I’ve written every year about Halloween, what with it being a day that involves some unique foods, and a celebration – right up my alley.
All of it has been done in the spirit of fun, as Halloween is meant to be interpreted in our part of the world. It’s a day especially for kids, and the kid in all of us, to enjoy an adventure and be outgoing.
Even the most introverted person can put on a costume and step outside their regular persona on Halloween. You don’t have to eat any candy – that’s just an excuse to get you out the door.
When I was a kid, we were certainly keen to collect “the loot”, as we used to call it. Certain houses were known to give out our favourite chocolate bars, or maybe Tootsie Rolls or some other trendy snack of the day.
I am old enough to remember the days when people sometimes made treats, and just put their names and phone numbers on the wrapping.
Just as much of the evening was spent however, with friends and neighbours saying, “Hold on a sec, I have to get (someone) to see this – you look SO cute!” (or scary, or whatever adjective fit the costume).
There was a sense of community to Halloween, a sense of inclusiveness. All the kids went out together, big and small, and all the houses we visited were pleased to see us.
Even neighbours who didn’t have children would have the porch light on, and a pumpkin at the door to greet us.
Now that kids don’t go out door–to-door much any more, it’s a bit trickier to continue that feeling.
We came up with something in Girl Guides that seemed to fit the bill nicely, though.
Every year our group of girls has organized a visit to the hospital around Halloween; we call it reverse trick-or-treating.
The idea is that the girls give out the candy instead of taking it, and more importantly, they participate in a bit of community service by spreading good cheer to those less fortunate.
We visited the pediatrics ward and the geriatrics ward, always stopping at the nurse’s station to make sure it was OK and confirm which rooms we were allowed to visit.
The treats usually went more to the staff than patients as most of them had dietary restrictions, but that was fine.
The girls were pleased to show off their costumes, and were thrilled that everyone thought they looked great, just as people used to be when I came to their front doors.
Well, this year when I phoned to confirm our visit, I was passed around like a Halloween apple as usual, from Admitting to Volunteers to Administration (bureaucracy seems to have a hard time knowing what to do with good old-fashioned cheer).
I explained that we’d never had any challenges, it was just that we wanted to be sure the units knew we were coming; we would check in at the desks first before visiting rooms.
I was told I’d get a call back, as I had before. Imagine my surprise when the call was to inform me that we could not come, as they thought our visit would be “inappropriate”, and that they “could not see the benefit of the visit.”
I explained that it was community service, and giving candy was not a necessary part of the act really — to no avail.
I was told that perhaps a senior centre might be a better place for us to try (but the geriatrics on the ward would apparently suffer from “too much stimulation” if we went to the hospital).
I wish that the folks at Kelowna General Hospital could have stepped out of their regular personas for a while – just long enough to realize that curtailing our almost decade-old tradition of visiting the hospital with our Girl Guide unit was a bit of overkill.
Especially when working with the younger girls, this kind of activity has a huge impact – our Sparks at ages five and six years old are downright chuffed when they know they have made someone else happy.
(Aside: “chuffed” is a British term that is like being thrilled, but I think with even more enthusiasm)
Conversely, they are practically inconsolable when they find out they are not allowed to share their good cheer.
We are madly working to find another facility that can fit us in to their schedule so we can show off our costumes and share our community spirit.
Thanks to Facebook friends, I’ve had many recommendations. I’ve also had comments from nurse friends at how disappointing it is the hospital doesn’t see any value to this kind of activity, and I’ve been urged to contact the hospital by relatives who’ve been there as patients saying they could have used a little cheer.
It’s unfortunate that negative actions seem to produce more results, but it is statistically true, so that’s why I’m writing this column. I would like there to be a positive lasting effect, however – one of perseverance.
We won’t give up going out with the girls to visit the community. I won’t give up believing that sharing good cheer has a benefit.
One bad apple might spoil a lot of other apples, but it only spoils the whole barrel if you don’t pay attention.
Happy Trick or Treating!
(If you’d like a recipe this week to get any bad taste out of your mouth, how about Pineapple Upside Down Cake?
You can make scary faces with the pineapple pieces if you want.
Now that the weather has turned colder and greyer, I think we need to cheer things up inside.
What better way to do that than preparing some homespun goodies? I’m going to supply you with a few fun recipes for food you can pull out later to bring back some of that sunny feeling of summer.
If you're not familiar with canning or pickling, a good resource is the folks at Canadian Living who have lots of information on their website.
One good rule of thumb is not to vary the vinegar or sugar in a recipe, at least not till you try it out.
These elements balance the natural sweetness and acidity of the ingredients and help to ensure you have a recipe that will maintain its flavour.
Another rule is to follow processing instructions, unless you intend to keep your jars in the fridge until they are consumed.
I got this recipe as one of my first adult adventures into canning. Bessie Halton was a Grande Dame in the Crowsnest Pass when I was in my 20s.
I was privileged to enjoy her cooking, thanks to a few years of hanging out with one of her grandnephews. Feel free to modernize this with differ spices if you like; this is a classic version.
This recipe has been reduced; the original made a lot. You will now have enough to enjoy, and share as well.
