Sweet Love

14 02 2011

Happy Valentines Day everyone. Valentines Day is a funny day, if you look at the history of it, it is another Christian holiday that has been watered down and materialized over the years. Oh well. It is fun to share with your loved ones how much they mean to you….but we should make that effort daily eh?

I have had a overly indulgent Valentines season. It started with a trip to Vancouver to see some of my favourite gurlz, a first of it’s kind, bringing us from one coast to the other together for friend time. We had an amazing dinner at Raincity Grill in the West End, a well known eatery and a pioneer in farm-to-table menus. I could go on about the meal, if you are there and have the opportunity, go to this restaurant. The sweetest thing about the night is we caught an additional week of the annual Dine Out Vancouver and enjoyed so much of the amazing menu for a package price – and even got the Creme Brulee without ordering the menu to go with it, wink, wink. Now this was the BEST creme brulee any of us have ever had. It was a pumpkin brulee with a berry compote, vanilla creme and almond shortbread cookie. Enough said.

While in Vancouver I get my fill of cupcakes. I know I talk a lot about cupcakes, they are my favourite indulgence, passe or not :). These are not just any cupcakes though, these are the BEST cupcakes. Cupcakes is the original cupcakes of the west. Their cake and icing are perfect. I picked up two, yes two, ate one, the best red velvet I’ve had since Santa Monica (another story), went back and got a refill to bring them home (and a mini to eat). Tony and I indulged in them on Saturday night. Sweet.

And the icing on the cake, Valentines Day. I’m not sure how I missed it most of the day yesterday, but hiding in the fridge were sweet treats from Crave. Tony said he watched me open the left door on the fridge and never the right all day, they were right there under my nose! I opened the fridge this morning and staring at me was this sweet treat, cupcakes and this sweet cookie. I have been nibbling on the cookie all day…we’ll save the cupcakes for the weekend. Cupcakes keep very well in the freezer. I have frozen them in Vancouver and then flew home with them, keeps the icing in tact. Obsessed? Maybe. I know I say indulging in sweet treats is nice once in awhile, but I’ll be needing a sugar holiday for a long time from this indulgence!

I hope you had a lovely day!

Be well, Eat well,

Nat

 

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Walnut Kifli

22 12 2010

‘Kifli’ is a very common Hungarian yeast dough pastry, cut into triangles and rolled up into a crescent shape. There are savoury ones and sweet ones. I grew up with a sweet one made with a walnut filling. Kifli are a staple during the holidays and I recently made kifli with my grandma Ann. When I first got the recipe for kifli from her she explained the dough needed to rest in the fridge overnight. I thought, great, i’ll make the dough and come by the next day and learn how to roll the cookies. Before the plans were solidified she says to me ‘I think you should come here and make the dough, I don’t trust you’ll know how to do it right’. She was right (head hung). When it comes to cookies, these are a bit labour intensive, but once you get the hang of it, and are well supervised :), time flies. I’ll do my best to explain, but I agree that it takes practice, a trained eye and taste experience to know what is a ‘good’ dough, filling and end product.

***Warning, these are not my typical no sugar, whole grain treat. The experience of learning tradition and spending time with a grandparent is the treat. And besides, these are simple ingredients, low in sugar and considering the recipe will make 85-95 cookies…well, do the math, you’ll live if you eat a few of them.***

Dough:

  • 2 cups Regular Flour
  • 1 cup Pastry Flour
  • 1 – 1/4 cup regular Butter
  • I tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (save the whites for egg wash)
  • 1 package of Dry Yeast, dissolved in 1-2 tbsp of warm milk
  • 1/2 – 1 cup Sour Creme (buy a small 250 ml container)
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling

  • 1 lb Walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Rinds of 2 Lemons, grated

Sift the flour and salt together (that sifter of grandmas is older than ME!). With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture. Mix the sour creme, yeast mixture, lemon juice and eggs together. Add the wet to the dry, mix with a spoon, folding over until it is blended. Then with your hands form it into a ball. On a floured surface, kneed a few times to incorporate all the ingredients, not too much or it toughens. Cut into two pieces, put in fridge over night.

For the filling, grind the walnuts, check out that old grinder. A food processor will work, but be careful not to pulverize them into powder, they need to be a course grind. Mix in grated lemon rind and sugar. The cookies call for the evil white sugar – now i’ll experiment with alternatives one day, but 1/2 cup of sugar for 85+ cookies, i’ll live. My grandma makes them low in sugar because her mother watched her sugar intake. Nice.

After the dough has sat in the fridge overnight, no longer than 12 hours, take out and let rest at room temperature for a couple of hours so you can roll it out. Roll out on a dusting of flour, turning and flipping over until dough is about 2mm in thickness? Cut into triangles 3.5″ across and about 45 degrees. Again, this isn’t going to be easy to explain here. Fill the base of the triangle with a spoon of filling, tuck the corners in a bit, roll, stuffing the filling as you go, brushing extra aside. Tip of triangle needs to be on the bottom of the roll so it doesn’t unravel while baking. Brush with egg white and bake for about 20 min in 375 degrees until golden brown. To serve, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

That doesn’t do it justice but I don’t expect a pastry beginner to give this a shot. If you do, let me know how you do. By the way, and although she might not admit it in public, grandma said (sipping her tea and watching me) that my kifli were perfect, like i’d been doing it my whole life. Perfect. That’s right, must be in the genes.

Eat well and Be well over the holidays,

Nat





White Bunnies and Easter Goodies

6 04 2010

As if, I wouldn’t eat bunnies for dinner. In fact, when I was a kid (like 5 or something) I remember my old great uncle Mike was a rabbit farmer. When he came to town he brought the bunnies with him. I played with them in my baba’s (grandmother’s) backyard. They even had a little wood house for them. We ran and played until we tired, both the bunnies and I. At dinner, I think Easter, the food was served. Inquisitive as I was, I said, as my mom was dishing a meat thing on my plate, “what is that?”, mom said “rabbit, what do you think it is” (because an urban Hungarian-Polish-Ukrainian kid is suppose to think like a farm kid). Well I think I screamed, at least that is my memory, and never touched rabbit again. 10 years later cows and pigs ‘fell off the plate’.

Anyhow, I was working in the house on Good Friday, and out the front window, running down Elbow Dr. was a herd of rabbits. White rabbits just given’r like they were running for their lives. It was hilarious. Go bunnies Go!

Easter morning we went to grandma K’s for a waffle breakfast. She made like 100 waffles, they kept coming out of the oven “eat, eat”. She makes her own jam, like many people do. She experiments with ‘low sugar’ or substitutes, you know to “watch the calories”. She made the yummiest jam ever, prune jam. I love prunes, we always have a bag in the cupboard, so good for you and keeps you regular. She took soft, dried prunes, chopped them up, added Welches unsweetened prune juice and cooked it up into a jam. Into a jar and into the fridge to spread on waffles, toast and whatever else you like. Try it, it is good!

Hope everyone has a nice long weekend.

Eat well,

Nat





Sayulita Life Part III

20 03 2010

Home from Mexico and drying up like a prune. The wedding was amazing (happy couple Bryce and Tara) and the town of Sayulita the perfect Mexican get away. Small surfer village, no big resorts, nothing over three stories tall, families and surfers vacationing together and locals living and loving the surf along with sun seekers. The food was incredible. Yoga in the morning sun. Fruit salads daily, fish tacos, veggie burritos for lunch and out to one of the many quaint and very good restaurants each night. Day of expense, the boys headed out for some ocean fishing and the girls headed to the Four Seasons in Punta Mita for a lunch by the pool (which we later learned moved a village to build, grrr). Love to hear your comments about Sayulita if you’ve been.

The tequila research was easy. After the wedding at Villa Amor, a quaint character complex on the beach, the wedding party walked down the cobbled streets to the main plaza (the intersection of the four roads in Sayulita) and stopped at Sayulita Fish Taco for a shot of Tequila. Here the owner gave us the Tequila 101. There are three forms of the agave elixir; Blanco (silver, unaged tequila), Reposado (golden, lightly aged tequila) and Anejo (darker, longer aged tequila). The difference between the tequila can be told mostly in the blanco varieties. When they are aged, they are aged in wood barrels and casks which masks the original flavour of the agave and the region it comes from. There are thousands of Tequila varieties and at any time SFT has 350+ on hand. You can try a flight of Tequila like you do with wine, which Tony and I went back to do. They served sliced orange sprinkled with cinnamon to cleanse the palate. Like wine, this is a really good way to taste the difference between tequilas. There is a technique to tasting tequila. Take a sip, inhale through your nose, swallow and exhale through your mouth (for the yogis, doesn’t that make for a fun pranayama, kidding). We learned that tequila has a low sugar content and after doing some research the carbohydrate content of tequila is unique to each brand, some brands have sugar added to them during processing. El Jimador is very low in sugars while Jose Cuervo is higher. If you are keen, look here.

