Category Archives: Summer

Port Credit: my first long distance bike ride

IMG_20160806_192656

I had always wanted to visit Port Credit, Mississauga for no apparent reason other than I have passed it many times on the GO Train and have always wondered what was there. A couple of weeks ago, my roommate and I decided to take the ride via the Waterfront Trail and it was awesome. A couple things I learned along the way:

  • If there’s a will, there’s a way. I haven’t ridden a bike in a very long time and having only started recently, I didn’t think I could take such a long journey (45 kms is not an easy feat, at least not for me) but with determination to get out of the house and see a new place, I did it!
  • Bike riding is a great way to see and explore new places. The last time I did something like this was when I visited Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyards in 2013 (rented bikes and rode to each one, it was a spectacularly fun and exhausting day).
  • Always wear sunscreen. I learned the hard way and slightly burnt my nose and have a wicked farmer’s tan.
  • Getting lost is part of the fun. We were following the GPS but it is sometimes different from real life – it happens. Since we weren’t in a rush, we backtracked and eventually found our way. Also met some nice ladies that led us back onto the trail!
  • Being carefree. Since the ride took longer than suggested by Google Maps – 1 hr 50 mins to get there and 1 hr 30 mins to get back, we spent a lot of time outside and it’s a joy being able to stop and look at the clouds in the sky; without a worry to be had. Also, when you’re riding and you feel that summerĀ breeze passing you, there’s something inside of you that says everything is going to be alright.

For a first long distance trip, I think it was well worth the couple of hours it took and I maybe fitter than I think since there weren’t any muscle aches afterwards. Also, the mint chocolate ice cream bar helped šŸ™‚

Tagged , , , , ,

Cooking on Sunday: Pantry Medley Mix

IMG_20160807_134001

I wasn’t feel well last week so didn’t end up doing a lot of grocery shopping. I also noticed that the freezer was starting to fill out so decided to do another pantry/freezer clean out (read about my first one here) to make way for other foods. The medley of meals this week include:

  • steak with mushrooms, onions, green beans and mushroom burger mix (sauteĀ the mushrooms and onions after the steak, it smells and tastes amazing!)
    • basting and cooking the steak in butter is heavenly

mushroom and onions

  • mushroom burger mix with tuna cakes (I still have so many cans of tuna left!),
    • Mix 2 cans of tuna with 2 eggs, chopped green onion, salt and pepper, bread crumbs, crushed red chili pepper flakes. Mold into 1/4 cup sizes and bake in oven for 22 mins.

meatballs and tuna cakes

  • homemade tomato sauce with lasagna sheets and turkey meatballs
    • Sauce: chop up veggies and tomatoes and place in a pot and simmer until it thickens (you can add tomato paste too)
    • Pasta: break up sheets of dried lasagna and boil until al dente (about 8-10 mins)
  • stir fry veggies and vermicelli
    • Chop up desired veggies and saute them in a frying pan
    • Prepare vermicelli according to package instructions. Add to veggies
    • WhiskĀ together: 3 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp hoisin sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar and pour over veggies and vermicelli, stir until mixed

Not much of a recipe week, more of a put things together that taste good and keep it simple. Happy cooking šŸ™‚

Tagged , , , ,

Cooking on Monday because it’s a long weekend!

IMG_20160801_161151

With it being a long weekend, I spent most of the timeĀ outdoors and with friends and family – very much needed. Also, the weather has been really nice so I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen but there’s no shorter way to do meal preps. To avoid being too hot in the kitchen, I did everything in batches and in the oven so I wouldn’t have to stand over the stove. For this week, I made: baked porkchops with roasted veggies, Napa cabbage slaw, carrot soup, tofu “jerky” and mushroom barley burger mix (I defrosted it and broke it up in a pot and mixed with collard greens).

Porkchops

Baked Porkchops

Ingredients:

  • 5 porkchops, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven at 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Rinse the porkchops and pat dry with paper towel.
  3. Mix salt, pepper and brown sugar together. Massage into the pork on both sides – get it right in there.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes and flip over for another 15 minutes.

IMG_20160801_110939

Carrot Soup

(adapted from Thug Kitchen’s cookbook)

Ingredients:

  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 5 stalks celery
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Ā 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375F. Peel and chop the carrots. Chop the celery. Toss with olive oil, cumin and salt. Roast in oven for 35 minutes, until the carrots are tender.
  2. Once the carrots have cooled, place in food processor with the rest of the ingredients. Add more water to get to desired consistency.
  3. Garnish with herbs if you have some on hand.

Tofu jerky

Tofu Jerky

IngredientsĀ (from Thug Kitchen’s cookbook):

  • 1 package of firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mince fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Sriracha or similar hot sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, thickly sliced

DirectionsĀ (adapted from Nacho Average Cook):

  1. Open and drain a package of tofu. Pat the tofu dry with paper towel or a cloth towel.
  2. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a shallow, flat pan (I use a Pyrex dish).
  3. Slice the tofu into 1/4 inch thick slices and place into marinade. Set aside in fridge for at least 2 hours.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Place marinated tofu slices on a single layer and set the marinade aside.
  6. Put in oven for 15 minutes. Then remove and flip. Bast with more marinade on each piece and put back in oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, flip once more and bast with more marinade and put back in oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Let cool and enjoy on its own or in a salad.

Napa Cabbage Salad

Napa Cabbage Slaw

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 6 leaves kale, thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
  • Tofu jerky marinade
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions:

  1. Rinse and dry Napa Cabbage and kale leaves. Thinly slice them and put them in a large container.
  2. Thinly slice the green onion, can include white bit if you like (I do).
  3. Mix the lime juice with the leftover tofu jerky marinade. Toss with salad when ready to eat.

Hope you had a good Monday and happy cooking šŸ™‚

Tagged , ,

Cooking on Sundays: Eggplant Rollatini, Salad and Meatballs

IMG_20160724_223431
After spending most of the weekend outside at festivals (T&T Waterfront Night Market and Rib Fest at Fort York Garrison), meals for this week were pretty simple and full of vegetables. Eggplant rollatini (lasagna rolls with eggplant instead of pasta sheets), cauliflower salad, and kale salad with avocado dressing.Ā I haven’t been eating as much red meat lately to the point where my iron count was too low to donate blood this weekend – so I got some turkey and made meatballs. Recipe links are below. Happy cooking šŸ™‚
Eggplant rollatini2

Eggplant Rollatini – recipe from The Kitchn

Cauliflower salad

Cauliflower Salad – recipe from Tasty/Buzzfeed

Turkey Meatballs

Turkey Meatballs – adapted from DareBeeĀ and made with ground turkey instead of ground pork

Kale Salad with Avocado Dressing – adapted from The Kitchn recipe (I didn’t take a separate picture)

Tagged , , , ,

Cooking on Sundays: Nicoise Salad in a Jar and Baked Salmon

Now that I’m done my travelling for this summer, it’s back to cooking and eating better. Vacation took a toll of my body – who can resist having seafood everyday in Halifax? The inspiration for this week’s menu came from having dinner with a friend and her talking about wanting to cook in larger batches so she wouldn’t have to cook everyday. We got talking and I was telling her that there are many ways to cook in larger quantities in a more efficient manner, such as using a slowcooker or baking multiple items in the oven at the same time. This allows for you to complete other tasks without having to stand at the stove top and have to keep an eye on things.

Vegetables for the week

I chose a Nicoise salad because it’s packed with vegetables and protein. Also, it’s easy to store it all in a jar and take it to work. I made the dressing and stored the tuna separately so that it wouldn’t make the salad too wet and last longer.Ā I had frozen salmon in the freezer so it was easy to pair it with roasted vegetables. I was craving green things this week so that’s what I got.

Nicoise salad in a jar

Nicoise Salad

Ingredients

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

For the salad:

  • 5 large eggs, sliced
  • 15Ā fingerling potatoes, sliced
  • 3 handfuls green beans
  • 2 5-ounce cans tuna packed in oil, drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 3 cups salad greens (I got to use some greens from my balcony garden!!)
Greens from garden

Kale and greens from my balcony garden

Directions

  1. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, minced garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper. Add the oil, and whisk continuously until the dressing is emulsified.
  2. Cook the eggs, potatoes and green beans.
  3. Slice the potatoes and eggs into 1/2 inch slices.
  4. Assemble the jar in the following order:
    • grape tomatoes
    • green peppers
    • green beans
    • potatoes
    • salad greens
    • eggs
  5. Serve with dressing and mix with tuna.

Baked salmon and veggies

Baked Salmon and Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients

  • 4 frozen salmon, defrost and pat dry
  • 2 zucchini, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 500g cremini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 green pepper, sliced
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoonĀ Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven at 350F.
  2. Defrost the salmon overnight in the fridge or in the microwave.
  3. Chop up the zucchini, cauliflower, mushrooms and green pepper.
  4. Place in a large bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Put the vegetable pan into the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. SpreadĀ the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, Dijon mustard and salt and pepper over the salmon fillets.
  7. Put the salmon panĀ into the oven with 15 minutes left on the vegetables.
  8. Portion out the salmon and vegetables into containers.

Happy cooking šŸ™‚

Tagged , , ,

Popsicles!!

Popsicle4

I was on vacation this past week and didn’t actually cook anything (re-heating fries on the stove doesn’t count). After gettingĀ home, the summer heat has arrived and what better way to cool down than with popsicles! I came across this cucumber mint green tea popsicle recipe fromĀ Cake Over SteakĀ and decided to give it a try.Ā They turned out delicious and perfect for a hot summer day šŸ™‚

Cucumber Pear Mint Green Tea Popsicles

(adapted from Cake Over Steak recipe)

Ingredients
For the mint simple syrup:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large sprigs of fresh mint
For the popsicles:
  • 1/2 cup mint simple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened green tea
  • 3 tsp fresh lime juice (from about one lime)
  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 pear, roughly chopped

Instructions

To make the mint simple syrup:
  1. Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. As soon as the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the mint leaves. Let it steap until it cools. Strain out the mint leaves and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
To make the popsicles:
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a blender (I used a Magic Bullet) with the liquid in the bottom. Blend until smooth. Give it a taste – it should be a little sweeter than you might want it to be, as it will lose some of its sweetness when you taste it frozen. Add more lime juice or simple syrup, etc. to taste.
  2. Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight. Enjoy!!

Popsicle1 Popsicle2 Popsicle3

Tagged , ,

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 veggieĀ burger. There were a couple of changes to the recipe depending on what I had in my kitchen as well as being bakedĀ in the ovenĀ instead of fried on the stove top.

Mushroom burger1

Ingredients

  • 1 Ā½ 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
  • Ā¼ cup old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • Ā½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Ā½ teaspoon salt
  • Ā½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups panko bread crumbs, or as needed

Instructions

  1. CookĀ the barley according to packageĀ 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 cheddarĀ 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 aĀ Ā½-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 šŸ™‚

Tagged , , ,

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:Ā sautĆ©ed peppers, mushrooms, corn, beans, beans, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa complete with aĀ lemonade citrus rum punch.Ā 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 salmonĀ – so I took it upon myself to try it out in a small batch. At the grocery store,Ā I circled theĀ frozen seafood section, trying to figure out what to buy and how to best cook it. There wasĀ someone standingĀ near the frozen shrimp area and I asked her perchance if she knew what was the difference between the shrimp brands andĀ how best toĀ 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 andĀ sautĆ© 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 andĀ 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 WellĀ 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 andĀ sautĆ© 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 andĀ sautĆ© 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 šŸ™‚

Tagged , , , , ,

Summer Vacation on Manitoulin Island

The last couple months have been hectic at work and I’m going to be moving out of my parents’ place soon (I’m super excited but also scared at the same time) so my mind has been in other places. It’s time to get back to writing and sharing my adventures.

– – – – –

Puppy digging

I went up to Manitoulin Island for Canada’s Day week with the bf, some friends, and a puppy for some much needed relaxation and electronics free time. It was so nice not to have my cellphone on or internet – just tv, books, cards and the beach! There was a huge change to the property from last year. The septic system and tank needed to be replaced because the tree roots had damaged the tank so all the trees were cut down šŸ˜¦ It was for the best but now the front yard is mainly sand/dust, ant hills and some grass. There are a lot of ants on the Island.

I spent a lot of time reading and finally finished Chris Hadfield’s “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth“. A light-hearted and optimistic book that speaks to his life experiences and advice on how you can live a more fulfilling life. I started on a sci-fi book called “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Not usually into sci-fi but seeing how intrigued the bf was, I wanted to read it as well. Basically, it’s about surviving on Mars, alone and relying on your instincts and abilities. I don’t want to spoil the book for those who are planning to read it. Let’s say it was a page-turner and I couldn’t put it down.

We did some swimming and hiking on the Cup and Saucer trail as well as out to the lighthouse on the other side of the bay. I miss climbing rocks and jumping over water – can’t do that in the city. Though when I tried to jump over water, it was too far and I ended up with a wet sock and running shoe for the remainder of the hike.

On Canada’s Day, there were fireworks down at the beach. It was awesome! There is something so magical about explosives being blown up in the air to create beautiful images. The bf also took his camera down there and got some amazing shots. It’s been a while since I’ve taken time to go see fireworks on July 1st because it’s always crowded at home so it was nice to have some space on the beach to ourselves.

We ate really well on the Island. Breakfast and lunch were casual meals but for dinner, on most nights we barbequed and ate together at the picnic table. We even managed to catch the pancake breakfast at the curling club, since it only happens on the first Thursday morning of every month. There is a butcher shop called Manitoulin Island Meats where we got sausage, bacon and burgers. It used to be Papa’s Meat & Deli but they took it over and it’s lost some of the mom and pop feel to the place. However, the meat is still delicious. For farm fresh eggs, we go to a nearby B&B that has a bar fridge stocked with cartons of eggs where you put money into a mason jar and take a carton of eggs. the first time we saw the sign, it was very shocking that people are very honest and only take what they pay for. It would never work in the city, which is another reason why I love being up there.

Being on the Island always makes me feel so free and joyful. I’d love to be up there all summer, like Matt, of the Lake Huron Fish & Chips. He’s opened up shop on the Victoria Day long weekend and will be up there for a couple of months. He is one of the nicest people I’ve met and the fish and chips are delicious! We went a couple of times for lunch and there’s always a line up but totally worth the wait.

For next year, the bf wants to have a bat house building contest. There used to be a lot of bats in the old garage until it was rebuilt to keep them out so he wants to create homes for them again (on the outside of the garage). On the plus side is, bats eat mosquitoes and their poop is good for fertilizing. Everyone wins!

Very glad we got to spend the week instead of a couple of days at the cottage because sometimes, you need to take a step back from the hectic city life and be able to enjoy a campfire with friends.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Island Time

I spent five days on Manitoulin Island (in Lake Huron) at the cottage with the bf and family. It felt so great to be away from civilization – no cell service, Internet or satellite TV – just campfires, hiking, beach and lounging. My first time on Manitoulin Island and I must say, I will definitely go back. There’s not a lot of people who live there so you have a lot of privacy and as well as very little traffic. I woke up one morning to the sound of cars and the bf said it must be people trying to catch the ferry to mainland or it had just arrived. When I saw traffic, I really mean five cars driving past the cottage šŸ˜‰

We spent a lot of time outdoors and managed to keep a daily routine – get up, make breakfast, spend time outdoors, eat dinner, make fire, sleep and repeat. Every time I take vacation, it makes me realize how much more I love being outdoors and nothing beats fresh air and the open waters. We hiked the Cup and Saucer Trail was a 14km hike up the escarpment that included an adventure trail! We got to climb up rocks and into caves – very thankful that I’m short because I got to walk through most of the tight spaces rather than crawling on my knees. It was very picturesque and we took a lot of photos from the various lookout points.

Other than hiking on the trail, we also visited Bridal Veil Falls in Kagawong, hiked out to the “lighthouse” (the original one got burnt down so now it’s more of a tower with a light at the top), took the ATV out (my first time) and went to the beach. A lot of much needed downtime. I also learned how to play cribbage – combining my love of numbers and cards, all in one board game.

I saved the best for last. For food, we cooked most of our meals and got locally sourced meat from Papa’s Meat & Deli (lean ground beef, handmade sausages and bacon) – it was so good. I’ve been searching around Toronto for a local butcher, let me know if you know any good ones around town. We made bacon pancakes and they were delicious!!!!

Bacon Pancake

It was a wonderful couple of days to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Next time, I’d like to stay for a whole week or more šŸ™‚

Tagged , , , , , , ,