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,