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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Edible Flowers

Flowers are not only beautiful, certain varieties are tasty, as well. Choose flower petals to color butter, or add a spring of violas to add a sweet, wintergreen flavor to meat. You can also float flowers inside of a punch bowl, use in fruit salad, or as decorations on cakes and pies.

When most people think of edible flowers, they think of the flowers made from sugar and fondant included as edible decorations on wedding cakes. However, there is a true culinary delight that incorporates eating raw and cooked flowers – the kind that you grow in your garden. Before you run out to your local florist and buy flowers to include in your next dinner, however, consider these tips for choosing edible flowers:

  • Be careful. Never pick flowers for consumption if they've been exposed to pesticides, or those that grow by the roadside. Flowers from a florist should never be eaten. Since most florists use chemicals and pesticides to keep flowers fresher longer, they are considered poisonous.
  • Remove. For the best flavor, remove the pistils and stamens from the flowers before eating. Also, most varieties of flowers taste best if you remove the sepals. Flowers that taste best with sepals intact are pansies, violas, and Johnny-jump-ups.
  • Pick at peak. Choose flowers at their peak for best flavor, and always harvest in the early mornings, after the dew has evaporated.
  • Stem size. If you are choosing flowers that are long-stemmed, make sure that you place them in a vase of cool water, storing them in a cool place, until you are ready to use them. Short-stemmed flowers should be used within just a few hours of harvesting, or store them loosely between layers of lightweight, damp paper towels.
  • Refrigerator storage. While you can store flowers inside of a plastic bag in your refrigerator, make sure that you rinse them thoroughly before using and inspect for insects and dirt.

If you plan on harvesting flowers in order to dry them for use later, make sure that you choose varieties that will not lose their flavor during the drying process. Start very early in the morning, before the sun rises, and gather flowers before direct sunlight rests upon them. Take them immediately to a prepared, dark, well-ventilated area and hang them upside down by their stems. If you have chosen flowers with little or no stems, you may place them on a screen and allow them to dry. Once your flowers have dried, place them into airtight containers and label them. Store them in a cool, dark place until ready for use.

High Alititude Cooking

Cooking at high altitudes can be frustrating to the beginning and experienced cook alike. There are some completely different skill sets that need to be learned for cooking at high altitudes as compared to cooking at sea level. With a little for knowledge, the next time you go visit Great Aunt Mildred in the Rockies, you will be able to properly turn out your favorite dish

  • Cooking. At higher altitudes it will take more time for your food to cook. Water does boil a whole lot more quickly when compared to sea level. However since it boils at a lower temperature, because of lower air pressure, so plan on an additional five minutes of cooking time for every 5,000 feet above sea level.
  • Reduce leavening. In contrast to boiling water, cakes and breads will rise quicker at higher altitudes. When a cake rises too fast, it runs the risk of running out of the gasses that help it to rise, which leads to a cake that is coarse, sunken and completely unappetizing. When you reach 5,000 feet you need to decrease the content of your leavening agent by up to 25%. Above 7,000 feet you will need to decrease it by more than that, roughly another 5% for every additional 1,500 feet you go up in altitude.
  • Increase flower and moisture. For every 3,000 feet in altitude you need to add an additional tablespoon of flour and liquid. Doing this helps ensure that your baked goods are nice and moist, and do not become too dry when getting cooked.
  • Increase temperature. If you are cooking or baking above 5,000 feet, then you need to increase your cooking temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit. This helps reduce the risk of baked goods rising too fast and your other types of food not getting cooked enough.
  • Reduce oil temperature. When deep-frying foods, you definitely want to have an even distribution of that nice "golden" color that is so attractive in things like donuts and French fries. To ensure even cooking and even distribution of color, reduce the temperature of the cooking oil by 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Reduce sugar. Another important ingredient to reduce is sugar. If you are cooking around 5,000 feet you will need to reduce your sugar by about 2 tablespoons, and by 3 tablespoons when cooking around 6,500 feet.
  • Watch mixing. For some reason, when cooking at higher altitudes it is easier for ingredients to be mixed. This means that you will need to pay attention to any mixing that you might be doing. Ensure that you don't "over mix" your ingredients. Pay attention to not only the time that a recipe may ask for in regards to mixing, but the description of the end results as well.
  • Eggs. A common ingredient for baking is eggs. If your recipe calls for eggs, add one extra large egg. This will ensure that your recipe will not dry out and will, in fact, be nice and moist.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dilled Two Salmon Chowder

This is a wonderful take on chowder. A favorite among many a friend on the west coast. I ran across this particular recipe while hiking the west coast trail with a couple of Rovers in the Scouting movement. a truly excellent finish to a 20 Kilometer day.

