TORONTO - Canada's local foods are the stars of next year's Milk Calendar.
To encourage people to cook at home from scratch using fresh seasonal ingredients, home economist Jennifer MacKenzie has developed 25 family-friendly recipes concentrating on Canadian-produced items for the 2013 edition.
The calendar is being distributed this weekend in 39 Ontario and five Maritime newspapers as well as some magazines.
"Everybody is kind of realizing we want to support Canadian farmers ... people are also very familiar with tomatoes in season and peppers in season and zucchini in season, but we wanted to teach people what we can eat (local) all year rather than it's great to do it in the summer," said MacKenzie, spokesperson for the calendar and recipe developer since the 2001 edition.
"You can do it in the winter as well and also just focusing on fresh and local ingredients that are more nutritious, more economical if you buy them locally and in season."
The recipes from the Dairy Farmers of Canada go beyond cabbage and root vegetables for the winter months.
MacKenzie said it was a challenge to both develop a year's worth of seasonal recipes and introduce different ingredients that are Canadian but that people might not realize are grown in this country.
Lentils, for instance, are grown in Saskatchewan and available dried year-round. Many of the high-fibre, low-fat lentils are exported to India. MacKenzie put a Canadian twist on dal, an Indian favourite, with the addition of butternut squash, another Canadian ingredient.
"Cooking the milk right in with the lentils creates a really wonderful creamy texture and ... the milk really helps smooth out the curry flavour. It's a great introductory recipe for kids because the butternut squash adds sweetness," MacKenzie said.
Local papers will be distributing the calendar between Thursday and Saturday. Check with your paper to find out when to expect it or visit MilkCalendar.ca. If you miss it, you can also order a copy of the calendar from the website as of Nov. 19.
In addition to the recipes for each month, the new Milk Calendar features a cheese page including a salad, a melt and a dessert made with Canadian cheese. There are four recipes on the baking page and three on the cream page that can be served for a weeknight dinner or are suitable for entertaining.
As in previous years, the calendar includes cooking tips and a nutritional analysis for each recipe. All the monthly recipes can be found in French at the back of the calendar.
There are also tips to put a twist on recipes for those with more adventurous palates.
"For instance, in the Honey-Garlic Chicken and Sweet Pepper Stir-Fry it's a very mild soy, honey and garlic sauce, but for the adventurous you can add hoisin which is a richer sauce and then some hot Asian chili sauce for people that like that little bit bolder flavour," MacKenzie explained. "You can take the same recipe and give it a bit of a twist with the ingredients and perk it up a bit for people who want a little more oomph."
The Butternut Squash Dal recipe is featured in March 2013.
Butternut Squash Dal
This is a satisfying and delicious vegetarian main course or side dish. Serve with papadum, basmati rice or naan.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
250 ml (1 cup) dried red lentils
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) reduced-sodium vegetable broth
15 ml (1 tbsp) butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
30 ml (2 tbsp) minced ginger root (or 7 ml/1 1/2 tsp ground ginger)
15 to 30 ml (1 to 2 tbsp) Indian yellow curry paste or powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) pepper
750 ml (3 cups) chopped peeled butternut squash (about 500 g/1 lb)
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh cilantro or green onions
Garam masala (optional)
In a fine sieve, place lentils and pick through to remove any stones or grit. Rinse well and drain; stir into broth and set aside.
In a large, deep saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; saute onion for 3 minutes or until starting to soften. Add garlic, ginger, curry paste (to taste), salt and pepper; saute for 2 minutes or until softened. Add lentils in broth, squash and milk. Bring to a simmer, stirring often.
Cover, leaving lid ajar, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes or until squash and lentils are soft and tender. Remove from heat and mash lightly with a potato masher. Sprinkle with cilantro and garam masala, if using.
Makes 4 servings.
Cooking Tips: Save on preparation time by purchasing peeled, cut squash often available in the produce section at the supermarket.
When simmering the lentils and squash, keep an eye on the pot and do not let the mixture boil since the lentils and milk tend to bubble over; adjust heat as necessary to maintain a simmer with bubbles gently breaking the surface of the liquid.
Tip for Kids: This is an excellent introduction to the flavours of curry for kids who haven't tried it. The sweet squash and milk smooth out the taste of the curry allowing them to get used to the combination of spices.
For the Adventurous: Use a hot curry paste and/or saute whole cumin and coriander seeds (7 ml/1 1/2 tsp each) and 1 minced fresh hot pepper in 15 ml (1 tbsp) butter and spoon on top of dal with cilantro.
Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada 2013 Milk Calendar, MilkCalendar.ca