Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Thinking Pink at Christmastime

I have been enjoying a pyramid of apples that I put together on a pink cake stand last week so much that I haven't eaten an apple for a week so as not to ruin it's colourful beauty! Finally this morning I took a photo and then ate an apple. Turned out the apples look prettier than they taste. I'm going to have to make an apple crisp or a pie or find some other delicious way to use them up. But alas, this post is not about apples, it's not about anything really, except the pretty pink things I keep seeing that are making me think about Christmas. Now, Christmas is not usually a holiday that is celebrated by decorating the house in pink, but that may change at my house this year. I bought some beautiful berry-ish pink plant at the florist a while back which is lasting a super long time and I've been admiring it's beauty on my kitchen windowsill behind the sink. It contrasts so nicely with it's pale greenery and cute pink berries to the bone-chilling cold and snow outside. It makes me think of life in this season of dormancy. Pink is the colour of happiness, youth, flushed cheeks, baby pigs, rhubarb crisp and little girls dresses and for me a nice change from the ubiquitous red and green of Christmas. So I'm going to drink a glass of sparkling pink wine and toast to a pink Christmas.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Healthy Monday Morning Muffins

My long lost friend J and her cute little boy came over for a visit yesterday morning and I wanted to make something yummy and healthy to snack on. I had a bag of hazelnut flour that I had been waiting to use and this seemed the perfect occasion. I was in the mood for something sweet, but not sugary, with interesting textures and a healthy feel. Whole wheat and hazelnut flour, spelt flakes, oats, honey, Medjool dates, organic cocoa and the local, free-range eggs I just got would give any muffin a bit more interest.

So out came the mixing bowls and whisk and I started playing. I was a bit worried how they might turn out seeing as I had a 20 month old boy to impress, and kids are the toughest critics, but with such great ingredients they were bound to come out okay, and they ended up more than that. They had a natural sweetness, a great texture and delicious nuggets of sweet dates and crunchy walnuts hidden within. The only thing I would change next time is to stir in some dark chocolate chunks, but that's because I have a thing for dark chocolate in the morning. Not that you must eat these muffins on a Monday morning, I just had one after lunch on a Tuesday and it still tasted just as good, I promise. Although eating one on a Monday morning is sure to start your week off on the right foot.

Oh, and just to prove to you how good these are, J's little boy ate 2 whole muffins all by himself!

Healthy Monday Morning Muffins

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1/2 cup spelt flakes
1 cup oats
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 C.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, stir all the dry ingredients together except the cocoa. Sift cocoa into mixture and stir to combine.

1/2 cup honey
2 mashed very ripe bananas
1/3 cup canola oil
2 small eggs
3/4 cup applesauce (unsweetened)

In a large mixing bowl whisk all wet ingredients together until combined.
Add dry ingredients into wet while stirring just until combined.

1/2 cup toasted walnuts
5 large Medjool dates, chopped

Add walnuts and dates to the muffin batter. Pour into muffin tin lined with papers. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted down the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Let cool and enjoy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


About a week after we got back from France, our next door neighbours were off to Italy, leaving behind Zelda the black lab. Being the dog lover that I am, I offered to look after her for three weeks while they ate their way from Rome to Northern Italy with their three (smallish!) children. Roo and Zelda and I got into a nice routine of fun daily walks, backyard ball games and evening play dates and when the three weeks had passed I was actually a little bit sad to get back to a normal doggy routine. The sadness was eased somewhat by a generous gift from D. and S. that we appreciate so much especially considering that they must have carried it home in their carry-ons along with the three little ones and all their things.
We were presented with a beautiful, hand-painted espresso set and a pretty box of authentic, artisanal amaretti. I could smell those little morsels of bitter almond through the box and wondered how they didn't get devoured on that long flight home by D. or S. or one of the kids. When I opened the box that heady scent of almond filled my senses and I just couldn't wait to brew a cup of coffee to go with them. I immediately ate one. It crunched gently and broke in my mouth, then it seemed to melt into a delicious sweet almond powder. The flavour was so authentic that it almost seemed too good to be true. It wasn't reminiscent of "almond extract" but rather of the true flavour of bitter almonds. In fact the cookies themsleves had a surprisingly bitter quality that was really delicious.
Authentic amaretti are made with apricot kernels, or the little almond that is found inside an apricot pit. The kernels are extremely bitter and need to be blanched and skinned before using, but they hold the key to that unmistakable almond flavour. These amaretti were definitely authentic and are being rationed at our house to prolong the pleasure. I think there are two or three left in the box and I will be sad when the last one gets eaten because I'm pretty sure that any amaretti I will find here will pale in comparison.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Savoury Zucchini Loaf with goat's cheese and olives

One of the things I noticed when we were in France this summer was that at almost every family meal, someone would invariably bring a cake sale, or savoury cake baked in a loaf pan. I had tried them before, but never have I seen such a variety and on so many occasions. In fact, I think the cake sales were even more prominent this summer than the ubiquitous quiche! One of these cakes stood out in my mind, Tatie Mireille's Cake Sale au Chevre, aux Olives et aux Noisettes. Mireille is a creative cook, her flavours are definitely Mediterannean, but she is not restrained by a single way of cooking. This cake sale was a perfect example, she took her recipe for a cake with ham and cheese and made it so much better with goat's cheese, black olives and hazelnuts. Her daughter also made me an amazing crepe while we were there with goat's cheese and honey, but that's for another post....

