Thursday, 15 January 2015

Vegan African Peanut Stew

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Breaking news internet world: Target is withdrawing from Canada. Here are 3 reasons why this is good, 3 reasons why this is bad, and 1 reason why I'm even mentioning it.

The good:

  • Support local businesses! Shopping local diversifies our products (so we don't all have the same everything like those creepy GAP commercials from the '90s) and helps humans support themselves who actually live in our communities.
  • Serves 'em right! 133 new stores in less than 18 months. Are you cah-razy!?!? No one should expand into a new market that quickly. It was cocky and now you've lost a billion dollars. 
  • I'm just not a fan of the big box world. So there.
The bad:
  • Where the crap am I going to get a half decent sports bra and a cute bathing suit for less than $20!?
  • This whole debacle just made me mention my bra... I'm sorry. It was probably weird.
  • So long cheap peanut butter
  • *note there are also approximately 17,000 jobs disappearing, this also bad. Right up there with the sports bra and peanut butter.
Why I'm even mentioning it:
  • The peanut butter. It gets consumed quickly in this household, and is a key ingredient in my new favourite meal - African Peanut Stew. And now I have to buy it at a regular priced store!?

I have been wanting to make this recipe for years. About 5 years, in fact. It was first and only other time I've eaten it, a friend shared some she had made and I thought it was the most delicious stew I'd ever tasted. Mostly because it doesn't really taste like stew. I don't have anything against stew, but it doesn't feature sweet potatoes and collard greens and peanut butter like this one does, so it obviously wins hands down.

I always had the notion that it would be difficult to make with lots of ingredients that I probably didn't have in my already fairly well stocked pantry. So every few months I would see some peanuts and think, hmmm I should make that stew. And then I wouldn't because I'd be concerned about the effort and the ingredients.

I'm laughing at my old self now because oh-boy-oh-boy is this a snap! It uses totally normal ingredients and it's really simple. It is also hearty and fresh and a touch sweet and savoury and just so, soooooo good.

Go stock up on peanut butter before all the Targets close and then make this!

Keep reading for the recipe!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Another Year Gone By

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Image source 
Happiest of New Years to you all!

So I didn't quite get to posting in between my two trips like I had hoped, but that's only because I was too busy rolling around in holiday spirit and enjoying time with loved ones, just as it should be.

As it's time for another (another!?) new year, I can't help but think about the amazing one that just passed. 2014 was a big year. I got married (woop!), watched friends get married, moved back to Canada, travelled to Burma, Nepal, around China, Chicago, France, Bahrain and Cuba, had an existential crisis when I thought I'd never find work, found work, made friends, and learned to make my own lip gloss. It was big guys. And almost all of it was amazing. I'm a very lucky human.

There have been times in my life where I have managed to recognize the feeling of pure and simple happiness. Times when I think "this is it". I often race through experiences without taking the time to pay attention to how I feel and just assume that if I don't feel bad/sad/mad, I must feel good or happy. And I probably am most of the time. I'm a very optimistic person. However sometimes, I know that "this" is happiness, and I love those times because they make me smile without realizing and they often sneak up when you're not even paying attention.

In the past year I have felt that feeling:
  • On my wedding day - this is a time when I was paying attention. This may seem like an obvious one, but I was very conscious of the time speeding by and so I tried as hard as possible to reflect on the feeling as it was happening
  • Sitting on a catamaran in the sun in Cuba - the whole trip was a blast, but right then it was simple and awesome
  • Sitting on a noisy, dusty, bumpy, sweaty, colourful, and crowded bus in Nepal listening to my students totally let go and belt out every imaginable, safe-for-work, top 40 song in existence. 
  • Waking up to find my cat curled up on my belly snoring away
  • Drinking mimosas with my family
  • Lounging in a friend's backyard after recently returning from China
Perhaps there were more, but these are the ones I can remember most from the last year, and I feel pretty darn lucky for it.

Over the last year you dear readers have really been into this hiking trip to Hong Kong and this guide to packing light, this classic Mac & Cheese, two ginger drinks in the form of this Elderflower Lime Refresher and this Ginger Beer Cocktail, and these Pumpkin and Carrot Muffins.  I thank you for your interest in these things and I hope you continue to find items of interest on this space - my goal is to offer things of delight, but I'll settle for mild curiosity if I must. I'm hoping that over the next year, with the start of this new job and continued settling in to Toronto that things will only go up for this little blog, but who really knows. As long as I've got adventures, I'm good - and I hope you are too.

So until next time, have a happy new year!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Leek and Spinach Quiche with Sweet Potato "Crust"

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Well friends the day has come - I've found employment again. A "huzzah!" is definitely in order, along with a quiche and a vacation or two. That's how everyone celebrates, right?

