15 Cookbooks That Will Inspire You In 2015

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15 Cookbooks That Will Inspire You in 2015

I am not a person who likes to look back on the past and summarize the top items for a particular year. Life does not happen in 12 month segments, it flows like a river from year to year.

When it comes to cookbooks I believe that they are a source of great inspiration that has no time limit. That is why I chose to write about 15 cookbooks that will inspire you throughout 2015 and beyond. Treat yourself to some special time to sit down and read a good cookbook. You will be inspired.

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A Kitchen in France
I write this as I am watching the movie The 100 Foot Journey. Seeing the glorious scenery of France’s rich countryside makes you understand why Mimi Thorisson wrote this beautiful book about her life in Medoc. Her photos and her style remind me of time that I have spent in Provence.

Mimi’s stories and recipes will take you to the French Countryside in your mind and in your palate. The book is filled with French farmhouse recipes organized by season and accompanied by glorious photos of life in the region. Mimi is also known for her award-winning blog Manger.

 

 

 

prune

Prune
The minute I started leafing through Prune at my local bookstore I was taken by the hand written comments throughout the book. Pages show signs of food spillage and wear that would don a beloved family cookbook. The style of the book is warm and comforting.
The book is from Prune Bistro in the East Village of New York City by Chef Gabrielle Hamilton. Hamilton presents the recipes in a straight forward fashion that assumes that you know your way around a kitchen. I look forward to trying this one for its unusual flavour combinations and unique dishes.

 

 

 

 

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The Vibrant Table
The Vibrant Table: Recipes from My Always Vegetarian, Mostly Vegan & Sometimes Raw Kitchen is one of those beautiful cookbooks that inspire healthy eating and local cooking. The book is written by Anya Kassoff who also writes the blog Golubka about whole food eating. The beautiful photos and healthy recipes provide healthy inspiration for the Vegetarian cook.

 

 

 

 

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Baking Chez Moi
Dorie Greenspan`s latest book on French baking has once again confirmed her place as one of the best delicious works of art.

I met Dorie Greenspan at a food blogger`s convention in 2012 and was delighted by her sweet and generous personality. If you are already a fan, you must add this book to your collection. If you have not yet discovered this charming baker`s work and wish to add her to your collection, this book would be a good place to start.

 

 

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Flour + Water Pasta
Named after the San Francisco restaurant of the same name Flour + Water offers a wealth of knowledge on pasta making. Chef Thomas McNaughton shares his passion for making the perfect pasta through recipes like Black Pepper Tagliatelle with Mussels, Lardo and Corn or Corzetti with Sausage, Clams and Fennel. This book makes heavenly recipes for the pasta lover in everyone.

 

 

ripe

Ripe
Nobody can talk about great food writers without including Nigel Slater on the list. He is an imaginative cook, prolific writer and avid gardener who shares his passion for good food through his books, TV series and newspaper column in The Observer.
Ripe: A cook in the orchard is the companion book to Nigel’s other book Tender: A cook and his vegetable patch. He uses his inspiring prose to bring you into his garden and woo you into savouring the fruits of his labour. The book is divided into chapters, each about a specific fruit. His books are always good reads and truly inspirational.

 

 

Pastry

Pastry
In my constant quest for the perfect pastry crust, I came across this book at my local bookstore. The book promises: “A Master Class for Everyone in 150 photos and 50 Recipes”. French trained Richard Bertinet has authored notable books like Dough, Cook and now Pastry. The book offers a compilation of simplified sweet and savoury pastry recipes that are written to teach the reader to prepare crusts worthy of a pastry chef.

 

 

 

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French Comfort Food
This book is written by journalist, Hilary Davis, who has lived in France for the past thirteen years. Davis shares her love of French food with dishes that are part of daily life in France. I get hungry just thinking about recipes like Grandmother’s Chicken , Chilled Lyonaisse Potato and Sausage Salad and Perfect Crème Caramel.

 

 

bountiful

Bountiful
If you have ever had the pleasure of reading the blog White on Rice Couple you will already know about this wonderful cookbook. Todd Porter and Diane Cru are professional food photographers and stylists in California who love to share their love of cooking and growing delicious food. This is a lovely book for a cook who loves to enjoy the fruits of a garden.

 

 

The Last 5 of my choices come from Canadian Chefs, Restaurants, and Authors. We have a wonderfully eclectic food industry in Canada with many great chefs and wonderful restaurants. This is a small sampling that will give you a taste of what wonderful food you can find in Canada.

jkennedy

The Jamie Kennedy Cookbook
Jamie Kennedy has long been an important chef in Toronto`s food scene owning and running kitchens in some of our finest restaurants. This book is a compilation of excellent recipes for any food lover sorted into seasons and featuring fresh ingredients from local growers.

 

 

 

bunners

Bunner’s
This cookbook offers delightful baked goods that are gluten-free and vegan. I first purchased it to make treats for my grandchildren who have serious food allergies. I was very surprised to find that everything not only tasted like traditional baked goods, but often, they tasted better.

The bake shop owners Ashley Wittig and Kevin MacAllister have taken time to find the perfect mix of ingredients to create wonderful baked goods.

I have featured a recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes here: https://savouryimage.com/2014/07/27/celebrating-a-2-year-old-milestone-with-gluten-free-vegan-vanilla-cupcakes/

 

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The Sobo Cookbook
The highly acclaimed Sobo Restaurant is located in Tofino, British Columbia that sits at the most westerly end of Canada on Vancouver Island. This relaxed, natural area is famous for surfing and storm watching and interesting cuisine. The book features some of the best west coast cuisine by Chef Lisa Ahier accompanied by fabulous photos of the area by Jeremy Koreski.

A recipe for Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Salad from this book is featured here: https://savouryimage.com/2014/08/11/grilled-watermelon-and-shrimp-salad-tofino-style/

 

torontocooks

Toronto Cooks
This beautiful book by Amy Rosen features 100 recipes from Toronto`s best restaurants. From Maple Bacon doughnuts to Beef Bourguignon this diverse collection of signature dishes will inspire and delight.

Local fans of fine dining have used it as a passport to local establishments by taking it to their favourite places and asking the chefs to autograph their contributions.

 

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The Dirty Apron Cookbook
The Dirty Apron Cookbook features recipes from the Dirty Apron Cooking School and Delicatessen in Vancouver, British Columbia. The founder of the school and author David Robertson shares his passion for cooking and teaching through this beautiful book. The book offers a collection of wonderful recipes that have been prepared in the school, the delicatessen and for catering. Beautifully photographed and well written, this book offers inspiration for those wanting to broaden their repertoire.

 

ohsheglows

The Oh She Glows Cookbook
Self-trained chef and food photographer, Angela Liddon, writes a popular blog called Oh She Glows that teaches healthy vegan cooking to millions of followers. Her first cookbook has readers learning to live a healthy lifestyle with recipes from healthy smoothies to grilled Portobello burgers to cookies and desserts.

 

 

Recipes featured from this book can be found here:
https://savouryimage.com/2014/05/17/cherry-blossoms-and-green-smoothies-it-must-be-spring/
and
https://savouryimage.com/2014/05/06/grilled-portobello-mushroom-burgers-with-sun-dried-tomato-pesto/

 

I hope that I have inspired you to try something new this year.

Happy Cooking in 2015!

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Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Salad Tofino Style

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As many of you will remember I spent some time on Vancouver Island in the summer of 2013. One of the places that we experienced, while on the island, was Tofino, British Columbia. This place is often referred to as the very west end of Canada.

Tofino had long been on my dream list of places to see. It is known for its rugged beaches, often filled with surfers catching waves. You can wander out on the sandy beaches feeling the energy of the ocean as it crashes against the shore. Travelers make their way to this rugged seaside town to watch the storms come in from the Pacific. There is a wild and remote feeling about Tofino, possibly because the road is long and winding and mountainous to get there, also because the coastline is relatively unspoiled.

Watermelon-and-Shrimp

Once you are there you can see a few well placed luxury inns on the beach but that is not the heart of Tofino. The heart of Tofino, to me, is the local food culture which is anything but fine dining. It is all about the Pacific style of using fresh and local ingredients to create amazing flavours. Food trucks are found in unusual spots and a few have made a name for themselves as the best places to east in this part of Vancouver Island.

One restaurant called the SoBo started as a food truck and has now become a restaurant in downtown Tofino. It has earned some very high praise from critics and travelers alike. The best news is that the owners have published a cookbook with a sampling of some wonderful recipes from their menus. The book is full of mouth-watering dishes with chapters featuring ideas for you next meal of breakfast, salad, sandwiches, burgers, tacos, appetizers and snacks, mains, sides, and desserts.

The book is nothing short of beautiful. Not only does it include vibrant shots of the food, it also includes some fabulous landscape and seascape photographs by Jeremy Koreski, a local photographer. It also features a foreword written by Sarah McLachlan, the wonderfully talented Canadian recording artist who has spent a fair bit of time experiencing the mysteries of Tofino.

I chose to feature this recipe from the book because grilling watermelon intrigued me. I was not sure if it would like the taste of warm grilled watermelon with grilled shrimp but I am pleased to tell you that it was a taste experience that I hope to repeat again and again. It was a perfect flavour combination and the result was a light and sumptuous salad.

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Grilled Watermelon and Shrimp Salad

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 small watermelon cut into 1 inch thick wheels, skin removed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. olive oil for grilling
1 cucumber, sliced to 1/4 inch rounds and refrigerate to keep cold
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tsp. salt
12-20 large shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds toasted

Directions:

Preheat BBQ or grill pan to high.

Brush the watermelon lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking. Lay the slices directly on the grill racks and grill for 2 to 3 minutes. The slices should be easily lifted from the grill. Turn them over and grill on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly salt then remove them from the grill and cut into 1 inch sized chunks.

In a large bowl gently toss the warm watermelon with the cold cucumber, mint, lime juice and salt and the 1/4 cup olive oil.
Lightly brush the shrimp with olive oil and grill for 30 seconds per side or until they turn pink or red. Divide the salad between 4 serving plates, top with the shrimp and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

Recipe from the Sobo Cookbook by Lisa Ahier with Andrew Morrison

I bought mine here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Lisa-Ahier-Cookbook-Restaurant-Canadian/dp/B00IBP7PCM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1407805714&sr=8-2&keywords=the+sobo+cookbook

Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

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 How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?- Satchel Paige

I spent this past week celebrating the birthdays of my mother, myself and my grand daughter. We have 3 generations born within 5 days of one another in the month of June.

I really don’t like acknowledging my birthday any more, having just entered a pre-milestone year. I plan to hang on to this decade with all of my might.

You know we cannot stop getting older in years but we can always stay young in our hearts and minds. I plan to be the hippest, most active lady at the nursing home, when I get old. Attitude is everything!

I do plan on making the most of my life. My bucket list is constantly refilling with new places to see, things to learn, people to meet, and new experiences to try. Life is for living and enjoying each day as if it were our last.

One of the things that I have tried over the past 3 years was to become a better baker. I have tried a number of recipes while writing this blog that featured cakes, tarts and even pies. This pear and caramel tart is one of my favourites, so far.

 

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When I was in Seattle last year I was lucky to stay at a hotel that was across the street from Tom Douglas’ famous Dahlia Bakery. The cookies and pastries were so decadent and delicious at the bakery I had to buy the cookbook so I could bake them out at home.

The cookbook offers 125 of the best loved recipes from the bakery complete with loads of helpful baking hints. The book offers wonderful instructions on making a Dahlia style breakfast of English muffins and breakfast sandwiches, or granola, or egg strata. There are chapters on baking doughnuts, on pastries, on a variety of cookies, making tomato soup and gourmet grilled cheese, ice cream and ice cream sandwiches,and preserving jam and jellies. For a bakery cookbook it has a nice variety of recipes, each complete with photos and step by step instructions.

