Monday, November 30, 2015

Leftovers #3: Oven Baked Omelet

The waste series reminded me that a facility with leftovers creates less waste. Part of creating less waste is having a few handy go to recipes in your kit to pull out and adapt. This can be trying if you have kids or picky eaters in the house.

My kids have a wide palate but often resort to not wanting something or not liking a category when they like individual dishes. A good example is red peppers; one kid loves them raw but says he does not like them any other way, except when they are roasted they are good in a sauce or mixed in mayo but not left whole on a pizza. Get where I am going with this?

I'm not a fan of hiding the ingredients and we have adopted a try it once and if you don't like it, that's fine. On those days, I make sure there is something else on the table but not a whole other meal. Remember, this is a post about waste. I haven't forgotten but it seems that getting your kid to eat their food is a step towards that.

Here is one way that works mostly. Turn it into a baked omelet or a fritatta.

So leftover butter chicken sauce is added to beaten eggs. You could use any leftover saucy bits. Leftover rice from Chinese take-out, mixed veggies, frozen peas, almost any tiddly fiddly bits. French Fries. Bits of chicken from a roast. You know, leftovers. 

Anyways, the point is to add something just a bit different that is healthy or going to waste anyways or even both. If they like the whole egg thing, then this will most likely work. 

For advanced food waste management, use leftover food grease. Bacon fat is amazing. Above, I added the fat from stock making. I suppose the official name would be schmaltz. It is the fat from chicken. The stock had some seasoning that remained in the fat. If you are not looking for bonus points, just use butter or oil. 

Normally, I start the eggs on the stove, add the bits and then once the bottom has set, put the whole pan into the oven until it cooks all the way through. Is this gourmet cooking or the Jacques Pepin way? No. Is it delicious and good enough for my kids? Is it quick and easy for any schlub getting home from work with no ideas left and a half hour from taking one kid out to swimming while the other is getting back from karate? Most definitely. 

In short, this is a recipe idea to keep in your back pocket for those type of nights where you have some small containers of almost nothing, a few eggs, and a deficit of time. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waste Not, Want Not

Wow, I am lazy. I have a whole bunch of posts that I haven't done that kind of accentuate this topic. What spurred me to keyboard was receiving a text from my eldest son with a link to a survey around how much food waste your family wastes.

There was a huge amount of questions on how you know food is spoiled. I have posts on what to do with spoiled milk, leftover uses, and making things with traditional garbage stuff. I think I will try to focus on some of those posts in the next few weeks.

Also, I'm interested in keeping a waste diary. Maybe instagram the crap out of my food waste and see where it goes. I'm always a little skittish because there is the whole internet shaming thing. But I challenge anyone who wants to make a comment about what I ought to do, to keep a diary themselves.

There is another way of looking at this problem. I would guess, and I will fact check as we go along, that the food and restaurant industry has more waste than individuals. Where we intersect is at the supermarket and the restaurant. The pink sludge burger at McDonald's probably is less wasteful than a burger at Holy Chuck's for example. The desire for perfect produce places a part in this alliterative sentence and the waste in the industry. If we stop demanding certain things, it will stop being produced.

Conversely, I tend to hate packaged goods but buy baby cut carrots. Why? Because they are a traditional waste product that became a product unto themselves, and my kids will eat them for who knows what reason, I will often get them instead of other packaged carrots.

Now, if I can only find a way to stop wasting the food posts...

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Day of the Dead

A few years ago, the kids and I started something similar to the Day of the Dead. It wasn't the splashy make-up and candy holiday but rather a meal where we remembered who had passed. The meal is planned by taking into account what those members of our family would like.

Here are some photos from this year's meal.

These skull candies are the closest thing to keeping with a more Mexican theme. The one had black garlic and caramel while the other had dulce de leche. It turns out the garlic one was a hit amongst all of us.

A chocolate cake mix doctored with buttermilk and glazed with dollar store jam with a touch of orange blossom water to make it taste a little more like wild strawberries (a hint from Herve This). 

This is for my kids' grandmother. She was of French stock and her claim to fame was tourtiere. We knew she was getting ill when her pie started tasting off. I wrote a little bit more about the memory for Mother's Day.

Fish. My Dad's favourite. This was rainbow trout. Fishing was also his favourite thing to do and he drowned while ice fishing. 

