Category Archives: Food

Dinner on A Board-The Ultimate Food Experience

We were lucky in Canmore to be staying at the home of our niece Olivia and her fiancé Miche who are both professional chefs. On our last night there Miche made us a five-star dinner. He had marinated a marvelous cote du boeuf or tomahawk ribeye steak and all the vegetables for hours ahead of time. Then he grilled everything perfectly on the barbeque. I took photos as he and my niece artfully arranged everything on a huge wooden board.

Miche starts by finding the perfect places for the baked potatoes, pickled onions, grilled cucumbers, sausages, and green and red peppers on the board.

Next, the signature bone from the steak is placed at the center of the board.

Olivia adds the Brussel sprouts prepared with bits of crunchy bacon.

Miche carefully carves the steak into pieces. I mean it when I say that meat literally melted in your mouth.

Now the steak is carefully arranged on the board along with grilled onion rounds, spicy marinated cherry tomatoes, and braised lemons.

For a final touch, arugula is added as a colorful accent.

There is guacamole made from scratch, a special cream sauce, and more lemons to squeeze over our plates.

Doesn’t that look too beautiful to eat?

Miche was the consummate host making sure all the guests had been served.

Here is my plate. It was a wondrous meal. I tried to eat as slowly as I could to savor every bite.

There wasn’t much left on that board at the end of the meal a testament to the wonderful, masterfully prepared food it had contained.

Thanks, Miche and Olivia for being such wonderful hosts and treating us to a meal of a lifetime.

Other posts……..

Making Chinese Dumplings

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

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Filed under Food, Western Canada Travels

Dave Does Research For His Beer Club

Dave took this photo of Oliva, Archer and me as we set off with him to explore a local Canmore brewery

As many of my readers know my husband Dave is the founder and as he puts it “spiritual leader” of a beer club in Winnipeg. The group of ten or so gentlemen meet at different Winnipeg establishments a couple of times a month to evaluate the city’s various breweries and watering holes. So it was only natural that on a walk to explore the small but unique business district of Canmore Dave would feel it was his duty to check out the local brewery so he could report back to his club members at a future meeting.

We meandered down the main street of Canmore towards the brewery.

I explored a couple of art galleries, shops and historical sites while Dave and our niece Olivia had coffee and cookies.

Finally, we reached the Canmore Brewing Company.

Olivia our niece stayed out on the patio with Archer. The Canmore Brewing Company patio is pet friendly and even provides bowls of water for dogs at the end of each table. Dave and I went inside to explore the brewery but only after the proprietor had checked our vaccination cards.

As befits a researcher as serious as Dave he had a long talk with the staff about the various kinds of beer on tap.

To help with Dave’s research he and Oliva and I all tried a different kind of beer.

As you can see the discussion about who had picked the better brew got fairly serious.

When one of our niece’s friends joined us it may have been necessary to order a second glass of a different kind of beer just for research purposes of course.

I think Dave will have plenty of material to give an excellent report to his beer club when he returns to Winnipeg.

Other posts……..

Beer, Baseball and Literature

I Drank A Beer In Austria

Beer and Pretzels in Bamberg

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Filed under Food, Western Canada Travels

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandmother

My grandmother Margareta Sawatsky Peters made wonderful chicken noodle soup. It was the stuff of legends. My father has told me stories about how Grandma would make chicken noodle soup for people in their Mennonite village of Gnadenthal who were sick or had experienced some family tragedy. If it was winter Dad would deliver the soup for his mother using a little sled pulled by his dog Rover.

My grandmother’s five daughters pose in the kind of outfit their mother would have worn when cooking chicken noodle soup

How did my Grandma make her famous chicken noodle soup? About five years ago I decided I wanted to get a more definitive answer to that question. Since Grandma had already passed away I e-mailed her five daughters for information and they responded enthusiastically.

To make her chicken noodle soup Grandma only used hens well past the egg laying stage. Their heads were chopped off on a chopping block. Next the feathers were plucked after which the hairs on the chicken were singed in an alcohol flame. It was a matter of some skill to divest the chicken of its innards. Entrails were fed to the barn cats as a treat. The chicken was cooked in a large pot of boiling water along with peppercorns, star anise, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves and large bunches of parsley tied together with thread.

Grandma made her own noodles drying them on a laundry rack and saving the water in which she boiled them to starch my Grandpa’s shirts. She got flour for her noodles by bringing wheat from their farm to the mill for grinding. The eggs for the noodles came from her chickens and the milk and butter from the family cows. Sometimes Grandma would devote an entire day to making noodles so she would have a ready supply for many months.

