Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dinner Party Delights for the Holidays


For me, this month has felt like a complete blur.  It's been a whirlwind of busy, non-stop working, studying and getting ready for my new job and I guess the holidays, which, OMG are just around the corner.  One week away today! What the...!?  Okay, don't let panic set in just yet.  Fortunately I took full advantage of my time off and finished nearly all of my Christmas shopping before December 3rd.  I even got a dinner party out of the way and now it's all about juggling last minute details (and last minute gifts).

If you're stuck in a crunch and need some holiday decorating or dinner party meal ideas here are just a few I share with you ...

Above Photo: My centerpiece candle wreath.  I used the same jars I made last year to decorate the table.  I placed an over-large candle in the center of a basket, added the Christmas jars, a few pine cones and voila.  A simple, quick centerpiece wreath.


A "snowman" place setting for each guest at our dinner party. I found this idea online, somewhere ... but now can't remember where for the life of me.  I thought it was such a neat idea and so simple but clever. Our guests loved it!

Snowman Dinner setting: Large plate, small plate for the head, black napkins and dinner knife for the top hat, fork and spoon for the arms, napkin for the scarf, and chocolate eyes and carrot nose.


Our Christmas tree is very red this year.  Yep, that's a red tree ... it wasn't intentional but I wasn't paying attention really while I was decorating. By the time I realized it, it was too late.  For anyone who has decorated a tree before you know, once you have those lights and ornaments on, there is just no turning back (not until after January 1st).
  
4

Carrot Upside-Down Tart
Original recipe from The Vegetable Cookbook, p. 104

1 lb young carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tbsp organic honey
3 1/2 tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
1 small bunch fresh thyme, chopped
12 oz ready-made puff pastry, thawed if frozen
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Cool the carrots in a saucepan of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, until just tender.  Drain, toss with the honey, butter, and thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon over the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan or round cake pan with a depth of about 1 1/4 inches and roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the carrots are caramelized.

3.  Roll the pastry out onto a floured work surface into a round large enough to fit the pan and with an extra 3/4 inch edge.  Lay the  pastry carefully over the carrots and tuck the edge down between the carrots and the side of the pan to make a border.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and turn out upside down onto a plate.  Serve immediately.



I also made, what may have been one my best cupcake recipes yet, vanilla/peppermint marble cupcakes and vanilla/pomegranate marble cupcakes (these were the best!).  I simply took a regular vanilla cupcake recipe, followed the steps as usual but then divided the batter to make a pomegranate flavoured batch to swirl into the vanilla.  I then did the same for the peppermint marble.


Topping each pomegranate-vanilla cupcake with real pomegranates was a perfect touch. Using festive red and green colours made these really perfect for a Christmas dinner party!

Christmas is less then one week away ... better get baking!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Soooooo many Root Vegetables!


This just in, still in season, soooooo many root vegetables and brassicas!  The nice thing about these vegetables is that they make great comfort foods too ... as soups, tarts, baked, and roasted.  My favourite is of course roasted vegetables. There is just something really nice about a fresh batch of mixed roasted root vegetables like sweet potato, turnips, parsnips, and carrots.


A vegetable I just added to my kitchen this year, which up until now I admittedly never heard about, is kohlrabi. What is it exactly? Well exactly, it's a perennial vegetable that is a stout cultivar of cabbage and tastes similar to broccoli.  To me, it's just another interesting, delicious and nutritious vegetable I can add to my repertoire and enjoy.


I added the kohlrabi to this roasted vegetable dish (above) which I seasoned with a olive oil, a bit of sea salt, black pepper, and dried dill.  Roasted chopped vegetables at 350F for about 35-40 minutes.  The vegetables I used here include: carrots, sweet potato, kohlrabi, black turnips, and parsnips.

There are only so many ways to roast vegetables but I always enjoy them, they make a perfect side dish and can be a healthy alternative to fried potatoes or salty snacks.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Soooooo Many Beets!

This season on the farm we had so many beets! I mean WAY more beets then any one person can handle, even me, and I love beets! However, I have been doing my very best to find many ways to prepare beets and stumbled upon this one, which is of course one of my favourite ways...because everything tastes better with chocolate!

 

Beet Chocolate Cupcakes
Original recipe from Fat Free Vegan

1 large beet
water
unsweetened apple sauce
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1.5 cup org
anic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon



1. Peel and dice one large beet. Place the pieces in a saucepan with water to cover and boil until soft.  Allow the beets to cool, and then drain them, reserving the red water for another purpose.

