Sunworks Farm Tour and Dinner

I have been so fortunate lately to be working with some incredible local clients through my business, Plated Public Relations. Ron and Sheila Hamilton from Sunworks Farm have been no exception. We teamed up together to create a food blogger farm tour and dinner that was incredibly informative and very well received by Edmonton’s food blogging community.  To begin the tour, Ron described their farming philosophy: Organic, sustainable and humane. I’ve worked in conventional agriculture before and have visited a few conventional farms. Compared to Ron and Sheila’s, I have never seen a farm that was so well maintained, and where the animals were so happy.

Sunworks farm is a multi-commodity farm, producing eggs, poultry, beef and pork. As such, they maintain their quotas for each of their commodities from different organizations (including the Egg Farmers of Alberta, the Alberta Chicken Producers, and the Alberta Turkey Producers.) Each organization regulates their respective commodity, and inspect the farm accordingly.

Sunworks’ egg production is extremely efficient. They have 5000 laying hens that lay 2100 eggs a week. Each egg is hand collected and washed using the above egg washing machine.

Their organic laying hens produce beautiful and flavourful eggs.

In addition to maintaining their large quota, Sunworks Farm is Certified Organic through EcoCert. This means that no pesticides, chemicals, antibiotics and additives are used while raising and packaging their livestock and poultry. Inspections are carried out yearly and evaluate all aspects of their farming operations.

They also use an interesting farming technique I’ve never heard of before. Their broiler chickens are housed in movable barns that are pulled over new grass every morning. This is to ensure that they have access to a fresh bed of comfortable grass every day.

Not only do these barns benefit the well-fare of the chickens, but they also add vital nutrients to the soil. Since converting their land to an organic farm back in 1992, Ron and Sheila have added several inches of topsoil to their land by using this practice.

Sunworks farm is also Certified Humane through the BC SPCA. This not-for profit is dedicated to protecting and enhancing the quality of life for farm animals. They carry-out yearly inspections to ensure that all farming operations meet their organizational standards.

Have you ever seen happier chickens? I know I haven’t.

After the tour, guests were greeted to a beautifully-lain table (if I do say so myself), and treated to a five-course dinner prepared by Chef Kevin Zellweger from the Quarter Section Food Company. They will be opening a restaurant in Leduc soon, so if you like what you see below, go check them out!

The first course was a charcuterie platter pilled high with Sunworks meat products and Sylvan Star Cheeses (not pictured.) The second was a seasonal salad with local oil and vinegar from Vinesations in Camrose.The third course was a chicken leg comfit atop asparagus and mushroom risotto.The fifth course (my favourite) was the beef wellington. The beef was perfectly rare and the crust was crispy and crunchy, and gluten-free no less!   And finally, to end our meal, a triple layer chocolate mouse gateaux and nespresso coffee.

Guests were even sent home work a full bag of sunworks sausages to enjoy at home. Ron and Sheila’s generosity knows no bounds, and I was so happy to have been able to work with them on this project. If you’re interested to see what the other Edmonton Food Bloggers had to say about the event, you can check out my Storify Story.


Homemade Oreo Ice Cream

So I’m realizing that with the business, and with baby number 2 on the way and a toddler pulling at my arm, I have way less time to blog than I did previously. Sorry its been so long, folks!

This recipe was incredible. A custard-based ice cream with crushed whole oreos mixed in. So. Good.

Start by tempering the egg yolks and sugar with the warm milk and cream. Next, you’ll want to transfer everything back into the hot pot and simmer on low, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Be patient and do NOT turn up the heat. It can take up to 15-20 mins for the custard to thicken. Once thick, transfer to a heat-proof bowl and refrigerate overnight. The next day, pop it all into your ice cream maker and let it churn. Crush some oreos in a food processor and add them to the ice cream, when the ice cream has almost fully reached the consistency you’re looking for. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer safe bowl and let set in the freezer. Enjoy on a hot summer’s day.

Homemade Oreo Ice Cream

You will need:

3 cups full-fat milk

3 cups half and half cream

8 egg yolks

3/4 cups sugar

10 oreos

Begin by whisking the egg yolks and sugar together using an electric mixer until the mixture looks like mayonnaise. While whisking, heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until just steaming. While continuously whisking the egg yolks, slowly add the heated milk to the mixture. This is called tempering. Once combined, transfer the mixture back to the pot and cook on low, whisking gently all the while, until the mixture thickens. Take your time and do not turn up the heat. You will break the custard if you do. Once the mixture is thick, transfer to a heat proof bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, set up your ice cream maker and churn the custard according to manufacturers instructions. Crush the oreos in a food processor and add them to the ice cream when the ice cream is almost fully churned. Transfer to a freezer safe bowl and freeze to firm up. Enjoy!


Healthy Chicken Fingers

One of my favourite things about having a work-life balance is that I have more time to cook healthy and interesting meals. This one is no exception. Coated in almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds and oats, you can’t really go wrong with this one.

