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Sunday, January 30, 2011

32 today

So today is my 32nd birthday, and as I'm taking stock, I realize that I've had a pretty decent 32 years. Last night I went out for dinner at Coast on Alberni to eat my body weight in seafood with some awesome friends. As I was mowing down on salmon carpaccio, Junior turns to me and says "you really love food, don't you?" Of course my first reaction was a whiny "no I dooooooon't" but it's extremely true. So I guess that is, you know, the whole point of this blog. So thank you for reading, and I hope your day is as wonderful as mine! xo

Saturday, January 29, 2011

She wore red velvet

Moar cupcakes! Moar!

Amanda and Nadine (two of the five girls of the Eastern Bloc) shared a birthday on January 27, and I decided to go over the top and make a really decadent cupcake, complete with rose petals and cream cheese frosting. Because these ladies are like a L'Oreal commercial: They're worth it. (I just made myself vomit)

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing and Candied Rose Petals

First, you will need to assemble the rose petals. Any rose will do, as long as it is rinsed thoroughly to remove any pesticides that may remain on the petals.

Dip each petal in an egg white wash and place on a piece of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet. Then, dip each coated petal in a bowl of sugar, covering both sides, and place on the parchment to dry. Let them dry for about an hour, then begin to bake the cakes, by the time the rose petals are ready to be applied they should be dry.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food colouring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line muffin pan with cupcake papers. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food colouring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth. Fill cupcake papers until 2/3 full, bake for 20-22 mins, checking with a toothpick. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Icing

2 containers light cream cheese
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the icing sugar and vanilla extract. Beat until slightly whipped. Once the cakes are cooled apply icing with a piping bag or butter knife. I chose to use a butter knife to make it look more homemade. Place one or two candied rose petals on top.

While making these cakes, I made an important discovery which I will share with you now. As a 7 year resident of the West End and a fag hag since I was 15, I feel I am qualified to make the following statement: Red Velvet cake is Gay. GAY. It's the pride rainbow of cakes. Below is what I'm talking about.




This recipe is from that fabulous crazy-eyed broad Paula Deen, and I generally have blind faith that all her recipes are golden. But her red velvet cake recipe, followed to the last detail by me, looks more fabulous fuchsia than blood red velvet, the kind of Steel Magnolias fame (remember the armadillo grooms cake? A fab young Julia Roberts? The goddess that is Dolly Parton? Fuck I love that movie). I even added more food colouring that she calls for after I realized it was the gayest colour on earth, and it stubbornly stayed the same. Whatevs. As I've said for years, gay is the way.

Pretty, no?

And while we're on the subject of colour, it's recently been brought to my attention that I've been leaving a trail of red lipstick on basically everything I touch, like a whorish trail of bread crumbs:

I don't really know why I'm mentioning this. I guess it goes with the cupcakes? Same colour? What? Nothin'. It also occurred to me that these would make great Valentine's Day treats, if you happen to observe VD day. We all mowed down on these cakes and had a lovely birthday afternoon. Annnnnnnddd, it's my birthday tomorrow, so I guess I kind of made them for me too. That sounded awful, didn't it? Ah well. I'm a bitch, but ya love me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Junior's cakes

I'm too immature to really enjoy or appreciate poetry. I can't help but feel there is something silly about it, and when I hear it, I just want to giggle and turn away. I prefer my poetry in edible form, anyway. For me, a perfectly moist and golden vanilla cupcake is a sonnet. I made these recently for my dear friend Mike, who is celebrating a birthday, and whom I affectionately call Junior (he calls me Gigi). If you want a real, whole, pure cupcake without a trace of artificial flavour, try these:

Vanilla Cupcakes for Junior

1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temp
2/3 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 large lemon
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsps salt
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 359 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk. Bake for 18-20 mins until brown and a toothpick comes out clean.

I topped mine with some light chocolate icing, fresh raspberries and chocolate sprinkles:

These go out to my non-sexual life partner on his day. And speaking of family, check out my fur kid's latest pose:

For a few weeks, and all through my tooth ordeal, Stella has indifferently used the arm of the sofa as a chin rest. This gives her an even snobbier look than she already had, and she was already batting 1000. It gives her perfect advantage to peer down the hall (to make sure no one is using her poo box), smell whatever I'm cooking and generally keep an eye on her Queendom.

Kiss the ring.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thanks Shallot!

I said this to the checkout guy who I was buying shallots from. He didn't get it.

If there is anything I love, it's the ridiculous, creamy spiciness of peppered goat cheese. It goes so well with so many things and tastes, for lack of a better word, expensive. When I eat it I feel like I'm in some fancy restaurant that hasn't kicked me out yet.

This fancy-pants salad recipe I got from the Vancouver Sun, by some chef that I've forgotten the name of. I've changed things up a bit:

Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

(serves 2)

2 large red or yellow beets
4 small shallots
1 handful watercress
1 handful walnuts
1 tube peppered goat cheese
1 arugula

Preheat the oven to 375, take a cookie sheet, cover in tin foil, then lay down a layer of course sea salt. Wash, peel and cut the beets in half and put on the cookie sheet, cut side down. Cut and peel the whole shallots and put in between the sliced beets. Roast until you can pierce with a fork with minimal effort.

Wash and tear off arugula leaves in a fan on one side of the salad bowl. Pour the beets and shallots on top of the arugula and add goat cheese. Lightly roast whole walnuts dry in a pan for 3-5 minutes. Add a clump of watercress and pour the walnuts over. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top, add fresh cracked black pepper. Serve immediately.

Ahhhh, what a great salad this is. It's cozy and warm and just right to share with someone. Plus it's kind of a sexy salad - there is lots of crunching and drippy oils and liquids, you get the picture. A great thing to do in the duldrums of January ;)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Teething at 31?

This is the first time in my life I've been a late bloomer. Sorry for the lack of posts, but recently a straight-growing wisdom molar decided to take a sudden left turn into my jaw and cheek, causing me extreme pain until my dentist yanked the fucker out this morning. I've spent the last 72 hours in dental hell, but this morning waiting patiently as he and his assistant tag-teamed the tooth for the better part of an hour until it finally came loose making an unforgettable *thock!* sound as it released from my jaw had to take the cake. That, and communicating with the pharmacist using kitty stationary.

In all seriousness my dentist presented me with the cleaned tooth in a little box with the kind of pride usually reserved for newborns, exclaiming "this is the largest tooth I've ever removed from a woman!" I sincerely hope that is not my 15 minutes of fame. And I was about to tell him to keep it until I looked at it and I have to say it's pretty impressive. I won't post a photo of the tooth (which is an inch long and at least 3/4 of an inch wide) because the two people I have shown the tooth to have both gagged. I figure that's a sign I should keep it to myself.

So, yeah. I'm sure I'll have some stuff to say about dental soft diets after this, but stay tuned, because we've got Toiv's birthday to talk about, winter salads, and much more. Talk soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I has a coooozzzzyyyy

My friend Christina and I agree that being cozy is pretty much the greatest thing in the entire universe. I know this is a cooking blog, but I see no reason why we can’t also include recipes for how to make the finer things in life, no matter the ingredients:


1 blanket (soft)
1 pashmina
1 cat (optional)
1 favorite movie
1 cup sleepytime tea
1 loved one (optional)
1 pair slippers
1 pillow (or 5)

Wrap lower half of body in blanket, upper half in pashmina. Place slippers on feet. Put one pillow behind head, others under knees or wherever you find most comfortable. Place tea on table close to you. Turn on tv and begin to play movie. Place optional cat and/or loved one in your lap or next to you, so their warmth may further add to the cozy. Lean back and enjoy. Aaaaaaaaaaaah!

And while we are on the subject of optional company, I would like to draw attention to the most depressing time of year: Now. January and February stretch long, vistaless and cold until finally rising into a wet, frustrating March. No stat holidays to be found. If you are single, and live alone, sometimes this time of year can bring you down and make you feel even more isolated. But hold on, because I find it glorious. Being alone is a skill, a pleasure, and a mirror: you have to get right with yourself in order to do it properly. Alone is not necessarily lonely. Give a shit about yourself enough to be able to do it and do it well. However if you are having trouble, feeling lonesome instead of enjoying solitude, try some of these tips I’ve collected over the years:

1. My dad used to say “there is not one feeling you can have that has not been felt before by someone at some time over thousands of years. No matter how nuanced, strange or unwelcome it is, it has been felt before”. So you are never alone: someone once knew EXACTLY how you feel right now. 

2. Apart from does not mean not a part of. You are still in the world, you are just taking a solitary bit of space right now.  

3. Find one thing that you love and spend time with it. A talent, a book, a bath, a painting, a photo, a building, a food, a drink, a sweater, a tree, a necklace, a magazine, a song. Sit with it and appreciate it. 

4. Make a list of all the things you know you are good at. Then read it. Revel in your awesomeness.

5. Put on all your favorite, most expensive jewelry and a bathrobe, lay on the couch and pretend you’re Marie Antoinette.

6. Write the loneliness down and keep it – at some point you will be alone again and it will be good to know you’ve done it before and can do it again.

7. And of course, cook yourself a delicious meal incorporating all your favorite foods and herbs and tastes. Eat with your mouth open.

Stay cozy :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Corny Llamatrauma

When I was about 9, my grandma Lois took me and my cousins David and Ellen to the Vancouver Game Farm (which no longer exists). It was a really hot July day and we were shuffling along kicking up dust along the dirt roads to stare at a lot of animals that were sleeping in the shade and/or glaring at us. When we got to the llama pen, there was one really active llama, snuffling humans and craning his neck over the enclosure fence to see if anyone had food. I started to pet one of his flanks and I thought he was enjoying the attention. He swerved around to look at me, looked away, looked back again and spat a litre of sour saliva through his yellow piano key teeth directly into my eyes at 60mph. If you’ve never been spat at by a llama, it’s an amazingly painful thing. I’ve also been pepper sprayed, and that was fucking nothing compared to the sting, stink, volume and trajectory of llama spit.

Lois made me wear a ridiculous Gilligan-style sun hat which I ripped off my head and pressed on my eyes to soak up some of the nastiness. It was absolutely everywhere, all over my face, my hair, my chest, you name it. Amazingly, Lois began to - what I can only describe as heckle - the llama: “Well, you didn’t need to do that, Jessie has always been very gentle with animals, you’re being stupid”.  My grandma has the ability to shame a 2x4, so I’m pretty convinced that even if the llama didn’t understand exactly what she was saying, he certainly got the gist.

The fallout of this story? Every time I see this in the grocery store, I think of that llama:

Something about the colour and the way they line up reminds me of its teeth. Which may explain why I usually avoid corn (and pianos). Until I found a rather intriguing recipe in the wonderful Caren McSherry cookbook “In a Pinch”. This recipe is originally for blue cornbread, but I couldn’t find blue cornmeal anywhere, so I figured yellow cornbread would probably do just fine. Since I love Southern food, and as Caren points out in her book, the baguette is sooooooo overdone, I thought it would make a good party food, until I realized that I didn’t really want to throw a party, so I just cooked it, ate most of it myself, then brought the rest to work. I must say that the girls of the Eastern Bloc thought it was pretty good:

Cornbread (Blue or Yellow)
1 cup blue or yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1 cup corn salsa
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and butter in another bowl and set aside. Lightly oil a large cast iron frying pan, mix the wet ingredients into the dry and add the salsa. Spoon into the skillet and place cheese on top. Bake in a preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown:

I think I can handle corn like this. I probably won’t be eating it a ton, but this is an attempt to broaden my horizons. It’s especially good when you dip it in soup, or toast it and add butter. Yum.

Thank you, childhood trauma!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Papric Freak: Listen to your Mama

Oh, my God.

You know that moment when you realize your parent is right about something even though you thought it was bullshit? I'm having that day today.

For Christmas, my mum gave me smoked paprika. When I unwrapped it and looked at her she held up her flat palm: "look, that is the best tasting thing you will ever use. Forget what you think paprika tastes like - use this. Use it on eggs, on potatoes, whatever. Just use it and you will see what I mean".

I believed her in that double way you believe parents when they recommend something: sounds great but yeah right. Today, I tried it because I had a craving for Toad in a Hole. If you haven't had it, it's a great comfort food: Take two pieces of (preferably high quality) sourdough or your favorite kind of bread, slice a generous piece and cut a hole in the middle. Place on an oiled skillet until you hear a sizzle. Then crack an egg into the hole and let cook to taste. Flip once. At this point is when I filled the yolk of the egg with the smoked paprika and a few leaves of cilantro (because I fucking love cilantro). Once done I transferred to a plate and added fresh cracked black pepper and salt. I cut in and chowed down and - - this is a different meal than I am used to. It's taste is like a campfire that you used to sit in front of as a kid. It's so delicious I had to stop a few times to try to figure out if I was just buzzed or really enjoying this as much as I thought I was. The taste of smoked paprika is ridiculously good. It made an otherwise plain meal. And? The addition of the cilantro added a cool relief to the smoky heat. Om nom nom nom nom.

Mum, you were right:

Never again will I question you.

PS, notice anything different? This is not the usual pan. It's my first piece of cast-iron cookware. I almost burned the house down trying to season it with olive oil and 5 HOURS in the oven before it turned black like it's supposed to before you start using it.  It literally weights about 20lbs. Perhaps I'll kill two birds with one stone: cooking AND toned arms? I'll let you know.