Latest Event Updates

Maple Mustard Chicken

Posted on Updated on

Maple Mustard Chicken

Can you believe that we are nearing the one year anniversary mark for my blog? Yeah, me neither. I kicked it off with a post about a Waterloo regional specialty, Egg Cheese, which is nearly always eaten with maple syrup, and boy, oh boy, did that stir up the yeas and the nays! I got a 2 litre carton of buttermilk last week in preparation for making it again soon. Our grocery store had the big jugs on sale last week. It’s like they know that it’s Egg Cheese season!

There is no denying that March is the Month of Maple in Ontario. Everywhere you look, there is maple this and maple that. I happen to like maple syrup too and we are rather closely connected to a certain young maple syrup producer, so in the interest of self-preservation and for the good of mankind, I decided to jump on the bandwagon and contribute my two cents.

I have fond memories of traipsing through our bush behind our place, collecting sap after school. At least they’re fond memories now. We didn’t have a farm, but we did live in the country and Mom and Dad wanted us to know where our food came from. Dad built a cute little sugar shanty at the back of our lawn, and many were the evenings we would spend out there in that warm steamy darkness, the kerosene lamp softly hissing above us. Drinking freshly gathered sap, watching it boil and skimming off the foam, opening the furnace door to add more logs to the fire, listening to Dad telling stories about his childhood: what a sticky feast for the senses. And sometimes… oh bliss, oh joy… sometimes, we took a jar of it in to Mom and she would pour it into a kettle on the stove and carefully boil it down further to the taffy stage. When it was done, she poured it into well-buttered enamel pie plates and let it cool. We waited impatiently until it had hardened enough that we could swirl it on our forks like sticky spaghetti and take that first marvelous bite. We would pop popcorn and wash apples to eat with it, because the best snack combination ever is popcorn, taffy, and apples!

I thought it was time to feature a meat entree again, so I cobbled together a simple, yet highly flavoured glaze for chicken. It would be delicious on pork chops as well, or perhaps on your Easter ham. I used bone-in chicken breasts that I had in my freezer, so they took a little longer to bake than boneless ones would have, but wow, were they tender! I served them with mashed potatoes, brown butter rutabaga, and a simple salad on my nice plates because I was going to be taking a picture of them. And we saw and tasted that it was good.

Maple Mustard Chicken (2)

Treat your special someone to a delectable dinner of Maple Mustard Chicken, mashed potatoes, rutabaga with brown butter, and a salad.

This post is sponsored by Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. The recipes, views, and stories are my own.
Depending on the amount of natural sugar in the sap, it takes from thirty-eight to forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. It is boiled in evaporator pans until it condenses and becomes thick and golden. There are four grades of syrup in Ontario: Golden, Amber, Dark and Very Dark, which is mostly sold directly to bakeries. We sell the first three grades at Martin’s. It has been interesting to watch the transition from the earlier desired grade being a lighter syrup to now, where most people desire the Amber, or even the Dark. I guess people enjoy more robust foods than they used to!
I used a shallot in this recipe. Shallots look like mini oval red onions, and the taste is somewhere between a onion and a garlic. It is adds wonderful depth of flavour to roast beef and other meat dishes, as well as to roasted vegetables.

Maple Mustard Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butterMaple Mustard Chicken
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I like Amber for cooking)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons desired mustard (I used grainy)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallots or onions
  • 4 large or 6 medium boneless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Boil together the first six ingredients until it starts to thicken slightly; about 5 minutes. Lay the chicken in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Brush half of the sauce over the chicken. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and baste chicken with juices from the pan. Coat chicken with remaining sauce and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife, and the glaze is getting all carmelly and golden. Serve and savour every bite.

Note: Ovens vary greatly, so if it doesn’t seem to be browning nicely for you, turn the broiler on for a wee bit, but watch it carefully! I used my convection setting, and I think the fan carmelizes better than a conventional oven does.

Early Days and Canned Applesauce

Posted on Updated on

IMG_20180216_092045899_HDR-1.jpg
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. 

IMG_20180216_093544814_HDR-1.jpg
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

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Posted on Updated on

Blueberry Muffin from Muffin Mania
The winning team

A few months ago, I wrote about a formative cookbook in my earlier cooking days; the Company’s Coming series. There’s another book that has stayed in my collection and is still hauled out and used frequently. It’s a slim little book called Muffin Mania that was published in 1982 by a pair of Canadian sisters, Cathy Prange and Joan Pauli. It was an instant success and apparently sold over 500,000 copies worldwide. It is dedicated to their mother whose “love of baking inspired us to share this collection with muffin lovers everywhere”. That tradition of sharing is now carried on by a granddaughter who has created a blog to feature the recipes her grandmother produced. That’s the sort of thing that warms the cockles of my heart, folks! (Translation: that’s the old-fashioned version of “warm fuzzies”.)

I have tried many, actually most of the 63 recipes in the book, but this blueberry muffin recipe is one that I have baked times without number. I always add the lemon zest that it suggests doing in a footnote, and then dip the tops into melted butter and white sugar. This turns a basic muffin into something very special.

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

I can make these all year using frozen blueberries that I put into my freezer last summer. Here’s a tip I learned many years ago: put a bit of the required flour into a flat container with sides (a cake pan or wok work well), add the frozen blueberries and gently shake them from side to side until they are all covered with flour. This keeps them from bleeding unattractive purple juice into your batter. Then you gently fold them into the batter at the very end just until mixed.

Tip #2: using an ice cream scoop with a squeezable handle creates uniformly round muffins with minimal mess. 

See? Not much bleeding happening there. Now take a look at the finished product. Isn’t that beautiful? I think so.

Lemon Blueberry Muffin

Cultivated blueberries or wild ones? Essentially it boils down to what you are used to eating. Wild blueberry lovers claim they have more flavour, cultivated blueberry lovers like the plumpness and juice in the domestic ones. I’ve had both, and I’ve picked both. Domestic ones grow on high bushes that you stand upright to pick; wild ones are on low crawling shrubs that require one to creep around over northern rocks on one’s knees while keeping an eye out for bears. I would certainly rather pick the domestic ones and absolutely understand the high price of the wild ones. They are both fantastic when they are fresh.

Blueberries are one of the easiest things in the world to freeze; empty the container of fresh blueberries onto a paper or cloth towel, pick out the little stems and leaves, and put them in zipper bags to freeze. I usually freeze them in two-cup quantities. I know some people wash them first, but that is a giant pain, because they have to be perfectly dry before going into the freezer. I figure any lingering impurities won’t withstand the deep freeze. 

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

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour (set aside 2 tablespoons for coating blueberries)Lemon Blueberry Muffin
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice)*
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • grated zest of half of a lemon
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries (do not thaw)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. Set aside the 2 tablespoons of flour in a baking pan or wok. Stir together the remaining flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt. Add the frozen blueberries to the 2 tablespoons flour and shake them gently from side to side until completely coated. Whisk together the egg, melted butter, buttermilk and lemon zest, and gently fold into the flour mixture. Do not beat. When it is almost incorporated, add the blueberries and finish folding everything together. Scoop into paper-lined muffin cups. An ice cream scoop works really well for this.

Bake at 375° for 20 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes. While they’re cooling, prepare the melted butter and sugar for the topping. You will need to melt about 1/3 cup of butter and have 1/2 cup of sugar ready in a bowl. Dip the tops first into the butter, then into the sugar and place on a rack to finish cooling.

*The original recipe calls for plain milk, but I have found that buttermilk produces a much fluffier muffin. To accommodate that switch, I swapped part of the original baking powder amount for baking soda.

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Posted on Updated on

What is more stereotypical for Valentine’s Day than chocolate and dates? Maybe not the kind of dates I’m featuring here, but I’m all for taking advantage of themes when they jump in front of me like that. I decided to combine Valentine’s day and Family Day to continue my muffin theme. 

Applesauce Date Bran Muffin with Chocolate Chips

Our particular family celebrates Family Day at least a dozen times a year. No stat holiday needed here! One wintry Saturday, some of our tribe came home to pickle beets and can applesauce. That’s one of the perks of marrying a produce farmer, see? While everyone else in the neighbourhood is frantically trying to get all their preserving done in August and September, we sit back and fold our hands and rest. Yeah, right. I’m kidding, okay? Have you ever been around an apple orchard in September and October? It’s nuts. Positively nuts. We know we will have good sauce apples later in the winter, so why add that to our autumn stress load? Anyway, in our hurry to get the first batch of apples cooked, we, um, scorched them a bit. That kettle had a thinner bottom; we were eager to get the sauce going after the beets were done and turned the burner too high, and… it burned. Yeah, I’m going to come right out and say the bad “B” word. Now what? Should we throw it away? Of course not. We are Mennonites; our frugality is next to cleanliness, which is next to Godliness, so we are duty-bound to save it. We added a bit more unburnt sauce to the burnt stuff, and my son-in-law wrote BB (Burnt Batch) on the lids, and we canned that stuff. It wasn’t a strong burnt taste, just a hint of it, especially if you knew it was there. 

We agreed that the best use of the burnt sauce would be in the applesauce muffins that Steve’s mom would make for the Harvest Celebration Festival that we used to host at the farm in the Fall. She would make dozens of them in the mini muffin size for our food tent, and the kids would eagerly reach for them. The original recipe uses only applesauce and chocolate chips, but somewhere along the way, Mom added a cup of natural bran to it, which was a good move, I thought. This particular day I was hankering after date bran muffins and thought “Why not add dates as well, and cut back on the sugar?”. I divided my batter in half, snipped dates into one bowl and chocolate chips into the other one. I may have thrown a handful of chocolate chips into the date half for good measure. Bingo. That should please everybody. Then I topped them both with a sprinkle of brown sugar and either a date or chocolate chips, with a nod to both Valentine’s Day and Family Day. 

It’s a large batch, so after I had filled two muffin tins and still had about two muffinsworth of batter left, I greased a mini loaf pan and poured it in there. Aw, how cute that little loaf was. The finished product reminded me of a date cake mom used to make that had a yummy brown sugar and chocolate chip topping. Does anyone else remember that one? I think some people used to make a similar one with applesauce.  

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

We used Cortland apples for our sauce this time; often we use a mixture of red apples like McIntosh, Empire, Cortland, Ida Red and Spartan. Cortland is an all-round good baking, eating, and sauce apple. It’s a great eating apple while it’s crunchy, and superb for sauce once it softens. Its characteristics include a red/green streaky skin and a very white interior. 

Note: I am excited to link this recipe to one that tells you how to make the simple, unassuming applesauce. It will be released on Monday in honour of Family Day and will include a special memory from a Martin Family member about the early days of growing and selling apples. Watch for it!

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

Applesauce Date Bran Muffins with Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

Applesauce Bran Muffins

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup brown or white sugar (more or less)
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 2 cups burnt applesauce
  • 1 cup natural bran
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups coarsely snipped dates, chocolate chips, or any combination of the two

Directions

Whisk eggs lightly in a large mixing bowl; add brown sugar and oil. Add applesauce and bran and whisk again, then add the dry ingredients that have been stirred together in a measuring pitcher. Whisk gently until smooth. Stir in desired additions. If using half dates and half chocolate chips, divide the batter in two. Fill greased muffin liners or cups 3/4 full. Sprinkle with additional brown sugar, and a few chocolate chips or a date half. Bake at 375° F for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes a generous 2 dozen.

Spud, Leek and Sausage Chowder

Posted on

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

Posted on Updated on

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.

IMG_20180103_163101361_HDR.jpg
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

Posted on Updated on

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. 

IMG_20171209_161433091_HDR.jpg
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!