Thursday, December 29, 2011

the salad that fills you up

I'm sitting here at the Montreal airport, waiting for my flight to Halifax in 2 hours. We made it to the airport really early, but that's okay - I'm SO glad to be sitting down and with that the horrific bus ride of death overwith. Seriously. It was a sweaty bus (you know the kind), standing room only, I was heavily encumbered with luggage... my worst nightmare. I'm already a bull in a china shop on a good day.

But let's not talk about that. Let's talk about this salad. I'm not sure if this salad was my mom's idea, or if she learned it from her mom, or a book, or wherever, but this is something she used to make for me from time to time. It was made up of the various veggies we had in our vegetable crisper, but the three things that remained constant were the cottage cheese, the dollop of mayo and the avocado.

Not only does this salad have all the benefits that salads generally have - it's healthy, fresh-tasting and you can give yourself a pat on the back for making a meal of it - but it actually fills you up. This is not a common trait in salads. I eat a salad as a meal, I'm hungry in half an hour. Unless it's this salad.

Monday, December 26, 2011

turkey curry 2011: turkey curry with butternut squash and green cardamom

 It all began on new years day on my 32nd year of being single. Once again I found myself on my own and going to my mother's annual turkey curry buffet. Every year she tries to fix me up with some bushy-haired middle-aged bore, and I feared that this year would be no exception.

I've decided to start a tradition at Unhip Squirrel. When I was in my late teens, I had my wisdom teeth pulled out. My dad arrived the day before my surgery (yes - they put me under!) armed with supplies to aid my recovery, the most memorable of which was the newly released Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding. Little did he know that Bridget Jones would become the bumbling heroine through my late twenties, as I alternated my singleton pride with navigating a sea of lame boyfriends and what she so brilliantly called emotional fuckwittage. Excuse the language.

Don't make the mistake of lumping Bridget in with all the other chick lit out there. Bridget is an original (if I can say that when her story is loosely based off Pride & Prejudice).  Fielding so keenly captured what it was like to be a single girl who regularly faced the question, "How's your love life?" I think that while she is an exaggeration of all of us girls, each one of us can find something to relate to in Bridget. Even now that I'm what she would consider a smug married. She's universal.

What does this have to do with turkey curry? Well, early on in the book (and in the opening scene of the movie) we are presented with a family tradition that Bridget is forced to partake in each year - the turkey curry buffet. It's a gruesome fix-up affair that inevitably ends in Bridget's humiliation (see the above link). Given that even the name of this blog is an obscure reference to Miss Jones herself, it feels appropriate to pay homage to her by doing an annual turkey curry, without attempting to fix anyone up.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

soft persian-inspired scrambled eggs with fresh herbs

I've told you about Byblos before. It's a Persian restaurant that Adam and I go to from time to time - they are well known for their spectacular breakfast, a soft and custardy feta omelet, sprinkled with freshly chopped dill and served with an assortment of sweet breads and aromatic jams. If you go there for breakfast and order anything other than this, the owner will try to talk you out of it. For good reason. It really is the best.

At the moment, I have an outrageous amount of fresh herbs on hand (thank you to my new favourite product, a Thinkkitchen herb container thing - photo nonexistent on the internet) and I decided to attempt the Byblos-style eggs. I don't know how they do it their kitchen and I didn't even attempt to recreate them authentically. And as a lover of fresh herbs, I added a few more just for kicks.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

pasta e fagioli soup

I have an irrational distaste for certain pasta shapes. I almost never buy macaroni - even if I'm making "macaroni" and cheese. You can forget rigatoni. Farfalle is another scorned pasta, but sometimes it does find its way into my kitchen. Then it sits there for 6 months while I purchase more desirable shapes like shells or spaghettini.

Eventually I come to the realisation that I should probably use the farfalle. This happened the other day and resulted in a comforting and filling pasta e fagioli, which was inspired by the lovely and amazing Shutterbean.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

deep dish apple blackberry pie with fresh thyme

I've never thought of myself as a very artistic person. I find it difficult to be creative - even in the kitchen sometimes. I've always had art in my blood. I was accused of tracing in my grade 8 art class. I used to spend hours with my various VHS tapes on pause so I could sketch portraits of whatever character was on the screen - Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Duncan MacLeod, Yakko, Wakko and Dot... you name it, I drew it. I got my degree in art history. I wrote horrible embarrassing fanfiction. My point is, I have always been in some way connected to creativity, but I've never believed it lived inside me.

Why do I bring this up now? I've started taking great pride in baking lattice crust pies and lovingly crimping their crusts. Those aren't creative per se, but they do require a certain amount of artistic deftitude. My first one tasted great, but was a little lacking in the looks department. I think I've finally become confident and have gained the graceful steadiness of hand required to bake a pie that looks as good as it tastes. Evidence above. My pie was pretty!

I really enjoyed this pie, and I loved the depth of flavour that the thyme added. Not everyone will enjoy it - in particular, those who don't like their food to mix or have rigid ideas of what food goes with what ... I'm looking at you, buddy! You might come across those who say that it reminds them of "eating meat" or describe it as "that meat flavour pie." Don't be disheartened, adventuresome palates! Apple and thyme is a well-established flavour combination. It's good. Trust.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

mango cilantro salad with avocado

Here we are with another recipe without a recipe. Some food like sandwiches, some salads and other things, defy being limited by a list of quantities. They're so flexible and are often made for varying amounts of people, therefore to quantify the ingredients becomes more of a hassle than a help.

Such is the case with this salad. Maybe you, like me, found a huge mango at Jean-Talon Market and could only use half of it. Avocados come in different sizes. A lot of people don't like cilantro as much as I do. So where I might use a generous handful of the stuff, a couple of tablespoons chopped may be sufficient for someone else. So... use however much of whatever ingredients you want - all this is a salad idea. And a really good one at that. Even if you're a beginner cook, you probably know how to throw together a salad. If you don't, well... it's pretty foolproof! There's a first time for everything.

Monday, December 12, 2011

the great food blogger cookie swap: brown butter cookies

You know what's a great idea? Getting over 600 food bloggers to bake cookies for each other. When I read about this crazy scheme on A Bitchin' Kitchen, I knew instantly I had to get involved. The deal is this: you bake a dozen cookies each for three bloggers, and you receive a dozen cookies from three entirely different bloggers. However, my matches were unusual, there were four of us in a group and we all baked cookies for each other. I think this must be because we were the only people on the planet who requested no chocolate.

I received black sesame shortbread from Kyleen at sixteenbeans, brown butter chai shortbread from Heather at Tea with Me and cranberry apricot biscotti from Melissa at West Coast Nest. Thanks to you all for these lovely gifts which were all exceptional and imaginative. I erased morning workouts with all of them and I'm not sorry!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

barbecue sauce three ways

Was there ever a better time of year for pulled pork? I think not. It's cold outside. The weather is just screaming for me to make comfort food. Luckily enough I have an excuse to make something so delicious (as if this blog isn't an excuse good enough?) - I'm catering Adam's department Christmas party and, with that, there comes a lot of taste testing.

So this week has been a flurry of experiments, not only checking for taste, but for the first time ever, I'm checking for practicality and cost. It's added a totally different element to my usual cooking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

spiced pumpkin holiday granola

One of the things I love about baking is the scent it leaves behind in your home. As I write this entry, I am filled with the swirling aroma of cinnamon, nutmeg and fragrant orange. It's a perfect smell for this time of year when it's cold outside, but so warm and cozy inside.

These jars of granola (from my first batch) will be carted across the country in a very large suitcase by my cousin who is lucky enough to being going home for the holidays. They make great gifts - they're made with love, and they don't go stale! They don't last long enough to go stale, that is.

I adapted this from the recipe on Winnie Abramson's Healthy Green Kitchen (one of my new favourite blogs). I decided to add orange zest because I'm a big fan of orange spice tea, and we already know that pumpkin and orange is a thing. Or do we? I think I'm actually thinking of my mom's baked yams. Nevermind. It works.

Monday, December 5, 2011

potage of red lentils with kale

Hello people. It is a monumentous occasion - today, at the very last minute, I dropped off my Cookie Swap packages at the post office. Three of my fellow food bloggers will soon be tasting the delights of the unhip squirrel kitchen. Hopefully they will be delights. I'm still a bit skeptical about putting baked goods in the mail.

Speaking of squirrels, while I was putting my packages together, I heard this screeching sound coming from outside. I looked out the window, and a squirrel was flipping out on my neighbour's balcony. It was perched on the railing looking very aggressive. It stayed there forever, just screeching and flapping its tail about. It left, then came back a couple of hours later and resumed screeching. It didn't bug me - if you must know, there was an embarrassing hour-long rendezvous between my Grooveshark account and Taylor Swift at some point this afternoon - and honestly, I was a little worried about the squirrel. I'm very sensitive to animals in distress (I ran out of the room crying in the middle of Food Inc. and made Adam shut it off), so I googled 'squirrel freaking out' and discovered that not only is there a forum dedicated to squirrels, but that people keep squirrels as pets! Wait a minute, what??

Friday, December 2, 2011

eggnog buckwheat crumble cake

If your first thought was that this looks like a gooey mess, you're right. It is a gooey mess. It's still a gooey mess in my kitchen. Cake is another one of those things that I struggle to photograph well. When it looks like "an undercooked hamburger," that makes it more difficult. Lesson One: to minimize hamburgerness, don't make this cake in a round pan. Use the suggested 9x13 pan. In any case, I have a lot to learn about photographing things that don't look as appealing as they taste. Some people can make anything look good. I'm not one of those people. YET.

