Rootstock 2016 – My Ultimate State of Hygge

Summer seems such a long ways away right now. The outside thermometer says -20 C and the snow hasn’t quit falling for days. I’m extremely lucky to work from the comfort of my own home on days like this, because I know that -20 C is on the high end of how cold it really is out there and I’m not and never will be a fan of winter. Oh, I tried to pretend I was for years. I skated on frozen ponds, strapped on cross country skis and forged my own path through the prairie fields out behind our home, I even own a set of downhill skis and boots. Nope. People see Canadians as winter lovers, like everyone is in love with winter…and while I have friends that do ‘the Canadian thing’, I’m much more likely to embrace the concept of Danish ‘hygge’ (pronounced ‘hooga’). Getting cozy under a blanket with my dachshunds, a book, and some tea or local beer is my best weapon against the long, dark, and cold winter months. But hygge can happen during any season, because it’s a state of mind…of being one with the comfort of your surroundings. It’s the feeling that you are really where you need to be at that one moment in time.rootstock-2016

It’s quite astonishing that one of the most hygge things I did in 2016, turned out not to occur during winter months but in August of 2016. Our summer was busy, so busy that we really only had one opportunity to drag out the tent trailer for the weekend. Getting everything ready, travelling, and setting up camp is NOT hygge, but the act of camping itself is most definitely hygge to me. When we were invited to take part in ‘Rootstock‘, the lure of camping in a sunny field and experiencing the bounty of our land through the hard work of local farmers, artisans, and producers was too amazing to pass up. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life with friends and family.

In Alberta, the discussion of sustainable agriculture and agricultural awareness has become more and more immediate. We must become more aware of how our food is grown and produced, we must support viable local food systems in order to keep agriculture sustainable for generations to come. Food Water Wellness is working with Alberta Rural Development in the creation of an online learning and information sharing portal entitled, We All Grow. We All Grow aims to facilitate dialogue between farmers, provide information to new and experienced farmers, and inspire connections between consumers and farmers.

Rootstock 2016, was a country style celebration of small scale agriculture and artistans which took place at Fallen Timber Meadery in Water Valley, Alberta.  There was an open air market, filled with a wide variety of local products and friendly producers who were more than happy to chat about farm life, chocolate making, coffee roasting, or distilling. It was a great way to get to know the people who provided our sustenance for the weekend. During the open air market, we enjoyed delicious appetizers from Bear and the Flower Farm, Redtail Farms, and Hoven Farms; all food was prepared onsite by Dave Cousineau (executive chef of The Bison; Banff), Barb Thomas (Love2Eat) with desserts by Michael Tilley (Rouge). We didn’t go thirsty either, with drinks provided by Fallen Timber Meadery, Eau Claire Distillery, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company, Village Brewery, and Banded Peak Brewing.

chefsrootstockOur fearless chefs 

producersrootstockFallen Timber Meadery, Eau Claire Distillery, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company, Earth Works Farm, Trail’s End Ranch

appysrootstock

Hoven Farms Beef Paté w Sea Buckthorn; Watermelon and Redtail Farms Prosciutto;

Bear and the Flower Pork Hock w Fallen Timber Honey Wine Jelly Crostini

When dinner was announced, we entered a magical tent filled with long communal-style tables and hay bale benches. The tables were covered with white linens set with mis-matched fine china and glass jars to emphasize the ‘country-chic’ style. Large vases of colourful locally grown flowers appeared sporadically on the tables, interspersed with candles. The effect was breathtaking. img_20160813_160051

Soon, all the work from the kitchen was about to be delivered to our tables, and we were ready to enjoy the fruits of our Alberta farmer’s and producer’s labour. Dinner began with an outstanding salad with fresh greens from Willow Brush Ranch and Country Thyme Farm, cold pressed canola oil from Highwood Crossing, Shirley’s Greenhouse tomatoes, and fresh feta from SweetMeadow Farmstead Cheese.saladAfter we had eaten our salads, the mains were brought in on long planks. It was the most impressive food delivery method I’ve seen and it caused quite a stir among the hungry guests. Imagine a six foot by one foot plank filled with Portuguese Grilled Chicken, Braised Pork Shoulder, Spice Rubbed Smoked Sirloin Roast, Braised Beef Short Ribs with sides of local Madras-Spiced Potatoes, Zucchini Gratin, Beets with yoghurt and mint, Beans with Garlic Scapes and Maple Syrup, and Grilled fresh Baby Corn.

mainsrootstockMains provided by Chicken on the Grass, Earth Works Farm, Trail’s End Beef, Mitchell Bros. Beef,

Eagle Creek Farms, Country Thyme Farms, Blue Mountain Biodynamic, Kohut Farms

Dessert was brought in on smaller planks, but it was as stunning as the mains. We were blown away by the Strawberry Vanilla Panna Cottas featuring Ryan’s Honey foam, chocolate crumb, rhubarb coulis & lemon balm. Also scattered along the dessert board were locally made chocolates by Anne Selmer (Cochu Chocolatier), some of which featured Eau Claire Distillery spirits, Ryan’s Honey, Fallentimber Mead, Calgary Heritage Roasting Company coffee, or bacon from Bear and the Flower Farm. pannacotta

