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Project Food Blog Round 2: Finding My Roots – A Taste of Scotland

I suppose you could say I am a true Canadian through and through. My ancestry is a bit of a mixed bag. My last name German, my grandmothers are French and British. I hear there is a Norwegian in there, and according to family gossip, the possibility of an affair with an aboriginal.

However, there is one background that I familiarize myself with more than any other – Scottish.

My now deceased Papa was 100% Scottish despite his upbringing in Montreal. He was fluent in French until the day he died. But get enough rye in him and he could eerily mimic the Scottish tongue spoken by his own father.

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My Papa carried his Scottish traditions into his own family. I’ll never forget when my mother explained to me as a child that instead of French toast on Sundays, she ate blood pudding. I was horrified.

Of course, some of my mother’s traditions have trickled down into our family. Holiday meals are always paired with party crackers and paper crowns. We all drink Earl Grey and my mother insists we watch the Queen’s Message every Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, not one goes by without a mincemeat pie. My sisters and I even did highland dancing as children, complete with kilts, vests, and leather shoes.

I mean, just look at us. Our frizzy hair and pale complexions just scream “Scottish.”

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When reading over the criteria for the second challenge of Project Food Blog I knew it was time to channel that inner Scot of mine. I can whip up a Lebanese meal no prob, but the food of “my people” has never quite tickled my culinary fancy.

Challenge Prompt: Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with… Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal…

Of course, what are Scots known for best? Haggis! I’ve never tried haggis before and was only further intrigued when my mother told me of my great-great-Nana Susan MacLeod (who I am named after) making haggis on the Isle of Skye.

Creates a lovely scene, no?

I thought so until I actually looked up the ingredients to haggis:

1 sheep’s lung (illegal in the U.S.; may be omitted if not available)

1 sheep’s stomach

1 sheep heart

1 sheep liver

1/2 lb fresh suet (kidney leaf fat is preferred)

I tried in vain to find a “healthier” version. I found a few using turkey hearts and necks. An off-base vegan version using lentils. But the more I looked the more grossed out I got by the whole thing. I mean, Scottish cooking isn’t necessarily known for being healthy or delicious. But I was convinced that I could make something without grossing myself, and my readers, out!

I skimmed through traditional Scottish recipes, determined to find something better than haggis, but could still challenge my vegetarian roots. I am still something of a “newbie” to all this meat-y cooking after all.

I ended up finding not one, but two dishes that got me licking my lips and excited to get in the kitchen!

First up: Scotch Eggs.

Boiled eggs wrapped in sausage. Protein + fat doesn’t get much better than this my friends.

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Both of these recipes come from the same website, featuring dozens of traditional Scottish recipes. The way they were made hundreds of years ago. The recipe for scotch eggs can be found here.

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I began by boiling five eggs, peeling, and dusting them in flour.

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The flour is so the sausage sticks. I learned this immediately because I almost accidentally skipped this step!

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I cheated a little bit on the sausage. You see, I live close to an amazing local butcher that carries a wide variety of organic sausage meats. In the name of finding a healthy balance,  I asked for a pound of chicken sausage meat that he ground up for me on the spot.

The recipe calls for light seasoning, but the sausage meat was already seasoned. So I just started wrappin’!

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Once wrapped, it’s time to bread them to hold them together. Just dip in an egg wash and coat in breadcrumbs.

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My breadcrumbs were bought at a supermarket. Something I guess my great-great-Nana didn’t have.

Scotch eggs are typically deep-fried but that did not sound appealing to me. Instead, I just poured a whack of canola oil in a pan and turned them a few times.

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They still got sufficiently greasy and crispy.

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I patted them dry upon removal from the pan.

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Then… the moment of truth. Time to slice one of these babies open!

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A perfectly boiled egg wrapped in perfectly cooked and seasoned sausage. A Scottish culinary success!!

But wait. There is something Scots love even more than ground animal parts.

Oatmeal.

And what better way to make that than in a…

Traditional Scottish Oatcake.

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This recipe can be found here and also goes by the name “bannocks.” I was drawn to the small ingredient list and simple method of preparation, however I learned there are several methods of making a “traditional oatcake.”

I started with some rolled oats, a pinch of salt and two pinches of baking soda. Yes, “pinch” is the proper measurement here.

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The recipe calls for bacon fat, however I don’t casually keep that stuff on hand. Instead I subbed in 2 tsp melted butter. Mixed with several tablespoons of boiling water to get a sticky mix. Rolled into more dry oats and divided into four sections.

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I picture Susan MacLeod making these in a cast-iron skillet over a hot wood stove.

I have a non-stick pan on an electric oven.

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Cooked until just browned. These were incredibly easy to make.

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Suddenly, I’m left with the perfect Sunday Scottish breakfast.

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Sure, it’s no blood pudding or haggis. That may be something best left to the experts in the Isle of Skye. Now if only I could count all those rye + waters as “finding my roots” as well.

