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Ahem, may I say first, CONGRATULATIONS, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir on your Olympic gold medal!  First ever Canadian gold in Ice Dance – and the youngest, too! Woot!

I’m not even a real fan of ice dance, but I watched their last two performances, and even I was converted.

Price of admission for Ross Hockey House Rib Night. Must sing "Oh Canada" on command.

Okay, back to banana bread.

What did people do with their leftover bananas before they invented banana bread?  I’m one of those people who can’t eat a banana if there’s even one tiny spot of brown on it.  I like my bananas a little green, actually, which is probably not even good for me.  I think it’s the smell.  I don’t actually want my bananas to smell like bananas.  If it weren’t for banana bread, I would likely throw out my body weight in bananas every year.  Between bananas and eggs, I think I have issues.

Whenever my bananas get a little too greebly (i.e. Jim has given up on them, too), I throw them in the freezer.  From time to time I open my freezer, and the frozen bananas, having bred and multiplied, jump out and try to bruise my toes.  Then I make banana bread.

Jim likes banana bread.

This is my most recent successful recipe:

Banana Bread
1 ½ C whole wheat flour
1 C unbleached flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ C wheat germ
¼ C flax seeds
¼ C + 2 T apple sauce
2 T butter (at room temperature)
1 C brown sugar
3 large eggs
4 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (if you’ve frozen them, they must be completely thawed)
¼ C 2% yoghurt (I use Liberty Organic)
½ C chopped walnuts, toasted
½ C semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray 9×5” pyrex loaf pan with non-stick spray.
  2. In a non-stick pan over medium heat, toast wheat germ until browned.  Stir constantly so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat, and combine with flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and flax seeds in a small bowl.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the sugar, applesauce and butter.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beat until well mixed.
  5. Add yoghurt & beat again.
  6. Add ½ of flour mixture and mix until well-combined.
  7. Add ½ of mashed bananas and mix again.  Repeat with remainder of flour and bananas.
  8. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips (quickly but don’t stir too many times).
  9. Pour into loaf pan.  Bake for 1 hour to 1:15 (done when a toothpick comes out clean after inserted).
  10. Cool bread in pan for 20 minutes.  Run a knife along the edges then gently tip the bread out of the pan onto a rack.  Cool completely before cutting.

Olympic update (because I know you care)

I have so far been to two hockey games: women’s U.S. / Russia and men’s Russia / Slovakia.  There’s been a bit of bitching in the media about women’s hockey being a two-team sport and some suggestion that it should not be in the Olympics because of that.  You know what I have to say.  F*ck that.  There are a NUMBER of countries with excellent hockey programs (think Russia, for starters), whose women go out there and despite playing their hearts out, look like amateurs next to Canada and the U.S.  The reason for that is investment.  In their own countries.  In women’s hockey.  Despite all the hype, we don’t necessarily “breed” better female hockey players here.  We just invest in them from a young age.  We support them, not as well as we support our boys, but we’re getting there.  The other countries, instead of bitching, could try doing the same.  Or shut the hell up.

U.S. scores a goal

That’s all.

xx Eva

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Quails' Gate Cabernet on the Patio

Wandering around the city this week I have had the pleasure of testing and tasting the prized products of several nations and provinces.  At Quebec House the wine selection is small but they are featuring a great microbrew from Quebec City.  Ontario House is flogging both beer and wine and they have several wines to be proud of.  The Italians are serving up chunks of parmigiano reggiano with Chianti.  Holland House is all about the Heineken.  So, in the spirit of the Olympics I would like to promote some home-grown talent, namely BC wine.

BC’s wine reputation has taken some time to recover from what was well-deserved condemnation.  The local product back in the 70’s was beyond disgusting, not even worthy of cooking with.  But that is no longer the case.  These days BC vintners are winning international awards and my admiration.  Especially noteworthy is the variety of wines that we are successfully producing here.  From Rieslings and Chardonnays to Cabernets and Pinot Noirs.  And to compliment all these great grapes is a food culture reaching maturity.  To be a locavore in BC in 2010 is an extraordinary delight.

And with the local in mind, here are a few of my favourites:

Quails’ Gate is nestled on the Western shore of Okanagan Lake.  From the restaurant at the winery you can gaze over row upon row of vines and watch the sun dance on the lake.  My favourite Quails’ Gate creation is the Pinot Noir best enjoyed with the wild mushroom risotto.  The Pinot is delicate with notes of cherry and spice.  If this isn’t nirvana, I’m not sure what is.

Looking across the vineyard at Quails' Gate

Wild Mushroom Risotto

  • 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 12 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan.  Turn off heat but keep stock warm.
  2. Soak porcini mushrooms in 1/2 cup boiling water for a few minutes until tender.  Remove mushrooms from water and chop finely.
  3. Strain mushroom water through fine mesh sieve into chicken stock.
  4. Melt butter with olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Add shallots and onions; sauté until tender.
  6. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender and moisture from mushrooms has evaporated.
  7. Add porcini, garlic and rosemary; sauté 4 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.
  9. Add wine and stir until liquid is absorbed.
  10. Add 1 cup hot broth; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
  11. Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 30 minutes.
  12. Mix in 1/2 cup cheese, 2 tablespoons of butter and parsley.
  13. Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with additional cheese sprinkled on top of finished risotto.

Red Rooster is perched on the Eastern shore of the lake near the Naramata townsite.  It is a true family business that has grown exponentially on account of the outstanding wine they have produced.  A few years ago Red Rooster built a new facility to accommodate a restaurant and larger tasting room.  Like Quails’ Gate it is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the joy of great wine, fine food and spectacular scenery.   My favourite at Red Rooster is the Meritage, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot.  The flavours are big and bold and enormously satisfying.

Hillside Estate Winery is another Naramata gem.  Perched high on the Eastern slope of Okanagan Lake the bistro is the perfect place to sip a cool glass of their dry Reisling with a steaming bowl of mussels.  There was a line in the movie “Shirley Valentine” extolling the merits of drinking wine in the place that it was made.  I think Hillside Estate was built with this in mind.

Saturna Island Estates takes us to the coast and into a new and up and coming wine region.  Saturna is small with only 60 acres under cultivation and 4 varietals in production.  But don’t let their size fool you.  They’ve produced some hugely successful wines.  The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have both received awards, but it’s the Merlot that I have come to love.  A Saturna Merlot with some with a rack of Salt Spring Island lamb…. Mmmmm.

Our amazing coast

I’ll stop the wine tour here but I want say that we British Columbians have plenty to be proud of.  Great wine, great food and fantastic scenery are just a few reasons why you should revel in some pride of place.  I hope our Olympic visitors are discovering what we already know.

Della

Almonds have all sorts of health benefits that you’re welcome to research yourselves.  Go ahead.  I know you’re internet savvy and S.M.R.T.  You can’t fool me. Things like blanched almonds and home-made almond milk bring measurable benefits to your diet.

‘Evs.  I’m sure it’s all very exciting.

I’ve spent the last several days “feeling very Olympic” (see Cool Runnings, 1988-ish – Jim says the movie came out in 96-ish) and celebrating the arrival of the 2010 Olympics with my very excited husband.  That I’m blogging at all is a tribute to my “don’t cry over spilled milk” miss (ironic?).

Tonight we visited the Downtown Vancouver Live Site (not the Yaletown Live Site, Della – only one serves beer – which one do you think we were at?).  It was very cool to see Alexander Bilodeau collect his well-deserved gold medal.  Then we visted the Quebec pavilion (someone should have mentioned that a roof-less pavilion in rainy Vancouver maybe not such a good idea) and then Saskatchewan (can anyone say “quonset”?).  It was fun to wander around.  Feeling v. Canadian today.

Okay, back to almonds.  I’m going to give you a recipe for Lettuce Wrap.  A whole huge number of people are allergic to peanuts but not any other nut. I personally believe (based on no science whatsoever) that the endemic mould in peanuts (due to factory farming and all sorts of other reasons) is the true allergen; not peanuts per se.  Nonetheless, I’ve developed a lettuce-wrap recipe that uses almonds, not peanuts.  And it’s really damned good, if I do say so myself.

Chicken Almond Lettuce Wrap

Okay, I admit those are peanuts, but honestly, this recipe is even better with almonds.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, chopped into peanut-sized pieces
1 C raw almonds, chopped in food processor into small pieces but not into almond “butter” (see picture above for piece sizes)
1 medium sweet onion, small dice
3 or 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 tsp each sesame & canola oil
1 each red & yelllow pepper, chopped into peanut-sized pieces
1 bunch of cilantro (leaves) torn off and roughly chopped
1 head of lettuce (the nutritionally bankrupt kind)

Sauce
juice of 1 large lime
1 T rice vinegar
several T spicy chili soybean (sorry, you have to get this in an Asian supermarket)
1 heaping T hot garlic chili sauce (clear jar; green lid)
1 blurp of soy sauce (approx 2 tsp)
1 heaping T black bean sauce
1 tsp sugar

Hoisin sauce

  1. Mix together sauce ingredients.
  2. Sauté chicken and garlic in oils in nonstick pan until browned.
  3. Add almonds & sauté again until toasted.
  4. Add onions and carrots and cook slightly (about 2 minutes)
  5. Add peppers and cook slightly.
  6. Add sauce & cook down.
  7. Sprinkle with cilantro.
  8. Serve by smearing lettuce with Hoisin sauce. Add 1 heaping teaspoonful of chicken then wrap like a taco.

xx Eva