July 31, 2011

Fusilli Pasta

This post started out with the idea that I’d write about how great zucchini is and the recipe I have for pasta with zucchini and herbs. When it was done I soon realized I had already posted the recipe. Well, zucchini is great and sometimes I don’t know what to do with it. The green is so deep and textured while the yellow is so sunny and warm. With them in season the mild flavour makes you forget about the foreign imposters available mid-winter.

I made the dish again recently because with its light dressing acting as a sauce it’s a nice dish for a warm evening. And I don’t doubt it would be tasty cold for those sweltering days. However, it can be hard finding a nice fusilli that doesn’t fall apart when it’s cooked. La Veneziane makes a great fusilli and recently I found Divella at La Bottega in the Market.

Unable to resist a gluten-free product, especially pasta, I picked it up. Like others on myfavourite products page, it holds up nicely. It keeps it shape and can support vegetables and a sauce. The bag is reasonably priced and easy to find in the Ottawa area (the Nicastro stores are affiliated with La Bottega so check out their gf pasta choices too).

July 17, 2011

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa

Visiting the market this morning was another reminder why I love summer. There’s the sunshine and my garden in bloom. I love the warmth, albeit, today’s humidity is a little much. But the markets make me smile like the sunshine can’t. I need to restrain myself otherwise I’ll come home with too much and end up feeding the composter instead of me.

There is such a variety of colour -- the radishes, beans, beets, peppers, tomatoes, peas, squash, and of course berries. It’s berry season and I couldn’t resist bringing home a big basket of both strawberries and raspberries. They are washed and ready to go, but alas, I don’t want to put the oven on with it being 33°out (39 with the humidity – oh, Ottawa in summer!!!).

Thank goodness for BBQs and this summer our new little guy (no six-burner BBQ for us thanks!) is getting lots of action. Vegetables are usually on one side, grilling away with some light marinade or just salt and pepper. Tossing it with quinoa rounds it out to a nice meal for a hot summer day. Plus, with all the potlucks, BBQs and picnics happening, it travels perfectly without getting soggy. Another perk with summer: you can substitute or switch up the vegetables to your liking or what is in season at the moment.

Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa (original recipe was in Metro in early June)
1 lb asparagus, chopped
1 pepper, seeded and chopped
2 small zuchinni, chopped
Salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil
1  1/3 cup cooked quinoa
1/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tsp lemon zest
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp honey
¾ cup feta cheese (optional)
¼ cup each fresh chopped chives and dill
¼ pine nuts
Toss together all the vegetables with 1 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper. Place vegetable in a foil tray and grill over medium heat, turning occasionally. Let cool. Cook quinoa and need end of cooking time toss in the sundried tomatoes. Place in a serving bowl and mix in vegetables. In a bowl, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, honey, and remaining oil. Pour over quinoa and vegetables and mix. Add in herbs, feta and nuts. Toss and serve.

**Quinoa is so easy to make, just treat it like rice. 1 cup quinoa to 2 cups boiling water. Want to add extra flavour? Add half a gf stock cube.

July 15, 2011

Going Looney

Those lovely ladies of Looneyspoons fame have a line of frozen foods that are not only supposed to be healthy, but taste good too. My sister has tried many of them with great feedback, but I had never seen any of their products in the stores. That is until last summer.

My little Metro has a stash once in a while of Janet & Greta’s Perfect Portion patties. They are a little pricey, so I stock up when they go on sale. The added bonus: they are gluten free. Of course, meat patties should be gluten free, but they aren’t always. For the recent last weekend I was stuck looking at box after box. My grocery trip had to be left until the last minute since I wasn’t going to be home until late and my groceries couldn’t be left in a hot car. Getting more annoyed by the box, I just wished for those fresh patties from the meat counter. Just plain meat was all I wanted and the meat counter was practically empty! I digress.

These chicken patties are perfect for the BBQ and come in two types: roasted vegetable, and bean, corn and cilantro. The latter are my favourites. During the winter months they just weren’t the same. Maybe they need fire and sunshine.

I’ve never mourned the loss of the burger bun from my plate. Instead of the bread I dress up the patty with some vegetables or some sort of dip like humus or guacamole. Mustard is my favourite condiment so sometimes nice and simple is good too.

With BBQ season in full swing I need to track some more of these patties down.

July 11, 2011

Mary’s Gone Crackers

(No mom, this isn’t about you)

With some of this hot humid weather hanging around light lunches and dinners become more common. Sometimes I’ll pull out some cheese and crackers and that will suffice. It isn’t anything out of this world – just cheese and crackers. But get the right cheese and crackers and it can be out of this world.

My sister once told me that if I had been a vegan instead of a vegetarian, I probably would have weighed 15 lbs less. I wasn’t insulted. I love a good cheese and I knew it was a reason extra pounds hung around. Going gluten free provides a challenge in finding those good crackers. Sorry, those rice things at the grocery store remind me of plastic – in appearance and taste – and never surface in my home. And sometimes you find a great gf cracker, but then it disappears.

Then there’s Mary’s Gone Crackers.

These little rounds are the perfect two-bite cracker (one if you feel like shovelling it in) and are full of flavour. There are many flavours – herb, black pepper, caraway, and original. They can be found not just at the health food store like Rainbow Foods or the Natural Pantry, but also at the regular grocery store and Shoppers Drug Mart (of all places!). A colleague years ago ate them almost every day. That’s how much she loved them. And they are good. They are nice with some cheese or scooping up some dip – they don’t break that easily – which can be really nice.

For me, the crackers are the best of Mary’s product line. I’ve tried the twigs and cookies, and I’m not a fan. But the crackers… yummy.

July 9, 2011

Balsamic & Blue Cheese Steak

Since bringing meat into my diet I’ve had fun experimenting and trying new things. Trusted magazines have dog-eared pages and some cookbooks have post-its on recipes to try. One thing I do like is steak and if it’s done properly, it’s heavenly.

Steak isn’t cheap so I took the time to figure out how to do it right. Of course that doesn’t always guarantee good results. A recent purchase at a grocery store turned out to be the worst cuts and unfortunately, the worst tasting things (it reminded me of chewing on a rubber band). The Honey was surprised by how upset I got – it was a waste of money and a waste of meat. Neither is acceptable.

Want a great steak? Try a balsamic marinade with blue cheese*; it’s easy to prepare. Not a fan of blue cheese? Try other cheeses and experiment (the honey had a nice cheddar on his).

*Blue cheese is acceptable under CCA guidelines as it contains less than 20ppm. However, if you’re ultra sensitive, follow your gut and try a different cheese.

Balsamic & Blue Cheese Steak (from Style at Home December 2010)

Combine 2 tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 tbs olive oil, 2 tsp mustard, salt and pepper. Pour over two rib-eye steaks and set aside for 10 minutes. Cook in a hot frying pan for 4-5 minutes per side. Top with blue cheese and serve. Perfect with salad on the side.

July 5, 2011

Fit for Royalty

One of the perks of teaching private students is that they are often up for anything, even hanging out in unexpected places. The student I’ve been teaching since March is no exception and sometimes she even makes the suggestions.
Thursday was our last class together before she takes time off for a holiday and I take time off to work with the summer program at another school. With Canada Day falling on a Friday this year it was going to be a great long weekend. We were both looking forward to relaxing.
For the afternoon my student suggested going to the market as she wanted to pick up some strawberries. Strawberry season is finally here and they are so tasty. It seems like neither one of us can get enough.

Two other people had also arrived in our fine city Thursday – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. I couldn’t resist asking my student to make a stop on the way back. She knows I’m a monarchist and we had talked about their wedding and upcoming tour in our lessons. I was relieved she agreed to go.
After our tour of the market vendors and a break for an iced coffee we ventured back to the war memorial. We weren’t the only ones and as expected, we didn’t see much. Thank goodness for digital cameras and a good zoom lenses because we got to see them via my camera. Although we had to wait a while, it wasn’t a total loss. We talked a bit about our summer plans and my student practised her listening skills in overhearing other people’s conversations (which gave us more topics of discussion, and at times, roll our eyes).

My lineage is far from royalty, especially with my mixed breeding, but it doesn’t mean I can’t feel like one of them. A fabulous tart can make you feel like royalty. Grab a group of friends, make some tea or enjoy a glass of something sweet, and serve up a nice strawberry rhubarb streusel tart.

Strawberry Rhubarb Streusel Tart          30 minutes to make
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup  GF flour mix
4 cups sliced rhubarb
2 cups sliced strawberries
1-10” pie/tart shell (or individual tart shells)
½ cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
¼ cup butter
Combine sugar, flour, rhubarb and strawberries. Spoon into pie shell. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until it is a crumbly texture. Sprinkle on top of pie. Place in the bottom third of oven and bake for 15 minutes at 350°. Serve warm or cold.

Traditional Pie Crust  (makes 1-8/9” pie crust or 1-10” tart crust)  (from A. Roberts)
1 cup plus 2 tbs flour mix
2 tbs sweet rice flour
1 tbs granulated sugar (omit if making a savoury filling)
½ tsp guar gum
¼ tsp salt
6 tbs butter
1 egg
2 tsp orange or lemon juice
Mix flours, guar gum, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and mix until crumbly. Add egg and juice and mix until dough holds together (it shouldn’t be sticky). Roll out to preferred shape and size.