Along the Grapevine


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No-bake chocolate Cookies for Campers

These no-bake cookies are so easy to make and contain only four ingredients. From start to finish they take about ten minutes and are perfect for satisfying that occasional craving for sweet that might strike anywhere, any time!

DSC03119If anyone had asked me a few weeks ago what recipes do I never post, I would have said chocolate chip cookies. Not that I don’t like them, but they are an example of one of those things that just doesn’t fit with this blog which focuses on things I have in my garden, are seasonal and maybe even unusual. But never say never, and here is my first recipe containing chocolate chips – not the commercial ones but chopped dark Belgian chocolate.

The reason for this turn around is that we recently had a visit from a fellow blogger Stef from The Kiwi Fruit. She and her friend John are currently driving across Canada from east to west and I have been following them with considerable interest. For some stunning photos of the country, stories of their adventures and great recipes visit her blog – you will not be disappointed.

I met Stef originally at Fiesta Friday, so it is fitting to bring these cookies to this week’s event. Of course, I invited them to stop by here and camp on our property, and to my delight they accepted. They proved to be perfect camping guests with plenty of tales to tell. Unfortunately I did not think to get many pictures, as we were too caught up in chatting, mostly about food and travel.DSC03102

Their visit did make me think about the challenges of cooking and shopping when on the road – and this is one long road across Canada. Over 5,000 km as the crow flies, but much further when making detours to visit every worthwhile site along the way. I was thinking how John sometimes gets a craving for something sweet and how difficult it can be to make any of the traditional baked treats while camping, so I came up with this simple recipe which is like a cross between truffles and cookies. Chickpea flour, brown sugar, butter or coconut oil and some chopped chocolate bits or chips are all that is needed, cooked quickly in a pan over medium heat and then rolled into little balls of rich, sweet, chocolatey goodness.

No-bake Chocolate Cookies

1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar according to taste

about 4 Tbsp chocolate bits

Melt the butter in a skillet. Add the flour and stir continuously over the heat for about five minutes. The mixture will become a slightly darker colour and will bubble and thicken. Add the sugar and stir until it all dissolves, about three more minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and stir in the chocolate. While still slightly warm, form into balls and then let cool completely. This recipe makes about 1 dozen small cookies.

I made one recipe with butter, the other with coconut oil. I preferred the flavour of the latter as it was nuttier tasting, but the former was easier to work with. Either way, they were delicious, and I hope Stef and John enjoy them as much as we did. I also wish them all the best on their odyssey and thank them sincerely for taking the time to visit us. It was a real pleasure!DSC03120.JPG

Linked to: Fiesta Friday, Foodbod and Dad Whats 4 Dinner.

Posted one year ago: Milkweed flowers


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Paneer Tikka Masala

This classic vegetarian North Indian dish made easy can be served as an appetizer or main dish. With a complex blend of spices, mixed vegetables and creamy paneer, it is an ideal dish for experts or novices alike, either to prepare to be served.
DSC02966I undertook the making of this delicious North Indian vegetarian dish in response to a recipe challenge presented by a fellow blogger at Lin’s Recipes. I seldom feature Indian dishes on my blog even though I often do make them, so I was pleased to have an incentive to develop a recipe for my blog with these wonderful flavours. Thanks to Lin and also to Parul  at Gharkepakwan who has graciously offered to act as judge.

I am bringing this to Fiesta Friday #112 which I am co-hosting with Natalie at Kitchen Uncorked. Feel free to drop by and and see the wonderful recipes, tips and stories contributed by a host of talented bloggers.

The title of this recipe says it all. Paneer is simply a fresh cheese, made from strained and pressed yogurt. Tikka refers to the pieces of meat or, as in this case cheese in the recipe. Masala means mixture and in this case refers to the mixture of spices used.

I based my recipe on this one, but made a few changes according to what I had on hand. For example, as I am not able to buy ready made paneer in my neighbourhood, contrary to all recommendations on any recipe for this you will find, I had to make my own. Home-made paneer tends to be too soft, and therefore is difficult to mix into the sauce and keep its integrity. However, I found that straining the yogurt, pressing it with a weight to squeeze out as much liquid as possible over a mesh strainer, and then setting it in a very low oven (170 degrees F) for about an hour was all it needed to make it firm enough to cook with. In fact, it was the best paneer I had ever had, but if you can buy it, you can skip this step altogether. I also added sumac powder, not a commonly used spice in Indian cooking but one I use regularly to add a lemony flavour and red colour. To stay with the local theme of my blog I served it with rice made with maple sap, the delicate sweetness of which complements the spiciness of the masala beautifully.

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Home-made paneer

Paneer Tikka Masala

Ingredients for the Marinade

250 grams paneer, cut into cubes

2 medium sweet peppers (I used red)

1 small zucchini

5 Tbsp yogurt

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground fresh ginger

1 tsp finely grated fresh garlic

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/4 tsp freshly ground  nutmeg

1/2 tsp cornflour

oil for grilling

Ingredients for the gravy

oil for frying

1 large onion

2 Tbsp thick tomato paste (preferably  home-made)

1 Tbsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp ground garlic

1 Tbsp garam masala

1 tsp chili powder

1 Tbsp sumac powder

1 tsp ground coriander

pinch of methi (dried fenugreek)

1/2 cup water or stock

Method

Mix the yogurt, spices and flour in a bowl. Cut the peppers into roughly 1 inch squares, cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a casserole with the paneer. Pour over this the marinade, stir to coat and allow to sit for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

Meanwhile, to make the gravy, chop the onion very finely. A food processor is useful for this process. Fry it gently in about 2 Tbsp of oil until it softens. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and spices and continue to cook, stirring frequently until the mixture is quite dry and is like a thick paste which will come away from the sides of the pan. Add the water and cook a further 2 minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick. Set aside until the vegetables and paneer are ready to be added.

Place the marinated vegetables and panner on a grilling sheet and drizzle with a little oil. Place under a broiler and when they start to sizzle, turn them over and broil until they look cooked and slightly browned. The time this takes will depend on your broiler and proximity to the heat. I found it took about 5 minutes per side, but keep a close watch on it.

Mix all this with the gravy, reheat and serve it as an appetizer or a main dish with rice or flatbreads.

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Gravy mixture before adding water

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Grilled vegetables and paneer

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Paneer Tikka Masala with maple sap rice

 

 

 

 

 


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Canada Goose Confit Tamales

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This is a two-part recipe, one for a Canada goose confit and one for tamales, and each recipe can stand alone. The confit can be made from chicken, duck, or most meats, so if you don’t have goose, you can still use the same recipe. Likewise, just about any filling can be used for tamales – it is more for the methods than the exact ingredients that I write this post. You may have your own local ingredients that would serve well in these recipes.

I just happened to have received my annual Canada goose and wanted to prepare it in such a way that it could be preserved and used in small amounts for several recipes. So I began by making my confit.

Confit is a way of preserving poultry or meat so that it has a shelf life of several months. It can be bought ready-made in a good butcher’s shop, and although it’s expensive, it is worth it. Often used in cassoulets and other bean dishes, it can also be added to rice or vegetable dishes.

The process for making it takes some time, but it is really quite easy. First the meat is cured in salt for several hours, then cooked long and slow covered in fat – duck or goose fat is good if you have it, but lard or oil can also be used. Then it is packed and sealed, again covered in fat, in mason jars.

This was my first attempt, and while it worked, I would change my method slightly next time and make it less complicated. I did not have a second goose, so I made do with it, but for the recipe I will direct you to two recent posts I read on the subject. Forager Chef  offers a very straight forward method with a delicious berry sauce and Married with Cauldron who makes duck confit with sunflower oil. Both these recipes are very helpful to anyone trying this for the first time.

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Just for the record, I used lard that I had rendered myself. Once you remove whatever fat you have used to cook and store it, you can use that for heating up the meat, roasting vegetables, or as in my case, to make tamales.

Now for the second part of this recipe. I’d never made tamales before, but I have tasted many varieties of this ancient dish in several Latin American countries. If you are not familiar with them, they are a cornmeal mash filled with meat, vegetable and sometimes fruit, wrapped and steamed in corn husks.

