Posts tagged ‘growing food’

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

Scenes from the berry patch

A tiny bounty of berries is growing in our garden right now. It is the first year for the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries we planted, so I am happy to have anything at all.

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The tally so far: about 40-50 raspberries, maybe a dozen strawberries (and counting since there are still a few flowers and white berries), and six blueberries. A modest harvest to be sure, but it has thrilled me to bits to be able to take our little guy out to the garden every day and pick a berry or two to go along with his cereal.

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I have fond memories of picking berries (and other good things) from the gardens of my childhood and I hope our garden can be the same source of happiness for our son as he grows up. I also love the picture I have in my head of my now three-year-old nephew running out to the yard when he was just over a year old to pick berries from the raspberry patch. It was amazing to see such a little guy so tuned into the good stuff growing in the yard.

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Casey will be a year-and-a-half-old next summer, so I wanted to get our berry patch planted this year so we have a chance of keeping up with demand. One thing I know about this kid is that he’s an eater… I’m sure no berry will be left behind next year!

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Strawberries are his hands-down favourite right now. He loves to hold them by the stem and suck on the berry until there is nothing left but a white core and leaves. Who says you need teeth to eat?

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July 20, 2015 at 11:27 am 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

White bean, chard and beet salad (and what do you think about #vb6?)

white bean beet salad

Have you heard about VB6 yet? It’s new to me since reading an article in the Georgia Straight this week and I have to say that I think you’re all about to become vegans. Part-time vegans, anyways.

VB6 is short for “Vegan Before 6,” a diet / catchphrase coined by New York Times food writer and cookbook author Mark Bittman. The idea is to eat a plant-based diet during the day, and then after 6pm you’re free to eat what you like – meat, eggs, dairy, junk food, whatever you want. “All the benefits of a strict diet without the deprivation,” he says on his website.

I think it’s great. I’m much more a fan of moderate solutions like this, and like Meatless Monday, that promote modest, incremental shifts in our habits and mindsets that lead to actual change. So much better than the usual diet narrative of no this, no that. It’s yes to plants all day, and then yes to whatever you want at night. And if you cheat, that’s fine. Actually, that’s the point: you’re supposed to cheat.

I’m curious to see if the movement catches on. I think it will. I really agree with the woman in the Georgia Straight article who says this: “Something magical happens when people start down the path of a plant-based diet. They start asking what’s in their food. They begin being concerned with the ingredients, quality, the source, the cost to the environment, and the toll it takes on animals.”

I know, you’re thinking, no way, not me, never. Vegan food is gross – too much quinoa and kale and hippie-dippy nonsense. Meat4ever.

But watch, as soon as you start thinking about what you’re eating – whether it’s an animal or a plant – I bet you’ll notice yourself leaning a tiny bit toward the plants. That’s what happened to me, and now I eat things like white bean, chart and beet salads all the time. With edible flowers on top.

Those plants…they’re a slippery slope!

White bean, baby chard and beet salad
Makes 1 salad

This salad was inspired by the beautiful baby chard from Vancouver’s Local Garden. You could also substitute spinach or baby beet greens or any other type of lettuce from your fridge or garden.

Pile 1-2 cups of chard leaves on a plate. I also added a few pea shoots, arugula, mint and Asian greens from my garden. Drain and rinse a can of white beans and sprinkle 1/2 cup of them on top of the salad (reserve the rest for something else). Top with 1/2 cup diced roasted beets and 1 tablespoon of toasted nuts or seeds (I used pumpkin seeds). Drizzle with a balsamic or raspberry vinagrette, and don’t forget the flowers! If you’re eating vegan, you might as well go for it. Nasturtiums, violets, pansies, roses and all sorts of other flowers can all go on salads – mine has (had) arugula blooms on top.

arugula flower

June 14, 2013 at 7:09 am Leave a comment

Windowsill gardening

One of my most successful gardening endeavours this year is happening indoors. I’ve grown several pots of basil from seed on the window sill of my studio this summer and the plants are doing so well in their few inches of sun.

It’s such a satisfying thing to grow a plant from a seed. The ritual of tending to plants brings me endless peace, and basil brings an extra reward. When I water the plants in the morning I brush up against the leaves and experience the earthy summer smell of basil – it’s an amazing signal to my brain to wake up and enjoy the day.

September 20, 2012 at 8:09 am 2 comments

End of summer garden

This weekend feels like the end of summer. The weather is still warm, but it is changing, as is the light, which is thinner now and less intense. Shadows are more pronounced and I see them invading sunny places earlier in the day. I don’t mind – there is something beautiful about the dance of tree leaves in the shade.

The plants of summer are still growing – yellow impatiens, a pot of blue forget-me-nots grown from seed that are just catching their stride, green tomatoes, mint, oregano and chives – but they’re slowing down. Two strawberry plants joined the garden this year and I’m pleased about that: from what I’ve seen in other people’s yards, they don’t wither away in the cold. I’m hoping the Asian greens will stay with me, too, if I don’t eat through them before winter arrives. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli) is the one below with the beautiful white flowers.

I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon outside on the patio in my wicker lounger chair saying farewell to summer and enjoying the beginning of fall. Next weekend I’ll find a garden store so I can plant kale, chrysanthemums, and winter pansies.

September 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm 1 comment

Green tomato season

It’s that time of year again. Green tomatoes on the windowsill time. Do you have them lined up on your windows, too?

At lunch today I did what I often do, which is to walk from my corporate office job down to the beautiful beach. I sat down on a bench on the seawall, and after about 10 minutes I was too hot. I got up and walked a few minutes further and settled myself against a piece of driftwood on the beach proper, near the water. Much better. My sandwich and I were quite happy to have such a wonderful problem.

It is downright chilly in the morning and the night now that mid-September has arrived, and I think this is the last hurrah for my tomato plants. I’ve done all right this year – a steady harvest of two or three cherry tomatoes every day for the last month, and I have another tomato plant with larger fruit that occasionally produces a tomato worth slicing.

I am beginning to wonder about the green tomatoes hanging on the plants. The minute I see a tinge of yellow, they are whisked inside where they can finish ripening in the warm, sunny window of  my studio and not draw away any energy from the other tomatoes on the plant that still need more time. This is working well so far, but I am a little sad watching new tomato nubbins just beginning to form. I don’t think they’re going to have the chance to meet my sandwich or go to the beach.

September 13, 2012 at 9:08 pm 2 comments

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