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Archive for the ‘Food and…’ Category

I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, but studies have found evidence that temporal landmarks can help overcome motivation problems. You may have seen it referred to as the fresh start effect. It’s not a panacea (as gym members everywhere can attest) but whatever, if it helps me to rethink my process in a productive way, great.

As New Year’s rolled around I started thinking about trying new things. Today I’m thinking about new recipes. 

Be it bread, brownies, cake, yogurt, or a magic wand, I like working out the best way (for me) to make something. And knowing that my birthday cake is going to come out exactly as planned? Priceless.

But I also like working on new projects, triangulating resources, experimenting with techniques or components. Making something new.

So far this year I’ve tested new ways to make cinnamon sugar bread, lemon cake, and mushroom soup. Next up? A quick trip to the tropics.

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Mr Man brought home a box of fresh passion fruit yesterday. I’ve tasted it before, most recently in a collection of holiday Chocolates by Enid.* Passion fruit also appears frequently on the Great British Baking Show, where bakers treat it like your average ingredient but might go bonkers for recipes I consider excellent but everyday, like Key Lime Pie. 

My lack of experience means I have questions. Why are the fruits I’ve got two completely different colors? How can you tell when they are ripe? Do you just scoop out the pulp or is there bitter pith to be avoided? How do I keep from thinking about runny noses and other gelatinous goop while engaging in said scooping? Does the goop need to be strained? And why are those seeds looking at me?!

So much to learn, and all of it sounds like fun. Wish me luck!

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Not Enid’s chocolates but hey, close enough! Photo by Massimo Adami on Unsplash

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* These chocolates appeared as a temporary holiday treat at a local farm store but the source is otherwise mysterious. Who is Enid? Where did she come from and why won’t she make chocolates past December? Has she now retreated back to Choclandia with the other chocolate fairies? And where can I find more of those passion fruit cream-filled chocolates?! 

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Today’s numbers: 18, 6, 4, 2.

  • 18: pounds of mushrooms*
  • 6: pounds of pears
  • 4: quarts of mushroom soup
  • 2: loaves of bread

I made cream of mushroom soup, fresh bread, plus pears poached with lemon, cinnamon and cardamom. And that was pretty much my day:)

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Photo by Dmitry Kovalchuk on Unsplash

* That was a lot of mushrooms.

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Today, a recipe that has an important place in our family history.

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Swedish Pancakes
(Mike Johnson)

Mike: The history of this recipe begins with Olga, my father’s father’s (far far in Swedish) sister. For most of her life she was a live-in maid and nanny for a rich family across town, from the time when Swedish girls were brought over to replace other ethnicities in the service industry. She also cooked for her brother and his children, and later grandchildren on the weekends. After that she took care of her son. She worked all her life, living with the same family for 30 years and only retiring at 85. She died at the age of 99, tired and more than ready to go.

Jen: My father often spoke of Olga and how she would stand at his grandfather’s stove flipping seven thin pancakes at a time in the special cast iron pan, piling plates high on Sunday mornings. She didn’t have a recipe, just mixed the ingredients together until they “looked right.” Dad finally made up his own and still uses it to play the role of Swedish grandmother, eating over the stove as the rest of us spread butter and sugar and lemon or lingonberries on the pancakes,* then roll them up to eat. Delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¼ C. milk
  • ¾ C. flour
  • ¼ C. sugar
Photo by M Draa on Unsplash

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* We do the dishes after so Dad can relax. We’re not monsters!

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Here’s a memory that would have been perfect for Halloween or Thanksgiving, but just came to me when I ran across the video below.

The first thing I planted in a garden (aside from myself) was okra. I’d never eaten it but knew that it was a staple in the South by way of some African food traditions. Once grown, I didn’t know how to cook it. The resulting dish was… ok. (If you’re wondering, I recommend using okra in stew or breading and frying the bejeezus out of it. Very good.)

The first thing I grew that I was really proud of was a pumpkin. This was a year or two later and I was still vertically challenged. That may explain why the pumpkin remains a giant in my mind, but maybe not. I’d read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and somewhere in there, probably Farmer Boy, they discuss milk-fed pumpkins. Well, who wouldn’t want to try that?

And it worked. Huge, that’s how I remember this pumpkin. Between the vines and the body the plant took up a whole section of the garden. I would ease down the little hill, through the tall grass and into the tilled area, basking in the hot summer sun while hoping to raise a monster.

A strong, bright, delicious monster, of course. A girl’s got to have standards.

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I’m working today but I’d rather be baking. While in Montreal last week I picked up some sugar cookies. Mediocre, not good, stale cookies. They were, to put it mildly, a disappointment.

I hate disappointment. What do I like? Recipes that are satisfying, easy enough to make whenever I want, and showcase flavor rather than perfection. A little flash doesn’t go amiss, either. 

We’re watching The Great Canadian Baking Show and I am reminded that there are so many interesting things out there to learn. So while I’m looking for the perfect sugar cookie recipe, I may also start building a list of essential* recipes and methods I don’t already know.

And then start baking.

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* My definition of essential will almost certainly differ from yours, but I’m aiming for techniques that can be used in a wide variety of recipes, help build flexibility into both recipes and bakers regardless of skill level, and eschew fiddly for fun. That said, how have I never made a pithivier? Also, buying puff pastry is absolutely acceptable in my book.

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Oh look, time for lunch. That means it’s also time to show you what happened when Mr. Man made lunch over the weekend.

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So cute!

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Here is a thing that I love, and the one item I requested from my grandmother’s estate: an artichoke plate. 

Artichokes are thorny, tough and difficult to pair with wine. They were at the heart (hehe) of a racketeering scheme in New York in the 1920s and ’30s, which led to a temporary ban and a dramatic upswing in knowledge about, and orders for, the vegetable. They also taste great.

The back of the plate is marked “E & R 0136” but that’s the only information I have. Where was it made, when, and did it come from Ebeling & Reuss or another manufacturer? I don’t know, but I love it anyway.

Disassembling an artichoke flower bud is a messy job, and this plate is the perfect canvas on which to do it. I prefer to serve mine with lemon butter sauce, but there’s also mayonnaise. If you must.

I doubt the dish is valuable from anything other than an emotional standpoint but that’s fine, I won’t be selling it. I have a lot of great memories about artichokes and about my grandmother, and this plate helps me remember both.

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I think I’m going to start cooking my books.

Not in a bad way! But some days generating inspired dinner ideas is a pain. So to drum up new recipes I’m going to cook some version of whatever is being served in my current book.

For example, if the characters take a few moments between aliens and heart-pounding explosions to enjoy pancakes or roast chicken or curry, that’s my starting point.

Because invasion or not, one must stay fueled!

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Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

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This is a nice combination: Green yaupon + peppermint lemongrass tea* = pretty very good. Maple syrup takes it over the top, because it’s awesome in everything.

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Photo by Carli Jeen on Unsplash

* No Camellia sinensis was harmed in the making of this beverage.

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You know those days when hoped-for sun never arrives and the design project that should have taken half an hour takes three and the pears you thought would be perfect in a fruit torte are rock hard and the bananas you need today aren’t anywhere near ripe, even after you bake them in a 300F oven for an hour?

It’s that kind of day.

So, ok, not great. But then I came up with not one but two solutions to the design issue and turned the pears into slow-cooked lemon, cinnamon and cardamom pear butter and made blueberry Grand Marnier tortes and I can work around the banana problem, I probably didn’t need the extra sugar anyway.

And you know what? It’s fine if the sun doesn’t come out today.

I’m shining on the inside.

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Photo by Johnny Briggs on Unsplash

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