Food Musings

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

Foraging for Peepenky by Guest Blogger-Alice Kulyk



Honey Fungus mushrooms are called  “peedpenky”  by the Ukrainian community. They are  best  stored  frozen or canned.  Drying tends to toughen them.  My method is to clean them, without washing, as best I can, discarding stems from bigger mushrooms as they can be tough.  I cut them into the size I prefer, measure out 1 lb and freeze them raw using my vacuum sealer.  They can be stored this way in the freezer for at least a year. These mushrooms are almost as good as fresh when thawed.

When ready to use them I let them thaw and because they can contain a mild toxin I boil the peedpenky for 3 -4 minutes in slightly salted water. They are then rinsed, which provides the washing of them as I do not wash before freezing.  They are now ready to cook as you wish. You can sauté them with onions, garlic and parsley, thickened with a little cream and served with pasta or perogies.   You can also add them into your gravy while it is cooking.


Another method of preserving peedpenky is to clean as best you can, cut into appropriate size and rinse. They should then be blanched for 3-4 minutes, then drained and frozen using fresh water. When you are ready to use them they can be thawed, rinsed and then sautéed and put into gravy or other dishes.

Find out more:

Kath’s quote: “The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world”.- John Tyler Bonner


Love never fails.


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Tuscany Trip Report- Day 4, Part 1



We were off again!


Although our touring of Montecatini and Siena had been pleasurable, I was longing for the countryside. D accommodated me by making the long drive to Montepulciano. I did not know a whole lot about the community itself but had heard a great deal about the Val d’Orcia, the valley where the village is located from my friend Tuscan Muse, who operates themed tours in the area. She happened to be in Rome that day so we missed meeting in real life.







As it was another rainy morning the streets were deserted.





My favourite part about the time spent in Montepulciano was actually the views from the town to the valley below.


We were fascinated by this exquisite cart that was all by itself in the square.


Upon inquiring we found out that a TV set had just packed up the day prior and they hadn’t had a chance to remove the prop. You can see the back of the cart next to Dustin Hoffman! We had missed seeing him in action by a single day….groan. The TV drama also featured a popular and handsome fellow from The Game of Thrones.



The rain continued and we were not quite certain what to do in Montepulciano in the rain, so we found a vineyard store and did Vino Nobile and Brunello wine-tastings, with a couple of bottles secured to take back to Canada.









I couldn’t get enough of the surrounding countryside, so I stay near the town’s edge to capture as many digital memories as possible. I must admit, I was disappointed in the weather and the fact that I hadn’t researched the area well enough to know exactly where we could go and just sit and enjoy the valley. By this time though we were getting peckish and decided to start our search for a trattoria while at the same time knowing that we were almost out of gas.

We made it as far as the neighbouring community of San Quirico d’Orcia.  We stopped at a Hotel/Bar/Restaurant called Il Garibaldi as they had gas pumps out front. We were told that we could not get gas until the attendant returned from what we thought must have been his siesta. Since we couldn’t go anywhere anyway, we decided that this was the perfect place for lunch.


For 12 euros each (including aqua, house wine and cappuccino) we were served the collections of items listed here. We thought we got to chose one of the items but no, we were served everything on the board!


We think that this pasta was boar over polenta which I was not partial to.


So I shared D’s pasta casserole with a variety of cheeses.



We were also served a blend of spinach and peas, a casserole of pureed broccoli, roasted chicken and fish in a tomato sauce. D was delighted by the find and thought that lunch was one of the highlights of the trip.


The stop may have been a highlight for me as well but for a different reason-the view from back of the hotel and gas station was absolutely breath-taking! We now have a gorgeous black and white framed photo of the Val d’Orcia on our kitchen wall.

Kath’s quote: “Any arbitrary turning along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different.”  ― Frances Mayes


Love never fails.

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Tuscany Trip Report-Day 3, Part 2






Upon departing the Siena Duoma, we were delighted that the rain had stopped and the clouds were making way for patches of blue sky.  We had worked up a substantial appetite and went off in search of a trattoria to enjoy some lunch.


We discovered a delightful place called I Barberi.


At this and every place we stopped for lunch, we would order a carafe of house wine. Not only was it affordable but stellar in almost every case.


While D perused the menu, I went in search of the ladies room and to do some snooping at that lovely place.



Another tourist explained to me that I was looking at photos of the Palio di Siena which is a horse race that is held twice each year in July and August. Ten horses and riders, dressed in appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen city wards. The Corteo Storico (a pagent), precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.

The race itself, in which the jockeys ride bareback, circles the Piazza del Campo, (where we had stopped for coffee that morning), on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid. The race is run for three laps of the piazza and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys.


Just before I returned to our table, I chatted with this table of American tourists, who admitted that they were a little bit overwhelmed when trying to decide what to order from the menu so they chose a little bit of everything!


D and I shared this starter of warmed parmesan with a drizzle of balsamic. It was heavenly!


D chose lasagna which he enjoyed a great deal but not as much as my dish:


I chose the taglialini with truffle and it was one of the most amazing, yet simple pastas I have ever eaten!


