Friday, February 26, 2010

Beans, Peppers and Elvis.

I’m slowly starting to get back in my cooking groove...

Everyone goes in stages. All winter I was in a stage of stir-fries, pasta, and the barbecue. I’m a student, however a slightly mature one, but I’m still supposed to be able to take care of myself right? I’ve been cooking for myself for getting close to ten years and I’m good at it. But I dropped the ball a tiny bit.

And then the Olympics came and I got two weeks off school! I went into downtown Vancouver a few times, and it’s everything you could expect and more. Crazytown. I saw the cauldron with the flame and the athlete’s village and the controversial boxing kangaroo flag and a lot of drunk Canadians. I waited in some lines, got straight into the Quebec pavilion to buy trés expensive beer and yummy maple syrup candy...Went to the Lamplighter Pub four and half hours before the Canada vs. USA hockey game started to beat the $20 cover and get a table. Incidentally, I also had the privilege of eating the BEST hamburger ever (guaranteed. Try it.).

So it was Olympic fever, and I had two weeks off school...back to that. I had to work a bit on the ski hill, but since there wasn’t a whole lot of snow (read: none, rock skiing) it didn’t last long for me. So I could think more about cooking.
I will share a few of my favourite things.


It all starts with breakfast... This is my favourite breakfast. I would put it on the menu of my dream restaurant. I used to make this for my old terrific roommate Jenny and then we would sit on the floor at the coffee table in the sunshine, drink English Breakfast tea, listen to Santogold, and eat. It’s yummy.
It’s beans with coconut milk and poached eggs on top covered with ‘Valentina’ Mexican hot sauce.
So here’s how you’re gonna do it:
Start by sautéing some onions and garlic. Get them soft then in goes a can of rinsed and drained canned black beans. It’s all going to start frying, then add around ½ to ¾ of a can of coconut milk (or all of it, because what are you going do with ¼ a can of the stuff??) and let it cook. It’s going to start bubbling and I want you to mash up the beans a bit. Over time (maybe 10-15 minutes?) it’s going to start resembling refried beans, but more creamy. Season it (I like to use a good amount of salt), and you’re golden.
While your beans are cooking, put on a shallow pan of boiling water with a glug of white vinegar in it. I am going to teach you how to poach eggs.
I have taught a lot of people how to poach eggs. A lot of them had tried loads of ways in their past, and they never quite worked. I used to try too, stirring the eggs to make them stay in a ball, cracking them straight into the water... Please never use those ‘poaching’ cups that go in the microwave! Then I got lucky with an ex-boyfriend who taught me the secret.
I believe it’s the vinegar.
So you’ve got your pan of water boiling. It’s a rolling boil on medium heat, not some crazy fast boil from having your stove as hot as she’ll go. I’m a bit crazy about the boil. Once it’s rolling, crack an egg into a smallish mug and begin to lower that into the water. Allow a bit of the water to get in and cook the egg a tiny bit and then pour it all into the water. It’s going to stay together! Use a spoon to give it a nudge to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom and then just let the egg cook. Now, this whole time you want to maintain the rolling boil. I am constantly adjusting the heat to keep it around that mark, but again - I might be a bit crazy. When the yolk is cooked to whatever point you like (I prefer soft for this meal), pull it out with a slotted spoon and put it on a smooth tea towel to dry off, careful not to break the yolk. Then do some more!
There you go. Beans and poached eggs. I put a big spoonful of beans on a nice plate, two poached eggs on top; cover it with pepper, then the hot sauce all over it. My favourite is Valentina, which I brought back from Mexico. But anything will work, just not too spicy because you want to eat a lot of it.

Oddly enough, I found this picture on Ryan Seacrest’s blog. Go figure.


Next: lunch. Go to Celia’s house. That’s what I did. Or maybe go to one of your favourite friend’s house where they will feed you delicious healthy food.


And then I made dinner – inspiration from Celia’s house.
And I made stuffed peppers! I once had stuffed peppers at Celia’s mom’s house...
Here’s how I made them. Clean the peppers. Wash them, then neatly slice the tops off and clean out the white pith and all the seeds from the centre. Then put a bit of olive oil on the outside and in, then roast for let’s say, 15 minutes at 350F, to get a bit soft. Meanwhile, cook some quinoa (Do it just like rice. One part quinoa to two parts water into a pot, put on high heat and the second it starts to boil change to very very low, pop a lid on and wait for the water to be absorbed). In another pan, put some whole mushrooms that you scrubbed the dirt off in with some oil and butter and let them cook. I learned from Julia Child that to cook (and brown) mushrooms perfectly you must watch them closely and stir a lot. All that oil and butter will quickly absorb, but do not add more (I used to...). Slowly, the mushrooms will begin to release all that liquid as they cook and begin to brown - they will turn into the moistest mushrooms you have ever tasted.
In yet another pan, sauté onions and garlic till soft and then turn off the heat and grate a whole zucchini in there – you don’t want to cook it at all. Then mix it with the quinoa and mushrooms and some feta and lots of salt and pepper, pull the peppers out of the oven and stuff them with your mixture. Pop back into the oven for another ten minutes and then eat it all up!
*A note: I’ve always found vegetarian stuffed vegetables to be kind of bland, so I added the feta and a good deal of salt. I would suggest maybe adding some olives or even capers? Or anything else you can dream up to give it zing?
This is total comfort food.


Lastly... Dessert. It was Kris’ birthday, and I made him cupcakes. Banana cake, peanut butter frosting and covered with chocolate on top: the Elvis Cupcake.


Preheat oven to 350F
Line your cupcake tin – this will make 12 cupcakes.

½ cup mashed banana – the darker and browner the better!
Mash it up and set it aside. Maybe use a hand blender, or a fork. Just get it smooooth.

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup granulated sugar
Sift into a big bowl and give it a stir.

1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup milk/lactose-free milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract (I just upped the vanilla to 2 tsp.)
Add to banana, then whisk until smooth.

Add wet to dry ingredients, and fold in slowly. Mix until just combine, but don’t over-mix (small lumps are ok).

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full and bake for 20-22 minutes (until a fork stuck into the centre comes out clean). Let cool, then ice and decorate!


½ cup butter (or non-dairy margarine/shortening mix)
Soften with your mixer of choice (fork works as well).

½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon molasses
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix into the butter until smooth.

1 ½ cups icing sugar
Add, beat until very smooth.
Will get a bit stiff, in which case add:
1 to 2 teaspoons whatever kind of milk you are using
And beat continuously until pale tan and very fluffy.

Then top your now cool cakes, and drizzle with some melted dark chocolate and cover with sprinkles.
Happy Birthday Kristopher!

*From “Vegan Cupcakes take over the world”, but I didn’t have soy milk of Earth Balance margarine in the fridge so it got switch to omnivore cupcakes (opposed to vegan...bad comparison?). These are the adapted recipes.


So. What do you think? Did it give you some ideas to make for dinner?? Breakfast? Where to go for lunch?


  1. i made your stuffed peppers. and the verdict? delicious.

  2. Tremendous!!! Now you can stuff anything!

  3. big news, this just in!

    brand new bakery 'flour + water' founded by artisinal baker Hannah McDonald makes its debut in Victoria's Beacon Hill Park early Tuesday morning

  4. Quick, everybody, bee-line for Beacon Hill!!