Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Carrot Ginger SoupThe food processor is escaping the cupboard and seeing the light of day more often lately. First oatmeal raisin cookies, then carrot ginger soup.

I was starting the soup later than expected, and didn’t know if Bee would be patient enough to allow me to chop the carrots and prepare the other ingredients. Out came the food processor, and we grated all the vegetables, as well as the ginger and onion in a couple of minutes, together!

Another bonus: having the vegetables cut so finely sped up the cooking time and made the soup easier and quicker to blend before serving.

Recipe: Carrot Ginger Food Processor Soup

6 large carrots, peeled
1 small yam or sweet potato, peeled
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 small onion, peeled
1 tsp coriander seed
1-2 tbsp oil
Approx. 2 litres water or vegetable broth
Vegetable bouillon cube (if using water)
3/4 cup cooked millet (optional, gives some body and added nutritional value to the soup)
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro for serving (optional)

Toast coriander seed until fragrant in pot intended to make soup. Remove from heat and grind using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Grate carrots, sweet potato/yam, ginger and onion using food processor.

Heat oil in pot. Add grated vegetable, ginger and onion mixture and ground coriander. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add water or vegetable broth to cover generously. If using water, then add vegetable bouillon cube (I use a bit less than the recommended amount for the quantity of water). Add cooked millet. Stir to combine and bring soup to a simmer.

Simmer soup until vegetables are tender. Blend soup using an immersion blender or blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro to serve.

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Raffaello Macaroons (Almond Coconut White Chocolate Macaroons)You know those Ferrero Rocher balls, the white ones called Raffaello? I like them. They’re the inspiration for this cookie.

I’m delighted with how these macaroons turned out. Crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside. The flavours marry beautifully, yet there’s still a subtle taste of each individual ingredient.

Recipe: Raffaello Macaroons (Almond Coconut White Chocolate Macaroons)

Makes approx. 36 cookies. This recipe is gluten-free!

1 1/2 cups ground almonds
1 1/4 cups finely shredded coconut (unsweetened)
3/4 cup coarsely grated white chocolate
1 egg
1 egg white
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine egg, egg white and sugar in a bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until thick, light coloured and frothy. Gently mix in the ground almonds, shredded coconut and shaved white chocolate.

Make 1-inch size balls and place on baking sheet 2-3 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

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Pan-fried black salsify, overwintered and harvested in SpringTwo Autumns ago, I didn’t get around to digging up the black salsify before Winter covered the garden with a blanket of snow. I was pleasantly surprised last Spring to discover that it had overwintered beautifully – even through Ottawa’s cold winter.

After digging up the deep-reaching black roots, David prepared the salsify in a simple pan-fry and it was delicious. Tender, sweet, subtle, creamy. I’d say the winter even improved its texture and flavour.

Last Fall, we were lazy again… and rewarded again with a healthy harvest of black salsify this spring. What a way to maximise the garden! At the end of the season, we’re busy eating the chard and kale. By spring, we’re so happy to eat something different and fresh, even if it’s only one meal.

Preparing black salsify is a bit of a pain, because of its sticky sap. Usually we peel it, immerse it immediately in lemon water, then boil it until tender in some vegetable stock. Finally we pan fry it with a generous amount of butter, a couple of springs of thyme and season it with salt and pepper.

I just read though that it can be boiled first and then peeled. We’ll have to try that method next spring!

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Date and Cranberry Muffin with Oatmeal Streusel ToppingI’m a fan of date squares, but often I find them too sweet. When I tried the cranberry-date squares from 3 Tarts, a bakery in my neighbourhood, I thought “what a smart combination!”

Those squares became the inspiration for these muffins. The dates give them a rich flavour (and minimize the sugar required) while the cranberries offer a pleasantly tart contrast to the dates’ natural sweetness. The oatmeal streusel topping provides some nice crunchy texture.

My mouth is watering as I write this. Time for a muffin!

Recipe: Date and Cranberry Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel Topping

1 1/2 cups flour (I use 3/4 cup regular spelt flour and 3/4 cup whole spelt flour)
1/2 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced dates (raisin-sized dice)
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 cup date puree (see ingredients below)
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Date Puree:
1 cup whole pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup water

Oatmeal Streusel Topping:
1 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 flour
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line/grease 12 muffin cups.

Date Puree: Combine chopped dates and water in a saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until dates are softened. Puree with an immersion blender, a food processor or food mill. Should yield 1/2 cup (no worries if it’s a little more or a little less).

Oatmeal Streusel Topping: Mix oatmeal, brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Add butter and, with your hands, rub all ingredients together until combined. Set aside.

