Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Canada Day

Happy (day before) Canada Day! Long weekend (hubby took Friday off), sunshine, not too hot, barbecue... Wonderful!

Speaking of barbecue, not sure what I'll grill this weekend, but I have a pork loin that I think I'll pull out of the freezer to smoke. Man I want a proper smoker. For now I can make due with the grill, but someday I'll have a smoker. Maybe one that I can cold smoke in. I could make my own bacon! Sweet. Heck, I could smoke fish. Maybe we'd eat it then. LOL

Not a lot going on otherwise. It's not a big deal holiday to us in terms of having a party or anything. Though maybe we'll invite a few friends around for a bonfire. Food always tastes better with a fire. Maybe we'll visit the carousel. I love that we have a long weekend of nothingness. Hubby will work on the garage, we'll play outside, we'll eat... Ahhhhhh.

I didn't grow up with big Canada Day celebrations. Maybe family barbecues when I was little, but I don't remember if they were specifically on Canada Day or not. I've never done a lot with it. Though I think we'll be picking up some fireworks. The kids have requested a mini-show. MUCH less hassle than going to a big show at the beach with a 5 year old and 2 year old who don't nap and are used to going to bed around 7:30. LOL

Have a great weekend everyone. And happy July 4th to the Americans who've dropped in.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Culinary Immorality

I just read an article about an American chain restaurant's latest creation. The Grilled Cheese Burger Melt at Friendly's. I've only seen pictures, as we don't have this franchise in Canada. Not even in Niagara Falls, where we seem to have an awful lot of American chains. But the pictures say enough. Described as "a Big Beef burger between two hot grilled cheese sandwiches" with some token lettuce and tomato thrown in for good measure, I guess. 1500 calories, a whopping 97 grams of fat and 2 090mg of sodium.

Not to be outdone, another chain - Chili's - has a burger with a comparatively lean 40 grams of fat but 5 250mg of sodium!

I don't understand it. Not completely. Just because one can do something, does that mean he or she should? Just because a restaurant can create something that goes so far beyond the definition of unhealthy, does that mean that they should offer it to the public? It can be argued that the onus is on the customer to not indulge in such nutritional fiascoes, but does that absolve the restaurant entirely? Would the guy who just ate two KFC Double Downs have chosen to create a meal with a similar fat and sodium profile if that abomination weren't available?

It's a kind of culinary immorality. Immorality being defined in part as "not conforming to the patterns of conduct usually accepted or established as consistent with principles of personal and social ethics." Food like this is created not for positive social value or personal betterment, but to revel in the grossness of human excess. To thumb noses at sensible eating and celebrate a more immature mindset that would have us believe that this kind of food falls under the "everything in moderation"mantra. The missed point is that there is no moderation in a burger with 97 grams of fat. There is just excess.

Do I blame restaurant chains for catering to the whims of the stupid and short sighted? No, not entirely. Much of the responsibility lies with the guy choosing to shove the disgusting mess into his gaping maw, guffawing about how it's just one burger and it won't kill him, as mayo drips down his chin and his blood pressure goes through the roof.

I don't know how we got to this point. Perhaps with more research I'd be able to trace the roots of this to something larger than self indulgent stupidity. To be fair, many more of us make poor food choices on a smaller scale all the time. But there is something that I find almost offensive about offerings like these "burgers." They seem to be daring people to embrace them as somehow normal, while at the same time scoffing at the idea of making healthy choices and creating menus which embrace health rather than debauchery.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Of radishes and unpopular salad

The weather here this year has been pretty unreal. The past two summers have been cool and wet. Last year we had the furnace on until mid June. This year we turned the AC on in May. It's been crazy.

That heat, along with the adequate rainfall, has produced abundance. Some of it quite early. It's not July yet and the cherries are ready. Strawberries abounded weeks before strawberry festivals took place. Our peas are finished in the garden already. And just this morning I harvested the best radishes I've ever grown. They are called Cherrybelle and they are round and red and crisp. My 2 year old loves them. Hubby is the other one in the house who eats them (yes, as proud as I am of having grown them, I will only eat them diced into macaroni or potato salad). I am well pleased.

