Browsing: Cookbooks

A Perfect Mother’s Day


The simplest things in life fill me with joy.  Today was one of those amazing days.  I woke up in our snugly cottage after a ten hour sleep!  I can never sleep that long in the city.  After our morning coffee we headed down the back trail to enjoy a Masala tea and grilled cinnamon bun at The Spirit Rock Cafe.  While there, Julie recommend that we try the Danish made by a Danish baker across the street at  The Sand Bar Motor Inn.  We purchased two maple and pecan delights that I thought were going to be for later in the day, but when my husband started in on his-I wasn’t going to be left behind.  Delish.  We perused the Mother’s Day buffet and were duly impressed-$9.95 for quiche, eggs Benedict and more danish varieties.  Next year…..

On a sugar high, we decided to walk the beach.  I have still seen ice on the lake some May Long Weekends and here we were in t-shirts and I in a skirt walking the sand with no one else in sight-bliss.Lester Beach 2007 064

My husband tidied the cottage while I finished my book on the deck.  The kids assembled for dinner and our son handled the barbeque.  Pork chops are my favourite supper and his were cooked to perfection.P5090174

Gifts of a beach bag and a pashmina in mauves and aquas, a hand-thrown pottery wine decanter and a Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution followed.  Beautiful and heartfelt cards from my girls and a sung card from my guy. 

A simply perfect day-I love being a Mom!

Kath’s quote: “The highlight of my childhood was making my brother laugh so hard that food came out of his nose.”-Garrison Keillor





I very clearly remember the first time I tasted cilantro.  My husband and I were on our first winter vacation.  We were sitting on the second floor of one of those crazy Mexican places like Carlo and Charlie’s.  Now this was more than 15 years ago and these places were quite the novelty back then.  This is how I make my guess of the authentic Mexican version:  Combine 3 chopped tomatoes, ½ c chopped white onion, 1 jalapeño seeded and chopped, ½ c chopped cilantro, 1 clove of garlic chopped with 2 t freshly squeezed lime juice and salt to taste.  For a different twist I sometimes add a chopped up “pickling” cucumber.  Let the flavours blend before serving.  Consume with La Cocina taco chips (locally made and the best chip I have ever tasted).salsa3inch

I am currently reading a enthralling book that I will blog about when I have completed it but this is what I read last night about an authentic Mexican salsa:  “When it was mixed together, the salsa was a celebration of red and white and green, cool and fresh and alive.  On a tortilla, with a bit of white queso fresco, it was both satisfying and invigorating, full of textures and adventures, like childhood help in your hand.”

One of my favourite treats when I’m trying to “drop a few” is a half of a toasted whole wheat bagel with a bit of light cream cheese, covered with cucumber slices, salt & pepper and tons of cilantro.  It tastes like spring time in my mouth.

A cilantro dish that my  family loves is adapted from Bonnie Stern’s Heart Smart Cooking.  Cilantro-Grilled Chicken Breasts:  Marinade: in a food processor chop 4 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion, and 1 cup of cilantro including the stems.  Add 2 T of Thai fish sauce, 3 T of freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 T rice vinegar, 2 T hoisin sauce and ½ t hot chillipaste.  Process to form a paste.  Spread over 8 boneless, skinless chicken breast and refrigerate up to 2 hours.  Remove chicken, shake off excess and grill.  

My daughter's new location is Kayamandi Township, South Africa

My daughter's new location is Kayamandi Township, South Africa

A recipe that I have not yet tried are spicy African Potatoes from the Focus on Africa- Fundraising Cookbook that I mentioned in yesterday’s blog entry.  Brown a sliced hot red chili pepper, sliced thinly lengthwise in 3 T olive oil.  Add 1 t cumin, 1 t sesame seeds.  Heat until the seeds “hop”. Set aside. Boil 6 large potatoes cut into cubes.  Mix with spices and peppers.  Stir in an entire bunch of finely chopped cilantro.

A drink that we Canadians love is called a Bloody Caesarand many bartenders mix it with their own enhancements-some use a splash of dill pickle juice, others rim their’s with a mixture of rock and celery salt.  The very best version was one that I had with cilantro!Kath's Caesar

Yearning again-South Africa this time

B painting a home

B painting a home

My youngest daughter is currently on the west coast of South Africa with a program called Outtatown.   Of the many worries that a Mom has when her 18 year old baby girl decides to do mission work for a year-what is she going to eat way over there?  Daughter #2 is a lot like I was when I was her age.  She thinks that she is food wise because she eats sushi but she doesn’t care for anything spicy and her comfort zone is in the boneless chicken breast area.

Turquoise in my honour

Turquoise in my honour

And so it is that I was surprized when she told me that the Afrikan family that she was staying with was going to prepare lamb for her.  She said that it was a cute little chop and she loved it!

I can’t fault her for not trying lamb sooner when in fact I too was a late food bloomer.  But there is a very good reason for this and here it is:  My Dad was a cattle man.  He worked as a marketer for livestock and every morning he had to listen to the market report before work.  The transistor radio would be on in the bathroom and he would be listening and shaving.  He would not be alone.  I so cherished the time with my Dad (I was one of six kids)  that I would sit in the bathroom and watch him shave everything morning and that also meant that every morning I listened to the Stock Market Report as well.  Our routine was this:  we would listen for the number of cattle and hogs with little reaction and then when they announced how many sheep and lamb-we would cheer if the number was low!  With this sweet memory in tact, I do not crave the taste of a cute lamb chop.

