Thursday, 30 June 2011

Sharing Secrets

As of tomorrow, we're off an an epic road trip to what many consider Canadian wine country: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Oooh I can't wait to get my hands on a vineyard! Or something like that. Niagara is the ultimate destination that will then send us backward to cover 5 cities in 6 days. I'm tired just thinking about it... but also very, very excited! 

In the meantime, Erin ever so kindly agreed to share her recipe with me for that mouth-watering peanut sauce she used on our salads last Tuesday night, along with her own tips on how she makes it. Lucky you! This sauce will change your life. I highly recommend going out and buying the ingredients for it immediately after reading this. 

Really!

Go!
Erin's Quick Peanut Dipping Sauce 
1 tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 green onions, chopped
1-3 Thai chilies or jalapenos (leave in seeds if you want it hotter)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I always leave this out as I'm not a huge fan of cilantro)
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp fish sauce or soy sauce (I use soy sauce)
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp light brown sugar or more to taste
ground pepper
More notes from Erin: "Throw it all in a blender and whir away! I find the 1/2 cup chicken broth makes it pretty runny and just add more peanut butter until I'm happy with the consistency. So good!"

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Happy Canada Day, friends! Check back in a week's time for updates on our food and wine adventure in Ontario.


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A Weeknight Affair

Who says you can't throw a dinner party on a Tuesday night? Hm?

Last night we went over to Erin & Pat's house, who are long-time friends of F.'s. Erin and I bonded over our mutual love of food at their softball BBQ a few weeks ago, and soon afterward, we begun trying to nail down a night to share some appetizers and wine together. That night happened to be last night. Given that we don't live very far from each other, it was the perfect way to spend a quiet, warm summer evening; probably one of the first Halifax has seen this year!

Once their sweet boys were settled in for the night, we began assembling our dishes. Now, I have to admit that I was much less ambitious than Erin in planning what I was going to make last night. I thought: weeknight, working, keep it simple. I whipped up a smoked salmon and cream cheese dip, with garlic and scallions, and a ridiculously easy but effective chocolate and cherry cake. These required no great culinary skill, but they certainly do hit the spot.

Erin - mother of two, also working - completely put me to shame! Her appetizers were beautifully thought out and executed. She started with some jumbo shrimp, sautéed in a creamy garlic sauce, then baked some goat cheese and roasted walnut crostini with honey and rosemary. Our final course was a stunning, Vietnamese noodle salad with peanut sauce and flank steak. By the time my chocolate cake came round, I was already in a food coma and could barely move. I would have been perfectly happy spooning the peanut sauce into my mouth all night, to be honest, but thankfully someone took the spoon back after letting me try it. My dignity remains intact. One more close call. 

I suspect I could learn a thing or two from Erin, so I'm hoping to score some of her recipes in the very near future (nudge, nudge)! In the meantime I will A) post photos for you (read: me) to drool over, B) post recipes for the dishes I made, and C) begin researching for our next foodie rendezvous. I need to step it up a notch!


Smoked Salmon Dip

(Adapted from Philly Canada's recipe, found here)

1 large tub (400g) of Philadelphia cream cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1 whole package of smoked salmon
1 tsp. of lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of scallions, chopped
Cracked black pepper

Combine everything in a bowl and mix until well blended. I warmed the cream cheese up in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds, to make it a little more pliable. Reserve a sprinkle of the scallions for the top of the dip. I served this with Triscuits.

I used to make a dip similar to this while living in Seoul, but it had more of a yogurt base. While undoubtedly healthier, I have to say I liked this one from Philly Canada better. Thick, hearty, and tangy.

Now onward to the cake. First, let me just say that my mom is not only an excellent cook, she's an excellent baker. But sometimes, even the best need a shortcut and a cheat sheet for happy bellies, and this is one of the best cheaters I've seen and tasted.

Debbie's Cheater Chocolate Bundt Cake


1 box chocolate cake mix

1 can cherry pie filling

3 eggs

1 Tbs. almond flavoring

1 cup chocolate chips





Mix together all ingredients (do not follow the cake mix instructions!). Pour ingredients into a greased tube (or bundt) pan and bake at 350ºF for 50 minutes. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan.

The end product is a fudgey, fruity, dense, and moist chocolate cake that requires no topping. It'll stay moist for several days afterward, too, because of the cherry pie filling.

--

Here are some shots of Erin's divine dishes:

The jumbo shrimp in garlic, cream sauce.


Baked goat cheese and roasted walnut crostini, with honey and rosemary.


Do not adjust your screen! The salad was actually this colourful and vibrant.
Vietnamese noodle salad with peanut sauce and flank steak.

A big thanks to Erin and Pat for having us over and treating our taste buds to such a gorgeous array of food! Next time, Grover had better be careful because I might actually steal him away... sweet thing that he is!


A stowaway!
 What are your favourite appetizers? Quick, complicated, or otherwise? I'd love to hear your suggestions!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Food In Flight - Part II

Day 2 in Toronto started a little too bright and early for our liking, given the late-night dining excursion of the previous evening, but an exciting, family-filled day awaited us. Not a bad deal!

First up was dim sum with F.'s mom and grandmother in Markham. This being the first time I dined with F.'s family, I wasn't about to pull out the camera and ask that everyone wait to eat until I had the pictures I wanted. Maybe next time? Hm.

Dim sum was exciting, of course, because no matter how many interesting or different things there are to try in this world, there is always a new food adventure to be had. And, at times, it's one that involves avoiding eye contact with your food and taking a leap of foodie faith ;) Once F.'s mom learned I was willing to try anything, she quite coyly added a few more dishes to the menu to (I think) test my claim. Truthfully, everything I ate was delicious, including the chicken feet. The only thing I might pass on next time was the carp: not terrible, but just a really bizarre texture that I can't say I loved. I'm always glad I try different things, though, because there's always a good chance I'll get to add a new favourite dish to the repertoire.

That evening, we made our way over to visit my brother and his kiddies. My niece and nephew are the apples of my eye, and I don't get to see them very often, so I was naturally pretty excited about this particular part of the day. Sadly, his lady was out of town due to the passing of her grandmother, so we weren't able to catch up with her. Sunday being Father's Day, however, I was glad I got to spend it with my big brother; this being only his second. His upstairs neighbours were already barbecuing in the back yard when we arrived, so they invited us all to share in the food and frivolity going around on this gorgeous, June evening. Generous! We were treated to some of the fattest, tastiest ribs I've ever had: Charred slightly and crispy on the outside, while juicy and meaty on the inside. This was an occasion that called for the shameless and unabashed licking of fingers. No napkins necessary. Why waste the tastiness?

Swoon!

On day 3, the final day, F. was off for meetings and additional travel, so I was left to my own devices. I had made plans to meet up with a friend of my brother's who had just spent several months travelling (and beautifully photographing) several countries in Asia. Excited to hear his stories, Dave and I scored a quick lunch at his new favourite haunt: Ka-Chi Korean Restaurant on St. Andrew Street in Kensington Market. Germophobes beware: In true Korean fashion, I asked him share everything with me. He graciously agreed!

Our spread! Kimchi pajeon, Gam-ja-tang, and steamed, beef mandu for the main dishes.

A close up for the gam-ja-tang

Dave patiently waiting to dig in!

I have to say that I never really gave gam-ja-tang (pork bone stew) a fair shake when I lived in Korea. It smells really bad while it's cooking, and seeing as there was a gam-ja-tang restaurant in the same building where I worked, the smell usually prevented me from craving it or ordering it. I was definitely wrong not to sample more of this while in Korea, however, because of course the smell is long gone by the time you actually sit down and eat this at a restaurant. For about $6 at Ka-Chi, you get this huge, overflowing bowl of stew with about 5 or 6 chunks of pork inside, still on the bone, and in a spicy, red broth. They could easily be charging more, but I was happy to see this restaurant staying true to good Korean food and value for money.

