Wednesday, July 31, 2013

miso grilled eggplant



Apparently there is a pattern to the summer posts here: rhubarb something, salad, corn salad, a gardening post, a summertime memory, another corn salad, etc. (or something close to that). We can thank Jonathon for unearthing that amazing piece of info - I only wish you could have heard how funny he found it - he claims it repeats every summer. He also points out that there is a dearth of summer protein options. I don't know that I really believe him about the pattern but he is right about the protein. I answered that we eat salads most days and just throw something on the BBQ if we want to add more protein. Summer food is meant to be easy and light - at least that is what feels right to me. Tonight we had something that was light and easy and more interesting than a grilled sausage or chicken breast. This is not in response to the request (yes, it was a formal request) that I include one or two more ideas for summer protein but it does answer it all the same.

The idea began with a recipe I saw for a vegetarian main dish of BBQ'ed eggplant. The recipe reminded me of mabo nasu and got me thinking of a summer version - pared down, simple and on the grill. That is just what this is. David declared it a make-again. The picture ain't pretty but the meal was too good to not share for such a paltry reason as that.

Since the bbq was hot and we needed to add something green to the meal, I tossed some broccoli and asparagus spears with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper, then grilled them for a few minutes to round things out. Like I said - light and easy.

I have recently started keeping my fresh ginger root in the freezer. (I used to do that but stopped ages ago for a reason that entirely escapes me now.) Anyway, Hannah reminded me how brilliant it is and she is right. One always has fresh - as opposed to shrivelled or nasty - ginger root when one needs it and it is much easier to grate when it is frozen. I also never-ever peel ginger. Nobody complains or even notices.

miso grilled eggplant

4 Tbsp mirin
3 Tbsp red miso paste
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 tsp toban djan
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
sea salt to taste
4 green onions, sliced (green parts reserved)
2 Japanese eggplants

Preheat the BBQ to medium.

Combine the mirin and miso paste in a small bowl. Set aside.

Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Make shallow cross-hatch cuts on the eggplant cut surfaces. Brush with 2 Tbsp of the miring/miso mixture. Oil the BBQ grill and grill the eggplant cut side down for 5 minutes then flip and continue grilling for 6 - 8 minutes longer, or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a skillet on the stove quickly brown the ground beef with the white parts of the sliced green onions. Add the toban djan, soy sauce, ginger and remaining miring/miso mixture. Cook for a minute to warm through and add the sesame oil. When the eggplant is done on the grill, plate it and top with the ground beef mixture. Garnish with the reserved green onion slices.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

summer oatmeal





Years ago I stumbled across a recipe for what has become one of our family's very favourite breakfasts. The recipe was called "Swiss Porridge" and is essentially fruit, oats, and yogurt tumbled together. Over the years it morphed into our own version and is one of the very first recipes I posted on this blog. Nobody could ever call it a complicated or time consuming recipe but this idea for summer oatmeal is even easier and is basically just a pared down, healthier-but-still-yummy version.
Fast and easy, this breakfast is brilliant - it is the kind of thing that you can easily conscript your kids to help with or make yourself in just a few minutes. It is yummy and healthy and the best part is a breakfast all ready to grab - no fuss, no muss - first thing in the morning. Made in mason jars it is perfect for the days when you need to get out the door fast - or when you are going to eat after the gym on your way to work (Jonathon). I have discovered that it keeps very well for several days so line some jars up, add the ingredients, shake, refrigerate and you are good for a week's worth of healthy breakfast.

There are recipes for lots of different combinations of fruit and flavour online (just google summer oats or oatmeal). We have tried several variations and haven't hit a bad one yet. This combination of chocolate and cherries is my contribution to the long list.

Unless you want a gummy, mushy porridge (and really who does?!) do not use quick cooking oats. I wondered about it, tried it and don't recommend it. Stick to the slow cooking, large flake, old fashioned variety. The recipe is written for a single serving - it is super easy that way to line the jars up and dump the ingredients in as you go down the line (something little ones could have a lot of fun with), making as many or as few servings as you like. Alternately you can multiply by the number of servings you need and make a large batch in a single bowl. Gotta say it isn't nearly as much fun that way though. Or as cute.

Note: if I am making for myself I use a 250 ml (1 cup approx.) mason jar. David likes a bit more for breakfast so for him I use a larger jar (500 ml) with more of each ingredient. The increased amounts are in brackets.

chocolate-cherry summer oatmeal 

1/4 (1/3) cup large flake rolled oats
1/3 (1/2) cup coconut milk
1/4 (1/3) cup plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp chia seed
1 Tbsp cocoa 
1 tsp honey (+ a tiny bit more for David)
1/2 (2/3) cup pitted fresh sweet cherries*

Add ingredients(excepting cherries) to the jar in the order listed. Cover jar securely with the lid and give it a good shake. Remove lid, add the cherries and recover. That's it. Store the jars in the fridge. This should be made at least several hours before serving. 

Sometimes chocolate for breakfast really appeals and other times not. For those days skip the cocoa powder, swap the honey for a little maple syrup and fill the jar up with fresh or frozen blueberries. Or mango. Or add a tablespoon of shredded coconut and some sliced banana. You get the idea. For flavours your imagination (and what is on offer at the market) is the limit.

* if cherries are not in season, raspberries or strawberries are awfully good as well.

If you want more guidance flavour-wise, check some other yummy variations here.







Wednesday, July 24, 2013

more walking


The other day I had a desire to find out how many steps I take in a day - or even on my daily walk. Not having a pedometer I figured the best thing to do was check out what apps there may be for my trusty iPhone. I stumbled onto an app that while not having a step counter (that I can see at any rate, lol) is packed full of fun stuff.

I guess my favourite way to keep fit (mentally as well as physically) is walking. It is the activity that I find the most easy to maintain - probably because I like it the best. I like yoga and light weights and pilates, hate (hate!!) running, haven't been swimming for exercise for so long that I am not sure if I would love it as much as I used to but a walk every day keeps my mind clear, kick-starts creativity (for me) and simply feels wonderful. I started walking with a group of my friends when we lived in Vancouver on the north shore 20 years ago. The initial motivation was purely social but I found that I liked the easy exertion as much as the conversation. Over time the group moved on to other things but I kept walking. My little family moved on to other cities and I kept walking.

I like walking solo - even prefer it to be honest - but have sometimes missed the tiny little push, the bit of competition that accompanies walking with others. This fun app provides that little edge for me. I can compete with myself for time and distance - or I can compete with others via the app. It tracks and saves my routes via gps (which I find mildly creepy when I think about the implications...) and lets me know elevation gain, distance, and reminds me via voice how fast my split pace is. There are other goodies like nutrition and calorie expenditure, etc but that isn't where my focus is when I am walking. All this and it is Free :) You can upgrade to a 'pro' version if you wish.

I have been liking this app so much that I thought I should share it. If anyone knows a great pedometer app - let me know! 

 I do love my walks - every day that I walk I have a little moment of gratitude for the pleasure. Dorky as that may be, it is true! Really.

www.mapmywalk.com

Note: this is just me sharing. I have no affiliation with mapmywalk.

Monday, July 22, 2013

a cure for dirty windows


I really hate washing windows. There is no honest, nice way to say it so there it is. I either like or don't really mind doing most of what is under the umbrella of homemaking. The few chores that I originally disliked doing (toilets anyone? or ironing) I have learned are not so bad if I simply incorporate them into my regular routine - something that I do almost without thinking. Much like I brush my teeth before bed I clean the bathrooms every Friday and wash the bed linens every Monday. If it is part of the routine it gets done. But washing windows has always escaped me. I know how to do it and they sure look good when they are clean and sparkling but, to tell you the truth it isn't enough of a thrill to get me past the inertia and to the doing. At least not often enough.

For the past few months my windows have been reproaching me daily. Two months ago I pinned something that claimed to be a magic solution to window washing. I have tried more than a couple of pins that have not been even close to as amazing as they have advertised themselves to be so I was sceptical but ... today was the day I woke up and knew was window washing day. It had to be done. No more procrastinating. So I opened up the specially saved pin, mixed up the 'magic' solution and about as quick as I could say "abracadabra" my windows were sparkling. It was the most painless window washing I have ever done. I have to admit that the windows are not quite as perfect as they would be if I had squeegeed them but it is pretty close. And I didn't have to stand on a ladder - which may be what I so greatly dislike about the whole ww thing - or use a squeegee. Also, in all fairness to the method, I must disclose (although it pains my pride to do so) that it has been three (3!) whole years since I last washed my windows - it may very well be that if they hadn't been so horrible to start with the results would have been absolutely perfect. As it is I could hardly do anything for the rest of the day for wanting to just stand and gaze at my awesomely-beautifully-clean windows. 

I figure this method is painless enough (and successful enough) to warrant washing the windows several times a season instead of once every three years ;)

The recipe for the wonderful solution is brilliantly simple. In a large bucket mix:
1 Tbsp of Jet Dry (dishwasher rinse agent)
2 Tbsp dishwashing detergent (for hand washing dishes)
8 cups of warm water

The method is equally simple:
With a spray attachment on your garden hose spray your window to rinse off the dust, etc. Then use a mop or sponge to swab the magic cleaning solution over the window. You will want to be careful to go right to the edges of the window. Grab the hose and spray it all off. Done! The rinse agent causes the water to sheet off and dry spot-free.

Of course, you still have to clean the inside of the windows and this method will not help you there - for obvious reasons - but it is the outside that has always buffaloed me.

Now, if I could only figure out how to magically clean venetian blinds I would be a totally happy woman. At least for a minute or two.

The original idea can be found here.


Friday, July 19, 2013

weddings


Tomorrow my little sister is getting married. The little sister I shared a room with and read bedtime stories to and did ponytails in her hair. The sister who would come over to our (David's and my) house and play with my little kids and lay on the sofa while we each read our own book on hot summer afternoons and I still braided her hair. The sister I sewed with and talked to and shopped with and cooked with and worried about and loved. Still love. We are very different in many ways but sisters for sure. 

Today marks the 5 year anniversary of Merin and Mike's wedding. Shan's wedding is also a garden affair - just like Merin's was. That, the timing (to say nothing of the fact that I am of course, sewing - again at the last minute!) and my being the person in charge of making things beautiful for the wedding tomorrow means that Merin is at the front of my mind. The memories are so sweet and I welcome them. The memory I have of her laughing, happy face July 19, 2008 just makes me happy. Of course I wish I could see her beautiful face in reality but I am honestly at peace and grateful for every single moment that I did.

I look at this picture of Mike and Merin and remember their happiness that day - and hope for the same love to fill my sister's life.

Time is precious, love is more so. I want my actions as well as my thoughts to express my commitment to that truth. Here's to a beautiful day!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

baked vanilla yogurt with rhubarb & blueberries




This post is practically a public service announcement. I can't tell you how yummy this stuff is!! Really - you have to try it and then you'll understand. No words. Just yummy, creamy, mellow, smoothness with a touch of vanilla. Best thing ever at the end of a hot day. Even better than ice cream. We had ours with a spoonful of rhubarb compote and a sprinkle of blueberries but whatever fruit is in the garden or catches your eye at the market would absolutely have to be amazing.

You do have to turn the oven on (low) and there is real sugar and cream in this but on both counts it is worth it. Super simple this is just equal parts of heavy cream, plain yogurt (I used Greek) and sweetened condensed milk. How can this be anything but crazy good in your mouth when those are the parts? But trust me, as good as those parts are, the sum of them is even better.

I cannot give credit for the recipe because I read it quickly one day a couple of months ago and try as I might I could not find it again (one of the woes of all the info we have at our fingertips). I do apologize. To be honest I am not entirely certain the way I made it is the way I read it but whatever the case, it worked.

baked vanilla yogurt with rhubarb & blueberries

1 1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (this is the same as one can)
1 vanilla bean

Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the yogurt in a small bowl. Whisk together until there are no clumps of seeds. Add the heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk. Whisk together. 

Pour the mixture into  six ramekins and set the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees F for 20 minutes. The yogurt will be set at this point. Turn the oven off, leave the yogurts in the oven to cool there. After an hour or two, remove them from the oven and refrigerate until cold. Serve with rhubarb and fresh blueberries - or whatever your heart desires.

rhubarb compote:

3 cups diced rhubarb
1/4 cup water
2/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Put the rhubarb and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook until the rhubarb is tender - about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the honey and vanilla. 

(One of my very favourite treats is cold rhubarb compote with some greek yogurt and honey. Easy and fast. Just so you know.)



Monday, July 8, 2013

'doing'


The other day I made one of those super-simple but utterly adorable no-sew tutus for Ysa. It was a fun and easy project made more fun by the prospect of the delight I was anticipating she would feel when she opened the gift. She is such a sweet-tiny-ballerina-dancing-girl that I was pretty certain the simple gift would be a hit. I finished the tutu, wrapped it in some very pretty soft pink paper tied with a pink bow and figured that was that. Finished. But there was a flicker of a thought in my head. Just there, not articulated. That thought simmered and waited for me to have the quiet to tease the thread of it, to follow it and see where it went. So quiet that I hardly knew it was waiting.

What I did know was that I felt happy. A particular flavour of happy that is unique to having done something, no matter how small and simple, for someone I love. 'Doing' is my best language for expressing love. So I finished the day in the glow of my little project - happy that Ysa would be happy and that I could contribute. As I was winding down and preparing for bed I understood something that had eluded me and it was this: 

I have always found a great deal of joy in doing things for my children. I love them to the moon and back, more than the whole earth, forever and ever. I tell them so (and have always told them so) in as many ways as I can find - words included - but doing little things to delight them or make their lives easier has been an important part of the way I live each day. Since Merin's death I miss doing those small things for her that I used to find joy in doing, but when I do something for her daughter it feels like doing for her and that feels just right. As I followed that thought I understood in a very visceral way that when I am kind to another, when I sacrifice in even a small way for another's happiness I am certainly doing something for my Heavenly Father. In the same way that I cannot 'do' something directly for Merin, I cannot do something directly for him but when I serve his children, I show my love for him.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 
- Matthew 25:40

Certainly not a new doctrine. Not even one that I didn't understand in my mind. But now I feel it in a new and personal way. I understand it in my heart. Another layer of love to wrap my small gifts of love in.

Photo courtesy of Merin's (and our) very dear friend Natasha Van Dierendonck. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

no bake chocolate nut bars






Eden has declared that these are her current "hand's-down favourite" treats. We made them twice on our evacuation sleepover so I think it is safe to say that she isn't alone in liking these. A lot. I can't think of another single thing to say about them. End of story.

.....Actually I can think of a little bit more to say about these - in fact to not say this little bit more would be a disservice. Not only are they super yummy and really quick and easy to make, they are pretty packed with protein and a good dose of healthy fats. Don't buy granola bars - make these or something like them instead. If you stock your pantry with healthy basics like these ingredients it is such a trip and so easy to make something this good (in every respect) for the people you love. Empowering really.

no bake chocolate nut bars 
(adapted from O magazine)

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup almond butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pure vanilla
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

Combine honey, coconut oil, almond butter, sea salt, vanilla and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir over heat just until the coconut oil is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a bowl stir together the almonds, pecans, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cherries, and rolled oats. Pour the honey,oil, almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until well mixed. Press into an 8 x 8 inch pan that has been lined with a parchment paper sling. Refrigerate until firm and cut into bars.