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Sunshine in a jar

August 30, 2012

I’m not sure if I remember such a gorgeous summer in Toronto, but then again I’ve spent many summers away.  During out travels I would have to say Charlotte, NC was my favourite for weather in general but it also had the most fantastic produce.  It’s where I first tried okra (not a favourite) and grits (only with a cup of butter and cheese) and surprisingly, preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons are commonly used in Indian and South African cuisine but made most famous by the Moroccans.  Eating out for lunch one day I ordered the Moroccan catfish.  Catfish is served almost everywhere in Charlotte but it was only out of my love for anything ethnic that I ordered this funny sounding dish. It came served with tomatoes, olives and preserved lemons.   So good!  Crazy that I waited this long to try making my own.

I decided to use a recipe from a blog that I’ve been loving lately, Garden Betty.

I only had dried peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon sticks on hand but feel free to add juniper berries, star anise or even small amounts of dried nutmeg bark.

This was by far the easiest canning recipe I’ve attempted.  The bottles do not need the water bath at the end because the salt is enough to keep the lemons almost indefinitely if…you are very careful about cleaning your jars and lids and then being sure to use clean utensils each time to extract the lemons.  Now what to do with these after 3 weeks of sitting in my nice and cool, dark canning pantry?   I have a ton of ideas but please share yours and I’d be happy to do some recipe testing 🙂

Have a great labour day long weekend!



Coconut Jam Squares

August 23, 2012

Did I mention I have a new ‘canning’ pantry?  The teens think I may be going overboard with my jarring this year but I think they’re wrong.  Today Jojo made it a point to count them.

61 jars so far. Actually 60 after this dessert.

Coconut Jam Squares

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oat flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 cups whole oats

2 cups brown sugar (next time I would try only 1 cup)

3/4 cups chilled butter cut into small cubes

3/4 cups chilled coconut oil cut into small chunks

2 cups fruit jam (any jam will do next time I will try 3 cups)

1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut


Add everything up to the brown sugar into a large bowl. Mix well and then add the butter and coconut.

Using a food processor, your hands or a pastry blender, cut the oils in until you have a lumpy mixture approx the size of peas.  Pour into an ungreased 9 X 13″ baking dish minus 2 cups.  Press firmly covering the bottom of the baking dish and spread 2 (or 3) cups of jam over it.  Add the coconut to the remaining crust and sprinkle over the jam.

Bake at 350 degrees until the crust browns approx 30 minutes.

*This is a rich, buttery crust and makes a lot of squares.  You could make it vegan by swapping all the butter with cold coconut oil.

*Flours can be substituted for all white or whole wheat. Non gluten mixes would also work.

*all butter can replace the coconut oil or vice versa.

Fruit jam

August 19, 2012

There’s no use making excuses.  My mind wandered and moved on as it so often does. Blogging became a chore as I pressured myself to produce one every day and truth be told, I love blogging which is why I’ve decided to come back and share recipes just when the mood arises.  No sweat…easy peasy.

Hope you’re all still out there because it’s been a crazy cooking August for me.  Unlike last summer, I’ve not been to one Farmers market where I would stock up and then spend the week trying to use it all up.  Now that we live in the city, fruit and vegetable vendors are within walking distance so I just pick up what I feel like that day and just go with it. See? no pressure. This summer I’ve had the crazy urge to can.

I’ve been on a rampage to bottle whatever I can think of and today it’s jam (actually it’s been jam for 2 weeks). I started with strawberry and then blueberry and today it’s a fruit mixture. The goal with each has been to add less and less sugar. Did you know a regular batch of jam calls for 6 to 7 cups of sugar? That just hurts my teeth thinking about.   So here’s what I did.

Fruit jam

12-13 cups of fruit (I used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, plums and peaches)

1 cup of sugar

10 packets of stevia

1 package of light pectin (the light pectin allows for much less sugar so be sure not to use regular)


Add berries to a large heavy sauce pan. Peel peaches and remove stone. Roughly chop. Do the same with the plums but don’t peel them as they contain pectin which further thickens your jam.

Add the sugar to the pot and stir.  If you prefer not to use stevia, you can add another 1/2-1 cup of sugar. Bring this to a rolling boil and using a potato masher, crush the fruit to the desired consistency. I used my immersion blender but next time I’d do it by hand because it pureed the jam too much and I would have preferred more chunks of fruit. It’s up to you.

Once the mixture comes to a rolling boil, sprinkle your pectin over it, stir well and bring it back to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and skim off most of the foam (you can still eat this later) ladle into your prepared jars. I’ve added a link on the basics of canning.   If you do decide to join the crazy world of canning then one thing you’ll notice is that the new method (at least new to me) of sealing jars is by pressure cooker.  I’m still just boiling my jars for 10-15 minutes and that works fine but if you have a pressure cooker then lucky you because there are so many more canning recipes out there that are not recommended by simply boiling the jars.   I’m considering a pressure cooker but they scare me. I have images of the top blowing off and going through my ceiling…silly I know.

Hope you’re having a great summer. Maybe I’ll come back again this week. 🙂

Even if you hate Mushrooms…Stew.

October 27, 2011

I’m feeling a little cocky today. I served up a big pot of stuff which included a load of mushrooms.

I called this meal stuff last night when the man asked what was for dinner.  He even hates the word stew.  Even worse than stew he avoids mushrooms like I do Dr. Phil.

I try to stay away from  LOL but holy laughing out loud, he’s been luvin  this stuff.

I’m laughing because I’m mean.

I take that back. I’m not that mean. Mushrooms are awesome for you and he’ll probably live forever cause of me.

Vegetable, Turkey Stew with Mushrooms


  • 3 leeks finely sliced (only white parts)
  • 5 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 package ground turkey
  • 2 large parsnips diced
  • 2 large carrots diced
  • 1 small to medium sweet potato peeled and diced
  • 1 jalapeno finely diced
  • 2 large cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • *2-227g packages of cremini mushrooms blended in a food processor
  • 2 1/2-3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 T dried oregano
  • 1 t poultry seasoning
  • 1 t dried thyme
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 2 T worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 cups fresh green beans cut into 1″ pieces
  • 4 cups tightly packed spinach


  1. *Add mushrooms 4 at a time to a food processor and blend until you almost have a paste (any bits and the mushroom haters will call you out).  This paste not only thickens the stew but it adds an extra meaty flavour.
  2. Heat a very large pot and add leeks. Saute for 7-8 minutes or until soft and stir in garlic and turkey. Break up the turkey well with a fork and cook for another 7 or 8 minutes.
  3. Add parsnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, jalapeno, tomatoes and tomato paste to the pot stirring well.
  4. Stir in mushroom paste along with broth and all spices including worcestershire sauce.
  5. Let this simmer uncovered for 1 hour stirring every once in  a while.
  6. Once vegetables are soft add the beans, green peas and spinach.  Cover and gently simmer for another hour or so.
  7. Serve stew with goat cheese stirred in and some crusty bread.

I adore mushrooms and feel a bit ripped off that no one in my house will eat them.  This hearty, full of flavour stew is my payback and no one is the wiser…

Blueberry Muffins with Cottage Cheese Icing

October 21, 2011

I’m sad.

Blueberries season has come to an end.

That’s ok, I can handle frozen.  I’m no diva.

Except when it comes to brussel sprouts. Have you ever had frozen brussel sprouts?  Dear God.

Blueberry Muffins with Cottage Cheese Icing


2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup oat flour (or another cup of whole wheat)

1 1/2 cups sugar (can use splenda or 1/2 cup apple sauce and 1 cup sugar)

1 T baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 cups buttermilk (can use rice, soy or almond milk)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup coconut oil

2 t vanilla

3 cups blueberries fresh or frozen


1 cup of 1% cottage cheese

1 T icing sugar

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

1 t cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.

Add all other ingredients except blueberries and blend well.

Gently fold in blueberries.

Line the muffin tins with paper or spray with oil.  Fill the tins 3/4 full and bake until brown and centre is cooked through.

While muffins are baking, add all icing ingredients to the bullet or a blender and process until very smooth.

Remove muffins from oven and let cool completely. Top with a generous dollop of icing and serve.

Focus on the plate. The plate is pretty.

The muffin is delicious but ugly.

I don’t care what they say, you do not always eat with your eyes. Sometimes the mouth wins and screw the ugliness.

The ugliness is seriously yum but I won’t pretend this icing tastes like…icing.  It doesn’t.

You’ll just have to trust me.

Let them eat…icing

October 20, 2011

Cake making is an art.

I have complete respect for anyone with this skill.

Skill, I have this, not.  I do however try and try again.

I make three cakes a year. One each for the teenagers and the man.  A little history here on my illustrious cake making career.

There is only one statement that runs true when I bake a cake.  If it can go wrong…it will.

It did.

My plan was to make a 6 layer rainbow cake.

Begin by baking 6 vanilla cakes.  Do one smart thing and use Duncan Heinz. The teenagers won’t mind and you might just keep yours.

This time let them cool completely.  Remember in 1998 you frosted that warm cake right into a pile of icing glob?  I remember.

Now the fun begins. Did you know that I was supposed to add food colouring to each individual cake batter before baking?  It took me exactly 45 minutes and 6 cooled white cakes to remember this fact.  While trying to slap myself silly, I had to improvise and create a new cake.  A coloured frosting cake.

Layer 4 and here is where I run out of icing. Off to the grocery store I go…

Layer 5 and how lucky am I that frosting was on sale for $1.29 each.  You think 5 containers will do?

Layer 6!  Fingers crossed.

Does this look tilted to you?

All of my cakes seem to end up with this preschool touch!

The pink fairy dust on the sides ended up being just another challenge so I basically just smeared it on with a spreader.  Yes…smeared.

14 candles…

more pictures…

 Ok. Cut it already!

uh huh, it’s a fat, sugar laden mess

Did the man really think I wouldn’t notice…

this big plate of icing with the cake missing?

Luckily the teenagers loved the cake…food fighting, sugar high and all.

Happy Birthday Jojo!  Love mommy

Habanero Rosemary Olive Oil

October 8, 2011

I was so excited yesterday when I saw a huge basket of yellow, orange and red Habaneros at the grocery store.

Even though Habaneros are close to being the deadliest pepper, they’re also my favourite.  I love the distinct smoky, fruity flavour hidden beneath the brutal pain!

I’ve thought of making a flavoured oil for a while and with some left over rosemary in the fridge…here’s what I did.

Habanero Rosemary Olive Oil

2 cups extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves of garlic

6 Habaneros stems removed (I left the seeds in for extra heat but you can remove them)

1 large rosemary sprig


In a small sauce pan pour in the olive oil. Add the garlic and Habaneros and very gently simmer for 45 minutes.

Be very careful not to boil the oil or you’ll end up deep-frying the peppers and garlic. Over cooking also changes the structure of the oil and could give you a burnt taste.

Once oil has simmered for 45 minutes, turn off the heat and let the mixture sit for at least 2 hours. This is will allow the oil to take in all the heat and flavour. Now you can use a funnel and pour the oil into your choice of jars leaving behind the pepper and garlic. Stick the rosemary sprig into the jar and seal.

Let the rosemary sit in the oil over night or up to 8 hours and then discard.

Now you have a beautiful spicy oil,  pungent with Habaneros.  I’m thinking roasted potatoes…croutons…dipping bread…grilled chicken…spicy hummus…

Any ideas?