I spent last weekend in Boston + area for a wedding in Mark’s family (and some general exploring). We were driving into a completely charming small town for the ceremony and I caught myself settling into a familiar thought process. Whenever we travel, on day trips, weekends, whatever, I always slip into the “I could definitely live here” mode. Everywhere we go, it just happens. I get all the little ducks in a row in my mind and imagine the possible benefits and drawbacks. I could probably get a job, it’s near the coast-this is important for like, swimming and stuff, I would need to obtain citizenship somehow…eeenh I’m sure that’s super easy, they have a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods IN THE SAME PLAZA!?!! etc.
This tendency points to a few things. I’m generally comfortable wherever I go, slipping into adaptation mode. I don’t seem to get the itch to go back home ever. I do love my town and my family and everyone here, certainly. But I would be perfectly happy to set up a cozy nest and start something new just about anywhere, for however long. Call it unsettled, call it adventurous or irresponsible; doesn’t matter. I used to think it was too late to entertain this sort of mindset, but lately I just want to drop everything and go everywhere all at the same time. And it feels possible. So possible.
I do love Niagara in the summer. The air is temperate, the local abundance is ripe, plenty of exciting goings-on, the frequency of cold wine and beers outdoors is envigorating, smiling faces everywhere… but I’ve been imagining even greater things. Travel, projects, adventures, getting it done! It feels good.
What feels equally good? A cozy, luxurious and healthy breakfast at home with all of my favourite things. Grainy, seedy sourdough bread soaked in a fresh blueberry and almond batter that’s spiked with orange juice and warm vanilla. Oh and maple syrup, juicy peaches and tart yogurt all on top. Whoa. It’s enough to make me want to stay at home forever (and ever).
blueberry + almond buttered french toast with peaches
special equipment: a blender/food processor
notes: Have everything ready before you make the batter to dip the bread in. If you let the blueberry mixture sit, it begins to separate a bit. Be ready to dip right after you blend!
1 cup almond milk (not sweetened)
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tsp flax seeds
juice from half an orange (or a couple tablespoons)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh blueberries (or thawed frozen ones)
12 thick slices of good, grainy bread (preferably a day old)
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
evaporated cane juice (natural sugar) for sprinkling
3 ripe peaches, sliced
yogurt of your favourite persuasion (coconut milk, soy, goat milk, cow etc)
Start preheating a large nonstick skillet (or cast iron) to medium.
Combine all batter ingredients in a blender pitcher. Blend on medium-high speed until completely liquified, about 1 minute. Pour batter into a medium-sized, shallow dish.
Place coconut oil into the heated pan and swirl it around to melt. If the pan seems to hot, keep it off the heat for a minute or two while you soak the bread. Start to soak slices of bread in blueberry batter. Scrape off excess and place in the pan with the melted coconut oil. Sprinkle a little evaporated cane juice on top of the bread in the pan (the non-cooked side) to promote caramelization when you flip. Cook until slightly browned, about a 1.5 minutes, and flip over. Cook for another minute and remove from the pan.
Wipe the pan out with a bit of paper towel and repeat cooking process with remaining bread and batter.
Serve warm with maple syrup, peaches, blueberries, yogurt and nuts.
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These healthy tacos with fresh sweet corn, juicy peaches and basil are a culmination of many thoughts of dreamy summer meals simmering away over time. My love of juicy fruit in savory dishes is pretty obvious at this point and tacos are the perfect outdoor-dwelling-with-a-cool-drink-in-the-other-hand-kinda food (my heart is devoted to those foods). They also came about because of two pretty specific reasons: the first was a nugget of professional kitchen guidance and the second was spite (not joking).
