Monday, November 29, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas - Food

Buy it:

make a sushi kit - package together a sushi rolling mat, bag of sushi rice, nori sheets, wasabi and a bottle of soy sauce.

beer glasses and 6 pack of imported beer.

make a cheese plate - buy a pretty plate and a few (3 to 5) different cheeses.

Make it:

homemade pancake mix. pour into a jar, attach instructions with a ribbon. gift with a bottle of maple syrup, if you're feeling fancy.

flavored salt - lavender, citrus (finely grated citrus peel,dried, mixed with salt), roasted salt and pepper.

bbq rub - i like this rub from Bobby Flay.

yule wreath -very pretty and delicious.

fudge wreath from Rachael Ray. I've wanted to make this for a while now.

salted caramels - i would like to try to make these too.

shortbread cookies, of course.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas - For Babies and the Parents Who Feed Them

If you are buying a gift for someone who's expecting or already has a little one, consider food related gifts for the baby.  They gotta eat too!  Doctors recommend starting solid foods at 6 months.  If your friend or family is considering making their own baby food (as we did), here's some stuff they could use.

Baby Food Books - this is vital if you don't know what the heck a baby should eat (we didn't).  My favorite is Cooking for Baby: Wholesome, Homemade, Delicious Foods for 6 to 18 Months. This was my bible the first few months Paxton ate solid food. There is so much information in the book on what foods to introduce when, what to hold off for a while, allergies, and lots of simple and healthful recipes. Pax is a year old now so we are working him towards more "grown up food", but I still use the book as a guide, especially for allergies as Scott's family has some.

Equipment - you don't have to go crazy for equipment but there a a couple of things you should have -

Food processor - this is important, especially the first couple of months when the baby is eating thin smooth food. You don't have to spend a million dollars, but get a good sturdy one that can be used for other meal prep too. Stay away from those ones designed only for baby food, unless you are rich or something. If a food processor is more money than you planned on spending, get others to chip in or give a gift card with instructions for the money to go to a processor.

Cutting boards - for, you know, cutting up the food before cooking and also for finger food. They're not too expensive so you could buy a few and wrap a ribbon around them. Buy plastic so they can be scrubbed and tossed in the dishwasher.

Steamer insert - the first couple of months most of the baby's food is steamed or baked. Buy a silicone steamer that can be tossed into any pot to steam fruits and veggies. 

Potato masher - when the baby starts moving to thicker textures, use a masher to leave some lumps behind. This one is pretty cute.

Storage trays - I am a big fan of Baby Cubes. They work very well. They are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe, have a holding tray and attached lids. They just make the job easier. And now we use them to also store his cut up finger foods.

Ice Cube trays - if you don't want to go the route of the storage trays, buy some ice cube trays. Load up with food, cover with plastic wrap and freeze, then move the cubes to zippered storage bags.

Floor Mat - Lord, I wish we had one of these. Kids make a mess when they eat, it's just the way it is. Buy a mat like this to go under the highchair, or better yet if you are crafty, make one.

Tableware - plastic and inexpensive. Paxton loves to lick his plates and bowls, then hurl them to the floor. We've got these Kalas plates and bowls. We used this silicone spoon for the few few months, and now use ones that are still plastic but a little more sturdy as Pax likes to use the soft spoon as a catapult for his food.

Bibs. Lots of bibs.

Facecloths - we have an enormous pile of facecloths. When Pax was a little little guy we used them for wiping his face, cleaning up spit ups, and poop removal. Now we was his hands and face (obvs) in the am and pm as well as after meals; bathtime, and we use them as wipes during mealtimes. They also make fun play hats.

If the baby you are buying for is ready to eat now and you think it would be appreciated, think about making some basic foods yourself, freezing and delivering them. There are lots of good websites out there. You can't go wrong with purees of apple or yam or pear.

Or give the intended a coupon good for one baby food making session. Then show up with a bag of appropriate fruits, veggies etc, make sure you have all the necessary supplies, and fill the freezer up!

Nextie: Tools and gadgets.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas - Cookbooks

It's that time of year again.  Do you struggle  to find the "perfect" gift for your loved ones?  Fear not!  The next few days I'll share some kitchen and food related gift ideas.  The perfect gift for someone may lurk within...


I am a HUGE cookbook-aholic, although most of mine come from charity book sales and secondhand shops.  Here's some books I love AND some books I wish I owned:

Nigella Lawson's Kitchen - click to see what I thought of it. In summary though, a gorgeous book with delicious recipes. On Amazon.

