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As a senior medical student, I am learning the foundations of being a good doctor, spending anywhere between 40 and 90 hours each week in the hospital.  While I generally love my work, it often leaves me drained and pinched for time (especially after a 26 hour call shift!)  My meals have therefore become simpler (and make in abundant quantities to last a few days), but I haven’t stopped cooking.  I have been guilty of neglecting Gourm(eh)? over the past year, but hope I can make up for it with a few summer recipes over the next few months!

One of my favourite things is receiving my biweekly organic food boxes from Front Door Organics.  They deliver gorgeous fruits and veggies right to my front door – and in the summertime, I love choosing their local Ontario produce.  It’s always a treat finding veggies you just can’t get at the grocery store, such as sweet purple carrots, colourful watermelon radishes, and tangy micrograms.

I love potato salad all year round, but in the summer I try to avoid heavy mayonnaise dressings. The recipe in my most recent food box caught my eye.  Inspired by local veggies now in season, their potato salad has a light lemony vinaigrette.   Below is a modification of their suggested recipe of the week – Simple Summer Salad with Green Beans & New Potatoes.  Being an omnivore, I substituted their cubed smoked tofu with bacon, but it would be easy to return to their vegan recipe.

This summer salad was delicious.  I was too excited to chill this recipe for 30 minutes before trying it, but it was even better cold as leftovers the next day after the marinade had mellowed the salad.

Summer Potato Salad

Potato Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

(4-6 generous servings)

Ingredients:

SALAD MAKINGS

  • 1 pound new potatoes, halved
  • 1 zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup olives, sliced
  • 2-3 tbsp capers
  • 5-6 slices of bacon, cut into bite size pieces (or 1 cup cubed smoked tofu)

VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped herbs (such as basil, parsley, and tarragon)
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt

Directions:

To prep the salad ingredients, start by boiling the new potatoes in salted water until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Drain and immerse potatoes in an ice bath to cool. Blanch the zucchini and green beans in salted water for 1-2 mins, then drain and also immerse in an ice bath to cool.  Remove veggies from ice bath and allow to air dry (don’t keep them in the ice bath for longer than 2-3 minutes to avoid getting soggy).

Meanwhile, cook the bacon and prep the other veggies.  Place all the salad makings together in a large bowl. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together, then pour over the salad.  Gently mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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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!

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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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One of the things I miss in Toronto is nearby cross-country ski trails.  There is nothing I like better on a sunny winter day than to strap on my skis and enjoy winter.  Home for the holidays, I took full advantage of the nearby proximity of Gatineau and skied half a dozen time with friends and family.  The weather cooperated (only on Christmas was it below -20!) and the skiing glorious, as Ottawa had received over half its  average annual snowfall before the New Year.  

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One of my best skis so far this season was with Sitelle and her partner.  We trekked about 16 km in the south end of Gatineau, going up and up and up the 15 to the MacKenzie King Estate before gliding gently home on the parkway.  The scenery was idyllic, with the snow glistening on tree branches.  We managed to work up a large appetite – luckily my family had planned a large prime rib roast for Sunday dinner. 

Nothing quite beats a little yorkshire pudding with roast beef.  We discovered this recipe from Brian Turner via food.com that looked quick, simple, and delicious.  The only modification we made was to add in a little rosemary to the mix. And we certainly weren’t disappointed.  The Yorkshire Puddings were divine – crisp on the outside and delightfully fluffy on the inside.  I’ll certainly be looking for my next excuse to make Yorkshire Pudding sometime soon! 

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Yorkshire Pudding

(serves ~6)

 

Ingredients

– 1 cup plain flour

– 1 cup egg

– 1 cup milk

– salt to taste

– 2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425F. Put a teaspoon of oil/butter/beef drippings in each of several muffin tins until the fat is really hot and beginning to smoke (about 1-2 minutes). Meanwhile combine the rest of the ingredients and beat to form a batter of the consistency of double cream.

Working quickly to keep the muffin tins as hot as possible, pour in the batter, making sure to avoid overfilling.  Put the tin back into the top of the oven as soon as possible.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the Yorkshire Pudding is puffed up and crisp.

– Bon appetit!

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There is something magical about gingerbread houses.  I have always loved assembling them with friends and family while listening to holiday tunes, drinking hot chocolate, snacking on clementines, and soaking in Christmas joy.   I have been satisfied with the kit from the grocery store over the past few years,  but last year, I wanted to try something even more special.

Just before Christmas, my old roomate from Toronto came up to visit me.  We had two missions: visit Peggy’s Cove and build a gingerbread house from scratch.   With -9 C cold and biting winds, we braved Maritime weather to drive out to the Cove.  As for the gingerbread house, we were inspired by Joy of Cooking, with their tried and true recipes, to build one from scratch.  Over two days we mixed, rolled-out, baked, and decorated the house.

The most difficult element of this recipe is waiting: waiting for the dough to chill, wating for the gingerbread to bake (while delicious aromas waft through the house), and waiting for the icing to set.  But the end result was well worth it: A gorgeous gingerbread house – with far more delicious candy and gingerbread than you find in a kit – of which we are incredibly proud!

The gingerbread can be baked up to a week in advance of assembling.

 

Gingerbread House

(makes one gingerbread house, about 5 1/2 inches wide by 7 inches high on a 9-inch square base, plus a few extra cookies)

 

Ingredients:

GINGERBREAD DOUGH

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup molasses

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
 

ROYAL ICING

3 large egg whites

3 cups icing sugar

Food dye

1/2 teaspoon vanilla
 

DECORATION

Your favouite candy for decorating a gingerbread house.  The sky’s the limit!
 
Gingerbread house!
 

Directions:

GINGERBREAD DOUGH RECIPE

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar and molasses and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture no longer feels gritty. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients except for 1/2 cup of flour.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, pour in the lukewarm butter mixture, and beat to blend everything together.  Work in the remaining flour, beating until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead 3 or 4 times on the counter, until smooth and pliable.  Wrap well and refrigerate until dough is thoroughly cool.

After refrigerating, if the dough feels to soft to roll out, work in a tiny bit more flour.
 

GINGERBREAD HOUSE PREPARATION

PREPARE THE PATTERN PIECES: Copy the pattern pieces onto stiff cardboard and cut them out.  You should have seven pieces: 2 sides; 1 front and 1 back; 2 roof panels; and 1 base.  Rub flour over both sides of the pattern pieces to prevent the dough from sticking to them.

SIDES – cut two: 4 inches x 3 inches (base x height).  If desired, add a window (1 inch x 1 inch) in the middle.

FRONT AND BACK – cut two: 5 1/4 inches x 6 3/4 inches (base x height).  These pieces should be pentagon shaped (so the base is 5 1/4 inches, the height is 6 3/4 inches in the centre, but only 3 inches on the sides).  If desired, add a door (1 inch by 2 inches) and two windows (1 inch by 1inch).

ROOF – cut two: 5 inches x 6 inches

BASE – cut one: 9 inches x 9 inches
 

BAKING THE GINGERBREAD

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds.

With a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out about one-third of the dough directly on an ungreased cookie sheat, preferably with only 1 raised edge, to about 1/4 inch thick.  Lightly dust the dough with flour.  Position as many pattern pieces as will fit comfortably on top of the rolled dough, leaving about 3/4 inches between them to allow for spreading during baking.  Cut around the patterns with a sharp paring knife.  Remove the pattern pieces.  Peel away the dough between the cut pieces and gather the scraps together to reroll.  Repeat with a second and third cookie sheet if needed, using the remaining dough and cutting out all the pieces.

Cut around, but do not lift out the windows and front door (if they are removed know, the shapes will warp). Roll out the scraps and use cookie cutters or a paring knife to cut out gingerbread people, fence posts, animals, and other designs.

Bake the gingerbread pieces 12 to 15 minutes, or until the colour darkens slightly and the pieces feel nearly stiff – they will firm completely as they cool.

As soon as they come out of the oven, set the cookie sheets on a heatproof surface and immediately, while the dough is still hot, place the pattern pieces on the corresponding pieces of hot gingerbread.  One at a time, cut around each pattern with a paring knife (trimming all the house edges will make them fit together neatly.  Lift off and save the scraps for decorations.  Cut out and remove doors and windows.  While the dough is still warm, you can cut each window in half to make them shutters.

Once the shapes are rigid but still slightly warm, use a broad spatula to transfer them to wire racks to cool completely.  Store them flat on a tray or in a sturdy box in a cool, dry place until ready to assemble.
 

ROYAL ICING

Stir together the egg whites, vanilla, and 1 cup of the icing sugar in a microwave-safe bowl until thoroughly combined.  Microwave on high until the mixture reaches 160 F on a thermometer, 30 to 60 seconds.

Add 2 cups of icing sugar and beat on high speed until the icing is cool and holds stiff peaks.

If the icing is not stiff enough, add more sugar.  Color, if desired, with liquid food colouring.

The icing can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days: Press a piece of wax or parchment paper directly against the surface to prevent drying.  The icing can be rebeaten if necessary.

To pipe, use a small pastry bag fitted with a fine tip, or cut off the corner of a sealable plastic bag or the tip of a parchment paper cone.   Immediately cover bowls of icing with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out; keep tightly covered when you are not using the icing.
 

ASSEMBLING THE HOUSE

Set the gingerbread base right side up on a tray. (The right side of each piece is the side facing up when baked). Centre the front, back, and side pieces, right side down, on top of the base, with the bottom corners touching.  Pipe out a thick 1/2-inch-deep line of icing around the foundation lines.  One at a time, lift the side pieces into place, and pipe a generous line of icing along both side edges of each piece.  Repeat with the front and back pieces, icing their side edges and standing them up in the foundation icing next to the sides.  Gently press all the iced edges of the house together.  If the icing is thick enough, the house should now stand up unaided (but if it is wobbly, support it on all four sides wiht jars or cans until the icing dries, 1 hour to overnight, depending on the humidity.  Do NOT attempt to add the roof until the icing is dry and structure feels solid.

To attach the roof, spread icing generously along the top edges of each house piece and along one long edge of each roof panel.  Press the roof panels in place, touching each other at the peak.  Use your fingertip to smooth all the joints where pieces meet; add extra icing if necessary for stability.  If the roof panels droop, support them with jars or cans until the icing sets.  Don’t decorate the room until the icing is set, or the weight of the decorations may cause it to collapse.

To decorate the house, using icing to glue on the window shutters and position the front door ajar.  Use icing as glue, decorate the house with your favourite candies.

To make icicles: add a little water to some of the white icing, and pipe drippy icicles along the edges of the roof.

For snow: lightly sift icing sugar over the top of the house and the base.
 

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

SAM_7223

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With probably almost 1.5 m of snow or more outside, it’s really hard to imagine that winter is more than a month away. The Christmas decorations are already up (and their light is welcome on the dark days). We even saw a Santaclaus parade last weekend in Yellowknife. Needless to say it’s already necessary to have warm and hearty soups cooked on the weekend so that we can come home after work and warm up with a bowl of it.

On Sundays in Hay River we have a winter market where people sell beadwork and baked goods, and where we can have what is by far the loveliest meal out in town at the “Real Food Cafe”. The wonderful woman in charge of that initiative cooks fresh fish caught by her husband, and serves it up with delicious soup, bannock, locally grown leafy greens (there must be a greenhouse somewhere!), coleslaw, homemade pickle, and a variety of jams made with berries I’ve never seen and sometimes never even heard of. It is absolutely lovely. There is also a vendor selling locally grown squash, potatoes, carrots, beets, and other root veggies, and she sells fresh eggs if her hens have produced enough. It’s a great event to look forward to each week. I imagine that until the stocks let up I will be posting many winter inspired dishes cooked up with vegetables from this very market.

This soup – a rustic squash soup with roasted garlic – is an absolute delight. We don’t have a blender or anything to make a puree with, but roasting all veggies in advance and then cooking it slowly until dinner results in a thick, rustic, and hearty soup. It’s delicious as is, and there is no need to puree it unless you want extremely even texture!

 

Ingredients – approximately 6 servings

1 medium butternut squash; washed, quartered, cored, drizzled in olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400F for 1 hour

1 head of garlic, top sliced off, wrapped in tin foil, and baked along with squash for same duration

2 medium onions, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 Tbsp butter or oil

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (home-made is delicious but not mandatory)

1/2 tsp salt

pinch nutmeg

pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F. Wash, quarter, and core the squash. Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the top off the garlic and wrap the garlic in tinfoil. Place in oven with the squash. Bake for 1 hour until roasted golden and garlic is soft.

Dice the onions. Melt the butter in a large heavy pot with a lid. When hot, add the onions and stir. Reduce heat after a minute or two and allow the onions to brown slowly. When the onions are almost done, add the carrot, and cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the squash from the oven and scoop into the carrot-onion mixture. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and into the pot as well. Stir everything together. Pour in the broth and bring to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can use a potato masher if the squash maintains its shape but I found it quickly mixed into the broth.

Enjoy with a sprinkle of green onions and a hot slice of bread!

-Sitelle

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To accompany the cranberry sauce post I did a few days ago, here’s the recipe for an absolutely divine cheesecake we made for a dinner party last night. G. has been coaching boy’s volleyball, and last weekend he brought a big bag of his home-made chocolate chip cookies along for the team. They loved the cookies apparently, but the poor quality of the flour meant that before the boys managed to eat all of them many had disintegrated. He came home and announced we must make a cheesecake to use up the crumbs. Yes!

Warning! Bake this cake in the morning – it requires a lot of cooking and cooling and rest before you can serve it to your guests or bring it to a dinner party. It’s well worth the effort though, I promise. It’s lighter than many cheesecakes, and the nuts in the crust along with the browned butter make it absolutely irresistible.

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (we used crumbs from the chocolate chip recipe at the back of the “chipits” chocolate chip bag, and picked out the chocolate chips we could find)

3/4 cups chopped pecans

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup browned butter

Filling, first layer

2 eggs, well-beaten

1 lb (454g) cream cheese (this is two packages of philadelphia cream cheese, not one!)

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Filling, second layer

1 1/2 cups thick sour cream

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla or 1 Tbsp maple syrup

pinch of salt

1-2 cups Spirited Cranberry Sauce

Directions

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once it is melted, allow it to begin to bubble. Reduce the heat and watch it carefully until the bubbles start to get bigger and then smaller. Once they are tiny and look foamy, keep your eye out for little golden and then light brown specks in the butter. Remove it from heat immediately as the butter is now at the browned butter stage which is delicious as it tastes like hazelnuts but it can easily be burned. If you like you can keep a shallow pan of cold water next to your stove and when the butter is browned you can dip the bottom of the pan in order to kill the cooking process and protect your butter from burning.

Mix the cookie crumbs along with the brown sugar, and then pour the butter over that whole mixture. Mix well, and then press into a round, 2 1/2 inch deep springform pan (ideal… we don’t have anything of the sort though and managed well enough). Press the bottom and sides up to form an even crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes while you process the first layer of cheesecake. Remove the cream cheese from the fridge so it can soften a bit, as with the eggs.

Next, preheat the oven to 375F. Whisk all the ingredients for the first layer together, except the cinnamon. If you have a food processor, process them together. If not, as is the case with us, you can press it through a sieve several times with a spoon and that does the job too although it is a bit messier! Spoon that into the crust and bake for 20-22 minutes. When it is cooked remove it from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. This takes several hours. Sprinkle the cinnamon over top of the first layer.

To make the second layer, preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the ingredients for the second layer thoroughly. Pour it all over the first layer. When the oven is ready, cook for five minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool first to room temperature and then to chill thoroughly in the fridge for at least 6 hours before it is ready to be served.

Before serving, prepare spirited cranberry sauce, and drizzle over top.

-Sitelle

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I apologize for the number of sweet recipes I’ve posted of late. I’ll admit I’ve got a fairly good excuse: I’ve just moved to a new place, so my kitchen is totally barren, I did not bring any cookbooks except one, I don’t have easy access to the internet, and perhaps most importantly I’ve moved somewhere where the grocery store carries only half of the things I would normally use (let’s face it, I am actually totally blown away by what I can find in the grocery store in Hay River, although I hear it gets pretty dreary in a few months after the fall vegetables start going bad).

I simply don’t have many of the ingredients necessary to cook interesting savoury dishes, whereas I can bake many, many things simply with flour, butter, and sugar, and the odd other exciting thing such as apples although that’s not necessary, just a perk.

This time, though, we decided to invest in a few more spices, one of them being chili seasoning. With the cold weather approaching, everyone’s cravings have gone towards stews and soups. I’ve had beans done countless ways since I arrived, many times accompanied with bannock. Yesterday, we sat down and made enough chili to last us for a few weeks. What I love about chili is that it’s easy to make and is flexible depending on whatever you might have laying around. What always challenges me, though, is that my pots, no matter how big, are never big enough.

Ingredients – one large pot of chili

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp canola oil

2 carrots, diced
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2-3 Tbsp chili powder

1 can diced tomatoes
1 can red kidney beans (well rinced)
1 can chick peas (well rinced)
1 cup dry lima beans (soaked overnight and skins removed)
1/2 can crushed tomatoes

2 stalks celeri, diced
1 zucchini, diced
4 mushrooms, diced

1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 cup pickle juice (Catherine’s trick)
2 tsp brown sugar

Directions

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot with a lid. When the oil is hot, cook the onions until they are soft and then add the garlic and spices. Stir, and once fragrant add in the carrots and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Once cooked, add the beans, and finally, add the tomatoes. Increase heat a bit, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for another 20 or so minutes while you chop the remaining veggies. Add in the pickle juice, soy sauce, and the remaining veggies, as well as the sugar if you want to include it. Simmer for a minimum of 2 hours with the lid almost fully on, and serve alone, with bannock, toasted bread, or on a bed of rice. My favourite is to top it with shredded cheddar!

-Sitelle

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