Wow...the blog has been really quiet this month! Apparently I have been very busy. With me studying and the holidays coming up and then us making our way back to Ontario for Christmas there just wasn't the time to write. Now that it's all over, however, I am feeling relieved and ready to get back to a more regular routine.
That being said, it was nice to get back home and visit the family to catch up with everyone. When planning our trip I thought it would be nice to bring back a few 'Nova Scotia' related items. For our visit to my husband's grandmother, for instance, we brought along a chocolate Rum Runner's Rum Cake as our contribution to the buffet. Rum Runner's Cake Factory, located in Halifax at the waterfront boardwalk, makes cakes using real rum and whiskey from the Glenora Distilleries on Cape Breton Island. How much more local can we get? Even better was that we could order one online and have it shipped to my mom's house and avoid bringing it in our luggage. Awesome!
Another item that we brought back with us was some lobster. Yes, lobster!
Did you know that lobster can be purchased at the Halifax airport and that you can bring it onto the plane with you? Yup! Clearwater Seafood, based out of Bedford, Nova Scotia, has a location at the airport and you can get various seafood (including lobster) packaged up for travel. We thought it would be really cool to bring some back with us so we ordered 2 live lobsters (cooked and frozen were also available).
When we arrived home we were surprised that they were still alive. Our trip ended up taking much longer than originally expected... Due to delays our flight out of Halifax left 2 hours later than expected which resulted in us missing our next connection. And then because it was late at night and since we were rebooked to a flight that wouldn't leave until late afternoon the next day we decided to simply rent a car and drive the four hours to our final destination in the morning. We left the lobster outside in the chilled car and they survived the night.
Initially, the plan was to have a 'lobster party' for lunch but since we didn't arrive until lunchtime and my mom had already prepared soup and sandwiches we decided to wait until later to cook them. My mom and I went out to do some last minute Christmas shopping and then out for dinner for her birthday. At one point, my husband called asking where we were and when we would be making the lobster (he was getting antsy). I told him to go ahead and get started. As much as I wanted to cook lobster for my first time I let him do it instead - it was his first time too. Luckily the box comes with instructions for boiling lobsters, steaming lobsters or broiling lobsters. How convenient!
Cooking lobsters is really, really simple. Here are the instructions from the box:
Pour at least 1/2 gallon (2 litres) of water per pound of lobster into a very large pot. Simply mix in 1/2 cup per gallon (2 tbsp of sea salt per litre) of water. If desired, a flavourful court bouillon may be prepared by adding a combination of carrots, onions, parsley, celery, seasonings, and white wine, vinegar or lemon juice. Just use whatever you have on hand.
Bring the salted water to a rolling boil. Carefully drop the lobsters, one at a time, headfirst, into the rapidly boiling water.
Return the water to a boil, THEN start timing. To avoid overcooking, only similarly sized lobsters should be cooked together.
Our lobster was boiled for 15-20 minutes
For more info about cooking lobsters and timing check out this brochure from their website: http://www.clearwater.ca/site/media/Parent/How%20to%20-%20Lobster%20FSC%20paper.pdf
Because it was our first time cooking lobster at home we decided to keep it simple - cracked/ripped open and dipped in melted butter.
We did an 'okay' job...it was likely overcooked and was not as fresh as it could have been since we were not able to cook them right away. Nonetheless, it was still good. My parents are not big fans of lobster (or seafood in general) but they did like the experience. The next time we visit we'll bring more and invite other guests - apparently a lot of people really want to eat lobster. I can see why too - I was at the grocery store with my mom and lobster was selling for over $10/pound, while we are able to buy them here at $4.99/pound.
Keep an eye out for more lobster posts soon! When we arrived in June the lobster season was done so we missed out. From what I've learned so far there are two lobster seasons in Nova Scotia, one in the winter in the Yarmouth/Bay of Fundy area and another one in the spring in the Sydney/Cape Breton area. Yeah...it's time to eat lobster now (finally!).
Dec 28, 2012
Dec 19, 2012
For most folks the Christmas season is also known as the baking season. There's just something about the holidays that gets everyone in the kitchen. For me, it's about tradition. When I was little my mom would always do a lot of Christmas baking. There was nanaimo bars, peanut butter balls, shortbread cookies, gingerbread cookies, etc.. As an adult now, it's not Christmas unless I have spent some time in the kitchen making cookies. One cookie that I have to make is my mom's date cookies. They don't look like much but they sure are delicious!
The problem? The first ingredient in the recipe is shortening (yikes!).
I don't use shortening in my baking. I would rather use butter or coconut oil/butter instead. 1 cup is still a lot in my opinion though. I wanted to get around it somehow this time and did a bit of research. What I found is that to substitute the shortening in a recipe you can replace it with mashed banana, pureed prunes, applesauce, pureed pumpkin, or even beans. After some thought I settled on using 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup pureed prunes (you know...for some added fiber).
Pureed prunes are easy to prepare - soak some prunes in a bowl and then puree them in a food processor. Easy!
For the remainder of the recipe I substituted the brown sugar with coconut sugar and the flour with spelt flour.
The cookies turned out just fine with all of the subtitutions. They tasted a tad different with the prunes in the dough but really paired well with the dates. Perhaps I'll try banana next time for a different flavour.
I did end up baking them longer than the recipe called for but the cookies were slightly larger than usual (oops). They would normally be baked for 10-12 minutes but I left mine in for a good 20 minutes or so until I felt they were cooked through.
Overall I was happy with the result. I was able to get rid of the shortening and found a great nutritious substitution to 'healthify' my favorite cookies.
Mom's Date Cookies
- 1 cup shortening (or substitute like the butter and prune mix I used)
- 2 cups brown sugar (I used coconut sugar)
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 1/2 cups spelt flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, salt, baking soda cinnamon) and add to the wet ingredients. Meanwhile, cook the dates by placing dates in a pot and covering with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the dates have softened and are broken up (becomes pureed). How many dates you cook down is up to you. I usually cook a good amount and use the leftovers to make a date square or to use in oatmeal.
On a cookie sheet place a spoonful of dough, a spoonful of dates, and another spoonful of dough on top.
Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes (or more in my case).
Dec 15, 2012
Kale chips were always something that I just never cared for. So many times I tried to make them and each time they tasted like sandpaper. I do enjoy them now, but I've learned that flavour is the key. Plain with oil and salt just wasn't enough for me. I needed something with pizzaz - like Sour Cream and Onion Kale Chips.
These chips have TONS of flavour and believe it or not...taste 'just' like sour cream and onion (recipe adapted from http://www.blisstree.com/2010/10/06/eat/original-sour-cream-and-onion-kale-chips-recipe-from-vegan-chef-douglas-mcnish/).
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours
- 4 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 small red onion, chopped finely
- 1 head green kale
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup water
Place the leaves in a dehydrator and dehydrate for 6-12 hours. The timing depends on your dehydrator and the temperature used. Mine doesn't allow me to choose any specific temperature so I just leave them and check on them every so often to see if they're ready. They can be done in an oven using the lowest temperature available but it may be a good idea to rotate them to prevent some of the chips from getting too crisp and others not crispy enough.
Kale is definitely a nutritional powerhouse. Did you know that they are an excellent source of calcium? And folic acid? Yup! Actually, all of the leafy greens are richer in nutrients than any other vegetables. Eat up!
Dec 10, 2012
You know how waiters/waitresses ask you if you'd like a garden salad or a ceasar salad with your meal at a restaurant? Please choose the garden salad, preferably with a balsamic dressing or a vinaigrette. The ceasar salad is not the best option.
At home, however, it's an easy salad to clean up and 'healthify'. Here's how I make mine.
1) In place of bacon and croutons I use sunflower seeds and broccoli for that much-needed crunch factor
2) In place of having just lettuce as the only vegetable in the salad, I include cucumber, celery, red onion and the aforementioned broccoli
3) In place of the parmesan cheese I use feta cheese - it adds creaminess to dressing
4) In place of store-bought dressing I make my own using 2 tbsp of Hellman's full-fat olive oil mayonnaise (more on that later), 2 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice from one lemon, a minced garlic clove, and 1 tsp seasoning - I use an Epicure Ceasar Salad Dressing Mix (mix of spices/seasonings like lemon pepper, red pepper and garlic).
Now...why do I use the full-fat mayonnaise? Well, for one, a higher fat salad dressing increases the absorption of nutrients, especially the fat-soluble vitamins; and two, the ingredients in the low-fat, fat-free, or less fat versions are usually full of preservatives and added sugar.
Here are the ingredients for the 50% less fat mayonnaise: WATER, CANOLA & EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, LIQUID WHOLE EGG, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, SUGAR, VINEGAR, SALT, CONCENTRATED LEMON JUICE, SORBIC ACID, XANTHAN GUM, CITRIC ACID NATURAL FLAVOUR, COLOUR, SPICE & SPICE EXTRACT, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA
And the full-fat version: CANOLA AND OLIVE OILS, WATER, LIQUID WHOLE EGG, VINEGAR, LIQUID YOLK, SALT, SUGAR, CONCENTRATED LEMON JUICE AND CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA, SPICE & SPICE EXTRACT
Lastly, the full-fat mayonnaise just tastes better. If I'm using just 2 tbsp for my whole salad, why not use the most flavourful ingredients? With the addition of the feta cheese there is a lot of creaminess that won't be missed.
Although the restaurant ceasar salad should definitely be avoided nothing beats cleaning it up at home and enjoying a healthified version of it.
Dec 5, 2012
You know what I got in the mail a couple of weeks ago? I got my shipment of flour from the Arva Flour Mill. I typically use spelt flour in place of all-purpose or whole wheat flour. Although spelt is still wheat flour (and still contains gluten), it is more easily-digestible for those who are wheat sensitive and it is higher in protein and B vitamins (though a bit lower in fiber).
Spelt can be used as a direct replacement to all-purpose and whole wheat in recipes. The only thing to make note is that spelt flour is more water-soluble so may need less liquid than what is asked for in the recipe; I'd say reduce the liquid by 1/4.
Spelt is a bit harder to find for purchase. Unfortunately, the grocery store mainly sells all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, pastry flour, but not really spelt flour (unless it's the small tiny packages in the organics section = $$$). Speerville Flour from New Brunswick does have spelt flour available at The Grainery and many other markets and stores in the area but the price is still a bit steep for me. The Arva Flour Mill (from London, Ontario - www.arvaflourmill.com) now sells their flour online so I ordered 3 bags and snuck them into the freezer for fresh-keeping. Maybe I'm just being loyal, but I think I got a pretty good deal.
Over the weekend I thought I'd use some of the flour and make a loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread, my daughter's favorite. Problem? I went into the pantry to get my raisins and look what I found..
Don't you hate it when that happens?? Ugh! I swear, everytime I have a recipe in mind I often find that the main ingredient has gone 'missing'. Hmmmm.... I found some cranberries instead so ended up making a loaf of cinnamon cranberry bread instead. Kinda festive I guess...
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 4 tbsp coconut sugar
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 5-6 cups spelt flour
If using a stand mixer, when the dough becomes hard to mix, change to a dough hook and knead for a few minutes and add more flour if required. Turn off the mixer and then let it sit and then knead again for another few minutes. (note: spelt flour needs less kneading than what all-purpose or whole wheat flour would need)
Place the bread into an oiled bowl and place a clean towel on top. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Punch down the dough, knead, and let rise for another hour.
Time for the filling. Mix together 3 tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1 tbsp melted butter.
Roll out the dough and spread the filling, leaving at least a 1-inch border around. Top with 1/2 cup or so of cranberries (or raisins) and some pumpkin seeds.
Roll up the dough (tightly) making sure not to lose any of the filling. Place in a bread pan with seam side down. Let rise for 30 minutes.
Place in 350F oven. How long? Well....here is where things get interesting. The recipe I used called for 30 minutes. From the look of the loaf it looked like it was enough. It sounded hollow which is usually a good sign that it is done. However...
...when I tried to remove the bread from the pan I lost a portion of the bottom behind - it was still very undercooked. I carefully put it back together and baked it for another 20 minutes. Still not completely done. I threw it back into the oven (again) and baked it upside down for 15 minutes.
Once cooled I sliced through it and found that it still wasn't what I wanted. Ugh...so in the oven the slices went and I toasted them. I'm not one to let anything go to waste so at the end of the day instead of the cinnamon-raisin bread I had hoped for I ended up with a cinnamon-pumpkin seed-cranberry biscotti-like bread. Tastes pretty good - that's what matters I suppose!
Next time, I'll make 2 separate loaves to make sure they cook through the whole way.