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saturday

31 May

I’m not sure if it was that we left the blinds open or the feather pillows, but I couldn’t sleep worth a damn on Friday night, and woke up bright and early Saturday morning. With E still fast asleep and breakfast not being available for another 3 hours, I headed down to the hotel gym for an early morning swim. I was shocked at how small the pool was! At most, it was 15×10, with the deep end being 5 ft. I swam a few laps, but after 20 minutes I was totally bored, and without being able to tread or do pull-ups, I headed back up to our room.

Post-“workout” snack” – 1/2 each of a Bartlett pear and a gala apple, plus some Barney Butter. E wanted to eat the pear without cutting it, so I had to wait for him to finishing munching on his half before he’d cut up mine – silly boy!

I got a couple of packets of Barney Butter right before we headed out of town, so this was the perfect time to give it a try!

pros:
-very smooth consistency
-made in a completely peanut-free factory
-kosher
-low in sodium and sugar
-comes in both jars and single-serving packets
-roasted peanut flavor

cons:
-hard to find in brick-and-mortar stores
-unlike MaraNatha which contains only almonds, Barney Butter also contains evaporated cane juice, palm fruit oil and sea salt. While the additives are natural, I don’t know that they’re necessary.
-very similar consistency and mouth feel to peanut butter, which is evidenced by E, Mr. PB himself, liking Barney Butter when he’s never like any other nut butter before. Great if you love PB, not so much when you don’t.

I’d definitely buy the single-serve packets because they’re super-portable and great for traveling, but when it comes to jars, I’m sticking with my MaraNatha – sorry, Barney Butter!

Once we were finally ready, we headed out for breakfast at ZenCha. A little under a mile away from the hotel, we decided to walk it, and I’m glad we did. The Short North is one of our favorite neighborhoods, and it was really great to be able to stroll by on such a beautiful day. As we were walking, I couldn’t but think how less than 6 months ago, there were days when it was a struggle to walk half as far – we’ve come a long way!

Check out the greatest advertisement ever – given more time, we would’ve totally hit it up for kicks!

ZenCha is what tea heaven must be like – with 120 or so varieties from all over the world, and everything from Bubble Tea to French tea lattes, you just can’t go wrong! E picked a sampler of 3 – silver tip white tea, Earl Grey, and a Pu-erh which is an aged and fermented black tea. E loved them all, and got somewhere between 7 and 9 cups of tea out of the mix, which definitely jazzed him up.


I’m a simple gal, and had an iced Cinnamon Mint Chai. Creamy, refreshing and soothing, this was the perfect pick. I really loved that they added the ice cubes to the filter inside the pot, so not only was this constantly cool, but the tea wasn’t watered down a single bit.


With so many great dishes to choose from, we decided to share two, and thankfully we were on the same wavelength!


Our first pick was the Arabian Night, a delicately crisp yet fluffy cardamom-scented waffle. With dates baked right in and topped with sliced almonds, orange supremes, a little creme fraiche and served with an orange-cardamom syrup, these were some serious waffles! Not too sweet and definitely satisfying, these were spot-on.

Check out the cross-shot of waffle goodness!


For our second choice, we went savory with a Vegetable Okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake/omelet hybrid filled with veggies like shitake mushrooms and crispy napa cabbage, and topped with Kewpie mayo and a mysterious sauce similar to a hoisin. This was our time to try okonomiyaki, and it will definitely not be our last! I can just imagine how great the chicken and seafood varieties are.

We decided to take our time coming back, and checked out a few of the little shops lining the street. We also took a side trip to one of our favorite spots, North Market, where E convinced me to try some Morbier, a super-stinky cheese he’s been wanting for years. Surprisingly delicious, the Morbier turned out to be much milder than it smells, with a nice nuttiness. I shared in, and ate about 1 1/2 oz. of the cheese with a little more than half of a wholemeal roll.

We headed back to the convention for a few hours, and picked up a small lunch since we weren’t eating dinner for a while. I had another packet of salmon and avocado sushi.

I also had a few of these teeny hash browns, were were really fresh and crisp. Yum!


Later on, I’ll be posting our experience at dinner, and don’t forget to vote for me here. Also, Eating Bird Food is having a sparkling giveaway which you need to check it out, so head on over!

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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.

Not Much Going On Here…

24 Sep

There’s really not much happening lately…

Friday night was E’s father’s retirement party, and it was a lot of fun! Not only was there some great music, but it was nice hanging out with everyone, since we don’t get to see them too often. It was especially nice to see E’s grandfather, who’s been very ill, and Rev. D., the minister who married us. By the time we left the party, it was getting pretty late, so we ended up staying over at E’s mother’s house, so we got to spend time with his sister, and his mom over breakfast the next morning.

Saturday was a bit hectic, but we spent the evening at the 30th anniversary gala for E’s company. It was really great to be able to dress up, go out and spend some time with E’s co-workers. There was a live band who was great, albeit the technical issues, and we had a lot of fun dancing. We got our picture taken (I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard it came out nicely) and a set of commemorative wine glasses, and headed home.



I’ve participated in a few blogging events, and I’ve submitted my entry for Iron Cupcake – voting begins on Sunday, and I hope to at least get a few votes on my first try out! I also made some homemade cornbread for the first time, which came out nicely, and for tonight, I threw together a homemade terriyaki sauce for chicken in the crock pot. I’m not sure how it tastes yet, but it smells fantastic!

If you’re ever in a pinch and would like to make some yourself, the recipe is as follows:

1/2 cup Soy Sauce (I used low sodium)
3 Tbsp. brown sugar (I used Splenda Brown Sugar blend)
1 Tbsp. Sherry (I used Brandy)
3 garlic cloves, minced

All you do is mix the ingredients thoroughly, and use either as a sauce or a marinade. We usually have these items on hand, and it was really nice to be able to control the sugar and salt contents. If you don’t have or want to use alcohol, you can use several substitutions for the Sherry, including apple, orange or grapefruit juice.