Food Musings

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

The Celebration of the Life of a Mann

July17

I once wrote a cook book.  This was pre-computer days and I typed it on a IBM Selectric typewriter and it was difficult to hide my corrections made with white out.  You might say that it was a pretty transparent work.  Next I had a small number of copies covered with a sheet of construction paper and “spined”.  The title and dedication were on the cover.  “I Cook, Therefore I Am”.  I thought that the title was absolutely brilliant! Even in those days with a repertoire of Jean Parre, and Best of Bridge recipes, cooking for my loved ones, defined me. 

Yes, I love to cook but I will admit this:  I especially love to cook for an appreciative audience.  I am blessed that D and our children and their significant others are my biggest fans. But back in those days, and I am speaking of a time thirty years ago, I was friends with a man who I dubbed a “Famous Eater” in this same dedication.  He didn’t just enjoy good food, he loved everything about the act of eatingHis appreciation oozed out of him as you watched him eat.  His Caribbean blue eyes glinted, his musician’s hands gestured and his voice, that famous voice-praised.  Not with phrases like “oh, this is good” but with accolades that indicated the he understood why you had prepared it just so.  He got food.

The gift of this cookbook was at a wedding shower that I was hosting.  This man was marrying one of my best friends.  She was (is) a beautiful, vivacious woman but I had a grave concern.  She could not cook in those days.  But oh how she tried.  She wanted to love her new husband with gifts of food and so I decided to help her along.  And so I compiled this cookbook of easy recipes that I knew would please.  I loved them both so much that I wanted her to be able to successfully love him with the offering of food.

The next line of the dedication was this “A Collection of Recipes given to Trish on the occasion of her marriage to David Mann-A Famous Eater”.  I so clearly remember that in Trish’s surprise and excitement, she unwrapped the cookbook and read the dedication like this: “I cook, therefore I am a collection of recipes”.  I recall that we all giggled at her error and yet, I think that her statement is absolutely true.

I was the only female attendant at their wedding-their “Matron of Honour” (matron not maid, because I was married to D).  Trish told me yesterday, that she loves to look at the picture in their home of us all together.  She told me this yesterday, at the memorial service for her husband David.  He had succumbed to cancer of the esophagus.  The irony of this does not sit lightly with me.  Not only was it his voice that was the reason for our becoming acquainted (he was the morning man at Q 94 and I was the Marketing Director for The Keg ‘n Cleaver Restaurant) but his esophagus delivered the food that he delighted in, to nourish his body.

David loved Keg Steaks, but also 529 (where he and his family celebrated birthdays) and Rae and Jerry’s.  Rae and Jerry’s catered the refreshments at his memorial service yesterday.  In fact, they cater every celebration of life service at the church that we attend.  There was a time when I loved their fancy sandwiches but recently I only ever eat them when I am very sad.

I introduced David and Trish to each other.  My D was living in Toronto finishing his degree in foodservice and hospitality at Ryerson.  Trish traveled a lot with her work with Estee Lauder.  David and I often found ourselves together by default.  He once called me to say he had been loaned a motorcycle and wanted to drive to Lockport for a Skinner’s hotdog but it wouldn’t be the same without someone on the back of the bike and Trish was not available.  I was afraid of motorcycles as I had lost two acquaintances in separate accidents but somehow David talked me into it.  He promised me he would drive slowly. Liar. David loved speed.  He loved the wind in his hair.  At that time his car was a Scirocco, so named for a Mediterranean wind that comes from the Sahara and reaches hurricane speeds in North Africa and Southern Europe.  He was fond of quick acceleration times.  I chuckle when I think of this because Trish was the opposite.  As we raised our young children together, she would run alongside the toboggan as it slipped down the hill, for fear of injury to the kids.

D and I and David and Trish have not been close in recent years.  David was our financial planner and we decided that it would be best if we kept the relationship a professional one.  But it was also this:  I try to live my life without grudges but I allowed one to stand between me and Trish.  I believe that she has forgiven me.  I know that I have forgiven her.  David would have wanted this.  I have promised that I will contact her next week as she tries to get back to some normalcy in her life- a life without the father of her children, without the Famous Eater.

Kaths quote: All things ever after. -David Mann

Love-that is all.

The Frenchman’s Home

July15

Have you watched any of the “Focker” movies?  When the in-laws of an engaged couple, come together for the sake of their children, it is the pretense for hilarity to ensue.

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Perhaps we are not as eccentric as the families in the movies, because our experience has been one of quiet chats and the opportunity to gaze into the inner workings of a loving family.  This past weekend I traveled with Reb and Seb to his hometown of Peterborough, ON.  We arrived early enough on Thursday for a light lunch and the Frenchman’s Mom began a weekend of loving us with food.

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If any dish embodies a Mom’s love of her family, it is risotto-a dish that I will be frank and tell you that I have never had the patience to make for my own family.  The Frenchman’s Mom on the other hand, is more than willing to spend a half hour or more, committed to the constant stirring and ladling that is required to perfect this dish.

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Every family members gets into the “act” of getting dinner on the big antique dining table.  More chairs are always welcome.

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The pea and basil risotto was accompanied by savoury chicken breasts and asparagus spears.

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Pea and Basil Risotto
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
 
A classic made with love and patience.
Ingredients
  • 2 heaping T butter, separated
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2 c Arborio rice
  • 8 c chicken or vegetable stock, heated and ready with a ladle
  • salt to taste
  • ½-3/4 c freshly grated parmesan (Romano)
  • 1 c fresh/thawed peas or other vegetable
  • ½ c fresh leafy herb such as basil
Instructions
  1. Melt 1 T butter and canola oil together.
  2. Turn up the heat add the rice and stir constantly for one minute until it begins to brown.
  3. Add first ladle of hot stock.
  4. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
  5. Keep stirring the rice as the first ladleful is absorbed.
  6. Continue to add the stock in this way until it is all used (will take between 15 -25 minutes).
  7. Taste the rice for doneness and salt-add time if necessary and adjust taste.
  8. When rice is cooked to your likeness, remove from heat and stir in butter and grated parmesan.
  9. Stir in peas or other veg.
  10. Stir in basil or other herb.
  11. Garnish and serve immediately.

 

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After dinner we were going to take a stroll and then find an ice cream place until the Frenchman’s Mom volunteered to make the ice cream herself.  It utilized fresh strawberries and then she made her own chocolate sauce to ladle over top for an extra helping of love.

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A full moon watched over us.

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The next morning she was at it again with homemade waffles, bacon and scrambled eggs.

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Later that evening, the family was hosting an engagement party for the happy couple.  Their spacious kitchen meant that when it was time to get dinner on the table, there was lots of room to maneuver.

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Mother of the groom and yours truly.  In-laws that love to cook together.  This marriage will definitely not fail.

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The Frenchman’s Mom made the Quinoa salad

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and I assembled this spinach, strawberry, almond and feta salad.

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She stuffed this pork roast with delicious results.

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My favourite was the chicken roasted in a tajine (I can’t wait to get one).  This clay casserole has a chimney-like cover which produces a chicken which is moist and tender.  They supposedly do a great job with lamb too.

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Love-on a plate.

Speaking of love-dessert was an amazingly refreshing and light lemon filled cake.  As pieces were being distributed to all the guests, we shared marriage and relationship tips with the bride and groom to be.

Kath’s quote: “Cooking is an art and patience a virtue… Careful shopping, fresh ingredients and an unhurried approach are nearly all you need. There is one more thing – love. Love for food and love for those you invite to your table. With a combination of these things you can be an artist – not perhaps in the representational style of a Dutch Master, but rather more like Gauguin, the naïve, or Van Gogh, the impressionist. Plates or pictures of sunshine taste of happiness and love.”-Keith Floyd

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Love-that s all.

 

 

Beach House Crockpot Chicken

July14

When we arrive at the beach house on a Friday evening, haven accomplished the grocery shopping, packing and helping D load the car, the last thing that I want to do is think about is making supper.  This is when we sometimes grab a U bake pizza or shop at the deli on the way out of town.  But last weekend J1 and J2 made a Crockpot supper of pulled pork and since I have an extra pot at home, I decided to bring it out to leave here permanently.  I assembled the ingredients at about 8 in the morning, plugged it in and got on with my day of work. 

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Here’s a beach tip: I plugged in the pot outside and had it sitting on a wooden step (in the shade).  This way, even this small appliance didn’t heat up the house.  The only downside was that I was afraid that the amazing aroma would attract the bears that have been roaming around recently.

I served this with a leftover potato salad and made up a simple green salad when the roadside corn that I was hoping for did not materialize.  Easy, peasy and hardly any dishes!

Beach House Crockpot Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Local
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Avoids heating up the cottage.
Ingredients
  • 1 whole frying chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 carrots, halved
  • 2 celery stalks, halved
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 T chili powder or paprika
  • sage leaves and rosemary branches or other “sturdy” herbs
Instructions
  1. Stuff the whole lemon and garlic cloves in the cavity of the chicken and set aside.
  2. Place veggies in the bottom of the crock pot to create a cradle for the chicken.
  3. Rub the skin of the chicken with chili powder.
  4. Nestle the herbs around the birds.
  5. Cover and turn crock pot onto highest setting.
  6. About half way through your projected cooking time, reduce to low heat.
  7. When the chicken begins to fall apart, take the entire insert out of the heating element and place under the broiler until the skin has crisped up (about 10 minutes).

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The key to crockpot chicken is adding moisture to the cooking process without the chicken “stewing” in the liquid.   This can be accomplished with preparing a ledge out for hard veggies for the chicken to sit upon.  If none are available, roll up balls of aluminum foil to raise the chicken from the bottom of the pot.

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In addition to rubbing the seasonings directly into the flesh of the bird, surround it with fresh herb leaves.

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One last tip: if you have one of the crockpot styles where you can lift the ceramic liner away from the element that heats up, do so and place the chicken in the ceramic pot right under the broiler and allow the skin to crisp up.  Friday night Beach House dinner is done.

Kath’s quote: “One of the faults which a cook should most seriously guard against, is bad temper….It is in the power of the cook to do much for the comfort and prosperity of the family….Never let the family have reason to say — ‘The cook is always cross!’”-Sarah Josepha Hale, ‘The Good Housekeeper’ (1839)

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Love-that is all.

 

Beach House Berry French Toast Casserole

July10

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I have decided to create a Beach House category of recipes.  When we are up at our little place on weekends or in the summer, our meals and recipes focus on aspects different from the city:

  1. When it is hot we either try to cook in the morning or use the barbeque or crock pot.  Our oven isn’t brand new (almost everything is a hand-me-down out here) and throws off a lot of heat. 
  2. There is access to just caught fish, freshly picked blueberries and produce from farmers in the vicinity. There is a Farmer’s Market set up on the highway every Friday in the summer so we stop on our way out and then utilize whatever we have picked up. 
  3. We often cook for large groups as my extended family has three other cottages on the road. 
  4. We typically skip breakfast or simply grab a banana, granola bar or yoghurt in the morning with our many cups of coffee and then have a brunch or lunch item at noon when the guys get home from playing tennis at Grand Beach. 
  5. Although there are a couple of well-stocked stores for groceries and supplies, they are all a twenty minute car ride away and once we get here, we try to drive as little as possible.  As a result many of my recipes use what we already have in the fridge or larder.  For example, in this one, I use 10% cream instead of milk because it was what I had on hand.
  6. We try to cook with as few dishes as possible because although the water is plentiful (the water table is so high that we pump it up through an apparatus called a sand point), disposing of water is not as easy.  Lake Winnipeg is in some trouble and we do our part by having our house water drain into a tank which then has to be pumped out and trucked away.  I do recycle water as much as possible by using a “friendly” detergent and then letting my plants drink up the dishwater.

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Beach House Berry French Toast Casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast/Brunch
Cuisine: Local
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
I would have preferred to have used a multi-grain bread but again French bread is what I had on hand.
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf French bread, cubed
  • 1-2 lbs. mixed berries (divided in half) I used fresh Driscoll brand blackberries, blueberries and raspberries. Frozen berries could easily be substituted.
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ¾ c cream (milk can be substituted)
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t maple syrup
  • 1 t raspberry liqueur (or vanilla which I was out of)
  • ½ c sliced almonds
Instructions
  1. Spray your favourite casserole dish with canola spray.
  2. *A word of caution: the dish I used was too deep and took a long time for the eggs to set. Use a shallower dish like an 8½ x 11 pan for quicker baking times.
  3. Place half of the cubed bread in bottom.
  4. Place half berry mixture over bread.
  5. Place remaining half of bread over berries.
  6. Mix together the eggs, cream or milk, liqueur or vanilla, cinnamon and maple syrup in a pitcher (easier to pour without spills).
  7. Pour evenly over all of the casserole.
  8. Top with remaining berries.
  9. Sprinkle almonds overall.
  10. Refrigerate for 2 ½ hours or overnight if you wish.
  11. Bake in a pre=heated 375 degree oven for 30+ minutes. Ours took longer because of the depth of the baking dish. Use a shallower dish and you could test for doneness after 30 mins.

