12 Days of Christmas… Cookies

Wrapped-Up-FINAL

Alrighty! For the next 12 Days My Stable Life has Christmas cookies for you! Should you have a cookie exchange or if you’re simply looking for a tasty delight with which to treat your family, check some the ideas out here. Direct from our kitchen… well, er um, some of these may have come from my mother’s kitchen <grin>. Today’s recipe: Salty Caramel Turtles.Ingredients  INGREDIENTS:

• One 180-gram package Super Soft caramels

• One 400-gram bag salted mini-pretzel twists

• Three Hershey Milk Chocolate Bars

• One 300-gram package pecan halvesTa-da!

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spray a large cookie sheet with Pam or butter lightly. Heat oven to 350 F. Place unbroken mini-pretzel twists on the cookie sheet, allowing half an inch between pieces. Unwrap each caramel, cut in half lengthwise and place on pretzel twist.

Place one small square of chocolate on each caramel on top of the pretzel. You may also cut the square of chocolate in half, if the chocolate pieces are large. Place in the oven for 3 minutes.

Remove and test by gently placing one pecan half on a chocolate square. If the caramel settles into the pretzel and the pecan sits well on the chocolate, continue to place the rest of the pecans on the turtles. If the caramel is not soft enough to melt, try one additional minute in the oven before placing the remaining pecans on the chocolate. Too many minutes in the oven makes the caramel brittle and very chewy.

Tie them up in Christmas treat bags for a sweet treat or stocking stuffer!

And if you’d like the recipe to go, print out the following picture for a free recipe. Merry Christmas!

recipe

An Autumn Centerpiece

At the log house, we’re having family over for Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m working on building a fall centrepiece, with an informal arrangement of fall foliage, baby pumpkins, candles and the western element of horseshoes.

I lean towards the Horse & High Priestess look for Thanksgiving, how about you?

Pulling together the elements of this centre piece is fairly simply. All you need are a few high quality candles of different shapes and heights, horseshoes and whatever fall foliage and acorns you can find in your garden, fields or flowerbeds. Mini and baby pumpkins are a great addition and of course, a vessel to arrange it all in.

At this juncture, I should probably warn you there is a fire hazard involved if you choose to work with real candles. Feel free to substitute with the flameless variety, particularly if dried flowers, acorns, wood and candles burning all in the same square wooden box give you pause. We’re aiming for a stressless holiday after all.

I like to have a few height variances in my arrangements, so I built up the inside of the box with various lifters to set candles and items on.

Horseshoes always seem to find their way into the log house. Spray them with silver or gold glitter paint if you want them to really glisten.

The dried yellow daisies from our flowerbeds and pretty mini-pumpkins are a sweet ode to autumn.

Orange votive candles and cute branches of  mini-pumpkins found at the farmers market, along with a pine sprig found their way into the arrangement as well.

The final result – a simple and seasonal centre piece that took less than an hour to build and brought together some of my favorite elements of fall.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Bacon. In a Jar. On the Shelf.

Credit: Priscilla Unger

A while ago, I had the privilege of introducing guest blogger, Priscilla Unger, creator of Memories of Home, with her extraordinary Wild Rose Petal Ice Cream. In her own words Priscilla is a homemaker, a homebuilder, a homesteader, and a homeschooler. And in her spare time, she is a hobby food creator. Today Priscilla is back with Bacon. In a jar. On the shelf.

If you love bacon as much as we do in our house, you’ll be hard-pressed to finish reading this post without drooling. Enjoy!

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BY GUEST BLOGGER – Memories of Home

Why, bacon in a jar?

Well, mostly because we’ve been recently experimenting with the scientific thrill of curing and smoking meats, and with Thanksgiving coming, there’s just not room for the resulting twenty pounds of bacon in the fridge.

But wouldn’t it be nice just to be able to grab a jar of bacon, and sprinkle it on a couple of baked potatoes, dress a quiche, garnish a salad, or simply snack on it while watching world news?  I figured it was wise to make the splattering, grease popping mess all in one day, yielding a shelf full of ready-to-eat preserved bacon in perfectly portioned one-serving sizes; about 15 lovely strips per jar.

I’ve had an on-and-off relationship with my pressure canner over the years.  The pressure canner was there when the boys were born, faithfully preserving everything from baby food to spaghetti sauce, chicken, salmon, soups and chili.  A couple of failed attempts at chocolate pudding (what a mess) and cheese sauce (what another mess) shelved it for a time, but hey – I forgive.

I was recently inspired by Rural Spin’s method of canning bacon, and so I turned my oven up to 400 degrees and started oven frying stacks and stacks of thinly sliced bacon.  (This way, the splatters are contained, see.)

The house smelled really good.  (My hair smelled like bacon too.)  (And so did my breath.)

Then, I laid out several strips of gently cooked bacon onto a length of parchment paper and sprinkled them with Maple Sugar, leaving an approximate two inch fold of paper at one end for easier roll-up.

Rolled snug, each bundle of bacon-y goodness was shoved into a hot sterile jar, lids snapped on.

The jars went into the readied pressure canner at 15 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes.  I live at a high altitude here in south central Alberta, so this changes the pressure and time at which I need to process low acid food like meat.  (Check the manual that came with your pressure canner to be sure your times and PSI are correct).

And that’s it!  So simple and easy!  Ready for the zombie apocalypse.  Or a BLT.

Pig out…

 

 

 

A Chef’s Tasting in Cowtown

Yesterday flowed seamlessly from world-class jumping horses to a western-inspired evening for me. I wrapped up my shift at the Western Horse Review booth at Spruce Meadows Masters and hustled to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Calgary to take part in a special Chef’s Tasting that I had been invited to attend at the newly renovated Thomsons restaurant.

Thomson’s stunning new decor features the western fine art photography of Joanne Meeker – an exclusive set of pieces shot by the photographer at the Diamond 7 Ranch, which is incidentally also the seasonal naturally-raised beef supplier of Thomsons. The oversized sepia portraits of western life, ranching and horses meld beautifully with the brick and sandstone architecture of the dining room and lounge, transforming it into a warm and vintage space.

I landed a seat next to these two cowgirls – Amie Peck (right) and Laura Laing (left). They had just finished a day of riding with Glen Stewart (they clean up well, don’t they!), and were full of inspirations and stories to tell of their journey through the five-day clinic. Laura is the Ranch Manager at the Diamond 7, and Amie is Marketing and Administrating Coordinator. To the left of Laura sits Lindsay Goldthorpe, Marketing Manager for the Hyatt – undoubtedly tweeting about the latest dish we had been served up.

Ah, yes, the food. About the food.

Believe it or not we were served every dish on this menu.

From a B.C. ocean-wise sturgeon (in the plate on the left) with a lemon, pepper & garlic marinade, pea puree, smoked tomato risotto, candied pistachio crumbs and smoked tomato butter. . .

. . . to one of Amie’s favorites, a house smoked Alberta double pork chop, with rosemary and garlic, a celeriac and dried apricot puree, barley, beluga lentils and white beans and finally, a pickled apple.

The dish above features the grass-fed, grain finished beef of Diamond 7. In the background is Chef Darren Keogh who spent a lot of time seriously appraising his diner’s reactions, and asking questions like “how’s the density of the pasta [in the duck confit pasta]?  . . . is it too thick? . . . I worry it is. . ”

No, Chef Darren, the pasta is ala-perfecto.

Being Irish, he also explained the nuances of the rivalry between Cork and Dublin (rather like Edmonton and Calgary, only bloodier), and that one wouldn’t say “awesome” in Ireland, but “sound,” as in “he’s a sound character.”

Rather like we do in horse lingo.

He also shared that his favorite cheesecake is his homemade Toblerone and Bailey’s Cream – a no-bake version he’s forced (grin) to make several batches of every Christmas.

And then it was indeed dessert time. As if we could stuff anymore into our already brimming tummies. But we did. No-one could resist sharing a bit of two versions of creme brulee (one with bourbon!), a flourless chocolate cake with homemade ice-cream and an amazingly sound cheesecake.

