Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Apple Butter


Fair Warning: I was not impressed with this Roasted Apple Butter recipe; employ at your own risk. 

I love preserving.  Correction: I love the idea of preserving.  Concentrating fruits to their purest essences, brining carrots and peppers and beans in a sweet and spicy elixir, rows of sparkly jars on the sheves, sharing these jars with friends and family.  It also involves a lot of work, a lot of space, a lot of dirtied pots and pans and stovetops and cabinets, and a lot of produce to produce a very small yield.  I did not let this daunt me, however, and had my intentions set on plucking apples from trees in a rolling orchard and honouring them with a special treatment, not unlike last year’s attempts at Christine Ferber’s delicious recipe for apple compote.

Well, folks, the plans fell through.  We never made it to the apple orchard after all.  We got rained out and colds were running rampant among certain members of the crew so we put the road trip on hold indefinitely.  Instead, I had to get my apple fix at St. Lawrence Market and rely on the kindness of a friend to drive me home with ten pounds of apples.   My apple butter recipe calls for a mix of sweet apples to add complexity, so I elected McIntosh and Northern Spy.



I’m not a big apple snacker.  When I do indulge, I prefer hard, crisp, cold apples…preferably Granny Smith.  I wanted something a little more local, though, and McIntosh apples are deeply rooted in Canadian history dating back to about 1811 when they were discovered on the McIntosh homestead in Dundas, Ontario.   Known for its red and green skin, semi-tart flavour and tender white flesh, it’s been a popular staple in many students’ school lunches because of its smallish size and healthful properties.

Northern Spy apples also come into season a little later and have a similar colouring but are known for its firmer flesh and rich, sweet aromatic flavour.  I thought the two would complement each other in the apple butter…so on with the adventure. 


 This recipe came to me by way of a newish cookbook in my collection: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It.  The book has some marvelous ideas for making more of your unconventional food items like marshmallows, jerky, cheese, olives, ketchup, etc.  I found these recipes immensely appealing and was eager to try one.  Now I know that apple butter is not a stretch for the home preserver.  In fact, it’s one of the rather simple things to make; one doesn’t need to worry so much about the alchemy that causes fruit to gel and set.  This recipe, however, calls for roasting the peeled-and-quartered apples for a couple of hours and then pureeing them with the additional seasonings.  This was a nice alternative to the traditional stove-top stewing method and is meant to enhance the colour and flavours.  Easy peasy.


Well, it was sort of easy.  But it was also messy.  I nearly destroyed two of my best baking sheets in the process.  I lined them both with foil and gave them a spray of oil to prevent the apples from sticking.  After two hours in the oven, the apples joyfully carmelized and fused to every exposed surface of the pan.  Even the foil couldn’t be removed.  It was a nightmare.  So I scraped off as much of the mush as I could and processed it in the Cuisinart for a good long time.

Glory be: those ten pounds of apples produced a frugal 4.5 jars of sticky, cinnamony, beige spread.  The flavour was fine, but I doubt I’d ever make it again.  I had to use my power steamer to clean the baking sheets and the recipe has left me a tad nervous to try another recipe from the book.  But I’ve already used the apple butter in a vegan banana bread recipe, so good things have come from the experience.


10 2009



Well kiddies, it’s your parents’ favourite time of year…back to school.  Those days are far behind me but I still cherish a few fond memories of the beginning of any school year…shiny new Laurentian pencil crayons, all pointy and even; a complete compass set with a protractor that eventually ends up stuck in the suspended tile ceiling; if you’re lucky, you might get a fresh Adidas gym bag in royal blue or fire engine red.

Still a trouble-maker after all these years

Still a trouble-maker after all these years

One thing I didn’t particularly like was getting up early.  At around 7:20, the clock radio would wake me up with CFRW.  Hop in the shower and scrub down with a bar of Irish Spring.  Throw on a cream turtleneck, a gold velour vest and a pair of brown cords.  Then my sister and I would huddle in the dark dining room, slurping back half a grapefruit, munching on a bowl of Quaker Harvest Crunch or a toasted frozen waffle from a marathon waffle-making weekend, served with margarine and Beehive Golden Syrup.  Good times.  But breakfast is touted as the most important meal of the day and I fully support that notion.


Today, however, who makes the time to sit down and enjoy a balanced breakfast?  Knowing what I’m like without breakfast, I will always find a moment to eat something.  And smoothies are my favourite way to start the day.  I’ve been enjoying them for almost a year and have not grown weary of this perfect breakfast tipple thanks to their endless variations.  I won’t give you a recipe for them, but here’s what you’ll always find in my smoothies:

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09 2009

Vegetarian Butter Chicken


Once a year, I am inspired to undertake the ordeal of a detoxifying cleansing program.  This usually occurs after a long winter of over-indulgent eating and an extended period of activity no more strenuous than operating a remote control.  Ah…those dark Canadian winters.  But when the days get longer and the pants get tighter (and my favourite shows’ seasons start wrapping up), I get off my butt, throw out any treats I might have hidden in the recesses of the cabinets, and kick-start the Spring with a good cleanse.

 Detox Box

A dear friend, knowing my penchant for over-complicating things and always trying to support my causes, gave me a fantastic detox program called “The Detox Box” by Dr. Mark Hyman.  This is not just a simple cayenne-honey-lemon-water-drink-for-three-days kind of thing.  No ma’am.  This program tackles your toxic issues from multiple angles over a multi-week period.  We’re talking journal-writing.  We’re talking yoga three times a day.  We’re talking dry-brushing and lavender and salt baths and meditation and long walks and saunas and naps and cardio sessions.  And we’re talking food, or rather no food: no meat, no chicken, no dairy, no soy, no sugar, no nightshade vegetables, no starches, nothing processed.  If it comes in a package, it’s out.  Only non-predator fish, grains, many vegetables and some berries.  Oh, and clay.  We can’t forget the bentonite clay.

Now I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I will avoid the quackery of a detoxifying cleanse.  I do believe that the body is essentially self-regulating and that our internal systems are designed to promote a healthy state.  However, I can personally attest to the benefits of the program:  my skin gets clearer, my organs get a holiday, my senses become heightened, my appreciation for simple food grows, and the quality of my nutrition improves tenfold.

And what does this have to do with butterless, chickenless butter chicken?  Well let me tell you, it’s not easy coming up with meal variations using the same few food items for three weeks.  Some Internet research offered up a few options, one of which was the basis for this yummy dish.  It’s completely vegan and while it doesn’t exactly duplicate the traditional Murgh Makhani from the Mugal Empire, it does work at capturing the spirit: creamy and rich, flavourful without being too spicy, and it’s great on rice.

for more info on using dried chickpeas, click here.

For more info on using dried chickpeas, click here.

One of the great things about this kind of dish is the flexibility the recipe allows.  Use any combination of vegetables you might have on hand; my favourite is cauliflower, carrot and pea with chickpeas.  And while almond butter might be the easiest to find, experiment with different nut butters like cashew or hazelnut.  You also don’t need to be on a detox program to enjoy this dish, but I grant you full permission to feel redeemed upon its consumption.

Recipe on following page… Read the rest of this entry →


08 2009

Trifle, Italian style

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

Lemon Blackberry Trifle

This recipe comes to me by way of the priestess, nay, the goddess of the kitchen, Nigella Lawson.  I’ve been a fan and fanatical advocate of the raven-haired Brit since her show Nigella Bites, with her impeccable style, spot on palate, and slightly subversive humour.  And no one can make love to a spoon the way she can.  I did meet her once and we had a little chat.  To be perfectly accurate, I met her along with maybe 3000 other fans at a book signing.  Despite the mob, she remained regal and warm in her chartreuse twin set, offering a genuine smile to all.

Nigella LawsonI must admit her cookbook prose have had a profound inspiration on my own desire to write.  I’ve savoured each and every one of her publications, reading them more like novels rather than as a resource.  I enjoy her informative preambles mixed with the regional vernacular (splodge, nubbled, blitzed) and simple recipes with inspired flavours.  She blends cultures and style with no apology.  One region she loves to explore is Italy, from crostini to dolce.  …Hence, this recipe, slightly modified, from her publication Forever Summer…

jam sandwiches

This is everything a trifle should be:  rich, oozing, cool, and creamy.  It’s also easy to make (please forgive the ready-made ingredients) and best if made well ahead of serving, rendering it perfect for easy entertaining.  The Italian inspiration comes from the ingredients: crunchy amaretti biscuits, sweet and puckering limoncello, and standing in for custard is a silky mascarpone mousse with blackberries providing a blistering contrast. 


The measurements are offered more as a guideline, with the size of your trifle bowl influencing the proportions.  For these photos, I used my oval porcelain casserole dish that I usually employ for mac and cheese, although it is most presentable in a glass trifle bowl (my own having disappeared after attending a potluck and not to be seen since).

Recipe on following page… Read the rest of this entry →


07 2009


Lemon Artichoke Hummus
Lemon Artichoke Hummus

This Mediterranean dip born of chickpeas and sesame is also known by its other iterations such as houmous, humus, hoummos, or humous.  While no one knows its historical origins, folklore often insists hummus is one of the oldest-known prepared foods.  Many cookbooks and recipes have survived since antiquity, but hummus was not mentioned until the 18th-century in Damascus sources.  Many scholars have dismissed its more modern routes by arguing that hummus has been such an everyday staple, writing down a recipe for it would be akin to a recipe for boiling water.

Middle Eastern debates aside, the puree has always been popular with the granola set in the West and really hit its stride with the cocktail crowd and suburban families alike in the past decade or so.  One may find the dip upon every party table, garnished with cilantro, drizzled with olive oil, or sprinkled with cumin and always always always served with pita (and sometimes sturdy vegetables for scooping).

hummus in processor

Presently, humus is accessible in any of its mutations at virtually all grocery stores in flavours like roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, jalapeno, carmelized onion, sundried tomato and on and on.  And while it’s easy and convenient to buy, the taste and texture leaves a lot to be desired.  Fortunately, it’s also easy to make at home; the ingredients are simple and you’ll have fun coming up with your very own signature hummus once you’ve mastered the basics.  The recipe I have on offer is a lemon artichoke version but simply eliminate artichoke and lemon zest to create the basic gold standard.  It’s inspired by a Cooks Illustrated recipe but with such simple ingredients, one hardly needs a recipe at all.  Lemony, garlicky, salty, silky, substantial perfection.


Finally, a word about chickpeas:  if you’re going the homemade route, go all the way and use dried chickpeas (see note following recipe).  They’re cheaper than canned and you’ll have the pleasure of creating something right from scratch.  Take this with a grain of salt, though, because I have been known once upon a time to bake a loaf of bread to make my own croutons for a caesar salad.  I know.  Crazy.  But you can make all kinds of other fun things with the extra legumes, including my vegetarian butter chicken (no butter and no chicken…recipe to come).  Anyway, happy dipping…

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06 2009