My breading ingredients.For the breading, take the ingredients and blend them in the food processor with some seasoning salt. Lay out in a bowl or a large plate.

Next, slice the chicken into strips and crack an egg into another plate. Whisk the egg and add a drop or two of lime juice.

First, dredge the chicken pieces in the egg mixture, then into the breading. Lay out on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 350 until strips are golden and brown.

Serve with a side of honey mustard as your dipping sauce. Enjoy!

Healthy Chicken Fingers

You will need:

1 cup roasted almonds, skin on

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup flax seeds

1 tsp each salt and pepper

2 eggs

1 tsp lime juice

5 chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all breading ingredients in food processor and pulse until all pieces are broken up evenly. Add salt and pepper and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large plate. Crack eggs in a large place, whisk and add lime juice. Slice chicken into strips. Begin by dredging the chicken in the egg mixture, then dredge into the breading, making sure to cover all exposed pieces of chicken. Transfer to a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 20 mins, turning once. Enjoy with your favourite dipping sauce.


Thick and creamy mushroom soup

Things have been pretty busy over here in the DuVal household. We’ve had multiple colds and viruses over the past few weeks, and Anna is as busy as ever. Most days, we find we need to get her out of the house or she goes stir crazy. Combine that with the business and, (drumroll please) my second pregnancy, I haven’t had too much time left to blog! Yes you read right, Baby DuVal number two is due October 1st, 2017. I had a really really rough first trimester. I was much more sick with this baby than I was with Anna, making cooking and meal planning a near impossibility. At 18 weeks, I am feeling so much better, and I am getting back to my old self in the kitchen (thank goodness!). This pregnancy so far has been the pregnancy of unhealthy cravings. All I want to eat is poutine, greasy drive-through breakfast sandwiches and chips. So, when I have a relatively healthy craving, I celebrate and go all out. Like this mushroom soup. While it still called for cream and lots of butter, I celebrated the fact that I wanted to eat vegetables. Finally.

Begin my melting a dab of butter in a large pot. I used my cast-iron dutch oven to incorporate some much-needed iron in my system, since I wasn’t able to stomach my prenatal vitamins with iron in them.

Next, dice up some onions and cremini mushrooms.

Cook the onions in the butter until they just start to turn brown.

Next, add your mushrooms to the pot and cook down.

Add the broth and half-and-half cream and bring to a boil.

I used cornstarch to thicken the soup, as I found I have minimal success with doing a roux, unless it’s for a sauce. I wanted this one to be extra thick and creamy, and I found that cornstarch really gives the best results for that!

Serve with garlic toast on a nice spring evening.

 

Thick and creamy mushroom soup

You will need:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 pound sliced fresh cremini mushrooms

1 medium yellow onion

1 carton of no salt added chicken broth (I used campbells)

1 cup half and half cream

3 tablespoons cornstarch and water

salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat butter and saute onions until just turning brown, over medium heat. Add mushrooms, and saute for about 5 mins. Add broth and half and half, and heat to a low roiling boil. Mix cornstarch and water in a bowl and add one tablespoon at a time, until soup thickens. When thickened, add salt and pepper to taste. Serve nice and hot. Enjoy!


Easy Whole Grain Cinnamon Buns

Good Morning! It has been so long since I’ve last blogged. Sorry about that. Things have been absolutely nuts over here.

Mid-January, I left my full-time job at EIA for a part-time position with an agency in order to spend more time with Anna. I just couldn’t handle the full-time hours anymore, it was killing the mom in me. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the agency; however, as there is always a silver lining to any crappy situation, I decided to go full steam ahead with my business, Plated Public Relations. It’s been incredible and busy and oh so much fun running my own business so far. I can honestly say that for the first time in my career, I feel like I have agency and that I am the master of my own destiny. I make my own hours (I work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday from 7:30 am – 3:30 pm), but I am quickly learning there is always more work to do then the 21 hours I set out for myself. I am finding a balance between working my butt off and spending time with my girl. And the best part is, my work doesn’t feel like work. My dad always said that if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I feel like I am finally getting there!

With two days a week with my Anna, I have two other days at home with my hubby and baby, and that’s where I have time to cook.

This past weekend, we wanted to give a small gift to our neighbours who have been snow-blowing our sidewalk the whole winter long. I couldn’t think of a better gift than homemade cinnamon buns. The only thing I hate about making cinnamon buns is the time it takes to let them rise (twice) before you can bake them, slather them with cream cheese frosting and enjoy them. These buns rise with baking powder, making the whole process a lot quicker and a whole lot simpler.

Start by mixing up the filling. Combine melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and stir with a fork to incorporate well.

For the dough, I used Gold Forest Grains Red Fife whole grain wheat flour. A great thing about this flour is that is already has natural notes of cinnamon flavour, making for the perfect cinnamon bun flour!

I added all of the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisked to incorporate.

Next, I melted butter and milk in a pot on the stove, created a well in the dry ingredients, and stirred until the dough came together. I found the dough to be a little wet, so I added about 1/4 cup more flour to make it kneadable.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface, then knead a few times, until you get the kick-back from the gluten when you poke the dough with your finger.

Roll the dough out long and flat.

Spread out the filling using a spatula or the back of a spoon, covering as much of the surface area as you can.

Next, roll the dough into a long tube.

Cut the tube into 2-inch thick buns. Don’t worry, they may look small…

But then they expand and turn into these beauties!

Cover with cream cheese frosting and enjoy while sipping a warm, milky tea of a sunny Sunday afternoon.

 

Easy Whole Grain Cinnamon Buns (Makes 8 good-sized cinnamon buns. I always double the recipe for extra leftovers!)

You will need:

 

For the filling:

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons melted butter

 

For the dough:

2 cups whole grain flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

2.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

5 tablespoons butter, melted

 

For the icing:

1/4 cup cream cheese

4 tablespoons milk

3/4 cup powdered sugar

 

Preheat oven to 425. Combine filling ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork until well-blended.

In another bowl, combine flour sugar and baking powder. Whisk together the milk and butter in a medium saucepan on medium-high to melt the butter. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milky butter mixture. Stir until the dough comes together. If the dough is too wet to form a ball, add a little more flour. Transfer to a lightly-floured surface and knead until the dough springs back gently to the touch.

Roll out the dough long and flat. Add the filling, pushing it right to the ends of the dough, covering as much of the surface area as possible. Roll into a large spiral and cut into two-inch thick buns. Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and add your buns. Bake for 15 mins, or until tops are golden brown.

While the buns are baking, make your icing by first warming the cream cheese slightly in the microwave. Transfer all ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. When the buns are baked, drizzle with icing and serve warm. Enjoy, a lot!


Breakfast Egg Cups

Big News!! Anna took her first steps all by herself today! Needless to say, since she’s almost 18 months, her parents are THRILLED! In celebration, Daddy is taking her swimming and Maman gets to blog!

I made these last weekend and they were a huge hit around here. Very easy to prepare and they disappeared super quickly!

dsc_0531

Start by spraying a muffin tin with Pam, then add some feta to the bottom of each cup. dsc_0536

Next, add any veggies you have lying around your fridge. We used some tomatoes, red peppers and some leftover caramalized onions. dsc_0540

Next, whisk together some eggs, milk, salt and pepper and Italian seasoning in a bowl and add to each cup. dsc_0543

Bake at 375 for about 15 mins, until each cup is set.dsc_0544Enjoy!

 

Breakfast Egg Cups

You will need:

1 cup feta

1 tomato, diced

1 pepper, diced

1/2 onion, diced

5 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup milk

pinch each of salt and pepper

2 tsp Italian Seasoning

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray. Add feta to each compartment. Next, add vegetables. Beat your eggs with the milk, salt and pepper and Italian seasoning. To make it easier to pour into the muffin tin, I combined the egg mixture in a water pitcher. Pour the egg mixture over top vegetables in each muffin tin compartment. Bake at 375 for 15 mins, until eggs are set. Serve warm.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie

Good morning! I hope you all had a lovely holiday season. We certainly did, full of great company and incredible food. We were very lucky that we got to spend the week with Justin’s extended family in Canmore. Too much fun. Anna was incredibly spoiled and had a blast too!

I made this desert on our last day (like we needed any more calories by then). But it was just too good to pass up.

dsc_0503Start by melting butter and mixing it with chocolate baking crumbs.

dsc_0504Spread evenly at the bottom of a pie tin and bake for 5 mins. Let cool.

dsc_0506Next, make the brownie layer.

dsc_0507Add to the pie tin on top of the crust and bake for 20 mins.

dsc_0508Cool completely.

dsc_0509Next, make the mousse. This amazing mixture contained cream cheese, peanut butter, whip cream and icing sugar.

dsc_0511Add to the top of the pie and freeze to set.

dsc_0513Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse Pie (Modified from Flapper Pie and the Blue Prairie Sky by Karlynjn Johnston)

You will need:

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup chocolate baking crumbs

1/4 cup salted butter, melted

1/4 cup sugar

For the brownie:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 egg

1/3 cup flour

Peanut butter mousse:

1 package  (226 g) cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup peanut butter

3/4 cup whip cream

3 tablespoons icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients for the crust and line the bottom of a pie tin. Bake for 5 mins and let cool. For the brownie layer, melt butter and combine all other ingredients in a bowl, leaving the flour for last. Incorporate the flour gently, and do not over-mix. Add to crust and bake for 20 mins, until set. While the brownie is baking, make the mousse. In a bowl with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and beat again until fluffy. Add whip cream, sugar and vanilla, and beat until soft peaks form. Once the brownie is set, cool completely (I put it outside for about 15 mins. Perfect!). Add mousse layer and freeze pie to set. Serve thawed. Enjoy!