On the first one–that kitchen wisdom. It started with me completely over-thinking something and ended with the simplest, most calm and matter-of-fact answer (i.e. it mirrored my entire adult life). We had a daily feature at the restaurant that included succotash as a component of the plate. So I ask one of our chefs, perfect sentence structure intact obviously, “What like, definitively makes a succotash like… a succotash? You know?” I followed this with a flippy, fingers stretched, rotating hand gesture that, ahem, very clearly emphasized my query. The answer: “Just whatever vegetables we’re trying to use up. All together.” Sure, you can get technical, but that little shred of simplicity was all I needed to get the wheels turning.
The second inspiration for this truly came out of spite. I saw something bothersome on twitter (getting bothered by a taco-centric tweet; guh I know). A guy was talking about a “right” taco, that there was a proper route to follow in regard to this particular food. Any other way was laughable and misinformed. This implied one obvious, egotistical and riduculous thing to me: everyone was wrong about food except him. Sorry dude, a taco is never wrong. You can quote me on that. There is no right way with food. It is nourishing and individual and different and cultural and socio-economical. It is everything and it belongs to all of us in every way imaginable.
If you have the privilege to consume it regularly, food is completely right in any context. Whether made on a 6 burner Viking stove or stirred together with boiling water in a coffee pot because that’s what is available, it’s your context and it is right. We can decide to make it simple or complex. We make it because we love the process or we make it to get by and move on to the next thing. What’s important is that we do actually make it, that we ask questions of the food and its source, that we serve it to the people we love, that we sit around the communal table and talk and nourish ourselves in every way. That is truly everything.
So with that I give you a not-by-the-book taco with some improper succotash stuffed inside. Oh and some lentils, avocado and a tangle of lime and basil slaw on top. It is different, it is improper in a sense, but they are so delicious it’s unbelievable and the sheer sight of them made me so happy. Whatever they say, that’s the final word.
One more exciting thing: Spirituality & Health magazine has launched a Good Food Blog on their website. I’m so thrilled to be contributing along with some other amazing bloggers. So in honor of all that, they’re letting me give away 2 subscriptions to their inspiring magazine! You can enter the giveaway on my facebook page. You have until Monday July 16th to get your entry in. Good luck lovelies :)
peachy sweet corn tacos with lentils + basil slaw
serves: makes about 10-12 tacos
notes: The succotash makes an awesome side dish all on its own. I would add some chopped basil to it to finish if you’re going to go that route.
1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
1 big sprig of basil, leaves removed and sliced
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
salt and pepper
1/3 cup french lentils, rinsed
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
1 shallot, small dice
1 small red pepper, small dice
1/2 tsp chili powder (ancho or chipotle are amazing)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 ears of corn, kernels removed
2 ripe peaches, pitted and diced
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper
10-12 corn tortillas, warmed
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
Cook the lentils: place the rinsed lentils in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender but still have some bite. Set aside.
Make the slaw: combine the shredded cabbage, basil, lime juice, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Set aside in the fridge.
Make the succotash: Heat the grapeseed oil in a medium-large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and red pepper. Saute mixture until soft and slightly translucent. Add the chili powder and cumin. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the corn kernels and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper at this point. Cook, stirring frequently until corn is crisp-tender and slightly more golden, about 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the diced peaches, cooked lentils and lime juice. Check for seasoning and keep warm.
To assemble: Place 1/4 cup or so of succotash in each tortilla, top with avocado slices and a good tongs-full of slaw. Eat immediately.
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My heart seems to belong to coffee. It hasn’t always been quite like this. My days used to start so early with a big, cozy mug of tea, some reading, a little industriousness, but mostly quiet puttering about before I made my day. Summer busyness is bringing some later nights, which means slightly later mornings (with plenty of puttering about still, thank goodness). As soon as I snap out of my mid-morning haze, I start craving the dark, roasty, slightly acidic tang of strong coffee. There’s a lot of power in that first sip.
I’ve noticed that a few recent posts have been rather long and wordy. Thanks for sticking with me, but this one’s going to cut to the chase. Less reading means more time to get the aromatic grinds steeping away. This is pretty important. From my own experience, fussing about or hesitating are not particularly ideal reactions when dealing with the caffeine habit. Let it lure you in and go to work.
