Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans, Italian peasant-style)

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It has been almost 6 weeks since our little boy was born, and thanks to an army of generous and thoughtful family members, neighbours and friends, I haven’t cooked a single meal in all that time. Warm, fresh from the oven muffins, frozen lasagna, chili and soup, ziplock bags of homemade granola, boxes of organic oranges, macaroni and cheese, fish pie, even lobster (a Christmas Day treat)…the list goes on and on. Suffice to say we have been thoroughly spoiled.

Maybe it’s a sign that things are getting a bit easier, or just that I am adjusting to life without sleep, but for the past few days I’ve been itching to cook something. It took me all day to make this soup (babies create a lot of interruptions!), and I sacrificed my afternoon nap for it, but it was worth it. Tasty, hearty, healthy, easy!

This is a slightly tweaked version of a recipe my in laws made while they were here. I doubled the recipe so I could freeze a batch for a day when I am feeling less ambitious in the kitchen.

Pasta e fagioi
Serves 4

1 medium onion, 2 carrots, 3 ribs celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup dried lentils (I used French du puys lentils but any kind will do)
1 can each of chickpeas and white Canellini beans
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
2 tablespoons each of fresh rosemary, thyme and oregano (or 1 teaspoon each of dried herbs)
3 bay leaves
6-8 cups vegetable stock or water
3/4 cup dried pasta (small shape like elbow macaroni or ziti)
Grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese to garnish (optional – leave out for a vegan dish)
Extra olive oil for garnish (I used some fancy Arbequina oil that a lovely friend of mine gave me – thanks Laurel!)

Sauté carrots, onion garlic and celery in oil until vegetables are softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper, then white wine. Stir for a few minutes until wine reduces. Add lentils, chickpeas, beans, tomatoes and stock/water and cook over low-medium heat for 15-30 minutes until lentils are soft. Then add pasta and cook for another 10 minutes until pasta is soft. Garnish with olive oil, more fresh pepper and Asiago cheese if desired. Serve with a salad. Yummy warm winter comfort food!

January 25, 2015 at 11:09 pm Leave a comment

January spring

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Gorgeous day out today – perfect for a walk with a fussy baby. Our little one’s crying didn’t stand a chance against the sun and the flowers and the beach.

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January 20, 2015 at 8:42 pm Leave a comment

Applesauce, homemade and homegrown

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Applesauce must be one of the easiest recipes on the planet. And as an extra bonus it’s the perfect thing to make when you’re enjoying an afternoon or evening in as it makes the house smell absolutely heavenly.

In the early stages of my pregnancy I was obsessed with applesauce as it was one of the few things I could stomach. Now that I am eating everything in sight it doesn’t have quite the same cache, but it is delicious nonetheless. Especially the homemade variety made from apples grown in my own backyard.

Here is my no-recipe recipe for applesauce:

Peel and chop up a bunch of apples. Put them in a saucepan with a tiny bit of water and a giant spoonful of cinnamon and any other spices you have handy (cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, etc). Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for a long time, stirring occasionally, until the apples turn to mush.

I poured mine into two big jam jars, and stuck one in the fridge for eating right now (perfect as a midnight snack), and one in the freezer for later.

November 25, 2014 at 1:24 pm Leave a comment

Roasted yam and garlic soup

yam and garlic soup

More soup! After last week’s farmer’s market I spent about an hour chopping and cooking the root veggies and squash I bought. Since then I’ve made beet salad, spaghetti squash casserole and now this soup. All took less than 15 minutes to make since the veggies were all cooked and waiting in the fridge.

Truly a feeling of healthy wholesome-ness, even domestic goddess-ness. :)

I know, I know…this will only last a little while longer with baby on the way, so I am trying to enjoy it now before the chaos hits!

Roasted yam and garlic soup
Makes 1 big pot of soup

3-4 medium sized yams, roughly chopped (wash and remove any blemishes, but leave skins on for nutrients and flavour)
6-8 garlic cloves (whole, peeled)
Fresh ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water, plus more for later when blending the soup
1 can white beans
1/4 cup basil pesto (I used Golda’s, which comes in a vegan version if you want to avoid dairy. Or make your own, of course!)

Place yams and garlic cloves in large shallow baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and fennel seeds, drizzle with olive oil and pour water over top. Bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes or until yams are tender. Puree with beans in a blender or food processor – just add enough water to reach the consistency of soup you like. Heat in a saucepan and adjust seasoning as necessary. Pour into bowls and add a swirl of pesto to the top of each.

Delicious with grilled cheese sandwiches.

November 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

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

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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.

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October 27, 2014 at 6:26 pm 2 comments

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