Wild rice is a truly indigenous Canadian food that has been growing in the boreal forest for centuries. Wild rice is not the same plant we commonly refer to as rice. Wild rice in Canada is Zizania palutris, an aquatic water grass that grows in the lakes of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. It has become commercialized and is now also grown on aquatic farms in California as well as harvested from Canada’s natural lakes.

Wild rice contains twice as much protein as brown rice. It is low in calories and high in fibre with a more chewy texture than rice. One cup of cooked wild rice contains only 165 calories and 6.5 grams of protein.  It is high in vitamins and minerals. Wild rice does not contain gluten. Personally I would find it difficult to eat a whole cup of wild rice. It’s so dense.

Wild rice is often sold in grocery stores mixed with regular rice. This is a bad idea because wild rice requires a much longer cooking time and more water than regular rice. I now realize that I’ve fed quite a few people uncooked wild rice.  No harm in that, but under cooked rice is likely to give you a little fibre and no nutrients.   Instructions for cooking wild rice recommend  three to four  cups water for each cup of  wild rice and a cooking time of thirty to sixty minutes. I have had success with using three cups water and cooking for forty five minutes. If in doubt err on the side of extra water and extra cooking time.

Uncooked Wild Rice

Fully Cooked Wild Rice

Once cooked the wild rice  pops open, a little like popcorn. If it looks like the grain, it’s not cooked. One cup of raw  wild rice turns to about three cups cooked.

It’s easy to freeze the cooked wild rice in small portions and then mix it with  rice or other grains into any recipe.

 

 

 

I wish I had learned this years ago. I would have been able to enjoy  fresh flowers in my home so much more.

The spring planter containing a primrose, tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinth has been blooming in my living room for weeks, instead of lasting the usual few days. All that is necessary for this magic is some room in the refrigerator.  My apartment is very warm  cold temperature spring flowers, like tulips, expire very quickly. The solution is to put them in the refrigerator every night, and  when away from home during the day. If I keep them on the table only when I am awake  at home to enjoy them the life span of the flowers extends by an incredible amount of time.  A vase of cut flowers also lasts much longer.

It feels like a waste to buy flowers that expire while I am at work.  The refrigerator keeps them fresh till I get home. All flowers can be enjoyed for many more days.  A controlled test found that just using the refrigerator kept flowers fresh longer than any other trick

 

This is a wonderful boreal forest recipe that celebrates where we live. The recipe was found in the book The Boreal Feast – a Culinary Journey Through the North – by Michele Genest.

The honey was chemical free,  locally produced by bees collecting nectar from willow, poplar, dandelions, white clover and sunflower. It was given to me as a gift from Larch Grove Farm.

My daughter brought a special Canadian gin, Ungava. It is brilliant yellow and infused with six Arctic botanicals that give it the unusual, unique flavour.

THE RECIPE: Prohibition Cocktail: The Bee’s Knees

1 Tbsp honey                 1 Tbsp hot water
1 tsp lemon juice            1 1/2 oz (40 ml) gin
Make honey syrup by combining honey and hot water. Whisk until honey is dissolved and allow to cool. Shake honey syrup and remaining ingredients over cracked ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with thin slice of lemon. Makes one cocktail.

I made four times the recipe for Christmas and it didn’t seem like nearly enough for only the two of us drinking them. Multiply quantities as necessary

Favourite Tourtiere

Author: helga

Tourtiere was never a tradition in my family, but I am happy to adopt this dish from Quebec and make it part of our Canadian Christmas. This recipe comes from The Harrowsmith Cook Book Vol. 1.  It was submitted to the cookbook by Nicole Chartrand, from Alymer, Quebec.

Lard pastry for double-crust 9-inch pie                           1/2 tsp. savory
1 lb. lean ground pork                                                       pinch of ground cloves
1 medium onion, chopped                                                1/4 cup boiling water
salt and pepper

Mix meat and onion and spices in a saucepan. Add boiling water. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Skim off any fat.

Roll out half the pastry and line a 9-inch pie plate. Place filling in pie plate and cover with the remaining pastry. Prick with a fork. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes or until golden. Serves 4-6.

The original recipe says to serve with homemade ketchup or chili sauce. I prefer to serve it with mashed potatoes and lots of gravy.

 

 

Comfort Food for Winter

Author: helga

Breakfast can be super simple and exotic at the same time.

On a particular winter morning I was craving French toast, the simple version of bread dipped in eggs and fried in butter.  There is a bag of  black currents in the freezer that we picked in summer, so long ago I don’t remember where. I cooked the black currents with just a little local honey to sweeten.

This breakfast was more satisfying than expensive restaurant fare.

 

Tomato Harvest Update

Author: helga

Biggest Tomato

I planted four varieties of tomatoes .  The Celebrity variety produced both the biggest tomatoes and the largest quantity. Some of the tomatoes were four inches across. The plant grew so tall and heavy the tomato cage couldn’t hold it up and tomatoes were still touching the ground.  The one Celebrity plant produced more tomatoes than the other three varieties combined. I can’t adequately compare the taste of varieties since they were  picked green and mixed together in the bin to ripen.

Tomato Harvest

Almost all the tomatoes ripened well after they were picked, even the small ones.  The first thing you notice when growing a garden is that vegetables aren’t  perfect like the ones in the store.  Remember, we’re not growing vegetables for magazine pages, we’re growing them for taste and nutrition. They are not models of perfection.

A few tomatoes had the lovely purple tint when they ripened.

I’m going to guess these were the Heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes. The plant only grew about a foot tall and produced maybe two or three good sized tomatoes. Perhaps it is  not suited to our northern climate. The tomatoes had a delicate, rich taste and I will definitely try to grow them again.

My favourite use for fresh tomatoes is chopped up with onions and herbs and served over pasta. Fresh and lightly sautéed, instead of boiled down into a sauce.

Fresh garden tomatoes with ravioli from the Italian Centre. Delizioso!

Blueberry Quinoa Salad

Author: helga

Blueberry Quinoa Salad

Made with parsley and mint, this salad is  similar to a tabbouleh. The quinoa base makes it gluten free and the blueberries add  more summer freshness.

2 cups cooked quinoa**, cooled
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ diced chives or green onion
2 cups fresh blueberries

**To cook quinoa: rinse ½ cup quinoa and add to 1 cup of boiling water. Bring to boil, cover and cook on low heat 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

Combine ingredients and leave at room temperature for an hour before serving.

Yield: 4 portions about 1 cup each.

Chickweed Tincture

Author: helga

Chickweed Tincture

So much chickweed growing in my garden! So much information on the internet! I knew chickweed was edible and when I looked up information on it’s nutritional content, I found more than I expected. Apparently it has a myriad of medicinal effects as well and is sold as a herbal remedy.  I decided to put the excess chickweed to use.

I gathered a big zip lock bag full of chickweed from my garden and sorted out any dry bits and washed it. Washed a jelly jar and rinsed it with boiling water to make sure it’s sterile. Chopped the chickweed and filled the jar to about half inch from the top. Filled the jar with Everclear covering all the plant material.

Instructions recommend using a consumable alcohol as close to 100 proof as you can find. The stronger the alcohol, the less likely any contaminant can grow. Everclear is listed as 190 Proof and consists of 95% alcohol. Everclear is available for sale in Alberta but depending on where you live it may be unavailable or illegal.

The chemicals and nutrients in the plant are drawn into the alcohol. Remember this tincture is   consumed a few drops at a time, not even a teaspoonful.

The mixture is now left to steep for six weeks and then will be strained and bottled.

Instructions:

http://simple-green-frugal-co-op.blogspot.ca/2010/10/chickweed-tincture-among-other-things.html

A video showing the creation of chickweed tincture with apple cider vinegar:

 

Chickweed and Watermelon

Author: helga

Chickweed

This is chickweed from my garden.  With recent rains, it has been growing faster than my vegetables. Surprisingly it is also tastier than some vegetables. Like we’ve done with dandelions,  for years we have been throwing this plant in the garbage along with it’s great taste and vitamins.  Chickweed  contains  calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, silica, sodium, phosphorus potassium and zinc, It also contains some Vitamin A, some B vitamins  and a little vitamin C.  It tastes  like a fresher, crisper version of watercress.

A super fresh dish to serve on a hot day is a salad of watermelon with chopped chickweed. So good!

Watermelon

 

Chickweed can be added as an extra to green to most salads, to smoothies and to stir fries. They are a delicate plant and don’t stand up well to much heat, so add just shortly before serving if putting them into a cooked dish.

Chickweed has been used for its medicinal properties in herbal medicine. It can be used in tinctures and creams.

Buffalo Chip Cookies

Author: helga

Cookies

The best, gigantic, buttery, crunchy cookies.

1 lb. butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups crushed corn flakes
1 package chocolate chips
2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups oatmeal, uncooked

Get out your largest bowl and strongest wooden spoon to mix this batter.
Melt butter and cool to lukewarm. Add sugars and mix well. Add remaining ingredients in the order given, stirring well after each addition.

Use an ice cream scoop to measure out the dough – 6 scoops to each ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes.

Can also use rice krispies, granola, dried fruit pieces, half chocolate chips, half peanut butter chips, and different kinds of nuts.