Healthy Recipe Ideas

4 01 2011

Eating healthier is one of the most common new year's resolutions.

Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, the holidays were a whirlwind of crazy overindulgence. From turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to an insanely decadent trip to Montreal (which included such delights as foie gras poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and vintage champagne), it’s now time for me to get back to eating a more balanced diet.

Many people make new year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more.  To get inspired, here are a few helpful links to recipes and sites that will make eating a healthier diet pleasurable and delicious (no dry rice crackers and starvation diets are necessary!)

 

Fish can be a delicious part of a balanced diet

Recipes:

Sablefish with Caramelized Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Avocado Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

How to Make Flavorful Low-Fat Soups

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons

Spiced Apple Walnut Bread

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

More great ideas can be found here:

Cooking Light

Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People

Five Healthy Ways to Post-Holiday Detox

Healthy Eating – The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

I’d like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2011!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy,

Trish

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!

Advertisements




Christmas Brunch

23 12 2010

Pre-cooked ham makes an easy Christmas brunch dish.

Christmas morning is an exciting time for anyone who celebrates the holiday.  Kids wake up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa has arrived and many adults still feel a tingle of excitement when they see the tree surrounded by gifts in the morning. Once everyone has opened their presents and settled down, why not enjoy a delicious brunch?

I like to make a nice meal on Christmas morning.  However, I don’t like to fuss too much because who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when everyone else is having fun?  (plus, I have a turkey dinner to cook later in the day!).  The key is to do as much as possible the night before so Christmas can be enjoyed with your family.

Here are a few ideas for a relatively simple brunch.  I have included some helpful tips for prepping in advance to make things easier.

Spiced Cranberry-Apple Cider – On Christmas morning, I like to get up before everyone and put on a pot of mulled cider so when everyone wakes up, the house smells wonderful and there is something warm to drink while we’re opening gifts. Prepare the spice packet the night before. To make cranberry-apple cider, mix equal parts non-alcoholic apple cider and unsweetened cranberry juice in a saucepan and add the spice packet. Let simmer for 10 minutes and serve.  Garnish mugs with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Crustless Quiche – Leaving out the crust makes things much simpler. Of course, asparagus isn’t in season during Christmas but you can substitute chopped spinach, sautéed leeks, diced red peppers or sautéed mushrooms.  Bake the pie the night before and serve at room temperature or briefly warmed in the oven.

Spicy Breakfast Potatoes – The potatoes can be peeled and cubed the night before. Place the cubes in a bowl, add enough cold water to just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Drain well and pat dry before cooking.  The spices can be pre-mixed in a small bowl so they’re ready to go in the morning.  You can let the potatoes cook while you’re preparing other dishes.

Cheddar-Herb Biscuits – The biscuits can be rolled, cut and placed in the baking dish the night before.  Refrigerate overnight and let them come to room temperature before baking.

Ham with Spicy Maple-Dijon Glaze – I buy a ham that has been pre-cooked, which makes things much simpler.  It can be sliced and served cold or heated briefly in the oven while other things are baking. Prepare the mustard glaze the night before and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Baked French Toast – This entire dish can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

Morning Glory (Orange and Pomegranate Mimosas) – In a pitcher, add orange and pomegranate juices the night before and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling wine just before serving (the wine can be added to the pitcher or to individual glasses.)  Use club soda for guests who don’t drink.

Pancakes – Mix all of the dry ingredients the night before in a large bowl.  Measure out the wet ingredients (except the egg) into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, combine everything and cook the pancakes.  Serve with pre-made fruit syrup or maple syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Like pancakes, the dry ingredients can all be measured and added to a large bowl the night before.  Measure the wet ingredients into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, you can mix and bake everything quickly.

Banana-Rum Bread – Banana bread and other sweet breads can be made in advance and frozen.  Remove from the freezer the night before to defrost in time for brunch.

Yogurt, cereal, bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, granola and fruit don’t require much prep work!

Coffee and Tea – Set up the coffee maker/espresso machine/french press with coffee and water the night before.  Fill a kettle with water for tea.

A Final Tip: You will be very happy in the morning if you take the time to set the table before you go to bed (and tell Santa not to mess it up with crumbs while he’s enjoying his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve!)

Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!





Farmers’ Market Report – October 21st, 2010

22 10 2010

Cortland apples and bosc pears from the farmer's market

As we near the end of October, many of the farmers’ markets in Ontario are beginning to wrap up for the year (there are a few that operate year round but the variety of local produce drops off considerably by November). I visited a small one this week and was pleasantly surprised to find there was still a lot available.  These were some of the highlights:

Corn

I was a bit taken aback to still see local corn at the market.  The husks looked sad and tired but the farmer ensured me that the corn was in fact sweet and tasty.  I was skeptical but at $4 for 7 cobs, I figured it was worth giving them a try.  I husked the corn and cut the kernels off the cob, sautéed them in butter and dressed them simply with some salt and pepper. Much to my surprise, it was delicious!  I expected it to be dry and tasteless but it was sweet and juicy (although the cobs were quite small).  It was almost certainly the last of the year and a sweet reminder of how much I will miss local corn over the next nine months or so.  However, canned and frozen corn are usually decent enough to tide me over.  Check out the Corn Archives for some tasty corn recipes.

Apples and Pears

 

A bosc pear

Apples and pears were abundant at this week’s market.  There were many different varieties available and the farmers were offering samples so it was a great way to make comparisons.  My favourite apples to eat out of hand are Cortlands – they are the perfect balance of sweet and tart. However, sometimes they can be a bit mealy and I prefer ones that are perfectly crisp and juicy. This week’s specimens were pretty good; I will eat a few and use the rest to bake with.  Perhaps a classic Apple Pie will be on the menu.  I also picked up some bosc pears after sampling various types including the always popular Bartletts.  Pears are delicious with nuts and my recipe for Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce is sure to be a hit at your next dinner party. An unusual pear cocktail is another fun way to incorporate pears into your menu.

Root Vegetables

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of root vegetables such as carrots, beets and potatoes available.  Because they can be harvested late in the season and store well, they are staples throughout the winter.  Why not make an interesting salad out of roasted beets or some carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting?

Pumpkins and Squash

 

Pumpkins are at their peak in October

October is peak pumpkin season and the sunny, dry weather this year has produced some nice specimens.  Large jack-o-lantern pumpkins aren’t very good for eating but they’re fun to carve and you can roast and eat the seeds.  Sugar (or pie) pumpkins can be turned into a delicious pumpkin treats such as pie, pumpkin french toast or pumpkin spice muffins.  My favourite winter squash are butternut squash – they can be used to make a variety of dishes such as soup, salads or gratins.

There are a few more weeks left for local produce so I’m looking forward to testing some new ideas I have using the best of the season.  Enjoy!

A black squirrel enjoys a snack in the park near my house





Thanksgiving Desserts

7 10 2010

 

Maple-Caramel Custards are a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie at the Thanksgiving table

 

Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend so it’s time to start thinking about the dinner menu.  Turkey will be on most tables and I’ve given a number of suggestions for excellent side dishes (Thanksgiving Side Dishes).  However, for many people, the highlight of the holiday meal is dessert.

Pumpkin and apple pies are popular choices, however, I sometimes enjoy serving desserts that are a bit different yet still seasonally appropriate.  Pears, apples, pumpkin, nuts and cranberries are abundant at markets right now so it’s the perfect time to incorporate them into your menu.

Here are a few suggestions for a delicious finish to the Thanksgiving feast:

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – This impressive looking dessert is easy to make.  If you don’t feel like fussing with the praline, the filling makes a delicious basic pumpkin pie.

Apple Pie – A classic.  Be sure to serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple-Caramel Tart – An elegant alternative to apple pie.  It’s made with frozen puff pastry, making the preparation quick and easy.

Harvest Strudel – Pears, apples, cranberries, nuts and warming spices make this dessert a nice change from basic pie.

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – A rich caramel sauce poured over a decadent pear and nut-studded pudding takes this comfort food dish to new levels.

Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets – Raspberry season is over in most areas, however, this recipe works just as well with frozen berries.

Maple-Caramel Custards with Sea Salt – This rich custard showcases the flavour of maple beautifully.  If you can find some colourful maple leaves that have fallen, they make a fun presentation.

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

Get updates from The Seasonal Gourmet on Facebook and Twitter.  Join the conversation today!





Autumn Has Arrived!

23 09 2010

Brilliant foliage is one of the highlights of fall

It’s finally fall and I couldn’t be happier.  Sure summer is fun, with warm weather, lazy days at the beach and barbecues with friends.  But fall is my favourite season with the brilliant foliage, rich fall fashions, crisp weather and of course, the food.

Many passionate home cooks consider fall the kick off to the ‘cooking season’.  Once the weather cools, we can resume baking, roasting and braising.  The markets are piled high with produce and we crave hearty soups and stews after a vigorous afternoon of leaf raking or a hike in the park.  It’s a time to light the fireplace, prepare a rustic dinner and linger at the table with friends.

For some great ideas for using autumn’s abundance, check out some of my most popular fall recipes:

Spiced Cider

Leek and Ham Tart

Beef, Barley and Mushroom Soup

Mushroom Soup

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta

Braised Short Ribs

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin Wrapped with Prosciutto

Stuffed Butternut Squash

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Maple

Savoury Mushroom Bread Pudding

Harvest Strudel

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Apple Caramel Tart

Pumpkin Pie with Walnut Praline

Bon Appétit and Welcome to Fall!





Farmers’ Market Report – August 31st, 2010

31 08 2010

Heirloom tomatoes at the East Lynn Farmer's Market, Toronto

I recently returned from two weeks in Quebec and can see the signs of summer winding down.  The sun is setting earlier, the evenings are cooler and kids are gearing up to go back to school.  However, the farmer’s markets are in full swing – if it grows in Ontario, you can probably get it at our markets right now (with the exception of early spring produce such as asparagus and fiddleheads).  I went to three farmers’ markets over the past week and here are some of the highlights:

Heirloom tomatoes at the market. Don't be fooled by their imperfect looks - they were delicious!

Tomatoes

The king of late summer markets, tomatoes are finally in season.  Last year I lamented how horrible the season was for tomatoes because the weather was cool and wet and there was a fungus that destroyed a lot of crops.  However, all signs point to 2010 being a much better year thanks to hot and dry weather. I’ve been experimenting with heirloom varieties, plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and so far I’ve been pretty pleased.  The key to using summer tomatoes is to keep preparation simple.  Why not make a classic BLT (Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato) Sandwich?  When tomatoes are sweet and juicy, it just might be the perfect sandwich. Cook up some good quality bacon, cut some tomatoes into thick slices and add some cool, crunchy lettuce.  A smear of mayo on lightly toasted bread finishes this masterpiece.

For more great tomato ideas, check out the tomato archives: Tomato Recipes.

A classic BLT: Possibly the perfect sandwich

Eggplant

It took me a while to get into eggplant – I used to think it was bitter and mushy. However, now I love them, as long as they’re not too big (the bigger they are, the more watery and prone to bitterness they’ll be).  This week, there were eggplants of every size, from miniature ones not much bigger than my thumb to large ones you would normally see at the supermarket.

Tomatoes + Eggplant = The basis for Pasta alla Norma (see below)

For a fresh idea, why not make a simple Pasta alla Norma?  Last week I made a version with rigatoni, fresh plum tomatoes, fresh ricotta cheese and miniature eggplant rounds.  This recipe from Mario Batali is similar but uses canned tomatoes instead: Pasta a la Norma.

My version of Pasta alla Norma made with fresh plum tomatoes, baby eggplant and creamy ricotta

Corn

Corn was a bit early this year so it’s already starting to taper off. I’ve been enjoying it straight off the cob – boiled and simply dressed with butter, salt and pepper. However, Corn Chowder with Bell Peppers is a great way to use up extra corn (and local peppers, which are also in season right now).  Leftover cooked corn can also be mixed with some fresh thyme, sage or basil and tossed with olive oil, parmesan and pasta for a simple, summery dinner.

Corn on the cob at a vegetable stand

Summer Berries

Local raspberries and blueberries are abundant right now and won’t last long so take advantage of them while you can. Raspberries are delicious in both sweet and savoury recipes so you can create an entire menu built around them.  Start with a hearty main course salad such as Duck Confit Salad with Fresh Raspberries and finish with an impressive dessert like Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Tartlets.

A hearty salad with duck confit and fresh raspberries

Autumn Fruit

Autumn fruit such as plums, pears and apples have started appearing at the market. I’ve been focusing more on ‘summer’ fruit (such as the berries, above) but I did try some delicious plums and a beautifully crisp Cortland apple.  Visit the apple archives for some tasty and impressive ideas: Apple Recipes.

I’m a little saddened that in a matter of weeks this abundance of produce will begin to slow. However, I love fall (and the cooler weather that comes with it) so I’m looking forward to coming up with some great ideas for autumn.  Plus, there is still plenty of summer left so hit the markets and enjoy!

Trish





A Few of My Favourite (Canadian) Things…

2 07 2010

Maple syrup in a maple leaf bottle

A belated Happy Canada Day to all of my Canadian readers!  I must admit that I started to write this yesterday (Canada Day) and got distracted by various holiday celebrations, including a great fireworks display over Lake Ontario.

Canada Day is the one day of the year when we pull out our flags to celebrate our country and all the things that make it great (or just enjoy a day off in the middle of the week).  Canada is easy to stereotype but there’s a lot more going on here than hockey, moose, Celine Dion and beer (although there’s plenty of those too).  The culinary scene in Canada has never been so diverse and interesting and I’m constantly finding inspiration from local chefs, farmers, producers and writers.  Here are a few of my favourite Canadian food-related things:

Canadian Wines

A selection of Ontario wines

People outside of Canada might not even be aware that we have a number of wine producing regions that are growing rapidly. British Columbia and Ontario lead the way with dozens of wineries, ranging from small family-run producers to larger, corporate-owned vineyards.  Canadian icewines have won international awards and we also produce some top-notch whites including riesling (a favourite of mine in the summer).  To learn more about the largest wine regions of Canada, visit www.winebc.com and www.winesofontario.com

Unique Dishes

A take-out container of poutine

Every nation has dishes that are considered specialties of that country.  Because Canada is so spread out and diverse, a number of iconic dishes can be found across the country including poutine (french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy), donairs (spiced meat wrapped in a pita and topped with a sweet garlic sauce), smoked meat, Bloody Caesars, butter tarts, and Nanaimo bars.  A recent Globe and Mail feature asked what we thought our national dish might be: My National Dish (click through the slide show of Contenders at the bottom).  I’d rather not choose one – I like them all!

Great Products

Atlantic lobsters are served in restaurants around the world

Despite a relatively short growing season, Canada has great produce.  During the peak summer months, farmer’s markets are full of locally grown fruits and vegetables that range from the familiar to more exotic fare such as bitter melon and rapini.  We also have some of the world’s best seafood, fished from both the east and west coasts.  Prince Edward Island oysters, B.C. smoked salmon and Atlantic lobster are served at fine restaurants around the world.  Maple syrup is another famous Canadian export that is readily available at any grocery store across the country. Canadian artisan cheese makers are beginning to make their presence felt in the world with a Quebec produced goat cheese, Le Cendrillon, winning the title of Best Cheese in the World at the 2009 World Cheese awards.  Many provinces are now producing interesting and unique cheeses from goat, sheep and cow’s milk.

Another Canadian product I’ve been experimenting with over the past few months is duck. Brome Lake in Quebec’s Eastern Townships is famous for its ducks and many products are now easier to find in stores outside of the province.  I’ve been testing recipes using confit legs, smoked breasts and duck foie gras I’ve purchased at the St. Lawrence Market and A Taste of Quebec in Toronto.  There is even a store dedicated to duck products on Boulevard St-Laurent in Montreal called  Le Canard Libéré.

For some delicious recipes using Canadian products, check out some of these recipes:

Home Grown Talent

Some of Canada’s food personalities have recently gained more recognition abroad with the launch of the Cooking Channel in the United States.  Although their programs have been airing on Food Network Canada for a while, TV chefs such as Chuck Hughes (Chuck’s Day Off), David Rocco (Dolce Vita), Laura Calder (French Food at Home) and Roger Mooking (Everyday Exotic) will gain a much wider audience in the U.S.  Laura Calder also recently won a James Beard Foundation Award for her program, beating out popular nominees The Barefoot Contessa and Iron Chef America.  Other prolific Canadian food personalities include Lucy Waverman, celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, who recently launched a new tv show and a restaurant, and Michael Smith, who competed on Iron Chef America and cooked for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Local Restaurants

The Au Pied de Cochon cookbook

The restaurant scene in Canada has never been so exciting.  Many of the country’s top chefs are championing the use of local products and creating dishes that are uniquely and distinctly Canadian.  Chef Martin Picard of Montreal’s temple of decadence, Au Pied du Cochon, uses local products to fuel his over-the-top cuisine. The menu features such madness as poutine topped with foie gras, cromesquis (fried cubes of foie gras that explode and melt in your mouth) and towers of Canadian seafood in the summer.  The last time I was there, I watched the chefs plate an entire pig’s head that had been cooked in their wood-burning oven.  Toronto’s Black Hoof restaurant is curing their own meats for charcuterie plates while Vancouver’s C Restaurant is featuring the best of local seafood in artistic presentations.  These are just a few examples – there are many other innovative Canadian restaurants from coast to coast who are shaping the culinary direction of our nation.

Diversity

Le Petit Alep, a Syrian/Armenian restaurant in Montreal

One of the great things about living in Canada in general is the great cultural diversity of our people.  In major cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, you can sample the cuisines from dozens of nations – the world is your oyster, so to speak. You can have dim sum for lunch, sushi for dinner and Lebanese sandwiches as a midnight snack, if you so choose.  Many restauranteurs are using local ingredients in the preparation of ‘ethnic’ dishes (such as Vij’s in Vancouver), creating local/global hybrid dishes that are unique and interesting. As our population continues to grow, the fusion of various influences will only make eating ‘Canadian’ food more exciting.

Bon Appétit and Happy Canada Day!