Happy New Year!

Posted on January 10, 2015

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It’s been a cold start to 2015 here in the Ottawa Valley – some days were -36 degrees Celsius, which is just not enjoyable for anyone!!!! However, it seems to be warming up a bit nowadays (a balmy -20 degrees C!) so we’re all happily donning our skis, snowboards, hockey gear, skates and pulling out the sleds. If we’re going to live in an area that has a good, long winter we’ve realized that we need to embrace as many winter sports as possible and keep active!

And we’ve also realized that winter is so much more survivable when we eat lots of soups and stews. Over the holidays we enjoyed a huge turkey dinner, and so I’ve had turkey soup stock going in my crock pot for days and days, making soup a simple meal to whip up for meals. I’ve often heard that black-eyed peas and collard greens are considered good luck to eat on New Years, so have decided to adopt this tradition in our family. Not only do I love the idea of eating certain meals at specific times throughout the year, but this is such a light, healthy meal to eat at the end of a season of eating fairly heavy foods:-) In the past I’ve looked up recipes with the beans eaten over rice, but this year it really seemed like soup was the way to go. So, I looked in the fridge to see what I had on hand and whipped up with this delicious bowl of goodness. Served with a side of toast smothered in garlic butter, it was the perfect way to end a day of sledding and snow fort building……

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Harvest Crackers

Posted on December 27, 2014

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Winter is most definitely here up in the Ottawa Valley, and we are settled in for the quieter pace of this season.  Snuggling by the fire, hot teas, good books and endless snacking. I’ve been wanting to experiment a little with baking crackers, especially now that we’re trying to eat more spelt or other flours (rather than wheat flour) and that can get expensive to maintain when buying baked goods. So I was thrilled to find this blog post on-line, and to discover that the recipe works just as well with spelt flour:-)

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You need a bit of time to make these crackers, as first you bake them in mini loaf pans and then freeze them overnight (or longer if need be) Then the next day, you take them out of the freezer, slice them thinly and bake them once more to make the actual crackers. It sounds much more labour intensive than it is – and oh, it is so worth it. These crackers are delicious, both with cheeses and various dips.  They are super fancy to pull out during the holidays or for a special meal, and also make a great gift idea:-) I’m super excited to try other flavour combinations now, these were such a hit with my family!

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Eggplant Curry

Posted on November 6, 2014

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Well, here we are. It’s November again, and we’re feeling the need to stew vegetables and eat warm plates of long-simmered comfort food. Yotam Ottolenghi remains the biggest inspiration in my kitchen, and his new vegetarian cookbook just added dozens more recipes to the list of things I want to make. The base for this curry is his recipe for Sri Lankan eggplant pahi, but I’ve altered it quite a bit, mostly adding many more vegetables. It’s great as a dinner side with the protein of your choice, on sandwiches for lunch, or served as a dip at a party.

Swiss Chard Soup

Posted on October 26, 2014

The kids are settled back into school this fall, and thus my volunteering has begun in full force. I’ve been working hard at the school, hoping to get the kids outside as much as possible throughout the school year. We’ve set up a butterfly garden, are constantly creating an outdoor classroom, and last spring the local horticultural society came in to create a beautiful vegetable garden with the kids. It was SO exciting to see the kids return in the fall, super thrilled to be able to pick vegetables and eat them straight from the garden. Carrots and cherry tomatoes were no brainers, but I was surprised to see a plethora of rainbow swiss chard in the garden. What kid would choose to eat that???? And what were we going to do with it all?

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Then I was asked to make vegetable soups with the kids, for a community potluck being held at the school, and so I started seeking recipes for swiss chard soup (and was surprised to find that there are many!) The kindergarteners had a blast picking a bunch of swiss chard fresh from the garden, and couldn’t help themselves from eating a bunch of it. Apparently they also kept aside bundles of the rainbow stemmed greens to bring home, asking their parents to cook it with dinner:-)

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I then grabbed a few older kids to come help me chop vegetables. We enjoyed chatting in the kitchen as we chopped zucchini and swiss chard, onions, carrots and tomatoes. We measured herbs and discussed favourite vegetables. One boy was an expert, having helped his mom in the garden all the time, and in the kitchen. Another boy had never made soup before in his life, and marvelled at how fun it was. It’s amazing to me how such a simple task can have so much potential for growth, for community building, for learning and just for great conversation.

Once the soup was done, I was placing it in freezer bags to save for the potluck dinner. The kids, however, were disappointed to not be eating the product of all their work, so I set aside a few small bowls for them. I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about how much they would eat. Many of these kids bring processed lunchables for lunch and did not even know what swiss chard was. They’d just chopped zucchini and carrots and onions to put in, so there was no hiding the veggies, and the many greens in there. However, they proved me wrong yet again – every single one of them LOVED it! So, if you want to make vegetable soup with the kids in your life, I encourage you to start with a seed in the spring. Help them grow a variety of vegetables, watching it all grow and marvelling at the beauty of the vegetables. Harvest them, cut them together and make them into soup!

(there’s a lot of great information about growing school – or community – gardens with kids here)

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Canoe Camping with Banana Boats

Posted on August 31, 2014

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We have just returned from a week of canoe camping in Algonquin Park – a beautiful area of Ontario where you can easily get into the back country. JUST what my soul needed to end this adventure-filled summer…..after a couple of months of car camping across Canada, it was so nice to get back into our canoe and paddle/portage our way to where we would run into no one else and we could ‘really’ camp!!!!

Part of what I LOVE about back country camping is becoming creative about the food we bring and how we cook it. Obviously the first few days are pretty easy – we usually make stew or chilli and freeze it to keep other food cool and also to make it last until we’re ready to cook it. We’ve been known to roast our share of hot dogs on the fire, and snack on jiffy pop popped on the fire, but for the end of the week it’s nice to get creative so we can really enjoy what we’re eating.

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Whenever we go canoeing, we bring lots of tinfoil, lemon, potatoes and onions on the off-chance someone catches a fish for dinner. One night Tiegan caught a perfect small-mouth bass, and we wrapped up slices of potatoes with onions and butter in tinfoil and threw them in the fire to go with the fish – super delicious!

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I also like to pull out my dehydrator for some meals – a couple that have worked really well for us are lentil burgers (we make the mix, dehydrate that and then form the patties after rehydrating them) and quinoa chilli. This trip, I brought a couple of bags of the chilli and it was a big hit!

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You just soak it in water during the day, and cook it once it is rehydrated.

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We also rolled bannock on sticks to go with the chilli, and cooked it over the fire – awesome camping food!!!! You could make bannock with garlic butter, shred cheese in the batter, or serve it with nut butter, nutella or honey for a sweet snack – very versatile camping food and super easy to make!

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The big hit this trip, though, was our discovery of banana boats. What an excellent camping dessert – one that you can make as healthy or unhealthy as you want! Essentially, you take about three layers of tinfoil and lay them on top of each other. Then place a banana on top and cut it in half. Inside you can place what you like: chocolate chips, peanut butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, butter, sugar, marshmallows, etc – or obviously any combination of above (I particularly like peanut butter and chocolate chunks myself!). Once all the ingredients have been added, fold up the tinfoil to completely cover, and place in fire.

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You want to check it fairly often to make sure it’s not burning, but you’d be surprised by how long it takes to really cook. It’s well worth the wait (and any burnt finger tips) when you open up the tinfoil and find the gooey goodness waiting inside for you – YUM!!!!!

I hope that there’s a camping trip in your future where you can try some of these food ideas – but if not, a backyard fire pit would work just as well.  Enjoy the rest of summer, there’s only a few weeks left until the first day of autumn……

Mango Lime Ginger Popsicles

Posted on August 15, 2014

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We’ve just returned from a two month cross-Canada road trip, which was an amazing way to spend a summer, but as you can imagine, very busy as well! We really took our took our time on the way out, camping in each province and stopping to visit family and friends. We live in such an amazing country!

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And it definitely helped our enjoyment of the trip that we seemed to hit a heat wave everywhere we went – meaning so much swimming in pools, in the ocean, in lakes and rivers and pulling out slip and slides to cool off. We also ate our weight in ice cream cones and sought out refreshing popsicles whenever we could find them!

When we were at the Vancouver Island Music Festival in Comox, BC I came across a mango lime ginger popsicle and it was SOOOOOOOOOOOO refreshing. Exactly what I needed on a hot summers day when I felt like I was melting. So when my sister gave me a popsicle maker, we decided to try a batch of our own.

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We easily found fresh mangoes, ginger and lime at the local store, and I cut up three mangoes and placed them in a bowl.
I then added the zest of half a lime and the juice of one full lime.
With a hand immersion blender, I blended the mangoes but made sure that a few small chunks were left as I like that bit of frozen fruit in a popsicle.
I place 1/2 a cup of water in a pot on the stove, grated a tablespoon of fresh ginger into it and heated the water until the ginger smell filled the kitchen.
I then poured this in with the mango, and mixed 1/3 cup of maple syrup (could do more, depending on how sweet your mango is).
At this point, taste the mixture and see if you’d like to add more of any of the flavours. Then pour into your popsicle moulds and freeze.
ENJOY! We ate them on the deck at the end of a particularly HOT day, and then had them again for breakfast the next morning – very addictive.

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Gluten-Free Galette

Posted on July 15, 2014

Hello from Victoria, B.C.! I know I’ve been silent here for a chunk of time, but shortly after Anja’s visit to us mid-June, I left on a cross-country adventure with the kids. We’ve been gone for about a month now, and have had an amazing time – lots of camping, exploring of new areas, visiting with family and friends, and as you can imagine, not a lot of internet access OR free time!!! However, Jamie has now flown out to join us on the rest of our adventures, and I am currently visiting my sister Clare in Victoria so have time AND internet. That, and the inspiration of finding so many fresh berries at the market – including these baskets of tay berries and raspberries.

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I’ve always LOVED the taste of tay berries (and logan berries, and salmon berries, and saskatoon berries – all of which I don’t find many of in the Ottawa Valley)  I gather that tay berries are a cross between blackberries and red raspberries, as are logan berries though they taste very different from one another. Tay berries have quite a tart flavour, and I find them particularly tasty when cooked – so these baskets were screaming out for a pie of sorts. Since I’m staying at my sisters’ house, and don’t have all my usual baking supplies, I opted to bake a galette as it seemed much simpler.
I also wanted to make it somewhat healthy, as our diet has been fairly relaxed on the road and I’m craving some real foods. Luckily my sister had a drawer full of alternative flours so we could play! I looked around on-line at various paleo pie crust recipes, and came up with this one. Most of them called for almond flour, but since we only had a bit of this, we combined oat flour, almond flour, tapioca and rice flour. It was a wee bit crumbly when putting it together, but it tasted DELICIOUS. I encourage you to try out a galette this summer, especially while there is so much fresh fruit available. Cherry almond would be delicious, or strawberry rhubarb. Peach ginger with toasted pecans – or if you can get your hands on some tay berries they are delicious with raspberries and hazelnuts. Enjoy!