30 December 2005

2005 in review

Greetings all...

During the past few days I've found a few nutrition/food year in review articles...yes, I'm being lazy by not compiling my own but, well, turkey-induced lethargy still has a hold on me...the usual caveats re: subscriptions apply:

28 Dec 05: The Globe and Mail -
Revelations kept coming in 2005
28 Dec 05: Toronto Star -
2005 Golden Whisk Awards (mmmm...banoffee)
Slashfood: Look for articles called "Top food stories of 2005"

And, of course The Scotsman's
Oddblog (you may need to register but (I think) if you are outside of Scotland or the UK you may not have to pay for it...I don't).

Anyway, that's it for me in 2005. Hope your New Year's hooplas are
sparkly and safe. Thanks so much for visiting me this year and I hope you come back in 2006.

photocredit: morguefile


29 December 2005

Virgina, let's chat

If you ever wondered what happened to the biscuits you left out on Christmas Eve:


Thanks to the exbf for telling me about this...must go re-examine my entire view of Christmas and seriously think of leaving out carrots next year.


27 December 2005

And now the fun begins

Thank goodness for leftovers...and generous parents :)

Spent part of yesterday making turkey pot pies from the uneaten bits of Christmas Dinner. I declared 2005 "The Year of the Tart" and I was bound and determined to make a decent pastry. Well...I'm better than I was a year ago, but I still need more practise--don't have a food processor, so its all done by hand--I simply have to keep in mind that I'm not making bread dough (grin).

The pastry is a basic short crust--for eight "medium" meat pie tins: 600g pastry flour, 200g shortening, 100g butter and iced water. The filling was a combination of turkey, veg, gravy and a spoon of cranberry sauce in each pie. Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake at 350 until done.

I still have more turkey meat around...should get back at it...



26 December 2005

Oh, I'm sooooooo full

A few piccies from thie year's Christmas feast...my Mum, as usual, outdid herself:

The bird (quoting Mummy: "I don't believe in skinny slices..."):

The trimmings: mixed veg, carrot salad, corn fritters, mashed potatoes, stuffing...plus cranberry sauce and an overflowing (!) gravy boat...

and plum pudding for dessert:

Why all the pictures? Father Christmas was very kind and got me my own digital camera...so of course, I went kitty-chasing..yeah, and it's a good opportunity to (re-)introduce you to the cats:

Hagia and Zeus

And if my pictures don't get any better, it's because Beanie is using the manuals as a pillow :

Now that I've received a tonne of leftovers, off I go making turkey pot pies to last me through the winter...and possibly spring...stay tuned.

Happy Boxing Day everyone!

22 December 2005

Santa, baby

with apologies to J. Javits and P. Springer and (of course) Eartha Kitt...

Santa baby, slip some saffron under the tree, for me
I've been an awfully good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, a spiffy Kitchen Aid mixer too, light pink
I don’t care what they think
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Think of all the nosh I’d make
From cinnamon buns to red velvet cake, mmm
Next year I could be oh so good
If you'd please cure my kitchen’s ache
Boo doo bee doo

Santa honey, I want some balsamico too,
What’ll I do?
I've been an angel all year
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa cutie, my kitchen’s a cul’nary mess, oh yes
Fresh white truffles are best
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Santa baby, please come stock my shelves with E V O O, uh-huh
And fleur-de-sel, as well
Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Come and fill my cupboard racks
With all Nigella’s Living Kitchen’s knick-knacks
I really do believe in you
Let's see if you believe in me
Boo doo bee doo

Santa baby, I missed one small can, caviar from Iran
Honey, that’s the plan
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Hurry down the chimney tonight
Hurry down the chimney tonight



20 December 2005

A heated addiction

Still not quite up to my preferred heat leve...but hopefully soon.

This article caught my attention (thanks to eGullet)...plus it comes with a chili recipe that uses chocolate...mmm chillies and chocolate:




19 December 2005

Slowly recovering

Still feeling off, but no longer totally put off by food.

Minty things are always a good thing when my tum isn't quite right. I found these minty nummies when taking a brain break earlier today...must put them on the list to try when I'm back to tippy-top shape.

Here's the link to post:


17 December 2005


Had the second company Christmas lunch on Thursday. Haven't felt well since...don't even want to look at food.


photo credit: wikipedia

15 December 2005

CX2005 Round up

Although the virtual cookie swap was fun, a real one is so much better..if only because we actually get to eat the cookies. This is the fourth cookie exchange (CX) I've organized at work...all home-made (no squeezy dough in sight!) and I think it was the best so far.

Starting from the back left:
Biscotti by Monica
Chocolate Chunk Mint Meltaways by Martina
Gingerbread by Jackie
Italian Marscapones (square with purple) by Christine
Vanilla Biscuits (blue) by moi
Gingercrinkles (light brown and white)by Heather
Pecan caramel shortbreads (chocolate stripes) by Marilyn
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chips by Sarah
Crispy Truffles (chocolate) by Sandy
Peanut Blossoms (with the big chocolate kiss in the centre) by Mary
Buttery Lace by Leslie (and Pat)



13 December 2005

Of sparklers and pops

Now that my class is over I'm able to go through some of my email.

Jen checked into the pop rock truffles I keep writing about.

"They're called Pop Chocolates (if you buy them in the box) or Sparklers (if you get them out of the display case).
They've got two types, white chocolate with raspberry milk chocolate filling (pictured left), or dark chocolate with orange cranberry filling. A box of 10 is $27, with five of each type inside. "

Good news for those of us who aren't in a city with a Godiva--Chapters also sells the boxes--same price as above.



12 December 2005

How Jann Arden got me to rediscover cinnamon buns

Last month I got to see Jann Arden in concert. All I have to say is If you ever have an opportunity to see her live, take it--she's smart, has a lot of fun on stage and she sings great stuff. One thing she's great at is the inter-set banter...that night a good part of it around cinnamon buns.

