Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Rhubarb! It’s in season.

Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Rhubarb I’ve always liked rhubarb. As we posted  in rhubarb season 2008 we made rhubarb sauce last year. Tanny just found a rhubarb website with a lot of potentially good recipes. Strawberry-rhubarb pie is always yummy, but we don’t have any local strawberries yet. So far the 2009 rhubarb recipe favourite is looking like Rhubarb Crumb Bars. We’ll post back with the results.

 


The Stop’s Green Barn Market

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Yesterday, Tanny, Ella and I went down to The Stop’s Green Barn Market near Christie and St. Clair. It’s not far from our house and with our CSA deliveries on hold over the holidays we were tired of staring at empty produce bins in our fridge. 

It’s a nice little market. Everyone is super friendly. It’s bigger than the market at Distillery (at least the last time we were there) but not as big as the market at the Brickworks. The market is held at Artscape’s Wychwood Barns - a converted TTC streetcar repair barn. It looks a bit like the Distillery Farmer’s Market, though much much smaller; the Distillery is also an Artscape project. The Stop, which runs the market, is an organisation which works to increase access to healthy food. 

We picked up some sweet potatoes from Round Plains Plantation. They have Tanny and Ella’s favourites: Chinese purple sweet potatoes. They also had O’Henry sweet potatoes of which we bought one to try. 

We got some eggs and ground beef from two vendors and some white potatoes as well. That night we made sheppard’s pie with the ground beef and potatos and it was delicious! They potatoes were the most favourful we’ve had in months.

Since we’ve been slow to upload recipes, here’s my Mom’s Sheperd’s Pie Recipe:

  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1 cup water*
  • 1 beef boullion cube*
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 stick of celery (chopped)
  • pinch of thyme
  • dash of worchestershire sauce
  • milk (to taste)
  • a few parsley sprigs
  • 1 tsp of paprika
  • (optional) 1 carrot (chopped)
  • (optional) 1 cup corn kernals (cooked or canned)

* You can substitute 1 cup of homade beef stock for the 1 cup of water and boullion cube

  1. Brown beef and onions
  2. Stir in salt, pepper, flour, beef boullion*
  3. Add celery, water*, thyme, worchestershire sauce (and carrots)
  4. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. Meanwhile or before: peel and boil potatoes
  6. When cooked, drain and mash with butter, milk and salt
  7. Put beef mixture into an oven-proof dish
  8. (optional) Add layer of corn
  9. Top with mashed potatoes
  10. Sprinkle with paprika and parsley
  11. Put in oven at 400F for 25-30 minutes

p.s. We left our camera at my parent’s house at Christmas so the blog will be pretty textual for a while.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Over the course of the weekend, I’ve made two interesting food discoveries - about chestnuts and pumpkins.

Josh’s parents have a great big chestnut tree in their front yard. This year, they managed to collect a few handfuls of chestnuts before the squirrels got to them. With the instructions on how to roast chestnuts in hand, freshly printed from a google search, the experiment began. While waiting for the chestnuts, I raved about the roasted chestnuts I used to eat in Hong Kong, freshly roasted in hot sand. They were delicious. When the chestnuts were finally ready, we all had a taste - the chestnuts were bitter and awful. Nothing like what I remembered. As it turns out, we had horse chestnuts, not the edible chestnuts. After a quick search on the internet, we learned that: horse chestnuts are slightly poisonous to humans, best left for the squirrels; the chestnuts with much spikier shells are the edible kind.

horse chestnut

Horse chestnuts. source: wikipedia

chestnut

Chestnuts. source: wikipedia

As part of our CSA share last week, we got a pie pumpkin. I’ve never made pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin before, so I looked it up on the internet. Did you know that canned pumpkin puree is not made from pumpkins? It’s Dickenson Field squash, a squash that’s cross pollinated with the butternut squash. It has tan colour skin and bright orange flesh. It tastes just like pumpkin to me, but then again, I’ve never tasted “real” pumpkin.

Dickinson squash

Dickenson squash. source: Long Island Seed Project


More Strawberries!

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Having tasted the local strawberries from my CSA share, I was eager to get more.  Lots more.  I searched the web for a local organic farm and found a small family organic farm not too far away.  So on Sunday, Josh, Ella and I went for a drive and went to Organics Family Farm, a small local organic farm for some fresh strawberries. 

Organics Family Farm

At the farm, there was a small farm stand with some ready-picked strawberries and organic strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb pies, freshly baked in the outdoor wood-fired oven.  We promptly picked up a strawberry-rhubarb pie (there were only a few left and we were NOT leaving without a pie!) and a basket for some strawberry picking fun.  They grow two varieties of strawberries: Veestar (a small and ugly but very sweet variety) and Honeoye (perfectly shaped but not as sweet).  We filled our basket with strawberries (mostly the veestar) while we sampled the berries.  They were so sweet and juicy, even better than the ones we got from our CSA share. 

Strawberry picking

Afterwards, we had a chance to talk to the owner/farmer.  We learned that you can only grow strawberries on a piece of  land for a maximum of two years before you have to rotate crops, and that the veestar variety of strawberry is losing its vigor and showing signs of being genetically drained.  The plants are not as strong as they used to be and this is probably the last year they’ll grow them.  That’s really too bad because they are the sweetest berries I’ve ever tasted. 

Our strawberries

We ended up with 6(!) quarts of strawberries - way more berries that we know what to do with.  Perhaps we (I) were a bit overzealous in our berry-picking.  We made strawberry loaf and muffins, strawberry smoothies and I think I’ll make some strawberry jam for the very first time.  I’ve never made jam before - we’ll see how that goes.

Strawberry Bread Recipe

My kitchen smelled heavenly while this was baking.  This bread tastes a lot better once it’s cooled.  The recipe originally called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, I thought that was a bit much and since the berries were so sweet, I reduced it to 1 cup and it was just sweet enough for us.

