Valley Cherries

my cherry pie

Recently, we all went cherry picking at Dempsey’s Corner orchard in Aylesford, Nova Scotia. They had 12 varieties to choose from!

If you have the good fortune of living in the Annapolis Valley (or passing through) this place is worth the visit. Besides many varieties of fruit, they have an array of adorable farm animals roaming about.

The cherries were so pretty they served as my muse for making a miniature scene.

my cherry stems

cherry orchard

Reduced Sugar Strawberry Mango Jam

jam2

Ingredients:

2 cups crushed fresh strawberries (about 1 pint)

3 cups diced ripe mangoes (about 4-5 mango)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 package powdered no-sugar pectin

1/4 tsp ground ginger (optional)

3 cups granulated sugar

1 cup Truvia (sugar-stevia blend)

**See bottom of post for how much jam this yields**

This week the strawberries of Annapolis Valley are ripe for the picking. So we loaded up the kids and set them loose in a local field. We filled our dozen baskets in less than a half hour!

Exif_JPEG_420

My husband also found a box full of mangoes at a local grocery. They worked out to be around 50 cents per mango. Thats a great deal and I figured I would try making a strawberry-mango jam pairing.

It was a great flavour match, and the color of the jam is so beautiful! Photos do not do it justice.

Though there is more mango than strawberries, the berries still break through as the dominant taste in this jam. I added just a hint of ginger, which is optional. It’s very subtle.

I have decided, for health reasons, to reduce the sugar in my baking and preserving. I don’t want to use artificial sweeteners, nor do I want to remove sugar all together. So, I chose truvia as my sweetener. *I was not sponsored by Truvia or compensated by them for this recipe. My honest opinion is, this stuff rocks. If you don’t know, Truvia is a sugar and stevia extract blend that cuts calories from your sweetener by more than half (they claim by 75%). A half cup of Truvia is equal to one cup of sugar.

truvia

This jam’s sugar content is a lot less than regular jam but you really can’t tell. It still turned out very sweet. There was zero of that chemical aftertaste that some other artificial sweeteners have.

I will not go into every detail of jam making. If you have never made jam before, this is a link to an excellent resource. It is where I learned before attempting my first jam session.

Most importantly, have all your tools, jars, and lids sterile and ready. Crush your fruit, but don’t overdue it. You want a few small pieces of fruit in your jam. Cooking will make those pieces smaller yet!

fruit.jpg

My daughter was my crusher of fruit (she used a potato masher). The mangos were diced small, rather than crushed. Post crushing, we measured the fruit and turned it into a container with a lid to keep the flies out. We are having a fruit fly problem at the moment 😦

Method:

Heat a deep stainless steel sauce pan over medium heat and pour in your prepared fruit and lemon juice. Stir in your pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil and then add your sugar/sweetener all at once. Stir constantly and bring back to a full boil. It will soon turn to a bubbling hard boil which won’t settle down, even with stirring. Continue hard boiling for 1-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Remove from heat and skim foam from top with a slotted spoon.

Funnel and fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch head room. Place on lids. Tighten bands. Place jars in canning pot and cover with water, 1 inch above the tops of jars. Process your jars of jam in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat.

Lift jars carefully from pot and place gently on a counter. Do not disturb them for 24 hours. Around the 24 hour mark, check each jar for a good seal. Reprocess any that did not seal, OR keep in fridge and use up within a couple weeks. I don’t think it will last that long before it’s gobbled up.

jam

 

I made a total of 1.125 litres of jam. This filled four 250 ml jars plus one 125 ml jar. I could have easily filled another 125 ml jar by scraping my pot and tools…instead I made a lovely mess.

This was a good experience in showing the kids ‘from field to table’ literally. And they were pleased they had a part in producing such a yummy spread.

Now what to do with the rest of my strawberries and mangoes….

‘What A Waste’ Campaign: Halting Unnecessary Food Waste

I came across this campaign online for introducing a new law in Canada that prevents grocers from throwing out edible food.

They already have such a law in France.

Check it out and please consider signing the petition. Food banks in our region (and many others) are suffering a donation shortage.  To me, it just makes sense.

