Food Musings

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

Building my Culinary Repertoire through Travel-Sister #3


When I travel, one of the things I look most forward to is experiencing the food. The reality is that the version of ethnic food that we get here in Canada is not the same as when you taste it in its country of origin. Sometimes the food has been altered to better suit the North American palate. For instance I knew that my trip to Beijing China would be full of culinary surprises and there is no restaurant that I have encountered here at home that would come close to the crazy and diverse food I was offered there. Frog stew anyone?

Sometimes the difference comes from the fact that the produce is readily available in that country and looses something when it is shipped here. I love to sit on the beach in Mexico and eat fish that was caught that morning, served with guacamole made with avocados of perfect ripeness. There is just no way to capture that freshness 2,000 miles away.

Three Sisters in Dublin
In Prague
In Malaga

I love tasting food prepared by hands that have been making it their whole lives. I always want to sample things a place is known for. Last autumn alone, I ate boxty in Dublin, schnitzel in Prague, tapas in Malaga.

Many years ago I traveled through Turkey and Greece I discovered that many of the dishes were almost identical. They both have versions of tomato, cucumber, onion, olive, and feta salad, as well as crispy filo pastry with nuts and syrup. The difference is one country just seems to have better cooks than the other. I won’t tell you who I thought did it better. There is already enough rivalry between the Turks and the Greeks.

When I return from a trip, I like to find recipes for the foods I ate on my trip and try them at home. Below you’ll find a recipe for Turkish lamb stew cooked in paper- a uniquely Turkish dish.

I think the trick is to be as open minded as you can when trying food from another country. I remember I was traveling with a Canadian woman who mid trip announced “You can’t even get a good hamburger here” to which I replied, “it’s pretty hard to get a really good kebab in Winnipeg”.

You can pretty much rest assured that not everything you eat will be to your taste, but try it all, or at least the things you are brave enough to try. Scorpion on a stick anyone, anyone? And you might be surprised at the fabulous taste sensations you discover along the way.

Kagit Kebabi (Turkish lamb stew in paper) Serves 6

1 lb. potatoes
2 tbsp butter
2 lb lamb, cubed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 tomato, peeled and diced
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh dill
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a fry pan, brown meat evenly. Add onion and carrot, cover and cook until the juices are absorbed. Add the potatoes, tomato, peas, tomato paste dissolved in a little water, and vinegar. Cook for a few minutes more. Then add 1 cup of water, cover and cook over low heat for 1 hour. This is a good time to add your salt and pepper. It will need a significant amount of both. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Cut six generous size pieces of parchment paper. Place equal portions of the mixture in center of each sheet. Sprinkle with herbs. Gather the sides together and give a twist. Place the parcels on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Serve in the packages. If you don’t wish to cook in paper you can let the stew continue to cook in the pot for 20 minutes longer but I don’t think it’s as good.

Kath’s quote: “Eating good food is a global achievement and I find that there is always something new and amazing to learn – I love it!”-author unknown

Love never fails.

Advice for the New Cook-by Sister #3


Over the past few years I have spent some time talking to Millennials about food, their cooking (or often more accurately) ordering-in and dining out habits.  And it seems to me that there are two distinct camps. The smaller group of the two, are the foodies.  Perhaps they grew up in a house where cooking was a family affair, or maybe they took full advantage of growing up with access to food network and endless food blogs and YouTube videos to teach themselves how to cook.  On the complete opposite end is the majority of young people who, for whatever reason, didn’t have the same exposure or interest in learning to cook.  

A few years ago I did a cooking class for four such young women.  All of them had very limited experience in the kitchen but were keen to learn and overcome the intimidation they felt.  All were interested in home cooked food that was budget conscious and didn’t take a lot of time.  One of the things we made was sheet pan pork tenderloin with bean and potatoes. See the “recipe” below.   

So here is my advice to the new cook.  
1) Start with the basics.  Learn how to make really good scrambled eggs. It’s a dish you are likely going to eat a lot in your life, so make the most delicious version you can.  The technique is simple and demonstrates that by doing a few things differently; you can take your food from alright to really yummy. Most of us tend to cook our eggs on too high a heat; we often forget to season them well. You can find a good tutorial on YouTube  

2) Cook in big batches. You may only be cooking for yourself or the two of you, but why not make a lot and prepare portions to enjoy for lunch, dinner the next night, or stick it in the freezer for down the road.

3) Master 5 or 6 dishes.  You likely don’t entertain the same people over and over again.  So why not learn to make a dish well and then serve it to each group of friends once.  Then, learn another and repeat. I would recommend recipes by Jamie Oliver, the Barefoot Contessa, or Food Wishes.  They all have videos you can follow.  

4) Not everything needs to be from scratch.  It’s OK to take short cuts.  Not everyone needs to make their own pie crusts.  A pizza made on store bought Naan bread can be as good as one made with homemade dough. If time is important to you, take the shortcut.

5) Never try a new recipe if you are having guests that you want to impress.  It is a good idea to practice first to make sure it is a dish you will be proud to serve.  Also keep in mind that if it is a flop, it may not be you, it could be the recipe.   

6) Simple food is the bomb!  In my opinion nothing beats a roast chicken with roast potatoes and veggies.  Making the fanciest food is not the be-all-end-all.  It takes time and patience to master complicated recipes.

Pork Tenderloin Sheet Pan Dinner

2 1 pound pork tenderloins, trimmed

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1 pound green beans, stems trimmed

1 1/2 pounds baby potatoes cut in half lengthwise

4 tablespoons olive oil

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

non stick cooking spray

Position oven rack to middle lower position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray heavy duty baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl, combine green beans with 2 tablespoons of olive oil,
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Arrange green beans in center of baking sheet. 

In the same bowl, toss potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper. Transfer to baking sheet and arrange cut side down on either side of green beans.

Remove silver skins from tenderloin.  Here is a great video of how this is done. 

Next slather with hoisin sauce, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Lay on top of the beans and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until thickest part of tenderloins reaches 140 degrees on a meat thermometer. 

Feeds 4 – 6 people

Kath’s quote: “People find cooking therapeutic. You get to make use of all of your senses, and that’s what makes this activity worthwhile. Cooking is a highly diverse subject, but what makes it unique is that it connects people from all over the world, regardless of their race, religion, or ethnicity. The vast variety of cuisines represent people and their cultures ever so beautifully. Most people find that cooking uplifts their mood. After all, good food is directly proportional to a good mood!” 

Love never fails.

Are things always better made from scratch?-Sister #3


Growing up, many of my friends, like me, had stay-at-home Moms. Considering my mother had six children and cared for her two little brothers and a sick dad when her first few children were little , it was no surprise that she needed to stay home. As a result my mom made almost everything we ate from scratch. She made jams, pickles, perogies, cabbage rolls, soups, stews, chili, casseroles, pizza, egg rolls and pies-she was always cooking. 

Every week she would make bread. A lot of bread. In her bedroom, the warmest room in the house, there were often large enamel basins of dough rising underneath tea towels. From that she would make loaves of bread, dinner rolls, and cinnamon buns.

I remember returning from my friend Elaine’s house, whose divorced mother worked full time, and asking my mom if we could buy the polka dot bread I had at her house: wonder bread. My mom gave me a little smirk and shook her head. I had no idea how good I had it. Later when my Mom was unwell and spent time in the hospital, my dad, who worked full-time and had four kids at home, would load us in the car and head to McDonalds a few times a week. I quickly discovered that processed food was not all I thought it would be and I would pine for my Mom’s home cooking. 

At culinary school, I was taught to make everything from scratch. And many things were worth the extra time and effort. When I started cooking professionally I discovered that most restaurants incorporate some short cuts into their recipes. 

So considering that I have the skill set and maybe even the time to cook from scratch, do I? Yes, and no. Let me explain. Do I always make my own stocks? If I have an abundance of vegetable scraps and a chicken carcass, then yes. But will I go out of my way to do so? No-that’s what Knorr Swiss is for.  Can I make puff pastry from scratch? Yes, but I can’t imagine doing so when I can pull a package from the freezer. I still mostly make my own pie dough, but on occasion I pick up a pre-made crust. I make tomato sauce when friends give me a ton of tomatoes, but my pantry is always stocked with a jar or two of spaghetti sauce. I think there is a balance to be had between what I buy and what I make. 

And then sometimes I’m able to find a middle ground. My Caesar salad dressing is an example of this. I’m not super fond of bottle Caesar dressing. It makes me a bit nervous that bottled salad dressings last so long in the fridge. I know how to make Caesar from scratch, beating egg yolks, lemon juice and slowly incorporating oil to make the perfect mayonnaise base, but you have to use it all up in a couple days to not risk making yourself sick. So instead I use store bought mayo and add all the rest of the ingredients to create a great dressing. Here’s my recipe. 

Almost from scratch Caesar dressing 

2 small garlic cloves, grated

1 teaspoon anchovy paste (I know you want to skip it, but don’t!) 

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup mayonnaise

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together. Add some oil to thin it out if it gets too thick. I transfer it into a bottle. It will keep a couple of weeks in the fridge. 

Kath’s quote: ‘Scratch’ has been used since the 18th century as a sporting term for a boundary or starting point which was scratched on the ground. The first such scratch was the crease which is a boundary line for batsmen in cricket. John Nyren’s Young Cricketer’s Tutor, 1833 records this line from a 1778 work by Cotton: “Ye strikers… Stand firm to your scratch, let your bat be upright.”

Love never fails.

Remembering Felicia’s Boys-by Sister #3


Remembrance day is a time I take very seriously. Growing up with a Dad who was a World War II veteran, I saw first hand the long term impact of the sacrifices he made as a young man. I remember hearing my dad wake almost every night yelling out in fear. Was it his sleep apnea, his night terrors, it’s hard to say?He had a hearing impairment as a result of flying 35 missions as a bomber with the Royal Canadian Airforce before his plane went down.

