For the love of all that is local

G’day folks,

Now that summer is officially here, I’m hoping to do a series of posts dedicated to local food. One of my favourite things to do in the summer is to visit the local markets, picking up produce and other creations made by the talented people in the area. Sometimes, you can find amazing deals, and other times, you have to pay a bit more than you might at the grocery store, but I think there is a great deal of value in supporting the local economy, so it makes the added price worth it in the end. Plus, the quality of the food to be found at these markets is typically significantly better.

Here’s a brief summary of my market experiences of late:

1. Mosborough Market (just outside of Guelph, at the corner of Wellington Road 32, and Speedvale

This is a small store, but one which contains lots of awesome stuff. They have a great deal of frozen meat, from pork, to beef, to ostrich! They also have a great variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of sauces, snacks, and crafts to check out. While there, I purchased some pork chops (fresh, not frozen) some local garlic, tomatoes, peas, and berries. All were amazing, particularly the pork chops. We seasoned them with a bit of Epicurious Thai Red Curry Rub, and did them on the barbecue. My husband remarked afterwards that they might have been the best pork chops he had ever had. He may have just been talking about his mad skills on the barbecue, but I’m sure it was at least partially due to the quality of the meat!

Check it out at: http://mosboroughmarket.ca/

2. Steckle’s Produce and Flowers (just outside of Harriston, on the way to Mount Forest on Highway 89)

This is a Mennonite family farm/store, and anytime I head to that part of the country, I love to stop in here. First of all, you can look out in the field, and see where your food has been grown. Secondly, the food is generally quite reasonably priced. Thirdly, they have some of the most beautiful flowers there that I have ever seen! While there, I purchased a field cucumber, some tomatoes, a zucchini, a basket of peas (which I accidentally left at my mom’s house, and are probably all gone by now!), and a basket of yellow beans. They also have a variety of breads and homemade goodies to tempt you as you walk in the door, so carb-lovers beware!

Check it out at: http://ontariofarmfresh.com/member-pages/steckles-produce-and-flowers/

3. Harriston-Minto Farmers’ Market (located in Harriston, beside the Harriston Motors parking lot, as you come in from Teviotdale on Highway 109)

This market is open every Friday in the summer from 3-6. I am rarely in town at this time, but I just happened to be there yesterday, so I made of point of making my way down there. The number of vendors varies from week to week, but while I was there, there were about 6 or 7. While it may be small, there are still a great deal of neat things to be found. While there, I picked up some of the last strawberries of the season, some homemade tarts (blueberry and raisin) for a family gathering this weekend. However, the highlight was definitely picking up a couple of still-warm tea biscuits from the South Street Cafe tent, along with some salad dressing that everyone has been raving about. Mom and I promptly went home, crushed up some strawberries, and spread them on the biscuits for a delightful little afternoon snack.

So, if you happen to be passing through Harriston on a Friday afternoon this summer, stop in!

Check it out at:http://www.mintofarmersmarket.ca/

Also check out South Street Cafe at: http://www.southstreetcafe.ca/ (I was also there this week, and would HIGHLY recommend the chicken club sandwich… chicken, bacon, avacado, tomato, chipotle mayo… delicious!)

So, what have I done with all of these local goodies? Well, one recipe that I would love to share with you, is the Grilled Basil Tomato Sandwich. This recipe is found in the Company’s Coming Low-Fat Express book, which I quite like, especially for the sandwich recipes. They are simple, but delicious… and they look pretty!

Grilled Basil Tomato Sandwich

2 tbsp. pizza sauce

4 Italian bread slices

2/3 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I actually used slices of Havarti instead, and it worked really nicely)

1/4 cup chopped tomato

1/4 cup roasted red peppers, blotted dry and chopped

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil

Cooking spray or butter/margarine

Spread pizza sauce on 1 side of each bread slice. Sprinkle cheese over sauce. Press down lightly.

Combine next 3 ingredients in small bowl. Spread over cheese on 2 bread slices. Place remaining bread slices, cheese-side down, over tomato mixture.

Heat large frying pan on medium. If using butter or margarine, spread it on outside of the sandwiches (both sides). If using cooking spray, the recipe says to spray it on the sandwiches, but I think you could just spray the pan. I like the butter or margarine, because it makes the bread brown up a bit better. Place sandwiches in pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, until bottoms are golden. Turn sandwiches over. Press down with spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes until bottoms are golden and cheese is melted. Serves 2. You can also use the left over pizza sauce for dipping!

I would serve this with a garden salad, and a balsamic dressing.

Enjoy!

 

When things don’t go according to plan…

Okay, so picture this. You’re planning this awesome meal for a group of friends or family members. You’ve decided to try a new recipe or two, you’ve got all of your ingredients ready and laid out, all set to go for a perfectly timed preparation, and now you just have to try to pull it all off. Then, disaster strikes.

