Monday, 30 September 2013

chicken pot pie, only better

We have had a lot going on over here for the past couple of months and unfortunately this blog of mine has suffered for it.  But I'm back now and I thought that since autumn is officially upon us, it was time for some cozy meals.

When I had my first child, one of my go to meals was chicken pot pie.  I never made it myself, I would go down to the very expensive natural food store and buy one to take home and heat up.  It was a perfect combination of new mother exhaustion and not feeling confident enough to make it myself.  That all changed a couple of years ago when I had the revelation that you didn't need to make a full pastry to make a good pot pie.  I also realized that this classic dish was a perfect way to use up left over chicken.  Now I have  few versions of this meal that I make, but this latest one with biscuits on top has to be my favorite.  It may look like a lot of work, but it really isn't and once you sit down to a steaming bowl of it on a cold autumn day you will realize that it was worth the effort and then some.  This is also a perfect meal if you are watching your pennies.  It falls into my "something out of nothing" repertoire, hopefully it will become part of yours too.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Cobbler
Adapted from Back in the Day Bakery by Cheryl and Griffin Day

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup finely diced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 cups chicken broth
3 peeled carrots cut into 1 inch cubes
3 celery ribs chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
5 cups leftover chicken or you can get one of the roasted ones from the grocery store
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp fresh sage
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Boarding House Biscuits
Adapted from Back to the Table by Art Smith

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3/4 cup buttermilk as needed

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Using a pastry blender or your fingers, cut the butter into the mixture until you get a pea meal consistency.  Stir in enough buttermilk to make a soft and sticky dough.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll it out until the dough is about about 1/2 inch thick.  Be careful not to overwork the dough.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out the rounds and put to the side until you are ready to place on top of the pie insides (uncooked).

For the Pie Insides

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450℉.

To make the pie insides, melt 4 Tbsp of the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender.  Add the carrots, celery, salt, pepper and broth.  Partially cover the pot, reduce to a simmer, stirring often.

Stir in the cream, raise the heat to medium and cook, covered until the veg is tender. 

While that is cooking, mix your remaining butter with the flour to create a paste.  Once the veg is tender, add the flour and butter mixture to the pot, slowly whisking it in.  This is going to make the pie insides super creamy and thick.  Next add the herbs and cayenne and then the corn and peas to heat through. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the biscuits that have been brushed with buttermilk.  If you forget this step as I did, don't fret, they will still be yummy.  Bake for 15 minutes until the biscuits are golden and the filling is bubbling.  Let this sit for 5 minutes at least before you ladle it out into your waiting bowls.  I love fall.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Blackberry Tart

I used to love making pies.  When I was 16, I decided that I would learn how to make a good crust and from that point on for many years, apple pie with the flakiest crust was my thing.  Then Christmas 1999 came along, mixed with a few family politics and a great deal of stress, I lost it.  I made three crusts and none of them turned out, then I burnt my arm taking the pie out of the oven and that was it.  I never made pie again.  Which was tragic because honestly, I love pie.

Then I came across this recipe for a tart.  As terrified I was of pastry, I couldn't stay away any longer. The time had come to reclaim my love of pie, well, in this case, tart.  What I LOVE about this recipie is you don't need to have everything ice cold, you don't even need to roll out the dough.  You just mix it together in a bowl and tumble it into the tart pan and press it into place.  The tart shell does all the work to make it look like you have been slaving for hours.

So when my husband asked for a fresh fruit tart for his birthday, I knew this would be it.  Blackberries are in season right now and free.  All you need to do is go and find yourself a dripping bush and fill your bowl.  This tart is light, creamy with a lovely crisp crust which is lovely against the creamy filling.  You need not be a french pastry chef to make this, but you sure will look like one.  If only I had known about this method sooner, there would have been no need for such a long pie drought.  Yes, I know this isn't exactly the same, but once you get your confidence with one thing, you build it up for others, that is the beauty of cooking.

For the crust:
adapted from French Taste by Laura Calder

1/2 cup softened butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Heat oven to 400℉ Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon until light and creamy.  Stir in the vanilla.  Mix in the flour to make a dough.  Tumble into an 8 inch tart pan and press into place.  Line with parchment paper and fill with dried beans up to the top.  Bake for 15 minutes.  This is called blind baking and helps the crust not to puff up.  Take out of the oven, remove the paper and beans and put the tart shell back in the oven at 325℉ for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool completely.

