Archive for General

Not Parsnips Again??

“Winter” is definitely the key word here!

Last weekend we made an unusually short foray to Nat Bailey Stadium where our Winter Farmer’s Market is held each Saturday.  Seems like at this time of year it’s short rations for local veggies…so the trips are short ones!

Eating seasonally is a very good thing.  Fresh, local food, getting to know the farmers, chatting people up while selecting your produce and by purchasing local it means produce doesn’t travel from all over the world causing all sorts of issues, not to mention that the climate is changing (according to most sensible people.)  So we have to consider that what we may have access to now may, at some point, no longer be available here.  I’m thinking that this may encourage our local growers to find ways to become more able to grow different produce throughout the year.

The bottom line is we are getting to the time of the year when we’ve eaten our own weight in squash, carrots, rutabaga, turnips, celeriac, cabbage, beets and potatoes…all delicious veggies for sure, except for those bloody parsnips!  And it’s fun to try out new ways to prepare them…especially love Lacinato kale braised with pancetta, onions and garlic. All I can say is thank god for my collection of Ottolenghi cookbooks for their never ending ability to inspire me!

When fall arrives, I look forward to playing with the gorgeous assortment of veggies at the Farmer’s Market…the colours alone are amazing!  But by now (February), We’re becoming kind of burned out on squash! Heck, I even cheated and bought some of those tiny French beans at a small grocery store! I hope the local veggie gods forgive me!  Psst…have you ever tried Kumato Tomatoes?  Well…tomatoes are another cheat for me…I am unable to give up tomatoes once they are out of season…it’s a huge character flaw, I know…but what can I say?

So, when spring finally arrives and we get our first sightings of green at the market, we are so excited we can hardly contain ourselves.  Please don’t expect  me to believe that asparagus, other than locally grown, is good…it’s not…but it took me a few years to get that and so what if it’s $8.00/lb!  Back in the day…there was no locally grown asparagus unless you grew it yourself!  Duh, why didn’t I think of that when we first moved here over 30 years ago?  I could have planted some asparagus crowns and by now we would have an incredible patch of the stuff!

Time to head to the kitchen to begin prep. for dinner…on the menu board tonight…braised chicken thighs with leeks, carrots, celery, Irish Whiskey and Scrumpy (a rough cider, in this case made from wind-fall apples), Icelandic style red cabbage, with blueberries, last but not least,  Yukon Golds mashed with rutabaga.  So as you can see a lovely winter meal…but…it’s Just February and not to wish the time away…BUT BRING ON THAT ASPARAGUS!

Here’s to snuggling in with a glass of whatever warms you and enjoying the remainder of the fall harvest and let’s make a toast to those farmers who grow our produce all year round!  Salute!

Here’s a few of the favourites here @#5 that I’ve been making this winter…hope you like them as much as we do!

Ottolenghi’s Sort of Waldorf.

Butternut Squash Gratin With Leeks.

Braised Lacinato Kale.

Pickled Red Cabbage.

No Money Trees in Vancouver

When you meet up with friends or strangers what is the hottest subject being discussed???  

If you live here in Vancouver, it’s real estate and the ridiculous prices! Will interest rates go up? Will prices come down? Detached home prices seem to have fallen a bit but not the condo/apartments/townhouse market.   Sellers won’t even consider subjects such as “subject to financing” or “subject to inspection”…what???

When I was a kid there was something called The Irish Sweepstakes.  And I remember hearing the dreams and seeing the stars in the eyes of ticket holders at the thought of winning $100,000! Isn’t that incredible? Back then, in our minds, when we thought of $100,000 we saw a wheelbarrow overflowing with money! It’s chump change these days! Like what would you do with such a huge $100,000 windfall? Ha!

Just about everyone we know are real estate millionaires. “Millionaire” has a nice ring to it! Remember back in the day, fantasizing about how great it would be when you had your first million? Well, those dreams have definitely become just that, dreams for the average buyer. In Vancouver near the downtown core, where we live, 2 bedroom apartments are ringing in at over 1 M. and these are not high end places!  And often require renovating!  These are scary times for not only us but a number of our friends who need to find a new home.

We sometimes watch a programme called House Hunters. OMG…I mean a whole house for a few hundred thousand…you must be joking…reality check time…here it would be several million dollars.

You might ask…How do most people afford to live in your lovely city? I don’t know. Another thing I don’t know is how the hell are first time buyers going to be able to buy in the lower mainlaind.  Vancouver is the third most expensive place in the world to buy housing. Click here for a recent statement by the head of the Royal Bank of Canada to see more.  And click here and here for more info. on where we might “hopefully” be headed in this market!

How do you fit 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms into 800 square feet anyway? Oh, I know…you actually can’t fit a bed into the bedrooms or open and close the doors.  MY GAWD!

Rant done!  Wish us luck!

2 “R’s” of Spring

Ramps and Rhubarb!

Yes, we are up to our knees in both! We fired up the stove at #5 this week stocking up our larder and freezer using these delectable spring delicacies.

You can’t go wrong with rhubarb muffins or rhubarb coffee cake.  A must in our house is making the annual batch of rhubarb ketchup.

Ramps aka wild leeks are hard to get in some areas but if you do have a “connection”…by all means try out a few of our favourites!  For my money they have more of a garlicky flavour rather than the taste of leeks.


Ramp buttermilk biscuits are another springtime must around here. And then there is an amazing “pesto” that we toss with spaghetti and sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs. Not to mention a ramp Italian sausage risotto.  Or, you might consider chicken braised with ramps…sort of “white coq au vin.” Certainly went down a treat here!

If you would like to learn more about ramps, check out my blog post.  Click here for the link.





There’s Something About Canning

It’s the season once again to haul out our jars and get canning and preserving! And I am so glad to see a resurgence of interest in people taking it up!  Domenica Marchetti has recently published a new book “Preserving Italy” that’s filled with delicious recipes.

DSC_4424 nx2The household I grew up in had a pantry stocked full of  Mom’s labours; all kinds of jam, bread and butter pickles, pickled beets (with beets from our garden), relishes, mustard pickles (Dad’s favourite), canned cherries from our trees in the backyard, tomatoes, apricots, peaches, pears, applesauce and so on. For some reason all this work had to take place on the hottest days of the year! It seemed that there was always loads of produce and fruit showing up, people had fruit trees in their yard they were giving away, or  friends and neighbours who would bring back stuff from the Okanagan that had to be put up for the winter, right now! Then, of course, there was the salmon canning every year…I don’t like salmon…couldn’t stand the smell and couldn’t be in the house when it was being processed in that huge pressure cooker!

I  remember Mom and I staying up all night peeling those little silver-skin onions for pickling later that day!

So, you can imagine, when I left home to be on my own, I really missed all the wonderful treasures stored in our basement storage room (aka the cooler). It seemed to me that if I wanted some jam I had better damned well learn how to make it! I worked in a fruit cannery for a couple of summers when I was in my teens and I wasn’t about to eat bought jam!

DSC_3296 nx2I don’t do much canning anymore and I kind of miss it, especially when I see all the wonderful produce and fruit at the Farmer’s Market each week. Memories of sitting on the back steps on a sunny morning, peeling a big bag of pears someone had given us, about to be turned into spicy pear chutney or trying to come up with something clever to do with that big bunch of Italian prune plums a friend left at the back door, other than jam; not that I don’t love plum jam. In the end they became a star anise flavoured Asian plum dipping sauce!

A sight to behold and what a sense of accomplishment…all those glorious sparkling colours of jams and jellies in their cute little jars, dill pickles resting for 6 weeks, relishes and dark, spicy chutneys to serve with meat pies or on a sandwich or with cheeses…yum! Yes, there really is something about canning!

If you would like the recipe for the relish, click Mary’s Green Tomato Relish.  For the recipe for the Zucchini Marmalade, click here. For the recipe for my Dill Pickles, click here.

If you are looking for a recipe, send me a comment and I will get right back to you!

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