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A Taste of Nostalgia

Today was one full of old food memories, every one of them delicious. And so, I thought I would share them with you; even though you likely don’t share the same memories I’m sure you have your own nostalgic foods to enjoy. Perhaps this post will spark an old flame or spur you on to dig up a forgotten taste…

My mom was one of the people who inspired me to start cooking; she was a great cook, even though she had hardly any experience when she started to cook for our family. Her sense of adventure, and the electric frying pan, were the secret to many a wonderful meal. As such, I find it a particular compliment that she now asks me for recipes. The internet is the biggest cookbook in the world, and she is on her computer all the time… and yet, when she is looking for a remembered taste she sends me an email. I have taken to posting the recipes she requests here on the blog, so that they are in one place for posterity. After all, I started out with all my favourite recipes of hers in one place – I bought the same black notebook she had and copied out everything (shortbread cookies,  lemon loaflemon pudding cakebutter-tarts … you get the idea). Today she asked me for shortcake biscuits . I had to chuckle when I pulled the recipe with my notes to post it, as it’s one of the first ones I ever cooked.strawberry-shortcake I’m excited to find out what exotic fruit she puts in the shortcake, being in Mexico for the winter 🙂

Just to top the day off, we got to enjoy some of my husband’s Québécois nostalgia as well. He made tourtière over the Christmas break and froze it for us to enjoy – tonight is the night! I must say, simple comfort food is something at which the Québécois excel.

So, amidst the guilt of having to start new things for a new year and the pressure of having to live up to all the inspirational quotes that get posted everywhere, how about a taste of days gone by? Familiar tastes are what comfort food is all about.

Not to mention, it’s cold and snowy here, so this really hit the spot.

Stay warm!

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Serious Food and Drink shouldn’t be taken too seriously

Here we are at the start of a new year, and everywhere there are earnest reminders that we should be striving for more, improving, setting goals, accomplishing new things…. it’s exhausting, isn’t it? How about we start by maintaining the good we’ve already done, and celebrate that little victory? After all, we deserve a pat on the back for showing up, don’t we??

With that attitude in mind, my post today is about keeping one’s sense of humour. I don’t know about you, but I have been known to get all fired up about new things (like trying recipes, for example), only to discover that success was not as obvious as expected. I just deleted a draft of a recipe I had written here and wanted to post: “Banana Coconut Cream Pie with a Chocolate Crust”. Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, well, it didn’t look awesome when I made it. It looked like something my dog might have well, put back in the bowl, if you know what I mean. And it didn’t taste all that great either. Not only did the custard not set, but the bananas went brown almost immediately, and the crust was soggy in some spots and like cardboard in others. So much for sharing that Pinterest find. We did have a good laugh about how awful it was, though, as we substituted homemade sundaes for dessert that night. What else could I do?

ice-cream-sundae

So, I am not making any resolutions to go on a diet, or eat gluten free, or start up longer work outs or lift more weight. I’m working on keeping up with my efforts from last year. Thankfully, being married to a chef and interested in good food, I eat pretty healthy most of the time. I also treat myself often (my workout schedule is a combination of vanity and a calculation that accounts for regular chocolate, ice cream and alcohol consumption). Don’t look here for any recipes that feature restrictions – look for dishes that feature interesting tastes and combinations of flavours. They might be extra-healthy, they might be gluten-free or Paleo, but most importantly I think they are delicious.

Alright, enough said for today. (I don’t want to seem preachy.) Get out there and have fun – eat something interesting! And then congratulate yourself for living life to the fullest. If you’d like a relatively healthy recipe idea, how about Chicken with Cinnamon and Dates ?  It’s one of my favourite chicken recipes.

If you need more inspiration, the wonderfully funny folks at Urban Daddy came up with a great New Years list for the first month of the year: 31 Reasons to Have a Drink. Since I’ve managed to stick to my 2017 plan for two days in a row, I think I’ll toast my small success with a glass of wine 🙂

Cheers!

Blogger confession – time for a few Hail Marys and a new post

I have been a bad blogger. It’s been 7 months since my last post. I did keep writing my weekly Castanet column and I have put up more recipes, but I haven’t been present and for that I apologize. With a new year starting, I am resolved to post regularly again. So, here is the new beginning.

My new approach is this: How about a “Foodie Thought of the Day” ? Maybe it will be short and sweet – an image of something I found or a recipe I’m trying. Sometimes I’ll aim for more of a pondering post, with commentary on a topic. But every day I do think of food, so all I have to do is share that here, with you.

foodie-thought-of-the-day-banner

I’m hoping you’ll help me out… tell me if I’m crazy, or lucked out and found something you like. Complain if you think I ramble too much! Complain if you don’t think I’m sharing enough.

So, here it goes: 2017, the year of foodie tidbits!

And just so you don’t think I’m jamming out on the first 2 days of the year here are the ideas already in my calendar:

  • I read a great little article in Saveur Magazine by a father who taught his daughters to cook at an early age. They both embraced the kitchen as a fun place; one of things they came up with was “Fakesgiving”, a celebration dinner like Thanksgiving that is held once a month, so everyone can enjoy those fancy or exotic dishes or try something new more often than just once a year. I’m going to have Fakesgiving dinners this year!
  • I had a persimmon for the first time this morning, inspired by an insistent vendor at one of my fave foodie haunts, the Granville Island Market. I highly recommend them – they are tangy, sweet, with a smooth texture and a beautiful exotic flavour. In case you’re skeptical, check out these benefits!

persimmons-why-they-are-good

See you tomorrow! Eat, drink and be merry 🙂

So what’s in store this year?

