Sunday, April 5, 2009


Despite my questioning why things are the ways things are there are a handful of traditions that I've established that I actually enjoy observing. Being raised in a world that mostly adhered to a strong Judeo-Christian calendar Sundays were always a day of rest for me...and for playing catch up with all the tasks that got left by the way side. They were always days when sleeping in was encouraged, when lazy breakfasts were always a good idea and when tradition was meaningful.

There are still Sunday traditions I keep to including:
waking up in my bed at my parent's house
morning grocery runs
smoothies made with 4 or 5 kinds of fruit and kissed with ginger
the Sunday crossword with my dad
reading the freshest PostSecret posts
reading the NYT weddings section (I'm a sap - don't tell anyone)
a long, hot bath before bed

Other traditions I've developed, but are flexible:
Bollywood movie nights w/ indian fooD
Seasonal gatherings of friends over an excess of food

I'm sure there are more but I can't bring them to mind or print right now...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Apologies and a new way of eating in the new year

My apologies for being such an awful, horrible blogger. I started off with the best intentions and then life and work got in the way. As a result I ate out more, blogged less, gained weight and was generally horrible. But it's a new year, and I'm back to an eating plan that makes so much sense.

It's simple really. When cooking for myself I plan to avoid using and consuming the following foods:
  • Wheat and wheat based products
  • Highly processed grains
  • Refined sugars (honey, molasses, agave are ok in small quantites)
  • Most if not all dairy products (hard cheeses are passable)
  • Processed foods

Foods I plan on consuming more of:

This is not necessarily restrictive since there are still carbs (yay) and there are no real forbidden foods. This means I will not turn down foods prepared by friends and family, and that while I will make healthier choices while eating out, I am not reduced to salad and water.

I know this method of eating works and results in better skin, stronger nails and shampoo commercial hair. I feel like I have more energy as well - and not surprisingly, this makes me a nicer person.

From here on in I plan to chronicle my eating habits )partly for my dietician - and to provide you with recipes that you may want to consider using.

While the rest of the posts will be recipe focused this one gives your a rough outline of how this eating plan works. There isn't specific time blocked off for exercise but i stretch for about 10 minutes every morning and spend about an hour of my day walking to and from work/on errands/ up and down an interminable flight of stairs. I agree that I could be doing more..and I'll work on it.

2 glasses of water
1 apple (or fruit equivalent - when I run out of apples I'm thinking pumpkin puree)
1/4 cup steel cut oats cooked with water

Afternoon Snack
1 large herbal tea (white/mint/berry)
1/4 cup toasted almond and dried fruit mix
1 whole fruit (optional)

2 cups of cooked green or orange vegetable
6-8 oz protein
4-6 oz carbohydrate
2 glasses of water

Granted this does not seem like enough food - but for someone who is used to only eating one large meal a day (often at the end of it) this is more food than I am used to. Breakfast, while it still does not seem worth the time, is making a huge difference to my energy levels.

I will keep you updated. In the mean time, take a look at the two food pyramid's below, 1 from the USDA and 1 from Harvard Which do you think makes more sense for the individual consume, and which is easier to follow?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mes petits choux

Inspired by the Daring Bakers who churned out dozens and dozens of Pierre Herme's eclairs earlier in the month, and faced with an open spot on my finger foods menu for the house warming I decided it was time to try making pate a choux again. Pate a choux is one of the few pastry doughs I haven't been instantaneously successful at.

My former friend M used to make a fabulous polish dessert named after the mountains of Poland. That dessert, which I haven't though of since I was in high school consists of layers of choux paste spread over a baking sheet and baked until crisp. Since the dough steams during the baking process the layer rises unevenly resulting in the "mountains". The layers are then sandwiched together with a vanilla pudding in the approximation of a pastry cream. So it's like an eclair... only more rustic. However, when I tried it I found the result entirely too eggy and the pudding filling was too sweet - which turned me off the idea entirely. My following attempt at gougeres was equally abysmal and I'd given up on the idea entirely.

Then the Daring Bakers put on their masterful display and I thought "If all of them, all over the world can master this dough, then maybe I should try it again." I'm glad I did. Doing so resulted in the wonderful discovery of a dessert that my friend P actually likes. P is one of those boys who is utterly satisfied with a big plate of protein, and maybe some carbs as a garnish. He dislikes vegetables, and is utterly averse to dessert. To have found one that he actually likes, and will consume, is nothing short of miraculous. It almost makes up for the fact that I had to beat this 10 egg dough by hand. Yes, entirely by hand since I discovered just after combining the flour and hot liquid that my electric beaters had shorted out. I almost cried. Then I sucked it up and decided to forge ahead.

They were delicious and vanished rather quickly. By far, the hit of the evening, which makes them almost worth it.

