It’s almost back to school time! And just before you think I’m being premature in thinking that, working at a school means that I’ve been prepping for the next school year since, well, June! All the teachers started coming back this week and keep asking, “How was your summer?” I want to tell them that there are still two weeks left but I know that’s going to go by so fast that I’d better be ready for fall soon!
It’s been a stressful week, right? So here’s a penguin celebrating the small things in life:
Take five steps, hooray!
In salt news, I was excited to learn that there are suggestions that Health Canada’s salt recommendations are too low, because I’m a pretty healthy eater, but I always feel like I eat way more salt that they suggest. I like flavour! Eating at macrobiotic restaurants makes me realize how much I miss salt when it isn’t there!
In exciting tiny pizza news, President’s Choice makes these tiny naans that are so perfect for mini pizzas. Like, we have eaten them twice in a row this week because they were that good. I bought them to use as burger buns, and they’re pretty good for that, nice and non-doughy. But as tiny pizzas, they are life changing.
And on the side, Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini chips. Again. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
Speaking of chips, Lays has another flavour contest which is SO EXCITING to me. The jalapeño mac n’ cheese one is quite good! It’s noticeably spicy and the cheese flavour isn’t too fake. It reminds me a lot of the winning American flavour, the garlic cheese bread one.
And I may have bought two other flavours to try soon! I’m so excited to try the cinnamon bun ones, I feel like I’ll either loath them or become obsessed and end up buying every single bag in Toronto. There’s also a bacon poutine one, but even when meat-flavoured chips don’t have any actual meat in them, they kinda weird me out.
I realize that this post makes it seem like I just lay around, cramming potato chips into my mouth and ignoring any and all healthy food guidelines. I mean, I do. I totally do. But I promise that I work out and eat lots of green veggies to balance that side of myself!
I think I read too much Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day as a kid because I have all these weird housekeeping tips that just stick in my head. Like how if you put a slice of bread in your brown sugar, it stays soft. Or that you can basically clean ANYTHING with some combination of baking soda and lemons.
But the one I use most often is that if your bananas are overripe, just throw them in the freezer to use for baking later. Which is great! But those tips never suggested what to make with the bananas. So for decades I’ve been throwing overripe bananas in the freezer and just leaving them there for years. I think once I made banana bread with them, but that’s about it.
But then I remembered banana muffins! Which are actually my favorite kind of muffins, once you add some things to them. And these are the perfect muffin, the kind which only dirty one bowl and take maybe 10 minutes to throw together and throw in the oven. And as long as you make sure you use cute little muffin liners, washing the tins is easy (I have surprisingly few housekeeping tips for making dishes less terrible!).
If you’re using frozen bananas for this, just make sure to take them out of the freezer to thaw about an hour before you start cooking. Unpeeling the frozen bananas really grosses me out, but it’s totally worth it for these!
Also, a weird yogurt based trick: whenever I buy plain greek yogurt for a recipe, I end up throwing half of it away. So for a recipe like this that only uses a bit, I just use the fruit-on-the-bottom ones that I buy anyway for my lunch! I just avoid all the fruit, and if a little sneaks in, ehh, I’ll chalk it up to added flavour.
- 3 overripe bananas – frozen and thawed for about an hour is best!
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350° and prepare your muffin tins with liners.
Slither the bananas out of their skin (seriously, there is no other way to describe how to take them out). Mash them and add the sugar, then the oil and the egg yolk. Put the flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon in the bowl all at the same time and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Add the yogurt and whichever mix-ins you’re using – this time I only used chocolate chips so I could avoid any nut allergies but I usually add walnuts!
Scoop the batter into the tin in 1 tablespoon scoops (or 1/4 cup scoops for regular sized muffins). Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops are firm but springy and the tops are slightly browned. Let cool and enjoy with a cup of tea!
So I don’t often make a meal and post about it on the same night, but this pasta is that fast!
I actually have the week off, so I was planning to do all the slow cooking, fancy meals I never get a chance to. But this afternoon I got a physical, and afterwards I just had such a massive headache that there was no way I could cook anything elaborate. I just needed fast and tasty.
And this pasta fulfills both needs! I’ll be honest, I used that entire head of garlic. Normal people, you can use a couple cloves, but Will and I are garlic fiends. And this is my parents’ garlic, and it was picked only a few weeks ago and it’s still so fresh and fragrant. Next on the docket is to roast a few heads and eat it with a baguette. Mmmm.
Quick Cherry Tomato Pasta
Serves 2 very hungry individuals
- 2 cups of cherry tomatoes (I just used one plastic clamshell worth)
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 5-6 fresh basil leaves, chiffoned
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups of dried pasta
Start by bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions, reserving a 1/2 cup of the pasta water to add to the mixture.
Meanwhile, peel the garlic, and laying the flat edge of a knife on it, smash it to flatten it. Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and add the garlic to it. Slice the tomatoes in half. Once the garlic is fragrant and golden, add the tomatoes and the pepper flakes. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes have softened and released a lot of their juices. Add half of the basil leaves.
Add the drained pasta to the sauce, adding a little pasta water if needed. Garnish with the basil leaves and enjoy!
What a nice weekend in the country! It’s always so nice to see my parents’ gorgeous farm. Every time I’m there, the gardens have expanded and they have even more chickens.
I told my dad that I was sad that I didn’t love vegetables as much as I do now when I lived at home. Sure I ate whatever my mom made for dinner, but I definitely wasn’t as rabid about kale and garlic and tomatoes as I am now!
And this salad, man. Rabid doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about it. I wasn’t sure Will would even like it, as he’s pretty attached to regular caesar salad, but he ended up scraping the leftover cashews out of the bowl! I was inspired by one of those fancy $10 salads that I used to get for lunch when I worked downtown. It has a lot of the flavour of a caesar salad but without making you feel overloaded by dairy afterward. I added some cashews and hemp hearts to give it a bit more texture.
- one bunch kale (note to self: try with dinosaur kale next time!)
- 1/2 cup cashews, soaked for at least 15 minutes
- 1 tbsp hemp hearts
- 2-3 cloves of garlic (my head of garlic was small so I used the whole thing)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp capers
- the juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp salt
- lots of fresh ground pepper
Wash and dry your kale and pull it off the stems and into bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and set aside while you make the dressing.
Start by peeling the garlic. Mince it on a wooden cutting board, adding a pinch of salt to help make the garlic more paste-like. Once the garlic is very fined mined, put it into a small bowl and add the olive oil to it.
Finely chop the capers, adding them to the dressing. Add the lemon juice, mustard, nutritional yeast and salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the cashews and roughly chop them. Add them to the salad bowl, along with the hemp hearts and the dressing. Toss thoroughly so the dressing coats the kale. Top with a touch more fresh pepper and enjoy!
Exciting news! I have reached the age where my friends are having babies. I am so pumped about this stage. As evidenced by many recipes on this blog, I quite like tiny things. And new babies are the perfect excuse to pick up a new skill. When my friend Melissa told me she was pregnant, I thought about trying to knit some little booties or a hat. But eugh, my knitting skills really wax and wane sometimes. I’ve given people far too many scarves with holes in them and that just wouldn’t do for a sweet new baby!
And then I remembered my goals list from a few years ago, when I decided I wanted to make a quilt. OK, an adult sized quilt seems a bit ambitious for a first quilt. But a teensy tiny baby one! I could totally handle that.
I bought the patterns from Poise Gets Cosy and I would highly recommend it for a first time quilter. Her instructions were simple and easy to understand. The few times I was confused by something (namely the binding and how to make the corners turn out neat!), it just required some squinting at the photos until it started to make sense.
I also liked how her instructions included the best way to mix up your patterns, because I was getting totally neurotic about that. As if the baby is going to care that there’s an elephant next to an elephant, right?
There are lots of tiny animals on it, including octopuses, foxes, squids, crabs and elephants.
I’m excited to be able to cross something off my life list and celebrate a new baby while I’m at it. Welcome to the world Bowen! I hope you enjoy your quilt.
It’s back! I’m bring pamplemoussi’s pips back! Mainly because it gives me an excuse to post this photo in a food blog:
That’s the boy I got engaged to in May! Cute, right? I love how classy this photo shoot turned out. Plus it happened in a nice ravine by our apartment that we’ve spent a lot of time exploring. Our photographer did such a good job – his name is Kam Mudhar at Flashing Lights Photo + Design and he’s so much fun to work with!
OK, onto the actual food things.
The number one thing on my to-make list is this amazing looking one-pot french onion pasta. Oh mannnn. And the second thing on my to-make list is any kind of tomato-related pasta. Basically August is going to be a month of pasta.
Lastly, I recently had a craving for this stuff:
Naturally I gave in, because delicious. And then I remembered The Queso Dip Consumption Ritual Between Female Roommates, which is hilariously accurate. My sister and I definitely had an unspoken agreement that someone had to buy queso dip about one every six months. And we would eat it while watching the Kardashians and it would be the best. That McSweeneys! I also enjoy their Reviews of New Food, which is a good place to discover new American junk food.
This is probably more like a cross between sangria and a wine spritzer, which are my two favourite drinks in the summer. I feel like spritzers are perfect for hot weather since they’re not as dehydrating as a straight glass of wine. And adding some fruit to it just adds to the summeriness.
And the other thing I love is rosé (also: Brooklyn Nine Nine). Maybe I’m just falling for the LCBO’s clever marketing, but every one I’ve tried this summer has been delicious! We have a bottle that we picked up on our Niagara-on-the-Lake engagement weekend from Between The Lines winery and I am so excited to crack it open. Maybe for a little post wedding celebrating?
Bubbly Watermelon Rosé Sangria
- 1/2 bottle rose (I just used a bottle of Jackson-Triggs – I didn’t want to go too fancy since I was adding to it!)
- 3/4 cup watermelon juice
- 1/2 small watermelon, diced
- 1.5 cups sparkling water
Place the diced watermelon in a pitcher and pour the wine over it. Let chill in the fridge for at least an hour. When ready to serve, add the juice and the soda and stir briefly. Serve with plenty of the watermelon in each glass. Yum!
Oh summer, the time when the Toronto farmer’s markets fill with the most amazing selection of fresh veggies and fruits!
The thing about buying tons and tons of veggies is that I always struggle with making quick weeknight dinners with them. There are lots of elaborate things I love to do with veggies, but sometimes I just need something that’s quick, yummy and doesn’t require me to dirty all the dishes.
Luckily, after all my success with my favourite quinoa salad, I’ve been cooking a lot more with grains. On their own, they can be a touch boring, but cooked in broth (or with Better Than Bouillon) and topped with roasted or sauted veggies, they are delicious.
In fact, judging from my instagram, this is probably one of my frequent meals!
(clockwise from top left: quinoa with peas, farro with peas and a side of garlicky tofu, farro mixed with roasted brussels sprouts, quinoa with peas and basil with a side of Smitten Kitchen’s zucchini parmesan crisps)
Confession time! I was a terrible cook when I first moved out on my own. It wasn’t due to a lack of role models or experience, because as a kid I spent tons of time watching my mom cook delicious and healthy dinners. I think it was just a lack of practice with the day to day part of feeding myself.
So my inexperience led me to eat a lot of pretty disturbing things as an undergrad. My favourite dinner EVER was these President’s Choice frozen breaded macaroni and cheese nuggets. So horrifying processed but so so good. I also ate a lot of Kraft Dinner, as every good Canadian university student does. And my favourite discovery was probably Hamburger Helper. Growing up in a health-conscious, vegetarian household, I’d never tried it before. But I would substitute with fake ground beef and I just loved it.
And OK, this version uses some processed foods. But I am willing to beat that there is way less sodium in this version than in the original – especially if you go with no-salt-added tomatoes and use a light hand when seasoning everything. And it really takes no time at all.
Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni
I used the pre-seasoned version of veggie ground beef (it’s all my grocery store carries!), but I’ve written the recipe so you can season it yourself and buy the plain kind.
- 1 28 ox can of diced tomatoes
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp oregano
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp Better Than Bouillon or 1 bouillon cube
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cup dry macaroni
- 1 package of vegetarian ground beef (I used Yves but President’s Choice makes a good one too!)
For the cheese sauce:
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 cup 2% milk (I used whole just because it was what I had)
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
In a large pot, pour in the canned tomatoes and add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and add pasta, spices, bouillon and salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently so the pasta doesn’t stick together.
While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter over medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook until the mixture is bubbling, then add the milk and whisk until smooth. Let cook for a few minutes until thickened. Once the mixture can coat the back of a spoon nicely, add the grated cheese and stir until melted.
Once the macaroni is cooked, remove the pot from heat and add the vegetarian ground beef, stirring to ensure it is thoroughly heated. Add the cheese sauce, stir and serve!