Strawberry Season Has Arrived!

The Quintessential Summer Fruit

Turns out, the Maritimes are having a lousy year for strawberries; too much rain and not enough heat in the spring to really kick off a good strawberry season, so it feels great to be able to pick anything at all, let alone fourteen pounds of strawberries.


While about 2 lbs are destined for a strawberry wine and at least 4 lbs for the freezer to help us through the winter in case we undertake another 100 Mile Challenge, there was plenty of strawberries to go around and lots of strawberry preserves destined for the Sackville Market and online market. We have:

Chipotle Strawberry Jam
Strawberry with Vanilla Bean
Strawberry Jam (made in the French style of slowly drawing out the juices and keeping the berries whole)
Strawberry Margarita Jam


Vive La Fraise!



Thinking Outside the Jar: Repurposed Marroni Al Liquore

Back in December, I made a batch of Marroni Al Liquore and I was so excited to try it. I waited a couple weeks to really let the flavours mellow and give the chestnuts a chance to soften and eagerly tucked into my winter treat.

Maybe it’s me, but it really didn’t float my boat. The brandy liquor was delicious, as the vanilla beans, cloves and cinnamon had made for a delicious drink, but the chestnuts were mealy and too boozy for my liking. So my poor jars sat in the fridge, getting pushed to the back as new preserve jars made their way to the front of the line. So today I had an idea, a way to repurpose those chestnuts into something useful, delicious and still decadent.

I present you with:

Chestnut and Apple Bread Pudding with Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

Chestnut and Apple  Bread Pudding with a Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

Bread Pudding:

1/2 lb loaf of day-old bread, cubed

1 Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored and diced

4 eggs

1 cup of pureed sweetened chestnuts*

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tbsp maple syrup**

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Brandied Honey Caramel Sauce

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup honey

2 tbsp Marroni Al Liquore brandy


1. Beat eggs and combine the rest of the ingredients. Combine apple and cubed bread and place in greased and wide casserole dish. Pour egg/milk/chestnut mixture over top, stir to combine and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature until bread has soaked up the egg mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour, or until tester comes out clean.

2. While pudding is baking, make your caramel sauce. Combine milk and honey and bring to a boil on medium heat, swooshing your pan frequently. When colour begins to turn golden remove from heat, about 8-10 minutes. Don’t be tempted to reduce as it will thicken once its cooled. Let cool for 5 minutes or so before adding brandy. Warm sauce before serving on pudding.

* To make chestnut puree, combine jar of chestnuts with roughly 1-2 tbsp of brandy and grind in a small food processor until smooth. Add more brandy liquid if necessary.

** This is a 100 Mile Challenge friendly recipe, so feel free to substitute 1/4 cup brown sugar if you prefer a sweeter bread pudding. The recipe as printed is on the less sweet side, which suits our preference.

Thinking Outside the Jar Series: Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

Have you ever seen “Castaway”? When Tom Hanks’ character figures out how to build fire, it’s a huge celebration and he proclaims: “I have made fire!”.

That’s how I feel about this apple crisp. Over at 100 Mile Locavores our family is doing the 100 Mile Challenge and it’s super handy to have a pantry full of preserves. Like tonight: we really wanted a dessert and were tired of plain yogurt mixed with jam, so I came up with this apple crisp that uses very basic, readily available ingredients. It’s delicious, simple and easy. It may even make you shout that *you* have made fire!

Cranberry Double Apple Crisp with Maple Chantilly Cream

2 lbs Empire apples

1 lb fresh cranberries

1 cup plus 3 tbsp apple butter

1 tbsp flour

pinch of salt

2 cups large flaked oats

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 cup whipping cream (35%)

1 tbsp maple syrup


1. In preparation of whipping the cream, move bowl and beaters to the fridge to get cool while you prepare your crisp. Rinse and pat dry the cranberries. Peel and slice apples (I like to quarter them and slice them lengthwise) into a large mixing bowl. Add cranberries.

