Friday, October 28, 2011

c'est l'halloween

happy halloween! today i am stressed mostly about my costume & what to have for the trick-or-treaters and not so stressed about being ready for the market this weekend... it's a bit odd ready.

yesterday, i had the volunteer kitchen brigade show up (thank you, thank you, thank you!). who needs candy when you have free labour? anyway i am way ahead of the game & we accomplished so much. 35 lobster mac & cheeses, 180 salt cod fish cakes, a vat of miso mushroom soup, quinoa salad, wild rice salad & a brownie... oh and the dishes, miracle of all miracles!

this batch of lobster (from the fish shop) mac & cheese is like the original, so no broccoli, but lots of leeks & roasted cherry tomatoes, foxhill curds & parmesan bechamel with a panko crust.
large $25 small $12.50

the fish cakes are the usual: salt cod, potatoes, onions, celery, savoury, green onions & lemon. the salt cod comes from the newfoundland store. i love that place - lots of weird things to explore & the friendliest people around.
fishcakes & baked beans (serves 2) $15

the miso mushroom soup is a brand new concoction. i love miso! i hate mushrooms but i actually like this soup... i made a mushroom stock with lots of dried mushrooms & ginger, then added sesame, chinese 5-spice, udon noodles, shittakes, oyster mushrooms, creminis, cilantro, lime, siracha (not a lot) and bok choy.

the other soups i have at the moment are:
seafood chowder
beef stew
thai chicken & rice
cream of cauliflower
potato, leek, celery root & parsnip
beet, parsnip & pear
pumpkin, ginger & cardamom
bean, lentil & veggie
baked beans
vegan chili

i think next week will see the return of both the curried butternut squash and the roasted red pepper, tomato & sweet potato.

the quinoa & wild rice salads are the ones i have been rolling with lately - i just substituted roasted sweet potatoes for roasted pumpkin in the wild rice one.

so as far as halloween goes, it will be noticeable in the cupcakes, cookies, brownies & cheesecakes. the red velvets will be getting a bit of a makeover... and i got some fancy new cupcake liners, sprinkles & candies. it should be a fun day of baking!

i think the trick-or-treaters in my neighbourhood (village) will get some super tricked out cupcakes as well - complete with business cards so the parents know it's legit.

ok to the kitchen i go... i need to finish early so i can decorate my little corner at the market & finish carving my pumpkin... it's a liger!

Friday, October 21, 2011

pumpkin fest

this sunday, october 23rd, there will be a pumpkin festival at the seaport market. pumpkin cooking demos, a giant pumpkin, pumpkin carving contest & an after-hours pumpkin walk... lots o' family fun. to get in the swing of things, i cooked up some pumpkin stuff yesterday & will bake up some pumpkin stuff today.

i was a little apprehensive to deal with them, i'm used to simply splitting them, removing the seeds, roasting them with pumpkin pie spices & pureeing them for desserts - or carving them for halloween. but instead i treated them like i would a butternut squash & it was surprisingly easy.

first off, i peeled them...

then, diced...

then roasted...

these ones were destined for a wild rice salad. it also has pumpkin seeds, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, red onion, sage & a maple vinaigrette.

there is also a pumpkin-centric vegan main course. this one has sort of a moroccan flare. i roasted the pumpkin with cumin & sumac.

then added it to a rich stew of onions, garlic, ginger, harissa, dates, lemon, cauliflower & cilantro and is served with toasted almond quinoa. large $15 small $7.5

i also have a pumpkin, ginger & cardamom soup in the freezer.

on today's prep list: mini pumpkin-maple cheesecakes, pumpkin tarts & pumpkin spice cupcakes. 

and to complete to whole pumpkin theme...

a new orange outfit! and sara of vintage pink treasures is making me a new orange necklace... i may have gotten a little carried away...

but don't worry, there are all of the usual treats as well. yesterday saw the largest batch of shepherd's pie i have ever endeavoured to make.

