Friday, October 30, 2009

no knead bread - revisted

I haven't talked about no-knead bread in a while, so I figured it was time to revisit this tasty treat. For those who don't think bread making is within their abilities, I can't stress how wrong you are. I'd be more than willing to believe you can't draw, before I believe you couldn't bake bread.

A very simple process, you combine 3 cups of flour with 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 tsp of instant yeast, and 3/4 tablespoon of kosher salt. You stir this concoction together until everything is combined, before covering the bowl and letting it rest overnight. Just use plastic cling film to cover the bowl, and by overnight I mean 12-18 hours. Be prepared for the amazing yeast to do it's thing, because soon enough that shaggy dough will look like this!

Pull the dough out from your container, and give it a few folds. At this point, I always stick mine in a parchment lined pot, and sprinkle on a topping. Everything from whole sesame seeds, crushed sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cornmeal, and even flour. Cover again for 2 hours.

Bake the bread in a covered, 450 degree oven proof container for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for another 20 minutes. Remove and cool for about an hour before you attack it with your bread knife. See, simple wasn't it...and oh so delicious!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

opm asian bistro and lounge - edmonton, ab

opm asian bistro and lounge
1820 99 St NW

After two trips to my local immunization center, and spending what seemed like an entire day in line, I was finally ready to take a H1N1 vaccination in the arm. After wards, with some in the group feeling a little worse off, we headed in search of food. A quick discussion took place before OPM was suggested and we soon jumped in our cars and headed south.

Situated, in the middle of South Edmonton Common, OPM falls between an Earls and Montana's. So while it has the Asian cuisine on lock-down among it's immediate neighbours, you can easily walk a few blocks and find everything from sushi (Mikado) to steaks (The Keg) to family (Ricky's) dinning. With an upscale interior, OPM definitely gives off a trendy Asian personality. This is not your parent's Chinese take-out joint, if that makes sense. The slogan, Fresh Dining From Ancient Places, along with the name, give you a clue to the cuisine, while the menu confirms the dishes come from China, Thailand, and Japan.

With only one person at the table drinking beer, OPM's house offering China White (dark wheat ale), it was a quick round of waters while we looked over the menu. Regarding the beer menu, I was really happy to see 3 local offerings. 2 from Amber's brewing and 1 from Alley Kat. With not a lot of local brews available, OPM gets a thumbs up for including these choices along side it's regulars like Kokanee and Keith's.

The dishes will arrive to your table when they are cooked, which means you may have some down time between plates. First to the table was Lemon Scallops & Prawns. Apparently wok fired with vegetables in a tangy citrus sauce, this dish tasted like lemon pie filling. That's right, a few bites of this and I found it over whelming sweet and lemony. All I needed was a dollop of meringue. Terrible dish.

The remaining two dishes arrived together (7 or 8 minutes after the first), OPM Spicy Chicken and Coconut Yellow Curry Prawns. First up the spicy chicken, which is billed as the hottest dish on the menu. Unfortunately, it didn't live up to the hype. Sure there was some heat trapped inside the red chilies, but the chicken itself seemed to have a sweet (brown sugar?) BBQ sauce flavour. The chicken was juicy and the mixed vegetables were solid, so the dish as a whole was decent enough.

The curry prawns came swimming in enough sauce to drown a gnome. The shrimp were cooked nicely and the dish worked well. Probably my favorite of the three, it didn't have any heat but was well balanced with 'Thai' flavours. Good thing a few bowls of plain rice were delivered to the table or we would have needed straws to fully utilize the sauce.

Based on one previous visit, and the above three dishes, I don't think I'll go out of my way to come back. Nothing jumped out at anyone of us in the group, yet talking with my father, who eats here regularly, it's the appetizers that shine. Oddly enough his favorite (yam fries and rock shrimp) were not on the menu. At least our hunger cravings were curbed after the long day in line, and we were able to relax and enjoy the company.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

the week that was and is - october 27th 2009

Howdy everybody! Get up to anything exciting this week? The biggest adventure of the week for myself was getting my H1N1 vaccination. After stopping by twice on Monday, I finally decided to bite the bullet and stick it out. Probably 3 hours in total, the lineups were crazy with hundreds and hundreds of people. Is this what standing in line at Disney Land is like?

