Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Brie stuffed mushroom caps

Sometimes a bad day slips in so sneakily that it takes a while to realize you are having one.
It starts off innocently enough. Like waking up late for class and in the process of franticly getting ready, pokes a blob of moisturizer into eye. Nothing new. Scrambles to class to find that no. one. is. there.


That’s okay, opportunity to go to the library and get some work done. Opens up laptop to have it disrupt everyone actually studying with music from Stereomood that was left open from the night before. Spends rest of time in library trying to convince self that did not actually happen.

By the time it's time to start heading to flamenco practice, realizes that the season has changed from fall to winter and am not appropriately dressed anymore. That’s okay, will take the bus. Misses the bus by a second and decides to walk. Arrives 45 minutes later beaten by the wind, just in time to dance to choreography that involves slapping own thighs over and over for an hour.

Stops by the pharmacy on the way home to pick up some toothpaste. Buys 3 to get the 3 for $10 deal. Upon leaving, realizes it wasn’t actually on sale and that it was really expensive toothpaste. Has just spent $20 on toothpaste.

Okay stop. So we have all had bad days. Solution? A really long shower. And these:

Around 24 button mushrooms (2 packages: I used a package each of white and brown)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of flat-leaf parsley (around 1/4 cup, chopped)
Small wheel of brie (or a large slice/wedge)
Pinch of paprika, salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of panko/or breadcrumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove stems of mushrooms by gently wiggling back and forth.
2. Add olive oil, chopped parsley and minced garlic to a large saucepan on medium heat. Cook mixture for a minute. Add mushroom caps to mixture and lightly sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Cook everything for 1-2 minutes until everything is heated.
3. Remove mushrooms from pan and place upside down in a baking dish, pouring the remains of the mixture into the mushroom caps. Fill each mushroom cap with a little sprinkle of panko or breadcrumbs to soak up the moisture as the mushrooms cook.
4. Cut rind off of brie (or leave it on if you don’t mind it) and then cut brie into small cubes. Place a piece of brie on top of each mushroom.
5. Cook mushroom caps in the oven for 10 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Allow to cool slightly and then eat!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Roasted tomato soup in a spaghetti squash bowl

Decisions decisions decisions. 
Like watch a lecture? Or watch the first season of How I Met Your Mother instead?
Research future life prospects? Or research unbelievable savings on Groupon instead.
Go for a run? Or run to the fridge and finish off the container of Vanilla Swiss Almond Hagen Daz ice cream instead.
Watch a tutorial to explain this week's lecture? Or watch a tutorial on "5 Simple and Trendy Ways to Tie a Scarf" instead.
Look into post-graduation internships? Or look into hostels in Australia instead.
Go on food blogs after class? Or go on food blogs during class and then again after class instead.

And the closer graduation gets, the more there seems to be pressure to start making some hefty life decisions. Because the question that’s on the back of every forth year student’s mind is “With so much of our time and money invested, what’s our next move going to be?” Eek, overwhelming. And a visit to the Career Fair left me with a really cool pen but with the same response to many of those unanswered questions. What am I going to do after graduation? “uhh...I don’t know.”

But sometimes there is beauty in not knowing. In surprises. In deviating from “the plan”.  Like the amazement my boyfriend and I had upon cutting into the roasted squash for dinner to find that the inside was entirely in spaghetti like strands. (Seriously, spaghetti squash still amazes me.) Or when I had tomato soup for the first time, not at all expecting the complexity in flavours created simply by taking tomatoes and roasting them. (I think the entire time I was drinking my soup, I was mumbling, “But all that’s in here is tomatoes!”) And yes I know that some of those life decisions are going to have to be addressed eventually. But whose to say we are supposed to have all the answers right now. Right now, I'm okay with not exactly knowing. There might even be some pleasant surprises ahead. In the meantime, I find that when things get overwhelming, its better to start with the small stuff. Like soup.

Adapted from the Food Network 
Around 8 fresh tomatoes (heirloom, vine, plum or mix)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
Salt and black pepper to taste
3 cups water/or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon each, sage and oregano (or dried herbs of choice)
Splash of cream

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 spaghetti squash

Tomato soup:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves or quarters. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves, and onions onto a baking tray. Season with salt and pepper. Roast everything for 45 minutes until caramelized.
2. Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a stock pot. Add 2 cups of water/or chicken stock and spices. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
3. Use a food processor or blender to puree the mixture until smooth. Return soup to low heat and add another cup of water/or chicken stock (or more if desired). Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Add cream if using.

Spaghetti squash:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
1. Slice spaghetti squash in half evenly down the middle. Remove seeds from the cavity. Take a knife and score the inside of the squash to break down some of the spaghetti squash strands. Drizzle the inside with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Place squash, cut side down on a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes or until squash is tender 
3. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each spaghetti squash half so it has a flat bottom and can sit on its own when turned over. Fill cavity with soup and slowly tear off spaghetti strands with a fork. 

(Everything for the tomato soup and the spaghetti squash can be roasted together and for the same time. You can also eat the tomato soup and the spaghetti squash separately. Roasted tomato soup and a grilled cheese. Or scooped out spaghetti squash with pasta sauce? Your decision.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Green pea hummus

As a university student, one of the greatest things to happen while living away from home is when parents come to visit. Parents, once undervalued in the days of high school are now given a newfound appreciation. Who but parents will offer the vehicle and the Costco card necessary to stock our apartments with a pack of 72-rolls of toilet paper. Only parents will take one look at our apartment and with a tone of disgust, offer to help clean it. And parents, convinced that all students are undernourished, will work an obligatory eating portion into their visit.

In short, parents are great.

So this past weekend, my good friend Chloe’s parents came to visit. Lucky for me, Chloe invited me to the classy French restaurant they were going for dinner. Walking in, not a single pair of McGill sweatpants could be spotted. Instead there were candles, nice tablecloths, good wine and a breadbasket. I had the butternut soup to start, followed by sea bass with a passion fruit caramel sauce and sweet potato mousse. Slightly more gourmet than my usual go to: pizza served on a paper plate by a large, handlebar moustached man. Dollar beer to start.

So while we’re waiting for those parents to make it down for another visit, why not make this dip. It’s not quite as fancy as whipped rabbit pate (which we found out was what was placed next to our bread basket,) but it’s great on bread and a good source of vitamin A and K. Plus if you are like me, it's a great way to use up that huge bag of frozen peas sitting in the freezer.

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon tahini paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Salt to taste 
1 tablespoon olive oil to sprinkle on hummus (optional)

Put garlic cloves in food processor and pulse. Add rest of the ingredients and pulse until almost smooth. Remove and top hummus with a tablespoon of olive oil if desired. To serve I toasted some bread, melted some cheese on top and then topped it with the green pea hummus. You could also have it on a salad, as a sandwich spread or even mixed into a pasta salad. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hasselback potatoes

Its Friday of Halloween weekend and I find myself in the penthouse of the Hilton Hotel downtown. There’s chocolate covered strawberries, chilled glasses of white wine, and glitzy masquerade masks. Promising night?
Unless you’re the babysitter.

Oh wait that’s me.

Chocolate monsters faced off with our little superheroes, Jimmy Two Shoes was watched, and “keep the bright green play dough out of the white shag carpet” was played. The last one mostly just by me. Think Bridget Jones trying to be Nanny McPhee:

Me: “Why aren’t you sleepy? I’m sleepy and I’m waaaay bigger than you.”
Much more intelligent individual: “I want to play superheroes. Spiderman. Flash. Batman. *flying noises*”
Me: “What if I bring you food and you can eat it in bed.”
Intelligent individual: “Okay, I want Raisin Bran” (Really, a five year old that requests fibre cereal. I think I met the Halloween fright quota for the night.) 

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the weekend indulging the five year old inside me. Candied apples were made, old shirts were stuffed with tissue paper (I was an M&M for Halloween, my boyfriend was Eminem; the candy and the w-rapper!), and the majority of my babysitting money helped me acquire additional Halloween candy. 

But before all that craziness, I made these: 

Afterall, even potatoes should dress up a little for Halloween.

Inspired by: Joy the Baker
2 small sweet potatoes
2 small russet potatoes
Olive oil and/or butter
Sage, cumin, salt and pepper for seasoning

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Thoroughly wash the skins of the potatoes.
2. Start slicing through the potato being careful to not slice all the way through. Create very thin rounds connected at the base, working from one side of the potato to the other. (Also score the bottom of the potato to ensure the thicker base will cook evenly.)
3. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle about one tablespoon of olive oil onto each potato, trying to also get the oil in between the potato slices. Generously sprinkle all the potatoes with salt and pepper. Rub the sweet potatoes, with a generous sprinkle of cumin and top the regular potatoes with a generous sprinkle of sage (or dried herb of choice).
4. Bake the potatoes for half an hour at 450 degrees F. Take potatoes out of oven and re-apply with olive oil or scrapes of butter. The more oil you use the crispier the potato will be. Return to oven for an additional half hour. In total, the potatoes should bake for around 1 hour, (or longer depending on size of potatoes) until tender on the inside and crisp on the outside. Enjoy plain or with baked potato toppings or ketchup.

Happy belated Halloween!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cauliflower quiche tarts

Remember summer? Remember sitting in the park, reading just for fun? (Yah, for fun!) Remember watching every episode of  that TV show? (Masterchef Australia.) Remember basking in a coma of complete relaxation? (I’m not an English major, can you tell?) But then after a couple of those days, maybe you got a little bored. Or maybe you just got tired of living at home for the summer. And then one day you hear yourself say, “You know, I wouldn’t mind if school started soon. I’m actually looking forward to it.”
Yah. That. That was silly.

Fast forward to mid October with midterms in full swing. Those days where the top priority was “what am I going to eat today and in what order” are over. What used to be the time you woke up in the morning is now the time where you have already gone to two classes and are walking to the library, maybe trying to sneak a Subway footlong coffee past library security. Oh and did I mention you can’t wear shorts anymore. Nope, the sun got fed up with all the studying. 
Hi summer, why can’t we be friends again.

So during this past week, with an hour before yet another midterm, I find myself in the kitchen, waiting for these cauliflower tarts to bake. (Everyone prepares for exams differently.) These individual portion sizes are great because they can be made ahead of time and packed for weekday lunches with some salad greens. Plus the protein from the egg keeps you full, while the low fat content keeps it light.

6 Servings
1 small head of cauliflower
4 extra large eggs
½ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper (more if desired)
½ teaspoon each of dill and pepper flakes (optional)
6 half inch cubes of mozzarella or brie or camembert
Oil for greasing the tin

1. Cut cauliflower into quarters and boil for 10 min or until tender.
2. Preheat the oven to 450F.
3. Cut cauliflower into florets, discarding the hard core. Lightly grease a 6 cup, extra large muffin tin and divide the cooked cauliflower between the six holes.
4. Mix together eggs, yogurt, flour, salt, pepper, and spices and pour mixture on top of the cauliflower. Make sure the mixture is covering the cauliflower evenly.
5. Nest a cube of cheese into the center of each tart. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper on top.
6. Bake for half an hour or until golden. Let cool and pop the tarts out, topping with salsa if desired.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Power smoothie bowl

This past week I turned 21, which set the backdrop for some of the following events to take place:
1. Going rock climbing with my boyfriend. He was good. I was not. He is also good at drunk riding mechanical bulls. Yes these things impress me. Really he is just more life savvy than me which is why I stick with him.    
Then he suggested some activities we could do in between rock climbing and dinner, like “We could go to the art museum or it’s such a nice day we could walk along the canal…”
“Mmm I’m kind of tired. OOO want to walk to Costco?”
 “I thought you were tired.”
“Okay, or we could go to the Premiere Moisson bakery.
“What, a bakery?”
“You want to go to the bakery.”

2. Where I had the most delicious macaroony thing with layers of chocolate mousse and raspberry jam. And left holding a cake made of 70% chocolate to “share” at dinner later. (It’s my birthday! What are calories on this day.)  

