Tag Archives: Food

Going Back to the County

12 Apr

It didn’t take us long to fall in love with Ontario’s Prince Edward County while on our first ever visit there last August. How could we not, with the insouciant way of life, their community of farmers, butchers, market-gardeners, and chefs who live by the slow food movement, and of course their emerging wine culture.

I will even dare to say that the County charmed us because it is not Niagara, which for the most part, defines Ontario wine country. The County has a more grassroots culture, which grew out of passion for the craft of wine making and the craft of food, whereas Niagara seemed quite a bit too commercial. As if the region were a huge amusement park and the wineries were its souvenir shops. It was crowded and busy with locals and tourists. Not to say that this was an entirely bad thing — I suppose that Ontario has fought long and hard to be put on the map for its wine, and the success that we have achieved as a result of the wines of Niagara is something that we should really be proud of. For now, I suppose that much of Prince Edward County’s simple and unpretentious nature is owed to the fact that it still is emerging, and is way lesser-known than the renowned Niagara region. My hope is that the County will fight to maintain its charm and that it will always be evident there that passion runs very deep, despite whatever success they achieve.

It’s for these reasons that we booked another little getaway to the County, for our May long weekend. Again, we will be staying at a B&B, and the best part of all is that I managed to stumble upon one that is pet-friendly, so Jelly will be coming along on our tiny getaway. We’re excited that we are going back, and as this is our second visit, we’ll be able to better map out where we will be indulging and savoring local fares, and maybe discover some more gems along the way.

More Greens, Even More Jelly

3 Apr

I’ve been really lax lately on keeping up with the healthy cooking and eating. Chalk it up to being too busy, or paying too much attention to a very active puppy, or just plain laziness, I haven’t been able to cook as much as I want to for us. And shame on me, on a weekly basis, I have been finding myself dumping uncooked food that had gone bad in the fridge.

Jelly is four months old today. It’s a small milestone, but we’ve noticed over the last two weeks that we haven’t had to keep our eye on her every second that she is awake. While she’s a pretty independent puppy who likes to explore and play on her own, she has learned quickly and quite well what the rules of the house are. She knows what she is allowed to chew on (her toys) and what she isn’t allowed to chew on (us, the furniture, shoes) and she knows that upstairs is off-limits unless we take her there. She also has been doing really well with her potty-training. Less supervision for Jelly means that we have some time back for ourselves. And as a result of this, I’m able to have more time in the kitchen.

Fresh veggies are pretty important to me. Without them on a daily basis, I feel pretty gross and heavy. So that’s why it was a big surprise to me when I had to make an effort to reintegrate vegetables into our diets. I suppose with our limited time, it was simply a matter of making what was quickest and most filling — protein. Like Jelly, for a couple of weeks, we had inadvertently switched to a protein-based diet. Shame.

Last weekend, I made a really delicious side of Collard Greens Sautéed with Bacon, inspired by the latest issue of Everyday Food Magazine. Bacon does really make everything better, because The BF even gobbled this up, remarking that he usually finds greens like this too bitter for his taste.

Yesterday I bought a pound and a half of Brussels sprouts, as it’d been a while since we’d had them. I know that lots of people turn their noses up at them,  and if you’re one of those people, I dare you to try preparing them the way that I learned to. I simply toss the trimmed Brussels sprouts in olive oil and salt in a resealable bag, then roast them on a baking tray at 425° for about a half hour, or until they turn dark brown/nearly black. Prepared this way, the bitter taste is completely gone, and instead is a perfect combination of sweet and salty. While roasting, some of the little leaves fall off and these are the best treats of all — once the tray comes out of the oven, being the greedy person that I am, I devour these crispy, perfectly caramelized bits of goodness. The BF, who also used to be a non-believer, now loves Brussels sprouts.

Sundays for us have become routinely Jelly day. Today was an especially busy one planned, as we had an appointment first thing in the morning with the groomer (which gave us a good amount of time to have a nice brunch date, just the two of us), a scheduled puppy play group at an indoor dog park, an impromptu lunch and play date with Jelly’s puppy girlfriends, and finally, her obedience class.

Jelly is an extremely exuberant and friendly puppy, who wants to be the best friend of every human she encounters. However, when it comes to meeting other dogs, she is shy and timid and this is why we have been very actively encouraging her to socialize with new dogs by bringing her to play at the indoor park. She’s getting better and slowly learning to not be afraid. She’ll spend a good amount of time after arriving scoping the dogs and premises out by walking the perimeter, all the while making the acquaintance of every human in the joint usually by sidling up to him or her and plopping herself down at the person’s feet so that he or she will have no choice but to say hi and receive her kisses. Then she will allow dogs to approach her, and after she tentatively sniffs her new friend, will promptly flip onto her back in a perfect sign of submission. She is getting better, and we are at least thankful that she is not an arrogant or aggressive dog.

Shy girl. She’s the one on the left.

When she’s not busy making the acquaintance of all the humans, she spends the most time in a submissive position like this.

Scoping out the room while nestled against a human that is not me, or Daddy.

And of course, more interested in meeting her Daddy than in meeting others her age… or species.

During our visit with Mardy Bum and Molly, who are almost exactly the same age as Jelly and who have been really great at teaching Jelly how to play.

I’ve always wanted one of one of those action/running shots of Jelly in which she looks like she’s floating in air. This iPhone picture is the closest I will come for now.

One thing that she has started to love doing is going out to our front foyer where our big windows are. She will find a good patch of sunlight in which to lie down every afternoon. Last Sunday, The BF was away at school writing an exam and I suppose that she missed him so much that she put her head down on his shoes and took a sweet little nap.

Food, Siblings and Things

14 Oct

 

Image from weheartit.com

 

The BF and I started a detox on Tuesday. After a few delays, we committed to beginning right after Thanksgiving, which is as perfect timing as you can ask for. Thanksgiving gave us the opportunity to feast and overindulge and because we have to stay on this detox for at least 2 weeks, we have these weeks leading up to Halloween/his birthday to cleanse and recalibrate. So, for the next 14 days, we will be eliminating the following from our diets:

  • wheat/gluten
  • dairy
  • caffeine
  • red meat
  • soy
  • sugar
  • alcohol (oh, dear)

Thanksgiving and the start of our cleanse meant that I had to spend a huge amount of time over the weekend in the kitchen preparing, planning and organizing. First, Thanksgiving was a bit of an unusual one this year. My parents are away on a cruise for the next couple of weeks, and my middle brother is also travelling in the Mediterranean. So that left just me and my youngest brother for what I called our Orphan Thanksgiving. He and his girlfriend had us over for dinner on Sunday at their brand new house, which was exciting but was a whole lot of “Hmmmm, what can we expect….” from me and The BF at the same time. You see because my brother offered to take care of the turkey this year, and not that I lack confidence in him, but I wasn’t too sure how familiar he was with cooking. To me, as the baby of the family, I thought that he’s always been the type of guy to settle for convenience foods  – the frozen, pre-made kinds of meals. Compound that with the fact that his girlfriend is a vegetarian who can’t stand the sight of meat and you will understand why we thought this could have turned into one of those funny holiday disaster stories that you re-tell year after year.

I’ve learned my lesson. That I really shouldn’t worry about these things and to never underestimate. Our Thanksgiving dinner was great and I think something that we should be proud of, being the bunch of kids that we are. The turkey was nicely done, with stuffing to boot. I made cranberry chutney from scratch with a recipe that I came across online just a few days before, as well as a Sweet Potato Marshmallow Casserole (don’t wrinkle your nose at me until you’ve tried it) and a roasted acorn squash stuffed with a quinoa + vegetable mix. Round this off with a couple of bottles of wine, a cheesecake and a pumpkin pie for dessert, and it was a super-delicious meal.

After spending Thanksgiving Sunday as we did, I’ve come to the hard conclusion that my brothers and I are most definitely the products of our parents. To my surprise, I learned that my youngest brother is the cook of the house. He is the one who has taken on the responsibility of making their meals, and is often found cooking dinner for his girlfriend when she comes home from work in the evening. My other brother also recently bought a house with his girlfriend, and he as well has taken on the responsibility of doing most of the cooking for the two of them. I think that I can safely attribute this to the fact that my brothers and I grew up in a home in which meals made from scratch were an important to my mom. She worked hard to make sure our fridge was always stocked with fresh food, and that there were always warm meals for us to eat every day. Not only did we all inherit her cooking skills, but also an appreciation for healthy eating habits, and I’m really glad to see that I was wrong to think that my brother subsisted on Hungry Man dinners heated in the microwave every day.

Some other quirks that my brother and I share, which were discovered this weekend when his girlfriend and The BF started comparing notes about the siblings:

  • we are obsessive about washing our hands, especially when we are cooking, which isn’t really a bad thing. However, it can be seen as excessive when we are washing with soap and water after every time we touch something different, even if it’s just a juicy lemon.
  • we are afraid of the dark and of being by ourselves on the upper levels of our homes. I can’t sleep properly if I am by myself upstairs in bed, and apparently neither can my brother.
  • we have a strong aversion to overhead lighting and much prefer the rooms in our homes to be lit by table and floor lamps.

And something that his girlfriend revealed to us about herself which I find a hilarious quirk is that she can’t eat if there are animals on tv. Meaning, if she’s eating in front of the tv, and animals appear, she completely loses her appetite and has to stop eating.

Do you have a “thing” or a weird quirk?

Day Sixteen | Cravings

22 Sep

Today’s prompt for My 30 Days is:

things you crave a lot.

French Fries (especially if from McDonald’s)

Photo by Purrrpl_Haze via flickr.com

Vietnamese Pho

Photo by a.guzman via flickr.com

Sushi

Photo by drp via flickr.com

Potato Chips

Photo by Adam Kuban via flickr.com

Spicy Indian Food

Photo by Vanessa Pike-Russel via flickr.com

Home Made Chicken Noodle Soup

Photo by arthurohm via flickr.com

I’m a savory girl. I don’t have a sweet tooth so the things I crave are of the salty, delicious quality. Soups are high on my list of cravings, especially when the weather turns cold and then it’s all I can think of – that bowl of soup to warm my belly!

Day Twelve | Eats

18 Sep

Today’s prompt for My 30 Days is:

a photo of something you ate today.

Spaghetti Squash

This is spaghetti squash sautéed with some olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper. I guess this is another sign that summer is getting farther behind us – gourds and squash coming into season. I’ll have to admit that I’ve been  looking forward to cooking and eating squash, and that I’ve had this strange craving for spaghetti squash for weeks now. I picked one up this morning and, voilà!

My Summer Go-To Salad

18 Aug
Salade Nicoise

Image by HarlanH via Flickr

It’s simple, really – this reduced version of a tuna niçoise salad that I’ve been throwing together for lunches lately. It’s been a great way to take advantage of some of the fresh local produce that’s in season. It takes me no longer than a half hour from start to finish, and is one of the easiest, healthier lunches that we’ve been packing.

Ingredients
Salad
Steamed Green Beans
Boiled Mini Red Potatoes, Halved
Grape Tomatoes
Hard Boiled Eggs, Quartered
Thinly Sliced Red Onion
Canned tuna

Dressing
Dijon Mustard
Red Wine Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I’ll prepare everything, combine all the salad ingredients and then separate into four lunch containers, which is two days worth of lunches for us. For the dressing, I combine the mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a mason jar and shake to mix. Then in the morning, while I’m gathering and packing stuff for our lunches, I’ll portion out enough dressing for each of us into little containers. The little tins of tuna get packed in our bags too. When lunch time rolls around, we throw the drained tuna and the dressing into the salad and toss everything to combine nicely.

I love the simplicity of it. It’s a fresh and refreshing salad and lends itself well to advance prep. This makes a perfect grab and go lunch for us.

Miscellany Monday #1

16 Aug

I’m trying something new tonight: linking up to miscellany monday, thanks to Carissa.

[1] On Friday night, The BF and I went to the Hot & Spicy Food Festival, which was being held this weekend at Toronto’s Harborfront. We sampled some really tasty sauces, and then enjoyed a hot and spicy dinner in the open air at a picnic table while watching this guy, The Rhyming Chef, do some cooking demos on the stage.

[2] Yesterday we had date with some friends for brunch. The BF will be DJing their wedding in September, so we also finally got to talk about their play list and get into the nitty-gritty scheduling details for their big day. The bride got really excited when she and I started talking about boy band songs of the 80s and 90s, and as a result of that, she’s put me in charge of that very special Boy Band Play List for the reception. We will be peppering the night’s festivities with some awesome gems. Maybe something like this?

Wheeee! We settled on a few definites, though I’ll have some surprise selections in my back pocket.

[3] On the subject of weddings, I have a big confession to make: I’ve been obsessed with looking at wedding inspiration lately, for no reason other than just because…

[4] I had an appointment with my Naturopath on Saturday and got a good couple of slaps on the wrist for falling back into bad habits and eating the stuff that makes my body go into revolt. Dairy, wheat and coffee are the big ones. She’s asked me to do another detox, which I am aiming to begin right after Labour Day weekend whether I like it or not.

Fill in the Blank Friday – Food!

6 Aug

Food 50s You can fill in the blanks too by visiting Lauren’s blog here.

1.  Today for breakfast I had a smoothie made with frozen berries, rice milk and rice protein powder.

2.  My go to/never fail recipe is Ping Gai, which is a Laotian grilled chicken dish I discovered at a local restaurant. It was so lip-smacking delicious that I had to bring it into my kitchen. I immediately found the recipe online and whenever I make it (and The BF grills it) people rave about it. Not to say I’m a master chef or anything, but it is deceivingly simple and is the perfect mix of spicy, sweet and sour flavors. It makes your mouth happy. It’s true.

3.  Something I eat that other people think is weird is sometimes I’ll eat spaghetti for breakfast if it’s in my fridge. I will rarely admit that because I get embarrassed when people call me gross.

4.  My worst cooking disaster ever was this one time I was making chilli and I thought I would be clever and use dried kidney beans instead of canned. Only I hadn’t planned very well and didn’t have the time to soak the beans properly, so instead did the “quick-soak” method which didn’t work out very well and wasn’t really discovered until after we started eating the chilli. It was a chewy mess.

5.  If I could only eat one flavor of ice cream the rest of my life it would be lemon chiffon, which I had at a little shop of homemade ice cream when we were out in Picton last weekend. The shop is called Slickers, and is very special because their flavours change daily and each is made with local, fresh ingredients. It was hard to choose just 1 flavour – I’d tried Basil too – but I’d settled on the Lemon Chiffon because it was perfectly light and refreshing, and the best answer to that hot sweltering day.

6.  One food I hate and avoid at all costs is mussels and oysters. I actually don’t hate either, but just can’t have them because they make me violently ill. I also just learned that mussels have the same effect on my mom.

7.  What is your favorite meal?  Breakfast, lunch, or dinner? It’s split! I love breakfast on weekends, especially long, lingering brunches. During the week, I love lunch so much that all I can think of is my packed lunch in the fridge from the hours of 9am till noon every day.

I Left my Heart in the County

3 Aug

It’s an undiscovered gem just two hours east of Toronto. Prince Edward County, or “the County” as locals refer to it, is a playground for foodies and wine enthusiasts. The local food movement here is big, but not in a proclaim it loud and clear manner nor a “we do it because it’s what’s trendy” way. You get the feeling that the local food movement existed here before there was a Local Food Movement. This philosophy is backed here by the passion of the chefs, and menus of the area restaurants boast carefully crafted menus featuring fresh and locally sourced, hand-picked daily fresh ingredients, paired alongside selected wines of the region. It’s a phenomenal culture built up around the region’s culinary treats, celebrating whatever nature offers us that day and that season.

The County is also emerging as Canada’s newest wine region, and as well is renowned for its artisan cheesemakers, crafting cheeses with fresh, locally produced milk. One of our stops was at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., an artisanal goat and sheep cheese shop that is not only completely committed to local sources, but also dedicated to environmental sustainability in its operation. Many of the wineries are characterised by the charm that makes PEC so special, and remain small and intimate. By visiting some of the wineries for tastings, we were able to meet some of the winemakers and chat with them while they poured our tasting samples for us. Ask any one of them how they started their journey as a winemaker, and you can hear the passion for their craft and their wines as they begin to tell you their stories.

This weekend, we did a tiny little tour of the region, and managed to steal nibbles and taste much of what the region has to offer. From the wine, the cheese, the food – even the hot dogs – it was pure gastronomic joy. Add to that the fresh air, the miles and miles of farmland basking in perfect sunlight and the lake nearly always within reach. It was a gorgeous weekend.

I can’t wait to go back. The next time will involve a longer visit, which will allow us to linger and savor the region in the way that it deserves, rather than squeezing every little bit into our short little jaunt and whirlwind tour.

Here are some highlights in pictures:

Buddha Dog is an organic hot dog restaurant that features locally sourced meat for its weiners. It's the Slow Food Movement's answer to fast food. Each dog comes specially prepared with your choice of hand-crafted sauces made of local ingredients, and locally-sourced cheese.

Our whirlwind tour included the sights and flavours of such wineries as Waupoos Estates Winery and Sandbanks Estate Winery. We're noticing a growing trend among Ontario wine labels, which are gradually departing from the traditional to more modern and youthful designs.

We are still seeing the modern winemakers holding onto more traditional and beautiful structures such as these barns.

Fill in the Blank Friday!

25 Jun

Today, I’m working from home, which means that I really should be focusing on work. I’ve got my lap top in front of me and it’s a gorgeous day outside with nothing but sun, and to be quite frank with you, work is boring me. This all makes it hard to resist playing along on another fun Fill in the Blank Friday. This week’s theme is food! If you want to play along, hop onto Lauren’s the little things we do and join the fun.

1.  If I could choose my last meal it would be a buffet of rich, saucy, spicy Indian food. Oh, and a plate of McDonald’s french fries

2.  My favorite person to share a meal with is  any friend that I haven’t seen in a while because it’s nice to catch up over a slow dinner with a bottle of wine.

3.  The best meal I’ve ever had was a lobster dinner I had in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I’d never seen a lobster that big, and had never tasted a lobster that fresh and succulent in my life. We overindulged that night on fresh Atlantic seafood, and we paid the price afterwards with very sore tummies.

4.  The one food that makes me feel instantly better when I’m having a bad day is dumplings. Any kind of dumpling from any nationality will do – Polish pierogi, Italian gnocchi, Japanese gyoza – but I especially love and will gobble up any kind of Chinese dim sum dumplings.

5.  My absolute specialty in the kitchen is I’m not really sure that I have one yet. Right now, I suppose it is this recipe that I found for Ping Gai, which is a Laotian Style Grilled Marinated Chicken. It’s always a huge hit when I make it.

6.  The city that has the best food is Toronto. We have such a diverse city and therefore any type of cuisine, and authentic cuisine at that, is readily available for you to discover and fall in love with.

7.  My favorite healthy snack is unsweetened natural apple sauce with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

8.  In my opinion the nationality which has the best food is Indian. I love the flavors and textures of it. Everything is so complex and layered.

9.  If I could learn to cook anything in the world (and be really good at it!) I’d choose seafood paella. It looks pretty complicated and would take lots of time and care to get it right.

10.  The most outrageous dessert I’ve ever had was hmmmmm. This is a tough one. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, and I’m sorry to say that there are no real memorable desserts in my mind. I can say that my favorite dessert is crème brûlée.

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