Serves 6

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 med yellow onion
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 4 cups Fish stock
  • 2 Lg. New potatoes, Diced
  • 1 Lb. Salmon steak skinned and boned
  • 3 cups Heavy Cream sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Dill, chopped
  • 4 oz Smoked salmon, chpd
  • 1/2 Tsp Table salt
  • 1/4 Tsp Pepper
  • 1/2 Tsp lemon zest, fine grate
Melt butter in sauce pan and saute onions until tender, add flour to make a roux. Remove from heat and add stock slowly while stirring. Return to heat, add potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat cover and simmer 12 minutes. Stirring occasionally. Add fresh salmon and zest, simmer until fish is cooked. Stir in cream, 1 Tbsp dill, smoked salmon, salt and pepper, heat until hot but not boiling. Garnish with dill and serve.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How to season a Dutch Oven or any other piece of cast iron

Regardless if it is brand new for found in a flea market or yard sale. A Cast Iron piece can become a real treasure in your cooking world. More importantly you cast if seasoned and cared for properly will last a lifetime.

So you’ve conquered the cooking aisle or the rummage sale and come home with the prized Dutch oven. So what’s next?

  1. Well most cast iron oven most manufacturers put a protective coat on the item. Before you begin cooking, this coating needs to be removed. Also if you inherited or purchased a used Dutch oven it will need to be seasoned. Wash the piece with warm soapy water and scrub well. NOTE: This is the only time you will use soap on your Cast Iron.
  2. Completely dry with a paper towel. Make sure the oven is totally dry, place in an oven @ 200 deg F. for 15 min to finish.
  3. Remove Dutch from oven and set oven to 350 deg.
  4. Coat Dutch oven including lid with quite a bit of vegetable oil. Rub it in really good and wipe off excess.
  5. Place a oven liner in the bottom of the oven to catch drippings from cast.
  6. Place lid with handle up on the oven rack and the dutch oven upside down next to the lid. Bake 1 hour.
  7. Remove Dutch and wipe off excess oil.
  8. Apply another layer of oil inside and out.
  9. Follow step 6 bake 1 hour.
  10. When timer goes off, turn off oven and let cool in oven until it is cool enough to remove with bare hand.
  11. Wipe off any extra oil and apply another very light coat, wipe off any extra oil.
  12. Your Cast iron is seasoned, should be slightly shiny; and is now ready to go.

Kitchen saftey as brought to you by the Canadian Food Inspection agency

Kitchen Food Safety Tips
Preventing foodborne illness

How safe is your kitchen?

Did you know that most foodborne illness results from poor food handling at home? Your kitchen could be a high risk environment. Bacteria can thrive in food that is improperly stored or handled. Reduce the risks by following these tips from Canada's food safety experts. Play it "food safe" in your kitchen!

Get off to a CLEAN start!

  • Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of foodborne illness. Do you wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food? Wash again when you switch from one food to another.
  • Are your countertops and utensils clean and sanitized? Sanitizing reduces bacteria and can prevent foodborne illness.
  • It's important to thoroughly clean everything that comes in contact with your hands or your food! Don't forget about kitchen cloths . . . faucet handles . . . sink drains . . . garbage disposals . . . can opener blades . . . refrigerator handles . . . small appliances . . . utensils, and so on.


  • Combine 5 mL (1 tsp) of bleach with 750 mL (3 cups) of water in a labelled spray bottle.
  • After cleaning, spray sanitizer on the surface/utensil and let stand briefly.
  • Rinse with lots of clean water, and air dry (or use clean towels).

Eight quick tips for the kitchen (at home, work, school, etc.)

  1. Keep separate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and seafood and a different one for ready-to-eat and cooked foods. Clean and sanitize cutting boards after each use. Plastic cutting boards can be easily cleaned in the dishwasher.
  2. Wash the lids of canned foods just before opening them to prevent dirt from getting into the food. Clean the can opener's blade after every use.
  3. Take small appliances apart (food processors, meat grinders and blenders) right after you use them, and clean and sanitize them thoroughly.
  4. Air dry dishes and utensils if you can, or dry them with clean kitchen towels. Wash and sanitize towels, sponges and cloths often to prevent bacteria from growing.
  5. Clean the pantry regularly, keeping food off the floor. Store food in sealed containers.
  6. Thoroughly wash and sanitize containers and utensils that were in contact with raw food before you reuse them.
  7. If you have an infection or cut on your hand, cover it with a bandage and then wear disposable gloves when preparing food. But remember: gloves pick up bacteria, too. Change gloves frequently and wash gloved hands as often as bare hands.
  8. Use a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature of your food.

Internal Cooking Temperatures

You can’t tell by looking. Use a digital food thermometer to be sure!

Food Temperature
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) - medium-rare 63°C (145°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) - medium 71°C (160°F)
Beef, veal and lamb (pieces and whole cuts) - well done 77°C (170°F
Pork (pieces and whole cuts) 71°C (160°F)
Poultry (e.g. chicken, turkey, duck) - pieces 74°C (165°F)
Poultry - whole 85°C (185°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures (e.g. burgers, sausages, meatballs, meatloaf, casseroles) - beef, veal, lamb and pork 71°C (160°F)
Ground meat and meat mixtures - poultry 74°C (165°F)
Egg dishes 74°C (165°F)
Others (hot dogs, stuffing and leftovers) 74°C (165°F)

Cold Facts

Fridge and Freezer Checklist

Refrigeration slows down most bacterial growth while freezing can stop the growth of most bacteria. (But remember: refrigeration and freezing won't kill bacteria. Only proper cooking will do that!)

  • Don't let bacteria get a foothold! After you shop, immediately put away food that needs to be refrigerated or frozen.
  • Check the temperature of your fridge and freezer. Are they cold enough?
    • Set refrigerators at or below 4°C (40°F). Use a refrigerator thermometer to check the temperature.
    • Keep freezers at or below -18°C (0°F). Use a freezer thermometer to check the temperature.
  • Don't overload your fridge and freezer. Cool air must circulate freely to keep food properly chilled.
  • Clean the refrigerator and freezer regularly.
  • Bacteria can be carried in raw meat juices. Place raw meat, poultry and seafood in containers on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Use containers that are large enough to prevent raw juices from dripping onto or touching other food.

Foodsafe tip: Freezing will NOT kill all bacteria that might have been in the food before it was frozen. Only cooking your food to a safe internal temperature will kill harmful bacteria.

Safeguarding Canada's Food Supply

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the Government of Canada's science-based regulator for animal health, plant protection and, in partnership with Health Canada, food safety.

Ham hocks and Beans for the Dutch oven

Comfort food at its best. This is a great hearty mid winter meal, when I make this for my family it is a huge winner even for my 4 year old food critic. For me I am taken back to a time in my youth sitting around my Grandmothers table. Safe, happy and surrounded by family. This recipe is a particular favorite for my family at camp after a day of hiking, canoeing, and exploring. For those of you whom do not have a dutch oven this recipe can be done in a roasting pan as well. You do not need to soak your beans for this recipe but you may need to increase your cook time. For the the purpose of camping I tend to set my beans soaking prior to leaving the city. and find the 2 hour time works well.

Serves 8 to 10 people

  • Canola oil 2 Tbsp
  • Smoked ham hocks 4 oz - 8 med
  • Chopped onion 2 cups
  • Dried navy beans 1 Lb
  • Black pepper - to taste
  • Salt - to taste
  • Water 10 cups
  • 2 Bay leaves
Heat Dutch oven over medium high heat, add oil and sear hocks in batches until brown; about 4 - 6 minutes. Remove hocks and set aside. Add onions, season and saute 2 minutes. Stir in beans and bay leaves and season with pepper, saute for 1 min. Add reserved Hocks and water. Bring to a boil, cover and bake at 350 deg. for 2 hours or until meat falls off the bones and the beans are creamy. Remove bay leaves and season to taste.