Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm such a forgetful person sometimes.  I completely neglected to showcase the fantastic homemade dessert that Tori and Graham brought me during their quick stop in Windsor.  They're so sweet... of course they're welcome in my family's house anytime, but they didn't want to come empty-handed.  Their lovely, mouth-watering, but completely unnecessary gesture: a big pan of peach crisp.

I don't feel that I did this dessert justice here, due to a) my desire inhale this delicious treat, b) lack of time to play around with lighting, and c) my rush to get to the airport on time.  On a fun note, though, you can see my favourite sweet (Hubs) reflected in the spoon. 
Mom does pride herself on spotless silverware... ;)
I was informed later that Tori accidentally skipped the cinnamon on this one; I didn't even notice, as I was too busy enjoying the dozens of fresh Ontario peaches that she'd peeled and sliced BY HAND.  No canned or jarred stonefruit here.  That's a labour of love, folks.  Mmm.  Hopefully, if Tori sees this and agrees, she'll share the recipe with me and I can post it here.  Whaddya say, hon?  Willing to post it to the interwebs?  Let me know!

Pondering why Manitoba seems to get all its peaches from BC, even though Ontario is much closer,

The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment

Since moving, I've had pretty much constant cravings for pizza like they used to make in the old country.  And by "country", I mean the city of Windsor.  It's one of those "you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" situations.  My sibs and I didn't realize that Windsor truly has unique pizza until we saw a "Windsor-style Pizza" joint in London, Ontario.  Windsor-style?!  Wasn't pizza the same in any city?

My go-to for delivery, Capri Pizza.  Their motto is brutally honest, but still complimentary: "A penny more, a penny less... Capri Pizza is still the best!!"  It's definitely on my top 5 "best" list.  Image from Google Street View.
Once we thought about it, we realized, "OF COURSE not all pizzas are created equally!!"  We already knew that comparing "big chain" pizzas, local pizzeria products, and and homemade pizza was like comparing apples, oranges, and bananas.  Totally different, even if they are all fruit.  Erm, pizza.  You get it.  

Windsor is flush with fantastic local pizzeria chains.  Heck, our best man, Greg, will have his parents order him a batch of pizzas from his favourite joint when he comes to visit from Edmonton.  I think we can thank the huge influx of Italian immigrants to the region in the 1940s, my Nonna and Nonno among them.  How can you blame them fro trying to recreate the stone-baked, thinner crust pizza that they were used to?  By the same token, I don't think I can be blamed for wanting pizza like that to which I've become accustomed. 

My only problem?  Finding a pizzeria in Winnipeg that could deliver not only the right flavours and textures, but deliver right to my apartment door.  So like a good scientist, what did I do?  I designed The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment, which I've been working on most weekends since I arrived here at the beginning of June.

My favourite "sit-down" Windsor pizza restaurant and local chain, Armando's.  Almost a decade ago, the staff helped Hubs and I after we were in a car accident right out front.  Years later, Kiks and I went for a yummy late dinner.  Also good for a "date" with Hubs after we did a Christmas photo shoot... great atmosphere, with the same delicious pizza we get for delivery.  Perfect.  Image from Google Street View.
I've been relying on the Winnipeg Yellow Pages and recommendations from my friends/coworkers for leads on good pizzerias (or pizzerie, if you want to get super-Italian-grammar-picky).  I do have a set of rules, which are inspired by my Aunt Lisa and Uncle Dave.  They did a similar experiment in Windsor to find their favourite local chain; I thought I'd follow suit!

The Great Winnipeg Pizza Experiment (Honeybee et al, 2010)

Materials and Methods:
  1. Go through the phone book (roughly in alphabetical order) to find pizzerias (though more recently I've been going on recommendations).  Specifications:
    1. The restaurant must be a pizzeria first and foremost.  "Two-for-one" pizza places, and laundromat/fried chicken/variety store/pizza establishments are excluded.
    2. National pizza chains (Pizza Hut, Domino's, Pizza Pizza, Little Caesar's, Panago, Boston Pizza, etc) are excluded.  Local chains are permissible.
    3. The restaurant must have a location that delivers to my apartment (though I may relax this rule at one point).
  2. Order a medium pepperoni pizza with no "extras", so that variables would be minimized as much as possible.  If pressed for preferences, I just ask for "whatever's standard".
  3. Analyze crust, pepperoni, sauce, and cheese and score against standard Windsor style pizza.
I have to hand it to Winnipeg, they have NO shortage of good pizza.  I've tried six places at this point, some with very clever names: A Little Pizza Heaven, Academy Pizza Company, Café 22/Pizza Hotline, Gondola Pizza, Santa Lucia Pizza, and Sorrento's.   All have been quite tasty in their own right, but so far Sorrento's has hit the closest to home (with Santa Lucia a close second).  I have uncovered a few issues, however.  It seems like pizzerias in the River City prefer to put their pepperoni UNDER the cheese.  I know this isn't completely unheard of, but I like it up top where it can get nice and crispy.  Along those same lines, nobody seems to use shredded pepperoni.  Again, this lends itself to crispiness, and therefore deliciousness.  I know this is minor; I can always request both of these to customize my pizza.

