December 31, 2013

My 2013 recipe round-up

It's been one helluva year. 

2013 was the year I officially left the big city lights and the fulfilling job I had there, in a leap of faith to move back to the east coast, closer to the ocean, my family, my sweetheart, and my dream of growing as much of my own food as possible. 

It hasn't been an easy leap that's for sure. I dove into it all a bit starry-eyed and it took a particularly grumpy and uncompromising border guard last February to make me realize cross-border romance is not always a walk in the park. But despite a rather unsettled year with a lot of back-and-forths across the border, I managed to finally find a resting place on a magical farm on the northern shore of Nova Scotia. Through it all, I cooked, ate, discovered new recipes, and shared the worthy ones with all you wonderful friends and fellow food lovers. Where would I have been without you and the enthusiasm and encouragement you shared with me? In some ways, this blog became my home, the place I came back to again and again, wherever I happened to be throughout this nomadic year. 

From finding new ways to sneak furry creature cameos in my videos, to starting to blog for PBS Food to interviewing my favorite GMO activist, to starting a monthly giveaway, it's been an adventurous year and I've learned so much along the way. I can't thank you enough for your kind-hearted words, your stories, your recipe ideas, and your feedback on my videos, posts, and recipes. To all the new readers, a warm welcome to you! Here's to another year exploring food together. May this new year bring you joy, adventure, and everything you most deeply wish for.

Here's a look back and a little round-up of this year's most popular recipes.

The ultimate brunch: ginger broccoli fritters topped with poached egg and green tea-poached wild salmon smothered in miso hollandaise

Sesame Chocolate Buckwheat Shortbread

Lemon Poppyseed "Larabars"

Honey Lemon Polenta Cake

Banana Cajeta Pudding Chomeur

Semolina Gnocchi Stuffed with Asparagus

Nettle Fettuccine Alfredo

Lentils with Roasted Beets and Carrots

Cherry Tomato Galette

Zucchini "No Noodle" Lasagna

Teff Porridge with Dates, Apples, and Pecans

Delicata Squash and Sage Biscuits

Kale Salad with Caramelized Parsnips, Pomegranate, and Hazelnuts

Classic Tourtière

A most joyful food-filled 2014 and my very best wishes to you all!

December 19, 2013

A Merry Christmas Tourtière!

This year's Christmas video was such pleasure to work on. Partly because I got to film it with my dear friends at Waldegrave Farm. And eat tons of tourtière in the process. And also because the lovely UK-based musical duo, Rue Royale, allowed me to use one of their beautiful songs again. (Some of you may remember their song Snow on Snow which I used in my Baba au Rhum video, two years ago). If you haven't yet heard Rue Royale's music, it's exquisite. Do yourself a favour and take a listen

In the meantime, here is my video greeting of the season to you all:

I've always been a shameless, over-the-top lover of Christmas. But the thing is, Christmas has not been the same since my mom and my grammie passed away. They both, in their own ways, "made" Christmas. They just made it happen, the magic, the good feeling in the air, the amazing smells coming out of the kitchen. And maybe that's one of the biggest lessons they both taught me about this time of year. Christmas is whatever you make of it. For each person, it means something different. The important thing is that you make Christmas be what you want it to be.

Some of my closest friends claim they don't like this time of year. And whenever I ask them, eagerly (desperately) "but but but what about the egg nog by the fire, and the roasted chestnuts, and being around the people you love (even if they sometimes drive you to insanity), and the snow, and the lights, and and and..." They usually respond "oh yeah, I like all that stuff, it's just the other stuff I don't like". So then I sit back, satisfied (self-congratulating yes, perhaps a little), and say "AHA! So you don't really hate Christmas, you just hate the Christmas muck." You know the muck. We all know the muck. The shopping, the plastic stuff, the traffic jams, the running around, the endless commercials and overplayed tunes, the pressure we put on ourselves. I guess I never really considered all that stuff part of Christmas, because we somehow just managed to tune it out, and to skip to the essence of this time of year. Which is really just about being together and enjoying special moments, whatever they may be. It's different for everyone. But I think the Danish word "hygge" best describes the feeling of what I want Christmas to be. "Hygge" has no direct English translation, but it apparently involves a combination of the words "coziness," "togetherness" and "well-being", among other things.

