Cooking Classes


Butternut Squash and Broccoli Lasagna

We are in the shoulder season between our winter stash of cold room and preserved foods and the garden's spring bounty. One day it feels like summer and we are digging in the soil and the next we have a few inches of snow.

I am fortunate that there is a gardener in town who has already begun her microgreen crop. Fresh is best when it comes to pea shoots. The grocery store isn't fresh enough unless you live in a big city.

This vegetarian lasagna can be made with whatever is available. I am using butternut squash and broccoli alongside my homemade ricotta cheese. Serve with a green salad.

Butternut Squash and Broccoli Lasagna

1 butternut squash
1 lb. broccoli
olive oil
coarse sea salt
black pepper
1 pound fresh ricotta
1 pound mozarella cheese
1 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
red chile flakes
pasta sheets

Béchamel Sauce:
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 bay leaf

Slice the squash in half and scoop out all the seeds and discard. Slice squash into 1/2 inch slices and peel. When the entire squash has been sliced and peeled, toss lightly in olive oil and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake in a 400 F oven for about 12 minutes or until barely tender.

Meanwhile cut the broccoli into florets and blanch in salted, boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes. Drain and chill in cold water. Drain thoroughly. Chop coarsely. Toss with a little olive oil, season with sea salt, pepper and chile flakes. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta, mozarella, one cup of grated Parmesan, lemon zest, sage and rosemary. Set aside

Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a medium sized pot. Then add the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes but do not let it brown. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add bay leaf and grated nutmeg. Heat to a simmer and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Transfer to the top of a double boiler and keep warm until needed.

Boil pasta sheets in a big pot of salted water until barely al dente. Drain and cut into pieces that fit a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish.

To put it all together begin by ladling a half a cup of béchamel sauce in the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of pasta. Then add a third of the squash and broccoli. On top of that add about a third of the cheese mixture. This will be in small chunks. Add a cup of béchamel. Top with another layer of pasta and repeat two more times. Top with pasta and the remainder of the béchamel sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. At this point the lasagna can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes. It should be bubbling. If the top has not browned place under the broiler for a minute or two. Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6 to 8 people.


Coconut OIl - How do you use it?

This is the end of my coconut product spree! Thank you to Epicurex for all the free samples. I don't often have free offers. It was a treat.

I have been curious to try many new products, but living here, in the middle of nowhere, it isn't always easy. Now I know how simple it is to order these from Amazon. I had to pay the shipping on this but it was only $5.00

How do you all use coconut oil? I have never tried it. Oil is a bit of a misnomer. After all, we don't call butter 'milk oil'. I have seen the term coconut butter and that is more descriptive of the product. This is a very hard fat even at room temperature.

I suppose before all the changes in attitudes and research on solid fats 'oil' presented better. But it is definitely not an oil.

I tasted this coconut butter and it's yummy. It has a pure coconut flavour. I like my coconut in curries and in desserts. Coconut oil has a high smokepoint and therefore, a good choice for pan sautéing or frying. At 130 calories per tablespoon it is slightly higher in calories than butter at 100 calories per tablespoon. Researching the calories I found that different brands of coconut oil and also, butter, varied slightly in caloric content. So be sure to read the Nutrition Facts label on the product.

In Canada you can order your Cocozia coconut oil here from


Molasses Pumpkin Loaf with Candied Ginger

I found a little pie pumpkin (not pumpkin pie) in my cold room from last summer's harvest. After roasting it and making pumpkin puree I checked my pantry for more inspiration. With lots of raisins and candied ginger in stock I turned to my favourite cookbook, Chef Google. A quick search online yielded an interesting recipe from Suburbia Unwrapped. With a few tweaks to her recipe it was ready for the oven.

I am using spelt flour but all purpose would work equally well. If your raisins have dried out a bit, like mine were, plump them in very hot water for 15 minutes before adding to the batter. Be sure to drain them well first.

Molasses Pumpkin Loaf with Candied Ginger

Wet Ingredients
 3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/2 c. fancy molasses
1 1/2 c. pumpkin purée

Dry Ingredients
3 1/2 c. spelt flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground nutmet
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 c. raisins
1/2 c. coarsely chopped candied ginger

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Prepare two loaf pans by lightly oiling or buttering the insides.

Add all of the wet ingredients to the bowl of your stand mixer. Fitted with the whisk attachment beat until foamy and all are well combined.

Add all of the dry ingredients to a separate bowl. Whisk to fully incorporate all the ingredients.

Now switch to using the paddle attachment with your stand mixer. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on medium low until incorporated. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients and mix again until incorporated. Add raisins and candied ginger and mix.

Pour the batter into two prepared loaf pans. Bake at 350 F for approximately 50 minutes. Gently touch the top of the loaf. If it springs back after gentle pressure it is cooked.

Remove from the oven and let rest in the pans for five or ten minutes. Run a table knife around the sides of the cake in the pan and then invert the pan on a cooling rack. Cool about 15 minutes before slicing (if you can wait that long). Thickly slice and serve. This loaf freezes well. After fully cooled, slice and package in freezer bags. Will keep up to three months.


Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Fiddlehead Pesto

I am still finding fiddleheads in the nooks and crannies of my freezer. Last spring I put together a bulk order from my little town and brought in 25 pounds of these delicate fern tips from the boreal forests of Northern Saskatchewan. I pickled a few to sell at the market. They were a curiosity and sold well. I find that a few pickled fiddleheads add an artistic touch to a charcuterie platter.

In addition to buying more than I really needed for myself there were a couple of no-shows on pick up orders. Hence, the freezer stash.

For no particular reason I have always thought these to be uniquely Canadian or at least North American. My Canadian born cousin living in New Zealand was baffled by fiddleheads until I gave a description. I have since been introduced to pikopiko ferns, as the Maori call them. This pesto is inspired by a Maori recipe.

The tenderloin would benefit from a generous crust of sea salt and coarse black pepper. I failed to think of this until it was on my fork. The pesto is not salted, other than the Parmesan cheese.

Removing the silver skin from the tenderloin takes this dish from the ordinary to the gourmet. Silver skin does not tenderize with cooking.

I was delighted to find that the unique flavour of the fiddleheads does shine through. It isn't simply a flavourful stuffing but also a delightful way to serve a vegetable.

The pesto recipe can fill three tenderloins. If you are only cooking one save the remainder to use on flatbreads and crostini just as a basil pesto might.

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Fiddlehead Pesto

1 pork tenderloin
1 recipe Fiddlehead Pesto

 Remove silver skin. It will not tenderize with cooking. Slit the tenderloin open.

Fill with pesto and tie shut. Season generously with salt and cracked pepper.

Heat canola oil in a large heavy bottomed pan. Brown the tenderloin on all sides. Then place in a 350F oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 160F. Remove from oven and tent with foil to rest for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with any juices that collected on the bottom of the dish.

 Fiddlehead Pesto

3 cups of boiling water with a pinch of salt
250g frozen or fresh fiddlehead greens, approx. 2 cups
1/3 cup olive oil, add more if needed
3 tablespoons crushed pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook fiddleheads in boiling water with salt 8 minutes, drain very well. Set aside.

Crush nuts and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Add to a food processor. Add fiddleheads, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Process until smooth. Presto. You are done. Use as desired.


Violets in my Garden

That's the name of another blog of mine. Life musings. About change. New things. Adapting. Perhaps there will be food.

Violets in my Garden


Brown Sugar Pavlova with Seasonal Fruit and Berries

Pavlova is a meringue based dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. It was created in Australia or New Zealand, the dispute has never been settled, after one of her tours in the 1920’s. 

It can be one large meringue base to serve everyone or made into individual small meringues for individual desserts. Pavlova impresses no matter how you serve it. 

This recipe uses brown sugar for a little more flavour. Any berries or fruits can be used but the pineapples are so nice in the stores right now that I decided upon a tropical theme.

Brown Sugar Pavlova with Seasonal Fruit and Berries
For meringue:
1 c. granulated sugar 250 mL
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar 125 mL
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch 20mL
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract 7 mL
2 tsp. white vinegar 10 mL
3/4 c. egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs) at room temperature 30 minutes 185 mL
For topping:
4 c. selection of seasonal fruits or berries 1 L
2 tbsp. granulated sugar 30 mL
For cream:
1 c. chilled heavy cream 250 mL
1/3 c. chilled sour cream 80 mL

Preheat oven to 250 F (120 C) with rack in middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Pulse sugar, brown sugar and cornstarch in a food processor until well combined. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps.

Stir together vanilla and vinegar in a small bowl. 

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using an electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar mixture one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time. After all sugar has been added, beat one minute more. Add vinegar mixture, then beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes. Using a piping bag make individual pavlovas about four inches (10 cm) in diameter or make two large ones. Start piping from the centre and work outwards. Or you can simply use a large spoon and smooth it into a round. Make the outer edge higher than the inside whether piping or spooning.

Bake until meringues have a crisp crust and feel dry to the touch, about one hour. The inside will still be marshmallowy. 

Turn oven off and prop door open slightly. Cool meringue in oven for one hour. Meringue may sink slightly and crack while cooling.


Crown Roast of Pork

A crown roast of pork is a regular bone-in pork loin. Order your roast in advance from your butcher shop. Be sure to ask it to be frenched and tied. Frenched means that the bone tips are cleaned of all meat and fat. Roasts of less than 12 ribs are difficult to form into a crown so this is usually a meal for at least eight to 10 people. Allow one and a half ribs per person or more if you want leftovers.

Crown Roast of Pork

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C).

Prepare the roast by patting dry and generously seasoning with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Wrap each bone tip with kitchen foil to prevent burning. Place a ball of foil in the centre.

Roast for 1/2 – 1 hour for a small roast and up to 2 hours for a roast over 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Then remove from oven, remove ball of foil and fill cavity with stuffing. Cover stuffing loosely with kitchen foil. Return to oven and roast until an internal temperature of 155 F (68 C) is reached. Measure the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer into a thick portion of the meat without touching a bone. 

Remove foil from bone tips and stuffing about 30 minutes before roast is fully cooked. At this time if you find that the roast is not browning as much as you like, brush it with the caramelized juices from the bottom of the roasting pan and increase oven temperature to 475 F (245 C). 

When internal temperature is reached, remove from oven and tent with kitchen foil. Rest for 10 minutes. The temperature will continue to rise a few degrees while it is resting. Pork is fully cooked at 160 F (71 C). Rule of thumb for total roasting time is 10-15 minutes per pound. 

Slice between each bone to serve. (Adapted from Put Pork on Your Fork)

Wild Rice and Bread Stuffing

1/4 c. celery, finely diced 60 mL
1/4 c. onion, finely diced 60 mL
3 tbsp. butter 45 mL
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried sage 2 mL
1/2 tsp. dried thyme 2 mL
1 c. day old bread cubes 250 mL
1/2 c. dried cranberries 125 mL
1/4 c. chicken or mushroom stock 60 mL
1 c. cooked wild rice 250 mL

Plump dried cranberries in 1/2 cup (125 mL) of very hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Saute celery and onion in butter until translucent. Add seasonings, dried cranberries, wild rice and bread. Remove from heat. Stir to mix and add stock. 

Oven Roasted Vegetables

baby potatoes
butternut squash
cooking oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325 F (160 C). 

Wash baby potatoes and slice larger ones in half. All pieces should be about the same size. 

Peel and cut carrots into same size pieces as potatoes. Slice squash into rings and scoop out the seeds. Do not peel squash. It will hold its shape better if left unpeeled.

Pat dry and toss all vegetables in enough cooking oil to lightly coat and arrange on an ungreased baking sheet. Generously season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Roast in preheated oven until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally, if necessary, but it is ideal to have some browning.

Slow Cooker Cross Rib Roast and my first time making Yorkshire pudding

I rarely use my slow cooker but this organically raised beef cross rib roast neededr longer cooking with moist heat. By the way, I won this slow cooker from cookbook author, foodista and blogger Julie at Dinner with Julie in Calgary. That was shortly after moving into my house five years ago. Sorry Julie, I have hardly used it. However, I do love it to make stock.

Celery is finally taking its place on the dinner plate. Why not? It's tasty, nutritious and cheap!

This is my first attempt at Yorkshire pudding. The batter is easy enough to make but I believe the technique is in the preheating of the muffin pan. And possibly in having just the right consistency of the batter. I used rendered fat. My freezer container wasn't labelled so not sure if it was chicken or beef or ? Whatever it was it was flavourful.

Mine were fine but I would have liked to see them rise higher. Perhaps the oven should have been hotter. Or perhaps I used a bit too much flour. Still, I enjoyed them smothered in pan gravy with my beef roast.

Garlic Herbed Cross Rib Roast

Cross rib is a less tender cut and lean. It requires a long moist cooking method to tenderize it. After rubbing the meat with oil and herb mixture, sear it in a hot cast iron pan before cooking fully in the slow cooker.

3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon each of dried rosemary, oregano, sage,  thyme and coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
camelina oil
2 - 3 pound cross rib roast
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup beef stock

1 tablespoon flour

Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Mix herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Blot meat with paper towel and then rub with oil before pressing the herb mixture onto it.

Add a tablespoon of oil to the preheated pan and sear the meat on all sides.

Place meat in slow cooker. Add wine and water to the cast iron pan and scrape up all the tasty bits. Add this to the slow cooker and cover with lid. Cook on high for 4 hours.

Add the potatoes, cut into 2-inch cubes or use baby potatoes. Wash celery and peel the stringy side. Cut into 4-inch pieces. 30 minutes before the meat is done add potatoes and celery. Also add flour to a quarter cup of cold water and add at the same time.

Yorkshire Pudding

1 heaping cup of all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
6 teaspoons of lard, butter, rendered fat or oil

Add all ingredients to blender and process until smooth. Leave at room temperature for an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Place muffin pan in the oven to preheat it, as well. After about 10 minutes add a teaspoon to each of six muffin molds. Continue to preheat for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Pour batter into each muffin mold equally and bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden.
Serve immediately.


Chocolate CoCoZia Coconut Water

Amazon will deliver this to Canada after all. I recently tried the pure coconut water and liked it. Then I was offered chocolate flavoured. Hard to imagine chocolate flavoured coconut water but this is so good.

Why coconut milk you might think? The benefit they are selling is the electrolytes. These are important for body hydration and muscle function. Rather than buying energy drinks you can have organic coconut water.

I prefer this packaging. Rather than having to insert a straw this has a screw top. The portions are larger, two servings actually. But you can pour a little and put the cap back on, refrigerate and have more another time.

I hate to say this is an alternative to chocolate milk. It isn't actually. They are two different birds. But the flavour is the same.

Thank you to Epicurex.LLC for sending me a free case. And thank you to Diana at Epicurex for figuring out how to get me an Amazon gift certificate so I could have it delivered in Canada. You can find this product by clicking on this link..