Monday, April 25, 2011

We're So Hammy

I can't help it, but every time I make ham, I think of that line from Napoleon Dynamite "TINA! Eat your ham!" as ham gets chucked at a llama. We're hammy like that.

As you can see, our love affair with ham is alive and well. It was the perfect Easter dinner - it was fast, easy and has ample leftovers. The recipe for the ham glaze can be found here and the scalloped potatoes is from All Recipes and is dairy-free (not that I think Honey Bear will eat it, but I don't want to deny that opportunity!).

Scalloped Potatoes and Onions

5 large potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
3 tbsp margarine
1/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp mayonnaise 
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. In a large 2.5 quart, greased dish, layer the potatoes and onions.
2. In a medium sized pot, melt margarine over medium-low heat. Stir in flour and continue cooking for another minute or so. Slowly pour in chicken broth and continue stirring until everything is incorporated. Keep stirring while mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Remove from heat and add mayonnaise and parsley. Pour mixture over your potatoes and onions and sprinkle paprika over top. 
3. Bake at 325 for 2 hours. 

It's not as rich as the typical scalloped potatoes, but it's quick and tasty and open to interpretation. Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Spring Hopes Eternal

It's been a long, cold, snowy winter and I'm beyond excited to see all the new things popping up in my garden. While I prefer vegetable to flower gardening, there's nothing better than seeing cheery little Scilla flowers after a long winter or the deep red peony fronds coming up out of the ground. It's all a reminder that we made it! We survived a long winter and now we get to look ahead, with brighter days to the new opportunities that await us in the garden.

This year, we're excited to put in a slew of fruit bushes - more currants, raspberries, haskaps and a few more I've forgotten about since making my mid-winter order. While most of this fruit must be left for a year or more for proper root growth and development, the mere idea of sweet summer treats is exciting. 

We've decided to rely more on our CSA this year and grow only the foods I will can and rely on the most and that means tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. 

Tomato Frenzy

During the challenge, we ran out of canned and frozen tomatoes about mid-way through. I never realized how dependent I was on tomatoes to add body or provide the foundation in my dishes. I also realized how badly I needed  tomato paste, so we've started a combination of Tiny Tims, Yellow Heirlooms, Bonnie Best Heirlooms, Roma and Sweet Cluster tomatoes. Aside from the easy picking, easy eating Tims, most will be turned into salsa or just plain peeled and diced for canned tomatoes. It's tedious work, but in the dead of winter, there's nothing like opening your own can of home grown, home canned tomatoes to bolster your stews. 

Odds and Ends
We're growing a few odds and ends as well, like some jalapeƱo peppers, rosemary, sunflowers (we grow them in advance or else the Ring-Neck Pheasants eat them within minutes), marigolds (the perfect insect repellent), snapdragons and fingers-crossed, some Sunberries that have yet to germinate. 

So while many people continue to lament the rising cost of food and fuel, I'm happy to do my part and grow nutritious food that doesn't hurt the pocketbook. 

For the gardeners out there: Planning anything new and exciting in your garden/window box?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Go Big or Go Home

The one thing we realized during the challenge is that in order for local eating to be sustainable, we HAD to stop buying small bags of everything. A small bag of oats was $3.49 and the 2 kg bag of flour was $7.99. That small bag of flour doesn't last long when we bake a lot, making our own breads, pasta and breakfast foods. Cluing in far too late, we only now ordered and just picked up 10 kg bags of Speerville's New Found Oats and an unbleached "white" flour. The prices make it hands-down the way to go and now I no longer have to worry about running out. If storage isn't an issue, it's actually quite easy to talk to stores and ask for products to be ordered in bulk.

I celebrated with another batch of Sneaky Mama Toddler Pancakes and an impromtu batch of Carrot Gingerbread Muffins from Canadian Living, omitting the dairy for rice beverage and margarine and adding pumpkin seeds. If you need an iron booster, these muffins are your new buddies.

