A Brave New World

Believe it or not, coffee is a bone of contention in my marriage and friendships, and keeps me from fully understanding the nuances of Lorelei and Rory Gilmore. If you've ever spent time with a coffee drinker, you know they find it offensive when they're drinking coffee and you're sipping ice water. I've never been a coffee drinker. I've tried. Lord knows I've tried. But I don't like the taste of sugar or cream in drinks, and black coffee is too bitter. With a new school season upon me and Village Church running a Marriage series, I have made it my mission to love waking up to a hot coffee in the morning for the sake of my sanity and marriage. (This is when you start thinking I'm crazy. I'm cool with that.)

I began by buying new mugs. Yep, you read that right. I thought maybe part of my disdain for coffee stemmed from a deeper issue - disdain for my mugs, perhaps. (As I read this, I too think I may be crazy.)

Cupboard stocked, I began to hunt for a dairy-free, natural creamer that would make me fall in love with coffee and, quite possibly, become one of those meme-posting, sweatshirt-wearing coffee lovers. I didn't spend time praying about this (obviously no prayer is trivial, but I do know where to draw the line)... I don't, however, think it was a coincidence that the same day I began my quest, the recipe that changed my coffee-absent life popped up on my instagram feed.

Photos by Sienna Clark :)

Photos by Sienna Clark :)


 

French Vanilla Coffee Creamer (Dairy Free)


AUTHOR: Danielle Walker - AgainstAllGrain.com

SERVES: 2 cups
INGREDIENTS:

1 cup almond milk
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Combine both of the milks and sweetener in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a low boil, then remove from heat.
2. Slice the vanilla bean down the long side, and scrape out the seeds. Place the seeds and bean in the milk, then cover and let steep for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.

 


Thank you, Danielle Walker, for giving me a love of coffee; you have improved both my midday energy and relationships. Because of this creamer, a gaping void has been filled in my marriage and friendships - a void only coffee could occupy. And while this has left my children totally baffled (you'd think I was draining a glass of wine at 8am by the way they look at me and ask, "You're. Drinking. WHAT?!"),  I can't help but smile, and think about how much I've grown up. At almost 35, I feel like I've finally arrived. Thank you coffee-drinkers for welcoming me to this obsessive and exclusive club. Please let me know when your next order of "Got Coffee?" sweatshirts is going in.

 

Cooking with Kids - Chicken Pad Thai

I love cooking with my girls. There is something beautiful about working together in the kitchen. This isn't a regular routine for our family but when I know there is a meal I'm excited to try but unsure if the kids will turn up their noses at first glance, I make it a priority to get them involved. Pad Thai was one of those dishes...

Chicken Pad Thai Yield: About 5 servings Ingredients 10 oz Thai rice noodles 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into small strips 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar 1/4 cup soy sauce 2 Tbsp rice vinegar 1 Tbsp lime juice 1 Tbsp fish sauce 1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and strips halved 1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots 2 cloves garlic 4 green onions, whites minced, greens sliced into 1-inch pieces 2 cups bean sprouts 3 large eggs 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped Red pepper flakes and sesame seeds (optional) Directions Prepare rice noodles according to directions listed on package. In a mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and fish sauce, set aside.  While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a wok or large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add chicken and saute until cooked through, about 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving oil in pan. Add bell pepper and carrots and saute 1 - 2 minutes then add garlic, green onions and bean sprouts saute 1 minute longer. Push veggies to edges of pan and crack eggs into center. Cook and scramble until eggs have cooked through. Add in chicken, noodles and sauce and toss everything together and cook 1 - 2 minutes.  Serve warm topped with cilantro, peanuts and optional red pepper flakes and sesame seeds. Recipe source: Cooking Classy

Chicken Pad Thai

Yield: About 5 servings

Ingredients

10 oz Thai rice noodles

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, sliced into small strips

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp rice vinegar

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 Tbsp fish sauce

1 red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips and strips halved

1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots

2 cloves garlic

4 green onions, whites minced, greens sliced into 1-inch pieces

2 cups bean sprouts

3 large eggs

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

Red pepper flakes and sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Prepare rice noodles according to directions listed on package. In a mixing bowl, whisk together brown sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and fish sauce, set aside. 

While noodles are cooking, heat oil in a wok or large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot add chicken and saute until cooked through, about 4 - 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate, leaving oil in pan. Add bell pepper and carrots and saute 1 - 2 minutes then add garlic, green onions and bean sprouts saute 1 minute longer. Push veggies to edges of pan and crack eggs into center. Cook and scramble until eggs have cooked through. Add in chicken, noodles and sauce and toss everything together and cook 1 - 2 minutes. 

Serve warm topped with cilantro, peanuts and optional red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.

Recipe source: Cooking Classy

Love the smell of cilantro! Hayden chopped the cilantro, cut red peppers, squeezed the limes and made the sauce.

So, I made a judgement error on this one. Isabella joyfully grated half a carrot before slicing her knuckle. In my defence we were on vacation and our grater at home is not nearly as sharp. Ooops!!

Sienna cooked the pad thai like a champ!  We pretended we were on Master Chef Junior. Naturally, I was Gordon Ramsay.

With all the veggies I wasn't sure how my girls would react when it came time to eat.  Turns out they were so proud of their masterpiece that no one complained and rated it 9/10. Cooking together for the win. 

What do you like to cook with your kids?

Locally Sourced

Hello Lovelies! I don't spend a lot of time in grocery stores. I prefer to do most of my grocery shopping at specialty food stores, mom and pop shops and fruit/veggie markets.

Ocean Park Fine Meats is one of my local go-to's. It's one-stop shopping for almost all of my protein needs. This is where I buy not only my meat, but also farm fresh eggs and fresh or frozen fish. These guys know meat. Shaughn, the owner, takes pride in how the meat is displayed in the freezer but also is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to how to prepare whatever cut you are buying. They have you covered for all of your holidays, entertaining and special events. Most customers are regulars and are addressed by name. Love that! I know, you're thinking, meat isn't exactly "lovely", but there's something so enticing about the freshness and quality you are buying at a butcher.

So, why buy from a butcher vs. the standard grocery store?

  1. They love animals as much as you–maybe more. Pretty simple - these guys source their meat from farms where animals are happy, not pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.
  2. You’ll always know what you’re getting. A proper butcher can tell you the farm the animal was raised on and always know what part of the animal that particular cut came from.
  3. Butchers offer better selection and quality. You can actually taste the difference in quality.
  4. They deliver top notch service. These guys will tell you how to marinate the meat, at what temperature to cook it and for how long. And they're always bang on.
  5. You keep your dollar local. By going to a local butcher, less dollars end up in pockets of the large meat manufacturers and distributors, which means more for the farmer and small business owner.

Shaughn even offered to let me come to the meat locker where the fresh cuts are hanging. That's where I draw the line. :) This morning I picked up my dozen eggs, the BEST bacon around, a whole roasting chicken, and tonight's dinner selection - fresh Halibut! I headed over to Chan's for some fresh arugula for a light side dish and some local green beans, and lastly, hit up Cobs for a soft Turkish loaf to compliment it all.

If you can, I encourage you to meal plan and grocery shop with our local small business owners. There are times that call for one stop shopping at stores like Save On Foods, obviously, but when you're there, I would encourage you to check where your foods are from - BC is best!

Not Your Average Lemon Baked Chicken

We try to eat "well" in our house - meaning mostly whole, unprocessed foods. I do NOT claim to be a healthy eater necessarily; my motto is "everything in moderation". I also have three young kids who are on the pickier side (they might take after me!). For our meals, I aim to have a protein they'll eat (or at least try), a side they will like, and usually raw veggies on the table for them to grab. We do eat a lot of chicken, which can get boring, so I get excited for new recipes that everyone might enjoy. This Lemon Baked Chicken is a winner! Simple, commonly stocked ingredients that require little prep, and is butter-basked bake that lets your oven do the heavy-lifting.

Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in, skin-on organic chicken thighs
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • Dash of sea salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee* (I prefer Trader Joe's brand)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk**
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon zest of lemon
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place chicken thighs on a plate. Lightly coat both sides with cumin, sea salt and pepper.
  3. Over medium-high heat, melt ghee in a large skillet. When ghee is shimmering, sear both sides of chicken, roughly 2-3 minutes per side.
  4. Remove chicken from skillet and place in an oven-proof casserole dish.
  5. Back on the skillet, over medium heat, saute garlic for 1-2 minutes. Then, stir in coconut milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper and rosemary until well combined.
  6. Gently pour the liquid into the casserole dish around the chicken thighs.
  7. Place casserole dish into oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked through.

*In technical terms, Ghee is a clarified, unsalted butter with the milk proteins removed. It has a high smoke point, making it perfect for cooking, and an incredible flavor. Many people who cannot tolerate dairy can handle ghee and it is a revered food in Indian cuisine. It is also considered a whole food.

**A little something I recently learned is that coconut milk that isn't full of artificial ingredients or preservatives will often come in solid form, or partially solid form. If you find that it's solid upon opening it, it can be warmed gently until it reaches a liquid state. Then shake to combine.

Easy Lemon Baked Chicken

Easy Lemon Baked Chicken

I'm serving this saucy number with this light arugula salad and a rice dish. Think: a basic risotto or a mushroom risotto, but a plain rice is nice as well, with a little extra sauce drizzled on for added flavor. Even my picky eaters enjoy this easy dinner! Score 1-0 for me! :)

It's Berry Time!

You guys, this summer-like "heat wave" in Vancouver these past couple of days has me really craving and making so many fresh, fast and delish favorites! It's very early in the season, but haven't the strawberries been amazing? Peak season is typically April - July, but we are definitely getting some fresh sweet goodness up from California (it's definitely too early for BC's strawberries). One of my absolute favorite salads in the warmer temps is one with fresh berries. It's perfect as a main for lunch or goes with almost any main dish, particularly a fresh-from-the-butcher cut of steak, or a lovely Halibut (which is also in season and so yummy on these spring nights!). Disclaimer: I did NOT invent this, so I'm simply passing on a favorite that someone else mastered for me, with a couple of my own substitutions. :)

Berry Feta Spinach Salad with Creamy Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

PREP TIME: 15 minutes     COOK TIME: 5 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients

Berry Spinach Salad

  • 10 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced**
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced then quartered
  • 1 sweet apple, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1 kiwi peeled, sliced and quartered (optional)

Creamy Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1 5.3 oz. container strawberry yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream (optional: substitute sour cream for plain greek yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar (optional: substitute with honey or maple syrup)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry minced onion flakes (optional)


Garnishes

  • 1/2 recipe Caramelized roasted and salted pistachios (click HERE)
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles

Instructions

  1. Caramelize pistachios according to directions. Set aside.*
  2. Add all of the Strawberry Poppy Seed Dressing Ingredients (EXCEPT the poppy seeds and sesame seeds) to your blender; blend until smooth. Add poppy seeds and sesame seeds and pulse until combined. For a thinner dressing, add additional milk if desired. Store in the refrigerator while you prepare salad.
  3. Combine Spinach Salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. If serving entire salad immediately, drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. If there might be leftovers, drizzle dressing on individual salad servings. Season with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

*The Caramelized Nuts recipe is for 1 cup nuts. You can prepare 1 whole cup (because you will eat them!) or simply half all the ingredients.
**You can swap out the strawberries for raspberries to make this a winter in season salad too!

Enjoy Lovelies!

The Antioxidant-Rich Artichoke

Last week's lovely spring weather in Vancouver has me thinking of all of my favorite, fresh fare! You see, I have a thing for food. Not in a fancy or complicated way but in a simple, fresh and yummy way. One of my favorite appetizers for spring/summer is whole artichoke. It is one of the easiest things to throw on the outdoor table and people love it. It is light and an easy share item that can be casually picked at while chatting away.

Because of their tough exterior, artichokes take some careful preparation. But your efforts will reap nutritional rewards! This veggie is a good source of folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins C and K. Artichokes are also packed with antioxidants and they're number 7 on the USDA's top 20 antioxidant-rich foods list.

IMG_0216.jpg

How to pick a good artichoke (according to RealSimple) and my steps for preparing:

  1. Make sure the artichoke leaves are intact

    When choosing your artichokes, look for tightly-packed leaves; splayed leaves are a sign your vegetables is less than fresh. A couple of brown spots, however, are fine.

  2. Trim the top

    Using a knife with a serrated edge, slice off the top half inch for a nice flat surface.

    Tip: Artichokes are very tough. If you don’t have a sharp knife, one with a serrated edge will do the trick.

  3. Trim the remaining thorns with scissors

    Hold the artichoke by the stalk and use kitchen scissors to snip the pointy tips from the remaining leaves. (optional)

  4. Slice off the stem

    The stem is edible (and delicious), but if you plan to serve artichokes upright on the plate, slice it off with your knife.

    Tip: Refrigerate unwashed artichokes in a plastic bag. A fresh artichoke will keep for up to a week. If the leaves begin to spread, cook it as soon as possible.
  5. Place artichoke in about an inch or two of salted water. Drizzle with olive oil, cover and bring to a boil.

  6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for approximately 45 minutes, being careful not to let the water boil away.

  7. Artichoke is done when the leaves are tender and pull off easily.

I prefer the simplest version: simply steamed/boiled in salted water with a drizzle of olive oil, served with a side of good ol' mayo. Pull stem from artichoke, dip in mayo and slide the fleshy part of the artichoke off with your teeth. In my opinion, this is best enjoyed with a crisp Chardonnay...can you tell I like my white wine when the weather turns warmer?

After you've polished off all of the good leaves, don't forget there's more in store: the heart of the artichoke! So good. Here's how to get to it:

Other variations include drizzling with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or dipping in homemade garlic aioli sauce. Yum. Now to eat. Enjoy lovelies!

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Marshmallow Sweet Potato Loaves

I love food! And by no means am I in the league where I can brag about all the Pinterest-worthy recipes I can make or bake, but I definitely enjoy my fair share of fabulous food. There are times I come across a recipe in a magazine or online and swear that I will make it one day…only to discover that my time is just not what it used to be - go figure! But this one recipe, well it was different. Why? Because it reminded me of one of my favourite dishes at a restaurant in downtown Vancouver - yam fries with marshmallow dip. I know this will not be for everybody, but this recipe right here, is for somebody and that somebody (like me) is gonna thank me later!

I found this recipe in Style At Home magazine’s January issue, featured as the Dessert of the Month. Now, I know we are sitting on the last day of March, but give a girl a break! I did previously mention that I don’t have a lot of time to bake anymore, right?! So here it is…Marshmallow Sweet Potato Loaves! (Confession: I have this thing for marshmallows!) So of course the first food post I do has to have marshmallows. These loaves are easy peasy and taste absolutely delicious! I did make some substitutes based on my own personal preference and the recipe was still perfecto.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 small sweet potatoes (or 2 large)
  2. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  4. 2 eggs
  5. 1/4 tsp salt
  6. 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  7. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  8. 1 tsp cinnamon
  9. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  10. 1 cup of chopped pecans (optional)
  11. 9 large marshmallows

Substitutions:

  1. 2 large yams instead of sweet potatoes
  2. 1/2 cup of coconut oil instead of vegetable oil
  3. 1/4 sea salt
  4. 1/8 tsp nutmeg (not a huge fan)
  5. I left the nuts out so I could serve my guests tonight (some of which have nut allergies)
  6. I used mini marshmallows instead
  7. The recipe calls for cooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave. I don’t like to cook in the microwave so I pre-cut my yams and boiled them on the stove.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Grease 9-loaf mini loaf pan (alternatively use mini loaf baking cups in a 9”x13” pan) - I used a coconut oil spray to grease.
  3. Peel and then cook yams until flesh is tender. Drain and set aside to cool.
  4. Whisk the sugar, oil, eggs and salt until combined.
  5. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a bowl.
  6. Mash the cooled yams and combine with the sugar mixture. 
  7. Stir the flour mixture into the yams.
  8. If you used nuts, fold in pecans.
  9. Evenly fill the loaf cups with batter.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out cleanly.
  11. Set aside loaves to cool. 
  12. Using a wet knife, cut each marshmallow into 3 slices and top each loaf with 3 slices each. (I used mini marshmallows and just placed the on top.)
  13. Set loaves under the oven broiler for 2-3 minutes or until the marshmallows are toasted and golden.
  14. Serve warm and enjoy!

Savoury Salmon - West Coast Style

Easter is around the corner, and that means another family holiday meal. Yay! if you're like me, you are less than excited for the traditional ham dinner that's coming your way. I've never been a fan of that particular meat (bad experience I will NOT elaborate on...), so I like to find recipes that are fairly simple, feed a bunch of people and are super yummy. This recipe might be the easiest, most simple of entrees to prepare. Are you ready? West Coast Salmon. Mmmm... Makes me dream of long days, fresh flowers, eating al fresco and warm summer nights. Spring is a great time to kick off that feeling and get us excited for what's around the corner.

The key to this recipe is the type of salmon you use. My favorite, most readily available and pictured below, is Wild Atlantic Salmon. King (Chinook) Salmon is also ah-mazing! I prefer these varieties for their silken, melting texture which makes for a rich, luscious flavor. Coho and Copper River Salmon are my other favs. Copper River Sockeye Salmon is only available for a short time during the summer, and if you miss it, you have to wait till next summer, so watch for this extra special variety. Sockeye is widely available, and also delish. You really can't go wrong with salmon, as long as you stay away from any farmed variety (you can read the reasons why here). We, on the west coast of British Columbia, are extremely lucky to have such amazing FRESH salmon. Bring on BBQ season!

Here is the extensive recipe:

1 large whole wild salmon filet

1/2 cup of oil (I prefer Olive Oil, but others would work well too)

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup Canadian Rye Whiskey

1/4 cup soy sauce

2-4 cloves of garlic, minced, according to personal taste preference

Salt & Pepper to taste

*optional secret indulgent ingredient: top salmon with crispy fried onions on top (I prefer Trader Joe's brand)! Just adds a bit of an extra flavor kick and crunch.

Prepare the marinade and place in a glass dish with the salmon skin up so the marinade soaks into the flesh. Marinate a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 8 hours. Heat the BBQ to medium heat. Reserve some marinade for basting. Place the salmon in a foil boat on the BBQ, or on a cedar plank for extra flavor. Cook, basting down the center where the flesh naturally separates as it cooks, until the flesh is flaky and cooked through, being careful not to overcook it, approximately 12-15 minutes depending on thickness. Delish over a bed of sauteed sesame spinach or a light strawberry and spinach salad, with some fresh baby potatoes and a buttery, crisp Chardonnay like this one!

West Coast Salmon

West Coast Salmon

I hope you enjoy my take on an Easter meal idea. I'm sorry to say, though, this means you will not be getting or making any ham and split pea soup from the leftovers... you're welcome. :) No matter what you prepare, as long as the company is great and the true meaning of Easter, the resurrection of Jesus, is at the center of the table, it will be a winner every time.

Sweet & Sour Grapefruit

This recipe is so simple yet stunningly beautiful and delicious. The blending of the grapefruit and maple syrup are the perfect marriage of flavours; sure to be a Valentine brunch favourite.

 

Grapefruit (1/2 grapefruit per guest)

Pure Maple Syrup

Mint

 

Directions:

Slice desired amount of grapefruit in half. Score pieces for easier eating. Place face up on foiled pan. Pour 1 tsp of pure maple syrup on each grapefruit. Broil until lightly browned. Garnish with mint and serve warm.