African Peanut Soup

African Peanut Soup

So in tribute to my sweet baby I include this recipe for African Peanut Soup that I intend to make tonight.  Saute 1 large chopped onion, a medium diced sweet potato and 2 cloves of chopped garlic  in 1 T of olive oil until soft about 5 mins.  Add 8 c chicken broth , 1 t thyme, 1/2 t cumin and 1 c uncooked rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender about 20 mins.  Add 3 c thick chunky salsa (as spicy as you like it) and 1 c of diced zucchini.  Cook another 10 mins until zucchini is tender.  Add 2/3 c smooth peanut butter and stir until completely blended.  I choose not to add the 2 c of garbanzo beans that the recipe calls for but if you do, drain them first.  This recipe comes from a gorgeous cookbook entitled:  Focus on Africa which was a fund-raiser for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa.

B & her "kids" on a previous trip to el Salvador

B & her "kids" on a previous trip to el Salvador

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

The Pleasure is all Mine


I chatted about my post yesterday with a friend who directed me to one of her favourite food books that was neglected from my list.  This clever book is written by Suzanne Pirret and is a  a combination of recipes and a narrative about being single and wondering why eating alone has gotten such a bad rap.

I quote:  “This is a book about cooking for yourself decadently.  There are serious cookbooks written by serious chefs and light and breezy cookbooks written by wholesome cooks.  This is both.  It’s naughty and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Each chapter begins with a short story based on my experiences living in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London followed by my repertoire of recipes that have been inspired by modern classics, some great chefs, my travels and, I might add, a far amount of successful experimentation.  They’re all for one serving and written in a fairly simple style….Think solitude at its most celebratory. ”

My friend tells me that these recipes are so delicious she still cooks from this book now that she’s is an old married lady (celebrating her first anniversary this weekend).

This is her favourite:

Not Suzanne's Version

Not Suzanne's Version

“Best Mac “N” Cheese

Nothing fancy or weird.  This is the real deal.

Cook a c of elbow macaroni in boiling salted water with a little oil added.  Meanwhile , in another saucepan, make a bechamel:  melt a T of butter, whisk in a T of flour and cook until bubbly.  Add a c of cold milk and continue whisking until thickened,  Season with salt, white pepper, a nice pinch of hot chili powder and some chopped fresh thyme of flat-leafed parsley (or just a simple grating of nutmeg).  Stir in a cup of grated cheese, such as a combo of white and yellow cheddar, or some parmigiana and/or Emmental-whatever you favourites might be.  You have a lot oif choices.

Drain the pasta and toss into your bechamel.  Spoon into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with toasted fresh or panko breadcrumbs, place on a baking sheet and stick in a 400 degree F oven until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes or so.

Drink whatever you want.”

I would respectfully challenge my friend to a mac and cheese cook off.  My family loves my version adapted from The Best of Bridge.  You decide.

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

Cook and drain 2 1/2 c macaroni and set aside. Melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; stir in 1/4 c flour; mix well. Add 2 c milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add 1 t salt, 1 t sugar (sounds strange but just do it!) and 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese. Mix well. Mix 2/3 c fat free sour cream and 1 1/3 c cottage cheese into sauce. Mix with macaroni. Sprinkle another 2 c grated cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 c bread crumbs over top. Dot with 2 T butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. Serves 6.

Food for Thought


Last night my friend (honourary sister) instant messaged me about the book that she was just finishing.  It is called The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister.  I replied with the cliche that great minds think alike as I had already reserved it the library (a) to save paper b) because I’m frugal).  I messaged back with a title for her Hungry Woman in Paris by Josephine Lopez.

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

One of our fav Paris pics- Sacre Coeur from the Musee D'Orsay

Then there all the Maeve Binchy tiles:  Quentin’s (about a restaurant), The Scarlett  Feather (about a catering business) and The Night of Rain and Stars (about a restaurant and Inn on a Greek Island).  I have also read the entire Isabel Dalhousie Series by Alexander McCall Smith including Friends Lovers Chocolate .  Isabel’s niece owns a gourmet deli in Edinburgh and Isabel and her partner are always cooking up herb and leek omelets with crisp chardonnays.  So too: The Number One Ladies Detective Agency Series including The Full Cupboard of Life where Precious Ramotswe often starts her day with cup of red bush tea and a  sit on the porch to watch the sunrise and then a walk around her little garden.  Ah-a woman who truly knows what pleasure is.  The series is so food focused that there is now a accompanying cookbook.  “In Mma Ramotswe’s Cookbook: Nourishment for the Traditionally Built you can sample the sumptuous stews for sharing, fabulous fruit cakes for eating under shady trees, with red bush tea of course, and the spices, traditions and culture of Botswana that make every meal together special.”

Everyone thinks that Under the Tuscan Sun is about weekends in Positano and sexy Italian men because of the movie adaption.

Perched in Positano

Me Perched in Positano

When in fact it was an amazing non-fiction depiction of Frances Mayes’ love of celebrating with food.  She even included recipes at the end of many chapters.  Her next  book Bella Tuscany included not only her favourite recipes but the dining excursions that she made around Italy with her new husband.  In her not yet released book Everyday in Tuscany “she’s stirring the reader’s gastric juices with luscious tales from the table or tendering a descriptive nugget that holds fast in the mind’s eye.”

I also love Marlena de Blasi who has worked as a chef and as a food and wine consultant, and also lives in Italy, where she plans and conducts gastronomic tours of its various regions. I’ve read four of her  memoirs—That Summer in Sicily, A Thousand days in Venice, A Thousand Days in Tuscany and The Lady in the Palazzo

And last but not least:  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and her just released Committed which is also on my list.

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