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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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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Sunny, lemony birthday

yvette birthday basketThis is my friend, Yvette. She’s been one of my best friends since we met at age 13 in junior high. She was cute as a button then, and she still is. Just look at that smile.

Today is her birthday. She’s posing here with her birthday present from her significant other. He not only got her exactly what she wanted – a lovely new bike basket – but he also filled it with flowers. He’s a keeper.

It’s a gorgeous sunny day, after a long winter and a less than springy spring. Birds are chirping. Lawn mowers are buzzing. A perfect day for a birthday.

We’re heading out to brunch soon with the gang – well, at least as much of the gang as we can muster. Some are following professional pursuits to other provinces. Some are busy with kids. Some are taking advantage of perfect weather to get the kayaks on the water, including Yvette’s fella. He’d already taken her out for a birthday dinner last night, so she gave him her blessing to go paddling – which proves she’s a keeper, too.

lemon curdI thought I’d add an extra bit of sunshine to Yvette’s day. She’s been in love with my lemon curd since her first taste about 10 years ago. So I squeezed the sun out of four lemons and cooked it up into into a bottle of this delicious thick sauce.

I also added several outbursts of laughter because I was listening to Stuart McLean’s “Car Wash” story on the Vinyl Cafe podcast. I often listen to these podcasts while cooking. So there’s lots of good nutritious laughter cooked and baked into my food.

I like this lemon curd best on a vanilla cheesecake strewn with berries. But Yvette just might savour a spoonful or two right from the jar.

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Feeling good

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me
And I’m feeling good…

I can’t put my finger on why, but I feel good today.

In fact, it started last night. It’s like something clicked and I’m back to my regular old self. I got out of the office on time, pulled off a solid weight workout, and got to the bus stop in time to catch an express bus home.

Then in 10 minutes flat, I had Jamie Oliver’s “hit and run” chicken in the oven and started buzzing around preparing for the next day…fresh gym clothes in the bag, clothes for work laid out, lunch and snacks assembled in the fridge. I was on such a roll, I also had a batch of breakfast cookies ready to throw in the oven as soon as the chicken came out.

I devoured my chicken with a couple episodes of The Good Wife, then curled up in bed with a collection of short stories including a delightfully disturbing one written by a respected and talented colleague, and drifted off to sleep, thankfully not dreaming about said short story.

My lunch and snacks for tomorrow, assembled in one spot in the fridge for easy grabbing in the morning.
My lunch and snacks for tomorrow, assembled in one spot in the fridge for easy grabbing in the morning.

This morning when I woke, for the first time in a very long time, I felt like I’d really slept. All my domestic efficiency lately means it was a cinch to grab breakfast, lunch, snacks and coffee and get to the bus stop in plenty of time. And it struck me as I rode the elevator up to the office: I feel good.

Another workout trotting on the treadmill, another express bus home, another feed of that tasty chicken with The Good Wife, and prep is done for another work day.

This is the old Adèle returning. Out of the poor habits that had formed through the turmoil of the past few years. Back on my game, or at least getting there.

I’d say that’s a step towards the alignment I resolved to seek this year. Awesome.

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Sling shot with a smoothie

Good to the last drop.
Good to the last drop.

The new bus terminal in Dartmouth has a one-way bus lane that’s like a long skinny track around the building with numerous bays where the buses pull up to load and unload passengers.

Most buses enter and exit at one end of the track, so those that pull up at the first couple of bays have to finish going around the loop in order to reach the exit and continue on their routes.

As we swing around the far end of the loop, I’m always reminded on Tom Hanks sling-shotting Apollo 13 around the moon in the attempt to get the spaceship and it’s crew back to Earth.

Ok, so my morning commute is not nearly that dramatic. Half the time, I’m still trying to wake up.

Some days, though, I’m on the ball and I get a delicious smoothie ready before flying out the door. Those are good days.

Here are my go-to smoothie ingredients:

1 banana
1 cup of fresh strawberries
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
Splash of milk

Whiz it all up in whatever whizzer gizmo you’ve got and enjoy a tasty commute.

And here’s my make ahead tip…throw all the ingredients in your whizzer gizmo or other container that can be stored in the fridge so all you have to do in the morning is blend and go.

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Fabulous fish cakes

I’ve tried making fishcakes without a recipe before. They were meh.

Then during one crazy busy week at work in June, I stumbled upon the recipe for fish cakes that I’ve savoured several times, mostly as a hungry cyclist at the end of a ride around the Aspotogan loop.

wild rosesThe loop is a pleasant seaside ride on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, near Hubbards. It’s one of those places where I wish I could bottle the breezy scent of salt water and wild roses. I inhale deeply every time I roll past the bushes, trying to drink in as much of the heavenly scent as I can and keep it with me. It makes me glad to be alive, especially as we pass the Swiss Air Flight 111 memorial at Bayswater.

All that fresh air and cycling makes a person hungry, and we often finish a ride taking over all the tables on the deck at the Trellis Cafe. A lot of us don’t even need the menu. We know what we want.

trellis cafeSo when a crazy week of traveling around to manage a pile of events in June put me in the vicinity of the Trellis, there was no question where I would have lunch. Whether he realized it or not, the photographer covering the events that day didn’t really have a choice in the matter…I was going with or without him. But he’s an easy going guy so he came along.

The fish cakes were dependably delicious, the company was fine, and as much as I’d have loved to linger a little longer over a cup of tea, we had to get back to the city and finish up the day’s work.

I made a trip to the little girl’s room before leaving, and lo and behold, there was a Taste of Nova Scotia culinary guide opened to page 60 (South Shore section) with the recipe for the Trellis fish cakes! And a stack of copies for the taking! All frustrations with the week’s multitude of events evaporated in that moment of knowledge that I could now have these glorious fish cakes anytime I want in my own kitchen.

IMG_1471August is here, the weather has predictably started to feel a bit fallish, and I feel like cooking again. So last night, I prepared 12 fish cake patties, put 10 of them in the freezer, and fried up two for my supper along with some steamed string beans and the traditional fish cake accoutrement: green tomato chow.

A local recipe, all local ingredients, all local delicious. Many thanks to the Trellis Cafe for sharing the recipe and fear not, I will be back, whether with two wheels or four.

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