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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.

 

 

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa with Mushroom Shallot Gravy

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I grew up living beside my paternal grandparents for most of my life at home, so many of my childhood memories include them. Grandparents can have a huge impact on children and I hope to be as positively impactful to my own grandchildren as my own were to me.

My grandpa was a strong, independent, deep-thinking Old Order Mennonite man; rather intimidating to children, but highly respected by adults. As I became an adult and listened to people talk about him, I realized that his advice was sought by many, including the community at large. He was a great horseman, taking in young horses or ones from “the tracks” and retraining them for buggy use. I loved to watch him handle them, crooning to them while currying their coats to a sleek, glossy shine. Every now and then he would let us sit on one while holding its head. Sometimes on rainy or snowy days he would drive us to school in his dachvegli (a covered buggy) OR… oh, joy of joys, his sleigh, with the bells ringing merrily. As I write this, I realize that this makes me sound really ancient, which I’m not, honestly! I just grew up in a pretty special setting and time. Later on, he had a mild stroke which forced him to retire from breaking in horses and eventually he had to sell off his own horse. That was a heartbreaking day for him.

One particular food that grandpa was fond of was beef. I can still picture him coming over to our house, beaming widely and declaring, “Vell! Mir hen da beshtischta beef rosht das mir noch einmal kotta hen.” (Well! We had the best roast beef that we’ve ever had!) We kids would snicker later, saying that if this continues, the roasts will be off the charts in goodness! I think of him whenever I cook a particularly savoury roast, and that comment is still heard rolling off our tongues many years later.

It seemed like a good time to post about my favourite new method of preparing the “best beef roast ever”, because any time now we hope to kill the fatted calf, figuratively speaking, in celebration of our third grandchild; our first granddaughter! I’m so excited.

This roasting method uses a high heat and an open pan to kick off the roast, which creates a nice brown crust and deep flavour. I drizzle it with a good olive oil (to sear and seal the crust), red wine or red wine vinegar (to tenderize it), and season it with salt, coarsely ground pepper and beef seasoning mix before the first roast. Then I add the mushrooms and shallots, cover the pan and roast it low and slow for several hours. Take it out, make the gravy, carve it and serve The Best Roast Beef We’ve Ever Had. Hats off to you, Grandpa, for encouraging me in my search for the elusive best!

BREAKING NEWS! While I was typing up this blog the new little miss decided to make her entry into our family. She is obviously a young lady of impeccable timing.

All the ingredients are ready to prep the roast. Need a good olive oil source? Olive My Favourites from Stratford is my go-to store. Great service and many wonderful choices.

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa (5)
The Best Beef Roast Ever. Remember this term is subjective. It might always be better next time!

 

Roast Beef for Grandpa (9)I like to serve the roast with mashed potatoes, carrots, and Brussels sprouts. With browned butter, of course. They’re all available at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm who kindly sponsors my posts.

 

I used cremini mushrooms for the gravy; one of my favourites. They are actually a baby portobello mushroom, so the flavour is similar, but not as intense. They have a firm texture and nutty flavour that pairs well with beef. Their look is similar to a white button mushroom.

Shallots are a staple at my house. Their flavour and appearance is somewhere between a red onion and a garlic bulb. I love the subtle garlic/onion infusion it adds to a roast.

Roast Beef for Grandpa with Mushroom Shallot Gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 – 5 pound beef blade roastRoast beef for Grandpa (10)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or red wine vinegar
  • salt (generous sprinkle)
  • pepper (generous sprinkle)
  • beef steak seasoning of your choice (generous sprinkle)
  • 2 – 3 bulbs French shallots, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cups coarsely chopped cremini mushrooms

GRAVY:

  • beef broth plus water to make 3 cups
  • approximately 1/4 cup of flour or cornstarch to thicken
  • additional water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven at 400°F (204°C) on regular bake or convection roast setting. I like convection roast for this stage because it browns the roast so nicely. Place roast into a large casserole dish or medium roaster. Drizzle with olive oil and red wine (vinegar) and sprinkle with the seasonings. Roast, uncovered, for approximately an hour until it looks brown all over. Turn the heat down to 250°F (121°C) regular bake. Remove from oven and add the chopped shallots and mushrooms. Add about a cup of HOT water and stir the vegetables lightly. Now you cover it and put it back into the oven. Bake it for about three hours. If it’s browning too much, turn the heat back further. At this point you want it low and slow. Remove roast when it’s soft and succulent when pierced. Cover lightly with foil and let it rest while you prepare the gravy.

