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Gluten Free Swiss Chard Turkey Rolls with Goat Cheese

We’re growing Swiss chard again this year and it’s quickly becoming a star in my books. It grows fast and furious, and it’s incredibly versatile. Within about three weeks ours has grown large enough to start harvesting, and the long, broad leaves make it perfect for leafy rolls. You can use it instead of lettuce or spinach in most recipes. It has a peppery flavour, like lettuce with a kick.

I made a really tasty appetizer on the weekend that I just had to share. It’s quick, simple and it tastes great with a glass of chilled white wine.

Ingredients

12 leaves of Swiss chard
150 grams of goat cheese (flavoured or regular)
400 grams ground turkey breast
28 grams fresh basil
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot
40 grams parmesan cheese
handful of pine nuts
handful of assorted lettuce (mixed baby greens)

1. Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut the leaves in half along the spine of the leaf, and removed the spine completely (the spine is too stiff to roll properly if you leave it connected).

2. Using a food processor add the garlic, parmesan and shallot while the processor blade is spinning. Run until mixture is thoroughly chopped.

3. Add basil, assorted lettuce and goat cheese to mix and pulse until smooth.

4. Sauté ground turkey in a frying pan until cooked. Strain any fat, then combine the cheese & herb mixture with the turkey and cook until the cheese begins to bubble and melt.

5. Stir in the pine nuts and allow the mixture to cool enough that you can carefully touch it without burning yourself.

6. Place the Swiss chard leaf underside up on a cutting board. Use a tablespoon to roughly measure the amount of filling you place in each chard leaf, then roll the leaf around the stuffing. Carefully place the rolls on a serving dish so that they won’t unroll accidentally. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Our First Broccoli Harvest

Only one week has passed since my first post about our budding broccoli plants, and already they’re ready to harvest. I’m always a little sad when it comes time to chop my plants up, but I was also really looking forward to finally sampling some homegrown green goodness.

For our first harvest we decided to cook a beef and broccoli stir fry, one of our favourites. We sliced off four of the heartiest crowns and accompanying side shoots and piled them out on the cutting board. I hadn’t really realized just how much darker this homegrown broccoli was until I looked at it under our kitchen lights. The plants, true to their name, had very dark purple crowns, nothing like what we traditionally bought at the vegetable stand.

The stalks of the florets were also much longer and thinner than all the store bought broccoli I’ve eaten. The crowns were not nearly as dense. Instead they felt light and delicate. After we extracted all the edible bits off of the massive crowns we had one big purple pile!

To accompany the broccoli we chopped up some carrots, mushrooms, and garlic and sliced two sirloin steaks as thin as we could manage. Since the broccoli florets were so much smaller and lighter than usual they cooked a lot faster. Once all the vegetables were cooked we added a cup of fresh bean sprouts, a cup of stir fry sauce and, voila! Our first home-grown broccoli feast was ready to eat.

It was delicious! And more than that, it was satisfying to eat something that we’d been growing since August.

Next up, what broccoli dish should we cook for our second harvest?

Broccoli – Signs of Life

Some might say it’s overly ambitious to attempt to grow broccoli on a balcony with only partial sun. Some might say this, but not me. Nuts to that.

I hatched this plan back in August after discovering the Purple Sprouting Red Spear Broccoli variety available through West Coast Seeds. The plant’s description got me excited:

These extremely cold-hardy biennial plants grow over the winter months ready for early spring harvest. Purple sprouting broccoli provide very small, sweet purple flowering shoots in the spring. Sow in late summer for February to March harvest.

It was already late summer. Why not give it a shot?

I began my mission by germinating and planting 10 seedling. Over the next months the plants grew taller and leafier and broader, and several of the stalks turned yellow and died. I have a habit of overcrowding all of my pots, so I figured this probably wasn’t a bad thing. This was nature weeding out the weaklings for me.

The plants got taller and broader still and by January my mind began to fill with questions: Had I started my seedlings too late? Or was it too cold, too dry, or too dark? Would these plants ever produce any real, edible broccoli?

Then came the snow.

One month later I spotted the very first semblance of a broccoli crown at the apex of the biggest plant. Exciting! Now that it’s almost April, I’m astounded by the plant’s progress every day.

Though I’ve yet to taste this home-grown vegetable, I’m satisfied that my experiment has been a success. My only remaining question is, how will I know when the plant is ready to harvest?

How I Discovered Brazilian Cheese Bread

About six months ago, a good friend of mine discovered she was allergic to gluten. The second she told me I instantly felt what I’m sure she felt too: a tragic sense of loss. I had attempted a wheat-free, sugar-free diet myself about a year earlier, so I knew how hard it was going to be. And as an avid food lover (which my friend is), it was awful to find out she could no longer eat a whole host of tasty foods. But, unfortunately, gluten is in everything these days!

Aside from the obvious breads, pastas and baked goods, it’s in sauces, salad dressings, processed meat products, and countless other things. It’s so difficult to avoid that it makes buying pre-made, packaged or even restaurant food a very frustrating experience. Yet, what I quickly learned while on my diet – after a week or so of boring meals – is that you just have to readjust how you think about your food, and get creative instead! Make pizza crust out of mashed potatoes, design recipes for your own sauces and salad dressings, and bake breads with different styles of flour (like those made from rice, kamut, almond, potato or tapioca). Once you get into the swing of it each day gets easier and easier, and now my friend is happily dining on delicious meals every night!

Brazilian Cheese Bread is a recipe I learned from her, after she made some for my husband and I earlier this summer. After our first bite, we instantly fell in love! The bread is made with tapioca flour, which gives the baked dough a wonderfully sticky, chewy texture. Combined with a pinch of salt and grated, cheddar cheese, this was the best bread we’d ever been served before!

AllRecipes.com has a wonderful recipe for Brazilian Cheese Bread that I’ve made many times since my first encounter that night. Each time I’ve served it, guests have gobbled it up, and commented, without fail, on the deliciously gooey texture. If you want to impress your friends, regardless of a gluten-allergy or not, this recipe is definitely a winner.

Kimbe’s tips:
If you don’t have any parmesan cheese you can use cheddar or mozzarella (or both) instead. I also usually increase the garlic and add some chive flakes, for colour.

I usually double this recipe, because otherwise the buns disappear too fast! When doubling, take extra care to make sure you measure the flour correctly. I had a little mishap myself between batches last time. See the difference that one extra half-cup of tapioca flour makes?!

Oops! Remember to measure carefully.

But even still, the buns were immensely satisfying, and were completely devoured before the end of the night!

Making Spring Rolls

Whenever I make or eat spring rolls, I always think of South East Asia. It was four years ago when my husband and I first learned how to make them. We were on a backpacking trip through SE Asia and our little guesthouse, Eagle House, in Chiang Mai, Thailand, offered a full-day cooking course held in the hotel’s lush, tropical courtyard. We’d been enjoying the different cuisines of Asia immensely throughout our trip so we jumped at the chance to learn the secrets of the locals. We signed up with The Chili Club Cooking Academy to do a full-day course the following day.

The next morning, a small group of travelers gathered in the steamy, humid courtyard to meet our instructor, Mr. Visutt. He was a short, friendly man who was clearly very intelligent, and cared very deeply about teaching the traditional way of cooking Thai food. He’d learned his techniques from the elders of his village, his neighbours and his parent – knowledge passed down through generations. He did not believe in “instant” Thai food, and he wholeheartedly disapproved of microwaves.

We cooked five other dishes with him – Red Curry with Chicken and Eggplant, Chiang Mai Noodle Soup, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Mango Sticky Rice, and Red Curry Paste Dip – but the Spring Rolls are the one dish we’ve made again, and again. Each time we do, we think back to Mr. Visutt’s instructions. In his unique Thai-accented English he’d tell us, “You must control yourself, the amount of spiciness,” and “Fresh ingredients, mix together, fresh taste.”

Now that we’re back in North America, we often vary the ingredients we put in our spring rolls to include whatever we have in our fridge. Some great additions have been shredded chicken breast, chopped green beans, bok or sui choy, finely chopped broccoli, and ground peanuts.

Here’s Mr. Visutt’s recipe for spring rolls. You can vary the ingredients as desired.

Spring Rolls (Boh-Bia, in Thai)

4 tablespoons oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
80 grams minced meat (beef, chicken or pork)
160 grams onions, finely sliced & diced
200 grams carrots, finely sliced & diced
40 grams dried shrimp (optional), soak in water for 5 minutes and drain
80 grams tofu
200 grams cabbage, finely sliced & diced
200 grams bean sprouts
240 grams mushrooms (straw, Chinese, champignon), cut into 1 cm chunks
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons white sugar
4 teaspoons ground white pepper
24 grams glass noodles, soak in water for 20 minutes, then cut into 4 cm lengths
8 tablespoons water
12-20 spring roll wrappers
enough egg yolk to seal wrappers
oil for deep-frying

Method:
1. Heat oil in wok on low heat for 15 seconds.
2. Add garlic, minced meat, onion, carrots, dried shrimps and tofu and stir-fry for one minute.
3. Mix in the cabbage, bean sprouts and mushrooms.
4. Stir in the oyster and mushroom sauces.
5. Mix in the sugar and ground pepper.
Add glass noodles and water and stir-fry for 30-45 seconds.
7. Turn off heat and put on a plate.
8. Onto each individual spring roll wrapper, place 1 tablespoon of the vegetable mixture at one end of the wrapper and spread it to about 8 cm in length. Roll up the wrapper from the bottom to the middle and then fold in the left and right sides. Use the egg for sticking the folds. Roll up to the top and stick again.
9. Heat enough oil for deep-frying at medium heat. Put in the spring rolls.
10. As soon as they are golden in colour take them out, put on absorbent paper towel to drain off the excess oil, and serve with a sweet chili sauce, plum sauce, sweet & sour sauce or peanut sauce.

Kimbe’s tips:
You can vary the sauces and ingredients to your taste. You may not like oyster sauce, but soy or teriyaki sauce work well too. You may also want to add ginger, though sadly, I’m allergic.

There are a variety of spring roll wrappers you can purchase. Some are made with egg and flour, but for those that are gluten-free you can use rice wrappers instead. We learned to use the flour ones in Thailand, but at home we stick to the rice-based wrappers. They’re a little more delicate to handle, and they’re often round instead of rectangular, but they produce a lighter crust on the finished spring roll.

If you’ve got one, save yourself the hassle of chopping and let your food processor do the work for you. I use my chopping, slicing and shredding blades to prep all my veggies, garlic, and occasionally meat (such as shredded leftover BBQ chicken breast) for this dish in less than 5 minutes.

Food-processed ingredients saves a lot of time.

Spring roll size can vary according to your preference too. If you’re making these as appetizers, then stick to the small scoop of mixture that the recipe suggests. However, if you’re making these for dinner, making them larger and longer works well too. Just be sure to crisp them enough on the outside first.

On the subject of deep-frying, I’m not a fan of completely submerging any of my food in bubbling oil. It just seems way too unhealthy. Instead, we use a non-stick pan with a few tablespoons of oil, instead of the 2 litres that Mr. Visutt recommended. If you use our lightly oiled approach, make sure to turn the spring rolls and crisp all 4 sides. You’ll need a good pair of tongs to accomplish this successfully.

If you’re traveling to Thailand and you’re interested in cooking courses, I would definitely recommend The Chili Club Cooking Academy at the Eagle House Guesthouse in Chiang Mai.

Nice to meet you!

Hello out there, and welcome to my first blog post. You may be wondering just what this blog is (or will be) all about. Basically, I love food and I love food writing. I can’t even begin to count how many hours I’ve spent day-dreaming about cooking, recipe writing and tasting mouth-watering new dishes and I’m often telling myself “Gee, that might make an interesting blog post.” But until now I’ve never done anything with my ideas. Well tonight is the night to stop keeping my culinary thoughts bottled up in my head. Tonight I become a food blogger!

I actually can cook, and I have lots of ideas to share. I hope you’ll stop by and visit me some time.