I happen to like tequila*, so learning more about it was interesting. The lime or fresa (strawberry) margaritas were a daily additive. To the chagrin of my travelling companions I created a way to drink tequila with no added sugar. In my self proclaimed genius I poured a shot of Reposado El Jimador over ice in a tumbler, squeezed two small ‘limons’ over it and added soda water. Voila a refreshing drink we named the Agave Azul (after the name of the residence we were living in). I asked about this at dinner one night to learn it is called a Charro Blancho or ‘white cowboy’. Really? That’s not sexy and we stuck to our naming convention. At the Four Seasons they introduced us to a version called the Poloma made with grapefruit soda (aka Squirt, again not sexy). It was good too.

We enjoyed guacamole every day, there is nothing like fresh avocados in Mexico. We bought Queso Fresco (fresh cheese) and made bean and cheese quesadillas with fresh maize tortillas. There is a wonderful bakery we tried late in our trip which was too bad but probably a good thing. I love grocery shopping in other places and I bought cumin, cinnamon, vanilla beans, whole nutmeg and turmeric to bring home.

I learned to make guacamole in Mexico many years ago, here is the recipe to enjoy for yourself.

2 Ripe Avocados

1 Tomato, diced

2-3 Tbsp of Red Onion, diced (this is optional, I usually leave it out)

2-3 Tbsp chopped Cilantro

1 tsp Ground Cumin

2-3 Tbsp Queso Fresco (or 1-2 Tbsp plain yogurt, again optional)

1-2 Tbsp of fresh Lime Juice

Pinch of Salt

I learned to half the avocado, remove the pit. Scoop the flesh out and mush with a spoon (this was really important for some reason). Mix in the rest of the ingredients, enjoy.

*Tequila is obviously not a health food (although I tried to figure out how it could be, I am sure there is an ancient wisdom in it somewhere). I am not dogmatic about not drinking, over doing it isn’t healthy. Just drink responsibly and enjoy the flavours of other cultures.

Eat well and be well, Nat





The 1st of March

2 03 2010

Ah, the 1st of March and so much to say. In Calgary it was sunny and 10C warm yesterday. I went for a walk at Glenmore Park, being outside is so refreshing. Bundled up, covered up and void of sunlight for months, when spring peeks it’s head out in Calgary smiles stretch across everyone you see. There were two men on park benches, elderly men, really elderly men, talking about their heart procedures and the technology that had extended their lives. They talked about in’s and out’s of how it went and how they felt. They have probably lived the same length of two generations of the previous centuries. Ponder that.

Food! Sunday’s in our house are usually saved for prepping food for the week, experimenting with recipes and menus not tried before or building a feast of favourites. This past Sunday was Wagamama Sunday. What’s Wagamama? For those of you that have been to Europe you might be familiar with this fresh and casual noodle eatery. When I was in London in 2002 we discovered it in Piccadilly Circus. It was just starting to take off in Europe. You sit at long shared picnic tables, the server writes your order on the paper in front of you and when the food comes it is fresh, sizzling and healthful. Mostly soups and stir-fries and the flavours are rich and have a lot of depth. When we went through Heathrow on our way home from Canary Islands last year I was over the moon to discover the Wagamama at the airport (well okay, I knew it was there, I of course looked it up before we left, nothing like planning a meal months in advance). I brought home their cook book and Sunday we made a few of the recipes and just in time to sit and take in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies. Edamame (classic and easy soybean dish), Yasai Itameru (veggie, tofu stir-fry on a bed of coconut ginger rice noodles) and for dessert Char-grilled Pineapple. This you have to try.

In a sauce pot mix 1 can of coconut milk, a few tablespoons of sugar (now choose this wisely, you can use any kind of sugar but try unprocessed sweeteners like Agave or Maple), juice of 1 lime and the zest of half a lime and  a 5 cm piece of lemongrass thinly sliced. Simmer 5 min and let cool. Char-grill slices of pineapple over high heat, 1-2 minutes a side, place in a serving dish or individual bowls. Strain the coconut sauce, warm gently on stove and pour over the pineapple. Tell me that isn’t great.

Welcoming in the 1st of March is always warming. What’s not warming is the ongoing natural disasters our world is facing. My opinion, we don’t have time to fight wars, we need to take care of each other and the planet.

Be well, eat well, Nat