Friday, June 29

10 days + muffin recipe

Wow! It's been 10 days since I last posted. I've been a bad girl and kept you all in suspense. I'm sure you're all aching to know what I've been cooking and eating. Well, let me tell ya.

Ian and I are thrilled that my sister is visiting us at the moment and we started off our visit with a trip to Jasper National Park for some hiking. Ah, yeah. Lots of hiking, much of it in the up direction. Gorgeous views that photos cannot reproduce. We tried though, and you can see our attempts on our photo webpage (if you don't have the address and password already, just email me and I'll let you in on the secret). Now onto the food.

Before we left, we decided to limit the moola we spent on this trip by packing picnics for two meals a day. Here's our fridge before the trip. Notice that we went on a tupperware frenzy!

Ula and I made our best-ever muffins in life which we paired with bagels and fruit for each breakfast. Lunches consisted of veggie, meat and cheese wraps - portable and very yummy when eaten on the summit of a mountain!
Carrot (and other stuff) Muffins
(recipe discovered through substituting missing ingredients!)

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cup grated carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 clean-tasting oil (canola, etc.)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt (or plain, or other flavour you like)
  • other stuff: raisins, cranberries, sliced almonds
1. preheat oven to 350F and line or oil twelve muffin cups

2. whisk flours with brownsugar, wheat germ, spices, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl

3. add in grated carrot and mix so carrot is coated with dry ingredients

4. in other bowl, combine the wet ingredients

5. pour wet into dry, add rainsins, cranberries, almonds, or whatever else you want, and mix quickly until wet and dry stuffs are just incorporated

6. divide batter into muffin cups (we ended up using only 10 cups) and bake until golden and a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean (we baked for about 30 min)

7. cool a bit on a rack and then EAT!!

Tuesday, June 19

Pesto penne

More vegetarian for dinner tonight. Start by putting on some pasta.

Meanwhile, add fresh basil and oregano leaves, pine nuts, minced garlic and s&p to a mortar and pestle. Mash to a rough pulp. Mix in good quality olive oil and a light snowfall of parmeasan.

Toss with caramalized onion and penne and voila - a delicious dinner in 15 minutes!

Sunday, June 17

TVP tacos

We've been eating quite a bit of meat lately, so I figured it was time for a vegetarian dinner. We quickly put together some TVP (textured vegetable protein) tacos. The whole meal was ready in less than 15 minutes and was even surprisingly tasty!

Toppings: TVP with mushroom & onion, mozzarella, fresh tomato, salsa, lettuce & cilantro.

Saturday, June 16

Pizza

Inspired by Mike's pizza here and here, I decided to surrender invest the 1.5 hours and give it a try. There were lots of problems: dough wasn't wet enough, didn't rise enough, not enough chilies and garlic, not enough sauce, and on and on. Hopefully my next attempt will be better.

However, an unforeseen benefit of the 'not rising' was the resulting thin and crisp pizza. Toppings: pepperoni, garlic, tomato, basil, green chili, goat cheese.

I really can't compare it to the pizza I always make as mine is made with a whole-wheat or spelt crust with no yeast. And usually, we load up on the toppings. The sparsity of the toppings on this version was really nice and allowed the flavour of the crust to be a main attraction. I wonder if this version can be made with different flours...I'll have to give it a try.

Friday, June 15

Cod in banana leaves

After such bad seafood luck in New Brunswick, I was inspired to make some good seafood at home. I bought some fresh cod from Charlie's Seafood Market, wrapped it in banana leaves with chili and ginger, steamed it in the oven, and served it with rice and edamame. Delicious and healthy - what do you know? It is possible!

Steamed Spicy Cod in Banana Leaves
(dish inspired by Jamie Oliver; recipe is my own)

  • 2 fresh cod fillets
  • 4 banana leaves, or parchment paper, or foil
  • 2 chilies, finely sliced (I used 1 birdseye and 1 green)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
  • small handful cilantro
  • 1/2 lemon or lime
  • salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
1. preheat oven to 425 F; I suppose you could also make this in a steamer

2. lay out the banana leaves (or parchment or foil) onto a baking tray so that there are bits hanging over the edge

3. sprinkle the chilis, coconut, ginger onto the middle of the leaves and lay out the cilantro (including stems)

4. place the cod on top of all this (upside down), sprinkle it with salt, drizzle with lemon or lime juice and olive oil

5. fold the leaves (or parchment or foil) over the fish, making as tight a seal as possible

6. place a heavy oven-proof object on top (I used a cast-iron pan) and bake for 20 minutes

7. serve upside right, removing the steamed cilantro stems and sprinkling with extra chili (if you like) and fresh cilantro

Saint John

I stayed one day extra after the conference, rented a car, and drove to Saint John, New Brunswick (not to be confused by St. John's, Newfoundland). Had a great time following some historic walking tours, taking pics of old houses, and browsing through the farmer's market. I was too scared to try dulse (dried seaweed), supposedly popular in the Maritimes.

For lunch, I had a three-berry yogurt smoothie and a pecan tart, and people-watched at the market. Dessert in lieu of lunch is starting to become a pattern with me. I especially like my photo of the tart.
For dinner, I was really hoping to turn my food luck around, so I opted for Billy's Seafood Company - a place which is both a fish market and a restaurant. Big mistake. Bacon-wrapped scallops tasted like rubber dipped in ketchup and the grilled halibut was extremely dry, almost like they cooked it from frozen. The only good part was the wine - a Lindeman's Pinot Grigio.

Thursday, June 14

The Blue Door

Having heard some good reviews of this place from the Chowhound forums, I was excited that the final conference dinner was scheduled for The Blue Door.

Martinis. I had ones called the 'Oasis' and the 'Raspberry Fondue'. Both were delicious - the former was cranberry-lime flavoured, and the latter was raspberry-chocolate.

Wine. The house red was a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Robertson winery in South Africa. I won't pretend I'm a wine critic and so I'll just say I enjoyed it.

Roasted carrot and ginger soup. More of a purée than a soup. Ginger flavour was quite prominent which I enjoyed. Carrot soup is not my favourite and I was fooled by the menu in thinking this was just an appetizer of roasted ginger carrots. Had I know, I would have chosen a salad.

Sake-marinated salmon with green curry sauce, couscous and vegetables. The curry was dotted around the bed of couscous and was meant to be used as a dipping sauce. It was well-spiced and tasty, although couscous and curry was a strange pairing. Salmon was too dry again. I really had bad food luck on this trip. Perhaps I should have gone for chicken or beef, but silly me, I was hoping for excellent seafood on the east coast - what was I thinking?

Flourless chocolate cake with a kahlua anglais. A small wedge of decadent cake garnished with a kumquat. Delicious. Good quality bitter chocolate wasn't overpowered by excess sugar.

Isaac's Way

Another one of our dinners out on the town was at another pub: Isaac's Way (Fredericton has an unusual number of pubs). Seeing as how my first impression of seafood on the east coast wasn't that great, I decided to go with another pub classic - chicken curry.

It was just ordinary tasting; curry was likely made with store-bought paste and spiced with Tabasco sauce. Chicken was tender, rice had a good texture and the chutney was interesting. One of my fellow diners had fiddleheads as his side dish - these were delicious and made me jealous of his meal.

Cora's

I love Cora's. My first experience with this breakfast place was in Newmarket, ON when I was a beginning teacher. Cora's serves gorgeous food, plenty of fresh fruit, and great coffee. We spent Friday morning sitting out on their patio, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. I wish Cora's would open in Saskatoon.

Compost

Check out the options for trash that we saw at a Tim Horton's in Fredericton! Awesome!

Lunar Rogue

With only a few exceptions, New Brunswick food was disappointing.

I arrived in Fredericton early and explored the city a bit with Erin. Dinner was at a pub called Lunar Rogue. I chose one of their "health-check approved" options - salmon with brown rice and vegetables. The salmon was overcooked; rice was dry; vegetables were plain. Why don't restaurants make healthy food that tastes good?

Monday, June 11

Fredericton

I've been in New Brunswick now since Thursday and I have to say, the people are super friendly and very welcoming. However, the conference food is...well...not so nice. More details when I'm back in Saskatoon on Wednesday.

