Friday, December 2, 2011

Shameless Plugging

I've got a new blog! It's craftier than this one, but it has some food... you should follow it, too!

it's here

I hang out with my dog a lot, so he'll be on there pretty often. He's pretty cute, too.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Feta Pumpkin Squash Bake Revisited

Sophia and I have both made this recipe before as seen on Baking Equals Love.

This time around I wanted to eat this creamy dish over pasta. I found however that the feta did not melt into a crusty topping as it is shown on Baking Equals Love. I thought I'd reflect on how I would change this recipe for my own uses in the future when serving it over pasta. 

-I would saute shallots in lieu of the onion soup mix. 

-I would also mix in the herb of choice  in with the pumpkin or squash mixture ( I used sage this time around because I had some in the fridge).  

-I would also mix the feta in with the pumpkin and cream mixture and then add mozzarella and parmesan cheese on top to get that cheesy crust topping.

-I would also bake cooked pasta with the mix. 

-I also like to sprinkle with red chili flakes. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Latte

* I actually made this back in the fall and forgot to publish the post!

This was so delicious even the strictly 'black coffee/espresso' drinker in the house loved it!!

Courtesy of Bakergirl

Pumpkin Syrup 

1/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep syrup from burning. 

Let mixture cook together until it becomes syrup-y and begins to coat the spoon (for about 10-15 minutes), then remove from heat.

Refrigerate in a heat-proof container. The syrup will thicken a bit in the refrigerator, but will become syrup-y again when heated. 

*Do mind the pumpkin bits, which are sugary and chewy. They will be in abundance when using real homemade pumpkin puree. This may be avoided if you go through the extra fine process of refining your pumpkin puree by draining through a sieve and then pureeing twice over.  

Pumpkin Latte 
 2 tablespoons syrup 
2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream OR 2 cups milk 

Blend until frothy. Pour into cup and add hot coffee or espresso. 

*I personally found the syrup to be a bit too sweet for my liking so I think next time I'll try to make it wit only one tablespoon of syrup. It's easier to make this in larger portions so I tend to only have it when I've got company to drink it with. Otherwise there is very little of the syrup mixture to blend. 

*Being the glutton that I am, I also enjoyed this latte much more when I added whipped cream on top.  You can also substitute with frothed milk if you so prefer. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Homemade Fresh Squeezed Lemonade

fresh squeezed lemon juice from 6 lemons water ice sugar I ended up adding quite a bit of sugar and water as it was originally very tart. This was relatively easy to make because of this juicer!! It was actually a regifted christmas gift that I never thought I'd actually use but it's really come in handy.
This post was created on July 21, 2011.

Spicy Jambalaya with Jalapeno Bacon Cornbread

This was the best jambalaya I have ever tasted!

Spicy Curried Jambalaya

chorizo or andouille sausage (this version used soy chorizo)
deveined shrimp
.5 chopped red bell pepper
.5 chopped green bell pepper
1 diced onion
2 jalapenos (sliced)
3 chopped celery stalks

curry powder
sea salt
chili powder

vegetable broth

Jalapeno Bacon Corn Bread
Courtesy of Running to the Kitchen

1 cup yellow cornmeal
all purpose flour
baking soda
baking powder
buttermilk (I used 1 cup milk with a tablespoon vinegar)
2 large eggs
bacon (black forest bacon)
bacon grease

I was disappointed with the texture and moisture of this cornbread. It was not as fluffy and crumbly as I would have liked. I expect cornbread to fall apart in your hand and to be sweet and very moist. This bread was still light but held together quite well and though not dry, it was not as juicy as I would have liked. However it was packed with flavor. Unfortunately the jambalaya was so flavorful and spicy that it overpowered the cornbread.

The appetizer were purchased clam cakes over a bed of corn and lima beans.

Next I want to smoke some brisket and pork butt (a part of the shoulder not the behind) and to serve it with a lima bean, corn, collard green, hot pepper and bacon salad.

This jambalaya, though made in my kitchen, was thrown together by my boyfriend. I had to indiscreetly give him props somewhere on this post. Also this post was created on August 13, 2011.

Ridiculously Delicious Roasted Tomatoes

To be honest, I chose this recipe for dinner because of it's healthy appeal but it took me a few days to really feel excited about cooking it. I mean, how many people can actually say that they get excited for a meal of roasted tomatoes?

Well after making this recipe, I can say that I do now.

This is probably the most delicious, flavorful roasted tomato recipe I have ever tasted or come across. The tomato juice was so good that I couldn't help myself from sucking on the core of the tomatoes before throwing them out!

I tossed this recipe with some assorted pasta and roasted blue and regular fingerling potatoes and onions with rosemary and sea salt, which I served as a pasta salad. There was so much juice from the tomatoes that I think I'll make rice or couscous instead of pasta next time. Maybe with some grilled kebabs. Yesss.

Roast Tomatoes with Raisin and Feta

Courtesy of My Best Days Blog

80 grams, 2.8 ounces(¼ cup) natural almonds
12 perfectly ripe, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra to serve
105 grams/3.7 ounces (¾ cup) large golden raisins
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled, bruised
6 pieces lemon peel, removed with a peeler, pith removed
2 long red chillies, seeds removed, thinly sliced
8 marjoram sprigs
2 fresh bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a mortar and pestle
150 grams/5.3 ounces Persian feta, coarsely broken

Preheat oven to 220C. Spread almonds on an oven tray and roast until golden (4-5 minutes). Set aside to cool, then coarsely chop or coarsely crush in a mortar and pestle.

Meanwhile, place tomatoes in a roasting pan in a snug single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter with raisins, garlic, lemon peel, chilli, marjoram, bay and fennel seeds, season to taste and roast until tomatoes blister and bleed their juices (15-20 minutes).

Remove from oven, pour pan juices into a small saucepan, reduce over high heat until thick and syrupy (3-5 minutes), then pour over tomatoes to glaze.

Scatter tomatoes with feta and almonds, drizzle with extra olive oil, then season with freshly ground black pepper and serve hot.

*I used 4 dried red chilis with the seeds instead of a fresh red chili, especially because I don't mind the extra spice. I also used dried marjoram instead of the fresh stuff. I also toasted the almonds in a pan with no oil briefly instead of roasting them seeing as I was also roasting the potatoes and tomatoes at the same time. I also did not make a sauce with the juices from the tomato. Maybe next time I will try that...
This post was created on July 14, 2011.


I love turning a not so hot bottle of red wine into sangria. I first came across this recipe at a summer cookout and my cousin was kind enough to pass the recipe along. It's from Food Network's Emeril Lagasse. He has several sangria recipes featured on the website but this is the one that I've stuck with. I've shared this recipe with a Halifax friend who shared it at a dinner party where it was a huge hit! This past weekend I also used this recipe once again for a baby shower. Everyone seemed to like it and it certainly was just the thing for a hot summer day. A bit boozy and strong, I'll admit. Word of warning, if drinking in the summer heat, be sure to hydrate yourself with water before cooling off with this fruity cocktail.

There was a liter of Mondavi wine in the cupboard that had been opened for dinner one night. I decided that this was just the type of wine to turn into this yummy sangria. Of course, I had to double the recipe given by Emeril for a liter of wine.

Emeril Lagasse's Sangria Recipe
Courtesy of Food Network

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (recommended: triple sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled

Makes: 1.5 quarts
Cover and chill for 2 hours.
This post was created on July 13, 2011.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back Again!

I was right about one thing: it's just too hot to cook. I thought this would be great to finally figure out how to make this whole Walking Dead-inspired recipe work. But then I realized, it doesn't have to be the first mention of food. In fact, during a relatively safe and peaceful time, these people manage to grow their own produce! There are paragraphs and paragraphs about fresh tomatoes. So of course, instead of thinking up anything, I can just brag about my own garden! Every year we make jelly out of our red currants, which I'm feeling worse about every day, since we're running low and the bush is ready, but I just haven't found the time.

I have, however, found the time to baby my watermelons. I thought the rabbit were eating the blooms again (I didn't get a single zucchini last year) but I was pleased to discover that they pretty much leave the watermelons alone. Turns out the little melonlets grow in the grass, so they're hard to find until they're fist-sized. This is the biggest so far, but there are a quite a few more on the way.
And, of course, the tomatoes. I was going to take a big bite into a ripe one and take a picture of that, but I ate all of the early ones already. Besides, I can't find the bit where Rick eats a tomato like it was an apple, so maybe the plants are just giving me a little leeway on that one.

Now, if you don't mind, I have a wedding to get ready for :)

Happy summer!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Summer is Too Hot for Cooking.

Pretend like I bought these blueberries on sale. They're from far away, and they're anything but organic. I pick out the squishier ones.

Then I grab some frozen, ready-made pie shells from the freezer. I mix the blueberries with some sugar and corn starch, let it sit, and then put the whole thing into pie form.

Then I cut giant steam vents and shove pieces of butter in them, because I forgot to add it before adding and attaching the top crust.

Then I shove it in the oven.

Then I slam the whole thing on the table and make no claims to having made it from scratch. Praise abounds anyhow.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

PRomise broken already. But I DO plan to make a pie today! And my excuse this week: too much all-you-can-eat sushi :)

Also ribsfest.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ugh. Later this week, I promise.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Idea

I've just been having trouble thinking up things to make lately. I blame having a job with almost free restaurant food and never cooking for myself!

But I thought hey, I read a lot! Why not just make something from whatever book I'm reading. That would be fun for everyone!

Unfortunately for you (and maybe me, because I'll have to eat it) I'm currently reading compendium one of Rober Kirkman's The Walking Dead. So all I've come up with so far is canned pears:

"We've got about three more cans of peaches though. Other than that, the fruit is almost gone"
"Crap... I really liked the pears. And I hate peaches."


"when I saw the broken window I was worried. But the looting must have happened early on, back when people were stealing TVs, VCRs and computers. Everyone must have fled to Atlanta by the time people realized canned goods were more valuable. Lucky for us."

So there we go folks. I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Extra Mint? Homemade Mint Ginger Tea!

I got up the other day with a raging headache that made me feel faint and nauseated. Turns out that I had a lingering cold for a while that had been laying dormant for the last week or so and then decided to wake up with a vengeance and turn into a full blown sinus infection. Needless to say I cancelled all plans and spent the rest of the day on the couch, sipping soup and tea and taking acidophilus. Although I'm feeling much better today I've been weary and been trying to keep everything healthy.

While sick, I was served a packet of ramen noodles, my guilty favorite. The ramen chicken flavoring was ditched and replaced with a homemade vegetable broth that I made last week with a pinch of spices and garam masala to clear out the sinuses.

Looking into the fridge today, I found that there's a whole bunch of mint leaves that are yet to be used. The answer? This lovely homemade ginger tea!

And it's just the thing I need for this pesky cold!

Courtesy of Eating Pleasure: Little Inbox Recipe

2 liter water
30 mint leaves
2 thumb sized slices of root ginger, peeled

Bring the water to boil. Add the mint leaves and ginger on a simmer for half hour. Serve warm with brown sugar for sweetening.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Classic Italian Dinner at Home

Much like the cooking challenges that Sophia and I used to subject ourselves to, I have begun to take culinary requests from friends and family. Typically these meals are made as a reward to a lucky person who wins a bet. Instead of betting money, we bet, what we call, fantasy meals. This laborious but incredible meal was inspired by a fantasy meal where meatballs were requested. The recipe I created myself with a little help.

A few nights prior to cooking the fantasy meal, I had made patatas bravas, a Spanish appetizer of crispy cut potatoes with a spicy roasted pepper dipping sauce. I used the remaining sauce as a paste and a base for the spicy tomato sauce.

Pork and Veal Meatballs with a Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground veal
1 chopped onion

After mixing the ground meat with the chopped onion, I rolled the meat into balls and then swished them in an egg wash before coating them in breadcrumbs. A friend had recommended that I wet the breadcrumbs beforehand in a little splash of milk before using to coat the meatballs. The idea was to then fry the meatballs with this coating in order to yield a nice crispy outside layer. However, I then transferred the meatballs to the homemade simmering tomato sauce to add flavor and to cook the middle of the meatball. Thus I would recommend to forego the egg wash and bread crumb coating altogether.

Spicy Tomato Sauce
1 can of Pastene peeled and boiled tomatoes

Empty can of tomatoes to a pot and simmer on medium heat.

I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light for a sauce to accompany potatoes and I used this as a paste for the spicy tomato sauce. Here's a rough draft version of the sauce.

diced onion
roasted red pepper*
chili pepper
roasted garlic*
8 ounce of marinara or tomato sauce

*I roasted the garlic and the red pepper myself in the oven.
You may add as much of the spices as you see fit. I prefer the sauce to be extra spicy so I was not shy in the amount. I blended these ingredients together to create a paste and then it was added to the simmering tomatoes to create a rich sauce. The meatballs are to be fried in a bit of oil in a pan over medium low heat. Then once they take on a crispy brown coating they are to stew in the tomato sauce until cooked through. These meatballs were incredibly tender and made the sauce very flavorful.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Piled High Apple Pie

It's been a while, my dears, and I'm sorry. Getting settled in a new town takes a lot of time, in my defense.