  • Hopefully you are following along with the east coast food tour, care of the crew at foodosophy. Our country is so big, that at times, it's easy to forget how different dining can be. Plus, lobster at McDonald's is just plain rad.
  • With pumpkin carving just around the corner, why not consider adding pumpkin to your meals. Closet Cooking has a list of 10 delicious sounding recipes to try.
  • Rats fed unlimited junk food show behaviors similar to those addicted to heroin. "This is the most complete evidence to date that suggests obesity and drug addiction have common neurobiological underpinnings"
  • It must be McDonald's week in the news, because I found that some regions are getting the McRib back. Never a fan, I'm surprised at the almost cult-like following of this offering.
  • With over 70 percent of it's 70,000 plus work force overweight, Mexico City is cracking down and putting some officers on a diet.
  • "There shall be no cupcakes. No chocolate cake and no carrot cake. According to New York City’s latest regulations, not even zucchini bread makes the cut.In an effort to limit how much sugar and fat students put in their bellies at school, the Education Department has effectively banned most bake sales, the lucrative if not quite healthy fund-raising tool for generations of teams and clubs." As a baker, this makes me sad, but I understand their reasoning.

  • I dined at Ric's Grill this past Saturday. Unfortunately, a last minute change of drivers meant I left my camera in my car and didn't get any photo's. It's been a long time since I've visited a Ric's Grill, and I must say it wasn't as impressive as I wanted it to be. Service was bland, and my attempts at interacting with the staff seemed to be fluffed away. The bread basket was nothing special, just your average warm white bread (we didn't accept any offers for more). As the only person (out of 4) to not order a beef plate, I was disappointed to find my spinach salmon salad arrived with an overcooked piece of fish. And as someone who orders dressing on the side, I couldn't help but wonder how they would have tossed the delicate greens because the dressing had the consistency of paste. The starter salads, Greek and Cesar, were good and arrived on gargantuan plates (any reason for this). The steaks were deemed a success, as were the garlic mash potatoes. The seasonal vegetables seemed a little off, with everyone commenting on the very sub par piece of corn on the cob. The only dessert ordered was banana chocolate cheesecake which my fellow diners felt had a fake banana flavour. With our dishes bringing the bill close to 200 bones, it was a nice treat, but not great enough to bring me back any time soon.
  • I've been stopping by Transcend Coffee more than usual lately, and I'm not being seduced by the customer service skills these days. I realize they offer a premium product, but on my last visit, I overheard a customer (and the barista) basically talking smack about two americano's (my order). It's one thing to live in the upper coffee echelon, but without a turnaround in attitude I'll stick with my friendly, and local, Starbucks.
  • Last but certainly not least. Culina Highlands, has been labeled by enRoute Magazine as one of the top 10 new restaurants in Canada. Congrats.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

chocolate chip squash bread

Finally, I can clean out my containers of squash puree. With just under 15 ounces left, the amount found in a store bough container, I decided to try yet another quick bread. This time, I included chocolate chips for that extra bit of gooey goodness.

The end result was good. Surprisingly, even with a cup and a half of sugar, it wasn't extremely sweet. Better than a recent store bought sample, I thought it also had quite the rustic look for a quick bread. If I baked this again, I would leave out the chips and maybe add nuts instead.

The List:
15ozs pureed pumpkin
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups chocolate chips

Cream the butter and sugar together before adding in the rest of the wet ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients together and mix until you see little specks of flour left. Remember, this is quick bread, so we don't to over work the batter. Finally fold in the chips and scoop everything into a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until a tooth pick is clean when inserted.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

pumpkin milkshake

OK, so not exactly pumpkin, this milkshake helped to use up yet another portion of my huge supply of squash puree. So I guess you could call it a squash milkshake, but that isn't nearly as sexy and it might deter some folks. Don't let it though, stay the course!

I picked up the inspiration for this treat over at Closet Cooking where a pumpkin milkshake was recently featured. I was, however, lacking frozen yogurt, cloves, and gingersnap cookies so I made some alterations. Damn tasty if I do say so myself, it really does give you an autumn sensation....although one lucky recipient said it reminded them of Christmas.

The List:
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup squash puree
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon crumbled graham cracker

Blend everything together until the right consistency, adding more milk if needed. Insert a straw, sprinkle a little garnish, and enjoy.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

pain a l'ancienne - bread baker's apprentice challenege #21

Pain a l'Ancienne...where to begin. Bread 21, in the bread baker's challenge, are these baguette shaped goodies. Not a straight forward creation, this recipe is going to take you two days to create. Don't feel too overwhelmed though, it's not rocket science.. It may however, as Peter says, have you facing the words "Unknown Kingdoms Be Here."

Why would you be facing the unknown you ask. In two words, cold water. Describing a process that has tremendous implications for the baking industry and for both professional and home bakers, this 'unique' delayed fermentation process, based on ice-cold water, releases all those flavours trapped inside flour in a different manner.

Even with all this fancy smancy talk, it boils down to this. Using the cold water will allow the flour itself to break down and release sugars that wouldn't normally be available at the start, if you mixed in warm water. These additional sugars will add a natural sweetness and help to caramelize the crust during baking.

This dough has a high level of hydration and as such, isn't that easy to handle. Being so wet and floppy, it sticks to your hands and arm hair (if you are like me). Once you are done mixing everything, it goes straight into the fridge over night.

The bread finally starts the rising period on day two, where it will need 3 or 4 hours to come out of hibernation and double in size. At this point, you'll need to heavily flour your counter or board, and start the shaping process.

With your dough prepped, and your oven ready for hearth baking, it just a matter of waiting 20-30 minutes for everything to come out.

How did it taste? Really good. Even with these being fairly tiny loaves, they had developed decent pockets of air.

Absolutely delicious straight from the oven, I downed an entire baguette with a bowl of homemade chili.

The next day brought a different texture to the bread, and created a chewier crust. Which just so happened to go wonderfully with tuna salad. What was I so worried about..maybe it's in the names. Pain de Champagne is next, and it almost 'sounds' as intimidating!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

pantry chili

Sure you can eat a hearty bowl anytime of the year, but it seems to make more sense when the weather starts to go south. This little cooking adventure virtually materialized out of nowhere. While I was cleaning out the vegetable crisper this week, the homestead was gifted 8lbs of ground beef. It seems the very kind meat-donor, had recently purchased a side of organic Alberta beef and didn't realize how much product they would actually be receiving. So, combining the homesteads new found stash of beef with a cleaned out crisper, I set out to make chili.

With the beef basically appearing out of the nowhere, this chili was a random free for all. I browned off 2 pounds of beef, with onions and garlic, while chopping vegetables and opening cans. Eventually both my recycling bin and slow cooker were filled to the brim. Opting for the fastest route, I switched the cooker to high and patiently wait 4 hours to fill my belly. For such a gong show creation, I was actually quite impressed by the final product. Needing to keep the heat to a bare minimum for the heat-allergic homesteader, I didn't sink too deep in the spice cupboard, but fixed this after wards with a generous sprinkle of chili flakes. I almost wish I had more vegetables in the crisper, as I could have easily added another zucchini, some mushrooms, or even shredded carrots. At least I had freshly baked Pain a l'Ancienne to accompany everything.

Pantry Chili
2lbs organic beef
2 19oz cans of mixed medley beans
1 19oz can of dark red kidney beans
2 28oz can whole tomatoes
1 14oz can of hot and spicy diced tomatoes
2 8oz cans of hot and spicy pizza sauce
4 or 5 tbls of chili powder
1 tsp of basil
1 tsp of Italian seasoning
1 tsp cayenne
1 can of corn
1 zucchini
1 green pepper
1 sweet onion
4 cloves of garlic minced
1 cinnamon stick

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

buttercup squash bread

So, truth be told, I've been eaten a good portion of my roasted squash. All I do is heat it up, add some fresh cracked pepper and it's delicious. The crazy thing though, is that even with the cupcakes I made, I still have a pile of puree to use up. So with the homesteaders big fans of banana breads, I figured a pumpkin bread would fit in nicely.

