Wednesday, June 6, 2012


We're a little behind strawberry season in my neck of the woods - such a cloudy spring we've had. But the sun is breaking through today and I know we aren't far off. So, in preparation for that happy day that the farmstands open up - here are some great, healthy strawberry recipes.
  1. The well-loved spinach, strawberry and goat cheese salad is here, along with a very cool looking strawberry sandwich! Oh and a great looking duck recipe. Check them all out. Eating Well.
  2. Strawberry desserts, all the usual suspects, but most come with a twist in Cooking Light's roundup. Plus a salsa, a pizza and a yummy chicken salad. Cooking Light.
  3. For those of you rocking the point system, Weight Watchers has a great collection of strawberry recipes to help you plan your meals. Weight Watchers Canada.
  4. Heidi Swanson always has great, healthy, interesting recipes. Her take on strawberries - Strawberry Panzanella (bread salad).  Yum. 101 Cookbooks.
  5. Another of Heidi's recipes, Roasted Strawberries, from her cookbook Super Natural Everyday Cooking. via Design Sponge.
  6. Pretty, pretty, pretty. Mark Bittman's Strawberry and Tomato Salad. via Sass & Veracity. And I've got sorrel in my garden just asking to be pruned back. (Note. A prettier addition to the garden than sorrel you will never find. But my husband hates it. So it doesn't get used much.)
  7. If you can find some passable peaches, or if you can wait a bit longer till they are also in season, this Chilled Peach and Strawberry Soup looks outstanding. Cookstr.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Great salads as we get ready for spring

It is darn near the end of February, and I can just about smell spring. Around here, that's not exactly a good thing. My kids have been heard recently retching and gagging when they step outside - "Mom, it smells like POO!" But that's just the smell of thawing farmland in this part of the world and it's a small price to pay for having easy access to locally grown produce. 100 mile diet? How about 5 mile? Still, it is pretty stinky round here.

Now that I have primed your appetite with that little olfactory amuse bouche, who wants some recipes? :-)

Spring makes me thing of salads. While we eat our share of salads through the winter, there is something about the longer days and increasing sunshine that makes me want to add them to every meal. And that is saying something because I really don't like making salad. All that washing, spinning, trimming and chopping...blech. Not that the ones I make are all that challenging. They usually incorporate spinach or arugula, some fruit and avocado, and they almost always have pumpkin seeds. I like a smidge of thinly sliced red onion and lately have been making really lovely salad dressing with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. But I must admit I'm officially bored. Time to cull the brains of my fellow foodies and recipe blogs.

So, we want lots of cancer-fighters, like dark leafy greens and a range of colourful vegetables, with bonus points going for nuts and seeds, garlic and ginger. But most of all, the salads have to be tasty or I will seriously resent all that washing, spinning, trimming and chopping.

Here we go:
  1. Kale slaw with peanut dressing from The Kitchn. Now, they bill this as an autumn salad, but I still have kale in my garden and more coming in my box of organic veg - this looks like a great way to use it up.
  2. Blood orange, beet and fennel salad from Epicurious. Oranges are still near their peak and this recipe really shows them off.
  3. Vietnamese salad from Gwyneth Paltrow via Stand Up to Cancer.  Bok choy, cabbage, watercress, cucumber and carrots simply dressed with a tart and spicy dressing. Yu-um.
  4. Broccoli salad from Jamie Oliver. OK - the recipe calls for 8 rashers of bacon. Golly. Bet you're making this one first, aren't you?
  5. Alice Water's shaved asparagus and parmesan salad via Cookstr. She says this is best made with the first asparagus of the season in April and May, so bookmark it now and make it later in the season. That flown in asparagus you see in the stores now isn't doing the planet any favours. 
  6. Crunchy salad with hot and sour dressing from Nigella. The salad is a mix of broccoli, beans, baby corn, mushrooms, Chinese lettuce and beansprouts which would be lovely to look at - but the most interesting part for me is the dressing.  She calls for tom yam paste and I actually already have some in the cupboard. A well-stocked grocery store will have it, or check out the markets in neighbourhoods with large Asian populations. I love tom yam soup, that hot and sour Thai broth that simultaneously puckers your lips and blasts open your nasal passages. I never would have thought to add the paste to a salad dressing. Brilliant Nigella.
  7. This one is an old favourite I haven't made in years: sesame pea shoot salad from Epicurious. Sugar snap peas, snow peas, green peas and pea shoots dressed with a slightly sweet, sesame-spiked soy dressing. Beautiful and delicious. I usually cut back on the brown sugar (taste it with 1/2 a tablespoon and see if you agree) and add in some freshly grated ginger.
  8. Finally, green mango salad from Canadian Living. My nut allergy requires me to sub in peanuts or pumpkin seeds for the cashews - but this looks fantastic. Funny story - we love mangoes in our house and the other day a very intense sales clerk convinced me to buy a tree-ripened mango fresh off the plane from Peru. It would not be an exaggeration to say that that one mango cost as much as all the rest of the produce in my bag. Did I mention that she up-sold me that mango after she had already rung in the rest of the fruit and veggies? That woman had cajones the size of Texas. But she was right - "Best mango you ever tasted!" - it was sublime. But if she's the clerk next time I'm in the green grocer, I'm picking another line. :-)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Spinach, the not-so-scary weapon in the war on cancer

When I was recovering from breast cancer treatment, I started searching the web for ways to improve my chances of avoiding a recurrence. Research studies make it pretty clear that diets rich in vegetables and fruit are linked to lowered cancer risk.  So that seems like a no-brainer. Look for recipes with lots of vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

Problem is, once you start googling for recipes using these cancer-fighters the returned results look a little, well, scary. Quinoa, millet, nori...the ingredients are new, intimidating, and I am starting to feel like my 6 year old whose default position with new food is, "I don't like it." The thought of shifting from eating foods out of anticipation and joy to eating foods out of duty is not a pleasant one. And, having stared down death, I am kind of looking for comfort from my meals, not anxiety.

