Saturday, December 10, 2011

When in doubt, make soup.

I have been receiving winter squash in my CSA baskets lately. They look like alien acorn squash with their cream, orange and green splotches. They're actually called Carnival (Delicata) Winter Squash and apparently they're so delicious you can roast them and eat them peel & all! My Nana used to slice the squash and bake it in the oven with brown sugar. I still cringe when I walk by the acorn squash section of the grocery store, but I smile inside cause I remember her.

There is no way that my boys will eat slivers of roasted squash, even if they were covered in a full bag of brown sugar. They will however slurp up pretty much any soup I put in front of them, provided I call it a colour. In our house we have white soup (cauliflower/cheddar or potato leek), brown soup (mushroom), green soup (spinach) and orange soup (carrot). Their favourite is the green soup. The oldest won't bring it to school for lunch anymore though cause the kids teased him about eating grass. Lovely. Oh well... At least he still asks for it at home :)

Carnival Winter Soup aka Yellow Soup

2 carnival or acorn squash
1 large potato
1 medium onion
2 small parsnips
Olive oil
Chicken stock (confession: I am using a 284 ml can. But it's organic, so that's ok, right?)
2 cups apple cider (no sugar added) *if you'd like your soup less sweet, maybe try 1 1/2 cups.

Halve the squash, remove seeds. My boys call them guts. Slice into slivers, and microwave for 8-10 minutes. If the microwave creeps you out you could probably roast them in the oven until them start to soften. Let them cool enough to handle then peel.

Peel potato, cut into chunks. Do the same with the onion. Peel parsnips, slice.

In a large pot on medium, add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add onion and sautée until they become soft and start to caramelize. I salt the onions but I suppose if salt is not your thing you don't have to. Add the vegetables and stir them up until they're coated. I add a bit of salt here too. Let them sautée a bit and when you start to smell them all stir once more and add the can of chicken stock. I filled the can with apple cider twice and added it in. That's actually a bit more than 2 cups. Then I added about half a can of water, just enough so that the vegetables were all covered. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down, cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Purée with an immersion blender until smooth. Adjust the seasonings to taste.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wow! The weather this weekend is perfect. What a beautifully warm Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Usually the house is warmed by the oven being on all day roasting that turkey and the stovetop burners with their mashed potatoes and soup... Oooh! I can't wait!! but this year it's so hot outside, I think a little non-traditional something might be in order.

Given this weekend's warmth, what could be better than pumpkin pie ice cream? Well, vegan pumpkin pie ice cream of course!

Vegan pumpkin-pie ice cream (adapted recipe from Williams-Sonoma Pumpkin Ice Cream)

1 can coconut milk (not light)
1/3 cup agave syrup (maple syrup would be great too!)
2 Tbsp molasses (convinced that this is the secret ingredient)
2 tsp cinnamon (you can use less, I just love cinnamon)
Pinch of nutmeg, pinch of ginger, pinch of cardamom, pinch of allspice
1 cup pumpkin puree (check your freezer in case you followed my last blog post)
1 tsp vanilla

Shake the can of coconut milk, a lot. Then shake it again just to be sure. Add all ingredients to a medium pot and heat over gentle heat. Use a whisk to blend everything until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and refrigerate until cool (overnight is ok). Before pouring chilled mixture into ice cream maker, give it a good stir. It may have settled a bit. Churn according to manufacturer instructions (25-30 mins). Chill in freezer for a few hours and when ready to eat, let soften at room temperature about 10 mins.

Hope you enjoy it as much as my boys & I do! Happy Thanksgiving and bon appétit!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pumpkin Pleasures!

Wow! It's been a while! I have been so busy, my blog has taken the back burner lately. I know, everybody is busy, all the time. Ever notice that when you ask someone how they're doing they respond with "so busy" instead of "fine thanks"? Sometimes you get an "ugh, so tired" and I know, because this is the answer that tends to come to the tip of my tongue before I realize that I don't have the energy to answer "so tired" because that would involve a big long qualifying explanation. "So busy" on the other hand is perfectly acceptable. Chances are, if you're busy, you're also tired. This was me last spring, always going, never stopping... Until I got pneumonia and it knocked me off my feet. Took weeks to recover and now with Winter approaching I know I am at risk of getting it again.

I started seeing a Naturopath at the beginning of Summer and he recommended I decrease my dairy and refined sugar intake. Ack! No way did I think it would be possible for me to cut out my beloved cheese (with crackers, often a meal in itself) & ice cream (oh how I love thee, ultimate comfort food). Refined sugar I thought would be difficult in baking, but I am allowed honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and probably agave too (but I have questions about it so more on that another time). I swapped out my cow milk for rice milk lattes, sweetened with maple syrup instead of sugar. Discovered honey does work well in coffee not just tea. I found delicious coconut ice cream in the Natural Food store - because I don't always have time to make it. I ate natural black licorice to fight off mid-afternoon sugar cravings and wouldn't you know it, those cravings are gone! I did notice an increase in my salt cravings but that was temporary. Then, somewhere around the 10 week mark, something happened ...

