Readers Earl Grey teabag cookies

earl grey tea(bag) cookies

Event…

Our book club was meeting at my house this month. What to serve? Looking in my tea box, I discovered a couple of packets of loose-leaf tea labelled Readers Earl Grey Tea. What could be more perfect for this special group of readers, I thought. More

Cherry clafouti solves one omnivore’s dilemma

Omnivore's dilemma - Pollan

What’s for dinner?

Once upon a time some friends formed a neighborhood reading salon. One night they slogged through the snow to sit by a fire together and discuss a book Michael Pollan wrote nearly 10 years ago — The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Pollan’s story lifts the blinders to show where our food comes from, just as deftly as if he wrote it, well, yesterday.

More

Frozen! Easy home-baked bread for random holidays

Christmas bread

Fill your Valentine’s bread with cinnamon and sugar. Or  serve it with raspberry or sour cherry jam.

Braided bread

I always make braided bread at Christmas… because what would a Ukrainian Xmas Eve be, without a steaming warm loaf decorated with ancient baubles handed down from our great grandmother?

But if you’re looking for directions on making bread from scratch, read no further. For this project, I have always bought frozen bread dough at our local grocery store. I usually have to ask at the cake counter, and someone disappears behind humungous stainless steel doors and emerges with the five stone-hard loaves I need. Easy!

This post is all about the presentation. Your results will look as mouth-wateringly delicious as the warm, fresh bread tastes. More

How to cook eggs for raw-egg recipes

Dovecote sees the light

Dali’s hen house

 

Raw eggs

In my previous post, I talked about making eggnog from scratch using fresh clean unbroken eggs, cracking them carefully, and allowing them to cure in sugar and alcohol. Raw eggs are generally safe for healthy people.

If you are cooking for young children, pregnant mamas, the elderly, or people with weak immune systems, though, you won’t want to risk serving them raw eggs. But hey, you don’t have to ditch your favorite recipes. More

Eggnog Grog

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Cup of good cheer comes at a price

Raising chickens

I’ve just read Mike Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma. Eye-roll.  Will I ever eat again?

Eggs and chicken are mainstays of my diet. But Pollan has lifted the curtain for me on the often shocking truths behind industrially raised chickens. They’re jammed into spaces so small, the poor animals try to peck each other to death. The answer, according to chicken producers? Off with their beaks. More

Adela’s Bird of Paradise

Remembering Adela - the hostess with the mostest!

Remembering Adela – the hostess with the mostest! 1963

Vinny’s Grandma Adela loved a dramatic presentation. She had inherited her own dad’s artistic temperament. Great granddad William Enge was a master woodworker, making violins as well as decorative furniture. He played the violin so beautifully, his music made a woman 20 years his junior fall in love with him.

Adela too had musical ability, singing in the choir at church, as well as for the Ottawa Opera Company.  Like him, she had an eye for color and fashion, designing and sewing her own clothes and much of the clothing for her family. She also built or refinished many pieces of furniture for her home, following in her dad’s footsteps. Knitting, sewing, carpentry, painting—nothing was too difficult for her to try her hand at.

But Adela was at her best in the kitchen. She kept an extensive recipe collection. And, like an early Martha Stewart, Adela was known to set an elegant table. More

Borscht with Zoë

borscht

Borscht at Christmas

I’ve posted many times about my favorite veggie. “Do you know what it is, Zoë?” I asked.

It’s usually red but sometimes yellow, and some people swear it tastes like DIRT. Ha! To me it tastes like the salt of the earth. Our favorite time of year to cook with this veggie is Christmas… partly because it’s red, and partly because at Christmas time, like all root veggies, it is available locally.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about that fabulous storehouse of antioxidants, minerals, and vitaminz (no, Zoë, you can’t help me type)… BEETS. Yay!

More

Cranberry troll cream and the three gruff goats

Cranberry troll cream

A Norwegian tradition

A Tale of Three Goats

Once upon a time, three little Billy goats were feeling a bit gruff. They hadn’t eaten since they left the barn in the morning, because during the night, their meadow had been grazed to the ground by a herd of reindeer, one of whom had a red nose!

The goats trotted and trotted, looking for fresh grass under the snow. But they had no luck. At last, they came upon a raging river. On the opposite bank, rows of cranberry bushes poked their heads up through the drifts. Lunch called!

The water looked deep and cold. But they soon spotted a stone bridge. The littlest and liveliest goat boy danced ahead. When he jumped onto the bridge, a troll leaped at him, all smelly and ugly.

“I eats goats for lunch,” the troll roared, “and you looks mighty tasty!” More

15 steps to making red and green pierogis

Use parchment paper if you line your pans. Wax paper sticks.

Use parchment paper if you line your pans. Wax paper sticks.

Last week I posted some tips for up-dating your techniques when making pierogis from scratch. I also posted many reasons for undertaking this task, in spite of the effort involved. But isn’t that true of most Christmas preparations? Good things take time to develop.

Without further ado, here is the recipe, which I share mainly so my family can carry on this tradition without further meddling on my part. I’m sure over the years they will institute improvements of their own. The world turns.

If there are readers out there who also are inspired to try these little tasties, please let me know. It will make my Christmas to hear of your success! FYI, Ukrainian Christmas is still to come. Celebrate with us on January 6 :). More

Santa’s elves update Christmas pierogis

pirogis

New kitchen tools make it easier to cook pierogis from scratch.

How perfect is this for Christmas! I make green and red pierogis every year, but my natural food colors have been disappointingly dull. I’m trying a new technique this year, inspired by Stefan’s Gourmet Blog, to see if I can make some improvements. More

Gut wars! Arm yourself with yogurt and prosper

Grilled pineapple, sweetened greek yogurt, cinnamon & almonds

Yogurt, yogurt everywhere!

 En garde!

Trillions of bacteria live happily in our gut. The goodies among them help us digest our food and absorb its nutrients. They also help our body make vitamins, absorb minerals, and get rid of  toxins. They make our immune system strong. And best of all, they work on our brain cells to help them battle anxiety, stress, and depression. Friendly bugs in our gut make up the army that protects us from disease, including mental illness.

Good bacteria, called probiotics, come to us in fermented foods. Buttermilk, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, sour dough bread, raw-milk cheeses and kefir all harbor the good guys. For many, though, probiotics march forth  into our gut in yogurt. More

Vinny celebrates an anniversary with a Christmas market

market 459611754_10

Yesterday marked four years to the day since Vinny launched himself into the cybersphere. The time has flashed by. It’s been so much fun watching Vinny and the kids experiment with new foods. And I have had just as much fun figuring out how to tell you about our adventures into healthy eating, with stories and recipes that get your juices flowing. But the most fun comes from reading your comments, especially when you tell me about your own journey to the land of good health. More

No stove? Cook dinner with your iron!

iron out the wrinkles on your next grilled cheese

Iron out the wrinkles on your next grilled cheese

I’m not sure we should let the little dears in our lives in on this trick… But if you’re ever stuck in a hotel room with no cooking facilities and limited cash for eating out, you can get by with an iron!

I’m not kidding. It’s simple! More

Vinny’s brownie malfunction 😲

cocoa brownies

Sugary cocoa brownies are my favorite!

The good

Kids love brownies. And I have the perfect recipe that kids and their families can make from scratch.

It’s easy to bake with chocolate when you use cocoa! More

Vinnyssoise – Chilled leek & sweet potato soup bowls

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“It’s called ‘the  great pumpkin bowl,’ Vinny Grette!” Isla tied on her apron furiously, then began pulling out pots and spoons and cream. “For Halloween, we’ll make some creamy soup and dish it up in bowls made from jack-o’lanterns.”

“Awesome!” said Vinny. “My granddad made a wonderful soup he called Vichyssoise.” Vinny’s voice became softer and rang with a little sadness. “But Grandpa used mainly potatoes. The starch in potatoes is a simple molecule that turns into sugar as soon as it hits our stomachs. I haven’t had  vichyssoise in ages.”

“I have an idea,” said Isla. “Let’s try the soup with sweet potatoes instead. Orange ones for Halloween. We can call it Vinnyssoise!”
More

A cake cup for Krista – Chocolate rules!

cake cups

The candles spluttered out in a blast of air, as 9-year-old Krista blew across her birthday cake and made a wish.

“What did you wish for?” asked Vinny. “A unicorn for the backyard shed? A chest of gold Lego?”

“No… and no,” said Krista. “I wished I was skinny!”

“What? No!” Vinny was aghast. More

Jack Spratt’s breakfast beets

beets and eggs for breakfast

“Oww. Yikes! Moan…” said Jack, clutching the source of his agony with greasy hands… his bloated belly.

“Hey, Man,” said a worried Vinny. “What in heck did you eat this time, to cause all this grief?”

“All I had was a bite of Mama’s fish and chips. You know I don’t usually eat fried stuff, Vinny. But Mama’s fish and chips? I just couldn’t turn that down, and…” Just then another cramp hit, sending Jack into spasms of pain.

More

Carrots for dessert? Add grapes and go!

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A duck walked up to a lemonade stand. And he said to the man
running the stand… “Hey…. Got any grapes?”

The man said, “No, we just sell lemonade.  It’s cold and it’s fresh and it’s all home made.  Can I get you a glass?” The duck said, “I’ll pass.” (waddle waddle waddle)

I feel just like that persistent little duckie in Bryant Oden’s wickedly humorous song who wouldn’t give up until he found some grapes.

Unlike the duck, when I find grapes I know just what I’ll do with them. More

It’s national macadamia-nut day today!

Macadamia nut tea cake

A tropical tea cake for your sweetie

Many months back I posted about how our Miss Macadamia, with her low omega-6 fatty acids,  offers a treasure chest of healthy, stable fats for your dining pleasure.

Today, in honor of Macadamia’s special day, I’m reposting a delicious recipe for you to try out, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

How Olive Oyl and Popeye became an item

Olive Oyl is heart friendly

Olive Oyl is heart friendly

Olive Oyl, a popular comic strip character of the 1920s, is named after olive oil… a healthy choice for vinaigrettes. Early newspapers  also featured  Olive’s brother, Castor Oyl, and his wife, Cylinda Oyl… as well as my personal favorite, the intrepid explorer Lubry Kent Oyl.

Lubry Kent’s gift to Castor and Olive led them into the adventure where they met Popeye, the sailor man. As it turned out, Popeye was mad for spinach. And the perfect match for spinach is none other than the lovely Olive Oyl!

But why did Olive Oyl’s creators choose spinach as Popeye’s passion?  It all hinged on one little mistake, a mistake that launched the first modern super-food. More

Getting in the groceries that send cancer packing

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The magic word is SALADS

According to Dr. Li, we can start today, keeping cancer at bay. Just eat more foods  that slow the growth of blood vessels.

While we’re stuffing our faces with these healthy foods, we’re starving cancer-cell invaders in their tracks.

The foods that do the job aren’t mysterious mumbo jumbo harvested at the ends of the earth. More

The little cream dressing that could. . . . . . . It even makes kale taste great!

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Creamy Mediterranean-style dressing

Kale has a problem

The big problem with kale is it’s just too good-for-you to be truly loved, except by a few die-hard health nuts.

Some of you may think I’m one of those crazy people who will eat any vile substance as long as somebody says it will banish love handles… or wrinkles… or some life-threatening disease.

Well, yes and no. If there really was a magic potion that would do those things for me safely, I’d be at the head of the table. More

Building your salads in jars, Lego-style!

Lego salad!

Lego salad!

I used to find salads a chore, not worth the trouble. All that washing, peeling, chopping. All that, only to end up with tasteless, watery, rabbit food.

But then I discovered Lego. This fab toy taught me a trick or two about salads.

Remember Emmet, from the Lego Movie? It hit me when he sang, “Everything is awesome when you’re part of a team.” What is salad if not a well-oiled team??? More

Vinny Grette’s best vinaigrettes

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Beet and apple vinaigrette. Full of fight-o-nutrients!

Will waved his grandpa’s cane in front of him, as if he were fending off a stampeding herd of dinosaurs. “Fight-O-nutrients!” he roared, charging across the room. “I need some for lunch, please, Vinny?”

I braced for a high five, as Will raced back toward me, his free hand raised, his sword hand busy. “Gotta keep my energy up!”

No problemo,” I said. “It’s summer time and the livin’-healthy thing is easy. Just eat lots of bright veggies and fruits, and phytonutrients are yours for the taking. These are salad days!”

“Salads are boring. And I hate veggies,” moaned Will. “Isn’t there something else?” More

Birthday cake for a country

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Happy Birthday, Canada!

Canada Day in Ottawa, our nation’s capital, is always a great party. The city closes down and the roads are open only to buses, people, and entertainers. The past few years, even our own street joined in the fun, with party food for the neighborhood, everybody bringing something special. Vinny brought his “Jubilation” – a cake made by the young Elizabeth during the war, before she was queen, when sugar was at a premium and food was hard to come by. Here’s the story of how “Jubilation” came to be, which I first published a few years back. More

Tommy Tucker’s brown bread… cheesy and barbecued

Baked cheesy bread

Little Tommy Tucker sings for his supper, What shall we give him? Brown bread and butter. How shall he cut it without a knife? How shall he marry without a wife?

Isla was entertaining us for the 17th time one morning with her latest ditty, as I took my sharp, serrated blade from the rack and a round, seedy loaf of whole-grain bread from the cupboard. She stopped and raised her shoulders, palms out.  “Hey, Vinny, why doesn’t Tommy have a knife?”

“I suspect the poor kid was on the streets,” I answered. “The poem was written… like 200 years ago. If you didn’t have a family to look after you then and you More

Jeremy’s take on kale

Boiled dressing = easy and delicious!

Kale with pears, pomegranate and boiled dressing = easy and delicious!

I’ve been busy with family in the midst of a big move and exotic holidays. So Vinny has been on sabbatical!

But I saw this cute cartoon on Kathy Man’s blog the other day and Jeremy made me laugh. Maybe you’ll like it too :).

 

kale cartoon849

 

Jeremy might even prompt you to have a look at Vinny’s earlier posts on kale. More

Crown the meal with savory pear taquitos

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Sweet!

Here it is, folks… a fabulous dessert filled with protein, vitamins and minerals and topped off with great taste.. the finale of our Mediterranean small plates evening. It’s surprisingly easy, too.

I made the little rolls a couple of days ahead and froze them on a baking sheet. On party day, they went straight from the freezer into my preheated oven at dessert time, and in a few minutes they were ready to plate. More

The main attraction: Ancho sauce and caramelized onions adorn Spanish pork loin

Spring gourmet main course

Pork with Sardinian fennel and mushroom risotto on the side

Now that you’re nicely warmed up with a pleasant cocktail and a savory appetizer, we’ll move right along to the star of the meal. Vinny rubs a large, lean pork tenderloin with a blend of dried ancho chili pepper and other spices. More

Look who’s on first: Avocado Crostini

Avocado crostini

Green is clean

Avocado crostini with goats cheese and chouriço, garnished with pistachios and red endive

The little bites at the start of a meal are often what we remember best. Here’s an easy appetizer that should hit a home-run for the crowd.

Choose an artisanal baguette baked fresh that day. If you must buy it ahead, wrap it well and freeze it for up to a week. A crusty-type loaf works better with this recipe than a chewy loaf. The chewy ones don’t toast as crisply and it’s harder to break off dainty bites. I learned this the hard way.

If you can find a loaf made from whole grain bread, take bonus points for good nutrition! Some more tips… More

Let’s party! Portuguese sangria, perhaps?

Spring gourmet - Portuguese sangria cup

Last week I posted a menu for a special dinner party. We started our Mediterranean evening off with a pretty wine cocktail hailing from Portugal. Choose a good quality wine, preferably from that country and preferably red (called Tinto in Portuguese). Pair it up with a dry Porto. Throw in a few swigs of  More

Vinny cooks up an Internet dinner

Gourmet dinner - red theme

Our annual dinner party

Vinny and I have made new friends since we’ve been blogging. Many of them are great cooks!

When it was our turn to host a dinner party this spring, Vinny thought it would be fun to showcase recipes he’s found on-line. It was such a hard choice seeing as there’s only so much food you can take in on any given evening… and there are so many wonderful dishes to choose from. Thank goodness for Pinterest, where a foodie can save and sort favorite recipes found on the Internet. For this particular evening, Vinny picked the following dishes, based on Mediterranean small plates. More

Popcorn magic at the Night Circus

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The night circus has a brain and heart… almost human. How eerie!

Last week I raved about a novel by Erin Morgenstern, called The Night Circus. This story asks us to consider the untold power life holds!

One way the author looks at the nature of life is by imagining the opposite.

Morgenstern  thinks of death not as an end, but a change. If you break a bottle of ink in the ocean, the ink disperses because it has lost its container. The ink is still there… just diluted, its parts no longer connected.

When one of the wizards mysteriously vanishes in The Night Circus, his daughter tells everyone he’s died. But in fact he is in this state of dilution… not exactly dead, he’s just not here in one piece.

While you’re reading The Night Circus, I propose a tasty bowlful of black-and-white popcorn to help you hold yourself together. More

The Night Circus: Black-and-white torte with raspberries at centre ring

The clock chimes 4a.m. at the Night Circus and bonfire is burning strong, fed by Marco's book of charms.

The clock chimes 4 a.m. at the Night Circus. Her bonfire burns strong, fed by Marco’s book of charms.

“What’s black and white with red in the middle?” Vinny asks.  “Give up? It’s the cake I made for my book club, when Erin Morgenstern’s novel “The Night Circus” was up for discussion.

On the surface, Morgenstern gives us an enchanting love story about magic. The circus, open only at night, shimmers in black and white. It is the venue for a desperate competition, as two wizards older than time pit themselves against one another through their best students. The light and the dark signify their two opposing ways of manipulating reality. Which will win out, Vinny wonders. More

Tasty banana crepes for Little Boy Blue – just two ingredients!

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This has to be the easiest peasiest pancake recipe on the planet.

 No lie. There are only two ingredients in this gorgeous breakfast crepe.  No milk, no flour. Here’s how to make this tasty treat. Then read on to find out how it brightens your morning. More

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia. Don’t eat your potted pet!

Chia pudding cup

Try this creamy chocolate chia pudding, instead.

Do you remember those cute little Chia pets that blew onto the scene about 30 years ago?  We’d water them and give them a little love, and they rewarded us by growing green hair and fur in all the right places. More

New indexes let you browse Vinny’s recipes like a cook book

 

Now where was that?

Now where was that?

Vinny had a problem

Recently, while trying to find a recipe I knew I’d posted somewhere, I realized how hard it is to search through posts on Cook Up A Story.

More

How to make sardines taste good! OR… Eat fish to fire up your memory

No added salt - just wild Canadian sardines and water.

No added salt – just wild Canadian sardines and water.

Omega-3 fats are vital to the workings of our brain, the most important organ of our body. They keep our memories sharp and our minds on target. Sadly, the average North American diet is not a welcoming place for these guys. More

When it’s hot, it hurts – Salmon baked with green chili sauce in banana leaves

Salmon in banana leaves

This recipe from Chef Mo captured my imagine. Then it seared into my soul!

When a reader from Texas told me where to find purple yams here in Canada, I figured it wouldn’t be that hard to find banana leaves, either. Sure enough, a small store just 10 minutes away sold them.

Giant leaves in hand (these things are humongous), I set about getting dinner ready for guests coming to a birthday party.

The night before the big day, disaster struck. More

Stefan’s fennel side-dish, Italian style

Braised fennel with chinese chicken

Fennel makes a great side for barbecued chicken.

Fennel’s a bit of an odd vegetable. Although he turns up in the produce departments of most super markets, he’s not really a regular guest at most people’s tables. Fennel’s best pals with Celery, another kind-of-blah veggie that is often left languishing. These two veggies have the same pale greenish-white crisp flesh. And Fennel’s stalks grow around one another like Celery’s stalks do. Both veggies can be served raw or cooked. And both have a fibrous, mind flavor.

But Fennel deserves a closer look. Once you get to know him, you’ll see he’s loaded with character. More

Walnuts stewed, are more quietly chewed: An earthy walnut and mushroom soup

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This walnut soup idea grew from a recipe I had saved from a teenage chef in Texas, who says his friends loved it. He’s probably grown up by now and very smart indeed if he’s continued down the walnut-tree-lined road of healthy eating. I found the earthiness of the walnuts in this dish was nice. The original recipe might be something the kids in the family would take to. But for me,  I needed a little more oomph on my spoon. More

Walnuts raw, develop the jaw: Crunchy leafless party salad

walnut

Walnuts slash diabetic risk by a quarter. Click pic for more.

Raw walnuts not only provide a workout for your chin, they also strengthen bones and teeth.

Then too, walnuts help you remember things… like the leafless salad I promised to post in last week’s blog entry. That’s because of the huge amounts of the rarer fat component omega-3 that walnuts have. Remember?  More

Where’s Walnuts?

One walnut hiding among other tasty nuts

Can you spot the walnut hiding among all these other tasty tree nuts?

Walnuts, raw
Develop the jaw,
But walnuts, stewed,
Are more quietly chewed.
with a gentle nod to Ogden Nash

Crunchy or pureed, if we’re smart, walnuts will be found hiding on our plates in everything from soup to salads! I’m so impressed with walnuts’ healthy benefits, I hardly know where to begin. Have you heard of the quinone  juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin, or the flavonol morin? I hadn’t, until recently.

But we don’t have to remember their names. We just have to remember where they hang out… in walnuts! More

Round Vinny Grette’s kitchen in pictures – best recipes of 2013

Here Vinny presents his best efforts for 2013 –
easy, healthy, and kid friendly food.
For a glimpse into Vinny’s kitchen, click on any picture.

For recipes, copy and paste the link that appears below each caption. More

Macadamia treats us to her tea cake

Macadamia nut tea cake

A tea cake from a tropical paradise for your valentine.

Last week I posted about our Miss Hawaii, in particular, how Macadamia with her low omega-6 offers a treasure chest of healthy, stable  fats for your dining pleasure.

Now, as promised, here is a recipe for you to try out, featuring macadamia nuts and their oil. More

Miss Macadamia takes the crown! Fats demystified

Macadamia wears the crown

Macadamia is the sweetheart of Hawaii.

Verse 3

Whose dress is made of sweetgrass?
who wears a golden lei-a?
Who’s promised to be kind and true?
Ma-ca-da-m-i-a.

Okay… maybe this poetry thing is a little beyond my capabilities. But before I finish with my nutty soliloquy begun in my past two posts, I wanted to sing the praises of Macadamia. Difficulty with rhyming and pentameters isn’t going to hold me back. Because if I’m any judge, Macadamia wins the healthy nut contest hands down.  And it’s not just because of her pretty face and fine figure. More

My little nut tree’s almond cookies

Chewy almond butter cookies

Chewy almond-butter cookies

 Verse 2

My little granddaughter
Came to visit me,
And all for a taste
Of my almond cook-kie.

Last week, I talked about my almond tree, and all the benefits you get when you include almonds in your meal plan. I also gave you some ideas to do just that. This week brings some recipe ideas. More

I had a little nut tree… ode to almonds

Almond blossoms

Almond tree in bloom

The nut tree in the well-known nursery rhyme bore nothing… except silver and gold that is, which, as everyone knows, taste awful.

But those who have been reading along with Vinny know that nut trees in real life bear many wondrous things, more precious than money. More

Melting moments – A Christmas story tied up in bows

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Pinecone cake – a labor of love

“I don’t care about Christmas.” Eddy kicks the kitchen stool. “It won’t be the same, without Gramma.” Eddy’s heart feels frozen—it’s been that way ever since Gramma died.

Darren sighs. “Yeah, it’s been tough, buddy.”  He kneels beside his brother so he can see right into Eddy’s eyes. “Remember Gramma’s Christmas cookies?” Darren asks. “Let’s make some Melting moments.”

Eddy thinks of Gramma’s laugh when he got flour on his nose. “OK… I guess,” he says and reaches for Gramma’s recipe box. More

Mood Foods

Christmas bread

Christmas bread smells like good times

Study Guide for Cook Up A Story

CHAPTER 6

This is the last in my series on study guides for the print version of Cook Up A Story. Chapter 6 is about how our moods affect our food choices. We’re wired that way. The part of the brain that stores memory and feelings detects smells, too. That’s why when we’re blue, we crave foods that remind us of good times.

Christmas is one of those happy times. But sometimes life sends us a zinger and we’re just not in the mood.

The story in our final chapter, Melting Moments, shows how cheery memories are braided together with smells, sounds and tastes. When a small boy finds himself missing his grandmother, he takes comfort in his family and its holiday traditions. More

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