Fresh Salsa

Nothing beats the fresh summer produce that we get fresh from the garden – zucchini, peppers, beans, peas, cucumbers, and not least of all tomatoes.  Pretty soon, any avid gardener is going to have more tomatoes than they can shake a stick at!  

Here is a great, super simple fresh salsa to answer the age-old question: what do I do with all these tomatoes?


Fresh Salsa

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How to Grill Vegetables

Warm summer nights means it’s time to break out the BBQ for dinner! 

Don’t be fooled into thinking the BBQ is only good for cooking meats, you can also grill an assortment of vegetables with great results. We’ve done asparagus, peppers, onions, potatoes, and zucchini – just to name a few! Take your BBQ skills to the next level and follow these easy steps to grill vegetables at home. You’ll become a master griller in no time!

How to Grill Vegetables

How to Grill Vegetables

  1. Become familiar with your grill and have the tools you’ll need. Know how to turn it on and off (both the BBQ and the propane source) and how to clean it properly. Make sure you have a BBQ brush (or other cleaning device as well as metal tongs and a flipper.
  2. Set your BBQ to about medium heat. We like to turn the grill on, scrub it clean, then start cooking. 
  3. Cut your vegetables. Make sure to cut them in even thicker strips – especially if you’re doing something like zucchini, eggplant, or peppers. You want them to cook evenly, not too quickly, and you don’t want them to be so small they fall through the grate.
  4. Season your vegetables. Add your vegetables to a bowl and coat with 1-2 tbsp canola oil and seasonings of your choice. Try salt, pepper, garlic powder, and italian seasoning.
  5. Cook your vegetables. Place veggies on the top rack across the grill and allow to cook on one side for 7-10 minutes. Flip them and cook for another 7-10 minutes. Depending on the heat of your BBQ or if your cooking other things at the same time the times could vary. 

It’s important to never leave a BBQ unattended and know about your grill before you use it (i.e. read the manual or get a tutorial from a master griller).

How to Grill Vegetables

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Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Whenever we attend a potluck we like to come with a veggie-packed dish in hand and having a go-to potluck worthy salad in your repertoire is always a great idea. Not only can you prepare it in a pinch but if you always have the required ingredients in your kitchen, you can make it any time you need. This spinach salad with a raspberry dressing is packed with flavour and contains many ingredients that you may already have on hand in your kitchen.

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

This salad is also incredibly versatile and can be made with any combination of veggies you might find in your fridge. The dressing we created for this salad is made using pureed raspberries, making it 400% fancier than any other dressing you could buy at the store! We always have frozen raspberries in our freezer and combined with a few other pantry staples you can create a restaurant worthy dressing in a split second!

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing

Spinach Salad with Raspberry Dressing
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Salad
  1. 225 g Baby Spinach
  2. 1/2 Red Onion, sliced thin
  3. 1 English Cucumber, diced
  4. 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  5. 1/3 cup Pecans
Dressing
  1. 1/2 cup Raspberries, thawed frozen or fresh
  2. 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  3. 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  4. pinch salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Mash up raspberries to form a puree. Combine in a mason jar with the other dressing ingredients and set aside.
  2. Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Shake up your dressing to ensure it's mixed and serve it with the finished spinach salad.
Notes
  1. You can add or substitute any of the vegetables in the salad for what you have available in your fridge.
  2. Feel free to roast the pecans before adding them to your salad.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
 
If you’re looking for more ways to use up your spinach, why not try our sautéed spinach. Oh, and don’t forget to store your leafy greens properly to get the most life out of them!
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How to Host a Dinner Party

How to Host a Dinner Party

If you’re anything like us this awesome summer weather has given you the urge to get together and share some beautiful food with your friends and family! You need not worry if you’ve never invited more than one person over to your home for a meal before. Today we’re sharing some of our best tips for hosting a dinner party!

Make it what you want

  • When you’re the host, it’s up to you: you don’t have to do all the cooking – make it a pot luck and ask specific people to bring specific items
  • Try choosing a theme! Brunch for dinner, foods from different cultures, or different cooking methods (BBQ).
  • When it comes to cleaning your home ahead of time don’t waste your precious minutes scrubbing the floor with a tooth brush! No one is going to notice, your guests are there to spend time with you not to inspect your floors!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Keep it Simple

  • The idea of hosting a dinner party used to give me so much anxiety – I’ve learned the best thing to do if you’re new to entertaining is to keep it simple. Simple menu, simple drinks, and it’s not necessary to blow your budget either. Pinterest may have given us some unrealistic dinner party goals, but all your guest will remember is good food and the people they were with.
  • It may not be the best idea to try a new, complicated recipe – stick to what is comfortable (or test it out ahead of time if you’re nervous)!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Do the prep ahead

  • We’re not saying you need to spend hours in the kitchen before your guests arrive to get things organized but we think spending some time ahead of your guests arrival will ensure you’re not spending the entire night in the kitchen.
  • We prep ahead as much as we can – make your appetizer dips a head of time, pasta sauces can be made ahead and even frozen, make a tossed salad earlier in the day (just don’t add the dressing!), or let your slow cooker do the work. Less time in the kitchen means more time with your friends and family enjoying the food and each others company. I know you’re picking up on the theme 😉
  • One final prep ahead tip: set the table the night before!

How to Host a Dinner Party

Be a thoughtful host and attendee

  • Be mindful of your guests dietary restrictions: this may mean tailoring a menu or providing an alternative option. 
  • We like to have a few beverage options as well, and will often have both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Not everyone will want to have an alcoholic beverage; soda water, pop, or juice can be great alternatives.
  • If you’re attending a dinner party it’s nice not to come empty handed. If the host indicates not to bring anything for the meal, a small token of appreciation is a kind gesture. We’ve brought wine, chocolate, or another small gift.

How to Host a Dinner Party

What are your best tips for hosting a dinner party? Please share below in the comments!

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Easy Blueberry Muffins

Easy Blueberry Muffins

Summer is definitely upon us now and with it comes lots of fresh berries! We covered strawberries in our last post, and next up comes blueberries.  Manitoba is a blueberry hot spot and lots of people pick wild berries in cottage country to put in pretty much everything, including pancakes, muffins, and pies.  They are a tasty addition to lots of dishes, and they are packed with lots of nutrition as well.

This muffin recipe is super easy and shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to put together.  They are best straight from the oven while the blueberries are still nice, soft, and juicy.

Blueberry Muffins
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Ingredients
  1. 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, at room temperature
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 2 cups whole wheat flour
  5. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  6. ¼ teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter or margarine, increase to ½ teaspoon)
  7. ½ cup milk
  8. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  9. ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  10. 1 ½ cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
  11. 1 tablespoon sugar, mixed with ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease, or line your muffin tins.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time - beat well after each addition.
  4. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat well. Stir in the milk and both the vanilla and the almond extracts. Mix till smooth. Stir in the berries quickly.
  5. Fill the muffin tins about ¾ full. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if using.
  6. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing them.
Adapted from from King Arthur Flour's "Favourite Blueberry Muffins"
Adapted from from King Arthur Flour's "Favourite Blueberry Muffins"
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
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Where to Pick Strawberries in Manitoba

Where to Pick Berries in Manitoba

We wait patiently all year long for berry season. In fact, we rarely buy strawberries unless they’re in season and/or local. Fortunately, the wait is over and ripe Manitoba strawberries are here! Today we’re sharing our best tips and tricks if you’re looking to pick strawberries in Manitoba!

Strawberry picking season typically starts at the end of June and only lasts a few weeks. Make sure to take advantage of this season when you get the chance! Not all berries are ready for picking at the same time, raspberries and blueberries ripen later in the season, for example.

The Prairie Fruit Growers Association website is a great resource for finding all types of berry picking farms that are close to you. They also list some other important information about the farms (think: parking, all fruits available to pick, other family friendly activities) as well as some berry-filled recipes!

A few helpful berry picking tips:

  • Pick berries than are evenly red – avoid the green ones (they’ll be ready for the next person in a week or so!). Also avoid ones that are already rotten or moldy – they will impact all the berries around it in your bucket.
  • Typically at farms you pick berries into 4L baskets and they usually range in price (about $12-15). We try to get as much as we can into the basket but try not to smoosh them.
  • If you’re not interested in picking, may farms offer 4L baskets for sale but expect to pay more than the U-Pick price.
  • Bring the whole family – many farms are family friendly and may have other activities that you and your little ones may be interested in.
  • Keep your freshly picked berries refrigerated and use them up as soon as you can!
  • Freeze your berries whole or stewed, turn them into jam, or try drying them. Turn them into crisp along with some of your fresh rhubarb!

Our personal favourite farms are Grenkow’s Strawberry U-Pick and Boonstra Farms  but all the U-Picks have their pro’s and con’s so use the Prairie Fruit Growers Association website to find the best farm for you!

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Sauteed Spinach

Sauteed Spinach

As spring slowly turns into summer, us avid gardeners are looking forward to harvesting our first lettuce, baby kale, swiss chard, and perhaps also spinach.  That is, if we haven’t already made a fresh salad with the first cuttings!

This super simple sauteed spinach recipe takes about 10 minutes from start to finish, and can easily be modified to add other great, fresh vegetables if you want.

Sauteed Spinach

Sauteed Spinach
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Ingredients
  1. 6 oz spinach
  2. 3 cloves of garlic
  3. 2 tbsp canola oil
  4. 1 tbsp lemon juice, preferably fresh
Instructions
  1. Heat canola oil in non-stick saute pan over medium heat.
  2. Peel garlic and crush with the side of the knife, so they are cracked open. Add to the pan and let them heat through until they become fragrant, about 30 sec-1 min.
  3. Add spinach to the pan and saute. The spinach will shrink down immensely; it will only take about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the lemon juice to the pan, put a lid on the pan and let the spinach steam for 1-2 minutes.
Notes
  1. This recipe is easily doubled. Feel free to double the amount of spinach, or add different greens to the mix. If you are adding kale or chard, it may take longer for the leaves to cook down.
  2. To make a variation, begin by sauteeing some diced onions,peppers, and spices. Add the spinach (or kale/chard) at the end with a shot of cooking wine or stock and let steam until tender.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
Do you have an over load of spinach in the house? Here are some of our best tips for storing leafy greens!

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Rhubarb Berry Crisp

Rhubarb Berry Crisp

Our gardens are overflowing with ripe, delicious rhubarb right now, and this rhubarb berry crisp is the perfect way to start using it up!

Crisps are one of our favourite desserts. They can be made very quickly, often with ingredients you always have on hand, and are perfectly suited for a crowd. This recipe combines tart rhubarb with sweet berries to create a perfect dessert that can be served with ice cream or stand alone. 

Bring this rhubarb berry crisp to your next summer potluck!

Rhubarb Berry Crisp

Rhubarb Berry Crisp
Serves 8
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Cook Time
55 min
Cook Time
55 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups rhubarb, chopped
  2. 3 cups berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), sliced if strawberries
  3. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 1/4 cup oats
  5. 3/4 cup sugar
  6. pinch salt
  7. 1 tsp cinnamon
  8. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  9. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375F and take out a 9x9 baking dish.
  2. Add fruit in your 9x9 dish and mix to combine.
  3. Combine flour, oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix to combine.
  4. Cut in the cold butter to your flour and oats mixture. You can also crumble it with your fingers!
  5. Pour flour mixture evenly over your fruit and bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Notes
  1. We used a 1:1 ratio of rhubarb to berries but if you prefer your crisp a little less sweet you can use a higher ratio of rhubarb.
  2. Serve crisp with ice cream, whipped cream, or as is!
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
One final note: if you still have oodles of rhubarb after making this crisp don’t forget that you can freeze it or try out these Rhubarb Tea Biscuits!

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Freezing Herbs

One of my favourite things to plant in the garden are fresh herbs.  They smell fabulous and always add a great punch of flavour to many dishes – BBQed meats, salads, pasta dishes, even drinks – the list goes on!  Unfortunately, we have a VERY short growing season, so the optimal time for using these lovely fresh herbs is short.  Some herbs are hardy and you can over-winter them inside (like rosemary), others are not as hardy and love the warmth and sunlight summer provides (like basil).

There are a couple ways you can prolong the use of these herbs throughout the year that don’t include the hassle of trying (and failing) to over-winter the plants:

  • Drying: it’s easy to dry all kinds of herbs in your house.  You can cut herbs into bunches and tie them with string to hang in a cool, dry place.  Visit Getty Stewart’s site for more info on drying and preserving herbs.
  • Another great way to preserve these herbs is by freezing them.  A regular ice cube tray is the perfect way to portion the herbs out.

 

You can strip the leaves off the stalks of the plant – above is rosemary and oregano.  The rosemary leaves are not chopped and the larger oregano leaves are coarsely chopped.  Fill the cube about half full – about 2 tsp of fresh herbs.

Beside the oregano, I have added some dill to the tray as well.  

Before sliding it into the freezer, you can add either olive oil or water to these herbs to help preserve them.  For this post, I added some extra virgin olive oil to the oregano and rosemary:

 
And water was added to the dill:

Fill the cubes until the herbs are completely covered.

Once they have frozen, you can easily pop them out of the tray and into a freezer bag, which makes it super easy to take one cube out at a time.  They can be used for pretty much anything – add them to potatoes before roasting or grilling them in a package on the BBQ.  Or, you can put them in a sauce on the stove top.  

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Greek Barley Salad

This colourful Greek Barley Salad is packed full of flavour, fibre, and veggies. Using barley as the base to this salad has the benefit of giving it a huge nutritional punch while also being easy to prepare.

Greek Barley Salad

The recipe is very versatile. You can use pot or pearl barley to make this salad and feel free to make extra barley to freeze for future use. Any veggies you have on hand can be added or substituted to make this salad your own. We strongly recommend making the salad dressing in a mason jar so that you can shake to mix the ingredients well – this is a fun task for kids too!

Greek Barley Salad

Greek Barley Salad
This colourful Greek Barley Salad is full of veggies and packs a nutritional punch. Serve it as a dinner side or as part of a healthy lunch.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
40 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup Pot or Pearl Barley
  2. 1 English Cucumber, chopped
  3. 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
  4. 1 Red Pepper, chopped
  5. 1 cup Baby Tomatoes, slice in half
Dressing
  1. 1/4 cup Canola Oil
  2. 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  3. 1 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  4. 1 Tsp Oregano
  5. pinch Salt
  6. pinch Black Pepper
Instructions
  1. Combine barley with 2 cups of water and cook until tender (about 40 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, combine salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Shake and set aside.
  3. When barley is cool, combine with cucumber, onion, pepper, and baby tomatoes in a large bowl.
  4. When ready to serve, pour dressing over salad and mix to combine.
River City Cookery http://rivercitycookery.com/
 For more information about barley, check out our past post!

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