Archive for March, 2009

Back to Archives

Ominous in The Morning

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009


“If there’s something every Sith Lord knows how to do it’s make a balanced breakfast. While the Jedi have to live off of Jawa juice and fried nerfsteak, the Dark Lord of the Sith prefers to have a reminder of his fiery Mustafar defeat at his breakfast table. Every morning he burns that moment into a slice of bread with the Darth Vader Toaster. This black, ominous kitchen appliance easily leaves the mark of Vader’s helmet in every yummy piece of toast.”

If this wasn’t $54.99USD and SUPREMELY ridiculous, I might consider it as a gift for Grae’s 30th birthday.

Les Oeufs

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

p1030469Regularly, I subject myself to the guilt of being an omnivore.  I don’t consciously make a point of punishing myself for being an eater of animals, but somehow it seems that I am regularly drawn to reading about the meat industry and how irresponsible much of it would appear to be.  Ultimately, I suppose I’m trying to justify the fact that I still love to eat meat;  that bacon would be forever banished from my life is inconceiveable.  I know myself and I will not become a vegetarian.   The least I can do (as I look at Sammy and wonder where his brisket is) is do my best to make sure the animals I’m eating are happy while alive and respectfully killed so that I may enjoy their succulent insides.

At first, it was Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle read online during breaks at work;  that was enough to start me questioning the source of the meat at the grocery store and prompted the beginning of the visits to the butcher, instead.  Then it was Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, which began my boycotting of McDonald’s (except the Kremlin McDonald’s- but I justify that as being a cultural experience!) and the further research on the source of my meat.   After that came The 100-Mile Diet by Alisha Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, which forced me to start questioning where even my vegetables came from.   Most recently, it has been The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, by Peter Singer and Jim Mason.

The last of this series was as objective an observation of the food industry as I hoped to find.   The methodology of their investigation was logically explained and included assumptions, limitations and measurable data.  Though clearly written with an agenda to prove a point,  I admire their disinclination to vilify the food industry, the meat producers and distributors- rather, their object seems to be to invoke a sense of responsibility that each consumer has when choosing products for personal consumption.   And that is why we buy expensive eggs.

At the Rainbow Grocery where we shop, there is, taped to the glass door of the refrigerated case, a laminated matrix of information about the producers of the eggs avaiable for sale.   Across the top are the names of all the producers whose eggs they sell;  down the left are the egg-producing practices that may or may not be employed by the producers:   vegetarian feed, access to the outside, forced molting, beak clipping, etc.   There are only two that get all the answers right, one of which is Marin Sun Farms, the kind we buy.   We pay nearly double the price of the cheapest eggs available, but here’s what we’re getting for our money:

Our chickens spend their days outdoors in grassy pastures. At dusk, they move into portable chicken houses located right in the fields. These movable coops contain egg boxes lined with bedding, an elevated floor and a roost. We move their coops every day, so they always have access to fresh pasture. This farming method provides our chickens with the necessary shelter while allowing them the freedom to move about and forage for food.

Nevermind the undeniably superior quality of the eggs  – especially noticeable now that we’ve become hooked on making our own mayonnaise – the guilt assuaged is well worth the cost.

Encheapifying, Part II

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Et voila!   The results of a week’s worth of cheap meals.



Bacon and Squash-filled Crepes with Salsa Verde – a recipe pinched from Simpatica Dining Hall in Portland, Oregon.   Admittedly, the bacon was rather pricier than the other ingredients (flour, squash, parsley, eggs) but when one considers that the bacon we purchased was used in a two other meals during the week, the price evens out a bit;   at most, there was a third of a pound of bacon in this filling.  Mmmmm..   baaaacon.

What is really amusing is that as we were eating this for supper in front of the TV, a commercial came on for Applebee’s advertising their new “why spend $20 on a meal at home [cut to image of bucket of chicken] when you can come in to Applebee’s for a meal for two for the same price?”   And I’m thinking:  a)  dinner at home does NOT cost $20,   b)  dinner at home has the added bonus of leftovers for lunch the next day, and c)  Applebee’s?  ugh.  mozzarella-wrapped parmesan chicken breast with potatoes and breadsticks is not something  I would relish eating, let alone paying $20 for.     How much did our crepes cost?  …. roughly $4 per person?  Scrumptious (from the bacon) and filling (from the butternut squash) and SOO much better than either bucket-ized  or encheesened-chicken.


There was a sale on brussels sprouts at the grocery which afforded me yet another opportunity to try my hand at replicating the glorious, beloved roasted brussels sprouts from Eos Wine Salon down the street.  I cannot resist ordering these beauties each time we go and though I have tried, I have never successfully been able to make them at home.  I guess the sixth time is a charm because finally, I have mastered the roasted sprout!   Tossed with olive oil, a splash of sesame oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, roasted and then drizzled with more sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and black and white sesame seeds.  A little crunchy, a little bitter, caramelized, savoury and cheap!    Aha!  Cheap makes it taste even better-  the seventh taste, after umami.


Lastly, we have the home-made perogy with sauteéd cabbage.  We rarely see perogies in San Francisco so Marc determined to make his own.  It would seem that perogy-making is an art, has an element of dexterity associated wtih it.   That the dough is maddenly springy and that the stuffing may not touch the edges of the dough, lest the filling burst forth during boiling, make these frustratingly difficult to make.   Make them we did, however, frying them in hot sauce after boiling to give them a crispy, piquant edge.   Superb.

Encheapifying, Part I

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Two weeks ago, we got a report from the credit card company that aggregated and charted our spending habits for the past 12 months.   Nothing like seeing all our expenses laid out in pie chart glory to put a fine point on how much money is marching out the door, and for what.   Not surprisingly, the amount allotted to groceries was pretty high, despite the fact that we hardly bought any foie gras and, like, zero caviar all last year.   But the fresh whole chickens, the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, the meats, and certainly the wine, do add up to a pretty penny.