Where the cupcakes used 'pumpkin pie' spice, I decided to go at it with the original spices themselves, allowing me to create my own ratio. The bread itself is great. Perfectly moist, with that great quick bread texture. If I make this again, I'll definitely add more spice to really give you that autumn flavour kick and sub some of the oil out for apple sauce (which I was out of).

Squash Quick Bread

1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
15ozs squash puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease your 10 inch bundt pan. Cream oil, beaten eggs, squash (pumpkin) and vanilla together. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and salt together. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and mix until just combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

the week that was and is - food on tv

So normally on Wednesday, I fill this post with a few lines about interesting and/or local stories. Today, I wanted to chat about food related television. The topic has been milling around in my head for some time, and with some recent inspiration, I figured it was as good a time as ever.

First off, I think it would be safe enough to say that Food Network Canada controls a huge portion of the market here in Canada. Which, really, should come as no surprise. Being the only 24/7 channel dedicated to food, it would be pretty tough to top. However, in saying that, there is definitely more. Maybe not as obvious or readily available, but it's there. Take for example;

KCTS 9 (PBS) which is broadcast out of Seattle, Washington and provides a wide range of food related programming. While you will come across the occasional food related show during the week, the weekend is where food takes over. Anywhere from 4-8 hours of programming, including Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home, Primal Grill with Steven Raichlen, Joanne Weir's Cooking Class, Lidia's Italy, Chefs A' Field, America's Test Kitchen, Cook's Country, Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, and KCTS's very own KCTS Cooks. While very few of these shows are as flashy as their mainstream siblings, the shows are very educational and to the point. Primal Grill, for example, does a wonderful job of showing how real BBQ is done south of the border. America's Test Kitchen is extremely informative, covering everything from recipes to cookware, and it's pretty difficult not to be impressed by Julia Child. Her humor alone is worth a few minutes of your time.

Travel Channel, which unfortunately for many is a specialty channel, also offers something for the foodie. In fact, I think they have 3 of the best food shows around; Adam Richman's Man V Food, No Reservations With Anthony Bourdain, and Bizarre World with Andrew Zimmern. None of these shows follow your classic structure, or for that matter, help you create the perfect dish. Instead they use food as the stepping stone to great entertainment. Adam Richman works his way around the US, in search of food challenges. While he gets stoned by most foodies on the internet, I find it very entertaining. Not only does he promote a city, helping to uncover some very cool gems, he takes on some intense challenges. From a 72oz steak to 6 of the hottest wings in the world, Adam isn't (IMO) promoting unhealthy eating, just good food entertainment. Anthony Bourdain, who I find fantastic in his own right, travels around the world, learning, discovering, and eating. While any number of chefs could film a similar show, it's Tony's down to earth, sarcastic, and witty personality that sucks in the viewer. Andrew Zimmern is currently filming his first season of Bizarre World after 5 seasons of Bizzare Foods. As someone who based his show around eating life's oddities, I'm glad Andrew Zimmern is developing a new niche on Travel Channel. Bizarre World takes his original concept one step further, allowing him to interact with the locals to discover both the food and what makes each region interesting.

One thing I also think Travel Channel does extremely well, is promotion. Having participated in their live chats, including a recent one with Andrew Zimmern, I can honestly say how great it feels as a fan. These live chats are actually quite relaxed, well moderated, and the fan questions cover almost all topics. What foodie wouldn't want to ask Anthony Bourdain a question? Even if you hate him. As well, Travel Channel has developed widgets for the blog world, allowing you to bring updates/new show information right to your desktop every week. On top of all of that, Twitter. Now I know that twitter isn't everyone's cup of tea (much like Facebook), but I quite enjoy reading actual, down to earth updates. No, that isn't some lackey in the offices updating for Adam Richman, it's him.

