Sunday, January 18, 2009

Toast to 101 years of great Canadian grains

Once upon a time in 1908, right here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm, a humble, talented chemist and sideline flutist named Charles Saunders invented something spectacular—the Marquis Wheat—the best wheat in the world! Word spread around the world about his dynamo wheat and thousands of people immigrated to Canada’s prairies just to grow it. Wheat quickly became one of Canada’s leading exports and we Canadians were given the best tasting bread and pasta products on Earth! On this 101 year Anniversary of the Marquis Wheat, let’s toast Charles Saunders, Canada’s unsung hero of the world’s breadbasket and inventor of the world’s most, cold-weather hardy, gluten-packed, high-quality wheat. Gluten is a protein in wheat that gives bread volume and texture. Today, many of our grains are derived from the Marquis wheat and are used around the globe in “cream of the crop” flours, pasta and beers. Canada rules the roost in the wheat and grain growing industry and our production standards are the highest in the world. Nine of our provinces grow wheat, mostly for export. We grow many other grains too like rye, barley, and oats as well as various seed and cereal crops.

Grains give us essential vitamins and minerals, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, and iron. Whole grain and whole wheat products are also an important source of fibre in our diets and whole grain breads are a great way get your fill of “good” carbs.

So if Christmas made you the lucky owner of a breadmaker, I would highly recommend you borrow or buy this book to get you started: Canada’s Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes (ISBN 0-7788-0003-2). Purchase your ingredients at the Bulk Barn or Kardish where many varieties of grains and baking products are sold. Use all-purpose Robin Hood or Five Roses—no need to use Best for Bread flour—our Canadian flour contains enough gluten to make fine, voluminous loaves! Need help using your breadmaker? Email me at and I would be happy to help. In the meantime, here are a few selected recipes from the book:

Five Seed Rye Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 ½ cups water
¼ cup skim milk powder
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp shortening
3 cups all purpose flour
¾ cup rye flour
¼ cup EACH flax seeds, poppy seeds and sesame seeds
1 tsp EACH caraway seeds and fennel seeds
1 ½ tsp bread machine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Basic Cycle* . For an attractive topping sprinkle a mixture of the seeds overtop the loaf during the last 10 minutes of baking.

Pilgrim’s Multigrain Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 1/3 cups water
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp salt
3 tbsp packed brown sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil or butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup buttermilk powder
1/3 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cup wheat or oat bran
3 tbsp wheat germ
1 ½ tsp breadmachine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Basic Cycle*

Maritime Brown Bread (2 lb loaf)

1 ½ cups water
¼ cup skim milk powder
1 ½ tsp salt
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp shortening
2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup wheat germ
1 ¼ tsp bread machine yeast
Measure ingredients into the breadpan in the order given. Set pan into the breadmaker. Select the Whole Wheat Cycle*

*If you choose, any of these breads can be shaped into loaves and baked in the oven. You’ll need two small loaf pans. Select the Dough option on the breadmaker when you begin and follow these instructions when the dough is ready to be shaped.

Divide the dough into two pieces. Cover one piece with a tea towel while you roll out the other piece to an 8x10 rectangle. Roll up this rectangle—like a jelly roll and pinch the seam. With the side of the palm of your hand, press down on the edges of the roll at either end, tuck ends under and pinch to seal. Fit the roll (seam side down) into a greased or non-stick loaf pan. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Preheat oven to 350F and place rack in middle of oven. Let dough rise in pans, covered loosely with greased saran wrap and a tea towel in a warm, humid, draft-free place for about 30-35 min or until doubled in size. To bake, brush loaves with milk and sprinkle a few oats on top. Bake rack for 20-25 minutes or until browned. If a knock on the bottom of the pan sounds hollow, the bread is done! Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 min. Remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack, uncovered for 1 hour. After this, cover with a tea towel and continue to cool before storing or slicing.

More devilishly simple winter salads

Discover your supernatural salad powers-invite a few unusual suspects to the mix!

Go exotic and imagine yourself creating a salad with characteristic ingredients as charismatic and enigmatic as the guests you would invite to a fantasy dinner party. Begin by thinking of your salad as “insalata”, Italian for “salad”. The word sounds so devilishly close to “insolent” it will give you all the creative license you need to think beyond the usual sad-sack, pre-mixed salads in the grocery store. Next, imagine yourself in a Mediterranean light, crafting a work of art so unique and delicious your family and friends will exalt you to the heights of “Leonardo Insalata.” Start by creating a bed of greens (romaine lettuce, watercress, organic mixed greens, etc) and adding your favourite chopped fresh or grilled vegetables. To mystify and sweeten your creation, add unexpected embellishments like sliced pears, apples, or figs. Need a crispy-crunch fix? Toss in few spicy or sweet nuts or seasoned croutons. For a final mystery complement, consider inviting dashing, unusual salad guests like crumbled Stilton cheese, capers or proscuitto to prompt the question, “mmm…just who and what is this?” Drizzle your favourite oil and vinegar dressing over top and toss well or serve in a layered design.

Now set the mood and let the “insalata” begin. If weather permits, eat “al fresco”—keep your parka on—it means, to eat in the open air or outdoors. Buff up the cutlery, fill the water goblets, drape the table with a linen cloth, and light the tea lights. After ditching the dishtowel from your shoulder and casually whipping off your work-in-progress apron, place a clean, white napkin over your right forearm and go about your humble abode to personally invite each family member to an introductory dinner course of (whisper) “Insalata”. Stand back, your mystery starter will have your dinner guests scrambling for the best seat at the table, eagerly awaiting your work of art and then jumping from their chairs for more. Sotheby’s take note!

Try these salads to pique your interest:

Maple Pear and Stilton Cheese Salad

(The beauty of this recipe is its quick assembly. Many of the ingredients can be prepared in large batches and refrigerated in sealed Ziploc bags for quick salad preparation any night of the week!)

Mix together 1/3 cup maple syrup with 1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar. Core and thinly slice 3-4 pears and place in the maple syrup mixture in a sealed container (Ziploc boxes work well.) Turn and shake the container 4-5 times to coat the pears. Set aside. These can be stored for 2-3 days, if necessary.

For the salad:

Thinly slice 3-4 dried figs and ½ of a red pepper.

Crumble up 1/3 cup Stilton cheese.

¼ cup sugared pecans* (buy at the Bulk barn or make yourself with the recipe below)

Organic PC Greens

On a large platter, place four large handfuls of organic greens. Sprinkle sliced figs and red pepper slices over top. Drizzle about 1/3 of the pear mixture juice over top. Place 8-10 pear slices on top. Sprinkle Stilton cheese over top. Finish by sprinkling ¼ cup of the cooled sugared pecans over top. Serve with a large salad spoons. Do not toss. Serve in this layered arrangement. Tip: Young children prefer this salad with green Granny Smith apples instead of pears and a mild white cheese instead of Stilton.

*Sugared pecans recipe

2 tbsp butter

2 cups pecans

1/8 tsp EACH: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg

2 tbsp sugar.

Stir nuts in melted butter in fry pan. Heat 3-4 minutes on medium heat and until heated and very light brown. Remove from heat. Mix spices and sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle mixture over nuts and stir well. Line a large cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place nuts in an even layer and toast at 300F for 10-12 min, stirring at 3 min intervals until brown. These burn easily so watch them carefully.

Light and Healthy Mandarin & Spinach Salad

For the salad:

1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds

1 red or orange pepper sliced into long, thin segments

1/3 of a medium-sized red onion, sliced in long thin pieces

1 small can drained Mandarin orange segments

6 –8 cups washed and trimmed spinach

For the dressing whisk together:

¼ c honey

3 tbsp cider or other fruit vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp poppy seeds

In a large salad bowl toss together all ingredients, except red peppers and nuts. Drizzle one-third of dressing (or more to taste) over top and toss. Sprinkle peppers and nuts over top and serve.

Speedy Gonzales Artichoke & Hearts of Palm Salad

2 tins whole, drained artichoke hearts – chopped in large pieces

2 tins whole, drained hearts of palm, chopped into large pieces

Use Farm Boy Lemon garlic marinade or whisk together your own:

¼ c olive oil

1-2 tbsp lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

Mix chopped artichokes and hearts of palm in lemon garlic mixture and serve in a medium sized serving bowl.

Winter Salads with Kick

(Yes...I did take this picture of a salad in a fresh Barrhaven snowbank--the perfect salad chiller!)
As you cruise past the magazine racks at your local grocery store you suddenly begin to stare and salivate. Perhaps you spotted soccer stud-muffin David Beckham or Mrs. Posh gazing out at you with a pound of desire or yet another magazine advertising comfort foods with juicy photos of saucy dishes—sure to bulge the belly! You want to bring one home—a magazine—that is, but what about that New Year’s resolution to eat salad and exercise every day so you can slip—rather than cram—yourself into something a little more comfortable. Like that little black dress or spandex tux for your niece’s wedding next June?

Finding a line-up of fresh, lively ingredients for salads during mid-winter however is no easy feat. So, try a new game and give your salads a kick to keep you scoring on the right side of the scales. Add a few untried players from the back-bencher grocery aisles to your field of greens; fennel bulbs, mung beans, hearts of palm, walnuts, mandarins, cranberries, or roasted parsnips. Other options might include nuts, grains like bulgar or couscous, sharp cheese like Swiss or Stilton or other proteins such as sliced hard-boiled eggs, diced tofu or cottage cheese. Try these winter salad recipes to stay on top of your game and eat like Mr. and Mrs. do at Beckingham Palace!

Winter Fruit Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Dressing
Serves 12
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tsp diced onion
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp poppy seeds

1 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
½ cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 apple cored, thinly sliced
1 pear cored, thinly sliced
In a blender or food processor, combine sugar, lemon juice, onion, mustard, and salt. Process until well blended. With machine still running, add oil in a slow, steady stream (or whisk in) until mixture is thick and smooth. Add poppy seeds, and process just a few seconds more to mix. In a large serving bowl, toss together the romaine lettuce and dressing, then cheese, cashews, dried cranberries, apple, and pear. Serve immediately.

Apple yogurt salad
Makes 4 cups
¼ cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 tbsp orange or mango juice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 apples, chopped bite-size
2 Clementine tangerines, peeled, sections cut in thirds
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Mix the yogurt, orange juice and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl. Stir in the apple, then the more delicate tangerines and mint. Serve immediately.

Winter Vegetable Salad
Serves 6-8
1/2 lb parsnips, cut into 1/2 inch (1 cm) chunks
1/2 lb carrots, cut into 1/2 inch (2 cm) chunks
2 stalks celery, sliced
3/4 cup frozen peas
½ small red onion, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp chili sauce
pinch salt
Steam parsnips and carrots over boiling water until tender-crisp. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Pour hot water over peas, just to thaw; drain well. In a medium bowl, combine parsnips, carrots, celery, peas, red onion and raisins. For dressing: Combine yogurt, vinegar, chili sauce, and salt. Pour dressing over vegetables; mix until well coated. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. From:

Couscous Date Salad
Serves 4
198 g Package of Couscous with fruit and nuts
(or plain couscous and add your own chopped dried fruit and nuts)
2 cups chopped unpeeled English cucumber
½ cup pitted dates, chopped
¼ cup raspberry vinaigrette
Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous. Stir. Return to boil. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered for 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Transfer to a large bowl. Chill uncovered for 30 minutes. Add cucumber and dates. Toss. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Toss well. Makes 5 cups. Serves 6.

Mung Beans Salad
Serves 6
Mung beans are very nutritious, protein and fibre full.
2 cups whole mung beans (at the Bulk Barn)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 tbsp garlic, mashed
1 tsp chopped hot pepper
2 tbsp shredded coconut
Salt to taste
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
Soak whole mung beans overnight. Drain and put to simmer on very slow heat, until buttery soft. Add the dressing to the hot beans, and serve immediately with Naan or pita bread.

Colorful Bean Salad
Serves 6
2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
½ cup chopped roasted red pepper (bottled is fine)
½ cup chopped green pepper
1 small can (398ml) Hearts of Palm, sliced
½ cup sliced purple onion
½ cup celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, mashed
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Watercress or salad greens of your choice. Rinse beans and cook in 6 cups of water until just tender, about an hour. Drain and add all other ingredients. Mix well, and let flavors blend for at least one hour. Serve at room temperature, on a bed of greens.