Monday, March 25, 2013

Red & Black

I would not be exaggerating if I said Les Miserables changed my life. My parents introduced me to theatre at a young age, probably to try and instill me with a whisper of culture instead of a lifelong fanaticism. Les Mis was not only one of my first shows, forming some of my earliest memories, but one that I have carried with me all the way into my current "adulthood." I still remember lying on the carpet in the piano room at home as a kid, reading the lyrics out of the CD booklet, trying to memorize the words while my mom blasted the music, even though I couldn't read all of them or even grasp the plot. 

As I grew, the characters grew with me, the music stayed in my blood, and I had wild dreams of being a singing actress. When I finally cracked open Victor Hugo's 1000+ page masterpiece in my teenage years, I saw the story in a different light, becoming obsessed with French revolution (history was one of my strongest subjects in high school), the city of Paris, the culture.  It's so complex it's humanity's blood. Hugo wrote the novel over 16 years, as a critique of the treatment of the poor in France. It spans decades, encompassing all walks of life, all motions of the heart from anger to heartbreak, from pride to despair, Godless to saintly, revolution, love, passion, fury, the outcry of wounded masses, the hunger of the soul and-- I-- you should just watch the trailer or go read the book.
It is safe to say that, in its own way, Les Mis lead me down the road I have taken, moving to a French speaking province to study English literature, seeking a job in charity work to help change the world.

To say I was excited when I heard they were adapting one of my favourite musicals, NO, favourite STORIES of all time into a film would be like saying that Robespierre "kind of had a habit of beheading people." Seriously, I fanatically watched production updates. Only to be moved and devastated by how much I loved it it in theatres-- twice. I don't think I've ever cried so hard in a room full of strangers. This past Friday, they released the movie on DVD (FINALLY) and in honour of that, you see the post you have today.

I know what you're thinking: Sangria on a Monday? Or maybe you're thinking, sacré bleu, she GETS me. (You're sooooo welcome. Drink with me, to days gone by.) Regardless of whether you're an author, a revolutionary student or a food blogger, Mondays suck for everyone. Solution: wine. Sweet, delicious wine with fruit, because it's err...healthy. 

The name of this sangria comes from the song below. Let's get drinking, I mean cooking.

Red & Black Sangria

(Based on the recipe by Spinach Tiger)
Serves one small group of misfit, rowdy revolutionaries looking to overthrow their king.


3 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen
1-2 cups of sugar (to taste)
1 cup blackberry syrup, store bought (For getting drinksy in a hurry!)

1L bottle of red wine
2 peaches, peeled & slices
1 orange, halved. (Juice one half and slice the other for fanciness.)
1 lime, sliced.

1. If you're making the syrup from scratch, put the berries in a saucepan and add enough water until they're just covered. Add the sugar and bring it to a boil.

 2. Reduce the heat so the mixture is simmering, and let it go, stirring the mixture every once in awhile so it thickens...

 3. When the mixture is reduced by half, turn off the heat and strain through a sieve. Set aside to let cool. 

4. While this is working its magic, you can gently press the liquid out of the berries, and I even saved the unstrainables, because it's basically DELICIOUS jam with a shorter shelf life. Think about it. Cut the orange and lime in half, squeezing the halves into a pitcher for the juice. Thinly slice the other halves, plus the peaches and put them in the pitcher.

5. Measure out a cup of your blackberry syrup and add it to the fruit. THEN, add the REDDDD, the colour of the wine! (You really need to watch that video to get this joke...) Add the entire bottle of wine and refrigerate.

Vive la France!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Holy Crepe!

I woke up on the stupid side of the bed yesterday, the one where you get mad for no reason at the smallest stuff. The customer at work who asked for no foam on their latte (without saying please, wtf, lady), the fact that the metro was so crowded, the old woman moving at a glacial pace who  got stuck behind on the walk home, were all things that normally wouldn't phase me, but yesterday, they did. I know that when it gets to I point where I'm annoyed at old ladies for being old ladies, that I need to do two things: check myself, take a minute or two to collect why I'm freaking out over nothing-- and also, cook. Cooking makes me feel better about all the things, all the time. The sense of accomplishment, reward, and harmony in the kitchen is nearly perpetual.

I concluded a few things: I'm in the middle of post-stress stress- I handed in a paper worth 25% of my mark yesterday, and while I'm happy to have it out of my hands, I got all worked up writing it and now I'm left gun shy over waiting for the mark. I'm sick of winter-- Montréal got buried underneath about a foot of snow this week, on the first day of Spring, just when I thought we were turning a corner. I'm also homesick. I'm heading home next week for the Easter long weekend, and the fact that I know I'm GOING at all is making me chomp at the bit to get there, to see my family and friends. And all of these things brought me to... crepes.

Crepes always remind me of my Babcia, because the only time I ate them as a kid was when we went to visit her in Tinyboringtown, Ontario. Warm homey feelings of nostalgia, plus pride in using her recipe just snugs me right in the 'feelgoods.' From my Russian grandmother, to my mother to me, to you, friends: these crepes are great because you can eat them sweet or savoury, and they're simple. Anything that's simply good in my books is GREAT. I dressed mine up for dinner with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli florets and cheddar cheese. DELICIOUS. You'll see.

A few things to note: this recipe is an exercise in patience and practice, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again and eat the mistakes because damnit, they will be delicious anyway. Two things are key: butter and timing. I tried to make these awhile back, and I greased the pan with olive oil which didn't work so well. A well buttered pan is your weapon of choice here. Also, I know crepes are thin, tiny pancakes so you think they need nanoseconds to cook, but DON'T flip them until the edges are browning! Just like real pancakes or teenagers, they will come away from the pan easily when they're ready to be flipped. Don't pressure them!

Caramelized Onions


2 cooking onions, chopped into strips
1 tbsp butter

1. Melt butter in a large frying pan, then add the chopped onions.

2. Cook them on medium-low heat. Stir them once in awhile but let them do their own thing, for 30-45 minutes until they're a dark, caramel brown. (I added in the sliced mushrooms just before the onions were done and sauteed them all in the same pan, because multiple dishes are for suckers.) Salt the onions to your taste!

Basic Crepe Recipe

Makes about large 6-8 crepes.


1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp baking powder

1. Whisk together all of the ingredients. Refrigerate for at least an hour. (I try and make my batter 24 hours in advance, then let it sit in the fridge. The batter needs to rest to make good crepes!)

2. Butter a large frying pan and keep it over medium-low heat. I found the best way to pour the batter into the hot pan was to make a circle around the edge of the pan with the batter, then to tilt it until it spread to cover the entire bottom.

3. When the top of the crepe is no longer shiny and the edges are brown, slide a spatula beneath it, gently easing it away from the pan. Flip that motha', and the other side will cook for about 30 seconds..
This takes some practice, as you can see from the picture below this caption, sometimes crap happens when you're cooking crepe, and it will create a frustrated sensation in your cranium, but trust, you can do it! I did, and I did a happy dance when I finally achieved my dream of carby perfection. I am being literal about that dancing thing, too.

4. Now you have a tasty pile of crepes to do whatever you please with. As I said, these would be great with maple syrup,  or slathered with Nutella and crammed full of raspberries, but, as this post will demonstrate, this is a dinnertime food, too.

5. I sprinkled a handful of shredded old cheddar, broccoli and the caramelized onions and mushrooms mixtures on one crepe....

...Rolled it up, and put it back in the frying pan to melt the cheese.
Then I ate it so fast, I barely had time to snap pictures of it, let alone garnish the plate, let alone ANYTHING. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Something Borrowed, Something Green

Unless it's secretly somewhere in the mixed bag of genes I get from my dad's side, I'm probably not Irish, despite my name carrying that merry lilt of the Isles. Lucky for me, (and all of us) you don't need to prove you're of Irish descent to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. You just need to have some green in your wardrobe, a thirst for green food coloured beverages, and maybe an ear for the Dropkick Murphys. Deciding to get into the spirit of things, today's post features not one, but TWO recipes to get you (sham)rockin'.

I want to tell you a little bit about Val, who has been close to my family for years. I only see her on special occasions, Christmas, Thanksgiving etc. but she's an awesome lady. She's 100% herself and takes no prisoners, but cries at everything sentimental. One of my favourite things about Val is her skill with storytelling. I see her so seldom that whenever I do, she always has new experiences spun into stories. While I was making the potato dish for this post, I thought of one she told me quite some time ago. Val grew up in England, and she said that back home, before she went out partying, she would sit down to a heaping plate of mashed potatoes as a buffer between herself and the impending wild evening. Good advice, especially for this weekend. (Although I'm sure eating a plateful of mashed potatoes before I go out drinking might just encourage me to drink every single day.)

Which leads me to our double feature: "Leftover" Mashed Potato Croquettes and a beer cocktail, Poor Man's Black Velvet. These potatoes are "leftover" only because I made too much of them on purpose. In my kitchen there is NO such thing as leftover mash, seriously.

"Leftover" Mashed Potato Croquettes

Makes about 15 croquettes


2 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, pre-seasoned*
1 egg, beaten
1 cup old cheddar cheese, shredded
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
1/4 cup parmigiano-reggiano, grated small
Salt & Pepper

 1. Combine potatoes, egg, cheddar, onion and 1/2 the panko in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper. Fold until all of the ingredients are incorporated fully. In a second bowl, combine the remaining panko crumbs and the Parmesan cheese.

2.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and grease a square 9x9 baking dish. Time to get messy! Using your hands, form little croquette "sausages" about the length of your thumb and just a little bit thicker. Place them in neat rows in the square baking dish. (It's okay if they're touching!)

3. Bake for 30 minutes. At the end, to get a beautiful colour on top, broil the croquettes on HI for 1-2 minutes. (Check about half way to make sure they don't burn!)

4. Eat. Eat all of them. Seriously, they're addictive and you're going to need the carbs for later anyway.

Our second recipe is a Poor Man's Black Velvet, a beer cocktail made with cider and stout beer. Faithful to the holiday celebrations, we're using Guinness. When properly poured, this bevvie is a two-tone, not too sweet, not too strong wonder, and it's incredibly smooth. They're delicious and they look COOL.

(Historical side note: A traditional Black Velvet is made with stout beer and champagne and was created by a bartender at the Brooks Club in London, to mourn the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort. Apparently the death of the young prince called for such mourning that "even the champagne should be black.") On that cheery note, let's drink.

Poor Man's Black Velvet

Makes 2 cocktails 


1 Guinness tallboy
A bottle of sparkling alcoholic cider (NOT Strongbow)

...I could write out the special pouring method or you could WATCH THIS VIDEO I MADE. (Aww yeah!)

1. Pour the cider into a tall drink glass. (Aim for about half way. I favour my drinks a little more Guinness than cider but, you get the idea from the video.)

2. Bend a spoon to a right angle with the concave side up towards you. Then, holding the spoon with one hand close to the level of the cider, pour the Guinness onto the spoon, so that it flows off and gently hits the cider. Raise the spoon with the level of the beer as you go. Stop pouring when the glass is full. Cheers!**

* by pre-seasoned, I mean, when you make the mashed potatoes, it's good to salt n' butter them before you let them cool in the fridge. Tasteless taters don't make for good croquettes.
** Happy St. Patrick's Day! I know this, because Tyler knows this.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Garlickin' Good

Guys, this recipe needs no introduction. What it does need is a few warnings and words of advice. Caution #1: THIS STUFF IS GOOOOOOD. Simple, but addicting. It will make you do crazy things like eat your pizza crust first in order to enjoy as much of it as you can, as quickly as you can. I made this for the previously mentioned pizza Tuesday, daydreaming of the little hockey puck sized discs of the garlic dipping sauce they sell at Pizza Pizza. So I started trying to find copycat recipes, only to leave Google unsatisfied. (Say WHAT? I know, I didn't think it was possible either.) The only thing to do was take matters into my own hands. By matters, I do mean a palmful of garlic cloves.

