Chasing Tomatoes

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

LAST Giveaway: Gift Basket From Real Women of Philadelphia

This is the very last give basket I'm giving away from Kraft as per my contract with them, and you are all welcome to join in and see if you can snag it for the holidays!

Only Canadian readers can enter and one will be picked at random to win the basket below. This contest will be open until December 13 th, 2014. I'd like to know what you've been baking! 


Have fun!

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Homemade Veggie Burgers with my Blendtec Blender

For years, my family has loved veggie burgers but we've never found one that we absolutely adore and stick with. There was the one that was made with nuts, which was good but kind of expensive to make, pre-made ones from the freezer section that we found salty, and some that seemed tasteless.

A good veggie burger can be hard to find, friends. I'm not the kind of girl who seeks a veggie burger that tastes like meat-if I want that, I'll just make a hamburger. Once John and I went to a restaurant where the veggie burgers tasted SO close to actual meat that we had to check to see if our order was wrong. I like my veggie burger to taste like beans or veggies. Weird? Maybe. But we enjoy the different flavours. Before I go any further, let me do a bit of disclosure here: I was sent a Blendtec blender to try, but was not asked to blog this or paid in any way. I was not asked to blog a number of posts about the blender. I am doing so because I genuinely love the product. As in, love so much that if mine disappeared I'd save my cash to buy another. It really does the work of a blender and food processor in one.

When my Blendtec blender arrived and I leafed through the little cookbook that came with it, I was delighted to find a veggie burger recipe. We have  made it a few times and were really happy with it even though I offered my own tweaks and suggestions. The recipe is actually great for using up bits of veggies in your fridge and a tasty alternative to meat. They are definitely softer than your regular burger and tend to fall apart a bit, so you need to use a light hand. Sandwiched in ciabatta buns and topped with a good mayo, crispy lettuce, tomato and a good cheese, they make a wonderful dinner. I even top mine with bacon so they aren't a true veggie burger, but then again-I'm not vegetarian so does it matter?

vegburger2

Another great thing about these burgers is that  you can freeze them before you cook them. They'll hang out, as insurance for a day when you don't want to cook, and to fire those babies up all you do is thaw them a bit in your microwave and then toss them in a pan to cook.  With all the great healthy ingredients in them, you'll be able to have a burger and not feel like you are indulging too much. Well. Unless you really slather on the cheese and bacon, but who am I to judge?

Servings: four
Time to prepare: 20-30 minutes
Time to cook:  10 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped (you can use white but I like crimini because they are meatier and have less moisture)
1/2 cup roasted corn kernels (see note below)
1/4 cup sweet bell pepper, chopped finely
1/4 cup onion, chopped finely
1 cup fresh chopped spinach, lightly packed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/4 tsp paprika .. I like smoked but you can use plain
pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp rolled oats
2 tsp flax seeds (optional-I've left them out with no issues)
3/4 cup black beans
1/3 cup cooked brown rice
2 tbsp corn flour

Directions:

1. Roast your corn and get the rice going so that it's cooked when you need it. Get all your ingredients chopped and ready to go. I'm a bit nerdy about that, I even put them all in prep bowls.

veg burger ingredients


A thing of beauty, yes?

2. Saute up your onions in a frypan with a little oil until they are clear and cooked through. Add the mushrooms and pepper, sauteing gently until they are cooked through. Add the spinach at the end and stir around until it wilts. Stir in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, and paprika. Set it aside to cool slightly.

3. When you ingredients are all assembled and ready, get your blender/food processor ready to go. For the Blendtec, I use the twister jar. It's a smaller jar that is better for thicker mixtures. In goes the oatmeal and flax if you are using it, and I pulse it a few times to break it up and make it finer.

vegburgers blendtec

4. Add the beans and rice to your blender.  Pulse some more. You want it a chunky paste, not a totally smooth one. You may need to add a little water to moisten. Using a long spatula or wooden spoon, move the mixture around so that the stuff on the bottom that has become a paste is mixed with the bigger pieces.  Pulse a bit again, so that you have a chunky paste. Add the cooked veggies and roasted corn. Give it a good stir and pulse, then stir and pulse again.

5. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and give it a good stir. I have found that at this stage it's often pretty wet, so I stir in a few tbsp of corn flour to firm it up a bit. If it's not, don't bother. Divide the mixture into four balls and shape into patties.

vegburgers1

4. Fry up the patties in a non stick skillet with a little oil over medium heat. Be careful-they aren't substantial like a meat patty and will fall apart if you are too overzealous with them. Even when they are cooked, they are pretty soft and a bit squishy. We love to tuck them into good ciabatta buns, then then top with cheese, lettuce, tomato, and even bacon. Even the meat loving teen gets very excited about these burgers, which says a lot!

