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Tavolo Pasta with Almond Cilantro Pesto

It is a beautiful sunny day and I am totally committed to inside chores…go figure. We are moving in a few weeks to take on yet another international adventure. With that comes packing and cleaning out the pantry. I am determined to let nothing go to waste during this process. So here it is noon on a Tuesday and leave it to me to make homemade pesto for lunch. I think Rob will appreciate the surprise when he gets home from his half day of work.

I put a little twist on the pesto and used almonds and cilantro instead of the usual basil and pine nuts. We are still working on a huge bag of almonds that I bought around the holidays to attempt to make chocolate covered almonds, but like many of my big ideas, they get lost unless I write it down and post it in a visible location. So I am remembering now in the middle of June about the chocolate covered almonds I wanted to make for Christmas- oh well! Since I do not have any ingredients to make the chocolate, I will pass for now. So almond, cilantro pesto it will be.

While I was at the market this past weekend, I picked up a bag of homemade pasta from Tavolo’s in Belleville. I could not resist the cute smile of their daughter who I teach occasionally at the daycare. I have heard lots of people rave about the pasta so I think it will go perfectly with the pesto. Pretty much everything else in the dish is sourced locally, asparagus from Jack and Betty, bacon from Hanover Farms, garlic from Railway Creek, parmesan from Silano’s, hydroponic tomatoes from Vader’s and blue cheese crumbles from a place in Quebec- ok so that is not very local, but still closer than Australia or some other exotic corner of the world where lots of our food comes from these days.

This sounds too good to eat without wine, so I uncork a bottle of our homemade red wine to go along with it. It may not be five o’clock in Belleville, but as Jimmy Buffet says, “It’s five o-clock somewhere.”

Almond Pesto
Makes 1 cup
Recipe Created by Me

1 cup or so of almonds
1 bunch of cilantro
6-8 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup or so of parmesean
Sea salt/ freshly cracked pepper
Red pepper flakes for a kick
Olive oil


Pulse almonds in the food processor until they are crumbs. Add everything except the oil and pulse until a paste forms. Slowly add the oil while pulsing. I add enough oil for all of the ingredients to stick together, because when I add it to the hot oil it will spread out on the pasta. But I have seen pesto made with more oil so that it is almost more of a liquid. This is totally up to your liking. Toss pesto with hot pasta.
(Note: When I wrote out the recipe for this, it is just an approximation because I just throw stuff into the food processor and taste as I go along, so you may need to adjust to your liking.)
I added chopped tomatoes, roasted asparagus spears, bacon, and blue cheese crumbles to our pasta, but the pesto would be good without any additions too.

I did have leftovers of the pesto because you only need a little pesto to flavour pasta, so this is what we did. Since we spent the last weekend at my in laws dog sitting, we decided we did not want to cook any meals in the house because the weather was too nice. So below is a recipe for asparagus cooked on the fire pit. It was so delicious and only required 2 ingredients!

Barbequed Pesto Asparagus


Directions: Make a foil pouch and add asparagus and some pesto. Tightly wrap up the asparagus and place directly on the grate on the fire pit. Check on it after about 10 minutes, rotate and cook until it is nice and grilled.


Creating Food Memories with Rhubarb Cake

As I was reading a friend’s blog, I got inspired by a topic that she has recently written about and that is her relationship with food, therefore I thought I would explore my own relationship with the stuff because it a huge part of my life. As I am writing this I am being put into a “food daze” eagerly awaiting the cinnamon and sugar rhubarb cake that is baking in my oven.

There is no other way to put it, but I love food and anything that has to do with food. Have you ever thought about all the things that have to do with food beyond eating it such as cooking it, experimenting with new combinations, reading about it, growing it, harvesting it, knowing the story behind it, knowing the importance of it nutritionally and culturally, and most importantly knowing where it comes from. Ever since I can remember I have made time to think about food everyday and now it is all I can think about. It all started with dieting and my interest in cooking and always being around home cooked food as a child. My mother always did and still does take a ton of time to think about the food behind every family celebration and meal. She should because food is that important not only to keep us healthy, but also as a tool to bring families and friends together to create memories that are often around food. Who can say that they don’t go to grandma’s house and request your favourite cookies or pie or a meal or have a family dish that reminds you of a relative or friend? You have created a food memory associated with that person and thinking about that person makes you think about food that is special and important to your relationship. When I hear mincemeat pie, I suddenly picture my Grandma H. in her kitchen wearing a Christmas apron because that was her famous contribution to holiday meals. My Grandma C. is famous in my mind for her pistachio cake or oatmeal butterscotch cookies, and a trip to her house would not be complete without a ham dinner. Hearing the word asparagus brings me to the farm where I help to cut it in the spring and I will never look at a zucchini again without having a vision of the one last summer pulled from the garden that was larger than a baseball bat because we left it unattended for a few days to go camping. Even the rhubarb cake that is in the oven, is an old family recipe from the Ketcheson family who owns the asparagus farm that I help out at during the season. Last year at the end of rhubarb season, I had a piece of this cake at their house and fell in love. I was gladly given the recipe and here I am thinking about a memory that was created last summer at their farm. Last summer I recall, I personally picked the rhubarb, diced it, and passed it along to Ann who made the cake following her mother’s recipe. Now talk about connections with your food. This is what I want to remember when I grow old.

