Tag Archives: garden

You say tomato…

8 Aug

IMG_2463Happy Monday all! So I promised you yesterday that I would show you some of what I’ve been doing with the tomato goodness from my garden. Just a quick refresher on the varieties I’m growing: golden cherry tomatoes, Roma/plum, beefsteak, and 2 kinds of heirloom tomatoes: Brandywine and Japanese Truffle. I seem to have a little blight on some of my plants, but happily, not all of them. I’m not in peak season yet, the tomatoes are coming slowly but surely. However, within a week or so, I’m sure I’ll be overloaded (and ready to share).

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Today’s spotlight is mostly going to be on the Romas. Last year was my first year growing plum tomatoes, and I LOVE them. They are perfect for cooking, making sauces, and roasting. Oh, how I LOVE roasted tomatoes. Confession: when I was out in the garden harvesting tomatoes on Saturday and thinking about roasting them, I *may* have made a rock fist and declared aloud how much I love roasted vegetables….that’s normal, right?

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The tasty lunch you see here is a salad of sorts. I roasted plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and onion with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper and olive oil (confession: I was actually running out to get a few groceries, and put these in the oven before I left (on a lower heat than I normally would), then turned them up when I got home. But I do not condone/recommend having the oven on when you’re not home, for obvious safety reasons). I tossed the warm veggies with some fresh spinach and spritzed with my fancy truffle balsamic vinegar. The spinach wilted slightly, but not all the way – it was just perfect. I also tossed in about 1/4 cup black beans (all that was left from the can I opened for the chili), some feta cheese, and a piece of chopped lunch meat chicken (seasoned with lime and an herb – I forget what).

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A close-up of the grilled goodness

On the side, as you can see, I enjoyed 2 slices of fresh local muskmelon wrapped in ham (my nod to the classic prosciutto/melon combo). Mmm! Such a perfectly delectable summer lunch. I mean, I love salads and vegetables, but roasting them just takes the flavour to a new dimension. If you haven’t tried it, what are you waiting for?!IMG_2468

The other Roma/plum tomato usage I’m highlighting is in my Neapolitan green beans that were an accompaniment to my pizza Friday night (if it looks like a light meal, that’s because I was heading out to go to Costco and eat samples and then head to Starbucks with a friend). I made the beans the same way as I did when I first told you about them, only used fresh plum tomatoes. Garden fresh tomatoes + basil + beans = delicious side dish and happy Hilary.

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And the pizza? Ok, it does not contain tomatoes, but it was so simple, fresh, delicious, and AMAZING that you’re just going to have to hear about it, okay?

Goat Cheese, Beet and Arugula Pizza

Crust – by now, you’ve got the idea (click the link if you’re new here).

For sauce, I topped it with a smear of red wine onion relish (if you haven’t made it yet, WHY NOT? Seriously, so good) for a little added flavour and so that I wouldn’t be putting my toppings on a naked crust.

I topped that off with 3 beets that I cooked earlier in the day (it’s my new thing with beets. I LOVE them, but they are a pain to cook, so when I know I want some, I just boil the whole basket and put them in the fridge, then they’re good to go when I want them), sliced.

I sprinkled the beets with some crumbled PC Blue Menu goat cheese, and added salt and pepper, then popped it in the oven.

Now, to get all fancy and “restaurant-y,” I topped the baked pizza with arugula that I lightly dressed in a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, olive oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing (basically my standard here). I’m really liking the fresh, cool salads on pizza thing lately (as in my spicy BBQ chicken pizza). Something about the contrast in flavour, texture and temperature just works.

Mmmm…this pizza was incredibly simple (as long as you’ve got the beets pre-cooked) but the flavours of summer produce really stood out in a delicious way. It’s so light that it would work for lunch, or cut in wedges it would make a great summer appetizer too.

Speaking of summer-fresh eating, head on over to Nourishing-Flourishing and check out her recipe for Garden Green Goddess Dressing. It uses avocado, fresh parsley, and a load of other delicious ingredients. I’ve really been digging the fresh parsley this summer. I’ve always planted it, but it took a backseat to Basil and my other fresh favs. But this year, I’m loving it’s fresh, grassy, herbaceous-ness and throwing into all kinds of salads (and dips – like that asparagus hummus and of course, cowboy caviar).

What is your favourite kind of tomato/favourite way to use fresh tomatoes (or you a hater, like I used to be)?

They’re coming!

