Sunday, January 31, 2010

Vegetables from WHERE???

Print Friendly and PDF We experimented with a new soup recipe a couple of days ago at the deli. We have our favorite soups...but fresh ideas are the life blood of any business, so we decided to try one. It was a Parsnip pear and garlic soup. Quite appropriate for the end of January, and from all accounts, a hit with customers. We always have to garnish the soup, before serving it, and the recipe called for a garnish of fresh thyme. Odd, we thought, as there was no thyme used in the soup. Nevertheless, someone made a run to our local produce market, and I began chopping the fresh thyme. I noticed that the package said " Product of Columbia ". Also odd, as I have passed countless greenhouses in this area that specialize in fresh herbs. Do we really have to import thyme all the way from South America? That herb was still in my mind, as I made a quick run to my local Price Smart Foods to pick up carrots and celery. I usually shop at The Bread Box, a small produce market about 6 blocks from my place, but it was Sunday, and I wanted to make some chicken Price Smart was my only option. I started to read the country of origin for all the vegetables...and was dismayed by the lack of homegrown produce. I started to re-think the chicken soup thing, but was determined...and purchased celery from Mexico and carrots from the USA. Not as far as Columbia...but strange all the same. I know the politics and economics of Canada and these other countries determine what we eat...but the food we put into our mouths on a daily basis is becoming less and less flavourful. It is no wonder that the Community Garden is making a huge comeback.
The P-man and I went out for lunch to Le Vol au Vent this afternoon, and had a nice conversation with a lady who had just returned from Paris on business, and was having a glass of wine, a salad a steak with peppercorn sauce, and frites. She said that she was in Paris for 8 days on business, and lost 3 pounds. She said that she ate well everyday. Bread with real butter, croissant, etc, and said that she felt that because the food in Europe was so much more flavourful and filling, you could eat more and enjoy it. It was not like North American food, where you could eat and eat, and feel as if you had only consumed salt and sugar and fat...not real food.
I had spicy calamari, and a chicken and mushroom vol au vent with a mixed green salad with baby spinach and frissee, with a homemade dressing full of garlic and anchovies, and olive oil. The P-Man had cassoulet, after the calamari. We both had wine, and sat and chatted with Nanna and Michel for an hour and a half while we talked about food and family, and the good old days when we were all much younger.
I suppose the chicken soup will have to wait until tomorrow!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

For the LOVE of James Barber...

Print Friendly and PDF Before I started working at the deli I didn't realize how much I knew about food. I like to read cookbooks, and watch shows on cooking, and somehow I just assumed that everyone did too. Some of my favorite cookbooks are more like books than instruction manuals. I remember going to Disneyland when I was a kid, and picking up a Disneyland cookbook. It gave a series of recipes that related to each area of the park.' Fantasyland Tomato Soup'...that sort of thing. I thought it was great! I finally gave it away during my last cookbook purge, but I flipped through it first, and was amazed at how many recipes I remember cooking from that book. I also had the Nancy Drew Cookbook. I think I had almost every Nancy Drew book in the series. Because I admired Nancy, for her courage and smart detective work, I was of course curious about what she ate!

In my adult cooking life, one of the cookbooks/storybooks I still adore, is James Barber's " Immodest but Honest Good Eating Cookbook" With a story before every recipe, and titles such as 'Chicken Wings are Cheap' and 'Lamb Chops Sofia' is simply wonderful. It has millions of little mistakes that have caused me to screw up the simplest of recipes, but I love it anyway. I remember watching James Barber's cooking show on TV. It was called 'The Urban Peasant' and he had the nicest way of making you believe that you could cook, no matter what. He was on TV long before the Food Network, and I thought he seemed like such a cool old guy! He was always shopping for groceries on Granville Island, and bringing them home to his groovy loft in Gastown, and cooking for beautiful young women, and drinking wine in the afternoon. He was sort of an older, Canadian, Graham Kerr ( The Galloping Gourmet!) As far as Food Writers go, I am a big fan of Nigel Slater. He speaks about food from the point of view that you should cook whatever you are craving. Food as pleasure AND sustenance. His approach to cooking is also incredibly relaxed. His books have beautiful photos, that make you hungry just looking at them! I just bought 'The Kitchen Diaries' by Nigel Slater. It is a one year account of what he cooked and ate, complete with story and recipe for that day. I am planning to start it I can follow it along for the year.
Please let me know about your favorites...send me a comment!

