Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Cookies

I recently discovered that the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum has a whole list of recipes that it provides free of charge in PDF format. There are a number of what I would consider typical, traditional Canadian dishes on there — but there were also a number I’d never heard of as well. So of course I had to check them out.

I’d been craving sweets, so I decided that the first recipe I’d try from this collection was the Chocolate Fudge Zucchini Cookies. Also, although I didn’t grow any myself this year, zucchini is in season and hence is really affordable at the moment. And wow, was I ever happy with how these cookies turned out! They were soft and moist without falling apart, and incredibly rich. The recipe called for the cookies to be dropped by tablespoons onto the baking pans, but although the composition of the dough was too thick for this and each cookie had to be hand-formed, I don’t think that this affected the final product in a negative way.

I think that the only thing I’d change about this recipe is how the zucchini is prepared. The recipe calls for it to be finely shredded, but I found that this still left a few stringy bits in the otherwise-soft texture of the cookie. In the future, I might try peeling the zucchini first, or running it through the blender to change the texture. I wouldn’t want to get rid of it, though, as that’s what makes it so moist!

Dragons and Spiders

I spent part of this weekend with what seemed like almost everybody else in Ottawa: watching La Machine. And I’m not kidding about the “almost everybody else” thing, either. Apparently attendance of the street theater production on Saturday (when we went) was 250,000 to 300,000 people, and the crowds over the four-day run was around 750,000. Keep in mind that the population of the city is just over a million. It would be drastically understating things to say that La Machine was well-attended.

So what’s the story of this performance? From the Ottawa 2017 website:

From the ninth level of heaven, Long Ma —- a cosmic creature who is half-horse, half-dragon—keeps watch over humanity. But a sinister force that has taken the form of a giant spider slips into his home as he sleeps, burning his wings and robbing his sacred temple. From this time forth, the Dragon-Horse roams the seven seas in search of his missing temple.

The giant spider, Kumo, takes refuge in Ottawa, the mother-city of all spiders. Buried deep beneath the waves, the temple remains concealed. But the recent work undertaken by the city to build Ottawa’s new transit line has disturbed Kumo, and she is forced to emerge from the ground. Her power depleted, the spider becomes vulnerable and loses control of the temple, which reappears in the city. Alerted by this apparition, Long Ma sets out on the route taken by Champlain several centuries earlier, with the intention of recovering his temple of travel, a shrine that he alone has the power to properly restore.

So on Saturday we headed downtown to City Hall to check out the sleeping Long Ma (the dragon horse):


Apparently Long Ma breathes smoke in his sleep.

We took a break for dinner and walked over to The Aulde Dubliner in the Byward Market. I have dined there before on several occasions, and I have yet to order something there I disliked. Given the massive crowds downtown for the La Machine performance, I was pleasantly surprised by the restaurant’s short wait time (about 15 minutes for a table inside, right at dinner hour), prompt service, and quick turnaround on food. I honestly was expecting everything to take forever no matter where we ended up. Considering that some restaurants ran out of food, my fear was not unfounded.

After dinner we walked down to the Supreme Court of Canada to check out Kumo (the giant spider):

Then we took a quick walk back to the intersection Elgin St and Queen St to stake out a spot to watch Long Ma walk by:


Long Ma turns north from Albert St onto Elgin St.


Long Ma walking up Elgin St. Thing 2 took this photo with my phone while sitting on my shoulders. You can really get an idea of the scale of the crowds.


Long Ma breathing smoke.


Thing 1 took this photo as well.

After Long Ma passed us, we put our cameras away and joined the rest of the crowd in following the dragon on his walk down Wellington St to the Supreme Court. Once Long Ma turned the corner to the courtyard for the main performance, we couldn’t see him live anymore and had to watch most of the performance on one of the giant screens. However, we did get close enough by the end of the performance to see him get his wings back through the trees, and to watch Kumo jet water, and to witness the “snow” falling. My kids were enthralled. I was somewhat less spellbound, as I had to carry a child on my shoulders for more than an hour and that’s a bit distracting, but it was still a wonderful show. We even got to see the dragon and the spider from a bit closer after things ended, once the crowds started to thin.

All in all, we got home around midnight tired, hungry, and footsore. But would I do it again? Heck yes, I would. This is the stuff that memories are made of.

Fish Stories

According to Wikipedia, the Canadian province of Ontario contains approximately 250,000 lakes annd 100,000 plus kilometers of rivers. This means that about 1/5 of the world’s fresh water is in this province. So I guess it should come as no surprise that many people raised here spend a lot of their recreational time out at “the lake” or “the river”. A lot of us learn to fish from a very young age, which is funny when you realize how few of us ever actually catch enough to cook even a single meal.


Thing 1 fishing.

My father started taking me fishing when I was about five years old, so you’d think that that would mean that I’m an expert by now. Not even close. I mean, I can go fishing in a shallow, weedy area using a spinner lure and worms as bait, and I can catch yellow perch, northern sunfish, and pumpkinseed sunfish like there’s no tomorrow. But I was always taught that, except on those rare occasions where you get a huge specimen, it just wasn’t worth it to take these fish home for dinner. I’ve also caught some monster pike, but they’re not good eating unless you’re truly desperate, as they are slimy, bony, and difficult to clean. Upon occasion, I’ve caught decent-sized walleye and carp, but only in waterways adjoining major cities that I consider too polluted for safe eating.


Thing 2 fishing.

Only in the last few years have I become truly interested in eating the fish that I catch; before that it was 100% catch-and-release. The prize fish for eating around here are smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and trout, with the latter being the most desirable. Of course, this means that this year so far I’ve only caught the one smallmouth bass, which started flopping on the line while I was trying to get a picture and somehow broke my wire leader (which I attached to my line on the off chance that I’d catch a pike, which can bite through a normal line). No, the metal did not snap; the ferrule securing the wire loop slipped open, and not only did the fish get away, it took my lure with it! So that means that really, this year so far anyway, I have been skunked for edible fish. How demoralizing.

It’s still a lot of fun to fish though, especially with my kids. Thing 1 prefers to root through her tackle box and sort through her lures rather than fish. Thing 2 generally alternates between running along the shoreline and seemingly trying to hook herself with her wildly-cast lures. Even so, we have a great time. I’m lucky enough that my lack of fishing success doesn’t mean that my family will go hungry, so we have the luxury of being pretty terrible at it but enjoying ourselves anyway.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

We decided to forego the the crowds downtown on Canada Day; in retrospect, this ended up being a really good idea because the wait ended up being two to five hours to get onto Parliament Hill. There is no way that my kids would have had the patience for that — even if I did! After all, living in the nation’s capital means we can visit the area any time. Why contend with the crush?

Instead, we headed out to the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, which is away from the downtown core. Parking was out into overflow lots, but otherwise it wasn’t too busy; I’ve seen it more packed when a bunch of school/camp trips all arrive simultaneously. Like most of the museums that are open on Canada Day, the Agriculture Museum had free admission, although we did have to pay $6.00 for parking. So all in all, it was a cheap day out.


Thing 2 checking ever-so-gently petting a sleepy calf.

There were all kinds of special demonstrations planned for Canada Day. We got a chance to check out the Chantecler chicken demo, ice cream making, the Great Canadian Quiz, the kids craft & games station, and the afternoon milking. Of course, we also had to make our way through all of the barns and pens to visit all of the animals. Thing 2, unsurprisingly, was the most fascinated by all of the animals.


Thing 2 on my husband’s shoulders while they watch the afternoon milking.

This kind of museum probably doesn’t have a huge amount of appeal to people from farming communities, where the knowledge to be garnered from the exhibits is part of everyday life, at least in part. I mean, day to day I can’t see the history of canola oil production in Canada being something that comes up, but if you live with livestock then it’s not going to be all that exciting to see them in a museum. However, for city folks like my family, it’s very interesting. I also think that it’s important for everyone to understand where their food comes from and how much time and effort goes into feeding our country. And of course for the kids, being allowed to touch some of the animals means that the place ends up being like a large petting zoo.


Thing 1 checking out the replica root cellar in the food preservation exhibit.

As a home cook, I found the Food Preservation: The Science You Eat exhibit to be particularly interesting. I like how you literally have to walk through the history up to the modern day. I’m also a big fan of area where you can manually control the time lapse video (forward, back, and speed) of decomposing food. I’ve always found that kind of thing to be fascinating.


Jars in the food preservation exhibit.

There is a section of the exhibit dedicated to home canning as well, which is very relevant to my interests.

All in all, we had a wonderful day out! We even got lucky with the weather and managed to avoid most of the rain. We’ve been to the Agriculture Museum many times before, and it never ceases to entertain and educate. I highly recommend visiting this museum if you have the chance.

Maple Rhubarb Crisp & Maple Leaf Cookies

I was trying to be as Canadian as possible this week and made maple rhubarb crisp from the recipe on page 116 of Sweet Ontario Pure Maple Syrup: Our favourite Maple Recipes, which is published by the Ontario Mable Syrup Producers’ Association. I picked up a copy of this cookbook this past weekend at the Cumberland Farmers’ Market, which is where I also picked up the rhubarb for the recipe. I didn’t purchase any good Ontario maple syrup at the time, but only because I already had two big jugs in my fridge. Can’t get much more local than that!


Maple rhubarb crisp topped with non-dairy whipped topping

I was really happy with how this recipe turned out. The crisp was the perfect blend of sweet and tart. I’m really looking forward to trying other recipes in this cookbook, such as the french toast casserole and maple BBQ chicken.

Of course, I had to check out some of the Canada-150-themed foods that are being sold in preparation for the big day. The above cookie was from a two-cookie decorating kit that retails at Walmart for $1.50. They aren’t half bad, given the price! My kids are going to decorate their own tomorrow. For an American company, Walmart carries an awful lot of Canadiana. But as the Arrogant Worms quipped in The Mountie Song:

“Where would you get a tank?”
“Walmart.”
“Oh.”

Speaking of the Arrogant Worms, here’s their song Proud to be Canadian, from the album Live Bait.

I hope you all have a safe and happy Canada Day!

Ketchup Chip Chicken & Canada Day Rice Krispies Squares

It’s a hectic time of year, what with the kids’ end of school and all of the events that that entails, and all of the preparation for Canada’s 150th. So last night I focused on easy, stress-free food.

For dinner I whipped up some ketchup chip chicken, rice, and sliced gala apples. I’d read somewhere that it’s possible to use crushed potato chips as breading, and apparently ketchup chips are only available in Canada, so I combined the ideas for this celebration-themed meal. To bread the chicken thighs, I first dredged them in flour, then dipped them in beaten eggs, and then finally rolled them in ketchup chip crumbs. About 40min in the oven at at 350°F (175°C) on an oiled broiler pan, and it was done. While the chicken was cooking, I steamed my rice and chopped up my apples, and dinner was complete.

Not surprisingly, if you use potato chips as a breading, the final product ends up tasting like the flavour of chips you choose. The smell of this chicken strongly reminded me of hot dogs; perhaps the smell I associate with hot dogs is really that of warm ketchup and vinegar. The chips provide a nice crunch that I think would work equally well on the barbecue or, if you’re feeling really decadent, deep fried.

I also had to make up treats for my kids’ school Canada Day celebration, so I went with the time-honoured last-minute classic of Rice Krispies Squares using the microwave version of the recipe found on the box (and online). I used maple-flavoured marshmallows instead of regular ones for a more Canadian twist.

To make the treats look more appropriate for the holiday, I sprinkled them with red and white sprinkles. The presentation wasn’t all it could have been, but I wanted to use recyclable dishes so that I didn’t have to worry about the kids breaking them or not bringing them home. After making these squares, I kind of felt like the woman in the old Rice Krispies commercial, except I definitely haven’t had the chance to indulge in a good book!

Poutine & Cupcakes

Continuing this week’s pre-Canada-150 lead-up, I’d like to start with some iconic Canadian music: The Log Driver’s Waltz. The song became an integral part of art culture in Canada in 1979, when an became the soundtrack of arguably the most popular animated short in the Canada Vignettes series released by the National Film Board. The short, along with the other Vignettes, was aired on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) between programs as filler, so it was very possible to catch this song multiple times a day throughout the 1980’s. There is also a French-language version entitled La valse du maître draveur. The chorus of the English version is as follows:

For he goes birling down and down white water
That’s where the log driver learns to step lightly
Yes, birling down and down white water
The log driver’s waltz pleases girls completely

Birling, by the way, isn’t a word in common parlance even in Canada (at least not anymore), but it according to the the Free Dictionary, it is “a game of skill, especially among lumberjacks, in which two competitors try to balance on a floating log while spinning it with their feet. Also called logrolling.”

The timber trade in general is a huge part of the history of Canada as a whole, and the Ottawa area in particular. The trade blossomed in the early 1800’s, with log rafts and booms being a common sight on the Ottawa River for over a hundred years. Related trades played a large part in the development of the city, with a large number of local trades becoming part of the cultural landscape in the sawmills and their later cousins the pulp and paper mills.


Homemade poutine

The timber industry was dominated by backbreaking labour, what would now be called blue-collar work, and in a similar vein, the famous French-Canadian dish of poutine is considered a very blue-collar dish (although honestly everyone eats it, no matter their level of wealth). Poutine would probably have been appreciated by log drivers, but it didn’t come into being until the 1950’s, when the local trade was on its last legs. Poutine is a mouth-wateringly delicious pub grub combination of french fries, cheese curds, and gravy. The one that I made yesterday, pictured above, also had chunks of the ground beef that I used to make the gravy from scratch. I made the fries using the Baked French Fries I recipe on Allrecipies — although I set the oven to 400°F (205°C) instead of the higher temperature in the directions, as per suggestions in the comments. Poutine may look like a hot mess, but it tastes fantastic, and it’s particularly good while/after a few drinks.


Strawberry cupcake with buttercream icing & a maple-leaf-shaped strawberry gummy

Of course, you have to follow a meal of meat and carbs with dessert, right? My family ate these strawberry cupcakes with buttercream frosting following the poutine (I don’t know how they had any room left). The cupcakes were Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes from Martha Stewart. They came out looking great, but I was a little disappointed in the flavour; I’d hoped they would taste more like the strawberry puree that was in the batter, but mostly what I could taste was vanilla. Originally I had planned to make a maple buttercream frosting, but I don’t know what I did wrong and the frosting separated as soon as I stopped mixing. I was so disappointed! I ended up using store-bought Duncan Hines buttercream frosting (which contains neither butter nor cream), which was a blow to my pride, but at least my friends with milk allergies could eat it. And hey, the cupcakes looked red and white for Canada Day!