2. Put the drained beets into the food processor with 1/4 cup (clear) water, and process until pureed.

3. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.

4. Put the pureed beets into a 2-cup measure. Add enough apple sauce to reach the 2-cup line.

5. Add the 2 tablespoons water (or more, depends on the consistency, should be a thick liquid), vanilla extract, and apple cider to the beets and mix well.

6.  Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the beet mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until well-combined.

7. Bake for about 22 - 24 minutes. Test by inserting a toothpick into the center; it’s done when the toothpick comes out clean.

8. Allow to cool completely before icing.  I used vegan icing which I dyed red using the red beet juice.

Decorate as you please and serve!



Enjoy!


Friday, November 16, 2012

Broccoli Disguised as a Muffin!


Ever since I saw this recipe on Etsy, probably about a year ago, I have wanted to try it ... and I finally did! I am SO glad I did too, the recipe worked out very well! I substituted butter for canola oil but they were still very delicious and I kept the eggs, using organic free-run eggs.

Savoury Broccoli Cakes
Original recipe from Etsy

12 trimmed broccoli florets
1/2 cup canola oil (original recipe called for 1 cup + 2 tbsp of butter, softened)
1/4 cup sugar
4 large free-run eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup organic flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Daiya cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Bring a pot of water to the boil and blanch the broccoli florets for about 3 minutes, then rinse well in cold water to stop the cooking. Dry each floret well with paper towels and set aside.

Mix the oil and sugar together until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, turmeric, cayenne and salt, and add this into the wet ingredients as well.

Fold in the grated cheese last with a spatula.

Place one heaping tablespoonful of batter in the bottom of each muffin case, then stand a single broccoli floret in each muffin case, and top with the remaining batter.

Spread the batter over the top of each floret roughly, it doesn't have to be perfect.

Bake the cakes for approximately 25-28 minutes, until golden brown and hard to the touch.

Allow the cakes to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.  Best served the same day.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pizza Night Delight!


Pizza is and forever will be my most favourite all-time food, in fact, my most favourite comfort food! Especially now that I have found an amazing and simple crust recipe that is light, soft and so delicious.  No pizza party night must go without this crust recipe ... I don't know who Jay is but he sure knows his pizza crust.


Jay's Signature Pizza Crust
Original recipe from Allrecipes.com

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp organic cane sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour  

1. In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and brown sugar in the warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes. 

2. Stir the salt and oil into the yeast solution.

3. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour to the mixture and mix until doughy.

4. Turn dough out onto a clean, well floured surface, and knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky.

5. Place the dough into a well oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let the dough rise until double; this should take about 1 hour.

6. After an hour, punch down the dough and form a tight ball. Allow the dough to relax for a minute before rolling out.

When the dough is ready, make for your favorite pizza recipe!

7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). NOTE: If you are baking your pizza in a pan, lightly oil the pan, and let the dough rise for 15 or 20 minutes before topping it and then bake it.

9. Bake pizza until the cheese and crust are golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes.




Enjoy!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Moring Brunch: Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes


One of my favourite things about Sunday mornings, is having time to make a lovely breakfast.  I especially love when I can try something new, like this morning, I made delicious lemon poppy seed pancakes.  They were perfect for breakfast, light, fluffy and just the right amount of lemony.

Lemon Poppy Seed Pancakes
Original recipe is from Jae Steele's book, Ripe from Around Here

2 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup almond milk
3 tbsp agave nectar
1 tbsp coconut or sunflower oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of one organic lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice (from about one lemon)

1. Mix together the flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt.

2. In another bowl mix together the milk, agave, oil, and vanilla.

3. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients until just mixed.

4. Fold in the lemon zest and juice until just combined.

5. Pour spoonfuls of the batter onto a lightly oiled hot skillet and cook on medium heat until golden brown on both sides.


Enjoy!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Pickling Radishes

Yep. I'm still at it. Well, trying to be anyway, still trying to preserve and learn how to preserve as much food as I can. This week: radishes!  I also learned this week, that I actually like the taste of radishes, at least the ones from the farm, because up until now I always believed I hated them.  It just goes to show you, always try news things and even old because you never know your taste might change!

Pickling and Preserving Radishes
The original recipe can be found Grow It Cook It Can It but because I didn't have all of the ingredients I had to tweak my recipe a bit (see below).


Ingredients
- About 2 bunches of radishes
- 1 cup Pinot Grigio white wine
- 1 cup  white vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig sage 
- 1/2 tsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 tbsp. pickling salt
- 1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
A few pinches of pickling spice mix for each mason jar


1. In a pot, combine all of the ingredients except the radishes.

2. Bring everything to a boil and then let simmer for about five minutes to infuse the brine with the fresh herbs.

3. Remove brine from heat and let it cool down enough so that it is just warm or cool but not hot - boiling hot water could cook that radishes and you don’t want that.


4. In the meantime, cut the radishes into smaller pieces so that they fit into your jars. You can cut them into halves, quarters, wedges or rounds.

5. Add a few pinches of the pickling spice mix into each jar. Pack the radishes into clean quart or 1/2 litre jars.

6. Strain the cooked brine to discard herbs.

7. Pour the brine over the radish in the jars. Screw on the lid and store in the fridge for up to 1 month. 

The radishes take about three days to taste properly pickled.

Enjoy!

Do you have a great pickling recipe you'd like to share?
I would love to hear it, please message me or leave a comment!
 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Be a Farmer, at Least Once in Your Life ...

... Because then I believe everyone would have a greater appreciation for their food and where it comes from.  At least I know that I do, especially now that I have experienced what it is like to be an organic farmer in Ontario.  My experience wasn't that long and wasn't even during the hottest days of Summer, but it was enough to learn that farming is very tough work and sometimes, with very little pay out.  The difference to me is, it's work worth doing, it's important work that at the end of the day you can feel good knowing that you are contributing something great to your community. You are part of something bigger ... the system of feeding cities! Farmers are so very important!

My experience working on ManoRun Organic Farm has made me more excited about the possibility of being a farmer myself one day.  I am excited, nervous, anxious, and eager to be part of a system that provides healthy, organic produce to people. Despite the struggles and back-breaking work, I still believe organic farming would be worth doing one day.

At least for now, it is an experience that I will take with me and cherish.  I have also made it my goal to be back farming in some shape or form next season.



I experienced a great bounty from ManoRun each week, one that tasted better then anything I ever bought at the grocery store.  Organic Farmer's markets are definitely the way to go for fresh, local produce.


I got to watch things grow, transform and take shape each week ...


...and die when the frost hit.  Experiencing the cycle of living plants from start to finish is pretty amazing.


One of my most favourite experiences of all, was meeting and interacting with some wonderful farm animals ... my favourite of course being, the cows.


I gained valuable farm and growing knowledge, and learned some new techniques.


Working with equipment, something up until now I pretty much never did, is something I got to do on the farm, experimenting with different farm machinery.


I got to watch new and exciting projects develop from start to finish, like ManoRun's new pond.


Although I never did witness the birth of these piglets, it was an amazing and beautiful surprise to see them the next morning, after weeks of of waiting and feeding their mama.


As a bonus, I also made some very good friends, people and pets!


For more information on how you can work on a farm:  


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Fun-Filled Halloween Weekend!


Halloween is always my favourite time of year, and like every year it usually involves me running around like a crazy person, trying to get everything done for our party right down to the last detail.  This year was no exception, we went all out and it was amazing!

The theme this year: Classic Scary Movies! My only regret, is that I didn't take better photos or get enough photos.  On the plus side however, we did capture a lot of video footage.  Nonetheless, the important thing is that everyone had a great time and the food was delicious.

Thankfully this year I had some amazing produce to choose from, from ManoRun Organic Farm, some pictured above: black radishes, baby carrots and young parsnips.


Our food table, with a film projector, crows, spiders, snakes, worms and more ... luckily, those were not  the edible bits.  What we did have on the menu: chocolate cupcakes, crackers and veggies with hummus, roasted root vegetables, nachos and salsa, sangria, figs, prunes, candied pecans, and of course, more chocolate!


I thought our sangria dispenser (in the far back of photo above) with fake floating fingers inside was a nice touch. The food I kept simple yet dark and delightful. I tried to use dark coloured food or orange to add some Halloween "creepiness" to the table. Example, black olives and prunes, blue nacho chips, roasted dark root vegetables, red beets, etc.


And no party would be complete without some cupcakes! Chocolate vegan cupcakes with orange colored vanilla icing.


An idea I learned from the Martha Stewart website: glue fake black spiders to toothpicks as added decoration to the table, or to be used for picking up finger foods.

I wish I had more to show, or recipes to share but it was a hectic week/end for me and unfortunately, as mentioned I didn't get as many photos as I had hoped.  Until next time ...


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Best. Hummus. EVER!


One of my all-time favourite things about Fall is butternut squash, any squash really, but mostly I enjoy butternut.  Finding new recipes for it however, can be a challenge.  Either then turning squash into soup or roasting it, I didn't think there was much else I could do with it. Recently, however, I found a recipe for curried butternut squash hummus ... huh? Weird.  No, not weird, AMAZING! At least that is how I feel now after making it, devouring it and sharing it with every possible person around me.

Not only is this hummus delicious on bread, crackers or with any raw veggies, it was also used to make this delicious vegan lasagna (pictured below, right).


Now, the lasagna recipe is lengthy and time consuming so instead, I share with you the amazing hummus recipe and my green rice recipe (pictured above, left):

Curried Butternut Squash Hummus
Recipe from 500 Vegan Recipes

2 cups chopped roasted butternut squash
15 oz (425g) cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 large-size clove garlic, grated
1 tbsp extra-virigin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
1 heaping tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend together well until smooth.  Adjust flavour as you like it by adding salt and/or pepper or more of less of the other spices and lemon juice.

I also like to add a touch of water to really smooth it out.  Serve with crackers or vegetable sticks.

Green Rice with Kale

1/4 cup Arugula Pesto
3-4 cups cooked jasmine rice
1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped into small pieces
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Serve warm to hot.  Best served as a side dish, even though kale is amazing!


The hummus I made didn't last very long to preserve but I imagine it would freeze pretty well! It would be similar to freezing pureed squash or pumpkin, I think, which I will review next week!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Pickled Carrots


I am definitely loving this pickling/canning kick I'm on.  Next up this week, carrots! The nice thing about carrots, which I didn't know, is that they actually get sweeter when the frost hits. Not only do they not die out from frost, they taste even better from it.

Pickling Carrots
Original recipe from Serious Eats.


What you will need: 

1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed to fit your jars
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
1 tbsp pickling salt
1 tsp dill seed
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic


Bring a small pot of water to a boil in which to blanch the carrots.

Peel carrots and trim to fit jars. Cut into thin sticks.

When the water comes to a boil, drop in the carrots in and cook for about 90 seconds if you plan on canning your carrots.  

When time is up, remove carrots from water and run under cold or ice water to stop the cooking process for about 90 seconds.

 

Prepare two 12-ounce glass jars by placing lids and jars in a boiling hot water for about 2 minutes.  This will sterilize the jars and soften the lids. 

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.



Place spices and garlic cloves into the bottom of the jar or jars.



Pack carrots sticks upright in jars and pour the boiling brine over the carrots, leaving 1/2 inch of head space.

Proceed with your canning instructions or refrigerate to enjoy for the week.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Preserving the Harvest: Arugula Pesto


I for one have never been a big fan of arugula, that is, until now.  Since starting work at ManoRun organic farm I have tried a lot of new things that I now love which has made the experience that much more amazing.  Arugula is one of them.  Besides enjoying it in salad it was suggested to me that it also made for an amazing pesto.  I was skeptical but did my research, found a great recipe online, and now I can't get enough of this stuff!


Vegan Arugula Pesto
Original recipe from Finally Kitchen, serves: 4-6




2 cloves garlic  
1/3 cup raw walnuts, pinenuts or almonds (I did a mix myself)
3 tbs fresh basil, roughly chopped  
2 1/2 ounces baby arugula  
2 tbsp nutritional yeast  
3 tbs olive oil  
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste 


When I made this recipe I actually doubled it and it filled about two and half 250 ml jars, which are great for freezing!
 
Mince the garlic cloves in a food processor, then add the walnuts and pulse until the nuts are chopped. Add all of the remaining ingredients, pulse until evenly blended and creamy.


You may need to scrape the sides of your processor a couple of times to ensure it is mixed well. Season with salt and pepper, serve with crackers, bread or pita, and enjoy!

Do you have amazing pesto recipe that you love?
I would love to hear it! Please leave a comment.
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