On the other hand, I found the time to make lots of pie! I was most excited about a chocolate pecan pie I made, but unfortunately I didn't take a single picture. I'll just have to make it again :)

But don't fear! I made the extra-special Aunt Marie's Apple Pie! I've never met Marie, and I'm not even sure she's an aunt, but she makes a mean pie.

I, unfortunately, went a little overboard.

It takes about five or six cortland apples, which work really well, but the store was out of them so I used something that looked similar. The flavour had a lot more apple to it, but mostly I noticed that the apples themselves seemed to pile a lot higher than the cortlands. So basically, you want to core and peel five cups worth of good pie-apples.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees,then mix together:
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash gound nutmeg

and mix with the apples until coated.

Fill the pie dish (which I assume you've already lined with half of your regular pie pastry recipe) with the mixture, and dot with:

2 tbsp butter.

Cover with the other half of your regular pie pastry recipe, and bake for 50 minutes or until done.

You probably want to put some aluminum foil on the bottom of your oven before you do this, as the pie will overflow quite a bit.

I hear through the grapevine that Marie had a special recipe for dough as well, but that it fell behind her stove. But still, this pie is magically more delicious than any other apple pie I've had, even though it might not look like it from the recipe. I think it's the nutmeg that really makes it.

I was short on dough, as I used one recipe to make this pie AND another single crust pie, so it's stretched a little thin. But I made it!

The order of this recipe is terrible. Just terrible.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mango Lassi

I have also moved into a new town and home over the last several weeks. Sophia and I must reconsider the name of our blog as we no longer reside in Quinn Street Attic.

After working in the yard and tidying up the overgrown bushes around my new home, I decided to cool off with a mango lassi, something like a cross between a smoothie and a milkshake with coconut milk and mangos.

The results were decadent though it was more like a mango pudding than either of the above. I loved the fragrant taste of the extra cardamom.

Mango Lassi
Courtesy of Chez Us

2 mangos, peeled, and sliced
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons simple syrup
1 teaspoon cardamon

Blend into a puree.

I used 4 cardamom pods and a rose water lime simple syrup.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easy Vegetable Stock

Seriously, why buy vegetable stock?! If you've got at least three vegetables, an onion and garlic, it's way easier to make then to go to the store and purchase a boxed version. Had I known this, I would have been doing this all along and it would have saved me a ton of times this winter when I was making all those soups!

I spread the word to all, vegetable stock is the easiest thing since sliced bread. All you need are some trimmings of vegetables. Celery, fennel bulb, garlic, onion, carrot peelings, basically any vegetable peelings and some herbs.

I used:

carrot peels
celery ends
garlic cloves
dried rosemary
bay leaves

I roasted the carrot, celery, onion and garlic in the oven at 400 degrees. It took little to no time to roast. The vegetables softened almost immediately. I had to cut the onion in chunks so that it would cook quickly. I also wrapped the garlic cloves in aluminum keeping the skins on.

Here's a photo of the post-roasted veggie scraps.

Bring a pot of water to boil with salt. I find that if the water level is just high enough to cover the veggies, the stock won't take as long. Add roasted veggies and let simmer for about 30 minutes. It smells lovely and poof! You've got yourself a no nonsense healthy veggie stock. :)

Now how easy is that?

I think I'm going to make veggie stock from now on every time I have a load of veggies that I've chopped and peeled. After the broth is strained, the veggies can still go directly to compost, thoroughly used.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mussels, Monkfish, and Moving

If you bear with me (rowr!), I'll get to the food in a moment. I just wanted to give some thought to some upcoming changes in our attic apartment, namely that we will no longer be living in it. I, in fact, am sitting at my desk for the last time before I dismantle it. And the weather in Halifax is suitably rainy and blustery: just perfect for a sad little woman to put everything in a box and take it away. I stumbled across some sort-of-suitable words from Philip Larkin here, although his sentiment isn't quite what I'm feeling, but maybe the only attitude that'll get me through is the "bigger-and-better-things" ambition. But, It. Has. Been. Wonderful.

It's a sad time, but we're trying our best to celebrate what we've made here. Last Friday Katherine and I shared a bottle of wine over some special cheeses we bought from the shop down the street, along with impressively hand-made bread. What else? A gift of daffodils from the service desk at the supermarket!

That is how I choose to remember our dining room, even though it currently looks like this. How can so little look like so much, and vice versa?

Oh right, I promised I would get to the food, didn't I? We were at the supermarket buying ingredients for Katherine's famous nachos, and while I was looking to get some shrimp, I noticed that the seafood guys had been having a little too much fun.

Why not though? Who likes monkfish anyway?! But it was good advertising, since it was right next to a big display for PEI mussels for only $1.99 a pound! SO!

Sophia's guide to perfect mussels:

To store the mussels, put them in a large bowl and cover it with a damp cloth. DON'T just leave them out, and DON'T put them in water.

Act out those childhood Santa-fantasies, and remove their beards with a quick tug. If the mussels are open at this point, give them a tap against the counter. If they close up again, throw them back in, but if they don't, toss'em.

Now, you'll need:

5 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 sweet onion, diced
1 cup wine
MUSSELS! (I did about 2 pounds)
1 tbsp chives, chopped

put a large pot on high heat and throw in two tablespoons of the butter, allowing it to foam

throw in the garlic and onion and let sizzle for about 15 seconds before pouring in the wine (this part is really fun). Bring it to a boil (just a warning: this doesn't take long at ALL)

Then, add your mussels! Cover the pot and give it a good shake from tie to time. Check after 2 minutes to see if the mussels are opening. Once they're all open, they're done! So simply pour into a serving dish along with the delicious, delicious sauce. If however, some of them haven't opened, they never will, and DON'T eat them. Getting at a mussel should never be difficult.

Now, even though you've got a great liquid to serve the mussels in, I find I like to serve them with an additional dip, just in case someone doesn't think this has enough variety of flavour.

Simply melt your remaining butter and add your chives. DONE!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Everyone Has a Food Vice

I love potato wedges even more so than fries if seasoned properly. I love how they're baked and not greasy and I especially love how well they go with fried chicken, my weakness and vice. For some women it's chocolate, for some men it's burgers and bacon. For Caroline it's nachos... for Sophia it could be chips. For Sarah, it's pizza. For me, it's fried chicken. It's a terrible vice to have. Tonight I decided to sway my craving with making potato wedges with my three pathetic potatoes that I had abandoned in my cupboard for weeks. I came across the recipe from food blogger and small time entrepreneur the Purple Foodie, based out of India. It was a recipe named for all time favorite and was featured on one of my favorite food browsing hot spots, Food Gawker.

I found the idea of microwaving the potatoes first a little strange. I think next time I'll parboil them as she suggests. I also would be curious to try this with some baked onions. I love chunks of roasted onions with potatoes. This recipe can also be adapted to your own tastes by playing with the seasonings. Why not add a little chipotle chili powder instead of cayenne? Or substitute with a bit of garam masala and coriander? Or change it up with basil, parsley, or rosemary with roasted chunks of tomato? I think I'll be using this recipe again anytime I'm craving fast food or fries. It does the trick, it can be made within an hour, it's much better for you and it's dirt cheap.

Recipe taken from

Garlic Fries
Adapted from: Lottie + Doof

8 garlic cloves, minced
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 russet potatoes (about 8oz each), each cut into 12 wedges
3 tbsp cornstarch/cornflour
1 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 225°C/440° F.
Combine the garlic and oil in a large bowl, warming it until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
Transfer 5 tablespoons of the oil (leaving the garlic in the bowl) to the baking dish, coating it well.
Add the potatoes to the bowl with the garlic mixture and toss to coat. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and microwave on high power until the potatoes are translucent around the edges, 3 to 6 minutes, shaking the bowl to redistribute the potatoes halfway through cooking.
Combine the cornstarch, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the hot potatoes and toss well to coat.
Arrange the potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake, turning once, until deep golden brown and crisp, 30 to 40 minutes.

Instead of microwaving, Purple foodie suggests par-boiling the potatoes and then letting them dry on paper towels.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mate as a Study Mate

You might be wondering why this year there are so few posts or perhaps you've forgotten all about our lovely Quinn Street blog. I'm afraid Sophia and I will be leaving our beloved little Halifax and whisking away to different places and to live different lives. This doesn't mean that we don't have to stop sharing our cooking adventures but it does mean that we will no longer be able to call ourselves the Quinn Street Attic.

I thought I'd show you my recent days.

There's nothing that goes better with reading Don Quijote than mate, which provides alertness and focus, and is traditional to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. It is a tea like drink similar to a bitter green tea. There are many health benefits to mate and it can come in many forms. Many claim that it promotes weight loss and a healthy metabolism. There are new brands that contain flavors such as grapefruit, orange, coffee, lemon and citrus. I've even seen new fangled mate variations that have chocolate, vanilla and sweeteners. This type of mate is more common in the U.S. and Canada and is very different from mate brands that you find in South America. I think of them as the western versions of this traditional mate. A traditional mate drinker will tend to put in their own additives to their mate during the preparation. Sugar is the most common additive. Other people will add a little bit of ground coffee. Some prefer it bitter. There are a variety of brands that vary in strong to mild taste. Cruz de Malta, La Nobleza Gaucha y Taragui are a few that I found very strong myself.

If you're unaccustomed to mate, a strong brand can make your stomach feel out of sorts, as if you've drank a very strong cup of tea. Guayaki has a few flavors that are non-traditional like mocha java and vanilla nut. This is a brand that I've seen often in stores in the U.S. and Canada. I personally prefer CBSE.

I love this brand because it's relatively mild and its original, 'palo compuesta' has 'hierbas serranas' or mountain herbs such as peppermint(peperina), pennyroyal mint (poleo), cedrón or lemon verbena (aloysia citrodora), boldo (peumus boldus) and regular mint(menta)?

Depending on place, you can find that people use different dried or fresh herbs in their mate during the preparation. In Tucuman, I came across burro (Aloysia polystachya) and poleo (mentha pulegium). We actually had a poleo plant, also known as penny royal mint, in our backyard. There was nothing better than picking a few leaves off it for a round of mate. I loved it so much that I'm going to try to find the plant in the U.S. and plant it in my garden in my new home in Massachusetts.

The mate aparatus consists of a gourd (porongo) or a metal mate which holds the tea, a bombilla (wooden or metal straw and filter), thermos with hot water and yerba mate of choice.

It is pertinent that the water doesn't come to a full boil or the mate leaves will be burned and lack flavor and you may burn your lips on the metal straw. This hurts!!

I learned to splash a drop of cold water in the bottom of the mate before introducing the loose leaf yerba mate. You may layer sugar, ground coffee or a type of herb for flavor if so desired. Fill the mate a little less than half way. Then introduce the hot water. The perfect mate should have a frothy bubble at the surface. It is common place to drink the entire mate before refilling with water and sharing with the person next to you. Typically in a mate circle there is a person that is the designated mate server who refills the mate, changes the yerba accordingly and assures that the mate is passed along the circle. The yerba needs to be dumped out and refilled entirely once the leaves start to float in the water at the surface.

The first mate that I brought home and bought for myself was a gourd. You must properly cure a mate before use especially when using a gourd mate. Mine rotted after a short time. My friend sent me a new one made of wood with a little metal piece. It's a very standard mate.

Here's an ornate mate.

Valentine's Day Saga

Can you believe it that in that same night we also made home made artisan boule bread?!

Yes. Believe it. We actually sat down to have a wine and cheese break after the bread was fresh out of the oven. And yes, we remembered to take pictures. It's unfortunate that these were the only ones that we have to show for all the cooking we did that day.

This was probably one of my best breads that I've made yet. I found it a bit too porous and spongy for my liking. I like a bit of crustiness to my bread. However it lost that yeasty flavor that my french bread had.

The cheese was to die for. We picked out a stilton, a blue, a hard aged gouda and a Grand Cru. The wine was a montepulciano d'abruzzo.

Here's the recipe:
Artisan Boule Bread

Courtesy of the Urban Spork from Chicago

Valentine's Day Continued...Empanada Marathon

On the aforementioned postponed Valentine's day, I chose to make it a special day by cooking in the kitchen all day and all night, a calculated 14 hours. The original intention was to prepare empanadas together while slowly sipping on wine all day.

Courtesy of Corazón Porteño (

Empanadas are a gigantuan task and I always fail to remember how much time they actually require. We also chose three different fillings and I made enough dough for about 50 or so empas. This is probably why I only get around to making these once a year. For those of you who don't know, empanadas are a meat filled palm sized pastry pie. They can be found all over the Latin American world but each country and region makes their own variety. Naturally I make mine Argentine style and particular to the region of Tucuman, the smallest province of Argentina, where I lived for a year. These empanadas are traditionally baked in an adobo clay oven outside as opposed to being deep fried. I bake mine on a pizza stone in a conventional oven.

Courtesy of Cocina Típica

Labor intensive, time consuming and exhausting, you have to really love to cook to make these little buggers from scratch. Many Argentines themselves, conveniently buy premade tapas, the dough already formed in discs and ready to fill. Pascualina is a typical brand but Goya is more popular in the U.S. and Canada.

For the record, my fellow blogger, temporary Nova Scotian and long time best friend, Sarah, recently used my written recipe to make her own empanadas from scratch. She had much success and she's never even seen them made before! You can check out her blog here:

However, I consider her a far better cook than me and her boyfriend is a pretty damn good chef. Together they make magic happen in the kitchen.

Have no fear, folks! All it takes is some guts, perserverance, a healthy love for a kitchen, and some alcohol on hand to get you through the day. It always helps to have some good company as well. These are delicious and well worth the wait!


butter or lard
salt water

Dilute some salt in a glass of water. Taste for saltiness. I used a whole bag of flour the last time I did empanadas which yielded about 50 empanadas. I suggest about 2 1/2 cups flour. Take tablespoons of lard or butter and crumble in the flour with fingers or with a pastry cutter until you have a crumbly flour mixture. Then make a hollow in the flour and slowly pour a bit of water and fold in the flour until you start to make a homogeneous round ball of dough. You may add flour if it becomes too sticky.

Next roll out into a long about an inch wide. Ticker with marks with a butter knife between each inch alongside the whole log. If you're not going to roll out the discs for the empanada dough right away I suggest that you wrap the log with a damp cloth.
Next you tear of each little piece that you marked with the knife and you pull the outside corners inward to the middle so you have a little ball with a small point. Each ball you will then roll out into a disc. I like to use something to flatten the ball first before rolling it out. We happened to have a chapati/arepa/empanada steel flattener that served very well for this purpose.

You fill the empanada with a small teaspoon of filling. You don't want the filling to be too watery or it will leak out. I hold the empanada disc in my hand and place in the filling in one half and then fold in half. I dab the empanada edge with a bit of water to be able to seal the empanada and then I twist the corners to close it. This part is called el repulgue and here I've enclosed a video from youtube to show how it's done. (This is not my video).

Filling (Tucuman style)

hard boiled eggs
bell peppers
green onions
shredded chicken or ground beef
cayenne or chili powder (I like to use chipotle chili powder)
lemon juice

I chop up the veggies very fine and sautee in a pan with a bit of olive oil with the beef. I squirt a bit of lemon juice on the beef to tenderize the meat. If using chicken, I either buy a rotisserie chicken or I poach chicken in boiling water with a whole onion, then sautee lightly with the spices and veggies to season it. You may add a pinch of cumin, and as much chili powder or cayenne as you like. Whatever your measurements, I insist that the paprika is the spice of the biggest proportion. Sometimes I like to add the smallest dash of cinnamon. The hard boiled eggs must be chopped or sliced into chunks and added to the filling last.

I haven't experimented that much with finding a proper cut of meat that I can use to get those chunks of meat in my empanada. This is where I found chorizo an excellent substitute.

Before cooking the empanadas you may choose to brush with with an egg wash, melted butter or milk. I prefer not to glaze my empas, myself. This preference also varies according to region and local. When you see empanadas with a shiny polished look, they've been glazed. I like the rustic empa myself as pictured in the photo.

Some even prefer to deep fry their empanadas. I like to cook the empanadas on a pizza stone in the oven for about 20 to 30 minutes on medium hot heat. They are to be enjoyed with a squirt of lemon juice after the first bite and with a glass of lovely red wine. I find that 5 of these is more than enough to fill up one person.

We also made

Empanadas de Humita (a corn based filling with a white sauce)
white sauce: melt butter, add flour or corn starch and create a paste. Whisk in hot milk. May add grated cheese if so desired such as parmesean. Add nutmeg. Add humita (choclo) or grated corn.

Mozza and Spinach Empanadas
frozen spinach sauteed
squeeze the water from the spinach or else it will make the dough very gooey
This would have been excellent with basil or parsley.

I think by the end of the night we combined the two veg fillings.

Here I'll indulge you with a variety of styles pertaining to the Argentine region. I listed the extra ingredients that are added in other regions to this recipe that I use here. In all recipes the cut of meat varies. I omitted this technicality as it is difficult to find Argentine cuts of meat in Canada or the U.S. so you have to work with the quality of meat and the best cut you find appropriate.

green olives
a bit of sugar is added

Catamarca, Salta, La Rioja

potatoes and raisins

chopped garlic
black olives

may also feature tomatoes

Entre Rios

San Luis
carne molido ground beef

San Juan
tomato sauce

Santiago del Estero

Santa Fe

Other types of empanada:
onion and cheese
Cheese and basil

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Postponed Valentine's Day

Pistachio and Date Truffles

I postponed Valentine's day this year for the following week, which is when I was on break and could actually celebrate. I started off my break in typical fashion by taking on a cooking/baking project. I made 4 different types of truffles to created an assorted box of chocolates to gift to my sweetheart (ha! pun intended!)

Unfortunately I was too wrapped up in gifting that I forgot to photograph any of my efforts. You'll have to trust my word that they turned out beautifully.

All of the following recipes I found from other food bloggies so I wanted to say thanks to The Food Addicts, Chocolate and Carrots, Confections of a Foodie Bride, and Anja's Food 4 Thought!

Oreo truffle (

cream cheese
crushed oreos
cocoa powder

Mix crushed oreos and cream cheese. Add a bit of water if needed to form small cookie dough balls. Then roll in cocoa powder and allow to chill in the fridge.

Cookie Dough Truffles (

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a heaping 1/2 cup full.)

Beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and beat.
Alternating, add the flour followed by the condensed milk, beating well between.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Scoop out 1 tablespoon balls, place on parchment paper and refrigerate for about an hour until they are firm.
Roll into balls. Dip into chocolate and chill.

I actually forgot to dip them into chocolate. I started this the night before I was about to leave on a 12 hour bus ride bound for the states, at this point it had to have been around 1am or 2am when I got to the cookie dough truffle. I did try rolling a few in cocoa powder and I do not recommend it.