2. Add apple butter, flour and salt and toss together with apples and cranberries. Pour mixture into a deep dish pan.

3. Stir flour and oats together, pour in melted butter and maple syrup. Toss to coat evenly. Pour topping mixture over apple/cranberry combo and spread evenly.

4. Bake at 375 until bubbly and the topping is crisp and slightly browned, about 45 minutes.

5. While crisp is baking, prepare Chantilly cream.  With cold beaters and bowl, whip cream until slightly stiff. Pour in maple syrup. Whip until stiff and serve a nice fat dollop’s worth on your warm apple crisp.


** This recipe makes a LOT of crisp. I had enough to make a small 9 inch pie pan’s worth and freeze it for a future date. The apples cook up a bit mushier, but it still tastes great.

Thinking Outside the Jar Series

While sweet preserves are always at home on toast, scones and English muffins, it takes some imagination to use up a preserve in new and creative ways. I have a gluten intolerance and while jams and jellies are one way to make gluten-free bread more tolerable, there is much more you can do with a jar of jam or jelly then let it die in the back of your fridge.

The winter months are a great time to experiment with some recipes and try a new take on an old favourite. In our case, our family is taking on the 100 Mile Challenge this January and preserves are one easy way to  brighten up a side dish and help us forget that we’ll be munching on carrots and turnip for 100 very long days.

In preparation for the challenge, we made a dessert that was quick, easy and so delicious. It’s a great way to use up that poor jar of jam at the back of the fridge and make it the star of the show:

Vanilla Cherry Frozen Yogurt
Adapted from for Honey Frozen Yogurt

Makes 1 quart

2 cups milk
3/4 cup uncanny’s Vanilla Cherry Preserve (or any jam of your choosing)
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
2 cups plain yogurt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (Optional. In my case, my jam had plenty of real vanilla)

1. Heat milk in a large saucepan over medium-low heat (do not boil). Stir in salt.

2. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Pour a small amount of warm milk into the egg mixture and continue to whisk. Pour egg mixture into saucepan, and continue to cook and stir for 5 to 6 minutes or until mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.

3. Remove from heat and cool completely. Stir in yogurt,  jam and vanilla and refrigerate until cold. Process in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

The frozen yogurt was so delicious and the yogurt tang shone right through. You could even coordinate your frozen yogurt with your Holiday pie, say a pumpkin butter frozen yogurt over pumpkin pie? I hope to continue the series, but for more ideas, check out the  Use it or Lose it Series at Local Kitchen.

100 Mile Challenge Series: Wade or Jump In?

Do you jump in or wade in? Even as a kid and going swimming in less than warm water, I would wade in very slowly until every part of me was numb, then I summoned every ounce of courage to dunk my head under water. I admired and feared those around me who could just dive right in.

For me, the same is true for the 100 Mile Challenge. Now that I’ve finally finished watching the Food Network Canada show, the families chronicled all had a farewell feast to their favourite foods before the cupboard was cleaned out. I think that would be brutal and I can only imagine how grumpy I would be on Day 1 if that happened to us.

While my family and I aren’t fully committing until January 1st (and by fully, I mean a 75% full commitment), we’ve chosen to ease ourselves into it and have already begun purchasing local produce at all times. We’ve found that by doing the research now and preparing foods that are canned or frozen has helped us become more excited and committed to the challenge. Plus, in preparation for the challenge, we’re working through our pantry and freezer to eat up the non-local food so there’s no waste in January and no imported food to tempt us.

So, here’s a run-down of us and our challenges, what we have planned and what we have prepared:


– J: My husband.  While he’s enthusiastic about the challenge, he’s nervous (read: grumpy, unhappy, suspicious) about giving up coffee. My promise of putting whipped cream on everything is easing his nerves and making this challenge more palatable.

E: Our 15-month-old daughter. A very picky eater with allergies to dairy and possibly gluten. She will be somewhat excused from the challenge, although fruits, vegetables and meat will all be local. Rice milk, gluten-free bread and iron-fortified cereal will certainly be kept in her diet.

