Friday, December 31, 2010

Many Bad Apples Make a Really Good Crisp!!

Was I happy on Boxing Day to have enough leftovers to make two Turkey Pot Pies, and to have a crisp topping in the freezer to make a humongous Apple Crisp!!
That way we could just go to the beach and hang out!
Edie and sister Margaret at Cleveland Beach 

I have been working on developing a wholesome freezable fruit crisp topping over the past few months - and have come up with a great one!
During the winter and spring months when apples are kept in cold storage, they don't seem to keep well at home - so one ends up with many 'sub par' eating apples. An apple crisp is the perfect solution to using them up! And when you have unexpected dinner guests or just feel like a treat - you can whip up a wholesome dessert quickly when you have the crisp topping already prepared in the freezer.

Here is how I recommend you make it:

Take all of your 'bad apples' out of the fridge and have two 'good apples'  peel and slice them into a baking dish.

Two good apples: William and his cousin Luke peeling apples.
Mom overseeing production!
Next, have the two handsome boys squeeze a fresh lemon and sprinkle the juice over apples. Add a healthy dose of cinnamon, a couple of pinches of cardamom (optional) and a sprinkling of white or brown sugar.Try to go easy on the sugar here - although you do need some to help the apples break down and become soft.

Throw in some cranberries cuz it's Christmas and they are so good for you!!

Handsome cousins putting the frozen crisp topping over the apples

Then, grab your crisp topping out of the freezer and crumble it over the top!! I used two portions of the crisp topping for this large casserolle pan. (Does anyone else have trouble spelling caserolle???)
Put in a 400 oven for about 30 minutes or until the apples pierce easily with a fork and the top is golden.
Serve warm or cold and perhaps with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!! Yummeeeeasy!!

Boxing Day Meal with Handsome Fellas - aren't you envious!!
Will, Luke, Mike, Lauchlin, tennis buddy Rory and me.
Mom and Margaret dined earlier...

Big Batch Wholesome Crisp Topping

Makes about 6 cups of crisp topping - enough for 4 average size apple crisps

1 cup butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups brown sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1 cup ground flaxseed
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or other flour: spelt, oat, etc)
4 cups oats (not instant)

Mix the butter, oil and brown sugar together in a large mixing bowl.
Add the cinnamon and cardamom, mix.
Mix in the ground flaxseed and flour.
Add the oats one cup at a time while mixing.

Divide the mixture into 4 freezer bags and put in the freezer. You can also use a portion right away if desired. When you are ready to make a crisp, take out a bag from the freezer and crumble over your prepared apples or other combinations of fruit ( berries, pears, peaches, etc...). Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Bella says: " Christmas is exhausting...I need a break!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

When You Wish Upon a Squash.......

Often life gives you just what you wish for....
I was reminded of this yesterday morning.
While driving to my clinic office I kept repeating in my head: "Remember to pick up a butternut squash on the way home", "Don't forget to buy a butternut squash". The squash was for a dish that I was going to prepare with a client coming to my home for her appointment. I walked into my office and there on my desk was a two foot long butternut squash! I was stunned by the surprise... and greedily wished I had been thinking of something a little more valuable! Hehe ! : )

But it was very valuable to me at that moment - it was really the only thing I needed at that time. And who knows, by not having had to rush into the grocery store between appointments, maybe I averted an accident of some kind. I like to think that it is bigger than just a butternut squash coincidence. It reaffirms  the power of thought in our lives - think positively and positive things happen; think negatively and you may more likely have a bad day - or at least perceive it as a bad day!
That is no secret!

Now, back to the butternut squash - this is an alternative to the usual methods of preparing this 'winter veggie'. It is fresh and pretty, and would be a lovely addition to a potluck Christmas party!

This recipe is from the cooking genius, Mark Bittman.  He is always coming up with simple, real and delicious ideas!


1 small - medium butternut squash ( I grated just half of my humongous one and had enough for several days!)

generous sprinkling of dried cranberries or raisins

1/4 cup, or so, olive oil

2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (or other vinegar)

1 tbsp, or more, freshly grated ginger

dash of freshly ground salt and pepper

Be careful when cutting the butternut squash - it can be tricky! I like to cut off the bulbous end from the neck and then half the bulbous portion and seed it. Then peel it with a sharp knife or a really good peeler.
Grate it with a food processor - so easy!

Combine the grated squash, dried cranberries, oil, vinegar and ginger in a large bowl.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss, taste and adjust seasonings.

* you could add walnuts or pine nuts to make it a light lunch salad as in the photo below.

Bella says:" Oh, wow, veggies, dried fruit and favourite.....NOT!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Puddledock Farm Pumpkin Bars

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Now that you have that pumpkin puree in the fridge / freezer you can make this snacky pumpkin bar. I received the original recipe from my sister, Margaret , who lives on Puddledock Farm in Maine. That is not a typo - I know, you think it should be PuddleDUCK, but no... it is PuddleDOCK...perhaps Margaret will comment on the significance of PuddleDOCK. Stay tuned!

The original recipe called for white flour and contained MUCH  more sugar and oil. It also had a cream cheese frosting and was aptly called Pumpkin Cake. I have taken the liberty to change the recipe drastically while still producing a moist, flavourful cake-like bar. I also changed the name from cake to bar because of the healthier connotation to the word 'bar'. And to add the title 'PuddleDOCK' as a nod to its origin. So, yes, I changed the name and the ingredients of my sister's recipe - but I wouldn't change a thing about the amazing person, Margaret! Except that I wish she lived closer to me!!

These are very popular in our home and disappear remarkably fast- but that is o.k. - we have lots of pumpkin puree! Feel free to substitute all or some of the honey for maple syrup, and to increase the cinnamon or to add ginger or nutmeg to intensify flavours.


4 eggs
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups pureed pumpkin
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp (or more) cinnamon
dash salt

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the honey, olive oil and pureed pumpkin.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Blend completely. (In the photo below, I am adding extra cinnamon.)

Pour onto a cookie sheet with sides - approx. 12 inch by 16 inch by 1 inch.

(You can use parchment paper if desired)
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.

Watch it disappear!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pureed Pumpkin for Soups, Muffins, Custard, Smoothies, Cookies, Pies,..........

Pumpkin Carving Party!
Sing the following to the tune of the much loved East Coast bar song: "What do you do with a drunken sailor":
Mike surprised me by not knowing the tune!!! I am afraid he is not quite yet a true bluenoser!  I think it was part of the music curriculum when I was in elementary school! Here is the link to the song:

Here we go:

"What do you do with an orange pumpkin, what do you do with an orange pumpkin, what do you do with an orange pumpkin early in the mornin....."

Cut it in half and seed the pumpkin, cut it in half and seed the pumpkin, cut it in half and seed the ......o.k., o.k., I know when to stop...or do I??

I love to have pureed pumpkin in the freezer to make muffins, cookies, soups, smoothies, etc! The taste is so much purer and fresher than the canned versions. And pumpkins are a healthy addition to the diet. The bright orange colour is a giveaway of its high carotenoid content ;  antioxidants that decrease the risk of certain cancers and heart disease and help delay the aging process! Bring it on!!

Pureed Pumpkin

Use the small Pie Pumpkins.
Carefully cut them in half and remove the seeds

Place them cut side down on a cookie sheet with a small rim and bake at 350 for about 45 min - 60 min. They are cooked when a fork pierces the skin and flesh easily.

Let them cool for a bit - then scoop out the flesh. Put the flesh in a food processor.
Puree until smooth.
You can use the fresh puree now; just as you would canned pumpkin in a recipe.

 I like to freeze them in 2 cup portions in freezer -friendly bags. Thaw shortly before using in a recipe.

Would you like the recipes for healthy pumpkin bars and pumpkin smoothies? Leave a comment for me below and I will see what I can do!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Date Cocoa Balls and Nova Scotia Masters Men's Soccer

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Nova Scotia Masters 

Mike's soccer team made it to the over 35 men's national tournament representing Nova Scotia.
I love it that Mike is so healthy and fit - he was the oldest player in the tournament!
Imagine, my Ontario boy representing Nova Scotia - ain't that special!!

Whenever this team has a tournament I like to offer them a few tips on food choices between games. Several tournaments ago they asked if beer was o.k. the night before the final game(s). They asked my opinion, so I  recommended: no beer. I guess the fellas thought that I was being too prudent, so they asked me, the dietitian, whether sex was allowed - so, my final answer was: sex OR one beer, but not both! I believe they have been abiding by this 'rule' as it always comes up during tournaments.

