29 May 2007

BlogHer Conference '07 - A World Of Difference

Just a quick note to let you all know I'll be a panelist at BlogHer's Chicago conference this July. I'll be joining Alanna, Kalyn, Nupur, Shuna and Susan at the The Art of Foodblogging Session. Together, we'll try to answer questions and give you glimpses into our collective, food-spattered psyches. I'll do my best to not make too much of a fool of myself (I've fallen off a stage before, I can do it again).

The conference also has a session focussed on food photography. Béa, Jan and Lara will offer tips and ideas about creating images as mouth-watering as the food you cook.

From what I read of last year's conference it was very good, and 2007 is shaping up to be just as good, if not better. For those of you who don't know, it's a two-day, five-track blogging conference that explores various aspects of online journalling, including life, business, techythingies and other bits. If you can make it, I hope you'll stop by and say "hi"--and yes, the boys can come too :)

I'm allowing myself a day to wander the Windy City--any foodish suggestions for me? And yes, I've pondered Alinea, but I think it won't be a possibility this time ;)


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edits: I'm adding panelist names as they are confirmed.

27 May 2007

More on cruise ship bananas

Apparently I was remiss in my last post about the rotten bananas that landed in my possession. Tanna wondered how many cakes I made, since the recipe I posted only used two. And we all know, two bananas doth not a bunch make. I gathered she wanted to know what fate awaited the other bananas. I could have made a layer cake..but, well, that involves frosting and frippery's shadow. I decided to go elsewhere.

Well...what Tanna wants, Tanna gets...or at least I'll satsify her curiosity. :)

The bunch contained five long, ebony bananas. By the time I got home one had... umm... ruptured--probably from jostling around in the trunk while making those manically fast lane changes on the 401. You know, the kind that usually precedes a conversation that includes "Really officer? I was going *that* fast? Oh my." So that left me with four salvageable fruit.

I could have made a banana-mango layer cake, but that means icing...and, well, frippery...and I wasn't in the mood.

So I made a banana-blueberry banana bread. Like me, what it lacks in height (it doesn't rise all that much) it makes up for in personality (tee hee). It started life as a Nigella recipe, but it's been tweaked over the years. I'm sure it started out taller, but but, you know...This is a standard recipe for me--I'll substitute fruit or decide to use vanilla instead of almond. It makes a very nice breakfast (or second breakfast) munchie.

Banana-Blueberry Bread
150g ap/plain flour
1 dspn baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a good pinch of vanilla salt
110g butter, melted
50g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 medium-largish exceedingly ripe bananas, mashed
200g blueberries (frozen is fine)
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 170C/325F and line a 23cm x13cm/9"x5" loaf tin.

Sieve together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt. In a second bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, eggs, bananas and extract. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in thirds, stirring well after each addition. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour into the tin and bake for 60-75 minutes, or until the top is golden and passes the toothpick test.


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24 May 2007

My friend ran away to work on a cruise ship and all I got was...

...a bunch of rotten bananas.


After a dozen or so years as the stayed, conservative banker, my friend Jen decided to chuck it in for a job on a cruise ship. Well, truth be told, she wasn't all that conservative...but, you know, when your corporate colours are navy blue and cream, how wild and crazy can you be at work?

For the next three or so months she'll be sailing the high seas, doing the Mexico-California-Alaska route, telling people where to find the bingo, the buffet, the formal dining room, the other buffet, the gym and yes, the other buffet. Then she does her real job...telling people people what to do, and how to do it.

The change was a bit of a whirlwind...I think she had 10 days to settle her affairs before she flew out to the States. This meant she had a condo full of food that needed to be eaten or given away. So what do you do when you have litres of alcohol and kilos of food that need to be eaten? You throw a condo-warming-and-going-away party (she never did get around to the condo warming when she bought it six months ago). The rule (which I totally ignored) was to not bring any food.

How could I follow such a missive? I brought a squidgey chocolate loaf and a pina colada ice cream to share. I'm still perfecting the recipe...when it's good enough to be posted, you know it will show up.

A good crowd turned up--most of whom I'd only previously met through stories. Lots of "Oh! You're Jasmine!" with lots of "Oh! You're (insert name here)."At the end of the night when I packed up my things to return home from Toronto, little parcel came with me. A bunch of very, very, very ripe bananas. I of course, forewarned of this post.

So, what do we do with overripe bananas?

Well, I used this opportunity to expand my banana cake repertoire. I have an ol' faithful recipe which morphed from a Nigella recipe--it's fantastic, but I'm always looking for something new.

I found this one from Dorie's Baking: From my home to yours. Unsurprisingly it was excellent (all the recipes I've tried have been fabulous). A good, moist crumb, perfect for tea..or breakfast...or a midnight snack. I topped the cake with a makeshift topping comprised of some of the pina colada ice cream mixed with cream cheese--I thought the tropicallness of the topping matched with dried mangoes I mixed into the batter. Very nummy.

Banana-Mango Cake,

adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake, from Baking: From my home to yours.

200g ap flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp vanilla salt
75g softened butter
150g light brown sugar
2 overripe, medium-large bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/2 tsp almond extract
175g yoghurt (one small pot)
125g dried mangoes, chopped

Putting it together:

Preheat oven to 180C/350F and prepare one 22cm/9"round springform pan.

Sieve together the flour, bicarb and salt; set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and almond. Add the bananas and give the wet bowl a good stir. Incorporate the flour and the yoghurt into the wet bowl in alternate additions, stirring after each addition (start off with the flour, then add some yoghurt and then repeat twice more). Fold in the fruit and pour into the pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out cleanly.



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20 May 2007

Housekeeping: Blogger Relations 101 and Review Policy and Guidlines

Blogger Relations 101
If you read Food BlogS'cool, you know I was on a blogger relations panel discussion a couple of months ago. The event brought PR and marketing practitioners together with bloggers---I was the only blogger there who wasn't posting on behalf of a company or a newspaper, and I did my best to represent the true side of blogging (the hobbyist, not the copywriter). I've since recieved a couple of thank you notes from attendees, and have seen my words on some attendees' own blogs.

In preparation for the event, I drafted a Blogger Relations 101 piece, which was posted onto fbs. I've since returned to it, added, deleted and clarified, based on comments to that post, offline conversations and the panel discussion. It's a bit lengthy for this blog, so I've posted it onto sensualgourmet.ca:

Blogger Relations 101

Review Policy and Guidelines
Many of those emails I receive are from PRs and Marketers who want me to review their product on this blog. Because of this, I've drafted a review policy and guidelines piece. Again, it's posted onto sensualgourmet.ca

Review Policy and Guidelines

If you think these are useful to your own blogs, please feel free to amend them for your needs and link back to me.



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16 May 2007

I'm sorry, could you please repeat that?

Three true tales for you...and the pictures have nothing to do with the tales...I'm just craving ice cream.

Be Away with you, smarmy spammy guy!
The other week I skimmed my StatsCounter data and noticed someone was trying to get to this blog via "cardamomaddict.com." I was curious so I typed it in.

Well...someone was on it. A smarmy spammy someone. You know...the kinda person who puts up links to "interesting" sites. I checked him out and the first thing I found was a court document that that named him in a lawsuit for setting up a similar web site in the name of a charity or a charitable programme...without the charity's permission.

All of a sudden I got territorial (and a bit miffed). Given what I read, my guess is he assumed that I (or someone) would be willing to pay him for the domain...I guess he should have paid for it first. Yup...he didn't buy the domain. So I did. and thanks to Steve, my webthingie guy, the new domains point to

Strawberry Ice Cream


A little happy dance for me
Confessions of a Cardamom Addict is listed on
culture.ca's English homepage!* Culture.ca is "Canada's cultural gateway," an initiative of the Department of Heritage's Canadian Online Cultural Strategy--partners include CBC, Histori.ca and The National Film Board of Canada.

It's quite an honour--my profuse thanks to the
Banff New Media Institute for the recommendation. It's rather humbling to see my blog's link on this site and that someone thinks my efforts are recognized as a reflection of the best of Canada’s cultural, creative, online life.

Cardamom Rose Ice Cream


James D. Nicoll's birthday is 18 March 1961. I know because I held his birth certificate in my hands...
...and can read...and relate its information.

The exbf has a Wikipage. He's been a Usenet celeb for years, is a book editor and has a quotation that's been used on the BBC and in English language texts...and if you are ever looking for a good anecdote or instant inspiration for colourful writing, take a look at his Wikiquote page.

His page was set up by fans (isn't that what the Wiki culture was about--people writing entries on subjects that interested them, so others may find out about them?). The good people who wave the big sticks over at the big W have decided that
the exbf is inconsequential and therefore does not merit a page (ummm...gee...isn't it funny how these same editors seem to keep their own W pages up?).

His page was edited to uselessness, removing verifiable, but not Wiki-referential (as in not already appearing on a W page) info. An example is his birthdate's removal because the only proof found online is info he provided (you see, primary source material is too good for W, and they prefer secondary or tertiary source material). And because of this "intelligent editing" the same big-stick editors decided it was a useless page. Thanks to someone who wields some power for reinstating the page (but it's still under attack).

Anyway, since this an electronic journal, linked to by more than a few other blogs and web sites (including a one set up by the
Canadian Government), this post might be considered a credible secondary source material (by Wikipedia) that James Davis Nicoll was actually born and has a birth certificate.

Photo: Peach ice cream

* Okay, at the time of posting it is...it may cycle off in time.


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13 May 2007

Spring: when a woman's thoughts turn to chillis

I know when most food-minded people think of spring, asparagus and perhaps strawberries lamb come to mind.

Not me...

I think of chilli peppers.

More specifically, I think of how people should never leave me in charge of their plants. Owners return to desiccated and withered leaves or rotted, waterlogged stalks. I forewarn everyone that I'm not the person they want to care for their greenery: I know how to cook and eat them...not grow them.

So, what does this have to do with spring and chilli peppers, you may ask.

Well...as my parents have taken to leaving the country for half the year, someone has to take care of the plants. It's taken them a while to realize that I won't tend to things they way they do. The front garden has turned from a patch of green with bunches of green and flowery things that needed an undue amount of attention (read: watering and pruning and other things you do to plants) to a totally self-sufficient entity (at least from January-June). It's quite lovely--one day there's nothing, the next day the tulips have come up...same with the little white bell thingies and the pointy purple things. Apparently there are some red and purple fluffy things that should appear soon. They look nice and I get a tonne of credit for doing absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately, the indoor plants aren't quite as Jasmine-friendly. The collection has downsized from pots of irises, African violets, green frawny things to one cactus, two large jades and one chilli pepper plant.

The cactus and jades are easy--I can forget to water them, then remember they exist, dump some water on them, and then everything's okay.

That chilli plant needs...well...attention.

It fruits (if that's the right word) in February or March and I should collect the fiery little jewels. But I don't. They stay on the vines and slowly dry. I'm not sure that's good for the plant. In April about a third of the vines turn from a gorgeous, supple green to a worrisome brown...and then they get crunchy...very crunchy. Sometime around May it gets too much for me to bear...and I start hacking away at it...just to make me believe that the plant is more alive than dead.

I have no idea if I'm doing this correctly. I look at where the brown and the green meet and then cut. If there's a little tuft of leaves, I leave it on...if there isn't, I don't care. Afterwards I gather the dry spidery bits and pluck off the equally dry peppers. I do this every year and the plant recovers to fruit again in the late summer-early autumn.

It's a miracle this plant is still alive.


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09 May 2007

A Taste of Yellow: Cornish Saffron Cake and Happiness Soup

Thanks to Barbara of Winos and Foodies, a good portion the foodblogging world is painted yellow for a very special event: A Taste of Yellow.

This event is one of many that supports Livestrong Day (16 May) , an awareness event for cancer issues and cancer survivors. Thanks to the Canadian Cancer Society, information about cancer in Canada is available with just a few keystrokes: here's their 2007 statistics report (116p PDF), information from a comprehensive cancer study in young adults (aged 20-44) (120p PDF), and, of course, general stats at a glance.

Yellow is a significant colour for me.

Yellow was the colour of the house when I was little. It was home...it was warm...it was comfort. It is also my mum's lucky colour (she literally painted every room a lemony-gold colour...very 1970s), so it is also, by familial extension, my lucky colour.

Yellow is also the colour of the Canadian Cancer Society's signature daffodil.

My personal interest is cancer in young adults, and it's for purely selfish reasons. Before I turned 33 I had two breast lumps removed (one when I was about 28 and the other when I was 32). Both were plum-sized and shaped*, appeared in a relatively short, and found through early detection.

I was lucky--my GP moved mountains both times to get me scanned and off to a surgeon in relatively short time. I was lucky: I had family and very good friends' support. I was lucky: the companies I worked for believed my well-being should be put above corporate profits. I was very lucky: both lumps were benign.

The first time no one was worried (really), but the second time wasn't nearly as easy.

The external signs pointed to cancer and the mass itself was so bizarre that my well-versed surgeon and local lab were perplexed. The sample was sent to Toronto for a decision by a world-renowned expert...weeks later my surgeon had a report and phoned in the happy results (for those of you in Ontario, you know how rare it is to get test results delivered by the physician over the phone).

So, when it came to this event, I knew I wanted to do something...but what? Lemons came to mind, but I was certain there would be a lot of lemony goodness out there. Then two things hit me...at pretty much the same time...

Cornish Saffron Cake

One of my in-progress works is an article about saffron. In my research I found out about Cornish saffron cakes. After some perusing, I found and used a recipe posted by Anna at Baking for Britain. The kitchen spirits weren't in a baking mood, so the dough didn't rise as nicely as Anna's but it still tasted lovely. To keep the golden theme going, I used dried mangoes as the dried fruit. The cake was wonderfully simple to make and tasty. The saffron imparted both a golden hue and a honeyed flavour. Very yummy.

(photos from L-R: saffron-infused milk, the baked Cornish Saffron Cake, a slice of cake)

Happiness Soup...and Happiness Rice

My second contribution is a soup I've pondered for a while. If you are a regular reader, you know how much I love Nigella Lawson. Forever Summer has a recipe for "Happiness Soup" -- simple, bright yellow and spirit-lifting.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this colour has such powers: the accompanying text declares "And not surprisingly in some Middle-Eastern cultures, it is believed, in Claudia Roden's words that 'eating yellow foods will result in laughter and happiness.'"

I made three minor alterations, but still kept with the happy-yellow theme: I added both onions and garlic, and increased the quantity of rice. The end result was absolutely wonderful-lemony and sharp and Middle Eastern-Indian in flare. As the soup sat in the pot while we ate our bowlfuls, the rice kept drinking up the broth and now I have a wondrous pot of Happiness Rice.

(photos from L-R: yellow courgettes, Happiness Soup, Happiness Rice)

Happiness Soup,
adapted from Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer

1 onion, sliced into half lunettes
1 minced garlic clove
500g yellow courgettes, diced into 1/2-cm pieces (skin on)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of one lemon
olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1125ml chicken stock (cubes, canned or homemade)
150g rice (Nigella recommends basmati, you can use whatever type you have on hand)
salt and pepper

Soften the onions in the olive oil until golden and slithery. Add the garlic and courgettes and zest. Stir around in the oil until everything glistens. Over cook until just softened--about 5ish minutes. Add the turmeric, stock and rice. Stir and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the rice and courgettes are tender. Season to taste. Serve warm (not piping hot).


*hence certain funny-but-true comments from my gal friends (you need to email me to get them). Yes, we all kept our senses of humour through it all...well...all of us except for my parents...they worried...it's their job...

edit: Almost 150 bloggers supported Barbara's event. Please take a moment to visit her round-up and visit some of the other participants.


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06 May 2007

Ice cream season is here

Yes, every season is ice cream season (heck, some of us believe that every day is ice cream day).
What I'm talking about is an indication that winter probably won't be back for several month, spring is firmly settled, but summer isn't that far off. It's the day the ice cream parlours open up for the season.
Granted, there are a few who are open all year long (chain-stores, mostly), but around here, there a couple of independents that fling open their doors for six months. These are the places where grape, tiger tail and other none-too-commonly stocked flavours have a home.
They make giant sundaes dolled up with whipped cream, ooey-gooey sauces, fruit chunks and sprinklies--the kind your parents won't allow in the car because of spillage. If they have to weigh out their wares before handing them to the customer, I can't tell--the portions are always very generous.
So yesterday was the day my favoured independent opened up for the 2007 season. And what did we pick up? Bordeaux cherry and pistachio (for TFE) and pina colada and banana (for me). Yummy yummy yummy!



02 May 2007

An evening in Provence

Well...not quite.

I'm in those last, few glorious hours between classes. Two weeks (ish) have passed and I've tried to get back to normalcy--you know, cleaning, a bit more cooking, more cleaning. I even got to the cinema (
Hot Fuzz is very fun, btw). What am I most pleased with?

Pleasure reading.

As a treat to myself--a bit of literary tourism, if you will--I bought
Georgeanne Brennan's A Pig in Provence, and have been enjoying a mini holiday in Provence. If you haven't read it yet, it's a very sweet and easy reminiscence of discovering Provence: making goat's cheese, buying pigs, truffle hunting. Brennan's writing is light and evokes wonderful imagery. You could finish it in an evening--it's not very long.

I must admit that I'm predisposed to this sort of book. I devoured
Peter Mayle and Tim Parks years ago and Bill Bryson has a home on my shelves.

Georgeanne's book made me realize I've not been anywhere in three years. Quite depressing, really. So...I've decided that after my I'm done this set of courses (December, methinks), I have to go somewhere. Apart from a weekend in New York City, the last bit of travelling I did was to India and England. This time I was waffling between Sweden and Provence. I think Provence is winning...especially since I found out there are culinary vacations (including a cooking course by Georgeanne). These courses aren't cheap, but they should be interesting. I've been saving my pennies, so I'm hoping in autumn 2008 I'll be hopping an aeroplane to Nice. At the very least I'll brush up on my French while I'm over there.

One of the nice things about his book is apart from being a food-centric memoire, is it's also a bit of a cookbook. Each section ends with a Provence-inspired recipe. Simple food made with fresh local ingredients (aren't those the best recipes anyway?). I decided to try and give myself a taste of France and try one out. The mushroom lover that I am, I had to try the receipt offered in "fungal obsessions"--Poulet au genièvre farci aux champignons sauvages (Juniper-rubbed chicken with wild mushrooms).

It was simple and tasty. I didn't have any wild mushrooms, so I used the "interesting" ones found at the local bigscarymegamart--oyster, shitaki, cremini, portabello. Because she is a home cook, the recipes work really well and read like something you'd get from a friend or your auntie. The chicken was delicious. Plain and simple.

...and yes, Beanie did get a little, teeny bit.

Poulet au genièvre farci aux champignons sauvages (Juniper-rubbed chicken stuffed with wild mushrooms)
adapted from Georgeanne Brennan's A Pig in Provence

1 roasting chicken
sea salt
crushed juniper berries (about half a dozen)
two shallots, finely minced
four handful (or so) of mixed mushrooms, sliced or chopped
a few slices of stale bread, cubed
a couple of pinches of dried thyme
250 ml white wine

Preheat oven to 400F/200C, or whatever temp you'd normally set the oven to when you roast a chicken.

Saute the shallots and half the mushrooms in the butter until the fungi have just turned golden. Season with some of the spices and the thyme and add in the bread cubes and mix well.

Season the bird's cavity and outside with the remaining spices and stuff with the bread mixture. Roast and baste as you'd normally do (I roast for 35 minutes plus 20 minutes per 500g, and baste every 10-15 minutes...I also poke it with a meat thermometer, for good measure).

When the bird is done, remove it to a cutting board. Drain off the fat. Add the rest of the mushrooms to the pan and saute until golden. Add wine and scrape off the lovely roasted bits that have clung to the roasting tin and let simmer for a bit.

Carve up the chicken and serve with the stuffing and the pan sauce.



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