Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pickling Beets: A Canning Photo Story


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Make pots and pans look like new

Frying pan stains can be stubborn little things. They just. won't. scrub. off. No matter how good the dish soap is, sometimes no amount of elbow grease will lift those dried-on, dark brown stains. Steel wool will do the trick in metal pans, but what about non-stick surfaces that shouldn't be scratched with metal utensils, never mind steel wool?

Tired of this run-around, I reached for the baking soda one day, which I had been using to create a paste to remove marks on walls around the house (try this, it works). Well, it worked even better on my frying pans. I have never had to fight the stain battle again. This technique is inexpensive, natural and so easy. In just 30 seconds, pans go from 'eww' to like new.

Here's how to remove stains from your pots and pans using baking soda:

1. Sprinkle baking soda generously over the stain.

2. Soak a paper towel or clean dish cloth with water.

3. Gently rub the baking soda in small circles into the stain until clean.

4. Rinse and dry.

That's all there is to it. Your pans will look shiny and new in just 30 seconds, every time. Simple.

Do you battle with stains in your pots and pans?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Family Bites baby shower: Marmalade poke cake

This is a special post for a special friend. You see, blogger Jan Scott of Family Bites is expecting her third son this month, and so a group of her bloggy friends (led by Mardi at eat. live. travel. write.) are creating a virtual baby shower for her today. When you have food blogger friends all across Canada who think you're pretty special, this is what they do for you.

Jan is the sort of person who always offers a smile and a supportive listening ear. She's bright, talented and caring, and I often wish we lived closer so we could visit each other's kitchens to sip coffee while trying to chat over the noise of our kids. Basically, she's a good egg and her nest is about to get fuller!

The idea of this baby shower blog tour is to bring something delicious to share. Way back in the planning phase, I quickly typed into Mardi's handy Google doc that I would bring a 'marmalade cake.' What that was I didn't yet know, but I figured it sounded like a pretty good idea for the height of citrus season. With my recently canned homemade Seville orange marmalade, I created this deliciously sticky marmalade poke cake that feels dainty and decadent for a special occasion. Get the recipe below.

I'm also bringing a gift to the shower - a hand-knitted baby blanket that I started last fall. It is based on the Chevron Baby Blanket pattern by Espace Tricot. Luckily I remembered to snap a few photos before I shipped it off to Jan last month to find a home amongst the baby's things.

So, congratulations to Jan and family. I can't wait to see the first photos of this lucky little boy!

Check out all the other Canadian food bloggers who are taking part in today's baby shower blog tour:

Mardi from eat. live. travel. write made Blueberry Cheesecake Macarons.
Julie from Dinner with Julie made Meyer Lemon Scones with Lemon Drizzle + Lemon Curd.
Heather from The Tasty Gardener made Cream Puffs with Caramel Whipped Cream.
Isabelle from Crumb: A Food Blog made Blackberry Meringue Bars.
Jennifer from Seasons and Suppers made Baby Blueberry Beignets.
Aimée from Simple Bites made Roasted Turnip Hummus.
Jenny from The Brunette Baker made Wild Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins.
Liliana from My Cookbook Addiction made Vanilla Mini-cupcakes.
Carole from The Yum Yum Factor made Beet and Blue Cheese Canapes.
Charmian from The Messy Baker made Piglet Muffins.
Brittany from My Daily Randomness made Caramel + Pumpkin Parfaits.
Meg from Sweet Twist of Blogging made Apple Carrot Loaf.
Louisa from Living Lou made Maple Walnut Cookies.
Libby from Libby Roach Photography made Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies.
Robyn from Planet Byn made Milk & Cookies Shooters.
Marmalade Poke Cake
Makes 9 servings
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup (125 mL) milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) orange zest
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt
1/4 tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
1/2 cup (125 mL) orange marmalade
2 tbsp (30 mL) heavy (35%) cream
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, milk, oil and orange zest and beat well (the mixture may appear curdled and that's fine).
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cloves. Stir into the wet ingredients just until moistened. Pour into a well-greased 9x9 baking pan. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Meantime, prepare the glaze by adding the marmalade and cream to a small saucepan. Heat, stirring constantly, over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the saucepan. Remove from the heat.
Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack. Poke the cake all over with a toothpick. Pour the warm glaze over the top of the cake. Serve warm or room temperature.
Do you have a favourite baby shower recipe? Share your recipe links in the comments. And be sure to go congratulate Jan at Family Bites on her pending arrival! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Sausage Cannellini Bean Soup & what truly matters

My oldest boy goes off to school almost every morning with an obstinate case of bed head. Sometimes I try to wet it down and comb it smooth, but his hair will have none of it. We stand there together looking in the bathroom mirror, his hair gone only from bed head to wet bed head, and shrug our shoulders. It's actually quite impressive, really, that a kid with such straight, fine hair can get that kind of volume. Some people pay a lot of money for that. I've grown to kind of love that whimsical rooster tail shooting out above his ear, not just for the relief of letting small things slide to get out the door on time, but because when life says "I have certain expectations for you, little boy," his head simply says, "I have a better idea."
Nurturing what truly matters, and letting go of what does not, is kind of my theory at home. My days are filled with preparing meals, school runs, conversations with my younger son, age 4, about monsters and trains and whatever else he's daydreaming about. Sometimes we sing together and dance to the kitchen radio. Sometimes we read books or watch TV. Sometimes we bake. Whatever it is, it's simple and cozy. We live, as they say, in the moment, and I'm conscious every day of how lucky I am to have this time together and how it won't last forever.
Since I made enough Sausage Cannellini Bean Soup yesterday to serve as dinner again tonight, today we are baking Whole Wheat Pumpkin Spice Muffins and crafting. My son put markers to paper for a lovely drawing of our house, complete with a table of coconuts (what that's about, I don't know), while I put together a simple Valentines paper heart bunting for above the fireplace. It looks pretty cute for one sheet of construction paper and some twine.
Scroll down for my recipe for Sausage Cannellini Bean Soup. It's so simple to make and so rich in flavour. Serve with some bread and dinner is done. Which means there's more time in the day to smile at the way bed head bounces when it's skipping down the sidewalk.

Sausage Cannellini Bean Soup
Makes 4 to 5 servings
a splash of olive oil
1 lb (450 g) sausages such as mild Italian or bratwurst, casings removed
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) thinly sliced leeks, well rinsed
2 cans (540 mL/19 oz) cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh parsley
3 cups (750 mL) chicken stock
2 cups (500 mL) water
2 tsp (10 mL) prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
Warm the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage meat and cook until browned, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon while it cooks. Transfer the cooked sausage to a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
Add the leeks to the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Cook 4 to 5 minutes to soften, stirring often. Add the cannellini beans and parsley to the pot. Pour in the stock and water. Stir in the horseradish and salt.
Bring to a bubble over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with fresh bread.
STORAGE TIP: This works as a handy make-ahead meal. Store in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 5 days, or freeze in containers for up to 6 months.
Do you battle the daily bed head, or just let it slide? What truly matters in your home?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Cookbook GIVEAWAY: Brown Eggs and Jam Jars

This is the week readers of the popular blog Simple Bites have been waiting for. After 9 months of recipe development, writing, food styling and photo shoots, and several more months of editing and planning from her urban Montreal homestead, blogger and former chef Aimée Wimbush-Bourque released her first cookbook Brown Eggs and Jam Jars on Tuesday. Luckily for me, I got my hands on a review copy a couple weeks ago, and let me tell you the wait was worth it.

Part recipes, part lifestyle, there's a lot to love and a lot to learn about in Brown Eggs and Jam Jars. It's about wonderful recipes made with whole foods, but it's also about the moments, big and small, throughout a year of seasonal eating and urban homesteading; handmade jams, backyard chickens and all. Mini essays on homesteading and cooking with kids are spread thoughtfully throughout the book, inviting you to sit down with a cup of coffee and learn a few new things about topics such as hosting a harvest dinner or how to talk to your kids honestly about meat.

Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is a lot of cookbook. You won't want to jump in, get the recipe you want and get out. This book invites you to stay a while. This is good, simple family food in a cookbook you can read over and over again and still find something new each time you open it.

It's February, so the first recipe I tried was Maple Cider Baked Beans (pg. 12). Talk about one pot comfort food. It's got the stuff in there that always makes baked beans good, things like bacon and molasses, but then it gets two really special ingredients that I think make this recipe an absolute winner - maple syrup and apple cider. It's like Quebec in a pot. After 4 hours in the oven, the end result is the baked beans of your dreams, all sweet, tangy, smoky and satisfying. I can't think of anything more comforting after coming in from the cold than sitting down to a big bowl of these beans while hats and mittens dry out by the fire.
Next up was the Chicken Leek Shepherd's Pie (pg. 201). Mr. Feedbag loves shepherd's pie so it was an easy choice, and I love the simplicity of stovetop-to-oven dinners, of which there are several in the book. Making use of precooked ingredients like shredded chicken and leftover mashed potatoes, this dish comes together quickly, making it suitable not just for Sunday dinners but weeknights as well. Plus, there are leeks and cream in there, too. All good stuff.

Add this one to your book shelves. You'll be happy you did. 

Scroll down to get the recipe for Chicken Leek Shepherd's Pie, plus your chance to WIN a copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars!

Cover image from Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Copyright © Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, 2015. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Photography credit: Tim and Angela Chin.

Chicken Leek Shepherd's Pie
From Brown Eggs and Jam Jars by Aimée Wimbush-Bourque. Copyright © Aimée Wimbush-Bourque, 2015. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited.
1 tablespoon (15 mL) salted butter
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) chopped leeks, white and pale green parts only, well washed
1 tablespoon (15 mL) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (175 mL) chicken stock
1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy (35%) cream
1 tablespoon (15 mL) chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon/5 mL dried)
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) black pepper
3 cups (750 mL) shredded cooked chicken or turkey
1 cup (250 mL) frozen or drained canned corn kernels
3 cups (750 mL) leftover mashed potatoes
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In a medium stovetop-to-oven casserole, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chopped leeks; cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle with flour. Stir to coat the leeks in flour, scraping up any browning bits on the bottom of the pan. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring, and then cream. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Sauce will thicken slightly.
3. Stir in parsley, salt, pepper and shredded chicken. Remove from heat. Sprinkle corn kernels over the chicken and top with a layer of mashed potatoes. At this point, the pie can be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days before baking and serving.
4. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the potatoes are light brown and the dish is hot in the center. Serve hot.
WINNING TIME: I have 1 copy of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars to give away. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling me why you want to get your hands on this book. BE SURE TO LEAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you win!
Canadian or U.S. residents only. One entry per person. Contest closes Thursday, February 19th, 2015 at 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific. Winner will be contacted directly and announced on Family Feedbag.

CONTEST CLOSED: Congratulations to Julia Baurain of Caronport, Saskatchewan who won this giveaway!

Disclosure: The review copy of 'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' was provided at no cost to myself by Penguin Random House Canada, which is also the publisher of my own upcoming cookbook. The giveaway copy of 'Brown Eggs and Jam Jars' is also being provided by the publisher at no cost to myself.