Saturday 31 January 2015

No Churn Ice Cream (with Stewed Rhubarb and Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Jam)

I've always made any homemade ice cream with all natural ingredients: cream, eggs, vanilla, sugar, maybe a bit of salt.  And it's not a lot of work but the churning process can be somewhat of an effort (as I don't have an electric ice cream machine).

So I recently succumbed to the effortless "no-churn ice cream" fad.  Considering the recipe I used, I suspect it's a bit higher in fat content than my usual ice cream recipes, but OMG!  Sooo delicious and sooo easy!

My original plan was to make roasted rhubarb ice cream using the one bag of rhubarb I froze from last year's harvest ... but I left it in the oven too long and it was totally dried out and a bit burnt.  So I turned next to the jar of balsamic strawberry jam I had in the fridge - I had only about a 1/2 cup left of this but had pulled another jar out of the freezer.  Well, it turns out that the new jar from the freezer was a delicious stewed rhubarb (very dark in colour, hence my confusion).  So I added about a cup worth (in total) from both jars to the ice cream base.

Now for the ice cream base - it is so simple!  Just whip 250 ml of heavy cream (whipping cream as we call it in Canada) then add in a 300 ml can of sweetened condensed milk (I used a low fat version).  This should make it sweet enough, especially when my jams were a bit sweet as well.  Stir in whatever flavouring you want then pour it all into a glass storage container and freeze.

And that's it - very little work for such a tasty dessert.

Monday 26 January 2015

Harvest Monday: January 26, 2015

It will be several months before there will be any new harvests for me, even with the new greenhouse - this morning's weather was -27 degrees Celsius (at 6:20am) with "freezing fog" - hmm, doesn't sound good. 

But I continue to enjoy last season's harvest including my last butternut squash, my last spaghetti squash and almost the last of the borlotti beans. 

This past week I made a version of my butternut squash mac 'n cheese (slightly modified to suit the ingredients I had on hand).  And a week or two ago I made a casserole with spaghetti squash (along with the "shredded" cooked squash, I mixed in some goat cheese and one egg, then topped with parmesan and baked in the oven).

And I made some refried beans for a tex-mex meal using borlotti beans that I had in the freezer (I wasn't sure if I had dried them well enough to store, so I froze them to be safe).  Refried beans can be made with just about any bean but these were all I had available.  Saute onion and garlic, then add chili powder and salt; add in the pre-soaked and cooked beans plus some veggie or chicken stock; cook together and mash into a delicious side dish. 

I also pulled out the one and only bag of rhubarb I had from last year with some grand plans.  I had very little rhubarb as it was only the second year for my rhubarb plants so I was careful not to harvest too much to let the plant focus on rooting and growth.  Unfortunately, I got distracted while roasting the rhubarb and it ended up dried out and inedible.  Sigh ...

Check out Daphne's Dandelions on Harvest Monday to see what other gardeners are doing with last year's harvests (or what they are currently harvesting for those in the more southerly climes).

Tuesday 20 January 2015

My First (Somewhat Pathetic) Efforts at Garden Planning - 2015

I have started to work on the 2015 garden plans with an aim to better document where I have planted different varieties.  Last season, I planted several varieties of carrots, as an example, but when it came to harvest, I wasn't really sure which were which so didn't have a good idea of the best producers.

But I'm having a difficult time.  One reason, of course, is that I haven't made my seed order so don't have a full picture of everything I plan to grow - I've only received one two (just got Veseys Seeds for the first time ever - woohoo!) seed catalogues so far and want to look at different options (I often don't get most catalogues until late January).   But even though I don't know the exact seed variety I will plant, I do know which crops I intend to grow.  The main reason I have difficulties in planning is with crop rotation as my garden areas come in many different sizes.  Here is a ridiculously bad diagram of about 2/3's of my garden space:

So I can't just say I'll put the potatoes over in garden X this year and move the beans where the potatoes were because they take up considerably different spaces (although I plan to do less potatoes and more beans this year so maybe they'll be closer in size). 

And I continue to add new crops every year which adds to the challenge. But I'll keep plugging away at it and hope to have some sort of plan laid out by end of February when I'll start many of the seeds inside.

 As for tracking progress, I've seen a number of different apps that I'm checking out to see if any will work well enough for me. I really, really, really want to track progress to see what worked and what didn't as well as the amounts of the harvests (as in, how many pounds I've harvested). But I work a lot of hours at my day job and don't always have the time - so need to make it as easy as possible.

I also want to track when I plant, transplant, etc. I started this tracking last year but got distracted and didn't quite follow through. I've found some "garden calendars" in excel format with many of the fields filled in already, so I hope to take advantage of one of those.

Many of the gardeners I follow through Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday have many of these tracking techniques down pat, so I'll take advantage where I can.

Either way, I'm very excited about the upcoming season and looking forward to seeing what other folks have planned.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Quinoa with Cilantro-Mint Pesto and Peas

I seem to have a lot more room in my freezer these days now that I've been using up all those great veggies that I froze during the fall harvest - and I suddenly have a ridiculous amount of empty storage containers and freezer bags!

With the freezer not so crowded, I can see things that I'd forgotten about ... like a small jar of this cilantro-mint pesto I made in the summer.  

In fact, I have a lot of pesto from this summer (mostly arugula and garlic scape pesto and regular basil pesto). If anyone has interesting ways of using pesto beyond the usual pasta or potato dishes, I'd love to hear about them!!

For this dish, no need for a recipe - just toss a couple of tablespoons of pesto (any kind will do) with cooked quinoa (1 cup quinoa + 2 cups vegetable stock or water).  I added peas which went well with the mint in the pesto I used.  If you use regular basil pesto, some steamed broccoli would be a nice addition.

Add a fried or poached egg and you've got a great lunch dish.

Monday 12 January 2015

Harvest Monday: January 12, 2015: Borlotti Beans with Garlic, Thyme and Tomatoes

Most definitely no harvests any time in the near future - a few months at least!  So for Harvest Monday, I'm just sharing what I did with some of my harvests.

I cooked borlotti beans with thyme and garlic (all fresh from my garden this year) along with some stewed tomatoes.  I think I'll increase the number of borlotti bean plants next year - they are one of my favourite beans.with such a creamy texture when cooked.  Easy to grow (bush bean although they can get pretty tall) and so delicious!

The stewed tomatoes and onions were actually canned in 2013 - if canned properly, they can last a long time but I always give a good sniff before using them (just in case).  I also have one jar each left of "nuttin' but tomatoes" and Red Wine and Herb tomato sauce in the cold room. 

Sunday 11 January 2015

Fresh Spring Rolls with Spaghetti Squash Noodles

I made these several weeks ago when I had some leftover spaghetti squash - it is a good substitute for vermicelli noodles if you don't have any on hand although I can't say it's much of a nutritional boost.  It's nice to have something so fresh tasting amongst the heavy stews and soups that are so common during the cold winter months.

The challenging part in making fresh spring rolls is the use of the rice paper. 


I don't really have any good tips other than what you might read elsewhere ... run the rice paper through a bowl of very hot water and place on a clean tea towel for wrapping up the ingredients - that seems to work best for me to keep it from sticking to anything.

Place your ingredients on the paper, fold up the bottom, fold in the sides, then roll towards the top.

For fresh rolls, I would normally make Nước chấm for the dipping sauce but I felt like something different this time.  White miso paste mixed with almond milk made a great tasting dip.

And here is what I put into each wrap (spaghetti squash, cilantro, julienned carrot, orange sweet pepper, shrimp cooked with ginger):

 Try a peanut dipping sauce, change the cilantro for basil and/or mint, add bean sprouts ... so many options!

Monday 5 January 2015

Freezing Strawberries for use in Winter Months ... and Recipe for Meringues with Whipped Ricotta and Strawberries

This post is being submitted to Harvest Monday hosted weekly by Daphne's Dandelions which shows what gardeners are harvesting each week and also how they use their harvest.

Although I have nothing to harvest right now, I do have some of my previous harvests available from frozen or canned (and the odd item that was dried).  The great thing about preserving your harvest is being able to enjoy it in the winter.  Especially rhubarb (which is never available in stores during winter months) and strawberries.  Strawberries can be found year-round but are almost always tasteless and hard when not in season. So it is always a treat to pull out of my freezer strawberries that were frozen when at their peak.

As it happens, the strawberries aren't mine.  I had poor results and have since pulled up the whole patch and transplanted just a dozen or so into a new space.  But I went to a pick-your-own nearby my home and froze a couple of litres worth.

If you are just going to make jam or otherwise cook the strawberries, it is not necessary to follow this technique.  But taking the following steps will provide some benefits: (1) strawberries can be placed in one large bag and easily separated if you only need a few - maybe a smoothie or this strawberry lassi - and (2) they will retain their shape after they have been thawed.  Another benefit is that you don't have to use any sugar to safely preserve them as you might with other techniques.

Here is the simple technique to freeze strawberries:

Step 1: Gently wash the strawberries and pat them dry (or just let them air dry)
Step 2: Remove any that are damaged or bruised
Step 3: Hull the berries
Step 4: Place on a parchment lined baking sheet so they do not touch
Step 5: Freeze until solid individually
Step 6: Place in freezer bags - store up to 6 months (beyond that they will be at risk for freezer burn and that would be a shame!)

Read on for the Recipe ...

Sunday 4 January 2015

Updates to Blog for 2015

Happy New Year!

Last winter I stopped blogging in January and February to take a break as I had been pushing myself to blog a certain number of times a week.  But lately I am only blogging when I feel like it (makes sense, huh?) so no need for breaks this winter!

But I have taken some time to make some updates and my apologies if there are still some bugs to work out:
  1. I have a new header showing some of my harvests and related dishes.
  2. I've added a weather indicator in the side bar for my area.
  3. I now have different pages for categories of recipes.  They still need some serious clean-up on each page but at least they are now in some sort of order (and finally current - I was 8 months behind on posting the links!).
  4. I eliminated the background colour.  I'd also like to modify the widths but I did that about a year ago and now most of my 2013 posts are not aligned properly.  So I'll fidget with it a bit more but hopefully don't mess it up too much.
  5. I'm also going to be adding a new post each week: Wordless Wednesday.  Just pics taken in the week leading up to the post.
Thanks for checking in on my blog now and then.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

If I ever manage to grow any brussels sprouts of my own (previous attempts have been poor at best), this is the first dish I'd make with them ... easy to cook and a great way to really enjoy the flavour of this vegetable without other distractions. 

But for a bit of extra zip, you could start with some bacon (cook then remove bacon and proceed to cook the sprouts in the bacon fat, then add bacon back in to serve) and/or toss in some dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate arils.

Serve 3-4 as a side dish.

Trim ends of brussels sprouts (about 3/4 pound) and cut in half.

In a large saute pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp unsalted butter.  Don't let it get too hot or the next step might be difficult ... place the sprouts in the hot pan with the cut side down.  On medium-high heat (more high than medium), cook the sprouts as long as you can without letting them burn - should just be a minute or two.

Then cover the sprouts with an inch or so of veggie or chicken stock.  This will deglaze the pan so you can enjoy some of those sticky bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add a pinch of salt (unless the stock is already salted).  Immediately turn down to a simmer and cook until the liquid evaporates or the sprouts are fork tender (should happen around the same time).