Then you would understand why the 840km drive to Chez Ashton in Quebec was worth every argument over the radio station.  Of course there are plenty things to see and do in Quebec, but the experience isn’t complete without pigging out on the best poutine there is.  The cheese is sweet. The gravy is piping hot and salty. The “frites” cover both extremes – crispy, yet  mushy under the blanket of gravy.

As we all know, addictions are always great, until you get to the withdrawal stage. I bought some soft curd cheese at a farmer’s market in Quebec and have been making poutine ever since with farm fresh potatoes and gravy made from drippings.  I used the freshest ingredients because that cheese was gold .  Bagged potatoes from No Frills? Quelle horreur!

Well now I’m really stuffed (as in listless, disoriented, moody, stuck) because I’ve just finished my last batch of cheese and I can’t find a reliable replacement.

I’ll have to visit  Smoke’s Poutinerie for a fix.

I had already consumed for the day: a spoonful of fish oil, vitamin C and other multivitamins; garden fresh potatoes, peas and tomatoes; cabbage; a carrot, peach and 2 apples, whole grain bread, peanut butter, plenty water, 2 glasses of milk and a bowl of raisin bran cereal. I was entitled to at least one vice.

Now, I’m not a frequent practitioner of iridated cooking, but this is a simple solution to an annoying chocolate fixation. Besides, this recipe is so rich that I think it might be somewhere between 6 months to a millenia before I get another chocolate craving.

I’m not a dietician either, but something tells me that the portion of sugar and oil per serving is on the excessive end of the scale.

Oh well. I did add cherries if that makes any difference.

 It was while on a leisurely drive to the country, when I spotted what I expected to be the biggest thrill since I got my Barbie Olympic village- a goat farm.

Now goats are like the ugly, greedy cousins of sheep, but do they ever taste good! Anyone who’s had curry goat knows what I’m talking about.

Anyhow, we pulled in, as 20 beady eyes watched us park our car and enter the store. I could tell they didn’t like us. I call it goat instinct.

I should have known once I stepped in, that I was going to be disappointed.  If I was in the market for goat soap- then I wouldn’t be disappointed. If I was in the market for chevre, then  I wouldn’t be disappointed either.  I was curious to try one of their butter tarts, made from goat butter, but sadly they had run out the day before. But what I really wanted, was  farm fresh goat meat.  I’d promised a friend that I would make her some curry goat as part of her wedding gift- so I wanted to make sure it would be a meal  that the bride and groom would savour forever.

I asked if they sold goat meat, explaining I needed some to make a curry. He recommended their stewing meat and directed me to a shelf in their upright freezer that had packages of frozen goat meat, gift wrapped in butcher paper.

Perfect!

He wove interesting stories of romance, adventure and travel that led him to a life on a goat farm. I was impressed to meet someone so young with a passion for the farming life.

When I got home, I ripped open the butcher paper only to find… bones!  I realize goats aren’t the most fleshy animals, but this was literally a package of rib bone and bits. By the time I’d finished trimming the fat,  it was just bones.

With no time to waste, I drove 30 minutes to the closest West Indian store. Bought a bag of goat meat (shoulder, with a few bits of rib). Defrosted over night. Seasoned it up with salt, Jamaican curry powder, lotsa garlic, onion, scallion, black pepper, allspice berries, and thyme. Allowed it to sit for over 24 hours in the fridge. The next day; tossed in a whole scotch bonnet pepper and slow cooked it for 4 hours in a dutch pot that’s older than most of my nieces and nephews.

In the end, I learned a valuable lesson: Next time you receive something that’s wrapped up, make sure you sneak a peak before you accept it.

This is for you Lissa and Errold. Congratulations on your wedding!

If I were to choose a vegetable that was as versatile to my palette as the little black dress is to my wardrobe, I would choose  beetroot- and not just because of the colour.

I normally make borscht in the winter time because it warms that damp chill in the marrow of my bones like nothing else. ( A secret the Russians didn’t share with the west, despite Glasnost). Yet in the summer time, it is one of the best cold soups out there- sweet and slightly sour; creamy and cooling.  Thank you infernal heat wave for introducing my tastebuds and heat weary body to this new experience! 

I use the same recipe for both. I just allow the hot soup to cool to room temperature. My version goes something like this: homemade beef broth, grated: beets, onion, cabbage, carrots; tomatoes, bay leaf, dill, salt, sour cream. Sometimes I roast the beets in the oven before grating them.   For those looking for measurements, time and portions, here’s a simillar, yet different recipe.

And if you really want to dress up a beetroot, you should try beetroot cake. But I’ll share that fashion story a bit later.

This bread is a dessert in itself- rye bread with cranberries, raisins and currants. This recipe pairs well with a glass of vanilla flavoured  almond milk.I call it, Golden Rye Crunch

Serves: 1 (maybe 2 if you’re in a sharing mood)

Now this would have been our dessert, if  it wasn’t for a jar of home preserved pears. I love fresh pears, but i’m not too keen on canned- whether its store bought or home-canned. If they were improperly canned, and I was an unscrupulous person, I could sell them online to an eager buyer as botox.  Fortunately, I came up with a less indictable idea…Summer Bread Pudding!

The idea went something like this :

  • Scald 1-1/4 cup of milk add 4 cardamom pods, cinnamon stick. Allow to cool.
  • Cut 6 slices of bread into cubes. Set aside.
  • Spread 2 Tbsps melted butter over the bottom of a glass baking dish
  • Sprinkle 1/4 cup*  light brown sugar over melted  butter
  • Cover bottom with sliced pears, raspberries, blueberries

Now for the pudding. In a separate bowl:

  •  Beat 4 eggs 
  • Add 1/4 cup sugar
  • Add 1/2 tsp. each, nutmeg, vanilla
  • Pour cooled, strained milk into the egg mixture
  • Add 1 tsp. orange zest
  • Mix bread cubes into egg mixture. Let it sit until starts to slightly break apart. Pour over fruit. Bake till happily golden in a 370 oven.

(*I used a little sugar here because I was using home preserved pears which were quite sweet. If they were fresh, I’d probably use 1-1/4 cup)

The good news is that the dessert received thumbs up from my two scrutineers and no one got botulism. The bad news is that I still have 3-1/2 jars of pears to go.

After a week of toast, and sandwiches made from leftovers dinners, what are you supposed to do with the empty bread bag?

When I was in primary school, I remember my friends slipping a plastic bag over their socked feet before putting on their winter boots at recess time or at the end of the school day. I adopted this fashion accessory after I discovered I had a hole in my boot. 

A more grown up version of this idea is to first moisturize your feet, put on a pair of socks, cover with the plastic bag socks, read a book for 30 minutes, then remove both “socks”. You don’t want your feet to get sweaty- I think that would defeat the purpose.

It’s too hot and dry now to be worried about winter boots and “soakers”.  But if it ever rains again this summer, you could always slip on a pair of plastic bag socks, jump in a puddle and start singing in the rain.

Do you eat scotch bonnets for breakfast ?

Do you put hot pepper sauce on your mac n cheese?

Do you like strawberry jam on toasted rye bread?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then this post is for you. 

Sometimes the most compelling results can come from the most unlikeliest matches.  This sandwich is a mashup of Jamaican and German flavours: jerk pork and rye bread.  The jerk seasoning was homemade . I shredded leftover jerk pork and served the sandwich with a homemade tamarind bbq sauce and cabbage coleslaw. I happen to love rye bread, so I think next time, I’ll make it with  pumpernickel.   

You don’t have to make your jerk seasoning from scratch-Loblaws sells Walkerswood which is a favourite. But it was just one of those things on my culinary bucket list.  This is my best effort at writing a recipe. I normally deviate as I go.

Jerk Rub:

  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 scallions 
  • 2 Tbsps fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-2 Scotch bonnet peppers
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp ground pimento (also known as allspice. I probably used more since I used the mill to grind the berries)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (again, I probably used more)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsps Olive oil

Toss in a food processor and pulse into a paste. Spread a thin coat over your meat and marinate for a few hours or overnight. Make sure you thoroughly clean your hands and all surfaces that the scotch bonnet comes into contact with. 

As for the tamarind sauce- there’s always Pickapeppa which I was surprised to see at Wal-Mart of all places. It’s a multi-use condiment –  mildly hot, sweet and tangy. I’m have to experiment some more with this one, since this was a total fluke.  But here are the ingredients I used in no particular order: tamarind, tomato paste, ginger, cumin, cayenne, dijon mustard, water, garlic powder, brown sugar, molasses, allspice, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar. Simmer on low heat. Blend, strain.

It was past our usual dinner time.

was busy solving a crime on Law & Order, Criminal IntentHe was busy shooting aliens on his computer.

Both of us are hungry. Neither of us want to prepare dinner; nor make the effort to order take out; nor propose to eat out.

I am the first to flinch.  I know that once I pose the question, I also own the problem.

“What are we going to have for dinner?”

“Oh, I’m not hungry.”  Aha! So he takes the opposite tack: Deny being hungry, escape responsiblity.

“Well I’m quite hungry.” I try to rouse his sympathy. He doesn’t take the bait. His eyes remain fixed on the computer screen.

Ideas are tossed, though he continues to be engrossed in his game during the discussion. We finally agree on sandwiches.

I bought  Dempster’s Canadian for two reasons. First, because I was feeling a lingering patriotism after spending Canada Day in Ottawa. Second and more importantly, because I find whole grain adds more substance,  flavour and sustenance to a sandwich. 

So we make sandwiches. He makes 3 roast beef sans with tomato, mayo, dijon, horseradish and dill pickle. I make grilled cheese with, you guessed it, Canadian Cheddar, tomato and ham. A simple tomato salsa, tortilla chips and everyone is pacified.

Maple Leaf’s new ThinkFOOD!concept got me thinking. Not that I’m a food historian, but is there another staple recipe, that is more ancient, more global or even more ubiquitous than bread?

Enter into my brain for a mo: The most basic ingredients are a milled grain/seed/root with a bit of water and salt. Then, depending on the ingredients you add you can make it either flat or fluffy; sour, sweet or savoury. You can fry, steam, boil, oven bake, or even “bake” it on a stick over a campfire. The possibilities and combinations really are limitless. 

If anyone dared me to go a week without any form of bread, I’d say, forget it. And that’s not because I’m a bread fanatic, but more because it’s such a versatile and comfortable staple. The smell of fresh baked bread or the crunch of a toasted english muffin with butter melting in the crevices, makes me glad I don’t have any gluten issues.

Obviously, ThinkFOOD! can evoke big thoughts and even bigger cravings.

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