Monday, November 11, 2019

Bigos ~ Polish Hunter Stew

Friday, September 28, 2018

Book Events This Fall

Mark your calendars and come out to one of these events. I'll be presenting my books and chatting about historic recipes and all things delicious in this beautiful province of Saskatchewan...
Saturday Oct. 13 1-5 pm Indigo Books Saskatoon
Monday Oct. 15 7 - 9 pm Tisdale

Tuesday Oct. 16 2-4 pm Choiceland
Tuesday Oct. 16 7-9 pm Nipawin
Wednesday Oct. 24 4-5 pm Bruno
Saturday Nov. 1-4 pm McNally Robinson Booksellers Saskatoon

For information updates check the events section of my website.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Crisp for an Autumn Day

My mom made a yummy apple crisp. Such an easy recipe that, well, I never saw her use an actual recipe. After all those years of "crisping" she pretty much had it memorized. Until she was struck by Alzheimer's disease. The first clue for me came when she could no longer make a crisp from memory. We were in the kitchen together. She just smiled and shrugged. The memory was gone.

Of course, there was a time she needed a recipe because she was a new cook just learning her way in the kitchen. As a young bride, my mom wrote out recipes (and clipped them from magazines) that she wanted to make again. 
I recently discovered this recipe for apple crisp in her handwriting dated 1961. She was 21 years old (and six weeks pregnant with me ~ I wonder if she knew?). This recipe was among a box of cookbooks belonging to my aunt and grandmother that recently came into my possession. Did my mom copy out this recipe for them?

Or, now for me? Although this recipe is for apple crisp, it's just as good with rhubarb, as shown here. Rhubarb is more tart than apples ~ I thought about adding extra sugar, but decided against it. It's plenty sweet when served warm with vanilla ice cream.
Rhubarb Crisp
4~5 cups chopped rhubarb (1/4 inch thick)
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
cinnamon for sprinkling

1. Spread rhubarb in baking dish

2. Mix butter, brown sugar and flour. Rub the mixture together with your fingers to ensure the butter is evenly distributed. Spread over the rhubarb

3. Lightly sprinkle the top with cinnamon

4. Bake at 370F for @ 30 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft and the topping is crisped.

Astute readers will notice that mom's hand-written recipe says to heat the oven to 350F. This is not hot enough for a crisp imho. Sugar caramelizes to a brown colour and rich flavour between 356~370F. Below that, sugar remains light and unflavourful; above that it becomes dark and bitter. Given my mom's delicious crisps as I remember them, I'm pretty sure she knew that :)

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

One Last Piece of Pie

Last week we had a wonderful family dinner in my sister's back yard. We had a wiener roast and I made a saskatoon berry pie ~ my dad's favourite ~ using every last berry in my possession to get the required four cups for a pie. I put a smiley face on it, just like my mom always did. The other pie is strawberry rhubarb. My dad had a piece of both. He died a few days later. I am so glad I was able to give him one last piece of his favourite pie...

Saskatoon Berry Pie
4 cups saskatoon berries
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp butter
3 tbsp cornstarch or flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp sugar
pastry for a double crust pie

1. In a saucepan, bring saskatoons and water to a low boil. Stir in lemon juice and butter to melt.

2. Mix together cornstarch, 1/2 cup sugar and baking powder. Stir into berries. Cook, stirring, until thickened. Cool.

3. Pour cooled berries into a pastry-line pie plate. Cover with top crust. Crimp the edges and cut vents in the pastry. Brush with milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp of sugar.

4. Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 375F and continue baking until the pastry is nicely brown and the berries are bubbling inside, 20-25 minutes.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Irish Soda Bread

I did some St. Patty's Day cooking with Jeff Rogstad on the local CTV noon show. Well, cooking is a bit of a misnomer ~ there's no oven on the set. Jeff and I mixed a batch of dough, then I whipped out another Irish soda bread I had cooked at home. Voila! Instantly done.

I left the cooked bread behind for Jeff to enjoy with the crew, then I took home and baked the dough we made on set. Everyone was happy.

This bread has good chemistry: the baking soda is activated by the acidic buttermilk, giving rise to a simple traditional bread. If you don't have buttermilk in the fridge do this: put 2 tbsp plain white vinegar into a 2-cup measure, then fill with milk to the 2-cup mark. Stir well and let sit 5 minutes to thicken.

It's important to cut the bread before baking ~ a deep sharp cut that allows the bread to "bloom" in the oven and rise up crusty and brown. I cut mine with a serrated bread knife. If you do not slash deep enough, the centre of the bread may be under cooked.

4 cups all purpose flour (or 3+1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

1. Hold back 1/2 cup of flour. Blend the rest of the flour with the sugar, salt and baking soda.

2. Pour the buttermilk onto the flour. Mix quickly with a fork to make a sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand, using the extra 1/2 cup of flour as needed to flour your hands and prevent sticking. Work quickly, kneading as little as necessary to get a soft smooth dough that is no longer sticky, about 2-3 minutes.

4. Place the ball of dough on a baking sheet and press to flatten the top. Slash the dough with a knife, cutting a fat inch (~3 cm) deep.

6. Bake at 425F for 35-40 minutes. When cooked, the bread will be quite brown and a good tap on the bottom will sound hollow. Allow to cool a few minutes before slicing. Eat with butter or jam or both!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Two Grandmas ~ one batch of Jam-Jams

We have two kinds of jam-jams in my family. These oatmeal jam-jams were a specialty of my Grandma Jo. The other is a soft brown sugar cookie jam jam. They were the jam jams of my Grandma Irene.

Grandma Jo often put date jam in her jam jams. Grandma Irene usually filled her jam jams with homemade apple jelly. This reflects their two different styles in the kitchen. Grandma Jo liked to make fancy things for which buying dates and making date jam was a perfectly enjoyable step in the process. Grandma Irene had no time for that. She had already put her time into making apple jelly, so that was the perfect filling for her jam jams.
Today in our family, my sister Maureen makes the soft cookie jam jams of my Grandma Irene. They are my dad's favourite cookie ~ Irene was his mom ~ and he still gets a tin of these jam jams for his birthday every year.

As for me, I mix the two: I make Grandma Jo's oatmeal jam jams and fill them with my homemade jam or jelly. Cause I loved my grandmas equally!

Oatmeal Jam-Jams
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup sour milk (mix 1 1/2 tsp vinegar with milk to make 1/2 cup, stir, sit 5 min.)

Grandma’s instructions simply say, "Roll these." To elaborate, mix everything together, form into two balls, wrap in plastic and place it in the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Using a floured counter and a rolling pin, roll each ball of dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch (1/3 cm). Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a glass. Re-roll and cut more cookies.

Bake on a cookie sheet for 8-9 minutes at 350 degrees. Cookies should just start to brown.

Transfer hot cookies to a rack to cool. Spread a dollop of jam or preserves on one cookie and press another cookie on top. Store in airtight container. These cookies are crisp when they come out of the oven but the filling will soften them up.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Do Your Magic Gougères

When I was little, my mom made cream puffs as a special treat. I loved how she filled them with clouds of whipped cream that gushed out all over my face and fingers. I thought they were magic. Now that I'm a big kid, I can make that magic myself. And it's really quite easy! Only now, I'm more inclinded to make them savoury with cheese rather than

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Take One BIG Zucchini...

I like a recipe that starts: "Take one big zucchini..." Or, you might say, "Prenez une grande courgette..." because this recipe is from France. It was included in a tourist brochure I picked up somewhere in the south of France in 1998. Wow, almost twenty years and I've been making this savoury zucchini loaf every summer since. It serves as a nice side dish

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rhubarb to the Rescue

This time of year, I struggle to suppress my natural instinct to go out into the wilds (read: back alleys) of Saskatoon and forage for rhubarb. The devil on my left shoulder says Go ahead, back alleys are fair game. The angel on my right shoulder say, Nooooo, that's somebody's pie. Then I think of my friend Eva, who had an altercation with a back-alley

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Eat Your Spuds it's St. Patty's Day

Since St. Patrick's Day is nigh upon us, I dedicate today's musings to my grandmother, Josephine O'Hara. Or, as I knew her best, Grandma Jo. That's her on the right (below) with her mother-in-law, my Great Granny O'Hara, circa 1936. Grandma Jo was so proud of her Irish heritage that dinner on St. Patrick's Day was akin to Christmas or