3. For dinner, having strategically picked a restaurant that is “bring your own wine,” our group considerately showed up with enough wine for everyone at the restaurant (though none was offered). And if you couldn’t already guess that a classy night was ahead, how about it being foreshadowed by a birthday speech by my two best friends to Ludacris’s “whats your fantasy”. Semi rapped. In a nice French restaurant. Where actual grownups were also eating.
4. Highlight of the night? Walking out of the restaurant and going from almost getting a drinking-in-public ticket to having a police man get out of his police car to kiss me on the cheek happy birthday (yay birthday!)
5. The night ended at one of my favourite bars, where the entire beer garden sang happy birthday (although for a few choruses all that could be heard was my one friend Chloe and me telling her to “staaaaap it”)

Wait did I mention my birthday was on a Wednesday? Smack dab in the middle of the school week. So all this to say that 21 year old me did not handle waking up after a full day of activities to 3 back to back morning classes well the next day. I find that when these nights arise, what helps in the morning is a (soluble) breakfast high in nutrients. Like this smoothie bowl. And with the new possession of a food processor birthday present as well as a 5 kg bag of oats and 1kg bag of frozen blueberries after a trip to Costco, this smoothie can now be at my disposal whenever. I think you should make it too. (And I promise you won't even be able to taste that there's spinach in this.) 

1/3 cup frozen blue berries (a handful)  
1/3 cup baby spinach leaves (a handful)
3 tablespoons of oats (optional)
3 spoonfuls of yogurt
Half a banana
Splash of milk 

1. Put everything into a food processor and blend. (If using oats, you can soak the oats in the yogurt overnight for a more doughy texture, or add them straight to the food processor.)
2. Pour everything into a bowl and top with granola if desired.  Spoon into mouth and feel better. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mini dutch babies

Making friends was a lot simpler at age six. 
“Hi, want to build a pillow fort with me?”
“Okay, we can eat cookies in it!”

Instant friendship

Now four years into university, it's easy to just settle into a comfortable friend group, with less emphasis placed on meeting new people. Plus there are the midterms and extra curricular commitments keeping us busy. And showing up to class with scraggly hair and toothpaste stains is not really conducive to good first impressions. Yah, personal experience speaking.

With that said, a play date took place at my house this past Saturday.
“Hi, want to come over for brunch?”
“Okay, I can make candied bacon!”

Instant friendship 

Oh I see how this works. 

So during a morning play date involving two university students, these baked pancakes were created. They are doughy, yet light, and crunchy on the sides, yet moist in the center. Plus the toppings are endless. Powdered sugar for breakfast? Yes please. Making new friends is fun.

Adapted from Allrecipes (makes 6 mini pancakes)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 pinch ground nutmeg or cinnamon
1 pinch salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar for dusting

1. Place a 6 cup (extra large) muffin tin inside the oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees F (245 degrees C).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Gradually whisk in flour, nutmeg/cinnamon and salt.
3. Remove hot muffin tin from the oven and add a thin slice of butter in each muffin hole. Stick tin back into oven until butter is melted and slightly browned (~1 min). Take the tin out and swirl butter until the bottom is completely covered.
4. Reduce oven heat to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Meanwhile, divide the batter between the muffin tins and return tin to oven.
5. Bake until the pancakes have puffed up and are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
6. Transfer out of tin and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with berries, lemon slices and maple syrup if desired

Monday, September 26, 2011

10 min Caprese pasta

There’s course packs that need to be read, lectures that need to be listened to and I will scoff at you if the gym is mentioned…or at least mumble something nondiscript like “I can’t go right now I'm um... laundry”. And despite a false early start yesterday morning at 8:00 am (to place some cereal within arms reach), I was quickly back in bed and substituting lectures on embryological development with more episodes of The Real Housewives.

3:00pm: Realizes that I have not had lunch yet.
3:05pm: Realizes that it is not like me to just forget to have lunch. Worried that I might be severely sick.
3:10pm: Feeling hungry. Phew.
3:12pm: Realizes in order for this to happen, must first get out of bed and into a place with more food. Like the kitchen. (The McGill education has really not gone to waste)

Anyways I think everyone should have a fall back meal for days you want to put minimal effort into making a fast and tasty meal. (No, Subway's not the answer!). For me it was cereal. Large handfuls, funnelled from box into mouth. Or it was, until I made this pasta with my friend Molly. It’s her mom’s recipe and a) can be ready in about 10 minutes b) only the pasta requires cooking c) it will make you really happy.

(Serves 2 really hungry people)
Extra virgin olive oil
4 Roma tomatoes (or about 1 cup of cherry tomatoes)
1 clove of garlic
1 container of bocconcini cheese pearls
Handful of mint or basil sprigs (or both)
Bow tie/penne pasta (or a pasta that can hold onto sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Start by boiling the desired amount of pasta. While the pasta is boiling, pour around 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a large bowl.
  2. Mince the garlic really finely and add it in the bowl so it can start to flavour the oil.
  3. Dice up the tomatoes and herbs. Add the tomatoes, herbs, bocconcini pearls and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper to the olive oil.
  4. Drain the pasta when it is el dente, making sure to get rid of all the pasta water and add pasta to bowl.
  5. Immediately mix everything together so the heat from the pasta can slightly melt the bocconcini and warm the sauce. Add more salt and pepper to taste. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bruschetta egg scramble

Did I ever tell you about my pesky morning classes?

We met the first day of first year and were instantly inseparable. We would see each other every Monday to Friday and had a pretty good thing going. But pretty soon, I was showing up for our dates late and in sweatpants or stained t-shirts. The conversation was boring and I really needed the caffeine to get me through. Also, moving too fast too soon led to a panic attack sometime in October. I don't remember committing myself to do midterms, labs and assignments!

Not wanting to grow apart, we spent even more time together outside of the classes in tutorial sessions and office hours. We decided to call it quits after the end of the semester and I even got rid of their textbooks and study manuals. But this semester, we have started seeing each other on a regular basis again, much to the warning words of my friends who just don’t think we are right for each other. I hope it works out this time!

So on weekends when I have the leisure of sleeping in, I'll make this bruschetta egg scramble and bacon for breakfast. And on weekday mornings, when I'm scrambling out the door with five minutes to make it to class, I'll make this for lunch. Basically eggs are good whenever.

1 medium sized tomato, chopped finely
2 eggs, beaten
Sprinkle each of garlic powder, salt, pepper, dried basil, thyme (optional), sage (optional)
Oil for cooking

Heat up a small pan (on medium) with a little oil and add in the tomatoes and spices. Cook the tomatoes until tender (1-2 min) and add the beaten eggs. Using a spatula, move the egg mixture around the pan until the eggs are cooked.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken stew

Highlights from this weekend include: a house party turned 90s-music dance party, a three tiered chocolate peppermint cake, witnessing a lot of beer induced man love, sleeping until noon followed by a breakfast in the park of greasy Madonas pizza and fries, a collective food coma after an intense Greek themed potluck, watching six McGill students struggle at a child’s version of Cranium, and waking up to buttery Greek kourambiedes cookies for breakfast. Weekend win: 10000. Homework win: 0.

Also from this weekend came the curious observation of the significance of the time 11:15 pm. Have you noticed that regardless of the event start time, around eleven fifteen is when a low key house party can turn into a dance party on the dining table and grown men start serenading each other to Brittany Spears. When a nice classy potluck complete with cocktail dresses and real glass wine glasses turns into an abandonment of utensils not to mention body parts being formed with the purple Cranium clay. Eleven Fifteen starts the creation of those moments that aren’t quite remembered (or are denied being remembered) when asked the next day. And leads you to decide maaaaybe the “limited access” option on facebook is not such a bad idea.  (No, just me?)

Anyways, it brings me to this chicken stew that was made for a Greek themed potluck this weekend but doubles to nurse a hangover. This stew was inspired from the avgolemono soup that was served at the Greek restaurant I worked at last summer and to this day still cannot pronounce. It lemony and hearty and has the ability to reverse some of the damage done the night before.  

This makes a BIG pot.

2 large chicken breasts with bones attached (optional: remove skin and fatty bits for a lighter broth)
2 chopped onions
4 chopped carrots
4 chopped stalks of celery
1/2 cup uncooked barley
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 eggs
2 lemons

1. Place the chicken in a large pot and turn the heat on high to brown the chicken on all sides. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. (You can also add a couple coarsely chopped onions and carrots now to flavour the broth but this is optional.) When the water is boiling, reduce the heat to simmer for about an hour.
2. Skim the fat off the top of the broth. (What I find works well is placing Seran wrap on the top of the broth so that the fat easily transfers from the broth onto the Seran wrap.)
3. Take the chicken out of the pot and once cool, strip off the meat. Discard any vegetables that were added to flavour the broth.
4. Add the uncooked barley and chopped vegetables to the remaining broth and season the broth with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for another hour until everything is tender.
5. Whisk the eggs with the lemon juice in a seperate bowl. To prevent the eggs from curdling, slowly whisk in a ladle of the hot broth into the egg mixture. Gradually whisk in more broth until the egg mixture is heated and then pour all the egg mixture back into the pot, whisking briskly.
6. Add the chicken strips back into the pot and add additional seasoning or water as desired. The end result should be a creamy stew.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pineapple chow