BEHOLD!!  This is how it's done, Winnipeg. 
Pizza courtesy of Capri; financing courtesy of Mom and Dad
My other problem is my inability to accurately describe Windsor pizza.  I'd never really had to think about it before.  When I first brought The Experiment to the attention of my coworkers, I managed to say that it's baked in a stone oven, with just a tiny sprinkling of cornmeal so it doesn't stick.  The crust is medium-thin, with a good chewy texture to it.  Sauce is barely more than crushed tomatoes and garlic, cheese is real, stretchy mozzarella, and pepperoni is, again, shredded and placed on top.  I was met with relatively blank looks.  Apparently nothing in the 'Peg quite fits the bill.  

Luckily, this past weekend, I flew home for the first time to celebrate my sister's wedding with a beach barbecue, and to attend one of my best girlfriend's wedding showers.  We managed to get the family together (including Kiks and Hubs, as well as Tori and Graham who drove down from London just to see me), and ordered Capri pizza.  Combination of delicious pizza and being surrounded by my loved ones: priceless.  THAT was a little pizza heaven.

Hubs, live and in person (YAY!), chowing down on the "deluxe" variety of slice.  More for him, since I'm not a huge fan of olives, green peppers, or mushrooms.  I know, I'm a terrible Italian-Canadian.
The upside to the lovely pizza dinner (besides the obvious good times around the family table) was that I was able to smuggle a few pieces past Air Canada in my carry-on.  Well, "smuggle" isn't really accurate... it's not like there are laws against bringing pizza across provincial borders.  Plus, I imagine that the Windsor Airport security guards would hardly blame me for my odd luggage.  So with the coveted slices safely back in the 'Peg, I was able to feed my wonderful colleagues small pieces of the (albeit cold) contraband.  This confirmed my suspicion: Sorrento's pizza is quite close to Windsor style.  Another recommendation, courtesy of fellow genetic counsellor Shannon, was to try Casa Grande Pizzeria.  This would break Rule #4 of the experiment, as Casa Grande doesn't deliver, but it's definitely worth a shot.  Shannon has spoken very highly of this particular establishment in the past, so at the very least I feel confident that I'll enjoy a tasty pizza.

...but will it be as tasty as THIS?!  Note the bitemarks.  I annhiliated this, and I believe this plate was my second helping.  No wonder that airplane seatbelt felt snugger than usual...

 And so, the experiment continues.  I haven't ordered any this weekend (my weekly eating-out budget is earmarked for the next Eat Around The World-Winnipeg excursion), but I'll have to try Casa Grande in the near future.

Still envying Hubs his proximity to the fabulous Bullseye Pizza in our hometown,

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nemmie, peanut butter cup cookies, and food adventurism

I've mentioned that I love baking.  I've also mentioned that I try not to keep the requisite ingredients *coughbuttercough* in the house, lest I get into a baking groove and eat the fruits of my labour.  Oh, sure, a couple of cookies won't kill you... but all three dozen?  Consumed over a single weekend?  Problematic.

Cookie dough.  It's a weapon of mass destruction (or mass creation, if you ask my thighs).
These particular cookies come from my favourite food blogger/inspiration/role model, Nemmie.  I came across her blog about two years ago, while Googling to find a "grown-up" dessert to bring to my friends' (Lauri & Alex's) house.  I came across her almond cherry upside-down cake, and that was that.  The only downside was that Laur's piece had the only two cherry pits in the entire cake... oops!  Sorry about that.  Luckily she was careful, so her teeth were no worse for the wear.

I'm sad that Nemmie has decided to retire her blog to spend more time with her own Hubs and her adorable son... though I totally understand her priorities.  Thankfully, though, she's left the blog up, which gave me the opportunity to give these cookies a shot.

