Category Archives: local

rhubarb muffins

I love seasonal food that’s only really, truly fresh and local for a few weeks of the year. Probably something to do with the memories of picking and eating fresh-from-the-large-farm-garden we had growing up.

It’s rhubarb’s time. And I just made some whole wheat rhubarb streusel muffins, thanks to a Smitten Kitchen recipe. I used plain yogurt instead of sour cream, and added some ground flax seed to the streusel.

My new non-stick muffin tin is something I should have upgraded to years ago…glad I had it today.

I’ve tried streusel muffins before and the topping always falls off. Learned the trick is less batter and pat down the topping to stick onto the muffin as it rises in the oven.

Perfect recipe for a rainy weekend morning with a coffee and the crossword.

CJR

 

 

finding veggies again

Well, it’s not exactly warm spring weather yet, but seems like it’s time to start to find some vegetables and salads again. I don’t know about you, but winter left a few extra pounds hanging around, so I made my first chopped veggie salad of the season to lighten up.

I found a cool mix of grains and lentils from Floating Leaf food company in Manitoba. I cooked up a cup of them. Roasted some fresh local asparagus. Chopped up grape tomatoes, cucumber, green onion and some salami chunks.

Tossed it all with olive oil and lemon juice, salt/pepper and a mitt full of crumbled feta.

CJR

maple trees

Nature seems to know just what we need about the middle of February. A general grumpiness is evident in many people you meet and there’s really no point in talking about the cold, dark winter weather any longer.

And suddenly. Magically. The sun shines again, warming up the snow, awakening the mud and sap starts to flow through the veins of the sugar maple. Ahhh…maple syrup season is here.

It started this past weekend in my area. And as I stepped outside I could just imagine the smell of the steam billowing from the evaporator in our maple bush to signal the start of the short, sweet season of syrup.

In the heyday of our small hobby farm, we had 1,000 maple taps and a pioneering farm market retail business during the hectic six weeks that made up our every spring season. It was the best job I ever had – making pancakes, selling (and consuming equal amounts of) maple sugar, slathering homemade tea biscuits with maple butter, and bringing consumers to the farm to learn about how one of the best agricultural products I know of is made.

Our maple operation started small – and here I am (not yet enjoying my best job ever) selling coffee, syrup and maple sugar out of our drive shed. It got better and bigger from there…and I started to smile as I greeted customers!

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If you are looking for ideas on how to use maple syrup – check out these recipes from the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association.

CJR

 

clear-the-crisper summer salad

I can’t help myself when I stand in front of the vegetable stand at my local farmers’ market. There are so many delicious things in season that I want to buy one of each. The idea would then be to remember to eat them throughout the week, before the next Saturday comes.

Last week, I cleared out the crisper and made a fresh, colourful chopped salad. It’s an easy way to eat your veggies, use up what’s in the fridge (like our fridge frittata and empty-the-vegetable-drawer soup) and get ready for a new installment of what’s in season.

This version had chopped tomatoes, grated carrot, green onion, orange peppers, cucumber, fresh sweet corn, chopped parsley and feta. I didn’t make my sister’s salad dressing, but used the next best option – a local apple cider Dijon dressing from Fraberts Fresh Food.

There’s still lots of barbeque season left. Chop up whatever you have and dress it up with some feta or chopped olives for a great side salad. Add in some leftover grilled meat to make a second and third meal out of it.

CJR

farming the market

We grew up with a huge vegetable garden. As a kid, it was great to be able to walk out and steal a carrot or pick fresh beans or peas off the vine. I could have done without the weeding required when your farm garden is the size of an average urban house lot.

Now that I live in a city, I could join the growing popularity of urban gardeners and backyard chickens. But I’d much rather make the trek to the local farmers’ market and shop from the source, supporting those that make their livelihood on the land.

I love seasonal markets the most. It connects you to what’s in season and available – a great contrast from a big grocery store.

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This past weekend was about greens – baby kale, green onion, parsley and cucumbers. Plus mushrooms, fresh honey and locally-baked bread. Local strawberries and peas are ready…I just didn’t get up earlier enough to get them. Maybe next week.

This is a great time of year to look for a local market in your area.

CJR

 

gingered rhubarb jam

I used to grab the jar of brown sugar from the kitchen and sneak out into the rhubarb patch. Pulling up a ripe stalk, I’d lick the end of the rhubarb before dipping it into the vat of golden, crunchy sugar. Not the most clever way to eat rhubarb…but it was really just a vehicle for sugar.

I found a better way to eat rhubarb with fresh stalks from a friend’s garden. I made gingered rhubarb jam with honey. It turned out like a new take on marmalade.

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The recipe I used was from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard.

Here’s what you need:

I lemon, 2 cups chopped rhubarb, 1 large tart apple (cored, peeled and chopped), 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1 cup liquid honey, 1 1/2 tbsp. crystallized ginger (finely chopped)

Here’s how you make it:

  1. Remove the rind from the lemon with a peeler and cut into this strips. Place lemon rind in a medium stainless steel enamel saucepan. Squeeze in lemon juice (reserving 1 tbsp. for later).
  2. Add rhubarb, apple and water to saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, cover and reduce heat and boil gently for 15 minutes until fruit is tender.
  3. Add sugar, honey, ginger and reserved lemon juice. Return to boil, then boil rapidly uncovered until mixture forms a gel – about 8 minutes – stirring frequently. Remove from heat.
  4. Ladle into hot jars (I used 125 mL canning jars – they make a nice sampling size). Process for 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Makes 3 1/4 cups.

If you need to know more about canning, check out this site from Bernardin.

The recipe works with fresh or frozen rhubarb. I made the first batch with fresh rhubarb. And I have more that’s washed and chopped and waiting in the freezer to make more of this first canning success of the 2016 growing season.

CJR

local asparagus lasagna

When the first crop of asparagus arrives in May, I used to always splash some olive oil on and grill it. Now I’ve got an even better way to eat the tasty spears.

This asparagus lasagna, with a cream sauce full of goat cheese, is amazing. You could add layers of other veggies if you want – or just enjoy the creamy asparagus and pasta goodness.

Wash asparagus, snap off the tough ends, cut off the tips (set aside), and cut the rest in 1-1.5 inch lengths. Toss it with some olive oil and salt and roast in a 475F oven until tender. Set aside. I only use one bunch, but it could definitely use two.

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In a large pot, melt 1/2 cup butter. Whisk in 1/2 cup flour, and simmer, stirring constantly for 3-5 minutes. Whisk in 4 cups vegetable stock and simmer until thickened.

Stir in 3/4 lb. (340 g) chevre (I used plain and an herb chevre) and zest from half a lemon. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble lasagna in a 9 x 13 pan: 1/3 sauce, layer of pasta, 1/2 the asparagus, 1/3 sauce, layer of pasta, rest of asparagus. Top with layer of pasta, remaining sauce, asparagus tips and 1/4 cup parmesan.

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Bake uncovered at 375F for 40 minutes or so until top is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling.

CJR

This recipe is “What’s Cookin’s Famous Asparagus Lasagna” by Jo Fillery, as it appeared in In The Hills, May 16, 2012.