We also ordered the kimchi pajeon (pancake), which is one of my absolute favourite dishes. I had a regular pajeon hole-in-the-wall I used to go to almost every weekend in Seoul, but I have to say, the pajeon here at Ka-Chi was probably the best I've ever had. The plain, kimchi pancake is not on the menu; rather, it's there as one of several varieties of kimchi and seafood pancake. I asked our server if he could make it without the seafood (which I find can be hit or miss) and he readily agreed. It was thick, brimming with veggies and sweet kimchi (it turns sweeter when it's grilled, fried, or baked in anything), with crispy, perfect edges. Mmm.

The steamed mandu (dumplings) were also great, because I find most of the Korean restaurants over here usually serve the deep fried variety. Steamed being my favourite - piping hot, with minced beef (or pork), onion, and garlic inside - I was blissfully happy and uncomfortably full with Ka-Chi under my belt.

Quite a successful weekend away!

Who's making or selling the best ribs in Nova Scotia? What are your favourite BBQ recipes?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Food in Flight - Part I

Travelling, in earnest, began for me around the end of 2006 when I first moved across the pond to Germany. It was something I always knew I'd love, I just hadn't had the chance to really get out exploring yet, having spent the previous 6 years of the new millennium in university. It wasn't long after I started booking my weekends away that I noticed a highly discernible trend: food, of course. No matter what my travel itinerary included, what every day boiled down to was where I was going to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and however many snacks I could justify... in light of getting the "full experience." Ahem.

Eiffel Tower: check. But where can I get lunch afterward? Great Wall of China: finally! But are there food carts along the way? Pergamon Museum: yes, please. First, let's get a brat next door. It's a big tower/wall/museum. One must be properly and deliciously fuelled!

Eloise, the lovely.
These days, travel usually includes a drive down the Nova Scotian coast, or a weekend getaway to another Canadian city. This past weekend I spent three, sunshine-filled days in Toronto, and true to form, every plan revolved around good food, good company, and for the most part, good drink. The sunshine-filled aspect is not to be understated, however: Nova Scotia's weather has left much to be desired this year, with hardly any summery or warm days to speak of! Needless to say, the 25+ degree weather was a welcome treat. I also had the pleasure of having a great neighbour on the plane, who recommended several of her favourite holes-in-the-wall to eat at during my next trip to Toronto.

The weekend kicked off with a quick, catch-up lunch at Bikkuri (King Street East) with my friend Eloise, who has recently undergone so many wonderful and exciting life changes that I had to hear about them in person... and over sushi. Bikkuri had a nice, street-side patio that provided the perfect setting for our sunny lunch and long-overdue life updates.
  




Fast forward to Saturday evening.

By this time, F. had arrived and we were gearing up for an evening of dining that we had planned for earlier in the week. During my last trip to Toronto in March, my friend Chad (who shared the Bacon Cups recipe with me) had tried to get us a last-minute reservation at Woodlot, but alas, was unable to. Ever since, I've had little fantasies and daydreams about actually going here, having seen some photos and read some reviews. What about "venison pie" (though only on the menu in fall or winter) and a wood-burning oven doesn't inspire fantasy? Sigh.

We started by having drinks at a place Eloise had recommended in Little Italy, called Sidecar. Their Badass Mojito is legendary, according to Eloise, so already being in the neighbourhood for dinner, we stopped in to see what the fuss was about. We sampled four different cocktails on their menu, and I have to say, Eloise was right: that was one dangerous mojito! A few of those bad boys and I might not have made it down the road to dinner. I have to apologize for the quality of the photos from here on: I was feeling a little footloose and fancy-free (and maybe also a little bashful about my compulsive picture-taking), so they're all taken on my Blackberry. Must get over this. Here are three of our four drinks sampled.


                                                                                   

Onward to Woodlot. It would be an understatement to say this place is 'hip.' Whether that suits your taste or not, the food is irrefutably tasty and the flavours and pairings endlessly interesting and hearty. The atmosphere is something like a chic log cabin, with an upper floor overlooking the lower, which contains the kitchen and a large, wooden table: meant either for large groups, I suppose, or walk-ins who don't mind sharing their space. In the kitchen was the eye-catching, wood-burning brick oven. I wasn't able to capture it in pictures, so check out this blog for better shots of it. Our table was on the upper floor, directly next to the railing, offering a great view while still being nicely displaced from the bustle. Wooden, crate-like wine racks lining the back wall, the casual dress of the wait-staff, and the soft candlelight certainly made this place feel cozy. So much so, that I'd like to go back sometime in the winter, when I suspect this would be a most welcome escape from chilly, city streets.

It's a little hard to tell, but off to the right is the lovely, wood-burning brick oven.
I'm determined to have one of those in my back yard someday! 

Our starter of Torched Hokkaido Scallops, with lentil salad, prosciutto, shaved shitakes, and balsamic.

Chop of Whey-Fed Pork with caramelized apple, black walnuts and sage,
and a side of mashed potatoes with olives.

Red Fife Whole Wheat Pappardelle with braised spring lamb, dandelion greens, and pecorino Romano.
 This horrific picture cannot do this dish justice. Oh, the regret!


The illustrious F. hiding behind his wine glass.

Our beverage of choice.

Soma Chocolate and Hazelnut Pot de Crème


Roasted Marshmallow and Wild Blueberry Lemon Tart


Our scallops had a nice smokey flavour from the torch; a great twist that we both enjoyed. My main, the chop of whey-fed pork, was tender and beautifully displayed on a wooden plank, with a side of puréed potatoes with Moroccan olives and parsley. What a combination! F.'s main, which I actually liked better than mine - once again - was a gorgeous whole wheat Papardelle with spring lamb. What wasn't apparent from the description of the dish, however, was that there was mint in it. F. isn't a huge fan of mint, or anything flavoured with it, so I think he preferred my dish over his, too. Fine by me: I love mint, so we spent equal amounts of grazing our own and each other's plates. The picture of the Papardelle really does fill me with regret. It was such a lovely dish! I, for one, would highly recommend it.

Our desserts were a huge hit all round. Though, with our collective sweet tooth, I suppose they always are? The Soma Chocolate pot was downright sumptuous, with rich, creamy textures mixed in with the crunch of hazelnut. F.'s Lemon Tart was as pleasing to the eye as it was to the stomach! A crisp marshmallow topping that, once broken, revealed a flowing, lemony, blueberry center. Big, fat sigh.

This being only the first day in Toronto, I'll end Part I here! 


Sunday, 12 June 2011

3 Days, 5 Countries

Friday.

The international foodie weekend begun on Friday morning as I arrived at work. On my desk was a conspicuous looking baggie with a dried, green plant-like substance inside. It isn't what you're thinking! (Naughty!) It was a zip-loc bag of yerba maté tea from Uruguay, brought in by a co-worker who had recently been there for work. 

I had tried yerba maté for the first time while living in Seoul. In the foreign district, Itaewon, there was a little Paraguayan empanada shop that had some on their menu. I asked for it because I had never heard of it, and I always have fun ordering something completely mysterious to me on a menu. Truthfully, I thought it tasted terrible, but after hearing several other people RAVE about it (namely, Maria, a wonderful friend in Argentina who I might soon get to visit!), I figured I needed to give it another try. When said co-worker mentioned he had some on Thursday, I nearly fell out of my chair (quite literally), out of interest! Thus, Friday began, sharing some of the potent, grassy tea, out of a bonafide, decorated coconut shell on the edge of Pier 9. It was much better this time around - much more fresh - and I definitely started to see the appeal. An interesting start to the day, for sure!

Yerba maté from a decorative coconut shell

Sidenote: When I got home Friday night, I discovered that F. had made a new investment! They're not the original, German knives. These ones come from China, but are still endorsed by Henckels. An exciting accomplice for future adventures in the kitchen!


After this discovery, F. and I went out for all-you-can eat sushi, to let someone else experiment with sharp knives, I suppose. We went to a great spot in Bayers Lake called Happy Sushi. The interior is really cozy (I'm told it used to be a wine/spirits store) and the sushi was very tasty. F. has been here many times and says it's hit or miss, but on this particular night, it was definitely hit! I've had my fair share of sushi, and I'm told that this is not uncommon, but I had never before had sushi rolls with little bits of tempura batter in the center - at least that's what we surmised it to be! It was a great touch. The texture and the crunch really added something delicious to what were already already delicious, fresh sushi rolls.


BBQ eel, tuna, spicy salmon, and soft-shell crab sushi rolls


Sushi close up!





We had Happy Sushi's strawberry and green tea ice cream for dessert, but since we had already snagged these from Susie's Shortbreads before dinner, we may or may not have indulged in secondsies:


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Saturday.

On Saturday night, my friend Carla (the same friend who accompanied me to Morris East in a previous post) came over to make a Peruvian dish with me. It was one of her favourite dishes as a child, so she had been wanting to learn how to make it for a while. Prior to arriving on Saturday, Carla had taken notes from her mother, her grandmother AND her aunt, so I knew I was in for a real treat. Carla did the lion's share of the work, while I occasionally chopped, stirred, or took photos. The recipe was quite time-consuming and definitely needed two sets of hands in the kitchen (unless you're a real pro!). I'm going to blog about it in greater detail later when I have a more complete recipe to go on, because this is comfort food at its finest, friends, and you're going to want to try it! For now, here was our finished product, called Aji de Pollo.

Chicken in a fiery cream sauce, over a bed of rice, and sides of boiled potato and eggs.

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Sunday.

Oh, Sunday. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Sundays? I saved my weekend trip to the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market for Sunday this weekend, because a little birdie (otherwise known as Twitter) told me that someone would be making Cambodian food today. 

I had the great pleasure of spending eight days in Cambodia in 2009. Eight days is a heartbreakingly short period of time, but it was all the vacation I had from my teaching job in South Korea. I was there long enough for the country and the wonderful people I met there to leave a big, soft spot in my heart (cheesy, but true), the knowledge that I would definitely go back someday (for longer), and to learn that Cambodian food is... is... just, gorgeous. Overwhelmingly so. After leaving Cambodia, I looked everywhere for Cambodian restaurants, but was sorely disappointed to find out that the country was heavily under-represented in the restaurant scene in any city I've lived in or visited since. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I learned it would be served in Halifax this weekend. 

Much of the Cambodian food I tried was delicate and filled with the soothing flavours of coconut and lemongrass. Cambodian curries, for example, are much more savoury than the spicy Thai curries found next-door. Saronn is the lovely lady who completely made my Sunday by serving her lip-smackingly good yellow curry and rice. She and her Happy Kitchen will be at the market every Sunday from now on (get there before noon if you want some!), though she is trying to secure a spot at the Saturday market, too. Keep your fingers crossed for her!



Chicken, carrots, basil, nuts... what's not to love in this spoonful of goodness?

Not my usual Sunday breakfast, to be sure!


On my way out of the market, I scored some fresh, Valley apple cider and strawberries. They made my car smell wonderful on the way home! Another delicious weekend for the books.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Rich Forest

Meet Allison: Bride-to-be!
Last Thursday I had a much-anticipated Korean food dinner date with my friend Allison. Allie and I met a few years ago here in Canada, but we have both previously lived in South Korea for a couple of years each, just at different times. She happens to be engaged to one of my old students' union friends, Jon, who she met in Korea, and I'm beyond excited to watch them tie the knot in July. Understandably, Jon and Allie have been pretty busy as of late, in the lead up to their big day, so snagging her for a nostalgic and indulgent evening was definitely a treat! Allie has her own foodie blog (currently on hiatus due to aforementioned wedding prep), which chronicles her experimentation with a dairy, soy, and sugar-free diet. This makes our Korean food outings all the more special, since she's technically not supposed to be eating these kinds of things! Check her out at Allie's Changing Kitchen.

The Rich Forest was everything a typical Korean eatery should be: splashed with fluorescent colours, fast and friendly service, lots of top-ups on water, a bin of extra-tiny napkins on the table, strange-tasting candies in a basket next to the cash, and pictures of all their food over the main counter. It was very reminiscent of places like Food 2900 or Kimbap Heaven that I used to frequent in Seoul. Hearing several conversations going on around us in Korean was nice, too: it made us both a little homesick for the country we not so long ago called home. The food was great, and very much like anything I would have eaten at any fast food (not to be confused with North American fast food) joint while there. So, in a word: authentic. 

Now, in saying that, sometimes authentic doesn't always equate delicious. Certainly not all, but many of the meat dishes I tried in Korea were laced with fat, but that was considered a good thing. In Korean barbecue, for example, there are countless kinds and cuts of meat you can try and there is one, very popular style that is made up almost entirely of fat, called samgyupsal. It's basically the fattiest bacon you've ever laid your eyes on, but, importantly, it's considered a real treat.

This was supposed to be one bite!
Allie and I couldn't help but dissolve into laughter when she offered me a taste of her jae-yuk beokkeum (marinated, stir-fried pork), and the one piece I was aiming for was attached to a second piece by a very long and stringy piece of fat. I cut away the fat and the jae-yuk was delicious, but admittedly I do prefer my meat to be more lean. The other dishes we sampled were the mandu (fried dumplings) and yuk-gae jang: a very spicy broth with beef, glass noodles, and veggies. The mandu were crispy, flavourful, and not too greasy. Their kimchi was some of the best I've tasted in Halifax, too. As for the yuk-gae jang, I asked our server to make mine extra spicy, because this was one of my favourite soups to order while in Korea. Rich Forest's version was delicious and stunning to look at. It definitely had kick, too, but I don't think he believed me that I could handle it, so I asked him to make it spicier for me next time. This foodie wants to sweat!


Miso and mandu
Yuk-gae jang
Kimchi craving satisfied!
Jae-yuk bokkeum

All told, The Rich Forest's new location on Quinpool was a great way to kick off a weekend and satisfy cravings for good Korean food. Based on my experience eating at Seoul Restaurant (Duke Street), however, I will say that I liked Seoul a little better. Seoul's cuts of meat were a better quality and less fatty, so I liked the jae-yuk bokkeum better there. They were also slightly less expensive and had an atmosphere more conducive to dining. I suppose, to sum it up, The Rich Forest is a great place for lunch (I love a good shock of fluorescent as much as anyone), whereas Seoul is better for a nicer, more atmospheric meal later in the day.

Has anyone tried any of the other Korean restaurants in town, or the other Rich Forest location? What were your thoughts?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Real Food, Real Talk, Real Change

Let's talk about food. Real food.

This is something I talk (one could even say rant) about a lot. I'm a huge proponent of eating food the way I think it was meant to be: in its purest form, without being enriched, without having anything much added to it, or - most importantly - without having anything taken away. Yep, that includes fat. 

I don't have a degree in nutrition, I have no culinary training, but after doing a bit of reading on my own, eating real food just makes a lot of sense to me and it's a food philosophy that I fully subscribe to. So, wherever and whenever possible (it's difficult to do ALL of the time), I try to eat food that has ingredients I can identify, doesn't have too many ingredients, and isn't overly pre-packaged and preserved. From what I learned over the past few years, in books like In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan, among other books and films, is that many of the foods we find in boxes at our local supermarkets can't even be classified as real food, but as a food product. When you take things out of food and add things back into them (taking out the fat and adding chemical agents to make it taste better, for example) the food becomes a shadow of its former self and not nearly as nutritious. (Or delicious.)

I'm not talking about junk food here. We all know that's bad for us. I mean taking natural fats out of things like milk, butter, and yogurt and replacing them with artificial flavours to try and make them taste better. Not only does this take out the best part of these foods, they also taste awful. 

In my opinion, of course. (Let's agree to disagree?)

Ultimately, and in every part of my life, I want to have a really healthy relationships with all things I consider good. I celebrate food and consider it to be one of the best parts of my life, so I don't ever want to feel negatively about it (fad dieting, guilt trips, etc.). The same goes for exercise: If I'm not feeling particularly social and don't want to go to yoga class, I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I will try to make a point of practising from the comfort of home. That way I don't build up any negative, psychological associations with overwhelmingly positive things. It's extremely counterproductive for me. Anyone else?

This brings me to my next point: In order to fulfill my food philosophy - because no matter what way I look at it, it involves eating extra fat and consuming extra calories - I have to strike a balance and create good fitness habits. I've been pretty good about this in the past, but I'm currently trying to re-establish a regular routine. When I went for my initial consultation at my new gym yesterday and was asked what my number one fitness goal was, I said: Balance. I very much want to be able to eat what I want, guilt-free, and make up for it in exercise. 

Again, to be clear, I don't mean sitting in front of the TV and stuffing six bags of chips and a freezer cake in me three nights a week. I mean eating proportionally, but not ever refusing to eat dessert at a beautiful restaurant. I mean not being afraid of cooking with real butter and drinking tasty, fresh, whole milk: All in healthy proportions and all supplemented by physical activity.


End rant.

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About a week ago, Colleen's boyfriend's mother, Jennie, generously offered me a big bag of Annapolis Valley rhubarb. Having been away for the past number of years, when my love of cooking really took off (and for most of which I never owned an oven), there are so many common ingredients I've never actually cooked with. Rhubarb is one of them. I was excited by Jennie's gift, but I was unsure of what to do with so much of it. She then sent me a great recipe for Rhubarb Chutney, which I finally got around to making last night. Jennie got this recipe out of a book called New Maritimes Seasonal Cooking, but for my personal records I'm going to go ahead and call it:

Jennie's Rhubarb Chutney
3 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen
2 large onions, diced
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Into large, heavy saucepan, measure all ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 1 hour, until mixture is the consistency of marmalade. Store in refrigerator for 1 month; in freezer 1 year. 


Piece of cake. I ended up putting a generous teaspoon of cayenne in, because I really like a lot of kick. I also didn't have enough brown sugar, so I topped it up with white (about 3/4 cup). This recipe got me three, neat little jars of delicious chutney and a gorgeous-smelling house. I'm looking forward to trying this the next time lamb, pork, or fish is on the menu!

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If you've made it this far: Thank you.

Now I need advice

On Friday night, I cooked up some scallops and pasta. Something I'm proud of is my ability to combine (sometimes) random things in my fridge, guess at measurements, and produce tasty and nice-looking meals. Something I'm not proud of is my inability to record exact measurements for these inventions. As a result, whenever I try to replicate them, it turns out differently every time. Must work on this.

 
I started by frying the scallops in some white wine, cream, garlic, pepper, butter, and orange juice. In what measurements? I have no idea. Dashes here, double-dashes there. Dallops elsewhere. I later added some sugar peas and tossed it with spaghettini. But when I make cream-based sauces, sometimes this happens, and sometimes this doesn't, and it's an endless source of frustration and mystery for me:


My cream curdled! I can't seem to work out the right order of things. Sometimes I add the cream at the beginning, as the pan is heating up. Sometimes it curdles then, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, I wait and add it when the pan is hot. Sometimes it curdles then, and sometimes it doesn't! Does anyone have any advice? What's the magic formula? I stir it constantly, regardless of when I add it, so I'm never sure what goes wrong and when. Either way, this finished product tasted wonderful, and looked ok, but I'd really like to work out how to stop this from happening altogether.



Last but not least, yesterday's indulgent lunch was wholly inspired by this article on the Taste of Nova Scotia website: Gourmandises Decadence at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market. My mouth was watering so badly after reading it, that I couldn't get it off my mind while circling the market on Saturday morning with my cousin Melissa. So I went round to some of my favourite stalls and got a bun of brioche from Julien's and some brie from Fox Hill Cheese House. Then, the icing on the cake: I fetched some Cremeux Des Salins (a salted, caramel spread) made by Gourmandises Avenue. Wonderful, sinful stuff.

Glorious.

Today is Sunday and it started out at the gym. I'm writing it here to keep me accountable to my own philosophy. Wish me luck in keeping up this healthy balance: I really need it!