Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oat cakes

The first time I took my husband back to the old country I introduced him to oat cakes with cheese, he loved them.  Back then you really could not buy them in British Columbia except perhaps a speciality store, so whenever I came back from England I bought him a package or two of Oat cakes.

They are one of my favourite foils for cheese, and these days with the ever shrinking world, you can pick them up at almost any grocery store.  But when I found a recipe for making them in a cook book celebrating the food of London I had to have a go at making them.

11/3 cups of medium ground oatmeal (I used instant)
1 tablespoon of flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of salt
11/2 tablespoons of melted butter
1/2 cup of warm water, or as needed

In a bowl stir together the dry ingredients, using a wooden spoon stir in the melted butter and warm water. At first it seems impossible that this will turn in to a dough.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vegetarian option to turkey

Every year I have the pleasure of hosting my husbands extended family to Christmas dinner, this year it was 16 of us.  The numbers have been diminishing every year with grown children moving away to Alberta and sadly we have lost both my husbands parents and my mother.  But this year there was addition to the family my niece gave birth to a baby boy at 1:30 on Christmas morning. What a joy it will be next year to have a baby at Christmas, this year we had to make do with my rather prickly kitten.

Christmas Kitty
My sister in law is vegetarian, and so every year I try to make a dish that will give her some protein, and as she loves beans it often involves some kind of beans. This year I set my self a challenge to create a dish that would be full of the flavours of turkey but with out trying to imitate the meat and be completely vegetarian.  So this is what I came up with.

1 cup of black eyed peas
1 cup of small white lima beans
4 cups of water
1 onion chopped
1 large garlic clove sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 vegetarian stock cube (try McCormick's vegetarian chicken stock cubes)
2 tablespoons of fresh sage finely chopped
1 stalk of fresh rosemary leaves stripped and chopped
1/4 cup of chopped parsley.
1/2 cup of fine breadcrumbs
zest of one lemon

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Italian sausage white bean soup

The other soup that I made for the carolling party this year was using Italian sausages and white beans.  These two things go very well together I have always thought and I had some home made beef stock in my freezer and this was a good way to use it. I also added Kale as the dark green flavour of the kale really complements the slightly sweet spiciness of the Italian sausage.

I made a very large amount of soup that would have fed 30 people a mug of soup so unless you are expecting a crowd you might want to scale it back.

12 hot Italian sausages cut up
2 onions chopped
2 very large cloves or garlic sliced or 4 smaller ones
6 cups of beef stock
2 cans of tomato puree
1 lb of dried white navy beans soaked in water for an hour.
2 bunches of kale chopped

Monday, December 19, 2011

Asian flavoured slaw

On Friday we had our annual Christmas pot luck, we celebrate most things in my department like birthdays, retirements, marriages and anything else we can think of with a pot luck.  But the Christmas one is different we set a table with table cloths, decorations and Christmas crackers, people make even more of an effort with their contributions.

Then at the end we do our secret Santa gift exchange, it is a highlight for me and gets the Christmas season off to a good start. I usually bring a salad as any good buffet needs something a little lighter to counter all the rich and calorie laden options. This salad has become a favourite, though I do change it up a little using different fruit and nuts. This year I used pomegranate and cashews, but I have used mango and papaya and almonds and peanuts.

1/2 white cabbage shredded
1 red onion very thinly sliced
2 red peppers thinly sliced
1 cup of toasted nuts (cashews this time)
2 cups of fruit sliced in most cases (pomegranate this time)
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro (optional as there are those that hate cilantro)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ginger Carrot Soup

Every year we have a Christmas Carolling Party, where we have 40 or so good friends over and we go out along the street singing Christmas Carols to our neighbours.  We collect donations to the food bank and get into the Christmas spirit.  When the Carollers return I give them some hot soup to warm them up, this year one of the soups I made was ginger carrot soup.

