Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mosquitoes are stupid!

Amelia: Mosquitoes are stupid!
Me: Why do you say that?
A: Because the always bite me and it hurts.
Me: They bite you because they need blood to live. So really it's smart of them to bite you.
A: I need blood to live too.
Me: Yes, but you have lots of blood in your body. Mosquitoes just take a tiny little bit.
A: You and Daddy have more blood than me, they should only bite you.

Zucchini au Gratin

So I made the best zucchini au gratin ever a couple of nights ago. It was so good that I ate half the 9x13 pan in one sitting. I justified that by the fact that zucchini is a vegetable, no matter how much cheese sauce was on it, and therefore, good for me, and it was pretty much all I ate for dinner that night anyway. I doubt I'll ever be able to replicate the recipe again. But, I'll definitely try.

1 large zucchini/mixed summer squash, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 Tbsp vermouth
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan, grated
bread crumbs

Mix everything, except the bread crumbs, in a casserole dish. Bake, covered in tin foil, for 35 minutes at 300. Stir, re-cover, and put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top (and some more parmesan, if you like!) and put under the broiler until browned.

Now, I made this again a few nights later but I didn't have sour cream or cheddar cheese. What ever did I do, you ask? I used plain yogurt and gouda. Still delicious, although the gouda kind of clumped together so it required more stirring.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Community-Supported Agriculture

This year my husband and I, in an effort to be more health-conscious and "green", decided to join a CSA. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a CSA is a community-supported (or shared) agriculture group. Community members pay a local farmer for a "harvest share" in the winter, and once summer arrives, are rewarded with a weekly bounty of fresh, seasonal vegetables for the duration of the harvest.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, my daughter has been plagued with food allergies and
digestive issues since she started eating solids. This forced me to start paying close attention to our food choices in an effort to make her healthy. I became very disconcerted during our trips to the supermarket when I began taking note of all the produce that had been imported from China or Peru. I vowed to only buy produce from Canada, and Ontario whenever possible. The more
research I did into my daughter's problems, the more I became suspicious of the possible link between pesticides and allergies. I took my Canada-only purchasing decision a step further and sought out a place to buy locally grown, organic produce.

Not only is my CSA organic, it is one of only a handful of certified biodynamic farms in all of Canada. This means that the farm is treated as a living organism. The biodynamic farmer strives to enhance the relationships between living creatures on the farm while paying close attention to the subtle rhythms of nature. Swamps, gardens, pastures, woods, mammals, birds, soil, life, death, and renewal all have their place on the farm. No synthetic chemicals are used on the farm, and all outside inputs are kept to a minimum.

The pay-off for us is not only fresh favourites, like carrots, beans, lettuce, squash, and tomatoes, but also a huge variety of other things I would normally pass over in the supermarket like beet and radish greens, chard, and mixed Asian greens. We've been introduced to a large array of new food too: yellow, white, and purple carrots, tatsoi, Japanese turnips (now my daughter's favourite vegetable!), sweet baby beets, and red scallions.

It has been a bit of an adjustment joining the CSA: we don't know exactly what we'll be getting each week, or how much, but the quality and taste are unmatched by anything you'll find in the grocery store.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Family Gatherings

(As seen on Foodies.ca)

We just had the pleasure of visiting with relatives that we only get to see about once a year. With everyone's busy schedules and growing families, the visits have changed in frequency and duration. The traditional 9PM dinners need to be pushed up a couple of hours to facilitate the young ones bedtimes and the martinis don't flow quite a freely as they used to, but we still know how to eat. And boy, do we eat!

I think one of my favourite aspects of the big family gathering is the opportunity to share my recipes and favourites with my family and in turn, get an opportunity to try other people's favourites. There's always someone looking over the cook's shoulder, watching them prepare, taking careful notes (and sometimes just ready to mix a new batch of cocktails!). A flurry of emails often ensues in the following days from the eager sous-chefs clarifying ingredient lists and cooking times.

This past weekend was no exception. During the 3 meals we shared as a group, everyone contributed to the planning, preparation, and service in our own ways. One of the great things about everyone preparing a favourite is that you get such a variety food. For appetizers we enjoyed my signature Sangria, along with an amazing maple, pecan, chili and ice wine torte on pinot noir and black pepper biscotti (from Dana Shortt Gourmet), an assortment of cheeses, homemade spring rolls, and garlic scape pesto on fresh baguette. I posted the recipe for scape pesto on my last blog post. Since scapes are only in season for a couple of weeks, I thought ahead and froze some for this occasion. Dinner later that night was even better: butter-soft rib steaks, Caesar salad, sauteed mushrooms, my Dad's signature zucchini rice dish, and of course, a few bottles of nice wine.

Why do family events always involve food and drink? There's something about food that brings us all together. Conversations flow as freely as the wine, laughs are had, and memories are made. I know that some of my best memories are made around the kitchen island or the dining room table. Perhaps it's because food is the one thing we all have in common. We've all got to eat, so why not do it together?