Archive | November, 2008

Thanksgiving Blessings

27 Nov

Today is Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday. My family didn’t celebrate (Canadian) Thanksgiving growing up, so it was a new experience to me 3 years ago. E and I had been together for almost a year, and just pulling up to his parents’ house gave me total butterflies – I knew I was in for something special! From that moment on, I was hooked; from the amazing food, like Toodle’s Noodles and corn pudding, to the time spent with family, laughing and sharing, making memories and watching the children in our family grow, and preparing for new ones to arrive.

To me, Thanksgiving is a blessing, and enough in itself to be thankful for.

I do have plenty more to be thankful for, because I am truly blessed.

I’m thankful for my amazing husband, E – I could try to explain everything he means to me, or try to describe what exactly makes him so wonderfully special, but to try to qualify all that he is would literally take forever, and other than Gd himself, who has the time? In the last year, we’ve gone through plenty, including immigration, buying our first home, getting married (oy!), among other things. Every day, I look at him, and my heart swells that much more with love, pride and appreciation for him.

I’m grateful for the gift of homeownership – not only do we have a beautiful, historic home where we can be with our loved ones, but we have the security of having a roof over our heads, in a time when so many others do not. In the coming year, I’m hoping to work with Habitat for Humanity in order to help others gain the same security and pride.

I’m thankful for having my eyes to see, my ears to hear and my mobility. There are so many days that I feel down, or that everything seems to be going wrong, that I fail to remember that the movements and abilities that I take for granted are ones that others struggle to accomplish every day.

I’m grateful to be able to write, even if it’s just a blog, and that others can choose to read (or not) freely. Censorship can be found all over the world, and I’m glad to have the freedoms to not be afraid to speak.

There is so much more to be thankful for, but I’ll stop here.

For Thanksgiving dinner this year, I brought pumpkin cookies (big hit, as always) and, for something different, a cranberry-walnut compound butter. I was a little nervous, but it went over smashingly – my mother-in-law called it a new family tradition, and requested that I bring it every year! I didn’t have a change to take any photos, but take my word for it – it’s well worth a try!

Cranberry Butter
courtesy of Fun Foods on a Budget!
yields 1 1/3 cups

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar (I used Splenda Brown)
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbsp. chopped walnuts
  1. In a small mixing bowl, beat butter, brown sugar, and honey until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add cranberries and walnuts; beat 5 minutes longer or until butter turns nice and pink (it will, I promise!).
  3. Transfer to a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap; roll into a log, and twist at the ends.
  4. Refrigerate until chilled.
  5. Unwrap and slice or place on a butter dish.
Advertisements

Tasty Thai

7 Nov

A couple of years ago, I discovered a miraculous food: Tom Yum Soup. See, the winters in Montreal were always exceptionally chilly, and I often took cover at the local mall and bus depot. After having exhausted the regular food court offerings, I noticed a new occupant in one of the stalls: Thai Express.

Having never tried Thai before, I decided to order the Tom Yum, which was described to me as a spicy lemongrass-ginger soup. I had it meal-style, which meant they added in some bean thread noodles, shredded chicken and a ladle of coconut milk. I sat down, took my first bite, and was immediately in heaven. I knew I’d be back often, and indeed I was.

Now that I live in a much smaller, less diverse city, my ethnic options have dwindled to Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and Indian. Good, but not good enough. I love exploring the world through food, and decided that if the world can’t bring its cuisines to me, then I would create them myself. I started off with Thailand, and boy, am I glad I did! I put together a quick menu of Tom Yum Had Soup, Asian Coleslaw and Salad Rolls, and was off and running.

This meal does require a fair amount of chopping and mise en place, but it’s definitely worth it! The flavours are excellent, ranging from citrus to peanut, savoury sweet to spice. I think this would also be a nice meal to entertain with, especially if you have friends that like to travel or try something new. It’s an easy meal, albeit one with a lot of chopping. Also, you can prep everything ahead of time, and make the soup 30 minutes before your guests arrive.

Tom Yum Had Soup
serves 6 – 8

  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 4 roma or plum tomatoes, cut in eighths
  • 12 cups (no-)chicken stock
  • zest of 1 lime (or 2-3 Kafir lime leaves)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, pounded
  • 3 T (vegetarian) fish sauce (I’ve used soy sauce, and it tastes the same)
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 T Sriracha (a spicy chili-garlic sauce)
  • 1 cup cilantro, minced
  • 2 t sugar
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T ginger, grated
  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 1 T peanut oil
  • 1 carrot, sliced in half moons
  • 3 cups of bean sprouts (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized soup pot, heat the peanut oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion (not the green onions), half each of the ginger and the lemongrass until the onion translucent.
  2. Add the stock, fish or soy sauce, remaining ginger, lemongrass, and lime zest. Simmer 10 – 15 minute covered on medium-low heat.
  3. Add in the sugar, Sriracha, mushrooms, and half of the sliced tomatoes. Simmer an additional 2 minute.
  4. Turn heat down fully to low and add in the lime juice, half of the diced cilantro and the green onions, then let simmer on low for another few minutes.
  5. Stir in the coconut milk, the rest of the tomatoes and the bean sprouts and allow to warm through.
  6. Sprinkle each serving with the remaining cilantro and serve with additional lime juice.


Salad Rolls
makes about 10 rolls
note: for more substantial rolls, you can include in your fillings a thinly cut protein, such as egg, pork, tofu, chicken, shrimp, smoked salmon, or a sashimi-grade raw fish.

  • 1 (16 ounce) package rice or tapioca paper sheets
  • 4 green onions, julienned about 3 inches long
  • 1 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 avocado, cut into thin slices
  • 1 red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2 carrots, peeled, julienned, and cut into 3 inch strips (or shredded. Choice is yours)
  • 1 (16 ounce) package bean thread noodles, softened and drained
  • 1 romaine heart, leaves separated and cored
  • Mint, shredded

For the dipping sauce:

  • 1 T lime juice
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 t hot pepper flakes
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • 3 T chunky peanut butter
  • 1 T hoisin sauce
  • 1 t brown or white sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 T soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients for the peanut sauce ahead of time, and set aside.
  2. In a medium pan, add in about 1 1/2 inches of hot (but not boiling) water.
  3. Place each rice or tapioca round into the water, immersing completely, until it begins to soften. Do not allow to soften completely, as it will continue to cook and be too soft to roll.
  4. Set on counter or cutting board, and layer noodles, carrot, cucumber, green onion, red pepper and avocado. Top with shredded mint and a romaine leaf. Roll in a motion similar to rolling a burrito – grasp at bottom, holding fillings in tightly and while folding in the sides, continue to roll. Be mindful that you still have to roll it up, so do not overfill.
  5. After each roll is completed, wrap tightly in plastic wrap until serving. They keep very well wrapped in the fridge, which allows the roll to retain moisture and its shape.
  6. Serve with dipping sauce on the side.

the prepared fillings, from top left to bottom right:
shredded carrot, cucumber, avocado, green onion and red pepper;
prepared bean thread noodles; romaine lettuce leaf, cored;
shredded mint leaves

the tapioca paper round –
on the left, from the package; on the right, after softening in hot water



on the left – before being rolled
on the right – after rolling

Asian Coleslaw
serves 6 – 8

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T peanut butter
  • 3 T lime juice
  • 3 T (no) fish sauce (soy sauce can be used instead here as well)
  • 3 T water
  • 3 T sugar
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t Sriracha
  • 2 lbs napa cabbage, thinly sliced (12 cups)
  • 3/4 lb red cabbage, thinly sliced (3 cups)
  • 3 medium carrots, julienned
  • 2 red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 15 mint leaves, torn
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the peanut butter together with the lime juice, fish or soy sauce, water, sugar, garlic and Sriracha.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the napa and red cabbages with the carrots, peppers, cilantro, peanuts, and mint.
  3. Toss the salad with the dressing and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve right away.

I Have A Confession To Make…

6 Nov

I’m married to a freak.

A pumpkin freak.


Not just a fan, E’s an actual fanatic.

Between the end of September and the beginning of December, he gobbles up anything pumpkin, and loves every minute of it! Before we met, I hadn’t even so much as tasted a pumpkin pie, but now? He’s converted me. I’m not head over heels like he is, but I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve tried, both savory and sweet.

We went to Cincinnati for Halloween to attend my friend Laurie’s party. She’s a fabulous cook herself, and made tons of food, mostly vegetarian, all of which delish. My mother taught me to never go to someone’s home for the first time empty-handed, so I offered to bake some cookies. Seeing as Halloween is pumpkin-tastic, these seemed perfect.

OMG – these are fabulous. The cookies are great on their own, cake-like and with a great pumpkin flavour, but add the frosting, and they’re divine. I could easily eat these every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner! They were a huge hit at the party – we were eight, and I brought 32. There was one left by the end of the night.

I didn’t make any changes other than substituting the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice, omitting (forgetting!) the salt and subbing the butter for Smart Balance. However, should you choose to use Splenda and/or whole wheat flour, I think they’d still come out great.

Pumpkin Cookies
from The Good Apple
makes 32 cookies

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars together.
  3. Add in the pumpkin, egg and vanilla, and mix until combined
  4. Add remaining ingredients, and mix until smooth and fluffy.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, and transfer cookies to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

Brown Butter Frosting
makes enough to ice about 50 cookies

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  1. Over medium heat, boil the butter and sugar together until thickened and smooth (about 2 minutes).
  2. Allow mixture to cool completely, and whisk in the milk.
  3. Transfer to a small mixing bowl, and add in the sugar, beating with a hand mixer to your desired consistency.
  4. Spread onto cookies, and enjoy!


Since these are so easy to put together, with ingredients that seem to always be hanging around in my kitchen, I’m sharing them with Jenn of Frugal Upstate for her Frugal Thanksgiving Mini Series.

YES WE DID!

5 Nov
I cannot put in words the range of emotions I’m feeling right now…

…All I know is that it feels good to matter.

You’ve earned the right – now use it!

4 Nov
(thanks to Free Foto for the use of this image)

Today, on November 4th, 2008, history will be made.

Whether it’s President Obama or President McCain, a change of historical significance will be had. I’ve somewhat stated my political opinion here before, but I won’t go into that – this is not a political blog. However, as someone who has never voted in her native land, I wish with everything that I have that I could vote here. Alas, I can only vote once I’m a citizen, which will be in 3 years or so (just in time for the next one).

Today, if you ARE an American citizen, get out and VOTE.
Vote for your heart, mind and soul.
Vote for your mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, and children.
Vote for your past, present and future.
Vote for all of the people who, like me, have yet to earn the privilege to vote in their adopted land.

Most of all, vote for yourself.