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Monday, July 28, 2014

Lime Chili Corn

Out in Chilliwack, the fields are full of corn all in various stages of growth. Some are short, some look ready to harvest, but regardless-as a local, you get used to watching the fields being sown and later on, the little corn shacks popping up all over town as the farms sell off bags and bags of the sweet stuff.

Even before we lived here, we knew the corn grown in the Fraser Valley was the best.

Maan Farms had a special on corn that was unheard of in these parts-$5/dozen, so John and took a drive to Abbotsford for some and brought home 24 cobs to share with friends and our neighbor. Corn for everyone! What can I say? We know a good deal when we see it.

With some baked beans in the fridge ready to be warmed up for supper, chili lime corn seemed to be just the thing to serve alongside. The best part is, you can just toss the corn (husks and all) into the oven to roast alongside whatever else you have going. It's perfect. This recipe isn't really a recipe-more like a guideline to making some really tasty topped corn for yourself! Basically just slather it all with melted butter, then shower it with toppings and serve.

Or you can just tackle one like I did, cave-woman style, right over my kitchen sink.

Ingredients:

1 lime, zested
2 tbsp (more or less) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
fresh cracked pepper
1 tbsp salted butter
1/2 tsp chili powder
6 cobs of corn

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F. Toss the corn, still in the husks, into the oven and let it roast for about 30-35 minutes, until tender.

roasted corn

Remove the corn from the oven and allow it cool enough so you can handle it. Strip the husks off, and then brush them all over with melted butter. Place the buttered corn on a platter and shower with pepper, chili powder, lime zest, Parmesan cheese, and then cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice over top. Make sure to get some of each of the toppings on each cob of corn.

lime chili corn

Serve immediately!
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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Raspberry Picking at Maan Farms

The very first piece I ever wrote and sent to in to a national magazine was after Kevin and I spent a day on the beach near Campbell River, BC. Walking along the sea wall, we found a huge blackberry bush and picked the juicy, sweet fruit until our fingers were purple-his more because he ate the berries instead of placing them in the bucket. It was a bittersweet moment that day, mostly because we had become serious about moving to California and were putting gears in motion. I went home and wrote about the sea, my blonde haired little boy, and how picking blackberries was something we loved. That piece was just the beginning of my journey into blogging when it was published.

Life sure had other plans in store for us; not only did we never make it to California, but we were to move three more times until finally settling here in Chilliwack, where we never plan to leave. Kevin will legally be an adult in less than 6 months and is working in a city about three hours away. He comes home on the weekends, ready to do laundry, sleep in and be fed by his Mama-who now that she has no growing boy to cook for, rarely cooks in the giant batches that I did only 2 short years ago. Remember when I'd make huge batches of soup, biscuits, cookies, and other things all at once on a Saturday? That kind of cooking is a distant memory, now.  These days it's all salads and downsized portions for only one or two, with little baking since nobody else eats it and my waistline doesn't need a bunch of cookies on a daily basis. Some days, I feel at loose ends with nobody to feed and at first it took some major adjustments. I was constantly having to re-calibrate how much to cook until now, I think I have the amounts down to where I don't need to invite half the neighborhood over for dinner.

Last weekend when Kevin came home, we went berry picking out at Maan Farms. Located in Abbotsford on Vye road, we had driven by Maan farms many times with the intention to eventually stop. I had followed Maan Farms for some time on Facebook, and had read about the fantastic cafe, winery, berries, and more. We were ready to go for lunch, pick up some wine, and browse the market.

Until the place burned down only days before we had planned to go.

firefire damage

Undeterred, Maan Farms continues to sell berries and other produce from a stand in their parking lot, also offering u-pick berries-and in the spirit of supporting a local family, Kevin and I waited for the rain clouds to clear one morning and arrived at the farm, ready to pick just like the old days. We wandered up and down long rows of berries, searching for the ripe ones, and re-living the days of when we fended off wasps, spiders, and long thorns when he was a small child.

When he was around 6, he'd sit in the middle of the blackberry patch while I picked, petting and talking to Marmalade, an orange tabby cat who would come and visit us. His face and clothes would be purple from eating as many berries as his tummy would hold, the cat purring and rubbing against his knees.

