Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review | Real Food

I recently read Real Food by Nina Planck. Here's the blurb:

Don't you find it odd that the experts blame butter and beef for heart disease, even though heart disease is new and traditional foods are old? Heart disease as we know it was first diagnosed by James Herrick in 1912; it is a 20th century disease. Meanwhile, we (or our ancestors) have been eating milk and butter for 10,000 to 30,000 years and beef for 2 or 3 million.

Don't you find it funny that the foods in many traditional diets - starting with breast milk and moving on to coconut oil, butter, eggs, and pork fat - are loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, yet people who eat these traditional foods liberally don't get heart disease? Nor are they fat or diabetic.

I believe the conventional wisdom on traditional foods is mistaken. The so-called diseases of civilization - obesity, diabetes, heart disease - are not caused by real food. The diseases of industrialization - as I call them - are caused by the foods of industrialization.

What are industrial foods? In the triple epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, the three main villains are trans fats, corn oil, and sugar - not butter and eggs. White flour and other refined carbohydrates are also trouble.

In Real Food: What to Eat and Why, I explain why traditional foods such as butter are healthy and industrial foods are not. You'll learn how butter, lard, beef, cheese, eggs, and other foods we've been eating for thousands of years got a bad rap - and why it's a bad rap.

The book is full of good news about foods we love to eat. Perhaps you will feel liberated, and resume eating raw milk, cream, butter, egg yolks, and coconut oil with impunity, as I do. One other thing: the experts are right about fish, olive oil, and fresh fruit and vegetables - they're all good for you, too. I'll tell you why that is, too.

I have to say, this book was really helpful for me. I've been reading a lot about traditional vs industrial diets but this book explains it well. She gives nutritional backing for why you should eat traditional foods (butter instead of margarine etc) and doesn't get overly bogged down with the ethical and environmental reasoning. I care about that too, but I'm really interested in what foods are good for me and why. Real Food explains all that. While it's a lot of information to *ahem* digest, I found it very readable and finished it in about three days.

I highly recommend to anyone who cares about what you eat. And to those who wonder why they keep eating low fat food without becoming...lower in fat. Oh, and to people who are vegetarians. Because it might change your mind.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Vintage Love | Kitchen Tours

This was supposed to be a green tip...only then it got out of hand and turned into it's own series...oops.

So recently we've made a deal around here. When we need something new for the house we will first see if we can find it a)Used or b)Handmade. Only if we can't find either will we buy it new. This is working out pretty well so far as I'm a scavengar. I have a deep love for all my vintage kitchen items...in no small part because many of them are from my Gramma. I like to think of all the happy pies that have been rolled out with my rolling pin. Old things have more soul to them.

I've found that half the battle with starting to buy vintage is getting over the image of the items in your great aunt's tacky kitchen and imaging them in your obviously cool and hip kitchen. So to assist, here are some beautiful kitchens that have helped me make the mental jump from shiny and new to something a bit more fun. Most of them are from Design Sponge...which is a blog I loooove. I think the key is to keep it uncluttered, and go for colour.

Each link is to a full kitchen and/or house tour:

Black Apple's White Storybook Kitchen (love love love)

The Jewels of New York

Darling Clementine (love!)

Lisa Condong

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recipes | Tacos with Soft Corn Tortillas

Mmmm, do we ever love taco night around here. I grew up eating my mom's soft corn tortillas and for me, nothing beats them. Flour tortillas are too...floury, too much starchiness. Hard corn tortillas are yummy, but they break when you try to eat them.

Soft corn tortillas are very easy to make. If you can make crepes than you'll breeze through this. If not...then it will be a fun adventure! Remember, the cook has to eat the broken ones! Mmmmmm....

Ingredients (about 12 shells):
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 cup flour*
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg

*all-purpose is what we usually use, but I tried WW pastry flour to whole grain it up, worked well. It had a bit of a more wheaty flavour and I had to add a bit more water, which made the tortillas just a touch more fragile. Still I will be doing it with the WW pastry flour from now on.

1) Mix all ingredients together to form a smooth batter.

