Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cheese, Bacon & Herb Frittata


The other day, one of my co-works made a Frittata for a potluck breakfast. Another co-worker is currently on a "carb free" diet, to get in ship shape for her upcoming wedding so the Frittata was made special for her. A Frittata is like a quiche, except Frittata is crust free; Just eggs and whatever goodies you'd like to add in for flavour. It's incredibly versatile and easy! It can be made in advance and re-heated or eat it cold. Frittata is the perfect for potluck, picnic, breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack!

For the herb addition to my Frittata I used a couple great freeze dried seasoning blends from Epicure Selections. Their Cheese, Chive & Bacon Dip Mix and Three Onion Dip Mix are perfect additions to eggs, potatoes, soups and of course, dips. I absolutely love their products and have one of just about everything in the catalogue. If you don't have Epicure products to use in your Frittata, just use whatever herbs or seasonings you'd like.

Ingredients:

8 whole eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon dried herb blend of your choice (I used 1/2 tbsp Epicure Cheese, Chive & Bacon Mix and 1/2 tbsp Epicure 3 Onion Mix.)
Pinch each of Salt & Pepper
4 slices of crisp cooked bacon, broken into small pieces
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 green onion sprigs, sliced thin

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9 inch pie plate and set aside.

2. Add eggs and milk to a bowl and beat together. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper.

3. Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate. Sprinkle over half the cheese and drop bacon pieces evenly around the dish. Cover with remaining cheese.

4. Bake in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and the eggs are puffed up and the edges starting to brown.

5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with sliced green onion. Let cool slightly then slice and serve.

Variations: Substitute ham or sausage for bacon, or omit meat for a vegetarian option. Use fresh herbs instead of dried. Add fresh, diced veggies. Anything goes!



This post is part of Twister Tuesday @ GNOWFGLINS.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sweet Potato, Leek & Ham Soup



This recipe is adapted from Cooking Light's "Fresh Food Fast" cookbook. It's incredibly quick to make and is a great use of left over holiday ham.

1 cup diced, cooked ham
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups sliced leek (2 large)
3 cups peeled & diced sweet potato (2-3 large)
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup 2% milk
salt & pepper to taste
thin sliced green onion for garnish

1. Heat a large heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add ham and cook 3-4 minutes until lightly browned. Remove ham from pan and set aside.

2. Melt butter in the same pot. Add leek and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add sweet potato, chicken broth and water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30 minutes until sweet potato is fork tender.

4. Remove pot from heat and pour in milk. Using an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Stir in 3/4 cup of the diced ham. Return pot to low heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, just to heat through.

5. Spoon into bowls and garnish with remaining diced ham and sliced green onion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Local Eating - Winter Foods


(Photo taken in my back yard 3 winters ago... thankfully no snow this year!)

Re-posted from last year. It's December 1st - Time to think winter foods!

Wondering what is growing in the Vancouver area during the winter months?

Get Local BC has a lot of information to help people buy and eat local.

Right now there is an ABUNDANCE of locally grown produce available. Here is the list from Eat Local BC:

Vegetables: Beets, cabbage (green & red), carrots, garlic, kale, leeks, onions (red & yellow), parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, shallots, squash (winter), turnips (white), zucchini
Fruit: Apples, kiwi
Meat & Dairy: Dairy Products, eggs, beef, buffalo, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, pheasant, port, rabbit, turkey
Seafood: Clams, cod (Pacific), crab, Dungeness crab, flounder/sole (Pacific), mussels, oysters (Pacific), prawns (jumbo), sablefish (black cod), scallops, shrimp (side stripe, west coast)
Herbs: Bay leaves, chervil, rosemary, sage, savory (winter), thyme
Etc: Honey, Mushrooms, Nuts

At first I thought I hated winter vegetables but now I'm finding I really enjoy roasted beets and parsnips. I use carrots, potatoes, squash, onions and shallots regularly. Winter produce isn't so bad after all!

Looking for a winter Farmers Market in your area? Check here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Grandma's Meat Lasagna


My Grandma makes a very basic meat lasagna that can be easily adapted to suit your tastes. Add or omit whatever you'd like. The basic recipe is eight ingredients but my Grandma usually kicks it up a notch by adding some minced veggies to her sauce. The layers are simply noodle, meat sauce and cheese. If you want to fancy it up you could add spinach, ricotta or cottage cheese layers. Prep is fairly quick (it can be made and assembled up to a day in advance) and the lasagna cooks in under an hour.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 stalk celery, minced (optional)
1 large carrot, peeled & minced (optional)
3-4 large mushrooms, diced fine (optional)
2 14-ounce cans tomato sauce (I use 1 can sauce, 1 can diced)
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (optional)
1 pound of cheese (mozza, cheddar or whatever you want)
9 lasagna noodles

Directions:

1. Brown onions in oil. Add beef. Season with garlic power and Seasoning Salt. Cook until meat is browned. Drain excess fat. (My Grandma doesn't do this but I can't help myself!) Add carrot, celery and mushrooms and cook a few minutes until fragrant.

2. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and Italian Seasoning. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer slowly for 20-30 minutes.

3. While sauce is simmering, cook lasagna noodles in salted water, as directed by package instructions. Drain and set aside.

4. Prepare cheese by shredding or thinly slicing - your preference. I prefer to have shredded cheese for my layers and thin sliced cheese for the top.

5. When sauce has reduced slightly (if it's runny, simmer longer), arrange 3 noodles lengthwise across a baking dish. Cover with an even layer of meat sauce, followed by an even layer of shredded cheese. Top cheese with 3 more noodles, another layer of meat sauce and another layer of shredded cheese. Finish with the last 3 noodles and a layer of cheese slices.

6. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees (F) for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.


Tastes better than it photographs!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Garbage Plate Breakfast



A long time ago I saw an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives featuring Frank's Diner and the Chorizo Garbage Plate Special. The premise of the breakfast entrée is that you take whatever you have in your fridge, load it up on top of a bed of grilled hash browns and crack an egg or two on top. Voila! Complete breakfast in one plan and you've cleaned out your fridge a bit in the process.


