February 2009

Food and Food: Home Cookin'06 Feb 2009 07:24 pm

I do not have a lot of room in the kitchen for gadgets. We do not have a coffee maker as we do not drink coffee. As much as I yearn for one, we do not have room for a KitchenAid mixer. Atleast I can use the one my parents have!

On our counter sits a toaster. In a cupboard, a meat grinder and Cuisinart hand blender. That’s all we have, besides pots and pans. I did not even have a tea kettle until recently. That was a gift from my mom when I boiled a pot of water dry. I thought I might save the pot, but when I picked it up to clean it, the bottom dropped clean off. We all thought a whistling kettle might be best for me from then on.

However, when in the market for a new teapot, I discovered that there was a fantastic new gadget for tea freaks: a tea maker.

I know tea making sounds like a simple procedure and you think I’m crazy for buying into this notion of “useless kitchen item.” Tea is easy, right? Boil water, drop in teabag, steep, drink. However, some of the new teas we have recently purchased require some specific instructions. Instructions that should be followed, as the teas were not cheap. There are certain temperatures and steep times that should be adhered to for maximum enjoyment. That’s where the tea makers come into play.

There are a few makers on the market. Some just boil the water to certain temperatures; glorified tea kettles. Others are more complex and basically brew the tea for you.

Unfortunately, only one kind is currently available in Canada, at least where I live: Zarafina’s Tea Maker Suite. I bought it at Home Outfitters for $119.99; about the same as a coffee maker.

The machine is amazing. It brews perfect pots of tea for two. I’ve made black and white teas in it so far, bagged and loose, with oolong and greens to be tried this weekend.

There is no bitterness, acridness or unsettling tastes. I don’t fiddle with thermometers and ice cubes trying to get the best water temperature. In 3-10 minutes, depending on what kind of tea and how strong I want it, I have a hot pot of tea.

The many different settings of the Zarafina

Although it is a bit pricey, I rationalized the purchase by considering how few gadgets I really had in the kitchen, and how much tea we were drinking. The ‘suite’ takes up a small amount of room on the counter, but comes with a neat tray to enable easy transport. It would be a great gift for someone interested in getting into teas.

Also available:

Teavana’s Gourmet Tea Maker ($299.99, only available in the U.S.)
Adagio TriniTEA
($99, only available in the U.S.)
I believe Sunbeam makes one as well, but the reviews are poor.

Several users on YouTube have put up demo videos of most makers available. Many tea bloggers also run side-by-side reviews of the different machines.

Food04 Feb 2009 09:38 pm

A CRAZY new offer from the Excalibur in Las Vegas:


The Excalibur needs someone to work on their promo material. I love that the model simultaneously has her mouth open for all the food it can eat all day long, while holding utensils and giving a big thumbs up.

This is something I’d rather repress, but on my first visit to Las Vegas 8 or so years ago, I ate at the Roundtable buffet. Folks: it’s not good.

Okay, I hear you: “But Kelly, it’s only $25; that’s a $1.04 an hour. THINK OF THE VALUE.”

I say: think of your arteries.

Crafts etc and General03 Feb 2009 09:38 pm

Calgary artists and friends Dave + Jenn have launched their website! Please visit: The World of Dave + Jenn.

A little less timely, but still relevant: Nancy Tousley of the Calgary Herald named their gallery show one of the top 12 in Calgary in 2008.

 Dave & Jenn, You're A Long Way From Sea .

side 2 of You’re A Long Way From Sea, a 2-sided painting.
Dave & Jenn, 2008.
Acrylic, resin and mixed media.

image credit: Skew Gallery

Food and Food: Home Cookin'03 Feb 2009 12:44 pm

It wasn’t really planned but I ended up doing two layered foods for a Superbowl party I attended. Although they might seem time consuming, they were actually pretty easy to do. At times I felt so frantic I almost ended up with chocolate in the seven layer dip and beans in the Nanaimo bars, but the crisis was averted, and Superbowl was saved.

Not by the Arizona Cardinals, though. 🙁

I made a Seven Layer Dip and Nanaimo bars.

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients (Makes 16 squares, more if you cut them smaller)

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg beaten
1-1/2 cups graham wafer crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped cashews (use whatever nut you like though)
1 cup finely shredded coconut

Middle Layer
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon 35% cream
2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Top Layer
1 entire bar of dark chocolate (I used Nestlé Noir, the “intense” 70% cocoa version)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Melt first four ingredients of bottom layer in top of double boiler.
2. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an 8″ x 8″ pan with clear wrap laid on the bottom. Chill while you prepare the middle layer.

Middle Layer

1. Using an electric mixer, cream all ingredients together, beating well until light in colour.
2. Spread evenly over chilled bottom layer. Place back into fridge to chill while top is being prepared.

Top Layer

1. Melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a double boiler.
2. Cool slightly – the chocolate should still be pourable.
3. Spread gently over second layer so as not to mix the two layers together. I find tapping gets a smoother layer. Refrigerate until set.

Cut into bite sized portions with a hot knife. Some people cut HUGE portions, but I prefer little bites. I find the bars extremely rich and almost too much to handle.

In this layer: cocoa, butter and chopped cashews. I’ve made them with pecans and hazelnuts. Cashews are my favourite.

It’s hard to get homemade custard to the right consistency in Nanaimo bars, so you pretty much have to use “Bird’s Custard”. I find it sickeningly sweet, even when you cut back on the powdered sugar required. In fact, I would say I don’t even really like Nanaimo bars. Can you believe it?

This is my favourite way to cut Nanaimo bars. They are incredibly messy, so before I start to lay down my layers, I put down clear wrap in the base. Then, when the layers have solidified, you pop out the sheet of Nanaimo and cut on the plastic. The chocolate is contained!

Nanaimo bars are a distinctly Canadian treat. Apt for something as American as the Superbowl.

Superbowl Seven Layer Dip

I made two versions of this, the large pan and a smaller version for my vegan friend, Andy. I omitted the mayo/sour cream layer and cheese topping, and added a layer of sauteed garlic and tomatillos for him.

2 cans black beans
1 onion, diced. 1/2 for black beans, save other 1/2 for pico de gallo
1 clove garlic, minced
2 avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 tablespoon chipotle pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Spice to your liking. If in a hurry, you could use a package of taco seasoning

2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 onion from before
1/2 to a whole jalapeno, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
squirt of lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro

1 can pitted black olives, chopped
1 can pickled jalapenos
10 tomatillos, chopped
1 large bunch green onions, chopped
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 bag tortilla chips

Warm up black beans in pan with onion and garlic. Heat until beans start to explode, and you can mash it a bit. Spread evenly over an oblong dish or large, round, flat bottomed dish or bowl. I used an 11×14 glass dish.

Mash peeled avocados. Mix with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread on top of beans.

Sautee tomatillos in a bit of vegetable oil, until soft. Set aside.

Mix sour cream, mayonnaise and spices. Spread evenly on top of avocado mixture.

Sprinkle a layer of chopped black olives over the top. Sprinkle jalapenos, and tomatillos. Spread pico de gallo, followed by a layer of chopped green onion over the mix.

Shred cheese and layer it on top.

Use tortilla chips for dipping.

First layer: black beans with garlic, jalapenos and onions. Fried until they start to burst and you can mash them.

Avocado layer.

Sour cream, mayo and spice layer. The recipe called for jar mayonnaise and a packet of taco seasoning. Instead, Mike whipped up some homemade mayo spiked with cumin. I also added chipotle spice, smoked salt, pepper and cayenne to the blend.

Mike making the mayo. Doing it by hand is an arduous procedure. I love our hand blender: I can puree soups and Mike can make mayo in a snap.

The recipe was based on one by Michel Roux, a curry mayonnaise I believe.

Note to self: buy more olives next time. This sparse layer looked kind of sad so I added…

Canned jalapenos. Spicy!

Pico de gallo, cilantro and green onions on top. Cheese would also be a nice addition, but I left it out. I served it with tortilla chips.

This recipe was definitely a keeper. It was a bit of work, but the tex-mex flavours were a favourite, and homemade dips are always better. I will probably try to make my own refried black beans next time.

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