And finally what about those Canadian gems. You know what I'm talking about; Wok with Yan, What's for Dinner?, The Inn Chef, The Great Canadian Food Show, The Urban Peasant, Cooking for Love, Anna and Kristina's Grocery Bag. Sure plenty of these shows are over and done with, yet many still show up somewhere on the TV dial. I, for one, loved Wok with Yan back in the day. Those aprons (You Are Wok You Eat, Wok Goes up Must Come Down, Wok's New, Pussycat?, Wokkey Night in Canada) were EPIC and his personality was so wonderfully over the top. Mary Jo Eustace and Ken Kostick have been around for what also seems like forever. Their playful banter is oddly entertaining, and I think they have the ability to show how much fun cooking can be. I've seen my fair share of friends and couples who struggle to cook with each other, so maybe a few lessons from Mary Jo and Ken would be handy. While Carlo Rota isn't nearly as exciting in real life, compared to his role in 24, he does a good job of eating his way around our country. Anna and Kristina are another team that have created a perfect niche, testing and reviewing cookbooks. As amateur chefs, cooking for a professional chef, they work 5-8 recipes from a given cookbook. Heck, they even tried to conquer the El Bulli cookbook, something I wouldn't dream of.

Which brings me to something I mentioned in last week's update;

Scripps Networks Interactive Inc. said it plans to launch a cooking-focused TV channel next year, the company's chief executive, Ken Lowe, said in an interview Thursday.

The new Cooking Channel will be a 24-hour network that caters to avid food lovers by focusing on food information and instructional cooking programming. Offered in both standard and high definition, the new network will launch with a VOD offering and a fully interactive Internet and broadband platform as it delivers more content focused on baking, ethnic cuisine, wine and spirits, healthy and vegetarian cooking and kids’ foods.
Even with food occupying such a large market, I wonder if we can support another entry into the food arena. My concern isn't about filling the time spots, it's about how they are going to find quality hosts and themes. With Food Network already creating competitions to find the next big thing, and plenty of boring shows, will another food channel just be leftovers? Is Food Network prepared for battle? Will this be better for all of us? Who knows.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

butter cup squash muffins

With a giant bowl of squash puree in the fridge, I started looking for recipes that required pumpkin puree. Not that pre-made pumpkin pie puree, just straight up pumpkin puree. I remembered reading about pumpkin muffins at Baking Bites, so I went looking for the recipe. I decided after tracking down the recipe, these babies have to be good, there called Impossible Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes.

Maybe I'm out to lunch but I don't think I was aware of the "impossible" style recipe that Baking Bites mentions;

This cupcake recipe is based on an impossible pie recipe. Impossible pie is a concept that is a popular “back of the box” recipe for baking mixes, like bisquick. These “pies” have a little bit of flour in their mix that turns into a firm, crust-like outer layer around the filling.

So there you have it, this style of recipe is supposed to stay soft in the center while forming it's own crust. Crazy! This was an awesome first puree recipe. Simple and straight forward, it allowed me to see if my puree had too much moisture in it. The cupcakes fell in the center, just as mentioned, and really did give that mini pumpkin pie experience. I've been keeping them in a fridge so they stay cold (pumpkin pie is soooo good cold), and topping them with a bit of whip cream. Yum yum!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

roasted buttercup puree and seeds

I'm not going to deny it any longer; there is a small army of buttercup squash in my basement and they must be dealt with. How you ask, well first I'm going to cut them all in half, that's right all of them! Then I'm going to pull out every baking sheet I can find and fill them with squash. Cut side down of course. Now like the evil food captain I am, I'm going to ship my army of squash off to oven land (350 degrees) and wait until they come back from their mission, soft and delicious. After which, I'll scoop out their insides and pulse, mash, and whip everything into a light, smooth pile. Muhahahahaha.

As you can see, just like most of us, they love their time in the heat!

I decided last minute to keep some of the seeds and roast them off as well. There are a million ways to go about this; some people suggest air drying the seeds for one or two days before baking, while others suggest a soak in heavily salted water for that same time. Instead of just soaking, some people boil the heck out of their seeds in salted water, while others are using the microwave...strange indeed. I've always just let the seeds dry up a bit naturally, but feeling the need for change I took the plunge and decided to dry-fry them in a skillet. The tough part is getting all the squash goo away from the seeds. Seriously, it took me almost an hour to clean, de-goo and prepare my seeds.

Keeping things relatively simple, all I did was toss the pile of seeds with oilve oil and kosher salt. Into the oven at 325 degrees I kept checking every 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake and flip. It was about 25 minutes in when I decided to pull them. Of course, I then burnt my lip trying to sample the scalding hot seeds. Silly me, I know. But oh so delicious.

Compared with actual pumpkin seeds, I didn't pick up any major difference. If anything, using olive oil was the most notable one as it changed the flavour profile a bit. I'm pretty sure I've used neutral oils in the past. These puppies are addictive, but even better like roasting nuts, you can toss them in whatever you like. Curry power, cumin, chili powder. Experiment a little and I bet you find something so surprisingly good, you will never want to tell anyone your secret.

Enough of the squash seeds though. It's time to bake!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

boston pizza millwoods - edmonton, ab

boston pizza millwoods
5228 23rd Avenue

Foreward - I'm not a fan of Boston Pizza. It's always left a bad taste in my mouth. From the service to the food and everything in between. From Grand Prairie to Medicine Hat, Rocky Mountain House to Cold Lake, my experiences have always been sub par. The only good experience I've had was in the US version of Boston Pizza, (Boston's) in Great Falls, Montana.

With that said, last night I was invited to Boston Pizza in Millwoods for supper. As I'd already enjoyed dinner, I thought I would meet up and maybe have something light while enjoying the company. Arriving sometime around 6:30, the restaurant was full with the wait-line reaching the outer doors. Having a peek into the lounge yielded the same result, but just as we turned to leave we noticed 3 free stools at the bar and decided to hop on. Being that it was a Saturday night in October, it almost goes without saying that every TV in the lounge was showing Hockey Night in Canada. A very wings and beer crowd was occupying this side of the restaurant.

My fellow diners decided on their meals and we asked for a round of calamari to nibble on. The strangest thing about calamari to me, is how often it's cooked incorrectly. I find more often than not, it comes to you on the chewy side so I didn't really have high hopes. Strangely enough, it wasn't rubbery at all. I should say though, I think this had to do with the calamari being so thin. If the breading wasn't so thick, I'm pretty sure you could have use these guys for a window. There was a plus side to this though. After the paper thin pieces were fried, they ended up so crispy and delicious. It reminded me of fried pig skin..which if you haven't had, is quite addictive. We all agreed that we must have been given a funny scoop of tzatziki, because our little dish tasty like sour cream.

While we were chatting about the calamari, the two entrees arrived. Zorba the Greek pizza for the one and Ginger Citrus Chicken Salad for the other. Can anyone explain to me, why every salad comes with garlic toast? Do people commonly do this at home?

Both dishes served their purpose without any major flaws. The pizza seemed to be different than what was remembered from a previous visit so it came as a bit of a surprise to my fellow diner. I noticed half of the individual sized pizza was boxed up to go home, so I'm not too sure if that was a good sign or not. The salad, if anything, was dressed pretty heavy. So while the chicken held up fine, the salad greens had a tough go and after a few minutes were looking pretty limp. Does anyone else ask for salad dressing on the side? I've taken to doing this in the last couple of years because of the 'heavy dressing' situations I've encountered more often than not.

