Monday, July 31, 2006

Hibiscus Flower

Though a little bit fuzzy, this picture gives you a good idea of the beauty of the hisbiscus flower. My father enjoyed these in Africa when he was growing up, though the bushes were huge compared to the little plant that grows at his place. I like the long projecting stamen.

Brown cows give brown milk

I was annoyed at the fact that this commercial, by the Dairy Council of Canada, no less, implies that brown, or chocolate, milk comes from brown cows. Well, it may be that the milk comes from the cow, but it leaves the cow as white as any other cow, and it becomes brown with the addition of chocolate and other ingredients, to make the familiar chocolate milk. The commercial's premise is, that a group of brown cows are protesting, that they should be given equal rights, that people should drink chocolate milk, which is a ludicrous concept. What, so, holsteins, which are black and white in colour, give black, and white, milk? The sad part of this commentary, is that many people, children and adults, just don't know where their food, milk, meat, vegetables, come from, and what goes into making the things that they buy in the grocery stores. This kind of message doesn't help, especially from a major government organization. My sister too has pointed out, that there is another commercial, wanting the viewer, likely geared more to the female audience, to get more calcium into their bodies by drinking chocolate milk, despite evidence that says that the chocolate and other ingredients may inhibit the absorption of the calcium. And don't get me started on Cadbury creme eggs, which, apparently, are laid by clucking Easter bunnies...

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares

My brother got married in 1984 in Woodstock, and, to save expenses, they had a buffet of desserts before and after the meal. There were all kinds of goodies there, but, for some reason, I couldn't get enough of these awesome desserts! I had to get the recipe for it as well, they were done by my sister-in-law's mother, and I've made them several times since, though not recently, as I've gone off peanut butter, which I used to eat a lot of when I was a child, now it just doesn't appeal to me at all. But the combination of butterscotch and peanut butter was unique and wonderful, sweet and nutty, like honey and peanut butter is. I wonder if you could substitute 1/2 cup of runny honey for the butterscotch, and still come out tasty. I'll have to try that sometime.

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares
1 cup peanut butter, smooth
2 small packages butterscotch flavoured chips
2-3 cups marshmallows
1/2 cup nuts (walnuts or peanuts or almonds), chopped (optional)

Melt the peanut butter and butterscotch chips on low heat until melted and smooth. Cool slightly, then add the marshmallows and nuts (if using); mix to combine. Pour into buttered pan. Cut into squares when cool.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Miracle Soup

This recipe made the round of the women, and some of the men, in the office where I work, I was intrigued, not because I really wanted to lose weight, but whether it was true that you could lose weight with it. According to the recipe information, This soup can be eaten as often and as much as you wish. Whenever you feel hungry, just eat as much soup as possible. This soup produces no calories. The more you eat, the faster you lose weight. It didn't help me, or really anyone at the office, lose weight, really, how could it produce no calories, that would mean that you wouldn't get the nutrition necessary to live, you'd starve to death!, and most of those concerned about the extra pounds, graduated to the next miracle diet, namely the high protein, low carb diet, which, while good for immediate gain, is not good over a long while, it is hard on the body to consume lots of protein. Now, I think this recipe tastes pretty good on its own, a good cabbage soup, so enjoy it for that, at least. If it helps in getting more vegetables in your diet, that's also good.

Miracle Soup
6 large onions
3 cans tomatoes (28 oz.)
1 medium cabbage
2 envelopes onion soup mix
1 celery stalk
2 green peppers
4 carrots
season to taste (salt, pepper, dried herbs in bouquet garni)

Cut vegetables into pieces and then place vegetables into boiling water for one hour. Add soya sauce if you wish.

German Cabbage Rolls

My sister wanted to make this recipe, our family hadn't made it for years, and we were warned by our sister-in-law, that it was lots of work to make. I think the hardest part is making the rolls, wrapping the meat mixture in the cabbage leaves is an art. My sister for sure had problems, and ended up with rolls that had lots of toothpicks in them, then I took a crack at it. I stumbled on the technique right away, which seemed to work fairly well, perhaps my sister-in-law didn't like this recipe because she didn't know how to properly wrap the rolls, mused my sister. I'll try to describe the technique as best I can. I took two of the cabbage leaves, removing the edge where it was attached to the core, that seems to be quite hard and difficult to bend. Then I overlapped the two leaves with the round ends in the middle (the end you would begin to peel off). I then placed a handful of the meat-rice mixture in the middle of the overlapped leaves, then wrapped it like a package, first the top and bottom, then the left and right sides. Wrap this with kitchen twine or pin it with steel pins or toothpicks. We decided to use ground turkey rather than the beef-pork mixture, it turned out quite tasty. You could probably use ground chicken, or lamb even.

German Cabbage Rolls
1 whole green cabbage head
200 g ground beef
125 g ground pork
1 medium onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1/2 cup water
oil for frying

Place whole cabbage head in simmering water for 5 minutes. Let cool for a moment, then peel off leaves. You may have to repeat this one or two times more.

Mix together ground meat, onion, salt, pepper, rice and water.

Place 2-3 cabbage leaves overlapping, then place a handful of meat-rice mixture on the leaves. Wrap the leaves in a package; secure with kitchen twine or with steel pins.

Fry cabbage rolls in oil for several minutes until browned on both sides.

Stack all cabbage rolls in pressure cooker with chicken or vegetable stock or water and cook for 30 minutes. Make gravy from left-over stock and pour over cabbage rolls.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

This is one of my sister's favourite cookie recipes, she makes them every so often. She's here for a visit, she lives in China with her husband, and so she wanted to make these again, as in China they don't have an oven, and so can't bake anything. The cookies turn out soft and chewy, they're quite delicious and chocolatey. They become quite thin, and usually run into each other when they're baking. That's quite okay, they are easy to separate. The plate in the picture is a Corel dish, the pattern was popular in the 1970s, my Dad still has quite a few of them.

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
1-1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl. Add eggs and vanilla; blend well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt, blend into creamed mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 8-9 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 4-1/2 dozen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pan-seared Chicken and Crispy Pancetta with Fiery Hazelnut Pasta

I saw this recipe on Giada De Laurentiis's show on Food Network called Everyday Italian, it was called Fiery Angel Hair Pasta, and centred around chili oil, for which she provided a recipe. This again inspired me to create a new version that I think works better, the original was vegetarian, which works well, don't get me wrong, but I'm certainly not a vegetarian, and find that vegetarian dishes, especially small salads, don't quite fill me up as a lunch meal. Add a little meat to it, and I'm fine. I think the salty, crunchy combination of the pancetta suits the lemon and spiciness of the pasta. The original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of chili oil, if you like it spicy, then by all means replace the 1/4 cup of hazelnut oil with chili oil. Now, I used my French toasted hazelnut oil, the smell was incredible when I poured the sauce over the pasta, and reminded me of the Hazelnut-orange pasta that I had made several weeks ago. I also did not make my own chili, rather I used chili oil I found in the Asian section of the supermarket. It turned out quite well, was not spicy at all, so it's likely I'll adjust it next time with more chili oil.

Pan-seared Chicken and Crispy Pancetta with Fiery Hazelnut Pasta
Adapted from a Giada De Laurentiis Recipe
1/2 pound pancetta, cubed
1 chicken breast, butterflied
1 pound angel hair pasta
1/4 cup Chili Oil
1/4 cup Hazelnut Oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons lemon zest
Coarse sea salt
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water, then add the angel hair pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Fry the pancetta with a little oil on medium heat, until crispy brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove to a plate.

Fry the butterflied chicken breast in the remaining oil, about five minutes each side. The chicken should be brown on both sides. Slice the chicken into long pieces.

Stir the oil, parsley, lemon juice and lemon peel in a bowl. Add to the cooked pasta and toss with enough reserved pasta water, 1/4 cup at a time, to moisten. Season the pasta with salt to taste. Pour into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the Parmesan, then place the chicken and the pancetta on top of the pasta and serve.

It's been a while since I posted some Flower Pics

The day-lilies are now at the end, but these Black-eyed Susans are starting to really bloom.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Every year, across the street from where I live, how convenient, they hold the Mississauga Rotary Ribfest, usually near the end of July, for three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). This year, it's far more elaborate, with lots of things to do for kids, rides and performances. Too, there is a stage with performances of music more geared towards adults, and a beer tent. There are stands with fresh lemonade, roasted corn, snacks and things for sale, but the big appeal is the various award-winning restaurants that gather to show off their best grilled pork. Pork ribs mostly, half and full racks. There is something called the Vegetarian's nightmare, which is a full rack of ribs, a half chicken and a pulled pork sandwich. It's the last one that appeals to me the most, pulled pork is very slow roasted pork that is then cooked with barbecue sauce to finish it off. The pulling can be described as shredding the meat, you pull the meat off with a fork, it comes out in strands. The slow cooking makes the meat juicy and tender, it's mostly why I prefer it over the more well-done rack of ribs. This year, on the Friday, I tried two pulled pork sandwiches, one from a restaurant out of Fort Erie, Ontario, called Billy Bones, the other from a restaurant out of London, Ontario, called Crabby's BBQ. The Billy Bones pulled pork sandwich came on a somewhat stale hot dog bun, I ended up throwing that away, it's really the meat I'm interested in. Now, it's the sauce that adds the extra goodness that brings it above the mundane. Every restaurant has its own secret sauce, and usually you can buy it, so you can attempt to duplicate it at home. Billy Bones' sauce was dark and thick, not too sweet, and slightly spicy. Overall, it was pretty good, better than the ones I had last year (there was one, which tasted like cold spicy ketchup). The other pulled pork sandwich, was tastier. Crabby's BBQ's sauce was not as dark as the other, about as sweet, and more spicy. Too, I bought their 1 Lb./$10 special, I'm going to give my brother-in-law a taste of this, he's a meataholic. On Sunday, I'm going by again, so as to see if I can try some more. Often, though, they are out of pulled pork by then, the pickings are often very slim.

One of my food goals, is to try and make my own pulled pork sandwich, that suits my taste. It's not the creation of the pulled pork, again it is the combination of that with the sauce that makes it a good pulled pork sandwich. Probably a life long quest, as are most food goals.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Market Bounty

Here are a few of the wonderful produce from local farmers in Southern Ontario that I bought at the Farmer's Market located at Square One in Mississauga (Fridays and Sundays). It includes two kinds of tomatoes, red and low-acid orange, cucumbers, wild blueberries (my favourite!), and three kinds of carrots, the normal orange, a yellow variety (no, it's not a parsnip), and a purple-skinned one (how strange!). The last two should be interestedly flavoured. There were also cherries and apricots, both of which have already been consumed. I even saw some kohlrabi for sale, which I remember more from my childhood.

A Quick Lunch

Being too hot these days to make elaborate meals, I decided to make a quick lunch not from any recipe, that turned out quite good. I just fried up some butterflied chicken breasts, sprinkled with some Chinese five spice powder, then assembled a sandwich on toasted rye bread, with a Havarti cheese slice, and a farm fresh vine tomato bought at the farmer's market sliced thickly, sprinkled with salt and a little dried basil. Yum!

What to do with four extra egg whites - Hazelnut Macaroons

Other than making an egg white omelette, that is. The recipe that I posted earlier, called Tante Line Plätzchen, uses four egg yolks in the shortbread-style batter. This leaves four egg whites. Looking through this recipe box, I found a note on the recipe for these jam thumbprint-style cookies, to look on the opposite side for a recipe that would use those left-over egg whites. And that brought me to these hazelnut macaroons. Now, I associate Tante Line cookies with Christmas, but they can be made any time of year, so I don't see why these can't be made any time of the year as well.

4 egg whites
225 g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
225 g ground hazelnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 300F.

Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.

Gently stir in the sugar and cinnamon with a spoon.

Fold in the ground toasted hazelnuts.

Make small haystacks about a heaping teaspoon in size. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

Makes about 3 baking sheets full of macaroons.


Here is my recipe for the more conventional ratatouille. I was over at the market today, and noticed that all the ingredients in this recipe are in season, so I will be purchasing them soon and making this. It's great to have a market so close, it's a five minute walk for me, though its hours are not good, being only open Friday and Sunday mornings, both days of which I am seldom around.

2 large eggplants
450 g zucchini
salt and pepper
3 large onions
2-3 garlic cloves
2 green peppers
450 g ripe tomatoes
5 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sugar

Cut the eggplant into 1-inch chunks. Cut the zucchini into quarters length-wise, then into 1-inch lengths. Put the two vegetables into a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and slice the onions. Peel and crush the garlic. Deseed and thinly slice the green peppers. Blanch, peel and halve the tomatoes.

Heat the oil and fry the onions and garlic gently till the onions are transparent. Dry the eggplant and zucchini and add to the pan with the peppers, tomatoes, sugar and peppers.

Cook for about 45 minutes on medium heat, till the vegetables are tender but not mushy.

Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.

