A Little Cooking, A Lot of Adventuring

I’m three days into my Prince Edward Island adventure. And adventuring, oh, it has been had!  

Upload from September 02, 2011

Each day, the six of us - my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, the family dog and I - pile into the van and head down the red-dirt road with a map that never gets used and a plan that changes with the need for ice cream. With such a loose agenda, we’ve found ourselves at a moonshine distillery tasting dandelion shine (dandelion wine + moonshine) and Navy Strength rum (57%!), on rocky beaches searching for shore glass, and in the woods checking out what may be PEI’s largest tree (jury’s still out).  

Upload from September 02, 2011

As for that little bit of cooking, well, unless you count toasting two pieces of bread and brewing a single pot of coffee, I haven’t done any. At all. I did set the table twice though.  

Upload from September 02, 2011

Which isn’t to say I haven’t been eating well - I’ve had more garden veggies and fresh baking in the past couple days than I’m sure I’ve had in the two weeks prior - it’s just been other people doing the cooking (thanks, Dad!). 

Upload from September 02, 2011

But, thanks to a grumpy wind named Irene, we’ve got literal buckets-full of green tomatoes and ripe apples that I’ll need to turn into something tasty in the next day or two. So check back this weekend for something tomatoey, appley, or (more likely, knowing my inability to stick with a plan), something entirely different!  

An Adventure East!

It’s time for another adventure!

Upload from August 30, 2011Today, alongside my sister and brother-in-law, I board a plane headed east, to Prince Edward Island, to spend sixteen days with my parents at their home on the eastern shores. 

And oh man, am I excited. In the weeks to come, I’ll be bouncing down country lanes,  combing red-sand beaches until the tide comes in, digging through gardens and boxes of old treasure, and washing the dust out of my hair to celebrate my cousin’s big day.  

Upload from August 30, 2011Oh, and cooking. With relatives who know the kitchen like the back of their hand, in a province littered with organic U-Picks, you can bet I’ll be in the kitchen.

Upload from August 30, 2011I’ll have my camera with me every step of the way, so tune in over the next two weeks for a taste of the east coast, both edible and otherwise. I can’t wait to share one of my favourite places with you! 

Upload from August 30, 2011*A big thanks to my traveling companions, Lauren & Rob, who provided some fantastic shots of PEI to tide me (and you!) over until I can snap a few photos of my own. For more of their great PEI work, check out this post!

Super-Speedy Nectarine & Plum Jam

Well team, I’ve done it again.

Upload from August 25, 2011

For the past few years, I’ve taken the close of summer as my cue to go on a stonefruit spending spree, buying my weight (as a small child) in plums and nectarines with the intention of creating glorious goods to last me through Edmonton’s endless winters: properly-canned jams; frozen, ready-to-bake crisps; big bags of flash-frozen sliced fruit. And every year, I’ve failed.

This year, I’m in the same sorry boat, finding myself with a glut of good fruit and a lack of time to execute my grand plans. 

Upload from August 25, 2011

Which is good news, actually. Because in an effort to save my sorry stonefruits from a life uneaten, I subjected them to a quick blast on the stove, which resulted in a delightfully delicious and immediately edible nectarine and plum jam. Happy food indeed!

Upload from August 25, 2011

Now, these aren’t the sort of preserves you can preserve because, well, I don’t know how to do that safely (yet - it’s on my list!). But they are the sort you’ll want to eat on everything: spread on buttered toast, stirred into Balkan yogurt, spooned over a stack of whole grain pancakes, or heaped atop a big bowl of your best vanilla ice cream.

