Monday, 30 May 2011

Me-So Happy

Salty, bitter, sour, and sweet are basic primary sensations of taste.

Everyone knows about those four taste sensations and I'm pretty sure most of us can remember sitting in science class and seeing a diagram of a big fat tongue depicting the areas where each taste receptor lays.

Or was I the only nerd that paid super close attention and highlighted my text books?

Regardless, there is another important taste sensation and it is sensational!

Pardon my bad joke, but the fifth taste sensation of unami or savouriness actually translates from Japanese to "pleasant savoury taste" or in more broad terms, deliciousness. Sensational!

Things like mushrooms, tomatoes, and many Asian pastes all have great unami flavours. The actual flavour is hard to describe, but the best way I can think of it is that they all give a long lasting meaty taste that coats your tongue and tastes great.

One of my favourite unami flavours is from miso. And for those of you who are accustomed to Canadian Chinese cuisine only (me until I began living with Luke), miso does not mean soup in Japanese.

Miso is a paste. It comes in different strengths, flavours, and colours, ranging from white to deep red, and can be made from fermented rice, barley, and soy beans.

Red miso is made with soy beans and has a very salty flavour. White miso is made with barley or rice and is much sweeter than its cousin.

You can eat miso not only in just soup, but also on veggies, meats, as a dip, to marinate, and to make sauces.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Tender Moments

Tenderizing meat has to be one of the most therapeutic things you can do to relieve frustration.

You get to pound away at meat and can picture whatever you want in place of your meal -- bills, work problems, family arguments, or whatever else is bugging you. And the best part is that it's not only therapeutic, but also helps to prepare dinner.

Yes, you can go to the gym and work out with a big punching bag, but will that help feed your family? Not so much. It is only a good work out.

But tenderizing meat does it all.

For me tenderizing meat has an even more special place in my heart. My nana and my mom taught me a recipe for pork medallions and I got to pound away at the meat as the child sous chef.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

All the better to see you with my dear

I love carrots. You can eat them raw and dip them, grate them into salads, roast them, BBQ them, pan fry them with a little butter and brown sugar, boil them, and mash them.

Ok. I don't really like mashed carrots, but I love carrots any of the other ways I mentioned.

It's just that eating mashed up carrots reminds me of baby food and that's not the most appetizing thing.

But since carrots are so healthy, I'm ready to give up on a whole way to eat them just yet.

I used to think my mom was just trying to make me eat my veggies by telling me that carrots help you see better, but it's sort of true.

Carrots contains beta-carotene and your body can convert that into vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential vitamin for healthy vision and fights things like cataracts, glaucoma, and night blindness.

It's found in bright orange and deep green leafy vegetables, liver, fish oil, eggs, and fortified dairy products. I do eat some eggs and dairy products, but liver and fish oil are not featured in my diet at all. That means I need to make sure I am getting my vitamin A in all those veggies.

One way to tell if you need to increase your carrot intake is to check how well you can see at night. If your vision isn't that great you might want to try my recipe for Carrot Ginger Soup.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Lions, Tigers, Bears, and Moose-aka

I will never forget driving across the country. It was amazing to see Quebec City, the Rockies, and even the Prairies were a treat.

But if I had to be pushed into choosing a favourite location for sightseeing, I think I'd have to pick the Rockies.

Quebec City was a close second though. And given the opportunity to see both again, I'd jump at it.

The Rockies slid ahead with a slight edge because of their immense size and amazing nature. Quebec City was a beautiful old city with great food that I couldn't get enough of, but I think we saw almost all of it in only two days.

We definitely did not see all of the Rockies!

Here are a few shots of Luke and I enjoying the amazing outdoors we now can call home. And since it's all the same province, I'm allowed to say what I want :)

Lake Louise

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Reinventing the old

My mom used to make cabbage rolls all the time when I was little.

I remember her throwing a cabbage into a big pot, rolling up the meat and rice mixture with the leaves, and covering many casserole dishes with tomato sauce. Then she froze most of the dishes in our huge deep freeze so she could bring them out for dinners one dish at a time.

What I don't remember is how my brothers and sister and I used to unwrapped our hand wrapped parcels and throw the cabbage wrapping away to solely eat the rice and meat tucked inside.

I thought I loved cabbage rolls. I thought I ate them up and asked for more.

I guess not because my mom stopped making them because seeing us throw away the hard work she put into the meal was no fun for her.

So when I heard this about my past, I got to thinking how many other things did I block out of my memory. I know I blocked out at least one more thing and it was embarrassing, but I'll share it now.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Preserving the love

Do you have a favourite sound?

Some people love birds chirping, others relish the chance to sleep listening to the ocean waves, and some people want nothing else than to hear their family's laughter.

Laughter is definitely up there for me, but my favourite sound is the short and sweet high pitched pop of a jar of jam sealing.

I know that sound is probably not something that came to your mind when you were thinking about all the amazing sounds in the world, but nothing brings a smile to my face like it. A grin slides across my cheeks and I laugh every single time I hear it. And for that brief moment, I can't think of anything wrong in my life.

Every time I make jam I hope that my jars of sweetened fruit will gel and I'll be able to enjoy the taste of the sugary goodness spread across toast the next day. And every time I hear that pop, I know that I will get to share my homemade yumminess with friends the next time they come for brunch too.

And jam and jellies are so versatile so how can you not get excited?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Feast Until Your Heart's Content

I'm back from my long weekend spent in Tofino, BC and we had a ton of fun. We went whale watching, camped overlooking the beach, ate in delicious restaurants, and enjoyed Feast BC.

I love going to going to culinary events, and when there are free events it's even better.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

New Sides Can Make An Old Meal Feel New Again

My boyfriend mentioned to me at dinner the other night that he thought I was making such diverse and yummy meals lately. 

I'm not sure if he put two and two together to notice that all these new additions to my standard meals included cream cheese, but they do. And obviously the reason for that is that I want to stay competitive and hopefully get invited to compete in the finals of the Real Women of Philadelphia! 

I agree with him though. My meals have been much more original and innovative than usual. But it definitely involves some extra imagination and time. 

With these three side dish recipes, hopefully I can save you a little time so that you can please your friends and families and offer new additions to your tables. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Deep Fried Shmeep Fried

Have you ever noticed how many menu choices in Canadian Chinese restaurants involve breading and deep frying?

It's like French cooking and butter. It's everywhere!

It tastes so good but it definitely puts a little a little extra cushion around my hips. And since I've lost a bit of weight, I have to say that saying I used to think was kind of stupid is true.

Nothing tastes as good as thin feels.

Well, maybe I should revise that a little bit because I do love treats. I keep a little stash of goodies in my living room and enjoy a taste of one or two every now and again.

Thin feels awesome but don't forget what good things taste like?

Whatever. I'm really getting off track here...

I can't stand the fact that there are so many tasty creations on Chinese menus that probably would be just as good without the deep fried coating.

And I know there are steamed versions of most menu items, but they sometimes feel a little lacking. So I got to thinking that I should revamp one of my favourite dishes into a stir fried version of the deep fried original.

Sweet and Sour Pork normally is made with breaded and deep fried chunks of pork but I decided to nix the deep frying part on on my recipe.

I'm sure it's been done before because it's basically just a stir fry now, but I love making this quick dish and wanted to share it with you.

But before I share my recipe, here's a little history side bar for you. Sweet and Sour Pork is not a North American creation like Chop Suey. It's really an authentic Cantonese dish....

Well... Sweet and Sour is a real dish, but it was done with fish in China and the pineapple was added to Hawaiian-ize the meal in North America. And... I think that it might be a joke in China that Canadians love this sauce on pork....

So I guess that means it's a North American dish. But that doesn't mean it's not tasty!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Ten thousand thank yous!

I've always loved D'Italiano bread but now I have to say that I really really REALLY love it.

I don't think I will ever buy another loaf of bread, even if another brand is on sale.

And if you know me and how much I love sales, you'll know that's a BIG deal!

I clicked on the shiny gold button that said "find out" and this is what I found!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Many Faces of Pasta

Have you ever thought about how many shapes pasta comes in? There are a lot and every single one is tasty.

I could eat it all day long covered with every sauce I can think of...

Pesto, bechamel, marinara, basic tomato, Bolognese, romesco, butter and cheese, vodka, Alfredo, white wine sauce, marsala, brown butter and sage, puttanesca--- I could keep going, but I might eat my hand.

So back to the pasta itself. Plain pasta without even a little butter won't make me as hungry, at least I don't think.

Angel hair, vermicelli, spaghettini, spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, lasagna --- and that's just a few of the long ribbon style Italian pastas!

Then you have tons of shaped pastas. Everything from shells and decorative pastas of all shapes and sizes, to tubes of every bend and size imaginable, and pretty much everything else under the sun.

Gnocchi, spatzle, orzo, couscous, pedehe -- they're all pasta too.

I remember eating alphagetti from a can, but I'm not sure that's a real Italian pasta shape.

Then, if you start to add in all the other pastas from Asia like soba and udon noodles, well the list would be a mile long.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Squashing the rumours

Everyone has heard the terrible rumours circulating about carbohydrates.

"I can't eat pasta because I'll gain weight." "Bread is full of empty calories." "Cake is my nemesis, one bite and I can't stop."

Well, my rule is everything is just fine in moderation. I eat it all and enjoy every single bite.

If I don't enjoy something, I just stop eating it. Particularly if it's made of white flour.

...Unless I'm eating at a friend's house, because then I need to clean my plate. Personally, I can't fathom the thought of leaving food to be thrown away by one of my friends, but that's another story...

So taking that into consideration -- if you're at home, why eat something bad for you that you don't really like?

I know that no one wants to hear me preach about the horrors of white flour, white rice, sugar drinks, and other treats, but I'll just throw one tiny sentence out there.

The rumours aren't all rumours; only eating bad carbs can contribute to weight gain and other problems.

So to prevent the terrible rumours from coming true, I couple my treat carbs with tons of great carbs and stop eating the treat carbs unless they sing to me.

Your body needs good carbs to fuel itself for everything you do throughout the day. And the vitamins, minerals, fibre, and nutrients don't hurt either.

So enjoy whole grains (most of the time), brown rice instead of potatoes (some nights), fruit instead of juice (as often as possible), and eat your musical fruit until your heart is content.

Your body will thank you, even if your dinner date doesn't.

But remember to treat yourself, life's just not fun if you don't. Cake is just cake and bread is just bread. They aren't something to avoid like the plague.

At the very least, they certainly taste and smell a whole lot better.

Here's something for a night when you want to enjoy the taste but your treat quota is out for the week -- my healthy take on spaghetti and meatballs.

This dinner is yummy and might just replace your old plate full of pasta and beef. So there's room for cake on your next plate.

Friday, 13 May 2011

How a Basic PB and J Inspires Something New

Yesterday I was making myself a snack. Nothing special, just a basic peanut butter and jam sandwich.

I spread on the peanut butter and scraped the bottom of my jam jar to try and get enough out. There wasn't quite enough jam for my liking so I checked my cupboard for another jar. I was completely shocked to find that there were only two jars left!

One solitary peach jam and one lonely little blackberry jam.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Incredible Edibles

Did anyone else have this toy growing up? My mom had one as a child and bought me one for Christmas in the 1990s too.

My Trip To Thailand (In My Kitchen)

Ok, so I've never actually gone to Thailand.

I've gone on a few vacations to exotic countries. And I have packed up my car with all my belongings and driven across the country from tip to tip, but I've never visited Thailand.

Never even came close. Except for in my kitchen.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Happy (Belated) Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day and I really wish I had not been halfway across the country from my mom. I would have loved to be visiting her and cooking a special meal to show how much I appreciate everything that she has done for me.

My mom is really the best mom. Look at her with the cutest dog in the world. Olli the Portuguese Water Dog needs no excuse to hand out kisses to her.

Olli in the garden

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Finding a balance

Luke and I differ in many ways. I am a quiet person that likes mostly indoor activities and he is a loud people person who relishes every opportunity to explore the unknown and take part in an adventure, especially a crazy outdoor sport.

But like all couples, we compromise and find a way to balance our lives. Sometimes I bring a book to read on the beach while he surfs and sometimes we take the scenic route along the water instead of hiking the steep cliffs.

We also compromise in cooking and food, because we differ in taste here too. Luke likes things as spicy as humanly possible and I don't want my little taste buds to burn off but I'm willing to give most tastes a go.

Cooking with leftovers

I love using up every single last speck of food before it goes bad and needs to be thrown away. It's kind of like my own little competition. I am the only winner or the only loser and my only opponents are time and creativity.

Sometimes after cooking an enormous turkey I can get very discouraged. It's only myself and Luke and a turkey is a huge piece of meat to consume for just two people so there are always leftovers. 

Lots and lots of leftovers. 

So then I need to cook with the leftovers. I don't just like to serve slices of turkey and leftover sides every night either. My staple go tos are usually a turkey pot pie, turkey stir fry, or turkey a la king, but those can get boring after eating them every single time I cook a turkey. That's why my opponent is creativity. 

If I can't beat creativity, I get bored and post pone my cooking with turkey leftovers. So with the Real Women of Philadelphia contest, I put my thinking cap on and tried to think outside of the box for ways to try and use up those leftovers. 

Here are a few of my video entries for cooking with leftover turkey. I love calzones. I don't know who wouldn't. And my Philly Turkey Curry entry earned me a note from the judges too. Sarah Reynolds always makes us smile. We would like an invitation to dinner at her house. 

Well that made me smile too. It gave me more confidence to try and get creative. Hopefully you'll like my videos and try my dishes too. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Luke's Monthly Visit to the Unknown AKA the Kitchen

I don't mind cooking every night. In all honesty, I love it. Especially since Luke does the dishes.

But I have to say it is a rare treat when Luke has the time to cook up one of his two meals -- Paella or Wontons. It's really nice to sit in a chair and relax with a glass of wine while he chops, sautes, measures, and all around cooks.

I love to create something new in the kitchen but knowing that his familiar tastes will be ready in slightly more than an hour are fantastic too.

The funny part is that even though I think I love to relax, I actually can't help myself but try to help. I try to sneak past him and get out my own cutting board to help with the chopping or I pull out my own homemade chicken stock and defrost it. It's like my hands want to take over.

Most of the time I can refrain from doing too much more than slicing up the occasional veggie but I have been told to get out before. I think Luke really likes cooking his two meals for me. He knows how much I love food and tries to share it with me. Kind of like I try to share his love of the outdoors by camping?

Anyway here is his recipe for Paella - the dish of the night. Wonton Noodle Soup to visit next month.