Cabane à Sucre

This is one of my favorite things about living in Quebec.  Every year when the snow melts the maple sap starts to run and the blessed people of Quebec go out and collect all that yummy sap and turn it into even yummier syrup!  Then, these fabulous people host these incredible meals to celebrate this syrup that they have made.  Pea soup, creton, beans, potatoes, bacon, ham, eggs and ‘les oreilles de Christ’, MAPLE TOFFEE!  All drizzled in maple goodness.  Maple is a Quebec staple.

“What to eat first…the maple bacon or les oreilles d’Christ?”

My first experience with Cabane was in 2000, I went with Nadia, Lara and the Concordia Psychology department.  We went to a giant Sugar Shack with space for about 300, they had an arcade, dance floor and I think I remember some ski-ball.  It was quite the adventure and I figured it was something you had to do at least once.

Fast forward a few years and some of my new friends wanted to go somewhere for Cabane.  I ask one of my favorite Francophone’s where to go and she sends me to a place I will try to visit annually for the rest of my life.  Louise’s family has been going to the Cabane à sucre famille Éthier for years and I’m happy to continue the tradition with them and all the people I love.

Hears a taste:

Cabane à sucre famille Éthier.

There is no menu.  You arrive.  You eat.  The only thing I (the celiac) can’t eat is the omelet (there is a touch of flour to make it giant and puffy) and dessert, but la Famille Éthier is always happy to fry up a couple of eggs for me and this year, for dessert, they poached an egg in maple syrup!  Be jealous, it’s delicious.  The last part of the meal is my favorite, you roll a popsicle stick across a bed of snow covered in hot maple syrup, it’s called: La Tire d’Érable.

A meal with bacon, pork rinds (the French call them Christ’s Ears), eggs and maple syrup is really hard to mess up, but this place is special because of the people who run it and the music and the love of maple syrup.  Did I mention they refill the bowls?  Did I mention that it’s bring your own wine?  Wonderful.

This year, I went twice.

This does not look appetizing, I know, but it’s a bowl of hot maple syrup with an egg in it, you can’t deny that you want to try this. And you should, it’s amazing.

There are tons of Cabane in the Montreal area and throughout Quebec.  I highly recommend any of the ones that fit less than 100 people, it’s a way more realistic and pleasant experience!

Click me! for the Quebec Tourist website to find your own favorite Cabane!

Another one of my favorite things about living in Quebec is living in the same city as Dayle:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAYLE!!!

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Apples to sticky apples

Ever since I moved to Montreal and discovered all the surrounding apple orchards I have made an effort to get myself a giant bag of apples.  Nothing says fall to me like apple picking.  For the second year in a row, I ventured out with Dayle, Dave and Zak (Andrew couldn’t make it out this year, work shmurk).  Dayle and I have been apple picking for a few years now, I still remember our first time — when she neglected to mention her severe motion sickness after I forced her onto a ferry to Oka — we had such a wonderful day out with our choir girls.  More than 10 years later, this feels like a traditional family outing that I would hate to miss.  Zak is 2 going on 5 and it was so much fun climbing ladders and racing through trees with him.

Dave, Zak and Dayle

This year we went to Quinn Farms where they have apples, animals, pumpkin patches and plenty of heavy duty trucks for a boy to climb on.  This is a big farm, you can pick strawberries and asparagus in the summer and cut down Christmas trees in the winter, so they have a store with jams and fresh veggies and a little hot dog and soup stand.  They have hot apple cider and fresh apple juice, popcorn and candied apples.  They also sell baked goods, nothing gluten free unfortunately.  Zak and I picked up a candied apple and are both happy to report we miraculously still have all our teeth; sadly, I wouldn’t recommend these shiny red treats.  The candy was really hard and stuck to your teeth and once you got to the apple your face was fluorescent from the dye (that you could taste more than the sugar).

Red dye no. 4

We picked two 18 pound bags of two apple varieties, Cortland and Empire.  Apparently Cortland are better for baking, so that is what I did when I got home.  Thanks to my Bob’s Red Mill gf oats and gf all purpose flour I was able to whip up a crisp!