GRAVY: Strain the broth and vegetables through a sieve into a large measuring pitcher. Add hot water to the broth to make at least 3 cups. Pour into a medium saucepan and heat until steaming. Whisk flour or cornstarch into an additional 1/2 cup of cold water. Slowly pour into steaming hot broth, stirring constantly, until the gravy is as thick as you would like it. Let it bubble until thick, then taste for seasoning and add more if needed. Add the strained mushrooms and shallots to the gravy.

Slice the meat and pour some of the gravy over the top to serve. Serve remaining gravy on the side. Cheerio, Grandpa!

Note: The finished beef and gravy can be layered in a slow cooker if you want to prepare it ahead. Heat on low for 3 – 4 hours before serving.

 

 

 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

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Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

It’s October now. It’s also the week of Thanksgiving and you know what that means. We have to do something with pumpkins and apples! This week used to follow the giant Harvest Celebration we used to put on at our farm and the last thing we felt like doing was baking MORE things after burning the midnight oil trying to make sure the tables in the refreshment tent were well-filled. We Martin ladies made pumpkin cheesecakes, apple cheesecakes, pumpkin cookies, apple cookies, squash soup, squash dip, apple oatmeal, apple squares, applesauce muffins, and more things than I can remember for thousands of people over the course of two days. We stopped hosting it when the event outgrew us. It was fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end sometime, right? It was, however, a great way to try new fall dishes on our willing and unsuspecting guinea pigs guests, and we could quickly tell which recipes were going to be keepers!

Anyway, trying to figure out what recipe to use for a pumpkin/apple combo blog reminded me of those weeks before the Harvest Celebration. I didn’t want to feature pie because I figure everyone’s already got their favourite pumpkin and apple pie recipes. If you don’t actually have one, I do have a few good ones that I could probably be persuaded to share. Instead, I figured maybe you’d all be glad for a Thanksgiving brunch idea so … here we are!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (2)

I came across this recipe by katiescucina.com awhile ago and I had a brand-new Belgian waffle maker that was waiting to be tried out, and pie pumpkins waiting to be roasted. I roasted the pumpkins, pureed them, and posted how to do that for you here. I’m just nice that way. Then I added an apple topping made with the ever-popular and extremely versatile Honeycrisp, and we ate it with sausage and swilled it all down with coffee. I love breakfast and will happily eat it any time of day; this time it was for supper. My husband declared it a winner. Mind you, he declares anything with apples in it a winner. Happy Thanksgiving to you all and be thankful for good things like pumpkins, apples and fall!

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (3)

 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (4)

Martins Family Fruit Farm is stocked up on both pumpkins and apples, as well as any fall decor you might need! Although this post is sponsored by them, the views and stories are my own. 

Honeycrisp Apples

The Honeycrisp apple took the American world by storm several years ago. There has been no other apple in our long history of growing apples that has taken off so quickly and its fan base is still growing. And no wonder! It works for pretty well everything, doesn’t brown easily, holds its crunch for ages, and is sweetly tart with a honeyed juiciness. Many people who declare that they don’t like apples are surprised to find that they like the Honeycrisp. 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping

Ingredients

WAFFLES: Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Honeycrisp Apple Topping (3)

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/3 tsp. each of nutmeg, ginger, and cloves)

APPLE TOPPING:

  •  3 cups sliced peeled or unpeeled Honeycrisp apples
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • maple syrup

Directions

WAFFLES: With a mixer, beat the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, pumpkin, and vanilla on low for about 30 seconds. In a separate bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones, and mix on low again for a few seconds to combine, then turn the speed up slightly for another 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides and beat again just until combined. Let the mixture rest for about half an hour to allow the leavens to work. 

Preheat your waffle iron according to your manufacturer’s instructions. Spray with cooking spray or oil, then add 3/4 cup of batter to the pan, pouring it in a circle starting at the outside. Lower the lid and cook until the steam nearly stops and the light goes off. Remove with tongs and keep warm in a single layer on a cookie sheet while doing the rest. 

APPLE TOPPING: Meanwhile, you can prepare the apples by peeling them if desired, then slicing them in 1/2 inch thick slices (I used my apple slicer). Melt the butter in the pan, then add the apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir and fry on medium-high heat until the sauce becomes gooey and apples soften, but aren’t mushy. Serve on top of the waffles. Add maple syrup if you wish. This makes 5 or 6 waffles.

 

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

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Roasted Pumpkin Puree (2)

I am one of those people who likes to make my own way in life. This includes preserving, freezing, grinding my own coffee beans that have been roasted by my young friend from church, and making my own chocolate cake and sauces. This is not to say that I never use stuff from the grocery freezers and shelves, but in general, I prefer to make my own. It makes me feel self-sufficient, as though my army of canned and frozen goods, and locally roasted, freshly ground coffee can help me conquer the world. Lead on, O Kitchen of Homemade Goodies…Charge!

One of those things I faithfully do myself is canned or frozen pumpkin, made from real pie pumpkins. Not those soft-skinned pale-fleshed orange monsters waiting to be carved into some ghastly grinning caricature, but the deeply hued, sweet-fleshed little pumpkins that are actually developed for baking. I love the deep orange tones of the finished product and the flavour is superb. It’s a perfect rainy day project while you’re writing blogs or something, or you can easily do it in an evening if you’re planning to freeze it.

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (5)
Look at that smooth golden goodness just waiting to be used in something  delectable!

There are different methods of cooking the pumpkin; my mom used to halve them, peel them and cut them into large chunks into a large kettle, and for a number of years I did it that way too. But it’s hard and awkward to peel pumpkin, and when I discovered the roasting method later, I was quickly sold on it. It’s a matter of washing the pumpkins, breaking off the stems, cutting them in half and scraping out the seeds. Then you tip them upside down on a large baking sheet lined with foil, pour about an inch of hot water around them and bake them at 350°F for 60 to 90 minutes, until they’re soft when you poke them. I let them rest about 10 minutes, then turn them over and scoop out the pulp. Put the pulp into a blender or a large pot if you’re using an immersion blender. Blend it until there are no lumps left. Either scoop it into boxes for the freezer or into pint jars if you’re canning it. Now here’s the kicker; it takes three hours to can, unless you have a pressurized canner. Because of the low acidic nature of pumpkin and no preserving agents like sugar, salt, or vinegar, it takes that long to seal and stay sealed. Believe me, I know this from personal experience. It’s always a toss-up for me; the ease of freezing, then trusting my faulty memory to take it out of the freezer a day or two before I want to use it, or can it for three hours and have it at my fingertips at a moment’s notice. Sometimes I do both. This time I took the easy route and froze it. Now I’m going to use it in these delicious Pumpkin Buttermilk Waffles with Apple Topping!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (4)
I divided the pumpkin into 1 1/2 cups measures to freeze because that’s about right for a lot of things!

This post is sponsored by  Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, and these pie pumpkins can be found there, as well as many other seasonal goodies. Come and check them out!

Pie pumpkins (also known as sugar pumpkins) are much sweeter than than the larger carving pumpkins. Their flesh is also less watery and stringy,  firmer, and more orange than the jack-o-lantern pumpkins. They are frequently sold with squash at farm markets. They are the best for pies and other baked goodies!

Roasted Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

Roasted Pumpkin Puree (5)

  • 3 pie (sugar) pumpkins
  • boxes for freezing or pints for canning
  • lids

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F. Wash the pumpkins, then break off stems and cut them in half. Scoop out the seeds with a large sturdy spoon or ice cream scoop. If you like to eat roasted pumpkin seeds, here is your chance to make as many as you wish! Line a large baking tray with foil and tip the pumpkins cut side down on the tray. Pour 1 inch of very hot water around the pumpkins and carefully slide tray into the oven. Bake for an hour or more, until the pumpkins are soft when poked or pricked. Baking time will vary depending on the size of the pumpkins. Cool for 10 minutes until they are easier to handle. 

