Friday, February 23, 2007

Gone to Seed

Seedy Saturdays and Sundays have been blooming all over Canada. In fact, it seems that every town and city here on the Island has it’s own. Nanaimo’s Seedy Sunday is coming up on March 4th , pretty much one of the last Seedy events for the island. Just in case you can’t make it to any of these, here are some local seed companies that offer online sales. Some of these are local seed growers and they all offer organic, heirloom/heritage seeds and varieties that you won’t be able to find in your retail outlets.

Saltspring Seeds : They have an amazing variety of heirloom tomatoes and other heirloom or heritage vegetables. They also carry a huge range of beans, soy beans, medicinal herbs and grains.

West Coast Seeds: They offer an extensive list of vegetables and flowers. This company is based in Delta, BC.

Garden Path Nursery: This Victoria organic nursery is dedicated to teaching self-reliance and sustain able living. They carry the ‘Seeds of Victoria’ line of organic seeds. Their 2007 catalogue includes a huge variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs. They also put out a great book on organic gardening called “A Year on the Garden Path

Happy Valley Lavender and Herb farm is just outside of Victoria. This farm carries a wide array of lavender products made with lavender grown right there on the wonderful smelling farm. They offer a range of lavender seeds and are a great resource for the lavender lover.

For more information about organic seeds and supporting seed diversity, check out the Organic Seed Alliance website.

This weekend is the Maple Sugar Festival here in Nanaimo. Between mouthfuls of poutine and sweet treats like maple toffee, go visit the Jam Lady at Golden Maples Farm, Flavors of the West Coast and the Shady Brook Farm table at the Commercial Tent. There you’ll find locally grown products.

Last night, I had some friends over a knitting session and to watch CSI. It was also another chapter in my month long Chinese New Year feast. Instead of the typical 10-course chinese feast, I opted to do several smaller, more intimate chinese meals.

For dinner, I whipped up a local halibut and Chinese greens in a lime black bean sauce with pan-fried noodles. I love Chinese black bean sauce and it’s deep, savory flavor plays well with the acidic tang of citrus, especially in chicken and seafood dishes. It was nothing more than a basic stir fry. I offered wedges of lime on the side so folks could add as much lime juice as they wanted. This way also keeps the lime flavor sharp and fresh.

Of course, we ended off the meal with my homemade egg tarts.

OMG, they were so good. I definitely am going to make these more often. I'm already scheming up different variations like pumpkin, chai infused and maybe even a caramel and creme brule version.

Have a great weekend everybody!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet challenge

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Rice Hockey

To celebrate my Chinglishness, I have brought together a Canadian sports institution, hockey, with a Chinese culinary institution, rice, to create a homage to my Chinese-Canadian heritage. I made rice pucks for dinner. That’s risotto cakes for you fancy-schmancy culinary types :p

I used the risotto leftover from Tuesday night's butternut squash risotto. Leftover risotto is alright but the creaminess that defines it has degrades into ho-hum starchiness overnight . Simply nuking the stuff would leave you with splodgy rice pablum. The flavor would still be there but your teeth would get bored of having nothing to do.

Luckily, leftover risotto holds together great and adheres to stuff like panko flakes and cornmeal really well, making it a great candidate for pan-fried pucks of goodness. In fact, I try to make enough risotto for leftovers so I can make these delectable treats. You need leftover risotto, freshly made risotto is still too runny and anyways, the point of this recipe is to use up leftovers.

Here’s my Fast & Dirty Rice Puck recipe:

Cold leftover risotto

Dredging stuff – eg. Flour, cornmeal, breadcrumbs, panko flakes

Seasoning – dried herbs, spices, salt and pepper

Oil for pan frying

1- Scoop out about 1/3 cup (eyeball it) of risotto and shape into a 3/4 inch thick pucks. Wet hands makes this much easier to do. Set aside in a single layer on a plate. Repeat until all the risotto is shaped. You could make them smaller bite size pucks. Don't make them much bigger than 1/2 cup portions . It'll break apart when you try to flip them over.

2- For the dredging, mix together your dredging choice with your seasoning choice. For 8 risotto cakes, I used about ¼ cup of cornmeal with a 1/4 teaspoon of spice mix. Dredge the cakes right before cooking or else the dredging mix will get too soggy.

3- With dry hands, coat both sides of the rice pucks with the dredging mix.

4- Heat up a couple teaspoons of veggie oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Once hot, arrange rice pucks in a single layer into the pan. Do not crowd the pan. Allow for room between the pucks. If needed, do this in 2 batches.

5- Pan fry for 3-4 minutes on each side or until you get nice golden crust.

6- Transfer done rice pucks with a slotted spatula onto a paper towel lined plate. Keep warm in a 200F oven until ready to serve.

I used a seafood spice mix that my SIL gave us for Christmas. It’s a great mix of Cajun spice with a touch of curry. We also used the spice mix on some local prawns that accompanied our meal. Nothing more than just tossing a spoonful of spice mix with some prawns and sautéing over medium high heat for a few minutes. In fact, I cooked it up in the same pan right after I cooked up the rice pucks, making this a one pan meal done in less than 15 minutes. Some fresh local mixed salad finished off our meal.

The golden crusty exterior was a perfect casing for the soft guts of this rice puck. DH couldn’t stop raving about them. He thinks I’m a culinary genius. I think that maybe we should keep the fact that it took me rubbing 2 brain cells together and 10 minutes to make our little secret. OK?

For dessert, I made dan taht, or egg tarts. Instead of using a flaky pastry dough, I used up the pie dough I had leftover from the sausage rolls I made earlier in the week. I rolled it out ¼ inch thin, cut out 4 inch rounds to line a medium sized muffin pan. I made a basic custard with local free range egg, local milk, sugar, flour and a few drops of vanilla extract. I poured the custard into the the pie crust shells and baked in a preheated 475F oven for 8 minutes. After that I turned the oven to broil for 2 minutes so the tops get all brown and caramelized. If you want, you can sprinkle a little sugar on top of the custard before broiling and get a crème brulee sort of effect. Or you could skip the broiling step altogether.

Custards are easy to make after a few initial burnt and/or curdled attempts. The key is to have everything on hand right beside the stove and be patient. Keep the heat low as you stir and wait for it to thicken. It will thicken eventually. Deny the urge to crank up the heat, you will be punished with a scorched pot and curdled custard.

I managed to squirrel a few egg tarts away for dinner tonight. We’re having some friends over for another small Chinese New Year dinner and a felting workshop. Not sure what I’m going to make for dinner but at least I have dessert covered.

Happy Eating!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Spring on the horizon

I’m feeling nearly, kinda, almost close to my old self, just in time to meet my old nemesis: Hay Fever. My daily post-work wandering about yesterday got squeezed down into a brisk 40 minute walk up and down the neighbourhood hills and by the time I got back I sounded like a trampled accordion. Yikes!

The arrival of allergies also means spring and all the yummy goodies that comes with it. I think I might have to send DH off to gather us up some young stinging nettle. The garlic in my backyard is shooting up nicely and I’m planning out what else I’m going to stick into the ground now that the Spring is starting to creep in.

But it’s not here yet. As lovely as yesterday was, the evening was chilly and there’s rumors of another cold system coming in. There may be a chance for a good climbing weekend! DH and I are probably the only ones on this island hoping for colder temperatures. We don’t voice our weather hopes too loudly for fear of being run out of town :0

Though my walk left my lungs a bit soggy, it revived the rest of me, especially my brain. I spent the rest of the day bopping from appointment to errands and putting up posters for the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet challenge wherever I saw a bulletin board. I ended off the day with a fly-by knitting lesson. My knitting apprentice and I rendezvoused at a mall parking lot during her coffee break for a quick tutorial on the seaming and I-cords. It was the most clandestine knitting lesson I’d ever given. I was half-expecting mall security to come knocking on the window and bust us for indecent public knitting. LOL!

By the time I got home it was way past 8pm and I was starving. A look through the fridge and pantry revealed few possibilities. I had a couple cups of leftover roasted squash, roasted garlic, a few strips of smoked bacon and bunch of collard greens that were needing to get used up pronto!

I could have made a pasta but I was jonesing for stick-to-your-ribs winter comfort food. I decided on risotto. I ended up roasted garlic and butternut squash risotto topped with smoked bacon, toasted hazelnuts with spicy, garlic greens. A healthy grating of Natural Pasture’s Boerenkaas cheese topped off this satisfying dish. The only ingredient that wasn’t grown on this island was the rice. I even used smoked bacon fat to sauté some shallots and the risotto rice in. Stop clutching your heart! It was only about 2 teaspoons for bacon fat stretched over the whole dish. In fact, despite DH’s second and third helpings, I still have leftovers for tonight.

The smoked bacon fat gave the rice a deep, savoury richness. So much so that I chose not to add any cheese or butter to finish off the risotto, as you normally would for a traditional risotto. Instead I added only a grating of cheese as garnish. In a way, by using the smoked bacon fat I decreased the amount of fat normally used in this dish ;)

What a gorgeous harmony of flavors! The sweet roasted squash and garlic played nicely against the crispy, savory bacon. The garlicy, spicy greens provided a balanced counterpoint with it's pleasant green bitterness and shift in textures. The hazelnuts and cheese helped tie up all the flavors nicely. The rice, itself was creamy and comforting without being gooey and gummy. For those that think that risotto is a high-maintanence dish to make, it's not. Despite what all those cookbooks and the Food Network tells you, it doesn't need to be stirred constantly for 20 minutes. It needs regular stirring for the first 5-8 minutes. Then after that, you just need to stir it up a bit when you add in more stock. Between stirrings, I managed to wash, chop and cook up the greens, wash up the few dishes I had dirtied, shell and chop the hazelnuts, grate the cheese and clean up the kitchen. I had dinner done in under 25 minutes.

For a Fast & Dirty risotto instructions, check out my previous entry, Comfort Food and Knits.

With a happy belly, I settled into my knitting corner for some major frogging. I had managed to knit up the rest of the back of the Honeymoon sweater the night before but had made some wonky calculations on the shaping of the waist and had to redo it again. Oh well. I convinced myself I didn't really like the way the branches and leaves were shaping up in the silhouette. With new calculations and new game plan, I finished up the rest of the back panel for my sweater (for the second time). I think in total, I’ve knitted up this back panel three times. I used a mix of intarsia and cabling techniques to create the silhouette. I didn't like the chunky, pixelated look of intarsia for the limbs of the tree. I wanted nice, smooth limbs since I was trying to create an Arbutus tree effect. Instead, I used a mix of increase and decrease techniques to shape the limbs. Intarsia worked fine for the leaves. For the background, I used a mix of Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden. Mostly it was yarns leftover from past projects. Since I wanted a particular colour pattern to echo the shift from land to ocean to sunset, I seperated the yarn into colour groups and felted them in the order that I wanted. It didn't take very long and I'm thrilled how it all turned out.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to do for the front panels. I’m thinking some of a wrap sweater design. I’ve been flipping through a Japanese clothing design book from the library. I might incorporate an obi into it or maybe a haori tie to close up the front. Who knows what my wheezy little brain will think up :p

Happy Eating!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Should've stayed in bed

(at least the winter greens got to enjoy the sunshine)

Even with a blinding headache whooping my ass on Friday and Saturday, I still held onto the slim chance that I could at least do some alpine hiking on Sunday on Mt. Arrowsmith. Sunday morning greeted Nanaimo with a bouquet of sunshine. Unfortunately, I woke up with echoes of the same freaking headache and a body bloated with malaise. Kripes! I could have gone to the Global Film Festival or even popped over to the mainland to join in on the Chinese New Year festivities with the family if I had known that I wouldn't be climbing. I chalked it up to another of the universe's lessons. (Doesn't the universe take a day off? Sheesh.)

