Warm Spring Salad

strawberries-in-a-bowl

What a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather is beautiful and we have 4 days off to enjoy it.

I have been car shopping for the past few weeks and I must say that it is an arduous task. It takes days to compare all of the models and brands and then consult all of the review sites.

Do I buy new or save and buy a few years old?

Do I want a car to move things around or something more sporty?

Do I care about what colour it is?

All of these questions and more have been running through my head, endlessly. It’s driving me crazy!

Since I live in downtown Toronto I could almost get by without a car. There is public transit that will get me anywhere within the city. Then there are the car-by-the-hour places that can supply wheels to go, if I choose to venture further.

I have decided to walk away from the car shopping and the big decision, for a while. I will take my new bicycle for a ride. I will turn off the computer and get outside to enjoy the sun.

I hope you are all enjoying this wonderful season and that you are having a great weekend!

asparagus-on-marble

On holiday weekend like this, it is easy to over indulge on sweets and heavy foods so I try to serve healthy side dishes to my meals.

I am featuring a vegan recipe that is simple to make, beautiful to look at and delightful to eat.

I found this recipe on a local vegan blog called Oh She Glows. I modified it by blanching the asparagus and adding sugar snap peas which are also blanched. I love how blanching brings out the rich green colour while leaving a bit of a crunch in the vegetables.

The salad would be great as a side dish or as a main dish. Either way, it is delicious and healthy,

summer-salad

Warm Spring Salad

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 leak, sliced into rounds or half moons
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch asparagus, ends broken off and chopped in to 1-inch pieces
1 cup sliced strawberries
¾ cup sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ tbsp. pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper
Lemon zest for garnish, optional

Directions:
Cook quinoa according to the instructions on the package. Fluff with a fork, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
Blanch the snap peas and asparagus in separate batches by inserting them in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, sate leeks and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the asparagus and snap peas and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the parsley and strawberries. Heat for 1- 2 minutes and remove from the heat.

summer-salad-saute

Whisk together the dressing ingredients (olive oil, lemon juice, maple syrup, ¼ tsp. sea salt). Pour dressing over the cooked quinoa.
In a large bowl, toss the quinoa and the skillet mixture together. Can be served warm or cooled.

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

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Crisp Lemon Snap Pea Salad

lemon-quinoa-salad

This has been an eventful week. My blog had its 10,000th visitor, and I launched my new photography website.

I also attended a wedding and sadly, a funeral.

The wedding made me remember that love comes along when you least expect it. My nephew and his wife met while traveling in New Zealand. He is from Canada and she is from Germany. They met by chance, fell in love and have been together ever since. They are one of those couples that you just know by looking at them, they are madly in love. I wish them both a lifetime of joy and happiness.

The funeral was for a man who died before his time. He was a great father, a wonderful coach, and a great husband.  He had an endless passion for living and helping others. While I watched hundreds of people pay their respects to this unique individual it made me wonder. What will people remember about me when my time comes?

We all need to put our lives in perspective, now and again.

Nobody is remembered for the long hours that they worked or the things they did not do. They are remembered for their contributions to the world and their relationships with their family and friends. I admit that I have been guilty of not balancing my life, in the past.

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”

Mark Twain

Now I am pursuing my passions with great enthusiasm. I am soaking up knowledge like a sponge and trying new things, every day. I love writing my blog. I have learned so much on this journey. I love my family and my friends, and the wonderful man in my life.

I have a passion that I have been feeding for years. Every time I pick up my camera and shoot a few shots of a special place, a person, a wonderful recipe or a beautiful flower, I feel alive. Whenever life gets me down I focus on photography and find my inspiration. I don’t know what I would do without having this creative outlet in my life.

Another one of my passions is cooking. I found this recipe for Crisp Lemon Snap Peas Salad and thought it would be perfect for this time of year when the sugar snap peas are in season. When they are fresh from the farm they taste sweet and crisp. The original recipe called for raw mushrooms but I decided to saute them to bring out their rich flavour.

