Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cherries in Brandy

Week four of Preserve the Bounty and Jenny challenged us to preserve using alcohol. Fruit and booze. How can you go wrong with that? Along with making a jar of Jenny's Vanilla Rum Plums, I also put together a jar of cherries preserved in brandy, with cherries from the farmer's market.

You will need:

Fresh cherries*
Brandy (can substitute vodka)
1/3 cup sugar
1 L canning jar, snap lid and ring

*You can either pit and de-stem the cherries or leave them intact. I chose to make a jar of each. The ones with stems on will be perfect as garnish for drinks and on dessert. The ones with no stems and pits will be perfect for baking.

1. Add cherries to a clean, sterilized 1 litre canning jar. Add 1/3 cup sugar.

2. Fill jar with Brandy to the bottom of the neck, leaving at least a half inch of head space at the top. Secure lid tightly.

3. Shake jar well to dissolve sugar. Leave jar on the counter for a few minutes for the remaining sugar to settle, then shake again until all the sugar is dissolved.

4. Store jar in a dark, cool place. Turn and shake lightly 3-4 times a week. Wait at least 4 weeks before eating.

Eat cherries on their own, in pies or on top of desserts. When the cherries are done you will have about 3/4 of a litre of delicious cherry brandy! The longer the cherries and brandy sit and mingle, the better the results!

Now... what to do with your cherry flavoured brandy? Mix up a drink!

Cherry Cola:
4 oz cherry brandy
8 oz Coca Cola
1 preserved cherry for granish

1. Pour brandy over ice in a tall glass. Add Coke. Garnish with a cherry!

Cherry Champagne Cocktail:
1 oz cherry brandy
3 oz champagne or sparkling white wine
2 preserved cherries

1. Drop two cherries in a champagne glass. Add cherry brandy. Top with champagne or sparkling wine.

Check here for more recipes using Cherry Brandy. It's from the BOLS website, makers of commercial Cherry Brandy. But be happy because you saved $20.99 (BC Liquor Store price) by making you own!

This post is linked to Slightly Indulgent Tuesday at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free

Monday, August 30, 2010

Chicken in Apricot Sauce

Apricots are in season locally so how about apricots for dinner tonight?

Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (preferably pastured & organic)
salt & pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp coconut oil
3/4 cup white wine or vermouth
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 yellow pepper, cut into small squares
3 fresh apricots, pitted and chopped (for about 1 cup chopped apricots)
2 tbsp homemade apricot preserves
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1. Place chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until flattened and an even 1/2 inch thickness. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.

2. Add flour to a shallow pie dish. Dredge chicken through flour, coating both sides. Shake of excess flour.

3. Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm. You will probably need to cook chicken in batches. Add more coconut oil between batches.

4. De-glaze the pan by adding wine and scraping up any brown bits left from cooking the chicken. Add shallots and peppers and cook until wine is slightly reduced. Add white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard and stir together.

5. Add apricots and cook until fruit begins to break down, 2-3 minutes. Stir in preserves and season with salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup warm water to pan and stir.

6. Cut the chicken breasts in half and return them to the pan. Spoon sauce over chicken to coat. Reduce heat to low and simmer chicken in sauce for 5-8 minutes while you prepare your side dishes. Sprinkle fresh thyme over top.

7. Serve chicken with extra sauce spooned over top. Grilled vegetables or sautéd spinach make good side dishes.

If you find the sauce too sweet, add more white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cranberry Orange Butter

Another Preserve the Bounty Challenge from week 2 - preserving in oil or fat. Do you think I have enough compound butters yet!?

This is an extra special compound butter so it deserves its own post. See the original compound butters post here. In this application we use frozen cranberries as they are easier to mix into the butter and easier to mince in a food processor.

1/4 cup frozen cranberries
1 tsp honey (preferably orange blossom)
zest from 1 large orange
1/2 cup soft butter

1. Place frozen cranberries in a food processor and process until minced. Place processed cranberries in a medium bowl.

2. Add orange zest and honey and mix together.

3. Blend in softened butter, using a firm spatula. Spread butter and mix well to get cranberry mixture incorporated throughout.

4. Spoon blended butter onto a sheet of parchment. Roll one end of the parchment over the butter. Using your hands, form and roll the butter in a small log. Twist the ends of the parchment to close. (Mine looks more like a 2x4 than a log, but that's okay too!)

5. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Great on muffins, toast and pancakes!

Try blueberries and lemon zest next time!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blueberry Orange Muffins with Blueberry Filling

Week by week the blueberry supply at the Farmer's Market is dwindling. I missed my chance to buy a case by one week. I kept putting it off and putting it off. Oh well, I still managed to freeze 4 cups, dehydrate 2 cups and preserve 2 cups in Peach Schanpps!

Up today, blueberry muffins made with whole wheat and spelt flours, flavoured with fresh orange juice and zest. And as an added surprise, a dollop of homemade blueberry preserves in the middle!

1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional - use another 1/4 cup whole wheat or spelt flour instead of wheat germ)
1/3 cup sucanat or cane sugar (like turbinado)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Juice and zest from 1 orange
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 cup fresh blueberries, plus an additional 1/4 cup
1/4 cup blueberry preserves

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a 12 cup muffin tin with olive oil cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

3. In a second bowl, add orange juice and zest, coconut oil, vanilla extract, yogurt and egg. Stir together.

4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold together until just combined. Gently fold in 1 cup of blueberries.

5. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of batter into each muffin cup. Top with a teaspoon of blueberry preserves. Cover preserves with another 2 tablespoons of batter and pat down around the preserves to cover and seal. Sprinkle a few blueberries on the muffin batter.

6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Leave muffins to cool the muffin pan, then remove.

When I made my batter, I forgot to put the melted coconut oil in. The muffins still turned out fabulous.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures in Food Dehydrating

On a whim I went out and bought a food dehydrator. I did some online research and read some reviews and decided on the Nesco American Harvest. My main reasons for choosing this one were the price, the availability at my local London Drugs and the mostly positive reviews on Amazon. The pricier Nesco Gardenmaster didn't rate as well. I also like the square design and thought it might be easier to store than the larger, round units. (Just after posting this, the London Drugs flyer arrived at my door. The very same model I purchased is on sale for $20 less! Thankfully London Drugs offers 30 days for price adjustments. If you are looking for a food dehydrator, sale starts Tuesday!)