Grand Marnier Dark Truffle (
Taken directly from the Confections of a Foodie Bride blog.

Chocolate Truffles
5 oz of your favorite dark chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp Grand Marnier (or other flavored liqueur, optional)
Cocoa powder or chopped nuts for rolling (I used three types of cocoa for color variation: unsweetened, Special Dark, and dutch process)

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and place into a small bowl. Heat cream, salt, and liqueur (if using) over medium heat until bubbles began to form along the edges. Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for a couple of minutes. Stir chocolate until smooth. If there are still unmelted pieces, microwave in 10-15 second bursts, stirring in between until all pieces have melted.

Scrap down the sides of the bowl and place in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour. Once completely cooled, use a buttered melon baller, spoon, or small dough scoop to portion the chocolate in ~1 Tablespoon balls. (I cleaned up the shape by placing the ball of chocolate into my buttered palm and lightly rolling with the spoon.) If you have problems with the chocolate becoming too soft while you work, place the bowl in the freezer for ~10 minutes and then continue.

Place the truffle into cocoa powder (or chopped nuts) and roll to coat. Store in the fridge in an airtight container (I actually keep mine in the freezer and cover the bottom of the container with a dusting of cocoa powder).

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, May 2000
Yields ~15 truffles

Pistachio and Date Truffle (This was the most popular and it's a vegan recipe!)

Taken directly from Anja's Food 4 Thought. I omitted the coconut oil and no one seemed to mind. I didn't have it on hand and I find that it's really expensive.

1/2 cup dried dates, or Medjool dates
1/4 cup pistachio kernels
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

desiccated coconut
chopped or ground pistachios

Yields ca. 20-25

If the dried dates are too dry and hard, soften them by pouring boiling water over them and soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain excess water.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until ingredients stick together. Add more coconut oil if the batter doesn't hold together. Form balls of the size of a cherry or walnut. Roll each one in your preferred coating. Keep in mini paper muffin liners. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Truffles are so easy to make! I suggest you give them a try! Here are some other recipes that I'd like to try out!

Dark chocolate pistachio or hazelnut truffles

Hazelnut and chocolate is my all time favorite combination.


Thanks to Judicial Peach who also got inspired by Valentine's day.

Caitlin’s Recipe!
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
DOWN TIME: 75 minutes for cooling
COOK TIME: 5 minutes
YIELD: 15 to 20 Truffles

6 ounces high-quality, white-chocolate, chopped (Caitlin likes Ghirardelli)
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or caviar from 1 vanilla bean)
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1. Pour the cream into a small heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the water does not come into direct contact with the bowl. Stir the cream with a wire whisk until heated through (i.e. warm to the touch).

2. Combine the spices in a small mixing bowl; set aside.

3. Stir the white chocolate into the cream until it is melted and smooth. Remove the bowl from the double-boiler, and stir in the vanilla and about one-half of the spice mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place into the refrigerator to cool for approximately 1 hour. When ready, the ganache should be firm but pliable enough to scoop.

4. Using either a teaspoon or a small ice cream scoop, place mounds of the ganache onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate again, for 15 minutes.

5. Remove the sheet from refrigerator and roll the ganache mounds in the palms of your hands to create rounded truffles. Try to work quickly; the truffles become stickier as they warm to room temperature. Depending on size, this recipe yields about 15-20 truffles.

6. Dust truffles with the remaining spices, cinnamon, or powdered sugar. If you plan to ship the truffles or give them away as gifts, as I did, you can purchase candy cups and boxes from a craft store like Michael’s.

7. Store the finished truffles in the refrigerator, but allow them to come to room temperature before eating.

Dark Chocolate and Dark Beer Truffles

(makes about 28 truffles)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
3 tbsp dark beer
9 oz (255 g) dark chocolate
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 oz (40 g) cocoa powder
if you wish: 1/4 tsp chili powder

1. Combine heavy cream with vanilla seeds (scrape them from vanilla bean) and put on low heat. When it almost boils, remove from heat, add chopped chocolate and stir well until it combines. Leave to cool on room temperature.
2. Slowly add beer to the previous mixture and pour it into a square baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to cool for 3 hours in the fridge. The mixture should be firm enough to shape truffles.
3. Take 1 tsp of the mixture and shape uneven balls (truffles). Coat them with cocoa powder and serve. You can mix cocoa powder with a bit of chili powder.

Thanks to Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy Bloggie for these Chocolat inspired recipes!

Spicy Chocolate Chili Truffles (Les Truffes pour Vianne)
8 oz good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 62% cacao or higher.
1/2 cup cream
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 tbsp softened butter
Good quality cocoa powder for coating
Chop chocolate in a bowl.
Heat cream to simmer. Add chili flakes and steep for 15-20 minutes. Reheat cream to simmer. Add chipotle powder and stir.
Pour cream mixture over the chocolate through a strainer. Let sit a few minutes and gently stir until well combined.
Drop small bits of butter into ganache and continue stirring until smooth and homogeneous.
Let ganache sit until cooled. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm and “scoopable”.
Remove, and with a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly to avoid melting, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Roll truffles in cocoa powder and serve.

Chocolate-Espresso Truffles (Les Truffes pour Roux)
8 oz good quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, 62% cacao or higher. (I used a mix of each)
1/2 cup cream
2 tsps espresso powder
1 tbsp softened butter
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped for coating
Roasted espresso beans for garnish
Heat cream to simmer. Add espresso powder and stir until dissolved.
Pour cream over chocolate and let sit a few minutes. Then, gently stir until well combined.
Drop small bits of butter into ganache and continue stirring until smooth and homogeneous.
Let ganache sit until cooled. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours until firm and “scoopable”.
Remove and with a teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly to avoid melting, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Melt white chocolate in a small bowl. Carefully dip truffles in and set on parchment paper. Top with an espresso bean and let sit until coating hardens.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Unexpected Cooking Extravaganza

It's a short work week for us students in these parts. We had a snow day on Wednesday and a day off today. I know, it doesn't seem fair does it? I spent most of the evening trying to put all of my leftover food to good use. I had brussel sprouts, cabbage, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower and sandwich bread that desperately needed to be eaten. I thought I was only going to make a cauliflower soup and try my hand once again at some homemade bread. I soon found myself cooking for hours yielding huge results!

I ended up with

Cauliflower and Carrot Cumin Soup, a new recipe that I snagged out of this great soup magazine. I received this for christmas and had almost forgotten about it until today.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Garlic

I love brussel sprouts, however they may be cooked. There aren't many other people that I know that like them or cauliflower. I swear that the cauliflower soup is delicious as is the other cauliflower soup that I often make. The other go to cauliflower soup is low maintainence and requires an onion, potato, cauliflower, chicken broth and a few basic indian spices, cumin, garam masala, tumeric, coriander and cayenne. Roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts, however will make any respectable cauli and brussel detesting eater humbly change his or her opinion. With roasted veggies, it's nice to season them with flavorful ingredients, like spicy peppers, herbs, a sprinkle of lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar, or a dusting of parmesean cheese.

Tarta de Sardina y Verduras

This recipe is inspired from my days spent in Argentina. Tartas of the savory variety are quite common there. I found that they're filling, last for a couple of meals, are very tasty and can be made with almost any ingredients. However, I've never made a tarta from scratch before. Typically the average Argentina will buy the two Pascualina pastry discs in the local supermarket. I opted for trying my hand at making mine homemade. I found an Argentine recipe here

It turned out to be quite successful. I love simple the ingredients are and how the measurements are easy to remember. I ended up using a little more flour than called for and it made a little too much dough. I ended up saving the extra to make a mini tarta. Tartas Argentinas are typically filled with ham and cheese, spinach or swiss chard and cheese, bell peppers and carrots with a canned fish. In our household, we typically made tartas with bell peppers, shredded carrot, onion, hard boiled eggs, and some sort of canned fish. Call me crazy, but I learned to love eating canned fish on strange food, like on pizza, in tartas, with rice, in pasta. It's especially hard to believe since I grew up on the northeastern coast of north america. I guess canned fish is what you resort to when you go from living 5 minutes from the sea all your life to living in a landlocked province for 1 year. The type of canned fish we bought was usually a mild tasting, white small fish and it was usually unprocessed.It's known as merluza or caballa in Argentina. I think merluza may be hake and caballa is mackerel. I really can't be sure. Sardines worked fine, cheap and available almost everywhere. Within the can, you'd have the fillets of fish with the bones, and skin all included. The bones won't hurt you if you mash up the fish enough before putting it in your food. They're small and weak enough that it's like biting into a crunchy bit of grain. It sounds strange and maybe even unappealing. One day, just try it. You may be surprised. I certainly was.

I also started to make a rustic french bread out of Joy of Cooking. I searched endlessly for tips on breadmaking and on blogs and ended up sticking with dependable Julia. I thought maybe she'd be a good mentor to start with before I'd get too experimental. I accidentally didn't read the right recipe all the way through and before I knew it I had begun a process to make a bread with a starter! I was really getting in way over my head! A starter, for those of you that don't know, is a yeasty concoction that is made hours, often days, before bread is made. It gives bread that porous, and crunchiness that you may associate with sourdough. My starter has to sit for 6 hours. So I'll be posting tomorrow to tell you how the bread baking goes.

I admittedly had one mishap today. I left a spatula against the pan while I was intermittently stirring some homemade croutons for a salad. Needless to say, the spatula melted right at the base of the handle and onto the pan! It's a wonder that this was the first time that this has happened. In fact, I'm shocked that this little accident hasn't happened sooner in my cooking lifetime. I had to throw the spatula out and was able to salvage the pan.

A little while ago, I made Sophia's mother's famous and fabulously good homemade caesar dressing. I used lemon juice from the bottle, and anchovy paste from the tube, and omitted bacon. Sophia has used anchovies in the past from the can but she claims that there's not much of a difference between the paste and the using the actual fish. Her mother also traditionally makes her own croutons sauteed with bacon fat. I was inspired to do the same and found the opportunity to use my about to go moldy bread without the bacon fat. Though I have done this in the past and it was delicious. I added a little garlic and onion and sauteed, well accidentally burned to a crisp. This was at lunch. It made me hesitant to take on all the rest of the recipes of the day.

Clearly I've been out of the kitchen for too long. Whenever that happens, I somehow wind up cooking a series of different recipes that takes up hours of my day.

Cauliflower and Carrot Cumin Soup
The recipe is simple enough and requires few ingredients, which I love.

1 chopped onion
3 cups cauliflower florets (I chopped mine to make for easy blending)
1 1/4 cup coarsely shredded carrots (I always shred my carrots with a cheese grater)
2 cloves minced garlic (another job for the good ol' fashioned cheese grater)
1 tsp cumin
3.5 cups or 28 ounces of chicken broth
*I also added a dash of adobo chili pepper just for fun

1) Heat garlic and onion in a large pot for 5 minutes
2) Add cumin,cauliflower and carrots
3) Add broth. I would have preferred vegetable broth
4) Bring to a boil.
5) Cover and simmer for 20 minutes on low heat.
The recipe called to measure out the vegetables, about 1/4 at a time, to blend separately. Then it suggested gradually adding the blended portion back to the liquid and mixing with light cream. I opted for a dairy free soup as I am lactose intolerant and blended the soup directly. A little sprinkle of peppercorns and it's ready to eat. You may add garnish as you so desire.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Roasted Garlic
1) Mark an x on the end of each brussel sprout near the stem
This allows it to be cooked all the way through.
2) Mix brussel sprouts in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and whatever else suits your fancy
3) Choose how much garlic you would like to roast and peel away as much outside skin while still having enough to protect the clove.
4) Wrap brussel sprouts and garlic in tin foil. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
5) Pop in the oven for about 35 to 50 minutes depending on how crispy you like your roasted veggies.

Tarta de Sardina y Verduras

~1+ cup of flour
1 cup of butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup of water
a tsp of salt

*egg, milk, butter, each respectively, is optional if you'd like to dust the top of the tarta with a wash before baking.

1) Add flour to a bowl and make a hollow in the middle
2) Add butter, egg, water and salt to the hollow
3) Mix with a spoon until the texture is sticky and the strands start to stick to the sides of the bowl. Add flour accordingly if the mixture resembles a liquid.
4) Form a ball with the dough, do not work the dough too much as it will harden it
5) Cover and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour.
6) Take the dough out of the fridge and let it warm up to make it easier to work with.
7)Cut the dough in half and create two equal sized balls.
8)On a floured flat surface. Roll out each ball into discs about 1 cm thick
9)If one disc is larger than the other, reserve this one for the top layer of the tarta. Place the smaller disc on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour.
10)Add relleno about .5 inch thick all along the disc.
11) Cover with the larger disc creating the top of the tarta.
12) Along the edge of the tarta, where the two edges of the discs meet, pinch and twist the excess dough to create the crust. This is called the repulgue.
13) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and cook for about 30 minutes until the tarta is golden brown.

2 chopped hardboiled eggs
1 diced onion
1 large coarsely shredded carrot
2 diced bell peppers
1 can of sardines or any other canned fish of your liking

*Extra seasonings may include: cheese, basil, parsley, hot peppers,

1) Add onion to a pan on medium heat with olive oil
2) Add carrot and bell peppers once onion is translucent
3) Stir and add condiments, herbs to your liking
4) Once cooked through, take off heat and mix in hardboiled eggs and the canned fish.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Tottlin' taters!

Over the last couple of days I've had an inexplicable craving for potato chips, spicy ones. Maybe it's because I saw someone eat a bag the other day or simply because I'm craving some sort of salty starch as comfort food. The weather has been gross all week here in Halifax aside from one nice sunny day with no precipitation. It was -8 and it felt like spring, I tell ya. It felt balmy, in fact. I sweat as I walked outside. It was amazing. Today everything is rainy/snowy/slushy wet and icky. It's warm enough but it doesn't take away from the fact that you feel like a soggy wet mess by the end of the day.

As I dreamt of potato chips, my mind wandered to hash browns and then tater tots. I wasn't about to buy the frozen kind, seeing as I knew I had two perfectly wonderful potatoes at home. So I decided to experiment... I looked up the basics for tater tots, first I was thinking of frying them, but I thought that was a little too similar to latkes. Some recipes call for boiling your potatoes first and then shredding them while others insist on shredding the potatoes raw. I opted for boiling my potatoes. I then shredded then with a regular ol' cheese grater, skins on. I don't mind the tough skins and I like to think that it's leaves some sort of nutritious part of the vegetable. (Yes, nutritious, even though I will be frying these suckers later).
The recipe that I used, can be found here:

It called for 8 potatoes and 4 tablespoons of flour. I only had 2 potatoes, I eyeballed and added 3 tablespoons of flour. I seasoned as called for with salt and pepper and added cayenne to spice things up. I also decided on a whim to add some onion, and I did what I've never done before. I grated an onion so it created onion pulp and mixed it in with the potato shreds in a bowl. I then opened my cupboard to find the perfect experimental ingredient. Chipotle cheese herb powder. I know, I know, cheese powder?? This is a little less repulsive, I must say, because I bought it from a stand at the farmer's market in the fall. The couple puts the stuff together homemade by themselves. You usually add it to mayo and sour cream to make a sauce. I've put it on burgers before, trust me, it's delicious. So I threw in a generous dusting of the cheese powder and began to form my little tater balls.

Alas, no vegetable oil in the house, so I panfried the taters in olive oil,browning two sides. Then I placed them on a baking sheet with aluminum foil for about 15 minutes in the oven on 350 degrees.

Being home made, I like to think that this is healthier than the store bought stuff and it's kind of nice to know one can make their own tater tots to their own liking. This could get fun.. I can think of the possibilities... bacon tater tots, sausage tater tots, bell pepper tater tots, ginger garlic tater tots, herb tater tots...

And this is a great little snack for kids too, and if you finagle it right, you can make sure they get some little veggie in there as well. They might even like to make the little tater balls! Lookin out for all the parents and kiddos out there, 'cause I'm going to be having yet another niece or nephew (that will make 4).

And for me, that's a culinary success! To make a somewhat improvisational meal that can have so many other variations according to your own taste!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


It's winter time and we're without heat at our Quinn Street Attic. What's best for warming yourself up on a cold winter's night and will fill you up for most of the day as well is a good ol' helping of a hearty pie. I had some leftover crust from the last one so I again took all the ingredients laying around my kitchen and made a meal. It includes peas, carrots, onions, cabbage and brussel sprouts. I sauteed the onions and made a simple cream sauce with milk, butter, cornstarch and some parmesean cheese. The brussel sprouts were blanched, and the cabbage, peas and carrots were boiled and chopped to create this filling pie that will probably last me all week long. You may add spices to the sauce to your own liking. I added a bit of mustard powder, nutmeg, sage, thyme, basil and caraway seeds and a small dash of hot curry powder. I think it's a good practical way to keep yourself fed and warm through the week while on a budget or if you simply don't have the heart for going out in the cold for groceries. I hear the wind chill is gonna pick up Monday morning tomorrow. And all the boiling and cooking in the oven tonight made the apartment warm up a little!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hot Chocolate for Breakfast? I think so!

This lovely tradition isn't something that I've devilishly come up with on my own. While I was living in Argentina, I found that having hot chocolate as part of a light meal, it's totally acceptable and even considered a benefit to your health. Sure, I've heard that a small portion of dark chocolate of the purest quality in moderation has benefits for your heart but thick, rich, milky sweet hot chocolate for breakfast? Perhaps it's more preferred by those who want to avoid the caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee. In Argentina, there's this delightful hour that people dedicate to merienda, or a tea time. Argentines from the interior, or the provinces outside of Buenos Aires, generally spend it within their own homes with their family. Typically these treats are usually what people also eat for breakfast. It's all about the sweet breakfast there. Savory breakfasts of eggs and toast is very strange for most people there. They serve tea or coffee and even hot chocolate with a delicious array of sweets:



facturas con crema

pasta frola

dulce de cayote..this is a sugary substance that is made from the fruit of this type of green melon. It's baked in the oven and then the fibrous fruit inside is soaked in water then cooked with sugar.

and of course, the one and only dulce de leche.

Sometimes we'd even have this for breakfast.

Which reminded me of frosting covered animal crackers.

It was even acceptable to go out for churros and chocolate for merienda as a treat.

I loved this tradition. Who wouldn't? When I was living in Tucuman, the smallest province in Argentina, it was typical to have merienda after waking up from the siesta. Imagine this, you go home, you eat a huge lunch during midday and then you take a nap for a couple of hours and wake up to have this delicious dessert like tea. Needless to say, it was like a foodie lovers dream.

In Canada and in the U.S. I remember as a kid that having a glass of milk with every meal was the way that parents would get us to have a healthy dose of calcium. Not in Argentina, milk is rarely drank plain. Typically kids drink it after it's been boiled over the stove or with chocolate. Even at a comedor, a soup kitchen/ center for kids where I spent my free time teaching English, part of the provisional government bundle of minimal food goods given to kids included chocolate. Since I've given up coffee for a while as a New Year's Resolution and am craving something warm, creamy and comforting I think that this Saturday morning I'll get in a healthy dose of calcium with a rich yummy mug of hot chocolate.