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Archive for January, 2011

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

 

People love bacon.

And when I say love, I don’t mean flippantly, as in, “Oh, I love that hat.” The relationship many people have with bacon borders on spiritual.

Let’s start with the facts. One slice of bacon contains somewhere around two grams of fat and is often referred to as the heart attack snack.

It’s traditionally a cured meat that contains vast quantities of salt, and there are many cuts of bacon, depending on where the meat is taken from the pig. Some of the lesser-known bacons include jowel bacon, also known as pig cheeks, and collar bacon, taken from the back of the animal, near the head.

One of my friends, who is a bacon zealot, once told me that bacon is nature’s candy. I suppose that’s why you can find bacon ice cream, chocolate-dipped bacon, bacon doughnuts and bacon mints. You can also try an aperitif that includes bacon-infused vodka, and the Goose Island Beer Company created a maple bacon stout.

For the main course, it seems Wendy’s Baconator was a hot seller, to say the least. It’s reported that the fast-food giant sold 25 million Baconators in the first eight weeks it was on the menu. And here are some numbers for you: the single Baconator contains 34 grams of fat; the double contains 63 grams; and the triple contains 91 grams of fat. Based on gender, height and weight, most people should be eating somewhere between 60 to 80 grams of fat per day, total.

So it seems bacon’s siren song lures many a carnivore to its fatty shores. “The only thing better than bacon is bacon wrapped in bacon,” said Vladimir. There’s a BBQ Addicts website that shows you how to make a bacon explosion. It’s basically two pounds of bacon wrapped around two pounds of sausage and ends up looking like a meat brick. 

“I could eat bacon all day,” said Kim, laughing. “But it has to be thin and crispy and no maple flavour. And no turkey bacon, that’s a complete joke. And never microwaved.”

See? People are passionate about their bacon. I suspect there are secret societies, much like the Masons, devoted to bacon worship.

Lucretia was recently on holidays in the States and had buffet meals of just bacon. “They flatten it out so it doesn’t curl up,” she said.

“And if you have bacon with pancakes and some of the maple syrup gets on the bacon, it’s even better.” Everyone has a favourite bacon presentation.

“The only thing better than bacon the first time is bacon the second time, as leftovers,” said Carol.

My friend Kathy made a bacon stir-fry and said her family loved it. Really? Bacon stir-fry?

Joseph, whose father was a chef, shares his favourite way of cooking bacon. “You bake it,” he said. “Put the oven at about 375 F, put parchment on a cookie sheet and just turn the bacon once. And it’s easy to clean, you just roll up the parchment paper and it’s done.”

Find a true bacon junkie and you’ll have someone who thinks veggie bacon is heresy and shouldn’t even be called bacon.

The website thinkgeek.com sells a My First Bacon talking plush. It has a mechanical mouth and says “I’m bacon” when squeezed. Because, as they say, “you’ve got a friend in meat.” They also sell bacon popcorn, bacon lip balm and other swine-inspired products.

It’s truly amazing how passionate so many people are about bacon. Besides chocolate, it’s hard to think of any other food that inspires such loyalty. There’s even a Royal Bacon Society and I don’t know how many other bacon-loving groups.

I’m wondering if our readers love bacon. Well, do you? Visit the Country Asides Facebook page and tell us why – you could win an Edmonton Journal prize pack. Maybe you have an unusual bacon recipe that we can print in a future edition. How about bacon-related photos? Send your pictures to countryasides@edmontonjournal.com.

-Sarah Pratt


USELESS BACON FACTS!

• a 200-pound pig produces about 20 pounds of bacon.

• the people in Denmark consume the most bacon in the world

• the top bacon market in the U.S. is New York

• Bacon is Britain’s most frequently eaten meat

• Canadian bacon, also known as peameal bacon and back bacon, is literally from the back of the pig

• more than two billion pounds of bacon is produced annually in the US.

 

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Gluten-free goes mainstream

“Would you like fries with that?”

For the growing number of people being diagnosed with celiac disease, the answer likely has to be “No.” Celiac disease causes the small intestine to be damaged by the protein gluten. Sufferers are unable to absorb many nutrients. Trouble is, gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye. A diagnosis comes with a long list of foods now forbidden: obvious ones like cakes and breads, as well as those not immediately apparent, like deli meats and fries.

“If there is anything else on the menu that’s deep-fried, don’t even think about the french fries,” says Calgarian Bette Howie. Even if the fries themselves aren’t flour-coated, they’re usually crisped in the same fryer as other flour-coated items, and are easily contaminated. A 2001 diagnosis of celiac disease hasn’t stopped Howie from eating in restaurants, but it does dictate extra effort. She usually calls ahead to make sure a restaurant can accommodate her gluten-free diet, and on arrival, she asks to speak with a manager.

Gluten-free eating has been an ongoing lesson for Victoria Edlinger, 47. In high school, before she was diagnosed with celiac, she had planned to become either a baker or an interior designer. Good thing she selected the latter: “If I would’ve chosen to go to pastry school, I would’ve been in trouble.”

Luckily for sweet-toothed celiacs, Edlinger switched back to baking two and a half years ago. She and daughter Lauren run Cochrane’s GF Patisserie (122 3rd Ave W., Cochrane, 403-990-9565), where they aim to make gluten-free goods that taste like the real deal using flours made from rice, corn or beans. “My philosophy has been if I want beans, I’ll eat beans,” Edlinger says. “I want my cupcake to taste like a cupcake.”

Flavour and texture are two of the biggest challenges for gluten-free cooks. Both Edlinger and Howie say they’ve learned to cook with a mix of gluten-free flours, saying, “If you just use rice flour, you can taste the grittiness.”

In the spring, Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group in Edmonton is offering a cooking class geared to gluten-free diets. Calgary’s Love2Eat Nutritional Consulting is holding one on Jan. 26. Catering manager Chris Hrynyk says with some sauces, flour can be replaced with patience. “We’ll do a cream reduction,” or “a reduced wine sauce and finish it with a bit of butter.”

Edlinger echoes the sentiment: “If you’re patient and reduce, it takes longer, but the end result is actually better.”

Cooking gluten-free may mean a bigger grocery bill, but it can also provide an opportunity to tap into Alberta specialty products. Mountain Meadows Food Processing (780-961-2470) grinds flour from a proprietary strain of brown peas grown in northern Alberta. “It’s a mild-tasting pea, so the flour tastes nutty, more than tasting like peas,” says Caryll Carruthers, president and co-owner of company, based in Legal. (For a link to our story on Mountain Meadows’ nut-, soy- and gluten-free peanut-butter-type spread, NoNuts Golden Peabutter, click on this story at edmontonjournal.com/taste.) Streamlining was the name of the game for Nicola and Alan Irving of Irvings Farm Fresh sausages, based in Round Hill (780-672-2787).

“We were making everything twice,” says Nicola — sausages produced once with a gluten-based binder, and again with a gluten-free one. So in 2007, just a year after launching, the company went gluten-free. Customers with celiac disease are thrilled and those without don’t appear to notice. “They know our sausages are meaty and very lean,” Nicola says. “The fact they’re gluten-free is a bonus.” An increasing number of people are going gluten-free for reasons other than celiac disease, among them a unproven link to autism. Still others have elected to eat gluten-free simply because it makes them feel better.

Interest in gluten-free eating has skyrocketed — GF Patisserie’s first franchise opened recently in Newfoundland and Edlinger has put the Cochrane location up for sale, to give her more time to focus on franchising. For those on the hunt for the elusive, gluten-free French fry, Howie points to Calgary’s NOtaBLE the Restaurant (4611 Bowness Rd NW, Calgary, 403-288-4372), where executive assistant Laura Noble confirms the fries are cut in-house from real potatoes, uncoated, and “the only thing that go in the fryer.”

For gluten-free foodies, that kind of reassurance is key.

-Jennifer Crosby

Special to the Journal

GF Patisserie Gluten-free Perogies

Recipe links on the GF Patisserie website redirect to a blog by Victoria Edlinger’s husband Peter, who calls himself The Celiac Husband. GF Patisserie Flour Mix is available in Edmonton at Ben’s Meats & Deli (15726 Stony Plain Rd., 780-489-1424) and at the bakery in Cochrane.

Serves 4, plus leftovers

For the dough:

◗ 2 large eggs

◗ 1-3/4 cups (425 mL) GF Patisserie Flour

Mix, plus more for dusting

◗ 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sour cream

◗ 1/2 cup (125 mL) water, more as needed

◗ 3 teaspoons (15 mL) xanthan gum (a thickening agent, available at most grocery stores)

◗ Butter

◗ Salt and pepper

For the filling:

◗ Cold mashed potatoes (made from about 3 medium, starchy potatoes)

◗ 2 tablespoons (25 mL) unsalted butter; more as needed

◗ 1 small onion, chopped

◗ 1 clove garlic, finely minced

◗ Freshly grated cheese (about 1/4 the amount of potatoes)

◗ Bacon, cooked and chopped fine (about half the amount of potatoes)

To make the dough, beat the eggs. In a large bowl, combine the flour, eggs, sour cream, water and xanthan. If dough is sticky, add more flour. Roll out dough, cut into circles about 5 cm (2 inches) in diameter. For the filling, mix all ingredients together. Fill each dough circle with a tablespoon of filling. Fold into a semicircle and pinch edges closed using the tines of a fork. Meanwhile, put 5 quarts (4.75 litres) water on to boil.

Drop the perogies in batches into the boiling water, stirring occasionally. When they float to the top, cook for another minute. Fish them out and put them in a bowl. Sauté in butter, add salt and pepper. 

Interested in an in-person perogy-making lesson? Cheryl Arkison, a Calgary food and quilting blogger, is teaching a workshop on Saturday, Jan. 29 in Edmonton. For more information or to sign up, go to acanadianfoodie.com.

GF Patisserie Gluten-free Fish and Chips

Serves 4

◗ 3/4 cup (175 mL) GF Patisserie flour mix, plus more for dredging

◗ 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt

◗ 1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) baking soda

◗ 1 teaspoon (5 mL) xanthan

◗ 2 tablespoons (25 mL) apple vinegar

◗ 1 egg

◗ 1 cup (250 mL) gluten-free beer (Go to edmontonjournal.com/taste for a list of stores)

◗ Cod, about 200 grams per person

◗ Canola oil, for frying

Mix first seven ingredients until smooth. Dredge the fish in flour, then dip in batter. Heat about 3 inches (7.5 cm) of oil to 375 F (170 C). Slide fish into hot oil until golden brown.

 

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Foodies in this province have proved they know their way around a fork — and a computer. Twelve Alberta blogs, including Eat My Words by Journal food writer Liane Faulder, have been nominated for the inaugural Canadian Food Blog Awards, which will crown the country’s foremost gourmands on Monday, Jan. 31. Founded by Toronto-based food blogger Sheryl Kirby, the CFBAs began accepting nominations in November for 16 categories, including Best Writing, Best Photography and Best Regional Blog. Nominees were shortlisted at the end of December and will be judged by a panel of 15 food writers, restaurant critics and chefs from across the country, including Food & Drink magazine’s James Chatto, the Globe and Mail’s Alexandra Gill, and Edmonton-raised Food Network host Corbin Tomaszeski. Readers can also vote for their favourite blog until Jan. 15 at canadianfoodblogawards.com.

Here are the Alberta-based nominees:

◗ Eat My Words, by Liane Faulder — Best Regional Blog

◗ KevinKossowan, Edmonton — Best Photography, Best Seasonal/Local Blog

◗ AreYouGonnaEatThat?, by Andree Lau, Calgary — Best Restaurant Review Blog

◗ EatingistheHardPart, by Chris Falconer, Edmonton—Best Restaurant Review Blog

◗ Hot Polka Dot, Edmonton — Best Recipe Blog, Best Baking and Dessert Blog

◗ Backseat Gourmet, by Cheryl Arkison, Calgary — Best Family-Oriented Blog

◗ Dinner With Julie, by Julie Van Rosendaal, Calgary — Best Professional Blog, Best Family-Oriented Blog

◗ Kitchen Scraps, by Pierre Lamielle, Calgary — Best Professional Blog

◗ OnBeer, byJasonFoster, Edmonton — Best Beer Blog

◗ Cellar Door, by Mel Priestley, Edmonton — Best Wine/Spirits Blog

◗ Vine Arts, by Jesse Willis and Jeff Jamieson, Calgary — Best Wine/Spirits Blog

◗ Celiac Teen, by Lauren McMillan, Calgary — Best Niche (Single Subject) Blog

-Jennifer Fong

Edmonton Journal

jfong@edmontonjournal.com

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Ask A Vet (Jan 14)

Q: My cat is 15. My veterinarian says that he is a geriatric now and that I should keep a close eye on him. On what am I to keep a close eye?

A: (Part 1) Generally this means monitoring their level of socializing, activity, vocalizing or changes in their routine, pattern of vomiting, litter box habits, appetite, thirst, breath and weight. Noticing a slight change in one of these parameters does not necessitate an immediate trip to your veterinarian; however, if the change persists for two weeks, you notice other changes or the change is dramatic, then an exam is warranted. 

Your observations can provide your veterinarian with important clues. Granted, history gathered on our pets is minimal compared to what we can describe of ourselves to our own MDs, it can still be of great help in narrowing down the list of possible diagnoses thereby reducing the time and tests needed to reach a diagnosis.

There are 313 diseases that cause weight loss, 119 diseases cause increased thirst, 97 disease cause increased urination, 23 diseases cause increased appetite, and 12 diseases that can cause very stinky, soft, large stool. 

So for example, if you present your teenage cat to me because you notice weight loss, and I find no abnormalities on examination, I have a very long list of 313 possible diagnoses to work through to find the cause of your cat’s weight loss. However, if you tell me that not only is he losing weight but he seems to have an increased appetite, the list of possible diagnoses of diseases that can cause both weight loss and increase their appetite, the list shrinks to 19. 

And if you also tell me in addition to his healthy appetite and weight loss that you notice when scooping the litter box that his stools have increased in volume and smell a lot worse than they used to, the list of possible diagnoses just shrank to a mere three.

With a only a few observations, you have the potential to make my job 100 times easier and move us a lot closer to the diagnosis. In the next article, I will explain the sorts of changes in these parameters that you should consider noteworthy.

Dr. Jeffrey Person practices at the Delton Veterinary Hospital and co-hosts the listener call-in show Pet Talk, heard every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on AM630 CHED.

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