7 Aug

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The tomatoes in my garden are starting to appear. I makes me so happy!

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Roma, golden cherry, beefsteak, heirloom, it’s a beautiful thing. Come back tomorrow to see how I’m using them (so far).

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Look at that close-up of the golden cherry tomato and the cut heirloom (Brandywine) tomato. You can’t really see it in this shot, but they’ve got a beautiful green tinge on top.

 

 

 

 

Happy Sunday! Eat local today!

Corn to be wild

2 Aug

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I made a lot of corn on the cob for Sunday’s BBQ. So much so that I had to cook it on the stove in our HUGE roaster. See these bags of corn? That’s *almost* all of the leftovers (minus the one cob I used for lunch today).

My mom informed me that she’s kind of tired of corn on the cob right now. I told her it’s a bad time to be tired of corn. So what to do with it all? Here’s what I’IMG_2424ve come up with so far….

For lunch yesterday, one cob’s worth of corn kernels made their way into a tasty salad, along with the teensiest bit of leftover “cowboy caviar,” red pepper, green onion, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pickled red onions, fresh basil and parsley, and a tasty dressing made with chardonnay peach vinegar.

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What are those herbaceous cheesy topped veggies beside the salad? SO glad you asked. They don’t contain corn, but they were so tasty, I just have to share with you! I grilled a slice of eggplant and a portabella mushroom. Then I topped them with a couple of tablespoons of light ricotta cheese, salt and pepper, chopped thyme, basil and oregano, and lemon zest and juice. Mmmm! Summer deliciousness to the max. All the flavours worked SO well together and made a great light bite.

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Lunch was good. But more corn still remained. What to do, what to do? Then I thought, “I bet if I made cornbread with fresh corn kernels, it would be really good.” Then I thought, “I bet I could find a recipe that uses buttermilk, since I still have buttermilk kickin’ around in the fridge after making these biscuits.” Then I looked in Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and found her recipe for buttermilk cornbread. Then I though, “I bet I can make this healthier.” And here we are.

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I think that Pioneer Woman would be disappointed in me if she saw what I did for her cornbread. And this is why: 1. I sweetened it. I think I’ve heard that southerners DO NOT like their cornbread sweetened…but I do. And not only did I sweeten it, I used Splenda (the horror!). 2. I cut out the shortening and used a reduced amount of oil. You know how PW loves her ranch food. Since my long runs can never come close to the rigors of working on a ranch, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, ya know? I also used a square pan since I don’t have a cast iron skillet. PW, I love you, and hold you in highest esteem. Please don’t hate my northern cornbread, ok?

Fun fact: It took me three tries to get my “ingredients” (or cast of characters, as PW would say) shot since I kept forgetting things! The things I do for the blog!

Northern Girl’s Healthified Corny Cornbread

  • 1 cup Yellow CornmealIMG_2430
  • 1/2 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ cup Splenda
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 ½ tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
  • non-stick spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. While oven is pre-heating, put a 9 inch square stoneware pan or other oven-safe pan in the oven to get nice and hot. MAKE SURE YOUR PAN IS OVEN SAFE SO YOU DON’T HAVE A TRAGIC ACCIDENT AND HURT YOURSELF!!!!

Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and Splenda in a bowl. Stir together.

Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup and add the egg. Stir together with a fork. Add the baking soda and stir.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir with a fork until combined.

Slowly add vegetable oil to the batter, stirring until just combined. Gently fold in fresh corn and jalapenos (if using).

Remove the hot pan from the oven and spray liberally with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the hot pan. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Edges should be crispy! Cut into 12 pieces.

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Dry ingredients.

 

 

 

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Plus milk/buttermilk/egg/baking soda mixture.

 

 

 

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Add in the jalapenos and the corn kernels.

 

 

 

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Mix it all up, and ready to go in the oven.

 

 

 

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My pan is nice and hot. It’s really fun to pour in the batter and hear it sizzle.

 

 

 

 

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Now what goes good with cornbread? Can’t you tell what I’m going to make with olive oil, MORE CORN, zucchini and tomatoes from my garden, red pepper, mushrooms, onion, garlic, cauliflower, black beans, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, canned black beans, and leftover outside-in tamale pie (a little freezer burned after almost 4 months in the freezer, IMG_2441but not much worse for wear)? Don’t those leftovers just look SO appetizing in the photo? Smile with tongue out 

What? It’s not obvious? Ok, I’ll tell you: chili! And a darn tasty chili too! I just combined the above ingredients (well, sautéed the fresh veggies in the oil first) with a bit of water, salt, pepper, spices and Epicure seasonings, simmered away, and voila!

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The chili was delicious, and even better topped with Greek yogurt and leftover pickled onions, with a side of a cool cucumber salad, and of course, cornbread! I picked a pretty hot day to have chili, I’ll admit, but it did use up a lot of leftovers, so mission accomplished. At the end of the day, I said I felt like all I’d done was cut corn off the cob…do you understand why?!?!

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I was literally sweating after eating the hot chili for supper, so this chocolate cherry sundae (low fat vanilla ice cream, fresh sweet cherries, fat-free biscotti, light chocolate syrup, fat-free Reddi-Whip) cooled me down nicely.

 

I’ve still got a big bag o’ corn left. Any bright ideas to use it up?

Tea for Two

28 Jul

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I had an awesome landlady for the 3 years I lived off-campus during university. As in, free parking in the driveway, drive you to the hospital and wait with you for 5 hours and pay the parking ticket when you needed stitches kind of awesome. So when I bought a groupon to Dishington’s, a tea room just outside of London, I called her and asked her if she wanted to get together for lunch to catch up (she’s an avid HHH reader…Hi Lynne!). Thankfully, she accepted, and Tuesday we had lunch.

When I thought tea room, I was thinking creamy salads, sandwiches and baked goods, but thankfully, I managed to find some healthier options (since this week/weekend are PACKED with food-focused occasions, I didn’t want to start 80/20 –ing too early Winking smile). I ordered the “soup, salad and biscuits” with a garden salad. The soup of the day was tomato vegetable, so pretty healthy. I didn’t snap a picture of the biscuits, but I only ate one (no butter). I LOVE biscuits, but rarely eat them, so it was a nice treat. The salad was your average salad, and the soup was good.IMG_2306

Lynne and I decided to share a dessert. Given my love for peanut butter and chocolate, when we heard that peanut butter chocolate ice cream cake was the feature, that was our choice – YUM! It was pretty much just as delicious as it looked and sounded. The tea was good, but I was a little disappointed that at a fancy tea room, it was just Lipton! I was hoping for something a little more special.

All-in-all, it was a great lunch though. So nice to catch up with Lynne, who is no longer my landlady, but a dear friend. And I treated myself without going too overboard.IMG_2313

After saying good bye to Lynne, I headed downtown to The Running Room to get new runners. My current pair have been through a marathon and a half marathon with me, so they were well past their prime. After consulting with the helpful staff, I came away with the most expensive running shoes I’ve ever owned – these Asics. The guy told me that the shoes I have now weren’t supportive enough for my arches (I expected as much. I have flat feet and was in MAJOR pain when I crossed the finish line last fall at my marathon). I’m planning my “maiden run” in them today, so I’ll keep you posted!

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I was really hungry by the time I got back home (around 6). Although my lunch included some yummy treats, what it didn’t include was very much protein. I wanted something that would be satisfying and filling, but still pretty light. Enter: zucchini “pasta” with meat sauce.

Not only does zucchini “pasta” IMG_2309have way less carbs and calories than the usual stuff, it also cooks up WAY quicker ( a great benefit when your stomach’s eating itself). All you do is use a vegetable peeler to make thing strands from the zucchini. As long as it’s not too big and seedy, you can use the whole thing (one medium zucchini makes one serving).

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I cooked my “noodles” in salted water in my microwave cooker for 4 minutes, drained, seasoned with salt and pepper and that’s it!

 

 

 

 

For my quick meat sauce, I sauteed ground turkey, onion, garlic, mushrooms, IMG_2308red pepper and yellow pepper (from my garden!) in a teaspoon of olive oil until browned. Then, I added part of a can of San Marzano tomatoes, a splash of red wine (because it was sitting there, I was feeling rebellious, and I like the taste of wine in sauces, just not to drink)and salt and pepper; brought to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered for a few minutes.

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Right at the end, I stirred in a generous handful of chopped fresh basil and oregano, simmered for a few more minutes, and we were good to go. I poured the sauce over my “pasta,” added some Parmesan, garnished with more fresh basil, and dinner was served!

 

Thank you to those of you who submitted questions to me earlier in the week. I plan to answer them in a post to come – it’s just been a bit crazy this week. Stay tuned for the rest of my eating adventures (and a shoe summary).

If you are a runner (or any other type of exerciser for that matter) have you shelled out the big bucks for shoes, and was it worth it?

