Earth Food – What Are You Doing To Spare The Planet?


Recently, Meeta over at What’s for Lunch, Honey posed that very question.

I thought about it and figured this should be easy. I’m sorry… but I recycle – a lot, I compost my food waste, we’ve even changed over our light bulbs. But I’m no savior. I would assume that for every good thing that I do, I’m probably doing something energy sucking in return, like drive a car and run the dishwasher – often. Seriously, the stress from saving the planet could almost be too much to handle.

Then it hit me. While feeling guilty driving around, dragging my kids to from farmer’s market to farmer’s market, I realized that I am a local food junkie. Nothing tastes better than a fresh, seasonal, real tomato and when you buy a bushel of them to dry or jar for later, you can enjoy real flavour all year long – without the transport exhaust.

With all the buzz, I decided to do a bit of research, to back up some of my claims, I came across one of the most interesting statistics. Rated #31 on the Climate Crisis Solution lists being vegetarian, better yet, vegan as more beneficial for the planet than downsizing your vehicle(s).

According to a study done by the University of Chicago, the amount of pollution created by animal related methane gas and transport pollution would be greatly reduced by how “… close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet. It doesn’t have to be all the way to the extreme end of vegan. If you simply cut down from two burgers a week to one, you’ve already made a substantial difference.” (I’m assuming “mean” = average American diet :)

Think about what you eat and where it comes from. Your food will taste better and you’ll save the planet at the same time. Easy and delicious.

On that note, it’s August and the Farmer’s market is bursting with tomatoes and CORN!
I could post an exhausting instruction about how to roast corn, but it’s not hard. If it’s fresh like now, usually picked a few hours before getting to you from the market, the silks will still be moist, soft and light. If it’s older you can usually tell the same way. If the silks are browned and drier you don’t have super fresh corn may have to peel the only dry loose husks from the corn and soak it for a minute or two – but when it’s fresh bring it home and put it right on the grill – the sooner the better since the sugar in corn begins to turn to starch just about as soon as it’s picked. The natural moisture should be enough to steam the corn over a steady medium heat. Turn the corn regularly so the outside husks char evenly. Once it’s grilled on all sides, about 5 – 7 minutes, remove it from the grill. Once it’s cool enough to handle, peel the husks and the typical stray silks will glide right off.
I served mine with a dollop of Lemon Thyme Spread made from 1/4 Cup of vegan margarine with about 1 Tablespoon of Fresh Thyme and the zest of 1 lemon.

GRILLED POLENTA WITH FRESH TOMATO SALSA CRUDA

POLENTA

3 Cups Vegetable Stock
1 Cup Fine Cornmeal or Polenta
pinch of salt & a crack of fresh pepper
Cooking Spray or olive oil

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
Using a whisk to combine, pour the polenta into the heated stock in a steady stream.
Reducing the heat to low, continue to stir frequently with a wooden spoon.
Polenta should come away from the edge of the pot and the spoon should be able to stand up in the center, or your arm will feel like it’s had a full workout, once it’s thickened.
Spray a 9″x13″ pan with oil and pour in the polenta. Flatten the polenta to the edges with a rubber spatula, dipping it in water, if necessary, to keep it from sticking, and cover with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until very firm.
Heat grill to medium flame.
Cut the polenta into portion size servings and remove from the pan.
Brush with olive oil and grill for a few minutes each side or until crisp and golden.


FRESH TOMATO SALSA CRUDA

2 Large Field Tomatoes
1/2 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Clove Garlic, minced
2 Scallions, chopped
3-4 Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
2 Tablespoons Cilantro, chopped
1 Chipolte pepper, minced, optional
salt and pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Core and roughly chop the tomatoes.
Remove the seeds from the pepper and roughly chop.
Add the garlic, scallions, chopped herbs and chipolte pepper, if using.
Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top grilled polenta, drizzle over olive oil and serve immediately.

Photo courtesy of WeirdFood.com.

Blogging By Mail


I had heard about Blogging By Mail, or at least seen previous posts about these wonderful care packages people were receiving from similar bloggers paired up from across the globe. Naturally when I saw the call to join, I pounced!

Hosted by Stephanie, our perfect matchmaker extraordinare did what she does best, Dispensing Happiness to 60 willing postal crashers.
I was given a match and went off to fill my basket with a collection of my most favourite things. Returning from the post office, I was a little upset upon being told I couldn’t include the string along with my brown paper package but only for a short while as I was greeted with a package of my very own.
All the way from Holland it was! I ran from the door to the table to open my transatlantic treasure like a giddy little girl the paper flew until I remembered my manners, caught my breath and grabbed my camera.

Sent from the lovely and generous Arden from Uit De Keuken Van Arden (The Kitchen of Arden), I first saw a lovely card and note, pasta and a small jar… that could be anything, until I lifted it. I was intrigued. The jar was lighter than air, labeled Cepes, it needed a closer investigation.
Mushrooms! How could she have known?? Once translated, I was elated since this little jar of eekhoorntjesbrood was filled with Porcinis, my favourite!
Digging deeper, wrapped in tiny plastic bubbles, my children and I began to jump for joy – not only for the bubble wrap but for the two enormous bars of DUTCH chocolate that was nestled inside. Now you see, up until now there has only been one day in our house in which chocolate may be consumed before or as breakfast, so imagine my kids faces when they both got a little square and it wasn’t even snowing outside! Next was bottle of orange balsamic vinegar. I could practically smell the strawberries I was about to macerate with a drop of this lovely stuff.
The unwrapping didn’t end there. I found two envelopes, one of an Australian Bruschetta mix of dried bush tomatoes, forest anise, pepper, garlic and paprika that Arden said would be great it sauces or as a grill rub for vegetables and the like. The other contained dried peppers. Even the scent through the packaging was intoxicating. Super concentrated, smoky and sweet, one of the package suggestions was to serve them as an hors d’oeuvres with parsley, garlic, capers and a dousing of extra virgin olive oil. Yum!

Next was delicious homemade Strawberry Raspberry Jam made by Arden herself.
Yes, I tried it already, right after the chocolate, and this lovely woman could have a side business on her hands selling this stuff on line it is perfect. Not to sweet – capturing the summer fruit in its perfection.
And last, I save the best, was the surprisingly delightful treat of Kruidkoek. At first glance it looked like a packaged pumpernickle. I was a little hesitant to try, in fact I gave it a day or two and then I followed her instructions. She said that it was typically eaten as breakfast or like an in-between snack during the day with a cup of tea or coffee. Doing just that, I tore in and what I found was a complete surprise. The Kruidkoek was sugary, a bit sticky, sweet and spiced with clove. It tasted like Europe all in one bite. It was pure, sweet, rustic, natural and so “not from around here refined” delicious.
Certainly one of my new favourite things.

Thank you so much Arden! Your package was an absolute delight to open! I appreciate the work you put into it, all of your efforts assuring the contents were vegan is so thoughtful.

And thanks again to Stephanie, for coordinating this amazing event. I feel so thankful to have been able to take part. I can’t express enough how fantastic it is to write within such a talented blogging community that spans the globe and to truly experience how small the world can be made just by opening a package full of food created so thoughtfully for me.

Can I be the officially the first signed up for the next round? Ah, I can’t wait!

Raspberry Tart


After a meal last week, I thought about some of my recipes on the site.
You see, my sister in law, along with being vegan, suffers from Celiac Disease which is a gluten intolerance restricting her diet of all wheat, rye and barley products.
No meat, no dairy and no bread. Poor girl.

To her, wheat shows it’s ugly head often. It’s in so much more that the mere loaf of bread – it’s in cakes, pastries, muffins, most veggie burgers, hot dogs and soy sauce.

This was the problem I feared when I first met with my vegan cooking challenge. I’ve gone on about creating a satisfying meal for my guests. I have to admit I feel just awful when I see her eating only hummus or grilled vegetables then skipping dessert, all while we’re all slathering our freshly toasted buns with bar-b-qed goodies.

It’s not the full meal, but here’s a little more than a popsicle for your next dessert; a gluten free, no bake raspberry tart. Happy early birthday, my dear. I hope you like it.

RASPBERRY TART

You will need about 2 Pints (3-4 cups) of fresh raspberries for the final topping.

CRUST

1/3 Cup Almonds
1/2 Cup Oatmeal
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Margarine
1/8 teaspoon Salt (pinch)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a saucepan, melt the margarine. Add the vanilla and brown sugar; mix well.
Simmer over a medium heat and allow to simmer for 2 -3 minutes.
In a food processor, combine the almonds and half of the oats, until well ground.
Add the remaining oatmeal, cinnamon and salt; pulsing to combine.
Empty the dry mixture into a medium sized bowl and pour over the hot syrup.
Once the crust mixture is well combined, transfer to an 8 inch tart pan.
Spread out and evenly press the mixture along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Chill to set, about 20 minutes or just while you prepare the filling.

TOFU CREAM

1/2 Package Soft Silken Tofu
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
4 Tablespoons Confectioners Sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons Arrowroot Powder
2 Tablespoons Soy Milk

Combine tofu and sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.
With the machine running, add the arrowroot, soy milk, lemon juice and vanilla through the feeder cap.
Taste and adjust vanilla and soy milk for flavour and consistency, if necessary.

Pour into the waiting crust and return it to the refrigerator.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

1/2 Cup Chocolate Pieces, vegan
1 Tablespoon Margarine
2 Tablespoons Soy Milk

Melt the chocolate pieces in a double boiler or in a heat safe bowl fitted over a pan of simmering water.
Stir in the margarine.
Whisk in the milk to combining until smooth.
Pour over chilling tart.

Top with raspberries and dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.
Chill until ready to serve.

Nana’s Apron


I’m sure it’s been said about a thousand times by cooks and food lovers, but if I have to give credit to the one person who introduced me to food, slow food and how to enjoy cooking it, that person would have to be my Nana.

One of my earliest memories is of her rocking me in a chair singing “This Old Man” and “How Much Is That Dog”. It’s not so much the songs but the smell that triggers the moment. My Nana had always worn a pleasant aroma of cookie dough and Clorox.

Even well into her eighties, she was either baking or cleaning something up. So for the years when my brother and I would spend weeks at a time through various school vacations, I was naturally drawn to her. I would follow her around as she did her countless daily chores hoping that she would let me help. Most of the time she would tell me how I wouldn’t like it and that it would be more fun to play outside. Really she probably wanted remove the half sized me, to just get the job done. However, telling me I wouldn’t like it is likely what got me to stick around, that and I know that she would eventually move into the kitchen.

Baking is where I was invited to help, promoted by a chair to sous chef. Swearing by cleanliness, my dirty kid hands had to be washed and my hair pulled back – usually with a purple hairnet once intended for nighttime curlers, I’m sure. As I stood atop my furniture at the other side of the kitchen, I was adorned with The Apron.
The Apron didn’t stand out, although I always thought it was pretty. It was very colourful and had flowers – it was the seventies after all.

With my sleeves rolled and my uniform in place, I was ready to create and learn. Together, she introduced me to the fundamentals of cooking, let me flip (& drop) my first pancake, taught me the word impetuous and how to bake bread – slowly. She let me scrape my knuckles on a grater, use a real sifter and whip cream with an egg beater all before I could ride a bike. She helped form my greatest likes and my chosen careers, it’s just that these days, she can’t remember doing it.

How magical it was when one day my young daughter received a small package in the mail. Too young to read her full name, or ride her bicycle to the post office, she opened it with almost as much glee and anticipation as I had.

My Nana had found something she wasn’t using. My delighted daughter tugged out a little faded, but still colourful apron for her to help me cook. In the note Nana said she thought it might be a perfect fit.

She couldn’t have been more right.
I found this homemade apron and I hold it tight. Like memories, it’s a little faded, but I treasure it. Nana recently passed away and watching her diminish from Alzheimers was more than heartbreaking. Not only did she slowly forget me and my kids, she forgot she ever loved to cook and how great she was. It’s a treasure that I learned so much from her that I can hopefully pass along, not only to my children but through my work writing and developing recipes.

Ginger Rose Sorbet


Hey hey, I was so excited about Eat Drink Live’s announcement for HHDH#13. It’s all about sorbet.

I’ve always been more of a sorbet lover than of ice cream. Ice cream has it’s fine moments; in a cake – not along side or maple walnut with my Nana’s warm apple pie, that sort of place.

Then there is sorbet. Nothing beats the heat of a hot summer day than something so icy and fresh as this.

GINGER ROSE SORBET

1/4 Cup Ginger Syrup*
1/2 Cup Rose Petal Syrup*
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
2 Cups Soda Water

*Scroll down for syrup instructions…

Strain the syrups and lemon juice and add the soda water.
Place everything into an ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for sorbet or place the syrup into a metal bowl.
If using a metal bowl method, place it into the freezer, stirring with a whisk or a fork after about 45 minutes.
Repeat whisking after one hour intervals until everything is frozen and smooth.
Garnish with candied ginger or rose petals.

* GINGER SYRUP

1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
1/2 Cup Fresh Ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

Scrape the ginger with a spoon to remove the peel.
Thinly slice the ginger lengthwise and set aside.
In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in the water, add the ginger and bring to a slow boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.
Strain the ginger slices. Preserve them by loosely shaking them in sugar and drying them on a single layer sheet in a 250ºF oven for about 60 – 90 minutes.
Reserve the ginger for garnish, store extra for future use.

ROSE PETAL SYRUP

3/4 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Water
4 Cups Rose Petals

Choose roses which have just opened, being sure they are from your own garden or otherwise organic source.
Pluck the fresh petals from enough roses to yield 4 cups, loosely packed. Rinse lightly to remove any debris.
In a large saucepan, dissolve the sugar into the water.
Add the rose petals and bring the syrup to a rolling simmer.
After about 30 minutes, the syrup should be aromatic and the petals should be mostly translucent.
Remove the saucepan from the heat to cool.
Strain the syrup to use and store.

I generally hate roses, so the first time I had rose syrup was a shocking experience.

After a lunch a while back, my friend and I gazed through many a window of one of the more fashion forward streets here in Toronto. Couture clothing and new artists typically showcase through the glass, giving way to the occasional high end patisserie or chocolatier. However, the one window which made my friend, a fellow food addict, and I jump in was The Spice Trader & The Olive Pit. Upstairs – every salt, smoked paprika and exotic cardamom pod you could imagine inhaling. Downstairs, was a individually owned shop which transported us through the finest olive groves of Italy. The proprietor carried the most divine oils imaginable. We tasted various olive regions, specialties, and specifics. We blissfully browsed one country’s delicacies, sampling walnut and truffle oils but the one treasure that stood out most was pink and expensive. As it would seem, some olive growers enjoy their roses too.

The shop owner was very knowledgeable, proud of his products and gracious to share.
The squeaky pop of the newly opened cork soon lead our noses to a far away rose garden where hundreds of perfect petals were plucked for this very bottle. It poured that perfect shade of pink that all girls adore. The sweet aroma was almost as satisfying as the silky flavour that twisted our senses into a well tied bow. I was tasting the sweet smell of a thousand roses and what, in my mind should have tasted so wrong, was levitating as my general idea of prickly thorns melted away with the discovery of this delightful culinary use.

Centrepiece of the Month


I’ve seen stunning arrangements for this time of year, however I can’t help but to take the lead from my daughter. She’ll pick what she loves and give them to me with the same passion.
Her groupings may not have much precision to them, but they are none the less delightful and can capture any moment.
It’s nice to be able to occasionally treat guests to that feeling as well. Especially now in early summer, even the most formal of affairs things get to be a bit more laid back so these lovely, casual arrangements can fit right in to either a wedding or a simple meal outdoors.

This arrangement, set for brunch in an egg cup, are only of found plants. Scavenging in the backyard with a basic colour scheme in mind, I found the last of the pansies, white clover and oregano.

Keep things small and personal. Either arrange these in small individual cups to present on each place setting or spot them in and around the table – they are sure to spread some summer joy.