Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup

butternut-and-pear-soup8744

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada! I made big turkey dinner for my family last night and then we watched the Blue Jays’ baseball game together. It was fun family time and the Blue Jays won, so we had much to celebrate.

Many people take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to mention all of the things that they are thankful for. I have a long list of family and friends who make my life special and I hope they know who they are. I also have a passion for photography and food, and the joy that sharing those passions brings me. I am thankful for those blessings every day, not just today.

One of my blog followers asked me to feature a fall soup so I tried out this vegan version of Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear soup. It is a compilation of a few recipes. I really like the complex flavour that adding coconut milk adds to the recipe. The consistency is lighter than other butternut squash soups that I have made but, it is still packed with flavour.

I hope you enjoy the soup. Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian readers!

buttenut-squash-and-pear-soup-8787

Butternut Squash, Ginger and Pear Soup

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 medium leeks, finely chopped

2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced finely

6 pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk

Fresh thyme sprigs and pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

leeks-on-a-chopping-board7846

squash-on-a-cutting-board7877

Directions:

In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and ginger and sauté until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

Add the squash and pears and continue to cook another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes until squash is tender.

Remove from heat and add coconut milk. Puree the soup in a blender in batches and serve with your choice of garnish.

butternut-squash-and-pera-soup-8765

Advertisements

Let’s get healthy with Hoisin Beef & Cashew Lettuce Wraps!

steak-salad-lettuce-wraps

“It is never too late to be what you might have been”– George Eliot

Everyone is talking about New Year’s resolutions. Sometimes it sounds like we only list things that we want to stop doing, rather than creating a list of things we should start doing.

The beginning of the year is a good time to take stock of your life and update your goals. I prefer to make goals that can be adjusted or updated as time goes on.. Afterall; life is an ongoing journey where goals help us to navigate toward where or what we want to be.

When you close your eyes and envision yourself as the person that you want to be, what do you see?

Do you see someone who is healthier, more successful, more artistic, more compassionate or someone else? Do you see a musician, a scholar, an athlete, a caring mother or a scientist? If you constantly envision yourself as that person you will start to see the path to get there.

Some of my own goals include being fit, eating healthy foods, being the best person I can be for my family, and being the best photographer for my clients and for my own work.

It all sounds simple, right? It can be, if you break it down into smaller goals within each of the broader goals. These are the goals that you revise or adjust as you move down the path. For example; if I want to eat healthy foods I need to focus on making recipes that will get me there. I need to make it a habit, rather than a sacrifice. No diets, not gimmicks, just delicious, healthy food.

One of the benefits of eating healthy food this time of year is that it counteracts my desire to fill up on heavy comfort foods. I feel better and have no guilt about pairing it with a glass of wine, once in a while.

If I were to call this a diet, it would only last a day or two. Instead, I tell myself this is a lifestyle choice that will keep me healthy. Eating well does not have to be bland and tasteless. This recipe is so rich in flavour from the Hoisin sauce and the cashews and it is simple to make.

Hoisin Beef & Cashew Lettuce Wraps

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 lb. beef tenderloin or top sirloin grilling medallions about 1 inch thick
1/3 cup hoisin sauce plus extra for dipping
1 head boston or green leaf lettuce, washed and leaves left whole
1 red pepper, finely julienned
½ cup green onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked jasmine rice (cook according to package instructions)

Directions:

Add the oil to a grill pan and heat on high. Sear beef on one side, about 2 minutes. Turn over and baste with hoisin sauce. Continue to baste on both sides and cook to medium rare. Remove from heat and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Fill a whole lettuce leaf with a scoop of rice. Top with the red pepper, carrots, green onions, and cashews.

Slice the beef very thinly and add to the lettuce wraps.

Serve with some extra sauce on the side for dipping.

Recipe from Food and Drink Magazine-Early Summer 2014 edition

Roasted Heirloom Carrot and Parsnips Salad- a Great Holiday Side Dish

carrot-salad-roasted-from-above

Oh the holidays!

How do you like to spend your time during the holiday season?

I love to spend a couple of hours curled up on the sofa with a hot drink watching holiday movies.

This afternoon I watched one of my all time favourite movies, Serendipity. I love this heartwarming love story of how John Cusak and Kate Bekinsale try to find each other to see if their love was meant to be. Did you know that this movie was filmed in New York City and Toronto? Those are my 2 favourite cities.

Another movie that I love to watch is The Holiday starring Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet , Jack Black and Eli Wallach, another love story that takes place over the holidays.

What other movies do you like to watch over the holidays?

While growing up we would always watch White Christmas. My sister and I would sing along with Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellan while they did their sister act. I would always get choked up at the end when it started to snow and the whole cast sang White Christmas.

Another less known classic holiday movie is the Bishop’s Wife, starring Loretta Young and Cary Grant who plays an angel who was sent to help her find her way.

Whether you enjoy Home Alone and Christmas Vacation or you are moved by old classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, it is a great way to spend quality time with family.

I have been planning menus for the holiday dinners and found this interesting take on roasted carrots and parsnips. It will make a delicious side dish with some braised short ribs for one of our family dinners.

carrot-salad-roasted-V2

Roasted Heirloom Carrot and Parsnip Salad
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:
3 heirloom carrots, peeled and quartered
3 parsnips, peeled and quartered
2 tbsp. oil
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
2 tbsp. honey
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup bocconcini cheese, sliced into ¼ inch slices
½ cup roasted hazelnuts, halved

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the carrots and parsnips in a baking dish. In a small bowl combine the oil, cumin and honey and pour half of the mixture over the carrots and parsnips.
Cover and cook for 15 minutes, then uncover and cook until the vegetable are tender, 10-15 minutes.
Place the vegetables on serving plates or on a serving platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and hazelnuts and bocconcini cheese. Drizzle the remaining honey mixture over the plate and serve.

Recipe adapted from Donna Hay’s Fast, Fresh and Simple Cookbook

Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup to Warm Your Heart

aparagus-vichysoise-2

For those of you who live in warm climates, I am envious. Canada and the Northeast U.S. has been pummeled with snow for the past few days. Our poor neighbours south of the border in Buffalo, NY had 4 feet of snow fall on them. Yes, you read that correctly, that was 4 feet not 4 inches. It is only November and I am already dreaming of flying to warmer climates. I often wish I could live in Canada during our warm season and New Zealand during theirs. It would be fun to switch hemispheres every 6 months.

Even with the cold, I am starting to get excited about the holidays! My grandson is in kindergarten and has his first school concert next month. The holidays are so much more fun when you see them through the eyes of a child. They still believe in the magic of the season. They believe that if they wish for something, it will come true.

In the spirit of the season I have 3 wishes:

I wish that we could truly have peace on earth.
I wish that those who are less fortunate are able to find warmth and food this winter.
I wish that we could each take time out from our day to do something good for someone else.

If you could have 3 wishes what would they be? If you could help someone this holiday season, what would you do?

To warm up from the weather outside, I made a wonderful version of my favourite soup, Vichyssoise. This is Yotam Ottolenghi’s version from his cookbook called Plenty which adds asparagus for even more dimension. Once you taste this version you may not go back to the original.

aparagus-vichysiosse

Asparagus Vichyssoise Soup

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 leeks
1 pound asparagus
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups organic vegetable stock
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 tbsp. Greek yogurt
Grated zest of ½ lemon

Directions:
Peel the potato and dice, roughly. Chop off and discard the green of the leeks, cut them in half lengthways, wash and slice. Cut off and discard the woody base of the asparagus, then cut into ¾ inch pieces; keep the tips separate. Reserve a few whole spears.
In a big pan, sauté all the vegetables, other than the asparagus tips in butter for four minutes, taking care they don’t colour. Add stock, sugar and a little seasoning, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, lid on, for 40 minutes. Add the asparagus tips and cook for and additional 10 minutes.
Once done puree the soup in a blender until smooth, fold in the cream and half the yogurt, leave to cool to room temperature, then chill. While it’s cooling, bring a pot of water to the boil, blanch the reserved asparagus spears for 30 seconds, drain.
To serve, pour the chilled soup into bowls, add a dollop of yogurt and swirl with the tip of a skewer. Place some blanched asparagus pieces in the centre of the soup and garnish with lemon zest.

Recipe from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Cookin up Some Slow Cooker Love and Beef Stew

beef-stew-101-B

What a great week this has been! I was published in Resource Magazine’s Fall 2014 edition in an article that my friend, Skip Cohen, wrote about me. If you get a chance to read that edition you might enjoy it. The theme for the Fall 2014 edition is food photography. In addition to working on that article, I have been building up my lifestyle portfolio and shooting regularly. I am really grateful that I get to spend time doing something that I love; photography.

I don’t know about you, but another thing that makes me happy is cooking up some comfort food on a cold day. Sometimes I am like a big old bear. As soon as the weather turns cold, I a find myself craving old favourites like stew, chili, or homemade pasta. You would think I am preparing for a long winter of hibernation. With the skating season just beginning I will not be hibernating, but out getting my exercise doing something else that I love. Life is good!

While you are out and about preparing for the holidays, take some time to stop and enjoy a meal with your loved ones. We all get so busy that we lose sight of those around us but those simple times together are the moments that they will remember for years to come.

beef-stew-104

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

3lb.stewing beef
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 yellow waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
2 parsnips, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups sliced mushrooms
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
3 cups beef broth
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

beef-stew-prep

Directions:

Season the beef with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Add the Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onion, garlic, mushrooms, thyme and bay leaf.

Whisk together the beef broth, wine, tomato paste and Worchestershire sauce. Stir the wet mixture into the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 9-10 hours, until beef is tender and vegetables are cooked through. Skim off fat.

Whisk flour in 1/4 cup water until smooth, stir into the slow cooker. Turn the heat to high, cover and cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20-30 minutes.

Remove Bay leaf and thyme sprigs and serve.

beef-stew-102

Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

ricotta-tarts-styled

I walked home from work tonight. It is about 5 km from my office to my apartment so I frequently walk home to get exercise. I love the feeling of solitude that walking gives me. I have time to sort out my thoughts, to make plans and to work through creative ideas. I also have time to get in touch with nature as I walk through parks.

Tonight, as I walked I could not help but feel the splendor of the summer’s evening. There was a slight breeze blowing and the air smelled so sweet. Even though there was traffic and cyclists and runners passing by, I still felt a calmness in the air. I thought about how long we waited for this summer to come. I wanted to grab hold of that feeling and that moment and not let it go. But we cannot capture those precious moments in time. We can only try to record them in our memories and hope they will come again.

That is one of the reasons that I love photography. Every shot records a moment, a feeling, a person, a place, an event or even a sensation or taste. When I look back at photos of trips or events I remember what that day felt like. I recall what was happening and who was there and what we did. It is like the photo triggers the place in my memory where I stored that moment.

I hope that when we share our photographs with others, they are able to feel some of those moments with us.

I also hope that when we share recipes that we love, others will try them and enjoy the flavours that we enjoyed. I am a huge fan of tomatoes and ricotta cheese so when I saw this recipe in the Donna Hay Magazine, I had to make it. The recipe is quite simple and made a delicious lunch for my daughter and I. The ricotta and lemon filling offer a great balance to the fresh cherry tomatoes. The tarts are great served with a side salad or on their own.

Bowl-of-mixed-tomatoes

Tomato, Ricotta and Lemon Tarts

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

500 g ricotta cheese
1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp. finely chopped chives
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 sheets filo (phyllo) pastry
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the ricotta, lemon, parsley, chive, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix to combine.

Place 1 sheet of pastry on a board, brush with olive oil and top with a second sheet pf pastry. Repeat with remaining pastry sheets.

Lightly grease an 8 x 11 inch baking dish.

ricotta-tarts-tray

Cut the stack of filo pastry in half lengthways and into thirds crossways to make 6 squares. Divide the ricotta mixture by spooning 1/6 into each of the pastry squares. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.

Place the tarts in the baking dish, lifting the edges to fit snugly. Brush the pastry with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Serve each tart with tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.

Recipe from Donna Hay Magazine- Issue 73 Feb/Mar 2014

ricotta-tart-on-a-black

 

Avocado and Tangerine Salad after a Walk with Nature

_PMM4253

My mornings are now beginning with a brisk power walk around my neighbourhood. It helps me to clear my mind for the day ahead, to stay in shape, and to connect with nature.

When I was on my walk the other day, I noticed that the gardens were starting to have a beautiful showing of irises and alliums.

_PMM4207

I decided to bring my camera on my walk this morning so I could share some of what I am seeing with you.

_PMM4026

I have always loved flowers, but this year the blooms seem so wonderfully rich and full of colour.

It could be that it just seems that way after a long, cold winter or, perhaps, I am just seeing things differently lately. Sometimes we forget to stop and notice the flowers as we rush around in our busy lives.

_PMM4117

There is something about being surrounded by nature and such beauty that is like food for your soul. No matter what kind of day you are having, it makes you feel good.

_PMM4234

My spring routine also includes some really interesting salads. This combination of avocados and tangerines creates a lovely blend of fresh citrus with the creamy texture of the avocados. The feta and mint add the right amount of punch making it really work well together.

Clementine-salad

Avocado and Tangerine Salad

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:
½ cup tangerine juice
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 avocados, sliced
4 tangerines or clementines, peel, sliced into rounds
6 cups baby arugula
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Simmer tangerine juice in a small saucepan until reduced to about 2 tablespoons, 5-8 minutes. Let cool.
In a medium bowl whisk together shallot, vinegar, reduced tangerine juice; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in vegetable oil and then the olive oil.
Toss avocados, tangerines, arugula, mint and vinaigrette in a large bowl and top with feta.

Recipe adapted from http://www.Epicurious.com

Parsnip, Aged Cheddar and Chard Frittata

eggs-in-a-basket-styled-6845

Parsnip-frittata-veggies

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”
― John Lennon

I was looking at some material online and I came across this quote. It reminded me of this past few weeks and made me smile.

I have been having hard time, lately, and a few of my close friends and family have rallied around to help me through and make sure that I am okay. The great thing about friendship is that a good day with a close friend can have great healing powers.

I spent yesterday with a girlfriend helping her choose a dress for her son’s upcoming wedding. We wandered for hours from shop to shop looking for the exact style and colour. We found a wonderful gown for her to wear and then celebrated over a long lunch on a patio while watching the world go by.

My friend did not need me to help her find the perfect dress, but instead, she knew that having a project would stop me from feeling sorry for myself. I started my day with a mission of helping her. By focusing on someone else’s needs, I forgot my own troubles and had a fun day. It was about the friendship, not the shopping.

I know that keeping busy is good therapy. Whenever I am stressed, I throw myself into a project and the next thing I know is that I am content, again. Maybe it is that sense of accomplishment when you create something that you enjoy.

I also know that good friends are for a lifetime.

I cannot see all of my friends as often as I would like so I am hoping that each of them will make this recipe for their families and friends so we can all celebrate life together. I hope to hear the stories about how you chose to make it and how you enjoyed the flavours.

I am including all of my online friends in this invitation as well. The makes a wonderful brunch for a lazy Sunday either at home or at the cottage.

I hope you enjoy it!

Parsnip-Kale-Cheddar-Frittata

Parsnip, Aged Cheddar and Chard Frittata

Ingredients:

1 onion, finely diced
1 tbsp. (15 mL) olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped ham
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1 bunch of rainbow chard, drained well, leaves removed from stems and chopped
1 red pepper, finely diced
8 eggs
1 cup (250 mL) 18% cooking cream
2 tbsp. (30 mL) Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. (30 mL) fresh thyme, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup (175 mL) Canadian Aged Cheddar, grated

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
In an oven-safe, non-stick pan over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil until softened.
Add the ham, garlic and parsnips, and cook until parsnips soften.
Add the chopped chard leaves and red pepper. Stir to evenly combine and set aside.

Meanwhile, whisk eggs, cream, Dijon mustard and fresh herbs in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Lower the heat, pour egg mixture over vegetables and cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle Cheddar over the top and keep cooking on low heat until edges are just set.

Transfer to oven and cook until centre is set, about 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes, invert onto serving platter and serve.

Cooks Note: You can omit the ham and make this a delicious vegetarian frittata.

Recipe adapted from http://www.dairygoodness.ca

Cherry Blossoms and Green Smoothies-It Must be Spring

cherry-blossoms-in-the-park

There is a wonderful park in the west end of downtown Toronto called High Park. It is an oasis of nature like the Central Park of New York City.

Every spring there is a showing of cherry blossoms in the park. People from all over flock to see them because it is a sure sign of spring.

cherry-blossoms-103

I was really ready for this weekend.

It is a long holiday weekend in Canada to celebrate the birthday of Queen Victoria. To most of us it is the beginning of summer. This is the weekend where many of us plant our gardens and open cottages and summer homes.

cherry-blossoms-on-tree-bark

This morning I headed over to High Park to walk around and enjoy some of nature’s signs that the summer will be hear soon. I love the park for its nature, its birds and the wonderful feeling that you are far from the concrete towers of downtown. The park is filled with runners, cyclists, photographers and families out for a walk.

cherry-blossoms-102

I love seeing the trees in bloom and watching the petals float softly to the ground when the wind catches them. Each of the cherry blossoms is so delicate and beautiful.

cherry-blossoms-101

As a tribute to the season I am featuring another recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook. It is a Green Monster Smoothie made from so many healthy ingredients I almost feel like Super Woman after drinking it. I have never been a much of a smoothie lover, until recently. Now I am trying different variations to see how I can add some important nutrients to my day while drinking something that tastes good.

Green-smoothies

Classic Green Monster Smoothie

Makes 1 -2 cup serving

Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk, or milk of choice
1 ripe banana, peeled and frozen overnight
2 handfuls organic spinach or 1 handful kale leaves, de-stemmed
1 tbsp. chai seeds or ground flax seeds
1 tbsp. almond butter or peanut butter (optional)
2-4 ices cubes
Dash of cinnamon
Protein powder of choice (optional)

Directions:

Starting with the liquid, add in 1 cup of milk. Now add the chai or flax seeds and the nut butter. Next add the spinach and the banana on top. Blend until smooth. Add the ice cubes and blend some more.

Recipe from Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon