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Today, as I drove home I listened to a tribute to Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Café playing on CBC radio. It was a show about love stories, encounters, and friendships. It was all about companionship. One of the stories was about a couple who had magical chemistry, and they would send each other photos of them eating cookies. It reminded me of what role food plays in many of our lives. Not only is it what sustains us, but it is often something that brings people together. Often it is not necessarily the food itself, but the fact that it is shared, that makes it special.

I can remember even when I was a very small child looking forward to meals with our family in France. It was always special. Meals often took hours, but we didn’t notice the time going by.

When I was in undergrad, meals brought friends together, many of whom are still very near and dear.

When I lived in The Gambia, not a day went by without food being shared. I could never keep up with the enormous generosity of the village where I lived, until one day I learned that I could share the food that was brought for me. We would nurture each other.

These past few weeks I’ve had a lovely time in a clinical rotation, working with a special team dedicating themselves to providing the best possible care for their patients, at a level which I have rarely seen. Witnessing such dedication, I wanted to give back, so I made these delicious cookies to help fuel us through the day. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did, and that it serves as a backdrop to many tea parties, work afternoons, or any other pick-me-ups you might need.

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Ingredients – for approximately 40 cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted and softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups oatmeal – I use old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. I use a stand mixer but you can also beat it by hand. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for a few more minutes, until pale and well incorporated
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and mix
  5. Stir in cranberries, coconut and chocolate chips
  6. place spoonfuls of the dough in your hand and roll into a ball. Place on cookie sheet 1.5 inches apart and bake for 13-15 minutes
  7. Cool on wire rack

Hope you enjoy these little treats!

Sitelle

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As I write up my blog about the most recent, and one of my most exciting culinary adventures in a while, I realize there are a few things I want to share with those who read this blog, including why I’m so excited about this recipe, and who I’m dedicating it to. It’s a bit more personal than normal (aka longer to read), so if you’re looking for the recipe fast, then just scroll down a bit past the photo!

First of all, as I look back on my relationship with food over the years – going from child to want-to-be-chef to medical student, it’s funny to see how my relationship with food has changed. I realize that I was very lucky to have parents and friends who took such great care to feed me healthy food me despite my wishing that I had more access to junk food when I was in primary school. I remember spaghetti squash days as those when I would have done almost anything to have a less healthy meal instead. I’d have traded almost anything for a fruit roll-up, or some dunk-a-roos. Now, though, here I am becoming a healthcare professional, and really (naively) hoping that one day, many of the patients I see will be able to have access to healthy food, will have spaces in which to cook it, and time and knowledge to do so. Not to mention the desire to cook and to eat healthy food, or at least have someone around them with the desire and all the other necessary prerequisites, who would share it with them. I know it’s an ideal and a very naive wish, but hey, it’s what I wish for.

Second, as this recipe is my own creation, I’m publishing it for Catherine, my wonderful friend and co-blogger, for her birthday this year!  I know I’m early, but I’ve already promised to publish this recipe to a number of friends, and I’m sure Catherine would love to know that the recipe I’m sharing in her honour has already been enjoyed by many! This recipe is perfect for Catherine: it’s one that keeps on giving (one spaghetti squash can feed many mouths, or can make many lunches!), it’s delicious, healthy, and it’s fully realistic to make while busy with clerkship. All you need is the ingredients, 10 minutes to assemble, and an hour in the oven.

I hope you enjoy this spaghetti squash surprise!

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Ingredients – for 1 full spaghetti squash, or approximately 6 servings

-1 spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise with seeds scraped out
-2 Tbsp olive (or other) oil
-1 onion, diced
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tbsp dried parsley
-1 tomato, diced
-lb lean ground beef
-1/2 cup dried cranberries
-zest from 1 lemon, finely grated
-1/4-1/2 tsp hot chilli flakes or cayenne
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp ground cumin
-1/4 tsp salt or more to taste

Topping:

-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
-1 Tbsp butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Dice the onion, mince or crush the garlic, chop the tomato and the parsley, zest the lemon, and throw all of these ingredients in a medium bowl with the meat, chilli flakes, cinnamon, cumin, salt, and dried cranberries. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil and mix well.

Meanwhile brush or coat the two spaghetti squash halves with the other Tbsp of oil. Fill each of the spaghetti squash halves with the meat stuffing, packing it down so it all fits. If it overflows a bit, it’s fine.

Place the spaghetti squash halves in a deep baking dish with 1 inch of water in the bottom of the dish. Cover with aluminum foil. Cook for 50-60 minutes, until the squash is soft. Once cooked, you might find there is a lot of juice in the squash (depends on the squash) – you can just drain it by pressing the meat stuffing down into the squash and placing the squash at an angle to let it drain out. This might not be necessary.

Before serving, melt the butter in a frying pan, and add the breadcrumbs. Top the squash with the breadcrumbs and keep in the oven until ready to serve!

Bonne appétit,

-Sitelle

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If you’re looking to find some warm colours and comforting flavours on this Ontario Election Day, look no farther than this simple farmhouse vegetable stew! This recipe created itself from the remaining vegetables in my CSA box this week, and I’ve already put it into jars as I’m looking forward to sharing some with someone this weekend!

DSCN6299

Ingredients – for 6 portions

1 onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 turnip, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 acorn squash, peeled and diced
1 Tbsp flour
4 cups vegetable stock, hot
1/2 cut hot milk
Grated parmesan, for garnish

Directions

Dice the onion, and then sauté over medium heat in the olive oil in a stockpot. Once the onion is soft, add the remaining vegetables and cook  and stir for 5 minutes or so, until fragrant. Sprinkle the flour onto the veggies and stir to coat.

Add the hot vegetable stock and hot milk, and bring to a simmer. Allow the whole soup to simmer on low for 45 or so minutes, with the lid partially on to prevent too much evaporation.

Serve hot with grated parmesan and crusty bread!

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As a kid, my family would go strawberry picking in July at a nearby farm. Our family would arrive in a multiple car convoy, with my grandmother leading the way. Each grandchild would be handed a basket and unleashed on the fields. We would spend the next few hours contently picking berries. More often than not, the majority of berries we picked ended up in our stomach rather than the basket. Our more disciplined parents and grandparents had more success in actually picking berries, so we would return to our cottage with mountains of ripe, juicy strawberries.

The challenge was to do something exciting with all these berries. Our family was always up for the challenge – we froze berries whole for later use in the summer, we whipped up frosted strawberry desserts, we baked numerous strawberry pies, and we cooked enough strawberry jam to last us the year. We lived in strawberry heaven for a few weeks before raspberry season arrived!

Today, the farm has been converted into a golf course, but we continue to jam using strawberries from the Farmer’s Market. Making jam is not particularly time consuming or difficult. The trick is in making sure you follow directions for the pectin crystal and avoid any risk of botulism by properly sterilizing jars and instruments. There are a variety of pectin crystals on the market – my mother really likes CERTO light because it is one of the few that uses more fruit than sugar.

Hulling the strawberries

Hulling the strawberries

Your fingers, counters, and bowls are at risk of being stained by the strawberry juice, so I recommend hulling berries over newspaper and using a dark colored or metal bowl to crush the berries. As for the jam pot, note that the jam will nearly double in volume while cooking, so be sure it’s large.

Sterilizing our jamming instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

Sterilizing our  instruments and transforming our crushed berries into jam!

The fresh jam is delicious on breads, but also over icecream or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon!

 

Strawberry Jam

Makes ~8 cups of Strawberry Jam
 
Strawberry Jam
 

Ingredients:

6 cups washed, hulled and crushed strawberries
4 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 box CERTO light pectin crystals

Appropriate number of jars, rings, and lids (either four 2-cup jars or eight 1-cup jars). If the berries are particularly juicy, an extra jar may come in handy!
 

Directions

Sterilize jars by placing them in the oven at 225oF for 10 minutes. Keep warm until filling time. Boil utensils in a pot of water for at least 15 minutes and lids at least 5 minutes before use.

Place crushed strawberries in a large saucepan. Combine the CERTO light pectin crystals and ¼ cup of the measured sugar. Add to strawberries.

Bring the strawberry mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the remaining sugar. Return to a rolling boil (i.e. one where you cannot stop the pot from boiling when stirring hard) for 1 minute. The jam will nearly double in volume at this point and start spitting. It is also highly susceptible to burn at this stage, so continue to stir hard!

Remove jam from heat. Continue stirring jam for 5 minutes. During this time, skim foam off jam.

Pour jam using sterilized utensils into warm sterilized jars to ¼ inch from rim. Cover with lids and screw rings on tightly. The jars should seal overnight. Occasionally, one does not, so store it in the fridge and eat this jar first.
 
NOTE – this is the 2013 CERTO Light recipe – they occasionally change up the crystal formulation, so be sure to follow whatever recipe is listed with your pectin crystals.

Bon appétit!
 
