Happy Halloween!

halloween yard

Just had to share this photo – my husband’s ingenious use of fallen leaves and branches to decorate our yard. Isn’t it spooky?

Happy Halloween!

halloween pumpkin

October 31, 2014 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Celery root, leek and white bean soup

celery root
The return of soup – this is one of the reasons I love fall. I found this lovely, gnarly celery root at the Moss Street Market last weekend and was very excited to turn it into soup. I was also keen to try out this very simple soup-making method that uses just olive oil, veggies and water. It works great, especially for a soup like this where I think what you want most is to taste that fresh celery flavour.

In my quest for protein, I’ve discovered that white beans are a brilliant substitute for any recipe like this where you would normally use cream. They add a neutral, creamy texture and of course are so much better for you.

Enjoy!

Celery root, leek and white bean soup
Serves 4

1 medium celery root, peeled and chopped
1 large leek, sliced (white and light green parts)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can white cannellini beans, drained
6 cups cups water
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Saute celery root, leek and salt and pepper in olive oil over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until leeks are soft but not brown. Add 1 cup of water, cover the pot and cook on medium-low for about 15-20 minutes or until celery root is soft. Add beans and remaining water and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let rest for about 15 minutes to let the soup cool before blending (and allow flavours to combine). Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor and simmer until hot. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and more fresh pepper. We ate it with cheese and crackers and a veggie plate with carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market for a simple dinner in front of the fire last weekend and that was just perfect.

celery root soup

October 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm Leave a comment

Apple pie for a season of change

apple pie
It has been months and months since my last post. Poor neglected blog. So much has happened since then! We got pregnant (7 months along now!), moved house and cities (goodbye beautiful, exciting, expensive Vancouver, hello lovely, soothing, affordable Victoria!), and, as always, have been busy with work and life. To say it’s been a hectic few months would be putting it mildly! I am hoping now for a season of settling.

The moving process is never fun, but it is great to be back in Victoria after so many years away, and we are loving our new house. Yes, house. Finally some space! A real kitchen and a crazy, overgrown garden are both making me so happy.
backyard with apple tree

We have been busy harvesting our beautiful apple tree for pies, crisps, salads and bags of fresh fruit for family and friends. They are Pacific Gala apples (which we know thanks to our friend Brian who came to visit from Vancouver a few weeks ago and brought one of the apples back with him to the UBC Apple Festival for identification!), and really delicious.

bowl of apples

I’ve made at least six pies in the past month. Every one is a bit better than the last, which is very satisfying. I’ve decided that if I accomplish nothing else in life except to be known as someone who can make a great pie, I will be happy with that.

Apple pie
Makes 1 pie

Pastry
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold vegetable oil shortening (you could also try coconut oil)
3-4 tablespoons cold water

Pie filling
5-6 cups sliced, peeled apples (you might want more or less depending on the size of your pie plate)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup brown sugar

For the pastry, I highly recommend using a food processor (a stand mixer also works) for mixing and parchment paper for rolling out the dough. I used to make pie crust in a mixing bowl and then rolled it out on the counter, but always found it tiresome and messy. Also, the more your warm hands handle what is supposed to be cold pastry, the less flakey and tasty it will be.

Here is what I do now: buzz the flour, salt and shortening in a food processor until just combined, then add water one tablespoon at a time, pulsing the dough in the processor each time, until the dough forms a ball. Tip the dough out of the processor into a bowl and shape it into two balls. I usually make one of the balls slightly larger for the bottom crust. Chill the dough for a few minutes while you preheat the oven (350F), peel and slice all the apples and make the filling (just combine the ingredients in a bowl).

To roll out the pastry, put one of the dough balls between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a circle about 2″ larger than your pie plate. Remove the top sheet of parchment (carefully so you don’t tear the pastry), tip the pastry into the pie plate, remove the other sheet of parchment and then use your fingers to shape the dough into the plate and repair any boo-boos that might have occurred during the transfer.

Pour the apple filling into the crust, and repeat the same roll-out method for the top crust. I like a lattice top, but you can also do a full crust. Cover the pie loosely with aluminum foil and bake for about 40-45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on the top and bottom. Keep an eye on it toward the end as pie crust burns easily.

apple tree branch 2

October 27, 2014 at 6:26 pm Leave a comment

Long weekend waffles (vegan, gluten-free)

vegan waffles

New to my herb garden this year is a small pot of chocolate mint. It smells divine, as the name suggests, and it has been tempting me in the kitchen. Waffles were the first thing that came to mind. Waffles topped with a chocolate mint-spiked berry salad. Served with piping hot mint tea. Served with bourbon maple syrup – a gift from a friend that has been waiting patiently for an occasion like this – long weekend waffles.

More and more I am trying to move away eating animal products, especially with things that are so easy to make vegan – like waffles. I am not sure I will ever become a vegan – I still love things like fish and chips and mac and cheese too much. But where there is no sacrifice in taste I am all for change.

Smoke alarms have been ringing in our apartment building all weekend. Always in the morning, from about 9:30 to 11. People are cooking bacon. Which is fine. I know: people like bacon. I accept that people will always eat bacon, and I understand. I am as far away from eating bacon as I have ever been, but I get it – we all love our leisurely breakfast traditions.

Mine are flexible and changing to fit new values. Adapting old recipes into new vegan ones is a fun and satisfying challenge, and these waffles are actually much better than the ones I used to make with dairy and eggs. Almond milk and flour are nutty, coconut oil is delicious in anything, and flax eggs are amazing in this recipe. Just like the chocolate mint: so much better than the original.

chocolate mint

Waffles with mint-spiked berry salad (vegan & gluten-free)
Makes 6 waffles

3/4 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or vegan butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 flax eggs (combine 3 tablespoons flaxseed meal with 6 tablespoons hot water; let sit for 5 minutes)
1 cup gluten-free flour (Cup4Cup or Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon cane sugar
pinch of salt
grated zest of 1 orange

Berry salad
2 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint (I highly recommend growing your own and trying chocolate mint!)

