A post on Thursday you ask? What’s the reason for this madness!? Being the social butterfly that I am, I’ve decided to join a new link party – 3 Things Thursday hosted by Salma at The Write Balance, Raj at Pink Chai Living and Nisha at Love Laugh Mirch. Thanks to Sarah at Flour & Spice for posting about it and solving one of my blogging dilemmas – how do I mention things I love without devoting a full post to it? So from now on, Thursday posts won’t only be food related. I am spreading those wings because I do like other things and I love the opportunity to share those things that I love right now with you all.
Here are my three things this week:
- DIY Teacup Wineglasses
How charming is this? I’m not a very craftsy DIY person. I have the ideas, sure, but the actual execution never seems to work out the way I want it to. But I came across this the other day and can’t get over how cute it is! I genuinely feel that I can do this. I can’t say I’d use the blue china pattern, but that’s okay. I’m sure I’ll find my own teacups in need of some wine stem love soon enough. I don’t know if a wine teacup is practical and can (or should!) be used to serve hot tea, but frankly, I don’t care right now. Let me just gush over it for a little bit more. It is so weird and cute!!
- X-Men: Days of Future Past final Trailer
My husband bribed me to watch X-Men: First Class with him when it first came out. I had known of the other movies but was vehemently against watching them. All I knew was that Professor X was in a wheelchair, he was bald, people were mutants and Halle Berry looked surprisingly good with white hair. For years, I was only ever a Smallville fan and then slowly became a Batman fan after Dark Knight, but then I saw First Class. That’s all she wrote. Ok, well that’s not ALL she wrote, obviously. I instantly fell in love with everything about the series. I also instantly fell for Michael Fassbender and after watching the X-Men Trilogy plus the Wolverine Origins Movie in 1.5 days, I developed this deep, unshakable love for Wolverine. And Hugh Jackman. Don’t even get me started!
But anyways, hotness aside, I thought X-Men: First Class was an awesome, well written story and the musical score had me excited for most of the movie. Stories that create a whole other story around the framework of existing events never cease to impress me. Based on the first 2 trailers, it seems like they’ll be doing it again, which has me totally geeking out. The third trailer that came out yesterday focuses on the mutants and more on the story which looks so freaking fabulous. This trailer surpasses the other two by far. Hell YES. May 23 cannot come fast enough!!
Those of you who know me would know that I’m not a particularly calm person. My personality has even been described as an action –I’ve literally been told “you’re very –“ accompanied by waving hands. Generally, I like that I can get excited over the mundane. I like to whisper “whaaaat!” to myself when I pour just enough coffee in the coffeemaker or fit everything neatly in the fridge. Of course I have my depressed and lethargic moments but more often than not I’m overly chatty and distract myself very easily. There are times though that I wish that I could turn off the internal monologue and just be. I’ve tried Yoga and meditation, and while both are fabulous, I’m always open to new ways to relax and broaden my mind.
So I’ve started reading this book written by Lonely Planet. Yup – the same travel website people. Basically the book lists the ways that different cultures find serenity with a short description of each. Each method is a quick read and ranges from popular stuff we know – baths, chanting etc. to the more unusual – caring for a bonsai tree and weaving. We can all use a little serenity in our lives and I plan to use this book a lot for reference.
So this was fun! Hope you enjoyed a non-food related post. I have a whole other post ready for tomorrow in case you didn’t :)
It has been an odd week. I will never understand some aspects of human nature. I find that when I’m particularly troubled or feeling unsettled, I take comfort in the things that well, comfort me. So today I’m choosing to share two of my loves with you: Books & Cooking.
I have an unnatural love for books, and I have a special place in my heart for cookbooks. I guess you can say I collect them (but also use them). My one pet peeve (that’s cookbook related – I have many pet peeves) is that I’m not going to buy a cookbook that has the author or a celebrity on the cover. I’m not buying the book for you or your big smile, Giada! Let the food speak for itself and then maybe we’ll talk. Enough with the ladies holding a barely visible plate of food behind a lovely kitchen island or a man in an apron with a butcher’s knife or something similarly hardcore. Show the food already!
