In the blink of the eye, it’s April. What? Where did the time go? I’m quite sure that it was just the other night when I was doing my usual New Year routine…falling asleep wa-aaay before midnight, and here we are, and it’s April already. I think I write this every year. And yet every year, without fail, I can’t fathom how quickly the time passes.
However, I do see the time passing…everyday as I look in the mirror! I see it in my children who are growing up so quickly that they’re not little kids anymore. Even my baby turns 11 this year; him growing up is the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I know that’s how life works but it’s still very hard to get older and watch your children growing up and getting older themselves. I think what’s even harder is when you can remember your youth like it was yesterday.
Ok, enough of this getting older business! I’m just happy that I don’t let my age define me, in my mind, I’m still 21 🙂
So, how about all this spring loveliness? I may be a winter person, but I love when spring finally makes an appearance and everything begins to turn this beautiful green. The shops begin to liven up with spring colours and flavours. I know I’m not the only one who gets excited to see mounds of ruby red rhubarb, stacks of asparagus neatly tied up in bunches, zesty purple tinged spring onions and bulbs of pungent green garlic. The vibrant citrus of winter gives away to the feathery lushness of spring. I love how Mother Nature gives us so much joy every season with a variety of fruits and vegetables and an abundance of happy colours to keep our souls and tummies nourished.
Colorado’s growing season is still a while away. But this is one time I will buy non local because I’m tired of eating winter root vegetables! I need colour, I need freshness, I need variety! The farmers markets are starting up now but are mainly stocked with seedlings and plants. It won’t be till June when we get Colorado produce, and I cannot wait! My local farm stand carries a lot of green house grown produce right now and they are finishing up their fall and winter harvest.
I didn’t realise how much I missed the green until we went to the Pacific Northwest a couple of weeks ago. It was such a difference between grey, snowy Colorado. Spring was in full force and it was really soul lifting to see the vibrant greenery and the colourful bulbs, all in full bloom. The incredibly, fragrant cherry blossoms laid out a snowy carpet under each tree and I came across a couple of heady honeysuckle bushes too and just stood there breathing in the heavy scent.
I was really excited to be visiting that part of the country and looked forward to putting my camera to good use. Yeah….spring in the Pacific Northwest…nothing but rain. Every. Single. Day. All my photos ended up being taken with my iPhone. They’re not bad but not quite the artistic works I was hoping for! I was asked to share some, so here are my excellent iPhone photos. The photos maybe blah, but the experience was wonderful. I really enjoyed my time in a beautiful part of the country.
This salad is a spring take on a winter salad I was making for many of the events at work. It ended up being quite the hit with lots of requests for the recipe. In that particular salad, I was using Farro grain tossed with roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and fresh spinach that was wilted in the heat of the warm salad. The whole salad was tossed in a sweet tart balsamic dressing and lots of fresh, citrusy herbs to liven up the heavy salad. Since winter is over, I have redone the salad with spring vegetables, this can be served warm, room temperature or cold, since these spring vegetables work well in all temperatures. I’m not a fan of raw mushrooms so I always cook mine but feel free to keep them raw if you don’t mind them that way.
It’s a great accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats and you really don’t need anything else. I roasted my harissa chicken and we had this salad along side. Since the grains and greens are all in one, a big pile of salad and some chicken is all that is needed for lunch or dinner.
Serves: 10 servings
- Barley Salad
- 8 oz/250g pearled barley
- 1 lb/500g asparagus
- ½ lb/250g sugar snap peas
- 8 oz/250g mushrooms, sliced
- Young pea shoots or other field greens
- 2 small watermelon radishes
- ¼ cup chives, chopped
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 2 teaspoons oil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup/235ml vinaigrette
- White Balsamic Vinaigrette
- ½ cup/120ml white balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup/120ml extra Virginia olive oil
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
- Salt and pepper
- Start by making the balsamic vinaigrette.
- Add a ½ cup white balsamic vinegar to a medium size bowl.