My dipping sauce dedication paid off in creamy, peppery, garlicky dividends of goodness. Plus, my recipe even has greek yogurt in it so you can pretend it's healthy. Or something. Caution #2: In case you couldn't guess already, this dip is majorly garlicky. The kind of garlicky you feel on the roof of your mouth when you're finished. You may even have it the next morning if you're not careful. So if you're not fond of garlic, shuffle back to your ranch dressing and get off my blog. (Just kidding!) As for me, I'm going to hang out in a corner alone with my bad breath, my breadsticks and a bucket of this dip. That's my idea of a good Friday night.

Roasted Garlic Dip

Makes about 3/4 cup dip



4-6 cloves roasted garlic*
2 heaping tbsp, mayonnaise or mayonnaise style dressing
2 heaping tbsp, greek yogurt
1 - 2 tsp onion powder
Salt & Pepper

Olive oil (optional)

1. Cut your roasted garlic cloves in half, and then remove the little green root inside, if there is one.

 2. Chop up the roasted garlic until it's fine. Finer than Tom Hardy. (Just TRY.)  

3. With the flat of the knife or a fork, mash the garlic into a fine paste. I seasoned it with salt here, but it's just as easy to do all the seasoning at the end. 

4. Scrape the garlic into the bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk. For a smoother texture, add a drizzle of olive oil.**


5. Then eat with pizza! Or crackers. Or chips. Or spread it on a sandwich... Run wild with this, and when you do, let me know where you go... I probably want to go there too.

* Don't have 45 minutes to roast garlic? Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take the individual cloves, unpeeled and toss them in a touch of olive oil, put on a cookie sheet. Roast for 12-15 minutes, shaking the garlic every five minutes so it doesn't burn or brown too much. Let cool for five minutes, then peel. You're ready to rock.

** I don't have a food processor, so this dip is rustic style. If you want a smoother texture, toss all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend it up! I know this because Tyler knows this.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dough, Yo

I didn't realize how important this recipe was to me until one Friday night a few weeks ago when I was having drinks at a stranger's house. (By stranger, I mean a friend of a friend who I was meeting for the first time, and not a balding dude in an unmarked van-- CALM DOWN MOM.) After a few rum and cokes, we decided what many people getting downright drinksy decide-- we were HUNGRY and we wanted PIZZA.

The three of us being accomplished cooks, agreed that delivery is for suckers and decided to make our pie from scratch. Well-- it was at this point that I volunteered to make the dough, and found myself in the kitchen with the task of whipping it together. To my own surprise, I knew it how to do it from memory. I guess I've made enough pizzas with it and now it's in my brain, and maybe even engraved on the walls of my heart. After all, pizza is my most favourite of foods. (Or one of them... Don't make me choose, please.)

It's probably because every week, the roommate and I declare Tuesday as "pizza night", throw together this recipe, add whatever we have in the fridge by way of toppings, and devour the goodness while watching New Girl. It's our miniature kick off to the rest of the week.
What's that? You still think pizza from scratch is a pain in the asiago? Well then:  I swear to you, this recipe requires very little kneading, making dough at home is probably better for your health (blah blah blah), AND you get to be the smug guy who has enough kitchen skillz to make their own pizza dough at parties. Are we down? Good. Let's get cookin', yo!

How much do I love pizza Tuesdays with Jess and the gang?
Yep, that about hit the nail on the head right there.

Basic Pizza Dough

Makes 1 cookie sheet sized pizza.



1 cup warm water
1 packet instant yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 generous pinch sugar

1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour* (plus more for kneading, dusting and dough's sticky shenanigans)

1. Pour warm water, yeast and pinch of sugar into a mixing bowl. Whisk.

2. When the mixture gets bubbly (about 5 minutes), add the oil, salt and 1 1/2 cups of flour.

3. I find it's best to start out mixing the dough with the handle of a wooden spoon because it's sticky as hell and easier than clawing raw dough from beneath your fingernails, scraping it off your palms, and having a general breakdown over WHY, WHY DO THE PIZZA GODS HATE ME? Bro, chill and trust the spoon.

4. Now, the time of knead. Adding the remaining flour, fold and knead it into the dough with your fingers, your knuckles and your British Bulldog determination. You should have have a neat, round ball to work with at the end of it all. Set aside for 10 minutes, minimum, to rise.

5. In the meantime, grab a cookie sheet and sprinkle it with cornmeal. Don't be shy, in fact, be downright liberal, because you don't want the pizza sticking to the pan. If you're baking the dough now, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If not, wrap it in cellophane and freeze it for later use. (But seriously, you know you want pizza right now so bake it RIGHT NOW.)

6. Roll out the dough on the cookie sheet to the edges,  gently flouring the top if it is sticking to the rolling pin.

7. Now is the time to make art with your freshly primed canvas. Top with desired toppings (sauces and cheeses and meats, oh my) and bake for 30 minutes. Allow 10 minutes to cool, and then get cray with the eating and everything!

*You can use many different combinations of flour with this recipe. I've tried a combination of whole wheat flour & all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups & 1 cup, respectively) as well as one made from only all-purpose flour. Don't be afraid to experiment, and if you come up with some brand new genius combination, leave me a comment, a tweet or an email and tell me about it! I'd love to hear from you! I know this, because Tyler knows this.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Spice As Nice

You guys, it was so nice outside this weekend. Maaaaaaaaaaaan.

It was so nice I didn't wear my heavy duty parka, not once. It was so nice we saw the sun for BOTH days. It was so nice I finally sucked it up, tugged on my running shoes and ran outside for the first time since November/December. This weekend's weather practically offered you a drive to the airport, even though your flight was leaving super early and it hasn't been able to sleep in for months.

At the risk of jinxing it, I won't say that spring weather is HERE, but this weekend certainly offered a great respite from the cold and the winter blues. The worst thing about it was daylight savings time, losing of a precious hour of slumber. Sure it's easy when you're sleeping in on Sunday, but tomorrow morning when I'm getting up at the new 6:15AM to go to work, I'll probably sit on the bus crying tears of despair into my extra large coffee.

Whether it was the anticipation of a very welcome change of season, or the fact that I knew this week was going to have me hitting snooze too many times to pack lunch in the AM, I decided today would be a great to make one (possibly) last winter dish, my favourite vegetarian chili recipe. It's warm, delicious and it makes enough for a few days worth of lunches!

Unless it's something very special, I usually cook from scratch without a recipe, a skill I attribute to watching many years of kitchen improv by my mama. However, one day, when I was throwing together a random chili, I peered down into the simmering pot and had a thought. I was reminded of the first time I ate Mole sauce, in Texas while I was shooting a documentary for my final film project at Sheridan few years ago. Mole, a savoury sauce, is mostly defined by the fact that it contains Mexican chocolate. On a whim, I threw a spoonful of cocoa powder with the rest of the spices, and I haven't strayed from this recipe ever since. Nor have I written it down...until now.

This recipe is pretty free form, you can add what beans you like, and the sweet potato adds an extra layer to the satisfaction level in an otherwise meat free dish, so any carnivores in the house won't complain (too much). I know it sounds loony, but the addition of the cocoa and even a touch of cinnamon add a savoury depth to the body of this chili that you don't get just any ol' place. It's not so much that when people eat it, they immediately spot the oddity, it's that they take a bite, and then they go, "what IS that?" You can smile brightly and answer, "it's delicious."

"Spicy" Vegetarian Chili 

Serves • Infinity people. (Or maybe 5-8. You know how hungry vegetarians get.)


1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium cooking onion, chopped
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped

1 tbsp chili powder
 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 heaping tsp ground cumin
1 heaping tsp paprika
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cocoa powder
salt & pepper, to taste

1 can diced tomatoes
1 heaping tbsp tomato paste

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Your beans of choice (I added half a cup of dried lentils to mine, for heartiness.)*See notes.
 4 c. veggie stock (Perhaps our homemade veggie stock? I told you it would come up again!)

1. Put a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute the onion for about a minute. Add the sweet potato and continue to cook for about 5-7 minutes.

2. Stir in all of the spices to that everything in the pan is evenly coated and fragrant.

3. Add in the beans, the tomato paste and the canned tomatoes, stir again.

4. Pour in the four cups of veggie stock and bring the mixture to a simmer.

5.  With the lid off, simmer on low-medium heat for an hour (at least) to thicken, stirring occasionally. The longer you let it simmer, the better the flavour and texture of this dish will be.

6. When the chili has reached your desire consistency, turn off the heat. Taste, then add salt and pepper as needed. Serve in a bowl with any of the fixings you please! Some options might include garlic toast, tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, hot sauce (my personal favourite), avocado or hell, all of them.

*I used dried beans for this recipe (1 cup dried black, 1 cup dried pinto, 1/2 cup green lentils) soaked in water overnight for 12 hours. Dried beans take a longer time to cook up, so if you're in a hurry, I would use canned. On the other hand, with time on your side, dried beans are less expensive than the canned variety and they have a nice bite. I know this because Tyler knows this.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rock That Stock!

Bite Club rule #2: Never pay for something from a store when you can make it for less at home with ease and a little prep.

Like nearly every other student on the planet, I'm on a budget. I try to make money wise choices when I'm at the grocery store, so that I can make bad money (and health) choices after a night out. (3AM poutine, anyone?) I like to do little things to save money, like bringing my AM coffee fix in a travel mug from home, cutting up my own veggies instead of buying them pre-chopped and well... I keep a close eye on my stocks. The yummy kind, not the Wall Street variety. 

Stocks are awesome, because they're so versatile. They come in chicken, veggie, beef and even seafood varieties, and they go into just as many, if not more dishes. Stews, soups, chilis, rice pilaf, rice, risotto, cous cous-- any savoury application that water does, stock can do better. A box of it from the grocery store is a few bucks, and sure, that's not a lot up front, but it's more than making your own for (close to) free. Intrigued? Read on, friends.

I've been doing this for a few months now. It's stupidly easy and a  great way to make use of something you would just throw out otherwise: scraps of vegetables headed straight for the compost bin. A lot of people buy veg specifically to chop them up and throw it into the stock, but since that seems counter productive to not spending money, I started saving the misfits and scraps, freezing them and then then using those instead. At any given time, there's usually a giant ziploc in my freezer filled with onion stubs, broccoli stems, carrot tops and beet bottoms, just waiting to be boiled down. (Am I the only one who chuckled at 'beet bottoms'?)

This method produces a different stock every time, which I like, because I live on the edge. Lately, because beets are in season, I've been using a lot of those, which seem to be lending my stocks this warm ruby hue. Gorgeous, dahling. Let's get to it.

Basic Vegetable Stock

Makes about 10-12 cups stock



1 large ziploc full of vegetable trimmings
Salt, to taste
Dried Herbs, if desired

1. Take a large soup pot and pour the vegetables into it. Place it on a burner, turned to high.

2. When the veggies begin to sizzle, add enough water until they're all covered. Add in any of the dried herbs right now, if that's what you're into. I've used rosemary and thyme on different occasions and they both worked it, HARD. Now if you like it, put a lid on it. (And if you don't put a lid on it, anyway.)

3. When the water begins to boil, remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour. Don't stir it. Seriously, leave it alone. Go off and live your life. Sing in the shower, watch Friends reruns. Stalk your ex on Facebook while you stock your cooking repertoire with this recipe.

4. When time is up, turn the heat off. Strain the mixture once through a sieve, out of the stock pot, into the fi--err... something easier to pour with. I used the bowl of my stand mixer!

5. Add salt, to taste. I added about a tablespoon. This step is technically optional, as I know some cooks who salt the dish and not the stock, but in the name of seasoning the seasonings... To the salt!

6. Strain a second time a second time into jars, and store in the fridge until you have need of it! See? Easypants.

Voila! Stock will keep for about a week. Keep your eyes on the prize, I'll be posting a recipe for you to use your lovely vegetable stock as soon as I can! Happy Friday, kids!