– Catherine

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Since March, G and I have decided only to eat wild meat and fish for the remainder of the time we’re living in Hay River. It’s been marvelously delicious, and really neat to hear people’s stories about their favourite recipes for different meats and for different times of the year. We’ve got a lovey friend and her family who lives across the river and loves to spoil us and share her traditional culture with us through food, language, sewing and endless stories. She’s an excellent story-teller, and constantly gives her time and energy to the community. She also loves to share her food with us, and a few weeks ago she gave us a nice rack of moose ribs along with a couple that she had recently smoked. “Make pulled moose meat” she told me, with a big smile. So I set out to find a recipe I thought did justice to the meat, and planned to eat this on a Monday. An emergency called us out just as we were about to begin cooking, so the meal was post-poned one day and it marinated overnight. It was a happy coincidence, because Tuesday we had a good reason to celebrate, and this meal was just the perfect touch.

I built the recipe from one published by the Temiskaming Shores Fishing and Angling Association, converting it somewhat to what I found in the fridge and the bush on a walk the day we made it: juniper berries and labrador tea leaves.

I’m sure this recipe would work well with other meats as well, but if you have access to moose I highly recommend it.

Pulled Moose

Ingredients

3 Tbsp paprika

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbsp dry mustard

1/2 tsp salt

8 juniper berries

2 Tbsp maple syrup

1 cup labrador tea, leaves removed

1 cup barbecue sauce

2 cups mushroom broth

2 smoked moose ribs

3 lb moose ribs

Directions

Boil the smoked ribs for 20 minutes and then drain. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a bowl to make the rub. Wash the ribs and coat both the raw and the smoked ribs in the rub. Refrigerate and leave covered for a night.

The following day, warm up the stock, tea, barbecue sauce and the maple syrup until simmering. Place moose ribs into slow cooker and cover with broth.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. While the meat is warm, pull shreds of the tender meat off the bone using a fork. Pour sauce over meat and serve with toasted buns or mashed potatoes!

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Fish Stir-Fry

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go ice fishing with a local fisherman who showed us how to set nets under 4.5 feet of ice, which blew my mind. After we brought the nets in, I watched him fillet at least two dozen large fish, of four or five varieties. I’m looking forward to fishing myself, and attempting to fillet the fish after what I learned – I assume it will be a lot sloppier and slower, but I’m ready for the challenge!

After we fished we ate an absolutely delicious meal of sashimi, pan-fried fish with dill, and bannock in one of his cabins out on the lake. I have never had such fresh sashimi!

We ate so much fish, and yet there were many left-overs. We brought many different types home, including the left-over sashimi fillets which we turned into this delicious stir-fry for lunch the following day. This stir-fry is amazing not only because it’s delicious but because it is also incredibly fast and simple!

Heading out for fishing

Ingredients – 2 servings

1 lb fish fillets, sliced into strips

2 green onions, chopped

1 carrot, cut into match sticks

1 zucchini, halved and then finely sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

Soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

Rice, cooked

Directions

Slice, dice, and prepare all stir-fry ingredients. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat, then add garlic. Stir, then add the fish. Saute on medium for a few minutes, then add the remaining veggies. Continue to stir often, and cook for about 6 minutes until the fish is cooked and the veggies are still crunchy but hot. Season with salt and pepper and soy sauce.

Serve the fish stir-fry over rice with soy sauce.

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Muskox burger

I’ve been saving photos of many things for Gourm(eh) in the past month. Life up North has been ever-consuming, and I was waiting for a window during which I could start posting. Since we started up Gourm(eh), we’ve been trying to explore Canadian cuisine. We’ve posted traditional dishes and others from almost each continent. I think that really points to how wonderfully multi-cultural our country is, and I must say I really enjoy that fact.

During my stay up in Hay River, I think I finally have learned a little more about Canadian cuisine. As a small northern community (although large for the territories), pot-lucks, dinners, the market and cooking clubs with kids at the school have shown me several new secrets about Canadian food. Here, if it contains meat (wild or store-bought) and it sticks to your ribs it is good, keeping you fuelled through the cold and dark months. It’s pretty much “no meat, no good” in the families that have been here for generations. An influx of new folks has started to change up the tastes in town (including Chinese and vegetarian), but those are not yet mixed into the norm, from my observation.

One pleasure I’ve had has been to explore wild meats here. I am always asking the kids stories about hunting with their families, talking with elders about how they lived on the land. It’s fascinating, and every story involves new and interesting information I’m still not sure how to fit together. It’s also been fun trying all the different wild meats common around here, from Bison to Caribou and Fish. Last week, we made these Muskox burgers which were unbelievably delicious. Muskox has its own unique flavour, and is totally lean. The afternoon before we cooked them, I happened to hear some advice from a child’s mother: include oats and eggs or else they will fall apart the meat is so crumbly!

The most surprising thing about Muskox is that even though we always buy extra lean ground beef, I’m used to my burgers and meatballs shrinking. With Muskox meat, we shaped burgers into medium-sized patties hoping to end up with small patties, as we do with beef. This time, though, the patties did not shrink at all, leaving us with exactly the same volume as we began with. If you’re a meat-eater, I highly recommend trying Muskox if you ever have the opportunity!

Muskox feast

Muskox burgers – (5)

Ingredients

1 lb ground Muskox meat

1/2 cup instant oats

1 leek, white and light green only, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crushed rosemary

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

1-2 eggs (depending on how crumbly the mixture is)

5 buns (I like to make bannock buns)

Suggested toppings

5 lettuce leaves, washed

1 tomato, sliced

Cheddar slices

Dijon mustard

Caramelized leeks (optional)

Directions

In a bowl, pat dry the muskox meat as best you can. Mix the ground meat up with your hands. Add all the additional ingredients except the egg. Mix well, and once it is evenly mixed, add the egg. Form the mixture into patties and cook as you would a burger.

Serve on freshly baked bannock buns with any of the toppings you enjoy!

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Don’t let the time discourage you, but do read through carefully and plan accordingly!

Let me start by saying this is one the things I am proudest of baking, entirely from scratch!

Although I’m very busy, I find that it’s being busy with a whole variety of activities many of which are organized to keep everyone up here sane through the long, dark, and cold winter. People are very creative in the North, since there are few opportunities for leisure outside of the realm of your imagination. In the fall we took on the challenge of making our own sourdough starter. This week, we took on 36-hour sourdough cinnamon buns as a fun challenge.

On one of the coldest mornings in Hay River, I realized we had the rare chance of being home enough over the next two days to give these 36-hout cinnamon buns a try. As the recipe starts with a warning that these are very time-consuming (and coming from an author-chef who makes her own phyllo pastry) I was a bit worried because my time did have a finite limit (going to see Les Miserables) the following evening at 7pm. I had to try it, though, as this was my only window in the foreseeable future.

Inspired by the northern climate, I decided to add some creativity to this dessert with pecans, and exchange cranberries for raisins as they are more of a local product. The result was dangerously tasty.

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Ingredients:

 

Starter, Day 1: AM

-1/4 cup starter

-1/2 cup flour and equal parts warm water

 

 

Starter, Day 1: PM

-1 cup flour and equal parts warm water

 

 

Day 2: AM

Dough

-1/4 cup butter

-1/2 cup sugar

-2 eggs

-1/2 cup buttermilk

-4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

-1 1/2 tsp sel

 

Filling

-1/2 cup butter

-1 1/2 cups brown sugar

-3 Tbsp heavy cream

-2 tsp ground cinnamon

-1 cup dried cranberries

-1 cup chopped pecans

 

Glaze

-1/8 cup melted butter

-1/8 cup cream

DSCN4245_NRW

 

Directions:

 

Day 1, AM: feed the starter the flour and water. Cover loosely and let rest.

Day 1, PM: add to starter: flour and water. Cover loosely and allow to sit in a warm place overnight.

Day 2, AM: Allow the butter, eggs and buttermilk to warm to room temperature. Cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes, and then add one egg at a time. Finally, add the buttermilk and mix well. After this, I added the starter, and mixed in 2/3-3/4 of the flour. I added a little more flour over time, until you have incorporated it fully, and proceeded to knead for about 10 minutes.

After that, let the dough rest covered with a damp tea towel for 20 minutes.

Add the salt gradually, and continue kneading for another 8 minutes until the dough feels very uniform. I recommend to keep the surface on which you’re working and your hands nice and floury while you work.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and mix it around so it is fully covered in oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm place until it’s doubled in volume – for me it took around 6 hours, but it can take usually between 4-8 hours.

While the dough is rising, melt the butter over medium-low, and watch it bubble until the bubbles get very small and the colour changes from a white to a faint golden colour. Remove from heat immediately. Add the remaining ingredients, return to heat, and cook for a few minutes over medium heat. Cool and beat the mixture until it is a good consistency for spreading.

Once the dough has reached twice its original volume, punch it down and roll it out to a large rectangle between two pieces of slightly floured parchment paper.

Remove the top parchment paper, and spread and push the filling evenly into the dough, leaving about 2 cm around the edge. Roll it up lengthwise tightly, and pinch the edges closed. Slice it into 16 rolls, and place into a baking tray lined with parchment paper. This is a bit of a delicate job, but I managed with my fingers and a knife.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise again until nearly doubled, between 2-3 hours. Preheat the oven (finally!) to 400F and bake for 20-25 minutes. I had a drip-catching tray underneath, as recommended in the recipe, and that was really good to avoid oven fires or a smoky house.

Immediately out of the oven I brushed each with a mix of 1/8 cup melted butter and 1/8 cup cream mixed together. These were divine!

Good luck, it’s not the easiest recipe but it is amazingly delicious.

-Sitelle

 

 

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It’s always been my dream to eat from near-by as much as possible. It gives us variation through the seasons, simplicity, and always freshness. Freshness is especially salient up here in the Northwest Territories, as we do receive some imported fruits but all too often they are spoiled by the time they arrive, and they cost a pretty penny.

Living on the shores of the Great Slave Lake means we get a lot of fresh fish. Whitefish and Jackfish are the common ones, but there are others as well. As one of the deepest lakes in the world and being situated where few people live means there still is a good stock.
As winter settles in, and the cold envelopes everything, the fish is changing too. It gets fattier – more full of omega fatty acids – it’s reserves for getting through the cold winter months.

The whitefish from this lake is absolutely delicious. This recipe is one of my favourite. Rapid, simple, and delicious, it’s pretty well perfect.

DSCN3892

Ingredients

4 whitefish fillets
1 onion, diced

2 carrots, quartered lengthwise and thinly chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme

olive oil

4 medium yukon-gold potatoes

butter

fresh parsley, shredded

salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Finely chop onions and carrots. Cut 4 squares of parchment paper. Wash the fish fillets, and then drizzle with 1tsp olive oil. Place diced onions and carrots on top, season lightly with salt and pepper, and top with thyme sprig. Fold the parchment paper over it all. Repeat for all 4 fillets.

Place in oven and bake for 14-18 minutes, until cooked (time depends on thickness of fillets).

Meanwhile, place water on to boil. Boil the potatoes for 15 minutes until just tender. Drain and slice in half. Serve potatoes next to fish with butter and parsley. Enjoy!

-Sitelle

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As the wintry weather continues to approach (it’s scary to say approach since it feels like beyond the winter I’m used to), I’ve been craving comforting meals in the warmth of our apartment. It’s funny because although I’m living in one of the bustling metropoles of the Northwest Territories (there are four, I am told, in total), the town is small at 3000 people, and has a couple of stop-lights. I cannot find half the spices I want in the grocery store (not even things you’d expect, like dried thyme), yet the baking isle is stocked with as many varieties of flour as your usual grocery stores in Ontario, or more. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that many people here take the time to bake their own bread and make their own preserves with the slower pace of life here. The smell of baking bread is not uncommon in the neighbourhood, and people definitely take baking their bread seriously – hence the large variety of flour available.

Tonight, as I thought about the chili we’d be having for dinner, I decided it was time to bake a Sunday night dessert. It’s apple season, so I’ve been going wild with apple-themed things, and this is no exception. It’s an upside-down apple-cinnamon and brown sugar cake, the perfect consistency to have with a hot chocolate, tea, or early afternoon coffee. It was completely invented in our kitchen, since the one cookbook we have here does not have a similar recipe, and we don’t have regular access to the internet (only at the library and those few times at school when we have free time). So, this is the first new recipe born out of Hay River!

Ingredients

2 eggs, beaten, in a medium bowl

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup melted butter

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

2 apples, sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 or 400 if your oven is on the cold side.

Grease a medium rectangular cake pan (we used a pyrex oven dish, maybe 6 inches by 9), and sprinkle with a bit of brown sugar.

Beat eggs in a medium bowl. Add brown sugar and stir until dissolved, and then add melted butter.

In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre, add the wet ingredients to the well, and carefully incorporate all ingredients together, removing any lumps that are formed.

Toss the apples in the cinnamon and half the brown sugar and mix the remaining brown sugar with the butter. Line the bottom of the pan with apples, and cut the remaining apple slices into small chunks and reserve them. Sprinkle half the brown sugar-butter mix over the apples. Cover with half the cake batter, and sprinkle the remaining apples and brown-sugar butter over top. Top with the remaining batter.

Bake on middle rack in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Serve with vanilla ice cream if desired, and toffee syrup if you’re feeling particularly fancy – although it’s not necessary!

-Sitelle

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