Wednesday, 31 January 2007

If you want to eat hot dogs

I stopped eating hot dogs many many years ago after I started reading food labels. To be honest, I stopped eating a lot of things once I found out what was reallllllly in food. Giving up hot dogs is rather hard on someone who went to watch baseball games and attended a few Bluejays games when I was living in Ontario. Hots dogs and baseball go hand in hand.

I did return to eating hot dogs when I discovered tofu dogs...chicken hot dogs were out too. Now these aren't bad with some really good dijon mustard and sauerkraut.

For those of you going YUK!! regarding tofu dogs and who have sworn off beef dogs due to content, here is a little known secret.

If you really want a beef hot dog, buy kosher. Nothing is added, just pure 100% beef. How do you tell if a product is kosher---look for the U symbol inside a circle on the package.

This little secret applies to chickens and turkeys too...they taste the best.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Rice Pudding by Another Name is Sweeter

The following recipe is one I've made several times, has been a hit every time and is the BEST rice pudding you'll ever have! It comes from a cookbook that I once thought was too fancy and complicated, but once I started trying the recipes most of them turned out to be easy. The cookbook is The New Basics by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins authors of the Silver Palate Cookbook and Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook.

Hazelnut Risotto
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup Frangelico liqueur
4 cups milk
5 talbespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Arborio rice (aka: Italian rice--do not substitute this ingredient)
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1 cup heavy or whipping cream

Combine the currants and Frangelico in a small bowl and soak loosely covered for 8 hours or overnight. (Go the overnight route as the currents soak up the Frangelico)

Preheat the oven to 350F

Butter a 3 quart baking dish and pour in the milk. Add the sugar, vanilla and rice. Mix thoroughly.

Bake uncovered stirring every 15 to 20 minutes until rice is cooked and almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 hours.

Drain the currants and stir them into the pudding along with the hazelnuts. Serve hot or chilled with heavy cream drizzled over. (can omit the heavy cream)

Friday, 19 January 2007

Some happy discoveries

So I made a curry last night; nothing special, some potatoes, sweet potato, shallots, etc. Sauteed the lot until the veg was softened, put them aside and tossed in some cut-up cod fillet. Once I had it heated through, I added some Wonderfarm Coconut Cream. This was something I'd bought on sale from Fairways (about 99 cents). Wow. This stuff is like regular coconut milk, but way thicker--really a cream to the other's milk. I had also found a package of DandeePak Green Curry Paste that I'd bought a while ago. In went a tablespoon or so, mixed well, and added the veg back in. Over a bed of brown rice, this turned out to be fantastic. Sharp, spicy but not overwhelming, and the coconut cream added a layer of sweetness. Hard to stop eating. Highly recommend both products.

Saturday, 13 January 2007


The food mall on Mackenzie Street in Cook Street Village and across from the laundromat, offers a mixed venue of eateries. I had the first opportunity to finally try the Ethopian venue this Thursday. I had the vegetarian plate as I don't eat beef. It was fun to eat with my hands, although I did need lots of napkins and at the end I did use a fork.

Well worth trying. I'm looking forward to a second meal!

Thursday, 4 January 2007

What to bake when eggnog is on sale

Now that Christmas is over, all the eggnog still lingering in your local grocery store is on sale. Can't pass by a good deal, yet wondering why do you want to drink more of this stuff? Go for the sale and bake that eggnog into...

Eggnog Quick Bread
2 eggs
1 cup dairy eggnog (light, non-fat & soy work too)
2 teaspoons rum extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Grease bottom only of a 9x5 inch loaf pan or three 5 3/4x3 1/4 inch loaf pans. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Blend in sugar, eggnog, butter, rum extract and vanilla extract. In another bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Mix into eggnog mixture; stir just to moisten dry ingredients. Pour batter into prepared pan or pans. Bake bread in large pan for 40 to 60 minutes or until tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Breads baked in smaller pans require 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then remove bread from pan to cool completely. Wrap tightly and store in the fridge.

(recipe available at in various print formats)

Wednesday, 3 January 2007

Dipping Chocolate

One of my classic Christmas baking treats is to make Candy Cane Bark. The white chocolate squares of Baker's Chocolate are rather expensive and this can become a very expensive treat to make. Kindly the staff at Thrifty's bulk section steered me towards the dipping chocolate which comes in dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate for a lot less than the packages. At 49 cents per 100 grams(on sale) I can get a lot of chocolate.

The best part of this treat is using a hammer to pulverize the candy cane. Only be careful here, I've learnt to put paper towel over the candy cane and to place inside a freezer ziplock bag as these are a bit thicker and you don't end up with bits of candy cane flying all over the place.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stir in the candy cane, you can add a drop of peppermint flavouring to the chocolate too for a more minty taste. Spread out onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Parchment paper works better than waxed paper. Put in the fridge until set. Break up into pieces-- wrapping the parchment paper around the chocolate and gently hitting it with a hammer is the easiest way to break it up.

Great for giftgiving.

A Rainy Winter Day

Over the solstice season, visitors around here went on a tear through the cupboards in the kitchen while we were away, and pulled out our stockpots. They tried (and failed) to make a turkey soup/stew, but, I'm happy to say, didn't burn anything and did manage to clean the pot up after the'd used it. Such are the small joys of a shared household.
But the stockpots being out made me realize that it had been a while since I'd used them. While visiting Monica in Nelson, I'd used her cookware, and in Victoria, my mother-in-law was/is reasonably well-equipped in the pot department as well. Our current housemate and landlady has a million pots of varying quality from Le Crueset enameled cast iron to Walmart mega-crap. My stockpots are neither: the larger is the standard 1mm stainless steel you can pick up for $20-$30 pretty much anywhere. The other is 2mm stainless with a 5mm heat-diffusion pad bonded to the bottom and is quite the step up, quality-wise.
So New Year's Day I dug through the freezer and found the last of the lamb neck bones and a heart still in storage. There's about three pieces of meat still left from the last lamb I slaughtered before leaving the farm--I've been pretty parsimonious with it, it's true. Getting it back to the Beach house, I tossed it in the smaller of the stockpots--the nice one-- and dug through the fridge, finding some wilted celery and a couple of shallots. Into the pot with it all, and started it boiling.
Stephanie, last solstice, gave me a small spice mill which I have only rarely used. I hauled it out along with all my spices and started sorting thrugh them. Where possible, I used whole over ground, but tossed everything into the mill. The bay leaves went in whole, but the cumin, fenugreek, rosemary and such were ground simultaneously into a fine powder before adding. There were 8 or 10 dried shi-take mushrooms kicking around and in they went, along with some dried tamarind I'm learning how to use.
the next day I strained everything through a colander, picked out the meat and most of the fat and returned it to the pot while getting everything else out--tendon, bone, seeds and bay leaves. In went white acorn squash, white sweet potato, purple-top rutabaga, carrots, potatoes-- man I must have chopped for an hour. Stew, for me, is the culmination of winter storage vegetables like thick-skin squashes and root vegetables. I also added two cups of previously frozen pumpkin from hallowe'en, figuring it's time to get that stuff used up as well.
I also poured in some organic blackstrap molasses, pomegranate molasses and some balsamic vinegar. Lamb is very sweet, and I'm always looking for darker, bottom-end flavours when I cook with it. Something savoury to offset the sweet. I strained off a few cups of stock, added it to some rice flour in the blender, and made a gravy that thickened the stew nicely. Well, with some help from a couple of cups of brown rice (not having any barley in the house this time).
Everything worked beautifully. I have about six or seven litres of lovely rich stew that are perfect for eating on these rainy winter days. (In fact, it rained so much yesterday that I couldn't get to my door; the sidewalk was under 50 to 100 millimetres of water. When I walked up to the house, there were ducks paddling in the pool that used to be a front lawn. What a day...) So Louise, if you don't want to cook tonight, stop by and I'll give you a feed of stew--I've certainly got enough!

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Welcome to this blog! For people who like to cook or bake please feel free to copy the recipes that will be posted here. I hope this blog will be fun and expand your culinary skills.