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Posts Tagged ‘Winter’

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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While I love my organic vegetable box, I am apt to find myself overloaded with root vegetables come winter. And as much as I love eating carrots, beets, carrots, carrots, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and carrots yet again, I find they easily become boring mid-winter. I’m always looking for new ways to make them more exciting.

While planning a dinner for friends (and trying to use up my accumulated root veggies collection…), I remembered a simple, yet delicious dish my aunt and uncle served me most recently at Thanksgiving (thanks Liz&Dan!). They make a fabulous 7-veggie roasted root vegetable mix, combining the earthy combination of onions, celergy root, turnip, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. To dress up the veg, they toss them not only in oil prior to roasting, but also balsamic vinegar, which results in a delightful glaze.

This dish is easy to prepare, but requires some time to peel and chop the root veg. My aunt and uncle usually leave out beets, as the vibrant red stains other vegetables, but beets are one of my favourites, so I tried this recipe with candy cane beets.  It worked out great if you can get your hands on some (no staining!) or golden beets would also be a good work around. I’m also a fan of roasted brussel sprouts, so included them in my mix.  Feel free to use whatever mix of vegetables you love. The leftovers are great reheated or served cold with some leafy greens.

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Balsamic-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables

(serving size varies depending on the number of veggies you choose to include in the mix!)

Ingredients

Selection of root vegetables, peeled and cut into ~2 cm cubes:

  • Onion
  • Celery root
  • Turnip
  • Sweet Potato
  • Potato
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets (to avoid staining other veg, use candy cane or golden beets)
  • Brussels sprouts

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix of your favourite herbs, dried or fresh, finely chopped:

  • basil
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • parsley
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Veggies ready to roast! 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare root veggies by washing, peeling, and then chopping them into ~2 cm (3/4 inch) cubes. If using, clean and trim the Brussels sprouts and leave whole or halve if large.

In a large bowl, toss veggies with oil and vinegar and herbs to taste. Transfer to a large baking dish (e.g. 8×13 Pyrex) and bake for ~75-90 mins, or until vegetables are baked through and sides are browned. Stir roasting veggies every 20-30 minutes to cook evenly.

 

Bon appetit!

 

Catherine

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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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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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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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When I was a kid, my parents enrolled me and my sister in the Nancy Greene Ski League. The two of us would spend our days whooshing down the ski hills at Camp Fortune, while my parents would escape into the backwoods to go cross-country skiing. After a long day of skiing, our entire family would enjoy a few rituals: clementines and Toblerone in the car on the way home and Shepherd’s pie for dinner. Our family was content eating President’s Choice’s Shepherd’s Pie — until it was featured in the Ottawa Citizen as one of the top 10 food items filled with saturated fat. Needless to say, we quickly (although sadly) abandoned our Saturday night favourite.

Our family tried to find a store-bought alternative – but inevitably, the Shepherd’s pie would be a little dry or the potatoes would be lacking any flavour. Since I love Shepherd’s pie, I decided to invent my own version. Inspired by my grandmother’s tortiere recipe, I developed the following last winter and have yet to look back. The secret is the cream of mushroom soup: it keeps the ground beef ever so rich and creamy.

This recipe makes 1 13×9-inch Shepherd’s pie – although I often divide it into two. The larger of the Shepherd’s pies (9×9 baking dish) goes straight into the oven, while the second (in a banana loaf pan) goes straight into my freezer for a future delicious dinner. This is the very essence of comfort food on a cold winter’s eve!

Shepherd’s Pie
(serves 12)

Ingredients
MEAT FILLING
1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ribs celery, finely diced
2 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 large splash Worcester sauce
1 large dollop Heinz Chili sauce
1 teaspoon thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 large can kernel corn, drained

MASHED POTATOES
8 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters/sixths
2 tablespoons butter
Large splash of milk
Salt and Pepper to taste

Your favourite cheese (Mozerella, Cheddar, and/or, Parmesan)

Directions
Saute the meat, onions, garlic, celery, and carrot together until the meat is browned and the veggies are cooked through. Drain off any extra fat. Stir in the mushroom soup, Worcester, chile, and thyme, and simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes to reduce the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper (if so desired, add more heat with Tobasco and more tomato flavour with the Chile sauce). Stir in the corn.

Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a large pot of boiling water. Drain once the potatoes are cooked. Mash the potatoes with the butter and milk, adding more milk if necesasry. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Transfer the meat mixture to a 9×13 baking pan. Gently spread the mashed potatoes overtop. Bake for 20 minutes or until the meat mixture begins to bubble. Sprinkle as much grated cheese overtop. Bake for a further 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Broil until the cheese is bubbly.

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

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I thought I’d perk the mood up a bit with this hot chocolate recipe, with winter approaching. I, however, will be avoiding the snow altogether in my new home in Sénégal. This situation is definitely a bit ironic: I’m one of the small number of Canadians who loves winter, as long as it is a good one, but I will also be part of the group that avoids it. So, I thought I’d share my secret hot chocolate recipe for all of you to come home with a frosted nose and pink cheeks and enjoy a cup for me (and for you, I guess)!

Let me preface this next part by saying I’m quite a chocolate-lover. This past spring I was lucky enough to go to Cacao Fest in Punta Gorda, Belize. For those of you who do not know about this, it is a week-end of festivities surrounding chocolate, from its origins in the Maya culture, to its agricultural production, processing, and finally, to its consumption. Who could refuse such an event?

A Maya woman roasting cacao beans on her stove

I was hoping to be able to eat the fresh flesh from cacao pods this time round like I’d tried in February, but they were already harvested and so I had to make do with only actual chocolate. For those of you who have the chance, I encourage you to try the “food of the gods” as they call it (the white flesh inside cacao pods). It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tried. At Cacao Fest I visited the Cotton Tree Chocolate Factory where I learned how they make chocolate. This reminded me of when I learned how to make the traditional maya cacao drink in my last trip.

This hot chocolate recipe is absolutely delicious, and its secret is using real, un-powdered chocolate. What surprises most people when I tell them I sometimes make hot chocolate with squares of chocolate is that it takes as much time to make milk-based chocolate with squares or powder! And if you want to celebrate a special occasion or just indulge, add a bit of whipped cream.

Ingredients – Two 1.5 cup servings or three 1 cup servings

-3 cups milk
-80g your favourite chocolate (I like to use 75% for this) + a bit extra for decoration if you like
-granulated sugar (to taste – I actually don’t add any if I use 75% chocolate, but it’s up to your taste!)
-1/2 cup whipping cream
-2 tsp icing sugar (or more to taste)

Directions

Place milk in a saucepan and heat gently over medium heat. Break the chocolate up into chunks, and the place in milk. Once the milk begins to warm, begin to whisk the mixture to help dissolve the melted chocolate. Do this until you reach your desired temperature, and then remove it from the heat (if you avoid it boiling over, you avoid the risk of the chocolate forming small granules).

Now for the extra special part: in a bowl, beat (or use electric beaters) the cream until it thickens, then add the icing sugar and whisk a bit more.

Return the hot chocolate to the heat for a few minutes if it is not to your desired temperature and whisk. Pour into your favourite cups and top with a dollop of whipped cream and grated chocolate.

-Sitelle

 

 

 

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