28.3.12

Kittens in the Kitchen

My friend, Judy, from North Vancouver sent me this picture!  She also has a cat and her name is Lucy.  I can just imagine Miss Sugar here.  I have a chair for her in the kitchen (not this close to the counters though) and that is her place or she can't come in.  She loves to sit there while I cook.  And she likes to get her t-r-e-a-t-s from the refrigerator.  It is really just her moist cat food!

27.3.12

Spring has Sprung

Spring is many things to many people.  But, for myself it is a reminder of all the bills I have to pay!  Everything big comes at this time ... car insurance, house insurance, property taxes, income tax.   EEK!!

I am used to living in the lap of luxury and now that I have retired from my 'real job' it is taking awhile to get used to the new routine!

So today I decided to create these three piggy banks as a way to save over time for some necessary things.

The maple leaf represents the jar for income tax!




















The jar with blue skies and fields of poppies and sunflowers represents Italy and my vacation fund!


















The jar with the house reminds me that in a few years I will need a new roof on my house.

So I will stuff money in each jar each month to be ready when the time comes.  I have written the amount on the top of the jar so I remember how much I need to allot to each.

Sounds like kindergarten money management!  But after a life of having the money to satisfy every desire, now I am retired and want to save my savings for the future.  I think it is great.

Sprouts in a Jar

While I was shopping for seeds for the garden, I came across a few seeds for sprouting.  My favourite is alfalfa but I had to settle for broccoli and some mustard seeds.  I started with the broccoli and it took about 5 - 6 days.  Many of the seeds didn't sprout.  I have no idea if that is normal but it made for an expensive bit of sprouts.  It made about a pint and cost about $2.50.

Simply cut a piece of cheesecloth to fit the top of a jar and use the metal ring to hold it in place.  Rinse the seeds twice a day until they are the size you want.

Drain all the water and leave the jar upside down, slightly atilt so any residual water can drain.

25.3.12

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

This is so easy and I know you all are already making this.  I just never use croutons...the oil...you know!

I had some leftover scraps of Italian bread and I want to practice making this for the Farmers' Market.  What a great way to use leftover bread.  I can capture a little more profit by not wasting leftover bread.

These are so good!  I am munching them up as snacks!

Garlic Parmesan Croutons

8 ounces of day old bread
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
4 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Mash the roasted garlic and add the olive oil.  Let this infuse at room temperature for about 4 hours.  Then strain the olive oil and discard the garlic.

Cut the bread into 1" cubes and  put in a medium sized bowl.  Add herbs, sea salt, black pepper , 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese and olive oil.  Toss to coat.

Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300F for 15 minutes.  Toss the bread cubes.  Add the additional 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese and return to the oven for 10 - 15 minutes.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

24.3.12

Peter Reinhart's Italian Bread

Today I made Italian Bread from Peter Reinhart's book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice".  I baked it on my pizza stone and it worked wonderfully.

This bread is made with a biga.  A biga is like a sourdough starter.  You make a yeast dough and let it ferment up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer and add this to the dough.  This extra fermentation adds a nice depth of flavour. 

Spring officially came a few days ago and the robins are here!  You cannot possibly see them in this tree, but they were singing their little hearts out this morning.  I am sure they were lamenting the snowfall!

And Miss Sugar loves my fur coat.  Can you tell which side is up?  And she has had her hair cut already!

22.3.12

High Temperature Eye of Round Beef Roast

I do not make roast beef often enough.   I am very insecure about it.  But  I have sandwiches to make on Sunday and do not use processed meats.  I bought this little 3 pound eye of round beef roast and it was perfect.

I generously seasoned it with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I preheated the oven to 500F.  Then I put the roast in the oven and reduced the heat to 475F.  I roasted it for 7 minutes per pound = 21 minutes.  I turned off the oven and let it sit in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.  I did not open the oven once! See all that wonderful carmelization on the surface?  It makes the beef so tasty.   It was perfect.  And eye of round is so nice to slice thinly for sandwiches.

19.3.12

Lamb Burgers with Goat Cheddar & Chipotle Balsamic Ketchup

How many descriptors should someone put in the name of a recipe?  I just couldn't stop!

I received my lamb order yesterday.  I bought a Black Welsh from Val at Life with Sheep.  They have a farm near Webb, SK.  Black Welsh Mountain Sheep are a heritage breed with mild flavoured lamb and mutton.  They seem to be well suited to our climate.

So, this is my first taste and I like it!  It is mild but definitely lamb.  I made this loaf of bread today and cut off the ends for a crunchy bun.  Here is what I did with the meat...

Lamb Burgers with Goat Cheddar & Chipotle Balsamic Ketchup

1 pound ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup finely chopped onion

2 teaspoons of chipotle and sauce, pureed
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of good quality ketchup (I used my homemade ketchup)
goat cheddar cheese

Mix all lightly.  Do not over work or it may be tough.  Form into 6 patties.  Preheat a cast iron pan so that a drop of water skips all over the pan. 

Place patties in the hot pan.  When nicely browned, turn over and brown the other side.  Turn the heat down and place a lid on the pan until the patties are cooked through.  Slice goat cheddar thinly and place on the patties now if you want it melted.

Mix the chipotles, balsamic vinegar and ketchup.  Serve the burgers with your favourite buns or bread and the ketchup.

14.3.12

Tuscan Pork Belly


The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Pork belly might be last year's news but I have finally cooked it for the first time.  I cannot believe the complexity of  flavours.  It can also be a very easily prepared meal for a large group.

Slow roasted pork belly makes a lovely casual meal.

I seasoned it with minced garlic, rosemary, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.  I tied it to make it tightly rolled and then I roasted it at 325F for about 3 hours.  Pair this with pan roasted baby potatoes and steamed asparagus for an easy peasey weekday meal.

9.3.12

Red Fife and Descendents

This is the name of the afternoon program that was skilfully compiled by Dr. Ron DuPauw of SPARC.  SPARC is the acronym for Semiarid Prairie Agriculture Research Centre.  It is a research centre within the family of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

FYI, Ron DuPauw is a recipient of The Order of Canada.  This is the highest recognition within our country.  He is the Senior Principal Wheat Breeder.  His resume shows a series of publications that would impress any scientist.  He definitely knows his wheat.

What surprised me most is that this is the first time consumers, producers and scientists have come together for a trialogue about wheat.  I think that we all know what the benefits are when all these levels of people who are interested in our food supply get together.

We had presentations from a very auspicious group of scientists and a local organic farmer. Dr. Nancy Ames of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals in Winnipeg spoke of the 'Health Benefits of Wheat'.  And yes, it is a healthy food.  She predicts that more promotion of wheat's health benefits will appear in the near future.

Another Nancy, Dr. Nancy Edwards with the Grain Research Laboratory in Winnipeg presented some wonderful research  discussing 'Determination of End Use Suitability for the market class Canadian Western Red Spring' (of which Red Fife belongs).  I found this especially interesting for my new found diversion of baking artesanal bread!  I will be using the information as a confirmation of my findings through practical experience and will not second guess my instincts so often.   Both of these presentations were from Winnipeg via live video feed.

Dr. Ron DuPauw with SPARC gave us a light-hearted view of the historical background on wheat from its origins over 7000 years ago to the present  day.  As a Saskatchewan 'born and raised on a farm' woman, I felt we 'owned' wheat.  Not so!  But we grow a very high quality product.  A very impressive genealogy chart left me speechless.  The subject of this afternoon's presentations was Red Fife and this chart showed the descendants.  I would not even begin to count them.  I am modestly estimating over 100 cultivars.

Holly Peterson is a local organic farmer of Red Fife.  She gave us a nice snapshot of the current utilizations of the grain within Canada today.  Read more about her grain in Slow Food Vancouver.  They have a 5000 acre organic farm south of Tompkins, Saskatchewan.

And lastly, Navid Bezghaleh, a PhD student from the University of Saskatchewan, barely scratched the surface on a discussion of 'wheat roots with soil mycorrhizal fungi - comparing old cultivars with new cultivars'.  I think it might be the consensus that we would like an entire session on this whole 'wave of the future' branch of planning your planting.

Thank you so much to all the presenters.  I have not, in many years, had the opportunity to attend such an interesting and educational session.  I had no idea of the resources that were available to me.  It was greatly enjoyed by everyone, presenters and participants alike.  Thank you to Dr. DuPauw for initiating this inaugural meeting of consumers, producers and scientists.

We ended the afternoon by smelling and tasting wheat berries of 11 varietals, unlabelled!  It was a test to see if we could differentiate one from the other!  I was dead wrong in identifying the Red Fife! ( I think there should have been some coffee beans to cleanse our palate between each sniff, eh!)

I am sure that I speak for everyone that we would like this sort of thing to happen on a more regular basis.  Visiting the Research Centre was fondly reminiscent of my university days in Saskatoon at the College of Home Economics.  There is a Research Centre adjacent to the campus and it was just a part of our campus life.

4.3.12

Thrift Store Treasures

I need dishes, glasses, chairs and other specialty kitchen items for my cooking classes.  First I found all my champagne glasses.  Then I found other stemmed glasses that could be used for desserts or appetizers.  And I now have a few more white dishes.  I like white dishes for displaying food.

My latest find are two dining room chairs.  These are a 60's faux Duncan Phyfe style.  I painted and reupholstered to have two more chairs at my table.

3.3.12

My Fondest Memory of NYC

When my nephew was in grade eleven I took him to New York City for Easter break.  We spent 10 days in this wonderful, vibrant city.  Every morning we would open our cereal box and pour in milk that I would buy at the corner store below our room.  That was our only home cooked and cheap meal of the day.  Then we would be off for our next adventure.

We would go out and explore the city.

I had one mission on this trip (other than making sure he had a good time).  I wanted to find rods for a light fixture.  It was an art deco fixture.  I couldn't find anything appropriate in Calgary.

So, first day out on the street from our room we walked down from Times Square and there it was!  There was a shop with light fixtures.  They did a lot of work for the studios so they had everything under the sun.   They took me upstairs to the workshop.  They had so many bits and pieces and parts.  It was exactly what I was hoping for and my gosh, my light fixture has pieces from NYC!  Woohoo!

I believe in luck and good fortune.  In my wildest dreams I did not really expect to find exactly what I needed.  I was hoping but I did not have expectations.  In New York all is possible!

Ten days in NYC is a long time.  So much happens every day.  We had a blast.