According to my aunts my Grandma did not have a written recipe for her soup. She kept sampling it while it was cooking and adding things until it tasted right. The women of the village of Gnadenthal all made chicken noodle soup for new mothers. After a baby was born a family received many jars of soup. In this way the women of the village showed solidarity and support to the new mother so she didn’t have to cook too much while she was regaining her strength.

One of my aunts remembers routinely having a bowl of chicken noodle soup as a ‘night cap’ with her father after evening church services. Another aunt recalls my grandmother telling her stories while she stirred her chicken noodle soup.

Giving noodles as a gift was also a holiday tradition. Till she moved to a nursing home my grandmother continued to regularly receive noodles as a gift from a niece she helped to raise after her mother died in childbirth, and from a cousin she and my grandfather sponsored to come to Canada after World War II.

Grandma with her great grandson

Grandma brought me a jar of her chicken noodle soup when she came to meet my older son just after he was born. He was her first great grandchild.

Grandma’s chicken noodle soup was a favourite of my younger son’s and once when he was about five and we were making the 90 minute drive to Grandma’s home for a visit he wrote and illustrated a story about how his great grandmother made her special soup. In his story he gave the soup certain magical qualities.

I think there is a lot of truth to the idea that her soup may have been magical.

Other posts……..

Grandma Gets a Perm

Family Tragedy- Thawing the Ground for Burial

A Mennonite on the Titanic

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Filed under Family, Food

The Great Canadian Nanaimo Bar

Cookbook on display at the Nanaimo Museum

Legend has it that in the 1930s the women of Nanaimo British Columbia started putting a sweet chocolate square in the lunch buckets of their miner husbands. The recipe for the square first appeared in the 1952 Nanaimo Hospital Women’s Auxilary Cookbook under the title Chocolate Square. In 1953 the recipe was reprinted in Vancouver’s Edith Adams Cookbook and named Nanaimo Bars.

I did a little digging into the history of the Nanaimo Bar because it is currently at the heart of a social media controversy. It started when the New York Times put the above post on Instagram. It created a great hue and cry from Canadians who said the AMERICAN newspaper had falsely represented the dessert which a 2006 National Post poll had found to be CANADA’S favourite confection. The New York Times kitchen had made the base of the Nanaimo Bar too thick. The chocolate icing should not have been rippled but according to some Canadian critics “smooth as newly Zambonied ice.”

My Nanaimo bars on a plate I inherited from my grandmother Annie Jantz Schmidt

I didn’t think I had ever made Nanaimo bars before, so after reading about the controversy I decided to try. I used the recipe of fellow children’s writer and popular Winnipeg food blogger Harriet Zaidman. I think my bars turned out pretty well thanks to Harriet’s great photos and instructions. My husband said he could tell they were made with love.

Canada stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar

I have learned some cool facts about Nanaimo bars………

  • They served Nanaimo bars for dessert at the White House the night Michelle and Barack Obama hosted Justin and Sophie Trudeau at a state dinner in 2016.
  • The city of Nanaimo’s mascot is a walking Nanaimo bar named Nanaimo Barney.
  • On an episode of Master Chef Canada contestants had to make a dish inspired by Nanaimo bars.
  • In 2019 Canada Post issued a stamp featuring a Nanaimo bar
  • Different locations in and around Nanaimo serve maple bacon, peanut butter and deep-fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar spring rolls, Nanaimo bar waffles and cheesecake and Nanaimo bar coffee and cocktails.
  • Nanaimo bars were a huge hit at Expo 86 in Vancouver and are a popular sales item on BC ferries.
  • Nanaimo bars have their own entry in the Oxford Dictionary

Other posts…….

More Than A Cake- It’s a Memory

Chocolate is Essential

Cooking Up A Storm in the Yucatan

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Filed under Canada, Culture, Food

Chocolate Is Essential

I needed some little chocolate treats for stocking stuffers and thought I might go into the Shoppers Drug Mart near my home to pick them up. I had been there about ten days before to mail a package at their Canada Post kiosk and knew many shelves in the store were now covered with yellow warning tape because those items weren’t considered essential by the government and therefore could no longer be sold.

I wondered if the non-essential items included chocolate. I wasn’t going to walk to the store on icy sidewalks or take the risk of going inside unless I was sure I could actually buy chocolate there. So I phoned the store information line to find out.