If you are really adventurous the book also includes instructions on how to make your puff pastry and caramel sauce from scratch. For my tarts I used frozen puff pastry and a good quality store bought caramel sauce. The tarts were wonderful with the warm pears and almond cream. I added a dollop of ice cream to offset the sweet caramel drizzle. They were so decadent.

 

pear-tart-after-the-pour

Pear Tarts with Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

3 small to medium pears, ripe but firm

4 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise

Six 4 1/2 inch squares of store bought frozen puff pastry, very cold or frozen

3 tbsp. almond paste

2 tbsp. sugar

1 ½ tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into ½ inch dice

1 large egg yolk

Caramel sauce for drizzling

Whipped cream or Ice cream for garnish

Directions:

To poach the pears, peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. Trim out the stem and blossom end and remove the core using a melon baller or paring knife. Combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan. Add the vanilla bean and pears. To keep the pears submerged while they poach, put a piece of parchment or wax paper on the surface and weigh it with a plate or small lid. Place the saucepan over high heat. When the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. As soon as the pears are tender, but not mushy, approximately 15-20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat. Allow pears to cool in the liquid.

Place the puff pastry squares on a parchment lined baking sheet and set in freezer. Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the puff pastry package, depending on the brand 375-400 degrees F.

To make the almond cream, mix the almond paste and sugar  using the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. The mixture will look crumbly. Beat in the butter, bit by bit. Add the egg yolk and mix until creamy and smooth, set aside.

Remove the baking sheet of pastry squares from the freezer. Place about 2 teaspoons of almond cream in the centre of each square and spread gently using a small spatula.

Remove the pears from the liquid. Dry them on a clean kitchen towel. Slice each half into ¼ inch lengthwise slices. Lift the pear half with a spatula and place it on the almond cream on each pastry square. Gently fan the slices, leaving a ½ inch border of pastry around the pears.

Bake until the tarts are puffed and evenly golden brown, approximately 50-55 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time.

Remove from the oven. Serve one tart per plate. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with whipped cream or ice cream. Serve warm.

pear-tart-with-ice-cream

Recipe adapted from The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook-Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas and Shelly Lance.

I bought my copy here:

http://www.amazon.ca/Dahlia-Bakery-Cookbook-Sweetness-Seattle/dp/B00BXU9R50/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1403050153&sr=8-2&keywords=the+dahlia+bakery+cookbook

Home Cooking with Gordon Ramsay-Beef Meatballs with Orecchiette, Kale and Pine Nuts

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When I see Gordon Ramsay cook, I see a chef who has enormous passion for excellent food. You can see the excitement in his eyes as he describes the way the sauce should taste or how the meat is cooked to perfection. He loves his craft and he loves to teach others.

This Michelin star chef is no stranger to the camera with all of his TV shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares, Hotel Hell and Masterchef US. He has shown us that he can run a kitchen and scare young apprentices half to death, if they make a mistake.

With his Ultimate Home Cooking series, he has shown us his other side. He has shown us that he is a husband and father of four budding chefs; his children. While he cooks with his family, you can see that they love this special time with their father. It is clear that they have cooked together, often.

I really enjoyed watching the series, so I bought the cookbook. It is a wonderful compilation of recipes that you will want to cook for your family and friends.

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The recipes are divided into chapters like Classics with a Twist, Good Food for Less, Cooking for Friends, Cooking in Advance; to name a few. Each section offers a variety of dishes that inspire the casual dining that most of us enjoy so well. These are recipes that you would make for a family dinner, a brunch for friends, or an intimate evening with someone special.

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Recipes that I have tried from this book include:

Pork Chops and Peppers

and

Beef Meatballs with Orecchiette, Kale and Pine Nuts (see below)

The instructions are very clear, the photos are beautiful, and the ingredients are items that most of us have easy access to.

I am really excited to try more of the recipes from this book! They are not written so that you need to be a Michelin Star chef to prepare them. This book is for anyone who loves to cook at home.

