Stolen Salad

Hurrah! I managed to recreate the summer pasta salad that I like so much at Pete’s Frootique.

My eyeballs identified the main ingredients when I first saw the lovely dish among the offerings at the Frootique – tortellini, cherry tomatoes, string beans, and parm. My taste buds told me there was lemon in the mix. And the label told me the one other ingredient – plain yogurt.

I’ve not had much success recreating dishes without a recipe but I thought I’d give this a try. So I cooked about 3 cups of store-bought cheese tortellini, blanched about a cup of chopped string beans, and tossed them with about 1 1/2 cups of whole cherry tomatoes. I zested some lemon into it and added more than just a sprinkle of parm.

Then came the guessing game of the dressing. I combined the juice of one lemon juice with a couple of tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt. It was runny, so I dumped some out and added another heaping tablespoon of yogurt. Final proportions were probably juice of half a lemon and about 3 tablespoons of yogurt.

Mixed it all up, portioned it into containers for grab-and-run work lunches, and waited. By 11:18 this morning, I was starving and desperately curious to know how it turned out.

Spectacular! I’ll be making this stolen salad again and again.

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Hungover noodles

That’s a great title for a blog post, isn’t it? I can’t take credit. It’s the name of a Jamie Oliver recipe I made last night.

Not that I was hungover then. Or now. In fact, I’ve only been hungover once in my entire life. Even in my youth, I just never understood how others found it fun to drink like fishes and then pay for it the next day.

hungover noodlesAnyway, whatever you want to call it, these hungover noodles make a quick tasty dinner.

A couple of translations for those of us who aren’t Brits…Chinese cabbage is bok choy, and mangetout is sugar or snow peas. And a few substitutions: I used linguine instead of egg noodles because that’s what I had on hand, bottled garlic and ginger because it was faster, and sweet chili sauce because it’s not too hot for my delicate palate. Also, I scaled it back for one person with no problem.

This recipe is from the Save with Jamie cookbook. I actually enjoy reading Jamie’s cookbooks so I’ve bought a couple on sale, and received this one from my brother last Christmas.

But as a general rule, I try to resist buying cookbooks because there are more recipes online than I could cook in a lifetime, and I use Evernote as an excellent mobile recipe filing system. So you can really Save with Jamie by simply searching for his recipes online, you’ll find all kinds of tasty.

Enjoy!

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Opportunity cost of mini meatloaf

I’ve never been so fired up about math in all my life.

In fact, I’ve always hated and struggled with math. Homework routinely ended in tears when I was a kid. I knew just enough to figure out the pre-calculus mark that would be pounded in harsh black typewriter ink onto the first report card of my Grade 12 year. I recall a classmate asking if it should have read 92. Alas, 29 was correct.

It didn’t get any better in university, although I was able to avoid more of it. Stats and economics were the only required courses in my undergrad that seriously involved math. I squeaked by in both.

And now, here I am, diving head first into algebra, graphs and complicated sounding things like production possibility curves, opportunity cost, and elasticity. And that’s only two weeks into the first of two economics courses in my Master of Public Administration degree.

It’s terrifying. I mean really terrifying. My biggest fear is failure, and tackling this subject puts me in great danger of having that fear spectacularly realized.

But at the same time, I feel like it’s high time I get over this particular fear. That’s the attitude I decided to set for myself as this course loomed before me.

So that’s nice, I’ve got a good attitude. But here’s the amazing thing: this math, this economics – it’s constantly on my mind. If you were to stick electrodes all over my head, you’d see a brain lit up like a Christmas tree, working, struggling, stretching, growing.

I may be a fish out of water, but I’m a very determined fish and also very curious. So much so that, even though I’d planned to take tonight off and start at it again tomorrow with fresh eyes, I found myself going back over course materials and doing some algebra and graphing refreshers on the Kahn Academy website that I’d recently signed up for.

Interestingly, as my brain buzzes with the sparks and flashes of a-hah moments when I get it and steam comes out of my ears when I don’t, a link to a blog post from the Kahn Academy founder plopped into my inbox today. In essence, it said that failure is good because it’s only when our brains struggle that they grow.

