a good egg

Until recently I assumed (in the egocentric way that children assume) that everyone cooked - or at least knew how to cook - eggs the way that my dad taught me.  Somehow I became aware that not everyone knew the trick. Perhaps there are crowds that do but as there are at least some that don't, I thought I would share a simple, pretty foolproof method for a really good "fried" egg. It is actually a bit of a cross between poaching and frying with little or no fat involved so it is a healthful way to go. It's a bit of an art and takes a little trial and error initially but after that? Easy, peasy. I say 'art' and 'trial and error' but please do not be put off - note the bit and little that modify them. So this is the way my dad taught me...

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. If you are using a non-stick or stainless steel skillet a tiny bit (1/4 tsp) of oil or butter brushed over the hot pan is a good idea. If you are using a nicely seasoned cast iron pan you can skip the fat completely and use this trick* - before putting the pan over the heat run it under the tap and leave a Tbsp or so of water in the pan. Put the pan over the heat and wait until the water sizzles and is evaporated. Break your eggs into the hot pan and let them cook for about 20 seconds. Have a lid or cover of some sort that fits quite well over your frying pan ready (I mean right there in your non-dominant hand) and pour 1 Tbsp of water per egg - all at once - into the pan and immediately cover the pan with the lid. It will hiss and steam then settle down after a few seconds. How long to wait now depends on how well you like your eggs cooked. We like the whites firm but the yolks runny and that happens quite quickly - only a minute. Really just a minute so don't wander off or answer the phone or butter toast or set the table because you may be inviting disappointment - unless of course you like the yolks hard. In which case you might have time to make some toast but only just even then. Whichever way you prefer your eggs lift the lid and check after a minute. If it looks about right leave the lid off and the pan over the heat until the water is gone. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

After a try or two you get the knack. I love eggs cooked this way. And I always think of my dad.

*The 'science' behind the way this works is that the pan gets hot enough that when the egg (or other food) hits the surface a reaction occurs between the heat and the natural moisture in the food. This reaction causes a steam-like effect, essentially lifting the food away from the pan, and preventing it from sticking. Cool, right?!

This may be totally unfair to my mother - the technique may be her thing but I remember being taught by my dad and so he gets the credit :) And if you and everyone else already know all about this, please excuse my silliness and never mind.


roasted fennel and onion salmon

This is perhaps my favourite way to eat salmon. Perhaps. Hard call because I like salmon cooked and served many ways. One thing for sure is that every time I make and eat this I think (quietly to myself), 'mmmmm, this may be my favourite way to eat salmon.' The last time I made this I had to laugh a little (again to myself) because David said right out loud that he thought this may be his favourite way to eat salmon. It smells amazing while it is cooking, which is a very big point in its favour  - being as many prefer to bbq salmon due to the way it perfumes one's home. Better yet than the tantalizing aroma is the wonderful taste. To complete the hat-trick it is super-simple-absolutely-fail-proof.

I used to make this recipe in a very normal old pyrex baking dish. Now I have a beautiful Staub terrine pan that is perfect for a half-recipe, which is in turn perfect for just two of us. I love cast iron and this pan is so pretty. Elegant even.

roasted fennel and onion salmon
(from my good friend Kara)

2 small fennel bulbs, cut into 1/2" wedges
1 large onion, cut into 1/2" wedges
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup cherry (or grape) tomatoes
1/2 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
1 lemon, halved

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Toos the fennel, onion, garlic, tomatoes, thyme, 1/2 tsp of the salt and 1/4 tsp of the pepper with the olive oil. Spread evenly in a 9x9 baking dish and roast for 20 minutes. Move the vegetables to the side of the pan, add the salmon and redistribute the vegetables around the salmon. drizzle the juice from the lemon over the salmon. Sprinkle with the remaining salt and pepper. Return to the oven and roast until the salmon is the same colour throughout and flakes easily, 10-12 minutes. 

I like to serve this brown rice and a salad of leafy greens with a balsamic vinaigrette. Easy. Healthy. Yummy.


red cabbage, snap pea, and quinoa slaw

We were in Vancouver last week. Sigh..... 

Magnolias in bloom and fresh cherry blossoms bursting on every street. The sun was shining and the sky blue. The kind of weather that makes one long to live in Vancouver. I kept busy making as sure as possible to touch every single one of my favourite bases as I could in the time I had. So. Much. Fun. I went to Dressew - twice! (not sure if it is a sewer's heaven or hell there are so many choices), South Granville, Robson Street, and Granville Island. Took several wonderful walks  - some in the beautiful old neighbourhoods and some in the beautiful old-growth forests. Ate lots of good food with beloved friends and family. And did a fast mini-tour through the aisles of Whole Foods - a mecca for me since Calgary remains Whole Foods free.

The salad counter at Whole Foods offers some fun inspiration and it was there that I saw a combination that intrigued me enough to try my own similar combination of ingredients. It  is so good that I just about broke my arm patting my back! Seriously good. In all humility. lol It is the perfect lunch - protein, full of super healthy vegetables, packable, and delicious.

red cabbage, snap pea, and quinoa slaw

1/2 head red cabbage, sliced 
2 cups snap peas, sliced
3 medium carrots, grated
1 cup curly parsley, finely chopped
4 green onions, white and green parts sliced
2/3 cup red quinoa
1 mango, diced

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 clove garlic 
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 green onion
1/4 cup parsley
1 1/2 Tbsp agave nectar
Combine in blender and process until smooth.

Cook the quinoa: combine 2 cups water with the quinoa in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered for another 4 minutes. Rinse in cold water to cool. Drain well.

Combine the cabbage, snap peas, carrots, green onions, parsley, mango and quinoa in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to combine.


"butter" chicken

After five starts and five deletes all I can offer in terms of incentive to try this recipe is that it is about as easy as easy gets, smells amazing, tastes delicious, and is a much healthier option than the real McCoy. Much healthier because there is hardly any butter (only a single Tbsp of ghee - and you could omit that if you chose and I think you wouldn't even notice the omission) and only a smidgeon of cream. The trick is in using Greek yogurt. Brilliant!  And really, who doesn't love butter chicken?!

"butter" chicken
(adapted from a 'reader recipe' in Oprah magazine)

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp lemon juice
1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp ghee (or butter)
3 Tbsp cream
water - about 1 cup

Combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, sea salt, chili powder, turmeric, garam masala, lemon juice, and crushed tomatoes. Marinate the chicken pieces in the mixture for at least 10 minutes and up to 6 hours.

In a large skillet over medium heat cook the onions in the olive oil and ghee until  starting to soften. Add the chicken and marinade to the skillet. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes. Add the all the cream and as much water as you judge you need to thin the sauce. (Before adding the cream and water, the sauce will be very thick and kind of separated. Stir well when adding the last two ingredients - it will smooth out nicely.)

*You can adjust the heat of the dish by adding a pinch or two of crushed chili pepper if you wish. 


sweet eden

Today is for my sweet Eden. Who readily and generously sees the unique beauty in others and captures it forever. Who encourages and nurtures that beauty of body and spirit as she mothers. Who is my best friend as well as my incredibly precious daughter. A cheerleader, companion in adventures large and small, the smile in each day. My comfort.

Happy Birthday my love. I am so proud of you and grateful for you. You are truly beautiful every moment in every way.

Thanks Dennis for the fun pics!


aloo gobi with chickpeas

After watching Bend It Like Beckham Merin had such a yearning for aloo gobi. The characters in the movie loved it after all and she was sold. We planned to make it together one day but that day never came.

In 2005 David and I travelled in India. We rode camels and slept in a tent (5 Star! yes there is) in the desert at the Pushkar Camel Fair. We travelled in a terrifyingly old and grumpy bus from New Delhi through the Rajasthan desert. We saw the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Amber Fort in Jaipur. We bargained for jewellery and textiles and soaked up the marvels of the markets with all their color. We ached for the poverty and living conditions of far too many and were inspired by the ability to smile despite. We stayed for one night in the beautiful luxury of an old maharajah's palace at the top of a mountain. And every single meal for ten days we ate curry. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

At the time we were living in Tokyo and had discovered the very excellent Indian cuisine that is to be had there. The trip to India was much anticipated for many reasons, not least being the food. Nevertheless - and although the food was amazing - we were happy to leave curries off the menu for a time when we returned. Now we love the smells and tastes of the food we enjoyed so much.

The other night I when I made aloo gobi I thought of Merin. It was a bit of a joke between us - how she obsessed over it. It really is worth at least a little tiny obsession. You could serve it as a side but I think it makes a perfect main for a meatless meal.

This recipe calls for garam masala - a spice blend that is varied and local and very personal to each cook. Commercial blends are available but often not easy to source - at least not around here. I made my own lazy-cook version, skipping the mortar and pestle portion (partly because of time and partly because I didn't have the whole spices on hand anyway and really wanted to eat aloo gobi now!) and it was a very good cheat. Use your own or a commercial blend or try my easy blend. So good!!! This smells amazing and the taste lives up to that advertisement.

aloo gobi with chickpeas
(from Spilling the Beans by Julie Van Rosendaal and Sue Duncan with a few minor adaptions)

coconut oil and olive oil for cooking
1 medium head cauliflower, separated into florets
1 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp garam masala*
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 small sweet potato, diced
6 baby potatoes, quartered
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 19 oz can drained and rinsed)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread the cauliflower in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat the pieces. Roast for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender and turning golden on the bottom and edges.

Meanwhile, heat a tbsp or so of coconut oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the ginger, garam masala, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Cook for a minute , then add the tomatoes, sweet potato, potatoes, and chickpeas. Stir to combine everything well and then pour 1 cup water over and cover with a lid. reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until the potatoes are tender - about 10 minutes.

Add the roasted cauliflower to the pan and stir to combine everything. Add a little water if it seems too dry and season to taste with salt (if needed).

*'my' garam masala 
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp medium curry powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon


chocolate date "truffles"

Dates may not be everyone's favorite sweet snack but they are a top contender for mine. Packed with minerals (copper, potassium, magnesium, and manganese), a decent dose of vitamins (3 B vitamins plus C, D, A, and K), and a healthy amount of fiber - I think it would be justifiable to need at least a date a day. I like dates just the way they come. I like them in salads and bars. But my current favorite date treat has to be these "truffles". The recipe came to me from Maria through Eden but beyond that I don't know who to credit. I do know that everyone needs this recipe. It is full of goodness - dates are just the beginning - fast, fun, and easy. Just be warned....when making these it was a case of a spoonful to roll and a pinch to eat. Lucky I had any to share :)
I used pecans in my "truffles" because I like the taste of pecans with dates. I don't eat walnuts because when I do I get an annoying, itchy, ugly, red rash but walnuts could be good too. Or you could simply go with almonds all the way.

chocolate date truffles
(from Eden and Maria Lang, with a tiny tweak or two)
14 pitted Medjool dates
100 gm flaked coconut
60 gm raw pecans
40 gm raw almonds
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 Tbsp organic cacao powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp water
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely chopped. Roll into 1" balls and roll in coconut flakes, chopped nuts, or cocoa powder.


minty pea dip

Hummus needed a break - or we needed another easy, healthy something to have whenever we needed a little something and this is it! At least as easy to whip up as a batch of hummus with a lovely fresh taste and beautiful spring green color, this is perfect for right now. Is it possible for something to be perfect and then be more perfect later? I think an English teacher would tell me perfect is perfect and more perfect is impossible but really in this case I think I could plead my point. It is perfect for now but I was thinking as I made it (looking out at the bare vegetable garden) that it would be even better when the pea vines are loaded with perfectly plump pods and the mint is growing out of control. When things are really fresh and warm and lovely with dirt - straight from the garden. But for now when that is just a dream, frozen peas and squashed flat mint leaves from the produce department will be perfect.

minty pea dip
(from Whole Living) 

3 cups frozen green peas
1/4 cup mint leaves
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp tahini
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put peas in a pot and just cover with water. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt. Bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl of cold water until the peas are cool. Drain.

Put the peas, mint leaves, lemon juice and zest, garlic, olive oil, and tahini in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes about 2 cups.

We ate ours with carrots fresh from the farmer's market, celery sticks and sweet potato chips. 

This is a David-recommended recipe. He kind of raved - in his fashion.


sunday evening reflections

On Sunday evening I feel so .... full. I love the way the family flows together. The way each little family  blends and the lines between blur. The way that Thomas naturally holds his brother's baby son during the meal because Tiff is here on her own with two babies while Mark is finishing an end-of-term art project. Big(er) cousins holding baby cousins and learning more about the responsibility of being a helper and a role model - a "big sister" or "brother". I love working, together with my daughters, in the kitchen - equals and friends, easy. David with all the little ones vying for space in his arms. Eden's love and laughter. Hannah's warmth and beautifully round baby-belly. Tiffany's sweet soft smile. Deacon learning to play chess. All of it so very precious. Another day to hold in my heart. Forever.

Thanks Eden for grabbing my camera and recording these moments.