- Mince or grate the garlic clove with a Microplane, and add to the vinegar.
- Add the honey and mix together until honey has dissolved.
- Add the ½ cup olive oil whisking as you add to emulsify.
- Check for salt and pepper and season to your taste.
- Put aside until the barley is ready.
- Cook the pearled barley according to package instructions.
- You want to cook the barley to the firm side and not too soft as it will be in a salad.
- While the barley is cooking, prep the vegetables.
- Bring a pit of water to boil and once it reaches boiling, add the asparagus.
- Cook the asparagus for about 5 minutes pulling them out while they are still a vibrant green and crunchy.
- Pull them out into a bowl of ice water to cool them down,
- In the same boiling water, blanch the sugar snap peas.
- Once again, cook them briefly, 3 minutes, and pull them out while still green and crunchy into a bowl of ice water.
- Once the asparagus and sugar snap peas are cool, chop them into bite size pieces if desired.
- Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and the sugar snap peas into halves or thirds.
- Sauté the mushrooms in a hot pan with 2 teaspoons oil
- Just lightly brown them to cook out the rawness and get a smoky flavour.
- Keep aside once cooked.
- Once the barley is cooked, drain the excess water if needed and rinse under hot water to get out the starchiness.
- Toss the barley with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette.
- When ready to serve, toss the mushrooms, asparagus, sugar snap peas, pea shoots or field greens and the herbs together.
- Add the remaining vinaigrette, start with ½ cup and add as needed.
- I used all 1 cup since the barley absorbs the liquid.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve warm, room temperature or cold.
One of the great things about these whole grain salads is that the vegetables can easily be swapped out with the seasons. I’m envisioning heirloom tomatoes, copious amounts of mint and basil, grilled squash or even corn for a summer take.
I hope everyone is having a fabulous start to the week. I am off this week so I’m having wonderful time! I am excited to take part in BlueStar training event on Wednesday but what I’m really excited about is getting to visit Uncorked Kitchen
Uncorked Kitchen is a food kitchen in Centennial, Colorado, where events, cooking classes, couples classes, corporate events, take place. Their kitchens are outfitted by BlueStar ranges which are some of the most powerful ones in the market (open burners) I haven’t had an opportunity to play with any of these so I’m thrilled to finally get a chance. I’m also thrilled to be attending Uncorked Kitchen because it opened a few months ago and is having great success. I’ve been wanting to drag my husband to a cooking class but let’s just say, they’re a little pricey. So, on Wednesday, since it is a training class, we’ll be going for free with the other guys and girls from work. Score!
Hello friends! You may or may have noticed that I disappeared. I assure you it was for very good reasons, one of which you can see….the new look! It was time. I’m one of those people who needs a change quite often and with all the issues I was having with my mail delivery, hosting problems, and then just the web traffic issues and basically having no time to work on any of it, I enlisted expert help. Rather than post while the site was being worked on, I thought I would take the time to chill and catch up with some back up posts. That was the plan… Continue reading
Well, we’re in the second week of Ramadan and the fasts are going well. They are long and it’s been really hot here in Denver but we’re managing. The air conditioning has been turned on, I held on as long as I could because I do enjoy the electric bills when the AC and the heat are off. Alas, when the temperature reached 85F/29C on the thermostat, I decided it was time to turn on the cold air!
The fasting is not terribly difficult, really. I can manage without the food but it’s the no water and heat that does one in. We manage though, the rewards of the month make it all tolerable.
Ramadan isn’t all starvation, crabbiness and hardship, we do enjoy some great evenings where we open our fasts with our friends. Last two weekends we’ve been invited to iftar (breaking of the fast) by our close friends and both evenings were incredibly pleasant with good friends, good conversation and good food. I’ll be having them all over this Friday. I happen to be off this weekend for July 4th so it was a good weekend for me, Though once again, when I have a weekend off from cooking, I’m spending the day cooking for even more people! It’s all good. I’m still working on my menu but it will be either Indian or Middle Eastern.
