Monday, December 31, 2012

Post Christmas Mandarin Chevre Cheesecake

My partner is lactose intolerant so he has been jealous of all the fabulous cheesecakes Ules and I have been bringing home from Mobius. When we received a generous log o' chevre for Christmas, he asked if I could make a cheesecake from it. I dug up a recipe I tried a while ago developed by chef Gayle Tanner for the Quady Winery dessert pairing competition. We are big fans of Essensia Orange Muscat, which is what this recipe was meant to be paired with.

I used some leftover Christmas oranges to make the fruit purée, and leftover Christmas cookies to make the base. (The original recipe doesn't have a base, which makes it gluten free if you leave out the AP flour.) I had some trouble with the egg whites today because the yolks kept breaking and leaking into the whites so they did not whip into stiff peaks, but no matter, the cheesecake tends to deflate somewhat in any case. I don't trust my cheesecake pan to be waterproof, so I didn't bake it in a water bath, but it still turned out all right.

2 cups orange Muscat wine such as Essensia (reduced to 1/4 cup) if available

About 8 leftover Christmas oranges squeezed and reduced (simmered) to 1/4 cup juice and pulp

11-12 oz (325-350grams) fresh chevre or cream cheese (1 cup is 8 oz cream cheese, 12 oz is 1 and 1/2 cups)

3 tbs. all purpose flour

1 tsp grated orange peel

3/4 cup sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla

6 large eggs, separated

Crumb Base:

Approx. 1 1/2 cups crumbs made by putting leftover gingerbread cookies in the food processor
Peel of one lemon

1. I didn't have the dessert wine, but if you use it, you can put it in a pan over high heat, and simmer until it's reduced to 1/4 cup. This doesn't go in the cheesecake, but you can pour it on top as a finishing sauce. We're going to use Wendy Boys' Salted Caramel Sauce.

2. In a bowl with a mixer or food processor, beat juice and pulp, 1/4 c sugar, flour, orange peel, and vanilla and beat well until blended.

3. Oil a 9 inch cheesecake pan and dust with sugar

4. Pulse leftover cookies with lemon peel and then press the mixture into the base of the pan.
5. Put egg whites in a narrow, deep bowl. Beat egg yolks into cheese mixture.

6. Whip egg whites on high speed until thick and foamy, gradually adding 1/2 cup sugar. Beat until whites hold soft, round peaks.

7. Fold whites into cheese mixture, and scrape batter into pan.

8. Bake in a 325 degree F oven until cake begins to pull away from the sides and is browned on top and not gloppy in the centre, 45 minutes to one hour. Cool on a rack. Chill if you like and save up to two days. Remove ring and serve with reduced Essensia, mandarin slices, or salted caramel sauce.

This recipe is originally from the Sunset Annual 2000 Edition and the similar recipe here:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Starling Research

This winter I'll be doing a project inspired by clouds of starlings. Check out these amazing photographs by Paolo Patrizi in the Guardian.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Dinner

 As dusk settled over Vancouver, we gathered with family to exchange and open gifts.

As a family who loves to eat and drink, the gifts often involve food, wine, coffee, tea and chocolate. Ules inherited some books from his cousin and has been deep into Farenheit 451 this boxing day morning.

 We nibbled on blinis, smoked salmon and champagne.

N got a beautiful new salad bowl.

Peter got goat's cheese.

Grandma got a new teapot.

 The BBQ turkey from Stong's was delicious.

There are usually Christmas crackers with  gadgets, jokes, and paper crowns.

We had gluten free bird's nest cookies.

 And a Christmas pudding blazing with cognac. There is always port. Sometimes it's nice when things don't change.

 This morning we had French toast made with stollen on our new plates.

Wishing you all peace, love and joy from our family to yours.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve in Vancouver

This morning I had an absolutely blissful head massage from Glynnis Osher, who also runs a business that makes ayurvedic candles, oils, and other fabulous things. The massage took care of the back and jaw pain I woke up with and made me feel wonderful, and much merrier than before. I bought a bottle of her scalp massage oil to appear magically in my stocking since Mr. Claus informed me he had "forgotten all about your stocking." Ha! Good thing I know how to stock my own stocking.


On the way home I snapped some photos of the neighborhood.

Sparkly dresses for sale with peacock feather patterns.

 These are poke berries. They are a dye plant and I noticed that when it snowed, their juice dyed the snow bright magenta. I love their intense color.

This is my favorite ornament made by Ules.

 Hens a chicks--a lovely gift from Thomas, who is studying horticulture.

 Ules' Picasso-inspired art which I hung the wrong way around, thinking it was Peruvian-inspired.

Another favorite art piece from days gone by.

And some grumpy cat humour to keep it all in perspective.

Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Santa Lucia Perogy Party!: Happiness is a Roaster Pan of Perogies

 What do perogies have to do with Santa Lucia Day? Well, I like perogies and I have a Swedish friend, so that's a good enough excuse to have a big perogy-building and eating partay. Luckily, my friend Jean and her daughter have perogies in their DNA, so they shared their awesome mad perogie skillz with us. See how Jean cuts the dough into squares so there is no wasted or re-rolled dough? Awesome!

 I put on my best perogie princess hair do and I preheated the oven to bake the Lucy buns and gingerbread. We boiled up the water for the perogies. The day before I had roasted sweet potatoes and defrosted some pumpkin I had in the freezer. The morning before, I boiled and drained medium waxy potatoes and roasted garlic. Peter riced the potatoes and sautéed garlic and leeks. Our Swedish friend made a lovely traditional spiced red wine.

Jean brought some poppy seed filling she prepared earlier from ground poppy seeds and a bit of sugar. We put the guests to work, cutting out ginger bread shapes and making our Swedish friend's dough into S-shaped Lucy buns. We sautéed mushrooms, garlic and leeks, and onions. Jean says onions are usually sauteed an hour or so. We cheated. We also cheated on the braised red cabbage, which I don't cook for nearly as long as the recipe calls for.

So we had poppyseed filling; potato, leek, and garlic; dry cottage cheese, potato and dill; mushroom, potato and garlic; and sweet potato, sage, leeks, and garlic. I could have done with a lot less of the sweet potato ones, but one or two are nice. Now Jean had the idea of mixing a bit of potato in with the other fillings to help it stick together, which was brilliant. She showed us how you put the onions with a half cup of melted butter in a roaster with a lid and then as you add the cooked perogies, you give the roaster a shake to mix and coat them with butter.

It was fun to share the labor of cooking  and then at 6:30 pm, I insisted we all sit down and eat. Everything was delicious. We talked about how mushrooms could save the world, which filled us all with a sense of hope.

For the first time in my life, I feel the approaching turning of the solstice deep in my gut. I feel a longing for the light and warmth to return. In the mean time, a special thanks to friends and family who share their spirit and warmth with us this season.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Kickstarter Promotion for Struck

 I just received this letter from a friend and colleague from Winnipeg, Ker Wells. He is working on a project with a performer who is writing a show inspired by the stroke she experienced last year. This sounds like an awesome project with some incredibly talented folks.

Friends and Colleagues,

In August 2011 my friend and frequent collaborator of over 20 years, Tannis Kowalchuk, had a cerebral stroke. At 45 and in very apparently good health she was not a typical candidate for a stroke, but she had one, and it was serious. In the months afterwards she began to make a remarkable recovery, and in fine when-life-gives-you lemons fashion, she decided she wanted to make a show about her stroke, and she asked me to make it with her.

So over the past year I've worked with Tannis on struck, a new performance about the brain, and neuroplasticity, and identity.
We're working with this remarkable group of collaborators from north and south of the Canada/U.S. border:

Brett Keyser is performing with Tannis.
Kristen Kosmas is collaborating writer.
Alison Waters is collaborating neuroscientist and performer-on-video.
Jim Ruxton is designing a light installation for the show called Aurora Borealis.
Brian Caiazza is doing media design, including a remarkable animation of Tannis's MRI images.
Tina Spengler is collaborating film maker.
Karen Flood is designing costumes.
I am director and co-creator.
The show is produced by Tannis and Brett's company, NACL Theatre, in Highland Lake NY (

The last period of work on struck will occur this Spring, and then we'll premiere the show at Cleveland Public Theatre in March, and take it to HERE Arts in NYC in December 2013.
Then I hope to bring it to Canada. Tannis is from Canada, and the show is in part about her hometown of Winnipeg, and memory, and what becomes important to us when we know death is close.
But first we need to finish it.
In order to raise the rest of the funds for this upcoming work, we've started a Kickstarter campaign, which you can see here:

There's a great video about the work so far, which includes footage from earlier phases, including Brian's amazing MRI animation.
We're trying to raise $12,000 by Dec. 31, and we're one third of the way there.
If you can donate - thank you.
If not, thanks for reading this far.

Good holiday to all,

Below:  Brett Keyser, Alison Waters (on video) Tannis Kowalchuk in struck

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hammer of Glamour

Hi Folks,

Join me at the Russian Hall tomorrow night for a fabulous fundraiser for the grunt gallery with two fabulous visiting artists and a couple of hot local bands! Please buy or reserve your tickets in advance.

Dress code = glam!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nourishing Teas from Montreal

Near the UQAM Metro Station there is a tea room that sells Manga and books related to Japanese culture called Manga Thé.

I found a cute cookbook called Mes Petis Bento by Laure Kié which combines influences from her Japanese and French heritage.

I thought this would be a good incentive for my son and I to practise our French and make his lunches more exciting.

Just around the corner from Manga Thé is Montreal's premier tea shop and tea room, Camellia Sinensis. I decided to buy some herbal teas because they are unique blends made locally.

I love the way the teas are packaged with very detailed information about how to prepare the tea. This Exhilerating blend is made from fennel, anise hyssop, bee balm (monarda), and orange. I love this blend because it contains both hummingbird bumble bee and honeybee plants and it tastes wonderful.

I also bought "La Nourricière" (The Nurturerer) which is a healing tea containing vitamins and minerals with mint, nettle, cornflower, and pansy. These are butterfly and bee plants.

The final tea I purchased was poetically called "La Bergère" or "The Shepardess." It contains oats, catnip, mallow and lavender which aids digestion and soothes and relaxes. The teas are fresh and beautiful, with colorful dried flowers that nurture and heal. You can order their teas online. Sadly, I didn't have time to sit and enjoy a tea in their tea room. I love that you are asked to be quiet while enjoying your tea and if the room gets too noisy, someone bangs a gong to remind you to keep it down!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Fresh Ginger Cake

 My host in Montreal is an amazing baker. One night her partner made a fabulous curry dinner and S made a cake with copious amounts of fresh ginger. I bought some local rosé sparkling cider to accompany the meal made by Michel Jodoin. Actually, our baker made two cakes, one for our dinner party and one for the café where she works called Santropol.

This summer S made cupcakes for a wedding, so she made these pretty cupcake stands out of found china and glasses.

 To  garnish the cake, she made her own candied ginger.

When I arrived back in Vancouver I put in a request for her recipe and in the meantime I made a ginger cake using David Lebowitz's recipe. Apparently it is his most requested recipe.

When she heard I was going straight from YVR to my FIL's birthday, S was delighted. "I can make him a cake!" She made a lovely chocolate cake with hazelnut pastry cream filling. It was awesome!

Missing S, M  and Kitty. Thanks again for your wonderful hospitality!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Petit Dejeuner

 Okay, so it's time for breakfast in Montreal. What will it be? Should I choose a buttery chewy pastry from Breton called Kouign-Amann? (It's pronounced queen ahmahn.)

Shall I pop down two blocks and buy something from Boulangerie Guillaume baked with locally milled flour? There are several kinds of brioches and breads studded with different kinds of chocolate, or you can choose from the savory options loaded with nuts, seeds, cheese, figs, etc.

 I could go next door to Sardine and pick out some yeast raised donuts with attitude.

 So many options, so little time!

We could stay in and my hosts could serve me a big bowl of oatmeal porridge with homemade yogurt, brown sugar, and whatever else we can heap on, followed by freshly made beet and ginger juice.

We could go for a donut sandwich at Chez Boris where they fry your donuts to order. Fresh sweet donuts are 75 cents a piece.

I love that they store their tea samples in maple syrup jars.

Isn't that 49th Parallel parked on the shelf?

 We could go to a little hole in the wall called Le Vieux Vélo and chow down on a BAB Bennie: brie, avocado and bacon.

And I haven't even mentioned wooden-oven baked bagels, fresh and warm in a brown bag in your arms on a bright and sunny November morning.