Oh, cheese!

This is not a good post for you if you are one of my vegan or non-dairy friends. We are still in cleanup mode prior to doing a spring refresh on cupboards and fridge – one of many steps of renewal we take during Lent. Right now I am targeting cheese. 

Following a busy holiday season I’ve realized we were giving safe harbour to far too much cheese. I’m willing to eat cheese, but it does contain a large amount of fat – and so should be eaten sparingly, if at all. Since we are also frugal eaters and shoppers, though, I see no sense in throwing away perfectly good food. Better to eat it up and then simply cut down or stop our purchases.

Hence, today’s lunch was more tasty lentil pasta, tossed with sage, celery, and a creamy cheese sauce. No packaged macaroni dinners for us, when in the time it takes to cook the pasta, one can make a tasty sauce:

In a nonstick or smooth, easy to clean pan, melt 2 T (30ml) butter and stir in 2 chopped stalks of celery and a few chopped herbs – we had sage left over from another dish. 

Sprinkle in 1-2 T (40ml) white flour and stir until it sort of coats everything but doesn’t brown. Add 1/2c (125ml) milk (1% for us but even skim will do as cheese provides more than enough fat). Then add grated cheese – max 2 oz or 60 g per person. Stir over low heat until the sauce bubbles, then mix in your cooked pasta. Serve with a grind of pepper or some freshly grated nutmeg.


Something from nothing…

The fridge is starting to look a little bare as we get ready for a cleanup and refresh. Whether it’s because you’re going away, there’s a change of season, or your cupboards and fridge just need a good sorting, it helps cut down on waste if you take one day a week to cook just with what’s on hand. 

Here’s what I saw that needed to be used:

3 homemade sourdough buckwheat buns – I keep these in the freezer because with whole grains and no preservatives they spoil easily.

Sundried tomatoes in oil – bought for a recipe; I prefer the dry-packed, as they keep longer without electricity.

Green olives – good for martinis but alas, we are out of gin.

A can of tuna in water.

Kozlik’s Tripke Crunch mustard, which I love but which has, of late, been ignored in favour of Old Smokey.

Some cheese bought “off list” on last week’s market excursion and needing to be finished off.

I chopped the tomatoes and olives, mixed with the tuna and mustard, and spread this on the buns (sliced in half). Next I grated the cheese and put it on top, popping under the broiler just until melt-y.

That’s it! Another weekend use-it-up assignment complete:



Call them what you will, one of the best ways to stretch your grocery bill is to incorporate leftovers or things that need using up into your lunch. 

We’re off to run a couple of errands before the Super Bowl and we were smart enough not to eat the two extra lamb chops in the grocery store package (on sale last week and held in the freezer). We broiled the lot last night and sliced the leftovers for lunch. They’re served on a bed of local baby greens and cukes, both hothouse-grown.

For the dressing:

1/4 c / 60ml homemade wine vinegar

2T / 30ml olive oil

1oz / 30g crumbled feta

1T / 15ml Dijon

1T / 15ml dried oregano or basil 

6 dry-cured olives, chopped

Sprinkle on top:

1T / 15ml chopped sundried tomatoes 

Inspired DIY for Breakfast

You might look at this bowl and see fruit, or delicious walnuts, or cinnamon. I, however, see yogurt. It’s yogurt I made myself. 

I’ve been contemplating making my own yogurt for ages. The time was never right. I wasn’t organized, or finished off the yogurt, or didn’t have enough milk when the urge struck. But finally, I found my moment. Inspired by my friend from the Interwebs, The Zero Waste Chef, I decided to give it a go. I read lots of different recipes and methodologies. Most involved some convoluted method for keeping the yogurt warm without using a yogurt-maker. The beginning part was similar for most, but here’s what I did:

Heat milk to 180 degrees, stirring all the while. (I used about 3/4 of a 1L jar that I planned to used to store it in). Each expert differed on milk. Some wanted whole milk only. We drink 1% when we drink milk. I used that.

Now, cool it down to 110.

As I understand it, this helps break down the casein and makes the milk more “fermentation friendly”.

I poured it into an overnight-rated Thermos – the kind that is supposed to keep your food hot for a very long time. To this I added about 1/3 cup or 75ml of yogurt with active cultures – the kind we usually buy. Plain. No additives or preservatives. Then I called it, gave it a shake, and let it sit all day. 

At dinner time I peeked in, with some trepidation. It looked yogurt-y. It was thick enough that it was hard to pour from the Thermos. It wasn’t as smooth as a commercial variety, but it definitely tasted like yogurt. This morning, some of it was breakfast. No sugar added, just fruit that was frozen in season, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and some chopped walnuts. Probably this was the most chemistry fun I’ve had since learning the orange juice volcano.

Foods of Canada, Sunday Edition…

 With Canada Day just a few days away, local foods are on my mind. Also, I expect this will be the last year for this country-sized veg garden, so we are making the most of the harvest. Today’s special: Rhubarb Maple Crisp.

Fill your dish with sliced rhubarb, and drizzle lightly with maple syrup.

For the topping, mix melted butter and syrup (about 1/3c of each) with 1/3c sliced almonds and enough rolled oats (large flake) to cover your dish – around 3c.

Bake in a 375 oven for 45-50 minutes, until the rhubarb is bubbling and cooked through, and the top is golden.

We served ours with some fat free plain yogurt, delicious and creamy. 


We're crazy for crisps…

English friends, full disclosure…not chips, or what you might call crisps. Fruit crisps are a summer dessert and breakfast staple. This one started with a layer of stewed rhubarb, although simply chopping with a little maple syrup would work well. Any summer fruit (or mixture) will do.

Put the fruit in a square pan. In a large bowl mix 1/4c melted butter, 1/4c maple syrup or brown sugar, 2c large flake rolled oats, and 1/3 c each of unsweetened coconut and walnuts. Change it up with nuts and seeds as you like. Add more oats until you have a consistency that’s not too wet and sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes for pre-cooked fruit or up to an hour for fresh fruit, until topping is nicely browned and fruit is soft and bubbling. A glass pan lets you see what’s going on underneath.

We served ours with a tasty yogurt topping but whipped cream, ice cream or nothing at all and it would still be divine. (1/2 c fat free plain yogurt mixed w 1t maple syrup and 1/2t vanilla is plenty for two).


Black Forest Smoothie is like dessert for breakfast.


The reward for today’s workout? Black Forest smoothie. All the flavours of the famous cake, in liquid form. Combine plain fat free yogurt, dark sweet cherries, fresh or frozen, and some milk in a blender with a heaping spoonful of hot chocolate mix. We used the sugar-free kind. Cocoa and honey would work as well. Blend until smooth and start your day with something sweet.

Tomme, Can You Hear Me?

We are so fortunate to have a French charcuterie in downtown Halifax. Thanks to Frederic and his team at Ratinaud, we are able to get many of our favourite cheeses and tasty treats. Today’s lunch is a traditional tuna melt with a twist – homemade rye bread on the bottom, and Tomme on top. We’ll take that over a plastic cheese slice any day!


Leftovers for Breakfast

After a fast walking round of golf on a hilly course yesterday, we were definitely hungry. So we took advantage of our garden produce and topped a whole wheat pizza crust (find out how in our recipes section) with a thin layer of homemade zucchini relish from our storag. Then a layer of spinach, chopped oregano, mushrooms, sliced radish, and green onions. A light sprinkle of feta and cheddar finished it – not so much that the veg would steam.

This morning the leftover slices made a great breakfast, topped with a perfectly poached egg.


Sometimes Simple is Best


We started the morning with a serious workout, so a heavy breakfast seemed to defeat the purpose. It was a great opportunity to continue our exploration of the treats we began socking away in the freezer last summer!

Blueberries! Quick frozen without sugar, they only take a few minutes to thaw. (Or a minute or so in the micro if you are really in a rush). Top these with some organic yogurt, plain and unsweetened. A sprinkle of cinnamon will trick your tongue into thinking there is sugar, and if you add the crunch of a tablespoon or two of chopped almonds (roasted without salt) it is like a breakfast parfait. Round it out with half an English muffin and some peanut butter for extra protein. Tasty, fast, go!