About Ann Allchin

I'm a multitalented mother of two who is always looking for a cooking challenge. I live in Toronto, where I am lucky enough to be able to find samples of almost every food in the world within five kilometres of my house. When I'm not with kids, I'm often reading, writing, or enjoying food and wine.

Jingly melons

Now there’s a blog post title that creates some mental imagery, no?

Here comes Part 2 in my three part series “Big odd green things I found at the grocery store this week.” Check out Part 1 here. And scootch on over to the edge of that seat to prepare for Part 3.

Behold, the Santa Claus melon:


Oops, wrong Santa melon. And really, Marlboro?

Santa Claus Melon

There’s the right one, now.

I wish I had known why the Santa melon is called that before I hacked it open, because it would have made a great Christmas post — it gets its name because even though these things ripen in the summer, they keep until Christmas. Handy! Especially because Part 3 of this series has already rotted on my counter and I have to go buy another one now.

The Santa Claus melon is also called “piel de sapo” which translates to “toad skin.”

Ugly toad

Those food nomenclature people really do know how to come up with appetizing names, don’t they? Anyone have a hankering for some head cheese? Maybe some spotted dick?

Anyway. I wanted to make something dangerous with my melon, but when I googled around, I just couldn’t find anything interesting. There were lots of desserts, or fruit salads, or “soups” (pureed melon) but I wanted something savoury. So I had to make it up. My husband didn’t complain, so let’s call my experimental recipe a success. Here it is:

Toad skin salad

  • Toad skin melon, peeled, de-seeded, and cubed (I don’t believe in including amounts for salad recipes, because I believe cooks should have enough confidence to make the amount and distribution of ingredients that they like best. Use the cooking force, Luke, and rule the salad galaxy)
  • Cucumber, cubed
  • Red onion, diced
  • Pancetta, diced, fried, and cooled
  • Fresh mint, chopped (don’t be shy with it — very important ingredient)
  • Fresh basil, chopped
  • Glug of olive oil
  • Black pepper

Here is what the inside of my Santa melon looked like

Seeded santa melon

And here is what the salad looked like

Savoury melon salad

Results: This salad must have been good, because I found myself snacking on it by the handful until my husband got home. If you should ever happen to eat at my house, know that I’ve already snacked all over whatever I’m making for you if it’s good. I mostly always wash my hands first (ha! Kidding. I mean, kidding about the mostly part). The Santa melon was a hit, especially on its own with my kids. It’s sweeter than a honeydew and less perfumy. If you see one, definitely give it a try — it keeps forever, and has a really nice flavour. My new favourite melon. And as for the salad, go ahead and make it with your favourite melon if you can’t find one of these. Loved it. Rating: 4 Yums Santa’s gob would be so busy scarfing down this salad that he’d have to keep all his Hos to himself. He’s be ho-less. At a loss for hos. Keep it going with me, people.

Breadfruit. Not bread. May be fruit. But not fruity

This post is the first in a series of three: Big odd green things I found at the grocery store this week.

Big odd green thing #1: Breadfruit. You know you’ve heard of it, but you don’t know why. Now I’ve eaten it, but I still don’t know why I’ve heard of it.


It’s closely related to the jackfruit. Oh, now that helps us North Americans of European heritage now, doesn’t it?


It’s carby and fibre-y. It helps avoid uptake of glucose, so while I was feeling down about how it was carby, it cheered me up to know that it might help with my current addiction to this

Lindt sea salt chocolate

(Dark chocolate with sea salt will put us in the poor house, mark my words. Own line item in the budget, unbeknownst to my husband.)

Other notable observations, dramatized because I don’t actually have much to say about my breadfruit experience:

1. Breadfruit looks quite like a mini basketball that mated with an alligator


2. Breadfruit is supposed to smell like bread. Mine didn’t, but I haven’t been known to have the best sniffer. If you’re going to lose a sense to old age, smell ain’t a terrible one to sacrifice, just saying. Although not having one can make bottom-of-shoe incidents far more embarrassing than they need to be

3. Breadfruit is similar to jackfruit. Oh crap, I already said that

4. Breadfruit is used much like a potato, and they taste kind of similar (to someone with limited sense of smell, at least)

5. The domain “breadfruit.com” seems to be for sale, in case you might want to capitalize on its many marketable features (see points #1-4, above)

Here’s what I did with it, per the advice of the radical carib writer:

Breadfruit Shrimp Cakes with Pesto (Makes 8)

  • 1/2 breadfruit and lump of butter
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 1 cup shrimp, peeled and chopped (not too fine)
  • 2 scallions
  • 2C breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • Salt & pepper
  • Oil
  • Favourite drippy pesto (pine nuts, fresh basil, parsley, parm, garlic, lots of olive oil)

Directions: Prepare breadfruit by cutting it in half, peeling it with a knife, cutting out the core, and then cutting it into hunks.

Peeled breadfruit IMG_7064

Steam the breadfruit until soft, but not mushy. Add butter and mash. I tried to mash it with a potato masher but it was stringy and got stuck to my masher, so I used a food processor which worked, but did leave it kind of gummy. Do what you need to do.

Mix scallions, onion, and shrimp in a bowl

Veg mix

Add mashed breadfruit and mix with hands until well incorporated. Form patties and heat up your fav cast-iron pan with some oil. Dip the patties in egg and then breadcrumbs. Fry your patties.

Breadfruit patties IMG_7081

Make or buy your pesto. Prepare for the wrath of your husband when he returns from work to find a well-used kitchen

Messy kitchen

Console your son after the trauma of losing Han Solo under the fridge, and help retrieve Han if possible

Poor guy

Serve your patties over greens, and pour pesto over (last step made photo ugly, so this is just prior)

Breadfruit shrimp fritters

Results: Breadfruit might be boring to describe, but it ain’t half bad! It reminds me of a bland potato banana — terribly filling, and able to support other, more ka-pow-type pairings. The shrimp cakes were comforting and creamy. Next time I might add even more shrimp. Rating: 4 Yums. Why go with tired old potatoes when you can eat an alliga-to-nana?

And on a sad note, we said goodbye to my long-time furry sidekick Rudy this week. He was a fixture in my home for 17 years, and I’ll miss him terribly. He should be purring here beside me as I type as he always has been, but he’s not, and it feels awfully lonely. My snap decision where I said, “Sure, I guess I’ll take a kitten,” and hiding him in my laundry basket when they came to inspect my dorm room all those years ago was a very good one. Love you always, buddy.


A dangerous-eating road trip to New Orleans

As much as I love to cook, sometimes it’s great not to cook. While I get excited to try something new in the kitchen, I also love my restaurants, or nice dinners at a friend’s place who may also be culinarily inclined. Of course when you have kids, these nights away from home are few and far between, because you usually need to be house-bound for tuck-in duty. So when your husband is good enough to watch the kids and encourage a bucket-list trip with your foodie girlfriend who you’ve been hanging out with since grade nine, you don’t pause for a second to ask, “are you sure?” You book a bunch of reservations at either 5:30 or 9:30 (who knew?), throw on your finest lobster bib,


Lobster bib

and eat the city of New Orleans with reckless abandon. Yes, the actual city. Godzilla style. (Apologies for those damn freckles. They lost our luggage, so I had to eat seafood in the face-nude for a day. More apologies for obviously cropping my friend out of the lobster bib picture. She fears the World Wide Web, and I’m totally going to hide out with her when Google builds its army and uses every detail of our waking lives to enslave us.)

Anyway. Facing this trip, I only had two big worries:

1. How quickly could I digest each meal so that I was ready for the next one?

2. Should I take advantage of this away mission to taste weird foods I wouldn’t normally have access to, or should I stick with comfortable standbys to get NOLA’s take on what I already knew I loved?

Oh, the pressure. Luckily, by carefully managing point #1, I was able to stuff my stomach with enough NOLA diversity to satisfy both options in #2. So, without further ado, here is my top ten list of interesting foodie experiences from The Big Easy.

10. Go-cups

This is when I realized that Toronto is kind of dumb when it comes to liquor. In New Orleans, if you haven’t finished your drink or if you’d rather wander than sit, you can ask for your drink in a “go-cup” and you can drink it on the street. Awesome. I’m old! If I’d rather have a beer outside, I should be old enough to decide that I’m allowed to! Of course, go-cups could be partially responsible for the puke smell that’s hard to miss each time you cross Bourbon Street. Ugh.

9. Beignets


Beignets are square doughnuts that are completely covered in icing sugar. You eat them warm, and a famous place to get them is at Cafe du Monde, which is an open-air cafe on the Mississippi river. I’m not a huge doughnut person, but these were squishy and un-greasy. And eating them in 30 degree sunshine with a “cafe au lait,” ain’t half bad.

8. Grits

Ew. I don’t really get it. But I tried, like, a bite-and-a-half at our shoddy hotel breakfast to know what Joe Pesci was talking about in My Cousin Vinny.

7. Po-boys

A po-boy would be known here as a “sub,” although in NOLA its bread is crustier. Apparently it was traditionally made with bits of roast beef and gravy, given to striking streetcar drivers in 1929 from the back door of Clovis and Benjamin Martin’s restaurant, when they’d yell something along the lines of, “We’ve got another po-boy [poor boy] out here!” Now you can get them with just about anything on. My sandwich from Johnny’s Po-boys was ham — the only animal I ate on the whole trip that didn’t swim, I think.

Po-boys IMG_2120

6. Ooey gooey cake

So all of a sudden we found ourselves in a parade. Somehow I think that might happen in New Orleans randomly, right when you least expect it. The “first line” in a parade through the streets is the band, and then everyone follows the band in the “second line,” buying beers and snacks from folks pulling them along in coolers and carts. We felt pretty lucky to be dancing along in a second line. When we looked down at what the snack lady was pulling we noticed that some of her wares were labelled “ooey gooey cake.”

Ooey gooey cake

We were too full to snack at the time (see problem #1, above) but I just found this recipe for cake that might be similar. I need to give it a try.

5. Crawfish and oysters

There were t-shirts and kitchen paraphernalia everywhere that said “The four seasons of New Orleans: oyster, crawfish, crab, and shrimp.” I think we hit oyster season because they were dirt cheap, and they showed up in some of my nicer meals too, like in a soup. I adore oysters. If you have an oyster bar at your wedding, don’t invite me, because the gift I buy you will never cover all that I’ll consume. We were disappointed not to find fresh crawfish anywhere, but we did wolf down a crawfish po-boy that must have been prepared from frozen. Next time! And/or I’ve got to get to work at changing the seasons. Maybe global warming will do it for me?

Oysters IMG_2089

4. Snapping turtle soup

Turtle soup has been on my list to try since I missed out on it a few years ago in Washington DC. This time, I tried it right. We ate at Restaurant R’evolution, which was our fanciest dinner. That was where I learned about presentation. For this soup, they started by spooning three tiny devilled quail’s eggs into my bowl. Then they poured my soup around the eggs using a gravy boat until they were drowned. They did the same for my friend with her “death by gumbo,” although they poured hers around a full quail. Craziness. (But now that they’ve shown me how to serve up soup, you can bet I’m going to do it that impressively for guests at my own darn table!). This dish also introduced me to something else different about New Orleans cooking. They use a LOT of spices. Not so that it’s spicy-hot, but so that everything is very fully flavoured. This soup tasted strongly of clove. The turtle didn’t taste too different — just like meaty seafood. I didn’t take a picture because it was a posh place and it felt odd. But it was delicious!

3. Absinthe

A funny story about friends and trust. I knew that there was something illicit about absinthe, but I didn’t quite know what. I knew it involved chasing something — turns out it was “chasing the green fairy,” or the swirls that appear in the bottom of the glass, but I confused it with “chasing the dragon,” with images of strung-out addicts from movies nervously flitting about in my head. Of course, I tried it anyway (my friend said she served it to friends at home, so how bad could it be?). Now I know that the illicit part was that it was banned because people were afraid that the wormwood derivative in it would poison people or make them crazy, but this might have only been a smear campaign by market-protecting wine growers a hundred years ago. Oscar Wilde, Hemingway, and Van Gogh all liked it, and they seemed to do okay (I could use some “manic creativity!”). It’s served in a glass with a sugar cube on a slotted spoon over it, which is dissolved slowly by drips of cold water. Tastes delicious, if you like liquorice.


I also enjoyed that I drank it from a pub that was right beside a church and sign that says “Church quiet zone.” God bless New Orleans.

