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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Cooking up a storm

Yikes! It’s been almost a month since my last post and I’m feeling guilty for not posting. The thing is that I’ve been ever-so-busy with making stuff that by the end of the day I don’t have the energy to post. And at work, I’ve been having to do a lot of writing for the web so I’m all out of words on most days too.

I’m finding I have lots of time to cook now that the Kid is out of the house for 2 1/2 hour chunks both morning and afternoon. I’m also finding that I really do have to prep and cook ahead of time as the Kid brings a snack to his morning program and some days I have to have a prepared lunch for him and a couple of times each week one of his buddies comes over for lunch before they both head to their afternoon class.

So it all means that I have to spend time preparing foods and baking that I can use later or supplement later.

Some recent make aheads: brown and serve buns, homemade crackers, broth (yay for turkey carcasses!), bagels, Japanese seasoned ground meat, homemade ravioli, bread, muffins, cream of mushroom soup.

Here are a few shots:

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Dumpling Day

Homemade dumplings are a staple at our house. We pan fry them like potstickers or boil them for a quick meal or snack.

It’s always rewarding to make trays of dumplings to freeze and enjoy later but I find the most rewarding part of dumpling making is spending time talking and creating with the Kid.

Dumpling day is a bit of a ritual for us. I make the filling (finely chopped cabbage, lots of minced ginger, green onions or Chinese chives,  ground pork) and the Kid and I sit and wrap. The Kid is surprisingly helpful: he takes each wrapper and uses his fingers to paint water on the edges and hands them to me for filling. The beautiful part of the whole exercise is that we sit and talk. And talk and talk and talk.

Bonding with a child through food. It’s this mom’s dream come true.

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Now that the Kid is back at school, I’ve had some extra time to do more around the house. Not so much of the stuff I should be doing like cleaning and organizing, but cooking.

This week’s baking day included crusty rustic Italian bread, pita crisps and a Cantonese style sponge cake. Nothing fancy. That night I made a soothiing hairy melon soup for dinner.

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Caramel is one of my favourite dessert flavours. I love how it’s sweet, yet has subtle bitter tones and creaminess. And when you add a bit of salt, it miraculously takes the already intriguing taste sensation to another level.  When I saw this recipe for salted caramel ice cream, I had to give it a whirl.

This has got to be one of the best ice creams I’ve made this summer (the chocolate ice cream from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz is pretty hard to beat). It’s just sweet enough and the complex caramelized sugar flavours really shine. The hint of maldon salt adds just enough savoury contrast. And boy is it ever creamy. The recipe intro describes it as “sultry.” They’re spot on.

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Now that summer is winding down and it’s almost back to school, I’ve been feeling guilty about not doing more with our 5 year old. I had grand plans of taking him on day long adventures, hanging out at our local park, going on more playdates, working on his fine motor skills.

The Kid, though, has been learning and playing a lot in the kitchen. When I think about the different things he’s been helping me cook, he’s actually developed a lot of skills and knowledge such as washing and prepping vegetables and herbs, picking herbs and veggies from the garden, kneading bread, rolling dough, working with pastry. We’ve talked about kitchen science, recipes, flavour combinations and where food comes from.

And he’s been able to learn through various sensory means. He touches and mixes with his hands whenever appropriate. He sniffs ingredients and dishes. He takes time to taste and describe what he tastes and he comments on the textures of food.

OK, I guess summer break hasn’t been a complete write off. The Kid did get some quality fun and learning time this summer. Not quite what I had planned but some valuable and tasty life skills.

Here are some food activities that are great for getting kids involved and eating: pesto, homemade crackers, lasagne, oatmeal banana muffinsspanakopita, mushrooms grilled in foil, growing, smelling, and picking herbs, visiting farms with u-pick, going to a farmers market.

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Apple chutney

The other night we went to our friends’ home for a delicious dinner. Not only did they feed us but they graced us with about 2 kg of transparent apples. Transparents aren’t fabulous for eating out of hand and are more of a cooking apple. They cook down to a soft consistency quickly so I first considered making applesauce and freezing it but applesauce isn’t a big hit around here.

Instead I canned a lively curried apple chutney from Well Preserved (1st edition; the 3rd edition was recently published and available here) by Mary Anne Dragan. The chutney is tasty: fragrant apples, raisins, onions, curry powder and some other spices. Excellent with a ploughman’s lunch or cheese platter.

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Hamburger night

This was last night’s hamburger. We don’t usually make hamburgers but a recent issue of Saveur was dedicated to burgers and it was too mouthwatering to resist.

Buns: There are a gazillion excellent bakeries around town but I can’t manage to find just the right burger buns. They range from overly pillowy, stodgey buns from the supermarket to artisanal buns, yummy but too chewy. So I baked my own. I used the sesame seed buns recipe in Saveur (sans seeds). Just enough heft but soft enough that they didn’t squish the burger too much when we bit into them.

Patty:  Two-thirds beef, one-third pork (for juiciness). I kept it pretty simple in terms of seasoning: just salt and pepper.

Condiments: Tomatoes from Stoney Paradise, sweet white onion from Langley Organic Growers, medium cheddar, umami ketchup, sweet and smokey Kozlik’s mustard.

Burger heaven.

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