London Drugs offers a 15 day trial on all their electronics and small appliances so when I got the Nesco home, I immediately put it to use. I figured herbs would be a good place to start. Relatively mess free and easy to prepare. I clipped all the curly parsley in my garden as well as loads of basil and Italian parsley. I rinsed and patted dry everything then arranged it all on the trays. The instruction booklet says herbs can take 20-24 hours to dry. In reality - not even close. Most of my curly parsley was done after 29 hours. The basil was no where close. After removing the completed curly parsley, I re-arranged the trays and put the basil at the top (the drying mechanism is at the top so the air blows downwards). I anticipated the longer drying times because many of the customer reviews advised of this but I was surprised at just HOW MUCH LONGER it actually takes.

At the 49 hour point, my basil was STILL not dry, and actually no where close to being dry. I decided to scrap it all together because after two days, the flavour and natural oil was surely compromised. Next time I will dry air drying in a cool place. Despite the lengthly drying time, and the basil failure, I did end up with a nice little tin of dried parsley. It smells fantastic and I can't wait to use it!

Next up JERKY! Apparently this machine was made for jerky so I was expecting good things. I bought a package of inside round blade steaks (very, very thin). Four fair sized pieces only cost $4.50. I cut them into wide strips and placed in a bowl of jerky marinade (powdered mix that came with the dehydrator). I marinated the beef in the fridge for about 16 hours (they recommend 12-24 hours). Then I arranged the beef neatly on a drying try and turned the machine on to high. Within minutes my kitchen smelled wonderful. Only five hours later and I had delicious, tender jerky! The book said it could take anywhere from 4-14 hours. I should have checked it soon as it probably would have been ready at 4 hours. Some pieces are a bit tough but it's still really good. There would have been more in the picture but I ate quite a few pieces to "sample" it! Jerky success! Since the original batch, I have made more jerky using strip steak and tri-tip steak that I cut into thin slices, against the grain. The steaks were partially frozen so cutting them very thin was easier. These ones were good too, but I prefer the ease of using the inside round steaks. The inside rounds are leaner so the finished jerky it not oily and they tasted better.

My last experiment was blueberries from the Farmer's Market. After rinsing the blueberries, I drizzled some lemon juice over them, then arranged the berries on the drying trays. I was expecting completely dehydrated blueberries but after more than 15 hours, I got little raisin like things. I poured them into a ziplock and popped them in my freezer. I think I will use them in homemade granola mixes, yogurt and baking. Incidentally, after doing the blueberries, I learned there is a difference between drying an item and dehydrating it. Drying eliminates about 75% of the moisture content in foods. Dehydrating removes about 98% of it. Both can be done in a dehydrator, you just need to adjust the length of time. If I want fruits moist and chewy, they need to be dried, which takes less time. If I want they dehydrated and completely dry, they need more time. I'm learning that patience is a big part of food dehydrating. I'd still like to try cherries, but I'm waiting on a new cherry pitter. Mine is an old fashioned thing, like an old school syringe. It kills the finger and takes a fair bit of pressure to get the pit out (pictured right). I'm upgrading to an Oxo Good Grips Cherry Pitter. It looks a little more easy to use and less like a torture device.

So far I am pleased with my purchase. It isn't too loud when running (similar to medium setting on my range hood exhaust fan), it produces great results (aside from the oregano fiasco) and it's super easy to use! Future dehydrating experiments: flax crackers, Salmon jerky, fruit leathers, dried cherries, apples and mangoes! What else can I dehydrate??

Top and bottom photos in post from Google Images.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Food Resources in Lower Mainland / Vancouver Region - Updated June 2012

Greater Vancouver map via Google.

One of the hardest parts of eating local and healthy animal proteins is sourcing the products, especially when it comes to to grass fed beef, pastured poultry products and pastured dairy. They are several farms in the Fraser Valley that supply grass fed beef and pastured chicken, but many of them require purchasing an entire quarter or half of the cow. If you're like me, you don't have the money or the freezer space to make such a large purchase, not to mention the time required to make the three hour round trip drive to go and get the products.

Instead, I have been sourcing out local vendors and suppliers (within the Lower Mainland of Vancouver) - grocers, home delivery services and other vendors that supply healthy dairy, meat and poultry products. This list will grow as I find more local retailers. If you have a trusted source for local, ethically raised animal products, let me know in the comments!

Cows at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company. Tillamook, Oregon


The distribution & sale of raw milk has been illegal in Canada since 1971 so no raw milk sources are listed. Government regulations in Canada prohibit the use of synthetic hormones on dairy cows and prohibit the distribution of milk containing antibiotics (even trace amounts). As well, a guideline set by Agriculture Canada requires that all dairy cows have access to pasture and fresh air. According to the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, "milk is the most heavily safety-tested food in the Canadian food supply system". The only thing that seems to differ between Canadian organic dairy versus non-organic dairy is that organic dairy is obtained from the milk of animals which are fed organic feed (free of pesticides, fertilizers and GMO's). With those facts, I'm not sure organic dairy is worth the extra money for so little added benefit. Conventional milk in Canada is pretty darn good already. Regardless, I have still listed a few sources for products I love! For more on the Canadian dairy supply, check here.

- Avalon Dairy (Vancouver, B.C.): Organic milk and dairy products. Milk packed in reusable or returnable glass bottles to reduce waste. Available at most retail grocery chains and via Organics@Home and Spud home delivery services. This is the only source I have been able to find for non-homogenized whole milk (also called Standard Milk).

- Gort's Gouda (Salmon Arm, B.C.): Although Gort's Gouda is not available in retail outlets in the Lower Mainland, I included it in this list because I absolutely adore their products. My aunt lives in Salmon Arm so I always pick some up while I am there visiting. Gort's is newly certified organic and makes raw milk Gouda, Maasdammer and feta cheese out milk produced by pasture raised, 100% grass and hay fed cows. They accept online orders within Canada, minimum $45 purchase required, and offer free shipping in Western Canada and the Maritimes. They also sell goat's milk Gouda.

- L'Ancetre Cheese Factory (Quebec): Not local, but a good source of organic, raw milk cheeses. They also produce quality butter and pasteurized milk cheeses. Selected varieties are available at Planet Organic, IGA and at most better grocers. Also available via Organics@Home and Spud home delivery services.

- Kerry Gold: Not even close to being local since it's imported from Ireland, but it's the ONLY butter I use. Kerry Gold is pure Irish butter made of milk from grass-fed cows. Unfortunately, Kerry Gold is not sold in Canada. I get mine from Trader Joe's in Bellingham, WA. but it's also available across Washington State at Whole Foods, QFC and Costco.

- Les Amis Du Fromage (Vancouver, B.C.): Sells artisan cheese and butter, including unpasteurized (raw) cheese products.


