Gluten Free

Mennonite Dressing (not Amish)

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Mennonite Dressing
Mennonite Dressing

As long as I can remember, dressing has been an integral part of Christmas dinner. This dressing is not the kind you put on a salad. Oh, no! This dressing is the kind you serve with turkey and the works. In fact, it is an important part of the works. Some people call it stuffing, but we never stuffed it into anything except our tummies. It’s hard to find a bird big enough to pack enough stuffing in for 65 people. It’s one of those foods that many people don’t actually have a recipe for, they just keep adding this and that until it “looks right”.

This dressing is yellow with turmeric, rich with seasonings, broth, milk and eggs, and swimming satisfyingly with Brown Butter. Turmeric used to be a non-item in my mind, in fact I used to think of it as a flavourless powdered food colouring, but recently it is being consumed in greater quantities for its perceived health benefits.

Recently, a friend of mine who had grown up Amish (in fact, he wrote a best-selling book about that experience, and a sequel to it is releasing soon) posted about Roasht on Facebook.  As near as I can make out, Roasht is like Mennonite dressing with chicken and gravy all added to the mix, and sometimes potatoes and carrots. That was interesting to me because the Amish dressing, in this area at least, is very unlike Mennonite dressing and usually the lover of the one will not like the other one. Amish dressing is much drier, using less eggs, or none at all, and has weird things like cinnamon and sometimes raisins added to it. At our church, we get both kinds, because we have people of both backgrounds there. There is always good-natured bantering and lots of ribbing going on over the pots of dressing.

There is one common denominator, however, and that is that they both are a great way to use up all those bread ends languishing in your freezer, and they both need butter, lots of it, to serve it up well. You can go back to munching celery sticks and alfalfa sprouts again afterwards to mitigate it, but Do Not Cut Back On The Butter. And Brown Butter poured over the top is the crowning glory. Any good Mennonite will tell you that Browned Butter is the crowning glory to nearly any vegetable or side and even some desserts and icings.

Here are some tips to help you achieve a great dressing.

  1. Use butter, and use enough of it. 
  2. Brown the bread until it’s toasty and golden. It greatly enhances the flavour.
  3. Use the correct proportion of liquid to bread. There is nothing appealing about a soupy mess. Soup and dressing are two different things.
  4. Use some broth in the liquid. I’m convinced on this point.
  5. Make as much ahead as you can. Toast the bread and top it with the seasonings and cooked vegetables so that you only have to add the eggs and liquids the morning of the event. 

 

Mennonite Dressing

 

The stories and recipes are mine, sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm.

We sell high quality fresh eggs from Pullets Plus, a local company who gathers eggs from area farmers. Many of the chickens are cage-free. 

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Mennonite Dressing (not Amish)

Ingredients

Mennonite Dressing
Mennonite Dressing

 

  • 2 cups (1 pound) butter, split
  • 4 cups chopped onions
  • 4 cups chopped celery
  • 28 cups bread cubes, toasted*
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme 
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped 
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth* (I use Knorr’s gel packs)
  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • approximately 6 cups milk

In a large pot, melt 1 3/4 cups of butter and saute the onions and celery until they are nearly soft, about 20 minutes. Remove and stir in all the seasonings. Meanwhile, toast the bread cubes in a large roaster or a few pans at 325°F or 163°C for 20 – 30 minutes, stirring several times. Remove from oven and pour the vegetable and seasonings over the pans. This step can be done ahead and kept frozen or chilled.

The day of the event, whisk the eggs, broth and milk together and pour over the bread cubes. Stir gently to mix. You should see just a bit of liquid in the corners of the pan. You may need to add more milk. 

Pack lightly into lined and/or greased slow cooker. Using the Reynold’s slow cooker liners makes for easy clean-up, if you can find them. Grease the liner well. Cook on low for 4 – 6 hours, depending on your cooker. If your cooker is slow, you may want to start it on high for an hour. 

Brown and stir butter over med-high heat in a flat pan until you start seeing a spiral of golden brown appearing in the centre. Pour the browned butter over the dressing just before serving. 

*This recipe can easily be made gluten- free by using gf bread and broth.

**This is a large recipe for a large 6 quart slow cooker. It can easily be halved for a smaller cooker or crowd. 

 

Irish Skillet

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Irish Skillet

I know that some of you are busy roasting your Thanksgiving turkeys, but here in Ontario the aroma of roasting gobblers is but a faint memory tickling our brains and we have settled in to preparing comfort foods before the festive Christmas gourmet goodies are given priority on our tables.

One new comfort dish that I discovered completely by accident these last few weeks was this Irish Skillet dinner. Aside from the fact that it all cooks in one dish, there were a number of things that drew me in.

A. It uses cabbage! I love cooked cabbage.

B. It asks for apple juice. Yes! My eyes perked up at that idea. I can feature our fresh cider.

C. It’s naturally gluten-free, if you’re careful about which beef broth and Worcestershire sauce you use (French’s Worcestershire sauce does not contain gluten). 

D. And finally, it’s Irish! Lots of warm fuzzies here. Because it’s Irish, it gives me license to look at my photos from a couple of years ago when we visited the Emerald Isle. I will share some of them with you as we go along. Here are a few to get started. Ireland possesses a wild rugged beauty and the people match the landscape. 