Don't eat every one of them... don't eat every one of them... This is hard!!!  And yes, Hubs, the oven mitt isn't just for show.  I'll stick by my promise to avoid more oven-burn scars on my hands... they tend to look bad in wedding photos.  Safety first and all that.
The philosophy behind these cookies is genius.  I strongly suggest you read Nemmie's post about them, then give them a go yourself.  The prospect of a cookie with the texture of a chocolate chip cookie but the flavour of a peanut butter cookie definitely appealed to me.  So, to try to stay as true to the recipe as possible, I measured very carefully and avoided major modifications (save one).  I even (gasp!) measured out the vanilla extract precisely.  With a measuring spoon.  I NEVER do that; I just free-pour from the fantastic bottle of the real-deal, not imitation, alcoholic (!!) version that my darling parents picked up from Costco for me.  Who knew they had such treasures hidden in their mile-high warehouse shelves?

I seem to love the up-close, gratuitous texture shot.  Ignore the blue spoonula.
The one modification I made to the recipe, out of regional necessity, was the peanut butter cup "chips".  As far as I'm aware, The True North Strong And Free does not boast the Trader Joe's chain of gourmet markets.  I've seen locations in Chicago, IL and Royal Oak, MI, but unfortunately these are now much to far away for me to take advantage of.  My daily Can/U.S. border crossing days are behind me, for now at least.  Though I do miss "importing" my McDonald's brewed sweet tea and my Cherry Coke Zero... *sniffles*

Sorry.  Back on target (crap, I miss Target, too!).  Since I couldn't find any peanut butter cup "chips", like the recipe suggests, I bought a bag of "mini" (about 3 cm in diameter) peanut butter cups.  It being summer, I lobbed them into the freezer to chill down, then chopped each one into quarters to mix into the cookies.

Quick side story: I'm such a huge cookie nerd that I actually own two "portioners" (smaller versions of the spring-loaded ice cream scoopers) to ensure that all my cookies are the same size, and will bake evenly.  This comes after years of my mother, watching over my shoulder as I rolled ready-made cookie dough from tubs sold for school fundraisers.  I was frequently met with criticisms such as, "That cookie will be too big!", and "That one's a different size; it'll burn in the oven before the others are done!"  Clearly, the cookie scoops are a necessity.  My BFFK (Best Friend Forever, Kiks) would be so proud of my solution for those "scoop and plop" cookies!
Nemmie's recipe made quite a few dozen of these tempting gems.  Normally, this would nullify my weekly workouts; however this time I had a plan.  My coworker/friend Jessica's birthday was the next day, so the vast majority of these peanutty dreams made their way to the mail room (a.k.a. all-you-can-eat jean-busting junk food buffet) at work.  I've never seen my wonderful coworkers resemble a plague of locusts so closely; the container was nearly empty by 11 am.  Luckily, I'd hand-delivered a few cookies to the birthday girl first-thing that morning, so she didn't miss out.

Knowing full well that no cookies would survive the 8-hour day to be brought home again, I had saved about eight or so for my own consumption.  This is where the adventurism kicks in: I decided to make ice-cream sandwiches.

Notice anything funny?  Juuuuust keep reading....
Any French-savvy friends (with good eyesight, since the carton's blurry) might be catching on to why this is adventurous.  I LOVE chocolate and peanut butter as a flavour combination.  I also LOVE the classic chocolate and mint pairing.  Whenever I buy a bag of those mini filled chocolate cups, I'm always torn between milk-chocolate-and-PB and dark-chocolate-mint crème.  Merde!!

After baking these delish cookies, I decided to go for broke.  Why couldn't I have BOTH of my favourite chocolate companion flavours simultaneously?!  I know what you're thinking... the transitive property (I can hear my mother cheering) doesn't exactly apply here.  Just because:

chocolate + peanut butter = good
(though this would kill Nicole and Tori), and
chocolate + mint = good
(though I know many who debate this equation),
it doesn't necessarily follow that
peanut butter + mint = good.

