Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Save Time, Money and the Environment...Re-make

What the heck is a re-make you may be asking yourself? Well it’s a term I’ve come up with that quite accurately describes a way to live.

Here’s the easiest way to explain it. Take anything you may already have and then creatively find a way to turn it into something you want. We do this all the time without even realizing it. If you really think about it everything in life is a re-make, from the person we want to become, right down to the shelter we live in.  How many times since you were a teenager have you re-invented yourself…even just a little? How many times have you freshened up your house with a new coat of paint or moved a few things from one room into another? In essence you were re-making what you have into what you want?  

Often we feel the need to change things up a little (I think human beings have an inherent need for change!) but don’t have the budget to accomplish what you envision in your mind. Do you give up on the idea all together or do you rummage around your house to find things you already have to try and accomplish at least a reasonable facsimile of what you had envisioned. Of course you do!

 Most of my furniture has so many layers of paint that I feel sorry for whatever poor soul gets it when I’m done. They will soon realize its like and archaeological dig through my different decorating styles if they ever had the desire to strip off all the paint. Here's a great link for some tips...http://www.allyou.com/budget-home/crafts/refinish-furniture-00411000068276/ I’m sure they’d soon give up on the idea and just add another layer of their own! The same thing goes for clothes, when something is no longer the height of fashion most of us can’t afford to just pitch it and buy something new, we usually try to find a way to get at least another season or two out of it, usually by re-accessorizing. We all want to show the world a glimpse of who we are through our homes, our gardens, our sense of style and of course our food. But let’s face it there are so many places our money needs to go that often our wants take second place. So what’s a girl to do? My answer to you my friend is to RE-MAKE!!!!

Re-make food?  Absolutely, it’s my favorite thing to Re-make and here’s why. Food is not only a necessity for us to live but it’s also expensive and very perishable; there is nothing I hate more than throwing food out. Every time I do it I envision myself scraping money into the garbage can. A ridiculous notion I know, no one would ever willingly throw money into the can but for some reason we feel it’s okay to throw away perfectly good food…or maybe food that would have still been perfectly good a few days ago! Why is that I wonder, is it because we are a society of excess and we feel “there’s more where that came from”. Or, is it because we’ve never learned to utilize the odds and sods leftover from previous meals? I’m hoping it’s the latter.

I don’t know about you but I can’t stand leftovers, I just can’t bring myself to eat them. Who the heck wants to eat the same meal over and over again!  Not to mention more often than not there isn’t enough left for one more entire meal so many of the leftovers will sit in the fridge to rot, only to be tossed in the can a few days later when their pungent aroma reminds you of their presence every time you open the fridge. Instead Re-make!  This is just as it sounds, I simply remake what I have leftover into a completely different meal. No one’s the wiser and I’ve found this to be the best way to save $$$ on my groceries because I’m no longer throwing out a good 1/3 of my groceries every month. 33% sounds a little high I know but they recently did a study in the UK ( the first of its kind) and even the researchers were shocked to find out the average UK household throws away a good 1/3 of their groceries. To put it in perspective that would be like going to the grocery store, buying 3 bags of groceries and immediately dropping one of them in the can before you’ve even had a chance to bring them in the house! How ludicrous does that sound? I don’t care who you are and how much money you have, no sensible person would ever do that, yet that is exactly what we do!!!!

Each and every one us throw away approximately our body weight in food every year! Even those of us that insist that we are not wasteful were discovered to still be throwing out approximately 90kg a year! Being that wasteful not only affects our pocket books but causes serious harm to our economy and the environment. The UK pays 10 billion pounds each year for food it doesn’t even eat. Additionally it costs the government another 1 billion pounds to collect and send all that wasted food to the landfills. The very same landfills that generate copious amounts of methane gas which as we all know is a major contributing factor to global warming. Don’t even get me started on all the damage done to the environment just to get that food to your local grocery store! Not to mention all the excess packaging used to make the food shippable. There is also the poor farming practices many of the large commercial farms have so they can turn out these gargantuan quantities of food, and of course we then hop in our cars to go buy it from our huge well lit, air conditioned big box stores. (I’ll step down from my soap box now.)

Here is a direct quote from the study that will really grab you:
“The case for acting is convincing. Every ton of food waste we avoid saves about 4.5 tons of CO2 equivalent greenhouse gasses being emitted into the atmosphere. If we stopped wasting all the food that could have been eaten, we could prevent the equivalent of at least 18 million tones of CO2 emissions each year- The equivalent of taking one in five cars off our roads.  Addressing the problem of food waste must be a priority.” 