*roasted corn is awesome not just here but on it's own. You can use fresh by cutting it off the cob, but you can also use frozen if it's all you have. Thaw the corn and dry it well with paper towel. Toss the kernels with a bit of olive oil to coat. Spread onto a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, pepper and a bit of paprika, then roast in a pre-heated 375 F oven for 10 minutes. Stir often to prevent them from burning. Allow to cool before proceeding with recipe.

Adapted from Blendtec 


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies with Nordic Ware Products!

 I've never really liked peanut butter cookies. Their dry, crumbly texture has never been appealing to me and I hardly ever bake them-that is, until I discovered this recipe. Moist, chewy, and with a crunchy sugar coating, these cookies are absolutely delicious. You could skip rolling them in sugar and try drizzling or dipping them in chocolate, but whatever you do I'm sure you'll love these. We have a hard time not eating them all!

Next weekend I'm off to downtown Vancouver to the Food Bloggers of Canada Conference, and I'm so excited to be part of this awesome event! One of the sponsors is Nordic ware, who had sent me a bunch of really great stuff just in time for my day of cookie baking.

nordicware

In the box were prep bowls, cookie stamps, a cookie sheet, and super cool pinata cake pan that I can't wait to try out some day. It was so awesome that they arrived JUST before my planned baking day, which was super timing. I haven't bought a new cookie sheet in years, and as far as I'm concerned, you can never have too many, right?

I have baked cookies every week for about 20 years and from experience I've discovered that a good cookie sheet gives you evenly baked, tender cookies that come off the pan easily whereas an old, cheap cookie sheet can make your cookies stick and burn. My new cookie sheet from Nordic ware is amazing-the cookies came out absolutely perfect. This pan was amazing and I have now vowed to find another one to replace my older cookie sheets!

cookie stamps

Cookie stamps are a fun way to dress up your baking to make them look a little more interesting. I love these ones-metal with a wooden handle, they are far nicer to use than plastic ones- they are fun for making cookies for gifts, and with holidays coming they dress up your baking a little. Kids can help with them too, because stamping would be loads of fun! The prep bowls really come in handy too, whether you are baking or cooking. I like cracking my eggs into them.


prepbowls

Now, onto the cookies! These are by far the best peanut butter cookies I've ever made. I love how rolling them in sugar gives a little extra crunch on the outside, and the bonus is that they don't stick to the cookie stamps that way either. If you use cookie stamps it's a good idea to flour them a little first.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup each packed brown sugar and white sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (for a twist, try maple extract)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp each baking soda and baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 cup sugar in the raw for rolling, optional)

Directions: 

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter until smooth. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and beat well.

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture in two additions and beat on low until combined. Put the dough into an airtight container and chill for about 30 minutes. This makes it easier to handle.

cookie stamppeanut butter

3. Shape the dough by scooping it out into rounded tablespoons and rolling into balls. Roll the balls of dough in sugar if you want, and then place them about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet.You can either squash them with a cookie stamp or fork. If you choose not to roll them in sugar, make sure to flour the cookie stamp or fork so you don't have a problem with them sticking.

4. Bake one sheet at a time in the enter of a 350 F oven for 10-12 minutes.

peanutbutter cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies. You can store them in an airtight container for about 5 days or freeze them for about a month.

Adapted from Canadian Living Cooks

Disclosure: attendees of FBC 2014 were sent a package from Nordic Ware and blogging about the products entered you in a contest to win more products. I LOVE the items sent to me, will be seeking out another cookie sheet for Christmas! 
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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Win a Gift Basket From Real Women Of Philadelphia

As some of you know, I've been spending my time working with The Real Women of Philadelphia as an ambassador. I'm creating recipes using various flavours of cream cheese and writing for their site as well as creating recipes.

You may want to hop on over there and check out some of these oatmeal bacon waffles with cinnamon brown sugar cream cheese and sauteed apples.

bacon waffle

I'm just saying.

Kevin declared those waffles the best thing he's ever eaten and asked me to make them again, preferably as soon as humanly possible.

Part of working with Kraft means that I have some things to give away, and so you lovely people are going to have the chance to win a great gift basket of goodies to use in your kitchen. I'm quite sure that you should get the items that are pictured, which in my case would mean hiding those caramels to eat late at night, and using those Philly coupons for brown sugar cinnamon cream cheese so I could make these waffles. Or you could use that chocolate peanut butter, but it's up to you, really.


This giveaway will go until midnight on September 20, 2014. If you miss out, don't worry-I have three baskets to give away between now and December, so you'll have lots of chances!

This giveaway is only open to Canadians. Sorry, American friends. Good luck!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thai Steak and Noodle Salad

For years, summer was the same routine; I'd be off work and home with Kevin, where we'd spend lazy days doing everything from picking berries to picnicking at the beach, eating ice cream, and taking off for road trips.

Those days feel like a lifetime ago. Well-they are. We no longer live by the ocean. Kevin, once a small child, is now practically an adult and obviously has his own life, which doesn't include spending every second of his summer with his Mom. This summer, Kevin took off to a city 3 hours away to work and came home only every few weeks. To help us make it through the teacher's dispute here in BC, I found another job and spent my days working. John and I only had enough time to get away to Calgary for a short trip, and then day trips here and there on our motorcycle. We had a serious test of being empty nesters, and with that comes a huge change in the kitchen-mostly that we don't eat nearly as much as our almost adult son.

Cooking became a dance of what was in the fridge or could be made in ridiculously small amounts. The first few weeks, I had so much produce go bad that I stopped shopping weekly and only bought things if we really needed them. By the end of summer, I had cooking for only the two of us nailed, and then Kevin came home and it all changed up again.

Throughout those hot summer days, we ate a lot of salad. It was a perfect meal for two, and I could customize them to our individual tastes. This one became my hands down favourite; tender steak, noodles, a spicy peanut dressing, a tasty drizzle. At first glance there seems to be a lot of components and work, but the reality is it's very easy to put together. I still crave it now, even. I daresay that once you try it, you'll crave it too.


thai beef salad

 Serves 4

Ingredients: 

Steak and marinade:
1 1/2 lb sirloin steak
1/3 cup soy sauce (low sodium)
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp sambal oelek (chili paste)
1 bay leaf

Dressing:
 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sambal oelek
3 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp fresh lime juice 

Salad:
6 cups mixed greens
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 cups soba noodles or other thin Asian noodle
2 carrots, shredded
1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced thinly
1 avocado
4 tbsp chopped cashews

Drizzle topping:
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1/4 cup sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Directions

Start with the marinade by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and pouring over the steak in a glass dish. Cover and chill overnight. The marinade is very thick but don't worry.

When you are ready to start cooking, mix the dressing ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into a mason jar, put a lid on it and place in the fridge.

Grill the steak until medium rare. I don't have a grill so I cooked it under the broiler in my oven. Since the marinade is so thick it spits and makes a bit of a mess, and it isn't really a good idea to cook it in a fry pan on the stove. I found that the thick marinade then just burns on the pan.

Once the steak is cooked, remove from the grill or broiler and allow to cool to room temperature. When it has rested for about 10 minutes, slice thinly.

Just before serving, assemble the salads. Toss the greens and mint with some of the dressing until lightly coated and mound on plates. Top with about 1/4 cup of noodles, and then some of the steak, grated carrots, avocado, and sliced sugar snap peas. Lastly, sprinkle with cashews.

Whisk up the drizzle ingredients in a small bowl and spoon over top of the salads. You may not need it all, but put it on the table in case people want to add their own.

Adapted from Whitewater Cooks with Friends
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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival

I love cheese. If there is something competes with my love of chocolate or coffee, it would be cheese. Creamy brie, sharp cheddar, spicy pepper jack; I love them all! Well, good cheese. I've been known to call processed cheese 'plastic' and refuse to eat it.

Yesterday I ventured into Vancouver for lunch at Forage in the Listel Hotel on Robson Street, where I got to visit with the people from BC Dairy, sample some delicious cheeses and meet with other bloggers. We learned about how cheese is made and heard about the Canadian cheese rolling festival  that is going to be happening up at Whistler Blackcomb this Saturday August 16 from noon until 4 pm.

What's a cheese rolling festival, you ask? Well. Let me show you.


The Cheese Rolling Festival is an annual event in Whistler, hosted by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and great fun for the whole family. An 11 lb wheel of Courtenay Cheddar cheese from BC Cheesemaker Natural Pastures rolls down a hill and people chase it. The first to the bottom of the hill gets to keep the cheese, along with a Whistler season ski pass for two. It may not sound like a dangerous undertaking, but running full speed down a hill after a wheel of cheese requires some safety equipment like a helmet, and maybe some pads to protect your knees.

cheese
Courtenay Cheddar from Natural Pastures

Chasing cheese may sound a bit.. strange to some, but I had the chance to eat some Courtenay Cheddar, and trust me, it's delicious. Natural Pastures hails from Courtenay, BC and the interesting thing is I remember seeing their products years ago at the Comox Valley Farmers market when Kevin was just a little guy and we would check out the market for fun. It's so great to see how much they have grown over the years! The cheese is creamy and mild, perfect for snacking on with a good bread and sipping wine. We got to hold the 11 lb wheel of cheese that gets rolled down the hill and part of me wanted to slip it into my bag, whispering, "It's okay precious. I'll save you. No bumps and rolling through the grass and rocks for you, dear cheesy goodness."

I think that an 11 lb wheel of cheese may have been a bit much to haul on Skytrain back home.

dip

We tried a few different dishes; a cheddar, sundried tomato and artichoke dip that I could've eaten with a spoon  (and did) right there, a very tasty fennel, arugula, cheddar and pecan salad,  then some tasty little hazelnut and cheddar shortbreads. There were also kale chips with smoked paprika and cheddar, which surprised me-I've never been a fan of kale, but these were actually quite tasty. I may have to make some for snacks!  I'm thrilled that we were given the recipes because I can't wait to try them, especially the dip!

Enjoying the cheese market
 Wait, where was I? Oh yes. The festival. The Cheese Rolling Festival is loads of great fun for the family, with some races for small kids, lots of cheese tasting, a costume contest, activities for the kids, cheesemakers to talk to, and lots of cheese to buy. Best of all, it's free! We love taking a ride up to the village along the Sea to Sky highway and looking at the spectacular scenery. There's a lot to do in Whistler during the summer, and hotel rooms are pretty reasonable this time of year so you can even go and spend an evening with the family, take a wander around the village, and check things out.

You don't have to chase cheese to have fun, you can wander by and watch the action-from the looks of it, the races are very entertaining to watch-and if you're wearing a costume, there's some really fantastic prizes to be had! There's a little something for everyone at the Canadian cheese rolling festival-especially lots of really tasty Canadian cheese.

Can't go? Follow the action live on twitter with the hashtag #cdncheeserolling

You'll find more details about the event at the Canadian Cheese Rolling Festival website.

Love cheese? Follow @BCMilk and  @100CanadianMilk 







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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Eating my Words

I owe you all an apology. Seriously. If ever you have read my blog and thought I was out of touch with reality a bit (or even a lot), by making loads of from scratch meals every single night of the week and saying if you really wanted you could too (oh dear, I cringe at this), I'm so sorry.

Really sorry.

This summer I got a new job. It's something I haven't done for a very long time and required me to work all hours and so much harder physically than I ever have in a very long time. The only comparable thing would be when I was working in grade 8-10 PE classes and had to actually DO PE with the kids 4 hrs a day. I'm up at 4am, juggling changing shifts and trying to figure out how I'm going to do dinner when I'm either so tired I'd rather nap than eat, or I'm working through dinner.

I've eaten more cafe/restaurant/take out food than ever and my cooking has dwindled to salads, wraps, or just not at all. You could say that my family is ready for this; it's a great time for John and Kevin (now 18), to learn to fed for themselves more. Fortunately Kevin is away for the summer so I don't have to worry about feeding him so much, and John likes peanut butter sandwiches. I like to eat, though. I just need to make myself have the time to DO it. I'm starting to think I'm going to have to take a page from my friend Lexi's playbook, where she cooks all the things she needs on one day off and stashes them away.

When school eventually starts again in BC I'll be juggling two jobs, plus free lancing. I'm not going to lie-it's going to be a challenge, but I think I'm up to it. I've longed for something else to do, and I think moving forward with something different than I'm used to and working hard is really going to pay off in the long run. Now, if I can just juggle dinner? I'd be set.

I really don't know how you all do it. All you working Mamas with little ones, throwing in all those extra curricular activities and then crazy hours, trying to get dinner on the table. I am in awe of you.

Please accept my white flag flying and cries of, "UNCLE!" while I try to find some semblance of a routine and figure out how to do all of this, AND bring you some things I've discovered. Chasing Tomatoes is going to be a lot of quick, healthy food that I'm serving here at home with the occasional weekend meal you can take more time on. Or batch cooking.

Any tips? I really could use some.

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