Are you Egging me On?

Everywhere we walk, we’re seeing eggs. Real eggs. Wooden eggs. Easter eggs. Wreaths of crazy-coloured plastic eggs. Tis the season!

I used to struggle with egg-making, but a couple of wise women taught me everything I needed to know about boiled eggs. First, a disclaimer: I know that some people are not too keen on soft-boiled eggs. We grew up eating them, and we’re a-okay. But if you have a compromised immune system, or you’re pregnant, or elderly, or feeding eggs to a child under six, food safety experts suggest hard-boiled eggs are safest.

For a soft-boiled egg, place the egg in a pot of boiling water, and cook 6-7 minutes until the whites are completely set and the yolk is soft but heated through. (Sorry, if I could figure out how you could tell without sacrificing an egg, I’d let you know). For hard boiled, ten minutes should do the trick. Store cooked, hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for up to a week.

Make Yourself Comfortable

Sometimes comfort food is what you need. I’d put tuna sandwiches on the menu plan, but it was a cold day. There were too many things on my plate.

Earlier in the week we had picked up some delicious Black River Cheddar at Better Bulk. It is creamy, crumbly, sharp, and completely awesome. It’s the kind of cheddar that makes anything better!

The melts started with some toasted whole wheat bread. For the topping (makes enough for four slices): 1 can of water-pack tuna, 1 tomato, diced, and a tablespoon or 15ml each of Dijon and light mayo. If you have some herbs, by all means, chop them in. I used dill. Mix this and put on the bread, on a broiler-proof pan. Grate on some cheddar. Under the broiler til bubbly, and you’re set. Don’t forget the pickle!

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!

When The Weather Outside is Frightful…

A few days ago we were meandering down the street, coming up with new walkable feasts. The weather was mild, though windy. It seemed like spring was finally on its way. When we arrived home we raked up the garden and started prepping for the day when our urban farm will be ready for transplanting.

Then, overnight, pow! Cold, gray drizzle. Bitter winds. Wetness all around. The walkable part didn’t seem quite so tempting. On top of that, we had a meeting to attend, so we needed dinner in a hurry! When that happens, Piperade to the rescue. Whether you need a quick meal with ingredients you probably have on hand, something to feed unexpected brunch guests, or a substitute for your meal plan when it’s suddenly no longer barbecue weather, Piperade is a great choice.

Real Food to Start Your Day

oats spelt apples cinnamon walnuts raisinsOK, so the yogurt and berry breakfast from earlier this week was good. But it’s drizzling outside. The wind is blowing. We need something to keep us going! If you’re working out, you need protein for re-building. If you’re losing weight, you need fibre. This delicious breakfast gives you some of each.

We started with a mixture of rolled oats and rolled spelt (but any large flake oatmeal will work just fine). For breakfast for two, put 3/4 of a cup or 175ml of these grains in a microwavable casserole. Add a tablespoon or so (15 ml) each of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, as well as chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts are great with apple). Dice in an apple (don’t peel, just wash it well). Then put in 30 ml or 2 tbsp. of raisins or dried cranberries or cherries. Don’t have those? Chop up some prunes, or dried apricots.

Sprinkle the whole thing with a teaspoon or so (5 ml) of cinnamon. Add 1-1/2 cups or 375 ml of water.

Our microwave has an automatic setting for oatmeal, so I just “fire it up”. Otherwise, cook on high for 5 minutes, then another 3-5 minutes at medium, depending on the power of your microwave. It’s easy. (Even though it’s April 1st, we’re not fooling!)

Divide into bowls. Top with a little brown sugar or maple syrup or honey (about 5 ml or a teaspoon each). Add half a cup or more of milk or soy milk or rice milk.


But What About Breakfast?

Better Bulk, aka "The Bulky"We were at Better Bulk (aka around our house as “The Bulky”) the other day and picked up some awesome Hewitt’s yogurt. We started buying their skim milk yogurt a couple of years ago when the two of us collectively lost 60 pounds on the “eat less move more” diet.

When we first started eating it, we would add honey. But we’ve found this and a few other organic yogurts are so creamy and delicious, they don’t really need a sweetener, just some fruit and other tasty additions.

strawberries in bowlsWe start with about 1/2 a cup (125 ml) of sliced strawberries.  They usually have some at Jerry’s, or Kelly’s, or Plank Road Market. Then we add 1/2 cup or 125 ml of the yogurt.

Top each serving with a sprinkling of cinnamon – it tricks your myogurt and strawberries topped with nuts and cinnamonouth into tasting “sweet”. Sprinkle with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or chopped nuts (a tablespoon or two – 15 to 30 ml – altogether). To round out your breakfast, have half a whole-wheat English muffin with some crunchy peanut butter. A delicious healthy way to start the day!

Oven Baked Fish and Chips

Oven baked fish and chipsWe had some frozen fish in the freezer, and there were some great red potatoes on sale down the street. What better than oven baked fish and chips. Now agreed, if you like that fried, delicious batter, these fish fillets are different. But they’re good. And they’re healthy. And they are way faster to prepare than it takes me to walk to the fish and chip place! (Bonus, I can watch t.v. or read a couple of chapters or knit or talk on the phone while they cook).

End of Season Vegetarian Chili

The long, cold winter is finally winding down. Mostly this is a time for jubilation. For celebration because spring is finally on our way (the tomato plants are started for the urban farm)! However it’s also a chance to enjoy that classic winter warmer: chili. This vegetarian chili is a great option on a meatless meal day, or if you’re a vegetarian. For us, it wouldn’t be the same without cornmeal muffins – a classic cornbread taste in an easy-to make format. If you have leftovers, they freeze beautifully – but good luck getting them to the freezer before the snackers get to them!

Want to save on sodium? Use beans you’ve cooked yourself, and frozen, without salt. The kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas in this recipe all started their journey to our house from Better Bulk (see our blogroll!)

Taking Stock

If you really want to save money and eat healthier foods, make your own stock! Most bouillon cubes or even organic pre-packaged stocks contain a lot of salt, as a preservative. If you use the rule-of-thumb that a packaged food shouldn’t have more milligrams of sodium than it does calories, you might be disappointed when you read the label of your favourite prepared stock.

Stock-making is simple. One trick I learned from Ken Kostick. He suggested that as you peel carrots, onions, take the stems off aromatic herbs, and so on, that you should put them in a zipper bag in the freezer. (Give them a rinse first!) When the bag is full, it’s time to make stock. Sometimes I roast this mixture, other times I just use it “as is”. I like to use one of those pasta pots with the strainer-type liner, just to make it extra easy.

Put the vegetables in the bottom of the pot. Cover with cold water. If you haven’t used too many herbs during the week (really?) add some dried herbs – tarragon is nice, or savory, bay leaves…or some minced ginger is good, too. Bring this mixture to the boil on top of the stove and then turn down to a simmer, so it’s just slowly bubbling along. Let it simmer while you watch a favourite television show, or do a load of laundry, whatever. Check now and then so it doesn’t boil over.

Let it cool, and strain or if you use a pot like I do, lift out the liner. Package it up in convenient sized containers and store in the freezer. If you make some up in ice-cube trays, you can use those for times when you just need a tiny amount.

More on meat and fish stocks, another day. If you don’t feel like using this stock today…save it til tomorrow, throw in some cooked beans or chickpeas, onions, and whatever vegetables take your fancy. Simmer for half an hour or so, add a handful of whole-wheat pasta and simmer til tender and voila…delicious vegetable soup!