• Books,  Fitness,  Food,  Knitting & Crafting,  Movies,  Travel,  TV

    Sunday Salon: Summer’s Back!

    TSSbadge2

    Hello! It’s been awhile since I did a Sunday Salon. I’ve missed it, but life has really gotten in the way.

    This weekend has been hotter than the standard here. I love that it’s sunny and bright out, but I like to be in the shade or indoors in this kind of weather. It’s relaxing so I like to read! I read one book yesterday and anticipate more day.

    I officially started my job this past Monday. The job is the same one I’ve been doing for a year now, but I was made an employee. This is good for me since I now have some financial security and benefits to boot! Working full-time on this project has been tiring though and does not leave a lot of room for me to keep all my hobbies.

    It’ll be easier if I just do a quick run down on things:

    Books: I hope to read one more book today and start another. I really have not been reading much this year, but hopefully I can catch up this summer to complete my humble 52 books goal this year. I just have too much other stuff going on in my life.

    TV: Was off for a couple days for Canada Day and spent that time and this past week watching: “Sense8,” “New Amsterdam,” “Humans,” “Unreal”, and “The Borgias”. I recommend them all in various ways. Two are airing now.

    Movies: I went to see Magic Mike XXL in a cinema VIP lounge experience. As someone who no longer really goes to the cinema, I loved the comfortable and bigger seating. So much so that it makes me think I’ll do it again this year. Movie was really fun as well.

    Food: I usually bake at least once or every other week, but I didn’t this past week due to the weather. Made a really nice Orange Ricotta loaf the other week though. I haven’t baked bread in over a month. I made a really good black bean and quinoa salad for lunch last week. Now I’m a bit stumped on what I will eat this week for lunch.

    Fitness: I’m not running 🙁 A couple weeks after I completed my half-marathon in May, I noticed some pain in my inner calf. I think it’s a minor stress fracture. I’m going to go to physiotherapy soon to check it out. I have a 10K in early September that I still hope to run. In the meantime, I am trying to ride my bike and I’ve been doing some yoga.

    Knitting: Finally finished those socks I started in September. No photos yet. I am really not knitting anymore.

    Travel: Maybe heading down to the USA for a couple days in August. I am also planning a holiday back to the UK in the autumn. Hope to get that finalized soon. I can’t wait to travel abroad again!

    Real Life: Work has complicated things and I had some issues with my neighour the last two months. I really hope things will be calmer now. My friends and family are still very important so I am prioritizing them more in the warm months.

    Whew! I think that should be a long enough update. I will continue to blog about my books. To those of you still reading this blog, thank you!

    Have a happy week!

  • Food

    No-Knead Bread Diary Vol.1

    bread

    This is a bread technique I’ve wanted to try for some time. I actually like kneading. I started doing this in January when I moved into an apartment with a kitchenette and almost no counter space. I have wanted to own a dutch oven for a long time too.

    Yeast: Unless otherwise stated, I used Fleischmann’s Traditional Active Dry Yeast. I didn’t proof it before using.
    Salt: Fine sea salt or kosher salt.
    Water: Room temp distilled water or room temp boiled tap water. I didn’t measure my water as I would always just pour enough to get a sticky dough.
    Proofing: My first rise was usually 18 hours or more, but due to my schedule, I’d often have a very short second rise for about an hour. I found no significant difference with a longer second rise.
    Non-stick Grain: I experimented with flour, wheat bran, cornmeal, oats, and polenta. Plain or WW flour was best because cutting made a mess of the others.
    Dutch Oven: Lagostina 4-qt round dutch oven from Canadian Tire. I could not afford a Staub or Le Creuset yet; I would have to order a Lodge one online. The Lagostina is enameled on the inside unlike the Kitchen Aid and it had the dimpled lid (perfect for steam) unlike the Cuisinart. The only downside is that it’s a bit wider than I like and not 4″ high, but that’s alright for now.
    Lid: I usually covered the bread for about 15-20 mins and uncovered for another 10-15.

  • Books,  Food

    Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

    Oh! How I adore a good food book. It’s easier for me to be pleased with cookbooks and food books. They are real comforts for me.

    I started reading this book on my Kindle in 2012. I liked the first couple of chapters so much that I was able to score a cheap copy off Book Outlet. Then I put thoughts about this book aside until this May.

    The author set out to try various recipes and evaluate both their difficulty and economics when making at home compared to buying. With each recipe she provides, she offers a small anecdote. The soft cover I bought has no photos, but this is one of those rare cookbooks that has a nice narrative. I like when recipes are interwoven with stories.

    While I have not made any of the exact recipes in the book, I have done similar ones especially in the baking and jam sections. On the whole, I agree that some things are probably too finicky to do more than once or ever. Reese and I have opposing views about jams and preserves though, but that’s a small complaint.

    It’s a fun cookbook for those who want to figure out what they should try cooking first. Definitely, make some bread.

    Finished May 22, 2012 on Kindle.

  • Books,  Fitness,  Food

    Sunday Salon: New Autumn

    Sunday Salon

    Happy Sunday! It’s been a few weeks since my last Salon. Actually, I’ve become quite busy lately. I am too tired and fatigued to read on the weekdays, and I must run errands or have social engagements on the weekends. I have managed to read at least one book per week, but just barely.

    Today, I am reading Marsha Altman’s P&P sequel The Darcys & the Bingleys. I really should be reading my Classics Spin book Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I will start that, but I must consider the over two dozen books from the library. I bought a couple of cookbooks and a calligraphy book the other week too. I still have at least 30 books unsorted in the house that I got this summer.

    Books are my addiction!

    In fitness news, I ran a 4KM colour run two weeks ago and no running since. Once again, no time, but it was good. I hope to run more as the weather gets chillier. I am biking about 4 days of the week now. I don’t know if my endurance or legs muscles are better, I am definitely faster and more confident on the road. I’m surprisingly enjoying myself. I even bought some lights for my wheels so I can bike in the dusk.

    In knitting news, there is no knitting news. Sigh.

    Food news, I started my sourdough starter yesterday! I hope to make sourdough in a couple weeks time. Exciting.

    What have you been doing this weekend?

  • Books,  Food

    Cooked by Michael Pollan

    I was excited for this book because I was a big fan of Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan and I have a similar view and philosophy regarding food. In this book, he explores the history that humans have with four processes of cooking: roasting meat (fire), boiling/braising (water), baking bread (air), and fermentation (earth).

    I loved this book at its introduction:

  • Books,  Food

    Sunday Salon: Used Book Sales 2013

    Sunday Salon

    Hello, everyone!

    It’s been a bookish week for me. I read finished four books this week: Unnatural Creatures stories selected by Neil Gaiman, Soulless vol. 2 by Gail Carriger and REM, Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger, and Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella (review up tomorrow). I also bought some books.

    It’s used book sale season! Even though I made a resolution to not buy any more books with one exception, I still had to hit my favourite used book sale yesterday and one last thursday. I went looking for the exception: food and cookbooks. In addition to seemingly collect yarn, pens, and paper, I’ve been building a big cookbook collection the last two years. As well as cookbooks, I was looking for any travel books.

  • Books,  Fitness,  Food

    Sunday Salon: Maple Bacon Biscuits

    Sunday Salon

    Happy Easter to those who celebrate it! I never really got this holiday, religious wise or chocolate wise so the only thing I personally like about it is the extra long weekend.

    This week I posted my reviews of Flight Behavior and America Again.

    This weekend I’ve been busy of course. I made a hat for a friend on Friday, ran about 6km yesterday, have been reading some Walden, and just now, I baked some Maple Bacon Biscuits from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Pereleman.

    Maple Bacon Biscuits

    They turned out alright. I don’t know why, but the mix was a bit drier than usual, maybe I did not use enough bacon fat or maple syrup. I’ve made a lot of scones and biscuits, and they are one of my favourite things to bake. With this one, I used less than a pinch of salt because the bacon was salty enough, buttermilk substitute (milk + lemon juice, always), managed 8 biscuits from a glass cup of less than 2″ diameter, and put an egg wash (always on top, never the sides with biscuits/scones).

    My reading goal this weekend was to read at least three books, but it may end up being just two. Walden is slow going. I like the ideas in it, but I also find it a bit too florid and even pretentious. It is one long essay so it’s not as easy to read as other nonfiction books. Also, unlike a lot of modern essays, his real life examples are smaller. It’s very philosophical.

    Have a Happy first week of April!

    Note: I did write most of the above post on Sunday/yesterday, but then my bandwidth exceeded again so I am posting it on Easter Monday.

  • Books,  Food

    Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

    Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

    This is a food memoirs by an Ethiopian born, Swedish adopted and now American chef. I had not heard about Samuelsson before this memoirs. I think I picked this up because it I read some good things about it as a memoirs about food.

    The book discusses not only food, but adoption, culture, soccer/football, and many countries including: Ethiopia, Sweden, Switzerland (it made me miss it!), Austria, New York City, France (I always miss it), time spent on a cruise ship, Ethiopia and more New York. I appreciate any book about travel and observing cultures. The author is a product of that in many ways so it was interesting to see his life over three continents and his journey as a top chef in America.

    I did like the food moments and learning about little things from each food culture such as Swedish rustic cooking. I wanted to know more about Swedish pickling’s 1-2-3 method (Swedish vinegar, sugar, and water). I also liked the metaphor of fine dining as museum curation. Food as art that after consumed, you would see the world differently.

    Like some chefs, Samuelsson fell into it after failing at being a football star and he admits he sometimes feels like a failed football more than anything. I don’t know if Gordon Ramsay has said that, but cooking was also his secondary choice after his failed football career. Ramsay is actually mentioned in this book. I have read a few things about Ramsay. I have watched and liked a lot of his British (not American) shows. I even just bought one of his cookbooks during my Boxing Day cookbook spree. I don’t find a lot of his food accessible (too fine, too limiting for my tastes), but I bought the one which had reviews for being accessible. I think he tries too hard with his persona, but I also think it’s somewhat admirable how driven he is about everything. There are a number of British chefs who have worked and been made by Ramsay. Two of the most prominent are women. In a boy’s club such as the restaurant kitchen, female chefs are rare especially those running one of Ramsay’s three star Michelin kitchens. Therefore, Ramsay is mostly in my good books. On the other hand, a lot of people have mentioned what a jerk he is and I don’t mean on TV, but behind the scenes. The jerk American persona is mostly played on his US shows. He has badmouthed a number of people, including the author of this book apparently. He’s allegedly a serial cheater. I also think he is arrogant sometimes, but so are a lot of TV chefs. Reading about how he screamed at Samuelsson and with a racist remark did give me pause.

    I digressed a bit, but the book does discuss race and ethnicity a number of times. Fine dining is very much a man’s world and sadly, a white man’s world at that. It was intriguing to read in which Samuelsson tried to reach out to the Harlem community, employ women and not tolerate prejudice or abuse from his employees.

    While the topics of the books were interesting and a couple of times, touching and candid, there was something about this book that I didn’t love. It had moments and I even felt sympathy for the author, but I didn’t fall in love with this book. It is not a must read, but a decent one if you like memoirs and biographies that feature food and chefs.

    Read January 28-29th 2013.

  • Books,  Food

    Sunday Salon: November Blues

    Sunday Salon

    Hello everyone!

    Sadly, I did not read at all this week. Work has been hectic, but it’s my last day this Wednesday. Even though I will miss the income and don’t want to job search, I really need the break from working.

    Today, I may read a bit, but I have been particularly tired from my weeks. The weather has been dark and gloomy all week. While Sandy didn’t really hit us around here, we got the tail end rain of it.

    Brownies

    In good news, I baked brownies yesterday. They were a bit too sweet for me, but I used over 10 ounces of chocolate (I had a lot of leftover dark chocolate). Also very crumbly and buttery. Hmmm. I think I am really a blondies girl at heart.

    What are you reading and eating this weekend?

  • Books,  Food

    Lime Frozen Yogurt – Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

    Lime frozen yogurt canning for a new generation

    Cookbook Review: This cookbook was one of three new cookbooks I bought last Boxing Day. I have about eight cookbooks now, seven I got in the past year. Of all these, I’ve used this one the most. The main reason being is that right now, I don’t really cook or bake that much, but in the summer, I did canning, but this book doesn’t just have recipes for canning.

    First off, this book is good value for money. It has 200 recipes and it’s seasonal based. While this doesn’t always apply since I live in Canada and the author lives in California, the layout of the book does apply to most places i.e. berry recipes follow berry recipes.

    Additionally, it’s not all just canning, but it includes various clever ways of using leftover or excess fruit such as in the recipe below. The book is a great resource for any novice or seasoned canner, and most of the recipes are from scratch. There are no packets of pectin around here.

    Some of the canning recipes I liked included: “Strawberry and lemon preserves”, “Blueberry Apple Jam” and “Concord Grape Jelly with Green Apples”. I wasn’t a big fan of her “Do Chau” (pickled carrot and daikon) recipe, but all in all, this book is incredibly useful for the casual and serious canner and cook.

    There are also recipes on how to use your canned goods (for pies, savoury dishes, etc) and other ideas for preservation like the Lime Frozen Yogurt recipe below.

    All in all, I recommend this book for canners and those who just like fruit.

    Canning for a new generation

  • Food

    Garlic Scape Pesto

    Garlic Scapes on Instagram

    Garlic Scapes from my little plot. I only grew garlic this year as an experiment. I planted eight plants, but a squirrel took four of the bulbs and one died probably because of the spearmint (which you can see in the background).

    I picked the scapes a bit late because most people recommend that you harvest them before they loop like I have. Oh well, they still tasted great!

    This recipe is a good template for pesto in general. I used my frozen basil from last year because I didn’t have enough scapes, but it worked out really well. I just heated it lightly in a dry pan to melt some of the ice.

    Garlic Scape Pesto
    Adapted from Serious Eats

    Ingredients

    1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
    3/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes*
    Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    A few generous grinds of black pepper
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
    *Or use half scapes and half herbs such as basil, dill and chervil

    1. In a small, dry pan set over very low heat, lightly toast the pine nuts, stirring or tossing occasionally until just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

    2. Combine the scapes, pine nuts, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Pulse about 20 times, until fairly well combined. Pour in the olive oil slowly through the feed tube while the motor is running. When the oil is incorporated, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the grated cheese. If you plan to freeze the pesto, wait to add the cheese until after you’ve defrosted it.

  • Food

    Ricotta Gnocci

    Ricotta Gnocchi

    This was my first time making gnocchi and it was delicious! They don’t look neat and tidy, but man, did they taste good. They were also was very easy. I had only 200g of ricotta so I basically multiplied all the ingredients by 80% and used a small egg yolk instead of a standard large. It was seriously rich, but oh so good. I messed up on the browned butter sauce, but it was still good.

    Just a reminder about food posts. I do not bake or cook as often as I use to, but I still like it a lot. The blog posts are a way for me to evaluate recipes and techniques for future reference.

    Onto the yummy stuff.

    Quick Ricotta gnocchi
    From Delicious Days.

    Ingredients (for 2):

    250 g Ricotta
    1 egg yolk (M-L)
    1/4-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
    30 g Parmigiano (or Pecorino), freshly grated
    50-75 g all-purpose flour, extra for dusting the dough/board
    serve with tomato sauce or any kind of pesto

    Sauce:
    50g of butter
    A few sage leaves (5-6?)

    1. Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta’s packaging may contain, then add Ricotta cheese, egg yolk, salt and freshly grated Parmigiano into a large bowl. Mix well with a wooden or regular spoon. Now add the flour and stir in briefly, just until combined – the dough will still be quite sticky. (Of course you can add more flour at this point, but keep in mind, that the more flour you use, the denser the gnocchi become in the end. And you want them to be as light & fluffy as possible, with a velvet-like texture.)

    2. Forming these gnocchi is the slightly tricky step, this is the technique that works best for me: Generously flour a board, take a big tablespoon of the dough and scoop it onto the board. It gets dusted with flour (dust your hands generously, too!), before rolling it into a finger-thick roll. Cut it into little pillows (stick the knife’s blade into the flour to prevent it from sticking to the dough). Then place each gnoccho on a floured board or parchment paper lined baking tray. Continue quickly with the next step, otherwise they will get soggy and stick to the paper/board anyway.

    3. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and reduce heat until the water bubbles lightly. Add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom – then let cook until they start floating on top. Depending on their size this may take 2 to 4 minutes. Take out with a skimmer and serve with a sauce or pesto of your choice.

    Browned sage butter: Wash and pat dry the fresh sage leaves, then stack and cut them into thin chiffonade. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan over low to medium heat, add the sage chiffonade and sauté until the sage has become crisp and the butter has gained a golden brown hue and nutty flavor (but don’t let it burn!). Spoon over the gnocchi and add some freshly ground black pepper, grated parmesan.

    More notes: I put the gnoccho in the freezer after I made them since I didn’t eat them right away. I am aware you can freeze gnoccho quickly after rolling and cutting them out. I also tried to form them on the fork, but that was too time consuming and uglifying. The pillows are fine by me.