Saturday, November 14

elimination

I haven't been feeling 100% lately, so I'm back to doing the elimination diet my naturopath gave me a few years ago. The idea is that you detox for about a month, eliminating common allergens in food, then reintroduce each eliminated item every few days to test its effect.

I'm eliminating the following:
- all gluten
- dairy
- sugar
- red meat
- all processed foods
- caffeine
- alcohol
- white rice and other processed grains

I started just a few days before Halloween. So far, so good. It's easier now than it has been in the past, which I attribute mostly to increased awareness about gluten-free diets. I have a great recipe for gluten-free sandwich bread, and also for flat bread, so I'm not missing much of that.

In terms of eating out, we've been to Las Palapas and Keo's since beginning the diet and they were both extremely accommodating. At Las Palapas I had enchiladas with a mole sauce, and at Keo's, a spicy thai curry with coconut milk. I definitely didn't feel deprived.

This kind of eating challenges my cooking and creativity. I'm enjoying that part of it. The best compliment was my husband saying that it doesn't even feel like we're on any restrictive diet. Now, he does eat dairy and bread still, but mostly for breakfast and lunch. Dinners we eat together, so he does follow the elimination diet along with me for that meal.

Here are some examples of my meals:

Breakfast
- during the week: fruits, or fruit-tofu smoothies
- weekend: eggs with polenta, oatmeal with rice milk, gf bread with honey

Lunch
- random mix of veg, fruit, nuts, leaves, flatbread & dips
- for example: apple, carrot, cucumber, spinach, pecans with bean dip

Dinner
- goat cheese/tofu/artichoke dip with chicken wings
- chicken curry with brown rice
- thai coconut soup with rice noodle
- homemade corn tortillas with turkey, cilantro and my own taco sauce
- fish with asian fried millet

I'm enjoying making all kinds of new foods but most importantly, I'm happy that I feel healthy.

Sunday, August 23

Chanterelles

A few weeks ago I went to the mini-farmer's market that has set up on 8th Street at Preston on Thursday mornings. I was surprised to see a vendor selling chanterelles. We chatted for a while and he told me they are from Northern Saskatchewan, picked by himself and a few friends. They looked like the mushrooms I knew from my visits to Poland - "kurki."



I remember kurki in butter as being one of my favourite things to eat at my Grandparents' home. I remember my Grandmother standing at the stove stirring the mushrooms until they glistened. I remember her serving them with barley or just simply over good bread. I remember her delegating my sister and I to make the tea. I remember sitting at the large table scarfing down the best meals made by Grandma. I miss her a lot.

Well, I thought I might call my Mom to ask about these chanterelles and if they were really kurki. I bought a bag and before supper, called to confirm. Yes, indeed, chanterelles are kurki. After a quick consultation on the best way to cook them, I started down memory lane.

Always up for a challenge, I decided to attempt to make homemade pasta, by myself, without a pasta-roller-machine-thingy. Good thing Ian and I had just received a wonderful present from my Parents for our 5th wedding anniversary:

This thing mixes, whips and kneads beautifully. I have already made meringues, a pavlova, whole-wheat bread, two batches of brioche, coffee cake and it's only been three weeks! The mixer made quick work of the pasta dough, turning it silky smooth. I absolutely love my new toy. Thank you Mom and Dad!

My first attempt at hand-rolling pasta was a disaster. I needed to call in reinforcements in the form of Ian's forearms. It's so hard to get the sheets thin enough. I used a recipe from Jamie Oliver's book, Cook with Jamie, and he recommends the thickness of the pasta sheets be somewhere between a beer coaster and a playing card. Eventually, we just settled on the beer coaster.

We didn't have the proper flour (00 type), or the proper machinery, or even, the right amount of patience, but the meal ended up just perfect!

While I was cutting the pasta into strips, Ian quickly sauteed half an onion in butter, then added the chanterelles with some salt and pepper. Then, when Ian was setting the table, I melted some more butter and placed the drained pasta into the mushroom mixture. Finally, when Ian was getting the camera ready, I mixed in even more butter through the pasta to coat and sprinkled over a tablespoon of fresh dill (Can you tell? Us Polish folks like their butter!)

Mmmm, these were just the flavours I remembered from my Grandparents' home.

It's curious how this simple meal of mushrooms and pasta brought back so many emotions for me. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to visit my Grandparents, help them in their garden, cook with Grandma in her tiny kitchen and eat these amazing fresh foods as a teenager. I feel blessed to be able to continue my Grandma's cooking. I feel a little sad that I'll never see Grandma again. But most of all, I feel happy to have kept many beautiful and joyful memories.

Monday, March 30

cheese, please.

