Thursday, January 27, 2011

A new twist on a crusted fish....

My husband is a bit of a hoarder....not quite to the extent that they feature on the show of the same name...but he does hoard recipes like they are going out of style.  Don't get me wrong!  I'm certainly not complaining that my husband has an eye for yummy recipes...its that he hoards them in piles that tend to take over any area that we keep recipes (until its nothing but a mountain of loose papers from magazines).  I had a chance to go through all of our recipes, which was great because now I feel a bit more prepared when the summer comes and all of my garden delights are ready.

The down side to all of these that my dear husband is not home a lot to make these delicious meals.  Here's where I will admit to making standard favorites more than I will experiment. 

Last night we were fortunate to have an evening at home with the husband!  He decided that the pike he caught should be eaten and would I like to try a new recipe?  Would I?!?!?  The answer was yes and it was so different that I thought it would make a great post!

In the winter time, my husband does enjoy ice fishing.  It isn't as rewarding (I find) as summer time boat fishing...but it is a nice winter activity that the whole family can get excited about.  Its doubly nice when you actually catch something big enough to eat!  Plus (I have to throw this in) your meal has an extremely small carbon footprint when you catch your dinner 50 ft from your house!!!

Chester with his pike...sort of the before picture.
  He pulled this marvelous recipe from Chatelaine magazine (and before you ask...he does work as a cook at a day care and the teachers are all female)

the after picture....seed-encrusted pike!
And here is the modified recipe (it originally called for trout):

pike filets
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (but we used dried ground)
1 tsp fennel (we probably will make this again, but with a little less fennel)
1 tbsp each cumin seeds and sesame seeds
1 tbsp flax seeds (it calls for ground, but we only had whole seeds)

a twist of ground coriander or fresh lemon wedges
S & P to taste

The cooking instructions just say to mix dijon with ginger and flax, then spread over filets.  Sprinkle with remaining ingredients and bake on foil or parchment coated pan in center of oven for 10-12 min.  Oven is preheated to 400 degrees F.

I would definitely serve this dish with lime juice!

Our sides for this evening where roasted garlic mashed potatoes (garlic is locally grown) and brussel sprouts with a cheesy bechamel sauce......

I am a lucky lucky girl....

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Contest Arrives!

If you've been reading my blog entries, you may already know about my love for the Mathers and this amazing gardening book.  I really can't say enough about this book.  So that's why I'm giving my readers a chance to win a copy of their very own!!! 

I had struggled in the past to find a complete gardening book that addressed a few things that I consider relevant.  For example, gardening in MY zone...not how to grow ornamental grasses in Victoria BC.  Also, I had difficulties finding a gardening book that didn't speak in scientific terms rather than plain old english.  If you are a novice gardener or if you consider yourself an expert...this book can still shed some light on things.

It features:  how to capture rain water and use it in your garden efficiently, a little history and how-to on root cellars or storing food without using ANY hydro electricity, it discusses gardening in an urban environment as well as living off the grid in the country, how to read a seed catalogue, it offers a variety of vegetables that can be grown right here in Ontario, and a lot of humour along the way.

The best part about this book is that Cam and Michelle Mather have been there and done that.  Whatever the issue may be, they have the experience and expertise to back up their information.  If they don't know about it, they probably have a neighbour who does!  They really do revel in the community aspects of gardening, sharing your information and your crops.  They even include some recipes!

So here's the order to win your very own copy of this amazing gardening book...all you have to do is answer the following question in the comments section of this post.  I will contact you about your mailing information if you are the lucky winner!

"What is your funniest gardening story?"

It could be something that happened whilst gardening, something unexpected that happened with a crop, something you learned and made you laugh.  Use your imagination and it just may pay off!

Winner to be posted by February 4th, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Butternut Squash Love....

We have been eating a LOT of soup lately....its kind of a soup time of year....

You know that feeling, when you've been outside shovelling snow, or playing with the kids, or ice fishing on the lake?  Perhaps thats just our lifestyle...but even if you're just going from your car to your home, its still nice to come in from the cold and enjoy a nice steaming bowl of soup.  Even better when you've grown the vegetables yourself!!!

We tried growing butternut squash this year, and I will admit that I am still waiting for the taste of squash to grow on me.   I figured, why not?  Grow them and the recipe hunt will begin.  I will not spend money at the grocery store on items that I have no idea whether I or the family will like them.  There is something widly emancipating about growing something...and if you don't like just goes right back into the compost bin!  WIN WIN!

Butternut Squash soup with home made biscuits
The one thing I really enjoyed growing butternut squash, is that they arrive and ripen when the rest of the garden has long since died off.  You get these beautiful, waxen lovelies that produce wonderous flowers.  Their vines take over all other areas.  It was growing these lovelies that made me think about late season foods and also their ability to store well.  I didn't get a chance to start a root cellar this past I didn't get to expertiment with the old school method of storage.  We did cube and freeze them though.  It was the late season aspect that made me love them.  This past year I did get to experiment with staggering my veggies.  Its a wonderful method to avoid the common gardening ailment of having 10 tonnes of anything all at the same time.  This method allows you to enjoy each crop for several weeks instead of getting flooded with them all at once (which makes it almost impossible to eat everything or have enough time to properly prepare and store everything - trust me!  I've learned this one the hard way).  You wind up sick of whatever it is thats ripening...and you waste the rest.
close up on soup with cracked black pepper
So here is the mouth-watering recipe that I cooked up in the fall.  I frozen the whole lot that time.  All I had to do was freeze it and add cream when ready to serve! 

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 small onion, chopped (from our garden, dried and stored in the basement)

  • 1 stalk celery, chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, chopped (from our garden, kept in the crisper with dirt on)

  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed

  • 1 medium butternut squash - peeled, seeded, and cubed

  • 1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken stock

  • 1 tsp nutmeg

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Directions

    1. Melt the butter in a large pot, and cook the onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and squash 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
    2. Transfer the soup to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to pot, and mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

    Nutritional Information

    Amount Per Serving  Calories: 305 | Total Fat: 6.8g | Cholesterol: 21mg
    That was the original recipe I used...from but I'm a sucker for a rich soup, so I swirl in heavy cream just prior to serving.  You can also add some cinnamon to taste. 
    while Owen loves the biscuits...he's still not a huge fan of the soup

    Friday, January 7, 2011

    When the times are tough....

    I hope everyone survived the holiday season!  It was a crazy mess of food and celebration for our family.  Definitely worth every minute!

    But now that the celebrations are may be under a whole lotta unexpected debt.  One of the fortunate things about being unemployed is that we didn't go crazy this year.  We aren't in too deep, because we've been living on a shoestring since last March.  Its almost become a badge of honour for me, at least.  Look how little I used to make (fill in the blank)!  I've become proud of the meals and snacks I've made using the leftovers or frozen goods we stored from our garden.  I know, pride goeth before the fall...but there are times when I feel like pride is appropriate.

    Each New Year I make a new resolution.  I try to build on each previous year's resolution.  I am trying to make baby steps to gently change my lifestyle.  If you try too much, all at once, you are destined to fail.

    Last year I promised myself I wouldn't eat any more store bought salad dressings...of course I made this resolution after I realized how stinking easy they are to make!!!  I have been making balsamic vinigrette for over a year now.  Its an endless source of happiness for me, as I adore salads. 

    Today I went to make my typical lunch time salad...only to find that I had used up my Balsamic vinegar!!!!  WHAT DO I DO NOW!?!?  Well...i turned to the white vinegar as an alternative.  White vinegar is something we have in bulk.  I only clean with vinegar, so we go through it like it was water.  (Thank goodness its cheap!)

    So I freehanded this recipe and it was so lovely I thought I would share it!

    This recipe is chock full of healthy things that your body it tastes fresh and yummy!

    3/4 cup of Sunflower Oil
    4 tbsp of white vinegar
    4 tbsp lemon juice (i use concentrate...but fresh is obviously better)
    1 tsp of dijon mustard
    2 cloves garlice (pressed in garlice press)
    1/2 tsp of ground coriander (we grew it last year in our garden, dried the seeds and keep them in a grinder)
    dash of kosher or sea salt (for highest mineral content)

    wisk and pour over salad greens

    Now will I get more balsamic when the funds permit?  YES!  But this was a great substitute when you are living on a budget.  Dijon mustard tastes healthier than the yellow version and it lasts a long time.  Definitely a good value.  I buy the garlic locally from a guy we see every weekend at the Famrer's Market here in Verona.  Sunflower Oil is a nice light oil and very healthy for you.  You could substitute canola oil but I find that olive oil is a bit too intense for this recipe.  You could also change up the spice to your liking.  I just adore the lemony flavour of coriander...but I did consider using basil or parsley.  Whatever you like!  You can tailor this recipe based on what you grow in your garden!  Or what your taste buds like....

    Experiment today!

    Check back for the upcoming contest where you could win a copy of "The All-You-Can-Eat Gardening Handbook" of your very own!!!