What’s being wasted the most you may be wondering? Well according to the study “45% by weight of all purchased salad, 31% of all bakery items and 26% of fruit is thrown away.” Pre-packaged and convenience foods aren’t off the hook either we throw millions and millions of dollars worth of those away too!

One of the most shocking findings to me in the study was that we are all equal opportunity wasters. I was sure the older generation that had lived through food shortages and wartime rationing would be far less wasteful, but the study proved me wrong! It must be because meals are far too easy to get on the table now with the availability of convenience foods so there is no longer any respect for the time and effort required to get that food on the table. Another shocking but positive outcome of the study was that “Once we become aware of what we are wasting, most of us are prepared to do something about it.”  

So I’ve devised an ingenious way to use all the bits and pieces you have hanging around your fridge, plus I have to admit it’ll make your meal prep really fast and easy because most of the hard work has already been done. These are just a few common examples that I make very regularly, but if you just use your imagination I know you can come up with a million of your own. Just survey what you have left over and try to think of another dish that contains many of the same ingredients.

Spaghetti and Meatballs---------------is now-----------------Italian Roasted Chicken
In a saucepan heat the leftover sauce and add some chipotle powder, oregano and paprika to it. Serve it on top of roasted chicken and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and chopped flat leaf parsley.  Serve on a bed of rice that’s been tossed with a drizzle of olive oil, oregano and paprika, now add some peas and you’re done.

Beef Gravy ------------------is now ------------------------ Beef stroganoff
Heat up the leftover gravy in a saucepan and add some onions, parsley, mushrooms, red and green peppers, garlic and chopped parsley, now stir in some milk and a little heavy cream. Continue cooking until you’ve reached you desired consistency. Now stir in some cooked ground bison and serve over broad egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream on top. Sprinkle with green onions and you have a delicious beef stroganoff!

Mashed potatoes and Roasted Chicken------------- is now----------------------- Chicken Corn Chowder
Mashed potatoes allow you to make a thick rich cream soup without the need to add so much cream and fat. Saute some bacon and diced onion (drain most of the fat),  add some finely minced red pepper, sprinkle mixture with about 1/8c of flour and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in 2c milk, 2c chicken stock, 1/2c heavy cream, 1c corn and some diced cooked chicken, simmer until thickened. Now whisk in your left over mashed potatoes.

Grilled Chicken--------------is now-------------------Quesadillas
Cut chicken into thin strips. Place a soft taco shell in a non-stick pan that has a little olive oil drizzled in it. Sprinkle shredded cheese, chicken slices, diced tomatoes and peppers, diced onion and chopped cilantro (you can even add some black beans and frozen corn if you’d like). Sprinkle with a bit more cheese and place another soft taco shell on top. Cook over medium heat until cheese starts to melt and taco shell turns golden brown, then flip over and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown. Remove from pan and cut into wedges. Serve with sour cream, salsa or guacamole (or all three).

Ground beef from tacos-------------is now----------------------Chili   (also toss in the left over salsa sauce and re-fried beans)
 Simply dice up some peppers, onion, mushrooms and 1 large can of diced tomatoes, ½ can of tomato paste, 2c of cooked beans (can be any kind or a mix) now add 1tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 1tsp chili powder , salt and pepper to taste. Sometimes I’ll add 1c of frozen corn. I just toss it in at the very last minute; it stays crisp and sweet…delicious. My kids love this, especially if we use taco chips to scoop it up.

Chili---------------is now-----------------------Taco Salad
Make a salad of romaine lettuce with tomatoes and red onion. Now crush a handful of taco chips on top, put a scoop of warm chili on top of that, and then a scoop of sour cream. Sprinkle a little shredded cheddar and a handful of sliced green onions. Now place taco chips around the edge of your plate (it looks pretty!) Enjoy we love this salad.

Ground beef from tacos or chicken from fajitas------------------is now-------------------- Southwestern Bake
Toss everything you have left from your Mexican Fiesta (salsa, meat, guac) into a pot add 2 diced tomatoes, half a diced green pepper, half a diced red pepper. Now add 1tsp paprika, 1tsp cumin, red pepper flakes (optional) and salt and pepper to taste. Next add ½ cup of each: corn, black beans, black eyed susan beans and green onions. Stir all ingredients together and add 1/2c milk and ½ cup sour cream. Pour sauce on top of any kind of cooked pasta (I like the tiny bow ties) and mix well. Top with shredded marble cheddar, chopped green onions and minced cilantro. Place in the oven until cheese is just melted.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese--------------------is now---------------------Minestrone Soup
Make a tomato based vegetable soup, add some beans, chopped spinach and you’re left over Mac ‘n’ Cheese. It’s so good you won’t believe it. The cheese really adds richness to this soup. See full recipe on page________.

Sounds appetizing doesn’t it? I’m telling you leftovers will never be seen in the same dismal light again, all of a sudden they’ll be a welcome addition to your fridge. You’ll even find yourself purposely making too much of something just so you can utilize the remainder later in the week. I guarantee it will change your cooking habits for life! Oh, and did I mention it will leave you with a whole lot more money to spend on a few of your wants! Can we say shoes, shoes and more shoes!!!!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Give Me Some Sugar...Double Chocolate Coconut Cloud Cake

Alright, I’m going to out myself now because you’re going to find out sooner or later.I don’t really love to bake!

I have a theory about this, most people I know who love baking don’t really like cooking and vice versa. I think it’s because both require very different personality traits. Bakers tend to be more methodical and meticulous where cooks tend to be a little more free spirited (don’t like following directions) we prefer to quickly survey a recipe and then kind of wing it or put our own twist on it. If we do this in baking the results can be disastrous!

Most of the baking I do is quite simple and leaves room for a little creative license. Not to mention most are inherently nice to look at and require minimal decoration…not really fond of the finicky icing bag! I had a bad experience with my oldest daughters’ first birthday cake, let’s just say I ended up using some faux finishing tools on it instead and we’ll just leave it at that.  Surprisingly it looked beautiful when it was done…but nothing like I had intended! I’ve never used an icing bag since.

Although I say I’m not fond of baking I actually bake a lot. It’s so much healthier than most of the store bought baking and considerably less expensive. So I do it…but I do it my way. My way is as healthy as I possibly can. I think part of the reason I don’t love to bake is because I’m so disgusted with all the unnecessary fat and sugar that goes into most of it. For me it's kind of like meeting someone you’ve always idolized and they don’t meet your expectations. You'll never be able to see them the same way again. So many times I’ve eaten something I’ve loved and when I get the recipe for it I’m shocked at what it’s made of. A perfect example of this is when I tried these fantastic brownies at my friends house, when I asked for the recipe I almost had a heart attack when I saw all the cream cheese, butter and chocolate that went into them (I’m talking excessive)…I felt like going in to have my stomach pumped! I could feel my arteries clogging with every heartbeat.

Now I know what you’re thinking; they are supposed to be a treat. I agree but if we can make it taste as good without all the crap why not?  I couldn’t in good conscience feed people I love all of that unnecessarily fatty stuff. If it’s impossible to make a specific dessert without it then maybe I can make my peace with it... if it’s only eaten once in a while. But if I’m able to make it healthier, why not? In this and future blog entries you’ll find several dessert ideas, some are baked goods and some are not. All are delicious and include as many nutritional ingredients as possible (they are by no means diet!).

Hey, now maybe instead of having dessert only once in a while we can eat it every few days! Now if that’s not a good enough reason to make it yourself I don’t know what is.

I've had so many requests for this cake lately I figured I better make it my next post. This cake is absolutely decadent! It's wheat free and dairy free (if you use vegan chocolate) and inherently nice to look at...no fussy decorating required. Now that's my kind of cake.

Double Chocolate Coconut Cloud Cake

       For the cake:
       2/3c                butter (softened)
       3/4c                brown sugar
       1/4                  coco powder
       6                     eggs (separated)
       pinch of salt
 3/4c                dark chocolate- melted (chips work fine)
 1tbsp               vanilla

For the meringue:
4                     eggs (whites only)
1/4tsp           cream of tartar
1c                    icing sugar
1c                   coconut (I like ribbon coconut)
6                     squares of good quality dark chocolate (chopped)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 9 by 3 inch spring form pan and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy looking. Beat in the coco powder and mix until it's well incorporated. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate and the vanilla; beat until well combined. Set aside.

In a clean mixing bowl, toss in the 6 egg whites and the pinch of salt. Beat on high for about 2 minutes when soft peaks begin to form. Now stir in about 1/3 of the chocolate mixture, once incorporated, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 minutes.

While the cake is in the oven make the meringue topping. Toss the remaining 4 egg whites and the cream of tartar into a clean mixing bowl. Whisk on high for about 2 minutes until soft peaks form. Now little by little add the icing sugar and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Gently fold in the coconut and chopped chocolate.

Remove the cake from the oven...it should be slightly firm, it's okay if it's a little wobbly in the middle. With a spatula, artfully spread the meringue topping on top of the cake. Return to the oven and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes until the meringue is lightly browned and crisp. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

*Tip- Meringues are notorious for falling...especially if you have kids jumping around. If that happens to you, as it has to me, don't panic- Simply let the cake cool completely, whip up some whipping cream, fold in some toasted coconut and place in the middle of the cake. Voila a perfect beautiful cake...no one will ever know LOL!

*Variation- If you'd  also like your meringue to be chocolate, simply add 1/4 coco powder to the icing sugar. Sift to be sure there are no lumps and continue on with the recipe.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Sushi...kind of

In the mood for sushi, but maybe you don't want to spend money eating out? Or perhaps you don't like all the mess when making it yourself? Well I have the best recipe ever!!!!

 I started making this at home when we used to have Korean home-stay children living with us. It's quick, easy, inexpensive and if I do say so myself, really delicious. All you need is a few packs of roasted seaweed ( I get them at my produce market) some sticky rice...or even regular rice that you cook with too much water so it goes sticky.Who would of thought there was a use for improperly cooked rice LOL! Just a few other ingredients and you're done. Quick and easy homemade sushi...who would have thought? See the full recipe below:

several packs             roasted seaweed                           
2c                                    cooked sticky rice

1 tin                              tuna or salmon
1/4                                red pepper (finely diced)
1                                     spring onion (finely sliced)
1tsp                              sesame oil and sesame seeds
1                                    clove of garlic (crushed)
1                                    small piece of ginger (crushed)
2tsp                              soy sauce
2tsp                              hot sauce (optional)
1                                    small handful of chopped cilantro

Set the seaweed and rice aside. Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl and stir.

Now serve and let everyone make their own sushi cones. Simply pick up a sheet of seaweed, add a spoonful of rice, then some tuna and fold like a taco or into a cone and eat. That's it just keep eating them as you make them. It's really a fun social way to eat...my kids love these when they have friends over!

* Tip- Left over rice works great for this dish...just add a little extra water and rewarm in the microwave. It will quickly become sticky rice.

*Tip- To crush the ginger I simply put a small piece in my garlic press...works like a charm!


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Shoes are the windows to the soul!

My heart is all a twitter...I found the best new shoes!!!! Sky high platform slingbacks, with a fresh floral print and patent leather trim. What is it with women and shoes anyway? We can't seem to get enough? Well I have a theory about this, so bear with me for a minute.

I think it's because it doesn't matter if we are young or old, tall or short, fat or thin; if we like them and can find them in our size we can wear them. Not true with clothes, where we have to worry about the shape, length and of course most dreaded... the size. We also have to consider, do they make me look too fat, too thin , too sexy, not sexy enough? These hurdles affect how we are able to portray ourselves to the world...but shoes are all inclusive. We can put our best foot and our best selves forward in any pair that shows the world who we are and who we want to be!  So you see, shoes really are the window to a girls soul.

So on that note...I'm going to keep shoe shopping, it's good for my soul.

Below are a few hot spring and summer styles I'm drooling over right now. I've also added some links to a few of my fave consignment haunts. Many can be found at a fraction of the price at stores like Winners, Ross (in the USA) and of course local thrift and consignment stores...my favourite!  It always surprises me when I go to a consignment store, most of the shoes, especially heels, look as if they've never been worn!

 This fall I bought the most gorgeous pair of BCBG boots...super high, black leather, with a zipper up the back, at a consignment store for $28!!! I saw them in BCBG that same season for a whopping $550!!!  Good for my pocket book and even better for the environment. I saved those shoes from going into the landfill...at least that the story I gave to my husband LOL.






Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Egg Bowls

This recipe was invented out of necessity. While on the “ 100 mile Challenge,” we were only able to eat foods grown and produced within 100 miles of our home. Very challenging to say the least. There were few breakfast foods other than eggs and yogurt, needless to say we were getting quite bored! Time was often tight, especially in the mornings. This was something really quick to prepare…we even ate it in the car a few times!
4            eggs
2c          chopped spinach
4            slices of tomato
1             red pepper diced
1             clove garlic (finely minced)
4            slices of  local cheese
              salt and crushed dried red chilies to taste

You’ll need 4 medium sized ramekins. Place a slice of tomato in each. Then place equal amounts of spinach, red pepper, garlic, salt and chilies in each bowl. Crack an egg on top of each and then place a slice of cheese on top. Place bowls in a large pot and fill the bottom of the pot with water. Cover with a lid. Let steam for about 5 minutes or until the egg yolk is at your desired firmness.

*You can eat this just as is or for a larger meal serve with a salad and some toast or fresh crusty bread. It doesn’t get any easier than this. You eat right out of the bowl you cooked it in, so there’s even less dishes!

Wet Dreams...

It's a sunny morning, I'm up early so I  can get my work out in, go for a jog on the beach and get the girls off to school.The goal is to spend the rest of the day in my veggie garden. I spent an afternoon with my friend Marlene choosing unique varieties of hierloom tomatoes and I'm itcing to get them planted. Who could resist varieties as exotic sounding as Black Prince, Mortgage Lifter (my favorite LOL) and Green Grapes. I've lovingly cared for them indoors for a few days, protected from our bizaare spring weather. Surely now I'll be able to plant them outside...it's almost the end of May after all.

I'm in the middle of breakfast...with coffee of course (sorry 100 mile can't hold a candle to caffeine cravings) and what do I hear? A pounding unrelenting rainfall !#*%!  I decide to wait the rain out by doing a few things around the house...no such luck! My dreams of planting a garden overflowing with tomato varieties with the likes no one has seen in decades are dashed. Wet dreams! I guess this is a fraction of the stress a BC farmer has to go through with our relentless rainy periods. I guess I'll have to give it a try tomorrow. It's a good day to make soup I suppose.

Mac ‘n ‘cheese Minestrone

I can’t stand it when there’s only a tiny bit of Mac ‘n’ cheese left over, no one likes it re warmed and I can’t bear to waste food ( I should have lived during the depression) So I came up with this and it’s surprisingly delicious. I sometimes find my self making Mac ‘n’ cheese just so I can make this; it adds a real depth and richness. It’s ridiculous how easy this is and it’s so much cheaper than buying the canned stuff. It’s ridiculous how fast and easy this is.

500mls           chicken stock
1                     jar of diced tomatoes
2                     garlic cloves (finely minced)
1c                   local beans (any kind will do!)
1c                   left over Mac ’n’ cheese (see recipe pg._)
1/2c                chopped spinach
1c                   frozen mixed veggies (fresh if in season)
                       salt and crushed dried red chilies to taste

Toss everything into a pot and simmer for at least 15 minutes. I like to add the frozen veggies in 5 minutes before I’m ready to serve it. That way they stay crisp and fresh.

Monday, 23 May 2011

100 Mile-ish

Cooking 100 mile definitely helped me make a few discoveries about myself. One is that being able to share my love of cooking with people really made me feel happy and alive. I had always thought I cooked for my family because I had to, but cooking 100 mile made me realize that I had been using cooking as a creative outlet for all these years!  A frustrated artist trapped within the constraints of budgets and time. But 100 mile allowed me to enjoy the process instead of doing it out of duty. I’d also come to the realization that just because I’m a mom doesn’t mean that I can’t pursue a career that makes me feel fulfilled and happy. I’ve always told myself that I wanted to be a stay at home mom while my girls were young, and I’m happy I’ve done it thus far, but the 100 Mile experience made me realize that when you’re fortunate enough to discover your true joy and passion in life you should pursue it whether it be for personal interest or as a career. I now realize it can only enrich an already happy family. I see that I can show my daughters no greater example of the kind of woman to be; one that follows her heart. This is part of my reason for writing this blog. So James and Alisa (and all the film crew) thank you for helping me realize that I can be a good mom, possibly an even better mom by following my own passions!