We have a collection of over 40 Christmas mugs that we have collected over the years and these make a wonderful vessel for serving soup to a crowd.  Even though you do need a spoon to eat the soup it is much easier to juggle a cup and spoon when you are not at a table than a bowl.  And anyway I do not have that many bowls.

I love carrot soup but I wanted to put a little bit of a twist and ginger and carrots go so well together. I used both fresh and dried ginger as they each has its own flavour and cumin seemed to be the natural spice to use,  this is what I came up with

2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
6 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon of ground dry ginger

1 cup of pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds

Over medium high heat, add butter and onions, cumin and cook, stirring often, until onions are limp.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Valdosta Pecans

This is a recipe that I got from my good friend and fellow blogger Cottagers wife she made these and brought them over one evening when they were here for dinner.  And my husband just loved them, he loved them so much he tried making them.  Now my husband is a very good person with many talents, but cooking is not one of them.  But after two attempts and a little prodding in the right direction he made some very tasty pecans.

So now that the holiday season is here I thought they would make a great addition to the snacks and appetizers at our annual carolling party.

2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp white sugar
2 Tbsp butter (best) or margarine
Pinch of salt

1 and 1/2 cups whole pecans
1 tsp finely grated orange peel aka zest
1 tsp course salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper

In a medium sauce pan combine sauce ingredients and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until bubbling. Cook one minute longer, then remove from heat.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pot Roast Indian style

It is no secret that Pot Roast is one of me favourite winter meals, it is a lot cheaper than a standing rib roast and it cannot really be over cooked. You can put it in the crock pot on the way out in the morning and not only do you have a delicious warming meal at the end of the day, but also a kitchen that smells like some one has been cooking all day.  I do like to mix it up a little though and I am always looking for new flavours and ways of enhancing the good old pot roast.

This recipe is very loosely and I mean loosely based on a recipe by Madhur Jaffrey , which a good friend had suggested as we were cooking Saturday night meal together and we had picked up a pot roast from Hopcott's.

2 tablespoons of ground cumin
2 tablespoons of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of ground dry ginger
1 tablespoon of paprika

2 cups of plain yogurt
1 large or 2 small onions chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 medium sized pot roast.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Lukes Corner Bar and Kitchen

I work on South Granville and have done for nearly 30 years, so I have got to know it very well and am on first name terms with many of the merchants.  There are so many options for eating out, it is only my wallet and waist size that stop me from eating at a different restaurant every day.  Lukes Corner Bar and Kitchen is situated on the corner of Granville and 14th.  This is a little further up than I usually get on my wanderings at lunch time so I am not sure when this opened, the last time I had noticed it was called the red door.

Any way we went there for lunch on Monday to welcome a couple of new members of our finance team and I was pleasantly surprised with the food.
macho chicken salad,   this was grilled spicy chicken with angry pecans chopped egg crisp salami-prosciutto and an avocado-rocket dressing

As usual I asked for my dressing on the side as I am trying to cut down calories and anyway I find often restaurant add too much.  This was a large plate and the chicken was freshly grilled and still warm. The salad was fresh and crisp with spicy pecans and crisp shards of prosciutto sprinkled through it.  All in all in very tasty fresh lunch.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sticky toffee pudding

There are some (probably the French) who say "If you want to eat well in England then eat breakfast for every meal." Though the British do make a mean breakfast I contend that where they really shine is dessert (or pudding).  I further contend that Sticky Toffee Pudding is the one of the best of all those delicious sticky dense rib sticking puddings.

This iconic British dessert is dense and moist on one hand but almost light on the other and a wonderful toffee sauce is poured over the top when warm which soaks into the rich moist cake.  I did not make my mother's recipe as I could not find it, so I used (with a little alteration) a recipe I found on Rock Recipes a blog from Newfoundland They suggested making it in muffin tins which I think is a great idea and I am going to try some day, but as I did not want to be fussing at the last minute I made it in a spring form pan.

