The Essence

Living and growing a family in the North awards you with a real and tangible connection to the land. As a mother of 5 and as a home baker and wannabe chef, it is this connection that seeps into everything - motherhood, food, harvesting, and experiencing the very heartbeat of the bit of earth that sustains us.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Clean Out The Fridge Soup

Making a pot of soup is soothing to the soul. Soup is a pretty easy, quick thing to throw together and there is something about having a pot of soup simmering on your stove that makes you feel like you have it together. Soup on the stove makes me want to get all the laundry done, the bathrooms clean, the floors sparkling, and the shelves dusted. Soup propels me. If I have soup on the stove, it means it's going to be a pretty good day around the Grantham house. It makes the house smell good. Sometimes when we are nearing a grocery run into Whitehorse, I'll have some random vegetables that aren't much on their own, but that together make a darn good soup. I love soup because you can throw almost anything in the pot and it will be delicious. I had a small butternut squash, some carrots, a rutabaga and some onion.

Chop it all into chunks, melt some butter in a pot and throw it all in. Add a spoonful of garlic, some Italian spice and salt and pepper. You can add some fresh herbs, too of you have some. 

After that has fried up for a while and your kitchen is starting to smell yummy, add some chicken stock and some white wine, enough so that the vegetables float. 

Now you can go be productive for a little while, letting the vegetables simmer until they are soft. Remember all the laundry that soup makes you want to do? Maybe I lied a little about that. 
After the vegetables are soft, get out your immersion blender. Alternatively you could pour this all into a blender, but you really should have an immersion blender. Buzz all the vegetables up until they are smooth. 

You can add some more chicken stock if it is a little thick, and some more salt and pepper, to taste. We ate this soup up just like this, with some crusty bread, but then afterwards I thought about adding some cocunut milk, ginger, and a bit of curry to it. Next time I'll do that. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring on the Ice

This spring we have been spending quite a bit of time icefishing. Not that our efforts have resulted in anything but a few bites, but I don't go icefishing for the fish anyways. It's more about the trip to and from the lake, sitting in front of a fire in the blazing sun, watching the kids build forts and drive skidoos all by themselves. I found a bit of time this morning to make a batch of Hot Cross Buns, because that's what you make at Easter right?

Went for a hike and found sheep on the hills!

 Our little Griffon, Kelsey.

I adapted Ree Drummonds recipe for Hot Cross Buns. She's the Pioneer Woman, so they must be good right?!

Put 4 cups of milk, 1 cup of canola oil and 1 cup of sugar in a pot. Put it on medium heat until it scalds, but don't let it boil!

Let the mixture cool until it's warm to the touch, then pour it into your kitchen aid bowl and add 8 cups of flour and 4 1/2 tsp of quick rise yeast. Mix that up with the paddle, cover it with a towel or Saran Wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise for an hour.

When the dough has doubled in bulk, add another cup of flour, 1 heaping tsp of baking powder, 1 scant tsp of baking soda and 1 tbs of salt. Stick your dough hook on and mix that up for about 5 minutes. It will be sticky, but nothing that a little flour on your hands and counter top won't solve. 

 I forgot to take pictures of the next step. Sorry. 
Mix up 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, and 1/4 tsp allspice. Also get out some raisins, or whatever other dried fruit you want to put in.
Turn the dough onto the counter and halve it. 
Roll out one half into a small rectangle, 
Sprinkle generously with the sugar mix and raisins and fruit, then fold the dough over, roll out again and repeat. Then repeat all of this with the other half of dough. Got a picture of it all done!

I really slacked off on the picture taking this time around. Portion the dough into buns and place them on greased sheets. Let them rise for an hour or until puffy and doubled in bulk, then brush them with a glaze made with an egg white and a few tablespoons of milk. DONT get lazy and only portion half your dough into buns, thinking that a Hot Cross Loaf would be nice.......
Put them in a 375C oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until they are nice and brown.

Mix an egg white, 1/2 cup of milk and a bunch of icing sugar until you get a not too runny glaze. Put it into a bag, snip the end off and pipe some crosses onto your buns. Yum!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mennonite Apple Bars

It's funny that most of my posts thus far have been about cooking and dinners - as mostly I consider myself a baker. I cook dinner out of an obligation to feed my family good homemade food, but I bake because I love to measure ingredients into a bowl, I love to cream sugar into butter and knead soft dough into billowy rolls. I love to ice cakes, I love the look of a grid of cookies on their sheet, I love to crimp the edge of my pie into wavy corners. One of my favourite pastimes is to sit quietly with a coffee, flipping the pages of one of my cookbooks.
There is great pleasure in curling up with a good book, being immersed in its pages, but once it's done there is sometimes a feeling of sadness, a sense of being a bit cheated because the story is over. I rarely read a book twice, even a good book.
Except when it comes to cookbooks. You can go back to cookbooks again and again, and it's like your reading them for the first time. You discover a recipe you swear wasn't there before, or you learn a method you must have skipped over during the first read. For me, there is almost nothing I look forward to more than a mail day after I've received the notification from Canada Post in my inbox. I have a lot of cookbooks. And I've read them all cover to cover - at least twice.
I'm always on the lookout for an interesting new cookbook, and if I'm invited into your kitchen you might see my eyes searching your shelves, seeking out the spot where your cookbooks might be stored. My sweet friend Kirsten always has some new finds when I visit her kitchen and the following recipe for Apple Bars comes from a cookbook I perused while sitting on a bar stool at her countertop. I went right home and ordered it off Amazon.
Kirsten lives in Chilliwack and gets to be friends with the rather large Mennonite community there. Sometimes I think I might make a good Mennonite. Anyway, she met a couple neat ladies who were part of a group who made a cookbook that became a national best seller. Never pass up a cookbook written by Mennonites, especially one that is a national best seller. Kirsten bought it, of course, and so now I have it.
This recipe for Apple Bars is slightly adapted from Lovella Schellenbergs recipe in "Mennonite Girls can Cook".

Into the bowl of your KitchenAid, combine 21/2 cups of flour and 1 tsp of salt.

Cut up 1 cup of cold butter into cubes, and add it to the flour one at a time, until it has the consistency of oatmeal.

Separate 2 eggs, and add the yolks to enough milk to make 2/3 cup. Save the whites in a separate dish.

Mix the egg yolk and milk mixture into the flour and butter until it holds together, then turn it out onto your counter and knead it a few times. Wrap it in Saran Wrap and refrigerate until chilled.

Peel and slice about 6 cups of apple. I used Granny Smith, because they aren't too sweet and they hold together well. Plus my Nana only used Granny Smith for Apple Pie, so they must be the best. Toss the apples with 1/2 cup of sugar.

Cut your chilled dough in half. Flour a piece of wax paper, place half your dough onto it and press it into a little rectangle shape. Sprinkle it with flour and place another piece of wax paper on top. Roll that sucker out until it will fit over the sides of your cookie sheet. Carefully peel the top sheet of wax paper off your dough, then flip it over into your sheet. Peel the rest of the wax paper off.

Crush a cup of cornflakes and sprinkle them over your dough. Then dump your sugared apples in, spreading them evenly around. Now take a little pastry brush and brush some egg white onto the edges of your dough. This will help to "glue" the top on.

Prepare the second piece of dough the same way as the first, placing it over the apples. Trim the edges, patch any holes, and pinch the dough together against the side of the pan to seal it. Brush the top of the dough with your egg white, then sprinkle a bit of sugar over it. Poke it all over with a fork to let the steam escape.

Bake in a preheated 375C oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Combine 1 cup of icing sugar, 2-3 Tbsp of cream or milk, and 1-2 tsp of maple syrup to make a thin drizzle icing.

These turned out really good, I will be making them a lot more! I think they would be good with cherry or rhubarb, or peaches. Thanks Mennonite Girls!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Turkey Alfredo

Now for the third meal from the Superstore turkey. I threw the turkey carcass into the freezer as it is Spring Break and we have been busy enjoying lots of outdoor family time and dealing with a turkey carcass seemed too ambitious. The other day I pulled it out to thaw while we were soaking up the rays and trying to hook into a Kokanee on Fish Eye Lake. No such luck.
 When we returned, I stuck the carcass into a big pot and boiled it for a couple hours in salted water. Then I turned it onto a cutting board and plucked all the meat off it. Soup is the thing to make with a turkey carcass, and although it would have satisfied us after spending the day out on the ice, I wanted to try something different.

Chop up some onion and garlic. A lot of my cooking starts with this step! Haha. Fry that up in a couple wads of butter. 

Put some fettuccine on to boil.

To the onion and garlic and butter, add a 500ml carton of whip cream. Yum.

When the cream is warm, add a bag of Parmesan and some cracked pepper and salt. Double yum.

Let that warm until the Parmesan melts, then dump in your turkey meat. If you want, add some peas or some spinach to make up for the carton of whip cream. 

Stir that up and let it warm on low heat until the peas are cooked through or your spinach is wilted. Then you can drain your pasta and add it in.

I will get 4 meals out of the next Superstore turkey. That's 4 meals times 7 people (even though one of those people eats next to nothing at supper time) equals 28 servings outta one bird! How awesome is that?