thankfully pancakes seem to have anti-vino-hangover-headache properties for me.  Huzzah.

Normally, I cure hangovers with a super-greasy bacon-and-eggs breakfast… but I already felt bad enough about myself, so I reached (yes, AGAIN) for my G.I. Diet Clinic’s recipe for oatmeal pancakes and fiddled with it a bit.  I’ve made these pancakes before… the only downside is the 20-minute oat-soaking time period.  But, just get them soaking, make some coffee, prep the rest of the ingredients, and feed your cats… it doesn’t take much extra time overall.  Undoctored, these are delicious, but they needed some oomph for me this morning.  I accomplished this “thusly”, as Alton would say:

Oatmeal Cranberry Apple Pancakes
Adapted from “The G.I. Diet Clinic” by Rick Gallop
(Seriously, I hope he doesn’t sue me)

Makes five respectable-sized pancakes… which is supposed to be 2 servings for those without hangovers.  One serving for those suffering for their EtOH transgressions.

  • A generous 1/3 cup large-flake oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/8 cup (or 2 tbsp) ground flaxseed
  • ½ tbsp Splenda
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Omega-3 egg
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ of a large apple, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  1. In a 2-cup measuring cup, soak oats in buttermilk for 20 minutes
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, flaxseed, Splenda, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. When the 20 minutes is up, whisk the egg, oil, and vanilla into the buttermilk-oats mixture.  Pour over flour mixture and stir until just mixed.  Add the apple and cranberries and stir just to incorporate.
  4. Meanwhile, heat non-stick griddle or large non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Give it a quick spritz of non-stick spray oil.  Ladle about a half of a soup-ladle’s worth of batter onto the griddle for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles appear on top, edges are starting to brown, and the top has almost completely lost its shiny “uncooked” sheen (about 3 minutes or so)
  5. Flip pancakes and cook for another minute or two until golden.  Transfer to a plate and devour. 
I call this piece, "As the Pancake Turns".  But is it art? ;)
These doctored pancakes are probably okay in the G.I. world, but what I did to them next most definitely is NOT:

That’s right.  Margarine and table syrup.  It’s not even light syrup, which tastes gross to me.  I was tempted to buy the “diabetic” pancake syrup in the store, but I couldn’t justify spending twice the amount of money for half the amount of product.  It’s also not maple syrup, which is incredibly expensive and, in my opinion, too runny.  My mom always bought a huge jug of No Name table syrup for family pancake mornings, and if it was good enough for her, it’s more than good enough for me.  Blood sugar levels be damned!! (Well, for me.  No disrespect to those for whom monitoring this level is serious business).

The combination of a warm, sunny (if windy!) fall morning combined with these delicious pancakes chased away the blahs of overindulgence from the night before.  A great start to a gorgeous Sunday.

Wishing that all pancakes could be considered healthy,