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Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Hopefully at least some readers are experiencing hot summer weather right now!  Thought I'd share the (easy) recipe for a cool, tasty, summer dip:  tzatziki sauce!  This is a traditionally Greek dipping sauce that uses thick yogurt, cucumber, lemon and garlic and is ultimately refreshing.


From the ingredient list, you could probably intuitively throw this recipe together.  But there are a few tricks to it, namely controlling the water content of the dip, so I'll give you a few instructions.  My method was cobbled together from several online recipes (which all gave similar advice).

You should start making the dip maybe five or six hours ahead of when you plan to serve it.  I found the leftovers kept well refrigerated for 24 hours, so you could probably prepare it that far in advance.  It will just need a good stir before serving.

The first step is to find a good, thick plain yogurt (500 mL).  I prefer at least 2% milk fat in mine, more if I can find it.  (What makes non-fat yogurt so creamy?  It freaks me out.)  Greek-style is preferable as it is the thickest type of yogurt, but I could only find Balkan-style and it still worked well.  So, as I mentioned, you need to get rid of any excess moisture in the yogurt.  This can be accomplished using a large bowl and a strainer lined with cheesecloth.  This is my set up:

Straining yogurt

Let it stand in the fridge for a few hours.  You'll be surprised at how much water drains out!  Or maybe you won't, because I'm going to show you:

Strained yogurt

While the yogurt is straining, you can work on the cucumber.  I've read that cucumbers are 95% water.  I can't verify that, but they certainly are juicy!  I love cucumbers.  And in making this dip, I discovered I really love grating them.  Warning: prepare to get splashed!

I used the large side of a plain old box grater and grated one English cucumber, skin and all (for the colour and the nutrients).  To get rid of the excess water, just use a bit of basic science:  sprinkle the grated cuke with salt (a teaspoon or two), which will osmotically draw water out of its cells.  Give the process time to work by leaving the mixture in the fridge for an hour or so.  Next, to get rid of the moisture, drain the liquid out of the mixture, then pat it down well with some paper towels or a clean dish towel.  The cucumber shreds should look pretty limp and relatively dry.

Shredded cuke

[just-salted cuke]

From here on out, the recipe is pretty basic.  Mix the thickened yogurt with the dry cucumber, then add a clove (or more to taste) of crushed garlic and the juice of 1/2 lemon, plus some zest.  Stir well.  Chill for a few hours before serving.

Kibbeh platter

[clockwise from top: whole-wheat pita bread, tzatziki, tabouleh, hummous, kibbeh]

I like tzatziki served as a dip for vegetables or whole-wheat pita bread.   On this particular occasion, though, I was hosting a Middle Eastern-style dinner, so the tzatziki was also a dressing for kibbeh, a sort of lamb meatloaf made with bulgar wheat and pinenuts and spiced with allspice and cinnamon.  I was trying to emulate the kibbeh at my favorite Lebanese restaurant.  Now that's a recipe I'd like to share with you (now that I know it will turn out well!).

Hope you find an opportunity to prepare this great dip!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Stop #2 on our European adventure was perhaps the most anticipated.  Because it was our goal to sample the fine foods and beer in this part of the world, Chimay was a prime destination.  Not only do the monks here create the famous Trappist beer of the same name, but they also craft an extensive line of cheeses.


The most fun part of this leg of the trip was that we spent it in the company of good friends.  Friends of ours from university days had since moved to the Netherlands (and recently had a little baby girl).  Along with Aaron (who we met up with in Düsseldorf), we made a nice little party of six (or maybe five-and-a-half!).


We fit (snugly!) into a European rent-a-car.  Which was essential, since Chimay is a bit off-the-beaten-track.

Thanks for the cheese, gals!

So, just for the part of me that loves accuracy, let me explain what I mean by "Chimay".  I'm using the name a bit loosely to describe the area we visited.  Chimay is a small village in Wallonia, the southern region of Belgium.  About 10 km away, out in the countryside, you can find the Abbey of Notre Dame de Scourmont.  The Abbey is home to the Trappist monks who brew and cheese-make (the profits of their enterprise go to running the monastery and helping the poor).  Their product brand is also Chimay.  We did spend a few hours in the town of Chimay (photos to follow), but we stayed at the Auberge de Poteaupré, the inn loosely associated with the monastery and just a short walk from the grounds.

Whew.  Hope that explains it for you.  Now for the pictures!

Auberge de Poteupre

[Auberge de Poteaupré]

Fork in the road

[walk through the woods]



[grounds of the Abbey]

Church at the abbey

[inside the Abbey church]

Chimay (town)

[ancient church in Chimay (town)]

Chimay (town)


I think it's quite evident from the pictures, but the area was beautiful.  Quiet, pastoral and green.  The weather was perfect - temperatures in the mid-twenties, sunshine, and not a cloud in the sky.  The Inn was in fabulous shape with crisp linens on the bed and friendly service in the restaurant.  The monastery was utterly peaceful and beautifully kept by the monks.  The town was just ancient - stone buildings and cobblestone streets in need of repair - but charming none-the-less.  Language-wise, we got along fine (Mike was a French immersion kid, and quite a few locals spoke basic English).  Chimay and the surrounding area made for a great long weekend and would be the perfect spot to go if you wanted to get away from it all.

Apparently, writing about the locale alone makes a full post!  I think I'll give you a breather.  You can read all about the food (including cheese!) in my next entry.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Village Feast

It is that time of year again... the Village Feast is almost upon us.  The 4th annual!

Never heard of it?  Allow me to elaborate.

The Village Feast is a community-based fundraiser.  The Village Feast is a gourmet meal.  The Village Feast is a culinary event of epic proportions.  The Village Feast feeds and clothes Canadians.  The Village Feast facilitates the well-being of Kenyan children.  The Village Feast promotes locavorism.

Can you see why I love the Village Feast?

[so many volunteers]

[local.  fresh.]


If this piques your interest at all, I highly encourage you to visit the Village Feast website.  It is happening on Sunday, July 3rd in Souris, PEI.  There are still tickets left if you are in the area and would like to attend.  It's not everyday that you can attend a gourmet meal for 1000 people, sample the goodness that PEI agriculture and aquaculture has to offer, and support Kenyan school children and local families alike.

I wouldn't miss it for the world!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Düsseldorf was our first real stop on our European holiday.  But it took a little while to actually get there.

St. John's to Toronto was about a three hour flight.  Five hour stopover in Toronto.  Nine hour flight (overnight - and now I know why they call it a red-eye) to Munich.  Shuttle to the hoptbanhof (main train station) was forty-five minutes.  Then we caught the train to Düsseldorf.  Everything was going smoothly until the train ground to a halt about a half-hour outside of Munich.  We learned that someone had unfortunately (and intentionally) met their demise on the tracks ahead of us!  This understandably caused a major disruption in train schedules for the day.  So we spent a few more hours than anticipated riding the rails.

But, finally, after 30 hours of travel, we arrived in Düsseldorf (red eyes and all).  And despite the distance we had travelled, a familiar face from home was there to greet us!


Our good friend Aaron was in this part of Germany for a work trip, and added on a few days of vacation when he found out our schedules would coincide.  

It was such a treat to have a tour guide (Aaron had had time to get his bearings in the city already) at this point, because we were slightly bleary, yet determined to get the most out of our first day evening in Europe.  So after a quick freshening up, we hit the streets.

I hadn't really researched the city before arrival - we considered it more of a stop-over/meeting place than an official destination on our itinerary.  For some reason, I had an image of Düsseldorf as a gritty, industrial town.  Not the case!


The city was just beautiful.  Gorgeous.  And it didn't hurt that it was 20+ degrees outside (any of my Atlantic Canadian readers know what a treat that was in early May!).  It had a modern feel with a whimsical undercurrent evidenced by numerous statues, monuments, and interesting building features:




Pretty building


As I mentioned in my intro post, our motivation to travel to this part of the world was to sample the food and the beer.  I'm about to get to the food.  But the very reason we chose Düsseldorf as a meeting point was its unique beer style.  The Altbier, or "old beer" (old in style, not in chronological age!) of Düsseldorf isn't found anywhere else, and is actually the grounds for a rivalry with neighbouring Köln.  I won't give too much of a description here since my husband will be featuring the beer of our trip on his blog.  Suffice it to say, if you are a beer connoisseur, the Altbier alone made it worth the trip.  


But on to the food!  We ate at one of the Altbier breweries (Frankenheim) and the entire menu looked tempting!  

I settled on a traditional German pickled herring dish (very similar flavour to the Solomon Gundy of Atlantic Canada), with bacon-potatoes.  The herring was served chilled in a sour cream sauce and topped with a boiled egg and black olive.  The potatoes were served warm alongside.  It was a lovely dish.  Considering the similar flavour, if I were preparing this at home I might forego the cream component, but it was great as a treat. 

Creamy pickled herring

Mike, relishing his first night in Germany, decided to go with a large helping of sausages (four, to be exact) with a side of sauerkraut and horseradish whipped potatoes.  As is tradition in our little family of two, we routinely sample the other person's meal so I can tell you that this dish was super flavourful and everything you'd expect from a plateful of German sausage.

Sausagefest x 4

The meals hit the spot and set the bar high for the rest of our trip.  Which I will tell you a little more about, next time!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

European Adventure

Hello!  Anybody out there?  It's been a long - gasp! - six weeks since my last post!  I mentioned last time that I was going on a bit of an adventure.  Well, that I did.  My husband and I went on a two-week tour of Europe (a honeymoon of sorts - two years after the wedding!).  We explored the cities and countryside and sampled the best beer and food in the land.  And now I'm here to share it with you.

(If you did the math and can't figure out why a two-week trip caused a six-week blog hiatus, I also had a few other things on the go such as graduating, moving, buying our first house and preparing for a new job.  No big deal. )

There are lots of posts to come from the trip, but I'd like to start with a brief overview.

We travelled to Wallonia (in Belgium):


Bohemia (Czech Republic):

Prague Castle at night

And Bavaria (Germany):

Munich at night

We sampled fine food:

Spargel + schnitzel

and fine beverages:


We spent a lot of time in train stations:

Koln train station

And on trains:


And through the whole trip, we kept a journal (the old fashioned way - pen and paper)...

Beer cafe we'd remember all the things we wanted to blog about once back home!  There's lots more to come...