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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Sometimes, when life swirls around you in a crazy blur, isn’t it important to take a moment to think about a few “right now”-type things that make you smile with glee?

1.) This fabulous ring, gift from best friend for my birthday. It’s impossible to have a bad day with a teensy teacup atop your finger, no?

2.) Two fresh and lovely jars of my Auntie Helen’s apricot plum jam (that woman makes the best jam in all the world, seriously). Bread, butter, jam and a slice of cheese? Snack heaven, I tell you. I could eat that every day for the rest of my life and not get sick of it.

3.) A stack of author copies of Farmed Out, ready and waiting to be inscribed for loved ones.

4.) Delicious, end-of-summer meals like grilled eggplant stacks (eggplant, tomato slices, fresh mozzarella and pesto). Okay, so yes, my happy things often revolve around food.

5.) Beautiful wooden bowls made by my dearly departed Grandpa Goerzen, saved from a “ceremonial burning” in my father’s chimea. I can’t believe he was about to burn some of my grandpa’s famous bowls. Said stack has now been distributed amongst me and my sisters!

6.) Gorgeous owl vase from my sister Chay, also a birthday present. Look, his brain grew roses! Seventh happy thing? My fabulous friends and family, who know that giving me perfect gifts like tiny teacup rings and owl vases will make me a happy gal indeed!

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“…she asked me if I could maybe pick up a small jar of peanut butter on my way home from work. Absolutely! Before that day, I had never heard her express even a mild interest in peanut butter. I’d stopped eating it myself. I jabbed a tablespoon vertically into the new six-ounce jar I had chosen for her and left the arrangement in the middle of the kitchen table for her to find when she got out of her shower; and then I thought better of this over-preparation and pulled the spoon out and smoothed out its C-shaped intrusion and tightened the lid again so that she might want (as I certainly had wanted years before) the pleasure of being the first to dig into the lunar surface herself. She probably would want to use a knife and make a sandwich anyway, I thought. I put the spoon in the sink. But half an hour later I found her flipping through an in-flight magazine with the jar open on the arm of the couch and a teaspoon upside down in her mouth. Tears came to my eyes. ‘Straight from the jar, baby!’ I said.”

– Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature

Oh yes, I do love de-virginizing a brand new jar of peanut butter. And whenever I do, I think of this passage from Room Temperature. I’ve spoken of my love of this book (here and here), and all of Mr. Baker’s books, before – and I love having these everyday reminders of the loveliness of his writing.

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Fabulous family friend Meredith helping to prepare just one of our amazing feasts over the holidays. Seriously, check out all that chicken!

I estimate that during the past month (and much of this has been over the past ten days) I have consumed approximately four litres of eggnog, one dozen hot buttered rums, two dozen glasses of red wine, fifty rums and cokes, three litres of ruby red grapefruit cider (my new favourite – not really festive, I know, but anyway), and 376 Lindor chocolates. And you?

Oh, and one magnificent slice of turducken from the local “happy meat” butcher. It’s hard to capture the unparalleled majesty of a turducken, but here you go. (A turkey, stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken, all deboned and with stuffing in there, too, in case you’re not familiar.)

We also played about 85 games of Settlers of Catan, many of them consecutive. I was having total Catan withdrawal, and it’s still barely been satisfied. Fortunately there are more games to come this weekend.

Oh yes, Christmas is continuing in full force in my world. I still have two more Christmases to go, which I’m so looking forward to – we went to visit my husband’s family for actual Christmas this year (I’m 35, and this was my very first Christmas away from my family!), and so this weekend we’re having another Christmas at my mum’s, and then one at my dad’s. So this coming weekend, while the rest of the world is getting on with their lives, we’ll be watching ‘Christmas Vacation,’ singing along to the Roger Whittaker Christmas album (a beloved holiday staple in my family), exchanging presents, having a rockin’ good time with my sisters and eating more turkey. For this Christmas lover, the chance to extend the holidays a little further is incredibly exciting. (Let’s see, how many times can I write ‘Christmas’ in one paragraph. Ummm… nine.)

Can I also please add how amazing panettone French toast is? Just buy one of them cello-wrapped packages of the ubiquitous Italian Christmas bread from Safeway or where ever, slice it up in rounds, and make it as you would French toast. Yum.

Best photo of panettone ever, I thought. And, oddly, I found it on the blog of some guy who dislikes both panettone and Christmas. Well, hmpfh.

What an amazing holiday season it’s been so far with Josh’s family. As a born and bred coastal girl, I’m used to a whole lot of green Christmases. (For example, there was a snowblower at Josh’s dad’s house, and I had no idea what it was.) It was so cool, and so festive, to be in a place where snow and Christmastime go together. A few photos from our yuletide adventures (with a heavy emphasis on the cute baby shots):

Happy holidays, everyone! I’ll be back in the new year with renewed vim and vigour, more posts and some changes around here – stay tuned.

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Featuring my favourite spaces and places in my beloved neighbourhood – Vancouver’s beautiful, wacky, wonderful West End.

Our local greasy spoon diner Joe’s Grill is like our Cheers – where everybody knows our name (well, actually, they call Josh and I “The Happy Couple”) and they’re always glad we came. We’ve been regulars there for about four years now, I think (it’s so hard to keep track!), and over that time Joe’s has taken up a very special place in our hearts. It’s like our church, or our community centre, our sacred weekly ritual (and on a good week, more than once!). They even have Keaton’s birth announcement taped to the wall above the kitchen service counter, for heaven’s sakes.

At Joe’s, the food is great (Avocado & Tomato Benny, anyone? And Josh swears by the Egg Burrito), the coffee is good and plentiful, the hot sauce is the best, the cooks are smiley and nice, and the servers? Gad, they are the best. The absolute best in town. We exchange Christmas cards and candies, and they all chipped in to buy us a baby present when Keaton was born. We went there on Keaton’s first birthday (how could we not?), and they served him a special bowl of birthday blueberries. When we went on Halloween (again, how could we not?), they had a pair of Halloween socks, ready to give Keaton.

We have seriously never had a bad experience there, which is unusual in the world of cafes and diners. We’ve never had to wait an inordinately long time for a table, even during busy times, never had a snippy server, and never had a food order go wrong.

It’s the Joe’s Grill magic, I tell you.

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What a week! Two more classes under my belt, my and Josh’s third wedding anniversary (and ten years together – we celebrated by going out for free-range wings at Habit, which I would totally recommend – get the Moroccan Spiced ones!), ongoing closet renovation and de-cluttering, meeting a few writing deadlines… but no energy to blog about any of it! Maybe next week.

I do, however, have a wee spark of energy to share with you, as promised, this Plum Platz recipe, from the Mennonite Heritage Village Cookbook. Platz are a Menno tradition – sort of a hybrid between pie and coffee cake. Eating them fresh out of the oven (well, blowing on them a bit first) reminds me so much of my Grandma Goerzen.

Plum Platz

Dough:
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup shortening
5-6 tsp cold water
Mix as you would for pie crust – cut the shortening into the flour and salt until it resembles fine meal, then add cold water until you can form a crust out of it. Press it into a lightly greased 9-inch square pan, and up the sides a little. Cover with halved, pitted plums (or rhubarb, or apples, or whatever you want!). Sprinkle with a little sugar.

Topping:
2 eggs
Pinch salt
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder

Beat eggs and fold in other ingredients. Pour over fruit and bake at 350F for 40 minutes.

Yummy!

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For the fall equinox I made my mum Sher’s famous Autumn Soup recipe, and I also made a Mennonite favourite for dessert, Plum Platz. I’ll share that recipe next week.

The making of a big, steaming pot of this delicious soup was always a glorious herald of fall in the Goerzen house when I was growing up. I hadn’t had it probably since I was a young teenager, before I went vegetarian and then pescavorian (is that a word?) for fifteen years. But now that I’m eating meat again… well, with the coming of fall I knew I had to call up dear ol’ mum for her Autumn Soup recipe. I made it for Equinox Dinner, and my god, the memories that came flooding back.

I remember sitting at the table in our house on Camwood Avenue, putting an ice cube in the soup to cool it (I remember doing that a lot with soup), then dipping a slice of buttered bread into it. I remember running off to watch Punky Brewster or Silver Spoons after said dipping. I also remember riding my bike home from school for lunch, and having a nice steaming bowl of this comforting soup on the table to greet me. (Which I would then promptly put an ice cube into.) Food memories are so strong, aren’t they?

I’m happy to share my mum’s recipe with you, and I’ve cut and pasted it right from her email, exactly as she so adorably typed it out. (BTW, I used the canned tomatoes method.)

Autumn Soup

1 lb.    ground beef
1 c.      chopped onion
4 c.      water
1 c.       cut-up carrots
1 c.       diced celery
1 c.       cubed-pared potatoes
2 tsp.     salt
1 tsp      bottled brown bouquet sauce
1/4 tsp.  pepper
1           bay leaf
1/8 tsp. basil
6          tomatoes**

In a large saucepan, cook and stir meat until brown. Drain off fat.  Cook and stir onions with meat until onions are tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except tomatoes; heat to boiling.  reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes.  Add tomatoes; cover and simmer 10 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.  Makes 6 servings.
**One can (28 ounces) tomatoes (with liquid) can be substituted for the fresh tomatoes (this is what I usually do).  Reduce water to 3 cups. Stir in tomatoes with remaining ingredients; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes.  The canned tomatoes break apart and give a rosy colour (ahhhh).

Bon appetit!

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Inspired by my BFF Heather, Joshua and I decided to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon at home making Boeuf Bourguinon. Heather and I had compared several recipes, and discussed the merits of bacon in the recipe, as well as how to deal with peeling all those pearl onions in the easiest way possible. (Thanks for the tip to boil those little skins off, Heather!) After looking at Laura Calder’s version (in French Taste) and Julia Child’s version, we decided we just had to go with Julia’s.

I felt like I was in Foods 9 in junior high all over again, bending and squinting over that recipe with my apron on, trying to decipher it. Anyone try to cook from a Julia Child recipe lately? A little confusing, I found. I couldn’t figure out if I was supposed to throw out the carrots and onion chunks (in the end, I just left them in). And then, browsing around some blogs and websites later, I found that Ms. Child’s recipe has frustrated and confounded many – so many pots, so many pans, so many steps, such vague directions (sometimes).

But dang, when it was all said and done, was it ever good, if I may say so myself. Better than good. One of the best things I’ve ever made, I do believe. Mexican and Asian flavours tend to dominate around our place, with lots of dishes featuring tortillas, cheese, zesty sauce, coconut milk, soy sauce and curry (although, thankfully, not in that combination). So these beefy, stewy flavours were something new in our home. I actually felt like I wasn’t in my own apartment. I felt like I was in some rustic farmhouse in France, eating someone’s grandmother’s cooking. The way the wine soaked into the meat, those buttery mushrooms and braised pearl onions… all atop a pile of organic mashed potatoes from the farmer’s market. It was the first time we’d ever made mashed potatoes, even though they were a staple for both of us growing up. We both exclaimed to each other about this. Why had we never made mashed potatoes? I really don’t know. Josh and I only returned to the eating of warm-blooded creatures a few months ago, after many years as vegetarians and then pescavores (here’s a link to an earlier post on this), so this whole stew-making thing is pretty new to us.

So yes. I guess today’s post is nothing more than a love letter to my newfound love of Boeuf Bourguinon. Thanks, Julia and Heather!

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