Fuel Up! Keep Your Body and Mind in Shape…

When you start to think of food as fuel, instead of comfort, you re-evaluate what you eat all the time. Salty, sugar-y treats don’t look so appealing any more. But in a busy life, it can be difficult to figure out what to cook. One of my go-to dishes when I’ve had a long, stressful day is homemade pizza. We make the whole thing ourselves, starting with the crust. Here’s how:

Turn on your oven to 425F so it will be ready.

In a measuring cup, put 3/4c of warm water with 1t of maple syrup or sugar, if that’s what you have. Sprinkle with 1T of yeast and let it rest. I sit mine on the stove since that will be giving off some warmth. While that happens, relax. Have a glass of water. Check your Facebook. Read a blog. Give yourself a little neck massage. Put away some laundry. Whatever.

Next, stir the yeast mixture and pour into a medium bowl. Sprinkle in some oregano, hot sauce or smoky paprika for  flavour. If you don’t have any, no worries! It’s good plain. Add whole wheat flour, stirring in with a fork in a circular motion, a little at a time until it begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Then sprinkle a little flour on the counter, dump the dough on that, sprinkle with a tiny bit more, and knead a couple of times to form a ball (not for ages, maybe a minute at most).

Spray the bowl with cooking spray or oil it lightly, and put your dough ball back in. Cover with a tea towel and put it in a warm place (like the top of the stove) to rise for 10 minutes.

Put a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. This will save you cleanup time! Pat the dough out to the size of the pan on the parchment, using floured hands to keep from sticking. Top lightly. For this one we used 1/2c marinara, a few sliced mushrooms, and a diced red pepper. If you eat dairy, add cheese – 2oz of feta and 2oz of manchego. That’s it! Bake for 18 minutes, cool slightly, and serve. For two, you can do 6 slices, and save 2 for breakfast. Ready in less time than to select, order, and wait for delivery. The best part? When you get up as early as this to fit in a walk the next morning…

…when you come back home for breakfast, those extra slices will be waiting. Great topped with a poached egg! Feeling grateful, hope you are as well.

Meal Plan – Week 2 – and A New Recipe Experiment

So here we are, week two. Some weeks there is more time to make a detailed meal plan, involving all three meals. Realistically, though, our breakfasts are similar – smoothie or oatmeal, sometimes granola, and the occasional egg dish. Lunches generally consist of a salad, some soup (made ahead and frozen or in the fridge), or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. So we just made a list of dinners which we know by heart, or can easily find in a recipe book or favourite website.

Here’s the list:

Chili-stuffed squash

Mushroom and lentil cottage pie

Fish risotto

Lamb stew

Country captain chicken

Salmon patties

Homemade pizza

Once again we took stock of what was already in the house (the acorn squash needed to be used up from the holidays, although it will keep almost indefinitely in a cool place – and you might remember the veggie chili from a few days ago, leftover in the freezer). We needed some refreshing in the fridge – greens, salad stuff. We had used up the potatoes, and there was no lamb for the stew or fish for the risotto. Otherwise, most things were on hand.

We also tried this with squash recently, from one of our go-to sites, Cooking Light. It’s very searchable, by ingredient, name, or cooking method, and also, downloadable to apps like Paprika. We did make some adaptations to the recipe, since we hate dirtying extra dishes. First, we chopped the bacon, and put it on the parchment along with the squash rings. It was perfectly done at the same time as the rest of the recipe. Our rating? Delicious! (Also, since we don’t want to waste food, we baked all the leftover squash bits, sprayed with oil and sprinkled with chili powder, on a separate tray to be used in other recipes).

Thanks for visiting! Do you have meal planning challenges you wrestle with, or problems in using things you meant to make, but didn’t? I love to find novel ways to use up things that didn’t quite fit the plan.

We Grew 1001 Balcony Tomatoes (OK, Quite a Few)

fresh tomatoes Fresh, ripe tomatoes, warm off the vine. You might think you need a plot of land, or at least a large-ish garden to make this happen, but we have been happily surprised with the productivity of our condo garden this first year. We have planters on our balcony, as well as a metre-square plot in the building’s communal roof garden (a yard, if you’re using imperial measures).

We’ve been incorporating fresh tomatoes into our menu for a couple of weeks now, and have even canned a couple of jars. Small-batch canning is easy cooking tomatoesenough; you really just need a big poaching eggs in tomatopot of boiling water that is deeper than your canning jars. I’ll blog about that another time.

Today’s recipe is for a favourite breakfast of ours. Simply chop a big bunch of tomatoes. Add herbs if you like; we had a bit of basil and also a smoky chipotle in adobo which we chopped and put in the pot. Get the tomatoes really simmering. Once you’ve got them bubbling away, crack in a few eggs, one or two per person. I find the easiest way to do this is to crack them one at a time into a small bowl or cup, and gently pour into the tomatoes. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to medium-low, and check every couple of minutes until they are poached as you like. (Probably 5 or 6 minutes). Typically this is just enough time to make some toast.

This is an easy lunch or brunch dish, or a hearty, healthy, low-fat breakfast.

Eggs tomatoes and sourdough

Sourdoughlicious!

Whole Wheat Sourdough LoavesI don’t buy store bread, typically, except the occasional pitas or wraps. I make bread once a week and that’s more than enough for the two of us, even if we have dinner guests. Lately, I’ve really been on a sourdough kick – inspired by Michael Pollan’s Cooked.

The idea of bread that rises without the use of commercial yeast appeals to a person like me, who loves inventing things, and wanted to grow up to be an astronaut.  Combine that with my search for the perfect technique that combines my commitment to using as much whole-grain flour as possible, with getting great crust, a moist interior, and that elusive “spring” where the interior forces itself through the slash as it bakes in the oven, and you can imagine lots of sourdough-baking in my future.

Unlike the precision of, say, cake baking, sourdough isn’t so much a recipe as a science experiment (albeit a tasty one). I don’t typically use a recipe so much as check out other bakers’ successful tips and then work at adapting it until it feels right. I’ve used different versions, but for starters I would suggest you check out Anne Marie’s (the Zero Waste Chef). Check out her other incredible, helpful, and sometimes edible posts, also.

You might also like the post specially-designed for beginners from The Perfect Loaf. He has many, many versions of sourdough – which makes me slightly fearful of my eventual fate, having embarked on this journey.

The most interesting thing I’ve noted is that both the examples provided by these excellent bakers seemed lately to be unduly wet. Sourdough afficionados will tell you the dough should be wet, but I’m talking ridiculously wet, almost like soup. Yet it didn’t start out that way at the autolyse stage, nor during the folding. It seemed to happen during the bulk fermentation. What I’ve realized is that, being a typical Toronto summer, it is much more humid than it was in the spring, and definitely more than the winter. So I think the dough is absorbing more moisture from the air. The other day it was 60% humidity inside, with the air conditioning turned on. So I’m learning to adjust for that.

Anyway, each loaf has turned out very well, some better than others. This pair of loaves have been a real treat, as you can see! I hope you’ll share your favourite way to use sourdough bread.

PB Toast Scrambled Egg Sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast Luxury

…or perhaps, lax-ury? This morning’s omelette is filled with a decadent mixture of asparagus, mushrooms, onion, and baby potato slices. It is tasty enough on its own, so the two thin slices of thyme and pepper gravlax on the side make it extra special. It’s more of a method than a recipe, but here’s what to do, for two:

Snap the tough ends off the asparagus and cut the good bits into 1″/2.5cm lengths. Thinly slice 1/4c or 60ml mild white onion. Add to this, 6 sliced mushrooms and 2 thinly sliced baby potatoes. Stir the whole thing together in a nonstick pan over medium heat until nicely cooked. Now, pour in three beaten eggs, and turn the heat to medium-low. Lift the edges with a spatula, letting the uncooked egg run underneath. Fold in thirds and cut in half to serve.

We bought our gravlax from De La Mer on the Danforth; look for gravlax at a good fishmonger near you.

Eat Veggies Any Way You Can!

  
We’re well into the first week of 2016 and always looking for ways to get a few more plants into the diet, and to waste less.

Today’s feature? An open-face, use-it-up omelette. It features leftover salad and some unfinished quark, but cottage cheese and any leftover veg would work. For two:

2c/500 ml leftover veg, sautéed in a lightly oiled pan

Lightly beat 3 large eggs and pour over.

Start some rye or whole wheat toast if desired.

Top omelette with 1/3 – 1/2 c quark or low fat cottage cheese and cook over low heat until golden on the bottom.

Fold and serve with toast, comme ça:

  

Any meal, anytime…how can I use THIS up?

  
For us, today is meal-planning and market day. We mostly plan dinners, eating leftovers the following day, or a salad or soup. At the end of the week we take stock: what didn’t we make? What made too much and needs to be used up?

Last week we tried a recipe for bacon and leek risotto. Even reducing the arborio by half, it was more than a meal’s worth for the two of us. So we tucked away the leftovers in the fridge with all good intentions. Here we are, Saturday, and that little package of risotto either must be used or thrown away. Sure, it could form the basis of a creamy rice soup. Or it could get buried in some casserole, or formed into patties and browned until slightly crisp on the outside, given that it has absorbed the liquid and sort of, well, solidified. But all that seemed boring. 

What about breakfast? I sautéed an onion, four mushrooms and a stalk of celery (all sliced or diced) with any leftover fresh herbs from the fridge, chopped. Then I tipped in the risotto (about a cup, for two) and a chopped tomato that was on its last day. A quick stir, and then I cracked in two eggs. On low heat with a lid, it took just 5 more minutes for a tasty medium poached breakfast bowl to be ready for each of us.

A grind of pepper on top and we are off to a healthy, happy start to our weekend!

DIY Delicious…

It’s everywhere! Messages touting packaged foods that will make my life easier and, it’s suggested, better. Truly, I can’t imagine how. Cooking delicious food is absolutely satisfying. Fortunately, there are lots of counter-messages out there, including those from Michael Pollan (“Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) And I credit my fellow blogger and Twitter sister, Anne-Marie Bonneau, aka the Zero Waste Chef, with an inspiring house rule,  which I’ll paraphrase as “Sure, you can have that treat, but you have to find a recipe and make a homemade version”.

In our family we are very fortunate to have raised kids who can both cook and bake. They experiment with their own recipes. Adults now, we are provided with delicious things to eat whenever we visit their homes. Do yourself and your family a favour, and make something from scratch this weekend. Your health will thank you.

  

This is how we roll…

  
Buns? Or rolls? Growing up we called them hamburger rolls. But now that we are more selective about what we eat, our favourites are these whole wheat sun dried tomato rolls.

They’re great on their own, or filled with cheese, hummus, or a burger. This morning we filled them with home grown greens (lettuce, mustard, romaine, beet, kale) and a couple of slices of tomato. Then we added a soft cooked egg, some sharp cheddar, and a smear of Dijon. Magic!

  Q

No Toast? Try Rost(i)…

Not wanting to heat up the kitchen to make bread, potatoes were just the ticket for today’s breakfast. We’re keeping an eye on the Open Championship while we catch up on our reading.

To make this:   

We grated two potatoes and chopped some greens, green onions, and herbs from our garden. In a well seasoned or nonstick pan with just a touch of olive oil, we cooked them until they were getting golden. A flip (messy is okay) and we added an egg for each. Once more over easy, we served them with some avocado and tomato, and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. They were, in a word, the breakfast of Champions.