Monday, February 23, 2015

Braised Lentils and Chickpeas with Kale & White Wine

I love me a good challenge.  It seems like every so often I take a deep breath and do something tremendously brave that both excites and terrifies me, and no doubt keeps my mother awake at night.  Sorry mom!  I've gone and done it again, and fingers crossed I'll land on my feet like I always seem to do.  More on this little shake up in a future blog post when I'm ready to spill the beans, but until then you'll just have to hold your horses.  Speaking of challenges, I've entered a recipe into another Canadian Lentils Recipe Revelations Challenge and I'm super excited for you to try it.  White wine, paprika, kale, it's a one pot little wonder that will have you licking the pot.  Or wait?  Is that just me?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Roasted Carrot, Parsnip & Thyme Soup from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. Plus a Giveaway!

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.  Isn't that just the catchiest name of a cookbook ever?  Thanks to lovely Aimée Wimbush-Bourque of Simple Bites fame, you now have another cookbook you must add to your collection.  Thanks to the generosity of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, I'll be giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader.  I hope it's you!  If you don't win (sorry!) one click on Amazon, and away you go!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For the Lovers: Meyer Lemon & Lavender Polenta Cake

"Love is a fire.  But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house,
  you never can tell."  ~ Joan Crawford

Oh, that Joan.  But isn't it the truth?  When we fall in love we never know how it's going to turn out.  Perhaps it will only last 5 days, or if we're one of the lucky ones, 50 years.  All those butterflies and gushy smiles at the beginning often end with painful wails on the bathroom floor.  Not speaking from experience or anything.  But that's the chance you take when you enter into a new relationship - it can go either way - but the main thing is you want to take that chance.  You need to take that chance.  For a life without risk isn't a life worth living.  Maybe you'll have a fantastic few days together and never see their face again, or maybe you'll have heaps of grand kids who come over every Sunday and bake cookies with you.  That's the thing about life.  You just never know.  So for all of you out there taking another chance on love, this one is for you. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Searching For Saskatoons

If you ask anyone who grew up in rural or small town Saskatchewan about Saskatoon berries, they have a story to tell.  I'm not talking about the conveniently cultivated U-Picks, where you park your car, grab your basket and head towards your allotted row.  Oh no.  I'm talking about wild Saskatoons - those grown on bushes along river banks, in coulees and on hilly farmland across the Canadian prairies.  For generations, the Saskatoon berry has been a hardy prairie food source.  Aboriginal tribes picked, dried and pounded the berry with dried bison meat to create pemmican, the preserved staple of their diet.  Settlers too relied on this nutritious berry to provide essential vitamins.  Fruit from the western species Amelanchier alnifolia resembles a blueberry, but anyone who has braved the prairie heat and countless mosquito attacks in July can tell you they taste nothing alike.  Saskatoons have a musky, almost almond-like sweetness; the sophisticated older cousin of the blueberry. Their deep purple skins and juice stain the hands as you deftly pick off the gnarled bushes.  It can be a battle, because of the bugs and the heat, but you pick, filling up one pail and then another, because there is nothing quite like the wild Saskatoon berry.  Baked into juicy pies or preserved in jammy jars of the darkest purple, I swear you can taste their history in every bite.  

I grew up picking Saskatoons, as did my mom and her mother before her.  In late July, we would get together with my Auntie Jean and my cousins and drive out to Where The Saskatoons Are.  Finding wild Saskatoon berries is largely by word of mouth.  Someone tells someone where there is good picking, and the directions go something like this:  go south down the gravel road until you cross a bridge, turn east at the old Miller place then go another two miles until you see a clump of trees.  Searching for Saskatoons is always an adventure.  We were stuffed into a mini van, squished and stuck together like sweaty sardines, Duran Duran on the radio.  Once the berry bushes were spotted, we were sprayed heavily with bug repellent and each given a four litre ice cream pail and told to pick, not eat.  As if.  More berries went into our gobs than our pails, proof being the purple teeth at the end of the day. Those Saskatoons that did make it into the pails were accompanied by twigs and leaves.  Not child labour at its finest, we were then set free to run around and scare off all forms of wildlife except the chickadees who stuck around, cheering us on.  Our moms, the two sisters, picked pail after while while they confided and laughed with each other. My Auntie Jean had the best laugh.  Loud.  Goofy.  Happy.  From the depths of her belly, it would come out and grab you.  Hers was contagious.  And then it was gone.  On a frigid January morning in 1988, the small airplane she was on crashed, leaving her children without a mother, and my mom without her best friend.  After the untimely passing of someone so dear, life is never the same.  It goes on, but the absence of the departed lingers long after their light has gone out. 

I don't recall picking many Saskatoons after my Auntie Jean passed.  By this time I was into my mid teens, and summer afternoons were likely spent chasing boys and sunbathing.  Fast forward to my 20s and I was living in big cities, going to University, the dusty gravel roads a long distant memory.  In my 30s, I picked a few times.  Friends of a friends knew of a spot.  That's how it goes, you see.  Now, I live in the city named after the berry, but oddly enough I have yet to discover where the wild Saskatoons are.  It's my intention this summer to find a clump of Amelanchier alnifolia bushes, perhaps along the winding South Saskatchewan River.  Oh but so many factors are at play for successful picking.  There must be enough rain in June to yield a juicy berry, that is if they have been fortunate to survive the common late spring frost.  If they've survived the frost and drought and birds who like them too, Saskatoons hang heavily, in purplish black glory for a few weeks every year.  If I'm successful in finding such a treasure, I'll be doing what generations of prairie women before me have done.  My hands, stained and sticky will slide the inky berries into the ice cream pail secured around my waist with a belt.  If I listen closely, over the buzz of the mosquitoes, perhaps I'll hear the long ago echo of children playing and sisters laughing.  The chickadees, cheering me on. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Chocolate Pistachio Energy Bites

Energy balls, bites, bars, whatever you call them, are everywhere.  And rightly so.  They are full of protein, fibre and other healthy nutrients that make the body run just that much smoother.  If you have a food processor, you can make your own in no time flat, well, maybe just 5 minutes.  Save a few bucks and customize them as you like.  For my latest article in Culinaire Magazine, I created these little chocolate pistachio gems.  Dates, figs, nuts, and yes chocolate are major players here, so you know already they are going to be delicious.  These are great for a post-workout fix, a snack while you catch up on GIRLS or breakfast as you're running out the door.   Head on over here for the recipe.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Start Me Up: Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Quiche

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice. 
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning." 
~ T.S. Eliot

Happy New Year!
I hope 2015 is off to a grand start for all of you.  It's only been six days, but I can feel it's going to be a good one - I hope you do too.  I've been in full-on reflective mode.  A new year always does that to me; thinking back to what all transpired within the last twelve months.  Plenty of good things, the jump for joy good things, but also those moments that had me do the ugly cry and curl up into a ball.  Oh the agony and the ecstasy of life.  But somehow, we dig deep, and just get through it.  No doubt with a little help from our friends.  And chunks of dark chocolate and cheese; and new seasons of favourite shows (Downton!  GIRLS!) and the odd glass of red wine.  And whiskers on kittens.  You get my drift.  It's all in the details.  The minute, seemingly mundane things that make up a life, a year.  As the year flashes back, there's no need to connect the dots right away.  Oh but we try.  The thing is, with as much gratitude as we can muster, to recognize that each new person and experience is another dot on our map.  I hope your map for 2015 is full of all things beautiful and glorious.  Cheers to beginning again.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Something Different: Roast Turducken for Review

I trust everyone had the happiest of holidays, getting in lots of good eats and fun times with family and friends.  Last week I zipped away for a few days to visit my  mom and sister.  Oh, it was lovely.  Saskatchewan was cast in this spectacular hoar frost, and if you've been following me on Instagram, you saw how I got carried away with capturing the beauty of it all.  The woods behind my mom's house were especially pretty, and made for excellent post-food coma hiking. 

I mean, just look at all of that frost.  Birds were chirping down on me, welcoming me. It was pretty glorious.  

Speaking of food coma, let me tell you about this turducken.  I was contacted by Echelon Foods, saying hey, wanna give a turducken a try for your holiday feast?  Always up for something new, and after quick consultation with my mom, I agreed to give the chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside turkey a try.  I thawed the Original Turducken for a couple of days in the refrigerator, and when I opened the bag I saw that it had already been seasoned.  With just a few drizzles of olive oil, I popped it in the preheated 220*F oven.  Package directions said to roast at this temp for 5-6 hours or so, given the weight was 4.6 Kg.  Low and slow, that was the plan.  After 2 hours, we took a look at it, and well the bird(s) still looked quite pallid, and I think this freaked my mom out, as we had a set time of 5:00 pm for dinner.  We jacked the heat up to 300*F, and let it cook for another 3 hours, basting every so often with the pan juices (we threw in chunks of onion, celery, carrot to roast along with the turducken, and to help build the flavour of the gravy).  For the last half hour of cooking time, I had the bird covered with the lid from the roaster, as it was golden and gorgeous, but didn't want it to get too dark.  I let it stand for about 20 minutes before slicing.  Smelled wonderful, let me tell you, and boy, did it look delicious presented on the platter.  Once everyone was dished up, with sufficient gravy smothering the whole lot of mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole (my mom tried something new this year), we tucked in to the turducken.  Right off the bat, we noticed how tender and juicy the turkey was, and how flavourful it was.  Same with the duck, and chicken.  There was quite a lot of Italian sausage stuffed between the layers of poultry, and not everyone at the table enjoyed this component of the turducken.  Some felt its flavour over-powered the rest of the meat, and some just thought it too spicy in general, with a bit of a spongy texture.  Myself, I probably could have done without any of the sausage, and my fork naturally gravitated towards the turkey, duck and chicken.  That being said, it was a new culinary experience for us.  At a bit of a hefty price tag $102.08 for 4.636 Kg, I realize this is not in every one's budget.  But if you want to try something different for your holiday feast, the turducken may be perfect for you. 

Disclaimer:  Echelon Foods compensated me for the Turducken.  All opinions about the bird(s) are my own.  

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