For the last three weeks, I’ve started a new project with the company for whom I do the cooking and product demos. I’ve started “teaching” cooking classes for specific brands, so clients who have purchased a specific brand and would like to know the use and care of their new appliance, can sign up for these classes. Between me, the sales guys and the appliance reps, we teach use and care and I teach the cooking basics for their new range/oven/cook top and so on.
I’ve done 3 classes so far and they have been quite fun. The clients are appreciative and they really enjoy the food! For me the fun part is creating a menu to tailor to the product they’ve purchased and interested in learning about. It’s not as easy as it sounds! I have 2 hours to get the food ready to eat whilst telling them about oven modes or induction technology or range functions. The rep from the company helps a lot by fielding many of the technical questions while I get the food in the oven. At the end of it, they sit down to enjoy the meal that’s prepared in the appliances they have purchased or will purchase. All in all, it’s been a learning experience for me as well. So far, I have done Thermador, Wolf and Dacor classes. The one last week was one for Wolf SubZero and I had 13 people! It turned out to be quite the party. I prepared a full Moroccan themed meal and the guests were in heaven. They all thoroughly enjoyed the food which made me very happy because, since I was fasting, I cooked the entire meal without tasting!
So, that’s what’s been keeping me busy of late. It does take up my time because all the shopping and prep is done by me and I spend an awful lot of time grocery shopping. Seems like I live at either Whole Foods or Specialty Appliance!
This soup, I know it’s the heat of summer and you must think I’m crazy posting a soup recipe but when you’ve been fasting for 17 hours, soup is a great thing to break the fast with. It’s a complete meal and a very nourishing one. This Kale and Meatball Soup is very hearty and filled with rice, kale, beans, chicken broth and meatballs.
I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of soup with a side of sourdough toast. Another thing about fasting is that it tends to shrink your stomach so you don’t eat as much. The soup is a perfect, it’s filling but not overly heavy. It’s quite a light meal which is perfect because as soon as we finish eating, we really are almost ready to go to bed (to get up at 3 am to start our fast again),
Hopefully, for my Southern Hemisphere friends, this is an opportune post and also for the Ramadan fasters. For my friends on this side of the world, just book mark this for winter, it’s really good!
Serves: 10-12 servings
- 1 pound/455g ground beef
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- handful of parsley
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¾ cup brown rice
- 10 cups chicken broth
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, cubed
- 1 bunch kale, chopped
- 1 15oz tin kidney beans
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- squeeze of lemon
- Salt and pepper
- To make the meatballs, mix the finely chopped onions, garlic and parsley together.
- I put all the ingredients for the meatballs in my food processor and whiz until the onion, garlic and parsley are combined with the ground beef, add salt and pepper and mix through.
- Put a thin layer of oil in a fry pan or cast iron pan on medium high heat.
- Drop little balls of meatball mixture into the oil and brown.
- You can shape them in your hands and make them round or just drop rough bits into the oil.
- You can also drop them straight into the broth without frying but I wanted them a little brown so while the soup was simmering I browned up the meatballs.
- Once the meatballs are fried, keep them to the side until the soup is done.
- To make the soup, sauté the onions in a big pot or pressure cooker (the easiest way to make soup)
- in a tablespoon of oil.
- Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and cook a minute.
- Add the tomato paste and cook out the raw taste for a minute.
- Add the rice and coat with the onion tomato mixture.
- Add the broth and bring to a boil.
- If using a pressure cooker, put on the lid and bring up to pressure and cook according to your cooker instructions.
- In my pressure cooker, it takes 15 minutes to cook brown rice, so I set the time for a bit less.
- I cook the rice for 12 minutes and then depressurise and carefully open the cooker.
- I add the turmeric, carrots, celery, potatoes and kale.
- Put the lid back on and bring up to pressure.
- I cook the mixture under pressure for another 4 minutes.
- After 4 minutes, depressurise again and carefully open.
- The vegetables should all be soft.
- If the liquid looks low, add a cup or two of water if needed.
- Add the kidney beans and the meatballs.
- Check for salt and pepper.
- Add a squeeze of lemon to finish.
- If you are not suing a pressure cooker, follow the same order but the brown rice will take about 30 minutes to cook.
- The vegetables will also take another 15 minutes to soften.
- Cook the soup for another 5-10 minutes after the addition of the meatballs and kidney beans.
- The soup will turn out the same but the time will be a bit longer.
So, it’s hot and this is soup, but it looks good doesn’t it? It tasted awesome and just what I needed after a long, tiring fast.
I hope you all had a relaxing weekend and are ready for the week ahead.
Have a great one! I’ll be here, fasting and cooking (without tasting 🙂 )
The past few weeks have been quite tough on the weather front. We were slammed with three consecutive storms that dumped a minimum of 2 feet (60 cm) of snow on us. Temperatures hovering near the 0F mark and 100% humidity just about brought me to a standstill. I can handle snow and cold, and though my bones hurt a little, I’m ok with the dry, cold weather. This snow was wet, heavy and wet. It weighed down the trees and bushes, the branches creaking under the weight of almost 6 inches of slushy snow. The power lines were having a hard time too, and the wind, oh my goodness, the wind chill was quite bone numbing. I pretty much stopped functioning.
This weekend, however, pushed those snowstorms into the distant memory and we had a beautiful Saturday and Sunday. If it wasn’t for the massive pile of snow in my front yard, you’d never know we even had such cold weather. It’s going to be gorgeous all week long, beautiful spring weather.
We took the opportunity of a sunshiny Sunday and headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a few hours. A busy and hectic summer and autumn last year didn’t allow us much mountain time. We love driving up there to escape the summer heat in the city but we just didn’t get much of a chance. Tiring Saturdays and poor weather has stopped us visiting our favourite park in the winter as well. We rectified that this Sunday.
We bundled the younger two into the 4Runner and took the new car on its first mountain drive. The temperature up in the mountain is usually about 20 degrees lower than the city, but we were pleasantly surprised that we could do the hike with just a wind breaker. It was chilly, but the sun was shining so it was quite perfect.
One of our favourite spots in the park is a waterfall, actually more of a water rushing down boulders, but it’s a beautiful spot and in the summer, all the snow melts and the water is fast and furious. Winter time, its covered in snow with water gently trickling by under it. The landscape is so strikingly different come summer and it changes every year. This time around, we couldn’t even recognise it.
It was just so wonderful being out there, in the fresh air, wading through mounds of snow and trying to keep it from sneaking into your boots, and hearing the shrieks echo when it did. There was quite a bit of snow in areas, I would step down and my foot would sink in through at least a foot of snow. I then decided to let the others lead me lest I did myself an injury! I made it through with just a couple of sore knees, ruddy cheeks but an invigorated mind and soul.
This salmon noodle salad will also invigorate you with its fresh flavours, crisp textures and heart, healthy salmon. The flavours are Asian; light and refreshing. Once again, there are no hard and fast rules to this salad. Choose the vegetables you like or prefer and the protein you desire. It can be made vegetarian by replacing the salmon with marinated and grilled tofu, which is what I do for my daughter. It can easily be gluten free if you use a gluten free soy sauce (tamari) for the marinade and dressing.
I used all raw vegetables so throwing the salad together was easy. I used red cabbage, bean sprouts, red peppers, cucumbers, shredded carrots and some pomelo segments, to add a sweet tart citrus burst. This was another dinner to increase our seafood intake. My children like salads so adding a piece of salmon on top was not met with much resistance. Besides the salmon is marinated in some soy sauce and brown sugar and pan grilled. All the sugar gets caramelised and adds a lovely sweet, smoky flavour. Once again, use the vegetables you like but use some with varying textures for some interest. The rice noodles add the soft chewy bite and bulk to the salad.