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I keep corn husks on hand even though tamales have never been part of my repertoire. They are very useful for just about anything where you normally use aluminum foil. I use them on the grill, to roast and “tent”, sometimes just to line or cover dishes. They impart a delicious flavour of their own, and can be composted after use. I highly recommend them.DSC02857

I read many, many posts on making tamales, (the singular of which is tamal)  mostly from Latin America because I was looking for authentic recipes. Before this I had no idea that the cornmeal was usually mixed with beaten lard, but was relieved to find that I could use what I had from cooking the goose.DSC02853

For a vegetarian version, they are sometimes made with vegetable oil which I have yet to try. For this recipe I worked out my own proportions and flavourings, and aimed for something resembling what I knew. And I am pleased to say the recipe worked out just as I had hoped.

Canada Goose Tamales


Ingredients for the cornmeal

6 cups cornmeal

4 cups stock (approximately)

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp chili powder

2 cups lard (or other fat)

Ingredients for the filling

1 lb goose confit

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tsp each coriander, cumin and black pepper

2 hot chili peppers (or to taste)

2 tsp pepper jelly (or other sweet condiment)

I/2 cup stock, vegetable or meat or combination of both

To make the goose filling, fry the onion until it is soft. Add the garlic, pepper and spices and cook for a further two minutes. Add the stock and jelly, reduce the heat and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool.

To make the cornmeal mixture, start by pouring hot water over the husks and all them to soak until soft, about ten minutes. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in the stock gradually until mixture is the consistency of peanut butter. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile beat the lard with an electric mixer until it is very fluffy (see photo above). Stir the lard into the cornmeal mixture.

Place one corn husk on a flat surface and spread the corn mixture in a thin layer in the centre, leaving about 3/4 of an inch at either end, and about half an inch on either side. Place about 2 Tbsp of filling down the centre of the corn and roll up the husk. Tie the ends with string or with strips of corn husk. Repeat for the other tamales.

Place in a steamer and steam for 20 minutes. To serve, untie the bundles and discard the husks.

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There was enough cornmeal for 3 dozen tamales, but only enough goose filling for 16. For the rest I made a vegetable filling with caramelized onions, chopped wild mushrooms, grated scapes, seasoning and a little vegetable stock, following the same method as I used with the goose filling.DSC02862

Once steamed, tamales can be stored in the fridge for three days or frozen for longer, and reheated by steaming them again for about five minutes (depending on how thick they are). They can be eaten on their own as a hearty snack, a light meal, and combined with salad, salsa, refried beans or however you like. DSC02864

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Linked to: Fiesta Friday #102;  hosted by Angie at The Novice Gardener, co-hosted by Elaine at Foodbod and Julie at Hostess at Heart

 


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Juniper Berries and Soup

DSC02831Since I began working on this blog, I have found two things about foraging which surprise me. First, that you can forage quite happily in the winter even in this snowiest of landscapes for some really worthwhile ingredients, one of which I am writing about today. In fact, the winter has the advantage of being insect-free, and as long as there’s not a blizzard and you are dressed for it, the venture is very invigorating and a great excuse to enjoy the outdoors. Just don’t remove gloves for too long while you take photographs or snip branches, both of which are impossible with furry gloves.

The other surprise is that some of the most overlooked and miniscule pickings add so much flavour and are every bit as valuable as the bulkier crops. Good seasonings and spices are essential in cooking, and if they are local, fresh and free, all the better.

I have always used juniper berries in cooking, usually to flavour fish, game, sauerkraut and choucroute garnie, but no longer will I buy little plastic boxes from the supermarket. I found my own source, and they are so good!

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These ones grow on what is usually referred to as the Eastern Red Cedar which is misleading because it is not a cedar, but a juniper, juniperus virginiana to be exact. This same cedar we use to add a scent to our linen trunks and repel moths is not a cedar at all – another surprise for me. There are other varieties of juniper, but I will only try and describe this one as I have direct experience with it. So here are a few facts you’ll need to identify it.

