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Smoked Pumpkin Pie

Our garden was a disaster this year. A late start, some inattention during a critical early period, and very few hot days left us with not a lot of produce. The tomatoes were pathetic, and the zucchini only really started producing at the beginning of September. Therefore, we leaned on the farmers’ market more than usual.

However, one item that we always get from the market, regardless of how well (or how miserably) our garden did, is pie pumpkins.

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I am a lucky woman, because my husband makes a wonderful pumpkin pie. And he doesn’t use the canned stuff; he starts with an actual pumpkin, roasted in the oven. And… he’s starting smoking the pumpkin before roasting it.

When he first suggested doing this, I admit to being skeptical. Smoky pie? I rolled my eyes. Ever since we got the smoker, he’s smoked a huge variety of things, and I’ve liked most of them. But smoky pie was just weird, I thought.

I was wrong.

Actual Pie

Obviously, you don’t want the pumpkin saturated with smoke, so it’s only lightly smoked. Pumpkin is like a sponge for smoke, so it’s a good idea to smoke it at the tail end of some other smoke job you have going. I’ve included instructions in the recipe below. But he had a few other suggestions that might help you find success:

  • Make sure you’re getting a pie pumpkin. You can make pies with regular pumpkins (like the ones you carve for Hallowe’en), but they won’t taste nearly as good. Proper pie pumpkins have dense flesh and a high sugar content.
  • Heft it a bit. You want one that’s heavy for its size.
  • Pick a pumpkin with at least an inch or two inches of stem left, and avoid pumpkins with soft spots.
  • Use a mild, sweet smoke like apple or maple.
  • Save any leftover pumpkin puree in a freezer bag, and use it in soups, muffins, or to pad out your next pie.

Finally, he noted that he screws with this recipe constantly; this is just its current iteration.

Smoked Pumpkin Pie
 
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A pumpkin pie with a light smoky flavour, perfect for fall.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 16
Ingredients
Smoked Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 pie pumpkins
Pumpkin Pie
  • 4 cups smoked pumpkin puree
  • 1 300ml can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup half-n-half
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (rounded) nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • 2 prepared pie shells (using your favourite recipe or store-bought)
Instructions
Smoked Pumpkin Puree
  1. Preheat smoker to 250°F and start apple or maple smoke.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  3. Split pumpkins vertically and remove seeds.
  4. Place pumpkins in smoker.
  5. Smoke for 20 minutes, then remove from smoker. (Pumpkin absorbs smoke like a sponge, so beware of leaving the pumpkins in for much longer.)
  6. Line two cookie sheets with foil and cover the bottom of the sheets with water.
  7. Place smoked pumpkins face-down on the foil and place in oven.
  8. Bake until soft. After 30 minutes, check the pumpkins with a fork. Continue to check every 15 minutes until they are done.
  9. Shut off oven and open the door slightly. Let stand until cool enough to handle.
  10. Remove skins and cut into chunks. Process pumpkin in a food processor until smooth. Note: Smoking can dry the pumpkin out. If your pumpkin puree is too dry, add a bit of water, orange juice or vodka until it has a smooth consistency.
Pumpkin Pie
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the wet ingredients and stir. Add the spices and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour the pie mix into the prepared pie shells. Cover the edges of the crust with foil or a pie crust shield and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking for another 35-40 minutes. Pies are done when an inserted knife comes out clean.
Notes
Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

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Masoor Dahl Tadka

So how’s about that weather we’ve been having? Eh? Hmm?

The sunlight streaming in through my window in the evening tells me it should be spring. The -23°C windchill bullshit we’ve been having the last few days says otherwise. As much as I want to get the grill going and grab some steaks from Tenderloin on the way home, it’s still stew weather. So, after getting my lips chapped by a merciless north wind several days past the vernal equinox, I decided it was time for dahl.