I'm looking to try different kinds of cheeses, and my go-to place in Saskatoon is the Bulk Cheese Warehouse. Check out my conversation with the owner, Scott Bartlett, on foodtv.ca.

It was so interesting to hear him tell stories about cheese, business plans, the butcher shop and local food culture. Wow, that guy is a great storyteller. Thank you Scott!

Monday, March 23

Caffe Sola

Check out my review of Caffe Sola on the Food Network Canada site.

Here is a cool pic that didn't make it onto their website. The chairs are so interesting! If anyone knows what the source is for these, please let me know.



Coming up on foodtv.ca: my profile of the BulkCheese Warehouse.

Coming up on birdseyechili: the best beef curry I know how to make...thus far.

Sunday, January 25

Long time no write + how to save money

Well, friends: it's been a while. Let all the usual excuses apply (she says, embarrassed)...

Now let's move on.



As those that know me just a little bit will attest, I loathe throwing away food. Maybe this comes from my thrifty upbringing, what with the second-hand clothing, price-comparing at the grocery store, and going without until I've saved enough to buy that one quality item. Now that I'm grown up, even the lowliest of fridge-dwellers get turned into something edible....I've been known to caramelize a pair of squishy onions and freeze them before going on vacation because I couldn't bear to compost them! Yes, I know. It's strange.



I'm not sure If I should even tell you the extent of this, but here goes:

I freeze end bits of dried and stale bread. That's right. I cut them into cubes and add them to a zip-top bag in the freezer. Dried baguettes, stale toast, hardened whole-wheat loves, you name it. Artisan bread just isn't as good the day after it's baked, so off to the cutting board, and into cubes it goes. Each end-piece ends up yielding about 1/2 to 1 cup. Slowly, I fill that zip-top bag. Then I use the cubed bread for croutons, stuffing, meatloaf, and breadcrumbs.



As a result of this thriftiness gene, once every two weeks, we eat a refrigerator-clean-up soup, or stew, or curry, or casserole, or fried rice, or ... (you get the idea)... This practice allows me to use up all those left-over bits of herbs, vegetables, cheeses and meals that would otherwise make it to the garbage or compost bin. Of course, each "clean-up meal" provides us with a hearty dinner and plenty of left-overs for Ian to take to work for lunch. Food is used that would otherwise be composted and therefore, money saved.

There is essentially one technique for each of these refrigerator-clean-up meals, but the ingredients change based on what needs to be "cleaned up". I have already gone the stew, curry and casserole route for dinner, so I decided it was time to tackle breakfast. And luckily, I had a bag of quality bread cubes to use.

Of course, the point of this meal is to use what you have. I image this would be yummy with left-over beans, mushrooms, basil, parsley, basically any kind of herb, roasted vegetables, corn, chilis, bits of left-over chicken or steak, fried tofu or tempeh. Use what's in your fridge! The combination below happens to be what I had in my fridge last night.

Another added bonus is that you assemble everything the night before and the bread soaks up the egg and milk mixture overnight. In the morning, while you're having your first cup of coffee, just pop the entire thing into oven, and 40min later you have a delicious breakfast...to go with your second cup of coffee!



Breakfast casserole
- one large zip-top bag of old bread cubes
- couple of slices of bacon, cubed
- 2 sausages, sliced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 zucchini, sliced in rounds
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 2 inch piece of goat cheese
- left-over bit of aged cheddar
- Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper
- 10 eggs
- 4 cups milk, or more

1. Fry bacon and sausage until crispy. Add onions and saute until softened.

2. In the meantime, pour bread cubes into a large casserole dish and mix thoroughly so that all the different kinds are incorporated together.

3. Once the bacon and onion mixture is cooked, add it to the bread along with tomato, peas, crumbled goat cheese, other cheeses.

4. Saute the zucchini rounds in the left-over bacon fat (mmm, bacon fat) and add it to the bread mixture. Mix thoroughly so everything is incorporated.

5. Whisk the eggs and milk, adding salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the bread. Tilt the pan to make sure the liquid is evenly dispersed, then cover and let sit in the fridge overnight.

6. When ready to bake, set the oven to 350 degrees and stir the mixture so the top gets moistened. Top with more cheese, and bake 30-40 minutes. I didn't preheat the oven, and mine was ready in about 60 minutes. I imagine that the time varies depending on your casserole and how full it is - test it by spooning a little out of the middle and seeing if it's hot.

The texture was like a savory french toast - crispy on the top and creamy/custard-like in the middle. As a bonus, we now have breakfast for the week! I'll portion the casserole into cubes and store individual pieces in glass containers ready to microwave in the mornings.

Now go off to investigate what's lurking in the depths of your fridge and make a clean-up meal for yourself!