Small Batch Blueberry Lavender Jam

By Corinne

Several years ago I traveled to South Africa. While there, one of the wineries I visited had chocolates paired with their wine tastings. One was a rose milk chocolate, another lavender, and the third was a salted dark chocolate. It was the flavours of rose and lavender, flavours that I was much more accustomed to as scents rather than tastes, that I found memorably intriguing. I love to experiment with these floral notes in my cooking, and while it might not be a traditional flavour of jam, I find lavender pairs beautifully with blueberries.

I always make jam in small batches, for three main reasons. Firstly, I would rather have a few jars of several different things rather than 20 jars of the same thing. Additionally, canning in a small batch means you can use less sugar and often skip the packaged pectin. Finally, when you do a small batch its a relatively small investment in time and resources. If you try something new and don’t love it, at least you only have 4 jars rather than 20 and produce, even in season, can be expensive.

I 100% recommend Marisa McClellan and her books on making small batches of jam – Preserving by the Pint and Food in Jars. If you are new to jam making, I can’t possibly do better than to point you towards her instructions for those new to canning.

Culinary lavender can be a bit hard to track down depending on where you live, if you live in Thunder Bay you can find it at the Mystic Garden on Algoma- they have a surprising selection of herbs and spices upstairs.

Time: about 45 minutes

Makes: 5-6 125mL (4fl oz, 1/4 pint) jars – yield will depend a little on the water content of your berries

You will need:

  • 2 lbs of blueberries, rinsed and picked over (remove little stems and unripe berries)
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp culinary lavender (it will be the little flower parts – ensure the lavender you source is ok for use in cooking, many times the stuff used for potpourri has been treated with non food safe pesticides or added fragrance)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

Prepare jars and hot water bath for canning. I always prepare one more jar than I think I will need. When you are making small batches of jam you are relying on the natural pectin present in the fruit as well as the large surface area of your cooking pan and the small amount of fruit in order to cook off enough liquid for it to set. This means the yield can sometimes be a bit more or less than you expect. See here if you are new to canning for more detailed instructions for this part.

Put the lavender in either cheese cloth (doubled so the little flower bits don’t escape!) or if you have one of those ‘tea balls’ that will work as well. Mix the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in the pan you are going to cook your jam in. You want a shallow sauce pan rather than a deep pot in order to help with quick evaporation. Allow the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice to sit for about 20 minutes until the sugar has become syrupy. If you prefer a smoother jam, you can use a potato masher to mash up some of the fruit at this point(but don’t mash it all).

When your jars and hot water bath are ready, place the lavender in with your blueberries and start cooking your jam. Over medium high heat, bring the berry/sugar/lavender mixture to a boil. Stir constantly once your jam is boiling. It will foam up a bit at first, but then will settle down.

As it thickens, it might splat and get a little bit messy. Cook for 18-22 minutes. You will know your jam is ready when you draw the spoon through the jam it doesn’t immediately fill in the space and it ‘hisses’. Excuse the oven timer in the following video 🙂

Here  is a description of the plate test, another way to check for set. I usually remove my lavender at about the 15 minute mark to ease stirring and pouring, and my jam is usually done between 18 and 22 minutes.

Remove your jars from the boiling water and quickly fill jars to about half an inch to the top (you can go a little fuller, to 1/4 inch from the top, but don’t do less than half an inch). Place tops and fasten rings fingertip tight. Process for 10 minutes in boiling water. Remove from water and let cool, testing seal after about 12 hours. Store in a cool dry place. Any jars that do not seal (I’ve only rarely had that happen) should be refrigerated and used first.

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Summer Garden Pesto Stirfry

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By Corinne

This is a bit of a garden miscellany recipe that will work with whatever fresh veggies you have, in basically any amounts that you have them! Don’t have snow peas? Use snap peas instead. No chard? Try kale or spinach. No garlic scapes? Use some fresh garlic at the end- or if your pesto is quite garlicky, pass on the garlic altogether! You can serve it on it’s own finished with a drizzle of balsamic as a side dish, served on top of rice, or mixed into pasta.

 

Time: about 15 minutes

You will need: some mix of the following, though substitute according to availability!

  • about 10 oz, 300g cherry tomatoes *
  • 3-5 leaves of chard
  • small/medium zucchini
  • 1 cup of snow peas
  • a few garlic scapes if you have them!
  • 2-4 tbsp of your favourite jarred pesto
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated asiago or parm
  • drizzle of good quality balsamic to finish
  • 1 tbsp of canola, olive oil or butter
  • rice or pasta for serving if desired

If making rice- prepare first.

Add oil to large pan on medium/high heat. Chop zucchini into thin rounds or half moons. If the peas you are using are large, you can halve them, otherwise leave them whole. Trim flower end from garlic scapes if it seems tough or dry, then give a quick chop into small pieces. Thinly slice chard. Add vegetables to pan in the following approximate order, giving them a minute or two in the hot pan before adding the next ingredient. First tomatoes, then peas, followed by zucchini. When these veg are getting hot and a bit softened and maybe browned, add the scapes. When veggies are done to your taste- I like things more crisp, but to each his own so cook accordingly, add a few tbsp of your favourite pesto and stir until all veg are covered. Add the chard and cook 1-2 more minutes until still bright but softened.

Finish by adding the fresh grated cheese and a drizzle of balsamic.

*note- if your cherry tomatoes haven’t ‘burst’ while cooking (which is fine) be careful when you eat them as they will be hot juicy tomato bombs if you pop them into your mouth whole!

Black Bean Dip

By Corinne

Cilantro seems to be one of those things that people like or REALLY dislike. The people who like it always seem to like it a lot. To me, cilantro tastes fresh and almost a bit citrusy. The people who hate it usually describe it as tasting like soap. That all being said, this black bean dip is for sure for the cilantro lovers! The ingredient list is short, and it’s a nice complement to salsa.

Time: 5 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • a generous handful of cilantro including stems-see photo below for an idea of how much- you could of course use less if that is your preference
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • juice of two limes

Drain and rinse the black beans. Give the cilantro a rinse, but don’t worry about drying it. Add beans, cilantro, 1-2 cloves of garlic, and the juice of two limes to a food processor and pulse until combined. Serve with bread or tortilla chips, or as a yummy spread on a wrap (think the way you might use hummus). This is fine made the day before, but doesn’t keep well for more than a few days because of the mass of cilantro. I used canned beans, which I usually find salty enough, but if you are using dried beans that you’ve rehydrated, you may wish to add salt.

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Roasted Fiddleheads with Garlic and Parmesan

By Corinne

Fiddleheads are a special spring treat. They require some work and a bit of prep, but it’s extra satisfying eating something that you’ve collected yourself. This recipe is a delicious side for anything you’ve made on the bbq.

As with anything collected from the wild, it’s important to be able to properly identify what it is you are picking. There are photos and some tips here, as well as preparation instructions.

Fiddleheads need to be thoroughly washed and require boiling before cooking by another method- again, see this post for details.

Makes: about 3 servings

Time: about 20 minutes- though it depends on if you have already prepped your fiddleheads. If using fiddleheads that are frozen and pre boiled, or fresh prepped and boiled the time is about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450F

You will need:

  • 4 cups of washed and boiled fiddleheads
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
  • handful of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste (I find with the salty cheese I generally don’t add any additional salt- though I do enjoy a generous grind of fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 450F. Melt butter and mix together minced garlic, parsley and butter. Place prepared fiddleheads on a sheet and toss with butter/garlic mixture.

Place in 450F oven for ten minutes. After ten minutes, remove from oven and flip fiddleheads. Sprinkle cheese overtop and return to oven for an additional 5-7 minutes.

Serve with anything you like! If you have leftovers, they are delicious in an omelet the next day 🙂

 

 

Cucumber Tomato Salad with Lemon and Dill

By Corinne

This salad comes together quickly and makes a delicious side. If you’re looking to make it a little more hearty, add some crumbled feta- if you do you should omit the salt until after you’ve tasted it with the cheese as feta is quite salty.

Makes: about 4 side servings

Time: less than 10 minutes

You will need:

  • 1 long English cucumber
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 large clove of fresh garlic
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped dill (add more if desired)
  • several grinds of fresh black pepper
  • salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp)

Halve the cucumber and thinly slice into half moons and put in a medium sized bowl. Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to cucumbers. Mince or press garlic and add to the cucumber and tomato. Chop dill and add to the vegetables. Add the juice of one fresh lemon and several grinds of fresh pepper and salt. Stir together. This salad can be eaten immediately, but is best if left to sit at least half an hour before serving in order to let the flavours marry.

 

Hominy with Kale and Chicken

By Corinne

Living here in the great white north I’ve only recently been introduced to hominy.  After a bit of looking around on the internet, it seems like canned hominy is easy to find and can usually be found near beans in the grocery store. Most sources recommended using canned rather than dried, and if you can find them, it will certainly save them a step. If you’re living in Thunder Bay, I haven’t found canned hominy anywhere (though word on the street is that Bulk Zone has brought in some canned hominy now!) and the only place I’ve found whole dried hominy is Renco’s Foods on Court St.

Once you’ve figured out the hominy part, this is an easy supper.

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Time: about 35-45 minutes (depends on the thickness of the chicken you are cooking)

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cups of hominy* (rehydrated and cooked) or probably one can drained will do
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 6 cups of washed and finely chopped kale leaves – no stems
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes (I used mini san marzano because they are my fav)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes, or one crumbled red chili
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Juice of one fresh lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth. I used white wine.
  • Salt and pepper

*If you can find canned hominy, by all means, use that. If using dried hominy, start this recipe the day before by cooking the hominy. I skipped the soaking overnight step and cooked it in the slow cooker on low overnight. It still took until early afternoon before kernels were tender and had popped. I cooked the whole bag of dried hominy and froze what I didn’t use in two cup portions so that I won’t have to do this step again for a while.

In a large pan heat 1 tbsp canola over medium heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and add to pan. If your chicken breasts are quite thick, you may wish to cut them in half to reduce cooking time. Cook for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken) until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from pan.

Add 1 tbsp canola to the pan and turn up the heat a bit to medium high. Add the hominy and stir and cook for about 10 minutes until some of it is getting a bit browned on the edges. Add the onion and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken breasts and add back to pan with the other ingredients. Add the chili flakes, thyme, garlic and kale. Add the white wine and the lemon juice. Stir until chicken is reheated,  kale has wilted and the liquid has been mostly absorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Some of the tomatoes may have just started to break down, that’s ok, but if they’re all still whole that’s ok too. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Quinoa and Goat Cheese Salad with Orange Ginger Vinegrette

By Corinne

I haven’t quite managed to jump on the quinoa bandwagon, but have discovered that I do prefer the red quinoa to the white variety. It seems to have a little more flavour than the white variety and it cooks up exactly the same. This is a healthy and filling supper salad. It’s even better if you make the quinoa and dressing the day before and it has a chance to really soak in, which means it makes for amazing lunch the next day

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups water (I use a little less water because it’s going to absorb some of the dressing later)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 crispy apple (I used Red Prince variety)
  • 3/4 cup of pepitas
  • goat cheese- I’m not putting an amount because I like a lot. Full disclosure, I even added a few more chunks after I took the photo.
  • salad greens of your choice
  • Not pictured – but some slices of cucumber also work well with this dressing

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • zest of one orange
  • 4 tsp freshly grated ginger (taste, you may want to add more)
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced or pressed
  • Several grinds of fresh pepper and a generous pinch of salt

Before cooking quinoa, give it a good rinse in a fine colander under running water, scrubbing it a bit with your fingers. Cook quinoa in 1 3/4 cup of water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low for 20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Fluff and remove from heat- leave uncovered to cool.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients.

In a dry pan, toast pepitas over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes. You will hear some of them start to ‘snap’ and get a bit brown. They don’t all need to brown, but when they start to smell toasty they are done.

When quinoa is finished cooking and has cooled a bit, add half of the dressing to the quinoa. Let this sit for at least 10 minutes, though this could be done earlier in the day and refrigerated. Let the quinoa cool to about room temperature. (Though if you’ve made it earlier in the day or the day before and it’s cooled completely, that’s great too!)

Slice apple just before serving so it doesn’t brown.

Place salad greens in bowl, add several spoonfuls of the dressed quinoa on top of the greens. Top with apple slices, goat cheese, toasted pepitas and additional dressing.

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