Lastly a comment about the service. The bartender, who did a good job of taking care of us between the steady flow of beer, didn't smile once, or interact longer than absolutely required. Picking up that 'she's having a rough night' vibe, I couldn't help but overhear the conversations she had with the wait staff in the lounge. Most importantly a flurry of f-bombs in quick succession used to describe a gentleman who was in earlier. Now I know it's one thing to have a bad night, and another to have crappy customers...but really is there any need to drop f-bombs in front of customers. Even though I know I'll occasionally end up at Boston Pizza, I always do, there is nothing enticing me to do it more often. Although I must say, from the steady lineups..they must be doing something right.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

multigrain bread extraordinaire - bread baker's apprentice challenege #20

The big two-O. Phew! A fairly straight forward bread, this particular loaf is taken to that next level by soaking a few ingredients overnight. And what might those ingredients be...cornmeal, oats, and bran! This overnight water absorbing party, softens every thing, creating a light texture from seemingly heavy ingredients.

While I only made the one loaf, it was a solid success. Like the Light Wheat, this bread was utilized mostly in a toasted form. In fact, I think this loaf disappeared in a one-day toast extravaganza which is really why I have no pictures. Something about the nuttiness of those added grains really comes out after a few minutes in the toaster. Really though, a layer of peanut butter and jam probably makes any bread scrumptious!

After a a couple weeks away from the challenge, it's now time to dig in and attack the Pain a l'Ancienne. I think the name alone sounds intimidating! Eek!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

the week that was and is - october 14th 2009

Snow in Edmonton! Oh dear me..what will all the kiddies do for Halloween! Speaking of Halloween, what is everyone giving out this year? If you do that sort of thing. The homestead is handing out those mini bags of chips.

One of my favorite blogs, I'm Only Here for the Food!, is celebrating one year on ye ol' internet. Do check it out if don't already. Not only does Kim do a fantastic job of visiting spots in and around Vancouver, he travels occasionally and gets to sample treats from Richmond, VA to Panama and back.

Local food aficionado, Kevin Kossowan, recently returned from a trip to the Okanagon where it looks like he went on a bit of wine bender! In his words - I'm back. 22 wineries. 140+ sets of tasting notes and scores. Full review to come. Can't wait Kevin!

One of my favorite TV personalities, Alton Brown, is celebrating 10 years of Good Eats. From food basics to winning a Peabody award. I think Alton does a great job providing insight and techniques for every skill level. Without him, Food Network (IMO) would be seriously lacking. Great work Alton.

Speaking about food based programming, are we ready for another food specialty channel. I wonder if we will get the Cooking Channel here in Canada.

Anytime a Canadian food product gets recognition is great, but how awesome is this - 'crowned World Champion in Las Palmas at the world’s largest cheese competition. Canadian goat’s milk cheese, Le Cendrillon, saw off nearly 2,500 other competitors to take the title of World Champion Cheese 2009'. Best cheese around. Boo yeah!

I received a sample of Mom's Healthy Secrets cereal in the mail this week. Seriously do we even get this cereal here? The website claims - Mom's range of cold cereals includes 3 varieties each with a specific functional purpose: antioxidant-rich VibraBerry, high in-fibre FibreFit or OmegaActive a source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6. The package I got was FibreFit, and I didn't really like it. It didn't seem to have any real identity. It was like raisin bran (bran flakes and raisins) + shreddies + dry oats + goji berries. My cereal choice is Fiber One so believe me when I say I couldn't figure out how this sample was so bland.

I can't remember where I was exactly, but the first time I tried a Tim Tam slam was like love at first sight. So, with Tim Tam's now available in Canada, the homestead picked up chocolate and chewy caramel. If you've never attempted a Tim Tam slam, start with the original as the caramel biscuit requires a bit extra sucking power.

Taking in the Canadian Thanksgiving, my friend Sarah and I ventured off for a mini tour of the Edmonton's sights and sounds. We started at the Royal Alberta Museum, which was quite deserted. We were both excited to find out there is a Robert Munsch exhibit, but in the end were won over by the live creepy crawlers! Unfortunately, neither of our cameras lasted (who checks batteries these days), which turned out to be a real bummer as our next stop was the Muttart Conservatory. I'll never get over how much beauty is enclosed in those glass pyramids, and I think we both loved learning about the prehistoric Wollemi Pine.