- Salmon and Marinade
- 6 5oz (145g) wild salmon portions, sustainably caught
- ½ cup/118ml soy sauce or gluten free soy sauce
- ¼ cup/60ml water
- 4-6 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
- Noodle Salad
- 8 oz/225g thin vermicelli rice noodles
- cucumbers, julienned
- carrots, shredded
- red cabbage, shredded
- red bell peppers, julienned
- bean sprouts
- pomelo supremes
- cilantro leaves
- mint leaves
- lime wedges
- sweet chilli sauce
- Soy Lime Dressing
- ½ cup/118ml soy sauce or gluten free soy sauce
- 2-3 limes, juiced
- 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup/60ml water
- sriracha, optional
- Salmon and Marinade
- In a medium bowl, whisk all the marinade ingredients together.
- Start with 4 tablespoons sugar, add more if needed.
- Check to see if the seasoning is right for you.
- Adjust with more sugar.
- You can dilute the saltiness by adding more or less water.
- You want a balanced sweet and salty flavour.
- Add the salmon and marinate for no longer than 15-20 minutes.
- Heat a cast iron large pan preferably, but any non stick will do or even on an outside grill.
- You want the pan fairly hot, add a drop of neutral oil and swirl around.
- Add 3 salmon steaks at a time.
- If you are using the grill outside, you can do all 6 together probably.
- Once the salmon is ready to flip, it will release easily.
- It should be nice and charred brown on top and still a bit soft.
- Cook the salmon to your desired taste.
- I cook it about 5 minutes on one side, and about 3 on the other side.
- It does depend on how thick your salmon is too and whether you like a soft pink centre.
- Once the fish is cooked, repeat with the remaining steaks and keep warm under a tented foil cover.
- Noodle Salad
- While the salmon is marinating, soak your noodles according to package instructions.
- Usually the thin noodles just need to be soaked in room temperature water for about 15 minutes.
- Drain them and toss them in a bit of sesame oil.
- If your vegetables are not prepped, cut them up now and place on a plate.
- Make the dressing by mixing the soy, lime juice, water, and sugar.
- Taste and adjust as needed.
- The dressing should have a nice fresh, lime flavour with saltiness from soy and sweetness from the brown sugar.
- Add sriracha for some heat.
- Once the salmon is cooked, assemble the salad.
- Everyone can assemble their own plates with what vegetables they want and add the salmon on top or you can toss all the vegetables with the rice noodles and scoop out onto plates with the salmon on top.
- Drizzle with the soy lime dressing and sweet chilli sauce.
I hope everyone was able to have a productive weekend. I hope the weather is cooperating in your part of the world. It’s nice here now but that can change in a matter of hours. In the meantime, I will enjoy the sunshine warming my bones.
Before I sign off, I’d just like to take a minute and mention that today, March 10th is the anniversary of my mother’s passing. She has been gone 17 years and to me it still feels like yesterday. She died too soon, she was 52, but I am happy that the cancer didn’t make her suffer. She passed away 3 weeks after being diagnosed. I don’t want to end this on a sad note because that’s not what she was. An incredibly generous, beautiful and much loved lady. I wish I had a photo to share but once again, they are all in Houston. She was a great cook, a great entertainer, a great mother and wife, after all she put up with all of my dad’s crazy food whims. I miss her dearly but know that she would be so proud of this blog. I wish my children had known their grandmother (my mother in-law is not around either) because there is nothing like the love of a grandmother.
Since I mention my mother, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my late brother who passed away on March 14, 1982. He was 7 and died from complications from leukaemia. It’s been so long for him but I remember him clearly and in my memories he’s still the little firecracker he was back then. He was the second youngest of the children and I was 13 when I lost him.
Yes, it’s a bit of a sad end to this post but my faith teaches me to cope with loss and I don’t get sad. I miss them but know they are in a better place. Thank you for thinking of them today. xx