Tag Archives: vegetables

Bend, Dig, Water, Plant, Repeat

29 May

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Maybe you guessed from the title, but in case you didn’t figure it out, I planted my vegetable and herb gardens on Friday! Smile I’ll admit, I wasn’t in a real gardening mood when I got home from school, but since I made the effort to go out to the garden centre the day after we got home and buy it all, I wanted to get it in the ground. Want a tour? You know you do! Winking smile

So, veggies first. In the tomato section, we have 6 plum/Roma tomato plants (did these for the first time last year and LOVED them…awesome for sauces and roasting in the oven…can’t wait)!. We have 1 plant of golden cherry tomatoes, 2 fairly typical beefsteak tomatoes, and 2 different HERILOOM TOMATOES! I was SUPER-excited when I saw these, and went for them despite the higher price. I bought Brandywine and Japanese Truffle…stay tuned in August to see how these babies turn out!

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See that wilted stuff in the top photo next to the tomatoes? That’s what’s left of the once abundant crop of arugula that had seeded itself and come up again this year…sigh. It met with a tragic accident when another individual was doing yard work and thought it was a weed Sad smile, and NO, I DON’T want to talk about it! Let’s just say there will be a return trip to the grocery store to buy more.

Moving on, we have 2 pepper plants: one is an early (supposedly) sweet orange/yellow pepper and one is a poblano (they are large hot, but not overly-spicy peppers)….particularly excited about these…I’ve seen Rachael Ray cook with them and they were on my Burger from Bobby in Vegas.

Waaay at the back are 4 zucchini plants. Even though zucchini spreads like crazy and the plants give me a rash (although I have NO problem eating the stuff), I really do enjoy zucchini, and find it extremely versatile. I bake with it, grill it, fry it….I could go on and on (that being said, if you find yourself in my neck of the woods in August and want some zucchini, don’t be shy)!

At the front we have some butter lettuce (put it there so it would be easy to run out and grab for a new salad). The empty space is where I put my snow pea, yellow and green bean seeds.IMG_1573

My two newest ventures? Celery root/celeriac and KALE! Bring on the kale chips, baby! Can’t wait to have my own, endless supply. Technically, I guess I could pick some now, but I would only have a few small leaves….one small batch and that would be it.

 

 

 

Moving on to the herb department….

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The perennials in my herb garden (for you non-gardeners, that means plants that come up every year without being replanted) are sage, mint, oregano, one or 2 parsley plants (technically I think they are biennial, meaning they only come up for two years?) and chives. The original chive plant was actually a gift to my parents when they got married in 1978 from my Great Aunt Marguerite, who I never met because she passed away from cancer before I was born (she lives on through the chives and her DELICIOUS carrot cake recipe). They have survived a move from Toronto to our “old house” to the house we live in now…not bad for a plant over 30 years old, eh?

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The new plants were a bit more flat-leaf parsley, 2 varieties EACH of rosemary, thyme (German and lime thyme, which I think is fun to say), cilantro and dill. Something eats our dill EVERY year, no matter what we try to do to prevent it. My strategy this year? Plant it right at the back of the garden so it’s harder to find! Winking smile We’ll see how this works (I’ll keep you posted). I also planted lemongrass this year. I planted some several years ago and never used it. But I’m trying to branch out, and somewhere I saw an iced tea recipe with lemongrass that looked pretty tasty.

Last but not least, I capped things off with 5 (no, that is NOT a typo, I said five) varieties of basil. We are huge basil-lovers here chez Wiebe. I think it’s just a perfect summer herb, and you can never have to much! Plus we sometimes have critters that nibble at it a bit too (what can I say, at least our yard pests have good taste). IMG_1575

I had to pull out some oregano and quite a bit of the mint (if you’ve grown mint, then this should come as no surprise to you, it spreads like crazy, and will be all over your garden in no time). I have to pull it out multiple times each summer. If you live nearby, and want any mint or oregano to grow in your own garden, C’MON OVER!

I often just toss the mint, but I don’t like to waste it if I don’t have to, so I rinsed it off and decided to try making some mint iced tea. Smile

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The how-to? I just boiled a full kettle of water, then poured it over the mint leaves and some black tea in a kettle and let it cool in the fridge. When I make iced tea, I don’t typically add sweetener, then I can add it after by the glass if I feel it needs it (often though I drink it unsweetened). Sadly, with all that mint, the minty flavour didn’t really come through. I think maybe I should have muddled/crushed it a bit more?

At supper last nightIMG_1599, which was a GOOD one (stay tuned), I used the iced tea to make my version of what I think is called an “Arnold Palmer” (mix of iced tea and lemonade). I put some lemon juice and Splenda and a bit lemon slice, slightly crushed in a glass, added water, ice and iced tea, then garnished with a lemon slice: mmm – perfect summer-y refreshment! Cilantro and chives from the garden also made an appearance in last night’s dinner, as well as pineapple (in both main course and dessert). Curious? I’m gonna leave you hanging!

I’ve decided to create a Garden tab on HHH. I will start with this post, then add any photos/updates/recipes/creations from my garden as they come over the summer. Then you can follow my progress, get ideas, and maybe get inspired to grow your own! And by the way, I also have a raspberry patch in addition to all this herb and veggie goodness….I am a lucky girl!

Summer (the official season) is just over 3 weeks away and there are less than 25 school days left: THE COUNTDOWN IS ON!

Recipe Remix

4 May

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I don’t really cook with a lot of recipes on a day-to-day basis. I certainly use recipes for baking, as it is more precise. And I like trying new recipes on special occasions, but for typical Monday-to-Friday dining, most recipes I use are in my head.

One quality I like in my “head recipes” (ones I have come up with myself, and are quite flexible) is adaptability. Remember my veggie chili? It is one such recipe. The beauty of it is that you can keep all of the ingredients the same, change the spices, and you’ve got a brand new recipe! Observe the following.

Start exactly the same way as theIMG_0965 chili. Dice up the veggies of your choosing and finely mince some garlic (the veggies can vary, but to me, garlic is an essential. You can omit it if you want – but be warned, life is better with garlic Smile). For every portion, use one teaspoon of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium-high in a saucepan (non-stick is easier for clean-up), add the veggies, and sauté for a few minutes.

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Just like the chili, add some canned tomatoes, beans of your choosing (remember, 1/2 cup per portion), and a little bit of water/stock. You can see I spared no expense on the canned goods and bought a really expensive brand. Winking smile For this stew, I also added some dried mushrooms (LOVE these things, an amazing flavour boost) and some frozen chopped spinach for extra produce. Season with salt and pepper. For this particular stew, I was going for a sort of Italian vibe. I added Epicure marinara sauce mix and sundried tomato and herb dip mix (it is for WAY more than just dips people!). Let the stew come to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer (I was in a bit of a rush since I had an appointment to go when I was making this last night and only simmered for 15 minutes, but longer is certainly ok).

There you have it….a few tiny tweaks and it’s a brand new recipe! I made a 2-serving batch since I’ve got a busy week coming up (catering a dinner for 20 on Saturday!Surprised smile) and have to start groceries/prep on Thursday night, so the second portion will be Friday’s lunch….LOVE having lunches made ahead!

Since the chili remix is not too long, I also thought I’d share last night’s dessert IMG_0970with you: a vanilla cheesecake/mousse-ish dessert with chocolate pieces. The picture TOTALLY does not do it justice (sorry, my food photography skills still need work), and neither does that horrible title,  but once I tell you what’s in it, I think you’ll be in!

Here’s what you do to create this simple, but delicious concoction.

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Combine a about 1 1/2 tbsp fat-free cream cheese and a couple tablespoons of thawed Cool Whip light/fat-free (if it is frozen, just microwave for about 6 seconds – not any more or it’ll melt!) with one fat-free refrigerated vanilla pudding cup. Stir in a splash of vanilla and just a touch of splenda. Stir in one Thinsations Fudge-dipped bar, chopped. Top with a little more Cool Whip and enjoy!

Now, you could just stir the bar into the pudding, but the addition of the cream cheese and Cool Whip gives it that little something extra. These cream cheese adds a bit of richness and a cheesecake-ish flavour. The Cool Whip makes it fluffy and a bit mousse-like. And just like the chili/stew recipe, it is totally remix-able! Try it with another flavour of pudding, and any 100 calorie pack/bar that you like and voila – a whole new dessert!

With all of these recipe remixes. I would say I am the Ty Pennington of healthy eating, wouldn’t you? Do you think I could get my own show – Extreme Recipe Makeover? Would you watch?

Sorry this post is a little short. Busy night (typing this on Tuesday) and I’m tired. I just BARELY made it to hula hooping….came SO close to calling and cancelling my spot! So you guys are lucky that I like you so much and hung in there to post for you….I kid, I kid, I really do love blogging my eats and adventures on HHH, but some days are longer than others, you know? Hopefully today will be energizing and inspiring and I’ll be back with something new and exciting for you tomorrow! What do you do re-energize/re-inspire yourself after a draining day?

Favourite Things: Low Season Produce Boosters

4 Apr

I’ve made a couple more recipes from my new Hungry Girl cookbook, but I thought I’d give you a bitIMG_0640 of a break today for another edition of my Favourite Things. The title may be a bit confusing, but once I explain further, I think you’ll get it. I try to eat seasonally and locally when I can. Let me emphasize again – try! I certainly do buy produce frown in other countries, but if there is something local available, that’s always my first choice. I love fresh, crisp apples in the fall, and happily eat squash all winter long. Of course, I love the wide variety of fresh fruit in the summer, and am eagerly awaiting the arrival of fresh, local asparagus. But right now, we’re in a bit of a lull. Apples and pears are getting old, citrus is past its peak, squash is now shipped in from Mexico (although I do still buy it), and asparagus and strawberries are a month away. Lest I (and you) get scurvy, I have a few tricks to get you through the produce doldrums…take heart, before you know it, we’ll be drowning in fresh asparagus and eating rhubarb crisp (drool, sigh)!

1. Canned Tomatoes I’ve written before about my love for this pantry staple. They are so inexpensive and you can use them in so many ways. Add them to a soup or cook them as a sauce (sauté garlic and chili flakes in olive oil, add tomatoes, season with salt and simmer). On the weekend, I even tried them in a salad. Since fresh tomatoes are expensive (and pretty tasteless) this time of year, canned just make sense. Plus, you don’t need to worry about peeling and chopping…just open a can and pour right in. Depending on your recipe/preferences, you can buy them whole, chopped or crushed. There are lots of varieties available with different seasonings too if you want to be different. Check out one of my favourite quick, easy and healthy recipes for eggs poached in tomato sauce from Smitten Kitchen (I haven’t made this one in forever – I need to get on it) – a great way to put those canned tomatoes to use.

IMG_0641 2. Frozen Berries (or any fruit) (if you’re wondering why this is such a strange and frosty-looking phot0, it’s because it’s right out of my freezer…I just went down to my basement and snapped away) I am blessed to live in a region where fresh fruit is widely grown in the summer. That means that it’s also inexpensive, especially if you pick it yourself. So every summer, I freeze lots of berries – strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. After I get over the sore back and sunburn that often accompanies the strawberry picking (I usually buy the other 2), I’m always glad to have my stash stored away in the freezer. Locally grown taste so much better than those imported from Florida or California, and you can’t argue with the price! To freeze the berries, I wash first (and hull, if using strawberries), then spread in a single layer on metal baking sheets. After they’re frozen, I transfer them to resealable plastic bags. Frozen aren’t the same as fresh (and I’ll admit, this time of year, I sometimes break down and buy the strawberries…who can say no when they’re 3 boxes for $5?!), but I manage to use them in a variety of ways. Smoothies are the most obvious route. I also like to thaw the berries and stir into yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast. You can bake them into muffins, or make a great sauce (just boil the berries down with a bit of the sweetener of your choice) for pancakes, French toast, or ice cream. I’m always motivated to use up my stash at this time of the year too, because I know that the fresh ones will be here in a few months, and I want to make room in my freezer!

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3. Frozen Spinach This stuff is one of the biggest bargains in the grocery store freezer! When you look at the amount of spinach you get, then think about how much fresh stuff you’d have to cook down to get that much…it’s a steal! And now you don’t have to just buy the one big block of frozen spinach (great if you need the whole thing for a big batch of tasty spinach dip, not-so-much if you just want to add a handful to your recipes), you can buy bags like the one pictured (brands vary depending on where you shop) of chopped spinach pieces/nuggets, so you can just take out as much spinach as you want then re-seal the bag. Just a tip when using this stuff, I like to take out the amount I want and pop it in the microwave for a minute before using. That way I can drain the excess water (I like to just dab with a paper towel), which can affect the flavour/texture of recipes. Once drained, I’ll add the spinach to pasta dishes, soups, or stir frys. I also like to add the drained spinach to a mushroom sauté and then sandwich it between bread with cheese (goat cheese tastes AMAZING)  and grill for a yummy panini. I will often add spinach to my own dip creations – some mix of cream cheese, sour cream and Miracle Whip (all fat free, of course), seasonings (like Epicure dip mixes, garlic salt or herbs) and then toss in the spinach for your own signature dip! Another great use for the green stuff? Add to an egg scramble for a tasty veggie omelette! In short, any where you see a recipe/meal that you think is a little shy on veggies or nutrients, break out the bag of frozen spinach and make Popeye proud!

Well, hopefully these tips have helped keep scurvy away and your teeth intact! Smile Do you have any other tips for incorporating fruits and veggies in your diet, even when the fresh selection leaves a lot to be desired? Do tell!

A few of my favourite things (winter fruits and veggies edition)

15 Jan

I’ve decided to start a new series on my blog. Every so often (I haven’t decided just how often yet) I will share some of my favourites with you…this includes foods, exercise routines, kitchen tools…and whatever else I can think of. I’m really excited about this series, as I am pumped to share with you all the things that I love. First in the series is going to be winter fruits and veggies.

Now…fruits and veggies may not seem glorious and exciting….but I love them in any season. They are key to bulking up my meals…filling me up without filling me out…and they are chock full of fibre, water, vitamins and lots of good stuff (do I sound like an add for the Food Guide yet?). Seriously, though, I don’t just eat fruits and vegetables because I know they’re good for me, I also genuinely like eating them. I do not think that fruits and veggies are bland or boring….if prepared right, they can be full of flavour. In the winter, it can be harder to get your fill of the good stuff, but here are some that are available during the colder months (note: this is NOT complete, as I couldn’t fit all of my favourites into one post, I’m just highlighting some that I love) :

1. Butternut (or any) Squash

I really can’t say enough about how much I love squash…it is just so tasty and so versatile. You can puree it in soups, roast it in the oven (especially tasty with apples), stuff it, top it with veggie chili and cheese for a healthy lunch (one of my favs), use it to make Hungry Girl’s butternut squash fries (which were part of supper tonight) or any of the other wonderful squash recipes HG has, put it (roasted and cooled) on salads, mash it as a side dish, or use it for breakfast. I buy this stuff like crazy all fall and winter long.

2. Apples and Pears

I’m always excited when apple season comes around. For both apples and pears, the crunchier the better is my philosophy. My favourite apple varieties are Ginger Gold, Crispin/Mutsu (different names but the same apple), Empire or Honeycrisp. Bosc pears (the brown ones) are my favourite. And how do I enjoy them? Let  me count the ways! There’s always the classic – grab a whole apple and pear and eat it, plain and simple – always a good option and great if you need a quick snack. But I go beyond that – simmer one in a little water, with some brown sugar twin and spices for use in breakfast (mix with yogurt or top an English muffin and ricotta) or dessert (top with a crumbled fibre 1 caramel bar and serve with sugar free vanilla pudding for a quick, healthy apple crumble, serve over ice cream, spread with some sweetened cream cheese inside a tortilla and grill for a dessert quesadilla). Dip a sliced apple or pear in any one of my favourite dips – melted caramel candies with a little bit of water, or fat free cream cheese mixed with Cool whip, cinnamon and a bit of Splenda, or light peanut butter mixed with a bit of fat free caramel dip. And don’t forget about savoury uses for apples or pears. You can slice them over a salad or in a slaw, put them in a grilled cheese sandwich, or cook them in a quick chutney with raisins, vinegar and spices to serve with meat. You can also make your own applesauce by cooking apples (peeled or unpeeled), sweetener of your choice, cinnamon and water until the apples are tender, then mash with a potato masher. I’m sure I’m forgetting some things, but you get the idea.

3. Winter Greens (kale, collard greens, chard)

I decided to give winter greens a try when I was living on my own during university…and I’m so glad I did! They are full of flavour and nutrition….I always feel super-healthy when I eat them (sorry to get all Food Guide-y again). These all need cooking and, although you may start with a huge pile of greens, they wilt quite a bit once they’re cooked (you can steam or boil and/or saute them). I love greens as a side dish sauteed with garlic and olive oil. They also make a hearty addition to pasta dishes or pureed vegetable soups (try with squash soup). You can also roast kale in the oven to make crispy kale chips (sounds weird, I know, but give it a try!).

4. Pomegranates

The window of availability for pomegranates is short, so act quickly. And yes, they are a hassle to prepare, which is why, if you eat them a lot, you should invest in the Arils Removal Tool. I read about it in the LCBO magazine and ordered one online (as well as one for a gift for my sister and brother-in-law). This tool makes removing the arils (seeds) much quicker and easier. I use the pomegranate arils as an addition to my morning yogurt mostly, sometimes to top salads, or in mixed fruit sauces.

5. Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts

Now I know there may be many readers out there who think they don’t like one or both of these veggies but hear me out – prepared correctly, they are absolutely delicious! With brussels sprouts, I like to roast them in the oven with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper or maybe some garlic. Roast at a high heat (400 or above) for about 30 minutes (more or less, dpending on temperature or quantity. They are delicious on their own or in a salad. I like making “sweet and sour cabbage,” inspired by a recipe I saw online once. I saute the cabbage with a bit of onion in a nonstick pan with a bit of olive oil. After a few minutes, I add vinegar (balsamic, apple cider or white wine vinegar are all good choices), salt and pepper, and a pinch of splenda. I also sometimes add a touch of chicken broth. Then I reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender. Cabbage is also great in slaws…make ahead so the cabbage can absorb the flavour of the dressing, and the texture is better too. My favourite basic dressing is fat free Miracle whip, vinegar, dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and a touch of sweetener. After that I play with flavours. I love adding apple to my slaws, and of course, lots of onion. Cabbage is also good to add to soups and stews.

Well, that will be it for my first edition of favourite things. There are so many more fruits and veggies I love, but these are just 5 of my favourites that are good this time of the year. More faourite things to com ein the future – let me know if there’s any particular category you’d like to see.