Morning can be a special time of the day

Catching morning magic

Magic strikes when we least expect it—or perhaps we only notice the magic when we aren’t looking for it. That happened to me recently.

It was like peeking through a portal. My dog Freyja and I were on our daily walk around the orchard and fields, enjoying the sounds and smells and even sunshine (for which I am especially thankful this year). A sense of happiness washed over me, like a morning shower or a summer breeze.

Suddenly, my usual joy at having that quiet time to start the day was even more acute. Everything was just right. I breathed deeply to try and soak it all in and hold the moment in my heart.

I don’t know why I got a dose of fairy dust this morning. I’m not sure if it was destined for me or if I was just the lucky soul that happened upon the moment. I’ve been clinging to it all day, the way one tries to remember an old song.

It is said that the time of seasons changing is when our chance at glimpsing more of the universe is most possible. Structures like standing stones and pyramids are said to gather energy and allow for its focus.

We did just go through the summer solstice. Maybe zucchinis planted just right or walking a certain way through the rows of fruit trees can do the same thing.

Some say the planets being aligned causes special things to happen. Did you know that five of the planets in our solar system are lining up this week? Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn all appear in a line in the pre-dawn sky this week, with the waning crescent moon fitting in nicely too this week.

There is one other way I know to find fairy dust, and that is in the kitchen.

On a day after having harvesting our fresh fruits or veggies, I feel like I play some small part in that endless circle of life by paying homage with homegrown food. Even something simple like Fruit Crisp (link: https://wordpress.com/page/happygourmand.wordpress.com/4523 ) has a special taste when the rhubarb or raspberries or apricots come from our yard.

Whatever it was that caused my magic moment, I am grateful. I hope you get an experience that lets you see the sparkle.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Every cook needs one of these—a cast iron skillet

Cooking with a skillet

How many times have you seen an informercial that told you about a gadget that would change your life?

How many of those have you tried over the years? And how many ended up in a garage sale the following spring? There is one tool for the kitchen I recommend you keep, for it can be useful in many ways. It’s your cast iron skillet.

You might have one, but it could be buried in the pile of pots under the oven. “It’s too heavy”, you mutter, every time you see it there. But that is part of its advantage.

I agree that this is not the pan to be used for flipping crepes. If you live alone, you could keep it handy to use in self defence, but it’s more likely to help you in making delicious pancakes and hash browns. It can also the be the vessel for many simple recipes. It’s weight helps it hold and distribute the heat for proper cooking.

I mentioned Eggs Shakshuka last week as a great brunch dish. Your skillet will also make wonderful frittatas and Spanish tortillas (potato pie made with eggs and cheese). But wait, there’s more. (See what I did there?)

We were camping last week and our cast iron skillet was used to:

• Sauté collard greens with garlic

• Roast baby potatoes with herb oil

• Make cornbread (here’s the recipe I used)

• Fry chicken pieces

• Cook bacon, and then make fluffy pancakes to go alongside said bacon

Your cast iron skillet will work on the stove or in the oven, always holding the heat evenly for perfect cooking.

It does the same thing on the camp stove or in the campfire too. And if you add a lid, it becomes a Dutch oven.

With a lid, you get even better results with stews and other dishes that cook longer in a liquid. (Not as much liquid evaporates when there is a lid keeping it in. )

Think chili, curry, paella, and other similar creations from all over the world. If you haven’t googled “skillet dinners” yet, give it a try and pick from the many suggestions.

There are a plethora of possibilities for what to cook in your skillet. There also seem to be as many ideas on how to maintain it, but not all of them work equally well.

First, you need to “season” a cast iron skillet. This just means that you get it used to being a cooking vessel. Put a thin covering of oil in the bottom, and heat it gently for about 10 minutes, letting it get to medium-high heat. Then turn the heat off and let the skillet cool. Wipe out the excess oil and store your skillet.

This doesn’t mean you don’t wash your skillet after using it. Did you see how many different foods we cooked in ours this week?

What do you think the next dish would taste like If I hadn’t cleaned my skillet? You’re right - it would taste like the last dish, mixed in with the current one. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like my pancakes to taste like fried chicken, or collard greens with garlic.

Clean your skillet with warm soapy water and a scrubbie. Make sure it is dry before storing it. Please don’t put it in the dishwasher. It’s a classic tool, like your favourite knife. It deserves your respect.

If you’ve read this column thinking, “What’s the point? I don’t have a cast iron skillet, and I’m not spending a bunch more money,” don’t worry, I’m not about to sell you Ginsu knives.

My last suggestion is check out a thrift store or even a garage sale. Many people have given up on their skillet, which just helps pave the way for those of us willing to take on a new adventure (or dust off an old skill.)

Happy cooking.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Eat a 'rainbow' when the sun's not shining

Edible sunshine

I don’t know about you, but I am a bit weary of all this unsettled weather.

Perhaps, having grown up in sunny southern Alberta, it gave me my love for those cheery blue skies. I miss them when they go away.

As a result, I decided to share some ideas for creating edible sunshine to keep us sustained until Mother Nature feels like sharing more of it.

Have you heard the phrase, “Eat a rainbow”? This is easiest to do when we have fresh produce to enjoy that comes in all colours. June is a bit early. I just saw this week the first bit of non-green edible plant life where we live—zucchini blossoms in the farm gardens of Paynter’s Fruit Market.

Nevertheless, I will show you some recipes that offer some brighter colours and moods for your table.

As we work to make sure we look good in those skimpier outfits or even bathing suits, a light appetizer is never a bad idea to help us pace ourselves to that new shape.

One of my earliest elegant dishes to present was an appetizer I adapted while I was in France years ago, from an old cookbook I found while staying with a friend in Nice.

Tart n’ Tangy Salmon Bites offer a reminder to your tastebuds that it’s time they started working out a bit more too.

I’m sure you want to have something on the grill, even if the weather for sitting outside on the deck might be a bit “iffy”. One recipe I love can be done in the oven if your grill is too susceptible to stormy days. It never fails to bring thoughts of a laid-back beach day, as it’s from Jamaica.

Jerk chicken is a fantastically flavourful spicy dish, and the rice-and-peas side dish offers a way to cool your palate. I also enjoy serving this with some bell or Poblano pepper slices blistered on the grill, which completes the rainbow.

If you don’t have a taste for spicy food, you can try Chicken with Sumac and Lemon, one of my favourite Ottolenghi recipes. He is the well-known chef from Israel who has so many Mediterranean recipes to share. This link has other popular recipes from him too, so click away.

Maybe you’re more of a brunch person. Have you had Eggs Shakshuka? This is a wonderful way to use any of your early season herbs. That way, you can feel gratified about growing something even if you were late planting veggies.

Rhubarb is one of the first fruits of summer, and I love its vibrant colour and taste. If you can find some tasty strawberries to pair with it, that makes a nice balance of sweet and tart for an early summer dessert.

This simple recipe for a fruit galette (as in, easier-than-pie dessert) lets any fruit shine and offers a rustic but still elegant presentation, with leftover pieces for breakfast if you make it big enough.

If you’re not a rhubarb fan, don’t worry, this recipe works with any fruit or combination. The wise blogger who created it, Deb from Smitten Kitchen, even offers a few pointers so you can get it just right no matter what.

That gets you from one end of the day to the other with recipes full of colour and flavour.

I hope it helps you stay upbeat as we move into summer, even if Mother Nature has a different idea of what it looks like than we do.

Here’s to watching for rainbows instead of rain.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Summertime, and the living is easy...and fun

Summer's nearly here

Okay, all is forgiven. For the first time this year I sat outside after finishing my work late last week, with my feet propped up and a beverage in my hand, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face.

I feel as though I can breathe easy again, knowing summer is coming after all, and everything will be alright.

Isn’t it funny how we never seem to see the end of winter come fast enough? And then, of course, once the hot weather hits, we groan about how incredibly hot it is. I have heard it said that one of the reasons there are so many great Canadian comedians is because of our extreme climate.

We come from a nation where people will spend their first camping trip in winter garb just to say they made the annual May long weekend trek. It is the land where in years like this one, planting the garden on that same famous weekend is unadvisable in some parts due to frost and wind. But we persevere.

And now, here we are with the solstice in sight and all those frostbitten memories are behind us.

All we have left to complain about is the plethora of dandelions (see last week’s column for said complaints). Then there is the sudden heat rash we suffer from the first day out mowing or gardening.

Nevertheless, beverage coolers are dusted off, kiddie pools are seen dotting lawns again and suddenly the sale of potato chips plummets and fresh veggies are popular as we all try to get back to a bathing-suit-friendly shape.

It is not just the better temperatures that make for warmer memories from summers past. There seems to be some midsummer fairy magic that makes those times seem some of the best.

I remember the joy of finding the perfect dandelion seed pod. My mom even figured out that larger pods could be preserved whole if you got them carefully inside and sprayed them with a bit of hairspray. How cheered I was to hear this is still special. One of my Guide leader friends told me that her little son likes to blow the seeds willy-nilly to the wind and then hand her the stem as a gift. I also discovered that despite technology they still thwart the average lawn aficionado. Our neighbour was seen last Sunday with the vacuum cleaner under his arm, hose in hand as he tackled each stem.

I know this will sound corny, but I love the taste of water from the garden hose. It seems just slightly poetic that we have come around to a time when this might be acceptable again, what with the processing and cost of plastic water bottles. Kids might not walk to school (at least not unescorted) but at least when they play in their own yard they can drink the water.

Summer sounds are joyful, like the ones made by kids playing later into the evening as that lovely sun lingers on the horizon. It always felt decadent to know I could stay out for longer as summer began. Once summer started you could go out after dinner and have time for a whole other adventure from the one you had before dinner.

My dad always said carrots tasted best when they still had dirt on them, and I thought he was being silly. I had the first radishes and lettuce from the garden last weekend and I remembered what a smart guy my dad was. The taste of a garden root veggie just rubbed in the grass and eaten fresh out of the ground is one of those experiences that even a five-star restaurant cannot match.

Here are some things you can do here in our part of the world that will give you an old-fashioned taste of summer:

• Visit the farmer’s market for veggies that still have dirt on them. Soon you’ll be able to pick apricots off the tree, too.

• Take a trip with your sweetie to Enderby to see a drive-in movie at the Starlight. Did you know it has North America’s largest screen?

• Go for old-fashioned hard ice-cream cones with your kids and sit outside eating them. Teach them about how you push the top scoop gently down, so it doesn’t fall off

• Set up your lawn sprinkler and run through it (this is best done while squealing in delight . If the neighbours laugh, invite them over to try it.

If you have kids, this will help show them the value of making those warm memories. If you don’t have kids, it will remind you we are never too late to have a happy childhood.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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