Archives for March 2011

Q&A: Garden, Market or CSA – How will you source summer produce?

It is snowing as I write today, but that hasn’t stopped me from gazing out on our future garden spot and visualizing the raised beds full of lettuce, zucchini, herbs and tomatoes. Winter still has many weeks to rage and blow before it gives way to spring, however, one can’t help but think about pending arrival of fresh greens and tender fruits.

March is a good time to start making plans for how you will source your summer produce. If you live in the city, now is the time to sign up for a  spot in the community gardens. If you are more rural, you should be putting in a seed order right about now. Not into gardening, but want farm fresh vegetables? Then perhaps you should be calling around and getting your name on a list for a CSA basket.

Seven ways to source your summer produce

The first crisp asparagus spears and strong rhubarb shoots will be poking up through the ground before you know it. Here are seven ways to source your summer produce that don’t involve a shopping cart and a supermarket. Which do you plan to use come spring?
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What’s for Dinner? Risotto, step-by-step.


Pantry meals have been saving the day around here as recent snowstorms (and a good dose of laziness) have kept us from venturing out to the market. We’ve covered comfort foods from the pantry such as pancakes with homemade syrup, as well as winter pizza, and today I’m sharing another staple: risotto.

Chicken stock in the freezer, butter and cheese in the fridge, and rice, onions, and vermouth in the pantry, this is one dish I always have all the components for. And on blustery February days, risotto is the perfect one-pot dinner to stir together.

Add-ins always vary based on what I have or don’t have on hand. Frozen peas make a frequent appearance, as do leeks, butternut squash, and the occasional handful of dehydrated morel mushrooms. My mother brings me a few jars every time she visits; they’ve been picked from her Northern BC acreage and are truly a taste of home.

Basic Risotto, with a few favorite add-ins.

Recipes, methods and ingredients all vary for risotto, and I won’t go all Gordon Ramsay on you and curse if you don’t make risotto exactly my way. I would give you a warm squeeze, however, and encourage you to try my recipe, down to the last drop of vermouth.

It’s bloody good.

Staple Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup vermouth, or white wine
  • 1.5 litres (6 cups) chicken stock
  • 1 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • salt and pepper

Extras:

  • 1 cup dried morel mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Prep:

  • Grate Parmesan cheese.
  • Finely chop red onion.
  • Heat chicken stock to a simmer and locate a ladle.
  • Pour a bit of hot stock over morels and let stand 10 minutes. Then drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside. Liquid can be returned to the chicken stock.
  • Rehydrate saffron threads in a little hot stock, if using.

Method:

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt 3T of butter and olive oil together over medium heat.

2. When butter is bubbling, add onion and stir to combine. Sauté onions for about ten minutes until soft and translucent. Stir occasionally, and do not allow onions to brown.

3. Add rice all at once and stir thoroughly. You want rice to be completely coated in butter and give each grain a chance to be toasted. This takes about one minute.

4. Add vermouth and stir well. Cook for another minute or two until most of the liquid evaporates.


5. Add several ladlefuls of hot stock to the rice. Be careful, as it will steam viciously. Stir well. Add saffron threads and liquid. Keep heat on medium and continue adding stock slowly and stirring thoroughly. Risotto will take about 15 minutes to cook. You may need more liquid, in which case, just add more hot water.


6. Taste risotto grains as you go along. When they are tender, but still with a slight bite to them, you can add the rest of the ingredients. Stir in morel mushrooms and most of the Parmesan. Stir gently to combine. Do NOT over stir, as risotto will become gummy instead of creamy.

7. Taste risotto and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. This is important to do after the cheese has been added, as it will contribute significantly to the saltiness of the dish.

8. Finish risotto with the last tablespoon of butter. Transfer to a serving bowl, if using, and top with remaining Parmesan. Dig in with a spoon and enjoy.

banana oatmeal pancakes

Nutrition for Picky Eaters (Recipe: Fluffy Banana Oat Pancakes)

Feeding kids is a tough job. As parents we constantly worry about what they’re eating. Are they getting enough? Eating the right things? Trying new foods? It’s a never-ending process.

That said, some kids are naturally adventurous eaters and you don’t have to worry quite so much. On the other hand, some are much less than adventurous. You might even call them a “picky eater.” Or if it is especially bad, a “problem feeder.”

In our family we have one of each. Our daughter was a particularly voracious eater as a baby. She skipped the baby food phase almost entirely, preferring to grab at chopped up table food with her chubby hands. She’s easily encouraged to try something new and eats a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, so it’s not often that I worry.

In contrast, our son is a “problem feeder” (read more about that here). At times I have been in a constant state of worryregarding his nutrient intake. With the help of a feeding therapist and a nutritionist we were able to work around his limited palate.

Here are some healthy eating tips that have worked well for us along the way. By using these simple suggestions, you can turn many foods that a typical picky eater or problem feeder enjoys into something that is much more nutritious for their growing bodies.
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