Arugula + summer fruit salad

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The first days of summer always seem to smell the sweetest. The sun burns a little brighter and no one seems to notice. But even the best seasons have their off-days and summer is no exception. You know the ones – where the air is thick, thunderstorms are in the air, and so hot that you would hide away in the fridge if you could.

For those hard dog days of summer where lifting a finger threatens to bring on another shower, this salad is a quick chop and toss (thankfully mostly toss!) away to remind you of summer’s best. If you’re in a pinch, add 3 tablespoons of rhubarb compote to dress your salad and forget the oil. After all, it’s summer and you make the rules.

  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup pea tendrils (optional)
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup strawberries, quartered
  • 1 peach, sliced
  • 1 cup Rainier cherries
  • 2 sprigs mint, julienned
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

Gently toss together the ingredients and dress at the last minute. Serves 2-4.

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Liquid Sunshine

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With the first day of summer officially starting today, this Canadian heart skips a little. 17 hours of daylight paired with a bowl of rose-tinted liquid sunshine – what better way to celebrate?

Often passed over in favour of its flashier neighbours, rhubarb is the unsung hero of spring and early summer. Don’t let this humble-looking plant fool you. It’s tart with a lot of spunk and packs quite the punch especially when eaten raw. Dull or disappointing are not words that I would use to describe this hardy vegetable. Served warm or chilled, my favourite rhubarb fix comes in the form of a simple compote. Nothing says summer like a generous spoonful (or spoonfuls!) over yogourt, oatmeal, your morning smoothie or a little midnight ice cream. You can even sneak it in as a dressing in a mixed green salad (yes, it even tames the bitterest of greens!). So with this salute to one of my favourite plants, I give you my recipe for a summer solstice rhubarb compote:

  • 4 rhubarb stalks (leaves removed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 sprigs lemon thyme
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • squeeze of lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)

Trim the ends of the rhubarb and cut into 1 1/4-inch rounds. Pour the water in a wide frying pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the rhubarb to the pan, sprinkle in the sugar, add the lemon thyme, lemon zest, and give the lemon a quick squeeze over the rhubarb. Stir to combine and heat the mixture for 10 minutes on medium-high heat or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb is tender. Allow the mixture to cool slightly before stirring in the vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract). Enjoy immediately or leave in the refrigerator to chill. Serves 4 or yields a healthy portion for one!

June edibles

Basil sprouts

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”!

Lazy Breakfast

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“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?

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One pot wonder

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)

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Tiramisu made easy

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

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Olive me!

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

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