Post # 3061: Carrot muffins

For whatever reason, possibly due to the rain, I’ve been baking a lot this winter. Mostly bread (more on that in another post), but because I love a good muffin every once and awhile, I’ve also been on the hunt for healthy-ish muffin recipes. This one ticks off all my boxes because it’s low in sugar, and has a decent amount of fibre. Sourced from allrecipes.com (http://allrecipes.com/recipe/23787/awesome-carrot-muffins/) – the only thing I’ve modified here is the sugar amount. Most carrot muffin recipes are way skimpy on the carrot – but not this one!

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups shredded carrots
  1. Combine raisins and water in a small bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain raisins, discard water and set raisins aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.
  3. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, oil and brown sugar; beat well. Combine egg mixture and flour mixture; mix just until moistened. Fold in carrots and drained raisins. Spoon into prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before frosting.

Post #2083: Leek and Mushroom Tart Recipe

Looking for an appetizer or holiday party offering? I made this leek and mushroom tart on the weekend and it was a huge hit. Serve it warm at your dinner table, or cool and cut thin for finger food (which is how I served it) – either way, so great!

Nice to have:

  • 11-inch tart pan – we aren’t making a quiche here so you want something shallow, and preferably with the removable side-ring for easy cutting and serving (plus presentation!)

Ingredients

Pastry
Whatever pie pastry recipe you normally use. Lots of suggestions on the Internet.

Filling
5 eggs
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 small leeks sliced very thin (or one large)
15 mushrooms sliced very thin  (any variety – you are looking for 1 1/2 cup of sliced mushrooms)
1 cup grated gruyere cheese

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Make your pastry, let it rest and then roll it out to the size of your pan. (I personally don’t like rolling out pastry so for tart recipes in the past I have simply pressed the pastry into the form – but my husband doesn’t mind, so he did this for me on the weekend).
  3. Prick all over with a fork, bake the pastry shell for 25 minutes until it is pretty much done. Remove pastry shell from oven.
  4. Turn oven up to 375.
  5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of the gruyere cheese on the bottom of the tart, then spread the leeks and mushrooms over that.
  6. In a small bowl, hand beat the 5 eggs and the heavy cream until they are well-mixed.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese to the egg/cream mixture and stir in.
  8. Pour the egg/cream/cheese mixture over the other ingredients in the pastry shell. Ensure even distribution.
  9. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of the cheese over the top.
  10. Put your tart pan on a large cookie sheet and place in the oven. (The cookies sheet is there in case the egg mixture wells up and overflows during cooking).
  11. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the egg mixture has set and the top is golden.

Enjoy!

Post #2080: Instant Pot breakfast goodies

As promised, here’s the quick skinny on my second set of weekend kitchen experiments — homemade granola and homemade yogurt in my Instant Pot. For those of you who don’t know about the magic of the 7-in-one Instant Pot, I highly recommend you look it up. It works as a electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, steamer, warmer, and sauté pan all in one – and so far I’ve been very impressed with everything I’ve made in it. More on that later.

This weekend, I decided to get the week’s breakfasts in order by making both granola, and yogurt in the instant pot (but not at the same time!) Recipes and instructions are below – and let me tell you, this makes for one amazing start to the day. Also, given that both of these are multi-hour projects, I give a time breakdown at the bottom that can help you plan for getting this all done in a day for a week’s worth of good starts.

Cherry Almond Granola

5 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut

Put everything in the instant pot except for the seeds and coconut. Stir. Turn the post onto slow-cook and adjust to high. Leave for one hour. After the machine beeps, add the seeds and coconut, stir and then turn down to low for four hours. After four hours is up, spread the granola in a roasting pan and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes – at 350 – stirring every 10 minutes until the granola crisps up. I didn’t find the slow cooker really got the granola crispy on its own, which is why I think the oven step is necessary. I’ve seen people recommend keeping the lid slightly ajar in order to let moisture escape – but really, the last bit in the oven is pretty straight forward and you can crisp it to your preference. Let cool completely on a cookie sheet and then store in an air tight container.

Instant Pot Yogurt

1 quart of milk
1/2 cup yogurt

Pour milk into the instant pot, press yogurt button and the adjust to boil. Milk will boil in the IP and then machine will beep. Take the inner lining out and allow the milk to cool in it (for about 1/2 hour or so) until it goes down to 115 F. Whisk the yogurt into the warm milk and then put the inner liner back into the IP. Press the yogurt setting again and don’t adjust this time! The IP will automatically set the time for eight hours. Once eight hours is up, the machine will beep and you’ve got yogurt! For Greek style yogurt, you can strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer for three hours or overnight which will separate the whey from the yogurt and leave you with a really dense and creamy yogurt.

Timing for getting this all done on a Sunday

8:00 am – get the granola going in the instant pot. It will be done and cooling by 1 pm.

1:00 pm – get the yogurt going in the instant pot. It will be done by 10 pm.

Strain yogurt through cheesecloth overnight – in the morning there will be awesome breakfast!

 

Post #2079: Moosioloi and other kitchen adventures

Yesterday was a bit of a kitchen day – and a playing music day – and an eating day. It was a day at home after a month of mostly being away – and it was sorely needed.

IMG_20151206_142028877IMG_20151206_135551377The upshot of that kitchen day was a number of small experiments – the first being the olive-tasting that I wrote about in my last post. I later fed some of the olives to our friend Jon who came over to teach us about pasta-making and he said they were the best olives he had ever tasted. Real deal!

Then we got onto the pasta making. We had decided some time ago that moose ravioli was a think that should exist in the world. With a freezer full of moose, a pasta roller given to us by a friend, and Jon to show us how to put it all together – we decided that this was the time to make some food magic happen.
I won’t go into great detail here about the process, since there are a million places that you can learn about making stuffed pasta on the Internet, but I will give you the recipe (below) so that if you happen upon some ground moose (or venison, or beef) you can replicate the amazingness that was our pasta dinner.

The finished produce looked like this – not the prettiest thing I have ever made, but one of the tastiest by far:

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We served this alongside pickled beets, a salad of greens, apple, and almonds, a tuscan bread and a nice chianti. All around fabulous food experience!

Moose Ravioli

Pasta Dough:
3 eggs
2 cups of flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
water if necessary

I do my dough in the Cusinart with the dough blade so I can only do a batch as large as this at a time. Basically, you throw all that into your food processor or breadmaker and churn until it forms an elastic and non-sticky dough.

We made two batches of dough which would feed 5-6 people (or 4 very hungry people and our dog).

Moose Filling:

4 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 pound moose meat
1 moose sausage (which gives a bit of fat and flavour)
1/2 cup blue cheese (or more if you like)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 a bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsely

Saute the garlic and onion, then brown the meat. Once the meat is cooked, crumble the blue cheese into the mixture along with the pine nuts. Stir and season to taste. Add the parsely near the end. We added a lot of blue cheese which meant we didn’t need any additional salt, but fresh ground pepper bumped the whole thing up.

This filling recipe is enough for two batches of the dough recipe above.

Sauce

1-2 cups Tomato sauce
Fresh rosemary (to taste)

We used the tomato sauce that we canned this summer and added about a 1/4 cup of fresh rosemary from the garden to it. You don’t want the sauce to overwhelm the plate, so just make enough to coast the pasta.

Once the pasta is made, and then cooked, toss it in the tomato sauce and serve with parmesan cheese.

And delish! If you have a chance at some moose this season, and an afternoon with friends – this is a great social activity and meal rolled into one.

Next post? Homemade granola and yogurt – the second part of yesterday’s experiments.

Post #2018: The faux-waldorf – my salad of the week

I’ve been on a salad (and exercise) kick for the last three months – pretty much replacing whatever else I used to eat for lunch with a salad in a jar for my Monday-Friday workdays. Practically what this means is that I buy enough stuff for five lunches and then eat the same salad every day for a week, putting it together quickly each morning before I head out the door. I switch every week, so it doesn’t get boring – and I always make sure to include lots of textural stuff to make me happy (I prefer crunchy things to lettuce leaves, for example). This week I’m pretty sure that I’ve got my favourite salad of all time on the go – a chicken, apple and walnut affair with spinach straight out of the garden. It’s a little higher on the calories than I prefer (I am watching my numbers as I work to lose weight after all) – but if you skip the walnuts it becomes a lot more reasonable.  Here is my salad of the week:

The Faux-Waldorf Salad In a Jar

Into your jar layer the following:

1 tbsp blue cheese dressing (I use Litehouse)
3 oz cooked chicken breast
1 cup cucumber sliced in the way you want to eat it
1 small apple
1 cup spinach or other greens

In a separate container to be added to the top once your salad is upended into a bowl: 1/2 oz walnut halves or pieces.

This is salad at its finest – enjoy!

 

 

Post #2009: How to throw a drinking party (with recipes!)

This blog has been a bit meditation-post heavy in the last few weeks – for which I am not at all sorry – but since we just threw a party for Brian’s birthday, and it was an afternoon-cocktail-themed-affair, and I invented two new drinks – it just seemed time to share those recipes for posterity (and some info about how to throw such a party). Meditation is important work, but so are social gatherings – and I intend to continue with the celebration of both in my life!

