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Monday, 31 December 2012

A New Year

A year of change, lots of it. 

To continue with the changes theme, new year's eve celebration at somerville kitchen was simple, quiet and celebrated on Saskatchewan time zone.

Christmas gifts of fancy spices contributed to a delicious garlic and herbs dip and a home made salsa.

Drink of choice was President's Choice Pomegranate Soda - sipped from fancy champagne glasses.

Dinner was wieners and cheeses.

But the fun part was roasting the wieners in the fireplace. It was quick, hot and delicious as they were dipped in mustard and eaten off the fire - somerville camp.

A variety of cheeses (nothing light of course given the occasion) included Stilton, Creamy Brie and a made-in-Britain yellow cheese that I cannot recall what it was. Served with baguette and croissants to add to the rich calorie content.

All in all, made for a lounging and mellow munching kind of eve (excellent).

The new year (Saskatchewan time) was rung in with an excellent Trafiq vanilla cheese cake, one of the best I had (and will have enough for the first week of the year).

Happy New Year all my readers - here's to a great cheese-filled 2013.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Gearing Up For The New Year

Why buy sodium filled chickpeas cans when you can have as many as 12 cans prepared from scratch in your own kitchen.

Sprinkle dry chickpeas with baking soda and soak overnight. Boil until cooked then store with no liquid in containers and freeze. They can be defrosted in a bit of boiling water in a minute.

"Alleyeh" is a key ingredient in Lebanese Stews.

It can be prepared ahead of time and frozen. Simply crush garlic and chop cilantro. Cook garlic in olive oil, add the cilantro and cook for few seconds until wilted. Cool and freeze. 

You can then chop a chunk off when need to use it.

Real orange blossom water is made from the blossoms themselves. Given how involved the process is, a bottle of real orange blossom water can run in the $50 range.

But how come we can buy it for less than $10 in stores in Vancouver? Well, those are the cheaper versions; made of orange trees' leaves, not blossoms. They are less potent and lighter in colour.

I usually get a couple of bottles every time I visit Lebanon. But now I have a jar of dried orange blossoms from Iran.

A tsp of dried blossoms boiled in a cup of water for 30 minutes can produce a close-enough version of the authentic orange blossom water.

A new trick I learnt about making vegetable broth.

Cook unpeeled onions and other vegetables you are using for the broth in a bit of oil. Add parsley and herbs, a bay leave and water then simmer for an hour to an hour and a half.

The broth freezes well.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Caffe Vergnano 1882

I stumbled across Caffe Vergnanon 1882 while roaming Kitsilano. It looked like a cosy place to take a food break. 

Beverages are definitely their specialty.

The hot chocolate I ordered was thick, dark, tasty, with no unhealthy cream floating over it.

I will go back for this, but not for their sandwiches.

The 'Turkey and Artichoke Hearts' panini looked great on paper.

The actual product was soggy with low quality processed turkey.  At over $10 a sandwich, I expected better.

A discovery nonetheless.

Caffee Vergnano 1882
2581 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Caffe Vergnano 1882 on Urbanspoon


Friday, 28 December 2012

Turkey Dinner at Last - Yay

As you've read in the Merry Christmas article, turkey dinners don't happen at somerville kitchen.

So you could imagine the grin on my face as I got invited to a belated Christmas Turkey dinner tonight.

A small turkey and all the trimmings from mashed potatoes with garlic and parsley, beautiful peppers, corn, boiled turnips and beets, stuffing and amazing gravy.

I had two (or was it three) of those plates.

As if that was not enough food, a dessert buffet spread appeared after dinner.

A delicious mince meat pie with dates, raisins, carrots and excellent crust.  

This was accompanied by a chocolate Christmas log, fresh fruit salad, ice cream, whipped cream.  

A happy night indeed with delicious food and special people (and cat). Thank you!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Boxing Week Wacky Thursday

My Boxing Week Wacky Thursday began by catching up on my advent calendar.

This year's calendar is a German Smarties one. But its fate was the same as every one of those calendars throughout the years.

First, by Boxing Day, I have barely opened few windows. 

Second, I feel guilty about opening them all together and gaining half a kilo in one sitting.

Third, I simply cannot get myself to open them at random, they have to be eaten in chronological date order. This adds time to the process to locate the right date.

After a breakfast of Smarties, I decided to check out boxing week sales.  

My first stop was Front & Company, the only store I wish they have frequent user card given how much I usually spend there.

The 60% off Christmas clearance was very tempting. However, I quickly realized that this applies to only Christmas ornaments and cards; items I have enough off.

Oh those journals and note books were begging me to take them home, but with no sale sign on them, I walked out empty handed.

London Drugs, another favourite stop (and no frequent user card either), had amazing sales (and are still going on).

Again the best deals are on Christmas ornaments. Just check out those 88 cents mugs. If I were smart, I would have picked up a dozen and used as Christmas gift wrappers next year. But I didn't.

A lot was bought at London Drugs, but the best deal of the day was firewood for $2.99 a pack at Rona.  

Not my favourite place to shop, but for such a deal, I went in.

Poor Joey, had to log a lot of logs home including some in the front leather seat.

But the best deal was leftovers from yesterday's Holidays Chinese Hot Pot

The pot with the broth as is overnight, containers out of the fridge and a fancy dinner was instantaneously ready.

And let's not forget wacky catses to end the Boxing Week Wacky Thursday with.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Holidays Chinese Hot Pot

I received this pot as a gift last year and I am yet to use it.

The gifter, who we will call Anonymous M, offered to demonstrate how to use it by making a traditional Northern Chinese hot pot dinner.

Walking in with bags and bags of goodies, this promised to be a feast not to be forgotten.

And it was.

Anonymous M demonstrated the groceries where the key ingredient are the sauces.

Given that the pot is split in half, one can make two different sauces at the same time.

Anonymous M choices were chicken broth (the basic sauce) and a richer satay sauce. 

Daikon and tofu were thrown in the sauces.

As the broth simmered, Anonymous M prepared the platters of all the goodies to go into the pot.

Beef and pork slices to be cooked were beautifully laid out.

A platter of tofu and mushrooms and a melange of fish, shrimp, chicken and beef balls was put out.

There were also shrimp wontons and a Chinese vegetable that, according to Anonymous M, is referred to as 'Vegetable 'A' in the stores.

It is like a bitter lettuce and goes extremely well with the hot pot.

And now let the feasting begin. What a beautiful way to spend the evening - talk, cook, eat, eat some more, mix and match. Definitely a memorable evening.

Thank you Anonymous M.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas at somerville kitchen

Christmas day at somerville kitchen usually begins with staying in pyjamas. Sometimes they are Christmas pyjamas, but pyjamas nonetheless. 

Christmas day at somerville kitchen is also a day to welcome loved ones and neighbours, exchange gifts and enjoy food and desserts.

And one must not forget naps, lots of them, whether on the sofa or in front of the fire place. The only things one forgets on Christmas day at somerville kitchen is counting calories and the outside world.

This year, a hearty breakfast of farm eggs, sausages and grilled cheese baguettes kicked off the day. It hit the spot to fill up the stomachs and lead to a restful nap, only few hours after getting out of bed.

Cookies were in abundance for snacking throughout the day.

And one gift provided additional addictive, irresistible sugar source - German made marzipan sweets, a difficult-to-find luxury in Germany, let alone in Vancouver. So thankful for this gift that looks as decadent as it tastes.

And of course one cannot forget cats after 13 Christmases together. Cats was nicely commemorated with a special gift.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas

How many turkeys have been cooked at somerville kitchen?

Regular readers can very quickly guess - zero. 

Instead, feasting takes place over big juicy roasted chicken. 

But that does not mean skipping the stuffing and all that goes with a turkey dinner.

Mashed potatoes, mashed turnips and carrots and brussel sprouts were on tonight's feasting menu.

Dessert was a Lady K production - an Egyptian dessert called "Emm Ali (The mother of Ali)" - cream, pastry, raisins and nuts all baked together. A lovely gift for the white and creamy dessert fan with leftovers for breakfast.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

One of Many Holiday Dinners

It is going to be this kind of week, but that is what the holidays are for. Tonight is feasting Lebanese style as a major mezza was spread.

The smell of the lamb kabobs on the indoor grill turned somerville kitchen into a Beirut (some argue Istanbul) street.

And nothing better than a Trafiq carrot cake, by far the best carrot cake in the city, to seal the deal.