Me, Lindsay: I love food. But I love food with seasoning. I’m excited about the challenge, but I’m most nervous about going without my favourite seasonings and my beloved Thai and Vietnamese food. I live for cinnamon, long for vanilla and nutmeg is the world’s dreamiest spice. Living without extra spice and seasonings will be difficult. I also have gluten allergies and I’m still determining how I’ll go about this challenge (i.e. locally ground but imported brown rice flour, no processed gluten free items like rice cakes or bread, make my own rice pasta, etc).

What We Have Planned:

– 100 days of local eating! Our local farmer’s market has feta cream cheese, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, pork, chicken and a local farm raises organic turkeys. We intend to do the bulk of our shopping at the farmer’s market or through our Co-Op grocery store, which carries a wide range of local produce. Additionally, our CSA provides us with fresh root vegetables until the end of December, which we hope we’ll have some leftover to keep in our cold storage.

– we aim for 75% and one full meal a week will consist of strictly local ingredients, as part of the 4th Annual Dark Days Challenge.

– The 75% includes: lobster, mussels, sustainably sourced fish, meat, vegetables, oats and wheat (Speerville Flour Mill), club soda, eggs, cheese from PEI and Sussex (ADL and Sussex), yellow eyed and Jacob’s Cattle beans,  tomatoes and cucumbers from a greenhouse in Truro, apples, wine, family produced honey, maple syrup, Northumberland dairy, feta from Nova Scotia, local herbal tea and we plan to set up our grow lights to grow our own herbs, lettuces, spinach and maybe swiss chard and we have plans on how to offset the additional energy use.

– The 25% percent will be: yeast (maybe, we’re experimenting with sour dough bread at the moment), baking soda and powder and salt. Yes, we live by the ocean, but I’m concerned about the amount of energy it would take to boil down the water to produce the salt. Besides, Sifto has a plant in the Maritimes – maybe ionized salt already is local?

J already makes his own pasta and bread

What We Have Prepared:

frozen and canned soups made with local ingredients, 5 lbs frozen blueberries, frozen apple cider and a cold pantry full of preserves. I know some of these preserves contain sugar and vinegar that aren’t local, but as long as the total amount of local ingredients is 75%, then I’m allowing it.

– dried sage from the garden, thyme and parsley growing in pots by the window

– frozen tomatoes and jalapeño peppers

– frozen maple syrup

– cheese and nut free pesto

Stay tuned as we inch ever closer to starting our challenge. We’re excited and nervous but confident this will change the way we eat and help us be in better relationships with those that make and produce our food.

100 Mile Challenge Series: The Try Out


Tasted Better Than It Looks

So I know the challenge hasn’t started, but I’m curious to see if I can make a casserole that’s delicious, local and uses up some vegetables in my fridge. Here’s what I’ve got:

– local ground pork

– half a local cabbage

– jalapeno peppers from a local friend that have seen better days

– the most incredible local garlic you’ve ever seen, smelled or tasted

– bag o’ Port Elgin potatoes

– oodles of frozen garden tomatoes

– all the local carrots and onions you can think of

– sage and thyme in the garden that have survived the frosts and light snow

Here’s what  I’m thinking: a deconstructed cabbage roll. I’m going to make a tomato sauce from my frozen tomatoes, season it with some sage and thyme, onions and garlic and jalapenos. I’m going to spread a bit of sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 pan, cabbage leaves (I’m not going to parboil them, not sure if this is a mistake of not, we’ll see!), cooked ground pork,  thinly sliced carrots and potatoes (thanks food processor!) cabbage leaves and dump the sauce on top. I’m imagining my sauce is going to be quite runny and watery, since I’m not using a paste. I’m hoping this extra liquid will both help cook my cabbage and carrots and get absorbed by my raw potato slices.

I imagine it’s going to be edible. Maybe not out of this world fantastic, but hopefully palatable. I’m not used to cooking without salt and although I don’t plan to give up the good stuff until January 1st when our 100 Mile Challenge begins, it’s a good test to see what I think of food that has to rely on herbs and jalapenos for it’s seasoning.

Pictures and review to come!

Post-Meal Update:

OK, so you start to realize it’s called a “challenge” for a reason. It felt a bit like survival food.  So I tried to make the tomato sauce more interesting by sauteeing onions and garlic in unsalted butter, hoping for some richness and body to the sauce.  Still, I ended up with a watery mess at the bottom of the pan. Thankfully, the jalapeno peppers added a nice heat and made it spicy enough that you forgot you were missing salt and the bonus dill I had growing in the garden gave it a more authentic, Eastern European feel.  On the whole, it wasn’t terrible. I wouldn’t serve it to guests, nor will it ever grace the pages of Gourmet Magazine, but it was hot, hearty and you didn’t feel guilty about heaping it on your plate.


Tomatoes Working Their Magic

100 Mile Diet – 100 Day Challenge

Recently, I’ve become more aware of the environmental impact my food choices are having. Most times, I choose price and quality over ethics and sustainability. When faced with an organic, fairly-traded pineapple for $6 vs a lovely looking $2 pineapple, you can guess which one I choose. Being part of multiple locavore, slow food movements and buying local groups have called  me to account for how my personal consumer habits are aiding in environmental destruction, loss of culturally unique food, unfair treatment of workers and pushing out smaller family-run farms in favour of huge corporation run farms.

While this is all stirring in my head, Food Network Canada wrapped up a series on the 100 Mile Diet. The two authors of the book, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon ( hosted a show about various families in Mission, B.C. who committed to eating locally for 100 days as part of the 100 Mile Challenge (  While my area of New Brunswick may not have the same amenities as Mission, British Columbia, it still has plenty of local food that will more than sustain me and my family.

So, I’m starting a challenge. Starting January 1st, 2011, my family and I will begin a 100 Day Challenge. I will already admit that I cannot adhere to it so strictly as to only eat locally for 100 Days, but my commitment is this:

75% is local

25% will be organized by: 1. Outside the local region, 2. Produced in Canada, 3. Produce in the US, 4. International

I’m pretty excited. In the few days of talking about it and chatting with my local health food store, I’ve realized how naive I was about my food that I thought could and should be local. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds? Product of China.  The local mill that boasts how it works with local farmers? Well, it depends on the local growing season. Most times, grain is imported from the West or South America, without mentioning this on it’s package. I will blog about it and invite you to join me and my family in embracing this challenge, at whatever percentage works for you. I have no doubt it will be eye opening.

Farmer’s Markets

Where else can you come home with an armload of cheery sunflowers, an exotic French pumpkin, an oblong container of fresh sushi, a button supporting your local political candidate and a take away container filled with the most aromatic Indian dishes?

I love my farmer’s market.

I love that I can find a variety of hand produced goods all in one place, but I especially love that you can talk with the vendors and discover their passion for food, crafts, charities, political involvment and more. Somehow paying double for organic, locally grown garlic isn’t so bad when you hear the difference in quality of local vs imported store bought, you learn great tips on storing garlic and interesting receipes. You see the passion on the farmer’s face as she talks about her garlic. While it may be a cliche, I get a warm feeling in supporting a farmer and knowing  I’m helping her continue what she loves to do.  If you love what you do, it shows and I can attest, these are very happy looking garlic bulbs!

Do these happy garlic bulbs make a difference in your dishes? Does buying locally produced products and goods really change your Tuesday night dinner? I believe they do. You treat those ingredients differently, you have respect for the ingredients or the product. You offer it to friends and family with a real sense of pride and satisfaction. There’s that cozy, earthy comfort that can only come when you know that you’re part of something grander than yourself, part of a system that’s allowing good things to continue, all with your purchase of locally grown and produced foods.

This was my last Saturday at the market for the summer. It’s been a joy to meet face-to-face with customers and share my passion for locally grown ingredients, swap gardening advice, share jam recipes or be delight in people sharing their stories of growing up in a canning household. It’s remarkable how the humble mason jar can evoke memories of love, warmth and togetherness. It’s been a joy to be part of that larger picture of supporting and being supported and having passion for your craft.

So, three cheers for local farmer’s market!