Preheat waffle iron. Combine almond milk, melted oil or butter, vanilla, and flax eggs in a bowl. Mix together remaining ingredients in a separate bowl and stir. Add dry ingredients to almond milk mixture and stir until they make a batter. Spoon batter onto waffle iron and cook until waffles are golden and crispy. Mix berry salad ingredients together and serve with waffles and maple syrup. Any leftover waffles are good the next day heated up in the toaster oven.

May 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm Leave a comment

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

louisiana
I saw a lot of wonderful art on our recent trip to Denmark and Germany. It rained about half the time we were in Copenhagen, but it was a perfect day when we took the train up to the town of Humlebæk to visit the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.

“This place is like Disneyland for art geeks,” my husband said when we arrived, and it’s true.

The Louisiana is located 35km outside of Copenhagen – an easy trip by train and a chance to get out of the city and see the countryside. I also enjoyed watching the Europeans and their adorable train rituals (invariably, delicious-looking packed lunches come out as soon as the doors close!).

louisiana trees and coast

The view of the ocean is what surprised me most. I’ve never been to a museum where you are also so close to nature. As much as I love wandering within white walls, inside gets stuffy after a while. At the Louisiana when that happens you go outside to admire the gardens, the beach, the sculpture park, the oceanside cafe. And eat open-faced sandwiches. I wish I’d taken a picture of mine – marinated mushrooms, radishes, sprouts, spicy aioli – it was a thing of beauty all on its own.

louisiana window to outside

The art was wonderful. Hilma af Klint‘s paintings were on display while we were there. She is a Swedish artist who painted in the early part of the 20th century. The museum had a retrospective of her work on display – everything from botanical drawings to 30,000 pages worth of notebooks to large abstract paintings.

hilda the largest

The latter were my favourite – huge, pastel-coloured canvases filled with motifs like swirls and snail shells. The images are guided by a symbol and colour system that linked back to her preoccupation with spiritual ideas like mediumship, mysticism and theosophy. Hilda used methods like seances and automatic markings to guide her art-making – a little woo-woo to be sure, but fascinating and it resulted in beautiful work.

hilda sketchbooks

The saddest thing was that her abstract paintings were never shown during her lifetime. Rudolf Steiner, who followed similar philosophical and spiritual beliefs, told her the world was not ready for her work. She took the advice to heart and put a clause in her will that her paintings could not be exhibited until many years after her death. Much of her work is being seen for the first time now. Many artists are very famous for painting pictures the world wasn’t ready for – usually male artists, it seems. I felt lucky to see the show, but so regretful for the success she might have known had she not listened so carefully to what seems like very bad advice.

hilda roses

The Louisiana has a great permanent collection as well, but Hilda stole the show for me.

More museums should be like the Louisiana – it’s well worth a visit even if you don’t care much about art.

louisiana through the trees

May 1, 2014 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

This year’s spring garden

pink tulip 2

This morning’s weather report told me that temperatures are set to soar this week, 20C and above. I am always suspicious about the long range forecast, but never above hoping it will come true.

My garden is doing well this year after a mild winter and a good spring with lots of sunshine. Daffodils and crocuses have come and gone, and my tulips are at their best right now with faces open and so much colour. A couple of weeks ago I planted hanging baskets with a mix of violets, pansies, swiss chard and mustard greens and they are doing very well.

orange tulips 2

violets chard mustard greens

One new thing is the holly plant we bought at Christmas – it’s flowering. I’ve never seen this before, somehow, despite my studious (obsessive?) observation of other people’s gardens. Always so neat to have an actual discovery, to find out something you never knew before. Of course, in the back of my mind when I see red holly berries I know that there must be a flower behind the fruit, but there are so many things that never find their way out from those mental recesses.

flowering holly

Lemon balm is another surprise. I planted it last year and look at how beautifully it has already come back. I wonder if it is part of the mint family of plants, which are another thriving species in my garden. Both make wonderful tea and cocktails, so I am always happy to see them growing so well.

lemon balm

pale grape hyacinths in basket

Such a promising time of year – so much to look forward to – here’s hoping for that heat so all the things still dormant can find their way up.

hyacinth close up

yellow primula 2014

pink primula and crocus 2014

2014 daffodils

purple primula

April 28, 2014 at 8:11 am

Arugula pesto pasta

springtime pasta

I made this for lunch last Friday. A day off from work thanks to the holiday weekend – there is nothing better than making a proper lunch at home. This dish was easy, as well, since I already had the pesto on hand, so it was just a matter of boiling the spaghetti and stirring things together.

It’s a perfect time of year for arugula and spinach – either for growing or for buying at the market. Both are so much better in their “real” state – a different food altogether from the plastic-packaged variety that we eat during the winter.

Thanks to Laurie for her delicious arugula pesto recipe, which you can find in the comments on this post.

Arugula pesto pasta
Serves 2-3 people
1/2 pound spaghetti (use brown rice pasta for gluten-free)
Save 1 cup of the pasta water when you are draining it
1/2 cup arugula pesto (see above link for recipe)
3-4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
Truffle oil and parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just about al dente. Drain, but save about 1 cup of the pasta water to use in the sauce. Toss pesto, spinach and chili flakes with pasta and gradually add in reserved pasta water a small amount at a time as the spinach cooks down until the sauce is a good texture. Top with pine nuts and freshly ground pepper, and add truffle oil and/or parmesan as a garnish if you wish.

April 21, 2014 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment

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