Orechietti-and-meetballs

Beef Meatballs with Orecchiette, Kale and Pine Nuts

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 lb. dried orecchiette pasta
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
8 oz. kale, shredded
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

For the meatballs:

1 small onion, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tsp. dried chili flakes
1 lb. ground beef
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3-4 tbsp. milk

Directions:

First prepare the meatballs. Saute the onion and garlic with salt and pepper to taste in a hot oiled frying pan for about 5 minutes until soft and lightly coloured, adding the chili flakes after a minute or two. Place the beef in a large bowl and add salt and pepper. Put the breadcrumbs in a separate bowl and moisten with milk. Add salt and pepper, then stir the breadcrumbs and onion mixture into the beef and combine well. With wet hands, shape the beef mixture into small balls about ¾ inch wide. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes until firm.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add a little olive oil. Brown the meatballs for 6 minutes until coloured on all sides. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until tender, then add the kale and season with salt and pepper. Sweat the kale over medium heat for 5 minutes with a couple of tablespoons of cooking water form the pasta. Taste to adjust the seasoning as necessary, then stir in the pine nuts.

Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoons of cooking water. Tip the pasta into the pan with the meatballs and stir over medium heat until well mixed. Add a good handful of finely grated Parmesan cheese and mix well with a little cooking water to help coat the pasta. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Serve garnished with another grating of Parmesan.

Recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking

I got my copy of the cookbook at Amazon.com

Tuscan Bean Soup – Warming Hearts for a Worthy Cause

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Instead of starting my year with resolutions about losing weight and getting in shape, I decided that this year I would try to give back to the community in some way. I am blessed with a good job, a thriving business, good health and loving people in my life. There are so many others who are less fortunate who could use some help.

My hope is that if we each decided to perform a single act of kindness each month or give of ourselves regularly, collectively it would make a difference. Of course, if you can do more, it would be more beneficial. I plan to feature some groups that are giving back to the community in some way through cooking or giving of food.

I was really inspired by the Sharon Hapton story. Sharon decided, as she was turning 50, to do something to give back to the community so she founded Soup Sisters. Soup Sisters is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comfort to women and children in need through the making, sharing and donating of soup to domestic abuse shelters. Soup Sisters have twelve chapters across Canada, with plans to expand into the United States. At the time of printing the book, the organization had provided over 100,000 bowls of soup to women and children in need.

It is not often that I am able to feature a cookbook that is produced by a charitable organization. Often, books produced to raise funds are a collection of home recipes by volunteers photocopied and clipped together with a cerlox binding. The Soup Sisters Cookbook is so much more than that. This lovely cookbook features 100 recipes for heartwarming soups from more than 50 chefs and food professionals. Mouth watering recipes such as this Tuscan Bean Soup, or Curried Squash and Coconut, or Apple, Carrot and Parsnip are divided by season and are accompanied by lovely photos. Although most of these soups were made in large batches for the shelters, the recipes are all written to yield 6-8 servings.

If you are a soup lover, as I am, you will love this cookbook.

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Tuscan Bean Soup

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) cooked white navy beans (drained and rinsed if canned)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, washed and sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml) olive oil
6 large Roma tomatoes, diced
3 gloves garlic, minced and finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
8 cups (2 L) chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Directions:

Puree half the beans until smooth, adding a little water if necessary. Place the pureed beans in a bowl with the remaining whole beans and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and leek in the oil, until the onion is softened.

Stir in all the beans and the tomatoes, garlic and thyme.

Add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle up in a bowl and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Recipe from The Soup Sisters Cookbook contributed by Caren McSherry, cookbook author and Owner, The Gourmet Warehouse, Vancouver, BC

I bought mine here:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Soup-Sisters-Cookbook-Recipes/dp/0449015599/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1388956770&sr=8-1

For more information visit www.soupsisters.org or email: info@soupsisters.org

Dorie Greenspan’s Pumpkin Muffins

Dorie-V1I had a great experience at IFBC2013 yesterday. I met my favourite cookbook author, Dorie Greenspan.

Dorie gave the keynote speaker address and for 45 minutes she had the entire room charmed. Her message was one of collaboration and building community.

