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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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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Cajun style

IMG_20140713_200537I had a boyfriend many moons ago who was a pretty good cook. In fact, it was his lead that I first followed to cook without a recipe. But like the best of us, he occasionally had his kitchen foibles. Anytime he burned something, he’d holler, “It’s cajun style, honey!”

Well, tonight’s honey mustard chicken on the bbq was a little on the cajun side. But somehow I managed to get the sweet potato spears grilled to perfection. I tossed them with a lug of olive oil, a splash of lime juice, a tiny bit of freshly ground sea salt and pepper. On the grill for about five minutes, turning halfway through, then tossed back in the oily bowl to keep them from drying out.

Served ’em up with a simple dip of mayo, curry and lime juice, along with the charred but surprisingly tender, juicy chicken and a simple salad.

Delicious.

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Outdoor research

summer lunchIf you have to write a research paper on a gorgeous sunny weekend, you might as well move the whole operation outside. And ensure sufficient seasonal fuel and hydration.

Here in balcony-land, fuel consists of a lovely salad of mixed greens with fresh Nova Scotia strawberries, a crumble of feta, a sprinkle of toasted sliced almonds, drizzled with a simple dressing of 3:1 olive oil and balsamic with a dash of sugar.

Hydration with the added bonus of light caffeination delivered via homemade iced tea. None of this powdery sugary crap. Just a straight up pot of Red Rose left to steep and cool through the morning, then made delightfully refreshing with the addition of ice and lemon.

Now, let’s get at that paper…

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A divine tuna melt

So I mentioned I was moving. Well, I moved on November 1. In a monsoon. Those poor movers deserve medals.

lahave bakery

Anyway, I’d held off taking vacation until this move came about. I’d hoped it would happen in September, but alas, the real estate gods had other plans for me. It’s not the best time to be away from the office right now — many thanks to my colleagues who are covering for me. They recognize that I both needed the time to get settled into my new abode and desperately needed a vacation or I might explode, and that’s just messy at the office.

The painting, unpacking, and multiple trips to Home Depot have had higher priority on the to do list than just chilling. But I promised myself that on a sunny day, I’d take a drive down the south shore of this beautiful province and have lunch at the LaHave Bakery.

If you haven’t been, you must go. It’s one of my favourite places on Earth.

I first arrived at this delicious place on two wheels. I recall that weekend bike tour ensured three delectable stops at the bakery in two days. (It’s uncanny how cyclists can devise tour routes that hit every bakery possible, or the same one multiple times.)

lahave bakery lunch

In fact, most of my visits to this spot have been by bike. We all lean our steeds up against the little deck along the front of the building, get a huge brownie, a sandwich or some soup, and maybe the unsweetened iced tea of the day. If we’re lucky, the row of yellow Adirondack chairs isn’t already taken by customers soaking up the sun while they fill their bellies with baked goodness.

Yesterday, I finally had a break from the move in madness as well as a sunny day. I arrived in LaHave for a late lunch: ham, cheddar, mushroom and spinach panini with raspberry black currant iced tea. It was marvellous. It was a little too cold to sit outside in an Adirondack chair, but indoors, I listened to a few gentlemen discussing the middle east and then local community economic development, flipped through my magazine, and soaked in the local historical items and photos all over the walls.

tuna meltBefore leaving, I bought a cinnamon bun that I had later for dessert, and a loaf of herb and cheddar bread. This stuff toasts up all golden and delicious…it’s all I can do to stop myself toasting and eating the entire loaf with a pile of butter. I managed to save some for a tuna melt for tonight’s dinner. I’m telling you, his bread elevates the humble tuna melt to a taste of the divine.

So, get thee to the LaHave Bakery the next chance you get. It’s heaven on Earth.

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Do your best with what you’ve got

Holy moly, two posts in one week? That hasn’t happened since I started this little blog. Well…

I always get home famished on Thursday nights. I teach an aqufit class at the Y, and tonight I also spent an hour in the weight room. I got home a hungry hungry hippo but also had to be ready for a Skype call in 30 minutes to do group work with MPA classmates.

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So in 5 minutes flat, I chopped some left over chicken, a tomato and half a red pepper, tossed it all over nachos, and topped it with strips of sliced marble cheddar (it’s all I had) and chopped chives.

Into the oven to broil while I run to take out “my eyes” (contact lenses) and change into my jammies, warm fuzzy house coat and slippers. Back to the kitchen in time to see the cheese getting nice and bubbly.

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My classmates had to listen to a little crunching as I scarfed back the whole thing.

Hmmmm….dessert?

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