Last night was girl's night and A. had the most gigantic zucchini I've ever seen from her Mom's garden that she absolutely had to get rid of. She had already made a chocolate zucchini cake and was going to make another one and she couldn't fathom what to do with the rest. I gladly took some home, she even pre-shredded it for me! So today as I was working and thinking about what I should make for dinner after another boring week of pasta (our kitchen is in reno mode and I have been very uncreative as most of my things are still in boxes) I thought of making a savoury zucchini cake with nuts and olives. I somehow found my measuring cups and spoons and I went about throwing together this loaf with what I had in the garden and my cupboards.

Savoury Zucchini Loaf with goat's cheese and olives

Preheat oven to 350

1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (if it's wet, give it a squeeze and drain the liquid)
1/4 cup plain yogurt (you can use goat's milk yogurt if you have it)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 eggs
1 Tbsp. grainy dijon mustard

Stir these ingredients together in a large bowl until combined.

good handful of parsley and chives, well chopped, or other herbs of your choice
12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

Add these ingredients and stir to combine.

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

Sift into mixture and stir until just combined.

1/2 cup soft goat's cheese (substitute with feta if you like)

Crumble into batter and fold gently to combine. Pour into a greased and floured loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes-1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes and then invert cake onto the rack and cool completely. Serve in small slices as an appetizer. Keep well wrapped in fridge for up to 3 days.

Please be creative with this recipe, use it as a guideline. If you don't like walnuts, add hazelnuts, if you don't have parsley add basil. Add other ingredients, like sundried tomatoes or green olives. As long as you stick to the base, you can add and omit as you please!

Bon appetit!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


What is a trip to Paris without a stop at one of the best patisseries? I made sure that during our few days in the city of lights we made a stop at Laduree for macarons and chocolat chaud. I probably would have chosen the Champs Elysees location on my own, but our Parisian friends joined us and recommended Laduree Bonaparte, a little out of our way, but also a little less touristy (although still very busy on a weekday afternoon). They wanted to take us upstairs to the tea room to enjoy our tiny, dreamy and colourful macarons. We weren't really dressed for it, but the friendly staff didn't seem to mind (I guess when you're willing to spend 20 euros on two hot drinks and four mini-macarons they don't care what you're wearing). The room was quiet and painted blue with gold gilding, the tables were dressed in fine white linens with silver cutlery and my beautiful tea (a la fleur d'oranger) came in a gorgeous bone china tea cup. The hot chocolate that JS ordered was so thick you practically needed to eat it with a spoon, it was rich, velvety and not too sweet but even JS, ever the chocolate lover, had a hard time finishing it! It was a difficult task to choose our macaron flavours, although one of those decisions in life that is a pleasure to be faced with, but after much deliberation I chose Cassis-Violette, Caramel au Beurre Sale, Fleur d'Oranger and Pistache. All were delicious, but my hands down favourite was Cassis-Violette, it had a jammy and tart filling that nicely contrasted with the soft, delicate almond cookies.
On our way out I had to stop to take some macarons to go, partly to share with our friends and partly so that I could get one of their signature boxes and a beautiful bag to take home as a souvenir. I even got to choose which box colour (!), pink for me! My pretty green bag hangs beautifully in my office so that every time I look at it I think of our afternoon break at Laduree that late August day.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Farmers' Feast

Last night was the inaugural Farmers' Feast, an event I helped co-ordinate and that we hope will continue to grow each year. The idea was to promote local food made by local chefs and to bring the producers, chefs and consumers together to create relationships and bring people closer to the food they eat.

The night was a smashing success. The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, no wind, and an unusually warm day for late September. Guests were greeted with live jazz and a free glass of wine if they brought their own wine glass. The chefs really showcased their unique talents with delicious local fare such as mini-bison burgers, Manitoba pike cakes, pulled Manitoba pork with aioli on local lettuce, vegan shepard's pie made with all local produce, vegetarian pemmican, Manitoba pumpkin crumble squares, local apple cider, fairly traded organic coffee and so much more that I didn't even get a chance to taste! People wandered from booth to booth, chatting with the chefs, tasting the delicacies and sipping wine or local Manitoba beer. There was an ambiance to the evening that was almost tangible; people laughed; kids played; little Wally the puppy made people swoon; music drifted; wonderful smells filled the air; it was better than any of us thought it could be. A perfect way to cap off a Manitoba summer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Mr. Poilane might have rolled over in his grave this morning if he saw me eat his prized bread, arguably the best bread in the world, smeared with peanut butter.

We arrived home from France last night with our kitchen in the midst of being renovated, no stove, oven, sink or food in the fridge, but there was peanut butter and I had carefully carried a huge (12 inch diameter?) round Miche Poilane across the Atlantic, so that's what I had for breakfast. But alas, this post is not about peanut butter and I am not going to try to argue it's virtues with the French (I've tried, they won't hear any of it). What I want to talk about today is the bread, pain Poilane.

I had read about it's carmelized crust, chewy interior, the famous starter, the stone milled flour and sel de Guerande that lend Poilane's bread it's distinct flavour and texture. When we decided to spend a few days in Paris on our way down South and a day on the way home, the one must on my list of things to was to stop in at Poilane. Day one we headed to the rue du Cherche-Midi, the tiny Poilane bakery was just as you would imagine a perfect Parisian bakery, lined with beautifully flaky viennoiseries and the signature round miches engraved with a P. I asked the woman for a quarter loaf and she sliced it with a huge apparatus that I can only compare to a paper cutter, we took it home and tasted it that night with my favourite butter flecked with crystals of sea salt. Everything I had read about Poilane's famous bread was true. The rustic crust was almost black on the bottom and the flour had carmelized and released flavours of molasses and toast, the crumb was chewy and moist, salted just enough so that you knew it was there but you couldn't taste it, the starter lent it's little bit of acidity and the butter smeared on top just took it to the next level.

