For many small space dwellers, the idea of a garden is a sad, lofty idea. I succumbed to the magic of the plant world when I grew my first bean plant in the third grade. A little cliché? Perhaps. But there’s something oddly gratifying about seeing a delicate stem slowly poke its head through the soil after weeks of anticipation.
This was no exception when I decided to grow basil and pansies from seed. All it took was a growing kit to call my name and determination was reignited in me to start some summer edibles. The hard part was, of course, the growing part. I had cared for an orchid for several years, but that had come ready-to-go with full blooms from the garden centre. The kit instructions were simple enough and straightforward, but I had questions. What is germination? Do the seeds need light or darkness to germinate? Sprinkle the seeds across the top or mark off rows? Suddenly, I had made growing very complicated. I finally decided on a mixed method. By and large, I followed the kit instructions guided by the swirl of gardening research that was swimming in my head.
I’m proud (and relieved!) to announce, that despite my misgivings, both the basil (picture above) and pansy seeds have sprouted. With a bit of luck, I may be able to harvest some leaves and blooms in another 6-8 weeks. Here’s to the beginnings of a small space “garden”!
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.
-A. A. Milne
Pooh said it best and I couldn’t agree more. I have long been a self-confessed breakfast fiend. From the humble bowl of cereal to a warm slice of brioche smothered with butter and raspberry jam, breakfast has always been my first thought of the day. Weekends become an excuse to pull out the spatula or mixer and whip up something special. The leftovers, of course, can always be enjoyed (without complaint) on Mondays when I seem to be especially reluctant to get out of bed.
Pancakes were a welcome treat growing up particularly on weekends. They would be generously drizzled with maple syrup or condensed milk (my favourite), rolled up, and neatly cut before ending up on my fork. I still keep up with tradition and enjoy them on the weekend. With a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, fresh fruit, and an assortment of jams and drizzles to choose from, how could a girl say no?
Whenever the snow is blustering outside and winter seems to be showing its bad side, nothing seems more comforting than a few extra hours spent in bed on a Saturday. Sadly, when it’s mid-week and braving Old Man Winter is your only option, a simmering pot of something on the stove could very well be your next best friend.
A generous helping of chili con carne (taken from Spanish means “with meat”) has been a lifesaver when I’ve been short on time and needed a pick-me-up. It doesn’t need a babysitter and the longer these ingredients stay in the tub, the better. I like my chili with a bit of a kick, but feel free to add less or more spice according to your own tastes. You can also throw in your favourite chili peppers for extra bite. So, if you’re in the mood for more spicy meal ideas to chase away those winter blues, you’re in luck!
- splash of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, deseeded and diced
- 4-5 white mushrooms, sliced
- 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) extra-lean ground beef
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 can crushed or diced tomatoes
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 tablespoon chili powder, to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons cumin, to taste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons paprika, to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
- salt and ground pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
- 1 cup Jasmine rice, washed (optional)
- water, for rice (optional)
Before trying my hand at this dessert, I always had it in my mind that it was a daunting task that came with a disclaimer. Everyone had a different version: only egg whites, no eggs, heavy cream… and the list goes on. Where to start?
This is my quick version (of many!) that has been a lifesaver when I’ve needed a sweet fix:
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 container (275 g) mascarpone
- 24 savoiardi (ladyfingers)
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
- shaved dark chocolate, for garnish
Sometimes, the simplest ingredients can turn into the best meals or in our case, a tasty starter. Tapenade is one of the easiest things to make and it’s perfect for an evening in when no one wants to do the dishes. You can also dress it up (or not…) for guests. All you need are olives and a few other staple ingredients.
Capers and anchovies are commonly found in tapenade, but I like to switch them up for basil or sundried tomatoes.
Here’s my basic variation:
- 1 to 1-1/2 cups black olives (about 27), pitted - green ones can also be used if you prefer them
- 1 bunch fresh basil (about 13 leaves)
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- juice of 1/2 lemon, to taste
- 6 slices sundried tomato, roughly chopped (optional)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
- ground black pepper
What better way to ring in the New Year than with our first post!
Frosty winter days call for hot chocolate or a warm blanket in front of a fire. December 31st was no exception and brought forth images of a meaty stew or a steaming cup of soup. Keeping up with tradition, however, hot pot was on the menu and I wasn’t about to complain.
Growing up in a Chinese household, hot pots have replaced many a Thanksgiving and Christmas for our family. Cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and turkey were rare treats. A bit sad for some? Maybe. But the conviviality of cooking with family and friends around a common pot – adding your choice of meats or sides at will – is hard to beat. With a little preparation and good company, a hearty dinner is served with no one stuck in the kitchen doting over a turkey in the oven. Continue reading