Email. Some days I love it. Some days I hate it.
And I was hating it something fierce recently when my computer insisted it had to "rebuild" my inbox and in doing so resent random emails from March 2010. This elicited confused responses from the unintended victims recipients. I spent the weekend cautiously checking email and wondering when the next "What's going on?" email would arrive.
In an effort to keep the Universe in check, a stray email landed in my inbox the same week.
One of the items on my culinary bucket list was granary bread. I wanted to create my own version of a seed-loaded hearth bread I used to get from a local bakery. Their bread was dense without being heavy -- something you could sink your...
As a food writer, I've dabbled in the gluten-free world. I’ve bought guar gum and xanthan, various rice flours, teff, sorghum and nutmeals. They're taking up a lot of room in my spiffy new pantry along with the gluten-loaded all-purpose, whole wheat, cake & pastry, bread and unbleached flours. Since everyone in my house can eat wheat, I find I rarely use the gluten-free variations. As a result, I am quickly coming to the conclusion that unless you regularly feed someone who is gluten-intolerant, gluten-free baking that requires a mix of flour alternatives might not be the best route.
So how do you feed guests who are unable to eat wheat without stocking up on specialty items?
Dinner is easy. Roasted meat and simple side dishes like baked potatoes and steamed vegetables or a salad topped with homemade dressing. You can even serve gravy if you thicken it with corn starch. Asian cuisine is another delicious and easy solution. A stir fry or curry will satisfy everyone. Steam up a pot of rice instead of hot naan bread and you're golden.
But desserts? Oh desserts. This is where the gluten-hits the fan.
Last year, due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn't do any Christmas baking. Not so much as a single shortbread came out of my kitchen. But this year? I'm making up for the loss. The rumballs are rolled, the eggnog is chilling and now it's time for some serious sugar. Luckily, Anna Olson recently released a new book devoted entirely to baking -- Back to Baking: 200 Timeless Recipes to Bake, Share and Enjoy -- so should I suffer from Bakers Block, I will have a muse to help me.
Earlier this week, I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with the muse Anna after one of her demonstrations. I promised to try to stump her with your toughest baking questions but Anna's been studying. I'm not sure if I was more impressed with the accuracy of her answers or her her ability to zero in on possible solutions without a lot of background information. I'd have been demanding to know about the humidity, altitude and the position of Mercury.
Here are the questions you asked and Anna's answers. Immediately following, we'll have a cookie break. I'm sharing a recipe to one of Anna's amazing cookies -- one she let me sample even though they were just for display. They've got orange, toffee and salt all in an icebox cookie. Life is complete.
I’m trying not to be resentful but a certain celebrity llama has more Twitter followers than I do. And his first name isn't Dali. To be fair, the llama is a talented goat herder, so I can see the appeal.
Why all the fuss over a shaggy camelid? Polka Spot belongs to the Fabulous Beekman Boys — along with a polydactyl barn cat, 160 goats, two sheep and a cheese cave. They all reside on a 60-acre farm with a 210-year-old mansion. I’d be insanely jealous if I didn’t know how much work 60-acres and 640 goat hooves require. The only low-maintenance item on that list is the cheese cave, and I'm sure there's more to that than simply maintaining a thermostat.
Walnuts are the hard-done-by, neglected middle child of the nut family. Between the mature and established almond, with its fancy frangipane and marzipan pastes, and attention-grabbing, TV-diva baby of a macadamia (I'm looking at you Roseanne!) walnuts are easily overlooked. Sure, you can find them huddled in a corner with the maple syrup, but have you ever picked one out of a bowl of mixed nuts at a party? Or seen them chumming with the popular butters like cashew butter, peanut butter and -- here we go again -- almond butter?
I thought as much.
Being the hard-done-by, sometimes-neglected middle child in a family of nuts myself, I can relate. Like walnuts, I can be a tad bitter (and who wouldn't be given the circumstances?) But warm me up and give me some chocolate? And we can be quite the charmers.
I'm doing my part to make beans hip and cool. I even I walked through downtown Toronto clutching a clear plastic bag brimming with the four pounds of brightly coloured lentils, legumes and beans picture above. No one laughed. No one pointed at me. And if I may say so, I think the odd fashionista stole a sideways glance as I strutted my stuff down King Street.
I hadn't planned on being the poster girl for legumes. I was in Toronto to meet up with Julie Van Rosendaal, this time in wasp-free, neutral territory. She says she's fine with my previous behaviour, but I notice she brought protection -- her coauthor Sue Duncan.
Julie and Sue were in Ontario to promote their new book Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Every Day. Part way through the interview, Julie realized her 2 kgs of demo beans would not fit into her luggage and she turned her big blue eyes to me in desperation. Being a cooperative person, I left the interview with lots of information and enough fibre to clean out an elephant.
During the course of the conversation, I learned several compelling pro-bean points. Enough to not only have me haul them about Canada's largest city, but to feel darned good about it. Beans are great because:
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!
Since I can't join you in person and help out with dinner, I thought I'd share a video that could make your holiday meal run a bit more smoothly -- or at least save your good table cloth from some unnecessary grease spots. While the turkey roasts, take 3 minutes and learn how to carve the bird like a pro.
The poultry-phobic might want to bookmark this post since the instructions work perfectly for Christmas, birthdays, Sunday family dinners or any time you serve roasted poultry -- be it duck, turkey, goose, chicken or itty-bitty Cornish hens.
So sharpen those knives and have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving!
PS: For those who shun Black Friday, stay warm and cozy inside and take advantage of Rouxbe Online Cooking School's Cyber Monday Deal. See below for details.
The biggest (okay, only) disappointment in meeting Roger Mooking is he is not a Gemini. How can that be? We're so alike.
Like me, Roger once felt "like a mad man caught in two worlds." It took a long time for him to realize his love of food and music both branch from the common root of entertainment. I spent years figuring out my food/writing dichotomy is anchored in story telling. Same thing, if you think about it -- only I have a blog and he has a recording studio.
You've all heard the expression "Dollars to doughnuts." But in my world the expression should be, "Doughnuts to Morocco." Those versed in Moroccan cuisine might assume the connection comes from sfenj, the popular Moroccan street food that closely resembles the North American doughnut. You'd get a Brownie point for your knowledge, but you'd be wrong. That logic is far too straight-forward.
When Joanne and I made the hand-forged sour cream old-fashioned doughnuts, the conversation started with how much we missed cooking together and quickly bounced about like doughnuts frying in hot oil. We careened through brownie baking in our shoebox of a kitchen, rolled past knitting expeditions and landed hard on travel memories.
By the time the doughnuts were being packed up, we had made a pact to celebrate our 50th birthdays with the two of us taking a trip together. Like we had to Banff, Montreal, Cape Cod, England, Lisbon and New Zealand.
Sometime in 2013, we will take a trip together. Some place we've never been. Somewhere bright and lively and exotic, filled with smells and sights unlike those on Southern Ontario. Somewhere our husbands have no interest in going.
Morocco is high on the list. And I've been dreaming of tagines and sweet North African spicing ever since.