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Oh Canada Pops

This month's Food Network Canada's Cooking Club Challenge was to use at least one of five featured PC products in a dish. Because I am on a bit of a popsicle kick AND it's Canada Day weekend coming up how could I not choose to make a popsicle with a nice Canadian theme. It doesn't get more Canadian than maple syrup, local strawberries and they are a very canuck red and white stripe. The cream/yogurt layer is a bit decadent but they can't all be healthy treats, can they and although I love the thickness of no fat greek yogurt, it can feeze with a grainy texture that I didn't want in this popsicle. I really had no choice but to mix it with some heavy cream - I might even try going the whole hog with whipping cream the next time to see how that turns out. Thankfully, the tartness of the pureed berries give a really nice break from that richness mid way through the pop and I am glad that I used the maple syrup instead of my standard honey as the sweetening agent because the maple flavour really shines through. Oh Canada indeed!

Oh Canada Pops
1 cup of 18% cream
1/4 cup PC greek yogurt
3 tbls PC maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 dozen ripe Ontario strawberries
1 tsp PC maple syrup

Mix the cream, yogurt, 3 tbls maple syrup and vanilla really well - I used my bullet but a blender would be great. Set aside

Puree the strawberries and mix in the maple syrup

Pour the cream/yogurt mixture into popsicle molds until they are just a hair under half full. Put the molds in the freezer for about 20 to 30 minutes until the cream is set. Pour a thin layer of the strawberry mixture in each mold and return to the freezer for another 20 minutes. Take the molds out of the freezer and fill to the top with the cream/yogurt and add the sticks in. Return them to the freezer one last time and let them freeze until they are good and solid, at least 4 or 5 hours.

Strawberry Hibiscus Tea

I used to spend a lot of time in Mexico and one of my favourite things to drink was something they just called Jamaica, pronounced ha-my-ka. I knew it was just a steeped agua fresca type drink made from these Jamaica flowers and water. I was told it was a natural diuretic and so it was great for me because I might have consumed a little bit of alcohol back in those days and so it was the perfect thing to sip on all morning. I just assumed it was some exotic thing that I could only get in Mexico so imagine my embarrassment when I wandered into a Mexican dry goods store in Kensington Market only to discover that Jamaica is spelled like Jamaica and is simply the name given to Hibiscus flowers there. As soon as I realized what it was, I made sure to always have some on hand and I would often throw a handful in my pitcher of steeped cold berry tea that I like to keep in the fridge.

I had some beautiful, local strawberries which were really ripe and threatening to go bad on me and I don't need any more frozen berries, I have no room for more popsicles in my freezer and I didn't feel like eating them. Why not juice them and mix them the hibiscus? Hibiscus on it's own is quite bitter and most people use a lot of sugar to sweeten it but the natural sugars in the ripe berries gave it so much sweetness that I didn't have to use much sugar syrup at all, in the end.

You can drink it straight up with ice, you can add some sparkling water or even turn it into a cocktail by adding a shot of vodka. I may or may not have poured myself a glass and added a shot of white rum and it may or may not have made a very tasty late morning adult refreshment. I imagine that it would also make for a mighty fine mimosa if you had some sparkling wine on hand.

Strawberry Hibiscus Iced Tea

1/2 quart of strawberries, washed and hulled
juice of 1 large lemon
1 cup dried hibiscus or Jamaica, as it's called in Latin America
4 cups of water
*1/4 cup + 1 tbls mint sugar syrup
Sparkling water

rinse the hibiscus flowers and put them in a pot with 2 cups of the water. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down until it is lightly simmering and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. When it cools completely, strain the liquid into a clean pitcher.

Meanwhile, puree the strawberries and strain through a fine strainer (or juice if you have a juicer) until you have about 1/3 of a cup of juice. It took about half of a pint for berries for me. Add the juice of 1 lemon to that and set aside.

When the hibiscus tea is completely cooled, add in the strawberry juice/lemon and stir well. Add the second two cups if cold water and stir and now start adding your sugar syrup to taste (i had some mint sugar syrup on hand so I used that but plain sugar syrup would be fine as well). When you get the sweetness tuned to your liking it's ready to drink.

*to make simple syrup just bring equal amounts of water and sugar to the boil in a sauce pan and let simmer for a few minutes until the sugar is completely melted. Remove from heat and let cool completely. You can pour into a glass jar and store it in the fridge. You can infuse this syrup with just about anything. You can add chopped ginger, fresh mint, smashed lemon grass - whatever you want. If you add your flavouring to the water and sugar , let it stay in the syrup until it's all completely cool before straining the syrup into the glass jar.

Scallibut Ceviche

We had our Father's Day manly meal on Saturday, complete with grilled skirt steak and all of Shack's favourites like grilled corn, asparagus and coleslaw so that we could go over to Jen's for some tacos and cocktails. My contribution to the festivities was ceviche and because I couldn't decide between the halibut and the scallops, I bought both. We scored these beautiful, huge local radishes at St Lawrence Market and I knew they would be perfect in a ceviche. Kind of peppery, crunchy, watery and crisp - since I never put fresh chili peppers in my ceviche so that Little Shack will be able to enjoy it, radishes will give it a nice spicy kick without making it hot. I have never met a ceviche I didn't like and I really liked this one a lot.

Scallibut Ceviche
1/2 lb fresh halibut
1/3 lb fresh scallops
juice of 4 or 5 limes
1 clove garlic
1 tomato , fine dice
1/2 small red onion or vidalia onion, fine dice
big handful of cilantro, washed and chopped
3 large radishes, sliced very thin and julienned
splash of good extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste

Cut your seafood into small, bite sized pieces and put them in a glass or ceramic bowl - I don't like doing this in plastic and you might not care so if you don't care that the plastic might give it a bit of a weird flavour, by all means, use a plastic bowl. I don't want you to accuse me of being all bossy boots.

Squeeze the juice of 3 or limes over the seafood, give it a good stir, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to about 4 hours. You should take it out a few times and give it a stir to make sure that all the fish gets to spend ample time submerged in the lime juice.
About 20 minutes before you plan to serve it, take it out of the fridge and drain it, discarding that lime juice. The fish and the scallops will taste strongly of the lime and they will have "cooked" in the juice so you don't need that fishy marinating lime juice anymore.

I just give my bowl a quick rinse in cold water and the put the drained seafood back in the bowl. Add the tomato, onion, cilantro, radish and garlic and mix it in. Squeeze one or two more limes over the bowl, add a small glug of olive oil, a good pinch of kosher salt and mix it all together. Taste it at this point and adjust any seasonings. You might want a bit more salt or more cilantro or it might be perfect as is.
Put it back in the fridge to let them ingredients mingle and get to know one another until you are ready to eat it.
You can serve it in small bowls with good corn tortilla chips on the side to scoop it up or you can spoon a little bit onto individual chips and eat it like a little h'orderve.

Last Snack Day of the Year! Kettle Corn or Kiddie Crack

It's my last turn at snack day until the kid starts GRADE SEVEN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE!!!
Anyway, enough with the wholesome muffins and good for you whole grain breads. For the last snack these kids are getting crack. To make myself feel a week bit better I threw in a huge container of watermelon but let's not kid ourselves because it's going to be all about that sweet, salty goodness that is kettle corn.

Little Shack discovered the whole salty sweet popcorn thing a few weeks ago when he has some Smart Food's version of kettle corn. I wanted to make my own and started poking around the internet and it seems that everyone on the planet uses the same method so I am not going to credit any one source. Oh, and no, I didn't cut out the kid's watermelon into hearts and flowers. What, do you think I am crazy or something?

Kettle Corn

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
kosher salt to taste

Heat the oil over med-high heat and add three kernels. Put the lid on and wait for those three kernels to pop. As soon as they do, add the popcorn and let it sizzle for a few seconds and then sprinkle the sugar over the top of the popcorn. Put the lid back on (you might want to use a tea towel to hold the lid on if your pot gets hot or if you are on the wimpy side and can't deal with a really warm lid - I'm not judging, I'm just saying) and proceed like you would for normal popcorn. Turn the heat down to med to med low and make sure that you shake often. I count to four on the burner and lift up the pot and shake for four.
Wait wait wait wait
lift and
Shake shake shake shake
It's not rocket science but it works and you won't burn your popcorn if you do that.

Don't wait for the very last kernel to pop or the sugar will burn. When the popping slows down to just the odd pop, pop, pop, I take it off the burner and wait about ten more seconds before removing the lid and dumping it into a large bowl. Don't let the popcorn sit in the hot pot or it will burn.

Sprinkle a good pinch of kosher salt over the top and give it a few tosses. Do that again and taste and see if it's salty enough for you.
That's it!
I am warning you that this stuff is truly kiddie crack so beware and serve with caution.

Watermelon Mojito with Lime Crema Popsicles

We are very close with The Neighbours and spend most warm summer nights sitting together on the front porch, drinking wine and eating and enjoying each other's company. Sometimes we like to make girly drinks or a pitcher of sangria when it's too hot for wine so it makes sense to try to turn some of our favourite cocktails into frozen treats. The upside is that it doesn't look like all we do is sit out there and drink because people will walk by and think "look at all of those lovely wholesome people enjoying a fruit popsicle on this balmy summer evening!" As long as I make sure that I colour code the sticks so the kids don't grab a frozen bloody caesar by mistake, I think we are good to go.

Blueberry Stripey Popsicles

 I feel much better now that I have a large stash of PC popsicle molds at last. I found a store that still had a whole shelf full of them so now I am ready for summer. I will have to designate a colour stick as the adult pops so I don't come home to find Little Shack and his buddies running around like maniacs, all hopped up on vodka pops .
Today's popsicle had to utilize the yogurt/buttermilk mixture from the first batch because I really love the tanginess but I wanted to get a little fancier with my layers. I bought some PC Blueberry Pomegranate Juice ( I swear to god that I don't work for Loblaws and they don't give me anything for free, I just shop there a lot and I like their stuff. Don't get me started on Joe Fresh).

My New Summer Addiction - Popsicles

I woke up this morning determined to make popsicles. I dreamed of popsicles all night. Adult popsicles with boozey layers and exotic fruits. Yummy kid friendly popsicles using my new favourite PC Greek Yogurt and fruits. Maybe even trying some spicy popsicles at some point. It probably helped that we spent yesterday lolling about in the third ring of hell here in Toronto and I could barely stomach anything heartier than a chunk of watermelon all day.

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