Jeweled Chocolate Cake

My book club, fancifully named “The Alta Vista Friends Reading Salon,” recently discussed Ruth Reichl’s memoir Save Me the Plums, about her time as editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine. The book appealed to me not only because of the inside stories Ruth reveals about the world of food… but also because of her fascinating experiences working as a writer, editor and publisher, a field in which I spent my own career, although in much less lofty positions.

Her relaxed, straight-forward writing style is a pleasure to read and very entertaining. But this is far from a cook book. Ruth regales us more with the quirky personalities of the people she encountered during her time there than with the 1000s of recipes her team developed.

I can’t resist, though, giving you here my favorite Gourmet recipe from Ruth’s book, exactly as it was printed. How could I ever have hoped to improve on something Goumet had tested in its kitchens so many times?

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Beautiful beets boost brain power – More tips

Versatile beets, as well as their leaves with stems, make delicious treats at any meal. Experiment with them to find ways to include them often in your meal plan. Your brain will thank you for it. Don’t forget. Eat beets.

As further encouragement for adding beets and beet leaves to your diet, here are three helpful tips for preparing and serving them deliciously and easily. This post follows on my previous two posts about beets’ bounty. Be sure to read them:

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Braised beet greens with toasted walnuts

As my previous post has pointed out, we can never have too many beets for good health. And the leaves of beets are just as magical as the rosy roots. Because beets contain a compound that oxygenates the blood, they can improve athletic performance and keep our little gray cells working in top order. These properties become even more important as we age. In fact, beets are probably the best food we can eat to help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s and other age-related brain disorders. It’s never too early to incorporate new and healthy foods to our diets. I hope you and your family will try these easy recipes.

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Battling Alzheimer’s disease – Part 4: Beets are a good bet

Fend off those “senior moments”

Vinny’s grandparents have told him that living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the scarier prospects of growing older. So he has done a series of posts about some lifestyle choices that could make a positive difference to our mental health in later years. He’s all for starting these habits early, for a longer and more active life. Read on for his forth and final installment.

Super beets: Beets are the ideal brain food. These ones are large enough to use as weights in your exercise class. But for best effect, we suggest you eat them.

Part 4 – Beets are a good bet

Beets may be our best defence against Alzheimer’s disease

You might be surprised to know that beets are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Their bright red color signals a wealth of antioxidants, which are potent fighters of inflammation in the body and, specifically, in the brain.

But beets offer the brain even more useful benefits. Betanin, the compound that accounts for the red hue of beets, disables a protein that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease. It is so effective that researchers are looking into betanin as a possible drug component for sufferers of this serious brain disorder.

Beets help keep the brain healthy in other ways, too. The rich red root contains nitrite, which when converted to nitric oxide, increases blood flow. More blood flowing into the brain means more oxygen, which increases the brain’s efficiency.

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Scotch pavlovas with sour cherry sauce

A pavlova is basically a meringue decorated with whipped cream and fruit. You can use any fruit, but in this recipe, I use sour cherries.

Meringues are much easier to make than they look. There are only a few ingredients and they whip up quickly. I’ve included a few tips for separating eggs and whipping the whites into stiff peaks, so you will succeed even if this is your very first try. I hope you will make this dessert with your family.

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Carrot ginger soup brightens your day

Being a student of nutrition, I was intrigued by a recent give-away in our Buy Nothing neighborhood Facebook group. A member was offering a book with the intimidating title, “The Ultra-Metabolism Cookbook.” I have discovered over several years of trying to encourage families to forego processed foods in favor of healthy meals that people are hooked on the foods they grew up loving. It takes a LOT to get them to consider changes. I wondered whether this recipe book could make a good stab at getting people to consider a regular infusion of fruits, veggies, and good quality protein and carbs.

The seven keys to making your metabolism function well, according to this doctor, Mark Hyman, are

  • controlling appetite
  • lowering stress
  • reducing inflammation
  • preventing damage from oxygen, AKA keeping your cells from rusting from the inside out
  • burning calories
  • strengthening thyroid fuction
  • helping the liver do its intended job

But people won’t care about any of that if the food doesn’t taste good, if the ingredients are unfamiliar, and, especially these days, if food prep takes too long.

Hyman takes care of food prep hangups by posting tricks to make shopping, preparing and cooking meals easier. Healthier eating does mean forming new habits and, perhaps, making more of an effort in the kitchen than you are used to. You WILL have to make some changes. But the results for you and your family are worth it.

Hyman’s recipes look easy and they contain foods that promise to deliver on the good doctor’s seven keys to a healthy metabolism. In no time you will feel less stress, maintain a healthier weight, and find more energy. Best yet, a more efficient immune system can help you better fight off those nasty viruses that are making life miserable for most of us these days.

To test things out, I chose a tantalizing recipe for carrot ginger soup. It is made with lots of spices, herbs and foods that derive from nuts and seeds. All these things are chock full of healthiness. You can easily make this dish vegetarian and dairy free, if that’s your thing. I can attest to it being super delicious!

Carrot Ginger soup

Makes 4 large bowls for lunch or 8 small cups for appetisers. Can easily be doubled and frozen for another time.

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, scrubbed and minced
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, peeled and minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I use our home-made bone broth)
  • 1/3 cup cream (or canned unsweetened coconut milk)
  • salt to taste (up to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon red chili paste (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, leaves finely chopped
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  1. Prepare the above ingredients, all washed, cleaned, chopped, and measured
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot, over medium heat
  3. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent
  4. Add the carrot coins and cook for 2 minutes
  5. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute
  6. Add the broth, cream and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and boil gently for 25 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly
  7. Using an emersion hand blender, puree the soup until it is smooth and creamy
  8. Add the lime juice and chili paste and adjust the seasonings. You may need more salt and more broth to achieve your desired consistency
  9. Serve the soup in bowls or cups and garnish with the chopped cilantro and green onion. I didn’t have these on hand, so I used fresh dill and basil from my kitchen window.

Battling Alzheimer’s disease – Part 3: Drink water

Fend off those “senior moments”

Vinny’s grandparents have told him that living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the scarier prospects of growing older. So he has decided to do a series of posts about some lifestyle choices that could make a positive difference to our mental health in later years. He’s all for starting these habits early, for a longer and more active life. Read on for his third installment. Featured recipe: Smoothies.

Part 3 – Drink Water

The elixir of life

Humans can last days, even weeks, without food. But without water, we’re in trouble. Just 4 hours without water can lead to mild dehydration, with effects like fatigue and headaches. Going as little as 24 hours without water can have dire results. Brains lacking water lose the ability to retain short-term memories and to recall memories from the past. Lack of water over longer periods makes your little gray cells shrink. A thirsty brain ages before its time, resulting in brain fog, confusion, and worse.

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Spicy Ginger Cookies for Quarantine

I’m on a kick these days, trying out traditional recipes that represent our mixed heritage in Canada. I’ve just published a recipe for Norwegian glögg, a warm, spicy wine concoction served often at Christmas. Glögg tastes great with spicy ginger cookies, so I’m posting a recipe for these now, which came to me from a friend who was experimenting with cookie recipes during COVID isolation.

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Norwegian Glögg

A mulled wine at Christmas is a tradition in the Nordic household. Our ancester William Cornelius immigrated to Canada from Norway in the early 1900s, by way of North Dakota. He introduced the Norwegian version of mulled wine, Glögg, to his family in Saskatchewan, and the tradition came down through the family since then. I really enjoy the highly spiced flavor of this warm drink.

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Orange and cranberry chutney

cranberry sauce

An essential, whenever you roast a turkey

This post offers one simple but tasty and traditional recipe for cranberry sauce, done up in bows and boasting less sugar and more pizzazz than you get from a can at the grocery store. This is a recipe staple now for our family’s celebrations. More

Garden-fresh tomato soup

With a bumper crop this fall from my tiny COVID garden of five tomato plants, I needed to find some tasty ways to put tomatoes to good use. I love soup, so I decided to make some.

My highest yielding plants were for heritage tomatoes. They were slower to ripen, so I took a whole lot of green tomatoes off them in October. I was surprised to see that by November they had all ripened to a lovely bright yellow, not a red one among them.

The flavor is similar to what I remember tomato soup as tasting, but decidedly different. However, the taste is fresh, tangy, and satisfying. Use whatever fresh tomatoes you have at your disposal. The flavorings in the last step of this recipe can be added in either as little or as much as you might like. Sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Fresh tomato soup
Makes about 8 cups

  • Olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, coursely chopped
  • 1 large onion, coursely chopped
  • 6 cups fresh tomatoes, coursely chopped
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Flavorings (Optional)

  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • a few shakes cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon homemade liquid stevia, coconut palm sugar, or white sugar
  1. In a stockpot, over medium heat, saute the garlic with chopped onion until limp, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the coursely chopped tomatoes, with skin and seeds, and bring to a sizzle. Allow them to cook until the tomatoes soften.
  3. Add chicken broth and cloves. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion hand-held blender. Strain into a bowl, using a large sieve. Use a spoon to force as much pulp through the strainer as you can. Discard the cloves and fiber left in the strainer.
  4. In the now empty stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour to make a paste, cooking until the roux is a medium brown, at least 5 minutes.
  5. Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato puree, so that no lumps form, then stir in the rest.
  6. Season with vinegar, sugar, cayenne, and salt, and adjust to taste. Instead of salt and cayenne, I added a teaspoon of TexMex seasoning, which is basically salt and cayenne… Next time, I’ll try it without the vinegar. I found it a touch on the sour side. See what you think before going ahead with the vinegar. I did love the basil, though. And I enjoyed the nip from the TexMex.
  7. Serve very hot with some cream on the side for people to add if they choose. The nutrition count below is for the soup without any cream.

Nutrition

Studies show that tomatoes and tomato products may reduce your risk of heart disease and several cancers. This fruit is also beneficial for skin health, as it may protect against sunburns. These effects are likely due to high concentrations of antioxidants, especially lycopene and beta carotene. But tomatoes also contain several useful vitamins and minerals, namely vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and vitamin C.

A one-cup serving of this soup provides 100 calories; 4 grams protein, 7% RDV (recommended daily value); 4 grams carbohydrates, 1% RDV (just 1 gram sugar); 3 grams fat, 5% RDV; 81 mg sodium, 3% RDV; vitamin A 9% RDV; Ca 7% RDV.

As an aside: No pain, no gain

Just thought I’d point out that it may be easier to open a can of soup. But for pure personal satisfation, nothing beats growing your own food and making your own soup. For me, the only down side is the washing up!

But I’ve learned to enjoy the feel of warm water on my hands and the pleasure of seeing tidy work surfaces. I use the wait times between steps in the cooking process to wash utensils used to that point. There is far less to contend with at the end.

Now, I just have to put all these dishes away, and my kitchen will be spick and span again. Whistle while you work!

Spiced ginger and green tomato coffee cake

A tasty coffee cake that needs no extra sweetness can be had by making up this moist snacking cake. A wonderful treat if you have some green tomatoes on hand, a strong possibility if you were growing tomatoes at home this year, like Vinny was. It calls for 200 grams of green tomatoes, which is about two medium-sized ones.

Ginger is the healthiest spice in your pantry. It is one food that earns its reputation as a “super food” whole-heartedly, as has been proven by science. This recipe uses lots of ginger.

A Bundt cake studded with green tomato pieces and candied ginger, then spiced with masala tadka powder, is perfect with a cup of coffee or tea, or even with a glass of milk.

Spiced green tomato and candied ginger coffee cake
Makes 12 modest slices

  • 1 cup green tomatoes, chopped (200 grams, about 2 medium)
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) candied ginger, chopped finely
  • 60 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 60 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) coconut palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 grams (1 1/2 cups) whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon masala chai powder or tadka masala spice*
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C)
  2. Prepare a small Bundt pan (6 cups or 7.5 x 3 inches) by lightly coating the sides, bottom and center spindle with canola oil or other flavorless oil. Sprinkled some flour liberally around the sides and turn upside down over the sink to tap off any excess. Make sure the spindle is coated with flour too.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer for a couple of minutes. Keep your fingers away from the beaters while they are beating, or else you might catch your fingers in the blades and faint! Vinny knows this from personal experience. No bones were broken, though…
  4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well.
  5. In a smaller bowl mix the chopped tomatoes and chopped ginger together well. Add the 1/2 cup (50 grams) of the flour and toss with a wooden spoon, till the flour has coated the veggie pieces.
  6. Sift 1 cup (100 grams) of the flour together with the baking soda, baking powder, and masala powder in another smaller bowl. Add this to the butter mixture in the large bowl in three parts and beat on medium speed after each addition till well mixed.
  7. Add the green tomato mixture to the batter in the large bowl and fold in till well mixed using a wooden spoon. The mixture will be thick.
  8. Scrape this mixture into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top.
  9. Turn the oven setting to Bake and cook the cake for 45 to 50 minutes till a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
  10. Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Then unmold the cake onto a rack to cool.

To Serve

No need to use a sugar glaze. Leave it plain and enjoy the moist delicious flavor of this spicy cake.

Note

If you don’t have a prepared masala spice mix on hand, add these to the flour mixture: ½ teaspoon cardemom and 1/8 teaspoon each of ground cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and coriander. If you like a highly spiced cake, you can double these quantities.

Nutrition

A serving size of one-twelfth of the cake has 150 calories and 10 grams of sugar. It provides 11% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin A and 5% of each of protein, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

Ginger is high in gingerol, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It is said to help prevent nausea, improve osteoarthritis, and promote weight loss, among other things.

Spices add way more than flavor to foods. I like to add them liberally every time I cook.

Halloween cooked-carrot and tomato salad

Halloween doesn’t have to be all about candy. Having gained a very bad 15 pounds between March and August in this year of the coronovirus, and now being well on the way to shedding it all again, I wanted to celebrate a sugar-free evening with the ghosts and goblins.

The powers that be have decreed that it’s not safe for children to go door to door this year… and rightly so, with numbers of covid-19 cases soaring in a second scary wave. So we have not bought the usual crazy amount of mini chocolate bars this year.

Instead of candy, I nominate the color orange to be our celebration vehicle for Halloween in our house.

Pumpkins are a bit cliche… so I chose to make a delicious dinner-time dish from the gorgeous, sweet, orange carrots available in the market these days.

The recipe is modified from one I published earlier for a big crowd. The recipe here provides eight servings as a veggie side dish for dinner. It has enough tangy sweetness to make you forget that there is no candy for you to gorge on, after all the little ones stop knocking on your door on October 31st. Happy Halloween!

Halloween cooked-carrot and tomato salad
Makes eight 4-ounce servings

  • 1.5 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
  • 0.5 – 1 inch fresh ginger, skin scraped and finely chopped (I like lots)
  • 5 ounces tomato sauce (I used roasted red pepper pasta sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seed oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 8-16 ounces tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used 2 large ripe tomatoes)
  • 1 large green onion, sliced, or a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  1. Slice carrots into coins, then cook in slightly salted boiling water until tender yet crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, then submerge in cold water to cool.
  2. Combine tomato sauce, oil, vinegar, ginger, and curry powder in a small sauce pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes to the carrots and the cooled tomato dressing (sweetened if you wish with 1 tablespoon of my homemade liquid stevia or 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar). Mix well.
  4. Chill until serving time. Garnish with the chopped green onion or the chopped basil leaves. Stays fresh for 3 days in the fridge.

Note: I used pureed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce on one occasion and so I had to add salt and a little coconut palm sugar to taste. Otherwise it was too bitter/sour. There is plenty of dressing, and you may only want to add half of it at first and taste to see if that is enough. I had about a half cup let over the last time I tried this recipe. It’s great as a dressing on any salad.

Nutrition summary

Total calories per 4-ounce serving is 234. If you go easy on the dressing that pools in the bottom of the bowl, the calories are reduced somewhat.

Carrots are a sweet veggie, containing a significant amount of sugar. So there is no need for additional sugar. But I did use a little stevia sweetener, to take the edge off the vinegar. You might not need any sweetener at all.

One serving contains 6 times the vitamin A and 33% of the fiber, vitamin C, and potassium you need every day. This salad is also a good source of iron, calcium, and even protein, providing about 10% of the recommended daily amounts.

If you are diabetic, know that one serving provides 11 grams of sugar, twice the suggested amount per dish.

This is a delicious tangy side dish that can serve as your starch portion, as well as your veggie, in one single serving. Trick or treat? I hope you find this recipe more on the treat side of the equation. Boo!

“Eat more leaves,” says Pollan

Reviewing Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Michael Pollan has distilled much of the research  into the Western diet over recent years into this simple formula. It’s that easy to eat well for better health.

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Small-batch homemade red current jelly

A success story!

For several years now, ever since I discovered that the mystery shrub on my property at the end of our hedge was a red current bush, I’ve been trying to make jelly from the berries. And every year I’ve ended up with a lovely syrup, instead.

Until this year. Finally, I’ve succeeded in making three small jars of ruby red, sweetly tart jelly.

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Battling Alzheimer’s Disease – Part 2: Choose Mood Foods

Fend off those “senior moments”

Vinny’s grandparents have told him that living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the scarier prospects of growing older. So he has decided to do a series of posts about some lifestyle choices that could make a positive difference to our mental health in later years. He’s all for starting these habits early, for a longer and more active life. Read on for his second installment. Featured recipe: Yogurt bowl.

Part 2: Choose Mood Foods

The foods you choose affect your mood. And what is mood but your brain’s reactions to the world around you. Vinny’s yogurt bowl is a treat filled with probiotics and flavenoids to calm your brain and keep it firing on all cylinders.

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Battling Alzheimer’s Disease: Part 1 – Fueling exercise

Fend off those “senior moments”

Vinny’s grandparents have told him that living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is one of the scarier prospects of growing older. So he has decided to do a series of posts about some lifestyle choices that could make a positive difference to our mental health in later years. He’s all for starting these habits early, for a longer and more active life. Read on for his first installment.

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Fight stroke with magnesium

Vinny’s grandparents are getting on, so nobody will blame them if they are starting to look a little worn around the edges. Relying on fast food and maybe even cigarettes over the years to make life easy could be part of the problem. With these sorts of habits, Vinny worried that his family could be setting itself up for medical catastrophes… stroke for example. Holy smokes! Is there anything we can do to help?

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Lemon-drizzle cake sweetens the mood

lemon drizzle cake

Getting in the groceries

Here we are in the midst of week 6 of self isolation. What began as an adventure is turning into a drudge. Solace comes in knowing that in comparison to other world disasters people have had to face, this one is fairly tame… as long as you can dodge  COVID-19, that is. Plus, we can use the extra time at home to experiment in the kitchen! More

Baked cheese and eggs dish

Easter egg bake

This delicious egg cassarole is easier than a quiche and twice as tasty. It sometimes goes by the name “Strata”, probably because it is a layered approach to eggy goodness. But as Shakespeare once noted, “a rose by any other name is just as sweet.” More

Quarantined chocolate soufflés

chocolate souffle - presentation (serving)

Have you ever craved a silky soufflé but hesitated to try? I certainly have. The eggy concoction seemed too finicky and prone to failure. Also, I thought it had to be baked at the last minute. So how would it ever work as a make-ahead dessert for company?

Well, with all the time in the world available these days for experimenting, and as the corona virus pandemic is demanding that no company cross our threshold, this seemed the perfect time to try. More

Mood-boosting banana and oatmeal cookies

banana and oatmal cookies

Is your family is feeling a little low what with all this social distancing we are having to endure for the public good these days? Cheer them up with  a batch of hearty banana cookies.  So easy! With just two key ingredients and a few optional add-ons for extra flavor and happiness, these cookies are sure to please your family. More

Chocolatey low-sugar brownies

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Chill out, everybody!

If you are looking for a low-sugar double-chocolate brownie that your children will devour, look no further. Each moist chocolatey square satisfies with two kinds of chocolate. The squares are sweetened with only 1/4 cup maple syrup and the sugar from the semisweet chocolate chips, plus one secret ingredient. No, it’s not marijuana. More

A Princess Elizabeth cake to honor Ondaatje’s novel ‘Warlight’

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Books, friends, and food – a recipe for a pleasant afternoon

Having volunteered to host our bookclub this week with only a few days notice, Vinny and I decided to make a cake we had attempted once before for Canada Day. It was a recipe that Queen Elizabeth had popularized immediately after the Second World War. Food was being rationed in Britain and there was little sugar to spare. At that time Elizabeth was still a princess, not yet 20. She wanted to do her part for the war effort and, as one of her many projects, she came up with a cake that was sweetened not with sugar but with dates and honey. More

Carpathian Kasha with Browned Onions and Walnuts

Buckwheat kasha

Carpathian kasha – Vinny made this nutty gluten-free side dish for an Eastern European themed dinner party, with a shout out to Dracula. More

Vinny presents the 35 cent loaf – a video!

 

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Our first cooking video

One rainy day at the cottage this summer, Vinny and his crew decided to make a cooking video. This is our first attempt at doing such a thing.

Vinny’s cousin Sage will take you through the bread-making process, completely unscripted. Watch it full screen – fun!

This artisanal method of bread-making is so easy, even your kids can do it…. Just like Sage does. There’s no kneading, no waiting over night, and only about 10 or 15 minutes of prep time.

You end up with freshly baked deliciousness for only pennies a loaf. That’s really cheap eats. So lets get baking!

Print this: Artisanal bread recipe

Caution: An adult must  supervise children when putting the pot in the hot oven and taking it out again. Always use oven mitts. Pull out the rack for easy access.

Banana squash is economical as well as tasty

Banana squash - a winter squash

An unusal giant winter squash

On a beautiful family farm near Silver Lake Provincial Park (Ontario), where my parents used to take my sister and I to camp every weekend during the summer, I discovered an intriguingly large vegetable new to me. It goes by the name banana squash. More

An ancient Romanian wine starts off our evening with Dracula

Roumanian wine - Tamaioasa Romaneasca Cotnari DOC

An evening with Dracula

The idea for our Dracula-themed dinner party this year stemmed from a bottle of wine we received at Christmas. Tāmâioasā is an indiginous grape variety from Romania, the Eastern European country that harbors Dracula’s castle in the province of Transylvania.

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Toasting nuts

Nuts

To get the most from your nuts, toasting is the way to go. How does that work? More

Easy, artisanal bread in five minutes

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Have you been afraid to make your own bread, thinking about how it used to take Grandma all day to bake a loaf? Well, here’s a recipe you can serve the day you make it.

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Home-made Pie Crust Recipe

Chocolate pear pie-building the pie
Home-made pie shell, ready to fill.

This is a standard pie crust recipe. But I have never made a pie crust in my life. So I decided to start with an easy, classic recipe and see where it takes me. Here it goes.

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Ice Krispy Cake with Just 3 Ingredients

Ice cream loaf

Make a delicious tea loaf with just three ingredients.

Here’s something fun to try with your mini chefs. Bake a sweet loaf using just ice cream, cereal, and flour, and enjoy it warm from the oven. Or slice it and make an awesome peanut butter and jam sandwich. You can also use a slice as a base for strawberries and whipped cream or bananas and chocolate sauce. Let your imagination take you on a taste safari! More

Etouffée – Smothered chicken and shrimp with Cajun seasonings for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras centre piece

Mardi Gras colors are purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power. Beads are thrown from elaborate floats and costumed people riding the floats must disguise their faces, by law.

Mardi Gras is coming soon, offering a fun way to celebrate Spring with friends or to welcome Lent as a prelude to Easter. Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, has its origins in the French Catholic church. The custom was brought to the French colonies in North America in the 1700s, specifically New Orleans, and is now a legal holiday in Louisiana.

Over the years specific dishes featuring Cajun and Creole cuisine have become traditions. More

Bruno’s Truffle Omelette

 

Truffle omelet a la Bruno

Vinny loves all things “eggs,” but a morning omelet is one of his favorites. So when he found a recipe for a truffle omelet from Bruno, Chief of Police of the fictional village of St. Denis in the heart of the Dordogne in France, Vinny couldn’t resist. More

Smoked-salmon chowder for Robbie Burns Day

Robbie Burns Day!

Robbie Burns Day is an annual tradition in our house. Falling on the Scottish bard’s birthday, January 25th, the day is usually marked by a savory steamed pudding called haggis, which at one time came wrapped inside a sheep’s stomach. Bagpipes, Scotch whiskey, kilts, and an “address to a Haggis” are all part of the celebrations. More

Easy tourtière, a traditional meat pie

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Family traditions are especially important at Christmas. Tourtière is one of them. Vinny just wouldn’t feel right without this savory meat pie for the holidays. More

Fat-burning bedtime soother

Moon at halloween

What if we could lose weight while we sleep…

That idea sounds almost miraculous. But it might just be possible. Here’s the theory.

At night, our body burns the fat we have accumulated during the day. We can speed up that process while we sleep by stimulating the digestive system and increasing our metabolism. Drinking in some of nature’s stronger metabolism boosters can prod our digestion system to be more efficient. More

Annie’s improbable fruit crumble

Apple Brown Betty

This delicious dessert owes its existence to Hannah Rothchild’s comic novel The Improbability of Love, a satire of the art world served up as a sensory experience fit for royalty. I was presenting this novel to our neighborhood book club. More

Gramma’s easy dry-brined roast turkey

Steaming turkey fresh from the Egg

Steaming turkey fresh from the oven

Vinny has invited the whole family for Chrisrmas. They all said YES!

That’s when his sleepless nights and bad dreams began. He had never in his life before tackled a humungous roast turkey. Vinny’s nightmares starred dry stringy white meat and rubbery drumsticks as a centerpiece for his big night.

What to do! Then he remembered Gramma More

Making butter – a food experiment

 

 

A butter-making model

 

You’d butter believe it!

Where does butter come from? Milk, of course. People discovered butter thousands of years ago. Methods for making butter all involve some kind of whipping or churning to separate the fat from the liquids in milk. We can make butter easily for ourselves at home. Seeing is believing! More

Mini cheesecakes with stevia

Minni cheese cakes with stevia

Try our homemade liquid stevia solution to make these sweet little cheesecakes and you might become hooked on stevia forever. The cakes are moist, creamy, and flavorful. But most of all, without adding any sugar at all to the cheese filling, they taste sweet and tangy. More

A Kid’s Favorite Crab Spread

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Alaskan king crab – a true giant

Crab is a mild-tasting shellfish that most people like, even the kids. It is low in fat, containing only  82 calories in a 3-ounce serving, while supplying a third of your daily protein needs. Crab is a brain food, More

Wedding scones for Harry and Meghan

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With much fanfare this morning, Prince Harry married an American woman whom he met in Toronto, Canada… the beautiful Meghan Markle. In honor of this marriage, a blending of two cultures, Vinny presents the traditional British scone with a twist. We’ve added a little color and lots of spirit to create a delicious breakfast treat that represents the best of both worlds. Easy to make, I whipped this up between hymns, while taking in the Royal wedding. Best wishes to the bride and groom! More

Chocolate oatmeal and nut cookies for stuffing hollow Easter egg-shells

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Vinny wanted to make an Easter treat he could use to fill the pretty hollow Easter egg-shells he found at the dollar store. “I’d like something without any chemical additives, but sweet and chocolatey, and filled with fiber and nutrients that make eating them as good for a kid’s health as they are sweet on the tongue,” he said. More

Hurricanes Kick Off Mardi Gras Party

 

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Vinny seems to have abandoned his post in the past months. This has meant a noticeable dearth on this site of healthy but delicious recipes for growing families. In his wake, there is only… me.

Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras recipes were featured in my most recent cooking class in the run-up to Lent. I served some of what we learned at our annual gourmet evening, celebrating Mardi Gras style. I think Vinny would approve, though. Cajun cooking in New Orleans is rife with fresh seafood, hot spices, garlic, and a wild array of fresh veggies. Chicken is also an option. More

Hochepot de Queue de Boeuf, otherwise known as Oxtail Stew

Oxtail stew

They say third-time lucky. I admit I’ve posted this recipe twice before. But this time, I’ve deviated from the simple instructions found in an old French cook book intended for experienced chefs. Here, I’ve set out all the ingredients off the top. Then I’ve broken down the steps in a sensible order.

You can find my reworked recipe in my post of November 11, 2013, sadly, a few weeks late for Remembrance Day 2017. Better late than never. More

All-flavors bread

Every-flavor bread, halloween candy

Vinny’s come up with a yummy way to use left-over Halloween candy that helps keep sugar spikes at bay. We’re borrowing from Harry Potter, Bertie Botts in particular, to create a treat that offers a surprise in every bite. More

Pumpkin pie punch

Pumpkin Pie Punch - rum julip

Try this delicious glassful of nutrition with your little tricksters on Halloween this year. It’s a treat that can’t be beat!

Instead of adding sugar, I use stevia in the whipped cream topping, a natural no-calorie sweetener that won’t add a single gram to your little one’s sugar load this Halloween season. More

Maple glazed sweet potato dish

Maple crusted sweet potato dish

Sadly, I haven’t had much time of late to devote to my blog. But as Vinny loves sweet potatoes for their healthy goodness, I thought I’d share this simple recipe that I’m serving tonight in honor of our Canadian Thanksgiving… More

Chocolate raspberry birthday cake

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Our traditional family birthday cake is chalk-full of chocolate. But thrown in are other flavors like raspberry and coffee that make it a hit with young and old alike. I use healthy ingredients besides chocolate, like coconut palm sugar, coconut oil and eggs. More

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