Friday, December 28, 2012

weekend update

it looks as though my weekend at the market may be cut short this week. just checked the forecast and i will not be heading in on sunday if we get the forecast 20 cm of snow.

i will be there tomorrow for sure, so if you need treats for new year's parties... or for the morning after, make sure to pop by.

this week i finally had time to make that batch of lobster mac & cheese.

the lobsters were caught by my neighbour and i watched them come in on wednesday - pretty local indeed. this batch is positively loaded with goodies. there's tons of lobster, tons of foxhill curds, parmesan, mozzarella, oven-dried tomatoes, leek bechamel & roasted garlic.
small $12  large $24

last week i sold out of the chicken & leek pies but everything else on the menu remains unchanged. i have a 20 pound shani's farm turkey in the freezer so next week i'll work on lots more poultry options for the menu.

i have a feeling the market won't be crazy busy this week so i'm cutting back on salad production a little. this week there will be broccoli, sweet potato & quinoa. this will be the last week for a while with this festive version of the quinoa - fennel, grapefruit, olive, pomegranate & parsley so get your fix while you can.

ok, on to baked goods. the cookies are still a bit more 'breakfasty' with cinnamon, flax & pumpkin seeds. there will also be snickers brownies, maple walnut shortbreads, candy cane cheesecakes, eggnog cheesecakes, passionfruit tarts, pumpkin tarts & cheddar cornbread muffins.

cupcakes will be lemon, red velvet, chocolate, carrot, banana & gingerbread. i'm getting a little tired of this lineup so if anyone has cupcake suggestions or requests please send them along.

alrighty time to bake. hope to see everyone tomorrow & maybe sunday, but if not drive safe & happy new year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

happy holidays

happy holidays folks.

hard to believe christmas is here & gone already.

i never got entirely in the spirit this year. but it certainly helps when people bring me treats to the market...

december was a bit of a whirlwind with orders right up until the 23rd. not gonna lie, i was pretty worn out. i did partake in a few christmas traditions and took almost two days off so that was nice ;)

last weekend i made two ginormous cakes, a carrot cake with toasted walnuts & pecans and a black forest cake with fresh cherries, whipped cream & kirsch. adding these to my market prep the weekend before christmas was a little ridiculous but i was pretty pleased with the results.

i guess the customers liked them too... they sent me photos of them eating the leftovers for breakfast the next day :)

last saturday night i was back in the kitchen making a special order key lime pie as a birthday surprise. i neglected to take photos but was assured that key west now has some pretty stiff competition.

monday was christmas eve day and though it was the first day of my 'vacation,' i made my way over to my neighbour's house to give him a hand making rappi pie. rappi pie is perhaps my most favourite thing to eat in the whole world (aside from chips & dip and chocolate frosting of course). it's also my most favourite christmas tradition. some folks think it's pretty gross, but they must not have tried mike leblanc's rappi pie.

when i arrived, things were already going full steam ahead.

 i didn't have to do too much work. he'd already picked the chickens, simmered the stock, cooked the onions, cubed the salt pork & stoked the fire. i was there to help with the grating & dehydrating of potatoes. the trick is to have a food processor equipped with an extra fine grater. mine is a little too coarse so the texture ends up being a bit more like a roesti than i would like. but guess what? santa left me a top-of-line one under the tree so now i can take my rappi pie to the next level!

we made two giant roasters full of it - 40lbs of potatoes, 3 large chickens, a pot of onions & about 15 litres of chicken stock. then to make it truly authentic is was baked in the wood stove.

here it is just as it went in:

and here it is 3 hours later, in all its glory:

to most, it's not much to look at. but to those who are privy to the delights within, this is a thing of pure beauty. geez louise i love rappi pie... sigh.

then it was christmas day. lucky for me, i don't lift a finger for christmas morning breakfast or christmas dinner. however, this year i was enlisted to make a couple of pies for a boxing day pig roast, which meant some work on christmas day. it wasn't too bad. i had a sous chef to boss around - my brother - and the results weren't too shabby.

so although i did do more work than i was planning, it was all worth it & i did manage to slack off more than usual. heck i didn't even turn my car on for three days and was able to enjoy a few epic backyard sunsets.

but now it's back to the grind.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

ladies' night part deux

as promised, here are the remainder of the holiday entertaining recipes from ladies' shopping night at the market.

cheese balls
1/2 c butter, room temp
2 8oz pkgs cream cheese, room temp
salt & pepper
1 tsp worchestershire
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 lemon, zest & juice

cranberry: sharp cheddar cheese, dash cinnamon, toasted walnuts & dried cranberries
fresh herb: goat cheese, garlic, green onions, chopped fresh herbs

- in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until fluffy & pale
- blend in the cream cheese a little at a time and mix until smooth
- divide the mixture evenly in to two bowls
- in one bowl stir in 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese, a dash of cinnamon and 1/4 c chopped, toasted walnuts. roll in to 1 inch diameter balls and coat in finely chopped dried cranberries
- in the other bowl, stir in 1/2 cup softened goat cheese, 1 clove minced garlic and 2 chopped green oniosn. roll in to 1 inch diameter balls and coat in finely chopped fresh herbs
- arrange the red & green cheese balls in alternating layers on a nice platter

olive caponata
1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 c roasted red peppers
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped

- combine all ingredients in a food processor & blend until smooth
- adjust seasoning with salt & pepper
- done

this can be kept for ages & ages in the refrigerator & makes a great dip, spread, condiment, pasta topping, pizza sauce and addition to a plain marinara.

white bean dip
1 can white navy beans, drained & rinsed
3 tbsp roasted garlic in olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, zest & juice
1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped

- combine all ingredients
- mash with a fork, blitz in the food processor or crush in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment
- adjust seasoning with salt & pepper

keeps for about a week in the refrigerator. if you make a thicker version of this it can be used in place of mashed potatoes if you're looking for a new starch to add to your repetoire.

i had also planned on making some mushroom filo bundles & spanokopita but ran short of time. i actually wrote a blog post ages & ages ago showing how to make them. take a gander for step-by-step instructions. for a simple spanokopita filling, thaw & squeeze dry one package of frozen spinach. stir together with 1 1/2 cups crumbled feta, 1 tsp dried oregano, 2 cloves crushed garlic, salt & pepper.

okee dokee hope this helps & isn't too late for your holiday entertaining.

Friday, December 21, 2012

four more sleeps

the countdown is on. it's christmas crunch time & i'm feeling the pinch. exhaustion has set in & i just can't wait for sunday at 4pm!

just a quick reminder to those folks with some last minute shopping to take care of - don't forget about my gift certificates & i'm set up to accept visa & mastercard.

this week has been chock full of cupcake & cake orders, christmas shopping & getting ready for 'man night' at the market. i had planned on whipping up a couple lobster dishes but had to postpone them until next week. they'll still be ready in time for new year's festivities though.

here's a complete list of what i do have this weekend:
beef bourguignon - getaway farm beef, red wine, mushrooms, bacon, pearl onions, swiss chard,   roasted carrots & turnips, creamy mashed potatoes    
small $10  large $20
red wine braised brisket - overnight braised getaway farm beef, sundried tomatoes, pears, onions & garlic, blue cheese mashed potatoes and kale    
large $20
shepherd's pie - getaway farm beef again! peas, carrots, corn, tangy gravy, cheddar-green onion mashed potatoes    
small $10  large $20
asian-inspired pulled pork - ginger, garlic, soy, cilantro, lime, chinese 5-spice, bean sprouts, green onions, sesame roasted broccoli, served over rice    
large $20
chicken, leek, broccoli & bacon pies - shani's farm chicken, double smoked bacon, melted leeks, broccoli in a rich gravy made with homemade chicken stock, fresh herbs & a puff pastry lid
large  $20
chicken parmesan - buttermilk marinated & panko-parmesan breaded chicken breasts, served over fettuccine with basil, spinach, tomatoes & homemade marinara
small $10  large $20
fish cakes & baked beans - salt cod, mashed potatoes, onions, celery, summer savoury, lemon & green onions with a breadcrumb crust
4 fish cakes & 500ml beans for $15
vegan shepherd's pie - the base is made from lentils, mushrooms, onions, celery, carrots, peas, corn, kale, tomatoes, fresh herbs & balsamic and it's topped with potato, parsnip, turnip, cauliflower & sweet potato mash. this one is a great vegan option for christmas dinner.
small $9  large $18
pumpkin tagine - roasted pumpkin, tofu, tomatoes, cauliflower with all sorts of moroccan flavours: sumac, lemon, dates, olives, ginger, cumin & coriander. it's served with harissa quinoa
small $9  large $18
vegan curry - potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, ginger, cauliflower, green beans, spinach, cilantro, lime, coconut & chillies served with basmati rice
small $9  large $18

last weekend my soup stock took quite a beating. this week i was able to replace the seafood chowder & the beet, parsnip & pear.