Vanilla Cream
adapted from French Taste by Laura Calder

1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean cut lengthwise
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped

Put the milk in a saucepan with the split and scraped vanilla bean and heat just before it comes to a simmer.  Turn off the heat, remove and cover for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy.  Once the milk is ready, gradually whisk it into the egg mixture.

Pour this back into the sauce pan, add the flour.  While you are bringing this to the boil, keep stirring so that it doesn't scald.  If that does happen, don't panic!  You are going to thin this with whipped cream later anyways.  Once this is nice and thick, remove from heat and let cool completely.  Once it is cooled, add 1/4 cup whipped cream and fold in. This will make a lovely, light and fluffy cream that you could eat with a spoon. 

To assemble:

Remove tart shell from the pan and place on a cake plate or other serving dish.  Pour in the vanilla cream.  Lovingly add your blackberries starting from the outer edge and winding into the center.  You can either serve this straightaway or put it in the fridge to chill.  While not as conventional as a cake, this really is wonderful for a birthday. 


Friday, 5 July 2013

Love Your Farmer : Teafarm

What is about to become one of the loveliest teas I have ever had.
Tea has been a part of my life since I was a child.  My father used to drink Twinings Earl Grey with a little sugar and a slice of lemon.  Sometimes he would make me a cup also with milk and sugar, I loved it.  When I became a mother, tea took on a whole new meaning.  The jolt of landing on the self-sacrificing path of motherhood started to take its toll on me early on in my journey.  So I began a daily practice of drinking tea.  I call it a practice because I didn't simply sit in the car waiting for a cup of tea to reach me through a drive-thru window.  I carved out a piece of time, every day around 3 pm to sit down at my kitchen table with a lovely cup of good tea, a small sweet and a little something to read.  It hasn’t always been easy to make this happen for myself, I do have two children after all.  However, a practice is just that, something you do everyday to improve your life, if even just a little.  This time of tea for me has become a solace, a time to slow down and a small daily gift to myself.

A longstanding part of my practice of tea has come from Teafarm, a local farm here in the Cowichan Valley producing and creating their original blends of amazing black, green, white and herbal teas from all over the world, including from their own farm.  As part of my Love Your Farmer series, I wanted to explore what Victor Vesely and Margit Nellemann have created and where the tea that I love so much comes from.

A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to spend a sunny afternoon with Victor (Margit was very busy getting ready for the week) in their tea house.  He gifted me with a Moroccan tea service that to me, epitomized The Way of Tea.  It is a slow process of bringing the water to just the right temperature, then cleansing the gunpowder green tea in the pot with the first pour of the water.  It is then swirled about in the pot and poured out into the "truth" cup.  This is one of three beautiful glass tea cups that shows the recipient that the tea has been cleansed and is ready to be prepared.  Next in goes gorgeous fresh organic mint, hot water and sugar. Once it has steeped, it is poured out into a glass and then back into the pot again to fully oxygenate the tea.  This beautiful process feels like such a gift.  Victor shared with me that he believes that "tea is love" and I fully agree.

Victor preparing my Moroccan tea service.
What followed for the next two hours was a conversation as rich as the tea itself.  One of things I love so much about tea is that it can be such a wonderful way to foster connections with others. When someone makes you a pot of tea, it is not only an expression of love; it is a reason to slow down.  You cannot rush a cup of tea, it needs to steep, be poured and prepared and sipped slowly.  In the time it takes to let this moment unfold, so often does good conversation.  Have you ever noticed just how powerful tea can be?  It can calm a broken heart, be an olive branch between two people, act as an extension of love and care, cool a hot temper and invigorate the soul for the hours ahead. When my father who is now 84 years old would come down with any sort of illness, he would, and still does, make himself his Earl Grey tea with lemon, it is his longstanding cure-all.  He nearly believes it is magical, and perhaps it is.

