Archive | November, 2008

Buy My Book – The 30 Second Commute: A Non-Fiction Comedy About Writing and Working From Home!

27 Nov

bookcover-30-second-commute-stephanie-dickison1I have written a book about my career as a pop culture, book and restaurant critic. It will be available in just a few months – February 2009 – but you can reserve a copy for you (and everyone you know!) RIGHT NOW!

Many thanks for your support!

Warmest wishes,

Stephanie Dickison

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Friday 5 – Perfection

22 Nov

By Chris Garbutt

Anyone who believes that nothing’s perfect hasn’t read enough food blogs. The word “perfect” appears millions of times. Herewith, a perfect storm of perfection from the foodiesphere:

1. You know you’ve been looking for it: The Perfect Mac n Cheese. I ask you, have you found a better version?

2. No one knows perfection better than Martha. In honour of the coming American holiday, here is Her Stewartness’s perfect Thanksgiving turkey.

3. Always screwing up boiled rice? Apparently you can get it right, and it will be perfect! Still, do people really have that much trouble with boiling rice?

4. The word “perfect” appears in this post. It’s my excuse to put in a link to Butter and Radish sandwiches. A little out of season, but man, I gotta try me one of those!

5. This whole blog thinks it’s perfect. I won’t argue. Check out the post on cooking pumpkin flowers.

Monday Review: Food 2.0

17 Nov

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Food 2.0: Secrets From the Chef Who Fed Google by Charlie Ayers, DK Publishing

By Stephanie Dickison

The basis behind Charlie’s cooking at Google was, he says “I want to help people eat better.”

When he was hired at Google back in ’99, it was to create food that would energize people, stimulate them and introduce healthy, organic and sustainably-sourced food into their diets.

That’s quite a lofty list – trying to persuade programmers and computer folk to eat well AND eat local.

But Charlie made over the office cafeteria into a feast for the eyes and stomach, all the while serving healthy food, including at least 2 raw salads a day.  He says that “You can save time and enzymes by eating raw foods,” and offers 5 easy ways to go raw.

In Food 2.0, Charlie lays out what every cook should have in their pantry, with fun and interesting options.

In fact, the book is laden with helpful hints and tips, whether you are a cook just starting out or an avid foodie who never leaves the kitchen.  The whole first half of the book is actually just information – what condiments to stock, how to freeze meats and broths, and why you want to invest in a rice cooker.

The second half is all recipes, which is what I am most excited about.

And in keeping with the pro-health lifestyle that Charlie writes about, the recipes begin with yogurt, smoothies and fresh juices and shakes.  The Wake-Up Shake-Me-Up Power Shake with black tea, rice milk, honey and strawberries?  Now that’s how I want to start my day!

And for lunch, I’m going to make his Dragon Breath Noodles with fresh egg noodles, peanut butter and chili flakes!  Don’t worry, I’ve got gum for afterwards…  And then there’s the Apple and Brie Quesadillas, Seattle Jim’s Pea Salad and Silicon Valley Split Pea Soup.  This is what lunch should be like every day – fresh, invigorating and yet so very healthy.

The dinner options are just as exciting – Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce, Snapper in a Yogurt Coat and Filet Mignon with Crisp Bacon, Seared Polenta and Wilted Spinach Salad.

I am not afraid to say that there are bits of drool on some of these here pages now.  I was trying to decide what to make for dinner.  I think it’s down to the Wild Salmon and Warm Beet Salad, but it’s still early.  I may yet go with Spinach Latkes and a salad or start all over again.  The photos and layout make it completely enjoyable to flip through over and over.

For some reason, maybe because he worked at Google and that says to me big corporation and lots of computers, I was expected a very different book – a more straight-ahead cookbook of standard recipes (read: boring and expected).

But this is a lively, very of the moment book with a lighthearted, yet easy-to-follow guide of fresh recipes that are good for you and lots of advice that may just change the way you cook – and the way you eat.

This is a great gift for the upcoming holidays.  And you might just want to go ahead and order yourself a copy while you’re at it…

Monday Review – How to Cook Everything & Bon Appetit’s Fast Easy Fresh

10 Nov

How to Cook Everything: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food, 2nd Edition by Mark Bittman & The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking by Barbara Fairchild

By Stephanie Dickison

They arrived at my doorstep with a big enough thud that the cat and I both jumped.  A big box containing two looming cookbooks meant that I was going to have to rearrange the bookshelves -again.  These were the mightiest cookbooks I’d ever seen outside of my lovely food and cooking encyclopedias that I cherish so deeply.

The one good thing about their size and weight is that really, if you are just starting out or are looking for big, basic cookbooks to cover a little bit of everything, these have got it.  All of it.

And while I know a lot of you have your own go-to cookbook like The Joy of Cooking, I’m highly recommending these.

They are so vast in knowledge and so easy to use and follow that really, no kitchen should be without them.

Here are my thoughts on each one:

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A little while ago, I told you how much I loved Mark Bittman’s Recipe Cards.  Well, the book, How to Cook Everything, 2nd Edition, just knocked my socks off.  Really.  I mean, it’s got everything: illustrations that you can follow along with, like tying meat or preparing tomatoes.  Easy-to-make recipes that are neither tired or repetitive (unlike my roster of dishes).

And here’s the best testimonial of all – On Saturday night, I stopped by the grocery store to get meat.  I had been to 2 others, but hadn’t seen anything of excitement.  However, at my third stop, I came across a fairly good sized beef tenderloin roast for $5.86.  Now, I had only ever made 2 roasts before this, so it’s not something I usually get, but it was so inexpensive and beautiful that I couldn’t resist.  However, I had no idea how to cook it.

That is, until I got home and turned to page 735, where the Roast Tenderloin with Herbs recipe awaited me.  I marinated the meat for only an hour as my Mom had stopped by for a visit.  It turns out neither Mom, me or my fella have roast beef outside of weddings and funerals, so I felt a little pressure for it to turn out well.

The recipe was an easy mixture of oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs and the only thing I had to do was check the meat with a thermometer after 20 minutes.

Folks, while it is not the best roast I’ve ever had, it was absolutely wonderful.  And I truly couldn’t have possibly done it without this book.  Later this week I’m going to tackle 22 Picnic-Perfect Salads and How to Season Simply Cooked Seafood.

This is my new cooking bible and yes, you can borrow it anytime…

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The title, The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh: 1,100 Quick Dishes for Everynight Cooking says it all, doesn’t it?  It’s from Bon Appetit, so you know it’s trustworthy (and probably anything you make from this will be better than if you’d gone it alone) and it’s all about making quick and easy dinners, which let’s face it, at the end of the workday, can be one of the most challenging meals to make and make well.

I mean, I would never in a million years think to make Crabmeat, Corn and Cumin Salad in Endive Spears, but doesn’t that sound absolutely lovely?  And what about Oaxacan Chicken Mole?  That sounds much better than the usual roast chicken breasts that I make!

My favourite thing about this cookbook is the recipes never include more than a handful of ingredients and instructions, so I can actually make pretty fancy fare in a short amount of time, which is really what I strive for most every night I cook.  And now thanks to this cookbook, I can actually rev up my own standbys.  So instead of my usual steamed spinach, I’m going to make Pesto Creamed Spinach and instead of my usual orzo, I’m pumping it up to Carrot Orzo.  Sure, they are simple changes, but I find that these suggestions and ideas really get me out of my usual cooking rut and go-to items.  It helps keep things exciting in the kitchen and I remain excited about cooking and making dinner every night, which I’m sure you know can be a challenge at times!

I am so excited by all of the new possibilities that I’m off to get some ingredients for dinner tonight!

These are the best books and really, a must have for anyone who spends anytime at all at the stove.  And hey, they’ll make the very best presents this holiday season.  I mean, there are recipes in each of these to please everyone!

Monday Review: Dinner at Your Door

3 Nov

Dinner at Your Door: Tips and recipes for Starting a Neighbourhood Cooking Co-Op by Alex Davis, Diana Ellis and Andy Remeis. Gibbs-Smith

By Stephanie Dickison

In these tight economic times, I think that preparing meals at home and sharing meals with friends, family and neighbours will become a part of our routine, just as more people will take transit, stay in to watch movies and generally cut back where they can.

But that doesn’t mean that it has to feel like a sacrifice.  In fact, I think that this getting back to sharing meals and stories around the table is a good thing!

So when I received Dinner at Your Door, I thought – this is absolutely the perfect time for this!

The premise of the book is this:

“We love to cook. But every night? No way! On the other hand, we don’t want to eat out or have frozen pizza. On the nights we don’t cook, we want something delicious-a balanced meal with quality ingredients. Come to think of it, what we really want are home-cooked meals made by somebody else and delivered!
Welcome to co-op cooking, possibly the best idea since Pyrex with a lid. With the plan set up by Dinner at the Door, you cook one fabulous dinner a week and have two or three equally sensational meals delivered to your door, hot and ready to eat. If you love to cook but the pressure of doing it every night gets you down, a dinner co-op is for you. Instead of slamming together three or four 30-minute dinners a week, you can take your time crafting one superb weeknight meal and enjoy receiving the other meals automatically.”

So basically, you and a group of friends, family members and neighbours – anyone who lives in a close proximity – sets up a dinner co-op where you all cook and share the food that you make.  And it’s pretty easy when you think about how much effort it is to cook for two – think about how little extra it is to cook for say 6!

And the benefits of setting up a co-op are plentiful – you get to try new foods, dishes and ingredients, you get exposed to new ideas and presentations and you get a couple of nights off to spend with the kids or read that book for your book club or whatever it is that you want to do, but can never find the time for.

This book goes through everything you need to know – questions to ask yourselves and others before becoming involved, what to do when someone leaves the group, options on delivering the food and forms and worksheets to use.  It really is the bible of setting up a neighbourhood cooking co-op!

But what I like most about the book is how approachable everything is.  Normally, I would have never considered doing such a thing, but the damn book makes it seem like you’d be crazy not to – after all, these are the few steps you need to take! I really think that this book could not only change the way we eat and cook, but our lives.

And the recipes – oh my God, the recipes!  Not only do I want to make these dishes, but I can’t wait to share them with friends and neighbours!  Check out the first recipe – Avocado and Grapefruit Salad with Chile Maple Pecans.  I am making that this weekend for sure!  And there’s:

Spinach & Edamame Soup with a Touch of Cream

Salmon with Fresh Strawberry Relish

Hunter Chicken with Artichoke Hearts

Cobb Sandwich on Fresh Bakery Bread

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Orange Chipotle Glaze

The photos are tremendous and the book is laid out so really all you need to do, is follow their guidelines.

I’m off to write cards to friends and neighbours to kick off my own neighbourhood co-op.  Thanks to this amazing book, I actually feel like I can do this!

I’m so excited!