Mom would be so proud.  Regardless, I set about to prove the above theorem.  A scoop of President's Choice Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and two freshly baked cookies later, I think I succeeded.  I really wasn't sure what to expect... I think of peanut butter as a warm, earthy flavour, while mint is a much cooler, fresher one.  Didn't know if they'd play nicely together on my palate.  But, overall, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Although, upon further reflection, I hazily recall having made peanut butter and mint jelly sandwiches in my youth and enjoying them... this latent memory must have surfaced to enlighten me once again.  Don't ask why I thought it was a good idea to use mint jelly in a sandwich.  It was only in the house at my behest... we're not really a "roast lamb and mint jelly" kind of family.  I think I might have seen it used on some sort of children's television program.

Anyway, this little experience taught me that I may have to experiment with peanut butter and other slightly unconventional flavours again in the future.  I will NOT, however, experience another peanut butter and Cheez Whiz sandwich.  Sorry Chaddy... I love you, but that was not the highlight of our undergraduate studying picnic by the Thames.

Steering clear of processed "cheez" spreads as a general rule,

Friday, August 27, 2010

DIY brunch

I love brunch.  I'm very excited about the prospect of checking out some of the fantastic late-brekkie/early-lunch places in the 'Peg.  Of course, J'ADORE Chez Cora, but it's much the same from Canadian city to city (thanks again, Michelle, for introducing me!!)  Hubs and I tried Stella's when he was here visiting a couple of months ago, and I'm slated to try The Tallest Poppy tomorrow with the friends/coworkers.  On that note, I need to come up with a good term for them.  The "froworkends", maybe.  Thoughts, ladies?  ...I know, I hate it too.  Scratch that.  Moving on.

Seriously.  How can this little sun NOT brighten your day?!  Image from Cora's website.  I can't help but endorse it.  If you go, order the asparagus and swiss Eggs Ben et Dictine (I love their Francophone puns, too... fantastique!)

As much as I love brunching out, being up to my ears in student loans means this is frowned upon by my creditors (and by Hubs, though the man loves a good eggs benedict as much as I do...)  So, I often take it upon myself to make a "do-it-yourself" brunch, with things that I don't eat on a daily basis (read: not Mini-Wheats, Kashi GoLean, or oatmeal.  Fibre is my friend).  A couple of weekend brunch-y items of note, from the past couple of weekends: puffy apple omelette, and bagels with fresh fruit.

Alright, I'm not going to lie.  I worked my iPhoto magic on the colour of these cherries.  But can you blame me?!  They now look as scrumptious as they tasted.
Mmm.  Cheddar cheese bagel.  Since frequenting Safeway more often, I find myself buying more bagels.  They have a truly tempting selection, and this one caught my eye.  Perfect addition to brunch... I try to steer clear of them normally since I've heard that they're equivalent to eating four slices of bread.  Eep.
The whole shebang... rounded out with some coffee and orange juice.  A good start to a productive Saturday.

I really want to share this ever-so-slightly modded recipe for baked apple omelette.  I know what you're thinking.  Apples.  Omelette.  Not a common pairing.  Let me ask you this, though: have you ever wanted to eat apple pie for breakfast?  And have it be a legitimate breakfast food??  If so, give this a whirl.  The original recipe is from the G.I. diet book... again, though, modified because I detest liquid egg.  I find it quite dry and displeasing.  Instead, I used Omega-3 eggs (in a shell, from a chicken), which by the book's reckoning are the next best thing.  Not sure what my modifications did to the G.I.-ishness... but the end result was fantastic.  I can definitely see myself making this for a brunch involving more than just me and a brace of nosy felines...

Baked Apple Omelette
Adapted from "Living the G.I. Diet" by Rick Gallop and Emily Richards

Serves 4, generously
  • 4 "cooking" apples (I used Royal Gala)
  • 2 tsp non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (or apple; all I had was O.J.)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp Splenda
  • 6 Omega-3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup large flake oats (Not instant oats or rolled oats.  Go to Bulk Barn and read carefully)
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Quarter each apple and remove the core.  Slice each quarter into approximately six slices (you'll have 24 slices per apple; hope that makes sense).  Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, melt margarine.
  2. Add apple slices, juice, and cinnamon to the skillet.  Cook for about 15 minutes or until apples are tender-crisp.  Place slices in an 8-inch glass square baking dish or glass pie dish; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Splenda, vanilla, milk, oats, flour, and salt.  Pour over apples and bake in a 350ºF oven for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden brown (I ended up baking it for about 30 minutes total, until the middle set properly).  A knife or toothpick inserted in the centre should come out clean.
  4. Let cool, then cut into pieces and serve.
Hot out of the oven.  Mmm.
Gratuitous texture shot!!  Just look at that lovely apple and oatmeal action...
All you need is a cup of coffee and you're set to go.