I was inspired to make this a week ago or so when I read Jessica's post at How Sweet It Is. That cake entered my brain and never left. So today, on the heels of the beet cake failure, I did something about it.

My intent was to make the recipe as written (with my usual sugar alterations - for someone with a penchant for desserts, I have a low tolerance for sugar). When I went to get my whole wheat flour from the cupboard, I saw my bag of buckwheat flour and, I swear to you, it looked up at me saying, 'pick me! pick me!'. So I did, with absolutely no knowledge as to whether using buckwheat flour requires any other special alterations. Luckily, it worked just as well (if not better!) and gave the cake this wonderful earthy, nutty flavour which complimented the eggnog and spices. It also rocked the texture of the crumble topping.

Buckwheat flour in your cake. Do it now. You know you want to.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

baked tilapia in smoked bacon with rosemary

I bet there are some of you out there who were expecting my next post to be beet cake. Sadly, the beet cake is in a big black garbage bag on my back deck, waiting for tomorrow's garbage pick-up. What went wrong? Well, I'll save those fascinating details for when I'm able to successfully write a post about beet cake. I will succeed if it is the last thing I do!

I found myself relatively near to Atwater market today and escaped with bags bursting with baby zucchini, patty-pan squash and red chiles. There's just something exciting about tiny vegetables. They remind me of French restaurants. I also left with wood-smoked bacon and tilapia - there's a recipe for cod in Jamie's Food Revolution that I've been dying to make for ages and, given that tilapia was going for a good price at the fish market, I decided to try it out with that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

cannellini bean salad with lemon and cilantro

Ever since my semester ended last week, I've been doing what Adam and I call 'wifing' (said, of course, with tongue-in-cheek amusement. Our sense of humour isn't always politically correct). While he goes off to work, I do all kinds of fun stuff like cleaning. Really, I've been doing more cooking and baking than cleaning. I've also been doing a lot of reading, researching, blogging, tweeting... It's been a blast. I can't remember ever enjoying myself so much! When I was slogging through my Bachelor's degree, I only found this level of relaxation in the days rolling up to the new semester.

I took my lovely and amazing cousin out to Westmount today to stop by our favourite used bookstore. Of course, this also necessitated a visit to Le Fournil, the second most delicious bakery in the city (the first being Fous Desserts, where they make the most ridiculous almond croissants known to man). By the time we were headed home, I realised that the house was still in the same state of absolute horror that it was when I left in the morning (think scenes from The Walking Dead) and I had barely enough time to get supper on the table and get things under control (thanks in part to the above-mentioned lovely and amazing cousin!).

Monday, November 28, 2011

sugar and spice cookies

I've noticed that whenever I follow cookie recipes, I end up with far fewer cookies than the recipe predicts. It never fails. Sure, you could blame the fact that I'm a spoon-licking dough-eater when I bake... but I didn't eat 35 cookies worth of dough. Yeah, you read that right. This recipe was supposed to make 55 cookies, but it made 20.

Like I said, it's not exclusive to this recipe. It's every recipe. Am I living on another planet? Could I have eaten 35 cookies raw? The logical explanation is that I just made my cookies too big. In fact, a quick glance at this particular recipe indicates that I did and I'm probably a repeat offender in this respect.

Friday, November 25, 2011

sour cream blueberry scones

You know what's counterproductive to exercising? Sour cream blueberry scones, served piping hot from the oven. Hot enough to burn your hands when pulling them apart. Even further negating all the hard work I did in the morning is that homemade lemon curd I served it with, too. Not good at all. How about the clotted cream, you ask? I hoped you hadn't noticed. Well, I ate that too and I'm not sorry about it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

simple caesar salad

I think a lot of people feel intimidated about making their own caesar salad at home. They'll buy a bottle of Kraft dressing or a caesar salad kit. It's obviously a pretty common side order when eating out, too. Here's what most people don't know: once you taste caesar salad dressing from scratch, you will swear off the bottle. You will swear off the kit. You will only ever make it from scratch from this day forward.

Think it's hard? Are you a little bit scared? Don't be. It's easy. I used to go through all that nonsense of coddling eggs, but you don't have to. This is a simple recipe that relies on good quality ingredients for its classic lemony and cheesy taste.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

silk dragon jasmine tea shortbread

I woke up this morning to a wonderful present - the first snowfall of the season! What an excellent excuse to bake shortbread - you know, Christmas and all. I've lately been toying with the idea of different scented shortbreads (this may or may not have something to do with The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011...) and suddenly it hit me: jasmine shortbread. Though jasmine tea and shortbread come from totally different parts of the world, it's a perfect marriage of flavours and textures - the floral notes are subtle, but there. The tea adds a little bit of texture to the otherwise melt-in-your-mouth characteristics of shortbread.

