April 30, 2011

Celiac Conference Ottawa

It’s not too far off now. The National Celiac Conference is in Ottawa May 13-15 (2011) and if you’re celiac and around the area, it might be a great place to spend the weekend. With this conference being in Ottawa (and close to home), it’s hard to pass up. Check out the Ottawa Celiac website for more information on presenters and what the conference entails. It’s too late for the early bird registration, but it’s not too late to register. There will be plenty of exhibitors as well. I don’t know who they are, but I know that Rhonda Barr from Ya’d Never Know Bakery in Dundas will be there (I asked on my visit!). I love her treats and I’m planning to take some extra cash so I can take home plenty of goodies. She has a cookbook that I keep flipflopping about – we’ll see in a few weeks.

*A tentative agenda has been added to the Ottawa Celiac website and it looks so interesting. I’m getting excited.

April 19, 2011

Are You an Addict?

Everyone has one and they come in many forms. They can be small and scribbled and collected or purchased in carrying sizes. I believe everyone has s cookbook. Even the Honey has one, although I’m sure he forgot about it years ago.

In November, Anne Kingston wrote an article in Maclean’s titles ‘Breaking the Cookbook Addiction’. It caught my eye because I don’t just have a love of books, many of them happen to be cookbooks. I’m not allowed to buy anymore. As annoying as it was to be ‘told’ this, I had to agree. I have too many.

Kingston’s article is about Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus and the reasons behind it. Segnit herself had become addicted to cookbooks and she realized she lacked the confidence to create something herself. After three years of research the end result was a ‘flavour reference book ‘ that is an ‘inspirational springboard’. Segnit also gained new knowledge herself and the confidence to try something new and different combinations.

Like Segnit, I too love cookbooks. I love the variety and possibilities they have to offer. They are also a beneficial learning tool – from learning what to do with a sweet potato, to reading up on how to cook steak, to experimenting with gluten-free grains. When I get a new cookbook I usually sit down with it and go through cover to cover. It’s relaxing, yet mesmerizing, going through the pages, especially if you’re in a comfortable spot with a cup of tea or a glass of wine. You could spend hours sitting there imagining the finished product. I used to dog-ear the pages I wanted to try, but that got a little overwhelming. Taking a cue from a friend I put a post-it on the page and keep it limited to five. If I tag more than five recipes I’m back to where I started.

Another thing I love are the pictures and not every book includes them. Joy of Cooking and the Moosewood Restaurant series don’t include any – maybe a sketch or diagram, but nothing to get excited over. Mollie Katzen has beautiful drawings on her pages surrounding the recipes. For Christmas my younger sister gave me a copy of a dessert book from Serendipity knowing I was unable to go there on our trip to New York. It not only contained pretty pictures and their recipes, but also the history and cult-like following of the New York landmark. More recently I picked up cookbooks by The Barefoot Contessa, Laura Calder, and Christine Cushing – all with beautiful photographs throughout (I’m getting hungry thinking about them). Another thing all three have done is include a little blurb with each recipe telling us how it came about, where they encountered it, or why they love it. Right now they are in various places in my home –

Pure is on my bedside table

French Taste is on my living room side table

And Back to Basics is on the kitchen table waiting for the markets to open.

In the last year I have had control over my cookbook addiction. Even though I have purchased new ones, I have also put some in a donation box or given them away. I also realize that my addiction isn’t that bad as I have seen kitchen shelves much worse than mine. But still, every time I see a cookbook, especially on a discount table, I need to restrain myself.

 *As a post-script: Chef Michael Smith from Chef at Home (on the Food Network) was at Foreign Affairs doing a book signing back in March and I wasn’t able to restrain myself. Maybe my addiction isn’t as under control as I thought.

April 12, 2011

1-2-3 Gluten Free

In my bag of goodies from Homesense a while back were two boxes from 1-2-3 Gluten Free, a mother-daughter company based in Ohio. Their products are made in an allergen-free facility and are kosher. Their website has lots of information and recipes for using their products different ways.

First I made the Divinely Decadent Brownies which were super easy. It seems redundant to say, but I’ve actually used mixes that were surprisingly complicated. Here you added the eggs and butter to the mix and poured it into a pan. You can’t get any easier. The brownies were soft and chewy, in a good way, and the chocolate was nice and rich. My only complaint, and it may totally be my fault, is that you couldn’t take them out of the pan while warm. I’m not a brownie aficionado and have never been a die-hard brownie lover so I thought I’d take them out while warm and see what it is that makes people say ‘Mmmm brownies right out of the oven’. I still don’t know because they kept falling apart. So I waited and was patient and the patience paid off. They were perfect.

Next was the Southern Glory Biscuits. These were awesome and were gone in a day or two. The directions have you roll the biscuits out, but being lazy I used a large spoon and dropped them onto a baking sheet. They were light and fluffy and tasted wonderful. The biscuits were a perfect accompaniment to soup. Sealed in a bag they stayed fresh and kept their texture for the second day. There were additional recipes inside the box to change it up, 7 in fact! All used the basic biscuit mix a different way. The cinnamon buns were tempting.

These were really good mixes, especially the biscuits (I wish mine were that light and fluffy). I had never seen this brand before so I didn’t know if the price was really good or too much ($7 at Homesense) and while it seems a little steep, if I needed something quick and easy, sure, why not. Since many of the mixes from my Homesense goodie bag are American I may keep my eyes open for them next time I venture across the border – who knows when my next trip may be.

April 9, 2011

The Shortbread Bakery

A few weeks ago I visited Canada Blooms in Toronto with my mom. We had a lovely day together checking out what’s new in gardening and see some great things for the home. What we didn’t expect to see were some food vendors, especially one with gluten-free wares.

I’m always hesitant to try shortbread. My nana made the best shortbread – mellow flavour and a cookie that melts in your mouth. In the past I’d often been given a box of shortbread from people who knew I liked it, but unfortunately the shortbread they gave me was often rock-hard. It was no different when we walked up to The Shortbread Bakery. They had samples so I couldn’t be too disappointed, could I? They had gluten-free shortbread, so I thought ‘Let’s give it a go’.

I put a little piece in my mouth and was blown away. It was a tender cookie that melted in my mouth. It also tasted like the real thing. My nana would be impressed because I definitely was.

While The Shortbread Factory is not a gluten-free bakery, all their gluten-free shortbread is made on a Sunday when no other products are being made, lessening the chance of cross-contamination.

Located in Richmond Hill, just a stone’s throw north of Toronto, Robyn Kay prides herself on using natural ingredients and recyclable packaging. This energetic woman asks ‘Can love be expressed through a cookie?’. Yes, Robyn, it definitely can.

Robyn is currently looking for a place in Ottawa to sell her cookies, so if you know of a store that could benefit from The Shortbread Bakery, drop Robyn a line via her website. Check out the locations in South-Western Ontario that currently have her products, and if you’re in that area, definitely pick up a box. You won’t regret it.

April 2, 2011

Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad

As you may have noticed I’ve been MIA for a while. I didn’t intend to take a hiatus, it just happened. I got a new student a few weeks ago, sooner than expected, so there was lots to do. It has kept me quite busy; so busy that my house was beginning to look a little war-torn. Thank goodness for dishwashers otherwise I’d have a kitchen full of dishes too.

Although today I had to work, I had a nice plan for dinner; something I’ve wanted to try for a while. It’s easy to prepare and tastes so delicious. The recipe is from Real Simple and many of their recipes are exactly that. I made a double batch for the salad dressing and added extra Dijon mustard to cut down the vinegar a bit. It would be great for a week-night meal.

Salmon with Warm Lentil Salad            Serves 4
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 bunch arugula, torn (about 4 cups)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the lentils and 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 4 to 5 minutes per side. In a large bowl, combine the vinegar, mustard, onion, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the lentils and arugula to the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Serve with the salmon and lemon wedges.