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!