We don’t have a food shortage problem. We have a food distribution problem.

http://www.wawcampaign.ca

hungry

 

You can sign the petition here  https://d18kwxxua7ik1y.cloudfront.net/product/embeds/v1/change-embeds.js

 

 

 

 

Easy Shakshuka

DSC_0600 (2)

It’s been a while, and this time I am posting about real food.

“Shakshuka!!” (isn’t it fun to say?) is a Jewish dish I have been long wanting to try out. I’ve seen a few drool inducing photos online and a couple of ‘simple enough’ recipes.

So tonite I decided to wing it and I cooked it from recalling what I had read.

Shakshuka actually reminds me of another dish my sister in law taught me, ‘Kacang Phool’…which I have blogged about before. The main differences being that this dish does not have beans in it, and the eggs are simmered, not fried. (I think chick peas might be a nice addition actually).

Essentially, this dish is described as eggs simmered in a spicy tomato sauce. It can then be served with pita or bread to sop up the juices and soft yolk of the eggs. It’s really nice and it’s filling. We have been trying to incorporate more meatless meals in our home, and this is a good choice. With simple and few ingredients, it makes for an economical meal too.

DSC_0576 (2)

First, in a bit of olive oil, saute 2 diced red onions and 3 minced cloves of garlic.

DSC_0584 (2)

To this, add more olive oil, 1 tbsp za’atar seasoning, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp dried mint and 1 diced jalapeno (seeds removed).

DSC_0588 (2)

Add in 796 ml of canned stewed tomatoes (liquid too), breaking up and let simmer 5 minutes while you chop cauliflower. Add 1/2 cup of water and half a head of chopped cauliflower. Simmer on medium for a further 20 minutes.

DSC_0600 (2)

Crack in the eggs, as many as will fit in the pan, if you want.

Cover and simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes until the eggs are cooked but yolks are still fairly soft.

DSC_0612 (2)

Plate up with toasted bread or pita and sprinkle on chives and feta cheese (optional).

DSC_0621 (2)

Serves up to 6 people.  I hope you give it a try!

My Inedible Pizza

DSC_0549 (2)

Well, it has been a very very long time! It’s so nice catching up on bloggers posts that I follow. It would be presumptuous of me to think I was missed. But in case one of you wondered where I went, it was not off the face of the earth.

I have been blogging about a different type of food interest these past months.

For about a year now I’ve been making miniature foods from polymer clay. I sculpt these in various scales from dollhouse 1:12 to 1:4 scale.

It started as a way to amuse my little girls but is now equally, something for me.

coc donut2 (2)

More of my work can be seen on my other blog at blossomfriends.com

DSC_0079 (2)

Polenta Lasagna

DSC_0623

I always wanted to try polenta ever since I seen it on an Italian cooking show…you know the type of scene, in a cozy Italian kitchen, with the hot polenta being poured out onto a large table?

Half way through this video you will see an Italian rural couple preparing polenta.

Well, I spied these babies at the market and I couldn’t resist trying a new thing. Right there- on the package- came my inspiration for how I would prepare it. On the label was a simple lasagna recipe. I added a few embellishments.

DSC_0588

This makes a large, very hearty, lasagna.

DSC_0617

Ingredients:

1.5 kg polenta, sliced 1/2 inch thick

1 pound minced lean beef or poultry

1 red chili pepper, seeds removed, minced

6 cups plain tomato sauce

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp tarragon

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 large zucchini, sliced

1 small red onion

3 cups grated marble cheese

2 cups sliced button mushrooms

2 tbsp olive oil

Method:

Grate cheese and slice polenta and veggies, and set aside. In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and brown the meat with garlic, chili, spices, salt, and pepper. Add in the tomato sauce. Set on a low simmer.

DSC_0601

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take a 13 x 9 inch pan and pour in a thin layer of sauce, followed by the first layer of polenta. Layer on veggies and mushrooms, spreading evenly. Layer on 1 cup of cheese. Layer more polenta, followed by sauce, followed by veggies and mushrooms, followed by 1 cup of cheese, followed by polenta- veggies- sauce-  ending with the last cup of cheese. It’s not crucial how you layer this, as long as the sauce is spread out and you end with cheese near the top.

Loosely tent with foil and bake in middle of oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling throughout. Feeds 6-8. This makes delicious leftovers!

DSC_0614

: Chicken & Corn Curry.

DSC_1212 (2) - Copyx

Recently, we visited Dempsey’s Corner Orchard,  just 5 minutes from our house.

DSC_0095 (2)

For just $2 per person, we could spend the day and “eat of any tree” we wanted. You might say we had more freedom than Adam and Eve did.

Sorry, that was corny.

Speaking of corn, have you ever eaten a cob fresh from the stalk? One that you picked yourself? If not, you really should try it! As if all the beautiful fruit wasn’t enough, Dempsey’s also had a corn field for the customers to pick all that they wanted. It was fantastic! So juicy and so much sweeter when it is fresh! After eating a couple of these, we decided to purchase some for our supper.

DSC_0022 (2)

DSC_0034 (2)

There is nothing wrong with plain boiled corn on the cob but this time I wanted to do something different. This fresh and tasty corn was worthy of something else. After thinking about it, I decided to use it in Opor Ayam, which is an Indonesian style chicken curry. Opor is enveloped in this rich, spicy, coconutty sauce.

I could write poetry about this sauce.

DSC_1220 (2)

This Opor Ayam recipe is not authentic. Instead, it suits our preferences. Normally, a whole chicken is cut up to make this. Also, one traditional recipe calls for 15 dried chilies….nope, not a typo.  Fifteen!!

I’ve only made this a couple times before, and only in one pot. It is terrific and easy just like that. But this time I did it a bit different.I finished it off in my cast iron casserole, adding the corn from Dempsey’s.

The corn, after cooking in the sauce and soaking up the spices, tastes spectacular!

Using breasts make this healthier. Boneless also make it kid friendly.  Because I have omitted the bone and darker meat, I have sacrificed some of the flavour. I’m ok with that. Feel free to use bone-in chicken, and thighs also, if you want. Just add a few minutes to the initial cooking time.

Not authentic, but very delicious anyway. This would appeal to someone who can’t handle too much chili. This is spicy but not very hot. You can make this using 1 chili if you prefer, without losing much flavour. The chili does balance out the sweetness and richness of the dish.

Ingredients:

2 ½   lbs boneless and skinless chicken breasts  (aprox 5 breasts)

2 shallots

1 tbsp diced ginger

3 garlic cloves

1 bulb lemon grass, sliced

2 dried chilies

2 tbsp coriander

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp dried onion flakes

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp tomato paste

½ cup chicken stock

1 can coconut milk

3 or 4 Dried kaffir lime leaves (optional)

3 tbsp vegetable oil

4 large corn cobs, parboiled for 5 minutes and sliced (or 2 cups of vegetables of your choice)

Method:

Grind shallots, ginger, garlic, chili, and lemon grass into a paste. Cut chicken breasts into large chunks (cut each breast in 3 or 4 pieces).

Over medium heat, heat oil in a large pot and fry spice paste until fragrant. Add the coriander,cinnamon stick, curry, turmeric, and onion flakes. Stir. Add tomato paste and salt with a little water (just enough to keep spice paste from burning).

Add chicken to the pot and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Frequently scrape spices from bottom of pot, and toss chicken pieces around to brown them. Add a bit more water if things start to stick.

Pour in coconut milk, chicken stock, and add lime leaf to the pot.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes. * preheat oven to 370 degrees at this point * Uncover pot and reduce heat to medium-low setting.

Cook a further 15 minutes. The sauce should appear thicker by then and some of the red coloured oils will start to separate at the top. If this hasn’t happened, continue cooking until it does.

Now transfer this to a deep, 3 ½ to 4 quart casserole dish and add in vegetables.  Don’t waste 1 drop of the precious sauce, scrape it all into the casserole! Remove the cinnamon stick and discard.

I used 4 cobs of sweet corn that I previously parboiled and cut into slices. Sliced carrots would also work, or cubed sweet potato, or any sweet ‘ish’ vegetable.

Cover the casserole and cook in 370 oven for a half hour. Remove and give a gentle stir before serving.

Serve with rice or potatoes.  I recommend bread for sopping up the sauce!

Serves 6-8.

This is delicious just as it is, but if you wait one more day, it’s infinitely more yummy!

Just keep it sealed in the fridge (if you can delay digging in!)

DSC_1222 (2)