Happy Hump Day

27 Jul

Happy Hump Day all! And, going with the post title, this post is all about things that made me happy/smile this week (I’m writing this on Monday night, doing double posts since it’s such a busy week ahead). It’s a bit of a random collection, but I promise, at least one of these things will make you smile too (contact me if not and I’ll see what I can do IMG_2288about that).

Smile# 1: This cream cheese. What is it, you may ask? It is garlic, feta and dill cream cheese, and it’s about the easiest thing ever to make, but seriously delicious (although if you are one of those strange, I mean, unique and special, individuals who doesn’t like garlic, you might want to skip this one.IMG_2287

My mom made this for our pool party Friday, and my Aunt requested it for the party I catered for her Monday. The ingredients are (are you ready for this?): garlic, feta, dill and cream cheese – that’s it! I found this on allrecipes.com back in the day for my mom’s birthday and it has since become a family favourite. It only gets more garlic-y as it sits (NOT a bad thing). And the beauty of this recipe is that you can use more or less of any one ingredient depending on your preference, and it will still turn out beautifully. Here’s the basic recipe:

Garlic, Dill and Feta Cream Cheese from Allrecipes.com

  • 2 packages (light) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 container (mine was 400 g) (light) feta, crumbled
  • 3 (or 4 if you’re me) cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons (I used a bit more) chopped fresh dill (or substitute about 1 tablespoon dried)

Beat all ingredients together until combined. Allow to sit at least a few hours for flavours to blend.

Mmm….when I had this last Friday, it was one of those “Why haven’t I made this in so long?” moments. So easy. So good.

Smile #2: Dance Party Class at The Athletic Club Brantford. My cheapie $19 one month membership ends Wednesday, and I’ve been about 9 or 10 times – I think that’s getting my money’s worth, right? I’ve been to this class 3 times, and it’s SO MUCH fun. First of all, the instructor, Trudy, is fantastic. She really does make it feel like a party, she’s all smiles and a ton of fun. And we do all different dance moves – everything from Lady Gaga to Britney to Michael Jackson to Line Dance, Swing, Bollywood and Irish Dance, and it’s pretty easy to follow.

It’s also a good cardio workout. I was sceptical before my first time, and although there are some more “mature” participants, it really is easy to pump up the moves and get your heart rate going. If you are a member at TAC Brantford, and are available at 9:30 Monday mornings, go party with Trudy, and just try not to smile!IMG_2282

Smile # 3: Crackerjack Sundae. Put a scoop of light vanilla ice cream in a bowl. Crack open a box of Cracker Jack. Pour over the ice cream. Enjoy, with a smile on your face, at the sweet and crunchy treat you’ve created (these boxes are under 150 calories, and 3 for a dollar at Walmart….go get some…NOW)!

Smile#4: This article on Serious Eats. The author goes to the Cold Stone creamery and discovers what happens when you order every mixin. It’s good for a laugh. If you haven’t visited seriouseats.com, you really should. It’s a fun food site, with lots of whimsical and light-hearted articles – great for procrastinating/time wasting when there’s something else you should be doing. Although the site is called Serious Eats, they don’t take food too seriously. But it is a seriously awesome website, and a seriously hilarious article.

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Smile #5: Getting all this from my garden in a single visit: 2 zucchini, fresh sage (which I used in a tasty pasta dish), kale and my first yellow pepper (which took FOREVER to ripen). I just love summer and all the garden goodness. It makes healthy eating so easy (and delicious).

#6: Being featured in the Simcoe Reformer. Sorry, I’m not trying to brag, and I know it’s not all that big of a deal being featured in a small town paper, but it’s exciting to me. And I was really happy with the way the article was written. Today the Reformer, tomorrow?

What has put a Smile on your face lately?

Sorry….salads!

26 Jul

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Just to clarify the title, these are not sorry salads, as in, salads that have seen better days. More like, sorry…I’m posting salads AGAIN! But it’s hot, it’s summer, and this really is what I’m eating these days. So if you’re a salad hater like my cousin Jonathan, my apologies.

But before I give you the down-low on my latest salad sensations, some exciting news: I WAS FEATURED IN MY LOCAL PAPER YESTERDAY! Check out the article here. I called the paper to tell them about my blog and upcoming trip to the Healthy Living Summit, and to see if they wanted to write an article about me…turns out they did! As a Canadian blogger in a small town, there are many strikes against me when trying to promote HHH, but there are also benefits (ie, if I call up the paper, I get an interview and an article. Also, my stats jumped way up yesterday, so I guess even the smallest media feature helps. And if you are a new reader who found me via the Reformer, welcome!

