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Happy-Gourmand

A rainbow of vegetables

I was in the garden this week when a thought sprouted and grew.

I was searching for cucumbers and zucchinis, when it occurred to me: we have seen square watermelons and squashes with faces, but when is someone going to come up with vegetables that are practical?

Who decided cucumbers and zucchinis should be green? Why do they need to be stealthy?

I am in the garden every day, checking to see what is ready to pick. I move leaves and peek under, and there will be nothing, nothing and then bam — a zucchini bigger than a football is staring at me.

The yellow zucchinis are much more co-operative, shining out from under the leaves. It’s much easier to enjoy them in various recipes.

Football-sized zucchinis are only good for zucchini bread, and I can only eat so much of that.

I think Mother Nature could pick more colours for the veggie garden. We have flowers in all shades of the spectrum.There are so many green vegetables. 

I have tried purple beans and carrots, which are fun, but they turn back to their original colour when you cook them, which is disappointing.

Did you know that carrots started out purple, and were bred to be orange only when taken from their original home in eastern Europe to Britain? (Apparently the Brits didn’t like how purple looked on the plate.)

How about blue peas? Or maybe pink cucumbers? As a counter-measure to all the fuss surrounding GMO foods, why not have some work done on creating new colours that we could find easily when harvesting?

A gardener’s work is never done, so making the job just a bit quicker would be really nice. And kids might be keener to eat veggies that were weird and wonderful, no?

Perhaps the most interesting veggie for colour is red cabbage. It doesn’t have an exciting reputation, but did you know it will change colour depending on what kind of sauce it is cooked in?

If the sauce is acidic, the cabbage will stay deep red; if it’s neutral in pH, then the cabbage will go purple; and if the sauce is basic, the cabbage goes blue.

It’s the anthocyanins that are pH sensitive and cause all the fun.They are the component in most red, blue and purple plants.

Science is the secret to colour in food – anthocyanins, and chlorophyll (which makes green), and carotenoids (for yellow, orange and red).

A unique exception is beets, which have betanin. All these pigments are nutritious, so no matter what colour our veggies are, they are good for us. We just have to be diligent in the garden.

In case, like me, you have an embarrassment of riches in your zucchini patch, here’s my recipe for zucchini bread that never fails to please.

CHOCOLATE ZUCCHINI BREAD

This stuff is deadly good – and mostly healthy. You’d never know it had zucchini in it if you didn’t make it.

The cinnamon adds a nice twist, and nuts and chips make it quite decadent. It freezes well, and it’s great to share.

  • 500 g / 2 cups flour (can sub in gluten free flours if you wish. If using all gluten free, use 1/8 cup less)
  • 5 g / 1 tsp baking powder
  • 5 g / 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 g / 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5 g / 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 63 g / 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 eggs
  • 375 g / 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 125 mL / 1/2 cup vegetable oil (grapeseed works well)
  • 190 mL / 3/4 cup buttermilk (can be made with regular milk if necessary: use 2/3 cup milk and 1 tbsp vinegar stirred in. Leave in a warm spot for a few minutes, then stir.)
  • 225 g / 1/2 lb shredded zucchini, drained
  • 250 g / 1 cup pecans (optional – and any other nut can be substituted if you wish)
  • 190 g / 3/4 cup chocolate chips (optional, but really tasty!)
  • icing sugar for dusting, if desired
  • Preheat oven to 175C /350F

Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat eggs till frothy. Add sugar gradually and beat till fluffy, then beat in oil. Alternate mixing in buttermilk and dry ingredients.

Squeeze excess moisture out of zucchini and fold into batter, with nuts and chocolate chips if desired.

Grease bundt pan (or two loaf pans) and pour in batter. Bake for 55-60 minutes. Bread is done when knife inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool five minutes on a wire rack, then run spatula around rim of pan (centre and outside edges) and remove bread from mold.

Serve whole cake with a dusting of icing sugar if desired. Store covered in a cool spot, or freeze for later use.



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I scream, you scream....

What does your ice cream say about you?

Have you ever been asked that all-important question? You know, the one that divides us into two camps?

Everyone has a clear position in this debate: Are you a chocolate or a vanilla person?

We defend our choice with a connection to certain personality traits.

That’s like saying preferring chocolate over vanilla means one is more adventurous or enjoys luxury, while lovers of vanilla boast of revelling in tradition and being adaptable (vanilla goes with everything).

Did you know there have been studies done to evaluate one’s personality against one’s choice of ice cream flavour?

I wish I could have gotten that grant; I would have tested all the theories.

Our choices tend to represent our character, so you have to think there is some truth to this kind of project. I’ll give you some morsels to ponder here, and my own two cents.

