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Zero Carb Noodles

Zero Carb Noodles

 

A short time ago I came across a new product, House Foods Shirataki white yam noodles. Hmmm.....I thought. Could this be? A truly zero carb product, no calories? This does sound too good to be true, but was does it taste like? That is always the question. The noodles in question come in liquid filled pouches, as they are a fresh noodle. They come in three different types: Fettuccini, spaghetti, and traditional shirataki, among others. These were the three I was able to find. Upon contacting the company for further details, they supplied the nutritional info and a recipe from Alexander Weiss, a MasterChef Junior winner in the UK, who won this award at the tender age of 14. (There’s a boy with a career path well underway!) I include the recipe and photos I took of the finished dishes below. The local Metro carries the noodles in the tofu section (you would need to check availability in your own area), even though they are not tofu. Let’s get to the recipe, and then my comments after trying the product. 

 

 Alexander Weiss' Pesto with Mushroom and Vegetables.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Alexander Weiss' Pesto with Mushroom and Vegetables.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Alexander’s Pesto with Mushrooms and Vegetables

Ingredients:

(For the pesto sauce)

1 Package of House Foods Tofu Shirataki Fettuccine, Spaghetti or Traditional Noodles

1 Large bunch of basil, washed (about 1 ½ cups)

3 Cloves garlic, crushed and peeled

⅓ Cup toasted walnuts

½ Cup extra virgin olive oil

⅓ Cup grana padano cheese, or parmigiano reggiano

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Garnish:

½ Cup English fresh peas

2 Thinly sliced shallots

½ Cup blanched asparagus TIPS (blanch in boiling water for 1 min)

1 Large handful of your favorite mushroom, (chanterelle, cremini, shiitake, black trumpet, etc)

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

⅓ Cup toasted pine nuts, salted

Salt and pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor or a blender, blitz the basil, garlic, walnuts, and cheese together until it is well chopped. In a slow and steady stream, drizzle in the olive oil while blending. Once the pesto is smooth and well blended, season with salt and pepper to your liking. Open the package of Shirataki Noodles, drain in a colander, rinse, and boil the noodles in salted water for 3 minutes. Drain and toss in pesto sauce. Plate with the vegetables.

 

In a searing hot pan, add in 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Heat until just starting to smoke, then add in the mushrooms and flip around w/ salt and pepper, until well seared. Remove from heat. In a large pot, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Once warm, add in peas, shallots, and asparagus tips. Season w/ salt and pepper. Cook for 2-3 min, or until veggies are warmed in the olive oil.

 

Now for my comments: In a word, I loved the noodles and the recipe. They refer to the veggies as a garnish, but it is actually a generous serving of veggies on top of the noodles. It looks beautiful (see photo), and if you want a special dish to serve to your friends and family, this qualifies, especially for those family members on a low carb diet. As for the specifics, I used shiitake mushrooms, and as fresh English peas are a rarity these days, opted for frozen. I also used two packages, one the fettuccini, the other spaghetti, just to give it a go with two different styles. Each pouch serves one in my opinion. By now you are thinking, OK, OK, enough of the chef talk, but how did it taste? These noodles definitely need a sauce, but then you would not eat plain pasta either. The texture is a little different, not the al dente of pasta, that most people expect. They are a little firmer to the bite, but not unpleasantly so. These were also tested on Taste Tester 1, and he found it very good as well. The price comparison to pasta says that pasta wins out pricewise, as the noodles are more expensive. Will I buy these again? Definitely. When you consider zero carbs and calories, they have something going here.  

  

 

Photo captions:

#1. Alexander Weiss’ Pesto with Mushrooms and Vegetables, Fettuccini

#2. Alexander Weiss’ Pesto with Mushrooms and Vegetable, Spaghetti

 

References:

House Foods.  www.house-foods.com Last accessed June 21, 2015.

 

Weiss, Alexander.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2822115/They-lot-harder-look-14-year-old-MasterChef-Junior-winner-attempts-Dominique-Ansel-s-home-Cronut-recipe.html.  Last accessed June 28, 2015.

 


It's That Green Time of the Year

It is that Green time of year again, and I am not thinking about gardening (well Ok, I am), or painting or anything else that might come to mind that is Green. In this specific case, I am thinking of the Big Green Egg. This marvel of Japanese and American engineering is a multi-functional cooking device, about three all wrapped up in one large green, dimpled device. “Tis the season,” as they say, for outdoor cooking in all its glory. 

 Large Big Green Egg. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Large Big Green Egg. Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

It could well be that you have never heard of the Big Green Egg, a lot of folks haven’t, so this is where this blog comes in. In fact, Eggheads, as we are known, have become a bit of a phenomenon around the world. They are quite popular in Africa and the Netherlands, for example. Big Green Eggs originated in Japan, a number of centuries ago, and at that time they were called Kamado cookers. They were large, jar-like ceramic “ovens” that the Japanese used to cook with. The original Kamados were subject eventually to breakage, a problem solved by good old-fashioned American engineering, in this case, space shuttle technology. The folks at Big Green Egg (really, you have to go to their website at www.biggreenegg.com) worked on the ceramics until they got it perfect. They still continue to experiment tweaking this and that, in the pursuit of an ever better Egg.

 

So, you may reasonably ask, how do these things work? If you can run a wood stove, you can do an Egg. If you don’t have a wood stove, do not worry. It is easy enough to get the hang of with some practice. The firebox is in the bottom chamber, which is where you put lump charcoal; I use one of those electric fire starters to get the charcoal started. It doesn’t take long, and I have been known to get the Egg fired up in ten to fifteen minutes. Now, having said all of this, be prepared for serious heat, and if you do not watch your Egg, it can easily shoot up to 700 degrees F. Yes. I find I run mine much lower, maybe 450 to 500 for pizzas, etc. Obviously, if you are doing a cake or something along that line you want a lower temperature. Also be careful about opening your Egg anytime it’s over 400, as it gets a blast of oxygen, and can woof at you, or singe your eyebrows. It has never singed mine, but I know someone that is has. 

 

You may also seriously ask, why all this to make a steak? That is where the art comes in. It is not just that you flap a steak on, cook it and eat. That is the goal, mind you, but it is how you get there that is important. It is what you cook your steak with, the seasonings involved, but at the end of the day, it is the taste. A truly perfect steak with that charcoal smoke taste is unbeatable. You can also do whole chickens or turkeys, seafood, anything that grills or bakes. It is also not all about the BBQ, as it can also be used as a smoker, and as I use it regularly, an outdoor (charcoal) fired oven. Does that smoke go with your chocolate cake? Yes! And your cinnamon buns? Absolutely. Pizza is where it is king, but so are breads like baguettes and various loaves. In fact I strive to make a complete meal on the Egg, with appetizers, the main course, and dessert all done one after the other (I recommend you start with dessert first, not a bad way to go, eh?).

 

I must confess, the first time I saw an Egg, I thought it was the most ugly thing I had ever seen. Still, my butcher Roger convinced me, it is THE way to go, his only regret being he did not buy a bigger one. Taking that advice, I bought the Large (he has a medium). I understand they now have a double extra-large. Hallelujah!

 

Feel free to contact me if you would like instruction on the Egg, or any other baking/ cooking instruction at www.svanslooten.com.  Or email me at suevanslooten@ripnet.com Come visit me, you get to eat what you make!

 

You can also follow my further adventures on Facebook and more blogs at www.motherearthnews.com

 

Notes:

Big Green Egg.  www.biggreenegg.com Last accessed May 19, 2015.

 

 

 

New England Clam Chowder

New England (Boston-style) Clam Chowder

P1000497.jpg

 

If you’re from New England, you know about Clam Chowder.  No tomatoes here.  This is a simple recipe using canned clams, so no shucking involved, unless you want to of course.  Bacon is an important ingredient here, a good quality, smoky one would be an excellent choice.  I get mine from a local butcher.  Depending on the saltiness of the bacon, you may or may not want to add extra salt.  Like the shucking, it’s up to you.  I used two different kinds of clams, baby and ocean chopped, which gave it a really nice texture between the two.  All diced items should be about a 1/2” dice.  If you like thinner chowder, add the water, if not, leave it out.  This is excellent on a cold winter‘s night, with a good ale or even Guinness, and don’t forget the soda or oyster crackers on the side.

 

6 slices good smoky bacon, diced

1 large onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

5-6 potatoes, diced

½ cup water

1 cup milk

1 cup cream (half & half works well, or 18% table cream is even better)

1½ cups mixed, canned clams, drained, reserve liquid.  (Baby and/or ocean, chopped in the latter case.)

Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Saute bacon until brown, but not crunchy.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  Add the onions and celery to the drippings, and sauté until the onion is starting to turn golden.  Add the potatoes, cook for a minute or two, then add the reserved clam juice.  Cook until the potato is tender.  Add the cooked bacon, milk and cream, heat through.  Add the clams, and heat just until hot, you don’t want to overcook them.  Adjust for your seasonings, and serve. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commercial Tortillas?

Commercial Tortillas?

 

Several blogs ago, I wrote how our resident Royal Swans refused to eat commercially made doughnuts, and for that matter, so also the resident squirrels, birds and chipmunks. This is not necessarily a litmus paper test for the wholesomeness of commercially prepared foods, but...it is, in my opinion, an indicator. Royal aloofness aside, we have another suspect: Tortillas. Some of you emailed me at the time, telling me the same for commercially prepared cookies. After a week of -20 C temperatures at night, parts are still sitting there.  They have been moved around; perhaps they are not seen as edible?  For the record, I have never had homemade anything, be it cookies, biscuits, or bread, be refused by the local critter crew. 

 

In this instance I am not going to attempt homemade tortillas in another experiment, but it does lead me to a number of thoughts. First, what chemicals/additives/preservatives could be present that animals detect, and we generally do not? I do admit, the tortillas in this case did have a certain chemical odor to them, not bad, but not good either. They came in one of those dinner kits, the ones with the hard and soft tortilla together, the ones in question being the soft. The list of chemicals contained in a simple tortilla is astounding.   

 

A second thought enters my mind, and that is Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs for short. There are a lot of suspicions about GMOs, and I myself do not trust them. Corn today is almost all GMO unfortunately, and the one of the main types of tortillas are made of corn. You can’t even trust an innocent looking tortilla. Perhaps they are not all that innocent. The recent controversy over GMO labeling is most concerning, and the threat of lawsuits against those who would like to see all foods containing them so labeled, is appalling. 

 

A third concern I have, is that while I am very much into food, generally the less processed the better (I admit for having fallen for the dinner kit, I should know better), there is a matter of cooking skill levels and access to better ingredients that can be challenging for a number of folks. The food deserts that have come to our attention these last several years are still there in quite a lot of places, and people just do not have the ability, for a number of reasons, to be able to purchase fresh, healthy food. Not wishing to sound like a broken record, the loss of cooking skills on a fairly large scale in Western societies only aggravates an already serious problem. Big Ag has pretty much succeeded in making a large majority of our populations dependent on their pre-fab, convenience style foods, not to mention huge quantities of consumers who eat at fast food style restaurants. 

 

The truly frightening overall picture one sees in North America and Europe is two populations on either side of the Pond dependent, not knowing how to cook, not having healthy food to cook in the first place, or the necessary appliances, etc. to cook (I am thinking here of people with no access to kitchens). Europe and the Economic Union (EU) have fought this battle better than most, banning GMOs in a lot of cases, but they are still under threat by lawsuit. Certain social justice/awareness groups have sprung up to try and bridge this gap, for example Slow Food [#1, #2. See References below]. Importantly, a lot of very local community and church groups have started community kitchens, among other programs.  One of my mottos has always been, if you can’t get the government to do its proper job (not caving to pressure from Big Ag), then, you have no choice but to go around them. In short, if you can’t beat them, go around them, which is what a lot of groups have done, and are doing. Great progress has been made at an incredible cost in terms of time, money, and expertise. A large battle still looms, for example in the area of seed saving, where in some jurisdictions, it is illegal. 

 

Let me illustrate. A number of years ago, it was more or less quietly (unofficially as far as I know) mandated by the province in which I live, that the government should do away with family farms as much as possible, and make it as difficult as possible for farmer’s markets or social events serving food. No home prepared food to be bought, consumed, or sold. Markets came under strict scrutiny by the local Health Units, until a landmark situation took place. The health inspectors went to an art show where the local ladies’ auxiliary prepared sandwiches. They poured bottles of bleach over the plates [#3, see References below]. Welcome to the Food Police, as they became known by some. There was instant outrage in the media, ministers claimed having no knowledge, or condoning of this act, etc., etc. After that governmental faux pas, farmer’s markets started popping up everywhere, literally. Some towns now had several. There were way too many for the inspectors to inspect, and as long as certain basics are maintained, they continue to sell their products. 

 

 Popular commercial tortillas.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Popular commercial tortillas.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

References:

1.     www.slowfood.com  Last accessed March 8, 2015.

2.     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Food  Last accessed March 8, 2015.

3.     http://www.canada.com/windsorstar/news/story.html?id=41f27227-f9b4-4b45-b58d-2b4485547f53  Last accessed March 8, 2015.


You are welcome to email Sue at suevanslooten@ripnet.com.

Cooking Tips for the New Year

Cooking Tips for the New Year

 

The New Year has come, and January itself is about gone. I think it is appropriate then that I offer some tips to make your cooking and baking life easier in future. A lot of times in life, it isn’t always the expensive gadget or appliance, it’s often the little things that really count. Every cook has a repertoire of tricks and techniques, as I’m sure you all do. Perhaps you’d like to share a few with your fellow readers, and if so, I can post them via a future, or next, blog. Just drop me a line at suevanslooten@ripnet.com, and I’ll be happy to take a look at them. They will also get posted on my website at www.svanslooten.com. We can all learn something from each other that way. So, let’s get cooking on this.

 

1.     Parchment paper-Not just a fancy waxed paper. Parchment can be worth its weight almost in gold when it comes to baking. I always use it to line cake pans, sweet breads, etc. Also, with fussy cookies, or sticky ones like macaroons, it is indispensible. It will really save you a lot of headaches when it comes to turning out your favourite product. It’s also useful for cooking fish packets and goodies like that. Plus, as it is greaseproof, if it isn’t too soiled, you can reuse it. It also tends to not burn as easily as paper would.

2.     Instant read thermometer. In baking, it is very handy indeed to know if your product is done. The instant read will tell you at about 190 F., you bread is basically done. In candy making, well, don’t attempt it without one. I’ve done it, but....the results were good, I just find the thermometer takes the guess work out of it. Ditto for any kind of cheese or yogurt making.

3.     Dough whisk-heck, you could do a whole blog on this one. We even gave one away a couple of years ago. It is wire crazy loops mounted on a handle. The only place I know where you can get one is King Arthur Flour, and it’s worth going all out for the big one. If you want to make bread, this is the device to have. Even for just mixing dry ingredients together it’s great, but when it comes to mixing a loose, still ragged bread dough, you will wonder how you managed to survive all these years without one.

4.     Olive oil. Use this instead of vegetable oil in your bread and cake recipes. If you use the light tasting stuff, you will never know that pumpkin bread or brownies, or zucchini bread was made with olive oil. I just made an applesauce cake with it-delicious! In fact, I think it tastes even better. You then don’t have to rely on commercially made vegetable oils, which are garnering question marks about their quality and integrity. Besides, millions of Romans, Greeks, and their modern day counterparts, can’t be wrong.

5.    Jar Key. This is one of those little gadgets that really will make life easier, as when you get a particularly stubborn pickle jar, jam jar, or what have you. Many a time I have struggled to turn the lid, to no avail. Enter the Jar Key (see red item in photo). Hook it on, lift it up, and the vacuum seal breaks. Now you can open your jar. 

6.    Spray Oils. This may seem like an obvious one, but I’m sure someone is still struggling to grease fancy shaped pans, etc. I keep two varieties on hand, maybe three. The first is an all purpose canola oil type. The second is the baking type, which has flour in it, particularly useful for baking. The third, although I don’t usually keep it on hand, is olive oil. They do work really well, and are a true convenience. The one caveat I have is, don’t breathe the fumes, and I question what’s really in the propellant, namely isobutane and propane. This is particularly true with the baking one with flour. Improperly used, you can have a real flamethrower on your hands.

7.    Kitchen torch. Speaking of flame throwers, this one is more fun than anything else, but if you really do want to caramelize that brown sugar on your crème brulee, this is the tool. They’re really just mini versions of the standard propane torch, only they usually take butane as their fuel. Note to parents: High school age boys find these fascinating. (Hint to the wise:  Don’t use the standard torch, you won’t have much left.)

8.    Butter. Is better. We all know about the dangers of trans-fats in margarine by now, so without sounding like a broken record, don’t use it. It also just doesn’t work well in cookies, cakes, and generally not at all in pies. If you want to get grossed out by one of industrial foods more questionable products, read the history on this one. You’ll never touch the stuff again. Shortening is also questionable for the same reason, but there is an alternative if you don’t want to go the butter route, and that’s the trans-fat free stuff. It is a vegan product that works very well. It is generally much more expensive however, but, if you feel it’s worth it, go for it. I’m thinking of pies here, so you could also go the lard route. Or, 50/50 butter and shortening works very well too. 

9.    And last but not least: Time. Trying to cook or bake in a rush is not only very stressful, but can often times lead to disaster. No on wants to be like Marge Simpson when she’s late for the bake sale. 

You can drop Sue a line at suevanslooten@ripnet.com, she’d love to hear from you.

 Some interesting cooking tools.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Some interesting cooking tools.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Goldschlager

Goldschlager

 

This will probably be one of the most unusual blogs I’ve done, but hey, it’s Christmas. Somehow the topic, or idea of Goldschlager came into my head this summer, and I was curious to see if it was still available. I had a different name for it, but once we were on the same page, the lady at our local LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) knew exactly what I was looking for. What is Goldschlager? It’s a fascinating Swiss/Italian liquor, or schnapps, to be more precise, with a spicy cinnamon flavor. What makes it so fascinating are the small flakes of pure gold that float in the bottle. Quite pretty actually. Just for the record, gold is completely edible, so there’s nothing toxic about consuming it. In fact, some believe ingesting gold can be good for your health, but who knows. In upscale baking and chocolates, you find gold leaf all the time, and yes, those products decorated with it look absolutely, no questions asked, gorgeous.

 

The value of the gold in each bottle is negligible, but according to Wikipedia, it was worth €0.56 EUR in November, 2012. That was about $1.23 US or $1.44 CAN at that time, so it gives you an idea that it isn’t a lot of gold. In a 1 litre bottle, that comes to about 13 grams. Metal markets fluctuate widely, so who knows now. It’s more the novelty of actual flakes of gold floating around that seems to fascinate people. 

 

This particular liquor was originally Swiss, but with being bought out by a succession producers, it has vacillated between Switzerland and Italy. The bottle I bought is produced in Italy. I was also surprised that this was not an exorbitant liquor to buy (because of the gold, I thought it would be unaffordable), but as proven above, the amount of gold is quite small. The 750 ml. bottle came to about $30 CAN. 

 

This all being said, what does it actually taste like? Not being a schnapps drinker, I had no idea. Schnapps to me always seemed like something my German ancestors would drink, not me. Very old-fashioned in other words. So what’s the verdict? (Do keep in mind, my tasting panel was small, three in total, and opinions expressed were strictly their own.) As seen in the photo, the liquor is clear. 

 Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Photo by Sue Van Slooten

 

Taster #1: Cinnamon-y smell with vodka. Rich taste, exactly and overwhelmingly like Fireball, but cleaner, less sweet and sticky. Like a high quality Fireball.

 

Taster #2: Cinnamon-y smell again, with a rich, smooth taste. Slightly syrupy. Quite nice actually. You can smell and taste the alcohol and cinnamon of course, but seems well balanced.   

 

Taster #3: Nose of vanilla. “Oh, that’s good!” Sweet, but then like candy. Definitely cinnamon, like red hots.

 

So there you have it, the low down on a semi-mythical liquor that most people hear about but usually don’t try. And those gold flakes? I want to filter them out, then take them to a jeweler to see if you can put them in a little glass bottle to wear as a pendant. Sort of like what tourists do when they pan for gold in Alaska these days. 

 

Wikipedia entry:

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldschlager

 

LCBO website:

http://www.lcbo.com

 


 

 

 

Artificial Sweeteners: Why They're Not Your Best Friend

Artificial Sweeteners

 

Artificial sweeteners, for example Splenda, Equal, Sugar Twin, or any of the house named brands of the same thing, are used by millions of people every day, with the hope of helping to lose weight and prevent dental decay (Wikipedia, Nov. 28, 2014). These products have been on the market now, some of them for over 40 years, or even longer if you want to look at saccharin or cyclamates. Controversy has, and still does, swirl around their safety and effectiveness. They are in many, many food products, making it nearly impossible to avoid them. Yogurt, ice cream, sodas, fruit drinks, juices, puddings, gelatin products, cookies, snacks, candies, the list goes on and on, and people just keep consuming more and more of them. Exactly as their manufacturers had hoped we would. We’ve been consistently warned about the ill effects of too much weight, and the so-called obesity and diabetes epidemics now for 30 years or more. Yet, people gain more and more, and more and more of us are diabetic, exemplified now in young children and teens. We were told these “safe” products would help us win the Battle of the Bulge, cut down on the carbs we consume, and prevent tooth decay. Evidence now points to the obesity epidemic starting about the time artificial sweeteners became mainstream. I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in soft drinks, ketchup, etc. So, have they lived up to their promises? 

