Bet you can't eat just one...

Remember that commercial? It was a long-used marketing slogan for Lay’s Potato Chips – the most memorable (airing in Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000s) being the one with hockey player Mark Messier. 

Covered Bridge Red & White (Canada) Chips

Covered Bridge Red & White (Canada) Chips

Potato chips. They are an Achilles Heel for me. I cannot eat just one. I can eat any sized bag all by myself. Eating them is fun, a treat, an indulgence, but I have regrets after, and from the perspective of calories alone I rarely buy them. It’s the only way.

Mind you, for those who celebrate National Junk Food Day, I will take a moment to mention my favourites. Though the internet says that kettle cooked chips have existed since the early 1800s (!!) I don’t think potato chips entered my life until the 60s. I have no idea when I crunched my first potato chip, but I do recall once having a neighbour who was a Humpty Dumpty delivery man. He sold us chips right from his truck - they seemed to be so fresh! I had a Lay's stage, then Miss Vickie’s. (Have you noticed Miss Vickie's promoting the wine and chips combo?) For a while my local grocery store sold fresh kettle cooked chips made right in the store! These days my vote goes to Covered Bridge chips - made by the Albright Family in New Brunswick – and not to be found just anywhere yet... (Oddly, it was easier to find them in Victoria than locally.)

Am not a fan of ripples, thick cut or Pringles. (Are they really potato chips?) 

The hankering for potato chips resides in the same part of my brain reserved for cravings for French fries. Similar story – some fries are good – some, not so much. Hands down best fries IMHO are from Jamie Kennedy. It was the first thing we'd order in his restaurants – nibbling while we pondered the rest of the menu.

In interviews, he often refers to his French fry inspiration in Paris – tasting them perfectly cut and fried and seasoned with salt and thyme. (Here's his recipe.) We had a similar love affair with fries in Belgium – first time we had mayo dip – but I’m not Jamie Kennedy, and returned only with a food memory and not inspiration for a cooking enterprise that survives to this day. His sons run J.K. Fries and sell them at the Evergreen Brickworks Market on weekends. (A fabulous market BTW.)

Are potatoes good for us? We have been trained to think “potatoes” = “carbs” = “bad”. More likely, it’s how we cook them or what we bury the potatoes under that can be the problem.

In fact, potatoes boast an impressive nutrient value and lately their status as “gluten-free” has been part of marketing campaigns. They contain vitamin C, potassium, fibre, niacin, folate, thiamin, zinc; they are fat-free and sodium-free. (Read more about all these nutritional benefits here.) Many ingredients I write about here have ancient origins somewhere across the Atlantic. One could be forgiven for associating potatoes with Ireland, or Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters. In fact, potatoes originated in Bolivia and Peru and were transported to Europe in Spanish ships once their value in the prevention of scurvy was noted. [Source and Source]

Jean Talon Market: Montreal

Jean Talon Market: Montreal

I have a few potato pet peeves. I have noticed that British Food magazines always tend to show a wide variety of potatoes – in fact, they claim 18 varieties. In my grocery stores, here are my choices - white flesh, yellow flesh, and baking aka russet; little/baby potatoes, fingerlings, heirloom purples. Often, “yellow flesh” refers to Yukon Gold – a potato variety developed right here in Ontario at the University of Guelph. In fact, May 2016 was its 50th anniversary!
Now here’s a shock. While prepping this blog, I discovered that Canada also boasts a wide variety of potatoes! Why are they not sold under any of these names?? Speaking of how they are sold - at the fantastic Jean Talon Market in Montreal – the potatoes are sorted into many different sizes. Love that!

Despite the wonders of the internet, I still often return to my trusty ‘Visual Food Encyclopedia” for reading and research. It reminds me that potatoes should be stored in paper bags, in a dark cool dry place. They need to breathe, so storage in plastic bags is not advised. Also better to purchase dirty potatoes vs. cleaned – the cleaning “removes their protective coating, making them more susceptible to bacteria”. “Green” on potatoes indicates they have been exposed to light. @kitchn explains that at the minimum such potatoes need to be aggressively peeled and worse case, because of the potential toxicity – discarded.  Early / new potatoes do not even have to be peeled. Am running out of space to share other storage ideas I read about - namely root cellars. I have in fact eaten (melt in your mouth) potatoes in the dead of winter, that had been stored in an outdoor sand-filled root cellar. Every house I have lived in has had a "cold cellar" - which for some reason we call a fruit cellar - yet they were never used to store fresh produce - will have to look into that.

There are elegant ways of preparing potatoes, but they seem to have also been a staple peasant food. In my kitchen - which often features Hungarian cuisine – there are many meals that use potatoes. Krumplis teszta translates as potato pasta - a double dose of carbs!! - but it’s a staple in every Hungarian kitchen. Onions are caramelized - the more the better - and yesterday’s leftover mashed potatoes are added. Stirred into that mixture is cooked broad noodles. (Hungarians have a lot of these rustic pasta dishes – pasta mixed with one of these - cabbage, ricotta (with bacon and bacon fat), poppy seeds, or plum butter - aka lekvar).

Most people have heard of Chicken Paprikas – but Hungarians can be just as satisfied with Paprikas Krumpli – potato chunks cooked with onions and paprika – often with pieces of dried smoked kolbasz added. That’s considered to be a great meal – sometimes eaten with hunks of hearty bread - wow… carb city.

Szilvas Gomboc - Plum Dumplings

Szilvas Gomboc - Plum Dumplings

Roasted Salt and Vinegar Smashed Potatoes

Roasted Salt and Vinegar Smashed Potatoes

Hungarians do not seem to have a tradition of making potato "gnocchi" – though I often have some in my freezer using a recipe from Emily Richards (click here for that recipe). Hungarians do make a potato dough – but it shows up in dessert as Szilvás Gombóc (Plum Dumplings). Italian or German prune plums, sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, are wrapped in the potato dough, cooked in boiling water and covered in toasted / sugared bread crumbs. (I’m sharing a photo here, but regret that I have not yet posted that recipe either…)

I could list several more ways that potatoes make an appearance in the KB kitchen, but until the recipes are posted that may seem mean. So far I have posted - Leftover Mashed Potatoes, Mini Potato Gratin, Olive Oil Potato Gratin, and Potato Leek Soup.

I’m ending this blog entry with a recent addition – Roasted Salt and Vinegar Smashed Potatoes. What with small new potatoes arriving at local markets, these have appeared on the KB table almost weekly! Bet you can't eat just one!!

Use Comments, below, to share or ask questions. Would love to hear about your potato chip, French fries or potato memories and tips. If you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!

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The Cooking Badge

Brown Owl and Guide pins

Brown Owl and Guide pins

We have an automatic garage door opener. (More on that later.) Living in suburbia, I typically leave the house through the garage, open the door, back out and press a button in the car to close the door. This action, by the way, I must do with intense focus, concentration and mindfulness, otherwise - a half block away, filled with doubt – I turn back to check. Ok, the door is closed - and I drive away.

But this was early Monday morning – garbage day – and the blue bins had already been emptied, so leaving the car in the driveway, I returned the blue bins to the garage. Stepping back into the car I hear a bird call – “too wit, too wit, too woo”. I am not a birder, but I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide. No idea why we used to chant “too wit, too wit, too woo”, but we did – over and over and over.

What bird was this? Consult Google. Answer: the Tawny Owl – in fact two Tawny Owls! “Tawny owls make the familiar 'too-wit too-woo' call during the night and early hours but this is actually a male and female owl calling to each other - the female makes the 'too-wit' sound and the male answers with 'too-woo'.” [Source]

Several of my recent blog posts have been reminiscences – and this little bird call triggered another journey down memory lane - hope you don't mind.

For those who did not participate in “Guiding”, the leader of the Brownie pack was called Brown Owl, and second in command was Tawny Owl – there was even a Snowy Owl. The little girls were split into groups named for elves and fairies and we sat in a circle around a papier-mâché toadstool. I continued into Girl Guides – a transition that involved (for me) memorable pageantry. Walking from one group to the other along a silk carpet wearing fairy wings. “Hark who goes there? A Brownie. By what right do you come? By the right of my golden wings.” These days, I can’t remember why I walked into the next room, but I can remember that – good grief.

In Brownies and Guides, there were many areas in which one was encouraged to learn and demonstrate new skills for the reward of a badge. I had several badges, one of them being the cooking badge – not sure if that was at the Brownie or Girl Guide level – though I was quite young.

Here’s all I remember – I was told to go to a specified house of a family I did not know. In hindsight, it was probably a leader of a neighbouring pack who (bravely) volunteered for this trial. Arriving at the house, the lady told me what I had to make and then she closed the kitchen door and left me alone. I was told to make mashed potatoes and beef patties, and I think the vegetable was canned corn. There was no recipe that I recall. Corn and potatoes – easy-peasy. I have no idea what I mixed into the meat – then I fried the patties up in a fry pan. When ready, I served them and waited in the kitchen until they were done eating, and then had to tidy up. I honestly do not know how that family ate what I made. Maybe they didn’t. 

If you are thinking that they stashed away my food and ate a pizza instead, I must note that at the time there were few (if any) pizza take-out joints. If you grew up in Hamilton, you may have had your first pizza at P-Wee’s Pizzeria on Crockett St – opened from 1963-1994. If you could not afford that regularly, then you perhaps began to buy Kraft or Chef Boyardee Pizza Kits. I just Googled this and they still sell them! How can these still be a thing!!??

But I digress…


Shockingly, I got my Cooking Badge – though did not afterwards embrace cooking, and in the ensuing years had grumpy debates with my mother re whether one could ever catch a man without being able to cook – most notably, cabbage rolls. Once married, one of my “go to” cookbooks was “101 Ways to Use Hamburger” – and pan fried meat patties, served with yams from a can, were often on the menu. Bizarre!

It is only fitting that the recipe linked to this blog post be a meatball – but times have changed and I have changed with them. These little delicacies combine lean turkey and healthy lentils! With a choice of sauces you have a hit on your hands!

Permit me a few postscripts.

What about the garage door opener? These were not common when our house was built. For our 25th wedding anniversary, my parents and in-laws split the cost of automatic garage door openers. All my dad’s idea. I was a daddy’s girl through and through, but was so disappointed in that gift – what a crazy way to celebrate a marriage! I forced him to return the thing and used the money instead to frame prints of the passage of time in a relationship – a better memento. A few years later we caved in and bought the door openers. I still sometimes think of my dad as I enjoy that convenience. He meant well and I must have seemed so unappreciative.









Brownie badges. I cannot recall others I earned, but I just loved learning to do knots! I had a cute little booklet with all the basic knots which disappeared at some point. These days I get a kick out of the fact that there is a très cool app for learning knots called 3D Knots.

I never became involved in Guiding as a leader, but I do have a leader’s pin (pictured above along with my Guide pin - who knows what happened to the Brownie pin - a leaping elf!). In my past life, I was a post-secondary educator – mostly of mature students. The horrible part of that job was the grading. The best parts were the kind remarks and gestures from students. They sometimes claimed that I “changed their life”. I made sure the last truth they learned was that they changed their own lives through their dedicated study. Nonetheless, one memorable student was determined to offer me a tribute to my role in the tapestry of her life – she gifted me her Brown Owl pin - so sweet!

Here’s the recipe for Swedish Lentil Meatballs

Use Comments, below, to share or ask questions - and if you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!

P.S. Were you a Brownie or Girl Guide? Any memories? badges? Love to hear your stories!

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Time is on my side...

So said the Rolling Stones in their 1964 recording.

For a friend, grieving the loss of a loved one, time was not on their side. 

So, here I am pondering time and dearly departed.

I am now too old to “die young” – though boomers do keep moving the bar on the definition of "young". The unexpected passing of someone the same age invokes the “live each day to the fullest” mantra – and yet…

Time – it is the gift of retirement. As a thoroughly modern working woman, juggling home, family, full-time work and graduate studies, I never achieved any work/life balance that included clever meal planning and Zen cooking. Now, especially since I began blogging, I have time to plan a project each week – recording an old family recipe or experimenting with things that have long been on my "to do" list.

“Recording an old family recipe” can be tough when the “family” is long gone. This May will mark 42 years since the death of my paternal grandmother. (I had to look that up.) I have very fond memories of her even though we did not spend massive amounts of time together. Perhaps because of some quirks of my grandfather, they became the grandparents that were visited less often than my maternal grandparents. Though I was a (young) grown-up when she died, it was stupendously stupid of me that I did not make time to learn from her / at her side. But I was not, then, who I am now, and “we don’t know what we’ve got ‘til it’s gone”. Her eyes lit up when I visited, and she would almost conspiratorially pull me to the back room to show me all the glorious handiwork she had embroidered for me. She was only a bit older than I am now when she died, after which my grandfather went a bit berserk and gave away the contents of those drawers to neighbours. Technically (and otherwise) he was kind to me, and on his dairy farm there was always a new calf named after me. By the time of his own death he had few assets or possessions. The only thing I “inherited” from him was a (made in Germany) colander that I use to this day. 

I think of this grandmother as a brave woman.

My father on the left...

My father on the left...

It is conceivable that my grandfather was responding to these Canadian posters inviting emigration to The West. Leaving my grandmother in Hungary with two preschoolers, he arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, was given $25 and property in Spiritwood, Saskatchewan (close to North Battleford). It remains hard for me to fathom that, with two wee kiddies, she travelled from a tiny village, across Europe, took a ship across the ocean, landed in Halifax and then travelled across Canada to join him several years later. The story, as I know it, is that the day she stepped off the train in North Battleford, he was in town mailing a letter advising her not to come. It must have been a brutal existence. She had three more children – two of which died out west, in winter. They had to tend a fire for several days to thaw the ground enough for a burial. Having moved to Ontario, they left their dairy farm in Wellandport after the third Canadian-born son was killed driving over a railway crossing. In Hamilton, she replaced farm work with factory work - walking to a corner close to her house where she’d be picked up by a company bus transporting workers to/from the E.D. Smith factory. She died from heart disease - but surely must have also had a broken heart.

From her kitchen, I remember she always had cinnamon spread, and/but never "real" ketchup. Instead she bought Catsup. The internet says ketchup / catsup – same thing – but in my experience it wasn’t. In hindsight it probably had no, or less, sugar!

IMG_5601 (2).JPG

My grandmother was the Kalács Queen (kuh-lawtch). This is a Hungarian sweet bread probably not unlike similar breads all over Europe and Eastern Europe. I can still conjure up that taste memory! My lifelong yeast phobia translates into the fact that I have not yet tried an official Hungarian kalács recipe. However, the second I laid eyes on this recipe for Lemon Ricotta Buns I felt sure it might replicate a ricotta kalács she used to make – and it did!

I now have “time” to make things that involve proofing time. Is that a good use of my time? Am I living each day to the fullest? Hard to say, but as Michael Pollan says in his book / documentary series “Cooked” – “time is the missing ingredient in our cooking” – and I am content that this ingredient is now a staple in my kitchen.

For as Bill Watterson / Calvin and Hobbes says - “There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want.” 

For the sake of brevity, I am shelving so many more thoughts on "time". Want a good read? Carl Honore’s In Praise of Slow. Good movie? About Time. Daily meditation? Read any one of these quotations.

Here’s the recipe for Lemon Ricotta Buns. Use Comments, below, to share or ask questions - and if you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"!