Et voilà.  A breakfast apple pie.  So very, very tasty.  I love feeling like I'm eating dessert for breakfast.  Emphasis on the "feeling like".  Some days, I actually do just grab a handful of freshly-baked cookies and chow down in the car on the way to work.  This is why it's a bad idea for me to keep butter in the house.  Butter is the gateway ingredient to sinful baked goods... especially after I discovered just how poorly margarine performs in my favourite cookie recipes.  Since my last batch of cookies (and also the inspiration for my next post) used up the last of that straight-to-my-thighs dairy product, I'm safe.  For now.

Trying to ignore the moos of protest from the dairy farmers' associations,

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Skinny scallops

 Sorry for the delay in posts!  I haven't lost my zest for blogging only a few weeks in, I promise.  You can thank Air Canada for my absence... I didn't think it was possible to be jet-lagged across two time zones, but I guess 4 hours of delays in YYZ will do that to you.  Anyhow!  More on that particular weekend in food later; I need to get caught up.  Bottom line: I'm back in the 'Peg, safe and sound, and it's time to face the music.

The G.I. Diet Clinic: Rick Gallop's Week-by-Week Guide to Permanent Weight LossI've mentioned a couple of recipes from the "G.I. Diet Clinic" book that I have.  It's by Rick Gallop, a past president of the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation.  I have to thank one of my BFFs, Kimmi, for introducing me to it.  She has the best possible description for it: "It's basically the Canadian Food Guide for dummies".  Count me among the dummies :P  Oh, sure, I know that I need to eat more vegetables and fewer fatty meats and carbs... but this book truly does take the guesswork out of things.  It even has a week-by-week meal plan.  The basic premise is to eat foods that take longer for your body to break down (complex carbs, fibre), and to eat more frequently so you're not feeling like you're starving yourself.  It labels everyday foods as "green light" (eat pretty well as much as you want), yellow light (eat infrequently), and red light (avoid if at all possible).  The recipes, too, are by and large delicious and easy to prepare.  I jumped on it initally, and it definitely helped me trim down... but unfortunately I haven't really been adhering to the glycemic index way of life very well, despite knowing that this book will definitely help me lose the extra poundage around the ol' waistline.

I think part of my failure to stick with things is my hesitation to turn my kitchen over to a predetermined meal plan.  Sometimes I just don't FEEL like eating chicken if that's what's on the menu that day.  This makes it less likely that I'll cook the orange almond poultry dish, which then usually leads to ordering pizza instead.  Still, some of the recipes look so good that it's easy to incorporate them into my dinner plans.  This scallop dish was one of those situations.  I actually photocopied (shh!) the recipe from another G.I. diet book by the same author.  President's Choice offers "Blue Menu" (their healthier-for-you line of products) Argentinian sea scallops for a very reasonable price, so I had a package in my freezer and was trying to figure out what to do with them.  Voilà.  For some reason I was out of the sort of bean that the recipe recommends, so I'll just post the recipe here as I prepared it.

Sesame Scallop and Mixed Bean Toss
Adapted from "Living the G.I. Diet" by Rick Gallop
Serves 2
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/2 lb (~225 grams, or half a package of PC Blue Menu) sea scallops
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 fresh tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 yellow zucchini, sliced (the same one I got from the market.  Yum!!)
  • 1 cup canned mixed beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce (sort of an Asian barbecue sauce; find it near the teriyaki and soy sauce in the supermarket)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil (see note)
  • Pinch each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional, for those who hate it)
  1. Place sesame seeds on plate.  Roll scallops around in seeds to coat; set aside.
  2. In large non-stick skillet, heat canola oil over medium-high heat.  Brown scallops on all sides and remove to plate; cover to keep warm.  Leave remaining sesame seeds in skillet.
  3. In same skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook onion and garlic for 3 minutes.  Ad broccoli, tomato, beans, hoisin, orange juice, sesame oil (see note), salt, and pepper; cook for about 8 minutes or until broccoli is tender-crisp.  Return scallops to skillet and heat through  Sprinkle with cilantro, if you can bear the taste of it.
  4. Devour.
Note: You can find small bottles of sesame seed oil near the rest of the oils (olive, canola, etc) at the supermarket, but you have to look hard.  DO NOT overshoot the amount you need.  When I cook, I tend to just eyeball things as I toss them in, instead of measuring properly... THIS IS A MISTAKE when it comes to the very pungent, very strong sesame oil.  Just a dab'll do ya.  I added way too much the first go-around here... and didn't notice until things started smelling unappetizingly "funny".  Since I knew what everything else in the pan smelled like, I concluded it was the sesame oil that was overpowering everything (I'm relatively new to it).  No worries; a little more hoisin, a little more orange juice, and I was back in business.  But please, if you're going to break out the measuring spoons for anything in this recipe, let it be the oil.

