Friday, July 29, 2011

Food and family

With the whole family of four home for the summer, I’m finding it difficult to do any writing, even a small blog entry. We are spending the summer enjoying swimming, sunshine, friends and family. So, after five days of visits away from home, we spent last evening at home, enjoying an impromptu dinner with my sister-in-law and her two children. My SIL brought a great chickpea salad, some tofu baked in a gluten-free teriyaki sauce and a green salad. I was in the mood for pasta primavera and I found just the right recipe here.

The wealth of recipes on the Internet almost makes cookbooks obsolete. (I said almost—I have a genetic predisposition to the love of cookbooks.) The recipe calls for farfalle pasta and parmesan cheese, but my SIL requires wheat and dairy-free, so I made half with farfalle and parmesan and half with kamut noodles and vegan parmesan. The recipe asks you to bake all of the veggies first, and then add them to the pasta, so using two types of pasta was simple. We also had rapini sauteed in olive oil and garlic, because I am addicted to rapini. We followed it all up with some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies from Vegetarian Times magazine. I used spelt flour instead of white and margarine instead of shortening and they turned out to be delicious.

Do you find it hard to focus on work in summer?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Books, books and more books

Every time I drink lemonade, it brings me back to my childhood, and the experience of reading an old children’s book while drinking a tall glass of lemonade (of the frozen variety, of course). I used to love reading books that had belonged to my mother, like a 1939 copy of Tale of the Witch Doll and a 1944 copy of the twenty-first Nancy Drew story, The Secret in the Old Attic. These stories were made all the more mysterious to me by the thick, yellowed pages of these well aged editions. I suppose this is part of the reason that I now have a bit of an obsession with buying books. This summer I have already been to a bookstore sidewalk sale (twice in two days) and a library fundraising sale. With prices ranging from 50 cents to one dollar, I greedily filled boxes with recent bestsellers, classics and non-fiction on topics ranging from decorating to dog training.

There are few pairings more satisfying than summer and a good book. “Summer is the season for reading,” notes the jacket of The Penguin Book of Summer Stories. “Whether lying on the beach or curled up in a chair on the veranda, on a plane to faraway places or taking in the view from a hotel balcony, reading is the most decadent of summer activities.”

The only problem is I have so many books, I don’t know what to read next. Any ideas? I’d like to hear what you all are reading this summer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Strawberry Fields

My mom says my siblings and I only remember the bad things about our childhoods. It’s true that we have often focused on the negative, but I also have many fond memories, particularly of summer—family camping trips in our tent and later in our pop-up trailer, car trips to Nova Scotia and, of course, strawberry picking expeditions. Hubby and I carry on those traditions with our kids because I know that they too will remember them fondly one day, and maybe think mom and dad did one or two things right. So, last week, we packed the kids kicking and screaming into the car and travelled to Spring View Farms in Uxbridge, Ontario to take advantage of the oh-so-brief strawberry season. Despite my dear son’s reluctance to make the trip, he was transformed as soon as we arrived. He enthusiastically sampled the two varieties of strawberries, proclaimed one a favourite and began filling his basket. We came home with seven litres of hand-picked chemical-free strawberries.

The question then became what to do with all of those strawberries. I was determined not to let a single one go to waste. I was also determined not to put in a huge amount of effort. I began by making simple strawberry jam in my bread maker. It takes much less sugar than regular recipes and lasts three weeks in the fridge. I went on to make strawberry sorbet in my new Hamilton Beach ice cream maker. This I served with Tal Ronnen’s delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. You might recall that he was Oprah’s chef during her 21-day vegan cleanse. You can find the recipe, which is definitely one of his easier ones, at Ronnen suggests pairing the cake with berry sorbet. At first I thought it was a strange combination, but my family loved the yummy peanut butter cake with the sweet sorbet. I also froze a bunch of strawberries to use for smoothies on those early mornings when we don’t quite feel like eating yet. Of course, I also left some strawberries in the fridge for plain old eatin’. Once, when I was up in my bedroom trying to get in a few moments of reading, I heard the fridge open and close about ten times, as my son grabbed one or two strawberries at a time and ate them (unwashed of course).
Next up, raspberries.

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