For my family, these moments of togetherness usually involve food. And there are two recipes that my mom used to make that have become annual traditions for me. One is her Baba au Rhum, and the other is her tourtière, a Québec meat pie that I've loved ever since I was little. For me, making these recipes is a way to feel my mom's presence and to feel connected to all the things that I want Christmas to be: pleasure, magic, delight, coziness.

So here's wishing you all a most delicious and delightful holiday season. And that you make Christmas, or whichever holiday you celebrate, be exactly what you most want it to be this year.

If you'd like to try my mom's Christmas tourtière, the recipe can be found on my post at PBS Food. Bon appétit and my warmest holiday greetings to you and yours.

December 18, 2013

Pistachio Cardamom Cookies and a goodbye

It was a sad week.

Last week was one of those weeks where all manner of sad things seem to collide on your doorstep in one big puddle of sorrow. 

It started off with a bang and a rager of a party here at the old farmstead, to celebrate the farm's 10-year anniversary. So much dancing, so much fun.

Then after a night of feasting and dancing, after everyone had scattered and gone their separate ways, I found myself all alone in this big old farm house, staring at my computer screen in the dark, facing the sudden news that on the other side of the country, a dear friend had passed away. A friend who was too young to die. And whose indescribable passion and love of life touched so many people's hearts, all of us suddenly struggling to make sense of his unexpected departure. 

So I've been feeling rather raw and tender all week, like my heart has got a big gaping widening crack down its side. But as Sasha was fond of pointing out, the thing about cracks in the heart is that they let everything in. They let the sorrow in, but they let all kinds of other good stuff in too. And I'm so grateful to have crossed paths with someone who had the courage to embrace the full palate of emotions that life presents us with: the delights, the fears, the laughter, the grief. It's all part of this adventure.

One of his close friends worded it so well:
Sasha lived with outrageous authenticity. He did things because he wanted to find out what would happen if he tried. He wasn’t concerned about making mistakes or the discomfort of others – if it was something fun, or loving or freeing, he wouldn’t hesitate to charge at it!  
In his passing, I feel he is asking of each of us to really feel our creative desires, to feel what makes us come alive and to stop allowing ourselves to accept anything less than a rich and exciting and creative and deeply meaningful life.
As he did in his life, Sasha continues to inspire me to live more fully, to have more fun, and to feel more deeply. Rest in peace Sasha, and safe journey to the stars my friend.

And what the heck does all this have to do with pistachio cardamom cookies? I don't have a clue. But I made these. In spite of, or maybe because of, my achy heart. And they were good. So damn good I ate half the pan in one sitting while listening to that song up there over and over again. I had to give the last half of the batch to my neighbours for fear I would gobble up the whole panful.

Actually, I had set off to make my grandmother's whipped shortbread, but the pistachios were sitting there and all I had in the house was spelt flour. So these are what happened instead. One of those fortuitous baking accidents. I like to think there was a little bit of Sasha magic in them.

The recipe can be found on my post at PBS Food. Now please tell me, what marvellous cookies are on your holiday rotation this year? 

December 04, 2013

Kale Salad with Caramelized Parsnips and Pomegranate

The amount of kale salad consumed in this household is kind of insane. 

It's become a bit of a joke actually since it pains us to go for more than a couple days without having kale salad, in some form or other. So we're starting to have a pretty wide kale repertoire under our belts. You may remember some of my other variations such as this Kale Caesar and this "massaged" kale salad. Well this is kale salad, "the holiday edition"! 

Our kale obsession is very convenient these days, given that kale is the last plant standing in the garden. Still tall and proud and bright green against the grey December sky. It's nice when your grocery store is right outside your doorstep. I hope it will keep feeding us for as long as possible.

And when it has gone by, or is buried under too much snow to dig out, I'll be growing these trusty micro-greens on my window sill for the rest of the winter.

This incarnation is a festive Christmassy way to prepare and present the mighty green leaf. Shredded and tossed with maple caramelized parsnips and pomegranate seeds, then topped with toasted hazelnuts and freshly shaved parmesan, it's a good-lookin' salad on for a wintery December night. Enjoy!

For the recipe, please visit my post at PBS Food.

December 01, 2013

December Giveaway!

Happy December you all!

I'm not a big fan of November. Its main redeeming factor is that it's cozily sandwiched between what are, in my mind, the two unrivalled months of the year: October and December. But now that we've kissed November goodbye, I am ready to get into full-on, no holds barred, crafty, bakey, warm & fuzzy, sipping egg nog by the fire mode. Bring. It. On.

This month I have two rather lovely giveaways for you. Since one sponsor could only ship to Canada, and the other to the US, I decided to have both giveaways side-by-side. So at the end of the month, there will be a Canadian winner and an American winner.

So for the Americans in the house, this month's giveaway is a set of 3 certified organic micro-green sprouting kits (arugula, radish, and curly cress) from Hooks & Lattice.

These darn cute terracotta kits contain everything you need to grow your own salad through the colder winter months! Who needs lettuce shipped from a gazillion miles away when you can grow your very own baby greens right on your window sill? 

I wrote a post about growing your own winter salad micro-greens a couple winters ago, and this was the video that went with it (to give you a little taste of how these kits work):

Here's how to enter the sprouting kit giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As for my fellow Canadians, the giveaway is a hot-off-the-presses copy of the über sleek and sexy Kinfolk cookbook! Can I get a wooooot? This is an exquisite book full of dreamy photos. It will take you into the homes of Kinfolk friends who share their favourite recipes. My recent squash and sage biscuits were inspired by the sweet potato biscuit recipe in this book. 

Here's how you enter the draw:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Bonne chance everyone!

November 29, 2013

Kneading, baking, and fire the trickster

"It is in our human spirit to build ovens, behold fire, bake bread, cook food, and provide for ourselves."
-Richard Miscovich

This past summer, my sweetheart and I fulfilled our long-time dream of attending the famous Kneading Conference in Skowhegan, Maine. The previous year, we had heard rave reviews from friends who went and described it as THE ultimate place of convergence for bakers, grain-growers, wood-fired oven connoisseurs, and generally-speaking, lovers of dough. I mean, at what other conference do you get to stuff your face with baked goods fresh out of the oven in just about every workshop you take part in? Pizza, sourdough bread, scones, bagels, baguettes, cookies, acorn-flour pancakes, you name it, it was there, being baked to a level of expertise that the average person rarely witnesses. Needless to say, the conference was one of the highlights of my summer. I tried to capture the spirit of the gathering in this short video. 

At the conference, I spent a lot of my time learning how to build an earth-oven from filmmaker and oven-building guru Stu Silverstein. (My boyfriend was pretty excited to meet the man who directed his all-time most favorite film!) After the conference, I came home and promptly purchased the materials necessary to build my own earth-oven, though the actual building of it will be a project for the new year (and one which you will certainly hear about in a more detailed post!) 

The conference's keynote speaker was Richard Miscovich and since the conference, I have been devouring his book, From The Wood-Fired Oven, which was put out earlier this year by my all-time favourite publisher Chelsea Green

As a friend who was leafing through the book exclaimed, "this book is hard core!" Indeed, this is the ultimate must-have book for anyone interested in wood-fired ovens. The first few chapters begin by explaining in meticulous detail how a wood-fired oven works. It then proceeds to show the huge spectrum of foods one can prepare in these ovens. Most of us are familiar with wood-fired pizzas and breads, but Richard also explains how to use an oven's full range of temperatures, from its peak heat to its slow cool-down. He explains how to make outstanding breads and pizzas, but also foods that use the lower ranges of the oven as it cools, such as braised vegetables, baked beans, beef jerky, dried herbs and infused oils. It is a thrifty economical take on how to use every last morsel of heat generated when we fire up our wood-fired oven. I think it's safe to say that it is the most in-depth book ever written about cooking in a wood-fired oven.