Truthfully the trips were planned and booked long ago, but my new workplace has been flexible enough to let me start after the new year, which makes me an even happier camper. So for the next week I'll be celebrating an early Christmas with family (and not posting to this wee blog) before returning, celebrating on actual Christmas with more family (and hopefully posting on this wee blog),  and then escaping winter with some of my closest friends to ring in the New Year and several 30th birthdays in Cuba (again, not posting on this wee blog). It's going to be jam-packed and I can't wait!

As it always seems to be with birthdays and holiday parties, home cooking has been scarce and indulgence has been plentiful. Add on to that the cold weather desire for comfort foods and, well, you have a not so healthy redhead. One way of combating this was to create some comfort food with a healthier spin. Enter the sweet potato "crust".

This is simply just sliced sweet potatoes lined in a pie plate and baked before topping it with a more traditional quiche filling. Don't get me wrong, I love an all butter crust as much as the next gal, but sometimes you just need to make delicious, delicious sacrifices. I was worried the potatoes wouldn't hold together well enough and would just slop all over my plate, but just enough of the egg mixture settled in between the nooks and crannies to hold it all in and a perfect slice was formed.

Best served when in need of a lightened up version of a traditionally rich food, and versatile to the max! The filling can be any combination of flavours you dream up, and to lighten it up more you can omit cheese all together (I was not willing to make that sacrifice).

Well, off I go! Have a happy week and I'll see you on the flip side!

Keep reading for the recipe!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mushroom and Kale Phyllo Roll

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I'm not sure if you've heard, but December is sort of a busy month. Not only do we have the usual holiday shenanigans, but mine also happens to be chock full of birthdays. And to top it all off, I just happen to be of that age where friends are starting to have a certain significant birthday, which means extra effort seems to be going into the fun having. You'll find absolutely no complaints here, but I feel like I've been out every night for a month. So after what seems like endless celebrations, and more to come, a home cooked meal is just what we needed. 

Packed with mushrooms and kale, this phyllo roll is all kinds of earthy goodness wrapped up in a flaky, crispy shell. The combination is savoury, the pastry adds a light and airy undertone and just a touch of cheddar adds a welcome richnesses without going overboard. All in all, I'd say this is a keeper.

This meal came together pretty quickly which makes it a great weeknight option when you're short on time - but the outcome feels (and tastes) like it would be a great option for when guests are on their way. So whether it's for your next meatless monday (or tuesday!), or you're hosting for a crowd, I think I've got just the thing you need.

Keep reading for the recipe!

Mushroom and Kale Phyllo Roll
adapted from Oh She Glows

7 sheets Phyllo dough, thaw according to package directions
1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil - for brushing each layer of pastry
16 oz sliced white or crimini mushrooms
1 leek, chopped (I used mostly the greens and it yielded about 1 1/4 cups)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch kale leaves with stems removed, chopped
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Thaw Phyllo dough according to package directions
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper
  3. In a large skillet, cook the mushrooms until the water has released and evaporated, about 10 minutes
  4. Add in the garlic, oil, leek, and kale. Cook for another 5 minutes on and add salt and pepper to taste 
  5. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese
  6. While the mushrooms are cooking down, place 1 sheet of Phyllo dough onto prepared baking sheet and brush on a thin layer of oil. Repeat for all layers.
  7. spread the mushroom filling lengthwise, fold in the edges, and then roll into a log. 
  8. Brush log with a final layer of oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. 
  9. Enjoy!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Lavender Shortbread

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Sometimes you want to feel just a little bit fancy. So you put on some lipstick, or curl your hair, or drink your tea from fine china, or put lavender in your shortbread...

I guess that's how I was feeling recently, because I definitely put lavender in my shortbread, and I wish I'd done it sooner.

When we were in China, Christmas baking was near non-existent so this year I want to crank it up a notch. I've got a couple things hiding in the freezer already (much to Other Half's chagrin... sharing isn't really his thing when it comes to baked goods) including this shortbread, and a few more in my brain waiting to make it to the oven.

People often ask if we're glad to be back in Canada, the answer is a resounding yes, but it's the little things like Christmas baking that really bring the point home for me. *let's out deep sigh of contentment*

This shortbread turned out to be subtly sweet and floral and would be perfect dunked into a cup of tea or even hot chocolate (for an extra indulgent treat). I think it would also be amazing with any dried herb/flower/tea of choice. Chai shortbread!? ummm yes! Or perhaps cocoa-mint is more your speed? Or rosemary? Or earl grey? Or, or, or!? The possibilities really are endless here. I can't recommend some good old fashioned experimentation enough. If nothing else, at least you'll feel a little bit fancy!

Keep reading for the recipe!


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