15 larges & 20 smalls - no gonna lie, it was quite the upper body workout! large $18 small $9

there's also a quinoa salad with kalamata olives, artichokes, tomatoes, cucumbers, roasted peppers, basil, oregano & arugula.

and lots of frozen goodies as well:

salt cod fish cakes & baked beans
mac & cheese - broccoli or plain
braised chicken in ratatouille with parmesan polenta
sausage & cheese curd penne with kale
chicken leek & broccoli pie (just smalls left)
braised pork & sweet potato pie
creamy british fish pie

& soups:

cream of cauliflower
vegan vegetable stew
bean, lenti & veggie
potato, leek, celery root & parsnip
beet, parsnip & pear
curried butternut squash
cream of broccoli (1 left)
vegan chili
baked beans
seafood chowder
beef stew
thai chicken & rice

okee dokee better get to work. see you this weekend & make sure to check out the pumpkin festival on sunday - lots of other vendors will have pumpkin themed goodies as well!

Friday, October 14, 2011

comfort food

i'm still in a thanksgiving frame of mind. i'm thankful that i have an epic view, that halifax pop explosion starts next week, that my grandma knits me flip flop socks & that i can make yummy, tummy warming dishes on dreary fall days like this.

this week i made up some new concoctions - all in the style of a shepherd's pie.

this first is a turkey & dressing pie. i braised the dark meat in an herby gravy with lots of onions, celery & cranberries, and then topped it with a savoury potato/bread dressing. it's like a turkey dinner flipped on its head. small $10 large $20

next up is a braised pork & sweet potato pie. my grandma makes the best baked ham of all time & i always eat it loaded up with homemade mustard pickles. so i combined all those flavours in one. i braised a getaway farm pork shoulder in boates apple cider, maple syrup, and cider vinegar. then combined it with caramelized onions, whole grain mustard & dried cranberries. this mixture got a topping of maple-pecan mashed sweet potatoes. small $10 large $20

and of course, i made a traditional shepherd's pie as well - getaway beef, peas, corn, tangy gravy & cheddar/green onion mash. small $9 large $18

also from the freezer i have:
plain or broccoli mac & cheese
southwest chicken dinners
creamy british fish pies
sausage & cheese curd baked penne
fish cakes & baked beans
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies
braised chicken in ratatouille with parmesan polenta

there are two fresh salads for the week - both $5 each, both vegan, both gluten free. the first is quinoa with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, olives, artichokes, roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, lemon, garlic & tangy oregano dressing. the second is wild rice with roasted butternut squash, red onion, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, toasted pecans & a maple dressing.

i also may have gotten a little carried away on the soup front.

this is a fresh batch of beet, parsnip, carrot & pear (vegan) - it's extra disco this week!
there's also cream of cauliflower; potato, leek, celery root & parsnip; and pumpkin, squash, apple & sweet potato (vegan).

there's lots more flavours too - i'll have them all posted on the front of my freezer door this weekend.

better start baking & making hors d'oeuvres for a couple weekend caterings...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

post turkey detox

after a weekend of turkey, gravy & mashed potatoes.... stuffing, glazed ham, sweet potato casserole, baked turnips, pumpkin pie, whipped cream.... it's sorta nice to detox a little, and nothing says detox like a big pot of cabbage soup.

it's a little odd for me to eat something so healthy, but last night i went for it. especially with a chill in the night air, it's nice to snuggle up on the sofa with a steaming bowl of soup.

when i cook for myself, i put in as little effort as possible. for this i just chucked a bunch of veggies into a pot, covered them with tomato juice & water, added some seasoning, simmered til tender & it was ready in time for dancing with the stars (guilty pleasure).

this batch started off with a classic mirepoix - onions, carrots, celery - then i added the cabbage, bell peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, corn & herbs from the garden. so simple, so delicious, so completely fat free.

the main thing though is to seek out low sodium tomato juice. canned tomato products are a sneaky source of salt. i would much rather adjust the seasoning myself - so make sure to read the labels - with everything for that matter. 

ok, time to get in the kitchen. today will be a day of variations of shepherd's pie: turkey & stuffing pie, braised pork & sweet potato pie, perhaps a vegan concoction and a few different root vegetable soups.

