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A Wedding and Focaccia

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This summer is packed with eventful occasions, not the least of which has been my niece’s wedding. It was held at the homeplace of the grandparents who raised her from the time she was two years old, when her birth parents were both taken from her in a freak accident. It was an outdoor wedding held in the beautiful backyard of my in-laws. The service was held on top of a hill overlooking the orchards and a soybean field. The bride was escorted up the aisle by her two older brothers, one flanking her on each side. They gave her away to her groom and I don’t believe there was a dry eye on top of that hill at that moment.

After the ceremony the guests meandered down the hill gradually to the tent where the reception was held. The gorgeous floral decorations were put together by a cousin from the South, using young little apples from our orchards and greenery. The cake was a highly successful collaborative effort between her and my sister-in-law who lives locally. I thought it was a wonderful symbol of the combined effort of the two families, one in the North and one in the South, to provide a safe haven for these young people who had lost their parents at such a young age.

A tribe of aunts, cousins and the maternal grandmother came from South Carolina early in the week to help prepare for the big day. An aunt who is gifted with organizational skills set up a plan in which we relatives took turns providing the lunches during this week of set-up. On my allotted day, I took ingredients for build-your-own-sandwiches and made focaccia that morning to assemble them on. Focaccia is essentially a slightly puffy flat bread that is drizzled with olive oil, herbs and other toppings. I have made focaccia many times as a side, but this was the first time I used it as a sandwich base. It will definitely be repeated! I cut them in rectangles, then split them in half lengthwise to layer with sandwich toppings. It was a simple but delicious repast a little out of the norm.

I grow my own herbs in pots, but we sell several varieties at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, as well as the tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, fresh garlic, and cheese. For the sandwich toppings I offered Tuscan ham, smoked turkey, cheese, sliced onions, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and various spreads. 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The stories and recipes are my own. 

A Wedding and Focaccia

Ingredients

Dough:

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Focaccia triangles
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour or a mixture of grains and wheat flours
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup oil

Toppings:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 – 3  tablespoons grated parmesan or feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped mixed fresh herbs or 1 tablespoon dried herbs
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • generous grinding of coarse salt (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper 
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)*

Directions

Stir the dry ingredients together for the dough. Add warm water and oil and stir until well combined. It should be a soft but manageable dough. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead well until the dough feels springy. Cover with the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes to half an hour. 

While the dough is resting grease a 15″x 10″ cookie pan and prepare topping ingredients. Turn on the oven to 400°F (204°C). Roll out the dough to a 16″x 11″ rectangle. Fit into the prepared pan. Dent surface of dough firmly with your fingers. Drizzle oil over top and brush to coat, allowing oil to puddle in the dents. Sprinkle with the remaining ingredients, laying tomato and onion slices on last, if using. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely golden. Let cool for about 15 minutes before cutting into rectangles. A pizza cutter works really well for this. Cut in half for sandwiches with a serrated knife. Best served warm. 

*Sometimes I carmelize the onions for the topping. That adds a nice touch. Simply fry the onions slowly in a pan with butter until they are deep golden in colour before adding on top.

 

 

 

 

 

Basic Crème Brûlée with Rhubarb

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Basic Creme Brulee with Rhubarb (8)

I wasn’t planning to post another rhubarb recipe this spring but you asked, so here it is! I made this delicacy to reward my son-in-law for getting our weed-eater working again and to use up a litre of leftover cream that was patiently waiting in the fridge after our Martin camping was over. And really, in my books at least, one can never have enough rhubarb. After all, it won’t be back until NEXT YEAR.

This is a basic crème brûlée recipe that I have used numerous times with success. I have made it plain, with blackberries, with chai tea and pears, with pumpkin, and with raspberries. I plan to try peaches during peach season. By the way, I’m quite proud of myself for figuring out how to create the French accent marks on my desktop. Not bad for a middle-aged fogey, huh? I figure such an elegant French dessert should be spelled with the proper accent marks.

I can’t recall when or where I had my first crème brùlée, but I was immediately hooked. I was entranced by the silky vanilla custard under the glassy sugar shell, and the satisfaction of cracking that shell before dipping my spoon into it. It is the perfect dessert after a full dinner, when you want a smidgeon of something sweet but not too much heaviness. I didn’t attempt to make it until a few years ago. I’m not sure why, other than it seems like one of those ethereal delicacies far beyond the reach of common mortals, that only a master chef can execute. Let me tell you, it ain’t so. ANYONE can make it. The only thing is that you have to figure out what to make with all those egg whites afterwards. I freeze them for my next pavlova (yes! strawberry pavlova), meringue kisses, daffodil or chocolate angel food cake, or strawberry/raspberry freeze. See? No problem.