Wellness Cake

I'm always leery of a recipe for a nutritional or healthy dessert, while I know that eating too many sweets leads to conditions like obesity and diabetes, I believe that, if you are going to eat sweets, it is better to occasionally make a very good dessert with the best and freshest ingredients you can. I believe that my mother got this recipe when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, probably one of several recipes she received, meals to make her better. Take it as you will, the recipe looks like it will turn out to be a good chocolate cake, if a little unconventional. Carob powder is made from the carob bean, and is a good substitute, some say healthier, for cocoa. Caf-lib is not made from the coffee bean, rather, if I recall, from roasted chicory root, my parents tried that for a while, too, to be more healthy; I, on the other hand, would rather drink very good coffee, Costa Rican is my choice, once in a while. Make sure to use fresh wheat germ, purchased from a place that stores it refrigerated, or with a high turnover rate, it spoils rather quickly, the oil in it turning rancid. Or, you can buy toasted wheat germ, that might add an interesting flavour.

1-1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup cocoa or carob powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup oil
1-3/4 cups apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup cereal beverage, such as Caf-Lib
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

Mix together the first eight ingredients, then mix in the egg, egg whites and vanilla.

Bake at 325F for 35 minutes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

La Tourangelle Roasted Hazelnut Oil

I found this hazelnut oil, manufactured by La Tourangelle in the Loire Valley in France, on sale (even then it was $13, normally $18), and of course had to try it. La Tourangelle have been making roasted hazelnut oil, apparently, for 150 years, slow roasting hazelnuts, then expeller pressing the nuts, and lightly filtering the resulting golden oil. I wondered what it would smell like when I opened it, expecting the wonderful toasted hazelnut smell that wafts out from the stove as you roast hazelnuts. I was not disappointed, definitely a distinct toasted flavour, and definitely hazelnut. And the flavour of the oil, too. Wonderful, intense hazelnut flavour. Delicious. Hazelnut oil tends to be rather delicate, so you should refrigerate it after opening, and use it up within about three months. Not a problem for me. Or, rather, my problem would be to find this product again. You can use this in any hazelnut recipe you have, just add a small amount, a half to one teaspoon, to intensify the hazelnut flavour. Or use it as a bread dip. They even included a recipe for authentic French hazelnut oil vinaigrette (to which I added dried basil).

French Hazelnut Oil Vinaigrette
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp roasted Hazelnut Oil
salt to taste

Whisk all ingredients together, then drizzle over salads.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Easy to make Fruit Champagnes

I was in Germany in 1980 on a scholarship, and at the end of the summer, I visited my Grandmother, to meet up with my parents and sister. And there it was I discovered the wonderfully tasting Holundersekt, or Elderberry Champagne. I couldn't get enough of this. These two recipes are easy to make, what could be easier then mixing a bunch of ingredients together and leaving it in the sun for several weeks. The hard part is waiting all that time!

7-10 Elderberry blossoms
250-300 g sugar
3 lemons, sliced
1/4 L vinegar
1 tsp rice
10 L water

Leave mixture 4-6 days in a cool place, now and then stirring.

Filter and put into bottles (9/10 full); cork well.

Place in the sun until it bubbles strongly.

Black Currant Wine
1 cup black currants
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup water

Put into jar and let stand in the sun for the rest of the summer.

Chicken in a Garden

Now this sounds like it should be delicious, just based on the name. All the goodness associated with the garden, and preferably your own, the bounty of your backyard. The lettuce can be your favourite, Boston or mixed greens or mesculin mix, baby spinach, romaine, all leap to mind that should be excellent in this dish. Perhaps, too, I would add a little shredded cheese to sprinkle over top of this. When you are creating the butter sauce, make sure to scrape off the sticky brown bits on the pan, those are the bits with flavour. This is another of the old recipes I found in my mother's recipe box, I don't know where she got it originally. It was delicious, I can say. I paired it with this strawberry wine, made from strawberries from the East Coast of Canada, which was also great.

Chicken in a Garden
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (450 g total)
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
1 clove garlic, halved
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried basil
2 medium sized tomatoes
2 cups shredded lettuce

Place chicken breasts between 2 sheets plastic wrap; pound to 1/2" thickness (or use rolling pin).

Mix flour, paprika and salt; coat chicken with flour mixture, shake to remove excess. In 12" skillet over medium heat, heat oil; add garlic and cook, stirring, until golden (3 minutes). With slotted spoon, remove and discard garlic. Add two chicken breasts to skillet; cook over medium heat, about 5 minutes each side, until golden. Remove to platter. Repeat with other two chicken breasts.

To juices in skillet, add butter, lemon juice, basil, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring constantly, over low heat, until butter melted.

Chop tomatoes. Sprinkle shredded lettuce and tomatoes over chicken on platter. Pour hot butter mixture over.