Wednesday, April 29, 2009

lavender tarts

This is an adaptation of a very old family recipe for tarts that are called either egg tarts or vinegar tarts, depending on whom you talk to. Originally it was meant as a faux lemon tart recipe, as it came out of Nova Scotia back in the day when lemons weren't readily available.

You will need 24 small tart shells, or 12 large (muffin-sized) ones.

Filling (original recipe)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
splash vanilla essence

Mix sugar and eggs but do not overmix to frothiness. Add vinegar and vanilla and mix to combine. Pour into tart shells and bake at 375F until tops are nicely browned.

Filling (fancy lavender version)

3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp or so lavender flowers

Before you even make the pastry, place the vinegar and lavender flowers in a small saucepan over low heat. Don't let it boil. Leave it there until you need it.

Once the pastry is made and the tart shells are ready, mix as above, except pass the vinegar through a sieve to remove the lavender flowers before you measure 3 tbsp for the mixture. If you have a tiny bit extra (it's hard to say how much the flowers will absorb) you can toss it in. If you have less than 3 tbsp, just add regular apple cider vinegar as needed.

Sprinkle the tops with a few dry lavender flowers before you put the tarts in the oven, and bake as above.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A more food-like alternative to creepy orange 'cheese' spread

Since Sarah is not appropriately entertaining me on a daily basis with blog entries, I will create my own...

Who doesn't have fond memories of Cheeze Whiz? Ah, that wonderful orange goo that made celery sticks palatable as a child. Unfortunately, I still like to eat celery sticks and apple slices adorned with the horrid substance, an occasional habit that was rekindled after housesitting in a place that had some in the fridge. I finished off the jar and bought a replacement, and ate some of that too. Something about it is just yummy, but I hate to consume a product that likely has few ingredients found in nature and is manufactured by Kraft. Ugh, I genuinely feel shame when I buy it. Not that I eat a lot of the stuff, but probably every couple of years I get a jar and it lives in the fridge and gets slowly consumed.

Imagine my delight then, when I was at a friend's (of Japanese decent) parent's place for dinner, and she was mixing up a vegetable salad dressing of equal parts miso and mayonnaise. Upon tasting the dressing I exclaimed "That tastes like Cheeze Whiz!" which was met with disbelieving stares and that look that one gets when one is perceived as strange, a little pathetic, and hopefully not dangerous.

Skip forward almost a year...

I never did get around to buying myself some miso to try it out. I've had miso before and usually use a few tablespoons and then the rest of it sits in the fridge because it looks okay, but I don't really know how long it keeps so I daren't eat any more of it after the first few weeks. As fortune may have it, the place I am housesitting at now happens to have a tub of aka (red) miso and a big jar of mayonnaise. I mixed a few teaspoons of each and voila, exceptional Cheeze Whiz flavour (actually better than Cheeze Whiz), without the unnatural colour and unpronounceable ingredients. If you wanted to be a real superstar you could use homemade mayonnaise. One caveat - it is perhaps a bit more salty, but the flavour is quite intense so you don't need to glop it on.

So go ahead, try it. A childhood snack craving satisfied by something better tasting than the original and undoubtedly better for you.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I found some local rhubarb at Red Barn today, which means that spring is officially here and at some point in the not-too-distant future, there will be a strawberry-rhubarb pie coming out of my oven. (Strawberries are from last year, I froze about 20 lbs of them and we've barely made a dent. Note for next year: more blueberries, less strawberries.)

There are loads of greens available now: chard, spinach, lettuces of all sorts, beet greens, arugula, kale & cabbage tops, leeks, spring onions, salad mixes. It's time to overdose on the fibre, vitamins C & K1, and whatever else is in those lovely green veggies! There are also eggs everywhere (I think this is the "egg moon" that Jessica Prentice talks about in "Full Moon Feast") and we got our milk this week for the first time in months. (Nell gave birth to a big strong healthy calf named Oliver last week.)

And finally, fresh chickens are back in the smaller shops! Cowichan Bay Farms chickens can be found at Red Barn and hopefully soon again at Pepper's, and Dan's Country Farm Market has Stonefield Farms chickens which are huge, and even more delicious than the Cowichan Bay Farms ones.