Cooking Classes


2013 in Review

In January I found this amazing recipe for a faux sourdough rye bread. It is delicious.
'Tis the season for looking back and looking forward. Bloggers, cookbook authors, chefs and columnists are publishing their 'bests' of 2013 and 'hopes' for 2014.

These lists humble me. After all I didn't travel in 2013, at least not internationally. I don't have innovative and exciting restaurants at home.

Rather than wallow in self pity for too long I decided to take a looked back through my pictures of the year. Surprising to me my year was interesting and eventful with thanks to the many people who contributed to my culinary journey. I am amazed at how many people I met personally or virtually via food this year. All of you have added to my food adventures.

Thank you to Val at More Than Burnt Toast and the Virtual Supper Club crew, Justin at Justcooking in NYC, lovely Hutterite lady at McMahon Colony, Elisabeth at Prairie Infusions foraged foods, Val from A Canadian Foodie and all the other Slow Food delegates from across Canada, Jennifer CK who runs the Okanagan Food & Wine Writers' Workshop, writer Rosalyn, Calgary Food Tours Karen Anderson, wine writer and guru Shelley Boettcher, cookbook author supreme Jennifer Schell and all the writers I met there, Monika the baker from Kelowna, Chef Jenni, Chef Simon, Angie Quaale of Well Seasoned and all the other barbecue fanatics including Rob Reinhardt of Prairie Smoke and Spice, pit boss supreme winning at the Jack Daniels Invitational, Barbara the Cake Witch and all the other new vendors at the Swift Current Farmers' Market, Penny McKinley and all the Saskatoon Slow Food community. The problem with thanking is that I may have forgotten someone. Please forgive me and leave a message so I can acknowledge you, too.

I have chosen one picture per month to take you on my 2013 culinary tour. Many months it was difficult to choose the top picture. This post is riddled with links and unfortunately sometimes I cannot make them come out in another colour. Just pass your curser over and you will find all the recipes and sources.

 I made this recipe for a faux sourdough rye bread. The picture is above. It is amazing and I make it as often as I can. In January I was also cooking with veal shanks à la Dorie Greenspan and making festive layer cakes for my Western Producer article (see p. 24).

I was looking for more structure to my blogging and came up with a couple of ideas. I began my Cooking Class Monday's on my blog. I kept it up for 2 or 3 months. By far How to Clean Your Pasta Machine was the most visited. And I started Casual Friday's. Ditto, I only did it for about 3 months. My favourite recipe was Cold Sesame Noodles from the blog and new cookbook Appetite for China.  I have been much more successful with another initiative and that is joining the Cooking Light Virtual Supper Club. I don't think I have missed a month yet.

Pancetta with local pork belly.

I made my first ever charcuterie. I cured a pork belly and made an impressive pancetta. I even won the cookbook Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman, one of my favourite chefs. This was a Daring Cooks challenge.

I won a nice basket containing among other things a vintage bottle of Dom Perignon at our Lyric Theatre Valentine's Day brunch. And I won another wonderful cookbook, Tacos, Tortas and Tamales. This was thanks to Justin at Justcook NYC.

I was cooking with Saskatchewan wild boar, lake caught pickerel in tacos from the aforementioned cookbook and local Black Welsh lamb.

Cow's milk feta.

I searched the town over and finally found rennet. Acquiring raw milk in a farming community is not too difficult. I made this tasty feta with raw cow's milk. I had a lovely chat with a woman from the Colony who also makes cheese. I hope to meet her and chat more about her cheese making.

I experimented with sea buckthorn, Saskatchewan wild foraged fiddleheads, dried wild mushrooms, wild rice and farmed steelhead trout.

A bevy of amazing chefs.
I drove to Osoyoos for the National Slow Food Conference. You can catch it this year in Nova Scotia. It was a 'to die for' food experience featuring the bounty of local foods and wines. It was 3 days of the best and all thanks to the local producers, makers and chefs.

The highlight of the conference was learning about the return of the sockeye salmon to the Okanagan Lake. You can read Jennifer Cockrall-King's article in Canadian Geographic for all the details. I met and visited the gardens and vineyards of the Harkers' from Keremeos, who were name top young farmers of the year in 2012 and finally meeting a few of the Canadian bloggers I follow.

En route to Osoyoos I passed through some of Alberta's best agricultural areas producing sugar beets, bison and much more.

Bread and croissant baking class with Monika from the Okanagan Grocery in Kelowna.
Immediately following Slow Food in Osoyoos I arrived in Kelowna for the Food and Wine Writers' Workshop. Click on the link to find the information for 2014. Oh shucks, another 3 days of the best in local products, wines and chefs. Tasting caviar, fresh oysters, Summerhill Pyramid wines (and several others) and learning about the formation of the lakes, valleys and benches during the ice age. Driving home through the Rockies I stopped in Field, BC for lunch at one of my favourites The Truffle Pig.

Low and slow cooked half of lamb.
June was a busy month. Activities included my annual barbecue with the kids at the Hutterite Colony school where I am a substitute teacher, 3 women cycling across Canada stopped for a couple of nights and made a dinner including a beautiful asparagus soup, the farmers' market opening, and another wonderful bread recipe.

The highlight was attending my university friend's 40th wedding anniversary. Their daughter ordered a half of a local lamb and did an amazing job on the barbecue with it.

Kids' Cooking Camp.
I had 6 delightful young ladies spend 2 full days in my kitchen making real food from real ingredients. The bundt cake in the planning stages above turned out perfectly. They were so proud!

Interesting day trips were made to Schmidt Organic Mills, Cypress Hills Vineyard, Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site with outdoor brick bread oven and the Avonlea Badlands.

Chef Jenni from Saskatoon telling us about her sea buckthorn focused meal.

I attended a workshop at the Indian Head Agricultural Research Centre to learn more about sea buckthorn. And I became an official barbecue judge. Farmers' market is in full swing.

Shaggy Parasols in my neighbour's front lawn.
Farmers' market continues. Picked my first foraged mushrooms and I didn't even have to leave home. I wonder how these traveled to this location? They made an awesome soup and an even awesomer risotto.

We had the first ever block party on my street. That is amazing because all the homes were built in the 1960's. I made Black Welsh lamb burgers stuffed with brie on my homemade foccacia. Yummy.

Sour cherry jam made with SK Evan's cherries.

Making my exotics for the Christmas market - sour cherry jam, haskap jam and sea buckthorn jelly.

I finally found buffalo berries. They are a local favourite and look a lot like sea buckthorn. I cooked with fresh wild pheasant (saltimboca) and grocery store quince (membrillo).

Flank steak with black bean sauce.
I finally acquired some wonderful flank steak. It is difficult to find it locally. We placed a group order  from Pine View Farms all natural meat.

My friend, Hannah, brought back artisan black bean sauce from the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. I enjoyed it with the flank steak above and a pork tenderloin, also from Pine View Meats.

My three closest university friends and I celebrated our birthdays with a few days in Saskatoon and took a cooking class with Simon's Fine Foods. We were hoping that Ayden Kitchen & Bar would be open but we were just a couple weeks too early. Next time.

I made decorated sugar cookies with my children at the Hutterite Colony and in November I bought a pair of skates.

The Bar Humbug Ranch take off of A Christmas Carol

And I am ready for a new year! There are no big culinary adventures this month. I had a few Christmas markets. I didn't cook for Christmas. I just enjoyed myself!

My most memorable taste experience was the Plum Pudding at the annual Dicken's Festival in my hometown of Carlyle, SK. They put on a good show and family event. It is definitely worth a visit.



Leek and Fennel Frittata with Kale Chips

I am sure that I am the last person on the planet to make kale chips. I have always thought of it as frivolous to make something called 'chips' and pretend it was a vegetable. I felt it was like calling potato chips a full serving of vegetables in your daily food plan.

With most of a package of kale in the refrigerator and only a few more days to cook before I return home, it was worth the experiment. I thought they might be a great accompaniment to the frittata I was planning for lunch.

I was not as excited about them as was Trish. My sister absolutely loved them. There is hardly any fat added and they cook up in a little over 10 minutes. That is a fast preparation for kale.

Frittata, crustless quiche or omelet. What is the difference? They are so much the same. A frittata can be almost anything that is in the refrigerator so it was no surprise that I had everything I needed for this recipe. I changed it up a bit to use some leftover brie. This was more than the 2 of us could eat for lunch.

Leek and Fennel Frittata
Serves 2-3

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups fennel, trimmed, quartered, cored and chopped
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned and chopped
1/2 tsp salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated pecorino
1/2 cup brie cheese, cut into cubes

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, and add the fennel and leeks. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks and fennel are very tender and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 more minutes. Add the wine and cook until the moisture has cooked off, about 5 minutes. Then stir in the dill. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground white pepper, and remove the skillet from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a large gratin or baking dish with butter. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the brie and fennel mixture. Combine well. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake 40-50 minutes until the frittata is set and the top and sides are beginning to colour. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. This is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature, and makes a delicious side dish with roast pork, lamb or chicken. It also makes a light and savoury brunch dish.

Note: The filling can be made up to two days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. When you're ready to serve the gratin, grease the pan, add the filling and bake as instructed.

Kale Chips

For a spicy kick, add a pinch of cayenne pepper along with the paprika. Or use smoked paprika for another flavour profile.

    6 cups (1.5 L) torn stemmed kale
    2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
    1 pinch salt
    1 pinch sweet paprika

Toss together kale, oil, salt and paprika; arrange in single layer on parchment paper–lined baking sheet.

Bake in 350ºF (180ºC) oven until crisp and dark green, 12 to 15 minutes.


Dried Fava and Potato Puree with Kale

I am spending Christmas with my sister, Trish, in Edmonton. This 8 hour drive in the winter can be a tad stressful. It was all I could do to put my car in reverse and back out of the driveway Monday morning. At 8am it is still pitch dark and the winds were howling at 70 km/hr. We had a lot of snow so I was envisioning poor visibility and, at worst,snow drifts across the lesser used Hwy #4.
My first hour of driving was exactly that. At times visibility was down to a few hundred feet and it was dark for at least an hour. No snow drifts, thank heaven. I arrived safe and sound.
Christmas was with our cousins and we don't have tons of leftovers for easy meals. Today I decided to start cooking. My sister is vegetarian and has a large selection of dried peas & beans, lentils and grains. I thought I would have a little fun with them and give Trish some variety and new ideas for meals. We can all use that once in awhile.
While I have cooked with fresh fava beans I have never tried the dried version. They have a tough outer skin that is not digestible. Some may find this adds too much fibre to their diet. Removing this also makes it easier to mash. This trumped up mashed potatoes becomes a nutritious and hearty side dish. The recipe calls for dandelion greens, however they are out of season. The kale tastes just as good.

Fava beans are a significant source of protein, iron, calcium and dietary fibre. They have lesser amounts of Vitamins A and C. They are low in sodium and fat. Kale is high in Vitamin A and C.
Dried Fava and Potato Puree with Kale
Bon Appétit  | May 2010

    8 ounces dried fava beans* (about 1 1/2 cups)
    1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped peeled Yukon Gold potato (about 5 ounces)
    3/4 cup coarsely chopped white onion
    1/2 cup coarsely chopped peeled carrot
    Pinch of salt
    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
    3 or 4 pieces of kale, remove the tough stem and only use leaves
    1 garlic clove, peeled, minced
    Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper
    Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place fava beans in medium bowl. Pour enough water over to cover by 2 inches. Cover and let soak at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse.

Place fava beans in large saucepan and covered with water. Simmer uncovered until beans are very soft, stirring occasionally and adding more boiling water as needed to keep beans submerged, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Peel off outer shell  from beans and discard.

In another pot add potatoes, onion, carrot water, salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain.

Combine potato and bean mixture ransfer and puree until almost smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer fava bean puree to serving bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add kale, garlic, and crushed red pepper; sauté until greens wilt, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place greens on top of fava bean puree. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

* Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian and Middle Eastern markets.

Test-kitchen tip: Keep a pot of boiling water on the stove so you can add boiling water to the beans as needed.


Christmas Memories

Farm life when I was young was very much different than it is today for children. We lived in my grandparents original home. It was old. And it was not quaint. It was just old. My room was on the upper floor that had a slanty ceiling. I guess you would call the style 'story and a half'.

I can remember when my father insulated the rooms and added walls and doors. Until then my sister and I slept on the fold out sofa in the living room. When my father was a child he slept upstairs in that uninsulated room. I cannot even imagine how cold it was.

We had the old fashioned windows in the kitchen and one kitchen window had a cracked storm window one winter. The frost from kitchen steam would build up and make it misty to see the moon and stars. On that window sill sat an amarylis. That plant sat there for a couple or more years. It would be almost frozen into the accumulated frost at times. Every winter it would have the most amazingly beautiful bloom. The rest of the year we ignored it and let it die back but every Christmas it would come out of dormancy. We would give it a little water and it would bloom all over again.

I had to buy this bulb just to see if I could grow my own amarylis. Merry Christmas.


Which Orange are You Buying this Christmas?

A very special treat when I was a child on the farm back in the 1950's and 1960's on the Canadian prairies was Christmas oranges. We loved those oranges. They were delivered in wooden boxes and individually wrapped in green paper. Every Christmas morning one would be in the toe of my stocking. They were so delicious.

Today I feel like I have lost the spark and take them for granted. This is probably because they are available throughout the year. They aren't just a Christmas treat. I rarely buy them. Instead I find that navel oranges are so delicious and juicy. A part of my family tradition has gone by the wayside.

Yesterday my neighbour brought me samples of all the oranges she bought. "Which one do you prefer?" she asks.

The orange wrapped in red tissue is from Japan. As a child our oranges always came from Japan and they were so good. I found this orange to be the juiciest but had a bland flavour. There was a lot of white pith and I hate white pith. I meticulously remove all of it before I eat the segments.

The orange in green tissue is from China. Biases aside about eating produce from China, this had the flavour I remember from my childhood. It had the same peel, the same amount of pith and the same flavour.

However, my favourite was the clementine from California. The citrus flavour bursts in your mouth. The peel came off easily and it had no white pith. It was juicy enough.

Thank you, Hannah, for the taste experience. It was fun.


Beans and Greens Side Dish Steals the Show

'Tis the season for parties, dinners, more parties and more dinners. The rich meals and decadent desserts can get away on us. To help rein us in, Sandi at Whistlestop Cafe has chosen the theme of healthy holidays.

My side dish is 126 calories for a full serving. The health benefits of kale and dried beans are no secret. Kale is low in calories, high in fibre and has zero fat. It is high in iron and vitamin K (aids with blood clotting) and has plenty of antioxidants. It is also high in vitamin A & C and calcium. Pretty hard to turn that down. Pair kale with dried beans and you have protein and more vitamins and minerals.

The rich green and vibrant flavours make this an ideal side dish for our meal this month.

Sandi – Main - Apple Cider Glazed Pork 
Val - Appetizers/Hors d’oeuvres – Baked Burrata

Susan – Soup/Salad - Creamy Sweet Potato Soup 

Jerry – Beverage/Dessert – Rustic Apple Tart

Beans & Greens
Yield: Serves 6 (serving size: 1 cup)

Recipe Time   Total: 24 Minutes
Nutritional Information   Amount per serving

    Calories: 126
    Fat: 5g
    Saturated fat: 0.8g
    Monounsaturated fat: 3.6g
    Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6g
    Protein: 6.1g
    Carbohydrate: 15.4g
    Fiber: 3.7g
    Cholesterol: 1mg
    Iron: 2mg
    Sodium: 260mg
    Calcium: 126mg

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 (1-pound) bunch kale, trimmed
    1 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
    1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    Grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

    1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add red pepper and garlic; sauté 30 seconds.
    2. Add kale, turning with tongs to coat. Add broth; cover and cook 3 minutes. Add salt and beans; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired.

Cooking Light Lighten Up, America!, Oxmoor House


Stove Top Candied Walnuts

For the third time in as many years the electronic panel on my range is fried. This is so annoying. Of course it never happens at a convenient time. No, it has to be Christmas this time.

The short story is that I can no longer use my oven right now. The stove top is unaffected but my oven will not operate until this panel is replaced.

Did I mention that I have the Christmas Market and two dinners to cater? I am adjusting my menus so all can be completed stove top. Who knows, I might find some great new recipes and ideas.

Today I am candying walnuts for a salad. So many of the recipes, both oven and stove top, create an overly sugar crusted nut. I don't find it appealing. Today I tried something new. I left the nuts in the sugar syrup until the syrup was quite browned and then I laid them out on a cooling rack. This created the effect I was after. There wasn't a thick crust of sugar or candy around the nut and it didn't pool into a brittle. The excess candy dripped off and left a lightly sweet nut. They are perfect.

These nuts will be added to a salad of winter greens with plumped cranberries. The dressing will be a vinaigrette with raspberry vinegar and olive oil. If you don't like smoked paprika, use cayenne or your favourite chilis crushed. I can imagine that the chipotle peppers I bought in Osoyoos at a farmers' market would be tasty. These will take a couple of hours to dry.

Candied Walnuts with Smoked Paprika

1 cup walnuts, whole and pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
sea salt

Add all ingredients to small pan over medium heat. Cook so it bubbles lightly until the sugar has carmelized but does not burn. Spoon the walnuts onto a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. Drizzle the nuts with any sugar syrup left in the pan. Sprinkle the nuts with sea salt or fleur de sel. Cool completely before using in your recipe or enjoying as a snack.