Tuesday, June 5

Pork burgers and roasted eggplant

Leftover in our fridge was some organic ground pork (from the dim sum) and Chinese eggplant that I had forgotten about for a week. Since I'm traveling on Thursday (again!), I knew I had to use it all up before I left as Ian would sooner eat cereal for dinner than cook eggplant. In fact, when asked if he would like me to prepare a handful of frozen meals, he proclaimed that he's happy with grilled cheese for dinner. Hey - I'm happy with grilled cheese too, as long as it's on a rosemary focaccia with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato; ahhh, yes - I guess that's called a panini. Upon second thought, maybe my standards are too high.

Back to the pork and eggplant. I decided to make Asian-inspired pork burgers and roasted spicy eggplant. This was one of the better meals I've made lately. Ian declared the burgers the best he's ever eaten; even better than the bison burgers. In my opinion, they were delicious because they were different. So, I thought I would try to articulate the recipe I used since it got such high praise from my dear husband. Just know that these amounts are approximate since I hardly ever use measuring spoons or cups. And don't be scared to alter the ingredients.

Roasted Spicy Eggplant

  • 3 oblong eggplants, cut into 2 inch long wedges (although I imagine you could use 1 regular eggplant)
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt (eggplant loves salt)
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes (or to your taste)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
1. preheat oven to 400 F
2. mix everything in a large bowl
3. dump it onto an ungreased baking tray and bake until cooked, 20-30 min, stirring every 10 min

Asian-Inspired Pork Burgers
  • enough ground pork for four burgers (sorry, don't know how to quantify that), organic, if possible
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced and sautéed, then cooled
  • 6-8 chives, finely sliced (or 3 scallions, minced)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce (this is what gives that authentic flavour)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • squirt of hot sauce, to taste (I added approx 1 tbsp)
1. mix all ingredients well, adding bread crumbs if mixture is too moist
2. form into four burger patties and let rest for 20min minimum, or 1 day maximum
3. preheat electric grill or bbq if you're lucky enough to have one (we don't)
4. grill; on the electric one, I grilled for 7 min; on a bbq, I would imagine 15 min should be enough, but don't take my word for it - CHECK!
5. I served them with a thin spread of mayo, pile of cilantro leaves and sliced tomato; I wouldn't add any typical burger toppings as the burger itself was very moist and flavourful

Disclaimer: If anyone gets sick from following my recipes, it's not my fault. Be aware that in using these recipes, you do so at your own risk. If you become violently ill as a result of my recommendations, please don't sue me.

Well, do you feel confident enough to try this now?! :)

Sunday, June 3

Dim sum dinner

For today's dinner I made four dim sum dishes.

Steamed sesame brocolli.

Baked pork and cabbage spring rolls. Deep fried would have been better, but we opted for the healthier option.

Sautéed marinated tofu.

Steamed pork dumplings. Our favourite of the evening.

Tea sandwiches I made for yesterday's afternoon shower

Goat cheese with paper-thin radish and cucumber on whole wheat.
Sliced egg with mayonaise and paprika on white bread.
Smoked turkey with dijon and tomato on multigrain.a
Herbed cheese with smoked salmon, capers and lemon juice on baguette.

Last days in Vancouver

On Mon May 28, we ate quick and light meals. Lunch was in Chinatown where we picked up a variety of dim sum and baked goods. I would classify these as average. It was difficult and a bit frustrating to make vegetarian choices - even the dishes we were told were vegetarian often had Chinese sausage and/or pork in them. Mike had to settle for dessert items. We bought a bag-full of dishes for under $10, so that part was good. Here's a couple:

Dinner was on our way to The Police concert. We stopped at Cafe Crepe and got three quick crepes. This was also just an average meal, but it was fast, light and cheap which is what we were looking for.

After the awesome concert, we drove back home. That's right, we left Vancouver at midnight and arrived in Saskatoon at 7:30pm the following day, driving almost non-stop. The return trip didn't include any interesting food. To keep the drivers awake, we planned most of the stops around coffee and donuts, with the exception of a brief stop for lunch at Subway. Fast and easy trip food.