Close-up while cooking.  I absolutely love the look of yellow zucchini.  Things were starting to smell better at this point, thank goodness.
With the sesame and hoisin sauce, this seemed "asian" enough to serve on the sushi set that Hubs lovingly bought for me a few Christmases ago.  And yes, despite detesting almost every member of the capsicum family, I'm a Pepper.  Go figure.
 My quick rescue attempt, detailed in the note above the pics, actually reminded me... I need to give you all a disclaimer.  While I may post a lot of delicious recipes from the G.I. Diet series of books, I often make modifications to them based on 1) what I have on hand, 2) what ingredients I do and don't like, and 3) my total disregard for measuring cups, outside the realm of baking.  Therefore, I cannot guarantee that these recipes are still "green light", or recommended for weight loss as part of the G.I. Diet.  Please don't eat nothing but these scallops and that delicious thai red curry pasta, then curse my name if you don't shed a pound.  I warned you.

Without the Diet DP this time, though aspartame-sweetened sodas are technically "green-light".  I'm not 100% sure where I stand on the claim that no studies have shown long-term harms from aspartame consumption... I need to review the primary literature and get back to you.
I guess that's part of my problem with this diet, too... if given a choice between proper cooking conditions and severely restricting oil usage, for example, I'd go with a well-lubricated skillet any day.  There's nothing worse than onions and garlic burning in a too-dry sauté pan, let me tell you.  While I completely respect the goal of these recipes, at the same time I can't bring myself to potentially ruin what would otherwise be Good Eats (I miss you, Alton.  I need to find out what time your show airs in Central Standard Time).

Pebbles (a.k.a. "The Pebbinator"), a temporary flatmate of mine, relaxing next to some enlightening food literature.  He clearly enjoys good eats on a regular basis, given that he's 26 pounds of furry grey tabby love.  I only pray that I won't become his bipedal counterpart in the adipose tissue department... 
On that note, I'm off to tug on some yoga pants and hit the gym.  I'm attempting a "couch potato to 5-kilometre" plan... hopefully by the time Kimmi is showing off her fantastic new figure in her wedding dress in October, I'll be looking a few pounds leaner in my very cute bridesmaid's dress.  Ah, the consummate problem for the serious food addict affectionado... and it certainly won't be helped by the delicious weekend that I have planned ahead.

Hoping that she and hubs (combined) will one day be able to snuggle on a standard lawn chair without fearing for its structural integrity,

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hummus, tabbouleh, and Shalom Square

As Jessica and Kyle suggested, Saturday night I went to the Shalom Square Israel pavilion, as part of the annual Winnipeg Folklorama festival.  For all my friends back in Windsor: think Carousel of Nations, but bigger, more organized, and with set show-times for guaranteed fantastic entertainment to go along with amazing food.  I'd been to the Portugal and India pavilions already, so I was excited to continue my first year of Folklorama fun. 

The gorgeous Asper Jewish Community Campus, home of Gray's Academy, a K-12 private school, and the Shalom Square pavilion.  Photo from the Asper Foundation website.
I was a bit peckish a couple of hours before leaving (the market perogies only held me over so long), so I decided to chow down on some hummus and tabbouleh salad I'd made earlier in the week as a sort of lunch/dinner (I'm not a fan of the term "linner").  It definitely got me in the mood for some Middle Eastern fare.  It being Shabbat, the Israel pavilion wouldn't be open until after the sun went down, so dinner would be late; I needed a snack!

Tabbouleh Salad
Adapted from "The G.I. Diet Clinic" by Rick Gallop
 (Adaptations = I didn't have some of the right ingredients. 
This is far from authentic, but it's tasty)

Makes 4-6 servings... generously.  A great one to bring to a bbq or potluck.
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup bulgur
  • 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 540 mL can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cucumber, diced
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil (but only because I was out of mint)
  • 1 tbsp chopped red onion (but only because I was out of green onion)
  1. In saucepan, bring water to boil; add bulgur.  Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes or until water is absorbed.  Using fork, scrape into large bowl; let cool
  2. In small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and cumin; pour over bulgur.  Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, basil and onion until well combined.