My vocabulary has expanded immeasurably since meeting my two closest friends from Trinidad and Tobago at McGill in first year. “Girl, want to hang out tonight?” pales in comparison to “Hoss, want to lime tonight?” 

And “steups”, which describes the sound made when sucking in your teeth, has found use in a wide variety of situations.
“The student services lady is referring to a 500 page manual to instruct her on how to help each student in line.” Steups.
“Megavideo, what do you mean I have to wait 52 minutes before I can finish watching my show.” Steups.
“A person at Subway is holding up the line because she wants completely different things on each half of her sandwich.” Steups.
“That textbook costs HOW much?” Steups.
“I’m not allowed to use the gym because I don’t have a towel? But I ate a whole pie today.” Steups.

From my friends, I have also been introduced to more dishes to add to an already extensive vocabulary of “foods I want to eat”. Like “pilao” or “pastels” or anything with the herb “shadow beni”.
And just when I thought my amazement could not exceed the knowledge that the traditional pizza topping of pineapple and ham is pineapple and BACON in Trinidad and Tabago, I learned about Carnival. Carnival is an annual celebration in Trinidad and Tobago where a) people take to the streets in bejewelled sequined and feathered costumes, b) drink in hand, c) “wining” down the streets until the wee hours.

Good food, good parties, good weather; I should start packing my bags now. Until then though I’ve made some pineapple chow! It’s like a pineapple salsa/salad and the pineapple can be substituted with mango to make mango chow. It’s rel bess.

Recipe as recited by friend:
1 pineapple (cubed)
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
1 crushed garlic clove
1/2 scotch bonnet pepper/ jalapeno pepper (or use half a red pepper finely chopped for some crunch, without the heat)
1/2 small cucumber finely chopped (optional)

Crush all ingredients except pineapple cubes together. Add mixture to pineapple cubes. Adjust to taste and leave for 15 min or more so all the flavours can mix.  

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wine-melon shooters

Right now, the school looks just like the pictures in the brochures trying to convince students to come to McGill. There are students sprawled out on the grass, happy chatter on the building steps, and promises of a good time Friday night. (Okay maybe I read between the lines with that last one.) If someone were to say that not very far from now, a thick layer of snow would cover all of campus, they would probably get the same look as someone saying they enjoyed getting up for 8:30 calculus classes. I sure didn’t believe it. I REFUSED to believe it. I think last year I caved sometime in  mid-December equipped with only a rain jacket to face the -20C weather and finally accepted those sleeping bags being sold as “winter jackets” to be my attire for the next 3 months. But until then, I’m happy believing that BBQs and sun tanning on lower field are the reason I’m paying thousands in tuition and travelled cross country to be here. The mid-semester crisis can come later.

So this weekend, during a refusal to believe that homework existed as well, I busied myself creating these jello shooters to bring to a birthday party. Watermelon. Good. Winemelon? Better. I used a base of honeydew partly because it’s low in calories and high in Vitamin C and can help keep you hydrated on those late nights. More importantly it is a very good vessel to hold alcohol.

1 small honeydew melon
2 tablespoons of gelatine (2 packets)
1/4 cup water
1 3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup sugar (optional)

1. Cut a honeydew melon in half and scoop out the seeds in each half with a spoon.
2. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup wine, gelatine packets and sugar. To this, add 1/4 cup boiling water and stir until everything is dissolved. Add the rest (1 1/2 cups) of the wine.
3. Set each honeydew half in a bowl to steady it and pat inside dry with paper towel. Divide gelatine mixture between the two honeydew halves and top with more wine if needed to fill liquid to brim.
4. Leave in fridge for about 4 hours for it to solidify and then cut melon into slices like with a regular melon. (Cut off a bit of the jelly top if too top heavy)
5. Divide each melon slice into halves or thirds.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Salmon patties