This time we talked and picked, catching up on his time away, his new job, what life is like for my almost adult son. We talked about hopes and dreams-his and mine, and before you know it, the box was full.
raspberry picking

This time, he didn't eat any. Okay he may have eaten a few, but they were the ones that we so ripe that they fell apart in his hand the second he touched them.

raspberries

"Mom, you know what's cool? It doesn't look like there's any berries here, but if you sit on the ground and just look up, there's tons. Seriously. Just look up." There they were, fat and juicy, just hiding behind the leaves out of sight-some as big as strawberries.

picking

Maan farms is open every day, selling U-Pick berries, already picked berries, and other farm produce such as corn, zucchini, and beans in their parking lot. Drop by and pick up a bit to support the family as they rebuild. Our raspberries were SO delicious-we've been eating them by the handful, on ice cream, in smoothies, and I've tucked most of them in the freezer for another day to make into pies or jam later. Blueberries are also available!

If you go, wear old shoes and clothes, you'll get a bit dirty and likely get berry juice on yourself. A water bottle and hat is helpful, as it gets very warm in the fields. Kids under 5 are subject to a $2 admission fee, likely because they will eat more than they will pick. Containers are available for $1 each, but you can also bring your own.  They accept debit and there's plenty of parking. Also, there's a Starbucks not far from the farm if after picking you need a cold drink to refresh yourself again. I'm not really sure about bathrooms; there was an outhouse when we went, but it's probably best to go before you hit the fields.

Above all, enjoy. Berry picking is a great way to hang out with your kids and teach them about where food comes from, and support a local family at the same time. If you can't find anything that looks good in your day, just remember what Kevin said about the berries-occasionally, the good stuff is hiding. All you have got to do is look up.


Follow Maan Farms on Facebook for updates

Follow Maan Farms on Twitter

Disclosure: This post is not sponsored. In fact, the folks at Maan Farms don't even know I have written it, as I put this together. I firmly believe that it's even more important to support local businesses when they suffer a loss such as this one has, and wish them well. We'll continue to visit the farm throughout the summer, and look forward to hopefully sharing better news as they rebuild!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Spiced Beer Can Chicken


Sometimes I think I'm the only person in the world who doesn't have a BBQ. This always posed a challenge when I wanted to make something like beer can chicken-and besides, trying to balance a chicken on a can just seemed like a bad idea.

A few months ago, I was invited to the premiere of the Chicken Squad trailer and was gifted a Master Chef beer chicken roaster, which makes the process so much easier (and safer!) to do. Well then. I can't NOT make beer can chicken, right? Fortunately it's pretty easy to make in your oven as well-and with a stand, also very safe. What makes the roaster thing so cool is that you can then make this kind of chicken year round and knowing our family, well... we eat a lot of BC Chicken.

I consulted my friend Cocktail Deeva about what kind of beer to use, and she suggested "something with a kick", so I picked up a can of Krombacher. Once I got cooking, I noticed that the can was far too large so we found an empty Lonetree cider can, filled it with the appropriate amount of beer, and proceeded with the recipe. The chicken did get some of the beer flavour in it, but it wasn't an overwhelming amount. Mostly the meat was just very, very tender.

Some time later I made the chicken again, but this time used Lonetree Cider because honestly, I'd so much rather drink the remaining cider than beer. Lonetree is my favourite! You could not taste any alcohol, but there was a slight flavour of the cider and the chicken was moist and delicious. This is a fun recipe to make, fairly easy, and elicits a happy dance from my family! I found this recipe on Food Network Canada and reduced the amount of bacon, mostly because I didn't want to waste it. The bacon cooked on top of the chicken is delectable in potatoes if you can resist just standing there in the kitchen and eating it by the handful.

Ingredients:

one 3 lb chicken
one 12 ounce can of beer or Lonetree apple cider ( I prefer Lonetree cider, since it's a great summer drink. The original is the one I used)
6 slices bacon
2 cloves garlic

Spice Rub:

1 tsp oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp sage
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 450F. Cover a rimmed baking tray with foil and set a beer can chicken stand in the middle. Set aside. 

spicesgarlic

In a small bowl, stir together the spice rub ingredients until well mixed. Set aside. Pat the chicken down with paper towels all over so that the spices will coat the skin but not turn all wet from moister and stick to your hands..  Sprinkle the spice mixture all over the chicken, rubbing it into the skin. You can even loosen a bit of the skin on the breasts and spoon a bit of the spice mix inside so that it gets on the meat.

spiced chicken

Pour out about 1/2 cup of the beer. Crush and peel the garlic cloves, then stick them in the beer can. Some people have expressed discomfort with making beer can chicken, citing that the cans are likely not food safe on the outside, and the ink in contact with meat may not be a good idea. To counter this, I cover my can with foil and punch out the hole in the top.

beer canbeer can contraption

Place your can of beer or cider in your stand and then gently fit the spice rubbed chicken over top. I highly recommend purchasing a beer can chicken roaster, because it makes the chicken far more stable and easier to handle without the worry that the whole thing will tip. This is especially important when the chicken is finished cooking and you are trying to remove it from the oven when it's hot and has grease drippings in it.

cide can chicken

Lay the bacon over the top of the chicken-my friend Jackie called this a "bacon comb over", Donald Trump style! Somehow I think this is the only acceptable kind of comb over (plus it's pretty darn tasty) Secure the bacon with toothpicks so that it doesn't curl up on the chicken while it bakes.

bacon comb over

Place the whole thing in the bottom rack of your oven and bake for 15 minutes before turning the heat down to 350 F. and cooking for about another hour or so longer. You'll know the chicken is done when you insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast reads 185 F.

Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes. You can lift the bacon off and set it aside. I have found the best way to get the chicken off the rack and the beer can is to first. carve off the wings and set them aside on a platter. Next, carve off the legs. Once you have removed them it's easier to just grip the rest of the carcass with tongs and lift it right off the rack onto a cutting board. Carve the breast and place the pieces on a platter with the legs and wings. I like to also cut the bacon into bite sized pieces and add them on the platter to the chicken. If you want, if you are making potatoes as a side dish (mashed or boiled), you can chop up the bacon and toss it in there instead.

cooked chicken

My family loved this chicken. It was great the first day, but leftovers were fantastic tossed into salad or made into sandwiches as well. I don't usually like chicken skin but the spice rub was so good that even I was ripping off pieces of skin and nibbling on them! This goes really well with roasted or mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and a green salad.

Or, you could be like me and just stand in your kitchen, fork in hand, shoving warm chicken in your mouth-it's that tasty!

finished chicken

Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are!

 Adapted from Food Network

Disclosure: This post wasn't sponsored by anyone-I did receive a chicken roaster from BC Chicken Farmers some time ago for a different promotion, but wasn't asked to write about it.
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Low Sugar Rhubarb Cherry Jam

It's been awhile since I wrote last. No reason, really; I'm still cooking a lot, but somehow none of it made it here. Honestly, I'm not really sure why. Let's fix that shall we?

Some time ago, my friend Alexis began posting about Pomona's pectin. I had trekked out to Alexis's house last year to teach her how to make jam and while it was gloriously fun, Alexis pointed out how much sugar my typical recipe had and that she strived to make one less sugary. Time passed, and then she found Pomona's Universal Pectin.

pectin

Pomona's is a citrus pectin which allows you to make jam and jellies with only a fraction of the amount of sugar that you would have to use with other leading pectins. With a husband who is very conscious about his sugar intake, I thought I would give this product a test drive and see how things turn out.

With memories of that really tasty rhubarb cherry crumble, I wanted to use up the rest of the rhubarb in my freezer by turning it into a jam. Superstore has some really great frozen cherries which I picked up, and I found a really amazing recipe that I just had to try. After being a jam maker for years, I found that the end result is really delicious-like pureed fruit on your toast rather than a sugary syrupy version, but for what you gain in flavour you do lose a little in texture. The jam made with Pomona's is more jello-like than a soft set, but I don't mind. The flavour is really all I cared about.

First of all, before you start this recipe you need to make calcium water with powder in a small packet and water. Shake it up in a Mason jar and store in the fridge.

calcium water



Ingredients:

2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp Pomona's Universal Pectin
6 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups fresh or frozen pitted cherries, thawed
zest and juice from one lemon
4 tsp calcium water
2 tbsp Grand Marnier

Directions:

Prepare your kitchen for canning; this means getting the water bath canner going so it's good and hot. Sterilize your mason jars and have all your equipment ready to start canning. (see how to do that here)

Combine the rhubarb and vanilla bean together with 1/2 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it bubble away until the rhubarb has started to break down. This should take about 10 minutes or so. Let it cool a bit and set aside. You should have 3 cups.

In a food processor or blender, puree the cherries. If they are fresh you need to pit them first-you can use a cherry pitter (use it over the sink or outside), or here's some other interesting methods! In the end you should have 1 cup of cherries.

Whisk the sugar and pectin together in a bowl. Set aside.

Fish the vanilla bean out of the rhubarb. Measure out three cups of the rhubarb and one cup of the cherries, and mix them together in a bowl. Pour them both back into a saucepan and stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and calcium water. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Once it's boiling, add the sugar and pectin. Bring it back to a boil while constantly stirring and let it boil hard for 1 minute.

Take the jam off the heat and add the Grand Marnier. Ladle the hot jam into hot, sterilized jars and top with lids (remember to have the snap tops warmed up and everything). Process in your boiling water canner for about 10 minutes.

