Food Musings

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

Daughter #3 is off to Israel to “Save a Child’s Heart”

October15
My baby girl is off on another adventure this morning.  She stood in our kitchen this morning and said “I will be in Paris at midnight”.  Woa, what a small place the world is.  Her bags have been checked all the way to Israel and she gets there via Montreal and Paris.  She is completing the practicum portion of her Bachelor degree in International Development Studies at the University of Winnipeg. D and I could not be more proud of her.  She is a diligent saver and exceptional planner but best of all, she has an enormous capacity to love.
She will spend the next two months with this organization:

Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and to create centers of competence in these countries. SACH is totally dedicated to the idea that every child deserves the best medical treatment available, regardless of the child’s nationality, religion, color, gender or financial situation. nnSACH is motivated by the age-old Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. By mending the hearts of children, regardless of their origin, SACH is contributing to a better and more peaceful future for all of our children.

Since 1995, Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) has treated more than 3,000 children suffering from congenital and rheumatic heart disease aging from infancy to 18 years of age from the “four corners of the Earth” –  45 countries where adequate medical care is unavailable.  Approximately 50% of the children are from the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Morocco; more than 30% are from Africa; and the remaining are from Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas.  The annual number of children treated by SACH has grown dramatically from 48 cases in 1996 to 298 in 2012.  At any given moment there are thousands of children suffering from heart disease around the world who require our assistance.

 

 

Her responsibilities over the next two months will include:

All our volunteers go out of their way to make life for the children and parents at the SACH house, clinic and in the hospital less stressful and more pleasant. They sit with parents or an unaccompanied child in hospital when they need extra attention or when the pressure of the unknown is getting to them, even if it means being in the hospital on a weekend or at night, and for some reason language is never a barrier; they muddle through. It is just something they do to help someone in distress feel more relaxed.  The volunteers give photographs as a remembrance of being at SACH, send emails and photographs to parents who are not here to keep them informed and in short – they help make life a bit nicer for everyone and free the overworked SACH Staff to concentrate on other things that must be done.  After all this is what a family does.Kath’s quote:  “Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased. Nor is it etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever.”

Kath’s quote: “Love is not written on paper, for paper can be erased. Nor is it etched on stone, for stone can be broken. But it is inscribed on a heart and there it shall remain forever.”

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At the SACH house – Little Shemsa from Tanzania and Dr. Yayu from Ethiopia, who is currently training with SACH and will become the first pediatric heart surgeon in his country.

Love-that is all.

Mercer Hall, Stratford ON

October11

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As we began to meet and chat with Stratford locals, we queried them about their favourite places to dine as we were only going to be able to do so one evening.  The next day, we were seeing both a matinee and evening performance at the Festival Theatre and we knew not to over indulgence before settling into our theatre seats. I expected both The Prune and The Church to be mentioned but afterwards I surmised that they were allocated to special occasion dining among the locals.  Perhaps Peter Mansbridge and his actress wife Cynthia Dale, who reside in Stratford might have been spotted, had we dined there.  But more often a boutique hotel and main floor restaurant was mentioned.

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The cuisine at Mercer Hall is described as retaining an Ontario Focus, served in a European Style.  The Ontario focus is a commitment shared with virtually every restaurant and chef that we encountered in Stratford.  The European style is authentic too, as our dining experience was similar to ones that we remember enjoying in Ireland.

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The theatres are “dark” on Mondays which makes for a quieter atmosphere around town and also gives the locals a chance to get out and dine.  Mercer Hall designates the evening as Nosh Mondays and offers a flat rate Tapas-style adventure! In my opinion the strategy is brilliant, treating the locals for their hard work over the season, building business on an otherwise slow evening and using up small portions that might have been left over from the weekend.  Stratford restaurants strive to be self-sustaining and this is truly a genius move.  There is no menu, you just nestle in and the steady stream of food starts to arrive until you cry “Uncle”.

Each artisanal plate featured local seasonal items beginning with:

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Warm olives and sourdough.  The flavour of olives, subtly changes when warmed.  I am always going to slightly heat olives before serving them, from now on.

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Crispy padron peppers stuffed with cream cheese and served with a lime sour cream for dipping, arrived next.  I am not partial to hot peppers and understand that the heat level of a padron can be random.  Mine was mild and subtle.

Even though I did not get a photo of our next plate- a potato & mushroom veloute with shards of Parmesan and truffle oil, this small bowl turned out to be one of my favourite tastes of the evening.  I am a sucker for truffle oil and appreciate that the soup clung to the sourdough bread so that I could soak up a delicious mouthful.

I also did not get a photo of the shiitake mushroom risotto.  We were dining with old friends and had so much to get caught up on, that on a couple of occasions I forgot that I was a food blogger and was just swept away by the evening. Perhaps too, it was the exceptional Malbec that we were enjoying with our tastes.

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I was snapped back to attention by the mention of eggplant.  These were petite spheres topped with pickled onion and more Parmesan (the chef finished many dishes with shards of Parmesan which I happen to enjoy a great deal, but may have been a bit excessive).