Gorgeous Calendula that is added to the Mysteaque tea.
Victor and Margit have created a beautiful space on their property devoted to their love of tea.  Along with organic lavender, calendula, mint and other herbs and flowers that are growing abundantly, they have a small parcel devoted to tea plants.  Tea typically grows in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world.  Having tea plants growing here in the Cowichan Valley is a fascinating experiment and could potentially change how we experience local tea.  These little tea plants have survived three winters so far, which is nothing short of a small miracle.  While they won't be ready for harvest for a few more years I think it is remarkable that Victor and Margit are growing them.  We all know what tea looks like out of a tin or a tea bag, but it is fascinating to see the actual plant growing, to be able to see where our tea really comes from.  Did you know that all types of tea, such as white, green, and black tea, come from the same plant species (Camellia sinensis)?  It is the oxidizing process, sometimes accomplished by pan frying, that brings out the various shades and flavours of tea. Similar to growing grapes for wine production, the flavour and unique characteristics of the plant are shaped by the variations in soil type, humidity, and even altitude in which it is grown.

Beautiful little tea plants growing on a terraced garden

The tea house
In addition to the growing space, Teafarm includes a beautiful tea house.  This lovely little spot houses over 80 different varieties of tea along with Margit's beautiful pottery.  Here you can purchase your tea to enjoy at home or stay for a tea service with a sweet pairing, which I highly recommend (temptation caused a return visit last weekend with my daughter).  Margit shared with me how tea and ceramics have always gone hand in hand and because of this, having a pottery studio connected with the tea made perfect sense.  It is interesting how here in North America we have no problem drinking our tea out of paper or even worse Styrofoam cups but to me, that goes against everything that tea represents.  Drinking your tea slowly out of a ceramic or glass cup requires that we slow down.  The love that comes through the tea that was made for you is held by the love of the artist that went into making your cup.  Paper doesn't do that for you, nor will your tea taste the same.

Margit's lovely pottery, these are wonderful to drink tea
As my conversation with Victor continued on, I asked him "What brought you to tea?"  His response was "coffee is a way of doing, tea is a way of being." In a world that is ever pushing us to improve productivity, to move faster and more often, bringing so many to a state of constant stress, the idea of being part of something that encourages you to just be, is a haven in a sometimes crazy world. Tea connects us to nature though the elements that bring it to your cup and so to honour that, it should be the best quality you can afford.  Teafarm prides itself on selling organic, fairly traded teas of the highest quality that are not only beautiful to drink, they are also affordable.  They use only whole leaf teas, not the sweeping or fannings found in most inexpensive teas and there are no synthetic essences or flavourings.  What you are drinking is pure and whole.  As for my favourite tea, Earl Grey, they use only true oil of bergamot and you can absolutely taste it.
Margit's sculptures, beautiful lanterns.
Inside the tea house. I love the light in here.

My tea and sweet pairing. Iced Mysteaque with an Earl Grey Chocolate cake.  Tea can be
wonderful to cook with. 

Margit in her garden.

While you may think purchasing an artisan tea is going to cost a fortune, it actually doesn't.  At Teafarm you can purchase teas in tins, 250 gram bags as well as 500 gram bags (the more you buy, the more you save).  If you return your tin, you receive a 10% discount and if you venture to the Community Farm Store, you can also buy it in bulk.  My tea math may not be exact, but I worked out an 80 gram tin of Teafarm tea to be about 34 cents a cup. Considering that when I go to a cafĂ© to order a latte that costs me over $5.00, a tin of Teafarm Earl Grey is an amazing deal for an afternoon practice of quiet. Read here to find where you can purchase your tea.

Victor outside the tea house.  I love his passion for tea!
Tea need not belong only to expensive tea services at fancy hotels.  Tea belongs to all of us, the young and the old, the rich and the poor.  It crosses cultural boundaries and brings us all closer together when we share a pot.  If you haven't tried Teafarm tea, I highly encourage you experience it. It's a gift of time that we all deserve.  Thank you Victor and Margit for sharing the Way of Teafarm with me, it was such a wonderful experience.

Earl Grey Tea Cake
Adapted from the Wilton Yellow Cake Recipe

3 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cups butter
2 eggs
3 1/2 teaspoons Teafarm Earl Grey loose leaf tea
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups whole milk

Pour milk into small sauce pan and warm with loose tea.  Before it begins to boil, take it off the heat and let steep for 3-5 minutes.  Strain the tea leaves out with a sieve and keep the milk in a glass or a jar for later.

Preheat your oven to 350℉.  

Grease two round 9 inch cake pans and line with parchment. 

Sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or in a mixing bowl with beaters, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat for 1 minute.  