2) Heat an 8 inch skillet over medium heat until hot. Grease lightly (I used clarified butter and a pastry brush). It's best to have good crepe pan. I do not, I have a crap Teflon number. Oh well. I don't recommend using cast iron as it's too heavy.

3) Pour 1/4-1/2 cup batter into skillet. Immediately rotate the skillet so that the batter forms a thin tortilla, about six inches across. If it seems too thick, add some water to your batter.

4)Cook until the tortilla is dry around the edges (about 2 minutes)

5) Flip (carefully with a flipper, or just use your fingers...I usually do) and cook other side until golden (about 2 minutes)

(this is me trying to rotate the pan as fast as possible...which apparently makes me look like a crazy person)

Taco Meat:
1) Brown about 1 lb of ground meat.

2) Add 1 small onion or one large shallot, diced, cook for a couple minutes.

3) Add: 1 can (or pint jar) black beans with juice, at least two gloves garlic minced and chili powder, cumin and salt to taste. I don't even know how to measure this, but it takes a fair bit of chili powder and a bit less cumin. Add a dash of cayenne if you are in the mood.

4) Let it cook down until all the juice is evaporated. If you are still making tortillas, add some more water and let it cook down some more.

(Note the manly hands, I can never get the pit out like that.)

We top our tacos with cheddar, sour cream, diced tomato, spinach or lettuce (lettuce this time of year, I can't get local spinach). And sometimes for a special treat, we get an avocado.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tips | Cooking with Wine

Don't be fooled, I am no wine expert. This post is for those of you who are also no wine experts but want a starting point for incorporating some wine into your cooking.

Some tips:

1) Don't cook with wine you wouldn't drink. So pretty much avoid the cooking wine. When you cook with wine it often reduces down and the flavour intensifies...so it helps if it has a good flavour.

2) Use wine you would drink with the dish you are cooking. So white wine goes well in seafood and risotto. Red wine with beef or wild meat. You get the idea. It also means that if you use part of a bottle to cook with and part of a bottle to drink it all goes together.

3) If you aren't big drinkers and can't get through a bottle in one or two meals (we rarely do) just throw the rest in a baggie in the freezer and cook with it later. This also goes for when you buy wine and find you don't really care for it, just cook with it later.

So we usually buy local wine from either Skimmerhorn or Columbia Gardens...it's so exciting to have wine from the Kootenays! My favourite is the Columbia Gardens' Gew├╝rztraminer. Mmmmm.

My all time favourite things to throw wine in are mussels steamed in white wine and beef stew with red wine. I'll post recipes next time I make some up.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Links | Photograzing

I have died and gone to foodie heaven.

There is a wonderful foodie community website called Serious Eats, and they have a photo sharing section called Photograzing. Pretty much you post your food photos and it links to the blog post. So you can just stare at pretty food photos until you drown in a puddle of your own saliva. Wait wait, that was gross, sorry. You know what I mean. I hope.

Here's some pretties that I found:

Cardamom Orange Teacake Cookies — Easy as 123

TomatoMania- Choosing Wisely

Coffee and Cookies

Baked Mozzarella

I was full I swear...but now I am seriously hungry. This site is dangerous.

Recipes | Cabbage and Sausage Stir Fry

This is a super fast recipe that we love around here. It's very yummy with roasted potatoes...or if you are lazy bread and butter. Oh oh, or perogies! Mmmmmmm.

Sausage - We like the raw ground Italian sausage but whatever you have is good. Something with some fat is good, because otherwise you just have to add oil, and oil doesn't taste as good as sausage juice now does it?
1 small cabbage Green or savoy. Whatever is your mood.
Caraway seed (optional)

1) Brown the sausage in a wok or large frying pan.

2) Add roughly chopped cabbage. Cook until tender. Add oil if it seems to want some.

3) Season to taste with caraway and salt.

Soooo easy. I grew up loving this and now that I know the value of a 15 minute meal of whole foody goodness, I love it even more. And I didn't tell you how much sausage to use because that's up to you. You want at least twice as much cabbage as sausage though, or it's just too rich.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Links | Fun with bowls

Here are two fun edible bowls that I want to try out:

Chocolate Bowls from Dinner with Julie


Bread Bowls for Soups and Dips from Apple Pie, Patis & Pates


If you are American go find out what your government is up to now. I hate it when things in American politics make me crazy because they often end up setting a tone for how things go up here...and I can't do anything about it.

Protect Your Freedom to Eat Nourishing Food and Support Small Farmers (Against HR 875)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My Kitchen | Sharing

So yesterday I got home from work at about 10:30pm, exhausted. A bit later Craig and I were curled up on the couch eating popcorn and watching TV when he mentioned that the freezer had been tipped funny when he left that morning. We have a small square deep freeze and it lives out on the patio due to our tiny basement suite. I was brain dead and I believe my reply was "huh..."

About 11:30 we heard a noise and turned on the patio light to see a big fat black bear tipping the freezer over. He pulled out a package of ground beef and might have gone for more but decided to cut his loses and take off when he saw us. He also took a ziplock of frozen basil but apparently didn't feel like herbs as he left it half eaten on the ground.

So we picked everything back up and took the freezer inside (it's now an endtable...very classy). Yeah I have to go through and wash the bear slobber (by the way, ew!) off my packages but all the lamb and the free range chickens are still there which is happy as those are harder to come by. Still, I don't like sharing.

He came back at 3 in the morning to root through my recycling (no food, just clean containers, very disapointing) and I opened the door and yelled at him before he took off. So I guess I need to deal with the recyling today.

This is so not cool by the way, as he wasn't nearly as wary of me as I would like. Going to be keeping an eye in the bushes when I get home after dark from now on...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tips | Use for Cheese Rinds

If you buy nice cheeses, you will find that many of them come with rinds. The rind is not so edible as you can't chew it and can't grate it. Still...it seems a waste to throw it out, right?

Save the rinds in a bag in the freezer. Then next time you are making a slow cooking stew or soup, chuck them in. The remaining cheese will melt off and add a hint of creamy goodness to your meal. Toss whatever is undissolved before eating.

I've got a couple decent rinds in tonight's stew :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Recipes | Poached Egg Salad

I invented this recipe this summer. It looks a bit strange, and you'll want to make sure the eggs are drained well so as to not be soupy...but it's so very yummy.

Fill a bowl with some salad greens. Choose something with some flavour like spinach, arugula or a herb salad mix. Top with two soft boiled eggs, grated cheese (parm or some other hardish and strong cheese) and salad dressing. Vinaigrettes are really nice especially ones with orange. This time I used the Glory Bowl dressing from the Whitewater Cookbook. Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

The salad will wilt down a bit from the warm eggs. Do not be afraid of the poached eggy salady goodness! This makes a great lunch with some nice whole grain toast...or just a fun side dish.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Book Review | Last Bite

Today's book is Last Bite: A Novel of Culinary Romance by Nancy Verde Barr.

This is a chick lit romance for foodies, and thus I have much love for it. Nancy Verde Barr served for years as Executive Chef to Julia Child. She's written cookbooks, but this is her only novel. Which makes me sad.

Drawing directly on Nancy's experience as an executive tv chef, her main character, Casey Costello is the behind the scenes magic worker of a morning show with the big star of the cooking world. There is much good Italian food, both in her family and in a trip to Italy. Yes, there is European adventures, plus romance, mystery, spies...what more do you need? She also has a few of the recipes mentioned in the story in the back of the book. I'll let you know if I try some of them out, my mouth was pretty much watering for the whole book.

Any of you have fiction favourites that make you hungry while reading?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Kitchen | Lunch

Just wanted to share my lunch with you:

Just because I cook from scratch doesn't mean I object to buying great quality food as a treat. I was in Nelson on Tuesday and got a great baguette from the French artisan's bakery (which I really need to take a camera to next time, it is adorable). I also picked up a gouda cheese with carraway by Jersery Land organics. Add a cute little organic gala apple and that's my lunch!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Green Kitchen | Part 1 Disposing of Disposables

Alright, here's a new weekly series for you guys. I've been trying to green up my kitchen habits in the last few years. The purpose is to be better to the planet, better for our health and happily...better for the wallet (how else would I be able to support my fair trade chocolate habit?)

Today's mission? Cutting down on the trash. There's a few ways to do this but we're going to focus on things that are single use or replaced frequently.

Paper Towel:

I haven't bought paper towels for almost three years. And I haven't even noticed! For clean ups and spills I use rags (usually old dishcloths that aren't so pretty anymore). I keep a bucket to toss used rags into and throw it in the wash as needed. I also have a couple old tea towels that I use to put things like falafel and bacon to absorb the extra fat. Windows get a microfiber cloth.

Plastic Wrap: This was a bit trickier. For some things I use tinfoil, then I reuse the tinfoil a couple times and can recycle it in the end. For some things (like to cover a plate or bowl) I use grocery produce bags...I am planning on getting cloth ones at some point but for now I just try to wash and reuse them (I shake them out and then hang to dry from magnets on my range hood. Sexy). I used to use plastic wrap to cover my rising bread, now I use a damp teatowel. You can also use waxpaper for somethings, as it's compostable.

Plastic Containers: I know some people use old yogurt etc. containers for leftovers, but I have to be able to see what's in them or it dies slowly in the fridge/freezer. I used to use the gladware/ziplock dealies but they don't last forever and you have to worry about plastic and microwaving and whatnot. I have a set of glass containers (some pyrex and some anchorware) with BPA free plastic lids. I love these, they are microwave and oven safe. They don't stain or harbour smells. They're a good size for taking to work. They seal pretty well. Good times.

Cook from Scratch!:
You can buy things in reusable bulk bags and things like natural honey come in nice glass jars. You end up throwing out waaay less packaging.

I also have reusable straws, cloth napkins and placemats. Not only are these reusable, they are way nicer and sooo cute!

What I can't seem to get rid of? Ziplocks! Any advice for me there? What disposable product are you addicted to?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Thoughts | My Cooking Journey Part 2

Right, so last time I told you how I used to eat. Now I'll tell you why it started to change.

About two years ago: I (and a lot of other people) suddenly realized that I really should be trying to live in a more sustainable way. This is the point where I stopped using things like saran wrap and paper towel. I kind of realized that this should have something to do with food (eat less meat? Organic?) but there wasn't a lot I felt like I could do at that point.

September 2007: we moved from Lethbridge back to the Kootenays which is home to me. Also? There's a whole lot of gardening going on out here in the summers. I started thinking more about food security. I read Animal Vegetable Miracle, Echoholic and watched Jamie at Home. I became vaguely twitchy about the food industry. I found myself having a previously unheard of urge to garden. It was all very strange. Also I realized that I was a grown up now and should probably start canning my own food instead of just stealing it from my mom...

Last summer:
We spent the summer at my parent's farm. Craig got a summer job in the area and I took the summer off to focus on my graphic design/illustration work. And we learned about the garden. I learned to make jam (easy!), can, pressure can (still frightening!) and remembered that fresh homemade bread is a nice thing to have around. We were so surrounded by excellent food that summer than I managed to can and freeze a ton. Still eating some of it. I learned that really? I can do this self sufficiency thing.

This fall: I read In Defense of Food by Micheal Pollen. This gave me an extra push and I started systematically cutting out processed food. Starting with margarine and fat free yogurt. Breakfast cereal. White rice. I wasn't necessarily changing my cooking habits oh so much but I was changing the basic ingredients. Free range eggs. We mostly just ate the beef my parent grow on the farm for meat. I immediatly noticed a difference, I had more energy and started to lose weight. I lost almost 10 lbs last fall. Mostly by eating more fat. Well, and whole grains. Curiouser and curiouser.

This Winter:
This winter I came to a realization, the only way I could be sure of what was in our food, where it came from, and how it would affect our health, was by cooking as much of it from scratch as I could. I also decided to stop buying produce, dairy and meat from other countries. I think the globalization of food is a big problem, and while I can't fix it on my own, I decided to start walking the walk. This was a lot of work, but I had already made half the changes I needed to by putting up food over the summer.

I have never had so much fun with food. Not since I was a kid learning to make cookies. I'm experimenting with new vegetables (because I can't get peppers, but I can get celeriac!) new recipes. I had a quest to come up with the perfect whole wheat bread recipe. I'm learning to cook strange cuts of meat (well...to me roasts are strange), whole chickens. I'm learning to use more whole grains. I just learned to use dry beans. I can make ricotta. And crackers, and granola bars.

It's exciting.

So am I there yet? Not even close, this year I really want to get more into cheese making, yogurt, natural sweeteners. In the future? I hope we can get a place where we can garden. Get chickens. Maybe a goat...

So the moral of this story? Making little changes as you go is a good way to do things. Pay attention to what you are eating and why. Good food is always a journey, not a destination.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Thoughts | My Cooking Journey Part 1.

Lest you think I just woke up one morning and starting cooking everything from scratch. Or maybe that I always have. Anyways here's a rough breakdown of how I got to the point I'm at now, and where I want to get:

Childhood: I was blessed to be raised in a house where soup came from jars in the cellar, all baking was from scratch and when we were hungry in the summer we were sent out to the garden to pull a carrot and wash it off with the hose.

I don't know when I started baking but I clearly remember that the oven scared me. I had to get over it one time because I had made cookies and my mom was out walking and I really wanted to put them in the oven. It was a big moment. I don't know how old I was, maybe mom remembers, but I would have been probably ten or eleven. My grade 7 year I home schooled for the second half and cooked my brother lunch every day when he came home from school. I'm pretty sure I also started making mac and cheese from scratch that year and the two of us could polish of what Betty Crocker thought would serve 6. Mmmmm.

Teenageness: When I was a teenager I did a lot of the cooking. Probably two or three days of supper a week and I made bread about half the time. I also started cooking random things just because I thought they would taste good. I was pretty healthy but addicted to sidekicks! I also gave up pop in Grade 12 when I realized that I didn't actually like it. I remember learning that people took longer to decompose than they used to due to all the preservatives we eat and that seriously twitched me out.

College age: When I left home I stopped baking sandwich bread. I wasn't a big bread eater and cooking for one (or two when I had friends/boyfriend/roommate around) meant that the bread went away. I still made foccacia and rolls sometimes. I ate more packaged food and more crap than at any other point in my life, just because it was such a hassle to cook for myself. I also had dorm food and whatnot, ate out too much. Long story short I was for a while underweight (due to being sick from work and not eating enough meat and fat) then gained the freshman 15 plus 5. Eeeeee.

Married life: Having someone to cook for again was great! Even before we got married we both lived with my parents for a bit and I cooked for everyone quite a bit. My dad teased me that it was all chicken and pasta. Fairly true. I wasn't paying that much attention to cooking from scratch but I still did for the most part. I switched to slim fast for breakfast and started dieting. I lost 15 lbs...gained 10, lost 5...you get the picture. When I was losing weight I felt lethargic and lightheaded because I have low blood pressure. We were eating healthier but with no regard for seasonal or local food. We were kind of coasting through life at that point and food was no exception. I view this as the starting point of the journey I'm on now.

What I cooked from scratch:

- Muffins, cookies, cakes etc. There was no store bought baking in my house.
- 75% of meals. Especially for guests, because that's the most fun.

What I bought:

- Whole grain bread/wraps/bagels etc
- Soup (although I stole from my mom still and occasionally made it.
- Pasta sauce/pasta
- Side dishes, you know packaged risotto, sidekicks that sort of thing.
- Frozen breaded chicken/fish when it was on sale
- Frozen juice
- Crackers, granola bars


- I bought into the whole low fat thing. Skim milk, margarine, fat free yogurt etc.
- I only used easy cuts of meat. Chicken breast, ground beef, quick fry pork chops.
- White rice, rice pasta, pasta pasta.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? That's part of what I'm trying to say with this blog. I was eating in a way that was fairly convenient and that by the nutritional standards of the day was fairly good. So why did I change? This post is too long so tune in tomorrow!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Inspirations | Martha=Garden Envy

I don't by the Martha Stewart Magazine every month, but I do enjoy it. This month had a great section on gardening, wouldn't you love to spend some time in these?

There's also a great article on a farm that does CSA (community supported agriculture). Check out these boxes waiting to go to CSA customers. I would love to sign up for one of those every week.

Now when will spring come?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recipes | Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats

I grew up fairly indifferent to oatmeal. Then after getting into backpacking I had a love for instant oatmeal (my mother is gagging right now). Peaches and cream being one of my favourite flavours. Well this morning we had peaches and cream oatmeal stepped up a notch.

Steel cut oats are oats that are just cut in half. To make rolled oats they steam and press them flat. This makes them faster to cook. To make them even faster they just repeat the process. Thus instant oatmeal is a whole grain. Technically, because the whole grain is there. Steel cut oats are however a much less processed whole grain. They take longer to cook and don't turn into a gluey mush. I've heard them compared to risotto and that's fairly accurate. There's something to chew.

I usually start them simmering and then go have a shower, when I'm done I throw in whatever I'm flavouring with and then cook for a couple more minutes (while getting dressed usually). Then we scoop them out and add some milk. They reheat amazingly well, so I always make lots and keep some in the fridge.

Here's what I made today:

Peaches and Cream Steel Cut Oats
1)In a medium pot bring 1 1/2 cups steel cut oats, 3 cups water and a couple pinches of salt to a boil.

2) Throw in a couple tablespoons of chopped candied ginger (optional...I just felt like ginger). Turn down to a simmer and let it go for 25 mintues (ish).

3) Add 1 cup chopped canned peaches and 1/2 cup of the peach juice. Continue cooking for 10 minutes or until you like the consistency (it's not rocket science, unless you scorch it you can't really overcook it).

4) Scoop into 4 bowls and top with chopped pecans and whole milk. You won't need sugar because the peaches sweeten it up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My Kitchen | Tins

Here's a couple things I picked up for my kitchen this weekend. First off I broke down and bought a third bread tin. My recipe makes three loaves. I only have two loaf pans. Well I also have a glass one but I very highly do not recommend making bread in a glass pan, at least if you ever want it out again. Mom has offered me a couple of hers...but I couldn't wait anymore (although I still wouldn't mind a 4th). So here she is, I'll let you know how it turns out, it's a stainless steel tin and I got it at Cottonwood Kitchens in Nelson, one of my favourite stores.

Ooooh, aaaaah.

And next, I wanted a decorative tin to keep crackers in. I went back and forth between thrifting and buying a pretty new one but in the end thrifting is a) more fun b) cheaper and c) more eco-friendly. So I found this baby for 99 cents. I rather love it. It has a photo of Lake Louise on the top and the sides are circled with little illustrations for each province of Canada. Delightful. Anyone know anything about McGavin's Princess Fruit Cake? I'm curious when it would have been sold orginally.

I'm going to try and find a couple more tins. But that is it. I am not a tin collector. Do not give me tins. I repeat, no buying boxes of tins for Hanna at garage sales!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy Monday!

Hello all, hope you had a good weekend! I had to work Saturday but Sunday was a rare full day off and also our 6 year anniversary :) We spent some time in Nelson (bought a couple presents for my kitchen, I'll have to show you later) before heading over to Ainsworth Hotsprings for a soak and dinner. Ainsworth is a favourite spot of ours, it has a fun, natural horseshoe shaped cave adjoining the hotest pool and a very nice restaurant. We had mussels in some kind of cream sauce to start, then I had a rack of lamb with some sort of amazing sauce including juniper berries. I didn't know they were edible! A nice glass of Columbia Garden's Ge and creme brulee for desert. I loooove creme brulee. Mmmmmm....
People always think it's strange that we would rather have a really great dinner than presents, but we think of it as a shared memory. Seriously, we'll sit around a reminisce about our favourite meals. Doubtless one of the reasons our marriage is a happy one!

Anyway, back to real life today. It's homemade pizza night (pesto with sundried tomatoes, prosciutto, frozen spinach, mushrooms, goat feta and mozza) and here are some links I've come across lately for your reading pleasure:

Broth is beautiful - why you should make homemade broth
Put down that winter tomato! It was picked by a slave! - just in case you were enjoying your winter tomatoes...
Food Photography for Bloggers - some nice tips here
A big list of DIY recipes