My Garbage Plate started with a bed of cube hash browns, half a chopped red onion and a bit of chopped red pepper. I cooked it in a cast iron fry pan with a bit of oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Any left over veggie will do. Throw in any left over meat you have (ham and sausage are great!). Add some fresh (or dried) herbs or other seasonings of your choice. It's my favourite type of recipe - ANYTHING GOES. Make the Garbage Plate based on what you have and what you like. When your hash browns are cooked and your veggie additions are tender, crack an egg or two on top of the mess and mix it all up. Heat until the egg is cooked through. Top with some shredded cheese. Eat. It's like a breakfast stir fry. And it's GOOD!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I'm still here!


I just wanted to update to say I'm still here. The blog is still running. Unfortunately I haven't had time to do much cooking or recipe posting. This time of year, straight through to January, is always the busiest for me. I have some things in the works and hope to get some new recipes up within a week or two.

Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chicken Stock

You brined a chicken. You roasted a chicken. You carved and ate a chicken. Now it's time to deal with the chicken remains. Why waste a perfectly good chicken carcass when you can boil it with aromatic vegetables and create a simple and delicious stock. If you aren't ready to make your stock the day after your chicken dinner, put the bones in a bag and freeze them until you are ready.

Ingredients:

Carcass and bones of a 2-3 pound chicken
4 litres water
1 large whole onion, ends trimmed, cut in half (skin left on - adds colour!)
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3-4 fresh or dried celery leaves (optional - but adds a great deal of flavour)
1 bay leaf (optional)

Directions:

1. Add everything to a stock pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

2. Reduce to low and cover. Simmer on low for at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours or overnight.

3. When you have simmered your stock for the desired length of time, remove bones and vegetables using tongs or a slotted spoon and discard. Pour stock through a fine strainer. Pour strained stock into jars. Leave overnight or in refrigerator until fat congeals at the top. Remove congealed fat with a spoon and discard or save for later use (chicken fat is referred to a Schmaltz. It is used in Jewish cooking, in place of butter or lard, as it is considered kosher).

4. Pour stock into ice cube trays and freeze. When frozen, pop out of trays and store in ziplock bags in the freezer. Most standard ice cube trays will produce a 1 ounce portion of stock, ready for use when needed. You could also measure one or two cups of stock into ziplock bags and freeze for times when you need larger portions. DO NOT freeze your stock in glass canning jars as the stock expands when it freezes and may cause your jar to crack and leak (as mine did, duh!). The fresh stock will keep in your refrigerator for 2-3 days. Use stock in soups, stews, sauces and stir fries.

*Seasoning your stock with salt and pepper is optional. I generally do not season my stock as it gives me more freedom to season later on when I use it in my cooking. Overly seasoned stock may interfere with the flavour and seasoning of the dish you are creating. Sometimes I will add a bit of fresh cracked pepper, but I never salt my stock.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Basic Roast Chicken & Gravy


See part one - Brining a Chicken.

Your chicken has been brined and it is at room temperature. You are ready to roast! Start by watching this video, from CHOW, on how to truss your chicken. Trussing ensures the wings and legs are firmly attached to the body so that the bird cooks evenly and the small extremities don't dry out. Trussing also allows the bird to be turned easily during cooking. Prior to trussing, salt and pepper the inside of the cavity.

Once your bird is trussed, you are really ready to roast!

Ingredients:

2-3 lb whole chicken, brined and trussed
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, melted (or olive oil, or a mixture of the two)
salt and pepper
1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
1 onion, cut in quarters
1 celery stalk, cut into large chunks

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees (F).

2. Smear 2-3 tablespoons of room temperature butter over the outside of the bird. If you prefer, you could also brush olive oil all over.

3. Generously salt and pepper the outside of the bird. If you'd like, you can also sprinkle with dried herbs of your choice. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Arrange vegetables around the bird in the bottom of the pan. Here's a tip: I don't have a rack for my roasting pan so I propped my bird up ON TOP of the vegetables. As long as the bird doesn't sit on the bottom of the pan, anything goes!


4. Place pan in pre-heated oven and roast at the high heat for 15 minutes to get the top nice and brown. After 15 minutes, turn chicken and roast the other side for 15 minutes. Baste with melted butter. Turn back to breast side up, baste again and lower heat to 350 degrees (F).

5. Baste every 15-20 minutes. It may take up to 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook, but test for doneness after 50 minutes. The general rule of thumb is 30 minutes per pound. Stick a meat thermometer in the fattiest part of the thigh. The internal temperature should register 165-170 degrees (F). Any less and your chicken is undercooked. Any more and you risk a dried out bird. Remember that the chicken will continue cooking after you remove it from the oven. While cooking, if the legs, wings or breast start to get too browned, cover those bits with small pieces of tin foil to avoid burning.

6. Once proper internal temperature is reached, remove your bird from the oven and set on a plate or chopping board, covered with foil and leave to rest for 15-20 minutes. When ready to cut, check here for a tutorial on how to carve your chicken.


Serve with mashed potatoes, gravy and steamed veggies. A 2-3 pound chicken will adequately serve 2 or 3 people with a bit of left overs for soup, a stir fry or a casserole!

Chicken Gravy:

For gravy, try this White Wine Gravy from Martha Stewart. For a more simple gravy, try this one, like I used:

Ingredients:

1 cup chicken stock
1 heaping teaspoon cornstarch mixed with a splash of warm water
salt & pepper

Directions:

1. While chicken is resting, remove vegetables from roasting pan and discard. Scoop out and discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Place roasting pan on a burner over high heat (if pan is large, place across two burners).

2. Add chicken stock to hot pan and using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits from the bottom (this is called de-glazing the pan). Bring to a boil.

3. Pour in cornstarch and bring to a boil, stirring continually. When sauce has thickened to your desired consistency, it's ready. Season with salt and pepper. Strain sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a gravy boat or glass bowl.

Next time... homemade chicken stock using the left over carcass and bones.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Brining Poultry


I just finished week 8 of my Surf & Turf cooking class over at CHEESESLAVE. This week we learned about roasting and braising meats and sauce reductions. Recipes included pot roast with gravy, braised short ribs, Moroccan chicken, lamb chops, pulled pork and roast duck, among many others! Also included in this class was a video about how to roast a chicken. Ann Marie doesn't cover brining in the videos, but briefly mentions it and includes some direction in the recipes.

Last year when I cooked my first ever Thanksgiving turkey, I brined my turkey in a mixture of water, salt, honey and citrus zest. Brining poultry before cooking leads to juicier and more tender meat. My turkey was a huge success. My brother-in-law declared it was the best turkey he had ever eaten. I would like to think it was just because I cooked it, but I'm quite certain the brining had something to do with it.

The problem with brining is that it takes time. A large bird (10lbs or more) requires 12-24 hours to brine then an additional 12-24 hours to "dry" (a wet bird won't cook or brown well). A smaller bird can be brined adequately in 3-12 hours and left to "dry" for 6-12 hours. Basically, if you want to brine your bird, you should start 2 to 3 days in advance of cooking. It's not as much of a pain as it sounds. Preparing the brine takes minutes and once the bird is in the solution, you don't have to do anything until you take it out of the brine! Don't forget you also need at least an hour (for a small bird) before cooking so the bird can come to room temperature before putting it in the oven!

A basic brine includes salt and a sweetener. More advanced brines will include flavour enhancers like citrus zest or dried herbs. The one I used for my turkey last year included lemon and orange peel, cardamom pods and dried thyme. For my roast chicken though, I wanted something very simple and very basic.

Cooks Illustrated has a great PDF with loads of info and tips on brining. They recommend the following ratios for a basic brine:

Per 1 litre (1 quart) of water add 1/4 cup of fine kosher or sea salt (1/2 cup if salt is course) and 1/2 cup of sweetener. One litre (1 quart) of liquid is required per pound. They also say it should not exceed 2 gallons of brine, but you need enough to cover your bird so if you are cooking a large chicken or turkey, you may need as much as 3 gallons of brine. They also say to brine for one hour per pound, but for no more than 8 hours.

My brine didn't follow the Cooks Illustrated model exactly but it was close. I adapted my brine from the Healthiest Meals on Earth cookbook. It looked something like this:

2.5 lb whole chicken
2 litres warm water
1 cup sea salt
1 cup unpasteurized, raw honey

The brine was mixed together in a stock pot and the chicken placed inside. The chicken was brined in the refrigerator overnight, for about 12 hours. After that, I drained the pot, rinsed the chicken and placed it in the empty stockpot, and left it in the refrigerator for another 6 hours.

And contrary to what you may have read online, you CAN use a metal pot to hold your brine - just make sure it is stainless steal or enamelled cast iron (like Le Creuset). Do not use aluminum or straight cast iron as metal can leech into your brine and affect the taste. You can also use glass or plastic container or a plastic brining bag. Do not use a garbage bag as they are not food safe. You may need to weigh your chicken down with a plate to ensure it is completely submerged.

When you are ready to cook your bird, take it out of the refrigerator and leave it to sit, covered, at room temperature for at least one hour.

Next time... Basic Roast Chicken

Monday, October 18, 2010

Pear & Gorgonzola Tarts with Red Pepper Jelly

This is the second fall themed appetizer I prepared for my cousin's 1st birthday party. As with all party appies I make, there is no photo! I will probably be making these again. They were popular amongst the blue cheese fans in the crowd. I didn't have time to top mine with the pepper jelly but I'm sure they would have been fantastic if I had taken the time for that extra step. They definitely needed a kick of sweetness. A dribble of honey or some rich caramelized onion would have been a nice topping too.

Ingredients:

1 package phyllo pastry, thawed
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 ounces (125g) Gorgonzola cheese plus a couple ounces extra, crumbled
8 ounces (250g) cream cheese
3 tbsp milk or cream
salt and pepper.
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
1 jar Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly

Directions:

1. Unfold phyllo pastry and cut into 3x3 squares. Brush melted butter on a square and cover with a second square. Repeat process until squares have 4 layers. Press into the cups of a mini muffin tin. Pre-bake phyllo cups according to package directions (about 8-10 mins or until light golden-brown). Remove from oven and let cool. Can be prepared in advance and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

2. Add Gorgonzola, cream cheese, milk, salt and pepper to a food processor and blend together until smooth. Fold in 3/4 of the chopped pears.

3. Spoon a small amount of cheese mixture into each phyllo cup. (I added my cheese mixture to a pastry bag and squeezed about a teaspoon of mixture into each cup.) Top with a couple pear pieces and a bit more crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven. Top each with a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper jelly. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grandma's No Bake Whipped Cheesecake


My Grandma has been making this cheesecake for over 40 years. She pinched the recipe from the restaurant kitchen when she worked at Woolworth's in the early 1960's. (It's also known as Woolworth's Icebox Cheesecake.) This cheesecake has been a favourite in my family ever since, and makes an appearance at every major family function and holiday gathering. I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at Grandma's the other day learning how to make this classic dessert. It's easier than I expected, although a stand mixer (which I do not have) is a definite must. It could be put together using an electric hand mixer but would require a bit more time and effort.

Ingredients:

- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- ½ cup butter, melted
- 1 block (250g) cream cheese
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ tins evaporated milk, refrigerated overnight before using
- 1 large packet lemon gelatin
- 2/3 cup boiling water
- 2/3 cup cold water

Directions:

1. Mix 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs and melted butter together in a bowl. Press crumbs into a deep 9x12 inch baking pan, covering the bottom and up the sides about half an inch. Reserve the other 1/2 cup of the crumbs for topping. Refrigerate crust until ready to use.

2. Add cream cheese, sugar and vanilla to a small bowl of an electric stand mixer and cream together until smooth and well blended, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

3. Add milk to a large bowl an electric stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks are formed.

4. While milk is beating, prepare gelatin. Mix gelatin powder with boiling water and cold water. Mix well to dissolve powder but do not allow to congeal.