Masoor Dal Tadka

This recipe is slightly adapted from Tigers & Strawberries, a (sadly) defunct blog full of really interesting recipes.  In this post, she explains that tadka is a method of seasoning a dish by frying aromatic spices in oil and pouring it on or into the dish just before serving. The flavour and richness that this cooking method gives to the food is just amazing, and I’ve pondered using the technique for something other than lentils.

One other note: the recipe calls for asafoetida, also known as hing. This is totally optional, and I realize that it is not a staple in most spice cupboards. However, if you’re near an Indian or Pakistani grocer, see if you can get a small container. I think it’s worth the small expense.

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I am submitting this recipe into our company “healthy recipe” contest as an antidote to all the baking recipes containing applesauce, and the millions of ways to prepare chickpeas. (Ok, it’s not quite that bad.) I’ll just have to see if it’ll meet their criteria. Hopefully none of the judges look up what ghee is (SHHH IT’S CLARIFIED BUTTER DON’T TELL ANYONE.)

And a quick note about the photo: normally I cook the lentils down until they are totally mush. I really wanted to get a great picture for this recipe, though, and yellow mush really isn’t that photogenic. (It’s not. I tried!) However, cooking them until they are no longer crunchy, but just before they’re totally mush, worked just fine. Go ahead and give them the extra 10 minutes or so.

Masoor Dahl Tadka
 
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A hearty red lentil stew, generously seasoned and served over rice.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups red lentils
  • 28oz can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 2.5 cups water
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 TB ghee
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 1" cube of fresh ginger, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 TB yellow mustard seeds
  • ½ TB whole cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp crushed red chilies (or to taste)
  • 2 TB chopped cilantro or parsley
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils and add to a saucepan with the diced tomatoes and water. Add the adafoetida and salt, and stir. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered. Let simmer until lentils are cooked to your liking. (I usually cook them down until the lentils have melted into a puree, but they are also good *very* slightly al dente.)
  2. In a frying pan, melt the ghee over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until they are dark yellow. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin and red chilies. Stir briskly until the seeds start to snap and pop.
  3. Pour the onion mixture into the lentils and stir. Serve immediately over rice or with naan.

 

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Springerles

I am not a baker. I think I’ve mentioned that before. I much prefer cooking, where you have a great deal of leniency in what and how you can cook. Errors can be caught and fixed before the dish goes on the table. Don’t have a specific ingredient? No worries, just substitute something similar.

Baking… baking involves MATH. It involves a great number of ratios and exact ingredients. And after you’ve committed your batch to the oven, it’s like peering into the core of a nuclear reactor: if anything goes wrong, too bad! You have to wait for it to finish. And if you totally screwed up, there’s no fixing it.

So I when I bake, it’s for specific reasons or with very tried and tested recipes. And Christmas is one of those specific reasons where I really get the urge to bake: to satiate my nostalgia.

Springerles, baked

Among all of the cookies that my family traditionally made was the springerle. Springerles are a German cookie flavoured with anise. Traditionally the flavouring came from scattering anise seed on the cookie sheet, but my mother’s recipe calls for anise oil. After mixing, the dough, which is very stiff, is decorated using a stamp or a roller with traditional designs. (I use a rolling pin. Also, after I noticed that one of the designs looks like a dick, it’s something that I simply cannot unsee. My inner 10 year old salutes you.) After cutting the cookies apart, they have to stand and dry for a day or so before baking.

Springerles, unbaked

Because of the chilling and drying time, these aren’t cookies that you can just whip up in an hour or so. That, combined with my reluctance to bake, means that I don’t get around to making these every Christmas.

However, this year I had the time and the inclination, and so I made springerles. That means on Christmas Eve we’ll be able to sip steaming mugs of hot chocolate and dip springerles into them as we watch the cats disassemble the Christmas tree.

Aah, traditions.

