Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The best kind of booze is educational booze.

You may recall my mentioning a presentation on Spanish history in my last post. It was the topic I'd chosen (though not formally) for my oral presentation for Spanish class, mostly because I have an odd fasciantion with the dangerously inbred Habsburg monarchy. It was so frustrating that every time I tried to work on it, I'd find myself giving up and browsing food blogs instead. That's when it hit me: why the heck would I present a frivolous, tabloid-worthy history lesson when the obvious answer was looking me in the face?

I had a lot of trouble deciding which foods from Spanish-speaking countries I'd choose to make. If it was a main course, it had to be vegetarian. It had to be authentic; I refuse to serve my classmates chips and salsa from a bag and a jar. It had to be easy to make and easy to transport.

It didn't take long for the sweets to grab my attention. I debated cupcakes for a bit, but scrapped it due to authenticity reasons. Wanting something more authentic and still sweet meant flan, which I had none of the ingredients or equipment for (I was unable to splurge on the supplies due to my upcoming trip to the US of A - more on that later). Then, a few days ago, one of my friends said, "Why go to the trouble of making all that food when you could just make sangria?". I agreed, got permission from my prof to use real wine, and got to work.

I'd decided from near the get-go to make sangria and some food. While returning home on the bus one night, a classmate from spanish plonked down next to me. He was drunk and heading home from the bar (but it's okay; it was Robbie Burns Day). When I told him of my plan to make sangria with non-alcoholic wine, he insisted that I spike it with real wine. I opted in the end to use all real wine.

So what if my class is at 11:30 in the morning? That's close enough to noon to count, I think.

I'm anxious as all heck for the presentation tomorrow, of course, because for some reason speaking formally in front of people makes me dead nervous. However, rest assured that I won't be chugging any of this until AFTER I've presented. Cheers!

Una receta tradicional por la sangría

1 y ½ litros de vino tinto
1 apuro de canela
1 taza de jugo de naranja
¼ taza de jugo de cal
½ taza de jugo de lim
¼ taza de az
frutas cortados (naranjas, lim
ónes, cales, y melocotónes son las frutas mas comúnes)

Vierto todos los ingredients líquidos juntos en una jarra. Mezcle revolviendo hasta el az
úcar es derretido. Agregue todos las frutas. Refrigere por la noche y sirve con hielo manana.

PS: Translating this in Babelfish is hilarious!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Snickerdoodles for Supper

It was a Monday night at the library. I'd been in class from about 11:30am until 8pm with one two-hour break for lunch which had been spent studying. Frustrated about a project on Spanish history, I found myself leaving behind wikipedia entries about "Carlos the Bewitched" in favour of some food blogs. As I browsed happily, I saw that Jasmine over at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict had declared January 15th as "a day that really schmecks" in honour of Edna Staebler's birthday. I was intrigued and delighted when I found an invitation amongst my emails.

Edna Staebler is a Canadian culinary icon. Her cookbooks are eternally popular; I remember seeing them on the shelves at the library where I worked during high school. Though I have not had the pleasure of reading any of them yet, I am sure that I will do so as soon as I manage to get my greedy little paws on one.

Burnt out from a long day at school, I figured it was about time to bake something. Since I had no way of getting my hands on a copy of any of Edna's cookbooks at that moment, unfortunately, I instead began browsing websites featuring Amish and Mennonite cooking. Then, to my delight, I found a website which had a recipe for "Amish Snickerdoodles".

Allow me to digress for a moment. Two of current roommates lived on my floor in residence last year. After Thanksgiving (if memory serves), my mother sent me back to school with more cookies than any single person could possibly eat, so I very kindly shared the cookie love with my floormates. Most of them had never tried snickerdoodles before, and in fact, Mom never made them very often. However, they garnered enthusiastic raves from a lot of my floormates, in particular Shan, one of my current roommates. I figured they would be a pretty safe choice and rushed home to get to work.

As I'd been in class all day, I'd barely eaten, and at 11pm on a Monday night I found myself with a pile of cookies and a glass of milk serving as supper. Though I'm not sure Edna would have endorsed this practice, I think she would have liked the cookies.

"Amish Snickerdoodles" - recipe modified from "Aaron's A to Z Garden of Recipes" website
My imprecise recipe notation may not be your cup of tea. I'm not a scientific person and I tend to tweak things to my liking, using the fictional "baker's instinct" I seem to think I inherited from my mom. This explains my cracktastic yield of 43 cookies, among other things... I hope you enjoy it anyway.

1/2 c. margarine or butter
1/2 c. solid shortening
2 eggs
1 c. white sugar
1/2 c. cinnamon sugar
2 c. white flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
cinnamon sugar, made to taste (because really, it's a matter of taste; I add a pinch of ginger and nutmeg to my cinnamon sugar)

Mix the first 5 ingredients thoroughly in large bowl. Sift the flour and baking soda; add to first mixture. Form dough into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookies (a good indicator is when the bottoms are just starting to brown). As Aaron, the author of the original recipe, notes, you may top the cookies with red-hots if you desire (I don't like them, personally). These cookies store well and freeze beautifully. Yield: 43 medium-sized cookies.

Recipe notes: The recipe called for margarine, but I used butter to no ill effect (I'm told it makes a difference sometimes...). You can use all white flour; I like a bit of whole wheat in my baked goods. I don't recommend mixing more than half-and-half, or it gets very dense (though if you like very dense, by all means dense it up!). To make things more interesting, I added some cinnamon sugar to the batter as well as on top; it really added another dimension of flavour and texture to the cookies.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Menu for Hope III results

After weeks of waiting in anticipation for the results, we have now found out the winners of the Menu for Hope III raffle, posted by Pim on her website on January 15th.

I was thrilled to discover that I won a Creative Zen mp3 player (that my younger brother insisted that I bid on), as well as a food-related mystery prize. I am going to have a very fun time with it; I already listen to music while cooking, and now I won't have to go looking for my digital camera to take pictures while cooking. I am utterly thrilled.

I'm just as thrilled at the thought of preparing and sending out my prize package, which was won by Peasantwench. P, my darling, please send me an email with your contact details using the email address you provided on the donation form, and I will traipse happily to the nearest post office and send it to you posthaste. I'm going to go prepare it to be mailed right this moment; I'm that excited.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Birthday Brownies

It's never too late to say "Happy New Year!" Sure, we may be 17 days in already, but I haven't had the chance to upload my pictures onto my computer. This term is shaping up to be super-busy.

I spent New Year's Eve and a significant chunk of new Year's Day at a log cabin in the southwest tip of rural Nova Scotia. My friend Sare's birthday is on January 2nd, but since she was going back to her college that day, she decided to celebrate the New Year and her birthday jointly.

I went out to her house on a crisp, cool December night. We packed up two 4-wheelers (one with a wagon attached to carry our copious amounts of stuff) and drove through beautiful snow-glazed forest trails as the starry sky stretched out above us. As we drove along, I couldn't think of a more perfect way to spend the last hours of 2006. The generator at the cabin wasn't turned on, so we relied on candlelight and a wood stove to suit our needs. We played board games, missed the official countdown (we shouted "Happy New Year!" at about 5 past 12 and marvelled at how loudly our voices echoed over the lake), set off lovely fireworks, got my New Year's kiss from my friend's dog, and snuggled up in the loft, warmed by the wood stove's heat, to sleep.

A few days prior to this, Sare had visited my house and we baked brownies together and took kooky pictures, some of which are in the previous post. We came across a recipe for "Gourmet Mint Brownies" in a Pillsbury cookie cookbook, but didn't have all the ingredients to make them. Sare joked that she would love to have some for her birthday, so I obliged. After days of agonizing at supermarkets trying to find peppermint extract, my father brought some home on December 31st. I was ecstatic; I had nearly given up hope. I then set to work and baked those suckers.

As they were being cut up and put onto a tray to take to the party with me, my family descended, rather like vultures, on the brownies. I managed to distract them by taking lots of pictures and blinding them with camera flashes. As you can see, it works wonders.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

If a picture is worth a thousand words...

Then these are a mishmash of photographs that don't really need any commentary. It just demonstrates part of the awesomeness of my hometown kitchen over the holiday season.

I hope you all have a delectable 2007.