He was injured and eventually sent home. Both my Dad and his younger brother Tom enlisted voluntarily, eager to serve their new country as they had only moved to Canada from Czechoslovakia a decade earlier.

My uncle Tommy was stationed in London for his tour of duty in the Army, and after returning home, enlisted with the Airforce. Tragically he died in a training flight in Saskatchewan. The crash happens December 13th but the plane was not found until Christmas Day. He was 21 years old.

My dad didn’t talk about his time of service. I remember asking him to tell me about the war. My dad looked at me with kind eyes and replied “Susie, there is nothing romantic about war”. I never asked again.

So every Remembrance Day I think of my Dad and his brother, but when I see the Silver Cross Mother, my heart breaks for my Gramma Felicia having to say good bye to her boys as they headed off to war. She also welcomed them home, only to loose her youngest a short time later.

Felicia Pajak was born in Poland where she met Frantisek Kvapilik. They married and had three boys, Zeslaw (my Dad), Thomas, and Miloslav, who died as an infant. The family moved from Poland to the Tatra mountains in southern Slovakia (formerly Czechoslovakia). After the tragic loss of their workhorse, their major form of income, Frantisek decided to move to Canada in 1929 with Felicia and the two boys following a couple of years later. Their daughter Geraldine was born in Limerick Saskatchewan on the family farm in 1939.

My grandmother was an excellent cook. I have memories of her little kitchen with soup noodles drying on the back of every chair and countertop. Each of us kids has fond memories of favourite dishes and baking but we all remember her delicious fried chicken. Unfortunately, my grandmother never wrote down any of her recipes. They were all in her head. All we know for sure is that she coated her chicken in crumbs she made from her homemade bread and she fried the chicken in lard. No wonder it was amazing! I have never been able for find a similar recipe, so instead I have provided you with mine. It will never compare to my grammas, but it’s pretty good and I think of her whenever I make it.

Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Marinade
8 pieces chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried sage
2 cups buttermilk

Flour Dredge

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon garlic powder
1½ teaspoon paprika
1½ teaspoon dried basil
1½ teaspoon dried thyme
1½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Vegetable oil to be 1-2 inches deep in a deep frying pan or enough oil to fill deep fat fryer.

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, garlic, dried mustard, paprika, and sage. Stir to coat the chicken evenly. Pour the buttermilk over the seasoned chicken. Stir well to coat the chicken.

Refrigerate this mixture for at least 1 hour, but the longer you marinate, the more tender it will be. It may be left overnight as well.
In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, paprika, basil, thyme, onion powder, and cayenne pepper.

Heat the oil to about 340°F. You want to be able to fry the outside to a crisp golden brown without burning while still cooking the chicken all the way through!

Remove each piece of chicken from the marinade, put it into the shallow dish with the flour mixture and toss. Make sure the whole surface of each piece of chicken is coated very well.

Place the chicken pieces into the oil. You may cook 4 or 5 pieces at a time, but don’t crowd the chicken. Turn as necessary and fry until golden brown. It will take about 15 minutes for each piece to cook. Make sure each piece is fully cooked – the internal temperature should be 170°F. I recommend keeping a candy thermometer in the oil as you cook, the temperature might crop some as you place in the cold chicken so you will need to adjust the heat according to stay around 340°F.
Allow the chicken to drain on a wire rack to help the chicken stay crispy.

Kath’s quote: “LEST WE FORGET

Love never fails.

NYC Trip Report-Day 4, New York Cheesecake


Another beautiful, sunny and warm day in Brooklyn.

It was our last full day. I felt like we had seen the sights and I was content to stick around the apartment and “live” there for a day.

At lunch time, D found a great Jamaican Deli just around the corner from us. We ordered jerk chicken and D chose this as one of his sides. I am not sure it is Jamaican but I know that the locals often eat macaroni salad with soda biscuits in Mexico and it was a staple in his home, growing up.

We also discovered great shopping that was almost in our backyard. D stocked up on discounted Gap blue jeans.

When it was time for dinner, we decided that we would venture out to shop for some local ingredients and use the great kitchen in the apartment.

But the darkened skies coaxed us into staying home.

Instead, we knew that Junior’s was a famous deli in Brooklyn and there were still a couple of “Must eat while in NYC” items on our list. D ordered brisket on latkes.

I just wanted to latkes. But truth be told, I really only wanted New York style cheesecake so I ate one half of one of the three enormous latkes.

And savoured the cheesecake. We smugly thought we had dodged getting soaked in the rain, but we felt horrible when we realized our Uber Eats delivery person was on a bicycle.

Early the next morning, we were back in Toronto, where more eating adventures took place.

Kath’s quote: “We broke up because he ate a slice of my cheesecake!” ~ Unknown

Love never fails.

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