Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nectar of Heaven

Syrup for All!
If it was legal or healthy to drink it by the glassful, I would. I adore maple syrup and enjoy it in both savoury and sweet treats, but a quick glance at the nutritional guide reminds me I should ease up on my love. I tend to justify it with the whole "natural" and a "source of calcium" until my pants get snug. That hasn't happened, so I'm going for it! 

Our trip to the sugar bush is always a highlight of the year. I can't wait until the snow recedes enough and the days become warmer to make the near 30 minute trek one way to the camp we like best. We love Neil Ripley's camp in Fenwick, Nova Scotia. He's built a camp that is sustainable and environmentally conscious, but you forget all that because you walk into the barn and are greeted with the most heavenly smell of boiling sap. If you've never experienced it, it's a treat beyond compare. So many smiling faces and so many bouncing children (haha....parents will pay for that later!). The place really does look like this sign:

So, we go a little nuts and use up a fourth of our food budget for the month and go all out. Bought 2-4L jugs, a small littun' to use as a gift and some maple candy. I use a lot of syrup in my canning and we eat more than enough pancakes to justify all the syrup (remember: Natural and Source of Calcium!). Maple syrup freezes really well because it will never freeze as a solid, always ready to be poured in your favourite jar and thrown back in the freezer.

If that's not enough to convince you. How about these?

That's what I'm talking about. 

So, to celebrate the return of maple syrup and the return of sweet, warm days pour some of your local maple syrup over your favourite pancakes. 

Buckwheat Panckes (double batched - they also freeze beautifully)
Source: All Recipes

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used Gluten-Free, but anything works)
1/2 cup oatmeal
6 tsp baking powder
2 cups milk
4 tbsp canola oil
4 tbsp honey (or maple syrup, that'd be keeping with the theme)
2 eggs, lightly beaten.

1. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients and stir in milk, oil, honey and egg. Stir well, but avoid over mixing. Keep in fridge for a couple hours. 
2. Pan fry away.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Civilian Life

We're moving forward from the 100 Mile Challenge and while we've put our civvies back on, we're still cooking up a storm, with lots of local ingredients, like a sausage spaghetti sauce with chunky vegetables and homegrown basil and Vietnamese Spring rolls with local ground pork, local bean sprouts and homegrown cilantro. 

A trip to the Sugar Bush has inspired a flurry of pancake making activity and a blog post to follow tomorrow about the joys of maple syrup, but in the meantime, head over to my sister blog and see if you can guess the type of jelly I've just made. You may just win a jar for yourself!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Day 81: Wrapping Up Early

It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that we wrap-up the challenge a little early. Due to a variety of reasons, mostly related to health, we've chosen to wind down our 100 Mile Challenge at 81 days, a little disappointed we didn't stick it out 19 more days, but satisfied we met our objectives.

Going into the challenge, we were curious if it was feasible, practical or manageable to exist on locally grown food and with preparation work and sheer luck, we found out it's entirely possible. We hoped the challenge would put us in better connection with our community and help us source out the farmers and producers who grow and sell our food. We've succeeded in making new friends and have discovered a wealth of resources available to us that we didn't know existed.

Moving forward, we've ordered local Speerville Flour Mill in bulk, so our flour and oat needs will always be met with a local source. We've committed to purchasing our meat from local sources and buying from the local dairies. Most importantly, we've learned to enjoy food in it's season and if that happens to be imported, to enjoy it in moderation. We've learned the importance of preserving the garden goodness to help sustain us through the winter and that if you bolster your local fare with imported goodies, to keep it at a minimum and try to buy in season (i.e. citrus from Florida in the winter vs citrus from South Africa in the summer).

Thanks for taking the journey with us, for all your positive feedback, constructive criticisms and menu ideas. It's been a blast! I'm still debating the fate of this blog, as the challenge is now complete and I welcome your ideas and feedback.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Day 79: Social Sally's

We've had the good fortune of visiting with friends and enjoying some lovely hospitality and some fantastic meals, including Ethiopian Doro Wett, homemade injera and a out-of-this-world lentil dish and a hearty beef stew with a Chocolate Guinness Cake (two words: ah-mazing).

Luckily, we had some equally amazing food at home, like this Chicken Tetrazzini. Just ignore the random bits of celery - Jeff had a veggie tray come home with him from church and I wasn't about to waste the celery, so in it went.

It was so creamy and hardy; perfect for those still cold March nights. It made lots, so we've been enjoying it, along with some very tasty Whole Wheat and Maple Scones:

I found the recipe here and just omitted the sugar and glaze. They were perfect with a big dollop of jam. I even experimented by freezing them, pre-bake and was very happy with the results. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 75: An Ode to Sausages

Right. I'm not really going to write an ode to sausages, but if I could, I would. I'd call it: Ode of the Humble Sausage and it'd be 52 verses, because that's how great sausages are.

One of the main reasons they're fantastic is they're quick and tasty and I'm delighted I finally found a local sausage I like. For some reason the local sausages around here are precooked, which gives them a spongy texture that's really off-putting. Luckily there were some frozen, uncooked sausages on hand and they're delicious, moist and flavourful and my affection for sausages has been rekindled.

Awesomeness on a Plate
I paired the spicy Italian sausage with some sauteed cabbage (I used a bit of bacon fat instead of oil  - HELLO flavour!) and the ultimate roast potatoes. 

Ultimate Roast Potatoes
I case you don't know the trick to  making the world's tastiest roast potatoes, learn it here as I did; you won't be disappointed! See that beautiful, perfectly crispy little potato in the middle? I singled it out to show you just how tasty your taters will be. I scarfed it down before it got taken from me. Somehow the best potatoes seem to go missing after well-meaning attempts at "helping" me stir the potatoes. 


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 75: St. Patrick's Day and The Stew of Shame

So in an effort to make a fantastic and authentic St. Patrick's meal, I had to cheat and use canned tomatoes (see ranty explanation here). I had plans to make this rustic stew with earthy Irish Soda bread and rest assured, I did. I just forgot to get pictures of the stew. It shall hereby be known as: My delicious stew of shame. It was a basic beef stew recipe, the kind that you tediously dredge each piece of cut, patted down beef in flour, cook in small batches, turning each piece over to get nice caramelization. Then you deglaze the pan with some  onions, garlic, wine and tomatoes (*shakes fist*), cover and let simmer for a couple hours before tossing in your chunked up carrots, turnips, potatoes with seasoning. You  know, that kind of stew recipe. It's the perfect way to use up a cheap, tough cut of beef. I was able to get a 2-3 lbs roast for $10 and cutting and trimming it myself was a great way to score loads of stewing beef for a great price.

So while you'll have to use your imagination for the Stew of Shame (think brown, hot and plenty of it), the Irish Soda bread totally gets a photo.

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread
I followed a recipe from All Recipes for Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread, subbing honey for sugar and more butter for margarine. Having never made Irish Soda bread before, I'm not sure what I was expecting. It went nicely with the stew, as it also had this peasant heartiness about it, but it never made it past being an accompaniment to stew. To me, it tasted like a muffin or tea biscuit and it just didn't float our boat. It's now in the freezer where it awaits being repurposed. Maybe a bread pudding with some currants and a custard topping? 

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 73: Back in the Game

These last few weeks have been "those" kinds of weeks. Full of appointments, errands, sickness, life drama, global drama, gorgeous weather and plain ol' disdain at the idea of cooking. For some reason, soup and egg, lettuce and bacon sandwiches have been the only real food we've been eating for days. Oh, maybe some pancakes (that I "healthified" with grated apple and carrot), oatmeal and cheese.

It's a transition time for us and it shows in our cooking and lack of blog posts. Rest assured, we're still local and trying our best. To make up for our absence, here's a few things we've been doing: Curried Carrot Apple Soup, Cranberry Juice and Cranberry Apple Sauce.

Curried Carrot Apple Soup and Egg Sandwich

The carrot soup recipe is adapted from a recipe my friend in graduate school came up with. It's delicious and simple. I'll put my additions in italics, so you have options.

Curried Carrot Apple Soup

1.5 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
1.5 Cortland apples, cored, peel on
1 cup apple cider (apple juice or orange juice works)
4 cups broth (I used water, but the soup really needed the depth of a broth)
1 clove of garlic, smashed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp curry
1/2 tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cream

1. Sautee onions in oil over medium-low heat until softened.
2. Add carrots, apples and garlic and continue sauteeing a further 5 minutes.
3. Add in broth/water, cider and cover. Cook until carrots are softened.
4. When cooked and cooled, puree in small batches and season with seasonings. Add cream.
* As a protein booster, add in a can of chick peas.*

The soup was delicious with a fried egg, bacon and lettuce sandwich. You'll have to excuse the gluten free bread - Jeff doesn't like sandwiches, even though it'd be tasty on his homemade wheat and honey bread.

Cranberry Juice in the Making
I have pounds of frozen cranberries, without a clue how to use them up. I realized it must be super easy to make cranberry juice and it turns out, it is! I blended 2 cups of defrosted cranberries with 2 cups of water and let it sit overnight. In the morning, I put it through a fine mesh strainer and the strained liquid is your cranberry juice. Normally, you'd sweeten it up with sugar or honey, but I have some plans to turn it into a preserve with some homemade red wine. We'll see how that goes.

With the cranberry "must", I added a couple pounds of slice Cortland apples and simmered until the apples softened. 

Food Mill
While putting through the cranberry apple mixture through a food mill is a bit of a fiddly step, it adds texture and helps it taste less like baby food. 

Cranberry Apple Sauce
Voila! Cranberries two ways.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 70: Think Local, Act Global

The 100 Mile Challenge has been a fantastic launching pad to familiarize ourselves with local food issues and helps us be in better relationship with the men and women who help grow, produce and sell our food. Having concern for local matters is important to being a productive member of our community.

However, having concern for local issues doesn't excuse me from being part of a much larger picture. The earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan yesterday have dominated my thoughts as I watch, with fear and sadness, the overwhelming images of loss and destruction. I'm reminded that issues half a world away are just as profound as local matters as we are all part of the same global community.

My heart goes out to all those who've suffered.

If you'd like to help, Red Cross is a great place to start.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 68: Whinge Warning

We're nearly three-quarters there and I'm suddenly getting very tired of the challenge. I keep opening the fridge, hoping some magic vegetable will pop up and announce itself as the perfect side dish to supper. As it stands, it's usually one of five things: boiled beets, canned green beans, mashed turnips, carrots of some form or a melody of roasted root vegetables. Muh.

Not to mention grains. I love quinoa, millet, brown rice, Scottish oats, buckwheat and more. Being gluten intolerant with no local source of gluten free stuff is hard. I mostly eat small amounts of wheat, since it looks so tasty, but I long for a day my tummy doesn't hurt and I can return to eating grains that are better for me.

I had my breaking point this evening. I got all the ingredients chopped for an early St. Patrick's Day feast (I had a roast that needed to be used up) and when I went to the pantry for my last jar of tomatoes, it was gone. I used it and forgot. I caved. I fully admit, Jeff made a run to the grocery store for canned tomatoes so I could salvage my stew. I knew that wine and water alone wasn't going to give it the body and depth the stew needed, nor was I willing to sacrifice 3 lbs of meat and hours of prep work on principle.

I have no idea how we're going to manage 32 more days without any tomatoes. This may be another area I fudge. Not fudge exactly, since our boundaries were pretty porous to begin with. We had no idea how much food it would take to sustain us 100 days, nor how much of our preparation work was sufficient (or insufficient as it turns out). Lessons learned.

All whining aside, I made a killer stew and cool accouterments that I'll blog about for St. Patrick's Day. For the last of my frozen tomatoes, look what Jeff made me for International Women's Day!:

Lamb Curry with Whole Wheat Naan

He used every pot in the house and nearly set off the fire alarm, but when he wants to cook, he COOKS! I believed he followed the directions for the Lamb Curry as directed, ditto the Naan. It was so delicious. Like transport-you-to-another-world kind of delicious. 

So, there are lots of delicious things you can make with local food, I just need to remind myself of that and soldier through the remaining days of the challenge. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Day 66: Happy Women's Day

Thanks to playgroup, I was fairly incapacitated with a nasty tummy bug and had to break a few Locavore rules, mainly with Ginger Ale and Gatorade, but I'm back in fighting shape and ready to celebrate healthy, delicious and local food.

Like today's lunch:

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
I was craving tomato soup and a grilled cheese, so that's exactly what I made. I followed Michael Chiarello's recipe, minus the broth since I don't have any frozen and probably eased up on roasting my tomatoes, since I was pretty sure the fire alarm was going to sound if I gave it more than 7 minutes. The grilled cheese was made even tastier with a generous smearing of Beeloved Blazin' Glory pepper jelly. 

Now, to sit back and relax while Jeff makes me an amazing supper with the recipe I've provided for lamb curry and homemade naan bread. In Ukraine, the 8th of March, or International Women's Day is a national holiday, where women are pampered, thanked and celebrated by husbands invading the kitchens and cooking up wonderful dishes. Let's hope Jeff can keep the tradition alive! 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 63: Variations on a Theme

Russian Salad
Or maybe it's Ukrainian. Maybe I should call it Slavic Salad? That's got a nice ring to it. I don't know why it's taken me so long to clue into the fact that Eastern Europe has similar growing patterns and has incredible recipes for the type of vegetables and meat I have available during the challenge. Like this Slavic Salad. I love this salad and while it was a side dish to grilled lamb chops, I much preferred to eat a big bowl of the salad. The salad was made even faster because of my stores of pressure canned cubed and pickled beets. If you've got some root veggies kicking around, give it a try:

4 large potatoes, scrubed
3 large carrots, peeled, finely cubed
1/2 onion, chopped finely
4 large beets, scrubed
1/2 cup cubed pickled beets or pickles
2 tbsp canola oil
Salt, pepper, dried dill to taste

1. Cook whole, unpeeled beets and potatoes together, carrots boiled separately (annoying step, but carrots will cook much faster than the rest).
2. Once cooked, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool enough to handle, peel beets and potatoes (the skins should slip off easily) and cut into cubes.
3. Combine vegetables all together, including diced pickles and stir in oil and seasonings. Taste and adjust if necessary. I added extra pickled beet juice for more pickle flavour and I'm sure dill pickle juice would work nicely.

Salad with Chops....Muh.

We ate ours with seasoned, grilled pork chops, which wasn't the best combo. I think a nice Kotleta would have been better. Next time!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Day 61: What's For Supper?

It's 6 p.m., Honey Bear is screaming because it's getting close to bedtime, she's been fed some semblance of a "dinner", you're starving and the meat you took out for supper is still frozen. The fancy pants idea you had  is rapidly disappearing and you begin to realize why there are so many restaurants and take-out joints in your town.

I loathe those kinds of nights. It's so easy to grab a pizza and call it a day. Or better, a big bowl of cereal.

We have found the antidote:

Egg on Toast, Bacon and Sauteed Mushrooms

Try Not To Toss Too Early

You're Looking for this Caramelization

Add in Your Wine, Spices, Onions and Garlic

This mushroom topping is perfect on a grilled steak, but really not too shabby on a poached egg. Dare I say it stole the show?

Here's how I did it:

1 lb mushrooms, cleaned and quartered 
2 tbsp butter, 1 tsp oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
4 tbsp white wine

Combine oil and butter over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms and let sit for a couple minutes - resist the urge to immediately toss them. 

Continue cooking until all mushrooms are browned, add in spices, seasoning, garlic and onion. Continue to cook until onions are softened. 

Add in wine and cook a further 2-3 minutes until wine has evaporated and mushrooms are a golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Day 59: Pretend You're a Cossack

I was so excited to bring home some Farmer's Cheese as I had fond memories of it from my time in Ukraine. The first time I experienced the cheese, I had no idea what it was or what to do with it. Wrapped up like a chocolate candy, I eagerly tucked into it only to discover it was a cottage cheese looking brick. I slowly thanked my interpreter and pushed it aside. Realizing I had no clue, she unwrapped it for me, put it on a plate, dolloped it with sour cream (smetana) and sprinkled it with sugar. Thus began my love affair with farmer's cheese. I realized how versatile the mild, crumbly and buttery cheese was and found it everywhere, from varenyky to syrniki to a pastries, like the one I had in Toronto. Still, it's very hard to come by outside of urban areas, so when I come across, I make sure to grab some.

After my enthusiasm wanes, I realize I don't know what to do with it and Russian and Ukrainian recipes tend to take a while. Still, not wanting it to waste, I found this recipe for Sryniki, which I ended up using and loving the results. I omitted the raisins and lemon zest, opting for a dollop of my own Lemon and Ginger syrup (a jelly attempt gone bad!). 

Sryniki Frying Away

While the recipe is quick and easy, let's not forget it's fried in a hefty amount of butter and slathered in jam. Here's how I get around such things: Pretend you're a Cossack. It's freezing out, you've been hard at work, doing what Cossack's do and you need a hardy dish to sustain you, so tuck in and enjoy. 


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