Friday, May 01, 2020

Eating in quarantine: Veggies and meat to my door with Freshii and TruLocal

Since the end of the before times when all this isolation and distancing began, my Facebook feed has been filled with ads for two things: veggies and meat delivered to you door. Since I'm both doing more cooking and limited to grocery shopping once a week (and to what I can carry home since I don't have a car) I decided to try some of them out.

Freshii Sparks veggie bundle

I filled my freezer with meat before we went into lockdown, so while I worked to create freezer space I made a veggie order first. Freshii is a smallish Canadian quick serve chain specializing in healthier bowls, sammies and the like. I presume they began offering the grocery bundles as a way of using up the stock from their standing produce orders, and have kept it going and expanded it to other stores as it proved popular. They have also begun offering different bundles and add-on options, like beer from Dominion City.

The base bundle for $50 (delivery included, tax extra) comes with a selection of veggies and fruits, including a few things I don't usually buy like bananas (mine are destined to be banana bread) and avocados (which I used to make guacamole that I had on rye toast from Rideau Bakery this morning with brie -- a delish breakfast.) Substititions are available, so I subbed out the cauliflower for more brocoli. I also added on two pounds of mushrooms, and 4 pounds of brown rice to restock my rice supply.

The ordering was automated through Facebook messenger on the Freshii Sparks Street Facebook page, which was pretty cool. This generated an order and they followed up by email to confirm delivery and provide payment options -- I paid by e-transfer and they were at my door with a box of veggies the next morning.

If you price it out, it's probably a bit more expensive than getting it all from the grocery store yourself. But you need to factor in the convenience of delivery. It's also healthier for me, as without a car and limited to one shopping trip per week I can only carry so much home. So, while I was already eating more veggiies lately, this upped my intake substantially and allows me to carry other things home from the grocery store instead. I'll likely do another order in a week or two, once I work through all this.

TruLocal meat box

When I had cleared enough freezer space, it was time to order some meat. A number of local farm-supplied options have been scrolling through my Facebook promoted posts, but after crowdsourcing for recomendations I settled on TruLocal, which sources all its meat from Ontario farmers, much of it even organic.

It's a subscription model where you get a box every set number of weeks, but you can modify, delay or cancel at any time. You choose a box size for a set price, and you get a number of points you use to fill a box -- the fancier the meat, the more points. So while ground beef might me one point, a prime rib roast might be four.

I went with the large box for $250, and here's what I selected:

I got a note that they were out of the hot dogs and they subbed in beef sausage; slightly disapointed as hot dogs are something I have for lunch while sausage is a dinner thing, but some supply chain issues are understandable these days. I tried to get a mix of things -- bacon is a weekend-only treat. I was happy to see that the salmon burgers were wild caught, not farmed.

Usually they deliver by FedEx within a week, but it's taking up to seven days to ship as they've had a surge in business during the pandemic. I got the shipping notice on day seven, and the next day FedEx dropped a big box of meat packed in dry ice at my door.

I should mention that I also got six free chicken breasts as part of an introductory offer. Everything was portioned and packed and thankfully I had plenty of freezer space. So far I've had the chicken wings (delicious), the samon burgers (good, but I'm reminded why I don't usually have salmon -- it's a strong fish) and the smoky cheddar susage (very good, juicy, nice flavour).

I'm not sure I'll be ready for a re-order in six weeks, but we shall see. Looking forward to the bacon tomorrow, and to cooking the roast one day soon. And I will need to come up with a good recipe for the haddock. I avoided steaks as our communal BBQ is off limits, but maybe next order. Also excited to try the schnitzel -- I am envisioning a mushroom sauce with homemade pasta.

So far, I would say its good quality local meat and with the convenience of delivery its good value. Only downside is, on my Wednesday trip to Farm Boy not having to buy veggies or meat, I came home with sooo many carbs... :)

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Eating in quarantine: Indian food Easter from Dosa & Curries

As it came to dinner time on Easter Sunday and no turkey having appeared in my larder,. I turned to Door Dash and went in search of Indian food, hoping for a bit more spice than my last attempt. I suceeded to an acceptable level in ordering from another Centretown Indian spot. Dosa & Curries.

Well reviewed on the online delivery app, I was sidetracked by googling the difference between regular Chicken Biryani and Hyperbad Chicken Biryani. I think it means that the chicken is cooked with the rice instead of being added later already cooked, and decided that was worth the extra dollar. I also ordered Chicken 65 (also took a google), garlic naan (my go-to naan) and corn soup.

I got a phone call not long after placing the order than they were out of the corn soup (one of my favourite Chinese dishes, had been looking forward to sampling the Indian version) so I agreed to sub in a chicken soup instead.

When I met the driver and took posession of my meal as safely as possible, he also gave me a small coffee cup and said this was "for the soup." I was puzzled why it was such a small cup of soup for $7 and, as I headed towards my door, why it was cold, but carried on upstairs and, after washing my hands, opened the cup and peered inside with curiosity.

A cold, thick off white clear cold broth seemed the weirdest chicken soup I'd ever seen. Taking a tentative sip it was immediately clear it wasn't soup at all, but was sweet and fruity. Another few seconds and I realized it was mango lassi, which they must have given me as a sorry we didn't have your soup choice available.

So, that solved that mystery and was a nice gesture. Thank you, Dosa & Curries. And opening up the paper bag, I found there was indeed a soup-sized cup of chicken soup -- to which I added some frozen corn for fun.

Meal plated, I sat down to eat. The biryani was flavourful and had several pieces of bone-in chicken which, while I am annoyed at having to deal with the bones, biryani purists tell me is the key to the most flavourful biryani. At least it was cut into pieces recognizable to my Western eyes and not hacked randomly as is often the case with food from this region. I did dispose of the hard boiled egg though. The rice had enough spice to be noticeable, but not in your face.

I enjoyed the Chicken 65 to the point that I have leftover biryani but not leftover Chicken 65. Again, some spice but subtle; I was slightly worried based on my googling but it was quite tasty. The naan was well garlicked. The soup was probably the spiciest of the dishes, and I have some left for lunch. Finished off the lassi though; very tasty.

A successful Indian food Easter in quarantine. Happy Easter to all.

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Thursday, April 09, 2020

Eating in quarantine: How to get crispy chicken wings at home

Chicken wings are the traditional bar food, although as I've written in the past I wouldn't consider Ottawa a wing town. However, since I won't be going out for wings any time soon, I've been experimenting with my at home wing technique, and how to get an appropriately crispy wing.

The secret I've discovered, which I will share with you, is to double dredge. That is, to dredge nit just once, but twice. It will take some prep time and prior planning, but we have plenty of time these days.

To make your dredge, start with some flour in a bowl. Add whatever dry spices you have on hand and would like to. In my case, to my flour I added corn starts, garlic power, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir it all to combine and your dredge is ready.

Now, get dredging. Circulate each wing piece (which you have already patted dry with paper towel) through your dredge, shake off the excess, and place on a plate.

Then take your plate of dredged wings and place them in the fridge for about an hour.

About an hour later, you will see that some of the coating has soaked in and more pink is showing than what we saw before. So do another dredge, and back intot he fridge for another hour.

Then you're ready to go. You can bake or you can deep fry. Baking is certainly healthier but won't be as crispy and won't replicate that bar wing we're going for. Since I do this just twice a month, I go with the deep fry for six to eight minutes to get these nice golden crispy wings, ready for saucing.

Sauce is the second key to good wings. I picked up some wing sauce at Farm Boy's that promised a mix of hot sauce and blue cheese. I sauced and tossed them in the bowl before plating. It was tastyl but I was trying to not go too saucy and the wings really soaked up the sauce. In two weeks I'll go heavier on the sauce, but it was a tasty treat certainly on par with bar wings.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Eating in quarantine: Patty melt and rings from The King Eddy

As I've mentioned I'm doing a lot more cooking while physically distancing, but I am trying to support local reasturants so at least once a week, often Friday nights, I order out for dinner delivery. And I'm trying to order from places I haven't tried before. So last week, my Friday dinner came from The King Eddy.

A diner-style restaurant located in the Byward Market, the King Eddy touts the quality of its hamburgers. Being partial to a good burger myself I ordered the patty melt, hold the pickles. Yeah, come at me y’all, I don’t like pickles.

Basically, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich with two burger patties and red onions inside. I made onion rings my side for an upcharge, and it came with two cups of their dipping sauce. I haven’t knowingly had thousand island dressing since I can’t remember when, but this is what I imagine it to be.

It was fine as a grilled cheese, fried appropriately golden with melty processed cheese. The menu described it as Texas toast, but it seemed like regular white bread to me. The patties were small and, when tasted separately, lacked much independent seasoning. I had passed on the option to add a third patty for $2.99 because it seemed like it would be too much, but it would not have been. A third was necessary. It needed a bit more substance.

The onion rings were excellent. Crispy, and served in a generous portion. Everything you would want diner onion rings to be.

Since it was a Friday night I ordered desert and they only had one on offer, which was a vegan, gluten free chocolate cake. My friends, just, no. Chocolate cake needs dairy and it needs gluten. Other than the chocolate icing, which was tasty, this cake was dry and unfluffy. I get they’re likely limiting the desert menu right now, and want to offer the option for those on restricted diets – I will leave the cake for those folks next time.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad meal, but by the metrics of Uber Eats and food delivery it falls on the wrong end of the value for price curve. When life returns to normal, I’ll try them in person and get that extra patty. But this week, new adventures await.

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Sunday, April 05, 2020

Eating in quarantine: Chicken tacos with homemade flour tortillas

In the before times I didn’t do that much cooking outside the weekends. But now, with nothing but time on my hands I’m cooking all the time and trying some new things from time to time. I haven’t jumped on the breadmaking bandwagon, but I did come close by making homemade flour tortillas for my chicken tacos yesterday.

Some googling had confirmed it’s a pretty simple recipe and it really was, and with a few technique changes I was quite happy by the end with how most of them turned out. And I already have some ideas to kick the next batch up a notch. But first, taco fixings.

After my weekly trip to the newish Farm Boy on Metcalfe (way better than Massine’s, but keep that on the DL) I was well provisioned with fresh veggies and all the fixings. First step, dice and sauté my chicken breasts with garlic and red peper flakes with avocado oil, then set aside.

While the chicken was cooking I prepped my yellow pepper, onion and mushrooms, and then set the chicken aside and proceeded to sautee the veggies in the same manner.

I picked up a packet of chicken taco sauce at Farm Boy as a seasoning cheat (my limited pantry is pretty full already) so after heating the sauce in my pan I added back in the chicken and veggies and set that aside to simmer while I moved on to the tortillas.

I found a simple flour tortilla recipe on the interwebs which I modified based on the comments and my own whims. Mix two cups flour and one tablespoon sea salt, then add 1/3 cup avocado oil (called for olive but works fine) and then stir in ¾ cup of water. What you get is a pretty stick ball of dough you let rest for a few minutes.

There are two keys to success here: use lots of flour, and after portioning the dough into 8, roll them into balls. This will help you get closer to roundish tortillas.

While heating my cast iron pan on medium heat, I rolled out a ball of dough as thinly as I could.

I then very carefully transferred it to the pan, which I had given a spray with cooking spray. About sixty to ninety seconds is enough time to roll out the next one.

Some nice light browning as the other side cooks after the flip, and then the completed tortilla goes into a pan in my pre-heated oven to stay warm while the tortilla making continues.

Now it was taco time. My chicken veggie mix was complemented by tomatoes, green onions, salsa, sour cream and, just for fun in a last minute addition, pineapple. I was so excited that for my first taco, I forgot the cheese.

The pineapple was a pleasant addition, and the tortillas were warm, tasty and certainly had more texture than the store-bought versions.

Homemade tortillas are defintiely much better than the store versions, no surprise there. Without a tortilla press they don't look super round or uniform but that's fine, they're bespoke. It's all simple ingredients you likely have in your pantry and the technique is easy enough. What it does take is time, maybe half an hour to prep and cook eight tortillas. But when you have time, as we do now, it's definitely worth doing.

Next time I'd like to try to fancy up the dough with some seasonings. Definitely think there's room for innovation there.

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