May Musings.

easter table2

Easter Brunch has come and gone.  We served 200 people and had just a great time!  There was a special encore appearance by Ryan – who came up from London to lend a hand … thanks, buddy!  You make service fun and easy.

Book your tickets early for next year!  We can’t accommodate many more … unless we build an addition (and add a couple of ovens!).  There’s something for every taste.muffin eggs 2Well, maybe not the above … if I tried to get my staff to make (the dis-respectfully-named)  “muffin eggs” for 200 people, I am sure I would face insurrection!

An easier recipe follows.  It was passed on to the kitchen by our Executive Director and we’ve been using it without a change.  Occasionally I will add a handful of slivered almonds for texture but it is a wonderful treat just as it is.

Father Roger’s Rice Crispy Squares for Grown-ups.  

Line an 11 x 7 inch pan with parchment paper.

Heat slowly, stirring constantly, in a large pot…

2/3 c honey

2/3 c almond butter

1 t vanilla

1 t cinnamon 

As soon as mixture is warm and well blended, stir in…

6 c whole grain rice crisps (or other cereal).

When well coated, move mixture to pan and gently press it in to all the corners (wet hands help!).  Cool completely before slicing. 

Not ideal for mid summer as it tends to get too soft and fall apart.

I do have to note that we use honey from Tuckamore Bees … who are so local that their bees harvest nectar from our land!

Enjoy the spring!  Stay dry and take care of each other!  ❤

 

 

 

 

A bit of foolery for April.

TOD march room

Last Wednesday saw us all dressed up for the first of this year’s Taste Of Diversity dinners …

TOD march menu trialThe evening was sold out … as these dinners tend to be … and was enjoyable all around.  What could have been a stressful evening became fun with the combined efforts of our stalwart staff (Patty, Shirley and Todd) and some valiant volunteers (many thanks to Regan, Christine, Julie and Cecilia).  Oh, and I was there too …TOD march susan trialThat is what remained of a whole hip of beef from the local food heroes at Thatcher Farms ( http://www.thatcher-farms.com ) … just enough for a couple of sandwiches for staff…

TOD march appto be chased down with a healthy veggie shot!  Of course, some people like to go right to the source …TOD march toddThanks to everyone who came out and remember, there are still two more such extravaganzas this year.  Except next time … Let’s go Dutch!

Of course, I wouldn’t be allowed to escape this post without a recipe … so let’s try a very seasonal one.  Rhubarb and asparagus are the first two fresh items we get each spring – and asparagus doesn’t make a very good cake.  Once you try this cake, though, I think you will find it deserves its name …

Fabulous Rhubarb Cake

 Cream well (until light in colour and texture)  …

1/2 cup butter or margarine

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

Add while still beating slowly …

1 egg

1 cup applesauce

1 T vanilla extract

zest of one orange

Mix together well …

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. soda

2 cups flour (I use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)

1 t ground ginger

1/2 t ground nutmeg

Add and toss well to coat …

1 1/2 cups raw Rhubarb cut fine

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed through and no bits of flour are showing.  This can be baked in a 9×13 inch cake pan for about 30 minutes at 350 F (or until done).  We like this one in a bundt pan though and that takes a little longer to bake – maybe 50 minutes.  Remember that the cooking times are approximate – they depend on a lot of factors.  The best way to know if it is done is to gently touch the centre of the cake.  It should be as firm as the outside of the cake.  For those without Teflon fingers … insert a toothpick into the centre and make sure it comes out clean – with no wet batter sticking to it.

This is a very moist cake, so a strip of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan or a handful of crumb topping in the bottom of the bundt pan can save you the grief of the cake sticking and tearing.  It really doesn’t need icing – an orange glaze might be nice but I find what this cake needs most is a great deal of self-restraint!

Until next time, take care of yourself, each other and the crocuses!  ❤

Kitchen Advent-ures.

peppers-from-emily-2

Our Emily is an accomplished gardener.  This year she grew an astonishing variety of peppers and gifted me with some.  I fermented them with garlic and pink Himalayan salt and now I will have hot sauce all winter -thanks,  Em! I though I’d share a little colour (and heat) on this grey day…. especially since the recipe that I have been asked to post is for yet a another monochromatic delight.  Good for eating … but not so much for photographing.

pepper-ferment-for-blog-3

Trying to find a dessert when you don’t eat gluten OR dairy can be quite challenging!  We have come up with a few really good ones (and we’re always looking for more… hint, hint).  To the Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies and Chocolate Black Bean Cake (see previous entries) we now add …

Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

Melt together …

3/4 cup coconut oil

4 oz good, dark baking chocolate

Stir in and whisk together until smooth …

1 c mashed banana

¾ c maple syrup

1 t vanilla

1 c cocoa powder

Stir in …

5 c unsweetened, shredded coconut

¼ c chia seeds

¼ c coconut flour

Form into balls, “haystacks” , nests or your preferred  shape then refrigerate until solid. (These are best not served in the heat of summer as the coconut oil will melt and make the consistency too soft and your fingers all gooey).

These are very popular AND they pack quite a nutritional punch!  They contain protein (chia), potassium (banana), antioxidants (cocoa), lots of good fats and lots of fibre.   But still …. brown, they’re just brown ….. so here is another unrelated yet more visually satisfying photo of our Quinoa Tabbouleh with calendula petals from our kitchen herb garden.

tabbouleh-close

As we begin this holiday season, please remember the Jesuit Community of Guelph is having their annual Open House at Loyola House on Sunday, December 4, 2016 from 2 pm until 4 pm.  We’d love to see you out here!

Take good care of yourself so you can take good care of others and the world.

The Flowering of May

april TOI

The first Taste of Italy fundraising dinner has been successfully served … to a sold-out crowd as usual. This time we were celebrating the cuisine of Naples and surrounding area.  Many, many thanks to Christine Clementi for all her help, ideas and calm cheerfulness!  More thanks are due for her splendid cooking … people are still talking about her Pasta Puttanesca and a luscious Eggplant Parmesan (I think she may be after my job).  My apologies to those who were not able to attend – there are still tickets available for the June 15 and September 28 dinners, although possibly not for long!

The appetizer platter was photographed by Emily – one of our new kitchen staff treasures, who is revealing diverse unexpected and welcome talents. It featured Christine’s seasoned, roasted peppers; a tedious, sticky thing to prepare but well worth it …especially when someone else is doing it!  In homage to the abundant seafood of the area, I made a calamari salad with arugula, artichoke hearts and white beans.  Mushrooms a la Greque saluted both the amazing lemons of the area and the subtle Greek influence on culture and cuisine.  Finally olives – no platter would be complete without olives and plenty of them!

For dessert, we did a variety of  fruit and a brace of cakes; a Lemon Polenta cake and a Torta Caprese.  These were chosen to compliment each other in taste and texture.  The lemon cake was very lemony and had the pleasant grittiness of cornmeal in contrast to the decadent richness of the torte.  It is a surprisingly fun cake to make and I highly recommend it!

Torta Caprese

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees Farenheit (sorry, Dad).  Grease a 10 inch spring form pan.  Line the base with a circle of parchment paper for added insurance against sticking!

Melt and allow to cool to almost room temperature …

200 g butter

In a food processor, grind …

250 g of almonds – I made sure not to grind them too fine to add interest to the texture

then …

200 g of good dark semi-sweet baking chocolate – again, don’t grind it too fine or too long lest it start to melt!

Separate 4 large eggs.  Beat the yolks until thick and quite pale with …

1 1/4 c sugar

3 T good vanilla extract

Fold together the yolk mix, butter, chocolate and almonds.

Clean the mixing bowl very well before tackling the egg whites!  Rinse with very hot water to remove all vestiges of fat and then cool. Whip egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold them into the rest of the batter.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until just barely done – about 45 minutes.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the edges of the cake, then let it rest in the pan for half an hour before removing to a serving plate.   This keeps well if wrapped tightly and HIDDEN VERY WELL!

I added a square of unsweetened chocolate to each recipe to give a slightly bitter edge. After such a rich meal, the last thing one would need is a too-sweet dessert and  I am still convinced that bitter will be the next new flavour fad.  You read it here first … thanks for reading and take care of yourself so you can take care of others!

pear plate

 

 

 

Nooo …. not November already!!

beets

Where did this year go … and do I say that every year?

This year we have had a stroke of luck with the recent balmy weather.  It has certainly widened the possibilities when it comes to the available produce from our organic farm.  Normally we would be down to root crops – carrots, beets, potatoes and the eternal Black Spanish Radish.  Not that I would complain, mind you, given the tremendous quality and variety of each of those items.  Above, you can behold the symphony of colours on the beet salad we made last week!

With this latest warm spell though, the farm has been offering some amazing produce … tiny perfect baby kale and tat soi, plump Napa cabbages, brilliant parsley, broccoli and the astonishingly fractal Romanesco (or broccoflower to the uninitiated).

broccoflower3

It’s been nice to stretch out the “green” season this year.  Nice, that is, for the cooks – the farmers may have other opinions! I fear it won’t last though … so let’s turn our attention to an excellent fall/winter dessert…

Sweet Potato Pie

Roast whole sweet potatoes in the oven, turning once or twice until just soft – usually an hour to an hour and a half, depending on their size.  Let cool, then peel and measure.

Puree until smooth …

2 c roasted sweet potato (you could also use pumpkin or squash … but sweet potatoes are SO GOOD!)

1 c apple cider

1/2 c brown sugar

1 T lemon juice

1/2 t each of ground cinnamon, ginger and coriander, sea salt

1/4 t each of ground nutmeg and cloves

(I like to push this mixture through a wire strainer, just to make sure it is absolutely silky.  A soup ladle makes a good “pusher.)

Beat well and strain …

3 large eggs

Add the eggs to the sweet potato mix and stir until completely incorporated.

Bake in a fluted pie shell (yes … we buy ours), no top is needed.  This will usually take about 50 minutes on the bottom shelf… the pastry should be fully cooked, and the centre of the pie filling should be just barely solid, not shiny and beginning to puff up a bit.  Serve hot or cold … with or without decadent whipped cream.

Sometimes we bake this filling in a glass pie plate without a crust so our gluten-free friends (as well as our dairy-free friends) can enjoy it.  I think it’s just as nice that way.

Brace yourselves … winter is (probably) coming…

Take care of each other!  ❤

 

An Ode to August

purple peas1

‘Tis the time of year cooks love … all the hard work of our wonderful farmers and farm interns is now (literally) bearing fruit … and vegetables and herbs and a bewildering variety of greens!

It is such a privilege and a joy to work with ingredients that you know were picked that morning and conveyed down the hill by a friend.  This year we have the added pleasure of poetry with our produce …

Hey Susan, a purple and yellow pea poem for you:

For you we’ve grown these wonderous peas,
Like our children, they’ve grown so fast.
Sunshine and Sunset, their colours will make you freeze,
But if we harvest them any later than next week, their time will probably be past.

So to you, I hope that you will have reason to use
these marvelous twenty feet of delicious, if I may.
Just keep in mind that, thanks to plant-cues,
We may just harvest them Friday.
El Patricio (senior farm intern)

and my reply …

Oh Homey mine,

A thousand, thousand blessings upon your nappy head,

I beg you – quickly, quickly – pluck them from their loamy bed!

For I will surely serve them, with grandeur and with glee,

Upon the very instant you deliver them to me.

 

And if it would facilitate this so-long longed-for day,

I could even come collect them as I pass you on my way

Into my kitchen kingdom where I work (seems more like play)

To do the utmost justice to the treasures that you grow,

Enhance their subtle flavours and set retreatants all aglow!

Susan Sprague – Kitchen Manager and Queen of Doggerel Poetry

But enough frivolity for one post … here is a lovely, easy, gluten free cake that we like to make…

BLACK BEAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

Process in a blender or a food processor until free of lumps …

1 c well cooked black beans

3 eggs

1/2 c sugar

3 heaping T cocoa powder

1 orange – blossom end and seeds removed

1 t baking soda

1 t vanilla extract

pinch of salt

Pour into a parchment-lined loaf pan (or double the recipe and bake it in a 9 inch (sorry, Dad) springform pan).  Bake at 350 F until just done (approximately 35 minutes).  Let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then gently remove it to a cooling rack.  This is a rather delicate cake – so be careful!

If we are feeling decadent, we make a ganache to ice it with by heating a good semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler until just melted and then stirring in an equal amount of almond milk.  If it is too thin to spread, let it cool (stirring occasionally) until it reaches the proper consistency.

When eating this cake, it helps to chant the mantra “Black beans are the most nutritious of all beans”.  This will allow you to contemplate a second slice.

Until next time, take care of each other!  ❤