And a Polish lager. The type of beer my Dad would drink. This day is about memories, good and bad and keeping interest in their lives, as they lived them. There is something about the continuation of a story well told. 

I like the idea of keeping memories alive through food. Food creates such strong memory and this gives us a little bit of time to reflect and recollect. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kids Ideas: Breakfast Pancakes

I know, "Aren't all pancakes, breakfast pancakes?". Well...

It's Canada Day and my son's birthday. This is the first year of living apart and I have enjoyed making things with the kids in the kitchen. Both of them are in the early stages of recipe creation. They have passed the whacky ingredient stage of putting a pile of things together. Now they are headed into the substitution stage. It is interesting to see how they develop their own sense of how recipes work and how you cook. I'm learning a lot about how people see cooking and recipes.

The substitution phase: You take something you know and swap out ingredients. It is an easy thing but it shows them how stuff works. My son wanted to make pancakes for his birthday breakfast but a cold and the lure of computer time interceded. His idea was to have something like a chocolate bar or jam in pancakes. So, dutifully I brought home a bunch of chocolate bars and several cans of pie filling. Hopefully, one of them would catch his fancy. On this day, his capricious self choice the Fruit & Nut bar. I'll leave the pictures to tell the story.

Look it even says on the back of the package that you an add stuff. Funny, I don't see any chocolate, candy or jam on the back. Most have been an oversight on the whole grain pancake mix. I could be all defensive and say the only reason that I bought the mix was the losing battle with grain moths but the real reason is the obvious one. I don't trust myself to get everything together enough to make pancakes in the morning. That gives me an idea on making my own pancake mix.

Also, when you have too hot of a pan and the butter starts to burn, turn down the heat and call it beurre noissette or browned butter. Tell the kids you pay extra for that in restaurants. Also note the lumps of treasure. Treasure pancakes is a good family name for this recipe, I think.

And this is what the final one of the batch looks like. I am sure there is a scientific explanation why the first few turn out a bit dodgy but by the end everything seems to work out. In reality, it is probably practice.

And this was our Canada Day and Birthday breakfast. It was fun to come up with the recipe with the kids. They do have a few more ideas for this one and a whole lot more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pepperoni is the New Bacon

I had an aha moment a while back when I was messing around with pepperoni. Being a long time fan of the ideas in food blog which often prominently features pepperoni, I shouldn't be surprised by the versatility of pepperoni.

In the last, I have rendered the fat to use in cooking vegetables, added the crisp pieces to burgers, and of course, pizza. Pepperoni adds a little snap to meat loaf, spaghetti sauce, casseroles and even vegetables.

Other cured meats will work in the same way. Smoked sausage, salami and of course, bacon's cousin, hams such as proscuitto. I believe that the ideas in food people also have a recipe for pepperoni oil to flavour a neutral oil with pepperoni spices.

Think about that for a while. It could be used in baking, making salad dressings, frying and so many other applications. A savoury cheese doughnut with a hint of pepperoni or popcorn seasoning. Anyways, I'll leave you with a notion for a recipe that hasn't quite worked out. Pepperoni with oven roasted vegetables. The problem is to get the pepperoni crisp. Maybe the pepperoni has to be rendered a little bit before the vegetables are placed in the oven or chose vegetables that take a longer time to cook. I first tried this with asparagus.

The leftovers were chopped and used in a frittata cause that is the way I roll.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recipe: Pepperoni & Eggs

I've been wanting to do a "Pepperoni is the New Bacon Post" for a while but never seem to get it together enough to write one. Pepperoni is one of my son's favourite flavours. It may not seem it but I would argue that pepperoni is its own flavour. Anyways, when I finally write that post, I will argue for the versatility and utility but in the meantime, my kids made me a breakfast for Father's Day.

The pepperoni was fried first to render the fat off a little bit. In went a knob of butter and then an egg. My son is trying to figure out frying so we tried to do a sunny side egg. He plopped the egg in and I showed him how to spoon the hot fat over the egg to ensure the albumin got cooked.

The toast went into the toaster for a second time. Note the darker shade. All that was left was to plate and eat. The salt and fat from the pepperoni gave eggs the kick it needed. No need for seasoning. Pepperoni, in the breakfast egg context, could be used in omelets, quiche, like a meat side or as a crust for baked eggs.

Really pleased with my Father's Day treat of breakfast.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recipe: Better Than Twinkies

What is better than Twinkies? This of course...

Made a quick sauce with butter, bananas, salt, and rum. First you melt the butter and add a pinch of salt. Put in cut bananas. Fry to brown (which I didn't do a great job) and add a little bit of rum. (151 proof cause I want the kinders to sleep well tonight). Added a splash of lime juice too to stop it from becoming too rich.

When the sauce comes together, remove Twinkies from package and put bananas over. Spoon sauce and then listen to your son say that he ate too much of the bananas and might be too full for the Twinkies. He goes on to finish it because, it is a Twinkie.

Just an easy way to schmancify a dry cake dessert.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teff Beer Attempt - Step 5

So for those of you joining in late, we'll wait for you to catch up with the class. I promise the notes are at least entertaining.
 In Step 1, we decided on an idea for a beer and in Step 2, we looked for a recipe. In Step 3, we went shopping for equipment and ingredients. Step 4 was when we decided to malt our own grain. 
In this exciting episode, we will do the Mash and Boil which sound like a dance craze but results in standing around and measuring things. It is best to have a beer while doing this. It is like eating eggs and chicken, a bit perverse but pleasurable.

Had to decide on a date to do this and the beer festival season is upon us. The Only was having a beer fest and it started at 5 pm, so I invited a friend over for 2 pm to help me. I mean the next two pieces seemed easy, make a porridge, takeaway the scuzzy stuff, do another boil with hops and then add yeast to the cooled down liquid.

The day before, I did a check of ingredients and equipment. Had the kit but I was missing a strainer. Given the grain used, teff, I knew that whatever I used would have to catch 'em all (Pokemon reference). The dollar store provided. Might as well check on the other ingredients. Looked at the date and preparation instructions on the yeast. Need to take out for a few hours before, blah, blah, blah and expires June 2014. Wait, that was LAST year. Before we panic, a little breath to talk about what I have done so far in terms of a recipe to make 1 gallon beer.

~ 1 lb of malted teff
White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast
5 g US Fuggle Hops (split into half)
6 g Williamette Hops (split into half)
.25 lb of Belgian Candi sugar

That wasn't my intended recipe but that it what it turned out to be. The yeast... yeast is a living being and I am so glad for my cooking experience because I have used bad yeast before and most of the time it works out. There are some tricks and one is written on the bottle on how to create an activator. If you have made pizza or homemade bread you are probably aware of how to do this. Put the yeast in some water and add a little sugar to kick start it.

Like baby delivery in movies, the first thing I did was boil a lot of water. A whole stockpot of water. About 4 times what I thought I would need. I boiled it to make sure the chlorine was all gone.

I used a little of this water with about a teaspoon of sugar and set it on the counter. The vial was for 5 gallons and I was making 1 gallon. Should remember to put in 1/5th of the yeast later on.

At around 1pm, before my buddy was set to arrive I started down the merry path to get everything going. Added the grains to about 1 gallon of water and got it to between 140 and 155 degrees for most of the mashing process. The goal is to keep it in this range to get the sugars out. Normally, you try for a slightly higher range but teff malts at a slightly lower temp with the pocket being around 142. I have read all sorts of stuff on how different temps will affect the brew but the goal is to get all the sugar out. I slipped a few times below the 140 but never for long. It was hard to keep at a great temp, and I tried to err on the lower side so that I wouldn't stop the reactions necessary to convert starch to sugars.
Lesson 1: There may be a better way to keep a constant temperature. The oven. I think that is something to investigate for next time. 

When this liquid was tasted about 40 minutes into the process, it was sweet but a grassy sweet and not horribly sugar sweet. Not sure if that makes sense but there is something called the iodine test where adding some iodine to a sample of the liquid and stays brown then there is no more starch. This process is supposed to take around an hour and a half. I boiled for around 1.75 hours and still not fully converted. That is when I decided to add candi sugar to the boil. This conversion factor is really important for commercial brewers but for one gallon as unconverted starch is money. It is important to get the flavour for home brewers but sugar provides the food for yeast farts of alcohol and carbon dioxide.

At this time, you need to get the gunk out. I poured the liquid from the stock pot to a canning pot using the sieve to hold back the grains. Then you get help from your friend to put some warm water to rinse the remaining sugar from the grains. So, I get my friend... oh wait, he didn't arrive yet.
Lesson 2: Get better friends or only make 1 gallon batches. If this was a 5 gallon recipe, this part called sparging would have been horrible. And I would have to get a bigger sink. 
Make sure you boil a lot of extra water. I found that soooo much evaporated. So, I'll use the oven or lids or something next time. It doesn't matter that much as you can always add water into the overly sweet wort (that's what the official beer porridge name is) at the end of the process.

This process of sparging, well there has to be a better way but I'm not sure I know what it is. Some research will be necessary.

So, now you have this sweet liquid. I added some more hot water, the candi sugar and brought it to a boil. Looking at a bunch of recipes, I settled on 11 g of hops for an 1 gallon batch. Looking at a lot of recipes that used these hops, I decided on putting half the hops at the beginning and the remaining about twenty minutes before the end of the boil. All boils seem to be for an hour. So, I put in the first bit and stirred and waited and my friend shows up. We have a few beer while waiting. I put in the second set of hops and create an ice bath in my sink because the next part is to cool the wort so I can put yeast in and not kill it.

We finish our beer and my friend helps by almost pouring the wort into the ice bath.
Lesson 3: Don't get sloppy drunk and try this. There are two mistakes that I made after this point and one meh moment. Yes, this stuff is simple but not foolproof.
We cooled the wort down to room temp and move it into the container that I am going to use as my primary. We take a sample and I try to use the hydrometer. The only thing I actually can comprehend and figure out is that it bobs at the 6% level for beer. I have to figure out how to calculate the specific gravity better.

The temp is  as recommended on the yeast and I add the yeast that is sitting on the cupboard. All of it. Go back up and read the piece where I talk about how much yeast I was supposed to use. The good news is that I know that yeast will only eat the food that is there and then stop. Also, since it is old, I am expecting that it will underperform anyways. We will have to see.

I put the liquid into a carboy instead of the plastic pail because I wanted to watch it ferment. I have a few old fashioned jugs for the next step which I follow up with later. For now, I have this...

Stay tuned for the next few weeks where this becomes beer and I taste it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Radlers Everywhere!

Two summers ago, a radler was brought into this great land and saw that it was good. It became fruitful and multiplied. Now, like the mustard seed, it is growing into a weed.

Radler: fruit juice and brew. Named after cyclists. Drank after workout to quench thirst and make beer stretch if legend is to be believed. Okay, we'll stop there and start to stray from the general narrative of beerosophy and get into my own personal rhetoric.

My feelings on radlers are all over the place. I have very little reason to buy one especially since so many of them taste more like lemonade than beer. There is very little of the beery and hoppy goodness of the products on the shelf.

Putting a link to search LCBO - Radler Search at LCBO. As of writing, there were 5 there.
Putting a link to BeerStore (Yeah, I know but I'm making a point here) - Beer Store Radlers, 8 as of writing. 

Homemade is usually reserved for an overly aggressive IPA or a poor lager. The juice hides the hops or kills skunks and sweetness. It is something to do with a drainpour except... sigh, there is some interesting things that can be done with beer and juice. I rely on this trick when coming up for beer cocktails for people who don't like beer by itself. I also like it when you can use the flavours to balance each other or to complement.

Hey, I have made blog posts on these things that I like when it works. With Christmas flavours! or Mother's Day flavours! I had written and then junked a post on cottage beer that made the same statements. Sometimes, you want something juicy and alcoholic but not too alcoholic. Chagrined, I admit that sometimes I like my beer to taste like something other than beer.

The thing is... after reading a lot about pairing flavours, I wonder if most porters and stouts that are high in the ABV could use some Ribena and its currant flavour to enhance the malts and lower the fall down quotient? It could also entice some people to try stout as a summer drink and shed that dark beer is heavy bit of malarkey and bologna. (Malarkey and boloney sandwich with a side of stout - sounds delicious, btw). Maybe even pave the way for the return of the mild as a decent workman's summer drink.

I guess I feel about radlers the way I feel about any premix canned booze; it's lazy, convenient and never to my taste. Sure, I'll drink it but I'll never love it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 - Food Memories

So, Mother's Day has come and gone. I rushed on Friday night to get a post out for Saturday so that it would be ready for Mother's Day. It is here at

On Sunday, it would be the first time in over a decade that I wouldn't be 'helping' small hands make breakfast for my ex wife. I'm not very good at the sap, pap and flower crap but I am a good cook and put my love there. I must admit I felt a little sorry for myself and not making the fried bread in bacon drippings along with various meats and eggs served on a tray. I missed it.

Then something happened before I began to write this post. My kids' great grandmother (my ex-wife's grandmother) passed. She had battle Alzheimer's disease and had died on Friday night. Battled isn't a word to use with this disease as it is more of a war of attrition where you know you will lose.

When I met Grandma Leitch, it was at a family affair and there was tourtiere. She was French. The type that is from rural Ontario or rural Quebec, all bluster and good times. The pie was delicious. Every region makes it slightly different. Hers was a drier version with veggies and lots of cloves and cinnamon. We got one to take home that I had with ketchup.

I also got to try a mock apple pie made with saltines that was spot on. It had the right texture and flavour showing the resourcefulness and playfulness that the baker exhibited. It was the last good pie. The next Christmas, the tourtiere was off so slightly and the bright, cheerful jabs turned into something a little more mean. Alzheimer's affects the personality. It was that year or shortly after that the diagnosis came in. Since I normally saw her only at family functions, it was both less obvious and more impactful.

When she went into a care facility, every year the family would gather and bring treats and celebrate Christmas. Her memories were regressing. The newest memories often fade first and the partners of her grandkids were amongst the first forgotten. There was joy at seeing the kids even if they weren't recognized.

Today is her funeral. I am looking up French Canadian recipes to create dishes that my kids never had a chance to eat so that there are joyful memories for them.

I would love to tie this all together in a sweet bough and be witty and light but sometimes food memories are important and somber. I mourn both the loss of my relationship and the relations it had and naturally, it is days like this and Mother's Day that are the markers of those memories.

Monday, April 20, 2015

No Name Cooking #1

My son came up with a recipe a few days ago and I posted it here, as a note from my son.

So, how did that work out for ya?

There are all the ingredients prepared ahead of time. We talked about size of cuts and how you want them to be uniform. Also, what cooks before what else? (Onions, peppers, cukes - add the spices, then chickpeas and lime to serve). Also, that frying normally uses fat. 

Some stuff happens while you cook and if you are paying attention, there is room for riffing or improving a dish. There was a bit of brown bits on the bottom of the frypan as we went along, so we were going to add lime juice, anyways... Added the juice to get the brown bits off the bottom. Added benefit was the juice was both tart and sweet. 

With two small cucumber, two half peppers and a can of chickpeas, this came to the table. Surprisingly, the 1/2 tsp dill, 1/2 tsp hot paprika and salt, were the only seasonings needed. For my interest, I liked the spicing a lot with the cucumber and chickpeas. My son's quibble was that the peppers could have had more crunch. I wonder about the balance of sweetness if we were to do that but I think we will try that next time as the dish could have used more texture. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Leftovers #2: Beet Soup

Last month, we had a Maker Fair type event at the school and I made a Curried Beet and Coconut Soup. While it was popular there was about 3-4 cups leftover and so that left some room for experimenting.

One approach for leftovers that works is to take the base leftover and use it as a sauce or background to build other dishes on top.

In this case, a pasta with snow peas and cheese was served over top on the soup. For my kids, we left out the soup. It was a good pairing.

Another approach is to take two dishes that should complement each other and find a way of combining them. I had some leftover cream of mushroom soup that used white wine. So, it went on top of the beet soup when serving it. The earthiness of the soups worked well together. Had it with a beer and there was a trio of something going on there. Worth the experiment.

There were so many other possibilities in my fridge that I look forward to having roasted beets as a leftover ingredient at some time. Taking leftover oatmeal and frying it into crisp rounds would serve as a bed for either a sauce or simple salad. The crunch and the flavours would complement each other.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Notes from an Eleven Year Old

This is how my eleven year old son views the idea of a recipe. There are several attempts at moving away from standard way of presenting recipes with title, headnotes, ingredients and techniques. Several cookbooks and blogs have experimented with styles and we are getting some interesting results. But look at this start.

Let me translate the writing for you. 



Slice of lime/lime juice

As you move left to right, these are the actions you do to these ingredients. The part that is not written down was the inspiration and the discussion we had around creating this recipe. It comes from an episode of Mind of A Chef where they are working on a succotash recipe. Originally, this was to be a fried salad but when we started breaking down the idea, he wasn't as interested in cooked lettuce as he was at the beginning. 

We talked about what would happen to each ingredient and what he was trying to do. It turns out he wants to learn how to fry and wanted to make a recipe that works that way. This was an interesting experience and collaboration where I give what I know and honestly remove my biases by talking through what happens with ingredients. If I don't know, I let him know and he can make that decision. I've had fried lettuce in a dish and deep fried greens and boiled lettuce soup. Cooked cucumbers exist in Asian cuisine. Chickpeas are one of his favourites. And so on.

This is how I hope that our relationship outside of the kitchen works too. He explains what he is doing and why he wants to do it. I give my experiences and he takes it away and decides. We will be making this recipe this weekend and I will be the sous chef. At some point and time, you need to walk away from the stove and give your kids the opportunity, both in life and cooking. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Dregs for March 2015

I am behind on my posting and have a bunch of things that I hope to get posted this month. This is a quick bit on what is going on with my food life right now.

I went to Halifax and hope to do a round up of things. It was a trip punctuated by storms and a worry that I wouldn't get home to see my kids. It all works out in the end and I enjoyed my trip a lot.

Read three loosely related books and trying to find a way to write about them in a way that adds something. Vegetarian Flavor BibleThe Flavour Thesaurus and Note by Note Cooking. I might just publish my mash notes because they are entertaining in themselves to me.

I eat a lot of my lunches out and use them to try new food and restaurants. A lot of places aren't notable or I have nothing interesting to say about them. Sometimes it is my interest or my ability to assess. Around work I have tried a new fish and chips shop, Carl Jr's, and retried Holy Chuck. I linked to David Ort's notes on Carl's because I am not sure I will write about them. My review on Holy Chuck's still stands.

Published two reviews on Eat.Drink.Travel; one on a Whisky event and another on a burger joint. I will hopefully be doing another review shortly from a burger joint.

In the beer world, had some of those East Coast brews on my holiday and Uncle Leo's, Big Spruce and Rare Bird deserve a revisit at some time. Also, a big surprise for me was a Sarnia brewery, Refined Fool. And been doing some thinking about the announced beer reforms in Ontario. I had some earlier thoughts last year but was left with some hanging chads and now they are beginning to crystallize.

Hopefully, like the groundhog, I will lift myself out of this busy hole called life and begin to see the spring.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bowmore Make It Fair Curried Beet and Coconut Soup

Went to the Bowmore Make It Fair and brought along this soup. Had a few requests for the recipe, so decided to do up a post for posterity.

The thing is, there is no real recipe...and I hate purple beets but I like this recipe. I first tried doing this for Valentine's potluck at work. I decided to leave out the blue cheese whipped bits but if you are interested, it is described in the link above. Anyways, I will try to break it down for you and just let me know if you have any problems.

Curried Beet and Coconut Soup (Vegan version)
makes a 6 quart (5.5 L) crockpot full

8 Large beets (2-3 lbs)
3 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp garam masala
1 can (~400ml) coconut milk
750 ml apple juice
15 ml lemon or lime juice

Okay, here is what I've done with all the riffs included.  I may include an unannotated version afterwards but this reflects how I actually cook.

Cut up the beets in reasonable chunks for roasting in a 350 oven for an hour. If you don't cut them up, it will take longer. A neat trick is just to put them in any time you are cooking something else. I added a few carrots to roast as well. Cool slightly and peel. In a dry pan, add spices to toast lightly on a medium heat. Or if you don't want to bother, just skip this step. Basically keep the proportions so that no one spice mix dominates. You can skip the garam and just keep cumin and curry in equal proportions. Once it starts to smell, add a little water and the miso paste. Cook until dissolved. Add beets and carrots, coconut milk and apple juice. The liquid should just come up to the beets, you need enough to cook them in. If it doesn't, add some water until it does. Don't worry about adding too much water because you will have to thin the soup later when blending. Cook until beets are soft enough to blend with a stick blender or whatever blendy thing you are using. (about 45 minutes). Make sure not to boil the soup too hard. If it starts rapidly bubbling turn it down. I guess that is a simmer, as in simmer down. Blend the soup and add water to desired consistency. Add lemon or lime juice before serving.

All said, I know the time looks long but I often add beets or other roots vegetables to the oven when I am cooking something so I tend to have them on hand in the winter. In the summer, forget about it. That is the time for things that need less heat. And they can cook unattended. Go watch an episode of Game of Thrones when they are in the oven. Same with the on the stove thing. I finished cooking the soup while I was having my morning coffee and getting ready for the Fair, looking for cords and tweeting and FBing and other nerdish stuff.

Anyways, enjoy. Let me know your riffs, if you do any.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Near Misses #1: Frittata and an attempt at Garlic Bread?

One of the comments I hear from people when they are listening to me talk about making supper or cooking something new is that they could never do it. Behind that is an assumption that somehow, cooking is a talent rather than something to work at and explore. It also doesn't help that there is always an idea that to make a good meal, it takes a lot of time.

So, going to start breaking down some of those myths by sharing my near misses and failures. It is only in the failures that you learn something. We had two near misses in my household this weekend; the first was a frittata that used goat cheese and the second was... interesting.


Frittata is just an Italian word shortcut for puffy omelet. Take some eggs and milk or cream. Beat them together. Put them in hot pan that can be put in the oven. Put in some carbs and other tasty things. Wait for a bit of setting and then put it in the oven. I generally put it in at 350 for until it's set and then broil it for browning or cheese melting.

We always make extra pasta and serve our sauce on the side so as to have enough leftovers to make this omelet. This time there was butter sauce on it. That's just plain butter and a little salt. The filling this time was adding a little goat cheese. Also, had a little leftover mushroom soup that I flicked on. The kids did not like it. Even though, they both have had soft goat cheese before, this time it did not go over well. A couple reasons other than that the only substantial flavour was the tang from the cheese could have been the all day sucker that they finished only hours before. Trying something out of the box at the end of the day is always risky but even worse when you have tired and strung out boys. But we did agree to try a better grade of cheese sometime in a different manner to make sure it wasn't the cheese.

Something Else

At the cheese shop, the kids tried Lankaaster cheese and really liked it. So much that they wanted to do something with it for supper. The intention was to try Mark II on the Frittata and serve it with baguette. Somewhere along the way, the plan morphed.

We got this.

This is a baguette smeared with bacon fat, topped with pasta and cheese. The kids loved it. It didn't hurt that my eldest came up with idea. It was quite rich and should have been served with fresh veggies or something to cut the fat. It wasn't. As the meal went on, there were some concessions after the initial chowdown that maybe some garlic could have been used and yes, maybe a sauce would make it better. Regardless, there is a good germ of an idea here that merits exploration.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Recipes: Family Day Sandwiches

We had bologna sandwiches and chocolate bar sandwiches for Family Day. I'm going to blame David Chang and Quebec for the first and Food & Wine for the second. 

This is a straight up recipe post with only a bit of setup. I've been messing around with bologna sandwiches for quite a while. One of my favourites is to grab mortadella which is the original bologna from, well, Bologna in Italy. It looks like our favourite except with specks of black pepper and spackled with fat nodules. My son requested this sandwich after watching an episode of In The Mind of a Chef.


Fry some thinly sliced mortadella and reserve any grease. Place on bread with provolone cheese, Italy's favourite processed cheese. I like rye bread for the bread, as it gives it that Montreal flare. Smother with mustard. Hot mustard helps cut the fat. Take sandwiches and fry them until cheese is melted or bread is at desired colour. Take it out and eat 'em. Serve them with ketchup if you must.

Now, about that chocolate bar sandwich... A friend talked about his Scottish childhood and how he would go to school with candy bar sandwiches and trade for fresh veggies and regular sandwiches. I'm beginning to question my choice to limit my kids' intake of sugar right about now. Also, in January's Food & Wine there is a recipe for Grilled Chocolate Sandwiches with Caramel Sauce. So, I tried two takes on that: one with Laura Secord's nutella homage (Nutella is better but next time) and another with a Caramilk bar. 


Put ingredients on bread. Toast them in a frying pan. Serve them with another set of liquid sugar such as caramel sauce or Mapo Spread. That's what I used. It is an incredibly sweet, maple flavoured spread. Pretty freaking awesome. The kids preferred the candy bar one as the caramel and chocolate had seeped into the bread. This is an easy dessert but you will have to have candy bars on hand. In some houses, this is an impossible task.

That was lunchtime for Family Day...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Potluck

Two weeks ago, work decided it was putting on a Valentine's brunch but we had to tie our food to Valentine's with colour or something. The first thought that passed through my head was to do up some beef heart in some fashion - tartar or a stew.

I didn't do that. Maybe some Texas red with heart shaped biscuits? Beet sandwiches cut into hearts? These gimmicky things are both a nuisance and a time to shine. I just couldn't figure it out. Part of it is that I'm just not into this holiday this year. With the dissolution of my marriage last year, it seems more hokey than normal. So many sites talk about food to get you in the mood or romantic food.

