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.
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
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My lovely bicycle is back on the road this after a winter off. She’s looking and driving especially fine after a tune-up at the Tandem Bike Cafe (thanks Clint!). It’s a pleasure to be riding again with spring-time in full bloom, and especially after our recent visit to Copenhagen, which is a truly inspiring place when it comes to the possibilities of bikes as a mode of transportation. Everyone – everyone – rides bicycles in Copenhagen. Old, young, with kids in tow and without. We even saw someone transporting a dresser by bike. Everyone we talked said the same thing: it makes us healthier and it’s cheaper. “The only people with cars are people who are very rich, or who live far away,” said one server in a great restaurant we went to called the Halifax. So simple, so practical – so Danish.
It was interesting to visit the national museum and see that this choice has been alive and well since the 1930s, when, according to the museum, the people decided to ignore cars and stay focused on bikes.
The scale of bicycle use is amazing. An army of well-dressed folks coming and going via bicycle during the commuter hour, giant parking lots of bicycles outside the metro stations, and the presence of many bicycles outside of every apartment, cafe, workplace and museum. It made our North American dependence on cars seem even more crazy than I already thought.
Here are some photos so you can see what I mean. Such excellent inspiration for spring cycling!
Today, when I was looking up a poem by Margaret Atwood, I came across another one I’d forgotten about called “After the Flood, We.” It was published in her collection The Circle Game in 1964.
If there is one thing I love, it’s watching an artist play out a set of themes over a long period of time. Margaret Atwood is like that. The frightening future is an obvious example, seen in one of her most memorable works, The Handmaid’s Tale, and now in the MaddAddam trilogy, which is extra terrifying because everything in it feels too possible, too close, too actually-happening and not-made-up to fit into that “dystopian future” category everyone keeps talking about.
I’ve been reading the trilogy since Christmas. What does it mean to see this poem on the same day I closed the cover on her novel The Year of the Flood? What does it mean to have two works titled so much the same, yet be separated by 50 years? Are they related at all? Only Margaret can answer that question, but I say yes. They have to be! If you’re an artist, you’ll know what I mean – for me at least, it’s the stuff of hopes and dreams that the thing you write today will evolve into something so beautifully-formed over the course of a long life’s work.
On second thought, this is not sounding nearly dystopic enough. Forgive me and my hopeless nostalgia. Clearly it’s time to move on to book number three: MaddAddam is waiting.
Fuzzy, giant magnolia buds silhouetted against the sky – along 10th Avenue, just west of Main Street. Even more lovely are the grins from fellow walkers who see me capturing these whimsical things.
I know I must look silly – constantly taking pictures of every little thing that grows or looks like an ocean or a cat. It helps me tune in, or tune out, depending on what’s needed. There was a guy today who laughed out loud at me taking a picture of the heritage houses a little further up 10th. But he laughed in a good way. I’ve remembered it all night.