Vegetable and bean soup

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Happy Meatless Monday! Here is a very simple soup recipe – basically a half-finished minestrone soup. It was so (unexpectedly) popular with everyone here that I think I will be making it again and again.

If I had a TV show, it would be called “Cooking with Casey,” and it would feature recipes that can be completed with one hand while holding a baby/toddler. We have a budding chef on our hands, I’m sure, because he absolutely needs to be “up!” to see all chopping, stirring and especially mixing with the KitchenAid.

I intended to add pasta, lentils and various seasonings to this soup, but I learned that hungry babies are not interested in culinary musings when the basics are already ready. Our stove top taste test at what I thought was the halfway point resulted in a lot of vigorous “more!” signs, so we sat down to eat, and rightly so. This soup was substantial enough for dinner, but not too heavy – the broth is really nice and light.

If you save parmesan cheese rinds in the freezer to flavour soups and sauces like I do, this is a perfect place to use them. Or omit them and you will have a completely plant-based meal. The soup is delicious either way.

Vegetable and bean soup
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3-4 large bay leaves
1 large (28 oz) can chopped tomatoes
4 cups of water
Rind from parmesan, asiago or other hard cheese (optional)
2 cups cooked mixed beans (I used a combination of chickpeas, kidney beans and white beans)
1 cup finely minced kale
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in oil on medium heat until translucent; about 10 minutes. Add carrots, celery, bay leaves, tomatoes, water and cheese rind (if using). Cook until carrots soften; about 20-30 minutes. Stir in the beans and kale, season with salt and pepper, cook for a few minutes until heated through and tasting great, and then eat.

February 8, 2016 at 12:23 pm 1 comment

Carrot and apple breakfast cookies

IMG_3373Here is my attempt at a healthy(ish) breakfast cookie. As much as I love a sit down breakfast, it’s just not possible some days. I usually gravitate toward muffins for a grab-and-go breakfast, but lately they have felt too heavy, too crumbly, and sadly, sometimes even two minutes of warming in the toaster oven is not realistic/desirable mixed in with all the morning things that need doing. There is also something about coffee and cookies that I can’t get enough of – a small indulgence to start the day.

These batter for these cookies will look a little gooey – the carrots and apple provide a lot of moisture. The result, though, is a lovely texture: a cross between a gingerbread cake and an oatmeal raisin cookie, which is exactly what I was hoping for when I started experimenting.

Try them on the run with a piece of fruit, or pack them for a mid-day treat. Or make them on a Saturday, like I did, and enjoy eating cookies for breakfast.

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Carrot and apple breakfast cookies
Makes 24 cookies

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup spelt or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup hemp hearts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 apple, finely chopped (I left the peel on for texture and colour)
1 carrot, grated

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, cream together the butter/coconut oil, brown sugar, molasses, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together and stir into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Bake them for 12 to 14 minutes, taking them out when the edges are “done looking” edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. It’s a little tricky to tell because of the dark molasses colour – if they smell great and look almost done take them out (always better to undercook rather than overcook). Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

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February 6, 2016 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

International Year of Pulses

year of the pulses

I am overdue for a big hooray about the fact that 2016 has been named International Year of Pulses by the United Nations General Assembly. Pulses being delicious, healthy, sustainable foods including beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas that are a staple of plant-based cooking and eating. Beans, chickpeas and the like could use some positive PR with most eaters I know. Let’s hope the International Year of Pulses helps alleviate some of the grim faces that often accompany the words “are there lentils in this?”

I love all pulses, and they are in heavy rotation in my kitchen as I am always trying to sneak more protein into vegetarian fare. I’m looking forward to working on some new pulse-friendly recipes this yearalready I’ve been so inspired by #lovepulses posts all over the internet. In the meantime, here is a quick round-up of previously posted recipes that I’m keen to revisit in celebration of lovely legumes this year.

 

February 3, 2016 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

Water + Pigment + Paper at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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A long time ago I lived next door to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. We loved the annual Moss Street Paint In, and the gallery’s collection of Emily Carr works captured my imagination, so much so that the artist now has a namesake in our beautiful dog.

It’s been wonderful to see how much the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has grown up since we last lived in Victoria. Our Emily (the dog) is now 11 years old, and I remain enchanted by the artist she is named for. The AGGV has done a beautiful job showcasing the Emily Carr works in its collection alongside art from Carr’s contemporaries, including a couple of favourite artists of mine, Mfawnwy Pavelic and Ina D.D. Uthoff, both of whom are also featured in the gallery’s new watercolour exhibition (more on that below).

When we moved back to Victoria last year I bought a membership to the gallery and it’s been a great investment, especially during my year of maternity leave. We still live within walking distance to the gallery and browsing its exhibits on quiet summer mornings and rainy fall and winter afternoons has been a treat – a hit of mental and visual stimulation on days that can sometimes feel long or lonely when it’s just me and the little one. And now that he is getting older there is an added dimension to our gallery visits: I am not the only one looking at the pictures anymore.

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We went to the opening of Water + Pigment + Paper: Experiments in Watercolour from the AGGV Collection last weekend. We were alone (sans baby) and it was night time – two rare occurrences to be sure. We were the youngest people there for most of the night by at least a decade or two, but still, it was a fun start to date night, and something I’d recommend to other new parents: the openings are free, plus you can be easily home by 9 or 10pm, even if you go out for a drink afterward like we did.

I always love to see shows that are curated from galleries’ permanent collections, and this was no exception: there are some really interesting pieces that say so much about the history of some prominent Victoria artists, as well as work by other BC, Canadian and international artists the gallery has collected over the years. The curator was careful to point out the large number of women represented in the show and it was refreshing to see so many female names on the wall, especially given that all of the work on display is pre-1990s. “So Much More Than Pretty” is the tagline for the show, and I think it’s apt, although it is very pretty: Gorgeous colours, inventive brushstrokes, spontaneous and playful capturing of moments, people and places, and most of all the overarching feeling of intimacy that seems to be a hallmark of the watercolour medium.

As fun as it was to be out alone just us adults, I will definitely visit the Water + Pigment + Paper show again during the daylight hours. I love my being able to drop into the gallery whenever I want now that we have the membership, and with each of the shows I find there is always so much more to see on the second, third or fourth visit, especially when I’m with my favourite art lover in training.

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February 2, 2016 at 12:58 pm Leave a comment

Applesauce oatmeal muffins 

  

A quick, easy kid-friendly muffin. I’ve made these a few times now and they’ve been a big hit with our one year old. 

My three year old nephew helped make the latest batch. He rejected them at first, but took a tentative bite today and I think we’d have him by tomorrow if they weren’t already all gone. That is the thing I like most about this recipe – the flavours are really simple, but these muffins seem to disappear very quickly.

Applesauce oatmeal muffins
Makes 12 muffins

1 cup flour (all purpose or spelt flour both work great)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup applesauce
1 apple, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine egg, applesauce and oil in another bowl, and then add to dry mixture. Stir gently until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake for 20 minutes.

January 27, 2016 at 6:55 am Leave a comment

Almond pear cake

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I tore this recipe out of a magazine a few years ago. The increasingly tattered page has been stuck to the side of not one, but two fridges (the one in our Vancouver apartment, and then at our house in Victoria), and now it has earned a place of honour in the pine recipe box my grandfather made for me when I was about 15.

I made the cake early in December with some D’Anjou pears that took forever to ripen, and then got too ripe too quickly. It was amazing that such an elegant and delicious cake could emerge from those pears, which were mottled with brown spots and mushy parts. I planned to serve it for a dinner we were having with an old friend until I remembered his nut allergy, so I put it in the freezer and then brought it out on Christmas morning to munch on as “pre-breakfast” while we opened gifts.

Last summer we pre-ordered two pear trees from Fruit Trees and More, a nursery in North Saanich  (a truly inspiring place that deserves a post all on its own). This weekend’s project is to prepare space for them in our yard, so it seems like a fitting time to share the recipe for this lovely cake. It is perfect in so many ways: gluten free, so easy to make, stores well in the freezer, and it’s a little bit healthier than the average dessert thanks to almond meal and the fruit. I hope in a few years once our new pear trees are established that I’ll be able to go on a baking frenzy like I’ve done in the past the harvest from our other fruit trees, which gave us delicious plum cakes and apple pies.

Almond pear cake (adapted from Style at Home’s recipe for Almond Pear Tart)
Makes 1 cake (6-8 servings)

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1-1/3 cups almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
Raw sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Plain yogurt for serving

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease a round springform pan. Cream the butter and sugar in a mix master until just combined. Add the eggs, almond meal, flour, baking powder and lemon zest and process until all the ingredients are just incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the springform pan. Arrange the pears on top of the tart mixture and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the tart comes out clean. Sprinkle the tart with the raw sugar and cinnamon and allow to cool in the pan. Serve with yogurt.

January 21, 2016 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

A visit to the duck pond

I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the gardens at Government House, which are a short walk away from our house. They were a main stay of my walking regime during the new mama survival challenge this time last year, and I have to say it is such a joy (and relief) to be visiting the gardens with a much greater sense of ease.

As usual, spring arrives astonishing fast in Victoria. Snowdrops, irises, hellebores, primulas, cyclamen and more, all in bloom already. Little man was oh-so-patient while I took a few photos, but the real attraction of our walk yesterday was the visit to the duck pond. We’ve been there before, but this was the first time we were really there. All these months I’ve been singing a song about ducks and yesterday was the big click: ok, those are ducks! And then at home, pointing out everything with a picture of a duck on it with a huge smile. So neat to see the connections happening. Just like little flowers blooming.




January 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm Leave a comment

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