Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Memories

My Psych class today was all about memory and recall, specifically sensory recall. You know when you smell something, maybe chocolate chip cookies baking or a specific cologne, and it immediately brings all the details of a specific person or event back to you as clear as day?? I have a couple of those related to smell myself - for example, whenever I'm in the bakery section of a store and can smell the mix of flour, yeast and the plastic bags, it reminds me of my summers on our sailboat on Georgian Bay because we had to store our bread on the counter where it perfumed the small space. Another memory I have relates directly to the smell of menthol in Halls cough drops - the second it reaches my nose, I think of my old elementary school teacher (left in the photo) and the wonderful years I spent there.

Talking about the "goold old days" in class today gave me the idea to stop by the school this afternoon and catch up with the old staff there. Little did I know the impact my visit would have on my life today... while speaking to my "main" teacher, V, I learned that my old Home Ec teacher Michelle (on the right) had come back to the school after a three year absence and was teaching again! I searched her out, and we spent a good hour catching up and telling stories. Both our lives have changed dramatically since we last spoke, but like everything in life we're moving through everything and keeping our heads high. I even gave her my blog's address and promised to bring her a batch of my mom's famous apple squares next time I'm by.

I have all my old home ec recipe cards from Michelle, some scrawled in my 10-year-old printing, some painstakingly handwritten by V and photocopied a zillion times over. This is one of them: a basic bread recipe that (as far as I can remember) we shaped into animals and baked off while watching videos of the Nagano Olympic games (oh yes, back in '98!). That year was also my introduction to miso soup and Japanese numbers...

I owe a major part of my love for cooking to Michelle and her guidance, and I'm so glad I was able to see her again and reconnect. Like my Psych prof said to us today, "hug the ones you love".

Elementary School Sweet Yeast Bread
Makes 10 buns
1 packet rapid-rising yeast
2 tbsp sugar
16 oz all-purpose flour
8 oz whole wheat flour (my alteration...you can use all white)
12 fl. oz warm water (great if potato-boiling water is used!)
2 tsp melted, salted butter

  1. In a large bowl, mix all the dough ingredients together.
  2. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it for 10 minutes, adding flour or water if necessary. Cut the dough into 10 pieces, and make shapes out of it.
  3. Place the shapes on a greased baking sheet and cover the sheet with plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise for 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 425F.
  6. Brush the shapes with a beaten egg white and decorate with seeds, if desired.
  7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.
  8. Serve warm, or freeze for later toasting.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 293.9
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 1.8 mg
Sodium: 7.1 mg
Total Carbs: 61.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 8.8 g

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pulled BBQ Pork(less)

I love my lunch. It's almost always the highlight of my day when I'm at school, plus on Mondays I get to share it with Andrew. It's my weekly ritual, and gives me the chance to try out recipes not only on myself but on other, non-vegan foodies too.

It's recipes like today's that make me thank God for fellow vegan's inventions! Chow Vegan originally wrote about this slow cooked, pulled BBQ-style recipe back in May, and what caught my eye was that it was vegan, but didn't use a soy or "wheat meat" base to it. Instead, Chow uses unripe jackfruit for the base of the recipe - something I'd never seen nor heard of! Canned green jackfruit in brine is the young and unripe version of this world's largest fruit, and what you want for this recipe (not the ripe kind you see in with the canned fruit!). In India and Southeast Asia, it’s used like a vegetable, but definitely earns the name “vegetable meat”.

I have to agree with Chow that this recipe not only takes a while to cook (my slow cooker is big and tends to burn small amounts of food when used on HI, so I cooked it on LOW for 3 hours) but also needs time to sit and marinate afterwards. Making it a day ahead of time wasn't a problem for me, since I knew I was probably not going to be bringing it for lunch until tomorrow or so. The flavour immediately after cooking isn't the greatest, but tasting it that night (about 6 hours after pulling it out of the cooker) yielded promising results. The texture is definitely "pulled porky", and the taste is equally delicious. Of course, I made my own tweaks to the recipe, so I'm posting my variant here.

Due to the nature of this recipe, I'm submitting this low n' slow-cooked recipe to the Low and Slow event hosted by The Constables' Larder, and also to Ruth's event Bookmarked Recipes

Pulled BBQ Baby Jackfruit
Serves 2
4 cloves garlic, minced (I microplaned mine)
1 tsp grated ginger root
1/4 cup water
20 oz green jackfruit (in brine or water), drained and rinsed well, squeezed of extra water
pinch ground chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp liquid smoke (optional, I used hickory flavour)
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup low-sugar BBQ sauce
1/4 cup water

  1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic, ginger and water and sauté for 1-2 minutes, until liquid evaporates.
  3. Add the jackfruit, chipotle, liquid smoke and salt.
  4. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes longer.
  5. Transfer the pan mixture to a slow cooker, add the BBQ sauce and water, and toss well.
  6. Cook on HI for 1 hour (or LOW for 2-3 hours), stirring every 15-20 minutes and adding more water as needed.
  7. The jackfruit should be fork tender.
  8. Take the jackfruit out of the cooker and shred.
  9. Transfer to a covered container and allow to sit in the refrigerator 12 hours before reheating and serving.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 123.3
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1,666.2 mg
Total Carbs: 26.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g
Protein: 3.4 g

TGI...O?

Ah, yes... Thank God It's Over. This homework weekend of Hell, that is! Now I'm fun and fancy free until... well, tomorrow. Then I get to work on putting together a presentation to teach my classmates about commercial deep-fryer use. Personally, I think that's a bit ironic, seeing as anything with any kind of oil is not on my ingestion list these days, but we shall see how it turns out!

In between spurts of essay writing and citation formatting this weekend, I did make some yummy savoury goodies for my school lunches this week (a new try-out and an old favourite), but the batteries in my trusty camera bit the dust when it came time to make them look pretty. Until I get my (or my mom's, as it were) butt to the store and pick up some more AA's, I'll settle with continuing my carrot re-cap from last week!

I think this recipe is actually my favourite use for carrots so far - a snack-style (AKA frosting-free) cake that's like a brownie in texture, but with all the rich, moist taste of a traditional carrot cake. I like to call them the redheads of the bar cookie family! The liberal sprinkling of chocolate chips on top of the pan doesn't hurt matters, either...

Just like the rest of the goodies I make on a regular basis, this pan of cakey goodness went in three directions: my mom's work, my dad's house and Andrew's stomach!

Redhead Bars
Serves 12
1/4 cup light margarine
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 medium, over-ripe banana, mashed
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup grated carrots
1/3 cup chopped chocolate (or chocolate chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 350, grease an 8" square pan.
  2. Beat margarine, sugar, vanilla and banana.
  3. Stir in remaining ingredients except chocolate.
  4. Sprinkle chopped chocolate over mixture. Bake for 30 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 133.9
Total Fat: 3.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 40.2 mg
Total Carbs: 25.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.5 g

Friday, September 26, 2008

Shocking...

Our electric kettle gets a lot of use in my family, and perhaps today I got a taste of just how much use it got. Turning the freshly filled kettle on while making my lunch today, it happily began heating up until it reached it's boiling point... where it promptly exploded. I'm not kidding - boiling water flew up and out of it's lid (and onto moi, who was standing next to it), smoke issued from the heating element and the remaining water in the kettle turned an icky, burned-plastic reeking grey colour. YUM, eh? So, I had to go get a new kettle after lunch, and I actually like that one better. Now I'll nurse my burns and drink my tea.

Otherwise, kitchening has been decent so far... I've whittled my way through half the carrots in my fridge! I'm hoping to use up some more this weekend in various goodies before freezing the leftovers for wintertime, or at least until after the various ingesters of all my other recipes revert from their pale orange state! OK, so they didn't ACTUALLY turn orange... but I did a year or so ago after my canned pumpkin obsession! For now I'm going to have to leave you with this short post since I've already wasted enough time web-surfing while trying to avoid writing my awful paper for my management class!

Carrot Cookies
Makes 24
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp hot water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup raisins
2/3 cup grated raw carrots
1 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Whisk together flaxseed and water until smooth, set aside.
  3. Cream sugar with shortening.
  4. Add cornstarch mixture, lemon juice and zest.
  5. Stir in carrots and raisins.
  6. Combine dry ingredients, then stir into creamed mix.
  7. Drop by spoonfuls on lined baking sheets.
  8. Bake 10-12 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 101.7
Total Fat: 4.3 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 2.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 1.4 g

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Do You Get...

When your garden gives you naught but green tomatoes?? Well, thanks to David's inspiration, I have an answer! Now, some of these greenies are actually supposed to be green - they're heirlooms known as Green Zebras - but they have a dense, rich texture like the unripe San Marzano and cherry tomatoes that I also added to this fruit mince, and I think they worked quite nicely!

I didn't wind up using David's recipe, though, since I didn't have all the ingredients and didn't feel like going to the store. Next year, though, I'm SAVING some greenies to make a batch of his and compare the two!

Isn't the mincemeat a whole lot prettier at the beginning of cooking?? Look at the bright greens of the apples and tomatoes, the orange of the carrots and orange peel, and the purple of the heirloom carrots and raisins!! It smelled SO FREAKING GOOD while cooking that I can't wait to make more of it just to make the house all Christmasy!

This is after cooking it down for an hour and a half - less pretty, but tastier for sure. I didn't add any alcohol to mine, so that everyone can enjoy it, and I know my dad will definitely get his fair share of tarts this Christmas - I have 3 jars of this stuff lying around in my freezer! Given who it's going to, though, I may be tempted to toss in a couple shots of brandy for good measure...

Green Tomato Mincemeat
Makes about 5 quarts
650 g chopped green tomatoes
1 kg half-peeled, diced Granny Smith apples
250 g Thompson raisins
100 g shredded carrots
165 g chopped dried pears
1/2 cup candied orange peel
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (omit if freezing, stir in once thawed)
1 tsp salt
2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot.
  2. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring frequently (I left mine an hour and a half, I was lazy).
  3. Can according to water bath canner instructions.
  4. Alternatively, freeze: pack cold mincemeat into freezer jars or containers, leaving about an inch headspace for expansion. Seal and freeze promptly.
Amount Per Quart
Calories: 694.6
Total Fat: 1.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 78.1 mg
Total Carbs: 180.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.0 g
Protein: 4.3 g

This marked the end of my gardening project this year... I picked out the last of the beans, the green tomatoes and the few peppers that didn't rot after the downpour, and in between college papers I'm working on mowing through what I can fresh and preparing the rest to freeze. I also whipped out a bakery order (6 banana breads!!) for one of my mom's co-workers (and my dear friends) over the past couple days, two at a time!

I'm still not finished with the carrot posts, though - I just found out that my Psych prof is partial to the veggies too so I'm going to be trying out another cookie recipe (and hopefully posting the other one I've made) this weekend on breaks from writing my Communications and Food Service Management papers... but at least I finished my G*d D@mn Computing assignment! Until then, it's nose back to the grindstone for me. Sigh... I forgot how much work school is! At least I was pointed in the direction of the possibility of free money... thanks again to the recently term-papered-out David Tanita. I could be mean and not post the link in order to give me a better chance, but I'm feeling nice today! Here you go!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Carrot Cake, Redux-Style

You didn't think I could let 11 pounds of carrots pass me by without making the all time treat of carrot cake, did you? Well, have no fear... I did indeed make carrot cake (and will probably make some more too, next weekend though...). This is more of what's termed a "snacking cake" rather than the layered baked treats you usually see in the stores - no frosting, usually square, and rather dense. It's the ideal thing to have with a cup of coffee, or whenever your workday gets just too wound up and you need a hit of sweetness and (of course) chocolate to get you through.

The original version of this cake was one I spotted at a new blog I found, Sweet Charity Pie. I had to make a lot of changes, especially when it came to pan size - the original called for a 9x13" pan, which would have been okay if I was looking for carrot crackers. I used a 9" square after seeing the lack of batter in my bowl, and it fit perfectly. What surprised me most was what these cake squares looked like coming out of the oven - I thought I had put cocoa powder in the mix! Those Purple Haze carrots I shredded up sure add a whack of colour to everything, not to mention the moisture... these thing were just oozing with caramelly, chocolatey richness.

Carrot Snacking Cake
Serves 10
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 1/2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F, and grease and flour a 9" pan.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. In another bowl, beat together cornstarch and water until smooth. Add oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir together until well combined.
  5. Fold in the ginger, carrots, chocolate and nuts.
  6. Spread evenly in the pan.
  7. Bake 30 minutes, cool completely in the pan on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 303.1
Total Fat: 17.8 g
Cholesterol: 17.7 mg
Sodium: 22.7 mg
Total Carbs: 33.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.0 g
Protein: 4.1 g

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Crunchy Take Alongs

Today's post doesn't contain carrots - oh joy, oh bliss! Mind you, yesterday in my Kitchen Prod. class we were doing soups (using recipes from none other than AllRecipes.com!) and I almost cried when the instructor mentioned that carrot soup was one of the options that would be handed out. She did take pity on me though, and I snagged the very rich (and very VERY flawed) recipe for Creamy Potato and Leek Soup. Um, I doubt it's just me, but someone tell me if they've ever had 6 potatoes cook in 20 minutes using 14.5 oz of chicken broth?? Two groups made batches of the soup, and me - being, well, me, added more water to cook the potatoes, added salt and pepper (what potato soup doesn't use that?), and refused to use the food processor to mash the soup. The other group, well... potato glue comes to mind... they meant well, though. Following the recipe does not always mean a good product! In the end, we had a very yummy looking and smelling soup, and I got the biggest compliment I've ever recieved in that class... I was called a chef. Not a student, not a cook, but a chef. I am humbled.

For regular school days, though, I'm all about take-along food - especially healthy snacks for middle of the day pick-me-ups for when my friends and I begin to drag a bit. This past weekend was spent cooking and baking up a storm of all kinds with the idea of "make-ahead" in mind, and I'd say I was pretty successful! Though it was about 6-7 hours a day of on-my-feet work (just like when I was at Timmy's!) it was always changing throughout each new recipe, idea and outcome. I got to make a bunch of new recipes, and I STILL have half a haul of carrots left over!

However, today's goodies (one of the first things I made) were carrot free (like I mentioned) - a nice change of pace from staring at seas of purple and orange in my food processor for hours on end! I had made (yet another) impromptu trip to Bulk Barn and came home with, among other things, dried mango What came out of the oven were the bar of all granola bars - super-healthy, filled with fibre, omega-3s, zinc and just the right amount of sweetness, with the hint of naughtiness from the chocolate chips. I think they'd be perfect for lunchboxes or bake sales at school (or work) all year round, and you never have to worry about allergic reactions in a nut-free environment - all the crunch and nutty flavour comes from the array of different seeds packed deep inside.

Mucho Seed and Cereal Bars
Makes 30
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup Rice Krispies
1/2 cup All-Bran Guardian cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 cup 100% Bran cereal
1/4 cup hulled hemp seed
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried figs
1/2 cup diced dried mango
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/4 cup tahini
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13" pan with greased foil and set aside.
  2. Combine oats through diced mango in a bowl, toss to blend well. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat margarine, tahini, brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt until smooth.
  4. Add oat mixture and mix with your hands until well blended, adding water as you mix.
  5. Press evenly into prepared pan, pressing top smooth.
  6. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool in pan before cutting into bars.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 161.1
Total Fat: 7.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 141.3 mg
Total Carbs: 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 3.4 g
WW Points: 3

Monday, September 22, 2008

Agent Orange

Ready for your daily beta-carotene dose from me as I plow through the 11 lbs of carrots? Let's begin!

I specifically separated my carrots for this recipe... I have nothing against my Purple Haze beauties, really - they're deliciously sweet and crunchy, and I haven't come across a bitter one in either year's harvest yet! The only problem with them is that, when cooked, they leach their colour like beets do. And I don't mean that they would make a white Vichyssoise a pretty lavender. The effect they have upon being cooked is more of a, well... disturbing prison grey tinge. Not something to make you say "mmm, lunch!". So I only chose my all-orange guys for this.

And what is "this", you ask? Well, the other day when I was whining about the excess carrotage, my Grandma mentioned she would gladly take homemade carrot soup if I needed a quick use-up. Interesting... I had never made a carrot soup before, and the only kinds I knew were thich purees that had either curry or gratuitous amounts of heavy cream in them. Hmm... light curry flavours are good things in this household, heavy cream, not so much so. A scout through one of my mom's old cookbooks - Soups and Starters - gave me my jumping-off point with a basic recipe and I was on my way. I did add a touch of curry, cinnamon and some fresh ginger instead of the rosemary in the book, simply because it was what I was after in the dish. Luckily the book reminded me of the thickening properties in starchy baking potatoes, and since I already had my food processor out and shredding carrots, I tossed in a leftover raw potato from our bin and added it to the mixture. Instead of cream, a mix of skim milk powder and vegetable broth did the job, allowing the soup to become creamy (in conjunction with the potato) without adding an overly heavy texture or flavour.

My benchmark taste tester - my mom (who is coincidentally celebrating her first wedding anniversarry today!) - give this two thumbs up, and stole accepted half the batch to take for lunch this week to work. She likes the subtle curry flavour that accents the sweet, fresh carrots, not to mention the fact that its a hearty meal with few calories and very little fat that can keep her warm in the overly air conditioned office!
This bright orange soup is delicious, for sure, and it also is very heart healthy, low in fat and cholesterol - not to mention 410% of the RDA for beta carotene in a bowl... so Im sending this to the Heart of the Matter event this go-around. Enjoy the first day of Fall with some home-cooked comfort!

Curried Carrot - Ginger Soup
Serves 4
5 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup skim milk powder
650 g carrots, grated
1 baking potato, grated
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
  1. Combine broth and milk powder in a stockpot, whisking smooth.
  2. Add carrots, potato and spices, bring soup to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve immediately or cool and freeze.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 184.3
Total Fat: 0.5 g
Cholesterol: 1.4 mg
Sodium: 1,562.5 mg
Total Carbs: 39.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 6.2 g
Protein: 6.0 g

Sunday, September 21, 2008

They Don't Look Like Carrots...

...But they are! Yup, yesterday I decided it was time for at least some of the 11 pounds of the (mostly purple) roots to meet their demise - in a variety of forms. I got out the ol' food processor and got shredding, and wouldn't you know it after a full day of baking I had only gotten through half the bowl of grated bits! Waste? Ohhh, no... I packed up those suckers and eagerly waited for the next baking blitz to rear it's head!

Andrew and I spent about half an hour peering through the list of carrot recipes I had made up from sources around the internet, and so today I'm sharing the first of the six that we chose! There are actually seven recipes, but one of them is a soup that my grandmother requested - she loves carrot soup and I said I'd be happy to oblige!

The original form of this recipe came from FabulousFoods.com, and was adapted from A Passion For Baking by Marcy Goldman. Now, I don't know what she did in her kitchen, but there was NO WAY that these so-called "scones" were going to be able to roll out and cut like she described in her recipe. Even adding in an extra half-cup of flour turned the batter into not much more than cookie batter. So, drop biscuits it was! Judging by the speed that Andrew devoured one, and the emphatic praise that followed, I would say that it was a good decision!

Dropped Carrot Biscuits
Makes 20
2 cups flour
1/2 cup psyllium fibre
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp orange extract
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup raisins
  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Blend flour, psyllium, oats, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.
  3. Cut in butter to make a coarse meal.
  4. Stir in buttermilk, egg, and extracts.
  5. Fold in carrots and raisins. Let rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Drop by large spoonfuls onto sheets.
  7. Bake about 25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 144.5
Total Fat: 5.2 g
Cholesterol: 23.3 mg
Sodium: 75.3 mg
Total Carbs: 22.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5 g
Protein: 2.6 g

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lunch Time

This is probably one of the ugliest meals I've ever made, but undoubtedly it's also one of the tastiest. I take it with me to school most weekdays, just because it's a basic and flavourful way to get some high-quality protein into my daily food intake. Essentially, I make a sweet, spicy and ever so slighty tangy mixture with some dehydrated TVP granules, spices and BBQ sauce, then I stick it in a tupperware container on an ice pack. Another container carries an embarrassingly large amount of leafy greens (either lettuce or baby spinach) that I crack some garlic pepper all over before sealing it up. At school, I dump the TVP onto the lettuce and eat away - boom: insta-meal! I've given this recipe out to a few people along the way, and heard good things, so I figured it was blog-worthy, even though it's not the belle of the ball in the looks category.
Sloppy Joe Salad
Serves 1
1/3 cup TVP granules
pinch salt
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp hickory-flavoured liquid smoke
black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp low-sugar BBQ sauce
2 tbsp low-sugar ketchup
1 tbsp water
pinch ground ginger
pinch cayenne pepper
Lettuce, for serving
  1. In a small bowl, combine TVP and salt.
  2. Stir in boiling water, liquid smoke, pepper and garlic powder, let sit 10 minutes.
  3. Combine BBQ sauce, ketchup, remaining tbsp water, ginger and cayenne powder, stirring smooth.
  4. Add to rehydrated TVP and allow to sit 15 minutes.
  5. Refrigerate until needed, or serve immediately.
  6. Serve chilled or room temperature over a bed of lettuce.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 121.0
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 477.4 mg
Total Carbs: 13.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.8 g
Protein: 15.1 g

On a slightly prettier note, check out Andrew's lunch today: grilled cheese a la carrots (with purple carrots, too!!). I wonder if it tasted as good as it looked?? More carroty goodness tomorrow though, as I begin to massacre the haul!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting Old From New

A major plus to being in a nutrition program at college is constantly being around people as obsessed with food as I am. Even while eating lunch after Sanitation and Food Safety classes (which are not a good way to gain an appetite... photos of tapeworms, anyone?), that's almost all we talk about!

Conversations today turned to the yumminess that is the wonderful eggplant, due to the fact that I had brought some leftover Veggie Bake with me (I've made it three times so far, I think I'm hooked!) and it was so fragrant and pretty looking, even in it's Tupperware container, that my friends Johanna and Sabrina asked me what it was. I explained, and promised to share the recipe, while we all agreed that eggplant was a delicious veggie. Of course after eggplant was mentioned, attentions turned to ratatouille (both the movie and the dish!). Johanna has never had the French casserole before, and Sabrina and I took turns explaining it - finding out that we had slightly differing recipes that sounded equally yummy!

This is my mom's recipe for the stovetop version of ratatouille (I shared the mcrowave version here). It is, like any other stew or casserole, pretty variable based on what you have on hand - of course, the main ingredient being eggplant, you will want to keep that in at least! Sabrina and I agree that neither rosemary nor dill was really a complement to this recipe, and this one uses basil and oregano instead. Also, make sure that the veggies are cut pretty evenly in size (and small) so that a) you don't bite into an under- (or over-) cooked vegetable and b) you don't have to take a huge mouthful of just one veggie. Other than that, everything is fair game! What a delicious way to get your 5-a-day!

Ratatouille a la Maman
Serves 4
1/4 cup water
1 large onion, chopped into 1" pieces
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 lbs eggplant, sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 medium zucchinis, sliced into 1/2" pieces
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 1/2" pieces
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups crushed tomatoes
Hot red pepper flakes, to taste
1 tbsp dry basil, minced
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  1. Heat water in a large pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in garlic, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and mushrooms.
  4. Cook 5-7 minutes longer, until vegetables begin to colour and lose water.
  5. Reduce heat to low, stir in tomatoes, pepper flakes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  6. Cover and cook 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and parsley.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 119.5
Total Fat: 0.7 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 517.8 mg
Total Carbs: 27.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 7.7 g
Protein: 4.7 g

On a sadder note, I finished picking the last of this year's garden harvest tonight. All the remaining tomatoes (both green and red), beans and peppers are off their mother plants and sitting on my kitchen table. The one good thing about all the green tomatoes is the fact that David's clued me into a fruit-mince that can be made with the suckers... though I don't have quite that many greenies on hand! Hopefully I can get one pie out of the lot, though - my dad loves the stuff!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

K.P.

The abbreviation K.P. can stand for many, many things in the culinary world. Kitchen Production, for instance, which was my class yesterday - that particular lesson was Knife Skills 101: Cutting Onions, Carrots, Parsley and Garlic. Or, Kitchen Patrol, if you're in the Armed Forces. My personal favourite (and in my opinion, truest form of the abbreviation) is Keep Peeling. Which is what I am going to be doing a LOT of in the near future. All because of my garden's carrots.

Eleven pounds of carrots, guys. I am not even joking. I weighed the suckers. They took Andrew and me over an hour to pull from the garden before it rained last night, and then took me two more hours to scrub them all clean. I sure hope you don't get sick of me writing about carrot salad, carrot cake, carrot puree, carrot this, carrot that... I will not be lacking in vitamin A, that's for sure!

Sure, it's a lot of work to clean and use them all. But aren't they pretty????

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ssssourdough

Having fresh sourdough bread at your beck and call is a blessing when you have a carb-fanatic family like mine, and with the success of my previous boules behind me, I'm looking forward to keeping both the yeast and the tradition behind it alive for years to come. The problem with keeping a sourdough starter, though, is the inevitable toss-off it creates when you don't bake often enough!

Apparently, I'm not the only baking blogger with this problem - I saw this recipe at My Kitchen in Half Cups and decided to play with it a touch, using what I had at my beck and call in the pantry. I used my starter (made with a mix of whole-wheat and spelt flour) and added Kamut and all-purpose flours to the dough instead of the Durum Tanna called for. I also used a touch of honey instead of malt syrup (since I didn't have any!) and cut the salt in half (damn that nutrition class on the effects of sodium intake!). Everything else is the same, though... I promise!

I had this dough (as well as a batch of pan de sal) in the works while I was working on the fig cookies a couple days ago... we paired it with last night's porchetta meal and it was a hit! The seeds I tossed on top (stuck on with a light brushing of water) are chia seeds, which I've used and talked about before when I made lemon cookies and some muffins a while back. Sesame seeds would be good too!

Thanks, Tanna, for a great idea! I'm sending this off to Susan's YeastSpotting event, so everyone can have a taste!

Sicilian Sourdough
Serves 30
Pre-Ferment
70g unfed whole-wheat sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
165g spelt flour

Dough
200g all-purpose flour
80g Kamut flour
2 tsp salt
All pre-ferment (above)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
3/4 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
  1. Combine pre-ferment ingredients until well-hydrated. Cover and let stand at room temperature two hours - overnight.
  2. For the dough, whisk together the dry ingredients (except the yeast) in a small bowl.
  3. In a separate large bowl, mix pre-ferment, oil, honey, yeast and water. Let stand 5 minutes.
  4. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until everything is incorporated. Dough should be soft and smooth.
  5. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  6. Gently deflate dough and knead briefly.
  7. Cut in half and shape into two long ropes, curling into "S" shapes. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  8. Re-cover and allow to rise 1 hour longer.
  9. Preheat oven to 425F.
  10. Mist loaves with water and sprinkle with seeds if desired.
  11. Bake 10 minutes, misting the oven with water every 3.
  12. Reduce oven temperature to 400F and bake loaves a further 20-25 minutes, until hollow sounding when tapped.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 62.8
Total Fat: 0.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 13.4 mg
Total Carbs: 6.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 0.8 g

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Getting it Right!

Sometimes, the sweet smell of success is really more than a metaphor!

Over a year ago, I tried to make Fig Newton-esque cookies for my grandpa with less than stellar results. I had used an Anna Olson recipe, following it to a T (against my better judgement, since I have had bad results from some of her other recipes. I love her show Sugar, though, and wanted to give the recipe the benefit of the doubt). Though my grandpa enjoyed the cookies well enough, I knew I would have to figure out a better way to make the "dough" part of the bar... the original was akin to a pie dough, and way too crumbly to properly "encase" the filling without falling apart. If that wasn't enough, it was also butter-based, which is okay with me for shortbreads, drop cookies and cakes but is really too finicky for me to use with refrigerator cookies (one of the reasons why you don't see a lot of fun checkerboard or pinwheel biscuits here). At the time, I was a newbie too busy with getting used to the whole blogging world to make another round of these, so away they went to the back of my mind and recipe binder.

Until now! Ironically, I decided to begin the (admittedly time-consuming) process of making these bars after a restless night of about two hours sleep (on the couch), while I had two batches of sourdough bread dough resting in various places in the kitchen and poor Andrew wondering what the hell this crazy girl was doing. I'm going to reason that I just kept on going yesterday to keep myself awake! My mom is having my grandparents and Andrew over tonight for an Italian porchetta roast supper too, and she asked me (after the fact, mind you) to whip up a dessert of some sort. Cookies it was!

The main difference between these cookies and the previous ones is in the cookie dough portion: whereas the original had butter, eggs, and a fair bit of leavening in it, this dough is vegan with shortening and a cornstarch "egg replacer" instead. It handles better and doesn't require chilling, though a stint in the fridge after shaping and cutting helps them stay in shape. The filling with these bars is different too, incorporating not only figs but cherries and ground ginger too! On it's own, the filling is a delicious spread on toast or English muffins - Andrew squeezed most of what was left over right into his mouth, and he doesn't even like figs (or ginger!)! If that isn't a victory, I don't know what is.

