Category Archives: Food

Mick’s Buttercup Squash

The Captain and I try to go to Montana every year if possible. We have found good friends among the farmers we’ve met there. Three years ago, Mick, one of these friends, gave us some buttercup squash that he had just harvested. Since we had our trailer with us, he suggested the easiest way to cook it would be to microwave it.

I did that, and it was very good. So good, in fact, that I saved the seeds of the squash to bring home. For the next three years I planted and saved Mick’s buttercup squashes. This year’s crop is descended from those original squashes he gave us in 2015.

Here is one of them, growing on the garden fence where it climbed up.

The funny thing is that although I carefully started some of the squash seeds in little pots for transplanting when the weather warmed up enough, Mick’s squash has a mind of its own. I must have put some compost in the garden last winter, and this spring, way before I thought it was okay to plant anything, these squashes volunteered to grow in my garden and they have by far outstripped the ones I so carefully tended in little pots for transplanting.

I have found a way of cooking these squashes that makes us very happy. I clean, quarter, and peel the squash and microwave it just long enough to make it barely tender (a few minutes). While that is happening, I sautee some chopped onion  in a pan with butter. When the squash is tender enough to cut easily but not so mushy that it is falling apart, I cut each quarter into slices (the way you would cut cantaloupe in thin wedges) and lay these in the pan to brown a few minutes on each side.

That’s it. Eat and enjoy.

PS When you’re cleaning the squash, be sure to save the seeds for next year’s crop.

Pasta Fun

On Mother’s Day we had a lot of fun. We decided to make fettuccine. Our dinner was already cooking (a beef roast, chard from the garden, carrots, mashed potatoes), but thought we would make some pasta just for fun and freeze it for another time.

We put the flour, eggs, oil, and water in the Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and let the dough hook mix it up  to form a ball of dough that was not dry, but not sticky either. We let it rest about half an hour and then cut it up into eight pieces.


After pressing the pieces flat  we passed them through the roller attachment on the Kitchen Aid, first on setting #1 and then on #2 and again on #6. By the third pass, the dough was thin enough.

We set the flattened dough on a floured board and changed the attachment to one that would cut strips about 3/8  of an inch wide (I’m guessing). The sheets of dough were then passed through the roller, with the mixer at a slightly higher speed.

Once the fettuccine came out of the roller, cut into strips, it was important to dust those strips with flour so the ribbons of dough didn’t stick to each other.

The last sheet was ready to pass through the roller.

Quick and easy and fun to make, this fettuccine is not perfect, but we know the ingredients that are in it, and I like to know what I’m eating.

We put most of the fettuccine on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, to freeze and later put in ziploc bags, but it looked so good that we decided to boil a small pot of fettuccine to have alongside the potatoes, roast, and gravy.

It was delicious and, best of all, we had fun making it.

 

 

More Market Goodies

This is the last of three Farmers’ Market posts.

We’d all like to have our vegetables grown without chemical poisons to kill unwanted insects and weeds, but we can’t all have our own vegetable garden. The next best thing is to buy your vegetables at the Farmers’ Market. You’ll get organically grown vegetables with flavour that you have probably all but forgotten existed in a vegetable.

How about some novelty carrots?  Maybe you had a special dinner for Easter? Maybe the Easter bunny got carried away and painted these carrots. I’m told they taste just like the orange carrots but they add a great splash of colour and more nutrients to your meal.

Researchers in Wisconsin are working to develop and promote these colour phases in carrots. Here is what the various coloured carrots are said to provide:

  • Orange: Beta and alpha carotene pigment. Vitamin A for healthy eyes.
  • Purple: Anthocyanin, beta and alpha carotene pigment. Additional vitamin A, and said to help prevent heart disease.
  • Red: Lycopene and beta-carotene pigment. Lycopene is the same red pigment that gives tomatoes their deep color and is linked to a lower risk of certain cancers, such as prostate cancer.
  • Yellow: Xanthophykks and lutein. Both are linked to cancer prevention and better eye health.
  • White: The nutrients don’t come from the pigment but from the fiber, which promotes healthy digestion.

