Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday marmalade making

Winter Sundays are for making marmalade. We're hitting the peak of citrus season right now, which means it's the best time of year for making anything with oranges, and lazy Sundays offer the time needed to indulge in the slow process of marmalade making.
You can make marmalade from any citrus fruit, which you'll discover in detail in the marmalade chapter of my upcoming cookbook The Canning Kitchen (which I can officially tell you will hit bookstores on June 9th, 2015, by the way!). Limes, grapefruit, lemons - they all make marmalade in their own wonderful ways. But the gold standard is a Dundee marmalade made with thick-cut Seville oranges.
Seville's are a Spanish variety, known for their delightfully bitter flavour. They're not much good for eating out of hand, but their sourness combined with their tender skins and plentiful pectin-rich seeds make them ideal for making marmalade. Thankfully, this variety is also grown in the United States and imported to Canada, so I got my hands on a few pounds earlier in the week to make my classic orange marmalade come Sunday.
The result is a sunny orange preserve that balances sweet with sour, and brightens up winter mornings with hot buttered toast and a cup of black tea.
Get this orange marmalade recipe in my upcoming cookbook, The Canning Kitchen, which will be in bookstores on June 9, 2015.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pea Shoot Papaya Salad

I like a green salad. But not in the way it's possible to like a burger. Or pizza. I mean, I would drive across town to check out a new burger joint, or go out of my way to make it to whatever wins the city's Best Pizza award, but I'm not so sure I would do the same for a green salad. Because let's face it, a salad is neither ooey nor gooey. Unfortunately. 

Don't get me wrong here, salads have their moments. There is comfort in eating your greens and knowing you are doing something good for your body. But for me a salad has got to have a satisfying depth of texture, and taste light years beyond boring to make it onto my table at home.

Pea shoot greens have this great seed-like thing going on. Their crisp, fresh flavour reminds me of the delicate nuttiness of sunflower seeds, which goes incredibly well with fresh fruits. I went for chunks of juicy papaya because I had it on hand and the colour contrast is a lot of fun.

This salad is finished with toasted nuts and a quick and easy lime honey vinaigrette that brings it all together for a fresh and fruity side dish, lunch or appetizer with big, satisfying flavour.

Get the recipe below...

Pea Shoot Papaya Salad
Makes 2 side or appetizer salads (can be easily doubled)
2 cups (500 mL) pea shoot greens
1 cup (250 mL) large diced papaya
zest of half a lime
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
1/2 tsp (2 mL) honey
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) toasted chopped walnuts or pecans (see Tip below for toasting raw nuts)
Pile the pea shoots equally onto 2 side plates, nice and tall. Arrange half the papaya on each bed of shoots.
To a vinaigrette shaker or mason jar with a lid, add the lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, honey and salt. Cover and shake well. Pour equally over the salads. Top each salad with half the toasted nuts. Serve immediately.
TIP: To toast raw nuts, add them to a hot, dry pan and toss occasionally until lightly toasted (3 to 4 minutes). Keep an eye on them so they don't burn.
You wouldn't drive across town for a green salad either, would you? What makes a green salad interesting to you?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Baby Bok Choy Soup

You know that person who "hates" soup? There's one is almost every family. Basically that person is ridiculous. There are just too many different kinds of soup to strike it as a category from your table entirely. I mean, there's chicken soups, chowders, meatball soups, tomato-based soups, fish soups, lentil soups, creamy soups, squash soups, coconut soups, even gumbo is basically a soup. Simple soups are a home cooking staple, and that soup hater needs to try picking up a spoon again.

Although meat and noodles and rice are wonderful in soups, they don't have to be in the pot to get satisfying results. This deeply-flavoured vegetable soup starts with onions cooked slowly for maximum flavour. Then garlic, ginger and soy sauce are added, resulting in a satisfying and robust broth that is so rich in flavour it's hard to believe that it's just veggies in the pot. Thin strips of carrot add texture and colour, and I love the way the whole stalks of baby bok choy look in the finished soup.

This one is for weeknight winter dinners. It comes together quickly with simple ingredients and fills bellies with rich, comforting flavours.

Get my recipe for Baby Bok Choy Soup below...

Baby Bok Choy Soup
Makes 5-6 servings

3 baby bok choy
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) sesame oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
8 cups (2 L) water
1/4 cup (60 mL) soy sauce
1 cup (250 mL) julienned carrots
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) grated fresh ginger

Trim the root off the baby bok choy and separate the stalks. Rinse the stalks well to remove any soils. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, warm the vegetable oil and sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and salt. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and golden, which should take about 15 minutes (take your time here to build lots of flavour).

Stir in the water, soy sauce, carrot, garlic, ginger and bok choy stalks. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve.

How do you like to use baby bok choy in your kitchen?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Maple Nut Cranberry Granola

I know what it looks like, people. Round girl running in the rain early on a Sunday morning, four days into the new year. To people in their cars at the intersection, couples enjoying some bacon and eggs while I run by on the other side of the rain-speckled cafĂ© window, I look like a resolution runner; a woman who has finally had enough of her ample bottom and will likely spend the next several weeks detoxing, dieting, and running miserably around town until she gives up and abandons the routine to binge-watch Netflix and eat Valentine's truffles. But that's not me, people. I've been doing this for 9 months now.

Since last March, I have been dragging my butt to my local Running Room two to three times a week for running clinics. In the cold and the wet, and even the dark, there I am, one foot after the other, ignoring the little aches and pains, and putting in the effort. I have met some rather nice people along the way. Misery loves company, so you make friends quickly running up hills in the dark together. I feel stronger. I feel more energetic. There are even moments when I can honestly say I enjoy running. But here's the kicker - I look exactly. the. same.

So, I'm trying to change up my nutrition to see if I can give myself a little less body weight to get up those hills. I'm starting with a healthy breakfast, like this Maple Nut Cranberry Granola. A single batch will last up to two weeks in an air-tight container, so I can make a quick batch and be good to go for quite a while. My littlest boy loves this granola too.

Am I completely overhauling my diet? No, that's just not me. I love cooking for my family and enjoying classic comfort foods together from time to time. But I am making small daily changes, like this balanced breakfast.

Want to try my Maple Nut Cranbery Granola? Get the recipe below...

Maple Nut Cranberry Granola
Makes about 8 cups of granola

6 cups (1.5 L) quick oats
1/2 cup (125 mL) wheat germ
1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
1/3 cup (75 mL) light-tasting oil such as canola, grapeseed or safflower
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) dried cranberries
3/4 cup (175 mL) nuts (I used a mix of sliced almonds and chopped walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats and wheat germ and set aside.

In a medium frying pan, stir together the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon and salt. Set over medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until it comes to an all-over bubble. Pour the hot liquid over the granola and stir well to evenly coat.

Spread out the granola on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. Stir the granola and return to the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan.

Transfer the granola to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Store in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Are you starting off the year with some changes to the way you eat? What healthy foods are you making a part of your day?