Tuesday tidbits.

Does anyone out there grow paprika peppers?  I’ve used sweet paprika in a few recipes but just recently discovered smoked paprika when I made a spice mix for use as a dry rub in grilling. Now I’ve been putting smoked paprika on everything: scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, slow cooked beans…and as everyone but me seems to have already known, it elevates deviled eggs to a seriously crazy pinnacle of excellence.  I’m curious, what are your favourite ways to use this fantastic little spice in cooking? (Tell me how you use other types of paprika as well!). And if you’ve grown the peppers, please tell me about your successes (or failures) with them.  I don’t think I can easily grow them here without the benefit of a greenhouse, but I am nevertheless very interested….

I came across a fascinating article about the history of embroidery – although it references 900 years of the craft, it’s a very brief overview so it won’t take you long to read.  The photos are fantastic, too.  Check it out here.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, you may enjoy this little piece posted up at Tor.com – it’s a thought-provoking take on writing botany into fantasy fiction.  How do you name and describe plants that exist in worlds that aren’t real?  Stuff like this is why writing is so fun….

Oh yes, and let’s cycle back to food: I posted a recipe for zucchini and salmon loaf up at Grit.com last week. Use fresh salmon if you have it. If you’re vegetarian, I think you could make a variation with scrambled tofu.  And throwing in a few diced mushrooms and red or yellow peppers would be pretty yummy, too.  Don’t forget the smoked paprika!  ♥

 

Tuesday tidbits.

Time-lapse photography is awesome.  It’s even more awesome when it features spring flowers.  Don’t miss this! 

Here are some great photos illustrating crown shyness in trees. Next time you’re in a heavily wooded area, look up – maybe you’ll spot a display. I keep thinking I’ve seen it in aspens, but I have no documentation of it…I’m now on a mission to photograph it if I come across it. I’m not sure if Populus is a genus that exhibits it – not all trees do.

My article, “Growing Green Flowers,” published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Heirloom Gardener, is available to read online here.

I didn’t do a lot of holiday baking, but this ginger cookie recipe was so good, I made more than one batch.  It’s gluten free but if you don’t have dietary restrictions, you should be easily able to substitute wheat flour for the GF blend.  The almond flour may also be successfully swapped out with the GF blend (or wheat flour) as well. And it’s cool if you want to omit the candied ginger, too – just add a touch more ground ginger.  ♥

Recipe: Cranberry persimmon jam (small batch).

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of cooking for the holiday season already and the thought of doing more at this very moment doesn’t exactly inspire or thrill.  But, actually…this recipe pretty much cooks itself and the combination of ingredients is rather festive.  An added bonus: while it’s on the stovetop, your kitchen will smell delightful and afterwards, you’ll have something unique and special to serve up to your guests.

This jam isn’t subtle or summery in flavour – it’s full-on winter celebration, warmly spicy and rich.

Cranberry Persimmon Jam (small batch, yield: just over 2 cups)

12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed well (this year, I was so pleased to find cranberries grown in Canada – straight out of Nova Scotia!)

3 fuyu persimmons, peeled, mashed (a potato masher should do the trick, as will a hand blender)

1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom

1 piece star anise

juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Throw all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir together.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low.  You want a consistent low boil – if bits of cranberry and persimmon are festooning the frosty kitchen windows in a pulpy sort of garland and colourful hot fruit dribbles are being catapulted into your Christmas tree as it stands sedately in the living room, you’ve got it on too high.

It will take time to boil this all down – about one hour, more or less.  You don’t have be present the entire time, but you cannot forget about it for too long.  Every once in a while, in between topping up your wine glass and wiping the cranberry-persimmon spatter off the chandelier (because you accidentally had the mixture on too high when you first got started), you will have to stir it.  Just so the sugar doesn’t burn.  Trust me on that one.  Burnt sugar sets off the smoke detector.  And your neighbours really don’t like that when it’s only six in the morning.  But, that’s another recipe from another time….

When the fruit and sugar have cooked down and everything is all jammy and fragrant and you can’t resist taking a bit of a taste, then it’s time to remove it from the heat and pack it into clean mason jars.  Don’t forget to remove the star anise chunk or someone is going to get a tooth-destroying, aggressively licorice-y surprise when they bite down.

Seal and refrigerate the jars when the contents have cooled down and enjoy!  Try to use it all up within three or four days.  That won’t be difficult.

*I think you could substitute a good honey for the sugar without any problems.  I am going to try this next time, and I will update this post if I find that it works.

**I think cinnamon would be lovely with this as well.  I’m also thinking about a whole vanilla bean.  And cardamom pods, versus the ground stuff.  Hmmmm….

***You could definitely process this in a boiling water canner for longer, safe storage.  You could also increase the size of the batch.

****I took a photograph of the jam as it was cooking in the pan, but let’s just say I’m a tad better at shooting landscapes and flowers.  You know what jam looks like.  😉

What are your favourite recipes using cranberries?

 

 

 

Recipe: Sea buckthorn and apple jelly.

It’s time for my annual visitation of this old-but-relevant post from 2012…’tis the season for harvesting sea buckthorn berries in Alberta (and many other places worldwide)! Tasty AND beautiful!

 

(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

My hubby and I managed to get out this past Saturday morning and gather some sea buckthorn fruit so that I could try my hand at making jelly from it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll recall that I made a sea buckthorn beverage last year – I just love the citrusy taste of the berries and their gorgeous sun-bright colour.

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a fairly common roadside plant here in Calgary – the City planted many of them years ago, mostly for erosion control on slopes.  It’s one of those shrubs you’d be hard-pressed to kill:  it’s tough-as-nails, drought-tolerant, pollution and salt-tolerant (good for our winter roads and all that de-icing salt), and a fairly aggressive spreader.  You don’t find it employed as an ornamental landscape plant very often, but it’s really very pretty, with silvery-green leaf clusters and the brilliant autumn fruit.  (Both male and female plants are required for fruit production).  Sure, some people may be turned off by the thorns, but they contribute to the shrub’s rabbit and deer resistance, which can’t be a bad thing, right?!

The only thing that irks me to no end about gathering sea buckthorn berries is that it’s just such a difficult process – the fruit only comes off the stems under extreme duress.   The kind of duress that leaves you standing there with bright orange seabuckthorn juice all over your clothes and squirted in your eye.  I’ve read that commercial harvesters of the shrub just go along and prune off fruit-bearing branches, freeze them for awhile, and then “shake” the berries free…but I didn’t give that a go.  I ought to have – it took me FOREVER to get the berries off of the branches.

But it’s worth it for this jelly.  Trust me.  It’s so yummy and pretty!

Small-Batch Sea Buckthorn and Apple Jelly

(I added apples to this recipe because I didn’t use commercial pectin – sea buckthorn doesn’t have very much natural pectin, so the addition of a high-pectin fruit helps the jelly set properly.  I had some British Columbia-grown ‘Sunrise’ apples, but use any variety you love.  Crabapples would work as well).

4 cups sea buckthorn berries, washed thoroughly

3 apples, washed, peeled, cored, and diced finely (if you don’t want to go to the trouble, and your apples are organic, you can leave the peels on)

1/2 cup water

Place berries, apples and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer fruit for 20 minutes.  Stir periodically and crush the fruit against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon.  (It all mashes down pretty well on its own, and won’t require much additional help).

Strain the fruit through a jelly bag (or several layers of cheesecloth) over a large bowl.  Don’t force the fruit through the bag – this will make the jelly cloudy and you don’t want that!  Set it up so that the fruit can slowly strain overnight.

In the morning, sterilize your canning jars and lids.   Measure out the juice.  I ended up with 2 cups using this recipe, but your measurement may vary slightly.  Place the juice into a saucepan and mix in an equal amount of white sugar.  Bring the sugar and juice to a rolling boil and boil, stirring constantly, until you’ve reached gel point.

Carefully pour the jelly into the sterilized jars, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (don’t forget to adjust the length of time according to altitude, as specified in this handy chart).  If you plan to eat the jelly soon and don’t want to go to all the trouble of processing jars for storing, you can just pop the jars into the fridge once the jelly is cool.  It is a very small batch, after all…and you’ll be hooked once you have a taste!

Do you grow sea buckthorn in your garden, or do you forage for sea buckthorn berries?  

 Looking for more sea buckthorn berry recipes?

My sea buckthorn berry recipe book, Sea Buckthorn Bounty: Recipes is now available here!

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Recipe: Roasted pumpkin and lentils.

In lieu of photos of skeletal trees, interesting living sculptures, and a harrowing (!) trip to a ghost town, this year I’m offering up a Hallowe’en post with a recipe.  It’s a frighteningly good one, though, and it uses pumpkin, so it will hopefully meet with unanimous approval and gifts of tiny individually-wrapped chocolates.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Lentils

SPOILER ALERT:  Gratuitous pumpkin gore ahead*

1 small pumpkin

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup red lentils, washed and drained

4 cups water

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground curry

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Metric conversion table here.

*First, prepare the pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds. (Save the seeds to roast later on).  Place the pumpkin, cut sides up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Brush olive oil into the cavity of the pumpkin halves.  Roast the pumpkin in the hot oven for 45 minutes.  Cool, then scoop out the flesh into bite-sized pieces.

Using a colander, rinse the lentils under cool water. Into a large saucepan, place the 4 1/2 cups of water and lentils.  Bring to a boil.  Add the turmeric and salt.  Cover the pot and cook at medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds, curry, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the roasted pumpkin and lentils (including the liquid) to the pan.  Mix well.  Cook about 5 minutes, then add fresh parsley.  Serve over hot cooked rice or noodles.

I think it would be highly appropriate to chow down on this festive comfort food with a side of miniature chocolate bars while enjoying a recording of Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone reading Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems (the link may be found here; you’ll need a Spotify account to listen).  Freakishly fantastic!

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.

I posted this recipe way back in 2012, but I recently made it again and updated the photography on the original entry (which also explains how to properly save pumpkin seeds, if you’re interested).  This is a really easy recipe, and it has just the right amount of spiciness (you can omit the cayenne pepper if you prefer a bit milder flavour).

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Lime and Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from one pumpkin

3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt (if you have coarse salt, use that)

1/2 tsp chili powder

pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).  Combine all ingredients except seeds in a small bowl.  Carefully wash pumpkin seeds in cool water, removing all of the extra bits of pulp.  Dry the seeds thoroughly between several layers of paper towel and transfer to the bowl with the lime and chili.  Combine thoroughly and spread seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast seeds in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove pan and stir the seeds, spreading them out once again in a single layer. Place in oven for another 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.  Enjoy!

What is your favourite recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds?