Foraging Food Nuts

Free Food Can Cost A Fortune.  But Its Worth It!

The other day Harry thought we should get out and pick some wild Raspberries. This year the bounty was affected by late frost, so you have to get out and pick now. I thought it sounded like a pretty good idea. It was a nice warm day we had all our chores done and having a bowl of fresh, wild raspberries for desert couldn’t have sounded better.

Now you have to know something about picking wild berries. They grow everywhere. But Harry feels that if you go to a “Special Place” to pick them, you will get better berries.  So load the berry buckets into the gas powered 6 cylinder, grab the bug spray and a bottle of nice cold water and off we go.

Foraging Food NutNote:  Elfie is smiling.  Photo was taken at the beginning of the adventure!

We drove for about 10 minutes to get to the “Special Place” so that would be about $3 in gas to get there. One of us still wants to get back home, so consider $6 for gas. We got out of the car and found that apparently someone else also thought this was a “Special Place”.  That or the bears have been tramping down the weeds at the roadside to get to the berries.

Now, I said it was a nice warm day which means that the Deer flies felt they could also get a  free meal.  They especially love to bite me and I had to spray myself with deadly chemicals just to be able to stay on task.  (can of “Deep Woods Off” $7.95)

wild raspberries

After about half an hour of tramping through thickets, being eaten alive by flies, sweating like a marathoner at the finish line and reducing my life expectancy with the chemical spray, we picked about 2 cups of the berries.  Not a bad haul!  And so far we only spent $15.95 (including $2 for water )on the free food!  Is it becoming hard to believe that we both had careers in which we helped people use their money to their best advantage?

In the end we came home with our bounty and that night after dinner we poured some heavenly cream over the little red gems.  I had to admit that it was all worth it.  When are we going foraging again Harry? Its almost Blueberry season isn’t it?

Berries and creamHave you had a foraging adventure? Please share it with us in the comments.

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Basil Overload Pesto!

Pesto…. The Fresh Taste Of Summer.

Every year we plant an abundance of herbs in pots on the deck at the cottage.  Funny, they love the heat and they don’t complain about being crammed into pots.  They actually do very well.  There’s nothing like going out with the scissors and “harvesting” the fruits of your labor to turn ordinary into extraordinary!

basilThis year the Basil is particularly productive so we thought why not make some Pesto for dinner tonight.  Pesto is so versatile as an ingredient. No longer do we just make pasta with it.  No sir, we put that “S**t” on everything. Try spreading it on the bread for your next Paninni.  Sublime. We’ve also made Pesto Pinwheels as appetizers. It’s also marvelous spread on a chicken breast once it’s almost grilled. Try it on tomato slices as a cool side dish.  As we said, we put it on everything.

Traditionally Pesto is made using basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, salt and pepper. We’re going to share that recipe with you here. But for the more adventurous types we suggest trying other non-tradational combinations.

We love avocado oil and sunflower seeds as a substitute for the olive oil and pine nuts. One of our friends uses arugula in place of basil for a peppery bite.  Try walnut oil and toasted walnuts with some flat leaf parsley added to the basil. Go ahead be brave!  Experiment with Italy’s hard cheeses too. Have you ever tried Grana Padanna? Trust us it’s just wonderful.

Two Food Nuts Pesto:

  • 2 cups loosely packed Basil Leaves  pesto ingredients
  • 2 large garlic cloves sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts  (place in a dry non-stick pan over medium heat until just light brown)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 Olive oil  or enough to make a nice loose paste.
  • a squeeze of lemon juice is optional

Place everything into a food chopper and blend until just incorporated. You want texture not a puree. Add just enough oil to make the pesto run off a spoon. When Elfie gets into her “Julia Child” mode, she makes it in her Mortar and Pestle. It takes a bit longer but I’m sure I can taste the love she puts in it!

Basil PEstoCooks Tip: When using the pesto for a pasta dish,  boil your pasta and reserve a bit of the pasta water. Place the drained pasta onto a pan, add the pesto and thin it down just slightly with the reserved pasta water. pasta keeps absorbing moisture while you are eating and this helps avoid it becoming dry. Grate some fresh cheese on top to finish.

We hope that you take the bounty of Summer to create a fresh tasting meal using this simple yet oh so delicious sauce. Bon Appetito!

Tell us what you think of this recipe. We love to hear from our readers. And if you enjoy the blog, please share it with your friends using the links below!  Thanks for reading TwoFoodNuts.com

Dumb Kitchen Gagets

We love good Kitchen Gadgets!

However, we think some are just dumb. Spend your money on quality items that make your cooking easier or better not this silly stuff that is always being sold to relieve you of your “dough”.   Use a fork and save your money to buy something yummy instead!

Dumb Pickle Fork.

pickle fork

Try using this instead.

fork

A Really Crummy Recipe.

I love this title, don’t you?

This is a story of the lowly breadcrumb.  Most of us will attest to throwing out our share of old bread. It’s what we do. Bread is readily available and inexpensive compared to most foods we buy.  In the past bread was handcrafted at home and therefore it was precious.  Time had to be spent making this simple yet revered food. We’re not suggesting that you start baking bread so you can have breadcrumbs, rather we suggest that you can make something special out of an otherwise throw-away ingredient.

Most of us will make a casserole at some point in our culinary lives and seasoned breadcrumbs can add a crisp, tasty topping that sends the ordinary to the stars.  In southern Italy breadcrumbs were used by peasants in place of the heavenly Parmesan that was only produced in the north of the country.  Toasted breadcrumbs, seasoned with fresh herbs have been scattered over pasta for centuries.

We love to take our leftover bread and do two things that make us look like culinary wizards. First is our recipe for Seasoned Breadcrumbs and the other is our Garlic Croutons.

We do  not use sandwich bread for this recipe. We always incorporate good baguette, crusty rolls, Pita, Italian bread and so forth into our everyday meals. This is the type of bread that we like.  We then allow it to dry on the counter overnight before running it through the food processor. Processed white sandwich bread is not a good option here.

Two Food Nuts “Crummy Topping”:

  • Process your bread cubes into a small crumb in the food processor but not a powder. Place the crumbs into a mixing bowl and add:

Makes two cups of “Crummy Topping”

  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and grated
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • grated peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp saltSeasoned Bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp grated pepper
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • A combination of herbs of your choice: Thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley  (chopped finely)  About a 1/4 cup of freshly minced herbs
  • If you do not have fresh herbs, this recipe does very well with a good dried Herb du Provence or your own blend of rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil. Use 2 Tbsp only.

 seasoned breadcrumbsBlend the ingredients together and incorporate well. We store our crumbs in a freezer bag so they’re on hand when we need them.  You can certainly make more crumbs if you have more bread or as we often do, buy a nice loaf of crusty bread for the sole purpose of making the crumbs or croutons. This way they can be pulled from the freezer and used immediately.

Here we have used them to top some luscious tomato halves. They are baked in the oven  but can be cooked on the BBQ as a side dish to any meal.  Just place them in an oven proof or foil dish. You can garnish a casserole with this topping  as well.

Tomato Provencial

Two Food Nuts Seasoned Croutons:

We love these Croutons with a good Ceasar salad. They’re particularly  good when made with Portuguese buns. They come out light as air and the end result is crisp outside but soft inside. Mmmmm.

Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes

Sprinkle lightly with dried garlic power

CroutonsPlace bread cubes into a non-stick pan and drizzle some good olive oil over the cubes. Just enough to moisten then. Now toast in the pan over medium high heat.  Stir gently until they are golden brown. Stay focused, because one minute they are white then they’re done.  It’s almost impossible not to eat them at this point, so always make a few extra for the chef. happy face emodiconGarlic Croutons

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first of our “Waste Not, Want Not” blogs.  If so, tell your friends on Facebook and Twitter by sharing this post and don’t forget to leave us a comment about the post.

 

Spinach Ricotta Puffs

The Busy Hostess Loves Spinach Puffs!

Harry and I love to entertain, that’s not a secret. We enjoy preparing interesting meals that introduce our friends to the world of food as we see it.  Time is often the one thing that keeps people from having dinner parties more often.  We found a way around that.  We do what is called a “Cottage Supper”.  When we invite friends for a “Cottage Supper” its understood that the food will be simple,  interesting and wholesome. They love it!

spinach ricotta puffsOne of the things that buys the cook a bit of time when company comes, is the appetizer course and we do love our appetizers!  However, we don’t like to fuss a great deal in the preparation. This is where our Spinach Ricotta Puffs hit all the marks.  It’s easy, it can be made ahead and frozen till the guests are in the driveway and it tastes so good.

Here’s the way Two Food Nuts prepare…

Spinach Ricotta Puffs:

  • 1 sheet quality frozen puff pastry dough. We use this because you simply can’t make it any better at home and it takes an entire day to make.  We said this was easy right!
  • 8oz Ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 a package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed to remove the water
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves grated or finely minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Allow the puff pastry to thaw and unroll it. The type we use is PC brand. It comes in a sheet that is rolled and ready to use.  In the meantime, mix the cheese and spinach filling. Place all the ingredients except the puff pastry into a bowl and blend together.

Once the dough is thawed cut it into 9 equal squares. (the dough should measure about 12 inches square when unrolled).  In each of the small squares of dough place an equal portion of the filling. Now gather the corners of the small puff pastry pieces to the center and pinch them together.  At this point you can freeze the pieces, ready for your next party or you can refrigerate them for baking in an hour or two.

DSC_5911

Puff pastry dough performs best when cold dough is placed in a hot oven. It causes the layers to really puff.  We use a 400 F oven to cook anything with a puff pastry cover.   In this case you need only 15-20 minutes of baking time. Keep a close eye on the oven at the 15 minute mark to be sure the puffs are not getting too brown.

We love to serve this appetizer when we do an Italian dinner. The flavors of the meal and the appetizers compliment each other nicely.

Tell your friends and family about our blog so they can enjoy our style of cooking and entertaining. Like us on Facebook or share us!

Your comments are always welcome.

 

 

 

Rhubarb Custard Pie! Oh My.

Easy as Pie!

Rhubarb is best picked in the Spring.  Once the middle stalk bears flowers the fruit is no longer used. The window of opportunity is very short but the freezer can help extend the season for this highly under-rated fruit. We love to make this pie throughout the year so we harvest the rhubarb and freeze it in portions for a single pie. Simply wash the stalks and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Tuck into freezer bags and you have fruit throughout the year.

Rhubarb Custard pieWe use a standard pie crust for this recipe.  Either a lard or butter crust will do. You can even use a quality frozen pie shell if the need arises, but we always prefer homemade if time allows.

The ingredients are usually at hand, so here’s how Two Food Nuts make our

Rhubard Custard Pie:

  • Line the pie plate with the crust of your choice
  • Pour in 4 cups of cut up Rhubarb
  • Mix 3 large eggs with 1 & 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup all purpose flour.  Blend well.
  • Grate in 1/2 a nutmeg or use 1/2 teaspoon ready grated nutmeg. Fresh grated is best!
  • Pour the egg mixture over the fruit, create a nice edge for your pie with left over crust.
  • Beat 1 egg in a small bowl and brush it on the crust to glaze.

Bake at 400 F degrees for the first 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F for the remaining 40 -45 minutes.  The pie should still have a slight jiggle to it and the crust should be a rich golden brown.  Set on a rack to cool, then refrigerate before serving.

We do like a good topping of freshly whipped cream just to “Guild the lily”!

rhubarb custard pie

Rhubarb Custard pie

We made a braided edge and egg-washed it to the pie crust once it was filled.

Rhubarb Custard pieWe hope you enjoy our version of Rhubarb Custard Pie and that you share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Your comments are always appreciated so please use the handy form below!  Enjoy.

Beans, Beans The Magical Fruit!

Two Food Nuts Baked Beans.

We’re at the cottage a good deal of the summer and there are days when it’s really just too hot to cook. That doesn’t mean you can’t make something that requires cooking though. You just have to use your Bean!  Or in this case your slow-cooker.  Baked beans traditionally require soaking beans overnight then boiling them for an hour,  but let’s get real!  We want good food without steaming up the kitchen or our glasses and we found a way to do it!

Baked beansThe pantry is often your best friend, so throw open the door and let’s get out the cans of Navy Beans, those little plump white, pre-soaked, par boiled darlings.  We’ll add  some great flavoring to the beans and put the slow-cooker on the picnic table till dinner’s ready. No sweating and really very little preparation.

Here’s how these Two Food Nuts make “Baked Beans”.

3 – 19 oz cans of navy beans.    Drained, rinsed and placed in a slow cooker.

Add:

  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 4 strips of bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces and lightly browned
  • 2 tbsp of the bacon fat (discard  the rest)
  • 1 cup Ketchup
  • 2 tbsp of your favorite spicy mustard (we like Dijon or Grainy mustard)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp hickory BBQ sauce (this ads a nice smokey taste)
  • 1/4 cup Molasses or if you live in Quebec like our son, it must be Maple Syrup!
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar, those of us that are adventurous might even give Balsamic a try.

Optional:  And now for the secret ingredients.  A small mango or peach peeled and diced or even an apple adds a sweetness to each bite that makes it taste wonderful.                 Some “Like it Hot” so add your favorite hot sauce or fresh chili for a thrill!

Once you have everything in the slow-cooker, stir gently to incorporate all the goodness and set on low until dinner. We suggest at least 6 hours.  Check the beans after 4 hours and if they are tender and the flavor has developed you can switch to the keep warm setting.  Slow-cookers vary in temperature so always check at the 4 hour mark.  Remember you are starting with beans that are fully cooked, so you can prep these at lunch and  still have full flavored baked beans by supper.

Baked beansThese baked beans will last in the refrigerator for several days if tightly covered.  That is if you have any leftover. If you are feeding more than 4 people you may want to double the recipe. These disappear fast!  Add a side of beans to your bacon and eggs this weekend!

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Sweet and Low!

Dessert under 300 Calories?  Yes!

Who does not love to enjoy something sweet after a meal, or as a treat all by itself?   The problem is the calorie count usually creates guilt.  We live in a world of plenty and that has gotten us into some trouble with our waistlines, but you are going to love this beautiful, sweet and low calorie dessert! angel food dessertNot only is this dessert delicious and low calorie, it’s so easy to make and its also versatile. We had a store-bought Angel-Food cake on hand. We also had a can of no sugar-added mandarin oranges some Greek yogurt (lemon flavor) and a few plump berries in the fridge. It took about 3 minutes to make the dessert.

By eliminating the sugar and substituting yogurt for whipping cream the result is sublime!

Assembly:

  • Tear cake slices into bite-size pieces, arrange on a plate (Use 1/12th of the store-bought cake per portion) calorie count for 1 slice of cake.
  • top with fruit of your choice
  • add a dollop of yogurt (any flavor you like)
  • decorate with a few berries or perhaps some Pecans!
  • drizzle with the tiniest bit of honey

Now sit back and savor ever morsel of this fresh-tasting, miracle of dessert! Its about the same calorie count as 20 potato chips, but so much more satisfying.

angel food dessert

You can substitute any soft  or juicy fruit. Strawberries are particularly good with Angel Food cake, but summer peaches would  be lovely topped with fresh blueberries too. Grate some lime peel on top of fresh mango.  Be a bit creative, use other yogurt flavors too.  Tell us what you did to create your own version of this dessert! We’d love to learn something new from you!

 

Cool and Creamy

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Appetizers.

As the temperature hits 30 degrees its time to turn off the heat and find ways to savor the flavor of Summer.  What is more quintessential than Watermelon?  Paired with Feta cheese and you’re sure to make a  lot of people happy. watermelon and feta cheese appetizersJust looking at these little bites is enough to make you feel cool all over. The best part is the ease of preparation for a busy hostess.

Two Food Nuts Recipe:

  • 1 small seedless Watermelon
  • I brick Feta cheese  ( you can go low fat here without sacrificing taste)!
  • Baby Basil leaves
  • Balsamic vinegar. (we were able to find Balsamic Vinegar infused with Black Truffles)
  • Wooden pics

Cut the watermelon in half and scoop out balls with a melon-baller. Cut the cheese in generous 1 1/2 inch pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Place cheese pieces on a pretty serving tray, add the tiny Basil leaves, top with a watermelon ball and skewer it all together with a decorative pic. All that’s left is to receive the compliments when the guests take their first bite! Feta and watermelon bites Cook’s Tip: There are great little shops in most towns that specialize in fine Italian foods. We love to go to the St Lawerence Market or Kensington Market in Toronto, but Little Italy also provides great stores featuring Italian products. We just love the Balsamic that we found in one of these places, we just can’t remember which one! There are also fine Balsamics infused with Raspberry or Figs that would work equally well in this recipe.  Be brave, try something new.

Celebrating Carrots

Rosemary Honey Glazed Carrots!

When we think of vegetables, we don’t automatically think about how much we love carrots.  They have been categorized as something ordinary, something you just have in the fridge and have to use up. But in fact they are something special.

Rosemary and Honey glazeed CarrotsI’m going to suggest that you will want to celebrate this beautiful, sweet, underrated vegetable once  you try our recipe for Rosemary and Honey glazed carrots. I’m going to bet that your children will even ask for seconds once they try carrots prepared this way.

The method used to prepare these carrots is a bit different from the usual way of boiling the flavor right out. When we prepare the carrots, they retain their color and their flavor. Even Buggs Bunny would agree!

There’s one thing that we’d like to express about carrots. Please don’t use those little carrots in the bag!  They are “machined” from whole carrots.  The outer part and all the nutritional layers are peeled off in the process.  They are also soaked in Clorine to maintain freshness.  We recommend using whole fresh carrots. You don’t even need to peel them!

Vegetables are a necessity for good health and preparing them in ways that preserve the vitamins is always best. You’ll be surprised at how flavorful this dish is and its largely because we don’t loose it all in the preparation.   Carrots are a Super-food. Dr. Ann Carrots nutritional value.

Here’s our Two Food Nuts Recipe.

  • One bunch fresh carrots, we prefer those with the tops intact
  • 3 fresh Rosemary springs (2 for cooking, 1 for garnish)
  • 2 tablespoons butter (we have not used margarine and do not recommend it)
  • Water
  • 2 tablespoons liquid Honey
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

In a shallow skillet, place the carrots that have been sliced in half lengthwise, add enough water to come half way up the carrots.  DO NOT COVER.   Add the salt now.  Top with the butter and 2 of the  Rosemary sprigs.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat to medium, cover with a lid and continue to cook until the carrots are barely crisp tender. This only takes a few minutes.  Remove the lid and turn the heat to high just to evaporate the remaining water. Once again, just a few minutes. Remove the Rosemary and drizzle with the Honey.  Add Pepper as desired.

two food nuts rosemary and honey glazed carrotsThe end result will be Carrots that are tender not limp, the sweetness of the vegetables is further enhanced by the Honey, plus the Rosemary adds a deep earthiness to this already earthy vegetable. No need to add butter either, its been cooked right into the carrots.

Now eat your veggies and ask for seconds!

 

 

 

Our Not So Secret Garlic Bread Recipe

The Secret Is Out!

Garlic bread is a wonderful accompaniment to Italian foods, but we like to think it goes with just about everything that comes from the BBQ too!  What is it about the crispy, buttery garlic flavor that just makes your mouth water?  Perhaps when it comes right down to it we all have a bit of Italian in our heritage, and if not, we probably wish we did. There is something special about a few simple ingredients put together in just the right way that makes us happy at the table.

twofoodnuts garlic breadThe quality of the garlic bread is directly related to the type of bread that is used and whether or not you use fresh garlic or the dried stuff.  As a reader of this blog, you should be getting the idea that fresh is better and quality ingredients create a qualify end result.

We opt for fresh garlic in everything we cook with the exception of home made croutons and dry rubs for meats.

We like two breads in particular for our garlic bread. The first are the ultra-light Portuguese buns pictured above. The second is an outstanding Baguette such as Ace Bakery (available at all Loblaws Super Stores in Canada).

The Portuguese Buns give a very light texture to the garlic bread, Airy in a word. The Baguette, is slightly denser, so it results in a chewy end result. We love both.  You can also try a whole grain version, although we are purists and prefer a white bread option.

two food nuts secret garlic breadHere’s our Not So Secret Recipe:

  • 2 Portuguese buns split or 1/2 a French Baguette split lengthwise (enough for 4 people)
  • 1/2 cup of soft butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves grated or crushed
  • 1 tbsp minced flat leaf parsley
  • grated rind of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 pinch of salt

Combine in a small mixing bowl until all ingredients for a smooth paste. Spread generously on the cut sides of the bread and place under the broiler on the center rack of the oven. Placing it too high in the oven makes it burn before it toasts.

twofoodnuts garlic breadCooks Tip:

Using a Microplane to grate the lemon and the garlic gives the best result. A good quality Microplane is an essential kitchen tool. We do not consider it a gadget!    Its essential!        Amazon has them for under $10 at the time of writing of this blog.

Enjoy the taste of our “No So Secret Garlic Bread” with your next meal!

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

Flavor Packed Roasted GrapeTomatoes.

Any time of year is a great time for Grape or Cherry Tomatoes.  During the cold winter months tomatoes leave a lot to be desired in the taste department.  They tend to be hard orbs without the color or taste of a vine ripe tomato. To the rescue the glossy red or yellow Grape or Cherry Tomato. This recipe captures the sweetness and amps up the taste with the help of fresh garlic and Rosemary and a quality olive oil.

grape or cherry tomatoesHere’s our recipe:

Heat Oven to 400F degrees

  • 1 container grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves halved
  • 2 Rosemary springs
  • 1 good pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 cup quality Olive oil

If you want a subtle twist to this recipe, try a good splash of flavoured Balsamic vinegar such as fig or truffle before roasting the tomatoes.

DSC_5879In a shallow oven-proof dish, spread the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic slices. Add the sea salt and pour over the Olive oil. Place in hot oven. You will smell the tomatoes once they reach the stage of perfection. Make sure the skins are starting to burst and they will be ready. Set aside until they cool.

You can now use them with a savory cheese side dish as an appetizer, or as part of a light sauce for your next pasta dish. We use them in many of our Italian recipes. Watch for more ways to use this ingenious little dish right here on the blog.

roasted Grape tomatoes with herbed goat cheeseFor the Goat Cheese Spread:

  • 1 small tube of goat cheese (about 4 ounces) at room temperature.
  • 1 tbsp Herb de Provence   This herb mixture is available at most grocery stores packaged under a variety of brand names. As long as it is fresh choose the one you like.
  • 2-3 Tbsp Olive oil.

Blend all ingredients in a small bowl.  Let rest for an hour or so to allow the herbs to infuse the cheese.  Serve by spreading on your choice of crackers and topping with a roasted Grape or Cherry Tomato. We love Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuit Crackers!

herbed Goat Cheese

This is one of our favorite go-to appetizers when we have a garlicy main dish on the menu. It’s easy to make a day ahead and keeps for several days in the fridge. We prefer to allow the tomatoes to be room temperature when serving. It lets the flavors shine.

Let us know if you tried this simple yet tasty dish. Share this recipe with frineds and family on Facebook if you enjoyed it!