Saturday, November 22, 2014

For the love of recipe booklets

It may be an odd thing to hear from a food blogger, but I love recipes on paper. I just do, and I think a lot of people still do. There's just something about holding recipes and images in my hands that works better in the kitchen. I can mark the pages with a pencil and find my spot in the recipe easily without a screen timing out on me. Plus, I don't worry about splashing batter or dusting flour on paper like I do on my tablet or laptop. Yup, I love my cookbook collection. But it's not the only place I go to for printed recipes.

One of the best resources for home cooks is recipe booklets. About the size of a novel but only 20 or so pages, recipe booklets are responsible for some of my earliest successes in the kitchen. Sometimes these booklets come as a magazine insert, sometimes they're at the grocery store, and often they are produced by brands looking to promote their product. Sure, it's advertising. But, as I often tell my cooking class students, these companies want you to have success with their product, and they're going to use the very best recipes to win you over.

The Robin Hood flour company has been producing recipe booklets for three decades. Company spokesperson, Meribeth Burns, says research into current food trends, innovations and feedback from consumers all play important roles in recipe development. "Our recipe development teams have a strong focus on creating recipes that are easy-to-follow, time-saving, and inspirational, which are three of the most important factors our consumers look for when considering a recipe," Burns tells Family Feedbag. She says a lot of effort goes into creating the best recipes to showcase flour. "The process of creating the Robin Hood Bake Some Memories booklet begins almost immediately following the publication of the previous year's booklet. It is a fully integrated project that involves numerous teams from marketing to development and our test kitchen to advertising and design."

Through my own efforts some hand-me-downs from my grandmother's recipe collection, I have a lovely little collection of current and vintage recipe booklets in my kitchen. Half resource, half relic, I treasure them for the glimpse they offer into the past, and the recipes I might one day make again.

Do you collect recipe booklets? Which ones are your favourites?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

West Coast Fish Chowder

Time to cozy up with a bowl of fish chowder packed with west coast flavour. This big pot of comfort gets its North Pacific flavour from tender cubes of rockfish and smoky bits of candied salmon. Simmered with onion, carrot, potato and kale in flavourful fish stock (or chicken stock, if you don't have it), for me this is Vancouver Island in a bowl.

I don't mind the frosty air when this is on the dinner table at the end of the day. So, let the wind blow. Let the waves crash upon the rocky shore. I'll be by the fire with a warm bowl of fish chowder and some crusty bread.

Get the recipe below and bring on the comfort food, west coast style.

West Coast Fish Chowder
Makes 4 to 5 servings

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) diced yellow onion
1 cup (250 mL) diced peeled carrot
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 tsp (5 mL) dried thyme
2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour
3 cups (750 mL) peeled diced potato
3 oz (85 g) smoked candied salmon nugget, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
4 cups (1 L) fish stock (or chicken or vegetable stock)
10 oz (285 g) rockfish fillet, cubed (or other firm white fish)
1 cup (250 mL) roughly chopped kale
1/2 cup (125 mL) heavy cream
1.5 oz (1 shot glass full) white wine

Melt the butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and salt. Cook for 5 minutes to soften, stirring frequently. Stir in the thyme and flour to coat the veggies. Add the potato and candied salmon. Pour in the stock. Turn the heat to high and bring the works to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rock fish, kale and heavy cream. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Stir in the wine.

What dish makes you think of the west coast?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Marmalade Baked Chicken Drumsticks

Anyone who loves canning knows it's easy to end up with more jars of preserves than you know what to do with. That's because filling jars with homemade jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys is just so addictive! To make the most of my homemade preserves, I love to incorporate them into my cooking as often as possible, like these baked chicken drumsticks made with a quick and delicious marmalade sauce. With some rice and steamed veg, this makes a satisfying weeknight supper. And leftover drumsticks are great cold in packed lunches.
Other preserves I like to work into my cooking include chutneys and relishes. They brighten many dishes that need a little flavour boost. Even fruit jellies like grape and apple work nicely to add a touch of sweetness to slow-cooked meats.
Are you using preserves like marmalade in your cooking? I'd love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment below about the creative ways you make the most of what's in your canning jars.

Marmalade Baked Chicken Drumsticks
Makes 4 servings

a splash of vegetable oil
3 lb (1.4 kg) chicken drumsticks (about a dozen)
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange marmalade
1/4 cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) grated fresh ginger
1 tsp (5 mL) cornstarch
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
2 green onions, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the drumsticks to the hot pan, cooking 4 to 5 minutes a side to brown (you may prefer to do this in 2 batches to avoid crowding the pan).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the marmalade, vinegar, garlic, ginger, cornstarch and salt.

Arrange the drumsticks in a large casserole or baking dish. Pour the marmalade sauce over the drumsticks. Tuck the lemon slices around the drumsticks. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked and the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle with the green onions to serve.

Do you have a favourite dish made with marmalade? Leave a comment and share your recipe links!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Confetti Popcorn Candy

wedding favors, birthday party snacks, baby shower snacks

Just in case anyone thought this was a healthy cooking blog, this post ought to clear things right up. I love a sweet treat, especially one that is as pretty as this confetti popcorn candy. This sweet, crunchy snack is so cute and so delicious, and the best part is it can be made in any colour you like; perfect for birthday parties, baby showers and wedding favors.

Just imagine all the colour combinations for different occasions:

Halloween - Orange popcorn candy with black sprinkles.
Christmas - Green popcorn candy with red and white sprinkles.
Valentine's Day - Pink popcorn candy with red shimmer sprinkles.
St. Patrick's Day - Green popcorn candy with green shimmer sprinkles.
Easter - Blue popcorn candy with pastel sprinkles.
Canada Day - Red popcorn candy with white sprinkles.
Fourth of July - Blue popcorn candy with red and white sprinkles.

So many options! Grab the recipe below and start celebrating...

wedding favor ideas, birthday party snacks, baby shower snacks

Confetti Popcorn Candy
Makes 8-10 servings

12 cups (2.5 L) popped popcorn
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) milk
1 tsp (5 mL) pure vanilla
red food colouring (or desired colour)
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) rainbow sprinkles (or desired colour)

Add the popcorn to a large bowl and set aside. Line a baking sheet with wax paper and set aside.

Pour the sugar into a medium saucepan. Stir in the milk, vanilla and 5 to 10 drops of food colouring (depending on how bright you want the colour). Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Maintain a full boil for 30 seconds, still stirring. Remove from the heat. Pour over the popcorn and toss with two large spoons to evenly coat.

Spread the popcorn out on the wax paper to cool. Sprinkle with the sprinkles. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before serving (it will become less sticky and more candy-like as it cools).

What colour combination would you make your Confetti Popcorn Candy?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins

For food writers, flavour trends are a double-edged sword. Write about one as it is emerging and you are relevant and intuitive. Write about a trend once it has been around long enough to infiltrate fast food menus, and you are so pedestrian and last year. Take pumpkin spice, for example. This fall flavour trend burst onto the scene and our palates about 10 years ago, mostly thanks to a certain coffee chain and a certain latte. Every September it comes back and crowds line up for a heavy dose of pumpkin spice indulgence while food writers scratch their heads, increasingly questioning the relevance of pumpkin spice while increasingly churning out fresh, new pumpkin spice content.

Well, I'm a real home cook making real food for my real family, and since I don't have to concern myself too much with being trendy on this blog, I have only this to say about pumpkin spice:

I freaking love pumpkin spice. It's delicious.

Relevant or repetitious, I don't care. I'll take pumpkin spice any way I can get it. In fact, I just bought some foam hand soap in pumpkin spice scent, and I'll be open and honest with you, I got more than one bottle. This passion is not fading. I would put money on it that 10 years from now I'll still love pumpkin spice. Not because it's trendy and not because it's cool, but because pumpkin combined with the Big Four - cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves - is just darn delicious.

These moist and flavourful muffins are made with whole wheat flour, canned pumpkin and those Big Four spices I love to love. So, grab the recipe below and get baking them in your own oven, and let's pumpkin spice the heck out of ourselves until spring.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 can (425 g/15 oz) pure pumpkin
1 egg
3/4 cup (175 mL) brown sugar
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) whole wheat flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground ginger
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/4 cup (60 mL) raw pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin, egg and brown sugar and beat until well blended. Pour in the butter and beat again until blended.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing just until moistened.

Scoop the batter into a well-greased (or lined with parchment cups) muffin pan. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds evenly on top of the batter, if using. Bake in the centre of the oven for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

What's your favourite way to enjoy pumpkin spice?