Archive for August, 2011

17.08.2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Onion Bhaji and Chili Pea Puffs

by marilynk

Ok, so these were more appetizers or sides, but they were still delicious, so I’m sharing the recipes.

I really like the nutty flavour of buckwheat flour, but haven’t found much variety in the recipes that use it. I wanted to see what else was out there and with a little Googling, I came acrossĀ this recipeĀ for a baked Onion Bhaji. My family loves Indian food (my parents met and married while working in Hyderabad in the 70’s), but I’ve only ever had deep-fried bhaji that, while always delicious, can be very greasy. I was intrigued by how these baked ones would work and how switching out the channa (chickpea) flour for buckwheat would affect the taste.

TheĀ other recipeĀ came from my playing around onĀ Pinterest*. I’m finding it’s becoming a major distraction when I’m on the computer, but I love that I can easily pin pretty or delicious-looking things wherever I happen to be online. Muttar Paneer (peas with cheese) is one of my favourite Indian dishes, so when I saw these bite-size pea and paneer bites, I knew I would like them. I also really liked the modern take on a classic dish.

With recipes in hand, my sister and I did some shopping on Monday, then got together yesterday afternoon to cook. I was surprised at how quickly both these recipes came together – we were finished in about 2 and a half hours, including prep and cooling time to pack everything up.

Onion Bhaji (adapted fromĀ Jeena’s Kitchen) – Yields 12 Bhaji

  • 5 small onions
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder (this is NOT mexican chili powder – use cayenne or another ground red chili)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 5 Tbs buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 2 Tbs water
  • olive or canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the onions in half then cut into slices about 1/4 inch wide. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and cook the onions on medium approximately 10 minutes, until they start turning soft and translucent – do not brown them. Take the onions off the heat, add the chili powder, tumeric, coriander, cumin, and ginger. Mix well.

The fixin's for onion bhaji

1/4" slices...give or take

The Spice!

The spices make it so good!

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, salt, cumin, and coriander. Add the onion mixture to the flour and stir to coat the onions in the batter. In a small glass, mix the tomato puree with a bit of water to thin it out (I used about 2 Tbs). Stir the tomato paste and water into the onion mixture. The mixture should be wet and easy to stir, but not watery. You can adjust the flour and water to get the right consistency, but be careful not to add too much extra batter or the bhaji will become cake-like.

Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or drizzle some oil onto your Ā pan). Place 2 Tbs of the onion mixture onto the pan per bhaji and flatten a little with the back of your spoon. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven and drizzle a little oil over the tops of the bhaji. Bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with your favourite chutney.

Waiting to be baked

2 Tbs per bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Finished Onion Bhaji

Chili Pea Puffs (adapted fromĀ 101 Cookbooks) – Yields 32 Puffs

  • olive oil
  • 1 cup cooked green peas, lightly mashed
  • 1/4 cup paneer, cut into pea-sized pieces (the original recipe says to crumble, but…paneer just doesn’t crumble!)
  • 2 small green chilis, minced (remove seeds to reduce heat) (I used jalapenos, the original recipe calls for serranos)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder or red chili flakes (less to reduce heat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 32 wonton wrappers
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper (or lightly grease with olive oil).

In a bowl combine the peas, paneer, green chiles, salt, chile powder, and garlic. Mix well.

Chili Pea Puffs

All the fixin's for Chili Pea Puffs

Place one teaspoon of the mixture onto the center of a wonton wrapper. Lightly brush the sides of the wrapper with egg white. Fold one corner of the wrapper over the filling, fold the ends in and roll to the opposite corner (think burrito wrapping – this led to a few minutes of hysterical laughter over the fact that we were making tiny Chinese-Indian burritos…I think you had to be there).

Making the Puffs

1 tsp on a wonton wrapper

Rolling the burritos

The beginning of the roll

Puffs ready to be baked

One layer on the baking sheet

Place the puffs in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake for 6 minutes or until they begin to brown. Remove the pan, turn the puffs and bake for another 5 minutes until golden brown (Note: I’ve increased the baking time significantly from the original recipe. We followed the times from the original, but the puffs were barely baked. You may need to just watch them and turn them when they’ve browned). Serve immediately with chutney or raita.

Bite-sized Chinese-Indian Burritos!

Finished Chili Pea Puffs

Michelle and I actually made a double batch of the puffs. We baked half, put the other half in a single layer on a baking sheet, then froze them unbaked. Once frozen, I packed them into a plastic container and threw them back in the freezer. They’ll be quick to bake from frozen when I’m ready to have them, but I’ll likely increase the baking time again.

Indian dinner

Masala dosa, onion bhaji, and chili pea puffs.

We decided to share our treats with Mom and Dad, so we let everything cool, then packed them up and picked up Masala Dosa for four at one of our favourite local places,Ā Savoy’s Health Cafe. The onion bhaji, even reheated, tasted exactly like fried bhaji (I think the nuttiness of the buckwheat helps get that fried flavour), but without the super greasy feel. I will definitely be making these again. The chili pea puffs were the standout though. Light, crispy, fresh tasting, and the heat of the chilis was balanced very well with the paneer – even people who don’t like spicy would like these little guys, I think. They’ll definitely make an appearance at my next party. It was a pretty spectacular dinner, if I do say so myself.

*If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, let me know in the comments.

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13.08.2011

Zero Energy

by marilynk

The weirdest thing in dealing with Crohn’s (or whatever it is) without any kind of treatment is how much my energy levels fluctuate from day to day. There’s no identifiable pattern. It doesn’t seem to be tied to what I eat or when (that I can track anyway). There doesn’t seem to be anything I can do.

Today I had zero energy. Didn’t make it to the market, or out to the EOGG farm (more on that in a future post). I managed to run some errands with my Mom and my sister, but I spent the whole time looking for places to sit down. Ugh. I got back to my place at about 3 pm and have mostly just stayed on the sofa since then. Mustering up the energy to write this post was hard.

I hope when I get treatment figured out that my energy levels come back to normal. Feeling like this sucks!

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11.08.2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Cauliflower Parmesan Cake & Green Beans with Bacon

by marilynk

Last night I had my first dinner party! Well, had a couple of dear friends over for dinner anyway. I’ve been slowly setting up my apartment since moving back in in 2009 and until recently didn’t have chairs on which people could sit for dinner. Now that I have chairs I’m trying to have people over often to use them!

I had a beautiful orange cauliflower from the market that I wanted to use, so I did a little internet searching and found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. I’ve included my slightly modified version below. With the nice yellow cake, I decided green beans would make a good side and was happy I’d pinned* a recipe with bacon since the main ended up being vegetarian (and Mack is decidedly not vegetarian!). The cake was very filling and went nicely with the green bean side dish. Sharon brought a delicious blueberry buckle for dessert which was a lovely summery finish for the meal.

Cauliflower Parmesan Cake (adapted from Smitten Kitchen):

  • 1 medium cauliflower (from Riverbend Gardens)
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 5 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 8 large eggs
  • Handful basil, chopped (I used lemon basil fromĀ Gull Valley Greenhouses)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Butter, for greasing pan
  • 4 Tbs black sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350Ā°F (180Ā°C) degrees. Break cauliflower into medium florets. Place floret in a pot with a teaspoon of salt, cover them with water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until quite soft. Strain and let drip in the colander for a few minutes so they dry and cool.

Meanwhile, prepare the batter. Coarsely chop the onion. Heat all of your olive oil in a saucepan (I followed Smitten Kitchen’s suggestion and used the same pan as I did for the cauliflower) and saute the chopped red onion and rosemary together until soft, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk eggs and olive oil and onion mixture together. Stir in basil. Whisk flour, baking powder, cheese, 1 tsp salt, and many, many grinds of black pepper together in a separate bowl and add to egg mixture, whisking to remove lumps. Stir in cauliflower gently, so most pieces remain intact.

Smitten Kitchen recommends lining the bottom of your springform pan with parchment paper, but I didn’t have any so I used butter and black sesame seeds for the bottom as well as the sides. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round springform pan generously. Put the sesame seeds in the pan and toss them around so that they stick to the sides and bottom. Pour in the cauliflower batter and bake cake in the center of the oven for 45 minutes, until golden brown and set.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Before you serve the cake, be sure to run a knife around the pan.

Green Beans with Bacon (modified from Savoury Sweet Life)

  • 3 Tbs maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard (I used Sundried Tomato Mustard from The Jam Lady)
  • 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed (I used frozen…it’s ok, they’re just as healthy!)
  • 3 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
  • salt and pepper

Put maple syrup, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and mustard into a jar and shake it to emulsify, then set aside.Ā Blanch the beans by placing in a microwave-safe container (I prefer to use glass) with a little water and cooking on high for about 3 minutes. Drain the beans immediately and transfer them to your serving dish.Ā Toss the beans in the dressing and top them off with the crumbled bacon. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

*If you’d like an invite to Pinterest, let me know.

09.08.2011

Folk Fest

by marilynk

There was a break in posts for my absolute favourite weekend of the year: Edmonton Folk Music Festival. Four days in the sun (and a little rain Saturday night), 6 workshop stages, 1 main stage, 60+ performers, and thousands of music fans blanketing Gallagher Park.

There are a lot of reasons that I love Folk Fest, but it never ceases to amaze me how magical it feels every single year. Some frustrations with the tarp lottery and people sitting in the walking paths aside, people just seem nicer at Folk Fest. And nothing beats wandering around, hearing beautiful music, and seeing happy people everywhere.

Some of my friends were disappointed by this year’s lineup and decided not to get tickets, but to be honest I never worry too much about the lineup. I always discover people that I’ve never heard before who absolutely blow me away and there are always older acts that I’ve heard enough that I can sing along to. This year my discoveries were Imelda May, for fun, catchy rockabilly tunes; Sean Rowe, for his beautiful baritone and soulful sound; Des Temps Antan, for their toe-tapping Quebecois traditional songs and incredible stage presence; and TheĀ Deep Dark Woods,Ā for their mellow, dreamy vibe.

I had some disappointments too – mostly in the form of missing artists like Wanda Jackson, The Once, The Secret Sisters, and the man everyone was just raving about, Matt Anderson. But I was also disappointed by the main stage performance of Noah and the Whale – a group I’d really been looking forward to. Des Temps Antan did a “tweener” before Noah and the Whale closed out Friday night (meaning they played while the crew rearranged the stage for the headliners) and the Quebeckers had most of the crowd up and dancing even though they were only playing from a corner of the stage – the music was vibrant, it captured the audience and kept everyone’s energy up. So much fun. In comparison, Noah and the Whale seemed to be playing more for each other than for the crowd and the performance just left me feeling…meh. As I tweeted that night, the songs were ok, but I was seriously underwhelmed.

And I had two “Folk Fest Moments” those moments at the festival where all the elements come together: the weather, the artists, the vibe of the crowd. Everything comes together perfectly and the result is utter magic. For me, this happens most often at workshop stages and one of mine was on Sunday afternoon at Stage 1 when Andrew Bird, a multi-instrumentalist from Chicago,Ā played with Etran Finatawa, a group from Niger. The styles were completely different, but the artists were comfortable with each other and although they took turns leading the songs, everyone played on each song and the blend of styles was so much more than either group could produce individually (I just can’t do it justice with words – sorry!). Those are always good moments at the festival.

My other Moment was during k.d. lang‘s headlining set on Sunday Night. She has such great stage presence and she knows how to work a crowd. Hearing her sing her version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” was absolutely mind blowing. I can’t really say more than that.

So thank you to the organizers, all the artists, and all of the fans that made this weekend so special for me. Can’t wait to do it all again next year!

Pictures will come as soon as I can get them off my dad’s camera.

02.08.2011

When a Confirmed Diagnosis Isn’t Confirmed

by marilynk

After I got the results of the barium swallow test (highly unpleasant experience) in July, I had worked through all the steps in accepting my “official” diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. I’d cried, was mad, didn’t want to talk about it, and finally had accepted it and was ready to talk about treatment options.

Today was Specialist Day. I expected to have more tests done to see the extent of the disease, but I expected to be working on the assumption that I have Crohn’s. Apparently, that’s still up in the air…well, sort of. The Specialist said it’s 70% likely that I have Crohn’s, but my symptoms are atypical, so he wants to check things out some more.

So, more blood work right away, then actual scopes of basically my whole GI tract in September (I expect an even more unpleasant experience), then hopefully we’ll know for sure what ails me and I can start treating this and feeling better on a consistent basis.

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01.08.2011

Beauty Products

by marilynk

Have you ever walked down the aisle of shampoo and conditioner and been completely overwhelmed? Do you have fine hair, oily hair, dry scalp? Do you use heat stylers? What about colour? You try and answer all of these questions in order to choose theĀ right product for you! Walk down the facial cleaners aisle and it’s the same thing all over again: oily, dry, or combination skin? acne? wrinkles? We have got the products toĀ save your skin!

But are all those products really all that different from each other and are any of them really good for you, your skin, or your hair? What about your wallet? I find that of all the beauty products I buy, I spend the most on shampoo, conditioner, various face wash products, and moisturizer. Given my current financial situation, I decided to look for ways to reduce those costs while switching to things that are simpler formulas (it’s like with my food – the more ingredients I can’t pronounce, the less I want it on my body).

I am still finishing off the products that I was already using, but I have found my replacement products and have tried them out a few times to see how I like them. So what am I switching to? They look a lot more like cooking ingredients than beauty products, but so far I like how they work. All of the ingredients are available at the grocery store or health-food store.

Shampoo:

  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part water*

Hair Clarifier:

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part water*

I put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a small glass and bring it into the shower with me. When I’m ready to wash my hair, I hold the glass under the water, then swirl it to mix the baking soda into the water. I pour about a third of the mixture onto the crown of my head, a third along my hair line in the front and by my temples, and for the last third I tip my head forward and pour it along the hairline in back. Put the glass down & then I massage the baking soda mixture into my scalp, then rinse it out.

For the clarifier, I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the apple cider vinegar and water in a spritz bottle I had left over from a hair product I had finished off. In the shower, I give the bottle a shake then spritz my hair, keeping the mix on the ends of my hair, not on my scalp (according to online sources, the vinegar can be hard on the scalp).

*Some online resources suggest using distilled water, but that would be an added expense and Edmonton has some of the best tap water in North America, so I’m sticking with that.

Facial Cleanser:

  • 1 part castor oil (available at health-food stores)
  • 1 part olive oil

Exfoliant:

  • adzuki beans, ground fine

I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the castor oil and olive oil in a small container that used to hold face wash gel. I only clean my face with the oil in the evenings and just splash my face with cold water in the mornings. To clean my face, I pour out a nickel-size amount of the oil mixture onto my fingers and massage it into my face (the oil also breaks up makeup really well and is safe to use on eyes and eyelashes). Meanwhile, I soak a face cloth in the hottest water that will come out of my tap. Once the oil is worked in, I wring out the cloth and drape it over my face (I lie down for this part – so much easier). I lie with the cloth on my face until it is room temperature again, then wipe off any excess oil (& makeup), and rinse out the cloth.

The cleanser is actually my favourite of the new products – it’s like a mini facial every night! I also like that it forces me to take a few minutes to just lie still and quiet as part of my evening routine. It seems to help me transition from busy day to restful sleeping and that’s always a good thing!

The exfoliant isn’t really a new addition, I’ve been using adzuki beans for about a year now. I use it 1-2 times per week and it’s super simple to make. Just buy dry adzuki beans (I find mine at the local health-food store) and grind them in a spice grinder or food processor. I grind enough to fill a twist-top container and keep the container in my bathroom. When I want to exfoliate, I pour about 1.5 Tbsp of the ground beans into my hand and take it into the shower. I wet my face and drip water into the beans until there’s enough to make a paste, then just massage the paste into my skin. Using this exfoliant, my skin feels polished and smooth, but not dried out – it’s really great!