Sunday, September 30, 2012

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal

First gingerbread pancakes and now pumpkin oatmeal? I am in full fledged fall mode. The only raw vegetables I have been eating is some winter lettuce. All other vegetables in my diet right now consist of roasted root vegetables, squashes, and sauteed winter greens such as kale. I love this time of year. Now on the squash front, I have officially gotten out of control. Last week I bought 4 squash at the grocery store as they were now only 99 cents a pound. This week at the farmers market, I was overjoyed with the overflow of squash. They are such beautiful vegetables. One farm stand had them 4 for 5 dollars; a complete steal! I of course picked up 4. Now I have a pile of squash in my cupboards and I couldn't be happier.
In the past two weeks I have also purchases 6 pumpkins. I roasted them, and pureed the flesh. I also cleaned and roasted the deliciously plump seeds. In case you are wondering, I have about 16 cups of pumpkin puree in my freezer, all in convenient 1 cup portions. There is going to be a lot of pumpkin recipes on the blog this year; I can feel it. I had a pumpkin loving friend visit this weekend and it seemed only natural to make a breakfast that incorporated some pumpkin, which lead to me creating this recipe, which was based off a stove top version I have made in the past.

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Steel Cut Oatmeal
Serves 4

1 cup steel cut oats
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 cups water

1. Melt coconut oil and add to the steel cut oats in the crock pot. Stir to coat.
2. Add the spices and mix well.
3. Add water, vanilla, and pumpkin and stir to combine.
4. Cook on low for 8 hours.

It is wonderful to wake up to the smell of pumpkin spice in your kitchen. All you have to do is open up the crock pot, give it a stir, and you have a hot breakfast all ready for you. I topped my oatmeal with almond butter but of course maple syrup is also a wise choice. This recipe can easily be adapted to a stove top version if you don't have a slow cooker or just can't wait until tomorrow morning to make this.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Coconut Pancakes

I haven't made pancakes in months. They used to be my go to weekend breakfast, but it has been quite some time. The summer just doesn't  feel like the time to make pancakes. Today was my first weekend in Guelph so I was excited to get up early and hit up the farmers market. Upon my return I promised I would make some pancakes. I had a recipe tucked away for gingerbread pancakes and I decided to give it a try on this crisp, fall-like morning. The recipe called for yogurt which I did not have so I substituted for a can of coconut milk. I made some more modifications as a result and they turned out quite nicely.

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Coconut Pancakes adapted from Jenna Weber
Serves 4-6

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 tbsp coconut oil (can be reduced or eliminated if you like)
2 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk (could have probably done with 1 cup)
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Whisk together the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl.
2. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
3. Add the wet to the dry and mix until just combined. The batter will be VERY thick.
4. On a greased (I used butter) skillet scoop 1/4 cup of batter at a time, flattening with a spoon to achieve desired thickness. Once the side of the pancakes are beginning to cook, flip to finish the other side.

These pancakes are very dense and VERY filling, but very delicious. I normally can eat as many pancakes as my heart desires but these I could only have a couple. It must have been all those healthy fats. I am not a huge fan of the flavour of coconut oil so every time I find a way to incorporate a lot of coconut oil without tasting it that much, I am pretty happy. This is one of those recipes where you don't taste the coconut too much because of all the spices. I wasn't sure the coconut would work well with the gingerbread but it did; it made the gingerbread taste rich, not coconuty.
I like my real maple syrup like a good Canadian does
My trip to the Farmer's Market was a successful one and I picked up lots of local goodies. I have some plans for my purchases such as some homemade tomato sauce and something that is loaded with beets. I also purchased some kimchi which I have never had before but always wanted to try. It is a fermented food which is something I have mentioned I wanted to start getting into. Wish me luck!
Clockwise from bottom left: kimchi, apples, beets, romaine lettuce, broccoli, whole wheat sourdough bread, fresh eggs, beans, and roma tomatoes.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables

Roasted chicken? Is she for real? Yes, I am for real. You may remember my post over 4 months ago explaining the reasons why I don't eat meat. Those reasons still hold true in my mind, but a significant change has happened. To go along with this new chapter in my life, I have also decided to incorporate some meat back in my diet, but not just any meat. The reasons for this are based on a lot of research I have been doing on the healthfulness of animal products when raised traditionally. I will save those details for another post, as I think it will make a lovely post on it's own, full of information and something I really want to share. For now, I want to share how I went about acquiring this chicken which considering my stance of animal products, you bet did not come from the local grocery store; and of course also share a recipe.

Here is excerpt from a previous blog post:

"[My lack of eating animal products] will inevitably shift again one day, maybe even introducing meat back into my life when I have the means to buy healthy meat directly from a farmer for special occasions (I'll have to stop being a student first). But only time will tell."

You guessed it, I bought this chicken direct from a farmer! One of the reasons I was so excited to move to Guelph was because of the local food community here. Not only is this town surrounded by farms but the city is probably one of the best in Ontario for being able to access local, sustainable and organic foods. Upon securing housing in Guelph I immediately started looking for local food sources. A simple search for Guelph CSAs eventually led me to the humble site for Magda Farms.

At Magda Farm, they use a grazing system where the chickens are moved twice a day to have access to fresh pasture, and follow the movement of the beef cattle. The waste of the chickens is then added back into the earth and feeds the grazing vegetation. This is a cyclical system that prevents most of the environmental  problems that have resulted from factory farming. This farm is about a 15-20 minute drive from our house, so you can't get more local than that! In addition, the slaughter of the animals is done at a nearby family run processing plant with the highest ethical standards. In my mind, you can't get more sustainable that this, unless you go and hunt the bird yourself, which I am just not cut out for.

We purchased two chickens in quarters, skin-on bone-in, at $3.59 a pound. That is more than what you pay at the grocery store but my money is going directly to the farmer, and is purchasing healthier meat, not fattened with grain, or pumped full of antibiotics and water solutions. This meat will also last a while for us. I am incorporating meat, not becoming a carnivore, so once a week or two our dinner will include some pastured chicken. This order, combined with another order we will receive in October, will probably last us until the end of November at least.

For our first meal, I simply roasted a leg piece of a quarter chicken with some root vegetables and herbs. I wanted to be able to really taste the flavour of the meat itself, so I could taste the difference from the conventional chicken in my memories.  And boy, did I taste the difference.

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables
Serves 2-3

chicken (I used about 1.5-2 lb leg quarter, skin on. You could just as well roast a whole chicken here, adjusting cooking times accordingly)
1 onion
4-5 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
pint of string green beans, stemmed and halved
5 garlic cloves
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Chop veggies and arrange in a roasting pan. Toss in olive oil, and season with S+P and rosemary to taste.
3. Clear a bit of pan in the centre and place the chicken meaty side up. 

I may have forgotten to take an "after roasting" photo...
4. Roast for 20 minutes uncovered.
5. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F, cover, and cook for 30 minutes.
6. Remove cover and continue to cook until skin has darkened and the chicken is properly cooked (about 10-15 min).
7. Allow to rest for about 10-15 minutes until serving.

The chicken was magnificent. It was delicious and unlike any other chicken I have had in the past. It was moist, with lots of dark meat, and I swear there were muscles on that leg I had never seen on a conventionally raised bird before. The juices that were released from the meat mixed with the vegetables resulted in a wonderful broth that went well with some rye sourdough bread.  I look forward to the next meal incorporating this pastured chicken. To get the most out of the bird, I saved the bones, stowed away in the freezer, until I have more to make some broth.

The majority of the recipes I will share on this blog will still be vegetarian, as that is still how I choose to eat on a regular basis and when I am outside of my home. I think this arrangement fits well with my previous thoughts of not classifying a diet, because there are always exceptions. For me, it is my pastured meat from Magda Farms.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spicy Dill and Garlic Pickles

Being in a new kitchen makes me want to try lots of new things. A couple items on my list for trying soon are homemade fermented condiments and sprouting grains. I am not going to lie, fermenting and canning foods scares me a little bit as I feel like so much can go wrong. However, I know how beneficial (and delicious) fermented foods can be and I also love the idea of preserving the plentiful fruits and vegetables for the winter months, so I wanted to dip my toe into this area. Before I jumped right in, I thought I would make some refrigerator pickles which do not require fermenting and canning, but is a baby step in that direction. When I saw small pickling cucumbers at the farmers market, I knew my time had come. I looked up a few recipes online and then just went with it! I found a vinegar to water ratio of 5:3 when no sugar was used so I stuck with that, adding in whatever spices and seasonings I deemed appropriate. This was the result, spicy dill and garlic pickles.

Spicy Dill and Garlic Pickles
Makes 1 Jar

2.5 cups vinegar
1.5 cup water
2.5 tbsp coarse salt
3/4 pint pickling pickles, sliced into quarters
1/2 chili pepper sliced
5 garlic cloves, sliced
1.5 tsp dried dill (best to use fresh, put whole sprigs into jar)
1/2 tsp peppercorns

1. In a pot, combine vinegar and water and bring to a boil. remove from heat and stir in salt to dissolve.
2. Allow the vinegar mixture to cool for 5 min while you put the cucumbers, garlic, chili peppers and spices into the jar. It is best to put the spices at the bottom of the jar and then top with the cucumbers.

I would put the dill at the bottom next time. I would also use fresh if I had it.
3. Pour the slightly cooled vinegar mixture over top of the cucumbers. Lightly put on lid and allow to cool to room temperature. The lid may seal slightly while cooling, unseal the lid before refrigerating.
4. Once at room temperature, transfer to the fridge to chill for 3 days.

4 days later

These pickles were crisp, tangy and just a little spicy. I may add some red chili flakes into the mix next time. These pickles are for true tangy pickle lovers, but sugar can always be added if a sweeter variety is preferred. 

These pickles were really easy to make and just take a little forethought. I popped them in the fridge while I went away for the weekend, and came home to some delicious pickles. These should last in the fridge 7-10 days, and may just become a staple in my house. Pickling cucumbers can be substituted with sliced english cucumbers or other crisp vegetables. The possibilities are endless!

Next on my path to fermenting and canning: homemade chili sauce. Don't hold your breath though...