Category Archives: food

Sunny Sunday

We’re battening down the hatches here in Vancouver, expecting some cold weather and snow this week, so we decided to take advantage of the sunnier-than-average day and head out on the town.

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Catholic liturgical year, and so we walked over to Holy Rosary Cathedral for the 9:30 mass. It’s a lovely neo-gothic church, small for a cathedral (in my limited experience). The women’s choir sang with the Assistant Organist Catherine Walsh and they were joined by a violist whose name wasn’t printed in the bulletin. (At 11:00, trumpeter Katherine Evans was to be present with a number of Telemann pieces on the program.)

After mass, we wandered over to the Vancouver Centre Skytrain station and purchased a Compass card, the transit payment system here in Vancouver that recently launched, and then rode south to the King Edward station. We grabbed a coffee at Starbucks until Pronto opened at 11:30, where we had lunch.

pronto lunch

It’s across the street from the Park Theatre (our ultimate destination) and had good recs on Yelp. Zouheir had an excellent sandwich and so-so soup. My pasta special was dry. Seemed like leftovers, put in a bowl, topped with cheese, broiled, then some tomato sauce spooned on top. But my glass of wine was just fine.

But then we saw Brooklyn at the theatre, and all was forgotten. Based on a novel by Colm Toíbin and with screenplay by Nick Hornby, it was a lovely film, beautifully shot, great cast, and a heartbreaking story. While I had read the novel some time ago, the film particularly resonated with my husband, an immigrant multiple times and familiar with the pull of the old (and the new.)


I missed my book club meeting in Toronto today. I had suggested that we read an aboriginal author this month, and chose Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. This was before I knew that I would be in Vancouver, so I sent in my comments by email last night. I started:

This book is as close to a “10” as I can imagine. From a structure, story, and writing perspective, I find it pretty much perfect. I read Indian Horse, his previous novel and rated it 4/5 on Goodreads. I recall that it sat inside me for days after I finished reading it and I suspect this one will too….

Wagamese has received multiple honours for this novel, and they are well-deserved. Highly recommended.

Finally, a petition has been initiated to ban battery cages (used in raising chickens) in Canada. Please visit this link to find out more and sign the petition.

My go-to diet aid: food choices

This is a big chart, but these tips have helped me lose 25 pounds (with 15 left to go.)

What’s missing here is alcohol. My doc challenged me on the number of units I consume per day and i’m committed to cutting back.

THanks to DesignTaxi for pointing me to this chart.


Fall Friday recipe

Vegan? Catholic who abstains from meat on Fridays? Or just looking for a hearty fall recipe?

From Toronto Star
From Toronto Star

The Star posted a recipe for Old Style Pinto Beans the other day from a cookbook called Decolonize Your Diet: Plant-Based Mexican-American Recipes for Health and Healing (affiliate link), and if you’ve got a reasonably stocked kitchen, you probably have everything you need.

There are instructions for both slow cooker (yay!) and stove top cooking, and uses dried beans with no pre-soaking required. (Well, they have to cook for a long time, but with a slow-cooker, that’s no problem.) I didn’t have pinto beans on hand so used my stash of romano beans instead.

There’s a facebook group and website that can help you find other ways to pump up the health factor in your diet. I’ll be checking them out.

Family Recipe Friday Redux

Last week, I posted some Christmas cake recipes from my grandmother, her mother, and her mother-in-law. I got messages from my mom as well as two of her sisters with more information about the traditions around these dishes.

My mom wrote (in the comments):

The dark fruitcake was used for birthdays – it had two eggs. However we had another fruit cake that called for a “pound of eggs”, about 10, and this was made only for Christmas and New Year and Lillian’s birthday, December 28!

Your e-mail brought back a lot of memories – of the whole family sitting around the kitchen table late November or early December making mincemeat!

Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith's graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.
Aunts Joyce, Edith, and Lilian at Edith’s graduation from University of Toronto, 1956.

My Aunt Edith emailed me to say “When we were kids, the Christmas cake was made in 3 graduated tins – like wedding cake tins.  The largest cake was for Christmas, the middle-sized one for New Year’s (Lillian’s b’day?[December 28])  and when Joyce arrived the third one, for a few years, was her birthday cake. 

My Aunt Lillian wrote that the two larger fruitcakes were for Christmas and New Year and that she got the smaller one for her birthday, perhaps until my Aunt Joyce came along some years later in mid-January.

All three sisters remembered, as my Aunt Lillian put it, “the cheap fruit cake”.  Aunt Edith wrote “[The] other siblings’ birthday cakes were the much cheaper and less fruity (i.e. no peel, almonds, pecans, cherries, etc.) fruit cakes, the ‘fruit’ being basically raisins.”  My mother remembered that the cheap fruit cake had no eggs.

Of the mincemeat: My mother wrote that it was “not at all like the one you get in cans. We liked grandmas although we also liked the other. My father got a hamper from the place where he worked [Canada Packers] at Christmas and it included mince meat in a can.” Aunt Lillian noted that 1/2 the mincemeat recipe is enough to make 2 pies.

My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)
My uncle, James Ross Gear. (1934-1957)

Aunt Edith also commented on the handwriting of the second and third recipes, which I did not recognize: I’m not sure who printed out the other two recipes, although my guess is that it was [my Uncle] Ross.  When he was at home with nephritis, he did a variety of things like knitting at least one scarf, hooking a rug, and so on.  I think he also began to copy  some of mother’s recipes on cards to fit into a recipe box.  However, the asterisk and ‘2 1/2 tbsp’ on the pudding recipe is my addition!  

My Uncle Ross died in 1957 of kidney failure at the age of 22, and so I never got to meet him. It feels nice to have something that he wrote, if that is in fact the case.

My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.
My grandparents William Gear, Daisy Goddard, and sons Ross and Bill.


Cooking for a crowd (of four)

retro stoveIt feels like a crowd, anyways. Both boys have been at home for the past few weeks, one on his way out to a new apartment and one home from university for part of the summer. Plus the big boy, the constant in my life.

I’ve tried a few new recipes lately, ones with leftover potential for those late night snacks. Here are a couple.

I’d been craving a warm and cozy one pot pasta and meat dish. Normally, for plain old macaroni and cheese, I make Alton Brown’s fabulous and tasty Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese, into which we can add peas, sausages, or just eat plain. It’s great to use up leftover bits of cheese, but don’t use a stringy cheese like mozzarella or it becomes a bit of a mess to eat. If you’re looking for something to wean you off the blue box, this is it.

But this time I wanted something heartier and I found this Beefy Macaroni Casserole that turned out to be seriously addictive. It’s the kind of recipe that is easy to make because it uses things I typically have on hand. I didn’t have any ready-made stock, so I just used more canned tomatoes and it worked out just fine, although I overcooked the macaroni a bit. It should be quite firm before you mix it with the other ingredients.
Beefy Macaroni Casserole

Finally, I saw this recipe from Chef Michael Smith in the paper. Apparently he’s a big fan of Canadian lentils and the website has a series about them featuring Smith. I prepared the Umbrian Lentils and Sausages using spicy Italian sausages. While I thought the recipe would be under-flavoured, it was pretty much perfect. I confess to NOT using Canadian lentils as I had a bunch in my cupboard. I didn’t even realise we grew lentils in this country, so will endeavour to find some next time.

Umbrian Lentils and Sausage (Chef Michael Smith)

Lent(il) Pie

Yesterday was Pi Day (and a Lenten Friday) and I intended to make some kind of non-meat pie for dinner. I confess to not (yet!) having mastered pie crust so I count on frozen pastry shells, of which I only had one.

So on to plan B.

I’ve always got lentils etc on hand so I googled <lentil pie> and found this terrific recipe for Lentil Chilli Pie with Cornbread Crust for which I had all the ingredients. I used a dutch oven so that I could simply put the cornbread batter over the chilli in the same pot, and then pop it in the oven.

I served it with chopped avocado, hot sauce, and greek yogurt. And then had it again for breakfast this morning!


Speaking of Lent, this giving-up-refined-sugar thing is working in that (1) every time I crave sugar, I’m reminded of this penitential season and say a quick prayer or make the sign of the cross; (2) my sugar addiction seems to be breaking; and (3) I’ve lost 7 pounds, with no other dietary restrictions.

This sacrifice is the hardest one I’ve done in the 10 years I’ve been Catholic. Giving up alcohol was a breeze in comparison. I’m going to consider continuing on with trying to live with a vastly sugar-reduced diet.

Zou and I went for coffee on our walk back from the library today and i got a bran muffin.  It’s sometimes hard to know where to draw the line: is a plain croissant “better” than a bran muffin? I got the muffin. it wasn’t sweet. And I put the little chocolate squares that came with the coffee in my pocket for the chocolate addict who lives in my basement. The one who serves himself small bowls of chocolate chips during Lent because his mother isn’t dealing sugar at the moment.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A lemony partner for salmon

Vintage Fish stamp courtesy of the Graphics Fairy,
Vintage Fish stamp courtesy of the Graphics Fairy,

I’m not a big fan of white fish: tilapia, sole, haddock etc., but i love salmon and steelhead trout, and my partner absolutely adores this accompaniment for oily fish. I usually double the recipe and triple the amount of cooked rice if I’m making it as a side dish (rather than stuffing.) 

Fillet of steelhead Trout
Fillet of steelhead Trout

Lemon and Rice Stuffing
(from The Canadian fish cookbook! by A Jan Howarth):

1/3 cup butter
1 c. minced celery
1/3 c. minced onion
1-1/2 c. cooked rice
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 tbsp. grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Melt butter in a frying pan and sauté celery and onion for 3 to 4 minutes until tender-crisp. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Makes 3 cups. Use to stuff fillets or whole fish. 

Two nights ago, I made two large fillets of steelhead trout and had a lot left over. Today, I made a quiche using the leftover trout  and some asparagus with this recipe. I added an additional egg and some extra milk (I used goat milk) to fill the pie shell. It turned out very well and I’m pleased to have used up leftovers as we’re both out tomorrow night.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Food memory: chicken cacciatore

PrintWhen I was visiting my mom in Ottawa last week and we were reminiscing, i reminded her how much I loved her chicken cacciatore. I seem to be able to conjure the taste in my mind, and it’s one of the favourites from my childhood.

I mentioned this to my husband upon my return and he decided to prepare it for Sunday dinner after I returned from book club. I have her old recipe files and notebooks, and I found it in her “Do it yourself Cook Book”, a blank-ish notebook designed for home cooks to record their tried and true recipes.

It was wonderful, with exactly the same taste as I remembered.

Here’s the recipe. Mom noted that it was from the “Old Good Housekeeping” cook book.

Chicken Cacciatore

6 tbsp oil
2-3 lb broiler-fryer chicken, cut up
1 cup minced onions
3/4 cup minced green peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 28 oz can tomatoes
1 – 8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup chianti [yikes…we never had wine in the house]
3-3/4 tsp salt [bizarre quantity – reduce this by at least half]
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Dash cayenne

Sauté chicken in oil on all sides until golden.
Add onions, peppers, garlic; brown lightly.
Add rest of ingredients and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until chicken is tender.
Serve with rice.

Makes excellent leftovers!

Mexican Chicken Sandwiches

In sorting through one of my paper piles, I uncovered a recipe by Amy Rosen that I’d torn out of the National Post last February. (So low-tech, I know.) In her quest to understand why we don’t have sandwiches for dinner more often, she whipped up this concoction that got raves round the outdoor dinner table last night.

Photo: Amy Rosen
Photo: Amy Rosen

Built on fresh, Portuguese rolls, it’s made up of heated and mashed black beans, butterflied, marinated, and sautéed/grilled chicken breasts topped with cheddar cheese, avocado slices, fresh onion rings, and a tangy lime-mayonnaise.

Highly recommended!

Easing my way into VB6

vegan heartI posted recently about my interest in Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 eating plan and have been slowly making my way there. I’ve eased of dairy with my cereal, opting for yoso’s Soygo yogurt. My grocer doesn’t carry the unsweetened version so I must request it, or perhaps I’ll move to almond milk with my granola. I’ve stopped using cream in my coffee, and have had a few peanut butter based sandwiches for lunch.

But I don’t really like sandwiches, in general, so need to amp up the vegetarian evening meals so that I have leftovers for lunch. I have determined that it’s pretty hard for me to get a decent vegan fast food meal as the moment I walk in to, say McDonald’s thinking about a salad, the smell draws me inexorably to the forbidden. So for the time being, I’m eating at home. Which is a good thing.

I did a Costco run yesterday and picked up some Veggie Patch Mediterranean Chick Pea and Spinach patties which I heated up for lunch today. Yummo! I have a recipe for a similar made-from-scratch patty so must dig it out, but these ones are great for a quick meal. I’m using lentil hummus in place of tzatiki, but there must be some vegan way to make the latter. I also picked up a jumbo (to me) pack of four blocks of tofu so will be scouring my recipe books for ideas. (Please post or link to your fave tofu recipes in the comments. Please!)

Besides the VB6 book which has lots of recipes, I picked up a couple more at thrift shops:

The New Vegetarian Gourmet by Byron Ayanouglu
Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson
Detox Dieting by Nicola Graimes

I already have The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest but have found most of those recipes to be very time consuming. I will also dig into Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi which like so much of the food from that region, has a wealth of vegan options.

The wonderful food-blogger Jenny Newlon at Dinner of Herbs has lots of great ideas, and I’m hoping for more videos from vegan chef Anita Shepherd, like this one:

Enhanced by Zemanta