Quiet - church zone

2. Cobia Collar

Another incredible restaurant we tried was Peche, which was named “Best New Restaurant” at the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards, and was listed as one of the top 50 best new restaurants by Bon Appetit. Now. You might remember when I cooked fish heads? When I saw “Cobia Collar,” aka cobia jaw on the menu, I just had to ignore my yearnings for more traditional meals and give it a go. I mean, what would a real chef do with a fish head? He’d serve it so that it looked like a bird, that’s what. (Sorry for the light, iPhone shot in the dark)

Cobia collar

That’s just crazy food creativity, is what that is. The meat was tender, dense, white meat, and of course, it was done in a perfectly herby and buttery salsa verde.

And now, last, but very far from least…

1. Emeril Lagasse’s Delmonico

I’m including the whole restaurant here, because everything I ate was my favourite. The service was incredibly friendly too — waiter escorted me to the “restroom” on his arm which made me laugh (they also filled your water glass each time you took a sip, which was slightly annoying. Sometimes service should be a little more invisible, you know? But this was a small distraction from greatness). Anyway. My friend and I felt a bit cliche choosing a celebrity chef’s restaurant as our hands-down fav, but what can you do — he might just be good for a reason. We’re talking lobster ravioli with shrimp in buttery-herbed sauce (wish I could describe it properly but it was a special and I didn’t write it down!). Every bite a delight. For dessert — sweet potato bread pudding with toasted marshmallow ice cream, brown sugar tuille, and praline sauce. I didn’t take a picture of it, but saveur.com took one that looks pretty darn similar by Emeril’s pastry chef Amy Lemon…


And on that note, I’ll say only one more thing. Eat the city of New Orleans. Here’s hoping the voodoo money chestnut I’m now carrying around in my purse actually does bring vast fortunes, because then I’ll go back every single year.

Sausage with a heart

I’ve been procrastinating writing this post for a number of reasons, even though I’ve had the idea for it for some time. The first reason I’ve been dragging is that using the dangerous ingredient I was considering made me feel a bit like this:

(If you’re too lazy to click on vids as I often am, watching the first two seconds will remind you of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There are many reasons that movie has always stuck with me, not least of which is the millipede crawling up the back of the blonde’s hair. Or the monkey brains. That was def the best of the Indiana Jones’, breaking the curse of the bad sequel, am I right?)

Yes, eating the heart of something feels a bit Hannibal Lechter-ish, even though that’s a shame, because otherwise meat processors are just throwing millions of hearts into the compost which is kind of more disrespectful to the animals than making use of all their bits. Plus, eating heart is healthy — it contains all essential amino acids, is very high in elastin and collagen (good for the skin), and is a rich source of coenzyme Q10, which boosts energy levels, is vital for the immune system, prevents blood clots, lowers blood pressure, and prevents heart disease. Ironic, huh? Eat someone else’s heart to save your own? But all of this doesn’t make one any less squeamish to handle a big heart and hack it open…

Beef heart IMG_7008 IMG_7010

What was going on inside the ventricle in that last shot? Haunted ventricles, nearly in time for Hallowe’en.

Anyway. The other reason I’ve been procrastinating this post is that my good friend gave me some Kitchenaid sausage gear for my birthday this summer. A good problem to have, right? Kitchen gear that you don’t know how to use? But I was a bit intimidated by making my own sausages. It seemed complicated. I shouldn’t have been worried! After spending a few short hours, the snorker world is my oyster (my father-in-law calls them that — he says the British troops used to eat a lot of snorkers and mash). I could literally make oyster sausages if I felt like it (although…).

Back to the heart sausages. I read that heart is lean, and that sausages need to be relatively fatty — experienced banger-ers suggested that adding odd bits was okay, but to make sure they were balanced with a strong dose of fattier meat, like pork. I went with 1/4 heart to 3/4 pork butt. As per my usual routine, I served it up to my husband and kids and they gobbled their snorkers without even knowing about my secret ingredient. You know you wish you were related to me. Here’s how I made them:

Heart Sausages (makes about 8 short chubby sausages)

I love my Kitchenaid mixer, so my instructions will revolve around it, but I’m sure creative sausage makers can modify! Sausages can be done as formed rounds of course, fried like hamburgers, if you don’t have access to casings and a stuffer.

Throughout this process, it is very important for everything to be clean. Did you watch that W5 episode about ground meat and e-coli? I did. We don’t want any of that. Disinfect all equipment in the dishwasher, wash your hands often, clean all work surfaces carefully, and make sure your finished product is well-cooked. Mm-kay?

  • 3 cups ground pork butt, cubed, chilled (even near-frozen) then ground. Chill again.
  • 1 cup chilled beef heart, ground
  • 3/4C chopped fresh parsley
  • 2Tbsp coarse salt
  • 2 tsp dried sage
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • Sausage casings. I have no clue how many to tell you to get — my butcher gave me a lump, they cost $6.00, I made 5 batches of sausages, and I still had some left to throw out afterward. I went for the “natural” ones which are actual pig intestines and they were easy to work with. You might go for the synthetic ones because the thought of intestines grosses you out, but when you taste the natural ones, you’ll know that if you eat sausages, you eat them all the time without knowing it.

1. Soak your natural sausage casings in water for at least 45 minutes (get them going while you grind your meat). Grind your chilled pork and heart using the coarse grinding bit. I was quite concerned about fat content — I prefer a drier sausage for health and taste reasons, but all advice said to make sure enough fat was left in, so I didn’t trim much off. The sausages weren’t greasy, which makes me wonder just how much garbage makes it into store-bought sausages! Costco hotdogs now terrify me. Mine turned out fine, but next time I might trim most of the visible fat off. When you select the parts of heart to grind, just go for the smooth meaty bits, and not the harder sinewy sections.

Heart chunks

Heart chunks

Grinder setup. You know you want one

Grinder setup. You know you want one

The only "Grindr" I get up close and personal with

The only “Grindr” I get up close and personal with

2. Add your spices, and mix the ground meats together with your handy Kitchenaid paddle attachment.

Sausage meat with spices

3. Grab yourself a frying pan, take out a spoonful of your sausage mix, and fry yourself up a mouthful. The last thing you want is a huge freezer full of sausages that have been spiced wrong. Or, in this case, sausages that taste a bit too “heart-y.” After your sample, adjust spices in whatever way might be necessary.  Shove back into the fridge to keep everything well chilled. Sausage-making is a cold business.

