Carrot and Red Lentil Soup

The theme for this South Arm Cooking Club for Seniors is carrot. The senior garden has yield a good harvest of carrots. All thanks to the volunteers who mind the garden all summer long. One of the volunteer is Frank who keeps a healthy lifestyle at his golden years.

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Health benefits of carrots:

  • an excellent source of beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A
  • a good source of dietary fiber and potassium
  • help prevent night blindness, an inability of the eyes to adjust to dim lighting or darkness caused by deficiency of Vitamin A. Vitamin A combines with therotein opsin in the retina’s rod cell to form rhodopsin, which is needed for night vision.
  • may help to lower blood cholesterol lever
  • protect against caner

Drawback:

  • excessive intake can give skin a yellowish tinge

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Marian prepared a couple of recipes which the main ingredient is carrot. A carrot soup and a carrot loaf.¬†The Carrot and Red Lentil Soup is sweet and laden with fiber. It can be served creamy or chunky according to your preference. Most of the participants preferred a creamy carrot soup except for Marcel. So, for Marcel’s sake, we blended half of the soup to make creamy soup and added the remaining half of chunky soup for texture.

Ingredients

  • 8 medium size carrots, peel and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup split red lentil
  • 5 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • fresh cilantro for garnishing (optional)
  • plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Source: this recipe is adapted from the International Bestseller ‘Staying Alive’ via Marian

Serves 8

(more…)

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Weekend Musings: To Think That KFCs Double Down Is Bad For You

Hey all, good morning!

Have you tried the KFCs Double Down Yet?

Arkensen and Nanzaro was waiting for that day when it was going to be available in Canada for the first time. I think it was just the last Monday. While I promised them I will bring them to try it but I was just simply too busy at work that I did not do that. Monday past … Tuesday past … and then when I got home on Wednesday, equally as tired, they gave up on me and went on their own to try it.

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My boys are fast food junkies. They like these kind of food and can have fast food everyday if we allow them to. So I thought that they will come back and tell me that they love it.

Instead, Arkensen said it was horrible. He said that it was way too salty. It was so salty that he could not even taste the cheese and bacon. That pretty much sums up every feedback I had heard from people I know.

I just cannot understand why this was made so salty. There has got to be an explanation for it because KFC knows about this. Strange.

No, I have not tried it. Would I try it? Oh yeah, I will. I just like to find out for my own self how salty is salty. ūüôā

So I did some digging and found an excellent … (more…)

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Bao Chau Spring Roll Specialty House on E Hastings and Slocan, Vancouver

On most Fridays when Suanne and I have our date night, she would take transit and meet me at my office in Burnaby. It works better for me that way because if I get home, I just can’t go out again. Moreover, from Burnaby as a staging point, getting to any part of Metro Vancouver is just a short drive.

I remember someone telling me that of all the cities in Metro Vancouver, Burnaby is the most central location. It sounded kind of right when he told me that Burnaby is at most just one bridge away from everywhere else. Yeah, sometimes people measure distances by the number of bridges you have to cross.

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Since we started off from the Metrotown area, we decided to venture north. It is a part of the city that we don’t go to often because of the distance from home in Richmond.

East Hastings, there are a lot to discover along this street. We thought we go to where Luda is to take a couple of pictures to post on the blog. Remember we asked if anyone wanted to help us make up a table for dinner in this post? That’s me. Suanne thinks I am too much a perfectionist to drive all the way there to take a picture of the restaurant just so that I have pix for the blog post. *shrug*

So after taking the pictures, we decided to go have dinner in Bao Chau. We have heard a lot about this place before but have no expectations whatsoever about it. Some people likes it and what they like about here is their spring rolls more than anything else. And it sure seems to be the case because the words “Spring Roll Specialty House” is even more prominent that the words “Bao Chao” on the awning.

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It is a big restaurant. I would say it is about double the size than most typical Vietnamese restaurants.

It is also popular from the number of customers they have. It was not full but most of the tables were taken. Looking around, their customers are mixed with a fair number of them non-Vietnamese. I am not surprised because Bao Chau is a well known restaurant who had established itself in the neighborhood over the years already.

There is a rare sight of a round table in Vietnamese restaurants. I don’t see many of these sort of tables in a Vietnamese restaurant for sure. They even have a lazy susan in the middle of the round tables … except that they use that for condiments, sauces and eating utensils, and not for dishes and food.

Service? I must point out that the waitress has a sour face which is really obvious. No, it did not bother us but I think some customers may take offence to that glum unhappy frown. I certainly don’t expect smiles and all but walking around with a sour face will not do any good to anyone.

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The menu is nothing exceptionally exciting. The usual suspects are there along with a handful of dishes that we had never tried before.

Suanne pointed to me an interesting thing she saw on the menu. On the left menu above and right at the bottom where the front page/logo is, is the words that says “For Take Out, Add $0.50 Per Item”. Strange right? She thought this is directly opposite of what the other restaurants do … that they give discounts for take outs. Instead, in Bao Chau they charge extra for take outs. I was wondering what the justification is for the additional 50 cents.

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My eyes were only scanning for those dishes that has spring rolls. So I decided on the Combo B ($10).

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this. This is a really large plate of meat and contained … (more…)

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Yaohan Center Food Court ‚ÄĒ Go After 6PM

A long long time ago, we used to go to Yaohan … a lot. Those were the days when we did not have a job and when we decide to dine out, it is to this food court. It was the cheapest and the mostest food that we could get. Yeah, those were the days way before chowtimes when food was not central in our lives — getting our money go a longer way was.

At some point we stopped going to Yaohan. The reason was parking. It is always full, especially around meal times. Getting a spot is close to impossible because there are a few cars idling on each parking lane waiting for someone to vacate a spot. It was THAT bad … and it still is.

So we often just go a couple of rounds around the car park and if we don’t find a spot, we give up. Sometimes I will drive over to President Plaza next door and park in the multi-level parking. But whatever you do, do NOT try to park in the parking lots in front of Rainflower or Canadian Tire. They are very efficient in towing away cars. Be warned!

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The name Yaohan was very famous around Asia. It was one of the biggest if not the biggest supermarket chain in Asia. But over time it fell on bad times and went out of business. It was quite a shock when it happened but I guess retail and supermarket chains comes and go every now and then.

The Yaohan Center, located north of Cambie on the No 3 Road, still retains the logo and the name. It no longer has anything to do with the long gone Yaohan. The anchor tenant today is another supermarket called Osaka. Osaka is actually owned by T&T who in turn has recently bought over by Loblaw. Yes, the Osaka Supermarket is the culprit that causes that perpetual traffic jam at the Yaohan Center.

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The other culprit for all the cars is the food court. This is a nice food court. It is bright and clean, unlike many other Asian food courts in Richmond. Other than the much newer Aberdeen Center, this is perhaps the best Asian food court there is.

I can see that it food court is well managed. The stalls are diverse enough with a lot of major Asian cuisines represented … and most of them are pretty good.

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We used to come here for the rice/noodle combo meals. It was the cheapest rice/noodle combo meals we knew of and I think to this day it is still the cheapest.

The reason is because of these three stalls side by side. These three stalls serves pretty much the same thing and they compete neck to neck with one another. The three stalls are Chun Hing Cuisine, Golden Rice Bowl and Pak Tak. Everyone who comes here regularly has their own favourite, I guess. For us, it is the one on the furthest left, Chun Hing.

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We like Chun Hing simply because their food looks the most delicious. I like the way they pile up their food very high in a mound. They have about 25 varieties to choose from, just like the other stalls.

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The prices in all three stalls are the same actually. You can choose three items ($5.99) or two items ($5.50) together with steam rice, fried rice or fried noodles. Yeah, we always go with the 3 items. I wonder how many would want to go with the two items combo when it is just 50 cents for an additional choice.

But here is a tip … you want a great deal, you must go just before 6PM. Yeah, we deliberately went at 5:45PM that day just to stake out the stall for you all. LOL! Also, we had to get a strategic table so that we can provide you visual proof of the synchronized¬†maneuver by each of the three stalls.

You see … everyday at 6:00PM sharp, this happens at the same time … (more…)

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Of Nong and Nong

Hey guys … quick … pull up a chair and settle down.

I am going to give you a quick lesson in Chinese. I am going to teach you two Chinese words — Nong and Nong.

*roll eyes*

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These two words had been ringing in my brain the whole day long. Yeah, this came from the blog post yesterday when I blogged about The One Restaurant on Granville and 41st. In that post I mentioned that the Chinese name of that restaurant is called Nong and I further added that Nong means “thick” or “concentrated” as in sauce.

Well, next came a barrage of comments (at least it felt like a barrage) from Buddha Girl, HM and Teresa that it was the wrong word.

“*BEEP* wrong answer!”

What do I know right? So I conferred with a Shanghainese friend of mine and he also gave me the same answer:

“*BEEP* wrong answer!”

LOL! So I learned something new today. Both the words above are pronounced as Nong but with different meaning. It even looked the same to the illiterates.

The Nong on the left means “you”. Now, you might think that the word “you” is such a common word but actually this word is only used in … (more…)

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The One Chinese Restaurant on Granville and 41st, Vancouver

Updated: 24th Oct 2014; This restaurant is closed according to Urbanspoon.com.

Let me get the confusing stuff out of the way first.

There are three Chinese restaurants called The One. None of them are related to one another. Thank goodness all three of The Ones are located in different cities or else you can just imagine the confusion it will cause.

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In Burnaby, The One (above left) is a Taiwanese restaurant which is actually an offshoot and more modern cousin of Lau Shan Dong.

In Richmond, The One (above right) is a Hong Kong Style Cafe which had opened just recently.

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Not to be outdone, Vancouver also have their own The One! ¬†Like the other two restaurants, the Vancouver version of The One serves yet another type of Chinese cuisine — Shanghainese.

I mentioned it before earlier that there are actually a lot of restaurants with the word ONE in their name. The ones at the top of my head are:

  • Hot Pot ONE
  • No 1 Beef Noodle
  • No 1 Shanghai

This one is located on Granville and 41st. For those of you using Granville, I am sure you have notice this place.

Although the official English name of this restaurant is The One, their Chinese name sounded a lot better. It is simply called “Nong” which meant a thick sauce … something like that. I noticed that their calling cards, they have the alphabetized word “Nong” printed on it. I am just speculating that they are in the process of changing their name to Nong.

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JS wrote to us about The One almost two months ago. She was raving of the food she had that she went back twice. And it was such a long email too where she went into the details of eleven dishes she had. I was so impressed that I just had to try it … well, at least I wanted to do the trilogy of THE ONEs in Metro Vancouver. LOL!

It took almost two months to organize but JS eventually managed to get a group of the regular chowhounds together.

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The One on Granville looked a lot better than I expected. It is clean in a modern and bright setting. While it is not a high end restaurant, they managed to tastefully decorated the place — complete with small, nice¬†chandeliers. The dining hall is quite big and spacious.

The waiters and waitresses are smartly dressed in suits and tie.

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Service is prompt. You know service is good when you are not aware of it and yet you had everything you needed at the right time. That was how I remembered that night in terms of service.

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Their Chef’s Special wasn’t what we are here for. But the interesting thing is that their Xiao Long Bao is just $1 for three. This has to be the cheapest XLBs in this side of the world. For all I care, it could even be cheaper than the frozen ones in T&T.

You know, I think people get a kick out of paying $1 for 3 XLBs than getting them free as part of a free-XLB-if-you-spend-above-$30 kind of deal.

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The above is in the front of their menu. It’s their signature dishes. That was easy to decide. We all immediately agreed to order all four of the dishes.

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As you can see above, their prices are not on the cheap side. Not that I expect it to be cheap here but the prices does jump out at me. With menus like this, I always have to keep tabs of what I order.

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Actually I left all the ordering to the experts at the table. With so much to choose from and at the end of a long week, I am just contended to just sit back and enjoy the food and the company.

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We got a few appetizers to start off with.

Jelly Pork. This is quite common in northern Chinese restaurants. I was not much of a fan of this but this one is different.

It is nicely presented and made to look exactly like meat with a layer of fatty skin on top. Most of the ones I had tried before are more jello than they are meat. So this is quite a nice change.

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The plate is $8. Just look at it … isn’t it a beauty?

You know what the first thing that came to my mind when I saw this is? Molecular Gastronomy! This is … (more…)

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Revisiting Amigo Restaurant on Alexandra Road, Richmond

This blog post is about setting the records right.

Boy, were we sorry about what we wrote three weeks ago about the Amigo Restaurant. This is one restaurant that had hardly attracted much publicity on the internet, at least not in the English websites. With a name like Amigo, we did not think much of them.

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Well, our first visit to the Amigo restaurant was less than¬†favorable because we went at the hour when they were about to close. Their choice on the late night menu was pitiful and the food was totally underwhelming. See the pictures above and you’ll probably understand what I meant.

When that post went up, immediately there were a number of comments pointing out that there are some great and unique dishes that Amigo serves. And indeed, there was!

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We decided to give Amigo another try. This time we went for lunch and were armed with a list of dishes that our readers recommended.

And we had to prep Arkensen that this time he simply had to trust the list and not get his own dish. Surprisingly he agreed. I guess he was not in the mood to eat out and just wanted to get home quick — back to his online games. I know he is missing his younger brother who is away at a camp. That’s why he was kind of quiet that day … not saying much at all.

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Going to the restaurant at late night and during lunch hours is, well, like night and day. We did not expect that this place is so full. We did not expect to be asked if we had reservations when we walked in. We definitely did not expect to wait 10 minutes for a table.

It seems like many people does actually call in for a reservation before showing up. I have not come across many HK Style Cafe where people call ahead for reservation. At least for us, we don’t.

Service was at a frantic pace here. The waitresses were practically running all over the place. We had no problem getting what we needed. They even came by every now and then asking if everything is OK — not something you see much in a HK Style Cafe.

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I only took a picture of the “Chef Special” as this is the one that is the most interesting. You may click on the above to show it in a large image.

If you notice, the prices are not cheap. Anything more than $12 is considered expensive for a HK Style Cafe. Yet, the cheapest item on the Chef Special is $16. Each of the¬†Chef’s Specials comes with soup, garlic toast and drink.

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The Lunch Special is more reasonable but still … $10 for a Lunch Special is rather high, right?

Yeah and yet I see so many people in this restaurant. At this prices, this had better be good, I told Suanne.

I am going to describe the meal out of turn. I hope I don’t confuse you.

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We ordered two items from the Chef’s Special menu. This came with a choice of soup. Suanne and I thought that the Lobster Chowder was interesting but we never believe it is anything but lobster. Yeah, we came to expect that HK Style Cafes sometimes would name their dishes like Lobster Chowder just because they put in some lobster flavouring or something.

We were quite surprised when we saw it. It looked very good and it tasted very good too.

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It was creamy and has a nice seafood flavour. There are bits of meat in it. We still can’t believe it is lobster meat here but it sure tasted like it with the right texture. We thought it could be prawns but the longer we looked at it, the more it looked like lobster. Maybe it is not lobster but I just believe if it is.

But it does taste really good. Get this one. You will like it.

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The other soup we had was the HK Style Russian Borscht Soup. While not as exciting as the Lobster Chowder, this one had a nice intense tomato flavour. It was a good start to the meal. Just having the soup alone, made us think that perhaps this is why the restaurant is so busy. Their food is good.

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The garlic toast is pillowy soft … not toasty at all. It is also lightly flavoured which we thought should have more garlic spread on it. The only good thing about it is the softness which is unexpected.

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Both Elaine and EDC commented that we have to try their African Cajun Chicken. We looked high and low for the “African Chicken” on the menu but we couldn’t find it. It turns out that it is called … (more…)

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Torarenbo Japanese Restaurant on Park Road, Richmond

Hmmm … come to think of it, I hardly ever go to a Japanese restaurants. I mean, I do but it’s just that its not on my list of to-try restaurants. Most of the time I ever go to one is for Nanzaro and Arkensen. Both of them love sushi. They can eat sushi (and the Big Mac and Salted Fish Fried Rice) everyday if we just feed them nothing else but that.

And come to think of it too, there are also a lot of good Japanese restaurants in Richmond. Surprising isn’t it? Some of the very highly rated ones has to include Seto and Hachi … which is also expensive. Oh … Bonqula ranks very highly in our books too. It is sad that Bonqula had just recently closed. I heard that it is because of a death in the family. They did say that they *might* open again. I hope they do.

There are other pretty good Japanese restaurants too. Some of which that came to mind are¬†Nan Chuu, G-Men, Gyo-O and Guu in Aberdeen … most of which I had never been to before. The rest of the restaurants are faux Japanese ones, mostly operated by Chinese.

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Yeah … Torarenbo is one of those Japanese restaurants that we suspected could be a Chinese owned one. So, there are some trepidations when we went to Torarenbo for the first time. But Arkensen wanted sushi and we had not gone for Japanese for a while already. Moreover we are lazy to drive far.

Torarenbo is located in the strip mall on Park Road which hosts a mix of good (Chen’s), cheap (Tai Hing) and ho-hum (Happy Date) restaurants. We often come to this strip mall when we wanted to pick up the odd groceries from the supermarket there.

Parking is not the easiest here. It is perpetually full but the turnover is quite OK. There are two lanes only here. My trick is to take the outer lane (the one closest to Park Road) as it serves two rows of parking spots. It never fails. ūüôā

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I like the setting inside. Like all Japanese restaurant worth its salt, they holler greetings the moment you walk in.

From the moment we walked in, both Suanne and I were trying to see if they speak Cantonese or Japanese. Yeah, we were curious. The people who worked there sure has a more Chinesey facial features and indeed we overheard the waiters and waitresses talking in Cantonese.

There is also a sushi bar. See that gentleman in gray sweaters? He was speaking in Japanese to the older chef at the counter. So, what would you make of it? LOL!

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Service is very good … very prompt and very polite just like you expect in a Japanese restaurant, regardless if this is Chinese owned or not.

I think … but correct me if I am wrong … that the plastic tube addition to the teapot spout above is a Chinese “invention”. He he he … this is commonly seen in Chinese dim sum restaurants.

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Their menu is colorful and it is the same as the takeout menu you see above (the menu above is clickable to show a larger version, BTW).

But other than that, it is mostly the normal Japanese fare, nothing much fancy. What I like a lot is their prices. There are other places that are cheaper but for a setting like this, I find the prices are lower than I expected.

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Someone commented on chowtimes before saying that Torarenbo has the Cold Wheat Soba. That was when I wanted to find out more about this. So, my mind was set on getting it here.

Torarenbo’s menu calls this the¬†Terizaru Udon/Soba or Tempura with Cold Noodle and it is $8.

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The cold noodle is served on a bed of ice to keep it cold. However, I find that the melting ice kind of makes the noodles a lot wetter than I had preferred.

This is not the first time I had the cold wheat soba. The first time I had this was in Yakko Sushi in Station Square about two months ago. The texture of the noodles at Yakko was better than I had it here.

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On the side is a saucer that includes a raw quail egg, toasted sesame seeds, wasabi and chopped green onions. I had to ask the waitress how this works. The ones I had in Yakko Sushi does not have this.

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Well, I just had to throw them all into the dipping sauce (called soba tsuyu).

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I like the dipping sauce this way a lot more. It was generally much better than Yakko except for the noodles.

Most Chinese do not like cold noodles. Traditionally noodles must be served hot, the hotter the better. Like most Chinese, Suanne can’t stand the idea of eating cold noodles. Especially when it sits on a bed of ice … noodles at room temperature is tolerable but not ice cold ones. She took just a mouthful to patronize me and said … (more…)

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Canning Raspberry Jam

Cara brought some frozen raspberry that she bought direct (or pick?) from a local farm when it’s in season for canning at the Food Preservation workshop held at the Garratt Wellness Center organised by the Richmond Food Security Society.

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The raspberry jam tasted wonderful. It is tangy and sweet. These raspberry jam will be great on toast or scones.

Ingredients

  • frozen or fresh raspberry
  • sugar to taste
  • lemon juice
  • pectin

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Cara bought the liquid pectin for her jam making. Check out this link for some concern using liquid pectin.

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At the end, Karen DW (the host of this food preservation workshop) suggested that Cara try different pectin for her raspberry jam, one using liquid pectin and another no sugar pectin which so happen Karen had with her.

(more…)

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Canning Crab Apple Sauce

In another food preservation workshop organised by the Richmond Food Security at Garratt Wellness Center, Arzeena brought crab apples to make crab apple sauce for canning. There was a bumper crop of crab apples at the Richmond Sharing Farm, Arzeena told me.

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The crab apple sauce is very tangy and needs quite a bit of sugar to sweeten it.

Ingredients

  • crab apples
  • sugar

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Source: Arzeena

(more…)

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