Food culture is alive and well – but can be overwhelming at times.
Whether you are an accomplished ‘foodie” or you are just flexing your culinary muscles, we can help you find your ‘spirit food’ and get back to basics with a few helpful tips and tricks of the trade.

Why you wood care

There’s nothing quite like cooking with a good wooden utensil…it just feels so nostalgic. But as comforting as they are to hold in your hands, wooden utensils also tend not to hold up as well as some of their silicone or stainless silver counterparts. Here are some tips for making sure you extend the life of your wooden utensils.

•Always wash with soap and warm water. Never put them in the dishwater.

•Dry wooden utensils as soon as you wash them. If you let them air dry, extra moisture will get absorbed into the wood, causing it to swell and crack with time.

•Avoid using wooden spoons to stir raw meat (or even eggs), as bacteria can get into the little cracks of the spoon and multiple.

• Once a month or so, use a cloth to rub your wooden utensils with mineral oil..this will help keep them smooth. Use only about a teaspoon of oil at a time.

 

Simple Spice Stars
Garlic. Onion. Salt.

For the new age foodie there is a seemingly endless amount of exotic, sexy, spice options and flavours so much so that it can be quite easy to overlook the staples that we grew up with. Remembering to unleash the star power of these faithful standbys will empower the simplest dish to shine.

Caramelized Onions

This delightful treat is actually super easy to make yourself! They are tasty in a wide variety of recipes, everything from quiche to pizza to burgers to sandwiches. The process of making them is easy, but a bit time consuming.

The first step is choosing your onions. Yellow, white or red will work, but yellow is probably the most popular choice. Two or three onions should work well for a large skillet.

Chop up the onions and cut them into slim slices (approx. 1/8 inch thick…too thin and they could burn). Add fat to your skillet: olive oil has a higher burning point, so most people suggest using either just olive oil, or a combo of olive oil and butter, but never just butter). 2 or 3 tablespoons should be enough. Heat your pan over medium low heat, then add onions, along with a pinch of salt.

Now, just let the onions slowly cook. Use tongs to turn onions so they cook evenly during the process. Keep cooking them until they reach a golden brown colour. If the onions start to stick, add in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar…it will help pull up the sticky pieces, as well as add some flavour. This process is known as “deglazing” and can also be done with beer, wine or stock…you can pick the flavour you think goes best with your dish.

Continue stirring the onions until they reach the colour that you’d like. Now, you can eat them immediately or store them in the fridge.

You can refrigerate caramelized onions for three to four days, or freeze them for up to three months.

Roasted Garlic

Not only will roasting your own garlic fill your house with the yummiest smell, but it’s great to cook in advance, as it will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks and in the freezer for up to three months. Roasted garlic is great for a wide variety of things, including spreading directly on bread, in salad dressings, sauces, dips, potatoes, pizza or even on sandwiches (mix it with mayo).

All you need is garlic (however many heads you plan on doing), olive oil, a knife and some foil. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Take off all that loose garlic skin, but leave the clove itself in tact with all the cloves attached. Cut off the top of the garlic head to expose the top of the cloves. Drizzle olive oil over the top, allowing the oil to sink down into the cloves. Wrap the whole thing in foil and roast for 40 mins. After 40 mins, check on the progress. You’ll know it’s done when the centre clove is soft and can be pierced with a paring knife. You can keep roasting for a bit if you’d like a more caramelized flavour. Just check on it every ten mins to make sure it’s not burning.

 

Favoured Salts

Adding a little gourmet touch to your kitchen is actually way easier than you may think! One of the best places to start? Making your own flavoured salts.  All you’ll need is salt, and whatever flavouring you want to try. Typically, you’ll use 1 teaspoon of flavouring for every 1/4 cup of salt. The best kind of salts to use are kosher salt, course sea salt, or course Himalayan sea salt. For flavourings, you can get as creative as you like: herbs, spices, chili peppers, citrus peel, mushrooms, dehydrated fruit..whatever you choose, just make sure it’s dry, so that the salt doesn’t end up clumping.

Get your flavourings prepared by drying anything in the oven that needs to be dried (i.e.…fresh herbs, garlic). This can be done on a low temperature (150 to 200 degrees F)

Combine the salt and the flavouring with either your finger, a mortar and pestle, or pulse it in a coffee or spice grinder. Mix it well, but make sure not to completely pulverize the salt. Taste along the way and see if you want to add any additional flavourings.

Store your salt in an airtight container, and let it sit a day before using it. Although the flavour will decrease over time, it can last for up to a year if it is stored properly.

 

Get started…

Below are some basic recipes to get your started with making your own salt.

What you’ll need:

• measuring cups and spoons

• airtight containers

• salt of your choice

• flavouring of your choice

• mortar &pestle or
coffee/spice grinder or
food processor

 

Recipes:

Vanilla-Cinnamon Salt
1/4 cup salt + the seeds from one vanilla bean + 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Chili-Lime Salt
1/4 cup salt + 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes +1 teaspoon dried lime zest + 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Lavender Salt
1/4 cup salt + 1 teaspoon dried lavender buds

For more ideas, check out our Pinterest page.

 

Thyme for some Sage advice

Cultivating your own herb garden is fairly easy, even if you aren’t blessed with the greenest of thumbs. The best part is, herbs can be grown either outdoors in the garden, or indoors, in containers. As long as you have a space where they can get approximately five hours of sunlight a day. You can start your plants from seedlings, which are very young plants that you can transport into your garden or container, or you can buy seeds, which are cheaper, but take longer to grow.

Once you have all your herbs planted, you’ll need to water them at least once a week, or whenever the soil is dry to the touch. Almost all the plants will grow new leaves, as long as you don’t pick the stems completely bare. Fresh herbs can be used directly in food, provided you rinse them first. You can also pick them, and store them for later by either drying or freezing them. To air dry herbs, you cut the stems where the soil is, and hang upside down in bunches, and let them dry for about one or two weeks. Once they are dry, you can take the leaves off the stems and keep them in an airtight container for up to a year. If you decide to freeze your herbs (the benefit of which is that they retain more of the “freshly picked” flavour), you can do this by placing the picked herbs directly into freezer bags, then just thaw as you need them. Stored properly, they can last up to a year in the freezer.

Some Tips:

1. If your herbs are indoors, regularly rotate them in regards to the sunlight, so they don’t just grow in one direction.

2. Make sure you have containers that drain appropriately to avoid water logging the roots.

3. Plant herbs according to water preference, for example, rosemary and thyme both prefer dry soil, so keep them together.

4. Clip the herbs back regularly. If the herb starts to flower, that is a sign that they are not being clipped back enough.

 

Herbs 101: 

Basil: This can be added to salads, sandwiches and wraps in its raw form, or it can be cooked into soups and sauces, chopped onto pizza or pesto. You harvest basil by clipping the upper leaves first, only taking a few leaves from each stem at a time.

Parsley: This takes a little bit longer to grow than other herbs, but when it’s finally ready, you can use both the leaves and stalks for salads, soups and in various Mediterranean inspired dishes. Harvest: cut the outer stalks that are just above the ground, which helps the plant continue to grow.

Chives: This is one of those plants that can be eaten from top to bottom. The bulbs taste like a milder version of an onion, and the leaves can be used in salads, and various other dishes. Harvest: cut the leaves off with scissors, but make sure to leave about two inches at the bottom.

Cilantro: Cilantro, an acquired taste, can be used in salads, wraps, and lots of Mexican recipes. This plant can be a little fussy, and does not like the hot weather. If the soil gets too hot (generally above 75 degrees), the plant will go to seed. To make the best use of it, make sure to prune frequently for immediate use or storage. Harvest: Either wait until the plant gets about 6 inches high, and then remove the outer leaves with scissors, or wait until the plant is fully grown, and pull the whole thing from the soil to use all at once.

Rosemary: It has many uses in food, as well as a healing herb. It is often easiest to start this particular plant from a seedling, as opposed to just buying the seeds. This plant can get over watered easily, so just remember that rosemary likes soil that is a bit on the drier side. Harvest: Cut pieces off the stem as needed.

Thyme: Great to use as flavour in soups, stews and in meat dishes. This is another herb that is easier to start from a seedling as opposed to seeds, and like rosemary, it prefers drier soil. Harvest: Cut pieces off the stem as you need them.

Dill: Another herb that prefers drier soils, dill is great for using as flavouring in fish dishes, on potatoes, in dips and in salads. Harvest: When the plant is at least 12 inches tall, and never harvest more than 1/3 of the leaves at one time.

Sage: Sage can be harvested by picking off the leaves as you need them, and is great for use in numerous dishes including roasted meats, in butter or other sauces, and in pasta. It can also be used for teas and in other herbal remedies. 

 

For more articles about food & health, check out our food & drink section.