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But oh my, his next dish was sublime.  I was fine with just a taste of the saucy braised bok choy but could not get enough of the crispy brussel sprouts in a sweet and sour sauce!

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I am not partial to lamb but D and our dinner quests quite enjoyed the lamb ribs on lentils and arugula with a citrus yoghurt sauce.

My notes say that next up was a shoe pastry but I did not capture a photo, nor do I remember tasting it.  I must have really been having a good time by this time in the evening.  Or perhaps it is simply my menopausal brain…..

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Arriving next was a delicate gnocchi topped with broccoli and whey Parmesan.  Carb lover that I am, I would have loved more gnocchi and less veggies (just my preference, not a complaint).

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The next small plate was not particularly small.  I would have enjoyed the tastes more had they been delivered on separate plates and at different intervals because by this time, I was verging on throwing in the white towel.  But we had seen mussels being delivered to tables in our vicinity and were holding out for their appearance at ours.  The roasted chicken came with smoked corn on the cob and marinated potatoes!

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I was definitely done before the pastrami poutine arrived at the table and even though the guys each had a taste, I thought that this was getting just a wee bit silly…..

So we acquiesced, only to find that just meant that the dessert plates would start to arrive.

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First a chocolate ganache (which doesn’t photograph very well-does it?)

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and then the piece de resistance (in D’s mind at least)-the cinnamon raisin fritters which reminded him of mini-doughnuts that he enjoyed as a kid.

Here’s the kicker-the cost per person for all you can eat tapas? $35!

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Kath’s quote: “’What I like about gluttony,’ a bishop I knew used to say, ‘is that it doesn’t hurt anyone else.’”-Monica Furlong

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Love-that is all.

Breaking Bread B&B in Stratford, ON

October10

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Stratford, Ontario with its old-world culture and charm has long been on our “must-visit” list.  As we have family and good friends in Toronto, we are often in the area and yet had never set aside a couple of extra days to head to this gorgeous destination.

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We arrived a bit too early for lunch so headed to Revel Café.  After getting our bearings, we visited our first of many fabulous places to grab a bite.  We took our Grub-to-Go packages (recommended by our B&B hosts) and walked through the Shakepearean Gardens until we found a picnic table to plunk down at.  The gardens are adjacent to the Avon river and opened in 1936 and are filled with the many plant varieties mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Violets are cited 18 times!  The original roses in the garden were provided by Queen Mary who also did so for the Stratford on Avon garden in England.

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Our B&B dubbed Breaking Bread is perfectly located to stroll the quaint downtown area and many green spaces or if you are more adventurous, even make the trek to the Festival Theatre on foot.

I swear the bed which we shared in the Birmingham Room was the most comfortable one I have ever slept in.  We have a double at home and this was an oversized King (actually two twins attached together).  The high thread count sheets and duvet covering felt luxurious.  The en suite bathroom was sparkling clean and very conveniently located just steps from the bed.  In fact, the entire space at Breaking Bread glistens with freshness.  We understand that B&B owner and host Doug is responsible for the impeccable house cleaning.

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The main floor entrance was always equipped with bottles of water to set by the bed or take out for a walk.  The living and dining space is wide open and light floods the space from early morning.  Perfectly brewed coffee (D prefers a stronger, dark roast that I can’t stand) is served as of 7 am and after my one allocated cup, I switched to Scottish Breakfast tea.

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Breakfasts were an absolute delight.  The first morning we enjoyed a parfait of Greek yoghurt with peaches and almonds and

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then an apple pancake and thick cuts of pea meal back bacon. Host Holly has sent me her coveted apple pancake recipe.  If you are interested in my posting it, leave a comment and I will do so in a future post.

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The following morning started with a warm banana muffin and fruit salad and then we tucked into a crustless quiche and the most perfectly cooked thick-sliced bacon that I have ever enjoyed.

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This was accompanied by toast from the local bakery and home made strawberry preserves.

Holly is the other half of the husband and wife B&B team and is the creative genius behind the menu and in the kitchen.  She also handles the reservations and general correspondence for their home.  Best of all though, she is a Shakespearean expert and avid Stratford Theatre attendee for decades.  Ask her anything, she will either have the answer or know where she can find it.

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We enjoyed the easy banter that Holly and Doug promote around their breakfast table.  We got a big kick out of the dynamics between the two of them as husband and wife and business partners.  Their passion for the Festival and the community of Stratford is so apparent.  They love to share suggestions about their favourite places to dine and shop and every tip was bang on, in our estimation.

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I am sure that there are many B&B options in Stratford so why would Breaking Bread get your booking?  If your priorities are convenient location, cleanliness, warm hospitality, luxurious beds and delicious, carefully prepared breakfasts, Breaking Bread is for you.

Kath’s quote:  “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”-Acts20-11.

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Love-that is all.

 

Food for taste, nourishment and to know love

October9

I live a blessed life.  I have just spent a glorious week in fascinating Toronto, beautiful Stratford and glorious Niagara on the Lake.   I have had a chance to reconnect with old friends and spend romantic moments with my husband of almost 30 years.  In Niagara on the Lake we had an absolutely gorgeous room in a small inn with a great dining room and splendid views of the perfectly groomed vineyard estate next door.

While I was away, my Mom was admitted to the hospital and since my return I am taking my share of the bedside shifts.  I am happy to be with her and able to relieve my family of the round-the-clock responsibilities.  I was struck by the contrasts of life in my first 24 hours back home.  From visiting our last vineyard, purchasing a bottle of exquisite wine to add to the case that we brought home and visiting a favourite restaurant for a second time, to trying to coax my Mom to have a few sips of soup, to try to swing her legs over the edge of the bed to dangle her feet.  I have sustained myself with cups of tea from her meal trays that she does not want to drink herself, but does not want to go to waste.

As I open another bottle of Ensure to encourage her to drink, I am struck anew with how complex feeding and eating and taste and nourishment all is.  How complex food itself is…  My Mom once had a robust appetite, although it has been less so of late.  Today even though there were potatoes and gravy on her plate which are likely the food that she loves most in the world, she said that she would only eat to oblige me and swallow what she could to get her strength back.  She would eat not for pleasure but because her body required it and she did so for my sake, for love.

Later that same evening as I arrived home from a long and emotional day, there were candles lit on our dining room table.  D had prepared a delicious pasta from grilled vegetables from our crop share and an abundance of tomatoes that were starting to over ripen.  A glass of wine was poured at my seat.  D was showing me how much he loves me in a language that I understand.  Not only was the meal absolutely delicious but he knew that I would be fretting about all the fresh produce that had accumulated in the fridge while we were away and so he cleverly utilized it all in one fell swoop.

His other project this weekend was determining which three favourite suppers that Daughter #2 would like before her imminent departure overseas.  By batch cooking this weekend, he made her feel special and loved and provided the additional bonus of my not worrying about what to fix for supper when I get home from a day at the hospital.

I am struck anew by how interconnected love and food is and by how complex and varied love is: Love of our spouses, our siblings, our elderly parents, love of our children and I am so especially blessed to know the fierce new love of a grandchild.

Kath’s quote: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz

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Love-that is all.

 

Beef in a Jar

October8

I am writing this as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013.  As we the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice.

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Our topic for this month is “Preserving: Our Canadian Food Tradition”.  I am not a “canner”.  I so wish I was.  I even purchased my first preserving recipe book this spring and then life swept me away this summer (new grand-baby and all) and I didn’t get a single jar into the larder.

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I am fond of pickled beets and a really good polski ogorki.  I also love jams and jellies of every kind but my very favourite food is jarred beef (believe it or not).

This Canadian Food Experience takes me back to my little Polish Grandma as it did in my previous month’s entry: http://foodmusings.ca/recipes/desserts/grandma-felicias-polish-cake/.  Living in southern Saskatchewan there was always plenty of beef and often a surplus.  Every fall, Grandma Felicia would “put down” (her slang for canning) jars and jars of beef stew.  I am surmising that the reason was financial as well as practical.  Although there was always food on the table, cash flow must have been an issue for my grandparents.  In addition, they did not have a chest freezer in those days and the small one on top of their fridge could not accommodate all the meat required for a winter.  When winter storms hit and they often did, a jar could be fetched from the hand dug mud cellar, and a warm dinner could be on the table in minutes.  Boil some potatoes and root vegetables. also from the cellar and presto-fast food!

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The other reason that beef was jarred was that it made the meat taste so darned good.  The preserving process contributed to the tenderizing of the meat producing a tender and savoury mound of beef, onions and gravy.  Homemade bread would be cut into thick slices, speared with a long fork and toasted over the coal fire that was lit summer and winter.  We would tear the bread into kid sized pieces to mop up that gravy.  Oh my, I can taste it now…..  I have never tried to do this myself and I do not have Grandma’s recipe to follow, but here is a link to a recipe and process that must be pretty close: http://www.wikihow.com/Can-Meat

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The only time that I have even heard about canning meat is when my eldest daughter asked me if I wanted to volunteer to can meat because the Mennonite Central Committee’s  mobile canning unit was going to be in town.  Here is some information about this resourceful practice that feeds people all around the world.

 Today the canning unit is mounted on a flat-bed trailer, enclosed with fold-up sides. Four MCC volunteers operate the canning unit, traveling to 34 locations in 13 U.S.A. states and two Canadian Provinces: Manitoba and Ontario.  Operating a seasonal schedule from October to May, local meat canning committees purchase meat and arrange for facilities, fundraising and volunteers. The work of the local committees is the heart of the program.  Currently the canning unit processes an average of 9,000 pounds of chunked turkey thighs per day; 9,000 pounds of pork; or up to the equivalent of 20 head of cattle per day.

Who knew?

Kath’s quote: “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”-Lewis Carroll

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Love-that is all.

 

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