I used the organic silk dragon jasmine tea from DavidsTea - why? Because, as they say, its scent is magical. It's lovely, delicate and smooth. It's instant relaxation in a mug, especially on a snow day. Feel free to use whatever jasmine tea you have on hand, but if you live near a DavidsTea, I recommend you pick some up... and not just for the cookies!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

pear and fennel seed upside-down cake

This has been the week of cooking and baking failures. I swear, I have tried the pear and fennel seed combination in four (yes, FOUR) different recipes this week because I had so much faith in it. The first three were colossal flops. 

The original was a pear and fennel seed tarte tatin, which I adapted from Joy the Baker's apple tarte tatin. It came out WAY too saucy because, well, pears have more juice than apples. So... disaster. Recipe two was a modified version of said tarte with less butter and sugar in the topping. When I overturned my pan, the puff pastry fell out, but the pears didn't.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

emily's green olive hummus

This hummus is the brainchild of my cousin Emily. We had planned an afternoon of girl movies and face masks, and when Emily and I get together, we tend to do copious amounts of eating. Knowing this, Emily brought along this green olive hummus that she'd made. I immediately demanded the recipe and was ultimately rewarded with an approximation - Emily's an 'a little of this, a little of that' kind of cook.

We have stories, many of which are too shameful to share here. When we're together, the first thing that people notice is that we have the same laugh. She and I also have the same sense of humour, one which she archly says is 'too sophisticated' for Adam, who doesn't think our jokes are funny.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

buckwheat pancakes with spiced apple plum compote

There are those who like to buck the status quo and do things like eat breakfast for dinner. There's nothing new or special about that - especially if you're young enough to remember your days as a 20-something in university. Or your 2 AM runs to the grosser-than-gross Fresgo Inn on Davie street in Vancouver for a breakfast so huge you can split it in half and call it a decent meal. Breakfast for dinner is a concept that is solidly entrenched in Gen X culture.

The Fresgo Inn on Davie is long gone (though apparently still operating in Whalley - who knew?) and I don't think I've had breakfast for dinner in years. However, today I double-bucked the status quo: I ate breakfast for lunch. 

Now, don't you go thinking that I slept in. No no. I got up reasonably early, ate a bagel for breakfast, went out in the cold, blustery weather to shoot an assignment, then came home and made pancakes at 2 in the afternoon. Buckwheat pancakes. With a spiced apple and plum compote.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

buttermilk banana bread with cinnamon honey glaze

I know I've talked before about how I have a thing for buying bananas, and forgetting to eat them before they start turning brown. Well, after months of abstaining from buying bananas for this very reason (especially as I have at least five bananas in the freezer, just waiting to be turned into banana bread) I made the same mistake. Why do I never learn?

Well, it goes back to that whole thing I was talking about before: positive reinforcement. See, when I saw that the bananas had developed brown spots and were therefore as good as dead to me as a snack on their own, I of course used it as an excuse to try out some new banana bread. I was rewarded for not only purchasing unnecessary bananas but allowing them to languish on my counter with what I call luxury banana bread - any banana bread that calls for a full half cup of butter.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

roasted winter vegetables with fresh thyme

You know what one of the cons of having a food blog is? Having the excuse to constantly obsess over food. See... I'm already obsessed with food. Cooking it, eating it, writing about it, sharing it with others. I'm a boredom snacker. I eat my feelings. I snack the whole time I'm cooking. It's terrible.

7 lbs of terrible since I started this blogging business. That wouldn't be a problem if I were a 6 foot amazon, but I'm not. I'm a teeny little person at 5 foot 2 inches and I'm nursing a food baby that I didn't have before.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

dijon chicken with rosemary

This chicken was not much to look at. I struggled with whether or not to blog it based on its looks. I've posted ugly foods on this blog before (pulled pork with bourbon orange coriander barbecue sauce comes to mind, as does pea and mint soup), but as I progress through this blog, my standards are getting a little higher. With experience comes improvement. Improvement was not evident in any of the photographs taken. Only struggle, oversized garnish and ugly chicken.

Then I tasted the ugly chicken.

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011

Hurray for cookies! No recipe in this post - just a super duper FUN announcement. I'm taking part in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2011! I get to bake 3 batches of cookies and send them to a three mystery food bloggers who could be from anywhere in North America. These three mystery bloggers will be sending me a batch of cookies. It's kind of like a secret Santa with cookies. Could it be anymore fun?!

If you're a food blogger and interested in signing up, please do so here. The more the merrier!

Stay tuned next month for the results of the cookie swap...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

deep dish green apple pie

This pie was the result of multiple failures. I have been planning this pie for at least a week and a half. It was supposed to be much more than just a deep dish green apple pie, but if I tell you what the surprise ingredient was, I'll steal my own thunder next time I make an attempt.

That being said, even though this pie failed to live up to what it was supposed to be, as a straight up apple pie it was wicked. It had a simple, uncomplicated flavour. It was beautifully tart and apple-heavy - for me, there's nothing worse than an apple pie with a high goop to fruit ratio, like the kind you get at the supermarket. Gross. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

bruschetta with ricotta and oven-roasted tomato

Let me take a minute to talk about how I struck lucky and ended up with the best boyfriend out there. Boyfriend seems like sort of an odd, backwards term to describe him given that we've been pretty much married for what feels like a decade (in a good way!). He's rational, sane, unselfish and when you get down to it, an honest to goodness good person. He humours me even though he doesn't laugh at all my jokes.

For example, today we were out running boring errands (of the Home Depot and Canadian Tire variety). One of the items we needed to purchase was some storage jars for our kitchen. While walking down St. Laurent on our way to Canadian Tire, I spotted a kitchen store and suggested that we look in there. There was no way that we'd possibly find any reasonably priced storage jars in a place like this, but I really just wanted to poke around anyways and, you guessed it, Adam humoured me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

indian style pumpkin soup with coconut milk

Hello. Is it soup you're looking for?

I think that anyone over the age of 30 (or anyone who really really loves the internet) can guess the soundtrack to our weekend. Yes, we listened to "Hello" all weekend and we carved a Lionel Richie pumpkin. There were a few tense moments, but we pulled it off with a paper stencil, some packing tape, a safety pin and a dull paring knife. Can I claim credit for moral support?

Of course I began thinking of ways that I could possibly showcase his work of art at Unhip Squirrel, so I made pumpkin soup. It doesn't really matter that I used an old mystery squash I picked up when we went apple picking. Pumpkins are squashes. It was a lateral move. Besides, Adam and I made a bet... he bet that the squash would go bad on our counter and we'd have to throw it away. I rise to challenges like these because I have a proud streak, so I used the squash. Two birds, one stone.

Friday, October 28, 2011

nutmeg pot de crème

I made pot de crème twice yesterday. The joy of working from 1 PM to 9 PM two days in a row is that you can make a pot de crème in the morning, screw it up, get home in time to purchase more ingredients from the grocery store and try it out all over again.

Let me tell you something about how my brain works. Sometimes it just completely glosses over stuff. For example, the first time I made these yesterday, I followed the recipe as written and completely forgot to cut the brown sugar, even though my standard custard recipe uses half of that in regular sugar. The finished product was inedibly sweet and the nutmeg was totally overpowered by caramel flavour. I threw it down the toilet with a sad face, but vowed to try again in the evening.

Monday, October 24, 2011

orange-scented apple blackberry crisp

You might think it's difficult to find a use for 20 lbs of apples. Don't worry, I'll find one - even if I end up munching through the whole bag myself. See, I'm an apple-a-day kind of girl. I bring one to work every day with my lunch (unless I fail it up at the food court). Unfortunately, I seem to enjoy a crisp apple a little too much. I've recently become aware that when I eat apples, it's not pleasant. It's noisy and unladylike. This new development is the subject of much hilarity in our household.

One way to keep yourself from French-Bulldogging-it with an apple is to cook it. Everyone will appreciate your efforts, especially if you bake your apples in this orange scented apple blackberry crisp. I really love the blackberry orange combination. Apples and blackberries are also a match made in heaven. I know they say that apples and oranges are, well, apples and oranges... but I dare say that this delectable dessert blows that expression out of the water.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

slow roasted mango ribs

Put on your fat pants people... it's ribs time!!! These ribs are my secret weapon. They are what the internet meme MOAR! was created for. I can impress anybody with them, foodie or not. In fact, that is one of the things I love most about cooking. When you make something that is so hands down awesome that the conversation at a dinner party takes a back seat to French bulldog style snuffling, you can't help but feel pretty good about it. My parents were behaviorists in the 80s, so I am very susceptible to this kind of positive reinforcement.

They key to making awesome ribs is to cook them slowly. Very slowly. That's how you'll get them to fall off the bone and melt in your mouth. I usually make roughly half this recipe (which is enough to serve four people, but only three when you're dealing with some of the male appetites I deal with). This time I was serving an additional male appetite, I made the full recipe and they were slightly less tender than before. I also realised today, as I consulted the recipe to do this post, that I'd forgotten the orange juice this time around, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Whoops. No worries though, I've made this recipe countless times...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

chai-spiced apple galette

This weekend we went on a spontaneous apple picking excursion. I've never been apple picking before - it was so much fun! I ate so many apples off the trees I almost made myself sick. These apples were the best apples I've ever tasted in my life. Completely different from what you get at the grocery store. Sweet, tart and not a hint of mealiness.