The next day we wandered around Paris some more and I insisted we take the Metro to the rue du Cherche-Midi again for another quarter of a miche. I made sandwiches with brie for me and jambon buerre for JS to eat in the train with a bottle of wine on our way down south. I told myself that on our last day in Paris I would get an entire loaf and haul it with me back across the ocean to take that taste home with me if only for a few days. We had to go to the alternate location because the Cherche-Midi store is closed on Sundays, but luckily the other store on boulevard de Grenelle was open. So, we all headed across the entire city to the 15th (where there is really nothing else to see or do except drink very expensive coffee in touristy cafes and then pay to go pee as we learned) on 3 different metro lines to get the famous bread. Then I carried it all around Paris and back to our friend J's place that night and then on the RER, our transatlantic flight, the Toronto airport and another flight and car ride home and into my makeshift kitchen where it sits proudly on my cutting board as I type this.

I have since gone grocery shopping and have bought some roquefort and chevre with which to enjoy it (the bread has it's pride too) and I intend on eating and enjoying every last carmelized crumb.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Les Cepes

On Monday evening we went to see a Y, friend who lives in the Pyrenees. The plan was to hike to a refuge where we would sleep and start hiking early the next morning. When we arrived rfom our day on the beach in Spain, later than expected, we were not really in the mood to start hiking. So we opted to pitch a tent in his parents yard and have dinner with them, and start the hike in the morning. Luckily for us his Mom was making a poelee de cepes for dinner. Cepes season is at it's peak in the Pyrenees right now, and she had been picking the day before at about 2000 metres. Their tiny hut built into the side of the mountain (and completely self-sustaining with solar panels and a fireplace) was covered in trays of wild mushrooms sliced thinly and laying out to dry.

We had our delicious dinner of sauteed cepes with olive oil and garlic, olives from the tree in the yard and brined by Y's Dad, home made bread and steamed potatoes and a salad of tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce, and muscat wine to start and a really good red wine from the region. We ate by candlelight in the garden on a table that looked to be 100 years old and benches made of stone and built into the slope of the ground. After dinner Y's Mom wandered all around the dark and sloped yard to pick all sorts of herbs (thyme, rosemary, mint, verbena) to make an delicious infusion. We fell asleep to the sound of crickets chirping and the lights of a village below twinkling and woke up in the clouds.

Y assured us that the hike would be short and easy, "ca va pas trop monter" he insisted. Why we haven't learnt our lesson that he has lived in the mountains his whole life and is in much better hiking shape than us is a mystery. It turned out to be a long and difficult hike, but we managed. We walked through pine forests and picked wild mushrooms, though not as many as a couple of older men we passed had in their basket. We walked through a clearing filled with cows and listened to the bells clinking as they chewed their grass, we stopped here and there to have a rink and admire the truly spectacular scenery. And we stopped at the top (or what felt like the top) of the mountain to have our lunch on a rock. We were at 2400 metres and started at 1560 metres, not a bad hike if I do say so myself. Lunch is so much more satisfying when you are truly re-fueling.

On our way back down we took a different route to try to find more cepes, and got a little lost. I had a few moments of wanting to scream or cry, but I contained myself and kept on going. The hike down was in some ways harder than up as we were in an area without trails that was very steep. It took much longer than it should have to get back to the car, but we all arrived with no broken bones.

Before we headed on our way we stopped back at Y's place and his Mom sent us home with a jar of dried cepes. We had picked about 7 or 8 good sized ones too, so it was a good day.

Tonight back in Beziers, I made a gratin de cepes with layers of potatoes and sauteed cepes covered with milk, dotted with butter and sprinkled with gruyere.

Gratin de Cepes

5 or 6 medium white potatoes (Yukon Gold would work well too)
2 or 3 good sized wild cepes, or substitute other wild mushrooms if you can't find cepes
500 ml whole milk
3/4 cup grated gruyere
a few dots of butter
salt and pepper

Clean the mushrooms with a brush or dry paper towel and cut into thin strips, use the stems too. Sautee them in olive oil at high heat for a few minutes, tossing around, until golden.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Peel, then cut the potatoes into thin rounds.

In a buttered glass baking dish, place a layer of potatoes, followed by a layer of cepes until you have used all of them, sprinkling a bit of salt and pepper between each layer. Pour the milk over and then sprinkle with the gruyere and dot with butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and tender when you press a knife into the middle.

Enjoy the aroma of the forests of the Pyrenees while you wait for it to be cool enough to eat.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Belles Figues

We're holidaying in the South of France right now, enjoying every minute and every morsel of delicious, crusty bread, creamy cheese and perfect red wine, but I have also been spoiled with all the fresh fruit at this time of year. We've had juicy muscat grapes, tiny green plums, apples, almonds and pears right from the trees, and today, I thought I had died and gone to heaven, fresh, heavy, ripe, sweet figs from the tree to my mouth.

JL asked me last night if I would be interested in coming with him and the neighbour to a fig tree in the middle of a friends vineyard to pick enough figs to make confiture and figues confites. Would I? The question didn't need to be asked! So off we went this morning with our hooks and baskets to a beautiful, huge vineyard with rows and rows of merlot, cinsault and chardonnay grapes among others. I had a taste of the merlot grapes as we walked, sweet and lovely, even though the neighbour said they were the worst eating grape.

The fig tree was so big you could see it from miles away in the middle of the rows of grapes, but it was only when we got close the the smell overcame us. That unmistakeable perfume of ripe figs and fig leaves, earthy and sweet, the smell of the sunshine and the South of France for me.

We picked quite a few and tasted a few in the process. JL wanted me to taste one from the tree and then one that had fallen to see the difference. The freshly plucked fig was cool, perfumed and lightly sweet, the fallen fig was warm, super sweet and concentrated, almost like it was full of honey. Both were sublime.

Here are some photos to look at while you plan your next holiday to the beautiful South of France.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Kristin/Julia Project

So, on Friday night N and I went to opening of Julie and Julia. I decided it would be fun to invite her over for dinner first, and of course, in keeping with the theme of the evening, break out Mastering the Art of French Cooking and make something full of butter. Well, I did break out the old cookbook, but none of the recipes were really speaking to me. I wanted something that would be light and tasty, using all the wonderful produce that is around at this time of year, and that would have a Provencal feel. I know that it's pretty hard to find anything in France that would qualify as a proper vegetarian meal, but I thought that Julia must have something that I could make work. I was wrong. I was finding myself uninspired to create this meal and my day got busier than expected. I didn't have time to go shopping (luckily I have a garden and a fridge full of produce these days) and we had to eat really early to get to the show on time, so I decided that I would try my hand at a Soupe au Pistou with a green salad and some good toasted french bread drizzled with olive oil. I worried that this might be a bit too simple, when Mastering the Art of French Cooking is anything but, and I didn't want to disappoint, but time was not on my side and I had to make something. I adapted Julia's recipe, adding a few things, omitting a few others, and it turned out delicious! I only hope Julia would approve.

Soupe au Pistou de Julia (adaptee par moi)

4 litres of water
2 cups each diced carrots, potatoes, and a combination of leeks, shallots and onions)
1 Tbsp sea salt, fresh ground pepper

Boil the water, vegetables, salt and pepper slowly for about 40 minutes.

2 cups canned chick peas
2 cups diced green and yellow zucchini
1 cup diced green beans

Add to the soup and continue boiling gently for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the pistou:

4 cloves of garlic, grated
4 Tbsp tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (when I say parmesan, I mean a wedge of cheese that you are going to grate yourself, not some tub of "parmesan" dust that they probably swept off the floor of the cheese factory)
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine in a bowl. Once the soup is finished cooking, taste and correct seasonings. Add one ladelful of soup into the pistou, then add the pistou into the pot of soup and give a stir to combine. make sure to take a good whiff of the soup as you add the pistou, heavenly! Serve immediately with really good toasted artisanal bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fleur de sel. Bon Appetit!!

PS Just as I am posting this, my Mom called to tell me that there is a Julia Child special on PBS right now, I turned it on and she is making a omelette with the ease that most of us can only make toast.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Little Bums

Apricots are my little darlings of the fruit world. Their velvety skin, golden with sun-kissed coral cheeks, their sweetly tart, juicy flesh, their love of being stewed and cooked, their ability to be delicious in a sweet or savoury dish, all of these things put apricots right up there with fresh figs, summertime strawberries and wild Ontario blueberries for me.

The B.C. apricots are ripe right now, and every year as soon as I find them, I make jam. I have tried variations, adding the little almond inside the pit (blanched and chopped) is one that I love, but this year, I'm in a bit of a pinch for time and I don't feel like taking a hammer and splitting pits in my kitchen (it's actually a lot more difficult than it may seem). So I experimented and came up with a lovely Apricot jam with vanilla and lemon juice. I make it the French way, macerating the fruit and sugar overnight and then boiling until the natural pectin thickens. This makes a jam that is dark golden orange coloured and lovely with it's sweetness and tartness mingling.

My French Style Apricot Jam

1 kg ripe apricots (weigh after removing the stones)
850 g sugar
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 vanilla bean

The night before you want to make the jam, quarter apricots and place in a large, heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid. Add sugar, lemon or lime juice and vanilla bean, which you should split down the center and scrape the seeds out. I usually cut my vanilla bean into 3 pieces so that a few of the jars have a pretty length of vanilla bean inside. Give this all a good stir so that the sugar begins to melt a little and leave out on the counter all night.

The next morning, give another good stir and place on the stove turning heat to medium. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for at least 1/2 an hour and up to 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Sometimes I help the fruit along by gently pressing it into the side of the pot while it cooks and other times I just let it do it's thing. Either way you know it's going to taste amazing. When it looks thick and dark golden, pour it into sterilized jars and put the sterilized lids on tight, then invert the jars for a few minutes. I left my jars inverted for the day and when I flipped them back over the jam was stuck on the lids. Not a big deal, but a little funny looking and slightly annoying when the time comes to open them. Don't forget to label the jars with the date. If you keep them in the fridge I think they might last a little bit longer, but they can be stored at room temperature for at least 6 months if they've been properly sterilized. I'm not going to get into sterilizing jars, but if you've never done it, do a quick google search, I'm sure you'll find lots of tutorials. I do mine in the oven and I boil my lids. 

