29 August, 2010


It all started with a few turnips. After a number of attempts last summer to like the turnips we got in our CSA delivery I was looking for another way to try them. Gail gave me the motivation after she shared what she did with our CSA delivery. And the weather has made a decided turn towards fall, being chilly and rainy today. A perfect day to have the oven on all day, with meat slowly cooking inside.

In short, a perfect day to make stew. And this is how I did it.

Get some meat. My entire family purchased a cow this summer. Well, my parents bought it and shared it with all of us. (Thanks!) So the beef stew meat came from that cow. And somehow I thought to defrost Italian sausage with it. Not sure why, but it paid off. And I was lucky, our butcher cut the meat into chunks for us.

Spoon a couple of tablespoons of flour in a bowl.  Season it with salt and pepper. Today I also added some ground Ethiopian Berbere spices I have. Go with what you've got. Sometimes it is thyme and oregano, sometimes paprika, sometimes it is nothing. Stir it all together.

Toss your meat in the flour and spices to get well coated. Do it a handful at a time. About as much will fit in your pot without crowding. Make sure all sides are coated. Not only does this help the meat brown, but as the stew cooks, the flour helps thicken the sauce.

Heat up some olive oil or vegetable oil in the pot you will use to cook the stew. For this, I always turn to my trusty dutch oven. In small batches, so the meat isn't crowded, brown the pieces of meat. Most recipes will say to brown on all sides, but some of my pieces were more rhomboid than rectangular. Quite frankly, I can't be bothered to turn my meat 6 or 7 times. So as long as the big sides had colour I was happy.

As your meat browns, put it in a bowl. That way, if any juices run out you capture them.

While your meat is browning, chop up an onion or two. How much depends on the size of onion and how much onion you actually want in the stew. I also chopped up some garlic, roughly.

Because I'd defrosted them, I decided to add the sausage. And because I was lazy, I cooked them whole in the stew. (When I added the veggies later I took the sausages out, sliced them, then tossed them back in with everything else. It beat taking them apart raw.) At this point I browned the sausages and softened the onions and garlic. This is all still in the same pot I where I browned the beef.

By now you can see that stew is about layering flavour. The next step is to deglaze the pan. More than anything I use beer, but sometimes wine. This beer was leftover from a party we had the other night. So I took a sip from the beer, then poured the rest in the pot. When you add alcohol to a hot pan it bubbles wildly and with a few scrapes of the wooden spoon, all those brown bits that look like burnt stuff came off the pot and to flavour the liquid. To this I added two cans of tomatoes. Not the juice, just the tomatoes. And I squished them in my hands as I added them.

After that, the meat goes back in the pan, with any accumulated juices. Then the whole thing goes in the oven at 200 or 250 degrees F for a few hours. Yes, hours. You could also cook it on the stove, but I find the oven requires less attention. And frankly, stew is supposed to be about hands off cooking. Well, once you do all the stuff before this step.

After a few hours it was time to add the veg. You could add it all at the same time, when you first put it in the oven. Perhaps, though, you need to go to the farmers' market and pick up the carrots and potatoes because all you have are turnips in the house.

Cut all the veg into about the same size - 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Throw them in the pot and let it all cook for a few hours more. At some point you should taste and season it. To mine I added some dried thyme as well as salt and pepper.

When Hubby and I first started dating we actually argued over the best way to eat stew. I was firmly in the with bread camp, and he preferred his over rice. Well, the day he makes the stew he can have it over rice. Today we had it with a loaf of wild rice and green onion bread from The Bakery at the Market. It was a fantastic compliment.

The stew was gently flavoured, with perfectly cooked meat that even my 2 year old could cut with her spoon. The sausage lent a sweetness and another texture. And the turnips? They softened slightly sweet, with just a touch of peppery bite. Just different enough from the potatoes, and about the best way I've ever had a turnip.