I felt zen.

You know that feeling of being balanced? I was there. I had never felt like that. The crazy energy in my head that keeps telling my body to go go go, don't sit, get up, get it done... That crazy energy? Calm. Not gone, just tamed. And my body, the one that keeps telling my brain to slow down cause it needs a rest, it just goes now, all day but at a more even pace.

So what does one do with more energy? Why, one plans ahead for those busy times and gets cooking!! Now that I'm back in the office and the boys are back in school, I've turned to my trusted mom calendar for scheduling activities and preparing our meal plans. I've decided to try out 2-week period meal plans and see if that makes a difference and so far, so good! On the second week, my grocery shopping is done in one stop and I need to buy much less. I also save a lot of time by only going place. Here's what I made this weekend with that extra time: Pumpkin Spice Latte mix. Yup! That's right. Pumpkin Spice Latte mix. Now I know what you're thinking, can't you just get a PSL soy latte at your local coffee shop? Why yes, you could. Buy it's loaded with sugar and can you even really taste the pumpkin? Oh well I say! I will make my own!!

Here's how I ended up with this creation :)

Pumpkin Purée:

Choose 4 local/seasonal sugar (pie) pumpkins. Set oven to 400F. Slice pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds & goop, save seeds and compost goop. Place pumpkins face down on baking sheets and roast until soft. Probably 30 minutes but I actually wasn't paying attention, I was busy prepping for Monday night's dinner. Remove from oven, let cool. You'll probably notice the skin blistering. Scoop out flesh into a food processor and pulse until smooth. You should have a bit more than 7 cups of pumpkin purée. Divide into one cup servings, store in freezer for later use (pumpkin pie, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream - with coconut milk - I'm feeling inspired!).

Pumpkin Spice Latte mix:

You should have about 1/4 cup of pumpkin leftover from the purée you just made. Place it in a small saucepan along with 2 cups rice milk (or whatever milk you drink) 2 Tbsp of maple syrup, 1 Tbsp cinnamon and a pinch of your other favourite spices: nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, allspice... Whisk over med-lo heat until dissolved, store in fridge. The next morning, you'll have to stir your mixture and place some in a pot to reheat for your latte. You might want to strain it into your mug, the spices tend to drop to the bottom of the mug but that's the only downside I guess with using real ingredients.

Oh! And those saved pumpkin seeds? Wash them, dry them, coat them in olive oil and salt and toast them in the oven at 250F for about an hour.

So there you have it: 7 cups of pumpkin purée, 3 Pumpkin Spice Lattes an a mid-afternoon crunch snack for $4 and about an hour in the kitchen. That, my friends, is planning and that my friends, is zen. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Stock up for winter!

I know, I know, we've barely turned the calendar page on August and I'm posting about winter. Makes me cringe a little at the thought, but you have to start loading your freezer now if you want to enjoy local summer goodness all year round.

I picked up 5 of those 3L Ontario peach containers, they were $2 each! Family and friends came over and they all asked what I would possibly be doing with all the peaches! Well, as it turns out, Mac & Flip are peach-eating munchkins. They must have eaten an entire basket between the two of them. For the rest, I tried making fruit leather. They were tasty but I definitely need to tweak that recipe a bit. The rest, I poached, peeled, pitted and froze. I don't think I've ever had so many peaches in the freezer before. Can't wait to come up with something peachy on a snowy day!

Tonight for dinner we had chicken. We love chicken here and we eat a lot of it. I buy whole chickens when I can, they're very affordable and you get so much out of them. I love to rotisserie them on the BBQ, chop them in half and grill them butterflied or even break it into pieces. I'm starting to get the hang of that but I'm no master carver just yet. I tried poultry shears and giant kitchen knives but what works best is a very sharp poultry knife. If you're going to be breaking up chicken into pieces, invest in one of those.

You know what's also great about whole chickens? The carcass. I love making my own chicken stock and it's so easy! Here's my recipe:

Chicken carcass and other chicken bones (local)
One large handful of carrots, chopped in chunks (you don't have to peel them but I take off the tops)(local)
Celery stalks 2 or 3, chopped in chunks (local) *tip: don't be shy with the celery. I've tried making stocks without it, it's so much better with it!
Two yellow onions, chopped in chunks (cut off the tops but leave on the outer peel) (local)
Salt, peppercorns (5 or 6) and bay leaves (2 or 3)

Place chicken carcass and bones in a large stock pot with carrots, celery and onions. Fill with cold water. Season with salt, add peppercorns and bay leaves. Bring pot to a boil, cover and simmer for a couple of hours. Remove the lid and let it reduce a bit. Let cool, strain and store in the freezer. I use plastic containers for the freezer. I have managed to crack my 1L Mason jars more times than I can count. I've tried refrigerating them first, freezing with cap off, tightening the cap after stock is frozen, they almost all cracked! So disappointed. If you have a tip please let me know.

