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Buck Brand Citrus Bliss

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Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Finger Lime at Thrifty Foods

There is something truly special about tasting fresh produce while chatting with the farmer that brought it to fruition. When I heard that Lisle Babcock of Deer Creek Heights Ranch would be handing out samples of his terrific Buck Brand Organic Citrus at my local Thrifty Foods, I made a date with my mother to meet the man behind the oranges that we can’t get enough of every winter.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

With his cowboy hat and many, “Ma’am”s Mr. Babcock was generous and genial with the samples of the many types of organic citrus that are currently in season on their ranch. Thrifty Foods has an exclusive deal to carry Buck Brand Organic oranges and some of their 80 different varieties of citrus fruits in British Columbia.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

I go through bags and bags of their navel oranges every winter and supplement my citrus cravings with grapefruit, tangerines, pommelos, blood oranges, sweet limes and anything else that is available throughout the citrus growing season.

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand at Thrifty Foods

Until February 25th, when you buy a 4 lb. bag of Buck Brand Navel Oranges at Thrifty Foods, they will donate $1 to BC Lions Society’s Easter Seals Camps to fund kids camp fees at Easter Seals Camp Shawnigan and Camp Squamish. Plus you’re supporting a 5 acre family owned organic farm with almost 1000 citrus trees, including many heritage and hybrid varieties.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

While all the citrus samples were delicious and juicy, I was most interested to try the Finger Lime, I’d seen all the pretty pictures on the internet and I was curious to see if they tasted as fascinating as they looked. Originally from Australia, Deer Creek Heights Ranch has been growing them in Terra Bella. California for 4 years. Lisle cut one in half and gave it a gentle squeeze to make the tiny little juice packets bubble up to the top, to be enjoyed like an ice cream cone. The flavour is similar to a very floral lime, quite tart and tangy, but it is the texture as the little pearls pop inside you mouth that is so delightful. I bought a 50g package to bring home and enjoy at my leisure and to share with my son.

Lisle Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Lisle and Mary Lou Babcock of Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

We had a great time chatting with Lisle and Mary Lou and I really appreciate that they make such an effort to share their luscious fruits and take the time to interact with Canadian consumers.

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

Buck Brand Citrus at Thrifty Foods

I now have a nice selection of citrus beautifying my kitchen counter and I’m faced with the delicious dilemma of incorporating them into a recipe or just enjoying them as nature intended.

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What is your favourite citrus fruit outside the holy trinity of lemon, lime and orange?

Clam Linguine with Greenery

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Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

When days turn snowy we seem to reach for the foods that have comforted us in winters past. I’ve been making clam linguine from my grandmother’s recipe for the last couple of decades and it’s a favourite of my son and my best friend, two of the most important people in my life. While I want to feed and comfort them, I also feel the need to nourish them and keep them healthy. Over the years, I’ve tweaked frequently cooked dishes to be a bit healthier while still maintaining the textures and flavours that made them staples at our table.

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Lassette helping herself

I’m always trying to work more green vegetables into meals and one day when I was picking up supplies for Clam Linguine, I thought about how it’s the only time I like to use lots of parsley in a dish. Realizing that it was because the parsley absorbed all the other flavours, I wondered if kale wouldn’t just do the same thing. By quickly blanching the kale in the pasta water before adding it to the pan and reducing the amount of pasta, it added lots of vitamins and nutrients without taking anything away from a beloved dish.

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Detail of Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

When I tested the altered pasta dish on my son, he approved and ate about half of a bunch of kale! When I made a lunch date with my best gal where she wanted to make Clam Linguine together at her place, I figured it was a great chance to test out the changes on a “mature” palate. With a splash of Wayne Gretzky wine, I dished up the greener version of the recipe we’d been cooking together since high school and got our daily greens with a side of witty banter.

Recipe for Clam Linguine with Greenery

makes 2 very generous servings

Ingredients:

150 ml (5 oz) canned whole baby clams

2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly

5 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced

1 bunch fresh kale

120ml (4 oz) dry white wine or broth

1 Tablespoon butter

5 Tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Bring salted water to a boil. Wash and tear up kale into bite size pieces, discarding the spines.

2. Melt butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium. Add sliced garlic and sauté until golden.

3. Blanch kale in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Add parsley, wine or broth, clam nectar (from the can) to the garlic pan and transfer kale with a slotted spoon from pot to pan

. Simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Add pasta to same pot of boiling water. Add clams to sauté pan and salt and pepper to taste then simmer for another 5 minutes.

5. Add pasta to saute pan with sauce and allow to sit with burner off until most of the sauce is absorbed.

6. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Do you have a treasured recipe that you’ve ‘greened’?

Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

Clam Linguine with Greenery by Kitchenette Finds

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Shamrock Smoothie

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Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

There is a certain fast food chain that celebrates St. Patrick’s Day with a suspicious green sludge dubbed the “Shamrock Shake”, while I admit to having consumed one or two in my reckless youth, I’m no longer foolish enough to put the 54 ingredients that add up to 820 calories of no-goodness into my body. Especially not when I’ve created a delicous and very healthy drink I’m calling the Shamrock Smoothie.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette Finds

I came up with this smoothie when my 10 year old, Young Fresh Chef, was getting bored with all my fruity smoothie combinations. I was looking through my baking cupboard trying to come up with something fresh when I spied raw cacao powder and mint extract. I am a big fan of mint and chocolate together so I knew I could make something wonderful.

Shamrock Smoothie - Kitchenette FindsI’ve been adding frozen baby spinach (the kind you buy fresh in the plastic tub) for over a year with my son’s knowledge and approval and when I recently tried frozen kale it got a thumbs up as well. I used frozen bananas as the only source of sweetness and almond milk to help it blend better, but the chocolate and mint are the real stars!

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When I tested this on the Young Fresh Chef he finished it down to the last drop and declared it his favourite smoothie ever. So it’s definitely a winner. He couldn’t taste the kale at all, when it’s frozen it pretty much disintegrates when blended. By using bananas that were left to ripen until they were super sweet and then broken into chunks and frozen it could satisfy any sugary craving. I use raw cacao powder to get all the antioxidants and minerals that are usually lost when cocoa beans are roasted. Cocoa powder would still work in a pinch for the flavour.

Shamrock Smoothie

After sucking back this smoothie I always have a smile on my face and a spring in my step. It’s a much better feeling than what you would get after a visit to your local heart attack shack and your body will thank you for years to come.

Recipe for Shamrock Smoothie

makes 1 serving

Ingredients:

1 frozen banana (very ripe)

1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of your preference)

2 handfuls of frozen kale (or frozen baby spinach or a combo)

2 drops of pure peppermint extract (or to taste, it’s powerful stuff!)

2 TBS chia gel (optional, I use 1 part chia to 6 parts water and keep the extra in the fridge for up to a week)

Method:

1. Blend all ingredients in a glass or mason jar with an immersion blender (or in a blender)

2. Enjoy!

Shamrock Smoothie  - Kitchenette FindsWhat are some other sweet ways you get your greens?

Happy Pi Day!

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The Perils of Peach Pie

The Perils of Peach Pie

March 14th is Pi day (3.14), I hope you are celebrating with real pie, I’m just sticking with pictures of pie. Up top is my Perfect Peach Pie and below is Not So Sour Cherry Pie. Enjoy!

Cherry Pie Serenade

Olive Greek Salad Dressing

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Cooks always start by mastering the Garde Manger station, our home kitchen is no exception. I started my son, Young Fresh Chef, on salads and appetizers. My mother, Momette, has always made salad dressings from scratch and I’ve continued the tradition. Years ago, when I was making a vinaigrette with my son, he couldn’t have been any older than 6, he asked why I didn’t add some of the olive juice from the bottle of Kalamata olives that I was using from the salad. I’d never considered adding the brine as an acidic element, so I splashed some into the dressing and it was fantastic!

Olive Salad Dressing Ingredients

Later, when we told his dad, Exec Chef about our latest creation there was a glint in his eye that a new menu item was about to appear at his restaurant. It was the first time that our son had inspired a dish and he was as proud as physically possible to be a part of the creative process.

Lately, I’ve been trying to healthify (this is now a word) our food at home and one way is by cooking with fats from whole foods (nuts, seeds, avocados, etc) rather than using extracted fats (butter, oil, shortening, etc). When trying to make a new type of salad dressing, I thought back to the flavours that I loved to put together and, of course, I thought of the olive juice salad dressing. Why not use whole olives instead of olive oil?

I decided to go with a Greek flavour profile, based around Kalamata olives. So, I threw together some fresh squeezed lemon juice, Dijon mustard, a bit of feta cheese, some Kalamata olives, salt and pepper in a little jar and blended it together with my immersion blender.

Blended Olive Salad DressingI topped a salad of romaine lettuce, purple cabbage, shredded carrot and celery with some of the dressing and I couldn’t believe the amazing olive and feta flavour that was delivered with every bite. Usually, when I add whole olives to a salad I try to space them out to get maximum enjoyment. With the blended olive dressing, I felt like every forkful was filled with salty tang of Greece.

Enjoying Olive Greek Dressing

Hilltop Diner Cafe

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Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Family Lunch Order at Hilltop Diner Cafe in Langley, BC

Sometimes you just want the classics: a clubhouse sandwich with roasted turkey, a juicy burger or a straight up breakfast. On a lazy Sunday, when this mood strikes us, we pile into the car as a family and take a leisurely drive to the Hilltop Diner Cafe in the middle of nowhere part of Langley. Picture perfect enough to be a constant shooting location for TV shows and movies, they even have a scrap-book that they love to pull out and show off, the food is just as authentic. But it’s the service that makes it the real deal, it’s casual but caring. They are a busy bunch being open 7 days a week from 8:00 to 2:30 since 1946. Their full breakfast menu is served until 11am and then they still have a small list of morning staples available, as well as their crazy mega burgers (with names like Everest burger and Anarchist burger they are ridonkulous) until they close.

Eggs, Farmer's Sausage & Toast at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Eggs, Sausage & Toast at Hilltop Diner Cafe

Since it is a bit of a drive for us, and it’s hard to hurry on Sundays, we haven’t made it for the full breakfast menu yet. I think I’m stuck on the clubhouse because of the in-house oven-roasted turkey that is so thinly sliced and nestled in the lightly toasted bread with the perfect amount of lettuce and tomatoes and beautifully crisped bacon. I switch between the excellent french fries  and the impressively fresh side salad.   All the sandwiches and burgers that we’ve tried have been exactly as we would want them to be. Their milkshakes and floats are fantastic and big enough to share and share and share. My other regret about the menu is that we STILL haven’t tried any of their amazing looking pies as we are always too full after our sandwich and burger feast. I guess we’ll have to keep going and keep trying things, it’s a tough life!

Hot Turkey Sandwich with Gravy and Cranberry Relish at the Hilltop Diner Cafe

Hilltop Diner Cafe

23904 Fraser Highway

Langley, BC

(604) 514-9424

Open Daily from 8:00 to 2:30

Full Breakfast Menu served until 11am

Closed on Holiday Mondays

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What’s your favourite classic diner?

Cranberry Craze

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When the leaves twist and turn and fall into colourful piles, waiting for boots to crunch their way through, it’s time to prepare for comfort food simmering on the stove. Years ago we started a tradition for Thanksgiving and Christmas that Young Fresh Chef and I make a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. Mostly I do the prepping and cooking and he just lets me know when it is sweet enough. I had always been a fan of the canned variety, piling it on turkey sandwiches and maybe even eating a spoonful on the sly. 

But when you look at the ingredient list on the can it is short and sweet: CRANBERRIES, GLUCOSE-FRUCTOSE, GLUCOSE, WATER. I knew I could do better. I researched recipes years ago and I took the bits and pieces that appealed to me and created my ultimate cranberry sauce! The least daunting of the traditional turkey accompaniments, it’s a great take along if you are invited to a holiday feast.

Living in the heart of B.C.’s cranberry country, I can usually buy cranberries in the Fall, fresh from the bog, at the local Farmers’ Market. They are also easy to find in the produce section in your grocery store this time of year. I usually pick up some extra to fill a vase or pile around a pillar candle for a centre-piece.

Once you have the cranberries, next come the seasonings, and while it is necessary to add some sweetener to balance out the pucker inducing tartness of the berries, you can also add some holiday spice to add layers of flavour. The key to keeping it on the savoury side instead of being jelly is bay leaf and white peppercorns. By placing the smaller spices in a tea ball (or a cheese cloth pouch) you don’t have to fish them out individually, or wonder where that last clove is hiding.

While cranberry sauce completes the holiday table and elevates turkey to a special occasion, it’s also great mixed in with yogurt and granola, slathered on a peanut butter sandwich or maybe just a straight spoonful or two!

Recipe for Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries

1 3/4 cups apple cider or juice

3/4 cup honey (or other sweetener to taste)

1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

zest of 1 unsprayed/organic orange

3 whole cloves

4 white or black whole peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 piece of nutmeg seed (optional)

1 thread of mace (optional)

1 allspice berry (optional)

1 star anise pod (optional)

3 cardamom pods (optional)

1 piece crystallized ginger (optional)

salt to taste

Method:

1. Place small spices in a tea ball or make a cheesecloth pouch tied with string.

2. Place all ingredients in heavy large saucepan.

3. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

4. Simmer until berries burst and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally (about 20-25 minutes).

5. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaves and spices.

6. Allow to cool, the sauce will thicken up even more.

7. Refrigerate sauce until cold.

8. Serve with turkey, or yogurt or swirl into muffin batter!

The sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.

Share your favourite homemade holiday tradition in the comments.

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