1

Ham & Cream Cheese Pinwheels with Chives

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These past few months have been transformative for me. I’ve learned so much, experienced even more and through it all, somehow managed to keep my cool (well, most of the time).

It’s been a while since I posted to this blog, and that’s not something I take lightly. Stuck in Thyme is in many ways my sanctuary, as much so as my kitchen or my bathtub on a rainy day. It’s my ‘Gilean’ space, but a busy semester at school, a crazy couple of months wedding planning and finding a healthy balance between work and relationship time meant that something had to be cleared from my plate for a while.

That being said, I’m back, and these months away have reinvigorated my excitement for creating recipes and sharing them with you. I recently completed two intense courses at chef school, and have gained a wealth of knowledge on how to maintain balance in my life through eating certain foods — something I intend on expanding on here in months to come.

In addition to my day job, I’ve also re-joined the team at Clean Eating magazine on a freelance basis, and I’ve even started developing a couple of recipes for them. My separation from Clean Eating last summer was an emotional one, and being able to contribute to the magazine’s pages again has been incredibly fulfilling and stretched my knowledge and love of food even more.

To say all of this has been easy, though, would not be entirely truthful. There have been some bumps, some stumbles and some minor (okay, sometimes major) meltdowns along the way. But through it all, I always come back to food. Sure, sometimes that can translate into shovelling a grilled cheese sandwich into my mouth in the wee hours of the night, but most of the time, it means stopping, breathing and remembering why I’m doing all of this.

Because for me, food isn’t about something you fry in a skillet or slice with a knife. It’s love, and expression. It’s a language you speak in, an artwork you share. It’s life.

It’s easy to get carried away in a sea of assignments and deadlines, to forget about the ‘why’ behind it when your brain is buzzing with a to-do list. But it’s been food that’s taken me to this exciting period in my life, and food that will carry me to the next stage.

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Ham & Cream Cheese Pinwheels with Chives
Serves 1.

This easy lunch takes less than 15 minutes to prep, and it sure beats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Feel free to experiment with your favourite deli meats and herbs. Roast beef and chopped rosemary would be lovely!

Ingredients:
½ 250-g brick cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp minced red bell pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh chives
1 whole-wheat tortilla
3 slices deli ham
2 leafs butter lettuce

Instructions:
1. In a small bowl, mix cream cheese, bell pepper and chives.

2. Spread cream cheese mixture over entire surface of tortilla. Arrange ham and lettuce in an even layer over top. Grab end closest to you and roll tortilla up into a tight cylinder. Wrap cylinder in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

3. Remove plastic wrap. With a sharp knife, slice cylinder into 1-inch rounds. (TIP: To ease slicing, mist knife with cooking spray.) Stack in a container and eat within 1 to 2 days.

Enjoy!

2

Creamy Buttermilk Ranch Macaroni Salad

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I’m just going to start off by saying that I am so not the kind of person who tries out for reality television.. I don’t even watch it!

Yet somewhere out in the ether of the internet, there exists a photo (or possibly several) of me standing amongst a frenzied crowd in downtown Toronto before the crack of dawn, surrounded by people yelling and shoving self-promoting signs at a panning camera lens (I was not, for the record, one of those people).

It all started with a nudge (okay, more like a heavy push) from a friend. Me? Masterchef? I would never do that. That’s just crazy.

But that is exactly why I did it. Because over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize that doing things just because they aren’t comfortable is not actually the way to be doing things at all. The quite opposite, in fact.

So I did it. I stayed up all night making a recipe that I thought completely encapsulated myself and my approach to food. I took my favourite summer dessert, strawberry shortcake, and made it tinier, healthier and infused with just the right amount of whimsy. Two-bite strawberry shortcake, I called it, before carefully stuffing them into containers, packing up my cooler and falling into bed just a few hours before I would be lining up outside for the auditions. (Don’t worry, that recipe will be popping up here soon!)

To cut to the chase, I didn’t make the cut. And to be completely, utterly honest, I’m not the least bit disappointed. The point of this crazy little adventure was not to get on television at all, but to prove to my reserved, humble little self that saying “no” to something simply by proxy of it being scary gets me absolutely nowhere, but wholeheartedly embracing the weird and wonderful opportunities that come my way will ultimately make me a happier person.

