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Now that’s an ice cream cake!

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I don’t quite know what got into me but this year for Brian’s birthday I decided to make an ice cream cake. From scratch.

As you can see from the photo, and we had the pleasure of tasting last night, this turned out to be an unqualified success!

I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe for Hot Fudge Sundae Cake with the minor alterations of store bought almond cookies for the crust and whipped cream out of a can. And you know, it really wasn’t that difficult to pull off. The main thing is starting a couple days ahead of time so all the ingredients get enough cooling and freezing time.

If the idea of making a treat like this float s your boat then I highly recommend this recipe. It really is as good as it looks!

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Blueberry Lavender Mead Step Two

IMAG0038Step two in the mead-making process happens 24 hours after the campden tablet is added to the honey-juice. The recipe in True Brews calls for a liquid mead in a tube, but I ended up with a different mead yeast that was liquid but required steps that involved leaving the yeast sealed in the bag while activating it and I missed that entirely. I am sad to say that even though I dutifully mixed it up with my boiling water and honey this morning, I came home to some very dead yeast (you really can tell when a yeast mixture is dead in that the liquid looks flat, has no bubbles and the yeast has sunk to the bottom).

Fortunately I had a couple packs of red wine yeast kicking around so I dumped one of those into a cup of the juice from my ferment – and within an hour it activated:

IMAG0040As I write this, the yeast is in activation mode – after about three hours of that I will add it to the honey-juice mix and then reattach the airlock. For the next week afterward I’m going to stir it once a day and otherwise leave it alone to do its thing.

 

Blueberry-Lavender Mead Step One

IMAG0023After doing a little research on home made soda pop recently, I picked up a copy of True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home by Emma Christensen. This great little compendium of everything small-batch brewing introduces you to all the basics of getting your drink on – and in one-gallon recipes which means you won’t be stuck with 25 bottles of something you hate as you experiment away in your kitchen laboratory.

About the same time I was perusing the book, I discovered 5 pounds of frozen blueberries in our basement deep-freeze – bought last summer and meant for pie-filling – they needed to get dealt with as we have a whole new fruit season coming on!

IMAG0028Also, oddly, I was about to discard a small bag of lavender that I had dried two years ago for satchels that never got made…. but it turns out I didn’t have to because True Brews offered me a solution to my excess fruit/lavender dilemma in the form of a recipe for Blueberry-Lavender Mead.

I haven’t made wine in ages and I have never made a mead. This being a small batch only calls for 3 1/2 cups of honey which was the only ingredient I had to purchase – so it was a bit of a no-brainer in terms of first recipes in the book to try.

IMAG0030I started out by sterilizing all my tools and then heated up my water (14 cups) and honey to a simmer on the stove. Once the water and honey were all married-like, I dumped it in the primary tub with a pound of blueberries and 4 tablespoons of lavender. Crush, crush, crush.

Super easy right? Then I measured the volume of the liquid using an alcohol hydrometer. We do that at the start, and then IMAG0031throughout the process, taking note of the differences between the volume measures in order to get an idea of how much alcohol is in the mix. My initial reading for this batch of mead is 1.08. (That Christmas tin in the background holds all my fiddly additives for wine making – acid blend, tanning, pectic enzymes – that kind of thing).

After the reading, I crushed a campden tablet and threw it in the mix. The campden tablet is there to sterilize the fruit/honey mix before I put the yeast in so that no bad bacteria are introduced with my original ingredients. Tomorrow I will add the yeast and then we’ll really be in business.

For the time being I’ve snapped the lid on and plugged it with an airlock to give it some breathing room – and that’s Day One of mead-making. My first ever.

 

 

 

Eating fabulous in 2014 – January meal plan

healthyfoodHaving skipped December due to the erratic nature of holiday-eating, I am back with a month of meal-planning to kick off the new year!

