Saturday, February 28, 2015

Catching up with Big Sugar



Catching up with Big Sugar

{I sat down with Gordie Johnson from Big Sugar this week to chat food, the new album, and their upcoming show in my local stomping grounds of Jasper, Alberta}

J: So let’s cut the chase, what’s the last thing you ate?

G: We just had some meatballs from famosos (a pizza chain in Alberta) that we went to right before the show.  We needed something good to eat – so we ordered from famosos.  It’s a small little quaint pizza place with really great sauce.  Order me famosos and I’m good to go.

J: The band has been touring across Canada this winter, any great local eateries along the way you’d like to tell us about?

G: We are always on the lookout for good Ethopian food – we know a couple of cities in Canada that we like to go to - Lethbridge Alberta has a really great restaurant [Abyssinian Restaurant]   The restaurant smells like frankincense, they make popcorn, roast all their own coffee, amazing vegetarian food - it’s a whole experience really.

J: What’s your favourite Canadian cuisine? 

G: I like a good poutine, I haven’t had any in awhile!   I have a drummer from Texas with me, and we have to get him a good poutine, where do you recommend?

J: L&W Restaurant (a local eatery) has the best poutine you’ll ever taste – their poutine’s are legendary.   Kids away at college come home and the first thing the do is grab one of their poutines.

G: Any other great eateries we should know about while we're in Jasper?

J: Well we have a Famoso's, since I know you like that - Jasper is really a great hub for unique eateries.  Café Mondo has the best mulligawtany of your life and since I know you take your coffee pretty seriously, Coco’s Café serves up a great cup.

G: Oh ya, that will make me happy.

J: So you’ve been playing in rural communities vs big cities for this album - tell us about that. 

G: The vibes have been lovely everywhere we go – big cities, small towns – because it’s an acoustic presentation it lends itself nicely to any space.

J: What made the band go in a more acoustical direction for this album?

G: It’s almost like recreation for us.  It’s so much fun and so easy to do – to play the music acoustically.  It was something that was inspiring us and
it got such a nice response that we booked a tour around it.  We really like doing this.

J: What’s your favourite song on the new albumn?

G: All of them – we only play the songs we love.

J: What inspires you?

G: I’ve written hundreds of songs, I haven’t narrowed it down to one thing.  We’re constantly scribbling in books, cataloguing little ideas as we go.

J: Something that helps you get in the mood to write?

Yes, yes, red wine – there’s lyrics in every bottle! 

J: Any wine recommendations?

G: We are really liking the 2010 Chianti Reserve right now – we are really liking those. You’ve got to have a good red wine for it to be a good show.

J: Are there little pieces of home you like to bring while on tour?

G: Once we get on stage, we are at home.

J: Any great Gordie recipes you'd like to leave us with?

G: Something I’ve been doing lately is experimenting with Jamaican food.  I learned how to make a fried egg with coconut oil – it’s almost like a deep-fried egg. You heat up coconut oil, it will get really hot really fast, and you break your egg gently in the oil – it just crusts perfectly round.  It looks just like an English muffin when it comes out.  It’s hard and crispy on the outside, with a little salt and pepper, and it’s nice and runny on the inside, it's really great. It’s such a simple thing, but that coconut oil gives it a certain fragrance and it’s really great. 

See you at the show!

Location: 
401 Geike Street 
Jasper, Alberta

Showtime:  
Sunday, March 1st @ 8:00pm

Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.ca

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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bonhomme Carnaval: Traditional Maple Sugar Candy




Every year, my hometown has a "Bonhomme Carnaval"event at our local ski hill. This event is a celebration of French Canadian culture with traditional activities like this maple sugaring off on snow, cross country skiing, Norwegian sledding, RCMP in serge, and a bonhomme mascot.  This year the event was hosted by the graduating class of 2015 - with all proceeds going towards their prom.  The students were hard at work all day with the sugaring off, selling cans of maple syrup, and serving up traditional french tourtiere (meat pies), sugar pies, split pea soup, and baked beans.  It was a truly French Canadian experience, and everything was authentic and delicious!  

First they started by levelling off the snow: 


Here they have pure Canadian maple syrup bubbling on the stove (at 113 degrees Celsius to be exact!): 


A ladle of this is about to be turned into something quite delicious... 


The ladle full of bubbling hot maple syrup is poured onto the snow: 


You're given a wide popsicle stick, which you adhere to the maple syrup immediately.  As it starts to cool, you slowly start to wrap the maple syrup around the popsicle stick until finally...


You have a stick of ooey, gooey, maple deliciousness. 


Today was a good day.

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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Homemade English Muffins


Here is my most recent column in "The Hinton Voice", my local newspaper. 

[In an effort to save money on groceries, my husband and I have been making all of our bread from scratch for the past several months.  Not only do we save copious amounts on our weekly grocery bill, the novelty of a fresh loaf of bread directly out of the oven never loses it’s charm.  Once we had the art of homemade bread down to a science, I knew it was time to step it up a notch and start cutting out other store bought purchases like pizza dough, bagels, and the perfect bed for eggs benedict … English muffins. 

Whether served simply toasted with butter and jam, or in the most incredible breakfast sandwich you will ever make in your life, these English muffins are definitely worth adding to your baking list.   They are both dense and light all at the same time, with airy nooks and crannies just begging to be filled with something delicious.]

Recipe makes a dozen

Ingredients
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 ½ tsp yeast
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp oil

Directions

Heat milk until just warm (either in a saucepan, or in the microwave).  Add yeast and brown sugar.   Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so, to give the yeast a chance to activate.

Meanwhile, combine flour, butter, and salt in a medium bowl.   Once yeast has bloomed, pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, mixing well to combine.

If using a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, kneed on a low speed for 6-8 minutes, or until dough is nice and elastic.  If kneading by hand, you’ll need to knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes in order to get the right consistency.

Did you know most ovens come with a proof setting?  If yours doesn’t, simply preheat your oven to it’s lowest temperature (around 170 degrees), then shut off for 5 minutes or so before placing the dough inside.

Place dough in a large, greased bowl and cover loosely with a clean towel for 60-90 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. 


Punch the air out of the dough and separate into 12 equal sized biscuit shaped pieces.  Alternatively, for more uniform pieces, roll the dough out onto a floured surface and cut using a biscuit cutter.


Once you’ve formed the biscuits, allow the dough to rise once again for 30-60 minutes, or until they have doubled in size.


Add 1-2 tsp of oil to a medium frying pan set to medium heat, and brown the muffins for a couple of minute on each side (a cast iron pan works great for this because you can transfer it directly into the oven for the next step).


If your frying pan isn’t oven safe, transfer to a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.   

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Calories -115   Fat - 2    Carbs – 20     Protein - 4   Fibre – 1





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