First of all, if you are thinking of doing an afternoon cocktail party, here are some tips:

  • This is an expensive kind of party to throw – booze (especially in Canada) is pricey. I planned my drinks several weeks in advance and split the party cost over three paycheques.
  • The best, most awesome drinks, include special ingredients or housemade infusions. This is another reason to plan ahead – your basic fruit liqueur takes about six weeks (minimum), and even a quicker infusion like earl grey liqueur or straight up tonic syrup may call for special ingredients, or require time to make. Planning ahead by at least two months is preferable if you want to do anything special.
  • Rent glassware – it’s pretty cheap to do and you don’t have to wash anything before returning it. Also rent cocktail plates, ice buckets and any other barware that you wouldn’t use in everyday life. This keeps refuse to a minimum and really helps the cleanup!
  • You need a minimum of two ice buckets – one for ice and one for whatever you want to keep on ice (in our case there were many prosecco drinks).
  • Definitely you will need help during the party because no matter how much glassware you rent or own, you will run out. No one keeps one glass for the entire party. Enlist your friends to wash glasses, they will oblige because – free drinks!
  • Choose only 4-6 drinks that you are prepared to make, print out a sign with ingredients so that people can see what is in them, and make that available in a number of places for people to consult. You cannot afford to set up a bar for everything. I went with six drinks, many of which shared ingredients. Also, pick things with ingredients that go with the weather (in our case, prosecco was a big hit and I used herbs in season that were growing in our garden).
  • Also – bartending – you do not want people free pouring, so be prepared to bar tend and arrange in advance for a couple of people to spell you off in advance. Create a sheet of drinks with recipes to aid the process. People might be daunted at first, but a lot of people enjoy being behind the bar – it creates a different kind of social interaction.
  • Bartenders need to keep drinks poured at the right levels, otherwise you will run out of booze too fast and people will get drunk. We were very successful with this – and I realized how much of a difference proper bartending made to the event.
  • You definitely need bar towels, water (if you aren’t near a sink), and a large vessel (garbage can, pickling crock) for liquids and other refuse.
  • Have lots of ice on hand.
  • Be prepared for some people to stay late and have some basic dinner fixings on hand (we did that, but then our friend ordered pizza instead and that was equally amazing). Also – serve ample grounding foods throughout – bread, cheese, olives, veggie platter, etc. People will eat it all and it cuts down on drinking on an empty stomach.
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Our studio set up as a bar

We are very lucky to have a backyard studio/guesthouse/meditation room – so we set our bar up in the studio because the day was warm and it kept people in the yard as opposed to cramped in the house. The drinks on the menu were the Afternoon Marteani, Orange Blossom, Iced Amarula, Gin/Vodka and housemade tonic, French 75 and the Urban Crow. (The bolded ones are my own concoctions. The photo at the head of this article is the martini, the Urban Crow is pictured alongside an Orange Blossom below.

The Urban Crow Cocktail

  • Served in a jam jar (250 ml)
  • Wipe rim with sage leaves and then muddle four leaves in the bottom of the jar
  • Add two ice cubes
  • One shot blackberry liqueur
  • One shot gin
  • Finish with soda
  • Stir

The Afternoon Marteani

(I think this martini is my favourite new thing – the earl grey liqueur is outta this world, and the jam flavours the drink subtly and wonderfully throughout the drinking experience).

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Orange Blossom and Urban Crow

Post #1969: The Soup Project

Just because I’ve posted here now two days in a row, don’t think I’m making a habit of writing here everyday or anything. It’ll be at least another few months before I have anything approximating time for writing (but the completion of my graduate studies is only six months away now!)

As I mentioned yesterday, the news lately has been a real bummer to me – so I have decided instead to do a combination dinner/canning project that involves 8 weeks of soups. I love soup! But because it can be ingredient and time-heavy, it’s not a go-to for a quick after-work dinner in our house. So my plan for the next 8 weeks is on one of my days off (Sat, Sun or soon – Mondays!) I will make a large pot of soup for dinner and either 1) pressure can half of it for future eating, or 2) make a pressure-canning version of the same, or a different pressure-canned soup stock that can be used at future meals. The reason that I am not simply making soup and then pressure-canning the recipes directly is because pressure-canning itself does a lot of the cooking and there are many soup versions that go into the cans “raw” and are cooked in the process. Also, pressure-canned soups cannot contains grain-starches or dairy – which means that one is often making a “base” to be added to when it is opened and reheated later.

I canvassed my Internet friends yesterday and got some ideas – and here are the recipes I’ve chosen to go along with those ideas:

Week One (November 2): Turkey Rice Soup and Canned Chicken Stock

Contrary to my starting pitch, this first week is aimed at getting rid of some turkey soup stock that has been in my freezer since last Christmas. Yes, it’s still edible, but it has to go – so I’m going to pick up some turkey legs and boil them up to get some soup meat happening and otherwise add some rice and veggies and cook it up. I’ll use this week to put the extra effort into pressure canning a big batch of chicken stock.

Week Two (November 9): White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Because there is lots of kale in the garden right now, a soup with beans, chorizo and kale seems particularly appropriate so I’ve chosen this recipe to pull it off. I plan to double it and pressure can half. A bit of an experiment, but the worst thing that can happen is the beans will be mushy which doesn’t matter so much in soup.

Week Three (November 16): Chicken-Bacon Corn Chowder & Chicken Corn Chowder Base

This is a two recipe week with mostly the same ingredients. Bacon isn’t a great thing to use in pressure canning because high-fat items can go rancid – and I found a canning recipe that essentially cooks the soup in the jar. I like the idea of not twice cooking the chicken. Stovetop Recipe. Pressure Canning Recipe.

Week Four (November 23): Red Lentil Soup and Beef Stock

These items are totally unrelated to each other, but I’m in need of some beef stock on my shelf for the upcoming entertaining season (gravies and so forth) so I figured I should get that in here while I can. Red Lentil soup on the other hand, is one of my favourite foods. This is the lentil soup recipe and I do plan to double and can. As for the beef stock this recipe looks like a good one.

Week Five (November 30): Really the best chili I have ever made

I made this No-Bullshit Chili Recipe with some moose meat that a friend gave us after his hunting trip last month and it is probably the best chili I have ever made or tasted. One batch makes a lot, so I plan to make this one again and can half of it (or more) for easy winter heat-ups. Also, use whatever meat you want!

Week Six (December 7): Potato-Leek Soup & Potato Leek Soup Base

This Julia Child recipe was recommended to me and it looks fabulous, but is full of dairy so no good for pressure canning. On the other hand, this recipe is meant for pressure canning, and when later-served can have dairy added into it for extra depth. I’m trying both in week six.

Week Seven (December 14): Vegetable-Beef Soup two ways

In this week I will try two new recipes. Here is the stovetop version by Williams-Sonoma, and here is the canned version by Canning Homemade! which cooks in the jar.

Week Eight (December 21) – Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

For the final week I’m only making one recipe, will double and then pressure can half of it. This Roasted Root Vegetable Soup by The View From Great Island looks like a fabulous cap to 8 weeks of eating and canning!

By the end of it all – if I really get through all the weeks, this plan will provide for about 16 meals (considering leftovers) and 30 jars for the pantry to be used at different junctures through the next year!

The Rhubarb Ketchup Recipe

Since I first discovered it two years ago, Rhubarb Ketchup has pretty much become a staple condiment in our house. It works as both a ketchup and a sauce for meats and involves two ingredients I always have lots of in the spring: rhubarb and canned tomatoes (from the previous year’s canning). So really, this combination is a bit of a no-brainer

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My alterations to the recipe that I originally poached off the Internet are typical ones for me – the addition of apple cider vinegar and a couple cloves of garlic – to punch up the taste a little bit:

Ingredients:

4 cups of rhubarb cut into one-inch pieces
1 large yellow onion, chopped into one-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 cups of canned tomatoes (with juice)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 good shake of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of pickling spice tied in cheesecloth

Throw all that together in a pot and it will look like this:

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Bring the mixture to a boil and the put it on simmer for an hour to two hours (I like to cook it down a fair bit). Once the consistency is where you like it, remove the pickling spices and blend with an immersion blender. As you can see, this doesn’t have the colour of Heintz – no dyes or chemicals in this pot of awesome sauce:

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Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes and you’re done. Makes four pints and the recipe is easily (and safely) doubled.

Sage Flower Jelly

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I was out in my garden earlier this evening – doing some after work weed pulling – and I noticed that my massive sage bushes are in full flower right now. In previous years I’ve thought it might be nice to harvest some of those flowers and turn them into something pretty – and since I didn’t have anything else to do tonight (besides singing rehearsal and laundry), I figured why not?

Ingredients: 

2 cups packed sage flowers
2 cups white wine
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid pectin

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Process: 

  1. Bring wine and sage flowers to a boil.
  2. Turn off heat, put lid on pot and let steep for an hour or so.
  3. Add sugar and apple cider vinegar, bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve.
  4. Add pectin, bring back to a boil and let boil hard for 1 minute.
  5. Ladle into jars and process for 5 minutes in a boiling water canner.

This recipe makes 5 250-ml jars. There really isn’t anything prettier than a rosy jelly – now let’s hope it sets!

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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.