Or eaten straight from the jar, with a spoon and a shake of your head as you realize you’ll soon be off to replace your stash of previously-neglected stonefruit. Silly. 
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Nectarine & Plum Jam
Makes ~1 cup

Ingredients
3 ripe plums
3 ripe nectarines
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
3-4 whole cloves*
1 cinnamon stick*

Directions
Cut nectarines and plums into equally-sized wedges** and place in a small saucepan. Add sugar, cloves and cinnamon stick and heat over low until sugar dissolves, 5-10 minutes. Increase heat to medium and simmer until fruit becomes super-tender and starts to fall apart, 20-25 minutes. Pluck the spices from the mixture if you’re worried about biting down on them (I wasn’t, so I didn’t bother), then pour into a clean jar, let cool and refrigerate. 
 
Upload from August 25, 2011*Feel free to swap the whole spices for ground (I suspect 1/2 tsp should do it!) or for other tasty alternatives like allspice, or maybe a pinch of pepper or cayenne.
**Not sure how to cut stonefruit like plums and nectarines? Check out this handy site! For this jam, I cut each fruit into 8 equal-sized wedges. 

Sugar Cookie Icing + Icing Tips + A Mystery Solved!

First, the mystery!

Those cookies I posted about earlier this week? You know, the super-simple buttery sugar cookies I made as thank-you treats for friends who helped make last weekend’s art event such a success? 

Well, they didn’t become Pacmen after all. 

Upload from August 19, 2011

They became paint palettes! 

(A teeny bit more relevant, I thought.)

Upload from August 19, 2011

Ok, now that we’ve got that cliffhanger out of the way, we can talk icing. And what a lovely icing it is. It’s:

- Made from easy-to-find, kid-friendly ingredients: No powdered or fresh egg whites required! 

- Easy to work with: A teaspoon and a toothpick were the only tools I needed to go from naked Pacmen to multi-coloured paint palettes. 

Upload from August 19, 2011

- Super-forgiving: If you’re clumsy like me (the number of times I walked into a wall this week…), you’ll be happy to know that this dries smooth even when smudged, and that any mistakes made applying wet icing to dry can be easily removed with the flat edge of a toothpick. 

- Pretty: It’s smooth and unsmudgeable when dry, which means the cookies will be just as pretty when you deliver them as they were when you first decorated them (as for the transporter, well, I’ll let you know how I fare when I hand them out this evening. But, based on the number of times I’ve also spilled things on myself this week, my hopes aren’t high). 

- Super-tasty: Vanilla extract + almond extract + sugar = super-tasty. 

Upload from August 19, 2011

And, finally, the tips: In addition to the icing recipe, I’m also passing along a few tips that I find helpful when I decorate cookies. Which, I admit, is not very often, so if you’ve got any helpful hints, I’d love to hear them. But these are the techniques that have been working for me, so I hope they’ll work for you too! 
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Sugar Cookie Icing
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Makes ~1/3 cup (or enough to ice 24 ~1-inch-square cookies)

 *Want some sugar cookies to go with that icing? Check out this post!

Ingredients
1 cup powdered sugar
2-4 tsp milk (or water)
2 tsp corn syrup*
1/2 tsp of your favourite extract**

Directions

To make icing: Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Add 2 tsp milk and stir until the powdered sugar no longer looks powdery, adding an additional 1/2 tsp milk at a time as necessary. Add corn syrup (if using) and extract and stir until icing is smooth, adding more extract to taste, and more corn syrup to achieve the consistency you want. To use, see tips below!

Upload from August 19, 2011

*I avoid corn syrup as much as possible (it’s pretty bad for you, as it turns out), but have made an exception here because 2 tsp over 24 cookies doesn’t equate to a whole lot and results in a firmer icing, which is handy when you’re packing the cookies up and giving them away as gifts. If you want to skip it, as I do when I’m keeping the cookies at home, the icing won’t harden as nicely, but that’s really not a big deal!
**I used 1/4 tsp of almond extract and a 1/4 tsp of vanilla, but you can use any extract (or freshly-squeezed citrus juice!). If you want a pure-white icing, make sure to skip the vanilla or use a clear vanilla extract. 
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Icing Tips!