With dinner done, we had great cause for dancing! The stars twinkled outside, while inside we were treated to lively melodies and harmonious singing by Folk Road Show, Gabrielle Papillon, and the headlining act, Reuben and the Dark. There really wasn’t a sad soul in the tent, as everyone was fully in tune with whatever direction the night would take us.

reubenandthedark

Reuben and the Dark

We danced late into the night until we finally grew tired and sent ourselves back up the hill to tent trailer. On the way up, we were distracted by the beauty of the wide open sky above and decided to end our night with some stargazing. Laying there on the ground, we became aware of the connection between ourselves, the land, and the sky while the vibrations of the far away music connected us to the present moment. Our perfect state of hygge seemed to last forever as we lay there, not wanting to leave until the last meteor streaked across the sky and the sun rose above the horizon.


If you are interested in attending Rootstock in Summer 2017, head to the Food Water Wellness website and sign up for updates on when tickets will be available.

A HUGE thank you to Rootstock 2016 Sponsors:

  • Food Water Wellness Foundation
  • Du Plooy Law
  • Fallentimber Meadery
  • ATB Financial
  • Cervus Equipment

 

Maple Gochujang Wings

Sometimes, I think in order to be successful, you have to recognize your faults. Once they are clearly identified you can start to formulate a plan for self improvement. You have to dig deep, think hard, and with all sorts of blood, sweat, and tears you CAN come up with the goods to succeed.  Are you worried yet? Didn’t you just come here for the wings?gochujangwingsHave no fear, this post about Gochujang Wings isn’t going to get too deep or reverential…I just want to let you all know that I have identified a clear FAULT within my blog and that fault is I had no damn recipe for WINGS!! I’m here to improve your day, your weekend, and yes…your superbowl party with these amazing sweet, spicy, and highly addictive Maple Gochujang Wings. They aren’t that difficult to make and they’re much better for you than the frozen pre-made kind. Oh yeah, and they are definitely teenager approved because on the day I was testing this recipe, teenagers magically appeared from their hiding spot in the basement for a full on wing eating frenzy. After the lip smacking, bone sucking, caveman grunting was done…I even got a ‘thank you’!gochujangwings2

Maple Gochujang Wings

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken wings; split
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 inch cube ginger; grated
  • 2 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • one scallion; sliced

Method

  1. Toss wings with vegetable oil; season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Mix gochujang, soy sauce, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  3. Cover a baking sheet with aluminium foil and spread wings out in a single layer.
  4. Bake in oven at 400 F for about 45 minutes or until they get nice and crispy brown.
  5. Remove from oven, place in a large bowl and toss with gochujang mixture.
  6. Return to baking sheet and bake for another 10-15 minutes at 400 F.
  7. To serve, top with sesame seeds and sliced scallions.

gochujangwings1wingpin3

 

Chinese Red Cooked Beef – Around the World in Twelve Plates

It’s the end of the month and that means I’m up to my eyeballs in photo editing and post writing. Several blog challenges are due and as usual, I’ve left a couple of them until the last minute. I’ve enjoyed cooking the recipes and photographing the results, but the writing maybe just takes a bit more of an effort. It doesn’t always come naturally so you can always tell when I’m forcing a blog post.

Fortunately I don’t have to force anything with this post about the ‘Around the World in Twelve Plates’ challenge by Gabby of The Food Girl in Town. This blogger is no stranger to blog challenges having cooked every cover recipe from Food and Wine magazine back in 2013. I like blog challenges because they make me feel accountable and because they force me to cook dishes that I wouldn’t otherwise consider. Gabby says she enjoys them because she “learned new cooking skills, acquired some awesome kitchen gadgets, and stocked my spice cupboard like a baller”. Ditto lady…ditto! One look at the recipes available on my blog and you will notice that A) I bake a lot BUT more importantly B) I love to cook dishes from other countries. That’s what makes this sort of a challenge extra fun for me.

So what is the Around the World in Twelve Plates Challenge (ATW12P for short)? Each month we cook a meal or dish from a country of Gabby’s choosing. Since this challenge is designed to stretch our abilities, tummies, and pantry shelves she has taken Italian, French, and Indian off the list of possible cuisines. Well, that still leaves literally a whole world of possibilities and this month our cooking challenge country is CHINA. I’m not talking about Ginger Beef (did you know this dish was invented in Calgary?) or any kind of ‘Americanized’ version of Chinese take out dishes. No more Moo Goo Gai Pan or Almond Gai Ding…only an authentic dish is acceptable for this challenge. Remember, we want to stretch our limits here!

I happen to own a brilliant Chinese cookbook from Kian Lam Kho called Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees. Kian wrote this cookbook specifically for people like me who may not have had a lot of exposure to authentic Chinese cooking. He included a brilliant section on pantry basics and tools, chapters on different techniques, and explains all the regions of Chinese cooking. If you are wanting to learn more about this cuisine (and even if you know quite a bit about Chinese cooking), I highly recommend this cookbook. I don’t own a properly seasoned wok, so I chose the low and slow method of braising for my ATW12P challenge. While the  Red Cooking Technique can be applied to almost any protein, I used this slow braise method with stew beef. The combined aromas from the star anise, cinnamon bark, dried orange peel, Sichuan peppercorns, and fennel seeds were driving us crazy all afternoon but the end result was worth it!redcookedbeef

I think everyone had a lot of fun with January’s challenge…check them all out here:

Korena in the Kitchen: http://wp.me/p5z1Ak-2rL
 

The Food Girl in Town: http://thefoodgirlintown.com/2017/01/31/around-the-world-in-12-plates-china/

Chinese Red Cooked Beef

(from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho; page 196)

Ingredients

  • 1 pound stew beef or chuck; cut into one inch cubes
  • 4 cups beef stock, or the liquid from the parboiling, or water. Plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 inch long piece of fresh ginger; crushed with flat side of the knife
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 – 2 inch square piece of cassia bark
  • 1 – 2 inch square of dried tangerine peel
  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 dried red chilies (optional)
  • 1 medium carrot; cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 medium daikon radish; cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp green onion; chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro; chopped

Method

  1. Place the beef in a dutch oven and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and skim off surface scum for about ten minutes.
  2. If using stock, drain parboiling liquid, otherwise add dark soy sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and sugar to the dutch oven.
  3. Place star anise, cassia bark, tangerine peel, peppercorns, fennel seeds, and chilies into a mutlilayerd cheesecloth to make a bouquet garni.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature and cover. Cook for 2 hours, replenishing liquid as needed.
  5. Add the carrot and daikon, and ensure they are immersed in the braising liquid. Add more if needed.
  6. Cook until vegetables are tender.
  7. Serve over rice. Garnish with green onions and cilantro.

redcookedbeef2

Pork Carnitas Black Bean Soup

I heard recently that soup swaps are the new cookie swaps. While I am unsure that soup will EVER replace cookies, swapping soup among friends is a great way to have a handy lunch in the freezer for those days when you are feeling under the weather or just plain lazy. I usually fall into the latter category and I really have to admit to you all that I absolutely hate making lunch. For me, it’s the worst meal of the day because it has to be small, yet satisfying and most of the time when I cook, I like to go big. Since I work from home, it’s easy to look up from my keyboard and notice that it’s 2 pm and I haven’t eaten any lunch, or worse yet…anything at all and suddenly I am starving! Usually I end up making scrambled eggs and toast because it’s easy and filling and I refuse to have canned soup in the pantry. Now that I’ve done my first soup exchange, my freezer is stocked and there are no excuses.

porkcarnitasblackbeansoup2

The soup that I made for our Bite Club exchange took very little time to make since I had some leftover Pork Carnitas in the fridge. This is a quick, meaty and warming soup for those very cold days when you wish you were on a sunny beach somewhere. Since I was making it for an exchange, I didn’t add any spice to it but I think you could add some chili flakes or float a cut chili in the soup as it’s cooking. Alternatively, add some hot sauce just before you eat it for that extra kick.

Here are some tips on hosting/participating in a soup swap.

  1. Limit the number of people. 6 seems to be a good number as not many people make more than 6 litres of soup at a time.
  2. Make sure everyone knows what kind of dietary restrictions/allergies are required.
  3. Include the recipe for your soup, reheating instructions, and if any extra stock will be needed for serving it.
  4. Freeze your soup in 1 litre portions ahead of time.
  5. If you use glass jars to freeze your soup, make sure there’s a LOT of room for expansion. No one likes glass in their soup.
  6. Here’s a great chance to use up all of your ‘Ukrainian Tupperware’. Reuse margarine and yoghurt containers.
  7. Don’t cheap out. No, I don’t want your 500 ml of soup for my full litre.

porkcarnitasblackbeansouppin2

Pork Carnitas Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs pork shoulder; trimmed OR pork steaks
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 oranges; zested and juice of
  • 2 limes; juice of
  • 4 cloves garlic; minced

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix herbs, spices, and salt together. Rub into the pork and season with pepper.
  2. Place pork in a slow cooker and add citrus juices, zest, and minced garlic.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred the pork and enjoy!

For the soup… (makes 6 litres)

Ingredients

  • 6 cups shredded pork carnitas
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion; diced
  • 2 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 8 cups (2 L) chicken stock
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 – 14 oz cans black beans; drained and rinsed
  • hot sauce (optional)

Method

  1. Add oil to a soup pot and sweat the diced onions on medium heat until they become translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a few more minutes.
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano and sauté for a minute or two.
  3. Add diced tomatoes and scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add stock and let the soup come to a boil.
  5. Add pork and black beans, return to a boil.
  6. Serve or portion into containers for a soup swap! soupexchange

Along with my dish today I’m excited to be sharing delicious 30 minute meal recipes from fellow Canadian blogger friends under the hashtag #CANRecipe. Tried and tasted food straight from our kitchens.

Salmon and Papaya Lettuce Wraps @ Everyday Allergen Free
Easy Coconut Curry @ Maple and Marigold
Big Salad & Avocado Dressing @ Allergy Girl Eats
Lemon Chicken Soup Orzo @ Mommydo
Kid’s Vegetarian Chili @ Off The Porch
canrecipe-jan-2017

Methi Murgh – Chicken in Fenugreek Curry

With the beginning of a new year, there have been a slew of new challenges proposed by various foodbloggers. A few of them have caught my eye, including one from Dana Sandonato (Killing Thyme) entitled ‘Recipe Nod’. Recipe Nod is a monthly challenge which involves cooking a recipe developed from an another (assigned) blogger and then featuring it on your blog. Quite a few of us from Food Bloggers of Canada have signed up and I’m anxious to see how everyone does with this challenge.

My assigned blogger was Chef Heidi Fink who has been teaching cooking classes in Victoria, BC since 1999. She has worked as Executive Chef at ReBar Modern Food and currently is an instructional assistant in the Professional Cook Program of Camosun College. I don’t know where she finds the time to write a blog, but it’s filled with inspiring recipes for a wide range of cuisines. Almost immediately, I knew which recipe I wanted to recreate in my own kitchen. The bright contrast of green in yellow of her Methi Murgh lured me in for good! I had actually been wanting to cook this dish for quite a while, but had never found a recipe that I was willing to try.methimurgh4

Chef Heidi’s recipe seemed approachable so I set out to find some fresh fenugreek/methi. You can make this dish with dried methi, but I really wanted to try it using fresh for the first time.  I was a tad bit worried that it was a bit too early to be looking for this pungent spring leafy vegetable/herb and in the end, I had to make a trip up to the far north east area of Calgary. I began at my favourite Middle Eastern market, Basha International Foods, and came up empty handed. I was a little worried that if they didn’t have it, it would be impossible to find! On a side note here, I was texting my Indian friend Lin all during the ‘Great Methi hunt’ and she was very concerned that I wanted to cook this dish. She never told me why outright (though she did tell me I would need a seat to myself on the bus), but eventually I came to realize what she was getting on about.methi

Back to the hunt.  Dejected, I decided to search one more nearby place for the methi; Superstore. You would think that as a chain, Superstores would all carry similar items, but no. Our Superstores in the South East of the city were all ‘fresh out’ of methi, which I took to mean that none of them ever carry it because of how demographics work in our city. As I walked in to the Sunridge Superstore, I was astonished to find the very first produce display ten feet from the door held a huge, fragrant pile of fresh green methi. The first thing I did was laugh out loud, then I proceeded to bury my nose in the pile and breathe deeply. It’s a wonder I didn’t get kicked out right then! I picked two bunches and went through the ‘express’ line. That’s a story for another day.pasteThe recipe is pretty straight forward, though I did have some trouble because I halved the recipe.  I don’t have a really good blender so I attempted to make the ginger/garlic paste in my food processor. The amount was too small and it would not blend together, even in the smaller bowl. I gave up and threw everything into a mortar, where I pulverised it with a pestle. It was the same situation with the methi/cilantro mixture. If you don’t have a high end blender or something that will successfully blend a small amount (with little moisture), the old mortar and pestle is the way to go. Plus, it’s more traditional.

Eventually, the ingredients came together quite nicely and the whole house began to fill with the aromas of the dish. Actually, that’s putting it quite mildly…the whole house began to SMELL. I quickly ran around, shutting all the bedroom doors and put away the last of the laundry to keep it fresh. I texted Lin and she just LAUGHED at me while she explained that in India, this is one of many dishes that are cooked with the windows open. Unfortunately, this was not possible here in Canada during the dead of winter, so I think the next time I cook this dish it will be summer. I will cook this dish again, because we all enjoyed it quite a bit, but we do have some boundaries. Eventually, after a couple of days either we got used to the smell, or I ended up drowning it out by making a batch of Seville Orange Marmalade. I’m not sure which one it was but I can’t smell it any more. methimurgh3

Methi Murgh – Chicken in Fenugreek Curry 

A recipe by Chef Heidi Fink based upon a recipe from the cookbook A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cups fresh fenugreek leaves, OR ½ cup dried fenugreek (methi)
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 1/2 large onions, peeled, halved and cut into fine half-rings
  • 2 – 1-inch cubes fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapenos or serranos, stemmed and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup, packed, fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup, packed, fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala

Method

  1. Soak the fresh fenugreek leaves in a large bowl of salted water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and dry them before you chop them up.
  2. Heat the oil or ghee in a large pan, add the onions and sweat them until they begin to caramelize (about 30 minutes).
  3. Place ginger, garlic, half the salt, and jalapeno in a mortar. Bash with a pestle until it becomes a paste then add in the ground turmeric.
  4. Add paste to caramelized onions in pan and sauté until the oil floats on top and the mixture is lightly browned, 5 minutes.
  5. Add the yoghurt, other half of the salt, and chicken pieces and stir, scraping the pan for any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Cover and gently simmer for 15-18 minutes.
  7. Combine half of the fenugreek/methi, cilantro and 4 tbsp water in a mortar and bash until it makes a watery paste.
  8. Add green paste to the pan and stir in. Cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  9. Finely chop the remaining fresh fenugreek/methi. Add this to the pan along with the fresh dill. Stir well and simmer 3 to 5 minutes more.
  10. Taste to adjust the seasonings – you may want more salt. Sprinkle the top with garam masala and serve immediately with basmati rice.

methimurgh1

It’s very difficult for me to follow a recipe exactly how it was written but I really wanted to recreate Chef Heidi’s recipe as closely as possible. The only real change I made was to reduce the peppers to one from the original three. Since my jalapeno had quite a bit of heat, I was very happy with the amount of spice in the final dish after this adjustment.

 

 

 

Coconut Lime Layer Cake

I’ve missed it…gah! My very special, only comes once a year bloggiversary! Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen turned four on January 14th and I guess I’m totally in character with being four since I got distracted and played around instead of focusing on making a very special cake. I don’t know how many four year olds make special cakes (other then play doh or doo doo cakes) but when you’re a blogger, being four calls for a real hones-to-goodness fancy cake. After all…’a party without a cake is just a meeting’, right?coconutlimelayercake-4I DO kinda sorta have an actual excuse for the late party, though. Before Christmas I won a Rodelle Instagram challenge and the prizes were pretty sweet indeed. First prize was a signed copy of Tessa Huff’s gorgeous book ‘Layered’ which is smack full of cake porn. I mean, really it’s January right? Who needs cake porn? Well…I sat down one morning and read the book from front to back and I was hooked. I think I gained ten pounds reading it, but I was so impressed, I knew that I had to make one of the cakes in the book ASAP. In addition to Layered, I was also waiting for a baking package from Rodelle and getting a little worried that it hadn’t arrived yet. I sent a message to their PR firm and found out it had been ‘undeliverable’ and got sent back. They Fed Ex’d it to me and I got it two days later, the same day that I had finished reading Layered. I don’t know about you but I believe in coincidences, serendipity, karma, and all those other terms that explain to us that the universe is listening when we speak.coconutlimelayercake-5The little box of awesome baking supplies contained bottles of: pure organic vanilla extract, whole vanilla beans, and pure organic vanilla paste (YUM) as well as a jar of Rodelle’s amazing Dutch Process Cocoa which I used to be able to by in bulk at Costco. I hate it when you get used to buying something awesome at Costco and they suddenly stop carrying it. If I would have known, I would have bought a couple of cases and stored them!coconutlimelayercake-7
The cake was pretty easy to bake, though I questioned the method at first. I usually cream butter and sugar together, then alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures. This one had the dry ingredients being added first and the butter incorporated later. Finally, when the wet ingredients are added the batter comes together. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the cake and I’m not sure if it was the method or a consequence of high altitude baking. What I did REALLY like was the Swiss Meringue Buttercream because it had just the right amount of sweetness. It was fun to make the meringue and has a really nice texture for decorating that becomes more stable after cooling.

Coconut Lime Layer Cake

(closely based on Coconut Mojito Cake in Tessa Huff’s ‘Layered’ pg. 216)

-makes a 3 layer, 6 inch round cake

Ingredients

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp coconut extract
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter; room temperature and diced

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease and flour 3-6 inch cake pans.
  2. Stir together the egg whites, vanilla extract, coconut extract, and 1/4 cup milk in a small bowl.
  3. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt into a stand mixer bowl. Attach paddle mixer.
  4. Add butter and remaining milk and mix on low until the ingredients are moistened. Turn mixer on high for another minute.
  5. Decrease mixer speed to medium and begin adding egg white mixture, one third at a time. Make sure to scrape down sides of bowl as well.
  6. Evenly divide between the three pans and smooth batter surface.
  7. Bake 23-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pans.
  9. Level cake tops using a serrated knife before assembly.

Lime Curd (my recipe)

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice (zest your limes first, then add them all to the bowl)
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • green food colouring (optional)

Method

  1. Fill a saucepan with a couple of inches of water and fit a bowl inside to make a double boiler. Add yolks, sugar, lime juice, zest, and cream and whisk together. Add food colouring if using. Bring water to a slight simmer.
  2. Cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture just reaches a boil (do not let boil).
  3. Remove from heat and gradually add butter until it has all melted. Strain curd through a fine sieve into a bowl.
  4. Cover surface with plastic wrap and let cool in fridge.
  5. Freak out because your curd is too runny, throw it all back into a saucepan.
  6. Mix juice of one lime and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and add to runny curd.
  7. Heat until mixture becomes hot enough to thicken, taking care to mix well so it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
  8. Cover surface with plastic wrap and let cool in fridge.

Coconut Vanilla Swiss Buttercream (Tessa Huff)

(makes about 3 1/4 cups; enough for a 3 layer 6 inch round cake)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup large egg whites
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter; at room temperature and cubed
  • 1 vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream

Method 

  1. Place egg whites and sugar in mixer bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water, turn burner to med-high heat and set the mixer bowl inside. Check to make sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the surface of the water.
  3. Heat the mixture until it reaches 160 F or 70 C; whisking once in a while to keep the mixture from separating. Scrape down sides of mixer bowl for any stray sugar.
  4. Once mixture reaches 160 F, place on mixing stand and whisk on high speed for 8-10 minutes or until there are medium to stiff peaks.
  5. Once there are medium to stiff peaks and the mixture is at room  temperature, switch whisk for paddle attachment and begin adding the cubed butter a couple of tablespoons at a time while mixer is on low.
  6. After the butter is all incorporated, add the coconut cream then the vanilla. Scrape down sides of bowl.
  7. Turn mixer on high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth; 3-5 minutes.coconutlimelayercake-3

 

Pink Grapefruit Endive and Avocado Salad with Prosciutto

I couldn’t believe how long it took me to choke down my last salad. As I chewed those greasy greens…my mouth was basically masticating of it’s own volition with the rest of my body slumped in joyless determination; I felt my mind take over, willing me to just…stop. Sitting there munching mechanically on my less-than-stellar lettuce, grape tomato, and cucumber salad combo that I had topped with one of the nastiest bottled salad dressings, I made a promise to myself: no more quickly thrown together, boring, revolting salads!  platedressing
It’s been a week or two and the pain is still real. I’ve binned that olive oil lime dressing and tried to move on but it’s not that easy. That lettuce is still sitting in the fridge taunting me for a ‘quickie’. Luckily my fridge also contains some brighter, more attractive winter salad ingredients such as pink grapefruit, Belgian endive and always…the unctuous avocado. I know for a fact that this seductive threesome get on really well together and all they would really need is a touch of sweetness and a smidgen of salt to let those flavours really shine. So yeah, I could have totally made this a vegetarian/vegan salad by adding some salty (and visually appealing pistachios) but a girl’s got to have some fun, am I right? Bring on the crispy prosciutto is what I say!
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The irony was not lost on me when I realized that it probably took me longer to think about and build this salad today, than it took me to photograph it and eat it. I didn’t mind because eating such a pretty salad, that also tastes wonderful was well worth it. I’m worth it. I am worth more than a ‘quickie’ salad and you are too.

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I know what you’re thinking….that you don’t have time to make this salad, but it’s really not that difficult and you don’t even have to make it as pretty as these ‘food blogger quality’ photos above. In fact I served the leftover ‘odds and ends’ to my family later for dinner; all the loose bits of endive, slightly brown avocado and broken grapefruit. As long as I topped it with the crispy prosciutto and that light and easy dressing…no one said ‘boo’ while they were shovelling it down their throats.


Pink Grapefruit Endive and Avocado Salad with Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1-2 pink grapefruits
  • 1 tbsp rosemary infused olive oil
  • 1 tsp shallot; very finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Belgian endive
  • 1/2 ripe yet still firm avocado
  • 1 slice prosciutto
  • a sprig of fresh young rosemary

Method

  1. Slice the ends off of each grapefruit, then slice into even rounds. Trim the skin and pith off around the edges of each slice until you are satisfied with the shape of each grapefruit slice. Arrange on plate (or skip all the way to *7)
  2. Squeeze some of the unused grapefruit and strain into a jar. You should have 3 tablespoons of strained grapefruit juice. Add shallots and olive oil to the jar. Season with salt.
  3. Slice Belgian endive cross ways in slices similar in thickness to your grapefruit slices. Take care to leave a few tightly intact and arrange on top of the grapefruit slices, placing the largest one in the centre. Keep the very tips of the endive to scatter around the plate later on and try to keep one whole to place in centre of avocado nest.
  4. Half the avocado and remove the pit. Peel carefully and thinly slice avocado cross ways. Arrange in an attractive pattern on top of the central endive slice, creating a bit of a nest. Place endive tip in avocado nest.
  5. Cut up prosciutto slice and fry until crispy. Scatter over salad.
  6. Spoon dressing over salad and scatter some young slivers of rosemary over all. Season, as always. Enjoy.

*7. Add chunks of pink grapefruit, avocado, and endive to a salad bowl. Make the dressing. Throw in some rosemary and crispy prosciutto. Toss with dressing. Season, as always.

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Spiced Beef Matzo Pie

Sometimes cooking and writing alone at home all day can get lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to do so but as with any ‘work from home’ career, it’s easy to let yourself wear pyjamas all day and go all day without any other physical human contact. It’s so easy to get lost in dramas and lives online and never leave the house and not feel anything until the loneliness washes over you like a steamroller. I’m a bit of an introvert at heart so I have to force myself to join meetups and groups to get myself out of the house. Since I’m not a naturally awesome (yeah, I’m awkward) conversationalist, I tend to chose groups where I know there will be like minded people present. It just makes meeting someone and talking to them that much easier.

About a year ago, local chef and food writer, Julie van Rosendaal, threw out the idea of having monthly cooking club meetings via Facebook. The intent was to gather food lovers together monthy, to cook a variety of dishes using a theme, cookbook, or specific chef. A few names were kicked around and Bite Club was born.  The first meetings were a ‘get to know you’ sort of style, with ‘biteclubbers’ bringing cherished family recipes. Monthly topics are discussed via the Facebook group and members often take turns hosting at their homes. img_20160314_1807262So far we’ve had a French cooking themed Bite Club, as well as other meetings featuring the food of  Rick Bayless, Julia Child, and Dorie Greenspan. We’ve also cooked from books written by local authors; A Spicy Touch (Noorbanu Nimji and Karen Anderson) and Yassin’s Kitchen (Yassin Jallow). I’ve been following Julie’s social media feed for years and (being a fellow pie enthusiast) I’ve always wanted to participate in a pie social, like the ones she hosts several times a year. My wish came true this year on pi day (March 14!!) as we gathered together with 20 plus pies in the basement of a local church, I recognized the diversity of our wonderful group. We had everything from pear tart to whoopie pies, Saskatoon pies, Peanut Butter Pie, Banana Cream Pie and even a couple of savoury pies. matzopie
One of the savoury pies was mine. I knew there was the high likelihood of sugar overload so I decided to bring a meat pie and for some reason, even though I have no fear of pastry, I decided to try making a crust using matzo crackers. I googled ‘matzo pie’ and several different recipes came up and I chose Molly Yeh’s recipe because it looked the closest to what I was going for. I think next time I will include some mashed potatoes or lentils to make the filling a bit more stable as I found it was a bit messy when cut into individual portions.  matzocollage

Spiced Beef Matzo Pie (from My Name is Yeh)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • black pepper

5-6 sheets matzo
egg wash: 1 egg lightly beaten with a splash of water
fresh parsley, pea tendrils, or micro greens for serving

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400ºf.
  2. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the onion, carrots, and a pinch of salt. cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add the beef and seasonings. Cook, breaking up the beef with a spoon or spatula, until it is fully cooked and no longer pink. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

For the crust –

  1. Grease an 8” cake pan and set it aside. Soak one matzo in warm water for a few minutes until it has softened (I kept a kettle of hot water nearby to replenish as the water cooled) but does not break up into mush.
  2. Dampen a clean tea towel and place the soaked matzo on the towel, covering with the other half of the towel. This allows the excess water to redistribute and get soaked up by the towel.
  3. While your next matzo is soaking arrange the previous matzo in the greased pan, breaking up as needed and allowing the matzo to overlap the edge of the pan (you will fold it over later).
  4. Once the pan is fully lined, pour in the beef mixture and pack it down firmly.
  5. Cover the top with more soaked matzo, pressing the edges to seal, and then brush it with a healthy coating of egg wash. It doesn’t have to be pretty as the pie if flipped over once it’s finished baking.
  6. Bake until browned, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes and then invert onto a plate. Top with parsley or micro greens and serve.

*NOTE: I found the filling rather loose and will try to make it a bit more resilient by adding 1 cup of cooked green lentils the next time I make this pie. I bet you could use mashed potatoes too!023

Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts

Christmas is family time. It means the constant state of being together, deciding who gets to sleep in which bedrooms (and on the blow up mattresses), endless Crown Royal Cokes, the repetition of the cooking/eating/cleaning cycle, getting boozed up on Bailey’s then going sledding, and our family’s favourite past time; playing cards. Sometimes on a particularly frosty night, we set up multiple games on folding tables, then build a round-robin type series from which players drop out as they are needed to cook or clean. The unspoken initiation into our family relies on one’s card playing abilities…if you are a quick study, it means immediate respect. If you have trouble catching on, or take forever to decide what card to play you will be the subject of good natured ribbing FOREVER (right hun?). We can’t help but build up an appetite doing all that drinking and card playing, so in addition to the appetizer themed meals, and classic turkey dinner, there’s card snacks.

nutsnbolts1My mom is pretty crazy about licorice, and my dad likes to pilfer the Christmas goodie tray that stays out all day long (and is constantly being refilled by your truly), the rest of us like salty snacks like peanuts and pretzels. When I was a kid I remember my aunt gifting us a giant ice cream pail full of her home made Nuts ‘n’ Bolts. We piled through them pretty quickly and they were a huge hit. Eventually they disappeared and my mom attempted to pick up the slack by making her own version. Even though everyone enjoyed them, she stopped making them too (it might have had something to do with having to make all the other appetizers she makes every year and being a bit overwhelmed, something I can now relate to!).

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With our daughter coming home from University of British Columbia this year, we’ve decided to have Christmas here in Calgary so she can relax in her own bed and cuddle with the dogs. Who am I kidding? We want her all to ourselves! Usually when we say we want to stay home for Christmas, everyone drives the ten hours to Calgary and I play the host to 13 people for about a week. While I love having my extended family around, it does get exhausting. I’m looking forward to a bit of quiet time with just our little family this year, maybe we’ll play a round or two of cards just so we can feel a bit closer to our long distance family. Just to make sure we’re well fed at all times, we’ll be snacking on these Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts in between hands.

Ranch Nuts ‘n’ Bolts

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry roasted peanuts
  • 4 cups pretzels; twists or sticks
  • 3 cups bugles
  • 2 cups cheerios or other grain cereal
  • 2 cups shreddies
  • 2 cups mini ritz crackers or goldfish, etc.
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter; melted
  • 1 package Ranch dressing mix
  • 1 tsp True Lemon/True Lime/citric acid powder
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup dried dill

Method

  1. Dump the first six dry ingredients (or your personal substitutions) into a large roasting pan or roaster.
  2. Melt the butter in a large mixing cup and then add the Ranch dressing mix, citrus powder, Worcestershire sauce, and dill into the cup. Mix well.
  3. Pour some of the butter mixture over the dry ingredients, mix well then repeat so that all the dry ingredients get a bit of seasoning.
  4. Bake at 275 F, mixing every 20 minutes until the mixture is dry. The time depends on what pan you are using, the roaster I used had higher sides, so it took 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Store in an airtight container.

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Bite Size Berry Cheesecakes

You know those old-style community cook books? The ones that have all sorts of strange, but wonderful and notoriously bad for you recipes? I wonder why no one makes them anymore…do you think that websites like Allrecipes and food blogs in general have just replaced the good old fashioned community recipe book? I still consider myself a ‘spring chicken’, as my grandma used to say, but I am old enough to remember my mother submitting recipes for a couple of different community driven cookbooks. When I say ‘community’, it’s in the broadest sense of the term because two of these books were published by different branches of our family. My mother’s mother (or ma mére as we all call her even though she’s my grandma instead of my mother) had many brothers and sisters on the Ruel side of the family and after several huge reunions they decided to compile all the dishes they shared at each family function into one handy book. In it were several recipes for ‘never fail’ pastry, the Black Bottom Cupcakes that I make for every super bowl party, my mom’s Tomato Soup Cake, and MY Creamy Mushroom Linguine. I guess since it was published in 1997, I was already a mom (and a half!) and so entirely domesticated. Never in my dreams would I have imagined that mom and I would have recipes published in one book! Now that I am thinking about it, I think it was probably my very first original recipe.
032I have several of these ‘community’ cookbooks that I drag out every year at about this time, one from the Herzog side of the family with my grandma’s buttertart recipe and another from the Shellbrook Elementary Playground Fund Raising Committee which holds one of our family’s longest lived Christmas traditions (which has been around since our buttertart munching days); the Petit Cheesecakes. There have been years when I never thought making these was going to be possible, like when we lived in Perth, Australia and I had no clue whether or not I would be able to find the special ‘Nilla wafers needed for the tiny bite sized bases. I must have checked every store until I found them and then I realized that year, more than ever, we appreciated this little bite of home after we had finished stuffing our gobs with Western Australian rock lobster instead of turkey and before snorkelling at the beach instead of sledding on the family hill. In a place of uncertainty and of new experiences, this little bite brought us closer to home and the loved ones we missed terribly. cheesecakes

I usually make these quite a bit ahead of time, because they freeze extremely well and the recipe makes a lot so that when you’ve noticed that half of them have disappeared from the freezer container, there are still enough left over to share with the family on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. I freeze them without the berries or pie filling and just take them out of the freezer and top them up just before we eat dinner. They have just enough time to thaw, though if you forget and do it after dinner, no one will care because they are just as good frozen.

Bite Size Berry Cheesecakes 

Ingredients

  • 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese; softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 boxes ‘Nilla wafers
  • 1 can cherry or blueberry pie filling (or assorted fresh berries)

Method

  1. Beat cream cheese, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla until fluffy.
  2. Separate small baking cups (like the ones used for homemade chocolates or mini muffins) and place on baking pan.
  3. Press a Nilla wafer into the bottom of each cup.
  4. Place cream cheese mixture into a piping bag and fill each cup 2/3 full.
  5. Bake at 375 F for 15 minutes. Freeze until needed or top with a tsp of filling (or fresh berries) and serve.029