Thursday, June 24, 2010

Falafal Times Two!!

Falafal is one of those easy foods to create that is tasty, nutritious, and filling. I love the savoury flavour of it and just recently made a huge batch of them! We had them for dinner in pitas with a variety of vegetables, but I still had tons leftover...Today I decided that both my bags of salad greens needed to be used as well as the falafal ~ ta dah~ falafal 'croutons' on my salad, and wraps made of Boston lettuce!! Could anything be easier?!
1 cup dried chickpeas or 16 oz. can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans.
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying (my favourite is coconut)
  • Place dried chickpeas in a bowl, covering with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Omit this step if using canned beans. Drain chickpeas, and place in pan with fresh water, and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer on low for about an hour. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Combine chickpeas, garlic, onion, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) in medium bowl. Add flour.
  • Mash chickpeas, ensuring to mix ingredients together. You can also combine ingredients in a food processor. You want the result to be a thick paste.
  • Form the mixture into small balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Slightly flatten.
  • Fry in 2 inches of oil until golden brown (5-7 minutes).
  • Serve hot.
  • ENJOY!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Springtime Pasta with Asparagus & Spinach

We received fresh spinach, asparagus, herbs, hot house tomatoes and garlic scapes in our 3rd CSA basket! These ingredients, some chopped onions, a can or romano beans and pasta completed this meal!! The best part is that there was no need for a sauce of any kind as the romano beans are soft and creamy once cooked. When tossed with the pasta, they coated all the ingredients like a sauce!

1 tbsp EVOO
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic scapes finely chopped
6 spears of asparagus snapped into 1" pieces
3 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
2 chopped fresh tomatoes
1 can of Romano beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp of dried oregano
250 g of your favourite pasta (I used rotini so the ingredients would hold on to each piece!)
  • In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta according to directions.
  • Meanwhile, heat EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic scapes, sauteing until soft. Add asparagus, Romano beans, and tomatoes and cook for approx 5 minutes. Add spinach leaves and saute until wilted.
  • Drain pasta and add to the vegetables along with dried oregano. Stir well over medium-high heat to combine all ingredients. Remove from heat and serve with freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste!

My New Pressure Canner & Beef Barley Soup/Hearty Chili

Well I decided, after looking at my brimming freezer full of Cooper's beef, pork and chicken, that I need to figure out another way to preserve these low acid foods. Although I love my freezer, if left too long, meat gets freezer burnt and unusable. Last year I did a tremendous amount of traditional canning and our family and friends have benefited from the wonderful jams, chutneys, sauces and pickles that I why not figure out a way to preserve whole meals and have the ULTIMATE in convenience foods?
I knew about pressure canners from my Bernardin book, but had never actually seen one (the stores are full of pressure cookers, but don't mistake the two!) Foods that are low in acid, such as homemade soups, sauces, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood require heat processing at higher temperatures than that of boiling water to prevent growth of spoilage organisms that can lead to botulism, which is a deadly form of food poisoning. Low acid heat processing times have been established using pressure canners (large vessels). Pressure cookers differ in design and function from pressure canners and are therefore, not suitable for home canning!!
Finally in Canadian Tire I found my 22qt. weighted gauge pressure canner for $129. I balked a little at the price, but then reasoned that I will now be able to create chilis, stews and a variety of soups and have them shelf stable...and at hand to create a nutritious meal for my family in a moment's notice (and frankly my time is definitely worth the money!!)
The nicest thing about pressure canning is that you use such a high temperature to preserve the food, that there's no need to sterilize your jars and lids ~ what a time saver! I just dish washered them and filled them as with normal canning (putting the lids and rings in hot water, wiping down the rims of the jars and then placing the lids on the jars finger tight). The rest was so easy that I wondered what I was worrying about all this time?!
2 tbsp EVOO
1 lb stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1" cubes
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp crumbled dried sage
5 cups homemade beef stock (or low sodium)
1/2 cup red wine
1 can (19oz) chopped tomatoes
2 cups water
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup pearl or pot barley (both are polished and can be used interchangeably)
  • In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Toss the beef cubes with the flour and in batches, brown all over. Transfer each batch to a plate and drain any fat from the pot.
  • Increase heat to high and saute the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme and sage. Stir often for approximately 2 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and light brown.
  • Stir stock and wine into pot and cook for 1 minutes, stirring and scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the beef, tomatoes, water, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 1/2 hrs, or until the beef is tender.
  • Add the barley, cover and simmer for 30 minutes more, or until tender.
  • ENJOY!



4 lbs stewing beef, trimmed and cut into 1/2" cubes

1/4 cup EVOO

3 cups diced onions

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 tbsp chili powder

2 tsp each cumin seed and salt

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp each pepper, ground coriander, crushed red pepper flakes

6 cups undrained and chopped tomatoes

  • In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Brown beef in batches and remove to a plate. Drain excess oil from pot.
  • Saute onions and garlic in pot until soft (1 to 2 minutes). Add remaining spices and cook for 5 minutes. Add beef, tomatoes and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
  • Boil gently, uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • *If canning add the pinto or kidney beans when reheating, otherwise add at this point for 5 to 10 minutes.

If canning jars are warm ensure that the chili or soup is hot, otherwise both are to be room temperature. Place rack in the bottom of the pressure canner and add the recommended amount of hot water for warm jars, or room temperature water for cooler jars, to the bottom of the canner. After wiping the rims of the jars and firmly tightening the lids, place the jars on the rack. If you have enough 500mL jars to be processed, place a second rack on top of the first layer of jars and continue placing the jars in the canner. Tighten the lid and follow the manufacturers instructions for venting (10 minutes without gauge, then add gauge at the appropriate pressure). Process 500mL jars for 75 minutes, or 1L jars for 90 minutes. Once processing is complete, shut off the heat and allow the canner to completely cool ~ DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LOOSEN THE LID BY COOLING THE CANNER OR BANGING ON THE LID! Remove jars without tilting and cool upright and undisturbed for 24 hours. DO NOT RETIGHTEN SCREW BANDS!! After cooling check jar seals (which should be curved downwards, or they need to be processed immediately), remove screw bands and wipe dry. Replace bands if desired, label jars and store in a cool, dark place.

*Note: Canned foods should be used within one year of processing - make sure that you rotate your jars to ensure the oldest dates are in the front of your cupboard!

Friday, June 11, 2010

My AWESOME Salad - CSA Week Two

I was so thrilled to get this week's CSA basket since I received an email from Lisa Cooper saying that we were getting spinach!!! As part of my online Booty Camp Challenge, I not only have eliminated refined sugars and dairy from my diet, but also must have one large salad each day (not too difficult with all the great seasonal produce available now!).
Today I was HUNGRY so I created this using almost all the items from my CSA box! I like to call it a deconstructed salad and everything but the balsamic, vinegar, chickpeas and red onion slivers are from Coopers!
I had frozen a chicken from last summer's CSA and recently roasted it up with fresh herbs, EVOO and salt and pepper. I decided to slice some of this delicious cold chicken and poach an egg to put on top of the baby spinach and green leaf lettuce! The cucumbers and chickpeas were topped with red onion slivers and drizzled with white vinegar ~ yummy! I just snapped a few asparagus spears into bite-sized pieces and sliced up one of my hot house tomatoes to finish it off!
I truly love this time of year for all the amazing produce that's readily available!!! I hope you take advantage of it and create your own salad this weekend!!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rhubarb Juice Concentrate

Next to asparagus, rhubarb is that herald of springtime you'll see now in gardens, the farmers markets and stores. The beautiful red stalks shoot up out of the earth with the sole purpose of providing us with wonderful desserts, chutneys and barbecue least I believe that to be true!

I decided to try a new recipe from my canning book that involves extracting the juices from stewed rhubarb to create juice concentrate that can be diluted using water, sparkling water, ginger ale or club soda! My children love it because it is tasty and extremely refreshing! Add some vodka, cassis or gin to the mix and you have a lovely drink to sip in the summer sun!!!

12 cups of chopped rhubarb (1" dice)
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
  • In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine rhubarb and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until rhubarb is soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • Line a large sieve with a couple of layers of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Pour the contents of the saucepan into the sieve and let drip, undisturbed for at least 2 hours.
  • Once all the juice has collected in the bowl, transfer the juice to a large, clean stainless steel saucepan and combine the rhubarb juice with the sugar. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil. Remove from heat and skim off the foam.
  • To reconstitute, mix one part concentrate with one part water, tonic water, ginger ale, or club soda; adjust to suit your taste!

If you are a home preserver like myself, then prepare 4 pint jars (500mL) in your canner and then ladle the hot concentrate into the jars leaving 1/4" headspace. Wipe rim, centre lid on the jar and screw the band down until finger tight. Place jars in canner,ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil, and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 mins, then remove the jars. Cool and store for delicious rhubarb juice all year round!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

My First CSA Basket of Summer!!!

We received our first CSA box from "Cooper's CSA Farm & Maze" yesterday (I picked up early not only because I live across the road, but because the first ones who picked up got fingerlings while the others got russets...not that I don't love a good russet potato, but my son Devon LOVES fingerlings!). The wonderfully warm spring that we're experiencing is obvious! Each box (because I'm greedy and get a double share!) had a big head of green and red lettuce, as well as a bunch of asparagus (nothing says spring more than this delectable member of the lily family in my books!), a massive bunch of sage, thyme and oregano! Then I have included a hot house share so I also received some beautiful, plump, red tomatoes and a cucumber!

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that the main reason we joined this CSA four years ago was because my husband, Greg, is deathly allergic to fungicide. Even organics brought from the USA are bombed with fungicide prior to crossing the border, so he hasn't been able to eat raw vegetables and fruits for close to 13 years (cooking seems to break the chemicals down enough that he can tolerate cooked, thank goodness!). As soon as Greg came home last night and saw all this fresh, gorgeous produce on the counter he said "I hope we're having a HUGE salad tonight...I'm so excited for this!"

Although I didn't manage to use even a third of what we received in our boxes, a huge salad is exactly what we had! It was perfect in its simplicity and ease of preparation. The contents were only lettuce, fresh herbs and their flowers, tomatoes, asparagus (raw), and cucumber. What made this salad truly yummy (so much so that my daughter India even ate it), was the dressing!

2 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Soy Seasoning
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Finely diced fresh oregano and sage (approx. 2 tbsp)
  • Whisk all ingredients together and toss with a salad so the leaves are just lightly coated in the dressing (never have so much dressing on your salad that it pools in the bottom of the bowl -- although I have been guilty of this on more than one occasion!)