Caramelized Peaches and Figs

Caramelized Peaches and FreshFigs
I’m incredulous when I hear someone say they don’t like peaches. Say whaaaaat?? These must be the people who’ve only ever had mediocre peaches because, really, if they could ever experience the sheer joy of eating a peach right off the tree, they’d change their tune.

Peaches come in two varieties: really good ones and mediocre ones. A really good peach is just ever-so-slightly squeezable and a tiny bit warm. It’s best plucked right from the tree on a warm August day. A really good peach is never cold, because once it’s refrigerated, boom! It becomes mediocre. Something strange happens in the refrigerator that changes a peach from irresistible to unappealing. It’s transformed into something that should be used up fast, maybe in a smoothie, before it spoils even more.

Just like strawberries, peaches need to be eaten soon after picking. Late summer peaches are the best for cooking. They are usually freestone, which means that their pits or stones slip out easily, unlike cling peaches in which the fruit clings to the pit. Annoying.

Once a peach is picked, it stops ripening. Really. It may get softer, but it’s simply starting to rot rather than ripening. Getting your peaches from a farmer’s market will likely increase your chances of getting tree-ripened fruit. You want the really good ones, remember? Not the mediocre ones. Search for them. It’s worth it. You’ll thank me.
Peaches and Figs
The only fruit as fabulous as warm, sun-ripened, juicy peaches are warm, sun-ripened, juicy figs. Soft and delicate, they’re just as slurpy and as sweet as a peach. While eating either of these fruits fresh from the tree is beyond comparison, we’re often faced with a whole lotta fruit that ripens all at once, and it’s good to be able to play with the flavours and create something new. These Caramelized Peaches and Figs just oooooooooze “summertime”. This dessert can be whipped up in less than ten minutes while the crowd is digesting their dinner. If you don’t have figs, don’t despair. Peaches would be good paired with bananas in this dish too.


Caramelized Peaches and Fresh Figs
Serves 8 – 10
Ingredients
4 Tbsp. butter
6 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar, or Demerara, or brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
5 – 6 fresh peaches, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch wedges
4 fresh figs, quartered with stems trimmed. (No need to peel fresh figs)

Directions
1. Put butter and sugar in a cast-iron frying pan. Stir until well combined. Add the vanilla and stir until the mixture is golden brown and begins to smell like caramel, about 3 – 5 minutes. (Resist the urge to just have a taste. You’ll burn your tongue. Trust me.)
2. Add the fruit and very gently stir to coat. Continue to cook, watching closely until the fruit is glazed but not mushy, about 2 – 3 minutes. Serve immediately with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.


Do you like peaches? What are your favourite ways to eat them?

Posted in desserts, gluten-free | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie with Fresh Ginger

BlueberrySmoothie with Fresh Ginger by JoinMeForDinner

Choices. Every day I’m able to make choices about my diet, my health or my activities. One day earlier this week I considered being lazy by picking up a few packages of blueberries at my local supermarket but, thankfully, I banished that thought from my mind, smartened up and headed for a U-Pick Blueberry Farm.
Steld Farmkids yes dogs no
Good choice. Great choice! Branches drooping, heavy with ripe fruit, just begging to be picked, warm sunshine, and two little girls excited to be filling their buckets (and their mouths) with fresh sweet blueberries were all things that combined to make a perfect morning. Buying blueberries at the store would have been faster, but could you imagine missing this “sister moment”?

Sister Love. Taking a break in the blueberry patch.

Sister Love. Taking a break in the blueberry patch.


Every morning I can make choices about how to begin my day. On this particular day, I made a great choice to head outside and pick my own berries and as a result, my morning was filled with laughter and love. A healthy smoothie is usually what I choose for breakfast. This Blueberry Coconut Smoothie is full of antioxidants and is a perfect way to be kind to your body and give it what it needs. Often when you add kale or spinach to a smoothie it turns into an unappetizing brownish sludgy-looking thing, but the colour of the blueberries dominate in this one. Try it tomorrow while blueberries are plentiful and readily available. Freeze them now for the winter and you’ll be able to begin your day with memories of warm summer mornings.

Blueberry Coconut Smoothie with Fresh Ginger
Serves 1

Ingredients
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
handful of kale (or spinach)
1 cup unsweetened coconut (or almond) milk
2 Tbsp. yogurt
1 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons honey
2 ice cubes
fresh mint, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Pour into a glass, garnish with fresh mint and detox!



So . . . what’s your favourite smoothie combo? Is there something you add to yours every day? What else do you eat to start your day off right? Share your ideas in the comments section so we can all benefit.
Blueberry Ginger Smoothie

Posted in beverages, breakfast | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Garden Fresh Kale Salad

This Garden Fresh Kale Salad is easy to make, packed full of everything good for you, and uses local, readily available vegetables.
Garden Fresh Kale Salad
It was recently brought to my attention that my recipe for Kale Salad is not on my blog. Strawberry Feta Salad with Baby Kale is buried several posts back but there is a definite void in the Kale Salad Department. Now I realize that Kale Salad is kind of . . . well, out of vogue in the food blogging world, but really, who cares? Put your hand up if you like it. See? Everyone looks at it suspiciously at first and then they try it. And they like it. And then they feel self-righteous about eating it because it is so nutritious.

My version of Kale Salad is mine because all the veggies in it are straight out of my garden: freshly picked kale, just-pulled beets and crunchy carrots. Sometimes I toss in chick peas for extra protein, but they are not essential, especially if you are serving another main protein with your meal. I tie it all together with either a Balsamic Vinaigrette or a Lemon Vinaigrette, depending on my mood. Feeling Italian? Go for the deep rich flavour of the Balsamic. Greek? Stick with the Lemon and add a little crumbled feta cheese. If you grow your own kale, pick those tender leaves early in the morning. If you buy your kale, be sure to remove the tough central stem and massage the leaves gently with olive oil first. Kale leaves have a bit of a waxy surface and incorporating a little olive oil helps to tenderize them while adding flavour too. I crave the crunchy seeds that top this salad. Usually I use high-protein pumpkin and sunflower seeds, toasted and topped with a little tamari, but today I substituted unsalted pistachios and cashews when I discovered an empty pumpkin seed jar in my pantry.
Garden Fresh Kale Salad ready to toss


Garden Fresh Kale Salad
Serves 6 as a side salad

Ingredients
about 3-4 cups of finely chopped kale (approx 8 leaves, stems removed)
1 1/2 cups grated or julienned raw carrots
1 1/2 cups grated or julienned raw beets (or red cabbage)
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp tamari

Vinaigrette Ingredients
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. good quality Balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dried oregano

Directions
1. Wash kale leaves and remove the central stem. Chop finely. Put in a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and gently massage the oil into the leaves for a minute or two.
2. Grate or julienne the carrots and beets (or cabbage)
3. Toast the pumpkin and sunflower seeds by putting them in a heated fry pan over medium heat. Watch very carefully, stirring until they just start to turn brown. Remove from heat and toss with the tamari sauce until well coated. Cool.
4. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette just before serving.

Posted in gluten-free, lunch, salad dressing, salads, vegetables, vegetarian meals | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easy Zucchini Chips

Easy Zucchini Chips

With an overload of zucchini in my garden (how can something grow so fast?) I am running out of ideas for ways to use this veggie. I’ve made all my favourite recipes and have a freezer full of Zucchini Patties ready for quick winter meals. Today I was NOT happy to find these hiding behind the leaves of my two plants.
too many zucchini
I decided to make another batch of zucchini chips since last week’s batch was inhaled in less than 10 minutes. These chips are easy to prepare and really tasty. Dry them as best you can and you’ll shorten your oven time. Go easy on the oil so they don’t turn out greasy and cut them not too thick but not too thin. Capiche? I found 1/8th inch to be just about right. If they’re too thin, they just crumble. If they’re too thick they take too long to crisp and they don’t really seem like chips.

Easy Oven Zucchini Chips

Ingredients

Directions
Making zucchini chips
1. Slice the zucchini in uniform slices about 1/8 inch thick. A mandolin works best for this task. A large zucchini works well for this recipe as the slices will shrink significantly when baked.
2. Lay the slices on paper towel. Pat them with another paper towel to remove as much moisture as you can.
3. Toss them with a small amount of olive oil. Sprinkle sparingly with salt or other seasonings of your choice.
4. Lay them on parchment paper lined baking sheets, making sure they don’t overlap.
5. Bake at 250F. for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, turning half way through. Check them occasionally and remove when they are lightly browned and crispy. Cool on a wire rack.
Best eaten right away. Watch them disappear quickly!


Posted in boating or camping food, finger foods, vegetables | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Edible Garden and Farm Tour

CarrotsSave the date! Saturday, August 16 and Sunday, August 17 are the dates for the 2014 Edible Garden and Farm Tour in Cowichan. I’m hoping to find inspiration, tips and techniques for my own gardening at these 7 local sites. It’s a self-guided tour showcasing  the passion and talent of local gardeners.

I was wondering what to expect so I found this short video from last year’s Edible Garden and Farm Tour.

You can find more information about tickets and prices on their website here.  It’s one more opportunity to support our local farmers and producers.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Toasted Hazelnuts

Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese

The figs on my new fig tree are ripening so I celebrated by making this quick and easy fresh fig appetizer with goat cheese and nuts as a mid-afternoon snack. I had almost given up on my tree earlier this spring. It looked as dead as a doorknob so I figured it had succumbed to the cold snap we had in January. But late in May it suddenly showed some tiny sprouts and now look at it!
Fig tree
Figs are delicate little things. They don’t keep well and should be eaten either immediately or kept refrigerated at eaten within 2-3 days. You will know they are ripe when they start to droop from the branch and feel slightly soft. In the photo above you can see that the two on the right are ready to be picked. I polished off the first one with about three slurpy bites. You can occasionally find fresh figs in local stores or at farmer’s markets. If you are lucky enough to spot a roadside stand, screech to a halt. Last summer I chanced upon a stand with two little boys selling their figs at the end of their driveway. Score!

This fig appetizer with goat cheese is quick, easy, and fresh, fresh, fresh!
Fresh figs with goat cheese and hazelnuts.jpg


Fresh Figs with Goat Cheese and Toasted Hazelnuts
One fig yields about 4 slices

  • fresh figs
  • goat cheese
  • toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • balsamic reduction

Freshly sliced fig
Directions
Carefully slice the figs and lay out on a serving plate. Top with a little goat cheese (or blue cheese), drizzle with a tiny bit of balsamic reduction and sprinkle with toasted, chopped hazelnuts. Serve immediately, preferably with a glass of crisp, chilled Prosecco. Enjoy.


Fresh fig appy

Posted in appetizers, finger foods | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar

This mini gluten-free Cheesecake in a Jar is a perfectly decandent dessert to pack for your next camping trip.
Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar

It’s camping season here on the West Coast and if this stretch of PERFECT weather holds, we’ll be doing a lot more of it. “Camping” means different things to different people: backpacking and sleeping on the ground, kayaking and sleeping on a secluded beach, or taking off in a fully equipped RV. In my case, it’s boat-camping: finding a quiet cove in which to anchor for the night.

I used to love to go tent camping, or at least I loved the idea of it. In reality, however, we were often downright miserable. We would squish three kids in the back seat of a station wagon, cram our gear in the back, strap an overloaded roof rack on top and invariably end up in the pouring rain wondering when the fun would begin. I recall one particular trip in which my hubby became noticeably silent sullen after trying to pound plastic tent pegs into ground that was as hard as concrete. Later on, after washing the dishes in lukewarm water in a plastic tub, he commented, “I just don’t get it. I built you a big beautiful house and you want to play house in the woods?!”

Camping has changed for us now. It’s become “glamping” as we add a little glamour to our overnight adventures on our boat. I’m not ashamed to admit that I like sleeping in nice bedding instead of a lumpy sleeping bag. I like being able to charge my phone, make a cup of herbal tea and have ice in my drinks. But most of all, I like the fact that outhouses are a thing of the past now that our new boat has a head on it.
Islands Collage

Preparing food for a small refrigerator can be challenging. We like to avoid packaged foods when we are cooking at home, and we like to do the same when we travel. Cooking “from scratch” allows us to avoid resorting to store-bought or junk food when we go away. We like seeing, chopping, mixing and cooking our ingredients before we eat them. This recipe for cheesecake allows us to have a sumptuous dessert with our “glamping” meals. I make a batch, take what we need, and freeze the rest for future trips. These stayed in perfect non-nom worthy condition on our last trip.
Goat Cheesecake in a Jar

Gluten-free Cheesecake in a Jar

Makes about 14 125ml (1/2 cup) jars
Ingredients
Crust:
1 cup blanched almond flour (almond meal will work, too)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Filling:

8 oz. brick of cream cheese (regular or reduced-fat) at room temperature
8 ounces fresh soft goat cheese at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (use a microplane to grate it finely)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)

Topping:
1 cup berries of your choice: blueberries, Saskatoon berries, raspberries
1-2 Tbsp. honey, depending on the sweetness of your berries
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F.
Wash and dry 12-14 125ml (1/2 cup) mason jars. Set aside.

Crust:
Process all ingredients in a food processor until well mixed. Press about 1 Tbsp. into the bottom of each mason jar, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon.

Filling:

    1. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese, goat cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
    2. Add egg yolks two at a time, beating to blend and scraping down sides of bowl between additions. Reduce speed to low, add flour, and mix just until blended. GoatCheeseCheesecake
    3. Using clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold 1/4 of egg whites into goat cheese mixture just until blended; fold in remaining egg whites just until blended.

Fill the jars

  1. Carefully spoon the cheese mixture into the jars, leaving at least 1/2 inch headroom. Put the jars on a baking sheet and bake at 350F for 25 minutes or just beginning to brown around the edges.
  2. Turn the oven off, open the door and let the cheesecakes sit in the oven for about 10 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack. They will very likely fall, but don’t despair. You need room in that tiny jar for the berry topping.Cheesecake in a jar

Topping:
Combine the berries, honey and lemon juice in a small saucepan and heat gently over medium heat until hot and just beginning to bubble. Remove from heat and cool completely. Spoon over the completely cooled cheesecakes, top with a lid and refrigerate or freeze for your next camping trip.

Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar

Savour at sunset

Posted in boating or camping food, desserts, gluten-free, shot glass desserts | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment