Thursday 27 February 2014

Peanut Butter, Banana and Chocolate Ice Cream

I am a bit distracted with the whole collapsed greenhouse issue to focus on gardening although I've already started some seeds - I hope to get caught up on some gardening tasks this coming weekend.  In the meantime, I have a few posts that I put together during my winter hiatus and here is one of them ... I'm not sure why, but I am more likely to make home-made ice cream in cooler months rather than the summer time.

I had seen a two-ingredient recipe for ice cream with nothing but peanut butter and frozen bananas.  But I thought I'd make a real ice cream with those same ingredients, along with a touch of chocolate.  The cream cheese was something I had on hand and thought it would add a bit of creaminess but is obviously a small enough amount that it isn't necessary.

I use my little Donvier hand-cranked ice cream mixer for this. But if you don't have an ice cream mixer, you can still get a reasonable texture just by pouring the ingredients into a container and freezing it.

2 heaping Tbsp peanut butter
1 Tbsp cream cheese
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup 10% cream
1 square semi-sweet chocolate
3 bananas (mine were previously frozen, but thawed)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or a high-powered blender and blend until creamy.  Process in ice cream maker.

Monday 24 February 2014

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash

I still have a few butternut squash from my harvest last fall so used a couple for this dish. I don't use coconut milk a lot (and when I do, I go for the light stuff) but it really goes well with the squash.  And this recipe calls for amchur powder ... this is a powder made from unripe mangoes that adds a sour citrus-like flavour to the dish.  It can be found in any indian grocer but there are various options for replacing this if you search the internet.

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
4 garlic cloves, peeled
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)
4 cups squash, medium diced
14 oz can lite coconut milk

Mince the ginger and garlic (I use a food processor).

Add 1 Tbsp of vegetable oil to a large pan.  Add 2 tsp cumin seeds and cook just a few minutes until they start to pop. Immediately add the onions and saute about 5 minutes when they begin to soften.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook another 1-2 minutes.

Add the jalapeno and other spices, including the amchur.  Cook 2-3 minutes to allow the spices to release their fragrance.  Then add the squash, coconut milk, 2 tsp salt and 3/4 cup water.  Cook until squash is tender and liquid has reduced - about 30 minutes.  Add additional water as needed.

Serve with rice or naan.  I served it recently with the rogan josh (lamb curry) from my previous post along with some chana masala (chickpea curry) and mutter paneer (peas and Indian cheese cubes).

Sunday 23 February 2014

Rogan Josh (Indian Lamb Curry)

This lamb curry is awesome - one of the best curries I've made.  But I also think my lamb chile is the best chile I've ever had so I might just be loving lamb a lot these days.

It's a bit spicy, but not too much, especially when served with rice or naan bread and maybe some raita.

And this spice container really reduces the effort of prepping.  I don't keep spices in this all the time as it is not sealed well.  But if I'm in the mood for Indian cooking, I'll put the main spices in here.  Rather than opening and closing 7 different spice jars each recipe, they are ready when I need them!  In the middle is coriander ... then starting from the top and going clockwise are:  turmeric, whole cardamom pods, red chili flakes, cumin, paprika and garam masala. And, of course, a couple of cinnamon sticks hanging about.

1-inch chunk fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 kg boneless lamb shoulder, cubed
15-20 whole cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1 6" cinnamon stick, broken into 2-3 pieces
1 LARGE onion (3 cups chopped)
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp paprika
1/2 Tbsp crushed red chile peppers
1 tsp salt (plus more for seasoning)
6 heaping Tbsp plain yogurt
1 tsp garam masala


Put ginger and garlic in food processor and blend to a paste.  Set aside.  Set the oven to 325 degrees F.

Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a dutch oven pot (or other large pot that can go in the oven).  Brown the cubed lamb, 10-12 pieces at a time - do NOT crowd the lamb or it will boil rather than brown.  Set the browned lamb aside.

Into the remaining oil (and fat from the cubed lamb), add the first round of spices: cardamom, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks.  The cinnamon sticks will be removed just before serving but the others will soften and become edible.  Cook 2-3 minutes.

Add the chopped onions plus a pinch of salt.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring constantly to pick up the bits of lamb left in the pan.  When the onion has softened, add the mince garlic and ginger and cook 2-3 minutes.

Add the remaining spices.  Stir into the onions and cook 2-3 minutes to allow the spices to toast and become fragrant.

Add the lamb back to the pan and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring continually to coat with the onion and spice mixture.

Add 1 Tbsp yogurt and stir to mix in.  Continue adding 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing well in between and scraping the bits of cooked lamb and onion from the bottom of the pan.

Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil.  Ensure all bits are scraped from the bottom of the pan then cover and cook in oven 1 1/2 - 2 hours until lamb is tender.

Depending on how well-trimmed the lamb is, there will likely be some fat on top.  Blot with a paper towel or if you have prepared it ahead of time, cool in the fridge and the fat will harden and can be easily removed before reheating to serve.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice, naan and some veg dishes (shown here with chana masala which I'll post soon).

Friday 21 February 2014

Argghhh! My Greenhouse Collapsed!

Well, my worst fears finally came true.  The greenhouse has caved in under the weight of the snow.  Following the disaster in the fall when the plastic "roof" flew off during a windstorm and had to be put back on (twice), I was left with a tarp covering the front and another tarp in the middle.  And there were large gaps in the plastic.  This is what it looked like before winter (seemed totally awesome to me considering what had happened):

It looks like everything between the two tarps went down.  This picture below is what it looked like a few weeks ago - the piles of snow up the sides were holding everything tight and it all seemed to be fine until the mild weather and rain the past two days.

This is what it is supposed to look like!

It happened just in the past few hours.  I have the day off today - I've got a nasty cold and cough so I went to get some cough medicine.  I know the greenhouse was fine this morning as I look at it out my window whenever I wake up.  But some time between this morning and when I got back with my meds, it collapsed.

The steel frames are very sturdy, but based on the width of the collapsed area, I have to assume some frames were damaged.  And it's hard to tell from the picture, but I'm pretty sure the front wall has been pulled backward which is definitely a serious problem.

Whatever ... I'm staying in bed with my miserable cold, can't be bothered to do anything now (except take the pics!).  To be honest, it might be best just to leave it alone.  At least it is still covering the wooden tables and other gear inside the greenhouse so they don't get exposed to the weather - especially when it would appear this winter is never going to end.

But if anyone has experience with greenhouses in the Ottawa South area and can provide contact info, please leave a note in the comment section.  I definitely need to get this fixed come spring.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Crab and Goat Cheese Cakes with Harissa-Lemon Mayo

This is the first time I have made crab cakes, but they turned out so well I thought I'd share the recipe even though it is not really tested.  But crab cakes are not complicated and you can mix and match ingredients any way you want.  I was in the mood for a bit of goat cheese to go with the crab.  And again with the harissa!  It goes so well with seafood, so why not.  Here the harissa is mixed with mayo and lemon for a great sauce.

Serves 4 as an appetizer.

7 oz cooked crab meat
2 Tbsp mayonnaise (I used low-fat)
1 egg
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2.5 oz goat cheese, softened
2 tsp harissa
1/2 cup panko for the cakes
1 cup panko for coating

Set oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a baking pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Put the 1 cup of panko crumbs into a bowl.  Mix all other ingredients together.  Shape cakes about 2 inches in diameter.  Roll each crab cake in the panko crumbs to coat.

I sprayed the top of mine lightly with a spray cooking oil to help brown the top.  Bake about 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


Serve with harissa-lemon mayo (1/4 cup mayo, 1 tsp harissa and juice of 1/2 lemon).

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Dungeness Crab with Harissa-Lemon Butter

People who knew me as a full-on vegetarian in the past might be surprised that I now cook live crab and lobster.  But they are so delicious when freshly cooked!  And although I am still completely against factory farming, I can still enjoy meat now and then without feeling too guilty: buy local, buy organic, and where possible, buy from people you know and make sure they are treating the animals well.

As for this crab ... I actually have no idea where it came from.  But it goes on sale very few times during the year and so I had to take advantage of the low price.

Putting them in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before cooking will numb them a bit and they won't move much which makes them easier to handle.  If you want to believe it is more humane, well, think whatever you want.  But if you are worried about that, you probably shouldn't be doing this in the first place.

When serving, assume one crab per person.  The dungeness crab found in stores tend to be about 2 lbs apiece which yields about 8 oz of crab meat (so 25% of the total weight).  And always consider cooking an extra one or two for leftovers.

I don't cook crab often so don't feel I can offer advice on how to clean them for guests.  The few times I've done it are with good enough friends that you just plop the crab on the table (after spreading newspaper down) and let everyone work it out for themselves.

You need a very large pot - a 12-litre stock pot should be good for 3 crabs.  I have to admit mine was a bit short on size so they were kind of crammed in but I made it work.  Make sure you bring the well-salted water to a hard boil.

Cook about 15-18 minutes.  Remove from boiling water and plunge into a bowl of ice-water so the meat stops cooking or it might get rubbery.  It doesn't need to sit in the cold water long, just enough to cool it down.

Then serve immediately.  Crab always goes well with potatoes and corn (add sausage and you've got yourself a Southern crab boil).  Serve with lemon slices, garlic butter or this Harissa-Lemon Butter (I saw something similar used as a steak sauce and knew it would be delicious with seafood):

Harissa-Lemon Butter:
5 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic
3 tsp harissa

Monday 17 February 2014

Crepes with Plum-Chocolate "Nutella"

Crepes get a bit of a bad rap sometimes for not being healthy, but it's all about what you put in or on them.  I'm not a big fan of whipping cream;  I find it generally unnecessary and doesn't really add to the taste of most dishes.  This crepe is stuffed full of strawberries and bananas and the plum nutella is definitely more plum than chocolate.  I am referring to it as plum "nutella" because I was inspired by several recipes that also called it that.   But it's really just a delicious mix of plum preserves and chocolate.

These strawberries were from my garden last year; I still have a few bags in the freezer!

Plum Nutella

1 1/3 cup plum preserve*
5-6 squares semi-sweet chocolate

* I made my preserve in the summer when plums were ripe.  Remove pits and place in a food processor.  Process until a smooth paste.  Pour into a pot and add sugar to taste.  Cook on low-medium heat until thickened.  Allow to cool.  Great for pies or muffins.

To make the nutella, just heat the plum preserve and chocolate until chocolate is melted.  Store in mason jars in fridge.

Also delicious on toast with peanut butter!


Crepe Batter

In one bowl:
1 cup flour
2 whole eggs
1 tsp sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter

Whisk until smooth.  Allow to rest - 10-15 minutes.  Just before preparing crepes, whisk in a 1/2 cup soda water.

Cooking crepes

Pour about a 1/2 cup into a heated non-stick skillet.  Tilt the pan to swirl the batter into a thin layer around the pan.  It should only take a half to one minute per side.  Place on a clean towel while cooking the remainder.

Assembling the crepes

Melt the plum-chocolate mixture in the microwave make it easier to spread.

Spread some of the plum-chocolate sauce onto a crepe, top with bananas, strawberries or other fruit (ooh, I bet kiwi would be delicious).  Maybe whipped cream if you like it?  Chocolate shavings?  Anything works.  The crepe can be folded around the fillings or go for the full wrap.

If you have any interesting fillings that you think I should try, let me know in the comments.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Remaining Seed Order 2014: William Dam Seeds

And here is the rest of the seed order for 2014.  As mentioned in my previous post, William Dam has low prices, a good shipping rate and (something I neglected to mention earlier) good quality seeds.  So they get the bulk of my seed order (usually they get my entire order).

I also plan to get tomato seedlings as well as some petunias or pansies, along with many impulse purchases.  But this order and the order from West Coast Seeds and Stokes plus my leftovers from last year should be PLENTY for this coming growing season.  Yay!

William Dam Seeds

Borage (80-100 sds)                                       $1.95
Catnip (600-750 sds)                                      $1.95
Dill: Hera Organic (1000-1400 sds)                $1.95
Basil: Italian Lrg Leaf Org (300-525 sds)      $1.95
Arugula: Astro Organic (750-1100 sds)         $1.95
Kale: Nero Di Toscana (pkt)                           $1.95
Spinach: Reflect Hybrid (200-300 sds)          $1.95
Carrot: Nutri-Red (300-400 sds)                    $1.95
Carrot: Rainbow Hybrid (300-400 sds)          $2.65
Mouse Melon (1/4 gram)                                 $1.95
Squash: Summer Melody (10-15 sds)             $2.45
Pepper: Ace Hybrid (15-20 sds)                     $2.25
Marigold: Janie Mixture (40-50 sds)               $1.95
Sunflower Mix (20-70 sds)                             $2.25
Delphinium: Pacific Giant (40-50 sds)           $2.25
Nasturtium: Whirlybird Mix (15-24 sds)        $2.35
Nasturtium: Tall Mix (25 grams)                     $4.75
Onion: Red Baron Org (125-150 sds)                        $2.75
Radish: Easter Egg Hybrid (290-330 sds)      $1.85
Broccoli: Gypsy Hybrid (55-65 sds)               $2.25

Subtotal:  $45.30
Tax:          $ 6.92
Shipping: $ 7.95
TOTAL:  $60.17

Thursday 13 February 2014

Partial Seed Order 2014: West Coast Seeds and Stokes


As seen in this main photo, I have dozens of seed packets leftover from last year.  Some will more than suffice for this year's requirement of whatever type they are, but many packets are nearly empty and some I just didn't like.  Needless to say, I've spent another whack of money on more seeds for this year.

I usually order from William Dam Seeds.  Their seeds are untreated which is important to me (as I am trying to be as organic as possible).  They also have low shipping rates, low prices overall, and a large selection including some organic varieties.  So the bulk of my seed order this year is from William Dam (which I'll list in a separate post).  Oh, and they have awesome customer service!

But there were some interesting items that I wanted to try from West Coast Seeds and Stokes.  Actually, one item that both seed companies had that I wanted was aspabroc ... kind of an asparagus-style broccoli.  But it was just too pricey for me, especially when I already struggle to grow regular broccoli.

This year was my first West Coast Seeds catalogue.  It's fabulous!  They are dedicated to organic growing and have a great selection.  Their prices are a bit higher and their shipping is considerably higher (although I suppose that might have just been the distance thing).  But as I indicated in my previous post on ordering seeds (lessons learned ... ordering seeds), I like to buy variety packs to mix things up a bit and they had a good selection of "collections" or "blends".  I was particularly interested in the Three Sisters Collection since I was thinking of doing a 3 sisters garden this year; this single packet contains Golden Bantam corn, scarlet runner beans and Red Kuri squash ... none of which I've tried before.  And the beet blend pack and multi-colour cauliflower also offer my garden a bit of variety. 

West Coast Seeds

Cauliflower: Multi-Colour Blend (0.3 g)         $4.99*
Peppers: Ancho (0.5 g)                                     $2.99
Beans Dry: Tarbais (50 g)                                $3.99
Corn: Three Sisters Collection (25 g)              $3.39
Beets: Beet Blend (5 g)                                    $4.99
Carrots: Jeanette organic (0.5 g)                      $2.99

Subtotal:  $23.34
Tax:          $ 4.69
Shipping: $12.76
TOTAL:  $40.79

* Seriously, when I am writing this the $'s all line up but it gets funky when posted.

I've had a Stokes catalogue in the past, but this is my first order.  I didn't pay enough attention and it turns out their seeds are treated.  I'll see how it goes this year, but unlikely that I'll order there again.  The only reason I ordered from Stokes at all was to get the Kong sunflower seeds - these are supposed to grow up to 12 feet tall!  I can't wait!!!  But kind of pricey, so I really need to learn how to save sunflower seeds this fall so I don't have to keep purchasing these (I bet there are lots of people who can give me advice on this when the time comes!).  I also purchased some tall African Marigold's which, according to the description, could get up to 5 feet tall.  Since I was getting those anyway, I added a few more items since the cost of shipping was the same either way.

Stokes Seeds

The order is all for “packets"; I can't be bothered to look up the weight or seed count.

Cabbage: Savoy Ace Improved                       $3.25
Pepper: Super Red Pimento                             $2.95
Hollyhock: Summer Carnival                          $1.95
Marigold: Garland Orange African Tall          $3.95
Helianthus: Kong (2 pkts)                                $5.00
Cosmos: Double Click Mix                             $2.50

Subtotal:  $19.60
Tax:          $ 3.55
Shipping: $ 7.75
TOTAL:  $30.90

So $70 between these two companies, and that hasn't even covered off the basics yet ... yikes!  But the vast majority of my seed purchases this year should cover off my next year's needs as well (especially when I learn to save more types of seeds like the tomato seeds I saved last fall).

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto is very adaptable to just about any veggie you are in the mood for.  The butternut squash I grew last year stored very well and I still have plenty on hand (although I did have to discard a couple of acorn squash that had some rot).  This is such a delicious way to enjoy squash!

Most risotto recipes call for white wine - it helps with flavour, of course, but I suspect it is the acidity that is the main purpose as it helps to balance the butter and cheese.  I did not have any on hand so I replaced it with some sake and lemon juice. 

2 cups squash, small dice
2 large shallots, minced
1 cup arborio rice
Lemon juice
4-5 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup parmesan

*Instead of the sake and lemon juice combination, you can use 1/4 cup white wine for a more traditional risotto.

Keep the chicken stock warm in a pot on the stove.  Most stock comes in 1 litre (4 cup) tetra packages.  Since this could take up to 5 cups, I usually add 1 cup of water to the stock early on so it is heated up along with the stock.

Saute the squash in some olive oil and butter until tender.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Add another tablespoon each of olive oil and butter and saute the shallots for 3-4 minutes. 

Add the arborio rice and stir until coated with the oil/butter.  Cook for a minute or two then add a large splash of sake and 1/4 cup lemon juice (or replace both of these with the white wine).

Once this liquid has absorbed, begin to add the chicken stock about a 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue until you've added about half of the stock.

At this point, return the squash to the rice (I also had some sharp aged cheddar on hand so threw 2 ounces in at this point).   Continue adding the stock until the rice is cooked and creamy.


Stir in the parmesan cheese along with salt and pepper to taste.  Just before serving, add a dab of butter to make it extra creamy.