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I let it sit for 2 ½ hours because that is the length of time I have between D and J1’s departure for tennis and their subsequent arrival back home.  Many mornings I take the wee One for a walk on the beach in her “Chariot” stroller but this morning, I am getting caught up on some writing in the solarium.

Kath’s quote: “O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the wideness of that rich moment.”-Richard Llewellyn

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Love-that is all.

Isla Mujeres 2014 Trip Report-Day 9

July9

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The beginning of another glorious day on Isla.  I sit with my coffee and watch the day come alive and take picture after picture thinking “This will be the last one, the sky can’t possibly get more beautiful than this”.  And then it does and I take another.

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For the previous couple of days, I had watched this family assemble on the shore from their rented house a few doors to the south.  On this day, I went over and told them how beautiful they look in the sunlight and took this and a number of other photos for them.

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We don’t always walk into Colonias, sometimes we head to Centro but I still can’t leave my camera behind and just walk.  I MUST capture Isla so that I can relive that slow pace and the long shadows of the newly risen sun.

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I love this house and the artistry demonstrated in the painting of it.  I wish the lovely woman watering her plant had windows to see her beautiful island though.

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We finally arrive at our destination-Café Cito.  We miss Ziggy but still come for the pineapple/coconut/banana jam.

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and Mexican eggs

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and fried eggs with hash browns and their pretty good coffee.

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We set off again, deliberating over the idea of renting bikes for the day.  After waiting for places to open and then checking the condition and price of the rentals, we decide to pass.  I am not really sure why we were so easily dissuaded and then I find out later that a friend of ours who had rented a bicycle was cut off by a scooter and received fairly serious injuries when his bike crashed.  I guess our guardian angel was watching over us.

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So we make our way back home but not without a stop at our favourite spot for real fruit popsicles-this one mango.

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We spend the rest of the day luxuriating in our own little paradise.  We keep the great kitchen in our apartment at Luna d’Miel stocked with juices, fruit, snacks, beer, wine and enough key ingredients to make a sandwich to eat by the sea.

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The blues of the Caribe were particularly vibrant that day.

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When I am not lying in the hammock writing or reading one of the zillion books the I devour on Isla, I have a lovely pastime.

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I am a beachcomber, collecting heart shaped shells, coral & stones, beach glass-my favourite colour is the very pale sea-foam green and I am ecstatic when I find a turquoise piece.  I also search for the inside spiral of conch shells.  I bleach them and then glue a pin on them to give as gifts to my girlfriends.  The strip of the beach in front of Luna d’Miel is perfect for collecting and I go out bright and early each morning and stand in the surf and let the treasures just wash up and find me.

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When it was time for dinner we waited for Sister #3’s cab to pick us up on their way to Monchi’s.  Since every vehicle going north to south and vice versa on the island can only take one of two roads, there was a 50/50 chance that we would be successful.  With Facebook added to ensure that she request the east airport strip with her cab driver, the odds went up to 100%.

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The Wee One, J2 and Veektooria were also at Monchi’s, together with Doona’s entourage that we had traveled and dined with on other occasions.  When you add in Bro #3 and his wife, I think there were thirteen of us that evening.

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I can never decide whether or not I like Ziggy’s (he has since moved to Barlito’s, by the way) Coconut or Garlic Shrimp.  Lucky for me, Sister #3 was on the fence too, so we each ordered one and then swapped to ensure that we each had a combo.  Most everyone had shrimp of one description or another but orders of grilled chicken and enchiladas were also equally enjoyed.

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We stopped to appreciate the beautiful trees growing across from the restaurant before we walked back home.  We often end the day, the way we start it, sitting in our chairs at the water’s edge, sipping a glass of something and gazing at the sky.

Kath’s quote:Second star to the right…and straight on ’til morning“. -James Kirk

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Love-that is all.

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