Need a good bowl, door stop, or rolling pin? Choose from these beautiful handmade products.

Or maybe you’d like to have a handmade wooden box to keep special things in? Each box is a work of art, lovingly polished by the artist.

Perhaps you have a special place in your house or garden that needs a piece of metal sculpture to highlight it. Not only are choices available on the table, but also on the post to the right where the man is standing.

So many things to choose from. If you need some time to think, why not take a load off your feet and sit down to listen to the band playing right by the market stands.

If you’re feeling too chilly, the Espresso and Deli shop is right next to the band’s stage. Pop over and grab a  quick bite and a cup of coffee to bring over to the band area. Bundle up your coat, sip your hot coffee and enjoy the music.

Who knew that a chilly spring day could be so much fun?

Chocolate

“I LOVE chocolate!”

I hear it said so often. It’s rare to find a person who doesn’t love chocolate, but do you really know about chocolate and where it comes from?

Most of us see it at this ready-to-eat stage and that is really all that matters. But at the Farmers’ Market in Olympia, Washington, I had a quick lesson in the story of chocolate.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

This is how the cocoa beans look as they grow on the trees – not on branches, but on the trunk. They have to be cut away carefully so as not to damage the place where the stem joins the tree lest it spoil the next year’s growth.

 

Photo from Wikipedia

At a booth in the Farmers’ Market where they sell chocolate, these cocoa pods were on display. The pods which contain many cocoa beans, come in several different colours, depending on variety and ripeness.

Taken at the Olympia Farmer’s Market

The pods are cut open and the leathery shell is discarded. The 30 to 50 cocoa beans inside are placed on a grate or in a bin for several days while the pulp between the seeds ferments and drains away. Then the beans are spread out to dry. At this stage, they may even be sprinkled with red clay mixed with water  for polish and to enhance the colour and discourage mildew.

It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate. Below are cocoa beans with the husks still on. The husks will be removed, either by machine or by dancing on them in a way that is reminiscent of stomping on grapes to make wine.

Photo taken by Irene Scott for AusAID. (13/2529)

Why does chocolate make us happy?

It’s said to be a good antioxidant and beneficial to cardiovascular health. But I don’t think that’s why almost everyone loves chocolate. Chocolate contains tryptophan which releases serotonin, which in turn triggers the parts of the brain  that tell us we’re happy. (I’ve over-simplified. When I get my degree in organic chemistry, I’ll explain it more thoroughly.)

Mainly I like chocolate because it’s just plain good!

Forget about the calories. 

Happy Easter!

 

Impromptu Soup

Even with the snow and frost we’ve had, the kale in my garden seems to have come through it all unscathed. Several times I’ve used the leaves to make soup and I find that I really like it a lot.

I brought this bunch in from the garden just today, and happened to pass by some parsley and rosemary on my way.

We happened to have some elk short ribs in the freezer,  and I’ve found that these make a wonderful addition to the soup, both as stock and bits of meat.  You could use beef or any other meat too, but you may have to cut off some of the fat. Chicken drumsticks make a great soup too. Once they have simmered for a while, the meat falls off the bones and can be cut into pieces small enough to fit onto a soup spoon.

To make the soup, I sautee onions, garlic, and whatever else I am in the mood for. I’ve added chopped ginger root when I wanted something with a bit of zip. I can’t tell you what I use for herbs and spices because it’s different each time. If I want an interesting taste, I might put in some cardamom, cumin, and coriander seeds, or I might just do the herbs de provence kind of flavouring (Simon and Garfunkel soup – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme). Or if I feel adventurous I’ll dabble with both.

The kale is washed and chopped quite finely before adding to the onion mixture. Let it cook a bit so it’s wilted and mixed well with the onions.

Usually I sprinkle a bit of flour into the sauteed kale, onions, and spices, and then stir to coat the onions and kale so there won’t be any lumps when I add the liquid.

I use the stock from simmering the ribs. Stir it around and check for flavouring. Add what you feel is missing. Notice I haven’t mentioned salt or pepper? Sometimes I’ve used a dash of steak spice and although it adds a wonderful flavour, it has plenty of salt. I’ve ruined a dinner once before I learned that. So I always wait until the end to add salt if needed. Same with pepper. Taste it first before you add salt or pepper!

Don’t forget to add the chopped up meat to the soup.

Finally, before serving I like to add a half cup or so of cream (half and half, or coffee cream – whatever you call it), or you can add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream to give it more zip.

I didn’t tell you how much of anything to put in the soup, because it’s one that you make up as you go along. Do whatever you feel like doing. It can’t fail to please on a wintery day.

 

Easy Sushi

Sushi is not hard to make. If I can do it, anyone can. I make the easy sushi, not so fancy, but very tasty. You can make it too, but feel free to experiment with ingredients. There is no wrong way.

Here are the ingredients I use. You can see them on the island, ready to be put together. The rice is Arborio, a short grain (sticky) rice named after the town in Italy where it is grown. It’s usually used for risotto, but it works well in sushi, too. There are several other brands of sticky rice (look for short grain). I add a tablespoon of rice vinegar and stir it around after the rice is cooked. The rice should be made ahead and then chilled. One generous cup of raw rice grains, once cooked, will yield about five rolls of sushi.

The blue dish next to the rice has cold water for dipping very clean or gloved hands in so the (sticky) rice won’t stick to the hands.

I have a dish of mayo on hand and a spatula for spreading it on the Sushi Nori (seaweed sheets).

You’ll see some asparagus and carrot strips that I heated in a tiny bit of water in the microwave for about 2 minutes. They are now drained and chilled.

And most importantly, we have cold-smoked salmon (coho in this case) which will give the ultimate flavour thrill to the sushi. The salmon needs to be sliced into strips before putting into the sushi, of course.

So here we go.

Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on the sheet of dried seaweed. I have it sitting on a bamboo mat for rolling it up later.

Put a generous (HUGE) tablespoonful of rice onto the seaweed and with wetted hands, pat it into a thin layer.

My layer of rice is not yet evenly spread. I don’t go right to the top end, wanting some seaweed for sealing the roll. Make the rice layer as thin as possible.

At the end closest to you, make a little ditch in the rice and place the carrot sticks, asparagus, and salmon strips in it. Then, using the end of the mat to help start a firm roll, fold over the seaweed, press it down gently and roll it up. You can drape the mat over it loosely and then press the roll together evenly if you like.

Put the finished roll aside on a small cutting board and get the next sheet of seaweed ready for loading up.

 With a VERY sharp knife, cut the roll in the middle, as shown below. Then place the two halves side by side and cut each in half again.

 

You should have eight pieces when you’re finished.

Eating the sushi…. There are as many ways as there are mouths in the world. I like to put a tiny dab of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) on a piece of sushi, spoon over some soya sauce, and top it with a thin slice of pickled ginger. Not shown in the photo is my favourite “condiment,” which I remembered to put on the table later, black roasted sesame seeds. Sprinkle these on and it adds a nutty crunch to the already fabulous variety of textures and flavours.

You can vary the foods you put in the sushi rolls. I’ve heard of cantaloupe being used, as well as mushrooms,  avocado, and lettuce. I just googled sushi ingredients and was bowled over by the huge list of possibilities. Just pick some of your favourite foods and give it a try.

Special Delivery

Recently I listened to some of the UN speeches on TV. I like to have the closed captioning feature turned on in case I miss anything they said. I found out that some countries like Cuba, Venezuela, and a couple of others have their food brought in from very far away. Now, I must stress that only a few countries are doing this.

Apparently they have a UFO bringing potatoes in from some other planet, or maybe even from another galaxy. But why just them? Well, the closed captioning said it’s because they have …

a dics tater ship. Honestly! That’s what the closed captioning said: “These countries pretend to have a democracy when in fact they have a disc tater ship.”

I always KNEW there was life beyond our Earth!