Friday, June 3, 2016

Quick Mango Pudding

My kids love their aunt's mango pudding. Rich, creamy and spiked with fresh mango, they would probably sell their mother for a pan of it.

I asked her for the recipe and have been sitting on it for years, desperately trying to replicate that flavour. Hers requires cans of mango purée which can be hard to source where I live. However, I have been working on recreating it and I think I have finally 'cracked the code'.

Here is my version of her mango pudding but made with (the much easier to source) mango juice. It is such an easy, no-cook, summer dessert. And my kids have never been happier.

Quick Mango Pudding
Serves 4-6
This can be easily customized to have no additional sugar to adding just to taste. I generally use bulk organic gelatine, but either works great. Alternate thickeners like agar agar can be used, but the quantities will need to be adjusted. The mango juice can be anything in a tetra pack carton (any will work) but, for best results, preferably one that has some thickness to it like a nectar with puree listed in top two ingredients. If it contains added sugar, you may not need as much (or any) sugar in the recipe. 

1-2 mangoes, peeled, chopped into chunks
2 pouches of powdered gelatin or 5 tsp bulk powdered organic gelatin
2 1/2 cups mango nectar or juice (1/2 cup cold or room-temperature mango juice & 2 cups warmed, not boiling, mango juice)
1/4- 1/2 cup sugar, if desired
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup milk

1. Place gelatin and the 1/2 cup of room temperature juice in a large bowl. Whisk together for a minute or so. Let stand or 'bloom' for 3-5 minutes. For more info on blooming and gelatine, click here.

2. Put mango chunks into the serving dish (any container that will hold about 4 cups of liquid---a pie plate, a 8" X 8" pan, anything).

3. Add the 2 cups microwaved or stove-heated mango juice (not boiling, but hot) to the bloomed gelatin. Note: Organic gelatin typically specifies not using boiling liquid, but just hot liquid. However this does not seem to be an issue for conventional gelatin. Whisk until smooth. If it could use a bit of sweetener, add 1/4 cup sugar to start and whisk until dissolved. Whisk in cream and milk.

4. Pour mixture over the mango pieces and place into the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. Can be served with additional cream poured over if desired.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Easy Strawberry Chia Jam

I love the smell of sun-warmed strawberry fields. It really makes the sometimes back-breaking labour of harvesting u-pick strawberries worth it. The fields smell like jam and it reminds you why you are doing what you are doing when you get tired. You think of the reward. And that reward can come soon but it is at its very sweetest in the middle of winter when you crave a taste of summer.

Although I harvest from the u-pick, I also buy from the roadside stand when I tire of picking. I usually freeze them whole and make freezer jam, long-cooked jam, fruit leather and ice cream. Just when I can't stand the sight of another flat of strawberries, I remember the taste of summer in winter and I press on. Just one more batch.

This  year I decided that I wasn't going to go so crazy. So I tried to find some other options for no-cook strawberry jam recipes. I love this Chia Jam from the kitchn. Although they cook the fruit slightly, I prefer their raw fruit version for strawberries but I could see the cooked version working better for blueberries.

The nice thing about this jam is that all the ingredients are recognizable: chia slightly thickens, lemon helps to keep the colour vibrant and the sweetener is customizable. I used organic cane sugar because I like how it doesn't mask the strawberry flavour at all and acts as a slight preserver too. It takes a few minutes to mash it all together and it makes for a very tangible reward afterwards when you get to taste a spoonful of this saucy jam.

Easy Strawberry Chia Jam
Makes approximately 1 1/2 cups
I leaned towards 4 tbsp of sugar for my early strawberries. I might use less the next time if the strawberries are sweeter. Use on waffles, pancakes, stirred into yogurt or on ice cream, cheesecake and other desserts. It should last about a week in the fridge but it definitely won't make it that far. But if it does, it could come in handy to enhance a smoothie!

2 cups strawberries, cleaned and tops removed
juice of 1 lemon
2- 4 tbsp organic cane sugar or sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, etc.)
2 tbsp chia seeds, any colour

1. In a large bowl, mash strawberries until juicy but chunks of berry remain. Add lemon and sugar and stir for a few minutes until sugar dissolves. Stir in chia.
2. Pour into clean jars and cover with lids. Refrigerate overnight for best texture.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

These scones are a classic flavour combination and they are super simple to make. With no butter to cut in, just a quick stir with cream, they are fast. Work quickly so they stay cool and get them into the oven right away.

I love scones for a weekend brunch treat or for a fancy afternoon tea.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones
Makes 12 small scones
You can easily sub all strawberries or all rhubarb in this, but you may want to adjust the quantities as the strawberries do add more moisture. And all unbleached flour works too! Serve with butter or with ultra-decadent clotted cream.

1 3/4 cup finely chopped rhubarb
1 1/2- 1 3/4 cup finely chopped strawberries
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
approx. 1/2 cup sugar
approx. 1 1/2 cups whipping cream or heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a frying pan or saucepan, quickly saute the finely chopped rhubarb, 1-2 tbsp water and 2 tbsp sugar until just slightly tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together: whole wheat flour, unbleached flour, baking powder, salt and 1/3 cup sugar.

3. Gently stir in 1 1/3 cups whipping cream with a fork until it comes together. Add rhubarb and strawberries and gently stir. Add only a tablespoon more of cream at a time until needed to make it come together. 

4. Divide the dough into two and gently and on flour-dusted surface, quickly pat into 2 circles approximately 1 1/2" thick. Cut each piece into 6 wedges.

5. Place onto parchment-lined baking sheet(s). Drizzle or brush all the scones with additional 1-2 tbsp whipping cream and sprinkle with approximately 1 tbsp sugar (in total, not each). 

6. Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes, or until edges are slightly golden. Best served the same day or warmed up the second day.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Fattoush Salad

This time of year, I get so excited about fresh produce. Salads become meals and meals become salads. A bit of chopping and dinner is made. Perfection.

Just over a year ago I tried Fattoush salad for the first time and I was immediately smitten. I wondered how I had lived so long without ever encountering this Middle Eastern salad. The fresh herbaceous flavours make this the perfect accompaniment to summer barbecues, but it is also stellar on its own with some feta or served alongside some olives, hommous and pita.

And try to refrain from eating all those freshly baked pita chips as they come out of the oven. They may become your new favourite snack and a great accompaniment to summer appetizers.

Fattoush Salad
Serves 4
Fattoush is a Middle-Eastern salad of varying compositions but generally consisting of using dried pita bread and a variety of greens, vegetables and herbs. It is a great way to use leftover pita bread. 

Although what follows is a recipe, play with it and adapt it to what you have in your fridge and what ingredients you like. A touch of mint and parsley are highly recommended.

Toast pita bread: 
Using 3-4 pitas, brush with olive oil, or melted butter/olive oil combo, sprinkle with salt, cut into pieces and toast in oven at 350 degrees for 6 minutes. Let cool. Can be made ahead and stored in a sealed container for several days.

In large salad bowl, whisk together dressing:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon, juiced)
1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
1/4 tsp salt 
optional: ½ tsp sumac or za'atar spice 
(I sprinkled my salad with za'atar which contains sumac)

Into the dressing bowl, add:
Spring salad greens or chopped romaine lettuce
2 bell peppers, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped or 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large cucumber, chopped
2-3 radishes or green onions, chopped
optional (but highly recommended):
 ½ cup chopped assorted herbs: parsley, chives, mint
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled

Toss until combined with pieces of pita chips. Serve immediately.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Spray

I haven't written much lately. I am absorbed by the garden and all things sprouting and green.
Apparently, the bugs are too!

I was noticing that someone was already munching on my rhubarb and hostas again and was reminded that it was time to make my homemade insecticidal spray.

This spray can definitely be tinkered with as you may need to adjust the concentration based on your plants. I have found it really great for rhubarb, kale, hosts, small fruit trees and basically any other green plant that is being munched on by insects. I am also finding it useful in the home to spray around areas where ants like to gather, but you may need to check that it doesn't harm your wood or any surface you spray it on.

All you need is a good spray bottle and some kitchen basics and away you go! It is much cheaper than the soap sprays that they offer in stores and you will have a good batch to last for several applications.

Make sure you spray during dry periods, when there is no risk of rain, or you will be applying right away again. It is generally recommended to spray in the morning or in the evening, and to spray both the top and bottom of the leaves. Your intention here is to directly spray aphids or other soft-bodied insects. It is not recommended for tender greens such as tomatoes or peas.  Read more about how to use these sprays here.

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Spray
I prefer using Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap as it also has the peppermint as a bit of a repellent, but any dish soap will work. The least toxic and unscented is better, especially if you intend on eating the leaves. Some people use a bit of onion in this spray too, so just use a bit if you want to try that in place of some of the garlic. Warning: DO NOT COMBINE THE SOAP in the blender. Have fun cleaning that up if you do! (Yes, accidents happen!)

spray bottle
1 Litre water
1 head of garlic, peeled (I use my sprouting, sub-par garlic)
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp liquid soap (I prefer Dr. Bronner's)

1. In a blender, combine water, garlic and cayenne. Strain through the finest mesh strainer you can find (like a tea strainer) or through a few layers of cheesecloth. This is essential so you don't clog your sprayer. *if you do, a fix is to check the bottom cover of the middle straw in the sprayer and rinse it off or remove it.
2. Pour into spray bottle and add liquid soap. Shake to mix well. Use immediately or within a week or two. 

Monday, February 29, 2016

Tara's Sunshine Blender Muffins

My friend Tara makes these easy blender muffins from one of her favourite cookbooks, The Best of Bridge. These orange-flavoured muffins are so flavourful and moist that it was shocking to find out that they can be made in the blender in about 2 minutes!

Tara says their recipes never fail her---even when she adapts the recipes and makes them even better by using whole grain flours. 

I was so anxious to make them when she sent the recipe that I began throwing things in the blender before realizing I was out of eggs! I ended up subbing chia seeds and a little extra water in the blender and they turned out great---so easy to make vegan if desired. 

One blender, a muffin tin and that's it. So very easy! Yes, the blender gets a bit messy but afterwards fill it halfway up with warm water and a tiny drop of dishsoap and blend away on high power until its clean.

I'm confident this will be my new go-to recipe for muffins! Thanks Tara!

Tara's Sunshine Blender Muffins
I prefer to use organic oranges when using the peel in recipes. In this recipe you use the whole orange! Tara uses whole wheat flour and I made it with spelt. You can use all-purpose flour if desired. If you don't have a high-powered blender, just blend first ingredients with hand blender or regular blender, before adding to dry ingredients in a bowl. 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Puree in blender until smooth:

1 whole orange, cut into 1/8ths, preferrably organic
1/2 cup orange juice
1 egg (or 1 tbsp chia seeds and 3 tbsp water)
1/4 cup neutral oil (grapeseed, avocado, etc.)

3. Add and blend:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

4. Add and quickly blend (should still have pieces visible):

1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries or other dried berries

5. Scoop into 12 muffin cups and bake for 18-20 mins, or until toothpick inserted into a centre muffin comes out clean.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Quick Beer Bread

My husband's epicurean aunts were visiting from NYC. They were telling us about their new food kicks: vegan food and beer bread. 

Beer bread?

Honestly, I thought I knew my baked goods. I had never heard of it but I was curious.

Beer instead of yeast? Quick bread? 5 minutes to assemble? Customizable? Great for winter soups and stews? I was in! 

I grabbed a couple bottles of lager and got to experimenting.

I morphed a few online recipes to find my favourite mix but it seems that you can't really go wrong here. 

The beer provides nice lift, a bit more tender than a standard Irish Soda Bread, but apparently sparkling water provides a similar rise.

Here is the recipe I settled on. So good for winter soups and stews. And a perfect addition to my recipe repertoire. 

Beer Bread
The aunties' original recipe calls for only 3 ingredients: 3 cups self-rising flour (harder to find in my area), sugar, beer and any customizations. You can sub the first 3 ingredients for self-rising flour. It is fantastic toasted the next day, slathered with butter and marmalade.

3 cups all-purpose flour (up to 1/2 can be whole wheat or spelt)
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp melted butter, divided
1 bottle of beer

Optional customizations: grated cheese and ground pepper or chopped chives, chopped dried fruit. 

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease loaf pan with butter or butter wrapper.
3. In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, sugar and sea salt with a whisk. Pour in beer and 3 tbsp butter and gently stir with a large spoon until somewhat smooth, using hands only if needed.
4. Spoon into loaf pan. Smooth top a bit, drizzle with last 1 tbsp butter.
5. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes before removing to a wire cooling rack to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.