Dorie spoke of her 11 cookbooks and her experiences working with other great chefs like Julia Child and Paul Hermes.

She spoke of her long career trying to make her life as a secretary, a teacher, a grant writer, a wife, a mother, a writer and a TV producer. The road to her wonderful life in Paris was filled with hard work and sometimes, very little pay. She was tenacious in building her dream and she always said yes to projects.

Her words inspired us, her honesty touched us and her charm was infectious.

Dorie left us with a few words of wisdom: “Say yes and follow your dream”.

I made these muffins from Dorie’s book Baking From My Home to Yours before coming to the conference.  As always, her recipes are accurate and the results are delicious.

Pumpkin-Muffins

Pumpkin Muffins

Makes 12 medium sized muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground allspice
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
¾ cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup moist, plump golden raisins
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds for topping

Directions:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Butter or spry 12 molds in  regular-sized muffin pan or fit molds with paper muffin cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.

In a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add both of the sugars and continue to beat until light a smooth.

One by one, add the eggs beating for one minute after the eggs are incorporated, then beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and mix in the pumpkin and buttermilk. Continuing at low speed, add the dry ingredients in a steady stream, mixing only until they disappear. Turn off the mixer and stir in the raisins and nuts using a rubber spatula.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle each muffin with a few sunflowers seeds.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a thin knife into the centre of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan and cool muffins for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the muffins from the molds and finish cooling on a rack.

Serve the muffins warm or at room temperature.

Cooks Note: If you want to kick these muffins up a notch, cut a small hole through the centre of the muffins from the top down and insert a squirt of cream cheese frosting using a pastry bag.

Recipe from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

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Seared Scallops and Freshly Picked Peas with Bacon and Mint

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Last weekend my daughter and I decided to go vegetable picking. There are a number of farms around the city that allow you to pick your own fresh fruit and vegetables as they come into season.

This is one way that you can be sure that you are eating locally and that you are supporting your local farmers. For many years I picked strawberries and made homemade jam. I had never tried picking fresh peas, until this year.

It was not difficult; you just look for pods that are fat and ripe. Those are the ones that are holding lovely, plump, sweet peas. I tasted them fresh from the vine and they were so sweet and delicious I could hardly wait to make something exciting with them.

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Another thing that I had never tried was cooking scallops. For some reason cooking seafood is intimidating to me. I think my Scottish meat and potatoes upbringing is to blame for this. My mother never cooked fish when I was a child.

Nevertheless, I am determined to learn how to cook all sorts of foods so I dug out this recipe from my new Curtis Stone cookbook, What’s for Dinner? and followed it exactly. I figured that if it did not turn out well, I could blame the recipe.

I am happy to say that the sweet peas, bacon and mint perfectly complimented the scallops. The cooking instructions were very clear and my scallops were a hit. It is a great feeling when you take on a new challenge and achieve success.

This cookbook is worth a look. It has terrific selection of recipes that are organized by the days of the week. Chapter titles like Motivating Mondays, Thrifty Thursdays, and Five-Ingredient Fridays list meals that will inspire you to cook, no matter how busy you week gets.

There are 286 pages filled with mouth watering recipes and wonderful photos. I was once told that a good benchmark for buying a cookbook is if you can count at least 10 recipes in it that you want to make. I am sure that there are more than ten recipes from this book in my future.

I would love to hear from you about what foods you love to cook fresh from the farm.

seared-ScallopsSeared Scallops and Peas with Bacon and Mint

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups shelled fresh peas (from 2 pounds peas in the pods)
3 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut crosswise into ¼ inch strips
½ cup coarsely chopped shallots
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 large sea scallops, tough side muscle removed and patted dry
2 tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the peas and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until they are bright green and tender. Drain and transfer the peas to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat from the skillet.

Add the shallots to the skillet and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes or until softened. Add the peas and cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes, or until they are heated through. Stir in the bacon and mint. Season to taste, with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat.

