Sewing was My First Love

My father taught me to sew. I remember making a very trendy outfit with coordinating cape for a teen fashion show in Regina many years ago. My love of sewing led me into studying home economics at the University of Saskatchewan.

I met my BFF during the summer before college at a church camp. What luck that she was also planning to attend the same college. Together we suffered through chem labs and revelled in the fun of university life. First and second year were gruelling with an emphasis on the sciences. Real sciences like physics, agricultural microbiology, anatomy, biology, chemistry and more that have not reserved a place in my memory. Home economics is a science degree after all and we had more than one class with med students and Agros.

After completing the required courses to convocate I spent all my electives in clothing and textiles. I was always interested in health and my diet but I do not remember the day that the passion for sewing and fashion was overtaken by the obsession for food. In fact I cannot even tell you why it happened.

So fast forward to today and I find myself slipping into a few sewing projects. I have some ideas for the farmers' market that I will share at a later date. While I was in Victoria, a city with surprisingly good fabric and  notions stores, I shopped. The feel of fabrics in my hands brings back the memories of a passion I once had. It feels good. I am looking at linens.

It is almost old school to be served by men in the fabric and notions stores where I shopped. It is usually men that are tailors. These men know their stuff. I am sure it was the owner at Gala Fabrics that helped me the three times I visited. His cutting skills are amazing. He can cut a perfect straight line off the bolt as sure as if he had ripped it.

Then he recommended The Button and Needlework Boutique for the embroidery thread I needed. Again a man, probably the owner of the shop, selected the perfect product for my needs. I purchased a beautiful cotton single strand embroidery thread, almost a cord, and very strong. These types of stores used to be in every city but over time the demand has waned and they have closed. There is something about a boutique textile shop that gives a superior shopping experience as compared to the chain fabric store. First and last, the staff is knowledgeable.

Watch for more about my sewing projects this summer when the market opens.


Throwback Thursday

Me and my sister Trish holding newborn sisters Glenda and Gloria.
I have been without my camera since before Christmas. This has been a very difficult time for me. I have realized that I live through the lens. Not only food but every time I see a brilliant sunrise or crisp white hoar frost.

It is a lesson in respect. I foolishly put a bottle of hair product in the basket with my camera equipment. Yes, it leaked. Looking back only serves one purpose. I won't do that again. My camera has been in for repair since.

Yesterday I finally went to pick up the body. It was okay and ready but parts have not arrived to repair my lens. After serious thinking and considering the consequences it was more prudent to buy a new lens rather than repairing the old. Same cost. More time lost. The good news is that Mr. Cheng had a fullly restored lens for $100.00 cheaper than buying new.

I will be back with more recipes soon now. For today I found these pictures that are interesting, to me anyway.

I don't ever remember my parents looking this young. I was two.

Must be Grandpa Hewitt and Grandma Hewitt with my sister Trish.

Spoiled baby me.


Sea Buckthorn Crisps

It is the post holiday season and healthy eating is at the top of my mind, if not yours. I really want to have a healthy diet this winter and possibly drop a few pounds. Cravings are my nemesis. Mostly I have salty cravings but I also have crispy cravings. Crispy can trump salty so I opt to make something healthy and crispy.

These are a Raincoast Crisp knock-off with a twist. Sea Buckthorn are about the most nutritious plant on the planet. High in antioxidants and about 23 other significant nutrients make them something I try to add to my menu plan as often as I can.

They are a very small and tart berry with a disproportionately large pit. Eating without sweetening is not pleasant. I have usually made desserts or salad dressings or added them to barbecue sauces but I want a more simple application. Pair crispy with healthy and I came up with this crisp.

These are delicious with a brie or chevre cheese. For more information on the berries click here.

Sea Buckthorn Crisps

2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. nuts of choice (I used pecans, whole)
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. buttermilk (I used a combination of sour milk and kefir)
1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds
1 c. sea buckthorn

Mix dry ingredients and nuts and seeds in bowl of stand mixer. Combine wet ingredients in another bowl. Gradually add liquid to dry while mixer is on low speed.

Pour batter into two loaf pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until done in a 350F oven.

Cool on rack. Place in freezer for an hour and then slice thinly. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 275F for about 30 minutes or until crispy. Cool and store in air tight container.

Makes about 80 crisps and approximately 35 calories each.


Smoked Salmon Spread Appetizer with Cucumber Saketini Cocktail

Another January and another Christmas. My Christmas was very quiet, just the way I like it. In fact my New Year's Eve was also a quiet one. When this month's Cooking Light Supper Club theme was tapas it was perfect for my quiet evening at home. Both of my recipes are adapted from Cooking Light. I am intrigued by all these choices. All right up my alley!

Check out the rest of our menu. Pass your curser each recipe over and you will find the link.

Valerie at More Than Burnt Toast has made these amazing Kibbeh Meatballs with Spiced Yogurt Sauce paired with a Pomegranate Gin Sling

Shelby at Grumpy's Honeybunch made this yummy Roasted Tomato Soup Shooters and serving with sauvignon blanc.

Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe shares a sweet with Gingered Crème Brulée. This sounds absolutely delicious. I can see enjoying an ice wine or sauternes with this.

Smoked Salmon Spread

1 lb. cold or hot smoked salmon, divided
3/4 c. reduced-fat sour cream
1 tsp. finely grated lemon rind
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. chopped fresh chives
Chopped fresh chives (optional) 

Place half of salmon, sour cream, rind, juice, cardamom, and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer salmon mixture to a bowl.

Coarsely chop remaining salmon, and fold into salmon mixture. Gently fold in 1/4 cup chives. Cover and chill. Garnish with additional chopped chives, if desired.

Cucumber Saketini

3 oz. gin
1/2 oz. sake
5 thin slices of cucumber 
3 fresh basil leaves, plus sprig for garnish 
In a shaker with ice, mix together the gin and sake. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with the cucumber. Add the basil to the shaker before straining. Garnish with a small basil sprig, if desired. Makes 1 serving.


Not Another Christmas Recipe

Paris street person's Christmas
My Christmas was enjoyed in essence as an onlooker, a bystander, a non-participant. This is partially because my only camera is in for repairs and without pictures of the meal, the cocktails, the tree, what is Christmas?

Christmas is the day you may begin with photos of sparkling mimosas or a good champagne straight-up with breakfast or brunch. Christmas is the day of 30-pound turkeys. The day of a myriad of hors d’oeuvres, side dishes and desserts. Oh, and did I forget? Gifts galore.

No pictures allows total freedom from pretty food. There is no need for a preplanned menu. There is no sharing of festive ideas on social media or on the blog.

Whether I had an 81-day aged rib steak or a 30-pound turkey really doesn’t matter to anyone, even me. How many sides did I serve with my main? Again, who cares? And if I listen to Sixpence None the Richer or Counting Crows, nobody knows, nobody cares. 

Jerry Seinfeld said it best. “This is the problem, there’s too many things,” Seinfeld began. “You have things, I have things, holiday time, there’s going to be a lot more things.” “All things on Earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage,” he pointed out.  “Your home is a garbage processing center...Garage seems to be a form of the word garbage”.

Christmas is the proof that the yearlong talk of restraint and avoiding conspicuous consumption is merely that, talk. Do you really believe that elaborate gifts are a measure of love and caring? No, I didn’t think so.

How much did Christmas cost you? How can I say this without sounding like I am bragging but I spent a total of $50 plus that $25 bottle of bubbly and a good steak. I sent six cards and delivered four handmade gifts. Does anyone feel left out? No, I didn’t think so.

What is it like to be alone Christmas morning? There is a deep silence as big fluffy snowflakes dust the firs like powdered sugar shaken from a sifter. It is like my house is in a big snow globe that has been gently shaken and set down carefully not to disturb. There is no frenzy of opening gifts and screams over spilt hot chocolate.

There is no rush to listen to a Queen, a Pope or a politician as he or she lays out the scene of last year and hopes for the next. I always cry anyway. There is no Facebooking my partner who is sitting on the other end of the sofa. I would rather have my vicarious Christmas dinner with Ricardo. Yum, celery soup. I have celery. Or pomegranates. I forgot I have one squirreled away in the crisper drawer.

I am not overly religious yet have enjoyed Christmases past with dramatic cantatas in century old cathedrals or the burning bush on the mountaintop overlooking the 13th century Cathedral of St. Andrew in Amalfi.

I have enjoyed a seafood Christmas Eve and 30 pound turkeys on Christmas Day. I have indulged in turkey leftovers, pies and cakes. As I ate a more reasonable amount of food this year I almost began counting the calories I was saving by eating alone away from the hysteria of the perfect Christmas day of food. One pear hand pie, half a steak, fiddleheads and of course, a handful of shortbread icebox cookies. I didn’t even break a sweat.

How was my day? (Do you really care? No? I didn’t think so but here it is anyhoo) One can never totally escape the drama of family, even if not with them in person. So I didn’t miss out on that, phew! But what I pined for most was my camera for I am also an obsessed documenter of food. There was nothing I could do today but be the critic. I amused myself by scanning the plethora of Christmas meals on Facebook. Sloppy place settings and silverware a kilter, white balance off by a mile, bad lighting and so many moments of pride as the meal was being staged for the camera before sitting down. I only hope it was still hot for the guests! Just saying.

Today is Boxing Day, that vestige of colonialism. Will I run out and grab up all those gifts I didn’t get? Works of art, meat slicers, a onesie pyjama? Buy up the candy-striped spatulas, Nutcracker gift boxes, all the on-sale wrapping paper and cards? Well, maybe. Look at all the money I will save? I have money leftover from Christmas, after all. You have no idea how much I would love to have a meat slicer!

Oh well, perhaps just this one time? 

Nah, I think I’ll just pick up a package of my Miss Sugar’s favourite Friskies treats.

Footnote: I had intended to write a real foodie piece but in keeping with my fuss free Christmas this seemed more appropriate. I don’t feel quite ready to indulge.


Korean Style Braised Short Rib Stew

In 3 days it will be Christmas Day and I know this isn't a very festive dish, at least in my small town. However, my camera is broken and I am looking back at pictures in my library. I prepared this recipe after my Chinatown tour in Victoria a few weeks back. It was fun to shop at the Chinese grocer with my newly acquired knowledge. 

Chef Heidi talked about regular soy sauce and dark soy but I was somehow distracted through that part of the lesson. Let me tell you now that dark is very strongly flavoured. Use it to add flavour and not by the cupful! This stew was still tasty and all the extra sauce was great as a marinade for more ribs and chicken wings.

Rather than buy regular short ribs I purchased the thinly sliced meat from Chinatown. It cooks in a minute but I also like it because it is much lower in fat. Taro is an ugly little root vegetable. It needs to be peeled. When you peel it you will find it is a tad slimy. Don't worry because with cooking that sliminess disappears. The flavour is mild and taro functions like potato. It thickens without changing flavour.

Korean-Style Braised-Short-Rib Stew
4 pounds short ribs 
1 small bunch scallions, trimmed and roughly chopped  
1 1/2 cups soy sauce 
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped 
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped 
1/2 cup garlic cloves, peeled (approximately 2 heads) 
1/2 cup sugar 
1/2 cup mirin 
1/2 cup fresh orange juice 
1/2 cup apple juice 
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems reserved for another use, halved or quartered if large
1 cup jarred water chestnuts 
1 cup taro, peeled and cut into large dice (about a 3-inch segment) 
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into large dice (about two carrots) 
1 cup butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about half a squash)

Put the short ribs into a bowl, and cover with water. Drain, and discard water. Repeat twice. Remove short ribs from the bowl, and score them across the top of the meat in diagonal slashes. Return the ribs to the bowl, and rinse again. Remove, and pat dry with paper towel. 

In a blender or food processor, combine scallions, soy sauce, ginger, onion, garlic, sugar, mirin, orange juice and apple juice, then pulse to purée. Add a little water if you need to thin out the sauce so it combines. 

Put the puréed sauce in a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven with a cover, add 3 cups of water and stir to combine. Put the pot over high heat, and bring to a boil, then add the ribs to the pot and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover the pot.

Cook the ribs for a minimum of 2 hours over low heat, then add the vegetables, replace the cover and simmer for another 30 minutes or so, until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked through.

Adapted from a recipe by Roy Choi that appeared in the New York Times.