I can’t even tell you how many times I have tried to do this and failed. The turkey was still slightly frozen when I put it in the oven, so it took an extra hour… Or I got distracted while making tacos and burned the shells… Or I was trying to make three kinds of cookies at once and forgot to add a vital ingredient so I ended up with a big cookie blob… Seriously, the list is endless.

Now, obviously, practice makes perfect, and the more times you try something, the greater your rate of success will be, but there are still going to be times that no matter how much you prepare, and no matter how well you have planned, you are going to get screwed. The cookies are going to come out burnt on the bottom, the recipe that looked so awesome in the book is going to turn out to be the most disgusting thing you’ve ever had, and you’re going to be left thinking that you are a complete and utter failure in the kitchen…maybe even a failure in life.

Perhaps this is being a bit melodramatic, but stick with me for a second.

The longer you spend preparing for something, and the more effort you put into it, the higher your hopes get. Then, when everything falls apart and you’re left with a smoky kitchen and the charred remains of the wonderful dinner that might have been, your natural inclination is to blame yourself and to throw in the proverbial towel.

This is something that people do not only in the kitchen, but in every area of their lives. You work, you dream, you plan, and you hope that all of your working, hoping, and planning will combine to create something wonderful. However, this doesn’t always happen. It sucks.

But my message today isn’t meant to be a negative one. My message today (which is one that I am desperately trying to teach myself) is that just because something (whether it be a recipe or some other grand plan) doesn’t turn out, this is not necessarily a reflection on you, or your abilities. While it may be tempting to give up, and to simply go out and buy a freezer full of frozen pizzas, or to throw your dreams away, don’t. Keep working, keep dreaming, keep planning, and keep in mind that everything will work out in the end.

-A

(More recipes to come soon! I had just been pondering this entry for a while and wanted to get it down while I had the chance!)

There are some advantages to breaking the rules…

Okay, so I’m a rule follower, a goody two-shoes, a type-A personality. I do most things by the book, and so far, this has served me fairly well. However, I must admit that there are some times when one must bend, stretch, and even break the rules, and this is most definitely true in cooking and baking.

Quite often, the urge to bake hits me, and I find myself rooting around in the kitchen to see if I have the right ingredients to make peanut butter ginger snaps, or chocolate chip cookies, or something with apple and cinnamon… Side note: If you see me in 10 years and I weigh 300 pounds, please refer back to this post.

However, it is not always the case that I have all of the ingredients I need to make whatever recipe I have landed on in my hunt through my favourite cook books. Admittedly, I do have a well-stocked kitchen because I love to try new recipes and therefore have acquired quite a collection of diverse ingredients, but it usually happens that I am missing some common ingredient.

So, sometimes I have to cheat a little bit. Sometimes this leads to disaster, but quite often, it actually leads to a creation that I (and my taste-testers) really enjoy.

In fact, this morning I decided I would make apple cinnamon muffins to take with me to visit a good friend. I was using a healthy version of this recipe from my favourite cook book (The Looney Spoons Collection), and it called for 1/4 cup of apple sauce. We don’t usually have apple sauce in the house, and I didn’t really feel like going to the store to get one little thing, so I decided I would compromise. I figured the apple sauce needed to be in the muffin mix to add a bit of sweetness, but also a bit of liquid, so I hunted around in my fridge and found some strawberry yogurt. If I had orange or apple juice, I probably would have used that instead, and just cut down on the amount a bit. Anyways, I nervously added 1/4 cup of yogurt to the mix, hoping that the cinnamon, brown sugar, and other ingredients would mask the taste of the yogurt, and put the muffins in the oven.

20 minutes later, I had a new favourite muffin recipe! The yogurt added just the right amount of moisture to the muffins, and they were delightful!

So, if you’re in a pinch, and need a substitute for apple sauce, apparently yogurt works!

I often turn to the internet when I’m trying to figure out subsitutions, and the following site is really neat, and very useful if you are stuck for an ingredient!

http://www.foodsubs.com/FGBakingsupplies.html

Below, you can check out the recipe (with my substitution added in!) for Apple Cinnamon Muffins.

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup each liquid honey and unsweetened apple sauce (or strawberry yogurt!)

1 egg

3 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups peeled, cored and finely chopped apples

Cinnamon sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray and set aside. Pour boiling water over oats in a medium bowl. Stir and let stand for 20 minutes.

Combine both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together honey, applesauce, egg, butter and vanilla. Add applesauce (or yogurt) mixture to oats and stir until smooth. Add oat mixture to flour mixture and stir until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in chopped apples.

Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin lightly with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Remove from pan and let cool.

Enjoy!

-A

 

‘Bleeding’ Blueberries

So, it was my turn to bring in treats this past week for my department at work. Generally, when I have the chance to bring treats somewhere, I try at least one new recipe, and force my friends/family/co-workers to be my guinea pigs. This time, I tried two new recipes, and then threw in an old one for good measure. The ‘old’ recipe was for mocha truffle brownies, which have been a hit every time I have made them. Even my husband, Mr. I Don’t Like Sweets, will plow through half a batch of these if I give him the chance. I will post this recipe sometime soon!

The two new recipes I made were a cranberry orange loaf, and blueberry oat cookies.

Now, both of these new recipes turned out quite well, however, in terms of visual appeal, they left a little to be desired. The blueberry oat cookies in particular looked a little sickly as the blueberries, when baked, bled through the batter. Thus, when Mr. I Don’t Like Sweets came into the kitchen and saw them sitting on the cooling racks, he said (with a smirk on his face), “These aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing things you’ve ever made, eh?” If you know me, you can picture the look I gave him when he said this. It has been referred to as the death glare for good reason.

Although he did immediately follow up his bone-headed remark with a, “But they taste really good!” I was not impressed. Had I been thinking the same thing in my head after I pulled the cookies out of the oven? Well, duh, but that’s not the point!

Anyways, the least blue-tinted of the cookies were taken into my department, and received rave reviews, however, I did get a great suggestion for dealing with ‘bleeding’ blueberries from a fellow staff member and baker. Coat the blueberries in flour before you put them in the batter! Simple! So, if you make the recipe below, make sure you try that!

I also think that the sugar content in the original recipe could be significantly reduced. I usually try to stick to the original recipe the first time I make it, and the cookies tasted really good with the amount of sugar that was recommended, however, with the amount of cinnamon that goes in, I think I will cut down the sugar significantly the next time I make them and they will still be good. If you try these, let me know how much sugar you use, and how they turn out!

Blueberry Oat Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed (like I said, I think you could cut this down to 1/2 cup or 3/4 cup)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1-2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in the blueberries.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes 3 dozen.

Tried and True: Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies

As I may have mentioned previously, my mom is the person who first got me interested in baking. She used to bake cakes as a ‘professional hobby’ and she was (and still is) damn good at it. I used to love the fact that when I would come home from school, I could count two things:

1. The house would smell like cake

2. There would usually be some cake trimmings for my brother and I!

So, clearly I have my mother to blame for my sweet tooth and for the fact that I LOVE the scent of cakes, cookies and pies wafting throughout my house.

While I have not yet mastered my mom’s skills as a cake decorator, I have been working to develop a fool-proof chocolate cookie recipe for the last 15 years or so. I started baking chocolate chip cookies because they were fairly easy to make and they involved ingredients that were already in my parents’ kitchen. I kept making them because anyone I gave them to seemed to love them!

At this point, I have probably made these cookies nearly 100 times,  so I think I am justified in saying this recipe is ‘tried and true.’ I can only recall one time when it completely flopped, and my cookies ended up as one flat mess in the pan, and I’m quite certain that was due to me trying to be a multi-tasker and forgetting to put in a key ingredient.

Below, you will find the recipe for my very favourite chocolate chip cookies. I hope you enjoy them!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed

1/2 cup white sugar

1 large egg

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup milk chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add to creamed mixture. Beat until completely mixed. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls on to lightly buttered cookie sheets. Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes. Check cookies at 8 minutes and test for desired softness. Remove from oven, cool briefly on baking sheets, then remove to cooling racks.

Kick-butt quesadillas!

So, today we had planned to have quesadillas for supper. However, as it was a holiday, and I had some free time on my hands, I decided to switch it up a bit! Instead of my usual chicken and peppers with cheddar and some taco seasoning, I went with chicken, asparagus, red onion, red peppers, pesto and mozzarella this time, and they were fantastic! I also made a cilantro lime sauce to go along with them, which was a really nice addition.

I’m including both quesadilla recipes for your testing pleasure!

Basic Quesadillas

1/4 cup cream cheese

2 tsp taco seasoning

4 tortillas

2 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced

1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 green pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Spread cream cheese over tortillas. The cream cheese helps keep the filling in.  Lightly sprinkle taco seasoning over cream cheese. Then, arrange chicken over half of each tortilla. Saute vegetables in a tablespoon of oil until they are slightly softened. Spread vegetables over the chicken. Top with shredded cheese. Fold tortillas in half. Place tortillas on a baking sheet. Brown quesadillas on each side under the broiler. Serve with salsa.

Pesto Chicken and Asparagus Quesadillas with Cilantro Lime Sauce

1/4 cup cream cheese

4 tortillas

1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 red pepper, thinly sliced

8 asparagus spears, chopped

2 cooked chicken breasts, thinly sliced

2 tbsp pesto

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp lime juice

1/4 tsp cumin

 

Spread cream cheese over tortillas. Place vegetables on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at 425 for 10 minutes. Mix vegetables and chicken together, and add pesto. Spread over half of each tortilla. Cover with mozzarella. Fold each tortilla in half and broil on each side until browned. To make cilantro lime sauce, combine sour cream, cilantro, lime juice and cumin. Serve on the side of quesadillas. The sauce is also great for dipping veggies!

 

 

 

 

 

Dress it up!

Okay, I don’t know about you, but I go through salad dressing phases. I will use the same dressing day after day for months at a time, but then one day I will go to the fridge and all of a sudden I am repulsed by the thought of another day spent with Creamy Cucumber on my mixed greens. So, just as I do when any type of food starts to bore me, I head to the recipe book shelf.

A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon an awesome salad dressing recipe in Eat, Shrink and Be Merry. This is another one of the Looneyspoons cookbooks, and probably my favourite one of the three (aside from the Collection book I mentioned in a previous post). I would highly recommend buying this book. It doesn’t have quite as many pictures of the food as I would like, but I have made well over half of the recipes in the book, and I have loved them all.

I have made this dressing on numerous occasions and it has met with rave reviews every time. I have included the recipe below, along with a few modifications that  I have made.

I really enjoy this dressing with a simple green salad with cherry tomatoes, walnuts, feta, cucumber and yellow peppers. It also goes really well with a slightly sweeter salad, again with mixed greens as a base, but this time topped with strawberries, almonds, and goat cheese.

Maple Balsamic Dressing

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup apple juice (I have substituted white grape juice, or orange juice, and it worked just as well)

3 tbsp maple syrup (you could probably cut out 1 tbsp of syrup and it would still be plenty sweet)

2 tbsp minced onions

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp fresh dill

1 tsp minced garlic

1/4 tsp salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend for 15 seconds. Voila!

Bodacious Bok Choy

For as long as I can remember, I have loved trying out new recipes. I love reading recipe books, getting recipes from friends, and obviously I love trying out my new creations!

However, for all of my experimenting in the kitchen, I am remarkably un-adventurous when it comes to creating side dishes. For the most part, I spend my time creating main dishes, and usually end up just making a salad or steaming some broccoli to round out the plate.

Recently though, I happened to have some bok choy in my fridge after having bought it for a stir fry recipe. I didn’t want it to go to waste, but I had NO CLUE how to cook bok choy, aside from in the previously mentioned stir fry. So, off to the googles I went.

I found a lot of suggestions but the one I tried, and LOVED, is as follows:

Step 1: Steam bok choy for about 3 minutes (Side note, if you don’t have a steamer basket, get one. They are awesome, and I cook almost every vegetable in mine).

Step 2: Drizzle bok choy with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 3: Serve.

Seriously. That’s it. So easy! Plus, it’s delicious!

Tonight I served it with oven-roasted pork tenderloin which was drizzled with a maple and orange sauce (from The Looneyspoons Collection cookbook– I freaking love this cookbook. You will be hearing much more about it in the future), and quinoa.

Whole Wheat Berry Waffles

So, for Christmas my mom got me a waffle maker, which was probably the most exciting gift I got, because I’m a huge nerd who loves all things kitchen-y. Seriously, I bought a new set of measuring spoons yesterday and it made my week.

Anyways, since then I have been experimenting with different waffle recipes and tricks, and I think the recipe below is one of the best ones I have tried to date. I really like the orange flavour that comes through in these, and it goes really nicely with the raspberries.

A couple of suggestions:

1. I ALWAYS cut down on the salt in any recipes that I find by at least half. The original recipe that I found for these waffles called for 1 teaspoon of salt, which I think is ridiculous. So, I usually just sprinkle a bit in.

2. If you have leftover waffles, just keep them in them in the fridge. The next day, if you have an oven that has two broil settings, turn it on low, and put the waffles directly on the rack for 2-3 minutes, flip, and wait for another couple of minutes. This will heat the waffles up while keeping the outside crispy, a result you wouldn’t get if you just put them in the microwave.

1-1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1-3/4 cups milk

6 tbsp butter, melted

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tsp orange zest

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Place both flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla and stir into dry ingredients until mixture is smooth. Stir in melted and cooled butter. Carefully stir in berries, orange zest and walnuts. Let batter rest 5 minutes before using. Preheat your waffle iron on setting #3. Use 1/2 cup of batter per waffle.

Makes 6 waffles.

Let the food blogging begin!

Hi everyone!

So, my resolution to post what I cook/bake has actually continued for over a month now (longest kept resolution to date!), and it seems that some people actually like the idea!

What I hope to do here is continue to post pictures of the things that I’m cooking, but also to post tips, recipes, etc. that have come my way over the years.

We’ll see how this goes as I’m a little technologically challenged!

-A