So, take a cookie and a cuppa, and enjoy your lazy Sunday afternoons!

Cherry-Fig Bars
Serves 30
Filling
4 oz dried figs, diced
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup thawed frozen cherries (with juice)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground ginger

Cookie
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp baking powder

Filling
  1. Combine all the ingredients (but lemon juice) in a small saucepot and bring up to a slow simmer.
  2. Cook 25 - 30 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and figs begin to "paste". Stir in lemon juice.
  3. Purée in a food processor to a thick puree.
  4. Cool completely, set aside.

Cookie

  1. Combine cornstarch and water in a small dish, whisking smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cream shortening and sugar until light.
  3. Beat in cornstarch slurry and vanilla until well combined.
  4. By hand, gently but thoroughly beat in the flours and baking powder to form a very stiff dough.

Assembly

  1. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Roll dough into a large, fairly thin (1/4" or so) rectangle on a well-floured board.
  3. Cut into four wide, equal strips.
  4. Place filling in a pastry bag with a large plain tip (or use a large Ziploc with a corner cut off).
  5. Pipe a line of filling down one side of each strip.
  6. Fold the dough over the filling, pinching the edges to seal well. Place on baking sheets.
  7. Chill 2-3 hours, or freeze up to 3 months.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F.
  9. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut each log into ten equal cookies.
  10. Bake 12 minutes.
  11. Allow cookies to cool completely on sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 71.6
Total Fat: 3.6 g
Cholesterol: 2.0 mg
Sodium: 0.6 mg
Total Carbs: 9.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.8 g
Protein: 0.9 g

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Life, in 225 Nutshells

I found this over at More Than Burnt Toast the other day, where Valli had detailed a list of 225 things that were viewed as natural highs. I read it with great interest - going back to school (and especially being in Psychology) has given me a brand-new appreciation for the wonderful things there are in life! There are so many things I'd love to do, but so many things I've done and I haven't even realized - sometimes it takes somebody else to clue you in to how fortunate you've really been in life!


The one thing I really wish I could do more than anything else today is have the power to obliterate all the nasty fruit flies living in our kitchen. I drew the line when I had to clean out our tomato basket and discovered - cringe - maggots at the bottom! G-R-O-S-S. I've set up a jar/funnel trap as per instructions found at Re-Nest, so with luck we can stop getting our protein through accidentally ingested bugs!

As with my recap of the "100 Things" lists, I'm bolding things I've done, crossing out things I'm never going to do, and italicizing things I would really love to do!
  1. Touched an iceberg (if glaciers count - Columbia icefields!)
  2. Slept under the stars (we're a camping family)
  3. Been a part of a hockey fight
  4. Changed a baby's diaper
  5. Watched a meteor shower
  6. Given more than you can afford to charity
  7. Swam with wild dolphins
  8. Climbed a mountain (never on foot)
  9. Held a tarantula (and never again)
  10. Said "I love you" and meant it (every day!)
  11. Bungee jumped
  12. Visited Paris
  13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (been on one boat when our neighbour's was struck!)
  14. Stayed up all night long and watched the sun rise (didn't make it that long!)
  15. Seen the Northern Lights
  16. Gone to a huge sports game (hockey, baseball)
  17. Walked the stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty
  18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables (big surprise, right?)
  19. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
  20. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
  21. Had a pillow fight
  22. Bet on a winning horse (won $10)
  23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill
  24. Built a snow fort
  25. Held a lamb
  26. Gone skinny dipping
  27. Taken an ice cold bath
  28. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
  29. Seen a total eclipse
  30. Ridden a roller coaster (Rockin' Rollercoaster at WDW is the best!)
  31. Hit a home run
  32. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
  33. Adopted an accent for fun (not for very long though!)
  34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
  35. Felt very happy about your life, even for just a moment
  36. Loved your job 90% of the time
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (once, would love it again!)
  38. Watched wild whales
  39. Gone rock climbing
  40. Gone on a midnight walk on the beach
  41. Gone sky diving
  42. Visited Ireland (ever since watching Laws of Attraction)
  43. Ever bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
  44. Visited India
  45. Bench-pressed your own weight
  46. Milked a cow
  47. Alphabetized your personal files
  48. Ever worn a superhero costume
  49. Sung karaoke
  50. Lounged around in bed all day
  51. Gone scuba diving
  52. Kissed in the rain
  53. Played in the mud
  54. Gone to a drive-in theater
  55. Done something you should regret, but don't
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China
  57. Started a business
  58. Taken a martial arts class
  59. Been in a movie
  60. Gone without food for 3 days
  61. Made cookies from scratch (did today!)
  62. Won first prize in a costume contest
  63. Got flowers for no reason (thanks Andrew, and Mom, and Dad!)
  64. Been in a combat zone
  65. Spoken more than one language fluently
  66. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
  67. Bounced a check
  68. Read - and understood - your credit report
  69. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy (Rubik's cube!)
  70. Found out something significant that your ancestors did (one of my mom's ancestral relatives tried to burn down British parliament!)
  71. Called or written your Congress person (for Civics)
  72. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
  73. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
  74. Helped an animal give birth
  75. Been fired or laid off from a job
  76. Won money
  77. Broken a bone
  78. Ridden a motorcycle
  79. Driven any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100 mph
  80. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  81. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
  82. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
  83. Eaten sushi (now I'm hungry!)
  84. Had your picture in the newspaper
  85. Read The Bible cover to cover
  86. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
  87. Gotten someone fired for their actions
  88. Gone back to school (yay!)
  89. Changed your name
  90. Caught a fly in the air with your bare hands
  91. Eaten fried green tomatoes
  92. Read The Iliad (only part)
  93. Taught yourself an art from scratch
  94. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (fish counts, Valli, I think!)
  95. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
  96. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
  97. Been elected to public office
  98. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
  99. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
  100. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
  101. Had a booth at a street fair
  102. Dyed your hair
  103. Been a DJ
  104. Rocked a baby to sleep
  105. Dropped a cat from a high place to see if it really lands on all fours
  106. Raked your carpet
  107. Brought out the best in people (hopefully!)
  108. Brought out the worst in people
  109. Worn a mood ring (child of the '90s, people!)
  110. Ridden a horse
  111. Carved an animal from a piece of wood or bar of soap
  112. Prepared a dish where four people asked for the recipe
  113. Buried a child
  114. Gone to a Broadway play
  115. Been inside the pyramids
  116. Shot a basketball into a basket
  117. Danced at a disco
  118. Played in a band (school band!)
  119. Shot a bird
  120. Gone to an arboretum
  121. Tutored someone
  122. Ridden a train
  123. Brought an old fad back into style
  124. Eaten caviar
  125. Let a salesman talk you into something you didn’t need
  126. Ridden a giraffe or elephant
  127. Published a book
  128. Pieced a quilt
  129. Lived in an historic place
  130. Acted in a play or performed on a stage (used to be in dance, plus school plays!)
  131. Asked for a raise
  132. Made a hole-in-one
  133. Gone deep sea fishing
  134. Gone roller skating
  135. Run a marathon
  136. Learned to surf
  137. Invented something
  138. Flown first class
  139. Spent the night in a 5-star luxury suite
  140. Flown in a helicopter
  141. Visited Africa
  142. Sang a solo
  143. Gone spelunking
  144. Learned how to take a compliment
  145. Written a love-story
  146. Seen Michelangelo’s David
  147. Had your portrait painted
  148. Written a fan letter (J.K. Rowling!)
  149. Spent the night in something haunted
  150. Owned a St. Bernard or Great Dane
  151. Ran away (down the street, as a kid)
  152. Learned to juggle
  153. Been a boss
  154. Sat on a jury
  155. Lied about your weight
  156. Gone on a diet
  157. Found an arrowhead or a gold nugget
  158. Written a poem
  159. Carried your lunch in a lunchbox
  160. Gotten food poisoning
  161. Gone on a service, humanitarian or religious mission
  162. Hiked the Grand Canyon
  163. Sat on a park bench and fed the ducks
  164. Gone to the opera
  165. Gotten a letter from someone famous
  166. Worn knickers
  167. Ridden in a limousine
  168. Attended the Olympics
  169. Can hula or waltz and polka.
  170. Read a half dozen Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books (read and own all the original Nancy Drews)
  171. Been stuck in an elevator
  172. Had a revelatory dream
  173. Thought you might crash in an airplane
  174. Had a song dedicated to you on the radio or at a concert
  175. Saved someone’s life
  176. Eaten raw whale
  177. Know how to tat, smock or do needlepoint
  178. Laughed till your side hurt
  179. Straddled the equator
  180. Taken a photograph of something other than people that is worth framing
  181. Gone to a Shakespeare Festival
  182. Sent a message in a bottle
  183. Spent the night in a hostel
  184. Been a cashier
  185. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
  186. Joined a union
  187. Donated blood or plasma
  188. Built a campfire
  189. Kept a blog
  190. Had hives
  191. Worn custom made shoes or boots
  192. Made a Powerpoint presentation
  193. Taken a Hunter’s Safety Course
  194. Served at a soup kitchen
  195. Conquered the Rubik’s cube
  196. Know CPR
  197. Ridden in or owned a convertible
  198. Found a long lost friend
  199. Helped solve a crime
  200. Responded to a NJP newsletter
  201. Dove from a height of more than 60 feet
  202. Ridden a donkey
  203. Danced to the strains of bouzouki music, while drinking raki on a small island in Greece
  204. Taken a cooking class
  205. Seen your child graduate
  206. Been very proud of someone else's accomplishments
  207. Caught a fish
  208. Smelled a rose
  209. Eaten an heirloom tomato
  210. Cooked for more than 50
  211. Gone waterskiing, wakeboarding or tubing
  212. Owned a dog or a cat
  213. Celebrated a milestone birthday
  214. Had hemorrhoids...wink...wink...
  215. Hitchiked
  216. Walked out of a store without paying for something
  217. Helped a stranger
  218. Come in contact with a wild animal (bear, moose, deer, elk, cougar....)
  219. Seen the Pope, Prime Minister, President
  220. Piloted a plane
  221. Taken a ferry to Alaska
  222. Swam in the Dead Sea
  223. Visited the elderly in a care home
  224. Given birth

