After a long string of unrelated career choices in my early youth, including a detective (ages 8-10), a freelance spy/mercenary who resembled the comic book hero Punisher (ages 10-11), a professional baseball player/owner of baseball card store (age 11), a writer of paranormal fiction (age 12), I finally decided on horticulture (ages 13-18). I was obsessed with plants. I filled my dad’s house with so many potted plants that the windows would fog up. I couldn’t eat a fruit without planting its seeds, or enjoy an avocado without removing the pit and placing it in a glass of water to entice its roots to grow. Our kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory and windowsills became expensive real estate.
Looking back, it was a little eccentric that I spent several minutes each day breathing on each houseplant, to give them more air; or that I flipped yearningly through plant books while my friends were reading Batman comics or Playboys. I knew the Latin name for every potted plant and became irritatingly pedantic when visiting friends, if I came across a neglected or ill specimen. Nitrogen deficiency, I would say; or don’t give this guy a south facing window – shade is preferable; or, your fern needs watering (with a condemning scowl). I didn’t get invited out much.
During my last year of high school I was given a shiitake log by someone who knew of my love of growing things. These logs are pretty remarkable if you’ve never seen one before. It is a small log that has been coated, I’m guessing, by spores from this delicious fungi. After a few weeks sitting in a cool damp place, mushrooms begin to grow on and off for several months. I hadn’t really been a huge lover of fungi until then, but there is something wonderfully meaty and exotic with shiitake. Ranging anywhere from $4 to $8 a pound, I don’t often buy these expensive ingredients; although they are always a welcome treat in my kitchen, especially in this ginger-shiitake glaze paired with salmon which I know you’ll love.
I spent this weekend on Saltspring Island visiting my folks and playing with their new Suffolk lambs that were born last week. Lambs are very docile within the first few weeks, letting themselves be picked up and cuddled; but they’re voraciously hungry, nibbling on clothing, shoelaces, an extended finger, or the dog’s tail. Thankfully, my mom’s sheep are for wool only, not for serving with mint sauce. She would just as soon make a stew from her Golden Doodle than send her sheep down the Green Mile.
My sister has been sick for a few days, so my mom proposed a cooking marathon on Sunday to prepare some healthy food to bring over. Cooking there is always a pleasure, except when baking is involved; my mom’s Aga stove, with its many compartments of varying temperatures, perplexes me and thwarts any attempt to adhere to standard cooking times. She has an immense, well-lit kitchen with ample counter space and breath-taking ocean views. Every few hours a ferry will trod past, weaving in and out of the Gulf Islands, or a pair of eagles will careen in the wind as they eye up waterfowl.
Aga stove: each compartment is a different temperature which I still can't figure out
This healthy and tasty meal has loose ties to a recipe my mom found in the Flat Belly Diet book that’s she’s been carrying around like a holy text. She’s been on a fitness kick for the past few months and has been very proud of the results. The epitome of modest, when someone comes to visit she’ll say something like “Feel my arms,” as she flexes her biceps and scowls. “The beach is that way.”
We’ve added the yogourt here, for a healthier alternative to coconut milk, and the pineapple gives the dish a surprisingly sweet taste that compliments the heat of the curry. Enjoy!
This recipe was a bit of an adventure for me. A local bakery makes absolutely out-of-this-world fruit and flax seed scones which I make a daily pilgrimage (albeit, a short one) to buy every day. I am obsessed. They are not like a typical scone – they are dense and brimming with healthy goodness (or, that is what I tell myself when I eat one every day without fail).
Regardless, this is my attempt to reverse-engineer (I’ve always wanted to say I was reverse-engineering something) these fantastic scones. Feel free to suggest any changes you make to it that work for you! I would love to evolve it further, but am pretty pleased with how these turned out for a first attempt. These have lots of energy-rich ingredients, and are great for a healthy, filling snack in the middle of the day. Enjoy with full-bodied black tea for best results 🙂
I picked up butternut squash last week with the intention of making homemade squash ravioli, but recovering from a busy work week and a rainy Saturday, I opted for something a little less ambitious to prepare – Butternut Squash Soup. This tasty soup with its hint of cumin warms up the insides on a winter’s day and also makes for a quick, healthy lunch during the week ahead. No roast beef sandwiches for at least three days!
There are a lot of squash soup recipes available online, but I find the taste of most of these sometimes too bland for my liking. In the past I’ve added apple sauce to my soup, though here I’ve chosen to go with apple cider vinegar and carrots instead, for that same subtle sweetness. I also roasted the squash beforehand with oil, cumin, cayenne and fresh thyme, for extra flavour. If you’re like my mom and don’t like cumin you can substitute this with rosemary or sage.
My dad and younger brother picking pumpkins and squash last fall
Freshly-picked butternut squash
Tabouli was one of the first salads I ever ate when I was young. My grandmother, or Sito in Lebanese, always had a heaping bowl of it ready-in-waiting whenever we dropped by, like her tin of Peek Frean cookies that never seemed to deplete in stock. At every holiday dinner or event at the house of a relative, tabouli was also featured on the menu. To a child, the salad represented a colourful and visually appealing ensemble of greens and reds; as an adult, it is a healthy and tasty alternative to other side dishes.
Every weekend I now make a bowl-ful of tabouli that lasts me for several lunches and dinners during the week; and although it’s probably getting old and tiresome, I typically bring tabouli to every potluck I’m invited to. It’s different that the usual potato salad or nanaimo bars that I used to bring, and is just so easy to make – 15 minutes…and voila!
Note that there are many different ways to make this salad – each time is usually different for me depending on what I have in the fridge. Continue reading