5. While mixer is running, slowly add gelatin mixture to whipped milk. Mix together on slow speed for 1/2 a minute.

6. While mixer is still running, slowly add cream cheese mixture to whipped milk. Mix together on slow speed for another 1/2 minute or until all cream cheese is incorporated.

7. Pour mixture over crumbs in prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining crumbs over top. Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sausage, Apple & Sage Stuffed Mushrooms

My cousin's baby turned 1 year old last week! She hosted a family birthday celebration over the weekend, the day before (Canadian) Thanksgiving. In honour of the holiday, my cousin wanted to do a fall/Thanksgiving theme cocktail menu. I offered to help out by making a few dishes.

Unfortunately, no pictures yet. The appies were gobbled up before I could snap a photo!

First up - Mushrooms stuffed with... STUFFING! I've always believed that stuffing is the best part of the holidays; or at least the best part of the holiday dinner. Last year I posted my mom's recipe for Moist Bread Sausage Apple Stuffing. It's THE best stuffing EVER and that is no exaggeration. I re-worked the recipe to make it suitable to stuff into large white mushrooms. Topped with a bit of grated Parmesan (because every stuffed mushroom recipe should be topped with cheese), these mushrooms are to die for!

If you want, you could make this into an entrée by using large portabella mushrooms. To get the celery and onion to a fine, minced consistency, I chopped them into smaller pieces, then put them into a food processor.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter
1 cup minced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup minced onion (about 1 large onion)
1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped fine
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 lb (4 oz, 250g) ground pork sausage (NOT Italian sausage)
2 apples, peeled, cored and minced
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan, plus
36 large white button mushrooms, washed and de-stemmed

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange mushrooms, tops face up, in a single layer. Roast in oven for 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the stuffing. Remove from oven to cool. Replace parchment with a fresh sheet and arrange mushroom tops down, in a single layer.

2. Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add onions and celery and cook until onions are translucent and celery tender. Add seasonings and mix well. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bow.

3. In the same sauté pan, cook sausage and apple with apple juice until sausage cooked through and apples are soft. Add mixture to the bowl of onion and celery.

4. Once vegetable mixture has cooled slightly, add bread crumbs and Parmesan to the bowl. Toss everything to mix well.

5. Scoop mixture into each mushroom cap. Sprinkle with a bit of Parmesan cheese. Bake in pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes until tops are browned. Serve immediately.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes

I'm posting this a little late for the Canadian readers since Thanksgiving dinners are being held tonight and tomorrow night. For the American readers, maybe some of these recipes will give you inspiration for your meal next month!

My mom's classic and our family favourite - Moist Bread Sausage Apple Stuffing. I changed it up this year by adding fresh chopped sage. Delicious!


A new favourite (of mine) - Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli and Asparagus with Garlic Balsamic Reduction. My other Brussels Sprouts favourite is when they are sautéed with onion and bacon!


Or how about Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce.


Another new dish - Roasted Root Vegetables with Candied Pumpkin Seeds. I made this one last year instead of mashed potatoes.



Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen - Cranberry Port Wine Jelly and Merlot Wine Jelly



Two more easy jellies to make for holiday gifts. These ones are even easier than the Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly because there is no food processing step. Wine jellies are fabulous with cream cheese and pate. They are also good over lamb and game meats.

Recipes from 'The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving'.

Cranberry Port Wine Jelly

1 cup port wine
1 cup 100% cranberry juice (NOT cocktail and NOT concentrate)
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

1. See here for instructions on how to prepare jars for canning and here for how to prepare your boiling-water canner.

2. Place wine, cranberry juice and sugar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim off any foam.

3. Ladle mixture into hot 125ml canning jars. Cover with a hot snap lid and secure with a ring. Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if you are above 1000ft elevation). Turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from water (to stabilize pressure inside jars). Remove jars from water and place them on a towel. Let jars sit, undisturbed, to cool at room temperature overnight. Remove rings, label jars with contents and date, and store jars in a cool, dark place. (If you are giving as gifts, leave rings on, or replace rings just before gifting.)

Yields 4 1/2 cups

Merlot Wine Jelly

You can substitute ANY wine in place of the Merlot.

2 cups Merlot wine
1/4 cup fresh, strained lemon juice (2-3 lemons), or 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

1. See here for instructions on how to prepare jars for canning and here for how to prepare your boiling-water canner.

2. Place wine, lemon juice and sugar in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pectin. Skim off any foam.

3. Ladle mixture into hot 125ml canning jars. Cover with a hot snap lid and secure with a ring. Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if you are above 1000ft elevation). Turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from water (to stabilize pressure inside jars). Remove jars from water and place them on a towel. Let jars sit, undisturbed, to cool at room temperature overnight. Remove rings and store jars in a cool, dark place. (If you are giving as gifts, leave rings on, or replace rings just before gifting.)

Yields 4 1/2 cups

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen - Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly


Making homemade jellies is a lot easier than I expected. With the right supplies and a little patience, you too can create some gourmet jellies for holiday gifts. Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly makes a great appetizer, served with crackers and cheese, especially cream cheese. It's also great as a spread on a turkey sandwich.

The best part about making your own jelly is that it is CHEAP! Assuming you already own the required canning equipment, the cost per 125ml jar of Cranberry Hot Pepper Jelly works out to less than $2 per jar! My batch of eight jars actually cost $1.73 per jar. That cost includes the jar, sugar, pectin, red pepper, jalapeño and cranberry juice AND the jar top labels. (The vinegar is not included in the cost analysis because I already had a large jug on hand, but even with the amount of vinegar used in the recipe added in, the total per jar would still be under $2.) Homemade jellies are personal, affordable, easy and delicious.

The green jalapeño peppers used in this recipe are quite mild and taste peppery rather than spicy. If you'd like a spicier mix, try using Serrano peppers or red jalapeño peppers. You could also add a teaspoon or two of dried red chili flakes to the saucepan during step one.

Recipe from 'The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving'.


1 large sweet red pepper
2 green jalapeño peppers, seeded
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup 100% pure cranberry juice (NOT cocktail)
3 cups white sugar
1 pouch liquid fruit pectin
8 125ml canning jars, snap lids and rings
1 jelly bag or cheesecloth

1. See here for instructions on how to prepare jars for canning and here for how to prepare your boiling-water canner.

2. Finely chop red pepper and jalapeño peppers in a food processor. Place mixture in a small stainless steel saucepan* with water and vinegar. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Strain mixture through a course sieve, pressing with the back of spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Pour liquid through a jelly bag or through a couple layers of cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment.

3. Place strained liquid, cranberry concentrate and sugar in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin, return to a full boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam.

4. Ladle mixture into hot 125ml canning jars. Cover with a hot snap lid and secure with a ring. Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (15 minutes if you are above 1000ft elevation). Turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from water (to stabilize pressure inside jars). Remove jars from water and place them on a towel. Let jars sit, undisturbed, to cool at room temperature overnight. Remove rings, label jars with contents and date, and store jars in a cool, dark place. (If you are giving as gifts, leave rings on, or replace rings just before gifting.)


Labels are Avery #8293 - High Visibility Inkjet Round Labels.


Yields 8 - 125ml jars

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baked Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onion, Bacon and Smoked Cheddar


I was craving carbs last night so I "whipped up" a really quick and simple homemade mac and cheese. It's really not as difficult or scary as it seems. You could make it even more quick and simple by leaving out the onions and bacon, but I suggest you leave them in!

Ingredients:

6 cups whole wheat pasta noodles
1 onion, halved and sliced thin
4 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp flour
1 bay leaf
1 cup milk
salt & pepper
1/2 cup smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup white cheddar cheese, shredded
5 sliced bacon, diced and cooked until crisp
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

Directions:

1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until cooked al dente (should still be slightly firm to the bite). Drain and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Toss well to coat noodles in oil so they will not stick together. Set aside.

2. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter to a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook down until reduced and browned, about 15 minutes. Remove onions from skillet and set aside.

3. In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add flour and whisk continually until a paste is formed (this is called a roux). Add milk and bay leaf and continue stirring until sauce thickens slightly (this is a basic French Béchamel sauce). Add shredded cheese a bit at a time and continue to stir until cheese has melted. Add caramelized onion and diced bacon and stir together.

4. Add cooked noodles to cheese sauce mixture and stir together to coat. Pour into a greased 9x13 glass baking dish. Sprinkle Parmesan over top and then top with breadcrumbs. Cut 1 tablespoon of butter into 4 small chunks and drop onto top of breadcrumbs in a few places.

5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until top is golden brown and crispy.

This post is linked to Twister Tuesday at GNOWFGLINS.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen - Spicy Dill Beans

It's that time of year again! Time to start thinking about Christmas gifts and holiday menus! Last year I made several tasty creations in my kitchen and gave them out to friends and family. More great gifts from the kitchen will be coming over the next couple months!


At the request of my mother, I spent an afternoon canning Spicy Dill Beans. I use a recipe that Vancity Rock Girl posted over two years ago. I first canned beans using this recipe before Christmas in 2008. I had labels and little cards with the Mott's Caesar recipe, printed through Vistaprint. I wrapped the jars up all pretty and gave them out to extended family and friends. They were a HUGE hit! I continued to get requests for these tasty beans throughout 2009. Now the supplies are running short and people are in need of more beans! You can't drink a Caesar without a Spicy Dill Bean to garnish! They are also great for munching as a snack. This recipe also works for carrots and asparagus... especially asparagus!

Vancity Rock Girl's Spicy Dill Beans:

Yields 4 pints

2 lbs green beans, trimmed to about 3 1/2 inches
4 red jalapeño peppers, cut in half lengthwise
8 sprigs of fresh dill
8 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 tbsp mustard seeds
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 tbsp picking salt

1. See here for instructions on how to prepare jars for canning and here for how to prepare your boiling-water canner.

2. In a large saucepan, mix water, vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Keep warm on the stove top while you finish the next step.

3. To each jar, add 2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of mustard seeds, two halves of hot peppers and two sprigs of fresh dill. Tightly pack the beans into each jar.

4. Pour the hot vinegar mixture into each jar and fill, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Cover with a hot snap lid and secure with a ring. (You want air & water to be able to circulate during the water bath, so don't tighten the ring too much.)

5. Place jars into boiling water bath canner. Ensure water comes up 1 inch above the top of the jars. Bring to a boil again and process the jars for 10 minutes (15 minutes if above 1000ft elevation). Turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutes before removing jars from water (to stabilize pressure inside jars). Remove jars from water and place them on a towel. Let jars sit, undisturbed, to cool at room temperature overnight. Remove rings, label jars with contents and date, and store jars in a cool, dark place. (If you are giving as gifts, leave rings on, or replace rings just before gifting.) Let sit at least 2 weeks before using.


Check Vistaprint for cheap custom labels and business cards. They have daily deals where you get the printing on several items free and just pay shipping. I have custom printed stationary, envelopes, pens, post-it's, note cards and note pads. It can be quite addictive at first and the products make great gifts!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Putting Up

Home canning is also referred to "putting up" - putting up food for use later in the year. Canning is making a huge come back, for economical reasons and because of the eat local movement. Home preserving is an essential part of local eating because it encourages you to shop and eat seasonally. With canning and dehydrating, you can preserve seasonal foods for use later in the year, out of season. The other day I had a canning marathon. It was quite an ordeal but, with the help of Food in Jars, I managed to put up:

3 pints (500ml jars) Homemade Spiced Applesauce. Total of 6lbs of Okanagan apples put up.


5 quarts (1L jars) Tomatoes Packed in Water, using 8lbs of Okanagan tomatoes. (I loosely followed my Grandma's method, but adhered to the USDA guidelines to ensure they are in a safe pH range).


3 pints (500ml jars) Peaches in Honey Syrup, using 5 lbs of Okanagan peaches. (I followed the directions on the Food in Jars website, but instead of 100% sugar, I used 50% honey/50% sugar. One jar also received a piece of Star Anise, a cinnamon stick and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.)


Add all this to the things I put up during the Preserve the Bounty challenge, and this summer I preserved about 25 quarts of fruit and vegetables for use this winter!

Still on the agenda for this week is Spicy Dill Beans, at the request of my mother. She loves them as a garnish in Caesars.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pumpkin Muffins


This recipe was forwarded to me by my cousin, Tobe. I re-worked the ingredients to eliminate refined vegetable oil, white sugar and all-purpose flour and reduced the amount of oil and sweetener. The end result is quite good. The spices and pumpkin really stand out. A warm pumpkin muffin with a pat of butter is lovely with tea on a rainy fall afternoon! You could also make pumpkin loaves, if you prefer.

1 400ml (14oz) can 100% pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
4 whole eggs
1/2 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup water
1 cup unrefined golden cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp aluminum free baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (see below)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour two 12-cup muffin tins.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, eggs, coconut oil, water, cane sugar and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, apple pie spice and ginger. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffins/loafs comes out clean.

4. Let cool slightly in pan, then remove to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix:

(4:1 ratio of cinnamon to other spices. Adjust volume accordingly.)

1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cloves

1. Add everything to a small glass jar and seal with a tight fitting lid. Shake well to mix. Store for up to 6 months.



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Apple Bacon Soup



The perfect soup for a chilly fall day!

1 1/2 lb butternut squash, halved and seeded
2 onions, quartered
2 cloves garlic
2 medium apples, quartered
4 tsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp honey
4 sliced bacon, diced
salt and pepper

1. Peel and cut squash into large,1 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubes into a roasting pan. Add onion, and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat. Roast for 425 degrees for 30 minutes until squash is tender. Half way through roasting, add apples to pan, toss everything together and place back in the oven to finish roasting.

2. Peel roasted apples (skins should slip off easily). Add apple, squash, onion and garlic to a food processor.

3. Heat roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup vegetable broth, and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from the roasted vegetables. Add broth to food processor with the vegetables. Blend everything together until smooth. Add honey and sage and pulse to blend together.

4. Cook bacon in a dutch oven or heavy saucepan, over medium-high heat until crisp. Transfer cooked bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from dutch oven. Add vegetable puree, the rest of the vegetable broth, 1 cup water, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Bring to boil then simmer for 5 minutes.

5. Serve sprinkled with crisp cooked bacon and a dollop of sour cream.

This post is part of Twister Tuesday at GNOWFLINS and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly The Kitchen Kop.


This post was featured on the front page of Tasty Kitchen on October 6, 2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Okanagan Farm Stands


Highway scenery last summer. The weather wasn't as gorgeous this weekend!

I spent the weekend in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. The area is well known for fruit and produce. (The region is also well known for it's wineries, that that wasn't the purpose of this trip). Road side fruit stands line the highways through every little town and big city, from Salmon Arm in the North Shushwap area, down through Enderby, Vernon and Kelowna on Highway 97A, and all along Highway 3 (Hope-Princeton/Crowsnest) through Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Keremeos and Princeton. Highway 3 is the fruit stand highway. If you come to the Okanagan looking for fruit, make sure you take the Hope-Princeton Highway instead of the Coquihalla (Hwy 1). The route is a little longer and a little bit windier, but it's worth it just for all the fruit stands. Come in the summer for berries (especially cherries), peaches, nectarines and plums and come in the fall for apples, pears, pumpkins and squash.


Photo Credit

We stopped at Bear's in Keremeos. It's apple and squash season in the Okanagan. There were a dozen varieties of winter squash, some I'd never seen before. Along with the usuals (butternut, turban, delicata, acorn), they also had some odd looking grey things and some white acorns.


Grey Hubbard Squash

I stocked up on three varieties of local apples but all I can remember is honey crisp - I already forgot the other two varieties! I also picked up a couple butternut squashes, a flat of field tomatoes (more canning in my future) and a carton of peaches (the last of the season)! I also got a jar of local Keremeos Blackberry Honey and a bottle of local Black Cherry Fruit Vinegar.



While in Salmon Arm, I stopped at the famed DeMille's Farm Market and bought three blocks of Farmstead Artisan Cheese produced by The Village Cheese Company in Armstrong, B.C. (original home of the huge Armstrong Cheese company).

Sometime this week I plan to make Butternut Squash Apple soup and I might try to make some dried apple rings in the the food dehydrator. Any suggestions what I can do with the peaches, other than gobble them up whole?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Beet Hummus - Guest Post from Marianne


Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by Marianne, of From French Fries to Flax Seeds. Marianne went to high school with me eons ago and last year, we reconnected over Facebook. Turns out she likes food as much as I do so we became Farmer's Market buddies! Marianne is training to be a registered dietitian, so along with having great recipes, she is also extremely knowledgeable about dietary health and nutrition. This may just be the longest post I have ever posted and include the most pictures, but is also one of the best! I cannot wait to make my own batch of beet hummus!

Beet It!
by Marianne of From French Fries to Flax Seeds

There are plenty of foods I may declare that I don’t like, but it’s not always true. It’s just easier to say “I don’t like (blank)” than to try and explain the situations in which I enjoy said food. Take tomatoes, for example. I often say I don’t like them, but I do eat them in things like salsa, ketchup, soups, stews, and of course Caesars ;) But tomatoes in salads or sandwiches, or in a pasta sauce? No thanks. I’ll pass. Because “I don’t like tomatoes”.

But this post isn’t about tomatoes. It’s about beets.

Check out the rest of Marianne's awesome post, mouth watering photos and great recipe for Beet Hummus after the jump.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Caesar Vinaigrette



I made this easy dressing to top a simple Caesar salad for a family get together. Traditional Caesar dressings use raw eggs but one of my family members is expecting so she can't eat raw eggs. Another option is mayonnaise, but it's not my favourite condiment (and store bought mayonnaise is highly processed), so I try to avoid it. I found a simple blender Caesar dressing on Pioneer Woman so I used that as a guide and changed it up slightly. The result was a perfectly balanced, fresh and tangy dressing. It was way better than anything that comes in a bottle. Incidentally, this would also be a terrific as a baste for chicken!



2 whole cloves garlic
2 tablespoons plain Dijon mustard (not grainy)
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
dash of hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1. Add garlic, Dijon, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt and pepper to a blender.

2. Pulse on low a couple times until blended. Add Parmesan cheese and pulse a couple more times.

3. Add olive oil, a little at a time, and pulse once before adding more. When totally combined, pour into a glass jar or bowl and refrigerate prior to use.

My salad was made with a head of fresh romaine from the Farmer's Market. I added about three tablespoons of dressing, tossed it together, then added shaved Grana Padano and the Pioneer Woman's garlic croûtons, made using fresh country bread, also from the Farmer's Market. To finish it off, I added another tablespoon or two of dressing and tossed everything once more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stuffed Peppers - A Guest Post from my Cousin



I put the call out to some friends and family members for some guests posts. I've been a little swamped lately since going back to work after having most of the summer off. My cousin Tobe was the first to come to the rescue with Stuffed Peppers. Tobe doesn't have a blog but she loves to cook. She also guest starred in my post a few weeks back about Canning with Grandma. Without further ado...

Stuffed Peppers by Tobe

One of my fiancé's favourite Monday night football meals is "Stuffed Peppers". They are super easy to prepare and great to serve to all our hungry football fans. I decided to take a very basic stuffed peppers recipe and raise it a few notches to add some more flavour and take advantage of some fresh local ingredients.

I added 1 cup of shredded sharp white cheddar which gives a nice smokey flavour. Save a small handful to garnish the top; it makes a nice crusty gooey top on the peppers. If you can't fine sharp white cheddar, any cheddar will work. Instead if 2 cans of tomato sauce, I used 1 can and substituted the other for 1 jar of my Grandma's canned tomatoes. If you don't have canned tomatoes I would use 1 can of crushed tomatoes to give the sauce some texture. I combined organic ground beef and ground bison, instead of plain ground beef, to change the meat up a bit. Finally I added a few splashes of red wine to the meat mixture. It gave a little more depth and helped bring some more flavour to the dish.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncooked long grain wild rice
1 cup water
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground bison
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine (few good splashes)
6 green bell peppers
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (8 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar (1/4 cup reserved for garnish)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes.

3. In a skillet over medium heat, add meats, red wine and Worcestershire sauce and cook the beef and bison until evenly browned.

4. Rinse bell peppers and remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward. Slice the bottoms of the peppers if necessary so that they will stand upright.

5. In a bowl, mix the browned beef and bison, cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can crushes tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, cheese, salt, and pepper. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper. Mix the remaining tomato sauce and Italian seasoning in a bowl, and pour over the stuffed peppers.

6. Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, basting with sauce every 15 minutes, until the peppers are tender. During last 20 minutes of baking, top with remaining cheese.

Enjoy with a side salad and some hot crusty bread!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pea Shoot, Tomato and Egg Salad



This is one of my favourites from The 10 Cent Diet. It's so fresh and simple. I eat it as a snack or as a salad with lunch. If you boil a few eggs in advance and keep them in your fridge, you can put this delicious salad together in a couple minutes.

Pea shoots, like all sprouts, are incredibly nutritious. They are super concentrated with nutrients - including seven times more vitamin C than blueberries, eight times more folic acid than bean sprouts and four times more vitamin A than tomatoes. (Source). Add a sliced garden fresh tomato and a perfectly hard boiled, free-range egg and you have a complete snack.

Serves 1

1 handful fresh pea shoots, cut in half
1 tomato, halved and sliced
1 (or 2) hard boiled egg(s), sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt (I use Fleur de Sel) and fresh cracked pepper

1. Layer pea shoots, tomato and egg in a bowl.

2. Top with a drizzle of balsamic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

If you're feeling extra fancy, used reduced balsamic vinegar. It's extra delicious that way. (Put 1 cup balsamic in a saucepan and simmer on low until volume reduced by half and balsamic is syrupy).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Skillet Sautéed Caramel Apple Crisp


I picked up some beautiful apples at the Farmer's Market the other day from Silverhill Apple Orchard. I was planning to make apple snacks in my food dehydrator but decided to postpone that task for another week. Instead I cooked up a tasty dessert that can be ready in about 25 minutes.

Serves 4

Skillet Sautéed Caramel Apples

2 apples - halved cored and sliced thin (Peel if you want; I didn't)
splash lemon juice
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tbsp sucanat
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp Apple Pie Spice (See below)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, toss together apple slices and lemon juice.

2. Melt butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add apple slices and stir to coat in butter.

3. Add sucanat, honey, Apple Pie Spice and vanilla. Mix together and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender and a thick caramel sauce has formed.

4. Remove from heat and pour apples and caramel sauce into a glass or ceramic baking dish or individual ramekins. Set aside.

Crisp Oat Topping

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sucanat
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Apple Pie Spice (See below)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Mix everything together in a medium bowl. Mixture should be moist. If too dry, add another tablespoon of melted butter.

2. Spoon mixture over top of sautéed apples and caramel sauce and press down so it is a compact, even layer.

3. Place baking dish in oven and broil on low for 2-3 minutes, until top is golden brown and crisp. (Don't burn it like I did!)

4. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream!