I also love Post-it flags and one of my favourite things to do is flip through a new cookbook and flag all the recipes I want to try. Its offensive to me when you fold the corner of a page down. I used to also write notes in a few books lightly with a pencil but for some reason I stopped. I actually forgot I used to do that until I started writing this post…
Anyways with today’s digital takeover, more and more recipes are popping up online and the question remains – how do you store them? I love Pinterest primarily for the fact that I can store my Recipes from all around the web into one or a few Boards. My sister was the one who went on about the joys of Pinterest before I truly discovered it. With us being total opposites, I assumed I’d hate it. But it has become one of the best weapons in my recipe storage arsenal. With a Pinterest board, I don’t have to be a member of every single site I visit and honestly, I usually forget my passwords so I have to go through the whole process of resetting the password just to access one recipe I thought I might try one day. I even have an I’ll Cook, You Wash board so you can follow that if you’d like.
I also love those old timey recipe cards and recipe boxes although I admit I don’t see the practicality of it if you store a lot of recipes. Too many recipes, too few meals! How cute are recipe cards, by the way? When I have lovely stationery to use, I get very crazy over the neatness of my handwriting and then end up proving that “you are your own worst enemy” by making a mistake or rubbing my inky hands all over.
Then there are your favourite recipes. The ones that you know are winners that you’ll eventually memorize by heart. Or the dishes that you cooked on a special occasion that have a special meaning to you. The first thing I cooked when we moved into our own place was mashed potatoes & spaghetti. Yes, it looks just as colourless as you imagine and was absolutely carb-tastic! But I have a picture of this un-photogenic meal because its connected to a great memory.
I also love seeing the handwritten recipes in my mom’s collection – the creased pages of paper yellowed with age containing handwritten recipes from my Aunt when my Mom first got married. Actually, I’m not even sure if it was my Aunt’s handwriting or my Mom’s – they have identical handwriting. This used to come in handy when Birthday cards arrived for me in the mail but my sister’s got lost (we’re 4 days apart) or vice versa. Many birthdays have been saved by my mom adding in the missing name on the card that actually arrived. These handwritten recipes remind me that everybody starts somewhere and that the recipes that you master early on in your kitchen will become intertwined with the rest of your life and with the childhoods of your future children.
A few Christmases ago, a close friend of mine got me a blank book. It wasn’t any kind of blank book though – it was personalized and printed specifically for me. It said “Indi’s Recipes 2009/2010/2011″ on the front and contained two lovely food related quotes on the back. It was probably one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever gotten.
Every page inside was blank and over those years, I chose my favourite and most meaningful recipes to be included in the book. I printed out the recipes, took pictures of all the dishes I made, bought kitchen themed scrapbook paper and stickers and got to work. Most of my great craft ideas aren’t very pretty when I set out to physically create it, and I can’t say that the pages I designed are particularly gorgeous (ok, some are pretty ugly). But this book describes perfectly the kind of the chef I was between 2009- 2011 and contains some of the recipes that have become staples in my house.
We all know food is extremely visual (we eat with our eyes first) and having a cookbook or a beautiful site open makes me want to cook and also makes me feel like I can cook anything! I’m also curious – what’s your preferred recipe storage method?
So no recipe today, guys. An odd thing to bring to Fiesta Friday, but hey, its been an odd week. I’ll be back to my less philosophical self on Monday. Planning a Gourmet Grilled Cheese night with some friends so stay tuned!
So maybe you’ve already heard about roasted garlic. Maybe I’m just the most clueless person ever and you’re shaking your head in annoyance at this post because Duh! Everyone knows about roasted garlic! Or maybe you’re about to thank me for introducing you to your new ‘secret ingredient’ that will form the base of every recipe from now on and will leave relatives and friends looking at you in awe and begrudging admiration. I’m sure there’s a middle ground somethere but I’m not doing middle ground today. Can you sense that I allowed myself to have a cup of coffee today?
I actually didn’t discover roasted garlic until about 3 years ago although I’ve always been a fan of garlic. I’ve never understood when someone has described a meal as too garlicky. How was I to know that baking garlic in the oven with a bit of olive oil would bring out the amazingly creamy, decadent and luxurious side of such tiny cloves? If you’ve never roasted garlic, PLEASE DO IMMEDIATELY. For years my assigned dish for Christmas Lunch was mashed potatoes (which I totally love au natural), but the addition of roasted garlic to the potatoes definitely bumped me up the “who made the best meal” scale. I definitely moved above salad (sorry bro!)!