I tried this cold-brewing method straight out of Bon Appetit’s July issue and it’s fantastic. As long as you plan ahead and source some good coffee, you’re in for a treat. The beverage is a whole different animal when given this treatment. Still dark and powerful, but smoother, more filled-out and chocolaty tasting. It’s also the easiest way to make iced coffee that I’ve encountered with perfect consistency every time. How refreshing, right?
cold brewed coffee concentrate
with guidance from Bon Appetit, July 2012 issue and The New York Times
you will need: coffee filters, a fine sieve, 2 medium-large pitchers
serves: Makes around 5 cups of concentrate
notes: Show a barista a bit of love. Buy your beans and have them ground at a local coffee shop. You won’t regret it.
2 1/3 cups coarsely ground coffee (like for a French press)
7 1/2 cups cold water
Place ground coffee into a large pitcher. Slowly pour the 7 1/2 cups of water on top. Lightly stir them together to ensure that all coffee is moistened. Cover the top of the pitcher with a cheesecloth or sheets of paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Let the coffee steep overnight (or up to 15 hours).
After you’ve steeped the coffee, strain the mixture into another large pitcher with a fine sieve. Discard the grinds and rinse out the sieve. Rinse the original steeping pitcher out. Place a coffee filter into the fine sieve. Strain the mixture one more time into the original pitcher with the coffee filter lined sieve. All done!
To serve: Place ice cubes into a glass. Fill halfway with the cold brew coffee concentrate. Top up the remaining half with cold water or milk of your choice (or a combination). I use almond milk with a swizzle of maple syrup to sweeten it up. Enjoy!
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This pie is so decadent and awesome, but oh, cool thing? It’s vegan, gluten, soy and sugar free. Straight up: you can’t just throw it together in 10 minutes and also put dinner on the table, squeeze in a 5k run, call your grandma to catch up, read a chapter in your summer book of choice (PS: here’s mine–it’s wonderful so far), maybe make up a small snack to tide yourself over and do a bunch of other things while the pie just happens.
This dessert takes planning, forethought and a bit of careful tending. You have to very delicately press the crust into the pan and remember to chill it once it cools. There is precise drizzling of chocolate sauce into the churning ice cream at the very end (no sooner, I mean it). Did you remember to chill the bowl of your ice cream maker overnight? And one of the cans of coconut milk? You gotta do that too. The coconut cream must be whipped right before you serve it because it has a tendency to run a bit. Also, remember to remove the pie from the freezer about 10 minutes before you want to serve it so that a possible run to the toolshed for a chainsaw doesn’t become a whole thing. Yes. This pie demands your mindfulness and attention. Is that so much to ask? It’s pie! Totally worth it.
Why the fuss? Once in a while, I like to roll up my sleeves and make something ridiculous and challenging, really absorb myself in the task of making food. Cuisine doesn’t have to be easy or quick or on the table in 30 minutes or less all the time. It’s good to get lost in the potential of it all, the improvements, the variations; aiming higher in the every day. This is important.
There is one resource I rely on rather heavily to challenge my cooking and how I approach food/cuisine. It reminds me that I shouldn’t ever get cocky about something I’ve created, that calling anything “authentic” is up for heated debate, that referring to yourself as a chef is probably guaranteed inappropriate at any time and that thinking a bit more deeply about what I’m making or serving is necessary, always. The images are unusual and sometimes harsh; not just pretty for the sake of it. I revisit its issues often, the ideas and frank opinions on the current plusses and minuses of food culture. The recipes range from seaweed burgers to multi-layered arnold palmer cakes to gnocchi made with instant ramen noodles. Every issue is at once a revelation and a slap in the face; a call to talk less, do more and make it better.
Have you guessed it yet? It’s Lucky Peach from the awesome people at McSweeney’s. A wonderful and close friend gifted me a 1 year subscription when it came out just because he knew I would love it. Since I’ve been feeling some extra goodness around here lately from all of you, I thought I would do the same. I will add that this little giveaway isn’t endorsed or sponsored by any external party. I’m just doing it because I love it and know that one of you will be just as inspired (and put in line in the best of ways) by its pages delivered quarterly to your doorstep.
How do you enter? I wanted to make it easy, so I’ll give you two completely non-strenuous methods: 1) just cruise over to my facebook page and “like” the photo I’ve posted of this fancy pie (so easy!). Yep, one little thumbs up could get you a one year subscription to the coolest food quarterly ever. 2) Going with the theme of generosity, leaving a comment here will get you an additional entry–why not, right?
I’ll run this for one week (until July 5th) and will be choosing the winner from a hat. Whoop! (Now closed!)
roasted banana split ice cream pie
serves: makes one 9 inch pie
special equipment: an ice cream maker
notes: The recipe for the ice cream makes a bit more than what is needed for the pie. Oops :) Cool thing: I had some caramel from these brownies and drizzled some onto the crust before I laid the ice cream in. Highly recommended!
crust (adapted from Roost):
1 1/4 cups almond flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tbsp agave nectar/maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
roasted banana ice cream:
2 medium bananas, peeled and sliced (roughly)
1 tbsp melted coconut oil
2 (400 ml) cans of full fat coconut milk
1/3 cup agave nectar/maple syrup/raw honey + extra for roasting bananas
1 tbsp vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
chocolate sauce (this makes AMAZING chocolate shell-like coating for ice cream any old time):
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 tsp melted coconut oil
coconut whipped cream:
2 cans full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
3 tbsp agave nectar/maple syrup/raw honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (you’ll have to raise it to 400 degrees F for the bananas).
Make the crust: Combine the almond flour and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and whisk together. Add the agave nectar, vanilla extract and coconut oil. Mix until thoroughly combined and the mixture holds together like wet sand. Press mixture into a 9 inch pie plate, trying to make the thickness even all along the sides and the bottom. Bake in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly darker and dry/solid seeming. Cool crust thoroughly at room temperature and place in the fridge until ready for use.
Roast the bananas: Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Place the sliced bananas on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the slices with the melted coconut oil and maple syrup. Roast for about 20 minutes or until bananas are very soft and caramelization is apparent (see photo). Cool bananas on the tray and set aside.
Make the chocolate sauce: Combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small stainless steel or glass bowl. Place bowl over a saucepan with 1 inch of simmering water (double boiler method). Stir the chocolate chips until melted and a uniform mixture is achieved. Remove from the heat and set aside (NOT in the fridge!)
Make the ice cream: Combine the roasted bananas, coconut milk, agave nectar, vanilla extract and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend/pulse until bananas are dissolved into the mixture/not chunky. Pour this mixture into your ice cream maker and follow through with the manufacturer’s directions. Mine took about 25 minutes to achieve slightly firmer soft serve-like texture. In the last minute of churning, slowly pour the chocolate sauce in. It will harden immediately and form little pockets of chocolaty goodness.
Scrape the ice cream into the reserved pie crust. Smooth the top and freeze for a good 20 minutes to firm up the ice cream.
Make the whipped coconut cream: Remove the top layer of solid cream from the cans of coconut milk. Place into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the agave/honey/sweetener of choice and vanilla bean seeds. Mix on medium-high speed, stopping and scraping down here and there. Mix until stiff, whipped cream-like consistency is achieved.
Assemble: Remove the pie from the freezer and top with the whipped coconut cream. Top with a few cherries for garnish if you like (I only do this to really drive home the banana split theme). Serve immediately.
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I love an easy, healthy and unusual side dish for summer dinners, and this one fits the bill pretty nicely. In fact, I’ve spent a good amount of time looking forward to side dishes lately. The vegetables, the whole grains, the crusty bread, the salads; just filling out that plate like I know how (I absolutely know how). Wholesome summer sides are kind of my scene. And maybe spontaneous ice cream outings. Those are important too.
This is likely a by-product of saying nay to meat for most of my adult life or maybe I just have an insane loyalty to vegetables. It’s lovely when family or friends invite you over for a barbecue with (hopefully veggie, grain and bean-based) burgers, but what about those side dishes? I don’t think I’m alone in my curiosity/sincere appreciation/true, undying love for them.
I’m also fully aware that finding a scrap of motivation to make something other than a leafy salad, cheese and crackers, sliced fruit, a glass of water with a slice of lemon even etc. is kind of a miracle nowadays for a lot of us. Thirty plus degrees Celsius (or higher)?! Sorry, oven. You lose this round (except when a fancy cake is happening–I still love you seriously). Summer living is meant to be easy, fun and smiley; not frustrated-frizzy-haired-red-oven-glow-sorta-shiny-grrr-face awfulness. Staying cool and keeping your coiffed hairs, well…, coiffed is ideal.
I steam the wedges of sweet potato first to get them mostly cooked (like super quickly), slather them in a chili flecked marinade for a bit, make up a sweet and tangy cherry salsa, grill up the wedges, spoon the salsa on top, and add a sprinkle of toasty pecans at the end. Sweet and spicy, so easy, super flavourful and light. I don’t recommend too many heat-based cooking methods in this kind of humidity, but once the sun retreats in the evening, grilling is totally alright with me, especially with a cool drink in the non-tongs-holding hand.
Chopping up the cooked sweet potatoes and tossing them with the cherry salsa, a bit more olive oil, a good pinch of salt and a cup or so of cooked quinoa makes for an awesome picnic side or, you know, a tupperware full of goodness that you can dig your fork into every time you pass the fridge. Either way, really.
I’ve accepted that it might be a while before we get ripe, juicy summer tomatoes. In the meantime, this super fun and beautiful summer side dish is suiting me just fine.
grilled sweet potatoes with cherry salsa and quinoa
serves: 4 (6-8 with the quinoa)
notes: You kind of have to par-boil or par-steam the sweet potatoes before grilling. It’s only, like, 5 minutes of stove steaminess though. Not too bad, right? Instructions for making this into a little quinoa salad are at the bottom.
for the sweet potatoes:
3 small-medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into wedges or rounds
1.5 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chipotle powder (or to taste)
pinch of chili flakes
salt and pepper
for the cherry salsa:
heaped cup of de-stemmed sweet, black cherries, pitted
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 inch of ginger, peeled and grated on a rasp zester
zest and juice of 1 lime
a handful of pecans, roughly chopped
salt to taste
for the quinoa salad variation:
1/2 cup quinoa, soaked and rinsed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
2 green onions, thinly sliced
big handful of pecans, chopped
lots of salt and pepper
Place a large pot with about 2 inches of water on medium heat. Bring to a simmer and place cut sweet potatoes onto a steamer basket. Lower steamer basket into the pot, put a lid on top and steam the sweet potatoes for 5-7 minutes or until just tender. Remove wedges with a pair of tongs, placing into a large tupperware container.
Cover the cooked sweet potatoes with the grapeseed oil, lime zest, lime juice, ground cumin, chipotle, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the cherry salsa: chop the pitted cherries roughly and place in a medium bowl. Add the sliced green onions, grated ginger, lime zest, lime juice and black pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.
Heat a your grill or grill pan to medium-high. Place marinated wedges, cut side down (as opposed to peel-side down) on the grill. Flip wedges after about 2-3 minutes. Cook other side for another 2 minutes and remove sweet potatoes from the grill.
To serve: Place wedges face up on a plate, season with salt if you like and cover with the cherry salsa.
For the quinoa salad variation: cook the quinoa in 1 cup of water over medium heat. Bring the quinoa to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until all of the water us absorbed. Remove from the heat and place into a large bowl. To the quinoa, add chopped sweet potatoes, the cherry salsa, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, the juice of 1 lime, the sliced green onions, chopped pecans, salt and pepper.
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