It was a fun trip and great introduction to Vancouver. We'll definitely be going back.

Vij's

Joined by Tennille, Mike, Ian and I arrived just before 5pm and waited in line until the opening at 5:30. Note: Vij's doesn't take reservations. We spent our time examining the menu and were served lovely chai tea and pakoras. Photos were taken of every dish and my impressions follow.

Chai. Served medium hot, not too milky, balanced flavours and not too much cardamom. Sometimes I think that chai spiced predominately by cardamom is a cop out. Just like the garam masala you buy at grocery stores made primarily with cumin is a cop out.

Lemon-ginger drink. Ginger and lemon juice mixed with soda water. Homemade ginger-ale. Wicked.

Jackfruit in black cardamom and cumin masala. We shared this appetizer. The jackfruit reminded us of artichokes and the black cardamom had an awesome smoky flavour.

Garam masala sautéed portobello mushrooms in porcini cream curry. I love mushrooms so this dish didn't disappoint. There was quite a bit of sauce and if Tennille and Mike hadn't been there, I would have lapped it all up using our never-ending naan supply.

Naan and rice. I really appreciate that Vij's doesn't charge for rice and naan. We probably consumed about 4-5 plates of naan and one bowl of rice. The naan was quite thin and buttered a little too much for my tastes. However, it was served hot and was essential for lapping up the delicious sauces that accompanied each dish.

Saag paneer with zucchini fritters in masala. This was Mike's dish. If I remember correctly, he enjoyed the spinach and would like to try it served as a dip. The fritters were proclaimed a little dry, but once slathered in the masala, greatly improved.

Spice-crusted tilapia with black chickpeas and yam curry. Tennille's dish. From the little bit that I tried, I thought the crust was a little too tough, although the fish was very tender. I didn't really get a chance to focus on the curry.

Demerara sugar and tamarind marinated been tenderloin with black cumin curry and khoa paranta. Ian's dish. Tender beef, slightly tough paranta, delicious curry.

Wine marinated lamb popsicles in fenugreek cream curry on spinach potatoes. My dish; also one of the signature dishes. I am still dreaming of this dish, and thankfully, have found the recipe directly out of the Vij's cookbook. The lamb was melt-in-my-mouth perfect, potatoes had a good texture and the fenugreek curry was to die for (except that it wasn't served piping hot which would have been even better). This summer I'll get ahold of some lamb and try this at home.

All three of us had dessert. Mike had kheer (rice pudding), Ian had gulab jamun (dough balls) and Tennille and I had kulfi (ice-cream, sort of). All three desserts were topped with cardamom seeds and silver leaf.

Kulfi. One serving would have been enough for Tennille and myself to share as we were quite full after the meal. Delicious pistachio and cardamom flavour.

Kheer.

Gulab Jamun. Soft texture, not too greasy. Syrup was very sweet. Often we get these with a milk sauce, so the syrup was a pleasant change.

We had been waiting a long time to eat here and were not disappointed. Other than a few minor details (temperature of some sauces, toughness of paranta), the food and service was excellent and met our high expectations. I will definitely eat here again.

Sun May 27 in Vancouver

Last Sunday we started our day by, once again, going to the Public Market on Granville Island. Well, before we made it there, I stopped at Fisherman's Wharf to eat at a tiny fish stand called Go Fish. I bought one piece of salmon with chips for $7! It came with a creamy tartar sauce and an Asian slaw made of red cabbage, peanuts and a sesame dressing. Without a doubt, this was the best fish and chips I've ever had. The fish was perfectly cooked, tasted really fresh - no fishy smell at this fish stand - and was not over-battered. The slaw was interesting, the fries were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and the tartar sauce was creamy, not grainy. My mouth is watering just looking at the picture. Now every fish and chips I get will have to measure up to this one at Go Fish.

When we made it to the market, Mike had a tomato & basil focaccia and fresh cherries and Ian had a slice of pizza and some apple cheesecake. I was still thinking/drooling over the fish and chips and mucho-grateful to the guys that they postponed their lunch so I could indulge.

Dinner was at Vij's and that definitely deserves it's own post.