It began as a tiny seed, and grew surrounded by friends.
Those of you who have been around for awhile may remember the Foodie Penpal program. Basically, it’s like the pen pal thing you did when you were a kid. But for adults. Who like food. As adults it seems that it is far too infrequently we do something just because. No reason other than because it is fun and we want to. Well, the Foodie Penpal program is one of those things for me. Fun. Just because. Continue reading
There are certain things that go with holidays. Sunburns, gin and tonics, tired feet, sand in your shorts, and tacky souvenirs. It’s true. Admit it. Hidden around most of our homes we can probably find little mementoes that meant something then, but now are just dust collectors. Chackas as my Jewish friends would say. And because holidays bring out the best in most of us we don’t just bring stuff back for ourselves. Oh no. We bring them back for others too. Everything from t-shirts, to snow globes, to shot glasses (Hi Sis!). Now if the souvenir merchandise of a place reveals a bit about who a culture is, heaven help us all. However, thankfully, the food of a culture often is more revealing and says much, much more.
Probably my favourite part of travel is discovering what the locals eat. Trying new fruits and vegetables and overeating delicious things I can’t get at home. So it makes me happy that lately I’ve been noticing that I, and others, have been bringing back food stuffs from holidays as souvenirs and gifts. Pasta from Italy, olive oils from Israel, vanilla from Mexico, and spices from all over. Especially spices.
I tend to use a lot of spices. They are an integral part of my kitchen. Aside from bumping up the taste of food without the addition of fats and sugars many have highly beneficial health properties. And, while I haven’t figured out how to grow my own vanilla or cinnamon you often don’t even need to go to the store to get them. Herbs are easy to grow and you don’t need much room to do it.
So I decided, for fun and because I’m a bit of a geek, to keep a list of what spices I used over a two week period. I realized that, not including condiments, vinegars and oils, my spice usage seemed to have three levels. Daily, weekly and occasionally.
My tier one spices are the spices that I use on almost a daily basis. Garlic (mostly fresh but sometimes dried) with pretty much every meal but breakfast; freshly ground black pepper on everything; sea salt, sparingly but when needed to enhance taste; chili flakes (and powder) on everything including even eggs for breakfast; and cinnamon daily in my coffee.
Tier two spices usually make an appearance at least once a week. Fresh rosemary; basil; curry powder; ginger (mostly fresh); oregano; dried mustard for salad dressings; fresh sage; and cumin.
Tier three spices don’t get loved often, but when they do they add amazing flavour to meals. I would include spices such as chinese 5 spice powder, thyme, cilantro, lovage, nutmeg, parsley, paprika, summer savoury, star anise, and cardamom on this list.
The trick with spices is knowing when to keep it simple and when to tart it up a bit. Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and get a more complex flavour. For those moments, here are a couple of my most used, make ahead, spice mixes.
A versatile mix. It can be used on fajita’s, devilled eggs, as part of a salad dressing, or as a marinade for chicken or fish.
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cane sugar (regular would work too)
Middle Eastern Spice Mix
Try this on a sweet potato, with grilled vegetables, mixed into yogurt for a cooling balance to a spicy main course, or as the base for a meat marinade.
1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp black pepper
3/4 Tbsp ground coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cardamon (optional)
Note: if you don’t have ground spices , just toss them into a coffee grinder and blend them together.
Next up I’m going to track my condiment, vinegars, oils, and other kitchen essentials. What are yours?
Confession time. I hate leftovers. They make me a bit crazy. I’m impressed by people who can eat the identical thing for lunch that they ate the night before. But seriously? Don’t they get bored? To each their own, but when I sit down to a meal I want the food on my plate to look (and taste) differently than the last time I saw that same food. The challenge is that it makes life a whole lot easier (and usually healthier) if once or twice a week you prep and cook large batches of food for future eating. So what is a leftover snob supposed to do? For me, the answer (aside from keeping a well stocked pantry) is to prep and cook individual items rather than meals. Cut the vegetables, but don’t make the salad; cook and rinse the beans, but just store them for easy portioning; and cook the protein with just enough seasoning to keep it tender. Cook extra ingredients, not meals. That way there is always something to grab and go. Or, if you have time, lets you create something a bit more involved. Continue reading
It seems hard to believe but it has been two months since I last wrote about one of my favourite things – the Foodie Pen Pal program. I came home one horrible rainy day to discover the hiatus was over. Because there, like a bit of sunshine, was a package from my new Pen Pal, Mo. Happy day! As you all know, to me one of the most exciting things about being a foodie pen pal is the opportunity to meet other like minded people. Mo is no exception. I’ve been having a great time reading through her blog, Not a Coupon Queen, and I’m sure you will too. Make sure you check it out.
When I was a kid we had great neighbours. They had a fun basement (a color tv!), let me play with their foster racoons, and often invited us to dinner. I should also add there was always really good pie. Truly. Mrs. L. won ribbons for her pie.
So when in the midst of play the question was asked “do you want to stay for dinner Meg?”. It was an easy answer. “Let me check with my mom”. Continue reading
Well the rains have landed in Vancouver, and I’ve even heard that it has snowed in other parts of the country *shudder*. So at the suggestion of a friend I thought I’d post about something that preserves the sunshine all year round. Preserved lemons.