This was an important tournament, so I decided to make some post- game snacks for optimal glycogen reloading of their muscles right after the games ended.

A good post-game snack will be carbohydrate-rich with some protein.

Dates are high in energy and potassium and the sunflower seeds lend some protein. The jalapeno peppers are there just for a kick!


1 banana
3 cups dates - soaked in water for 20-30 minutes and drained
1/2 cup oat flour (rolled oats ground in coffee grinder)
1 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, minced
flaxseed and / or wheat germ on a plate

Combine all ingredients- except the flax and wheat germ, in a food processor.

Process until it is a homogeneous mixture. If it is too sticky to form into balls, add a little more oat flour.
Form into balls and roll in flaxseed and wheat germ.

Put in freezer to firm

Mike looks pretty pleased about their bronze medal win!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Humbled and Crushed Tomatoes

I am starting to panic!

After a summer full of fresh, local, organic greens, tomatoes, berries, I am wondering how we will make it through the winter without. The chipmunk in me is taking over and I have been filling my freezer with wild blueberries, cranberries, pureed pumpkin and now....tomatoes.

On Saturday morning I kissed hubby and doggie good-bye (boys still asleep), and headed to the market before the big crowds.

My mission: To buy 20 pounds of tomatoes to make sauce to freeze for the winter. I have decided to prepare crushed tomatoes to freeze so that I can eliminate buying the canned versions to make spaghetti and pizza sauce, stews, soups and chili.

I stopped by one of my favourite stalls, Elmridge Farms to see if they have large quantities of romas.

Here are a few of my cute neighbour buddies that work at the Elmridge Farm stall!

The next day I settled into tomato chopping while listening to my neightbour Niki Jabbour's gardening show on 95.7 fm radio.
I called in a question and subsequently won the book "Locavore", a book that I had wanted to read - so that was great!!

I've only read the first three chapters thus far - but it has deepened my awareness of the importance and the impact of our food choices. What an exciting time for food and farms - people are interested in knowing the farmers who grow their vegetables and fruits and raised the chicken on their plate.

The second chapter highlights an intimate interview with a husband and wife who farm in Annapolis Valley; Greg and Suzanne of Elmridge Farm! They share their struggles and heartbreaks of owning and operating a family farm - years of low income, 85 hour work weeks, no vacations for years,  a truckload of spoiled broccoli due to a refrigerator breakdown. And they continue to farm - thank goodness!

Mike's Grandad Ernest Greenley was a farmer. In 1969 he decided to sell the farm....but only to someone who was committed to continue farming the land. He had two offers; one for $100,000 from a developer, the other for $30,000 from a family that was going to farm the land. He chose the farmer. He had the dedication to farming and the foresight to know that urban sprawl could take over arable land. That land is still farmed  - but is surrounded by suburbs and developments. I never met Ernie Greenley, but he is a hero of mine.

Finally, here is the method to crushed tomato sauce:

Crushed Tomatoes (freezer-ready)

Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and cut out the stem.

Now, many tomato sauce makers will suggest that you boil and then peel the tomatoes and take out the seeds - I say, why?  The skins will disintegrate with stewing and pureeing - and they add colour and flavour. I am 'all about' making it less tedious.
Dice up the tomatoes into approximately 1-inch pieces.
Chop up some onion and garlic if you wish and throw this in batches into a food processor - pulse until a chunky puree.

Add to a large heavy pot and stew on low heat for a couple of hours.

Let cool completely before you portion into freezer bags

When you pop these out of the freezer and put them into a pot to make a sauce or soup, use as you would a can of crushed or stewed tomatoes. Isn't that great?!
You could also just freeze whole or diced tomatoes.

My freezer is filling up - but I am still in a bit of a panic about the greens! Am thinking about a cold frame to grow some hardy greens. .....stay tuned!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back to Business and Rice Cooker Oatmeal

Have you missed my blog posts these past few weeks? 
You were worried about me? 
You thought that I had been swept off the rocks of Peggy's Cove during Hurricane Earl?  
Well, God love ya! You are as imaginative a worrier as my dear Mother!
Here is what happened: I drove Lauchlin downtown to his tennis training session. Then I went to Point Pleasant Park to walk Bella - whilst on the walk I formulated my next blog post and was giggly with excitement about typing it out at a cafe after the walk. I went back to my vehicle to find the window smashed and glass all over the back seat. My laptop, purse, camera, and briefcase (with agenda in it!) were taken. Not good. 
It couldn't have been a fellow Nova Scotian that did this; must have been a 'CFA' (come from away)!

So, here we are in September..... sneakily sudden, serious September
Back to routine, schedules, school, and some hard work! 
Yes! Let's all get back to business, shall we?!
But wait!  
Can we just take a few minutes and think back to the glorious summer we had?

My sweetest summer 2010 memories involve saltwater and seaweed: swimming with my siblings at Ballantyne's Cove, finding a secret swimming spot at Peggy's Cove, skinny-dipping with Mike in Cape Breton....

Yes indeed, once every summer I insist that we leave the confines of our swimsuits behind and return to the waters as babes on waves! If it isn't part of your summer ritual - you must start next year - It is so freeing - nothing between you and the saltwater. Seaweed tickling your tummy (or whatever body bits are hanging lowest).
Mike and I  kayaked around a point in Dunvegan, Cape Breton and found a solitary beach  that begged for a skinny dipping couple. In we dove like Brooke Shields and the scraggly blonde haired boy from 'Blue Lagoon' (Mike looking more like Brooke than I!). 
I felt like a mermaid and Mike was the lonely fisherman who was hoping for a good catch...

Sorry no photos - did I mention that my car was broken into and my camera was stolen?? 
Here is an artist's accurate rendition:

Nova Scotia is the perfect place to indulge in some skinny dipping! So many isolated little coves and lonely beaches. Just look up 'skinny dipping' in the 'Doers and Dreamers' guide! Hehe!

O.K., alright... back to business - boy, you guys are all work; no play!!

September is a great time to lay down the groundwork for a healthy, balanced, and successful new year. And we all know that a good day starts with a good breakfast. Instead of falling into the cold cereal rut (expensive and most boxed cold cereals are not nearly as nutritious as the front of the boxes would lead us to believe) - wouldn't you love to get up and have a bowl of steaming hot porridge with fruit for breakfast?
My father would always make hot cereal in the morning - alternating between porridge, Red River Cereal and Cream of Wheat.

But who has the time to stand over a pot stirring?!
Here is the answer folks:

The rice cooker! Yes, your rice cooker can make wonderful oatmeal porridge and other grains and things too!

Into the rice cooker put approximately a 2:1 ratio of cold water to large flake oats.  I love the Speerville Flour Mill Oats from New Brunswick.

Set your rice cooker to about 10 minutes and go back to making lunches, blowdrying your hair, or whatever you need to do!

No stirring required until the cooker beeps at 10 minutes.
Here it is: bubbling hot porridge!

Make it a better bowl by adding ground flax, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, maybe a little brown sugar or maple syrup, a splash of milk, and lots of fruit on top!

What a beautiful breakfast! What a great way to start a day! And doesn't it make that crisp feeling in the air on a September morn a wee bit kinder?

Yes, yes, certainly was a glorious summer ...

NOW, back to business!
But where am I supposed to be today??? (Did I mention that my car was broken into and my agenda was stolen?)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Proscuitto Wrapped Salmon and a Hodge Podge of Friends

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When people ask me if I am travelling anywhere in the summer - I always reply that I am staying right here... in Nova Scotia!  Honestly, why would I want to be anywhere else??
Now, I do love my dear province all through the year, but come February, March, weeeell, I have to admit to the occasional impure thought and exotic fantasy of palm trees, sand in my toes, and the warmth of the tropical sun. But in the summertime, hey, I am 100% faithful to this sea bound coast.
It is sooo beautiful and not only that - summer is when friends and family, who have moved away from the east coast to find their fortune, come back home. And I certainly don't want to miss them!!

 Last week I was lucky to spend time with two old friends who had come home to Nova Scotia for a visit. One night, Gina and her sweet daughter Georgia, Margaret and her beau Michael, and Elaine - all came together for a meal at our table. How wonderful it was to have cherished old friends at my table!

Hmmmm.... food - can't live without it. Just like friends  -  I started to ponder how the parts of this meal were like dear friends.

- Friendships like an expensive red wine when properly taken care of become more precious as time goes by. And, like red wine, friends are good for the heart
 - Friends are like a dose of the salmon's omega-3's for the mind -and are best if they have their own wild side (and everyone does....yes, you do too!)
 -The recipe for Hodge Podge is like a mix of old and new friends. Old friends are like the root veggies, potatoes and carrots, giving us roots and the encouragement to dig deep. New friends are like the climbing vines of beans and peas asking us to reach a little higher and be open to new possibilities.

And of course dessert - cuz friends just make life sweet!! AAAaaahhhhh!

Here is a delicious and quick way to make a salmon meal different and special - it is another idea from Michael Smith's book:

Proscuitto- Wrapped Salmon
The proscuitto wraps the salmon, sealing in the juices and becomes like a thin, crispy piece of bacon with intense flavour on top.

Salmon filets or one side of salmon (preferably wild)
a little dijon mustard
a few proscuitto slices

Spread a little dijon mustard over the top of the salmon

If you have filets, you can wrap the whole filet with a slice of proscuitto, placing it skin and seam side down on the baking sheet
I used a whole side of salmon and placed the proscuitto slices slightly overlapping over the top and salmon skin side down.

Bake in a 375 oven for about 15-20 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes easily with a fork.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peach Sorbet for a Hot Summer Day

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Oh, I bet you hoped to just get the recipe for Sorbet and skip all of these soppy sentimental stories - thinking to yourself: " How on earth does someone have so many memories attached to food!"..." and more importantly, why does she think we need to hear about them!!"
Wow... are you grumpy today!
When I decided to write about sorbet I fully intended to simply do the recipe. But somewhere between peeling the peaches and stirring the syrup, I remembered my first experience with sorbet. And, ooooh it brought back so many memories!! Sniff , sniff!

SIDE STORY: I was first introduced to sorbet during my magical summers working as a waitress at the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish, Nova Scotia. The Keltic sits on the tip of a narrow peninsula, with spectacular cliffs on both sides. The beauty of the location is almost unreal -I remember thinking this even as a young waitress walking up to the sunrise breakfast shifts from the staff residence.

Before every dinner shift all of the waiters would meet with the French chefs to learn about the menu. It was always a 5 course meal (different every night) and often there would be a sorbet to 'cleanse the palate' between courses. We carried the large oval trays stacked high with covered plates above our heads. Impressive! I know! Each waiter would have five or six tables of two to six people and five courses going at different times. You can imagine my panic when one night I lost track of my tray with the orders under the linen napkin and NO idea what the next course was for most of my guests! I made an attempt at guessing with a young couple on their honeymoon - giving them their second course when they were expecting their main course. The blushing bride said "in our eyes you can do no wrong, Edie"...but the groom, who was a little less sentimental about their waitress, made it clear that he wanted no more mistakes! So, I frantically ran around looking for my tray and gave up on leaving it up to my memory.

If you travel to Cape Breton - make sure to go to the Keltic Lodge for a meal! It will be a first class culinary adventure - and remember to be kind to the waitress!
Just beyond the resort is the Middlehead Hiking Trail - a short, but amazing hike - you will be moved to sing 'Climb Every Mountain' at the top of your lungs, as my mother did when I was a teenager.

Simple Sorbet Syrup
Start by making a sugar syrup - this will make more than you need, but you can store it in the fridge and will just have to make more sorbet. You can make blueberry, raspberry, strawberry ...chocolate!
I would like to say that you can omit the sugar to increase the health factor, but it is necessary to have a certain ratio of sugar to fruit in order to get the right freezing and texture that is expected in a sorbet.
I will try to experiment with stevia and sorbet soon - 

2 cups sugar
1 cup water

Bring sugar and water to a boil; stir until the sugar dissolves.
Store extra in a mason jar until you make your next batch of sorbet.

Peach Sorbet
Is sorbet the same as sherbet, you ask?  Sorbets and sherbets are both usually fruit - based desserts, but sherbets contain dairy; whereas sorbets do not. Now, granitas and gelato are another story....

2 cups peeled, sliced peaches
1/2 cup simple sorbet syrup
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Puree the peaches in a food processor

Add 1/2 cup of the simple sorbet syrup and the lemon juice to the puree.
Transfer to a freezer friendly container with a lid and freeze until almost firm.

Then transfer back to the processor and puree again to break up ice crystals.

Freeze until almost firm.
Remove the sorbet from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving.