Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cabbage two (delicious) ways!!!

What a CSA season this has been! I cannot believe the abundance and quality of the food I have been fortunate enough to receive from my favorite veggie farmer.  I may never grow a garden again (although I may coach the kids from the sidelines as they grow things).  What a seriously awesome blessing to be a part of this amazing experience.  And having been on both ends of a CSA this summer, I can truly appreciate the serious amount of time and effort that goes into not only the food production part, but all the other, behind the scenes work.  Jen Campbell, you are my food hero.

But let's talk about cabbage.  Less than a hero to many.  I feel bad for the cabbage, especially the cabbages that I carefully stored in my crispers for the past few weeks, until I had time to find recipes that I thought would make them enticing to my eaters.  Any chance you still have a cabbage or two, kicking around, waiting for inspiration?
Well, I hope you do, because I've got two awesome recipes that I think would work with nearly all kinds of cabbage (although the purple ones might not look so good when cooked).
They were both good, but Mark and I both preferred one over the other.
Here's Mark's favorite:

Sauteed Cabbage & Bacon*  (<--------see? Bacon makes everything good!)

4 or 5 slices of real, thick cut bacon, diced
1/2 green cabbage, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
salt & pepper
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp horseradish
little splash of water

fry the bacon, remove from the pan, leaving the fat in the pan. 
add the cabbage to the fat in the hot pan, along with onion and cook covered, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes (not too long!).
Add salt and pepper, mustard, horseradish and water, cooking for 1 more minute. (Don't let it get mushy, but the cabbage should be softened a bit). 
Stir in the bacon

(note: I followed this recipe, but next time I make it, I don't know if I'll bother to remove the bacon and then stir it back in. I hate an extra, unnecessary dirty plate.)

Now for my fav. (and since the first one had my 1st favorite ingredient (bacon), you can guess that that second one will have my second favorite ingredient (curry).  Sorry to be so predictable!

Curried Cabbage

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion sliced
1 cabbage, shredded or thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
splash of water

melt butter over med. high heat
add onion and cook until softened
add cabbage, curry powder, salt and the water.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the cabbage is tender (but not mushy!).

This tasted like a nice curried chow mien to me, with the perfect amount of crunch, but with a little more flavour than a typical Canadian Chinese food chow mien. I think it's much better hot, but I tried a bit cold and it was ok too. 

Happy to have shared these weeks with you!  Although my posting will undoubtedly drop off a bit, I hope you'll check back throughout the winter as I delve a bit deeper into the GMO alternatives to some of our favorite (hidden) GMO laden foods.

Here's to a cozy fall, filled with farmers and good food!

*Get the good bacon, from the real farmer.  On a related note: we'll have fresh GMO-free pork available soon! Try finding THAT anywhere else on the Island!  Let me know if you're interested.)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Simple Sides

I have a vague memory of brussels sprouts being my all-time favorite vegetable, yet I only remember eating them once, as a kid.  They weren't something we grew in our garden and I think Mom ever bought them, so I don't know why I have this memory of them being something fantastic, but I was eager to give them a try when they came on that big crazy stalk in the bin this week.
I used my tried and true old faithful cookbook, Joy of Cooking, looking for a very basic recipe and it suggested I start out by soaking them in salted water for 10 minutes.  I don't know exactly what that did, but I did it anyway.  Then I cut cross gashes in the stem ends (presumably to help them cook more evenly-which they did).
So I added a stalk's worth to boiling water and let them simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.  The uncovered part is important, as they can put off a great stink if they're left to their own devices.
Once they were tender crisp (not overcooked!) I drained them, added butter and minced shallot to the pan and let that fry up for a bit before adding the sprouts back in and tossing them about.  Finally, I added some bread crumbs for crunch and texture and tossed it all together before serving.
{That greenish pile of slime was a failed attempt at "Buttered Spinach".  NOT a crowd pleaser (even I had a hard time choking it down), so I won't waste space with posting what NOT to make. }
The bread crumbs were nice, but it was the butter and onion flavour that made this a pretty good side dish.  My usual veggie monsters weren't super keen on them, but Mark and I thought they were pretty good.  I think my only change would be that next time I would half or quarter the bigger sprouts so they would cook more evenly with the smaller ones.  

The next simple side is a new favy recipe of mine, although in all fairness, you can't really go wrong with cheese and heavy cream.  But it's Thanksgiving!  Give thanks for living in a place where we can enjoy a little indulgence now and then and cook up this savory treat

Baked Creamy Leeks
1 3/4 lbs of leeks (about four would be perfect), trimmed, quartered lengthwise and chopped.  You may have to rinse them in a colander under the tap to clean them off.
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced.
A bit of thyme (if you have it on hand)
1 cup cheddar cheese (give or take- I used less)
3/4 cup heavy cream (again, give or take)

So basically just toss the garlic in a hot pan with some butter, just until it's starting to take on a little colour.  Add the leeks and the thyme (if you have it) and give it all a stir.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until the leeks start to soften (I rushed this step and it was still fine).
Remove from the heat, add some salt and pepper if you want, and the cream and half of the cheese.  Stir and transfer to a shallow casserole dish fit for the oven.  Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes (I rushed this step as well and it was fine, if not a bit runnier than intended).  
The photo does NOT capture how bubbly and cozy this dish is or how tasty it is.  It will be a welcome addition to many Thanksgiving tables with it's fresh, light oniony flavour, but warm creamy cheese to please the pickier palates

Don't forget to give thanks for your farmers this weekend! 


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tis the Season of Soup

I love this time of year.  I probably say this at the beginning of every season, but fall is truly my favorite time of year.  I sleep best when my windows are open, the air is chill, my nose is cold and I'm smothered in heavy blankets.  And there is something about that chill in the air that makes food taste that much better and I think maybe a bit more fun to cook.
So tonight, I'm getting the soups out of my system and leaving you with two simple but amazing soups that are a hit in this house (well, except Thayne who doesn't like any soup or stew...grrr) and that feel like will cure whatever ails ya.  They're classics that I'm sure many of you already have a handle on, but if you're new to these soups and want a no-fail go-to, here are two I love:
Leek & Potato Soup and Parsnip & Ginger Soup 
They start out the same, with the mirepoix I mentioned in the Cauliflower soup recipe a couple weeks ago, along with some garlic.
2 carrots  (any colour will do, but note that the purple carrots can add some 'off' colour to the final product, if you care about aesthetics.)
2 celery stalks
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
Chop those things up and get em sizzling lightly in a large saucepan with some olive oil. 

For Leek & Potato soup chop up a pound(ish) of leeks and add to the pot and cook together, stirring once in a while until the carrots are starting to soften. Add 7 cups broth or water along with 1 pound-ish of peeled and diced potatoes.  Give everything a good stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until everything is soft-ish.
I like my autumn soups purreed, so once it's ready I run my immersion blender through it, but you can always eat it as is.

For the Parsnip & Ginger soup, add a thumb-sized piece of ginger (I keep mine in the freezer and shave it with a rasp whenever I need some, but powdered ginger works ok here too), 1.5- 2 lbs of peeled and diced parsnips (I used two weeks of my shares worth) along with the veggies and cook together, stirring once in a while until the carrots are starting to soften.   Add 7 cups broth or water and give everything a good stir, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, or until everything is soft-ish.
I like my autumn soups purreed, so once it's ready I run my immersion blender through it, but you can always eat it as is. 

Both soups need seasoned with salt and pepper to taste and I like to serve mine with greek yogurt or sour cream and croutons.  A little bit of fresh parsley chopped in, brightens it up a bit too.

So few ingredients, but so delicious!

Warm and cozy and perfect with a toasted tomato sandwich a la Jen.  :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Squash season!

Before I get started with my recipe this week, if you're feeling like you're not making the most of your herbs, don't forget about my herbed rice recipe.  I made home-made GMO free falafels the other night and stuffed them in pitas with rice that was cooked with cilantro, parsley and a splash of lime juice.  It's as simple as just chopping it up, tossing it in and letting it sit for a minute and serving.  Brightens up rice so quick and easy!
Butternut squash are one of my favorite foods.  It's such a toned-down version of squash, but with that smooth, creamy texture that makes soups and roasted squash so good, and autumn one of my favorite times of year to cook.
The other thing I like about this recipe is that it showcases apples, which at this time year are so fresh and so good.  And although I don't usually stress too much about the price of food at the grocery store I can't be the only one who has noticed the price of apples has jumped significantly over the last few months.  That's why I love September and making our annual trip to Beamish's Orchards- the only organic orchard on PEI!  We stock up and the apples last so long and are so crisp and like summer-in-fall good.

One butternut squash, peeled and diced
2-3 crisp apples, diced.
1/2 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts or whatever you like)
a small handful of chopped parsley

Toss diced squash with: 1/4 cup oil
                                        2 tsp. honey
                                       salt and pepper
Spread squash on baking sheet, roast at 300 degrees until tender, but not too soft (30 mins-ish).
Allow to cool.
Combine with other ingredients.
Whisk together:
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. balsalmic vinegar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper if needed, to taste.

Toss is all together.
The one fault of this salad is that there's a fine line between letting it sit to soak up the flavours of the dressing and having things turn slightly less bright.  Although I've had it sitting in the fridge overnight now and the flavour has gotten better and the apples are still crisp and the nuts still crunch, so I have no complaints.

I think next time I will add some finely chopped onions, or maybe try some different herbs.  It was really too heavy to be a 'salad' in my view, but was a delicious savory dish I will keep in my recipe box for a side to a chicken soup or something warm and cozy.


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Red Cabbage, Lentil and Walnut Salad

 So I made this post almost a week ago and then forgot that I hadn't actually posted it.  So, sorry Jen and anyone waiting for a new recipe.  And now since I've discovered that it didn't make it, I've since made more batches of roasted tomates and cauliflower soup, so I caught a couple pictures to go with last week's post (or two weeks ago now).
 Gorgeous tomatoes, drizzled in oil, nestled with garlic and ready for action!
 With my subsequent batches I discovered that more than 5 hours is actually better because all that liquid that seeps out of the tomatoes concentrates and makes things thicker.  There was no need for a slotted spoon with my other batches because the liquid had become more of a paste and was soooo flavourful!  I now have a few batches frozen in ziploc bags in the freezer, ready for tasty sauce this winter.
This is just a picture from when we were making the Cauliflower Soup I posted last time and I thought this shot of my carrot cutting fairy was too cute not to share. Everyone should have one of these kitchen helpers that flutters in to lend a hand! :)
So onto the recipe!
I realize that red (or purple) cabbage may not have been in your share this week, but I doubt if I'm the only one who had a cabbage in their crisper from previous weeks that would look at them each day and say, "are you going to eat me today or what?"  This recipe is for you and it couldn't be easier.

Dressing: 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
                1 tbsp. dijon mustard
                2 tbsp. olive oil
                salt and pepper
         1/2 red cabbage, chopped fine(ish)
          1 15oz. can lentils
         1/2 shallot, chopped extra fine
         1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted if you have time.
         a handful of raisins (this is very optional and not in the original recipe, but if you'll notice, raisins are the bacon of salads around here and usually mean that everyone will at least give something new a try).
The recipe also called for 2 cups arugula, but I left that out.  It would certainly add some pretty green, but my kids have adapted my arugula aversion (yes, I know it's my fault), so we left it out.
This salad is crisp and the dressing is bright.  It was better after some of it sat in the fridge overnight and cabbage is great for maintaining its crispiness so would be a good potluck recipe.  You could of course cook raw lentils, but Eden Organic has really good canned lentils in the health food section and they're a pantry staple for us around here.

Now, since I've finally posted this one and it's already time for another one, I've got a great new butternut squash recipe coming up for this week.  Stay tuned shortly!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Roasting and Soup, autumn is here!

This has been Lucy's first week of kindergarten and although she's striving in the environment, she brought home the inevitable first cold to everyone in the house so my meals have been slightly lacklustre in the creative department and more focused on the warm soups and comfort food.  I also failed to take any worthwhile pictures so you'll have to use your creative mind and just imagine my two offerings this week.
   Didn't get a picture of the food because I was too busy getting a picture of my little kindergartener!

Again, with a Jamie Oliver recipe, adapted slightly for the sake of fewer dishes and simple ingredients.  The proper Oliver title is "Cauliflower Cheese Soup" but for the sake of my cauliflower-resistant kids, I just called it Cheese Soup.  They like cauliflower, but only raw, so this soup is a great way to stretch it a bit farther and get it onto their menus.

Like most good soups it starts with a simple mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery, cooked down until the carrots are starting to soften and the onions are golden.  Along with the mirepoix, add 2 cloves garlic and a large head of cauliflower, separated into rough florets and cook all together for about 10 minutes.  Add enough broth to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper to taste.  Here's the important part: Add a good big handful of cheddar cheese and a good squeeze of mustard.  Now puree the whole thing (immersion blender is perfect tool for this.)
Serve with some nutmeg. 

I think the mustard is the kicker in this one, and making sure it's pureed well.  I really love this simple soup and with some crunchy croutons or some bacon bits, this is the perfect lunch on these cooler, wet days of September.

Picture-less recipe #2 is a new one for me, but so far, I LOVE IT!

I've been stock piling some tomatoes for this Slow Roasted Tomato recipe.  It's so simple, but the roasting adds such a richness to the tomatoes I'm having a hard time deciding how to use them to make the most of them.  I think I'll keep it simple and combine with some of Jen's amazing basil and some good quality parmesan over home-made pasta.
Anyway, it's as easy as preheating the oven to 250 degrees.  Half or quarter tomatoes according to size and place cut side down on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil.  Distribute the cloves from one head of garlic around the tomatoes and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for 5 hours or until tomato skins start to get too dark for your liking, although keep in mind that you will pluck the skins off anyway (and they literally pluck right off leaving the perfectly roasted tomatoes).

You can do this recipe and take them out after only 45 minutes- 1 hour, but the extra roasting adds so much flavour.  I got nervous about burning at the 4 hour mark so I took mine out then, but once they cooled and I picked the skins off I realized that I probably could have left them in longer.  Then I just used a slotted spoon to scoop half of them into a dish for the fridge and half into a freezer container so I could have a taste of summer during those dark days of winter.

Back in living colour next time!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You say paste, I say PESTO! (with my best Italian accent)

You will notice a few recurring themes in my cooking.  Pasta might just be the most common one.  It's easy, quick and a serious crowd pleaser in this house of majority young children.  Because we eat pasta so often (3 times a week at least) I usually buy in bulk from Speerville Mills and get 5 kg of organic "veggie spirals" which are made with vegetable juices for added nutrition (and colour!).  The kids don't know or care, but I like knowing that the red colour in my food actually comes from beets and not a numbered bottle somewhere along the line. 
Anyway, once again I bring to you a pasta dish that can be made in 20 minutes, and that also uses Jen's amazing broccoli.  Is it just me or does her broccoli have wayyy more flavour than any other, ever?  I'd even use the word 'strong' to describe it, which doesn't usually come to mind with that sad broccoli I get at the grocery store in the winter.  Broccoli is a universal favorite here and generally gets snapped up the minute it comes in the door (with some dip of course-the Lighthouse brand organic ranch dressing is soooo good! REAL chunks of tiny onion!), but I managed to tuck some away for this recipe, that I've played with a few times and haven't really failed at yet aaand it uses the whole head of broccoli, not just the florets.

It's a pretty close adaptation of another Jamie Oliver recipe, with a few changes.
I call it Broccoli Pesto Pasta.  (I'm no linguist, but I want to believe that the word pesto doesn't have anything to do with basil and is rather some italian root word for paste?)  So maybe I should call it Broccoli Paste Pasta.  Not quite the same eh?)

  • A couple small heads, or a big head of broccoli, separated into stem(s) and florets.
  • 1 can of anchovies OR a large squeeze of anchovy paste (I finally found some at the 'new' Sobeys in Charlottetown). It would sound more appetizing to call it 'anchovy pesto' wouldn't it? ha!
  • good pinch of dried chili flakes
  • 3 cloves of garlic (or more if you like)
  • Jamie Oliver recommends heaped tbsp. capers, but they aren't an ingredient I keep on hand, and I didn't miss them, but if you've got 'em, toss some in!
Blend the broccoli stems and these ingredients together, setting the florets aside for now.  The food processor should make a nice paste (or pesto!) with this.  The can of anchovies would have oil in it, so I added a good glug of olive oil when I used the anchovy paste instead.Once you have a nice paste, add it to a good sized pan on the stove with another good glug of olive oil and a splash of water to loosen it up.  Heat on medium while the pasta finishes cooking.  (If you've got thyme around add some of that to the pan as well.)
At the last few minutes of pasta cooking time, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain it all, but keep a little of the pasta cooking water if you can, in case you need it to loosen up the pesto.
Add the drained pasta and broccoli to the pesto pan and toss. 
Add a really good pile of parmesan cheese and toss some more, adding that cooking water if need be. 
I've got this new obsession with bread crumbs and I found adding a handful of fine breadcrumbs during the last toss really added some nice texture.


I've made this without the anchovies and the capers and it was still quite good, but not nearly as good as when I included our fishy friends.  Bacon would be a fine substitute if you're not ready to get on the anchovy train just yet.
 The key is the garlic, chili flakes and parm.  The broccoli has so much flavour that everything else is really secondary.



Thursday, August 29, 2013


You're going to start to wonder why I didn't call this blog "Real Zucchini. All day. Every day." and for someone who has been luke warm to the zuke before this year, I am surprised at my own enthusiasm for this favorite summer squash.
So today, for the last time (I promise), I have just a couple more zucchini recipes to share.
The first is a basic chocolate zuchinni cake. You can Google chocolate zucchini cake all day long (and I encourage you to explore), but here's one of my old faithfuls, if you don't want to spend any time searching. Best Ever Deep Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake
I used the proper Dutch cocoa from the Bulk Barn and it does add a little extra element of flavour.  This is not an overly sweet cake, but my favorite kind of chocolate is the 70% cocoa, dark kind, so it suits me just perfectly.  For my less enthusiastic dark chocolate lovers, I made a quick ganache to go on top, that I just dipped the cupcakes in and let sit until cool.  My ganache was basically just what I had on hand, which was 2 oz. of bittersweet chocolate and as much cream as I could skim from one jug of our jersey milk (sorry I can't be more specific on that measurement, but a good splash of cream will do it.)  Melt together and let sit until cool enough to not drip, but warm enough to dip. Add a pinch or two of sugar if it's not sweet enough for you.
Jen mentioned freezing zucchini, pre-shredded in the right measurements and that's a fantastic way to take this diverse ingredient into the cold, short days of winter.  And if you think these cupcakes look good now, imagine how great they'd be about mid-February! 

For my last zucchini recipe, it's one I threw together myself, so the measurements, again, will be lacking.  (Sorry Jen, I know that makes you crazy. haha.)  I made it a kid project in the hopes that they would be more interested in eating them, with some success.  They certainly enjoyed helping cook them at least.

Crispy Zuke Pucks

Zucchinni, sliced into discs, at least 1/4 inch thick.
Bread crumbs, or crushed organic cereal
Spices of choice (cayenne, paprika, dill, salt, pepper, garlic, etc. etc....let your spice rack speak to you)
1 egg, beaten
Dip of choice (we used tomato sauce)
Slice, dip in egg, dip in bread crumbs, fry until crispy on the outside, and soft when pierced.

My only tips would be to make sure you have a hot pan to ensure good crispiness and to slice them thick enough that they have time to get crispy without getting too mushy in the middle.  And don't be afraid of lots of seasoning.  There isn't much about zucchini's nature flavour to conflict with other flavours, so have fun with the bread crumb mixture.  And the finer the dry mixture, the better.   A food processor is one of my favorite kitchen tools.

I can't wait for next week. I've got an awesome broccoli recipe that uses the whole head, stem and all that I want to share.
Enjoy the zucchini now because although when it rains it pours with zukes, there does come a dry season when you just might find yourself missing them.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Insert Clever Title here...

I've been a bit slack in the recipe department lately, so I'm including a couple in this post.  The first is all veggies. The second focuses on chicken and zucchini. Enjoy!
Growing up, I was under the impression that Hodge Podge was a New Brunswick thing, but I suspect that like many things claimed to a specific province, it's more regional and likely a 'PEI thing' as well.  In any case, if you happen to not be familiar with Hodge Podge, there really isn't an easier way to enjoy the simplicity of good quality, FRESH summer veggies.

Basically you just boil any summer veggies you want.  I did a fairly classic Hodge Podge here and included potatoes, carrots, beans and an onion, adding the quicker cooking ones, like beans, near the end.  It's a good idea to cut everything into bite size pieces, as cutting things with a soup spoon at the table can be annoying for everyone.  
So just barely cover the veggies with water, boil until tender crisp.  The water amount is sort of crucial because too much will mean too much broth in the final product, so you might want to strain off a bit, once you're happy with the cooking.
The important ingredients are a cup of milk (or cream!) and a couple tablespoons or butter.  Serve hot with salt and pepper.  And bread for sopping up broth. :)

 Once again, I failed to take pictures of this next recipe during the cooking, but I at least managed to snag a shot of the final product, along with a picture of the kale salad we all love. :)

I found this video of this recipe from Canadian Living, but I couldn't imagine ever cooking something that would require that many pots and pans or that much shifting food around.  So my version uses many of the same ingredients, but with a lot less work.  (And I've discovered that left-over chicken works just as well- if not better because it's easier!)

So... Sally's Quick Zucchini Chicken Bake

-Cook 1 chopped onion and 2 cloves minced garlic in olive oil in a large skillet, until golden.  (If you're using raw chicken, add it here, in dice-sized pieces and cook nearly through.) 
-Add 2 chopped zucchini, along with a shake of oregano and some basil and cook briefly, about 3-4 minutes (don't let it get mushy!). If using left-over chicken, add it along with the zucchini so it has time to pick up some of the flavours, but not so early it gets dried out and sad. haha.
-Add half a jar of tomato sauce to the skillet and stir in.  Top with some cheese and bake until bubbly. 
-I served it on rice, but most anything or nothing would do just fine.

Zucchini is easy to dismiss as a boring vegetable, but it's so versatile and underappreciated that I feel obligated to promote it.  Enjoy the underdog!!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fancy Leftovers

So, if you haven't noticed, I don't really do fancy food.  And not just because of my sub-par food photography.  Partly due to my circumstances of many (un)helpful hands, usually limited time, multi-tasking and the simple requirement of making many nutritious meals per week, my food tends to be fairly utilitarian and purposeful.  Like many other parts of my life, 'fancy' does not climb the ladder of priorities very often.
But I've been in love with these heads of gorgeous lettuce for a while now.  In fact, last year, I half-joked with Jen about starting an eco-wedding business, using organic, edible products for decorations, etc. etc. and I thought that the colourful head lettuces' should be the centrepieces of the bouquets.  So it's been an ongoing love story and I've been looking for ways to honour the 'fancy-ness' of the sweet little inner leaves of the heads.

Thankfully this also incorporates leftover chicken, since my chicken CSA members were 'blessed' with larger chickens this week and I'm sure are looking for ways to use up some of the leftovers.
Continuing the theme of love, this recipe comes from my honeymoon in Scotland.  We had stopped by a little cafe for lunch one day and I had been trying to order something I'd never had before at every meal so I asked for the Coronation Chicken (which might show some of you how sheltered I am, since it's not all that unknown) and loved it!  So this is my take on what I remember from that lunch (apologies for more curry recipes-I warned you though!).

Coronation Chicken served on Lettuce Leaves
Leftover chicken, chopped up
Curry powder
Green onion, or small regular onion, diced small
1/2 Apple, peeled and diced small
Pinch of sugar
Salt and Pepper

So it's basically chicken salad, with curry.  But better.  And I hate including quantities because I think a lot of what I cook is 'to taste', so I want you to add as much of whatever ingredient, as you like.  Add enough mayo until you're happy with it and then add curry powder until you like the flavour. Stir in some raisins and add more if you want more, etc. etc.  Typically we have it on bread or crackers but as long as I have some of Jen's bib-like head lettuce, we'll have it on that.  I especially like those smaller, silky inner leaves, so I'll usually use the outside leaves in my regular salads and save the inside ones for this.  The kids call them chicken boats and Mark and I enjoy knowing it's even better for us, without the bread.  They make a really nice addition to a potluck table and take plain ol' leftover chicken to a higher place.

I've been away from my kitchen for a bit, but I'm back now and eager to show you one of my favorite zucchini recipes (also incorporating fresh or left-over chicken...coincidentally...:).  I will get some pictures taken and posted in the next day or two, so come back soon!


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Year of the Zookeenwah!!

2012 was the year of the Kale Salad in our house.  That recipe that Jen mentioned or posted about a couple weeks back, with the kale, chick peas, feta, raisins, shredded carrots, onion, etc. and a dressing of Bragg's soy, lemon juice and oil.  It remains a favorite around here and I've tried all sort of variations that haven't failed me yet.  My kids screech with joy when Kale Salad is on the menu and I enjoy this time of life before school and peer pressure and 'coolness' begins to trump taste buds.

Anyway, 2013 is a new year and although Kale Salad will continue to be tops with the Barnyard clan, there's a new salad in town.  I think I may be the biggest fan of this one, but I think it will grow on everyone and I anticipate it being the next big thing.  I can say with confidence that this is my favorite recipe that I've posted on here as of yet, and I've only made it twice.
It's so simple and has this amazing, super light and fresh flavour, with a just a hint of kick hidden somewhere in each bite.

Zuquinoa Salad (get it!?  zuchinni-quinoa!? Not just a pretty face! Clever too!haha)

I'm not great at measuring things and for this one it really doesn't matter, so here's what you need (and I'm pretty sure you have nearly all of this in your fridge/cupboard).
Cooked quinoa (if we ever had leftover quinoa we'd use it, but I just cook some and then run it under cold water-same thing.)
Shredded carrots
Shredded zucchini
Fresh dill
Olive Oil
Vinegar (I've used both balsamic and red wine vinegar and they were both good, will try white wine next).
salt and pepper.

That's it.  Seriously.  Sounds kind of bland right?
I think it's the dill that does it for me.  (In all fairness Mark made a subtle comment that suggested maybe I'd gone a little overboard on the dill, but I thought it was just right, so add it to your taste).  I've only used Jen's fresh dill so I don't know what dried dill would be like, but I think it's the freshness of everything that makes it so light yet satisfying.  I used a lot of zucchini (one whole smallish one of both green and yellow) and a fair bit of feta, but I could have cut back on both without affecting the final product.  I wasn't wasting the new candy baby carrots on shredding so I used old, last season carrots and they were fine.

 This is not the most appealing picture, but I was too excited to eat it that I forgot to take a proper, pretty, plated one, so this is the best I've got.
The other great thing about this recipe was that it was super kid-friendly.  They all got to grate something and I've found that the minute that kids participate in the cooking, they are then invested in the eating.
 small hands cutting the dill and feeling pretty important. (Admittedly for a different recipe than this one, but it makes my point that kids will nearly always eat what they (help) cook.)

I plan on taking this recipe with me to any potluck, family gathering, etc. that I go to from now on.  In a world of cheese-laden casseroles, sweet bbq meats, heavy white breads and sugary desserts, this will be such a pleasant taste of sunshine (not that we don't all love some cheese and ham and butter on white bread!). 

Go make this right now. 


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flower petals, fish scales and swiss chard

It's easy to get caught up in this chip rage of turning anything and everything into chips, as if it will make super nutritious vegetables go down like junk food to even the most discerning of veggie-discriminatory eaters.  I'm a victim of the rage as well and this week decided that our household was rather radished-out and maybe trying them in chip form would go over well.
Are those watermelon radish gorgeous or what!?  
 Anyway, I sliced up the daikons and the watermelon radish with the mandolin slicer, had my kitchen helpers lay them out on a baking sheet and seasoned them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  We broiled them until they started to brown and then turned them until they looked ready.
They shrunk considerably but were very pretty as they cooked.  Lucy and I couldn't decide if they looked like big translucent fish scales from a tropical sea somewhere or flower petals.  Maybe it was because they were so pretty and we raved about their appearance so much that we set ourselves up for disappointment, or maybe it was because the pretty pink was deceiving and we forgot that they were radishes, but these were not the raving success I had hoped for. 
Don't get me wrong, they were good.  Well, they were as good as radishes are, so if you love radishes you would love these chips.  I think getting creative with the seasoning would be good next time. Maybe add some garlic powder or curry or something would be good.  My four year old felt they needed some dip, but he is a big advocate for dip with just about anything, so take that as you will.

Anyway, since those were only marginally successful, we decided to make the best of our big beautiful swiss chard.  Again, this is a Canadian Living recipe and again, uses chicken (you may notice a trend heavy on the chicken side in the next little while).
Chicken and Swiss Chard Pasta
1 lb swiss chard
Olive Oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced thinly.
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 red peppers (I used one)
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
4 cups pasta of choice (I used an organic veggie spiral)
2 tsp. arrowroot starch (recipe calls for 4 tsp. cornstarch)
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (you could probably get away with salted water)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Separate the chard into stalks and leaves and chop both.  Set aside separately.
Cook chicken.  Transfer to plate, keep warm.
Cook onion, garlic, pepper and chard ribs until softened, over med. heat. 
Return chicken to the pan.
Add vinegar, rosemary, chard leaves, cover, cook, stirring occasionally until chard is wilted.
Cook pasta, drain well, return to pot.
Add chard mixture and toss to combine.
Whisk starch into broth, add to skillet and cook over high heat, whisking until thickened. 
Stir into the pasta.
Sprinkle with parm cheese to serve.
The swiss chard, leaves separated from the stalks.  A picture of the final product from the cook book in the foreground. 

This recipe was a big winner.  I think it will make a really good cold pasta salad as well, maybe without the chicken.
 The chard added so much colour, but lost it's sometimes overwhelming flavour and added just enough kick to make you remember how good this is for you! haha.

We'll definitely be making this one again. And we may just try the radish chips again sometime and get a bit more creative next time.

Have fun cooking!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Like White on Rice...or NOT!

There are rare moments in the exhausted life of a mother of four young kids when the light shines down from above and there is affirmation that I might actually be doing something right.  When I brought this week's share to the van and the kids started riffling through it, shrieks of delight over, "YES! KALE!" and "PEAS!? TWO kinds!?!!" and "Are those beets!? BEETS FOR SUPPER!" I decided that in at least one part of their lives, I'm not entirely messing up.  :)  Thanks Jen, for making me look like a good mom to my kids.  haha!

My own personal shriek of delight came when I saw the cilantro.  It's a true love/hate food and I'm planted firmly in the love category.  I'll save my favorite cilantro recipe for when the tomatoes come on, but that pretty green bouquet had me inspired to make a stir-fry with Cilantro Lime Rice.  If there's something that cilantro loves, it's citrus.  And curry.  Or both.  Always a reliable garnish for curry, cilantro is especially good with sweeter Thai curries.  It's got just enough bite to lighten the sweetness a bit.   
I'm a huge Jamie Oliver fan because although I appreciate the nutritional emphasis of his cooking, I appreciate even more the simplicity of his recipes and that he proves that real, good food can be made with simple ingredients in a short time (if necessary- slow food is good too!).  The rice recipe is his and as per usual, elevates a typically boring dish like rice, to new heights.  Good with most stir-fries, if I had had the ingredients for a Thai curry with coconut milk, it would have been my first choice for a companion.  This recipe is also good with Mexican dishes, as the lime brings the brightness I associate with the spices from that part of the world.

Anyway, if you weren't aware, I have recently take on the venture of a chicken CSA (there's still a couple shares left!), so I had some fresh tenders in the fridge that were in need of cooking and they were calling out to those glorious snow peas (that I feel I can appreciate since I helped picked them last year and know the feeling of seemingly hours of picking only to have the bottom of the trug barely covered).  So I made this quick chicken and snow pea stir-fry and served it over the Cilantro Lime rice.

Cilantro Lime Rice 
(Basmati is my go-to rice, but you could use most any kind with this recipe.  The key to keeping the basmati from getting sticky is to resist the urge to stir it as it cooks, or while it's cooling.  Just trust that it will do it's thing.)
So, cook the rice. (Whatever quantity you like)
Chop up a big bunch of cilantro (again to your taste, whatever quantity suits you best)
2 limes (who keeps limes on hand!?  This is what the recipe calls for, but I always just use some good quality lime juice that I have in the fridge).  If you DO have limes, be sure to use the zest and the juice.  This can be a lot of juice, so start with one lime (or a glug of bottled juice) and add to your taste from there. 

Jamie says to add the cilantro and lime to the rice, drizzle over a glug of olive oil (he can't make anything without some evoo, but I think you can get away without it here if you don't have any on hand) and then season with salt and pepper as you see fit.

Very simple, but adds so much to otherwise plain ol' rice.  In the chaos that is mealtime here, I failed to get a picture of the rice, but you can probably picture white rice with lots of green flecks. :)

My stir-fry was pretty basic and quick (as stir-fries should be), but if you're looking for a nice, go-to home made sauce, this is an easy one:

1 tbsp. Bragg's soy seasoning (this is a great GMO-free alternative to regular soy sauce- find it in the natural section at the grocery store)
1-2 tsp arrowroot starch (typically this is cornstarch, but I don't trust the corn to be GMO-free so I've adapted my recipes to use arrowroot starch instead-also found in the natural section of the grocery store.  It's nearly the same as cornstarch, but can get a bit gelatinous if there's not enough liquid with it, or it heats too quickly.)
1 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. broth (or usually water, since WHO has 3 tbsp. of broth around!?)
If I have hot sauce, a dash of that could go in, but usually I just toss in a big pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat.  Cayenne pepper would work too.

Wisk that together and have ready to add to your stir-fry ingredients at the end of cooking.

The other two key ingredients are garlic and ginger (fresh or powdered), which should cook along with the ingredients from the start.

In mine, seen here, I had chicken, snow peas, red pepper, peanuts and walnuts.  Cooked the chicken first, set aside, very quickly sauteed veggies and then combined everything with the sauce.  Voila.  Not the BEST companion with the cilantro lime rice, but better than plain rice for sure.

 If you're one of those people who just simply hate cilantro- don't feel guilty.  Apparently you have a genetic variant that causes it to taste like soap to you, so it's not your fault!  It's sad and unfortunate, since you're missing out, but not something you can help.  Go chop up your basil and do something fantastic with that instead.  Give your cilantro to a genetically unvariable neighbour and maybe you'll get something great and unsoapy in return. :)


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Week 3- Don't Turnip Your Nose At This!

Each week when I pick up my veggies the first thing that we all dive for are the white turnips.  The kids and I usually devour them like apples before we even get home, but today I hoarded them in the bottom of the bag and we all munched on the broccoli instead (which was just as big a hit with everyone).  I had big plans for my turnips tonight.  I had saved last week's pretty pink turnips so that I could make a bigger batch of this recipe and it turned out to be just enough for the 5 of us (little Sol is a ways from munching on turnips just yet) with the pink turnips from this week and last and the white turnips (minus one for the chef to munch on) from this week.
I had the privilege last fall, in one amazing week, to eat at a number of nice restaurants in Charlottetown that had sourced Jen's sweet and crunchy summer turnips (it was coincidence, I wasn't on a Jen's-turnip-hunt, although that's a great idea!).  The chefs had prepared them different ways but perhaps my favorite was a sidedish at Sim's, which I remember as being aMAZEing, but the details are fuzzy.  In an attempt to recreate my fuzzy delicious memory, I threw some of my favorite things in a pot and it came out pretty darn good!

 So, I cut up the bigger turnips into quarters or halves and left the babies whole (even with a little top on- in a futile effort to feel more like a foodie- a fail according to the kids).  Tossed them in a thick bottomed pot (a dutch oven would be great) along with butter, salt and a splash of maple syrup (yep, that pretty much sums up my favorite things). 
 I let it all simmer for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the syrup from burning.  Surprisingly there was a fair bit of liquid, so I took the cover off for the last bit to let it steam off and really carmelize.
An important factor in recipes for me is that I can do it while getting everything else ready and deal with four needy small humans at the same time.  I could easily read a book, kiss a boo-boo, jiggle a carseat, get multiple glasses of water and answer a terrible, home made knock-knock joke while letting this do its thing. 
 My only tips are to resist the urge to leave that pretty pink peel on the turnips- they seemed to get even more bitter with cooking. And the white turnips cook faster, so maybe leave them in bigger pieces.  Leaving the tops on made for pretty presentation, but they were hard to cut off for those who insisted they not be eaten (I ate my tops and they were fine, but apparently the under 5 set are not into that).

For a summer meal on a hot night, after a busy day, this was quick, easy and really tasty.  The variations with this could go far and wide too.  I'm sure braising carrots and onions with the turnip would be awesome too- and that's just the beginning.  Maybe some Bragg's soy sauce instead of the syrup for a more savoury dish?  So many possibilities! 


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Week 2- It's Easy Eatin' Greens!

At the risk of sounding like I'm having trouble 'using up all the greens', this weeks post is my two favorite ways to get the lesser known/loved greens into our family of 6 (varying from a large, hard working farmer to a picky, non-verbal 2.5 year old).

It starts with a recipe from Mark's cousin, Vanessa, who lives simply and beautifully and this recipe reflects just that. 
 A rule of thumb in this house is that bacon generally makes all things better.  So when I'm testing out a new, unsure ingredient or recipe, I can usually rely on bacon to help me cause.  Bacon is an extra special treat around here because GMO-free bacon is nigh impossible to track down.  We raised two of our own pigs last summer and this recipe used up the last three slices of bacon until this year's pigs will be ready (September!).  I've conceded and bought a box of pork from a local farmer whose pigs get to at least happily roam around outside, to get us through the summer, but I can't wait to have some GM free pork again come fall.
Easy Greens User-Upper
lemon juice  (Superstore carries a really good organic one, in the health food section)
greens (I used mizuna and tatsoi, but most anything would work)
parmesan cheese

1. Fry bacon (quantity up to you, but three or four slices of thick cut was enough for us.)  If I have time and resources I also cut up veggies to cook with the bacon for the last couple minutes; red pepper, onion, mushrooms maybe, etc.  Oh!  Add the garlic for the last bit of cooking as well, although if you forget, it's fine just tossed in the hot pasta afterwards. 

2. Cook pasta.  (I used organic veggie spirals (sourced from Speerville Mills) in this picture, but long pasta works even better.  Anything will work. Keep it simple.)

3.  Drain the pasta, add the bacon and garlic (and guests if veggies included), add a splash of lemon juice, pepper and half the parm. cheese.  Toss quickly.

4. Add greens.  I only used half the bag of mizuna and half the bag of tatsoi, but I sort of wished I had used it all.  The mizuna was especially perfect with this recipe.  It looks like a lot for a minute, but...

...once it's tossed in, and left to wilt for a few minutes, it shrinks away pretty quickly. 

5. You can toss in more parm at the end if you want. 
What I love most about this recipe is that it's wide open to interpretation. You can add or take out whatever you want (although I think the garlic and parm is pretty key, along with the lemon juice).  Everyone in this house loves it and it's so quick for those busy meal times when 'you just don't have time to cook'. 

Last year, when working with Jen at the farm and working on expanding my repertoire of vegetable intake I ran up against two veggies that I just couldn't make friends with.  It got to the point where I would try to trade off harvesting them because I hated the smell of them that much (a bit dramatic, but that's sort of my gig I guess).  I don't like licorice, so fennel was out and as much as I wanted to like it, arugula made me gag.  It's in the same pool as cilantro in terms of being a 'love it or hate it' food and I have always fallen into the latter category. 
But not tonight.  Tonight I found a way to love it.  A lot.

Wilted Arugula on Pizza
 Pizza dough:
1 1/2 cup flour (a mixture of white and whole wheat)
2 tbsp. of flax (if I have it on hand and remember to add it)
2 1/4 tsp. yeast (or one package if you buy it that way)
2/3 cup warm water
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil

Mix dry ingredients.  Mix wet ingredients.  Combine, knead for a couple minutes, let sit (if you have time- if not, slap it in a pan while you get everything else ready.)

(I've got a great home made sauce recipe, but let's be honest, most of the time I crack open a jar of organic tomato and basil pasta sauce and it works perfectly well.)

My secret to perfect pizza is to very quickly cook my ingredients before putting them on the dough.  So I cut up everything as per usual and just toss it in a hot pan to soften it a bit and bring out a little different flavour.  The key to incorporating a ton of arugula is to slice it up thin before wilting it.  

This pizza also has a lot of fresh basil sliced up, on top of the cheese as well, so it was flavour city!  But needed no bacon and was a huge hit with my crew.  Accompanied with fresh romaine lettuce, home made croutons and my Ultimate Ceasar Dressing from last week's post- life IS good!

I never intended for these posts to be this long, but I'm so inspired by the quality of this food that I can't stop!  The kids and Mark now never touch anything until I've given the ok, just in case I want to take a picture of it.  haha. 

Here's to good food and great farmers!