Turn them over, scoop out the pulp and run it through a blender in batches or put it in a large pot if you’re using an immersion blender. My mom used a manual potato masher. Blend until no lumps remain. Scoop into 2 cup boxes to freeze and cover, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace for expansion or into sterilized pint jars, if canning. Boil the snaplids for 5 minutes, leaving on simmer while filling the jars. Wipe the rim of the jars thoroughly, centre the lids on top, then lightly screw on the rings. Place the jars in a canning kettle and pour hot water in up to the bottom of the necks. Cover. Heat the kettle on high until the water boils, then turn down heat to a low boil and set timer for 3 hours. You may need to add more boiling water at some point. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and allow jars to sit for 10 minutes before removing onto a towel-covered surface. Let sit for 24 hours before washing up and moving to a cool dark place. I got 8 cups of puree from my three pumpkins that I divided into 6 boxes with 1 1/2 cups in each.

Fresh Peach Pie with Gluten-Free Pastry

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Fresh Peach Pie (9)

If I were asked to point to one fruit that epitomizes those warm, hazy last days of summer, I would, without any hesitation at all, choose the peach. The fuzzy, warm skin with its encroaching pink shadows that lengthen as the peach ripens, the dewy golden flesh dripping with sweetness all portray summer teetering on the cusp of fall. And if I were asked about my favourite dessert incorporating peaches, I would shout “Fresh Peach Pie!”.

Fresh Peach Pie (4)

I have a memory of making fresh peach pies for one of my sisters’ wedding. It was a hot September week, similar to the weather we’ve had this summer. The entire wedding was held at my parents home, and we had cleaned, cooked, mowed, weeded, planted, painted, and I don’t know what else most of the summer in preparation. The pies were cut and served on plates down in the basement for the meal, as it was the coolest part of the house. To save time and refrigerator space, we had decided to use those cans of whip cream spray, which we had seen in stores, but never used. Well, to make a long story short, it was a disaster. The cream turned to foamy liquid 30 seconds after it landed on the pie slices and the poor servers were trying to get them to the guests without having the cream running off the plates and down over their frilly aprons. But the peach pie tasted good, and my sister and her husband are still loving and enjoying each other 26 years later. Moral of the story: a failed peach pie doth not a marriage break.

EDIT: Apparently I had the wrong sister in mind. This can happen when one has six sisters. I have edited it to say September instead of August and it’s only been 26 years, not 34. My apologies!

I have tried this wheat-free pastry three times now and it was a success each time. Those of you who do any gluten-free baking know how delightful that feels! I have only used butter so far and it gives the pie crust a lovely shortbread texture and flavour. I find it works best to roll the chilled dough only partially, then fit it into the base of the pan and press the rest into shape. For wheat-based pastries, I use the recipe on the back of the Tenderflake lard box. It makes a large batch and is nice and flaky.  I divide the dough into 5 or 6 pieces, flatten them into discs, stick ’em in a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer for such a time as this.

 

Ontario Peaches

Find these delicious peaches at Martin’s Family Fruit Farm!  Also, check here on their site for more recipes. The recipes, views and stories on this blog are my own. 

This may surprise some of my readers but there are a fair number of peaches grown in the Niagara region of southern Ontario. They are available from early August to mid-September. The season begins with clingstone (fruit does not release easily from the pit, or stone), and progresses to freestone (fruit easily removes from the stone). The hazy fuzz on peaches is called “bloom” and is a protection for the peach. The bloom is removed through washing the fruit. Generally speaking, the later peach varieties are better for canning and freezing, since they are sweeter and the flesh holds up better in preserving.

Fresh Peach Pie with Gluten-free Pastry

Ingredients

GLUTEN-FREE PASTRY:Fresh Peach Pie (9)

  • 2/3 cup white rice flour
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
  • 2 tablespoon tapioca flour (or starch; they are the same)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 large egg, beaten

PEACH PIE FILLING:

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch or clear jel
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons peach-flavoured gelatin powder (I like Shirriff’s)
  • 4 cups peeled and sliced peaches (4 – 6 peaches)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped, lightly sweetened if desired

Directions

PIE PASTRY: Before starting, make sure all your ingredients and utensils, including your rolling pin, are free of any wheat. This is very important! I cover the pastry with waxed paper or parchment before rolling to avoid any gluten touching the dough. Combine all the dry ingredients. Cut the cold butter into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the dry mixture, tossing to coat. Use your pastry cutter or hands to break the butter into smaller clumps, flattening them into discs. Add the beaten egg and lightly knead just until combined and the dough is starting to smooth out. Shape into a disc, wrap in cellophane and place in the freezer for 10- 15 minutes until it firms up. Sprinkle your counter liberally with more gluten-free flour mixture and roll out as well as you can. I usually roll it big enough to fit the bottom of the pan, then press it up the sides and flatten with my hands into the pan. This recipe fits a 9 inch pan perfectly. Prick the crust all over and chill again while heating the oven. Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before filling. 

PEACH PIE FILLING: Mix white sugar and cornstarch or clear jel in a medium saucepan, then add water. Heat on medium heat, whisking frequently until mixture begins to thicken and clear. This will take about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the peach gelatin. Let it sit while you peel and slice peaches. Pour warm gelatin mixture over the peaches and fold together lightly until every slice is covered. Mound into cooled pie pastry shell. If there is more filling than what will fit into the pie, someone may have to eat it. Oh, dear. Chill for at least 4 hours. Whip cream and top the pie to serve.

 

 

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots

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Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots (2)

Let it be known that I love to travel. Travelling is good for the soul and it keeps you humble.  How, you ask, does travelling keep one humble? You see, when it’s YOU that’s the odd one out; YOU driving on the wrong side of the road, YOU asking for a translation of a menu item, YOU wondering what that sign said, then finding out that it meant to Keep Out, it helps you realize what those “furriners” experience when they visit our fair country and commit those unpardonable cultural gaffes. It also creates a sense of empathy for them within me. If you’re thinking that this all sounds like an excuse to keep travelling, you might also be right.

I also love breakfasts. But you know how when you’re travelling, you fluctuate between all those gourmet breakfasts and mediocre hotel breakfasts and eventually just long for a simple homey cereal or muffin breakfast? Yeah, well, for me that often means longing for a steaming bowl of oatmeal. I LOVE oatmeal, so when I spied Porridge Oats with Honey Blueberry Compote on the menu close to the end of our trip to Ireland, I ordered it posthaste. It was everything I wanted it to be; both homey and delightful. Steel cut creamy oats topped with a lightly sweetened blueberry compote and drizzled with honey. For years I’ve been cooking my oats in a half milk/ half water solution, then adding apples and raisins, so this seemed like a great dish to recreate at home. I did it, and it was great, but this time of year when fresh Ontario fruits abound it seems a shame to cook the fruit. Apricots are in season now, and due to the dry heat we have experienced this year, they are extra sweet.  I love anything with apricots, so I thought why not try apricots with honey? I cooked my favourite steel cut oats in our own local milk, sprinkled a wee bit of cinnamon on the oats, topped them with chopped apricots, and drizzled it all with honey. I sure did enjoy it, and as I was eating it, I thought, “This sure would be good with peaches too. Or peaches and blueberries.” Next time…

Steel-cut Oats, Apricots, Guernsey Milk, and local Honey!
It makes me happy when I can use all local products in my cooking!

 

Creamy Oats with Blueberries
My daughter opted to top hers with fresh blueberries and brown sugar, and ate it with gusto.
Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots
Delicious apricot chunks swimming in honey on an island of oats

 

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, where most of this stuff is available. As always, the views and stories are my own. 

Apricots are said to be one of the healthiest fruits in the world, with tons of Vitamins A and C, and potassium packed into its little furry body. We saw acres and acres of apricot orchards as we were climbing the mountainsides in Spain and Portugal a few years ago. It was a beautiful sight; those orange ovals hanging in the trees. 

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots

Ingredients

Creamy Oats with Honeyed Apricots (4)

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • dash of salt
  • 1 cup steel cut oats
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh apricots (or your favourite seasonal fruit)
  • honey (or maple syrup or brown sugar)

Directions

Pour the milk and the water into a medium-sized saucepan. Heat, stirring now and then until it begins to steam and smell “milky”. Stir in salt and oats. Reduce heat and slowly boil for 10 to 20 minutes, until it is just a little thinner than you like to eat it it. Cover and remove from heat. Let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes to let it thicken. Scoop into your prettiest bowl, top with chopped apricots or desired fruit and drizzle with honey.