Friday, May 29, 2009

Everything Old Is New Again!

My friend Moira (The Good Egg), told me about her adventures in canning/preserving last year and how nice it was to have her own tomatoes all canned and ready in her cupboards. With the arrival of asparagus at Brooks Farm down the street from us (for a mere $3 you will receive a big bag of asparagus that is so freshly picked, it is often still wet from the field), I decided to try preserving this taste of summer myself! I do freeze the spears and then use them in pasta dishes or soups, but I decided to try dilling them. As well, memories of dilled green beans that my friend in high school and university Leanne, shared with me,danced in my head and on my tastebuds.
Her grandmother used to produce these delectable treats and it got me to thinking about how all these traditional preserving methods have fallen by the wayside as more convenience foods have flooded the market. Apparently with the economy and awareness of our food production and movement toward organic, locally grown, seasonal produce, canning has made a comeback! So I am not alone...

Armed with the "Bernardin Guide To Home Preserving" book, my new canning kettle, utensils and rack, along with jars and lids, I embarked on the joys of canning. I was actually quite nervous as this is completely new to me - my Mum made green apple chutney when I was quite young, and my grandmothers lived in England so I didn't learn this at anyone's elbow! I read and reread the recipe, bought the required ingredients and voila! I now am the proud owner of several jars of dilled green beans with garlic, dilled green beans with garlic and red peppers, dilled garlic pickle slices, dilled asparagus with red peppers and dilled green and wax beans. One jar didn't process properly, but as the Bernardin book promised, once popped back into boiling water and reboiled for 15 minutes did the trick!

Now when I go food shopping, or look ahead to my summer CSA basket, I am thinking of ways that I can preserve all these wonderful fruits and veggies so that we can enjoy them when they are out of season!!
Here is a recipe for dilled beans that I got from my Bernardin book. If you are interested in dilling asparagus, just substitute asparagus spears for the beans.
2.2 lbs (1 kg) of green beans
2.2 lbs (1 kg) of yellow beans
3 small red peppers, sliced into thin strips
3 cups each of white vinegar and water (distilled is best but if your water is hard like ours, just add an extra 1/2 cup of vinegar to avoid cloudy brine)
3 tbsp pickling salt
18 peppercorns
3 tsp dill seeds, or 6 sprigs of fresh dill
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and whole
  • Place 6 clean 5oo mL mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat to a simmer. Set screw bands aside; heat SNAP lids in hot water, NOT boiling. Keep jars and SNAP lids hot until ready to use.
  • Wash and trim beans (or asparagus spears). Cut into jar-length pieces (as I only wanted the tips, I put all the rest of the asparagus stalk, minus the woody ends that I snapped off, into a freezer bag for future use).
  • In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine vinegar, water and pickling salt. Bring to a boil. Add beans and pepper strips; return mixture to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Place 3 peppercorns, 1/2 tsp dill seed or 1 sprig of fresh dill, and 1 clove garlic in each jar. Fill jar with beans.
  • Pack prepared vegetables into a hot jar within 3/4" of top rim. Add hot liquid (brine) to cover vegetables to within 1/2" of top rim.
  • Using a non-metallic utensil (I used a wooden spoon handle until I realized the Bernardin kit had a utensil included!), remove air bubbles by moving beans a little. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Cetnre SNAP lid on jar; apply screw band securely and firmly until resistance is met - fingertip tight. DO NOT OVERTIGHTEN. Place jar in canner; repeat for remaining vegetables and hot liquid.
  • Cover canner; bring water to a boil, process for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove jars without tilting. Cool upright, undisturbed for 24 hours.
  • DO NOT RETIGHTEN SCREW BANDS. After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward.
  • Remove screw bands; wipe and dry bands and jars. Replace loosely on jars or store separately.
  • Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.
  • ENJOY!!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Taste of Spring!

After watching Devon's first soccer practice, Greg and I decided to have a quiet steak dinner together. I needed a fast side dish (and because it is springtime I wanted simple and fresh - because that's what I equate with springtime cooking!) I had purchased new potatoes and a variety of fresh herbs (luckily this year they are included in our CSA baskets so I won't need to buy the pre-packed type for much longer!!!) I created these potatoes that tasted fantastic and complimented our steaks perfectly!