In this blog you’ll find many 100 Mile-ish recipes and I say “ish” because I’ll sometimes include non-local ingredients. They tend to be non-perishable and small in quantity compared to the other ingredients (things like salt, yeast and baking soda etc) because after all my entire goal here is to change the way people eat permanently. There is no shame in using a few non-local ingredients; I really want people to enjoy living this way, and to feel good about the choices they make. I want to make informed choices that are better for my communities, the environment and for my family and I’m sure you do too… after all life is about choice. It’s your choice how much you want to commit to eating 100 mile; maybe making sure all your produce in the summer is local will be enough for you? Maybe it’s ensuring anything perishable is local?  Maybe you’d like to go a little farther and cut out coffee and sugar-something I’ll never do again! The point is, any change in the right direction is a good one, so let’s not judge each other and instead let’s support one another in making choices that are right for us and our own families!

 On that note feel free to use this blog as a loose guideline or as inspiration, nothing would make me happier than to see people changing my recipes until they’ve become their own. I’ve also made suggestions for alternate items that may not be available in your area or in season at the time.  
100 mile to me is about so much more than food, it’s about life! The life we want to live, the family we want to have and the kind of world in which we want to live. A world where we’re all connected to each other, and are doing what we know in our hearts to be right. Every recipe in this blog was created with true passion and love. I hope they encourage you to change the way you feed your family, even if it’s just a little.

*One of the best stores in my area is Antony and Sons, they specialize in organic and local food. It sure makes my life easier when trying to feed my family both healthfully and sustainably...check them out if you're in the area .
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968)

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
—Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901–1978)

Pictures from thetyee.ca


Our Daily Bread

There is nothing I love more than a good loaf of fresh baked bread…and the smell of it baking. So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled across a book called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”  http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/  It is a fantastic book that really makes bread making a snap. The neat thing about this method is there is no kneading and you make the dough once and store it in fridge, then just cut off pieces as you need it. This recipe was inspired by those in that book…but as you know, I’m not good at following directions so I had to put my own spin on it. Try it, it’s absolutely brilliant. This kind of baking I can get excited about!!!!

6c          flour
1tbs       sea salt
1tbsp     honey (local of course!)
1 1/2c    warm water
1 1/2c    warm buttermilk
2tbsp     yeast
Mix the flour and salt together in a large container (I use a recycled container from organic salad mix) then add the remaining ingredients into a small bowl, give a stir and let sit for a minute or two. Simply pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix well... I use my hands. Do not knead just mix until all the flour is evenly moist.

Now just loosely cover with a lid and let sit in your oven with the light on (do not turn on the oven!)  until doubled in bulk...anywhere from 1-2 hours. At this point you can cut off about a large grapefruit sized piece and put the remainder in the fridge.

Place a bowl of water in an oven safe dish in the bottom of your stove. This will turn the oven into a steamer which will give you a crisp light crackly crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Shape the piece you cut off into any form you’d like and place onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Let rest for about 40 minutes. Dust the dough with flour or rub down with butter, slash whatever design you’d like on to the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until crust is browned and firm to the touch. You'll know it's done if you remove it from the pan, flip it over and give the bottom a tap. If it sounds hollow, it's ready. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least half an hour. Slice and enjoy!

Now whenever you want a loaf of bread just cut off a piece of the refrigerated dough, repeat the remaining steps (be sure to let shaped dough sit at room temperature for 20- 40 minutes before baking) 

Variation- You can replace up to ¼ of the flour with other types of flours such as rye, oat or any other you may be lucky enough to have in your 100 miles.
 Sometimes I‘ll press pumpkin seeds, pieces of onions, peppers or garlic cloves on the top of the bread before baking. It looks lovely and then you’re not stuck making 8 loaves of the same bread!

Roll the dough out as pizza crust and top with your favorite pizza toppings! This dough makes the BEST thin crust pizza, just be sure to bake at 450 degrees until crisp.

I use this recipe for cinnamon buns, Indian Naan bread, Greek pita bread, buns, cheese bread and as a base for sweet bread style desserts. The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Quickies...not the kind you're thinking!

 We are living in days of change. My grandfather had a farm. My father had a garden.I have a can opener.
 (John Maxwell-It’s Just a thought)

All our lives seem to be so busy now, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your family’s health by only buying crappy prepackaged food. I was watching TV the other night and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, it was a commercial that showed a stressed out looking woman frantically peeling potatoes. Then in a later shot they show her looking relaxed and happy making mashed potatoes… because she was able to purchase pre- peeled, pre- diced potatoes that she just had to pop into the microwave before mashing. What has this world come to?!!!! You have got to be kidding me, potatoes are one of the cheapest and easiest foods you could possibly make for your family, but we are made to believe even that requires a little commercially prepared assistance!

 Here’s an idea, if you want mashed potatoes but don’t have the time to peel them (or just hate it as I do) buy local red or yellow skinned potatoes and mash them with the skin on!!!!!  Not only is this easy, but it’s also healthier for you as it helps the potatoes retain more of their nutrients while cooking.  These big food companies wouldn’t make any money from that, so they’d rather have us believe that this comfort food is so time consuming to make that we require their assistance. How thoughtful of them! Of course this convenience comes at a cost; these would be the most expensive mashed potatoes on the planet, not to mention I don’t think our landfills need anymore packaging in them than they already have. Making things from scratch really isn’t rocket science and it certainly doesn’t have to be all that time consuming.

Rustic Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes with Spring Onions

You’ll love this low fat alternative to the usual mashed potatoes and the best part is you don’t even have to peel the potatoes. Now that’s my idea of a simple dish!
6       large yellow, white or red skinned potatoes 
(washed and chopped)
1c     buttermilk
2tbs  butter
4       spring onions (finely chopped)
salt to taste

Place potatoes into a large pot of boiling water and cook until very soft. Drain and place in your stand mixer (you can hand mash, but why do the extra work?) Add the buttermilk, butter and salt, whip until smooth. Do not over mix or they’ll become gluey! Stir in spring onions and serve. Voila, cheap, easy and healthy. What more can you ask for?

- Replace the spring onions with anything from oven roasted garlic or tomatoes
 to any fresh herb from the garden.

- Replace the potatoes with yams and reduce the buttermilk to 1/4c, then
 instead of spring onions use 1/4c of maple syrup- if you’re lucky enough to   
 have it within your 100 mile radius.
These are a few helpful tips to make preparing a meal a little faster:
I often turn leftovers into a completely different meal. This is a real time saver because most of the hard work has already been done, so there tends to be very little clean up! You can’t ask for much more than that.

Meals that can be prepped a day or two ahead of time are also a great option. Many of us only have a couple of nights per week that are crazy, so if we can plan ahead on some of the less hectic days it makes life a lot more pleasant. Meals like soups and lasagna only get better as the flavors have time to blend together.

Properly store your foods and organize your kitchen! I store all my dry goods in clear glass jars, that way I can see at a glance what I have to work with (and what I need to buy) plus I don’t have to worry about foods going stale. There is nothing more annoying when you’re in a rush than to start making something and finding out one of the ingredients have gone bad because someone didn’t close the container properly. Plus if your kitchen well organized it’s much faster to get things done.

My kids don’t like to eat sandwiches for lunch, and I have to admit I hate packing them! So I came up with this idea and I’ve got to tell you I’ve never looked back!!! I simply make bread dough and press it into a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper then I top it with a multitude of things my girls like. Sometimes it’s just cheese bread; other times its pizza bread. I bake it, let it cool, then cut it into squares and separately wrap it in saran and throw it in the freezer. My daughters then choose which flavor to take the night before and let it thaw….there you have it, grab a piece of local fruit or some veggies and lunch is packed!!!!!  Sometimes I brush the dough with butter some salt and spices and then layer on cheese meat and veggies (peppers, tomatoes etc.) roll it up (like you would with cinnamon buns) and bake in the oven until golden brown. Let cool and  slice into thick slices, the kids think these rolled up sandwiches are cool and unlike a traditional sandwich it will never go soggy, which is why they won’t usually eat sandwiches! Brilliant, wouldn’t you say?  Plus if you get your kids to help make them they’ll have bragging rights at school- great for their self esteem, especially when even their teachers are impressed with their cooking abilities!

* My next post will be the easiest bread dough ever!!!! No kneading required, and it can be used for pizza crust, cinnamon buns, focaccia bread and buns. The possibilities are endless...you'll never buy another loaf of bread again.

Friday, 20 May 2011

A Budding Chef

I'm sure you've all taken pictures of your children helping out in the kitchen... well I'm no exception! I thought this picture of my daughter Emily was so cute it is what inspired me to write my first cookbook! She's tasting my famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.

This is my one most requested recipe! Adults and children alike have absolutely no self control when it comes to these. So I caution you to not make more than you need, if you do your thighs will regret it! I’ll often only bake half and freeze the rest of the dough to use at a later date. That way I can just bake 1 or 2 cookies at a time if I choose. Or I can quickly whip some up if I have unexpected company stop by.

These make great ice cream sandwiches; I like to butter the bottoms with chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)and then fill with vanilla ice cream and roll the edges in crushed toasted hazelnuts…to die for!
1/2 lb         butter (softened)
1c             brown sugar
1c             sugar
2               eggs
2tsp           vanilla
2 1/4c        flour
1tsp           salt
1/8tsp        cinnamon (it adds depth)

  1tsp           baking soda
  1c              rolled oats
  2c              dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.

 Cream the margarine and then gradually add the 2 sugars, beating until light and smooth. Then add the egg and the vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients and add to the first mixture, blend well. Gently mix in the chocolate chips. My secret is to cover the mixture and let chill in the fridge until slightly firm. This really makes a huge difference in the thickness of the cookie so it’s worth the time! There’s nothing I hate more than cookies that are as flat as pancakes. 

When chilled use your ice cream scoop to measure equal amounts of the dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat (this stops the bottoms from burning) Bake for approx. 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 24 large cookies or 60 small cookies


Thursday, 19 May 2011

Back To My Roots

It's finally here!!!! Spring has finally arrived after a long, cold,wet and miserable start. I've spent the morning planting my new veggie patch with seedlings from the nursery up the road and I figure what better way to welcome spring...I'll make a bowl of my favorite Portuguese Kale Soup. The produce market has some locally grown already, so no better time but the present!

This soup always brings me back to my childhood. Portuguese families start almost every meal off with a bowl of soup, so I remember my mom making this all the time. It was also one of the few meals my dad actually knew how to make LOL. I know when you read down the list of ingredients it may seem like a bit of a strange combo but give it a chance I guarantee it will become one of your favorites too.

12c           water
1              bunch kale (very thinly chopped)
4              large potatoes (peeled and cut into small cubes)
6"piece     Portuguese chorizo
1tbs         olive oil
1              dried red chili (optional)
1tbsp        sea salt
5              hard boiled eggs (peeled)
olive oil and vinegar (to drizzle-this is one place I can’t substitute the olive oil)
Cut chorizo into thin circles then place in a large pot on medium heat, add olive oil and cook until slightly brown and crisp. Then add 12c water, salt and red chili. Bring to a boil. Add potatoes and Kale, let simmer for at least 20minutes.

 When potatoes are soft enough mash up approximately half of them while still in the pot( with a potato masher or the back of a ladle)  Cut hard boiled eggs in half and place one half in the bottom of each persons bowl. Ladle soup on top of the egg and then lightly drizzle with olive oil and vinegar.

The best way to eat this is to crush the egg up with your spoon and give a quick stir. Your kids surprisingly will love this as they feel it’s their own creation if you let them add their own oil, vinegar and then have them stir it themselves.  Great on it’s own but is also nice served with a salad and a fresh Portuguese bun
*This can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chorizo with 1tsp of paprika and 1 crushed clove of garlic. You can also add ½ a can of chickpeas. 

Through my Garden Gate

I have illusions of grandeur! I'm attempting to turn a tiny useless slope of grass in my backyard into a french style potager. Now my goal is to do this with next to no money and as little sweat equity as possible. I know this may sound ridiculous but I hate to think of having a garden that doesn't produce any food and the budget is tight!

When I moved into this house 2 years ago, it had a lovely established garden, but absolutely nothing growing was edible. Maybe it's because of my 100 Mile Challenge experience, or maybe it's because I'm Portuguese...possibly it's because I'm frugal, regardless of the reason; if a garden doesn't provide any food, it is no garden at all as far as I'm concerned!!!

The first year I was here I managed to plant a plum tree, some raspberry and blueberry bushes, a herb garden, a bit of lettuce and some tomatoes. As much as I enjoyed the fruits of my labour during the growing season I felt like I could be growing so much more. So what's a girl to do? Go to GOOGLE for inspiration! Here are a few of the pictures that inspired me, most are from the Chelsea Flower Show:


All I need to do now is find something inexpensive to create raised beds. Then I'll layer newspaper on top of the grass (no digging!!!!) then throw some compost, manure and soil on top of that alternating in layers ...plant a few seeds and voila...enough veggies to feed my family throughout the season. Sort of a Zero Mile Diet I guess...James MacKinnon would be so proud LOL!

Well the suns out, time for breakfast and off to start the garden...wish me luck. I'll post pictures as it progresses. Let's hope it's as easy as I think it'll be.

For more information about the 100 Mile Challenge or to watch the episodes online check out: http://100mile.foodtv.ca/