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Where it grows:  Eastern North America, hardy to zone 3.

Description: A coniferous evergreen which in poor soil may just be a shrub but in the right conditions can grow as high as 40-50 feet with a spread of 8-15 feet.  It is pyramid shaped. The leaves change appearance with age. The young ones, on trees up to three years old and the new growth on older trees have sharp spreading needles about 2-4 inches long. Leaves of older trees are green and scale-like arranged in overlapping groups of four. The trees I picked from were of the younger variety. There is a good picture showing the leaves at different stages in this post. The fruit are small currant sized cones resembling berries, dark blue with a white waxy coating which makes them look sky blue.

Uses: The cones are used in cooking and making gin, the leaves are toxic. The bark is used as a moth repellant, and the wood is used in building fence posts. Oil is extracted from leaves, bark and wood.

Benefits and Cautions: The cones (which look like berries) have an antiviral compound called deoxypodophyllotoxin (DPT) which is used against some viruses. People used to add it to tea as a medicinal herb. They should not be taken in large amounts.

Juniper Berries on Punk Domestics

At this point I was just interested in using these little cones (berries), and as I am off rich and meaty dishes at this time of year, I decided to make a vegan soup – a pea soup, with some aromatic flavour. I also used some of my prickly ash, or szechwan pepper, but if you don’t have that you can just use more black pepper. And if you don’t have these plants in your area, you can buy both juniper berries or Szechwan pepper at a good spice store.

 

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I soaked, then cooked one pound of split peas. Once cooked I added 1 chopped onion, 1 carrot, 4 crushed cloves of garlic, 10 juniper berries, 1 tsp Szechwan pepper, 1 tsp black pepper and salt to taste. I simmered it until all vegetables were cooked.

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You can vary the spiciness  according to your taste of course. By using these less common flavours, you will find this familiar soup takes on a whole new character. If you have a favourite dish using juniper berries, I would love to hear about it.

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Linked to:  Angie at The Novice Gardener; Jhuls at The Not So Creative Cook and Mr. Fitz of Cooking with Mr. Fitz.

 

 

 


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Spicy Roasted Milkweed Pods

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Until recently, milkweed was considered a noxious weed and we were discouraged from allowing it to grow in order not to harm livestock. Now that we are encouraged to grow it to save the monarch butterflies, it has really taken off – at least in my garden. I am referring to common milkweed (asclepias syriaca), which is only one of over 100 existing varieties, many of which are toxic. I have written about using all parts of the plant, shoots, leaves, buds and pods, but if you are unfamiliar with this plant its distinguishing features are as follows:

  • an upright plant about 2-5 ft tall
  • a milky substance oozes out of torn leaves or stem
  • umbels of pink flowers, 2-4 in. wide, grow from the axils off the upper leaves
  • in mid-summer pods grow from the little flowers of the umbels in a tight cluster

The pods are filled with a tight wad of seeds attached to a fine, white, silky thread-like material which will be released and dispersed by the wind. However, when small (about 1-1 1/2 inches long) they are edible as long as they are boiled first for about three minutes, at which point they can be frozen for later use. The ones I used are pictured here with a 25 cent coin to give you an idea of the size. DSC02416

The flavour is sweet, a bit like a cross between okra and green pepper. DSC02418

I decided to roast them and make an Asian inspired dish with a spicy, sweet sauce. The sauce can be made in a few minutes and altered to suit the level of spiciness you are comfortable with. Served with noodles or rice, it makes a wonderful vegetable side dish or a complete vegan meal.

Spicy Roasted Milkweed Pods

1 lb milkweed pods

oil for coating

1/4 cup palm sugar

1 clove garlic

1 tsp chopped fresh ginger

1/2 tsp hot chili sauce, or to taste

1/4 cup soya sauce

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

Cook the pods in boiling water for three minutes, strain and cool under cold running water. Toss them in just enough oil to coat. Lay them on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 F oven for about 25 minutes, until lightly browned. Place the rest of the ingredients, except the sunflower seeds, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved, lower the heat and simmer for two minutes. Toast the sunflower seeds in a pan for a few minutes until they begin to brown. To serve, pour the sauce over the roasted buds and sprinkle with the sunflower seeds.

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Everything can be made in advance and heated up at the last minute. After roasting them, I put some aside, sprinkled with some salt flakes and served them as I would padron peppers. DSC02425 Related Posts: Stuffed Milkweed Pods; Buffalo Style Milkweed Pods</a

Spicy Roasted Milkweed Pods on Punk Domestics


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Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

DSC01948 It seems only fitting that I post one more maple syrup recipe as maple syrup is what is happening at our place. There is still snow in the ground and while a few green edibles are just barely visible, there is nothing but sap for us to harvest. DSC01946 Besides enjoying our own syrup, I had a chance to try some butternut syrup – a much appreciated gift from a sister. Made the same way as maple syrup, it takes four times as much sap, but if you have butternut trees I would say it is well worth the effort, especially since it is not available at the supermarkets. It has a buttery, fudge-like flavour and on pancakes or waffles is second only to maple syrup.

For Angie’s 63rd Fiesta Friday, which I am pleased to be co-hosting this week with Julianna at Foodie on Board, I made gluten-free cornmeal muffins with a buttery, maple date sauce. I hope you will drop in and see what Angie’s other guests have prepared. If you have a recipe you’d like to share, just follow the guidelines – so easy!

Since most cornbreads are served with butter, I made these with a generous amount of butter in them. That and the sticky sweetness from the dates and the syrup means they are good just on their own.

Maple and Date Upside Down Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients 2 cups cornmeal 1 tsp baking powder 1 tsp salt 3 eggs, beaten 2 cups milk 3 Tbsp melted butter 1/2 cup butter plus 3 Tbsp 1/2 cup maple syrup plus 3 Tbsp 9 medjool dates

Method Mix the cornmeal, baking powder and salt in one bowl and in another the eggs, milk and melted butter. Combine the two mixtures well and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Divide the butter into 18 pieces, one for each muffin, and place in muffin tins. Do the same with the syrup. Pit the dates and cut them in half lengthwise. Place them on top of the butter maple mixtures with the cut part facing up. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Bake at 450 degrees F for about 12 minutes, or when they spring back when pressed. Remove from the oven, loosen with a knife and invert then onto a rack to cool.

DSC01949 These could be made just as well in a cake or loaf tin. If you don’t have maple syrup, another sweet syrup or honey can be used.DSC01954


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Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

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I don’t often bake cakes these days, but am always happy to oblige when there is an occasion – especially when I can use some foraged ingredient from my backyard. I had two constraints in choosing what kind of cake I would bake. First, the birthday girl wanted something gluten-free and second, I have one arm in a cast due to a recent mishap leaving me less dextrous than usual. So what to make with no gluten and one hand? Cheesecake was the perfect solution. I just needed some help with cracking eggs! I still had some crabapple preserve in the freezer, and frankly I don’t think there are many fruits that pair any better with cheese than a nice tart apple. If I had any Calvados, that would have been my choice of liqueur, but brandy seemed a good alternative. I used an 8 inch spring form pan, placed it in a larger pan which was placed in another larger pan filled with water. I believe that prevented the cake from having any cracks on the surface when baked.   DSC01830

Spiked Crabapple Cheesecake

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

1 cup almonds

1/2 cup hemp hearts

4 oz butter

a pinch of salt

1 cup plain yogurt

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup honey

3 eggs

1 cup crabapple preserve

1/4 cup brandy

Method

Grind the nuts and add hemp hearts and butter and salt. Press the mixture into an 8″ spring form pan lined with parchment paper. Blend the next 4 ingredients in a bowl until smooth. Pour on top of the nut mixture. Bake at 325 degrees F for about one hour, until the custard has set. Meanwhile heat just to mix the brandy with the preserve. Allow to partially cool and pour over the cooled cheesecake.

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The result was a little uneven looking due to my one-handedness, but delicious nonetheless. I think some toasted almond slices on the sides would have made it prettier but I can’t think that the flavour could have been improved at all.

Featured at Fiesta Friday.