Gluten Free

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

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Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts (2)

Myhistory with both strawberries and walnuts goes back a long, long way. Growing up as the oldest of a large family, we always had long rows of strawberries where we fought with varied feathered and furred creatures to be the first to get to as they ripened. Later I married into the Martin family and they had a pick-your-own patch in those early years. I remember picking with Asian pickers and being simply agog at their flying fingers while chatting at equal breakneck speed with each other. After the stork began using our home as a drop-off location, I sold strawberry plants in the spring from our house as a little sideline income as a stay-at-home mom. It turned out to be a great way to meet the neighbourhood, as well as neighbouring communities. I also got to know the berry types and which ones grew best in certain soils. Those were good years.

We children considered walnuts the bane of our existence. Our property had formerly been a black walnut grove and my parents had opted to keep about a dozen trees on our lawn. Starting in September, we had to pick up those big green globes before we could mow. At the end of the season we saved a few bushels of them and spread them out on the lower garage floor, then drove over them with the garden tractor to remove the thick pulpy, leathery skin. When the skin was squashed and cracked, we peeled them off, wearing rubber gloves. You know what walnut stain colour on wood looks like, right? Well, dear ones, that’s the colour our gloves were after that job was done and the stain dried. We let the nuts dry in their hard wooden shells for weeks down there, then gathered them in bushel baskets and stored them in the furnace room. Then…and this is the good part…on a cold, rainy night those old enough to help would gather in a circle and pound those wooden little nuts with a hammer until the shell split and pry out the nutmeat inside. We would beg dad to tell stories of his boyhood and he obliged with delight. When we were done, we trooped upstairs and Dad (or Mom, if the little ones had been put to bed already) would fry up those little hard-earned beauties in butter until they were sizzling and fragrant, shake some salt over them, and we devoured them with gusto. To this day, I cannot brown a nut without having memories of those late autumn delights flood my being. It’s funny how memories are attuned to smells like that.

Summer Strawberry Salad (2)

This salad uses an assortment of fresh seasonal goodies that are available now. I had to use English walnuts because I have no black walnuts on hand, but it was still delicious. The dressing is from the yummy Festive Tossed Salad in our cookbook. I cut back the sugar and butter amounts from the original recipe, as I often do.

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm and my blog is featured on their new website. The views and stories presented here are my own.

Strawberries come in many varieties and types. It is best to grow them in raised rows so that the berries don’t sit in water and rot during wet weather. The plants need to be covered in winter with straw to prevent winterkill (hence the name). With the advancement of the day neutral or ever-bearing berry, we are able to have strawberries much earlier in the spring and later in the fall than we used to. Ontarians are now making fresh strawberry pies in October for Thanksgiving, alongside the iconic pumpkin pie! They are easy to freeze for smoothies or shakes.

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts

Ingredients

NUTS:

Summer Strawberry Salad with Candied Walnuts (2)

  • 1 cup walnuts, or pecans if you prefer them
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

DRESSING:

  • 1/2 olive oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar or honey
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (2 teaspoons dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or basil (1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 garlic clove, cut in quarters
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

SALAD:

  • 10 – 12 cups torn romaine, or a mix of lettuces
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
  • 1/2 cups sliced green or red onions
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese, or your favourite kind

Directions

NUTS: Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add nuts and cook until sizzling and fragrant over medium heat (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper; stir it in. Set aside until serving time. These can be done ahead.

DRESSING: Blend dressing ingredients together in food processor or blender lightly.

SALAD: In a large salad bowl, layer half the lettuce, strawberries, onions and cheese. Repeat layers. The salad can be covered and refrigerated at this point for several hours. When ready to serve, top with the candied nuts and drizzle with enough dressing to suit your tastebuds. Eat and remember those who gathered the walnuts.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

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Asparagus Bacon Quiche
Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Spring has been peeping around the corner for a while to tease us with her warmth and sunshine, only to sweep it away out of reach coyly. But she seems to have tired of her flirtatious game and has finally taken up residence in earnest. There is an old proverb that claims that good things come to those who wait, and whoever penned it knew whereof he/she spoke.

One of the good things that I wait for impatiently in the Spring is asparagus. I love asparagus and use it in a dozen different ways in the short season it is here for. Click here for last year’s Asparagus, Ham and Egg on Toast recipe; it’s great for breakfast or brunch. I can’t wait to make it again.

A sidekick that accompanies asparagus for an even shorter period is wild leeks, or ramps, as they are known as. An older friend of ours delighted in telling us a story at market about his class eating wild ramps during their noon hour break and having the teacher send them home from school early because the class reeked so badly. Imagine a room full of kids each eating a handful of fresh garlic and you might have a sense of how that classroom smelled! I have fond memories of meandering through the woods behind our place with grandma and pulling up the leeks and eating them straight out of the soil.

Asparagus and ramps combine with bacon, eggs and cheese to deliver this scrumptious quiche. I used an applewood-smoked bacon and a variety of cheeses, including Gruyere and an intriguing straw-smoked Scamoria that looks like a potato that I brought home from our recent trip to Ireland. The overall result was a swirl of flavours that blended superbly, yet allowed the asparagus to shine through.

I use the recipe for pie pastry that is on the box of lard, mix up a big batch and divide it into 5 or six portions, depending on the size of the pie plates, and freeze them individually. That way, it’s ready to go when I want to make a pie or tart. Or quiche, in this case. Chop and lightly fry the bacon, cook the asparagus quickly and chop the ramps, shred the cheese, and beat the egg mixture while they’re cooking. This egg mixture is a basic quiche base; you could also substitute broccoli or spinach for the asparagus, and ham or chicken for the bacon. If you want to make it gluten-free, this recipe is my go-to GF pastry.

Layer everything in the pastry-lined pan, pour the beaten egg mixture over it all and bake.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (4)

Savour every bite and thank the good Lord for Spring’s bounties! I served it with a Caprese salad on the side. We didn’t eat the tulips.

Asparagus Bacon Quiche (3)

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. Check out my blog and other recipes on their new website! The stories and views are my own.
Asparagus grows best in light sandy soil. As soon as warm weather arrives, it begins poking its head out through the ground. It grows quickly and needs to be harvested nearly every day. Cut off the grey woody bottoms until you reach the tender part of the stems. Asparagus can also be eaten raw, or very lightly blanched and chilled and makes a stunning and conversational addition in a fresh vegetable assortment.
Ramps grow wild in shady areas of the woods. They are in the garlic family, so you may use garlic or shallots as a fine substitute.

Asparagus and Bacon Quiche

Ingredients

  • 1 10″ pie crust, homemade or store-bought Asparagus Bacon Quiche (5)(I use the recipe on the lard packages and freeze the extra portions). Use a GF crust to easily make it gluten-free.
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fresh asparagus, washed well and trimmed (about 3 cups when chopped)
  • 1 bunch wild ramps or 2 garlic cloves, washed
  • 6 slices bacon or 1 cup ham
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded assorted cheese
  • 3 large or extra-large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half or whipping cream or whole milk*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grainy or dijon mustard

Directions

PASTRY: On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into a 13″ circle. fold into quarters and transfer to a pie or quiche pan. Unfold and fit into the pan, pressing it in lightly. Trim edges or fold them underneath inside the rim and crimp the edges.

FILLING: Preheat oven to 400°F or 205°C. Chop bacon coarsely and fry lightly. Slice asparagus into 1 inch pieces and cook uncovered in a little water for 3 – 5 minutes, just until it turns bright green. Finely chop the ramps or garlic and shred the cheeses. Whisk the eggs, add the seasonings and cream or milk*. Tilt pan on a low trivet to let the grease run to the bottom, then remove the bacon onto a paper towel. Strain hot liquid off of asparagus immediately.

LAYERS: In the prepared pastry, layer half the cheese, asparagus, bacon, and ramps, then repeat the layers. I start and end with the cheese; it keeps the crust from getting soggy and gives the quiche a lovely golden top. Pour the egg mixture over the layers.

BAKE for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the quiche. Don’t poke into the crust! Let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with a salad for a lovely light lunch or supper and be thankful for spring.

*Using cream will result in the firmest quiche with less water separation happening as it bakes. I recommend using whole milk if you wish to use milk.

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

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Maple and Brie Baked Apples (2)

For the last few weeks our internet has been floating in Never-Never Land. Those that write blogs depend heavily on internet, for how shall they post recipes without any pictures? And how shall they load pictures without any internet? And how shall they have internet unless it is restored? Thankfully, after much trotting on various rooftops and tapping of keyboards by people who know how to trot on rooftops and tap on keyboards efficiently, we are back in the Land of Now. Just in time to squeak in another maple recipe for March.

Although baked apples go way back in time, I don’t personally have a lot of history with them myself. I remember my grandmother making them occasionally, and my mom making them occasionally, and me making them occasionally, but that’s it. So this is not an old family recipe, it’s just a great way to serve apples. It’s simple, gluten-free, easy to make for two or twelve, and… you’ve gotta admit it… kind of pretty.

But! the plate it’s on… now, that’s got history. It’s an Antique. Please repeat that phrase reverently with me. It’s an Antique! Depression-era Milk Glass, to be precise, for those of you who care as I do for old, precious dishes. My family used to own a gift shop in the village of St. Jacobs and one thing we sold was antiques. It was so much fun going with Mom and Dad to auctions to buy them and research the value of them. I am of the firm opinion that old, precious dishes are to be used and enjoyed, so it seemed right and proper that this traditional dessert should be showcased on a heritage plate.

For this recipe, I used a similar syrup as the Maple Mustard Chicken in my last post. By the way, thanks to those of you who tried that recipe and messaged to say how well you like it! That is music to a food blogger’s ears, let me tell you. I cored an Ida Red apple, stuffed it with pecans and Brie cheese and basted it with the syrup. If you prefer sweeter apples, use a Gala or something similar that holds its shape well. I always peel them halfway down, both for aesthetics and because the peel gets a little tougher from baking.

Maple and Brie Baked Apples (3)
Check out that deliciously oozing centre!

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

Ida Reds are a favourite of many bakeries for strudels, cakes, and muffins. They are a deep red colour with a semi-tart flavour and resist browning after being cut.  

Maple and Brie Baked Apples

Ingredients

  • 2 large, firm apples (sweet or tart, your choice!)Maple and Brie Baked Apples
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I used Amber)
  • about 8 pecan halves
  • 4 Brie cheese slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Core the apple with a thin knife (a filet knife works well) or an apple corer. Make the hole large enough to stuff with 2 slices of Brie cheese. Peel the top half of the apple. Heat the butter and maple syrup together just until it begins to boil. Place the apples in a baking pan and stick 3 pecan halves down the hole to the bottom of the apple. These help to keep the Brie inside the apple. Stuff tightly with the Brie slices, top with another pecan half, then scoop the boiling syrup over the apples. Baste the apple with the syrup from the baking dish a couple of times while baking. Bake the apples for at least an hour, or until the skin begins to split and the apple is soft to your fork, but still holding together. Place the apples on your prettiest plates and scoop the syrup from the pan over top. Serve with ice cream, if you wish.   

*Because I wanted to experience the flavours of the Brie and the maple syrup, I opted not to add cinnamon. I’m sure it would be good with cinnamon, though, so go ahead and add it if you like!

Early Days and Canned Applesauce

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Canned Applesauce with Cinnamon

With Family Day upon us, I asked Steve’s oldest sister Laurel what she remembers doing together as a family in those very early days when Martin’s Apples was just a fledgling business. This is what she remembers, “I have memories of picking apples every day in the fall, after school (it seemed like every day, at least!). I remember it was quite amazing when we made that old shed into a cooler and we had a cold place to store our apples. Before that, I remember storing apples (russet; Dad’s favourite back then) in our basement under the old kitchen/study, because it was cooler there. I also have memories of polishing apples in the driving shed before we went to market the next day. One Friday evening in particular stands out in my memory. It was a cozy fall evening and we were all out there together sorting and individually shining each apple for a very large order* that was being picked up. Janet (another sister) and I ate an incredible amount of apples that night.” *This order was for about 20 bushels of apples, which would be the equivalent of around 2200 apples! 

It’s hard to imagine polishing each apple by hand, but there you have it! The Martin’s took pleasure in having an attractive product from the very beginning. I have a personal attachment to that cement pad that housed that first apple cooler, because some years later it became the foundation for our mobile home; our first abode when we married. It was tucked in the orchard, partway down the “bush lane”. It was a very romantic location for a young couple’s first home, I thought. I have many good memories of living in our orchard bower. 

The Martin family has also reminisced about picking up the Melba apples that had fallen from the tree in the back yard before they could mow the lawn. These apples were then turned into applesauce for their large family. Incidentally, that old Melba tree is still standing and is the only apple tree left from those days. It was in the back yard before the orchard was planted. In an earlier post, I mentioned that creamed potatoes and sausage were two of the quintessential foods of our Mennonite culture. There is another one that should be added to that list, and that is applesauce. There are many families that eat it two, or even three times a day. It is on their table morning, noon, and night, usually as dessert. 

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The apples of my eye!

Traditionally, applesauce is made by washing (don’t peel) apples, cutting them in quarters, and cooking them in a bit of water. Then the hot apples are put through a strainer, and sugar or honey is added. The sauce is funneled into jars, covered and steamed for 20 minutes. Sometimes I like to make a chunky sauce that I don’t preserve, in which I peel the apples, core and cut them, and cook them in about an inch or so of water until soft. I mash them with a potato “stomper” as we used to call it, add desired amount of sugar (or not), and let it cool. You could also use an immersion blender, or a pastry cutter. Be aware that if you choose not to add sugar to your canned sauce, your applesauce will turn brown in the jars after it’s been sitting for awhile, since sugar is a preservative. 

A lot of people use the first apples to make applesauce. You can do that if you wish, but if you wait until the apples are riper, the sauce will be much sweeter and full of flavour naturally. Most apples can be turned into sauce. I think a blend of apples makes the best sauce, just as it does in fresh cider. 

There are several types of strainers; the old-fashioned cone ricer that my mom used, the basket-style that is pictured here, and a high-falutin’ Victorio strainer. Take your pick! 

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

Canned Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bushel of apples (Macs, Empire, Cortland, Crispin, Jonagold are all good)
  • sugar, honey or other sweetener to taste if desired 
  • water
  • canning supplies*

Directions

Put about two inches of water into a very large kettle. Wash and quarter the apples, placing them in the kettle until the kettle is about 2/3 full. Cover  the remaining apple quarters with water in a large bowl until kettle is free again. Cook the apples until soft and puffy, starting them at a boil, then turning them down to a low boil. Stir to keep from scorching on the bottom of the kettle, especially at the beginning. Meanwhile heat empty clean quart jars in the oven on 250° for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. Put snaplids into a little pot, cover with water, and boil for 5 minutes to soften the rubber. Turn down to simmer. Prepare another kettle or crock with the strainer over it, and ladle the hot apples into the strainer in batches. Rotate through strainer until the pulp is dry. Scrape out the junk and repeat process until all the apples are used. Add desired amount of sweetener to the sauce (I usually add 1 – 2 cups per kettle); stir and taste. Funnel the sauce into the sterilized jars, filling to middle of the neck (about 1/2″ from the top), then wipe the rim of the jar, carefully fit the snaplid on the top, and screw on the ring just until tight. Fill a canner half full of warm water, set jars in the water, and top up the water if needed. It should come to the base of  the jars’ necks. Cover the canner and turn the burner to high. Once the water is boiling, turn heat to medium-low, and continue steaming for 20 minutes. When timer goes off, turn off burner, set lid ajar, and let the jars sit in the water for about 10 minutes to settle. This keeps them from spitting juice after they are removed. Remove carefully and set on a towel to cool. Listen for the pings and pops as the lids seal; such a sweet sound of success! Let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, being careful not to disturb the seals, wash up and store in a cool place until ready to eat. Enjoy plain with pork chops or with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a slice of cheese or chocolate cake! 

*Most hardware stores have canning supplies. The basics are a canning kettle with a rack, jar lifters, jars, snaplids, rings, and a funnel. There are kits that include a magnetized lid lifter that I have found useful.

One half bushel of apples yields approximately 11 litres or quarts of sauce

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

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After trekking to the foothills of the Great Pyrenees Mountains with my last soup recipe, I thought we’d stay close to home for this one. A simple form of it originates in my childhood and has great memories attached.

Spud, Leek and Sausage Soup

If you were to ask anybody in this area what the quintessential Waterloo County Mennonite foods are, you would hear a resounding “Schnippelde Grumbarra und Vascht” (sliced (and creamed) potatoes and sausage). The vascht may be served in various forms; farmer’s sausage, summer sausage or bag sausage. The Schnippelde Grumbarra may be sliced or shredded, with fried onions or without, but always, always imbued with heavy cream. On cold winter mornings, my mom would fry up a few onions, then add sliced potatoes and hot water, add some salt and cook them until they were tender. Meanwhile, she brought some Schneider’s Red Hots (wieners, for those who aren’t famiiar with this iconic tube steak) out of the freezer and heated them in boiling water. When the potatoes were soft, she added cream until the mixture had the consistency of a cream soup, and ladled it into our thermoses. She stuck the wiener into the middle of the potatoes and off we trotted to school, anticipating our homemade hot lunch. It was brilliant; the potatoes took on the distinctive taste of the wiener and we thought it was delicious. At noon the only question was whether to eat the wiener whole, or chop it with our spoons. Such a weighty decision for youngsters! 

I have made this chowder many times over the years, remembering my childhood lunch delight with nostalgia. I would take a big crockpot of it to market on cold winter days and plug it into the back of our truck to heat for the morning. There was nothing that quite took the chill away for a little while at least, like a cup of hot soup and coffee. I have made it with ham, bacon, and chicken, but my all-time favourite meat addition is sausage. I always have home-canned sausage on hand, so it’s also very convenient. Plus, it uses lots of winter vegetables, including the lesser-known leeks. You can use less of one vegetable and more of another with no problem, as long as you have at least nine cups of chopped vegetables in total.

Winter Vegetables for Spud, Leek and Sausage Soup
It’s such a satisfying feeling when I can use a ton of homegrown vegetables and meat like this!

Leeks are a member of the onion family and look like a green onion on steroids. They have a mild sweet onion/leek flavour and the pale green rings add pretty colour to whatever dish they’re in. You want to wash them thoroughly, since they are grown under the soil like onions or carrots. Most often they are grown in raised beds, so that the plant can grow downwards further, thus producing a longer white stem. I use the white and pale green part, slicing until I start seeing dirt between the rings.

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

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

Ingredients

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 3 leeks, sliced into rings 1/4″ thick (about 3 cups)
  • 1 – 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups washed and diced potatoes (do not peel)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil flakes, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 2 – 3 cups sliced farmers sausage (or you may use ground fried pork sausage)
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1 cup sour cream, plain yogurt or buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup flour or potato starch (*GF) if you wish to thicken the soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Melt the butter, then put all the vegetables in the kettle. Saute for about five minutes. Add the chicken broth and basil. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer on low boil until the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally. If you wish to brown your sausage slices, this is a good time to do that. It takes more time, but adds flavour. Add the sausage, then the milk. If you plan to thicken the soup, whisk the flour/potato starch into the sour cream, yogurt or buttermilk, and add to the soup once it’s hot, stirring gently. Taste and add desired amount of salt and pepper. Heat and stir gently until thickened. Do not boil it hard at this point or it will separate.

*GF denotes gluten-free

Tuscan Chicken, Bean, and Squash Soup

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Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Squash Soup

With this record cold snap upon us and holiday leftovers lurking in our fridges and freezers, it feels like January is a good month to feature soups. Not that I believe soups should only be left for those times when you clean out the fridge, although that is a great incentive. I am a great proponent of soups being made with intent.

In keeping with that conviction, when I roasted a chicken for our Christmas dinner with both of our parents, I slung the carcass back into the roaster after removing most of the meat, filled the roaster half full of hot water, added a few bouillon gel caps, salt and pepper, and roasted it again for another 2 hours. That makes a mighty tasty stock, let me tell you. I had added onions and some vegetables to the chicken earlier, so I figured I didn’t need to add more for the stock. My stock turned out a deep rich colour and flavour, and I stuck it in the freezer in anticipation of the Moment of Soup.

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Homemade chicken stock. Chill to remove the fat layer easily.

This week, with the Great Freeze upon us, I knew it was going to happen. The intense colour and rich flavour of the chicken stock reminded me of a dish I had in the tiny country of Andorra. Wee Andorra is tucked between France and Spain, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, and we had booked a chalet in the mountain. This was on a European trip with my sister and her husband for both of our 25th anniversaries. We had so much fun and made so many memories on that trip!

We were climbing and winding our way up to the chalet, faithfully following Ginny Penelope Sauder (What? Don’t you name your GPS?). All of a sudden, she said we had arrived at our destination. We stopped and looked around. There was a rundown little shack tucked in the ditch beside the road, but it certainly didn’t look like the kind of place I want to live in When I Arrive. We deliberated, consulted a map, consulted each other, consulted our Heavenly Father, drove this way and that, and laughed as another carload of obvious tourists drove up, stopped at the very same spot, got out and looked in bemusement at the shack, then piled back into the vehicle and kept on driving. We decide we would continue upwards and sure enough, there was our chalet at the very top, beyond the sphere of GPS Land! This was at the end of April, and there was quite a bit of snow up there, but the cherry trees were blooming. I’ve always wondered if they had a cherry crop that year. But I digress. The hosts were warmly welcoming, there was an inviting fire blazing in the hearth with beaten tin panels surrounding it, and the food was superb! I had a delicious chicken stew in which the meat perched atop a pile of vegetables in a pool of the most delicious broth. It must have been good; how often do you remember a broth five years later? I did, and when I saw a recipe for a Tuscan Chicken Soup, I knew that was a perfect way to showcase it.

As usual, I added and changed this and that, and this is what came out of my pot. I was pretty pleased with it. We have dried beans at our store and I actually soaked them and used them for the first time ever! We Canadians don’t take our beans as seriously as our US neighbours do, generally speaking, although they are gradually making inroads into our fair country. And I still had a butternut squash here, so I chopped it into the soup as well. It added that special extra touch to the soup, I thought. I tossed a handful or three of fresh spinach into the pot at the very end, just to pretty it up and add more vitamins.

 

 

We have a great assortment of locally grown winter and greenhouse vegetables at Martins, as well as dried beans. My husband Steve does a great job of stocking our shelves with high quality produce to supplement our apples, pears and cider. 

I didn’t like beans as a child and would always pick them out and gift my sister with them. I have learned to like eating them in moderation and am intrigued by the many varieties. These are called Jacob’s Cattle after the biblical account where Jacob asked his conniving father-in-law for all the black, striped and spotted sheep, goats and cattle as his wages after working fourteen years for his bride Rachel. They are pretty and I liked the texture of them.

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

Tuscan Chicken, Bean, and Squash Soup

Ingredients

Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Squash Soup

  • 3 – 4 cups chicken broth or stock (your own or purchased)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, unpeeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup of dry beans, soaked for 2 hours in boiling water, or 2 cups of canned beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon regular or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning or Herbs de Provence
  • 4 Roma or 2 medium beefsteak-type tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 – 4 cups chopped roasted chicken
  • 1 – 2 cups of washed fresh spinach leaves

Directions

In a large kettle, simmer broth, water, celery, carrots, onions, potatoes garlic, beans and all the seasonings. Add the squash cubes and tomatoes after about half an hour. Simmer at a low boil until the vegetables are soft but not mushy. Add chicken and spinach and heat for about 10 minutes more. Test for salt. As with most soups, it is even better the next day. Chase that chill away!

 

 

Candy Apple Cheesecake

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What’s your favourite dessert to order at a restaurant? Cheesecake? Crème Brûlée? What if I told you that I have a dessert recipe that contains the best elements of both of those? The crackling burnt sugar of the crème brûlée on top of the creamy smoothness of a vanilla cheesecake, with a bite of delicate apple surprising you every now and then. Could anything be more alluring than that?

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake

This summer my family had our second annual backyard campout at my sister’s place. It can only be called a campout because we eat and play outside two days in a row and have a campfire in the evenings. We, um, all go home to our beds at night. Don’t laugh; someday you will understand. Maybe. Anyway, we were planning the food and I asked my sisterchicks what dessert we should have on Sunday noon with our grilled hamburgers. Without missing a beat, one of them replied, “Crème Brûlée”. Of course! Who doesn’t have Crème Brûlée with hamburgers at their campout? It seemed totally normal to us and furthermore, it was providential, because I had a lot of egg yolks in my fridge left over from a Pavlova I had made earlier. And so it was, and the Crème Brûlée slid deliciously down our gullets that hot sunny September noon in my sister’s back yard.

I made this delightful cheesecake for my daughter-in-law’s birthday party on Sunday. It was a hit, even though the crust was a little soggy and the cheesecake had flattened due to water leaking through the required foil wrap. I eliminated the water bath the second time I made it and it seemed okay without it, so you don’t have to worry about a waterlogged cheesecake. It is unapologetically decadent for those occasions when you want an unapologetically decadent dessert. This particular cheesecake has a lighter, less cakey texture than most due to the custardy filling method. I used gluten-free gingersnaps for the crust and that added the perfect amount of spice. Add the crackling sugar topping… I’m telling you; this baby is gooood! Good enough for Christmas, in fact.

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Candy Apple Cheesecake

For this dish I chose to use Crispin (also known as Mutsu) apples, because they hold their shape nicely when cooked. Plus the flavour and crunch of them is phenomenal right now. I love to eat them fresh too. The Crispin is a large, firm, yellowish-green apple. 

Note: Various people have asked me which culinary torch I would recommend. I have the Orblue Culinary Torch and have been extremely pleased with it. I can’t wait to try it on a meringue. 

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Crispin (Mutsu) Apple

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

Candy Apple Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:

Candy Apple Cheesecake
Candy Apple Cheesecake
  • 1 3/4 cups gingersnap crumbs (approximately 255 gr) (you can use gluten-free cookies if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter

Cheesecake:

  • 3 (8 ounce or 250 gr) packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream (do not whip)
  • 10 large egg yolks (you can freeze the egg whites for another use)
  • 1 1/2 cups finely diced firm apples (I used Crispin)
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar (for the brulée)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Get out a 9-inch springform pan. With a rolling pin or food processor crush the gingersnaps into fine crumbs. Melt butter in a medium bowl. Add gingersnap crumbs and sugar and stir together with a fork. Press firmly into ungreased pan. Set springform pan on a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 325° F. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese for 4 minutes, making sure to scrape sides and beaters to incorporate any lumps. Add 1 cup sugar, vanilla, and salt, and beat for another 4 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the cream on medium low heat until it is hot, but not boiling.

Beat the egg yolks in a small mixing bowl until they are thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. While beating the yolks, pour cream slowly into the bowl, beating all the while, so that the yolks don’t curdle.

Beat the cream cheese mixture on low while adding the yolk/cream mixture slowly to it. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times to eliminate any lumps. The batter is pretty thin. Peel and chop apples and fold them gently into the batter by hand. Pour the batter over the cooled crust, smoothing top.

Bake for 90-95 minutes. It is done when it is turning golden and is mostly set in the middle, yet jiggles slightly when you shake it gently. Turn off the oven and open the door slightly to cool down. Let the cheesecake cool gradually for 1 hour in the oven. Remove cheesecake and finish thoroughly cooling on a rack before covering and refrigerating it for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, gently loosen sides of pan and transfer cheesecake carefully to serving plate. Sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the top of cheesecake. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar or you can try putting it 6″ under the broiler for a few minutes, but watch very carefully! It burns easily. If you use the broiler method, don’t put it on the serving plate until the caramelizing is done. I like the control I have with my torch. It will take several minutes to do the entire surface. The sugar is done when it starts to liquify and turns a dark golden colour. Let it sit for a few minutes to harden. Cut with a knife dipped in hot water and cleaned between every slice. Garnish with thin apple wedges, broken gingersnap cookies, pomegranate seeds, frosted cranberries, or whatever you wish!

Note: I did try the waterbath cheesecake method again, and I will confess that the end result is a creamier cheesecake. If you choose to try it, here’s how. Lay three pieces of heavy-duty foil on your counter. They should be about 5″ larger than your springform pan on all sides. Set your pan in the middle of the foil, then carefully fold up the foil around the sides of the pan. Begin curling the top edges of the foil together, and keep curling until you can curl them around the very top rim of the pan. Tuck any stray edges up under the curl. You don’t want to have it hanging into the cheesecake. Bake the crust normally without the water bath. Heat water in a teakettle. When the crust is done, set it into a large pan or roaster with deep sides that is big enough to hold your pan. Pour the filling on top of the crust. Set the pan in the oven and carefully pour the hot water around the sides of the pan. Bake, cool in oven, then take the pan from the water and remove the foil for the last cooling outside of the oven. There you go!