As the lone Canadian at work, I feel like an Ambassador.
I am constantly learning about Texas, and likewise I try to explain where I am coming from as well.
Yes, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving two months before Americans. Toronto is colder than Houston, but not nearly as cold as Ottawa, let alone Edmonton. My friend who recently joined us in Houston came from Edmonton, where she explained she could take a cup of boiling water out in the water, and splash it out of her cup. By the time it would hit the ground, it would have frozen solid. Toronto is not that cold, although Hannah told me Toronto has already received its first snowfall of the year (which subsequently melted away).
Then there’s the upcoming Hallowe’en celebrations. Yes, Canadians celebrate Hallowe’en much the same as Americans: youngsters (young and old) get dressed up in costumes and in the evening, go door-to-door asking for candies. We just have to wear more clothes in Canada to keep warm.
Truth be told, I was a bit more curious whether trick-or-treating still took place in Houston. Houston seems quite unique to me, because at least in my neighbourhood, everyone has gates and fences around the front of their houses. It seems a tad intimidating and uninviting. Never mind the “Trespassers will be shot; Survivors will be shot again” sign our neighbours sport. Right next to a “Peace” sign, to boot.
In anticipation of Hallowe’en, this past weekend, Rob and I with a new friend cycled around our neighbourhood which is nicely decked out with Hallowe’en decorations. It really was a great bike ride, with good company. It was nice to have Rob back home!
And while this is no Hallowe’en treat I am sharing, it is a Hallowe’en coloured treat courtesy of the fall’s fine produce: the pumpkin. A spin on refried beans, in this dip, pumpkin is mashed with pinto beans and tomatoes and spiced with marjoram, smoked paprika, chili powder and lime juice. The pumpkin lent a nice sweetness to the dip which was countered by the lime. Not at all spicy so increase to your heat level. I ate this dip with crackers, corn chips and vegetables. Kathy also suggests using this as a nice burrito filling, too, but it didn’t last long enough for me to test it out.
So, for those outside North America, how do you celebrate Hallowe’en?
I have been blogging for over 3 years (and cooking for myself for the past decade), so you’d think I’d have figured everything out in the kitchen by now, right?
You’d think I’d have figured out what I like to eat or not…
OK, I know what I like but I love trying new things. It is harder to pinpoint what I don’t like. (Other than celery).
With my never ending stash of pumpkin puree, I whipped up a quick and simple pumpkin pie pudding. It didn’t woo me.
While I grew up with turkey at Thanksgiving, we rarely had stuffing (no one likes it), sometimes had cranberry sauce (not sure who likes it) and we never had pumpkin pie (who knows why). I don’t know if I have ever had it except as a raw cheesecake from Naked Sprout (which doesn’t really count as traditional pumpkin pie).
I figured a sweet pumpkin pie pudding with pumpkin, maple and pumpkin pie spice would be great. It was missing something, though. I didn’t know what. I added some blackstrap molasses to make this more gingerbread-like. I definitely preferred the sharp bite from the molasses. But as I licked my way through my dessert, I wasn’t particularly smitten with its pudding nature. I don’t really like pureed soups either. I like soups with body and bulk. So I stirred it into my morning oats with the natural Sun Warrior blend and I had a happy protein-rich breakfast for the week. Creamy with some body from the steel-cut oats. Re-purposed dessert for breakfast, yum.
I also thought it would be fun to share my trusty travelling spork. A spoon, a fork and a knife, all in one. This one is orange, to boot.
I know it is fall.
I unearthed my long pants to cycle to work last week. I now don full-fingered gloves as well as my cycling hat.
But, it isn’t fall until the winter squashes come out. And the apples.
I have been relishing in the end-of-summer produce for the past few weeks. Tomatoes. Green beans. Beets. I bought some squashes but have yet to cook with them. I also got some canned pumpkin and resisted the onslaught of all things pumpkin. Until now.
Maybe I can blame it on the equinox?
Now that I’ve started, I don’t think it will stop. Not only because I have to plow through the monster of a pumpkin can but because I have found a glorious way to enjoy pumpkin.
In my morning brew.
I love my tea and usually enjoy a nice cup in the morning. Technically, I enjoy tisanes because I prefer herbal-based blends. I like rooibos but have started to shun all things with black teas. My favourite tea remains a chai-based concoction and surprisingly, I have yet to create my own home-grown spice medley. No better time than to start today with this cup.
Savoury spices, including cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom mellow nicely with the pumpkin with the peppercorns and ginger offering a nice kick of spice. I used pumpkin butter (from Trader Joe’s) as my sweetener but I look forward to fiddling with this for a less sweetened version. In any case, this was so good I had to share the recipe immediately.
I am also excited to make this pumpkin chili with the leftover pumpkin puree! It was so good last year!
Celeriac. Pumpkin. Could I be sharing any more autumn-like produce?
As I am munching away through my freezer before our next move, I am rediscovering meals that I should have blogged about but for some reason, I haven’t!
I am a long-standing proponent of leftovers but oddly enough, when I stash leftovers in the freezer, they kind of sit there for a while. Freshly made meals are always my go-to choice, but I have some real gems being unearthed these days.
I have become a bit more accustomed to the tamer curries that are made with curry powder, red lentils and an assortment of veggies. I really liked the Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal and since celeriac was my favourite veggie this winter, I was eager to try my hand at a similar stewy curry from Sarah. Typically, potatoes are used in Indian cooking but here, celeriac adds a different dimension which complements the sweetness from the pumpkin. I also loved the addition of the spinach thrown in for good green measure. I usually don’t freeze meals that use greens, but these leftovers are ok from the freezer.
By the way, does anyone know what kind of pumpkin is sold in stores that are cut into large wedges? They are labelled as Ontario pumpkins, but I have no clue what kind they are… I don’t cook with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but this was definitely a pumpkin for cooking.
When I suggested recipes for my Mom to make over Christmas, she was a bit shocked when she found out a few were new recipes. One of the cardinal rules of cooking for guests is to never try a new recipe on unsuspecting guests. I have long abandoned that rule, though.
Truth be told, sometimes it can be difficult to munch on a dish you’ve already made yourself but made by someone else. Sometimes, it will taste the same. We repeatedly return to our favourite hummus recipe (this one, too) because it is so reliable. But in the flash of a pan, a dish can taste different.
Therefore, I figured I would give my Mom all of the glory from a few fabulous new dishes.
The Chickpea Piccata, was a definite hit. I didn’t want to share any of the leftovers!
The second hit was this Pumpkin Chili. I originally spotted it on Isobelle’s site, but the recipe came from Ashlae. While I have made other chilis before, this is definitely my favourite so far. A savoury saucy chili, filled with beans and vegetables. Flavourful, not spicy despite using jalapeno peppers. The pumpkin puree adds a touch of sweetness but doesn’t leave you with a pumpkin flavour. The TVP plumps up to look just like ground meat, it is almost confusing. What isn’t confusing is how great it tastes: delicious.
When we trying to decide what to do with the leftover chili, I suggested my Mom freeze it and save it for the next time I visit. This way, there would be a surefire Janet-friendly meal already waiting for me.
However, after I went home, I called to make sure I had the right recipe for the tantalizing chili. Only minor changes using canned tomatoes and beans. She even used jalapeno peppers! However, my Mom had bad news. There was no more chili left: my Dad had polished it all off! Vegan chili so good it could fool the unsuspecting omnivore: I consider that a success. My Mom makes a tasty chili and I can’t wait to have it again.
Let me let you in on a secret. I actually haven’t done any holiday baking yet. I made the Key Lime Meltaways last year for Christmas. It took me nearly a year to post all my cookies from my holiday baking escapades, and one vegan cookie that wasn’t worthy of being posted (no one liked it!).
While I am still plotting my attack of Middle Eastern-inspired cookies for this year (feel free to recommend your favourites!), my current decadence has been over breakfast. But this decadence is guilt-free.
Adapted from Oh She Glows, this is a version of overnight oats that I have been eating for breakfast some time now. The premise of overnight oats is that you mix rolled oats with milk overnight to create a creamy pudding of sorts. I also add in chia seeds, which are tasteless but feel like small tapioca pearls after they have absorbed the milk. Chia seeds are great because they are relatively low calorie while providing a good source of omega-3s, fiber, protein and other vitamins. After a few hours, the chia seeds plump up nicely and add body to these overnight oats.
In this version, the pudding is fortified with pumpkin puree, savoury spices (cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger) and the gingerbread taste comes from blackstrap molasses. Not to be confused with typical molasses (which is what typically goes into gingerbread cookies), blackstrap molasses are more bitter, as it is derived after the third extraction of sucrose. Therefore it is less sugary and more nutritious. It is a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. Rolled oats, chia seeds, pumpkin, blackstrap molasses… all excellent foods and great together for a healthy breakfast treat.
I have more than a few posts in my drafts folder, as I figure out what to write, take the photos off my camera, go on vacation to Morocco.. You know, the typical delays.
I made this delicious breakfast oatmeal pudding last month, when pumpkin and fresh cranberries were both abundant. Now that Christmas cookie, mint and chocolate season is knocking at the door, I figured I should whip this baby out before it was too late!