Speaking of salads, my gourmet group met again last night. Portuguese was the theme (our hostess having just returned from there). But as often happens with internet recipes, I fear that something was lost in interpretation with the recipe I was given. Perhaps there is a recipe for a Portuguese salad of winter squash and beets with a thick sweet dressing. I don't know. But my recipe had me roasting butternut squash (could not find pumpkin) and opting to roast some beets rather than opening a tin of them. I also roasted the chopped onion rather than sauteing it separately. It was all seasoned with salt, pepper and an undisclosed amount of Thai sweet chili sauce. I used 1/3 of a cup for about 3lbs of veggies (uncooked weight). Just enough to bring it all together, but not swamp it.

It looked pretty. Like a fruit salad, actually. I wanted to like it. I mean, squash, beets, onion, sweet heat... Alas it was not to be. Of the 9 of us, 3 were honest and said that we just did not like it. The rest claimed that it was good, but I don't imagine any of them will be adding it to their salad repertoire. LOL

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mocha-scotch Truffle Cookies

Alright, I know I said I don't photo-blog (and you can tell by the quality of any pics I do post that I'm telling the truth). But I just couldn't post a recipe for these gems without a pic.

Friends of ours are having a baby soon (really soon) and some of us are coming together to provide freezer meals for them. And really, what's a freezer full of meals without a dessert option now and then? So I decided to make some cookies.

I took inspiration from another recipe which called for significantly less coffee. It also had nuts. Instead I increased the coffee granules in the recipe and used butterscotch chips. The result is a chewy, crispy cookie with a deep mocha flavour and a hit of unexpected butterscotch-y goodness. Yum!

Mocha-scotch Truffle Cookies

12 oz chocolate chips (not milk chocolate) - you could use a good dark chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp instant coffee granules
3/4 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 C white sugar
1/4 C dark brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 325F and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using a double boiler (or not), melt together the chocolate, butter and coffee granules. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Beat the eggs (I used my stand mixer, but an electric hand mixer would work) and slowly add the sugars. Beat for a few minutes until light coloured. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla.

On low speed (or by hand) add in the flour mixture and butterscotch chips until just combined.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets (the batter is thick and sticky), about 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for 15-18 minutes, until the cookies are set at the edges and still slightly squidgy in the centre (they will take on a crackled appearance).

Cool on a wire rack (slide the parchment onto it to make it easier), and enjoy.

Mocha-scotch Truffle Cookies

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Great summer salads - volume 1

It seems that summer has arrived in Southern Ontario in full force. Spring rolled over and gave up a couple of weeks ago already. So now it's time for recipes that beat the heat.

I subscribe to Taste of Home magazine. The recent issue has a recipe for a Pickled Veggie Salad that looked interesting. Not sure why, since I'm not a huge fan of Brussels sprouts and I dislike mushrooms. But I had a baby shower to go to this weekend and wanted to bring something different. This salad sure fit the bill. I've had a couple of requests for the recipe already. So I'm going to share my take on it here.

Pickled Vegetable Salad

1lb fresh Brussels sprouts
1 cup sugar (I'd use 3/4 cup next time)
3/4 cup vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup oil, divided (I used grapeseed)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and cut into halves or quarters
2 cans black olives, drained (or a mix of black and green olives)
2 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used about a pint of halved cherry tomatoes)
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Cut an 'x' in the core of each Brussels sprout. Place in 1/2" of water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for about 8 minutes, until tender. Drain and let cool.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine the sugar and vinegar (I'll add a dried chili or two at this point when I make it again). Bring to a boil and dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp of oil and saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic until just tender. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the water chestnuts, olives, tomatoes, peppers and lemon juice. Cut the sprouts into halves or quarters and add to the bowl. Pour the sugar and vinegar mixture over it all and toss with the remaining oil (not sure I added it... hmmm).

Cover and refrigerate at least overnight.

Notes - I drained it and added a generous splash of fresh vinegar before bringing it to the shower. It gave the salad a bit more kick.

The next time I will omit the mushrooms and maybe try some asparagus in place of - or along with the Brussels sprouts.