Beat the holiday rush
The holidays can be a hectic time, with everyone trying to cram in visits in the short amount of available time off.
With a big beautiful family on my fathers' side, we are eagerly awaiting our annual get-together at the family farm.
Yes, you read that right, your family farmers are getting ready to host a party of 35 for the first time in our new home!
Some of you probably know that we've been helping my parents with the preparations for the event for years now, so we are seasoned veterans by default, and we've accumulated a few tricks to make the holidays relaxing and enjoyable.
One of the biggest lessons we've taken away over the years is that suppers always seem to require the most work, and that the freezer is your best friend.
For a few weeks now I've been making a little extra of meals that freeze well. Things like soup, spaghetti sauce, broth, curry, homemade pasta, pie crusts, and noodles have all been doubled, labeled with content and date, and frozen, ready for deployment for an easy supper later on.
As suggested in the Holiday edition of Food & Drink, the same logic can be applied while hosting. Pacing yourself can be as simple as making and freezing a Mushroom & Sweet Onion Gnocchi Casserole, a dish that is fancy enough to bust out during the holidays, and that only requires a little thawing and reheating.
The bonus is that you can make your own gnocchi using our potatoes and then serve the dish alongside a nice quick winter spinach salad.
So pace yourself this time of year and plan ahead for the good times, and see you again next season!
It has been snowing for a good month now, and since we are officially past American Thanksgiving, we can now accept the onslaught of holiday-ness that is coming our way.
I say bring it on! Especially if it can bring forth some kitchen inspiration.
Growing up, holiday eating was always synonymous with pies.
Whether it was the minced meat pies commonly known as tourtières, or the blueberry pies made from wild blueberries picked by my grand-maman, we always seemed to have a multitude of pies in the freezer, eagerly awaiting to be showcased during family reunions.
When Ryan and I began courting, I discovered new family food traditions.
One of the dishes that seemed to pop up a lot during momentous occasions in the Spence-Patterson household were vegetable terrines which always featured a healthy dose of mushrooms.
A similar recipe featuring pickled winter squash is a sure hit for the holiday season! You can use the sugar dumplings and the leeks that you will be receiving this week in lieu of the suggested butternut and shallots.
And while I deplore the fact that it took me over twenty years to discover the goodness of terrines, I now hold it dear to my heart, and have welcomed it into the lineup of my holiday cooking repertoire.
Curry: the answer to sweet Spaghetti Squash
Our spaghetti squash is sweet, definitely sweeter than other spaghetti squash I've had in my lifetime.
It is for this very reason that, although we've traditionally eaten said squash topped with spaghetti sauce, I've had to switch gears.
Sweet tomatoes just don't go with sweet squash - ugh, too much sweetness! And altough I've had sucess with some creamy sauces (think alfredo), I'm still missing the balance.
Cue the curry.
Curry has this fantastic way of balancing flavours so that every note is present and yet works in harmony with the bigger picture.
It is also a great tool in the locavore toolkit as it can be amenable to a host of seasonal produce.
So here's how it's done. Cook the spaghetti squash (and forget what the Kitchn says about spaghetti squash being bland, they clearly haven't tried ours!)
Next, grab some curry powder. You can use store bought or prepare a killer curry spice mixture based on what you like. I am a huge fan of cumin, and Maddie will only take a bit of spice, so I usually go a little less on the cayenne and a little more on the cumin. I also tend to suffer from inflammation, so I go heavy on the turmeric.
You then make the "sauce" by cooking the spices with onions, garlic, broth, and whatever veggies you feel like throwing in (carrots, cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, spinach, potatoes, basically anything that is in the bin this week).
Once the spaghetti squash is cooked, shred it and let some of the water come out before you toss the strands into your "sauce" mixture. Alternatively, your sauce can be on the thick side before you throw in the squash.
If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can roast some chickpeas while the squash is still cooking for an extra nice crunchy topping.
And if curry isn't your thing, you can totally go thai with it, because who doesn't love a good peanut sauce?
Cabbage Is More Than Just A Depression-Era Food
Surprisingly, cabbage has this way of either being scorned or adored, and a lot of these biases come from our childhood.
Did your mom overcook the cabbage by way of boiling it to oblivion? Due to the release of hydrogen sulfide gas with this cooking method, this is a surefire way to make your house smell like, well, rotten eggs, and thus, not very appealing to the palate.
So, as a result, cabbage is not the most sought-out vegetable in the produce isle, and it's a darn shame, because it is jam-packed with important nutrients, including Vitamins C and K, and our friend, fiber.
As such, for those who aren't sensitive to brassicas, it is great for the gastrointestinal tract, as it contains a large amount of glutamine, and don't even get me started on the benefits of fermenting cabbage in kraut or kimchi!
And while this was a staple during the great depression, I distinctly remember my mother making an amazing tomato-based soup with rice and spices that, although inspired from a depression-era dish, was both tasty and nourishing.
But my all-time favourite way to enjoy cabbage is, and will always remain, braised with caraway, like this recipe, but with the addition of a tiny bit of honey.
As a natural carminative, caraway goes with cabbage in more ways than just taste, if you catch my drift.
Alternatively, the type of cabbage we will be sending you this week is both tender and sweet, making it the ideal candidate for cabbage rolls (or lazy cabbage rolls using lentils or beef, as your preference).
So go ahead, roll, lazy roll, or braise away with your new friend, cabbage!
Having deliveries every two weeks means that our fall/winter shares are characterized by their abundance.
Our first haul is no exception.
Five pounds of delicious, organic potatoes, coming right up!
We will likely offer a choice of red or german butter potatoes.
While you can be flexible with potato uses, there are certainly culinary suggestions for both.
Sieglinde, which is the variety name for our german butter potatoes, are oblong, slightly-flattened, smooth tubers covered with clear yellow skin.
Known to store well, these potatoes have an amazing taste and texture, which makes them good for boiling and are particularly good in salads.
Chieftain is a red-skinned, white-fleshed oval to oblong heritage potato. It also boasts good storability, and like its german counterpart, is good boiled, due to its creamy texture.
It is also fantastic for making baked potatoes.
Finally, although these are the suggestions for how to use these potatoes, I've just used these, willy nilly, to suit my culinary needs and I haven't been disappointed yet!
Once in awhile I come across a recipe that just rocks my world.
Butternut Squash Falafel is exactly that, one bite and I was hooked.
I mean, what's not to love? It uses a respectable amount of squash, and most of you know by now that I am squash-obsessed, it is vegan, filling, and Maddie will eat it.
Oh, and did I mention that it comes with a killer tahini sauce?
And while I'm not sure how I feel about diets (the blog from which this recipe is from is pro-Keto), this is the second recipe I try from Julie's blog, and they were both amazing.
We had homemade sauerkraut on hand, and I made homemade tortillas to go with it, and then just topped it with whatever greens we had lying around.
But, you know, this is totally the sort of thing that would also do well as an app during a large family celebration. I can just visualize the little toothpicks sticking out of them as they sit next to a large bowl with the sauce.
Pie Or Soup?
Pie pumpkins are one of those yearly treats.
It takes a full season for a pie pumpkin to grow, and it is also one of those things that are synonymous with fall.
Pumpkin latté in the summer? Just wrong.
But now that fall is officially upon us, we are, once more, allowed to celebrate all things pumpkin.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I told myself that I would make a classic pumpkin pie, first roasting the pumpkin and making a purée using my trusty hand blender.
But the latest Food & Drink edition and my plan threw this plan into question.
Wishing to capitalize on the theme of Ontario products, they've created a tantalizing line-up of recipes including Butternut Squash Crumble Cake and Beet and Dill Torte.
But what really caught my eye was the Roasted Garlic & Pumpkin Soup.
Promises of a roasted garlic sweetness that ''meshes well with the pie pumpkin'' made my mouth water, and my thrifty side was glad that leftovers would freeze well.
So I made soup, omitted the cream, used homemade veggie stock, added love & lovage and it was delightful.
And although I will have to wait to make my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, I have no regrets.
Beets are sweets
Do you ever have cravings that just won't go away?
Well, I get like that with Beet Chocolate Cake.
I had been craving this dessert for almost a full year now, the last one having been baked for Maddie's birthday last November.
I just had to have one, and last week the weather was just right to start firing up the oven again.
It was everything I remembered: rich, gooey, with the perfect amount of sweetness (I swapped the sugar for maple syrup).
And I didn't even think about the lack of frosting, it didn't need it on account of the extra beets I sneaked in.
In all of my excitement, I must have boiled too many beets, which worked out wonderfully because I was given a recipe from Monique, a CSA client / volunteer extraordinaire, that caught my attention: beet gnocchi.
While gnocchi sounds intimidating, I assure you that, if your beets and potatoes are already cooked, it comes together as quickly as a stir-fry would, especially since the actual cook time is a few minutes in boiling water.
And although you will be receiving potatoes this week, you can be creative and use a small winter squash in your gnocchi instead. It holds just as well on account of its inherent starchiness. It totally can be made vegan too and is still delectable.
So, while intending to cure one craving, I've inadvertently created a new one: gnocchi.
Roasted veg can be versatile
We've all done it.
Chopped up vegetables into similar sizes, throwing them in a shallow pan with a drizzle of our favourite cooking oil, adding seasoning, and roasting in the oven.
Anyone that comes into your house during the roast comments on the pleasant aroma and hints that they are free for dinner.
Last weekend we hosted friends of ours, the type of friends that may as well be family, which, incidentally, are the perfect guinea pigs for new recipes.
So I tried something new, a thin-crust roasted vegetable pizza similar to this one and all of us present at the above mentioned meal were pleasantly surprised.
But it got me thinking, as "keeper" recipes often do, that I am missing out on a whole world of flavour-packed possibilities.
The internet confirmed my hunch, and so, I present to you, a few roasted vegetables recipe ideas that go beyond the humble status of "side-dish".
But don't just follow convention, use whichever vegetables you have on hand!
Tomatoes, scallions, summer squash, peppers, apples, carrots, beets, garlic, potatoes, fennel, broccoli, cabbage, all are perfectly suitable for roasting.
Lunch prep isn't just for kids
In my brain, the year is separated into sections.
Winter is time to cuddle up near a fire with your loved ones, spring is the time to get excited about the summer to come, summer is the time to work hard and be flexible, and fall is the time to get back to healthy routines.
This is the time of the year when I try to put away as much food for the winter (hello ugly veg!) and start meal planning once again.
And while the new school year provides the opportunity to start a new set of lunch prep ideas, these are not limited to kiddos and can be easily adapted for adults.
Unlike children, who get a lunch whether they like it or not, adults can decide to forgo the pre-packed lunch and eat out at a restaurant.
And while there are fantastic options in North Bay for a quick lunch featuring local fare (I'm looking at you North Star Diner and White Owl Bistro), we still need to pack our own lunch most of the time.
So in the hopes to inspire you to become a lunch-packing pro, here are some of my favourite tips: