Monday, October 30, 2006

Cookie Press

I bought this cookie press, it's made by the Swiss company Kuhn Rikon, specifically to make this particular hazelnut cookie, which I'm planning on making in the next week or so. I like that the tube of this press is stainless steel, it seems a little more sturdy than the plastic ones I've seen. The whole unit comes apart for fairly easy cleaning, and the unit is fairly easy to switch pattern discs. The concept of a cookie press, is to have a disc at the bottom of a tube filled with dough, pressing the top forces the dough through the pattern, making a cookie of a certain shape. There are many different shapes included with the press, wreathes, pumpkins, christmas trees and differently shaped stars, I haven't used them all. There is also the ability to fill the tube with icing and have a tip at the end in order to pipe icing onto cakes.

Sweet and Sour Pork Stirfry

This recipe comes from a cookbook called Thai & South-East Asian Cooking and Far Eastern Classics. It's one of many recipes that look good and fairly easy to make. As always, it's the preparation that makes a good stirfry, make sure all ingredients are prepared before you start, you will have no time to do so during the cooking.

Sweet and Sour Pork Stirfry
450 g pork
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
1 green or red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
350 g carrots, cut into thin strips
8 oz can bamboo shoots, drained
1 Tbsp wine vinegar, white or red
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce, light or dark
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste

Thinly slice the pork. Season the flour with salt and pepper, then toss the pork chunks in the flour to coat. Add more flour, if needed.

Heat the oil till smoking and cook the pork, in batches if necessary, until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the pork and leave to drain on paper towels.

Add the onion and garlic to the wok and cook for 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and carrots and stir-fry over high heat for 6-8 minutes, until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the pork back to the pan, then add the bamboo shoots, wine vinegar, brown sugar, tomato paste, soy sauce and water. Stir to combine, bring to boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes, until all ingredients are hot. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 3-4.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Food of the Gods

I had seen these advertised in a recent health magazine, and was delighted when I came across these in a health food store on the weekend. As you may have guessed, I am a chocoholic, but also interested in health. I believe that chocolate, specifically cocoa, has excellent health benefits, provided one does not overindulge. This is raw chocolate, not really for the casual chocolate eater, as it won't taste like the chocolate you have been used to. It is actual raw cacao nibs, before the cacao is processed into the cocoa and chocolate we are all familiar with. Like all food, the processing, cooking and roasting of the cacao nibs remove a lot of the beneficial properties, and also the delicate, complex flavour. Raw chocolate contains a large abundance of antioxidants, according to the package, 20 times more than red wine, 30 times more than green tea. It also is a source of magnesium, chromium and vitamin C. There are several aspects to this product I like, that it is organic, for one, that it is ethically grown and harvested by raw food enthusiasts paid excellent wages, for another. What to do with them? Use them wherever you use chocolate, in smoothies, on ice cream, instead of chocolate chips in baked goods. I long have wanted to try them, and will add a few to my breakfast tomorrow. I will say that they smell great, on opening the package, just like chocolate.

Here's a recipe that's included on the package for a truly blissful chocolate experience:

Real Chocolate Milk Shake
Milk or almond milk
3-4 heaping Tbsp cacao nibs
3-4 Tbsp of agave cactus nectar or honey
2 Tbsp of maca or carob powder
1 pinch mineral rich sea salt or rock salt

Blend and enjoy!

Fine Milk Chocolate Slims

I think these old-time pictures of Santa Claus are cool! These milk chocolate squares come from a chocolate company located in Dorchester, in Dorset, England. The list of ingredients is fairly good, a fair number of English companies resort to vegetable oil to make their chocolates, but the ingredients of these include cocoa butter, chocolate liquor and vanilla.


This chocolate bar from a Boulder, Colorado company called Chocolove, is made from Belgian dark chocolate from a blend of Caribbean and African cocoa beans. I like the list of ingredients, cocoa liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and vanilla. It has a 65% cocoa content, they also sell 70% and 77% versions, plus other different varieties, including ones with ginger, orange, raspberry, cherry almond, hazelnut, toffee and plain milk. There is even a love poem inside, in the wrapper.

Frisian Flag Syrup

Growing up, I fondly remember slathering this on toast bread. It's really just sugar syrup, awfully sweet, we called it Rubenkraut in German. I discovered it again this weekend in one of the Supermarkets I frequent, I hadn't seen it for years. My father used to buy it for me at this restaurant run by a Dutch couple, but they had gone out of business a long while back. Ah, memories.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Slow Food versus Jamie Oliver

I have been watching the latest show by the excellent British chef Jamie Oliver, called Jamie's Italian Escape; albeit it is in reruns, it's still entertaining. The premise is this cute near-30 year old takes it upon himself to improve his already stellar chef abilities, by taking a vacation in Italy, travelling around and finding out how to cook The Italian Way for real. Throughout the show, there are many examples of how Italians are all "food experts", how food is important, even sacrosanct, to family, how food is very regional and different between regions for the same recipe, and how children in Italy are educated at an early age to know about where the food they eat comes from and looks like. This all in contrast to how he found things in English schools to be atrocious, and took it upon himself to improve the deplorable conditions, and the food we were feeding our kids.

Yet, on the other hand, I've come across an organization called Slow Food, whose manifest is to slow down the "Speed of Life" and the end effect of this, that we all end up eating Fast Food and live less of a quality life. This organization was started in the late '80s by a fellow in Italy, who saw how fast food establishments were taking over, how people were speeding up their pace, and thus losing interest in the food they eat, where it came from, how it tastes and how their food choices affect the rest of the world. An interesting concept, and one which I will investigate, they establish convivums to create taste for regional cooking, interest in traditional foods and heirloom vegetables and fruits. One of their manifests too is to establish an educational vegetable garden for school children to learn about food, which has been shown to be effective.

I believe that Jamie would agree with the concepts of Slow Food. At one point in one of the episodes, he bemoans the fact that Italians seem to take family very seriously, that they make time for them every day, and that he often sees his children only on weekends. In another episode, he visits a monastery which had one of the oldest herb gardens in all of Italy, which he found sadly neglected and really no longer existent, and which he helps to re-establish.

So, which is it?

Has Slow Food worked so well in the past 15 or so years, that Jamie could thus find little evidence of the effects of Fast Food? I doubt that is the answer.

Has each of them focused on only one aspect of the situation, magnifying that to prove the point they are trying to make? More likely, but still not the whole answer.

Is Food and Family important to some people, and not to others? More likely. Each of us is different, and each of us tries to find the answer to what makes them happy.

The answer, as you may have guessed, is different for each of us. We all must make choices in this life and world, what we focus upon, what we allocate our time to, what we give priority. How simple it would be for all of us to have the time to go to the local Farmer's Market, grow our own fruits and vegetables in our backyard gardens, know where our food comes from and what has gone into making it, who has grown that lettuce your eating in that salad, who has raised that chicken you're eating for dinner. Simple, no. Easy, no. Difficult to change your habits and make the time to ensure that the food you are eating and feeding your children is the best it can be? Yes. But take the time to do so, make small changes, and you will find that your enjoyment of life is a little better each and every day.

For me, the choice of where I live has meant tradeoffs. Living in a condo, I don't have to worry about the state of the lawn, or shoveling in winter; at the same time, I have had to cook my daily food in the cramped quarters of a galley kitchen. I have been contemplating what it would mean to move to a larger home, my work is such that I am often stressed and tired upon arriving home, so the upkeep on a home could be bad, while I would enjoy having a large kitchen and the possibility of a vegetable garden in the backyard. I do frequent Farmer's markets, and try to find out where my food is grown or comes from, but it's not always easy or convenient. But that's life.

