31 January 2007

A Day That Really Schmecks Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a little event called A Day That Really Schmecks to honour the memory of a favourite person in my life, Edna Staebler. Thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University Press, participants received complimentary copies of the re-issue of Edna's first book, Food That Really Schmecks.

As word got out, I received notes from a couple of people who wanted to Ednafy their lives a bit. Well, of course they can participate--everyone needs some Edna in their lives--so I posted an invitation for anyone who wanted to participate. They didn't have to cook from Schmecks (they could cook from any of her books), nor did they have to cook from any of Edna's books. As long as the dish schmecked in one way, shape or form, they could enter it into the round up.

Nine people heard the call—and they all came up with great dishes.

Featherlight dumplings at Jumbo Empenadas
Brilynn made a beautiful venison stew, and then finished it off with her favourite dumplings from Edna's book.

Hurry Up Chocolate Cake and Cocoa Fudge Icing at All Things Edible
While having fun with the word “schmeck,” Quellia had a thumping good time with her contribution.

Sausage and Vegetable Bake at Cooking By The Seat Of My Pants
Jerry chose a one-pan dish that many busy people might like…if they follow his added directions.

Chocolate Chip Date Cake at The Foodnik
My word! The Foodnik’s inaugural post is not only for this event, but it happens to be one of Edna’s favourite cakes.

Book Review at The Art and Science of Food
After finding out about A Day That Really Schmecks Part One and was so intrigued by what people made, Pepy bought a copy of Edna's Baking With Yeast and wrote this review.

Pam Noonan’s Cabbage Rolls at Neuroti.ca
Nancy remembered a dish she used to make and decided to revisit it for the event--a very Waterloo County meal.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake at My Kitchen in Half Cups…Second Helping
I wasn’t able to get a hold of Tanna for Part One, but I am so happy she's here and made this lovely cake she found on The Flying Apple.

Chewy Brownies at A Blithe Palate
Cath was supposed to participate in Part One, but the postal service thought otherwise. We’re all glad that she returned to blogging with this post and these treats.

Snickerdoodles at Teh Culinary Skillz
Meaghan decided to make something that really Schmecks. After an online search, she found a recipe for these Amish Snickerdoodles.

Thanks to everyone for participating!


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28 January 2007

Celebrations or commiserations?

Is it normal to be torn between opposing sentiments? After holidaying for a week (albeit at home and apart from a couple of trips to Toronto, nowhere truly exotic), tomorrow I return to my desk.

Yes, I like what I do and have a wonderful boss, but returning to "work clothes" and a daily routine--one that has me fighting my natural urges to cocoon in my linens and blankets...


How best to enjoy this last vacation day? After a day in Toronto, and battling the roads and the weather, this is my choice:

Hot Chocolate for one
1 cup of rich milk (one part half-and-half to three parts milk)
a squeeze of honey (about a teaspoon's worth)
a good pinch of chilli pepper
1 35g bar of semisweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
as much whipped cream as you want

Heat up everything except the whipped cream, making sure the chocolate is well melted. Pour into your favourite mug. Top with whipped cream.

Do you really need anything more?



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25 January 2007

What's in your basket?

When The Food Maven posed that question, I thought "How interesting" quickly followed by "How personal!" Divulging into the contents of a shopping cart is probably its own field of psychoanalysis.

I mean, who amongst us hasn't peered into another's trolley and come up with a story to match the findings? A jumbo sac of cheeziepoofs, a couple of packages of weiners and a stack of frozen dinners: probably a single guy. Designer water, zero calorie yoghurt, low-carb bread, celery sticks and premium ice cream: dieter in denial. A cart with three brands of tomato sauce, two labels of tuna, fresh and dried sage: someone who's taking over shopping duty...and terrified of buying the "wrong kind" of whatever...

So, what's in my basket?

Last Saturday I shopped at three places because I can't find what I want in one store.

The health food shop has great service and knowledgable staff. They have organic milk in bottles that won't go off in less than a week. Depending upon what I'm looking for, their organic produce can be cheaper and is fresher than at the big scary megamart.

The gourmet food store has the best deli meats and a cheese case that is a wonder to behold. They also have good selections of olives, crackers, and swanky-labelled goodies.

The big scary megamart is exactly that. Big and scary.

Total amount spent: C$65.05 (approx. US$55)

From the health food shop:
Organic two per cent milk (1 L)
Green & Black's 70% semisweet chocolate (35g)
Organic slivered almonds (500g)

From the gourmet food store:
Hot porketta, sliced (100g)
Proscuitto di Parma (50g)
Goat cheese
Anchovie fillets in oil
Bagels (6)

From the big scary megamart:
Rigatoni (900g)
Extra-large, organic eggs
Skinless chicken thighs (500g)
Stewing lamb (680g)
Irish breakfast teabags
Fresh sage (20g)
Fresh chives (20g)
Sweet red pepper (1)
Baby asparagus (one bundle of 36 spears)
Crushed tomatoes (796ml)
Meyer lemons (500g)
Plum tomatoes (4)
Low-sodium chicken broth (500ml)


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24 January 2007

SHF #28: Sweet Seduction

It starts with a glance…

…or perhaps a touch.

It could be a sound…

…or a scent.

Sometimes it begins with a taste.

It entices and sometimes teases. It can be a glimpse of joys yet to come. It can be spicy, it can be hot, but most importantly (at least this time) seduction must be sweet.

My theme for February’s Sugar High Friday is Sweet Seduction.

Your mission, should you accept, is to provide a sweet that entices and lures. There are a number of ways you can approach this:

  • Something you’ve made to seduce someone

  • Something you’re planning on making to seduce someone

  • Something someone’s made to seduce you.

  • Something you wish someone would make to seduce you *

If you care to kiss and tell, we’ll gladly read your tale. Perhaps it was the sweet you made for your now sweetie of 25 years? Maybe it was something she made and you finally saw her as more than just a friend? We even want to know if it was a total and utter disaster at the time, but you can laugh about it now. Was it something a friend asked you to make on their behalf because your friend is an utter disaster in the kitchen? Is it a story of how your parents or grandparents finally noticed one another? Stories are totally optional…should you decide to share, we promise to not tell anyone.

Be as complex or a simple as you wish. Use whatever ingredients you want, as long as it’s something you can serve as a sweet course.

Here are the rules

  • This event is open to anyone who’s interested. Please publish your post onto your site by 19 February.

  • Email me your permalink and a 100 x100 pixel jpeg by 19 February. My email address is cardamomaddict at gmail dot com (replace the “at” and “dot” with their respective symbols, please). If you don’t have a picture or it’s not 100X100, I’ll put in a placeholder image—sorry, I won’t be able to resize the pictures for you. I'll have the round-up posted by 23 February.

  • If you don't have a blog, you can still participate by posting a story or reminiscence in the comments area for the Sugar High Friday post.

Thanks to Jennifer at Domestic Goddess for creating the original SHF and letting me run this one.

Let me know if you have any questions.


* And, you know, if there is someone you wish to be seduced by, you could always send them the link…if you do, you need to let us know what happens.

Update: Here's a link to the round-up: http://cardamomaddict.blogspot.com/2007/02/shf28-sweet-seduction-round-up.html

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23 January 2007

SHF #27: Chocolate by brand

Before my parents left for their annual half-year (less five days) in India, Mummy lamented over the dearth of chocolatey goodness that awaited her.

Don't get me wrong.

Chocolate exists in India and certain family members grow cacao, but luscious chocolatey treats are elusive. Sweet shops have chocolateish goodies, but thus far my darling little mummy has been disappointed.

What does a chocoholic mummy do in such a situation?

She asks her chocoholic daughter with a penchant for baking to bake a treat to go.

Well...almost...she tells her chocoholic daughter to bake another
chocolate mousse cake--one that she could pack in her suitcase.

Her chocoholic daughter with a penchant for baking strongly suggested otherwise. The cake, although delicious is heavy....very heavy…so heavy that chocoholic mummy may be unable to pack anything else for the trip. And given that mummy may need things like clothes, toiletries and perhaps a passport, she relented. Darn those airplane luggage weight restrictions.

Nigella's Chocolate Gingerbread Cake was suggested. Apparently mummy’s magic words were “chocolate,” “ginger,” “bread,” and “cake.” Who knew?

Dutiful (well, not-so-dutiful) chocoholic daughter baked the cake (sans ginger aley icing). Chocoholic mummy double-wrapped it and put it alongside the pile of things to be packed.

Unfortunately far too many things were in that pile...and the cake was left behind.

Mummy was not happy…is it cruel to say I was?

Besides…this cake qualifies for
Sugar High Friday #27: Chocolate by brand, hosted by David Lebovitz.

He wants to know why we used the chocolate we did.

Hmmm…is it permissible to say that I used
Fry’s Cocoa and Callebaut Chocolate morsels because it’s what I had on-hand?

Fry’s is my standard cocoa powder. The big scary megamart doesn’t stock many brands and the others I tried just don’t taste right. My favourite gourmet shop carries
Valrhona cocoa, but I only buy that when there’s something super special happening.

This autumn I noticed that the bulk food shop carries Callebaut semi-sweet morsels. Normally I buy the blocks and chunk them up into cookies and other things, so I was quite happy to find these extrusions. I used them in some chocolate-chocolate chip cookies a couple of months ago and they were amazing—not at all waxy like other morsels.

It’s a very good and addictive cake—and I think perfect for cooler months: spicy, malty and chocolatey and studded with morsels of bittersweet goodness. I’ve been serving it (yes, I still have a wee bit left) with whipped cream or a bit of ice cream…and the occasional breakfast. Zap it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to soften the morsels.

Edit: Click here for info on SHF#28: Sweet Seduction.


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21 January 2007

I declare...

New Year, new foodish project.

I declared 2006 as "not so vanilla." I posted about growing and harvesting that wondrous pod and its thousands of minute seeds. I conducted a highly unscientific study of extracts, serving my friends many iced fairycakes. I even dipped my toes into savoury usess. Not everything was successful...not everything was tasty...but it was quite fun. If you missed the year-end round-up, here's the link.
This autumn I noticed how many times a dish was saved by one thing--its sauce. In fact foods that were at best mediocre were sometimes made amazing by a ladle of this or a soupçon of that. More times than I care to mention the sauce was the cook's crutch--an attempt to disguise an overcooked or poorly flavoured slab of meat or a freezerburnt slice of cake. Then again, every once in a while I'd have a perfectly lovely slice of of something, only to have it ruined by a poorly performed sauce.
These experiences got me to thinking. Sauces are ubiquitous--sometimes as condiments, sometimes as integral parts of a meal. They can appear to be complex--hours of simmering with a cupboard full of this and that or they can be as simple as herbed butter.
I'm not much of a sauce maker--that is to say, I don't make that many sauces. Yes, there was the hard sauce this past Christmas, and I do make a perfectly palatable roasted tomato sauce, but there really isn't much more to my saucemaking abilities than that. Let me qualify that...sauces made as part of a dish (curries, for example) don't mystify me...but side sauces--poured over a meat or ice cream are usually courtesy of my big scary megamart (or friendly little gourmet shop).
I'm not totally delusional...I know there is no way for me to explore every iteration of of every type of sauce this year, or possibly this decade. What I do hope to do is simply explore some sauces and condiments and possible ways to use them. Of course project includes both sweet and savoury sauces.
So...with all that said, I hereby declare 2007: Oh you saucy thing.

17 January 2007

Menu for Hope III: Raffle Winners Announced

Pim posted the Menu for Hope III winners list on the 15th. Here are the winners for Canadian-sponsored prizes:

CA01 Tea for Hope
kayenne, for Treenie B.

nibbles and sips for holiday entertaining
Sara Reynolds

Banner Makeover

A Taste of Waterloo County
Me (that's the name on the ballot, not me...)

East Coast Cookery

Serious Chilean bread

Baker’s Bounty

Bring Dorie Home with You

Culinary Calgary to Go

An Endless Banquet of Goodies

Artisanal Goodness from Kayak Soup

Susur: A Culinary Life

The Ultimate Chocolate Tasting Kit
Lourdes Lopez

Home-made Morsels of Loveliness

Food That Really Schmecks

Juicy Celebrations
Sara Reynolds

Nova Scotian Goodness

And now, les fine prints.
Instructions for the winners:

  • Visit the blog which hosts the prize or prizes you've won (just click on the prize name) and let the blogger know that you're the lucky winner of his/her fabulous prize.

  • Please be sure to use the same email address you gave us on your donation form. The email address will identify you -and not any other 'Liz'- as the real winner.

  • You are responsible for contact the blogger and providing him/her with the shipping information so the prize could be mailed to you.

  • Then sit back and wait, your prize should be mailed to you shortly.

Instructions for the donating bloggers:

  • For bloggers hosting prizes with the code prefixes AP, CA, EU, and UC, please contact Brett at In Praise of Sardines to verify the email address of the winner of each of your prize.

  • For bloggers hosting prizes with the code prefixes UE, UW and WB, please contact Fatemeh at Gastronomie SF to verify the email address of the winner of each of your prize.

  • Please ship your prize(s) to the winner(s) promptly.

Got a problem or question?

Please contact the following Menu for Hope Prize Managers:
For prize codes AP, CA, EU, and UC, please contact
Brett at In Praise of Sardines.
UE, UW and WB, please contact
Fatemeh at Gastronomie SF.
Or you can also
contact Pim directly


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15 January 2007

You have got to see this

Thanks to the exbf for passing on the link...a must see for JRR Tolkien fans...and candy fans...and people who love building things out of candy.



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A Day That Really Schmecks Part II: Invitation

I organized A Day That Really Schmecks to celebrate Edna Staebler--her spirit, sense of humour, and of course her food.

As people were posting their recipes and thoughts, word started filtering through about this little project. I’ve received a couple of emails from people wondering if they could participate.

Well, of course they can participate—and so can you.

Here’s how in four easy steps:

• Prepare your favourite Edna recipe or share an Edna story. The recipes don’t have to be from Food That Really Schmecks, they can be from any of Edna’s books. In fact, if after you've read the write-ups from the other post and you feel you've a recipe that captures Edna's spirit or simple and delicious cooking, you can post that as an honorary Edna recipe.
• Publish your post by Monday, 29 January.
• If you can, please photograph your dish and include it in the post.
• Email the link and photograph to me at cardamomaddict at gmail dot com (you know…replace the “at” and the “dot” with their appropriate symbols).

I’ll post the round-up a few days later. Who knows, maybe we can make January a month that really schmecks ;)



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15 January: A Day That Really Schmecks

You read the title correctly. Today is a day that really schmecks.

“Okay,” I hear you say “What do you mean—“schmecks” and why, today of all days, is it a schmecksy day?”

Schmecks is a word that Mennonites use to mean tasty…flavourful…yummy. On this date, back in 1906, a dear person named Edna Staebler was born.

Edna, amongst other writings, authored Food That Really Schmecks a popular cookbook that chronicled Waterloo County Mennonite cooking. It not only captures a way of cooking, but a way of life, and sets for us--the reader--the scene at the market or kitchen table. She was both a national and local treasure with a sparkly personality and a joyous wit. She passed away this past September at the age of 100.

At one of our dinners she told me Wilfrid Laurier University Press was in the midst of re-issuing Schmecks. Thanks to the wonderful people at the Press, I secured some copies to distribute to a few bloggers for a little event I’ve entitled "A Day That Really Schmecks" to celebrate Edna and, as she put it, “irresistibly good-schmecking (tasting) food.”

The bloggers I approached were enthusiastic and willing to participate. Thanks to all of them for making this event happen. I think we all had a good time with the recipes and enjoyed Edna's words and the pictures she painted with them. They all had free run of the book and made what appealed to them. I hope you’ll visit their sites because they all did a fabulous job. I
f you want to know more about the book, Canada Eats has posted my review of this classic Canadian cookbook.

Ada’s Crisp Biscuits and Cheese Rolls at Once Upon A Feast
Ruth was taken back to memories of cooking with her Great Aunt Mima…and writes about the joys of baking with someone who bakes by feel.

Baked Carrots at Food Maven
I think Rachel was bang-on about Schmecks reading like an old family cookbook, complete with marginalia. This veggie dish’s simplicity is just what’s needed in today’s busy life…

Beef Stew at La Mia Cucina
Given how chilly it is right now, I think Lis’ take on Edna’s beef stew is just what’s needed—warming and hearty, complete with Lis’ own charm.

The Best Vegetable Soup I’ve Ever Tasted at The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz
With a title like that, how could Paz resist? My favourite line from the post: “Look, mom! I’m making Mennonite Country food!”

Cheese Rolls at Cream Puffs in Venice
Ivonne, being the talented and inspired baker that she is, took Edna’s advice to heart and made her own variation of Edna’s cheese rolls.

Coconut Cloud Cake (from Serena Shantz) at the Cooking Diva
Melissa read a couple of our posts and decided she had to get involved—such is Edna's drawing power! Paz provided the recipe and Melissa came up with this gorgeous cake.

Cream Schnitz Pie and Cream-and-Crumb Schnitz Pie at Dewey’s Treehouse
Mama Squirrel’s post discusses pie making, the Waterloo County way, and includes a note she received from Edna several years ago.

Jam Jams at The Domestic Goddess
Jennifer’s sentimental meditation on childhood, and how her mum passed on a love of Schmecks was inspiration for her recipe choice.

Maple Syrup Cake and Soft Maple Icing at sweet pleasure:plaisir sucré
I was curious as to what Sam would make, as there are lots of sweet pleasures from which to choose. Without doubt, Edna would have been impressed.

Rigglevake Kucha at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict
I decided to retell the controversies of a simple and delicious little cookie that started a war.

Tzvivelle Rivel Soup and Cheese Rolls at i like to cook
Sara’s having a grand old time reading and cooking from Schmecks and posted about her two favourite dishes thus far.

Now...because of the work of all these wonderful people, I've recieved a couple of notes from readers and foodbloggers wanting to do something to celebrate Edna.

If you are interested in participating, then read this.


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13 January 2007

A Day That Really Schmecks: the cookies that caused a war

Before Edna Staebler died last September, she told me Wilfrid Laurier University Press will re-issue her first cookbook, Food That Really Schmecks. The cookbook, a favourite in many kitchens across Canada and beyond, was first published in 1968 and provided readers and cooks alike a glimpse into Waterloo County Mennonite life. Thanks to the wonderful people at the Press, I secured some copies to distribute to a few bloggers for A Day That Really Schmecks, a foodblogging event that celebrates Edna and, as she put it, “irresistibly good-schmecking (tasting) food.” I’ll be posting a round up on 15 January, on what would have been her 101st birthday. My review for Canada Eats will be posted shortly.

Selecting a recipe to write about was at once difficult and easy: difficult, because this 334-page book is filled with mouth-watering recipes for simple and hearty foods that run the gamut from Apfelstruedel to Zucchini; easy, because of one point in time, when our dear Edna was caught in something called The Cookie War.

Let me explain.*

From the late 1970s to early 1980s North American corporate cookiedom was obsessed with manufacturing cookies that were both soft and crispy. Proctor and Gamble “patented” a recipe in the USA in 1979 (1984 in Canada). When Nabisco began baking similar cookies, P&G sued for infringement of copyright.

“So what?” I can hear some of you say…

You see, they were both using Edna’s Rigglevake Kucha recipe that was published in Schmecks.

Rigglevake is a Pennsylvania Dutch word meaning “railway.” No one knows how these dark and light pinwheel cookies were named railway cookies. It could be because the biscuit’s spiral is reminiscent of a steam locomotive’s wheels as they ride the tracks. The cookies are at once crisp (from the white swirl) and soft (from the molassesy dark swirl).

In 1983 one of Nabisco’s lawyers called Edna about the rigglevake recipe (the call wasn’t returned—E was busy and forgot). The following year, a lawyer for Proctor and Gamble visited her about the recipe. Edna talked to Bryan Dare, (of Dare Cookies) about this. He explained that a published recipe could not be patented…Nabisco tried to prove the recipe Edna published (one received from her Mennonite friends), were crisp and chewy while Proctor and Gamble argued her recipe wasn’t the recipe they were using.

Lawyers from both sides, some from Toronto others from New York, visited Edna at her home in Sunfish Lake, and brought her Old Order Mennonite friends lovely gifts such as cookies, plants and Cuisinarts.** Edna was wined and dined at fine restaurants and some of her Mennonite friends were paid $20/hr to bake cookies (and occasional shoofly and schnitz pies) for the lawyers. Lawyers, being lawyerly took rigglewakes back to the office to be dissected (or eaten or both dissected and eaten) and approached Mennonites about being court witnesses.*** Throughout all of this, the lawyers seemed to really like the Mennonites; one lawyer called meeting Mennonites a “metaphysical experience.” ****

Edna was invited to Delaware and to New York. One lawyer suggested that if Edna were to go, the lawyer would go up to Sunfish Lake to take care of Edna’s cats. She declined both offers. And why not? Not only was Edna in NYC 30 years previous and really didn’t think it held a candle to either London or Paris, but her darling kitties would not be in the care of some lawyer from New York: “Imagine a lawyer looking after my cats!...[the same lawyer who] left cookies in the oven for half an hour!”—yes, one of the New York lawyers, who’d never baked before, decided to make rigglevakes and produced singed discs.

Canadian writer June Callwood was the first to call the entire affair a cookie war in a 1985 Globe and Mail article: even though blood wasn’t shed “the other traditional elements of human warfare are manifest: the combat is expensive; it is fundamentally silly; it is about money, vanity and power; and the people who declared war aren’t doing the fighting. Their lawyers are.”

The story was picked up by Canadian Press, the local newspaper and CBC Radio’s Morningside. Edna received calls from radio stations across Canada and the US. Reporters from Harpers, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal interviewed her. CBC-TV’s The Fifth Estate produced a segment about the issue, contrasting the goals of big business against the idyll of Edna’s life. She even received, and declined, an invitation to appear on The Jay Leno Show—much to the befuddlement of the show’s producers.

Edna, being Edna, didn’t care who won or lost the legal wranglings and got on well with both sides. All this was nonsense to her and her friends.

The entire episode finally came to an end in 1989, when Edna decided to support Nabisco, and the dispute was settled out of court.

Here’s the recipe for the cookies that started a war. Alternate measurements are in parentheses) ...

Rigglevake Kucha (Railroad Cookies)
From Food That Really Schmecks by Edna Staebler, originally published in 1968 (p193), reissued by Wilfrid Laurier Press in 2006 (p215); reproduced with permission from Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

Light part
1 c sugar (200g)
1 egg
1c butter (225g)
½ c milk (125ml)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp vanilla

Dark part
1c sugar, brown (170g)
1c butter (225g)
1c molasses (275g)
½ c water (125ml)
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla

Enough flour in each part to make dough easy to handle (see note)

Mix the light and dark parts in separate bowls. Blend the sugar and butter for both parts. For the light part beat in the egg then alternately add the milk vanilla and baking powder sifted with flour. For the dark part add to the butter-sugar mixture the molasses, water and vanilla alternately with soda and enough flour.

Break off pieces of dough from both dark and light parts, shape them into rounds and roll hem separately about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Put on top of the other and roll up like a jelly roll and slice off pieces as thinly as you can. Place on greased cookie sheets and bake at 350 degrees (F) (170C) till done.


  • The amount of flour you need will depend upon your kitchen’s mood. I did try and weigh out how much flour I wound up using but, well… I recommend starting with 280g (2 cups) of flour sifted with the bicarb or powder (as requisite) and then add more as you need it. What you want is a dough that doesn’t stick and rolls out well, as if you were doing cut-out cookies.
  • Baking time depends upon how thickly you slice the rounds, with (of course) thicker rounds taking longer to cook than thinner rounds. Check after 15 minutes—you want the bottoms to be tinged to a golden hue.
  • This is a perfect “no-waste” cookie dough: press together scraps of the light and dark doughs, roll to about 7-8 cm and slice—you’ll get a lovely marbled biscuit…mind you , if you don’t feel like making the jelly roll, you can do this instead.
  • These biscuits expand, so it is wise to keep them small/well spaced.

* Summarized from Veronica Ross’ To Experience Wonder: Edna Staebler, A Life, and conversations I had with Edna last year.
** A point to those of you who can figure out what’s wrong/hilariously funny about this.
***Another point to those of you who can figure out what’s wrong/hilariously funny about this.
****I always giggle when I hear of city slickers going off to the Hinterland to find enlightenment…I guess I’m just lucky that I know life can be happy and peaceful outside of skyscrapers, traffic jams and frozen dinners.

Thanks to Wilfrid Laurier University Press for providing the "cookie eyes" photo of Edna. It was taken in 1987, when the war was still waging...



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10 January 2007

My Cleo...

Some of you know this, but for those of you who don't...

This is my darling Cleo*. He** saw me across a busy street and decided that he was going to live with me (or at least get regular access to me). He saw that I usually visited a certain house and would cry on the front porch until we (the exbf and I) came out. Somehow, this black and white ball of fluff joined the brood...I knew he claimed me as his one and only when one evening, when the exbf was teasing me incessantly (as he is wont to do) and I growled at the man...Cleo thought I was being attacked and came to my rescue, getting into "attack" posture. Since then, he has been my champion. I know, it's a bit of a boy-meets-girl-story...

Almost every time I visit, he's there, with a constant purr that could rival a diesel engine--and I do mean almost every time...I think he hasn't been at my side three times in eight years. He gazes at me, miaos for attention (if I'm reading or something), stretches out a padded, furry paw and then hops up to settle in for a snooze or a cuddle. He is the most calming influence I have in my life.

Christmas Eve he got into trouble--his lungs filled up with fluids and if he weren't already at the vet's for a bit of a "spa treatment" he may not have survived. We took him back to the exbf's after Boxing Day and things seemed to be getting better. The vet, a wonderful and kind person, doesn't know what's really happening to my darling little Cleo--it's not cancer, it's not heart disease. What it is is lymph fluids and fats getting into his lungs, causing him to drown. How and why are mysteries.

Dr. B commented on his eyes--they aren't like regular cat eyes--they're almost human. In them she sees the lives of a 1000 cats. She knows there's something there...I know there's something there too.

As I said, he seemed to be getting better.

Yesterday, Cleo got in distress again, panting heavily and not moving well. The exbf took him to the vet's. Within an hour, Cleo let out a wail that cat specialists know as the wail of a cat that can't breathe and is about to pass on. She saved his life again...he bounces back, but breathing is hard. Dr. B's a strong-willed woman who won't let him pass (if she has any say in this). His motorboat runs when I'm in the room. He knows what the oxygen tank is and that he feels better when it's near.

He also tries to escape his cage and wander down the hallways and visit the other cats who aren't doing nearly as well. He's that sort of being...

We may be able to take him home soon, but until then he'll remain at the hospital, and we'll visit nightly, hoping to see him the next day...hoping to hear him the next day...

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*No, I haven't forgotten that this is a food blog...but my mind has been elsewhere as of late...

**Yes, "he." We thought Cleo was a female because of behaviours, but when Dr. B met him, she corrected us--but he responded to Cleo, and didn't mind the name, so "Cleo" he will always be.

07 January 2007

Persian Cardamom Biscuits

Well....I've "upgraded" my blogger accounts. I can't say it was painless--the system didn't accept my Gmail accounts, so I had to come up with a new one...I'm sure it made sense to someone at Google/Blogger/Gmail/Whatever. I've spent part of today and yesterday playing with the new features (Sensual Gourmet: Kitchen Diaries is my testing site for this)--much more user-friendly, but I seem to have lost my banner. I'll need to play with it some more, I think.

Back to business at hand.

It's been a while since I last posted a cardamom recipe--mea culpa, mea culpa--things got a tad busy last month :)

For our office cookie exchange, I searched for a Swedish cardamom biscuit recipe. I found several, but the one I followed wasn't Scandinavian in root, but Persian.

Last year I bought a copy of Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid's Homebaking: The artful mix of flour and tradition around the world. Beautifully photographed--quite honestly, if you weren't a baker or a cook, you could easily use it as a coffeetable book--this hefty tome is a record of baking traditions around the world. I hadn't cooked from it before (for fear that something so beautiful would be cullinarily useless), so I was rather hesitant to try this recipe.

I really shouldn't have been timid --the biscuits turned out beautifully. Light and crisp, and beautifully snowy white, this shortbread alternative was a definite hit (at the office, with friends and at home). These are very delicate cookies--too much of a jostle will cause them to crumble. I wouldn't recommend them for a cookie exchange, but they do dress up a sweet platter quite nicely.

Persian Cardamom Biscuits
Adapted from Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duiguid's Homebaking: the artful mix of flour and tradition around the world

225g very, very soft unsalted butter OR 1 cup melted unsalted butter
110g icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
3/4 tsp ground cardamom seeds OR freshly and finely ground seeds from five or six cardamom pods
275g very soft, rice flour mixed with a pinch of salt
2 Tbsp chopped pistachio nuts
gold dragees

Cream together butter and sugar until it's a very pale primrose yellow. Mix in the yolk and the cardamom. Add the flour mixture about a half-cup at a time, scraping down the bowl after every two additions. If it's too stiff for your mixer, turn it out onto a lightly floured (with rice flour) surface and knead by hand for a few minutes. You're looking for a very soft dough that's similar to a buttercream icing that's speckled with cardamom. Wrap the dough in cling film, and pop it into the fridge for anywhere from two to 12 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350F/190C oven and place two racks in the oven--one just above and the other just below the centre position. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper (parchment/waxpaper).

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into thirds--wrap two pieces and put them back into the fridge. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll them into balls and place them onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten them slightly and make sure to leave at least 2.5cm between cookies (they do spread quite a bit). With a thimble or a fork (what I use is a meat mallet) gently press a pattern onto the biscuit tops. Sprinkle and pat on some of the pistachio and dragees.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until the biscuit bottoms have turned a very light brown. Rotate the racks at about the 8 minute point.

Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before transferring them with a wide spatula to a wire rack for cooling. Like many delicate shortbreads, these will crumble if not given the respect they deserve, so be careful when transferring them to the rack. After they've cooled thoroughly, you can transfer them to an airtight container.

  • Use the softest rice flour you can find for this, otherwise you might end up with a "gritty" biccie.



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05 January 2007

Busy as a...

...hive of bees...even if they are made of marzipan.

Just a heads up, I'll be switching to the "new" Blogger format this weekend, so your reader may have problems picking up the feed.

If you don't hear from me by Tuesday, please check in--I know some of the Blogger blogs I follow dropped of my rss reader after they made the switch...

If worse comes to worst, you can always check the home page at www.sensualgourmet.ca as my wonderful Web guru is keeping an eye on things...


PS -- Yes, I used this as an excuse to re-post my favourite foodie pic from 2006...
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02 January 2007

A tail of two kitties

For those of you who wondered where some of the hard sauce went...

Hello all you luvly humman cats! Did you have a good Christmouse? I had a very good Christmouse.

You see, Gramma gave me lots of love things to eat, including turkey. I love turkey almost as much as I love roast chicken. It was so yummy, but it wasn't spicy enough for me. I like lots of ginger and black pepper on my meat. Still, beggers can't be chewsers, right?

Anyway, the best part of Christmouse was dessert. I normally don't get dessert because my humman-cat (you know her as Jasmine) doesn't like to give me dessert...or any yummy food. Only Gramma really cares for me. She cares for me so much I got a little bowl of something that looked like cream.

But it wasn't cream. It was very sweet and after a few licks I got all funny and started dancing and miaowy. All the humman-cats were laughing (well, all except for Jasmine because she was busy with something--she didn't see me). Anyway, Gramma told me this was special cream for her special pudding. She had a funny name for it--"hard sauce" It wasn't hard at all--it was soft and sweet and it tasted weird but good. It was so good that I had to go and tell my kitty friends about it. But they got scared and I went back to Gramma, but she didn't give me any more cream. The end. PS.I didn't do anything bad.

Hello. My name is Hagia--and before you ask, that's pronouced Ha-zja.

I've seen you before--usually when my little Jasmine is writing to you. I just sit here and keep her company. Sometimes I just tell her how my day went--she always listens to me and her Catonese is quite good for a human. She asked me to tell you what happened on Christmas.

Everyone was over for Christmas, but I'm shy, so I stayed in our bedroom. I was having a nice snooze under the bed when all of a sudden, I heard a big galumphing sound.

It was that big, mean, greedy bully Bean.

He doesn't like me.

He waited for me to poke my nose out from underneath the bed and he growled at me! And then he tried to pick a fight. He smelled funny and he wasn't standing straight. I don't know what made him more mean than normal. He tried to beat me up! I'll tell you right now, I growled right back and then I hit him in the nose! And you know what? He went crying to Gramma! For once she didn't believe him...

Yes, Mummy got Beanie drunk. No, I didn't know she was doing this.

Beanie is a mean drunk. I wonder if AA has a feline division.


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