Homemade granola is a virtuous thing. A handful of it will ward off hunger (I keep a ziplock baggie of it in the car at all times) and layering it with some homemade or local Bles Wold vanilla yogurt and frozen berries will give you the healthiest breakfast imaginable. It also makes great muesli, if you stir it into some yogurt along with a grated apple, and pop it in the fridge overnight. Homemade granola also makes a great gift, encased in a big glass mason jar. And it’s far more expensive than most granolas you find on store shelves.
Best of all, you can customize it with dried fruit and chopped nuts, and flavours like vanilla or maple extract, cinnamon or ginger, according to your taste.
As ready as we are to ease into spring, in a lot of the country it still feels like oatmeal season. Warm up those cool spring mornings with a slow cooker full of creamy oatmeal that you put on to cook the night before, just before bedtime. This recipe, from our latest book The Family Slow Cooker, makes a nice big batch that can be reheated throughout the week for a quick and easy hot breakfast. Read More
Spring has sprung, buds are starting to appear and green things are poking out of the ground. Which means in Alberta, it’s almost asparagus season. While asparagus from California or Mexico is generally available year-round, it doesn’t compare to that which is grown right here – it’s not exactly a common back yard crop, but our soil conditions, lack of pests and cool climate produce tender, sweet stalks. (So long as it doesn’t snow immediately before the May-June harvest.) Some of the best asparagus is grown out in the Innisfail area, so as soon as you see it hit the market, it’s best to eat as much as possible while we can get it.
Here’s a way to preserve asparagus for a time when we won’t be able to get our hands on the local stuff – asparagus soup is simple, delicious hot or cold, and perfect to make if you happen to get a wrinkly bunch.
- 1 Tbsp. each butter and canola or olive oil
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 leeks, chopped (white and pale green part only) and then washed in a bowl of cool water
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 lb. asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
- 4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 cup half & half or heavy (whipping) cream
- In a large saucepan or smallish pot, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and leeks and cook for a few minutes, until they start to soften. Add the potatoes, asparagus and stock and cook for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.
- Purée the soup in the pot using a hand-held immersion blender, or do it in batches in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Add a little extra stock or water if it seems too thick. Serve hot, or chill and serve cold.
- Serves 6.
Easter is coming up quickly, and many families roast a turkey instead of a ham – it’s perfect for feeding a crowd, and provides an excuse to make (and eat) stuffing! If you have a turkey on your menu this weekend, here’s a refresher. We took some guidance from local experts Darrel Winter and Corinne Dahm, who have been raising free range turkeys in the small hamlet of Dalemead, 20 minutes south of Calgary, since 1977, in the same house Darrel grew up in.
Thawing: To quickly thaw a frozen turkey, place it (still wrapped) in a deep sink or a large container, such as a cooler or Tupperware bin, and cover completely with cold water. Allow 1 hour per pound of turkey (2 hours per kg) to thaw. Alternatively, sit it in a large roasting pan (to catch any drips) in the refrigerator and allow 5 hours per pound (10 hours per kg) – keep in mind that large birds can take days to thaw.
Stuffing: Spoon stuffing loosely into the cavity of the bird just before roasting; never pack it tight or stuff your turkey the day before. When you’re ready to eat, remove the stuffing before carving and if you like, pop it in the microwave for a few minutes to ensure it’s thoroughly heated through. Alternatively, bake your dressing in a casserole dish alongside your turkey, and stuff a handful of fresh herbs, a halved head of garlic and/or lemon into the cavity instead. Unstuffed turkeys will cook more quickly.
Seasoning: Place the bird breast side up on a rack in roasting pan, pat dry with a paper towel and rub the skin with soft butter or canola oil. Season the skin and inside the cavity with salt, pepper, poultry seasoning, cayenne, thyme, rosemary or your favourite herbs and spices. If you’re using one, insert an oven-safe thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, being careful to not touch the bone.
Roasting: Cover loosely with foil or a lid and roast in a preheated 325° oven. The general rule of thumb for oven cooking a stuffed turkey at 325° F is 15 minutes per pound (30 minutes per kg). If you choose to baste your turkey, limit the number of times you open and close your oven – once an hour is sufficient. Begin checking for doneness about one hour before the end of the recommended roasting time, and keep in mind that fresh turkeys cook faster. Uncover about an hour before the end of the cooking time for crispy, golden skin. Your turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into meaty part of the inner thigh reads 180° F for a stuffed turkey or 170° F for an unstuffed turkey. Temperature is the best indication of doneness, as the juices may still have a slight pink tinge.
Resting: Cover your turkey loosely with foil and let it stand for at least 15 minutes while you make the gravy – this will help retain its juices, keeping the meat tender and easier to carve.
Easter dinner calls for a nice juicy ham and this one, decorated with pineapple and cherries, is worthy of the occasion. The cola and keeps the ham nice and moist without making the meat too sweet.Read More
I love a good chewy bar, like a brownie only without the chocolate – these are essentially blondies, rich with butter and brown sugar, which acts as a blank canvas you could add anything to. These are made with crunchy nuts and chewy dates, which are a winning combination.
Soft Medjool dates are most often found in the produce department of the grocery store, and have pits that are easy to remove, but mean they stay soft, unlike the hard bricks of dates you so often find in the baking section.
I’ve made these with soft brown sugar, but one time when I was out I used turbinado – the result was still sweet and caramelly, with a slightly crunchy texture I loved. They’re so fast to mix together, they may become your new go-to when you need a quick dessert or comforting after school snack. (After all, there’s nothing like coming home to the smell of something baking.)
Happy 3.14 – Pi Day! We can still get local apples at this time of year, and a handful of fresh or frozen berries make such a delicious accompaniment, adding a hit of tartness and colour to the usual apple filling. Virtually any kind of berry works, from blackberries to blueberries to raspberries – if you use strawberries, slice them first to more evenly distribute their juices. And get your kids in the kitchen to help! Since it’s Pi Day, you can even cut the Pi symbol into the top crust to allow steam to escape.
If it’s your first time working with pastry, just remember to handle it as little as possible, and don’t worry about it looking perfect – the best kind of pie is the kind that’s on your table. (And when it comes to pie, rough = rustic!)Read More
Everyone should know how to make a biscuit. They’re infinitely versatile – perfect for serving alongside soup, stew or chili, for turning into a sandwich or when you need to serve up some sloppy Joes. They can be made sweet for weekend mornings, or savoury with the addition of cheese, roasted garlic or fresh herbs. I like mine plain, served warm with butter and honey or jam.Read More
It’s Super Bowl weekend, which means many of us will be snacking on the couch, and offerings in the chip and snack aisles have doubled. But snacking doesn’t have to be unhealthy – there are plenty of dips out there that aren’t based on mayo, sour cream and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with that…) – hummus is perhaps the most familiar, but you can in fact make dips out of other pulses, too. Read More
It’s Chinese New Year this weekend, and while we’d love to brave the crowds at some of our favourite Chinese restaurants, we decided to pick up some ingredients in Chinatown and make a few of our favourite things at home. Noodles are always a hit around here – especially quickly fried with a mildly spicy sesame sauce and tender pork tenderloin.Read More
Chicken drumsticks are my son’s favourite – and if I’m honest, I secretly love them too. They’re inexpensive, perfect for eating with your fingers, and are like a meatier version of chicken wings – more meat, less skin, but still wonderfully, finger-lickin’ sticky. I recently tried a version with honey and garlic – my favourite style of chicken wing – and they were a dinnertime hit.
Gail Hall has been a positive force on the Alberta culinary scene for decades – she was an award-winning caterer, broadcaster, food writer, educator and international culinary tour guide who knew everyone and shared everything from her cooking school and loft on 104th Street in Edmonton. We’ve known her for years, and like most others who knew her, have been inspired by not only her work, but her infectious energy and enthusiasm. She has done so much to build our culinary community, to teach home cooks and support new (and established) chefs.
Sadly, Gail passed away in November, but this past weekend her husband Jon along with her many friends and family members held a celebration of her life – a potluck, of course, and we baked a batch of her almond biscotti to bring along. Thanks Gail, for all the delicious things you’ve shared, and for bringing so many people together around the table.
After somehow accumulating a fridge full of broccoli, making a big pot of broccoli cheddar soup seemed to be a good course of action. This version is bulked up with some butternut squash. Serve it with a bit of crusty bread and you’ve got a full meal. Read More
Growing up, my mom regularly made Ichiban salad – a crunchy mix of coleslaw, packaged ramen noodles, toasted almonds and a tangy dressing made with rice vinegar, oil and part of the seasoning packet. It’s not the healthiest salad in the world, but the mounds of cabbage tend to offset the crunchy noodles, and we only use half the seasoning packet. It has become my go-to desk lunch, and default dinnertime salad, made easy with bagged coleslaw mix, perfectly suited with anything from meatloaf to roasted chicken. If you can’t have almonds in your house, substitute toasted pepitas (green pumpkin seeds).