In my world breakfast doesn’t begin until coffee is present and accounted for. More often than not it’s thick, black espresso, lovingly nicknamed “jet fuel” made on the stove top in an old fashioned percolator. If I’m not at home, it’s a coffee shop Americano, but either way I want it to be strong, dark and bold. I don’t add cream or sugar to my coffee, but I do enjoy coffee in sweets like my Coffee and Cream Cake or warm coffee over vanilla bean ice cream for a classic affogato. Bittersweet is a flavor profile I really love. Coffee and cinnamon both fall into this category and I find them quite remarkable together, so these Cinnamon Espresso Oats were a somewhat obvious breakfast hybrid for me. They are simple to prepare – this is barely a recipe – but they make up for it in the complexity of their nuanced flavor. I’ve dressed them up here with some creamy slices of banana and crunchy green pumpkin seeds because I find oats to be at their best when they are part of a textural landscape with a variety of things going on. All alone they can be a bit, well, stodgy, but add a crunchy crisp something or a soft fruit and they get infinitely more exciting.
Summer is by far my favorite season to cook in. Everything is fresh and vibrant and in turn it makes us feel fresh and vibrant too. We just moved house to a beautiful riverside condo and it’s making it easy to get up in the morning and hit the day running. Our views are blue and green and there’s lots to explore and discover. In the early mornings I’ve been watching herons cruising above the river and wading at its edges in the reeds. They are magnificently prehistoric and look almost out of place in these northern climes as if they should be living a lush, tropical lifestyle like an ancient pterodactyl. Don’t we all want a lush tropical lifestyle? Well, the sun is shining and this Tropical Green Smoothie will help get your tastebuds a bit closer to the equator. Happy sipping!
Tropical Green Smoothie
1/4 C frozen pineapple
1/4 C frozen mango
2 handfuls fresh spinach
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 cup coconut milk (I use Silk Coconut)
Blend well in blender until smooth. Serves 2
*tip – leftover smoothie freezes well in an ice cube tray for next time. Just add a few cubes to the blender, top with cold liquid of your choosing and blend.
We’ve talked before about how poorly I keep journals? How I have great intentions and find fresh stationery thrilling, but never follow through? Yeah, seems that I’m the same way with keeping a calendar too. When I’m at work, I live and die by my calendar – I am almost always early for meetings and I faithfully record everything so I’m on time, well prepared and everything is accounted for. As soon as I leave the office, all that goes out the window. Somehow I have managed to be a busy person with lots of ideas, places to be, people to see, all by essentially winging it. How is it possible that I’m ever in the right place at the right time? And possibly more important: What does this have to do with Hollandaise Sauce (and Salmon Eggs Benedict)? (more…)
I’ve been in a bit of a cooking rut. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I really notice it. Cooking is so much fun and is such a great creative outlet, that when I hit a dry spell, it’s rather uncomfortable. Luckily, it feels as though the fog is lifting, and I’m re-invigorating my creative juices and to the relief of those I feed, I’m busting out some new material.
But enough about that. We’ve touched on quinoa here a few times, so let’s talk pilaf. We’ve all been to a wedding or other catered buffet type event and come across a warming tray filled with savoury-looking rice with peas (and possibly tiny cubes of carrot or niblet corn) in it labelled “rice pilaf”. Most commonly made with rice, and most recognizably a Middle Eastern dish (and that label alone encompasses a huge variety of cuisines), pilafs, by many names and variations, are part of a great number of cultures’ menus. At the very simplest, pilaf, is a grain dish, cooked in a flavoured liquid like stock or broth, with added ingredients like nuts, fruit, meat, herbs or vegetables.
The beauty of dishes like this, is that the combinations are endless and the rules for what to use essentially don’t exist. Don’t have dried cherries, but you do have dried cranberries? Use them! Out of red onion, but your garden is over run with scallions? Go for it. No quinoa in the cupboard? Do it with rice instead. Mix and match, play around and devise your own combinations of flavours. Myself, I like to keep the fruit tart and not too sweet and I am a nut for fresh herbs, so I like a lot of basil and mint in this dish. But you may not like fresh mint, you might prefer parsley. And that’s okay. So much of the enjoyment of cooking, and one’s development as a home cook comes from experimentation. With a dish like rice or quinoa pilaf you honestly, can’t go wrong, I promise. Even your “worst” will still be edible. So get to chopping and tasting and stirring and play creatively with this dish. Let me know how it goes in the comment section, I’d love to hear what you come up with, or what you think you might try. Enjoy!
Quinoa Pilaf with Feta
1 C quinoa
1 1/2 C chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 C dry white wine*
8 stalks of asparagus, trimmed and julienned
1/2 a medium sized red onion, thinly sliced and rinced
1/2 C toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 C dried cherries, chopped
3/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
2 small cloves of garlic, minced or grated
grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 C mixed basil and mint leaves, julienned
juice of a lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
*if you don’t wish to use wine, by all means, substitute it with more stock or water.
Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Once boiling, add the quinoa and stir. Reduce the heat to minimum and cook, undisturbed, for 15 minutes.
Remove from heat, stir and move the quinoa to a large bowl. Stir well to help cool the quinoa, then set aside.
Prepare other ingredients and add to the cooled quinoa. Stir well to incorporate everything together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.