Chocolate Chunk Malted Milk Cookies with Malteser Smashings

While these did not get the rave review of the last batch of cookies, they were still well received at work and disappeared quickly. I added vanilla to the recipe that I found somewhere on the 'Net, I find it helps in making a good cookie, enhancing the flavours of the other ingredients. These definitely spread very thin, so don't overload your cookie sheet, unless you want one big cookie! I believe the Malteser, or Whopper, smashings kind of disappear into the cookie, but do provide a little more of the underlying malted milk flavour. I wonder what the difference would be if they were in more of a firm cookie.

Chocolate Chunk Malted Milk Cookies with Malteser Smashings
Based on a recipe from Donna Hay's Modern Classics Book 2
250 g butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup malted milk powder
200 g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
100 g Maltesers/Whoppers, smashed in the bag

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar till pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating till they are incorporated.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and malted milk powder together in a medium bowl, then add to the creamed mixture.

Add chocolate and Maltesers and mix well.

Place large tablespoonfuls of mixture onto baking sheets (cookies will spread a lot, so do not put too many on a sheet).

Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on how soft/crispy you like your cookie).

Makes 25-30 very thin and very large cookies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Skor Addict Cookies

These were a hit at work, one lady named them The Best of them all. These seem like a lot of Skor bars, so that's why I christened them Skor Addict cookies, from the name it had when I found it on the 'Net. I like this name better. The sugar cookie base works well with the toffee sweetness of the Skor bar (look for a Heath bar in America).

Skor Addict Cookies
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
8 Skor candy bars, crushed up

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with electric mixer.

Add the egg and vanilla and mix till smooth.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add in two batches to creamed mixture, mixing on low until blended completely.

Mix crushed Skor bars into dough by hand.

Drop dough by the tablespoon onto cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Cool on sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to rack.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to make, it looked so good. And it turned out to be delicious! This year, for our Thanksgiving, my sister made one of these, and one traditional, more boring, version. This, too, I think, is more creamier than the standard version. We made the unfortunate mistake of leaving the remainders at my sister-in-law's place, when we dropped by the next day, she had scraped the chocolate off to eat it that way, being more of a traditionalist! Give it a try, it will give your Thanksgiving pumpkin an interesting twist.

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
From Mrs. Fields "I Love Chocolate! Cookbook"
Pumpkin Filling:
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
15 oz. can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 cup light cream or half-and-half
Chocolate Topping:
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
9-inch pie shell

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

In a medium bowl, beat the brown sugar, flour and spices with an electric mixer until well mixed. Beat in the egg, egg white and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin filling, then the cream. Pour into the pie shell. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, until the center is set. Cool on a rack to room temperature.

Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl. Heat the heavy cream and sugar until it begins to simmer, then stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot liquid over the chocolate. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Chill the chocolate topping mixture until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.

Pour the chocolate over the pumpkin layer and chill the pie until the chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

Two more Sarotti Chocolate Bars

I bought these two chocolate bars at the same time as the limited edition versions, these are more traditional. And both contain hazelnuts, the first in whole form, the second in the form of noisette, or hazelnut cream.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Better Butter Chicken

So, what did I do with the rotisserie chicken that I made on Sunday? I made this recipe, taken from the new book by Janet and Greta Podleski. Janet and Greta are two Canadian sisters, who decided to create and publish a cookbook filled with humour, the first is called Loony Spoons, the second Crazy Plates; after being rejected by many publishers, their book ended up becoming a best-seller for a long while. I liked their first two books, and have them, and leafed through their latest, coming across this recipe, that looked good and easy to make. Really, it took about 45 minutes to make, not including the time to make the rotisserie chicken, which you could buy in advance from many supermarkets. I changed the recipe slightly, opting for a little more heat by substituting the called for chili powder with chipotle powder, and adding some fresh tomatoes, as the can I had of diced tomatoes was not quite 19 oz. Of course, at the end, I took a little to taste, and it tastes as great as it looks. I like the chunkiness of the chicken, the golden yellow of the turmeric, and the red from the tomatoes. I'm having it for lunch with basmati rice.

Better Butter Chicken
(adapted from a recipe from "Eat, Shrink and be Merry!" by the Podleski sisters)
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp grated gingerroot
1 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 can (14 oz/540 mL) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 whole cooked rotisserie chicken, skin removed and cut up
1/3 cup light (10%) cream
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro, if desired

Melt butter in a deep, 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring often, until onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add gingerroot, chili powder, turmeric and cinnamon. Cook 1 minute.

Add undrained tomatoes, tomato paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add cut-up chicken, cream and sour cream. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

My second new gadget

I had bought this second gadget, the Ronco Rotisserie, from the Shopping Channel a couple of weeks ago, and had not been able to use it, as I had been very busy at work. This weekend, I decided to try and make my first rotisserie chicken, and even bought the whole chicken mid-week, so as to force my hand, so to speak. I had always been intrigued by this machine, as I thought that it would make a better meal than cooking in the oven. This particular chicken took about 55 minutes to make, and browned nicely, as you can see in the picture below. The meat turned out quite juicy, and you could some of the fat drip off of the chicken as it roasted. I was not pleased by it setting off one of my smoke alarms several times, I'm not sure whether it was smoke, which I couldn't really see, or the heat coming off of it, which also activates the alarm. There was very little cleanup, the parts cleaned off nicely in soap and water. Next, I'll try to make a pork roast, my favourite. And then combine that roasted pork with my panini grill, to make an excellent sandwich. Now, I'll just have to find a place for this, there's a lot of things fighting for the limited space.

Dew on Spiderweb

I took this picture sometime at the end of summer, I thought it was quite pretty, the dew marking the web, strung between the blades of grass.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mutton Hot Pot for Home

If this was served in a restaurant, the broth would be prepared and brought to the table, and people would dip the really thin slices of mutton in the broth; after a minute or two it would be cooked. The mutton is then dipped in individual dishes of the hot pot seasoning sauce. The rich and nutritious broth, cooked with any number of vegetables or mushrooms or roots such as potatoes or lotus, would be then enjoyed by all. This is a little different, when you don't have the proper setup to keep the hot pot as hot as it needs. It ends up being as tasty and flavourful, though I imagine that the experience of eating hot pot lends to the flavour as well. The enoki mushrooms are white, long and thin, with a small bulb at the end, and grow in a bunch. They can be found in most Asian markets and are quite tasty.

Mutton Hot Pot for Home
1 Kg Mutton or lamb shoulder, sliced very thin
2-1/2" piece gingerroot, peeled and sliced very thinly lengthwise into slivers
hot pot seasoning sauce
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
4 cups water for boiling

Place ginger in water and bring to boil. Add lamb slices and bring to boil again. Remove lamb from water and drizzle with hot pot sauce. Clean and add enoki mushrooms to reserved water and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove mushrooms from water and serve with lamb. Broth may be drunk as well, if desired.

Pork Ribs with Lotus Root

Lotus root is the root of the lotus flower, it grows in the mud at the bottom of the lake, the flower emerges when the plant comes out on top of the water. The characteristic hole pattern, round the tuber, is quite interesting looking. According to Chinese mythology, the root represents the union of marriage, as when the root is carefully cut, you can see strands that still attach each cut to one another. The name that denotes this, in Chinese, is Broken yet Together, what they believe the union in a marriage should be. The lotus root comes out still a little crunchy, and has a pleasant taste that marries well with the pork.

Pork Ribs with Lotus Root
1 full rack of pork ribs
2 lotus roots
3-4 star anise
1 dried hot pepper
4-5 whole peppercorns
2" piece of gingerroot, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
tsp sugar
tsp salt
dash of alcohol
water to cover ingredients

Clean skin off lotus root, then slice in half length-wise. Clean off inside where holes are, if desired, then slice crosswise into thick chunks. Cut rack into individual ribs. Add all ingredients to large pot and boil for 45 minutes to one hour (the longer you boil, the more it will turn into soup). For a quicker way, cook in pressure cooker for 30 minutes.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Encounter with Nature

There are certain things that bring joy to my heart, this is one of them. There is a place in Cambridge, a Conservation Area called F.W.R. Dixon, frequented by many nature lovers and hiking enthusiasts, where one can feed the chickadees, they will fly to your hand and take seeds from them. It is a wonderful feeling to have this tiny animal approach so closely, so trustingly, and return for more. The seeds that you see in my hand are sunflower seeds, the chickadees take one or more, fly off to a branch, place the seed between their legs, and crack open the seed to extract the edible portion inside. This time of year, they are not as hungry as mid-winter, when there is little food about, but there is still the opportunity to have a close encounter with nature.

Vanilla Bean Extract 'Crunch'

I came across this interesting pure vanilla extract, made by Sonoma Syrup Co., and was intrigued by how it is made and its ingredients. I've always advocated using the freshest and best ingredients when cooking or baking, and I like this product for several reasons. The first, and foremost is that it comes from natural sources, it contains real vanilla bean seeds, in this case a mixture of the Bourbon variety grown in Madagascar, on the Bourbon Island (Reunion), the variety Vanilla Panifola Andrews, and one grown in Tahiti, the variety Vanilla Tahitensis. There are undoubtedly other varieties, and these varieties are also grown in other regions of the world, I'm not here to debate the fineness of one local varietal over another, like wine or chocolate, each has their champion, and each has their own tastes, and prefer one over another, or not at all, for some, they can't even determine what all the fuss is about, why there is even a difference in flavour. Just keep in mind that natural is always better than artificial, and you likely will not go wrong. I steadfastly refuse to use artificial vanilla, and have since I discovered real vanilla extract, I don't like that it comes from wood products, I just don't want to go there. The flavour is far superior in the natural product, and will make your baked goods turn out far superior. The second reason, is that it is prepared using a cold press method, this says that it uses a process that does not produce heat, heat which damages the very thing that is being extracted. Many good olive oils are prepared using this method, it ensures that the oil retains all its goodness and vitamins and minerals, its essence, so to speak. Heat normally changes the product, denatures some of the ingredients within, changes its flavour and constituents, which will happen when it is baked in the oven, I agree, but at least when you add it to your creations, you can know that it is at least as close to having natural vanilla bean as possible. It is also preservative free, preservatives extend the shelf life of products, but I prefer to have a product that is fresh, or at least as fresh as one can have with vanilla beans, seeing as they don't grow in Canada. The last reason that I will write about, is that it does not contain sugar. I don't see the reason for adding sugar, and prefer to regulate the amount and source of sugar in my baked goods, so that I know exactly what is going in, and how good it is for me. I look forward to using it for the first time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Banning of trans fats in New York City

Imagine how a McD's cheeseburger would taste different, if limited to the small amount of trans fats that all restaurants in New York City would be. It seems that the year-long education of New Yorkers about the dangers of trans fats didn't work, so they've come up with the idea of limiting the amount of trans fats in all foods served in all restaurants. They say that it wouldn't cost the restaurants any more, the replacement oils cost the same, but I couldn't see how fast food chains would change their menu and recipes to create a New York version of their offerings. It's not so easy replacing trans fats with other healthier fats, it changes the texture and mouthfeel, as well as changing how it cooks or bakes. So saying, I think it's a good thing, I've never been one for these solid fats, never used margarine, always thought butter was better. Too, it'll be interesting how it will affect other cities if this does go into effect, and how it will change the eating habits and health of the New Yorkers themselves.

Vanillin from cow dung

Yes, you read it right, cow dung! It seems that enterprising scientists from the International Medical Centre of Japan have been able to successfully extract vanilla extract fragrance from cow dung. While it can't be used in food, I'm already leery of the artificial vanilla, or vanillin, made from wood products, why use artificial when you can use real, it can be used in personal hair and skin care products. They say it is chemically identical to the vanilla derived from the vanilla bean. Just thinking about it makes me shudder...

Fall Berries

Hidden among the falling coloured leaves of autumn, these berries look almost good enough to eat.

Polish Hazelnut Chocolate

The Polish chocolatiers seem to use hazelnut in many of their chocolates, unlike many North American companies. And, if they do, it's usually in milk chocolate. I so like the combination of hazelnut and dark chocolate. I've read, too, that to add the essence of espresso to the mix, would make a divine chocolate experience, I'm still looking for it.

President's Choice Kettle Cooked Potato Chips

I tried these new potato chips I found at Loblaw's the other day, it is supposed to be cooked in the Old Fashioned way, and was flavoured with Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar. Well, I was really disappointed, in that it tasted only of the salt, and had none of the flavour of the balsamic vinegar, nor had it any of the sour flavour of any salt and vinegar chip that works so well. I'd say pass on these. Better the Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar flavour of its competitor.

Monday, October 16, 2006


The donuts in Germany are different than those here in Canada; while they probably have incorporated the English equivalent into their language, they are mostly called Berliner, or Berliner Pfannkuchen. You can see that they are round, rather than the circular form common here. They are yeast donuts, and are normally filled with some sort of jam or fruit filling. Still delicious.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Chocolate Ginger Muffins

I had given some crystallized ginger to my sister, she likes it as much as I do, and when she found this recipe in the newspaper, she wanted to try it, and gave me half of the proceeds. I like the combination of chocolate and ginger, so these turned out tasty. I think maybe I would have tried adding a little cocoa to the batter, but that's me. My sister also did not have an orange to zest, but I don't think it harmed the taste.

Chocolate Ginger Muffins
adapted from a Robin Hood recipe
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
1-1/4 cup regular evaporated milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
3 Tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin, or line with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, place flour, salt, baking powder and ground ginger. Whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, beat together the egg, evaporated milk, honey and orange zest.

Combine dry ingredients with the liquids, stirring together only just enough to moisten. Stir in crystallized ginger and chocolate chips. Spoon batter into muffin tin.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle evenly over top of muffins.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until tops spring back lightly when touched.

Sunday Lunch

We had kassler today, with noodles, kassler is a German-style smoked porkchop, one can eat it like it is, or grill it. With that, my brother-in-law made a couple of dishes, both of which were quite tasty. The first of the dishes contains string beans, a vegetable normally I don't care for, but this dish was good and I liked it. He first fried some chicken in a little oil with some sliced ginger, then added the washed and prepared beans (snap the ends off of each bean) to the hot wok or large frying pan, cooking the beans till they were tender, but with still a crunch to them. Restaurants normally boil the beans first, so they cook quickly in the wok, but my brother-in-law finds it loses a lot of the flavour and colour and goodness in the bean. Normally, too, even vegetarian dishes in China contain a little meat, to enhance the flavour of the vegetable. The other dish he cooked was sweet and sour cabbage with bacon. This too was easy to make and tasted quite good. First, shred a whole head of white cabbage. Then fry several strips of bacon, about 10-12, until they are slightly done. Then, add the shredded cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is soft but not mushy, and the bacon is fully cooked. He used turkey bacon for this recipe, which has an interesting flavour. Lastly, add about 1/2 cup of Chinese vinegar and stir to incorporate.

Tanzanian Chocolate

Of all places, I picked up this chocolate, made by Saxon Chocolates, at Chapters, a bookseller here in Canada, though they have lots of things for house and home for sale, and various interesting chocolate snacks, so I shouldn't have been surprised. I have a special place in my heart for things Tanzanian, my father was born there, and I didn't really even know that they grew cocoa there, it was a surprise to my father as well. They grow mostly tea there, and some coffee.

This is a dark chocolate, as you can see from the cover, there is 75% cocoa, and the list of ingredients is small and good, only cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter and natural vanilla flavour. The chocolate melts in your mouth very easily, the sign of a good chocolate, and tastes quite smooth. I must admit, I don't know what makes this Tanzanian, there was no information to indicate what I was looking for in terms of flavour and what makes Tanzanian chocolate different than other cocoas. It was a little pricey as well, $7 for 85g, but one expects that from specialty chocolates, and buying chocolate in a bookstore.

Sicilian Aztec Chocolate

My best friend got this special chocolate from a co-worker of his, it is supposed to be made in the ancient style that the Aztecs used to make their chocolate, and comes from a Sicilian chocolate manufacturer. Well, I'm sure that the ancient Indians never made it into bars like this. The interesting aspects of this include that the chocolate is not conched, as the sugar crystals are easily visible in between the dark cocoa, and that it is spiced with pepper. I think that the pepper works well with the chocolate, I think that I am going to try some spicy chocolate recipes in the future. The bar itself was different in mouthfeel too, the chocolate was dry and a little crumbly, the sugar crystals gave it a little crunch, the pepper a good bite, but overall it worked.


Not only was it Thanksgiving in Canada last week, but the Chinese celebrated the Lunar Festival over the weekend. One of the special desserts that are made for the Moon Festival are mooncakes, round pastries, shaped like the moon, filled with a variety of special stuffings, things like dates or sesame seeds or vegetables. These two varieties were given to me by a Chinese lady at work, I was pleased to receive them, seeing as how expensive they were in the various Chinese markets I had gone to. Apparently, people have special "mooncakes" made, that are really filled with gold or other expensive items, and are used as bribes. I've also seen ones that were not round, rather shaped like tiny animals. And there are rather elaborate boxed mooncakes, with other gifts inside, not gold, to be given as presents during the Lunar Festival.

The tiny mooncake with the red box in the picture is a Su style recipe that was filled with red bean paste. It was the one I far preferred of the two, being already a fan of sweet red bean paste. The other in the blue box was from a Cantonese recipe, and was filled with some sort of vegetables and nuts. I did not really go for that one. My sister told me that she liked mooncakes with dates in them, and ones that they make with salted eggs. She also had tried several Cantonese style ones, some of which she did not like, especially the ones that contain candied orange peel, though a friend of hers loves them. I would agree with my sister. To each their own taste, I guess.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

End of the Season Apples

We were enjoying the very warm fall weather on the weekend by going for a walk in this excellent Conservation area near where my brother and his wife live, and we came across this tree with apples still hanging on them. They were still quite hard, and small, and definitely not sprayed in any way, most of them had spots on them. But we picked some, my Dad used to like them, what he called an Augustapfel in German.

Something I tried

Having enjoyed the taste of the Roasted Hazelnut oil in other dishes, it popped into my head to try it with the yogurt I eat most days, a naturally flavoured vanilla yogurt. And, I must say, it was quite good. The hazelnut complements the vanilla flavour. Just drizzle a little of the oil over top your bowl of yogurt, mix it up a little, and enjoy.

Chinese Red Bean Baked Good

I just thought this was cool-looking, it looks like a banana, well, a squashed banana; it says so right on the side. It tastes a little like banana too, and is filled with sweet red bean paste.

Some Special Edition Sarotti Chocolates

I came across these in this European delicatessan that I frequent in Kitchener. It's Oktoberfest this week, something I normally avoid, even though I am of German heritage, as it seems mostly to be about drinking lots of beer; my brother-in-law would be more in to that. These Limited Edition chocolate bars are made to old recipes, the company has been around for over 100 years. The Florentiner is filled with almonds, the Tiramisu likely tastes like the Italian dessert, and has Marscapone powder in it, and the Latte Macchiato has a coffee flavour. The ingredients are not the best, I've noticed afterwards that it has vegetable oil as one of the ingredients, but I have bought and eaten other chocolate bars of theirs, and they were tasty.