To colour icing: Divide icing into as many containers as colours you want to create, reserving a bit of white icing in case you want to dilute colours down the road. Add food colouring one drop at a time, stir, and adjust with food colouring or white icing until you’ve achieved the colour you’re after. In my mind, less saturated colours are best, but it’s up to you! NOTE: An ice-cube tray is a super-convenient icing container, as it allows you to have all your colours close at hand and minimizes the bulk of multiple bowls. I keep a free space between each colour to minimize the chance of cross-colour-contamination.

Upload from August 19, 2011

To ice cookies without a piping bag:

To create a base layer
, spread a thin layer of icing on cookie with the back of a clean spoon or unused paintbrush, going right to the edges. Carefully run a clean toothpick around the edges of the cookie to make a clean icing edge. Allow base to dry before adding more colours to prevent bleeding (3-4 hours or overnight, if you please).

Add additional colours
 to the dry base colour using a clean toothpick, a clean sandwich bag with a teeny bit of the corner snipped off (a make- shift piping bag!), or anything else you can think of, really (if you go for the sandwich bags, make sure you rinse and recycle them!). Once you’re done icing, allow cookies to dry one last time. 

Add decorations
 to the cookie when the icing is wet, or by “gluing” them to dry cookies with a dab of fresh icing.  

If icing is too thick or thin
for what you want to do, adjust with a bit of milk or icing sugar as necessary.

Upload from August 19, 2011

Art, Edible and Otherwise!

Let’s strike a bargain, team!

Indulge me while I talk about something non-food-related and then I’ll indulge you with a recipe for one of my favourite cookies of all time

Sound OK? Here we go!  

Upload from August 16, 2011

Over the past few months, I’ve had the great fortune of helping a team of incredible people and super-cool Edmonton organizations create an event designed to bring to life an incredible space, the Alley of Light. And this past Saturday, it all came together; Arts 4 the Alley was born!  

Under the beautiful summer sun, friends, family and strangers of all ages came together to create paintings for an alley art gallery, to construct lanterns to illuminate its walls, to listen to fantastic local musicians rock out on a loading dock, and to reinvent the drive-in by watching a movie projected onto the side of a building.

It was, in a word, incredible! 

Upload from August 16, 2011

But what’s more incredible in my mind is that the event even happened. 

The original concept - simply the alley art gallery - was dreamed up by three friends with little experience in major event planning. The idea was pitched and, unbelievably, this group of amazing individuals, most of them strangers at the time, came together to dedicate time, money, and creative thinking to not only bring the event to life, but to make it so much more than it otherwise would have been. They brought together cool local businesses, incredible musical and artistic talent, and an army of dedicated volunteers willing to iron out wrinkles and make things tick. 

All in the interest of getting people to experience their city in a new way, to create art together, to simply have fun! And, like I said, they succeeded big time!

Upload from August 16, 2011

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to say a huge thank you to all of the great people who created and participated in Arts 4 the Alley. And - here’s where the tasty bit comes in! - I’m kicking it off in the best way I know how, which is to bake. 

In the spirit of art, and the interest of deliciousness, I’ve rolled out dozens of those beautifully simple, buttery treats that lend themselves so well to being painted (with icing, that is!) - sugar cookies. 

Upload from August 16, 2011

The recipe contains just a few basic baking ingredients that come together and roll out with ease to produce smooth cookies perfect for eating as-is or decorating to your heart’s content. And, unlike some desserts designed with beauty in mind (fondant, anyone?), these guys look and taste great; butter, sugar, vanilla - what more do you need? 

Oh, and the unbaked dough and baked cookies both freeze super-well, which is a big bonus when you’re not quite sure when you’ll be seeing your cookie recipients next. 

So stay tuned for Stage 2 of cookie construction, when I’ll pass along a simple recipe for sugar cookie icing and reveal my plans for those mysterious Pacman-shaped cookies you see in the photos below!
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Mad-Tasty Sugar Cookies
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Makes ~60 smallish cookies

Ingredients
3¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
¾ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer (or wooden spoon and a lot of elbow grease) until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add in eggs* and vanilla to butter-sugar mixture and beat until fully incorporated. Dump dry ingredients into the butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon just until everything is fully combined. Divide dough in two, form into discs and wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for 2 hours.** 

Upload from August 16, 20112. Preheat oven to 400°F. On a piece of wax paper or parchment lightly dusted with flour, roll out dough until 1/4-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes using a cookie cutter or whatever you’ve got on hand.*** Transfer shapes to a baking sheet lined with parchment (I used a Silpat) and bake for 6-10 minutes or until edges are just beginning to brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature (or the freezer, if you want them to last for a good long while).  

Upload from August 16, 2011

*Always crack raw eggs one-by-one into a separate bowl before adding them to other ingredients. This will save you from having to trash otherwise good ingredients if ever you end up with a literally bad egg. The proverbial bad egg, well, that’s another story!
**Unless I’m baking for a crowd, I leave one batch of dough in the freezer and use it another time. 
***I used a shot glass and a straw, both dipped in flour regularly, to make the round cookies and a sharp knife to make the hearts. Be creative! 
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An extra-special shout-out to my wonderful friends, Chris and Jordan, who were there from the start, saw it through to the end, and did so much heavy lifting along the way; my supply of high fives for the two of you is endless. A special thanks too to all the familiar faces who showed up to participate; Katie, Ash, Tegan, Danny, Graham and Blaise - you guys are great!

A Niçoise, Sort Of

Here it is team! The meal that got me through a grueling weekend of listening to music and not much else. 

A Niçoise (nee-swahz) salad! Well, sort of.

Upload from August 12, 2011

A true Niçoise salad (or salade Niçoise) — a tasty dish that originated in the southern coastal French town of Nice — is composed of a medley of raw veggies, hard-boiled eggs, meat in the form of tuna or anchovies (but never both), and dressed simply with olive oil. Gosh, rules hey?  

Upload from August 12, 2011

This version channels the more traditional non-traditional Niçoise salads (which is to say, most Niçoise salads are not true Niçoise salads) and throws a lot of those rules out the window: cooked veggies in the form of new potatoes and snappy green beans are added to the mix, the meat is scrapped, and cheese - cheese! - tops everything off. Rules be damned, I say!   

Upload from August 12, 2011

The end result is a substantial summery salad loaded with colours, textures and flavours: fluffy baby potatoes, crisp green beans, soft hard-boiled eggs (an accurate contradiction, if ever there was one), salty black olives, spicy red onion, peppery arugula, creamy blue cheese, all topped with a bright French vinaigrette. Oh man!

It’s also super-simple to throw together. The most (minimally) laborious bit is chopping the veggies, which I like to liven up by making a game out of seeing how many bean tips I can lop off in one go. Guillotined bean salad, maybe that’s what it should be called. 

Upload from August 12, 2011

Give this a try while tasty summer veggies like green beans and bright tomatoes are kicking around. Just make sure you keep the end result — a truly nontraditional Niçoise — in the kitchen and off the streets of Nice, or heads (of lettuce) will surely roll! 
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Nicoise Salad, Sort Of
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
2 ripe tomatoes
A large pinch or two of salt 
3/4 lb baby potatoes, halved or quartered (whatever is bite-sized!)
2 large handfuls fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup packed salad greens (I used arugula)
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and cut in half
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Big pinch of freshly ground pepper
French vinaigrette (below)
2-3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarters*
1/4 cup blue cheese**

Directions

Cut tomatoes into wedges, place in a colander over a bowl, sprinkle with salt and let sit while you get started on everything else.*** In a medium pot, cover potatoes with an inch of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender when stabbed with a fork, 15 minutes or so. Transfer potatoes into a large bowl using a slotted spoon. Place beans in pot with simmering potato water and cook until they’re bright green and tender but still crisp, 3-4 minutes. Plunge beans into a bowl of ice water to stop them from cooking further, then drain beans and pat dry with a towl. Add to bowl with potatoes the tomatoes, beans, greens, olives, onion, basil, 1/4 cup of vinaigrette and pepper. Toss, taste and add more dressing as desired. Top with eggs, blue cheese and one last drizzle of vinaigrette. 
 
Upload from August 12, 2011

*To hard-boil an egg, place eggs in a deep pot and cover with one inch of cold water. Bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let stand for 13 minutes. Once time is up, drain, let cool in cold water, and peel. Easy!
**If a bold blue isn’t your thing, substitute in your favourite slightly soft, salty cheese or skip the cheese altogether!
***This step draws some of the extra moisture out of the tomatoes and makes them extra-tasty! 
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French Vinaigrette
Adapted from davidlebovitz.com
Makes 1/2 cup (enough for the recipe below, possibly with a bit leftover)

Ingredients
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 tbsp sherry, red wine, or white wine vinegar (I used the latter)
1/4 tsp sea salt 
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Directions

In a jar,  combine shallots, vinegar and salt and let stand for 10 minutes (to give the shallots the opportunity to mellow out). After 10  minutes is up, whisk in the Dijon mustard, and then the olive oil. Taste and adjust with more salt, vinegar, mustard or oil as necessary.

Upload from August 12, 2011 

Folk Fest Plus a Fiasco

I’m alive! But just barely.  

See, I spent the better part of Thursday through Sunday at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival. And, as it turns out, sitting around taking in hours of sunshine, great food and fantastic music takes a lot out of a person. Seriously. My apperance yesterday morning would have turned you to stone.

Upload from August 09, 2011
But before I disappeared into a (non-chemically-induced) haze of weekend relaxation, I set aside time to make tasty treats to share with my festival-going companions and, of course, you! 

And truly tasty treats they were meant to be: supremely simple no-knead bread, shaped into baguettes, brushed with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with glittering grains of salt, and studded with olives, teeny tomatoes and whole cloves of garlic. The four loaves were meant to rival the glory of the four-day-long festival. 

Upload from August 09, 2011
But here’s the thing. My oven and I, well, we’re still getting used to one another. And it seems that it’s taking a while to, ahem, warm up to me. 

The baguettes, full of love and tastiness, they stuck to the pan. Fused, actually.  

So instead of passing around golden loaves to great friends on the hill, I spent a night alone in my kitchen chiseling and prying bread off of a metal cookie sheet with an assortment of very large, very sharp knives.

(That breeze you feel? That’s from my mom’s head shaking as she balks at my utter disregard for personal safety  from aaaaall the way across the country.) 
 

Upload from August 09, 2011
Long story short: my kitchen mishap means I’m without a recipe today. 

But now that I’ve got a full day of work, an evening of errands, an unhealthy amount of coffee and tea and an inadequate amount of sleep under my belt, I’m fully energized and ready to get cooking. So check back in the next couple of days for a super-tasty recipe that kept me going this past weekend! 

And, to end on an unrelated note, props to my sister Lauren and brother-in-law Rob of Rob & Lauren Photographers for snapping the stunning shot of Sunday night’s finale. Thanks team! 

Bourbon Banana Bread

So last week’s Cosmic Cookies? Turns out a few of you (a lot of you?) quite fairly assumed from their name that they would be the sort of cookies to take you on an, ahem, intergalatic trip.

Upload from August 02, 2011

But no, deviant-minded friends, I did not share with you a recipe for drugged baked goods.

Hating to disappoint, today I’m going to try to make it up to you by sharing a recipe for a boozy baked good: bourbon banana bread.  

Upload from August 02, 2011

True, it’s not going to alter your state of consciousness, but it’s not going to get you arrested either. And it’s mighty delicious; truly, you’ll marvel at how many flavours - banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and bourbon! - fit into one little loaf pan.

And - bonus! - you won’t eat the whole loaf and then sit in a sad stupor for hours as you contemplate whether spices can feel. Actually, scratch that first bit; it’s really good.

Upload from August 02, 2011
Though I’ve got to say, I’m exercising some self-restraint, because I had fully intended to save all of this baking for Edmonton’s upcoming folk fest, but a lot of my Cosmic Cookies have already disappeared into the ether. 

Maybe there was something in them after all. 

Better stick with the banana bread. 
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Bourbon Banana Bread
Adapted from smitten kitchen
Makes 1 4x8-inch loaf

Ingredients
3 ripe bananas, mashed
⅓ cup salted butter, melted
¾ cup lightly-packed brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp bourbon (optional but worth it if you’ve got it on hand)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
1 tsp baking soda
1½ cups flour (I used 1 cup white, ½ cup whole wheat)
 
Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 4x8-inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas and melted butter with a wooden spoon. Add sugar, egg, bourbon and vanilla and stir to combine. Next, add cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and stir again to combine. Sprinkle baking soda overtop of mixture and (again) stir to combine. Finally, add flour to mixture and stir just until floury dust is no longer visible (don’t overmix or your bread will be tough!).  

Upload from August 02, 2011
3. Pour/spread batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the bread comes out clean (it it comes out batter-y, keep baking!). Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing.  

Upload from August 02, 2011
*Now that I’ve finished compiling this post, it occurs to me that the mug in the third set of photos looks a whole lot like it’s filled with bourbon; it’s chamomile tea! And just as I was trying to convince you of my straight-laced ways. Gosh guys.

Cosmic Cookies!

What makes them cosmic, you ask?  

Upload from July 29, 2011

It may be that they’re loaded with enough nutrients to sustain an astronaut. When astronauts still existed. 
Or it may be that they look a bit like asteroids. 
 
It could be that the recipe makes enough to feed a small galaxy.
But my best guess is that it has something to do with their gravitational pull.

Upload from July 29, 2011Because when I lived far away from the maker of the Cosmic Cookie - the local organic grocery store, Planet Organic - they just weren’t on my radar. But now that I’m mere minutes away from Planet Organic, well, we’re tight. And I’m short on laundry change. 

So last night, I decided to take matters (and matter) into my own hands; I turned to the great omniscient being, Google, and found a recipe for Cosmic Cookies from none other than Planet Organic itself.  

Upload from July 29, 2011And, wouldn’t you know, it’s beyond easy: mix, whisk, mix, squish, bake. To be fair, it’s a bit messy - gloopy, even - but it’s so worth it. Because the homemade versions are just as a good as the originals - moist and just-right sweet, with more extras than dough and the satisfying bite of blackstrap molasses - but they don’t run you $2 per cookie. 

Which means you won’t be worrying about a black hole in your wallet. Now your mouth, on the other hand: I make no guarantees. 
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Cosmic Cookies
Adapted from Planet Organic
Makes tons - 24 hefty cookies if made as directed and lots of littler ones if you stray from the directions

Ingredients
2¼ cups quick cooking oats
2 cups spelt flour
1¾ cups chocolate chips
1¼ cups raisins
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sunflower seeds
¾ cup + 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
¼ cup flax seeds
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2¼ tsp salt (preferably sea salt)
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
¾ cup canola oil
¼ cup blackstrap molasses*
¼ cup water 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350˚F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine first 11 ingredients (oats through salt) in an extra-large bowl and stir to distribute everything evenly. Combine milk, canola oil, molasses and water in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Make a well in dry ingredients and pour wet ingredients into well. Stir until just combined.
 
Upload from July 29, 2011
2. Portion dough onto cookie sheets using a 1/3 cup measuring cup or a medium-sized ice cream scoop (I went for the latter), leaving an inch between cookies.** Flatten cookies slightly. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until cookies are firm on top and lightly brown on the bottom.*** Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool. 
 
Upload from July 29, 2011
*Molasses is made by boiling the juice of sugar cane. Blackstrap molasses - the result of three rounds of boiling - has the strongest flavour, lowest sugar content and highest vitamin content of the commercial molasseses. Worth the (relatively minor) investment, I’d say! 
**You can also make smaller cookies by using a smaller scoop or spoon (hands are messy), flattening the balls slightly, and adjusting the baking time downwards. I made some smaller cookies that were roughly the size of a walnut before flattening and baked them for 12-13 minutes.
***It’ll be hard to tell if the tops are browning as the dough starts off a golden-ish colour, so your best bet is to check the bottoms for browning and lightly press the tops of the cookies to see if they’re firming up. 

From the Garden: Sesame-Soy Snap Peas!

Success!

This weekend’s Campus Community Garden Open House went off without a hitch!

Upload from July 25, 2011

The composting demo was super-informative (and not the least bit smelly);
The drum circle left a smile on everyone’s face;
The mosquitoes, well, they turned up. But so did the bug spray; 
And the food. Oh man.

The food was incredible. We feasted on marinated veggie burgers with walnut pesto, garden snap peas sauteed in sesame-soy sauce, garden lettuce with tahini-lemon dressing, and vegan raspberry-rhubarb tarts with coconut pastry cream. And get this: it was all homemade.  

Upload from July 25, 2011
See, the Campus Gardens Coordinator’s sister - who also happens to be one of my closest friends - catered the event, and she is hands-down the best and most creative cook I know. (And I only say cook because she’d correct me if I called her a chef - a term reserved for the pros - but she’s truly that good.)

And get this: she was willing to share her fantastic fare not only with garden-goers, but with you too! 

Upload from July 25, 2011
Yesterday afternoon, she dropped by to teach me - and you! - how to make her sesame-soy snap peas. 

The secret to these guys is all in the sesame-soy sauce, which is a cinch to make and so tasty that I bet you’re going to want to keep a jar on hand at all times to use as a marinade, a stir-fry sauce, a dressing and the like. And unlike premade sauces, you can adjust the balance of flavours - savoury, salty, sweet, sour and spice! - in this one to suit your preference and your purpose. 

All thanks to my awesome friend Dayna. Thanks, thanks, thanks! 

Upload from July 25, 2011

To find out more about the University of Alberta Campus Community Garden and to get your hands on some amazing snap peas (there are lots left, I checked!):
     - Check out the Community Garden website;
     - Contact Mel, the Campus Gardens Coordinator, at ecos{@}su.ualberta.ca; and,
     - Keep an eye on this great site for amazing photos of an awesome day!

And until next time - forgive me for this one - peas out! 
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Sesame Soy Snap Peas
Makes enough for 4 as a side
 
Ingredients
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 tbsp flour
1/3 cup water
juice from 1/2 a lime
1.5 - 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
3 tbsp toasted seame seeds*
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger**
1 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tsp packed brown sugar 
1-2 big pinches crushed chiles (optional)
1 lb fresh snap peas 

Directions

1. Heat olive and seasme oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sautee until it’s just beginning to brown. Stir in flour, allowing flour mixture to bubble briefly (30 seconds or so). Add water, lime juice and soy sauce and stir until sauce thickens slightly. Add sesame seeds, ginger, tahini, brown sugar and chiles and stir to combine, thinning with water if necessary and heating everything through (our final sauce was about the same thickness as apple sauce). Remove sauce from heat. 

Upload from July 25, 2011

2. In a clean pan, heat a few tsp of oil over medium heat. Once pan is hot, add peas and sautee just until they’ve heated through. Add in sauce, stir to combine, and sautee just until peas are evenly coated and everything is hot!

Upload from July 25, 2011

*You can buy your seeds pre-toasted or toast them in a dry pan over medium heat until they’re fragrant and golden - whatever works for you!
**To make grating a cinch, store your ginger in the freezer (it’ll last for ages, too!) and use a fine grater, like a Microplane