2016 hoopla

A new calendar year begins, and we all get a chance to be pundits. Since food is my topic of choice, I thought I might as well weigh in, so here are my top 3 picks for trends, and some gratuitous commentary on what I have read from other sources. Feel free to add your two cents below, please!

Food Trend Predictions for 2016

  1. HYBRID DRINKS – it’s not enough that bartenders have created shrubs, syrups and other concoctions to come up with weird and wonderful cocktails… now we have to combine what we already have! Have you heard of “boffee”, or nitro coffee? I wondered at first if that was just a redneck version of a wine spritzer, but no, apparently it’s a real drink: iced coffee served “on tap” using nitrogen to create bubbles, just like a draught beer. superfood cocktailsCoconut water, Red Bull and all kinds of superfoods are being added to cocktails; just think, you can get drunk and prepare for your hangover at the same time!
  2. CLASSY SNACKS – crackers and cheese just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore, folks. You need ethnic dips, ancient grain chips, popcorn with exotic oil & seasoning… or at least use goat cheese drizzled with honey on those gluten-free crackers.funky small plates Serving snacks is an art as well; if you haven’t invested in funky small plates, then you’d better visit Pinterest soon for a cool idea using something you can find in your pantry and “up-cycle” with a bit of burlap and a hot glue gun 🙂
  3. COOKING WITH GARBAGE – If you have been in a hole and not listening to the outraged food geeks in our part of the world, you won’t know that we suddenly realized our penchant for having every kind of food available year round and it all being perfect and unique has meant we are wasting an obscene amount of food. Chefs have now made it cool to use the stuff our moms used to regularly transform from the back of the fridge to the table. cooking with garbageDan Barber from Blue Hill in New York served “Dog Food” on his menu last summer during his themed period of working with food otherwise not used – it was ground meat using the cuts the butcher couldn’t sell.

If you aren’t already trying out these new concepts, then here’s your chance to jump on the bandwagon. After all, you don’t want to be the last person in the lunchroom still eating a tuna sandwich, do you?

One trend whose demise I’d like to support is the use of the word foodie. Adam Sach’s recent editorial in Saveur is right on the money:

Maybe we can just focus on the pleasures of eating, cooking and drinking and leave the labels where they belong – on modified corn and the side of wine bottles.

As much as there are chefs innovating with new foods, new fusion and new science, there are also restaurant brands that are working hard to be everything for everybody. McDonalds has coffee now, and menu items which can be custom made (including lettuce wraps instead of buns). Forgive me for sounding snobbish, but I don’t think that improves anything. Do you really go to McDonalds for a healthy meal? That’s like going to Robuchon for take-out, or cheap chicken wings. As consumers we should encourage businesses to be unique, to do what they do best – not to be like every other place in town. Laziness doesn’t benefit anyone in the food chain.

I don’t want to sound preachy, but I do believe wholeheartedly in the importance of good food and the time to enjoy it properly. And when we want to enjoy junk food we should make that an authentic experience as well. No labels, no obligations. Life is too short.

 

 

May Your House and Hearth Be Blessed

At the start of a new year we all like to make a fresh start and ensure that we are on the best footing for our new adventures. There are traditions for housewarmings, offering blessings for those in new homes making a new life. It seems to me that doing the same thing for a new year is a good idea, so I thought I would list out some of those traditions for you, based on the sentiments. Many of these stem from the two sides of my heritage (the Scots and the Scandinavians), who gave gifts in the dead of winter to share good spirits and reinforce the community.

housewarming basket

GOOD HEALTH – Olive oil represents health and well being, and is a wonderful blessing for the kitchen. Spices also symbolize diversity and excitement in life. A potted plant (especially herbs) symbolize life and energy.

PROSPERITY, ABUNDANCE – Bread symbolizes sustenance and usually goes with the blessing “so your house will never know hunger”. Salt has meant luxury throughout time and can be given with the blessing “that your life will always be full of flavour”.

LOVE, STABILITY –  Coins symbolize good fortune; it is said to be important to include a coin in a wallet given as a gift and also with the gift of a knife, so as to ensure your friendship is not cut by the blade.

GOOD CHEER, SWEETNESS & LIGHT – Wine and spirits symbolize good cheer in many cultures which tends to go with joy and prosperity as well. Honey symbolizes the sweetness in life well and a connection with nature. A candle represents the light of life and warmth, especially in dark times.

There are also items that help us keep away the negative things, like bad luck or evil spirits. A broom is a good gift to sweep out any bad omens as well as keeping a house clean.

Homemade items are always a welcome gift, not even requiring wrapping. Sharing your own food (and culinary talents) is a beautiful symbol of friendship and community. Fostering those relationships always brings good things, to the recipient and the giver. If you’re stuck for a recipe, try my Banana Bran Muffins.

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