Monthly Archives: June 2016

First Harvest Garden Salad

First Harvest Summer Salad
I’m super excited today because I harvested my first batch of spring mix from my balcony garden! Check out my tips and ideas if you’re interested in starting your own garden. Everything is growing but only after a couple of weeks, the spring mix had been doing really well so it was time to harvest and turn into a salad 🙂

The spring mix was paired with grape tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, pear, mint, homemade croutons and dressing.

Homemade croutons were made with a stale baguette, olive oil, pepper and dried rosemary. Bake in the oven at 375F for 7 minutes. I unfortunately didn’t set a timer and burnt some on the bottom but managed to salvage most of it.

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I used my chickpea salad dressing to toss the salad in and it complemented the ingredients perfectly!

I can already see the tops of the radishes – probably ready for harvesting next week 🙂

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Cooking on Sundays: Baked Mushroom Burgers

Mushroom burger2

I have been eyeing this mushroom burger from Host the Toast for a while and never really got to making it. I saw cremini mushrooms on sale this week and jumped on the idea of creating this delicious veggie burger. There were a couple of changes to the recipe depending on what I had in my kitchen as well as being baked in the oven instead of fried on the stove top.

Mushroom burger1

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups hulled barley, cooked
  • Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, rinsed and roughly chopped
  • 5 sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups panko bread crumbs, or as needed

Instructions

  1. Cook the barley according to package and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven for 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In the meantime, chop up the onion, garlic, cremini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.
  4. Saute the mushrooms, add the onion and then the garlic until all soft.
  5. Put mushroom mixture in a food processor with half of the cooked barley. Pulse until mixed and has a paste-like consistency still with some chunks of mushroom.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the processed mushroom mix with the remaining barley, old cheddar cheese, basil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and eggs.
  7. Place mixture in fridge for 30 minutes. When ready to cook, pull it out from the fridge and add the panko bread crumbs a little at a time until the mixture is sticky but not wet. Shape the patties by placing mixture into a ½-cup dry measuring cup and flipping it over onto your baking tray. Flatten the patty with the back of the cup.
  8. Place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Flip over and bake for additional 10 minutes.
  9. Pair it with your favourite bun and toppings.

I had it with a crusty Kaiser, slaw, cucumber and spicy mayo! Happy cooking 🙂

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Cooking on Sundays: Butter and Vegetables

Butter potato

Butter Potatoes and ZucchiniAfter a couple of days in Montreal, I have a new found appreciation for the flavours that butter brings to a dish. I stayed with some friends of mine and when we cooked, butter was often the first and last thing in the pan. The aromas that melted butter produces is truly heavenly.

Having been on the road and visiting my parents for Father’s Day, it was an easy decision to make a simple and delicious dish – baby potatoes, red peppers, green and red onion all sauteed in butter as well as sauteed zucchini sticks with the cilantro sauce from last week. I paired it all with meatloaf I had in the freezer.

vegetables

Realizing that it wasn’t going to be enough food, I went and got more vegetables and made a stir-fry. Tossed everything together and a meal was done 🙂

vegetables2

vegetable stirfry

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Cooking on Sundays: Shrimp Pasta and Pork Loin with Cabbage Slaw

This weekend started out with a Saturday night taco fiesta since it’s a very easy meal to customize for everyone (there was a vegetarian in the group). We ended up doing steak tacos with all the fixings: sautéed peppers, mushrooms, corn, beans, beans, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa complete with a lemonade citrus rum punch. IMG_20160611_174449On Sunday, I only made a couple of meals since I’m travelling for work this week.

Seafood is not something that I often cook because it’s unfamiliar to me, other than salmon – so I took it upon myself to try it out in a small batch. At the grocery store, I circled the frozen seafood section, trying to figure out what to buy and how to best cook it. There was someone standing near the frozen shrimp area and I asked her perchance if she knew what was the difference between the shrimp brands and how best to cook it. She was a nice Portuguese lady and was super helpful. Her advice was to: defrost the shrimp, melt some butter in a pan, add some garlic and herbs to it, put shrimp in and sauté until it’s pink, and then finish it with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. As she tells me this, all I can imagine was the sweet smell of butter mixed with garlic. I bought the shrimp and decided it was time to conquer cooking it.

I also tried a new grocery store, one that had been recommended to me time and time. If you’re in Toronto, check out Fiesta Farms (Christie and Dupont Sts.). They are independently owned and have been in the neighbourhood for over 20 years. They have a great selection of organic foods and meats. Prices are comparable to the big box chains. I was trying to figure out on what my second meal should be when I saw an organic head of red cabbage and decided to make a slaw with apples to be paired with pan fried pork loin. It’s nice when ideas pop up and you run with it.

Shrimp Pasta

Butter Garlic Shrimp with Spaghetti tossed in Cilantro Sauce

Ingredients

  • Frozen shrimp, defrosted and shelled – use as many as you want
  • 1 glove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoon butter (1 for shrimp, 1 for vegetables), room temperature
  • Spaghetti – as much as you want
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 lemon wedge

Sauce Ingredients (adapted from this Eating Well recipe)

  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup tahini , at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Boil a pot of water and follow instructions on package to make the spaghetti.
  2. Cut up the zucchini, onion, garlic and cilantro and set aside.
  3. In a frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon on butter and add the minced garlic. When it smells heavenly (about 30 seconds), add the shrimp and sauté until it’s pink on both sides.
  4. Add the cilantro and toss a couple of times.
  5. Finish with a squeeze of lemon.Saute shrimp
  6. Put shrimp aside and add the second tablespoon of butter to the pan. Melt and add onions (second heavenly smell).
  7. When the onions are translucent, add the diced zucchini and sauté until cooked.
  8. For the sauce, add the cilantro, tahini and lemon juice into a food processor.
  9. Pulse until the ingredients are blended into a paste. Pour over spaghetti and shrimp.

Pork loin and slaw

Pork Loin with Cabbage and Apple Slaw

Ingredients

  • Pork loin – you decide how much meat you want to consume
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thinly
  • 1 Gala apple, diced
  • 3 sprigs green onion, diced
  • 1 handful cilantro, diced

Dressing Ingredients (adapted from this Detoxinista recipe)

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey, as needed for sweetness
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chilli pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a frying pan, heat up the tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Pat both sides of the pork loin dry and sprinkle salt and pepper. Place into frying pan.
  3. Fry both sides and until the centre is no longer pink. Set aside.
  4. Cut up the red cabbage, Gala apple, green onion and cilantro. Mix it all in a bowl and set aside.
  5. Mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the cabbage slaw. Place in the fridge for flavours marinate.
  6. When ready to eat, cut up the pork and serve with the slaw.

It was a very successful cooking weekend altogether. Happy cooking 🙂

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Balcony Gardening: Tips and Ideas

Gardening listHaving moved out almost a year ago, I have been staring at an empty balcony long enough. With the weather getting nicer and actually some outdoor space, my love for food easily translated into growing my own food. Unclear on where to start, I spoke to an avid gardener friend of mine about starting a balcony garden and he was eager to impart his advice to me. There is something very satisfying in knowing that you grew something from the start and are able to harvest it for consumption.

Here are some tips and ideas on how to get your small space garden started.

Containers

The bigger the better but basically anythingcan house your plants – empty peanut butter jars, empty laundry detergent containers, old lunchboxes, etc. It also depends on how much space you have. Most of my containers came from my parents’ place since they haven’t been planting much over the last couple of years. Take a look around you and be creative, advice I was given that I’m passing onto you. As most of my containers are on the smaller side, I’ve chosen to plant foods that don’t require deep containers. This Apartment Therapy article has some interesting ideas.

Also, since I don’t have a lot of space, I opted to get a small shelf where all the containers can sit in a compact area. This VINRUTA Plant Shelf from IKEA was inexpensive, easy to assemble, and fits my space perfectly.

Balcony garden3

Potting Soil

I’m putting it out there now, I know nothing about potting soil. However, this article from Proven Winners gives a great explanation. My friend said get potting soil so that’s what I did, a huge 60L bag. He said I would need it all but that was a lie – for all my pots, I used maybe a quarter of it. Depending on the number and size of your pots, it might be better to get a smaller bag. Potting soil can be found at your local garden centres.

When planting, fill up the pot to almost the edge since when water, the soil will compact a little.

Seeds

What do you want to grow? Flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruit, there are many choices. For my balcony garden, I decided to grow radishes, chives, chard, cucumber, spring mix, green onions and nasturtiums. One thing I’m missing is a tomato plant – looking to get one this week. I also wanted to grow garlic but apparently it’s supposed to be planted in the fall, so that’s what my plan will be. My best resource for the types of food to grow comes from the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

When you’ve decided on what you want, visit your local garden centre and talk to the people there. They are experts and can also give you advice on what’s best for your space. If you’re in Toronto, a great place to visit would be the Evergreen Brick Works, there is a great garden centre there and plenty of plants and seeds to choose from. I got my cucumber and salad spring mix seeds there.

I do realize that some people may not want to start plants from seeds, there’s nothing wrong with buying already grown plants. I was skeptical of growing from seeds because it was already late in the planting season but it’s worked out well so far.

Seeds

Water and Sunlight

Depending on the type of plants you choose, it may require more or less sun, shaded or full sunlight, everyday watering or more intermittent. Consult with the Almanac or refer to the seed packaging as there are usually instructions on what your plant needs. My balcony faces west so the plants get the most sunlight in the afternoon – there is no shade whatsoever, the plants get full sunlight, which seems to be working out. As for watering the plants, I do it first thing in the morning when I have time and the soil stays moist for the most part until the next day.

Most importantly, have patience. I was starting to fret a little because it had been a couple of days and nothing had sprouted yet. But, it all works out in the end. Here’s the difference between Day 1 of planting and Day 10.

Balcony garden1

Day 1 of planting

Balcony garden2

Day 10 of planting

Follow me on Instagram @gt20 for more gardening progress. Hope this helps in getting your little garden started 🙂

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Cooking on Sundays: Egg Noodles and Portabello Mushrooms

Sesame noodles

This week, I tried two new recipes, both came with recommendations. For the first one, a friend introduced me to the New York Times’ cooking website and I was instantly obsessed. There are thousands upon thousands of recipes on the site and I was drawn to the “Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles” for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost, I love noodles. Second, the recipe was versatile – simple enough that I had most ingredients in my pantry and I could add my own twist to dish as per the comments section. There is a very engaged readership and most comments are helpful or bring some insight into what makes the dish. For my version, I added a lot of vegetables, tofu and did my own version of the sesame sauce. It added a lot more colour and texture to the dish.

For my second recipe, a co-worker had stuffed portabello mushrooms with spinach and feta for lunch last week and it looked very delicious that I had to try it for myself. The recipe had it paired with a lemon rice, which I opted out with and went with roasted vegetables instead, since I had leftovers from last week. I also omitted some ingredients such as the golden raisins and slivered almonds, since I didn’t have either.

Also, due to some health concerns, I’ve been trying to cut back on eating a lot of red meat so I’ve gone with making the noodles vegetarian. I may add from shrimp or salmon to it but will add that later on in the week.

Sesame noodles2

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles (recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking)

Ingredients

  • 400g pre-cooked Miki Noodles (Chinese egg noodles)
  • 1 package firm tofu, diced
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 1 1/2 mini cucumbers, seeded and sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small head of broccoli
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 stalks green onion, sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, sliced (optional)

Dressing Ingredients

  • tablespoons sesame oil, plus a splash
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • tablespoons crunchy peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 red Thai chilis, finely sliced
  1. Wash and chop up all vegetables.
  2. Put some canola oil into a frying pan and add onions. Cook until translucent, add garlic, carrot, broccoli and red pepper. Sauté until vegetables have softened but still firm.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and follow cooking instructions (mine only needed to be in for 30-40 seconds because it was already pre-cooked). Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again and toss with a splash of sesame oil.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons sesame oil, the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic and Thai chilis. Set aside.
  5. Drain the water from the tofu container and dice into cubes. Pat dry with paper towel.
  6. In a second frying pan, heat up some canola oil and place diced tofu into the pan. Do not over crowd the pan – do multiple batches if need be. Turn and fry all sides and drain excess oil on paper towel.
  7. Once all the noodles, vegetables and tofu are prepared, assemble the ingredient all together and toss with dressing.

Stuffed portabello mushrooms

Stuffed Portabello Mushrooms (adapted from Canadian Living)

Ingredients

  • 4 portobello mushrooms, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoon shreddded old cheddar cheese
  1. Arrange mushrooms, stem side up, on lightly greased rimmed baking sheet. Bake in 450 F (230 C) oven until browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Using tongs, tip mushrooms to discard any liquid; pat dry with paper towels.
  2. In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat; cook onion and garlic until garlic is fragrant, 1 minute. Add spinach; cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. When no liquid remains, remove from heat. Stir in feta cheese. Spoon into mushrooms. Sprinkle with old cheddar cheese. Broil until cheese is melted.

If you have any favourite vegetarian recipes, post them below because I’d love to try them out! Happy cooking 🙂

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