Some of these recipes might *sound* elaborate, but for the most part they are not (and if they require more prep or cooking time I have scheduled them for weekends or will put ingredients together ahead of time). Meal plans help me to cook food that is healthier and more interesting, ensure variety in our diet, and cut way down on food waste. Additionally, planning has eliminated impulse food buys and cut the grocery bill in half (I notice a significant difference on weeks that I have a list in hand versus when I don’t).  If getting organized around after work dinners is a resolution for you – I highly recommend getting started – keeping your own schedule, food parameters and interests in mind.

In the last few weeks I’ve started using the site/app Pepperplate to collect and organize recipes as well as put them into a planner and create shopping lists. It takes some time to get set-up with the recipe collection, but once you get going, I can imagine this to be really helpful (I’m hoping by February I can do my entire month of meal planning using the site).

Here is what we are eating in January:

Wednesday: 1 Whatever is in the fridge and still edible when we get home from Victoria
Thursday: 2 Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad, w/ grilled chicken breast
Friday: 3 Lentil Soup, w/bread & greens on the side
Saturday: 4 Portuguese Fish Supper
Sunday: 5 (Band Practice) Baked whole salmon, wild mushroom risotto, caesar salad
Monday: 6 Turkey Tetrazinni made with brown rice w/roasted vegetables
Tuesday: 7 Penne with Roasted Tomatoes, Garlic, and White Beans w/cold sliced vegetables
Wednesday: 8 West African Peanut Soup with Chicken
Thursday: 9 Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce w/steamed green beans
Friday: 10 Leftovers
Saturday: 11 Venison Pot pie w/green salad
Sunday: 12 (Band Practice – Dinner TBD)
Monday: 13 Polenta Pizza with Spinach, Mushrooms, Bacon & Tomatoes w/
Tuesday: 14 Roasted Salmon with Shallot Grapefruit sauce w/steamed potatoes and carrots
Wednesday: 15 Pork Ragu w/green salad (cook pork shoulder on Monday in advance)
Thursday: 16 Red Lentil Curry w/brown basmati and cold sliced veggies
Friday: 17 Leftovers from earlier in the week
Saturday: 18 Out
Sunday: 19 (Band Practice) Chicken and Veggie Pot Pie
Monday: 20 Portuguese One Pot Chicken and Potatoes
Tuesday: 21 Skillet Gnocchi with Chard and White Beans w/sliced tomato salad (cook Barley for next night)
Wednesday: 22 Mushroom Barley Salad w/Grilled Italian Sausage
Thursday: 23 Leftovers
Friday: 24 Mexican Beans and Rice w/fresh chopped peppers, tomatoes, avocado
Saturday: 25 Seared Duck Breast with Amarula w/roasted yams and potatoes and green salad
Sunday: 26 (Band Practice – Dinner TBD)
Monday: 27 Turkey Rice Soup
Tuesday: 28 Pork and Plums w/spinach/walnut salad
Wednesday: 29 (Salon – Dinner for twenty) Vegetarian and Meat Lasagnas, Caesar Salad, Bread w pudding for dessert
Thursday: 30 Chinese Beef and Broccoli
Friday: 31 Leftovers from earlier in the week

November, November. Meals for November.

Despite not being around here much lately, I am still posting a menu list for November – mostly because it is helpful to our household organization to have the dinner plan in one easy-to-reference place. We recently got a second-hand copy of Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything so where you see a HCE below, the page number is in reference to that book. Otherwise, I have run across some lovely recipes online that I wanted to try and am mixing it up with some of our household standards. Pasta is generally gluten-free around here though I have included a couple of recipes with wheat because I don’t abstain all the time (even though I should!)

Date Menu Plan
Sunday,
Nov. 3
  • Roast Chicken stuffed with preserved lemons
  • Mushroom risotto cooked in duck broth
  • Green beans and carrots
Monday,
Nov. 4
  •  Beef Chilli served over polenta rounds
Tuesday,
Nov. 5
Wednesday,
Nov. 6
  •  Dinner out
Thursday,
Nov. 7
  • GF Farfalle/Penne w Chicken, spinach & parmesan  
Friday,
Nov. 8
Saturday,
Nov. 9
Ladies get-together:

Sunday,
Nov. 10
  • Dinner at the Ukranian Hall!
Monday,
Nov 11
Tuesday,
Nov. 12
  • Pork chop skillet w apple, cabbage, fennel bulb
Wednesday,
Nov 13
  • Dinner out
Thursday,
Nov 14
Friday,
Nov 15
  • Dinner on the ferry
Saturday, Nov. 16
  • Mom’s birthday dinner – out somewhere
Sunday,
Nov. 17
  • TBD depending on who is home and coming for dinner.
Monday,
Nov. 18
  • Baked Spaghetti Squash
Tuesday,
Nov. 19
  • Curried Rice Noodles with Pork (P. 556 HCE)
Wednesday,
Nov. 20
  • Dinner out
Thursday,
Nov 21
  • Out of town
Friday,
Nov 22
  • Out of town
Saturday,
Nov 23
  • Out of town
Sunday,
Nov 24
  • TBD depending on who is home and coming for dinner.
Monday,
Nov. 25
  • Lamb shanks with Lentils (P 777 HCE)
Tuesday,
Nov. 26
  • Stir-fried chicken with black beans (P 676 HCE)
  • Bok Choi
Wednesday,
Nov. 27
  • Dinner out
Thursday,
Nov 28
Friday,
Nov 29
  • Spaghetti & meat sauce
Saturday,
Nov 30
  • Turkey/barley soup

What are we eating? Three weeks of meal plans

A frequent dinner in our house – tapas!

It’s fall and time for new things – and what better way to herald a new season than by trying out some new recipes?

So I’ve made a meal plan for the next three weeks that relies heavily on Mark Bittman and also incorporates some of the food blogs I read. Meal-planning makes shopping easier, ensures we use ingredients already on hand, and makes it a breeze for anyone in the household to prep dinner depending on schedules. The themes for this menu are:

  • very-little processed food
  • balanced
  • gluten-free options – which means most meals are gf, but those which aren’t can be eaten without the wheat-component (like a bun) or have an acceptable gf substitute (gf pasta or rice)

I am so looking forward to each of these recipes!

Week: September 9

Week: September 16

Week: September 30

Lookie here….. (kitchen appliance talk)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI made a bit of a Craiglist score last night and have finally satisfied my desire for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer (at less than half the price of new). This came with all the original attachments, plus the slicer/shredder set and the ice cream maker. Of course I immediately put it to work on some egg whites left over from making ice cream last week (hence the blur in the bowl).

Our before-KA-stand-mixer belonged to Brian’s grandmother and has ceased standing (literally, it falls off the stand whenever the motor is running), my food processor is almost dead after 22 loyal years – and I like the idea of having one workhorse appliance instead of several cluttering up the cupboard. So this makes sense.

Below you can see my effortless egg whites which became meringues. I’ve never bothered with such things before because I hate beating egg whites to stiff peaks, but with the new  mixer I just dumped in the eggs and let the beater do the job. Incroyable!

(PS – if you don’t have Cream of Tartar you can use lemon juice instead. I learned that last night on the Internet.)

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Canning all the things.

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A brief post to track the first of the season’s canning. I’m hoping to keep a running tally so I can capture the total poundage of fruits and vegetables that make it onto the shelves in my bi-annual canning madness. So far this year I have put up:

  • Rhubarb: Six lb. (Ketchup and stewed with raspberry jam from last year)
  • Asparagus: Eight lb (Pickled)
  • Apples: Forty lb. (Sauce)

One thing I’m feeling very smart about is the fact that I did my apples early using the end of last season’s storage apples. Every year we do a huge can in August and so I often miss out on doing apples because I am all canned out. Since we’re just getting started, and last year’s apples are very very cheap, thirty jars of sauce (flavoured with honey, vanilla and cinnamon – it’s my best batch ever) seemed about right.