I mumbled something to my daughter-in-law through my mouthful of the hash about the fact that it’s not exactly the prettiest dish in the world, and she replied that Irish food is not really known for its ascetic beauty, but for its taste. We both agreed that it was not lacking in the taste department whatsoever. I thought of various regional Irish dishes and this pretty much holds true for most of the foods. It tastes amazing, but it ain’t so much for looks. Sorry, Dad! I know you believed that food first should appeal to the eyes before it enters the stomach, and most of the time I agree with you. Here are some food pictures.

I made Irish soda bread to accompany the meal, of course, and it brought back fun memories of the Dublin giant who taught us how to make the bread, tossing the eggs to us as we were ready. Not a single one broke, believe it or not. He also taught us how to dance an Irish reel. He was definitely a highlight of that part of our organized tour. He also informed us that he’s single, for those of us who might be interested in that tidbit. Which I wasn’t, naturally.

The stories and recipes are provided by yours truly, sponsored by Martin’s family Fruit Farm. 

People often ask what the difference is between apple cider and apple juice. In our country, fresh apple cider is simply apples crushed and squeezed to produce a fresh tasting nectar. Apple juice, on the other hand, has been boiled and canned, sometimes made with a concentrate and water, and doesn’t have that fresh apple taste. One half bushel of apples will produce 1 1/2 gallon of cider. A variety of sweet and tart apples makes the best cider.

Fresh Apple Cider

 

Irish Skillet

Ingredients

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For the Sauce: 

  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup apple juice or cider
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

For the Skillet:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or lamb
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound frozen hash browns or raw potatoes, chopped in 1″ pieces
  • 4 cups shredded green cabbage

Directions

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together all the sauce ingredients. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet, and brown the ground beef with the chopped onion. Add the oil, chopped bacon and frozen or fresh potatoes. (I used frozen hash browns, but next time I will use fresh chopped unpeeled potatoes. I think it would look nicer and be less mushy.) Cook uncovered over medium heat until the bacon and potatoes are starting to brown. Stir periodically to keep from sticking. Add the cabbage and the sauce and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Serve with Irish soda bread for the real deal.

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

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Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal (2)

There is no season so vivid as fall, I believe. It makes my heart smile at this time of year to see the apples and pumpkins happily and flamboyantly flashing their reds and oranges in the sun. They are a harmonious pair, for both decorative and culinary purposes, joining hands to create a magnificent overload for the senses.

Baked oatmeal is not something we had when I was a child. My first exposure to it was at a Bible school where my husband taught at for a number of years. His workload was heavy, being Dean of men as well as teaching several courses, so I played single mama for those six weeks. Thankfully, there were several ladies who stand out in my memory as being life-savers in that time. One of them babysat my young children so that I could take a break from parenting and join the choir practice for an hour in the afternoon. She thrilled my girls when she cut out paperdolls for them and they all played together. They still remember that fondly. Another good friend knew all the good shopping spots and cool places that children would enjoy going to from her own history of being there as a young mom, and took us about town. I thank the good Lord for these people who went out of their way to make a young mother’s life easier.

Once a week, the kitchen crew would make a gigantic batch of baked oatmeal, and we staff families were allowed to take some to our temporary homes to eat at breakfast the next morning. That was always a treat! It was always the same, just a basic oats version, but it provided a delicious breakfast alternative that I didn’t have to make myself.

I usually make the plain version myself but with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I decided to dress it up a little. Enter the pumpkin and apple team. I cut back the liquid a little to accommodate the pumpkin, switched the raisins for dried cranberries, added a whole chopped Cortland apple and some cinnamon, and voila! Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal was in the oven.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal (5)

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

I like to make the oatmeal the day before and add milk before heating it all up together the next morning. It’s a perfect stick-to-your-ribs recipe for a rainy fall morning.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

Cortland apples are one of my long-time favourites at this time of year. These crunchy, striped, fabulously flavoured apples with their pure white interior are highly versatile and make life so much better. 

When making your own pumpkin puree, use pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins, as they are sometimes called. They taste so much better. See this post for instructions on how to make your own puree. For another great breakfast recipe using pumpkins and apples, check out Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping.

As always, the recipe and stories are my own. Martin’s Family Fruit Farm is my kind sponsor. 

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

  • 3/4 – 1 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 3 cups quick or large flake oats
  • 1/3 cup coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped apples

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Combine brown sugar (if using maple syrup add it to the liquid ingredients), oats, coconut, raisins, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk eggs, then whisk in melted butter, milk, and pumpkin puree. Stir everything together, adding the chopped apples last. The texture should be sort of like a wet oatmeal cookie. Grease a 9″x 13″ pan and pour the oatmeal into it, smoothing out the top. Bake in preheated oven for 30 – 35 minutes until the edges look brown. Remove from oven and run a large spoon through it to crumble the mix. Let cool before storing in an airtight container. I like to make it the day before, then pour milk over my serving and heat it all up together in the microwave the next day. It’s perfect for those crisp fall mornings!

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.

 

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.

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.