Here is one of my all time favorite James Barber Recipes. It is from the Good Eating Cookbook, which I believe is out of print...but check your favorite second hand book shop...or your local library. When I make this recipe...far less often than I used to, as I have no desire to re-gain my 40 pounds. I leave out the oil, as there is plenty of fat in the chicken skin...but do as you like...

Cut chicken wings into 3 pieces. Place chicken pieces in a pan and cover with 1/4 inch of water. Add 4 TBSP of soy sauce, 4 TBSP vinegar, 1TSP cayenne, 1TSP hot mustard, and 2 TBSP sugar. Boil vigorously. When water is reduced by half, add 2 TBSP oil. Turn wings frequently and reduce heat to medium. Chicken will turn dark brown and sauce will become sticky. Sprinkle cooked chicken wings with sesame seeds.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Everyday Food

Print Friendly and PDF I got groceries, yesterday. I like to shop. Any kind of shopping suits me fine. I like the looking around part. I shop at a grocery store that offers a special coupon worth lots of points, if you spend 200$ Spending that much on groceries is a bit tricky, as I only cook for the P-Man and myself. I am also one of those lucky people who is not constantly time-stressed, and likes to shop at a butcher, and a produce store, and a bakery. I also have the option of shopping for food where I work. I usually try to spend most of my money on meat. Since I lost my weight, I eat a good deal of lean protein, and prefer turkey to chicken. I also prepare nearly all my meals from scratch, meaning, I don't buy a prepared rice or noodle packet mix. If I want rice or noodles, I boil them up, and make a sauce or something to go with them. I grew up eating prepared foods. I think all kids prefer to eat Kraft Dinner or Hamburger Helper...especially if they are not confident in the kitchen. I also had a lot of health problems as a kid. I was always sick with something, I was overweight, and had bad skin. I managed to spend 250$ on groceries, last night, and am thinking about what I am going to cook for the next couple of weeks. I have been playing around with some new recipes, and think I have a few winners! New Year...New Food!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dinner at CRU

Print Friendly and PDF A dear friend and I dined at CRU last night. We had been there a year or so ago, during' Dine Out Vancouver,' and am glad to report that the food was as good as I remembered it. The restaurant is a tiny gem of a place. Very nicely put together with a warm feel. We had a series of small plates. I loved the Cru Bruschetta. A warm piece of foccacia with a creamy/chunky edamame spread topped with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of Pecorino cheese. The Oloroso-sauteed mushrooms on brioche with aged white cheddar and a balsamic glaze was also good, but I found the cheese overpowered the delicate sweet and savory mushrooms. The Miso-marinated Sablefish had the most amazingly soft silky texture, as did the cauliflower puree. It was a delicious contrast to the sweetness of the fish. My friend was wanting some beef, so we tried the braised beef short rib with the tiniest serving of macaroni and cheese I had ever seen. Our server suggested we order another one, and I am glad he did, because I would not have even considered giving my friend of 20 years ONE SINGLE CREAMY CHEESE COVERED MACARONI! The frites were the only disappointment...not crispy enough. We ate, we chatted ,we drank wine. I was satisfied, but not stuffed. We skipped dessert, and walked home to have some tea. I will not wait another year, before returning to CRU.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Family Feasts

Print Friendly and PDF The P-Man and I were invited to an Italian family feast last night. We were treated to a multi course meal at a long communal table, served to us by two extremely generous people. The company was lively...the wine was plentiful and the food was delicious. We started with 2 pates: pheasant and chicken liver flavoured with cognac, that was beautifully textured, and spread easily on toasted spelt bread. Next, was homemade tagliatelle with wild boar. The pasta was perfectly cooked and lightly dressed with the rich meat ragu. The last meat course was leg of lamb with a red wine sauce. It was presented with simple boiled potatoes, and a shaved radicchio salad with olive oil and Parmesan. The sweets that came out were a marvelous contrast to the rich meal. We had light little meringue' sandwiches' with whipped cream centres, a beautiful puff pastry cake with caramel profiteroles on top, more meringues dipped in chocolate, and a plate of almond torronne. Before you could wipe the crumbs off your chin, tiny cups of fragrant espresso appeared. More stories were told, and we laughed until our cheeks hurt. Thank you to our wonderful hosts...

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Print Friendly and PDF I grew up eating breakfast. Not just cereal. My mom didn't work, so I remember bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast. My dad used to take me out for breakfast every Sunday morning when I was little, and I would always have silver dollar pancakes and a side of pork sausage. I was never able to finish my sausages, because I was too interested in my pancakes, and so my dad and I would have an argument about how much EXTRA sausages cost...and the least I could do was eat them! My mom said she always knew we were home from breakfast when she heard the car door SLAM...and she said the ground shook with my STOMPING up the walk, to let her know how badly I was treated at breakfast. I guess I had a short memory, because by the time next Sunday came along, I was dressed and in the car, before you could say ' Silver Dollar Pancake!' My dad and I also ate breakfast together on our many road trips to Las Vegas. I always remember the HUGE red vinyl booths at the Aladdin Hotel. I especially remember that he and I ate breakfast anytime during the day. We were both ALWAYS hungry...and sometimes after breakfast, we would have a piece of PIE! Thanks for the memories, Sam...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Le Vol Au Vent

Print Friendly and PDF The P-Man and I went out to dinner last night. We frequent a little French Restaurant called Le Vol Au Vent. The food is consistently excellent. I should know...I am usually there once a week. We started with calamari. This isn't your typical deep fried squid with gloppy tartar sauce from a jar. Michel does a lightly breaded squid fried and served in a small cast iron skillet, with loads of fresh garlic, and fresh lemon to squeeze on top when it arrives...sizzling at your table. It's the kind of dish that perfumes the whole restaurant, and makes all the other diners ask you what you are having...because they want to have some too! My cassoulet was a lovely pyramid of white beans with a crunchy crumb topping, browned in the oven. As you start to move the beans around, you are hit with a wonderful aroma of braised meat and herbs...all hiding in the pretty pile of beans. I quickly located a pork sausage, a chicken leg, and a piece of lamb. The meat was tender, and smokey and rich...perfect with the creamy beans. For a mere 24.95$...I took enough home for at least two lunches! You should go...Everyone should eat good food. This food is a hundred times better than good. Le Vol Au Vent: on Marine Dr in White Rock...across from the Museum.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Perogies...Beautiful Perogies

Print Friendly and PDF I work at an Italian Delicatessen in Ocean Park called Delitalia. I work in the kitchen. I have never worked in a kitchen before I got this job. Sometimes I think that my life is going Benjamin Button. Aren't you supposed to do jobs like waitress, or kitchen helper when you are a kid? After owning my own business for 17 years...I find making people sandwiches, and baking cookies and muffins, and slicing meat quite liberating. I also do a bit of retail consulting when the opportunity presents itself. Different work, to be sure, but my brain needs as much exercise as my body. I eat Italian food almost every day. I love it, but I am Ukrainian, and all of my fondest food memories revolve around food my Baba, or Aunties or Uncles made for me. I was doing my retail consulting thing last Saturday at Well Seasoned...a GREAT Gourmet Food Store! , and located right next door is a little cafe called Prairie Cottage Perogies. There are very few words that can cause me to drool...but PEROGIES is one of them. I went there for lunch, and for an UNBELIEVABLE $6.25, received a beautiful little white plate containing 3 perogies ( potato and cheese), with lightly fried onions on top, 2 cabbage rolls, a nice sized piece of kolbassa and some coleslaw. Honest to God, thought I was going to cry. It was as good as any I can remember...and as I was already having a flashback to food I seldom eat anymore...I even had a can of Diet Pepsi! I eat out a lot. That simple little plate put the last couple of years of restaurant food to shame! It was simple, and real...and done well. It's nearly a week later, and I'm STILL happy. You should go there...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Free to Be

Print Friendly and PDF I was happily maintaining my weight, and enjoying some welcome time off, after closing my Fashion Retail business I had started in 1990, when a strange opportunity knocked on the door. I was getting to know the woman who was running our town's Sunday Farmers Market, and she let me know that a nearby bakery was needing some help selling their bread at the market. I called up the owner, and had the first job interview I had had in nearly 20 years, and got the job! Kind of strange to be driving a bread truck, and selling fresh I had a dad and brothers who were bakers for a good chunk of my childhood...but life is funny that way. Goodbye Fashion...Hello Food! The summer was long and hot...and I only remember one Sunday that was rainy and miserable. I got to meet some local food producers, and serve alot of people who LOVED the bread. As the summer came to a close, I received another phone call, from someone who wanted to know if I was looking for a winter job...WORKING IN A KITCHEN!! More food...what was happening? I was not prepared for questions like: Do you have a PASSION for food? ( not sure) Do you know how to cook? Yes I do... Would you be able to start today? Okay... It was supposed to be until December 2009...I'm still there... It seems I am a great employee! Who knew?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Print Friendly and PDF I started going to WW meetings, and following along in the pretty booklets, and started to lose some weight. A couple of pounds here and there, a bit of exercise and somehow, before I knew it, I lost 41 pounds. That was 2 years ago now. The miracle of it, is that I haven't gained ANY OF IT BACK! I made some pretty significant changes in my life. I changed careers, gave up my car, and started cooking in a brand new way. I no longer ate a whole t-bone steak with pork and beans for dinner. I no longer ate lasagna and salad and garlic toast for lunch. I no longer ate 5 potato pancakes, and a cup of sour cream for breakfast. I viewed the new me with a bit of skepticism. My once round face had become oval, I had hair down to my shoulders, and I bought a pair of jeans with a zipper and a waistband.( after YEARS of elastic waists!) I got rid of almost all of my old cookbooks, and started visiting a website called, that listed the nutritional information for every recipe along with a suggested serving size. The P-man was a willing guinea pig, so I tried new ingredients, and new combinations. I even started cooking lunches for friends of his at his work! A thin Foodie? I was starting to believe...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

If you want to change your life...change your mind...

Print Friendly and PDF Welcome to my blog. Like many people, I am obsessed with food. Obsessed, in the way that I have to think about what I would like to eat, whether or not I have the ingredients to cook it, and when I have time to make it? I am the cook in my family. My husband, ( the P-Man ) uses flattery to keep me cooking, by insisting that my food is the ONLY food he cares to eat! After 25 years together, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. A couple of years ago, I was preparing to attend my 25th high school reunion. I was looking forward to attending, and decided that losing a few pounds was long overdue. I have always used 2 excuses for being fat. Number 1: I'm Ukrainian. ( For you non-Ukrainians out there...we are built like sturdy little peasants, and like to eat large portions of pork and potatoes!) Number 2: My dad AND both my brothers were BAKERS!! ( My dad's idea of spending quality time with me was taking me to Phil's Pancake House...or out to some dive of a coffee shop for PIE!! When I was 10, we moved to a small town, and lived in an apartment ABOVE THE BAKERY!!) Sorry for that yummy little digression...but sometimes I can still taste those little silver dollar pancakes! Back to the reunion. I decided to try going to Weight Watchers...AGAIN. I was 181 lbs, here we go again...