Roasted Beet, Bacon and Apple Salad from the Evergreen Brick Works Market

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I love spending a leisurely Saturday morning wandering around a local farmers’ market. Nothing tastes as wonderful as fresh fruit and vegetables from a local farm.

One of my favourite markets is the Farmer’s Market at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works. This wonderful project has turned an abandoned brick factory in the heart of the city into a green space filled with nature walks, ponds, cafes, craft stores and educational space.

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Some of the space has been dedicated to natural art installations that compliment the environment.

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There are nature walks and protected areas that house the local wildlife. You can even rent bikes to explore the trails along the Don Valley for the day.

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It is a wonderful place to visit early in the morning if you are looking for a tranquil space filled with birds, turtles and nature. I like to grab a coffee and sit, quietly, in the midst of the natural surroundings and just listen.

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Every weekend the Brick Works hosts a large famer’s market that houses dozens of growers selling organic produce, meat, flowers and preserves. The casual atmosphere creates a relaxed feeling for the visitors as they wander the rows of stalls listening to live music from a local artist, while sampling wonderful delicacies.

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When I was there I picked up some lovely organic golden and red beets to create this salad.

This recipe has been cobbled together from a couple of recipes from Foodland Ontario and Fine Cooking Magazine. I love the combination of the roasted beets and bacon with goat cheese and apples. It is a great Autumn salad for a lunch of even as a side for a holiday meal.

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Roasted Beet, Bacon and Apple Salad

Ingredients

2 medium red beets, unpeeled and scrubbed
2 medium golden beets, unpeeled and scrubbed
2 slices of bacon
3 tbsp. (45 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp. (25 mL) red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. (15 mL) maple syrup
2 tsp. (10 mL) horseradish
1/4 tsp. (1 mL) each salt and pepper
4 cups (1 L) mixed greens
4 cups (1 L) arugula
1 medium unpeeled apple, cored and diced
1 pkg. (113 g) creamy goat cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp. toasted pumpkin seeds

Directions

Wrap beets in double layer of foil and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Roast on baking sheet in 425°F (220°C) oven until tender, about 1 hour. Let cool enough to handle; peel and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick wedges.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in skillet over medium heat until crisp. Let cool on paper towel; crumble. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the same skillet where you have cooked the bacon until they become golden brown.

Whisk together oil, vinegar, maple syrup, horseradish, salt and pepper.

Place mixed greens and arugula in large bowl; toss with bacon, beets and apple. Toss with dressing. Serve sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese and pumpkin seeds.

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Salami, Bacon and Spinach Breakfast Hash

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It is time to say good-bye to a dear friend, my wonderful bike Victoria. I bought her 2 years ago so I could get back into cycling after many years. She was a second-hand bike listed on Craigslist that was built from some very oddly matched components. Quite honestly, she is a Frankenbike!

Did I just say that?

The truth is, I have really enjoyed spending time with her riding the bike paths of our city. She has taught me that no matter how out of shape and tired you may feel, you can still get out and have fun. There is nothing like that feeling when you catch a breeze in your hair or when you coast down a hill feeling as though life is filled with laughter. It is a very childlike feeling. Victoria and I shared many days filled with fun and challenging rides, picnics and adventures.

So why am I saying so long to Victoria? I am ashamed to say that I have cheated on her by purchasing Victoria 2. I felt I had to move on. I needed more bells and whistles and speed. I was enticed by a newer model. Oh My!

Thankfully, my oldest daughter has offered to give Victoria a loving home. She is also hoping to get back into cycling and was looking for a nice bike. Now when she and I go for brunch in the neighbourhood we can ride our bikes and meet up at a local bistro.

If there is one meal that I love, it is Brunch! Our neighbourhood hosts a number of quaint bistros and cafes that specialize in all day breakfast or wonderful weekend brunch. Some of these cafes are so popular, they are lined up all day on Sunday.

Often, I will make something delicious for brunch at home. I recently saw Giada De Laurentis make this Sausage, Bacon and Spinach Breakfast Hash on TV and decided it looked good enough to try. It turns out to be a hearty recipe that works well for a group of 3-4.

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Salami, Bacon and Spinach Breakfast Hash

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

8 oz. bacon (5 to 6 slices), cut into ½-inch pieces
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
3 cups baby spinach leaves
5 oz. dry salami, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
zest of ½ medium orange
4 large eggs, at room temperature

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Directions

Cook the bacon over medium-high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Add the potatoes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to the pan juices. Cook, stirring frequently, until brown and crisp, about 25 minutes. Remove the potatoes using a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Add the oil, onion, bell pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach, salami, nutmeg, orange zest, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted, about 4 minutes. Stir in the bacon and potatoes.

Make 4 indentations in the hash and break an egg into each. Cook until the eggs are cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes.

Recipe from Giada De Laurentis

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