Sunday, September 16, 2012

A perfect slice of life

I wonder sometimes, if I should have chosen a different name for my blog.  When I started this little misadventure a couple years ago, "Eat, Drink, Study," seemed to fit.  I mean, I LOVED to eat and drink, and devoured cookbooks.  I was a full-time student and really ought to have also spent a good chunk of time studying too.  Well, I meant to study a lot, at least.

Now that I'm all done with scholastic life for the foreseeable, that nagging little part of me wonders what the hell I'm supposed to do with a food blog called "Eat, Drink, Study," when I don't actually have to study anymore.  I think about renaming it; something witty that camptures where I'm at in life and how that relates to food, and blah blah blah.  Then I go back to reading Oatmeal comics in my pajamas while recovering from an overnight shift, since I don't really think the name of this blog is a big deal.  Has anyone here NOT read The Oatmeal?  If you haven't, please go away for a bit, and take care of that.

Are you done?  Love it.  SOOOOO much.

Now, speaking of oatmeal (and tenuous segues), we need to talk about this bread:

Isn't that gorgeous?  That's the second loaf I've made in as many weeks, and I'm whole-heartedly in love with this bread.  Store-bought bread doesn't really do it for me anymore, at least since I started living alone last year.  Pre-sliced bread is usually full of awful junk, like corn syrup and preservatives.  The squirelly bread you can get is usually fine, but it's kinda expensive (5 bucks a loaf!  At least!).  I've been making Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread for a few years now, especially since I'm on my own.  

That  fantastic; tasty, chewey, great crumb, crispy crust.  I love how EASY it is too, because the idea of making regular bread from scratch always seemed a little intimidating.  All that kneading and proofing and kneading.  Why would I bother with all of that, when I can just throw all my ingredients together and ignore them for most of a day, then end up with fantastic bread?  Because I got bored of hanging out in my jammies reading webcomics one morning, and wanted a challenge.

I started where I normally start when I want to try something new and need to be pointed in the right direction; Molly Wizenberg's Orangette.  Molly is infinitely more poetic than I am, and she raved about this bread, and it's toasting abilities.  I was convinced!  So I made my own (somewhat malformed) loaf.  I've been eating this as toast and sandwiches all week, and I'm in love with this too now.

There is some work  involved here, I'm not going to lie.  About 4 hours start to finish, including about 15 minutes kneading-time.  This is a weekend job for you people with "normal" jobs.   For me, it's something else to do in my jammies after a night-shift.

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
adapted from Orangette

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
2 cups bread flour (I use all-purpose, and it's just fine)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
Heaped tablespoon kosher salt

Grease a large bowl and a loaf pan and set aside.

In another large bowl, combine 2 cups of warm water and molasses.  Sprinkle the yeast overtop and stir.  Let this sit for about 10 minute or until its all foamy.  Add the oats and stir to get them all wet.  Add the white flour, and whisk until smooth.  Add the whole-wheat flour and stir until it comes together to make a shaggy dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Let this stand for about 30 minutes to let the dry ingredients absorb the liquid.

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 15 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until your dough is smooth, elastic and a wee bit sticky.  Dump the dough into the greased bowl, and roll it all around to get covered.  Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, dump it out on the counter and shape it into a square.  Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together.  Plop the dough into the loaf pan, seam-side-down.  Cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.  Half an hour before you bake, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake your loaf for 30-35 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Take the loaf out of the pan, and cool on a rack.  You may be tempted to cut a slice now, to enjoy it warm with melty butter.  DON'T DO IT!  The crumb needs to set!  

This bread keeps great at room temperature.  I followed Molly's advice, and keep it inside a grocery bag, cut side down, with the top tied.  It keeps for 4-5 days on the counter.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Piggy Buns

These little pig-shaped custard buns made my day!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brunch for One

My life is in a constant state of slightly frenetic motion.  I work full-time, while going to school full-time to finish my undergrad (finally!), and I bought a condo a few months ago.  I spend a lot of time going straight from school to work, then to my field placement back to work.  I don't get a lot down-time, and what little I do have is swallowed quickly by the never-ending cycle of homework and house-work.

I sound like I'm complaining, don't I?  I promise, I'm not.  Really.  I love my program (most days), and my job (most days), and everything that I'm doing is getting me to exactly where I want to be in life.  I have made some very intentional choices as to what this year would look like; full-time job, full-time student, new homeowner.   So I really can't complain (not too much, at least).

That being said...  Yesterday, I had someone tell me that I need to better at practicing self-care.  And they were right, I know.  Self-care is one of those things where, the less time you have for it, the more you probably needed it.  So this morning, after I came off shift at 9am, I took the time to do just that.  The fact that my 11am class had been cancelled might have helped a little bit, but that's beside the point.  Today, I did two things for myself: I made myself brunch, but (more importantly, I think) I taught myself how to poach an egg.

Of all kitchen tasks, poaching an egg is the only one that really TERRIFIED me.  No lie.  The idea of poaching an egg made me incredibly anxious.  I know this is a completely irrational fear, I mean, what's the worse that could happen?  I pop the yolk? The white doesn't set properly?  I kill the egg completely and have to start again?  It's not even that I thought the process was fussy, which isn't, really.  I live for fussy jobs in the kitchen; unwrapping 150 individual caramels to make my own chocolate turtles, for example.

So... This morning, I wanted a poached egg.  I followed Jeanette's instructions from the blog Everybody Loves Sandwiches, and it came out perfect.  Before I got started on that, I made a hash of cured ham (the crappy prosciutto-style stuff in the refrigerator section of the supermarket deli), mushrooms, and shredded potato.  I threw a large handful of baby arugula into the hash right before I plated everything together.  I cooked the egg like I was told, and it came out pretty nicely, with a perfect gooey yolk, and  a firm white (one of the things that ruins breakfast for me the most is gooey egg whites).  All that together, made one of the best breakfasts I've had in a long time.  Really tasty. And SO easy.

Perfect Poached Egg with "Parma" Ham, Mushroom and Arugula Hash
Partly adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
A quick note about the eggs...  Jeanette says to use REALLY fresh eggs, which I'm told makes the whites hold together around the yolk a lot better.  My eggs have been sitting in my fridge for a while, so my whites got a bit whispy, and I think I lost a lot of them in the pan.  But my egg still looked really happy, and tasted great!!

1-2 oz prosciutto or cured ham, shredded chopped fine
1 cup white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded potatoes (frozen works fine)
Olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped chives
Big handful of washed baby arugula
1 egg
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with about three inches of water, and set on the stove over High heat so it comes to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat a medium frying pan over Medium heat.  When the pan is hot, add the ham, and let it cook down in the pan for a couple minutes, stirring frequently, to render out some of the fat.  Add the mushrooms, and continue to cook, so the liquid is cooked out of the mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms and ham are almost cooked down, push them to one side of the frying pan, and add the potatoes to the empty half of the pan.  Pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil over the potatoes, and stir to coat.  Let the potatoes cook for a few minutes to soften the potatoes.  Once they're soft, combine everything in the frying pan together, and season with lots of pepper (the ham is salty, you don't really need more salt).  Cook this mixture, tossing frequently till the potatoes are crisp and golden around the edges.  Keep the hash warm while you cook your egg.

Crack your egg into a small mug or teacup.  Add a good pinch of salt and about a Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to the boiling water.  Lower the mug into the water, allowing water into the mug to cover the egg.  Let it sit there for a few seconds to start setting the egg, then GENTLY tip the egg out of the cup into the water.  Cover and turn the heat down to Medium-low so the water reduces to a simmer.  About 30 seconds with the lid on is enough for a runny yolk, but if you like firmer yolks, leave them in there for longer.  Remove the egg with a slotted spoon, and drain on a paper towel while you finish the hash.

Add the arugula and chives to the hash, and toss so the arugula just starts to wilt.  Put the hash on your favorite plate, and top with your perfectly-cooked poached egg.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I'm brushing the dust off this blog (again!), to voice my New Years resolutions!
• Drink more water (at least 2-3L per day)
• Incorporate more vegetables and fruit into what I eat
• Practice better portion-control/snack less

This is today's lunch, as an example of this (recipes will come tomorrow):

Crunchy Tuna Cabbage Salad
Homemade whole-wheat bread

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Servus Heritage Festival

It’s time to dust off the blog and get writing again!  A lot has happened food-wise since my last post, and today we are going to focus on the Servus Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park, one of my favorite summer events.  I’ve been going to the Heritage Festival for years now.  I used to volunteer for ticket with my youth group, and I try and go at least once every year.  I have a few stand-by favorites that I make a bee-line for every year: the barbequed whole sardines at the Portuguese pavilion, the mangos loco at the Guatemalan pavilion, and Russian pelmenis. 

This year’s festival was especially fun, with tons of delicious options for guests to try out.  I worked and had other family commitments on the Saturday and Sunday this year, so I didn’t make it to Hawrelak until the last day of the Festival on the Monday.  My sister, Sarah and I took the shuttle from near our place down to the park, just in time for lunch.  When we got there, around 11am, the crowds were not too bad; we did not have to wait in line at all really for tickets or food. 

Sarah had already been to the Festival on Saturday, and warned me that our beloved barbeque sardines would not be an option, because the Portuguese pavilion was not participating in the Festival this year (SADNESS!!).

After we bought our tickets, Sarah and I made our way to the Iraqi pavilion for an order of Dolma (5 tickets), which included 5 dolma, salad, and a huge, fresh pita bread.  The dolma were warm, and were absolutely delicious, some of the nicest I’ve had, and were really great dipped in the accompanying sweetish sauce, wrapped in bits of pita.  

Next, came the Borneo pavilion, where Sarah and I ordered the Spicy Laksa Soup (7 tickets).  The soup had a spicy coconut milk broth, thin rice noodles, shrimp, bits of chicken, hardboiled egg, and julienned vegetables.  All the different ingredients were nice and fresh, and you could tell they were putting the soup together to order, putting all the bits in the bowl, and pouring the broth on top.  Because if this, the rice noodles weren’t mushy, the vegetables stayed crisp, and the proteins were perfect.

Our next stop was Venezuela, where Sarah and I got our first taste of Arepas (7 tickets each).  Arepas are cooked patties of corn dough that are usually griddled or deep-fried.  They are stuffed with yummy fillings like cheese, avocado, slow-cooked pork, whatever you want, really.  I first se them made on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and I’ve been dying to try one since.  This first one was delicious; crispy outside, and filled with spiced shredded beef.  It was served with a green herb salsa, which went with it really nicely.  When I squirted a big glob of the salsa on Sarah and my plate, the girl who had served me seemed quite alarmed, and warned me that I’d dumped the extra-hot salsa on my food.  When Sarah and I tried the salsa, it wasn’t really spicy at all, so she must have thought I’d grabbed a different bottle.

Russia came next, where Sarah and I got a plate of our beloved Pelmeni (6 tickets), little meat-filled dumplings from Siberia.  I love dumplings, especially these ones, and the fact we got the first plate of a freshly cooked batch made them even better.  The dough was cooked perfectly, with just a bit of bite, and the filling was perfectly seasoned.  You could get them with the traditional sour cream and chopped dill, or with ketchup, which I thought sounded revolting.  Needless to say Sarah and I got our pelmeni with sour cream and dill, which worked perfectly.

While we were waiting for our order, I took time out for a photo-op.

After that, I got myself a Cheese Empanada from the Chilean pavilion, which I nommed on before I remembered to take a photo (DAMMIT!).  It was great; deep fried and filled with gooey cheese.  I wasn’t offered any kind of salsa with mine, and I think that would have made the empanada perfect.  We were both really full at that point, so we took a break to sit on a hill and people watch for a while.  And soak up the gorgeous sunshine we got that day too.

We stopped by the Aboriginal pavilion a few times to watch the incredible dancing, although I didn’t buy any bannock, because the lines were so long.  However, my supervisor at work makes AMAZING bannock, so I am able to get my deep fried bread fix whenever I need!

Sarah and I hit up the Guatemalan pavilion next, me for a Mango Loco (6 tickets): a whole mango on a stick, dipped in lime juice and then rolled in cayenne pepper and salt.  Sarah got a Chicken Tamal (4 tickets), which was cooked perfectly.  

After meeting up with a friend, and taking a peek through a bunch of the vendor stalls, and me getting my hand hennaed, Sarah and I headed home.  

Before we hopped back on the bus, we stopped off at the Ecuadorean pavilion and got a Pan con Carne (5 tickets), a bun filled with sliced beef, tomatoes and onions.  The sandwich was really nice, but guess who forgot to take a picture!  This girl!  By the time we left, at 2pm, the Park was packed with people enjoying the last few hours of the Festival.  I had a blast, as always, and I can’t wait for next year.

The Servus Heritage Festival was held from August 6-8, 2011 at William Hawrelak Park

Monday, July 11, 2011

Edamame & Cauliflower Pasta Salad with Feta

I love pasta salad; it's one of those things people always bring to potlucks and barbecues, even if they're just bringing a tub of grocery store macaroni salad (don't get me wrong, I have a somewhat guilty soft spot for store-bought mac salad).  So when I was asked to bring something to a family barbecue last week, I automatically volunteered to bring a pasta salad.  Now, I have a go-to pasta salad, and it's good, if a little boring: tri-colour fusili, chopped bell peppers, kalamata olives, balsamic dressing and feta cheese.  Like I said, it’s a nice enough salad, but I wanted something a little different, and already had a recipe in mind.

I found this recipe at The Kitchn, and was immediately smitten.  I love edamame, and feta, and I liked the idea of soy to season the dressing. I hate when people rinse pasta to cool it; it gets rid of the starch which means the dressing has nothing to stick to, so I also like the idea of adding the frozen beans to the hot pasta to cool it.

Another point in this salad’s favour is the fact that it keeps well.  It can sit in the fridge for a few days, making it a great lunch staple, and also it won’t go icky if it’s sitting on the buffet table at a summer barbecue.

 Edamame & Cauliflower Pasta Salad with Feta
Adapted from The Kitch
I changed a few things from the original recipe: I added some mustard and lemon zest to the dressing, and I left out the mint and green onions in favour of flat-leaf parsley and chives.

serves 8 to 10
500g dry orzo
16 ounces shelled frozen edamame
1 medium head cauliflower 

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon sugar
2 lemons

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
8 ounces feta cheese, drained of excess liquid
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt it, and add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, or until al dente.  Meanwhile, zest one of the lemons, and juice both.  Whisk the olive oil, mustard, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice and zest together in a large mixing bowl.  Taste, and season it with salt and pepper.  Once the pasta’s cooked, drain it and add the pasta to the bowl.  Add the frozen edamame and toss to combine. Set aside.
Refill the pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat.  While waiting the water to come to a boil, chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, discarding the leaves and tough stem.  When the water boils, salt it, and add the cauliflower and cook until just tender — about 5 to 7 minutes.  Drain into a colander and let cool.
Chop the drained feta cheese. Toss the parsley, chives, feta, and drained cauliflower with the pasta and the dressing.  Give the salad one more taste to check the seasonings, and adjust if you need to.
Serve warm, lukewarm, or cold. This will keep very well in the refrigerator for a week or more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lemon Bars

There’s a lot going on in the next couple of weeks.

Just about all of it has to do with a family wedding happening; dresses to be bought, hair to be touched up, nails to be done, family coming into town.  In my family, or at least for Samantha and I, an event of this magnitude means baking.  

Two kinds of brownies, chocolate drop cookies, blueberry-peach crisp, pumpkin cookies, two kinds of chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars.  

We have 3 teenage boys coming to stay, which, combined with my own brothers means that this amount of baking may be JUST enough to keep everyone in treats for four or five days.  Hopefully.

I’ve already told you about the brownies I made so today let’s discuss lemon bars.  I had my heart set on lemon bars, and spent a good day going through my recipe books and various food websites for a recipe that met my expectations; mostly, a thin shortbread crust with no almonds (we have nut allergies in the fam), a puckery lemon layer, with plenty of zest.  I chose the Barefoot Contessa’s lemon bars, via Deb at the Smitten Kitchen.  I like it for a couple reasons; it doesn’t include the almond extract a lot of recipes have (I know, I could just leave it out if it’s called for, but the stubborn part of me would rather just not have it there in the first place), it has a double-thick lemon layer, and everyone knows the lemon layer is one of the best parts of a lemon bar!  Lastly, since I’d found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, it meant a blogger I trust had tested it for me!  Deb upped the salt in the shortbread and reduced the sugar in the lemon layer.  Ina also doesn’t recommend you to grease your pan in the original recipe, but Deb suggests you do. 
I followed Deb’s version closely, but made some adaptations of my own; first, I used 7 large eggs instead of the 6 extra-large eggs that are always called for in Barefoot Contessa recipes.  I love Ina Garten, I really do, but who buys extra-large eggs?  NO ONE else calls for them!  It’s one of those things that’s kept me from really trying out some of her recipes.

In order to figure out how to substitute large for extra-large eggs, I did some fooling around with Google, I found a chart that sort of answered my question (sort of).  In the end, I just added an extra egg, and that seemed to work out just fine.  Another change is that I split the recipe between two 8x8” pans, instead of using one 9x13” one.  I also did what I always do when baking, and that’s line my pans with aluminum foil, since it’s just easier than messing around trying to get the grease into the corners, and wrestling with the bars getting them out of the pan once they were done.

Oh, you want to know if they were good?  Oh my Christ, yes.  I’m trying out a batch using key limes next.  I’ll let you know how it goes.


Lemon Bars

A few last words about this recipe; first, don’t you DARE make them with bottled lemon juice.  Lemons are dirt cheap, buy a few and squeeze them yourself.  I bought a bag of ridiculously huge (and delicious!) lemons from Superstore; two of them gave me more than enough zest, and four of them gave me a whole cup of juice.  I have a cute little hand-juicer from Ikea that does the job great.

For the shortbread: 

1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 cups flour

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

For the lemon layer: 

6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 9x13” baking pan (or two 8x8” pans) with aluminum foil.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Chill. Press the crust into the prepared pan, and bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into 2”-squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.