    On to Shalom Square.  With the sun safely below the horizon, Jessica, Kyle and I ventured out to explore Israeli culture.  The displays lining the halls were rich with great information; I had no idea the first cell phone was designed in Israel!  My one track mind, however, was on the nosh.  I went for the Tel Aviv platter: falafel, a cheese and spinach pastry horn, and a slice of citrus cake.  Jess and Kyle went all out and got the Jerusalem platter, too: a potato boureka, hummus with pita, and a piece of carrot cake.  Kyle insisted on trying matzo ball soup to round it all out.  Overall, I think we had everything possible from the food menu at our table.
    Spinach and cheese pastry horn.  This was FANTASTIC, and quite reminiscent of Greek spanakopita.
    Nice, medium texture falafel hiding behind a cabbage, tomato, and lettuce slaw in a pita.  Gotta love the amount of chickpeas I've consumed by this point in the day...  I've had falafel that's been dry and crumbly, and others that are super-soft and creamy; this must've been the Goldilocks version, since it was juuuust right.
    Moist, subtly flavoured citrus cake with chocolate sauce drizzle.  Mmm.
    After feasting, we got to learn a few phrases in Hebrew and watch the astounding skill of the Chai folk ensemble (no, not chai like your Starbucks latté; chai as in life).  They had a live band, a choir, and a fantastic folk dance group.  One of Kyle's friends was a dancer; it was just amazing.  I had no idea of the range of the styles of dance and the types and sounds of the music from the region; it was an eye-opener.  What a fantastic show.  They didn't allow flash photography, unfortunately, but you can check them out here.  It was a great way to relax and be entertained after stuffing myself full of food.

    My hummus.  Honestly, it's only on a swath of pita for your benefit, dear reader.  Typically I just grab a spoon and have at it; why introduce the extra carbs? I would post this recipe, but it's won me rave reviews at parties, so I think I'll keep it my little secret.  Plus... I never measure anything for hummus, so I wouldn't know what to tell you ;)
    I may not be Jewish, but I've had a respectful curiosity about the amazing culture of the descendants of Abraham ever since I learned that my uncle (by marriage) is Israeli.  I can remember the smell of garlic mixed with the burning of the overworked motor in our ancient Oster blender as dad set about making homemade hummus for family get-togethers where Uncle Ram would be present.  Maybe that's where I get my love for learning new customs... my parents have always embraced them.  Being Canadian for more than seven generations hasn't stopped my dad from apprenticing under my Nonna.  The man grinds his own pork shoulder and makes his own Italian sausages in the basement like a "nice Italiano boy" (as zio would say).  Hilarious, and ridiculously delicious.  I think my mom also made latkes once or twice around Chanukkah... so tasty.  Who could possibly turn down a crispy fried potato fritter?  Not I!  I've made them once or twice; especially while celebrating Christmukkah in freshman year with my roomates from Toronto.  Good times.

    I'm really looking forward to continuing to explore different culinary cultures, especially through the Eat Around The World In Winnipeg diner's group I joined.  It's South America next... olé!  I'm sure you'll hear all about it.

    Until then, lechaim!

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    To market, to market, to buy a fat pig...

    Right off the bat, no.  I did not purchase any pork products, fat or otherwise, during my trip on Saturday to the St. Norbert farmer's market.  The title's from a little nursery rhyme that springs to mind, always sung in my mother's enthusiastic and emphatic alto, anytime I think of going to a market.  Ah, sweet childhood memories...

    Let's get to what I DID buy at the market.  This was only my second time going; I went with Snickers and her owners two weeks prior.  I fell in love immediately.  It's not the biggest outdoor market I've seen, but what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality.  It's all here: raw veggies, meats and fish, prepared snacks and baked goods, freshly-squeezed lemonade, fresh-cut and potted flowers, and arts and crafts: all local, and all tried, tested and true.

    It may not look like much (blame the weather), but from what I've learned this market is serious business.  New vendors have to successfully debut at the Wednesday market to be considered for a coveted Saturday booth.  Nice to know that you're getting the best of the best when you go!

