I'm Feeling a Bit Crunchy!

Wow! It’s been ages since our last post. It’s because of work – too much of it all at once. But who can turn down exciting challenges and opportunities? Now there’s time to relax, but first I’ll have to get the kinks out – and eat some proper food.

When we’re feeling a little crunchy and out-of-sorts, we like to have a nice batch of fresh vegetables. These radishes and cukes were from the East Lynn Farmers Market. We dressed them with a little cider vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil, and some black sesame seeds.

Feeling better already!

When Grandma Made Burgers, She Said the Future was in Plastic

We had burgers and dogs yesterday – the classic barbecue dinner. Delicious dogs, and our own homemade burger mix, served on whole wheat buns.

For the burgers, we started with some lean ground beef (Royal’s is awesome, and when Christmas rolls around, we can’t wait to introduce you to their Tourtiere Mix).

Finely dice a shallot or some green onions (featured on the urban farm this week). Add a sprinkling of dry mustard, a few bread crumbs or a tablespoon or two of oat bran or rolled oats. Next, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then an egg and a splash of milk. Mix it all together and shape into patties. We love using an old-school Tupperware burger press to get a consistent shape, and if you put it on a kitchen scale, you can also make sure they’re all the same size for even cooking. (If you go to the link you’ll see the modern-day iteration, but ours has lasted forever!).

Serve the burgers and dogs with your favourite salad…summertime goodness!

Farmers' Market Season has Arrived!

Now I know summer is really going to get here! The East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market is finally open.

Clearly the farmers have had the same problems we’ve had with the garden – cool temperatures, and not enough sun. But there were a few early veggies to be had, and some rhubarb. As for us, we bought a delicious looking rack of lamb from the Belanger brothers, Peter & Josh. By the time we arrived their veg were pretty well sold out.

We also swung by Montforte and picked up some cheese – oh, what a surfeit of delicious dairy flavours. Today we went for an oozing packet of ripe deliciousness (camembert?) with herbs, and some nice hard cheese for grating.

Last stop, Better Bulk for some whole wheat flour – gotta get some bread going before the heat returns. It’s going to be a tasty week.

Salade Huron-coise

So what did we do with the remaining Glazed Lake Huron Char? We made a delicious Salade Nicoise – that is, Salade Huron-coise!

There was a leftover red potato, so we cut that up, along with the remaining fillet.

Some greens, a few steamed haricots verts, a boiled egg, some capers and olives, and we were nearly set. For the dressing, a tablespoon each of lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, and a sprinkle of lemon pepper.

So good!

Our Slow Braised Days are Nearly Over

In our haste to jump back into salads, and grilled foods, and things that are hot-weather-friendly, let us give thanks for those spring days when the weather turns chilly, and the skies are overcast. They give us a chance to take one final kick at slow-braised food, before the oven overheats the kitchen too much to be bearable.

This happened last Saturday (I know, I’m falling behind…) and I had just been out for the walk and discovered some amazing (and economical) turkey legs. A few veg and spices, a little time and care, and one of the most comforting dinners I could imagine was ready to go.

PS – don’t throw away the broth! It’s a great soup starter!

Magic Beans!

Easy vegetarian meals often call for canned beans. But in our efforts to watch our weight, we started to learn a lot more about label reading. One thing we’re really careful about is sodium – it makes a huge difference! A rule of thumb we learned was to read the calories per serving on the nutrition label. Then, if the milligrams of sodium per serving is higher than the calorie count, avoid it! Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately it’s the dirty secret of lots of canned foods – they have a lot of sodium. Even healthy choices like beans or soups are a problem. So we make our own beans now, on days when we’re busy working around the house, doing chores, laundry, or whatever. A few weeks ago we made some black-eyed peas…and they’re the star of today’s recipe. We grabbed a one-cup tub out of the freezer at breakfast time and let it thaw for the day…

Then we started dinner by putting some whole wheat pasta on to cook in a big pot of unsalted water. (Two ounces or 60g of dried whole wheat pasta per person is plenty!)

Then, while the past cooks…start a little onion (one small one) and garlic (two cloves) in a couple of teaspoons (10ml) of chili oil. We also chopped in a sweet, sweet pepper we picked up at Plank Road, around the corner. Next, some sliced mushrooms for texture, just rinsed and sliced. Keep stirring as you add the veg.

After the pepper, a good big handful of spinach, washed and chopped, and a diced fresh  tomato go in the pot. Put the lid on, and turn heat to low for about 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.

Finally, it’s time for the beans. Dump them into the pan, along with about a tablespoon (15 ml) of pesto (check the types and buy the one with the least sodium!) . Pop the lid back on and simmer all of this until it is bubbling hot and ready to receive the pasta – just a few minutes should do. Then tip in the pasta, stir, sprinkle with a little cayenne, and lid the pan again. Let it simmer over very low heat for the flavours to meld.

Finally, when the flavours have had a chance to come together, serve! If you want, shave a little sharp cheddar on top, but you won’t need too much. An ounce or so should do between the two plates (that’s about 30 grams). Happy eating!

Mmm…Yeasty Goodness

My bread obsession knows no bounds. This batch, just getting ready for the second rising, is whole wheat. When I was a kid, my grandmother would make most of our bread – sometimes every day. I would have preferred the squishy white bread that some of the other kids had in their lunches. I didn’t know how good I had it!

On the left is my “fancy loaf”. Most of the recipes I make yield four loaves, allowing a more energy-efficient use of the oven (and the bread-making hands). So I always do something special with at least one. In this case, when shaping the loaf, I sprinkled in oregano and snippets of sundried tomato. Then I also sprinkled a little oregano on top. Perfect for a savory accompaniment to some cold-day food.

Sure, the bread-making tends to fall off a little in the summer when it gets too hot. But as much as possible, I prefer to make my own rather than buy it in a store. I guess my grandmother was a pretty smart cookie after all! (And speaking of cookies…naw, let’s save that for another time).

Leftovers for Lunch

Chili Braised Beef and Kitchen Sink SaladOne of the things about shopping and eating as locally as possible is (1) you need to learn to menu plan and (2) you have to be willing to adjust the menu plan.

We were all set to have a nice big Kitchen Sink Salad (more on this later!) for lunch today, because we’re working in the home office. But we had this great Chili Braised Beef  last night, and there was some left over. You can’t just let a batch of slow-cooked deliciousness go to waste, so we halved the salad and used up the reheated beef. I admit it isn’t quite as pretty as yesterday…but like chili, it sure tastes great on the second day.

Now as for the Kitchen Sink Salad, it’s just what it sounds like – a big bowl of vegetable yumminess. Here’s what we featured today:

Start with the dressing – an acid, some mustard, and oil. In our case, the zest and juice of 1/2 an orange, 15ml/1 tbsp. sesame oil, and 15ml / 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard. Whisk this together. Then I grated in 1/2 a red and 1/2 a yellow heritage carrot I bought at Kelly’s. Next, some artisanal lettuce – curly endive and a bit of butter lettuce. There was a bit of broccoli – not enough for two, but enough for salad. I steamed it for a minute to take the edge off the crunch, but when I’m in a hurry I’ll just chop it a bit more. Peel and dice the remainder of the orange, and throw in a few black sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and almonds for good measure.

Toss it all together and start imagining – you can change the ingredients every time. Beans instead of nuts – sure! Vinegar instead of orange? Why not? Olive oil, or canola…yum!