That’s what food is to me – a constant push and encouragement to be better, try harder and never doubt what I’m capable of. My relationship with food has taken me on an incredible journey – it’s shaped my career, my confidence and the way I see the day-to-day challenges. It’s made me lose my cool while [over]cooking 30 servings of basmati rice for a banquet class at George Brown, but it’s given me the gumption to stand in front of Masterchef judges and present them my dish without the slightest tingling of self-doubt.

Food is so much more than what you put on a plate three times a day. It’s a language, an expression of who you are and what you stand for, and it teaches you lessons about yourself you never thought possible from a simple bag of cornmeal or a bowl of icing.

Whether you’re crafting a simple grilled cheese sandwich or concocting a grand three-course meal, remember that every step you take in the kitchen is an expression of yourself. Make it count, take some risks and trust yourself. You never know where it will take you.

Macaroni Salad IngredientsCreamy Buttermilk Ranch Macaroni Salad
Serves 6 to 8.

This recipe is my own version of my mom’s classic summer go-to side dish. The creamy combination of Greek yogurt, sour cream and buttermilk give this simple ranch-style dressing just the right amount of tang.

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups elbow macaroni
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1 green or red apple, chopped
2 green onions, sliced

Buttermilk Ranch
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh chives, divided
1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool.

2. Meanwhile, prepare buttermilk ranch: In a blender, combine Greek yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, garlic, 1 tbsp chives and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth and well combined. Transfer to a bowl and fold in remaining 1/2 tbsp chives. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

3. In a large casserole dish, combine macaroni, carrots, bell peppers, cheddar and apple. Stir in buttermilk ranch until fully combined. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

4. To serve, garnish with green onions.

Enjoy!

1

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Toss with Crispy Garlic Chips

tomato saladI want you to reframe the way you think about cooking.

Ditch the recipe, hide your cookbooks and put away that smart phone. Hit up your local market and gravitate toward the brightest, freshest ingredients you can find. Then go home and own – really, truly own – your kitchen.

Too often we feel lost in our kitchens – like we need a guidebook or action plan to do what is at its core a very simple task. We dread the moment we enter our kitchens, and are easily tempted by the can of Campbell’s that’s been lurking in our cupboard since God-knows-when.

But what I love about cooking is the control. I really, truly crave control. And too often in our lives, we aren’t at the helm, but rather following someone else’s idea of what we should be doing and how.

So when you get in your kitchen tonight, don’t let someone else dictate how you chop your garlic or whether you sauté chicken or shrimp. Do it your way, have fun and don’t be afraid to fail.

This super simple toss happened one night when I had a plethora of tomatoes kicking around the fridge and was craving soft mozzarella in a really passionate kind of way. I added basil and deep-fried garlic because, well, they’re delicious, but you should try adding your own mix-ins depending on your tastes. Chopped watermelon would be divinely refreshing, feta or goat cheese are always delicious, and mint is a nice, light topper too.

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Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Toss with Crispy Garlic Chips
Serves 3 to 4.

Whip up this five-minute dish for a light lunch or summery side. The quickly caramelized garlic chips add sweetness, plus they infuse heart-healthy olive oil with irresistible flavour for a hassle-free dressing.

INGREDIENTS:

3 tbsp olive oil
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 180-g tub buffalo mozzarella, drained and cheese torn into chunks
1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a small skillet, heat oil on medium. Add garlic and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until garlic is golden and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. (TIP: Garlic should be completely submerged in oil, so you may need to use more oil depending on the size of your skillet to ensure garlic is covered.)

2. In a large bowl, toss tomatoes and mozzarella. Add garlic and oil from skillet and toss to coat. Garnish with basil.

Enjoy!

10

Beef Tenderloin with Raspberry Wine Sauce and Blue Cheese

beef tenderloin

Sometimes you just need to feel the weight of a rock beneath your feet, the chill of a river’s rush lapping at your toes and the calming peace of being completely alone.

It’s in those moments that you truly find yourself, ground yourself. The minute details that cloud your mind daily start to fade, and you realize that life really is just about putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of what obstructs your path.

Last week was not a good week for me – my company closed its doors, leaving myself and 60 of my colleagues and friends out of jobs. It was heartbreaking, saying goodbye to the magazine I’ve loved and cared for over the past two and a half years.

The truth is, my job had become my identity – and from it, I reaped my sense of worth. I came to respect myself and know myself as the associate editor of Clean Eating Magazine, rather than the person I’ve been all along.

So last week, when for the first time in – well, forever – that I woke up without a plan, a schedule of events or miles-long to-do list, I was lost. I floundered, cleaned the heck out of my apartment and spent a lot of quality time catching up on my Facebook feed. I got angry and sad and frustrated. I cried and ate far too many granola bars. I mourned.

But this week is about letting go. I’m spending time by the river, dipping my toes in the stream. I’m picking strawberries with friends and testing out the recipes I’ve been dreaming of but never had time to actually make. I’m just being with myself, learning about myself and appreciating who I am and all that I have.

I’m grateful for my time with Clean Eating – the friends I’ve made, the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve developed. When I moved to Toronto to take this job, my team in many ways became my family, and the doors of Robert Kennedy Publishing became a sanctuary from the homesickness and loneliness that accompanied leaving my friends and family behind.

And while I’m sad to see this chapter of my life close, I’m finally ready to look forward, to embrace this next challenge and spend a little more time with my toes in the water, learning about myself.

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Beef Tenderloin with Raspberry Wine Sauce and Blue Cheese
Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS
:
1 tbsp butter
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup beef broth
1 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, plus additional to taste
1 tbsp olive oil
4 beef tenderloin medallions (5 to 7 ounces each)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup fresh raspberries

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a medium or large skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add shallot and sauté, stirring often, until beginning to brown. Add wine, broth and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until liquid reduces by two-thirds, 25 to 30 minutes.

2. Season beef with salt and pepper. In a separate large skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add beef, leaving at least 1 inch between each medallion, and cook, turning once, until reached desired doneness. Remove from skillet and tent with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes.

3. Season wine mixture with salt and pepper. Stir in raspberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries begin to break down.

4. Divide beef among serving plates and top with wine mixture and blue cheese.

Enjoy!

2

Glowing Grain Salad with Dreamy Avocado Dressing

Glowing Grain Salad

Today I just cooked.

I didn’t worry about the rent, or my overdue Visa payment, or the ants that are taking over my bathroom.

I didn’t stress over my job or my career path or why my boyfriend hasn’t proposed yet.

I didn’t even consider whether I’ll have time to have babies before my ovaries start shriveling or how the hell I’m ever going to be able to buy a decent home, or whether I should pack it all up and move back East to be a pharmacist or a barista or something.

There was none of that. There was just me, my knife and my stove.

I was in control, a feeling I can’t say I’ve experienced for quite some time now. For the past few months, I’ve been more or less rudderless and confused, struggling to figure out exactly what happened to me and how I get out.

My plans backfired. I’d done everything right – worked my way to the top of the class, elbowed into my dream job and had, as far as I was concerned, “made it.”

But they don’t teach you in journalism school how to look your colleagues in the eye as they’re walked out the door. They don’t prepare you for the reality of surpluses and restructuring or whatever other buzzword flies around when an industry is on the edge of collapse.

What I did today was cook – because at the end of the day, that is all I can do. I put my knife in my right hand and a sweet potato in the other and I just chop. I slice away my anxiety and worry and frustration and tears and I make food that nourishes me, soothes me. I take control of my kitchen and I make something beautiful.

This salad is my latest obsession. Bursting with fresh seasonal produce, hearty barley and topped with a creamy avocado and lime yogurt dressing, it transcends salad territory, edging its way into summer comfort food.

Asparagus

Glowing Grain Salad with Dreamy Avocado Dressing
Makes 5 servings.

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 cups pearl barley, rinsed
2 tsp olive oil
2 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch lengths
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula or spinach
1 pear, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Dressing
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup plain 1% yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In a large saucepan, add barley and enough water to cover by 1-inch. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat oil on medium. Add chicken and cook, turning once, until golden and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and use 2 forks to shred chicken into bite-size pieces.