Yes, I actually brought myself to type those words. Failure is good.

This is a major breakthrough, folks. If you knew me, you’d understand that this is really big news. Other arguments in favour of that statement, like Einstein failing umpteen times before making game-changer discoveries, never really sank in. Logically, they make sense, but they weren’t able to penetrate my fear.

But this one…maybe it just hit at precisely the right moment for me to finally buy it.

Not that I plan on failing this course. Oh no. I’ll fail umpteen times at practice questions all in preparation for successfully finding my way to the minimum required B+ average, at least.

turkey meatloafIn order to do that, I spent Labour Day stocking my freezer with homemade meals because now that school’s back in, I can’t afford the opportunity cost to my studies of cooking mini-turkey meatloaves.

You see? I’m learning!

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ps – How to make mini meatloaves? Just take your favourite meatloaf recipe and make it in a muffin tin. Easy peasy.

Hairy carrots

How many times have you looked in the back of your vegetable crisper to find half a bag of hairy carrots?

C’mon, you know you’ve done it. We all have. Neglected our produce. Used some and tossed the rest back, out of sight out of mind.

carrot ginger soup ingredientsI always seem to do this with carrots. I like them well enough but I just don’t seem to cook them very often. I guess I’m usually going for veggies that cook faster. So after I’ve made a big vat of stew or turkey soup, the rest of the carrots get shoved back into the crisper where they are shamefully ignored for months.

The good thing about hairy carrots – as opposed to slimy carrots – is that they’re still just fine once you peel them. So when I examined the bag and found no slime, I decided to try out a ‘velvety carrot ginger soup‘ recipe from Chatelaine. (Yes, let’s face it, I’m now une femme d’un certain âge who, on occasion, reads Chatelaine. And I’m fine with that.)

carrot ginger soupThis was a dead simple soup to make. I whipped it up last night with another podcast of The Vinyl Café to entertain me. Like so many soups, this one is best at least a day old. Upon first taste last night, I found it too carroty but when I had some for lunch today at work, all the other flavours burst through.

So when life gives you hairy carrots, make carrot ginger soup.

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Friday night nachos

IMG_20140815_183805It’s Friday night, the week is done like dinner, and I want nachos.

Nothing fancy about my nacho prep. My only ‘secret’ is to sprinkle a little cheese over the chips before adding chopped pepper, tomato and green onion and then topping with more cheese. It helps everything stick together rather than toppings sliding off the chips.

IMG_20140815_182841What really makes the nacho experience for me, though, is my homemade guacamole.

I despise cilantro, a key ingredient in most guac, so I never buy the stuff. If I want it to not taste like cactus – which I have tried, true story – then I have to make my own.

I stick to the simplist of ingredients: avocado, garlic, the white part of the green onion (the green part goes on the nachos), a little tomato, and a splash of lime juice.

IMG_20140815_183304I make the whole thing right there on the cutting board. Chop the garlic and onion together, mash it into the avocado, then fold in the tomato and lime juice.

You see that napkin in the ‘final product’ photo? Yeah, that’s because it’s about to get deliciously messy in there.

Here’s to Friday night!

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Basil ice cream

IMG_20140801_140604Seriously. Basil ice cream.

You’d think after my first successful foray into ice cream making that I’d go for double fudge chocolate or praline butterscotch swirl.

But a co-worker told me about basil, and I just happen to be growing a bunch of it on my balcony.

IMG_20140731_191050So I gave it a go. This recipe is more involved than the strawberry I first tried. It involves cooking the milk and basil mixture, pouring it slowly into the beating egg yolks, then cooking some more and straining before the ice cream maker even comes out of the freezer.

It turned out beautifully. Creamy, not too sweet with the bold freshness of basil.

I’m loathe to leave it behind as I head out for a week of cycling. But sadly they’ve not yet invented compact, lightweight refrigeration for bikes.

On the up side, I have something to look forward to on my return.

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