And I came home with a 20 lb bag of them.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

lavender shortbread

You know what I realised today?  I've been spelling lavender wrong for my entire life. No joke. In my head, it's always been lavendar. Where this comes from... who knows?

I've always been a pretty good speller. I've avoided the confusion between there, they're and their and I've never typed 'congradulations' on anybody's Facebook wall. I wrote a lot in my rapidly disappearing youth - I spent a lot of my childhood typing awkward nerd stories into the DOS version of WordPerfect. In my early twenties I wrote even more awkward nerd stories which still exist on the internet under a pen name that I will never admit to. Now I write facts in emergency mode for a living.

But 'lavendar' isn't the first spelling mistake revelation I've had - it was only about five years ago that I stopped writing 'rediculous' and about one year ago (the shame!) that I abandoned 'alot'. My dad, at one point a professional editor, is facepalming as he reads this, I'm sure. None of this, of course, has anything to do with lavender cookies (or mythical lavendar cookies), which are buttery, delicious, melt in your mouth and absolutely pop with lavender flavour.

Monday, October 10, 2011

columella salad

Not too long ago, Adam came home with an exciting piece of information - a friend of his had bought a cookbook filled with ancient Roman recipes. How fun! My interest in ancient Greece and Rome goes back many many years, and in fact the first half of my degree was in classical studies. I took three years of Latin and I still bristle when I hear it described as a dead language. Even though I can't read it anymore. Sad!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

lemon vanilla trifle with blueberries and blackberries

You know what Thanksgiving means? It means that it's epic dessert time! Okay okay.. I know that Thanksgiving means more than that.  But one of the most fun things about any holiday is that, since you're cooking for a large group of people, you get to bake something amazingly huge and ridiculous. One of my favourite things to bring out for birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings, Easters, et cetera, et cetera is this lemony cakey custardy fruity masterpiece. I've been slowly developing this insane dietbuster over the past ten years. I'm not even joking. It's taken several forms over that time, but three things have remained constant: some form of white cake, a butterfat laden custard and the tartest and tangiest most lip-smacking lemon curd in the land.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

pasta primavera with parmesan and white wine sauce

Guess what made me crave pasta primavera. It would put most people off pasta primavera for a little while... but not me, I guess. I was watching that episode of Seinfeld where Russel Dalrymple, an NBC executive with whom Jerry is trying to start a pilot, orders pasta primavera at a restaurant. Elaine sneezes on it and he ends up getting violently ill.

So of course, I thought to myself.... that's what I want for dinner! Isn't it totally absurd how my stomach and my brain works?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

lime cheesecake

Oh man. It's lime cheesecake day. What's the special occasion? Well... look up. Look waaaaaaay up. That's right - we have our own little corner of the interwebs! You can now find us at Truly, this had nothing to do with me making such an extravagant dessert today. I guess you could say that I just really, really wanted to make a lime cheesecake. Sometimes having a little food blog is an excuse in itself to make something sweet. I mean really... it was getting a little savoury around here.

There is no real story behind this cheesecake except for the fact that I made it for Adam's birthday a couple of years ago. Of course, we were only two people (Adam is not a party kind of guy) and I ended up eating half a cheesecake for the rest of the week. Believe me, it was my pleasure. Except the last day. I could have done without that.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

jalapeno popper inspired grilled cheese

You know what's fun? Going to Jean-Talon Market. There are all kinds of exciting things there - I bought tiny zucchini, rhubarb (hurray!), heirloom carrots and tomatoes... I even bought a purple pepper. Yes. It looks like a green pepper, except it's purple. Really. I can't even begin to tell you about my level of excitement in places like this. If I could somehow make a career of going to public markets and ogling everything, I would be happy as a clam.

I always bring home jalapeno peppers because I know that even if I have nothing planned, I will find a use for them. When I saw a post on Closet Cooking with a recipe for this sandwich, I knew that nothing would stop me from recreating it. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Kevin invented the jalapeno popper grilled cheese.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

orzo salad with chickpeas, feta and fresh dill

Have you ever had orzo? It's pasta with an identity crisis. It looks like rice. Funnily enough, the first time I had orzo, it was in rice. It was really good.

The inspiration for the orzo salad comes from someone I worked with in Vancouver. She brought it to the Christmas office potluck and it was love at first bite. Of course, I begged for the recipe. I got it, but then I lost it... so I've been guessing at it ever since. It seems to have worked out well. This salad is quite light and refreshing, but at the same time it could be a meal in itself. It's a great side dish for summer barbecues (so perhaps you can try that next year! Har!).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

pulled pork with bourbon orange coriander barbecue sauce

One thing that is awesome about Quebec is the weather. I know a lot of people will disagree with me. They don't like feels like 40 summers and -30 winters. They don't like Breakfast at Tiffany's rainstorms. I can't say I would always enjoy this weather. For example, I don't like the heat unless I literally don't have to do anything aside from sipping a glass of cold lemonade on the balcony with a good book. I don't care for -30 temperatures when I'm standing at a bus stop. I could do without Breakfast at Tiffany's rainstorms when I'm on my way home from work and wearing flats. That being said, the weather here is interesting. There is nothing 'blah' about it. Someone once said to me that the weather here forces you to change up your routines. It definitely does, and that's such a good thing!