Bobby Flay's Throwdown A fun show turns out a really fun book. My family are STILL having throwdowns. I think they're addicted. On Amazon.

Canadian Living Vegetarian A brilliant book for everyone, not just Vegetarians. My favorite book this year. On Amazon.

The Little Saigon Cookbook: Vietnamese Cuisine and Culture in Southern California's Little Saigon I bought this because they're are NO Vietnamese restaurants in Kamloops and it's my favorite food. I really like this book, informative and easy to follow.

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World's Most Glorious - and Perplexing - City A fun book to read if you've ever dreamed about living in Paris. Delicious recipes too.

And here's some books I don't own but I wish I did but I know they'd make great gifts:

Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan. I borrowed this from the library and was immediately sad that I had to take it back. What a book! A gorgeous collection of French home cooking.

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris. I borrowed this one from the library too and it was hilarious.

Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People by Amy Sedaris. How can this not be excellent?

Next - Cookin' with for babies.


A couple of weeks ago Emmy from Vegan Diva tweeted a photo of her Foule Mudammas she was having for breakfast. It reminded me that I've been wanting to try this dish for literally years and years.

1 can chick peas
1 tsp cumin
1/2 bunch parsley
3 garlic cloves
3 tb lemon juice
5 tb olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper

Place the chickpeas and their liquid in a frying pan over medium high heat, until simmering.  Add the cumin, and mash the beans with a potato masher until lumpy.  Finely chop the parsley and garlic and place in a bowl.  Stir in the lemon juice, olive oil and tomato.  When the beans have thickened, stir in the parsley mixture.  Simmer until hot, taste and season with salt and pepper.  Serve with pita bread, tomato slices and feta cheese. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I am a humongous fan of Nigella Lawson. I enjoy her books and shows, and think she's a wonderful speaker and writer. I love the use of language to describe food.

Kitchen, Recipes from the Heart of the Home is her latest, and 8th book. This a a massive book, 500 pages, with 13 food chapters as well as lists, hints and help. The book is gorgeous and the photography is lovely as usual for her books. Each recipe has at least one photo of the dish which is always helpful to know what your end result should look like.

Many recipes have notes at the bottom of the page for instructions on making the dish ahead, as well as instructions for freezing and reheating. Some recipes also have companion recipes to use up the leftovers. Great idea.

We tried 8 recipes from the book:

Papparedelle with butternut and blue cheese (pg 333)

I have never had pasta with blue cheese before. It took me a few bites to like this but once I did, I really did. Excellent and impressive.

Tomato Curry (pg 108)

This dish fell flat for us. I had high hopes but in the end I just didn't think there was much flavor.

Lemon Meringue Fool (pg 168)

A quick dessert that is also delicious.

Korean Keema (pg 76)

Ground turkey stir fried with a spicy sauce. Fast and tasty.

Spicy Sausage Patties with Lettuce Wraps (pg 421)

Fun finger food.

Fiery Potato Cakes (pg 387)

This is the "leftover recipe" from the Tangy Parsnip and Potato Mash recipe. Lovely little cakes with a kick.

Crustless Pizza (pg 26)

An easy little dish that reminded me a little of a Yorkshire pudding. That's a good thing.

Pumpkin Scones (pg 451)

Surprise ingredient: Parmesan cheese!

As all the other Nigella books that have come before this, I love this book. It's gorgeous, packed with beautiful pictures of mouthwatering food, and of course Nigella's writing style is stunning. However having said that, my one complaint about the book is this. Many of the introductions to the recipes are long. Like, an entire page long. I found myself getting slightly irritated and thinking "get on with it already!". Right now is not a time in my life for lounging with poetry-style cookbooks, which is a shame. But that is a small quibble to have with such a lovely book.

Thanks, Random House!

Monday, November 22, 2010

weekly menu plan

The camera/computer connection is misbehaving and I have no photos to show you of the delicious lasagna resting on the counter, which is too bad, cause man it looks goooooood!

Monday (today) lasagna made w zucchini, mushroom and bell pepper
Tuesday bean spinach and chorizo soup, buns
Wednesday bubble and squeak, salad
Thursday bbq kebabs, veggies
Friday bean burritos
Saturday soup i can't tell you about
Sunday Paxton's Birthday Dinner!
Monday Nigella Lawson's rapid ragu

Saturday, November 20, 2010


At the Vancouver Aquarium.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chile Oil

I was making up my weekly meal list a couple of weeks ago and was contemplating adding a dish that required chile oil. I didn't have any such oil in the cupboard and didn't want to spend money buying some, so I made up a little batch, and it took hardly any time at all.

I put some canola oil in a small pot over low heat (you DON'T want the oil to boil!), and added some dried chiles. A couple of spoonfuls. I let the oil and chile infuse for 20 minutes or so, then turned off the heat and let it cool completely.

I strained the oil thru a coffee filter to get out all the chiles and poured it into a small bottle.

Pretty, cheap, and delicious to boot.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Greek Salad

If I close my eyes while I eat this, I can almost believe it's still summer. That it's warm out, I'm wearing sandals instead of shoes and socks and my coats are hung at the back of the closet. If I open my eyes I'll see snow, and 0 degrees and socks and boots. So I'll keep 'em closed and eat this salad.

Throw down some lettuce, then top with chopped tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, pitted and diced kalamata olives. Dress with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. Top with feta.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuff and things

These are all dishes I made in the summer and wrote about in the summer.  Since it's November and there's now SNOW on the ground, I will share them with you.


I found this recipe for Strawberries with Basil Granita in a Food Network magazine, and thought it sounded so wonderful. I made it, and eh. It was ok.

I loved the cold granita with the berries, and in theory the granita was good - cold, sweet basil equals yum - but it was just too sweet. I would play with this recipe, and work on getting it less sweet. But it sure has potential.


frick frick frick. I just messed up and deleted the photo for this dish. Look up stupid in the dictionary, and they may well have a picture of me.

I saved this recipe from Deb last year, for her Thai Chickpea Curry, and made it earlier this month. We had it for dinner the next 2 nights and it was marvelous. I didn't follow the vegetable part of this recipe, just threw in what I had, which was sweet potatos, peas, cauliflower and carrots.

If you like curry, try this recipe. So, so good.


I had some strawberries that were heading south faster than we could eat them. Instead of turning them into a smoothie like I normally would, I decided to make some fast jam.

I gave the berries a quick chop, then put them in a pan over medium heat. When they started to bubble, I added some maple syrup and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and then mashed them with a potato masher.

We liked it.


I made these on Canada Day - I call them "meatballs stuffed with tomatos stuffed with cheese". I took some grape tomatos, cut off the stem end and cleaned out the seeds with the point of a knife. I stuffed them with cheese (I had some Laughing Cow pieces, but any cheese would work). I mixed some ground chicken with salt and pepper and then formed meatballs around the tomatos. Then I grilled 'em.

And lo, they were good.


This is THE banana bread from Cookin' with Coolio, and if you don't own this book you are a fool, A FOOL, I tell you. We've made this approx 137548686597 times and love it. What are you waiting for?


If you weren't quite convinced you should pick up a copy of The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook, this will seal the deal. We tried the vegetable pancake recipe, made it for some dinner guests and it got RAVE reviews. I ended up in a fork fight for the last piece with a guy who doesn't even like veggies that much. (We shared it, like civilized people do)
I have no photos but man oh man, it ruled. It ruled hard.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bread Baking Babes - Cornucopia

This will be a brief post as I have a sorta-sick little baby curled up in bed next to me, slowly worming his way on my side of the bed, pushing me off.

This months Bread Baking Babe hostess with the mostess is one of our new members, Susan, from Wild Yeast. Since it's American Thanksgiving soon, she chose a decorative bread, the Cornucopia.

I initially wasn't going to make the bread as we Canadians have already had Thanksgiving and if I put out any sort of decoration on the table, Pax will just throw his lunch at it, but I thought it might be sort of fun to try to make an edible version.

Now I am not in the least bit artistic. At all. I nearly failed Art when required to take it in school. So be warned, what is below is not pretty.

My initial idea was to make mini cornucopias and fill them with salad, but I realized when I was halfway through making the second one that they were too big to be individual servings.

Sunday when I made these was kind of a weird day and I ended up pulling out a bag of mixed nuts to try to dress up my sad little corni for a photo.

See?  So not pretty.

But other Babes have made some pretty spectacular ones.  So check them out, their sites are listed over on the right, and visit Susan for instructions if you'd like to make your own, here.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bobby Flay's Throwdown

Bobby Flay is one of my favorite chefs. I love his books and his shows, especially Throwdown. Last year I spent hours and hours scouring the internet looking for recipes that sounded similar to the ones he and his competitor made on an episode (struck out, but got over it as I no longer remember what episode it was). So I was really excited to hear that his next book would be Throwdown, a collection of recipes from the show.

And I was even more excited when I was asked to take part in a Throwdown to celebrate the book coming out.

The plan was this - pick a Bobby Flay recipe out of Throwdown and make it as well as challenge dish. Just like on the show! Judge the recipes and blog about the results.

It was really fun to sit down and read this book. Each section begins with a short writeup on the episode by Bobby; who he's competing against, information on the dish, what his plan was, etc. I found these all really really interesting. And the recipes! Both recipes from the Throwdown are there, with the winner noted.

We had a hard time, but a fun time, picking recipes to try for our Throwdown at Home. We went with 2 - a cocktail challenge and the Muffuletta challenge.

Before the dinner we made judging sheets, as well as "A" and "B" labels. The dork in me really enjoyed that.

We started dinner with our cocktail challenge - Bobby Flay's The Throwdown Cocktail vs a Pina Colada.

Pina Colada is A, Throwdown Cocktail is B.

We each gave the drinks a mark out of 20, judging on appearance, aroma and taste. 3 of the 4 of us chose Bobby Flay's drink. For me, it was no contest. The Throwdown Cocktail, with pineapple, mint, basil and ginger syrup was AMAZING. It left that sad little pina colada in the dust.

And we moved on to the Muffulettas. Scott really wanted to try the sandwich, but we'd never made a real one before, so we decided to recreated the whole Throwdown, and make the competitors, Mike and Jack Serio's Muffuletta as well.

The Serio's sandwich is A, Bobby Flay's is B.

Because none of us are experts on Muffuletta's, we used the same criteria as the drink - appearance, aroma and taste. This one was a little tougher as they were both really really great sandwiches. The Serio's used the traditional olive salad; Bobby Flay's had a olive mayonnaise. Both were absolutely crammed with meat and cheese - we had to buy 6 different kinds of meats and 3 cheeses for the sandwiches! - and it took us a long time to declare a winner. But we did, and again 3 to 1 we declared Bobby Flay's sandwich the winner.

We had so much fun that we had another Throwdown at my parents house.  They chose Chicken Pot Pie.  Bobby Flay's Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust vs Sandy Pollock and Crystal Cook's World's Greatest Chicken Pot Pie.

World's Greatest is A, Bobby Flay's is B.

My parents chose Crust, Filling and Overall Comfort Factor for the judging criteria.  The pies scored nearly even on filling and comfort factor, but A was the winner for crust, and took the Throwdown.

We made Bobby's Grilled Rib Eye with Molasses Mustard Glaze as well,

Which was really good.  The glaze was fabulous.

My parents also tried the Collucci Brother's Meatloaf, and gave us a piece.  It was fine, but I was pretty surprised that it beat Bobby's Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf, as I've made the turkey version from Food Network Magazine and it was delicious.  

We had a blast at the dinners and I was surprised at how into the judging we got. They were really fun and definitely something I would do again.

If you like delicious food, then tell yourself this - you're ready for Throwdown (the book)!

Thanks,Random House! 

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Project Notebook - Book 5

So I've been feeling down lately. Real down. Down, down down.

I figured I needed a hobby, or a project to keep my mind a little more busy. But hobbies are darn near impossible when you've got a crawling little guy that gets into everything. And potentially expensive. So I decided to make it cooking oriented, since I have to cook anyways.

I thought about heading to the used book store and finding a new cookbook, maybe try the ole "cooking through the book" thing again. But why spend money on a book when I've got a bookshelf full? But I couldn't find one that I thought I could, or wanted to, make a dent in. And then I realized I had the perfect project. All my notebooks. I'm up to 14 or 15 now, I think.  They are all recipes that I chose to keep, that for one reason or another I wanted to make. So why not start cooking through all these recipes I've been saving for years?

I call it "Project Notebook", for lack of a more imaginative/better name.

I have given myself a few rules. I can make any changes I want to or need to. If I have previously made a recipe I don't have to make it again, unless I want to. And if there's anything I want to skip, I will.

I am starting with Book 5, because that's the first one I grabbed off the shelf. I've been working on this project for a while now (month? month and a half?) and I no longer remember what order I've made these in, but I do remember this one was first.

Tomato Tartar with Tomato Water Sauce, Jacques Pepin

This was definitely the way to get this project started.  This was AWESOME.
Diced tomato, onion and bread with a tomato juice and olive oil vinaigrette.  I made this 3 times in as many weeks and can't wait until tomato season next year to make it again and again.  Just super.
I found the recipe online, slightly changed from what I have written down.  The tartar in my notebook has 3 tb of olive oil in it, and there are no herbs in the tomato water.  Recipe.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage, Rachael Ray

Easy to make breakfast sausage with not bad flavor.

Pasta all Checca, Canyon Ranch

I made this after our Davison Farms visit in September, with their yellow tomatos.  I liked that it was no cook and had tons of flavor. 

Grilled Steak and Mashed Potato Wrap, Rachael Ray

I found a little steak in the freezer and had wraps and potatos, this project has actually been very helpful in using up food I have in the freezer and cupboard.  This reminds me of a restaurant I went to years ago with my friend Simon in Calgary, they did all sorts of wraps and soups.  I loved it because they had wraps I had never imagined, like steak and potatos, or turkey and cranberry.  It was a good restaurant.

Orzo with Ham and Goat Cheese, Gourmet

It turns out we have made this before. It's really good.

Beef Hoisin Mini Meatballs, Rachael Ray

I do love me a good meatball, and these were ok.  Kind of a soft texture.  Hoisin and garlic and green onions in the meatballs, browned and simmered in a sauce of hoisin, red current jelly, garlic, ginger and water.  I made these because I had some red current jelly I wanted to use up.

6 recipes down!

Friday, November 05, 2010

Canadian Living Vegetarian

I have mentioned time and again how much we love Vegetarian food. We try to eat meatless at least a few days a week (which doesn't always happen), and I am always on the lookout and happy to find new delicious vegetarian recipes.

My new very very favorite cookbook is Canadian Living: The Vegetarian Collection.

This is a flat out terrific book. The 8 recipe chapters focus on different food categories rather than courses or themes - pulses and beans, grains, pasta, and more. Each recipe comes with prep and cook times and (YAY) nutritional information. Not every recipe comes with a photo, but the photos are absolutely mouthwatering. Just beautiful.

There are tips and tricks scattered among the recipes: how to cook dried beans, information on different nuts and seeds, the difference between tofu and tempeh, cooking tips for pasta. The recipes are all well-written and easy to follow. There is definitely something in this book for everyone, vegetarian or not.

We tried 9 recipes for this review - we just couldn't stop!

Pasta with Mushroom Bolognese (pasta, pg 105)

Homemade Ricotta (stocks, sauces, breads & basics, pg 258)

I made cheese, y'all!  And it was easy and delicious. 

Tomato Pizza Sauce (stocks, sauces, breads & basics, pg 270)

Pizza Dough (stocks, sauces, breads & basics, pg 268)

The finished pizza with the dough (my new favorite pizza dough recipe), sauce and ricotta.

Corn Tempura (vegetables, pg 217)

Vegetarian Chili Fries (pulses and beans, pg 30) my new favorite way to cook fries.

Tofu Salad Sandwiches (tofu, tempeh & soy, pg 119) deeeelicious.

Toasted Guacamole, Brie & Tomato Sandwiches (eggs & cheese, pg 186)

Meatless Polpette in Tomato Sauce (vegetables, pg 230)

thank you, Random House!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Mighty Life List - Sticky Rice Ball

I'm trying 10 new foods a year for my life list.  When we were in Calgary we went to Chinatown and I spotted these Mini Green Tea Red Bean Sticky Rice Balls (whew!  what a name!).  

I hate to say it, but I did not like this.  At all. The red beans, I just didn't like them.  Couldn't even swallow my bite.  

Oh well, they can't all be winners.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


A fun part of having this blog is getting the opportunity to try new products from time to time. Recently we got to try some sodas from Jarritos. Jarritos is a Mexican soda company that uses natural sugar and comes in 11 flavors (in beautiful glass bottles), like pineapple. Now where I live pop comes in few flavors, basically cola, rootbeer, lemon lime and orange (that doesn't taste like oranges). So to try sodas with such exotic flavors was quite a treat.

We started by trying some straight up - the strawberry, the mandarin and the Toronja (grapefruit).  They were delicious - very light and fresh and real tasting.  The mandarin wasn't my favorite, but that's because I don't like orange pop.  BUT it tasted way better than the orange pop you can buy here, Scott assures.   I was most afraid of trying the Tamarind, because how unappealing does tamarind soda sound?  I was SO WRONG.  The Tamarind was my very favorite of the bunch.  I still miss it. 

We also played around a little.  We made ice cubes out of the Jamaica soda -

And then added some mango soda.

Delicious! We also made ice cubes from lime soda and mixed it with pineapple. So good.

We tried a couple of alcoholic drinks too.  We mixed the Toronja with vodka (kind of like a Greyhound) which was really nice, and also tried the Limon-lima with Pimms.  Yum.

And for dessert, a scoop of mango ice cream turned the Pineapple soda into a delicious float.

You can find Jarritos at their website here.
Jarritos is also on Facebook,
and flickr.