Unwilling to let such a beautiful, sunny day go to waste, I strapped on my walking shoes and head out for a brisk walk on the seawall. It seemed that all the dogs in the city had the same idea and had dragged their owners down with them. There was everything from a pack of yappy hairless Chihuahuas to a pair of regal looking Great Danes and everything in between.

By the time I reached the library, it was apparent that my internal thermostat was busted. I was shifting from fevered sweats to clammy chills. My head felt like it was filled with helium and I knew I had to abandon my plans of an afternoon rifling through the shelves of downtown Nanaimo’s library, used book stores and consignment shops. Obviously, I still wasn't learning my lesson that day and the universe was sending me to the cosmic principal's office. The walk back home, usually a short 20 minute jaunt, seemed like a marathon in my mind. I called DH for an extraction and within minutes, my knight in dark armor came and whisked this rusty queen away.

After a dose of oil of oregano, I spent the rest of the day sequestered on the couch with endless mugs of DH’s super concentrated ginger honey tea and my knitting. Listening to my freshly downloaded Lucinda William's album 'West', I let my body and spirit settle into a evening of slow healing. Through the fevered haze, I managed to knit up the bottom half of the back panel of my Honeymoon sweater. I can’t remember how many times I had to frog it in order to get it right, it’s all a febrile blur.

This morning, I woke up feeling better and it seems my internal thermostat has been recalibrated. Still a bit meh but so far, no headaches, no chills, no fevered sweats and body aches. Knock on wood. Anybody wanna join me for some trail running around Westwood Lake? (Dear Universe, I'm just kidding. )

Happy Eating!

Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bison Carbonnade and crusted -up sausages

My interview about the 100 Mile Diet with Kait Light from Shaw TV is being aired and will be on rotation. Check it out on Shaw TV Channel 4.

After an assiduous week, I was ready for some coccooning yesterday. However, the universe wasn't on the same page. Forgotten errands ricocheted back, phone calls from frantic friends, unexpected visitors, and an uncooperative leaning, rotten backyard fence all conspired to keep me from my coccoon. By the evening, a mild pressure over my right eye blossomed into a full-blown tension headache. By 8pm, with dinner finally going, I settled in with my knitting and a cup of peppermint tea. Not two rows in and our usual unexpected visitor showed up at our door. ACK!!!! I just shut the gate to my personal space and knitted away and let DH deal with them.

Thankfully making dinner was a easy and quick affair. With the last of the Tuscan bean soup being sopped up last night, I was now yearning for a stick-to-your-ribs stew. With a quick look through the freezer, our pantry and fridge, I decided on a Bison Carbonnade.

No, not carbonated bison. Could you imagine the mess that would make?
Bison carbonnade is a fancy schmancy way of saying bison and beer stew. I used a couple pounds of bison stew meat from Island Bison, a bottle of Phillips Double Chocolate Porter.

It's a basic stew recipe. Here's the standard steps for any sort of stew.
1-Brown the meat in oil over medium high. Remove from pot.
2- Brown veggies (onions, garlic, carrots, peppers, celery, mushrooms are the usual suspects)
3- If using, dump in tomato paste. Let it caramelize a bit.
4- Dump in liquid. Bring up to a boil. Scrape all the bits of caramelized yumminess off the bottom.
5- Dump in meat. Dump in aromatics (herbs, spices). Bring heat down to a low.
6- Cover and let simmer until tender. For fresh meat it usually takes from 1-2 hours.

If I'm roasting or baking stuff in a low oven (300F) I'll usually just pop the stew pot into the oven with everything else.
You need enough liquid to just barely cover your meats and veggies. I used beef broth along with the beer as my liquid component. Stuff like potatoes can be added 20 minutes from the end of cooking. You can also wait until the end to add other veggies like peas, corn, greens to prevent them from losing too much colour. This time had leftover roasted veggies which I popped into the oven for 15 minutes to reheat them. To serve, I plopped a scoop of veggies in the bowl ladle the stew around it.

Once the meat is added back into the pot, make sure that the stew does rise back to boiling stage. It should simmer which means that anything livelier than small slowly rising bubbles coming up to surface calls for immediate intervention! Turn down the heat or else you'll end of with Shoe Leather Carbonnade.

We enjoyed our boozed-up bison stew with a glass of Scrumpy cider from Merridale Ciders. A tasty, dry cider that went well with the rich, deep and savory stew.

Remember all that sausage I cooked up in the beginning of the week? I still had a bunch left. I made a batch of sausage rolls for DH. They're nothing more than leftover cooked moose sausages and local bavarian sausages rolled up in some frozen basic pie crust pastry. I baked them at 350F for 30 minutes. My DH thinks I'm a genius. It took all of 2 brain cells to make them but I'm not tell him that ;)

Pie crust is one of those things that I used to be skittish about making. In the past, they'd end up either gooey or tough. The secret to the perfect pastry is to use both really cold ingredients and tools and to not handle the dough more than needed. Overhandling will lead to a tough dough. I usually pop my butter, water and mixing bowl into the freezer to get them good and cold.

Here's my Fast & Dirty Pie Pastry:

3 cups flour - I used sifted organic Red Fife flour from True Grains bakery
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (if you're making a sweet goodie. For savories, don't need add)
ice cold water

1- Sift the flour. Add salt and sugar
2- With a cheese grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour. This is easier than working with cubes of butter
3- Mix. Use a pastry cutter or a fork to incorporate the ingredients into a crumbly mixture.
4- Add water one tablespoon at a time. Incorporate the water in well before adding more water. You will use less water than you think you need. Once it starts coming together it'll still look at bit crumbly and ragged. If you pinch the dough and it comes together and sticks. It's done.
5- Dump the dough into a ziploc baggie. Pat the dough down flat and even. Put into the fridge for at least and hour before rolling it out.

As mentioned, it freezes fine. The above recipe is enough for 2 pie crusts. I usually keep them in 1-2 crust portions.

This is a note to Marianne/Mary Anne who I met at the Ban Terminator events this past week. I might have given you wrong contact info. Please email me.



A Sugar Glazed Day

On the way back from a visit to the Comox Valley, my wonderful DH picked up a bag of my favorite donuts from the Cumberland Village Bakery for me. You can keep your pre-fab frozen chemically bloated franchise doughnuts, these are the real thing. These donuts are legendary and have been much sought after for 80 years. The current owner is making sure that this yummy yeast-based, freshly-cooked donut tradition lives on. If you’re ever in the Comox Valley, drop by the bakery at 2757 Dunsmuir Avenue. You’ll never go back to those deep-fried cotton candy chemical confections from you know where. IMHO, there's a huge difference between a yummy melt-in-your mouth goodie and a pillow of hype that dissolves the instant it hits your tongue and leaves you in insulin shock.
Lee's donuts in Granville Island and Honey's in Deep Cove are my favorite spots for a donut when I'm visiting Vancouver. Check out these places for a real Canadian donut experience.

(Sigh. So simple. So good)

Yesterday I popped over to Nanoose Farms (1060 Stewart Road in Nanoose Bay)for an interview with Kait Light from Shaw TV about the 100 Mile Diet. While I was there, I bought some veggies from their farm stand. The farm opens regularly on Friday to Sunday for the winter. There was lots of salad greens in the cooler, plus Little Qualicum cheese, free-ranged organic eggs, collard greens, carrots, beets, sunchokes, onions, apples, and winter squash, all of it organic. They also carry hazelnuts, prepared dressings, honey and blackberry syrup.

(Nanoose Edibles veggie treasure)

To all those that say that lettuce can't grow here the winter. There's a bounty of salad greens in the Nanoose Edible's cooler case that says otherwise.

On the way home, I popped by the Shady Mile farm mart to pick up some local smoked bacon (for a Happy Chinese Year of the Pig breakfast). They have a huge variety of BC grown apples, from Jonagold to Mutsu to Empire apples. In fact, I didn’t see any imported apples at all, only BC grown. Yippee!!! What a nice change from the supermarket produce aisles that are brimming with imported apples from New Zealand to China to Chile and a only one or two local options.

I think it’s time for my coffee & donut break :p

Have a wonderful Chinese New Year weekend and have fun bringing in the Year of the 100 Mile Pig. Remember to celebrate with 100 mile pork, beef, chicken, eggs, bison and lamb along with 100 mile veggies, wine, cheese and other local goodies.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What are you doing this weekend?

I'm going climbing. Well, providing that the climbing goddess and the weather co-operate.

If you don't have your dance card filled, the Nanaimo Global Film Festival is starting on Friday and running through to Sunday at Malaspina University. Festival passes range from $20 to $30 and are available until noon Friday at Green Communities in Port Place, Malaspina Students' Union, Nanaimo Arts Council in Rutherford Mall, and Van Isle Video on Bowen Road.

The line-up of films includes "The Fight for True Farming", a documentary on solutions to the social and environmental scourges of factory farming. "Frankensteer" is a documentary that reveals how the traditional cow has been turned into an antibiotic-dependent, hormone-laced, potential carrier of toxic bacteria, all in the name of cheaper food. Also, "Slow Food Revolution" a documentary on the slow food movement will be screened. With 50 films from all over the world, there's something for everybody!

For our southern islanders, Victoria's Slow Food movement is hosting an event this weekend that opened to the public. Here's an announcement I got from them about their Wheat & Community event:

Join Slow Food annd our Red Fife Wheat farmer, Marc Loiselle from Vonda, Saskatchewan for a discussion on the current state of wheat, including the fight against GMO and seed patenting, and the revitalization of heritage wheat varieties.

Seedy Saturday

Slow Food will be giving a presentation on Slow Food's new Manifesto on the Future of Seeds, prepared by the International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture. This was adopted at Slow Food's Terra Madre Conference in October, 2006. The following speakers are on the panel:

-Sinclair Philip, owner of Sooke Harbour House and Head of Slow Food Canada

-Marc Loiselle, a Saskatchewan farmer, founding member of Slow Food's Heritage Wheat Presidium and producer of Red Fife Wheat

-Mara Jernigan of Fairburn Farm Culinary Retreat and Guesthouse and Slow Food Canada's National Ark Coordinator

-Cliff Leir, founding member of Slow Food's Heritage Wheat Presidium and Baker

This presentation is to take place this Saturday, February 17th from noon to 1 pm at the Victoria Conference Centre located at 720 Douglas Street.

This will take place as part of Seedy Saturday, Victoria's 14th Annual Seed and Garden Show, from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is only $5 and free for those under 12.


Last night's event in Parksville with Kate Green and the Ban Terminator Event went very well. I'm glad that these events are being attended by people outside the farming community. Word still has to get out to the public about this insidious genetically modified technology. Beleive me, it's not a seed, it's form of warfare. An enormous amount of genetic manipulation was done in order for this seed techology to be created. Once released, it also has the potential to destroy non-GMO crops via open air pollination. If you haven't already, check out the Ban Terminator website and the USC Canada site. If you have checked it out, pass the info onto to someone else. Thanks!

(Kate Green from USC Canada)
I have an interview with Shaw TV this afternoon about Nanaimo 100 mile diet challenge. I'm thrilled that the local media is so interested in helping get the word out. I also have another Ban Terminator Event tonight at Malaspina University (7pm, Building 356, rm 109). They'll be showing excerpts from "The Future of Food'" by D. Koons-Garcia along with a Ban Terminator presentation. Come by the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet challenge table and say 'hello'.

I got home around 10pm last night from Parksville's event. Luckily, I had simmered and cooked up the beans for the soup before I left so all I had to do was toss in the leftover roasted veggies and fresh collard greens for my Tuscan white bean soup:

So good.

Unfortunately, I was hit with a bout of insomnia last night. Tossing and turning, next thing I know, it was 3:30 in the morning. EEK!
I finally got to sleep around 4ish. I'm gonna have to take a bath in a tub of squirrels in order to get bright-eyed and bushy tailed for my interview this afternoon.

Happy Eating!

Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Happy Cherub Hunting Day!

Happy biggest fake Hallmark holiday of the year day! Oh well, it's a good reason to break out a good wedge of Hilary’s cheese and pop open a bottle of Venturi Shulze Millefiori.

I’m in the middle of another non-stop week of events, dinner parties and climbing prep. Last night, we had some newly-found friends over for dinner. Local college students who are proving that even on a limited student’s budget, basic cooking knowledge and a busy schedule that you can still eat locally and not break the bank or belt. Kudos!

I got home about 6:30pm with a half an hour before our guests would arrive. I whipped off my jacket and turned on the oven to 350F. I chopped up a huge batch of potatoes, parsnips, carrots, onions and garlic for roasting to see us through the rest of this busy week. Depending on how big they’re chopped and their density, they take 30-40 minutes to roast. I cut everything except the onions and garlic into ½ inch cubes for faster cooking. The onions I cut into quarters and garlic remained in whole cloves.

I also dug up a batch of moose sausage and a batch of locally raised and made Bavarian sausages from the freezer. No, we don’t get tired of sausage in this house. Again, I made enough to see us through the rest of the week. A quick sear in a hot pan and those were also popped in the 350F oven for about 20 minutes to finish cooking.

When the guests arrived, I quickly chopped up some freshly picked collard greens from Nanoose Edibles. Into a hot wok, I drizzled in some veggie oil and dropped in some minced raw garlic. I threw in the greens and sautéed them for few minutes. A few grinds of black pepper and a drizzle of Auld Alliance Farm’s (on Gabriola Island) pear balsamic vinegar and we were ready to eat.

Our lovely guests picked up a bottle of Saturna Island’s Pinot Noit from the government liquor store on their way here and that went perfectly with the sausages and veggies. They also brought over a wedge of Little Qualicum’s Raclette cheese (a favorite of mine). They were the perfect 100 mile diet dinner guests. I think we’re going to have them over more often:)

To accompany the savoury sausages was a tart and spicy rhubarb & plum chutney that I made last summer. It gave a nice contrast to the rich and meaty sausages.

We ended the meal with some local kiwi fruit, apples and the raclette cheese.

So for the next few days, I’m going to build all the dinners/lunches around the roasted veggies and sausages. For all those who’s heart is clenching (or drooling) at the idea of sausages for a week, keep in mind that the dishes I’m planning are using the meat as a side element, rather than the main element of the meal. Tonight I’m planning to make a Tuscan style white bean soup. Basically chop up a link of sausage, saute it up, dump in some chicken stock and soaked canelli beans or other white bean (or canned beans). Simmer until beans are done, about an hour. Of course, if you use canned beans, you won’t have to simmer them for that long. 10-15 minutes will be enough time.

I’ll also add a parma cheese or some other unwaxed hard cheese rind. It will help flavor the soup and give it an extra bit of richness. I also find that any good real cheese (not the processed cheddar stuff you buy by the brick) that has gone hard in your fridge also is a good candidate for this use. I simply break them down to smaller chunks and keep the in the freezer until needed. Cheeses like a raclette, any alpine style cheese or farmers cheddars can be used.

Once the beans are done, bring up the heat to a medium high, dump in some of the roasted veggies, some finely chopped kale or chard or collard greens. As soon as the greens turn bright, brilliant colour, you’re ready to eat!

If you want a smoother, creamier soup, blend up half of the bean soup before you add the rest of the veggies. Watch out for the cheese rind! That’ll just gunk up your blender.

If your dinner companions are in the habit of not paying much attention to what they’re eating and tend to scarf down their food, I’d pull out the cheese rind so nobody gets a mouthful of spongy cheese rind. Then again, maybe you ought to leave it in there to teach them to not scarf down the lovely meal you prepared for them :p

BTW, I'm going to be at the Ban Terminator Event in Parksville tonight and at the Nanaimo Malaspina University event tomorrow . Drop by the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet Challenge table and say 'hello!'

Happy Eating!


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Rusty Coast Poutine

My DH is a strange creature with interesting ways of showing his likes and dislikes. Here is an example.
He has been known to make the rare disparaging remark about the Québécois. OK, maybe more regularly than that. Many of these notions are distilled from his tree planting years where he had to share ground with them. Or maybe it's just part of his crusty,young man routine. At the same time, we have plenty of Quebecois friends, some who are close friends. But it doesn't seem to deter him from making less than proper remarks that involve calling them by their amphibious slur.
He has the same distaste for cheese. Maybe it's the French connection. Not sure. But he hates cheese. He will go on and on about how gross cheese is. Usually when I'm enjoying a lovely piece of Hilary's ash-ripened goat cheese. He hates anything with cheese. Well, except for hard cheeses like parmasan and mozzarella that has formed a caramelized dome on top of a pizza.
So it's very strange that he loves poutine which is brimming with cheese and rural Quebecois flair.
He will order it whenever he has the chance and I usually keep my mouth shut. I'm not fond of poutine or at least not for poutine that has found it's way into food courts, fast food joints and Fraco-Canuck themed restaurants. They're usually made with a gravy that started it's life as a powder and it's cheese component is cheese 'curd-like' psuedo-dairy product which resembles the nasty by-product of wearing PVC underwear in a hot, humid climate than the lovely, squeaky snack favoured by Miss Muffet. What a horrible way to treat a french fry! Mon dieu!

I do have a fond memory of sharing a dish of poutine at a community gathering in Maillardville, in Coquitlam. It was a gorgeous blend of savoriness, gooiness and stick to your rib goodness.

Over the weekend, I found fresh cheese curds from Natural Pastures at the grocery store and I figured, 'What the heck. Let's whip up some poutine.' Natural Pastures is a local island cheese company. Hilary's cheese in Cowichan Bay also makes a great cheese curd.

(Miss Muffet's favorite snack)

Well, maybe not traditional poutine. I can't make french fries due to my lack of a deep fryer and a stove ventilation hood. I guess I could make it with pot of boiling oil and a poised fire extinguisher and make the whole house smell like a fry shop. However, as someone who grew up working in her family's restaurant and came home reeking like a grease trap, the idea makes me more nauseous than nostalgic.

So I made roasted potato poutine. I can hear the collective gasp of horror from out east. Vous ne pouvez pas faire cela! Ce serait inexcusable!

Well, too bad. I did.
I made 100 mile diet poutine. Here's how I did it.
There's three basic components of poutine. The french fry, roasted potato in this case, the fresh curds and the brown gravy. Here's my recipe for Fast & Dirty West Coast Poutine

For the roasted potatoes I used island grown baker potatoes. Stick with russets or other high starch potatoes. Simple cut them into cubes, tossed them with some oil and/or bacon fat, a sprinkle of salt and I threw them into the oven at 450F for 30-40 mins until they're crispy brown.

For the gravy, I used a couple cups of beef stock I found in the freezer when I was clearing out space for all those darn bagels. I made a roux which is nothing more than equal amounts of fat and flour cooked slowly over medium low heat in a small saucepan. I used a couple tablespoons of locally raised smoked bacon fat and a couple tablespoons of flour. You're looking for a thick pastey consistency. Cook the roux until it starts getting some colour. I aim for a nice golden brown colour. Once it's at that stage, whisk in 1-2 cups of boiling hot beef stock. Whisk until the roux has been incorporated into the stock. Bring the heat up to medium high and bring it to a boil. It should thicken. If it's not thick enough for you, you can throw in a cornstarch slurry. Throw in a couple drops of hot sauce to liven it up.

For the cheese curds. Open the container. Make sure you're using squeaky fresh cheese curds. No other cheese will do. If you even think of using processed cheese, you will be cursed with the worse case of lactose intolerance for a fortnight.

To assemble: The potatoes and the gravy have to be hot. It's their heat that helps melt the cheese. Simply dump the potatoes into a serving dish, sprinkle generously with the cheese curds and top with a healthy ladleful of gravy. If you're worried about the cheese not melting enough, you could always stick an overproof bowl with the potatoes and cheese under the broiler for a few minutes before adding the gravy.

It's a pretty simple. Because it has just a handful of ingredients, make sure that they're all of a high quality. Again, no freaking cheese strings.

To counter the heaviness of the poutine, we had mixed green salad from Nanoose Edibles on the side. The meal ended with some fresh locally grown apples and kiwi fruit.



Ban Terminator tour hits the island

I just got this hot off the e-mail. Kate Green from USC Canada, one of the major groups that leading the charge against Monsanto's Terminatory seed technology, will be doing a whirlwind tour of Vancouver Island. Please come out and join in the fight against this insidious attack on local farms all around the world. Many of the events will also be showing documentarys relating to food politics and the future of food. We need to Ban Terminator!!

Here's her schedule:

Sat. February 10, On Salt Spring Salt Spring Island
Seedy Saturday - Display on Seeds of Survival/USC/Ban Terminator
10: 30 to 11: 30 Workshop : Terminator Campaign -
11: 30 to 12 : film Ethiopia: feeding the future + Q/A
351 Rainbow Rd. off Ganges Road

Sun. February 11, On Salt Spring
Seeds: In Celebration and Crisis' talk at Salt Spring Island
Unitarian Fellowship of SaltSpring Island
10:30 Old Age Pensioners Wing of Fulford Hall
2591 Fulford Ganges Road. 250-537-8781

Mon. February 12, Victoria, BC
2 PM "Future of Food' film and Q/A , Ban Terminator update
at First Unitarian Cong. Of Victoria
5575 West Saanich Road, 250-744-2665

Tue. February 13, Courtenay, BC
12:30 Benefit Luncheon Terminator / Food Sovereignty
Dove Creek Hall 3400 Burns Road
7: 30 Ethiopia night (with Ban Terminator update)
Film, "Feeding the Future", Godel Family show
Theatreworks Centre for the Performing Arts
2703 Unit J, Kilpatrick Avenue

Wed. February 14, Parksville, BC
1:30 River of Sand film (Bruce Cockburn;s journey in Mali)
7-9 PM "It is Right in Front of Us: Food Sovereignty issues
here and Internationally" (powerpoint, discussion and
Ban Terminator)
Knox United Church at 345 Pym Street

Thur. February 15, Nanaimo, BC
7 pm Excerts from "The Future of Food'" by D. Koons-Garcia
short presentation on the Ban Terminator Campaign
hosted by the Human Rights Commmittee
Malaspina University College, Building 356, room 109
900 Fifth Street, Nanaimo

Fri. February 16, In Victoria Victoria, BC
7 pm Future of Food film night + Q/A hosted by Victoria, BC
Capital Unitarian Universalist Congregation
At the James Bay New Horizons Centre
234 Menzies St. Ph 250-658-3765

Sat. February 17, Victoria, BC
Seedy Saturday - Victoria Conference Centre Victoria, BC
9 - 5: 30 Display
2 pm Workshop : Food Sustainability and
Terminator Technology

Sun. February 18, Victoria, BC
10 am Sunday Service at Capital UU Congregation
Seeds : in Celebration and Crisis
At the James Bay New Horizons Centre
234 Menzies St. Ph 250-658-3765

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Midweek Roundup

I know, I know. It’s been a week since I’ve blogged. I’m such a bad blogmistress but I have reasons for my absence. Many, in fact.

Last Saturday, my band of merry climbers returned to Mt. Arrowsmith for more ice climbing. Our previous climbing crag was weeping and thin and so we hiked up a bit farther and found a bounty of newly formed ice a bit higher up. After an hour long slog up a snow gully, we got down to business.

(climbs at the start of the snow gully)

(our friend, Dave, humping up the gully)

(The start of the climb)

That's me on some sweet, sweet ice. Yippee!!! I led all the climbs that day ! (Applause)

The ice was beautiful and solid. The climbs were rompy and fun. It was a fantastic day that left all of us good and tired. Us lucky buggers got to return to Dave’s place where his wonderful wife had dinner and a tribe of cats ready and waiting for us.

Here’s my most favorite cat in the world, Lakshmi (aka. Meep), keeping me company during a pre-dinner knitting session.

So cute! One of these days she's going to 'accidently' fall into my knitting bag and I'm going to have to bring her home with me.

On Sunday morning, I rolled my aching body out of bed, down the hill and onto the ferry to get to the Vancouver for dinner and the Serena Ryder concert with my dear friend, Abby. I had a few hours to kill before meeting her and ended up wandering about downtown in shellshock at how busy and frantic the city was despite the pissy weather and rumors that whole world was going to be hunkered down in front of a big screen TV watching commercials sandwiched between slices of a football game while stuffing it’s face with buffalo wings and 7-layer dip.

Lo and behold, I ran into my friend Ky, a vegan warrior and knitting fiend, and Aaron, another vegan warrior and knitting novice. We sequestered ourselves in a corner of coffee house and had a mini-knitfest amongst all the hustle and bustle of rainy Vancouver Sunday. I was working on my 3rd incarnation of the sleeve for my Honeymoon sweater. Ky was working on a lace shawl for his grandma for her 85th birthday present. Awwww.

Aaron, who’s totally new to knitting game, was working on a scarf for his mom. Double Awwwww. Well, he was knitting when he wasn't talking up the cute girls who kept coming over to ask him what he was knitting ;)

Men who knit are sexy but they do swear a lot. They’re not able to go 2 stitches without cursing. Their patterns must read ‘Knit 2, Curse 1, Purl 2, Curse 1’. LOL!

The Serena Ryder concert was incredible and intimate. I can’t believe that they booked such a small venue like the Media Room for her. Supposedly, it was sold out pretty fast. That said, I’m glad that I got to see her at such an intimate setting. She’s got talent up to her eyeballs and then some. With a voice that channeled the greats of past decades, mixed with exuberance and an eclectic, unique style all her own, she was absolutely captivating. My girl crush for her multiplied a hundred fold that night. It goes to show that you don’t need a zillion dollars of lighting, lasers, fireworks, an opera of costume changes, an army of stylists and a bunker of gimmicks to put on an incredible and memorable show.

I decided to stay in Vancouver for a few days and work out of my folks place. I even got to give my sister her birthday present in person. Happy Birthday T!

I also got to meet up with the whole gang of vegan warriors for a knitting and 100 Mile diet vegan baking lesson. The guys have been going to the monthly Winter Farmer’s Market at the WISE Hall and had a bounty of locally grown ingredients to use, along with stuff they’ve preserved from the summer. Have I mentioned how that boys swear a lot when they knit? They also swear a lot when they bake. I forgot to bring my camera so I don’t have any photos to share. But when I left, pretty much every flat surface in their house was covered with a cooling rack loaded with cookies, cakes and dessert bars and the living room was filled with flour dusted boys knitting up a blue streak.

After a never-ending streak of errands, I hopped onto a ferry back home Tuesday night. I got home just in time to watch ‘House’ and fall asleep in my knitting chair.

Yesterday I celebrated the soggy weather by staying indoors and baking up a storm. I made muffins with locally grown kiwis and hazelnuts. I also made a mountain of bagels. The house was toasty and yummy smelling all day long! Aromatherapy really does work ;)

The muffins were made with the recipe from Muffin Mayhem.
I used 1 cup of local kiwi fruit- peeled and cut, a 1/2 cup of local hazelnuts (from Footes Hazelnut farm). I used 1/3 cup of local wildflower honey and whole milk for my liquids.

I had a Mid-Island Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting last night. We’re getting ready to host our own fiber show next month. It’s so exciting. I’ll post more info as soon as I get it. Aside from setting up the space for the event, each of us are also in charge of bringing a baked goodie to sell. I'm batting about a couple of 100 mile diet goodies ideas to bring.

Once I’m done wrestling with work, I’m dedicating the rest of the today to knitting and spinning. BTW, here’s the 5th and (thankfully) final incarnation of the sleeve for the Honeymoon Sweater:

I tried many different stitch combinations from Old Shale to ripples to a meandering ridge stitch to try to capture the big rolling waves that dominated our crossings in Kyoquot Sound on our honeymoon kayak trip. I had this pattern idea whispering to me from very beginning. For whatever reason, I tried every other idea before I went with this. I really have to sharpen my knitting intuition nerves and just go with my gut from the get go. It’s basically a braided cable on stockinette.

It’s actually the sleeve, shoulder and upper chest piece. It’s one piece extending from wrist to upper collar. My friend, Karin, says that if it doesn’t work for a sleeve, it could work as a boa constrictor cozy :P

A bonus feature of this pattern is that because the cabling constricts about ¼ to 1/3 of the width, once I return back to just stockinette stitch, the sleeve widens enough to fit around my upper arm and shoulder. That means no need to increase stitches at this junction point.

Once I get the other sleeve done, I’ll have a better idea of what the rest of the torso will look like. I have a few ideas fluttering about in my head. Hopefully, I won’t have to go through 5 incarnations to figure it out how to capture the spirit of that breathtaking coastal adventure for the rest of the sweater.

So that’s what I’ve been doing instead of blogging. Of course, if didn’t do all that stuff, I wouldn’t have anything to blog about so I have to do all that stuff. You see how that works? It’s a vicious cycle. Oh woe is me…

Have a great day!


Thursday, February 01, 2007

There's a honeymoon in my yarn!

Last night’s pre-Chinese New Year dinner went splendidly well. Here are some pics of the feast:

Panfried noodles with moose sausage and gai lan in black bean sauce. I serve the noodles on the side of meat and veggies so the noodles stay pan-fried crunchilicious!

The hot and sour soup:

And of course, the potstickers (BTW, Gina, anytime you're on the Rusty Coast, you're welcome to join my potsticker sweat factory)

The pork was locally raised and the moose sausage was from the stash that DH’s uncle so generously gifted us with. Pretty much all the veggies from the gai lan to the carrots to the mushrooms were all BC, if not locally grown or from the backyard.

Hot & sour soup is one of my favorites. It’s super-easy-peezy to make. It does call for a few non-local items but it my version is also chockfull of local veggies and meats. It’s a great soup for the chilly weather and it certainly warmed up the crowd. It’s actually nothing more than a stir-fried dish souped up.

Traditional hot & sour soup calls for bamboo shoots, lily buds and black fungus. I don’t like bamboo shoots, especially canned bamboo shoots which resemble waterlogged woodchips IMO, so I don’t use them. Instead, I add carrots and parnips cut up into matchsticks to add some crunch to the soup. Lily buds and black fungus can be found in most Asian food aisles in the dried food section. They don’t so much impart a taste as much as they are there for texture. Quite frankly, you don’t have to have them (stop throwing those chopsticks at me!). While at the Asian food aisle, pick up a bottle of the red vinegar. It’s not red wine vinegar but traditional Chinese red vinegar. You’ll need it for dipping for potstickers. I actually used Marley Farm’s blueberry vinegar since I had it on hand. Now that I’m completely pissed off all the Chinese food traditionalists, here’s my recipe for a Fast & Dirty Hot & Sour soup:


2-3 oz of shredded or coarsely ground pork

2 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Mix all these together and set aside to let the pork marinade.

The rest of the crap:

1 cake of medium firm tofu – cut into cubes

1 coin of ginger – smashed and minced

1 carrot peeled and cut into matchstick size

1 parsnip peeled and cut into matchstick size

1 onion sliced thin

3-4 handfuls of mushrooms (white, brown, shitake) sliced thinly

1 small handful of dried lily buds – soaked in hot water for 20 mins. Cut into thirds

1-2 pieces of black fungus –soaked and sliced thin

6 cups of chicken stock – preferably homemade but who’s kidding who?

1 teaspoon cane or brown sugar

3 tablespoon red vinegar

1-2 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon white pepper

1/2 to 1 teaspoon sambal oelek or similar hot sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch – mixed with some water to make a slurry

-In your soup pot, over medium high heat, throw in the marinated pork. If you’re using good pork, there ought to be enough fat in it so enough oil renders down to provide enough cooking oil for the whole recipe. If you’re using anemic, super-leaned up supermodel pork, throw in some vegetable oil. Let the meat brown up a bit before you start stirring it around.

-Push the meat to one side of the pot and drop in one layer of mushrooms. Let those brown in the pork fat. Once golden brown, just shove them aside with the pork and lay down another layer of mushroom. Continue until all the mushrooms are done.

-Toss in the rest of the vegetables. Stir fry for a minute.

-Throw in the stock. Then toss in the seasonings, tofu, lily buds and fungus. Bring the soup up to a boil.

-Pull the pot off heat, stir in the slurry. Put back onto the stove and bring to a boil. The slurry will thicken up the soup a bit. Ready to serve. You can toss in some chopped green onion or cilantro to make it pretty.

Oh yeah, there’s supposed to be a beaten egg in there. I don’t like egg in my hot and sour soup. I like egg drop soup, just not egg dropped into my hot and sour soup. If you want you can add a beaten egg. Make sure it’s a local and free range, dems the rules. Simply slowly drizzle a beaten egg into the pot as you slowly stir the soup. The residual heat with cook the egg.

Warning: Knitting jabbering ahead.

Now that I’ve finished my Midsummer Night’s Dream sweater and the MIL sweater, I’ve had a moment to throw some new projects onto needles. I’ve got some small stuff, a pair of fingerless mitts for my sis and a pair of socks for DH (who wants to bet that the socks never get done??). For myself, I’ve started on a cardigan that I’ve been dreaming and scheming about since 2005: The Honeymoon Sweater.

No, it’s not Jackie Gleason bus driver sweater. It’s a sweater inspired by our honeymoon in Kyuquot.

(Yep, dat's me)

We spent 10 brilliant and adventurous days kayaking along the Northwest coast of Vancouver Island. The days were filled with huge waves and hot sun. The nights were kissed by gorgeous sunsets. The water was the blue of Hawaii postcards and the horizon was our next waypoint.

I’ve been keeping my eyes open for the right yarn. My sketchbook has a number of scribbled ideas for designs and motifs. Finally, I found a yarn that contained all the colours of our honeymoon. Wouldn’t you know it, it had to be a Noro yarn:

It’s Kureyon yarn, their wool yarn. It’s not as elegant and luxurious as the Silk Garden but its colours are so rich and intense. Since the honeymoon was more rustic than elegant, this yarn will do fine. I was able to pick up a small stash at the local yarn store on sale. Since the price of Noro yarn is a bit dear, I picked up a more reasonably priced Paton merino yarn in Peacock to help ‘stretch’ the fancy stuff.

So far, I have much of my first sleeve done. Don’t ask me about the torso. I haven’t planned that far ahead except to say that I’m thinking about throwing in some sort of beach landscape silhouette thing along the bottom. Or maybe a wave/ripple effect. Don’t know, I’ll get back to you once I figure it out. Or have the yarn figure it out for me.

I’m going to listen to Serena Ryder all day so I can sing along with all her songs at her concert on Sunday. I can’t wait!!!