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The Appeal of Home Canning and Preserving

canning pictures by thebittenword on flickr

Old cooking traditions are hot again. According to an article on the Globe and Mail, the younger generations enrolled in canning workshops. I feel that it is simply a continuation of the grow your own vegetable garden movement and the desire to eat better.

My mother was running her own business when I was a kid so she did not have the time. Now that she works less, she takes the time to pickle fresh cucumbers and make her own ketchup. Since she lives 130 km from me, I do not think of asking her to show me the proper technique of canning.

What is stopping me is that I am afraid that my jars will not be sterile enough or that I would not sealed them well. Plus, I need good proven recipes.

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry

For first timers look for canning workshops and books. A book that shows the basics, including which canning supplies we need, is Complete Book of Home Preserving. Depending on where you live it will be related to the Ball brand or the Bernardin brand.

Join the Canning Revolution

Canning Across America is a nationwide, ad hoc collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers committed to the revival of the lost art of “putting up” food. The weekend of Aug. 29-30, 2009 they had a series of how-to classes, demos and home canning parties in cities around the country. The Canning Across America’s blog provides great information and recipes. For an overview of the process, watch this video by Seattle chef and veteran canner Diane LaVonne, of Diane’s Market Kitchen. You will see if it is for you or not.

+ Top collage: photos by TheBittenWord on Flickr
+ For Americans: Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry $15.61 USD
+ For Canadians: Bernardin Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry $17.61 CAD
+ Canning Across America


Fresh Mexico by Marcela Valladolid | Book Review

fresh mexico :: cookbook by marcela valladolid

I received a complimentary copy of a new cookbook done by a vibrant and charming woman Chef I met through Facebook. It is filled with simple recipes to feed your family and friends.

Marcela Valadolid grew up in Mexico. She lived in California for most of her life and she learned how to cook in Paris. Knowing this, you will not be surprised to hear that her recipes are Mexican at heart but have been influenced by other cultures. One example is her Baked Cod with Anchovies and Lime.

Marcela’s recipes are refreshing. Her book is filled with lots of easy to make recipes to serve at casual dinner parties. I loved to serve a Chilled Avocado soup because you can do it in advance. She makes one topped with a grilled scallop. You can serve it in a soup bowl, or be bolder and serve them in shooter glass. Cut the scallops in four if you go for the shooter glass option.

I cannot wait to try her Tilapia Ceviche. I love ceviche. Since we are in the middle of the corn season, give a twist to your grilled corns on the cob with Jalapeno Butter. Low in fat, her White Bean and Grilled Octopus salad should be a hit. Marcela indicates in her cookbook, which recipes are low in fat and which ones take less than 30 minutes.

Fresh Mexico contains 100 recipes and 50 photos. I think it would be a nice addition to your cookbook library.

+ For Americans: Fresh Mexico by Marcela Valladolid $15.30 USD
+ For Canadians: Fresh Mexico by Marcela Valladolid $16.37 CAD


Create More Delicious Meals with the Flavor Bible | Book review

the flavor bible cookbook by karen page and andrew dornenburg

Beside mastering cooking techniques, the best way to improve your cooking is by learning how to balance flavor. First, you need to know which ingredients complement each other. You also need to know how flavor develops. This book is filled with tips, guidelines and basic principles that you can use in your own kitchen. For The Flavor Bible, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg concentrated on what make food tastes great and how to maximize flavor.

Page and Dornenburg explored four tastes in our mouth: sweet, salty, sour and bitter. They talked about how heat, textures, aroma and look influence the taste of a dish or an ingredient. They also explored the cultural preferences and particularities.

After reading The Flavor Bible, you will be better equipped to adjust any recipe to fit what is inside your pantry and your fridge. Moreover, it will provide you a solid foundation for inventing your own recipe.  My girl friend Nathalie bought it and she is delighted with the book. Now that I researched this cookbook, I intent to grab my copy soon.

+ Americans: The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg $23.10 USD
+ Canadians: The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg $24.26 CAD


No Time to Cook for my Gastronomic Wednesday

no time to cook by donna hay

This is a recurring topic lately. I worked too hard and by the time I returned home I do not feel like stopping at he grocery store. Ordering in can do a few times but you want more. Tonight, we ate dinner at 10 pm. But I took the time to prepare a quick and delicious pasta dish with items I always keep in my pantry. Keeping a well-stock pantry is one way to ensure that you cook a home made meal.

Since we need variety, our fast-forward world often calls for recipes that require few ingredients and can be prepared quickly. Besides revolutionizing food photography, Donna Hay came to our rescue by making recipes with less than 6 or 7 ingredients. Her latest book, No Time to Cook simply puts more attention on tricks for saving time.

Since I owned 6 Donna Hay’s cookbooks, I was wondering if I would succumb to her latest cookbook. I do not seem to use the last two I bought. Honestly, the mouth-watering pictures won me over. This layout of the book is her best so far. For that reason alone, I have to own it. At the end of the day, the pictures give me courage to cook when I feel that I have no time to cook.

The book was released last year in Australia. It seems to keep in countries of the Commonwealth since it is available in Canada but the book is not yet published in the United States.

+ For Canadians: No Time to Cook by Donna Hay $23.30 CAD


Late news: Signing for Laura Calder’s Latest Cookbook

french taste cookbook by Laura Calder

It may be too late but I still want to publish the info, just in case. Laura will do two signings for her latest book French Taste at Appetite for Books on today, May 30, 2009. Sadly, there is no words on the time. Apparently, you need to book your presence. To see if it is still possible for you to show up, call the bookstore at 514.369.2002. I wish they had a simpler system. Check out her datebook for details.

I will review French Taste in a few days.

+ French Taste by Laura Calder $25.17 CAD at


Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes and Cookies for my Gastronomic Wednesday

martha stewart\'s cupcakes

In case you did not heard, the latest cookbook from Martha Stewart will be released next Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009. You will find inside Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes 175 ideas and recipes for cupcakes, frostings, fillings, and toppings. There are no second guess of what it should look like since every recipe is accompanied with a picture.

Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes is designed to have something from every level of bakers. You are sure to find inspiring cupcake decorations to fit every occasion. The cookbook covers classic recipes such as devil’s food cupcakes, sweet surprises like peanut butter and jelly cupcakes, elegant treats like tiny cherry-almond tea cakes up to festive showstoppers topped with piped buttercream blossoms or meringue bouquets.

martha stewart\'s cookies

For cookie lovers, Martha with her team of editors at Martha Stewart Living released a popular book on cookies last year. With recipes organized by texture, Martha Stewart’s Cookies covers a wide array of sweet surprises, including the traditional chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies, rum raisin shortbread, peppermint meringue sandwiches with chocolate filling, and lime melt away cookies. Amongst the 175 cookie recipes are the beloved Anzac cookies.

anzac cookies :: recipes on canadian family and 101 cookbooks

For a not too sweet version, try the recipe by Heidi of 101 Cookbooks. Heidi says that Anzac cookies are very easy to bake. Anzacs are made from oats, coconut, and flour coming together in a butter-kissed dough. Canadian Family featured a classic Anzac biscuit recipe.

+ Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes: 175 Inspired Ideas for Everyone’s Favorite Treat $15.68 USD
+ Martha Stewart’s Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share $16.47 USD
+ image: Anzac Biscuits on Canadian Family
+ image: Anzac Cookies on 101 Cookbooks


Matching the Cookbooks to Your Lifestyle

anna and kristina's grocery bag on W network

This morning as I ate breakfast and did my morning house cleaning, I watched an old episode of Anna and Kristina’s Grocery Bag. They tested recipes from Cookie with Jamie cookbook. I own this book and love it. Anna and Kristina also gave their seal of approval to Jamie’s book.

This made me think about what to look for in a cookbook. I assume that you have a busy lifestyle. Your husband or your kids may give you a hand from time to time, but typically you are alone preparing the meal. This is how it is at my home.

Keep It Simple

History thought me to stay away from cookbooks by Chef restaurateurs. I own a few but never made one recipe from these cookbooks. The Chefs say it is simple but their recipes often involve too many steps. I like recipes that are not long to prepare. It fits my lifestyle.

vegeterian food for friends by jane noraika

For stress-free entertaining, it is best to be familiar with the recipes or at least to have tried before a few recipes from the cookbook. These facts enable you to adapt the recipes to your personal taste with an excellent chance of success.

Appealing Food Plates

inside view at the vegeterian food for friends cookbook

How you present the food is as important as the taste. You will find eye-catching recipes on Vegetarian Food with Friends. I did not try any recipes but the cookbook inspires me with well-presented colorful dishes.

+ Vegetarian Food for Friends by Jane Noraika on sale at $12.95 USD at Crate and Barrel
+ I wrote: Making the Asparagus Risotto from Cookie with Jamie


Back to Basics of Easy Entertaining with Ina Garten

I watched Barefoot Contessa earlier today. The Perfect Dinner Party episode was on. The recipes sound tasty and inviting.

perfect dinner menu on barefoot contessa

The main course, the Bay Scallop Gratins is a recipe from her latest cookbook of her Barefoot Contessa series, a book titles Back to Basics.

If you wish to test run the book before buying it, try the Bay Scallop Gratins since the recipe is published on

Cooking Tips

Several people who did the recipes suggested to reduce the amount of salt. For all recipes, except desserts, I adjust the salt to suit my taste buds. Seasoning is a personal choice and should be viewed as guidelines not absolute. Moreover, when the recipes contain salty ingredients like pancetta or capers, it is normal to reduce the amount of added salt.

A few people notice the garlic taste. One trick I used is to cook longer your garlic at lower temperature. The more you cook garlic, the more its taste will sweeten.

For desserts, serve homemade candies with whole fresh pears.

  • Fleur De Sel Caramels – Do not attempt without a good candy thermometer. Digital thermometers are more precise. Beware that you need to adjust the amounts of sugar and water. Readers say the recipe turned out wonderfully if they 1 1/2 c. sugar. Some readers also increase the water to 1/2 c. water while others did not.
  • White Chocolate Bark was a hit with her guests on the episode. I am not a huge fan of white chocolate so I may try a marbled chocolate version. But really, without trying it I cannot be sure about how it will turns out.

Back To Basics

back to basics by ina garten

Back to Basics concentrates on the techniques she used. Plus, you get nearly a hundred new recipes. I discussed the book during the Holidays with a few girl friends. Everyone loves it!

Ina’s dinner party menu was so easy to make that I suggest you prepare it for your family this weekend.

+ For Americans: Back to Basics $21 USD
+ For Canadians: Basic to Basics $25.20 CAD


An Apple a Day | Book Review

an apple a day by joe schwarcz hardcover

New Year is associated with New Year’s resolution and wishes. The most important gift of all is to enjoy life to its fullness is being healthy. It is a fact that our eating habits can help us fight disease. They are a lot of myths and ideas that circulate about food. So I decided to read books with solid scientific facts.

The first book on my list is An Apple A Day, a national bestseller in Canada. This practical well-written book is from Joe Schwarcz, a PhD working at McGill University in Montreal.

 joe schwarcz's an apple a day paperback

bought the paperback edition that is currently available in Canada. The book is in re-edition as a hardcover with a January 13, 2009 release. You had to read it. The book is divided in 4 sections:

  1. The role played by food’s natural components
  2. The consequences of human intervention in our food supply
  3. Deals with the substances produced by food processing
  4. Discuss the dubious nutritional ideas

I wrote for Food Network Canada an article about the dilemma canned / frozen fruits and vegetables versus fresh produces during winter. I talked about the importance of adding variety to your diet.

Interesting Facts from An Apple a Day

So far I learned that eating apples everyday is truly beneficial. I used to do it and do not know why I stopped. I used to eat a green apple for dessert. I will restart. By giving up my cookies, I may lose over time the few extra pounds that we all wish to lose.

Most importantly is the fact that interaction of foods is what matter the most. For example, Italians are right when the pour olive oil on their tomato sauce. The lycopene found on tomatoes needs some fat to be absorbed by our body. Cooked tomatoes release in our body more lycopene. The tomato-broccoli combination is potentially more effective against prostate cancer.

Drinking a glass of tomato before boarding a plane reduces the chance that blood clots form in your legs. It is good to know.

What this book show me so far is to remind me of a fact: I do not eat enough fresh fruits. I eat lots of vegetables but I failed to put enough fruits in my diet. This will be my New Year’s resolution.

For Americans:
+ An Apple a Day: The Myths, Misconceptions, and Truths About the Foods We Eat by Joe Schwarcz – hardcover $16.29 USD at

For Canadians:
+ An Apple A Day by Joe Schwarcz – paperback $12.05 CAD at
+ An Apple a Day: The Myths, Misconceptions, and Truths About the Foods We Eat by Joe Schwarcz – hardcover $18.35 at


Kim’s Version of Spaghettini alla Georgio

With the holiday full schedule, I thought of delicious main dishes that can be ready in 10 minutes. Mainly dishes that I do from start to finish takes 20 to 30 minutes. But I found one recipe on my repertoire that I can prepare and cook in about 10 minutes.

Made In Italy: Food and Stories by Giorgio Locatelli

It is a pasta dish. In fact, many pasta sauces are quick to prepare but my favorite is a recipe that I called Spaghettini alla Giorgio. I discovered the recipe watching a British cooking TV show back in 2003. Tony and Giorgio played at BBC Canada. The cooking of Giorgio appeals more to me in the show. If you visit London, UK, Locanda Locatelli is Giorgio’s restaurant.

It is my version because I updated it over the years to suit our taste. It started as Spaghetti with Tuna in White wine with anchovies. I put red wine because my husband prefers red wine and we drink the rest of the bottle with our meal. I add more tomatoes because I like it and the red white can sustain it.

I googled chef Giorgio Locatelli. This is how I found on Amazon his 2007 award-winning book Made in Italy: Food and Stories. This is a 624-page brick. It is supposed to be fill with vibrantly illustrated Locatelli’s recipes, insight and historical detail about Italian food. It will be delivered early January but the price is a bargain at so I ordered it.

My Recipe for Spaghettini with Tuna, Anchovies and Caper in Red Wine (Kim’s Version of Spaghettini alla Georgio)

Tonight my husband and I will eat this for dinner. I like it because everything you need is stored in your pantry. There is bad weather in Montreal, so it feels nice not to have to go to the grocery store.

If you have picky eaters in your family, know that I served this recipe to people who typically dislike anchovies and they did not notice the anchovies. I knew they were not allergic. I guess that the fact that they do not see them makes a difference.

If you can find a jar of tuna in olive oil, go for those. They taste better than the typical canned white tuna available in North America. Amazon sells the Ortiz Bonito Del Norte Reserva De Familia Aged Tuna in Olive Oil.

Ingredients for 2-3 portions

Your favorite Italian brand Spaghettini

  • 2 cloves of garlic, pealed and sliced
  • 6 anchovy fillets
  • 3 big tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained
  • 9 ounces / 250g premium solid canned tuna, ideally in olive oil.
  • 60% of large can of whole Italian tomatoes, without the juice
  • 2 to 3 ounces (about 80 ml) of red white
  • 10 basil leaves roughly chopped by hand
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Optional:
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese as topping.

How to make it?

  1. Heat well salted water to cook your pasta. Prep your ingredients. I schedule everything so that the sauce and the pasta are ready at the same time. Start cooking the sauce once the water is boiling.
  2. Heat in a large pan the olive oil at low-medium heat. Cook the garlic for a minute. Then, put the anchovies and capers. Cook for a minute or two until the anchovies have melted.
  3. Add the tuna as a whole piece in the pan. Separate in three large parts and drizzle some olive oil on the top of each tuna piece to remove some dryness. Increase the heat at medium to medium-high and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, perforate the tomatoes to drain most of the juice. Put the drained tomatoes in a bowl. Roughly cut each tomato in 3 or 4 pieces into the bowl. Keep in the remaining juice. Reserve.
  5. Add the red wine to the pan to extract all the favors that sit at the bottle of your pan. Cook until the alcohol is evaporated. It will take 3 minutes on average.
  6. Add the tomatoes and the basil leaves. Cook until the tomatoes have warmed up – 1 to 2 minutes is plenty.
  7. Remove the pasta just before they get al dente (tender but still firm to the bite). Keep a small glass of the pasta water before draining the pasta – use it if the sauce is too thick after you mixed the pasta and the sauce (often not necessary). DO NOT RINSE your pasta.
  8. Toss the pasta to the sauce, add the basil leaves and gently mix. You can season with pepper, if you like. This recipe does not need salt due to the presence of the anchovies and capers.
  9. Serve on the pasta bowl and top with freshly ground Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Savor!

Giorgio Locatelli is really good at explaining cooking techniques. He tells us what is important and which actions make a difference.If you wish to get an idea of how good Giorgio Locatelli is at teaching cooking, check out this video which is an excerpt of a recipe in the book Made In Italy: Food and Stories.

+ Anchovy Fillets by Scalia $18.99 USD for 8.5 ounces
+ Ortiz Bonito Del Norte Reserva De Familia Aged Tuna in Olive Oil $13.99 USD
+ For Canadians: Made in Italy: Food and Stories $37.77 CAD
+ For Americans: Made in Italy: Food and Stories $59.95 USD


David Rocco’s Cookbook Hits the Stores

david rocco\'s dolce vita cookbook

I received my copy this morning from Amazon. The book delivers over 365 pages of beautiful photography, lifestyle and recipes.

David defines dolce vita as “being present in those moments in life that bring you joy.” So basically it is about happiness. And happy moments often happen with friends and family over a meal. Remember this fact as you prepare your Thanksgiving dinner.

Pure and simple

Italian cooking relies on simple, fresh ingredients. Italian recipes enhance the flavours in a few steps. This is because the Italian cooking that survives the passage of time are the cooking of the farming class. David Rocco’s Dolce Vita cookbook is filled with such recipes.

The text is written over different backgrounds. Although it is charming, it can be harder to read on a few pages. But most of the time, the contrast is more than enough. Fans will recognize several shots for the TV series. There are also new pictures.

Food and Drinks

There are a few cocktail recipes including my favorite: the Negroni which is equal parts (typically 3/4 ounce) of sweet Vermouth, gin and Campari.

I learn of a variation that I will definitely try. Negroni Sbagliato replaces the gin by Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine that is not made with the “champenoise” method.

Both drinks are build as a short drink over ice and garnish with an orange slice.

You can meet David next Saturday, November 22, from 1 pm to 2pm at Costco, Woodbridge. Get directions

For my part, I will try his hot version of Spaghetti Al Limone tomorrow. I already have a bottle of white wine that pairs well with the citrus taste.

+ For Canadians: David Rocco’s Dolce Vita Cookbook – $25.17 CAD
+ For Americans: David Rocco’s Dolce Vita Cookbook – $39.95 USD