Sunday, February 14, 2010

New Toy

What would be a logical purchase for someone who has recently decided to take a break from cooking? Why a ridiculously expensive, high-end kitchen appliance, of course!  I went out and bought a KitchenAid stand mixer this morning.  I've wanted one for ages.  All the television chefs have one. (Alton Brown has flames painted on his.) L at Sleeping Cougar has one. We used it on Friday to make focaccia bread.  

At Christmas we used it to make chocolate gingerbread cookies,

and honey-bun bread,

and oatcakes,

and butter tarts.  Actually, L used the mixer to make butter tarts. I decorated the cookies.  She doesn't like to decorate cookies, and I have rolling pin issues, so it worked out better that way.

Obviously it's a wildly useful item.  Every kitchen should have one.  Or at least that's what I told myself when I got home from L's on Friday and saw the mixer on sale.  It was 30% off at Canadian Tire, and I know the right people, so I got another 10% off, and I had $40 in Canadian Tire money stashed in a drawer.  Sold!  Now I just have to decide what to make first.  When I start cooking again, that is.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eeewwwwgggh - The Dirty Dozen

I'm  sure you've all seen the list.  It's from the Environmental Working Group, and it lists the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of chemical residue.  Commonly known as the "Dirty Dozen", conventionally grown versions of these items should be avoided.  The Environmental Working Group suggests that we go organic when looking for these items in the produce aisle.

I was reminded of the list this morning while reading "The Real Food Revival".  Though I was aware of the list, I never really knew where it came from or where to get updates.  When I saw the organization's web address in the book, I knew I'd found the perfect mnemonic device.  It was right there in front of me:  That's the sound I should be making when I see a pesticide-laden peach.  Eeewwwwgggh!  As long as I can remember to consult the list before I head out to do my shopping, I'll be all right.  At least now I'll know where to look for it.   It's over at

For those of you who are more technologically advanced, there is an iPhone app  for mobile access to the list.  Pretty cool, but somehow I don't think it will work with my circa 2001 Audiovox phone.  Don't laugh; it works.

In addition to the Dirty Dozen, there's also a list titled "Clean 15".  I'm delighted to report that onions, elusive or otherwise, top the list for lowest pesticide residue.  Makes me happy I didn't have any "peachy" titles in mind when naming my blog. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Idea

Hubby and I are both fans of Iron Chef. It doesn't matter if it's the Japanese version or the American version, if we stumble on it when we're channel surfing we'll watch. Both versions have their advantages. Iron Chef Japan charms with its quirky flamboyance. Iron Chef American has Alton Brown. We're also fans of Alton Brown. We'll watch anything he's in; even the series featuring him and his buddies riding around on their motorcycles eating weird things like brain sandwiches.

Anyway, we were watching Iron Chef America a few weeks ago. It was Battle Avocado, and one of the judges was Anya Fernald. They introduced her as a "Sustainable Food Consultant". I want that job when I grow up. Or at least I thought I did. Once I read her bio, I realized that it's likely too late to rack up a list of similar accomplishments. Even if I started now, I'd be gumming my food by the time I was learned enough to be consulted.

I was mildly disappointed, until I came up with a Plan B. Actually, it's more like Plan Q. I change my mind about what I want to be when I grow up on a regular basis. My new plan occurred to me when I was reading Michael Pollan's new book "Food Rules". All those rules are going to need someone to enforce them. I think I'd be great at that job. I could be the Food Enforcer, or even better the Food Defender. I could roam the aisles of the grocery store and stop food-related infractions. I can see myself now, throwing boxes of cereal from shopping carts and stomping on them for daring to colour the milk. I envision high-speed chases as I tear after drive-thru customers and wrestle burgers from their hands. The best part is that I wouldn't need years of training or experience. All I need is the right attitude, a cool uniform – hopefully with a cape – and lots and lots of bail money. A dream-job come true.

Unfortunately I had to dismiss that dream this week. No, I didn't get arrested for harassing people at the grocery store. It's much worse than that. It started last night. I had russet potatoes and sweet potatoes. I knew I wanted to make oven fries, but I didn't know what I wanted to serve with them. In the end I chose ketchup. That's so unlike me, and is seriously sad. Ketchup hasn't been a vegetable since the Reagan administration. I'm sure my decision broke a few Food Rules, and as such eliminates me from consideration as the Food Defender. If it didn't, well, today things got worse.

As I was planning my grocery list today I realized that my lack of inspiration in the kitchen has been going on for a while. Last night's meager dinner was the result of an ongoing absence of enthusiasm and creativity. In an attempt to remedy this I'm going to take a break from cooking. As a result, my shopping cart contained a lot of prepared or easily-prepared foods today. Certainly not the example an aspiring Food Defender should be setting. I'm going to have to come up with a Plan R.

I didn't totally give up on my values. I read labels and put a lot of things back that I just couldn't bring myself to purchase. I chose only things with ingredients I could pronounce, and I tried to choose things made as close to home as possible. There were exceptions, but I did the best I could considering the mood I've been in. Tonight's dinner was Grandma's Cheddar Cheese and Potato Perogies, Tannadice Farms bacon and local beets leftover from earlier in the week. Tomorrow's menu includes Burgoo Irish Lamb Stew, homemade bread and a salad. (Tomorrow I'm heading to Sleeping Cougar Acres for a bread baking session. I certainly don't have the energy to attempt bread making on my own.) Other meals will consist of easily prepared items like avocado sandwiches, eggs, soup and grilled cheese. Somehow, letting go of my meal-making expectations has made me feel more energized already. I'm actually looking forward to getting back in my kitchen, but only after a long week of lazy meals.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Drum Roll Please!

The winner of the Five Dollar Brambles Challenge is....Christy!  You're lucky commenter number three. (We're such geeks here. The winner was determined by rolling a ten-sided die.  It seemed appropriate, as there were ten players.) Since I know where to find you, I'll make sure your gift certificate is delivered to you soon.

Thanks to everyone who commented.  I wasn't sure that anyone would participate after my lengthy absence.  In fact, I was so uncertain that I wouldn't let Brambles' Angeline donate the gift certificate for the contest.  I was worried that no one would play and I'd end up using the gift certificate myself.  Thanks for saving me that embarrassment! 

(That's also one of the reasons that the gift certificate was a mere five dollars. The first reason was that I thought five dollars was a manageable amount, particularly for those who'd never been to Brambles.  I didn't want to scare anyone off by requiring that they spend a lot of money.  The second reason is that I'm cheap!)  

Thanks again to everyone who played, and congratulations Christy!