Now, back to your regularly scheduled salads.IMG_2285 When I tell you the main ingredients of my Sunday lunch salad, it’s going to sound sort of like a weird casserole your hippy-Aunt would make.

  • kale
  • beets
  • quinoa
  • spinach
  • zucchini
  • portabella mushroom

….see? But it’s really good, I promise! This was my first time eating raw kale, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but it was actually pretty good. I mixed the kale with arugula and spinach for my IMG_2286greens, and tossed in some beans and peas from the garden as well. Then, I grilled a slice of zucchini, Vidalia onion and a portabella mushroom cap; sliced them up and tossed them in. I topped it all off with a cup of cooked, sliced beets (I pre-boiled and chilled them so they’d be at the ready when I needed ‘em), half a cup of leftover, cooked quinoa, fresh thyme and basil, and feta cheese. My dressing was made up of fancy cranberry wine vinegar, grainy mustard, oil and fat-free Italian salad dressing.

Oh. Wow. This salad was seriously yummy, and not in a weirdo healthy way at all. I love beets, and the sweetness of them and the cranberry vinegar in the dressing worked perfectly with the saltiness of the feta. The mix of grilled and fresh veggies provided a nice mix of textures as well. Mmmmm! And, as seen in the last close-up, one thing I love about beets is how they colour everything around them – I think it’s just so purdy.

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Salad number two is another grilled veggie wonder – grilled corn and zucchini, tossed with fresh spinach, onion, cucumber, red pepper, tomato and a bit of broccoli slaw. I put a bit of ham and feta in the mix, along with fresh dill, salsa, red wine vinegar and fat-free Italian dressing. Another winner! This salad was nice and light, and was the perfect pre-pool party lunch for Friday when I knew I’d be nibbling all afternoon.

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This is not a very good photo (I only have two hands, and I don’t have my own personal photographer), but I am attempting to show you a little trick I learned from Rachael Ray: when stripping corn off the cob, stand the corn up inside your bowl vertically, and run your knife down the cob – then all your kernels will end up in the bowl!

This may seem like a lot of salads, but starting today, it won’t be like that the rest of the week. I’ve got two lunches out planned (thanks groupon and wagjag), a BBQ/dinner planned with family and some friends visiting from BC, a potential girls’ pool party (rescheduled from last weekend), and we’re hosting two BBQs on the long weekend….so wish me luck! This is going to be one of those weeks when the 20% of the 80/20 rule won’t be enough for all of the splurging I want to do!

Do you like eating salad all summer, or do you get sick of it?

Quick and Cool

22 Jul

As per the subject line, this is just going to be a quick post, as I was gone for about 12 hours yesterday (funeral out of town).

Tuesday night I needed supper fast. It was after 6 o’clock, and I was hungry. It was IMG_2222hot outside, and I didn’t want to make something that would require a lot of time and heat. So I went for something burger-inspired that only needed a microwave – no grill, stovetop or oven – Hungry Girl’s Big Bad Burger Wrap. I have to say, this is one of my favourite HG recipes. It comes from her 200 under 200 Cookbook. It’s easy to make, and full of classic burger flavour. Here’s how it all goes down.

Hungry Girl’s Big Bad Burger Wrap from 200 under 200

    1 large tortilla (low calorie if possible – I use my beloved flatout wraps)
    1 Boca Original Meatless Burger (or whatever type you can find here in Canada)
    1 wedge Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese
    1 pickle spear, chopped (you can also add chopped onion, as I often do).
    1 teaspoon mustard
    1 teaspoon ketchup
    2 dashes Hot Sauce of your choice
      Prepare Boca patty according to box directions, either in the microwave or in a pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Chop patty into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
      To make sauce, combine mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce in a small dish. Stir well and set aside.
      Warm tortilla in the microwave for 10 seconds. Lay tortilla flat and spread cheese wedge on top.
      Place chopped burger and pickle in the center of the tortilla. Top with sauce. Fold the sides of the tortilla in, and then roll it up from the bottom. Enjoy!

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    On the side, I had a HUGE, super-awesome Mediterranean Quinoa Salad. As best as I can remember, here’s what went in it:

    • chopped tomatoes
    • chopped pickling cucumbers (LOVE the crunch!)
    • spinach leaves
    • chopped green onion
    • chopped red onion (hey, I love onion – what can I say?)
    • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I love cooking up a big batch and having it leftover in the fridge)
    • chopped red pepper

    My dressing was a mix of fat-free Italian salad dressing, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and olive oil. Of course, there was salt and pepper over it all. Mmm….this salad was absolutely delicious, very filling, and loaded with fresh summer flavours. In other words, pretty much perfect – I’d definitely make it again!

    Happy weekend friends! Hope you can enjoy the beautiful weather – but stay cool! Any exciting plans? I’ve got 2 pool parties on the horizon (I’ll be sharing the tasty appetizer recipe I made for today’s party shortly).

    Road Trip!

    21 Jul

    I am blessed to live where I do. grapes of wrathNot only do I live within driving distance of most of my extended family, I also live within driving distance of many fun places to visit, such as Stratford Ontario, home of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. So when my Aunt asked if I wanted to go with her and my cousins to see a play in Stratford and go out for dinner (and generously offered to buy my ticket…thanks Auntie Rue!), how could I refuse?

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    Since the play was at 2, we planned to leave around noon, which meant I’d be eating on the road. By now, you know me better than to think that equals McDonald’s (at least I certainly hope you do). I packed a nice little car-friendly meal: PC blue menu Tzatziki and veggies (including peeled pickling cucumbers…oh how I LOVE them….so crunchy…seriously one of the best parts of summer), ham slices with lemon dill mustard wrapped around arugula, 2 Source: Dessert Selection yogurts and fresh cherries. Since I was eating cherries and wearing a white skirt, I packed a paper towel, just to be on the safe side (thankfully there were no fruit/fashion mishaps). This lunch was perfectly portable, and perfectly delicious.

    The play we saw was The Grapes of Wrath. Let me warn you, if you are feeling a little sad, or down-in-the-dumps, I wouldn’t recommend this one. It takes place in the depression, and it was, well, depressing. Don’t get me wrong, it was a really good play – very well done, superbly acted and great music, but not exactly a feel-good play, and you don’t come away feeling all warm and fuzzy. Thankfully, my Aunt and Cousins and I all have a pretty good sense of humour, so we were able to get our spirits up over dinner afterward.

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    Speaking of dinner, we ate at Pazzo, which has a fancier trattoria upstairs and a more casual pizzeria downstairs. I ate a couple bites of a piece of bread and to start, my Aunt and I both had the “soiled reputation greens, roasted chickpeas, monforte toscano, lemon and olive oil” salad. Delicious! Perfectly dressed (not over-dressed at all) and the chickpeas had a pleasant crunch to them that worked beautifully with the other tastes and textures in the salad.

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    Since we were at a pizzeria, of course we had to go with pizza for our main course. You can choose your crust and toppings, so my aunt and I shared a whole wheat crust (nice and thin, incredibly crispy, and not oily in the least) with tomato sauce, mozzarella, goat cheese, roasted garlic, portabellas, roasted red pepper, fresh basil, sundried tomatoes and roasted red onions (I think that’s everything). You pay by the topping, so it wasn’t cheap, but it sure was tasty! I ate two (plus a little bit) slices and enjoyed every bite.

    Me and my cousin Emily at Pazzo (think we look alike? You’re not the first.)

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    All-in-all, a great day. Nice weather, good (albeit rather sad) play, great food, and even better company. Thanks again Auntie Rue!

     

    What are your go-to road-trip meals and snacks?IMG_2235

    P. S. See this guy? It’s a yellow cherry tomato. It came out of my garden on Tuesday. It’s a slow start, but, my friends, tomato season has begun…stay tuned!

    Oats, peas, beans and barley grow

    19 Jul

    Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,IMG_2208
    Oats, peas, beans, and barley grow,
    Can you or I or anyone know
    How oats, peas, beans, and barley grow?

    …anyone else know this song? I feel like it may have been a Sharon, Lois and Bram classic. Anyways, that’s what was going through my head as I picked snow peas and beans from my garden today. I just need some oats and barley to complete my song! Or maybe I could rewrite the lyrics: “herbs, peas, beans and zucchini grow”? Any takers?

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    So you know me, almost as soon as I got those guys outta the ground, I had to get them into my stomach! Exhibit A: my delicious watermelon, ham and veggie salad for lunch yesterday (there are peas and beans under all that pink-ness, I promise!). My greens were spinach and garden-fresh arugula, the vegetation was red pepper, cucumber, yellow and green beans and snow peas from the garden, cucumber, red onion and tomato. I used up the last of the watermelon leftover from the fruit bouquet and 4 slices of lean deli ham (preservative-free, thank-you-very-much). For herbage, I added some fresh cilantro.

    I topped this all off with salt and pepper and a delicious vinaigrette made from schmancy maple wine vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing, oil and Dijon mustard. Once again, another salad winner, folks! Peppery arugula, sweet and juicy melon (just that combo alone was FANTASTIC), crunchy veggies, and herb-y freshness from the cilantro: summer perfection! Another added benefit? The lovely pink hue. Nothing like a salad in your favourite colour to get your week off to a good start!

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    Exhibit B: The delicious bean side dish I made for supper last night. It was a riff on a Martha Stewart recipe I made last summer for my mom’s birthday called Neapolitan Green Beans. The original recipe calls for simmering the beans with fresh tomato, slice garlic, chili flakes, and basil. I have done my own variations on this dish several times, and they all turn out great. Here is a loose recipe guideline to help you re-create and/or re-invent this dish.

    Neapolitan Green Beans

    Adapted from Martha Stewart

    • Green and/or yellow beans to serve as many as you’d like
    • Tomato/some sort of tomato product (you can use any kind of fresh tomato – plum, cherry, regular, or canned tomatoes, or tomato sauce, or any combination of the above) This time, I used a bit of frozen spicy tomato sauce and part of a fresh tomato.
    • A pinch of chili flakes (omit if you don’t like things spicy or if you’re using spicy tomato sauce, as I did this time)
    • Fresh garlic, sliced (use as much or as little as you’d like)
    • A few sprigs fresh basil
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Trim the beans and cut in half. Place the beans, chili flakes, garlic, tomatoes and salt and pepper in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for about 10 minutes. Add basil sprigs (leave whole), increase heat to medium and simmer, uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes until liquid is slightly reduced. Remove basil sprigs and serve.

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    When the beans have simmered for about 10 minutes and look like this, it’s time to….

     

     

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    ….add the basil! Then simmer away some more.

     

     

     

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    This is what it looks like when it has simmered and is ready to go…just take the basil out first!

     

     

     

    This is a seriously simple side that tastes amazing! It will be even better when made with the fresh tomatoes that will arrive in my garden in a few weeks. No taste better captures the essence of summer than fresh tomato and basil, if you ask me.

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    Now, what to pair these beans with for a garden-fresh summer meal? So glad you asked. How about a Sobey’s Compliments Chipotle BBQ chicken breast, quinoa with balsamic sage mushrooms, and corn on the cob? Yes, I think that would be nice.

    All joking aside, this was one tasty, summer-licious meal. The only downside? A lot of pots to clean – between cooking the quinoa, the beans, the corn and sautéing the ‘shrooms – that was 4 pans!!! Good thing there was no clean up from grilling the chicken! Smile with tongue out

    Do you have any favourite “unconventional” summer sides (besides the usual suspects – potato salad, corn-on-the-cob, etc)?

    Chill out!

    16 Jul

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    It’s summer…and the weather is HOT! (NOT that I am complaining…I am a summer baby, and I can take the heat). But sometimes, our bodies just crave the cold stuff. If the picture at the top of this post confuses you, it’s because there’s a bit of tromp d’oeil going on (that’s French for “tricking the eye”) – this soup was downright chilly!

    I got the idea on Tuesday, when I was thinking of what to have for lunch, and what I had in my fridge. IMG_2124I was thinking that the crushed San Marzano tomatoes I had would make a lovely soup with a roasted red pepper, some Laughing Cow and fresh basil. But I didn’t want to go to the time, temperature and trouble of making a hot soup. So, I thought, why not use these ingredients to make my own version of a cool and creamy gazpacho?

    For those of you who don’t know, Wikipedia tells us that “Gazpacho is a cold Spanish tomato-based raw vegetable soup, originating in the southern region of Andalusia.” I use the term gazpacho loosely, as I’m sure mine isn’t authentic (and, quite frankly, I enjoyed it more than any gazpacho I’ve had), but it was absolutely amazing, can be made in the bowl it’s served in, and uses only 4 ingredients (plus water, salt and pepper). What more could you ask for?

    Creamy Cold Tomato and Red Pepper Gazpacho – serves one

    *Some quantities are approximate, as I didn’t measure, just threw stuff in. I don’t think a little more or less of any one ingredient will ruin the dish, you’ll just give it your own unique spin.

    • About 3/4 cup canned crushed tomatoes (use San Marzano if you can find them – they’re amazing)
    • 1 jarred roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
    • 2 wedges light Laughing Cow cheese
    • A generous handful fresh basil, plus more for garnish
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • About the same amount of water as crushed tomatoes

    Put the cheese in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 30 seconds until softened. Add all remaining ingredients (except for the garnishing basil leaves) and puree with an immersion blender until smooth (if you don’t have one, you could throw this in a blender, but you REALLY should get an immersion blender, it makes life so much easier (unless you give yourself stitches with it…but that’s another story)). Chill in the fridge until nice and cold (or go for a few minutes in the freezer if you’re in a rush). Garnish with fresh basil and enjoy – that’s it, that’s all!

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    Paired with roasted cauliflower and a grilled cheese on a thin bun, this was the perfect lunch – the summer version of everybody’s favourite comfort food classic – tomato soup with grilled cheese. Please, please PLEASE try this soup. It is dead easy, and tastes like summer in a bowl. Totally refreshing, no heating up the kitchen, and minimal clean up – what more can I say to convince you?

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    Well, Ill try this: I loved the soup so much that I made it again on Thursday – exactly the same, didn’t change a thing. This time, some garlic scapes accompanied the cauliflower (both roasted), and I swapped out the thin bun grilled cheese for a quesadilla made with goat cheese, fresh basil, and grape tomatoes plus a few slices of full-sized tomato. Other than the tomato making the flatbread slightly soggy, the whole meal was delicious.

    Now see that bottle in the back left? That was one of my delicious impulse buys at Winners on Wednesday. I should really stay away from the “home” and checkout sections of that store .Why? Because I go in to look for oven mitts and a spoon rest, and come out with this:

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    The spoon rest (at least I got one thing on my list – they didn’t have any oven mitts that I could see), rose water (it’s one of those things I see in recipes from time to time but can never find. Now that I have it I probably won’t be able to think of/find  a recipe that uses it, because that’s the way my life goes), fudge brownie coffee (the crazy thing about this, is that I would tell you I don’t drink coffee – I just bought this stuff to add variety to my iced coffee drinks), freeze-dried apple/strawberry combo (I’m a sucker for freeze-dried fruit, love the stuff) and truffle (the mushroom, not the chocolate)-infused balsamic vinegar (it was fancy, French, and came in a spray bottle….I couldn’t say no!). And the crazy thing is, that’s not even everything I wanted to buy. I resisted the urge to get fancy tea (darn that promise I made to myself not to buy more until I used up my overflowing stash) and cute bowls that were ON SALE.

    …anyway….I misted that vinegar over the roasted veggies and it was actually quite delightful. I love things in spray bottles – just so perfect for finishing things like roasted veggies and adding a touch of flavour. I will certainly re-use this bottle when the tasty vinegar is gone.

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    Speaking of cool, check out this AMAZING mega-salad that I had after UFC class with Donna Wednesday night. It’s a pumped-up summer time version of the watermelon/feta salad of a few weeks back. My greens were garden lettuce and arugula. Veggies: lightly cooked asparagus (the last, I’m afraid, until next year), cucumber, red pepper, tomato, and grilled zucchini and Vidalia onion. The herb-age was tons of fresh basil.

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    For added protein power, I grilled a Sobey’s BBQ Chipotle chicken breast (I did this and the veggies, along with steaming the asparagus and chopping the melon at lunch time, as I knew I would be home later, and I wanted there to be minimal time between getting home and enjoying this salad. The plate you see to the left, along with the chopped melon were waiting for this sweaty beast when she arrived home). IMG_2165

    I threw all of the above into my standard “big salad” bowl (Pampered Chef medium square bamboo bowl, in case you were wondering) with a cup of watermelon and honeydew chunks (leftover from the Edible Arrangement), salt and pepper, and feta crumbles! My dressing was made with schmancy blueberry wine vinegar, fat-free Italian dressing, Dijon and olive oil. The fruity flavour went perfectly with the salad.

    All in all, pretty much a perfect summer salad. Some people see eating salad for dinner as punishment, but I can ensure you, it is not so with this salad. It was the perfect mix of cool, crunchy, sweet, spicy and salty, and it was totally and completely satisfying.

    What are your go-to cold recipes for hot weather?