Sweet Apple Chutney

An apple chutney recipe could be a really lovely, home-made Christmas present. And, an added bonus, while the chutney is cooking, your entire home will smell like Christmas.

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Sweet Apple Chutney

2 large tart cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup raisins

1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

1/2 teaspoon allspice

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Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and stir well.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.  Uncover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes more to cook off excess liquid; let cool.  Pour into clean, dry mason jars and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes approximately two cups.

chutneyAnd, as simple as that, you have a beautiful, made-with-love chutney for your next dinner party. Or wrap a big, velvet bow around it and it’s a yummy, home-made x-mas present.

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Love Apples

love ap·ple

Noun – an old-fashioned term for a tomato.

Synonyms – tomato

I love my tomato plant. I really, really, love my tomato plant. I love the way the leaves smell like fresh, green aromatherapy. I love how sweet the little, yellow flowers look before they morph into baby tomatoes. I love how I never put a stake in it and it is turning into a clinging vine, with stalks and leaves taking over one entire side of my balcony railing. I love watching the rows of tiny, bright green globes turn into juicy, red mature tomatoes. I love how there are currently over fifty “love apples” growing on it. I love how my plant has proven wrong everyone who said I couldn’t grow tomatoes on a Northeast balcony. Yes, I love everything about my tomato plant.

Now, it’s time to share the harvest of my prized plant. So I asked Chef Pedro, my advisor on all things food related, for his best, most kick-ass salsa recipe and here it is:

LOVE APPLE SALSA

  • 40 cherry tomatoes, from the balcony garden ( or 4 regular tomatoes)
  • ¼ med. red onion, finely diced
  • 1 med yellow pepper finely diced
  • ½ squeeze fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
  • ¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • I tsp. fresh garlic, diced
  • a few pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper

Add tortilla chips, a couple of friends, margaritas and you have a perfect Friday night!

Fresh, Local, Feast

Last Friday was one of those classic Vancouver days where the weather seems to change every time you blink. But after a gloomy afternoon, the weather gods smiled and the changeable day turned into a perfect summer evening. A few friends and I decided to celebrate the sunshine and the upcoming weekend with dinner and drinks on my patio.

The evening began with my specialty, a blender drink of stoly vodka, organic raspberries from the community garden and organic Santa Cruz (or homemade) lemonade.

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I’m originally from a small town called Buckhorn, where people like to drink. Really like to drink. In fact, the largest building and town centre is the liquor store. As they say, you can take the girl out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the girl. So whenever I make cocktails, I tend to do this thing my friends call the “Buckhorn Pour”. I’m not quite sure how it happens, subconsciously maybe… but  a LOT of alcohol ends up in my cocktails. Needless to say, I’m a very popular bartender!

Next up is our first course, Kusshi oysters from Vancouver Island. In this case, good things do come in small packages. Kusshis are small, sweet and addictive. The oysters were served with a mignonette and cocktail sauce (all recipes listed at the end).

The dinner discussion flowed, covering many, many subjects. But the one that left the biggest impression on me was the topic of people dining with their blackberrys or iphones right beside them. Thoroughly attached to the internet, it’s so very common now for people to disconnect from their in person companions to hunch over their telephones, frantically texting, emailing or posting a status on facebook. One of my dinner companions had recently read an article explaining that when people communicate in person, face to face, bonding hormones are released in the brain. The hormones immediately connect you to the person you are speaking with. When you communicate with someone via an electronic device, guess what? Absolutely no bonding hormones are produced. Is this why our society is becoming so alienated and disconnected from each other? Probably. This is especially upsetting since every psychological study ever done has found that humans receive their deepest feelings of happiness and contentment from connection with other humans. So as a society, we are turning away from the very thing that would give us our greatest pleasure.

Definitely food for thought.

Okay, back to the food for our stomachs, as we move on to our main course. Halibut tacos served with homemade guacamole and spicy salsa. This course was accompanied by a crisp, fruity pino grigio from St. Hubertus winery in BC`s Okanagan. The slight sweetness of the wine makes it a wonderful companion for spicy food.

Fresh BC halibut went into the oven, soaked in a beautiful marinade.

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And 30 minutes later, tacos are served!

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Last but not least, dessert. Earnest Vanilla ice cream topped with fresh basil from my herb garden and a bowl of strawberries to share. This was the cherry on top of a three course, four hour dining experience.

