Gardening versus Cooking

Posted May 17th, 2011 in Meat in, Recipes, Salads by Rebecca Lane

The Garden Before the Overhaul

I’ve been in the garden. For me, time passes very quickly when I’m digging, weeding, or just dreaming in my garden. I love the feel of dirt on my hands and the ground beneath my feet. My vegetable garden was in a shambles and needed to be completely overhauled. So despite the rain that’s what I’ve been doing. And now the asparagus are starting to show, the rhubarb is beautiful, I discovered strawberry plants and onions, herbs that I thought had been lost. Its always a wonder to me that I can forget what belongs where, but they always come back and surprise me in the spring.

Asparagus shoots - I ate them this morning though!

You may be able to tell that I’m not the kind of person who makes detailed plans of my garden. Every year I intend to! But then I get caught up in the sheer wonder of all that’s going on, and usually fall behind on the weeding or edging or mowing or planting. Mother’s Day weekend I visited a garden in Kanata that was wonderfully organized and everywhere you looked there was colour and things sprouting. Mine’s not like that!

My garden is quite beautiful in its own way though and if you ever want to see it, I’m always happy to show it off like a proud parent!

Garden half finished

After my time in the garden, I managed to head into the kitchen and make a delicious supper. I was hungry after all of the labour! And my body ached!

Pad Thai

My sister-in-law and I made this recipe together from her favourite cookbook, the name of which escapes me though. I’ve made quite a few changes to it as my husband can’t eat shellfish – so here’s the adaptation.

400 g package of broad rice noodles
3 Tbsp fish sauce
3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2 limes juiced)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp chili sauce
1/4 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. boneless chicken breast, diced (1 large chicken breast – both halves)
2 eggs beaten
3 cups bean sprouts
6 green onions, slivered into 1 inch lengths
2 Tbsp toasted chopped peanuts

Garnish: coriander sprigs, 1 lime cut into wedges

Soak noodles in warm water for 20 minutes, drain and put aside. Combine fish sauce, lime juice, maple syrup, chili sauce, and stock. Put aside.

Heat a wok on high and add oil and a little stock to cook the oil down. Stir in the garlic and cook for 10 seconds, then add the chicken. Stir fry 3-4 minutes until chicken is no longer pink, add eggs and toss until scrambled. (You could easily make this a vegetarian recipe by replacing the chicken with tofu.)

Add noodles to wok. Mix well to combine. Pour sauce over top. Cook until noodles are soft – about 2 minutes. Stir constantly.

Stir in bean sprouts, onions and peanuts and fry 1 minutes. Serve with garnish.  This is also delicious the second day if you have any leftovers.

I served the pad thai with an Asian coleslaw from Caroline Dupont’s Enlightened Eating cookbook.

Asian Coleslaw

1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1/2 white cabbage, shredded
3 carrots, grated
2 green onions, slivered
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup sesame seeds

2 Tbsp tamari
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
3 Tbsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp honey
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated ginger

Toss all of the salad ingredients together. Then put all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake well. Pour over the salad and allow to soak well before serving.

Garnish with coriander and some fresh sprouts on the top.

Day 27 – The Joy of Vegetables Part 2

Posted April 28th, 2011 in Fish, Grains, Recipes, Salads by Rebecca Lane

I’m not hearing any buses yet, so I’m going to keep on writing!

Lately, Sherri and I have been working away at creating delicious Gluten-Free baked goods recipes (crackers, muffins, cookies, cakes, buns, breads) for our teaching kitchen and I realized this morning that this is a problem. These baked goods are for ‘occasional’ meals only. As a society we have relied heavily on them as the backbone and focus of our meals and snacks – to the detriment of our health. Instead of looking at ways of making gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free baked goods, let’s concentrate on foods that are really going to heal and nourish our bodies.

Turn the page to VEGETABLES!

We can make a healthy choice to focus instead on finding delicious ways to fill at least half of every plate we eat with vegetables. This is the foundation. There are endless combinations and permutations we can combine to make delicious smoothies, spreads (for cucumbers, celery, slices of raw turnip, sweet potatoes, celery root), salads, stir fry’s or roasted vegetables. And when we add fruit to the mix, the sky’s the limit!

My favourite guide is George Mateljan’s book (and website) The World’s Healthiest Foods. The world’s most nutrient-dense foods do not lie in the animal protein list – but fall instead in the Vegetables list! Surprised? Topping the list – spinach, swiss chard, crimini mushrooms and asparagus. Of a three column list, two of the columns include vegetables, fruit, beans and legumes, herbs and spices and nuts and seeds. Grains are near the bottom with dairy and eggs and poultry and lean meats. Fish and shellfish lie between the two groups.

So, for the next week, I’m going to change my focus and start learning about the wonderful tastes and vitality of healthy, nutrient-rich vegetables. In the morning, I enjoy whole grain granola (and I’ll give you the recipe in case you would like to try it) with home-made kefir topped with fresh fruit. I’m trying to get the kids to have a smoothie to take with them to school for breakfast, but am still perfecting that option. For lunch, I usually have a salad with the leftovers from dinner before, or in the winter a salad with some soup. But I’m going to experiment more with combining beans and vegetables probably with some grains like quinoa and buckwheat. As for dinner, vegetables steamed, stir-fried, roasted and drizzled with a little olive oil or flax oil and seasoned with herbs, along with some lean meat or fish seasoned with fresh herbs. If I need a sweet later on, I’ll have some fresh fruit with a little more granola or sprinkled with flax seeds.

I’ll be honest, usually about 9:30 we have a “cup of tea” as a family which usually includes a cookie. Maybe this is the ‘occasion’. How many cookies or baked goods per week is the “right” amount? From my years of yo-yo dieting and bulimia, the one thing that I do KNOW is that once I put restrictions on the food that I am allowed to eat, I crave that restricted food. So I cannot answer that question. I think that the answer is different for each of us. But I do think – and will research this over the coming weeks – that if I fill my body with healthy, nutritious vegetables and fruits, I may not want a cookie or sweet at night.

I’ll be fully nourished.

Interesting thought!

Sautéed Asparagus

1 lb of asparagus, bottom twiggy section snapped off and the rest cut into 2 inch sections
3 Tbsp of vegetable broth

Heat the broth in a skillet over medium heat. Once it starts to steam, add the asparagus. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the Dressing for the buckwheat below.

Pan-Fried Perch

1 lb of fresh perch
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced

Heat the broth and olive oil under medium heat, add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the perch skin side down and cover. Fry for 3 – 5 minutes until the meat looks white and flakey. Remove from heat and serve.

Buckwheat Salad with Chick Peas, Cucumber, Tomatoes and Fresh Parsley

1 cup buckwheat (I used Kasha or toasted buckwheat)
2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt

½ can chick peas, drained and rinsed
½ English cucumber, small cubes
½ red onion, halved and thinly sliced
handful small grape tomatoes, halved
handful chopped fresh parsley

Dressing (make up and save as an easy salad dressing)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of lemon
4 cloves garlic
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook the buckwheat – put first three ingredients together in pot and cover. Bring to a boil for a minute, then turn down to low and simmer for 10 – 12 minutes. Buckwheat is fully cooked when it is dry and fluffy. Do not stir the buckwheat while it is cooking.

Press garlic and let sit for 5 minutes (allows the health-promoting nutrient allicin to form). Whisk together with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Toss the buckwheat with the vegetables and chopped parsley and dress to taste. Serve on a bed of lettuce or spinach.

I’m going to add a photograph once I’ve got it all put together. New experience!

Day 21 – working with my new Vita-Mix

Posted April 19th, 2011 in Meat in, Recipes by Rebecca Lane

The morning didn’t go as I had hoped. My teenage daughter often goes off to school without breakfast. As we all know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In order to be able to learn and process information, she needs to have vital nutrients and protein in her body. But she’s also a teenager – do I need to say more?

With my shiny new Vita-Mix I made her a smoothie, trying to find a middle point between her need for sweets and my need for her to get some nourishment before school. She had purchased a package of Proteins + Smoothie mix (orange cream flavour), so I thought I could use a scoop of that with ¾ cup of almond milk, ¼ cup of kefir (to get some healthy bacteria into her body) and her daily vitamins (which she rarely takes). Major fight! But she did drink half of it. Small steps.

I’m going to experiment with 1 cup frozen fruit mix, an orange, a banana, 2 carrots and a large handful of spinach. With some water to (1 cup) – and I’ll try adding some of my homemade kefir (1/2 cup) in too. I’ll let you know how it tastes! Delicious – much better than Emily’s smoothie. Tomorrow I’ll add some good flax seed oil (omega-3 essential fatty acid EFA). I would add it today, but I don’t have any right now. My friend and colleague, Sherri Doak, suggests that I add some New Zealand Whey Protein powder, so I’ll pick up some of that too.

Okay, for supper I’m trying something really different. And since it’s a lasagne, I’m going to make it in two pans so that I can freeze one of them for a day when life is crazy.

Lasagna with Roasted Asparagus, Turkey and Cheese Sauce – this recipe from the Holistic Cooking Academy

Accompany any pasta dish with a side salad of mixed baby greens. I’ll be using left-over kale salad from last night.

I’ve chosen to use fresh noodles tonight, you can use them without soaking, but I find that they are a little dry so I usually soak them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This dish has lots of steps so maybe it would be best to save for the weekend or an evening when there isn’t a lot going on.

Creamy Chives Sauce (makes about 4 ½ cups)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups milk (I’ll use almond milk)
½ cup coconut milk
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
1/2 cup chives, chopped
2 tsp. kelp salt
Dash cayenne pepper

9 lasagna noodles
4 cups asparagus, trimmed and roasted
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp freshly ground coriander
36 oz ground turkey, browned
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Make the sauce. In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, combine melted butter and flour and stir together. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly and then add the coconut milk. Whisk constantly until it thickens (at the boil). Stir in ricotta cheese, lemon rind and chives. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cut the asparagus into 2 inch pieces and toss with oil, salt and coriander. Place in a pyrex dish and roast for 6 minutes until hot and tender. Remove from heat and reduce oven heat to 350°F.

Brown the turkey and garlic with just a touch of oil. Oil a 9 x 13 x 2 inch dish and form the first layer with three lasagne noodles. Top with 1/3 of Creamy Chives Sauce and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and ½ of the turkey and asparagus. Layer once again, then on the top layer end with noodles and the remaining sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F or until bubbling.