Merry Christmas

Springerles
 
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An anise-flavoured shortbread cookie.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: German
Serves: 30-40 cookies
Ingredients
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 4 ½ cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp anise oil (to taste; make sure it’s anise oil, not extract)
Instructions
  1. Using a whisk attachment on your stand mixer, beat the eggs until light (about five to ten minutes). Add the sugar slowly and beat until very light (another five to ten minutes). Add the anise oil and mix until incorporated.
  2. Switch to a flat beater. Sift the baking powder into the flour, then add to the batter slowly. Mix thoroughly (the dough will be quite stiff.)
  3. Chill covered for about an hour (or if you live in Winnipeg, place on your back porch for about 20 minutes). Roll the rough to approximately ½ inch thickness. Roll or press designs into the dough, then cut apart and arrange on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  4. Leave exposed overnight, or until the designs on the top are dry. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies for about 30 minutes. Watch them carefully so that they do not brown.
  5. Transfer to a cooling rack. When completely cool, store in a sealed tin. As they age they will become tender. Makes 30-40 cookies.

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Canned Apple Butter

I knew it was coming, but over the weekend it happened: our freezer is now totally full. Not a scrap more of frozen beans, cauliflower, bacon or ground bison will fit.

We are blessed to be presented with this problem, of course, but it is still a problem. See, I went and bought about nine pounds of Goodland apples at the farmers’ market, and now I had nowhere to put them. The intention was to peel, core and slice them, toss them with sugar and spices, portion them out into freezer bags and then freeze them for making apple pie this winter. Our little freezer space problem nixed that idea.

So I turned to plan B: making apple butter and canning the results.

Apple Butter

Canning is one of those devoted foodie things that I love the idea of, and I love the results, but – my gosh, it is a pain in the ass to actually do. It involves either using a pressure canner, which scares the daylights out of me, or boiling a huge pot of water on the stove during the hottest part of the summer. Then you have to clean and sanitize the jars, sanitize the lids, cook your food, fill the jars, process them, and then give up precious counter space for a full day while they cool.

But you know what? I do it anyway. I do it because I love opening a jar of summer while a blizzard howls outside. Eye on the prize and all that. If you’re interested in getting started doing canning yourself, I recommend reading the tutorials on the Bernardin website or at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Or if you prefer blogs about canning, there are two that I like: Well Preserved, written by a couple in Toronto, and Food in Jars, written by a lady in the US.

Apple butter is a fruit butter, which means that it’s basically apples cooked down with sugar and spices until the sugar caramelizes and the mixture becomes thick. It’s a staple condiment in the heart of Amish country, near where I grew up, but I was surprised to discover that it’s relatively unknown in Winnipeg.

Apple Butter Label

I’m well versed in ways to eat apple butter, but this was my first time making it. I probably could have cooked it down further, but I wanted to go to bed sometime before 1:00am. I basically ended up with a thick, spreadable applesauce; not exactly what I wanted, but close.

I think next time*, I’ll cook it down in a crockpot. If you cook it long and low with the crock’s lid tilted slightly, you apparently get a much more consistent texture (and you don’t have to spend all evening stirring a pot).

Recipes for apple butter vary, but here’s what I did:

  • About 9 lbs of Goodland apples (three bags), peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 TB apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

In a stainless steel pot of boiling water, cook the apple slices until they’re tender. Drain.

Return the apples to the pot and put the pot over low heat. Add the apple cider. Smash the apples into a chunky paste with a spoon and bring to a “boil” for about 20 minutes. This will be a popping, spattery, mess-making boil. Don’t cover the pot, though, because you need the liquid to cook off.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, sugar and spices. Stir well. Cook over low heat until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. (This could take 1-2 hours.) Puree the apple butter mostly smooth with an immersion blender, or work out your frustration by mashing pieces against the side of the pot with a spoon.

Using proper canning techniques, fill 125ml jelly jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

*Yes, next time. I am such a masochist.

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Where there’s smoke…

My husband has taken up smoking again. Only this time, he smokes with woodchips and food.

After debating and researching and shopping around and hoarding Canadian Tire money for several years, we bought a Bradley 4-rack digital electric smoker about a month ago. My husband had wanted a smoker for quite a while, so this is now his new baby.

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Now I know that the purists are going to rabble here and say that the best smokers are charcoal, and that we’re settling for second best with an electric smoker. Yes, charcoal is better. If we had unlimited amounts of time to laze around waiting for charcoal to be ready to go, we’d have a charcoal smoker and a charcoal grill. However, we don’t have unlimited amounts of time, and I like eating dinner before 9pm. Therefore, we have a propane grill and an electric smoker.

The Bradley smoker that my husband ended up buying has a few features that are really nice. First, it’s digital, so setting the cooking temperature is a breeze. It will also maintain that temperature for as long as required without any babysitting. And it can be used to cold smoke things like cheese, which was a “nice to have” for my husband. (Cold smoking isn’t something that we’ll be trying in the middle of summer, but on a cool spring day it worked great.) Finally, the Bradley website has an active and friendly forum if you have questions or problems. (The forum members are also quite handy, and are willing to show off their hacks and homemade smokehouses. Lots of ideas there!)

On the downside, it takes proprietary “bisquettes” of wood for the smoke. These can be a bit pricey, since one bisquette will only burn for 20 minutes, but we’ve been keeping our eyes open for them and getting them when they’re on sale. Also, the cord is a bit short. This may present a problem if you lack convenient outdoor outlets. On that same thread, it is electric, so I wouldn’t consider it an all-weather smoker. Again, a smokehouse might be in our future when we redo the backyard.

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So far, he’s smoked cheese, tofu, a whole chicken, a pork tenderloin, and ribs. We were working up to the ribs, and boy – were they worth waiting for!

The baby back ribs were doused with the Sweet Chili rub from Bon Vivant and smoked with hickory at 275°F for two hours. We then wrapped the ribs in foil, and stuck them in the oven at 275°F for an hour. The packets were opened, the juices saved, and the ribs went back in the oven for one more hour. The reserved juices were then mopped onto the ribs, and they went under the broiler for about two minutes, just until the juices started bubbling.

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Wow! I’m not even sure what to tweak with this method, because the ribs came out so good. It helped that we started with a quality product from Frig’s, and the rub and the smoke added just the right amount of flavour to enhance, rather than cover up, the taste of the ribs.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say about our smokey adventures in the next while.

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Christmas Goose

I hope everyone had a good and safe Christmas. Ours was, in turn, very exciting and very laid-back. My husband broke a bone just before Christmas, so the days leading up to the holiday were filled with crutches, casts, and trips to the hospital. Things are starting to settle down a bit (knock on wood), and I’m hoping there are no more disasters in the few days leading up to New Year’s.

This year for Christmas dinner I decided to make a goose. My last experience with goose was many years ago when my mother decided to do a “traditional Dickens Christmas,” ala A Christmas Carol. We had goose and plum pudding and Christmas crackers and all the other trappings you’d find when dining with Bob Cratchit and family. Unfortunately, the only tradition that survived that Christmas was the Christmas crackers. The goose, while tasty enough, was a bit of a hassle and just didn’t have enough meat for a family of five. My family has since gone back to a Christmas ham or turkey.

Christmas Dinner

However, here in Winnipeg there is only my husband and me to feed. With that in mind, we found ourselves a 4.2kg (about 9 lb) goose, and I started researching how to cook it.

I used my experience with the duck several years ago as a starting point. Waterfowl are naturally fatty birds, with a layer of fat just under the skin to keep them warm in chilly water. The first thing I found when I unwrapped our goose a few days before Christmas was just how much fattier the goose was compared to the duck. I pulled great handfuls of fat out of the bird’s cavity, and plunked it down into a saucepan to render.

Next, I used the tip of a wooden skewer to prick the goose’s skin all over, making sure not to poke into the meat. These holes provide lots of tiny channels for the fat to run off while the bird is roasting. Then, I boiled the bird.

No, it’s ok! Several recipes recommended either steaming the bird or submerging it in boiling water for two minutes, and then letting it dry in the fridge for two days. This was supposed to help crisp up the skin. (It also made the bird a bit goose-pimply, which I found funny.)

Roast Goose, pre-roasting

On the big day, I pulled the bird out of the fridge and rubbed the skin all over with a mixture of kosher salt, lemon zest and pepper. The cut lemon halves went into the cavity along with a mixture of rosemary, sage and thyme. I also trimmed off the wingtips to prevent them from burning, and used them along with the neck to make gravy.

After setting the goose breast-down on the roasting rack, I popped it into a 425°F oven for 20 minutes, and then lowered the temperature to 325°F. After an hour at the lower temperature, I removed the roaster from the oven and drained off the fat that had collected in the bottom, and I flipped the goose onto its back. Back it went into the oven for another 45 minutes.

By this time the goose was reading between 165°F to 175°F in the thigh and breast. (Health Canada does not distinguish safe internal temperatures for chicken and waterfowl, but the USDA recommendation is 165°F for goose. It doesn’t need to be cooked as well-done as chicken or turkey.) After letting it rest for 20 minutes, we carved it.

Roast Goose

As I said earlier, there isn’t as much meat on a goose as you would get on a similarly-sized turkey. (I think part of the reason might be because they’re much sturdier birds. When stripping the carcass later, my husband found the wishbone, which was the thickest, most serious wishbone I’ve ever seen.) However, goose is the bird that keeps giving. All together, I got about four cups of rendered fat from the goose. Half is in the fridge, and half is in the freezer. This will be used for roast potatoes, sautéed vegetables, and anything else I can think of to use it on. And finally, we’ll get several gallons of stock from the bones.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and I hope you have a Happy New Year!

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Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

This summer has been absolutely beautiful. It’s been warm, with not too many muggy, hot days that make it too sticky to move. It’s been dry, which has been a blessing for people still struggling with flooding. And it’s been almost completely bug-free, which was a surprise considering the amount of standing water we had earlier in the year. All in all, gorgeous. My husband said that years from now, we’ll say things like, “Well, this summer has been nice, but it’s not as nice as the summer of ’11!”

As much as we’ve been able to get out on walks and bike rides, it is summer, and summer is never kind to my waistline. Summer means cookouts and burgers and steaks and grilled veggiles drizzled with oil. And it means ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.

We’ve slowly been expanding our ice cream repertoire after perfecting the vanilla bean ice cream recipe last year. I’ve especially been interested in trying flavours that you just can’t get in ordinary, grocery-store ice cream. For example, an article that I read recently told the woeful tale of a small Chicago-area business who was just trying to make yummy ice cream, but is in danger of being shut down due to regulatory issues (I tweeted the article, comparing it to the plight of Winnipeg’s food truck businesses). In the photo that accompanied the article was a carton of their strawberry basil ice cream.

I was intrigued. I made it. We like it! It’s definitely a strawberry ice cream, but the taste of the basil hits you first, letting the strawberry follow behind. It’s different, and really refreshing.

Strawberry-Basil Ice Cream

Here’s what you need to make your own.

  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk (3.25%)
  • 1 1/2 cup whipping cream (35%)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tsp
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 pint strawberries (hulled and halved)
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried

A note about the basil: If you’ve ever grown your own, you know that basil flowers readily. The flower spikes can also be used in this recipe. Get just shy of the 1/2 cup of basil, and then toss in two or three flower spikes. Don’t chop them with the leaves in the steps below, but leave them whole.

Mix the milk, cream, sugar and salt in a saucepan over low-ish heat. You want to be able to control what temperature the milk gets to, and if it heats too quickly it may scald.

Carefully heat the milk mixture to 170°F, stirring constantly. As soon as the milk mixture reaches 170°F, remove it from the heat.

Sprinkle 1 tsp of sugar over the basil leaves and chop. You don’t have to go totally crazy, but you want the pieces fairly small to release as much oil as possible.

Allow the milk mixture to cool a bit, then pour it into a container with a lid. Add the basil to the milk mixture. Store it in the fridge overnight to let the mixture chill completely and the flavours mature.

