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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Birthday weekend

IMG_00000149My cat and I share today as our birthday. How weird and wonderful is that? It’s 44 years for me, and seven for my black bear, Moe. Of course, it also would have been seven for his jolly, tuxedo-wearing brother, Joe. We still miss him so much. The birthday weekend started out with some well deserved sloth on Friday night. Moe and I curled up for some old episodes of Frasier and laughed our heads off. OK, I did. Moe just chased mice in his sleep on my lap. We had a good sleep in on Saturday, then cozied over coffee and breakfast. I got the housecleaning done – the vacuum being the low point of the weekend for Moe – and headed out to buy a new TV. Yay! running shoesNext stop was the gym where I ran 11 km – the furthest I’ve ever run. I’ve done the 10 km race in the Blue Nose Marathon several times, and this year, I’m training for the half. I’ve been hampered by high hamstring tendonitis but I think I’ve hit my stride with one long training run per week, increasing the distance by 2 km per week, and keeping limber with yoga, aerobics, water jogging, and walking through the rest of week. So far, so good! 11081209_10153768478330663_9158455327660808308_nOn the way home, I stopped at Flip Burger to celebrate the run and Halifax Burger Week with my usual…cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, pickle and garlic mayo. Moe got a small taste of local beef patty and curled up on my lap for another couple of episodes of Frasier. We had a delicious sleep and woke to glorious sun streaming in the windows this morning. After coffee and breakfast – tuna for Moe, bagel with light Laughing Cow cheese and pear for me – I rolled out my yoga mat in a sun spot. I don’t normally practice at home; I prefer the guidance of a class. But today, as I looked out the window at fresh beautiful snow on the trees (not resenting it in the least, even though we’re officially a week into spring), I found myself saying to the world, “Thank you for having me. Namaste.” IMG_20150329_121625Then I went sledding. Seriously. I love spending time with my friends and their adorable monkeys. And you couldn’t ask for a more perfect day for sledding. Fresh, fluffy snow, sun, and temperatures above zero. I think I actually got a mild sunburn on my face. Home for a cat nap, then off to the gym again for deep water aquafit. I love a good water workout, plus it’s great for loosening up legs that are remembering yesterday’s run. I made my legs practice good running form while also giving them a break by making my arms do more of the work. Home to a dinner of tossed salad and salmon cakes. Yes, Moe got some salmon, too. It was a great fish day for him. Topped it all off with a steaming mug of Baileys hot chocolate. And now, I’m feeling pleasantly well spent and ready for bed. Tomorrow, we’ll wake up and find out what the next year brings. a ps – The TV is still in the box!

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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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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La vie en vélo

IMG_1924Well I’m a little browner and a little leaner since my last post. A week on a bike will do that.

Just spent a glorious vacation cycling aux Îles de la Madeleine, with the rolling hills of Prince Edward Island on the way there and back. It was fantastic to be back in the saddle again, riding along with friends old and new.

I revelled in drinking in all the heady scents of wild roses, clover, Queen Anne’s lace, mossy forests, and of course, the salty ocean air. I wish I could bottle these scents, but since I can’t, I make a point of taking a great big inhale every time I see a clover field or bank of wild rose bushes, and guarding the scent memory to make me smile some day down the road.

IMG_1910My sense of taste was equally well treated. The majority of our 14 cyclists tented for most of the tour, and cooked our meals in the great outdoors. We’d often start with happy hour, pooling our nibblies and raising a motley array of beverage containers to the day’s adventures. Then as evening set in, it was time to get cooking.

For me, camp cooking does not mean beans and wieners. Why eat a completely brown meal when you can enjoy sautéed scallops with snow peas and grape toms tossed with pasta, garlic and parm? Nothing fancy or difficult about it, and it sure beats dinner from a can.

While breakfast tends to be on the modest side, my friend Karen and I thoroughly enjoyed pancakes one rainy morning in the dry comfort of a shelter. I supplied the instant pancake mix, syrup and stove fuel while Karen supplied Greek yogurt, peaches and blueberries as well as good old Java Blend coffee. It was delicious, filling, and a great way to while away the wet morning.

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There were also lots of good eats to be had at local establishments. We had a group breakfast on our first morning at Pas Perdu…don’t you love that little play on words?

IMG_1904While some preferred good old Tim Horton’s, most of us made multiple stops at Boulangerie Madelon. A word to the wise: you always can count on cyclists to find the best bakery.

Most of us occupied a place at this table at Café La Grave at one point or another over the space of a couple of hours. If you ever find yourself there, you can’t go wrong with the orange or the chocolate cake.

Yes, the break from the day-to-day routine and the food were fantastic. But the things I cherish most from this week on the road are the camaraderie of cyclists through sun, rain, wind and hills, the reconnection with old friends and building connections with new friends, the ‘life stuff’ conversations with caring souls, and the deep gratitude that I am able to live la vie en vélo.

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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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