The recipe for the pate a choux is my reworking (by which I mean I was running between my laptop and the stove and so there was some improvisation) of the Pierre Herme version. Since I added a hit of cinnamon to the pastry I decided to follow that up with a ginger pastry cream because once I start improvising I don't see reason to stop.

For the original Daring Baker's version please see Meeta's Blog, What's for Lunch, Honey?

Cinnamon Ginger Cream Puffs


1 recipe of pate a choux (see below)
1 recipe of ginger pastry cream (see below)
1 recipe of chocolate ganache (see below)

1. Once the choux have cooled, slice them in half.
2. Fill with a teaspoon of cold pastry cream.
3. Freeze until firm.
4. Dip the tops in the ganache, or use a fork and drizzle the ganache over (depending on how heavy a coating of chocolate you're looking for).
5. Chill for another 10 minutes in the freezer.
6. Serve - or leave in the freezer for your guests to sneak out at intervals.

Pate a Choux

1.5 cups of water
1 cup of milk
8 oz of butter, cut into cubes
4 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2 cups of flour
8 eggs

1. Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Once the butter has melted, and the mixture is at a rolling boil, dump in the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. The mixture will combine and form a ball, peeling itself off the bottom of the pan, but leaving a thin film behind. This is good.
3. If you have electric beaters, break them out. If not, square your shoulders and prepare for a work out.
4. Break an egg, beat it to homogenize and then pour it over the hot choux dough. Beat the dough vigorously with your beaters or spoon. It will go all sick and shiny first, but as it absorbs the egg will return to it's lovely sticky state. Continue until you have used all of the eggs. If you are using a spoon feel free to take breaks in between. Your dough will not suffer too much.
5. It is important that you shape the dough while it is warm. If you are using a piping bag, fit it with your widest tip and fill it with the warm dough. You can pipe these into any shape you'd like. If you are not using a piping bag you can do what I did and try and make quenelles with two spoons, or do what I did later and dollop teaspoons of dough onto a foil lined greased baking sheet.
6. You can freeze these - or bake them immediately. The total baking time is 20 minutes. I bake them for 10 minutes and then propped the oven door open with a wooden spoon handle and baked them for another 10, flipping the trays at the 15 minute mark.
7. Once baked, remove the puffs from the oven and poke a hole in the side of each one. This will release the steam in the puff and they will stay crunchy as they cool.

Ginger Pastry Cream

2 cups of milk
0.5 inch of ginger chopped into shards
6 tbsp of sugar
3 whole eggs beaten
3 tbsp of corn starch

1. Combine the milk and ginger in a microwave safe container. Bring to a boil and let cool, allowing the flavour form the ginger to infuse into the milk. Let cool and once cold remove the ginger. Alternately you can mince the ginger finely and leave it in the milk.
2.In a saucepan, combine the corn starch and sugar. Whisk to homogenize. Pour in the milk and whisk to dissolve.
3. In a separate container, beat the eggs to homogenize.
4. Heat the milk mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently. Once the mixture starts to steam ladle a spoonful into the eggs, pouring it in a thin stream and whisking the eggs constantly in order to temper them. Repeat a couple of times.
5. Pour the eggs into the mixture. From here on it, whisk constantly. It may seem like it will never thicken, but it will go from fluid to thick and spitting quickly. If you stop whisking it will get a little lumpy. You can salvage it by straining it, but it's easier not to have to do so.
6. Once the mixture is thick and glossy chill it down until you are ready to work with it. If you aren't a fan of pudding skin feel free to press a layer of cling film on the surface of the cream.

Chocolate Ganache

150gm of dark chocolate
5 tbsp of milk
1 tbsp of butter

1. Combine the ingredients in a microwave safe container.
2. Nuke for 15 seconds and stir.
3. Repeat until the chocolate melted and smooth.
4. Use immediately or chill and drizzle.

Vegan Spring Rolls

To say I like parties is an understatement. I adore them. I adore planning them, I love throwing them and I cannot think of very many things I'd do instead of attending them. I am also not picky about the type of party - be is a gala, a cocktail style soiree, or a house party. However, this love of throwing parties means I have to have a repertoire or party friendly recipes ready to go for whenever the mood strikes me. A relatively recent addition to this collection are spring rolls.

Growing up as a relatively international child (born in Bahrain to parents of East Indian descent and vacationing regularly in the Philippines makes for a complex palate and a strange variety of foods that evoke childhood) spring rolls or what are known in the Philippines as Lumpia are familiar and comforting food to me. I grew up with Lumpia Prito as my aunt's family is primarily vegetarian. However, as a treat for the kids the lovely women who assembled the lumpia would sometimes fill them with slabs of salty cheddar instead of vegetables. There are few things I loved mroe than as a child that a hot cheese filled lumpia, fried until golden, with crisp layers of pastry enclosing delectable molten cheese.