This recipe will make anywhere from 24-30 cups of stock, depending on the size of your pot.

You can also make your stock in a crockpot overnight. It will make less but it's so convenient. A little word of caution though, the smell of warm chicken stock might wake you at 3 am :)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yes you can!

Let me say this: the most difficult thing about taking dairy out of my diet is giving up ice cream. And it's summer so it's doubly difficult! What have I gotten myself into? Well, fortunately, I have discovered that you can make a lovely custard-based ice cream with coconut milk. The result is incredible!

I was on dessert duty for a family birthday party and I thought I would surprise everyone with some dairy-free-sugar-free-chocolate-peanut-butter-cup cupcakes. I mean, why should I make a lovely dessert and not be able to eat it right? Plus, the birthday girl loves crazy wild food ideas. I searched the web for hours to find a great recipe and came across this recipe for {vegan} dark chocolate peanut butter filled cupcakes

I doubled the recipe (as per the blogger's advice!) and in the first batch I substituted the cup of cane juice for 3/4 cup of honey and in the second batch I used 3/4 cup of brown rice syrup. The whole batch looked a bit wet so I added an extra 1/2 cup of flour and 3 tbsp of cocoa. They baked perfectly! 

For the icing, I already knew what I was going to use. I came across this most delicious chocolate frosting and I put it in a piping bag to make rosettes on top. I doubled the recipe because I didn't know how much I would need by using it in the piping bag. When it chills, it hardens a bit. It's delicious! Don't be afraid of the combination. Most people think of guacamole when they think of avocado but this is far from a garlic and lime taste :) At the party, all the guests were shocked when I revealed the mystery ingredient! I had them all fooled, he he he...

Cupcakes made, I had a large quantity of chocolate avocado icing left over. I decided to try a custard based ice cream with coconut milk. I was divine! Here is my recipe:

Topical Chocolate Ice Cream 

1 can of regular coconut milk (organic preferably, look for a can with the fewest ingredients)
1 can of light coconut milk (as above)
3/4 cup honey (local, yay!)
3 egg yolks (also local, yay!)
1 recipe of the chocolate frosting (I replaced the agave syrup with maple syrup which is local and I already had some in the fridge).

Shake both cans of coconut milk very well. Very very well. Place the can of regular coconut milk in a pot on the stove along with 1/2 the can of light coconut milk. Add the honey. Whisk together and heat on medium until the honey is dissolved and the liquid starts to bubble a bit. Do not let it come to a full boil and stir often to prevent from burning. 

Meanwhile, place the egg yolks in a large bowl and whisk with remaining light coconut milk. When the milk is warm, you will have to temper the egg yolks. Basically whisk your egg mixture while pouring in 1/4 of the warm milk then pour the egg mixture back in the pot whisking as you pour. Heat the mixture and stir almost constantly on medium heat for 5 or 6 minutes. Normally a regular milk custard would thicken enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon but this does not really happen with coconut milk. It does thicken a bit but you will have to trust your gut on this one. 

Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in the chocolate frosting until it is melted. Prepare an ice water bath by filing a large wide bowl with ice and cold water half way. Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean glass bowl then place the glass bowl in the ice bath to chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the bowl from the water, dry off the bottom and place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the custard. Chill the custard overnight in the fridge and churn it in an ice cream machine the next day. It was pretty soft when it came out of the ice cream machine so I placed it in the freezer for about 4 hours and it scooped out very nicely. 

Unfortunately I don't have any pictures! Rest assured it was fantastic!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Summer of Smurfs

I love the Smurfs. Les Schtroumphs. I puffi. Whichever language you choose to watch those cute little blue creatures in, you have to admit, they are adorable. Growing up in the '80s, I spend my fair share of Saturday morning hours watching them on tv. That was before the PVR, the on-demand and possibly even before the betamax recorder. Well, probably not before the beta but I still remember it. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie with my boys this summer.

What, you might ask, do Smurfs have to do with an eating local blog? Well, as it so happens, we ate Smurf potatoes for dinner last night. Blue potatoes, right from the garden to the table.

First, I had to find them. Not unlike the Smurfs, who hide very well in their magic forest! I've never had potatoes in the garden before so I didn't know where to look, or even if they would be ready. I set out with my little shovel in my overgrown-forest-of-a-garden and it didn't take very long... there they were, just below the surface! 

Here's what they looked liked when I washed them off and sliced them open, too gorgeous to peel. 

I roasted them with the usual olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. But they tasted far from usual, they were very creamy and were truly smurf-tastic!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Year in Review, a Look Ahead

I know, I know, my blog isn't exactly 1 year old yet but hear me out. I started this blog to write about the challenges and successes of trying to source and feed my family local food while working full-time outside the house and keeping up with the hectic schedule of 3 little boys. I am fortunate enough to have the summer off from work and stay home with my boys so technically my blog year is September to June :). 

What did I learn this year? I learned that sourcing local food is possible but it requires a lot of meal planning, organization, taste adventures and money. 

Meal planning: I learned that when your fridge is full of parsnips, carrots and potatoes, you need to plan your meals around them as opposed to planning your meals and fitting them in.  Not doing this results in a large pile-up of root vegetables in the veggie drawer. 

Organization: CSA deliveries happen bi-weekly on Wednesdays. I have to remember to get the cooler outside with the blankets or ice blocks before I leave the house in the morning. So far I've only forgotten once and had to improv with corn for dinner since the frozen corn had thawed by the time I got home. It also means that if I need some meat I have to plan a Saturday around going to pick it up which adds to the errand-running time on my precious weekends. It can be done, but sometimes you have to give in to reality and pick up your groceries in one stop.

Taste adventures: Parsnips, mangels, lamb's quarters, beets, farmer's cheese... These all foods that I had never eaten before. Ok, well, I had eaten beets before, but never in ice cream form! Choosing to eat local and seasonal means much less variety on your plate in the dead of winter but with some planning there is always a jar of summer tomato sauce in the freezer or some frozen summer berries for dessert. My family now eats two meatless meals a week, sometimes three if there are leftovers. I'm very proud of my boys for trying all the frittatas I made and braving all my other culinary experiments!

Money: There is no question, living local and supporting local farms and businesses costs more money. But that's when you look at the value of your dollar and realise the impact of how you spend your dollars. You may recall my post on blueberries back in the winter when I was faced with a great bargain price of $5 for 3 quarts of off-season imported blueberries. Sometimes it makes sense to buy at a great price but most times I prefer to give my money directly to our farmers. 

Looking forward, here is the direction in which I would like this blog. I'd like to keep posting recipes that are seasonal and made with local produce, I'd like to keep my readers informed of my great local finds and I'd like to start writing about my lifestyle change away from dairy and sugar. 

That last one is not going to be easy. I love dairy and I love sweet but I've begun seeing a naturopath about ways to boost my immune system and this was his recommendation. We're starting with milk, cream and white sugar. Cream. As in ice cream. How ever will I survive the summer without ice cream? Well, here's a look at my first attempt at dairy free ice cream.

Coconut and Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream

2 cans coconut milk (not light) - definitely not local
3 tsps matcha green tea - also very far from local
1/4 cup of honey - local

Blend all ingredients with a hand mixer under smooth. Place in ice cream maker and churn for 30 to 40 minutes until well set. Transfer to freezer for about 3 hours. Serve. 

It will not be very sweet but it will certainly be refreshing!! 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Peas and mint, perfect timing!

You know that saying: what grows together, goes together? So true. Surely it is not a coincidence that peas are ready when mint is at its finest! Last year we moved our mint and our raspberries to the side of the house to let them grow as they wish. They started out separate but now it's all one big giant raspberry mint forest. What to do with all the mint? Yes, I suppose I could drink them in a summer of mojitos but I haven't quite mastered the perfect recipe yet so for now I will stick to cooking with it. 

Here is a quick seasonal side recipe to any barbecued meat that is sure to please everyone, including my 5 year-old non-cheese lover who had 2 helpings!!

Coucous with Peas, Mint and Feta 

1 1/3 cup dried couscous (made in Canada)
1/2 cup fresh peas - from the pods - you can use more, it was all that I had ready (0 mile diet, from the yard)
1/4 cup feta (made in Canada)
5 large mint leaves - or more if you love mint (0 mile diet, from the yard)
Olive oil (one can only wish this was local)

Prepare couscous as per package directions. Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add peas for about 6 minutes and strain. When couscous is ready, fluff with a fork and stir in peas. Cut feta into small cubes and stir in. Stack your mint leaves on top of each other, roll them up lengthwise and cut them finely crosswise. You should have a little chiffonnade of mint leaves. Stir them in. Add a bit of olive oil and you're ready to serve. I didn't take a picture of the dish because the boys literally inhaled it! 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Surprise! Surprise!

Just a quick follow-up to my last post as I've since noticed two more surprises growing in my back yard!

Here's the first:

Not sure if you can quite make out what that little nubbin' is, but in a few months, it's going to be a pear! We planted the pear tree when my oldest turned 1 and five years later it bore its first fruit. Last year it produced nothing and we were kinda bummed about that but we had heard that pear trees only bear fruit every two years. When we saw this little fruit we were so excited to see it! There were so many flowers in bloom on this tree, it's hard to believe only one pear is growing but we'll take it!

My second son was born in the winter so when the soil was ready in the spring, we planted a cherry tree. That was 5 years ago and this is the first year I looked up and saw these:

I counted 20 cherries! I've since gone back and noticed a few pits on the ground, I think the birds may have gotten to them. I'll have to figure out a way to protect them if I want to harvest them for my family!

Monday, June 13, 2011

What's Growing 2011

I had been wanting to write this post for a while now but due to circumstances outside of my control - my son dropped the laptop, the hard drive crashed, sent it in for restore... - so 3 weeks later, here it is! 

I wanted to share what's growing in my garden this year. The returning champions are: asparagus, chives, parsley, thyme, cilantro, sage, kale, onions, lettuce, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes and dill. Oh. The. D-i-l-l! Last summer when it went to seed, I cut off the tops and tossed them back in the garden. When spring came around and I was watching the first little greens pop out of the frozen ground, I noticed what seemed to be dill covering half my garden. Sure enough, it's dill. It's dill carpeting! Unless someone can share their dill inspired dish, I will be pulling dill for the rest of the season.

Planted once again this year: tomatoes, marigolds, basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, zucchini, peas, red lettuce, radishes and beets. These are so simple to maintain, aside from spreading some eggshells  and coffee grinds around the bottom of the tomatoes and the copper wiring around the lettuce to keep the slugs out. Oh! and giving the peas a little climbing structure or else they'll grab on to whatever they can, like the onions! The only finicky ones are the basil plants, they need a lot of water and their flowers need to be snapped off to keep the leaves growing. I planted the marigolds to keep the bugs away from the tomatoes. This really works. I bought this book to learn more about companion planting: Carrots Love Tomatoes.  I used it to select different plants for the garden this year including: savory, potatoes, echinacea, pumpkins, lovage, borage and sunflowers. 

Around the side of the house we have mint, raspberries and rhubarb, all growing together and left to battle it out for space. The raspberries actually popped out from under the wall barrier and are now growing in the grass! We've pretty much eaten all the rhubarb already, I've made quite a few compotes. After I harvested the rhubarb, I couldn't help but admire the colour. Wouldn't you love to have a dress that starts in light green and finished in a deep shimmery reddish-pink?

I also have lavender growing in the front garden and I've planted chamomile and calendula  to accompany the lavender in my bath salts and bath fizzy production this year. The borage should be a fun addition as well. 

So. That's what's growing in my garden in 2011. I was trying to keep it simple this year since I have my CSA baskets that will continue to be delivered. Believe it or not, it's less than what was planted in 2010, more focus on flowering plants to bring beneficial bugs to the garden. There is a huge bumble bee that visits daily and we've already seen a beautiful yellow and black butterfly. I'll try to snap a picture if I can but there's never any guarantees with the wildlife. I'd love to know what's growing in your garden!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mangel Mystery

Well, well, well... What do we have here?

Turnips? Nope. Beets? Nope. What ever could they be? I receive these little mysteries in my latest CSA delivery. I quickly checked the farm's website but none of the pictures resembled what I received. So off I go to Twitter to send the picture around and hope that one of the many foodies can help me out. No one guessed it right but many were very curious. Then I turned to Facebook for help. I posted the picture but still, no correct guesses. Well, the only way I could get an answer was to email the farm and of course, I got my answer. They are mangels! Mangels? Yup. Also known as sweet beets.

I'm told they're to be cooked like beets. I'm always nervous to try beet-related recipes since my beet and chocolate ice cream epic failure this past winter. I peeled them, chopped them up into little cubes, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and herbes de Provence. I wrapped them in foil and placed them on the BBQ on low heat. The verdict? Good stuff! I left them on the grill too long and the undersides burnt so I had to cut off the bits before serving but I don't think it impacted the taste at all. So what did the taste like? While it's true that they're kind of like beets, they're more watery, more sweet and less pasty in texture.

Curious to know if anyone else has ever tried mangels and if you have any interesting recipes!

Friday, May 13, 2011

About Ewoks and Springtime in Ottawa

Finally! The sun is out, the ground is thawing and I really think Spring is here. A sure sign? Fiddleheads arrived in our CSA box last week. It was so nice to see the fiddleheads because they were truly something new for all of us. Although I had eaten them before I had never cooked them. Best way is to boil them until bright green then strain and drop in a bowl of ice cold water. I sauteed them with garlic butter for a few minutes and they were ready to eat. 

Question is: How would I get my boys to eat them? If you've never had fiddleheads, they taste like asparagus but they have a chewy texture. Two strikes against the fiddlehead for "who wants to try some?" Fiddleheads are the furled frong of a young fern and are only available for a few short weeks at the beginning of May. They look like violin curls. You know what other curls they look like? That's right... Princess Leia's curls!! Oh! when I made that remark the boys were so curious. I told them we were eating Princess Leia curls for dinner and they bought it. Well the older two did anyway, my little Flip just throws all green veg on the floor. My Mac then asked where they came from and on the spot somehow I came up with: "they grow in the Ewok forest". Yup. They bought it :) My oldest had TWO servings!!

