Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Cold Weather Fighting Cookies

January30

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The cold grip continues in Manitoba and when we say that we are colder than Mars we are not just using a figure of speech. Overnight temperatures (with the wind chill) have been in the -50 range. Because I work from home I am one of the fortunate ones. It is simply treacherous for our eldest who uses a motorized wheelchair to go outside. My beautiful grand-babies can’t get to school because of frozen vehicles (their Daddy, our son has been walking to work). Our 2nd son (son in law) works on the front lines at Siloam Mission and I can only imagine what they are trying to cope in this weather crisis.

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Anyhoo…I was trying to decide on a stew or soup that would keep us warm tonight and I came upon a top ten list of foods that, for various reasons, will keep you warm: cinnamon, dried fruits, eggs, ginger, honey, pepper, saffron, sesame seeds, turmeric and hot soups. The latter being an obvious. This didn’t sound like a soup concoction but it did sound like a spice cookie recipe! I started with a recipe from the Middle East and modified it to incorporate more of the list. It already covered off cinnamon, dried fruits, eggs and ginger. I added honey, pepper and sesame seeds and I swapped  whole what flour for white flour, vanilla whiskey for brandy and raisins for currants.I couldn’t find a way to incorporate turmeric or saffron. Drat.

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The result?

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An unusual tasting but satisfying cookie.

Cold Weather Fighting Cookies
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3 doz
 
I took a spice cookie recipe and modified it to include more ingredients from a list of top 10 foods that keep you warm.
Ingredients
  • ¾ c raisins
  • 2 T vanilla whiskey
  • 2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1½ t cocoa
  • ½ t baking powder
  • ¼ t baking soda
  • ½ t each cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
  • ¼ t salt
  • 1 quick grind of pepper
  • coarsely grated chocolate to taste
  • ½ canola margarine
  • ⅓ c icing sugar
  • ⅓ c liquid honey
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t grated orange zest
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ c sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Soak the raisins for 10 minutes in the whiskey.
  2. Use hand whisk or stand mixer whisk to combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt and grated chocolate.
  3. If using a stand mixer, remove to a second bowl.
  4. Place butter, sugar, honey, vanilla, orange zest and mix with the beater attachment for 1 minute.
  5. With mixer running add the egg, then dry ingredients, followed by raisins and whiskey mixture.
  6. Drop by teaspoons on a parchment covered baking sheet.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  8. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool.

So now you can go off of your January diet and have a really good excuse to eat cookies!

Kath’s quote: “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me.”-Cookie Monster

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Love never fails.

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Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

October16

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The view from the 17th floor where we assemble each year.

Thanksgiving this year was especially poignant for me.  Perhaps it is the upcoming family wedding, perhaps the delight of having my Goddaughter home from Australia to celebrate with us, perhaps that my Mom persevered through another move to be with us, perhaps a sweet combination of all of these things.  Of particular significance though was the gratitude of being carried through some of the tougher moments that the year had brought us since the previous celebration of the harvest.  Surrounded by my family, my friends near and far, my church family and my neighbourhood, I realized anew how wonderful my life is and can be, even though it sometimes feels that I am crushed by its stresses.  As my friend Claudia (who is here right now) says: “There is always a hair in the food!”.

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Our assembly this year was diverse with representatives not just from Australia but Japan (an international student living with a family member),

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from the Wee One who is the youngest (and her adorable second cousin)

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to our Mom and my bother-in-law’s Dad who is in his 90’s

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with various generations of cousins in between.

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When a family of over 40 gets together from all over the city, how does hot and tasty food make it to the table?  One of my sister-in-laws assigns the tasks and as we always say “Many hands make light work”-with different people assigned to prepare our standard favourites, designations to set up and take down and others to bring disposable plates and take out the garbage.

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There is always turkey, ham AND meatballs, potatoes made with and without cream cheese and a couple of casseroles of green bean bake.

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Over the years there have been many food “hits”, this year I may humbly put forward that my adaption of middle eastern sweet potatoes might have taken the most accolades.  The recipe is adapted from my new favourite cookbook:

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Figs
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Unfortunately fresh figs are out of season in October in central Canada so improvising was in order.
Ingredients
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ T honey
  • 12 green onions, cut into ribbons
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 6 figs, cut into quarters
  • 5 oz. crumbed chevre (mine was rolled in berries)
  • ½ c pomegranate jewels
  • S&P
Instructions
  1. Wash & cut potatoes into uniform wedges.
  2. Place them, skin side down on a heavy, greased baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle more oil and salt and pepper over all.
  4. Roast for approx. 25 minutes at 475 degrees until soft but not mushy.
  5. Place balsamic vinegar and honey together in a small sauce pan.
  6. Bring to a boil and then decrease heat and simmer 2 to 4 minutes.
  7. Sauté onions and pepper in oil for 4 to 5 minutes.
  8. Assemble potatoes on platter, top with all ingredients, leaving the pomegranate for last and then drizzle with balsamic reduction.
  9. Can be served hot or at room temperature.

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The piece de resistance was Sister #3’s pumpkin pie.  Creamy and bursting with spices, she may make me a pumpkin pie lover after all these years.

Kath’s quote: “The king and high priest of all the festivals was the autumn Thanksgiving. When the apples were all gathered and the cider was all made, and the yellow pumpkins were rolled in from many a hill in billows of gold, and the corn was husked, and the labors of the season were done, and the warm, late days of Indian Summer came in, dreamy, and calm, and still, with just enough frost to crisp the ground of a morning, but with warm traces of benignant, sunny hours at noon, there came over the community a sort of genial repose of spirit – a sense of something accomplished.”-Harriet Beecher Stowe

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Love-that is all.

Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

August19

The 90 year old father of my friend was given a book.  He loved it so much that he gifted it to his son and daughter-in-law.  When I was in their home recently, they showed me their gift and when I returned home (they live in Toronto), I immediately ordered a copy for myself.  Since it has been mine, I have shared it with Sister #3 and more recently J2’s Mom.  Treasured books are often shared in this manner, in my circle at least, but rarely is the book a cookbook.  Jerusalem -A Cookbook written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is an exquisite collection of recipes as mysterious and fascinating as the city itself.  Consistent with my premise of food=love and the notion that food is a powerful force that can promote healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, the authors of this recipe collection make this bold statement:

Alas, although Jerusalemites have so much in common, food, at the moment, seems to be the only unifying force in this highly fractured place.  The dialogue between  Jews and Arabs, and often Jews themselves, is almost nonexistent.  It is sad to note how little daily interaction there is between communities, with people sticking together in closed, homogenous groups.  Food however, seems to break down those boundaries on occasion.  You can see people shop together in food markets, or eat in one another’s restaurants.  On rare occasions, they work together in partnership in food establishments.  It takes a giant leap of faith, but we are happy to take it-what have we got to lose?-to imagine that hummus will eventually bring Jerusalemites together, if nothing else will.

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I witnessed the huddling of persons into compact neighbourhoods myself when I traveled to Jerusalem many years ago.

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We had the unique perspective of walking on top of the wall of the old city and could peer over railings and into yards and lanes to see the subtle lines drawn in the sand and the boundaries between “theirs” and “mine”.

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In a manner of speaking, the food of Jerusalem has already worked in “unification” (not for the beautiful and complicated country of Israel) but for a group of old friends who spent this past weekend together, celebrating life and friendship surrounded by nature with games, laughter, hikes, sleeps, kayaking

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….but most significantly by cooking and eating together.

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Our Friday was heralded with welcome drinks and a simple but delicious meal of grilled sausages and a lusty Mixed Bean Salad with capers, cumin and coriander (from the cookbook).

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Although the evening and overnight had been warm and humid, the morning was cool enough for us to have our second cup of coffee around the fire (with croissants and muffins from Stella’s).

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Before heading out for our hike around the lake, the table was set for eggs.

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Of course, they weren’t just any eggs.  They were lovingly made by R who is the most patient cook I have encountered.  None of the high heat that I am always hurriedly setting under my pan was employed here.  With these creamy parmesan eggs, the blueberry pancakes the next morning and the grilling of sausages and chicken, he does everything the “hard” way: constant stirring, live charcoal, timed flips on the grill; while at the same time retaining that unhurried attitude of a confident cook.

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After walks and swims we assembled on the dock for Happy Hour (as if we needed to get any happier)!

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L had made my favourite dip of baba ganoush and a rich and creamy hummus.

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These Feta and Olive Chicken Balls were delectable and I would happily serve them as a healthy main with soft pitas and some greens.

Feta & Olive Chicken Balls
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. ground chicken
  • ½ c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 T onion, finely chopped
  • ½ c feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ c green olives, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t Italian seasoning
  • ¼ c seasoned breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven broiler.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything together.
  3. Shape into approximately 16 meatballs and place two inches apart on a baking sheet.
  4. Broil about 3 inches away from the heat until browned on top.
  5. Turn over, and broil on the other side.

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As the black silhouettes of the pines were illuminated by the dusky sky, we lit candles and sat down for our “Sabbath” meal together (observed in Israel on the sixth day at sunset).  This was anything but a “holy” experience in a religious sense and yet because “holy” also means a time or place deserving of respect or reverence, it was.  The setting was special, the time carefully carved out, the moments savoured……

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The recipe for the  Lebanese chicken was from a friend of R’s.  He and M marinated it all afternoon and then R painstakingly waited for the coals to be just right.  The tender meat was seasoned with fresh oregano and squeeze after squeeze of fresh lemon.

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Tabbouleh, we learned, probably hails from Lebanon and Syria and is primarily a parsley salad sparsely dotted with al dente bulgar wheat.

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This dish of Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Fresh Figs is the reason why I was so anxious to buy the cookbook and even if for no other reason, I am so glad I did.  We were concerned that the sweet potatoes were white and not orange and we think that they were a Caribbean style of sweet potato (that is, reminiscent of a plantain).  They were delicious in a subtle way allowing the fresh figs to shine.

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The figs were so exquisite that we enjoyed more dessert of them with honey cake, philo pastries, grapes, apricots and figs.  The ones in the dish were perfection with a drizzle of balsamic and pungent shards of cheese.

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The next morning we were up and cooking and eating again.

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But who wouldn’t want to spend time in the kitchen, with granite and the forest as your backdrop.

We eventually hit the road back to the city but not without pledging to be together again-hopefully in a more unified and peaceful world.

Kath’s quote: “If you want to find a good husband, you’d better learn how to chop your parsley properly.”-the mother of cookbook writer Sami Tamimi to his sister.

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

“Go Barley” Go!

June19

In the spirit of the World Cup, I am inspired to write this blog post headline…..

I am fascinated by ancient foods especially those referred to in the Bible.  Add barley to that list as it is mentioned over 30 times-in fact there is archeological evidence that wild forms of barley were being harvested as early as 17,000 BCE!

In my recent efforts to increase my soluble fibre, I have been seeking out recipes for whole grains like barley.  In addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, barley helps improves glycemic control and the soluble fibre helps with digestive health.  Barley is also a super food when it comes to vitamins and minerals, containing thiamine, niacin, folate, riboflavin, iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, B vitamins and amino acids!  I feel better, just having typed this long list….

Barley is a local food and I love to see fields of graceful, long blonde haired stems, blowing in the farmer’s fields throughout Manitoba and the rest of the Canadian prairies.

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But the truth is, no nutritional food is worth knowing about if it doesn’t taste good.  I love barley’s unique nutty flavour.  In my enjoyable work as a food-stylist, I sometimes am recruited when a new recipe book is being launched.  Such is the case, with a gorgeous new book entitled “go barley-MODERN RECIPES FOR AN ANCIENT GRAIN” by Pat Inglis and Linda Whitworth.

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Linda and I have worked together before and she is a delight to work alongside and is the “Barley Queen” as far as her knowledge of the grain is concerned.

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The book itself is a perfect size and is packed with gorgeous photography that make you want to pick up a spoon or fork and break through the pages.  This is what ingenious recipe writing (and a good food stylist) can achieve. My favourite of the three recipes: Wild Rice, Barley, and Fruit Salad; Raspberry Rhubarb Cobbler and Barley Tabbouleh, is the latter.

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I left it for D’s dinner last evening with a grilled chicken breast and just now I crumbled some feta on top for a refreshing (from fresh mint) and yet satisfying lunch.

D with his sweet tooth, loved the Cobbler and I am planning on making the Ole Fashioned Ginger Snaps for him and the Sunflower Barley Crackers for me.

With Linda’s permission, here is the Barley Tabbouleh recipe, just to whet your appetite until you get a chance to buy the book or check out their website: Go Barley.

Barley Tabbouleh
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
Garnish this Middle eastern dish with mint leaves and serve it icy cold as a salad or as an appetizer with crisp bread. Add the tomatoes just before serving to keep their firm texture and taste.
Ingredients
  • 1 c pot or pearl barley
  • 2 c water
  • 1 c chopped fresh parsley
  • ½ c chopped fresh mint
  • ½ c chopped green or red onion (I used red)
  • 1 small cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ¼ c fresh lemon juice
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ¾ t salt
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 plum tomatoes, chopped (I used Roma)
  • fresh mint leaves for garnish
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan over high heat, combine barley and water; bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to simmer; cover pan and cook for 40 minutes, then chill.
  3. In a large bowl, combine chilled barley, parsley and mint.
  4. Add onion and cucumber.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice , cinnamon, salt, and pepper; pour over barley mixture and mix well, then refrigerate.
  6. Shortly before serving, stir in tomatoes.
  7. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Kath’s quote: “For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey.” Deut 8:7-8

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Love-that is all.