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Posts Tagged ‘freezer’

Fruit and banana yoghurt popsiclesEarlier this year, my mom gave me popsicle molds. The same ones she used for my brother and me when we were little. Nothing fancy, just the plain Tupperware kind.

Little did I realize then that they would be in regular use. Not surprisingly, especially with the recent heat, popsicles have become Baby’s daily afternoon snack. And I’m having fun coming up with recipes and flavour combinations! I think I’ve created my keeper though.

This recipe is healthy and versatile, using whatever fruit is in season. However, it works best with fruit that pairs well with and can stand up to banana. The banana mainly adds sweetness and creaminess, but also a touch of flavour. Think strawberry, blueberry, mango, raspberry… I find that stone fruit like peaches, apricots and plums don’t work well, even when they are super fragrant, same with melon. My two favourites, so far, have been blueberry and orange (using orange juice).

Baby eating popsicle

Baby eating her first popsicle at almost 10 months.

Recipe: Fruit, Banana and Yoghurt Popsicles

Makes approx 6 quarter-cup-size (60 mL) popsicles.

1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen), cut into smallish pieces, OR 1 cup fruit juice
1 two- to three-inch piece of banana
3/4 cup yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 tsp maple syrup (depending on the sweetness of the fruit and your personal preference)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Mix until smooth. Fill popsicle molds. Freeze. (Drink any remaining mix like a smoothie!)

Sometimes I add 1-2 tbsp hemp hearts to the mix before blending. They boost the protein of the finished product, and add some texture.

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Freezer inventory

This how we keep track of what's in the freezer.

The contents of my freezer, exposed. In this selection: apricots, sour cherries, blueberries, elderberries, cherry tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted red pepper sauce, vegetarian lentil chili, ...

In addition to the chopped parsley and herbs, I have a whole bunch of other things in the freezer. Mostly vegetables from the summer when there were plenty, but also soups and other prepared foods made between the harvest and now. A magnetic white board helps us maintain an inventory of the freezer contents, so we make sure to use what we’ve frozen before the next summer and the opportunity to replenish comes around.

One of my unanticipated favourite freezer items this year is whole frozen tomatoes. I never considered freezing whole tomatoes before, but we were on vacation when many of them ripened – amateur gardener’s mistake – so my mother-in-law just put them in bags and popped them in the freezer. She figured we’d use them to make tomato sauce when we got back. Instead, we just kept them and have been using them whenever a recipe for a hot dish calls for fresh tomato. I refuse to buy fresh tomatoes in the winter for two reasons: I aim to eat what is in season (although I admit to making some exceptions) and the flavour just isn’t the same as when they are their peak, so why choose to eat something that tastes mediocre?

Having these frozen tomatoes on hand has unexpectedly opened the door to recipes I usually don’t make in the winter.  Also, I’m able to make some Asian recipes that combine tomatoes with other ingredients that aren’t in season when tomatoes are. A bonus is that the skins remove easily once the tomatoes are lightly thawed.

Recently we made penne with spicy sausage paprika sauce (I’ve had this recipe in my repertoire since I was a teenager. I’m pretty sure it was once published in Gourmet magazine’s “You asked for it” column and comes from Loews Hotel in Santa Monica), spaghetti puttanesca with cherry tomato sauce, a simple tomato and mango curry, and an absolutely stunning tomato and ginger soup*. The latter two recipes are from Vij’s cookbook; Vij’s is Vancouver’s renowned “inspired Indian” restaurant. On the frozen tomato cooking agenda is a Vietnamese tomato and pineapple soup. Can’t wait!

*When we made this recipe, we chose the curry leaf and ginger combination, i.e. we left out the coriander and garlic. We took the tomatoes out of the freezer and let them thaw a little before removing the skins, which slip off easily. Then we cut them into large chunks and put them in a food processor and processed them until they had a sorbet-like texture (essentially frozen, unconcentrated tomato puree). Finally we added them to the rest of the ingredients as per the recipe. The only other improvement I suggest on the original recipe, is to make it a day in advance and let it sit, chilled, overnight to allow the flavours to meld. The next day, pour the soup through a medium-meshed sieve to remove the small pieces of ginger, curry leaves and the tomato seeds. The result is a smooth soup that packs a punch of flavour!

[I have to add a note here. I’m new to blogging and am still trying to figure out the best way to do things. One of my questions is whether to integrate my recipes directly into my post or post them separately and link to them. Then, out of curiosity, I searched the dishes mentioned above. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to find 3 out of 4 on the Internet already. However, I was somewhat dismayed that some didn’t provide the source, even though they were copied word for word. Having made this discovery, I’ve decided that I will link to the web, whenever a recipe is already available. For those recipes that aren’t, I will post them separately, including the source when applicable, and simply link to them.]

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Winter Gardening

It’s January. My garden is covered in snow. It seemed strange to me to launch a blog that would also be about gardening in the middle of winter. It doesn’t look like there’s much life out there. And since the City of Ottawa started its green bin composting program, I don’t need to wander out to my compost heap at the back of the garden either. The backyard landscape is only occasionally punctuated by rabbit or squirrel tracks (and David’s Weber barbecue which he’ll fire up regardless of the outside temperature).

Winter garden

Backyard under the snow, with animal tracks

Leave it to the rabbit to find some life though! It dug down to the celery we didn’t pull out at the end of fall, stripped the outer layer of bark off of a young Italian prune tree, and chewed through some honeysuckle vines. Concerned about the tree since I’ve heard of friends losing theirs to rabbit-inflicted damage, I was forced out of the house and into the snow to, hopefully, rescue the tree and the vine by wrapping them in burlap and creating a chicken wire fence around them. I’ll find out in spring if this little bit of TLC made a difference.

So, aside from protecting plants from the urban wildlife, what’s there to do in winter with a snow-covered garden?

I recently got a seed catalogue from William Dam Seeds, where I’d bought some black salsify, golden beet and mache (also known as corn or lambs lettuce) seeds last spring. Browsing the catalogue got me thinking about last year – what grew well (Swiss chard, pole beans, arugula) and what didn’t (fava beans, fennel, kohlrabi) – and what I want to plant in spring. It’s pretty impressive to see the variety of plants I could grow – how about edible soybeans (edamame)?! – and, when I think back to last summer, amazing how much even just a small garden can yield. These days, we’re eating food we preserved and froze when the grass was green and the earth warm.

One of my favourite things to have on hand is frozen herbs. I cut off a huge bunch of flat leaf parsley, wash it, dry it and chop it. Stored in plastic containers, it freezes perfectly and I can take as much as I need to add colour, flavour and vitamins to my cooking in the winter. I also make a mix of chopped oregano, marjoram, thyme and parsley. And basil? I just freeze the whole leaves in a bag and crush them once they’re frozen. Meanwhile, I discovered the thyme is naturally freeze-dried. Just the other day I dug up a couple of sprigs from under the snow next to the house for flavouring a split pea soup. So not only the rabbit gets something out of the garden in the winter!

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