- Rabbit River Farms (Richmond, B.C.): Chickens range free on organic pasture and are fed certified organic feed. When indoors, they are cage free. Available at IGA, Save On Foods, some Real Canadian Superstore locations, Choices, Whole Foods and via Organics@Home and Spud. See here for more retail locations. Beware of the "free run" eggs they also sell, which come from chickens with no access to the outdoors or pasture.


- A Bread Affair Baugetterie (Langley, B.C.): Large selection of organic artisan breads, including Whole Wheat Sourdough, Spelt and 6 Grain. Also have several delicious breads certified at least 85% organic including my favourite Roasted Garlic & Cheese, Sprouted Wheat and Cranberry Semolina. Don't forget about their 100 Mile loaf, which is made of ingredients sourced within 100 miles of their bakery in Langley. Available at their Bakery, Planet Organic, Hopcott Premium Meats and various Farmer's Markets. Farmer's Market Schedule.

- Gesundheit Bakery (Abbotsford, B.C.): Preservative, oil and sugar free bread and bun products. They also have a line of yeast free and gluten free breads. Huge selection, including my fave Black Russian Rye! Gesundheit is a Farmer's Market staple around the Lower Mainland. Check their market schedule here.

- Silver Hills Bakery (Abbotsford, B.C.): Breads & bagels made with organic sprouted grain. Many products are wheat free. Available at most grocery chains, including IGA, Thrifty's, Safeway and Save On Foods.Check the store locater for more retail locations.


- Honey Bee Centre (Surrey, B.C.): One of the only honey bee farms in the Greater Vancouver region. All their honey is pure and unpasteurized. Available for sale at their country store on 176 Street & Fraser Hwy, online, or at various Farmer Markets around the Lower Mainland.


*Government legislation does not permit the use of growth hormones in any poultry, lamb, pork and bison sold in Canada. Although not specified below, all poultry, lamb, pork and bison products will be hormone free.*

- Bradner Farms Chicken (Abbotsford, B.C.): Their certified organic chickens have three times more living space than the average chicken and access to the outdoors. Available in the frozen meat section at Save On Foods. (The Bradner Family Farm also supplies the milk for Avalon Dairy. In 1999, they became the first suppliers of certified organic fluid milk in Western Canada!)

- Empire Valley Beef (Williams Lake, B.C.) Grass fed and finished beef products. Available at selected community Farmer's Markets through the fall and via Organics@Home delivery service. Check here for their market schedule.

- The Honest Butcher (Vancouver, B.C.) "100% local, sustainable, naturally raised, whole animal butchery", selling "Stocks, broths, sausages, charcuterie, pates, terrines, raw dog food". I haven't been myself but have heard good things from others. A commenter below also recommended them.

- Hopcott Premium Meats (Pitt Meadows, B.C.): Partially pasture raised, hormone and anti-biotic free beef from the family farm, located right next door to the meat shop. Dry aged 21-28 days. The beef is not certified organic and not fed a diet of 100% grass, but still better quality than what you would find in your grocers meat case. Hopcott also sells antibiotic free pork and poultry from the Fraser Valley and a line of nitrate free deli meats.

- Meridian Meats & Seafood (Maple Ridge & Port Coquitlam, B.C.): Quality butcher shop offering pasture raised, grass fed beef and lamb, free run, cage free chicken, free range, non-medicated turkey, and pasture raised (grain finished) bison. Animals raised in the Fraser Valley and interior.

- Organic World's Specialty Meats (Maple Ridge, B.C.): Sells pre-packaged fresh and frozen organic beef, bison, chicken, turkey, pork, seafood and occasionally, wild game (elk, boar & pheasants!). Very, very good prices.

- Pasture to Plate (Chilcotin Valley, B.C.): Pasture raised, grass fed organic beef and lamb, pork and poultry. Only available at a few independent retailers in Vancouver, including Drive Organics on Commercial Drive. See here for retail locations.

- Redl's Home Grown Beef (William's Lake, B.C.): Redl's beef is pasture raised and free off antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, and CORN! Redl's is a staple at my local farmer's market and many others around the Lower Mainland. During the winter Redl's can be found at the Coquitlam and Abbotsford markets. Check here for their market schedule.

- Thomas Reid Farms (Langley, B,C.): Free run, certified organic chicken. Available at Capers, Choices, Thrifty Foods and via Organics@Home delivery service. See here for more retailers.


As Vancouverites we are so lucky to have so many local sources of fresh, wild caught, sustainable seafood. Fresh, sustainable seafood is widely available in most grocery stores, as well as fish markets. For an even better experience, take a trip to a local fisherman's warf and buy direct from the fishers. When shopping for seafood, always make sure the fish you bought is labelled "WILD". Check the SeaChoice Seafood Guide to know what is the best choice for sustainability when buying fish and seafood. I buy a lot of my fresh seafood at IGA and Thrifty Foods (both support the Ocean Wise Program), as well as my local fish market.

Fisherman's Wharf's

- False Creek Fisherman's Wharf (Vancouver): 1505 West 1st Avenue, North-West of Granville Island, between the Burrard Street Bridge and the Granville Street Bridge.

- Steveston Fish Market(Richmond): 3800 Bayview Street, Steveston Village, Richmond.

Farmers Markets:

- Fresh Off the Boat (Port Coquitlam, B.C.): Large selection of locally, wild caught, sustainable seafood & fish. Check here for their market schedule. Ocean Wise supporter.

Fish Markets

- Blue Seas Fish Market (North Vancouver): 2011 Lonsdale Ave, North Vancouver. Supports OceanWise.

- Granville Island Public Market (Vancouver): Several seafood merchants including Finest At Sea and The Lobster Man on Mast Tower Road and Longliner Seafoods, The Salmon Shop and Seafood City inside the market.

- The Crab Shop (North Vancouver): 2455 Dollarton Hwy, North Vancouver.

- Inlet Seafoods Ltd. (Port Moody): 236 Newport Drive, Port Moody (NewPort Village). Supports OceanWise.

- 7Seas: Locations in South Surrey and Kitsilano (Vancouver). Supports OceanWise and SeaChoice.

More to be added...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Apple Pie Spice Mix

Making homemade spice blends is easy and affordable. Scale the recipe to make as much or as little as you need.

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 used my Apple Pie Spice Mix in Caramel Apple Pie Burritos and Skillet Sautéed Caramel Apple Crisp!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Preserve the Bounty - Week 3 Wrap Up

Retro poster from Google Images.

I started the Preserve the Bounty Challenge in week three so I had a bit of catching up to do.

I skipped the week one challenge as I wasn't sure about fermenting and I'm still not. Sauerkraut and Kimchi? No thanks. I'm thinking about trying preserved lemons, but as of right now I don't see the point in doing it for this particular challenge, since lemons aren't local to my region. (The idea is to preserve your local produce for use in winter months when it won't be available. Since lemons aren't local - I have to buy them no matter what time of year it is.)

Week two's challenge involved preserving things in oil or fat. I caught up on this one by making four Compound Butters using my garden herbs - 2 1/2 cups of butter total. I also canned roasted red peppers in a mixture of oil and vinegar. I can tell you, I won't be canning roasted red peppers any time soon. Very time consuming for very little reward. I got one 500ml jar for my troubles.

With that out of the way I set to work on the challenge for week three - preserving in vinegar. My first attempt was Pickled Ginger. I ended up with two 500ml jars. I followed that up with Grandma's Pickles in a Bucket and was rewarded with two 1L jars. I later made two more 500ml jars. After a visit to the farmer's market, things really got out of control. Using 500ml jars, I ended up with two jars of dill pickles, one jar of pickled dill carrots, one jar of pickled dills AND carrots, one jar of pickled sweet peppers and one jar of sweet pickled carrots. I also go one 1L jar of pickled shallot vinegar! I should admit that I did cheat on this challenge and used the water bath canning method to boil many of the pickled products, just to make them shelf stable. I don't have room in my fridge for this many refrigerator pickle products! The Pickled Garlic and Grandma's Pickles in a Bucket were made without heat processing and are stored in the fridge.

Unrelated to this weeks challenge, I also canned fresh tomatoes, similar to what my Grandma makes. There is nothing better than tomatoes canned in water for making fresh tomato sauce in the winter. I used this recipe. It was incredibly easy. I got two one litre jars out of my tomato bounty (about 12-14 large tomatoes). I might make more next week after I pick up more tomatoes at the farmer's market. Again, I cannot express how awesome fresh canned tomatoes are in homemade tomato sauce. I even have a recipe using them!

Back to pickling... after making Ricardo's Beet Cakes, I popped the left over beets into a jar and pickled them too! One 500ml jar of sweet pickled beets. I can't wait to eat those! The only thing I didn't pickle this week were my farmer's market blueberries and cherries, but don't think I didn't consider it! Instead of pickling cherries, I canned some in a light sugar syrup (I followed this method). Another little canning bonus to go along with the tomatoes!

Preserved for Week 3:
- Pickled Garlic 2x500ml = 1 litre (not pictured)
- Pickles in a Bucked 2x1L and 2x500ml = 3 litres
- Dill Pickles 2x500ml = 1 litre
- Dill Carrots 2x500ml = 1 litre
- Pickled Sweet Peppers = 500ml
- Pickled Sweet Carrots = 500ml
- Pickled Shallots = 1L
- Pickled Sweet Beets = 500ml
Total Preserved: 8.5 litres
Bonus: 2 litres Canned Tomatoes and 1.5 litres canned cherries!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Beet Cakes

Beets? In a cake? It's another crazy recipe from Richardo! Remember the Lettuce Soup? Yea... that was him too!

I love beets and I love baked goods. Seemed like a no-brainer to try this recipe out. One online reviewer raved "you would never guess it contains beets!" There is a very faint earthy taste of beets, but it isn't unpleasant. The vibrant pink colour is a nice touch too. Even my mom, who HATES beets, enjoyed her beet cake! These cakes are sweet and buttery with a hint of lemon. Served slightly warm, they are so moist that you don't need any added icing or other topping, although Ricardo's Mascarpone Cream looks delicious! I will be making these again for sure. Next time I may try an un-refined alternative to all the white sugar though.

A side note - my cakes didn't rise too much. Actually they didn't rise at all! I think I need some new baking powder.

Adapted from Ricardo & Friends

Beet Cakes:

1 cup peeled, grated raw beets
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup unrefined cane sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a 12 cup muffin tin.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, soften grated beets in butter and lemon juice, for about 5 minutes. Let cool so no longer hot to the touch.

3. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. In another larger bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add in the dry ingredients and mix together then gently fold in the beet mixture. Do not over mix!

5. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle with the slivered almonds.

6. Bake in pre-heated oven for between 20 minutes or, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cake comes out clean.

7. Loosen the cakes by running a knife around the inside of each muffin cup. Gently remove the cakes, without inverting the pan, and place on a cooling rack to cool slightly (I found them better slightly warm). If serving with ice cream or Ricardo's Mascarpone Cream, let cool completely before topping with the cream.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Surf & Turf Online Cooking Class

Granville Island Market fish stand.

I signed up for an online cooking class. It's called Surf & Turf and is offered by Ann Marie of Cheeseslave.com.

Check the short video below to see what it is all about.

Surf & Turf is a 12 week program that covers the following topics:

The Classes

Lesson #1: Protein & Fat: Why You Need It
Lesson #2: Shopping & Stocking Up
Lesson #3: Grilling: Setting Up an Outdoor Grill
Lesson #4: Seafood: Raw & Lightly Cooked
Lesson #5: Seafood: Broiled, Fried & Braised
Lesson #6: Bone Broth: Making Stock from Scratch
Lesson #7: Soups & Stews
Lesson #8: Roasting, Braising, Reductions Sauces & Gravies
Lesson #9: Pan Frying & Deep Frying
Lesson #10: Sandwiches & Salads: Meat-Based Salads & Grain-free Breads
Lesson #11: Organ Meats 1: Heart, Tongue & Bone Marrow
Lesson #12: Organ Meats 2: Liver Four Ways
Bonus Lesson: Appetizers, Side Dishes & Snacks

I’m not super thrilled about the theory portion of the program. I’m sure it will be interesting and informative, but like everything related to health and nutrition, it has to be taken with an open mind and a grain of salt. What I am looking forward to is the actual cooking lessons. I’d like to learn how to cook fish properly. It will be great to learn how to make stock from bones and I’m even looking forward to the two lessons on organ meats... except the part about tongue!

Jenny, at The Nourished Kitchen wrote a really good re-cap of the first lesson (the dreaded theory lesson). Oddly enough, it’s her review that finally prompted me to sign up!

In the coming weeks I will post re-caps about my lessons and experiences. Check back!

Grandma's Pickles in a Bucket

More pickling for week 3 of the Preserve the Bounty Challenge!

