Friday, October 30, 2009

The End of the Summer CSA Program

Well it has finally reached the end of the growing season - all the leaves have dropped, there is a chill in the air and all the fields have been ploughed and garlic for next year has been planted at "Cooper's CSA Farm & Maze".

It was a tough growing season with all the rain and lack of sunlight. It really made me appreciate what is involved with farming and what it must have been like before the advent of industrial farms with acres of greenhouses, and monocultures to ensure there is baby spinach available all year round. Mostly though, it made me proud to be involved with a farm that is bucking what is now considered convention, and farming in a natural and seasonal manner.

If we stop and think about it, we really shouldn't be able to obtain baby spinach all year round. It should be something special and anticipated in the early springtime, along with asparagus and tender salad greens. At this time of year, we should be enjoying the wide variety of squashes, root vegetables and cabbages & Brussels sprouts. Sadly, it seems we have become hooked on eating whatever we want, whenever we want at the expense of our health and the environment. The heat required by the expansive greenhouses to ensure the baby spinach is provided with an optimal growing temperature, not to mention the chemicals that are required to ensure that these baby greens survive packaging, shipping and storing, should far outweigh our need for them...but it doesn't usually. Out of sight, out of mind is something many of us (myself included) are often guilty of. It's not until we have an Ecoli breakout caused through contaminated water in a foreign country that we stop to consider that the baby spinach we are eating on our salad plate is produced in countries where there aren't strict regulations and growing practices, and where our demand is causing many of these to be overlooked all in the name of economy. Sadly our desire for items (not only foodstuffs) have caused the standards in many countries to slip. Faster, in greater quantities and cheaper, are what drive the economy, and we tend to forget the human and environmental factor linked to our desires.

Recently we were sent a survey from my CSA farm asking some questions regarding the past CSA season. Talking with Steve & Lisa Cooper I discovered that people were complaining that they didn't receive lettuces past the first month or so of the program! These same people complained that they were receiving potatoes (of which this year was one of the best harvest years for potatoes that Steve could remember and was really excited about), cabbage, Swiss chard, and Brussels sprouts in the later boxes. I find this astonishing and telling of the lack of education of the general populus regarding natural growing seasons, nutritious food preparation and the produce available at different times of the year, and it made me a little sad. These same people said they enjoyed the fact that they received a wide variety of vegetables in their boxes and that they appreciate that Steve & Lisa use natural and sustainable farming methods, and use no or low spray...yet these people really, when it boils down to it, just want to receive cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and salad greens.

Perhaps instead of focussing on educating adults about nutrition and eating seasonally and locally, more emphasis should be placed on educating the young. We have become to disassociated with the land that adults are unable to pass on this valuable information to children. It's not enough to demonstrate healthy eating, it should go deeper to demonstrate responsible eating.

Get out to your local farm and rediscover what it means to truly eat locally and seasonally. Adjust your eating habits to include produce that you've never heard of before - oftentimes it is more nutritionally sound than your regular fare, and will awaken your tastebuds! If we are able to spend time online researching the latest ipod accessories, or which car we are going to buy, then we surely have time to search for methods of preparing Jerusalem artichokes, tomatillos or Swiss chard, right??

Braised Red Cabbage

Admittedly I didn't grow up eating cabbage and have only started enjoying it for about the past 5 years ~ and I've discovered that I LOVE it! Savoy is my favourite and I use it in a pasta dish quite frequently, and I love green cabbage for salad etc., but when I received a red cabbage in my CSA box I was a little flummoxed! I hadn't really used one outside of grating it into a coleslaw. So I turned to my trusty reference site and found this simple and easy recipe that requires 5 ingredients (6 if you decide to top it with crumbled goat's cheese like I did!) and tastes fantastic! It's sweet and tart while the goat's cheese juxtaposes the slight crunch of the cabbage, perfectly!

1 head chopped red cabbage
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp butter
2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • Heat the white wine vinegar, water, butter and the sugar together in an ovenproof casserole dish (I used my enamelled cast iron baking dish whose lid can handle the high heat in an oven), until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the cabbage and stir till it's coated with the vinegar mixture.
  • Cover and braise in an oven at 325F for 2 hours, stirring every half an hour or so to ensure even cooking.
  • Remove from oven, transfer to a serving and dish and crumble creamy goat's cheese over top (optional).
  • ENJOY!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maple Tree Cake

Another one of my 'experiments' that turned out really well! I decided to make this cake for Saturday's dinner with Dave, Siobhan and the kids - it was relatively easy except for the fact that my cake pans were too large so I ran out of icing and had to press Skor pieces around the edge! A perfect fall cake as it has the woody and sweet flavour of maple syrup as well as dried fruits on top!
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups sour cream
2 tsp maple flavouring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
Dash of salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips (could just as easily use butterscotch)
2 tbsp dried cranberries
2 tbsp golden raisins
2 tbsp chopped dried apricots
2 tbsp chopped dried apples
  • In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar. Add sour cream and maple flavouring. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; add to sour cream mixture and mix well. Fold in pecans.
  • Pour into 2 greased and floured 9" round baking pans. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean.
  • Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
  • For frosting, in a bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar. Add syrup and mix well. Spread between layers and over top and sides of cake.
  • In a microwave safe bowl, melt chocolate and peanut butter chips; stir until smooth. Transfer to a pastry or a heavy-duty reusable plastic bag; cut a small hole in the corner of the bag. Pipe a tree and branches on top of cake. Combine dried fruits and sprinkle around tree base and at ends of branches to resemble fall leaves.
  • Serve & ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanksgiving Dessert

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will already know that I am a little fearful of baking - although I absolutely adore cooking but feel anxious when it comes to baking (so much so that I am more than happy to leave it to our family master-baker, Greg!) But this Thanksgiving I decided to flex my baking muscle and made the two desserts you see in the photo above...and they were DELICIOUS (not to mention easy!!) I hope you enjoy them as well.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 pkgs (8oz each) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 medium tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • In a small bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add flour, oats, walnuts, and cinnamon until well-blended. Press onto the bottom and 1 1/2" up the sides of a greased 9" springform pan.
  • Place ona baking sheet. Bake at 325F for 10 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack.
  • In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in milk and juice concentrate until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined (batter will be thin). Pour into crust.
  • Return pan to baking sheet. Bake at 325F for 40 - 45 minutes or until centre is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before carefully runnign a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer.
  • In a large skillet, cook and stir apples in butter over medium heat until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Arrange over cheesecake.
  • In a small saucepan, combine the cornstarch, cinnamon and juice concentrate until smooth. Bring to a boil. reduce heat; cook and stir for 1 minute, or until thickened. Immediately brush over apples.
  • Refrigerate for 1 hour or unitl chilled. Remove sides of pan and serve.



1 medium pie pumpkin

2 tbsp sugar

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon, divided

1/3 cup vanilla or white chips

2 tbsp milk

1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

1/3 cup solid pack pumpkin

1 tsp grated orange peel

1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks

  • Cut top off pumpkin; scoop out and discard seeds. In a small bowl, combine sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon; sprinkle inside of pumpkin. Replace pumpkin top. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 25-30 minutes or until crisp tender. Cool on a wire rack.
  • Meanwhile, microwave vanilla chips with milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  • In a bowl, beat cream cheese and confectioners' sugar until smooth. Beat in the pumpkin, orange peel, reserved chocolate and remaining cinnamon. Fold in whipped cream. Remove pumpkin top. Spoon mousse into pie pumpkin and serve.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

I had torn this recipe out of my "Canadian Living" magazine back in 2005, but had never actually got to making I decided this Thanksgiving was high time! We had visited "Siloam Orchards" (if you have a chance to ever visit this farm it's located northwest of Uxbridge and they grown heirloom apples, farm maple syrup and use 100% organic spray - I know because Greg doesn't go anaphalactic when he eats one!) and had a ton of apples so in place of a McIntosh, I used Honey Golds...delicious!!
This is great with turkey of course, but also equally as good with ham or chicken!
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
1 pkg fresh cranberries
1 McIntosh apple, peeled and diced
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch, each, salt and pepper

  • In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; saute onion, stirring occasionally for 4 minutes.

  • Add cranberries, apple, brown sugar, vinegar, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring twice, until sauce it thick enough to mound on a spoon (approximately 12 minutes).

  • Add salt and pepper. Discard cinnamon stick and serve!
This can be served either warm or room temperature! We added some to room temperature goat's cheese and had it on baguette with some smoked pheasant and it was DELICIOUS! It adds just the right amount of sweetness to either smoky or spicy flavours.

Swiss & Gruyere Breakfast Souffle

For Thanksgiving we had our friends Dave, Siobhan and their children come and stay (and now that Greg has built us a guest house, it's so much easier to accomodate guests!!) Since Sunday was going to be our big turkey dinner evening, I wanted something quick and delicious for breakfast that I could prepare ahead of time. It was SO good that I made another one this past weekend and took it to Tremblant Girls' Weekend!!
8 to 10 slices of French loaf, torn into pieces (another nice addition would be brioche or challah!)
5 eggs
2 cups milk, divided
1/2 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 lb of pork sausage meat
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted (or 1 cup thick homemade white sauce with 1/2 cup sauteed mushrooms)
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup shredded Emmenthaler Swiss cheese
  • Arrange bread in an ungreased 13" x 9" baking dish. Whisk together eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, and seasonings. Pour over the bread and set aside.
  • Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook sausage meat over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain and then spoon evenly over the bread.
  • Combine the soup with the cheeses and remaining milk, and spread evenly over the sausage.
  • Bake, uncovered at 350F for 45-50 mins, or until the top is puffed and the centre appears set. Let stand for 5 mins before serving.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Green Onion Drop Biscuits

I wanted something quick and easy to go along with our chili for dinner and I opened up the "Taste of Home Fall Baking" magazine and these delicious little gems called to me! They are beyond easy and contain items that are commonly found in your treat yourself and your family and make these tonight because they are beyond tasty!


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp cold butter
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, onions, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I usually use my fingers instead of a knife!)

  • Combine egg and buttermilk; stir into crumb mixture just until moistened.

  • Drop by 1/4 cupfuls 2" apart onto a greased baking sheet (or line it with parchment paper or use a non-stick sheet).

  • Bake at 400F for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

  • Serve warm alongside a soup or chili or even a salad!

*If you don't have buttermilk on hand, just add 1 tbsp of lemon juice to regular 2% milk and let it sit for a few minutes. Stir and it will be thickened and tart like buttermilk! *

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Four Fabulous Fall Soups!!

When the weather starts getting cooler during the day and the leaves are tinged with yellows and reds, I start to think of soups again. Although I enjoy cold soups in the summertime, there's really nothing like a warm bowl of hearty soup with some freshly baked bread in my mind!!

I had fully stocked my freezer with chili, but my ready-to-eat soups were I pulled out my FAVOURITE soup book, "400 Best-Ever Soups" by Anne Sheasby, and got to work. I decided to use up whatever I had in my pantry, cupboards and refrigerator and found these delicious recipes that I hope you will enjoy too!
3 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2lbs parsnips, peeled and diced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chili powder
5 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cup light cream
  • Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the chopped onion and parsnips and saute for approximately 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the spices and cook for 1 minute more, or until fragrant.
  • Add the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  • Cool slightly and then puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  • Return to the pot and add the cream, heating gently.
  • Put into bowls and garnish with fresh coriander...ENJOY!



1 lb ripe Italian plum tomatoes (although I used grape tomatoes), halved lengthwise

1 large red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise and seeded

1 large red onion, quartered

2 garlic cloves

1 tbsp olive oil

5 cups vegetable stock

pinch of granulated sugar

1 cup small pasta

salt and ground pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 375F and spread out the tomatoes, garlic, onions and peppers on a roasting pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred. Turn them halfway through the cooking time to ensure even roasting.
  • Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor and add 1 cup of stock. Process until pureed. Scrape into a sieve and press the puree through into a Dutch oven. Discard the solids.
  • Add the remaining stock , sugar and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil.
  • Add the pasta and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until al dente. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

*You can roast the vegetables in advance, allow them to cool then leave them in a covered bowl in the refrigerator overnight before pureeing*



3 large leeks

1/4 cup butter

2 tbsp oil

4oz blue cheese (if I had Cashel blue I would have used an Irish cheese)

2 tbsp all purpose flour

1 tbsp wholegrain Irish mustard

6 1/4 cups chicken stock

ground black pepper

  • Slice the leeks thinly. Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven and add the oil. Gently saute the leeks in the oil and butter until softened, but not brown.
  • Grate the cheese (or crumble it like I did!), and add it to the pot, stirring over a low heat until it is melted. Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add ground black pepper and mustard to taste.
  • Gradually add the stock, stirring constantly and blending it in well. Bring the soup to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
  • ENJOY!



1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsp curry powder

3 3/4 cups vegetable stock

1 tsp chopped fresh sage (or 1/4 tsp of dried)

2/3 cup apple juice

salt and pepper

  • Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven, over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the curry powder. Cook to bring out the flavour and stir constantly for 2 minutes.
  • Add the stock, squash, apple and sage. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the squash and apples are soft.
  • Puree the soup in blender or food processor. Return to the pot and add the apple juice. Taste and season accordingly.
  • ENJOY!