Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Missing you.

Very much missing the person who taught many of us to sew, and brought us all together to Stitch and Bitch.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Low-FODMAP desserts?

Hello ladies!!

We are hosting some friends for dinner on Sunday and one of the guests is on a low-FODMAP diet (http://ibs.about.com/od/ibsfood/a/The-FODMAP-Diet.htm, http://www.med.monash.edu/cecs/gastro/fodmap/low-high.html). I have come up with plenty of ideas for the main course, but am struggling with a good dessert idea. I am somewhat limited by the availability of certain items here, so seasonal is better, and while I have a large array of different gluten-free flours, they come in very small (and expensive) bags, so I'd prefer the only be used in small (<1-2 cup) amounts. Simple is good, but complex is still doable!

Does anyone have any advice?


Friday, October 4, 2013

Apples Galore

It’s been a while since I’ve made any sort of preserved item, so I figured, gol dang it all, I’m going to can something this year! I wanted to try beets, but then I got paranoid about botulism risks in low acidic foods, and since I didn’t have a pressure canner I nixed that idea. (Alana has since quelled my fears by pointing out the fact that *pickled* beets should be just fine in a hot water bath, so I’ll try again next year).

Next on the docket was…apples! I had only apple butter in mind, but that quickly got out of hand when I visited the place where I purchased my apples….

On my way back home from a work trip in southern Alberta, I took advantage of my rented wheels and decided to pick up ~12-15 lbs of apples from a U-pick. I found a site on kijiji that was advertising apples for 50 cents a pound (um, can we say CHEAP?). I pulled into the driveway of the place (located south of Ellerslie road on the outskirts of Edmonton). No one was at the house, so I poked around the garage. Inside was Mario—a man in his 80’s with a thick Italian accent—and he was surrounded by boxes upon boxes of apples. I told him I needed around 12 pounds for apple butter and he gestured towards the apples and told me to have at ‘er. “But first,” he said, “come with me; I’m going to make some apple juice for a neighbor.” 

We walked around to the side of the house, where he had a make-shift operation set up to press any sort of fruit for juice, cider, the makings of wine, you name it. He first needed to empty out the press, which was full of cherries destined for a wine bottle or two. Then he took one of the boxes of apples and tossed them into what I can only describe as an….apple chipper? I’m sure there are new, fancy, commercial varieties of these chippers but this thing was old school. I had to take a few steps back to avoid being pelted by unruly apple bits.

Mario scooped bucketfuls of apple pieces into the press (which he had made by hand) and turned the crank. Out flowed amber-colored deliciousness. He handed me a plastic cup and told me to try some. So I put it right underneath the spout and filled it up. I don’t think I’ve had fresh-pressed apple juice since my kindergarten class took a trip to an apple orchard in 1990. I still remember the orchard-worker telling us that it “took four strong daddies to work the press.” Mario grabbed a cleaned-out 2-liter Pepsi bottle and filled it with apple juice. “Here you go,” he said. “Make sure you keep it in a cold place otherwise it will ferment.” 

Fresh pressed juice pour moi? Yes please!

He had to fill up the rest of the bottles for his neighbor, so I went back to the apples and decided I’d leave with more than I came for. I picked out roughly 25-30 lbs worth. Mario took one glance and suggested….

“7 dollars?”


Mario: “Oh, is that too much?”

I told him that was not nearly enough but he wouldn’t take a penny over $10. So there I was with 30 lbs of apples and 2 liters of fresh apple juice, all for $10. Awesome. Mario was such a great guy with amazing stories—I will definitely be back there next year for cherries and saskatoons.

On to the cooking...

I don’t even remember the recipes I used, but I ended up canning apple butter as planned, spiced apple rings, apple jelly, and regular apples. 

Apple butter The butter was by far the easiest and cleanest canning experience of the whole lot. The recipe was easy to prepare (just wash and roughly chop the apples, cook them, put them through a chinois sieve or food mill, cook some more w/ sugar and other stuff) and it was super easy to can.

Spiced rings I began the apple rings by coring the apples with a knife. I got through two that way and then said eeeefff that. The next day I bought an apple corer and that was the best decision I made all week.

When cooking the apples, I realized I sliced them too thin for my taste. This experience was a bit messy when transferring the apples to the jars. Lots of sticky, sugary, apple syrup got…well, everywhere.

Regular apples I cooked these guys a little too long. They taste fine, but are softer than I’d like them to be. Again, lots of sticky syrup to clean up!

Jelly The jelly was a bit annoying to transfer to the jars because it started setting immediately after I removed it from heat; I think I cooked it too long. (Note to self: stop cooking your apples too long!) Also, next time I make apple jelly I’ll be sure to use tart apples. My jelly tastes good, but is quite sweet and I like tart jellies. I knew this going into it, but wanted to try it out anyway.

In all, though, it was a success! I had a few burns to contend with, lots of syrup to clean up on 
everything, and some timing issues with cooking apples vs. sterilizing jars, but I ended up with lots of canned apples.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Easy, tasty, healthy Sweet Potato Salad

Hello from the North! Surprised to hear from me? I know, I’m not much of a contributor. But I’ve got a new challenge in a life and a great recipe to go along with it, so I figured it was time to share.

At the beginning of the summer, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. This is after a year and a bit of major digestive issues, during which time I pushed my doctor for more than just a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (because that’s essentially a non-diagnosis and you are stuck doing elimination diets on your own) and leaned heavily on Mara as my go-to friend for discussions about topics (like poop) that aren’t typically on a phone call with your girlfriend (Thanks Mara!). In retrospect, I’ve been gradually developing celiac symptoms for about 10 years, but never realized that the issues I was having were related (iron deficiency, arthritis, lactose intolerance, fatigue, etc). So I was really relieved to have a clear diagnosis and treatment (a strict gluten-free diet for life – no wheat, barley, rye, and oats are a questionable one so it’s out for the first year at least).

However, once I started reading labels, I was amazed at how many things contain gluten. I had to give away my entire fridge door shelf of Asian cooking sauces! And I even have to be careful of lotions with gluten, which I thought was weird since I’m not eating the lotion, but the reality is that anything you put on your body is absorbed into your system (a good reason to buy organic). Luckily for me, the gluten-free thing is pretty popular these days, and at home it’s very manageable as we were already healthy cooks and it’s easy to adapt most things (with a few new kitchen supplies, some gentle reminders to avoid contamination, and a larger grocery budget since GF food is significantly more expensive).
With the abundance of gluten free blogs and books, there are lots of recipe ideas and ingredients available, even up here in northern AB. The specialty liquor store in town even stocks 16 types of GF beer (expensive, but on a sunny Friday after work sometimes you just gotta have a beer!). The hardest part is going to other people’s houses, events, potlucks…. a common summertime activity. Resisting moist chocolate cupcakes at a wedding and greasy sausages and pancakes the morning after (especially when hungover) requires serious mental toughness!!
This weekend was a going-away party for a couple co-workers. Typical backyard BBQ fare, burgers/hotdogs/creamy coleslaw, with a few home-made (delicious-looking but definitely not permitted) desserts thrown in the mix. I decided to make a salad that I knew I could eat, and I wanted it to be hearty and filling because it sucks to be hungry at a bbq (or anytime, really). I know lots of people don’t like trying new recipes for an event, but I figure it’s the best time because if I don’t like it, I’m not stuck with a giant bowlful for leftovers that week. I googled potato salad… then switched to sweet potato salad (more nutrients), and ended up with a great recipe that was really easy and quick, and I already had all the spices in my cupboard (which is a real plus… one thing I’m finding with the new GF life is there are so many new ingredients/flours/baking gums to buy- which can be fun, but also a little overwhelming. Sometimes you just want something quick and simple, right?).

Overall, this Moroccan Sweet Potato salad was a total success! My finished product looked exactly like the photo on the recipe, which to me is always a good sign. And lots of people asked for the recipe. So I figured I should share it with the SSS group too. I wouldn’t say it was the most WOW thing I’ve ever made, but that’s probably because I like things spicier, but didn’t want to increase the heat for a group setting. These spice proportions in the recipe were good for potluck, and even the kids ate it.  I used the white sweet potatoes but would also try it with the yellow yams, because I think they have a bit more flavor, although they might get mushier – these cubes held up nicely. It only took 15 minutes for them in the oven, on parchment paper. So the whole process was literally about 30 minutes, a definite plus for a weekday dinner side dish.

I made 1.5 times the recipe and it was all eaten up at the potluck (Tyler was disappointed I didn't leave him a little bowlful for when he got home late from work!).  
The directions say to serve it at room temperature; I did a taste-test while it was still warm and thought it was really good. So room temperature or warmer is my recommendation.
The close-up photo to show how much it looks like the one on the website (hers is more orange cause she used yams).

Here’s the blog I got it from, I haven’t looked at her site much but based on the ease of this recipe, I’ll have to see what else she has. http://www.laurabrussell.com/moroccan-sweet-potato-salad/
I will definitely make this salad again, but with a few modifications (yams, up the spice quotient, add more nuts and seeds to increase protein). I think it's a good potluck dish, for any season. Or make a big portion on the weekend and have leftovers for weekday lunchs.
If anyone else is doing GF diet these days, let me know and we can compare thoughts on cookbooks, blogs, recipes. I'm in the learning stage about celiac disease... and there is a lot of learning to do. I made some good GF/DF scones last weekend, but frankly nothing compares to scones made with regular flour and butter! Over time I'm sure my taste buds will adapt and I'll get used to it. Tyler (the real baker in our family) has promised me not to worry,  he will figure out ways to make delicious Christmas baking so I will still gain those 5 holiday pounds that he "gives" to me every year!  
Cheers- mb

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cooking challenge #???

Oh hi everyone....remember me!?!

So, I've got about 4 posts brewing in my head (garden, travel, crafts, travel+crafts), but I wandered over to the draft section of the blog, and realized I also had 4 partially started posts on the go and figured it's time to finish one up! sooooo...here's my post on pastry I started a long long time ago, and seems appropriate given the bounty of delicious fruits coming into season that are begging to be sugared (or honeyed!) and served up in a hot and crispy hug of butter and flour. YUM!

Wild huckleberries (Vaccinium membranaceum) just came into season. Imagine my face when presented with a perfect cup of coffee - it looks the same the whole time I'm picking wild berries....my face hurts from glee.

There. I've thrown down a challenge that has been festering in the back of my mind for far too long. I love baking, and to me there's nothing so satisfying as filling those you care about full of fat and sugar to let them know just how you feel :)

Between sweet pies, and savoury dishes (having chickens = quiche as a staple go to), pie crust has been, and continues to be one of those things that I'm always trying to master, and yet I feel I always come up short. The sad truth is that I've never been totally in love with my pastry recipe. Rebars' whole wheat pastry has been my most common crust for many years (i figure whole wheat flour neutralizes calories from butter. Basically a scientific fact....at least in my mind), but sometimes you want to hang up your birkenstocks and just make the best gosh darn crust you can!

Over Christmas I tried a new recipe that had egg and vinegar in the pastry. Craziness. I've never used anything other than flour, butter and cold water... So this just started the wheels turning.. What else is out there that I've missed?!?

Then I consulted with one of my favorite chefs, d.raab to see what his mum's go to pastry was made of. Get ready for this.... It has vodka in it! I decided to give this a try. I wanted to make our neighbors a thank you pie for taking care of our house over  the holidays... What better time to work on my pastry skills! So I decided to meet my challenge (which never got posted until now) head on! Here's the picture diary of what went down, along with a little shout out to my new pie plate courtesy of the mom-in-law.

Delish it was! But I want some variety...some experimentation...some....shall we say....culinary challenge to push my pie making skills to the next level. What's your recipe? What's your secret for perfect crust? Don't handle it too much? Fondle it fearlessly? Just butter? or a little of that oh so nasty crisco!? Food processor, stand mixer or only the sweet and tender crushing into submission from your own muscles?

I'm going to hope that some of the gents over at science shoots etc. feel comfortable enough to pitch in - I know there's a couple of stupendous pie-makers over there:)

Happy August my friends.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekly links

I'm back!  After a 1.5 month break I have returned to Sweden with a new title, a renewed appreciation for microbrews in Colorado, a heartbreaking realization that I'm terrible at Jeopardy, a dumbfounded awareness of how much cheese one can eat in a day, a near-tragic encounter with a rattlesnake, and a handful of amazing "must-eat" restaurants added to the list (Toro in San Fran, Rioja in Denver, Chantecler in Toronto).

And now, back to real life...if you consider an ability to blog once a week "real life".



Links for this week:

Have you read this comic? My dog: The paradox.

HIV infection - cured!

An incredibly cute joke, told by the animator's tipsy wife.

I think many of us scientists can relate.

A Matter of Taste - a documentary I just watched that follows a passionate chef's journey since 2002. It's a pretty nice story. 

Dog meme.

Neat idea to raise money.

Will one of you please write one of these if I ever have short term memory loss?

A very interesting book I just read, written in a unique first-person style.  I recommend it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


I know I just recently posted, but I couldn't wait on sharing this one because it is so darn yummy.
In discovering new recipes that are Specific Carbohydrate Diet friendly, I found these little gems from one of my SCD cookbooks. I altered the recipe because I didn’t have cashews, but it turned out ammmmaaaaaazing! Plus I just got a new immersion blender (thanks, Save-on-More points!) and wanted to use it for pancake batter. Perhaps not necessary but it was fun.

For context, here's what is in the original recipe.
  •  organic cashews, eggs, yogurt, baking soda, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, salt
Now before I continue, something to keep in mind is the quantity of these you make/eat—they’re not a low-cal food. I'm not sure I completely agree with the description of this recipe: “Imagine pancakes that are actually good for you and taste better than the white flour kind!....Drizzle them with melted butter and honey before serving.”
  • What does “good for you” mean? Because ¼ cup of almond flour has 170 calories and I used three of those…..not to mention nuts aren’t exactly low in fat, even if it IS the “good” fat. Cashews wouldn't be any different.
  •  Drizzle with melted butter and honey? Again, more fat, more sugar, not really necessary. I actually really like these plain in order to best enjoy the cinnamon and added banana. It is great with a dollop of yogurt, though. Dollop. What a fun word.
  • I do have to say they taste better than the white flour kind. Hands down. 

Below is what I did to make about 4, 4" diameter pancakes (probably would have been more if I didn't eat the batter). Don’t forget to take gratuitous photographs of each step of the process. 

  • ¾ cup almond flour (the first time I made these I ground my own almonds, which made for a bit of a crunch in the final product because it wasn’t as finely ground as the store-bought flour—it was lovely and I actually prefer that to the almond flour)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (this wouldn’t be necessary with cashews because they are naturally so oily, but it helped with the almond substitution)
  • 1 egg (the first time I think I used 2 eggs, 1 was fine)
  • A good chunk of banana (to make up for fewer eggs)
  • 2 tbsp homemade yogurt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • A good punch of cinnamon (I always go crazy with cinnamon. 1 tsp is not enough)
  • ½  tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Butter for the pan

Confession: the above photo is actually a complete lie, since I forgot to show the vanilla and the butter, and I ended up using a completely different type of honey. 
Blend everything together really well. 

Really all you need is a spoon or fork. Or your hands.

Oh my gosh, the batter is so good. I literally licked it off my blender….after unplugging it of course. Try to save some for the pan, though. Drop some butter in that pan and let er' bubble. Don't forget to take a picture of your chef-self enjoying an iced americano from The Duchess while you accidentally let that butter burn. 

Me. Drinking coffee. Not paying attention to the stove.

Butter in a pan.

I had to experiment with size of batter plop and length of heat-time…..it was a bit more difficult than traditional pancakes because the bottom browned up before the top had time to set, even at different temps. Made for some interesting pancake shapes! But medium heat on an electric stove worked okay, with 1.5-2 minutes for the first side, and ~45 seconds for the second one.

Top with whateva the pancake fairy has given you. Here's a great way to use up the rest of that banana.