This jam is so heavenly spooned over a good piece of crusty baguette smeared with goat cheese. Mmmmmmmm.....now picture eating this while sitting in an apricot orchard with little goats walking around nibbling the grass.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Carottes Amoureuses

I was at the farmer's market last week and bought some lovely, sweet, baby carrots. When I got them home I noticed these two babies, all curled around each other. They just look so happy that I can't actually bring myself to eat them.
Everyone should have someone who fits with them as well as these two fit together. They just don't make sense when they're apart. That is true love.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever

It feels like winter here right now. Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but only mildly. It actually feels like winter in the South of France, which is cold. It's gray and cloudy, very windy, and the temperature is about 12C! I know I spend a lot of time complaining about the weather, but when you live in this city, that's what you do. People talk about the weather constantly, and not in the "I don't know what to talk to you about so let's just talk about the weather" kind of way, but in a detailed and analytical kind of way. We also feel that since we live through such brutally cold and long winters that we deserve hot and sunny summers, but Mother nature doesn't always reward us accordingly.

A wordy introduction to tell you that I have been waiting impatiently for strawberries this year, another thing that many Manitobans think they deserve.  It is a late year for everything here because of a late and cool spring. But, astonishingly, the berries grew. And ripened. And my Mom and I, as has become our yearly tradition, went to pick some. 

They were small little berries, but juicy and full of flavour. I made jam, sorbet, and ate strawberries for days. I tried some new jam recipes this year, Apricot Strawberry (very good), Strawberry Vanilla (ditto), and plain Strawberry, and as always, Freezer jam. So now when winter actually comes I can open a jar and fondly remember our freezing cold and rainy summer. Maybe it will make winter seem not so bad!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Quiche with Goat's Cheese and Garden Herbs

In response to my post about goats, I thought I should think of a good recipe using goat cheese. I have no shortage of goat cheese recipe ideas, but I especially love it when it's warmed in some way. This quiche is a delicious combination of creamy goat cheese, eggy custard, and gorgeous green herbs from my garden that just seem to get slipped in to everything I make lately. Please use this as a guideline and add whatever herbs you like and more or less cheese to your taste. Quiche is such a simple thing to make, I never measure, if you add 4 eggs instead of 3 or yogurt instead of milk or parsley instead of sage, it will still taste delicious!

Quiche with Goat's Cheese and Garden Herbs

1 roll frozen puff pastry
3 eggs
a nice piece of soft goat cheese (I used about the size of a golf ball)
3/4 cup milk
a good bunch of herbs, I used basil, chives, summer savoury and sage, finely chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375F.

Thaw the puff pastry either overnight in the fridge or on the counter for an hour or
two. Once thawed. place it in a pie dish with the parchment on the bottom and press
into the sides. Give it a few pricks with a fork.

Beat the eggs, then add the milk, salt and pepper.

Sprinkle the chopped herbs over the pastry, then add the cheese, breaking it up with
your fingers. Pour the egg mixture over top and put the quiche in the oven for about
45 minutes or until golden and puffed up. If you're not sure whether it's done, put a
knife in the middle and make sure it comes out clean.

Let cool and serve warm or at room temperature. We even it it fridge cold the next day
for lunch. Serve with a green salad and a crisp white wine for a beautiful summer lunch.

Monday, June 22, 2009


For some time I have had the somewhat odd dream of wanting to be a goat farmer. I would have an old house in the countryside (this you have probably heard me talk about already) and a whole bunch of really funny goats with lots of character. Early each morning I would wander over to the goats, bleary eyed and tired, and then the goats would do such funny things that I would perk up and have a great day milking them and making fresh cheeses covered with home grown herbs, vegetable ash and sea salt. I do realize that this is my dream sequence and probably not at all the life of a real goat farmer, but a girl's gotta dream!

Last week, in the Okanagan with L, we went to a goat cheese farm and the goats were just as I imagined. Full of character, each one doing a funnier thing than the next. They just seem like such funny animals to be around every day. And the cheese, well, it was incredible. Full of that earthy, barnyard flavour that is so characteristic of goat's cheeses. They also had homemade gelato that was so creamy and rich, but light at the same time. I was in heaven!

Here is a quirky photo of those goats to replace a recipe, which I don't have time for today. If you look at what the goats are doing it is such a funny scene. The one standing on the box just stood like that the whole time, there is a goat in the middle who was scratching her back with her horns, and the one sleeping in the food trough made me laugh. If these goats don't brighten your day, nothing will.

Pizza Dough!

I don't have too much time, but I know if I don't do this now I won't find the time till next weekend. So I will hastily give you my recipe for my much tested pizza dough. I have had 2 requests in the past week for this (thanks for making me feel like a real chef by asking me for recipes B and L!) This recipe is really not a recipe at all, and it has evolved over time to include a bit of whole wheat flour. Now before you try to tell me how un-Italian that is, and how true pizza dough is made with Italian "00" flour, the suggestion to include a small amount of whole wheat flour came to me from a true Italian Mamma. So there. Try it, it's really good!

My Pizza Dough

4-5 cups of white flour as needed
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 packet traditional yeast or a big chunk of fresh yeast (please don't use quick rise!!)
1-2 cups warm water, as needed

Dilute yeast in about 1/4 cup of warm (not hot) water in a small glass bowl. Set aside for about 10 minutes while you get on with the flour. 
Stir 4 cups of the white flour and the whole wheat flour with the salt together in a bowl. When the yeast is diluted, pour over the flour, then add the water a little bit at a time until you have a "shaggy mess" as Nigella would say. 
Then turn the dough out onto the counter and start kneading. As you go you will feel that the dough is either too wet and sticky or too dry and floury, just add more flour or water as needed as you knead. After about 5 or 10 minutes you should have a beautiful, elastic ball of dough. When you do, clean your bowl in hot water, give it a slick of oil and turn your dough around in the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp, warm, clean dish towel and put it aside in a warm and non-drafty spot in the kitchen.
After an hour it should be well risen. If you want to use it right away, go for it. If not, give it a punch and a couple of kneads and put it back in the bowl. If you want to make it a day ahead, cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. The next day leave it out for about 4 hours or until it comes to room temperature.
To use it, stretch it onto a cookie sheet that you have sprinkled with fine cornmeal, top with whatever you like and bake it for about 20 minutes at 400. These are guidelines only, you really need to know your oven to get the timing right, and it also depends how thick or thin you make your crust. Sometimes this amount gives me 2 cookie sheet sized pizzas and sometimes I just get one. Depends on my mood.
Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Slow Food Manitoba

My life has gone from rather uneventful to a gong show in a matter of a month! It all started on a particularly quiet day. I had a break in the afternoon and was looking at a website that I had bookmarked, www.slowfood.com. I decided to contact Slow Food to see if we had a convivium in Manitoba, which we didn't. Then, a few emails were shot around and before I knew it I was co-founding a Slow Food Convivium here. Our first meeting was a huge success, over 35 people showed up to something we were planning to have in my living room. Luckily we had about 20 that rsvp'd and I decided at that point to move to a larger location. This city is really like a huge small town, word travels fast, and before we knew it my co-founder, N, and I were attending meetings for other food-related organizations, planning events for this summer and running a community garden that required a lot of weeding this past long weekend. I think I am more tired coming out of the long weekend than I was going in.

On top of all that I am still taking my writing course (which I am somewhat neglecting), trying to juggle two gardens in need of lots of love, reading a wonderful book that I must finish before book club (which I am hosting with a friend), and starting a new job on Thursday! Phew. Needless to say I have been completely neglecting this blog, which I promised myself I would keep updating. 

This weekend I will try to get a recipe up and take some photos. I promise!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Slowing Down

Sometimes it is important to slow down and take your time. Lately that is what I have been doing. I can't say I feel like I am getting much accomplished, but that will come with time I suppose. I have started a writing course, which I am very excited about. Also on my list of new things to do I am going to be starting up a Slow Food Convivium. Slow Food is an organization which promotes sustainable agriculture, fair pay for food growers and producers, culinary traditions around the world and much more related to good, clean and fair food. Slow Food was created to counteract the fast food phenomenon. 
I am hoping to organize outings to different local food producers to see where our food is coming from and to try change peoples habits when purchasing food. I also want to promote gardening and think it would be great to hold some gardening information sessions to learn about growing vegetables, composting, etc. Maybe we can even start up a community garden project!
I have a few people interested and I'm hoping more people will show some interest. If you are in my area and are interested, please send me an email or check out www.slowfood.com for more info.
Happy Easter weekend! Hope you have time to slow down and enjoy the sunshine!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Tuesday, March 10th. 12:24 p.m. Current temperature -23C. Seriously. 
These are the kind of days that I retreat into my dream world.
The latest dream: finding a wonderful old mas in the south of France with an old olive grove and oil mill. Learning the art of making olive oil. Selling my award winning olive oil to the best restaurants across the world and delivering it to them personally.  Having a huge vegetable garden with fresh produce all year long. Keeping laying hens and a few goats for milk, a pig named Petunia and 2 or 3 horses, not to mention a whole pack of dogs. 
Okay, I'm awake, and I'm aware that this dream is a pretty specific one. Having said that I will continue to dream about it.
Today I have no recipe for you. Just a picture of France to help you go into a momentary dream world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I have loved chai lattes ever since the mega coffee chains that you see on every street corner made them mainstream. Having said that, the syrupy sweet, not too spicy lukewarm chai lattes that you find in those types of shops could use some improvement.
My version may not be authentic, I have not consulted an Indian cook or even a cookbook. I just played around with spices, toasting them gently and then infusing them in roiboos tea and sweet milk. I have really made this to suit my taste, so feel free to adjust the spices as you like. JS finds my version a little heavy on the spice (just the way I like it!).
Please don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients, they are all easily accessible and you can omit the ones you don't have or don't like. I find that all these spices are used very frequently in my house.
This spicy, creamy and not too sweet chai has now got me thinking about incorporating these tastes into an ice cream or gelato since I now have an ice cream maker!! Imagine the spiciness in a cold ice cream with just a hint of sweetness....I'll work on that this summer!

My Un-Authentic Roiboos Chai

6 cups water
3-4 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves
8 cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2-1 tsp black peppercorns
1 big piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 star anise or 1 tsp anise
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp loose vanilla roiboos (or plain roiboos, or if you insist, plain black tea)
1 cup whole milk

Toast all the spices except the ginger and the bay leaf over medium heat in a dry frying pan. When they become fragrant, after about 4 or 5 minutes, remove from heat and transfer them to a mortar and pestle. Gently crush them with the pestle until they are broken up, you don't have to grind them to a powder.
Put all the spices, including the ginger and bay leaf, into a pot with the water and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to medium, cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the tea and cover to infuse for about 5 minutes.
Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer into another pot* then add the milk, add more or less to your taste. Put the chai back over medium heat for about 5 minutes to warm the milk.
Pour into mugs and enjoy!

*at this point, if you are not going to use all the chai, pour some of it into a pitcher, allow to cool then keep in the fridge for a few days. When you want a cup, just add some milk and heat it on the stove until warm.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Birthday and a bowl of happiness!

