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Archive for the ‘things i love’ Category

I know I’ve mentioned it before; but, I could consume beets every single day of my life and never get sick of them. I adore the sweet, earthy taste just as much as the rich, ruby colour (or rich gold colour….golden beets are just as lovely!). And the texture is amazing…just as nice raw as it is cooked. However, much like squash, this humble root vegetable is on Husband’s Yuck List. *sigh* Love can make life so difficult, can’t it?!

The past few days, I’ve been craving beets and have been pondering a way to sneak them into a dinner that would fly under Husband’s radar. My sister has become quite adept at hiding vegetables in all kinds of dishes-she has three young boys to trick (and feed)-and I thought about how she grates beets into stews and baked goods and thought the method might actually work on Husband. I knew I wouldn’t be able to trick him; but, I thought that if I could get the beets into tiny pieces and let them melt into a dish, Husband might enjoy them.

That’s how I came up with the idea of a beet risotto. The creaminess of the risotto would help to soften the earthiness of the beets, and the beets would stain the risotto an enticing shade of ruby. I set to work and by dinnertime, we had a stunning dish that smelled wonderful-rich and earthy, with just a hint of a tang from the balsamic vinegar I stirred in at the end. I loved this dish. I want to eat it every day for the rest of my life. Seriously. Oh, and Husband said it was the best beet dish he’s ever eaten! High praise, indeed!

Roasted Beet Risotto

-4 beets, scrubbed, peeled, and trimmed

-3 T. olive oil

-salt and pepper, to taste

-1/4 tsp. each dried thyme and tarragon

-1 T. vegan margarine

-1 onion, peeled and diced

-6 cups vegetable stock

-2 cups arborio rice

-1/3 cup nutritional yeast

-1 T. fig-infused balsamic vinegar

-handful toasted walnut halves, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the beets on a sheet of tin foil. Gently toss with 1 T. olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and tarragon. Wrap tightly in the foil and roast the beets until fork tender, approximately 1 hour. Remove the beets from the oven and let cool enough to handle. Grate the beets into a bowl and set aside.

Put the stock in a large pan and cover. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and keep at a very low simmer.

Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet with the remaining 2 T. olive oil and the vegan margarine over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until the onions soften, but not brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add two ladles of stock and stir until completely absorbed.

Add two more ladles of stock and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Repeat until you are down to the last 2 ladles of stock. Add the last of the stock with the grated beets and cook, stirring frequently, another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the nutritional yeast and vinegar. Serve garnished with toasted walnuts.

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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: 1) garlic dills and spicy pickled green beans 2)blueberry jam, wildberry jam, and strawberry jam 3) a plethora of preserved goodiespickled asparagus, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickle medley (with red peppers from my sis-in-law’s garden!) 4) pickled asparagus, pickled carrots, pickled cauliflower, pickle medley (with red peppers from my sis-in-law’s garden!)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how much I adore the idea of having the opportunity to have been a 1950s housewife. I love all things “domestic” and, besides, who could resist a cute little apron and pearls (imitation, of course!)? One of the most appealing parts about housewifery for me is the kitchen quality time…always making meals, trying out the recipe that was printed in that morning’s newspaper for a NEW casserole, and preparing food for storage for the winter. There is something very magical about food preservation…and to me, it’s always seemed a little mysterious and frightening, as well. (I told you all about my previous attempt at canning…remember those sad pickled beets?) Well, a couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law, her brother, and I got together in the largest kitchen we had available to us and set out on a very ambitious canning project. What started out to be just a simple affair of hoping to recreate these delicious pickled spicy green beans that my sis-in-law bought in bulk from an Ontario company, turned into a very large undertaking…at least for first timers.

We started out by taking a trip to the produce section of no less than 3 different stores to pick up our fruits and veggies, then back to the kitchen to start boiling some water and chopping away. We were armed with a canning bible and the instructions that came in our package of pickling spices, and the jumbled memories of what our mothers and grandmothers used to do. Oh, did I mention it was close to 40 degrees Celsius with the humidity and we had no AC? I’m left wondering how a 1950s housewife could end the day with such perfectly coiffed hair and fresh makeup under conditions such as these!

Well, we got through our task. It took us just over 10 hours and we were giddy with exhaustion by the end of it; but, we really felt like we had accomplished something. And 24 hours later, when we checked the jars, we were elated to discover that every single one was sealed correctly! We learned a lot along the way…and we made a few mistakes. (Who knew you had to cut off the stem end of the cucumber because there’s an enzyme in it that can prevent your pickles from being crunchy?  We do now…after having made 10 jars of pickles with the stem end attached!) The important thing is, we had a blast doing it and are looking forward to next summer when we can do it again…maybe using some more intriguing ingredients and add-ins!

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Husband and I moved into our own place this past weekend. Words cannot express how wonderful that makes us feel…we have alone time again, we’re using our stuff again, we can walk naked to the bedroom from the shower (!!!), and best of all, I have my own kitchen. (Please insert sigh of relief and elation here)

We had been moved in for a grand total of perhaps 40 minutes before I started to cook. Now, to be fair, I spent most of last week carting over all my kitchen stuff to the new place and getting it all organized. Come move day, the kitchen was completely ready to start using….can you see where my priorities lie?!

The very first thing I whipped up in my kitchen: one giant vat of potato salad for a BBQ we were attending that evening. As a main for Husband and I, I marinated some slabs of tempeh in my favourite store-bought BBQ sauce, tweaked with a light drizzle of maple syrup. Cooked over the grill and eaten al fresco with good company, it was a perfect dish. But, on to the salad! I have to brag a little here, I make the greatest potato salad ever. I know everyone says that about their potato salad; but, mine really is the best *wink*.

I won’t include an actual recipe because I change it up a little bit each time; but some things are always the same…I leave the skin on the potatoes. I can’t eat potato salad without the skins. I always stir in way more fresh herbs than is necessary…this time around it was flat-leaf parsley and dill. The way I see it, the more fresh herbs you add, the more you taste them and that can’t be a bad thing, right?! Besides, have you ever eaten anything so perfect as potato salad heavy with fresh dill….mmmmm….

It was very well-received at the BBQ. In fact, a friend who had already eaten dinner with her family stopped by to hang out and she had two helpings! I gorged myself on it…just let loose on that bowl without thinking about etiquette or calories.

I guess the point of my little anecdote is that I’m back in the kitchen! It was nice to see my cast iron pan, my great-grandmother’s wooden spoon, my coffee grinder, my vintage Juice King, you know…all the things I love so much and have missed like crazy these past seven months. Oh, did I mention that I have room to expand! I can start shopping for more dishes…EEK!

This week, I’ve made every one of our meals from scratch. It’s been just perfect. Husband says I stand around the kitchen with a dopey lovesick grin on my face. I sip strong coffee from my favourite mug while I brainstorm dinner ideas (lentil bake and seared rapini this evening, if you must know) and I know that I’m consumed in the honeymoon phase. I hope it never passes.

I must apologize for the lack of photos to accompany this long-overdue post. I’m in the process of trying to tackle the office. Right now it’s in a state of chaos, boxes and piles everywhere. I don’t even have a desk or computer…I’m upgrading this week and didn’t bother bringing the old ones along with me. So, sadly, I have not taken a single picture of what I’ve been making…I promise to make it up to you as soon as I have my shiny new 27″ iMac!

If you’ll excuse me, I must go check on the tofu jerky I’ve been dehydrating since 7AM…*dopey grin and lovesick sigh*

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I have disappeared from the Internet almost entirely, huh? My apologies. Things have gotten very hectic this month. With work and family emergencies and medical appointments and apartment hunting and birthdays, you know, life…we’ve been resorting to almond butter sandwiches on farmer’s rye for most of this month. On the plus side, Husband and I found a place of our own!! We take possession next week (EEK!!) and I have a billion and one things to get done before then.

I need to tell you about my new kitchen. First of all, it’s the biggest kitchen I’ve ever had, which is so nice. It has more counter space than I’ve ever had, I could stretch out and take a nap on my counter if I were so inclined. And, and I have a double sink!! I have never had a double sink, ever! Ooh, how excited I am about a double sink. Plus, the window faces west so I’ll have all that evening sunshine pouring in while I’m making dinner. Can you picture it? Late afternoon…muffins cooling on the counter, entirely sun-drenched in that rich orange glow….*sigh* It’s going to be amazing. My own kitchen, how I’ve missed you. I would love to write you a very long letter, my own kitchen, about all the wonderful things I am going to do in you, make in you; but, I feel like that could get out-of-hand too easily. Only three more sleeps till I get to lose myself in that marvelous kitchen!

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Does your appetite crave specific colours? Or is that just me? I’ve noticed that the majority of my food cravings are colour-based…such as, “I really want something red for dinner tonight….tomato sauce maybe…or something with red pepper…”

I know that cravings can be your body’s way of telling you it’s missing something so I generally tend to eat whatever I crave. I never “count” fruits and vegetables in to my caloric intake (not that I’m a big calorie counter to begin with) because they’re loaded with so many vitamins and nutrients. The more, the merrier, I say! I am a fruit and vegetable free-for-all’er…if that makes any sense at all!

Anyway, I’ve been ridiculously busy the past couple weeks with a trip out-of-town, my birthday, my “day” job, and my newest endeavour (attempting to get my photography business into full-swing); so, Husband and I have been eating our share of super-quick meals. Tonight, I had enough. The thought of having granola and almond milk for dinner one more night was appalling and the past couple days, I’ve been talking incessantly about craving dark green and black (beans).

Enter rice and beans! This is one of my favourite meals to make because it’s absolutely delicious, really simple to prepare, and really nutritious. Another reason I love rice and beans…fried plantains! I never make a batch of rice and beans without frying up slices of starchy, slightly sweet plantain to accompany.

With just a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and sea salt, the plantains are a heavenly tropical treat. Really…I just couldn’t give up tropical produce…I’ll never be a 100% locavore…unless I happen to relocate to a hot, sunny island somewhere…..hmmmm…I may just be on to something…

My preferred method of preparing rice and beans is with brown basmati rice, low-sodium stock, black beans, and a big splash of hot sauce. This time around, I stirred in some wilted red Swiss chard to satiate my appetite for green. Served up in generous proportions with some sunrise-gold slices of plaintain…soft and velvety inside with a perfectly crisp and browned exterior…well, let’s just say my plate was all but licked clean in record time!

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In honour of my birth season finally reaching its full stride, Husband and I had a light, refreshing dinner before taking our very first bike ride of the year. It felt so good to get back on my beautiful blue vintage cruiser! Husband received a brand-spanking new bicycle as an early birthday gift from his parents and he’s been itching to get out and give it a spin. We had a lovely, light 3 km ride after our lovely, light dinner and I must say, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening! So content…*sigh*

Our dinner consisted of mushroom quinoa with fresh parsley and a wonderful salad with kalamata olives, orange slices and chewy sun-dried tomatoes.

For the quinoa, I simmered the grains in mushroom stock while I sautéed some sliced cremini mushrooms in a little olive oil with some diced shallot. Once the quinoa was finished cooking, I tossed in the mushrooms and shallots, as well as a handful of chopped fresh parsley and some fresh ground black pepper.

While our quinoa simmered and our mushrooms browned, I whipped up a colourful salad to serve alongside. Sliced navel oranges, juicy kalamata olives, crisp red pepper pieces, sharp red onion rings, chewy sun-dried tomato slivers, and firm zucchini rounds were tossed with organic field greens and a light red wine vinaigrette to create a very flavourful accompaniment to our protein-packed quinoa main dish.

The platter just screamed “Spring!” so loudly that I had to photograph it on a sunny yellow backdrop. I smile just looking at it with its bright colours and the flavours to match.

Welcome, Spring! I missed you while you were away…

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A good tomato is simply enough to live for. There is something about that beautiful red “fruit” that just does it for me! A perfect, ripe tomato makes every problem I have seem to just disappear…a little creepy? Maybe; but, you try to resist a vine-ripened, firm and juicy bright red jewel when it’s offered to you.

I know that it is absolutely not tomato season yet and I’ll be hard-pressed to find decent tomatoes anywhere for months to come; but, I just could not resist those beauties I found a few days ago…and by “I found”, I mean my in-laws bought and I saw on the counter and proceeded to make short work of…

They were so swollen with juice that just touching them caused them to fall from their stem and that fresh, summery aroma of tomato was exactly what you’d expect of an August-picked garden tomato. I knew they were destined to become one of my all-time favourite things…a humble tomato sandwich.

Way back when I first went veg, I ate literally a bazillion tomato sandwiches. I didn’t know how to cook, had no desire to learn, and had a very crazy carb obsession; where else could those factors lead but to tomato sandwiches for 2 meals each and every day?!?! I have no regrets.

Sometimes, I long for the simplicity of a tomato sandwich…usually in the dead of winter when there isn’t a ripe, juicy tomato anywhere to be found…and those mealy, light pink-ish “tomatoes” you find in the grocery stores and restaurants during the winter months will NOT do for my sandwich, thank you very much. Alas, I am usually forced to wait until the hazy days of summer before I can enjoy one.

Well, when I saw those tomatoes up there, I just knew they would be perfect for a sandwich…and I was not wrong. Sliced and simply layered over a blanket of vegan mayo and sprinkled only with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, the tomatoes were absolute heaven when paired with toasted bakery rye. I look forward to many more tomato sandwiches as the summer months inch closer.

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