25 August, 2010

Blueberry Maple Ice Cream

Today I'm over at Simple Bites. It's all about taking a moment to just stop. No canning, no thinking ahead to apple pie now that the weather is turning, no worrying about Sunday dinner. Just stopping to take a look around and enjoy what we've got, right now, in front of us.

And right now I have blueberries. Plump BC blueberries are still all over the markets. My girls eat them by the handful. Me, on the other hand, I can be rather indifferent to blueberries. I enjoy them when added to other things or baked, but I'm not an out of hand girl when it comes to the orbs.

My favourite to enjoy blueberries is actually cooked down with a bit of maple syrup, to be served on pancakes, waffles, or yoghurt. I was making a batch of my blueberries when it occurred to me that it might work really well with ice cream. Not on ice cream, mind you, but in ice cream.

It's a good thing I am addicted to making my own ice cream because it means the canister for my ice cream maker is always in the deep freeze when not in use. And, I always keep cream in the house now. So this recipe came together in just a few minutes. And for dinner, we were licking our bowls clean.

Blueberry Maple Ice Cream
Makes 4 cups

2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 cups cream
2 tbsp cup maple wine/maple liqueur/creme de cassis.

1. Cook the blueberries in the maple syrup over medium heat until the berries just begin to pop - 3-4 minutes. Put in the fridge to cool, if you've got the time.
2. Blitz the berries in a blender, adding the cream and alcohol. Alternatively, mash the berries with a fork then combine with the cream and alcohol.
3. Churn in an ice cream maker and freeze until firm. Serve drizzled with maple syrup.

22 August, 2010

Whispers and Screams

Sunday dinner this week was a victory on all fronts. The girls ate soup for dinner and Hubby ate zucchini without knowledge/complaint. Woohoo!

We spent the weekend in Edmonton, visiting family and taking in Alegria by Cirque de Soleil. Surprisingly, we got out of Edmonton at a decent hour so we were actually home to enjoy part of the afternoon. Unfortunately, a storm hit the second we arrived. There went the plan to take the dogs for a walk. So, it was into the kitchen instead.

Smilosaurus and I set to dealing with the two ridiculously large zucchinis we had from our CSA. Rather than go with the typical chocolate zucchini cake, I pulled up this recipe for zucchini cake with crunchy lemon glaze. We grated, we cracked eggs, we sifted, we stirred, we baked with the thunder as our soundtrack.

While the cake baked I had to figure out what the heck to eat for dinner. Standing in front of the deep freeze the last bits of last years summer - slow roasted tomatoes, chard, white beans were staring at me. So I grabbed some frozen stock, the veg, and set to make soup. Except that I didn't look so closely. I actually grabbed soup, not stock. So, dinner was souped up soup.

One of the soup additions was some leftover diced zucchini. And Hubby ate it and didn't complain. I realized when he told The Monster to eat her soup, and pointed out that it has potatoes in it, that he didn't have a clue he was eating zucchini.  Shh, no one tell him.

15 August, 2010


The Monster is a temperamental child. She will be fantastically fine, happy and cheerful 95% of the time. But then you tell her no to just the wrong thing and not only is she upset, like any 4 year old, but the world ends for her. It is infinitely frustrating and one of the biggest challenges of parenting for me.

Up until a certain point today we were all enjoying a lovely, late summer ease. A quiet morning with bread and jam for breakfast. Our normal Sunday morning jaunt to the farmers' market for coffee and a few groceries. The girls napped while Hubby and I sat on the porch swing chatting and petting the dogs. It was all good.

Then I had to go to the grocery store. And another, and another. And I spazzed, yelling at people in traffic and getting right cranky. Then I had a scary moment of clarity. The Monster is me. Yikes, I made her that way. (I'm sorry Mom and Dad.) 

I was still spazzing when I got home, but then I started cooking. I had tomatoes in the oven, slow roasting. I added some peaches, then popped a pork roast in. Smilosaurus helped me tear kale for kale chips. And my bad mood dissipated as quickly as it came.  Just like we send The Monster for a quiet time when she is being unreasonable, I found my quiet time in the kitchen, making Sunday dinner.

A little while later we welcomed an old friend to our home. We cracked some beers. We caught up on travels, the farm, and the challenges and smiles of parenthood. We devoured the meal in front of us. And when The Monster lost it when Hubby took away the cheetah babies after she hit her little sister with them all I could do was hang my head in laughter at the realization that I indeed made my kid.

Pork Loin Roast with Roasted Tomatoes and Peaches

2 pints cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3 peaches
2 pound pork roast, boneless rib end
1/2 onion
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Cut in half. Place cut side up on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and season well. Grind 1/2 tsp of the coriander seeds and sprinkle over the tomatoes as well. Place in the oven.
3. After an hour cut the peaches into quarters. Tuck them in among the tomatoes.
4. Pat dry your roast with paper towels, keep it tied up as you bought it. Season well with salt and pepper. Get the remaining 2 tbsp oil hot in a roasting pan or dutch oven. Brown the pork on all sides, leaving it for a couple of minutes each time to get good colour. Move the roast to the side, add the onions and remaining coriander seeds (left whole) to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes, then move the roast back to the middle of the pan. Cover and put in the oven. Increase the heat to 325 degrees F. Roast for 1 hour.
5. Check the internal temperature of the roast. It should register at least 140 degrees F when you take it out of the oven. Keep it covered in the roasting pan, it will continue to cook a bit more as it rests.
6. Place the tomatoes and peaches on a serving dish, top with chopped mint. After the pork has rested 10-15 minutes remove strings and slice. Serve with tomatoes and peaches.

13 August, 2010


A photo essay on my first conscious gluten free baking experience. Lauren from Celiac Teen came over this morning, a date arranged shortly after we realized we only lived blocks from each other. Through a rainy walk she brought with her a backpack full of flours. We were going to make pie. 

The girls took to her immediately, probably assuming she was some fantastic creature known as the babysitter. Their excitement was no less once they realized we were all going to bake together. We donned aprons, we measured flour, we drank tea while our pastry chilled. Then we cut up peaches and plums to mix with blackberries and tonka bean. And while our galettes baked the little ones chased us around the house. It was comfort and chaos all at once. Welcome to our home, Lauren.

And the pastry? Fantastic. It tasted great raw, and even better cooked. It was a tender dough to work with, so I worried that it wouldn't be very flaky. I was wrong. To be honest, you would be hard pressed to pick out out from a conventional pate brisee.

We filled it with our fruit, a touch of sugar and millet flour and a whole tonka bean grated in. The crust we brushed with cream. The galettes baked for 30 minutes. And after our conversations we sat silently with our tonka bean sweetened cream on top of our galettes. Silent only as the four of us devoured an entire galette for lunch.

01 August, 2010

The Letter S

Pardon me while I get sappy.

You see, this week I've also been recovering from a medical issue. It's made me tired, shaky, and mopey. So this afternoon, after I put some tomato sauce in a slow oven to come together, I took a nap. Wrapped in the arms of my husband. It was the best nap ever.

So tonight's dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, and for dessert, strawberry ice cream. More specifically, strawberry sour cream ice cream. It was the slightly more elegant version of Baba's berries and cream. It was all comfort food.

The ice cream recipe comes from, who else? David Lebovitz. All the recipes in my books were custards and I didn't have many eggs in the house. So a little search led to many, many descriptions of this ice cream from The Perfect Scoop. It seemed like fate considering the pounds of strawberries I bought at the market and my own need for comfort. 

But no amount of comfort food can replace the love of your best friend.

Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
(With great thanks, perhaps literally as I don't actually own The Perfect Scoop, to David Lebovitz.)

1 pound strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp vodka
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1. Rinse, hull, and quarter your strawberries. Toss with the sugar and vodka. Let sit for an hour or so.
2. Add in sour cream, cream, and lemon juice. Blitz with a hand blender, leaving it as chunky as you want.
3. Chill for an hour. Process with ice cream maker. Freeze until ready to eat.