Thursday, December 1, 2022

Give The Gift Of A Good Meal

Rising food and housing costs; low wages; not enough work hours - people are relying on food banks more than ever before. According to a Feed Ontario report, the people in this province have been visiting food banks in greater numbers and in more frequency for six years running. Now more than ever, a donation to your local food bank would be greatly appreciated. As we head into the holiday season, a novel way to help the less fortunate this Christmas would be to create a reverse advent food calendar. As I posted on the Franklin on Food Facebook page, each day you would add an item to a box. On Christmas Eve, you then arrange for the box to be sent to a food bank. If this is something that appeals to you, here are the Passionate Penny Pincher's donation suggestions:

Remember to check the expiry date before you donate.
  • December 1: box of cereal (whole grain if possible)
  • December 2: peanut butter
  • December 3: stuffing mix
  • December 4: boxed potatoes
  • December 5: macaroni and cheese
  • December 6: canned fruit
  • December 7: canned tomatoes
  • December 8: canned tuna
  • December 9: dessert mix
  • December 10: jar of applesauce
  • December 11: canned sweet potatoes
  • December 12: cranberry sauce
  • December 13: canned beans
  • December 14: box of crackers
  • December 15: package of rice (brown rice is needed most)
  • December 16: package of oatmeal
  • December 17: package of pasta
  • December 18: spaghetti sauce
  • December 19: chicken noodle soup
  • December 20: tomato soup
  • December 21: can of corn
  • December 22: can of mixed vegetable
  • December 23: can of carrots
  • December 24: can of green beans

Monday, November 14, 2022

Random Thoughts About the Crave Food & Wine Festival

Ottawa is back in the food and wine festival game this year with the debut of the Crave Food & Wine Festival. These are the impressions my wife and I had on Day 1 of the latest version of the premier food and wine event in the nation's capital.

  • After the fiasco from the last Food and Wine Festival, I assume the Shaw Centre and anyone else working this event got whatever money owed to them upfront.
  • Unlike the last time we went to one of these shows, there weren't long lineups to get in, which is a plus. We arrived at the Shaw Centre after 7:30pm and were surprised at how few people we saw on the way to the main hall.
  • Sample tickets were $1 each, with the suggested amount to start with being 20 tickets. With the price of admission for two tickets being over $70, it is still the money grab it always was.
  • The dress code for this was chic casual which explains the woman I saw in sweatpants there; she had a Gwen Stefani from her No Doubt days vibe going, so I guess it met the criteria.
  • There was a decent crowd to be found once we got to the main showroom, with enough people cluttered around the various vendors that you would want to wear a facemask while waiting for food if you were so inclined.
  • I expected more in terms of presentation when I heard they were turning the show floor into a  series of themed sections.  I really couldn't tell which section was which.
  • As usual lots of people used this event as an excuse to dress up. The gentleman in the orange suit stood out to me for obvious reasons.
  • Dawn: "What's with all the leather pants?"
  • Biggest sample I had: a delicious pad Thai from Green Papaya served in a large container that would normally contain bowling alley French fries. Ten tickets/dollars.
  • Something as simple as a sign indicating how many tickets something costs would have been nice.
  • Standout samples include a banh mi from an Indigenous vendor, a slider from one of two BBQ vendors present, and some fish cakes that reminded me of the ones my Bajan mom would make.
  • If they were frying up some chicken wings, I would have made an effort to see what was happening at the Hot Ones® Ginger Goat booth.
  • We didn't get tickets for any of the demonstrations they had (that's extra), but we could enter the room and watch from afar. Maybe that's why the video screens were the size they were.
  • There seemed to be a lot of food-related photo backdrops set up for people to use on social media. They really want this to be a place to be seen at.
  • It's a big hall, maybe a few more tables for people to eat from?
  • "Is that woman only wearing pantyhose?!?"
  • Previous food and wine festivals let you keep your sample glass. Not so this year.
  • With the numerous security guards and two OPP officers milling around, it made us wonder what exactly did they expect to happen. Everyone must be still on high alert after the convoy protest.
  • Overall, not a bad return, but there's a lot of room for improvement.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

An Out of This World Corned Beef Sandwich

A good sandwich is one of the joys of eating. Delicious items stuffed in between two pieces of bread is such an obvious way to consume food it's hard to believe the Earl of Sandwich was the first person to ever do so. For my money, the best sandwich in the city is from Di Rienzo's. If I have to go on a long trip I've taken their turkey and prosciutto with Havarti, lettuce, mayo, tomato, and spicy eggplant with me as needed comfort food to deal with the rigours of traveling. An astronaut took this concept to the extreme in the sixties by bringing a sandwich into orbit with him. As we learned when Homer went to space back when "The Simpsons" was considered groundbreaking and risque, food particles in a weightless environment can gum up machinery. On his first flight into space, John Young took a corned beef sandwich a fellow astronaut gave him and zipped it into his space suit before he boarded the rocket for the Gemini 3 mission. At some point on the trip, Young pulled out the sandwich and showed it to his commander, who reminded him of the safety risk and scolded him for it. Young was more formally reprimanded when he came back to Earth, as part of his mission was to test new dehydrated food packets and some congressmen thought he was costing the U.S. millions of dollars by ignoring the actual food that they were up there to try out. In honour of National Sandwich Day, you can either recreate the basic corned beef sandwich Young smuggled onboard (he later remarked it was without mustard or pickles), or you can make yourself the deli mainstay that is the Reuben

rye bread (pretzel rolls can also be used)
Swiss cheese
good quality corned beef
sauerkraut, drained
115 g mayonnaise
45 g ketchup
30 g horseradish
12.5 g granulated sugar
10 mL Worcestershire sauce
2. 5 g paprika
Kosher salt
black pepper, freshly ground if possible
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and paprika until everything is combined. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Butter one side of a slice of bread. On another slice, spread the Russian dressing you just made on one side. Place some Swiss cheese, corned beef, and sauerkraut on the non-buttered side of the bread. Top the sandwich with the other slice of bread, dressing side down. Butter the top of the sandwich you've made.
  3. Heat a skillet big enough for the sandwich over medium heat. Place the sandwich in the pan and cook until it is golden and the cheese has melted, 3 minutes per side.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Bonus Election Day Dessert - Jan Harder's Bread Pudding

Jim Watson's not the only longtime Ottawa politician riding off into the sunset after this year's municipal election. Barrhaven's Jan Harder, who has represented that part of the city for over two decades, announced back in 2018 that she would be retiring after her last term was up.  Recently I came across a recipe for bread pudding she offered to some local publication. Treat yourself to this sweet and savoury dessert after doing your civic duty by voting - the names of the ballot (particularly the ones for Ward 3 Barrhaven West) would appreciate it.

5-6 cups cubed French bread
2.25 cups 35% whipping cream
3 eggs
2 pears and 2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into bite-sized pieces
0.75 cup white sugar
0.5 cup each chopped pecand and raisins
0.25 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon each nutmeg and cinnamon
  1. In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the apples and pears, and stir occasionally until the fruit is tender. Stir in the brown sugar, then increase the heat and cook everything for three minutes.
  2. Remove the frying pan from the heat. Stir in the bread, the pecans, and the raisins. Set the pan aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and spices together. Stir the bread mixture into the cream. Let it stand for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Turn the bread mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish and bake for 40-50 minutes.
  5. When done, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm with Devon custard.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Bake Sale Worthy Chocolate Chip Cookies

In politics, you either leave office as a hero or see yourself become the villain. When Jim Watson became mayor for the second time in 2010, he was applauded for his ability to get city council to follow his lead after the chaotic free-for-all that was his predecessor's term. This eventually worked against Ottawa's longest-serving mayor as his influence over the council was so strong, councillors who voted with the mayor were seen as members of a dictatorial Watson Club. Throughout it all, Watson maintained his support among voters by attending and promoting bake sales around the city. This past December, Watson announced he would not be running for re-election in this year's municipal election. In honour of this changing of the guard, I have posted this recipe for a bake sale favourite, chocolate chip cookies. It's a recipe created by Blogger co-founder Meg Hourihan after she asked people to send her cookie recipes after she was tired of using her regular cookie recipe. After receiving over 30 different recipes, she decided to average all of the recipes and make whatever the result. In a sense, the recipe is a lot like voting in this Monday's election - you sift through all the different candidates who all say and promise the same things and hope that whatever is cobbled together forms something that turns out all right. With the cookie, the results were something that people liked; let's hope Ottawa's next mayor is as successful.
257 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
245 g flour
169 g light brown sugar
109 g white sugar
87.9 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
58 g unsalted butter, melted
46 g eggs
29.9 g unsalted butter, cold
20 g dark brown sugar
8 g egg yolk
6.08 mL vanilla extract
3.84 mL milk
3.81 g salt
3.63 g baking soda
2.51 mL water
  1. Preheat your oven to 178.98°C, or to as close as you can to the temperature. 
  2. In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set the bowl aside once done.
  3. In another bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butters and the sugars until they are incorporated and smooth.
  4. Add and mix the egg, the egg yolk, the extract, the water, the milk, and the chocolate chips until all the ingredients are combined. Add the bowl of dry ingredients and blend until everything is fully incorporated.
  5. Cover and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
  6. Place parchment paper on one-third of a cookie sheet. Drop the dough using a rounded tablespoon onto the cookie sheet - some cookies will be on the parchment, some won't. This is deliberate. Cook for 13.04 minutes.

    Note: This recipe appeared in the first edition of my favourite cookbook, "Cooking for Geeks".

Friday, October 7, 2022

How To Roast a Cauliflower

Need an easy vegetarian dish? Roasting a whole head of cauliflower gives you a dish that works as both a main course and a side. As a dinner table standout, it can't be beaten.

1 cauliflower
80 mL olive oil
60 g grated Parmesan cheese
5 g dried basil
5 g dried parsley
5 g dried thyme
3 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 g sea salt
1.5 g black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 205°C. Rinse and pat dry the cauliflower. Remove the outer leaves and carefully cut off the woody center of the bottom stalk so that it's flat and the head stays in one piece. 
  1. In a box mix the olive oil, the garlic, half of the Parmesan cheese, and the remaining spices and seasonings.

  1. Put the cauliflower upside down (core side up) in a Dutch oven. Drizzle half of the sauce over the cauliflower, tilting it to let it drip down the core and all around. Flip the cauliflower over and drizzle the remaining sauce over the top, and use a pastry brush to ensure the cauliflower.

  1. Cover the Dutch oven with its lid and bake everything for 35-45 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender and pierces easily with a knife or fork. Remove the lid and sprinkle the top of the cauliflower with the remaining Parmesan cheese. Place the cauliflower under the broiler and broil for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is browned.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Working My Way Through The Works: Gotta Be KD

A popular gimmick for food blogs is to eat and review every item on a restaurant's menu. This blog is no exception. These are the observations I've had while eating my way through the burger menu of The Works, a Canadian burger restaurant with locations across Ottawa and Ontario.
The WORKS (900 Watters Road))
Burger Description:"Kraft Dinner & cheddar"
September 20, 2022

Kraft Dinner is bullshit. The macaroni pie my mom would make for Sunday dinners spoiled KD for me forever. I assume the only reason people eat it is that it's cheap and they don't know how to make a proper cheese sauce. When I finally tried the stuff in the blue and yellow box, I never understood its appeal. I don't care what Barenaked Ladies say, "If I Had A Million Dollars" I wouldn't eat that crap ever again. I will admit, seeing all that orange gooeyness on my burger patty made me hope that I would at least get a lot of cheese flavour in my first bite. But the low expectations I had for this meal were quickly met. It didn't taste any cheesier than if I had ordered a regular cheeseburger. Biting into the hamburger, the macaroni added a weird mouthfeel that I was not a fan off. I tried some of the pasta separately. It was like flavourless orange packing foam. As with actual Kraft Dinner, the only way to eat this was with lots of ketchup. Paying almost $20 for something with Kraft mac and cheese on it is ridiculous - the best part of this lunch was the French fries. I get that it's not practical or realistic to expect something a Sicilian grandmother would have made from a burger joint but even using good-tasting macaroni and cheese seems like a mistake to me as a hamburger topping. This is easily the worse hamburger I've eaten so far from the Works. Recommended only for pregnant women with very specific cravings.

1 out of 5 stars

Give The Gift Of A Good Meal

Rising food and housing costs; low wages; not enough work hours - people are relying on food banks more than ever before. According to a Fe...