The three most valuable tips I can offer are to heat the cream just until steaming and starting to foam around the edges when stirred, whisk some hot cream into the eggs to temper them before combining the whole concoction, and to make sure your water is boiling hot that you use to bake them in. That’s it! Oh, and try not to burn your sugar. You can do this.

Big leafy rhubarb plants are easy to spot. They are often in a corner or at the edge of a garden. They come in red and pink varieties. Typically the redder stalks are thinner and a little more dry, but they look beautiful in the food they are gracing. Take your pick! 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm where you can find these beautiful pink stalks until the weather gets too hot. The comments are my own. 

Basic Crème Brûlée with Rhubarb

Ingredients

Basic Creme Brulee with Rhubarb (7)

  • 1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup finely diced rhubarb
  • additional white sugar for tops

Directions

Preheat oven to 300°F (149°C). Place 6 ramekins in a 13″ x 9″ baking pan, preferably glass. Divide the rhubarb among the bottom of the ramekins; approximately 1 tablespoon into each. Set water to boil for water bath. Heat cream on medium-high heat just until it starts steaming and small bubbles form at the edges. Separate the yolks from the whites and put them into a medium bowl. Whisk vigorously with first amount of white sugar until they are a lighter yellow in colour and beginning to thicken. This step can be done with a mixer, if you prefer. Very slowly add about 1/2 cup of the cream to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. This is called tempering the eggs so that they won’t curdle. Add the vanilla, salt, and remaining cream and whisk again to combine thoroughly. Pour the egg and cream mixture into each ramekin evenly. Place the pan in the oven and carefully pour the very hot water into the pan to about 2/3 of the way up the sides of the cups. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the custard is set, but with a slight jiggle in the middle when lightly moved. This time will vary depending on your oven and the size of your ramekins. 

Remove pan from the oven and lift the ramekins out of the hot water (a jar lifter works really well for this step). Cool for an hour on a wire rack, then chill in the fridge for 3 hours. At this point, they can be chilled for at least 3 days or frozen for a longer time. Thaw if frozen before adding the sugar topping. 

When ready to serve, sprinkle a scant tablespoon of white sugar evenly on top of each ramekin. Place them 6″ under the broiler element in your oven until browning and bubbly, then remove quickly. Don’t let them get too dark; they will continue to bubble and brown after removal from the oven. If you are lucky enough to own a kitchen torch you can do this step with it, working from the outside in a circular motion. Let them sit for about 3 minutes until the sugar is hardened. Garnish with a fresh strawberry if you wish. Enjoy the crack and the hums of delight as your guests dig in. 

NOTE: Try experimenting with your own flavour combinations. For fruit variations, simply put a little of it (3 small blackberries, for instance) into the bottom of the ramekins before pouring in the custard. For tea or chocolate flavours, place 1/2 Tbsp. tea leaves (inside a tea ball) or 1 teabag or 1/4 cup chopped dark chocolate in with the cream as it heats.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

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Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins (3)

Spring has finally tentatively poked its head around the corner of our county and with it, the three culinary constants of spring have arrived; fiddleheads, asparagus, and rhubarb. I must say, although I am loyal to apples as a crop, I look forward mightily to rhubarb season. I just love rhubarb. I also love muffins and the two go together like, well, like rhubarb in a muffin.

We Martins have reprinted our cookbook that features fresh seasonal Ontario produce and this is one of my go-to recipes within it during rhubarb season. This cookbook was first printed in  2015. It is a culmination of longtime family favourites, as well as newer recipes that were used at different times and places during Martin public and private events. It was intended to be a one-off thing but it’s back by popular demand, thanks to some of you!

I like this muffin because it is tender with buttermilk and bursting with tartness, colour and flavour. I top it with coarse sugar as I often do with muffins and scones, and voila! Instant texture party on your tongue when you break into this beauty. It’s a cinch to prepare too.

It’s prime rhubarb season and Ontario is also producing some great little greenhouse-grown strawberries to accompany it. Rhubarb is a cool weather crop; as soon as it gets hot it’s done. Literally. It flops over in exhaustion. 

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Fresh strawberries and rhubarb; beautiful!

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm.  The comments and recipe are my own. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

Ingredients

Strawberry Rhubarb Muffins

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup sliced or coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
  • Additional sugar for topping (I use coarse sugar)

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F (204° C). Mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, baking powder, and soda in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together egg, buttermilk and oil in a smaller bowl. Dump the chopped rhubarb and strawberries into the flour mixture, then add the liquid and gently fold it all together. Fill well-greased or paper-lined muffin tins 3/4 full using an ice cream scoop. If you want to make them extra pretty, top each one with a small strawberry half. Top with a generous sprinkle of coarse sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and the tops are firm. Remove and let cool on a baking rack.

 

 

Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegetables

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Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegegetables

Hello! It’s been so long that my fingers nearly forgot how to type. You see, we’ve been updating part of our house from the early 60’s golds and the late 90’s greens to NOW. Yeah, it’s been a long haul but I’m ever so pleased with the results. All that’s left for me anymore is finishing up the staining and varnishing of the open staircase. That’s being whittled away at; every other step, then the OTHER every other step, then the railing, then the spindles and stringers, and lastly, oh glory, the landing. So that, my friends, is my excuse. I hardly had time to cook, let alone write about it and take pictures.

I really wanted to get a maple recipe in with the bumper crop of syrup Ontario producers had this year. My daughter and I made a whole table full of maple-glazed cinnamon buns for their sugar shack open house earlier this spring. Those were very good, but… I had no time to write about them. I made two Egg Cheeses for two separate occasions over Easter, but… my first post was about that delicacy. Click here to read it. What to post?

My husband’s favourite meat is pork; probably because his inner child remembers porcine meals in the days when their family raised hogs. Pork is an economical meat and it pairs naturally with maple syrup. I had a nice assortment of vegetables lolling about from Martin’s Family Fruit Farm waiting for such a time as this. Plus, last weekend we gifted some Ohio friends with a bottle of the golden liquid and I was telling their young son how good it is brushed over a chipotle-rubbed pork loin! It seemed the right time to develop this recipe.

I have discovered that roasting the meat and the vegetables takes roughly the same amount of time and temperature. That’s so handy! I do like handy meals like that. I chopped and sliced the vegetables, putting the ones that take a longer cooking time into a separate bowl from the fast-roasting ones. Then I drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled them with the seasonings and a bit of balsamic vinegar. I stuck the slow-roasting veggies in the oven while I prepared the pork loins.

Next I oiled and dry-rubbed spices onto the pork loins, pricked them all over with a meat fork, squeezed a lime over them and popped them into my oven. About fifteen minutes from the finish I brushed the loins with maple syrup and added the fast-cooking veggies to the tray. Dinner was ready in an hour from start to finish. It would also work great on a barbeque grill!

Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegetables

Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegetables (3)

There is a great assortment of winter vegetables at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, including these cute little fingerling potatoes, as well as an increasing amount of spring veggies such as greenhouse peppers and green beans. Pretty soon there will be asparagus and fiddleheads too! I added parsnips because we like the unique flavour they add to a vegetable medley like this. 

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Delicious roasting veggies!

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipe and comments are my own. 

Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

For the Vegetables:Maple-Glazed Pork Loin over Roasted Vegetables

  • 6 fingerling potatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 mini red-skinned potatoes, quartered lengthwise
  • 3 large carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal
  • 3 large parsnips, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal
  • 1 large red onion, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 pound asparagus or green beans, cut in half
  • 1 sweet red pepper, cut into large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dry herbs of your choice, optional
  • salt and pepper

For the Pork Loin:

  •  2 to 3 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 whole lime or half a lemon
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle seasoning, or more if you like it spicy
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice or cloves
  • 2 tablespoons Italian herbs mix
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • generous grinding of pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F (204° C) on regular bake or convection roast (my favourite setting for this recipe). Put the potatoes, carrots, parsnips, and onions in one bowl. These vegetables will take longer to roast. Cut the asparagus or beans, red pepper and garlic in another bowl. Drizzle the olive oil, balsamic, and seasonings over each bowl and toss the veggies. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Spread the bowl of root vegetables on the sheet. Roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare pork loins for roasting. 

Drizzle second amount of oil into another lined baking sheet. Mix all the spices and the garlic together. Place tenderloins on top and roll them in the oil until they’re covered. Prick all over the top with a meat fork. Squeeze the lemon or lime over the loins. Sprinkle with the mixed spices and garlic. Roast, uncovered for 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pork loins, to about 150° for medium. The juices should run clear when pierced with a fork. This stage could also be done on a barbeque grill with fantastic results, I’m sure.

After 30 minutes, add the bowl of short-cooking vegetables to the roasting tray and toss with the other veggies. Return to oven and roast for an additional 15 minutes. At the same time, remove pork and baste with the pan juices before brushing with half the maple syrup. Return to oven and roast again for 15 minutes. Brush with the remaining maple syrup after removing. Let the meat stand for 5 minutes before slicing. It should be slightly pink inside and juicy. Slice it into 1/2″ thick slices and fan out slightly on top of vegetables for a pretty presentation. Drizzle with pan juices.

Apple Brie Bites

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Apple Brie Bites (4)

When I was asked by Martin’s to pull together a recipe to feature a new apple, the Crimson Crisp, I knew immediately which one I’d use. I had made this easy, yet eye-catching recipe for a potluck after our church’s Thanksgiving hike, using pears instead of apples. I knew the Crimson Crisp would be stunning with its bright red skin and the crisp, creamy tartness would contrast nicely with the Brie cheese and red pepper jelly. And lastly, but certainly not least; they would be perfect for a special Valentine’s appetizer!

Because the Crimson Crisp is more tart than the pears were, I decided to offset the tanginess with a drizzle of honey. You can add the honey before or after baking. I added it before, which created the sweet little scorchy bits you see. I rather liked that; I think it gives the bites character; but if you don’t, simply drizzle the honey on the pan after baking.

After baking them, I took them in to Martin’s for the final test to see if they passed muster, and they did! In fact, they passed muster repeatedly…and repeatedly. But the taste muster passed only after Sary Oung Phoulivang took all the photos she wanted. As you can see, she took some gorgeous shots!

Apple Brie Bites (2)

If you have never worked with phyllo pastry, here’s your chance. It’s not difficult. The pastry is fragile, yes, but if you handle it carefully two sheets at a time, it’s not hard to do. The instructions say to apply one sheet at a time, but I’ve used two together and it works well. It’s very forgiving; just make sure you don’t have the tears repeatedly at the same place on the pan. Be sure to keep the unused pastry covered with a damp tea towel while working.

Apple Brie Bites Ingredients
Here are the ingredients you need

 

Prepare the Brie cheese and slice the apple. I sliced it with the slicer, then cut each slice into three or four thinner slices.

Prepare the pastry and layer the toppings.

 

Apple Brie Bites
Top with red pepper jelly or a spiced apple jelly.

 

Apple Brie Bites (8)
Eat and see if it passes muster with you.

 

As usual, this post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, but the words written are my own. 

The Crimson Crisp is a pretty new apple, great for baking and eating out of hand if you like a tart apple. Its firm, crunchy flesh is creamy in colour, and the skin is a brilliant red. It stores very well in the refrigerator. 

Apple Brie Bites

Ingredients

Apple Brie Bites (3)

  • 8 phyllo pastry sheets
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 large Crimson Crisp or other tart apple
  • 1 6″ Brie cheese
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons honey
  • red pepper or spiced apple jelly

Directions

Preheat oven to 375° F (190 C). Brush a thin coating of melted butter in the bottom of a 10″ by 15″ or 11″ by 17″ cookie sheet. Carefully unroll and separate two sheets of phyllo pastry from the package. Lay the two sheets in the pan, folding edges under to fit. Brush with another thin layer of butter. Repeat three more times until the 8 pastry sheets are used up. Cover the unused phyllo sheets with a damp tea towel until they’re done. Refrigerate or freeze the remaining sheets. Or make two pans right away!

Cut the Brie in half, then cut off the rounded edge on one side. Slice each half into twenty-four 1/4 inch thick slices. Wash, core and slice the apple into 8 wedges, then cut each wedge into at least 3 slices. Lay the Brie on top of the pastry in rows at least 2 inches apart. Lay the apple slices on top of the Brie. You should have three rows with eight slices in each row. Drizzle with honey if you want to bake it on the apples. Bake for 18 minutes until the pastry is browning. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into 24 rectangles with a rotary pizza cutter. Dollop a 1/2 teaspoon of jelly on top of each slice.

 

Buttery Popcorn and Flashbacks

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popcorn and apples (4)

Popcorn, you say? She’s going to write a post on popcorn? She is indeed.

You see, popcorn has been an integral part of my life as long as I can remember. We fed lunch to a crowd of visitors after church every other Sunday. There could be anywhere from twenty to thirty people seated around the table on those days. Yup. You can read more about those early Sundays here. Then, around 3:30 or 4:00 pm, we would bring out the popcorn kettle and make popcorn for the good folks before they started making movements toward departure. Very often the popcorn would be served with apples, and in maple syrup season, homemade taffy. Let it never be said that they would leave our home hungry! Later we learned that popcorn could be served for supper instead, which made more sense to me.

popcorn and apples

Making good popcorn is an art. It needs to be perfectly popped, with six kernels or less being the maximum left unpopped, at least that was the criteria in our home. There needs to be the perfect balance of saltiness, crispiness, and butteryness. I am absolutely of the persuasion that there needs to be a little butter on the popcorn. I see no point in masticating endlessly on a flat, saltless, butterless piece of rubber. Why eat popcorn at all? AND, I don’t insist on it being a point of membership or anything, but I use a sturdy popcorn kettle, used only for popcorn. I use my grandma’s well-seasoned kettle that I bought when she auctioned off her estate. It was the one thing I was going to get at any price. Let my cousin have the ugly stiff rubber doll that we used to play with; I was going to get that kettle!

Six years ago we went with my sister and her husband on a memorable trip to Portugal, Spain, Southern France, and Andorra. In the last week of our trip we were planning to stay at a very remote Portuguese village at the top of a mountain in a house owned by one of our employees. We knew it was rustic, and figured it was probably not well-stocked, so we stopped at the foot of the mountain and proceeded to shop for groceries. We were overjoyed when we found popcorn kernels on the shelves of the store. After all, we had not had popcorn for over two weeks! We bought some olive oil and butter, figuring there would be some kind of kettle there.

Upon arrival, after exploring a bit, we noticed that there was no salt there. This would not do. Popcorn with no salt??? It was too far to go back down for just salt. A few of us were nearly in tears, our expectations dashed. Popcorn withdrawal will do that to you. After all, my sister and I had both been raised in the same popcorny environment.

A dear little lady in need of a hip replacement seemed to have been put in charge of us and kept hobbling over between our house and hers, wanting to help us. The trouble was, she only spoke Portuguese and we spoke about two words in Portuguese, with neither of them being “salt”. We communicated with sign language and us trying to pronounce “salt” in different cadences for a while, when my eyes spied an empty spice jar on the counter. Aha! I grabbed it, and shook it as though I was salting something. Bingo! Her eyes lit up and we could tell that she had got it. She hastened uphill to her home with surprising alacrity considering her lopsided gait, and returned with TWO containers of salt. One was a shaker of table salt; the other one a jar of very moist, fishy-smelling sea salt. We took the little shaker of salt, profusely saying “Obrigado” over and over. We had learned the Portuguese “Thank You” by then.

We made our popcorn in olive oil and butter, seasoned with salt we were very thankful for. Then we ate it with gusto on our front porch, waving at the neighbours trotting by, checking out the new kids in town. We surmised that they didn’t get a lot of visitors up there.

That was our initiation into a world of new experiences in the next few days; many hilarious, some touching, but all enthralling. You may hear more of them as life goes on.

I served the popcorn this time with Ambrosia apples. If you like a crunchy apple that STAYS crunchy in the dead of winter, this is the apple for you! If you like a pretty apple, this is also the apple for you. If you only like sour apples, this is NOT the apple for you. It is very sweet, as its name implies. It also happens to be my husband’s favourite. He’s sweet that way; liking the apple I’m featuring.

ambrosia apples


There are a few apples that are especially good for eating with popcorn. Some of my personal older favourites would include the Cortland and Snow apples in season, and the Empire. One of the newer ones would be the Ambrosia, a sweet apple that is similar to the Gala, but is firmer and even sweeter. It gets picked in mid-October, about a month after the Gala, so as a result it stores much better and retains its firmness longer.

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Memories and stories are my own.

Buttery Popcorn

Ingredients

popcorn and apples (4)

  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3/4 cup popcorn kernels (I love the white hull-less variety)
  • 1/8 – 1/4 cup butter
  • salt to taste

Directions

Get out a very large bowl. Heat the oil in a heavy pot or popcorn maker on high heat until shimmering hot. I often toss in a few kernels first; if they start “swimming” and sizzling, the oil is ready. Add the rest of the kernels and the butter and swirl the pot well, holding it above the burner. Do this a few times until it begins to pop, returning it to the burner in between. Keep the lid slightly ajar to keep popcorn crisp. Once it starts popping, remove pot and shake the kettle mid-air several times to shake the unpopped kernels to the bottom before returning it to the stove. When the lid begins to rise, shake about a third of the popcorn into the bowl. Return the kettle to the burner, shaking it again; repeat these steps until the popping slows down significantly. Shake salt over the popcorn, taste, and adjust. Serve with apples for an old-fashioned economical snack.

Zingy Chicken Noodle Soup

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Zingy Chicken Soup (3)

Happy New Year, folks! I totally missed doing a December post because we were gone, then gone again, then there was Christmas, and Christmas, and more Christmas. Please don’t mistake me; I LOVE Christmas; it’s just that all the festivities seem to preclude blog posts. This may be why it’s wise to have a few posts done ahead of time. Some day I hope to be wise. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, with just enough stuff happening to make you feel loved, but enough quiet time to reflect on the Child Jesus who came to this world to show us how to live and love.

Immediately after Christmas, I came down with a wicked head and chest cold that stayed and stayed and is still staying, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a soup entitled Flu-Fighter Chicken Noodle Soup by Baker By Nature. I decided to enlist in the battle against all flu infestations, and make it. The recipe caught my eye because it uses roasted chicken tenderloins instead of a whole chicken, and has lemon juice and dill in it. All the ingredients were here, and it seemed very doable. Plus, Flu-Fighter! Let’s kick this baby! Incidentally, this roasting method turned out to be highly revolutionary to every chicken soup in my future. I will do that every time I make ANY kind of chicken soup. I took our dog for a walk through the orchard and around the old barn to stretch both our legs and clear my foggy head, then I began chopping and roasting.

The Poultry Place is across the road from us and I keep their souvlaki chicken strips in my freezer at all times, as well as their housemade chicken broth. Having just watched the Downton Abbey Episode in which Mrs. Whats-her-name tries to make a chicken broth for the old dowager and ends up with a vile concoction that ended up being thrown out, I deemed it wise to use some premade broth. I added one gel pack of Knorr’s chicken stock for extra flavour. At least I thought I did. I like that stuff; it tastes good, and it’s gluten-free to boot. Each little pack flavours three cups of water.

I scoured my fridge and found some leeks that needed to be used. I used shallots, leeks, and onions instead of only onions. Ontario garlic is much more potent than the typically-stocked Chinese varieties, so I cut the garlic down to four cloves. I added half a tomato, chopped, because it was sitting in my fridge too, and we like tomatoes. It is soup after all; you can add what you like. Between Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, my pantry and fridge, and The Poultry Place, I had what I needed! Yay!

 

Zingy Chicken Soup (2)

I made the soup and gave it to my husband to taste test because my tester is not very reliable these days. I trust him and know his language; if he tells me that it’s “okay”, it means that it’s not very good. If he says, “Wow”, it means exactly that. If he doesn’t say anything and just hums sounds of delight as he eats, it’s the best. The first taste I gave him needed more salt and pepper. Although we loved the zing of the lemon juice, the second one was still “missing something”.  Eventually, I discovered that I had forgotten to add the Knorr broth package to the soup after taking the bouillon photo. After adding it, he declared “Now, that’s good!” and ate a hearty bowlful with two slices of my homemade Mennonite-style sourdough bread. So there you have your endorsement.

By the way, do use only the amount of pasta asked for in the recipe, even if it seems skimpy. If you add more, you will end up with chicken noodle stew or chicken noodle casserole by the next day. Or even by the next hour. Trust me, I know this. Tomorrow’s recipe: Chicken Noodle Casserole. Just kidding. Gonna have to add more broth to the leftovers!

Martin’s is still well-stocked with Ontario root vegetables as well as apples. Carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, shallots…they’re all waiting to go into your next pot of soup! 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Stories and viewpoints are my own. 

Zingy Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

Zingy Chicken Soup

Chicken:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins (or breasts, cut in strips)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black or mixed peppers

Soup:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 Knorr gel pack of chicken bouillon mix
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups gluten-free or wheat-based broad noodles or pasta (I used rotini)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 small tomato,chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190C). Place chicken tenderloin strips in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Drizzle with the 2 Tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with the seasonings. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 – 30 minutes, flipping once. Remove and pull into bite-size chunks with two forks. Set aside until ready to add to soup. Seriously, roasting the chicken for the soup adds a whole ‘nother dimension. I’m going to roast my chicken for every soup I make from now on.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the soup by heating the second amount of olive oil in a very large kettle. Chop and slice all the vegetables and add them (except the garlic) to the oil. Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and salt and cook for another minute. Add the bay leaf, chicken broth, water, and Knorr gel pack. Increase heat to high until boiling, then add the pasta and turn down the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the pasta is al dente. Stir in lemon juice, tomato, chicken and dill just before serving. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Join the cold-fighting army and serve this soup.