Making connections with our food is so important, not only because it helps you control what it is that you are eating, but also because culturally and historically food is at the centre of all relationships. How cool is it that there are ways to find out the origin of our food right here in our community? How cool is it that there are others willing to share recipes that have been in the family for years? How cool is that there are people out there who are building awareness about sustainable food practices to ensure that you lead the rest of your life in a responsible healthy way? How cool is it that food has been around since the beginning of time and it is what brings all groups of people together to socialize? How cool is food? If you haven’t taken the time to stop and think about it today, I urge you to slow down and take a few minutes to think about what it means to you. Trust me, it will be worth it.

Use this recipe for Rhubarb Cake as a start. It combines the tart flavour of rhubarb, which is in season now, with the sweetness of cinnamon and brown sugar. Did you know that rhubarb, if taken care of, can produce fruit for a few months, usually beginning in May and lasting through the summer if the flower is cut off before it goes to seed? Of course it needs to be trimmed and consumed within a reasonable time before it loses it prime flavour. I hope you enjoy the recipe.

Rhubarb Cake
Recipe From: Betty Ketcheson
Makes a 9x12 cake

1.5 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or oil
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour milk (add 1TBS milk to milk to sour)
1 1/2 cups rhubarb
Cinnamon/ sugar


1. Cream the brown sugar and butter or oil. Add the egg.

2. Combine the dry ingredients and add them to the above mixture, alternating with the sour milk.

3. Pour into the pan and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

4. Bake at 350 °F for 30-40 minutes.


10th Anniversary Party of The Village Green in Foxboro

There is nothing better than being awakened on a Saturday morning with brilliant sunshine, especially after a week of mostly rain. Today Rob and I took a drive to Foxboro to partake in the 10th Anniversary of the Village Green. Now I have mentioned the Village Green in a previous blog because I have bought some seeds here and it is also a lovely store that sells goods from many local artists, farmers and vendors. When we were here last, Karyn gave us a little flyer about the big event she was planning for the 10th Anniversary of her store. I immediately marked it on the calendar and couldn’t wait to partake in the event! We arrived pretty close to the start and the event was already in full swing!

 The Lions Club was selling hamburgers and beverages with some lovely caramelized onions. Tables were set up with free giveways including marigold seedlings, doggy treats, and lotions from Green Beaver Company. My nose led me to the table set up by Loyalist Coffee of Brighton which specializes in roasting fair trade and organic coffee beans. They provided complimentary coffee for the event.

The children were attracted to the visitors from the Alpaca farm from Stirling. I think the three alpacas were providing the entertainment for the event! I learned quite a lot about honey and a variety of bee products, including eating bee pollen and honeycomb, from the Twin Sisters hive in Stirling. We picked up some honey here.

Of course it wouldn’t be an event without garlic! Elly from Railway Creek was there which was awesome because I have managed to devour the garlic I bought from her two weeks ago! We picked up some garlic and a steak as well. Of course it wouldn’t be a party without cake, Karyn had a beautiful cake in honor of the event. Before we left we picked up a Norway Spruce tree seedling that was yet another give away. I have unfortunately misplaced the name of the nursery that sponsored the tree seedling giveaway, but he had some beautiful trees to choose from including sugar maple, highbush cranberries, and butternut. All in all I would say that this event was a success! We went to a celebration and left with garlic, a steak, 2  hamburgers, doggy treats, face cream, popcorn, honey, a marigold seedling, and a tree seedling. The best part of the day was that everyone was celebrating local products and ways to slow down and think about where the things you buy come from! What a lovely day and thank you to everyone who donated all of the wonderful freebies!

On another note I will share a recipe, but unfortunately there is not a photo to go with it because it was devoured so fast!

Feta Bruschetta

1 loaf French bread, sliced lengthwise
2 tomatoes, diced (I used hydroponic tomatoes)
4-6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (I used Railway Creek- a purple husked variety)
Salt/ pepper
Basil (fresh if it in season, dried if not)
Olive oil
Balsalmic vinegar
Feta cheese (I used Fifth Town Goat Feta)

Put bread on a baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil. Spread half of the garlic on the bread. Mix tomatoes, the remaining garlic, basil, salt, pepper, crumbled feta. Add a little olive oil and vinegar to your liking. Arrange the mixture on top of the bread. If you are like me and can’t get enough of feta, then crumble more feta to go on top. Bake at 375°F for about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown.


Natural Dyed Easter Eggs

This morning when I took Darcy out for a walk, I saw the Easter Bunny scurry through our neighbor’s lawn. I thought today would be a perfect day to dye eggs. I usually buy my eggs from a local farmer, but since they all have brown shells, I committed a sin and bought a box of white shelled organic eggs from the supermarket. I am hoping that the chickens were treated in a humane way before the eggs got into my egg carton.

I am very much against the use of artificial food dyes in food, so I sought out a way to dye eggs without using those little colored tablets that remind me of my childhood. After some research on the subject, I found some interesting ideas out there.

I went to work scouring my cupboards for anything that might change the color of a vinegar water solution, which would in turn dye the shells of my eggs. The things I came up with were turmeric powder, a mixture of Korean red pepper flakes and red pepper paste, blueberries, and pureed spinach. While allowing my eggs to cool after hard boiling them, I mixed 2 cups of water and 1 TBS white vinegar with the “coloring” of choice and brought them to a boil. I turned down the heat and simmered the mixture for about 15 minutes. I poured the solution into a coffee mug and allowed it to cool before adding the egg. I added one egg to each cup and left them there for about 20 minutes or so, turning them with a spoon every so often.

Some of the colors worked better than others. The spinach solution turned a horrible shade of brownish green and resulted in a sad looking “Easter” egg which was nothing more than white with little bits of dried spinach stuck to the shell. The turmeric produced some lovely yellow colored eggs, while the blueberries turned the shells a nice shade of purplish blue. Finally the red pepper combo made for some light orange shells. Overall the blueberries and turmeric were the most successful.

This experiment was pretty fun although very time consuming. I would definitely try again next year, but hope to have a different variety of things in my cupboards to make the dying more successful!


The Village Green and Railway Creek Farms

Rob and I have spring fever to the max and were bummed when we saw the rain today! Our plans of enjoying the great outdoors had to be postponed for another weekend but we couldn’t’ let that ruin our day. Along with the arrival of spring, comes the plans for adding to the “family garden” that will be planted as soon as the threat of frost is no more and the desire to do a better job of supporting local farmers and companies. Grossed out by an article that I read this morning about the addition of steroids and hormones in grocery store meat aka factory farmed meat, it totally convinced us never to buy meat from a grocery store again, because you just never know what you are getting. For the past few years, I have tried very hard to buy grain fed and grass fed meat when possible but it is not always available at the supermarket. This article reconfirmed the fact that the government really does not care about what goes into the food that people eat and we must go beyond the government to regulate what we eat. Read Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma and you will never return to the grocery store for meat yourself. All of this led us to a trip to Gilmour’s Meat Shop in the County to check out their local stock. We purchased a few of the sausages made on site including the Maple and the Rossmore Hot XXX, which we are going to add to a pizza later on tonight. Hopefully they are good! It felt so much better to support a local business but I did still leave with the question, where is all of their meat coming from?

With this question in mind, we switched gears and headed to Foxboro and had planting on our mind as we pulled into The Village Green. ( This store sells heirloom seeds and a huge variety of local goods from honey to soaps to jewellery to literature. You name it they have, but almost every item sold in the store is made by someone that the store owner knows personally! When we went in there we explained to the owner, Karyn Wright, that we were interested in eating locally and how hard we try to support local growers and farmers. She handed us a map created by Harvest Hastings listing all of the farms in the area with all of their specialties listed. She asked what some of our challenges were and we explained that finding local grains was the hardest and she automatically directed us to a mill in Marmora called CIPM Farm that harvests and produces red fife wheat flour, hemp, spelt, oats, and rye! Can’t wait to check this out! Then we also mentioned that finding a good beef connection was tricky because we have tried a few farmer’s meats and they haven’t been that good. At that moment the women, Elly Blanchard, from Railway Creek Farm ( in Marmora walked in, which is Karyn’s direct connection for beef! When she took off her rain coat hood and showed her face, I recognized her right away as the “Garlic Lady” from the Belleville Farmer’s Market. I could never forget the face of someone who grows over a dozen varieties of garlic…she is my idol and I just ran out of her amazing garlic and had to resort to using garlic imported from China, which is just not the same. What are the chances of this to be having a conversation about where to get good beef and in walks the farmer herself! She ran to her car and came back in with her cooler of meat and a basket of garlic. We dove in and bought a few pounds of stew meat and a large handful of garlic! We were so excited. We also bought a bag of coriander seeds to give growing cilantro another go this year as we made the mistake of transplanting it last year and lost it all. Life is too short to be deprived of cilantro!

Karyn did mention that on April 30th, the store, The Village Green, is having a 10th Anniversary party which is going to feature alpacas from OH Alpacas in Stirling, native tree give-aways, marigold seedling give-aways, honey from Twin Sisters and many other exciting events! It is already marked on my calendar! It is going to be a wonderful event and a great way to meet so many local connections!

All in all we had a productive and knowledgeable rainy afternoon. We are so eager for planting season to get here so that we can contribute our part to making the world more sustainable, but in the meantime the next best thing is to support those who can provide sustainable goods now!

Bacon Wrapped Apple Cheddar Jalapenos

All week Rob and I planned to get out of town this weekend to take advantage of spring, but then the floodgates opened from above and we postponed our plans. That is what we get for joining the world of planners! Therefore we woke up Saturday morning and couldn’t think of anything better to do than cook and watch movies. I have been holding onto the recipe that follows for quite some time, waiting for the perfect lounging kind of day. I found a similar recipe on the blog Erin Cooks but modified it to our liking. The only thing I would change is that I would possibly cook the bacon ahead of time and add crispy bacon to the cheese mixture (to avoid the excess grease) and sprinkle the stuffed jalapeno with panko bread crumbs to give it a bit of a crunch. They were a big hit with the hub but the grease was a little too much for our liking and the crispiness of a fried popper was missing. But all in all, the apple gave a nice flavour to the cheese mixture and the addition of cheddar was key. They were amazing and were the perfect accompaniment to our Band of Brothers marathon!

Bacon Wrapped Apple Cheddar Jalapenos


8 jalapenos, cut in half and deseeded
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 apple chopped, peel removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 slices of bacon cut into fourths
Salt and pepper

Cut off the stem and slice jalapenos in half lengthwise. Remove seeds.
Mix all other ingredients, except bacon, and stuff jalapenos with the mixture.
Wrap a slice of bacon around the jalapenos and secure with toothpicks if needed.
Cook at 400°F and bake for 20-25 minutes or until bacon is crispy.

Modifications: Top the jalapenos with panko bread crumbs before rolling with bacon. Add crispy bacon to the cream cheese mixture in lieu of bacon around the jalapeno- this will cut down on the grease. If you choose this method, spray the baking dish with oil to prevent sticking.


Chocolate Chipotle Chicken Chili

So I am facing another day of not getting called to teach so since the ground is covered in snow and my dog is passed out snoring, I decided why not make dinner now at noon. I have been craving chilli so I searched my pantry for interesting things to add to it instead of the usual ingredients. I had some leftover chicken thighs in the fridge so I started there and pulled the meat off the bone. Then I had a few peppers and onions so I chopped those and added a few cloves of some kick ass Polish garlic that our exotic “garlic lady” recommended. (Of course she grows it all locally.) Then I found a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce so I chopped up a few of those. I added some black beans and tomatoes from the garden this past summer. Then I tasted it and it needed something else. I looked and looked for the magical ingredient and alas I found it… unsweetened chocolate. It added a nice flavour and thickened up the chilli very nicely after given time to simmer. The only thing it is missing is probably a hint of cilantro but it will have to do without because I am not going back to the store to get it. After simmering for awhile the flavours all came together and when I tell you I may have gone over bad with the chipotles, I mean it. This chilli is not for the weak at heart, but rather for ones with dragon like senses like myself… Enjoy!

Chocolate Chipotle Chicken Chili

1 red pepper, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
Chopped chicken breast meat or leftover chicken cut in pieces
3 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBS chilli powder
1-2 tsp of cumin
2 TBS chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Salt/ pepper
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth
28 oz can of diced tomatoes, with juice
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
Green onions, for garnish
Sour cream, for garnish
Avocado Slices, optional garnish

Directions: Saute onions, peppers, garlic and raw chicken until veggies are soft and chicken is cooked. If using leftover cooked met, then add the meat after the veggies are cooked.

Add the sugar through the tomatoes and cook to a boil. Turn the heat down and add the chocolate slowly until desired taste is reached. Continue to simmer until chilli reaches the desired thickness.

Top with a dollop of sour cream, an avocado slice, and chopped green onions.

Serve with cornbread.

Warning: This is very spicy, but really good!