Category Archives: RECIPES

Simple scratch recipes from our kitchen. Learning how to cook is key to finding independence from the corporate food system.

homemade mayo : purging the pantry of GMOs

homemade mayonnaise

Not the most glamourous picture, I admit. But it was my first batch, and I was proud.

I can’t believe I’ve never made mayo before.

Eggs from the garden, organic olive and canola oil, organic mustard, lemon juice and some sea salt. Nothing freaky-deaky. Barely more than two seconds in a mason jar with the immersion blender and La-DEE-Da. Mayo. Magic.

No matter that Hellman’s says they’re on a campaign for “Real Food”, I’m not buying it. Canola and soy are two common oils used by Hellman’s, and they’re also the two most common GMO crops out there. It’s not organic and it doesn’t bear a “GMO Free” label, so it’s time to go Hellman’s. Buh-bye.

Homemade mayo may seem a bit over the top to some, but to me, it’s one small and steady step towards food-freedom. A palaver? Maybe. Maybe the seeds of revolution spread between slices of bread. You choose.

Homemade Mayo Recipe

  • 1 egg yolk – fresh, pastured, organic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup organic olive oil
  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Pour everything into a mason jar.
  2. Let it settle briefly.
  3. Put your immersion blender in the bottom of the jar and whir.
  4. As you see the mayo start to form, slowly move the blender up and down. It will be super thick and should take not much more than 30 seconds.

Yield : Just over one cup. Keep refrigerated. It will keep for about a week.

Feel free to use different oils. I personally like the rich flavour of olive oil but you might not. You can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice. Have fun, experiment. Add pureed chipotle peppers, garlic, herbs, whatever floats your boat.

a minor case of kombucha addiction

homemade kombucha

So it’s official. I have a kombucha addiction. Actually, not just me. My whole family!

Kombucha is a raw fermented tea full of probiotics. Just like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sour dough, sauerkraut and other fermented foods, kombucha is a living food that can help us replenish and maintain a healthy gut microflora.

Most of the food we eat in our modern diet is dead as a doornail, fitting our obsession with hygiene and hyper-vigilance when it comes to pasteurization. Although pasteurization has made a lot of our food safer to eat, it has also made it a heck of a lot less nutritious. Turns out being overly anal about having a sanitized environment can actually have the reverse effect we’re looking for. Our guts are paying for it and we’re seeing more allergies and other auto-immune diseases that might not be there if we recognized the importance of bacteria in our overall health and wellbeing.

Michael Pollan’s lastest book, Cooked, has a great section on fermentation and gets into some pretty amazing details regarding the latest research on the role of bacteria and fermented foods in the human body.

To me, the whole hygiene-hypothisis makes sense, but then even if it didn’t – I live on a farm with lots of poop, organic soil, animals and all that. I couldn’t keep my 2 year old “sanitized” if my life depended on it.

So anyway, I’d read about kombucha and have started seeing it more and more in the health food store, but frankly I figured anything that’s supposedly that good for you couldn’t possibly taste nice. I mean, seriously.

We went to Salt Spring Island recently, and lo and behold there was a gal selling homemade kombucha at the farmer’s market. She was giving out free samples. We tried it and . . . everyone loved it! It was tart and fizzy and completely refreshing. We bought a bottle to enjoy right there and then and I also got a mother (SCOBY : Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) off her so I could try to make some at home.

I admit, I was a bit freaked out to make it. The SCOBY was creepy looking, ok, not creepy – downright gross. Slimy and just – yuck. But I checked out The Kombucha Mama’s site, steeled my resolve, and jumped in.

It was easy! It takes next to no time to actually put it together; most of the time involved is just allowing it to loll about on your counter and being patient!

