Roasted Carrot & Apple Purée

IMG_8745Textures and colours have always been important to me when it comes to food. I’ve had two memorable meals that were so off the mark that they made hospital food look good. Both were served on plain white china. Just setting the mood.

The first was served in a small home eatery on one of the Gulf Islands. Dinner was sliced chicken breast, mashed potatoes and cauliflower. Sounds great, yes? No added herbs, sauce, gremolata, or anything resembling colour or flavour, bland, bland, and bland. I could not believe that someone was proud to serve this to paying guests. Of course, maybe they weren’t. Maybe they didn’t care.

The second was at a major restaurant chain. We stopped in for a quick supper during a shopping trip. I ordered Fettuccine Alfredo, looking forward to a velvety sauce full of flavour. What I got: soft noodles smothered in a cream sauce. I couldn’t detect any cheese flavour at all. As well, there was nothing else on the plate, no sprinkling of herbs, not even a sprig of parsley. Disappointment prevailed.

When I plan a menu, I love to incorporate lots of colours and textures, as well as great taste. I’m happiest when I hear people exclaiming how beautiful it all looks, and then look forward to the silence as they all tuck in.

When planning a buffet, I like to have a purée of some sort as part of the mix, nothing soft and mushy, but something with deep, interesting flavours that is firm, as well as having a velvety texture. For an upcoming job, I want to have carrot purée tucked in amongst the other vegetable dishes, to compliment them in colour, but also that has enough flavour of its own, that people will go back to it for seconds.

So here’s what I’ve come up with. Continue reading

Apple Pudding

IMG_8706We’ve picked all our apples, and have them stored in twelve large bins in the barn. Getting them in by mid-October seems to be the right time. The late ripening Jonathans’ pips have turned brown, and their flesh is beautifully tinged with pink. From the three Gala, Bramley’s Seedling & Jonathan trees we probably have 700 lbs stored. This is after weeks of eating them, and feeding gallons of windfalls to the livestock. While we give away many, the bins will safely store them for us right through March. By March the apples will have had their run. The livestock will start to get the slightly withered ones that are still left.

One year in mid-November, when the trees were still fairly young, we were away for a couple of days. Both of us working different shifts, and not home together during daylight hours. On the second day, my husband noticed that I had picked all the apples. When I came home, I thanked him for picking all the apples. Oops! Neither of us had picked any apples. We checked all around the trees, and found cores everywhere. Our local branch of the raccoons had come in and done it for us while we were asleep. We got none. Ever since, we’ve tried to get them by mid-October at the latest.

With so many apples, most of our desserts tend to be apple based. For the past several weeks I’ve been working on an apple pudding that isn’t super sweet, and works beautifully whether an all-purpose wheat or Gluten Free flour is used. It has taken awhile, simply because we can only eat so many apple puddings! Friends and family have been kind when I turn up once again with a pudding as my contribution to dinner. I must say though, no one has ever turned it down, in any of its reincarnations. We enjoy it with a little custard sauce, or some Crème Anglaise. Continue reading

Gingered Carrots

IMG_8681Our first truck was a ’47 Ford 1 Ton. Dark green with gold detailing, and very much a work truck. In the early eighties, with my hair in braids, wearing a down vest, and gum boots, I loved being the one that would go to town to pick up supplies, whether it was feed or fence posts. Even though the truck was 9 years my senior, we were good friends. It could hold so much, and anytime I pulled into a yard the staff was excited to see the truck; consequently I always got speedy service.

There was an inherently farm feel about picking up 50# burlap sacks of potatoes, onions and carrots for us, while 50# sacks of barley and oats were thrown in for the horses and pigs. These sacks of vegetables would sit in the cold room in our barn, and feed us through the winter (this sounds like the olden days, but really it was the eighties). They were the mainstay of our diet, supplemented with our own meat & squash, and winter hardy greens from the farmers market. Some of the carrots where oddly shaped, resembling the human form in many variations. Some would make us blush, while others would have us laughing outright.

Eating the same veg day after day, made us try lots of different recipes. A pan with all three tossed with a bit of oil, and seasoned with salt & pepper, then roasted is still one of my favourites. Glazing some carrots always made those dinners seem fancier. I used to do a brown sugar, butter & ginger glaze, by just draining the carrots and adding the three additions back with the carrots into the pot, to heat for 5 minutes or so before serving. Years went by, and I started to gently sauté the ginger before adding, and then I bought the Silver Palate cookbook. Well. They added in caraway, a whole new flavour to elevate my simple glazed carrots. While their recipe uses ground ginger & golden sugar, I still like to use minced ginger & brown sugar. But it’s all about innovating, so with a bit of this and a bit of that, here’s the Silver Palate enhanced version of my simple Gingered Carrot recipe. Enjoy, while you remember that it really is okay to eat the same thing most days, as long as it’s good for you! Continue reading

Cranberry Orange Sauce

IMG_8621From the time we were first married, and living in a 40’ trailer on our 50-acre piece of raw land, our family has gathered at our table for holiday repasts. We would move the table so that it ran from the tiny trailer kitchen through the living area. The trailer was just 9’ wide, so it was all about the table!

We’d cook the turkey in the tiny, but wonderful oven, heating the whole of the trailer in the process, while pots simmered on the cooktop. Even though our space was so tiny, it was so much fun.

We moved into our freshly built new house in early October one year. I was so excited to hold our first Thanksgiving here. With room to spare, we invited a tableful of guests, still needing to extend the table into the living room. A bigger table but extended all the same. Counting noses for this Thanksgiving, we’ll also need to add another table. Always I am thankful for those who share our table with us.

Here’s the recipe for the cranberry sauce that I’ve been making most of my life, and has been at most of these events. Continue reading

Poultry Gravy (do ahead, or for when you just want some)

IMG_8597Sometimes it’s just way easier to do something ahead of time.

Every “gather-round-the-table” celebration is more enjoyable if the tasks are shared between several, and it isn’t all done “just before”. When a turkey is pulled from the oven, and set to rest on its cutting board, there are usually other pots simmering, and people talking & visiting. So here’s a tip.

Make your gravy ahead of time. Any juices from your bird can be set in the fridge for the next day or two, making it easy to remove any fat. Then the juices can be frozen, ready for the next time you want gravy. The only downside to this is that you need to have kept those juices for that time.

Here’s a do-ahead gravy that is started from scratch, using some bits of poultry like wings, neck, or even chopped up legs. You can make as much as you want on a day that you pick.

For this year’s Thanksgiving feast, the turkey, stuffing, and three side dishes will be brought by others, leaving me to do a couple of pies, cranberry sauce, potatoes & gravy. As ours truly is the “home-that-gathers”, I am looking forward to the happy chatter and laughter that I am so very thankful for.IMG_8594

Continue reading