Maybe you will add your comments below and we can see how it all shakes out. Or maybe we’ll just eat more ice cream. Either way, I think we win.

All right, let’s get down to brass tacks – here’s the scoop: (sorry, I couldn’t resist)

  • VANILLA – Baskin Robbins found in its survey that vanilla lovers tended to be impulsive (really?) and idealists. (I think if choosing vanilla was impulsive, you aren’t an idealist, you’re just someone with a smaller comfort zone. Learn to live a little; at least ask for sprinkles. Then you can say you’re impulsive.)
  • CHOCOLATE – if this is your pick, you are said to be any of these: dramatic, charming, and gullible; or in another study, committed, sensitive to others, harmonious. Take what you will… (Does this not seem like a broad spectrum here? I think perhaps the word “romantic” might have summed it up better. Us chocolate lovers like to imagine things are better and hope that is true. Just like some chocolate ice cream isn’t as wonderful as we’d like, sometimes the world isn’t either. But we keep hoping.)
  • STRAWBERRY – This seems to be a dividing line. Regardless of your preference for chocolate or vanilla, you probably have a firm opinion on strawberry. Baskin Robbins says if you love it, you’re tolerant and an introvert. Another study found similar results, citing the qualities of kindness and striving for harmony in everything you do.
  • (Never fear, I don’t think this means if you dislike strawberry ice cream, you’re a meanie. I prefer to believe that like me, you perhaps are just looking for something more exciting, unless you’re getting homemade fresh berry ice cream.)
  • BUTTER PECAN or PRALINES & CREAM — (These are seen as interchangeable in test scores. We won’t debate their finer notes here, let’s just go with it.) Would it surprise you to know this flavour seems to represent loving, supportive people who are responsible and empathetic, but don’t like too much attention. (Does that mean responsible and empathetic are the emotional equivalents of sweet and crunchy?

I wonder if this connection is a bit too literal, with an “ooey-gooey” flavour getting the connotation of that same kind of personality. Would it work in reverse – if we ate more butter pecan ice cream would we become more loving and responsible? I think it’s worth a try!)

  • ROCKY ROAD – Here is an easy one. If this is your flavour, I bet you are fun loving and adventurous just as the studies showed. One study did cite aggressive as another quality, and Baskin Robbins added that you are a good listener (is that because you often have to pay more attention when you’re off the beaten path? If you’re comfortable with nuts and marshmallows in one scoop of ice cream, I would expect you to be an easy-going person looking to live life fully. You go!)

I could go on with many more flavours, but I think you get the idea.

Then, we could debate the meaning of choosing a bowl or a cone, and a regular cone versus a waffle cone. (I just want to know why they couldn’t make sugar cones bigger.)

The essential element to remember here is the pure enjoyment of the exercise. Take your enjoyment of the ice cream seriously, but don’t take the choosing too seriously or you might miss the fun altogether.

I just have one note of caution: beware the rainbow sherbet. Baskin Robbins apparently found that lovers of this flavour are analytical and pessimistic. If you are looking for a good time, you want to find the people that picked mint chocolate chip or cookie dough.

Just sayin’…



From dirt to dinner

With agri-tourism, the opportunity to enjoy fresh food has expanded from the dinner table to the farm.

The line of cars at the end of our road gets longer every year with people stopping to pick fruit off the trees. And it’s not enough to have a picnic, numerous wineries and farms offer dinners at tables set in the great outdoors.

When I was a kid, we ate carrots that had dirt on them because we were too lazy to wash them carefully.

Now, it's trendy to say you ate carrots with dirt. It's part of the terroir.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that people are getting back in touch with Mother Earth and enjoying more real food. I just hope we don't swing the pendulum too far and make it complicated.

Special events are wonderful, but you don't need them to take pleasure in the bounty of the season. You can just as easily eat veggies from your garden or window box and feel just as fulfilled, perhaps even more.

So, as I mention some great events that are coming up in our wonderful corner of paradise, please remember that a visit to a farmers' market or a roadside stand can be just as fruitful (the pun was fully intended there).

I mentioned long table dinners, well, if you haven't been to one, it's worth doing at least once. Sit next to someone you don't know and break bread, share delicious local food and wine, take in the view, count your lucky stars.

Quails' Gate Winery has one more dinner coming up that is not yet sold out - check their website for details. Mission Hill Family Estate had their dinner last week, but you can still enjoy a glass of wine and a nibble at one of their outdoor concerts.

You can certainly feel like you are living the good life if you dine among the vines.

The quintessential long table dinner in the Okanagan is hosted by Dana and Cam from Joy Road Catering near Epenticton. Their Sunday al fresco suppers at God's Mountain on Skaha Lake are renowned for the food, drink and camaraderie.

They also partner with friends in the valley to do special events during the summer season; I can't recommend them enough. These people live and breathe the concept of cuisine du terroir — food of the earth.

If you can't decide where to go, or you want to try lots of different things at one event, then you're in luck - on Sunday, Aug. 14 the annual Feast of Fields Okanagan is being hosted on the Westside at Off The Grid Winery. (Full disclosure: I will be there, helping my hubbie at his barbecue rig, as one of the participants.)

This is foodie heaven. All the chefs who are keen to showcase local and seasonal ingredients are there, along with all the wineries, breweries and cideries who want you to toast the region.

It's a big event, with lots of goodies to sample and lots of people with whom you can visit. You will truly feel like you have feasted on the Okanagan. I just have two pieces of advice :

  • Dress for the weather. You'll be outside, and you'll be walking around. Be prepared to stand and chat and enjoy the view.
  • if you've ever seen livestock eat. You know grazing means you keep wandering and keep eating. It's only a nibble at each stand, but there are a lot of stands. Pace yourself.

I hope you'll have a chance to take in at least one of these events. They are a wonderful reminder of how much fun you can have while eating, and how valuable it is when we stop and take in the moment.

If you can't manage any of the events, I leave it to you to make your own moment — a picnic on the beach, or a bit of fruit picking in an orchard.

Smell the freshness of the great outdoors and feel the earth beneath your feet as you taste a bit of the season.  

Toast your good fortune with a friend; you know what they say: It's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it.





A taste of America

Last weekend was our change of scenery and pace; we drove down to Washington State.

We had no real agenda aside from the fact that we wanted to attend a sock-hop dance in Wauconda, population a hand full, and then on to Winthrop for some blues music, population a few handfuls.

Martin and I always enjoy sampling the culture anywhere we travel. Being in the land of plenty, we decided to indulge in a few good American treats.

We tried a few funky chocolate bars we had never heard of, and tasted different chips and an avocado tomatillo salsa. We even stopped at a drive-in for milkshake.

Silly man, Martin totally forgot where he was and asked for two large milkshakes. While we advanced to the pick-up window I thought, wow, I hope that large is not too large.

It was 32 ounces. But it was also thick, rich, and really tasty — a good, old-fashioned milkshake. Next time, I think we’ll just share a medium.

Our first event stop was the Vintage Car Show and Sock Hop in Wauconda, which has four buildings. The old school still stands, but has been empty a long time.

The cafe, which also houses the post office, is for sale. It might be a fun project for someone looking to be a part of a rural community.

The church is still a gathering place, and many of the parishioners support the community hall too. The hall was built in 1917 and is host to the longest running annual Flag Day celebration in the county. How is that for patriotism?

We love the chance to drop in and enjoy the enthusiasm in this little community.  

I pulled out my bobby socks and swishy skirt (no poodle, though) and tied up my ponytail so that I would fit in. It was a truly spectacular evening of family fun with kids and grandparents and lots of laughter.

Lots of people were obviously remembering old times, but even the kids danced and engaged in the fun.

The crowd spilled out into the field to cool off, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary was kept busy serving lemonade (they sold out of pie in the afternoon during the vintage car show).

I felt as though I had entered a wonderful time warp where life was indeed simpler and everyone was happy.

It sounds corny, but you know, it was magical to see such strength of spirit in a community of people.

They were so proud that their little country event was a success. At one point one of the singers said to the crowd, “Do you think anyone in America is having as much fun as we are?”

 It made my heart swell to be a part of it all. That kind of spirit doesn’t belong to America, after all, it belongs to a community.  

Our next destination was Winthrop and it too had a retro feel. The town has been redecorated western style, in keeping with its history from mining days through to current farming and ranching.

This tight-knit community hosts the longest running rhythm-and-blues music festival in Washington, one weekend in July.

It’s a bit like a mini-Woodstock, with a huge stage in an open field next to a small river. Many festival goers camp for the weekend and cool off in the river when it gets too hot to sit in the sun and tap their toes to the tunes.

There are vendors with carnival style food, but many families bring their picnics. And of course you can get a gypsy skirt or funky crystal jewelry if you’re so inclined.

This year we heard Allen Stone serenade the crowd as the sun set behind the stage. We gave in to the urge for a bag of mini donuts, served with chocolate sauce and toasted coconut – retro with a modern twist. Divinely inspired!

We had a wonderful retro trip. It was like going back in time where adults relaxed and kicked back and kids ran around with no city worries.

I strongly encourage any one wanting a change of scenery to visit the towns across the border. There is about a dozen of them and all with a little something to offer.

If you'd like to join in the fun, you can take our trip back in time too. Check out Wauconda Community Hall on Facebook for their event dates. Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival is on Facebook, too.



More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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