When it finally came time to roll my overflowing-with-gratitude-for-beautiful-food-self home, I was gifted with a copy of the book, The Life is Art, A Photographic Journey of Ranching in Western Alberta, again, featuring the photography of Joanne Meeker, and a jar of something labelled Bulls Blood Beet Jam, homemade by Chef Darren himself. Hmmmm, perhaps more on that later.

What I love about Thomsons? Well, in addition to the fact that I actually had the opportunity to share a Chef’s Table with Calgary’s food critic and author, John Gilchrist – a small thrill in itself . . . I think this: the western vibe, and the free-range creativity of the menu – the pride of the restaurant is all about local and sustainable food, and chefs source from a lot of the same producers I’ve featured in the Food of the West column in the magazine, such as Valbella Meats, Noble Farms, Hotchkiss, Sylvan Star Cheese, Highwood Crossing and of course, Diamond 7. It’s a trend which continues to gain traction, and one I feel very strongly about supporting, both when dining out and playing my own version of Chef at home.

Lastly, it might be argued that Calgary rarely feels very bound to its western roots in contemporary times, but last night, amidst the fantastic food, leather bound ranch chairs, rich decor and western art, chatting “horse” with two gals, I truly gained the sense that Cowtown had finally come home – at least to this unique corner of downtown.

Wild Rose Petal Ice Cream

Credit: Priscilla Unger

I have a big announcement to make… Drum roll please!! My Stable Life is extremely proud to collaborate with a new guest blogger – Priscilla Unger, creator of Memories of Home. In her own words Priscilla is a homemaker, a homebuilder, a homesteader, and a homeschooler. And in her spare time, she is a hobby food creator. Priscilla has agreed to come on board with My Stable Life and share a few how-to recipes of her own that truly represent the country lifestyle. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Memories of Home’s first entry. Wild Rose Petal Ice Cream. Nothing screams Alberta summer better than this…!

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BY GUEST BLOGGER – Memories of Home

I could pretend that I’m knowledgeable in the ways and palette of edible flowers, but that would be… well… complete barnacle.  All I know is that upon discovery of every beautiful and fragrant flower this year, much Googling ensues in a quest to find out if it’s edible, and how it tastes.

I know – I should have discovered Wild Roses sooner.  Having lived in Alberta for most of my life, its symbol is proudly powder-coated on provincial license plates… I see it every day.  (I read recently that it became Alberta’s official floral emblem in 1930).

Maybe because of the recent historic flooding in my home province, (or maybe just because often pretty things I look at become food-i-fied), the Wild Rose has compelled me to pick and gather the brilliant and fragrant petals from the bushes in our yard this summer.

Credit: Priscilla Unger

RoseWater is easily made at home by pouring one part boiling water over four parts loosely packed rose petals and letting it steep for a couple of hours.  Look how beautiful the colour is.  And the smell…

Credit: Priscilla Unger

I wonder why the ingredient has not become more popular here in North America…  Many people from around the globe use it as a common ingredient – as we would use fresh herbs. And as is the case with all plant organisms, claims of medicinal benefits are also well documented about the consumption of rose petals.

Rose petals inspire me to make gorgeous jelly preserves, chic marshmallows, and perhaps tea infusions in little sachets for gifts. But since is summer, Rose Petal Ice Cream seems like a fitting idea, and an elegant addition to any sweet menu.

If you do not have an ice cream machine, you can either buy one here, or use David Lebovitz’s no-machine method as explained here.  Both options work well with this recipe.

Credit: Priscilla Unger.

WILD ROSE PETAL ICE CREAM
(makes approximately 1.5 L)

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, whisk together, and bring just to a slight boil:
2 cups of Whole Milk
2 cups of Heavy Cream
1/2 cup of Sugar
pinch of Salt
1 whole Vanilla Bean, halved and seeds scraped or 1/4 tsp. Vanilla Powder

In the bowl of an electric mixer, on low speed, combine:
6 large Egg Yolks
1/2 cup of Sugar

As the mixer is running, very slowly pour about half of the barely boiling milk mixture into the yolk mixture.  Return the combined mixture to the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 170˚-175˚ F).  Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl or storage container.  Let cool, then cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.

