Work With What You’ve Got

Farmer’s market fresh! One thing about summertime trips to the market is that (in the words of my grandfather), your eyes can be bigger than your belly. That’s sort of what happened with the basket of fresh peaches we picked up on Tuesday. To be more specific, it was our capacity to consume them before they hit their tipping point. We’re surrounded by overripe fruit, and so there are peaches in every meal. To top it off, we had a surfeit of cheese, left with us by some departing guests. What to do?

When I have a host of items that need to be used, one of my first thoughts is always salad. It’s a go-to when vegetables are in season. This one started with a vinaigrette of homemade red wine vinegar, canola oil, and Kozlik’s Balsamic Fig and Date mustard – in equal proportions. I mixed this in a large bowl, and then began adding veg – greens from the balcony garden, cucumbers, radish, and celery – but use whatever you have, like in this Kitchen Sink Salad. Then I topped it off with some walnuts, sliced peaches, and crumbled Stilton. If you’re a vegan, omit the cheese or use some chopped smoked tofu instead.

Even though I bought too many, I never get tired of too many peaches. We love them, and all the other seasonal bounty, so I’m grateful to be able to have many delicious ideas to use them up.

Get Your Veggies with All-Season Salads

There’s a tendency, perhaps precipitated by cooking magazines, to move off of salads this time of year, and focus on warmer fare, like soups or stews. I know that this seems logical, but there are so many great veggies available now, that it seems a shame to only eat them cooked. Sure, local lettuce may be less available. What I’m suggesting is that if you have the privilege of accessing fresh fruit and veg in your local market, please do take advantage.

What I am not saying is that everyone is as fortunate as we are in Toronto. A head of hydroponic Canadian lettuce is out of reach for many families. Heck, there are some places (not in far-off lands, but here in our own country), where fresh produce of any sort is just not in the store, or it costs so much that you can’t possibly afford se it to feed your family. This is a travesty. Please speak out about this.

And while we are on the subject of hunger, if you do have enough, do support your local food bank or soup kitchen. You would be amazed how far they can make a dollar go. I learned from one of them that they can get wholesale prices, making better use of their money, although I’m a big advocate of having your kids choose foods from the store, so they learn about sharing and healthy choices). When our kids were small, we started emptying our coins into a jar at the end of the day. Once a month, we would use this money to buy food bank food. We still give regularly, even though the kids are grown.

If you have all these ingredients, make a great salad. If you don’t, I’m not giving a recipe. Try using whatever veg you can get. If you have frozen veg, give them a quick refresh under cold water rather than cooking. Or if you have “winter veg” (beets, carrots, turnips, cabbage), shred them. Use leftovers. They’re all good. Here is what I did today:

Chopped some hydroponic butter head lettuce onto a plate.

Diced celery and yellow pepper (both “ugly vegetables”  ). Use whatever veg you have, truly. Serve in a bowl if necessary, and use a spoon instead of a fork.

Drizzled with this dressing:

2t/10ml Dijon – it emulsifies, thickens, adds flavour

1T/15ml vinegar

2t/10ml canola oil (it’s Canadian!)

Next add some protein. I had cheddar. You might have hard-boiled egg, tofu,  beans, nuts, seitan, or leftover pork chop. No matter. Protein builds muscle and helps your blood pressure stay regulated. Not too much! A couple of ounces. It’s lunch!

Here’s what it looked like, when it was done. Enjoy. Use stuff up. Appreciate what you have, and give someone else a hand.

Have an awesome day!

Crunch Fall Salad

 

What’s in your fridge? Autumn Veggie Melts

I’m a big meal-planning fan, but life can sometimes interfere. Last-minute engagements, ingredients that come in packages larger than the meal plan needs, and special one-time deals all can impact the inventory and leave you with stuff in the fridge that needs to be used. Here’s what I made with what was on hand, for today’s lunch.

I took some whole wheat and spelt raisin cinnamon sourdough, made this week:

img_64941That’s some Dijon mustard on there, from Kozlik’s.

Then I mashed an avocado with some lime, and put it on as well:

img_6495While I was doing this, I moved an oven rack up and set the oven to broil. My trusty assistant put some parchment on a cookie sheet for me – this gets messy.

img_64961The avocado is not only tasty but it helps the veggies stick to the melt. Grate up some leftover veg, or chop. I had some grated carrot and beet.

img_64971Then I topped that with some part-skim mozza (again, what cheese have you? Use that.)

Under the broiler it goes until bubbly and golden. That’s it. Tasty veg, healthy fats, and a little decadent cheese. You could absolutely use a melting vegan cheese, if you prefer.

Eat it up!

img_64981

These Savoury Biscuits are Sweet

Cheddar Sage BiscuitWe are very conscious of food waste in our house, so when we cook, we save vegetable scraps to make broth. We also roasted a chicken earlier in the week, and the carcass went into the stock pot to make chicken soup. Since I hadn’t made bread yet this week, I put together this batch of savoury whole-wheat cheddar and sage biscuits to go with the soup, and we ate the leftovers the next day for breakfast.

It’s an easy recipe, adapted from tea biscuits from a recipe book of my mom’s. You could probably make vegan substitutions such as chilled coconut oil for the butter, or soy cheese – my go-to expert is my friend Louise Spiteri at Vegan Footprints – but I used what I had on hand:

Preheat oven to 400F

Put 1 c (250ml) whole wheat flour, sifted with 1 T (15ml) baking powder in a large bowl. To this, cut in chilled butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. I used to use vegetable shortening but I would rather have an ingredient that is less-processed. When using butter, I generally use the salted kind but there is no additional salt in the recipe, except what occurs in the cheese.

Gently stir in 2T (30ml) chopped fresh sage or 2t (20ml) dried sage, plus 1/2c (125ml) grated sharp cheddar (or other hard, flavourful cheese as you like). Vegan cheese can be substituted.

Add 1/2c (125ml) almond milk and stir just until mixed. Drop onto cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Makes 8 biscuits.

Our recipe used Canadian-milled flour from Rogers Foods, sage from our garden, and aged Ontario cheddar, purchased at St. Lawrence Market.

Just Cheesy Enough…


Sunday morning – when you want decadent flavour with very little effort, these cheesy avocado toasts fit the bill.

Start by grating some cheese – in this case, aged cheddar and Caerphilly – but mixing up flavours will give endless tasty results. For two, cut a small avocado in half and mash with a squeeze of lemon juice. Then preheat the broiler and line a cookie sheet with parchment. While the oven heats, split and lightly toast two whole wheat English muffins.

Top the muffins with the grated cheese and place on the cookie sheet. Broil just until they are nicely melted. Spread the avocado on top and voilà, they’re ready to serve. Stand by for compliments.

Super Simple Spring Salad


Hopefully the warm weather is on its way. We’ve had a few tantalizing tastes, and now it has at least warmed up enough for us to fit in some long neighbourhood walks in the morning. 

Spring produce is showing up also. Heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers (greenhouse grown), spinach and mushrooms are all I needed to put together this tasty plate. 

For the dressing, for two: in a blender jar, combine 1/4c or 60ml vinegar (I used homemade but wine or cider types are lovely), 2T or 15ml extra virgin olive oil, 2t or 10ml Dijon and 2oz or 60g of feta. Blend until smooth and enjoy.

Then maybe another walk to run a few errands…

30 Minutes or Free?

When we’ve had a long day and don’t have a plethora of things in the fridge, we nearly always have the ingredients for pizza. From start to finish, in just over 30 minutes – a healthier, less expensive version than takeout, and you can keep the tip for yourself.

Preheat your oven to 400F

In a small bowl or measuring cup, put 1/2 c or 125ml lukewarm water. Stir in 1 t or 5ml sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Sprinkle 1 T (15ml) yeast over top. Set a timer for 5 minutes and choose some toppings. 

When the timer goes, your yeast should be foamy. A few grains may still float on top, and that’s okay. Stir with a fork and add this to a larger mixing bowl, along with 1T/15ml olive oil. Sprinkle in whole wheat flour, stirring with a fork, until it forms a ball and starts to clean the bowl a little. Knead on the counter half a dozen times with another light sprinkle of floor. (Other flours work also – experiment!) Sometimes we add dried herbs or pepper to the flour. Grease the bowl and pop the dough back in. No need to wash, the bowl should be mostly clean. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 10 minutes.

In this case we started with a base of caramelized onions, but pesto or marinara work great also.

  
For toppings we added mushrooms and olives, and a bit of Beemster cheese.

 18 minutes in the oven and it’s done – we usually let it cool five minutes before cutting as no one loves that pizza cheese mouth burn!

  

Let's root, root, root for the team!

Spring is coming, we believe, although the weather is being uncooperative. Here’s a grest dish for the last of those winter veg.

  
This is a lovely vegetable gratin. The directions are unspecific…yet easy. 

Heat the oven to 400F.

Spray a casserole dish with olive oil spray. 

Now begin…

Slice some vegetables thinly, by hand or with a mandolin or food processor.  Layer them in the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle with herbs, pepper, nutmeg, or other tasty bits. Grate or crumble on a scanty bit of cheese (this is not a cheap discount pizza)!

Repeat for 4 to 6 layers. At learn every second layer should be a root veg, to give body to the thing. Ours was purely potato, carrot, beet and parsnip. But kale, tomato, onion or beans are great additions as long as there are sliced veg on the top and bottom.

Press the top layer down. Then, grate on some real grated Parmesan – it adds a richness that no other cheese can match.

Bake for 45 minutes with a cover, the remove the cover and give it 15 minutes more. Let it cool 5 minutes before serving. Also great served cold the next day.

Dinner for two…

  
So…good! 

We had a busy day yesterday, cleaning, organizing, walking, shopping and visiting the Gardiner Museum’s amazing porcelain collection. The best way to top off a day like that is to make a delicious but low-effort dinner together. 

Here’s what we did:

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a casserole dish, place two pork chops. Ours came from our friend/neighbour/butcher, Mark. Over top, pour 1/2 c (125ml dry sherry). Thinly slice an onion and separate into rings, scattering on top of the chops. Add half a dozen capers and four roughly-chopped olives. Sprinkle with dry mustard and mace (or nutmeg, if you’re stuck). Put the lid on.

Next the potatoes. Slice 4 or 5, thinly. You will have two servings left over for tomorrow. In a glass cake pan or pie plate coated with olive oil cooking spray, arrange half the potato slices. Sprinkle with 2 t or 10ml of flour. Crack on some pepper and grate on a small amount (1 oz/30 g) strong aged cheddar. We used an amazing cave-aged one from Wookey Hole

Layer the rest of the potato on, pour over 1/2 c or 125ml of 1% milk. Add another cracking of pepper and another ounce or so of cheese. Cover with foil, not letting foil touch the cheese. Full disclosure: another casserole would work well here, only we don’t have one! 

Put both dishes in the oven for half an hour. Drink wine and chat.

Then remove the lid or foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Prep the Brussels sprouts or do what we did – use frozen. When the 15 minutes are nearly up, bring the sprouts just to the boil, covered, on top of the stove. Turn off the heat and let stand while you dish up the rest. Sprouts will be crisp-tender.

Have a lovely meal and enjoy each other’s company. Live happily ever after.

Chicken Parm…ish

  
When you’ve had a long day and just want to decompress, take a few minutes to get this going, and have a glass of wine while you wait! 

For two:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (not the frozen ones with added salt!)

1 egg

1/4 c 1% milk

1 c whole wheat bread crumbs

1/2 c no salt marinara 

4 T Parmesan, fresh grated

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a cookie sheet or lasagne pan with parchment.

Mix egg and milk together in a pie plate.
Put crumbs in another pie plate.

Dip each piece of chicken in egg wash, then in crumbs, patting to coat. Place in pan and put in the oven. 

After 30 minutes, turn chicken over. In 15 more minutes, spread  marinara on top of each chicken breast and grate on Parmesan.

Bake 3-5 minutes until cheese melts.