8 ounces chopped pitted dried dates
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs

3 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp golden syrup (or substitute dark corn syrup)
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

Place the dates and water in a small pot and bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for only a couple of minutes. Let stand for a few minutes while preparing the rest of the batter.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Puree of white winter vegetables with Roast beef

When ever I make a turkey dinner  I always cook Trio of root vegetables which is carrot, turnip and sweet potato mashed together.  This dish is similar and comes from a book by John Hadamuscin  as well.

I love both parsnip and celery root and at this time of year they are some of the few vegetables that can be bought that are grown locally.  I had 18 people for dinner on Sunday, I was serving roast beef and I thought that this dish would complement the beef.

A beautiful and very large prime rib roast
Puree of white winter vegetables

Equal portions of:
celery root
1 pear
butter to taste.

Peel and slice the vegetables and chop in to equal size pieces then place in a large pot of cold salted water.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Home made crackers

I am having a Christmas party this Sunday (I know it is awfully early) and so I decided rather than going out and buying crackers for my cheese and quince paste platter I would make my own.  I had seen these being made when I was lying on the couch a couple of weeks ago sick and unable to do anything but watch the Food Network.  I found the recipe from Laura Calder on the food network web page. I have of course changed it a little but not materially

2/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 egg
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Put the butter, sugar, salt, water and egg in a food processor and mix until the ingredients have formed a smooth paste.

Then add the dry ingredients and pulse a few times until the mixture looks like course bread crumbs,
do not overwork. Then pour into a bowl.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Quick and easy mushroom soup

We are waking up to frost in the mornings, and even though the days have been sunny there is little warmth left in the sun, so my thoughts turn to soup.  Home made soup is a real comfort food for me, but I have to say I really do not like canned soup and making soup does not have to be too time consuming or difficult.  One of the canned soups that I can remember my mother serving when I was a child was cream of mushroom, and I would not eat it, as I declared I did not like mushroom soup

I came to terms with my hate for mushroom soup a long time ago when I realized it was not mushroom soup I did not like it was canned mushroom soup. I made this the other evening after work, and it filled my need for a warming soup and was very quick and easy to make.

1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove chopped or sliced
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cups of sliced mushrooms (any mushrooms will do I used one portabello and the remainder button)
A sprig of fresh thyme if you have one
2 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream (or milk if you are feeling virtuous)
1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg

Sweat off the onion and garlic in a large saucepan until the onion is transparent but has not started to go golden.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hotel Indigo San Antonio

When looking for a Hotel in a place that you have never been before, it is sometimes hard to figure out the best location.  The convenience of having a hotel close to the action can sometimes be a detriment if the "action" is very noisy.  For instance in Barcelona, I discovered that I was glad we were a little away from Las Rambles as those English tourists could be very noisy partying in to the small hours of the morning.  This turned out to be true in San Antonio also, though our hotel was right on the River walk it was a 15 minute walk up stream from the down town on a very quiet peaceful stretch.

The river walk north of downtown
It was a pleasure to step down the steps from our hotel right on to the walk where it was peaceful and shady due to the abundance of vegetation.  The front of the hotel was not as beautiful, but really after arriving we hardly went out the front again.

The hotel was oriented to the back where there was swimming pool and comfy chairs for sitting outside enjoying the warm weather.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chocolate pecan pie

Every year at American Thanksgiving a good friend, who happens to be American, hosts a Thanksgiving feast for our neighbourhood friends.  This started many years ago when our children were all small, and many were picky eaters. They are all now grown with the youngest graduating from high school this year, and so the volume of food has ramped up. Including all "kids" parents and even a couple of grandparents there were 32 for dinner and two 20lb turkeys!  

We are a group very bound by traditions, and every year we each bring the same dishes, my allotted dish is pie.  This year someone else was bringing pumpkin pie, which is an essential part of the Thanksgiving feast and so I was going to bring Pecan pie, another pie that completes some peoples vision of Thanksgiving dinner. Last year I made a  Straight forward Pecan Pie so to shake it up a little this year I made a chocolate pecan pie.

I found this recipe on Joyofbaking.com and I hardly changed it at all. The pastry that I made is my version of shortcrust pastry I made the pastry and lined a pie plate with it and let it rest while I made the filling.

Pecan Filling:

1 1/2 cups pecans toasted and chopped
2 ounces  unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup  granulated white sugar
1 cup  light corn syrup
2 tablespoons  butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon rum or bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup  whole pecan halves toasted

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Boudros San Antonio

We wanted to eat one meal sitting right on the river walk enjoying the bustle of all the people and the warm summer like evening.  I did a fair bit of research to find the right place as on our wanderings we had seen quite bit of rather bad looking Mexican food and really did not want sacrifice good food for location.  Boudros had come highly recommended both in a book that we had, as well as on the Internet. So with no reservations and high hopes we headed out.

Boudros by day
It does not have a large waterfront eating area and looked to be very full when we arrived, but we approached the waiter any way. He declared that he had a table for two inside, but when I said that we were willing to wait for one outside and asked how long it would be, miraculously a table for two appeared.  Feeling very lucky we sat down and ordered a glass of wine each.

It was very crowded and the waiter was making guacamole table side  for another table, but he was right next to me so I could see and smell everything.  And it smelt and looked very good.

It turned out that this was the house speciality and we had to order it as well, it was every bit as good as it looked.  After watching twice and asking some questions I pledge to try and replicate this guacamole for my friends back home soon!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

La Villita and Guadalajara Grill

La Villita was in the guide books as an arts village just off the River walk, and sounded interesting so we went to check it out on our first day after visiting the Alamo.  The first thing was to find somewhere for lunch, the Fig Tree looked very interesting and very expensive, so we decided to try the Guadalajara Grill for some Mexican food.

we managed to get a table outside in the shade and the first order of the day was a Margarita my first of the trip.

This came along with some chips and salsa a pleasant way to start any meal.  I ordered pork tacos though that was not exactly what they were called.

The beans, rice and flour tortillas were fine, but the pork appeared to be cold roast pork cut in to cubes, not very tasty or fresh.  My husband ordered the tortilla soup.

This was very tasty and came with chicken, fresh fried tortilla strips, cheese, avocado and sour cream.  He thoroughly enjoyed this and had obviously made a better choice than me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Alamo and breakfast at Schilo's Delicatessen

The first morning in San Antonio we headed down river on the River walk to the downtown area, this is where the Alamo is, the number one tourist attraction in San Antonio.  As breakfast did not come with our hotel we were also on the look out for somewhere for breakfast.  We wandered for quite a while on the river walk, but it seemed that very few opened for breakfast, and there was not a coffee shop to be found.  After asking at the tourist bureau and turning down their first two suggestions of Denny's or Macdonalds we decided to try their third Schilo's Deli.

This was a couple of blocks from the Alamo and just 1/2 a block up from the river walk. When we walked in we realized this was just the sort of place we were looking for. It appeared to be an old San Antonio institution harking back to it's early German roots.

 Our coffee came quickly served in one of those thick white cups which always remind me of American diners.

My husband ordered a german sausage with scrambled eggs and grits, this was Texas after all.  The sausage was good and the eggs as expected, the grits were bland and unappealing.  But this is not the fault of Schilo's but the fault of grits which I am afraid I find bland and unappealing, I don't really like polenta either, it is something about the texture.

Monday, November 21, 2011

King William district of San Antonio and Titos

The King William District is just South of Downtown and easily accessible by walking, biking or the trolley buses that circle the city. It is a nice neighborhood to walk or bike around as the streets are tree lined therefore providing some shade on a hot day and their are some beautiful examples of old San Antonio homes.

Some of them quite grand like the one above and some of them far more modest.

But mostly well maintained and rather inviting.  I suspect that this neighborhood has recently become a more desirable place to live and looks to be benefiting from some gentrification.  Amongst the houses are several bed and breakfasts and some restaurants.  We stumbled upon Tito's one evening and were pleasantly surprised by the food and the ambiance.

I can not remember the name of the dish that I ordered but the description was very similar to Taco al Pastor except with beef instead of pork

The beef was very tasty grilled beef on hand made corn tortillas with chopped onion and cilantro to sprinkle on and several wedges of lime.  This was served with a bowl of beans.  All very delicious and fresh.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

SAMA San Antonio Museum of Art and Cafe des Artistes

Close to the Pearl farmers market was the San Antonio Museum of Art so we decided to go visit and get some culture.  The Museum is housed in an abandoned brewery, of which there seemed to be several in San Antonino and like almost everything else here was on the banks of the River walk.

There were two towers with a glass bridge between them.  The tower on the right of this picture housed an amazing collection of Egyptian, Greek and Roman artifacts not what we had expected at all, but interesting never the less.

View from the glass bridge
There was also a traveling exhibit of jade from China.  This was wonderful with some ancient very beautiful jade pieces.

There was another reason for visiting the museum it was their restaurant Cafe Des Artistes  over looking  the river which had received good reviews.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pearl Farmers Market San Antonio

Two of the places that I really enjoy visiting when I travel is supermarkets and farmers markets.  The product that you can get is different where ever you go and a supermarket will show what the residents are eating at home.  If this holds true San Antonians are not eating very well, as we could only find dollar stores and corner stores that sold frito lay chips, beer and pre-made food.  I know that outside of the downtown this is not true but as we did not have a car  and so we did not experience a real Texas supermarket.

We did however find a farmers market which we were able to get to by walking out of our hotel right on to the river walk and heading north for about 20 minutes. The  Pearl Farmers Market had received mixed reviews on the net so I was a little apprehensive that it would be lame as some had suggested.  I was pleasantly surprised however it was a very nice location on the River walk in the Shadows of the Pearl Brewery which was closed and in the process of being renovated.

We found many of the same things that you would find in the Northwest if a little later in the year than up here.

There were some spectacular radishes that my husband had to buy a bunch of to eat as we strolled around the market.  There was however somethings that we never see up here such as black eyed peas.

Black eyed peas in the shell
These came both in their shells as well as shelled.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

San Antonio River walk

There is no doubt that the River walk in San Antonio is the best thing in San Antonio, in fact with out the River walk the city would be a bit of a wasteland.  Back in 1921 An architect named Robert Hugman had a vision of how the river could become an asset to the city instead of a detriment as it was prone to flooding. 

Though it took many years and a lot of work that would probably be considered ecologically incorrect today it has created a haven in the middle of the city.  It is damned to to the north and is really more of a canal today than a river, the path has been diverted to suit the planners rather than the natural flow of the river.

The loop that goes through down town reminded me a bit of Disneyland with nothing but restaurants, hotels and tourist shops.  In fact there is no grocery store withing walking distance of down town, easy to buy a tshirt, a souvenir mug, a bag of corn chips or even a bottle of wine but no fruits and vegetables or any real food.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sunny in San Antonio

Beautiful weather here in San Antonio sunny but not too hot, great sightseeing, and eating weather. Just the iPad with me so no pictures until I get back on Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sunchokes or Jerusalem artichokes

A good friend from work who shares my passion for food came for dinner on Saturday. She hunted and gathered the  vegetables to go with roast pork that I was cooking At the winter market in Vancouver.  She came with the largest and most amazing sunchokes that I had ever seen.

I have cooked these before but not too often and have usually made soup with them.  I did a little research and found that these are indigenous to North America and were cultivated by the Native North Americans long before the Europeans arrived.  It is the root of a particular specious of sunflower.

We washed them and then cut up in to equal size pieces and boiled until they were tender. Then I mashed like a potato with a little butter and salt.

They have a distinct artichoke flavour, but we decided to serve them with 2/3 mashed sunchoke and 1/3 mashed German butter potatoes.

These were served along with roasted Brussels sprouts which had also been picked up at the winter market still attached to their stalk.