This recipe comes from my Grandma. My Grandmother is the Queen of Canning. Her canned tomatoes and pickled beets are stuff of legends (seriously)! I've always said if there is a natural disaster or the Armageddon, I'm going to Grandma's house. There is enough canned food there to feed an army, or my large family! While over for lunch one day she put a dish of the sweetest, most delicious pickles on the table. I ate the entire bowl full myself - and I didn't feel bad about it either because Grandma just went to the fridge and filled the bowl right up again. I might have eaten those ones too!

These are no cook, refrigerator pickles. Grandma keeps her pickles in a giant plastic ice cream pail. I don't have a pail quite that large, nor the space to store it, so I made my pickles in batches and packed them into 1 litre canning jars. Grandma's original recipe also calls for TWICE as much sugar as vinegar. I reduced the sugar slightly in my own brine, but for the recipe post I have left it as is.

2 cups white vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp celery seed (or celery salt)
1 tsp mustard seed
2 long English cucumbers, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
2 1L canning jars, sanitized per manufacturers directions

1. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, turmeric, celery seed and mustard seed to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and stir until it becomes a syrupy consistency and sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Pack sliced veggies into sanitized 1L canning jars. Fill jars with syrup to just below the neck, leaving at least 1/2 inch of head space.

3. Leave in the fridge for at least 48 hours before eating. Shake jars a few times a day.

4. Keep refrigerated. Will keep in the fridge for up to one year.

Pickled Garlic

For week three of Preserve the Bounty Jenny challenged us to preserve something in vinegar. I love this challenge. The pickling possibilities are endless! My first creation - pickled garlic. I made one jar with thyme and chilies and one jar with thyme, oregano, mustard seed and chilies. The basic recipe is below. Adjust as you see fit - use any dried herb or seasoning blend that suits your fancy!

6-8 heads of garlic
2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cup dry white wine (substitute water)
3 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp mustard seed
4 whole dried Thai chilies

1. Peel and separate garlic into cloves. Place into a bowl and set aside.

2. Sterilize two 500ml canning jars according to manufactures directions (I run mine through the dishwasher. The heat cycle does a great job at sanitizing).

3. In a large saucepan, bring vinegar, wine, salt, sugar, thyme and mustard seed to a boil. Stir to ensure salt and sugar is dissolved. Add garlic cloves to the mixture and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat. Remove garlic from vinegar mixture using a slotted spoon.

4. Fill each jar with garlic and two chili peppers. Ladle hot vinegar mixture into jars. Fill up jar to just below the neck, leaving 1/2 inch head space at the top. Seal with heated snap lid and band.

5. Let cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator. Leave at least 2-3 weeks before eating. The longer they sit, the better. After opening, keep refrigerated. Will last in fridge indefinitely, as long as garlic is immersed in vinegar solution.

Note: What does it mean if your pickled garlic turns blue?! Apparently it's normal. A few of my pieces had a blue tinge to them, near the root ends. Garlic contains sulfate which reacts with copper, creating a compound that will trun the garlic blue. It is still safe to eat and should not affect the taste. To prevent the reaction, the garlic needs to be heated through to de-activate the sulfer (this is why you add the cloves to the boiled vinegar mixture before canning). Another way to avoid the blue is to use purified water if you rinse your garlic cloves as standard tap water may contain trace amounts of copper, and avoid using copper pots.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Preserved Roasted Red Peppers

Still on week two of the Preserve the Bounty Challenge. I preserved herbs and citrus in butterfat but I still wanted to try preserving something in oil. I searched Google high and low for a recipe for food preserved in olive oil. My requirements were that the recipe had to be something I would actually use and it had to be SAFE (home preserving non-acidic produce in oil is not recommended by the US FDA).

I came across a recipe at Honest-Food.net. The site is titled "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook" and is full of information about finding, cooking and preserving food.

In this recipe, the peppers are roasted in the oven, dredged through a vinegar solution, packed into jars, covered in more vinegar and then topped with olive oil. It`s pickling and oil packing in one. The added acidity from the vinegar is sure to eliminate any bacteria growth concerns. These roasted red peppers can be eaten as is, added to a sandwich or used in sauces or soups.

I followed the recipe to a tee. It`s lengthy so I am not going to re-post here. Just go on over to Honest-Food.net and check it out.

Preserving roasted red peppers is a long and involved process. I didn't enjoy it and I won't be doing it again any time soon! All that work and I only got one 500ml jar out of it! Then again, I only processed three large peppers... any more and I would still be at it! I'm confident that when the time comes to use the peppers, I efforts will have been worth it!

Compound Butters

Since I joined the Preserve the Bounty Challenge late, my first challenge was for week three. I planned on waiting until the end to try weeks one and two. Week two involved preserving things in oil or fat. At first I wasn't sure how this one would work out. I'm not interested in preserving my fresh herbs in pure olive oil. I would never use a product like that. I thought about preserving garlic in oil but then learned about the food safety risks associated to this method of preserving non-acidic foods, like garlic (read about it here. Scroll to the bottom). I was pleased to learn that compound butters, that is butter mixed with fresh herbs and other seasonings, is considered a way of preserving fresh foods. Perfect! I love butter (as you may have noticed), and I have an abundance of herbs in my garden. I decided to do a double challenge to start and complete weeks two and three in only one week. Time to get creative and whip up some fun, festive and flavourful compound butters!

See a good tutorial on the Tasty Kitchen Blog.

Jenny, from The Nourished Kitchen (the site hosting the Preserve the Bounty Challenge), has a great recipe for Wild Mushroom Butter.

Just take softened, unsalted butter and blend together with herbs and seasonings of your choice. I made my compound butters in quarter cup portions (four portions per large block of butter) as this was easiest to work with and I get to make four different varieties at a time! To the butter I added about a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped herbs, or a teaspoon or two of zest or spices. The measurements are completely arbitrary. Add as much as you want. You cannot screw this one up! Check the Tasty Kitchen Blog for tips on rolling the butter once blended. As a food safety tip, I read that you should add a half teaspoon of lemon juice or other acid to the mix to ensure there is no bad bacteria. Fat promotes the growth of botulism bacteria in non-acidic foods, so if you are adding garlic to your butter, make sure you add a splash of lemon juice just to be safe. It's also recommended to keep butters refrigerated or frozen at all times. Do not leave out at room temperature longer than it takes to use it up! As well, if you try any of the cheese butters, do not make more than you can use within a week. The other butters will keep well in the refrigerator for several months and even longer in the freezer.

Chive & Cracked Pepper Butter: Fresh chives, chopped fine and a few good twists of fresh cracked pepper. Great on steak or vegetables! (pictured right)

Lemony Basil Butter: Fresh lemon basil, chopped and the zest of one lemon. Alternatively use regular basil. Awesome for fish and seafood (pictured middle)

Garlic & Parsley Butter: Fresh chopped Italian parsley and 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced. You may want to lightly sauté your garlic for a more mild flavour. For this one I used a half cup of butter because I figured I would use it more than the other two. Perfect for bread, seafood, steak, baked potatoes or anything! (pictured left)

Blue Cheese Butter: Crumbled blue cheese and a pinch of salt. Awesome on steak.

Three Cheese Butter: Just like the one served on baked potatoes at The Keg. Fresh grated Parmesan, Asiago and cream cheese, Boursin or Laughing Cow.

Steakhouse Butter: Lightly sauté minced shallots, garlic and parsley then cream into butter with a dash of Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice.

What compound butter combinations can you come up with?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preserve the Bounty Challenge

While surfing the net the other day, I came across The Nourished Kitchen - Preserve the Bounty Challenge. I decided to sign up. What better way to continue healthy, local, wholesome eating than by preserving the summer harvest?

In the month of August. we’re setting aside our pressure canners and we’ll be preserving the bounty of the summer season naturally while optimizing the nutrition of the foods we put up for winter. Over the course of 5 weeks we’ll cover sun-drying, oil curing, freezing, fermentation and salt-curing – traditional techniques that optimize nutrition and don’t heat up the kitchen like canning.

I missed week one (fermentation) and week two (preserving in oil & fat), but I signed up just in time to receive instructions for week three (preserving in vinegar). Sometime during the month or at the end of the challenge I will go back and try the challenges from weeks one and two.

For now - preserving in vinegar. Well, that's easy. Pickled green beans, pickled carrots, picked garlic, pickled beets. I make fabulous spicy pickled dill beans. And I might try my hand at pickled peppers. You name it - If it's available at the market tomorrow, I'm going to pickle it. The catch is I can't boil the finished product to ensure a tight, secure seal on the jars. That's no problem though. Vinegar and salt are fabulous preservatives and as long as I store my goods in the refrigerator, I will have no problems with bacteria or other nasties.

In other food preserving news, I bought a food dehydrator. My plan is to dry most of the herbs in my garden (basil, parsley, lemon basil, rosemary, thyme, chives), make my own dehydrated minced onion and garlic and dry some blueberries and strawberries for use in cereal and baking in the winter. I may even try my hand at fruit leathers and jerky!

(As it turns out, drying and dehydrating was the challenge for week 5! And instead of salt curing, we preserved with alcohol in week four.)

Do you have any experience with preserving in vinegar or with food dehydrators?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No Cook Dinners for a Hot Day!

Too hot to cook? Try a summery salad instead.

Recipes that require minimal cooking, such as boiling water, are marked with an asterisk.

Soba Noodle Salad*

Shrimp Scallop Spinach Salad with Mango Dressing* Requires quick pan frying of seafood. Skip the cooking and enjoy the salad without the shrimp & scallops. Equally delicious!

Quinoa Vegetable Salad*

Chickpea Vegetable Salad

Poached Chicken Salad with Spicy Almond Dressing*

Insalata Caprese

Or how about easy and healthy egg salad?

Mini Cranberry Egg Salad Pitas*

In putting together this post I realized I have very few "no cook" recipes and zero sandwich recipes! I think that needs to change. After I get some things from the farmers market this Thursday, I will post my favourite "quick fix" sandwich.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Clean Iced Tea

Nothing says summer like a tall, cool glass of sweet iced tea! Iced tea is my favourite (non-alcoholic) beverage. Unfortunately, most commercially produced iced tea brands contain MORE sugar per serving than a can of pop! I don't know about you, but I could do without all that added sugar... and water (even with a wedge of lemon or lime) just isn't quite refreshing enough on a hot summer day. Instead, I brew my own iced tea and sweeten it with natural, low GI agave syrup. I can adjust the sweetness and use different tea flavours to suit my tastes.

4 Individual Bags of your favourite Tea (I used plain old Lipton black tea today)
1 lemon, sliced thin
3 tbsp agave syrup
5 cups boiling water

1. Place tea bags and half the lemon slices in a large pitcher. If your tea bags have paper label tabs, remove them prior to adding the bags to the pitcher.

2. Add water to pitcher and stir. Measure in agave syrup and stir again. Steep tea for 10 minutes or longer if you like it strong.

3. Remove tea bags from pitcher and place pitcher in refrigerator to cool. Once cooled, add more agave if desired.

4. Serve over ice with a slice of lemon.

Variations: Experiment with different flavours of tea. Also try making tea blends, using a few bags of flavoured tea and a few bags of regular black tea. My favourite is using 3 bags of green tea with 1 bag of black tea. For added flavour, add a teaspoon or two of honey - just be sure to reduce the amount of agave!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Berry Cheesecake Whole Wheat Crepes

My co-worker Leasa asked me to make a crepe recipe. I've never made crepes. I'm not even much of a pancake person. Regardless, I took Leasa's challenge and came up with a very nice crepe with strawberry, blueberry and cheese filling. The inspiration for the cheese filling comes from an episode of "Eat Shrink and Be Merry". Janet and Greta were trying to re-create a super indulgent cheesecake recipe. In place of cream cheese and ricotta, they used a blend of protein rich cottage cheese, sour cream and light cream cheese. I figured that would work just as well as a crepe filling. The crepes themselves are made with whole wheat flour and unrefined cane sugar... I cleaned the classic crepe recipe up as much as I could. Thankfully, the butter stays!

I had a hell of a time making the crepes. There was a lot of trial and error before I got the batter right. There was also a lot of trial and error before I figured out how to cook them properly. I started with a 12 inch fry pan but quickly switched to a much smaller 8 inch pan. The crepes are quite small (the size of large pancakes), but they were easier to cook and actually easier to serve. Instead of rolling, I simply folded the crepe sides over like an omelette.

If you have your own fool-proof crepe recipe and crepe cooking method, I suggest you stick with it. Just try my Berry Cheesecake filling. It's divine!

Berry Cheesecake Filling:

1 cup fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled and diced
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 cup cottage cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup cream cheese

1. Add strawberries, blueberries and honey to a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Mash strawberries using back of a spoon or a fork. When mixture is of a syrupy consistency, remove from heat and set aside.

2. Blend vanilla, agave, cottage cheese, sour cream and cream cheese in a food process and mix until smooth. Remove mixture and place into a bowl. Add half of the strawberry mixture to the cheese mixture and fold together. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up the mixture. Set aside. Save the other half of the strawberry mixture for topping.

You can also make the filling without berries. It's good plain as well!


Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tbsp sucanat
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp butter, melted
1/2 cup club soda

1. Add everything, except club soda, to a blender and combine until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2. When ready to cook crepes, add club soda into batter and mix gently.

3. Dab a paper towel in oil and lightly wipe the inside of a small non-stick skillet (I used an 8 inch). Heat skillet over medium high heat. When water dripped into pan sizzles, pan is hot and ready to make crepes!

4. Ladle about a 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet. Immediately lift, tilt and rotate pan to spread batter into a thin, even layer.

5. Cook the crepe until the underside is lightly browned and the top begins to bubble slightly, about 30 seconds. Work a spatula with a long handle under the crepe to loosen. Either use the spatula to flip the crepe or once loosened, shake the pan to flip. Cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 20 seconds longer. Slide the crepe onto a plate. Repeat process until desired number of crepes is reached. Keep prepared crepes warm in the oven, set to a low temperature.

6. When ready to serve, spoon several tablespoons of strawberry cheese mixture down one side of the crepe, about a quarter way in. Using your fingers, roll the crepe around your filling, like a burrito, keeping the ends open. Place crepe seam side down on a plate. If your crepes are small, like mine, you could also just fold the crepe in half, around the filling, like an omelette. Top with a spoonful of reserved strawberry compote.

For a picture tutorial of how to make and fold crepes, see here.

If not using crepes right away, store crepes between sheets of wax paper. Crepes can be refrigerated for two days or frozen for one month.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Farfalle with Roasted Tomatoes & Asparagus in Brown Butter

After my success with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce, I thought I would try brown butter again. This time, it is pure butter, caramelized, then mixed with garlic, tossed with fresh roasted tomatoes and asparagus and bowtie pasta and garnished with fresh grated Parmesan, parsley and a drizzle of white truffle oil. Fresh n' Easy!

Recipe adapted from Canadian Living

Serves 4

6 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 bunch asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
salt & pepper to taste
5 cups cooked farfalle (bowtie) pasta or other pasta of your choice
4 tbsp fresh grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
White Truffle Oil for drizzling (optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tomatoes and aspargus on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and spray with olive oil cooking spray. Roast in hot oven for 8-10 minutes, until asparagus is tender.

2. While veggies are roasting, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat until foaming and nutty brown colour. Add garlic and fry, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Lower heat.

3. When veggies are finished, remove from oven and add to butter & garlic filled skillet. Toss gently to coat.

4. Add cooked pasta to skillet and toss gently to mix with veggies and coat with butter. Stir for a couple minutes until pasta is heated through.

5. Spoon pasta into bowls. Top each bowl with a tablespoon of Parmesan and half a tablespoon of chopped parsley. Finish with a light drizzle of white truffle oil.

The bread in the photo is super delicious Seed Bread from A Bread Affair. Pick some up at the Coquitlam Farmer's Market this Sunday!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken Hekka

Another tropical recipe from Sam Choy. Mr. Choy says while growing up, his family always made Chicken Hekka for mainland guests. He describes this dish as being "comfort food" and a "cornerstone recipe" in his cookbook.

But what the heck is Chicken Hekka? There isn't much about it online. Hekka is apparently a Hawaiian word but when I played around with Hawaiian/English translators, I found no entries. Other blogs claim Hekka is based on Japanese cooking and is pretty much the same as Japanese sukiyaki - a one pot meal made with thin sliced vegetables and meat.

Regardless of what it is, Chicken Hekka is easy to make and it's pretty good.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into cubes
1/4 cup soy sauce*
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 tsp sucanat

1. Combine marinade ingredients in a shallow dish. Add chicken and toss well to coat. Marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Sake Sauce:
2 tbsp agave syrup
1/2 cup soy sauce*
1/4 cup chicken broth*
1/4 cup sake or Chinese cooking wine

1. Mix everything together in a small bowl and set aside.

Hawaiian cooking does not involve spice. You may wish to add a dash or two or Sriracha to spice things up, or leave as is for a mild flavour.

Stir Fry:
marinated chicken (as above)
1 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and smashed
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
1 carrot, julienned
1 stalk celery, julienned
3 stalks green onion, cut in 1 inch lengths
1/2 onion, sliced thin
1 cups watercress leaves
1 bundle (2 oz) thin rice noodles, cooked, drained and cut into 1 inch lengths
prepared Sake Sauce (as above)
1/2 block firm tofu, drained and cut into 1" cubes (optional)

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add ginger and chicken. Brown chicken.

2. Add bamboo shoots, carrot and celery. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add onion and green onion and stir fry for another minute or two.

3. Add 1/2 cup Sake Sauce and rice noodles. Let simmer for 5-8 minutes. Sauce will absorb into noodles.

4. Gently stir in tofu and watercress. Mix everything together well. Remove from heat. Serve with rice, more rice noodles or as is.

*Use Gluten Free, if needed.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Haupia (Hawaiian Coconut Pudding)

Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian Lu'au desert made with coconut milk and arrowroot starch. When heated together, the ingredients take on a gelatinous texture, and when cooled, the result can be cut into cubes for serving. Top with fresh fruit and sorbet and you have quite a nice dessert for dinner party guests!

After Dinner Notes: I was excited to try this recipe. I love coconut and I thought coconut with raspberry sorbet and fresh raspberries would be a perfect after dinner treat for my family's recent lobster dinner get together. I prepared the Haupia around 4:30pm and put it in the fridge to set. I was optimistic that it would set within a few hours. When the time came to serve dessert at 7:00pm, the Haupia was solid and firm, but it wasn't firm enough to cut into cubes as the recipe indicated. Instead, I spooned it out like a pudding, except it had the consistency of gelatin. The taste was good but the elastic, gelatinous consistency wasn't super appealing. I'm not sure the Haupia just didn't fully set, or if that is the way it is supposed to be. It did go quite well with the fruit sorbet and fresh fruit. Overall I would say it was a bit of a bust. Not sure if I would try it again. I'm going to post the recipe anyway in case any of you are interested or are familiar with the dish and have any tips or suggestions.

Haupia (Hawaiian Coconut Pudding):

Recipe from Say Choy's Aloha Cuisine

1 12oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp arrowroot starch*
dash of clear vanilla extract

1. In a large saucepan combine coconut milk and milk.

2. In a small bowl, blend together sugar and arrowroot starch. Add to saucepan and stir into coconut mixture. Whisk well to avoid lumps.

3. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens. This will only take a couple minutes.

4. Pour into an 8 inch square glass baking dish. Chill in refrigerator for several hours. When firm, cut into small squares or triangles.

5. Serve with fresh fruit, sorbet, chopped roasted nuts or a drizzle of honey or agave syrup.

To make your own coconut milk, mix 4 cups freshly grated coconut with 2 cups boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes, then drain through a double thick cheesecloth. Squeeze the cheesecloth several times to extract as much liquid as possible. Keep refrigerated.

*Bob's Red Mill makes Arrowroot Starch, but if you can't find it at your local grocer, substitute cornstarch in place.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lobster Bisque

A "bisque" is a smooth, creamy, soup with French origins. Bisque is broth left after simmering shellfish with aromatic vegetables, straining, then mixing with cream. According to Wikipedia, the name "Bisque" is thought to either be derived from The Bay of Biscay (on the West side of France and the North side of Spain), or from the term "bis cuits", which is a Spanish/French jumble, meaning "twice cooked".

This soup an involved and long process, especially when you factor in the lobster dinner required in advance of the soup making, but in the end, it is well worth it.

From this:

To This:

Serves 2 entrees or 4 appetizers

left over parts of 2 cooked lobsters (legs & bodies)
4 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup brandy or sherry
1/4 cup sweet white whine
2 tomatoes, chopped
few sprigs of thyme
6 cups water
pinch cayenne
1 1/2 cups cream (I used Half & Half Coffee Cream!)
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp warm water
1/2 cup cooked lobster meat, in chunks (reserved until end)
A few springs of Italian parsley, chopped (reserved until end)
sour cream (optional)

1. Chop the lobster remains into smaller pieces and place in a bowl.

2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over high heat. Add onion, carrots, garlic and bay leaf to pot. Stir until veggies are translucent.

3. Add tomato paste and stir together for a couple minutes. Add lobster pieces, then add brandy and white wine and mix well. Add tomatoes, thyme, cayenne and salt. Give it a quick stir. Add water and stir again. Let cook, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until volume is reduced by half.

4. Once soup has reduced, place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Strain the soup by ladling it into the strainer. Press the liquid out using the back of a large spoon. Discard the solids. Pour the liquid from the bowl back into the saucepan.

5. Stir in cream and simmer for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch with warm water and add to soup. Simmer for two minutes, and stir, until slightly thickened. Remove from heat. Skim off any fat from the top of the soup, then whisk quickly for a few minutes so the soup is frothy. This will help incorporate any remaining fat into the soup and incorporate air into it, making it lighter and creamier. Let soup stand for a few minutes so the froth subsides slightly.

6. Drop a spoonful of lobster meat into each bowl. Ladle bisque into bowls over top of lobster. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and sour cream. Serve with a warm Cheddar Bay Biscuit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Brown Butter Sauce

When butter is melted and left to cook, the milk solids separate from the fat and sink to the bottom of the pan. There, they begin to caramelize and turn a light brown colour. The resulting liquid is very aromatic and has delicious nutty flavour, which is why the French refer to this as "Beurre Noisette" - hazelnut butter. The butter can be used as is, poured over vegetables, pasta, fish, poultry and meats, or mixed with other ingredients to create a rich, flavourful sauce.

1 bunch fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
6 tbsp butter
2 tsp soy sauce*

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Arrange asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly spray with olive oil cooking spray.

3. Roast asparagus in oven for 10-12 minutes, until tender.

4. While asparagus is cooking, add balsamic vinegar and honey to a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until reduced by half.

5. Melt butter in another small saucepan over medium-low heat and cook until colour turns light brown. Careful not to burn the butter.

6. Once butter is a light caramel colour and has a nutty aroma, remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of the reduced balsamic and the soy sauce. Stir together. Spoon off and discard any foam from the top. Pour into a glass measuring cup or other glass cup with spout. Stir together well so mixture does not separate. Sauce should be a dark and rich with a thick, syrupy consistency.

7. Remove asparagus from oven and place into a serving dish. Pour Balsamic Brown Butter sauce over top of asparagus. Serve immediately.

*Use Gluten Free, if required.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cheddar Bay Biscuits

My dad called the other day from the East Coast to say he is bringing fresh lobster home. "Call your sister and plan a dinner", he said. I've eaten lobster before but always with steak, garlic mashed and veggies. This time I wanted something different so I Google'd "Lobster Dinner" and asked my co-workers to see what they would suggest.

One of my co-workers, with roots in the Maritime Provinces, immediately said "Cheddar Biscuits!!!!". The sentiment was echoed online, where several sites recommended cheddar biscuits or cheese appetizers. More Google'ing led me to a recipe for Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I've never eaten at Red Lobster but another co-worker assured me that the Cheddar Bay Biscuits are "to die for".

As for the rest of the meal, it's all very light and fresh to pair with the rich taste of the fresh lobster. My sister is supplying the wine (Chardonnay, although Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are also recommended pairings). Our starters will be the Cheddar Bay Biscuits with a salad of mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette (and perhaps crumbled goat cheese). Sides dishes will be steamed (or grilled) asparagus (possibly with The Pioneer Woman's Blender Hollandaise Sauce) and corn on the cob. The lobster will be grilled and served with melted garlic butter and lemon wedges. For dessert... I'm not quite sure yet. Either a cheesecake or sorbet with fresh fruit. It will be a very, very substantial, rich and butter heavy meal! I won't need to eat for days afterwards... but you know I will anyway!

Now for the biscuits... These biscuits are not healthy, wholesome, natural, fresh or anything else I strive to achieve with the recipes on this blog. They are, however, delicious, light, airy, flaky, cheesy, buttery and totally sinful. Enjoy in moderation. :)

Recipe comes from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

Red Lobster's Cheddar Bay Biscuits:

2 1/2 cups Bisquick Baking Mix
3/4 cup cold 2% or Whole milk
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 heaping cup grated cheddar cheese (I used a Tex-Mex blend because that's what I had... sooo good!)

Brush on Top:

2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch salt
pinch cayenne(optional)

1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine Bisquick with cold butter using a pastry blender. If you don't have a pastry blender, try a large fork, a potato masher or even your hands. There should be small chunks of butter, about the size of peas, throughout the mixture.

3. Add cheddar cheese, garlic powder and milk. Mix by hand until combined and formed into a dough.

4. Break off 1/4 cup portion of dough and roll into a rough ball. Drop onto an ungreased baking sheet. Continue with rest of dough. Will yield 12 portions.

5. Bake for 15-17 minutes until the tops of the biscuits begin to turn light brown.

6. When you take the biscuits out of the oven, mix together the ingredients from the "Brush on Top" section. Using a pastry brush, brush the garlic butter over top of the biscuits. Be very generous and use all the butter. Serve warm.
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