Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve Dinner

 This year, high school let out December 23rd. My intentions to prepare an elaborate feast for Christmas Eve were easier said than done. The last week of school was deathly busy: planning assemblies, writing finals, tying up loose ends, etc. Two days before the big event I decided it would be necessary to scale back my good-intentions. I opted for "assembly" type dishes and put all my effort into a few show stoppers: brisket, pâté, cheesecake and a sticky-date torte. For the rest, guests were content to nibble on whatever bits of food I threw at them: crusty bread and sliced fruit around a bubbling pot of fondue, ripped-up pomegranates, mincemeat tarts, roasted brussels sprouts, crispy potatoes, a spread of my mother's cookies, etc. 
It was a lovely meal, and in all honesty, was a lot less fuss than last year's. This one "featured" 100-mile ingredients. Had I had more than a few hours to throw this together, perhaps I would have gone all-out. 
P.S. Check out the glass of apple cider I'm holding sideways! Gelatine is a marvellous thing!





Friday, December 9, 2011

Kids These Days...

Awe! I love it when friends buy into my crazy cooking :)
Selena will be accompanying me to Kauai, using the BBQ Contest tickets I won over the summer! We intend to eat our way through the island and then jump out of planes (skydiving)...and other such crazy things teenagers do these days. Biking through the Waimea Canyons, snorkling on Poipu beach, stuffing our faces with pineapple, limes and guava...it's going to be a good trip!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Eggplant/Chicken "Parmigiana"

This isn't how I classically make eggplant parmigiana, but it was a delicious, "stew-ier" version.
Tonight I used up that last of our autumn eggplants in this nice weekend dish.
Halfway through the Paleo challenge, I had to get creative with a substitute for cheese. 
This crumby, toasted pesto was a nice, salty alternative. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Paleo Challenge

Cauliflower is one of my favourite vegetables because it's such a great carrier of flavour. It can be roasted to develop a wonderful nutty flavour or steamed, eaten whole or mashed. It's a great filler for stuffed dishes and is a fantastic substitute for anything that requires whole grains. 
Cauliflower "rice," as I like to call this one, was made by steaming cauliflower in salted water, then mashing it with a 1/4 of a roasted butter-nut squash and whatever spices you fancy! I used hearty winter spices like caraway, fennel and nutmeg. Even curried-cauliflower would be great! Remember to salt this mix properly, or it will be terribly bland. Add a few splashes of chicken stock if you need to loosen the mixture. The zest of one lemon brightened all the flavours. 
Local white-fish from lake Huron was baked with more spices and lemon and local sunflower oil. 
A rich tomato/red-pepper sauce was puréed and drizzled over everything. 
Finish with a handful of coarsely chopped parsley and cracked pepper.


A group of us from the local Crossfit gym have adopted the Paleo-diet (specifically the "Whole30" challenge) for 30 days. With the intention to cut out junky-food and eat as nature intended, I can honestly say that I've never felt better! In a nutshell, eat like a caveman: no fast-food, no packages, no dairy, no grains, no sweeteners. While this may sound impossible, there is still a lot of variety and tasty recipes to be had. Meat, eggs, veggies, roots, shoots, nuts and fruit are all free game! 
Am I still doing the 100-mile diet? Yes and no. The "bulk" of all my cooking is made with strictly local ingredients. Ie: the fish and the cauliflower and the tomatoes from this meal were all locally sourced. The slices of lemon to flavour the fish, were not. In addition to this, while I am eating very well, sleeping better and my sports performance has improved, I was just not meeting my daily caloric intake. 100 mile + paleo means no exotic fruits, no nuts and most fishes are not allowed. This is simply impractical as I am an active teenager with a busy schedule. Like many, I do not have time to pack perfect lunches everyday or have a proper breakfast every morning. I attempted to survive the first week on greens and local meats and eggs, but I was averaging around 700 kcal/day. I needed more grab-and-go foods to stay satisfied and alert at school. Therefore, for the 30-day challenge, I am allowing all nuts and all fruits into the equation. Since doing this today, I already feel much better!

Adopting new diet and exercise regimes challenge us to re-think our everyday norms and develop a new appreciation for different lifestyles. If you had told me a year ago that I would give up pasta, couscous, dairy and beans, I would have thought you were crazy! Some folk enjoy reading a magazine or painting for a hobby, but I love being a guinea pig when it comes to diet and exercise. The only person I can think of who would protest against this would be my mother, whom can't seem to figure out what I'm "allowed" to eat one week and not allowed the next. It's okay mom, I'll eat it ALL come Christmas time :) 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Purple Love

 

Admiring the beauty of autumn vegetables. Our CSA with Fertile Grounds Organic in St. Agatha has provided us with the most beautiful, edible works of art, all season long!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saucy Turkey Toasts

Oh, the heavenly things you can do with leftover turkey! A few months ago I canned a home-made chilli sauce   so this dish was as easy as stewing some shredded turkey in a few jars of the pre-made tomato-based sauce. Thick slices of brioche were topped with a mixture of creme fraiche, Worcestershire sauce and quality buffalo mozzarella cheese. The saucy turkey was piled on then everything was topped with sharp cheddar cheese and broiled in the oven for a few minutes. These were sinfully good!
And of course, any "pulled meat" must be served with a coleslaw. A mixture of celeriac, fennel cabbage, carrots and raddichio in a home-made dressing rounded this off nicely.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Velvety Cauliflower Soup

A smooth as velvet soup made with cauliflower, softball onion, garlic, chives, cream and lemon pepper. Spoon a dollop of quality sour cream on the top with a sprig of dill for an elegant finish.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Just a little something I picked up from the most amazing shop whilst in Kingston, ON.
Up there in the top ten cheeses I've ever tasted :)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner

Mom bought a beautiful, free-run, organic turkey from a local farm. (See her stuffing the beast in the photo). Before stuffing and cooking it, we brined it in salt water to develop its flavour and make for a crispier skin. I'm partial to dark meat, but ever bite of the bird was tender, juicy and packed with intense meaty flavour. This turkey made other grocery-store turkeys from my childhood taste bland as cardboard. I feel even better knowing this bird had a wonderful life of sunshine and proper feed on a farm close by. The stuffing was made of day-old bread, dried cranberries, onions and a whole lota' spices! A creamy butter-nut squash purée, home-made cranberry sauce, pan-gravy, caramelized brussels sprouts and sweet corn also filled our plates. The thanksgiving dinner plate is never pretty on the eyes, is it? A pumpkin cheesecake with spiced whipped cream was also on the menu (my mom's doing).




Friday, October 14, 2011

Eggs...again

100-mile dieters will know that the humble egg reigns supreme in the fridge. Like apples, potatoes, kale and a few other fall-backs, eggs are available all year in south-western Ontario. Tonight I served them quiche style with a medley of autumn vegetables underneath.

Cooking TV Show in Post-Production Stage...

Hey Everyone. Long time, no-post! School has been BEYOND hectic and combined with work, sports' teams, homework and scholarship applications, I have been cooking less and blogging even less than that. On top of everything, the main floor of our house is getting re-floored and so our kitchen has been moved into our living room. I have yet to find a place that specializes in 100-mile take-out. Until I can properly cook again, here's a juicy bit of fodder to whet your appetite. 2 months ago, I taped a cooking show with a fantastic production crew and co-host. It's only a pilot episode (to be shopped around to network studios) but it's absolutely fantastic! The theme? "Teenage-food, reinvented!" Once it's available to watch on the web, I'll link you to it from CwC.



Friday, October 7, 2011

Medley Dinners

  These dishes are basically an "everything in the fridge" kind of meal. Our CSA veggies from Fertile Grounds Farm in St. Agatha are to-die-for! Their flavours are so clean and crisp that it's almost a shame to alter them too much when cooking. After using half a pumpkin here and a quarter of a broccoli there, we finish the week with a fridge full of odd bits of veggies. The solution? Steam, roast, fry and toss it all together. My go-to is frying a big red onion in local soya oil, adding chopped garlic, tossing in a starchy vegetable, simmering everything in stock then adding the remaining veggies (beans, peppers, spinach, asian-greens, etc) in order of cooking time. I might throw in some cooked lentils and/or diced chicken too. At the end, stir in a handful of chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley. These dishes never turn out the same. Once I added a minced jalapeño pepper (yes, I took out the seeds and pith) but our mouths were still on fire by the end of dinner. I learned my lesson with local, organic chillies, haha. If you take anything away from this post, it's that none of your beautiful summer veggies should go to waste. You'll regret it come winter time!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Soup

Ahh yes. A velvety red soup bursting with summer flavours. Everyone was surprised at how sweet the soup tasted despite not using any sugar/honey/maple syrup. I sweated down 1 large onion in soya oil, added minced garlic, fresh thyme and a bay leaf. I added in a whole can of the roma tomatoes we processed last weekend and cooked them down until they smeared across the bottom of the pot.  Then i deglazed with equal parts homemade chicken stock and water. I added in a whole can of the roasted red peppers (also homemade) and let everything simmer for about 20 minutes. To finish, puree everything with an immersion blender and add a touch of cream and season with salt and pepper. I garnished the soup with a slice of tangy goat chevre. It melted into the soup (as smooth as sour cream) and complimented the pepper flavour wonderfully.  YUM!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Canning Sweet Peppers

What a nightmare!
Oh well, this sacrifice of a perfectly warm and sunny afternoon will benefit us through ought the winter.
I tend to idealize cooking and baking, but when it comes to canning and preserving, the process is often arduous, messy and (because of my laziness) disorganized.
Mom spearheaded this one, and together we canned about 2 bushels of red, bell peppers.
Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, but processing summer produce turns our dainty kitchen into a mini-factory.
We charred the red peppers under the broiler, on all sides. Then they were steamed in bowls covered with cling wrap. We peeled them, and soaked the silky strips in water to remove any lingering seeds. They were stuffed into sterilized jars and topped with a vinegar/oil/water solution, then finally heat-processed with lids. This was a day of pure, messy sacrifice.
My hands are stained red. Are you on the 100-mile diet? Do you want to eat red-peppers during the winter too? Call me up next summer. We'll bear the brunt together!




Friday, September 16, 2011

Split Pea and Sausage Stew

A creamy tomato-ey broth, bits of Italian sausage with fennel seeds, potatoes, yellow split peas, onions, thyme, apple and yellow pepper. Mmmm.
A little preview of autumn :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Canning Chili Sauce

Thanks so much to Karla Kerrigan and her mom for this one!
With a free Sunday afternoon and a bushel of paste tomatoes, I set about making chili sauce.
It's round #3 of the tomato battle: 1st was 5 bushels of whole, canned tomatoes; 2nd was tomato salsa and now...
While I had to adjust and tweak the recipe to suit the 100-mile challenge, the result was spectacular! Mine was not quite a ketchup consistency, rather halfway between Tabasco sauce and a tomato sauce. Upon first taste, it is sweet, rich and tomato-ey, but then a powerful kick comes in from the scotch-bonnet peppers, all rounded off by the lingering taste of spices (celery, mustard, bay and I used cinnamon too). I also pureed mine at the end for a perfect sauce consistency. Considering what I plan on using it for, it made sense:
With about 10 small jars canned and a few larger ones, I expect to be using them all winter long as a sauce for meat, a smear on toast, a spicy drizzle to finish soups, an addition to salsa and much more! While I've been dreading the end of summer and months of potatoes and cabbage again, with cans of this sauce in the cold cellar, I'm excited to make winter meat dishes. Think - tender meatloaf with a spicy chili sauce coating :)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beautiful Heirlooms