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup salad oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup quick oats
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups crushed strawberries

Beat eggs and sugar; add oil and vanilla. 

Mix in flour, oats, cinnamon, soda, salt and baking powder. Add strawberries and mix well.

Pour into two greased and floured 4 x 8 inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.  For muffins, bake for 15 minutes.


Rhubarb!

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Rhubarb on the stove

Tonight I cooked up a little rhubarb sauce for Tanny and I. Delicious! My Mom used to make it for us when I was a kid and I haven’t eaten it for a long time. I called her up for the "recipe". Based on what I made tonight, here it is:

  • five stalks rhubarb, chopped
  • 3 tbsp sugar

Heat the rhubarb in a saucepan on low heat with a tiny bit of water. Stir as the rhubarb cooks until the rhubarb gets to a stringy, saucy consistency (see picture). Stir in sugar. That’s it.

We eat it on toast.

Tanny made rhubarb-apple muffins with our first load of rhubarb and they were also excellent. Anyone have a good strawberry-rhubarb pie recipe they’d like to share?


Forum

To Market, To Market

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Going to the Dufferin Grove market has become a  regular outing around here. On Thursdays, Ella and I pick up Lina and we head to the market together.  We usually share a delicious cinnamon bun from the café and walk around to check out what’s available that week. After reading an article on Andrew Akiwenzie in edible Toronto - he sells the fish he caught himself from Georgian Bay the day before the market - I was looking to buy some fresh fish from him at the market. I also wanted to buy some flour to make crackers this weekend, and some sweet potatoes. I ended up with all that and some sprouts and a loaf of lemon rosemary sourdough.

I abandoned my original dinner plan of leftover Sheppard’s pie and made supper with my market purchases.  For dinner, we had mixed green salad with broccoli sprouts, baked whitefish, steamed broccoli and bread.  Pretty good for a last minute meal.

We’re not on a strict local diet yet - the main ingredients from our dinners are usually locally sourced and I’m making a conscious choice to buy local when I’m at the grocery store.  At times it is difficult to resist buying the strawberries and blueberries, but I’m holding out for the good stuff in the summer.  Other than that, it hasn’t been too difficult and we’re eating better than ever.  I’m definitely looking forward to spring more now that it represents a new growing season - I can’t wait to start my garden this year!


Fresh From the Farm

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

I learned of Fresh From the Farm when I attended the Mom2Mom Holiday Show back in November. The timing was perfect since I was introducing my daughter to solid foods and have been looking for healthier alternatives for her. To be honest, I used to be a bit skeptical of organic foods. There wasn’t any official organic certification process and it seems that people label the food “organic” and charge you twice the price. Now that there are regulations in place and more information available, I’m all for organic food – when it’s affordable. Which brings me back to Fresh From the Farm.

Fresh from the Farm is a small store that’s only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The owners Jacqui and Tim Schmucker bring in fresh meat from small farms in Mennonite communities near Kitchener-Waterloo every two weeks. All the animals are raised in humane conditions, drug-free and hormone-free. The prices are very affordable. The only catch is that you have to order in advance.

Last week I put in my first order: 2 rib eye steaks, a whole chicken and some eggs. I picked up my order on Saturday and also bought a jar of Pinehedge yogurt. The steaks were at 1½ inched thick each and the chicken was huge. One steak was enough for both Josh and I for dinner. I just pan-fried the steak – flavourful, juicy and tender, even at “well done”. We had eggs for breakfast, roast chicken for supper, and yogurt for dessert. Everything was delicious. It felt good knowing that I was eating wholesome food.


My First Attempt at Planning a Local Meal

Monday, January 14th, 2008

Buying Local - Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market

Since I’ve started my research in local food resources in Toronto two weeks ago, I still haven’t visited any of the new findings myself. So last Thursday, I went to check out Toronto’s only year-round farmers’ market at Dufferin Grove Park. A market where there are strict guidelines in place to ensure that the vendors are the producer of their goods and most goods are certified organic.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there’s a year-round farmers’ market in town. And even in mid-January, it’s still bustling with activities. I bought a pork tenderloin ($21) from Berreta Organics, arugula sprouts and basil ($9, I can’t remember the vendor’s name), home-made perogies (two bags of 6 large perogies for $10 total) from Sosnickis Organic Produce, and whole wheat sweet potato bread ($5) from Alli’s. I wanted to buy more but had to hold back, I had placed an order from Fresh From The Farm to be picked up on Friday (more about that later).

First meal

Inspired by my purchases at the market, I prepared my first (mostly) local dinner. I made pan-fried perogies with sausages (non-local), mixed green salad with vinaigrette (olive oil, white wine vinegar and honey from an apiary in Wiarton that I bought while on vacation), and sweet potato bread. It was nothing fancy but the perogies were the best I’ve ever tasted, the salad was so fresh and the bread was very hearty although it would go better with soup. A good meal all around.

Second meal

On Friday, we had our friend Andrew who is visiting from BC, was over for dinner. I roasted the pork tenderloin with roasted root vegetables (a recipe I found on the foodnetwork website), served it with a mixed green salad and sweet potato bread. I used local honey and Ontario red wine in the marinade for the tenderloin, although not all the root vegetables (carrot, rutabaga, turnip and parsley root) were local, they were at least seasonal. Had I planned better, I could’ve bought them from the farmers’ market, but I ended up going to the local supermarket. The tenderloin was succulent and tender, and the root vegetables complimented it quite nicely. I’ve never had rutabaga, turnip or parsley root before, I’d always thought they looked weird and didn’t know how to cook them; however, in my quest to eat more locally and seasonally, I decided to give them a try. As it turned out, they are quite tasty.