P.S. Happy Birthday Jenn, I hope you have a fantastic day!!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

thanksgiving turkey - the saga

What says a good time like cooking a turkey? I don't think it's always the bird, but the entire meal as a whole that gets people a little hectic. So many pots on the stove, so little space in the oven, and before you know it, the turkey is overcooked. Sure, some of the dark meat is delicious, but those lean breasts look like they need an IV. This year things were going to change. Not having to participate at a girlfriends house, I decided to not sit idle by. That's right, with the advent of high quality meat thermometers and a better understanding of proteins, this man was going to attempt his first crack at the celebratory turkey.

First things first, the brine. Look around, I'll be far from the first person to tell you about the glories of a salt water soak. Yet...many people still decided to forgo this step. In today's day and age, our turkeys our so big that it becomes hard enough to cook one of these behemoths to a juicy result. The brine soak, will help to denature some of the protein and create pockets of moisture. Look at that tip eh, get a little extra moisture in before you start cooking AND break down the meat.

I used one pound of salt and one pound of brown sugar stirred into 6 quarts of warm water. Once the salt and sugar were dissolved I let the water cool for 20-30 minutes. Finally, sink the bird into the bucket and drop in 5 pounds of ice. I put a lid on the container and placed my trusty bird in a cool, calm place (8-16 hours).

The bird needs to warm up after it's wet slumber, so remember to remove your bird about 30 minutes before you are ready to rock n' roll. Rinse the bird under cold water to remove the brine and then pat dry. You may choose, of course, to stuff the bird or not at this point. Just remember, stuffing the bird will result in a longer cooking time. The homestead bird was 4.08KG. So I figured if I factored in the stuffing, this bird would take a brief 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

I had a few loaves of bread cooking away at 450 degrees, so it didn't take long for the oven to work its way up to 500. After stuffing the bird, I rubbed her down with oil (you can use butter) for that added golden hue. Now 500 degrees might seem high, but your bird is only going to spend 20 or 30 minutes at this temperature before dropping to a more sustaining 350.

As you can see, my bird didn't exactly brown all over. Oh well, such is life. The next step of course is basting. I remembered reading about using bacon to keep the bird self-basted. So with that in mind, I covered the bird in maple roasted bacon when I dropped the temperature.

Now it's just a matter of checking in on my bird every half hour or so. Making sure a) there is liquid in the bottom of the pan, b) she's nice and basted and c) she isn't browning too much. If you do find your bird browning more than you would like, don't hesitate to place a layer of foil right on her.

Before I knew it the house was filling with the most delicious odor of maple syrup and turkey. Deciding to check the temperature just shy of 2 1/2 hours, the lowest temperature I could find on my bird was 160. So out it came for the foil-down period. I am a strong, strong advocate of this post cooking relaxation, especially with poultry. Just give your bird a layer or two of foil and put it to the side for 20-30 minutes. I promise all the juices will flow back in, and nobody will be disappointed! Plus, this gives you plenty of time to work on those last few dishes; mash, boil, steam, and stir away.

I can't help but think that the 70's and 80's were filled with so much cooking fear, that people forgot what a properly done turkey should be like. Just think about how many over cooked chicken breasts you've encounter (or dry pork chops for that matter). I mentioned at the beginning of this post about new understandings. Maybe it's not a new understanding of cooking, I mean people have been cooking for centuries. But some things have changed. From the conditions they live in to the animals themselves. Don't believe me, have a heritage bird (or pig). We have breed birds that are too heavy to bread and pigs that lack proper fat marbling as we search for the 'healthiest meat'. I don't really know where I'm going with this...It just seems no matter how many times I produce perfectly cooked and super juicy poultry products, some diners fear under cooking - 'this breast is way too juicy to be cooked'. Winning some people over, to a place where turkey doesn't have to be 190 degrees may be impossible, but I know that cooking my first turkey was neither hard, tiring, or complicated.

Brine + Bird + Heat + Rest = fantastic. Happy Thanksgiving!

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