Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Biking: Osgoode Pathway Review

Sun was in the forecast, with high 20's for the temperature.  Also, it was Sunday.  So really a perfect day to take our new bikes out for a good ride, break them in so-to-speak.  The Mister has been riding his to work for the week, so clocking 30k a day means his is already broken in, but I really needed to get out on mine.   The difference between this new Escape RX w  and my old Town and Country KHS is tremendous!  it is soooo light.  It really begged for a longer ride.
Luckily, while googling random ottawa info, I came across a page describing the Osgoode Pathway.  It starts not far from our house and is a solid 20k to the village of Osgoode on a former rail bed.  There is a cafe in town that does brunch, so it seemed like a great Sunday morning trek.

The signage is easy to spot and there is a parking lot at the pathway entrance.  USE IT!  We rode from home along Albion Road and Leitrim Road.....NEVER AGAIN.  The roads are so bad on the way there, I honestly wondered if I was going to make it.  The shoulders are slanted and chunky, but riding close to the white line is taking a huge risk as the road is in terrible shape and very narrow.  My hope is that as Findlay Creek grows, the municipality will no longer be able to ignore the condition of Albion Road south of Lester.
The beginning of the trail:

Check out how lovely and flat it is!!  The trail is also wide and sparsely populated, which meant we could ride side by each and actually talk to one another!  That was a huge bonus.  The few folks we did encounter were friendly and courteous - no Tour de Francers here!   At times the canopy of trees almost touches above and other times they spread out to reveal scenic rolling famers fields.

quiet, calm and peaceful.

This trail stays remarkably flat and straight the entire way, thus is perfect for novices hoping to add some kilometres to their ride.

Is it also clearly marked with kilometre markers and signs indicating the Red Dot Cafe!  I had already checked them out online to ensure that they were indeed open and we did not need to bring food with us other than some granola to nibble.  Brunch was our destination and it looked like we were among many with the same idea!
20k later and here we were.

The tricky part was, that once we were at the Main street in Osgoode, we didn't see any sign of the cafe and I had assumed ( bad, I know!) that it would be fairly evident where it was from all the signage on the actual path.  For no good reason, we decided to ride along the main road to see if we could find it.  Eastward somewhat, we became a bit confused as we seemed to be running out of town!  Luckily, we were so close - tucked in a strip mall and overwhelmed by a grocery store - was our cafe.  They have a small outdoor patio, the food was varied and plentiful, the staff friendly and thank Fate - they had Keith's on tap!!!!
I am thrilled we found this trail practically in our own backyard.  Ottawa is so full of surprises and I love that there are so many opportunities to get outside and get some fresh air.  My only reservation is that the connections to these destinations are fraught with difficulty - many of the main roads in South Ottawa are dangerous to bike and awful to run with the onslaught of construction vehicles and unending cars.  I hope the future sees more thought towards building streets that can accommodate more types of transit than just the car, so that getting from point A to point B can still be enjoyable.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Fish Tacos - Banh Mi style!

It was time for an experiment in our efforts to eat 'clean'.  I've been seeing fish tacos everywhere on the 'net, but haven't had the chance to try one - nor have I been losing my mind over it.    However, 'Tac -O-The Town'  Taco Fest is right round the corner and that has got me thinking...... about making a soft taco that has lots of bright, lovely flavours that aren't trying to be a fajita.

Banh Mi!!!!  and Tacos!  I love this sandwich so much.  I don't care what the protein is, it's the cilantro and the spice and the ....etc, etc.

So here goes.  There are a couple of elements to this, that you can do the day before, making this light work.  Make some sriracha mayo.  Easy Peasy.  Add a couple of tablespoons of sriracha to a 1/4 cup of mayonnaise.  Like it less hot?  add less.  Set this aside.

Then you need some pickled carrot.  I am not talking pickles like your gram made.  Just grate up a carrot or two (if they're small) add half a chili, seeded and minced, a tablespoon or two of rice vinegar, a tablespoon of sugar and a minced clove of garlic.  It would be great to add some daikon radish, but I didn't have any, so I used a regular radish - just one - that I peeled and shredded. You can do this ahead as well and just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to assemble.

Then you need to marinate your, whatever.  Steak, pork, chicken, tofu....I chose cod because of the whole 'fish taco' thing and also because it was really inexpensive and I've never eaten cod before.  The marinade is simple as well. 

Marinade - adapted from Gordon Ramsay's Great Escapes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk of lemongrass
2-3 tablespoons veg oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
solid grinding of pepper
*original recipe called for ginger, but I left it out for The Mister

To get ready for your taco eating, have ready; 
~hot (steamed or grilled) soft tacos
~your pickled carrots and spicy mayo
~fresh cilantro leaves
~thinly sliced cucumber
~fresh salad greens
~thinly sliced chili - if you like it hot!
~and a finished pan of hot, marinated yummy whatever

Fry, grill or broil your fish or chicken or steak however you like. Warm up some little soft corn tortillas. Spread them with your spicy mayo and start layering your ingredients.  Fish, roughly chopped cilantro, thinly sliced cucumber, field greens, pickled carrots. 

 Fold it in half and ENJOY!

as an addendum.....The Mister really didn't like the cod.  I was neither here nor there about it, but I am definitely trying this again, perhaps with some

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Easy Peasy Coconut Macaroons

With the nicer weather and Easter over, The Mister and I have been trying to clean out the pantry and start eating cleaner and lighter.  I know a recipe for a sweet treat doesn't seem to be the way to go, but this used up a can of sweetened condensed milk lurking in the cupboard since Christmas and two bags of coconut.  If I take these to work, then I'll have only eaten a couple.  yeah that....  So for a easy treat to make, that you can dress up any way you like, here are Coconut Macaroons.

These were drizzled with some chocolate because The Mister is happiest if there is a little bit of chocolate in something!  Left plain, with a little silver dragee in the centre they would be great at Christmas or a wedding sweet table.

Easy Peasy Coconut Macaroons
makes approx. 4 dozen

51/2 cups flaked coconut
2/3   cup  all purpose flour
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350*  Mix together coconut, flour and salt in big bowl.  Add condensed milk and vanilla.  Mix well, using your hands if you need.   Drop tablespoon sized balls onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes, until coconut looks nice and toasty.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Ramen Noodles from Scratch

Whenever I get a cold, I get a craving for spicy noodle soup.  Somehow it helps the congestion, I am convinced.  With ramen noodles on the brain, I found this link with detailed instructions on making them from scratch.  It didn't seem any harder than making regular pasta so I got to it.

Flour, egg, water and salt.  It's great when something is so incredibly simple.  Ingredients we all likely have at home.  Next time I will double this.  As it is, it is enough for two servings.

3/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp water

Make a well in your flour, add the egg and water and stir it all up.

Place dough on a floured surface and give it a good knead.  It is ready when it's nice a smooth and doesn't stick to your hand.  Wrap it in a damp tea towel to rest.  I left it for an hour, Instructables recommends  30 mins in summer and up to 2 hours in winter.  My kitchen was pretty warm from making pita chips so one hour seemed to suffice.

Roll it out on a floured surface, you want to get it really thin.  I didn't go thin enough and will make sure to roll it out more next time.  It really seems to 'puff' a bit when cooked.

I have a pasta machine, but a rolling pin will work just as well.  I found this one at the Salvation Army Store for $10.  You do find some great kitchen tools there!
Once you have it super thin - 1mm is recommended and I might check it next time to make sure.  Mine were a bit on the thick side even though I thought they were 1mm.  Dust with flour, fold in half, dust with flour and fold in half again.  Make sure there is lots of flour between the layers so they don't stick when cutting.  Slice thinly.

dust them again with flour to keep then from sticking.

I made my soup right away, so I had one pot of boiling, salted water and one pot with chicken stock at the ready.  I also made some chili oil to drizzle on top as I wanted it to be spicy.  Boil your noodles for 3-5 minutes depending on how thick.  Taste one to see if it's done to your liking.  After dropping them in the water, give a stir so the noodles don't clump.

I had some toppings ready as well, it is January and like everyone else, I have resolutions to eat healthier!

You really could put ANYTHING on this soup.  And use anything for the soup base.  My chili oil wasn't as spicy as I would have liked....I was hoping for a running nose and to break out into a sweat.  Next time!  Despite that, it was super tasty and the noodles had a pleasing chewiness to them - so different from the packaged noodles that we are used to.

I hope folks try these noodles, they were super easy to make and ramen noodles in broth is the perfect antidote to a cold dreary day.  Next stop: Sip'n'slurp at the Ottawa Convention Centre February 22, to get some flavour ideas for my noodles!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Candied Orange Shortbread

The advantage of working in a grocery store, especially one like Farm Boy, is immediate access to awesomely fresh produce.  I couldn't resist buying some lovely clementines as I left work yesterday.  I mean, they had the leaves still attached!  How could I resist?

It's Christmas time, so shortbread is on my brain.  There is already whipped shortbread, ready to be baked, but as I have a platter of sweets to make for a friend, more variety the better.  I decided to candy the rind and use half for the shortbread, and cover the rest in dark chocolate.  With 22 pounds of dark Callebaut to work my way through, everything is getting a coating of chocolate!

Shortbread is ridiculously easy to make and can be modified by flavour in a huge number of ways.  Like toasted almonds?  add some.  Like chocolate chips?  have atter.
These have the candied clementine rind chopped and added to the dough.  I also added a teaspoon of grated fresh rind to give a serious orange flavour.  Make sure the white pith is removed from your peel before adding it to the sugar mixture, as it is bitter.  Here is a link to making candied citrus peel - a great label is included!

Basic Shortbread

1       cup butter
1/2    cup sugar
2     cups flour
1/2   tsp salt

    Cream butter, then add sugar.  Beat until pale and fluffy.  Add flour and salt, mix on low until just mixed together.  Roll and cut with cookie cutters or roll into a log and cut into slices 1/4" thick.  Bake at 325* for 12-15 minutes.  Will keep in an airtight container for a week.

You can add a tsp of flavouring if you choose and/or 1/4 - 1/2 cup of chopped nuts, chocolate chips, toasted coconut....the options are really endless!  I added about 1/4 cup of the candied rind and then a tsp of freshly grated rind to this batch and was happy with the flavour.  The chocolate dipped peel is pretty tasty.  The advantage of putting some candied peel in the cookies?  Not all of the peel is perfectly straight, ready for chocolate any piece not up to dipping standard, chop up and put in the cookie dough!

Happy Baking and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Spiced Lentil Soup

With our first winter storm en route to Ottawa and the first signs of a sinus cold creeping in, I decided a warming soup was just what I needed.  I went back to an older recipe - I have no idea where it came from - that I used to make more often than I do now.  I think maybe the Mister didn't love it back then, so I stopped making it.  His taste buds have changed so dramatically since moving here, that I'm thinking it's time to reintroduce it.  He is away for the time being, so I made a half batch for myself and my developing cold.
This soup introduced me to lentils, wee tiny du Puy Lentils that I could get at Pete's Frootique in Halifax.  I found these at the Bulk Barn (non GMO yay!) just labelled as 'Organic French Lentils'

The ingredients are aromatic and I hope they give my cold a good solid punch

I love that soup tastes bright and flavourful right away.  Our general rule here, is that soup tastes better the next day, but here you don't have to wait!

You could add more veggies to this to bulk it up - if I had baby spinach right now, I'd throw a handful of that in.   I have no excuse for not having a better selection of veggies, working at a grocery store that has the freshest of the fresh!  However, I do like that there is fairly minimal chopping for a soup so loaded with flavour.

Spiced Lentil Soup

2 Large tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, deseeded and minced *
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp turmeric
1 whole star anise
1 cup du Puy lentils, rinsed
4 1/2 cups stock
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of a lemon
100grams creamed coconut
salt and pepper to taste

     Peel and seed the tomatoes, then chop to a small dice.  Heat oil in large saucepan or stock pot over medium heat.  Saute onion, garlic, chili, cardamom, turmeric and star anise.  Add tomatoes and cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes.  Stir in lentils and stock; simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are soft, about 25 minutes.  Add the fish sauce, lemon juice and coconut cream, stirring until the coconut has melted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

* remember to wear gloves when chopping chilis!!!!!

garnished with finely chopped green onions
I hope you give this lovely soup a try on a cold blustery day- xoxox

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Starting early for Christmas

I don't think it's too early for this - after all Remembrance Day has past.  I think limiting Christmas stuff until after that important day is respectful.

Poinsettias!  I had Pinned a link to Sweetsugarbelle's tutorial on some adorable little poinsettias, some time ago.  I thought they seemed a little easier than the Wilton ones I used to make.  I had some leftover royal icing from another project, so these were the first thing to come to mind.

I used the handy template that came with the tutorial, but I did find that the tip #66 tricky to use - I've never had much success making leaves with a #66 or #67.  I switched to a #352 and had a much better go of it.  Once you get piping, they really go quite quickly.  It will be great when it comes time to bake for Christmas and these will be ready to pop on cookies or cupcakes.

I also didn't have the gold sugar sprinkles, so I shook my plain clear sprinkles with some gold lustre.  Worked like a charm!

These aren't quite finished yet - I have to get ready for work, so they will have to wait for another day.  I will add a little leaf to the side for a splash of complementary colour.
When finished I shall post more pictures.

Give these sweet little flowers a try and if you don't always have all the items you need - look around, sometimes you can substitute with great results!

Here is a direct link to the tutorial - it's beautifully done!   Tutorial - Sweetsugarbelle