Bite-sized wisdom – Part II

Foodie: A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation. A foodie is not necessarily a food snob, only enjoying delicacies and/or food items difficult to obtain and/or expensive foods; though, that is a variety of foodie. (Urban Dictionary’s word of the day on March 28, 2006.)

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The cooking session with Tanya was three of hours of butt-busting activity, the four of us (Tan, myself and my daughters, Mallory and Sophia) handling combinations of ingredients with which we, her apprentices, were completely unfamiliar.

I relied on my voice recorder to nab the details of Tanya’s instructions because I was too busy frying, stirring, mixing, slicing, and snapping to attention under Tanya’s watchful eye.

The alternate title for this entry is Foodie Bootcamp.

Tanya had organized an itinerary, so that we were working simultaneously on different recipes for the appetizers – not one at a time, but ingredient by ingredient.  Some things had to sit for longer, so we started with them. Some would be using similar ingredients, so those parts would be made together. Some could/should wait till closer to the end.  It would be rare that one would have to prepare and follow such an itinerary if you were making just a few appetizers for dinner guests, but in Tanya’s highly social world and her event-planning experience, this level of organization is crucial.

As I’ve been replaying the recorded cooking lesson, instead of transcribing it chronologically as I normally do. I’m virtually filing each instruction under the proper recipe heading.  As I do so, I’m catching  myself speaking back to Tanya as I do, “That’s very interesting!” “You don’t say!”

Also, “Huh?!”

Tanya was totally comfortable with the recorder and we had it on for the full lesson.  But I found her saying “This is off the record” quite often.  She has stories about y’all, y’all!

Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to disclose them.

I had to cut her off: No more OFF the RECORDS, Tan!  I warned her that no further secrets were safe with me, she’d used her quota.   So this one doesn’t count:

Tanya was given Henckel knives for her wedding and thought they were cheapy knives because they weren’t sharp.  When she became more savvy – months? years? later – she discovered what an incredible gift these knives were, had them sharpened and lived to use them and tell us about it. So whoever gave the Henckel knives wedding gift, Tanya didn’t appreciate your gift for a long time!  Now, of course, she’s highly grateful and we were amazed at what a difference a good–a sharp knife makes!

My take away, if a girl who can’t identify a quality knife when she sees one can become as adept as Tanya is in the kitchen, well, perhaps we all have hope.

Here’s another over-the-quota Off the Record:

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Tanya has a unique way of silencing a super-sensitive alarm. NOBODY PANIC, it’s only while she’s cooking. I personally thought it was ingenious and I am posting this for my mom. ;)


This will be a multi-part entry because of all the ground we covered that afternoon. I’m going to start with the first four of the 10 recipes below, with any instructions I found helpful in preparing them or interesting upon play back.

Buckle your seat belts. We are now entering Foodie Territory.

Chicken curry in lettuce wrap

1 large white onion
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped (about 3 teaspoons)
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Of all the ingredients listed, guess which ones I’m familiar with.  Onion! Hello! I’ve also previously used garlic in Kim’s Greek Chili and Christa’s Heirloom Spaghetti Sauce and oil has been making a regular appearance, even with baking.

Three of nine ingredients is not a passing mark, though, and for our first appetizer!

Sophia handled most of the prep for this one. Both she and I were surprised at the existence of ground chicken, only familiar with its cousin, ground beef. I now see how perfectly reasonable it is to have various ground meat options.

What you wouldn’t know is that we fried bacon (I did, for the first time!) for another appetizer not posted yet. We used the leftover bacon grease to cook the chicken.  Tan said, “Now, if you’re trying to be dietary you wouldn’t do this, but since we’re only eating small things, we can use bacon grease.”  Sometimes one must prioritize between healthy and resourceful.

Tanya used the same “slap chop” method for garlic that Christa used for her spaghetti sauce. “I know you’ve used garlic before.  Fresh garlic is fresh garlic and its delicious, however I usually keep a jar of minced garlic.  You don’t always have to use fresh.  Everybody does garlic differently, so however you feel the need to do this.”  After all that pounding and chop-chop-chopping, I feel the need to buy minced garlic, you?

Tan added curry sauce to it, which isn’t on this recipe. Actually, Tanya didn’t use a recipe for any of the things we did.  “Here’s where I’m not really following a recipe, but they’ll get the same idea by following the recipe.”

I find those who do not measure, taste.  Would you agree? The intuition is in the taste buds.  Tanya went through many spoons that day, trying everything we made and offering it to us, “Want to taste it? Mmmmm!  You guys are good cooks!” She’s affirming as well.

Once we finished preparing the chicken curry, it was obviously hot and had to be cold to put on the lettuce. “Know what happens when you put something hot in lettuce?” Tan asked her attentive class. “It goes poooorrooooouuuwww.”

From her sound effects and hand gestures, I translate that to mean, it shrivels.

I just asked Sophia what she thought of this appetizer since she put most of the effort into this one.  Sophia says, “At first, I thought it was really gross, all the stuff she put in it.  But once I tasted it once it was in the lettuce, it was really, really, really good!”

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There you have it, a rave review.

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Shrimp salad on mini loaf

1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
pinch salt

Sophia was back on for this one as well.  She started by de-tailing the shrimp, which grossed her out so Tanya let her use a knife.

The rest of the instructions are to just mix all these ingredients together in a bowl, refrigerate, and then put on mini loaf.

We used a real lime for the lime juice. Tanya’s advice on that was to “squeeze the lime over your hand and catch the pits.”

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“Otherwise, that would be the pits!” was my feeble attempt to include myself in the conversation. Ever notice that? The ones who are in over their heads often resort to being the peanut gallery.

Tanya gave us an extra tip, which she couldn’t take credit for, “It’s from Michael Smith.  Use the [inner] lime rind to disinfect the cutting board.” Resourcefulness at work once again!

We did not know what Tarragon was. I liked getting Tanya to describe the ingredients we weren’t familiar with.

“Tarragon… how can I describe Tarragon.  If you ask my mom, who hates Tarragon, she’ll tell you it smells like tobacco. I’ll tell you it absolutely doesn’t. It’s very delicious. Have you ever had tartar sauce with your fish? It’s what you find in tartar sauce – that distinct taste…  SWISS CHALET! They put tarragon in the sauce – the taste everybody loves and wants to taste out of the container?

That we’re familiar with.

“Can I taste it?” Tan asked once Sophia was done mixing the ingredients. “It’s the only way I know it’s right.” When I commented on Tan’s taste-testing she said, “Chris [her husband] always made fun of me, but who’s the guy who swears all the time? Hell’s Kitchen! Ramsey asked did you taste this? You don’t taste if you serve it?”

Here’s another intuitive tip from Tanya, “When you’re throwing things together, salty, sweet or hot, add an acid like citrus, vinegar, or lemon.  It doesn’t have to taste lemony, it just helps your palette.  If you’re making almost anything and you go, ‘what’s it missing?’ try a little lemon juice.”

Tanya asked Sophia, “Did you taste this? You don’t want to taste it?”

No amount of Tarragon was going to make my girls eat that shrimp, unfortunately.

Crab Rangoon in Baked Cups

1 can (6 oz.) white crabmeat, drained and chopped
4 oz (1/2 of 8 oz. pkg) cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha (hot sauce)
2 teaspoons finely sliced chives, plus more for garnish
fresh ground pepper to taste
12 won ton wrappers

I was enlisted for this dish. This was much like the shrimp salad and not unlike how you would mix up tuna,which I know how to do well!  We only used 1/2 a can of the crabmeat as we were only making 10 cups.

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Wondering what Sriracha is? Its main ingredient is chili peppers.  Tan says, “It’s the hot sauce they put in Thai food – so no more than two squirts. Once you eat this, you’re going to put it in everything.  I don’t like hot for the sake of being hot, but this is tasty. Try it!”

We wrapped it up in the bowl we mixed it in till it was ready to put in the won ton cups.

[time lapse]

We cut up won ton sheets (in your produce department) and put them into a mini cupcake pan.

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We would bake these at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, add the crab rangoon and bake for another 5-8 minutes.

Brie and Hot Pepper Jelly in Baked Cups

Tanya says that these won ton cups are the easiest-peasiest way to make an appetizer.  We did another with melted brie cheese (don’t skimp on the cheese!) and added red pepper jelly to it.  Tan admits she’s a “sauce freak.”

Whenever I go to Ottawa, I go to Mrs. McGarrigle’s or Holly’s Sweets and Eats [in Barrie] to pick up one or two things.  I love new hot sauces, jellies, chutneys. I just got a butternut chutney, which is kind of sweet. It goes with chicken. It’s a great way to get creative for dinner.

With that, Tanya presented a special blueberry cheese spread to start my own collection. Just owning the sauce got me excited to try it out!

“If you don’t have it in your arsenal, then how will you know?”

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Next I would learn how to fry “poor man’s tuna!”  Take a stab at what that might be!

To be continued…

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9 thoughts on “Bite-sized wisdom – Part II

  1. no way Tan! Lori was lucky to get to hear it all! and I was lucky to get to it eat it :D
    Another great post Lor! Will try the lime juice on cutting board trick! And yummmm – just remembering those fantastic Brie and jelly cups – must make! so bake for 5, then add the brie and jelly, bake 5 more or so?

  2. Great post, Lori. I’m really enjoying these. I’ve never really tried my hand at appetizers, but this makes me interested. I guess I’ll have to come up with an excuse to have a party!

  3. What a treat it was to taste all those appetizers! I am so glad you posted the recipes! I have been dreaming of them since that night!

    • I know! They were all delectable! Just put up three more on Part III. There will definitely be another post on this – we covered a lot of ground!

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