hi Mom!

apple and mixed berry 4th of July pie

I just finished reading and laughing at and tearing up over Listen to the Squawking Chicken by Elaine Lui. I’ve never read (or had any interest in reading) LaineyGossip, because my interest in celebrities is minimal at best, but, as a first-generation Canadian raised by an Asian parent, the book totally resonated with me.

Most recent example of my failure to get excited over famous people: while waiting for our baggage on the way back from Lisbon, C pointed out some band members to me. The only thought that ran through my head was “well, I suppose that explains the four skinny dudes with bad hair hanging out together.”

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Anyway. My mom is not as bad as the Squawking Chicken. She has never spoken Chinese to me (though now that I’m older I wish she had), and her English is perfect. She doesn’t text me in all capitals – though I do get the odd Facebook comment (on a circus photo: “Kimmie is that a split can I share it”), and she signs most of her emails “love mon.”

Despite the fact that I am holding it together reasonably well on paper – I am 25 years old with my own property (albeit a shoebox), a real job, an only somewhat scruffy dog, a boyfriend, an amazing group of friends, a blog, productive hobbies, and I don’t do drugs – my mother is still not always convinced of my abilities. When I brought over some sides for a dinner party, my mom went on at length over her own dishes: what they were, how she made them, which ones included vegetables she had grown herself. Finished with her own dishes, she waved an arm toward mine: “and these… Eh. Kimmie made these, so… I don’t know.”

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She came to my new condo a couple days after I took possession to see it for the first time, and brought flowers. She stayed for about an hour taking selfies with the dogs as C and I continued to build Ikea furniture. When I walked her out, I asked her what she thought of the new place. “The flowers I brought look nice,” was her only comment.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses once came to our door, my mom shut the door in their faces. Wandering back down the hallway, she looked at me and said, “I’m 65 years old. I’m not going to change my ways now.”

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A few weeks before Mother’s Day this year, I went shopping with my mom. We were looking through greeting cards (one of my favourite non-food-related indulgences) and she found one that said on the front, “Chef, Stylist, Counselor, Friend, Mother,” and had “Happy Mother’s Day” inside. She informed me that this was the card I should buy for her. (Less than a month later, it is pinned on her fridge… because she has scribbled notes to herself and a couple of phone numbers on the inside below my message.)

Of course, my mother is truly all of those things, and more. And she taught me how to make pie crust (though I don’t think she trusts that it’s half as good as hers… It is, Mom, I promise), so there’s that.

Love you Mom.

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Apple Berry Pie

I made this for when we were down in Seattle for the 4th of July. #notapinterestfail #soproud. (Am I getting better at social media yet?)

Ingredients

Crust (my mother’s recipe; I don’t know where she got it from. It makes enough for three covered pies; separate the pastry into three equal sections and plastic wrap and freeze whatever you’re not using.)

five and a half cups flour
half tablespoon salt
one teaspoon baking powder
three tablespoons brown sugar
one pound (454 grams) shortening
one egg
one tablespoon vinegar
cold water

Filling (makes enough for one pie)

four or five apples
half cup blackberries
generous half cup sugar
half cup flour
quarter cup arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
half teaspoon ground cinnamon (and maybe a pinch of nutmeg)
one cup blueberries
one cup raspberries (strawberries would also work)

Directions

Crust

Cut together flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and shortening (if you don’t have a pastry cutter, use a butter knife or a large fork) until it has the consistency of meal with a few large pieces.
Break the egg into a liquid measuring cup, add vinegar, then fill with cold water to the one cup mark.
Slowly pour the liquid into the dry mixture, stirring with a fork. Only add enough liquid to make the dough come together (you may not need the full cup). The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl easily.
Wrap tightly and chill until needed. Store in the freezer if you’re not going to use it within a few days.

Pie

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (400 for convection).
Put all the filling ingredients except the blueberries and raspberries into a bowl. Mix them up well.
Lightly flour a counter and grab your pie crust – if you made the full recipe above, take about a third and put the rest back in the fridge or freezer. Split the remaining third in half.
Take one of the halves and roll it out to about a quarter of an inch. Flip it into a pie plate (I like to use my cast iron skillet, because it’s bigger). Leave any overhanging edges – we’ll deal with those after.
Put your filling mixture in the pie. Top one side with blueberries, and the other side with raspberries.
Roll out the second half of the crust, and cut half of it into stripes. Place these on the raspberry side of the pie. Using a small star-shaped cookie cutter, cut stars and place them on the blueberry side of the pie.
Pinch the overhanging edges together and roll in toward the pie. You can use your thumb and first two fingers to pinch around the rolled edge if that makes you happy.
Bake at 425 for fifteen minutes, and then reduce head to 375 (350 for convection). Bake for another 35 or so minutes, until the crust is golden.
Let cool for a while before serving so the juice can thicken.

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Seattle, WA

4th of July cyclist

A few weeks ago I was down in Seattle to watch the man become an American citizen, celebrate the fourth of July, and meet his best friends.

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This was my first time visiting, which is odd because Seattle is only a three-hour drive from Vancouver, but for some reason I’d never made it there (outside of the airport).

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Though I had my doubts about his becoming an American (like any true Canadian, I question the appeal of a belonging to a country without free healthcare and where people say “uh huh” instead of “thank you”), it was surprisingly moving to listen to a number of speakers (the best were the governor and an immigrant from 1976; the oddest was a senator who confusingly talked about being in a movie and invited everyone over to her house for a picnic) and watch these 507 people pledge allegiance to the flag and renounce all their other princes.

4th of July new citizens at Pavilion Park, Seattle

The rest of our trip was mostly spent in true American fashion: barbecuing, lying by the pool, and eating. C’s best friends are an amazing group of people and I not-so-secretly want them to be my best friends as well, which basically means I spent the weekend being incredibly socially awkward while trying to pretend I was normal. It probably didn’t work out in my favour, but they were very kind anyway.

C also spent some time showing me around Seattle, which means he took me to the two circus schools and I figured that was all I needed to see.

(That’s sort of an exaggeration. We also did some quality wandering.)

Gum Wall in Seattle

Final thoughts: loved Seattle; will be back soon.

Space Needle in Seattle

Recommendations

El Gaucho – sit at the bar and listen to the fantastic live music. Ask Brent to make you a drink and tip him very well. I had the chocolate ganache for dessert and it was the first time in my 25 years of life that I could not finish a dessert that I genuinely enjoyed.
The Underground Tour – unfortunately the night tour didn’t fit in our schedule, but apparently it’s brilliant. The day tour was, despite its PG rating, still fantastic. I had no idea Seattle had an underground. Serious street cred in my books (but minus five points for probably being haunted).
Toulouse Petit – such a delicious breakfast. It started with beignets, so I’m not sure how it could possibly go wrong. I’m still regretting not getting the French toast… maybe next time.
Biscuit Bitch – for the biscuits and gravy crowd. They’re American sized. I suggest sharing.
Pegasus Pizza – pizza, root beer on tap, and a waterfront view. Does it get any better?
SANCA – for the circus-ing crowd. No skin off VCS’s back, but this school probably has the best group of coaches ever. (Those would be C’s friends. Is my sucking up working yet?)

s'more

Portuguese custard tarts

Also known as pasteis de nata.

And, less commonly, as oh-my-gosh-I-ate-way-too-many… What was that? Do I want one more? Yeah. Yeah I do.

We took a pastry class in Portugal at Cooking Lisbon and learned how to make these adorable (and apparently famous, though I’ve never heard of them) Portuguese tarts. Being a devout consumer of the Hungarian francia krémes (note to self: make these for the blog at some point) as well as Chinese egg tarts, these are right up my ethnic alley.

Pasteis de Nata, Portuguese Custard Tarts

(Even my secret identity’s ethnicity.)

If you’re in Lisbon, I highly recommend looking up Cooking Lisbon. We had a ton of fun baking (and eating!) and one of the owners gave us a ton of fantastic recommendations from a local’s perspective, which were – needless to say – incredibly helpful.

Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Custard Tarts)

Adapted from Cooking Lisbon

Ingredients

one package (17.3 oz) puff pastry
250g milk
250g whipping cream
175g sugar
50g bread flour
five egg yolks
zest of two lemons
one cinnamon stick
one quarter teaspoon of fresh grated nutmeg
one empty vanilla bean shell

Directions

The puff pastry should be defrosted in the fridge overnight, but keep it as cold as possible – don’t bring it out of the fridge until you’re ready to roll it out! No mise en place here.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (I recommend conventional heat). Lightly grease a muffin pan and set aside.
Add milk, cream, sugar, flour, and yolks to a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until all the lumps of flour and sugar are gone, then add the remaining ingredients. Keep stirring (constant vigilance! Don’t let it burn) until it thickens into a thin custard. If you don’t know what this means, I would probably equate it to the texture of a thick gravy. I didn’t check the clock, but I’m guessing this took about fifteen minutes (that means it probably actually only took ten). But since you’re being vigilant and constantly stirring, you won’t need to set a timer. When it’s ready, remove from heat and set aside to cool a little.
Bring out half of the puff pastry (I used Tenderflake, which is pre-cut into two squares). Work quickly! Roll it out in one direction only into a flat rectangle about 1/3″ thick (my long side was about 10-12″ long) and then roll it up along the long side to make a long cylinder. Cut this into about 1.5″ chunks – I got 8 from each half.
I put these pastry chunks into a bowl and threw them back in the fridge, pulling them out one at a time once I was ready. You don’t have to do this, but puff pastry gets gummy if it gets too warm before baking… you’ve been warned.
Take your chunk and put it with the swirls facing up and down in the centre of the muffin cup. Lightly wet your fingers so you don’t stick, and press the pastry into the tin so the bottom and edges are covered. If the pastry comes over the edge that’s fine; they will shrink as they bake. Repeat with the remaining chunks. Since I only got 8 from the first half of pastry, I went ahead and baked the first 8, and did the second 8 with a new pan. It’s all about not leaving the pastry at room temperature for too long.
Pour custard into the prepared pastry cups, but make sure an edge of pastry remains above the custard.
Bake until the pastry has turned golden brown, and dark brown caramelizations are collecting in spots on top of the custard. This took me about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on them! (Don’t you love European cooking?)
I let mine cool for a few minutes in the pan on a rack, then gently pulled them out with a fork and let them cool even more.
I prefer these served slightly warm, but definitely try to serve them the day they are made. By day 2 the pastry had lost all its flaky goodness – and we worked hard for that!

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welcome to the 21st century

I don’t know where to start this anecdote.

I got in trouble a while back because someone at work found my instagram account.

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Not because of – as one might conclude based on the above statement – something I posted on my instagram account, but because I allegedly told them I didn’t have one. (I have no recollection of this conversation. Half of me is suspicious it never actually occurred, and the other half admits it may have happened… but perhaps before I joined instagram).

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Following this accusation, I began to write this post, and then vaguely recalled another post where I talked about how bad I was at social media. I found that post in my draft folder. Turns out it also claims that I don’t have instagram.

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Side note: I attribute the 2-year draft status of that post to the fact that I apparently never cook anything worthwhile with tomatoes.

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Anyway, over the past few weeks I’ve made the effort to:

  1. make something with tomatoes worthy of sharing,
  2. publish the post about being terrible at social media, and
  3. not be terrible at social media.

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There are three points to this story:

  • I do actually have instagram,
  • I am trying my hardest to actually use it, and
  • You should totally follow me, which you can (maybe? #i’msobadatsocialmedia) do here.

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Shameless plug? Heck yes.

But in return, I give you applesauce.

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Applesauce (gluten-free, vegan, paleo, delicious)

Ingredients

three to four pounds (about 1.5kg) apples (I suggest using a cooking apple. I like fuji)
one and a half cups water
one tablespoon cinnamon
one lemon

Directions

Peel, core, and slice apples. Cut the slices into chunks – I sliced my apples into 12 and each slice into about 6. Throw all of the chunks into a giant pot with a lid.
Add the water and cinnamon to the pot. Zest and juice the lemon, and add all that to the pot. Then add the leftover lemon bits as well.
Covered and over medium-high heat, bring the pot to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it’s at a rolling boil, remove the lid, and turn the heat down a little. I kept mine at about medium so it was still boiling – you want more than a simmer, but you don’t want to burn the apples. Keep stirring every few minutes; the apples will release their juices and soften, and the liquid will boil away.
Keep boiling and stirring until you reach the desired consistency. This usually takes me about half an hour, because I still like my apple sauce to be a bit chunky. Remove the lemon rinds before serving. You can serve this warm or cold (bonus points if you add a giant scoop vanilla ice cream), and I store the extra sauce in giant mason jars in the fridge – but it all gets eaten pretty quickly.

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon might be the ideal place for a vacation.

A lively, metropolitan city with a beautiful mix of modern buildings and traditional cobblestone roads and red roofs. Friendly locals, the requisite castles and churches, and stunning beaches less than an hour away.

And, of course, a few great restaurants.

Recommendations

We rented a studio apartment from Lisbon Oasis. It was clean and comfortable and the perfect location.
O Tasco do Vigario was a brilliant hole in the wall. I caved in and tried the Portuguese specialty – grilled sardines – and they were delicious. The servings are massive and the restaurant is always packed with local construction workers.
The best food of the trip was at Taberna sal Grosso. Note that you’ll need a reservation. The chef made recommendations – trust him! Everything was amazing – and the bill was cheap.
We went to Pasteis de Belem on the last day, which was lucky, because if I had tried their pasteis de Belem on the first day, I might not have eaten anything else for the rest of the trip.
The pastry cooking class at Cooking Lisbon was a ton of fun. I’ll be posting about making pasteis de nata soon.

the trouble with being hip

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For your average twenty-something with a blog, I am remarkably bad at social media. I don’t have instagram*, I rarely remember to check my facebook, and my twitter gets used maybe three times a year. I keep thinking I should use twitter more often. Maybe it will be my mid-year’s resolution for 2015 to tweet twice a day.

Or maybe not.

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When did we decide we were all going to hashtag everything? Why did we even decide to call it a hashtag, when twitter is American and Americans call it a pound sign? Things get messy when we hashtag. I was walking by a downtown hotel recently where all the trees were wrapped in magenta fabric. The only indication of what was going on was a large banner that said #projecturbanfabric. At first glance, I thought it said project turban fabric. I wasn’t really sure what the symbolism was of wrapping tree trunks.

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On the seawall last night, I was walking behind a guy wearing a shirt that said #TGIGNT. How am I supposed to know what that stands for? Thank God it’s girls’ night tonight? Try getting into green neon tights? Toothless guy is getting new teeth? Thank God I got no typhoid?

(I know that’s grammatically incorrect, but this is twitter after all.)

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A Google search revealed that it’s actually supposed to promote a local distillery’s Thank God it’s gin & tonic [Fridays]. Hmm.

Much better? Tell Grandma I’m growing nice tomatoes.

And making tomato and cheese tarts with them.

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*I didn’t have instagram at the time of writing. I do now.

Tomato and Cheese Tarts

Ingredients

one package (17.3oz) of frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the fridge
one package of herb and garlic cream cheese (I use Boursin)
three roma tomatoes
a few leaves of fresh basil (I forgot these when I made the batch I photographed… But you’ll be happy to know they still tasted amazing without!)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Unroll the puff pastry, and cut into rectangles. I made mine about the size of a poptart. Spread a little herb and garlic cheese in the centre of each one, leaving at least half an inch of pastry around the edges.
Slice the tomatoes approximately 1/4 inch thick. Julienne the basil – I pile the leaves up and roll them up, then slice them.
Place a few slices of tomato on each pastry on top of the cheese. Sprinkle with basil.
Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pastry edges are golden brown. Serve warm.

Notes

These are so easy to play with. Try adding some sautéed yellow onions or some thinly sliced red onions along with the tomato, or top before baking with flaked parmesan cheese. Substitute thyme or rosemary instead of basil. Use crumbled goat cheese instead of Boursin. Drizzle with balsamic glaze before serving.

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Portugal beckons

Just outside of Lisbon, there’s a town called Sintra.

It was pretty awesome.

We traipsed around some rich dude’s summer home and through a palace that contained the most magnificent kitchen I’ve ever seen (the first thing that has made me regret not being born a royal in the 1800s).

We ate lots and walked lots and, if you get the chance, I highly recommend visiting.

Recommendations

Pena Palace – one of the best palaces I’ve been to (and yes, I’ve experienced the palace fatigue of many a European vacation).
Piriquita – a cool little patisserie in the old town centre. Try the travesseiros de Sintra, quinins, and queijadas de Sintra.
Tacho Real Restaurant Bar – the grilled sea bass was delicious, the ravioli was to die for.
Cantinho Gourmet – they’ll get you drunk on samples of Portuguese booze while you pick out souvenirs for friends back home.
Quinta da Regaleira – the rich dude’s summer home. He was a Freemason and the whole property is unreal.