Let's not pretend eating cheese asparagus fries will replace the pleasure of biting into a hot, crispy french fry straight from the deep fryer, seasoned with just the right amount of salt, or maybe topped with a scoop of cheese curds and a generous portion of home-made gravy. Too many of those pleasures and not enough balance leads to a closet full of clothes that pinch in all the wrong places, and so we eat asparagus. Besides, asparagus is the harbinger of spring, the promise that warmer days are coming, EVEN WHEN MOTHER NATURE IS CLEARLY NOT ADHERING TO THE PLAN.
Are we done with winter yet?
I'll use any excuse to cook with cheese, eat cheese, or smell cheese, so I jumped at the invite to the 2015 Canadian Grand Prix Gala of Champions, which was organized by the Dairy Farmers of Canada. The evening consisted of three courses of cheese sampling for a total of 27 — out of 268 entries — cheeses, all of who were category winners. I ate a lot of cheese, even for me. Cheese lovers in Canada have so much to choose from, not only do we have access to pasteurized and non-pasteurized cheeses from around the world, our homegrown varieties are incredible. The cheese makers who attended the Gala are knowledgeable and passionate about producing great cheese and that's a win for the rest of us. After the 27 cheeses were sampled, the Grand Champion was crowned — Fromagerie du Presbytère Laliberté, which is a cream-enriched soft cheese, took home the big prize. I took home cheese dreams and more recipe ideas.
I love asparagus and when it's combined with a flavourful cheese like Parmesan, it's difficult to share. This recipe is ready to eat in 30 minutes, so it's a quick add-on to any midweek menu.
2 large eggs, beaten
Wash the asparagus and snap off the woody ends. Do this by gently bending the asparagus near the bottom of the stalk until it snaps.
Combine the panko breading, Parmesan, salt, and pepper into a shallow bowl or plate and set aside.
Beat the two eggs and pour into a deep plate. Measure out the flour into a deep plate. Preheat oven to 220C/425F.
Take 4-5 stalks at a time and coat with flour.
Dip the flour-coated stalks into the egg until the stalks are covered.
Coat the stalks in the panko/Parmesan mixture.
Place coated stalks onto a baking tray covered in parchment paper and bake at 220C/425F for 12 - 15 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Set up a selection of three mayonnaise-based dips to serve with the asparagus fries and dig in! The dip recipes are listed from top to bottom (see image below):
Ketchup-Paprika Mayo Dip
1/8 teaspoon paprika, salt, ground pepper
Cilantro-Jalapeño Mayo Dip
1 teaspoon green jalapeño sauce
Sriracha Mayo Dip
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Coq au vin literally means rooster in wine, and came about as an inexpensive and simple way to feed an entire family in France during lean years. Coq au vin could be made with whatever (cheap) vegetables were on hand, and it was also a way to use up chickens who were past their prime by letting them slowly soften in wine. Wine has that effect on a lot of us.
Coqs are hard to come by in Canada, so chicken is a suitable and easier to source alternative. To make it slow cooker-friendly, choose boneless pieces and you won't need to fish out drumsticks from the rest of the stew.
1-2 parsley sprigs
Cut the bacon into pieces and begin frying over medium heat. While the bacon is cooking, slice the onion and shallots, peel the pearl onions, cutting off ends and slicing an X into the ends, and chop the garlic and carrots.
Once the bacon is slightly crispy, set it aside, and drain the drippings. Keep back 1 tablespoon for cooking.
Brown the chicken in the bacon drippings and butter. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Remove the chicken when slightly browned, scrape the caramelized pieces (leaving them in pan), and add the carrots, onion, shallots, pearl onions, and garlic. Cook until they begin to soften.
Add the flour (for thickening) and mushrooms and stir gently. Once the vegetables are mixed and have begun to soften slightly (approximately 5 minutes), remove from heat.
Transfer the vegetables to the slow cooker and add chicken broth, wine, and layer with chicken, bacon, and top with the sprigs of herbs tied together with butcher twine.
Set at low for 6 hours. Serve with mashed potatoes and a green salad.
The chicken and mushrooms will take on the colour of the wine, but any alcohol cooks off. Safe eating for all ages!
You've decided to add juicing to your arsenal for operation Let's Kick Some Ass in 2015, and you are going to love it! Juicing is a great complement to eating home-cooked, balanced meals — with occasional treats thrown in — and adding more movement into our days. Juicing provides an immediate supply of nutrients straight to your body and you should notice a boost to your energy levels. I don't use juices to replace meals, but to accompany breakfast or as a snack, and I subscribe to the idea that small changes make a big difference. Baby steps to better health.
Before the rush to the local kitchen appliance store begins (for those who don't already own a juicer), let's consider what to look for in a juicer and a list of pros and cons for masticating versus centrifugal juicers.
You're spending money on a juicer and on fresh fruits and vegetables, so invest wisely. The adage, "You get what you pay for," is one for a reason. If you cheap out on a juicer, and let's be blunt, buying a juicer for $50 buys you a cheap juicer, nothing more; you will spend more money on fruit and vegetables and see much of that go to waste. A cheap juicer can't handle the rigors of chewing up fibrous and leafy vegetables and many kinds of fruits. Expect to pay $150 and more for a good quality juicer.
A good quality juicer lasts longer.
A good quality juicer provides higher juice yield, saving you money on produce and providing you more nutritional benefits from juicing. And isn't that why we're doing this?
Find a juicer that doesn't require an Engineering degree or an Ikea allen key to assemble. It should be easy to use or it'll become a place to dry socks, like that old treadmill.
Masticating juicers are nothing more than big motors with augers attached. The auger (along with the attachment) chew up any type of fruit, vegetable, roots, seeds, and nuts. I've had one for 17 years and it's still as efficient as when we bought it.
Centrifugal juicers use a central spinning basket or mesh with sharp teeth to shred fruits and vegetables, which are then funneled out to separate juice and pulp chambers.
I compared my masticating juicer to a borrowed centrifugal juicer in the same price range and of the same quality by making a green juice, and suspected the yields would be similar. It turns out the masticating juicer yielded almost 250mL more using the same ingredients as the centrifugal juicer. The centrifugal also spat out entire pieces of vegetables without juicing them and the juice separated almost immediately, so I'd add that to my list of cons following this little showdown.
A favourite juice, and one my family drinks almost daily — In fact, I'm typing with one hand and holding this juice with the other because I'm a multitasker and brave, or tempting the laptop fates — is a super green juice that allows us to consume more kale than we would otherwise in an entire year. And there are so many more recipes, which you can find here and across the web that will introduce you to flavour combos you might never have thought of.
I'm not making any promises of everlasting life, but this pink drink will help your mojo. Bonus, it's delicious at breakfast and uses red cabbage, which some claim is one of the healthiest foods we can eat. Or drink.
Our Meatless Mummy writer, Nicole MacPherson has a round up of three recipes to help you bounce back if you've overindulged. They star beets, spinach, and carrots and are vibrant and packed with nutrients. Nicole also looked at slow juicing and serves up a great green goddess juice recipe.
Bon appétit! And drink up!