Adapted from Cara’s Cravings, this is a variation on the Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Breakfast Pudding I posted in September (based on Ricki’s original recipe). Back then, it was my pre-cycling breakfast of choice. This time, though, my pudding was a bit thicker, a bit lumpier, so I wonder whether I had to pulse my almonds longer. However, I enjoyed this variation, too, as it had a different mix of flavours. The pumpkin puree replaced the applesauce, the fresh cranberries substituted for the blueberries and the mix of savoury spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves) worked perfectly. Not too sweet, and definitely not bland, this was a perfect start to the day. Likewise, it could work as a nice dessert as well.
This is my submission to this round of Blog Bites 9, holiday buffet, potluck-style!
It is my pleasure to host Healing Foods this month. Siri started this event to highlight the health benefits from a variety of foods. There are so many healthy options when you eat vegetables, but I wanted to highlight one of my favourite winter vegetables: winter squash.
Whether your preferred squash is butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin or spaghetti, winter squash is filled with vitamins (great sources of A, B and C) and fibre, while being low in calories. Most importantly, they all taste great.
Squash is versatile and can be used in soups, sides, main dishes and even desserts. It can be boiled, baked, or steamed. It can be sweet or savoury. And this is why it is so easy to fall for squash.
Join me this month by sharing your winter squash and pumpkin recipes.
To participate, please create and photograph a vegetarian dish with winter squash, linking to this announcement and Siri’s Healing Food event page by December 31, 2010. Email me at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca with your name, your entry’s name and url along with a photograph of your dish. The dishes must be new and posted between December 1 and 31. You may submit as many entries as you like.
I look forward to seeing everyone’s creative dishes.
I have a mighty fine selection of spices, if I may say so myself. A huge thank you goes to my last trip to Penzeys, and also to Bestwin which has a multitude of cheap ethnic spices. Fresh spices make a huge difference when cooking. Spices don’t keep long, which is why I only buy the spices I need. I make my own garam masala and now I will show you how to make your own chili powder. For the spice-sissies like me, this is yet another way to flavour the heat levels to your own liking.
There are many recipes for chili powder, but I went with a flavourful blend with smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano and garlic powder. You can add as much real chili your taste buds will desire, but I stayed with my flavourful (not hot) Aleppo chili flakes from the base recipe. The deconstructed recipe has been incorporated into the chili recipe below. Definitely play with the flavours until you get something you like.
This is a Hallowe’en themed chili, filled with all things black and orange, adapted from Party Vegan (recipe also posted here). Of course, I couldn’t just do a simple, traditional chili. This one is filled with butternut squash and the secret oomph comes from the apple juice. Its sweetness allows you to dial up the heat higher than you might otherwise. Personally, I thought it was great. Different than the ordinary, and the squash worked well with the black beans.
I scooped up a few butternut squashes when they were on sale, and they are great because they don’t take up coveted refrigerator space. I can plot and determine a strategy to use them in my cooking. What will I make first? Ina Garten’s Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with a Warm Cider Vinaigrette? Smitten Kitchen’s Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew or her Spicy Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese? The New Spanish Table‘s Lentil and Pumpkin Stew with Roasted Garlic? Joanne’s Tofu, Tempeh and Squash Peanut Butter Mole? Ottolenghi‘s Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Eggplant and Pomegranate Molasses? Fat Free Vegan’s Lemony Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash? 101 Cookbook’s Borlotti Bean Mole with Roasted Winter Squash? There are so many options to mull over as squash season starts up again.
So how did I narrow my choices? I didn’t have all the ingredients for any of the recipes, so I kept my eyes out for the missing links. While I was walking around the St Lawrence Market, I stumbled upon fresh cranberry beans (borlotti beans). I had bought some dried Romano beans earlier to make the dish, but when I spotted the fresh beans, I couldn’t resist! The Borlotti Bean Mole was the chosen one. How could I not have chosen it initially? It has lots of great ingredients – caramelized onions, roasted butternut squash, ground almonds, some kale is thrown in for greenery and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate mole sauce. Now, all I had to do was also find some kale.
My favourite part of St Lawrence Market is the Saturday morning farmer’s market in the North building. For early risers like me, it is great because it is probably one of the only places to buy groceries at 6am in the morning! I spotted a bunch of kale for $2. Let me not fool you, this bunch was HUGE. It could not fit into my bicycle pannier, it was that big. It did not even fit in my refrigerator. I had to store it outside on my balcony! And when I measured out 3 oz of kale for this recipe, I needed one leaf. Just one leaf!
I have never had a Mexican mole before. For the other newbies out there, it is pronounced mo-lay, not mole like the skin lesion. I was corrected, thanks Rob! My Mexican modesty was revealed!
While I generally am a bit apprehensive with traditionally spicy dishes, I really enjoyed this. I modified Heidi’s recipe (who in turn adapted it from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me) to increase the beans and squash, and I used Aleppo chili flakes instead of the jalapeno peppers. The chocolate softens the spicy kick. I otherwise kept things the same and really enjoyed it. It takes a while to make, at least an hour prep, with a further 2 hours of slow cooking, but you have a wonderfully fragrant meal. I think you could skip the 2 hour cooking time, if you really need to. It would still taste great. Everything was basically cooked before it went in and when I snuck in a lick before I popped it into the oven, it was very tasty. It was also slightly colourful at this point. Two hours later, the flavours were more robust, deeper, darker and savoury but it was still great beforehand. The cranberry beans are creamy, the squash is sweet, the kale has a slight bite to it and it is smothered in a spicy chocolate sauce. Who says you can only have chocolate as a sweet treat? It is wonderful savoury as well. Enjoy!
Now that snow has finally arrived (and then promptly disappeared), it officially feels like winter. I still can’t believe I was still able to bike around Toronto (safely, sans snow, sans grizzly subzero wind) into the first week of December! Now I am on a quest to find a sustainable activity for the winter… preferably of the indoor variety.
I made this pumpkin custard for dessert for Thanksgiving, and it was great. A nice mix of pumpkin with traditional flavours like cinnamon, ginger and cloves. It was very rich with the cream. After a filling meal, we found the ramekin portions to be a bit too big. Very delicious, but better in small quantities. My suggestion would be to use smaller ramekins, which would yield more portions (halving the recipe might be better then).
The recipe was adapted from Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. I bought the book after making the most delicious cake, ever (Stone Fruit Tea Cake on gourmet.com), and will likely post that recipe eventually as well. In the meantime, this custard is a good start.
Can a coffeecake be served as part of breakfast or brunch? Sure! I love how, in theory, most of my dishes for breakfast or brunch also double as desserts. What a sweet breakfast! In actuality, I usually have a pretty standard breakfast of Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli with maybe a fruit thrown in on the side, and the baked goods get added to my lunch as dessert.
I liked the following pumpkin coffeecake from A Harvest of Pumpkins and Squash by Lou Seibert Pappas. It wasn’t in-your-face pumpkin flavour, more mellow with a hint of spice, but there was an interesting texture with the cornmeal and nicely moist. The walnut topping added a nice crunch. I doubled the amount of fresh cranberries (to 2 cups) which was good, if not bursting with cranberry. Only 1 cup would have been piddly. I don’t think I have professed my love of fresh cranberries, yet… but I will.. with one of my many cranberry recipes in the draft folder.
Once I opened the can of pumpkin puree, I started to look for other ways of using pumpkin. I love the combination of cinnamon and pumpkin, so this was a natural muffin to make. I got a few cookbooks on squash from the public library and was drawn to this recipe. I found it in Pumpkin and Squash: Recipes from Canada’s Best Chefs by Elaine Elliot and Virginia Lee. The recipe was submitted by the now-closed Jakobstettel Inn in St. Jacob’s, Ontario (which still looks like a gorgeous place for a rural retreat and close to the wonderful St Jacob’s market), who promised moist, delicious muffins. The recipe was modified to include less sugar and less oil, and it was spot-on: a flavourful, unassuming moist muffin. I had to beg my mom not to eat too many before I could take a quick photo one morning. I actually have to give credit to my mom, who made the muffins for me as a surprise after a long day at work.
Lots of spices work well with squash (nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves) and I still have a few more recipes to share with the remainder of my pumpkin puree. In the meantime, go here to enter to win a slew of wonderful spices. Another giveaway can be found here. (more…)
This weekend, we had our first Taste Space potluck where we each made a dish to share and learn more about/from each other. I am excited about how this blog will bring us together as new and old friends, with lots of yummy food!
My contribution was this lovely pan-fried pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter sage, from the Steamy Kitchen. I have made her pan-fried lemon ricotta gnocchi which were simply heaven on my tongue (moist, melt in your melt soft, with a hint of lemon within a pillow-soft cheese base), so I knew they were coming from a great source and would be easy to make. Personally, I prefer the lemon ricotta gnocchi, but the pumpkin was a nice change. It has a heavy cheese taste as there is lots of ricotta and parmesan cheese within the gnocchi. In retrospect, this probably wasn’t the best dish for a potluck, as the gnocchi toughened up a bit while they were being kept warm in the oven as we took the photos (yes, I did sneak a few to make sure they were cooked all the way through).
Not only was this the first time I cooked with pumpkin, it was also the first time I cooked with sage, so I am submitting this to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Lynne (wrap-up posted here). Don’t worry, I have plenty more pumpkin recipes to come and I still have to investigate other uses for sage in the meantime.