Today we had a Breakfast at Tiffany's rainstorm. This was the perfect time for (leftover) comfort food. Over the weekend I turned to Joy the Baker's bourbon orange coriander barbecue sauce. I was intrigued from the moment I first clapped eyes on her tantalizing photos. I was also hankering for pulled pork, so I decided to throw the two together because, why not?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

spicy peanut sesame noodles

Welcome to my first post from my brand spanking new computer. Woohooo! There were some scary times in the squirrel household this week. Nobody likes the sound of a four year old laptop's hard drive clicking. Luckily I was able to salvage my data - tv series, music and some memorable pictures - and they're all safe and secure on my new MacBook Pro. Badaba ba ba! I'm loving it.

Buying a computer is not fun. It means (if you're on my side of the fence) that you have to go and brave the Apple Store and feel all the usual levels of Apple Store Rage. In order to give them their requisite $1400, you have to track down a genius and give him or her your name for the waiting list. You then get to wait, totally helpless, while employees wander aimlessly poking at their iPads or help people who came in the store after you did. It's exasperating. Apple's corporate arrogance is like... off the charts. Can they seriously have forgotten where they were 15 years ago?!

Unexpected expenses (especially so soon after a trip to New York City) mean that this squirrel is eating on the cheap for the foreseeable future. The first meal heralding my new age of poverty was spicy peanut sesame noodles. Cheap and filling and good!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

plum tart

Guys, I'm going to help you out here. I'm going to tell you how not to pick up a woman. First of all, the metro on a weekday morning is probably a poor choice. When a woman is getting off the train, don't cut diagonally in front of her when you approach. That makes it difficult and awkward for her to escape, especially if she's walking along a wall. When she tells you that she doesn't speak French and runs away, she is, in all likelihood, giving you the message that she's not interested.  The next course of action is absolutely not to follow her down the stairs to the other metro line, follow her all the way down the platform, and to surprise her by getting on the same car as her again. This is bad. Really. It's bad. Don't do it.

Of course, you might think it's okay to stand very close to her on the train and continue to talk to her in an environment where she literally cannot escape you. This goes for elevators too. In actuality, it is not okay. These are terrible places to approach women. In any case, when she is avoiding your questions and not asking you anything in return, she is not interested.  Please, please do not ask where she is going. She won't tell you. Also... when she gets off the train at her destination, please stay on it.

A much nicer way to woo a lady is with dessert. Of course, this does not work with total strangers, but I don't like strangers, so that's A-okay with me. I was lucky enough to be wooed with homemade creme brulée. Perhaps you could try using this lovely plum tart to impress your lady friend?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

buttermilk scones with crispy pancetta and cheddar

These scones have so many things going for them. Fancy bacon. Extra old cheddar. Butter. Flakiness and gooeyness. Need I go on? In all seriousness, I can't imagine anyone (vegetarians and vegans aside) resisting such a luxurious once-in-a-while treat.

I was inspired to make these by a recipe I found in the Alice's Tea Cup cookbook. Sadly, that recipe turned out to be disastrous; I remember feeling skeptical at the idea of using melted butter in scones. Doesn't that traditional flaky scone texture come from cold butter? The second time around, I ended up using an old standby scone recipe in Joy of Cooking and just adding in the pancetta and cheddar. The result was spectacular. Rich buttery texture, gooey cheese cavities, and a little bit of salty bacon crunch.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

chicken lettuce wraps

Sometimes it feels like I'm the only person out there who has no clue where her life is going. I'm surrounded by people who are well on their way or are already fully launched into stable, successful careers and have no reason to question their professional future. I know I can't possibly be alone - the many times I've googled "what should I do with my life?" over the past few years, Google has finished the sentence for me. It's a ten year old question and let's face it, as much as I love my Art History degree, it didn't help me find any realistic answers to that other cliché question - what would you be happy spending your days doing without getting paid?

The best thing to do when you start to get professionally existential is to get out of the house, spend time with your amazing friends, eat exceptional food and drink watermelon mojitos. To excess, of course.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

vegetable enchiladas

I love enchiladas, especially vegetarian ones. Don't get me wrong. Meat enchiladas are great too, but there's something about vegetable enchiladas that just makes me sing. Literally. All day. I'm sure it's annoying.