When you’re ready to make ice cream, remove the ice cream maker bowl from the freezer and assemble the appliance. Using a spoon, fish out as much of the basil as you can. You want to make sure to pull out the larger pieces, but if you leave in a few small pieces here or there it’s ok. (The basil will have turned brown, so it won’t be as pretty as you think it might be.) Discard the wilted basil.

In a tall glass, puree the strawberries using a hand blender. You can leave it slightly chunky if that’s to your taste, but you want the majority of the berries blended smooth. Pour the strawberry puree into the milk mixture and stir.

Turn the ice cream machine on and slowly pour the ice cream mix into the machine.

It usually takes about 20-25 minutes for the ice cream to reach soft-serve consistency. Using a spatula, pour the ice cream into a freezer container. Freeze the ice cream for a few more hours to give it a more firm texture.

Serve with a sprig of basil if desired as a garnish.

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French Zucchini Toast

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen that I have a lot of zucchini in the freezer to deal with. We love zucchini bread, and like all quick breads it’s crazy easy to make. So I’ve slowly been going through the frozen zucchini by keeping us in zucchini bread. Oh, the hardship.

This morning, as I was pondering what to do about breakfast, my eyes rested on the zucchini bread. “I wonder,” I said to myself, “whether I could make french toast with zucchini bread.” After all, french toast is just an eggy bread. Would what type of “bread” it is matter?

French Zucchini Toast

And the answer is no! It doesn’t matter in the least. In fact, using zucchini bread gave the french toast a distinctly different flavour that I really liked. And hey – it’s just french toast, so it’s super easy to make!

Recipe: make french toast, using zucchini bread instead of regular bread. If you need more specific instructions, read on.

For two servings, you will need:

  • 4 slices of zucchini bread* (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 TB sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 TB butter

*Note: this would probably be better if you sliced the bread the night before and left it out to dry overnight. I sliced and cooked right away, though, and it worked great, too.

Whisk the eggs with the milk, sugar, vanilla and salt in a bowl with a flat bottom.

Soak the bread slices in the egg mixture, flipping them around to get both sides. Place them on a plate after dipping them. If you have any leftover egg mixture, pour it over the bread slices. Let them sit for about 10 minutes.

In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Carefully lay the soaked bread slices in the frying pan. Fry them on one side for about four minutes, and flip. Cook them on the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Be careful not to burn them!

Serve with a pat of butter and a drizzle of some good maple syrup.

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Creamy Scrambled Eggs and Spinach

It’s getting to be that difficult time of year here in Winnipeg. The holidays are long past, but winter will just drag on and on for at least another month and a half. I find myself crawling out of bed later and later on weekends, unwilling to face the cold.

What makes it better? Brunch. If I’m going to climb out of bed an hour late on Sundays, I might as well combine breakfast and lunch for efficiency. To that end, this savory twist on scrambled eggs fits the bill.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs and Spinach

We’ve been using Gordon Ramsey’s method for making scrambled eggs for a while, and this variation works splendidly. It produces a creamy, almost smooth scrambled egg dish that is so different from the dry clods you’re used to from the local diner. It takes a lot longer than the “usual” way, but the results are so much better.

For this recipe you’ll need a medium non-stick saucepan and a silicone spoonula. I’ve tried making these scrambled eggs in a non-stick pan… and it wasn’t pretty. Do your dishwasher a favour!

As for ingredients, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cubic inches feta cheese, crumbled (or about 3 tablespoons crumbled)
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • salt (optional)

A note about the cheese: I like goats’ milk feta, but you can use any feta you prefer.

Fill the saucepan about half full of water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach, stir, and let wilt for about three minutes. Drain the spinach and dry the pan. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach. (You can do this easily by putting the wilted spinach in a bowl and using the back of a spoon to press the spinach against the side of the bowl. Tilt the bowl to drain the water, and the damp spinach will stick to the sides of the bowl.)

Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl until they are a uniform yellow.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the drained spinach to the oil and quickly stir to break up the clump. Add the eggs and stir. Stir constantly over medium heat. Keep scraping the bottom of the pan to make sure clumps of cooked egg aren’t forming. If the egg mixture starts to set up too quickly, remove the pan from the heat and keep stirring. Return to the heat once you’ve broken up any clumps that started to form.

This will take a while, so be patient! Stir, stir, stir. At about the halfway mark (probably about six minutes in), add the crumbled feta and pepper. The feta won’t melt significantly, so you might want to add a bit of salt to the eggs as well.

Continue to stir the eggs, placing the pan on the heat and removing to control the heat, until they are almost set but still glossy. This usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes. If the glossiness goes away, they are overcooked. Keep in mind that the eggs will continue to cook just a bit after being removed from the stove. (If you overcook them, don’t worry. They’ll still be as good, but won’t taste as creamy.)

Serve immediately, with fruit and toast or popovers. Serves two!

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Chicken (or Turkey, or Duck, or Veal, or…) Stock

Before I started cooking, I considered broth and stock to be pretty much interchangeable. It’s only been fairly recently that I’ve realized there is a difference. The consensus seems to be that broth is made with meat, while stock is made with bones. Broth is suitable to be served as-is (to someone with a cold, for example). Stock, on the other hand, is usually used to make other things. Broth cooks quickly, while stock takes a long time to cook. If you put a whole chicken in a pot of water and boil it for an hour or so until the chicken is done, you have broth. If you roast a chicken, eat it, and then put the bones into a pot of water and simmer it for several hours, you have stock.

Some of the differences seem to run a bit deeper, but this seems to be a good place to start. The other thing that I should point out is that stock is insanely useful, and you should make some!

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First, you need some bones. Whenever we have chicken or turkey, we almost always save the bones. (The exception is when the chicken was used in something really spicy that could bring an off flavour to the stock.) When I roast a chicken or we barbeque some chicken breasts, the bones go into a freezer bag and into the freezer. Once we have enough bones to fill our stock pot, we’ll wait until a slow Sunday afternoon and make stock.

The good stock at the grocery store can run up to $3.50 or more for a quart, and it’s always over-salted. Making your own stock at home, using stuff that you would have just thrown away, can represent some significant savings.

Plus, you can store it in quantities that make sense to you. Rather than buying a quart of stock and only using a cup, you can store your homemade stock in one, two, or four cup quantities. We typically do a mixture of these sizes: one cup bags are used for sauces, two cup bags are used for rice, quinoa or other grains, and four cup bags are used for risotto or soup. Measure the amount you want into a labeled freezer bag, press out the air, and place on a baking sheet. The bag will freeze flat, which makes it a cinch to store.

More frozen assets.

This “recipe” is more of a formula than a measured recipe. Adjust to your liking and what you have available. To make your own stock, you will need:

  • Roasted bones from poultry, beef or veal (Collect enough to fill up your largest pot.)
  • Old vegetables (Traditionally this is mireproix – carrots, celery and onion – but you can use any flavourful vegetables you have on hand.)
  • Water

Put the roasted bones into your largest pot. (When we made stock from the carcass of our 22lb Thanksgiving turkey, we used my water canner.) Add the vegetables, cut into large chunks. Cover everything with water and bring to a boil.

Once the water is boiling, lower the heat until it just simmers. Keep an eye on the stock. If foam forms on the surface of the stock, skim it off and discard. Let the stock simmer for several hours. The longer it simmers, the more gelatin and goodness will leech out of the bones and into your stock.

After several hours, remove from heat. Place a large bowl into the sink, and put a colander inside the bowl. (If you want really clear stock you can line the colander with cheesecloth, but that’s a bit too fussy for me.) Pour the stock through the colander into the bowl. Remove the colander, and discard the bones and vegetables. Use or freeze the stock as desired.

Note: I do not add salt to my stock, although I will sometimes add a small handful of peppercorns. Since I usually don’t know what I’ll be using the stock for, I prefer not to salt the stock.

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