1 1/2 lbs new potatoes
1/2 tsp dried dill
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
1 tbsp freshly chopped chives (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • Wash potatoes and peel a narrow strip of the skin around the middle of them. Place potatoes in pot of water with 1" of water covering them, and add the dried dill. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to medium heat and cook for approximately 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Drain and return to pot. Combine the butter, lemon juice and fresh herbs and drizzle over the cooked potatoes. Stir gently to combine, without breaking the potatoes up.
  • Dust with freshly ground pepper and enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes...With Advocado and Cauliflower?!

I am a HUGE fan of deceiving my children...when it comes to their food that is! That's why after seeing Jessica Seinfeld on television promoting her cookbook "Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food", I knew I had to buy it. Most of these recipes my children love and don't even realize that they are getting hearty portions of veggies and fruit along with their old faves!
I made this for after school snacks and they gobbled them up!



1 cup advocado puree
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup nonfat milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 lrg egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 8oz pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup cauliflower puree
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray, line with baking cups, or use a silicone one like I have.

  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the advocado puree, sugar, milk, vanilla, and vinegar until smooth. Beat in the egg whites one at a time, just until incorporated.

  • Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix until smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes are lightly browned and spring back to the touch - 15 to 20 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting them.

  • For the frosting, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, cauliflower puree, vanilla, and salt until smooth. Spread over the cooled cupcakes.

  • Store the cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to a month.

  • ENJOY!

Toffee Apple Tart with Vanilla Crust

This was one of those happy accidents...I was telling my friend Moira (The Good Egg blogger) about how amazing this dessert was, and she said that I should post it...and we all know that I have been a little remiss about blogging lately, so here it is!
Greg was making dessert for Mother's Day and decided that since we had apples, he would make Jamie Oliver's "Toffee Apple Tart" from his 'Jamie's Dinners' cookbook. Of course he didn't read the instructions properly and took the lids off of the cans of condensed milk and didn't put a lid on the pot of simmering water that they were set in after three hours we had a little bit of toffee, and lots of warm gooey condensed milk (I was ready to just dig in with a spoon, but Greg stopped me...darn!!!) So he went to the Eagle Brand cookbook and combined the two recipes to make ONE FANTASTIC TART!!! Everyone at the table commented on how this was definitely one of Greg's best desserts I said, a happy accident!!!



1 vanilla bean
5 tbsp butter
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups flour
zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp cold milk


1 can of condensed milk
4 medium sized apples; peeled, quartered and finely sliced
2 heaping tbsp of powdered sugar
1 pkg cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

  • Score the vanilla bean down the length of the pod. Scrape the seeds out by using the back of your knife. Cream together the butter, powdered sugar and salt and then rub in the flour, vanilla seeds, lemon zest and egg yolks - you can do this by hand or in a food processor. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk. Pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough, then flour it lightly and roll into a large sausage shape (don't work it too much otherwise it will become elastic and chewy!) Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Remove it from the fridge and roll into a tart pan. Place the tart pan and dough in the freezer for an hour.

  • Toss the sliced apples with the powdered sugar. Remove the pastry base from the freezer and place the apples on top.

  • In a large mixing bowl beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add the condensed milk, eggs and vanilla; beat until smooth. Pour mixture over the apples.

  • Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes.

  • ENJOY!!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Greek Lemon-Roasted Potatoes

Whenever I need a starchy side dish, I must admit that I often seem to be a one-trick pony ... I usually whip up my Greek lemon-roasted potatoes! I invariably serve them with a ricotta and spinach flan or chicken souvlaki, but they are great with any dish that you would serve potatoes beside.
They are super-easy to make, full of flavour, go with almost anything and are great the next day for lunch at room temperature! Try them - they'll soon become a family favourite in your house I bet!



4lbs of potatoes (I tend to use Yukon Golds), peeled and cut into 1" dice
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp Kosher salt
1/2 cup EVOO
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Heat the oven to 500F.

  • Toss the potatoes with the lemon juice, EVOO, salt, pepper and oregano. Put into a casserole dish.

  • Add the water to the casserole dish and place in the oven.

  • Bake for 50 minutes, keeping an eye on the potatoes and stirring to ensure even browning.

  • ENJOY!