Sterilize jars and sealer rings first with soapy hot water, and put sealer lids in a shallow pot of water at medium heat on stove so they soften.
1 lb/450 g of each of the following veggies, chopped into bite-size pieces:
- green or yellow beans
- dill pickles
- pearl onions
- green onions
- green pepper
- red pepper
- green olives
- black olives
- 4 tins of tuna packed in water, drained
- 1/4 lb/125 g anchovies, chopped
- 2 - 20 oz/300 mL jar ketchup
- 2 - 20 oz/300 mL cans tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup/125 mL vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp smoky paprika
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into a large stock pot and sauté chopped veggies until tender. Add tomato sauce, ketchup and fish and stir well. Add seasonings and adjust to taste. Keep hot.
Pack hot mixture into hot jars, and seal. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.
Pickled beets or carrots (this comes from another very reliable source, my Auntie Maxine, a fantastic cook who represented her Ukrainian heritage well. I have a few old-fashioned classics from her.)
This recipe makes 2-3 jars 500 mL in size, depending on how much space there is between for liquid. Sterilize jars and sealer rings first with soapy hot water, and put sealer lids in a shallow pot of water at medium heat on stove so they soften.
- 2 lbs/1 kg beets or carrots
- /2 cups/375 mL vinegar
- 1/2 cup/125 mL water, or cooking water from blanching veggies
- 3/4 cup sugar or honey
- 1 tsp / 5 g kosher salt
- Herbs and/or spices for flavour - cloves, caraway, thyme, dill will each work (approx 1/2 tsp/2 g per jar)
Blanch veggies. Beets will take about 15 minutes in boiling water, carrots only 3-5 minutes. You want veggies that are still a bit firm if a knife is inserted in them.
Once cooked, remove them from water and plunge immediately into cold water. This will stop the cooking and also make it easier to remove the skins (they will slide off if you squeeze the veggies in your hands).
Save some cooking water for canning.
Prepare pickling brine: combine vinegar, cooking water, sugar and salt in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Keep hot.
Put peeled veggie pieces into sterilized jars. Add your herbs or spices to each jar.
Pour hot brine over veggies in jars, leaving just about 1/2 inch/1 cm at the top. Seal jars with lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Lids should not make any noise when pressed in after; if they do you don't have a proper seal. This means jars must be kept in the fridge until using.
Herb purée (an easy one, from my chef husband; more of a tip than a recipe, really.)
Take any leafy herbs (basil, parsley, tarragon, oregano, dill) and put them in your food processor with a good drizzle of olive oil. Pulse until you have a nice purée.
Put the purée in Ziploc bags and store them flat in the freezer. You can just break off the size of piece you need for a sauce or salad dressing all winter long.
If you're on a roll and feeling like you want to have something a bit fancy for the holiday season, you can try my pears poached in wine.
They are the perfect instant dessert with just a bit of whipped cream or mascarpone and maybe a ginger snap.
Stay warm and remember, it's only five more months till spring.
Autumn must be the season when fairy tales take place, as there is something other-worldly about the light and the smell in the air at this time of year.
I'm an ardent fan of summer and its comfortable heat, and I also enjoy the clean, majestic look of a winter landscape, but neither of them holds a candle to an October afternoon when the sunlight is at its most golden.
Rumpelstiltskin did his best business at harvest, and Rapunzel must have let down her hair on an autumn afternoon….
What am I getting at, you ask? Well, as we madly try to enjoy the last luscious bounty from the garden before the frost strikes, and steal a few more moments on the deck to watch the sun paint the clouds, I am struck by just how fortunate we are.
That is, of course, often the moral behind the fairytale.
The photo I have included with this week’s missive is of beans we had from the garden.
Martin mentioned that with produce like that, we could easily pay a visit to the giant.
We don’t need any golden goose, however, for our adventures at home are treasure enough. I can both start and end my day enjoying the bounty of our own efforts, with fruit for breakfast and veggies for dinner.
The concept so popular in wine circles called “terroir” is something anyone who grows anything understands — "the taste of place" you get that distinguishes one product from another.
It works for not just wine, but anything that comes from the earth. The soil and its characteristics impart flavours into any harvest, but I think so does the tender loving care that the farmer offers to the plants.
Such a balanced relationship does not happen nearly as often with people, but maybe it could if we thought more about nurturing and protecting and simply enjoying what is offered.
This past week, we were with a school class showing them some cooking and gardening tips. During the farm tour they took at Paynter's Fruit Market, they were allowed to pick an apple right off the tree.
I got to taste one. The first bite took me back to childhood, when apples were never waxed and the first apples of autumn always had that tartness that made me squint.
It was absolutely delicious, and made more so by the fact that it was a gift. Such a grand act it is to share, and such a great reminder to be thankful for such a simple gift as food.
We cooked with the students and made a simple dessert as part of their Fall Feast. They are only in second grade, but they managed just fine in assembling the Apple Phyllo Strudel Cups we made.
It was a great way to show them how they could be a part of cooking something special, and in season.
As the harvest moon sets on another growing season, let us all toast the bounty we enjoy and drink to the possibilities of fairy princesses or knights in shining armour, and living happily ever after.
APPLE PHYLLO STRUDEL CUPS
- Makes 12 cups - ** FYI, this recipe has no eggs or dairy or nuts if you follow it as is.
- 6 medium apples, cored and chopped
- 1/2 cup / 75 g dried cranberries or raisins
- 1/2 cup / 125 g brown sugar
- Zest and Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp / 15 g cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp / 7 g nutmeg
- 4 sheets phyllo dough
- 1 tbsp / 15 mL virgin coconut oil (butter can be substituted if you wish)
- 1/2 cup / 125 g graham crumbs
- 1 pint / 500 g vanilla yogurt or frozen yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream for topping
- Preheat oven to 350F / 175C.
- Combine the apples, dried fruit, brown sugar, spices and lemon zest and juice in a saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until tender. (Filling can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before filling cups.)
Lightly grease a muffin pan. Lay out 2 sheets of phyllo and cut into squares that are just a bit larger than the muffin molds. Take one square (both sheets) and stagger the sheets so the corners are opposite.
Brush coconut oil over the top sheet, covering the protruding edges of the bottom sheet too. Sprinkle graham crumbs over top (enough to lightly cover the square). Put the other square of 2 sheets over this, offsetting them in the same way. Brush coconut oil top sheet as before.
Gently lift the phyllo layers into a muffin mood and press it in (using a wooden spoon handle can help push it to the bottom and along the sides). Repeat this for each mold. Then, fill the molds with the apple filling - don't be shy, they can be full.
Bake in the middle rack of the oven for approximately 25 minutes, when pastry is golden and filling is sizzling. (The best test is to lift one up and check that the bottom of the cups is golden as well.) Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing.
Serve with vanilla yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream. Or you can just sprinkle a bit of icing sugar on top to dress it up.
As the harvest comes in, events celebrating the bounty are in abundance.
We have had the pleasure of attending stellar events in the past, and this year was no exception.
Before the Fall Wine Fest started, we were treated to a beautiful wine paired dinner featuring tastes of the season, organized by Jennifer Cockrall-King, author of Food Artisans of the Okanagan.
There is no one better to do this than Joy Road Catering, pioneers of cuisine de terroir, that concept which takes simple seasonal and local ingredients and elevates them just by showcasing them at their peak.
Hosting the event was David Patterson, the winemaker at Tantalus Vineyards.This estate winery prides itself on growing grapes in a bio-diverse environment and them making wine in a sustainable and eco-friendly facility.
We enjoyed a chat with David as he toured us around the facility talking of their practices and the progress on this vintage, which seems to be shaping up nicely.
The four-course meal was delicious — the food paired with the wine perfectly, the sunset was spectacular and the company was interesting and enthusiastic.
After all, it's not every night I get to sample Alsatian "choucroute garni" (sauerkraut stew with cured pork and vegetables) while speaking French with a fellow foodie and blogger, and then discussing the finer points of wine with fellow sommeliers and winemakers.
It got me thinking, does farm-to-fork have to be fancy?
Local food from independent operators often costs more, and events are often dressed up.
Do we need that extra value to feel that our money is well spent?
I had farm fresh eggs this week, fried up on a camp stove with garden veggies and potatoes.
That version of farm-to-fork was just as spectacular as our fancy dinner. And it's not every day that I can have that meal, either.
Those vegetables don't grow in my garden all year, and picking the eggs from a friend's coop isn't something I get to do all the time.
Perhaps that uniqueness is part of what makes the meal taste so good and be so memorable.
Some of you by now are probably thinking, "that's all well and good for you, but I've got kids (or work, or something else) to take care of and I can't be spending my days picking fresh eggs and veggies or gallivanting around to fancy events all the time."
You're right. Neither can I.
My husband and I count ourselves as Iucky to be living here, and we try to respect the bounty by honouring it.
I suppose you could say that Thanksgiving is a year-long event at Rabbit Hollow.
This time of year there is much rejoicing as we take advantage, but even having a homemade chutney with meatloaf in the dead of winter is a way to bring back the fresh flavours of our region.
(Not to mention the wonderful B.C. wines, ciders, craft beers, spirits and even non-alcoholic juices that we have available!)
So please don't think that all this fancy talk of farm-to-fork or slow food or even being a foodie needs to be a snobbish, trendy thing.
Supporting a local farmer does mean you contribute to our community, and it also means you get fresh food.
I think that tastes better than not-so-fresh food, so why wouldn't I choose it? I respect the farmer's work (including me, in my own little garden) and I respect Mother Nature's efforts.
At the end of the day, We don't have to dress up ourselves or the food; I think what matters is that we value the connection to each other planet.
I believe that is what Julia Child meant when she said, "People who love to eat are always the best people."
More Happy Gourmand articles
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- Know thy food Sep 10
- A bite of nostalgia Sep 3
- An appetite for life Aug 27
- A rainbow of vegetables Aug 20
- I scream, you scream.... Aug 13
- From dirt to dinner Aug 6
- A taste of America Jul 31
- Sock-hop memories Jul 16
- Forbidden pleasure Jul 9
- National Jam Buster Day? Jun 25
- Make List. Do. Repeat Jun 18