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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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Snow, it’s now everywhere in Ottawa. It’s beautiful. And it made for a heck of a bike ride last Monday! With the arrival of winter, I am now switching into winter craving mode. I want my meals to warm and rich, enough to fuel me through my long days, and to keep me warm on the cross-country ski trails.

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A few weeks ago I did my quarterly Bulk Barn run, to get my granola ingredients. As I was strolling through the isles trying to remember all the things I had once said we needed but had yet to get around to getting, my eyes were caught by a beautiful dried bean I had never seen before, Appaloosa beans. I couldn’t resist, so I bought a few cups and threw them into the pressure when I came home. Later that night, I had ended up making a bean stew inspired by the flavours of beans I’d had in Belize. They are delicious on their own, with nachos, or with rice!

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Ingredients: for a meal that serves 6-8

  • 2 cups Appaloosa beans, or any other dried bean, cooked in the pressure cooker (or you can skip the cooking and use 4 cups cooked beans)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 scotch bonnet or other red hot chili pepper (optional, choose one that is within your taste of spice – scotch bonnets are very spicy!)
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or veggie), simmering
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish

Directions:

  1.  Cook beans in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes in a 3:1 ratio of salted water:beans
  2. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. In a medium size saucepan, bring broth to a simmer and leave covered.
  3. Add ground coriander, chili powder, and nutmeg. When it bubbles (after a few seconds), add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until everything is well sautée’d and the mixture is fragrant
  4. Add the garlic, hot pepper and Bay leaves and sauté for another minute
  5. Add the beans and stir, coating them in the oil mixture
  6. Add the hot broth and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Uncover, stir, and taste. Remove the hot pepper if it is spicy enough. Add the juice from the lime and the chopped cilantro. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes uncovered, or more, until desired consistency is achieved
  8. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with nachos, rice, or tacos!

Sitelle

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It’s been a busy few months for me! I’ve moved to a new city and started a new job.  Most recently, my job took me up to Moose Factory, Ontario. It’s primarily a Cree community about 10 kilometres south of James Bay (the southern-most section of Hudson’s Bay) on the Moose River.  It was just gorgeous, truly a winter wonderland from mid-November onwards!

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Sunset on the banks of the Moose River

But the food situation could only be described as dire.  I was shocked at the prices and the resulting food insecurity (not to mention the boil water advisory on the reserve).  I saw families at checkouts with only canned food in their cart as that was all they could afford! I’m lucky to have a decent salary and was only buying for myself, but even something as simple as a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce quickly added up to $10-15!  Here’s some prices from my grocery shop in Kashechewan, a community nearby Moose Factory:

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The frighteningly high food prices of Kashechewan, Ontario

All to say, when I got home to Ottawa this past weekend, I was craving a big and varied veggie stirfry.  I decided to make one of my favourite recipes, Lotus Land Linguini from  rebar: modern food cook book.  This medley of crisp veggies with a delightful spicy & creamy peanut sauce continues to be one of my absolute faves.   In it’s original form it’s vegan, but as a special treat I added some shrimp.  And to keep with the Asian theme, I served it with rice noodles instead of linguini (making it gluten-free too!).  I have yet to meet a friend or family member who hasn’t asked for the recipe.  Just the culinary treat I needed!!

– Bon appetit!

Catherine

 

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Crisp veggies in the wok!  Oh so delicious 

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A magazine clipping featuring beautiful cheddar pretzels has been pinned to my refrigerator for the better part of two years (All You Need is Cheese). I had promised to make these for my partner one day. One day. And finally, last Friday, I took the time to bake them. I baked them in celebration of his finishing his medical studies, marking the end of an era and the beginning of another.

I was surprised to discover how little work these cheesy pretzels took, for a very tasty outcome. They took me less than 1.5h to make, most of that time for rising. Now, knowing how easy they are, I will not wait another two years before making them again!

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Ingredients – makes 8 pretzels

  • 1 1/3 cups milk, warmed 90 seconds in the microwave
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast (1 package is 11g which is just a tiny bit more than 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2-2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions

Heat the milk, and meanwhile mix 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, the yeast and the salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

Add the warm milk and mix at low speed until fully incorporated. Gradually add the rest of the flour and most of the cheese (about 3/4 of it overall). Mix until the dough forms and rolls off the sides of the bowl, and does not stick to your fingers.

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each one to 50-55 cm or so, on a surface that is not floured (if it is, as I learned, it will not roll easily into a long cord of dough). Once it is rolled, make a loop and twist the ends one full time in the shape of a pretzel. Place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Continue rolling and folding the remaining dough.

Place a clean tea towel on the unbaked pretzels, and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until they have roughly doubled in volume. Then preheat oven to 400F, while brushing the egg onto the pretzels, followed by sprinkling with the remaining cheddar and a small amount of the coarse salt.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat warm or cold, with butter or cream cheese, or anything you like on a pretzel. The next day, they are delicious toasted!

-Sitelle

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I love this vibrant salad from its bright colours to its burst of herbal flavours. It’s light enough to enjoy on a hot summer day, yet with the rice and beans, hearty enough to be the star of a meal.   And the jalapeno pepper adds a nice kick.

This recipe comes from Bonnie Stern’s Simply HeartSmart cookbook. It’s a family favourite at the cottage and in the middle of winter, when I need something that reminds me of the freshness of spring, it’s a go-to recipe.

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Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Salad

(Makes 8 servings)

 

Ingredients

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup basmati rice

2 cups cooked corn niblets, either frozen or canned

2 sweet red peppers, diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

1 bunch arugula or watercress, trimmed and chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives or green onions

 

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Cook rice until tender as per package directions. Cool by spreading on plate and placing in freezer for ~15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooled rice with black beans, corn, red pepper, jalapenos, arugula, cilantro, basil, mint, and chives to salad.

To make dressing, whisk together vinegar, pepper, garlic, and salt. Whisk in olive oil.

Toss dressing with salad. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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I am a mushroom addict.  So when I came across this appetizer that combined sautéed mushrooms with puff pasty, I knew I had to try it!

I’ve now made these beauties a few times, and without fail they get snatched up!  Who can resist caramelized onions and mushrooms topped with swiss cheese and served on a delectable puff pasty?

I love that these tartlets are easy to make, yet sophisticated – the best sort of food in my mind. They take some time to prep (caramelizing takes a little patience), but certainly worth the effort!  These would be perfect served either at a snazzy Christmas party or for a relaxed weekend dinner.

Thanks to Brown Eyed Baker for the recipe!

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Caramelized Onion, Mushroom, and Gruyere Tartlets

(Makes 16 3-inch tartlets)

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
16 oz white button or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ c. white wine (can substitute chicken or vegetable broth)
2 sheets puff pastry (thawed according to directions on package)
1 c. grated Gruyere cheese (can substitute any variety of Swiss cheese)
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten together (for the egg wash)
Handful of parsley, chopped

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat and add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize, about 20 minutes.

Add the butter to the pan. Once melted, add the mushrooms and saute, stirring occasionally, until they are completely soft and all of the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes.

Add the garlic and the thyme and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to pull up all of the browned bits, and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

Unfold the thawed sheets of puff pastry and cut out circles from the dough (if you don’t have a cookie cutter, the edge of a narrow glass work great), placing them evenly spaced on the baking sheets. Using a very sharp knife, make four small scores around the perimeter of the dough, about ¼ to ½-inch from the edge.

Top the rounds of puff pastry with a small spoonful of the onion and mushroom mixture, trying to keep the filling within the score marks. Top with the shredded Gruyere cheese. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with the egg wash.

Bake until the pastry is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes. Broil for 1-2 mins to make the cheese bubbly and brown. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Best served warm.

Bon appetit!
– Catherine

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I am not a big sweet tooth, but there is something special about Christmas baking – the deluxe ingredients, the warm atmosphere, the special company.  As a child, I always knew Christmas baking season was upon us by the quadrupling of butter quantities in our fridge.  As per tradition, we would make the same six cookies: swedish pastries, candy cane cookies, pecan puffs, icebox, gingersnaps,  and shortbread. I continue to absolutely love these family classics, but for a cookie-exchange I wanted to try something new.

Sitelle came to my rescue and suggested this divine recipe.  It combines two of my favourite flavours – ginger and dark chocolate, in a soft and sparkly cookie. The dark chocolate gives these cookies a richness and the candied ginger gives them spunk.  In one word, amazing!

The recipe comes from the Holiday 2015 LCBO Food & Drink magazine.

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Chocolate Ginger Sparkle Cookies

Makes ~40 cookies

 

Ingredients

8 oz (250 g) dark 70% chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, softened

2/3  cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/3 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup approx. coarse white sugar (or granulated sugar)

 

Directions

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot, not boiling water.  Stir until smooth and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add cooled chocolate, oil, and vanilla, and beat until well blended.  Stir in flour mixture until blended.  Stir in ginger.  Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Place coarse sugar in a shallow  bowl.

Scoop 1-tbsp sized prices of sough and roll into balls.  Roll in coarse sugar to evenly coat dough and shake off excess. Place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Keep remaining dough and rolled cookies cold while baking the previous batch.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, for 8 or 9 minutes, or until cookies are puffed, starting to crack and edges are just set (the centres will still be soft).  Let cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in a cooking tin at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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