07/15/14

Bumping Around the Province Adventure

Captain’s Log, Adventure Date 1:

Hawthorne Jelly is delicious. Note to self: my one day future dream house will have an orchard that includes: pears, saskatoons, apples, cherries, chokecherries and now apparently hawthorne. Also got to taste some home tapped and boiled maple syrup and birch syrup (very unique and complex flavour. If you have a chance to have a taste, don’t pass it by!), as always, I wish to be a person who can make all the things. Note to Mr: we are going to need a big yard at the future dream house.

Had some fantastic deer sausage as well. Advice from a sausage maker with years more experience than myself is to use a higher ratio of pork to venison than I had been using, by weight work with half venison and half fatty pork.

Walking up to the wedding we were attending at the Big Woody Hall, under the big white tent, I see a familiar structure. I say to Mr, “That looks like the fabric from the chuppah at our wedding.” Mr takes a closer look. It looked like the fabric from the chuppah at our wedding because it was the chuppah from our wedding. As it turns out, the bride and groom had been looking for a canopy of some sort, and Mr’s mum said, “I’ve got one in the garage!” It was a nice surprise. It was quite sweet seeing friends of ours start their marriage under the same symbol of a home as Mr and I did. Congratulations to Terri and Ryan! I wish Mr and I could get married over and over again.

Sidealong to the wedding, there were two lovely gentlemen roasting a whole pig that was soon to become dinner. Part of me felt a little bit guilty eyeing up the pig as it came out of their giant roasting apparatus, but all that guilt washed away when Mr and his brother broke the floodgates and paid them a visit. That clandestine taste of crispy skin and pig cheek before dinner was even served was utterly fantastic. Seriously good. Pigs are magical animals.

Captain’s Log, Adventure Date 2:

The day began with Bambi Benedict; just out of the oven buttermilk biscuits, with a slice of 21 day aged venison, a soft boiled egg, and Hollandaise. I immediately decide to adopt our hosts, David and Michelle, as family. I could be convinced to stay in Swan River with this.

Shot a target from 500 meters with a 300 ultra magnum. On the second try. Unsure whether I feel more surprised or more boastful. Those were big bullets.

At this point on the voyage Mr, Trooper, and the rest of the Winnipeg family head for home. I remain because I have three days of work to follow, bumping around the province. Being a sappy crying type, it was hard to watch them leave. My last night in Swan River includes tasty meatballs, going visiting in the neighborhood, meeting two adorable Yorkies, and the Tempest. Helen Mirren is a great actress.

I wake up every 45 minutes to an hour that night, worried I have missed my alarm. Open my eyes, think “Nope, it’s still dark out.”, try to go back to sleep, and repeat.

Captain’s Log, Adventure Date 3:

I depart from my fantastic hosts with a gift of chokecherry syrup. That stuff is delicious on waffles, but that’s a story for a different episode. What worries I had about going to stay with people I didn’t know very well had long since passed. If they ever need a house to stay at in Winnipeg, I hope I could keep them half as well (though they would have plenty of places to stay in Winnipeg).

I work the morning away just North of town, before departing for Wellam’s Lake in Duck Mountain. I make a wrong turn and get a little lost. Hiro the little  Nissan Versa that could gets me across two washed out roadways and I still manage to get to my second testing location on time.

After all of my work is completed, I head for Dauphin, spotting a bear and a coyote along the way.

Captain’s Log, Adventure Date 4:

Continental breakfast is uninspiring: Tea, orange juice, and a soggy lemon poppyseed muffin.

Work in Dauphin sails by smoothly.

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I get to drive through one of the most beautiful places! Riding Mountain National Park! The whole way through makes me smile. I spot a moose, as well as a mama black bear with three baby bears. Three baby bears seems like a lot of baby bears to have at once, she must have her hands (paws?) full.

The drive makes me think a lot about the summer I spent in that neck of the woods as a camp counsellor. It was a magical summer. It also made me think of all of my friends from there that I haven’t seen in too too long. I have some calls to make.

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Just south of the park, in a town called Onanole, is a lovely shop called Poor Michael’s. I remember it from all those years ago as a store that sold used books, which it still does. But since then it has expanded into a cafe as well, and has local pottery and global artwork and great atmosphere. The sign outside says “Great coffee here!” Not one to partake, you’ll have to take their word for it. But if you are ever in the neighborhood of Onanole, make sure to stop by that spot.

South to Brandon, I have another bit of feeling turned around. My map does not take into account bridge closures due to flooding, but I found my way.

One more sleep, and what is building itself up to be an arduous day of work and then I’m homeward bound. I can’t wait to give Mr and Trooper a kiss, and to get back into my kitchen.

Bumping Around Granola

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2.5 Cups steel cut oats

1 Cup rice puffs

1 Cup quinoa puffs

1/2 Cup sunflower seeds

2/3 Cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 Cup hemp hearts

1/2 Cup ground flax

1 1/2 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/4 Cup dried blueberries

1/4 Cup dried cranberries

1/4 Cup dried apricot

1/4 Cup currants

2/3 Cup packed brown sugar (dark brown if you have!)

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 Cup maple syrup

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

Directions

  • Get a large mixing bowl out!
  • Stir together the oats, rice puffs, and quinoa puffs.
  • Then add in the pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts, sesame seeds and flax.
  • If you like the fruit component of your granola fairly fine, like I do, pour out your dried fruit onto a cutting board and give it a bit of a chop before adding it into the bowl with the grains and the nuts and seeds. Make sure to give it all a good stir after this addition. The fruit will want to clump up, but dispersing the fruit amongst the much less sticky grains and seeds will help to prevent that.
  • Add the brown sugar, salt and nutmeg, once again stirring to spread and integrate.
  • Pour the maple syrup and vegetable oil over top, stirring until everything is sticky.
  • Dump the granola onto two baking vessels (believe me, using only one may save you a dish to wash, but it will make the mixing throughout the baking a messy business), flattening into even layers.

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  • Bake in a 300º oven, stirring every 10 minutes, until everything is toasty and golden (~50 minutes).
  • Take the granola out of the oven, and let cool and harden before breaking it up and eating.

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 I really enjoy some granola and yogurt for breakfast, especially for a morning where there isn’t much time to actually get cooking. And this is my quintessential granola. Not very chunky, my granola leans toward a crunchier, looser, more museli like texture because that is the way I like it. The way I assemble my granola ensures it’s texture being the way I like it. The ingredients are added in steps: grains, seeds, fruits, seasoning, wet. If you like your granola to be clumpier and stickier: add the fruit earlier on in the mixing of the ingredients so that it will stick to the other ingredients to form clumps, mix more gently so as to not break up the clumps that will form, use more maple syrup and less brown sugar so that the mixture will be stickier heading into the oven, and bake the granola for a shorter period so that it dries out less.

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I suppose I’m a good Canadian because I love love love some maple syrup. And I think the flavor of maple does granola a better service than many of the other sweeteners you could use, such as honey or corn syrup.

The nutmeg makes the granola so warm and inviting, and I think nutmeg and maple are flavors that are quite friendly to each other.

Granola is one of those sort of things you can make that is utterly customizable. Mr is allergic to most nuts, so the granola at our house is pretty heavily seed based. Also, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds are all delicious. But if you want to put nuts in your granola it’s as easy as tossing them into the bowl when you’re putting in any other seeds or nuts you are using. If you have different dried fruits in your pantry, use them!

Mr admits he’s “not much of a granola person”: he doesn’t generally eat breakfast that religiously, and when he does he likes it to involve bacon, but he says my granola is “tasty stuff”!

This time last year: Perfect Breakfast Parfaits

2 years ago: Caramel Sauce

3 years ago: Shrimp, Feta, and Watermelon Salad

4 years ago: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

06/27/14

Heavy Duty

Look what’s taken up residence in my kitchen since our anniversary earlier this month!

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It’s pretty awesome. That Mr., he sure is a great guy. Thanks again my love!

In other news, take a look at this awesome and useful installation!WP_20140627_001

I realize that I’m developing quite a collection of cast iron pans, especially tiny ones. But they’re just so useful, and also, gift giving friends and family seem to have really caught on with how enamored I am with little things. Those two little guys at the bottom? They’re perfect for cooking eggs.

Either way, this is the first thing I made with my awesome gift from the Mr.

Arroz Con Pollo

1 Cup white wine

1/4-1/2 tsp saffron (a pinch)

6 chicken thighs

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion (or two smallish ones)

4 cloves of garlic

2 roma tomatoes, seeded

3 bay leaves

4 Cups chicken stock

3 Cups rice

1 Cup pimento stuffed green olives

Directions

  • Stir the saffron strands into the wine and let steep.

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  • Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large vessel that has a tight fitting lid. Brown the chicken thighs, in batches if you must, on both sides; try to brown them skin side down first, the subcutaneous fat will start to render out, which will make the second side even less likely to stick, and will add lots of gorgeous extra flavor to the dish.
  • While the chicken thighs are browning, or before you start if you like to get your knifework through ahead of time, mince up the onion, garlic, and roma tomatoes. Yes, this is a lot of mincing, but it’s worth it.

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  • Once the chicken is set aside, in with the onion and garlic. Turn the heat down fairly low and cook the alliums until they are gloriously golden. Stir often, caramelization likes to turn into burning if it isn’t paid enough attention.
  •  Add the tomato to the pan, cooking for a few more minutes to get a good bit of the moisture out.

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  •  Pour in the saffron infused wine (look at that magnificent color), and add the bay leaves. Turn up the heat to medium, and let it bubble away until the liquid is reduced by about half.

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  • Next into the pool goes the chicken stock and rice, give this a bit of a stir so that the veg is interspersed throughout the rice.
  • Nestle the browned chicken thighs into the rice, so that they are covered by the stock so that they will braise nicely.
  • Strew the olives on top. Note, I halved all of the olives, to increase the chances of a bit of olive per bite. If you’d prefer to encounter them more sporadically as you eat, feel free to add them in whole.

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  • Once the liquid starts to come to a simmer, turn the heat way down low, just warm enough that a simmer will maintain itself, and clamp on the lid.
  • Cook until the rice is tender, the chicken thighs have finished cooking through, and the liquid is absorbed. This took me about 30 minutes, but I was working in cast iron, which holds heat really well and I find tends to do things a little quicker than other materials. Yours may take a little longer, but give it a poke and a prod (or even a taste!) once in a while, and you’ll be able to tell when it’s ready.

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  • Serve! Ensure you have some of your favorite hot sauce around for the occasion if you are so inclined.

My goodness! The goodness of this dish is really and truly surprising. Looking at the list of ingredients, it is easy to understand that it is going to be a thing worth eating. But after having it come together, it’s pretty easy to understand why it’s a traditional dish that not only Spain, but also Columbia, Cuba, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Panama, and Peru! (Thanks Wikipedia!) I want to lay claim to it too!

Generally rice is the carbohydrate I could take or leave. If you’ve spent any time reading here, you’ll know that I’m a really happy girl if you give me something with a potato or pasta. I like rice, in general, but this rice is making me reconsider my sometimes indifferent stance. This recipe makes a pretty big batch of arroz con pollo, and Mr and I both happily ate until the whole thing was gone.

Much like it is said about paella, the rice on the bottom of the pan gets toasted and crispy and glorious. It’s a real treat.

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Mr. says: the rice is delicious and the chicken is very tender.

This time last year: Perfect Breakfast Parfaits

2 years ago: Pastelitos

3 years ago: Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus

4 years ago: Rhubarb Schnapps

06/8/14

Picnic Perfection

The first of June was Mr’s and my first wedding anniversary!

First of all: how bonkers is that? It’s been a year?

Second: For an anniversary it was a day just like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.

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We packed our basket, spread our blanket under the shade of a tree, and had ourselves a lovely little feast.

By little, of course, I mean that I packed way more food than we were ever going to eat, and that even though we anniversary feasted until we could feast no more we brought home what was still almost a picnic basket full.

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The ever important question is, what did we eat?

Cheese. The stop at the cheese counter proved bountiful. Into the picnic basket went: a wedge of Chevalier Brie, some Louis D’Or (which won for best raw-milk cheese at the Canadian Cheese Awards this year), some Springbank Guinness Cheddar, some applewood smoked cheddar, and a bit of manchego as an experiment because it was a cheese neither Mr or I had tasted before. Heavenly. Sometimes a good cheese can be a nearly transcendent experience.

We also picked up some kielbasa from our favorite deli (just 2 blocks from home!), and to accompany brought along some chorizo, prosciutto, and a particularly notable dry aged asiago sausage.

Roasted red peppers, grilled slices of zucchini, and artichoke hearts also joined the melange of fixings, as well as some tapenade, caramelized onion marmalade, and Tequila Sunset hot pepper jelly.

With bagel chips and a selection of crackers to build upon, the spread was quite a treat. Having a selection of delicious things to pick from, every bite could be a new combination.

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Some of which reached almost Dagwoodian proportions…

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The fantastic meal was accompanied by a cold thermos full of iced tea, and for a little something sweet there was watermelon, raspberries and peaches.

We ate like royalty in the pristinely gorgeous weather. I prophesize many many more anniversary picnics in our future.

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It is good to be so loved.