Sausage taster

4. Set up your sausage stuffer if you have one. Flush the insides of your casings with water a few times — apparently if you don’t, there can be grit inside (ew!). Load up your sausage cone with the casing by scootching it all on there, wrinkled-like so that it fits. Pull about two or three inches of casing off the end so that it will stay empty at the end of your sausage link. Leave it open so that the air can escape.

Kitchenaid sausage stuffer

5. Load the top with your sausage mix and turn the machine on to 2 or 4 or 6. I got comfortable with working at 4. Guide the casing onto a big plate or clean counter as it fills, fondling your sausage (it is quite phallic, not gonna lie) so that it fills evenly but not too tightly — you need room to be able to twist off your snorkers to the right size later on.

Sausage stuffing IMG_7022

6. Twist your sausages into links of desired size. On my first go I didn’t pinch enough space between the links, just twisting, so when I cut them they didn’t close off properly. Pinch to a half-inch, and then twist about 5 or 6 times. Cut in the middle.

Links too closely linked. Links like a little personal space between

Links too closely linked. Links like a little personal space between

7. We have sausages! Fry ‘em up and snuggle your snorkers. Use with your favourite recipes.

Sausages IMG_7026


Quite proud of myself today, I am (so much so that I find myself talking like wise old Yoda). I couldn’t even taste the heart, which was a bit disappointing. I might increase the pumper percentage if I should try hearty sausages again. After the heart batch, I went on to make many other more conventional sausages with dribs and drabs from my cupboard, all in the same day: sundried tomato, apple and fennel, garlic and bacon, chorizo… This website was helpful in figuring out spices, although I always get into trouble when people are talking weights — know that 2C of ground meat works out to be about a pound.

Amazing that there are so many flavour possibilities with reasonably priced, accessible ingredients. If you are a creative cook, you need to get into doing sausages. Preservative-free! Control over fat and salt! What more do you want? Thanks so much for your generous gift, Hong! I completely love it. Sausage rating: 5 Yums

Pink pumpkins

Today’s post is a tribute to my friend Joanna at Midwesternbite. If I remember correctly, Joanna feels that

(a) There is far too much pumpkin madness in the fall in the food blogger world

and that

(b) Pumpkins are not seasonal

Now. In life, I tend to be a person who keeps a few friends close rather than many friends at arm’s length. I like to think I’m selective. I enjoy unique voices, which applies to my in-person friends, but which I’ve also found applies to my blog tastes. So, when I heard that Joanna would be taking a break from blogging for a while, I was disappointed because her unique voice was going to go silent on me. Oh crapola. I understand, and all. She had a baby fairly recently and sometimes that means re-prioritizing. When I had my son I had to ignore the volunteer work I was doing at Amnesty International because it just wasn’t doable anymore. When my email address changed, they even snail-mailed me what they had tried to email, showing the “user doesn’t exist,” rejection across the top of the page. I was too embarrassed to call them back, but I do still donate. (Don’t let them know I’m around, k? I still feel terrible about leaving. Unless I’m in prison, and then ask them to write lots and lots of letters.)

Anyway, my point is, kids are cute, but they can be real time suckers.

Leeches=kids, although kids are slightly cuter

Leeches=kids, although kids are slightly cuter

So Joanna, to show you that food blogs are just boring ol’ seasonal pumpkin all day without your e-contributions, here is a pumpkin post for you. Although my pumpkin was pink, because of, you know, the whole, “dangerous food” thing.

May not look too pink in the picture, but it was. In the right light.

May not look too pink in the picture, but it was. In the right light.

Here’s a picture of some pink ones beside some orange ones so that you can see the difference.

Thanks mpcourier.com

Thanks mpcourier.com

(The insides are orange and taste the same shhhhhhhhh)

I used the pumpkin to make pumpkin gingersnap cookies as posted by twopeasandtheirpod,

Pumpkin gingersnaps

Pumpkin loaf, as directed by mylifeandkids,

Pumpkin loaf

And pink pumpkin curried coconut soup, which I dreamed up all by my own self. Here’s how I did it:

Pink pumpkin curried coconut soup

  • 1 med-large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2C pureed pumpkin (directions to follow)
  • 4C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1Tbsp curry powder
  • 2Tbsp coconut sugar (this is my favourite secret ingredient. It makes soups and curries taste far more legit-Thai-style)
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish/topping

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Deseed your pumpkin and hack it into hunks. You may feel like an axe murderer doing this, and yes, it does count as your workout for the day. Add 1C water to baking sheet and lay your pumpkin hunks on top, skins still on.

Pumpkin hunks

Roast for 30 minutes, flip your pieces, and roast for a further 30 minutes. Test softness with fork, and if soft enough, scrape pumpkin into food processor and whizz until smooth. My pumpkin gave me about 10 cups of puree, so what I didn’t use in these three recipes I froze for later (in preparation for a pumpkin-filled drone-zombie-foodie world). Soften onion and garlic in a little oil in your soup pot. Add all other ingredients, heat through, and puree with hand blender or in batches in food processor. Garnish with cilantro, and sour cream if you wish.


Pumpkin soup

Relatively easy, and tasty-healthy. Even my daughter liked it, and right now all she’ll pass into her gullet is pasta with butter, hotdogs, and alphaghetti. Rating 4 Yums

This picture has not been photoshopped -- my daughter is actually eating squash

This picture has not been photoshopped — my daughter is actually eating squash

As for the cookies, they were passable, although I kind of wanted them flat-greasy-chewy and this recipe was more bread-like. The loaf was perfect — crazy moist.

So, farewell for now, Midwesternbite. Thanks for leaving us to fend for ourselves in an autumn pumpkin world. Burgernerd, I look forward to seeing your pumpkin burger, and greekcooking-funsharing, can’t wait to see your Greek pumpkin feta loveliness. (Jokes aside, thanks to all who I read regularly for adding some colour to my day other than orange.)

And on a serious note, to anyone else who may be reading this, please take these wise words of the great Paris Hilton to heart:

“The only rule is don’t be boring and dress cute wherever you go. Life is too short to blend in.”