For one, meat enchiladas can be very heavy and they leave you with both food baby and food coma, neither of which are good. Secondly, I find the vegetables to be more flavourful. Thirdly, well.. they're just healthier. For all of these reasons I was craving vegetarian enchiladas late last night. Early this morning I was at the grocery store loading up on peppers, zucchini, onions, jalapenos, eggplants...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

biscuit blackberry shortcakes with vanilla bean custard

I can't hardly believe that we're approaching the end of summer. It's gone by so fast. Very soon, the temperature will drop drastically, and after approximately one month of autumn, we'll be back in a winter wonderland. Casual summer at work will end. Reading in the park will end. Cicadas will end. Iced coffees will end. Summer dresses will end. flip flops will end. Fruit will end. Barbeques will end. All of these things give me the sad face.

Speaking of barbeques, there is no better reason to concoct a delicious dessert than a barbeque. Sadly, as we do not have a barbeque, we have to rely on others for our deliciously charred meats and veggies, so we bribe our potential hosts with the promise of a lovingly prepared homemade dessert.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

cookies 'n cream brownies

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't stand chocolate desserts. Wow, I really hate them for real. Sometimes though, I get the urge to bake them and prove to myself that I don't like them. Last night I did both of those things. Again.

This is no warning against these particular brownies - feedback from others indicated that they were delicious - it's just my own personal weird thing. I think that chocolate is just inherently too rich for me. Strike one. And further, if there's actual unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate in a recipe, it requires a metric ton of sugar to be "tasty" and for me, that's strike two. Just... blech. Still though, these brownies were whimsical, fun to make and popular with friends and coworkers alike. They were also worth it for the icing, which I licked off and enjoyed immensely.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

fennel, apple and ham salad with asiago cheese

There are two things in particular that are bad for a cooking blog - traveling and extreme heat. I've been away in Vancouver and New York City (with a week-long break in between) and the weather upon my return hasn't done much for my excitement to cook. All I can think of is how it's going to make our apartment even hotter. That's where salads come in.

This is a good one because, with some bread on the side (and perhaps a second helping), this salad is reasonable as a meal in itself. It's not cheap - the cheese, ham and nuts in particular add up if you don't already have them in the house, plus people don't generally have fennel lying around in their fridge - but if you're looking for a satisfying summer meal, this will do the trick.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

lyonnaise salad for one

Look ma! I poached an egg! Seriously. I have only ever attempted this once before and it was an epic disaster. I was craving poached eggs on toast at the time (my favourite breakfast, especially when liberally doused with hot sauce) and no matter what I did, the whites spread out through the water like a spider's web. It was a mess of vinegar, water and albumen. Adam swooped in to rescue my breakfast and while his poached eggs were miles ahead of mine, they were still sub-par and somewhat disastrous.

I've come to the conclusion that the eggs really do have to be super fresh for it to work. I have based this on empirical evidence as well as the advice of a colleague. Last time, I'd been following a youtube video made by someone who stated that the fresh egg rule was preposterous, then proceeded to make a perfect poached egg. Maybe you can hack it with week old eggs if you're an egg poaching superstar, but for us mortals - fresh is best.

Monday, July 18, 2011

tarragon-roasted strawberries with caramel cream


This weekend, I said hello to two old friends: Vancouver and the flu. Isn't that always the way? You get some time off work, you travel for hours, then you wake up the next day with an unwelcome viral stowaway and he's beginning to let himself show. I yo-yoed for the entire day, culminating in a spectacular crash while out for dinner at Tavola. Fun, feverish times.

Despite the fact that I had to postpone my trip-within-a-trip to Vancouver Island today to visit family there, today has actually been okay. Is it possible that Cold FX isn't just voodoo? I've felt totally normal since I woke up - completely bizarre, given that last night I felt like death. My new, fresh energy was to the point where I got that other bug I get on a regular basis. The bug to COOK. And how could I not create something with my stepmom's spectacular cookbook library at hand?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

simple summer green salad with avocado and fresh dill

Ahhh, summer. I may moan about the heat and humidity, but I love love love the sunny days here! I'm leaving for a week to the land of rain, so I'm trying to soak up all the sun I can... by reclining on the couch to write this post, doing laundry, washing dishes, packing.... oh well. The blinds are open and I'm getting as much as humanly possible (given all the last minute chores) before my Vitamin D levels plummet on the west coast.

I'm not sure what will happen on this blog next week. Perhaps I'll engage in some cooking project with my dad and stepmom (they did mention we would make breakfast tomorrow - eating at their house is always exciting!), perhaps I'll cook something enormous for everyone on my mom's end. Maybe, just maybe... I'm hoping the lovely Foodess will want to use our date to have a baking day? Double blog post? Jenn? Wanna wanna??  I'll definitely be hitting up my favourite restaurants while I'm there too, so I may do a couple of restaurant reviews. None of them will be objective, because I only plan on visiting long-standing favourites that I yearn for while away from home.