Old Recipes, New Tools

Hummus and VeggiesHave you ever purchased a new appliance, and found yourself looking for every possible way to use it? Last year it was the spiralizer (I admit the novelty wore off just a little, although I do have a spiral meal planned very soon); this year it’s my new blender from Blendtec.

I’ve been making homemade hummus for years, using my food processor. The processor is heavy and cumbersome to get out of the cupboard, but there isn’t room for it on the counter. In the old recipe, I started by mincing a couple of cloves of garlic and the zest of half a lemon in the processor. The Blendtec didn’t do much of a job of that – not enough volume, I guess. However since I had already started the job, I decided to press on.

To that I added:

3c cooked chickpeas (drain, but be sure to reserve the cooking water) – I cook a big batch without salt and I add cumin and garlic instead, then freeze them to have on hand whenever I need them.

The juice from the 1/2 lemon

More cumin to taste – about 10ml

10ml or a heaping teaspoon of tahini

I processed this at a medium-high speed in the blender, and then added most of the reserved cooking water until I got the consistency I liked.

It was creamy, smooth, and just the way our guests expected it to be – no perceptible difference in the end product, and I’ll be able to skip a step in the process.

It keeps very well in the fridge, has a fresh taste (no salt!) and can be frozen for up to 3 months if you have more than you can use.

It’s great served with veggies, pita slices, or spread in a sandwich with some sprouts.


Meal Planning 101

Just last week I was talking about meal plans, and how we need to give ourselves room to deviate, in order to accommodate fresh, local food. I stand by that. But the vast majority of the time, a meal plan will make your life a whole lot easier. By investing time once a week (or a couple of times a month, or monthly, to coincide with payday), you can plan meals that are healthier and easy to prepare. Think about what’s in season and buy local produce. Consider the specials, but limit your packaged and September Foodprepared foods. (Here’s my label primer so you can see why).

“What’s for Dinner?”

Even if you make most of the meals and shop for yourself, a meal plan can make it easier to shop. If you’ve got kids, a partner, a busy schedule, or weeknight commitments, it can help you map out the days when you need easier meals, versus those where you can spend a little more time. It will let you figure out how to incorporate things that are in your cupboards. It can also save you a lot of money, especially if you cook in batches that can be used for lunches or incorporated in multiple dishes throughout the week. Lastly, if your partner, your kids, your nanny, your roommates, or others share the cooking, a handy list on the fridge means you won’t always have to be thinking about (and answering), “What’s for Dinner?”

 Ready to Plan? Here’s what you’ll need, and some tools you can use…

  1. The household calendar for the week (You have one of those, right? It’s a one-stop calendar that lets you see everyone’s activities. If you don’t, maybe that should be this week’s activity).
  2. A quick inventory of what food you already have in the house. Look in your fridge, your cupboards, and your freezer – wherever you store your food. If you can’t find anything in there, make time to organize. Throw out anything expired. Write it down in three categories:
    1. Freezer
    2. Fresh and can spoil (produce, eggs, milk)
    3. Refrigerated or in the cupboard with a long shelf/fridge life
  3. Something to write the meal plan on. The easiest is to start by planning dinners, and this can be a simple sheet of paper, or a calendar. I like to track calories, so I’ve looked at apps like Paprika, software like Mastercook, as well as fitness apps like My Fitness Pal. Each of these has advantages, but what I know is this: You’re more likely to manage your calories, fibre, sugars, fat and salt well if you plan in advance (just like exercise) than if you try and log as you go. Over time I’ve developed a spreadsheet that works well for me.
  4. Get your laptop or a couple of good recipe books like How to Cook Everything VegetarianSave with Jamie; you might like an all-purpose website like Cooking Light.
  5. Start by choosing meals that include things you have in the house. Think about your dietary goals (Are you a vegan? Do you need a celiac/gluten-free diet? Or perhaps you’re just counting calories?) Make sure you consider what’s important, in advance. For our house, we rely on label reading for fibre and other nutrients; calories are what I count to maintain a healthy weight.

Now, make a plan for each day until the next payday or shopping day. Shopping only once per payday, with a midweek check on perishables, will keep you on track, save time, and mean you don’t spend every trip home from work with a mad side-trip to the grocery store. If one of your fresh foods needs to be used sooner, switch up the days so you don’t waste. Write it down and post it where everyone in the house can see it.

A simple plan for a week look something like this:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Breakfast Peanut Butter and Banana Toast Smoothie Poached Egg w avocado on sourdough Smoothie Cheese and fruit Smoothie Peach Muffins
Lunch Pear and walnut salad Tuna melt Monday leftovers Tuesday leftovers Wednesday leftovers Kitchen Sink Salad Lunch out
Dinner Pork tenderloin w winter slaw and boiled potatoes Celery and leek Gratin Carrot and chickpea soup Pork and mushroom stir fry with brown rice Pasta with Marinara and Kale Grilled Salmon Steaks with boiled potato and steamed broccoli Dinner with Friends

You can see we often try and cook once, use twice during the week – it saves money, time, and effort, and gives us a much more interesting and nutritious lunch than fast food or a sandwich. If someone is away at dinnertime, we can freeze their portion to make a nice lunch for another day, or incorporate it into soup or salad.

Happy, healthy eating!

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

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…

Possibly the world's easiest lunch…

Veggies with a light, fluffy hummus…

People always ask why our hummus tastes so good. It’s mainly from using home-cooked chickpeas, which have no salt. This lets the real flavour shine through, and also making it in the food processor gives a light and fluffy result.

We make a big batch of chickpeas and freeze, then pull out a container a few hours before we want to make this, or make some straight away. 

To cook the chickpeas:

Place dried chickpeas in a Dutch oven or casserole that is also stovetop safe. Why do extra dishes? They should fill no more than 1/3. Cover with 1-2″ water and soak overnight or all day while you are at work. How much water depends on how long the chickpeas have been hanging around, feeling parched.

Preheat oven to 250F

To cook, add more water to cover about an inch or the depth of the top segment of your thumb. Throw in a few peeled cloves of garlic, and a good shake of cumin. Bring to boil on top of the stove, cover, and put in the oven for 2-1/2 hours. 

Cool and use or freeze with their cooking liquid, or aquafaba.

To make the lunch: 

Buzz the zest of a lemon with  2 cloves garlic in a food processor. Add a couple of cups of chickpeas and liquid, the juice of the lemon, another good shake of cumin, and a tablespoon or so of tahini. Process until smooth and fluffy, adding a little water if necessary.


It's Crunch Time! 

As the cold weather dissipates and we don’t just move to a different choice set of produce, but preparation tends to change, as well. If you’re inspired to move away from creamy soups and hearty stews, but there’s still a mix of winter and spring produce available, this may fit the bill.

Layer a handful of arugula, a handful of sliced cabbage, 1/4 of an English cucumber, and 1/2 an apple, sliced, on a plate. Drizzle with a mix of 10ml grainy Mustard, 10ml vinegar, and 10ml olive oil (Or use half Dijon/half Kozlik’s Triple Crunch, for the mustard as we did).

Crumble an ounce of Gorgonzola or smoked tofu on top. Enjoy!

Tangy and Tasty…For Two!

This weekend we were treated to above-normal temperatures, and found an abundance of locally-grown greenhouse greens at the market. It put us in a salad sort of mood.

While some ingredients aren’t local, we have tried to strike a balance.

For two: 

In a large salad bowl, combine:

Zest and juice of one lemon

15ml/1T oil

10ml/2t Dijon mustard

(Did you know Canada was a world-leading producer of mustard seeds?)


1l/4c washed mini greens and herbs (parsley in our case)

1 diced avocado

1 diced zucchini 

2 cherry tomatoes

90g/3oz diced goat cheese 

Toss lightly and enjoy!

Now what???

We arrived home Tuesday night from beautiful San Francisco, after an exciting week of learning, volunteering to practice our skills, sightseeing, and eating and drinking lots of delicious food and wine. It was snow, rain, and freezing rain all around us when we woke up. Back to reality with a thump!

We’re pretty grateful de such opportunities – and to be back home – so no complaints. The fridge was pretty bare. We did hav lots of carrots, and some ginger and apples. There’s always a stock of broth on hand (pardon the pun). So before rushing out to shop, I considered what was at hand. Plenty of fixings for a tasty carrot soup. While I got ready for work, I chopped and roasted three large carrots at 400F with a quartered apple, a little walnut oil and some maple syrup (about a tablespoon or 15ml of each). It doesn’t matter if they are fully cooked – they’ll finish off in the soup. 

When you’re ready for soup, bring the carrots to the boil in a litre (4c) of water with 2 or 3 coin-sized pieces of fresh, peeled ginger. When the carrots are soft, purée the lot with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender. Add 2 cups of cooked chickpeas (or one can, drained) and stir over low heat, just until hot enough to eat. 

Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of fat free yogurt, or some fresh chopped herbs.

You Light up my Lunch…


Leftovers can be a great start to lunch, and using them up while they are top-of-mind is key to preventing them from becoming a science experiment at the back of your fridge. This is a salmon loaf from the classic Anne Lindsay cookbook, Lighthearted Everyday Cooking. Ours is an ancient dogeared copy, but it is still a wealth of easy, practical healthy recipes. 

We paired it with a slaw of grated carrot and shaved celery, dressed with a mix of equal parts Dijon, light mayo, and rice vinegar. 

Feast for a winter's day…


We spent a chilly morning remembering the Halifax Explosion and firefighters at the Line of Duty ceremony this morning. Traditions help us remember where we’ve come from and appreciate where we are going.

Food is another way we connect to our world – today we are having a smorgasbord of flavours – some old, some new. Delicious French cheeses – Tomme and Reblechon – from our friends at Ratinaud, along with a rabbit rilette. They’re an example of the wonderful community that has grown up in Halifax’s North End since the disaster, showing the resilience of community.

Olives, and some homemade Lebanese pickled turnip added tang and zip. We added apples and grapes for freshness. Homemade rye bread, creamy mashed turnip, and leftover beet risotto for warmth (and because we are above all, frugal).

So beyond being grateful for delicious food, we are grateful to be sitting in our warm house, and not shivering in the cold like our predecessors 97 years ago, when the world’s largest pre-nuclear explosion had rocked Halifax. Thousands were killed and rendered homeless. We are truly grateful, and we will always remember.