Thanks celebrity-gossip.net

Thanks celebrity-gossip.net

Moose Balls

Yeah, I’d eat Bullwinkle.

Thanks saltywisdom.wordpress.com. Cool blog, BTW

Thanks saltywisdom.wordpress.com. Cool blog, BTW

(What are Rocky and Bullwinkle doing in that picture?)

But anyway, I’d definitely eat Bullwinkle.

Here’s how this is relevant. My most recent dangerous cooking was with some real moose. Our cottage is very close to the Wahta Mohawk First Nations Reserve.


(Love the Seven Generations philosophy. I was taught in a First Nations Education course that every decision should take into account how it will affect seven generations into the future, or 200 years, and also that seven generations of the past have brought you to this point, so that history should be respected)

Anyway. Here I was, driving through the reserve with my daughter, when I happened to see a sign for “Moose Pie.”

I couldn’t resist. The guy (whose name I forget, I am completely Alzheimer-ish when it comes to names) was super friendly, which was no surprise to me since I have a close friend who lives on the Kanesatake Mohawk Reserve in Quebec, and anyone I’ve ever met through her has been extremely welcoming. Yes, I’m generalizing, but here’s one example — we went to her house once and got lost (“There are no streetlights and everyone chooses whatever number they want for their house so they’re not in order, but go over the hill, turn left at the baseball diamond…”). We regrouped at the ice cream shop and some strangers heard us talking about what we should do. They asked, “Who are you looking for?” We told them, and they said, “Follow us,” and drove us right to their house.

My friend went on to become a lawyer who works with First Nations communities, and she just got back from a trip to Baffin Island.

Thanks Wikipedia

Thanks Wikipedia

Now that’s North. While she was there she posted pictures from the grocery store — a bag of flour for $14, a box of chicken burgers for $23, and some Frosted Flakes, also for the bargain price of $14.

She brought back some seal meat and just might guest post. This makes me quite excited.

Anyway. Friendly-moose-guy. Moose-guy told me he was a foodie and he was very excited about my blog. He hooked me up with a pie, cooked by a Grandmother who is writing her own cookbook (Grandmother might be literal in this case, but can also mean a wise elder in First Nations traditions which are more matriarchal than ours, I believe.)

This makes me very excited too. Because the moose pie was amazing.

Moose Pie IMG_6958 IMG_6959

I wish I could share the recipe so that you could re-create it. Hopefully you’ll get it after she finishes the cookbook! The gravy was rich, and because it was moose, it wasn’t as fatty as beef — more hearty. It did not taste “gamey” at all. And don’t you just love mention of the “Ugly Crust” on the label? I make ugly crusts too — insider tip: if you’re too lazy to make your own crust, just buy two store-bought ones and slap one flattened on top as your upper crust. I doubt this was her technique, but you’re welcome for the time-saver.

Friendly moose guy also hooked me up with “moose burger meat,” which was just ground moose, as far as I knew. My parents were coming over, so I took my friend’s husband’s advice and turned them into “Moose Balls.” Don’t you just love it when your parents ask you if what they’re eating are actual moose cajones? Just me? If you want to be boring and can’t get your hooves on any moose, you could also try this recipe with regular old ground beef.

Swiss Moose Balls

– 1 small packet of ground Bullwinkle (I don’t think it had a weight on it, but let’s say about two softballs worth)

– 2C garlic croutons, ground to breadcrumbs in a food processor

– 1 handful of parmesan

– 1 egg

– 3 turns of the salt shaker

– swiss cheese, cut into small cubes

– (Wish I’d had a jalapeño and some chopped fresh parsley to add, but I didn’t)

– Prosciutto, 1/2 slice for each ball

Directions: Preheat to 400. Mix meat, egg, breadcrumbs, parm, salt, and herbs/peppers. Roll into small moose cajones, each one surrounding a small cube of swiss cheese. Brown each ball in a frying pan over med-high heat. Bake 10-15 minutes, until cheese begins to gently bubble out. Wrap each ball carefully in prosciutto and secure with a toothpick.

Moose balls IMG_6969 IMG_6970 IMG_6972

Results: Delicious! I have to admit that I was worried this might not work out, because when I thawed the meat it smelled like a moose had given birth in the kitchen. But then somehow after I had cooked it, the flavour was not the same as the smell. These moose balls were drier than beef meatballs — I’ve found this to be true of other wild meats in the past (they tend to work out more than penned animals I guess?). But they weren’t off-puttingly dry. Apparently wild meats are healthier than farmed meats because of their natural diets, as well. I would count my visit to friendly-moose-guy a huge success and will be visiting on a more regular basis. Rating: 5/5 Yums for the moose pie, and 3/5 for the moose balls.

Oh, and I almost forgot about Bullwinkle! Here’s how my thoughts were going at the start of this post. I was thinking about how some people don’t like the idea of eating non-farmed animals, and I don’t love it either. I couldn’t shoot anything myself, and I do find animals in the wild beautiful and a treat to catch a glimpse of. But it’s hypocritical that I’d eat a cow or chicken or pig rather than other types of meat, just because other animals might be too cute or pretty or free. And yes, it’s also hypocritical that I eat meat that I couldn’t kill, but if I’m going to be hypocritical, I might as well go all-in. So I was thinking that I would start this post by playing the devil’s advocate — by saying that I had eaten a really cute cartoon character, because I have not become vegetarian.

But I don’t even like Bullwinkle. He’s annoying and outdated. I’d totally eat him without a second thought, even if that picture does make him seem like a partier. So my whole premise backfired.

Question: What cartoon character would you eat?

Bee-ing healthy again — Bee Pollen Oat Squares

Well, the airplanes breaking the sound barrier over my house right now tell me that it’s back-to-school time once again. You see, for two weeks each year, Toronto hosts the “Canadian National Exhibition,” also called “The Ex” or the CNE. Closing weekend for the Ex (Labour Day weekend) always includes an air show, so since we live close enough we don’t even have to pay to enjoy it. Fighter jets are cool. As long as you’re not in a war zone, I guess. Or drunk and aggressive on an airplane, as two ladylike women were when they attempted to go to Cuba earlier this week. (there but for the grace of God … ha! Kidding. Fortunately I’ve never been THAT drunk and disorderly.)