The thing is that aside from heavy meals, I find that any meals can a bit of eroticism to them. In turns watching someone eat can be disgusting or evocative. A lot of that is, of course, the meal companion. If you find someone attractive, there are so many things that you can forgive and overlook. So, the idea that red food somehow shows more love than a well cooked and intentional meal is a little hollow.

Any meal cooked with love and explicitly for someone is sexy.

But back to what to bring to a potluck. I'm making a beet, coconut and lime soup with a blue cheese cream. The soup base has beer and coconut milk stirred into sweating onions where guajillo chili, cinnamon, chili powder and turmeric have been added. Then the beets were added and cooked until tender. The soup was blended with vegetable stock as needed.

Blue cheese was whipped with whipping cream.

This will be served chilled in a small cup with a dollop of whipped blue cream and a toothpick dragged through to make a white heart on top.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dregs Round-up for December 2014

Here are a collection of links and interesting rumours that haven't made it to a full post.

Toronto and Montreal got a shout out from Daniel Boulud as cities to watch for interesting food.

While I am starting to think about a series on the issues that foodies face while grocery shopping, along comes an article that talks about replacing meat with vegetable protein. While it handles many issues of higher inefficiencies that in converting plants to muscle, it doesn't say enough about the issues of eating less processed food. I think the article in some ways furthers the more mechanistic and nutrionist leanings of food culture. The idea that animals are nothing more than conversion machines. Anyways, it was a good read and I am definitely interested in protein from other sources and of course, have issues with fake meat.

Just yesterday I talked about beer flavoured coffee and updating my quest. Seems Starbucks has beaten me to the beer barrel. The good news is that the tasters aren't exactly loving it. My experiments are here: 1st Attempt, 2nd Attempt.

Speaking about coffee and beer, Boxcar Social which I reviewed here will be opening up another location on Queen East in the land of decent coffee. There place will have a good beer focus as well. Not sure of the opening date but they have inked the contract.

Boxcar let slip that they believe a brewery will be opening up beside their new location. There is already a bunch of breweries looking or set up on the East Side. Left Field, Sweetgrass and Louis Cifer are the ones that are well known and given coverage. On Mom and Hops, there are a number of planned breweries for Toronto and some seem to have an eastern connection.

- Danforth Brewing
- Strathmore Brewing
- Muddy York Brewing, and
- The Only Nanobrewery.

None of these seem like the likely candidate and so I wait to hear more. Anyways, there are a few morsels that I couldn't quite make into a full blog post unless I did some serious work.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions 2015

Today I was going to write about either microwave cooking or some type of foodie resolutions of eating better, or smarter or whatever. Instead, after a discussion with a close friend, I'm going to be more ambitious with this post. No resolving to change behaviours or achieving measurable goals this year; I want to focus on shifting priorities. I want to describe the journeys that I want to go on this year and where I hope to end up.

Jordan St. John has posted a good post on what is happening in beer policy land and I am still skeptical on how to achieve the goals of replacing a whole sail system with bits and bobs of fabric and expecting it to stay afloat. If something can and does shift this system, it would be interesting if some of the same approaches could be used in the food system. If this doesn't make sense to you, it is because I haven't unpacked any of it and that is what I hope I can post about. Examples include:
- Farmers' market and whether they are just feel good for urbanites
- Maybe our grocery stores are a type of ogliopoly
- CSAs and how they are supposed to work
- Big business got that way for a reason such as reducing inefficiencies in the system so what is the purpose of these smaller markets or to put another way, goals such as sustainability bring what value?
- Are small and craft sustainable? If not, should we look at ways of helping make it so?

A bunch of my experiments disappeared and I need to bring them back and update them.
- beer flavoured coffee
- teff beer
- post about more of the "failures"

Evolution (just so I can use another E word):
- changes in my approaches to food now that I am a single dad or just single sometimes
- expand on my drunk reviews, maybe even split em off. Not related at all to the first bullet.
- more reviews on vegetarian and vegan places or even damn good dishes

End targets:
- publish more posts in more areas and more sites
- you mean I can get paid for this?

So those are my best guesses at things that I'd like to do with this blog this year. Of course, there will always be posts on whatever strikes my fancy but I think it is time that I started focusing on a few things...