Green Eggs and Ham Lasagne

Sam-I-am likes this gooey, cheesy Green Eggs and Ham Lasagne. Try it, try it, and you will see!

Oozing yolk, in Green Eggs and Ham Lasagna

‘I do not like them Sam-I-am, I do not like green eggs and ham.’

from the book 'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Seuss

from the book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ by Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss’s poor, beleaguered creature cannot rid himself of Sam-I-am’s attempts to get him to try his platter of green eggs and ham. He won’t try them in a boat or with a goat, or in a box with a fox . . . not even in a house or with a mouse!

Green Eggs and Ham, 'not in a house'

But, I’ll bet if you try this Green Eggs and Ham lasagne in your house, you will be a convert. You’ll be Sam-I-am’s new best buddy.

Each gooey, cheesy slab of lasagne hides layers of savoury ham, juicy spinach, and the treasure in the middle – a sunny golden-yolked egg baked right into the layers. You’ll want to eat this lasagne here, there, and anywhere! (I know I do.)

Medium yolk, Green Eggs and Ham Lasagna

When Catelli recently came out with their new gluten free Lasagne pasta, I was thrilled! We love their other gluten-free pasta shapes and how they cook up. Spaghetti, macaroni, penne, fusilli, and also the new linguini – it’s so easy to have all our favourite pasta dishes again, without the gluten but with all the familiar wonderful flavours. Their pasta has produced fantastic results in my Deluxe Pizza-Ghetti Pie or in tasty, traditional Macaroni Salad.

The family loves the taste, but I love the nutritional profile of Catelli’s pasta. It’s made with ingredients that are declared GMO free; their unique four-grain blend of the finest quality white and brown rice, corn, and quinoa. This pasta has rated extremely high by consumers in blind taste tests for taste, texture, colour and appearance and was voted the Best New Gluten Free Pasta by Consumers. It is produced in a dedicated gluten free facility, and certified by the Canadian Celiac Association.

I love that the new oven-ready lasagne sheets are flat, making for a smooth, neat lasagne, and I love how four sheets fit evenly in a 9×13 inch pan, expanding when cooked, to fill it just right. But best of all, I love how these noodles taste just like regular, traditional pasta. A winner all around, in my books.

I played around with a lot of versions to figure out how to get an egg in the middle of each piece of lasagne. The spinach creates a nice little nest to insulate the egg and keep it in place. Catelli’s gluten free pasta sheets cook up surprisingly quickly, allowing this lasagne to be ready in half an hour in the oven – that short cooking time helps keep the eggs from overcooking so that you can have yolks that are gently oozing or softly set.

Green Eggs and Ham, trying the eggs

Green Eggs and Ham, I like them

This Green Eggs and Ham Lasagne (or should I say Greens, Eggs, and Ham?) was inspired by that familiar children’s book, but it’s a whole lot more fun than plain ol’ eggs and ham.

It’s loaded with juicy, iron-rich spinach (the greens), savoury ham slices, and creamy sauce sandwiched between two cozy blankets of lasagne noodles. Three different cheeses add fantastic flavour and provide ooey-gooey meltiness (those are words, right?). And the hidden treat is the egg baked right into the middle, providing a golden surprise when you cut into a portion.

No, the egg’s not green, but I’m sure Sam-I-am would eat it anyway.

Medium yolk, Green eggs and Ham Lasagna * * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes:

*Sweet rice flour is different from regular rice flour – it is made from cooked sticky short grain rice and behaves more like a starch than a flour. It is not sweet, as the name suggests, but has a very mild rice flavour. I find it is the closest match to regular flour for both texture and taste in thickening gravies and sauces. It whisks in beautifully and doesn’t form lumps. If you regularly cook gluten free meals in your kitchen, it is worth searching out sweet rice flour to have on hand. It can be found in health food stores and Asian groceries. It also goes by the names of glutinous rice flour (not because it contains gluten, but because of the sticky nature of the rice), mochigomeko (in Japanese), or Mochiko sweet rice flour.

If you can’t get sweet rice flour, corn starch is an acceptable substitute, but it needs to be made into a slurry before being added to the sauce, so it doesn’t form lumps.

The instructions for assembling the lasagne look lengthy, but don’t be put off by them, it really is quite simple to put together, and cooks up quickly. If you have the spinach thawed ahead of time, all it takes is to make the white sauce and assemble the layers.

Green Eggs and Ham Lasagne in the pan with dill

Green Eggs and Ham Lasagne

Inspired by Dr. Seuss’s children’s book, ‘Green Eggs and Ham

For the White Sauce:

  • ¼ cup (55gms) butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons (50gms) sweet rice flour* (see above) or 5 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3½ cups (720ml) milk
  • ¾ cup (100gms) grated Parmesan cheese (that’s half of the total amount needed for this lasagna recipe)

For the Lasagne Layers:

  • 3 packages (300gms/10.5 oz each) chopped frozen spinach, thawed (or 900gms/2lbs fresh spinach, cooked and chopped)
  • 8 sheets (6¼ x 3¼ inches/16 x 8 cm each) Catelli oven-ready, gluten free lasagne noodles (about ½ of a 250gm package)
  • 10 to 12 thin slices deli ham (225 to 250 gms)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup (100gms) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup (100gms) shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ¾ cup (100gms) grated Parmesan cheese
  • chopped fresh dill or parsley, to garnish

Set the thawed frozen spinach into a colander to drain.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Set the top rack to the middle position in the oven.

Make the White Sauce:

Finely mince the onion and garlic in a food processor or by hand. A mini food processor chops them very quickly – you want them fine, but not turned to a mush.

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the minced onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the moisture from the butter and onions has evaporated, leaving a thick mass of cooked onions.

Add the dry mustard, nutmeg, salt, pepper.

Sprinkle with the sweet rice flour and stir until all the flour is moistened with butter. Add about ½ cup of the milk, and cook and stir until thickened and smooth. Keep adding the milk, ½ cup at a time, whisking the sauce until smooth after each addition.

[If using corn starch, add 3 cups (720ml) of the milk to the cooked onions and seasonings. Bring to a simmer, then whisk together the corn starch and the remaining ½ cup (120ml) of milk and whisk it into the sauce.]

Cook the sauce until it is just starting to bubble. Stir  in the grated Parmesan cheese and remove from the heat.

Squeeze as much water as you can from the drained spinach. You should have about 2 cups of drained, squeezed spinach in total. (If using frozen spinach packages with 2 blocks per package, squeeze each block until it is about 1/3 of a cup in volume.)

Drain the spinach in a colander Squeeze the water out of the spinach

To Assemble the Lasagne:

Preheat the oven to 325°F and adjust the top rack so it is in the middle of the oven.

  1. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch glass or ceramic baking pan. Spread the bottom of the pan with ½ cup (120ml) of the sauce. spread out the white sauce for the first layer
  2.  Lay 4 lasagne sheets in a single layer in the pan. If your pan has rounded corners, gently break off bits of the corners of the pasta sheets so they lay flat in the sauce. Place the broken-off bits into the spaces between the pasta sheets. (See step 11, below)
  3. Cover the pasta with another ½ cup of the sauce, spreading it evenly with a silicone spatula.
  4. Add a single layer of ham slices. Use 5 to 6 slices, trimming them to fit and using the trimmings to cover the spaces. Add the ham slices in a single layer
  5. Pull off bits of spinach from the drained clumps and lay them against the edges of the pan to make a raised border, about 1 inch (2.5cm) high, all the way around, on top of the ham. Then use the remainder of the spinach to make a ridge lengthwise down the center of the pan and 3 ridges crosswise to make 8 ‘nests’ in a 2 by 4 grid (Like an 8-paned window). Make sure there are no gaps in the ridges, so the eggs will stay contained in each nest. Place a wooden toothpick upright against the sides of the pan where each ridge meets the edge of the pan. The toothpicks will be your markers so you can cut the cooked lasagne along the spinach ridges, making sure to have one egg centered in each piece.  Add a border of spinach Add a strip of spinach down the middle Make nests of the spinach
  6. Crack one egg into each nest.

    Crack an egg into each nest

    stick toothpicks at the end of each ridge of spinach to mark where to cut once the lasagne is baked

  7. Use another ½ cup of the white sauce to dribble over the spinach ridges to moisten them as the lasagne bakes. Try to avoid putting it on the eggs.
  8. Sprinkle the whole layer of eggs and spinach with the crumbled feta cheese. sprinkle with feta cheese and dollop the spinach with sauce
  9. Cover the eggs and spinach with the remaining ham slices in a single layer, trimming them to fit.
  10. Dollop on 1 cup (240ml) of the white sauce and spread it out gently in an even layer. Add another layer of sauce
  11. Layer on the remaining 4 pasta sheets, as in the first layer above. Add the second layer of noodles
  12. Cover with the remainder of the white sauce, spreading it evenly right to the edges of the baking dish.
  13. Sprinkle with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  14. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 28 to 33 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time so the eggs cook evenly. 28 minutes will give you soft eggs, 30 minutes will give medium eggs, but it also depends on the heat of your oven. If you prefer hard eggs, rather than soft-to-medium, bake it for 5 minutes longer.

Remove the lasagne from the oven. Set the oven to the ‘broil’ setting. If the pan has glass or ceramic handles, cover them loosely with strips of foil. Place the lasagne on the rack in the middle of the oven, under the broiler and leave the oven door open about 6 inches (15cm) and broil just until the top of the lasagne is bubbling and golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t get too dark.

Leave the lasagne to rest for a full 15 minutes – this is important – so that it can firm up a bit to slice more evenly.

Sprinkle with the chopped dill or parsley. Dill goes especially well with the spinach and feta cheese.

Sprinkle some dill on top

Cut the lasagne into 8 even pieces. Cut along the lines where the spinach ridges are, using the toothpicks as guides, so that each piece gets a whole baked egg in the center. Remove the toothpicks.

Serve with a fresh tomato salad or a green salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing.

Makes 8 portions.

Guten Appetit!

Catelli gluten free lasagne pasta sheets

Disclaimer: The pasta for my experimentation and development of this dish was provided by Catelli. The recipe, content, and opinions are my own.

Green Eggs and Ham, last page of book


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Creamy Pasta with Garlic, Beef & Aparagus – Dinner in 10 Minutes

Posted in Eggs & Cheese, Meats | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Maple Ginger Cashew Cream – a Versatile Topping or Dip

Try a dollop of smooth, creamy Maple Ginger Cashew Cream on a piece of pumpkin pie,  slather it on pancakes or waffles, or use it as a sweet and luscious dip for cookies or fruit.

a bowlful of luscious cashew cream

You know those food matches made in heaven’s kitchens? The ones that taste as if they were meant to go together? Like apple pie and ice cream, wine and cheese, or potatoes and gravy?

Well, yesterday we had our pumpkin pie with Maple Ginger Cashew Cream, and now I don’t know if I can ever eat it with anything else again. I mean, a spoonful of whipped cream is fine, and so is a scoop of ice cream, but give me a generous dollop of cashew cream to make my pumpkin heart sing. Whipping up soaked cashew nuts with a slurp of amber maple syrup and a pinch of warm ginger turns them from nutty to very, very nice – velvety, rich, and creamy.

a slice of pumpkin pie with maple ginger cashew cream

This sweet cashew cream is very versatile. Use it, of course, to top pumpkin pie, or any other type of pie that would go well with the flavours. But you can also use it to top oatmeal porridge, or pancakes, or waffles. Blend it into smoothies, stir it into yogurt, or top a slice of pound cake, banana bread, or gingerbread with it.

Maple Ginger Cashew Cream also makes a delicious sweet dip on its own. Surround it with fresh apple wedges, banana slices, small or broken cookies (like gingersnaps, oatmeal cookies, chocolate chip cookies), graham wafers, pecan or walnut halves, or dried fruits or dates, for dunking.

Send a little container of it in your kids’ lunch boxes with some apple wedges, cookie pieces or tiny graham teddy bear crackers to dip into it – so much better than those packaged dips of sickly sweet icing.

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: If you don’t have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix, Blendtec, or Ninja) make sure the nuts have soaked at least 6 hours, and try whizzing them in a mini food processor, or a regular blender, making sure to scrape down the sides occasionally. They may not blend up quite as silky, but should still be just as tasty.

In Canada, maple syrup usually comes in four grades: No. 1 Golden or Light, No. 2 Amber, No.3 Dark, No. 4 Very Dark. The darker the syrup is, the stronger the maple flavour. I always go for the Dark, if I can get it, for maximum flavour.

For plain cashew cream, omit the ginger and use honey or raw agave nectar instead of the maple syrup.

Top view of Maple Ginger Cashew Cream

Maple Ginger Cashew Cream

dairy free, vegan

  • 1 ½ cups (200gms) raw cashews
  • ½ cup (120ml) water
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) maple syrup, Amber or Dark, if you can get it (No. 3, Dark is best)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Put the cashews in a container with about 2 cups water and leave to soak for 2 to 24 hours in the fridge. Drain the nuts and rinse them well.

Combine the rinsed cashews with the other ingredients in a high speed blender. Process until creamy and smooth.

Tip: Start the blender at a very slow speed and gradually increase it as the cashews blend, to avoid splattering the sides of the blender container. If you start it slowly, you shouldn’t have to scrape down the sides.

Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Makes about 2 cups.

Guten Appetit!


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Cashew Milk

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Posted in Condiments & Sauces, Dairy-free, Pies & Tarts, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Pumpkin Pie Time (and this one’s dairy free and egg free)

Celebrate the autumn colours with a rich and delicious gluten free, dairy free, and egg free pumpkin pie (in case you have to cook for loved ones with allergies). It tastes so good you can’t even tell the difference!

One piece gone from pumpkin pie

This year the fall colours are spectacularly, wonderfully, orange-and-gold-ly beautiful! It’s been a while since we’ve had such a stunning autumn in our area. I am just glorying in all that colour and light.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie, and Yellow Leaves Egg Free Pumpkin Pie, Fall colours

Fall has always been my favourite season of the year. Maybe it’s because the rich luminescence of the sun lighting the trees on gilded fire excites my artist’s soul. Maybe it’s because the rich bounty of harvest from garden, orchard, and field inspires my foodie soul. And maybe it’s because fall encompasses all the best celebrations. From my birthday at the end of August (when I always spy the first yellow leaf of the season), through the start of school, to Thanksgiving – the season just builds with a steady simmer of anticipation, to culminate in the most special holiday of the year to me – Christmas!!!

My favourite memories of the fall from growing up are those from helping with the harvest, both from the farm and from the garden. It was always such a deeply satisfying feeling to bring in the crops and store them for the winter. The air has the rich, musky, fullness – almost a spiciness – that comes from decaying leaves, ripening fruits, and drying grasses. I love it.

Bush with Red Leaves

I remember going hunting with my dad in the fall (probably only a handful of times in my life, but so sharp in my memory). We’d walk through the stillness of the golden forest on a sunny autumn day, following trails for hours, and I’d have to make sure I walked ever-so-silently behind him, keeping my footfalls soundless and trying not to step on crunching leaves. In this stillness, the sensations of nature around me became immensely large and magnified – the twinkling of the sunlight flickering between trees, the musical rustle of the wind sighing among dry leaves and bare branches, the earthy smell of forest, rotting leaf, and damp soil, and that invigorating fall crispness in the air, underlying even the warmest of days.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie, and Fall Pathway

Yes it’s pumpkin time. Fall isn’t even fall unless it also comes with that full, rich, spiciness of pumpkin, whether dressing up a crunchy granola, starring in a soup, stirred into a comforting porridge, carved with seeds roasted, or simply and silkily baked in a pie.

Eggless Pumpkin Pie out in leaves

This recipe is my dairy free and egg free pumpkin pie version of Libby’s famous pie recipe, adorning cans of pumpkin since the 1950s. I’ve adapted it for all my loved ones who have food allergies, but still crave that slice of smooth, sweet and spicy, luscious pumpkin pie at this time of year. Silken tofu replaces the liquid and the eggs, for a protein-packed alternative that is indistinguishable from the egg version, according to all my taste testers. (And they have good taste!)

Egg Free Pumpkin Pie with Leaves and Berries

I experimented with a lot of different variations of egg free pumpkin pie before I came up with this one. (Thanks to my sister-in-law, Connie, for the use of her kitchen for the experimentation of the final two versions – we had fun playing around with them :) )

*I’ve also included one of the versions I came up with that is soy free, for those with a soy allergy. Its texture is not quite as close to a regular pumpkin pie as the one with tofu, but it tastes great and works well for those with a soy allergy.

Try serving either of these versions of pumpkin pie with silky smooth, rich and creamy Maple Ginger Cashew Cream for a special treat.

a slice of pumpkin pie with maple ginger cashew cream

* * * * *


Kitchen Frau Notes:  Make sure to use pure pumpkin purée (it should say 100% pure pumpkin on the can), not pumpkin pie filling, which is already mixed with spices and other ingredients. Or grab a pumpkin and make your own pumpkin purée.

For this recipe it is important to use silken or smooth tofu, it has a different texture than regular soft tofu. Silken soft tofu is often sold in tetrapacks in the Asian section of the grocery store. Here in Alberta I can find smooth tofu, which comes with two blocks packed in water in 700 gram packages, at Superstore. One of the blocks is just enough for one pie. Store the other block covered in water in an airtight container in the fridge for two to three days, or make two pies and give one to a friend!

You can substitute coconut sugar for the granulated sugar, but your pie will be more brown than orange. It still tastes wonderful, just looks different.

The original recipe uses ground cloves. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can substitute in nutmeg.

Use your favourite pastry crust recipe, or use this gluten-free pie crust recipe or this one.

a fork for the pumpkin pie

Absolutely Delicious and Super Easy Pumpkin Pie

gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan

  • Single crust for a 9 or 9½ inch (23-24cm) pie dish, your favourite regular or gluten-free recipe (see above)
  • 350 gms (12oz) smooth or silken soft tofu, drained
  • ¾ cup (150gms) evaporated cane sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves or nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 can (398ml/14oz) pure pumpkin purée, or 1¾ cups+2 tablespoons homemade pumpkin purée

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Roll out the pastry crust and fit it into the pie plate, crimping the edges decoratively if you like. Chill the crust while you make the filling.

Place the tofu, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla into the container of a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides if necessary.

Scrape the tofu mixture into a bowl, and stir in the pumpkin purée until evenly mixed in. You want to stir the pumpkin in by hand so it retains its texture. Pour the filling into the prepared chilled crust and smooth the top.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350°F. Bake for 40 to 50 more minutes, until the center of the pie is wobbly, but semi-firm to touch with your fingertip, and the crust is golden brown.

Allow to cool completely, and chill for several hours before serving.

Serve with a dollop of coconut whipped cream (whip up the thick cream from the top of a can of full-fat premium coconut milk), or a scoop of (dairy free) vanilla ice cream.

*This pie can also be made crustless – pour the filling into a greased 9-inch pie pan, bake as for the pie above, but it only needs 15 minutes at 425°F and then 30 -35 minutes at 350°F baking time. Chill well before cutting.

Serves 6 to 8.



Dairy Free Soy Free Pumpkin Pie

Soy Free Recipe for Pumpkin Pie

gluten free, dairy free, egg free, vegan

  • Single crust for a 9½ or 10 inch (24 or 25cm) pie dish, your favourite regular or gluten-free recipe (see above)
  • 3 cups (720ml, from 2 small or 1 large can) pumpkin purée, canned or homemade
  • ¾ cup (150gms) sugar (natural, evaporated cane sugar)
  • 5 tablespoons sweet rice flour, cornstarch, or potato starch
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup (60ml) melted coconut oil
  • ¾ cup non-dairy milk (almond, soy, coconut)

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, and salt. Stir in the melted coconut oil, then add the milk last (so it doesn’t chill the coconut oil and cause it to solidify into little lumps.) Pour into the prepared pie shell.

Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake for a further 40 to 50 minutes, until the filling is bubbling around the edges. It will be more liquid than a regular pumpkin pie, but will thicken up as it cools.

Cool completely, then chill before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.

Guten Appetit!

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Gingered Pear Tart

Strawberry Meringue Pie

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Posted in Canadian Food Experience Project, Dairy-free, Pies & Tarts | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Basil Beet Salad, Sauteed Beans, and Peas on Earth

Meet Eric and Ruby, of Peas on Earth, Alberta producers of exceptional organic produce, and have a taste of Ruby’s fantastic Basil Beet Salad, or a nibble of Sauteed Garlicky Green Beans.

Peas on Earth, front field

Passion and Love.

Those are the two emotions immediately evident when talking to Ruby and Eric Chen, owners of Peas on Earth Organic Garden in Sturgeon County. Passion for providing their customers with healthier food to nourish their bodies and a love for the earth and their commitment to nourish it.

Peas on Earth, market garden sign sunflowers at Peas on Earth

Nestled amid rolling countryside studded with subdivisions of luxury homes and small acreages, their organic garden is a hidden gem. When you first drive up the curving driveway bordered by a line of cheery sunflowers you know you are in a happy place. You glimpse rows of lovingly tended vegetables and see a small cluster of workers hand picking crops in the distance. Boxes of produce are stacked in the shade, awaiting their trip to the market, and Eric and Ruby greet you with warm, welcoming smiles.

Peas on Earth, Eric and Ruby

Their farm is a labour of love, a team effort, run by the two of them, but supported by and shared with family, including their two teenage children, Eric’s parents, and a staff of employees and relatives who help out at ‘crunch time’. Of their 65 acres, 25 are planted with a large variety of Alberta hardy vegetables and herbs – over 30 different crops with several different varieties of many of them.

fresh vegetables from Peas on Earth

And almost all of these crops must laboriously, carefully, and properly, be hand-harvested and hand-processed! This is no small undertaking. Machines can’t be trusted to harvest the tender vegetables without damage, and Eric and Ruby are absolutely committed to providing their customers with the best produce possible, from hardy root vegetables to the most delicate herbs and tender leafy baby greens.

Ruby says their biggest challenge is the processing, sorting, washing, and packing – it is all very labour-intensive, and must be done as close to market time as possible to supply customers with the freshest produce, which means that Eric and Ruby are usually up late into the early morning hours the night before farmers’ market days, preparing the produce for their customers.

Peas on Earth, maturing rows of crops

the row of maturing romaine lettuce will be harvested for seed

But above all, Eric and Ruby are committed to providing health and sustainability for people and for the earth. They feel, that with all the sickness and disease now prevalent in our society, they can do their small part by providing healthy, chemical-free and pesticide-free food to nurture their own family and their customers for a healthier future. After all, their motto is “Growing for our children”. The word play of the name of their garden, Peas on Earth, embodies their beliefs. Eric says, ‘Peace on Earth, that’s what sustainability means to me, taking care of the land.” The farm is certified fully organic and Eric and Ruby feel very passionately about their commitment to growing good healthy produce.

They also have a very balanced view of the economics and vagaries of farming. Eric says, “Every year has been different, and there is a reason and a blessing in everything. Every weed that grows, there is a purpose for it.” Some years, like this one, have been very dry – so they needed to water more. Different years produce different insects, weather conditions, problems, challenges. This year they had aphids for the first time, in their kale, which means that every single kale leaf has to be inspected and fastidiously washed by hand before going to the customer. Eric just shrugs his shoulders philosophically and smiles. It’s part of farming.

Peas on Earth, Eric examining kale

If a crop fails, or can’t be completely used, it’s not considered waste. Eric says, ‘What comes from the soil, goes back to the soil.” The plants are cultivated back into the land to provide nourishment to the soil for future crops. It’s a natural cycle.

Good sound farming practices are the backbone of this family business. Eric studied agriculture at the University of Alberta (where he met Ruby while they were both students), and Ruby handles the majority of the day-to-day business and administration of Peas on Earth. He grew up on a farm in Alberta and she grew up in Hong Kong, and they bring their diverse backgrounds and skill sets together to form a strong team unified in making their thriving organic garden the best it can be.


Peas on Earth, market garden

the frost has nipped the bean plants in the foreground, but they’ve already provided their bounty

In this harsh, northern climate most crops only have two to three months of a vigourous growing season, so many of Peas on Earth‘s vegetables are planted weekly to provide an ongoing supply. When I visited, there were some young new plantings of hardier greens, tiny shoots just emerging from the soil. Eric says they gamble on the weather – if we have longer frost-free days they might get another harvest from them, if not – the plants get worked back into the soil (with a smile and a shrug of the shoulders).

Peas on Earth, rows of organic kale Peas on Earth, Organic Market Garden

Eric and Ruby are busy from early spring, starting seedlings in their 5000² ft greenhouse facility, to late fall, with supplying several local farmers’ markets and local restaurants. They also have temperature-controlled storage facilities so they can keep long-season and root crops throughout the winter to supply vegetables to the Organic Box Home Delivery Program year round.

Peas on Earth no longer sells produce from their garden location, but you can find their fantastic fresh vegetables at the St. Albert Outdoor Farmers’ Market (June to Thanksgiving), the Callingwood Market (Sundays until October 11) or at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market all year round. Peek into the Peas on Earth website to see which produce is available at any time in the year.

* * * * *

Beets, Basil, Balsamic, Bocconcini, Beans (it’s a Happy B day!)

For a little taste of what you can do with such beautiful, fresh organic Alberta produce, here’s an example of one of the Chen family’s favourite salads. The earthy sweetness of beets is beautifully complemented by the robust sweetness of fresh basil and balsamic vinegar.

Kitchen Frau Notes: This salad is delicious with just the beets and basil, but if you want to amp up the protein, or make the salad more of a light lunch, toss in a handful of bocconcini cheese balls to add bright pops of pink. For a more intense flavour punch, you can use cubes of feta cheese.

Roast or boil the beets the day before to make this salad quick to put together. (Roasted have more concentrated flavour.) I love roasting a whole bunch of beets and having them on hand to reheat quickly for a dinner side dish, or to make salads like this one.

If you love basil, feel free to add even more than the recipe says.

I love this salad even better the next day, when all the flavours have had time to mingle and get cozy.

Peas on Earth, Basil Bocconcini Beet Salad

Basil and Balsamic Beet Salad

adapted from Ruby Chen

  • 1½ lbs (700gms) medium-sized beets (4 cups cooked and sliced)
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced or crushed (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 4 stems basil leaves (¼ cup, lightly packed)
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • optional: 1 cup halved small bocconcini balls (unripened mozzarella, the kind that comes packed in water), or torn bits of larger bocconcini balls, or diced feta cheese

Roast or cook the beets. To roast them, wash the beets and place them on a large square of heavy duty tin foil, or doubled regular foil. Seal up the package and roast at 400°F for 45 minutes to an hour, until they are tender when you pierce them, through the tin foil, with a fork. To cook them, place them in a large saucepan, cover with water, and bring to boil. Then lower the heat, cover, and simmer until tender.

peeling roasted beets is easy

peeling roasted beets is easy

When the cooked beets are cool enough to handle, peel off the outer skin. If roasted – scrape off the skin with a knife, if cooked –  set a colander in the sink and slip off the skins with your hands while holding the beets under running water over the colander.

Allow the beets to cool completely, then refrigerate them until chilled.

Cut the chilled beets into quarters and slice the quarters.

Combine the diced onions, the garlic, if using, and the balsamic vinegar in the bottom of a mixing bowl. Allow them to macerate for 15 minutes or longer, so the onions get ‘pickled’. Add the sliced beets and toss well until all the beets are coated in the vinegar.

Stack the basil leaves on top of each other 5 or 6 at a time. Roll them into a cylinder, then slice them finely.

Ingredients for Beet Salad

Add the sliced basil leaves, oil, salt, pepper to taste, and bocconcini, if using, and toss it all gently together. Leave for at least 30 minutes for flavours to blend. Serve at room temperature.

The beautiful pink colour gets more pronounced if the salad is allowed to rest for a while and the beets have time to release some of their vibrant juices.

Basil and Balsamic Beet Salad, just plain

or serve it just as it is, without the bocconcini cheese – it’s still delicious!

Keeps for several days in the fridge.

Serves 6

* * * * *

I brought back some lovely fresh green and yellow beans (sadly now finished their season due to frost) from my visit at Peas on Earth. I was inspired to make this lovely bean dish for dinner that night. So tasty. And with the addition of a poached egg, it made a wonderful lunch the next day, too!

Kitchen Frau Notes: The turmeric adds a hint of earthiness and a touch of golden colour, and the white wine vinegar at the end serves to brighten all the flavours.

Garlicky Green Beans with Roasted Hazelnuts

Garlicky Green Beans with Spinach and Toasted Hazelnuts

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 lb (450gms) fresh green or yellow beans, or a combination
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 6 – 8 oz (175-200gms) fresh spinach, (3 – 4 large handfuls)
  • a good grinding of fresh pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • a small handful of toasted hazelnuts, about 1/3 of a cup
  • Optional: poached eggs to top the beans, one per person, if desired

*To toast hazelnuts: Roast the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350°F for 8 to 10 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Place the hot nuts into a clean tea towel and rub them vigorously for a minute or two to get off as many skins as possible – don’t worry, you won’t get them all off.

Trim the stem ends off the beans, and cut each bean in half.

Heat the oil and butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes until translucent.

Add the trimmed beans and salt, and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the beans are just crisp-tender.

Tear any large spinach leaves into smaller pieces, and add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring them under, until the leaves are just wilted. Add a good grinding of black pepper and sprinkle with the vinegar. Toss once more to combine, and tip the vegetables into a serving bowl.

Roughly chop the toasted hazelnuts and strew them over the top.

Optional: Top each serving with a soft poached egg and allow the yolk to run into the beans as you break it open.

Serves 4 to 6.

Guten Appetit!

Garlicky Green Beans with Spinach, Toasted Hazelnuts, and Poached Egg

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An Experimental Canadian Quinoa Harvest and Recipes

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Pickled Beets and a Canadian Food Hero

Posted in Gardening, Salads & Dressings, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

(No-Bake) Salted Coco-Lasses Bars

Hello Coco-Lassies, you beautiful, fudgey, coconutty, caramelly, molasses bars!

No Bake Salted Coco-Lassies Bars

It’s no secret I love molasses – it comes from a childhood of sneaking into my grandma’s barn and licking the blackstrap molasses intended for feeding the cattle. I discovered that deep, dark, delicious taste early on. Now that I’m a grown-up, I don’t have to sneak my molasses anymore, and can have a spoonful whenever I feel like it. Yay!

In our household we love molasses in cookies, and cakes, and even in warm milk before bed at night.

We also love coconut, especially those luscious chocolate-covered coconut candy bars.

So the marriage between those two was bound to happen some day.

No-Bake Salted Coco-Lasses Bars

I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Coconut and Molasses, together forever in these fudgey Coco-Lasses Bars. It was a wonderful wedding. Plus, they’re honeymooning in Chocolate Land – a sure sign they’ll live happily ever after!

Coconut Molasses Bars, Love

(Think of the happy couple as Nanaimo Bar’s more health conscious, hippy cousins.)

First, the baking pan is slicked with a layer of melted chocolate to form a base for the fudgey filling. Next, the molasses is heated and stirred with the coconut, to moisten the coconut and infuse it with rich caramel flavour, then the coconut oil is allowed to melt and flow throughout, lusciously coating each little coconut flake with its silky softness. Another layer of creamy chocolate is smoothed over the filling.

pouring the melted chocolate on the Coco-Lassies

smoothe out the chocolate

Finally, the top is kissed with a sprinkle of flaky salt to bring out all those luscious flavours. A shower of toasted coconut crowns the bars with a little touch of nutty crunch.

Look at that beautiful coconut on top

Ooooh, baby!

* * * * *

Kitchen Frau Notes: Molasses comes in three strengths: fancy molasses (or table molasses), cooking molasses, and blackstrap molasses, with fancy molasses being the mildest and blackstrap being the strongest in flavour.

Fancy molasses is the best one to use in these Coco-Lassies, as it has a more pronounced caramel flavour. However, if you can only get blackstrap or cooking molasses, use half molasses and half golden syrup, corn syrup, or brown rice syrup.

The small amount of coconut oil added to the top layer of melted chocolate helps keep it softer and prevents the whitish bloom when refrigerated.

all wrapped up, Coco-Lasses Bars

No Bake, Salted Coco-Lasses Bars (Coco-Lassies)

gluten-free, nut-free, vegan & dairy-free if chocolate chips are dairy-free

  • 1¼ cups (220gms) semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided (dairy-free, if necessary)
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) fancy molasses (¼ cup + 2 tablespoons)
  • 6 tablespoons (90ml) water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups (275gms) unsweetened medium shredded coconut
  • ½ cup (120ml) virgin coconut oil + 1 tablespoon for top layer
  • 3 tablespoons long thread shredded coconut
  • 1/8 teaspoon flaked sea salt

Line a 9×9 inch (23x23cm) pan with a parchment paper sling that sticks up on each end by about an inch. Crease the paper along the inside bottom edges so it sits flat in the pan.

Melt half of the chocolate chips (½ cup + 2 tablespoons) in the microwave (1 minute on high, then stir till the last bits are melted) or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Put a small dab of chocolate under the parchment paper in each corner of the pan to help keep it from sliding around. Spread the melted chocolate over the paper in the bottom of the pan – an offset spatula works best for this. Allow it to harden – 15 minutes in the fridge or longer at room temperature. *Don’t wash the dish the chocolate was melted in – add the remaining chocolate chips to it and set it aside to melt again later when you add the final layer to the bars.

In a large saucepan, combine the molasses, water, and vanilla extract. Heat over medium heat just until the molasses has melted and combined with the water. Add the coconut and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly, until the coconut is warmed up and the sweet liquid has all been absorbed into the coconut.

Add the coconut oil and cook and stir until the coconut oil has melted and coats all the coconut flakes, about one more minute.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and scrape the molasses-coated coconut on top of the hardened chocolate. Press it evenly into the pan with a silicone spatula. Allow to harden, about ½ hour in the fridge or longer at room temperature.

While the filling is hardening, toast the long thread coconut in a small skillet, over medium heat and stirring often, until it is golden. Allow to cool.

Melt the remaining half of the chocolate chips together with the 1 tablespoon coconut oil and spread this over the hardened filling. Sprinkle the flaked salt evenly over the top, then shower with the toasted coconut.

When the top layer has hardened, run a knife down the sides of the pan that don’t have the paper sling. Lift the slab of Salted Coco-Lasses from the pan by pulling up on the paper flaps. Place it on a cutting board and cut the slab into 24 small bars (4 rows of 6 bars) or 16 larger squares.


Store the coconut molasses bars in a covered container in the fridge – they will keep for several weeks. Remove from the fridge at least 15 minutes before serving to bring them to room temperature.

Makes 16 to 24 bars.

Guten Appetit!

Update, Newsflash: These bars won first place in the Crosby’s Molasses ‘Raising the Bar’ Recipe Contest! I am so thrilled!!! Doing the happy dance!!!! Check out the other winners’ great recipes there, too.


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Healthy Fudge with a Wicked Alias

Oma’s Ginger Molasses Knobs

Choco-Crisps (Oaty Chocolate Rice Krispie cookies)

Gingerbread Rice Krispie Squares with Cinnamon Ganache

wrap the coco-lassies in parchment

Posted in Chocolate, Cookies & Candy, Dairy-free, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments