Autumn 2015

Autumn is my favourite season. There is so much to love about this season. The changing colour of the leaves and how the trees look when it rains and the bark turns a deep brown against the fiery leaves. The damp, thumb fresh and cold smell that comes with leaves. The soft, pills crunch with each step while walking through a park littered with fallen leaves. Taking hikes in cool weather with knitted scarves and toques. Walking through orchards, medicine wandering through rows and rows of trees, picking apples and other fresh fruits. Long crispy days spent outside followed by long evenings warming up by crackling fires.

7c5d86128f6cf83a60c562d86e18f32cPhoto Credit: From Up North

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With cooler weather comes hearty meals indoors. Meals indoors around harvest tables and surrounded by friends. Meals that start with beautiful charcuterie boards laden with cheese, olives and figs. Your belly warms up with fall soups full of roasted vegetables and then puréed into silky goodness. The prominent flavours of the season are pumpkin, roasted vegetables, flaky pie crusts, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. Heavy, rich meals that are followed by hot drinks and cocktails. It is the perfect season to enjoy the outdoors and to enjoy all the bounty of the harvest.

fall-dinner-partyPhoto Credit: Camille Styles140829_Halloween_Lars_845Photo Credit: The House That Lars Built

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Soup Round Up IV

I haven’t been cooking much lately. It’s been too beautiful outside to not use the BBQ and my go to meals have been burgers and steak. These are my summer staples but unfortunately, they are not too exciting for blogging purposes. I have however, returned to making soups for lunch. I had an epiphany the other day where I thought “I eat other warm foods throughout the summer – why not continue eating soup?” Duh. Below are 6 soup recipes I have tried in the past few weeks and what I thought of them.

1. Chilled Potato Leek

I am still trying to figure out my thoughts about chilled soup. This was the first one I made and it was a good introduction to chilled soups. It is silky and smooth and has a subtle flavour, not jarring enough to confuse your palate with contrasting flavours and temperatures.

4 leeks, white parts only, chopped
4 large green onions, white part only, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and ground white pepper
2 Tbsp minced chives

In a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, combine the leeks, the green onion, and 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables have wilted and begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the ptoatoes and remaining 2 ½ cups broth, cover, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Let for for 15 minutes. Stir in the butter.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, 3-4 hours or up to overnight. The soup wil thicken and become very creamy., Serve, garnished with the chives.

2. Curried Carrot Purée

I loved, loved, loved this soup! It is one of my favourites from my trusty Williams-Sononma cookbook. It can be served chilled or warm, making it the perfect soup for the early summer when randomly cool days surprise us. The flavours are reminiscent of autumn in a way that makes you savour and appreciate our seemingly fleeting summers. I plan to make this soup all through the summer into the long hot days of September and October and you should too!

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot
½ lbs carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
6 cups of chicken broth
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, curry powder, and broth. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper. This soup can be served warm or chilled. To serve warm, return to the pot and gently warm over medium heat. To serve chilled, let cool, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Serve, drizzled with oil.

3. Spinach and Leek Soup

This is one of the most intensely green things I have ever eaten. If you want to feel like Popeye, eat this soup. It is rich with garden freshness and sweet onion flavours. It doesn’t make a huge batch of soup so this is the perfect soup to make when you need lunches for only a day or two.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ cups vegetable broth
2 large brunches spinach, tough stems removed
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and the nutmeg and sauté until the leeks are softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

4. Simple Asparagus Soup

I did not like this soup at all. Asaparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and unfortunately, I live with someone who does not like it which means I rarely get to eat it. I thought a soup that masked the taste and texture of asparagus would be the perfect thing to eat. Maybe it was a little too perfect because GC loved this soup and I hated it. The problem lay in how much zest and lemon juice I used. I followed the recipe but that is too much lemon flavour. It results in a bitter tart soup that only tastes of lemon and not much else.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves glaric, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1é2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

5. Cucumer-Dill Soup

Another chilled soup to ease my mouth into this way of eating soup. The texture of cucumber is slightly mealy and when blended, this is the texture that shines through. It was completely impossible to get this soup silky smooth and it was lumpy. I didn’t leave the chunks of cucumber in the soup because this was not a texture I was looking for. Texture and consistency aside, this soup had great flavour. It was cool and refreshing, with a hint of bite like a perfectly mixed gin and tonic. This mixture would make a good chilled salad and cucumber added to a gin and tonic is just delicious.

3 English cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
1 cup Greek-style or thick, whole-milk plain yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, white and tender green parts, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped dill
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds, crushed
Salt and ground white pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarsely chop 5 of the cucumber halves and transfer to a large bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, green onions, dill, garlic, caraway seed, 1 tsp salt, and 1é4 tsp white pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to blend the flavours. Dice the remaining cucumer half and set aside.

Working in batches, purée the cucumber-yogurt mixture in a blender. With the machine running, slowly add the broth and purée until fully incorporated. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the diced cucumer and oil. Pour the soup into wide-mouthed glasses and serve.

6. Roasted Red Pepper Purée with Spicy Corn Salsa

I made this soup on Thursday night and haven’t yet tasted it! GC took some to work and said it was yummy but that the salsa was too hot for his tastes. This soup is incredibly easy to make because the main source of flavour is already done for you: it uses jarred roasted red peppers. You can obviously make your own but who wants to turn on the oven in the summer? Turning on the stove is bad enough.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (24 oz/750 g) roased red bell peppers
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp mined jalapeño chile
1 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion, white and tender green parts
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and ptoato, stir to coat, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot, stir in the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, to make the salsa, melt the butter in a small frying pan over high heat. Add the jalapeño and green onion and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, topped with the corn salsa.

Father’s Day

Here are my thoughts on Dad-worthy food and drink for this year’s Father’s Day.

1. Beer.

BeerWhat Dad doesn’t love beer? We all have a memory from early childhood of taking a sip of Dad’s beer and making a sour face, wondering how he could drink something so rank and bitter. As we grow up, sharing a beer with Dad is almost a right of passage. For Father’s Day why not treat Dad to some craft beer? Venture beyond the original craft beers of Steamwhistle, and Mill St. Organic and give him a taste of Junction Craft Brewing, Indie Ale House or Bellwoods Brewery. Better yet, why not take Dad out for an afternoon of tasting and do a brewery tour? In Toronto there are tons of tours available (Steamwhistle, Mill St. Organic, Amsterdam, Junction Brewery, The Granite Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, to name a few) or if a roadtrip is in order, drive up to Creemore.

And every beer should be placed on a coaster. Learn about beer while drinking about beer with these coasters from Pop Chart Lab.

2.  Booze.

BoozeIf Dad likes a stiff drink, try a Canadian distilled liquor. If gin is his booze of choice, try a bottle of Dillon’s. Dillon’s is a relatively new distillery in Niagara, established in 2012, and is currently blowing up on the cocktail scene in Toronto. Pour Dad a G&T and impress him with the local flavours of the Niagara region.

If Dad enjoys flavours from south of the border (or south of two borders) try Tromba. Another liquor that is popular on the Toronto-cocktail scene. It is not like your typical tequila – it is smooth and sweet, with hints of earthy, nuttiness. It tastes great alone or mixed in a margarita.

And of course, there is always whisky. Instead of getting an expensive bottle of whisky you can’t afford, get Dad whisky rocks instead. They will keep his drink chilled without watering it down. They come in soapstone and steel. If your dad is more outdoorsy and in touch with nature, soapstone will emobdy this. Choose steel for the more modern, sleek father.

3. The Grill.

Barbecues and dads have been associated with each other since the 1950s. The outdoors, fire and the smell of charred meat conjur stereotypical images of masculinity and cave men. This year, get Dad something different to top his burgers and steaks.

American on White

Kozlik’s Mustards makes over 30 varieties of mustard which should be more than enough selection to satisfy all your burger, sausage, pretzel and peameal needs.

Davids-Ultimate-GrillDavid’s Condiments creates a ton of different spices, rubs and marinades that are all low sodium, no salt and no preservatives! You can give Dad great seasonings and help him be a little healthier. David’s Condiments are available online but are also available at your local Metro.

And of course, every grillmaster needs a ridiculous apron. My choice for this year’s Father’s Day is from Think Geek.

11cd_tactical_bbq_apron_callouts_flat Keep it simple for Father’s Day. Take an interest of your dad’s and put a new spin on it. Introduce him to a new beer (or booze or wine!), a new flavour or a new place. This year, my dad is getting an afternoon in my backyard with pulled pork sandwiches, beer and bocce.

Happy Father’s Day!

White Chocolate and Nutmeg Bars

Photo credit: Better Homes and Gardens

As the days get shorter, and the weather gets cooler, it’s starting to feel a little more like Christmas. I know, I know: it’s the start of November, there is no snow, and it’s over a month away. BUT as a crafter and a baker, you need to start thinking about Christmas. Christmas is a month long event. Between parties, decorating, baking and shopping you need to start thinking about these things!

I made these white chocolate and nutmeg bars for Thanksgiving but the flavours are perfect for the holiday season too! The bars have a beautiful colour to them – the warmth of the brown, dotted with fresh, plump, red cranberries and drizzled with white chocolate, it looks like a winter landscape.

I love the combination of cranberries and nutmeg. The fruity, tartness from the cranberries, softened by the warmth and spice of the nutmeg make these the perfect treat to enjoy with a warm cup of tea or hot chocolate.

I will definitely be making these again for Christmas and I think you should too! Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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