“Do you still sell Christmas candy and chocolate?” I inquired. “Absolutely!” the customer service representative assured me. “Chocolate is ESSENTIAL food!” she said.  Then she laughed. “Especially at Christmas!” And I thought I could add “And especially during a pandemic.”

Pears drizzled with chocolate we enjoyed on a food tour in Toronto

With my friends taking a course about chocolate called Chocogasm in McNally Robinson Booksellers community classroom

Chocolate and churros I photographed in Madrid

With Beatriz a fellow grandmother and teacher who gave us a tour of her family chocolate factory in Merida Mexico

We watched this woman and her daughter making chocolate in Bali

Chocolate has seen me through many trying times in my life. When I was still teaching chocolate was essential to completing all my report cards. Chocolate has been essential in pulling me out of many a funky mood. It’s sustained me during prolonged periods of writer’s block. It’s been an essential and perfect end to many a meal.

And chocolate is once again helping me get through our current trying times. I baked a chocolate mahogany chiffon cake last Sunday. I got the recipe from friends who dropped off two pieces one night for us to enjoy during our zoom call with them. Although my cake didn’t look as good as theirs it tasted great! We shared it with our son and his wife when we left supper on their porch for them on Sunday and they gave it a very positive review.

The COVID-19 pandemic is helping us to think about what is essential and what is not. In my books, chocolate is definitely ESSENTIAL!

 

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Filed under COVID-19 Diary, Food

Authors Who Bake

Harriet Zaidman was our knowledgeable bread baking guide

Yesterday I was part of a group of children’s authors who met on Zoom to learn how to bake bread from Harriet Zaidman. Harriet is the author of several picture books as well as the middle-grade novel City on Strike recently nominated for the 2020 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Harriet shares her recipes and her culinary expertise on her blog North End Nosh.

Pretty excited about how my loaf of artisan bread turned out

I had never baked bread before and neither had several of the other authors in our group. But under Harriet’s expert guidance we all managed to produce three kinds of delicious bread before our baking session was over.

My challah bread. Harriet taught us how to braid it step by step.

We baked artisan bread first, then plain white bread and finally, we learned how to make challah a bread whose name comes from the Hebrew language. We needed a little help from Harriet to learn how to pronounce “challah” just right.

Our baking group showing off our loaves of artisan bread.

Our group included Anita Daher whose fourteenth novel You Don’t Have to Die in the End was recently nominated for the 2021 White Pine award, Gabriele Goldstone author of Red Stone and Broken Stone who has a new novel coming out with Ronsdale Press in 2021, Pat Trottier whose book Relationships Make the Difference was published by Pembroke and award-winning author Colleen Nelson who has a long list of books to her credit including this year’s Teaching Mrs Muddle and Harvey Holds His Own both from Pajama Press.

My white bread had a bit of an unusual shape but my husband Dave said it was delicious!

As we baked we chatted about our current works in progress, the state of the publishing world during a pandemic and events in our personal lives. Colleen interrupted our conversation at one point to announce the final results of the American election and that of course generated lots of discussion.

It was a great day and in the end, a group of children’s authors had become a group of accomplished bakers. Thanks so much, Harriet!

Other posts…………

Sadia- A Muslim Girl From Winnipeg

Red Stone

You Don’t Have to Die in the End

 

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Filed under Food, Writing

Lessons Waiting Tables

In the early 1970s,  during my university days, I was a waitress at two Winnipeg restaurants and I learned so much from those experiences.
the paddock restaurantI was a waitress at The Paddock across from Polo Park and at the A&W Coffeeshop.  I often think about those waitressing jobs because they taught me lots of important lessons. 

A and W Coffeeshop Portage AvenueI learned to work quickly and efficiently at a whole variety of tasks, especially at the A&W Coffeeshop where they really didn’t have enough staff and I was run off my feet.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I had to keep ketchup bottles filled, take orders, total up bills, clean the bathroom, make milkshakes and floats, clear tables, cut and plate pieces of pie and cake, fill drink orders, keep my eye on the kitchen for when my orders were up, make sure customers didn’t leave without paying, work the cash register, wash the floors and wipe down the booths.  These lessons in working quickly and efficiently paid off big time in my teaching, writing and homemaking careers. 

As a waitress, I learned to keep a smile on my face at all times and exhibit extreme patience.  I knew my tips depended on me having a friendly demeanour and not looking upset when people took a long time deciding what they wanted or made negative comments to me.  This skill came in very handy when I would be doing parent-teacher interviews at school and I needed to keep a smile on my face as I spoke with one set of parents after another for hours on end. Patience came in mighty handy as a parent and a wife and a classroom teacher. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I learned lots of other things waiting tables too.  Like how important it was to get to know your boss and do the things that keep them satisfied with your work.  To be tough and accept criticism. To ward off inappropriate comments and actions from male customers.  To take responsibility even when something isn’t your fault and to act like you have things under control even when you don’t. I learned to relate to all kinds of people. 

And…………… I gained a real appreciation for folks who work in the hospitality industry. This means I ALWAYS leave a tip.  I try very hard not to complain and do my best to be friendly and kind to anyone who serves me.  

Those waitressing jobs fifty years ago played an important role in my life.  They weren’t easy jobs but they sure taught me plenty!

Other posts…………

I’m The Menu

The Paddock Restaurant

Eating With The Stars

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More Than A Cake- It’s a Memory

glenys and her cakeWe celebrated my friend Glenys’ birthday on Tuesday in the gazebo in her backyard.  My friend Debbie had purchased a cake from Jeanne’s Bakery for the occasion.  Glenys told us cakes from Jeanne’s Bakery had been a tradition for birthdays in her family since she was a child. 

Turns out Glenys’ family isn’t the only one for whom Jeanne’s cakes were a tradition as I discovered when I listened to a podcast about the bakery.  Jeanne’s cakes are iconic to Winnipeggers and there are hundreds of families who wouldn’t think of celebrating a special occasion without one of Jeanne’s cakes.

The bakery was founded by Flemish immigrants Achille and Jeanne Van Landeghem in 1938. It remained in their family for 80 years till the Van Landeghem’s grandson Donald sold the bakery to Jerry Penner in 2003 after Donald’s brother and business partner Alan died of a heart attack. 

jeanne's cakeWhat Jerry realized after he bought Jeanne’s Bakery was that he hadn’t only bought a bakery he had bought a part of Winnipeg history.  He said it really struck home when a woman came into the bakery needing a cake for her mother’s funeral.  She had flown all the way from Vancouver to get the cake because her Mom had requested they serve Jeanne’s cake at her memorial service.  The daughter told Jerry a cake from Jeanne’s was more than a cake- it was a memory. 

Jerry has the recipe for Jeanne’s cakes in his safety deposit box and uses it to make the 1500-2000 cakes they bake and ice a week.  Jeanne’s Cakes certainly have their critics. The podcast I listened to interviews Free Press food writer Alison Gillmor. The only thing she can find to praise about the cakes is the chocolate curls that cover their sides. But despite some negative reviews the cakes continue to have legions of fans. 

megan's cocktails

Glenys’ daughter Meg made special strawberry cocktails so we could toast her mother at her birthday celebration

  My friends and I  hadn’t seen each other in person for more than five months because of the pandemic so we drank a toast to being together again and a toast to our friend’s birthday.  We made some great memories eating Glenys’ birthday Jeanne’s cake. candles cake

Other posts……………

Not A Meal- It Was An Experience- Another T-4 Adventure

Burger Week-2019- You Win Some-You Lose Some

The Tale of the Traveling Pineapple Crisp

Hildegards

Gunn’s Bakery

 

 

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Filed under Food, T-4s, Winnipeg

Comfort Foods, Cycling Discoveries and Winnipeg Starts Opening Up

Comfort food.  Yesterday on his CBS Sunday Morning segment Mo Rocca talked about how people are turning to comfort foods during the pandemic.  For many, this is a food that is old and familiar, perhaps something we enjoyed in our childhoods. Mo interviewed food writer and chef Samin Nosrat who says often the texture of a food is what brings us that sense of comfort. Nosrat has discovered that soft foods, in particular, make us think of our childhoods.

Coincidentally yesterday afternoon, my son sent me a text about a soft comfort food he remembered loving from his childhood, his grandmother’s homemade buns. Did I have the recipe?  He might try making them. A quick e-mail to my siblings unearthed a copy of Mom’s recipe in her own handwriting in just a few minutes. My Mom had given my sister-in-law a box of recipe cards for a wedding shower gift in 1984 and had written some of her favourite recipes on the cards.  One was the recipe for the buns her children and grandchildren loved so much.  Mom had learned how to make the buns from her own mother. They were special- light as a feather but so satisfying.  Mom shaped the dough and placed the buns on pans to rise before she went to bed and then baked them in the morning when she woke up filling the house with an aroma that drew us all out of our rooms and to the kitchen  where the buns sat on racks on the counter golden-topped and warm.  

On our bike rides this past week we discovered some gems in St. Boniface. A statue of Marguerite d’ Youville the founder the Grey Nuns. Their order was responsible for opening the first schools and hospitals in Manitoba. Someone had put a pandemic mask on the venerable Catholic sister. The home of author Gabrielle Roy on Rue Deschambault which I visited during an Open Doors event several years ago. You can read all about that visit and what I learned about one of Manitoba’s earliest and most celebrated authors here.  

My husband Dave was interested to find something else on Rue Deschambault, the site of the new Kilter Brewery set to open shortly. We discovered this mural in the parking lot of the Forum Art Centre at the corner of Eugenie and Tache. It was made by a colleague of mine at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Michel Saint Hilaire.  Michel is responsible for nearly thirty different murals in Winnipeg.  One of my favourites is the tribute mural he did for former Winnipeg mayor Bill Norrie.  You can read my blog post about it here

Book launches like this one won’t be happening at McNally Robinsons for a long time. 

Today is the day many Manitoba businesses will re-open.  I have had e-mails from some I visit often about what their operating methods will look like post-pandemic.  

My hairdresser will take half as many clients at a time and charge a $5 COVID-19 fee to help pay for the extra personal protective equipment the stylists will need. The soonest available appointment is May 26.

My physiotherapist asks you to wait in your car and they will text you when it is your turn to enter the office.  

My dentist says they haven’t figured out yet how to open safely so they will only be treating emergencies at this time.  They will keep me posted.

Several restaurants on my block assembled their outdoor patios on the weekend getting ready to welcome guests who want to eat outside their establishments.

Mountain Equipment Co-op will only be open for a few hours a day.

Only 50 customers will be permitted in McNally Robinson booksellers at one time. Their popular classroom courses and book launches aren’t set to resume in the near future. 

The golf club where my husband spends lots of his time won’t have their restaurant open and only one golfer can use each golf cart. 

I don’t think I will be rushing to change my isolation routine too much at least to begin with.  I will adopt a cautious approach for now and see how things go. 

Other posts…………

Chicken Noodle Soup

Could I have Been A Grey Nun? 

Knuckleball- Think Mennonite Corner Gas

 

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Not A Meal- It Was An Experience- Another T-4 Adventure

On Saturday the T-4’s, the group of friends I meet with regularly, went to the Amsterdam Tea Room and Bar just down the street from my house to enjoy a luncheon together before I set off on an extended holiday. What a wonderful time we had!  The friendly and knowledgeable chef waited on us personally. He patiently answered all our questions about the menu. He brought out each dish and told us exactly what it was and how it had been made. We were impressed that the menu is changed regularly so you can keep coming back and trying new things. So many of the ingredients used in the food preparation are local and almost everything is made in-house. My friend Glenys started with one of the unique tea-infused cocktails featured at the Tea Room.  This one was called Earl Grey on Safari and Glenys said it was wonderful. The Amsterdam food menu is served tapas style so you share all the dishes.  That’s great because you get to try so many things. We started with the Carrot Hummus with almonds, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate. It was accompained by foccacia bread baked in house. There was definitely a chili flavor to the hummus that added a nice kick. Next up was my personal favourite dish Golden Beets with Peaches, Hazelnuts and Ricotta Cheese. I was so busy oohing and aahing over the Parisienne Gnocchi with Cauliflower Chowda I almost forgot to take a photo. The same thing happened with the Broccolini and Faro dish. We ended with a Snert Stamppot with Local Lamb Sausage.  It had a very interesting unique taste. We were the only people in the restaurant on Saturday at lunch but I have seen the place packed when I have walked by so I know its popular. The desserts on the menu looked delectable too and I’d like to go back and try them some time but I had a cake waiting back at our condo for dessert and an early celebration of my friend Debbie’s birthday. My husband Dave acted as our barista making us coffee with his Aero Press.  As always we lingered long and caught up on our daily lives. 

I’d highly recommend the Amsterdam Tea Room.  We all agreed our lunch hadn’t just been a meal. It had been a real food experience. 

Other posts……..

At the Gates Again

What’s Happening With Those T-4’s?

Puzzling

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Filed under Food, Restaurants