Crisp Lemon Snap Pea Salad

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) water
1 cup (250 ml) quinoa
2 cups (500 ml) fresh sweet snap peas cut in half, diagonally
1 ½ cups (375 ml) brown mushrooms sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup (75 ml) thinly sliced red onion cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths
1 tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup (75 ml) white balsamic vinegar
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 tsp. (5 ml) grated lemon zest
1 tbsp. (15 ml) lemon juice
1 tsp. (5 ml) pure maple syrup

Directions :

Combine water and quinoa in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool completely.

Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, cook until lightly browned, stirring as needed. Set aside.

Combine the peas, mushrooms, red onion and the dill in a medium bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, remaining ¼ cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and maple syrup. Pour over the cooled quinoa in the saucepan and stir until evenly dispersed. Add the vegetable mixture, toss and serve.

Recipe adapted from Quinoa Revolution by Patricia Green & Carolyn Hemming

Farmer’s Market Pappardelle

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be”-Douglas Adams

It is amazing how we can go through life trying to find the path that we are supposed to take. We try heading down one road and then decide to turn down another to see where it leads. For some of us it leads to a place where we feel at home. For others it leads to a place where we feel uncomfortable and then we know we need to take a different path at the next fork in the road.

I have had my share of discomfort in my life, but the path that I am on now is leading me to a place of growth. Each day I am challenging myself a little more with my fitness routine and in my personal life. I have always been a lifelong learner and have loved to explore the world. Recently I have added physical training to my education. Each day I feel healthier, stronger and more in control of my life than I have in years. I also find that my mind is clear and my creative juices are overflowing.

“You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination that you will ever need.”-Jerry Gilles

I know that I have so much yet to learn and so many challenges yet to face. Instead of being intimidated by this I am finding myself looking forward to each day and each new experience. A friend of mine once told me that I was carrying a bag of rocks on my back that each represented a hurt from that past that I carried with me. The bag was really heavy. He said that I brought my past into my present and let the rocks cloud my judgement. One by one, I am tossing the rocks as I travel down the road.

I can almost relate this journey to the one that Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about in Eat, Pray, Love. Well almost………. I always wondered why she left Italy and stopped eating. I would have stayed in Italy forever sipping espresso in the morning and red wine in the evening and feasting on plates of homemade pasta. I guess I never understood that she needed to experience the rest of the journey in order to find out who she was.

“When your heart speaks, take good notes”-Judith Campbell

There is a lot that I don’t know about life, but I do know that I love to eat. Food is the essence of our lives, it is the centre of our family gatherings and the tradition that we pass on to our children. This Farmer’s Market Pappardelle provides a nice seasonal take on the traditional pasta. The fresh from the market vegetables make this a light, healthy vegetarian meal fit for any dinner party.

Farmers’ Market Pappardelle

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 ½ lb. multi-coloured, multi-sized cherry tomatoes, halved
3 ears corn on the cob shucked
1 ½ lb. medium zucchini
½ cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
9 oz. dried egg pappardelle
¼ lb. sugar snap peas
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
½ cup mint leaves
1/3 cup snipped chives
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for shavings

Directions 

Bring 6-8  quarts of salted water to a boil.

While water is boiling mince and mash garlic to a paste with a ½ teaspoon of salt, then stir together with the vinegar, oil and 1 tsp. salt in a large bowl, Add tomatoes and stir gently. Set aside.

Cook corn in boiling water for 4- 6 minutes, remove with tongs and set aside.

Into a medium bowl, peel lengthwise ribbons from the zucchini with a vegetable peeler, stopping when you come to the seedy core. Turn zucchini a quarter turn and repeat. Repeat until all four sides have been ribboned.

Slice corn off of the cob and add to the tomatoes.

Cook pappardelle until al dente. Just before pasta is done add zucchini and snow peas to the pot and boil for 30 seconds. Drain pasta and vegetable together in a large colander. Add the tomato mixture and onions and toss gently.

Add herbs, toss gently and serve.

Recipe from Gourmet Easy Dinners Magazine

Roasted Potato Salad with Feta and Mint

As I mentioned earlier, I have taken up cycling again. I used to cycle quite often until my last bike rusted out and died. I had such a glorious ride on Saturday so I rushed out Sunday afternoon to hunt for a new bike. I decided to test drive a hybrid bike from my local cycle shop. While riding down a side road the tire got caught in a rut in the road. I went down face first onto the pavement and I ended up with a badly scratched face and 2 black eyes. Thankfully no cars were coming and I did not break any bones.

Thankfully, the bike was not even scratched. I promptly returned it to the store and came home to find an ice pack.

I have spent the last few days explaining my new look to my colleagues at work. It is interesting to see people’s reactions to this. Some immediately thought the worst and assumed that someone had hurt me. Some hardly noticed. I must say that I am more amused by their reactions than by my own.

Now I know you must be thinking that this will make me give up on cycling, but my stubborn Scottish blood won’t let me. Now it has become a challenge that I must take on. I cannot let this get the better of me. I was back out last night hunting for a new bike.  I plan to keep at it although next time I will definitely wear a helmet.

When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”
– Author Unknown

In addition to cycling I am walking, doing a Zumba work out and eating well. I still feel good about my journey in spite of this setback. I plan to report back in a month or two to say that I have reached my personal goal.

During the summer, I like to eat salads and light meals for dinner. This is a quick and easy take on a traditional potato salad. It makes a great week night dinner when you are in a hurry but still want to eat healthy.

Roasted Potato Salad with Feta and Mint

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients
6 fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
sea salt flakes
1 cup frozen peas blanched
1 cup fresh sugar snap peas, blanched
2 oz. feta cut into large slices
6 slices prosciutto
½ cup mint leaves

Dressing
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the potato on a baking sheet and toss with a little olive oil and sea salt.
Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and tender. Set aside to cool slightly. To make the dressing, combine the oil, vinegar and mustard.

To serve, toss the potato, peas and sugar snaps with half of the dressing. Divide the feta, prosciutto, potatoes, peas, sugar snaps and mint leaves between serving plates. Spoon over remaining dressing and serve.

Recipe adapted from Fresh, Fast, Simple by Donna Hay

Roasted Sugar Snap Peas and Tomatoes with Tapenade

I am sitting here watching the Super Bowl game and thinking about getting back to healthy eating. Maybe it is because we eat more junk food on this weekend than on any other during the year. We head out to Super Bowl parties filled with chili, ribs, chicken wings, nachos and endless other delights. We spend hours eating and drinking and cheering on our favourite team with friends and family. Don’t get me wrong; I like NFL football and I always watch the Super Bowl.

I think I am just too full from my weekend outing.

I had a great weekend. I visited my sister in the Niagara escarpment and we cooked for hours and enjoyed tasting some excellent Niagara wines. I love visiting her because she lives in the country so I feel like I am visiting a country inn for the night.

My sister is an accomplished cook with an amazing kitchen. I love to spend time helping her out in the kitchen. I am her sous chef. It is a great bonding time for us.

This dish of Roasted Sugar Snap Peas and Tomatoes with Tapenade is a light option that is great for this time of year, since the ingredients are readily available. It is nice served on its own or as a side to a pork or beef main course. The black olive tapanade adds a rich, salty flavour that compliments the roasted vegetables and pine nuts.

Roasted Sugar Snap Peas and Tomatoes with Tapenade


Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

Kosher Salt
¾ lb. fresh sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ c. assorted-colour cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. fresh thyme
¼ c. tapenade
2 tbsp. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Directions

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the sugar snap peas in the water until slightly cooked, 3-4 minutes. Drain the peas and drop into ice water to cool.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Drain the peas and put into a bowl, toss with 1 tbsp. olive oil, season with salt and pepper and spread out onto a cookie sheet.
Put tomatoes into a medium-sized bowl, toss with the remaining 1 tbsp. olive oil, season with fresh thyme, salt and pepper and add to the cookie sheet.
Roast the peas and tomatoes until the tomatoes start to spit, 7-10 minutes. Slide vegetables onto a serving platter, sprinkle with pine nuts and dot with tapenade.

Serve, with additional tapenade on the side.

Recipe modified from the original found in The Best of Fine Cooking Grilling magazine.