Salmon, Quinoa and Asparagus

I made this a few weeks ago and wished I had taken a picture of it so that I could share it with you but I hadn't and all I could show was a very empty plate. Because I have been telling all sorts of important people (my kids, good friends, strangers in line at the grocery store) that they really need this recipe and because it is fast, easy and good I made it again today. And this time I did take a picture. This meal is very good, just as fast, super easy, and extremely healthy. (You know all the lists of super/power foods that abound? I think almost everything in this recipe is on those lists!) The recipe is from Quinoa 365 the Everyday Superfood by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming. I haven't tried anything close to all 170 recipes but the ones I have tried have been winners. This one for sure is on our "make again soon" list. It looks pretty amazing plated up - almost as good as it tastes. 

Salmon and Red Quinoa on Asparagus with Lime Cilantro Sauce
(tweaked ever so slightly from Quinoa 365 the Everyday Superfood )
1/2 cup red quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 cup light sour cream*
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp grated lime zest
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp grated ginger
3 Tbsp minced minced fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
Four 4 oz wild salmon fillets
1 lb asparagus

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat but keep the pan on the burner for another 6-8 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place the fillets on a foil lined baking sheet, rub with olive oil. Bake for about 12 minutes or until salmon flakes easily.

While the salmon and quinoa cook, steam the asparagus.

Combine the sour cream, mayo, lime zest and juice, ginger, cilantro and salt in a small bowl. Mix well.

Arrange the steamed asparagus on individual plates. Spoon on a portion of quinoa, top with salmon and drizzle (or pour if you want - it's really good) the lime-cilantro sauce over the salmon. Enjoy! I served additional sauce at the table - just because we liked it so much.

(My empty plate - again! I practically licked it clean! mmmmm )

*The first time I made this I used the sour cream called for. This time I didn't have any so I subbed non-fat Greek yogurt (plain) for the sour cream and it was equally delicious.

Fast and easy to cook, quinoa has been identified as one of the world's healthiest foods - it is a nutritionally superior source of non-animal protein, contains all the essential amino acids, and is a good source of fibre. It can be used in many ways and incorporated into almost any type of dish from appetizers to desserts, soups to breads. 


Kitchen 'Rehab' at Merin's

With lots of assets (great curb-appeal, location, space and potential) this little house had a few less desirables. The most obvious of which was the kitchen.

It was, to not put too fine a point on it, a disaster.  Totally unworkable from a current perspective. And that isn't even getting into that it was just ugly. The cabinets were too small and too few.The layout impractical. The counter space was almost non-existent. And  ugly! How about the faux brick combined with the dark faux wood paneling? As we 'excavated' we discovered three different layers of laminate on the counter, two layers of vinyl flooring over top of the original linoleum tile and yes, two layers of wallpaper along with evidence of 3 separate color schemes in paint that was revealed as we worked. Wow! The original owners really liked to redecorate. (and who am I to knock that?!)

For the better part of the year that Mike and Merin owned the house the kitchen looked like it does above. At the end of May - a month before little Ysa was due - they pulled everything out right back to the studs. So there was nothing - no water, no counter - not even the vinyl flooring. The hope was to have the kitchen in and finished by the end of the summer. It was a challenge for the end of a pregnancy and even more so for a new mom but Merin was willing to do it and  looked forward with excitment to the finished and functional kitchen.

Merin and I spent many hours brainstorming ideas, drawing the plan, shopping for finishes and fixtures. It was my idea of great fun. It also put me in the unique position of being able to execute the plan after the accident - to know that I could finish it so that the kitchen looked just like she wanted it to. I did. And it does. It is, I think, pretty fantastic.

Now there is a very functional, large, deep single bowl sink to replace the shallow and entirely frustrating itty bitty sink. And the dishwasher we found is a huge upgrade over the old portable. We chose to install the shelf instead of upper cabinets. It kept the kitchen much more open and is a younger, hipper look. The countertop is Richlite, a material that is fantastic. It will not burn or stain, is more forgiving than stone if things are dropped on it and has a softer, warmer appearance. 

We mounted upper cabinets on the wall under the windows. This addressed several issues - the baseboard radiant heating that could not be moved, the need for more storage, as well as the need for countertop. Brilliant solution. I like the way it 'floats' - visually light and open. (Merin and I had planned to paint the space between the windows with blackboard paint - a great graphic hit -but since the house is no longer for them but resale that was deemed a potential hazard. I still thought it would be amazing. Oh well.)

The new ceramic tile floor is practical and, in my opinion, cool-ly graphic. The kitchen light fixture was original as is the lovely chandelier over the table. We thought it was fun to keep that bit of history - and, after shopping, we really liked them.

Merin would have been beyond thrilled with the result, the product of all the dreaming, working, and sacrifice of convenience. I have felt comforted (although at times it was very hard) as I have had the opportunity to do this for her. For me it has been important. I wish she could have used this kitchen but she was so happy here in this little house of love and dreams even without it. I remind myself that it doesn't matter so much where we live but how we live. I can be grateful and therefore happy or I can not. I choose. Every day. I can honor her memory by choosing well.

It is a very good kitchen. Sweet, practical, beautiful, cool - perfectly Merin.

I know that most of  you have likely seen many of these pictures from Eden's blog but since I was so intimately involved in the process of getting to the "After" stage, and since who doesn't love to see the "Before"s, this is my offering.

I acknowledge all the hours of help and work contributed by Merin's brothers, father and uncles, they selflessly gave many,many hours doing work that was not fun. It was a gift of love.

All after photos are courtesy of edenlangpictures. Thanks so much Eden for your beautiful work.


Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf

There are a lot of meatloaf biases. Seems that people either love it or hate it, with the majority not loving it. It is practically a metaphor for bland, boring and totally tasteless. For a whole generation meatloaf for dinner meant there was no money for anything more desirable (see bland, boring and tasteless above). Admittedly for others meatloaf + mashed potatoes = comfort food. This recipe for meatloaf changes the meatloaf playing field entirely. A totally new paradigm even. There is a fair amount of tedious chopping vegetable prep but it smells so good when the vegetables roast and tastes so amazing that - like childbirth - the less-pleasant aspects recede and all you remember is that this is good. Admittedly it is a home-y kind of meal, more diner than haute cuisine but the herbs give it a nice kick, the vegetables rescue it from blandness and it is... really, really good. 

Roasted Vegetable Meatloaf

3 small zucchini , diced
3 red bell peppers, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, divided

2 lbs ground beef
2 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh marjoram
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/2 cup ketchup
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 450 F. Combine zucchini, peppers and onions in medium bowl. Add oil and 1 Tbsp rosemary; toss to coat. Spread on rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast until vegetables are tender - about 25 minutes. Remove from oven; cool. Change oven temperature to 375 F. Mix ground beef, mozzarella, panko, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, dried crushed pepper, remaining rosemary, and 1 cup roasted vegetables. Whisk together ketchup and eggs; add to beef mixture. Stir with wooden spoon until well incorporated. Spoon into 9x5x3 loaf pan, forming rounded top. Bake until cooked through, juices run clear and top is browned - about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes. Rewarm remaining vegetables. Turn meatloaf out and cut into 1" thick slices. 

I like to serve this with potatoes and cauliflower mashed together, along with another green vegetable and of course, the remaining roasted vegetables. Helps immensely with achieving the goal to eat 6-8 servings of vegetables a day. Win/win. And honestly, I haven't heard a single complaint.


Super Flour Sack Towels

A bit of exposure: I have a small fascination with kitchen linens. Not sure why but I really like them. Given the opportunity ( say, whenever I happen to pass some in a store) I have to check them out. I have certain specs that I prefer - linen as the fibre is my top choice, white in color or other basic neutrals, good quality cotton is also on my list, anything that looks handmade or artisanal attracts me -  that is more or less what I like. If I can tick off more than one thing I must admit that I really want it. So I really love these towels that Jonathon did for me (actually for me and about 20 of his friends and siblings) for Christmas. Check the points:
 100% cotton flour sack towelling
 custom screen printing (super cool at that!)
 clever, tongue-in-cheek
 designed by my very clever son
I am sure you follow. I love love them! I mean look at them!

Totally cool, right?

(There are a couple of other designs as well. If you like love them too, you can be happy because they are for sale. Contact Jonathon at jlitchfield@gmail.com)


Rice Pudding

This morning, bundled in my cozy and oh so elegant microfibre robe, I open the blinds and this is what I see from my kitchen window. Man, it looks cold!!! and bleak. (And at -20 something degrees C it is.) Hmmmmm..... something really warm for breakfast. Something yummy and comforting that tastes and smells delicious. Aha! Rice pudding! There is really no way to make a picture of rice pudding look at all sexy (so I didn't try) but then rice pudding was never meant to be sexy. It is all about flannel not silk, which has an appeal all of its own - especially on a morning like this.

I realize that for many, if not most people rice pudding falls in the dessert category - which is really too bad. From my perspective it beats muffins and waffles and most (but not all see yesterday's post) pancakes nutritionally. Eggs, milk, rice, raisins, even the cinnamon - lots of virtue. So I have been serving it up for breakfast using last night's leftover rice since our kids were little and we lived in Japan. Which leads me to - because we had no oven in Japan I tried "baking" the pudding in the microwave. And guess what? It is brilliant because you can make this truly yummy breakfast with a smell that does all the coaxing to eat it for you* in less time than it takes to cook a pot of oatmeal. 

Rice Pudding

3 large eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/2 (generous) tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk all the ingredients together in a microwave safe bowl. When it is thoroughly mixed put it in the microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. Remove and stir very well. Return to microwave and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir. Cook for a final 3 minutes, stir well again and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Done! 

A few notes: This recipe is very generous in that it is immensely adaptable. If you don't have 1 1/2 cups of leftover rice, use 1. It always seems to work. Perhaps a little more 'custard-y' but still yummy. Today I felt like it so I added 1/4 tsp of cardamom. Sometimes I add nutmeg, other times a little lemon zest. Currents are good along with the raisins or in place of. I have tried basmati, jasmine, brown, brown jasmine, and Japanese short grain rice. All are equally delicious. You can use any milk you like but the higher the fat content the creamier the finished pudding. Whole milk is stupendous but less healthy, 2% mmmmhmmm, 1% great and I really can't say I have tried it with skim - never have it. Low fat evaporated milk works quite well, richer tasting without the fat. So, anyway, just try it.

Second note: after the last 3 minutes of cooking it initially doesn't look like it is really finished cooking. Trust me, it is. If you put it back in and cook it longer it is fine for the first few minutes but then it becomes really firm and dry - not good! If you let it sit for the 3-5 minutes you end up with a nice creamy texture.

Wow! That's a lot of discussion for something that is really simple. Sorry.

*A true advantage as any mother of young children can attest.

But really, I wish you could smell this. On a cold, bleak morning there is not much better.


Cottage Cheese Pancakes

Weekend breakfast should be a bit more....(fun, relaxed, special - you choose) than the rest of the week. It just feels right to celebrate the weekend. In honor of that philosophy but keeping in mind that it is also the weekend for the cook, here is a wonderful and wonderfully easy suggestion. A friend of mine made cottage cheese pancakes when we stayed with her a couple of years ago and they were delightful, but for my own version I wanted something a little more healthy, still easy and a bit more interesting. So I added the cinnamon, rolled oats, flaxseed and whey, then swapped in honey for sugar and the whole wheat flour for all purpose white.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
4 eggs
1 cup cottage cheese
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 scoop whey powder

Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Cook like you would any pancakes. Just be aware that they are challenging to flip (the first one or two may be a mess!) and also know that they are quite thin, not fluffy.

I think they are great all on their own (as in plain). David likes to dress them up with butter and maple syrup and who could say that is wrong?! Another option would be to top them with some nice thick Greek yogurt and fruit. mmmmmmmmmm....

We think they are pretty good. Hope they help to get your weekend off to a great start!


A Sad Song

My father had a wonderful singing voice. I remember him either singing or whistling often as he worked at different tasks when he was home. He sang to us in the car when we travelled to visit our grandparents who lived hours away and it was at least as much a distraction as a movie is now. He sat on the side of my bed almost every night and sang to me to "tuck me in". Of course, he would sing the same songs over and over again and I loved every one of them. Even one that made me cry every time. I would request it, he would start to sing it and I would start to cry. Before long he refused to sing it. Every once in a while I would ask again and he would refuse. Occasionally I would beg, promising that this time I wouldn't cry and he would relent, start to sing, I would cry.... and so it went. He must have been puzzled - both as to why I cried and why I kept requesting him to sing that song. To be honest, I was too. I don't really know why it compelled me the way it did. Perhaps it was so far from my experience that I was just trying to comprehend how a parent could behave that way.

I hadn't thought of that song for years but for some strange reason I did think of it a couple of months ago. I wondered if it really was as sad a song as I remembered and decided to google it - just to see. And.... it is.

Mommy Please Stay Home With Me - Hank Locklin

A mother went out on a party she left at home her baby son
He cried and begged her not to leave him but she would not give up her fun
She kissed his cheek and tried to soothe him but would not heed his childish plea
She heard him call as she was leaving please mommy please stay home with me

The mother joined the merrymakers and soon was lost in trifling joy
The mellow tunes and flitting shadows made her forget her baby boy
She danced and laughed and did some drinking the world for her was full of glee
But now and then these words would haunt her please mommy please stay home with me

She left the party feeling dizzy the smell of drink was on her breath
She hurried home to find her baby in raging pain and nearly dead 
So doctor came and looked on sadly the case was hopeless he could see
The baby dies these words repeating please mommy please stay home with me

The mother now her life would forfeit to hear her baby's voice again
She grieves to think she rudely left him to satisfy her wishes vain
Now mothers don't neglect your duty the story should a lesson be
Do not ignore your baby's pleading please mommy please stay home with me
[ From: http://www.metrolyrics.com/mommy-please-stay-home-with-me-lyrics-hank-locklin.html ]

(Really, who writes a song like that!!!? And to be fair, why on earth did my dad ever sing it to me? I guess it must have just been a catchy tune and he didn't think about it.)

Anyway, here I am now and even quickly reading the words, I still feel weepy. And I wonder if in a small way my attitudes and practices as a mother were influenced by this. I know that having had the wonderful blessing of being able to be with Merin - to have a close, warm relationship, to teach her and be taught, to help her and be helped, to love her and be loved, - to know her so well and  have no regrets about that relationship, is a great comfort. Greater than I can express. Sorrow as I miss her. But not regret. I know there are almost certainly many mistakes and omissions I have made as a mother but I can say that I have tried in a conscious way to give whatever of myself was required and more. If I can come to the end of my life and not have regrets in regard to my love and expression of it, I think that will feel full.

And just to be clear - my dad was a wonderful role model of that to me. I knew that I was loved without reservation. I was his "pride and joy" (as I think all of us were).


French Bread Challenge

One of my goals/desires for this year is to learn to make a really good French loaf. The kind with the great crust and nice chewy inside. This recipe is not that. It is however really good and has the virtue of being really, really easy. So easy in fact, that I have made it four times in the last 3 weeks. It also looks quite impressive, and I am not opposed to impressing. (On the odd occasion when I manage it, it is kind of fun!) So although this isn't the bread I aspire to make, it is a great recipe to have in the repertoire. Give it a try, wrap it up in some lovely parchment paper, tie it with some twine and take it to dinner next time you are invited. Promise you will impress.

No Knead French Bread

2 Tbsp instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp sugar
4 tsp salt
5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 1/2 - 6 cups flour
1 egg white
flaked sea salt

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water. Let stand 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine 2 cups hot water, sugar, salt, oil and half of the flour. Stir very well - it will get nice and gluten -y. Stir in dissolved yeast and the rest of the flour to make a soft dough. Mix well. Leave spoon in batter and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Stir vigorously. Rest again for 10 minutes. Repeat 3 times. Turn dough onto floured board. Knead once or twice until coated lightly with flour. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into a  9"x12" rectangle. Starting at the long edge roll it loosely as for a jelly roll. Seal edge. Place both rolls seam side down, on one large baking sheet. Gash the top of each loaf diagonally three times with a sharp knife. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with the salt flakes. Let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 400 F. for 35 minutes.

As for the French bread challenge....I haven't cracked it yet  - and I may not but I will have fun trying. And it is, after all, only January 11.

Although this isn't the ultimate French bread, I do have to say that it makes superior French toast. Seriously. Enough to justify making the bread - even if it wasn't absolutely yummy fresh.



"I have outdone myself!!!!" Eden declared - almost dancing with excitement - when she first saw the actual (as opposed to virtual) copy of this most amazing coffee table book. I wish I could share every single one of the 250 beautiful pages in this book that Eden made us for Christmas because she really has. I love it! She searched through two large (2 cubic ft large) boxes of old photos - because yes, that is how I file my old pictures - then scanned each selected photo, and did the layout as only Eden can. She then enlisted Jonathon to do the graphic design portion of the project which included the cover design and quotes from our favourite childhood storybooks, the ones we read over and over - nightly at least. David and I were asked for an essay response to the question of what motherhood/fatherhood means to us - that went in as well. The finished book is a record of the childhoods of our  five children. It is a treasure. Not only because of what it is but because it was a labor of love. In every way. From every angle.

Eden, thank you. You are incredibly talented and I love you. And to the other of the five thank you as well. For the gift of the book and the love. For your unique talents that you share with me so generously. I love you so much.

(I wish I had Eden's skills to show you this book. It is really big and fat and beautiful.)


Just Because

To be truthful, this is just because I am pretty excited about this fun little app that lets you take "photo booth" style pictures. It is almost as much fun as a photo booth and a lot more accessible - if you have an iPhone.

And.... let's face it, Ysa is awfully cute.

Happy New Year. I am looking forward to the fresh start. It will be a good year.

(The app is Photo Booth Classic Plus)