Good things to eat

I’ll admit, the thought of it was very intimidating.

I was picturing something very exotic, or spending all day in the kitchen over large vats of something or other.  Requiring group of friends working feverishly to complete it in one day.

Or the need for hard to find equipment or ingredients.

Trouble was, I guess I didn’t really even know what Kimchi was.

What it comes down to is pretty much Korean style sauerkraut.

Something people have been making for years with little more than a bucket or crock, some salt and a big rock!

So why was I getting myself in a tizzy over it?  Why not just give it a try? Cabbage is pretty cheap, if it doesn’t work out…..oh well.

I’m almost embarrassed at just how easy it really is!

Then again, fermenting of food has been around a LONG time.  That’s how many cultures have survived by being able to preserve the bounty of the Summer for the long Winter ahead.

And then don’t even get me started with just how very good for you it is!  Talk about probiotic!!  This stuff is where it’s at!!

So not even knowing where to start, I did what any smart person would do, I looked up some recipes on the internet!   Admittedly, there were several and true, some did sound a little exotic and involved but I managed to find one that made sense.

Many of the recipes also called for “fish sauce” or “shrimp paste”, two things I actively avoid due to my shell-fish allergy but found no trouble working around that.

There were many many recipes, but I finally decided on this one:  Homemade Vegan Kimchi

I did not have, nor had the time to look for, the Kochukaru ( Korean chili powder) so I improvised on that.

I also didn’t make as huge of a batch as this recipe appears to make, in case it was disgusting and then I would have went to all the trouble and then would have to toss it!!

Here is what I used:

  • 1/2 large napa cabbage
  • 1/2 (maybe less) daikon radish
  • 1/2 red onion
  • Salt  ( Kosher or sea)

For paste:

  • 4 green onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • 2 birdseye Thai chilis ( small red ones)
  • 1 tbsp smokie paprika
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1 tbsp sugar

I peeled the leaves off the cabbage one at a time until I had taken off about half of them.  Use your judgement depending on how big your cabbage is.   After washing them, chop them into about 2 inch chunks,

I used only 1/2 of the daikon because it was quite large.   Peel it and then cut it into strips.  Smaller than French fries but bigger than match sticks.

Slice the red onion into full circle rounds about 1/4 inch thick.

Place all of these ingredients in a large bowl and then sprinkle generously with salt and toss to make sure everything is getting some salt on it.

 

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Then let it sit for a few hours until it gets quite whilty and releases some liquid.

 

When the cabbage mixture is ready to go, it is time to make the paste.

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Add all of the other ingredients ( except the green part of the green onions, just chop and mix those in   with the cabbage, but do it now, not during the wilting part) to the food processor and combine till it makes a nice paste.  ( Add a bit of the cabbage water if it is too thick)

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Then add the paste to the wilted cabbage and toss well until everything is nicely coated.

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Then carefully shove it all into a super clean Mason jar ( or more).  The other recipe suggests poking it down with a chop stick.  Really pack it in there, making sure there aren’t any air pockets.  And then pour in any remaining liquid from the bowl that will fit.

Seal it up tight and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours, then into the fridge for at least a week before testing it!

 

ONE WEEK LATER:

Time to check out the magic!!

A huge word of caution here that no one seems to mention in any of the recipes I saw…….

Kimchi is ALIVE!!  Fermenting is done by live ( but very friendly) bacteria and so after they have done their work on your cabbage, they are eager to show you!!

So when you open your new Kimchi for the first time, DO IT OVER THE SINK!  It is almost like a bottle of soda that has been shook! And it WILL spew everywhere!!

I had NO idea!!

Once that nonsense was over and I safely got the lid off…….I gave it a sniff.  It had a strong odor and it wasn’t particularly appealing, but the time of truth had come.  Time to taste it.

 

I was fully ready to dislike it, but instead I was surprised, amazed and delighted by the taste of something that I quite honestly can’t say as I have tasted before!   I was expecting something tangy, vinegary or pickley.   But it was none of these.

Instead, it was the most delightful mixture of salty, sour and a little bit spicy.

I was absolutely delighted with my experiment!

Since then, I have become obsessed with my Kimchi!!  As the lady in the commercial says “I put that @#%$@* on EVERYTHING!”

It is particularly wonderful for livening up any old boring sandwich!!  Fabulous as a burger topping, adds zing to any rice bowl type dish.  Add it to salads or as a condiment with eggs or omelets.  I could go on and on and keep trying it with everything!

Just DON’T heat it!  It is a live food, heating it will destroy all of its goodness!!

So don’t be afraid, give it a try yourself.

I would be very interested to hear just you make out!

 

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This Blog Turns Four!

Wow how time flies.

I always tell this story on the anniversary of the blog.  It was only supposed to be an exercise for a food writing class I was taking.  The assignment was to “set up a blog” and of course until anyone can actually FIND the blog, it sort of doesn’t exist.

But when I asked a couple of friends to check it out and comment to impress the teacher I got hooked.

I could write stuff and people could read it.  And some even said they liked it.

The first ever blog post was this one:  Can you really make pasta with a juicer? 

It was quite an involved project because again, I wanted to impress the teacher and wanted the inaugural attempt to be about something interesting.

I’ll admit I have been slacking on my posts in the last while.  Mostly because my computer is SO slow that I spend most of the blogging time yelling at it and threatening to toss it out the window.  But I promise, I’m going to do something about that very soon.

That and of course life getting in the way.  It’s also hard to keep coming up with interesting things to say.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still love to know about, read about, grow, cook and eat food and then talk about all those same aspects of food.  So hopefully I will get back to the writing about it part, real soon.

The other fun thing about blogs is that they are like having money in a good investment.  Even if I don’t post very often anymore, the old posts somehow still find their way to people to read.   In the four years since the blog started I have nearly 50000 hits!!

What’s really cool and completely by accident, is that is post will be the 400th post I have made, on the 4th anniversary.

 

Happy 4th Anniversary!

Happy 4th Anniversary!

It’s always a challenge, what to do with the left overs?

And let’s face it by now we are all SO sick of eating that even the prime freshly cooked food seems grim, let alone eating the same stuff for three days!!

Well, here is this year’s offering to help use up a few items!

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Ever find yourself with some dregs of cheese left over from a lovely cheese plate?  Bits and bobs of perfectly still nice cheese that you paid good money for so you don’t want to just toss it out, but it’s gotten a bit dry or tired looking from sitting out or not being properly wrapped and being shoved in the fridge after a night of merry-making?

 

Left over bits of cheese

Left over bits of cheese

 

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Finely chop up all the left over bits of cheese, removing any heavy rind.

 

And of course who doesn’t  have some left over turkey??

Well……how about………

Turkey Macaroni and Cheese?

I didn’t even have any “actual” macaroni but it have some spiral pasta in the pantry, which worked just fine.

Here’s how it went down.

Boil up a few cups of pasta of your choice.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, fry up some onions and some cubed turkey.  You could even toss in some veg at this point if you had it, but I didn’t.

 

 

Sauteed turkey cubes and onion

sautéed turkey cubes and onion


 

Then, in a sauce pan, make up a cheese sauce according to your favorite recipe.

I used a bit of butter and flour.  Made a roux and added milk.   Then gradually added the bits of left over cheese from the cheese platter, finely chopped.  Be careful with any that have a heavy rind that won’t melt down.

 

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Cheese sauce from left over party cheese plate

 

When the pasta is cooked, the turkey and onions sautéed and the cheese sauce made, mix them all together in a large bowl till thoroughly combined and then transfer to the casserole dish of your choice.

 

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Mix all ingredients together and transfer to a baking dish

 

Now here’s where things got CRAZY…..

I didn’t have any bread crumbs so I chopped up some left over bread stuffing and spread it over the top!

 

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Turkey Macaroni and Cheese topped with stuffing

 

Bake at 350 degrees for about one half hour, then uncover for about ten minutes till the top crusts up a bit.

There you have it!!

This is a very versatile dish that you can use up all manner of weird left over bits in the fridge!  Only your imagination is your limit!!

 

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Yum

 

Savory Oatmeal Cookies

Okay, who are we kidding, they are still called “cookies” for a reason!!

But my problem with things called cookies is that it always conjures up something bad for you, something void of nutrient, something…..silly.

So yes, this is called a cookie and does have many of the ingredients found in traditional cookie, but this one has been jazzed up to pack as much extra nutrients as we can into each little bite.

The other great thing about these is that they contain very little sugar!  BONUS.

If you have been following this blog for any time you will have gathered that I am on a life long quest to find an agreeable substitute to the traditional store-bought cracker!

As tasty as some commercial crackers might be, they inevitably always give me heartburn and usually after I’ve read the package I can tell why!

And some of my home-made cracker experiments have gone better than others but usually turn out to be more suited to people with dietary restrictions who are happy to get whatever they can that they can actually eat.  So compared to “nothing at all” they are fine but not exactly a great snack that you would binge on, if you know what I mean.