But, I really don't want to die, so I have to jump in and start replacing the old ingredients with the new ones. And, so far, I am learning that many of these cancer-fighting foods are not that bad. Some are actually good.

Case in point? Spinach. The easiest addition I have made to my diet is spinach. Since getting cancer, I swear to god I have eaten my weight and my husband's in spinach. And, aside from the way it makes my teeth feel (and look - would it kill you to tell me I have it stuck in my teeth? Seriously?), I love it. I eat it raw, wilted, steamed, sauteed and pureed. Salads, soups, pizza, pasta, egg dishes and now, smoothies. Yup. Smoothies. Grab a big handful and chuck it in; most of the time you won't even taste it. And, if you have used a vividly coloured fruit, like blueberries or blackberries, you won't even see it.

My "That is the Best %$(* Smoothie You Have Ever Made Me" Smoothie 
(named by my husband)

1 frozen banana
1 large handful blackberries or blueberries
1 large handful raw spinach
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
skim milk
agave syrup or honey

Chuck it in the blender and give it a whir. Add just enough skim milk to make it thin enough to get through a straw. Add agave or honey to taste. That's it. I swear, you will not taste the spinach. If you are truly adventurous, and have a blender with a powerful motor, try it with kale! :-)

This will probably be enough for you and for me. But for the love of god, if I have spinach in my teeth, tell me.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Recipe links for a healthy new year

There will be no links to anything involving sparkling wine, brie, puff pastry or chocolate this week. Not one. Good lord, what have I been eating?!!!! Time for a fresh, cleansing, fibre-filled bounty of yummy green goodness. And beans. More beans.
  1. The green machine - a pick-me-up to help you kick the caffeine habit. Bon Appetit.  Lately, I've been juicing kale or spinach, ginger, apple and beets. Sometimes with celery, sometimes a carrot or two. It's really good. Plus, I swirl a bunch of the pulp ejected by my juicer back into the juice so I am not losing all that fibre. I still have one coffee in the morning, though. I'm not crazy. Am not.
  2. Warm chickpea salad with arugula. Mark Bittman. Yum. The salad...though Mr. Bittman is lovely as well. I would use dried chickpeas instead of canned unless you know yours aren't packed in BP-laden cans. Come on, just soak them overnight with a healthy bit of salt in the water  (a la Cooks Illustrated) - it isn't brain science. Er, rocket surgery.
  3. Green lentil soup with curried brown butter. 101 Cookbooks and the wonderful Heidi Swanson. If you haven't got it yet, her new cookbook, "Super Natural Every Day" is phenomenal.
  4. Carrot soup with miso and sesame. Smitten Kitchen.
  5. Broccoli-cheese chowder. Eating Well Magazine. Just enough cheese to make this healthy soup taste like comfort food.
  6. Kale salad with currants and walnuts. Deliciously Organic. (I will be substituting in pumpkin seeds for the walnuts. But all y'all without nut allergies can nut it up.)
  7. My favourite potato leek soup. Bless Her Heart.... I know, I've given you this before. It's good. It needs restating. Just make it.
  8. Emmer farro, grapefruit and pumpkin seed salad. NBC - King 5. I saw this yesterday on Seattle's local show, New Day Northwest, when PCC nutritionist Leika Suzumura prepared it for those looking to eat better in the new year. It looked really good. Next time I'm in town, I'll be stopping by PCC to pick up Goldie's dressing. Until then, I found this recipe for it on PCC's website.
  9. Curried cauliflower with chickpeas and tomatoes. Tyler Florence via Food Network. Tyler includes his recipe for currey powder and it looks good - remember you can always slide in a little extra turmeric if it doesn't overwhelm your tastebuds. Turmeric shows great promise as a tool against cancer.
  10. Molly O'Neill's roasted squash soup with cumin and pumpkin seeds. Via Luisa Weiss' great blog, The Wednesday Chef.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Late September and the plums are still plentiful

I love plums. We had an Italian prune plum tree in our backyard when I was growing up, and my most vivid memory of any first day of school was always the warm, sticky, gently bruised plums at the bottom of my brown paper bag. Yuck. OK, granted, not a good way to sing the praises of this fruit, but they were never intended to travel around in a thin, paper sack! Instead, they should be plucked off the tree or out of the fridge and eaten standing up or, better, lying flat on your back on the grass.

They are a lovely mix of sweet and tart, between the slightly honeyed flesh and the squint-provoking skin. This year, the plums we bought at Cherry Lane Farms, a local source here in Richmond, are the best I have ever had. So sweet and flavourful, not a watery one in the box. I have processed most of the 40 pounds into stewed fruit, frozen flat in freezer bags and stacked now in both freezers. The rest are tucked away in my fridge's crisper - they will ripen quickly if left at room temperature - once they are starting to soften they are sweet and should be stored in a cooler spot.

So what are plums doing on a cancer recipe blog? Well, funny you should ask. These little puppies are powerful good at fixing a whole bunch that ails you. They are high in vitamin C, helping your body both ward off infection and absorb iron. They also contain vitamin A and beta carotene, vital for a healthy body and good eyesight. Even more relevant for us, in recent years they have also been linked by some studies (here and here) to cancer prevention, including breast and gastrointestinal. The skin contains the same powerful antioxidants as blueberries, so wash but don't peel them. Do I also need to remind you about their fibre content? