Community Equals Connection

Recently our neighbourhood came together for an annual spring event, the Big Park Cleanup (in fact the whole community gets cleaned, as much as we can). Many hands made light work, and Regent Park looked even better when we were done. We had volunteer photographers, like Mark Shapiro, we were well fed by the Regent Park Catering Collective, and community facilitator and animator Barb Brook and volunteer Leonard Swartz organized us in grand fashion, just to mention a few.

Tonight many of us will come together again for our bi-monthly community potluck – the theme this month is gardening. Can’t wait to try all the delicious food! (Hmm…do you sense a theme here?) It’s at the Daniels Spectrum, 6:30pm. See you there!

How do I Find A…in Regent Park?

Dive In!Regent Park is a neighbourhood in transition – where new residents are meeting and mingling with folks who have lived here for a very long time. So some of us newcomers, like me, are finding our way around to the services, people, and places that surround us.

One of the places to connect is our amazing aquatic centre – with this friendly guy at the entrance. There are lots of other opportunities to connect also; all you have to do is dive in! (Yes, I’ve been known to like a pun or two).

Today, for example, and every Wednesday for the summer, you can get an amazing, tasty meal for only four bucks at Regent Park. Just show up around 6pm, and buy a ticket from the folks in the Community Food Centre booth. Get in line, and be prepared for something delicious (last week it was rice, lentils, curry beef, and salad – tasty!) While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the vendors on site, selling fresh bread, Ethiopian coffee, and lots of other treats.

One more great way to get involved in the RPNA Logoneighbourhood is the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association, or RPNA. You can also find the RPNA on Facebook, or follow what’s happening on Twitter. There are lots of amazing people to meet, with tremendous community spirit, and whether you want to simply find out what’s going on, to communicate with others who live in this fantastic community, or you need to find where to get a…well, you name it, the Neighbourhood Association’s got a place for you.

So come and visit, or if you live here, walk around – there’s so much to see and do. And if you’re so inclined, follow my WalkEatLive blog, or my tweets where I talk about places to walk and sightsee; healthy, fresh-made food; or other stories about the way we live and get the most out of life.

Serendipity Dinner

In an effort to use up last year’s batch of canned tomatoes before the new ones are ripe, we made a huge pot of marinara on the weekend. Some has gone to the freezer, but the mother of all sauces is so versatile, it’s getting used in all kinds of dishes. Yesterday, pizza toast for lunch. Then on a stroll to Plank Road for a chicken breast big enough for two, we spotted these luscious two-colour egg noodles. They went perfectly with the chicken…which we cooked in a 400F oven for about 40 minutes. Here’s what was in the pot: 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 carrot and one yellow bell pepper, diced. Five large white mushrooms, quartered. 1 cup/250ml of marinara. Cover and bake.

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I'm Hot and Cold on this Lunch!

On Wednesday we had a very interesting lunch. It started as a recipe from Cooking Light, except we didn’t use any of the same ingredients. Theirs called for Serrano Ham, Manchego, sourdough bread and arugula. Instead, our quick trip in the rain and wind to Plank Road yielded multigrain bread, prosciutto, and Crotonese cheese. All good, nonetheless. On the bottom, a piece of toasted multigrain was spread with grainy mustard and just a little mayo. On top of this, the ham, and a grating of cheese. All that was heated under the broiler, then topped with some mizuna picked from our garden, a sliced apple, and a little grainy mustard vinaigrette (using Triple C from Kozlik’s).

Tomatoes, and More Tomatoes…What Next?

September is tomato-canning month. After putting up dozens of jars of diced and ground tomatoes, salsa, and sauce, we still had more tomatoes that needed to be used. We were incorporating them into breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Here, some tasty huevos are nestled in a spicy tomato stew – a great way to add some zip at the start (or end) of your day.

Lightly saute a diced onion and a couple of hot peppers (we got these ones from our garden, but the selection is wonderful these days at local farmer’s markets). Then dice 2 or 3 large, juicy tomatoes and add them to the pot. Reduce the heat and simmer until the onions are soft. Crack in a couple of eggs for each serving, cover the pan, and continue to cook until the eggs are just set.

We at ours with a side of homemade multigrain toast.

It's World Food Day. Do You Know Where Your Food Came From?

We love being lucky enough to walk out in our neighbourhood to buy food. Sometimes it’s from small shops where we know the proprietors and they know the source of the food they’re selling. Other times, we’re lucky enough to get it direct from the farmers. Even luckier, is that we’re never truly hungry.

Today groups around the world are celebrating World Food Day. We’ll be giving thanks for the food we have, and doing our part to support our local food bank. We hope you will, too.

Pass the Pesto…

Well, although we had a warm, sunny Thanksgiving, it will turn chilly soon enough. So we’ve been busy gathering what we can from the garden, preserving, freezing, drying and cooking the fruits of our labours so we can enjoy them all winter long.

With a bumper crop of basil, we decided to make some pesto. Here’s what you do:

In the food processor, chop some garlic (1-3 cloves, as you prefer it). Then add a couple of good handfuls of basil leaves, about 1/3 cup of walnuts, and a couple of ounces of parmesan cheese, freshly ground. Traditionalists use pine nuts, but walnuts are always easier to find, especially in the fall. Besides, they appeal to our frugal natures. Pulse it until it’s coarsely chopped, then, with the food processor running, pour extra virgin olive oil in the spout until it reaches a thick, saucy consistency. Store in mason jars, topped with a layer of olive oil, in the fridge for a week or two (add more oil each time you take out some pesto), or in the freezer if you want to keep it longer. Simply thaw it in the fridge the day before you want to use it.

We love the many uses of pesto – as a base for pizza, tossed with some pasta, rubbed on a chicken, or mixed into a homemade vinaigrette. We could go on and on…but instead, we’ll stop for now (and maybe make some more pesto).

Spicy Squash Soup is Hot!

This sumptuous soup started with some spicy roasted squash, adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe. We took a hubbard squash and cut it into wedges, rubbing them with a mixture of olive oil and some delicious spicy peppers (pureed) from the farmer’s market and a bit of ground fennel and coriander. Roasted for about an hour at 400F, or until soft, we used some of them for dinner and chilled the leftovers in the fridge.

The next day, we took some of our homemade veggie broth from the fridge, and blanched half an onion and a carrot. Then we tipped in the remaining squash and let it simmer til the veg were tender, about 10 minutes. A quick blend with an immersion blender (or a potato masher will do, not quite as smoothly, in a pinch) and it was nearly ready. A cup or so of milk (we used 1% – choose your fat according to your preference) lent a creamier colour. Then we drizzled with a little fat-free Greek yogurt, and decorated with some chopped garlic chives from the urban farm. It warmed us through and through.

It's Lamb and it's Friendly!

Yesterday, on a drizzly day, we took a midday break and headed for The Friendly Butcher. Despite the gray, chilly atmosphere, “Oz” and “Buddy” (sorry, we didn’t get your names – these are your new monikers) entertained and amused us with their positive attitudes and their helpful advice. Here, a tasty lamb chop, browned with some aromatic olive oil, celery, onion and garlic. We deglazed with a little red wine, then mixed in a spicy pepper from the farmer’s market, oregano, mushrooms, and olives. Finally we chopped in a huge yellow heritage tomato from The Big Carrot and let it braise in the oven for about 45 minutes at 400F. Meanwhile we cooked some red and blue fingerlings with the skins on. When it was all done, we mashed the potato with a little milk and butter. Ahhh, friendly lamb, friendly fall.

Thank you Jamie Oliver

What a great day it was when we learned to make this delicious tomato salad from a Jamie Oliver cookbook! The farmer’s markets (or if you’re lucky, your back yards) are full of them now. Of course we’ve made it often enough we keep adapting it, so it’s not exactly as it was. In this case we used some red onion from the market, the usual dried oregano, balsamic, EVOO, and pepper. Then a chiffonade of basil from the urban farm, to top it off. Goes with anything, or itself. Mmmm.

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