But I think I may have finally found what I am looking for with these babies.

They have lots of good for you stuff in them, not too much bad for you stuff and they actually TASTE great!!

Give em a try.

 

You will require:

  • 1 cup large flake rolled oats
  • 1 cup all whole wheat flour ( or combos of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup golden or regular flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar ( or equivalent of sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt ( little more if you like things saltier)
  • 1/4 tsp baking SODA
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese ( I used old cheddar but parmesan would be good too)
  • 1 egg

Optional but strongly recommended additions:

  • 3 green onions finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped herb like rosemary
  • a few turns of cracked black pepper
  • good finishing salt to sprinkle on top

 

Whip out the Mix Master, although a mixing bowl will do just fine and add:

The oatmeal, flax-seed,brown sugar, olive oil and egg, stir together and let sit a couple of minutes till the oats get a bit gooey.

Then add, salt, baking soda, (onions and herbs), grated cheese and mix those thoroughly into the mixture.

Then a few spoonfuls at a time, add in the flour and keep stirring it in till the dough comes together nicely but isn’t too gooey or too dry.  So you might end up using a little more or a little  less than the original cup size asked for.  But the other ingredients can be more or less absorbent, so you won’t know for sure till you are in it.

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Then you are going to line a baking sheet with parchment and if you haven’t already done so, heat your oven to 350 degrees.

I just used two teaspoons, one to scoop out of the bowl and one to push it off the first spoon on to the tray.  Just like any drop cookie you might make.

Then go over them with a fork and squish them down flat.  They don’t spread while baking like some cookies do, so what ever size you end up squashing them to, will pretty much be their final size.   Then sprinkle with a bit of finishing salt and into the oven they go!

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Bake for about 25 minutes or until they get golden brown around the edges.

They are delicious immediately or in as long as it takes to cool enough as to not burn your mouth, or let them cool on a rack and then place in an air tight container and keep like you would any home-made cookie.

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But the best part….to me, they are the answer to my quest for a home-made cracker!  They are great with a bit of jam or some cheese or whatever you like to put on crunchy flat things!!

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What the Fig?

Our friends have a spectacular fig tree in their back yard.

So when they asked if we’d like some fresh figs to play with, the answer was “of course!”

But then what?

Now don’t get me wrong, Figs are GREAT for you!!  Click here to read all the cool things!

But what to do with fresh figs?  I notice they don’t have a very long shelf life once plucked from the tree, which makes me wonder how the ones we get in the supermarket from California manage to make it this far looking that good??

So here is what I came up with over the course of three days:

 

Note "fig leaf" in background.

Note “fig leaf” in background.

 

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Figs in Smoothies!

No brainer.

Chalk full of fibre and goodness without being overly sweet!

 

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Little fig pizzas:

Super simple.

Take your favorite pita ( or in this case naan bread), or if you are feeling particularly ambitious your own homemade pizza crust……

Add:

  • carmelized onions
  • slices of fresh fig
  • crumbled blue cheese ( or goat cheese but blue is nice with the fig)
  • pine nuts

Put it in the oven till the cheese melts and the figs wilt.

Top with a bit of fresh arugula if you have it.   ( I didn’t but would have like it!)

 

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Next item up is a little more hearty.

Fall is just around the corner so I thought I’d practice a dish that would go well on a cooler day.

“Lamb, Lentil and Fig Stew”!

Again, so easy, but SO satisfying.

In a large pan or Dutch oven :

  • Saute one large onion

Then add cubed lamb meat and cook till browned on all sides.

Then add:

  • 1 cup of rinsed green lentils
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 inch minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • OR  1 tsp curry powder
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Mix all until everything is well coated.  Then add enough water to just cover everything.

Let simmer till lentils are almost done add more water if needed.

Then add 3 – 4 chopped fresh figs!

Let simmer a while longer till lentils are done and figs have melted down into the stew.

Serve in your favorite way!

Shown here over a bit of mash potato and a little steamed broccoli on the side!

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Did the trick and wasn’t at all sweet, but had the little “Je ne sais quoi”!!

 

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Along with the fresh figs we also received a jar of home made Fig Chutney from our friends.  We only had a twelve pack of figs to deal with, they had the whole TREE so preserves are a great way to go!!

 

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And what better would Fig Chutney go with than Grilled Pork Chops with Roasted Veg??

This was really tasty!!

 

 

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And last but not least, you need to have at least ONE dessert item on the list!!  I mean it IS fruit after all!!

So I whipped up a little fig cake.

I pretty much made the same recipe as my once famous “Pluot Skillet Cake” and just substituted the pluots with figs!

Totally did the trick!

 

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So there you have it, Fig-o-lisious!!

What do you do with YOUR figs??

Food Movies

There are a lot of movies that involve food.  I mean why wouldn’t there be?  As humans, eating is one of our favorite pass times, so chances are, if you add food to your movie.  It will make people happy!

I had three note worthy food related film experiences this Summer.

Just the other day we went to see The Hundred Foot Journey.

 

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It isn’t completely about food, there are some very touching human experiences involved as well, but food certainly would be nominated for “best supporting Actor”.

It is also very heartwarming and uplifting but warning, it will make you hungry!!

 

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And then earlier in the summer we saw the movie CHEF.

Although the title implies a heavy  food theme, it too has a warm and fuzzy human redemption story but is undoubtedly hunger inducing.

I was anxious to see this movie because in one of the episodes of  Top Chef New Orleans, the lead actor / director/ writer, Jon Faverau was the guest judge on the show.  He was in New Orleans doing research for the movie which is based around the whole food truck craze and in that episode of Top Chef, it was a food truck challenge.

I’m not sure how it did at the theatres, but if you should see it available on one of the many modes of movie watching and you like stuff food then check it out.

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But I think my most note worthy food film experience this summer was part of our local Foodie Film Fest.

Our Victoria Film Festival which usually happens in February branched out this summer to bring us something a little delicious.

A friend asked me if I would like to join her for one of the presentations.   Neither of us were completely clear as to what would go on.  The Film Festival sometimes puts on free movies in the park where you bring your blanket and a picnic so when we heard it was at a vineyard, we just assumed it would be the same sort of arrangement.

My friend has a fully equipped Westphalia camper van, complete with cooker stove and refrigeration.   So we went all out with the picnic aspect of the evening.   The movie wasn’t playing until dusk, so why not travel out to somewhere near the event, have our picnic and then attend the movie with our bellies already full?

We weren’t all together sure where we were going, so we thought it best to stop by and check out the location first and then go have our picnic.

Turns out it was at a gated estate vineyard, deep down a country road.  I guess because we were so early we sailed right though the gate and then drove up the long road to the top of the hill.  Up there we were met with a spectacular view and plenty of parking next to the wine tasting building and the location where the film showing was still being set up.

At this point we really saw no good reason to leave!

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We busted out our dinner and some wine and watched the scenery as the sun started to go down.  It was magnificent.

But then we started noticing many of the other guests, who weren’t fortunate to have arrived early, traipsing up the long hill with their lawn chairs and baskets.  Seems the gates had been closed.   Weren’t WE lucky!!

 

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But it got even better!

When we saw that enough people were starting to gather we decided to check out the situation and pick up our tickets. Only to find out that included in the price of admission was a snack box of fabulous treats!  Fresh bread slices, pates, succulent cheeses and pickles all provided by Charelli’s Cheese Shop. Had we known, we might not have eaten as much back in the camper!!  Oh well.

As well, they were doing wine tastings at the tasting bar and you could buy glasses of wine to have with your snack box while you watched the movie!   All terribly civilized!

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People were quite jealous of us because not only did we have nice chairs to sit in and warm blankets for our lap but we also had a convenient little folding table to rest our goods on,that my friend brought out from the van.

 

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And just when I thought things couldn’t get ANY better, the lady next to me insisted that I take a glass of wine off her hands because she had bought two thinking she was getting one for her friend, who turned out to have already got one!

Then, of course there was the movie!

Brasserie Romantique

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And it had English subtitles which made it seem even more romantique!

Again, a lovely little movie with delicious scenery!

 

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It’s all making me think  that perhaps a home “food movie festival” might be a great idea!!

Cook up some good snacks and have a food movie marathon with  your best buds!

 

What’s YOUR favorite food film??

Butter Chicken Pizza

What could be easier than this quick assemble, dreary Sunday afternoon, lunch favorite?

All that’s required is some left over Butter Chicken, restaurant bought, or home made.

  • some Naan bread
  • some melty cheese ( I used smoked cheddar for extra zing)

 

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Place Naan on a baking sheet.

 

 

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Generously cover with the left over butter chicken

 

 

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Sprinkle with cheese

 

Bung into oven.

Simple as THAT!!

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I didn’t have any but you could top the finished product with some chopped fresh cilantro or finely chopped red onion……..or whatever you find that you have around.  Make different ones if you like!

Makes a great lunch or light dinner paired with a side salad……

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