When you are ready to churn the ice cream, add the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Five minutes before the end of the mixing cycle, add:
2 Tbsp. homemade RoseWater  *optional  (see above for method)

Gently fold in:

1 – 2 cups of loosely packed, un-sprayed Wild Rose Petals

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze to store.

Credit: Priscilla Unger

 

Enjoy!

Fruity Summer Ice Pop

July is a perfect time to stock up on beautiful fruits from Farmer’s Markets or road-side fruit stands. But what do you do when that fruit is at risk of expiring before you can eat it all? Here’s a healthy way to turn produce into a fun summer ice pop.

INGREDIENTS:

• Strawberries, blueberries, orange slices, cherries (basically whatever fruit pieces you want to use in the pops.)

• 1 can of frozen juice concentrate

• water

DIRECTIONS:

Start by washing all your fruit and cutting it up into small pieces. Layer the pieces in a popsicle container.

Mix up the frozen juice as directed on the label into a pitcher. Once your fruit pieces have been put into each individual popsicle section, fill each up with juice. Lime, pink lemonade and apple flavors provide a nice base for your popsicle.

Freeze overnight. Serve on a hot day. Enjoy!

4th of July Cowboy Appetizer

Today’s blog and recipe is short and sweet. If you’re interested in a refreshing, easy-to-make appetizer, why not try this simple idea?

INGREDIENTS:
• Watermelon, cut into cubes
• Block of Feta Cheese
• Blueberries
• Balsamic Vinegar
• Toothpicks

Make the base of your appetizers from the blocks of watermelon. Carefully add a smaller block on top of feta cheese. Top the structure with a blueberry and pierce the entire creation through with a toothpick. Once all of your appetizers have been built, drizzle them over with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Rootbeer Paralyzer Float

Great for a hot Friday afternoon!

There is nothing better than an ice cold, Rootbeer float on a hot day…

Except for maybe an adult version of one!

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 ounce Vodka

• 1 ounce Kahlua

• Rootbeer

• Vanilla ice cream

• cherry for garnish

 

Enjoy!

Recipe of the Week ~ The Ultimate Grilled Steak

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

I'm kicking off our Recipe of the Week series not so much with a recipe, but rather, sharing a few thoughts about grilling a great steak. If you found the May/June issue of Western Horse Review in your mailbox recently, or picked it up at the newsstand or your favorite tack store, then you're already privy to the three steps to a great grilled steak I suggested in our Food of the West feature.

These three simple details – 1) bringing your steaks to room temperature and salting them well, 2) building a two-zone fire on your preferably charcoal barbecue, and 3) letting the meat rest, will bring you a lot closer to a juicy and unforgettable steak.

We chose the beef for our barbecue photo shoot from Bar P Ranch, just outside of Nanton, Alberta. Owners, Rob and Tami Palmer operate their family farm with a sustainable philosophy, and raise beef that is grass-finished and free from hormones or antibiotics. The cattle are never fed grain or animal by-products, and the pastures they graze on are not chemically fertilized or sprayed. In my mind, that’s beyond organic – it’s an absolute clean-beef, with a sustainable footprint. Plus, I like the idea that the cattle running on Bar P Ranch pastures are raised naturally and respectfully, in a stress-free and family-farm environment.

It's become paramount to me to care about where my family's food comes from, and how it is raised. An “organic” label in a large chain grocery store just doesn't tell me enough, particularly as I become increasingly aware that there is such a thing as “industrial organic,” and it’s most likely the beef that is pushed in major grocery store chains. I prefer to know exactly what ranch the beef I purchase is originating from, and how it is fed and raised. And, I don’t mind paying a bit more for that. It's all about supporting our local economy too.

Photo by Krista Kay Photography

I’m intrigued with discovering new riffs to the process of grilling steaks, and perfecting what I've learned thus far. One of the important considerations is the cut of the meat, and I'm still learning about the variances of each cut. My favorites these days seem to be rib-eyes and a well-marinated flank steak. For the purposes of our barbecue photo shoot, we grilled all of the above Bar P steaks with fantastic results, but we saved the tenderloins to pan fry, and that, I'm planning to showcase in a future edition of Food of the West. Stay tuned!