I had the pleasure of helping Angie from Fertile Grounds CSA at the Kitchener farmer's market again today. So many wonderful vegetables and fruits are at peak season right now and it was quite the sight to see! The tables were dancing with colour, flavour and freshness. Angie has been winning the fight against blight with the tomatoes this year (last year wasn't so successful) and the results are big, beautiful tomatoes of many varieties, bursting with flavour. In the top picture I am holding a "striped German" tomato. It has a yellow and pink marbled flesh and the sweetest taste. Being able to eat such rare varieties of vegetables is one of the biggest incentives to buying local or belonging to a CSA, in my opinion. Because heirloom vegetables are often too delicate and expensive to transport and sell at large chain grocery stores, you just can't buy them at the supermarket. For example, these 1-2lb tomatoes are rarely grown in bulk and have a very short shelf-life (their downfall). They are at their peak for only a few days and must be stored upside down on their "shoulders" to prevent from bruising. Being "high maintenance" ensures their absence from mainstream stores. However, if you  venture out of the store isles and into a market where local food has been picked less than 2 days before, you'll be graced with vegetables label-free, sans-packaging and out-of-this-world delicious taste!

 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Just Thrown on the Plate...

A spiced chicken breast, pan fried until perfectly tender. A variety of summer vegetables (picked the same day!) some of them blanched, were thrown in the pan at the last minute with the chicken. Salt, pepper (squeeze of lemon if you're no 100-mile) and voila! Very easy, but fresh veg made it to-die-for!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pasta Melanzane with a Twist

 "Eggplant Pasta" is delicious on it's own, but our fridge was bursting with so much produce from the farm that I was forced to find a way to cram more vegetables in. Eggplant, tomatoes, swiss-chard, beets greens, flat-leaf parsley, fresh sage, basil leaves and a few little cubes of tender beets made it into this one. Local buffallo mozzarella was stirred into the pot and each bowl was topped with aged pecorino.



Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Canning Salsa

Mom bought 6 bushels of roma tomatoes this past weekend. Like a trooper, she canned 5 of them for the winter, in the same way my Italian nona does: criss-cross cutting the bottom, boiling for a few minutes, slipping the skins off and then stuffing them into sterilized jars with a basil leaf. They are great for just about anything because they're still not fully cooked, but mushy enough to smash-up with a wooden spoon into sauces and stews over the colder months. With a bushel left over, I set about making salsa. Tomatoes, onions, garlic scapes, garlic, hot peppers, garahm masala, vinegar and honey (because I couldn't use sugar). The end result was a perfectly stewed, spicy concoction perfect for dipping my Barrie's Brother's asparagus tortilla chips into!

Breaded Chicken Tenders with Peach Salsa

Local chicken breasts sliced thin, coated in egg and flour/breadcrumbs/spices and baked with a few drizzles of butter. Fresh, ripe peaches cut up into salsa (canned earlier in the day) with fresh basil made a juicy accompaniment. Serve on a bed of peppery arugula beside tangy pickles or sliced cucumbers.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An August Dinner

This 100-mile dinner showcased the best ingredients summer has to offer: tomatoes, fresh herbs, green beans, perfectly crisp lettuce, and more.
A tomato and cheese tart served as a nice side-dish.
For the main: Spicy Malaysian flank steak and mashed white beans, wrapped up in butter-head lettuce.
Deeeelicious!



             


Blueberry & Peach Pie Re-Invented

 Today we bought a proof of blueberries for $50 and a 1/2 bushel of peaches for $10. After slicing, packing and canning all day, I'm hoping we have enough to last through the winter. ...I'll use them sparingly.
I snuck a few of them away to use in tonight's dessert: "Pie in a glass"

To make this trifle-like concoction, I made a thickened blueberry sauce, stewed peaches, flat & round pie crusts (baked on a sheet pan) and a sweet cream. I layered them into tall, wide-rimmed wine glasses because I adore nothing more than eating out of something that should be used to hold a drink. Good examples: brownies baked in hot-chocolate mugs, creme-brulee in tea cups, soups in shooter cups as an appetizer and parfaits in goblets.