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Mouth watering food? Yes. A face to face bonding experience with really awesome friends? Definitely! And nobody looked at their cell phone even once.

The recipes…

Cocktail sauce

  • 1 cup organic ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. strong horseradish
  • ½ Tsp. lemon juice
  • ¼ Tsp. sweet smoked paprika

Mignonette Sauce

  • ½ cup chianti vinegar
  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 medium Shallot minced fine
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • 1 to 2 pinches sea salt
  • quick grind mixed pepper fresh ground
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. brown sugar

Pico de Gallo Salsa

  • 3 to 4 heirloom tomatoes, various colours
  • ¼ med. red onion finely diced
  • 2 med mixed orange, yellow, red peppers finely diced. Complement the colours of the tomatoes.
  • ½ squeeze fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbs. fresh cilantro
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • ¼ Tsp. chili powder, or to taste
  • ¼ Tsp. chipotle chili powder. Or to taste
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic

Combine all and let macerate for 3 to 4 hours to let the juices come out.  Strain and taste, pre-season as needed.  Save the liquid for the fish.

Guacamole

  • 3 to 4 large avocados
  • ½ Tsp. Buffalo brand chipotle salsa hot sauce.
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper

Scoop out and use a pastry knife to coarsely chop.  Add all ingredients and fold in, being careful not to completely mash the avocados.

Halibut Marinade

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro
  • ¼ Tsp. granulated roasted garlic
  • Several pinches sea salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • ½ Tbs Korean chili flakes( any dry chili will work)

Let marinate 6 to 8 hours.  Place in a roasting pan add reserved salsa juice.  Roast at 350’ just until cooked.  Should be flaky but moist.

Honey Bee Haven

Summertime. The sun is shining, gardens are growing and it’s the perfect season for a culinary adventure.

I scoured the internet for an unusual, gardening/food experience and guess what I found? A rooftop garden of herbs, veggies and edible flowers growing at the Fairmont Waterfront. There is also a bee colony on the rooftop that is home to approximately 200,000 honey bees! If you’ve read my last few posts, you’ll know that gardening has become a great love and perhaps even an obsession this year. This was my perfect destination.

The hotel gives guided tours of the garden and hives every weekday at 3pm so I signed myself up, grabbed my camera and off I went.

The honey bee experience started with the Hive Tea at  Herons West Coast Kitchen.

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Hive Tea is a proper afternoon tea that incorporates herbs, flowers and honey from the rooftop garden. I settled into my window seat and got ready to indulge.

The experience started with a presentation of 16 different teas to choose from. Black, herbal, citrus, floral. The options seemed endless. After much deliberation, I picked the chai. It arrived in a large glass pot and was spicy, milky and drizzled with honey from the hotel’s hives. Sweet and soothing.

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Next came rich, earthy blue cheese from Moonstruck dairy. Served on a bed of sautéed mushrooms, atop smouldering cedar, it was beyond words. So delicious I wanted to lick the plate…but refrained (sort of).

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The gorgeous dessert tray, included bannock, a First Nations specialty, covered in edible flower petals, and accompanied by honey and wild berry preserves. All from the rooftop garden. Bannock is one of my favourite treats and was an exquisite ending to this West Coast dining experience.

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Happily satiated, I rode the elevator to the roof deck and found my idea of paradise waiting there for me.

First we walked through the Fairmont’s gorgeous pool area…

Then, onto the herb garden and honey bee haven.

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There awaited an expanse of lush green gardens, alive with the buzzing of bees. What a contrast to the urban high rises right behind us. This was a little garden of Eden in the middle of the city.

Our tour guide, Tara, gave us a ton of information about the honey bee. Did you know that one third of the food we eat relies in some way on pollination by a bee? One third. These are amazing creatures that we should be doing our utmost to protect. If we realize that they are being jeopardized by rampant use of certain pesticides, then ban the pesticides. It’s as simple as that. A substantial amount of our food supply depends on them and we can’t afford to watch helplessly as they become extinct.

We stood by the hives that contained 200,000 buzzing bees as Tara described their habits, their awesome intelligence and most importantly…their enemies. Certain pesticides are bee enemy number one and are endangering their very existence. These unbelievably intelligent creatures are integral in the pollination of a large percentage of our food supply and definitely need to be protected. I love that the Fairmont is helping to keep our eco-system in balance by caring for these hives. It’s an unbelievably important undertaking. We’re so close to doing irreparable damage to our creature companions in this world and we all need to pull together and make some serious changes.

After the tour was over, I stood and watched the bees for a long, long time. Busily dancing and buzzing around the hives, they seemed so vulnerable. Their survival is utterly dependant on us becoming better environmental stewards. It made me desperately want humans to realize that we need to take greater care of this earth. Hurt one species and you hurt us all. We are all deeply connected.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life.  We are but one thread within it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.  All things are bound together.  All things connect.”  – Chief Seattle

This was a beautiful and moving experience at the Fairmont today. Kudos to the hotel for doing their share in creating a better, sustainable world.

I only hope more corporations follow in their footsteps.

Simple Summer Salad

The sun has been shining for days and there is a feeling that summer has finally arrived, full-blast, in our lovely, rainforest city. On a weekend like this I plan to stay out of the kitchen and at the beach as much as possible. So, this morning I hit the Farmer’s Market to see what easy, local, organic-ness I could bring home for tonight’s dinner. And this is what I found:

A huge bag full of sweet, baby peppers and a big bunch of baby kale, only $5.00 each. Both locally grown, organic. The farmer who sold me the peppers told me she started using ladybugs a few years ago as living, natural pesticides. I’m always so impressed when farmers work in sync with nature like that. Ladybugs as pesticides? Apparently they do an amazing job of killing aphids and other problem insects.

Tonight’s menu: A salad that’s cool and simple on a hot, summer night.

I added avocado, walnuts, dried blueberries and red onion to the ingredients above. Then pan fried a piece of wild, BC salmon and drizzled everything with a home-made dressing of olive oil, balsamic and yummy, Canadian maple syrup. This salad is lovely with blue or goat’s cheese crumbled on top too.

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An almost effortless dinner that’s refreshing and full of antioxidants. Eat al fresco if possible and enjoy the sweet, lazy, summer evening ahead of you.

The Farmers Market

My neighborhood Farmer’s Market opened last weekend and I am so excited to have easy access to fresh, local, organic fruit and veggies again. I’m sorry Whole Foods but your mangoes and bananas, imported from Chile and Mexico, don’t hold a candle to this!

Wandering through the tented stalls, with the aroma of freshly baked bread and scents of just-picked fruit, was heaven. My favourite purchase of the day was a carton of strawberries. Not the conventional, too-big, too perfect looking, bland, watery-tasting, possibly GMO strawberries but small, dark red, velvety, oddly-shaped, super-sweet, bona fide organic strawberries. Strawberries the way they are supposed to look and taste. Strawberries so mouth-wateringly sweet and delicious I devoured them all before I even left the market.

For the first time ever I decided to barter a little with the farmers; well actually my budget made the decision. I gathered my courage to ask them if I bought, say, four bunches of arugula and two bags of kelp, could they give me a deal? And, yes, they could! I guess it works out well for both of us. They sell more of their produce and I save a little money, so we both win. I happily filled my bags to the brim and concocted this tonic when I got home:

The Market Special

I cup blackberries

1 cup wild greens

I pinch parsley

1 leaf lemon balm

1 apple

1/2 cup organic apple cider

Fresh, local goodness.

Blushing Boutique

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Supporting my city’s artists and designers, is something I love to do and Blushing Boutique is one of the shops that I’m drawn to again and again.

This could be because owner/designer, Shelley Klassen’s designs flatter the female body so well (and not every designer does, as we know). Along with amazing cuts, Shelley says her biggest colour influence is the jewel tones of the West Coast in springtime, seen in the abundance of rich, saturated colours sprinkled throughout the shop.

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For Shelley, everything starts with fabric. She describes how the fabric speaks to her and tells her what direction to take. Instead of starting with a sketch, she begins with a section of fabric, draping it over a mannequin and letting her creativity and imagination take over. This is fashion that is so well made and as local as you can get with many of her pieces being constructed in the atelier at the back of the shop.

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The walls of Blushing Boutique are decorated with paintings by Vancouver artists. They rotate every couple of months and add even more charm to the boutique. An array of local jewellery designers are showcased at the counter as well.

With beautiful Vancouver made eco fashion, displays of home-town artists and jewellery designers, Blushing Boutique makes shopping local effortless and beautiful.

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