What I learned in Grade 8 home economics

Omigod, I found my Grade 8 Home Ec notebook this week!

home ec notebook *Looking through it, I realized that I’ve been saving recipes for longer than I remember. Maybe it didn’t “count” when I cut them out of magazines in junior high because it was for school, not for me, but I know it had an long-term influence.

From a cooking standpoint, what fascinated me most was the section on “Creative Meal Planning.”

In handwriting that was much rounder and fancier than it is now, I listed the “important elements of meal planning,” including “pleasing colours and attractive & varied combinations, wise use of food, and variety in flavour, colour, shape, texture, temperature.”

I used the term “kitchen artist” in one section. I doubt I came up with that one on  my own. There were references to eye appeal, taste appeal, and colour combinations. No wonder I see cooking as creative and satisfying.

It’s funny, Home Ec wasn’t my favourite subject, even though we got to eat everything we made. There were a lot of rules and expectations, so it wasn’t strictly a “fun” class.

But I remember some interesting dishes, one of which inspired a recipe for sautéed red cabbage, apples and sesame seeds on this blog a couple of months ago. The original recipe calls for white vinegar instead of apple cider or umeboshi, only one apple, and brown sugar instead of (preferably dark) maple syrup. I prefer the updated version.

I have red cabbage in the fridge. Now I know what I’m going to do with it.

Wild Rice with Sauteed Sweet Potatoes

Now that I’m blogging about food, I’m more motivated to look for creative ways to use ingredients that are already in my kitchen.Image

In recent years – and recent weeks – a couple of things have changed.

1.     Over the last few years, the internet has influenced the way I source recipes and plan meals. Instead of relying primarily on my cookbooks, I often turn to Google, and enter ingredients that I want to use up. I’ve come across interesting food blogs and recipes, and I find it’s an efficient way to use what I have, as well as delay grocery shopping a day or two.

2.     The other thing that’s different is that, as a newbie food blogger, I’m concerned about the risk of breaching copyrights on my blog. From what I’ve read online (which isn’t necessarily authoritative), lists of ingredients are not subject to copyright laws, but recipe instructions may be. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking of ways to adapt favourite recipes to make them my own.

The other day, I cooked some wild rice, which had been in my pantry for months. I considered adding red peppers, snow peas, and cashews, key ingredients in a recipe that appears in Susan Mendelson’s Official Cookbook of Expo 86. Unfortunately – or maybe not – I didn’t have the necessary ingredients.

The dish that I ended up making was inspired by Mendelson’s recipe, and by the limited choice of vegetables I had on hand. Her book dates back to the 1986 World’s Fair in Vancouver, BC, and is a favourite of mine for its appealing pictures and easy-to-follow instructions.

Although the book doesn’t mention it, her wild rice recipe (and mine too) is vegan and dairy-free. It can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free tamari for soy sauce.

I used sweet potato and zucchini, which added flavour, colour and contrasting texture to the wild rice. Not to mention that sweet potato is a  so-called “superfood.” We enjoyed the resulting side dish the day I made it, and ate it chilled the next day as a salad.

Here’s my recipe:

Wild Rice with  Sweet Potato & Zucchini (inspired by Susan Mendelson’s Wild Rice with Red Peppers & Snow Peas)                                                  NB – recipe has been updated to make it gluten-free

1 cup wild rice

4 cups water

canola oil to thinly cover pan

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 –inch dice

½ zucchini, cut into ¼-inch dice

1 T. low-sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari, for a gluten-free version)

sesame seeds for garnish (and nutrients!)

1.     Cook wild rice according to package directions. Keep an eye on it. Mine was ready sooner than I expected. Drain well.

2.     Heat oil in large non-stick pan on medium high. When one piece of onion sizzles, add garlic and the rest of the onion, and sauté for a minute or two.

3.     Add sweet potato for about a minute, then add zucchini. The sweet potato should be cooked until edible but not overly soft. Taste-test or insert the tip of a paring knife into one of the pieces to check for doneness.

4.     Add soy sauce and vegetables to rice, and combine.

5.     Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

6.     Enjoy!

A bonus today – friends travelling in Costa Rica sent me a link to this blog,  written by teachers from Chattanooga who are on the same tour. Yesterday, they posted food pictures for me! They also have some interesting photos of wildlife, and instructions for choosing a tasty pineapple: http://normalparkfirstgrade.weebly.com/1/post/2013/07/movin-right-along.html