    This is Charles, owner of Scott's Hill Apiary.  We met him during our last visit, when we stopped to listen to the protein-packed benefits of adding bee pollen to yogurt or oatmeal for a boost after a long workout.  Charles is full of great info (a quick Google search tells me he's a retired teacher; makes sense!), and I love that he has a flipbook of pictures to help explain the honey- and pollen-making processes to anyone who asks.  Flipbook users unite!!  He also has this spiffy little honey tasting bar, where he'll let you sample the different honey flavours (made by bees who pollinate different flowers/plants, not by adding artificial flavours afterwards) and compare them.  I bought the nice, dark-coloured buckwheat honey last time.  It was fantastic; not too sweet, sort of a cross between honey and molasses.  I used to make peanut butter and molasses sandwiches as a kid, so this definitely appealed.  This time around, I went for the basswood... though admittedly, I have the same issues as with wine when it comes to describing the flavour of that honey.  Charles kindly suggested that the difference I might be tasting could be due to lemon-lime notes; I had to agree.  Sold!

    On to meats.  I was on the hunt for bison, which, I've been told, is the proper term for buffalo.  I'm not to say buffalo.  Ever.  This is a pretty big deal in Manitoba, it would seem... heck, the provincial symbol features one of these furry ruminants.  That fact, though, makes it seem a bit weird to be eating them... I mean, I never chowed down on any trilliums while back home.  My illustrious little brother, who is off to culinary school in a couple of weeks (I'm not jealous, really...), informed me that bison has much less fat than beef, and is considered superior in several ways.  I have to admit, it's pretty darn tasty.  While I wasn't up for the prehistoric, Fred Flintstone-esque roast that the kind shopkeeper displayed, I did manage to bargain my way into buying six bison burgers.  Maybe I'll grill one up tonight... mmm.

    I think the sign says it all.  Beautiful vegetables, naturally grown, local, and fresh.  Done and done.  I've never seen such gorgeous onions in all my born days.  I actually caught myself daydreaming about them after the first visit to the market... definitely a sign that I needed to invest in some.  I'm so used to those plastic mesh bags at the grocery store, holding dry, dull-looking bulbs with crackling papery skins... this is so much better.

    Stand in awe.
    The ladies at the Wiens Farm booth were super-nice.  They also had some fantastic-looking yellow and green zucchini; sold.  I asked their permission to take photos, and that led to a little rundown of who I was, why the heck I moved to MB, and of course the blog.  One of the gals there, Terrilynn (sorry if I butchered the spelling!), was even thoughtful enough to chase me down after I'd left the booth to let me know about a bus/bike tour of the urban gardens in the city.  Oh, and she welcomed me to Manitoba.  Everyone does that, it totally gives me warm fuzzies!

    My invite, courtesy of Terrilynn, to this awesome-sounding garden community tour.  I wish I could go... a combination of packing for the weekend and lacking a bike/bus pass prevents me.  Maybe next time; I love the idea of urban gardens.
    I'm getting hungry at this point in the afternoon.  Not to worry; I'll go hit up the perogie booth.  Last time, I feasted on three generous-sized perogies; two were cheddar, onion and bacon-filled, while the third was sweeter and full of Saskatoon berries (go to Wikipedia if you've never heard of 'em, they're delish.  Kind of like a blueberry). This time around, I was a little bummed to find out that the ladies were only offering cottage cheese perogies.  I only VERY recently found out that I don't completely hate cottage cheese, so I was a little apprehensive.  I needed a fix, though... they were just so fabulous last time.  Soft, pillowy, tender dough, steamed lightly, not too mushy, with flavour-packed filling and some sort of dairy-based "gravy" that I shall herein refer to as "creamy crack".  Totally addictive.

    The cottage cheese perogies didn't disappoint.  And just look at how they're swimming in the "creamy crack" gravy... I'm going to have to find out what that's made of.  I've never had any sort of gravy on perogies before, but this opened my eyes.
    I actually ran into Snickers and co. as I was stuffing my face with the above while sitting in my car (it had gotten cool and windy, and it's not exactly finger food).  They suggested that I continue my weekend food odyssey at the Folklorama festival Israel pavillion (more on that to come).  Fantastic idea.  I love when one meal leads seamlessly into an idea for the next!

    To the victor go the spoils.  A successful day at the market!!
    Those garlic bulbs are fantastic.  Look at 'em.  I used a clove the other day... I've seen smaller shallots, let me tell you.  And so fresh and fragrant... perfection.

    Off to ogle my onions and research perogie gravy,