But back to the Ex. Some people love it, like me, while others aren’t such big fans. My husband, for example, is always quite happy to see me take the kids on my own. For some reason, the Ex tends to attract a high percentage of people who think that the mullet is a slammin haircut. That front teeth are optional. That the present tense of “to have” is “gots.” That the top of a thong should be flaunted as an alluring fashion accessory. That working from the McDonald’s office (for the WIFI) is appropriate.

Thanks Burger Nerd!http://www.theburgernerd.com/funny-fast-food-pics/

Thanks Burger Nerd!http://www.theburgernerd.com/funny-fast-food-pics/

While I seem to be kindred spirits with these Ex-loving people, my husband is happier to stay home and sip champagne from his Manolo Blahniks. But he’s missing out. Where else would you ever find, all in the same place…

A butter sculpture of Jabba the Hutt

A butter sculpture of Jabba the Hutt

Harrison Ford, still trapped in his metal (the actual prop!)

Harrison Ford, still trapped in his metal (the actual prop!)

A global marketplace of junk from far and wide

A global marketplace of junk from far and wide

And of course, rides, every kind of junk food you could imagine, and farm exhibits.

Tractor riding

And the farm exhibits include the animals themselves. Which brings me to bees.

Thanks aszichild.com

Thanks aszichild.com

Every year I stop by the bee section of the Ex, try to find the queen bee in the live hive they have going, and then pick up some wildflower honey. But this year I grabbed something different. I had just read an article about the benefits of eating bee pollen, so I decided to make it my next dangerous food.

Bee pollen

Apparently it fights respiratory ailments and boosts the immune system, and with a daughter who goes down hard with asthma each September when she returns to her petri dish aka educational institution, I thought that spiking her food with a bit of pollen couldn’t hurt. It also reduces histamine reactions for allergies, and my daughter is a peanut-allergic kid too. Sounded like this might be the miracle cure she needed in her life! (Except for the fertility boosting part, which, let’s hope and pray, her little 7-year-old self could do without for quite some time.)

I decided to meld my bee-utiful experimentation with another back-to-school resolution I have, which is to feed my kids something other than hotdogs or pasta with butter. They have become tough customers over the past few months, and my parenting perseverance has been on vacation too, which doesn’t help the asthma or allergic situation. So here are my…

Putting foot down healthy back-to-school oat quinoa bars, complete with superhero immuno-boosting bee pollen punch-in-the-face

(Based on Lyndsay’s Quinoa Breakfast Bars from the Lean Green Bean, with my nut-free, buzzy bee, and sweet tooth modifications)

  • 1 c whole wheat flour (or chickpea flour to make GF)
  • 2 c cooked quinoa (starting with 1C raw quinoa should be more than enough)
  • 2 c oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅔ c Wow Butter
  • ½ c honey
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ c rotten bananas (you know it’s true)
  • 2 Tbsp bee pollen
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • ⅔ c craisins
  • sprinkling of brown sugar for the topping, because a spoonful of sugar helps the quinoa go down

Directions: Preheat to 375. Combine bananas, eggs, Wow Butter, vanilla, cinnamon, honey, and bee pollen.

Bee pollen bars

Add other ingredients and press into a greased 9×13 pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar, because if your kids are going through summer candy-floss withdrawal like mine they’ll need to detox slowly. Bake for about 20 minutes, until top is golden-brown.

Quinoa oat bars


Quinoa bars

This recipe tastes quite healthy, so my kids did not beg for it. But it is highly guilt-free, and I ate a mess of it. If your kids are more tolerant than mine they’ll love it to death. And I’m going to gobble some right this minute — it’s filling, yet nutritious. Soft rather than crunchy. I’d call its sweetness half-way between a bread and a cookie-bar. Next time I might have to give my kids some added motivation with some maple-syrup dipping sauce. What can I say, I’m whipped. Rating: 3 Yums  The CNE would never sell these bars because they’re too healthy, but brawny men with bee-beards and manly F16 fighter pilots will gots to have them.

A knack for sumac

After a family day of skiing and lazing around at the cottage, my family members had built up quite a thirst.


(That’s my little guy who’s only four. His board-sport loving dad is overjoyed to see him on skis this year)



We were out of juice, so I knew that anything with sugar would go over well with the kids. I also knew that anything with vodka would go over well with the dads (skiing was done — water on the water, beer on the pier…).

It was the perfect time to experiment on them … I mean … quench their thirsts … with my sumac juice.

Sumac IMG_6813

As has happened previously on this blog, I was hopeful that I wouldn’t poison anybody. I bought the sumac seeds in the pictures above from my favourite forager-guy at the farmer’s market (he’s hooked me up with lobster mushrooms, spruce tips, and reindeer moss before) and when I did, I asked him why I wouldn’t just pick some from the roadside myself instead of paying him $5, because sumac is all over the place right now. He looked at me and said in a Vincent Price voice, “Well, you could get some yourself, but you would have to make sure you didn’t choose the poisonous variety.” Then he gave me lots of tips about how to tell the difference, but I tuned him out because I had already decided in my head, “Well since you know the difference, if this turns out to be delicious, I’m just going to continue to pay you to keep us all out of hospital.”

I think forager-guy must have known that warning me against the poison variety was securing our continued business relationship (and I admire his corporate-esque protectionism, I must say) because when I got home and read about how to tell the difference between poison sumac and regular, I learned that it’s actually quite easy. Poison sumac is very rare, and the berries look like berries rather than fuzzy fluffy puffs. Poison sumac only grows in very wet areas, and has smooth leaves. The safe stuff’s leaves are usually jagged and it grows all over the place. I was feeling confident enough to go grab some more for myself if I should need it — until I saw this picture of a poison sumac reaction

Thanks poison-sumac.org

Thanks poison-sumac.org

(Do I know how to run an appetizing food blog or what?)

And if you’re getting rid of poison sumac from your property, you never want to burn it because the fumes could be fatal (I’m talkin’ to you here, gentleman homesteader).

I’m joking about staying away from the safe sumac though, actually, because I believe that the risk of finding the sketchy stuff is very low. And it turns out that sumac is a kind of superfood, being a strong antioxidant high in Omega 3s. Plus, the drinks were a hit with my family!

