Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Got Nothin' - Sister's Soft, Moist Sunday XIII

My sister is having surgery this week. It should help to improve the problems with her jaw.  If all goes well, she may no longer need my soft, moist selections.  I feel I should have an amazing recipe to celebrate that possibility, but I've got nothing.  Surprising, considering our meals this week: turkey stew, borsht, sweet potato and yam soup, chili...all soft and moist, but other than the soup, none that she could easily prepare on her own.  These meals all have great potential for adapting, should they be needed.  I guess you'll know how things went if you find me back here next week. 

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From Pumpkin To Pie In Twelve Easy Steps

First, find a friend who is willing to let you work for vegetables, and is willing to let you share the harvest even when there are only two pumpkins.

Admire the fruits of you labour.

Butcher with care. Preferably outside, as you don't want to get guts all over the kitchen.

Mind your fingers!

Plan on saving the seeds.

Wonder at absence of seeds and the presence of strange, unidentifiable globs. Did this one grow too close to the power lines?

Salvage the few seeds you find, and hope for better luck next year.

Cut the pumpkins into chunks and head to the kitchen.

Add some water to the bottom of the roasting pan, cover (in this case with foil, as the lid would no longer fit on the pan) and bake until the flesh is soft.

Scoop the flesh from the pumpkin pieces and puree, first with a mixer, then with an immersion blender. (The contents of the bowl represent less than half of the puree we got from those two pumpkins. L kept the contents of the other bowl. This was mine.)

Transfer pureed pumpkin to containers and freeze. Don't attempt to can your pureed pumpkin. Apparently home-canned pumpkin is an excellent way to promote botulism. Remember to reserve one container for your pie. (These jars contain the puree from the bowl in the picture above. The jar on the right is homemade cranberry sauce from L at Sleeping Cougar. Yum!)

Homemade pumpkin puree is much more watery than it's store-bought counterparts. Use less liquid in your pie recipe, or consider draining your pumpkin before preparing the filling.

(I used less liquid, and I still had to let the cooked pie dry in the oven on a low temperature. It gave us time to digest the wonderful turkey dinner hubby prepared.)

Enjoy your pie!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Using Up Leftovers - Sister's Soft, Moist Sunday XII

It's Thanksgiving weekend here in the Great White North.  To celebrate, Hubby spent all day yesterday cooking a turkey.   I know, tomorrow is actually Thanksgiving Day, but his cooking yesterday means that there are enough leftovers to see us through the rest of the weekend.  You can read that as "no more cooking for the rest of the weekend".  Sounds good to me. 

Because I'm still in the clutches of a turkey-filled stupor, I'm going to keep today's post brief.  This week's Soft, Moist Selection was inspired by leftovers.  An appropriate choice considering what's currently in our fridge.  Before you click away from the page, let me assure you that there's no turkey in today's recipe.  I'm not going to subject you to a turkey smoothie.  At least not yet.

This Week's Soft, Moist Selection

Lovely Leftovers Smoothie

(There was green tea left in the pot and a half a can of coconut milk in the fridge.  They came together with a banana and some chard in this smoothie.  I love it when nothing goes to waste.)

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1/2 cup green tea 
1/2 can coconut milk (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 - 2 cups water
1 large leaf of Swiss chard (about 1 1/2 cups) stem removed, torn into pieces 
1 banana
honey - to taste
pinch of nutmeg

- Blend tea, coconut milk and chard
- Add banana, water, honey and nutmeg and blend


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hunting Elusive Chanterelles

There may be edible mushrooms growing in the wilds of Southwestern Ontario, but I wouldn't know. They were never pointed out to me. My wild mushroom education consisted of being told not to eat, touch or even look at the mushrooms and other fungi growing in the region. OK. I may be exaggerating a bit. We were allowed to look, but only from a distance.

When we moved to Vancouver Island we heard rumours of edible mushrooms, chanterelles in particular, growing in the woods. Intriguing, but certainly not something I'd experiment with considering my
lack of knowledge in field of mycology. (I also lack a sense of direction, and I'd really prefer not to be one of the many lost mushroom hunters requiring Search and Rescue's services each fall.)

Last weekend Hubby and I got to take part in a supervised chanterelle hunt offered by our local rec centre. Sounded good to u
s. There was no chance of picking poisoned mushrooms or getting lost in the forest. Our instructor was a member of Search and Rescue. Imagine the embarrassment if he had to call in his colleagues to rescue one of his students. We couldn't think of safer circumstances to educate ourselves about these delicious fungi.

The morning started in the classroom where we learn
ed about fungi in general and about chanterelles in particular. We learned where to find them and how to properly pick them. Our instructor brought several examples of chanterelles in various stages of development. He also brought samples of plants that indicate chanterelles could be lurking nearby.

After discussing some basic safely measures, including proper whistle use, we picked our buddies, (Hubby graciously agreed to be my buddy in spite of my aforementioned lack of directional skills.) grabbed our whistles and headed to the first stop of the day.

It was a beautiful, sunny day. Fortunately we've had a lot of warm, dry weather over the last several months. Perfect for humans, not so much for chanterelles. We had been warned about this. Our amazingly good summer has lead to a less than amazing chanterelle season. They proved to be more elusive than locally-grown onions in the teeny-tiny town.

There were lots of mushrooms to be found, but these were definitely not what we're looking for. They're the wrong colour, the wrong shape and they're growing in the wrong place.

These ones are closer to the right colour, but nothing else about them is right.


Hubby found most of these at our first stop of the day. I found two, and one didn't count. I found it by accident when I cut the first one. When I put my hand down for balance I dislodged some debris. The mushroom basically fell into my hand.

Our second stop wasn't as productive. Hubby found one chanterelle, and I didn't find any. A few students had better luck. One found a perfect specimen. It looked just like the sample photograph the instructor had brought to class. It was such a beauty I had to take a picture. Not surprisingly, the photo didn't turn out. Did I mention that chanterelles were elusive that day?

With Hubby's fungal windfall, my two paltry contributions and a few donations from our instructor, we had just enough chanterelles for pizza. Hubby makes an awesome chanterelle pizza. It looks good enough to eat, and it hasn't even been baked yet.

Out of the oven it's even more spectacular. And it only took about ten hours to make! (Six hours to find the mushrooms and four hours to make the pizza, if you count dough-rising time - which I obviously do.) Was it worth it? Oh yeah!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Still Yammin' It Up - Sister's Soft, Moist Sunday XI

I know. This is the third week of yam and sweet potato recipes. If you're tired of them, you should probably stop reading now. There's an interesting post about autumn olives over at Making Love in the Kitchen. It's guaranteed to be yam and sweet potato free. If you're feeling brave enough to read on, I promise this will be the last post on the topic for a while. I think. Probably.

I had a baked yam left over after I made last week's sweet potato and yam soup. In hindsight, I probably should have baked more. I keep finding recipes I want to adapt. Though it's probably just as well that I didn't. I'm guessing hubby's tolerance for these little tubers may not be quite as high as mine.

What to do with my lonely little yam? I could have tried it with some of the toppings I suggested a couple of weeks ago, but that seemed rather predictable. Once again my trusty blender called, and my yam-tastic orange buddy ended up in a beverage.

This Week's Soft, Moist Selection

Yam Bake-N-Shake

(This one is quite thick. Much more like a shake than a smoothie. I tasted it, then added flax oil at the end. I wish I hadn't. It may have boosted the health-appeal, but it certainly didn't do anything for the taste. Blech. I've left it in the recipe for you to decide what works for you. Oh, and make sure the yam is COLD before you put it in the blender. Mine had been baked the day before.)

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 baked yam
1 cup unsweetened apple juice
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp flax oil (optional)

- Scoop flesh from the yam and place in blender.
- Blend yam and apple juice
- Add syrup, milk, cinnamon and nutmeg and blend.
- Add flax oil, if you really like flax oil. Blend.

Note: To bake a yam - wrap individual yams in foil and bake at 400 degrees until soft. About 45 minutes. Do several at the same time. You'll be happy you did.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Local Eats Make Birthday Treats

Yesterday was Elusive Onions' first anniversary. To celebrate, I made my first 100-mile meal. I know, for someone who writes about local food it seems strange that this meal was a first. I've made several almost-100-mile meals, but there's often a cheat. My usual temptations are flour, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. With yesterday's dinner I managed to resist temptation, and the results were still delicious.

I had originally wanted to make an elaborate meal to celebrate, but time didn't allow for that. I stuck with simple, familiar recipes and adapted them to suit what was available. Salad, frittata and baked apples were the menu for the evening.

The salad and the frittata were the easiest to adapt to local ingredients. The only thing I missed was salt in the frittata. I felt it was a little flat, but I know to compensate with more herbs and aromatics in the future.

The salad dressing presented a bit of a challenge, but once I decided to use sweet rather than savoury ingredients in the salad I figured honey and yogurt would work for a dressing. That same dressing was then used to drizzle over the baked apples.

The baked apples required the most brain-work. It took me a while to banish thoughts of brown sugar and cinnamon. The brown sugar became honey, but the cinnamon required some creative thinking. I finally wandered out to my garden to see what herbs could work. I eventually settled on lavender. It was really the only herb that seemed suitable for a dessert. I think it worked, and there were no complaints from hubby, so I'm calling it a success.

Salad - Veggies and nuts from local farmers. Apple from a friend's tree. Thanks G!

Frittata - Eggs from a friend's chickens, veggies from local farmers, herbs from my garden, cheese and milk from Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland dairies.

Salad dressing - yogurt from Lower Mainland dairy, honey from the Farmers' Market.

Baked apples- fresh apples, honey, hazelnuts from local farms, lavender from my garden, dried apples from Sleeping Cougar Acres, (L provided the apples, I dried them.) yogurt from Lower Mainland dairy.

The dairy items traveled the furthest for this meal. The mainland dairies were right on the border of my 100 mile radius. I could have used items from Vancouver Island, but I prefer to use organic milk products where I can. So far I haven't found Island producers of organic milk and yogurt. Maybe I'll have to get my own cow. Or give up dairy. Those things aren't likely to happen, though I have given some thought to making my own yogurt. Someday. Far, far in the future. I sense a story in that!