Thursday, July 28, 2011

More Frugal Fare for a Hot Summer Night

It's one of those lazy, hazy afternoons when the humidity makes me allergic to cooking. Eating out again this week is not an option. And besides, I need to empty out the pantry before we head to Montreal for the weekend.

I gather a can of chickpeas, a bag of rice pasta, some wilting veggies and two cans of tuna for a quick and simple supper.

tomato & onion flaked tuna
Shell pasta +  chick peas + tuna + veg = fast, frugal fare 
This tuna pasta salad makes an ideal picnic meal. Serve it cold or heated with melted cheese. It costs about $6 and 12 minutes to make. It easily feeds a family of five with leftovers for lunches. If you can't find flavoured tuna like the samples above, simply flavour your own with salt, pepper, a tablespoon of tomato paste or sauce and chopped onion. I like adding chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) to my pastas because of the added protein, fibre and folic acid.
Tuna Pasta Picnic Salad

Tuna Pasta Salad
1 package rice pasta
1 can chick peas
1/2 diced red pepper
2 cans seasoned tuna
2 plum tomatoes diced
1 celery stalk chopped
1 carrot chopped or grated

1) Cook the pasta al dente. Drain and cool.
2) Mix everything else into a large pot.
3) Dish out and enjoy.

Feel free to get adventurous and throw in some sun dried tomato, grilled veggies, maybe some ancho chiles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Luscious Local Lamb

In my last posting, I promised an update on the spring lamb from Laurie McCannell's Sweet Garden Farm. Here it is.
Leg of lamb roasted with garlic and rosemary 

I cut small incisions into the flesh and tucked garlic cloves inside. I added a handful of fresh sprigs of  rosemary and wrapped everything in foil. I completely forgot to season the meat with salt and pepper.

As an aside, let me say that I have zero experience preparing lamb. I grew up on fish and pork. Another thing, the BBQ is hubby's domain. With my slow reflexes and my wonky eyes, being near anything combustible is not a good idea. I forgot this fact because I was so excited about the lamb. So, with my fingers crossed, I tried to fire up the BBQ and make my first leg of lamb.

I nearly singed my eyeballs!  The spontaneous flame made me revert to plan B -- oven roast.

It was 30 degrees Celcius outside with no air conditioning inside. My trusty Bosch oven cranked up the temperature in the kitchen to what felt like 100 degrees. But the heat didn't bother me because I was so intoxicated by the heavenly aroma of rosemary, garlic and lamb.

The three-pound leg roasted at 400 degrees for about 90 minutes. In hindsight, that was 10 minutes too long. The meat was well-done rather than medium rare, which I prefer.  Still, it was juicy, tender and delicious. It was especially tasty with the Laurie's rosehip sauce mixed with the jus from the roasting pan.
Laurie MacCannell's rosehip sauce with lamb jus 

If you're craving lamb, contact Sweet Garden Farm and tell Laurie that AK's Kitchen sent you.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Back to the Farm

I picked up a carton of eggs today, and I met the hen that laid them. It's a rare treat for us to see exactly where our food comes from.

These hens hail from Sweet Garden Farm in Vars, Ontario, just 30 kilometres from my home in urban Ottawa. Laurie McCannell raises chickens, ducks, sheep and lamb. She also has a vegetable patch on her 25 acre farm. Her livestock is completely free range. She uses no pesticide, no hormones.

On the day I visited the farm, Laurie and her two youngest children gave us the grand tour.

Laurie grew up on the farm next door. Her parents still maintain the apple orchard. Laurie and her husband moved away from the farm for university and eventually for work. But the farm beckoned.   Laurie et al returned to Vars three years ago. Now she is raising another generation of famers.
"I can't imagine living any other way. I know exactly where our food comes from. We're healthy and we're respecting the land," Laurie told me.

Her youngest of her three children, 10-year-old Peter, seems to be a natural farmer. He planted handfuls of seeds in May. On the day of my visit, he showed off his thriving pumpkin patch.

Laurie has exciting, delectable plans for her farm. Once Maple the jersey cow calves, Laurie plans to experiment with the rich milk for gourmet ice cream.

Her Berkshire pigs are prized by chefs and foodies. Laurie seems most proud of her lamb. One of her neighbours told me that the spring lamb from Sweet Garden Farm is beyond compare. I took home a three-pound leg that's now resting in my freezer. Once I find a worthy recipe, I'll let you know my results.

I spent about two hours on the farm, in awe of one family's devotion to the land. They feed the earth with their attention and care, nothing foreign or man-made. In return, they are fed by the harvest of their hard work. But they don't seem to consider it work. Farming is their calling.

I left Sweet Garden Farm with spring lamb, fresh eggs, maple syrup, honey and lettuce plucked straight from the earth. I supported a local grower. I saw exactly where my food originated. My daughter is eager to go back for another visit to the farm.

If you want to get in touch with Laurie McCannell, check out her website at