garden gado gado

When we were living in Tokyo I was introduced to gado gado - a dish that has become a family favourite but was almost never tasted. I was lunching with friends on that fateful day and the prepared lunch was a salad made with an odd selection of raw and lightly steamed vegetables topped with fruit and what appeared to be gravy. To be truthful it looked pretty nasty to me. Fortunately good manners prevailed and I simply could not refuse the dish thereby risking offence or embarrassment for my hostess. The first bite was a revelation and on the second I was hooked.  Gado gado is a particular favourite of Hannah's and as we were celebrating her birthday (a bit late) on Sunday, gado gado was the menu. This time I decided to use vegetables from my garden and make a slightly more North American version. Simple, clean, whole food. I don't know if it was better or not but it was certainly very good.

Gado gado requires a fair amount of chopping and prepping but as the dish is served cold it can all be done well in advance, making it a perfect meal to serve to guests. It also lends itself well to a family pot-luck type event where everyone brings an item and no one is stuck with a mountain of work. It can be plated if you want but it is much more fun to load the table with bowls of ingredients and condiments and let each person make a salad that pleases their personal palate. Kids and adults alike pretty much licked the plates clean.

The amounts I am including here happily feed our crowd - 8 adults and 8 children. I realize that may be many more than you are feeding or it may be less. It is simple to adjust the amounts down to accommodate your numbers and even more simple to make it as is and eat gado gado tomorrow night as well. It also pack well for a wonderful lunch.

garden gado gado

3 cups brown rice, steamed
4 cups chopped kale
5 carrots, scrubbed and julienned
4 medium beets, shredded
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 lb fresh green beans, lightly steamed
new potatoes, steamed and quartered
1/2 english cucumber, diced
6 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and chopped

Peanut Sauce:

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup grated onion
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
2 cups water
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce*
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp coconut palm sugar
3 Tbsp lime juice

sriracha sauce

Saute onion and ginger in coconut oil over medium heat for about a minute. Add peanut butter, water, soy sauce, sae salt, palm sugar and lime juice. Whisk until smooth and cook at low heat for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Just prior to serving whisk in the apple cider vinegar.

Layer salad ingredients (roughly) in the order listed. If each person loads their own plate they can add according to personal preference in terms of what and how much. Drizzle with peanut sauce and pass the sriracha to taste.

*If you use a gluten free soy sauce (check the label carefully!) this is easily gluten free.


oh what do you do in the summertime?

There is a cliche about being made to write an essay at the beginning of every school year detailing what one did during the preceding summer. No one is making me but this is my short essay. The summer has been full of wonderful fun and love and I don't want ever to forget the perfection of kids playing on the rope swings in the old trees, or singing on the river bank, or playing in the woodpile, or meeting a horse for the first time, or ... 

Oh what have we done this summertime? Well, all kinds of wonderful summer stuff but one of the real highlights was our family camping trip. When I was a child my dad would pack up the tent and all our gear, load the jeep and take us camping. Sometimes it was camping where I was too frightened to sleep (for fear of bears!! And no there was no real threat but I was/am afraid of the dark at home in my bed, so on a mountain top it seemed pretty imminent) but more happily, sometimes we camped on the "river bottom" at my grandparents ranch along the Belly River. This summer's family camping trip was to that very same ranch - now my uncle's - along that very same river. It is the best kind of camping, or at least my favourite kind. Even the absence of facilities can't dampen my enthusiasm - in fact, although it is indubitably inconvenient to pee in the woods, it seems a lot more like real camping than being in a campground with showers and toilets and 26 foot trailers parked side by side. At the ranch we get to bounce along a rough track from "up top" down the steep hillside to a spot in the valley that has been fenced off from the cattle with barb-wire where we choose the perfect lumpy spot to pitch our tents under the ancient trees. We cook our food over a campfire and eat it as we sit on chopped logs with our plates in our laps. There are horses to ride, a river to play in, and no one around but ourselves and the cows. We fall asleep to the sound of the river flowing and waken to birds calling. It is a bit of messy, happy heaven.

For me a large part of the joy is the pull I feel to that land. For many people summer means time at the lake or the ocean but for me summer means time at the ranch with family - cousins and aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and moms and dads. It is where we went and what we did every year. In the years since I married and had my own family we have occasionally camped at the ranch but more often our family summers have been spent other places. It felt so perfect, so complete to share some time this summer with those I love most in a place that somehow simply defines me. Where my roots are, where I have come from.

Beyond the camping there and at the lake, our summer has been full and fun. A wedding, gardening, sewing, reading, playing, eating - it has been as perfect as a summer can be. I hate to see it come to an end but experience has taught me that the next season, be it in life or in the year, will have joys specific to itself. 

Eden has posted some truly beautiful pictures of our family camping on her blog - I don't even bring my camera when she is around but I sure have fun with my phone's camera. Speaking of which, I have fallen in love with the fun to be had on Instagram. You can see more of my summer there should you want to. Nothing fancy but for me it has been pretty awesome.

You can see me HERE or use the Instagram button at the bottom of the sidebar on the right.


an easy bbq sauce

and a tip for ribs

Summer has gone so very fast, packed as it has been with as much summer fun as we could fit, that although I meant to respond weeks ago to Jonathon's request for easy summer protein ideas I find myself here on August 28!! with the recipe for bbq sauce he asked for months ago. I could pretend to all and sundry that I am just seriously nice but really although I do try to be nice, posting this recipe is purely selfish - if I post a recipe here I always know where to find it and this recipe for a bbq sauce that we all really like has been floating through my cookbooks and shelves for a few years. Every time I want to make bbq sauce I do a nervous mini-search and think to myself that I really, really need to write the recipe down properly or at least put the silly little scrap of paper that I scribbled the basics on in the file! Then I sigh with relief when I find it again, whip up the sauce, feed the crew, clean the kitchen and slip the silly little scrap of paper back between the pages of yet another cookbook. Finally, today I am going beyond that loop. I'll know where to find it and if you need a bbq sauce recipe that is fast, gluten and refined-sugar free, and yummy - you will too. Win, win - with the bonus that I am at long last responding to my son. Nice!

The first time I made this it was a Sunday afternoon and I wanted to bbq-sauce something on the grill but we had no bbq sauce in the house (no real surprise because let's be honest, most commercial sauces leave a lot to be desired). We don't shop on Sundays and no bbq sauce is not an 'ox in the mire' situation so, not being one to let those realities defeat a desire I set about making bbq sauce. I figured it couldn't be that hard and it wasn't. This is not a bbq sauce that you have to shop for exotic ingredients and then chop and simmer for hours. This is a sauce that you can open the pantry and whisk together. There is probably a place for the exotic chopping and simmering kind of sauce but I think for now I will stick with fast and easy. Not really for the fast-and-easiness of it but just because we like it.

As for the 'summer protein' thing - it is still summer right?!

easy bbq sauce

3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), drained and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp chili powder

Mix all ingredients together. That's it. Told you it was easy.

Now for the ribs:
For years and forever I have parboiled my ribs before finishing them on the grill. (this because the constant flare-ups and burnt offerings had almost convinced us that bbq'd ribs were not for us) Pre-cooking the ribs that way worked very well but there is a better way - Hannah shared the genius of using the slow-cooker! Simply put the ribs into the slow-cooker, turn it on low with 1/4" of water on the bottom and walk away for six hours. When you come back, take the ribs out of the cooker and brush them with some of your newly made bbq sauce. Pop them on the grill for a few quick minutes. Done.


uncle jonathon's shirt remix

Months ago Jonathon donated a couple of shirts to whatever use they may be needed - he was over them. They were very nice shirts. Victorinox in fact. Wonderful, wonderful soft slightly stretchy fabric. Incredible details. They begged to be used by someone but there were no takers. So I bundled them away in my fabric stash waiting for a minute and a little inspiration. The two elements combined a few weeks ago and I had more fun than you can possibly imagine making these things for my three favourite little girls. 

The pictures are a bit lacking because I wasn't thinking of sharing them on this platform - they were iPhone snaps to share with the man who donated the shirt. I figured he aught to know what he had contributed to. The decision to share the project here was motivated by the ease and fun of the project. All the hard work is done - the collars and plackets and shirt-tail hems - and the fun is in deciding how to best use those details. It just takes an hour or so for each dress and much less for the funny little pants. I wish I had thought to do a simple tutorial for the dresses but honestly they are so easy that these pictures are probably just about enough. The funny little pants are the left-over sleeves with a crotch-curve cut into the top and stitched together. I added a waistband/casing instead of simply turning the top down to make a casing just because I liked the change of direction for the stripes. The tie is strictly faux.

I had so much fun that I am now begging all the men I know to contribute the shirts they don't wear anymore to my sewing room atelier. I have all kinds of ideas for more 'grandy couture'.


szechuan green beans with ground pork

This summer has been so packed with playing and wedding and camping and weeding that I can hardly believe it is time to harvest some of the fruits of that weeding but it is! I planted two varieties of green beans this year thinking that I would see which variety performed better. Of course, I can't remember which plants were what variety (although I did make a planting map and if I took the time to check all the info is there) so the experiment would fail any scientific effort but it doesn't matter really, both varieties have excelled. In fact, I would have to say that the competition has done them both good - I have already picked a good harvest of beans and as the plants are still blossoming it is safe to say that I will pick a good deal more. That makes me happy because I love green beans!!!

It may not be terribly fashionable and is certainly old-school but my very favourite way to eat green beans is fresh from the garden, lightly steamed (crispy but not squeaky), tossed with a spoonful of superior butter and a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. I could eat them twice a day. True story. But that is not a recipe or even a story so I'll share this:

When we went to Shanghai a few years ago a friend took me to her favourite restaurant to have her favourite dish. I loved the dish so much that we literally went back two more times that week for.... more of the same. The dish was szechuan green beans with pork - a much better pork and beans if you will. This recipe is not quite that dish but it comes close enough to make me happy. Given my devotion to green beans you may not think that much of an endorsement but you would be wrong - if this wasn't wonderful I would much rather eat my beans buttered, with salt and pepper. 

Adjust the heat to suit your preference and go nuts eating green beans fresh from the garden (or the farmer's market) while you can. I do!

szechuan green beans with ground pork

1 lb green beans, trimmed
10 oz. ground pork
2 Tbsp black bean sauce
1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp crushed red pepper
2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the beans in the boiling water for two minutes, then drain and pat dry.

Whisk together the black bean sauce, hoisin sauce, cornstarch, sesame oil, honey, and crushed red pepper. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the grapeseed oil and ground pork, stir-frying the pork until it begins to brown. Add sliced onion and garlic; stir-fry until onion is softened. (about 3 minutes) Add green beans and sauce mixture, stir to combine with the pork and onions. Cook for a further 3 minutes or until the beans are tender-crisp. I usually add a few tablespoons of water at this point to keep things from sticking and burning.

We eat this with a bit of brown rice and go away very happy. If you like (David does) you can kill it with a healthy sprinkle of sriracha sauce. Whatever makes you happy. It is summer after all.


seriously good green choco smoothie

This is one of those things that I didn't think I would ever post - not because of inherent worthiness but simply because who needs a recipe for a smoothie?!!! Seriously. Put stuff in, process until smooth, drink. Simple as simple can be. But sometimes when you put stuff in it turns out to be seriously good and those times need to be remembered. The first time I made this smoothie David was wise enough to recommend that I write the ingredients down "so that you can make it again." It was just that good. So good that the 'title' of the recipe on the note paper stuck to the inside of my cabinet door is "Seriously Good Green Choco Smoothie" (with caps, lol). Not to blow my own horn ... he said it :)

Dates, cacao, chia, maca, spinach, banana, and almond butter load this smoothie with superfood goodness and the same ingredients load it with super deliciousness. It is rich and chocolatey and absolutely a treat. I am honestly so glad David had the foresight he did because this is just pretty perfect and the stars may never have aligned in just the right way again - I may or may not have remembered what went in and how much and that would have been a tragedy. This is date-night-treat-level good ... 

seriously good green choco smoothie

1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 banana
1 1/2 Tbsp maca powder
3 Tbsp cacao powder
5 medjool dates, pitted
large handful of spinach
1 Tbsp chia seed
1 1/2 Tbsp almond butter
6 ice cubes

Put all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.