Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Panzanella salad

This salad has become my new summer staple, especially now that we're fully into tomato season.
It's so easy and quick and uses up things in my kitchen that I've perhaps been ignoring for too long.
Stale bread, overripe tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and basil are all you need for this satisfying summer snack.

My friend Renee (aka Feisty Chef) made this in a cooking class a few weeks ago. I was so excited to taste her take on panzanella which, like most of her cooking is just simple enough to let the food speak for itself.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Frozen Vegetables

Last year I decided to freeze some of the sweet corn available at my local farmers market so we could enjoy it in the winter. I cut the kernels off of about 8 ears of corn, packed it into a ziploc bag and stored it in my refrigerators freezer.
I had good intentions...but did I really think one little bag of frozen corn was going to last very long??
I probably froze it in late August and I'm pretty sure the bag was gone by October. Oops.

This year is going much better! We invested in a large upright freezer (I think it's about 12 cubic feet) and have been stocking up on vegetables like they're going out of style.
Broccoli, zucchini, corn, green beans, peas, and cauliflower are just some of the vegetables we've begun freezing.
Obviously frozen vegetables have somewhat of a limited range of use once thawed but they'll be great in soups, curries, stir frys, and pasta sauce, to name a few.

Here are some tips for successful frozen veggies:

- Only use unblemished perfect produce. If it's starting to become overripe, don't bother freezing it.
- Clean veggies well.
- Prep the veggies as you would if you were about to cook them. Trim beans, shell peas, chop broccoli, etc. They should be completely ready for use straight from the freezer.
- Remove as much air as possible from freezer bags.
- Label bags with name and date.
- Dry veggies thoroughly after washing or blanching.
-Vegetables that should be blanched include corn, peas, broccoli, cauliflower and leafy greens. Green beans, peppers and zucchini can be frozen raw.

To blanch, place prepared veggies in a colander over a pot of boiling water. Blanch for 3-5 minutes (or until produce colour just becomes bright, but not fully cooked). Toss blanched veggies in an bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain well and pat dry.

For more information on preserving food by freezing check out "The Beginners Guide to Preserving Food at Home" by Janet Chadwick.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Creamy Vegan Potato Salad

My parsley plants are overflowing and despite efforts to use it often (and freeze some of it) I just can't seem to keep up. So the other day I made a real effort to find more uses for parsley. I found a recipe for Green Tahini Dressing in my copy of "Get It Ripe" by Jae Steele, that looked perfect. Steele describes the dressing as going well with "everything!" so I decided to take her up on the challenge.
I had a plate full of leftover roasted new potatoes in the fridge and a few green beans that have escaped my pickling rampage, that both seemed like the perfect contenders to try out this dressing.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Peach Chutney

As a longtime lover of mango chutney I was very excited to see a recipe for it in my new favourite canning book. But I just can't bring myself to buy produce thats traveled so ridiculously far to get to me when there is so much wonderful fruit grown right here in my province. So what else is a girl to do but find a local substitute: peach chutney!

Aside from the obvious Indian food applications, this chutney is great on fish cakes, these amazing quinoa patties, alongside cheese and bread, spooned into these biscuits and so much more. I'd love to hear your favourite uses for chutneys too!
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cherry Tomatoes

If I was only able to grow one thing next year in my garden it would be tomatoes. Sure I've enjoyed growing lettuce, kale, zucchini, peppers and herbs, but tomatoes take the cake.
Is there really anything better than freshly picked sweet cherry tomatoes?

My tiny urban patio garden has earned the same envious skepticism ("What? You grew these?? Wow I wish I could do that.") as do many of my usual domestic affairs ("What? You made this?? Wow I wish I could do that"). But guess what? You can do it too, I promise!
If you have any outdoor space at all that gets 6 or more hours of sunlight a day, you can grow tomatoes. You can easily find wonderful transplants at farmers markets in the spring, or you can grow them from seed indoors if you have lots of sunlight inside your home.
With lots of sun, water and love you'll have a beautiful bounty of tomatoes in no time. 
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Canned Tomato Sauce

I may have mentioned before how my husband and I have set a hefty goal of canning 40 pints of tomato sauce in preparation for winter. I think so far I've only made 12 pint jars plus about 10 pints of canned whole tomatoes (which can be made into sauce later). Our main reason for doing this is so we that can enjoy local tomatoes all year round instead of purchasing cans of tomato sauce from the grocery store. Not only do we love supporting our local farmers, but as a couple without a car we strive to reduce our walking or biking trips to the grocery store as much as possible in the winter (the less heavy cans we have to lug home through the snow and freezing wind the better!).

I hesitated on sharing this recipe/project with you because it seemed like it might be too boring or simple. But then I realized that the simple (yet oh so useful) projects are sometimes the best inspiration for someone who's new to canning or preserving.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Patchwork Shower Curtain

There's nothing like sensing an approaching season change to inspire you to redecorate around your home. 
Our bathroom was in serious need of some colour and life. Now of course I feel the need to knit a new bathmat to match. Another project to add to the ever growing to-do list!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Peach & Almond Olive Oil Muffins

A good friend is one who texts you a photo of freshly baked muffins and exclaims "These are the best muffins I've ever made!", knowing that if you both lived in the same city she'd be leaving some on your doorstep or inviting you over for tea to share them.

But when you're miles apart the next best thing is to take her word for it, make the muffins, and share them with the people who are close to you.

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Striped Baby Blanket

When I learned that one of my friends would be having a baby I promptly started dreaming up knitting projects for the new arrival. I remembered her showing me these blankets from Purl Soho that she adored months and months ago, long before she was even pregnant, so I decided to surprise her with my own version.
One evening while having dinner with her and husband we start talking about knitting and she begins to show me a new project she's working on. "It's this really simple baby blanket", she says as she pulls out the beginning of the blanket from her bag. As soon as I saw the wide stripes of bold color I knew we were making the same blanket. I pulled out my own unfinished baby blanket to show her and she laughed in surprise and delight.
It was a funny but pleasant way to be reminded of our friendship, and at least I know she's going to like it!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cantaloupe & Cucumber Salad

This salad is a very welcome sign that my creativity in the kitchen (that has been sorely lacking lately) has returned!
I had some cooked quinoa and pearl barley in the fridge leftover from making tabbouleh, some juicy ripe cantaloupe that was begging to be eaten and just had this feeling that they could make up a great salad somehow.
I added some chopped cucumber, cilantro, sea salt, pepper, lime juice and a little olive oil and the result was the most refreshing summer salad.Pin It

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spicy Dilly Beans

This is one of the first preserves of mine that I've tasted so far this season (other than jams) and I'm in pickle heaven! I've never eaten pickled green beans before let alone made them, so this was all very new to me. However I do really love pickles in general and could never say no to a green bean put in front of me so it really just made sense.
They're crispy, salty, sour (everything that makes a perfect pickle) plus they're really spicy, which just takes them to the next level of snacking.
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Jam Filled Cornmeal Biscuits

These are my new favourite vehicle for jam. I was truthfully not expecting these little gems to be so incredibly tasty. They're the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and wonderfully textured due to the cornmeal (also they're not as guilt as inducing as those thumbprint cookies). I'm currently eating them for breakfast with my morning coffee but I think they are going to taste quite delicious next to some cheese or even charcuterie. Also the thought of filling them with a slightly more savoury preserve like a chutney or hot pepper jelly has got me quite excited.
Do yourself a favour and head over to 101 Cookbooks, which is Heidi Swanson (author of Super Natural Everyday)'s blog and make these ASAP.
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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Raspberry Jam with Mint

I've been OBSESSED with Liana Krissoff's new book "Canning for a new generation" lately and have a pantry full of preserves to prove it.
So far I've made spicy dilly beans, pickled radishes, four types of strawberry jam, cherry & red currant jam, roasted red peppers (I've always wanted to preserve these, so exciting!), and now the most amazing raspberry jam ever.

Still on the list of things I'd like to can are: spicy pickled carrots, peach & raspberry jam, plum cardamom jam, tomato sauce (hubby has deduced we need 40 500ml jars to get us through winter, yikes!) various salsas and chutneys and BBQ sauce. Phew! I'm going to be busy.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Buttermilk Soda Bread

With only a few days left with my library lent copy of "Super Natural Everyday" I figured I ought to try and squeeze in a few more of Swanson's recipes.
As soon as I had read about her Rye Soda bread I knew it was time to get back into the habit of bread baking.
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Bean & Corn Salad

I know you probably won't believe me when I say I've been lacking some serious kitchen inspiration lately, but it's true!
Despite the stack of cookbooks on my dining table, hoards of bookmarked recipes on my computer, and a fridge full of local produce just begging to be eaten, I just can't seem to get excited about cooking lately.
Actually I should rephrase that. I haven't been excited about "everyday" cooking (such as making myself and my husband healthy and delicious lunches everyday). Planning meals for dinner has been less of a problem, thanks to cooking classes I've been taking with the Feisty Chef. But for the food we eat during the hours of 11am - 4pm, I've been drawing a blank.

Last night I finally mustered up the motivation to inspire myself and I weeded through recipes I've bookmarked for the last few years and found some new ones I haven't tried, namely this one.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Recycled Stripes & Florals

Another round of recycled garments! I hope you are enjoying these transformations as much as I am. 
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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies

It feels almost wrong to make these cookies in the summer. Like they're supposed to be baked when you're looking for ways to bring the taste of summer to the dead of winter, and when your body can handle a little fattening up due to their rich buttery goodness.

But here I am in the middle of summer, excitedly trying out some of my newest preserves with these quick and simple cookies.
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