** Voting for this challenge opens Monday, September 27. You’ll be able to vote for this post by clicking here and don’t forget to check out the other entries here!**

Markets and Bars

Hellohello! Hope everyone had a fantabulous weekend! I sure did…

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Thank gawd this cellphone photo is the only evidence of my busting out Moondance at karaoke last night. Also very happy that Billy chose not to take a picture of me awkwardly dancing during the musical interlude. Don’t ever let me do this again, mmmkay? :P

Anyways, I am not here to talk about how much whiskey it took me to do that, or the fact that I woke up at noon today. Ohno, today it’s about the food.

First things first, I’ve been eating a lot of bars. My cupboard is overflowing with all the bars I acquired in the U.S. last weekend!

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I was really excited to try my second Clif Mojo flavour after declaring Peanut Butter Pretzel my favourite bar ever.

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Mountain Mix had the same sweet & salty theme with almonds, peanuts, raisins and chocolate, among many other goodies. I did not dig the dried fruit in the mix. PB Pretzel still has a hold on my tastebuds!

Saturday morning I was up early (read: 8am and not noon) to attend what could be my last ever Les Mills step class. A very sad occasion, but I can’t afford to keep up my gym membership when I already have access at another gym for free!

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I fuelled up for step with this Clif Z Bar in Chocolate Chip as I’ve heard they make for a good snack before running as well.

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Not a big fan of this one. In general, I don’t really care for baked bars unless crumbled over top of something. It did at least sit well in my tummy while I jumped over a step for 60 minutes :)

Lastly, I reached for another Clif bar while working on the blog today. This time for one of the new Luna Protein bars in Chocolate Cherry Almond that came in my Healthy Living Summit swag bag.

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For 180 calories, it was small….

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And only 12g protein (compared to a regular Luna, which has 10g anyways)

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Taste was just okay, I’m picky with my fruit-chocolate flavour combos. The texture however was great. Similar to certain flavours of Atkins or ISO Femme protein bars.

When not drinking whiskey and eating protein bars (killer combo, no?) I was eating some of the best food Toronto has to offer!!

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I finally made my way down to Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market on Saturday. It’s a combination indoor-outdoor market district.

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I explored mostly the indoor markets as it was raining outside. They looked like your typical market set-up…

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In all honesty, I’m not the biggest fan of farmer’s markets. I know it’s a great way to support local farmers, but the crowds aren’t that great for my anxiety, and I find the food is often too expensive for my tight purse strings. 

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However, I am never one to turn down free food ;) LOVE the free samples at markets. The above photo is a table with a gazillion different flavours of mustard – my favourite being the maple mustard. 

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I asked Kristin for some market recommendations as I now consider her my expert resource on all things related to the St. Lawrence Market ;) Her first suggestion was to get a peameal bacon sandwich from the Carousel Bakery.

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A quick Google search led me to discover the sandwich is world famous, touted by celebrities such as Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay.

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I showed up starving after Saturday’s step class and this sandwich hit. the. spot. Wowza.

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I ordered the regular peameal sandwich, with just the meat, cheese, on a amazingly soft and flaky bun. The bun is totally what made the sandwich, but I was impressed by how much meat they put on it too!!

After much wandering around, I decided it was time for some of the Freshly Squeezed juice Kristin also said I had to try.

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I went for a carrot + apple + ginger juice made right in front of me!

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Loved it. I’m always a little weary of vegetable juices, but carrots are so sweet and the ginger gave it a wonderful kick.

While sipping on my juice, I stumbled across this place…

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I was actually in search of dessert when I saw this, but remembered that Kristin also said the perogies were a must-try. I LOVE well-made perogies. So I ditched dessert for something more savoury.

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I ordered three potato and cheese perogies and three veal. Only cost $2.50 and they threw in an extra one! Even better, I had my camera around my neck when they handed me the perogies. The guy at the counter opened the container and asked if I wanted to snap a photo of them. How did he know?? :P

A lot of wonderful looking produce at the market, but again, much of it I passed up. Except for these little babies…

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Those would be fresh dates. I’ve never seen fresh dates before!! The girl selling them said to keep them out for 3-4 weeks until they get wrinkly like the one in the top of the picture. That’s when they get good enough to eat. Can’t wait!

Finally, I had one more stop.

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Just the other day I was reading about the best place to get a bagel in Toronto (because that’s apparently how I spend my free time) and St. Urbain Bagel was listed among them.

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I picked up a couple whole wheat sesame bagels and brought them home for later.

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And by “later” I mean it was the first thing I ate when I jumped rolled out of bed this morning afternoon.

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Toasted and topped with laughing cow cheese, eggs and chicken bacon. Damn, this bagel was good. The perfect mix of soft, chewy and puffy. I may have to go back for these!

I also passed several meat stalls at the market. I so badly wanted to stop and pick something up, but I kept reminding myself that I actually live close to one of the best sausage shops in the city!

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I picked up a strawberry spinach chicken sausage on my way home Saturday. Ate it for supper that night on top of lettuce, tomato and onions with ketchup, mustard, sauerkraut and Trader Joe’s corn salsa. No doubt the sausage was fresh, however I don’t think the fruitier flavours are for me. I guess my inner German prefers a more savoury sausage ;)

 

Ahhhh, another weekend, another three days of wonderful foodie adventures :) I’m kinda lovin’ this city!!

Also, if you’re taking it easy tonight like me, feel free to check out my updated pages: The Girl Behind The Blog, and Links I Love. I read so many blogs, I know I forgot to add some to my new blogroll. Don’t be shy, let me know if you think you belong on that list! Blog updates are still a work in progress, more to come in the following days!

 

Question of the Day: What would be your karaoke song??

Life in a Jar

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Going through my food photos, I noticed this one from last week that I never shared with you. I swear, it’s not because I am ashamed of it.

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That would be oatmeal in a Fluff jar topped with chocolate peanut butter and strawberries. The fluff melts and becomes a sweet syrup. SO good.

Apparently, oats in a jar continued to be a popular breakfast into this week.

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Either that, or I have a tendency to blow through fluff and peanut butter at the same pace ;)

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One of my pet peeves used to be the hard bits of nut butter at the bottom of the jar, but putting oatmeal in it solves that problem. What’s that purple stuff in there you ask?

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Jam of course!! When you’re out of fluff, jam is the next best thing to pair with PB ;)

This morning I got a grip on myself and ate breakfast out of a bowl.

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Yogurt with protein powder, dry oatmeal, cinnamon, blueberries, almond butter, and the kicker…

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Mint. If I could keep plants in the house without killing them, mint would be my herb of choice. Not just for the mojitos, but it makes for an excellent yog-mess topper!

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In a perfect world, blueberries would also be in season all year round ;)

You may recall that I tried fresh figs for the first time not that long ago, and wasn’t that impressed.

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Well, those were black figs. This weekend I spotted some green figs and decided to give them another try.

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Verdict? Much better! The center was a lot sweeter and more flavourful. Thumbs up!

I may not be baking much these days, but I sure am making lots of summery salads!

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I meant for this to be a quinoa salad, but when I opened my cupboard all I had was pearl barley. I still think quinoa will be better, thus, that’s what I’m putting in the recipe ;)

Hearty Tofu Quinoa Summer Salad

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small sweet potato, cut in 1cm cubes
  • 1 15oz can black beans
  • 1 block tofu, cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp dried chilis

Cook the quinoa, sweet potato and tofu in the water for around 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and let chill in the fridge for several hours (one day is best to let the flavours come out!)

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I tossed some of the leftovers with spinach, zucchini, green pepper and tomatoes today for lunch. Yumyum!! I am aalll about the protein packed summer salads these days ;)

Supper wasn’t quite as successful.

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It started good – a Rowe Farms Italian Sausage on toasted rye bread from Brick Street Bread.

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Both are exceptionally tasty, made better only by the addition of ketchup, mustard and sauerkraut.

But then there was this pile of green…

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I normally love piles of green food. I though this frozen broccoli rapini would be no different. For lack of a better word, ick. It was chewy. Could not chew enough to swallow and the taste wasn’t that great. I get rapini is not one of those veggies that freezes well…

 

I also have some big news!!

Two pieces of news actually…

First, I finally picked out something to wear to the Healthy Living Summit Cocktail party.

Yes, this is big news :P

You have no idea how much mental energy I have put towards worrying about this stupid outfit. I am not a fashionista. Apart from whether or not it wicks moisture, I do not care about my clothing to any great extent. I think it comes more from the fact that I’m cheap and can’t bring myself to spend my hard-earned bucks on expensive pieces of material.

I had a few old dresses I thought I could wear to the event, but I didn’t feel right in any of them. And I’m all about feeling good in your own skin. You will have to wait till Friday to see my new $30 dress :)

Also, apparently everyone is wearing yoga pants during the sessions on Saturday. But I haven’t worn pants since I was in Alberta two months ago. I would have to disagree with the Gap and say that I do indeed look good in shorts. Anyone ever do yoga in jean shorts? :P

 

Okayokay, now on to the news that’s actually important…

I’m getting a Nutrition & Wellness Specialist certification!

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a loooong time and the time is finally right. I’m doing it through Can-Fit-Pro, the same as my personal training certification. I’ll be given a textbook and take a weekend of classroom instruction at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.

Right now, my hands are kind of tied as a personal trainer when it comes to nutrition advice. The new certification will allow me to give nutrition counselling and advising on top of creating fitness programs so my clients will sort of have the whole package. Diet is such a huge part of the fitness and health journey, it’s important that people get some info on that too!

My classes are in September and my exam in October. This is just another part of what will be a long education journey for me, I can’t wait! :)

 

Question of the Day: Are you a fashionista? What’s your favourite piece of fashion advice? One that I always follow is that I never show off my upper and lower parts at once. If I’m wearing a short skirt, then I pick a modest top. If I’m wearing a low-cut shirt, then I’ll go with something longer on the bottom.

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