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In the Bookshed: Recipes for Good Living

The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook, Barbara Damrosch & Eliot Coleman 2012

This book has been sitting on my kitchen counter over the winter months, tantalizing not only the fresh-ingredients cook in me, but also the gardener. A two-in-one book, the first half of Four Seasons is dedicated to growing, while the second half is comprised of 120 recipes incorporating foods from the home garden. Damrosch and Coleman manage to provide an excellent overview of all aspects of edible gardening (including garden layouts, soil advice, and food storage) with the inspiration to try out new veggie crops and cooking techniques in the recipe section. This book is beautifully adorned with full-colour photographs and drawings which invite the reader to imagine their own harvest-to-table experience. This book would make an excellent gift for a first-time gardener or homeowner looking to turn their back (or front) yard into an edible paradise.

The Flower Recipe Book, Alethea Harampolis & Jill Rizzo 2013

I have to admit, I find it odd that I am so drawn to a book about flower arranging – this being a topic I haven’t ever given much thought to despite the fact I grow and cut flowers for my home and table all summer long. The Flower Recipe Book is easily one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen on the subject – the floral arrangements coupled with gorgeous photography invite even the most cynical reader (me!) to linger and draw in the useful and instructional advice the authors give in their “recipes”. With 100 arrangements that cover all floral seasons, Harampolis and Rizzo break information down into simple instructions, including plant facts and care, the various vessels used in their designs and where to find them, and step-by-step explanations of how to achieve various visual effects (not to mention how to get the most longevity out of the arrangements). Although I do not have all the different vessels at my disposal to make these arrangements,  I find the structural information on each arrangement easy enough to improvise with — and I love the fact that many of the containers are simple found objects, or in some cases, easily knocked together from some scraps of wood then lined with a tupperware (that’s my interpretation, not theirs). Thrift store tins, mason jars, wine glasses and old gift baskets are all pressed into service in these designs – and as a flower-gardener I am looking forward to a summer yard that provides the raw material for building them. This is another beautiful gift for the flower-gardener or home-aesthete in your life — even a very cynical one.

Yammy goodness (and eating almost clean)

yampictureIn 2011, for about ten months, I went on a lower-carb eating kick. Not no-carb, but I pretty much tossed out white grains, wheat flour, simple sugars and everything refined, chemicalized or non-naturally coloured. I kept all veggies, legumes, meat, and dairy in my diet – so it was by no means Atkins or Paleo – but it was a pretty big departure for someone who had previously been a carb-loving vegetarian.

And you know what? It really did make me feel better, and look better – not to mention helping me to manage my weight and blood sugar issues. Plus! Less digestive weirdness (another term for gas, really, I have a lot less gas when I get the simple carbs out of my life).

So, being the new year and all I’m at it again – this time inspired by some pretty awesome paleo food blogs (for the record I think the paleo “science” is anything but and I have zero pretensions around eating anything approximating a “primitive diet”). And after a week (during which I have eaten wheat exactly once, and no other grain product besides) I can already see that my stomach is less bloated and my digestion less crabby. I’m also finding myself inspired to cook again for the first time in awhile and I’ve been stocking up on good, healthy stuff to build easy meals out of – which is the trick for me when trying to get “convenience foods” like bread and crackers out of my diet.

In any case, I’m feeling all food-empowered at the moment and I just wanted to share this little recipe that I concocted for lunch (that was so good, it might be my new favourite lunchtime thing).

Yam and Sausage Hashy-hash Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

2 Italian Sausages (mild or medium)
2 yams – peeled and shredded
1 sweet potato – peeled and shredded
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Best cooked in a big frying pan or wok (I wok-fry everything possible). Squeeze the sausage out of its casing and brown in the wok, breaking it up into pieces. Once the sausage is all cooked and the bottom of the pan has some oil to work with, add the yam and sweet potato, worcestershire sauce and powders. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently for 5-10 minutes until the mixture is to your liking. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you’re eating clean you can leave out the worcestershire sauce and add a bit of stock for liquid.

So simple and incredible! Inspired by the Sweet potato hash recipe on Nom Nom Paelo, which has some awesome recipes that I intend to get to trying over the next few weeks!