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Archive for March, 2009

My local dinner

Roasted beets, potatoes and onions:

roasted potatoes, beets and onions

+ Sautéed spinach, shiitake mushrooms, sliced almonds and garlic:

sautéed spinach and mushrooms

+ An egg poached in last summer’s tomato sauce:

egg

= a yummy local dinner. Not bad for March 31.

bowl

Eggs and spinach from Karma Co-op, tomato sauce canned with the help of my parents, other vegetables from Plan B, almonds and olive oil from the lovely state of California.

(My version of the poached eggs in tomato sauce with spinach from Smitten Kitchen. Her pictures are prettier.)

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Oops, I did it again

Made more carrot cupcakes. Delicious. Especially when warm.

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In all my efforts to use up the cabbages I get with my organics box, I’ve been neglecting the carrots, and I suddenly realized the other day that I had a big backlog. At the same time I was craving cake, so carrot cake seemed in order. I have an amazing recipe from the Rebar Cookbook for a layered carrot cake but I don’t really need to eat an entire cake by myself, and it’s not all that convenient to take on the subway so I can pawn them off on my coworkers. So instead, I found a recipe for carrot cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese icing (yes, they’re as good as they sound) and baked up a batch. 12 cupcakes used up 2 cups of grated carrot (about three carrots) so I’ll be making another batch soon, I think.

The recipe is quite good but as per usual I made a bunch of modifications. Here’s what I did:

• Cut back quite a bit on the sugar – 2/3 or 3/4 cup of white instead of 1 1/8; 1/4 cup of brown instead of 1/3 – and I used raw sugar instead of brown as I’m out of brown. If you don’t ice them you may want to use more sugar than I did, but with the icing they’re plenty sweet.
• Doubled or even tripled the spices – I like lots of ginger and cinnamon and they’re good for you, too. I might add some grated fresh ginger next time I make these.
• Used pecans instead of walnuts (allergies) – one commenter said she used coconut instead of walnuts and that would be good, too.
• I halved the icing recipe (saved the other half of the cream cheese block in the freezer for next time) and still had too much icing. If you can do the math, a 1/3 recipe would probably work.
• Cut back on the sugar in the icing – 1 2/3 cup instead of 2 cups.
• Used the zest of one orange instead of orange essence, which I don’t have and didn’t want to buy. A mixture of lemon and orange would be good, too.

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I’m making chili with beans I grew myself and tomatoes we canned last summer, plus a few odds and ends from the fridge. There’s something very satisfying about cooking with produce that you put up yourself – and eating the meal will be all the sweeter.

Growing dried beans is really easy, although it takes a decent amount of land to get any amount of food out of it. Last summer I grew bush beans in half to two-thirds of a four-by-eight-foot plot in the community garden and I got about a litre of dried beans out of it. Not enough to live off, but I think they’re fun to grow. They also added enough nitrogen to the soil that the neighbouring tomato plant was happy and green.

I bought a mixed packet of beans from Salt Spring Seeds, which I didn’t even use up – the mixed pack is a good option if you don’t have a lot of growing space, or you could share some different kinds with a friend. Salt Spring Seeds is a great source of heirloom food plants and they’ve got some interesting ones, like quinoa and amaranth, and tons of kinds of tomatoes. The beans pretty much grew themselves, especially with all the rain we got last summer. You can let the pods dry on the plants and harvest them then, but I picked them earlier as I didn’t want them to go mouldy. I removed them from the pods and let them dry on cookie sheets before putting them in a jar.

This is actually the first time I’ve cooked with them, which is terrible but goes to show how busy I’ve been this winter. What I noticed first was how big they got when I soaked them overnight. Then when I cooked them, they held their shape much better than purchased beans tend to. I’m inclined to believe the urban myth (has anyone ever verified it?) that dried beans from stores have been sitting around for years.

I kept all my varieties of beans mixed up but for this year I might pick a variety and stick with it. Now, to browse around the Salt Spring Seeds catalogue…

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I love cheese, but it has to have flavour, so a little goes a long way – which means you can afford to spend a little. My most-purchased cheese has to be the sheep’s milk feta from Ewenity, a co-operative of Ontario farmers. I’ve bought it at Karma Co-op, Fiesta Farms and Whole Foods, and I saw it at new cheese store Nancy’s Cheese (at Dupont and Spadina) recently, too. I add it to pretty much every salad I ever make and it goes well in huevos rancheros too. The feta’s my favourite, but Ewenity has a bunch of other products as well, including yogurt and ice cream. Check it out!

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