103... out of 124, because apparently I'm missing one... but I can't find it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Soooo Freeeeeee!

I am writing to you all today a very very happy girl... I just got the "official" word from my math prof that I don't have to shop up to class for another 5 weeks! I specify official, since I already knew that I'd get out of this class when I wrote my exemption exam last week (but I scored 88%... thank you very much!). This gives me all Friday afternoon off, yay!

With my time off (little as it is, but still!) I've got some definite plans for a bar cookie I've had in the works since, oh, June, so keep your eyes peeled! Free time = baking time!

Of course, that also means I'm going to have to devote more time to doing schoolwork, and making sure that I don't, you know, flunk anything, but I'm pretty sure I'll be okay. I'm feeling pretty under-utilized as it is these days, even with finishing my first Nutrition assignment today! I still have a research summary thing to do for my management course, but I can't actually start it until next week because we need an "orientation" of the library first. Hm! Well, at least nobody can say I didn't try!

But enough about that... you guys didn't come here for the whining (or the wine!), you're here for all the yummy foodables, right?? Well, I've got kind of a cop-out pair of snacks for you today - not a whole lot of "recipe" business going on, but I figured I'd celebrate my non-schooliness with two of my all-time favourite "healthy" treats (well, I am in Nutrition!), both of which I thoroughly enjoyed the last time I was in school. These may not be gourmet fare worthy of birthday parties or magazine covers, but they sure do keep you full and your sweet tooth satisfied!

Fibre Brownie Cups
Makes 24
3 cups 100% bran cereal
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 box Betty Crocker low fat brownie mix
1/2 tbsp baking powder

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and spray cupcake tins with nonstick spray (don't use liners).
  2. Mix water and cereal together, let sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the brownie mix and baking soda, stir together well.
  4. Bake 20-25 minutes and then let cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 106.2
Total Fat: 2.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 94.8 mg
Total Carbs: 23.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 2.3 g



Inapinch Cheesecake Snack
Serves 1
2 tbsp fat free cream cheese, soft
1/2 tbsp honey
1 Kellogg's All Bran Bar (Honey Nut flavour reccommended)
1 tbsp sugar-free strawberry or raspberry jam
  1. Stir together cream cheese and honey until loosened and slightly fluffy.
  2. Spread cheese mixture onto cracker, top evenly with jam

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 214.0
Total Fat: 3.5 g
Cholesterol: 2.8 mg
Sodium: 361.2 mg
Total Carbs: 45.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.4 g
Protein: 7.1 g

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Customs from Class

Going to school in the area of "Toronto" (really more Scarborough) that I do means that I share a lot of classes with people recently immigrated from China. It's such a great opportunity for me: I'm a culture junkie (especially with all things Asian) and befriending those around me in my program is a great way for me to learn about what it's like both as a new Canadian and as an Asian in general. Many of them are here on their own, either as students fresh out of highschool or here after leaving their families (and sometimes children) back home in order to upgrade their education. Most of them have very high-level degrees and years of work experience in other fields behind them, and I'm learning a lot about life in general when we talk! Today I noticed one of the girls eating a custard-like dumpling and I asked her what it was, it looked like a sweet version of the steamed buns I had made but the covering was a little different. She told me it was a mooncake that her mom had sent her, and I knew I had to find out something about them!

Turns out that for many Asians around the world, the fifteenth day of the eighth moon (or September 14 this year) is a night of celebration. Marking the abundance of the harvest, the moon festival is full of parades, dancing and eating in many communities. Moon cakes are traditionally given out as gifts to family and friends, and are stuffed with adzuki bean paste. The symbolism is that of luck and good fortune. Apparently, rum-raisin, Oreo, cream cheese, tiramisu, cappuccino, fruit, and Cognac-flavoured fillings are available too.

The stories behind the moon festival are widely varied, from what I can find out, but this website seems to have a good reference point. I also found a mooncake recipe in one of the old garage-sale cookbooks I own, so I figured I'd share it here too! I've added links to some of the "weirder" ingredients, for reference.

Hidden Gold Mooncakes
Serves 30
4 cups cooked glutinous rice flour (kao fun)
2 cups cold water
1 1/3 cups shortening
6 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
10 tbsp sugar
2 cups water
½ cup custard powder
½ dried milk powder
2 eggs
½ cup unsalted butter

Skin:
  1. Mix icing sugar, water, cocoa powder and shortening well.
  2. Fold in rice flour and mix to a dough.
  3. Divide the dough into 30 portions. Set aside.
Filling:
  1. Heat water and melt the sugar.
  2. Add desiccated coconut and stir to coat.
  3. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Mix well and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.
  4. Mould the filling into small, equal balls.

Assembly:

  1. Wrap a ball of filling with a portion of pastry.
  2. Roll into a ball and press into a mooncake mould (or a small container).
  3. Knock it out gently and keep in the refrigerator 2 hours or until ready to be served.
  4. They keep well for up to one week.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 359.8
Total Fat: 15.8 g
Cholesterol: 27.8 mg
Sodium: 60.9 mg
Total Carbs: 52.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g
Protein: 2.6 g

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

School Food

Well, I'm finally back into the swing of things with school (I think... sorry for the lag time!). Apart from a few God-awfully long days, and the rather hard plastic chairs, I'm really having a blast! My professors for Psychology and my Kitchen lab class in particular are great: absolutely hilarious and entertaining while still being able to teach me something! I've even made some friends who are as passionate about food and (healthy) cooking as me, and I've swapped some recipes with them. In particular one of my friends (Johanna) shares my love of eggplant, and when I found this recipe in my mom's black box I knew I had to share it with her, and everyone else out there who loves veggies as much as me! (Psst - I bought a can of green jackfruit on a whim at the Asian grocer yesterday, so I can try out this yummy looking recipe! Stay tuned!).

I had to change a couple things in this recipe out of necessity for me, but if you can tolerate the oils in your diet feel free to swap in half the vegetable broth for a good-quality walnut oil (or extra-virgin olive if you have no walnut oil on hand). It's a strongly-flvoured salad, pretty pungent from the raw garlic and onion, so really letting the veggies marinate (add some cubed up tofu too for yummy protein "sponges"!) as long as possible is key to avoiding a mouthful of fire! I am wondering what this would be like re-warmed, though - I'm looking for good warm lunch ideas for the winter!!

Macedonian Summer Salad
Serves 4 generously
---Marinade---
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tbsp red wine
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning

---Salad---
1 eggplant, peeled and chopped
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 English cucumber, halved and sliced
2 red peppers, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh basil
  1. Prepare marinade and set aside.
  2. Place eggplant and chopped tomatoes in a baking dish.
  3. Broil 4 inches from heat for 8 minutes, flipping eggplant chunks after 4 minutes.
  4. Pour broiled vegetables and any juices immediately into a bowl, pour marinade overtop.
  5. Chill 2 hours.
  6. Toss remaining ingredients with the basil and marinated vegetables and serve.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 83.3
Total Fat: 0.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 70.4 mg
Total Carbs: 18.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.4 g
Protein: 2.9 g

As if there was any doubt as to my psychology prof's sense of humour, check out this video that he showed our class last lecture. I call it "Two Brains", and it's definitely for anyone who loves (or just lives with) someone of the opposite sex!

video

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Wickedly Wonderful Eggplant

Remember how I mentioned that I recently discovered my love of eggplant? Well I couldn't be happier that it's my new veggie of choice - especially with Winter coming around the corner (oh yes, I said it!). I actually fell in love with the idea of this eggplant dish when I saw it on We [Heart] Food a couple months ago. Chris and Lisa had adapted a Cooking Light recipe for a cheesy, crispy-baked eggplant lasagne type dish, reducing the cheese factor some more an adding extra veggies without losing the delicious, gooey-baked texture of the original. All I did was make a few more minor changes to make it vegan and suitable for my dietary needs (and tastes!). Instead of green pepper, I used some minced red bells from my garden, and instead of plain white mushrooms I added sliced creminis. I threw in an extra clove of garlic and my own Italian seasoning blend too, and instead of canned tomato sauce I used some of my home made passata. For the cheeses I subbed in Galaxy brand vegan mozzarella and rice parmesan - it was my first time using either of those products and I tell you, I'm in love! I also cut down on the breadcrumb content a wee bit, and used whole wheat crumbs.

I would call this a resounding success... I can't wait to chow down on it for tomorrow's lunch, and I'm definitely going to make it again for school meals throughout the winter! A big thanks to Andrew for his infinite patience and help today with the cooking, I couldn't have done it without you!

Veganized Veggie Bake
Serves 4
1 1/4 lbs eggplant, half-peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup water
1/2 large sweet onion, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced thinly
1 medium red pepper, diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
8 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/4 tsp black pepper, divided
1 cup crushed tomatoes, divided
1 oz shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp grated rice "parmesan"
2 tbsp dry, whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  1. Heat a non-stick grill pan (or broiler).
  2. Salt and pepper eggplant slices lightly.
  3. Grill or broil the eggplant 3 minutes on each side, until browned.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  5. Heat water in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.
  6. Add onion through mushrooms.
  7. Cover and cook 7 minutes or until tender, stirring mixture occasionally.
  8. Increase heat to medium-high. Uncover pan, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until almost all of the liquid evaporates.
  9. Spread half of pan mixture in bottom of a deep baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  10. Arrange half of eggplant slices over mushroom mixture.
  11. Top with half the pepper, half the tomatoes and all the vegan mozzarella.
  12. Spread remaining mushroom mixture over cheese.
  13. Top with remaining eggplant, pepper and tomatoes.
  14. Sprinkle with rice parmesan and breadcrumbs.
  15. Cover dish, and bake 1 hour.
  16. Remove cover, and return to oven for 10 - 15 minutes.
  17. Let stand 10 minutes, then serve.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 132.7
Total Fat: 2.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 491.1 mg
Total Carbs: 22.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.9 g
Protein: 10.1 g

Also, a shout out to David at Wish I Were Baking... for his interest in my garden! Good luck on your dissertation, and I can't wait to see what that goldfish scarf turns into!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Summer's End

I love to grow my own veggies and herbs over the summer. The rewards of a garden are so diverse and fulfilling that I'm definitely going to keep this hobby going as long as I possibly can, even after I "grow up" (i.e. move out, when I have to!) - containers in an apartment, herb pots on the counter, anything! This summer brought not only me but my family and Andrew an insane amount of healthy, pesticide-free, (mostly) heirloom vegetables! We also gained an immense amount of respect for the sheer power that nature has over the quality (not to mention quantity!) of the budding veggies and fruits. The summer was filled with long, hot, stick yourself in the freezer days coupled with inevitable bring-the-house-down thunderstorms, and while the tomatoes loved that treatment, we had a few casualties too...

If you've ever had a garden of your own before (or known someone who did) you undoubtedly have heard stories of giant zucchinis emerging, some of which are larger than a toddler (and others which travel buckled in!). I was really looking forward to dealing with the bounty this year, since I had marked down a couple delicious sounding snacks and meals to make with the leftovers (and, if you do have an abundance, take a look at this recipe... I'm so jealous!). Alas, by early July, we knew that there would be no summer squash on our table this year. Both our zucchini and cucumber vines began to wither, shrivel and turn yellow, and the tiny fruits that had begun to grow started to turn black and mould. Sigh. I guess the cucumber pickles that I grew dill for are out of the question too!

Thankfully, I'm fortunate enough to have a pretty decent number of options when it comes to buying locally farmed and grown produce. Not only do I have an array of farms and farmer's markets within spitting distance of me, but our supermarket chains have finally started to take notice of what our local producers have to offer. In fact, a few days ago I had Charlie Kondek (who represents an ad firm for Loblaws) send me a link to one of their most recent info spots on TV (this one specifically pertaining to Ontario, though they have the others here), and I thought I'd post it here for those who want to see a bit of my backyard!

video

This particular farmer, Phil Tregunno, is also a major employer in Ontario during harvest season. Hand picking is a lot of work, and 100 supplementary employees throw themselves into the challenge every year. The result is piles and piles of peaches and plums in the store that taste as good as those from the farm, with less driving! You can find out more about your local supply farms here.