Apple, blueberry and raspberry Crisp

GF Apple crisp
This is a gf, nut free version of the crisp my mom makes, it’s easy and it’s always delicious!  It’s also good for breakfast.
What you’ll need:
2 cups gf oatmeal (if you want nuts use 1 cup oats and 1 cup pecans), 1/3 cup of all purpose gf flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 3/4 cup of melted butter (1/2 cup will do the trick too), 1/2 tsp. salt, as many peeled and sliced apples as you can fit into your baking dish, any other fruit you might want to bake in there (I love blueberries and raspberries, dried cherries, pears and rhubarb)
Preheated oven (325〫), baking dish (this is enough crisp to cover a 9″x 13″ dish)

Layer your fruit into your baking dish, don’t be afraid to heap.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and sprinkle on top.  Bake for about an hour or until the fruit starts to bubble up along the edges.  Eat a la mode or with whip cream or all by itself.

So my crisp used 9 large apples, now I just have to figure out how to deal with the 15 pounds of apples I have left…I see apple bunt cake in my very near future (just saw a recipe in allergic living).  Happy Fall!

Wasabi peas and memories.

I love Chinese food,  I miss Chinese restaurants and Dim Sum; I haven’t eaten Dim Sum in 3 years, I used to eat it every 2-3 weeks (probably not the healthiest thing to admit, but it’s in the past 🙂 ).  My Grandmother is Chinese, making me one-quarter, but I’m fairly sure I would love and miss this delicious cuisine just as much if I hadn’t grown up with my Chinese connection.

I have wonderful memories of various Chinatowns: snooping through all the treasures, the inexpensive and delicious groceries, the mysterious candies with only Chinese characters on the packaging…  San Francisco (the oldest Chinatown in North America and a must for tourists), Vancouver, Victoria (second oldest), Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, it doesn’t matter where I am, when I see lion statues and red gates electricity and excitement run through my body.  The smell of pork buns, bbq’d duck, sesame balls with bean paste and egg tarts all ignite my childhood flashbacks and then it hits me: I can’t eat any of it.  My trips to Montreal’s Chinatown have dropped drastically since my diagnoses and when I do go, I run in and out like there is a fire.  (It’s the best place to buy pork, 3 lbs. of ground pork for under $6 can’t be beat)

I decided it’s about time I reconnect.  Time to take a trip down there without a grocery list and just make my way through the memories.  Let the scents of Chinatown be the calorie free way to enjoy Chinese, then go home and make something inspired by the things I find on my trip.

We had a cabbage, carrots and bok choy from our veggie basket, so I decided to make spring roll insides (we make this when we don’t feel like frying) and some kind of bok choy dish on the side.  I bought 3 lbs. of pork, ginger, Thai basil, 4 chopstick rests, vermicelli noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms and green onions for about $15!  I also found WASABI PEAS!!! In individual, single serving packets no less!  I’ve seen Wasabi peas around, but they always contain wheat flour.  Not these babies!  And they pack as much punch as I remember!  This little pack of peas has renewed my faith in the gf revolution!  Even Chinatown is going GF!  I have a renewed sense of Chinatown purpose!  A raison d’être, a whole new game plan in Chinatown my friends!  GF is so trendy.

Spring Roll Insides
You may think this is weird, but this dish came from the excessive amount of leftover filling I had the first time I made spring rolls with my new deep fryer (Shout out to Jonathan!).  We made enough filling to feed a small army, eventually I had to stop frying and eat.  The leftovers were amazing and ever since, if I don’t feel like frying, I just make the insides with a bit less noodle and serve them over rice or more noodles.  Don’t judge, try them and you will see what I mean.

This recipe is inspired by Martha Liao’s recipe.  Martha Liao is married to Hao Jiang Tian an opera singer from Beijing and I happened to catch them being interviewed on Martha Stewart.  Apparently Martha Liao prepares her famous Peking duck feasts at the end of Hao Jiang Tian’s runs all over the world.  She is also known for her dumplings and spring rolls.  You can find the unaltered recipe and watch a clip of these two cooking with Martha here.  This recipe yields 40-50 spring rolls, you can see why I had so much leftover filling!  She also uses spring roll wrappers which contain wheat flour, I use rice flour wrappers and I’m just as content.

What you’ll need (for the spring roll insides, in case you forgot, because I blabbed a little):
1 pack skinny rice noodles, 1 small shredded head cabbage, 4 or 5 grated carrots, canola oil, 2 lbs. lean ground pork, 2 tbsp. chopped garlic, 2 tbsp. chopped ginger, 3 tablespoons gf soy sauce (I use BRAGGS), 1 tbsp. Shao Xsing (Chinese cooking wine pictured below), 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, 5 chopped green onions, 1 tsp. sesame oil and rice vinegar *this is a lot of filling, cut it half if you want*
Wok or large skillet, 2 big bowls, big spoon

Left to right: my cheeky red rice cooker, Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar and sesame oil

Cook your rice noodles according to the directions on the packet, this usually involves soaking in hot or boiling water.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok with a lid over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring, until coated with oil. Season with salt and cover; cook until cabbage mixture is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer cabbage mix to a large bowl; set aside.
Add enough oil to lightly coat bottom of skillet. Add pork, garlic, and ginger; stir to combine. Add soy sauce, wine, and sugar. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/4 cup water until well combined. Add to skillet and cook, stirring, until mixture is thickened and pork is cooked through.
Drain rice noodles, pull out half the noodles and chop them up a little, stir into pork along with the green onions and sesame oil. Transfer pork mixture to bowl with cabbage; toss to combine.
Serve over the rest of the noodles or rice with rice vinegar and soy sauce!

Spring Roll Insides

Bok Choy and Shiitake mushrooms
What you’ll need:
3 or 4 Bok Choy cut into bite size strips, dried or fresh shiitake mushroom, chopped up garlic and ginger, gf soy sauce, sesame oil, s&p
Wok and spoon
If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them according to the package.
I used the same wok I had made the pork filling in, so it was already seasoned with oil, throw in the bok choy, ginger, garlic and soy sauce steam until the thick parts start to soften.  Slice the mushrooms and throw them in to heat.

Chinatown dinner


Good food, messy kitchen

I love cooking.  I think one thing that made my transition from gluten eater to gluten free a lot easier was my familiarity with the kitchen.  Thanks Mom!  Because of my comfort in the kitchen, when I am in a restaurant I have a pretty clear idea of how things are made, where they might sneak in a thickener or what should and shouldn’t use flour.  Although I’ve been writing about restaurants, I’ve also had a great time in the kitchen this summer.  My veggie basket has given me exactly what I wanted: inspiration.  I’ve made things like red wine and maple glazed carrots (needed to use my carrots and shallots), fennel and apple salad (I had a fennel), leek and cauliflower soup, bbq’d cauliflower, roasted tomatoes, grilled zucchini, fresh pesto (so much basil, so little time)…

Here are a few of the things I made and recipes:

Cauliflower and Leek Soup
What you’ll need:
3 leeks, 1 head of cauliflower, 1 liter of broth, 2 tbsp. lemon juice, S&P
Big pot, blender or immersion blender, spoon

First, boil cauliflower florets in water with lemon juice (added once the water has reached a boil)

Boiled cauliflower

Chop up the white end of 3 leeks, soften and sauté in butter.

Softening the leeks

Once the leeks start to brown, reduce the heat and add 1 litre of broth.  (I use whatever I have in the freezer or pantry so chicken, turkey or veggie).  Throw in the cauliflower, then blend and bring back to a boil.  Easy.  Delicious.  The first night, we just ate soup, but the next day we ate TV dinner style leftovers (picture below).

He and she TV dinners

Butter chicken, indiana succotash and cauliflower soup

Pulled Pork Tacos
What you’ll need: (inspired by Emeril Lagasse)
1 boneless pork shoulder, 1 1/2 tablespoons light-brown sugar, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper, 1 teaspoon crumbled Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon cayenne, old bay seasoning (if you have it), S&P
Slow cooker, baking dish or bowl, forks

Place pork roast in a large, shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, s&p, crushed red pepper, chipotle and cayenne pepper, and oregano. Using your hands, rub spice blend evenly over pork. Loosely cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
Transfer pork to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until tender and falling apart, about 8 hours, breaking into smaller pieces as it becomes more tender.
Using 2 forks, shred meat.

Pulled porky goodness

Devon's Taqueria

We ate the pork with corn tortillas, homemade salsa, spicy corn and lime.  Too good.  The next day I melted it all in cheese for quesadillas!

Frittata
What you’ll need:
5 Eggs (this is plenty for 2 people), 2 potatoes, 1 onion, tomatoes, whatever vegetable you have in your fridge and want to use, 1/2 cup milk, butter
Cast iron pan, wooden spoon or paddle

Cook the potatoes in a bit of butter, set aside and sauté the onions and your other veggies (I like spinach and kale and peppers), when those are cooked add the eggs and milk (which you should whip together in a seperate bowl).  Mix around the eggs to cook a bit, but stop when it starts to set up.  Layer with tomatoes and place under a broiler (medium heat), bake until the tomatoes start to brown.

Kale, potato and tomato frittata

A Dark Dominion

That title alludes to a very heavy post, but I assure you, read on, this is a nice story…

This is a story about a restaurant that I like very much.  It has a charming, old world atmosphere, flavourful food, unique cocktails, passable pricing and so far, great memories.

Hears a taste:

Taverne Square Dominion.

Last November Jonathan (my partner in event coordinating crime) and I had our first experience at Taverne Square Dominion.  We had the good fortune of dining with someone who actually lived in the time that this former hotel bar had been a central part of Montreal’s gay village.  Jonathan and I both enjoyed a delicious steak and the three of us imbibed several bottles of red wine.

The next time I went back it was with Andrew and Jonathan.  We had tried to see a movie, but it was sold out, so we decided to dine.  Oddly enough we were seated at the same table as before.  Apparently it is our table.  We ordered fancy drinks (they have Pimms!) and set off on our second Taverne Square Dominion food adventure.  The waiter’s were very helpful and happy to go back and talk to the chef with any questions I had that they could not answer definitively.  I like that.

What I ate:
Rock Shrimp with toast (they replaced the toast with lettuce and I made little wraps) – I ate this the first time too and it was so yummy I had to have it again
Beef Striploin – same thing I had last time, but I hadn’t drunk as much red wine and still delicious

What Jonathan ate:
Fried Clams
Mussels cooked with bacon and cider

Andrew ate:
Salmon Gravalax
Mussels cooked with bacon and cider

The third time Jonathan and I made our way back it was to celebrate another summer visit with great friends (the theme of Jonathan and I’s summer).  Rachel, a marvelous friend from McGill, and Jason, her boyfriend (equally marvelous), came to town from Toronto for three fine days.  Now, if you thought finding food for me and Andrew (no nuts) was complex, try adding a vegetarian on a special diet and avoiding wheat, a fastidious pianist and an Atkins diet.  Jason was our easy eater.  We all took a peek at the menu and agreed this was the place for us.  The drink menu sealed the deal…homemade soda, tonique and an impressive list of gin was something we could all enjoy.

We arrived at the Taverne and were seated at the not our table in the back as the seating for large groups is limited (they won’t take groups larger than 8).  We ordered our cocktails and our meals and enjoyed each others company while we waited for our feast to arrive.  We all know, the minute someone gets up to go to the washroom the food arrives, so we sent Chris.  Only instead of our appetizers arriving there was a flash and we were in the dark.  A power outage!  Noooo!  Our food!

Half of the street was out, but no one was sure how long the dark would last.  Waiters rushed around adding candles in beer mugs and short glasses to each occupied table, then all of a sudden our appetizers arrive!  Apparently our timing had been perfect; when the power went out our order was up and cooking.  We were served our main courses as well.  After the power had been out for 40 minutes we noticed the waiters breaking the news to other clients that they had decided to call it a night, the power was still a mystery and the kitchen wouldn’t be able to make any more meals.  The waiters pulled out their calculators and started adding together the tabs manually, each bill was served up with a sassy round of shots.

It could have been strange eating in the dark, but when you’re with great friends and great food it turns into a rare experience we’ll never forget.

Website:
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Celiacaversary!

On August 13, 2008, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease.  I can still remember the sense of relief that I could be fixed.  The month prior to my revelation I had been in for an endoscope of my belly.  When I came out of my drug induced relaxation, my doctor told me he had some good news and some okay news.  The good news: I didn’t have an ulcer or any unusual bumps, the okay news: I probably have celiac disease.

My first question: “Is there gluten in rice?”
“No”, replies the doctor.
Me: “Okay, then I’ll be fine.”

While in surgery, he took a biopsy of my stomach and told me the results were going to take a few weeks, he also sent me for another blood test and told me to continue eating gluten until I had the results in case they needed to run anymore tests.

On my drive home I decided I had three and a half weeks to eat whatever I wanted.  My system was already used to being sick all the time, so I went full out.  I admit that I didn’t know a lot about celiac, so I bought one book (mostly to make sure I ate all the gluten I could) and I planned to deal with the celiac thing starting the day after my appointment.

What does one eat while saying goodbye to gluten?
– so much pizza (homemade and restaurant)
– Chinese food = most importantly dim sum, ginger beef (in Alberta), any vegetable in oyster sauce or hoisin, salt & pepper squid and many dumplings (I am proudly 1/4 Chinese and this was one of the hardest things for me to give up)
– Japanese food = most importantly shrimp and veggie tempura, any sushi roll with tempura in it
– Pasta! (homemade and restaurant)
– Chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips
– Crispy crunch cake with white chocolate icing
– Bread = croissant, pain au chocolat, baguette, biscuits, dinner rolls (homemade), cranberry orange bread and cinnamon toast
– Beer = Dieu du Ciel

The day of my results appointment I planned a last hoorah at my favorite Ethiopian restaurant and then beers at DdC.  If only I had read my book a wee bit more, I would have known that Ethiopian bread is traditionally made from teff and is perfectly safe for people avoiding gluten!

Hears a taste:

Nil bleu.

I love going to Nil Bleu.  Ethiopian is best enjoyed in groups and when you have a lot of time.  I would not recommend Ethiopian before a show, deadlines do not exist in this world.
You eat with your hands, teff bread is your utensil.  The mix of flavours and spices are unique and delicious.  From the spicy and tangy berber sauce to the sweet, stewed potatoes and carrots.  So good.

What I ate (and can still eat!):
Doro Watt – spiced chicken with onions and a boiled egg
Assa Watt – fish cooked in berber sauce
Gommen – spinach
Yatakelt Watt – potatoes, cabbage and carrot
Yebeg Tibbs – lamb with green peppers and ginger

Ordering Ethiopian:
In my many trips to Nil Bleu, I think I have mastered the perfect order.
Start with 1 vegetarian platter, then add 1 meat/per person.
Example – For a group of 4, I would order:
1 vegetarian platter
1 Doro Watt
1 Yebeg Tibbs
1 Assa Watt

More people = more meat and an extra spinach.

Website:
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Veggie Basket!

Week 5

Meet my beautiful veggie basket.  This is her 5th week in our lives and we couldn’t be happier.  Andrew and I decided to purchase a farmshare this summer to help with our menu making and it has been inspiring.  Every week we have something new to play with.  Everything tastes better!  I eat raw zucchini all the time (I thought it had to be cooked to taste good), cucumbers and carrots are incredible, and the blueberries!  Oh the blueberries!  Quebec has so much goodness to offer.

What have we been making?
So much SALAD!
I’m not a big salad fan, but I do have to say that lettuce picked the day before you eat it is so good.  I might become a salad liker…as long as Andrew keeps cleaning the lettuce.  So far my favorite salad dressing has been a mixture of avocado oil, pomegranate molasses, salt & pepper with a hint of dijon mustard and a little bit of maple syrup.
Andrew also made a delicious zucchini ribbon salad with red onion and red wine vinegar.

GRILLED VEGGIES
Zucchini is still my favorite grilling vegetable.  I like it with a bit of crunch or soft and mushy.

DIP
I made hummus (not from the veggie basket), the perfect dip for carrots and cucumbers and zucchini.
Green Sauce!  With all the mint, basil and cilantro we want, how could I not make Krista’s green sauce? (I’ll have to get her permission to post the recipe)

SALSA
I have a taco addiction and I found an amazing recipe for Radish Salsa on Martha Stewart’s site.  She calls it a salad, but I’ve adjusted it a little (add more heat!) to make it more like a salsa.  The lime and jalapeño were not from my veggie basket.

BLUEBERRY PIE
Let’s talk about blueberries.  They are delicious and jam packed with healthy.  Whenever I buy a pricey little pint of these blue goodies, I end up picking out a bunch of the yucky ones or some will be sour or too mooshy; I’m never totally satisfied.  Then came my veggie basket.  I’ve never had blueberries like this, so when they offered us the option of buying an extra case I jumped for blueberry joy.

The case

I’ve had these two pie crusts in my freezer for quite some time and my case of blueberry perfection called for a pie!  Last Thanksgiving, I found these crusts at Whole Foods in Toronto, they are by a company called “Circle of Life Bakery“.  They bake up very nicely and are super easy if you’re not in the mood for crust making mess.  I cut up one crust to make a lattice pattern.

Raw, but still pretty

Attacked!