Makes about five 250 ml jars of jam, possibly with a bit left over to enjoy right away.

jammy bun

Adapted from Serious Eats







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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Blendtec Blender Cookies

cookie

I never, every thought that you could make cookies in a blender. The very idea goes against everything that I've ever known about baking, along with idea of making brownies in it. So weird, but at the same time, it works, right?

These cookies are a little healthier than what I usually make, with the addition of whole oats, flax, and whole wheat flour. It does make for a cookie that is a little drier, maybe a bit more crumbly. The original recipe calls for white whole wheat flour, which I've never found at the store here, so I substituted half whole wheat and half unbleached white. You can experiment with it a little more if you like, or if you can find the white whole wheat, use that. Normally, I almost never would recommend that you reduce to the chocolate chips but in this recipe, I will. The batter just couldn't hold that amount of chocolate and I had about 1/4 cup of chips left over.

These are really fantastic cookies though, and just the right size for a lunchbox. We really enjoyed them and the best part is that it freed up my mixer for other pursuits!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp flaxseeds
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Blending oats for cookies

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350 F.

First, blend together the oats and flax at speed 3 for about 25 seconds. The oats will become pulverized into a flour-like mixture. The flax will mostly stay whole, which adds a little texture to the finished cookie. Give the mixture a stir and then add flours, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Pulse it a couple times to whiz it up a little.

Dump the works out into a large mixing bowl.

blender cookies

Put the jar back on the base and add the oil, softened butter, egg, sugars, and vanilla. Put on the lid and select "batters". Now, what I find confusing is that my machine doesn't have a batters function, but if you look in the manual it will tell you approximately what speed and for how many seconds each blend cycle is, so you can try to replicate it. I have done that with success. I basically just use the pulse function to do that. If you don't have a Blendtec and want to try this, I'd say that you need to blend it until everything is well incorporated, especially the butter.

dough

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix with a wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips and stir well.

Spoon out by tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake for about 8-10 minutes until set, and then transfer to a rack to cool. The cookies can last for about 3 days in an airtight container on your counter, or you can freeze them.

Makes about 1 1/2 dozen cookies

 Disclosure: I was very generously sent a Blendtec Blender to review. I was not compensated in any other way to post. This recipe is adapted from the book that came with my blender.


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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rhubarb Cherry Crumble

cherry rhubarb crisp

Fruit crisp? Crumble? We use the names interchangeably in our house for a warm baked fruit dessert topped with an oatmeal, flour, sugar and butter mixture. The fruit combinations are endless! Rhubarb has not always been my favorite fruit, but paired with cherries, it goes from ho-hum to downright amazing. I could eat this for breakfast, but for dessert with a scoop of ice cream it's absolutely heavenly.

Frozen cherries are great when fresh aren't available in store or when the prices are higher, and you don't feel like pitting them. I also used frozen rhubarb, but you could likely use fresh fruit and it would be just as good. Make sure you pit them, but do it in a sink or the cherry juice splatter may make your kitchen look like a murder scene!

What's your favorite kind of fruit crisp? And do you call it crisp or crumble?

 Filling:

2 cups frozen pitted cherries (you can find these at Superstore, President's Choice brand)
3 cups fresh or frozen chopped rhubarb
1/3 cup sugar (you can reduce it if you wish, but found this much good-it's still a bit tart and not overly sweet)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)

Topping:

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, toss together the cherries, rhubarb, sugar, and cornstarch. Put into an 8x8 pyrex glass pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Melt the butter in the microwave and stir into the flour mixture.

Sprinkle the oat mixture over the fruit. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and the fruit is soft.

Let sit for about 20 minutes to cool, then serve with ice cream.

Serves four




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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Scrumptious Smoothies and a Blendtec Review

I've always liked smoothies, and when the weather gets warm I often forgo my usual lunch fare and begin blending up all kinds of smoothie combinations. Smoothies are great; they're portable, I can drink them on the go, the cold drink is perfect in the summer when it's often too hot to eat much, and when fruit is in season it is a great way to take advantage.

The arrival of the Blendtec to my kitchen just sped up the process. This is one incredible machine, let me tell you. When I plugged it in and screen lit up, I may have squealed.

will it blend
Yes, I've used it a lot. It keeps track of your blends!

Smoothies have become an every day event in my house, now. I make myself one to take to work, and then Kevin wakes up and drinks the other half for breakfast. If I forget to make one or choose not to, he now slyly asks me to make him one after dinner.

I think smoothies are pretty personal; a little bit chunky or super smooth, a bit sweet or even green with spinach in it, what your favourite smoothie is depends on you. I've learned a few things in my own smoothie experimenting over the past few weeks.

1. I love berry smoothies. Blueberries, especially. Cherries, even more so.  The Blendtec also whips those babies up so much that I don't have any bits of blueberry or strawberry seeds left to get caught in my teeth, which is a bonus. With strawberry season starting up here, I plan to get a big flat at the store to slice and freeze. Most fruit, in fact, can be processed and put in the freezer when I find it on sale (bananas, mango, pineapple, various berries). It's a real bonus when you have a lot of fruit that you can't use up too quickly. To make my mornings quick I peel and chop the fruit the night before a put it in the freezer, all ready to go into the blender when I'm in a hurry!

Frozen cherries were hard to find, but I finally scored some at Superstore in Chilliwack. I found the smoothie quite thick so the next time added some apple juice and a few strawberries to make the cherries stretch a little further.

cherry smoothieCherry Banana Smoothie

2. Adding spinach to a smoothie makes it REALLY green. I'll be honest, I'm not really a fan of the spinach in my smoothie thing. Sure, it's good for you, but the last one I did with banana turned this awful shade of nearly black as it sat and my co-workers were completely grossed out. There's a bit of a grassy flavour I'm not crazy about, either. I think I'll take my spinach in my salad.

3. The Blendtec is a bit loud-in fact, enough that it wakes my 18 year old up, which is a feat in itself. I admit, it's so powerful that at first we were slightly frightened of it. Nobody in the house will touch it-they figure that I'm the one who has tamed the machine and so they ask me to be the one to whip up their treats. Which is fine with me really, I just find it amusing.

Besides, I tend to be territorial over appliances that I love.
logo

4. Leftover yogurt or coconut milk that may go bad before you can use it really freezes well in an ice cube tray. I thaw the cubes a little before throwing them in the blender, and they whiz up really nicely.

5. There is somewhat of a learning curve to the Blendtec. Nothing too hard mind you, but I think it's worth going through the manual and  reading about all the different cycles, what each button means, etc. I did find the books didn't quite match the blender I have, and some of the cycles that were listed aren't a selection on my model. It can be a little confusing that way. I'm still figuring it out.

6. You need to be adventurous and let go of how you usually do things. For me, a blender has only been used for...blending. Baby food, pureeing soups, smoothies... that's about all I ever made in it. Using a blender to make brownies has gone against every fibre of my being, because my brain screams,

"NOOOO! You do NOT make brownies in a BLENDER!"

But the truth? Best brownies ever. Itty bitty bits of chocolate all through them made them amazing. My next experiment? Bread. It's mind blowing, really. I've never thought you could do bread in a blender. That just sounds wrong-but you can, and I'm going to try it. Plus cleaning is a snap. Speaking of cleaning....

7. The Blendtec is the easiest appliance ever to clean. My old blender had to be taken apart into 6 pieces, each washed separately, then dried and put back together or at least in proximity to each other so I wouldn't lose a piece and be searching for it the next time I wanted to use the blender. I hated washing that thing. The jar was heavy glass and cumbersome. The blades were sharp, and the plastic ring had cracked more than once.



A Blendtec has three parts. You put a drop of dish soap and about 1 1/2 cups warm water in the jar, pop on the lid, sit it on the base, and hit the self clean cycle. then you just rinse it out. Done!
Self cleaning
Wheee! The self clean cycle is awesome.

My family still gathers around to watch the self clean cycle because we're all so easily amused.

self clean2

"It sounds like it's going to take off," John comments. I lovingly rinse out the jar, dry it, and gently set it back on the stand. It's pretty clear that this appliance holds a special spot in the kitchen which in the past has been usually reserved for my stand mixer but now the blender right up there with it. This isn't just a blender. It's a super cool appliance.

The verdict:

Do I recommend the Blendtec blender? Yes. Oh, yes. If you can get one, by all means, I highly recommend it. In fact, I'd say that instead of getting a food processor and blender for your kitchen, just get a Blendtec and you'll be good. So far I've used it every single day.

If you are a moderate to obsessive cook and you cook from scratch a lot, I highly recommend the Blendtec. It will make your life easier. If you don't cook at all, a high end blender may be a bit much for you, but I think if you were interested in trying it and could possibly see yourself getting into cooking in the future, then go for it.

There's more to come than a review, of course. I've tried cookies, brownies, crepes, I want to try bread.... bread in a blender, you say? How does THAT work?

I'm going to show you.

Disclosure: I was very generously sent a Blendtec Designer series blender to try. I was not compensated otherwise to post. My opinions are entirely my own. (as are my smoothies, but if you ask nicely I may share)


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