3. Fill a pot with 1-inch water and fit with a steamer basket. Bring water to a simmer and add asparagus to basket. Cook until tender-crisp, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of ice water until cool, then drain and set aside.

4. Prepare dressing: In a blender, combine avocado, yogurt, lime, salt and 1/2 cup water. Blend until smooth, adding additional water as needed to reach desired consistency. Season with additional salt and lime juice, to taste.

5. In a large bowl, combine barley, chicken, asparagus, arugula and pear. Toss to combine. Divide among serving bowls and garnish with cranberries. Serve with a dollop of dressing.

Enjoy!

2

Healthy Granola, Three Ways

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So what’s your excuse?

We all have them – these everyday annoyances we tell ourselves are more important than what we should actually be doing.

I’m not talking about housework or taking the dog for a walk – I mean the things we really want and should be doing, but foolishly let life get in the way of, like switching careers or leaving a bad relationship or, say, writing this blog post right now.

Maybe it’s a financial excuse (who can afford to go back to school?) or a time excuse (who’s got time to be single?), but ultimately it all comes down to fear and frustration.

I’m afraid that people won’t read what I write or that what I do write won’t live up to what I wrote last time. I’m frustrated that what I love to do – tell stories – is going out of style in favour of shorter, punchier news bits that require little time or knowledge to read and understand.

And then come the excuses – the floor needs vacuumed, the tub needs scrubbed, dinner needs made, dishes need washed, lunch needs to be packed – and before I know it, it’s bedtime and I haven’t written so much as a word.

It should come easy. I spent four years in school learning to write and I’ve got five years’ experience writing for newspapers and magazines, yet somehow it’s so much easier for me to sit down at work and pump out 400 words on a musician or an entire column on pomegranates than it is for me to sit down and write for myself, which is, after all, what I spend all this time wanting to do.

At first I thought it was just writer’s block and that the dread that comes with staring at an empty page was just an unfortunate side effect of what I do. But upon closer inspection, I saw glaring examples of people around me letting the small stuff get in the way of their goals, too.

I see people staying in relationships because they’re scared of being single, or sticking it out at dead-end jobs because the idea of pushing themselves into something else seems like too much work. Or there’s my boyfriend, TJ, who insists that he needs to amass every possible piece of camera and lighting equipment before he can even power on his video camera to make a simple video.

It’s fear, yes, but there’s a comfort in sticking with what you know, even if it makes you terribly unhappy. Think back to the proudest moment of your life – chances are it didn’t happen because you stayed in your comfort zone.

So how do I get out of this funk? How do I get back to actually enjoying writing again and seeing it as a joy rather than a chore? I guess, like everything, I just have to do it, get it over with and then hope to God it gets easier the next time.

When I made these three low-sugar and low-fat granola recipes over a month ago (yep, it’s been that long), my boyfriend was openly skeptical. He took a bag to work out of desperation one morning when he didn’t have time to have breakfast, and halfway through the day, I got a text that read, simply, “make more.” The Pear & Walnut has become a favourite in our house, but I also like experimenting with whatever kind of dried fruit I can get my hands on at the bulk store – dried bananas, peaches, figs and mango are all great options.

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Pear & Walnut Granola
Makes 3 to 4 cups.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped dried pears
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/4 cup pepitas (aka shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup plus 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, pears, walnuts and pepitas. In a small bowl, whisk maple syrup, oil and salt. Drizzle over oat mixture and stir to coat.
3. Spread mixture on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until oats are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container or bag for up to a week.

Apple Pie Granola
Makes about 3 cups.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped dried apples
1/2 cup sliced almonds or walnut pieces
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 tsp honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, apples, almonds, sugar and cinnamon. In a small bowl, whisk honey, vanilla and salt. Drizzle over oat mixture and stir to coat.
3. Spread mixture on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until oats are golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Stir in cranberries. Store in an airtight container or bag for up to a week.

Coconut Papaya Granola
Makes about 3 cups.

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped dried papaya
1/2 cup shredded dried coconut
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 325˚F.
2. In a large bowl, mix oats, papaya and coconut. In a small bowl, whisk honey, maple syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Drizzle over oat mixture and stir to coat.
3. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring every 5 minutes, until oats are golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container or bag for up to a week.

Enjoy!

1

Kale, Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup with White Beans

soup final

There are foods that sustain you, satiate and fulfill you. They can be delicious, hearty and satisfying – for some, it might be a creamy bowl of luscious pasta.

For me, it’s soup – soup tends to live in that same place in my heart as my Granny’s apple pie or my dad’s phenomenal weekend coffee. It’s not necessarily perfectly seasoned or cooked just right, but it soothes, comforts and ails in a way that makes everything seem alright, if even just for a spoonful.

It starts with the prep – I find comfort in the simple sautéeing of my favourite vegetables, followed by a quick deglaze with broth and some seasoning to hit that fine balance between salty and savory, hearty and slurp-worthy. Soup doesn’t ask for much; a quick simmer will do.

And then there’s that moment, that perfect second when your brimming ladle hits the bowl, offering up chunks of tender veggies, melt-in-your-mouth meat and full-bodied broth. It makes you wonder why you ever bother trying to make anything else, because this right here, this is the crescendo of comfort food.

I like this soup for its simplicity, but also for its use of seasonal ingredients in this blustery time of year. Kale and sweet potatoes are unbelievably bitter and sweet (and inexpensive!) during the winter months, and they really steal the show for vibrancy and flavour.

To round out this soup, I opted for simple ingredients I already had in my kitchen – sausage for oomph, mushrooms for flavour and white beans for extra creamy texture. You can go ahead and switch up the add-ins depending on what you have on hand, or you can make it vegetarian and double up on beans for extra filling protein and fiber. A curl of Parmesan is great as an indulgent garnish, but make it your own by playing around.

prep
Kale, Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup with White Beans
Serves 4 to 5.

To dress up this simple soup, serve with crusty bread and fresh Parmesan.

INGREDIENTS:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
500 g uncooked mild sausage, casings removed and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 cup sliced brown cremini mushrooms
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cups chicken broth
3 to 4 cups chopped kale, stems and tough ribs removed
1 19-oz can white kidney or navy beans, drained and rinsed
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat oil on medium. Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 more minute.

2. Add sausage and sauté until browned. Stir in mushrooms and potatoes and sauté until mushrooms soften, about 4 minutes.

3. Add broth and 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir in kale and beans and cook for 3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

1

Spiced Pickled Beets

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My mom says I’m an old soul. My friends say I’m an 80 year-old, trapped in a 24 year-old’s body. Personally, I think I’m just kind of boring.

I’ve never really liked parties. I refuse to jaywalk because I think it sets a bad example for little kids. My favourite clothes usually involve stretchy waistbands. I’ll take Cary Grant over Channing Tatum any day. And I own an inordinate amount of mason jars.

So yeah, I’m basically an 80-year-old. And did I mention that I pickle?

In my defense, pickling is, at least in my opinion, quite “in” right now. We’re getting back to our grandmother’s way of doing things, in reaction to the now-obvious negative effects of chemical preservatives. Plus, it just tastes so good! Seriously, have you ever had store-bought pickled beets? Gross. But home-pickled beets, well, they are simply amazing.

In my mind, pickled beets are synonymous with my grandmother’s cooking. Her cramped little kitchen must have reeked of vinegar for the entire months of September and October, because the rate that she pumped out pickled beets was truly extraordinary.

She had cupboards of them, which she would inevitably open up every December to select a jar suitable for my family’s Christmas dinner. Her beets were always the perfect balance of sweet and tart, earthy and punchy, with minimal aftertaste. She cornered the market on the perfect beet.

These beets are based on one of her original recipes, so they share that punchy-earthy flavour combination. But for my beets, I wanted to incorporate some exotic, warm spices into the mix, so I prepared the brine with some whole cinnamon, cloves and star anise, which gives it a really nice licorice taste. This warm blend of spices lends a Christmasy feel to them, making them a great gift idea for the holidays.

spices prep

Spiced Pickled Beets
Makes 7 500-ml jars.

TOOLS:

-Home canning kit (I got this one at Canadian Tire for $50. It has everything you need to get started, and has more than paid for itself with all the money I’ve saved in giving away jam and beets as Christmas gifts!)
-7 500-ml glass mason jars and lids, sanitized
-Large stockpot
-Measuring cups and spoons

INGREDIENTS:

2 lb to 3 lb beets
9 cups white pickling vinegar
6 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup kosher salt
8 to 9 whole star anise
2 sticks cinnamon
2 1/2 to 3 tbsp whole cloves

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. In a large pot, boil beets until just fork-tender, about 30 minutes; do not over-boil. Drain, trim ends and peel away skin. Chop into desired size chunks (quartered or into 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes).

2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, combine vinegar, sugar, salt, star anise, cinnamon, cloves and 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

3. Divide beets among jars. Pour vinegar mixture into jars, filling within 1/4 inch of rims. (NOTE: You may have some left over.) Remove air bubbles with a non-metallic wand and wipe rims with a clean dish cloth. Seal and place in canner with boiling water for 30 minutes. Carefully remove from canner and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours; seals will pop down during this time. If seals of any jars do not pop down, simply consume those beets within 3 to 4 days. Beets are best served cold.

Enjoy!

3

Vanilla Peach Scones

I can’t remember exactly what was going through my mind when I clicked the “register” button on my computer’s screen.

Some combination of excitement, nervousness and sheer, unadulterated fear, no doubt.

I felt that same frenzied conglomeration of emotion welling up in my throat yesterday afternoon, as I carefully fastened the last button on my newly acquired chef’s jacket, my fingers trembling with trepidation.

I didn’t know what to expect when my eyes met in the mirror – to be honest, I thought I’d look like a phony playing dress-up.

Except as I stepped back and took a full stare at myself, from the crisp white jacket to my carefully tied-back mop of hair, I felt something a little different. I felt like me.

In two weeks, I start my chef training certificate, a two-year program I’ll take on evenings and weekends between work. It’s expensive, time-consuming and in a terribly inconvenient location, but I don’t care. Because at the end of it, I get to be a chef.

It’s been two years since the idea first popped into my head – in fact, just as I’d filled out my application to Prince Edward Island’s Culinary Institute of Canada, I was offered my job here in Toronto. Needless to say, my application was tossed in the garbage bin as I packed for the move.

I thought that working for a food magazine would settle my desire to go to chef school, but if anything, it made it stronger. My passion for food developed into full-on obsession, and I’ve been rolling up my sleeves to develop recipes in my own kitchen ever since.

I wish I could say that I have some sort of plan – that after graduating, I want to work for a bakeshop and bake cupcakes all day, but there’s no such thing. Maybe I will decide that cooking is what I’m meant to do, maybe I’ll hate it. Maybe I’ll just be a better home cook, or maybe I’ll turn out to be a real culinary genius. Either way, I owe it to myself to give this a shot, to open myself up to failure and accept that I have a whole lot left to learn.

This recipe is the result of some over-zealous grocery shopping – I spotted a sale on fresh Ontario peaches and stocked up, not realizing that my boyfriend hates the stone-fruit, leaving me to devour all four pounds of peaches before they start to get mushy. So, armed with a basket of the yellow fruit and a pantry full of baking goodies, I set out to make the best peach scone I’ve ever had. With speckles of vanilla bean, flaky pastry and chunks of juicy peaches, these scones are just that. And with whole-wheat flour, a sprinkling of flaxseeds and very little sugar, they’re a perfect healthy start to my day.



Vanilla Peach Scones
Makes 6 scones.

The trick to baking with peaches is to blanche them first – this allows you to peel away the skin, revealing supple, juicy flesh ready to stir into your favorite pancakes, muffins or scones!

INGREDIENTS:

1 large peach (or 2 small peaches)
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp ground flaxseeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
3/4 cup half-n-half
1 tsp almond extract
1 vanilla bean pod (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Slivered almonds, for garnish

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and arrange near stovetop.

2. Turn peach upside-down and cut a shallow ‘x’ mark into bottom of skin; do not puncture flesh. Add peach to pot and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Carefully remove from pot and immediately transfer to ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel peach by lifting skin by the ‘x’ mark. Dice peach and set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, flaxseeds and salt. With the large holes of a box grater, grate butter into flour mixture, occasionally tossing flour over shards of butter. With your fingers, work butter into flour mixture by rubbing together until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add peach and toss gently to coat.

4. Split vanilla bean and run the tip of your knife through center to extract beans. In a small bowl, whisk half-n-half, almond extract and vanilla beans. Form a well in center of flour mixture and add half-n-half mixture to well. With a rubber spatula, gently mix until just combined.

5. Lightly dust a cutting board with flour. Turn dough out onto flour and gently form into a ball. (TIP: Do not knead or overmix; the key to flaky scones is to work the dough as little as possible). Flatten ball into a 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick circle. Cut into six equal pieces.

6. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush each with egg. Top with almonds and bake in center of oven for 16 to 18 minutes, until golden. Let cool on sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Enjoy!

1

Creamy Potato & Ham Soup

It’s been almost a year since I moved away from the East Coast to Toronto – a year that has been by far my most difficult, stressful and terrifying, but at the same time incredibly satisfying.

I’ve had a hard time remembering what my life was like before the move – from the layout of my third-floor Fredericton apartment to the events of the days leading up to the moment where I packed my life in a silver Honda Civic and left everything I knew behind.

I think part of me had blocked it out, to protect myself from getting homesick or feeling out of place in my new home. But lately, as the one year anniversary of my move approaches, snippets of my old life keep creeping in.

It happens unexpectedly, when I’m least prepared. Today it was the smell of an old sweater I hadn’t worn or washed since I moved, still carrying the floral scent of the dryer sheets I used to use.

Yesterday it was the aromatic chance encounter of fresh-squeezed orange juice and fresh-made French bread – a heavenly pairing that will always make me think of the farmers’ market down the street from my old apartment.

Once it was a whiff of incense and the distinctive twist of a muscle that, when I closed my eyes, made me swear I was back in my old yoga studio on Fredericton’s sleepy Queen Street.

As I let these memories trickle their way into my consciousness, other things are edging their way back. I can finally remember the drive my mom and I made to move me to Ontario last March, which up until now was just a blur of random gas stations and candy wrappers. I can remember my first week at my new job – the heavy feeling in my stomach of both excitement and fear. And just this afternoon, I was able to fully recollect that moment after the taxi came to collect my mom, leaving me to walk back alone to the strange apartment that was to be my home.

It worried me when these memories first started coming back. I was afraid that it meant I was getting homesick or unhappy. But ultimately, I think somehow I’ve finally come to realize that my memories are not a series of unconnected dots to be filed away by year and forgotten, but rather a timeline of who I am and how I came to be here. These memories are something I should appreciate, because I owe them who I am today.

I decided to make a good, traditional East Coast potato soup after spotting a bag of PEI potatoes at the grocery store last week. I took them home, quickly released them from the familiar Cavendish logo bag, and took a good whiff. You might think all dirt smells the same, but I swear the minute those spuds hit my nose, I was home.

Creamy Potato & Ham Soup
Serves 6.

Tools

Large stockpot
Cutting board
Chef’s knife
Wooden spoon
Measuring cups and spoons
Slotted spoon
Blender
Small bowl

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 lb cooked ham, chopped
5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
6 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup table cream (18%), divided
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Shredded cheddar cheese for garnish, as desired
Chopped green onions for garnish, as desired

Instructions


1. In a large stockpot, heat oil on medium. Add garlic and onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until softened and onion turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.

2. Add ham and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until any liquid released from ham is absorbed. Stir in 5 cups broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Add potatoes, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

3. With a slotted spoon, remove 2 cups potatoes and transfer to a blender. Add 1/2 cup cream to blender and blend until smooth; mixture should be very thick and creamy. Scoop mixture into a small bowl and set aside. With slotted spoon, remove remaining potatoes from pot and transfer to blender. (TIP: If you want a chunkier soup, leave a cup or two of cubed potatoes in pot.) Add remaining 1/2 cup cream and blend until smooth.

4. Reduce heat to low, return all blended potatoes to pot and stir well to combine. Add remaining 1/2 cup broth and milk to reach desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and cook (do not simmer or boil) until heated through. Top each serving with cheese and green onions, as desired.

Enjoy!