This morning, after opening presents in bed, lovely dresses and a top and a jacket from my French family, I turned on the radio. The CBC morning show host was interviewing a guy from Gimli who has extended his carrot harvest into the long, cold Manitoba winter! All he does is cover his carrots with thick foam before the ground freezes and it actually insulates them enough that they don't freeze! He can only harvest about 2 or 3 times in the winter because every time he opens the sealed up foam the ground gets a little colder until eventually it does freeze. This story is so unbelievable to Manitobans, who woke up to -31 (not including the wind chill!) this morning. This kind of out of the box thinking could actually be used farther north where the produce is prohibitively expensive due to shipping costs and the growing season is extremely short.
Coincidentally, I decided yesterday to make a Carrot Orange and Ginger soup. It was delicious and looks so happy and full of vitamins in this very long and very cold winter! I needed a pick me up, and this soup fit the bill perfectly. 
Tomorrow the high is -8, so we are getting a bit of relief from the cold spell. Spring is around the corner and I know I'm not the only one with spring fever at this time of year. Just the thought of fresh asparagus and tiny carrots pulled from the earth are enough to make me swoon. But for now, I am just going to content myself with a brightly coloured bowl of vitamins!

Carrot Orange Ginger Soup or Happiness in a Bowl

2 pounds or just under 1 kg of Organic Carrots
1 small to medium sized onion, or half a large one, roughly diced
1 piece of fresh ginger about the size of a big fat thumb, peeled and grated
1 orange, zested and juiced
salt and pepper
a bit of olive oil

Peel your carrots if they are old and need it, if they are fresh just give them a scrub. Cut the ends off and chop them into large chunks. Don't worry about what they look like, they are going to get pureed in the end.
Saute the onions over medium heat in enough olive oil to coat your soup pot. When the onions are softened, add the carrots, grated ginger and orange zest and juice. Pour in enough water to just cover the carrots. Add a good pinch of salt and some freshly grated pepper. Bring the soup to the boil, then lower heat slightly but continue a very slow boil for about 30 minutes or until you can easily pierce a carrot with a fork. They should be very soft.
Have a large bowl and a ladle ready, then transfer the soup into the blender in batches and puree until smooth. Put the soup back in the pot and taste. If the soup is to thick, add a bit of water. Adjust salt and pepper. Serve with a sprig of parsley and a drizzle of good olive oil and some crusty toasted bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil and sprinkled with coarse sea salt. Eat and be happy!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Voyageur Pea Soup

Every February when I was in elementary school we celebrated the Festival du Voyageur. I don't remember much about it except that we wore long embroidered sashes around our waists, made candy from pouring maple syrup onto clean (never yellow) snow and we ate delicious soupe aux pois. Most of the other kids thought the pea soup was gross, it was mushy and khaki green coloured, but I loved it! That was back in the days where I ate little bits of meat in things without too much disgust. Since then I really haven't had pea soup much at all because of the ham in it. So today I decided to make my own version, meat-free.

Voyageur Pea Soup

2 cups green split peas, rinsed
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
About 6-7 cups of water or vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
herbes de provence
a dash of spanish smoked paprika
black pepper
olive oil

Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of your soup pot. I hat giving measurements for thing like this because it should just coat the bottom of the pot. Add onions, celery, carrots, and a healthy dash of herbes de provence. Saute these for a few minutes until the onion is soft, then add the garlic. and just a tiny dash of smoked paprika. I love the smoky resonance of smoked paprika, but I don't think it should take over the taste of the soup, it should just linger in the background so you get a hint of smokiness without knowing what it is.
Add the peas, 5 1/2 cups of the stock or water, bay leaves and a grinding of black pepper. If you are using water, add some salt.
Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and continue simmering for about 45 minutes then reduce heat a little more and cover and simmer for another 45 minutes or until the peas are cooked and mushy. During this time, give it a stir every once in a while and add more water or stock if it looks too thick. At this point taste for salt. It may need a little more, but go slowly so you don't over salt.
Remove the bay leaves. If you have an immersion blender stick it right into the soup pot and give it a whizz. Don't puree it, just help it to become partially blended into a thick, textured soup.
Now, find a red sash to tie around your waist and imagine yourself sitting in the snow eating this soup while singing French voyageur songs!

Scones and Tea!

On Friday we had a nice visit with J and I had wanted to make something to go with tea for an afternoon visit. Naturally, scones came to mind. I wanted to make them a bit different, just for a change, so into one batch I put golden raisins, dried apricots and fresh orange zest, and the other batch got sharp aged cheddar and cracked black pepper. After tasting the two I couldn't decide which I preferred they were both pretty yummy! We served them with some of our summer preserves, grape, rhubarb vanilla and spiced apple cider jelly from my Mom's friend (which I intend to make this year, it is so good!).

Scones are the easiest dough to make in my opinion. The golden rule is not to overwork the dough. I use my hands to make scones, I know some people prefer to use the food processor, do it whichever way suits you best.
We had some left over and I will admit (somewhat ashamedly) to eating about 6 throughout the day. I couldn't let them go to waste, and they just don't keep well, so they had to be eaten that day!
Happy baking and even happier eating!

My Scones

2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1/4 cup cold butter
3/4 cup cold milk

Preheat oven to 375 F.
Measure the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl and give it a whisk to combine. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and drop into the bowl. Working with your fingers, rub the butter into the flour, quickly, until the mixture looks like lumpy sand, you want to keep some bits of butter a bit bigger than others. At this point gradually add your milk while stirring with a wooden spoon. If you have added all the milk and there is still flour in the bowl, add a little bit more. When the dough comes together and there is no flour at the bottom of the bowl, turn it out onto a lightly floured, clean counter and turn it over once or twice. Do not Knead. Shape it into a flat, round disc with your hands and cut into 8 wedges. Place them on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper and bake for about 20 minutes or until they are puffy and golden. 
Be creative with this recipe. If you want sweet scones, brush them with milk or cream and sprinkle sugar on top before they go in the oven. You can add lemon or orange zest, raisins, currants, dried cranberries, walnuts, pecans, cheddar cheese, dried herbs, grainy mustard, anything you like really. Add fruit and nuts to flour mixture just before adding the milk, as for things like grainy mustard, mix it into the milk before adding. When I make cheese scones I always sprinkle grated cheese on top of the scones before baking. Have fun with these and be creative!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Crepes Sucrees

This post is a bit overdue, but I wanted to give you my crepe recipe.
On new year's morning I decided crepes would be the best thing to go with my traditional New Year's Morning Mimosa.
Crepes sucrees are one of my favourite meals, if you can call them a meal. Once in a while a lot of sugar is just what I need for dinner. My favourite ways to eat them are either with some melted butter and white sugar or a squeeze of lemon and sugar. Both of these ways can be very messy, so you need a plate to catch the drips. JS loves them with strawberry jam or nutella. They are also delicious with some pear or apple compote. Enjoy them with whatever tickles your fancy!

Crepes Sucrees

2 cups (or 250g) flour
500 ml milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
as for flavouring your batter, you can leave it as is, or add any of the following alone, or in combination. I personally usually put in some orange flower water and vanilla.
2 tsp orange flower water
1 tsp vanilla
grated lemon zest 
a glug or rum
extra butter or canola oil for greasing the pan

Put flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and give them a whisk together. Add about half your milk, whisking it in as you go.
Beat the eggs together in another bowl then add them to your flour and milk mixture along with the melted (but not hot) butter. Whisk this all together and slowly add the rest of the milk. When the batter is done it should e the consistency of heavy cream. 
Let the batter sit for about 20 minutes.
Now, if you are using a crepe pan, that's great. If not, use a non-stick frying pan. Heat your pan at about medium heat. Get a little bit of oil or melted butter on a folded up piece of paper towel and wipe this onto the pan.
With a soup ladle, pour a bit of batter onto the pan to check your heat. The batter should have time to move around the pan before it sets, but it should set fairly quickly. You need to use two hands for this, one hand to ladle and the other to twirl the pan, like I'm doing in the picture. After about 2 minutes it should be time to flip your crepe. You can do this the French way, by tossing it into the air (which you must try at least once, even if it ends up on the floor!), or by lifting an edge with a butter knife or a spatula and flipping it with your fingers. Leave it for another minute or 2 on the second side until it looks golden and beautiful, then slide it onto a waiting plate. The first crepe is for the cook, because it's not usually the prettiest. If your batter seems to thick or too thin, add a bit of milk or a bit of flour until it seems right to you. 
Finally you are ready for the assembly line. I always have a cloth handy for drips, my paper towel for greasing the pan between crepes and a plate for the finished products.
This might seem complicated, but I promise you it isn't! It just takes a bit of kitchen organization and the result is infinitely worthwhile! 
Bon appetit et bonne annee!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Snow Day!

I have a confession to make and I am rather ashamed of it. I am going to come clean and get it out in the open. I am a bouillon cube user.

I know that vegetable stock is one of the easiest and cheapest things to make, and that it is 100 times better than cubes. I have made stock in the past and I realize that it is so much tastier. I know that cubes are probably full of artificial fats, flavourings, colours, and the dreaded MSG, but somehow I just never get around to making it....until today!

I have been planning it all week, and today is the day. I want to simmer it slowly for a few hours, which requires me to be home and it couldn't have been a better day for hanging around the house. It snowed so much last night and it just seems the perfect day to make something slow and savoury which will fill the house with aromatic loveliness.

So here is my veggie stock recipe. Keep in mind that this shouldn't be followed with scientific precision. Adjust the amounts and even the ingredients to suit your taste. I stay away from anything too strong like cabbage, asparagus or peppers, but feel free to throw in some leeks, shallots, parsley or other herbs. I make my stock with skins on most of the vegetables, so using organic produce here is the best way to go.

My Veggie Stock (not from a cube)

2 onions, skins on (unless they're muddy), chopped into quarters

3 carrots, washed but unpeeled, cut into thirds

3 celery stalks, rinsed, cut into thirds, plus the pale green leaves from inside the heart

Fronds from one bulb of fennel

4 cloves of garlic, skins on, slightly crushed

1 piece of ginger, peeled, about the size of a ping pong ball

5 fragrant bay leaves (please smell them before you throw them in, do they have a smell? If they've been sitting in your cupboard since the 80's they most likely do not. Get rid of them and buy yourself some more from a quality spice store.)

7 peppercorns (because I like the number 7, adjust to your taste)

1 good branch of rosemary

a few branches of dried thyme (I always dry mine from my summer garden and use it on the branch which contains a lot of flavour)

1 scant tbsp coarse sea salt (or less, it's better to adjust salt at the end of cooking, adding too much at the beginning can spell disaster)

Put all of the ingredients in a large pot, mine holds about 4 litres I think. Cover the vegetables with water so they have a nice amount to swim around in. Bring to a boil, once boiling reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Enjoy the smell! When you feel it's finished simmering have a taste and adjust the salt if you need to.
Cool the stock in the pot. Strain out the vegetables through a mesh sieve into a bowl and discard them. Transfer the stock to containers and refrigerate for a few days or freeze for a few months.

Use this liquid gold in soups, stews, pilafs, risottos, or anywhere you would use a bouillon cube and enjoy the difference.