The positive outcome of this analysis is that we were inspired to reel in the grocery expenses a bit;  we can afford to eat less meat, can experiment more with root vegetables, can buy cheaper wine.   A challenge!   Let’s see how little we can purchase for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, no meals out.   Let the credit card breathe.

First things first, I went through the pantry, fridge and freezer to find out what we could make use of:   shallots, coconut milk, bread flour, artichoke hearts, frozen home-made pizza dough, a couple ounces of goat cheese, parmesan, cabbage, some fresh herbs, vegetable broth, fish stock, one frozen sausage, yeast, oatmeal, 100 different kinds of rice, barley, couscous, farro, cornmeal, orzo, frozen pasta filling, asaparagus, refried beans, and eggs.    Plus staples.   And liquor.

Next, we sat down and connected the dots bewteen the items on the “have” list.  Let’s see, we could make coleslaw with the cabbage, and that could go with inexpensive fish and chips;  and maybe fried cabbage with some home-made perogies;  we can cobble together pizza toppings to go on the dough;  can make some pasta to become ravioli with the frozen filling…   how about artichoke and asparagus risotto?    salad with goat cheese dressing?


The only “brand new” meal on the menu turned out to be bacon and butternut squash crepes.   I suppose bacon is rather expensive, but a little goes a long way:  we can add it to the perogy filling, the crepes and then make some BLTs for lunch so we’re not constantly eating leftovers at noon.

We took the bus ($3 return for both of us) and used our backpacks to get the groceries.  $89.60, including two bottles of wine.   Under $100 is an all-time low, a new record.   Plus, I made some whole wheat bread, some chocolate chip cookies and the pasta.    More work than usual, no question.   More rewarding, too.

Workspace of The Week

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Marc is famous! …within the context of the nerdly. ‘s Workspace of The Week

G & T

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

Can taste be hereditary?   Can one inherit one’s parents’ like or dislike of food or drink?   Rather than inheriting the taste itself, perhaps one adopts a preference as a learned behaviour, like copied mannerisms or expressions.   That would explain Marc’s enjoyment of “toutins” (pronounced: tao-tins, with a Newfoundland accent) which are risen, but unbaked, buns that are fried and eaten with jam.   Or my preference for Gran’s pancakes, made sweet and eaten cold with jam and cheddar.   And, likely, my taste for gin.

I am not particularly loyal to a brand of gin, I’m not one of these people that orders a “Tanqueray and tonic”;   I order a g&t.  And I know where that expression comes from:  Dad.  Time spent with mom and dad on the boat almost unswervingly includes happy hour which starts when Dad announces that he’s going to have a ‘wee smash’.   Mom will decline to partake but one whiff of freshly cut lime usually (but not always!) weakens her resolve: Gordon’s mixed with Schweppes.   If I’m the bartender, I try to do it right:  2 oz. gin from the freezer, no ice, lime juice from a quarter of the lime – but no rind – a hint of cold tonic.   Just show it the tonic.   That’s the hard part, the part I still can’t get quite right.

Making my own g&t, the risk of failure decreases exponentially as I’m much more flexible and/or careless with the mixing.   Some gin, 2 seconds of tonic, is this lime still good?  Though lately, I have to admit that I’ve been taking more care with the ‘wee smash’ since we started buying good tonic.   The gin, quite honestly, doesn’t make a huge difference to me, unless it is exceedingly poor quality, but the tonic, I’ve learned, makes a heap of difference.

We used to drink Schweppes; at one point, I had even tried a 6-pack of diet-tonic but boy was that a tragic waste of good gin.  Lately, we’ve started buying Fever Tree Tonic Water and now nothing else can compare.   With cane sugar and natural quinine, the difference is unexpectedly noticeable.   The last place I remember tasting a g&t so good was in Udaipur, India, taken on a balcony overlooking the lake.  So very reminiscent of the British.   Is it the quinine or the sugar that makes it taste so good?


Rainy Day Cocktails

Sunday, March 1st, 2009

The rain, it seems, brings out the mixologists in us.  For the past couple of weeks, each time it rains yields a new idea for a cocktail;  throw in a round of Scrabble™ and it’s hardly a bad way to spend an afternoon inside.    It turns out that learning about the Simple Syrup was the key:  equal parts water and sugar boiled and then simmered for 3 minutes.    Then it’s just a question of vodka, gin, rum or scotch + flavouring agent.   Marc started keeping an iPhone list of potential concoctions and soon we had enough to warrant a cocktail tasting party.


We thought up some names and Marc fashioned a tasting menu of the cocktails, which meant that we needed to buy a few more shot glasses for tasting purposes.   And, as we had the menus and all the glasses,  it seemed logical to set up a “bar” in the living room.  But then there was not enough room in the living room, so why not move the sofa and loveseat into the dining room, and put the dining room table into the living room…      We remodeled the apartment to accomodate the cocktails.

79 – Vodka, Lemon Basil Honey Syrup, basil leaf

Canadian Shield –  Vodka, Maple Syrup, shaken with a sprig of rosemary

Blood & Fury – Vodka, Sherry, Japapeño & Red Pepper Gelée, Campari, peppercorns

KL-ixer – Vodka, Lemongrass Ginger Syrup, candied kumquats speared on shards of lemongrass

Vélo Vert – Vodka, Tarragon Syrup, Lemon Juice, tarragon sprigs

Free Tibet – Gin, Cointreau, Lapsong Suchong Honey Syrup

Slumdog – Vodka, Coconut Rum, Cardamom Coconut Milk with Palm Sugar

I could drink those Canadian Shields until the cows come home- tastes like the air in a cool forest of pine trees.