it's both vegan & gluten-free. all the veggies are simmered with aromatics for hours, then pureed, passed through a fine mesh strainer and then brightened up with some fresh dill.

the salad selection remains unchanged this week but make sure to come early to guarantee you get the flavour you're after.

cupcake flavours this week are:
orange - vanilla
red velvet - raspberry
gingerbread - eggnog
banana - peanut butter
pumpkin - maple
chocolate - chocolate
chocolate - mint

there are also breakfast cookies, passionfruit tarts, apple-streusel tarts, snickers brownies, maple walnut squares, hello dolly's, cornbread muffins, dinner rolls and two flavours of cheesecake. the cheesecakes are pretty festive, there's candycane oreo & chai eggnog!

alrighty back to the kitchen. i still have two giant (11x15x8) cakes to make. one is black forest and the other is a carrot cake like this:

hope to see everyone over the weekend!

ps: i haven't forgotten the rest of my recipes for ladies' night & man night. early next week i'll have time to sit down & type them up.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 hours

well, the market officially opens in 7 hours. i just kept baking & baking and then all of a sudden it was really late - oops. this is going to be ultra quick so i can get a few hours of sleep.

so the new main course this week is lentil shepherd's pie. this is probably the most popular dish i've ever made and it's vegan & gluten-free to boot. it starts with a base of mirepoix, then it's in with the lentils, mushrooms, kale, zucchini, tomatoes, peas, corn, herbs & balsamic.

the mashed potato topping gets some added flavour from turnips, sweet potatoes, parsnips, cauliflower, nutritional yeast & fresh herbs.
small $9  large $18

the salads this week are virtually identical to last week. i sold out & had lots of positive feedback, so i figured 'why mess with a good thing?'
quinoa: fennel, grapefruit, olive, pomegranate, parsley
broccoli: almond, cranberry, bacon, sunflower seed, pepper, onion
beet: wheatberries, balsamic, arugula, goat cheese, candied nuts
sweet potato: lime, cilantro, avocado, pepper, tomato, chipotle

this week i also went a little overboard with the baking. the oatmeal cookies got a bit of a makeover with flax, pumpkin seeds & cinnamon added to the usual base. they're a bit heartier & crunchier.

i also made a batch of my great-aunt lillian's ginger cookies - a christmas staple around these parts. they're crisp on the outside with a chewy interior and mild gingerbread spices. 50 cents each

the passionfruit tarts survived this week, so i'll have those along with the cheddar-streusel topped apple tarts.

cupcake flavours this week are: red velvet, chocolate, gingerbread, banana, carrot & citrus with raspberry, chocolate, mint, vanilla, peanut butter, maple, blueberry & eggnog frostings.

i also embraced candy canes this week. they made their way in to the hello dolly's and the cheesecakes are candy cane-oreo.

i skipped the fruity muffins this week but i did make savoury, cheddar cornbread muffins. they look pretty festive too with red & green bell peppers.

that's all for now. ladies night part deux is on its way. also i'm doing demos for man night at the market next week - in desperate need of suggestions. what do men want to learn how to cook?

goodnight all, see you over the weekend.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ladies' night

last night was the first ladies' shopping night at the market. hours were extended until 8pm and lots of vendors were on hand so there was great selection for christmas shopping. there were passed hors d'oeuvres, carol singers, wine seminars & some food demonstrations put on by yours truly (click here for an action shot).

the event was coordinated by the halifax port authority and they asked me to come up with simple holiday appetizers that were approachable & relatively quick to put together. i chose to demonstrate a few bar snacks, a couple of dips, some skewers, cheese balls and filo bundles.

i brought in my kitchenaid stand mixer & food processor, a little hot plate, bowls, utensils and transformed my usual nook at the market into a little cooking studio.

this was the setup for the 'skewers' segment. i just showed the ladies how to take some classic flavour combinations and plate them up a wee bit different so they're festive & easy to eat at cocktail parties.

the first was classic prosciutto & melon. i chose to use cantaloupe & honeydew. first i diced the melons up uniformly and then wrapped each cube in a slice of speck (alternatively you could use prosciutto or roselane's westphalean ham) and secured them with bamboo skewers. i prefer the snazzy skewers with a knot or twist in the end. they're available at big eric's on lady hammond but are cheaper at the smaller asian groceries - i usually go to the one on chebucto across from what used to be the bay, or tian phat on the bedford highway.

the second was a take on a caprese salad. with the red, white & green colour combo, these are perfect for the holidays. i find that cherry tomatoes & baby bocconcini can be a little bland so a marinade really gives them a boost. i toss the cheese with a little olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and chopped oregano. the cherry tomatoes get a dose of balsamic reduction, salt & pepper.

the trick, to really infuse the tomatoes with flavour, is to prick them all over with a skewer. they look unblemished and it doesn't mar presentation but it allows the vinegar & salt to really penetrate the fruit.

next up were prosciutto wrapped asparagus skewers. the kicker is a little nugget of boursin cheese hiding under the prosciutto - any flavour you like. then with just a quick coating of vegetable oil, s&p and a couple minutes under the broiler, you're good to go.

next it was on to bar snacks. for these i chose to do marinated olives, stuffed dates & candied nuts. 

at this time of year, i really dig the flavours of citrus & rosemary. for the olives, i pitted 2 cups of kalamata olives, then tossed them with 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, the zest of one orange and 1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped. then i added my secret ingredient - 1 tsp zaatar spice, from the spice man at the old market.

these olives are something that can be done a couple of weeks in advance, they get better with age, and are a great pantry staple.

the stuffed dates are one of my personal favourites; the salty-sweet combo is right up my alley. the only important thing to remember is: don't cheap out on the dates. medjool dates are imperative. the honey dates at the grocery store are a fraction of the price but shouldn't be used in this application. so take a date, remove the pit, fill the cavity with blue cheese & a toasted almond and close the date back up. if blue cheese isn't your thang, sub in goat cheese or whatever else floats your boat. again these can be done in advance & help to alleviate some of the stress of holiday entertaining.

the final thing i'm going to tackle tonight is the recipe for spiced nuts. i think these were the ultimate favourite of the evening. these are something i've been making for years, they're always a hit & i've even made giant batches as christmas gifts before.

spiced nuts
5 cups mixed nuts (i used walnuts, pecans & almonds in this batch)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries

-melt the honey & brown sugar together over a double boiler. i guess this could be done in the microwave too, i just never use those, but be careful - honey boils over in a heartbeat!
-add all of the spices to the honey mixture and mix well
-add the nuts and toss to coat, it should be a nice light coating, not pooling in the bottom of the bowl

-spread them in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet 
-spray a cooling rack with nonstick cooking spray. spread the nuts on this & place it over a parchment-lined baking sheet. as they roast, any excess honey will drip off and leave perfectly coated individual nuts
-bake at 300F 15-20 minutes until the honey has caramelized and isn't quite so sticky
-cool slightly, toss in the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and separate the nuts with a fork
-cool completely & store in an air-tight container. these will keep for weeks.

the pumpkin seeds & dried cranberries have to go in at the end for presentation's sake. if the pumpkin seeds roast alongside the nuts, they turn the same shade of brown and aren't nearly as pretty. the cranberries turn almost black & become quite acrid. by adding them at the end they look nice & festive.

well this is turning in to a bit of a novel, so i'll reserve the rest for another day. hope it's been helpful thus far.

to be continued...

Friday, December 7, 2012

last minute

well it's technically saturday already, but here's a last minute blog post for the week.

the new main course is another batch of beef bourguignon. it seems as though this is the new bestseller and i already have some on reserve heading in to the weekend. the beef is from getaway farm and it's cooked up with lots of red wine, bacon, mushrooms & pearl onions. it's paired with potato-parsnip puree, swiss chard, and roasted sprouts, turnips & carrots.

small $11  large $22

last weekend was salad insanity! being at three different markets made it hard to keep up with demand, but i'm fully stocked up this week. there are four options to choose from:
quinoa - fennel, olive, grapefruit, pomegranate, parsley
sweet potato - avocado, capsicum, lime, cilantro, chipotle
broccoli - almond, red onion, sunflower seeds, bacon
wheatberry - beet, arugula, pear, candied walnut, goat cheese
$5 each
this is the beet:

i also baked two types of muffin for tomorrow. on the sweet side, there's a cranberry/orange/cinnamon/almond concoction and on the savoury side, there's cornbread with cheddar, pepper, cumin & spice.
they're both $1.50 each

there's lots of the usual sweets including eggnog cheesecakes, apple tarts & gingerbread cupcakes. unfortunately there are no passionfruit tarts... i totally burnt them :( maybe i'll make some for sunday.

also christmas is fast-approaching so don't forget that i have gift certificates available and i'm all set up to take visa & mastercard... it's pretty nifty actually, you sign right on the screen of my phone.

okee dokee off to sleep. see you soon.