Because the cooking mellows the flavor so much, you can easily spread the garlic alone on a slice of bread for a quick snack. I usually mash my garlic into a paste, so the remaining olive oil in the pan helps give the garlic a nice, spreadable buttery texture. You can also add to soups, salads, salad dressing, potatoes, or puree it with your other favourite ingredients to make a sauce or pesto. I’ve even seen recipes for roasted garlic oil which you can drizzle in soups. If you’re still unsure about it, try it with mashed potatoes first. Make your potatoes as normal and mash the roasted garlic cloves with the boiled potatoes. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
If you want to roast it the traditional way - in the oven, it really isn’t that much of a hassle. It keeps well in the fridge so you can roast a lot at once while you’re doing the dishes or having dinner. It’s a great way to ‘hide’ the work and finish a big element of your future dish in advance. The basic recipe goes as follows:
Traditional Roasted Garlic
1 head Garlic
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the top of the head off, about ¼ – ½ inch deep to ensure that the top of each clove is exposed. Remove any loose papery skin around the head of garlic and place on a sheet of foil. Drizzle enough olive oil over the exposed cloves to ensure that oil gets into the crevices between each clove.
Cover the garlic with foil (you can make cute little foil packets by folding up the edges of the foil and pinching them together) and bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes.
Ensure that the cloves are soft enough for a knife to pierce the top of the clove easily. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, squeeze the bottom of each clove to allow the garlic to pop out, or peel away the outer layer of garlic skin and pull the clove out.
Warning: The smell from your oven will feel like a hug for your nostrils. You may be enveloped in memories and images that aren’t even yours.
The only catch with roasting garlic in the oven is that it can take ages, especially if you’re waiting for it to add to a meal you’re about to cook. It takes about 35-40 minutes and sometimes I don’t want to turn on my oven just to roast one tiny thing. So if you want to feature it in your dish, planning ahead really helps. There have actually been a few occasions where I’ve wanted to use a recipe with roasted garlic but just started cooking too late and the hanger (yes, hunger / anger) took over. So I devised a shortcut to roast this garlic on the stovetop which is just as easy as the oven.
Stovetop Roasted Garlic
1 head Garlic, unpeeled and separated into cloves
Turn on stove to medium heat. Place Garlic in frying pan. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over unpeeled cloves, ensuring that cloves are more or less evenly coated. Reduce heat to lowest setting and let garlic cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-15 minutes until garlic skin is browned. If you do have a side of a clove that is exposed, don’t worry. Let it cook but monitor it while cooking to ensure that it doesn’t burn.
Turn off heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, pinch hard tip of each clove off and skin should come off easily.
Roasted garlic can be stored by itself in the fridge for about 2 weeks. Don’t squeeze the cloves out – just cover with foil, or squeeze out and store in a jar with enough olive oil to cover the cloves.
If you’re not a fan of garlic (i.e. you find it too assertive), don’t think that you’re excused from trying this. Like I said, the heat mellows out the flavour tremendously to the point that you can pop a whole buttery clove in your mouth. I’ve done that with raw garlic. Note to self: if it smells good, it doesn’t mean it tastes good. (How many times can I learn this lesson!? Raw garlic, Cocoa butter and vanilla essence have all taught me this lesson before!)
The oven garlic flavor will be deeper and more developed than the stovetop garlic, but I admit that the flavor that the stovetop garlic provides its sort of a middle ground and is quite delicious too… Huh. I guess I do actually do middle ground. Or my caffeine rush has ebbed. I better end this post here by insisting that you try roasting garlic either way and apologizing in advance to any brooding, garlic hating Vampire who may imprint on you and want to glitter together for eternity (#twilightreference). I’m personally more of a Harry Potter girl.
I was on a cardamom kick all week, which is so weird because I’ve never cooked with it. Maybe I used the pods once in a curry but I never used the ground cardamom nor have I ever made it the star of a dish. So why the obsession now? Let me introduce you to my weird quirk #995. Sometimes I come across a recipe that is so beautiful and looks so delicious sounding that I forget about the reality and get lost in the recipe. So when I stumbled across a recipe for some cardamom cake, I got it into my head that I MUST try it this week! I tried to make my own cake from scratch. And since this post isn’t about that cake, you can imagine how that turned out. My Kitchen disaster post is going to be quite long, I’m just warning you!
So cardamom. What is it? You may have seen the pods at the supermarket or at specialty stores. It’s an exotic spice popular in Scandinavian and East Indian countries. While cardamom pods are usually more often used in syrups and curries, the seeds can be ground although it loses much of its flavor. Luckily, I didn’t need an overpowering flavor so I used the ground spices. Also I don’t have a spice grinder. If I were being interrogated, this is where the policeman would dubiously say “hmmm…that’s a convenient way to cover up your laziness.”
Anyway so cardamom is a bit more exotic and expensive than regular spices, but because even the ground seeds can be overpowering, you should use it sparingly. It goes well with citrus, pistachios and mild flavours but also pairs well with heavier flavours like curry and cinnamon.
After much deliberation, I quite happily settled on baked apples with cocoa and cardamom. It’s a dessert that takes less than 5 minutes to prepare and is made in those cute little individually wrapped foil packets so you can easily serve it at a dinner party – stick it in the oven before you sit to eat dinner and by the time you’re ready for dessert, each guest has their individual packet to open up. It’s very cool. You can easily scale this up or down – use even one apple and serve it as part of a intimate meal for two. Its still healthy so I’m not going to lie…I had it for breakfast…
I’ve always seen baked apple recipes but it’s been full of cinnamon and nutmeg and all those heavy spices and I’ve personally found that combination on a regular basis a bit cloying. The beauty with Apples though is that because it has such a mild flavor, you can switch up the spices and they go together nicely. I found that the cardamom and chocolate give off a surprisingly savoury-sweet flavor rather than a one-note sweetness. It’s pretty aromatic as well and it filled my kitchen with a warm, homely scent. I half expected to pull a Thanksgiving turkey out the oven :) I’m bringing this to Fiesta Friday as well.
Cardamom & Cocoa Baked Apples
1 Apple of your choice (I used Gala)
2 Pinches of Cardamom
2 Bigger Pinches of Cocoa Powder
Whipped Cream or Ice Cream (optional, for serving, but I highly recommend you use it)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Tear two sheets of foil large enough to fold into packets. Slice apples into 1/8-1/4 inch slices and toss with cardamom & cocoa. Divide in half and place a portion into each foil sheet. Fold the ends up and pinch together and pinch sides closed. Ensure that entire packet is properly sealed. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
That’s all! Please be careful when you open the packets because there will be lots of steam. I know a cardamom facial sounds like something that super rich people do, but let’s not try that, okay?
I say serve with whipped cream, Rabin says it doesn’t add anything to it. Can you please try it and help us break this stalemate?
- On high heat and using a heavy based saucepan, saute the onions and olive oil until they soften down and look to be about halfway cooked through. If your onions are really juicy you might want to drain a bit of the liquid – especially if you’re making a bigger batch or doubling the recipe.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and give everything a good stir. Reduce the heat and leave the pot uncovered and allow to blip blip away for about 30 to 40 minutes stirring occasionally.
- You’re looking to reduce most of the liquid. The onions should be soft so that they break when pressed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Depending on the thickness of your pot, the onions may need a further 10 minutes or so.
- SOFT STICKY SWEET DARK ONIONS MMMMMMMMMMM
- Red Onion Marmalade keeps well in any container for a week or so but sterilized jars are best for maximum longevity.
I like kala chana because its smaller and has a slightly more refined taste than regular chickpeas. It doesn’t get mushy either and this holds together much nicer than regular chickpeas. The health benefits are also quite significant – protein, fiber, iron, calcium, folate and all that good stuff.
Yesterday was International Day of Happiness and I did have my share of happiness this week. I was nominated for a Liebster Award, I am now a member of the Foodie Blog Roll, I had a productive week at work and I managed to reconnect with a few people. Also, lets not forget making and more importantly eating this gorgeous tart!
So my obsession with Pears continues. As I promised a few of you in my comments last week, I’ve brought another fabulously delicious chocolate and pear recipe to Fiesta Friday this week in the form of the Vintage Mixer’s Chocolate Pear Tartlets. Becky’s photos of the dessert are amazing and I had a great time dusting off my tartlet pans and making it. So much so that I forgot to make dinner…
I pretty much straight up followed the recipe except for a few minor modifications:
- I had 5 dates left after a granola bar binge last week…one short of what the recipe calls for. Becky made sure to point out that I should use medjool dates, and I did. To replace the 6th date, I ended up throwing in a handful of raisins which wasn’t too bad.
- I ended up with enough crust for 5 tartlets instead of 6. I may have spread the crust too thick, but it was worth it. Its a great element of the dessert.
- I used 2 tablespoons of brown sugar since I didn’t have white granulated sugar. I personally didn’t miss the sugar and prefer semi/bittersweet chocolate. It also just makes the dessert feel fancier somehow.
- Pear slices marinated with lemon juice and a dash of cinnamon are DELICIOUS. If you’re lazy or just don’t want to bake, just have that. I’m very close to trying this whole poached pears thing if it will taste anything close to this!
- I poured the batter into the crust first, placed the pears on top and then pushed it down slightly to get it snug into the batter. You might be able to pick out my first failed attempt at pouring the batter around the pear slices.
The crust firmed up quite nicely and tastes vaguely fruitcake-ish. I love fruitcake and just eating it made me feel festive. What you end up with is a classy, sophisticated dessert that feels incredibly decadent without being too sweet. It will definitely impress the people that need impressing :)
Have a great weekend!
1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.
2. Answer the questions given by the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 5 – 10 people for the award.
4. Ask 10 – 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated.
5. Comment on the nominated blogs to let the nominees know they have received the award.
1. What is your favourite go-to cookbook?
It would have to be ‘the Mediterrasian Way’ by Ric Watson and Trudy Thelander. The book is quite inspirational and describes Ric’s comeback from a permanent left-sided disability. It not only gives great advice on how to live a healthy life with lots of exercise but the recipes included are solid, staple meals. I’ve cooked many recipes from this book and have yet to find a bad or even a not-so great one.
2. Who is your favourite food celebrity?
Well I’m not sure what qualifies as a food celebrity. I actually find that I follow food blogs a lot more than any Food Network type celebrity. If I did have to choose someone from Food Network / Cooking Channel, it would have to be Jeffrey Saad. I had seen him on an episode of Chopped All-Stars once and was enthralled with the way he spoke about spices and combinations and how he prepared the meal. He received second place in the Competition and in a fit of excitement I tweeted him my congrats…and he responded! Talk about being a fangirl LOL. Anyway so although I haven’t followed his show (we don’t get Cooking Channel on our cable service), I bought his cookbook and thoroughly enjoy it and I love that he involves his family in the cooking process as well.
3. You have been given a free cooking class in any country you choose. Where are you going?
I’d have to say USA or Canada – but I specifically want to have the class to be seafood specific. I would really love to learn to cook mussels and scallops and lobster and squid and crab. I have tried a few times on occasion but my phobia of undercooking seafood remains rampant. I am not a fish fan (except for Salmon) and would love to expand my knowledge base to the shellfish and seafood that I do love. I think butter, wine and black pepper are delicious with seafood so I don’t need to learn any fancy curry of stir fry – I want to learn that simple, clean and classic elegance.
4. Who has been the biggest influence on your interest in cooking?
5. Why did you start blogging?
I think I may have touched on this topic in previous posts, but overall I wanted a creative outlet and I love writing. I wanted to document my food resolutions, but I also wanted to have something tangible that would be a reflection of me – and with all the delays in my life, it really was wonderful to find something that I could work on and publish immediately. It feels good to have control over this.
6. We are in the kitchen with you and the tunes are cranked. What are we listening to?
Funny enough, I did a post on this recently. Those are still my favourites so I’m sticking to that list!
7. What is the most surprising thing you have learned from blogging?
How supportive complete strangers are. It really is a wonderful thing and makes me want to share the love. Also, the amount of work each blog post takes was a bit of a surprise – not necessarily a bad one.
8. What advice would you give to new bloggers?
Keep writing and constantly try to improve. Photography is a big part of each post, but don’t rely on filters and fancy effects. Your food should be able to speak for itself with minimal modification.
9. What is your favourite midnight snack?
Cheese and Crackers and Tea! That has been my breakfast, mid afternoon snack and midnight snack for as long as I can remember. There’s something extremely comforting and filling about this combination and sometimes I go a little crazy and use bread instead of crackers.
10. You have one wish. What is it?