However - if I am to fit into my current wardrobe cheese lumpia are strictly off limits. Fried lumpia are too. In fact, I'd all but forgotten about them until I went cottaging this summer. There, a newly made friend added her contribution to our food stash - spicy pork filled lumpia. As I spent an afternoon hand rolling the delectable treats with her I wondered why I'd never bothered to make them myself.

I spent some time mulling it over. I've primarily stayed away from them because deep frying is a messy process and my tiny apartment kitchen will not allow for it. Also, deep fried foods are things I generally stay away from. However, I've also learned in the recent past, that the perfect samosas we make at the restaurant are very oven friendly. They emerge golden and crisp - as though they'd been deep fried even when they haven't. I reasoned that if it is possible with samosas - then it must translate to lumpia.

Of course - try to form I didn't bother to test my assumptions prior to the festivities. I simply went ahead and made them. Mercifully I was correct.

These lumpia are vegan - filled with stir fried vegetables (carrots, zucchini, peppers, onions, cabbage) and tofu - instead of being filled with the traditional ground pork or beef. Instead of being friend they are baked for 15 minutes on a foiled lined baking sheet that is sprayed with cooking spray. The tops of the lumpia are also given a quick hit of the spray so that they brown.

For more details and pictoral instructions on the rolling technique see Burnt Lumpia's blog.

Vegan Lumpia


1 package of lumpia skins (approx 50 for cocktail sized lumpia)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, minced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 large zuchinni, julienned
2 green peppers, julienned
4 baby bok choy, shredded
1/2 large head of napa cabbage, shredded
8oz firm tofu, pressed to drain and marinated over night in soy
cooking spray

1. Pre heat your oven to 450 F. Line 2 baking trays with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Heat your wok and spray with cooking spray.
3. Once the wok is hot toss in ginger, garlic and onions. Stir fry quickly until fragrant.
4. Once fragrant add the carrots and zucchini.
5. Cook until the zucchini releases some of it's fluid.
6. Add the peppers, choy and cabbage.
7. Cook until the vegetables are softened and have released their fluid.
8. Drain the vegetables well and save the fluid. You will use it to seal the wrappers.
9. Follow the instructions on Burnt Lumpia's blog to make the lumpia using the cooled vegetables and slices of marinated tofu as filling.
10. Lay the finished lumpia on the baking sheet. Spritz with cooking spray.
11. Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy and golden.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Work, Food, Life

Somedays a girl has to make a difficult decision between her future and her other future. Sunday, September 14th I was faced with that decision. On on hand, the World MBA fair was at the MTCC...and for someone considering an MBA it presents a jam packed afternoon of talking to recruiters, weight the merits of different schools and contemplating a life on another university campus. However, Sunday, September 14th was also the second Evergreen Brickworks Picnic.

The Evergreen Brickworks is one of those projects that you cannot help but love. Their goal is to raise $55 million to transform the Brickworks heritage site into an international showcase for urban sustainability and green design. So far they've raised $40 million - so they're only $15 million short. As someone who works in fund raising I have a deep appreciation of the work they do. So much so that I'm applying to work with them. But that's not what this post is about.

This post is about the 2nd annual Brickworks picnic. Since my student budget doesn't allow for $100 tickets to the event I volunteered 4 hours of my time greeting people and directing them to the bathrooms. In return I got sample incredibly produce and creations from over 30 local producers and top chefs in Toronto.

Ranging from grilled ontario peaches with a spicy lamb stuffing, beautiful kobe burgers and rabbit sausage to maple and ginger frozen yogurt, blueberry sorbet dished up on vine leaves and caramel apples the variety was astounding and everything was beautiful. While the morning was slightly humid the afternoon was hot and summy - perfect for sipping mill street organic beer and sampling lovely goats cheeses. As a bonus, one of the lovely chefs give me a couple of pounds of organic Berkshire pork shoudler that he had grilled for the house warming party I threw with my room mate.

While missing the MBA fair was a bit disheartening I don't regret it in the least. Few things are as lovely as spending a late summer afternoon making new friends, sampling local organic produce and engaging with some of the friendliest chefs in Toronto. I'm looking forward to the picnic next year. Maybe I'll even have a hand in planning it.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dinner at the Drake

One of my favourite parts of being an intern at the NFP I was hired by this summer were the event related perks. As an intern I occasionally felt like I was schlepping for no good reason and that I could be making much better use of my time. I was terribly frustrated and every so often contemplated throwing in the towel. I didn't though, because whenever it felt like things were getting to be a bit too much we'd have a fabulous event that I'd get to attend gratis.

After the festival was done the staff convened for one final hurrah at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. I don't know why I'd never been to the Drake before. Compared to it's neighbour the Gladstone, the Drake always seemed a bit stuck up, and more importantly, a bit too hipster for me. However, since the Drake had contra left over, that's where we were having dinner. The menu was a lovely standard 3 course with 3 options for each.

We started with a lovely prosecco to toast our sucess - and a sexy little sushi amuse. While the tuna was cut a bit thick for me, the lightly brined ginger (white - not that shocking pink) was very very refreshing and I'm tempted to learn to make it myself. The vegetable rolls were also delicious.

While the beet salad with chevre sounded incredibly tempting - and I love beets - I opted for the charcuterie plate because I prefer salty protein to sugar, and more importantly there were olives involved. Granted when the plate came out the olives were the green variety (not my first choice) but the seasonal fruit were lovely Ontario cherries. Few things can make me happier that beautiful local cherries. The foccacia was lightly toasted and drizzled with a rosemary olive oil. The charcuterie was deliciously salty and went perfectly with the sexy red they were serving (the name of which I forgot to note)

Following the charcuterie were a standard vegetarian pasta option, or a quarter roast chicken with sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes, or beef short ribs au jus with creamy smashed potatoes and lobster mushrooms. My choice was a pretty straight forward one. Mushrooms and beef are two of the things I most adore in the world and the notion of smashed potatoes was just too much to resist. Laced with salted butter and wonderfully creamy they were perfect.

Dessert was a tough choice for me...on offer were both a blissful sounding sticky toffee pudding, which I would have picked without a thought save for the fact that of late I've had a bit too much of the Haagen Dasz stucky toffee pudding ice cream and so decided a break was in order. Thus I selected the chocolate and butter scotch pot de creme because I think pots de creme are darling. What I got, and I'll admit I was dissapointed, was a single chocolate pot de creme with a swirl of creme fraiche. While I love chocolate it seemed that this example had been sitting in the refirdgerator a bit too long and was coated with a thin layer of condensation. Further, and I probably should have said something about this, it was the butterscotch I was really looking forward to because I love the rich caramel notes it brings. Luckily, due to some concern on the part of my dining companions I got to sample the pudding.

There was talk of it being spicy - and not in a lovely ginger, clove, cinnamon kind of way. This was a hot, searing, uncomfortable kind of heat. So I tasted, and tasted and tasted some more. And then I realized - it wasn't the pudding - which was cookbook correct with dates and syrup. Instead it was the accompanying pecans - which they had candied with a little cayenne pepper. While this may make for a wonderfully interesting bar munchie - the cayenne mixed in with the heat of ginger and clove in the pudding was jarringly disconcerting.

Beyond that it was a fabulous meal in a beautiful venue. If you have the chance to dine at the Drake take it without a second thought. The service is lovely and thoughtful, the space is utterly gorgeous and the food is quite good. Maybe those hipsters are on to something.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Japanese Food Culture

My darling friend E raised the idea of a strong difference between North American food culture and that of the Japanese. While I haven't necessarily piad a geat deal of attention to the cultural difference I occasionally run across things that remind me of the fascination the Japanese have with food and how they incorporate it into their lives.

To riff a little on the idea that E postulated - food in Japan is a genre all it's own. There is manga specific to it, there are adorable little decor items, and there are wonderful tools that are adorably rendered such that they don't have to be hidden in drawers when you aren't using them. Thus there is a demand and a resulting market that values food, it's production, the aesthetics and the artistry involved in creating beautiful products.

These lovely cakes
are one such example of the culture that turns classical food motifs into lovely pieces of art for your home - and they are deliciously practical. I wouldn't mind having a set to leave for my guests.

These Fire Flowers can live in your kitchen for up to two years and are a wonderfully aesthetic fire extinguisher for any small pan fires that might occur (thought I hope they don't) in your kitchen. There would also make an interesting gift for freshman moving out and cooking on their own for the first time. I will admit that $39.00 is expensive for a pair when you can pick up appprox 2 dozen roses for the same - but the investment you make with these might just be worth it.

Another super fun gift for for your kids who are moving out, or your kids who have tired of their easy bake oven and playdoh modelling kits, is this fun Norimake Makki Sushi Roll Maker from Bandai. Yes, the same bandia that makes other toys like tamagotchis, as well as the pokemon/digimon paraphenalia. This however is so much more fun and infinetly more useful. Maybe maki roll parties will be for this or a future generation what fondue parties were to my parents? I think it'd be a fabulous, hands on exercise in creativity and you're virtually garanteed perfect rolls.

Other fun Bandai products include the sandwich shapers with which you can shape sandwiches into heats and flowers and pull together complex many layered creations. Personally, if I'm going to be that cutesy I'd go the cookie cutter route myself, but I can see these being useful at tea parties, baby showers and other cutesy events.

So many cute useful little time and shelf space. What would you buy if you could?