Archive for January, 2011

Sushi is also the perfect gift

Not too long ago I wrote about how plants are always the perfect gift. I will also add sushi to that list, especially when it comes from my favourite neighbourhood sushi restaurant, Shiro. What you see above came as a lunch time treat earlier this week courtesy of a special someone. I’ve experienced a lot of tough days over the past year, and on more than one occasion thoughtful friends and family have offered up simple gifts of food.  That gesture is always so appreciated.


January 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm 2 comments

Crustless quiche

When we were in Spain this summer I fell in love with the tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette) that were served at breakfast buffets and on tapas menus. I also really enjoy quiche, but often don’t have the time or motivation to make the crust. Plus, we’re gluten-free and if there is a way to cut out things like pastry, I’m all for that.

I concocted this egg dish as something in between a French quiche and a Spanish tortilla. The recipe is below, but the idea is simple. Grease a glass pie plate or casserole, pile in cooked potatoes and other vegetables until the dish is about three-quarters full, sprinkle cheese on top and then cover with eggs beaten together with a splash of milk. Bake until the eggs set and eat it hot or cold anytime during the day.

Crustless quiche
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
2 cups cooked potatoes, finely diced or thinly sliced
1/2 small onion, minced
1-1/2 cups chopped vegetables (I used asparagus and red pepper here)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
5 eggs
1/4 cup milk

Grease a glass pie plate with oil. Layer in potatoes, onion and vegetables and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and dill. Add cheese on top of the veggie mixture. Whisk the eggs and milk together and pour over top of the vegetables. Bake at 400F for about 30-40 minutes until the eggs are set and the top of the quiche is golden brown. Serve with fruit and muffins for breakfast or with salad for lunch or dinner.

January 27, 2011 at 11:18 am 4 comments

Travel Eats: Mas Rabell, Penedès, Spain

Ensaladade Tomate del Huerto (organic tomato salad)

I’ve started going through travel photos recently as a diversion to the grey winter days. Tomatoes have never looked more beautiful to me than they did in this salad, which was served on a hot July day as part of our lunch at the Torres family’s Mas Rabell restaurant in the Penedès wine region of Spain (about an hour south of Barcelona).

The produce was grown in an on-site organic vegetable garden and all of the food was seasonal, local and impeccably fresh. Seasonal and local have a completely different meaning and taste in Mediterranean countries. Vegetables like tomatoes, artichokes and olives come with rich flavours and an abundance we rarely experience in North America, and the olive oil is truly a wonder. We brought some back with us, but it just doesn’t taste the same as it did when the weather was hot and you could see groves of olive and almond trees dotting the landscape.

Everything we ate at Mas Rabell tasted like something from a beautiful dream. Along with the tomato salad was fresh bread with extra virgin olive oil, a cod fish main course, a cheese course, apple pie and, of course, delicious Torres wines: Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc (2009); Ibericos (2007); Mas La Plana (2006), sweet Moscatel Floralis and the Torres 20 brandy.

Pescado con timbale de cebolla y patata (fish with onion and potato timbale)

Quesos Catalanes (local cheese from the Catalonia region)

Pastel de Manzana (apple pie)

Moscatel Floralis (a dessert wine)

The garden at Mas Rabell where they grow tomatoes, fresh herbs and other produce for the restaurant kitchen.

January 23, 2011 at 9:12 pm 4 comments

Modern day porridge

When we moved to Vancouver, I dragged along a variety of products from Highwood Crossing in Alberta. They make awesome organic flours, canola oil and breakfast foods that I doubt are available here. I’ve written before about how much I love their granola and I’m also a big fan of their steel cut oats.

I always admired my grandfather’s unbreakable routine of beginning each day with a steaming bowl of porridge topped with brown sugar and milk. Is there anything more comforting than that? This is my modern-day version – steel cut oats topped with fresh fruit, soy milk, maple syrup, sunflower seeds and ground flax.

Steel cut oats
1 cup of steel cut oats
3 cups water
pinch of salt

Add oats to boiling salted water. Cook for 15-20 minutes over medium heat, stirring often. Add toppings of your choice and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or whenever the mood strikes.

January 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm Leave a comment

First flower spotted: snowdrops

I spotted my first flowers of the year a few days ago: a couple of snowdrops blooming on my patio. I planted a handful of bulbs last fall hoping for spring blooms, and here they are already. I wish I’d planted a hundred more.

There are other plants in my garden right now – ivy, bamboo and violets all survive the winter here in Vancouver – but the snowdrops are the first sign of growth. Two seasons wrapped up into one tiny flower – a shoot of green and snowy white that pushes us to accept the thin hope of spring while chilly grey days with gloves and scarves continue for a little longer.

January 19, 2011 at 11:35 pm 2 comments

Plants are always the perfect gift

Our sweet neighbours brought over this hibiscus plant as a gift when they joined us for a glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve. They’ve watched me spend endless hours puttering around our tiny garden and become wise to the fact that plants are always the perfect gift. The plant even came with a name – Judy.

Hibiscus plants are beautiful and I’ve always wanted one. It’s resting as directed in bright sunlight (well, as much sunlight as one gets in during a west coast winter) on the desk in my studio. I hope it lasts for years and years.  I’ve seen hibiscus trees for sale at garden stores, plants like this one that have been pruned into a 3 or 4 foot tall tree. There is something wonderfully tropical about these plants that’s particularly restorative in January: if I close my eyes and take a deep breath I can almost imagine myself wandering through a seaside garden in Hawaii and sipping in the sun.

January 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm 1 comment


It gets cold in Vancouver during the winter, usually only for a few days at a time, but long enough that it has taken a toll on a few of my patio plants. My black-eyed susans are now black all over and dormant until next summer, and the Norfolk pine that we painstakingly moved from Calgary is black as well, its branches drooping downwards in complete surrender. We also had a few tropical plants on the patio for the summer months that unfortunately didn’t make it inside before frosty days arrived. I’m not sure what I’ll replace these plants with. It’s sad to see them go, but I’m sort of excited to have the pots empty again to try new things. It’s also an excuse to visit one of my favourite places – the local garden store.

Despite the cool weather and the occasional snow flurries this month and last, the snow drops and crocuses I planted in the fall are already coming up and a few winter violets are still holding on. There are even buds forming on some of the neighbourhood trees and shrubs, and I know that it won’t be long before the bare branches of the cherry trees lining our street are alive with blossoms. It’s dark and cold these days, but I know it won’t last. We’re very happy to be in Vancouver and looking forward to a wonderful growing season ahead.

January 8, 2011 at 7:43 pm Leave a comment

Flickr Photos

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