Next add the flour and milk mixture, alternating into thirds.  Once everything is in, beat for one minute longer.  

Pour into cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely on wire racks.

Earl Grey Tea Frosting

1 1/3 cups unsalted butter-room temperature
3 1/2-4/12 cups icing sugar-sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 Tbsp milk
1- 1/2 tsp ground whole leaf Teafarm Earl Grey tea

Cream butter in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon works best for me.  Slowly add icing sugar, continually stirring to combine.  Add ground tea, vanilla and continue to beat.  Add milk as needed to thin the icing.  

This will make enough to ice a two layer cake.  Decorate with flowers and enjoy with a friend. 

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Love Your Farmer : Alderlea Farm

Katy and John
People often ask what food means to me, in other words, why am I so passionate about it?  My answer is always connection. When we cook and eat together, it is an opportunity to slow down, create something good, with love, and share the experience together along with honest conversation or blissful peace.  This experience can come from a long Sunday Lunch or even just a sandwich on the back porch.  The food itself need not be elaborate or stressful, it just needs to be made with care, love and awareness.  When this happens, we connect to our food, ourselves and to each other.

Lower field that is growing all manner of good vegetables.
John and Katy Ehrlich of Alderlea Farm are in their 10th year of growing beautiful, organic, biodynamic food here in the Cowichan Valley.  Last week I had the privilege of sitting at Katy's counter while she made the daily bread to talk to her all about what they do at their farm.  We are in our second year as shareholders in their CSA program and I love what they have created together.  Not only do they grow amazing fruits and vegetables, they also run a cafe three days a week, where they cook up good, homemade food sourced from their farm.  I think that the combination of the farm and cafe is one of the things that make Alderlea so unique.

Katy and John have a vision to grow the best possible vegetables using organic and biodynamic principals, seeing the farm as a living entity.  Everything that grows on their farm is connected with one another.  The hay they grow feeds the animals they raise which produces the manure they need to provide healthy soil for the fruits and vegetables they grow. There is a tangible cycle of life happening on their land along with a distinctive sense of peace.  This is a very special place where time seems to slow down and the love and passion that goes into all that Katy and John do is palpable.  They have dreams that goes beyond producing food: creating a legacy, inspiring children to see farming as a viable career and connecting people to the land, the food and to each other.

The daily bread
As I sat in the cafe and talked with Katy, I had a clear understanding of what she brings to her work: love. One of my most favourite movies of all time is Fried Green Tomatoes.  I love the story of these two best friends that open the Whistle Stop Cafe in depression-era Alabama.  The cafe was more than a place to get a good meal, it was a place to belong.  People came into that cafe everyday to eat, share and connect with each other. It was the heart of that little town and when I go to the cafe at Alderlea it feels much like I imagined that little Alabama cafe to feel.  This is a place where people come to pick up their vegetables while children are encouraged to explore the farm and play. It is also a place where you are likely to run into someone you know, Katy joked that it should be called the "Serendipity Cafe"  Katy and John have created a community gathering place and greet everyone as though they are family.  The food that comes out of the kitchen is home-cooked love, like your mother or grandmother might have made.  There is a sense of belonging here, as though you are a part of something much greater than a bowl of soup.  You are a part of a desire to create a community based on healthy food, healthy land and healthy people.

Best rhubarb crisp ever. 
As a home cook, Alderlea is a haven for me.  It is a place for me to go once a week, pick up my vegetables, see the fields where they came from, talk to the people who grew my food and pause for a bowl of soup or a good salad.  My children are learning where their food comes from, who is responsible for growing it and how it came to their plate.  This is an invaluable life lesson for them and they love it too!  There is a lot of talk about supporting the local economy, food security and eating locally.  As a CSA member, you are supporting all of these things and eating healthier for it. Alderlea offers three options for their members, depending on their needs.  There is an individual ($350.00), small family ($450.00) and large family share ($550.00) for 24 weeks of delicious, organically grown food.  We are a family of 4 and have a small family share which works out to $18.75 a week.  If you are interested in becoming a shareholder, you can learn more about it here.

Katy's famous pumpkin pie
The cafe is a beautiful space to eat, inside and out

Home cooking is all about connecting with the people that we feed on a daily basis.  For some it might be a large family and for others it might just be a solo supper.  Whatever the case, having a relationship to the people who grow your food not only makes you feel good about what you eat but it also gives us a greater appreciation for the value of our food as nourishment for the body and the soul.  If you haven't been up to Alderlea before, I highly recommend it.  You don't need to be a shareholder to eat at the cafe and it is a great way to experience true farm-to-table eating.  If you have children, bring them.  We need to educate our children not just on how to prepare a meal, but also how to eat. Learning to appreciate food and the process of turning it into a meal is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children and to our families.

Beautiful potatoes

I love how vibrant this field is.
Delicious salad mix waiting to make it to my kitchen

Everything is brought home on an honour system based on the share that you hold.   

Simple Vinaigrette

Many people think that making a good salad dressing is complicated so they spend loads of money on store bought dressings.  Those dressings are never great and the ingredients are less than inspiring.  This one is so simple and yet so, so good. It is a wonderful accompaniment to fresh greens from the farm.

3 parts good Extra Virgin Olive oil (this is the time to use the good fruity one)

1 part vinegar (balsamic, lemon juice, red or white wine)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Assemble all ingredients in a jar and shake.  I know this seems stupidly simple but you wouldn't believe the amount of people who ask me what kind of dressing is on my salads. This is it.  If you want to make it a bit more fancy, add some Dijon mustard or fresh herbs such as dill or tarragon.  Even a sprinkling of Herbes de Provence are lovely.  I guarantee this will taste better than anything you buy out of a bottle. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

local chicken salad

A while back I posted about one of my favourite farms here in the Cowichan Valley, Kilrenny Farm.  This is the place I have been coming back to for the past 5 years for our chickens and now they are also making their own pastas.  They make every fresh pasta you can imagine including spelt pastas.

The other night I roasted one of their lovely chickens and the next day I was scrounging around the fridge for something good for lunch.  Fortunately for me, I had a package of Kilrenny spelt fusilli and I quickly realized that leftover roast chicken plus fresh pasta from Kilrenny equals goodness in a bowl.  Now, I realize that chicken pasta salad is not an original idea.  However, I'm sharing this with you because we often find ourselves looking at a full fridge or pantry thinking, there is nothing to eat.  Of course there is always something to eat unless you really are Mother Hubbard and your cupboard is truly bare.  What we often mean is that there is nothing that is instantly ready to eat.  But with a few basic ingredients, you can often make something spectacular at a fraction of the cost of going out.  I'm certain that a "locally grown organic chicken salad made with local fresh pasta, cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs" would cost at least $15.00 in a restaurant.  At home, maybe it cost me $4.00?   If that.

This is the part of cooking that is so important to learn.  While we are mastering our favourite recipes,  we are also learning what flavours go well together.  Flavours like garlic, onion and cumin will make a wonderful base for a warming chilli or fresh chillies and lime make a beautiful marinade for seafood.  Cooking is alchemy.  It is the transformation of something simple into something magical.  Just look at what flour, water, yeast and salt turn into, a delicious loaf of bread.   It is is a bit of a miracle really.

Once you learn how to put good flavours together, anything is possible with what is sitting in your refrigerator.  And that is just what I did with this salad.  But before I give you the recipe, I encourage you to get creative.  Add a different vegetable if you don't like fresh tomatoes, add lemon juice instead of vinegar if that is what you have, toss in some kale for some extra vitamins, the possibilities are endless.  I always say that the kitchen is like my sandbox.  I love to create different things and play around with flavours.  Most importantly, I love good food.  So get creative in your kitchen and the next time you are hungry and don't know what to cook, take another look, you might be surprised at what you can put together.

Chicken Pasta Salad

Leftover roast chicken-however much you want in your salad
1 1/2 cups cooked pasta, fusilli is nice
5-6 cherry tomatoes
3 leaves of basil torn or a small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Splash of good Extra Virgin Olive oil
Splash of Balsamic Vinegar
Parmigiano Reggiano shavings (just use a vegetable peeler)
Salt (preferably Maldon or other sea salt)and Pepper to taste

Combine chicken, pasta, tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Toss well until coated.  Add your parmesan on top and enjoy!  This is a great lunch for one but you could easily make this as a summer supper.  It would be lovely with a nice white wine.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Lemon Pie Bars

I love anything lemon.  So when I found this recipe for lemon pie bars in my new favourite baking book, I had to try them.  The picture in the book makes them look cool and creamy and lemony and somehow best eaten in a kitchen where Billie Holiday is playing on an old radio.  They are all of that and more.  The only thing I will suggest is that after they have chilled in the fridge for an appropriate amount of time, make sure to cut them up and put them in a container or a beautiful plate.  I made the mistake last time of leaving them in the pan and cutting as I "needed."  I say it like that because I eventually just left the knife in the pan and found myself eating much more than the sliver I had promised myself.  You must share them or you are going to feel sick, not because they aren't good.  But too much of anything, even these aren't good for you.  Although if you are going to get sick on too much of some kind of sweet, this is the way to go.  This is lovely as a desert but also with tea, especially a good southern sweet tea.  Oh, and I do recommend that you put some Billie Holiday on while you make these, it makes them taste even better.

Lemon Pie Bars
Adapted from Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

For the Crust

3 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted
2 Tbsp sugar

For the Filling

1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
6 large egg yolks (save the whites and make an omelette for supper)

Preheat your oven to 350℉ and place a rack in the middle of the oven.  Grease a 9-by-13 inch baking pan and then line with parchment so that it hangs over the ends on the long ends.

To make the crust, mix the butter, sugar and graham crumbs together until moist.  Pour into your prepared pan and with the palm of your hand, press to make sure it is flat and compact.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden.  Cool completely.

Turn the oven down to 325℉ and get on with your filling.

In a large bowl combine the cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, condensed milk and the egg yolks.  Beat until thick and creamy.  Pour into the cooled pan.  Place the pan on top of a baking sheet filled with water and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the centre doesn't jiggle when you tap the pan.

Let cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then put into the fridge until cold.  Serve with whipped cream and tea of your choice.  Just don't forget a friend to share it with!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Good Chili

This is a very hectic time of year.  You would think that with the school year winding down, that the daily pace would start to slow down also.  For our family however, it is the complete opposite.  Between swim lessons, music recitals, end of year field trips and the  school Fun Fair that I am helping to organize, I feel like we are running a mile a minute.  When things get crazy like this, there is always a temptation to slack on the cooking and just get something easy.  However, when we are busy, eating lousy food doesn't help to keep us going, nor does it make us feel very good.  So I turn to recipes that can be made ahead of time, that are packed with protein and vitamins to give us the energy we need and to make us feel good at the end of a long busy day.

Chili is one of those things that I always forget about.  I love to make it and I love to eat it, but it is often one of those suppers that come out when life is either really busy or the weather is lousy.  The other night was both busy and rainy so I made this chili and put out a bunch of different toppings for everyone to choose from.  I was reminded how much kids love little bowls of things to dress up their suppers and it is a great way to add some extra fresh vegetables into their meal including this beautiful kale from Makaria Farm. Not only was the chili a hit but we all felt good after eating it.  So if your life is as hectic as mine is right now, make this for supper this week.  It is easy, delicious and will give you the boost you need to keep up with all of those end of year activities.  It is also fantastic in thermoses the next day for lunches.

Mamas Homemade Chili

a couple of glugs of vegetable oil, I use Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 large onion diced
4 cloves garlic, 2 if they are very large, minced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 lb extra lean ground beef (omit if you want this to be a vegetarian chilli)
3-4 Tbsp chilli powder or to taste
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 red pepper
1 orange or yellow pepper
1 can black beans
1 can cannellini beans or white kidney beans rinsed
1 can whole or crushed tomatoes

Heat up your oil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook gently for 10-15 minutes.  Once the vegetables have cooked and their sugars are starting to come out, add the beef and break up into small bits with a wooden spoon.  Once the meat has browned, add the peppers and then the spices and stir everything together.  Be careful not to burn the spices, but let them toast with the mixture for a minute or so.  Next toss in your beans including the water from the black beans.  Lastly add the tomatoes.  If your tomatoes are whole, just break them down in the pot with your spoon. If it looks like you need a bit more liquid you can rinse out the can with a bit of water and pour that in.  Let this simmer for at least an hour so all the flavours can come together.  Taste it first and then add your salt and pepper.  Many chilli powders already have salt in them so be careful not to over salt your chilli.

Serve with little bowls of chopped fresh tomatoes, freshly grated cheese, sliced kale, sour cream, green onions, cilantro, avocados and tortilla chips.