Muffins: In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Combine all dry ingredients (except for cranberries) in a second bowl. The chopped dates will tend to stick together. With your fingers separate them once they are in the flour mixture; coating each piece with the flour mixture will prevent them from sticking together.  Add cranberries and toss to combine and coat the cranberries with flour.

Pour wet ingredients into dry, and blend until flour mixture is just moistened.

Fill muffin cups. Cover each muffin with some of the streusel topping, pressing it lightly into the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tester comes out clean.

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Celebrating Baby's 6-month milestone with Orange Celebration Cake.

Celebrating Baby's 6-month milestone with Orange Celebration Cake. Oops, forgot to light the candle! Chalk another one up to mommy brain.

Usually I pay no attention to half-birthdays, but I think a baby’s first year is different. The 6-month milestone is worthy of celebration for both Baby – even though she won’t get to eat any cake – and the new parents – who will happily eat Baby’s piece.

Baby has come a long way: from practically helpless to a bright baby ready to discover anything within reach and a bit beyond. At birth, her main (and most amazing) skill was knowing where and how to get food. Today she is sitting quite well on her own (with an occasional topple), grabbing objects accurately and passing them from hand to hand, communicating in her own way with a range of sounds, and starting to explore solid food. She’s gone from 3.9 kg and 52 cm out of the womb to approx. 9 kg and 71 cm in six months!

Meanwhile, the new parents have survived the first six months relatively well. We’ve tackled the steep learning curve, adapted our lives, overcome a lack of sleep (not to say we don’t still suffer from it), created strong (and stronger) bonds, laughed and cried. Of course these things are all ongoing, but it’s a lot all at once at the beginning. I think we can be proud of how we’ve managed. We certainly enjoy the company of our happy, thriving baby!

The moment has come to broaden the focus of this blog. I realize that being a mother is an important part of who I am and influences the way I look at things. Motherhood is giving me a new angle from which to experience, and write about, the activities I enjoy.

I’ve decided to rename my blog “Thrive” to better reflect this broader focus (without changing the URL for now). I want my family and me to thrive through healthy, happy eating and togetherness in the kitchen, in the garden and wherever life may take us. I aim for my garden to thrive and provide us with fresh foods we can feel good about eating.

All that to say: I’m baking cake to celebrate!

Orange Celebration Cake is one of my favourites. I have no idea where the recipe came from, just that it was part of my mom’s collection and has been in mine for at least 15 years. Its bright and refreshing flavor and naturally sunshiny colour is particularly appropriate for this time of year.

Recipe: Orange Celebration Cake (Orange Cake with Orange Curd Filling)

Orange Celebration Cake: orange cake with orange curd filling.Baking this cake perks me right up. The aroma that pervades the house while it’s baking (and after) is wonderful and warming. It really sets the mood for celebration! I recommend making this cake the day before you plan to serve it, so the orange aroma has the time to “open up.” Quantities in weight – scale required!

150 g butter
zest of 2 oranges, preferably untreated or organic otherwise washed with a mild soap
175 g sugar
3 eggs
300 g flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
250 mL orange juice

Orange Curd Filling:
125 g sugar
5 tbsp flour
500 mL orange juice
4 egg yolks
50 g butter

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar and orange zest. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time.

Mix in flour mixture and orange juice, alternating between the two: flour – orange juice – flour – orange juice – flour. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into cake pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pan. Slice cake in half horizontally. Prepare filling.

Orange Curd Filling:

Combine flour and sugar in a saucepan. Whisk in orange juice making sure there are no lumps. Mix in egg yolks. Start heating mixture over medium-low. Add butter once the mixture has warmed up a bit. Continue heating while whisking continuously until the mixture thickens to the consistency of runny jam.

Four layers of orange curd filling.

The four layers of orange curd filling, each one set separately, are visible before replacing the top half of the cake.

Carefully pour one quarter of the orange curd onto the bottom half of the cake and spread to close to the edge. Allow to set slightly (a couple of minutes). Repeat until all the filling is on the bottom half of the cake. Allow to cool and set completely (approx. 30 minutes) before placing the other half of the cake on top. Filling the cake in four steps will prevent the orange curd from oozing out when you replace the top half of the cake and let you make a generously filled cake.

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Homemade Basler LeckerliI finally started the Christmas baking. With Baby in the picture this year, I had to make some tough decisions: which cookies to bake. Most of my regular recipes, including most favourites, are staying on the shelf. The cookie cutters too will gather dust until I’ve got a little helper in the kitchen next year. [Anyone with kids is certainly laughing at my naivete and thinking, “You wait and see. Your little helper will just help make a big mess!”] Luckily Basler Leckerli, one of my favourite Christmas cookie recipes, is quick to make and makes lots of cookies with little effort.

Basler Leckerli date back to the 17th century. At the time, making gingerbread was a recognized trade. The use of roughly chopped ingredients differentiated the gingerbread made in Basel from that made in other parts of Switzerland and Germany, where they were made with finely ground nuts. Go to Basel today and the tradition continues. Leckerli are available year-round from a local shop called Läckerli Huus (House of Läckerli), but I find homemade ones taste better!

This recipe is from my mom and originates, of course, in her hometown of Basel, Switzerland. It contains neither fat nor eggs. The cookies are dense and wonderfully flavoured with honey, candied citrus peel, almonds and spices.

Recipe: Basler Leckerli

Quantities in weight – scale required!

500 g honey
300 g sugar (I have successfully cut the amount of sugar in half and use only 150 g)
300 g slivered almonds (the ones that look like little sticks)
70 g candied lemon peel
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
50 mL rum
500 g flour

250 g icing sugar
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp water

The honey and flour mixture for Basler Leckerli before rolling out.

The honey and flour mixture for Basler Leckerli before rolling out. It’s quite sticky, but needs to be worked while still hot. Sprinkle with flour to prevent sticking.

Basler Leckerli rolled out and ready for baking.

Basler Leckerli rolled out and ready for baking.

Cutting the baked Basler Leckerli

Working quickly to cut the baked Basler Leckerli while still hot.

Glazed Basler Leckerli

The glazed Basler Leckerli. Final step: let cool completely, separate and store in an airtight container.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper, greasing and flouring the paper. I also grease the baking sheet to prevent the paper from sliding around.

In a large pot, bring honey and sugar to a boil. Add almonds and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly stir in rum, spices, candied lemon peel, and flour.

Place honey and flour mixture on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with flour to prevent mixture from sticking to rolling pin and roll out evenly. I find this step is easier done by two people: one person to hold the baking sheet and the second to roll out the dough. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Prepare glaze while cookies are in the oven. Mix rum, then water into icing sugar one tablespoon at a time. If necessary, add more water one teaspoon at a time to achieve the right consistency. The glaze should be very thick.

Remove cookies from oven and slide onto cutting board. Cut immediately into squares/rectangles and glaze while still hot. I find the best way to spread the glaze is to use a metal spatula; spoon the glaze onto cut cookies in sections and spread quickly with the spatula. Doing this step with two people can make sure that the glaze gets on before the cookies are too cool for it to spread nicely.

These cookies store for a long time in an airtight container. It’s not unusual for them to be/get a bit hard. Either leave them like that and bite carefully (great for dunking in tea or coffee) or put piece of bread in the container to soften them up.

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An encounter with cows is highly likely on most hikes in the Swiss Alps. Their milk makes the cheese that makes Aelplermagronen so tasty. The perfect way to end a day of hiking.

I imagine this dish was created on a faraway Swiss alp by a farmer’s wife who just put together a meal with what she had on hand: potatoes, pasta, onions, cheese, milk or cream, and apples.  Älplermagronen is a hearty dish. It hits the spot after a hike in the mountains and is satisfying on a cold winter evening.

Cheesemaking hut on a Swiss alp.

Cheesemaking hut on a Swiss alp. Where the stinky cheese comes from!

Recipe: Älplermagronen (Swiss Mac ‘n Cheese)

Aelplermagronen, Swiss mac 'n cheese, hearty and satisfying on a cold winter night.Älplermagronen are served with applesauce (go for homemade!), a nice contrast in both flavour and texture. This recipe generously feeds 4 people!

2 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 – 1″ cubes
1 lb penne pasta
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
4 tbsp butter or oil
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyère, Appenzeller, Raclette, … something aged and a bit stinky)
1/2 cup milk or cream or combination of both
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 375° F. Set a large pot of salted water (approx. 5 liters) to boil.

Heat butter/oil over medium-low heat in a frying pan. Add onions and fry them until golden brown.

When water is boiling and while onions are frying, add penne and potatoes to the salted water. Stir to make sure pasta doesn’t stick together. Cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain penne and potatoes.

Combine milk/cream with salt and pepper.

In an ovenproof casserole dish, place 1/3 of the penne-potatoes, sprinkle with 1/2 of the grated cheese. Make another layer with 1/3 of the penne-potatoes, sprinkle with the other 1/2 of the grated cheese. Top with the remaining 1/3 of the penne-potatoes. Pour the seasoned milk/cream evenly over the top. Spread the browned onions on top.

Bake covered for 10-15 minutes until steaming hot and cheese is melted. Serve with warmed applesauce.

Älplermagronen can easily be prepared a day ahead and heated for 30-45 minutes in 375° F oven (cover to prevent onions from burning) to serve.

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