Introduction: The start of the school year is comparible to New Years Eve, with resolutions being set in anticipation for a new start. Like THIS year is going to be the year of the 4.0 GPA. Maybe THIS year that school club will be attended beyond the first meeting with the free pizza and THIS year, the school gym will see more than just the special guest appearances. However, I hypothesize that starting the school year in a collective environment of such hefty aspirations and organized chaos actually has a negative impact on the overall success of the student’s semester. This will be tested by having subjects (boyfriend and I) take the first week of school to go to the cottage to relax instead of attend classes. Our performance will be evaluated and compared to our performance in previous school years to determine if the prolonged relaxation time has a positive effect on our school performance.

Materials and Methods: Students from McGill University (me and boyfriend) were obtained. Boyfriend’s family cottage was obtained by generous invitation. Healthy dose of sun was provided by donation (although supply was limited).

Subjects were sent to Miramichi Island during a week otherwise spent at school stressing about buying textbooks and in student service line-ups. Subjects were subject to swimming, kayaking, eating good food, card games and other obligatory experimental procedures. 

Figure 1.

Results: To be observed at the end of the semester (December) to see if a correlation between prolonged relaxation and overall performance can be detected. 

Discussion: In future experiments, the trip back from the vacation (totalling 10+ hours of travel via boat, car, bus, and foot) could be adjusted. The trip home from a vacation is always chaotic and with an early morning class the next day, it may mean coming home to no food and only stale cereal to pack for a school lunch. Luckily, ever since that huge Costco trip a year ago, canned salmon has been a pantry staple for me. Salmon is high in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are essential for brain function and are the key ingredient in these salmon patties.

1 (16 ounce) can salmon, drained and flaked
1 finely chopped small onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped (loosely packed) fresh parsley
1 generous pinch each of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
1 pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
4 spoonfuls yogurt
2 slices bread
Oil for cooking

1. Place the bread in a mixing bowl and spread the yogurt on top of the bread to soak until soft enough to break apart.
2. Add the salmon, onion, eggs, parsley, seasonings and tablespoon oil to the bowl. Combine everything.
3. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large pan. Use hands to form salmon mixture into balls and stagger balls in the pan.
4. Press balls flat (about ½ thick) with spatula and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Make sure to wait until the mixture sets to flip otherwise it could be hard to flip. (Depending on the size of the frying pan, you may have to cook the salmon patties in multiple batches.)
These patties store well and are good cold on top of some salad greens.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stir fry 101

Everyone goes through countless interviews, first dates, and recently for me “first week of schools”. And yet given all these opportunities at repetition, I wonder if we really do learn from our experiences and improve upon them the second time around.

I remember in my first year of university three years ago, I went to class equipped with highlighters, notebooks (sorted by colour), pens, pencils, and the class course pack. This past week, I went to my first class with a few pages of a notebook left over from the previous year.

During class in my first year of university, I remember writing down the notes from most of the class slides, including the fact that Canola oil is actually rapeseed oil but its name was changed for marketing reasons. First Year Me thought this could be testable. On the other hand, Forth Year Me left my first class with a single sheet of paper jotted on it, “ANAT 381: Midterm is 20% of grade”.

Going into first year, I had some basic knowledge of history, literature, calculus, biology, chemistry, and physics. Now three years later, if pressed, I can probably identify where the closest washroom is to most of my classes.

So while there might not be the tried and true recipe for life success, a recipe for stir fry is a little easier to come by. Stir frys are my go-to for a quick healthy meal and can be adapted to almost whatever vegetables are in the fridge.

Stir fry 101

1. First you start with the aromatics. In a heated pan with a thin layer of oil, place one or two of:
Sliced onion, minced garlic, pepper flakes, or sliced ginger

2. Then brown up your protein. Pick one of:
Chicken/beef strips, tofu, chickpeas, shrimp

3. Once your protein is almost cooked, you can get in some veggies. Some good combinations are:
Broccoli, mushrooms, and carrots
Zucchini, eggplant, and spinach (put in last minute) 

4. Simmer everything with some seasonings: 
For the seasoning, use equal parts soy sauce and ketchup with a little curry powder and water. (Also optional hot sauce.) Serve with rice, noodles, or couscous.

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