Kombucha Tea Recipe

Yield : One Gallon

You will need:

  • a one gallon container, preferably glass, do not use metal
  • a piece of cotton big enough to cover the opening of your container (I use a cotton tea towel. Don’t use cheesecloth; the fruit flies will get in.)
  • an elastic band or long length of string to secure your cloth tightly over the mouth of your container
  • a wooden spoon / ladle
  • a measuring cup
  • a funnel
  • bottles or mason jars – I like using my hubby’s grolsh beer bottles with the reusable flip-top cap

Ingredients for primary ferment

  • 4 to 6 teabags : Use black, green, white or oolong. Do not use decaf or herbal tea. (I use two black tea, two green)
  • a SCOBY + one cup of unflavoured finished kombucha (you can get these from a friend or order them online)
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar, preferably raw and organic. Honey is not recommended because of it’s antimicrobial properties.
  1. Brew your tea with the 4 cups boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in your sugar until it dissolves.
  3. Fill up container until it is 3/4 of the way full with cold, un-chlorinated water.
  4. When the brewed tea is cool, add your SCOBY and cup of finished kombucha.
  5. Cover the mouth of the container tightly with your cloth, and put it your brew someplace out of direct sunlight, but with good air circulation.
  6. Wait 5 to 7 days. At this time, slip a straw under your SCOBY and taste your brew. Too sweet? Let it go a little longer. Too tart? Next time shorten your fermentation time. It has been hot here lately, and I’m finding 5 to 7 days is plenty for a nice tart brew. It’s totally normal tho to take between 7 and 14 days.

Note: The tea should taste light, tart and have a vague apple-cider vinegar air to it. The SCOBY should not have any black spots, mold or smell “off”. If you’re not sure what it should look like, I strongly recommend visiting www.kombuchakamp.com. The Kombucha Mama is the online authority on all things kombucha and has some helpful photos of what a SCOBY should and shouldn’t look like. If in doubt THROW IT OUT.

Secondary Ferment

This for me is the fun part.

Once your kombucha is brewed, you can decant it into containers and flavour it if you like. This will make it fizzy and flavourful, and you can also use this as an opportunity to add therapeutic foods like ginger for example.

Now The Kombucha Mama suggests starting with as little as 1/4 teaspoon of flavouring per 16 oz bottle of brew. Personally, I’m finding that I prefer way more than that. I’ve been experimenting with fruit so far, and in one grolsh beer bottle find that 6 to 8 raspberries gives me a sweet / tart, vibrant pink kombucha that I can’t get enough of.

Method:

  1. With clean hands, remove your SCOBY from your main vessel and set it aside in a clean container with 1 cup of reserved tea.
  2. Line up your clean bottles and pop in whatever flavouring you like. (See ideas below.)
  3. Decant tea into bottles and seal.
  4. Leave on your counter for 24-48 hours, “burping” each day to make sure they don’t explode. (This hasn’t happened to me – yet – but I have had some VERY fizzy bottles.)
  5. Once your brew is to your desired level of fizziness, pop it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.
  6. That’s it! Enjoy over ice, with juice, booze, whatever!

Kombucha Flavouring ideas

Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, strawberry / ginger, pureed mango, ginger, herbal tea, mint, lavender, sour cherries . . .

That’s what we’ve tried so far – what are your favourite flavours?

Some Common-Sense:

Kombucha is a raw, living food. I’m 6 months pregnant and am drinking it and feed it to my family, including my 2 year old son, but you should consult a health professional if you have any concerns or questions before consuming raw foods. I am not a doctor and don’t make any health claims regarding the health benefits of kombucha.

There is very little research out there to support the health claims made by proponents of kombucha, but there’s also very little money to be made by drug companies from foods that improve our health and well-being, so take from that what you will. It is believed that kombucha has been around for approximately 2000 years.

All I can tell you is both my hubby and I have both noticed markedly improved digestion almost immediately upon introducing kombucha to our diet. And it tastes nice!

homemade whole wheat waffles recipe

homemade whole wheat waffles

In our house, when we want a treat for breaky, something more elevated than pancakes, less pedestrian than scrambled eggs or oats, waffles take the stage.

Waffles take a bit more effort than homemade pancakes, and if you’re like me and only have a single waffle maker, they’ll take a bit more time. However, they are light and airy and crunchy and just generally wonderful and well worth the effort. They are also easily frozen and can be toasted up later for a quick, fancy-pants breaky on the fly.

Whole-Wheat Waffles from Scratch

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roasted yam perogies

roasted yam perogies recipe

I am a pierogi junky. I can’t get enough. I would eat pierogies every day if I thought I could get away with it. Maybe it’s that trace of Eastern European blood . . .

You might be tempted to ask – Why in the world would I bother to make pierogies from scratch when I can buy them so cheap at the market???

Just wait. You’ll see.

This recipe is adapted from my most-loved cookbook Rebar Modern Food. You can (and should – unless you have help) make the filling the day before and refrigerate it.

Roasted Yam Pierogi Recipe

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homemade apple pie

What to do with a farm full of overflowing apple trees?

Why pie, of course.

I haven’t baked a pie in dogs years.

Frankly, I’ve always kind of sucked at pastry. I’ve always been more of a rustic-crumble kind of girl. But since I met my husband and was kindly allowed access to his Mum’s pastry recipe, my baking life has changed.

No, you can’t have it. Sorry. Family secret. I’d like to stay married.

homemade apple pie recipe

Homemade Apple Pie Recipe

  • 1 two-crust pie pastry recipe
  • 3 to 4 cups sliced apples (something tart that will hold its shape)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (less if your apples are sweeter)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 4 tbsp of soft butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 shot of spicy whisky – I used Spicebox
  • raw sugar, for dusting (optional)

Pies are kind of like pizza. Even when they’re not awesome, they’re still pretty good, and once you learn the basics you can run with it from there. Experiment with fruit, spices, booze, juice . . . I like mixed berries with mint and lime in the summertime.

Just remember the juicier the fruit, the more flour (or cornstarch if you prefer) you’ll need.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix everything from apples to nutmeg in a big bowl.
  3. Prepare your pie crust and line your pie pan.
  4. Paint the bottom of your pie crust with the egg wash. This will help seal all the juices in your pie and keep your bottom crust from being a soggy mess.
  5. Tumble your apple mixture into your pie crust.
  6. Sprinkle the whisky over the top and dot the top with butter.
  7. Put your top crust on and paint with milk or egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar if you’re so inclined.
  8. Baked at 400 for twenty minutes then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for about 40 minutes more.
  9. Cool on the stove and watch your crew come running to the smell!

blackberries + sugar

old fashioned blackberry preserve recipe

Making long-boil old-fashioned blackberry preserves. Three ingredients:

Blackberries, Sugar and Time.

It’s long boil, so I have time to think. Stirring and thinking. Thinking and stirring. Sipping tea.

Thinking about those two ingredients and how each one is intimately linked to a very different food system than the other.

I thought about using honey instead of the white death. Had it in my hand at Famous Foods this morning. But I couldn’t do it. 28 dollars.

My house still hasn’t sold and this in-between-uncomfortableness has made my budget like all my pre-pregancy clothes : So tight it borders on vulgar. Let’s not even talk about my jeans. Let’s just say I wear a lot of yoga pants. Thank god I live in Vancouver where wearing yoga pants outside of yoga classes is socially acceptable.

Maybe if I ate less jam . . .

I got a screaming deal on a huge bag of sugar way back at the beginning of canning season. Pretty much the only thing I use it for anymore, thank goodness.

It is part of the problem of local eating, eating better in general. Yes, I can stretch my food budget, but sometimes, there’s something in me that just doesn’t allow me to justify spending nearly $30 on what will end up being four or five jars of jam. That’s absurd.

(I’m pretty sure the answer is going to be keeping bees, but that is a whole other problem altogether.)

Did I mention this is my first go at a long-boil jam? When they say long, they mean looong. 15 minutes my ass.

We know we shouldn’t eat white sugar. And it seems kind of sacrilege to put white sugar with these gorgeous wild blackberries.

These blackberries grew by the roadside in my son’s favourite park of their own accord. They demanded no attention, no tending, no encouragement of self-esteem. They provide hearth and home for countless song birds and furry animals and hold the soil steadfast on the slopes of our neighbourhood ravine.

They ask for nothing in return, and will take over completely if you let them. There are worse things that could happen.

They have more patience than I have . . . gel stage, where are you?

The sugar on the other hand. . . I have no idea where it is from, or how it was grown or even what crop it was derived from. I think most North American sugar is from sugar beets?? Anyone?

Starting to wonder if this mysterious gel stage even exists. I am doing a good job of making a mess of my stove, that’s for sure. This is one of those recipes where if I called home to Gramma she’d just tell me,

Oh, you know, dear. Just cook it till it’s done.

Right.

This push and pull between blackberries and sugar pretty much sums up my entire food-life.

I want to do better, believe most of us can do better, know for certain many of us (corporations and governments included) can and SHOULD do much, much better.

But there are always limits to our love.

Although I live in a world of momentarily limitless blackberries, I do not live in a world of limitless funds.

How do we balance our ideals, our goals, our dreams with our realities? With the red and black of our bottom line? Our access, or in-access, for a plethora of reasons, to food that is good, clean and fair?

Do we do our best? Say, as much as we can as often as we can? Do we say – here I will compromise, there I won’t?

Does it matter?

This stupid book I’m reading right now says that us zany locovore / slow food / organic / natural / bio-dynamic etc. etc. folks are using arbitrary food rules as a means of filling the vacuum left by religion. That all these self-imposed rules and difficulty and challenges and exclusivity are just the manifestation of some innate yearning for structure and order and really mean nothing in and of themselves.

It would help if I read the instructions properly. I totally skipped a step in my test. My sheet-testing skills need some brushing up. I gave up and jarred my jam. Bugger it. It tastes lovely.

Maybe we are a bunch of religious-zealots in denial. I don’t know if I care anymore.

I’m going to do my best to eat by my heart and my conscience and leave it at that. As my mother says,

It’s good enough for the guys I go out with.

(Please don’t ask me why she says that. I have no idea. She’s always said that for good enough is good enough. And now I say it too. So it goes.)

Here’s the recipe for the blackberry preservesI made, Gramma-style.

Homemade Old-Fashioned Blackberry Preserves

  • 12 cups blackberries
  • 6 cups sugar
  1. Mix sugar and blackberries together in the pot you are going to cook them in.
  2. Let them sit for about 10 minutes while the berries release their juice.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.
  4. Cook it till it’s done.
  5. Jar.

I’m going to eat mine with yogurt right now . . .

eat better for less : part two

Here’s part two of how to eat well on a dime.

If you didn’t see it, here’s part one of how to eat better for less.

7. Join a CSA

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

In a CSA you pre-pay at the beginning of the season for a share of the harvest throughout the growing season. By paying ahead you provide the farmer with income at a time when she might have to otherwise borrow money. Any added security we can provide our farmer is good for us and good for the resiliency of our local foodshed.

Some CSA’s only run during the spring through early fall, but it’s increasingly possible to find winter CSA’s as well. Depending on the farm, you might enjoy a variety of fresh veggies and even eggs, cheese, milk, meat, honey and preserves.

There are lots of benefits of CSA’s – you get to support the farmer directly, which usually means more of your dollar ends up in her pocket. Always a good thing. I’ve even heard of farms offering discounts if you volunteer to lend a hand during busy times. You’ll eat great, save a ton of cash and learn some new skills while getting to know your food and your farmer.

Here in Vancouver, we even have a CSAs from urban farms! How cool is that? Urban Digs Farm is one example of creative, industrious folks building food security right here in the city.

If you’re  not already eating a ton of veggies, your CSA box will probably reveal some weird and wonderful new veggies. Nourished Kitchen has a great post on what to do with the strange veggies in your CSA box, if you’re ever stumped.

You can also find CSA’s for specific products – meat shares, milk shares, seafood, even wheat!

8. Join an organic grocery buying club

A grocery buying club is kind of like an online farmer’s market. You place your order and pick up your groceries at a neighbour’s, instead of the grocery store. They  make it easy to find local, sustainable products from small producers. One stop shop instead of driving all over town to different specialty shops and markets.

Kind of neat, hey?

NOW BC is our local co-operative and features all sorts of yummy goodies. Their subscription programs and bulk buying options are great opportunities to eat well without breaking the bank.

9. Shop farmer-direct

Buying directly from your farmer is one of the loveliest ways to get your groceries.

Our family purchases our organic pastured pork and beef from Big Bear Ranch in Horsefly, BC. They aren’t exactly in our backyard, but I don’t sweat it too much. They have outstanding farming practices and make it super easy to keep the freezer stocked with delicious, quality meat. We place our orders online and they make a number of stops here in the city where we can meet them to pick up our meat.

Big Bear offers specials on “family packs” of meat. You’ll get a selection of pork, for example, that will include a variety of cuts, bacon, sausages etc. You’re not guaranteed to get specific products, but you’ll get a certain percentage roast, chops, specialty items etc. We often split a pack with family – everyone enjoys the discount while still maintaining some spare room in the freezer!

10. Shop seasonally

Shopping seasonally is part of the locovore culture that gets poked fun at a lot. Critics tease that we think we’re saving the world by eating parsnips.

I duno about you, but it seems to me if everyone ate with a focus on seasonality, I think we’d all eat better, save money and walk lighter on the planet . . . That’s a debate for another day.

To talk in terms of economics, seasonality takes advantage of the rules of supply and demand. If you buy when supply is higher than demand, prices will be lower. Not exactly rocket science.

11. Shop in bulk

If you shop in season AND in bulk, you’ll really start to see some savings.

Even though I grow my own, I invariably get nervous that I haven’t put enough food by for the coming winter. There is nothing worse than running out of stewed tomatoes in February. It gives me the shakes just thinking about it!

So I go to my favourite local farm stand and load up. I mean LOAD UP. I once filled an entire shopping cart with local tomatoes. They were 69 cents a pound! I mean, come ON!

Before you go – make sure you’ll be ready to put the food by and that you’ve taken the time to . . .

12. Learn to can

For all you canning virgins out there let me tell you – You CAN can! It is not scary (ok maybe a little, the first time) and it is way easier than you think.

I did not grow up canning. Until I met my hubby, canning food at home was some magical, mysterious process that might kill me with strange bugs whose names I can’t pronounce. My mum didn’t can, neither did my grammas.

Canning has so many benefits and is key if you really want to save money on food. It also addresses the “I don’t have time to cook” whine I hear so often. Canning is hot work, and is much more enjoyable if done in the company of friends at an old school canning bee. If you’re more comfortable, take a class first, but give it a try, for heaven’s sakes!

Canning Bootcamp Part One explains the basics and The Joy of Canning covers all the benefits.

Personally, I think tomatoes are one of the easiest places to start. You can get the basics on canning tomatoes here. 

canning tomatoes

Once you master water-bath canning, I strongly recommend you try to get your hands on a pressure canner. It will take a larger investment (or you can be like me and ask for one for Christmas) but it is well worth it. With a pressure canner you can put by soups, spaghetti sauce, fish, meat, stocks and more. Pressure Canning 101 has basic instructions and my recipe for canning chicken stock.

13. Explore new foods

Sometimes, things that you wouldn’t think about as normal dinner fare can be both delicious and inexpensive.

Living here on the coast, we have access to lots of gorgeous seafood. Mussels are cheap as chips, quick and easy to cook and crazy tasty.

My hubby recently introduced me to heart. (It took a lot of convincing.) He lightly breaded it and pan fried it in a bit of butter. Oh. My. God. SOOOO good. You don’t always see these sorts of options in the grocery store, but if you’re buying direct from your farmer, you’ll have a lot more opportunity to try new flavours.

What’s cheap in your neck of the woods totally depends on where you are. Get to know your local foodshed and find out!

14. Don’t buy food in boxes

I’ve never understood why people buy boxed mixes for things like biscuits or pancakes. How hard is it to stir some flour? Really.

homemade whole wheat pancake recipe

homemade whole wheat pancakes recipe

15. Grow your own

I duno about you,  but I can’t afford $5 heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market. Or 3 bucks for a tiny handful of fresh herbs. Or $10 per pound for garlic.

Luckily, I don’t have to.

Growing food is easy and inexpensive and can happen year round. All it takes is a curious spirit and a willingness to get some dirt under your nails. Cold beer always seems to help, too. (See #16)

There are a few important things to remember if you’re just starting out to grow your own.

  • GROW WHAT YOU LIKE TO EAT: For heaven sakes, if you don’t like brussel sprouts, don’t grow brussel sprouts! (Although, keep in mind everything, even brussel sprouts, taste better when you grow them yourself.)
  • GROW PLANTS SUITED TO YOUR SPACE: Take the time to get to know your yard / windowsill / community garden. Learn a bit about the needs of the plants you want to grow. Try to get them to match as best as possible. You can always provide encouragement by way of row covers, small greenhouses, and the like, but the best bet is to get it right the first time. (Especially if it’s YOUR first time.)
  • GROW THINGS THAT COST AN ARM & A LEG AT THE STORE: Garlic is stupid easy to grow. Stupid easy. You can learn how to grow garlic here. Tomatoes, herbs, peppers, berries and salad greens are also easy-peasy. This way, if you only have a tiny space, you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Bonus – most of these things will taste immeasurably better having been homegrown.

homebrew

16. Brew your own beer and wine

If you like a cold one at the end of a long day, you should try brewing your own. It is ridiculously easy and disgustingly cheap.

We got a full equipment kit at the grocery store for 50 bucks. I’m sure if you looked around you could find use equipment for way cheaper. Our local home brew store sells bulk ingredients so you can make your favourite brew at home.

We made a cream ale our first time and it blew our minds. 45 beer for 25 bucks. Golden.

If you like baking bread you’ll love brewing beer. Same kind of creative process – once you understand the basics, you can go bananas.

Added bonus : no empties to cart back to the liquor store. We bought a bunch of old bottles with resealable caps. We talked to one guy at the beer store who said he’s been using the same bottles for over 20 years. He’s only had to replace the rubber seals once. Talk about reduce and reuse!

And don’t think it’s too much work, either. My hubby did most of the work for our first batch with a five month old on his hip.

17. Bake your own bread

I have no idea why store-bought bread is so expensive these days. Who can afford $3-$5 per loaf?? That’s just crazy. And half the time it’s crap with an ingredient list as long as your arm.

Bread is one of those things that is too easy not to make. You can easily make bread with next to no tools, other than your muscles, but having a bread maker or a mixer with a dough hook will make it easier to fit homemade bread into your daily life.

If you’re at home during the day, the dough hook is a good bet. If you work, get a bread maker. You can fill it at night, set the timer and wake up to the smell of heaven. How easy is that?

homemade bread

Once you get going, you’ll find it addictive. Bread is an incredibly creative process, and its relaxing, to boot. A world of shapes, textures and flavours await you. Mark my words, get started and next thing you know you’ll be growing wild yeast on your countertop.

Homemade bread is also a gateway drug to homemade pasta.

18. Make your own pasta

Another one of those things that takes a bit of effort and equipment, but is well worth the time.

Personally, unless it’s a special occasion, I don’t make my own spaghetti or linguini, stuff like that. Good quality dried whole wheat pasta is easy enough to find for a good price.

Stuffed pasta? That’s a whole other story.

Especially if you have kids, this is worth your time for the sheer convenience factor later on. It takes me a couple of hours, but I love to make ravioli for the freezer.

Bang out a batch of pasta, cook up some filling, freeze it and you have a nutritious, ridiculously quick lunch or dinner waiting at a moment’s notice.

roasted squash and roasted garlic ravioli recipe

Roasted Squash Ravioli Recipe

19. Keep chickens

Children and backyard chickens

If you’re able, chickens are a wise choice to stretch your food budget. We kept enough hens to keep our own (very hungry) family in eggs and support my baking habit with enough left over to sell to ensure that our chickens and our eggs didn’t cost us a dime.

Unlimited organic, free-range eggs for free? Um, yes please.

20. Splurge smart

Make your splurges count!

We go bonkers from time to time – really good (really expensive) cheese, lobster, steak . . . You have to live a little! When you splurge, splurge on things you can’t do for yourself. Make it special. Savour it.

 

How do you eat better for less? Share you tips, tricks and recipes!