Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asparagus: What's Not to Love?

Roasted Lemon Asparagus

I could eat asparagus almost everyday. It's versatile and delicious in many different ways. It's even better when it's finally "Product of Canada". While I could wait a while for my patch to produce enough for a meal, something tells me I'll be waiting a while, since only one stalk has popped up. So, I did the next best thing and waited patiently until the first Canadian asparagus arrived in stores and now I'm going to town!

For once, the vegetables outshone the meat! Everything worked so well together and while I wish I had more time to slap on something more than a bottled bbq sauce on the grilled, local pork chop, it still worked for an incredibly fast dinner that tasted like spring.

Roasted Asparagus

1 1/2 lbs asparagus, washed, trimmed and patted dry
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 tbsp walnut oil
salt and pepper

Dissolve salt in lemon juice, stir in pepper and add in walnut oil, or whatever oil you have handy. Pour over asparagus and rub stalks to coat evenly. Roast at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Warm Potato Salad

2 lbs local potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp walnut oil
1 tsp fresh lemon thyme
2 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
salt and pepper to taste

Boil potatoes in salted water. Drain and toss together with oil, herbs and seasonings.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Garden is In

All Manners of Tomatoes

After a long delay due to rain and being very patient to harden off our seedlings, the garden is finally in and we're really excited.
This year, we've decided to have some fun. Our CSA, Nature's Route Farm is so fantastic. The prices are reasonable, the amount of food is generous and we've realized it can free us up to have some fun in the garden, instead of planting out of necessity. We did away with garden plans and schematics and threw in the types of vegetables we love to indulge in. Over 20 tomato plants went in, from a couple heirloom varieties, to Roma, cherry tomatoes and sweet clusters.

Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant Sharing Space
We really like to utilize every square inch, so tomatoes, peppers and eggplant share space with peonies and thrive in the nice, south sun and the warmth of the house.

Our Garden Patch

The rest of the garden has lettuce, three varieties of beets (including some heirloom yellow ones, yay!), a French pumpkin, a fancy type of zucchini and our raspberry canes at the back that are still in their infancy. We used the support beams for the grape vines to grow climbing beans and that's all. A much scaled back version of last summer's garden, but given life with a toddler and growing a mini-locavore, we need simplicity. Who knew vegetable gardening could be so liberating!

There's only one dish you can make to celebrate spring and it's delights:

Pasta Primavera
Truthfully, I've only had Pasta Primavera once. With a gluten intolerance, I rarely eat at Italian restaurants and was delighted when one restaurant finally served gluten free noodles. They served their Ode To Spring pasta in a tomato, not cream, base. I prefer this and find it very refreshing and light. It was delicious and the best part - Honey Bear ATE it! All those vegetables! We actually sat down and together ate a meal that didn't require a million substitutions. Happy Spring!

Pasta Primavera
Serves: 4

1/2 recipe of basic tomato sauce (recipe follows)
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3/4 a bundle of asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/2 red onion, diced
salt and pepper
Parent Additions: parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes

Throw everything together and simmer until vegetables have softened and add to pasta.

Basic Tomato Sauce

This was borne out of some Pinot Noir that had to be used up, as Jeff wasn't fond of it. It's fast, delicious and versatile.

Basic Tomato Sauce

2 onions, diced
1 tbsp olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, diced
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
1 cup of red wine
2-28oz cans of diced tomatoes
small can of tomato paste (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brandy

1. In a large pot, heat oil over low-medium heat and sautee onions for 10 minutes.
2. Add in diced garlic and basil and sautee together for 2 minutes.
3. Add in wine and reduce by half.
4. Add in tomatoes and seasonings and if you're in a pinch for time, add in your tomato paste. Finish with the splash of brandy and lemon juice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hills are Alive

For many of my gardening friends and family, they often have to contend with rabbits and deer devouring their gardens, but for those of us in the moist Maritimes, this is enemy #1:

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia
Slugs are the bane of my existence: Plant seedlings in the morning and 24 hours later, you awake to find your plant covered in dozens of slugs that have eaten it almost to the ground. After numerous organic, non-toxic solutions, we have finally found that works for us (ferric phosphate pellets - safe for bird, animal and human consumption and not harmful to the soil, but not so friendly to slugs), but largely, it's about co-existing and realizing you may fight the war, but never win the battle.

While we're excited to almost have our garden planted (for a sneak peek, check out our uncanny blog), I'm anxious to get over this initial period of watching and waiting for plants to get strong enough to fend off these slimy invaders.

What are the banes of your gardens?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Locavore Women Don't Get Fat. They Just Get Pregnant.

The truth has come out why I abruptly ended the 100 Mile Challenge. Those early days were brutal and if I had to see one more carrot or parsnip I was going to lose it. So I started to cheat and that wasn't very fair, so we decided to wrap it up early and focus on the foods that I could tolerate. We're all very excited about another addition to the Locavore Household coming this fall and while I love being pregnant, harbouring a mini-locavore takes a lot of me, literally and figuratively. I'm exhausted and am usually in bed not long after Honey Bear, which explains the spotty posting. I hope you'll bear with me, it's only recently that I can function on less than 9 hours of sleep.

I've been anxious to follow-up on a post I wrote in the early stages of the Challenge called Locavore Women Don't Get Fat, which was a spin on the book "Why French Women Don't Get Fat". I argued that eating locally gives a respect for food, how it was grown and how you prepare it. You tend not to over-eat, savour each bite and are probably getting lots of exercise spending time in your garden doing manual labour.

I put it out there: I needed to lose those last few pounds to get to my pre-pregnancy weight and I was hoping this shift in attitude would do it. And it did. I did lose those last few pounds. I ate much smaller portions and allowed myself seconds if need be, but invariably, I never needed them. I felt great and was happy to finally nip those last couple pounds in the bud.

Let's hope it works again!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Shepherd's Pie: The Real Deal

I'm choosing to ignore the fact we've had rain for almost 3 weeks and I'm about to take the desperate step of lying under my grow lights for a pick-me-up by looking on the bright side of rainy days: comfort food!

Shepherd's Pie 
Growing up, Shepherd's Pie was my mother's beloved favourite and our most requested dish of hers. The one dish meal was comforting and hearty and I still turn to it when I'm feeling under the weather. 

After years of making it like my mother, including onion soup mix and a can of cream corn, I've decided to go back to the traditional roots of Shepherd's Pie and I was delighted with the results. Sadly, after making a ramekin sized, milk-free version, I was disheartened that Honey Bear detested it. Still, don't let the taste buds of a picky 20-month old deter you. It's delicious and we devoured it in about 2 days while watching endless amounts of Star Trek.

Shepherd's Pie
Adapted recipe from: Victoria Granof via Epicurious

1 lb local lamb, ground
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary, or dried
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 cup frozen peas
2 lbs of potatoes, chopped
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
Salt and Pepper to taste.

1. Brown lamb with onion and carrot. When cooked, drain off fat and add stock and tomato paste until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add peas and stir.
2. In the meantime, bring a large pot to boil and add potatoes and proceed to mash them as you like (I omitted the butter and added cream cheese instead).
3. In a baking dish, add meat mixture and top with potatoes. Top with paprika.
4. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes.


Monday, May 9, 2011

The Best Roast Chicken: Leftover Edition Recipe Three

Fiesta Chicken Bean and Rice Soup
OK, so I'm *really* stretching this roast chicken with a third soup, but why not? I have no real recipe for this, just threw in a bunch of ingredients that looked roughly like this:

3/4 cup of salsa
a good handful of brown rice
1 cup of dried beans from Rowe Farms - soaked overnight and boiled for about 30 minutes
whatever vegetables you have on hand
salt, pepper, cumin and coriander to taste
chicken stock
chicken from the mammoth carcass

I threw it all together and gently simmered until beans and rice were softened. Quick, easy and tasty. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mama's Day!

Mama and Honey Bear
I adore this picture. Taken back in the fall, my little toddler was still unsteady on her feet. She loved to hold Mama's hand as she explored our neighbourhood. Now at 20 months, she's feisty and spirited and loves to do things on her own. It's rare she reaches for my hand on one of our walks and when she does, it never fails to melt my heart. I love being her mama. 

Happy Mother's Day, to *all* you mama's out there - mama's to little ones, fur babies, angel babies, god-children and more. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Best Roast Chicken: Leftover Edition Recipe Two


OK, I fully admit this is a lot like yesterday's soup and yet, the differences are subtle enough that I'd want to eat one soup for lunch or serve as a starter to a nice French meal and eat one soup as a light supper. This is definitely a supper soup or an I'm-on-the-mend soup. The chunky potatoes and barley are hearty and the thyme and parsley give it a great, authentic chicken soup taste. It's a winner.  

I've always wanted to make Cock-A-Leekie soup (is it lame I still want to snicker like an 8-year-old when I say this out loud?) but have never gotten around to it. No better time to experiment, especially when you have leftovers from a mammoth 10 lb + chicken 


Adapted from All Recipes

Each and every little bit of meat you can remove from the chicken carcass (don't forget, the neck and back have some succulent meat)
10 cups broth
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup barley
2 large leeks, rinsed very well and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed 
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and simmer over medium-low heat until barley and potatoes are cooked, about 30 minutes. Super easy and tasty. Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Best Roast Chicken: Leftover Edition Recipe One

Best Roast Chicken, Ever!
This sucker was so huge, we were eating leftovers for days and left with a carcass full of yummy meat. I decided to go the soup route with three different results (OK, truthfully, two are similar yet distinct). I removed the half-grapefruit I stuffed in the cavity, but left the half onion including the skin. Cool tip: When making broth, leave the skin on an onion to get a rich, medium brown broth.

I covered the carcass with water and let it simmer away for about an hour. Straining the broth, I was left with about 10-12 cups of delicious broth. Here's the first recipe of what I did and ultimately one of my favourite all time soups. I had it at a restaurant and I've spent the last ten years trying to perfect the recipe. I'm close.

Lemon Chicken Leek and Spinach Soup
This is a very delicate soup and while I almost always prefer a hardy soup with chunky vegetables, the aim of this particular soup is a simple elegance that is refreshing and satisfying. The delicacy of the leeks and the soft perfume of lemon really shine through. If the zest of one lemon isn't enough, feel free to juice the lemon and add according to your taste, but your aim is subtlety.

8 cups of chicken broth
2 large leeks, trimmed and rinsed VERY well (they're sandy little suckers)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup frozen spinach (if I don't have homegrown fresh stuff, I like to buy the little frozen pucks. Makes recipes like these much easier).
3/4 cup white meat picked from carcass
1 large lemon, zested (I prefer to use the Microplane, so the zest almost melts into the soup)
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
Salt and Pepper to taste

1. Throw in all your ingredients together and simmer until leeks have softened, about 30 minutes. I did add about 1 tsp of instant chicken bouillon, which I'm always embarrassed to admit, but I needed a bit more depth of flavour and Honey Bear was screaming for dinner. The good news is a found a soup winner and a dinner we could ALL enjoy for once!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Best Roast Chicken

Nothing conjures up the perfect Sunday dinner than a good roast chicken and this one did not disappoint. I recently discovered my favourite pork vendor at the market sells Meat King chickens, which are huge birds, over 10 lb birds.

I like to do a variety of tricks and techniques for a super tasty bird. First, I squeezed half a grapefruit over the bird (or orange, but I was all out), added salt and pepper and some dried and local lemon verbena. I added the other half of the grapefruit and a halved onion into the cavity (half a head of garlic would be fantastic as well). Next comes the fun part:

Nothing beats bacon

BACON! That's right, layer that over the bird. Ours was unsmoked, so it wasn't the best choice, but it did the trick and we didn't have to add any butter to it. 

Bacon as a snack? Why not!

I roasted it at 400 until the bacon was crispy (makes for a great mid-afternoon treat) and reduce heat to 325 and cook until chicken has reached 170 on your meat thermometer. 

Oh Baby...

Oh baby....

While the chicken was finishing up, I roasted some potatoes, onions, garlic and carrots on a separate baking sheet. I boiled the potatoes and carrots for about 10 minutes to make for extra crispy potatoes and carrots and used pan drippings, salt, pepper, lemon verbena and paprika to season the vegetables. 

Roast Chicken and Vegetables

Jeff has a trick he learned from The Barefoot Contessa. When you remove the breast, cut into chunks so everyone has a chance to have chicken with skin. I like it and it helps me eat a lot less chicken. 

Since I was on a citrus theme, I couldn't resist making this delicious cake for dessert:

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I couldn't take a good picture from the side, so you'll have to trust me that this is a perfectly moist and delicious cake that's perfect after a big meal or with a steaming mug of coffee as a mid-afternoon treat. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp finely grated lemon rind
1 cup softened butter
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp poppy seeds
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup yogurt or sour cream


1 cup icing sugar
5 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice


2 tsp lemon juice


1. In large bowl and using fingers, rub sugar with lemon rind until fragrant. Beat in butter until light. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in lemon juice. 

2. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, salt and baking soda; stir into butter mixture alternately with sour cream, making 3 additions of dry ingredients and 2 of sour cream. Scrape into 8 greased and floured 1-cup (250 mL) mini Bundt pans or 5- x 3-inch (625 mL) mini loaf pans, or one 9- x 5-inch (2 L) loaf pan. 

3. Bake in 325°F (160°C) oven until cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, about 30 minutes for Bundt pans, 1 hour for large loaf. Transfer pans to rack. 

Icing: In small bowl, stir icing sugar with lemon juice until smooth. Divide in half. 

Glaze: Stir lemon juice into one half of icing; brush over hot cakes. Remove from pans; let cool on rack. 
Drizzle with remaining icing, adding a little more lemon juice to loosen if necessary.



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