Oyster Mushrooms with Orzo

IMG_7538It seems like a funny time of year to be harvesting mushrooms, but I suppose as long as conditions are right, those little fungi are going to bloom! I’ve never been really confident on picking mushrooms, but there are a few that I know well, that are safe to eat. Oyster Mushrooms, Puff Balls, and Prince Mushrooms are so easy to identify in this region.

The oyster mushrooms were blooming all over a downed balsam-log. Mushrooms are the blooms of fungi that live in the ground, wood or organic matter (factoid).

There were about 8 feet of them, all over the top half of the log. I found them when they were perfect, the bugs and slugs hadn’t got to them, and they hadn’t started to dry out at the edges. A totally unexpected bounty! For dinner I made up a super easy orzo based risotto type dish. As we’d recently returned from travels, my pantry was quite depleted, but I had all I’d need to make an incredibly mushroomy dish.

I don’t expect that most people will stumble over an oyster mushroom laden log conveniently behind their chicken house, but if you do, harvest those beauties for your meal. If you don’t stumble over such a log, buy some at a grocery store. Continue reading

Three Cheese Macaroni

IMG_5944As a kid I found macaroni & cheese to be too bland.  I could get through a serving if I had enough pickles.   Apparently, though, I was a rarity.  Macaroni & Cheese was part of pretty much any Children’s section on a menu, and presented frequently at Potlucks for “the kids”.  I watched in horror as other children slathered it in ketchup and gobbled it up.  Then there was the boxed version, Kraft Dinner.  My older brother and sister would share a box upon returning home from school some days.  I would go to my room.

It wasn’t until I had children of my own, that I realized why kids are served Mac & Cheese, a protein-laden pasta dish that would fill them up.  Texture is important to children when eating, and it has a very consistent texture, so doesn’t get picked apart.

However, my palate still wasn’t buying it!  So I started to play around.  Typically when I make a simple white sauce, I add bay leaves to the heated milk, and nutmeg to the finished sauce.  By adding a pinch of cayenne, it gave it a bit more zest.

I had always used aged cheddar, but added in some Parmesan and Gruyère, which definitely upped the flavour.

It wasn’t until reading Martha Stewart’s Favorite Comfort Food in the late 90’s that I found the one missing element that would raise my concoction to just what I was looking for, by adding a topping of buttered fresh bread crumbs.

This mixture of zest, cheeses & crumb elevates the lowly macaroni & cheese of my childhood, to something I am proud to serve, and even enjoy myself. Continue reading

Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

IMG_1263Ten years or so ago, I came up with the idea of an art auction to raise money for our community hall.  Everyone could donate art that they no longer wanted on their own walls, or something that they had created themselves.  We had some wild pieces, as well as some that were really beautifully done.  We held another art auction in the summer of 2011, as well as one last summer, which did even better.    We wondered if it was something that we could do year after year.  Apparently there’s no shortage of art that people are willing to donate, and to buy!

The original event was held in April and kicked off with a Lasagne dinner & the Art Auction, followed the next day with a Community Breakfast and Walkathon around the island.  We had a couple of large whalers to transfer us from one point to the next, as we don’t have a circuitous road, more like a wishbone.

Here’s the lasagne I came up with for that event.  We did half of them vegetarian, and half with beef.  My favourite was and still is the vegetarian version.  This recipe makes a large roasting pan full, enough for 18 good-sized servings. Continue reading

Roasted Cauliflower with Farfalle

Cauliflower has never held much charm for me.  A little lack lustre, usually served with some overpowering sauce of some sort.  I do like it in Indian dishes, where it seems to have more strength, more depth.  Then I tried roasting it.  Wow. I love roasted cauliflower!  Who knew that that’s all it needed?  Here I serve it with pasta, a bit of crunch and a bit of spice.  Using a whole cauliflower head, it makes a fair amount, but it always gets eaten. Continue reading