Work With What You’ve Got

Farmer’s market fresh! One thing about summertime trips to the market is that (in the words of my grandfather), your eyes can be bigger than your belly. That’s sort of what happened with the basket of fresh peaches we picked up on Tuesday. To be more specific, it was our capacity to consume them before they hit their tipping point. We’re surrounded by overripe fruit, and so there are peaches in every meal. To top it off, we had a surfeit of cheese, left with us by some departing guests. What to do?

When I have a host of items that need to be used, one of my first thoughts is always salad. It’s a go-to when vegetables are in season. This one started with a vinaigrette of homemade red wine vinegar, canola oil, and Kozlik’s Balsamic Fig and Date mustard – in equal proportions. I mixed this in a large bowl, and then began adding veg – greens from the balcony garden, cucumbers, radish, and celery – but use whatever you have, like in this Kitchen Sink Salad. Then I topped it off with some walnuts, sliced peaches, and crumbled Stilton. If you’re a vegan, omit the cheese or use some chopped smoked tofu instead.

Even though I bought too many, I never get tired of too many peaches. We love them, and all the other seasonal bounty, so I’m grateful to be able to have many delicious ideas to use them up.

Fill Yourself Up!

In an ongoing quest to be better every day, I’m always working on health as one of my priorities, and that starts with walking, and also with eating well. Filling yourself up is important – starvation, deprivation, and denial just aren’t sustainable. So instead it’s really helpful to focus on putting as many good things into a meal as possible. Empty calories are easy to banish when you choose lots of healthy vegetables, brilliant colours, lean protein – with a nod to Michael Pollan, mostly plants! This tasty salad has sweet potato, peppers, red onion, pink beans, and a tasty curry vinaigrette (equal parts Dijon, cider vinegar, canola oil, and a teaspoon or so of curry powder for each serving).

There’s more to filling yourself up to eating, though – something I have been discussing with a friend quite a bit lately.  It’s important to fill your mind with positive, helpful, forward-moving thoughts. Often when we are overwhelmed with trying to help others, we forget to take care of ourselves – but the oxygen-mask rule can help keep us on track. If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you’ll recall that they tell you to put your own mask on before helping others. That’s because if you aren’t filled up (with air), you won’t be any good to anyone. So my favourite fill-up method is to get out for a good brisk walk, early in the morning as the city is waking up, and to drink in the sights and sounds around me. Today I was particularly inspired by the sunlight filtering through the trees in Allen Gardens – just steps away from skyscrapers and streetcars. That alone has filled me up with enough gratitude to last all day.

 

Savour the flavour…

Yesterday was an absolutely stunning day here in Toronto; we took a nice long walk (about 5.7km) through the city, taking in the sights and eventually making our way to St. Lawrence Market for produce. We stopped in along the way to take in the awesome Gothic Revival Cathedral Church of St. James, with memorial plaques commemorating many of Toronto’s noted citizens. We were intrigued by the very contemporary Stations of the Cross.

To the south, we swung by Berczy Park’s new dog fountain enroute to the market. Kids and pets alike were enjoying the spraying water. We had fun finding the one cat statue amongst the dogs, and to discover just what she was looking at. (We won’t tell just now – you should check out the mystery yourself!)

The sun was blazing and hot, so by the time we arrived home, we were in the mood for something quick and cool, that wouldn’t overheat the kitchen. We put some potatoes on to cook while we enjoyed a cool beverage on our balcony and took in the sights of the neighbourhood. When they were cooked, we let them cool in the fridge while we prepared the rest of this tasty curried salad. For two, as a main course:

For the dressing, whisk in a large bowl:

3 tablespoons (45ml) mayonnaise

1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (30ml) curry powder – more or less, to your taste

3 boiled potatoes, cooled and peeled, and cut into chunks

1 red pepper, diced in bite-size pieces

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one can)

1 cup frozen green beans

1/4 cup (60ml) chopped unsalted peanuts

3 leaves basil, sliced finely

Mix all the vegetables into the salad, including the chickpeas. Divide between the plates and sprinkle with peanuts and basil. You can easily scale up this recipe to serve more people, and it keeps well in the fridge, gaining flavour as it sits. Enjoy!

We Interrupt this Plan For…Fresh Local Food!

Fresh from the GardenMeal-planning is an important way to stretch your food budget, to keep mealtime interesting, and to get other family members involved in the harvesting, shopping, preparing, or cooking. However if you’re gardening, vegetables wait for no man (or woman). They ripen on their timeline, not yours. The consequence of this is that you may have veggies or fruit that are ripe when you didn’t plan on using them, or more than you needed, or not quite the same quantity as you had imagined. How do you reconcile a well-thought-out meal plan with home-grown produce?

Homemade PestoBefore you go thinking, “you don’t”, consider the possibilities. For produce where you have an over-abundance, or early ripening, consider whether you have space to preserve – by canning, freezing, or dehydrating. We’re cautious in the volume of veg we are putting up for winter, since this is only our first harvest year in our small condo. But some things, like this pesto, let us pack a lot of flavour, and volume, into a small space.

I don’t use a recipe for pesto any more, because I’ve made it many times. But the easiest one I found when I started out was from Jamie Oliver. Nowadays, I add other herbs sometimes, or use walnuts (the sacrilege!) or make other variations according to what’s on hand. One thing I always do, though, is this: I freeze my pesto in small mason jars like the ones above – just enough for a week or so of flavouring, or a single dinner’s worth of pasta for two. To freeze, simply pour a small layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to keep it from discolouring, seal the jar, and pop in the freezer (make sure it’s upright, at least until it is fully frozen). This will give you delicious, fresh basil-y flavour anytime you want, and is especially welcome on a drizzly day in February when you don’t want to venture out and there’s nothing in the cupboard but a little dried pasta. (Yes, those days are coming, my friends)!

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…

Pudding for breakfast!

Sometimes a sweet treat for breakfast hits the spot. This breakfast pudding, or smoothie bowl, in common parlance, is fast and delicious.

In a blender, combine two ripe bananas, a small avocado, 2 T (30 ml) good-quality cocoa, 1/2 c (125 ml) silken tofu, and 1/4 c (60 ml) unsweetened almond milk. Using ripe bananas gives lots of natural sweetness. 

Blend until smooth, and top with chopped walnuts and grated coconut. Pumpkin seeds would look and taste fabulous as well!

Serves two.

  

Tart and Tasty

Holiday weekends always result in us pulling out the old family recipes. But this one, slightly adapted, hardly needs a recipe. It’s easy to make and delicious. If you want some protein, eat it along with a handful of nuts. Great for breakfast, or as a side with lunch, or dessert. Grammy Gladys would never have used the blood oranges, and sometimes added a spoonful of sugar, but truly, you don’t need it.

Use one orange, one grapefruit, and one blood orange per person.

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Cut off the peel – use for  something else if you like, or compost.

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Cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces, removing white pith. You’ll probably need to dump some juice from the cutting board into the bowl during this process. No one said family recipes weren’t messy.

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Stir in, at most, a tablespoon (15ml) of sugar or maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like your citrus.

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We ate ours with some peanuts – a slice of almond butter or peanut butter toast is lovely as well.

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.

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.