Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mmmm, lemon-y!

I love finding random recipes and realizing I have all the ingredients, then having them come out oh-so-good. While taking stock of the fridge, I realized I had a few lemons (and limes) in the fridge that were about to go south, so thought it best to use them up. [aside: I still have a tough time going to the grocery store for lemons... I miss my lemon tree back in California! I could literally just trot out back for gigantic lemons any time I needed them, not pay an arm and a leg for them at the store *sigh* The joys of living in the great white north, I suppose :P ] I rummaged through my recipe binder and found one for lemon bread. It's hand written so unfortunately I don't know where I got it from... but orphaned or not, this one came out too tasty to keep to myself.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Classics: Ratatouille

Winter is still in full force, but tonight saw me cooking summer on the stove. I've been trying to work more veggies into our menu and this week decided to tackle ratatouille (I can't stop saying 'rat patootie'). It was ridiculously cheap to make and came out *so* good! As good is it came out, this dish simply begs to be made in the summer when everything is in season, but you work with what you've got. I also made way too much, but then what else is new. As I stood at the stove, maniacally stirring the big stock pot full of veg, B commented that I was meant to live in Quebec in the '50s when families averaged somewhere around a dozen children, plus the extended family and housewives cooked enough to feed a small army at each meal. Seeing the almost-overflowing pot tonight, I can't really argue with that.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Homemade Granola

I've tried a few recipes for granola before but this one seems to be the best. It's mostly fuss-free, inexpensive and you can change up the ingredients to your liking. Comparing a bag of fancy grocery store granola which gives 2/3 cup as a serving size comes out to about $1.20 per serving. The below recipe cost me half that at $0.60 per serving. This will vary depending on what you have on hand and what you choose to put in it, but unless you plan on putting gold dust in it, it's going to come out cheaper (and probably healthier) than the store bought stuff!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making friends with yeast

I've never really gotten the hang of bread. I love eating it... I *adore* a fresh, dense loaf of french bread, or sweet, chewy cinnamon rolls and don't get me started on chewy pretzels! Sadly (or maybe luckily), I can't make them myself. Quick breads and such I have no trouble with, but anything that requires kneading I just can't seem to get right. I really don't know if it's the flour to yeast ratio or the kneading or what. *slight lip quiver*

B got me a KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas, and in the recipe booklet that comes with it gives a recipe for 'easy' bread, using the mixer to knead the dough. Hey! That's just what I need, right? So I tried it. Yyyyyyyeah..... no. If I'd made a few more batches, I would have had enough bricks to build a BBQ pit on the balcony. It didn't turn out well, we'll leave it at that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dreaming of summer, smelling of kumquats

Winter is slowly winding down here... we've had a few days of surprising mild weather and apparently spring will be springing relatively early this year if the meteorologists are to be believed. Though at the moment it's back to windy and biting cold. That taste of (relative) warmth, of being able to go out without bundling up, has me anxious for warmer weather to get here.

Spring is a rather messy season, with grey piles of melting snow, mud puddles and rain, but that increase in temperature and daylight has an amazing effect on your sense of well-being. Growing up in California I can't say I ever truly appreciated the seasons. We had dry/warm weather or wet/cool weather and that was about it. Here in Quebec, you get it all. Hot and humid summers, crisp and colorful autumns, freeze-your-bits-off snowy winters, and rejuvenating (if soggy) springs. And I've come to grips with the fact that no matter how many angry letters or bribe-laced muffin baskets I send those weather fairies, they will not change the seasons for me, so I just try and enjoy what I can about each.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dairy-free Caeser Dressing

Living with a lactose-intolerant boyfriend has forced me to find various ways of avoiding dairy. You'd be surprised how much processed food have dairy of some kind in it, it's ridiculous. Check out the ingredients on a bag of flavored potato chips the next time you're at the store!

I was happy to discover a restaurant in Ottawa while visiting my mom one weekend called the Green Door Restaurant. It is a buffet style place that is vegetarian/vegan... nice variety, very tasty dishes, very home-y atmosphere that's lovely on a rainy afternoon (or any other time!). They even have their own cookbook, which I promptly bought.

It has the usual tofu stir-fries and veggie lasagnas one would expect, but there have been some surprises, too. One of the most surprisingly tasty recipes I tried was the Caeser dressing. I'd not cooked with silken tofu before and was, quite frankly, skeptical. In educating myself on lactose-intolerance in cooking for B, I've tended to avoid dairy 'alternatives'... they never seem to live up to the real thing. But still, I gave it a shot and I was completely blown away by it. Had I not made it with my own two hands, I'd have sworn there was dairy in it. It was rich, creamy and freakin' delicious.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Easier than you thought: Salad Dressing

Used to be that if I wanted salad dressing, I'd go to the grocery store and see what the options were. That's where salad dressing came from after all, isn't it? That is, until I met B.

My boyfriend, whom I shall refer to as B, comes from a large Quebecois family. His mother and grandmother were in charge of feeding every one, often on a tight budget, so a lot of what I've learned over the past few years has been from them. One of the most basic, but oddly liberating, things is how to make salad dressing.

In all honesty it's a terribly easy thing to make, yet as the majority of North Americans, I didn't really think about it much further than grabbing a bottle of Kraft off the shelf at the store. Once I tried homemade dressing, that changed right quick. I still sometimes give in to the urge for something store-bought, but mainly I work with variations of the following:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Things I love: my slow cooker

Most of us have one, kicking around in a cupboard or collecting dust on a shelf. Well go dust it off, it's time to start using it.

I got mine as a present from my mom a few years back, and at first I thought "Great, another thing to take up space." It's nothing fancy, a Bravetti 4 quart cooker with three heat settings and a removable stoneware dish. It sat around for a while, and then one day I fished it out and tried to figure out what to do with it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This Little Monkey Went to Market...

Welcome! Over the years I've taught myself to cook and have tackled many recipes and projects; some of them very successful, some less so. But I've learned from it all and come out a better cook than before... and the journey has been delicious.

While fancy gadgets and time-saving products can be nice (and really, who doesn't enjoy a shiny new gadget now and then?), I still find myself enjoying most the simple things. Simple recipes, dishes made from scratch, taking the time to do something right, the pleasure in a dish that comes out just right, having learned how to do or make something that was a mystery to you before. (You will learn quickly patience is not my strong suit, but even I have to admit that it pays off from time to time when cooking!)

I realize there are a thousands of food blogs, cookbooks, tv shows and magazines already out there, so this one will likely not be a shining beacon (mmm, bacon) that stands alone amongst all others... and at first that kept me from wanting to do the blog at all. If I'm just telling them things they already know, or can find elsewhere, what's the point? But then I noticed how excited I get with people when we talk about cooking... I realized the passion I had for it, and the one unique thing I could offer was my experiences, my opinions, my points of view. I will endeavor to share that here. Recipes I have tried (both good and bad), how I stock my kitchen, new things I try, old things I love, things I just plain ol' enjoy seeing/smelling/tasting/doing, and what I learn from it all. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this... I just have a lot to say... So pull up a chair, we'll dish. ;)