Thanksgiving Meal - Braised Red Cabbage

This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada, the Americans celebrate it in late November. This year, my sister-in-law hosted the meal, and, as she did not want to cook all the parts of a meal for twelve or so people, she put each of us in charge of certain portions of the meal, sort of a pot-luck. Mine was one vegetable dish, and a tomato salad. I came across this on Martha Stewart's website, she has some recipes that are quite good. This one turned out good, though I did accidentally leave out the honey, for some reason. The red wine I used was a merlot from Point Peelee Island Winery, one of my favourite, but use any that you like. It turned out quite good. I used the largest knife of my new knife set to slice the cabbage, it worked quite well.

We also received another surprise that day, as my sister and her husband announced that they are expecting their first child! I am going to be an uncle, for the first time. Congrats to them!

Braised Red Cabbage
Adapted from a Martha Stewart Show recipe
1 cup red wine
One 3-inch cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 head red cabbage
2 tsp coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Halve the red cabbage length-wise, cut the core out and then thinly cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring the wine, cinnamon stick, honey, oil, and fennel seeds to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the cabbage, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is soft but not mushy, about 1 hour. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My new set of knives

This set of knives, with a kitchen scissors too, came with the second gadget I bought myself this last week. They look to be fairly good, sharp even. It'll be interesting to see how they perform.

The first of my new gadgets

I bought two things last weekend from the Shopping Channel, the first of these is this panini grill from the renowned chef Wolfgang Puck. I had been searching for a way to grill meat, and sandwiches, in my condo, I don't like frying things really, the flavour of a burger or chicken is vastly different grilled than fried, far better in my opinion. This is one of the appliances that Wolfgang Puck has for sale in his Bistro Collection. It comes too with a bunch of recipes that should be interesting to try out and tweak to my tastes. Too, what I like about this, is that it grills from both sides, so it's quick to grill almost anything. You can usually have something cooked and ready to eat in a little over 12 minutes. Couple this with the other gadget I bought this week, which I will talk about later, I should not be lacking for things to eat.

A plethora of Cookbooks

One of the weekends I didn't go and visit my family, I stayed in order to go to Word on the Street in downtown Toronto, at Queen's Park. This yearly event in September, hosted in several cities across Canada, brings together Publishers, both small and large of books and magazines, authors, potential authors, readers and just plain fans of the written word. One of the things that goes on at that time, is the publishers and bookstores usually bring down a lot of books, on sale for low prices, sometimes ridiculously low prices. That's what I like to check out mostly, and this year, indulging the foodie in me, I picked up several interesting cookbooks. The Cordon Bleu one was four dollars, the Nigella Lawson one was half-price, even at hard-cover, the others looked intriguing. I never realized that these books were heavy though, I did manage to lug them home without too much strain on my muscles.

A Trio of Blueberry Jams

My sister and her husband were in Quebec City for four days, on a trip they won at a Chamber of Commerce event, boy, they are lucky. My sister had asked me whether there was something that I wanted them to bring back as a gift. Now, knowing Quebec is known for its maple syrup, and not really liking maple syrup that much, except on pancakes, I opted for another thing that province is known for, wild blueberries. I was pleasantly surprised, I had actually forgot about it, and I had not been down to see them for three weeks, when they gifted me with this intriguing trio of wild blueberry jams, made with blueberries from the Lac St-Jean region of Quebec, known especially for its crop of that delectable fruit. Blueberries are my favourite fruit, it's only the wild variety for me, too, I find the commercial larger cousin too sour, if it's not tasteless. One of the trio of jams is just straight blueberry; another is flavoured with lemon; the third flavoured with orange. It should be interesting to compare and contrast the flavours, and see what works.