Zucchini and cucumbers notwithstanding, we were very lucky this year to get as much as we did (and are still) from our garden. What better way to say farewell to the throes of Summer gardening than with a big, hearty breakfast before (or a restful lunch after) reaping the last harvest? Thanks to Foodland Ontario for the original idea - it's a delicious, filling and completely customizable recipe! I'm also sending this off to NoobCook, who is hosting Andrea's event Grow Your Own... between the red pepper, chives and tomatoes in this dish it's full of homegrown goodness!

Garden Eggs in Spuds
Serves 4
4 medium-large Russet baking potatoes, scrubbed
PAM or cooking spray
2 button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1 Roma tomato, diced
8 egg whites
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp minced chives
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/3 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese

  1. Pierce potatoes 3-4 times with a fork or skewer.
  2. Place in microwave, cook on HI for 15 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool slightly.
  3. Slice potatoes in half and scoop out half the flesh from each half, reserving for later use if desired.
  4. Microwave empty shells 3 minutes longer.
  5. Preheat broiler, and place potato shells on a non-stick baking sheet.
  6. Heat a non-stick frypan sprayed with cooking spray over medium-high heat.
  7. Add mushrooms, red pepper and tomato.
  8. Cook 5 minutes, stirring, until tomato liquid has mostly evaporated and the vegetables are softening.
  9. Beat together egg whites, salt, pepper, chives, garlic powder and onion powder.
  10. Pour into frypan and cook, stirring, until eggs are mostly set (they should still be a bit runny).
  11. Divide egg mixture between the potato shells and top with Cheddar cheese.
  12. Broil 4-5 minutes, until cheese has melted and begun to crisp. Serve immediately.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 234.0
Total Fat: 0.9 g
Cholesterol: 1.8 mg
Sodium: 177.7 mg
Total Carbs: 42.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g
Protein: 15.2 g

The last bit of random news for today is about school - see this photo?? That's chapter one of my $120 college math textbook. Yes... the title is "Using the Calculator". Hmm... my tuition dollars at work?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Weirdness

Okay, I'm sorry if I sound mean here, but when you go to school, especially a post-secondary one, should your teachers not be at a higher level of knowledge than you? After all, you are paying through the nose for the sheer "honour" of attending their classes (not to mention the books!). I'm going there to learn. Not teach. Sigh.

So what's the deal? Well, apparently my computing teacher struggles with running a jump-drive and relies way too much on our shabby school e-mail service for class projects... when it failed on Tuesday we got to waste 20 minutes while she tried to figure out how possibly to get all of our student e-mail addresses. Eventually, I tore out a sheet of paper, grabbed a pen, and started a list old school style. The look on the prof's face was priceless. Go problem solving!

The other incident was less of a problem and more of a semantics issue, I think (or hope!). My core course (Food Services) professor mentioned yesterday the need to tell a "strict vegan who doesn't wear or use any animal products and attends PETA rallies" to eat a couple eggs every day to boost protein intake. Umm... eggs? Do they not come from an animal, namely a CHICKEN?? You know, cluckety cluck?? I rolled my eyes and caught the glance of my friend, who just shook her head. Ooooh, boy.

Ah well. The first week is over. Thank God... I forgot why people hated school!

The other weird thing that happened this week was the result of my stepbrother. After my mom made cabbage rolls, we still had a bigger than Jupiter cabbage in our cold-storage room (it didn't fit in the fridge). While wolfing down his share of the rolls on Tuesday, Dan asked my mom to make cabbage soup one night this week. I was flabbergasted. The carnivore, meat, potato and ramen noodle boy asking for a vegan, pasta-less soup? I think my mom decided to seize the opportunity while it was still on the table (so to speak), and started to dig through her cookbooks for a decent recipe. The only request from Dan was that it needed to be spicy. Not "add a couple grinds of pepper" spicy - more "add as much pepper and Tabasco as we have in the house" spicy. Not wanting to blow their heads off, though, my mom comprimised, taking two different cookbook recipes (one German, one Polish) and adding four different types of pepper instead of a ton of one specific kind (which would have been paprika from the Polish version). A big Vidalia onion, some celery and a jar of home-canned stewed tomatoes rounded out the shreds of cabbage and added some interesting flavour to the spiced broth (with mustard powder from the German recipe) too.
This soup, basic as it seems, is so delicious that I could easily eat it every day for lunch (I'd stir in some kidney beans for protein, though, if making it a full meal). It stores wonderfully, getting better as it sits, and is filling, low-calorie, and full of cancer-fighting vitamins and cruciferous veggies!

Peppery Cabbage Soup
Serves 10, 2 cups per serving
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
12 cups water
3 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1 large head green cabbage, chopped
19 oz stewed tomatoes
  1. In a very large pot, heat oil.
  2. Saute onion, celery and peppers 6-7 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, cook 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in water, broth, salt, pepper, paprika, and mustard powder. Bring to a boil.
  5. Add cabbage and tomatoes, reduce heat to a simmer.
  6. Cook 40 minutes, uncovered.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 75.6
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 442.7 mg
Total Carbs: 14.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g
Protein: 2.8 g

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

One Last Hurrah

This is me pretending that I'm up with the times! I know that the Labour Day long weekend is long over *sob* but I did so much over the course of it that I couldn't say it all at once - I'm just too lazy, and given the shaky state of my wireless connection I'd probably lose 3/4 of my post if I did! So, the easy way it is!

The Labour Day weekend always reminds me of BBQs and family gatherings, which is weird since I don't think I've been to one on Labour Day in a long time, if ever! Usually it's spent in a mix of lazy, casual morning and early afternoon lulls and the sudden oh my God school's tomorrow panic that comes on the Monday night. This weekend, like all the others I remember, was devoid of a "get together" style of BBQ (though corn and burgers were cooked up on Sunday night), but filled with more than it's fair share of work! Apparently "time off" is code for "do your other work" in the real world, so other work it was!

The most major event of this past Labour Day was moving my dad and Martha into their new house on Saturday. I immediately took over the kitchen organization tasks (cue Andrew... "you always take over!") and together with Andrew, my sister and my grandma we got the whole thing sorted. The best part about his new house: GAS STOVE!! Very very awesome. I can't wait to get cooking on it!

Sunday was less work-intensive, outwardly. Our search for good enough weather to golf in (a belated birthday gift to Andrew) was answered overly so: we had a gorgeous, warm, sunny and non-humid morning and we took full advantage! 9 holes didn't quite tire us out (or over heat us) enough, though, so Andrew and I went out to the backyard thing that's taking over the yard garden and spent an hour picking. And picking. And picking!

The patio table was a sea of red. When the two "adults" of the household did return (apparently the way home from the course involved a side trip westward to a golf shop) they were pretty much beyond words at the immense amount we had. Hot peppers, sweet peppers, carrots, beets, beans! Tomatoes, too, you know, in case you couldn't tell...

I'm pretty sure any spare time I have next weekend is going to be spent drying more of these suckers. It's a good thing, though, 'cause we've been mowing through the previous batches! I'll just have to remember to save a bag or two for winter, and not gobble these down too!