Saturday, June 26, 2010

Protest Fuel

When I started this blog during March break, I had said to myself that I would try to keep it just about food. No focus on work, or school or politics or anything else. It would be about food. It would be fun and engaging and a good way for me to learn more about cooking, mixing flavours, and experimenting in the kitchen in general. And it has. I've had so much fun taking photos: arranging books in the background, running out onto the balcony to catch that last glimpse of natural sunlight, taking a bite before taking the picture, getting up close and personal with the food. Yes, fun and engaging it has definitely been. But you know, sometimes, you can't keep politics out of anything, and you know what? It can be a good thing.

It's like when we were told to keep politics out of the classroom. Impossible. Impossible, when you have students who read papers in different languages from around the world and come to school wanting to discuss their discontent with world leaders. Impossible when they see violence in their own backyards and need a way to vent and cope. Impossible when they're seeing money being used to cater a school function and they have to work with broken pencils and ripped up textbooks, and when they have to pay large amounts of money to go on field trips. Impossible, when they hear about money going into education, but have to drink expired milk because that's what our nutrition program can afford. Impossible, when they are kept inside for 3 days in a row because the school board is afraid that they'll see a protest for social and environmental justice in their neighbourhood park and actually want to join in. But that's a good thing. I smile inside when I realize that the students I teach are 100 times more aware about the world then I was at their age. It makes me believe that they are going to grow up and continue the fight to change the world and make it better.

I was never good at discussing theories of politics with fancy words. I was never really a good academic. I made it through my university years by listening and reading, and trying as best as I could to develop informed opinions about the world. But I was never really good at arguing about it. Let's face it. I'm not going to be one of those super-smart people that will contribute to ground-breaking theories, or who will do research that no one has dared to do before, or who will somehow write something that will change the face of who we view knowledge. That's not me -- though I admire with all my might those who I know will do so (yeah, gigglejuice, I'm talking to YOU :). That being said, I think that contributing to a common goal is something I can still participate in. What does that mean to me? Actually discussing the G20 with students, when everyone else brushes it off. Telling them about the real reason they are stuck inside the school for lunch and recess when everyone else just says "that's the way it has to be." And participating in the organized demonstration to show the powers of the world that education and human rights and environmental protection and all the other issues that are always swept to the back of the room need to be addressed. Taking part in a movement because, no we don't really expect them to engage in respectful dialogue with us, we just want to keep the movement alive because sometimes, that's a victory in itself.

So what does any good protest-goer need? A banner, a group of friends to stick with, smart protest gear, and nutritious snacks. Enter: Peanut butter cocoa granola and oatmeal honey thyme biscuits. Ok, so this post isn't all that focused on food .. oh well. Sometimes, fun stuff needs to take a back seat. Here are the recipes.

Peanut-butter-cocoa-KEEP EDUCATION PUBLIC-Granola

basic measurements from Everybody Likes Sandwiches: hearty, wholesome, crisp and great for sharing under an awning as the police rush by

2 cups of oats
2 tablespoons of good quality cocoa powder
1/4 cup of whole almonds
3/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1.5 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

1. Combine the oats, cocoa powder and almonds in a large bowl. Set aside.

2. Heat the peanut butter, honey and maple syrup in a small saucepan over low heat just until everything gets melt-y and combined. Pour over the oat mixture. Add the applesauce and stir to combine.

3. Spread the mixture out onto a cookie sheet. Using a spatula, break it up into little clumps. Bake in a 300 degree oven, turning twice, for about 30 minutes or until the granola gets nice and crisp.

4. Cool overnight and store in a ziplock bag to share with your activist friends.

Oatmeal-honey-thyme-NO BLOOD FOR OIL-biscuits
basic measurements from Bread and Honey: lightly sweet, lovely thyme flavour, nutty, wholesome, butter-free and a great pick-me-up when the protest gets to be anti-climactic

1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 quick cooking oats
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
a pinch of salt
1.5 tablespoons of canola oil
2.5 tablespoons of honey
5 sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup of skim milk
1/4 cup of plain yogurt

1. Sift the flours, baking soda and powder together in a large bowl. Add the oatmeal and salt and mix to combine.

2. Add the thyme, oil, honey, milk and yogurt and stir gently until just combine. Don't over mix!

3. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake in a 425 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits get golden brown and fragrant. Makes about 9 little biscuits.

Monday, June 21, 2010

As per your sweet request

Big hello to Janet at Redpath Sugar. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm so flattered that you like my crumb cake! And here's a peek inside ... It was the LAST piece. The texture was incredibly light (see, you don't always need butter!) and fluffy and oh so easy to eat. Not overly sweet and perfect with a cup of coffee or tea. You should definitely try it!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Warm Weather + Warm Spices = Warm Feelings

Summer is almost here! Officially, I only have to wait 2 days. Unofficially, it's more like 8, but for me, the good times have already started. My weekends are getting more relaxed - I'm enjoying time doing nothing or having outdoor adventures without that nagging "you've got marking to do!" in the back of my mind. Monday, instead of looming over me, has become something to look forward to - let's face it: no one really does much teaching during the last week of school, right? And the warm weather (crossing my fingers) finally looks like it's here to stay. The sun pops her head up around 5:30 instead of 8:00, and by 9:00, I can already shed the sweater I've put on and walk carefree in a t-shirt. And did I mention that certain people have already started wearing sandals?

Although I can honestly say that we're truly blessed with having all four seasons, and that I do love winter with her blustery fresh cold air and fluffy snowflakes which give me the perfect excuse to put off the marking and go trampling outdoors, I must admit that the warm weather is definitely lifting my spirits. So why on earth, you would ask, am I baking with warm winter flavours instead of fresh summery ones? Instead of lemons and strawberries, why would I turn to oranges and nutmeg? I don't know. I honestly do not know. But what I do know, is that what came out of the oven didn't remind me of Christmas or snowfalls or days spent curled up inside. The smell was lovely, warm, inviting: the perfect baked treat to share with a friend who I desperately needed to catch up with.

See, I was meeting my friend yesterday in the mid-morning. My weekday biological alarm clock went off around its usual time, so I had a bit of time of spare, but not too much. I didn't want to start off the already steamy day by working up a sweat in the kitchen. So, after a nice long workout and a quick, cold smoothie, I decided to bake a little cake. I decided that the Ontario strawberries in the fridge would serve me much better blended up in a smoothie or eaten as is, plus I didn't feel like spending all that time hulling and chopping. Although I did have some lemons, I thought that I'd probably need them for our upcoming Father's Day barbecue when we would have to come up with a marinade for chicken. So, with warm weather outside and warm thoughts of meeting an old friend, I turned to the warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom and the fresh zing of orange zest. I slightly modified this recipe for orange crumb cake that I used way back in December and waited patiently as it baked in the oven. Not only did my partner wake up to a nice little slice of warm, spicy sweetness, but it put a big smile on my friend's face when I gave them to her. Plus, it was so easy and almost healthy -- no butter in a crumb cake?! I promise, you won't miss it.

So I'm not that good with seasonal baking. So what? Bake the orange crumb cake and save the lemons and berries for tomorrow.

Orange Crumb Cake
(slightly adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches)

1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of ground almonds
1/2 cup of brown sugar
zest of half an orange
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
a pinch of nutmeg
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 tablespoons of orange juice
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 cup of skim milk yogurt

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flours and spices. Add in the ground almonds and sugar and stir to make sure everything is evenly combined. Add in the oil and juice and mix to form a crumble. Set aside a heaping 1/2 cup of this mixture for the topping.

2. In a small bowl, beat together the egg, almond extract, baking powder and soda and yogurt.

3. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Don't over mix! It will be lumpy and that's ok!

4. Pour the batter into a small loaf pan and top with the reserved crumble topping. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted comes out clean.

5. Feel warm and cozy inside as you take a little bite and share with your friend.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

La Nostalgie

Je n’imaginerais jamais qu’une cérémonie de remise de diplômes ne me donnerait jamais des sentiments de nostalgie. Mais en fait, c’est exactement le mot qui décrit me sentiments en ce moment là. La nostalgie. C’est aussi la cause de cet abrupt changement de langue ici à mon blogue. Laissez-moi m’expliquer un peu…

Ma sœur a reçu aujourd’hui son diplôme d’études supérieures de l’Université de Toronto. Elle tient maintenant, un doctorat ès « physiques biomédicales. » Après tant d’années d’études, elle est officiellement Dr. Lau. C’était un moment à jamais oublier – pour elle, et pour moi. J’ai regardé avec fierté tandis qu’elle marchait sur le podium, se tenait les mains du Chancellor, et finalement, quand elle sortait de la salle. Heureux comme ce moment était, je me sentais un peu triste. Pourquoi? L’université me manque un peu. Le monde de l’académie me manque …juste un peu. Je ne voudrais pas dire que la stresse de travail, et les présentations orales et les courses qui durent jusqu'à neuf heures du soir me manquent. En fait, je suis bien contente de les laisser dans mon passé. Et je ne voudrais pas dire non plus, que je ne suis bien heureuse de me réveiller chaque jour en savant que je vais recevoir au moins 100 « Bonjour Madame! » Cette assurance là me ferait sourire à n’importe quel moment. Mais … les copains avec qui je peux discuter le monde politique, les camarades de classes avec qui je peux utiliser mon français, et la lecture .. la lecture .. ce sont ces souvenirs là qui me manquent maintenant.

Quand je suis sortie de l’Université je craignais de perdre mon habilité de parler, comprendre et écrire en français. Mon emploi n’exige qu’un niveau intermédiaire de communication française, et je ne voulais pas gaspiller tous que j’ai appris pendant 6 longues années à l’école. Alors, pour l’éviter, je lis toujours les livres français (et permettez-moi de dire que, cette liberté seule, vaut la peine de ces 6 longues années à l’université), j’écoute de la radio français, et aujourd’hui, je me promets d’écrire de temps et temps en français. Voilà! La nostalgie, elle ne cause pas toujours du chagrin, n’est pas?

Mon dieu que c’était une longue introduction à un repas si simple : une salade inspirée par la très connue salade niçoise de la France. Mais, comme toujours, j’ai fait quelques substitutions, je et suis sûre que mon meilleur amie va dire « C’est une bonne petite salade, mais ce n’est pas une salade niçoise! » C’est vrai. Ce n’est pas une salade niçoise, mais une salade qui rappelle les saveurs des fines herbes, le citron, l’onctueux jaune d’œuf, une savoureuse saleté (qui provient traditionnellement des olives, mais dans ce cas sont substitués pars des tomates séchés au soleil), et enfin la fraicheur d’une légume légèrement cuit dans l’eau – dans ce cas, les asperges en place des haricots verts. Oui, je sais – c’est beaucoup de substitutions. Mais, la plus grande nous attend ..

J’étais inspirée à faire cette salade après avoir lu ce post de tara à Seven Spoons, qui a fait un pan bagnat (un ronde de pain français remplis d’une salade niçoise traditionnelle – c’est-à-dire avec du thon, des olives et des herbes fines), et ce post de gazellig-girl, qui a fait une saladé au « thon » -- elle a remplacé le thon avec des pois de chiches écrasés avec les tines d’une fourchette. Oui, c’est ça. La substitution finale : au lieu d’utiliser du thon, j’ai utilisé les pois de chiches, mais je les ai laissés entiers bien sur! Et c’était un bon petit souper : léger, fraîche, et saine.

Ahhh, ça fait longtemps que j’ai écrit en français! C’est peut-être pourquoi ce post semble jamais terminer. Pour cela, je m’excuse. Mais, quand la nostalgie m’appelle, je serai toujours obligée de lui répondre …

Oh, et je vous donne la recette en anglais … au cas où vous voulez vraiment faire cette salade mais, vous ne voulez pas penser trop fort .. Voilà.

Salade « Niçoise » aux pois de chiches

Vinaigrette :

Juice of a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of olive oil

a handful of chopped fresh basil

2 sprigs of chopped fresh thyme

a small handfull of chopped fresh parsley


1 cup of cooked rice

half a can of chickpeas, drained and rinced

a small bunch of asparagus, blanched

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped roughly

a quarter of a red onion, finely diced

1. Make the viniagrette by first mixing together all the ingredients except the herbs and oil. Add the oil slowly, stirring constantly. Add in the chopped herbs. Taste and add more seasoning and oil to suit your taste. Let it sit in the fridge while you make your salad.

2. Blanch the asparagus in water until desired tenderness. Shock in iced water and pat dry.

3. Make the eggs by placing them in cold water, bringing it up to a boil, and then letting them sit for about 3 minutes. This will give you an egg where the whites and hard cooked, but the yolk is still party runny.

4. Toss the asparagus, rice, chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes and red onions with the vinaigrette. Anoint with the egg, making sure that the yolk spills over the vegetables and rice so that your first bite tastes like the south of France.