Meanwhile, season the scallops with salt and pepper. Heat another large heavy skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Add the olive oil, then add the scallops and cook for about 2 minutes more, or until the other side is golden brown but the scallops are still translucent when pierced in the center with the tip of a small knife. Transfer the scallops to paper towels to drain briefly.

Divide the pea mixture and scallops among four dinner plates and serve.

Recipe adapted from What’s for Dinner? by Curtis Stone

Apple Tarts

One of the things that I love about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables. Local farmers’ markets are regularly held throughout the city allowing local farmers and producers to sell their organic and unique products. I try to support the local farmers by going to the markets at least once a week to sample their daily offerings.

For someone who lives in a climate that has 4 distinct seasons, it is a real treat to taste the ripe berries of summer. It is a great summer outing to take the family to a pick your own farm, teaching young children about how food is grown and letting them taste it fresh from the vine. It is also fun to visit a local cheese maker or vineyard to taste the fruits of their labour. We are so lucky that Ontario is rich with amazing food producers and hosts world-class wine regions. I dedicate this post to Ontario’s local farmers, vineyards and food producers.

I came across the Earth to Table cookbook at my local bookstore last winter. It inspired me to want to feature more recipes made with local foods.This recipe for apple tarts is quite simple, yet it creates wonderful french style pastries that are both delicate and delicious.

Apple Tarts

Makes 8 Servings

Ingredients

1 package frozen all-butter puff pastry
½ cup Frangipane, made with almonds
3 large Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples, thinly sliced
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a 4-inch round cookie cutter, cut puff pastry into 8 circles. Place circles on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, score another circle inside each. (Just score the circle-do not cut through the dough.)

Spread 1 tbsp. frangipane in the middle of each circle, filling the score mark. Arrange apple slices on top of frangipane, making circular layers until apples are about 1 ½ inches high.

In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Dot the top of each tart with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake until crispy and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Frangipane

Makes 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup ground hazelnuts, almonds or other flavourful nut
¼ cup icing sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Directions

Using an electric mixer, mix butter, hazelnuts, icing sugar, flour and eggs until smooth.

(Frangipane can be made ahead. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for up to 1 month.)

Recipes from Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann

 

 

Summer Berry Muffins-Perfect for Mothers’ Day Brunch

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child” -Sophia Loren

This is the weekend that we celebrate our mothers, our grandmothers and our children. We celebrate the joy that unconditional love can bring. Our mothers are the ones who are there for us no matter what. They stand beside us in times of trouble; they encourage us to find our dreams; and they help us to face our fears. Mothers will sacrifice everything so their children can have what they need.

They are resourceful, thoughtful, loving, warm, strong, intelligent, wise and the centre of our worlds.

I come from a line of very strong women. After being widowed at a young age, my grandmother raised 8 children on her own. She managed to help them all become successful adults while maintaining a home, a business and a career as a nurse. She expressed her creativity through quilting and cooking.  My grandmother passed away when I was 6 years old. My fondest memory of her was hiding under her stretched quilts when I was about 4 years old and peeking up to watch her as she meticulously stitched each layer together by hand.

My mother was the rock in our family. She spent every day making sure that we would be well equipped to deal with the world on our own, while still offering a safe haven to learn. She taught us, cared for us when we were sick and loved us even when we didn’t love ourselves. My mother has also been an amazing grandmother to my children who adore her.

Now there is a new generation of moms in my family. My youngest daughter has an adorable son and a baby girl due this June. She has found her grounding and her passion in motherhood and is amazing with her son. I am so proud to see the mother that she has become.

“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.”- Jill Churchhill

I dedicate this muffin recipe to Moms everywhere.

Summer Berry Muffins

Makes 12 medium sized muffins

Ingredients

1 cup mixed summer berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
2 ½ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ cup superfine sugar
Pinch of salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. light brown sugar

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a muffin pan with 12 paper cases. Mix together berries. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk mixture, and add the mixed berries. Stir just until combined and divide among the muffin cases. Sprinkle the top with brown sugar and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and well risen.

These muffins are best served warm or at room temperature in the day of baking.

Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook