Valerie Harrison
http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com/
Hometown:
Ontario, Canada
Location:
Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada

About Me: I was born into a British family in Southern Ontario where food was considered a necessity and not a passion. I was surrounded by a melting pot of ethnic cuisines but it was not until my teen years that I began my journey of discovery. When I first started learning to cook in my home kitchen, one of the initial things I discovered was that the key to outstanding meals was using good quality ingredients. As time passed I realized that this meant either growing or purchasing the best local ingredients available which with today's trends has become easier and easier with a resurgence of farmers markets, specialty food shops and local producers. What has taken me years to understand is that recipes are merely guidelines and are open to any interpretation. I used to follow recipes to the letter and they always turned out well, but as the years progressed, and I have become confident in the kitchen, I am more open to experimentation and substitution. I live in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia Canada a wine producing area where its hot, dry weather, sheltering mountains and rich soil blend to create one of North America's most productive wine regions with a picturesque backdrop of lush, undulating vineyards and soaring views. It is here that I can indulge my passion for cooking with local and sustainable ingredients overflowing from farm markets and fruit stands. I have always had a heightened degree of curiosity about cooking so blogging at More Than Burnt Toast allows me to hone my skills as a writer, home cook and photographer as well as try to live a more sustainable life by highlighting our local producers and farmers. I also throw in a challenge or two. Living in the Okanagan Valley allows me the opportunity to hike and pole walk followed by a tasting from one of our local vineyards.

Recipes Posted by Valerie Harrison:

One of my favorite meals consists of candied nuts topping a nice gourmet salad with a well-balanced sweet and salty dressing. When I was a child I loved to snack on my favorite caramel popcorn loaded with peanuts from a box. I wanted to recreate some childhood memories with a grown-up twist. Instead of candied nuts I created a twist on this classic with a sweet and salty flavored peanut butter caramel corn laden with salty peanuts. The popcorn roasts in the oven until it develops a crunchy peanut butter flavored caramel coating. They’re perfect as croutons for a nice spring salad. The recipe makes plenty so there is even some leftover for snacking. The croutons top a simple gourmet salad with slices of salty bacon and balanced with a sweet and salty peanut butter flavored dressing. This recipe satisfies my craving for sweet and salty flavors in perfect balance.

When you think about Canadian cuisine what comes to mind? You could be chomping down on Tart de Sucre in Quebec, Nanaimo Bars in British Columbia or Butter Tarts in Ontario. Or do you think of something more seasonal like cranberries, spot prawns or furled fiddleheads? No matter the season true Canadian cuisine can be found every time we visit our local farmers markets, farm stands or local grocers and depends heavily on our ethnic roots from province to province.

Living in British Columbia we thrive on “West Coast Cuisine” which is essentially just utilizing the very finest local gastronomic delights fresh from the ocean, the oven or the field… just as they do in every province and territory across the country. If you asked a Canadian in Halifax, Nova Scotia or Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to define what they eat on a daily basis you would have two different answers. Ask your neighbor what they had for dinner last night and see what the ethnic influences are. Like everyone else we use what’s in our backyard and cook with what’s around us.

This burger utilizes what I found available this time of year…firm, full-flavored sockeye salmon from the West Coast slowly baked with a maple syrup and Maple flavored peanut butter glaze. Top it off with a seasonal slaw and what could be more Canadian than that!

These are a variation on our favorite breakfast treat pain au chocolat, a French-inspired treat served in the boulangeries of France. In French Canada they are referred to as chocolatines and are a special treat not to be missed. This variation of mine is filled with a cream cheese and peanut butter blend that bakes up beautifully for a special way to start your day. The combination of a buttery flaky dough, peanut butter and dark chocolate, baked together and giving off a deliciously seductive aroma is completely irresistible. You can roll them in the traditional pain au chocolat shape or create a pin wheel shape as I have done here.

After taking my first bite of this creamy dessert, words simply failed me. As a writer I searched my vocabulary and I couldn’t find words to adequately describe the taste and flavor of this light dessert. Luscious? Well yes. But more than that. Tantalizing? You bet. Melt-in-your-mouth? It does.

No matter how you choose to describe it I encourage you to try it for yourself. A layer of creamy peanut butter flavored mousse made with White Chocolate peanut butter is a special treat to be shared with loved ones. Top it with a drizzle of peanut butter flavored caramel sauce and it takes it up another notch. One bite and you will be at a loss for words yourself. Instead, you’ll just sigh with satisfaction…and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Although there are nearly 100 species of crab in British Columbia the local favorite at our fishmongers and markets is Dungeness crab. These are not your traditional east coast crab cakes but a Thai-inspired combination of sweet crabmeat, ginger, and fish sauce all topped with a spicy peanut butter flavored vinaigrette. Serve these crab cakes as a main course with a side of coconut flavored rice and some stir-fried vegetables.