I kept the recipe very simple, pretty-much like a natural iced tea or lemonade, because I wanted to taste the sumac itself. Here’s what I did:

Spiked Sumac-ade

  • 1.5C sumac water (5 sumac buds with water in a 1L container for at least 4 hours on  the counter [longer in the fridge] smashed around with a spoon a few times, then strained)
  • 1C simple syrup (1/2C sugar boiled with 1/2C water, then cooled)
  • Soda water
  • Vodka (1 shot per glass)

Directions: Prepare your sumac water as above, like a cold tea. Not sure the marketers of my jar were intending their statement to mean what it does here, but it still works.

Sumac water IMG_6818

Prepare your simple syrup, and chill it. Make your cocktails by pouring the vodka for each glass over ice (or not) and filling each glass half-full of sweet sumac-ade. Fill the remainder of the glass with soda water.


Sumac drinks IMG_6820

These were a hit with all the skiers, dads and kids alike. Next time I might add mint to make the drinks more mojito-like. As they were, they tasted fruity with a citrus-like tang. Don’t let the fear of boils and growths scare you off — impress your friends with a fancy-pants drink from your own backyard today. Rating: 3 yums

The Egg Award 2014 and My Non-entry, Lavender Creme Brûlée with Matcha Mousse

Did you know that a chef’s hat originally had one hundred pleats in it, supposedly because any self-respecting chef should know how to prepare an egg in one hundred ways? I think my hat would have at least — like — forty-seven pleats, and I’m not even a pro chef. Go ahead, test me. After this contest, I’ll be able to add many more… I’d better get sewing!

Okay, I’m blabbing without even telling you why I’m on about eggs. Back to task. The best contest ever is on again this year. It’s not one of those, “hey, somebody gave me some money so if you follow me in five places I may or may not give you an elastic band organizer,” kinds of contests. It’s a real one, initiated by super-cool Scottish chefs who I met initially when they helped me learn to make haggis, and who later coached me through preparing sea urchin. They’re guid fowk (that’s how you say it in Scottish, anyway, according to my handy translator). And they want to encourage cooking with organic, local eggs, which is the inspiration behind the contest.

A two-Michelin-Star chef from Spain (Dani Garcia) won the Egg Award last year, and can you believe that I came in fourth? I felt honoured that my recipe sat alongside theirs and was judged in other mouths in other countries. Here’s what I won, which still hangs proudly in my kitchen.

Egg award print IMG_6688

It’s a signed print by Ulrika von Sydow, and I love it like crazy. It has now been added to the mental list I keep of things to grab if we should happen to be evacuated from our home due to nearby fire (This has happened twice since we moved in if you can believe it, so the list is highly relevant. My print is the list item right after “the cat”).

So I was all set to enter the contest again when the Egg Award peeps gave me an even higher honour than last year — they asked me to be a judge! I really can’t wait to try out all of the recipes. They’ve also divided the award into categories, so that home chefs, pros, and juniors can all enter and are judged separately. As much as I truly enjoyed bragging about being counted among professional chefs, this may help this year’s entrants feel more confident about kicking the rump roasts of their peers.

Here are the details for the contest if your egg timers are already turning. Mine certainly were before I became a supreme oeuf justice, so I went ahead and cooked what I had planned anyway, which I’ll share below. I wanted to incorporate a few dangerous ingredients as per my usual odd-food theme, so I experimented with…



It’s not just for dresser drawers anymore. The flowers, the leaves — all provide pungent floral possibilities for cooking, rumoured to fight anxiety, restlessness, and stomach ailments. I was excited by the idea of a lavender creme brûlée, but Google quickly told me I wasn’t the first to think of such a thing. I decided to add what I hoped would be a complementary ingredient, and went with…



I imagined a dollop of green tea mousse topping my creme brûlée, but couldn’t figure out how to flavour it with straight tea leaves. I read about this lovely powdered green tea from Japan. It has the same antioxidant properties as regular green tea, but when taken as a powder it’s more potent. I loved the idea of being able to control the amount of flavour with the powder, but nearly laid my own egg when I popped into the health food store and saw the price. Twenty bucks for a teensy can of the stuff! Luckily I went back a few days later and they had tablespoon-sized pouches for $1.50. Unfortunately, I might just be addicted enough to spend the whole twenty bucks tomorrow.

Now. Let me take a brief pause to stress that Egg Award entries don’t need to be this complicated. I cooked with weird ingredients because I dream about odd foods at night. I actually think I might have been penalized in the contest this year for having too much going on in this dish. So follow your eggy hearts and do your own thing. Here’s what it takes to enter:

1. Organic eggs, including where they come from, the producer’s ethos, and a picture of the farm, bird, or eggs. I got my eggs from our farmer’s market — I live in downtown Toronto, so visiting an actual farm is tricky. No worries! The farmers come to me! (I bought my 12 lovelies from these guys who are with Country Meadows in Queensville, Ontario)

Our brand new neighbourhood square

Our brand new neighbourhood square

Thanks Country Meadows!

Thanks Country Meadows!

2. The recipe ingredients, method, and a photo of the finished dish. You don’t even need your own blog — just e-mail your entry to TheEggAward@mail.com by September 30, 2014. For further instructions and contest postings, check the Egg Award 2014’s blog.

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

Lavender Creme Brûlée with Matcha Green Tea Mousse

For the Creme Brûlée… 

  • 2C whipping cream (35%)
  • Handful of lavender sprigs (mine wasn’t blooming, so I didn’t use flowers)
  • 3 vanilla pods (you could probably do with fewer — mine were older and so quite dried out)
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/3C granulated sugar
  • 1/2C granulated sugar for topping

Directions: Preheat oven to 325. Bruise lavender in your brand new mortar and pestle

Mortar and pestle

(now I’m bragging, but I always wanted one) but try to keep it mostly whole so that it’s easier to remove later. Add it with the vanilla to a heavy pot with the cream (slit pods and scrape out beans if your pods are fresher than mine as they should be),

Lavender and cream

and heat until just bubbly around the edge.

– Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks with sugar


until lighter in colour and frothy and boil a full kettle. Put empty ramekins in a rectangular baking pan with a rim that will allow water half-way up the ramekins.


– Pour cream into egg mix slowly, whisking carefully so that the egg doesn’t cook. Stir. Pour mixture through a fine sieve into another bowl, removing the lavender and vanilla pods. Fill ramekins with custard to the tops.

– Add boiled water to the baking pan so that it reaches a level half-way up the ramekins.

Creme brûlée ramekins

Cook in pre-heated oven about 25 minutes, until the centres only jiggle very gently. Cool in the fridge until set

– Sprinkle tops of each custard with about 1 Tbsp of sugar. Torch (or broil) the tops until burnt,

Torching creme brûlée

Creme brûlée tops

cooling in the fridge briefly to harden. I found that more sugar looked uglier but gave a lovely thick crunch.

For the Matcha Mousse… (based on recipe here)

  • 1 Tbsp gelatin powder
  • 2 egg yolk
  • 4Tbsp water
  • 1C milk (1%)
  • 1/2C sugar
  • 1C heavy cream (35%)
  • 3Tbsp warm water
  • 3/4Tbsp matcha green tea powder

Directions: Dissolve gelatin in 4Tbsp water. Mix yolks with sugar. Heat milk over medium heat until bubbly around edge, slowly adding gelatin. Add milk mixture to yolks, whisking carefully so that yolks don’t cook.

– Dissolve matcha in warm water. Add to milk mixture.

– Whip cream. Fold into mix. Cool in an ice bath.

Custard ice bath

Pour into bowls and refrigerate to set. Spoon over creme brûlée. I ended up adding more than a dollop (I probably got over enthusiastic and spooned before it had completely set).


Lavender creme brûlée

(Don’t look too closely at the purple flower. My lavender wasn’t blooming, so it may or may not be a mint flower from our garden)

Matcha mousse

I always love when my kids eat my dangerous creations. Tonight my husband cleaned up my little guy’s last few spoonfuls of the lavender matcha masterpiece and he cried for about 20 minutes. This was a good sign. The matcha worked perfectly — it wasn’t overpowering, but clearly expressed green tea essence. I’d make it on its own. I also loved how the crunch of the creme brûlée topping separated layers of differing creamy consistencies. The creme brûlée could have used more lavender. I might even try processing the leaves and “leaving” them in next time, although I didn’t today because I wanted the custard smooth. Still, I think this was a fun tribute to the Egg Award.

I can’t wait to try your creations. Burger Nerd, I want to see your best egg burger. Midwesternbite and Gentleman Homestead — I can’t think of a contest more up your bird-raising alley. Fudgingahead, bring on that sweet tooth. Purple Fig, get your chickitas on it.

I’m cracking up with eggcitement!! (sorry, but eggs are just SO pun-ny). I was going to sign off by saying na-nu, na-nu because now I’m grasping at anything eggy. I’m getting so old that probably very few of you will even get that reference. I feel like anyone who does will get a little bonus prize, but Google’s collective human consciousness has now ruined the trustworthiness of spontaneous memory. Sigh. (and na-nu, na-nu)


Canadian cocktails and Sriracha sauce

Happy Canada Day!

republican-president-candidate-move-canada-day-ecards-someecards previous-assumption-little-bit-canada-day-ecard-someecards please-accept-mildest-excitement-canada-day-ecard-someecards

Oh, and can’t forget

Canadian Girls

(How did a picture of our kids’ Kindergarten teacher get there?)

Anyway. A little while ago, my friend Trish from the Purple Fig Magazine gave me a subscription to the magazine Bon Appetit. Shocker, I really like it (I’m talking Bon Appetit here, but I love The Purple Fig like crazy too! Check out its new look!). I think Trish chose this particular magazine for me because they cook very dangerously in every article and recipe. I can almost guarantee that there will always be at least one ingredient I’ve never heard of, and since never having heard of an ingredient is my speciality, I have to admire their efforts. This month, they turned a filing cabinet into a smoker, which isn’t an ingredient per se, but there’s obviously some seriously dangerous cooking going on around there. I kind of fantasize about working there.

So another article in this month’s issue gave beer cocktail ideas, and I think that we can all agree that beer is a very good theme for a Canada Day post. Except that after a quick Google search, I was disappointed to learn that we’re only #19 in the world in beer consumption. Don’t worry, though — after my initial disappointment I decided to turn a gap into an opportunity. I promise to do my part to bring up our numbers. Let’s call it my Canada Day resolution.

But back to the beer cocktails. I decided to try one they called the “Sriracha-lada.” I bought some Sriracha hot sauce to use as a dangerous ingredient a while ago when I heard that the plant in California was being shut down because residents were bleeding from their eyes and stuff (lightweights). I’m exaggerating about the hemorrhaging, but the fear that there would be Sriracha-hoarding because the townspeople were suffering was true. Here is a super-cute article about the importance of Sriracha hot sauce.

And here is the recipe. I fed it to two very willing Canada Day guinea pigs — my husband Phil and my brother-in-law John — at our cottage. Please ignore the size of my husband’s head in that picture. I had them re-pose, but the improved photo turned out blurry. His head is actually regulation size. For a Canadian.

The Sriracha-lada (courtesy of Bon Appetit magazine, with a few alterations)

  • 1oz lime juice (juice of about 1.5 limes)
  • 1tsp Sriracha hot sauce
  • ice
  • favourite beer
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Lime wheel
  • Worcestershire sauce (called for in original recipe, although I didn’t have any)

Directions: Mix er up. The only part that’s not super obvious is rimming the glass — dip it in lime juice, and then pop it into a plate of coarse salt before adding the other ingredients. Here is a pictorial recipe.

Sriracha and limes


This next shot is pretty much the same as the previous one, but John was insistent that he wanted his hand in a picture. So to fulfill his hand-model dreams…

John's hand


Mill Street beer


John and Phil

Results: Meh. These tasted like a light Caesar, but not as good. And yes, I mentioned the Caesar in honour of Canada Day, because that is a good drink, and only Canadians know about it for some reason. We drink it instead of a salad. Who doesn’t want vodka in their salad? I can guarantee that Canada is #1 in clam juice consumption, that’s for sure. Anyway, this cocktail was drinkable, but Phil and John made the suggestions to use a heavy beer and not to skip the Worcestershire. I liked the Sriracha itself — it feels like the normal basic standard that all other hot sauces should be compared to. Some might be better, many are probably worse. Get me? As for the cocktail, I’m going to have to give it a  rating of 1 Gag. If a cocktail has alcohol in it and I didn’t finish mine, it means it wasn’t very good.

Happy Canada Day!!