Friday, October 7, 2011

a veritable cornupcopia

yesterday i made enough thanksgiving dinner to feed a small army... i may have gotten a little carried away.

this is what my prep table looked like in the morning - but by the end of the day it was all cooked up & packaged away. plus, i brined & roasted two turkeys!

here's what my 'build-your-own' thanksgiving feast will look like for the weekend (each item is large enough to serve 2 people):

brined & herb roasted turkey with caramelized onion gravy $10
sweet potato casserole with pecan crust $7.5
leek, pear & cranberry dressing with homemade bread $7.5
white root vegetable puree - potatoes, parsnips, celery root $7.5
cauliflower gratin with foxhill cheese & panko crust $7.5
herb roasted beets, brussel sprouts, carrots, white turnips $5
wild rice salad with butternut squash, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts $5

yesterday i also roasted organic pumpkins from selwood green which will be turned into full sized pumpkin pies today, they will be $15 each. i'm not going to make a ton of them so let me know if you'd like one reserved.

i'm also now the proud owner of a new upright freezer that went into the market yesterday. it has double the capacity of the one i had been using, so i'll be able to have more soups on hand & hopefully not run out of certain flavours by the end of the day. this week's flavours are:
seafood chowder
beef stew
baked beans
thai chicken & rice
cream of broccoli
roasted red pepper, tomato & sweet potato
lentil, bean & veggie
curried butternut squash
vegan chili
vegan stew

i also have lots of chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies, fish cakes & beans, braised chicken in ratatouille, creamy british fish pies, curried chicken & chickpeas, and broccoli mac & cheese. yesterday i also made a special batch of plain mac & cheese (no vegetables) by special request from a little boy. so if you're broccoli averse, i have a few extras of those as well.

ok time to get in the kitchen - playing around with some festive cupcake flavours this morning...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

beef stew

if you live in the maritimes, i'm sure you've noticed that it's raining... like a lot! the house is shaking, the water is sloshing in the toilet & i may start my first fire of the season in the wood stove. 

this sort of icky, nasty, dreary weather makes me want to stay inside & cook some serious comfort food. a hearty beef stew is one of my absolute favourite things to cook. loaded up with root veggies, homemade stock & local beef, it's stick to your ribs goodness that helps make this weather seem a little more palatable.

there is something so therapeutic about cooking such a classic dish, browning the beef, simmering the veggies, taking the time to build the layers of flavour & perfuming the house all the while.

here's a pretty rustic recipe (and by 'rustic recipe', i actually mean just a list of ingredients...) that you can adjust to suit yours & your family's tastes.

beef stew:
 cross rib roast
vegetable oil
beef broth
worchestershire sauce
tomato paste
bay leaves
fresh thyme, rosemary & sage
white turnips
brussel sprouts
frozen peas
salt & pepper

i start off by making a simple beef broth. you can buy bones from getaway farm meat mongers at the market for super cheap. if you ask graeme really nice, he will even cut them down for you - the more surface area the better. then just slap em on a baking sheet at roast at 375-400 until they are dark brown all over. then fire them in a big pot, cover with cold water and simmer until the broth tastes awesome - the longer the better. i always add some bay leaves, woody herbs & tomatoes in some form.

true, it looks pretty gnarly, but it is a big, pot full of delicious & smells so good - the neighbours will be jealous.

next up, trim the roast (also from getaway farm) - remove as much silver skin as possible & as much fat as you choose. then break it down into bite-sized pieces and dust them with flour. when you brown off the meat, the addition of a bit of flour will help it brown up a bit faster and will help to thicken the broth later on.

the cross rib roast is a really flavourful cut of meat & can stand up to the extended cooking time. when making a stew, or any braise for that matter, the key is in developing 'brown' flavour. in cooking, things that are brown & caramelized typically taste better than things that are grey & boiled. take the time to pat the meat dry, dust it with flour & brown it on all sides in a super hot pot.

then remove it to a dish & saute the onions and garlic in the same pot. when the vegetables start to release their juices, they will automatically loosen all of the stuck on brown bits from the bottom of the pot. not only will the veggies pick up all of that 'brown' flavour, but it will also make washing up so much easier.

i have an intense affinity for worchestershire sauce & at this point would add a generous splash, red wine would work nicely as well or even a dark beer like you'd add to an irish stew. another ingredient that i can't live without is tomato paste. 

 for a large pot, i usually add about 2 spoonfuls this size. tomato paste is another ingredient that benefits from a long cooking time - the acidity mellows & it adds great depth and richness.

at this point, i add another heaping spoonful of flour. it's important to stir it in quickly & cook out the raw flour taste. then whisk in the strained stock, add the meat back & start adding the root vegetables. i always cook the firmer vegetables first (turnips, carrots, parsnips...) and wait until the meat is super tender before adding the potatoes. if the potatoes become overcooked, they disintegrate & turn to mush so just hold off until everything else is ready.

the mix of veggies you use is entirely up to you - but in my opinion the star of the show is the celery root (celeriac). it is one of the ugliest vegetables of all time but has such a wonderful mellow taste & once it's peeled it has beautiful white flesh - it'll be that certain 'je ne sais quoi' that sets your cooking apart & will have your guests talking.

sometimes it's a little hard to find - it's not at the market yet but i keep asking at noggins & elmridge every week, but pete's is a pretty reliable source & some sobey's, the superstore not so much. add it to mashed potatoes & scalloped potatoes, or julienne it instead of cabbage for a coleslaw - it's so good.

when the potatoes are almost tender, add in the brussel sprouts. they are a wonderful vegetable but have such a bad wrap. as long as you don't cook them to oblivion, they are so delicious. now that they're in season, i've been eating them a lot - roasted with herbs, steamed with a little butter, salt & pepper, or sauteed with bacon... give them another shot.

last but not least, stir in the frozen peas and some chopped fresh herbs to brighten up the flavour. season to taste with salt & pepper and you're good to go. with a little garlic toast you have the perfect stormy night meal to make you feel all warm & fuzzy inside ;)

Monday, October 3, 2011

the holidays

people always ask me, 'what's your favourite thing to make?' and it's most definitely a giant holiday meal. thanksgiving, christmas, easter - i love them all. my first thanksgiving away from home, my brother & i made a traditional holiday dinner in a teeny galley kitchen and baked everything in a minute toaster oven, so it still felt like thanksgiving even though we couldn't make it home. miraculously enough, it all turned out great... perhaps due to the copious quantities of butter that went into everything!

every year after that, the festivities grew & grew. many of my friends were really into cooking as well and in my last year away at school we had a gigantic thanksgiving dinner with more than 20 friends gathered together to stuff our collective faces... now that's my idea of a good time!

when i was cooking in restaurants, every day before the doors opened we would sit down for staff dinner. on special occasions, we would pull out all the stops and having a kitchen full of professionals, makes quick work of a typically daunting task. restaurant staff are often forced to work on holidays so by cooking an epic meal, the staff would forget that they weren't at home with their families & able to fall asleep in a recliner after dinner. i think the most memorable one involved a monstrous deep-fried turkey... so fast & so good.

now that i'm back home, i don't actually have to do anything for the holiday meals - grandma still takes care of it all. that leaves me plenty of time to cook a turkey dinner to sell at the market next weekend. here's what i'll be making:

brined & roasted turkey with gravy
white root vegetable puree (potato, parsnip, celeriac)
sweet potato casserole with toasted pecans
cranberry, pear & sage dressing
roasted market veggies - brussel sprouts, beets, white turnips & carrots
cauliflower gratin
wild rice salad with roasted squash & pumpkin seeds

i plan on packaging everything up in portions to feed two people as part of a holiday meal. if you're interested in ordering larger portions to serve a crowd for thanksgiving dinner just let me know: or (902) 850-2465. items can be picked up from me at the halifax seaport market on saturday from 7am-4pm or sunday from 8am-4pm... or potentially delivered depending on how my week shapes up.

this week i will also be making full sized pumpkin pies (9 inch) & the cupcakes will be taking a decidedly festive turn. some of you may remember the pumpkin cheesecake/cupcake hybrids from last winter, they will be making their triumphant return this week. i'll also have apple spice cupcakes with maple frosting & gingerbread cakes with caramel frosting, and of course i'll have the usual red velvet & chocolate varieties as well.

i've also noticed that christmas decorations are making their way into the stores... a little crazy i know, but now is the time to get organized. if you're planning a holiday cocktail party, gathering or small sit-down dinner, then i'm your gal. i've also been approached by a freelance bartender (benjamin emodi of blended bartending) so we can take care of all your party food & drink needs. i'm trying to build an arsenal of servers so i can expand my catering capabilities... so let me know if you have an upcoming event you'd like catered.

to get in the holiday spirit, i'll also be donating cupcakes to the silent auction at the festival of trees. the festival of trees is an event to support the mental health foundation of nova scotia & they auction off beautifully decorated christmas trees at a black tie gala. this is the 20th anniversary of the event & it has raised over $3 million since its inception. my cupcakes will be auctioned off at the holiday luncheon on november 25th so check it out.

ok, time to get outside & enjoy the last of what has turned into a beautiful day.