I make a lot of breakfast items since it's the one meal of the day I know Honey Bear will get a good chunk of her nutrition. She needs more iron, protein, calcium and calories and since she can't eat dairy and soy and refuses meat and beans (have I mentioned she's fussy?!), I'm at a loss of how to fill in the nutritional gaps, without toiling for hours in the kitchen over food she won't eat. Pancakes and muffins are fun and sneaky ways to add vegetables and vegetarian sources of protein.

I'm open to any and all ideas of foods I'm missing that are protein and iron rich, but not slabs of meat.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Family Classics

I honestly don't mean to let the blog lag so much and I'm realizing why it was so great to do the 100 Mile Challenge during the winter when I had the time to cook and blog. While life is continuing to pick up speed, I really do enjoy blogging and when I'm making meals, just being in the blog mind frame has helped me think both critically and artistically about preparing food and serving goodness. I just wish I had more time to share it all with you!

Guyanese Beef Curry

So I offer up a triple whammy. I'll share my recipes for Split Pea Soup and Baked Beans, but you'd have to be married to me or a decade long friend to learn my family recipe for Beef Curry. This recipe was handed down by my grandmother from her time of living in Guyana as a child and young woman, when her father was stationed in what was then British Guyana. She eventually married and settled in Canada, bringing with her a cooking style heavily influenced by Indian and East Indian flavours. My father grew up to weekly curries and Pepper Pot, which he carried on and now the smell of a stewing curry brings me back to the aroma of my childhood. Curries are a great way to use a cheap beef shank, as I did. Stewing made the shank so succulent and tender and it doesn't hurt that the beef is all local. In addition to using cheap meat, is it's an excellent way of cleaning out your fridge. I like making it stretch with some chick peas and adding vegetables like baby corn, carrots and peppers. Often, I'll add spinach, potatoes, peas or cauliflower. Basically, curries are a blueprint and if you don't make your own curry foundation, I know there are lots of packaged curry mixes that will suffice. The key is patience and building blocks of flavours that work in conjunction with your curry blend, like kaffir lime leaves, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, coriander/cumin/mustard seeds. Oh, and a rich coconut milk doesn't hurt either. I usually serve it over a brown basmati rice or with some Naan bread (President's Choice has some nice whole wheat ones).

Mango Ginger Lime Glazed Ham

At Saturday's market, I picked up the most delicious, freshly smoked local ham. It was incredible. I made a quick glaze from my own jam, recipe here. The photo is horrendous. Clearly, we were anxious to tuck into it, as it looks more hacked than carved. Still, it was tasty and the fringe benefit of a bone in ham is Pea Soup!

Split Pea and Ham Soup

I love pea soup. Adore it, actually. It's tasty, hearty and freezes well. This would probably be our family classic as it's the soup Jeff loves the best. Every bowl, he exclaims my pea soup to be his favourite and I love cooking food for people who love to eat it. Here's how I make it:

Ham bone/ham hock
Enough water to cover your ham bone/hock
1.75 lbs of yellow split peas
3 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium onions
1-2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried parsley
couple dashes of hot sauce
2 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable) if necessary
salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil ham bone, for about an hour. Remove bone and let cool - reserve any meat to be added back to soup.
2. Rinse your split peas and to the ham bone water add peas, vegetables and seasoning.
3. Stir. As it thickens, you need to stir more frequently as it risks sticking and burning the bottom. If you need to add more liquid, add some broth. The ham bone lends a lot of flavour, but you still might need an extra kick. I cheated and used about a tsp of instant chicken broth. 
4. Enjoy!

Baked Beans
Lastly, baked beans. I know none of these pictures are particularly stunning, but after a full day in the kitchen and a full day as a Mom, I only managed pictures as I was putting it away. Still, I hope the molasses-y deliciousness is coming through in the picture. These suckers take a while to make and you have to be committed, but the good news is you can go big, like real big and freeze all that you can't eat. It actually tastes better the longer you leave it. It's my mother-in-law's recipe and it is exactly what I love about her: it's comforting, reminds you of home and there's love and care in every bite. You get this warm, deep down feeling with these beans and as a family, we enjoy them as a meal, or beside a breakfast dish and even as a snack. Here's my mother-in-law's recipe, I like to quadruple it (if you do, remember to times everything by 4)

1 lbs beans
6 cups of water
1 large onion chopped
1/4 lb local smoked bacon
*1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup ketchup
2 tbsp molasses (or more, if you really like it)
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1 large Granny Smith apple, or any apple that holds it shape, cored and cut into 1/8th wedges
* 1/3 cup brown sugar 
2 tbsp melted butter/margarine
1/4 cup rum, optional (I've never done this. Scared, I guess.)

1. Sort and pick out any stones, discoloured or broken beans. Tedious, but worth it.
2. Soak in water overnight.
3. Next morning, bring beans and water to a boil, reduce to a simmer until tender, but not mushy (about an hour). Be careful not to let them boil over. My mother-in-law and I do this each and EVERY time. 
4. Drain and reserve water.
5. Put beans in a deep, roasting pot and add ketchup, maple syrup, onions, bacon, molasses, mustard and salt. Add enough of the reserved water to cover the beans. Stir well and cover.
6. Cook at 300 degrees for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and add more liquid if needed to keep beans covered. After 3 hours, uncover and top with apple sections, brown sugar and butter/margarine. Bake, uncovered for another 1 hour until apples are done. Just before serving, sprinkle with rum. Yum.

* I find the original recipe too sweet, so cut back by almost half if you're sensitive to sugars or don't want the sweetness to overwhelm the other flavours. 

So there you have it, three family classics that taste great and freeze well. Do you have any family favourites to share?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cookies of Love

When I was a kid, I had numerous allergies. There are still foods that bother me, like wheat and yeast, but I've managed to outgrow most of the cumbersome allergies that made birthday parties and social gatherings a drag and often left me feeling the odd person out. I still have traumatic memories of Melissa's birthday at Chuck 'E Cheese in 1986 when I brought my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on cardboard gluten-free bread and little container of goat milk ice cream, while I longingly gazed at the kids scarfing down pepperoni pizza and birthday cake with ice cream (who, for some reason, all sat at a different table, leaving me all alone with my Mom as I tried to swallow my sweet piece of roofing shingle).

Given her parents, it's with no surprise that Honey Bear is having issues with allergies, most importantly, dairy and peanuts. During our 100 Mile Challenge, we mostly focused on ourselves and our meals, as Honey Bear's challenges were enough. Now that we've completed the challenge and struggling to find the balance between local and imported food, we have the added layer of trying to make food we can all enjoy.

I present you: Cookies of Love

Nut Free, Dairy Free

I use an ice cream scooper for perfectly formed cookies and freeze the dough so I can bake a few at a time. I intend to keep these on hand for social gatherings and parties when Honey Bear can't eat the food. It's my way of helping her feel included and special. Sure, she can't have a PB & J sandwich, but she can have these super-fantastic amazing Cookies of Love!

Cookies of Love (a.k.a. Oatmeal Raisin Carob Cookies)

3/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup unsweetened, dairy-free carob chips

1. Cream margarine, sugars, egg, water and vanilla together until creamy. I use the stand mixer on low-medium speed.
2. Meanwhile, mix flour, soda and cinnamon together and add to creamed mixture. Stir.
3. Add in oats, raisins and carob chips.
4. Using an ice cream scoop, portion out the dough. Lightly press down with a fork, for more even baking.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes. Enjoy!

* I reduced the sugar from the original recipe by 1/2 cup because really, do toddlers need MORE excuses for crazy, bouncing-off-the-wall behaviours? Feel free to adjust or play around with natural sweeteners/apple sauce (and if you do, let me know, I'd love to adjust the sugar).

Thursday, April 7, 2011


As you well know, I can't get enough of maple syrup. I'm sure I'll eventually get sick of it, but that day hasn't arrived, so onwards with more recipes on how to enjoy your liquid gold.

Maple Walnut Granola
Maple Walnut Granola
Adapted Martha Stewart recipe

4 cups oats
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup toasted coconut

1. Combine top group of ingredients, stir and bake in a large 9x13 baking dish for 25 minutes. 
2. While granola is cooking, toast your coconut in a small pan on the stove. Be careful not to burn it and remember, if your pan is hot enough, it will continue to cook after you take it off the heat, so don't wait too long! 
3. Remove granola from oven and combine toasted coconut, raisins and dates. 

We've been enjoying it parfait style with yogurt and fruit or just with milk as a mid-afternoon snack. Enjoy!

Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup
OK, lame photo aside (Jeff already tucked into it), these were really, really good. The recipe is direct from the Food Network Kitchen cookbook (stellar cookbook, by the way, one of my favourites). It's a little fiddly, but they're unlike other pancakes and worth the extra time. Besides, your liquid gold deserves the best.

Cornmeal Pancakes with Blueberry-Maple Syrup

3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (is there any other kind?)
2 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature*
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Blueberry Maple Syrup

1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp lemon juice

1. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, soda, salt and nutmeg in a large bowl. Whisk the egg yolks with the buttermilk, milk, melted butter and vanilla extract in a large glass measuring cup. Whisk the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture to make a thick batter - take care not to overmix or the pancakes will be dense. In another bowl, whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Use a rubber spatula to fold the whites into the batter.

2. Use about 1/4 cup batter at a time, cook as you normally would for pancakes and serve with syrup.

3. For syrup, toss the blueberries with the maple syrup in a small saucepan. Add the cinnamon stick and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the mixture boils and the blueberries just start to pop. Remove from heat, discard cinnamon stick and add butter and lemon juice. Serve warm.

*To make you own buttermilk, add about 1/2 tsp vinegar into 1 cup of milk, because honestly who keeps buttermilk in their fridge? Unless your planning to deep fry a lot of chicken, why else would you keep it around? Nobody drinks that stuff, do they?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

After These Messages....

I'll be right back.

Sorry for the long pause! I've been busy restocking my pantry over at uncanny preserves with lots of goodies like Apple Carrot Butter, Chunky Cherry and Vanilla Jam, Mango Lime Ginger Jam, Mulled Red Wine Jelly, Cherry Preserves in Almond Syrup and more.

In light of my absence, here's a double whammy of recipes. Two very different flavour profiles, two very different countries (although one definitely has the influence of the other), both delicious, comforting and great for these spring evenings.

Mesir Wat
Mesir Wat
Ethiopian Red Lentils
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp peeled, minced ginger
1/4 cup oil
2 tbsp paprika
1 tsp tumeric
1/2-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lb red lentils, rinsed
4 cups stock
salt and pepper to taste
Optional: spinach (fresh or frozen) 
1. Put the onion, garlic and ginger in the food processor and blend until puree. 
2. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the tumeric, paprika and cayenne pepper and stir rapidly to color the oil and cook spices through, about 30 seconds.
3. Add the onion puree and sautee for 5-10 minutes. Do not burn.
4. Add lentils and stock to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. Add salt, pepper and spinach until wilted. Serve with basmati rice, naan bread or injera. Enjoy!


Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables
Copyright, 2006, Robin Miller

I followed this recipe almost to the "tee", except for the pasta (mini shells) and instead of Parmesan on top, I added a rind I had in the freezer. I added it with the spinach and zucchini and let it cook about an hour. I made sure to stir frequently as you don't want the rind to stick to the bottom of your crock pot and burn. Overall, it was the perfect flavour for the soup that got imbued right into the broth. This soup is a complete winner.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...