 

I would have to answer with a resounding NO. We’re all fatter than ever (at least a lot of us are), and diabetes is the disease of the decade. I can’t speak to tooth decay, perhaps that’s one area we’ve gained in. If it is, is it worth the risks? Save your teeth and become diabetic or obese? There have been arguments on both sides of the fence, pro and con. Why, if they’re so wonderful, aren’t we all slim and trim, with no hint of diabetes anywhere? What about the side effects, such as digestive distress with Splenda, and addiction to Equal? Even my doctor, a GP, got addicted to it, drinking more and more diet soda (he ended with drinking 10-12 cans a day!). I got addicted to it many years ago by putting more and more of those innocent little blue packets into my tea. After a while, I just couldn’t get enough tea with that stuff in it. After my GP warned of his experience, I did an experiment. I cut them all out, the cravings for sugar or aspartame were awesome, but after 3 days it all went away. The 2nd part of my experiment was to see if I could re-create the addiction. Sure enough, after less than a week of putting the aspartame back in, the cravings all came back. Cut them out again, it all went away. The lesson learned here, after using myself as a guinea pig, was yes, it’s absolutely addicting. Also, have you ever wondered why they say don’t bake with it? The answer is that at high oven temperatures, or lower temperatures but over a longer period of time, aspartame breaks down into formaldehyde. That sounds really yummy.

 

Further evidence to back up the damming nature of these products comes from a recently released 2014 study on artificial sweeteners in Israel (Suez, Jotham, et al, 2014). Researchers in Chicago concurred (Wikipedia, 2014). Many of you perhaps have heard about this already, but if you haven’t, here’s the gist: Those who consume artificial sweeteners have different fauna and flora in their gut than those who don’t consume them. Also, those with the altered gut organisms, develop diabetes. You heard correct, it was their conclusion that these products actually cause diabetes, just by changing the gut fauna and flora. The irony here is, that sugar was believed to cause diabetes. It does not, but does aggravate it once you have it. Their 381 test subjects, all volunteers, were fed a diet of this stuff, becoming diabetic, but when their gut bacteria was all killed off with use of an anti-biotic, they went back to their non-diabetic selves. It also seems to be a cause of obesity as well. This opens up a number of intriguing possibilities, but also an awful lot of troubling questions. What are these things actually doing to us? Did the manufacturers know this would be the result? Now that the evidence is pointing in the direction that it is, will they ban these products? Where does the FDA among others go from here? If anywhere? My fear is that it will all be swept under the carpet and ignored. After all, there is big money to be made, and it’s almost always at the public’s expense. It isn’t the first time our health has been held hostage for profit. It will be most interesting to see what the European Union (EU) does with this information, as they are usually quicker to respond to these issues than the US or Canada. 

 

We do have a choice (amazingly): We don’t have to eat this stuff. It would appear that the terribly maligned sugar (sucrose) may still be the safest. And we don’t have to use tons of it either: I regularly cut all sugar called for in a baking recipe in half, usually with no ill effects to the finished product. Another trick is to substitute brown sugar, again a reduced quantity, for the white sugar. Your foods will have more flavor. You do need to use your common sense however, so what I recommend is to cut some of the sugar the first time you make your recipe, if it works, and you still want less sugar, cut it some more the next time you make it. This is a system of trial and error, but we’ll all be healthier in the end. 

 

Notes:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_substitute Retrieved November 28, 2014. 

Jotham Suez, Tal Korem, David Zeevi, Gili Zilberman-Schapira with thirteen others, all from one of nine Israeli research institutes (2014). "Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota". Nature (preview) 514 (7521): 181–6. doi:10.1038/nature13793. PMID 

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/artificial-sweeteners-may-disrupt-bodys-blood-sugar-controls/?_r=0

 

 

 

 

 

 

Future Chef Competiton in Gold and Treasure Coast, Florida

Future Chef Competition

By Sheryl Paul,

Guest Blogger

 

Saturday October 18, 2014

Slow Food Gold & Treasure Coast in cooperation with the Downtown Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market and the St Lucie County Schools Culinary Arts Council held a competition between area schools culinary arts classes.

Each participating high school prepared an appetizer and an entrée, made from ingredients found at the Farmer’s Market.  The students had to devise the recipe, and then prepare it, all within the time allowed.  They were judged on presentation, taste, and creativity.

The middle school students were tasked with making desserts and had the same criteria.

Participating schools:

Ft Pierce Central High School                        Forest Grove Middle School             

Port St Lucie High School                               Northport K-8

Treasure Coast High School                                                                                                                                              

 

The winners of the Competition were Port St Lucie High School and Northport K-8  both schools will receive $100.00 donation to their Culinary Arts Department.

                                                   

                                                                                   

 Port St Lucie High; Left to right; Amanda Keefe, Jeneve Pruitt, Ryan Lauricella, Isis Osorio.

Instructor:  Roland Foerster

 

 
 Northport K-8; Left to right; Gianna Sneider, Cassandra Andrade, Issac Robinson, Jarred McNair, Zachary Shelton, Sophia Blanco, Tyler Nixon, Michael Giachetti, Dominique St. Hilaire

Instructor:  Rachel Ellsworth

 

We would also like to thank our volunteers, Timekeeper Hal Solinger, Slow Food information table, Rosa Solinger, Chefs Runners, Nichola Faraci, Karisa Manale, Shannon Murray, Announcer Gerri Beinger

And the student chefs and instructors from the Culinary Arts Department of Virginia College for being there to help with set up. 

A special thanks to our judges, Chef Chris Pawlowski from Palm Beach Organics, Anthony Westbury, Columnist from TC Palm, Kathryn Hensley, St Lucie County School Board and Chef Rasheed, Olive Oil of the World.

 

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New Movie Review: The Seeds of Time

A short time ago, I was privileged to preview a screening of a brand new movie, the “Seeds of Time," directed and produced by Sandy McLeod. I came across this movie after being sent a trailer by the Bread Lab at Washington State University Mount Vernon, took a look, and really liked what I saw. It also had a link for obtaining the viewing rights for your group, school, whatever. What group? Then I thought, yes, I do volunteer once a week for The Table, a community kitchen/food bank/social advocacy organization. Yes! So, filled out the online form and waited. Didn’t have long to wait. Co-producer J.D. Marlow got right back to me explaining the details, and how to go about this. To make a long story short, I got the rights, the Table was thrilled to be able to show it at their movie night, and the DVD was shipped.

 

The Table had me watch the movie first to see what I thought. It is a thoroughly impressive movie, with gorgeous cinematography. The main character is Dr. Cary Fowler, a man who has devoted his life to agriculture, seeds, and hopefully, not to be overly dramatic, humanity. I say hopefully, because agriculture as we know it today is teetering on the edge of disaster: Our crop diversity is at an all time low, between mono-cropping and the extinction of many ancient varieties of food crops. The statistic that brings this all home? 93% of varieties have gone extinct since 1903. More about this later. Couple this with the ongoing crisis of climate change, and the plants just can’t adapt fast enough to save our vulnerable necks. 

 Photo Courtesy of Seeds of Time

Photo Courtesy of Seeds of Time

 

The movie follows Dr. Fowler among others on a journey that takes you completely around the world, but two locations stand out: Svalbard, Norway, and Peru. Svalbard has become the Ark for seeds. Seeds are kept in the deep freeze from collections sent there from all over, be it the U.S., Canada, the Ukraine, Switzerland, Russia, as well as locations from the Far East and Africa. Peru is unique, because the Peruvian potato farmers are desperately attempting to keep, and in a lot of cases, revive, old varieties of their potatoes. It is quite a moving experience seeing them digging their potatoes in their beautiful native dress, coming together with other local groups that didn’t all get along, just to save their heirloom potatoes. You see, there are two ways to save a variety: Put it in a seed bank, or grow it. They took the latter option. They also shared their potato seed so they could be kept for the future. Incidentally, it should be noted that the potato is native to Peru, and has been grown there for at least 13,000 years. That’s right, 13,000 years, and they are threatened now within a generation with extinction from the land becoming too warm. 

 

There are many seed banks in the world, but they are all threatened by natural disaster, equipment failure and the like. Floods, like the ones suffered by Thailand recently, are a large destroyer of seed banks. The Thais lost all their seeds in that flood, thousands of varieties gone. For me personally, the most moving scene was when the woman from the Thai seed bank had to announce to the conference that it was a total loss, struggling to maintain her composure, but finally dissolving into tears. It was a heart-rending scene.  

 Photo Courtesy of the Seeds of Time

Photo Courtesy of the Seeds of Time

 

Few people in the world understand the severity of the problem, the aforementioned 93% already gone. Dr. Fowler, his colleagues, and many others in the field, work hard to save us from ourselves, but most people don’t even realize the problem exists. He himself is suffering from cancer, and for him, he realizes, time is running out, but it’s also running out for us. Time is not something we can afford to waste. Before watching the Seeds of Time, I heard about an initiative by a local veterinarian in the Perth, ON area, who is on the hunt for heirloom apple trees, searching for old varieties. They were searching parts of Lanark County to see if they could find any old trees, wild, but still alive. Don’t know how that turned out, but I would sure love to know. The question remains though: We are too quickly running out of time to find these plants. Will we make it?

Movie Night

At last, the big premiere at The Table.  We (Bob, my husband, and I) trooped in to see the movie was starting. It was a small crowd, but passionate, as I later found out. Why? They were all gardeners, and they all got it. They watched with rapt attention, a gasp going up at the mention of the 93%. Afterward, we had a discussion, the passion showing for where we have been, and where we’re headed. Some folks had bought seeds at the local Seedy Sunday (part of the Seed Savers, I believe), but said, some of their seeds never sprouted. I mentioned the complete lack of Italian tomatoes plants for sale in the spring:  I myself grow them to put up tomato puree for sauce over the winter. Not only can you not get the actual plants, but you’re limited to one or two varieties at best, Roma or Romano. As far as I can tell, there isn’t a lot of difference between the two. One woman admitted she had no idea this loss of diversity was even a problem. The Seeds of Time changed all that. 

Finally...

I wish to thank J.D. Marlow for the speedy responses and making the Seeds of Time available to us. Thanks J.D.! 

You can always follow the further adventures of Sue at www.svanslooten.com.

Helpful links:

The Seeds of Time: www.seedsoftimemovie.com

The Seeds of Time Trailer: https://vimeo.com/73726895

The Table Community Food Centre: http://thetablecfc.org/

 

 Svalbard, Norway Seed Bank  Photo Courtesy of Seeds of Time

Svalbard, Norway Seed Bank  Photo Courtesy of Seeds of Time

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner is at The Table

Dinner is at The Table

By Sue Van Slooten

 

I started working July 2, 2014, the day after Canada Day, at a local community kitchen named The Table, in Perth, ON.  Actually, it is much, much more than just a community kitchen:  It’s a food bank, gardens, an after school place for kids, provides advocacy for those in need, and yes, hot meals three times a week.  That’s where I come in:  Every other week on a Friday afternoon, I come in to volunteer three to four hours to help get the night’s meal on the table.  Meals are also served on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Menus and recipes are developed by Chef Judy Dempsey, a renowned chef in this area, and her recipes are simply, well, fabulous.  There are a number of us who form a team to assist Chef Judy, and we come in to help get everything ready, served, and cleaned up.  Currently, Chef Joanne is taking over for Judy on Fridays, as she has another Table event now on Thursday evenings, Dads and Kids (see photo). 

 

The folks who come for dinner are a varied group:  Seniors, students, young families, singles, a broad cross section of ages and stages.  The meals are open to anyone who’s hungry, for any reason, such as not being able or knowing how to cook, low income, homelessness, drug issues, disabilities, it doesn’t matter.  All are welcome.  And what a fabulous group of people it is too.

 

Meals consist of a main course, such as a hearty soup or stew, a bun or biscuit, and a salad.  There is a meat option, as well as vegetarian, and gluten free is accommodated when possible.  Salads can be either fruit or veggie.  Everything is made from scratch about 95% of the time by my experience, often with fresh vegetables either out of the gardens or from local farmers. The chive biscuits are not to be missed, and Judy’s salsa, ah, you’ve got to try it.  Coffee, tea, and ice water are always available, the coffee custom blended for them at a local coffee company.  (A $1 donation goes to the Table when you buy a pound.)  If someone can’t finish their meal, we provide containers for them to take home and enjoy later.    

 

The absolute joy of working at the Table is the people.  And lots of fun.  Make no mistake, this is a lot of hard work, as you are hopping pretty much the minute you walk in the door.  The jobs you do range from chopping and cleaning to washing dishes to serving, but it’s all great, (although putting the sign board out is a bit heavy).  We prepare enough meals each of the three days to feed anywhere from 50, to 107, like we had a short while ago.  When I started, we would have thought 80 was a lot.  The dining area seats about 48. 

 

Everyone is very friendly, helpful, and supportive, not to mention educational:  My knife skills, well, let’s just say under Judy’s tutelage, have improved immensely.  It is also rewarding to hear all the positive comments from our patrons about the delicious food, and how much they’ve enjoyed it.  Oh, and did I mention we usually get dinner to take home?  We do, and I greedily keep it all to myself!

The Table info:

www.thetablecfc.org

190 Gore St. East, Perth, ON  K7H 1K3

613-267-6428

 After school fun at The Table - Photo Courtesy of The Table

After school fun at The Table - Photo Courtesy of The Table

Keeping Cool (as a Cucumber)

Keeping Cool (as a Cucumber)

Summer is winding down, particularly in the garden. The tomatoes are done, eggplants are still working on a few more, well, eggplants, but the cucumbers? We’re overrun! And there’s more coming, too. I’ve been trying to find ways to put them in and on everything. My friend Irene has suggested cold cucumber soup, which is about the only thing I haven’t done. One of my favourite ways with cucumbers is cucumber salad, a Scandinavian dish that is simple to make, and uses cucumbers. At least 2 at a time. My favourite cucumber recipe is cucumber sandwiches, but alas, doesn’t use a lot. Suffice it to say, cucumbers are on the menu everyday here, and will be for a while. I just brought another five in today. If I looked really hard, there’s probably more out there, which is a scary thought.  

On to the salad. In true Scandinavian fashion, fresh dill here is the best for flavor.

Cucumber Salad:

2 cucumbers, scrubbed, ends removed

1 tsp table salt

½ cup sour cream, more if desired

1 tbl. fresh minced dill

Salt and pepper to taste

Additional dill for garnish

If you like the peel of the cucumber, by all means leave it on, otherwise, you can peel the cucumber. I prefer the peel on, as it gives crunch and colour. Slice your cucumbers very thinly, and place in a large bowl. Add the tablespoon of salt to the bowl and cover with cool water. Let sit for about an hour. 

After the hour is up, drain the cucumbers and rinse to get the salt out. Squeeze them out gently to get rid of any excess water; otherwise they may become too watery. Mix in the sour cream, fresh dill, and salt & pepper, if using. Once well combined, refrigerate until serving time, at least an hour or two. If desired, you can sprinkle more fresh dill over the top, or place some decorative sprigs, if you like. 

 Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad

 

 

Ice Cream: It's What's for Dessert

Ice Cream:  It’s What’s for Dessert

 

I don’t know of too many people who don’t love ice cream. There are myriads of flavours, from the traditional like chocolate and vanilla, to tiger stripe (or tail) to blue bubblegum. I’m more of a traditionalist myself, preferring chocolate, vanilla, but often branching out to maple walnut, cherry or Neapolitan. Which brings up the subject of strawberry, or the attendant lack thereof if the supermarket freezer section is any example. Strawberry is harder to find in these parts than any other flavor (but let me know if there are any other shortages out there). I know something called Bordeaux Cherry got tough to find for a while. Is strawberry out of fashion now? One in our family is a devoted fan, and when you have to travel to 3 stores looking for it, well, you get the idea. 

 

A couple of months ago, I was looking at my Air Miles account. What, pray tell, does this have to do with ice cream? Simple. I saw that I had enough points to maybe get something, so I started perusing the offerings. Voila! A Cuisinart ice cream maker. Cuisinart used to be my favourite manufacturer of kitchen goods, but the last several years have seen a serious drop in quality, to the point I usually avoid it at all costs. Gone are the days of food processors lasting years. Or bread machines for that matter. Think months. I reasoned however, it wasn’t costing me anything really, so what did I have to lose, other than the points? So I got online, quibbelled with the online form about my address (God forbid you should be rural), but finally said machine was ordered. It arrived a speedy 2 days later (I was impressed), and I tried it out. Strawberry was the order of the day. 

 

I was very pleasantly surprised. The machine is simple to use, and works very well. You do have to freeze your bucket for about a day first. If you’re in a hurry, you could probably get away with 8 hours. You put your ice cream mixture in the bucket, turn it on, and away you go. About ½ hour later, you have soft serve; freeze for a firm or hard ice cream. Since the initial outing, chocolate has been on the menu, and was even better (in my mind). This outing will be chocolate chip mint. If you choose to make this one, make sure you chop the chocolate mint candies fine. This all being said, this is not quite like hand cranked, virtually no work, and quick. So. You need the machine. What was also amazing was the number of friends I have that had the Cuisinart ice cream maker, and decided to give theirs a go again (some haven’t seen the light since last summer). I can’t say I’m the first one to probably review this appliance, but at least I could spread the info. The recipes came strictly out of the owner’s manual, and who knows if they work for other machines.  It also does frozen yogurt, gelato and sorbet. Ice cream makers have certainly come a long way since my first one, when you had to buy kosher salt and all.    

 The Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker in stainless, also comes in colours like teal.

The Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker in stainless, also comes in colours like teal.

 Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream

Chocolate Chip Mint Ice Cream

Memory of a Friend

This entry isn't about food necessarily, but about friendship.  It's not even about a typical friendship, but of one between a beloved dog and myself.  If you're not a animal lover, you can skip this blog, but if you love pets and animals in general, this is written for all of you. 

The journey of Hartlin and me started April 8, 1999.  She arrived that day, sans collar and leash, courtesy of my husband's boss at the time.  She was not much more than just a pup.  In typical dog fashion, within the course of a day or two, she wove herself into our hearts.  She is still firmly there today, and always will be. 

She was also fascinated by the two lovebirds I had at the time, just staring for hours, in what must have seemed like two snacks in a cage.  Yes, she was a bit of a hunter given the chance.  She was a strange mix of something like a yellow lab and a basenji, or African Hunting Dog.  She never was completely comfortable in her new city skin, but a couple of years later, after moving to the country, she loved nothing better than cruising through the deep grass in the field behind our house.  I swear she must have thought she was on the savannah or something.   She also never trusted water, or cars for that matter.  Rain was something to be avoided at all costs.  In contrast, she loved the boat.  She would stand at the bow, nose in the air, enjoying all the wonderful smells wafting by.   We had to encourage her to swim in the lake, which she would do (the retriever side must have won out at this point), happily retrieving sticks for us.  She was a champion frisbee player, people being astounded by her leaps and flights in pursuit of the yellow disc. 

The car was another matter.  That never went over, possibly because of one simple equation:  C = V.  Car equals Vet.  That was worse that B = Bath.  When time came to get in the car, you could swear she had been part mule in a previous lifetime.

As she got older she slowed down of course, and then arthritis struck first her left knee, but then the other as well.  Other heath problems manifested themselves as well, but as one vet said, "She's a tough old dog."  Finally, last Saturday, the 19th, it was time for her to make the trip over the rainbow bridge, and we stayed by her side during that trip.  

To say a hole has been left gaping in our hearts in an understatement.  Her presence, everything about her, is sorely missed.  A house is truly not a home without a dog.  We had her cremated, as I knew there was no possible way to bury her on our property, given the amount of rock, unless by dynamite or backhoe.  Her ashes came back Friday in a most beautiful, exquisite wooden box.  This story is a testament to a great dog, and all the love that it engendered.  Hartlin, we love you. 



Sheryl's Pizza

Pizza.  Probably one of the Italy's most important culinary contributions to American cuisine.  Pizza started to come ashore just after World War II, after GIs returned from Europe.  There’s been no looking back since.  In the last few years, we North Americans have really upped our pizza game, employing the best ingredients, exotic toppings, and great crust.  There’s always the crust divide:  Thick or thin?  How do you cut the pie?  Squares or triangles?  I say, let the battle begin, because nothing could be tastier. 


I always start with the crust.  I’m not a huge deep dish fan (although if presented with it, it will certainly get devoured), but fall somewhere in between.  I feel the crust should be a vehicle for holding the rest of the pizza, but if your crust is inferior, so will be your pie.  I will give you a King Arthur Flour (KAF) recipe later, and the link to their website, www.kingarthurflour.com.   There are many recipes out there, but adding herbs, cheese, and some extra olive oil to the mix makes much tastier dough. It’s almost impossible to have too much flavor.   Did I mention garlic?  Never can have too much of that either.


As for your toppings, the sky is literally the limit.  If you happen to go to Italy, even Florence, you will note that the local Il Bar (il bar is like a café, but also serves coffees and alcoholic drinks, but is not quite a bar in our sense) serves many, many versions of pizza, with toppings that at the time I never saw on a pizza over here.  Like eggplant?  Pickled, roasted or just plain strips?  Now we see that here, and we’ve expanded our list of selections to match the Italians.  Pizza started in Napoli, or Naples, but spread throughout most of Italy.  Many Italians used to say, maybe fairly, maybe not, that the further north you went, the less it resembled pizza.  I thought the Florentines did a decent job.  One would hate to ask what they thought of ours.  Let’s not go there, but dive directly into a hot, crusty pie, with tomato on the crust, gooey cheese, and anything that tickles your fancy, even anchovies (which I don’t think are so bad, but some can’t stand them).  A dressing of good olive oil, herbs, veggies......


KAF’s The Crust:

·  2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast

·  7/8 to 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water*

·  2 tablespoons olive oil

·  3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

·  1 1/4 teaspoons salt

 

*Use the lesser amount in summer (or in a humid environment), the greater amount in winter (or in a dry climate), and somewhere in between the rest of the year, or if your house is climate controlled.

 

That’s it.  To this mix, I would add maybe ¼ cup grated Parmesan, and a teaspoon of mixed Italian herbs (or whichever ones you like).  Note that I usually use the bread machine on the dough cycle (but sometimes do it by hand).  Here’s their method:

 

Directions

1) If you're using active dry yeast, dissolve it, with a pinch of sugar, in 2 tablespoons of the lukewarm water. Let the yeast and water sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded. If you're using instant yeast, you can skip this step.

2) Combine the dissolved yeast (or the instant yeast) with the remainder of the ingredients. Mix and knead everything together—by hand, mixer or bread machine set on the dough cycle—till you've made a soft, smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take 4 to 5 minutes at second speed, and the dough should barely clean the sides of the bowl, perhaps sticking a bit at the bottom. Don't over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

3) To make pizza up to 24 hours later, skip to step 5.

4) To make pizza now: Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow it to rise till it's very puffy. This will take about an hour using instant yeast, or 90 minutes using active dry. If it takes longer, that's OK; just give it some extra time.

5) To make pizza later: Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes at room temperature. Refrigerate the dough for 4 hours (or for up to 24 hours); it will rise slowly as it chills. This step allows you more schedule flexibility; it also develops the crust's flavor. About 2 to 3 hours before you want to serve pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator.

 

If you go to KAF’s website, you will see directions for all kinds of things to do with the dough for rectangular, whatever.  I will leave the shape and size up to you.  There are also quite a few other pizza crust recipes there, including one for sourdough.  Now for the fun part:  The construction. 

I take about half the recipe for each pie.  If the dough has rested a while, it will be easier to use, but if you can’t wait, keep calm and carry on.  Also, you can add their dough conditioner or about 3 tbl dry milk to help with the “snap back.”  Use a floured board or other surface, and roll the dough out to fit your pan, in this case a 12” pizza pan.  Rolling pins really make getting the dough a uniform thickness much easier.  You may want to put a little cornmeal on your lightly greased pan before you place the dough in.  You are now ready for your toppings.

This is the truly creative part, aside from shaping your dough.  I really prefer my pizza with a tomato sauce layer, but some leave it out entirely.  It’s all a matter of taste.  You can use 2-3 tbl. per pie of canned or homemade sauce.  Sometimes I have little frozen containers of leftover sauce I’ve made, and they come in quite handy.  The next thing, as you see in the photo, is sliced mushrooms, julienned sundried tomatoes, finely sliced onion, and sliced black olives.  You can put whatever you like on your pizzas:  Ham, thinly sliced tomatoes, finely minced garlic, seafood like shrimp (or the aforementioned but much maligned anchovy), peppers, pineapple, feta, like I said, the sky is the limit.   I have heard of using sweet potato, but don’t think I’d go that far.  All of the measurements here are strictly to your liking.  Put on as much, or as little, as you think you would like.  But don’t overdo it, a 3” pie isn’t going to bake through completely!  Then layer on LOTS of mozzarella, a good 2-3 cups of shredded.  Per pie.  Sprinkle on top some garlic powder, Italian herbs, and drizzle with olive oil.  Voila!  You are now ready for the oven.  There are various ways to bake your pizza, but right now we’ll go for the simplest.  The home oven with basic pizza pans.  Heat your oven to about 425 F.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, but keep a good eye on the process.  What you want is a nicely browned crust, melted slightly browned cheese, and is sort of bubbly.  If the cheese is white or just melted, bake a couple more minutes.   Once your pizza is baked, let it cool for 2 minutes, to set up a little.  Then the best part:  Enjoy!

 

 Pizza with mushrooms, black olives, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes. Baked on the Big Green Egg.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Pizza with mushrooms, black olives, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes. Baked on the Big Green Egg.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

You can check out what Sheryl is up to at Gold & Treasure Coast SlowFood, www.SlowFoodGTC.org.

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Food, 1

Greetings to everyone.  This is a first in a series of reflections, or ruminations, on food:  It's procurement, cooking, eating, all aspects are open for discussion.  Humans and food have a long history together, very long in fact.  Some of you may know, i trained as an anthropologist, and lot of anthropology revolves around food.  Hunting, tool making, gathering, cooking, what else you can do with the "remains" of your food item, etc.  We have the evidence of humans and their food activities going back millions of years, and nowhere is that more evident in the stone, and later, metal tools people made to bring home the bacon.  Or wild cow, or fish, or mammoth, or, well, you get the idea.  Many of the earlier tools didn't look like tools at all, just clumsy rocks, but the better we got at tool making, the more beautiful they became, until they were more works of art, with delicate (but lethal) stone chipped edges.  Bringing home the beast was only part of the equation.  What do you do with it then?  Early on, there was no cooking, that didn't come along until quite some time later, with the discovery and use of fire.  Let's be honest, your meal a couple of million years ago would have been raw.  Raw meat, raw veggies, raw seeds, raw everything.  In recent years, as in the last couple of decades, there's been a movement back to raw, and a lot of people are quite passionate about it.  No question that some of it is healthy, but certain of our "modern" food, less so.  Even dog food was promoted as better raw, although I've heard pros and cons about it.  Don't know, never tried it on my dog.  I'm sure she would eat it though. 

 

After the advent of fire, the whole situation changed rather drastically.  It didn't take long for our ancestors to discover roasting, boiling, drying, and smoking.  These techniques are still very much with us today, and some even believe that the BBQ brings out the inner caveman (or woman) in most modern men and women. Something about lots of smoke, heat and flame.  Could be too, the smell and sizzle of cooking meat.  Just observe the BBQs lighting up across North America during the summer (some preferring to grill throughout the year).  Of course in years gone by, there would be no such thing as the steak or chop, those being very recent inventions (like the last century or two).  Early cooking of meat also was very much a feast or famine thing, until the advent of drying.  It would be a feast while they threw the carcass on the fire, so to speak, but once it was gone, it would be back to a reliance on seeds, greens, grains, veggies, tubers, roots and bugs.  Yes, bugs.  Human jaws have wrapped themselves around anything that grows, moves, or lives. 

 

Much of the food our ancestors would have eaten, in addition to the occasional side of mammoth or ancient camel, would have included fish and shellfish, and there is ample evidence in the archaeological record of our ancestors enjoying these aquatic delights.  So-called "shell middens" have been found in numerous parts of the world, from the Mediterranean to Staten Island.  I once dug on the Staten Island middens, and they were huge piles of old shells, sometimes 3 or 4 feet thick.  Scallops, clams and oysters were only some of the shellfish on the menu.  Fish was also quite popular, as fishing sites in the Mediterranean attest to.  In those days, the oceans, lakes and rivers would have been part of their pantry.

 

So there you have a brief history of what our ancestors might have munched on.  The history of humans and what they ate, can still be seen in our teeth today:  We were a veggie chewing, slightly carnivorous sort, with the molars for grinding our grains and tubers, and our rather diminutive canines for our protein intake. 

 

Deviled Eggs and Thoughts on Summer Cooking

Deviled Eggs and Thoughts on Summer Cooking


Summertime cooking is generally a lighter, easier to prepare, style of food preparation. Barbecue usually is the star of the show. Other highlights include strawberry shortcake and salads of all kinds. Most notably is the beautiful array of produce coming to market, such as fresh berries, real tomatoes, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and sweet corn, all in their successive turns. Summer gardening is at its best now, with tomato plants growing, and I have cucumbers grudgingly trying to become cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers. The tomatoes and peppers already have flowers on them, eggplants aren’t quite there yet. There’s also a planter filled with herbs, like basil, stevia, sage, dill, garlic, rosemary, and Italian parsley. The various mints ran rampant long ago. This is the time of year where you can expect much tastier versions of veggies from your own garden, rather than the pale simulacrums you see in most supermarkets. It’s not the markets fault, the stark reality is, it’s the only thing available in winter. Here in Canada for example, the pickings would be pretty slim if we only relied on what was in cold storage, but that’s another whole story. In short, summer is all about the beauty and fresh taste of what our food is all about. Think eye candy and flavor explosions.


Picnics, ball games, and family get-togethers become weekend events, and one of those essential finger foods at times like this are deviled eggs, sometimes known as stuffed eggs. These can be dressed up or down, depending on your mood and the occasion. Around here, they can disappear in great quantities. The deviled egg may be an old-fashioned menu item, but they endure, sort of like lemon bars and s’mores (I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of s’mores. More of an ice cream fan.). We all love these foods, and keep on eating them. Sort of like an enduring fad.


You can decorate the eggs any way you like, with a sprinkling of paprika or dill, or both. Tiny dill sprigs look feathery and festive. Lily gilding can certainly play a part too. Small rosettes of smoked salmon, with a single caper perched inside the salmon looks very beautiful on the platter, and they will go in a flash. I’m speaking from experience here, after a Slow Food gathering I went to a couple of years ago. So, now that you’re armed with some ideas for the perfect egg, how about the basic egg?  Here’s the recipe:


Deviled Eggs

6 eggs

1 tbl. green sweet relish

1/3 cup mayonnaise, more or less according to the consistency you like

1 tsp. dry mustard

1 tsp. very finely minced onion, or about the same of dried onion, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Toppings, such as paprika, finely chopped ham, dill, smoked salmon, capers; you can also omit the onion in the filling and put very finely minced red onion on top.

 

Hard boil the eggs, rinse, cool and peel. I’ve been known to use one of those little egg cookers. The advantage here is that the yolk with then stay in the middle of the egg when cooked. They’re also easier to peel. Mine is by Cuisinart, but there are others out there. One of those frivolous little appliances, that after you start using it, you find out it is worth cabinet space. Once the eggs are cooled and peeled, slice in half longitudinally, or lengthwise. Keep in mind, no matter how hard you try, one or two will tear. Keep calm and carry on. Also, rolling gently on the counter helps in peeling as well. Anyway, hold the half in one hand, bending the half ever so slightly. With the tip of a knife, pop the yolk out into a small bowl. Do this with all the eggs. 


The next step is to mash the yolks well using a fork, add the mayonnaise, seasoning, relish, mustard and onion, if you wish. Mix until completely smooth (except for little chunks of relish and onion). Fill each half until well mounded with filling. You can use a spoon or small rubber spatula, which works well, or if you’re so equipped, a pastry bag and star tip if you really want to impress. Decorate in whatever manner suits your fancy. Voila!

 Deviled Egg with Dill Sprig.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten

Deviled Egg with Dill Sprig.  Photo by Sue Van Slooten



Groundwaves, Perth, ON

Ground Waves is one of those iconic shops that seems to have an incredible variety of merchandise within its walls.  There's children's toys, jewelry, household linens, decorative items (indoors and out), kitchen ware, glasses, and novelty gifts.  Not to mention some very nice lines of lotions, soaps and scents.  Literally, there is a little bit of something for everyone.  Barb and Bobbi and all the rest of the staff do a fantastic job of bringing in new items, either seasonal, or any time, and arranging them beautifully.  Located in Code's Mill, Perth, ON, this picturesque shop is definitely one my destinations when going to Perth. 

Here's what they say about themselves:  "From home decor items and one of a kind gifts, Ground Waves make shopping for home and gift inviting, fun and simple."  Also, "We carry over 100 local and Canadian product lines, as well as others from around the world."

One of their newest items is something I can't rave enough about:  Silicone lids.  Designed by Charles Viancin, these are the most useful kitchen items you can own.  Literally.  They take the place of cooking pot lids or plastic wrap, and can be microwaved, refrigerated, or baked (up to 400 F).  I find them indispensable for covering bowls and casseroles, without the fear of using plastic wrap.  They come in an assortment of sizes, designs and colours, and will be coming out in a couple of months with all new colours, like purple.  They're also created to look like flowers, banana leaves, snowflakes, to name a few.  So not only are they functional, but fun with a sense of style.

My advice is, if you're looking for something special, either for yourself or someone else, Ground Waves is the place to go.

Useful links and info:

www.groundwaves.ca  Their general website.

17 Wilson St. East, Perth, ON   K7H 1L3

613-267-3322

 Really cool toys for kids.

Really cool toys for kids.

 Pretty things for the home.

Pretty things for the home.

 More pretty things.....

More pretty things.....

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring, Big Green Egg Style

The Big Green Egg, as many of you already know, is, well, large (but not all), green, and yes, egg shaped. It’s a BBQ, smoker, outdoor oven, all rolled into one large package. Mine is the large size, but there are the most adorable mini eggs, barely 18” high. I was sorely tempted to get the Xtra Large, but reality fortunately kicked in.Bob, my husband, was already getting nervous about that latest cooking venture. He takes most things in good stride, but worries about when I tend to get a little creative. While an Egg isn’t the cheapest thing in the world, it’s an awful lot cheaper than building an outdoor oven, and takes the place of about three appliances. I’m going on my 3rd season with the Egg, and it’s working beautifully. Last Saturday night was an example. The following will give you a pretty good idea of the versatility of what you can do with an Egg, and to realize that nothing is carved in stone.

I had been to the market and found fresh tuna steaks, not always easy when you basically live in eastern Ontario, basically the mid-West. We’re almost equidistant from either coast, so truly fresh seafood doesn’t come our way too often. I get mine either from the Butcher’s Edge in Perth, ON, or Farmboy, various locations in Ottawa. Here’s what I came up with: The tuna steaks were marinated in olive oil, a mixture of lemon and lime juice, and some mustard. White wine would also have worked beautifully, but alas, I didn’t have any.Any citrus juice would have worked here, but lemon or lime would be best.

There was this little problem of leftover Italian bread dough, a large batch of dough that had already given rise to two pizzas, and two calzones, all Egg baked. Solution: Take a 6” cast iron frying pan, coat liberally with oil, pat down into pan. I also had some corn on the cob, and the new Big Green Egg cookbook has an app (recipe) for that too. Soak the ears in water for an hour, with husks on. I placed the pan with dough, and the ears, on the grid. They recommended 45 minutes for the corn, but I took bread and corn off after about 20 and 25 minutes respectively, bread was slightly singed, and corn was perfect. I found the bread not quite done on the interior to my liking, so I cut it in half and toasted the cut sides. Temperature was a little high, or use a pizza stone to deflect the heat some, but no matter, it turned out delicious.

The next thing to go in the Egg was a 9” cast iron frying pan with mushrooms, oil, and a little garlic powder, my signature Egg veggie dish. To the side of the pan went the two tuna steaks. This took about 10 minutes, the mushrooms coming out first, perfectly done. Then the tuna came off, and you couldn’t have asked for better tuna, still very slightly pink in the middle. The flavours were all divine. The bread was crusty, (even the slightly singed part was delicious), which we drizzled with plain olive oil. Bob pulled the husks off the corn, and had eaten his by the time I sat down. He got scolded for that one, but said he just couldn’t help it. I understand. The temperatures I was cooking at ranged from about 400 to 450, although she did sneak up to almost 500 at one point. Generally, once the Egg is set at a certain temperature, it pretty much stays there, I just hadn’t quite equalized yet. The Egg can go much higher, but I don’t see a lot of need for 700.They say that’s where you sear a steak, but, really now.

So that is how you celebrate “Winter is Over, Spring is Here” Egg-style.

 This is my Big Green Egg with side tables.

This is my Big Green Egg with side tables.