Monday, January 31, 2011

Day 29 - Is there anything bacon can't do?

Apple Bacon Pork Chops, Garden Beans, Maple Smashed Turnips
I love bacon, especially this new local stuff we've been getting. It does amazing things to soups, stews, and in last night's meal, pork chops. It's a thick cut, nice and dry and has a great smoky aroma. The stuff from the grocery store is insipid and always seems so wet and having fallen in love with local bacon, I can't go back.

Tomorrow is our big 30 day celebration. They say it takes 30 days of continuously doing something for it to become habit. Being on the cusp of 30 days, I can say it's *almost* true. We're still doing a fair amount of cheating, but we've yet to cheat on the essentials we're committed to: meat, dairy, vegetables and grains. Our CSA shares run out in a few weeks and I'm becoming nervous how we're going to get enough vegetables to add variety in our diet, but I'm confident it will sort itself out. There's still plenty of beets, turnips, cabbage, parsnips and potatoes in our cold storage and plenty of pressure canned vegetables in our pantry. 

We used some of those pressure canned vegetables in last night's meal. Not pictured was a side dish of buttered beets. Our dinner was really simple, quick and tasty. Give it a whirl. 

Bacon Goodness

Apple Bacon Pork Chops

1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and chopped
3 slices of bacon, sliced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 tbsp grainy mustard (such as uncanny's Wine and Sage Mustard)
1/4 tsp dried thyme, rubbed
A couple good turns of pepper mill
2-4 tbsp 10% cream (or apple cider and reduce it to thicken)

4 good size pork chops
1/2 tbsp canola oil

1. In a pan over medium heat, warm up your oil and season your pork chops with salt and pepper. Pan fry the chops, about 3-4 minutes per side, seasoning on the other side when you've flipped it. When browned nicely, move to a casserole dish.

2. In pan, add in chopped bacon and sautee. When browned, add in apples and onion and cook on low until softened. 

3. Add in mustard, thyme, pepper and cream and when it's thickened and seasoned to your liking, pour over pork chops and bake at 300 for 15-20 minutes or until pork chops are cooked to your preference. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekly Confessions

You'd think herbs and spices would be enough to stop us from cheating and it has, for the most part. And yet...

Yours truly, caved. I found this on the 50% off pile and couldn't resist the savings or the delicious chocolaty, organicy, fair-trady goodness. So I bought two and we enjoyed them throughout the week. 

The other was a petite-cheat. During our Locavore Survival Feast, the liquor store in town got snowed in and I needed 3 tbsp of wine for my mussel recipe. I used some leftover brandy I had kicking around instead. Can't say it did much for the flavour (brandy and curry, not my favourite combination), but it did add something water couldn't. 

There you have it. The cheats of the week.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Da, Baby!

Gorgeous Winter Day
The upside of a winter storm is the next day. It's often sunny, cold and the snow has covered the trees and given it a winter wonderland charm. Until you realize there's still more shovelling to do. 

Seriously Snowy
When your snow banks are almost as tall as your husband, you know you're in trouble. Thankfully, we had some hearty winter food to keep us warm and nourished and our day went something like this: a hearty bowl of oatmeal and blueberries and a steaming bowl of chicken borscht.

Chicken Borscht

I love everything about borscht and after living in Ukraine and sampling various family versions, this is my favourite. Unfortunately, it's a family secret and I can't divulge my recipe, but I'm sure there are scads of tasty recipes online that will do the trick.

Our day was finished off with some homemade pasta with pesto we made back in the fall, omitting the cheese (pictured is my bowl of rice pasta, but Jeff enjoyed previously made and frozen pasta). I finished my bowl off with some grated local mozzarella and tucked in to some delicious garlicky basil flavours that took me back to the summer. Completed the meal with a slice of apple cake and celebrated another locavore day. Da, Baby!
Pesto Pasta

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Locavore Survival Feast

It feels like this winter is never ending. Just after we managed to survive two solids days of frigid, freezing weather, we get walloped by another weather bomb. It was the kind of snow that started early and just kept getting worse, as the wind howled and the drifts grew bigger.

The perfect day to stay inside, stay warm and dream of a survival feast and conjure up the best way to reward ourselves for shovelling during Honey Bear's nap. The morning was lazily enjoying some pancakes, a steaming mug of coffee, pyjamas and episodes of My So Called Life. Oh snow days...

Lunch was some leftover Turkey Fiesta Soup and dinner was this fantastic explosion of flavours: Spicy Curried Mussels, fresh baked French baguettes and Winter Spice Cake with Caramelized Apples.

Spicy Curried Mussels

I used this recipe from Gourmet magazine via Epicurious and I can't believe it's taken us 26 days for us to finally eat some local seafood and it doesn't get better than PEI mussels. Sopping up the curry cream broth was even better with some French baguettes.

French Baguettes
I followed this recipe here at All Recipes and used my Kitchen Aid dough hook for ease and convenience in this fast bread recipe. Baguette's are totally the way to go when you're in a pinch for time. Start to finish was about 2 hours and I didn't once knead it by hand. It was great that the bread was fast because the Winter Spice cake I adapted from a Bon Appetit was fiddly and took *forever*. Definitely a special occasion cake.

Honey Caramel Sauce
I started by making a Honey Caramel sauce of 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 cup 10% cream. Combine ingredients and bring to a boil on medium heat for 8-10 minutes and until the mixture thickens and turns a caramel colour. It will thicken up once cooled, so be careful not to over reduce. 

The second step was peeling, coring and chunking up 2 1/4 lbs of Golden Delicious apples and sauteeing them with 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp honey for about 6 minutes on medium. Increase heat to medium high and add another tablespoon of honey until browned, about 2 minutes.

In a 9" cake pan, line the bottom with parchment paper and butter the whole thing. I ran out of parchment paper, so I went the butter/flour route (with mixed results, so follow the recipe!). In the cake pan, spread 3 tbsp caramel sauce on the bottom of your 9" cake and arrange your softened apples. 

Next, mix up your dry ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Honey Caramel sauce
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup honey

Cream honey and sugar until smooth. Add in caramel sauce, vanilla and sour cream and stir. Add in half of the dry ingredients and stir. Stir in the 2 eggs and finish with the last of the dry ingredients. Pour the cake batter over top the arranged apples and bake at 350 for 45 minutes until tester comes out clean.

I'm hoping with the parchment paper you won't have the same trouble I did. All the apples stayed on the bottom of the pan and we had to rearrange them, so it wasn't as pretty as we hoped. 

With your leftover Caramel Honey sauce, it's perfect to drizzle on your cake and makes a great dip for apple slices later. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Robbie Burns Day: Locavore Style

"To make a happy fireside clime To weans and wife, That's the true pathos and sublime Of human life." ~ Robert Burns.

While the ingredients for haggis are local, I wasn't about to attempt it or go scouring the countryside for sheep gut (and what, exactly, would I do with it?!)

Instead, we went the pub route with homemade vegetable chips, deep fried haddock and a coleslaw with a starter of Scotch Broth (minus the barley). It was so delicious, especially since we had been craving crispy potato chips for a while now. While something you shouldn't eat everyday, crispy fish and chips was such a lovely treat.

Getting the Perfect Temperature
While deep frying is something we do about once a year, the trick is getting the oil at the perfect temperature. Too low and your food absorbs the oil and too hot will quickly singe your food. A candy or deep fry thermometer is an easy way to ensure the proper temperature and cooking time.

Potato, Carrot, Parsnip and Beet Chips

We put the vegetables through the food processor on the slicer setting. In the future, a mandoline is totally the way to go. We didn't get the vegetables thin enough and they weren't as crispy as we liked. We weren't crazy about the carrot, parsnip and beet chips since they didn't crisp up, but we're willing to try them again if properly sliced. Still, they were delicious tossed in salt and pepper and was a new way to enjoy root vegetables.

Once cooked, we battered chunks of haddock for Honey Bear and coated one large piece for us. The coleslaw is a mixture of red cabbage, a golden delicious apple (skin on) and some carrot in a yogurt, mustard, honey vinegrette. It was really great and a lovely change from the usual fare.

Fish and Chips: Locavore Style
Happy Robbie Burns Day!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Musings Over Turkey Fiesta Soup

I woke up to this:

 I woke up to a gorgeously sunny and astonishingly freezing temperatures of -24 (-38 with the windchill.) For my Farenheit buddies, that's -11 or -36. It was the kind of morning that as much as you want to enjoy that sun, you're mindful that you're skin will freeze in  minutes and I kind of like my skin as is.

Gorgeously Sunny and Astonishingly Freezing

As I stared out my kitchen window into my garden, lost in reverie amid a cloud of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coffee aromas, I surveyed the backyard that is now buried under multiple inches of snow. I spotted my poor baby magnolia tree, almost covered completely with snow and wondered how anything can bounce back after such a punishing winter. How does something so fragile return, year after year, to grace us with such beautiful and delicate flowers after being pummeled by wind, sleet, snow and inhumane temperatures?

This is a question only a big pot of soup can answer. If you have soup, you have everything.

Turkey Fiesta Soup

I can't really give a recipe, since it's such a smattering of this and that. Some cubed cooked turkey, about 1 1/4 cups chipotle salsa, some vegetable broth, some onions, carrots and cabbage, some cumin, coriander, chili powder and parsley. Some rehydrated Yellow Eyed Peas, some "refried" beans I had kicking about, a bit of sour cream and some shredded sharp cheddar. It was spicy, smokey and soul-soothingly and bone-warmingly delicious. Until it warms up, this Locavore is holding tight, over a steaming bowl of soup and dreaming of warmer days to come.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sneaky Mama Toddler Pancakes

While Honey Bear is enjoying the 100 Mile Challenge, she has unique challenges of her own - she's picky, texture sensitive, will rarely eat meat, needs more iron and is on a high-fat, high-calorie diet. While she eats mostly what we cook and bake, but has some special needs that can't be met by a local diet and is obviously exempt from the challenge.

Since we're still trucking away on our leftovers of Turkey Pot Pie and leftover Potato and Leek Soup from the freezer, I'm turning tonight's post over to Honey Bear's breakfast, which is full of good stuff both parent(s) and tot will love.

Gingerbread Oatmeal Pancakes

I've adapted this recipe from the original Red Rose cookbook from 1963 for Gingerbread Waffles.

Gingerbread Oatmeal Pancakes 
a.k.a. Sneaky Mama Toddler Pancakes

2 cups flour
1/2 cup large flake oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup butter
1/2 cup *molasses
1/2 cup winter squash puree (butternut, buttercup, pumpkin - just make sure it's well drained)
1 egg, unbeaten
1 cup milk

1. Sift together dry ingredients.
2. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip butter until creamy and airy. Gradually blend in molasses and squash.
3. Stir in 1/2 cup of dry ingredients. Beat in egg. Alternately add remaining dry ingredients and milk.
4. Let stand for 10 minutes while griddle heats. Melt a pat of butter and fry up pancakes. The squash makes these pancakes more delicate and tougher to flip. Keeping them on the smaller side (i.e. the size of your spatula) will make it easier to flip without breaking or having them flop around. While they seem goopy and fragile in the pan, they are light and delicate when fully cooked.

* Link takes you to Crosby Molasses, a Saint John, NB based company with great recipes and 126 interesting factoids about molasses.
** Molasses is a great source of iron

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Life Hands You Turkey

You make a stew, a soup, a pasta dish and a pie. At least, that's what I plan on doing.

Admittedly, I winced a little when picking up our Epiphany turkey at the local butchers. Turns out, happier birds cost at least 3x as much. Since I've heard from turkey farmers about the sad state of an abnormally busty and completely confined turkey's life, I'm happy to pay the extra. Well. Maybe not happy, but understanding.

Every time I shell out for an expensive turkey, I almost always forget how much that big bird just keeps giving and giving. After the stuff-yourself-until-you-can't-breathe initial turkey roast comes the sandwiches, the carcass gets boiled for soup and the meat gets frozen for future use. Unsure exactly what to do with pounds of sliced turkey and not ready for more pasta, I opted for a quintessential winter dish: a turkey pot pie.

For the crust, I managed somehow to appear busy long enough that Jeff made the dough (yippee! I hate fiddly cooking). He followed this recipe from All Recipes, but ommitted the shortening for butter. I'm so glad I stalled long enough because no one makes pastry like Jeff.

For the filling, I adapted this recipe from All Recipes:

Turkey Pot Pie

4 tbsp butter, divided
1 small onion, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 small turnip, peeled and diced
3 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp uncanny's grainy mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable stock
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 1/2 cups diced turkey
3 tbsp flour
1/2 cup milk

1. In a deep, large frying pan, melt 2 tbsp of butter and sautee onions, carrots, spices and mustard until softened. Add potatoes and turnip with 2 cups of stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are al dente.
2. While this is cooking, in a medium saucepan, melt remaining 2 tbsp of butter and add 3 tbsp of flour. Very slowly, add in your milk while constantly stirring to make a rudimentary bechemel sauce.
3. Once vegetable mixture is softened, add cubed turkey and bechemel sauce and stir until mixture is incorporated and thickened. Let cool completely before adding to your pie crust.
4. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, reducing heat to 350 degrees and baking for another 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Dark Days Challenge #7 - While I Siesta'd I dreamed of a Fiesta!

This is another one of those "I have made fire moments": I took a simple craving for bold, exotic flavours and worked them into a Dark Days meal.

When I started the 100 Mile Challenge, I assumed it would be variations on a turkey dinner theme - root vegetables mashed or roasted and some sort of meat roasted or stewed. I assumed it would be the same flavours over and over again, mostly savoury and sage. Then one day while napping, I had a brilliant idea (if I do say so myself): I could easily make everything for turkey fajitas. I have cheese, sour cream, shredded cooked turkey from our Epiphany feast, canned chipotle salsa, jacob's cattle beans, frozen whole jalapenos and flour. Those are your basic ingredients for a Fiesta of flavors.

Refried Beans in the Crock Pot
I began by making my version of "refried beans" following this All Recipes. I highly recommend reducing the salt from 5 tsp down to 2 tsp. Once the beans were cooked, I put them through the food mill and it came out tasting and looking exactly like refried beans.

"Refried" Jacob's Cattle Beans

For the tortillas, I used this recipe for Homemade Flour Tortillas and used butter instead of lard. Fresh, they were soft and pliable but after an hour or so, they dried out even after being in a plastic bag and they became hard like crackers. We may spread the ingredients over it as a pizza for leftovers. 

Pan Fried Tortillas

The finished product was delicious with bright and bold flavours from the spicy beans to the sprightly salsa. Making the beans a couple days ahead saved me time, so it was a relatively fast meal to prepare and serve. Enjoy!

Turkey Fajitas with Chioptle Salsa

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Build Me Up, Buttercup

Only this bad boy didn't let me down. I bought him for a whopping $.29/lb. Nothing like local AND cheap! I've focused on desserts with this squash, instead of my usual roasted squash soup, mostly because we're under doctor's orders to fatten up Honey Bear. Turns out, it might just be us (read: me) that's doing any fattening, since Honey Bear turned her nose up at both dishes. Still, don't let the untrained palate of a 17-month-old discourage you. They were delicious!

First up was a Buttercup Squash Custard based on a Rachael Ray recipe:

1 buttercup squash (the cooked flesh should measure 2 lbs on your kitchen scale)
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla and cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg

Throw your 2 lbs of cooked squash in the food processor and process until smooth. In your stand mixer or using a hand mixer and a deep bowl, add your pureed squash and the rest of your ingredients and process until smooth. Butter and fill 6-8 ramekins with your custard mixture and place in a large 9x13 pan, filled half way with warm water. Bake at 325 degrees for about 40 minutes until firm and tester comes out clean. This is a delicious custard, very similar to pumpkin pie filling without the hassle of a pie crust.

The tasty finished product.

The second was a Maple Buttercup Bread, very much like a pumpkin or banana loaf. I found the recipe here at Diana's Desserts and followed the directions exactly, just omitted the lemon juice. It was a quick and easy way to use up the rest of my buttercup squash puree. My only recommendation is to keep the temperature around 325 degrees for the full bake. I followed the directions of 350 degrees and at about 30 minutes in, my loaf was burning but still soupy in the middle.

Honey Buttercup Bread

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Julia -- Eat Your Heart Out!

Beef  Bourguignon

Is there anything more local than this? My lack of photography skills can't quite capture the sheer rustic and hearty deliciousness of this stew. Paired with a slice of Jeff's local"ish" rye bread, a scoop of goat cheese mashed potatoes and a glass of Nova Scotia's Jost Winery's Comtessa Red, I can't imagine a better way to spend a cold winter's evening. 

I followed Julia Child's original recipe as closely as I could, given I didn't have some ingredients, like pearl onions or another 2 lbs of stewing beef kicking around. The mashed potatoes did great capturing the extra liquid, as did the bread. 

We followed it up with a mug of local, herbal tea and some buttercup squash custard (recipe coming tomorrow!) and celebrated winter and the fantastic opportunity to hibernate, regroup and recoup before another busy growing season starts.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Weekly Confessions

Now that we've added spices, coffee and tea back into our diet, there really hasn't been too much to confess about. Still, in typical 100 Mile Locavore style, there was lots of food that distracted us and kept us from being strictly 100 Miles. Here they were:
  • Jeff thought spices meant chocolate. He made the most delicious hot chocolate with real dark chocolate and a splash of brandy from our Marroni Al Liquore. It was scrumptious and sinful and totally worth confessing over. 
  • We got take out, but only one order. And split it. It was one of those nights when turkey soup wasn't cutting it and that Vietnamese menu was calling our name. So we savoured our Bun Bi and vowed not to do it again.
  • Jeff (are you seeing a theme here?!) also thought that since spices were allowed, so were all kinds of flours our local mill produces. Speerville Flour Mill is amazing. We love it. They have all sorts of flours, grains, seeds, pancake mixes, etc. They use old school equipment and don't enrich their flours so it's as simple and pure as possible. Still, from what I understand, only their wheat and oats are strictly local and that's what we've confined ourselves to. Jeff thought it would be interesting to try out a German rye bread recipe and picked up their rye flour. So now we're using it in delicious and very non-local ways.
If I'm going to cheat, you might as well come along with me. Here's what I made and how and what it looked like:

Dutch Breakfast Cake or "Honey Cake"
I found this fabulous recipe at: My Dutch Baking Blog and I've adapted it to make it local"ish"

2 cups rye flour
3 teaspoons of baking powder
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ginger, coriander and ground cloves each
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup milk
pinch of salt

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in wet ingredients until just combined. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake at 300 degrees for 60 minutes or until cake is finished. Using all rye flour, the cake is dense and hearty and absolutely delicious with a smear of butter.

For the adventurous: my lame, Food Network attempt can be seen here on our Vimeo channel. For the cooler crowd, some before and after photos. It was a really delicious, simple and fast recipe and you can easily swap rye with all purpose flour, or a bit of both. Maybe try adding some apples, play with the spices? 

Just a couple of ingredients...
And this...
Makes this!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Locavore Women Don't Get Fat

I'm putting it out there: I could easily stand to lose 10 pounds, ideally 15. While I'm a few pounds shy of my  pre-pregnancy weight, there's still a good bit I could stand losing. Years of living with my "I-Can-Eat-All-I-Want-With-No-Repercussions" husband means my weight has very slowly climbed up over the last 10 years (while his stayed the same!). As a formerly overweight teen (40 lbs + heavier), I try to eat carefully, count calories, track workouts and hit the gym to avoid gaining that all back.

Years ago, I read "French Women Don't Get Fat" by Mireille Guiliano and was amazed to discover that women enjoy all the richness of French cuisine without the guilt and shame that is so common in North American culture. On a blog search yesterday, I came across The French Skinny Experiment and the blog author's epiphany and was reminded of this French mindset towards food, exercise and life.

In a nutshell, it's about cherishing food, highlighting its flavours and respecting the ingredients. On the 100 Mile Challenge, we are making almost everything by hand. The basic ingredients cost almost double what we find in the grocery store. Everything takes time to make, from the yogurt that takes 13 hours, to a 3 hour loaf of bread to 1 hour fresh pasta. Our time and money are precious, as are the ingredients we cook with. Mindlessly scarfing down our food not only ignores all the effort that went into it, but also eats into our available time. Eat less food = more leftovers and less preparation.

So I'll put it out there: If you are growing your own food, preserving it, buying local, making your own food from quality (often pricier) ingredients and are making an effort to reduce your environmental impact and doing more manual labour like shovelling and walking/biking instead of taking the car, it's safe to assume you'll have a healthy respect for food. You'll enjoy each bite, being mindful of the effort it took to produce that meal. You'll eat slowly, as you enjoy conversations around the dinner table and you'll stop when you're satiated. Food will become a pleasure and joy to cook, eat and share with others.

At least that is my assumption and I'm going out on a limb that in the 86 days remaining, I'll learn to have a healthier attitude and mindfulness about food and if it translates to the scale, fantastic.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rabbit Food and Baby Bunny Muffins

Mesclun Mix

Behold: GREENS! 

Baby Basil

Can you tell I'm excited?! As much as I love root vegetables, I'm craving salad and bright, fresh flavours, not to mention something a little softer on the teeth. We've set up our grow lights and growing lettuces successively, basil, cilantro, jalapeƱo peppers, thyme and rosemary. There's something wonderful about seeing seedlings in the dead of winter; a reminder that spring will be here before you know it. Fingers crossed,  we'll have a good crop of herbs and lettuce to enjoy before long. I've got a roasted beet and feta salad in mind once that lettuce is bigger.

Now that we've allowed spices back into our diet, the sky really has been the limit. I was very excited to make Honey Bear some muffins full of warm and cozy spices, like ginger and cinnamon. Using a tart pan makes these two-bite muffins for grown ups and muffin sized for toddlers.

Baby Bunny Muffins

Baby Bunny Muffins
Yields: 28 tiny muffins

Adapted from a Canadian Living Recipe.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup large flaked oats
1/2 cup jam (I used Pear Maple Walnut Conserve)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon and ground ginger
1 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots (or shredded apples, or 1/2 cup of each)

Mix dry ingredients together. If you have a stand mixer, chuck all your wet ingredients together (minus the carrots) and mix until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in the carrots. Pour into a greased muffin or tart pan and bake at 350 degrees until cooked (about 16 minutes for mini muffins and 30 minutes for large

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dinner of Kings

A belated post about our big feast on Monday to celebrate Epiphany and a birthday. Entertaining on the 100 Mile Challenge was not as difficult as we thought and our guests were pleasantly surprised. Here's what we made:

A wine and butter glazed free-range turkey (a Martha Stewart recipe), sauteed cabbage with onions and bacon a dash of wine, vinegar and honey, smashed potatoes, sage dressing, honey glazed carrots and a glass of local wine.

My friend Alyson made this delicious Maple Oat bread at a recent gathering and I couldn't get over the flexibility and ease of the recipe. I've never made bread by hand before and I was able to make this and it was a lovely accompaniment to our feast.

Dessert was Double Apple and Cranberry Crisp and Ginger Lemon Ice Cream. The long strips of citrus and candied ginger were beautiful with the apple and cranberries. We toasted our celebrations with some local sparkling apple wine and feasted into the night.

A great evening with some great local food.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Day 10 - A Review and Shift in Direction

It's a perfect day to blog. A winter storm just began and it's resembling a snow globe outside. I've just finished a huge pot of turkey soup and have some tomatoes simmering for what I hope will be a tasty tomato sauce. 

We're wrapping up Day 10 and celebrating our progress as it's been a tough slug. Here are a few things we've learned:
  • We eat way more than I anticipated. My stocked deep freezer is almost half gone and we've got 90 days remaining.
  • Honey Bear could happily survive on blueberries and freshly baked bread
  • We are part of the best CSA imaginable: Natures Route Farm. We signed up back in November for the winter package, which was supposed to end at the end of December. They've generously extended their shares until February because of a bountiful harvest this year. This has been extremely helpful in providing us with a variety of vegetables.
  • You really can get used to grassy herbal tea
  • We can only make it 10 days without an overhaul of the challenge.
Part of us feels like we've let ourselves down in not being able to go the distance at the level of commitment we originally signed up for. However, if I have to eat one more root vegetable with only salt and sage, I'm going to lose it.  As of today, we're opening up this challenge to spices, coffee and tea just like the Dark Days Challenge. We aren't changing our commitment to local grains, meats, dairy, seafood, fruit or vegetables. I just need some variety of flavour and absolutely need my coffee back! 

So I open it up to discussion: an understandable shift in direction or complete cop-out? 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dark Days Challenge #6 - Breakfast of Champions

I made my Dark Days meal a little early because often times, life gets in the way and before you know it, Wednesday has passed with a meal that is not 100% local.

With this Dark Days challenge, I wanted to focus less on dinners and more on a quick, nutritious and local meal that is a cinch to make. I love shakes; it's instant nutrition and a true grab-and-go meal. It's also a fantastic way to clean up some leftovers in your fridge.

Here's how I made mine:

Serves: 1 large portion

3/4 cup skim milk
3 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp maple syrup
3/4 cup blueberries
3 large kale leaves
3 tbsp large flaked oats
1/4 cup apple cider

Blend and serve. I have a cheapy blender, so it wasn't silky smooth, but I like texture. The kale was hidden by the blueberries, so it wasn't an overwhelming vegetable taste. The cider and maple syrup added the contrasting sweetness to the tang of yogurt and the oats acted as a nice thickener. If you have it, try adding an unpeeled apple for more fibre and sweetness. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekly Confessions

I confess: It hasn't all been squeaky clean for the 100 Mile Locavores. In the spirit of transparency and honesty, here are our weekly rule breaks:

  • We drink coffee, but only outside the house. It's roasted locally, fairly-traded and tastes so, so good. While Jeff is drinking this quite frequently, I've had only had two cups this week (in my own mug, that counts for something, right?)
  • I eat Honey Bear's leftovers of non-local food.
  • We've been eating the Christmas baking we received as gifts. I thought freezing it would stop the temptation, but alas, shortbread is stronger then my will and tastes better frozen.
  • We ate up a steak we found in the freezer. It was looking a little freezer burnt and I didn't want it to go to waste. It was deliciously grilled with eggs and sauteed mushrooms in a red wine reduction as a late dinner. 
  • I've had a few mugs of herbal tea at work.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dark Days Challenge #5: I Have Made Fire

I'm so impressed with tonight's Dark Days Challenge meal. For once it wasn't a soup!

As of last night, we were officially meatless, with no hopes of meaty goodness until Saturday at the market. Thankfully, a rummage in the freezer came up with some local pork in the shape of two large steaks. So tonight, "meat was back on the menu, boys!"

Tonight we had a pan seared pork steak with a mustard and mushroom cream jus, buttermilk mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and some leftover slaw. For dessert, we had heaven: Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream (recipe found here at my uncannypreserves blog).

The pork chops were pan fried, about 3-4 minutes per side and removed from the pan. In goes about 1/2 a large onion, chopped, a clove of garlic, chopped and about 6 large mushrooms sliced and sauteed until browned. Spoon in 1 tbsp of a grainy mustard, about 2-3 tbsp heavy cream and stir. Put the pork chops in a baking dish, spoon mushroom jus mix overtop and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until pork has finished cooking.

Delicious. Satisfying. Wholesome.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 4: Pub Food Meets French Restaurant

We're ticking right along, with Day 4 almost under our belt. For the most part, breakfasts are oatmeal or frozen pancakes, lunches are soups pulled from the freezer and dinner is whatever we can whip together. We still don't have any local meat, so it's been interesting to say the least.

Our first grocery trip on the Challenge was surprisingly quick. Almost everything we needed was on the outer aisles, except for a few of Honey Bear's items and our dried beans. We treated ourselves to a couple of haddock fillets (the price of fish shocks me, anyone else? $7 for two small fillets is highway robbery. It's haddock, not caviar). I didn't have a chance to photograph our yummy dinner, mostly because I was embarrassed by the combination. It was obvious that two people had a hand in dinner, because I envisioned fish and chips with coleslaw and instead I got pub food meats French restaurant.

Still, the fish was lovely. Jeff cooked the haddock in a butter wine sauce and I made a coleslaw from kohlrabi, apples and carrots and dressed it with a honey/grainy mustard yogurt dressing. All together, it tasted weird, but we were so hungry that it worked. The glass of local white didn't hurt either.

Now that we're officially into the Challenge and finishing up Day 4, that yearning for coffee is still strong. Can you believe I actually smelled the coffee grinder just to remember the smell? It didn't help that Jeff came home reeking of coffee, the shame written on his face.

Thankfully, the 3 days of no-caffeine headaches have finally subsided and it actually feels pretty good to wake up and not feel so groggy. While I'm enjoying not being tied to coffee, you can bet that next time I'm out and about, Honey Bear free, I'll be enjoying some of that liquid gold. Isn't there something about a "Social Clause""?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Great Locavore Tool: The Flavor Bible

The Flavour Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is a darling of a book. If you're committed to eating local, but aren't sure how you can dress up your local fare, this is your book. 

Less of a cookbook
 and more of an encyclopedia of flavors, this hefty book lists hundreds of ingredients and makes recommendations of what spices, fruits, vegetables, proteins and oils would compliment that food. You'd think it'd be boring, but it really does spark your imagination of how you can take that ordinary item and turn it into something extraordinary and if you're anything like me, that's pretty exciting! 

In addition to the lists of complimentary flavours is a final note about flavour affinities and some mind-blowing combinations. I for one can't wait to try the combination of rhubarb + blood orange + carmalized sugar. 

If you're looking for a cookbook to spark your imagination, this is it. It won't tell you what to do, or how to do it, so you need a certain level of comfort in the kitchen and willingness to experiment. Happy cooking!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 2

I probably won't blog everyday about our daily menu plans, but when it includes something interesting and tasty, I can't resist. Today we realized the importance of leftovers. Coming up with new and creative meal plans every single day is time consuming and frustrating when you need something pronto. We've had a morning full of snow and spent a good chunk of Honey Bear's morning nap shovelling ourselves out. We were thankful that we had some hearty soups in the freezer and leftover Vegetarian Cassoulet to fill us up.

We ate up the porridge for breakfast and a glass of cider, a fiesta beef soup for lunch (previously made and seasoned with my salsa) and the cassoulet and cabbage for dinner. We enjoyed some apples and homemade yogurt with jam as a snack. Out of necessity and a bit on a whim, Jeff made crackers. Sure, we could enjoy our unpasteurized goat milk cheddar on bread, but he really missed crackers. He took a basic, internet sourced cracker recipe and put it through the pasta maker to get it thin. It wasn't quite thin enough and he forgot to prick it so the middles wouldn't puff up, but they were delicious and provided the perfect vehicle for a slice of cheese and dollop of pepper jelly.

100 Mile Cheese Plate

Sunday, January 2, 2011

And so it begins...

Day 1.

It began with this: Apple Blueberry Oatmeal with Speerville Newfound Oats. I spooned in some of my Pear Maple Walnut Conserve and it was so delicious, I hardly missed the cinnamon.

The morning ritual of coffee didn't quite end today, I'm afraid. Somehow Jeff made a convincing argument that we should grind up the last of the decaf beans and then we'd could *really* begin the challenge. I was up late and up early and it sounded convincing enough.

Lunch was some frozen leftover Christmas Eve soup, which was the perfect lunch when you've spent your morning shoveling.

Honey Wheat Bread
Vegetarian Cassoulet with Steamed Cabbage
Jeff managed to bake a loaf of this beautiful honey wheat bread, which was a lovely addition to our very hearty dinner of Vegetarian Cassoulet and Steamed Cabbage. Speerville's unbleached flour looked easy to work with and the bread was full of flavour. The whole meal itself was easy and really tasty and was perfectly complete with a mug of herbal tea and some Brandied Chestnut preserves for dessert from our cold pantry.

We've realized that it isn't feasible to use butter in lieu of oil. At $4.50 a pound, we'll break the bank on butter alone and our goal is to challenge ourselves, not go broke. So, we've returned Canola oil to the pantry and still feel comfortable with the level of commitment we've made for the challenge. Since we're new to this, we're reserving the right to tweak a few things until we find the right balance of eating local and maintaining our tight budget. We're still hopeful we can do this, despite the disappointment in adding oil back to our pantry on day 1.

Cheers to Day 1!

Vegetarian Cassoulet 
Adapted from: Epicurious 

Cassoulet - 
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 cups dried beans, prepared
  • 4 small tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • salt to taste

Bread Crumb Topping -
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup (or so) Canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp summer savoury
salt to taste


Cook onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in butter with thyme sprigs in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in beans, tomatoes and water, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until carrots are softened. 
Toss bread crumbs with oil and garlic and bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and let cool, about 2 minutes. Stir in savoury and salt to taste. 
Sprinkle crumb topping over cassoulet and serve (or reserve topping to remain crunchy and just add topping to individual portions, as I did).

Steamed Cabbage
1 medium head of cabbage, sliced down the middle and core removed, cut into 1/8ths. 
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp Rosemary Apple Cider Jelly
1 dried sage leaf
1/8th tsp summer savoury
salt to taste

While cabbage is steaming, prepare sauce. Melt butter and jelly together and remove from head. Add seasonings and stir. Pour warm butter jelly sauce over steamed cabbage and serve.


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