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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!

A Gourmande’s Resolution

stack of cookbooks

I’m going to visit my cookbook collection more often this year!

Okay, I’m a bit slow getting going, but I showed up, didn’t I? I resolved this year to not only cook 1 new recipe each week, but then also to post those recipes here for all to see. I may have some that I’m not going to make again, but I figure that information might be valuable for fellow readers to know, too! So, I have made my recipes but I’ve just managed to get them all written down, hence this mish-mash of a post to get caught up. Will you indulge me?

The first week it was grey, with no sun. I mean not a single ray since the calendar page flipped to 2016! For a Prairie girl such as myself, this was tortuous. If I couldn’t have blue skies, I needed a bit of brightness on the dinner table. Thankfully, my Saveur magazine came to the rescue with pictures and a lovely article on winter salads. (sorry, no link, as issue #180 isn’t online yet.) I added my own twists, and reduced the dressing quantity as I still had leftovers even making half, and voilà! Winter Herb Salad with Fruit If I do say so myself, it was truly wonderful. The flavours of the herbs came through well, and the pomegranate and apple were just the thing to brighten my day. We had it with some sautéed snapper that had an Asian rub – a perfect Monday meal!

The second week has still been grey, with the exception of 5 minutes of sunshine I caught one morning while walking the dogs. We were talking about a trip to New Orleans in the fall, and of course my online research strayed easily when I saw native recipes. I knew about King Cake from my time in France, but when I saw the recipe from New Orleans, I realized it was a completely different animal. Instead of puff pastry, this was a sort of brioche dough. Well, what better occupation for a home body on a grey winter day than a yeast dough? Away I went with New Orleans King Cake.Rabbit Hollow winter sun

 

Granted, one probably doesn’t need a stuffed brioche right after the holiday season, especially when preparing to be fit and trim for a beach holiday (Jamaica looms on the horizon, only two weeks from now.) But, it’s for a good cause, right? I can tell you it was worth the sacrifice. This is a great Sunday recipe. Your man will love you when it comes out of the oven about half time 🙂

I’ve just signed up for the #PulsePledge too, since it’s the Year of the Pulse. No, not as in staying alive and keeping your heart beating, although that will be a part of it. This is about legumes – chickpeas, lentils, beans and the like. The idea is to cook one recipe a week for 10 weeks using some kind of pulse. I may include my pulse recipe next week, alongside an entrée recipe (pork, I think).

I hope these posts will help those cooks who are always looking for ideas, day after day. I hope it will help me to stay organized, cooking and writing more this year. I look forward to staying in touch!

 

Okay, here we go!

Well, it’s a new year. Here we are in the midst of being back at work and thinking about the resolutions, the plans, the things we wanted to improve for the future. If you are like me, you still have the Christmas tree up (I like to leave it up till Epiphany, when I close out the festive eating and drinking – watch for the Twelfth Night torte recipe!) I like to ease into things, so I am trying to remember to tackle my resolutions and new projects in small, manageable pieces. It’s sort of like approaching a buffet, I think – I like to sample lots of different flavours and get the most from the experience. I also enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a task, and if you have lots of little tasks, then you have lots of accomplishments (instead of the daunting nature of a huge project viewed all at once).

One of the things I like to keep on the resolution radar is cooking everyday meals at home. I know that may sound a bit silly, but I am fortunate enough to have married a chef, so he thinks about getting meals made all the time. He also gets hungry faster than I do, so if I want to cook on a Tuesday night I have to get myself organized so that dinner isn’t the casual affair I might tolerate after a glass of wine and a bit of chatting over how best to adapt or customize a recipe. Last night I tried a straight-forward idea from my newly-arrived Bon Appetit magazine: Skillet-Baked Eggs & Spinach. In deference to them, I include their link for the recipe here. NOTE: I modified the chile aspect by using an assortment of dried Mexican chiles we have in our larder, along with a healthy pinch of smoked paprika. (In Kelowna, Turkish chili powder is not something you find readily.) It went very nicely with a glass of Okanagan rosé – perhaps a bit of indulgence on the Tuesday after the holiday season, but it was worth celebrating. After all, I had managed to organize an interesting meal and get it cooked in time for us to enjoy it and still be ready to depart for our movie night out. I could have cooked an old stand-by, like tuna casserole, but there is the rub: I am plagued by the desire to consistently try new ingredients and combinations when I eat. Hence my recurring New Year’s urge to keep one foot in the kitchen and the other in the specialty aisle of the grocery store.

I don’t think I am a food snob. Does it make me elitist if I don’t want to eat tomatoes in winter that taste like kitchen sponges that merely wiped tomato juice off the cutting board? I would rather look for some other tangy ingredient if the red billiard balls in my freezer (read frozen garden tomatoes) won’t suffice in a recipe. In the summer I know I will recover from this hiatus when we eat tomatoes at every meal. I like the thrill of finding a traditional winter dish that wraps me up like a cozy scarf on a cold day and makes me want to open a bottle of ponderous red wine from the cellar. That dish might involve local root veggies, or it might involve a stew recipe from a country halfway around the world.

I think everything has its place, even comfort food. Tuna casserole was always my favourite dish as a child, and when nostalgia strikes I like to re-create my Mom’s dinner that included jellied carrot salad as an accompaniment. I love a fancy dessert, but I also adore Mom’s lemon pudding cake, especially those late-night spoonfuls snuck from the bowl late at night (I always volunteered to take all the empty tea mugs back to the kitchen on nights when it sat on the counter :)). The taste of that stuff is as powerful a memory in my mind as my first taste of Spanish flan in Barcelona or Cape Brandy Pudding atop Table Mountain in Cape Town. Perhaps I have catalogued my food memories as unique accomplishments too, so that each one is a victory in itself. Or maybe that just confirms my status as a gourmand…

 

Table Mountain is known for her flat top and for the "cloth" of clouds that sometimes lays over it. Just the setting for a city of food lovers!

 

If you are looking to cut back on calories, or switch your diet to avoid gluten or dairy or meat or other substance, then I think it is even more important that taste become a priority. As far as I am concerned, food of any kind is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. A squeeze of lemon or a dash of herb or spice or a splash of oil or vinegar can make all the difference in the world. This philosophy could be applied to traditional favourites too. The Sunday roast might be sacrosanct, but who says you can’t put a bit of Dijon in those mashed potatoes? (If you have any secrets or tips you want to share, please leave a comment! One can never have too many options in the kitchen.)

 

So, in essence, the moral of this post is “One meal at a time”. There is always the potential for the next dish you eat or drink you sip to be something so sublime as to stop your world and create a memory. Wouldn’t that improve a hard day at the office?

Bistro at the top of Table Mountain - where they serve an awesome Cape Brandy Pudding!

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