May the fourth be with you ;)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Parsnips, parsnips, parsnips

I must say that up until recently I was never a big fan of parsnips. Probably because I never ate them as a kid, my mom thought they were disgusting. You know how it goes, whoever cooks gets to pick what's on the plate. I don't think I even tasted a parsnip until I was 30! 

These days, my fridge is full of parsnips. Let me qualify full: 3. My bi-weekly CSA vegetable home delivery by Bryson Farms has meant a whole new adventure in tastes, mostly because I don't decide what's in my basket but I plan my meals around what I receive. This has made meal planning quite a bit easier. What has happened over the past few weeks has been the consistent serving of (at least one) meatless meal per week. I have discovered the best weeknight recipe in the world: the frittata. Why serve it for brunch when you can have it whipped up and ready to eat in less than 30 minutes?? 

Swiss Chard, Parsnip and Cheese Frittata

4 Swiss chard leaves, stems removed and chopped (to chop them, I roll the leaves length-wise and slice them across - like a jelly roll - plus one chop across the middle.)
3 small parnips
1 small onion
7 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1 piece of Gruyère cheese (about the width of 2 fingers - sorry, I don't usually measure)
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil, salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Peel the parsnips then use the potato peeler and peel the parsnips into long strips. It's easier to rotate the parsnip as you peel. You probably won't be able to use the whole parsnip, it'll be hard to peel it when you get to the core. Slice the onion in half then slice it into long strips. 

In an oven-proof frying pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and parsnip strips. Add a bit of salt. Stir them frequently so that they don't stick to the pan. When the onions have softened and the parsnips have started to wilt and turn a golden colour, add the Swiss chard. Cook until the Swiss chard is wilted (you might need to turn down the heat).

In a medium sized bowl, whisk 7 eggs. Whisk in the milk slowly. Shred the cheese or chop it into small cubes (I prefer the cubes cause it's one less dish to wash). Finely chop the garlic. Add the cheese, garlic and a bit of pepper to the egg mixture. 

When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable mix to the egg mixture. Return the pan to the medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pour the veggies and egg mixture into the pan. Cook for about 4 minutes until the eggs are set around the sides then pop it in the oven for 10-12 minutes until set. 

Serve with a mixed salad.


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Taste for Everyone

Tonight's meal was going to be nice an light. Some roasted fish with dried herbs and garlic and some zucchini "fettucine" with tomato sauce from the freezer. Outside... there was a snow storm and to be honest, I really didn't feel like a light dinner, I felt like having greasy pub food. And I heard that little voice in my head saying "the boys won't eat that roasted fish. They will come home, ask what's for dinner and say yuck". Then I had a flash of inspiration! 

I first met Jennie (@really_life) on Twitter last fall when I was tweeting for advice about what to do with all my apples. She is the one who introduced me to the crockpot apple butter recipe and showed me how to can my butters (see September post: Apple Overload!). Last night I was reading her most recent post about challenges for personal improvement. The one thing that really jumped out at me was this: 

-Try one new recipe that contains ingredients that in theory EVERY member of your household will eat. Aim for it being a healthy recipe.

So mom? What's for dinner? (Beer-battered) Fish sticks and zucchini "fries"!!! Ok, well, I admit, fried food is not healthy but lets start with baby steps. I don't have a deep-fryer (yet!) so I used a large frying pan. The way you know if your oil is ready is to put in a 1 inch piece of bread. If it turns golden within 20 seconds, it's hot enough. For the zucchini "fries" I only used the recipe as a guide, I liked the idea of sprinkling them with with the flour mixture in advance. I had plenty of batter for 2 large fillets cut into 8 servings plus one good size zucchini. I fried everything in small batches (starting with the zucchini) and once the pieces were drained on the paper towels I transferred them to a baking stone in a warm oven (170 F). Everything remained crispy, I was very impressed!

I didn't have any tartar sauce so I made my default "homemade cheater aioli". Here's the recipe:

 1/3  to 1/2 cup store-bought mayonnaise (I prefer the one that is made with free-range Canadian eggs)
Juice of half a lemon (fair-trade or organic if you can)
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic (if you can make a paste with the side of your knife, even better)
1 Tbsp olive oil

 Mix all ingredients to combine and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes so that the ingredients all blend together. If you're making this recipe for a veggie platter dip or a sweet potato fry dip, I suggest you double it ;)

Of course, not everyone appreciates garlicky mayonnaise so out comes... the ketchup! (Side note: just realized that although my ketchup is organic, it is not made from Ontario tomatoes... Going to have to take a good look at my jars...)

So, the verdict: Not only did all the boys eat everything on their plate, JJ & Mac had extra servings of fish, fought over the last piece and tried to sneak leftovers off daddy's plate!! I couldn't believe it. There were absolutely no complaints, the boys were super happy and chatty and told us about their school day.  I need to make this (not so slimming) dish more often!! 

Thanks for the challenge Jennie! We really enjoyed our family dinner :)

Read Jennie's "challenge yourself" post here:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Winter Is Almost Over Soup

Spring is just around the corner and the boys are outside playing with the last piles of snow in the backyard (or at least they were when I started typing this sentence but they have since come in and want to paint...)

I really want to have a nice bright soup and finish up all the winter vegetables I have hanging around because it won't be long before we see some green!! 

Recipe for Coconut Curried Turnip Soup

1 ugly-looking inexpensive local wax turnip
1 local sweet potato (if you don't have local sweet potatoes, you could use a local white potato and a local carrot)
2 local cooking onions
1.5L homemade chicken stock (or enough to cover the vegetables + a bit)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk - not local but also not locally available - buy organic or fair trade if you can 
Curry powder (likely not of local origin)
1 Tbsp Olive or Vegetable oil

Cut vegetables into small chunks. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high. Add the onions and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Once you can smell the onions, add the turnips and sweet potato chunks. Turn heat to medium, fry them up for a bit so that they start to sweat. Don't let them stick to the bottom or burn so stir them a few times. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cook until the sweet potato and turnip are soft (you'll probably have to turn the heat back down to medium or medium-low). Turn off the burner, remove from heat and use a hand blender to make a puree. Stir in the can of coconut milk and add curry powder to your liking. I use about 1.5 tsp. If it needs a bit of salt (which can be the case if you use homemade stock) then go ahead and add some but I like the sweet curry taste of the soup.

You could top with a dollop of plain yogurt if you like the hot/cool combination.

Tip: turnip takes longer to cook than sweet potato so cut the pieces smaller.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dinner Improv

Ever have one of those weekday mornings where you think: "ok, if I can make enough tonight for leftovers, I will make it through the rest of this insane week"? Right, well, that was my plan of attack for tonight's dinner until I got home and got a call from hubs saying he had to work late and could I pick up the boys from daycare? No problem (as I think to myself "scrap 40 minutes from dinner prep"). 

So I come home with the 3 boys and I have zero time to think. Bread crumbs? Ugh - gotta get the food processor out. Almonds? Same thing. Corn flakes? None. Solution? Turkey nacho meatloaf! Yup! Why not?!? and some roasted potatoes on the side cause I have to finish my CSA order - more to come tomorrow!!

Roasted potatoes:
1 sweet potato (local)
6 small fingerling potatoes (local)
*cut into cubes (skin on or off, whichever your preference) and parboil. Drain and chuff them up in the sieve. Return to pot, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and dried rosemary (from the garden). Bake at 425F until golden & crisp. 

Turkey nacho meatloaf (prep while potatoes are boiling)
2 pounds ground turkey (origin unmarked on package. Creepy)
1 lg free run egg - lightly beaten (Canadian)
1 cup of smashed up nacho chips - I used the blue corn ones, lightly salted - put them in a plastic bag and crush with rolling pin (made in Canada).
1 small onion (local) - finely diced
1/4 - 1/3 cup medium salsa (imported. Origin unmarked on package. Also creepy)
1/3 cup small cubes of mozzarella (Canadian)
2 Tbsp Meatloaf Blend (prepared in Canada)
3 Tsp Taco Seasoning (prepared in Canada)

*Combine egg into the ground turkey. Stir in nacho crumbs, then onion, salsa, cheese and seasonings. Scoop into muffin tins to make individual loaves, bake at 425F for 18-20 minutes. Once meatloaves are in the oven, potatoes should be ready to be drained and put in the oven - they'll probably be ready at the same time. 

At this point, I am a bit nervous. It looks good and smells good but if it doesn't taste good, there goes my plan for leftovers this week! This is truly a culinary experiment.

Serve topped with usual nacho toppings (salsa, mozzarella and sour cream - Canadian).
It was delish. The boys ate with no complaints and thought it was cool that the blue chips were inside!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Winter bounty

OH! You know that nagging feeling of wanting to do something and never getting around to it? Well... Go! Go now! Go do it! Ok, well finish reading my post first, then go ;) In my last post I wrote about blueberry guilt. All week long whenever I opened the fridge, there they were, staring at me. Creepy foreign blue fruit. 

I signed on with a CSA farm that same week and a week and a half later I received my first delivery. It's so easy! I pay online and put my cooler on my doorstep. I leave a blanket in the cooler for a bit of insulation. They deliver right to my door!! When I got home this week, it was like Christmas!!! My oldest son (JJ, he's 7) helped me carry the cooler to the kitchen and we unpacked it together. 

It was full of surprises!! Mushrooms, garlic, heirloom potatoes, lettuce, micro greens, carrots, parsnip (new kind of carrot, as JJ put it), chard, celery, onions, sweet potato... I must be forgetting something. 

Oh yes! broccoli and cauliflower! Notice the bright red bell pepper right in the middle there? We filled half the table with tons of produce. Tons of local produce and celared roots. My kitchen table was so bright! JJ even asked me if we could make a salad for dinner!! Um? Yeah!!
Check out the inside of these gorgeous heirloom potatoes. Wish I knew what they were called!
 I'm thinking that my menu planning for the coming week might be a bit easier with a fridge full of vegetables. I'm already looking forward to my next delivery, and the next one, and the next one after that...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Oh! Now I have guilt!

Does January officially have 45 days? This month feels like it's never ending. The Holidays are over, the thermometer reads -30C and all I can see out my window is snow. I suppose that's all part of being Canadian. Then there's the flu, the ear aches, the tummy aches and all the other bugs that make you feel under the weather and make you want to stay under the covers and hibernate the winter away. 

Not sure if it's like this in your house but here, whenever we're run down by winter bugs, we always seem to come up with a new resolution: gonna wear an extra sweater under my coat (until I'm at the bus stop and realize I didn't), gonna do more exercise (as soon as I *feel* better), gonna go to bed earlier (yeah, right!), gonna eat more fresh fruit... wait! what? in winter???  Not if mommy-the-local-produce-obsessed-household-grocery-shopper has anything to say about it. 

Apparently "fruit" means: melons, grapes, pineapple and berries (all kinds - not frozen) and not the apples (local), bananas (my token acceptable year-round imported fruit), or oranges (currently in season) which are in my house. So... what's a mom to do? Offer beets and turnips? Epic fail. Sure enough, during my Saturday morning grocery run, what do I see at the entrance of the store? Blueberries (from Chile - gasp!) 3 pints for $5!!! The offer is too good to pass up!! For the sake of sanity I am standing 2 meters away from them contemplating the pros and cons. There is no way $5 for my 3 pints covers the entire cost of transportation or the farmer's wages, plus think about the Greenhouse Gas emissions, the pesticides, the freshness (surely they were not picked yesterday)... Yes. All of this is going through my mind because of blueberries in January. I finally suck it up and put the 3 pints in my cart. As Rex the big green dinosaur from Toy Story says so well: Oh! Now I have guilt!! I may have broken out into a cold sweat. I felt like I was wearing the scarlet letter. I turn to my Twitterverse and tell my followers that I might get struck by lightening because I am buying blueberries. 

I got home and guess what!?! Everyone is thrilled to have blueberries. So now the boys are going to be eating fruit all week. That's not such a bad thing is it? They eat their apples (most of the time), they find oranges messy and even in the banana container, my 5 year old still manages to make a banana mushy and won't eat it. A bit of change in the routine might do them some good. 

As for me, did I get over my sinful purchase? Not really. It just seems so wrong to have fresh berries in winter. But I did realize one thing, I need more freshness in my kitchen. So what did I do? I signed up for not one but two CSAs.What is a CSA? Consumer supported agriculture. You can read about it here. One is a local farm that delivers fresh produce year-round (even in winter - thanks to its greenhouses) and cellared vegetables. I can't wait to see what I get! I will certainly have a post about my first CSA experience. The other is meat and eggs and it's only for the summer. I have written a post about the Rock n Horse farm before and I only have wonderful things to say about their meat. Somehow I think perhaps these blueberries were put there for a reason, as a reminder that even in winter, local farmers are in need of our support. They're also a reminder that everything in moderation is good for the body and good for the soul.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Root vegetables... not chips.

As the second week of January begins and we finish (only) the third week of winter (hard to believe), the local produce in the grocery store is scarce and can seem boring. That is until you bring it all together, with a help of a few extras! 

In my last post I mentioned that I would try root vegetable chips. I am sad to report, those were an EPIC failure. I bought rutabaga, beets, carrots and parsnips (all available from Ontario at the moment) and sliced them with the thin setting on my mandolin. I made an industrial quantity of the stuff. Add a bit of olive oil, some sea salt and some dried rosemary from my garden and I thought for sure I had a winning recipe. No such luck. The slices either burnt to a crisp or never crisped after cooling. So I scraped the batch. As the old saying goes, there are no mistakes in the kitchen only composting opportunities! I washed off my mandolin, reset it to the thick setting and tried again. Smaller batch and no rutabaga. These didn't burn but they also didn't crisp. I still don't know what I did wrong and I was so disappointed. I've done potatoes the same way and I've always succeeded. I will try again, when I have a spare hour or so to dedicate to another attempt. 

The second batch wasn't completely ruined however as I chopped them up and added them to a dish of stewed lentils with bacon (local), spinach (not local but organic) and some canned tomatoes (product of Canada). ~ Side note: always check the origin of the canned product. Sometimes they can be made from Canadian and imported products or sometimes the country of origin isn't even listed. Why don't they list the country of origin? So frustrating! ~ The lentil dish was very tasty and those roasted carrots and beets made the dish very colourful. Even the boys ate the dish and probably didn't even realize they were eating beets ;)