We recently fired up our outdoor brick oven to make some pizzas. Notice our two trusty "guardians of the fire"!

After the pizzas were out of the oven, I had my first attempt at a recipe from Richard's book: his French spice bread (Pain d'Épice), made entirely with rye flour, which, as you may remember from this post and this one, I am quite fond of, especially since my sweetheart grows rye. There was one major hitch though. In true glutton style, I went straight for the recipes in the book, neglecting to properly read Richard's detailed section on "Temperature Monitoring". A rather important oversight when it comes to the powerful world of fire. Oops. 

Well. I don't often show my cooking failures on this blog (though there are many of them), but this one was simply too good not to share. Here it is again, in broad daylight.

As you can see, I managed to carve out the inside of the cake, which was actually pretty moist and delicious. But yes, before I fire up our masonry oven again, I will be well-equipped with an adequate thermometer, most likely an infrared 'point and shoot' and will have reviewed in detail Richard's instructions on monitoring temperature. Stay tuned for a successful version of this recipe! My wood-firing adventures have only just begun. 

November 26, 2013

Easy 10-Minute Cranberry Sauce

Is anyone out there planning to serve store-bought cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving? Because if you are, hold everything and let me attempt to talk you out of this folly. 

Did you know cranberry sauce takes 10 minutes to make and is the easiest thing to do? Ever. The kind of easy where you just dump a bag of cranberries in a saucepan, add sugar and water and simmer for 10 minutes. It's so simple I'm even a little embarrassed to dedicate a whole blogpost to it. But if this means saving even just one human being from another hunk of canned jelly, then I will sleep better this Thanksgiving. 

Of course, the advantage of making your own sauce means you can get fancy with it if you wish, and add all kinds of delightful things like citrus peels and orange juice and spices (a little fresh ginger is nice). But to be honest, I've always preferred the taste of pure, straight-up, as-basic-as-it-gets cranberry sauce. Sweet, tart, simple perfection, the way my grammie used to make it. (I have been known to eat the stuff by the spoonful, when no one is looking).

And if you need extra convincing about all this, I hate to be a downer at such a merry time of year, but most store-bought cans are lined with cancer-causing BPA and Harvard researchers have found that folks who eat one serving of canned food daily over the course of 5 days have more than a tenfold increase of BPA levels in their bodies. Not only that, but most canned cranberry sauces are sweetened with GMO high fructose corn syrup. No thank you, Monsanto and Ocean Spray. 

All in all, my cranberry sauce cost me just over $3.00 to make with 100% certified organic ingredients. A store-bought can may have been slightly cheaper than that, but the few extra cents are well-worth it and here's why: supporting my local organic cranberry growers who have worked so very very hard to convert their farm to a certified organic cranberry farm is what Thanksgiving is all about, giving thanks to those who make it possible to have healthy food on our tables, now and for generations to come.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Yields about 2 cups of sauce

One 12-oz. bag of cranberries, equivalent of about 3 cups (use organic if you can, here's why)
3/4 cup cane sugar (or maple syrup)
1/2 cup water (you can also use apple juice or orange juice instead) 
1/4 tsp. butter (optional but it helps reduce the foam)

Place all ingredients except the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir together and bring to simmer on medium heat. Cook until the berries have softened and some have popped to release their juice (about 10 minutes). Stir occasionally. If needed, add a bit more water to get the consistency you like. Add 1/4 tsp. butter and stir, this will help reduce the foam. Turn the heat off but leave the saucepan on the burner, allowing the sauce to cool slowly. The sauce will thicken as it cools. Transfer the cooled sauce to a serving dish for immediate use, or to a jar and refrigerate.

*If you prefer a sweeter sauce, use more sugar in this recipe (up to 1 cup in total). Or use less if you like your sauce on the tart side. (I find 1/2 cup of sugar in total is enough for me).

November 24, 2013

Delicata Squash and Sage Biscuits

I recently received my copy of Kinfolk's new cookbook and the ride home from the post office has never felt so long. I swear I could feel the book glowing through the package, beckoning me to rip open that bubble wrap and dive in. 

True to Kinfolk tradition, the book is a sleek and sumptuous visual feast that will transport you into the inviting homes and kitchens of Kinfolk friends and contributors. Every morsel is pure elegance and warmth to savour, page by page. My recipe for these delicata squash and sage biscuits was inspired by Austin and Ashlyn Sailsbury's sweet potato biscuits (page 109). Since delicata squash also goes by the name of sweet potato squash, and that's what I had on hand (we grew tons of them this year), I thought they might make a good substitution for the sweet potatoes in the recipe.

I also added a little chopped fresh sage to give these biscuits a festive flavour, making them a great accompaniment to Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Or simply a warm bowl of soup.

If you've never had delicata, you must try it. It has a creamy flesh that is surprisingly sweet. And it lends a golden hue to these tender and flaky biscuits. However, if you don't have delicata, don't hesitate to use another variety of sweet winter squash such as buttercup or butternut, they will work just as well.

I hope you'll give these a whirl and enjoy them as much as I did. 

For the recipe, visit my post at PBS Food. Bon appétit!

November 14, 2013

Roasted Squash Crème Brûlée

In Canada, Thanksgiving is already well behind us. In fact, it sort of feels like ages ago, back in that golden glow that was the month of October. But I know you American friends out there are just getting revved up for it, so may this video get you in the spirit of the festivities to come and may it convey my very warmest Thanksgiving wishes to you all.

This little vignette was close to my heart because it features my dear friends at Waldegrave Farm, who have become like family in the past months. It also features an exquisite song by Grassmarket which I instantly fell in love with. That angelic voice and the words of the song so beautifully capture the feeling of fall and Thanksgiving. I am very grateful that they allowed me to use it in this video.

As for the brûlée, well, it's just a very fun recipe to make if you want to vary things up a little for Thanksgiving dessert. You may have noticed that when it comes to cooking, I really like baking things inside of things. Well this recipe is a continuation on that theme. I had initially been twirling around the idea of a pumpkin pie crème brûlée and then I had a vision of little baby squash halves filled with the stuff. Yah. 

I've always preferred the taste of squash rather than pumpkin for pies and desserts, so that's what I opted for. (Any winter squash will do though the rich sweet varieties like buttercup work best). The little guys turned out to be quite easy to make and my uncle even showed me how to use his chef's torch to caramelize and burn the sugar. Although the other time I made them, (on Thanksgiving dinner #2, because yes, I had 2 incredible Thanksviging feasts this year, lucky me!) I didn't have the torch and simply used the oven broiler. It was not as impeccably brulée-ed, but still did the trick. It's pretty darn delightful when you see them all lined up, looking cozy and festive. The recipe can be found on my post on PBS Food. Bon appétit!

November 07, 2013

Teff Porridge with Pecans, Dates, and Apples

As the weather starts to dip and chilly November mornings make it harder and harder to get out of a warm, cozy bed, I like to get reacquainted with my old friend, porridge. A friend I have neglected through the summer months, but a friend who is always there to return to, each fall. A good pal that porridge.

And these days, I can't get enough of this porridge, made with the tiniest grain you've ever laid eyes upon. And I'm not just saying that. It actually is the smallest grain in the world! Have you been introduced yet? Dear reader, meet teff. Teff can be a bit shy, being so tiny and all. But if you make the first move and extend a hand, you will be greatly rewarded.

My dear friend Val from Open Kitchen introduced me to this porridge. It's a great way to start the day because teff is packed with protein, calcium, and iron. And as a bonus, it's even gluten-free. 

I generally simply follow the porridge recipe found on the back of the Bob'sRed Mill teff package, adding whichever nuts and fruit I have on hand. But this hearty apple date pecan teff porridge is my latest variation on Bob's recipe. It's deliciously nutty, sweet, creamy, and filling. You can find teff in most health food stores or you can order it online

Get my recipe here on PBS Food.