Apple Pie Spice Mix

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves

1. Add everything to a Mason jar. Screw on lid and shake well to mix. Use within six months.

I also used my Apple Pie Spice Mix in Caramel Apple Pie Burritos!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My First Guest Post & Wild Mushroom & Garlic Crusted Steak


I was lucky enough to be asked by Kristen of Food Renegade to write a guest post for her blog. It was quite an honour, especially since I'm so new to the world of "Real Food". Kristen said she loved my photography and simple recipes and asked me to put together a grain-free, sugar-free recipe "for a tasty, but easy main dish". I was stumped at first. No grain? No sugar? But those are my two favourite things! In the end I stuck with my favourite, never fail, Red Wine Sautéed Mushrooms and a new one, Wild Mushroom and Garlic Crusted Steak. With flu season approaching I was planning on doing a new post about immunity boosters (see last year's), so I used this opportunity to plan a dinner around immunity boosting food. I was so excited about the project I had my post in to Kristen in just over 24 hours! The post is below or check it out on Food Renegade. The post and pictures look way better on her site! Enjoy and happy health!

P.S. This dish would be delicious with a bed of buttery mashed potatoes under the steak... or even better, horseradish spiked mashed potatoes!

Immunity Boosting Dinner

Autumn is just about here, summer holidays are over, kids are back in school, the weather is getting cooler and it’s beginning to rain more often. What does all this mean? Flu season is right around the corner! Along with the changing of seasons comes the onslaught of germs and viruses. I don’t get seasonal flu shots and can’t afford to be off sick from work, so this is the time of year I start super-charging my immune system by changing my diet to focus on “immunity boosting foods”.

It’s well documented which foods help boost immunity and fight off colds and flus. Prevention Magazine has a good list as does Yahoo! Health. My ultimate Immunity Boosting meal consists of a grass-fed sirloin steak for Zinc, Omega-3’s and Vitamins A & D, sautéed mushrooms for white blood cell support, and sautéed spinach and garlic for Vitamins A and C and bacteria fighting Allicin . Today I’m sharing recipes for a Wild Mushroom & Garlic Crusted Steak with Red Wine Sautéed Mushrooms. Pair with a side of simple sautéed spinach and a glass of antioxidant rich red wine, and it’s a complete meal with great health benefits. This dish would also be delicious with a bed of buttery mashed potatoes under the steak!

Prep Tips: Start the mushrooms first. While the mushrooms are browning, put together the Wild Mushroom & Garlic mixture and coat the steaks. After you turn the steaks once (Steak Step 3), add red wine to the mushrooms (Mushroom Step 3) and let simmer on low while steaks finish cooking and resting (15 minutes). Start cooking the spinach 5 minutes after you have placed the steaks on a plate to rest. Everything should be ready when the steak rest period is up.

The Barefood Contessa has a very simple, tasty sautéed spinach recipe. Check it out here.



Mushroom & Garlic Crusted Steak

4 Small Grass-Fed Steaks (Sirloin or Strip Loin work best)
14g Dried Wild Mushrooms, about 0.5 ounces by weight, (I used a mixture of Porcini, Chanterelle, Shitake, Lobster & Oyster mushrooms.)
1 tsp Whole Mixed Peppercorns
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tbsp Dehydrated Minced Garlic (preferably Roasted Garlic, if you can find it)
1 tbsp Dehydrated Minced Onion
1 tbsp Fresh or Dried Chopped Parsley
4 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
2 tbsp Olive Oil, Divided

1. Add mushrooms and peppercorns to a spice grinder or food processor and grind until you have a course powder. Place mixture in a small bowl. Add salt, minced garlic, minced onion and parsley. Mix together. Add fresh garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir mixture together to form a thick paste.

2. Place steaks on a plate and brush with a bit of olive oil. Press mushroom mixture onto each steak to coat. Turn steaks and do the same with the other side.

3. Heat a cast iron fry pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When pan and oil hot, add steaks to pan, two at a time if pan is small. You can also cook the steaks on the grill, if you prefer. Sear for 4-5 minutes per side, then move steaks to a plate and cover with foil to rest while you cook the other two. Let steaks rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Red Wine Sautéed Mushrooms

1 lb White Button or Brown Crimini Mushrooms
1/4 cup Unsalted Butter
Splash of Olive Oil (to keep butter from burning)
1/3 cup Dry Red Wine
Salt & Pepper to Taste

1. Brush or lightly rinse mushrooms to remove any visible dirt. Cut mushrooms in half or into quarters if they are very large.

2. Heat butter and olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until reduced, browned and tender.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add red wine. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until wine has reduced, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon mushrooms onto plate beside steak and drizzle some extra sauce over the steak.



Sunday, September 12, 2010

Local Eating - Fall Foods


It's nearly Fall, my favourite season. Fall marks the birthday celebrations of my mother, sister, uncle, two grandfathers, niece, cousins and brother-in-law... oh yea and my own! I love fall fashion (sweaters & boots!), fall weather and fall colours. Most of all, I love fall food!

According to Get Local BC, the following is available locally this Autumn:

Vegetables: Artichokes, beans (fresh & dried), beets, broccoli, cabbage (green, savoy & red), carrots, cauliflower, celery, chard (swiss), corn, cucumbers, fennel (bulb), garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, onions (red & yellow), parsnips, peppers, pumpkins, potatoes (red, russet, yellow, white), radishes, rutabagas, salad greens, shallots, spinach, squash (winter), tomatoes, turnips (white), zucchini

Fruit: Apples, crab apples, cranberries, grapes, melons, pears, plums, prunes, strawberries

Meat & Dairy: Dairy Products, eggs, beef, buffalo, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, ostrich, pork, rabbit, turkey

Seafood: Clams, cod (Pacific), crab, Dungeness crab, flounder/sole (Pacific), halibut (Pacific), mussels, oysters (Pacific), prawns (jumbo), sablefish (black cod), salmon (Chinook/King/Spring/Pink/Chum/Coho), sardines (Pacific), scallops, shrimp (side stripe, west coast), Spring dogfish, Tuna (Albacore)

Herbs: Basil, bay leaves, chervil, chives, cilantro, dill leaf, dill seed, epazote, fennel leaf, fennel seed, garlic chives, lemon grass, lemon verbena, sweet marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory (summer & winter), shiso, sorrel, tarragon, thyme

Etc: Honey, mushrooms, nuts

And now... I'm off to the Farmer's Market! Happy Sunday!

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