Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Year's Food Resolutions

(Originally published in the Star Phoenix)

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, and for that, I usually look to the kitchen. My resolutions always seem to revolve around food. One year I resolved to eat more potatoes. My dad grows enough potatoes to feed an army so it’s “free” food to boot. Another year, I resolved to make a pot of soup for each week of the year. Two years ago, I resolved to eat more berries. Before that, I resolved to eat more beans.

In all instances, by “more” I am referring to more of these products that are grown in Saskatchewan so that, as the year progresses, I am also delving deeper into the local food economy. These resolutions may seem frivolous compared to more serious pledges for personal self improvement, but I have the satisfaction of having never failed to meet my goals. Gain without pain.

In that spirit, here is a list of delicious, achievable and painless New Year’s resolutions that may spice up your year.

1. Shop at a farmers’ market at least once per season – winter, spring, summer and fall. There are several options: the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market at River Landing; the Wednesday market at St. James Church; daily summertime markets held in parking lots around the city; and weekly markets in neighbouring communities such as Warman and Borden.

2. Visit a farm in 2013. More specifically, resolve to visit a farm at which you can buy farm products. Two good options near Saskatoon are Pine View Farms at Osler, which sells their own meat products, and Robertson’s vegetable farm on Valley Road. Both have on-farm stores.

3. Go berry picking. Berries are the most abundant fruit on the prairies and they are also the healthiest fruit to eat. Picking wild berries such as saskatoons, cranberries and blueberries is an adventure in itself, if you know where to look. U-picks offer the convenience of growing the berries for you, including saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, haskap and cherries. The fruit growers association produces a map of u-picks around the province.

4. Eat wild foods. If you pick wild berries, you’ll have this one covered. Other wild foods found in Saskatchewan include mushrooms, dandelion and chickweed greens, muskeg tea, juniper berries and, of course, all manner of wild fish and game.

5. Eat more lentils. Saskatchewan is now the world’s largest producer of lentils. Not only do we grow the most lentils, we also grow the greatest variety of lentils – brown, black, green and red. If you are not accustomed to cooking with lentils, check out some cookbooks of world cuisine or ask someone whose family heritage comes from those parts of the world where lentils are eaten every day.

6. Eat your vegetables. Saskatchewan imports well over 90 percent of our fresh vegetables. Both Manitoba and Alberta supply a far greater percentage of their vegetable market. Support our local vegetable growers by asking for and choosing fresh produce that is grown closer to home.

7. Prepare one all-local meal, whether you define local as close as your backyard or as broad as the province. For extra challenge, resolve to cook this meal in the wintertime. For an easier challenge, make it a potluck and share the experience.

8. Be a food tourist: where ever you travel in the province, look for food “souvenirs” that reflect the passion and produce of this varied land.

Finally, my 2013 New Year’s resolution: to eat myself out of house and home. Dig to the bottom of the freezer, clear out the canning cupboard, use up the various bags of lentils, dried mushrooms and oat groats, eat up dad’s potatoes. So by summer, I can start all over again.

Venison Stew

This hardy winter stew makes use of many Saskatchewan ingredients, including frozen peas from my garden. I picked the juniper berries while walking in a city park.

2 pounds venison or beef
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp canola oil
8 potatoes, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 big onion
2 garlic cloves
Handful of mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated in water
3 crushed juniper berries
1 tsp crushed dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt and some freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, optional
2 cups water or beef stock

Cut the meat into one-inch cubes. In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the meat in melted butter and canola oil. Remove the meat from the pot. Meanwhile, chop the potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Place the vegetables in the pot and cook until the onion is soft. Return the meat to the pot. Add the juniper berries, thyme, whole bay leaves, salt, pepper and peas (if using). Pour in two cups water or beef stock. Cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the meat is melt-in-your-mouth tender, two or three hours.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Restaurant Review - The Hollows

In the spirit of recycle and reuse, you can now add restaurant to the list. The Hollows is an eco- and local-conscious restaurant in a recycled restaurant! Read my review of The Hollows in the Star Phoenix.

A deliciously creative beet salad.

The Hollows has "adopted" the Golden Pagoda, right down to the teacups used for serving butterscotch custard with a sprinkle of sea salt.

334 Avenue C South

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Terra Madre Day in Saskatchewan

Yesterday, December 10, is Terra Madre Day -- A time to celebrate the local bounty around the world. So, last night in Saskatoon, we made a thoroughly local meal:

Ravioli filled with lamb and chanterelle mushrooms.
I make the pasta dough and fillings and my husband puts them together.
(Lamb from a local farmer; chanterelle mushrooms from the northern forest frozen in season; dried herbs -- sage, rosemary and oregano -- from my garden.
The pasta was made with eggs purchased at the sawmill at Rosthern, a product of the owner's sons.)

Ravioli filled with beet greens and ricotta cheese in
a sage butter sauce.
(Beet greens and from my garden sauteed and frozen in season; sage freshly picked from under two feet of snow!)

Maple Walnut ice cream
(Cream from a local farmer; maple syrup tapped near Kamsack)

 Extras for another meal!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Restaurant Review - Seoul Korean

Instead of our usual potluck discussion, my bookclub recently met at a restaurant to discuss our current book, a Korean bestseller called Please Look After Mom. So, of course, we went to a Korean restaurant. All round, a real learning experience! Read my review of Seoul Korean in the Star Phoenix. 

A calm bright interior with touches of Korea -
a contrast to the busy street outside.

Meat is grilled by the diners on a hot plate embedded in the table.
Side dishes include kimchi, a national dish of Korea.

Soju - Korea's most popular distilled beverage.
We were pleasantly surprised by its sweet mellowness.
Very easy to sip!

A fried rice dish -
All the food was beautifully presented.

Our server didn't speak English very well, but no worries because the menu, with pictures and ingredients, is conveniently provided on an ipad.

334 20th Street West, Saskatoon
Check out their menu online.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sweet Justice

I was the recent recipient of a lovely little cookbook with a big story. It started when Joanne Green was called to jury duty for a murder trial in Toronto. The trial dragged on, and very quickly, the jurists tired of the standard fare provided for them at coffee breaks.

So Joanne started baking. Every day, she took a different goodie for the jury to enjoy. After the trial, they asked for her family recipes, resulting in the little red cookbook, Justice is Served.

Since receiving the cookbook from her father, John Courtney of Saskatoon, I've been quite stuck on her chocolate almond biscotti. I made two batches just for giving away, but before they could get out the door, we ate them ourselves. So, it's back to the kitchen... You might say, I'm on jury duty!

Chocolate Almost Biscotti
6 tbsp butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2+ cup whole almonds

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and then flour mixture. Stir in almonds.

Divide dough in half. Flatten to form 2 logs approximately 10" long and 4" wide. Bake on parchment paper line baking sheet for 20 minutes at 350. Reduce oven to 300. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.

Cut diagonally into 3/4" thick slices. Place upright (so you don't have to turn over 1/2 way through cooking) and bake for 15 minutes. You can adjust the baking time depending how dry you like your biscotti.

Thank you, Joanne! What a lovely family and jury momento.
Want to own Justice is Served? It's $15 plus postage. Email Joanne.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Cookbooks for Holiday Giving

We all know it’s better to give than to receive. But if you give a cookbook to your favourite cook, you’re likely to receive something good to eat in return. You might say it’s having your cake and eating it, too. Here's list of current cookbooks by Saskatchewan and prairie authors (including mine!) that celebrate the local bounty.

Taste: Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table, CJ Katz, Regina. This is a beautiful kitchen companion with plenty of yummy photographs and stories about some of the farmers who produce the ingredients in her recipes, from honey to bison to prairie cherries.

Breast Wishes for the Men in our Lives, Breast of Friends, Foam Lake. The fifth cookbook from the women at Breast of Friends. Their previous cookbooks raised funds for breast cancer. This one, written for the men who cook, turns attention on prostate cancer, with a forward by entrepreneur Brett Wilson, a prostate cancer survivor.

Foodshed: An Edible Alberta Alphabet, Dee Hobsbawn-Smith, Langham. A tribute to the farmers and gardeners who produce food on a small and independent scale -- their struggles and joys from the farm to our fork. With recipes. Dee was a chef and writer in Calgary before moving back to her family farm in Saskatchewan two years ago.

From Baba with Love, members of the Hanka Romanchych Branch of the Ukrainian Women's Association of Canada, Saskatoon. A rich compendium for those who celebrate holidays in the Ukrainian tradition -- or just love the food. Treasured family recipes with detailed descriptions of the spiritual and cultural significance of food in Ukrainian celebrations year round.

Cooking with Cherries From the Prairies, University of Saskatchewan fruit breeding program, Saskatoon.  The new prairie cherry (developed at the U of S) is very versatile in the kitchen, challenging us to think “outside the pie” in dishes such as cherry spareribs, cherry biryani and Hungarian sour cherry soup. Plus cherry folklore from around the world.

The Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Getty Stewart, Winnipeg. Features eleven prairie fruits from apples to grapes with information on picking, preserving and preparing creative recipes such as plum pizza, saskatoon berry salsa and apple soup. Getty started a fruit picking program in Winnipeg. Her cookbook makes the most of all that "free" fruit that needn't go to waste.
Prairie Feast: A Writer's Journey Home for Dinner, Amy Jo Ehman, Saskatoon. A celebration of the food and foodways that flavour our life on the prairies, told with humour and an eye on locally-grown ingredients. Twelve heart-warming stories with accompanying recipes.

All cookbooks are available at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Saskatoon. Missing cookbooks from this list? Let me know by email.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Restaurant Review - Schryer's BBQ Shack

Beat the winter blues at Schryer's Smoked BBQ Shack, where it's always barbecue season. This barbecue is authentic, cooked "low and slow" over hickory charcoals. Read my review of Schryer's in the Star Phoenix.

Pulled pork sandwich with a choice of sides - I took baked beans.
There's coleslaw inside the bun!

Schryer's signature fries topped with beef brisket and coleslaw.
The chewy, flavourful bits of brisket warmed my heart.

Cafeteria style - order and pickup at the counter.
Too bad the gal taking our order couldn't muster a sunny disposition, but hey, it's about the food, no?

Picnic tables - ah - memories of summer barbecues in the heart of a Saskatchewan winter.
2830 Millar Ave., Saskatoon.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Cocoa Cherry Balls

Indulge in these yummy chocolate balls. The secret ingredient is good-for-you cheese.

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup coconut
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Sour cherries, pitted*
Extra coconut and cocoa

Drain excess moisture from ricotta cheese: place in a fine mesh sieve and leave to drain for one hour or longer. In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, sugar, coconut and cocoa together well. Chill for several hours or overnight in fridge.

Scoop a small amount into your hand and work it into a ball about the size of a walnut, wrapping a cherry in the centre of each ball. If the mixture sticks to your hand, dip your fingers in water.

Refrigerate the cocoa cherry balls until serving time. Just before serving, roll half the balls in cocoa power and half in coconut.

*You can buy locally-grown sour cherries at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. Or, you can pick your own - many of these cherry trees are growing in yards and gardens in Saskatoon. No cherries? You can make these without the cherry inside.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Restaurant Review - Root Down Cafe


The old adage "too many cooks spoil the broth" has met its match in the Root Down Workers' Cooperative Cafe, where there are no bosses and everyone shares the jobs, from cook to bottle washer. Read my review of Root Down Cafe in the Star Phoenix.

Root Down is a comfy cafe, coffee house and bookstore in one.

Breakfast at Root Down -- a generous bowl of homemade muesli and a vegan poppyseed muffin. Many of the soup and sandwich ingredients are sourced next door at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Baking on Global TV

These festive cookies are made with low-bush cranberries that grow wild in Saskatchewan's parkland and north. They are often available at the Saskatoon Farmers' Market. You can also use frozen cranberries from the grocery store.

Cranberry Pinwheels
1 half package puff pastry
1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup walnut pieces
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
pinch of grated orange rind

With a sharp knife, chop the frozen berries and walnuts together until they are fine and well mixed. Stir them with the brown sugar, honey and a pinch of orange rind. Sample, adding more orange rind if necessary to suit your taste.

With a rolling pin, flatten the pastry into a rectangle approx. 12 x 8 in. Spread the cranberry-walnut mixture over the pastry. Roll from one long side to the other. With a sharp knife, cut the roll into 1/2 inch slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. If the circles have squished, reshape them with your fingers. Bake at 400°F for about 12 minutes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ginormous Beet Soup

My garden produced an average beet crop. That is, average-sized beets. And then I pulled out this monster. Either it was raised on steroids or it got an extra shot of compost -- perhaps, to a beet, that's one in the same.

The average-sized beets found their way into beet and walnut salad. This gal, well, she deserves a place of honour in the soup pot!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Restaurant Review - Truffles Bistro

France meets Saskatchewan in the delicious truffle oil infused French fries at Truffles Bistro in Saskatoon. Truffles is proudly local, elevating the ordinary to extraordinary. Read my review of Truffles Bistro in the Star Phoenix.

Duck breast with lentil cassoulet and colourful cherry tomatoes.

Squash ravioli with two sauces -- arugula pesto and cranberry goat's cheese -- with pumpkin seed brittle.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Restaurant Review - Golden Pagoda

Apparently, there are very few Burmese restaurants in Canada, so aren't we lucky in Saskatoon to have the Golden Pagoda!! Burmese food is similar to Thai and Indian cuisine, but unique in its own way. Read my review of the Golden Pagoda in the Star Phoenix.

A quite refuge from busy 2nd Avenue in downtown Saskatoon.

Delicious dishes arrived at our table one after the other.
In the foreground is tofu and asparagus.

A replica of the Golden Pagoda in Rangoon graces one corner of the restaurant.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Restaurant Review - Natasha's Bar & Grill

Great French fries are always in season at Natasha's Bar & Grill at the Saskatoon Rugby Club. Read my review of lunch at Natasha's in the Star Phoenix.

Humongous Swiss mushroom burger and delicious fries.

The healthy option -- a fat ranch chicken warp and broccoli cheddar soup.

Rugby sports memorabilia over the bar.

Rugby pitch and patio under the snow --
we'll be back when it's green again!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Winter Project:

Eating Myself Out of House and Home!

My freezer is full of meat and berries. My pantry is full of lentils and canned pears. My basement is full (well not quite full) of potatoes and carrots. I want it all gone by spring. So this winter, I am Eating Myself Out of House and Home.

Every day, I will dip into my stores and see what comes out. Will it be lamb or venison? Berries or apple juice? Corn salsa or chickpeas? I've been very conscientious about gathering and preserving the bounty of Saskatchewan, and now I'm going to

Excuse me while I dip into the freezer and see what's for dinner tonight...

Monday, October 29, 2012

Cooking on Global TV

In my kitchen with Global TV's Kevin Stanfield eating a hot-from-the-oven pumpkin muffin. Watch us cooking on Food for Thought.

Pumpkin Muffins
I clipped this muffin recipe so long ago I can't remember where I got it, but I make them every year in pumpkin season.

1 cup pumpkin puree *
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
2 1/5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg and freshly grated ginger
Cane sugar for sprinkling

Stir together the pumpkin and baking soda. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the flour mixture and the pumpkin mixture to the batter, stirring just until mixed. Spoon into 12 muffin tin. Sprinkle with cane sugar. Bake 375F for 20-25 minutes. 

* Turn your jack-o-lantern into pumpkin puree. Cut the hollowed out pumpkin into 8 pieces, place on a baking sheet and roast at 375F until the flesh is very soft. The time required will vary with the thickness of the pumpkin. Cool. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh off the rind. Mash with a fork or in a food processor until it forms a consistent puree. Now it's ready for baking. Also try pumpkin gnocchi.

Restaurant Review - Summer Roll

It may be winter outside but always summer inside at Summer Roll, a fresh and delightful Chinese-Vietnamese-Thai restaurant in Saskatoon's Lawson Heights. Check out my review of Summer Roll in the Star Phoenix.

Summer rolls and tea

Pad Thai - I like the stylish dinnerware

Fresh decor with a hint of mid-century modern

Not your average Asian diner.