Mmmm...cinnamon buns.

It's been years since I made them. Don't get me wrong, I eat them. I probably eat more than I should...Cinnabons, St. Cinnamon, Tim's, Farmer's Market...all good sources for lovely pastry treats. By far, Cinnabons is my favourite, but their only problem is how overly sweet they are: I wind up splitting a bun into two or three portions and, over a few days, slowly make my way through them. If I don't eat them like that, the inevitable migraine has me seeing spots and seeking refuge in a very quite and extremely dark room.

Anway, after the concert I decided to make some buns. But out of the 50-some-odd cookbooks on my shelves I only had ONE recipe for them. I thought they were a staple... I guess I was wrong. When I started going through it, the flour to yeast ratio seemed...well...off.

So I asked a bunch of baker friends for their recipes...I might as well have asked for a Lotto ticket worth $24 million...no one seemed to have a recipe. Many have left their cinnamonny cravings to squeezy doughs a la Pillsbury...how depressing is that?

Thus began the quest.

I really didn't want anything as cloying as what's the chain stores...nor did I want anything as sticky as what they offered. I wanted something slightly sweet, with a nice crumb and a little ... zingy. I have a thing for orange marmalade, so I mixed it into the dough and then used a little with the filling. I also wanted the crunch of toasted nuts with a little bit of spicy heat to them.

"Why do you have to fiddle with something doesn't need changing?"

Yeah, The Fussy Eater wasn't necessarily a fan of my plan.

What I ended up with was a a really lovely little bun that was lightly orange flavoured. I kept the flour to yeast ratio that my recipe suggested and improvised the rest--it produced a tender crumb that passed Christine's tear test. The guinea pigs liked the cranberry and spiced pecans. Definitely a hit.

What of The Fussy Eater? Well, it was hard to tell...since his mouth was full of pastries...but I take it that the "what do you mean there are none left" whimper meant he'd be willing to try them again.

Orange-Cranberry Pecan Cinnamon Buns

For the dough:
575g ap flour
3T quick-rise yeast
0.5t salt
2T granulated sugar
125g butter
375mL whole fat milk
60mL orange marmalade

For the filling:
150g pecans, chopped, toasted in butter, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and salt
125g dried cranberries
75g light brown sugar
125g butter, softened
2t cinnamon
0.25t nutmeg
2T orange marmalade

For the glaze
1 well-beaten egg

Putting it together:
For the dough: In a small pot, melt together the butter and marmalade, stirring slowly. When the jelly and butter are totally melted, take the pot off the heat and let cool slightly. Stir the butter mixture into the milk—check the temperature—you want it to be approximately hand-hot. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar, and then mix in the warm liquid mixture. Knead mixture until the dough is soft and elastic. Form a ball and place in an oiled bowl; cover and let rise for 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in volume.

For the Filling: Mix together the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and marmalade until you get a smooth and consistent paste. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425F; butter a 9”x13” baking dish. Take the risen dough and press it into a 10” x 20” rectangle. Spread the butter mixture and then the nuts and cranberries on the dough, making sure to cover the entire surface. Roll the short side of the dough, so that you have a long, 20” log. Cut pieces that are 0.75” long and place snugly in the buttered dish, spiral-side up. Brush with beaten egg. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the buns are golden brown.


cinnamon buns piccie: The Fussy Eater


08 December 2005

This is so weird I can't think of a title...

Okay...someone please explain to me how someone could mistake a chunk of cheese for a brick of blow...


And yes, I know the piccie is that of camembert and not queso...

photocredit: morguefile



06 December 2005

16 years later

Geneviève Bergeron (1968-1989)
Hélène Colgan (1966-1989)
Nathalie Croteau (1966-1989)
Barbara Daigneault (1967-1989)
Anne-Marie Edward (1968-1989)
Maud Haviernick (1960-1989)
Maryse Laganière (1964-1989)
Maryse Leclair (1966-1989)
Anne-Marie Lemay (1967-1989)
Sonia Pelletier (1961-1989)
Michèle Richard (1968-1989)
Annie St-Arneault (1966-1989)
Annie Turcotte (1969-1989)
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (1958-1989)

Special thanks to the exbf for compiling the list, when so many news outlets wouldn't.


A plum of a pudding

Today we had our departmental Christmas lunch. Given we were at one of those ubiquitous hotel chains, the food wasn’t entirely inedible and some of it was actually quite good.

What surprised me and one of the guys at my table was the dessert table had plum pudding. Not fruit cake, but plum pudding—complete with sauce…too bad it wasn’t flaming. I haven't had any in years--ever since I started making a sticky toffee pudding for the Jollyday supper a few years ago.

Anyway, this made me think back to something I wrote a couple of years ago. Actually, this was my first attempt at food writing…and given I’m embroiled in my final assignment of the year and trying to get my cookie baking done, I thought I’d just revisit said article instead of coming up with something new and Christmassy…

Separating food from December is, I think, nearly impossible and frankly, not a task I’m willing to do. From canapés to cakes, food is integral to how we celebrate. But which food best represents the holiday season, and more specifically, Christmas? We nibble shortbreads year-round, turkey with all its trimmings is shared with Thanksgiving and the much-maligned fruitcake is a traditional wedding cake.

The answer came in a flash—well, not a flash exactly...more like a flaming cannonball, perfumed with nutmeg and cinnamon, textured with currants and sultanas and thoroughly soused in brandy. It was, of course, the venerable Christmas plum pudding.

Testy terminology
Puddings, according to my
go-to book on all things foodish, are both a sweet course and a boiled or steamed flour and egg dish. And before you ask, those powdered packets flavoured with artificial or simulated chocolate, vanilla, pistachio etc. are a form of milk pudding, falling into the custard family of foods—perhaps more on that at a later time…And as for “plum” it was an olde-time term for fruits (currants, raisins, apples and whatever else) added to the pudding.

A bit of history
Today’s Christmas puds descended from Mediæval British pottages: savoury soup-like courses served early during a meal. They had bits of red meat, onions and root vegetables, herbs, spices and wine and were thickened with breadcrumbs. Trading routes allowed the additions of dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, currants and sultanas along with Eastern spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg. Over time, red meat was switched for white and was eventually lost all together, although suet used in modern recipes serve as reminders of the pudding’s beginnings. Root veg—save the odd carrot—also disappeared.

Originally eaten during Church feast days, pottages eventually became associated solely with Christmas. At one point they were outlawed because Cromwell and his lot thought the ceremonial flaming and the dish itself was highly decadent and too reminiscent of Britain’s pagan past; George I re-legalised it in 1714.

In truth, the Victorians should be thanked for really resuscitating the Christmas pudding: they were cheaper and simpler to make than cakes and accessible by nearly everyone (only the wealthy had ovens, but most people could boil or steam food). Today’s version changed little since the 19th century: suet, brown sugar, sultanas, currants, candied peel, crumbs, eggs, spices and alcohol steamed in either a pudding basin or bag, set alight and then served with a boozy sauce.

Preparing the pud
Plum puddings need to be cured, so a bit of advance preparation is needed. Here’s where recipes, cooks and mums tend to differ: curing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Traditionally “Stir Up Sunday”—the 25th Sunday after Trinity—was a reminder to prep the pud.

Personally, I’ve not the time to assemble a proper pudding, and more importantly, I lack the willpower to let that luscious treat cure for even the minimum time (for those of you who do, here’s a
link to Delia Smith’s Traditional Christmas Pudding recipe. She has other variants, so I really suggest you explore her site and try her recipes—I’ve never had any of her recipes fail).

Store-bought puddings, although convenient, do need a bit of spiritual guidance, usually in the form of brandy or rum (or if you’re my mum, Bailey’s Irish Cream—don’t ask). It’s important to remember that although the pudding is cooked, you will need to steam it again before serving. No, a zap in the microwave does not count (well, maybe if you want to heat leftovers for a midnight snack or breakfast…but only then). It’s also excellent served warm with ice-cold, really, really good vanilla ice cream—I’m sure purists are clucking at me, but I don’t apologize for putting ice cream on anything.


photocredit: Wikipedia


04 December 2005

Swapping cookies

Jen and Alberto, the organizers of the SHF-IMBB Virtual Cookie Swap have posted the entrants' recipes.

Take a look and vote for your faves (three per host site). Not sure when the deadline is (I thought I saw it somewhere, but can't quickly find it now...

Here are the addresses:



And yes, I've thrown my Pop Star cookies into the fray (you'll find Alberto's summary on Il Forno).



03 December 2005

Meaty issues

I was puttering around today and found a reference to SmartMoney.com's 10 things your butcher won't tell you on The Accidental Hedonist. Granted, it's a discussion of the state of US meat, but I wouldn't be surprised if things are strongly mirrored here in Canada.

Not-so-super supermarkets
Most of today's "butchers" are little more than meat salesmen, paid in accordance to profit guides at a supermarket's head office. A quarter-century ago, butchers were "skilled meat cutters used their muscle to break down whole carcasses and their know-how to ensure no scrap was wasted." Today's meat jockeys basically cut up "primals" into individual portions, shape, tie and grind meat for sale.

Because many supermarket meat departments no longer have butchers, they can't handle special orders. Thanks to "case-ready" meats, products are pre-packaged ready for sale for maximized profits. This means the 16-year old in the green apron behind the meat cold case doesn't know how to alter cuts. What you see is what you get. Don't think of asking for a boneless rack of lamb, or an extra-large sirloin.

From the factory to your fridge
An increasing number of meat salesmen are spending their time "preparing" it. If you go to the store's fresh meat department, you'll find a growing section devoted to pre-marinated meats (teryiaki chicken, honey-mustard pork etc). Of course, the added convenience of having someone else inject or soak the meat in what may be questionable solutions (various preservatives, salts, sugars...things ending in-ose, -ide etc) comes at a cost--the article cited a 31 per cent price hike for doctored pork versus straight pork in one store, but it all depends upon th store and what sort of competition it has. I live in the land of M&M Meats so finding a piece of unadulterated meat ... 'nuff said.

It's a well known thing in kitchen: fat adds flavour. When you think of what used to be considered a standard level of marbling ("veins" of fat running through a steak), today's cuts are almost positively monochromatic. When people became obsessed with getting the leanest cuts possible, they complained that meats became tasteless. The answer, or so thinks meat manufacturers (I'm not sure I can consider them farmers (or whatever)), was to brine the meats--injecting beef, pork, chicken and turkey with saltwater ("which often reaches 15% or more of the purchasing weight"). Meat processors argue customers want preseasoned foods because they"taste better" and save cooking time--oh yeah, the salty additions also extend meat's shelf life. I'm waiting for the first class-action in against injectors by people who's health has deteriorated as a result of of this.

You are what the animal eats
With an eye towards profits (I don't begrudge them this, but I do have a problem with the way it's done) most livestock are kept and slaughtered on factory farms, where animals eat corn- and soybean-based feed. But that's not all they eat: 10 to 30 per cent of what they munch is often radically different from what the animal would consume naturally--feathers, poultry manure and bedding are all acceptable in cattle feed, according to the US Food and Drug Administration. (I haven't checked Canadian standards). Up here, I found out that it can include a seafood meal--when was the last time you saw a cow fish for her calf's supper? Poultry may also be fed meat and bone meal ground down to an inexpensive, protein-rich powder that encourages fast growth...can anyone say "

The author warns of being fooled by "all natural" nor "free range" labelling as standards in no way reflect how the animal was raised, nor what it was fed. "Natural" means that the producers haven't added colours nor additives to the cuts after processing. The USDA lets chickens be labelled as "free range" if the birds have been given access to the outdoors, but they don't have to be outdoors.

You are what finds its way into your meat
Okay...let me say this. I think people are hypersensitive about bacteria and germs. I believe in keeping things clean, but some people are going way too far--I recently saw a TV show in which the host recommended giving washed dishes a two-minute soak in a bleach solution to make sure they were clean. Yes, I expect to get messages from people accusing me of being insensitive to the immuno-suppressed, the very old, the very young and those in the midst of breeding. All I think is that normal, relatively healthy, non-pregnant people don't necessarily need to spend their lives in hazard suits.

Buy things (meat, veg, whatever) in clean stores, in places where you think sanitation is taken seriously. The article had some scary stats on "critical deficiencies" re: insect, rodent, bird or vermin activity that could have caused contamination.

According to the article, ground beef, especially what's found in processed foods such as sausage and pizza toppings, is often extracted by a process called "advanced meat recovery," where carcasses are fed to a machine that strips soft tissue from bone--which may include spinal tissue (repeat question about prions). Another worry about ground beef is that during the grinding process and packaging, the meat is exposed to listeria, staphylococcus and salmonella-laidened air. Let's just say that USDA okays ground beef with 7.5% incidence of salmonella bacteria, versus just 1% for raw cuts. Either get your butcher to grind a raw cut or take it home and grind it yourself. Yes: if you cook meats to the point that these bugs are killed, chances are you'll be safer, but then you wind up with shoe leather.

I'll be honest, there were a couple of points about the Canadian Mad Cow and how non-US countries export meats to the USofA. It reads like protectionism and doesn't mention the Alberta cow that was diagnosed with Mad Cow may have originated from the US (then imported into Canada before rules and standards changed).

What to do?
Ask questions. If you are trying to be bought off with marketing, go somewhere else. Buy your meat from someone who knows what he/she is doing--find an owner-operated butcher shop (a la
Fred Elliott and Ashley Peacock) or go to your local farmer's market and make friends with the butcher. Chances are you'll find someone who can give you great advice. If you are buying ground beef, make sure they have a dedicated grinder for beef, one that doesn't handle pork or chicken.

Read up on what the the standards are for various labelling. In the US, "organic" meat means the animal's feed did not contain animal by-products, nor receive growth hormones. These animals must also have real, sustained access to the outdoors. I don't know what standards are elsewhere.

Last night's shopping trip
Last night I was pricing pork roasts as The Father of the Fussy Eater (who, himself is *not* a fussy eater) will be visiting this week and I'm thinking of making supper for us one night. *EVERY* cut available was labelled as "seasoned"--even the unpackaged stuff. I asked the meat jockey to get me an unseasoned piece and he brought in his manager to talk to me because he didn't know what I was talking about. The manager came out with all the marketing idoms of flavour and low-fat. I told her I didn't want something that was brined in a solution that I had no control over. She told me that "no one else has ever brought it up" and implied since there was no market for unadulterated meat, she wasn't able to help me.



02 December 2005

Pop Rock truffles defined

Thanks to Lys's sleuthing at candyaddict.com, what I deemed as "Pop Rock truffles" have been identified. They're Pop Chocolates at Godiva.

Here's the link:

Marketers call them "effervescent" I call them fizzy...eggplant, aubergine...they're just fun.

as always,


01 December 2005

Java Jolt

According to a somewhat flawed study at the Medical University of Innisbruk, the area of the brain that is tied to working memory (the ability to maintain and manipulate new bits of info) "lit up" shortly after the test subject had the equivalent of two cups-o-joe. At the same time, those caffeinated subjects outperfromed the caffeine deprived in doing tasks designed to test short-term and working memory.

The flaw is they didn't seem to note how much caffeine test subjects normally consumed--maybe two cups was all they'd usualy have in a week (I've heard of such people), maybe two cups was what they needed to figure out how to get out of bed in the morning...it kinda makes a difference in this sort of thing.

Oh well...I suppose this could be file under "stuff we kinda already knew, but someone actually needed to study it to justify our addictions."

Here's the link to the
Globe and Mail article--usual caveat about subscriptions...

as always,



30 November 2005

Pop Rock Truffles

Hi all

Received a message from Brian at
Candyaddict, asking about the Pop Rock truffles. I've emailed him back, but in case anyone else is wondering, here's the description:

The Godiva in question was the one on Bloor Street in Toronto. They had a sample plate of the bonbons out and, get this, they weren't for sale in the "pick and choose" case. IIRC, they were part of a box of preselected candies, and I think you only got *one* in the selection...quite unfair...I'm sorry, but I don't recall what *that* particular collection was called. I don't think it's part of Platinum, but I could be wrong.

The truffles they had out had a berry centre, into which the candies were mixed. I don't recall any distinguishable lumps, so I can only assume the candy was ground to a certain extent. They were enrobed in an ivory couverature with raspberry-red stripes. Similar fizzy truffles were also available in either milk or dark couverature (can't remember) with orange stripes. I didn't try the chocolate ones, so I don't know if they too were berry-flavoured, but The Fussy Eater had one. I just asked him if it was raspberry-flavoured or something different--he doesn't really remember but he thinks it could have been orange (which would make sense with the colours used).

Now...*I* call them Pop Rock truffles (because of the fizziness)...I'm sure if you ask the chocolatiers they'll have some swanky name for it...but all of us in the store agreed they were Pop Rocks. I quickly looked at Godiva's site when I originally posted, but couldn't find them...

I've emailed Jen to see if she can get me more info on them. If she can, I'll post it here.

as always,


27 November 2005

Revisiting our daily feed

This summer the Globe and Mail ran an article about Health Canada's latest Food Guide revision. Since then, I've been checking, from time to time, to see what's been added, what's been dropped, which lobbyists won and which ones lost.

So far it looks as if they are still working on it, and are now asking us commonfolk for our thoughts on the new guide--graphics, some bits on content, food groups, special needs etc. I took the longer survey, rather than the shorter one--not sure what will become of it, but if you are Canadian and want your say, you can visit this
link and take one of two surveys.

The first food guide, "the Official Food Rules," was introduced during WWII, 63 years ago. Its six foodgroups (Milk; Fruit; Vegetables; Cereals and Breads; Meat, Fish, etc.; and Eggs) acknowledged wartime food rationing, while while trying to to prevent nutritional deficiencies and improve Canadians's health . Since then the groups were downsized (rightsized? synergized? re-organized?...sounds like a corporate takeover/payroll shrinkening) to four and the types of foods recommend were changed (early versions mentiond offal), increased and decreased.

I'll probably write about it later, when the new guide is published, but until then, you can visit the Guide's History at:

Anway, if you've got the time and inclination, take the survey...

as always,


24 November 2005

This is what I need right now

I've been saving this one for a day like today...a really decadent ganache of a hot chocolate.

A snowstorm blew in and the roads are a mess--it usually takes me about 10 minutes to drive home from work, today it took almost 45. I desperately need new tires--slippy and slidey, wound up driving in low gear for the entire trip.

Need to get some work done on an assignment due on Monday. Enough procrastination.

And yes, this is my screensaver at work :)

To see the blog entry attached to the photo visit:

as always,


23 November 2005

Coffee with your Cap'n Crunch?

Brazil's Coffee Industry Association (Abic) is looking for 50 roasters to launch a pilot "Adopt-a-School" program, feeding breakfast to 1 million Brazilian school children aged six to 18.

The plan matches a roaster with a school of at least 500 students, providing the kids with a free breakfast of coffee, milk and bread; the estimated cost per school is 33,500 reais (US$15,000).

In Brazilian coffee-growing regions, children traditionally drink coffee from an early age.

Now *I'm* wondering if I can get Tim Horton's to adopt me :)

as always,



21 November 2005

Glamming it up

Ever since I discovered Pop Rock truffles at Godiva's the other week during my "I need to take a break otherwise I'm going to go mental" Toronto sojourn, I've been obsessed with the fizzy little candies.

This weekend I set aside for more destressing: playing in the kitchen, trying to come up with biscuit and bun recipes (which will be posted later). I was well armed with half a dozen packages of candy...to which The Fussy Eater immediately had visions of exploding cookies in the oven, biscuitty shrapnel embedded in walls and diners everywhere....

Even though I knew it wouldn't work if I mixed the Rocks into the dough, I tried it. To my surprise the wetness of the dough wasn't enough to set off the candy. At the half-way baking point, I opened the door (yes, I know, a no-no): everything looked normal..so far so good. At the 10-minute mark I took them out--the edges were a nice golden colour and the biscuits were cooked to the degree I like them (I don't care for the anemic-looking, raw-flour taste that seems to be all the rage in sugar cookie and shortbread baking).

But upon closer inspection what I thought would happen, did: the cookies' surface was pitted with traces of exploding candy. When they cooled a bit, I tried them. They tasted fine, but it seemed as if the "tropical punch" flavour had totally disappeared into the oven air...or somewhere...sigh. It would have been totally cool if I got it to work.

Oh well, back to Plan B (which was really Plan A, but curiosity got the better of me) and I baked a dozen plain biscuits and let them cool totally.

Given the candies I used were the bluey-green ones, I mixed them with blue, green and purple sugars. I mixed a bit of delphinium blue in with the icing, which turned the glaze a deep, pretty blue. When I did a full-cookie coverage of sparkles (as opposed to just the edges), they took on a sparkly, jewel-like quality (you can sort of see it in the photo, but they really looked phenomenal in real life--note use of past tense...all gone now!)

It worked...quite nicely. When you bite in to the cookie and let your mouth's moisture activate the candies, you get this really nice popping after a few seconds...explosive and sweet at the same time. Both Christine and Janet tried them the next day and candies popped when eaten, garnering two thumbs up.

For those of you who want to add a little glitz to your cookie jar, I've provided the recipe and instructions. Apart from allowing the cookies to totally cool before icing, the only other recommendations I have are to only open the candies when you are ready to use them (I opened them the day I made the dough (when I thought I'd be baking) and some of the poppyness was lost because of the humidity in the kitchen) and to lightly crush the candy so they go farther and don't stand out too much from the sugars.

When I found out that this month's SHF theme was the virtual cookie swap, I thought, simply for the fun-glitziness of this weekend's experiment, I would contribute them to the fray.

PopStar Cookies
Makes about four dozen, depending upon the size of the cookie cutters used

350g pastry flour
1tsp baking powder
200g granulated sugar
150g butter, at room temp
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar
food colouring
coloured, decorative sugars
4 packages Pop Rocks candy(9.5g each)

For the cookies
Cream together the butter and sugar; mix in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the flour and baking powder and then add to the wet mixture. Mix well.

Divide mixture into four portions, forming them into discs. Pop them into the fridge for three or four hours (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 350F; prepare baking sheets. Take out the dough and let rest on the counter for about 15-20 minutes. Working one disc at a time, roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness and cut out the stars. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until done. Allow to thoroughly cool on a wire rack before decorating.

To decorate
Mix a thin icing using the icing sugar, water and food colouring. In a flat-bottomed dish, mix the candies with sugar--you can decide the proportions, but I liked the effect of roughly half sugar and half candy.

Brush the cooled cookies with the icing; when they're just tacky (not too wet, but dry enough to have the topping stick without too much popping) cover the cookies with the sprinkly topping and allow to set.

as always,

photocredit: The Fussy Eater


18 November 2005

Pitcher this

Normally news reports about beer have enough staying power in my brain as a whole pint in my bladder: not long.

But enough sound bites and newsprint about
Homer Simpson's bevvie of choice came my way...it was hard *not* to notice.

Sounds totally disgusting to me, but, ech, to each her own.
The New Scientist has an article on Nestec's (yes, part of Nestle) non-alcoholic, fermented drinks that smell and taste like coffee, but has the body of beer (complete with foam); the mothercorp is currently trying to patent the process...or the drink...or whatever. And then I read on Slashfood that there's a real coffee beer made by Meantime Brewery which is a blend of beer and coffee for those who don't want a namby-pamby fermented coffee drink, but want beer.

Incan beer
The Globe and Mail's "Ancient empire built on beer" reports of archaeologists believing that women had more status in Incan and pre-Incan society than previously believed. Why? Because they brewed beer. Apparently elite Wari women, a people who lived in the central Andes from 600-1000ADE had an industrial-sized brewery, palace and temple in their elaborate city on a remote summit in southern Peru. Copious amounts (the brewery could brew 1800L) of chichi (a beverage made of fermented corn and Peruvian pepper-tree berries) at a time. The brewery was eventually sacrificed to the gods...why do I have a vision of Homer running and screaming "Noooooooooooooooooo!"

Strike beer off the naughty list
And lastly, if an apple a day will keep the doctor away, then
a beer a day is pretty darned good as well. Xanthohumol, micronutrient that has cancer-fighting properties, the stuff that helps give beer aroma and flavour, may also prevent breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancer cells. But the thing is, according to the radio report I heard, there really isn't much of the micronutrient in your average pint, so someone would have to drink an awful lot of the stuff to make it actually do something other than getting you drunk.

as always,


17 November 2005

Made it to the pub

The Fussy Eater was in tow.

Had the steak-and-Guinness pie and the chunky chips with gravy.

Had the sizzling mushrooms in a Thai-style sauce instead of the half-pint.

Skipped the whiskey bread pudding because the roads were bad (first snowfall of the year) and we didn't want to keep our friend waiting at the thee-a-tah.

Very happy now...life is better...

as always,


16 November 2005

File this under "common sense is no longer common"

This is depressing.

What you see, to the left, is "RipeSense" packaging. It's new to Canada (or Ontario...at the very least Toronto).

There's a sensor in the plastic that gauges the fruit's ethylene off-gassing (or according to the company "the flavour" (what's the plastic doing, licking the fruit to taste when it's ready to eat?...I don't want to eat pears covered in packaging slobber...who knows what else they've licked)) and then changes the dot's colour to match to the guide's "this colour means this is *this* ripe" colour swatch.

The added bonus to the plastic clamshell is that it protects fruit from bruising.

According to the company spokesperson, people can select the pear at the exact moment of ripeness and "eat it without fear" of biting into a hard or tasteless fruit.

I don't know about you, but I've never been afraid of biting into a hard fruit...because I know when I pick up a pear, I know whether it'll be to my preferred degree of ripeness. Yes, I have *that* special talent.

Okay, I'm being insensitive to all the underripenedfruitophobes in the world, I'm a horrible person and I should go find a therapist to help me be a more loving and tolerant person who's unquestioningly obedient to the whims of marketers...

This is so depressing in so many ways...overpackaging, further separation between foods and eaters...you name it. Has Marthaism really taken that strong a hold on us that we are afraid of imperfect fruit and veg?

Oh, and this extra assistance comes at a price: the pears in the moodring-like clamshell cost almost twice as much as those that you bag yourself.

Thanks, but no. I'll continue using my nose, hands and brains to let me know when that pear is ripe enough to eat.

as always,


15 November 2005


Gawd…all I could think of was heading to the pub, The Fussy Eater in tow, and getting a pint (okay, a half pint) of Guinness and tucking into a lovely steak-and-Guinness (and mushroom) pie with chunky chips and gravy and finishing it with a molten chocolate cake (which, unfortunately, is unavailable at my pub of choice so I must sacrifice myself to their absolutely wonderful whiskey bread pudding).

Comfort food.

That’s all I could think of for the past 11 days…11 days of work issues and school issues and home issues and not-home issues and well…stress. Food—the right food makes things good…Comfort food makes problems and stresses go away.

Which isn’t that surprising.

A couple of years ago,
UCSF researchers released a report stating that comfort food stops stress. Researchers figured out that after subjecting rats to chronic stress, there’s a “flood of hormonal signalling from the hypothalamus to the adrenal glands” which made the little furry things seek out things that made them happy…including gobbling high energy foods (sucrose and lard), which I’m inferring from the article, was the rat-equivalent of comfort food (and I suppose mine..and a lot of other people's). The additional abdominal fat gained helped negate the effects of chronic stress. And this, of course ties into binge eating during weight loss regimes (dieting *is* stressful).

Can anyone say “fat and happy?”

Various surveys and studies have tracked favourite comforting noshes. According to a
Psychology Today article, men preferred things like meat and pizza, while women wanted sweets like chocolate; both sexes shared a love of ice cream. The article itself tried to link foods to men liking “macho” food and women liking frilly-frou-frou foods (yeah, right… watch my MAC Diva-pink lips wrap themselves around the tines that spear a hunk of steak). Bah. BBC Two found Britons craving a whole host of foods including chocolate, tea, toast, ice cream, sausage and mash, soup and various puddings.

Me? What do I want when I’m stressed? Well, any combination of the above-mentioned meal, vanilla pudding, chocolate pudding, tea, mashed potatoes and kiwi cheesecake...luscious, velvety kiwi cheesecake…because well, kiwi cheesecake solves the world’s problems.

as always,


13 November 2005

A gal can't live on homework alone

...well, this one can't.

Decided to take a break from the latest assignment and headed into TO to meet fellow e-student Gayleen who's on a promo run out for Touch . We met up at Over Easy ...I love it there...all that eggy goodness: Eggs Benedict Florentine with the home fries and a side of fried mushrooms. Anyway, it was so nice to finally meet her--we've been in class together for about a year, but with the nature of distance ed, its kinda difficult to meet people face to face.

Spent the afternoon shopping--Bloor Street, of course: shoes and bags and books...too bad I couldn't find any shoes or bags I liked (I must have had a fever)...spent about an hour in the
Cook Book Store and bought Patricia Rain's Vanilla and an autographed copy of MarionKane's Dish. Am in a vanilla mood (no, not boring or staid, just can't get enough of the vanilla scent and taste) and also bought some oil at The Body Shop...wandered through a few other shops before ending up at Godiva's... POP ROCK TRUFFLES.

Dinner was with Jen (happy belated bday!) at
Allen's on the Danforth -- had their "famous" burger...quite nice: added blue cheese, grilled onions and grilled mushrooms and split a plate of sweet potato fries. We split the frozen chocolate eclair...happy happy happy....

It was a good day...anyway...back to the grind. Just finished the essay draft (due tomorrow...veddy dull) and found myself here:

...dedicated to all the chocoholics out there who are far too stressed and need a fix....

as always,


09 November 2005

You want a pinch of what? Herbs, spices & flavourings part two

The other day I posted about the basics of spices, herbs and flavourings—how to tell the difference between them, how to purchase them and how to store them. This article builds on that one, providing a set of guidelines of experiencing and using them.

More than a few words on flavour and taste

Unless you’ve been on a bland diet, devoid of even salt, pepper and sugar, you’ve tasted herbs and other flavourings your entire life. But do you know what qualities they, individually, bring to a meal?

Before we get to that, there are some realities to face when trying to broach the subjects of flavour and food.

“Flavour” shouldn’t be confused with “taste.” I suppose taste is to flavour as colour is to a painting: flavour is the effect of taste and aroma, just as a painting is the result colour and composition—yes, I know there’s more to a painting than that, but work with me on this one...

We rely upon what food writers call “a referential culinary language,” forcing comparisons that give ideas of taste. In most cases (I would argue all cases) the comparisons don't work well—think of the number of times crab is purported to “taste like chicken”…I don’t know about you, but I've tasted both. I know crab doesn’t taste like chicken, however crab, like chicken is rather mildly flavoured, hence the comparison.

This leads to another point--not everyone experiences taste and flavours in the same way—time may heal all wounds, but it also kills taste buds. Small children are notoriously picky eaters, which I think is because they have more taste buds than adults, allowing them to pick up on nuances that adults may miss…well that and asparagus is just gross.

If you want to experience an herb or spice’s true flavours, simply take a leaf or a small bit of spice and rub it between your fingers for a few moments and sniff. As home cooks, it’s important to remember heat unlocks exotic flavours and fragrances.

To experience their truest flavours, take a half-teaspoon of chopped herb or crushed spice and steep it in a half cup of water just off the boil for 20 to 30 minutes…then sip. Just be forewarned that what you taste when you try the tisane will be much stronger than when you add a little to your sauces, stews or marinades.

As suggested in Part One, I think it’s important for home cooks to buy whole spices in small quantities because once they’re ground, they quickly lose their flavours and aromas. Perhaps the best way to draw out their flavours, is to dry-roast them—it’s quick and simple and will help you create wonderful flavours in your cooking. All you need to do is put the spices in a small frypan over medium heat and stir them around for a couple of minutes, or until they begin to look toasted and jump or pop about in the pan. Then either grind them in a mortar and pestle or a grinder.

I think it’s important to state that I don’t follow the fashion of fresh herbs over dried since both can be used effectively. Dried herbs are excellent for adding deep tones and flavours at the beginning of the cooking process while fresh herbs add brightness at the end, just before serving.

Using herbs, spices and other flavourings is incredibly easy and I hope these pieces will help you to explore your store’s spice aisles and try out something new when you create your next culinary masterpiece.

As always,

(photocredit: Gernot Katzer/ peppercorns)


07 November 2005

You want a pinch of what? Herbs, spices & flavourings part one

It always amazes me how many people claim to dislike spicy foods. As usual, I have theories...maybe their parents only used s&p... perhaps they mixed up their teaspoon measure with their tablespoon and bad things happened...they were blindsided by a deadly capsicum in a dark alley......a really cruel/stupid roomate switched bottle labels and got them to down a bottle of something that shouldn't have been downed without a paramedic present.

But what I think it really is is simply a fear of the unknown…

Working with spices isn’t difficult, but it’s important to remember that spicy food doesn’t mean eye-wateringly, sinus-clearingly hot—spicy food is flavourful food.

If you’re rather shy about using herbs, spices and other flavourings, I’ve revisited my original primer from the ezine, tweaked it and broken it into two pieces. This part has a general overview; the next part focuses on working with them. It'll be posted in a few days.

I suppose Julie Andrews sung it best…”Let’s start at the very beginning/A very good place to start”

Simple but mostly useful definitions:
Spices: The dried, non-herbaceous parts of aromatic plants such as the rhizome, root, bark, flower, fruit or seed (highly unromantic, I know)

Herbs: The green parts (leaves and sometimes stalks) of aromatic plants.

Flavourings: My catch-all category of flavouring liquids such as honeys, vinegars and ketchups.

Pickiness is a virtue:
Luckily for most of us, we can find fresh and dried herbs, spices and specialized ingredients used in exotic-to-us cuisines in the average urban grocer’s. Just remember, whenever possible, avoid pre-ground and pre-powdered spices because they’ll lose their potency quickly; many spices such as peppercorns, saffron, nutmeg are available in whole form, so you can grind or toast exactly how much you need when you need it.

Since not all of us are blessed with green thumbs (mine are more attuned to shoes), growing our own herbs is out of the question. I have no problem declaring my dependency upon the kindness of those who can keep green things alive. When I’m shopping, I choose flakes are over powders and fresh herbs should look and smell healthy.

When choosing flavourings, natural ingredients are key since the real stuff tastes better than laboratory-developed synthetic (fake vanilla tastes like mothballed plastic wrap to my tastebuds), and are worth the higher price. Look for best-by dates and avoid stores with low turn-over (dusty caps are a giveaway).

And of course, if your local shop can’t or won’t carry what you want, you can order pretty much anything on-line.

Keeping your treasures:
Store dried herbs and spices in opaque containers or airtight glass bottles (or another material that won’t impart flavours to the contents) in someplace dark and away from humidity. Most dried herbs and spices generally go stale after three to six months, so buy them in quantities you'll use before their flavours go off.

Rinse and pat fresh herbs dry, then wrap them in paper towelling before placing them in a zippy storage bag; herbs kept like this in a refrigerator will stay fresh for about two weeks. If you want them to keep longer, chop them finely and keep them in a freezer-safe container in your freezer.

Unless the label advises otherwise, store flavourings in a dark cupboard; keep an eye on expiry dates.

Learning about how to use herbs and spices is something I think anyone can do. I’ve tried to outline some general tips and tricks about picking and storing them. The next part will review how to use them.

As always,

(photocredit: Gernot Katzer / Mint Leaves )


06 November 2005

Hmmm...Opposites attract?

Here's The Fussy Eater's ice cream personality...

You scored 55% SWEET, 48% CHUNKY, and 37% UNIQUE!
vanilla ice cream with gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough

You're an oldie, but goodie...the now-classic chocolate chip cookie dough. It's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and has just the right amount of chunks. You make a good friend and your wild streak shows itself every now and then...enough to make things interesting. You prefer to stick with what you know, but sometimes can't help getting a little crazy.

Please notice how I exercise great restraint about commenting on "oldie" and "prefer to stick with what you know"...nope no comments here...

I still want to know what the "chunky" rating is all about...

And yes, I expect to be glared at when he realizes I've posted this :)

as always,

04 November 2005

My ice cream personality


You scored 77% SWEET, 77% CHUNKY, and 77% UNIQUE!
banana ice cream with fudge chunks & walnuts

Frankly, you are nuts and you don't give a damn! You've got it all- you're a loving, caring person who enjoys getting wild & crazy and has a mind completely open to new experiences. You are a barrel of laughs and always up to something. You could probably stand to tone it down some and get your head out of the clouds, but there's nothing wrong with livin' it up now and then, and you certainly do!

My test tracked three variables. How you compared to other people your age and gender.

You tested higher than 62% on SWEET
You tested higher than 83% on CHUNKY
You tested higher than 87% on UNIQUE

The Ben & Jerry's Ice cream Flavour Test on OK! Cupid

as always,

02 November 2005

McSpin Part Two

McSpin script:

Perhaps as a weird sort of penance for what they've done for world cuisine, the McCorporation announced that their North East US outlets will serve fair trade coffee, according to a
story in the Boston Herald.

They're doing this for the benefit of caffeine-addicted commuters who want good-tasting (and cheapish) coffee.

It sounds as if they just realized that their regular coffee tastes pretty gross.

And if McD's becomes known for selling slurpable coffee, grown by farmers who can afford to feed their families, people will abandon pouring their own coffee or toasting their own Eggos.

And it sounds as if they're hoping that Newman's Own Organics Blend, will bolster positive public opinion...you know, if you hang out with the cool kids, you become cool...but in this case it's if you hang out with people who are trying to do some good, you are then seen as a do-gooder, regardless of all the other stuff you do.

Did I mention that this was printed three days after the McAnnouncement about printing nutritional facts on food wrappers and four days after announcing to the world that not being able to trace more than 80 per cent of their burger meat to the individual cow would make people feel better about feeding their kids stuff that they probably shouldn't be eating in any great quantity?

as always,


01 November 2005

More fast food fuferah

Not quite as good as McDonald's (ahem) well thought out PR campaign, but still egg on the face of a major fast food chain.

Wendy's teamed up with TSN for the Wendy's Kick For a Million promotion and Brian Diesbourg's entry was selected from the gajillions of ballots for a shot to successfully kick a field goal and win $1 million.

And good for Brian--he did it. No small feat whatsoever. And from what I was told, and read in various reports, it was a nailbiter: missing the first few kicks but he did it when it counted. Yea for him (really -- no sarcasm -- I know I couldn't do it). Twenty-five years old and a millionaire. BCE (the parental unit to TSN) even sent out a
media release about it.

This was meant to be a happy, make your insides as gooey as Wendy's Bacon Mushroom Melts on their trademark square patties.

But according to
contest rules and regulations, the purveyors of the Official Hamburger of the CFL isn't really giving Mr. Diesbourg $1 million. They are giving him annuity that pays out $25K/yr for four decades...should he live that long, he'll be 65ish when the final cheque is cashed.

People are all up in arms about this.

I don't know why. Really. I mean, it was clearly stated in the rules and online promo info that if the selected one were successful, he/she/it would wait an awfully long time before collecting the last payment. But, you know, when you keep saying "kick for a million" people expect the winner to get the money all at once...or at least within the next quarter-century. People were so upset they were actually staged a mini-boycott of the fast food chain last Friday.

Of course, Wendy's is currently looking like the Biggie-Sized heartless corporate giant because they aren't budging on contest rules.

Mr. Diesbourg is a very gracious winner--he doesn't seem to be bothered at all by this. He's just thrilled he did it and he's got a nice income supplement for the rest of his working days *and* a CFL team is interested in him.

It's obvious Wendy's never suspected anyone would successfully kick the fieldgoal, otherwise why would they choose such a lame way to do the payout? It's also obvious that they never figured out that people actually read and report info in media releases. Gee...no wonder Canadian Press has deemed it a
PR nightmare.

Maybe this will teach the Marketing and PR gang: assume the contest will be won; assume the fans care.

as always,