As we left the trattoria, we decided to turn on our cell phones and use their wifi. Low and behold we had a message from my nieces’ future parents-in-law, whom D and I had never met. We knew that Australians Honor & Gaz were also in Tuscany and we knew that there was a possibility that they might arrive in Siena that day. What we didn’t know was that they were waiting for us at a coffee shop just across the street! We dashed over there to no avail. We couldn’t spot them and decided that it wasn’t meant to be. Begrudgingly we started to walk back to our car down the narrow street pictured above. D as you saw above was wearing a Canada sweatshirt and sure enough Gaz and Honor were walking towards us. Gaz took a chance when he saw the Canadian sweatshirt and shouted something to get our attention. What an exhilarating feeling, to meet Dylan’s parents (who we love dearly) from half way around the world!



The four of us hit it off immediately and they invite us for drinks at their hotel. This was the view from their hotel window. The hotel was charming and so lovely.


They suggested that we have drinks in the hotel garden and we were delighted by this beautiful space to the rear of the hotel. But the must thrilling surprise was still to come.


We sat next to the wall that enclosed the garden, which turned out to be the city wall and overlooked the amazing country side that surrounds the exquisite city of Siena.







I couldn’t stop taking pictures…I was absolutely enthralled by the changing light from the late afternoon sun. This was the Tuscan experience we had travelled so many miles to savour. Here it was in the backyard of the hotel of new friends who we met quite serendipitously.


Here are the four of us, absolutely delighted to be together, with so much to ask and say to each other.





As the sun set, we realized that we still had the car journey back to Montecatini, so we reluctantly tore ourselves away for our dear friends and the sites from their hotel garden. Our happenstance meeting seemed divinely inspire and D an I so look forward to being with them again. Our next opportunity will be on Isla Mujeres when their son marries our dear niece in March of 2017!

Kath’s quote: “We all have chance meetings with people, even with complete strangers, who interest us at first glance, suddenly, before a word is spoken.”-Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Love never fails.




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Tuscany Trip Report-Day 3, Part 1



When we have travelled to Italy previously, October was the perfect weather. Perhaps that was true of the coastal areas that we had toured. Essentially on this trip, we experienced a week of rain commencing with this particular morning.


Undaunted, D was willing to tackle the Italian Autostrata in spite of the rain. The beauty of Siena was evident even with rain splatters on my camera lens.


We wandered for a bit to get our bearings and then towards the piazza for a mid-morning cappuccino.







I sat my umbrella out to drip dry as we snuggled together under an awning.



I was unimpressed with the cheesy smile adhered to this beautiful landmark in the piazza.





So I circumvented the smile by taking close ups of the gorgeous building.



Even though we weren’t in the market for fresh produce, I couldn’t resist photographing the casual displays.


Since it was raining anyway, we decided to purchase tickets to visit the 13th century Siena Cathedral.



Here too, I was captured by the little details.


Even Wikipedia refer to the marble of the Cathedral of being black and white. Black and white are the symbolic colors of Siena, linked to black and white horses of the legendary city’s founders, Senius and Aschius.


We learned from the audio accompaniment while on the tour that the marble is actual white and green and upon close inspection we could see that this was correct.



The marble itself was beautiful but so too were the stained glass windows and the carved columns.




You cannot help but be awed by the magnitude of the architectural feat with ceilings that soared to a seemingly impossible height.




The domes too were absolutely exquisite. One could easily imagine souls soaring heavenward.




I was particularly enamoured with the black angels which adorned the altar.


Being a former art history student, I recognized the work of Bernini, reminding me of the Ecstasy of St. Theresa that I had pleasure of seeing in the Vatican years before.




Gazing upon Michelangelo’s amazing sculptures were memorable too.



Once again, the details were what I was continually drawn to.




The side chapels were not to be missed either. The cathedral was a glorious way to cope with a rainy Tuscan morning.

Kath’s quote: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free“. -Michelangelo


Love never fails.



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Foraging for Slippery Jacks by Guest Blogger-Alice Kulyk



This has been a great summer for collecting chanterelles, but yet frustrating when it comes to searching other varieties. A mushroom picking friend and I decided to take a drive out towards Woodridge in southern Manitoba, to look for the honey fungus mushroom or  ”peedpenky” in Ukrainian. We have checked several times in Belair but nothing growing yet.  I guess just not the right conditions happening.

Again, no peedpenky growing in the Woodridge forest yet. However, we did find loads of slippery jacks (suíillus lúteus) and some really good puff balls that were still white and edible. We picked for about an hour because we didn’t want to go home with empty baskets.

For several years I walked past the slippery jacks even though it was the favorite mushroom of Shorty, my mushroom mentor and mother of a very good friend. We would go to the Belair Forest with Shorty looking for a variety of boletes. She taught me almost everything I know today about good or bad mushrooms. The slippery jack tends to be very sticky so it may have a lot of grass or pine needles stuck to it. As the cap is sticky and slightly bitter it is best to peel off the sticky layer. You will find these in late summer to late fall in association with conifers. The best way to store this mushroom is to thinly slice and dry it for future dishes. If cooking fresh, it is best to sweat out the juices first on its own. Then strain well and save resulting liquid to be used in a sauce. Then you can add the mushrooms to other dishes. They have a very nice taste when fried or stewed.

Find out more:

Kath’s quote: “If only one could tell true love from false love as one can tell mushrooms from toadstools”. -Katherine Mansfield


Love never fails.

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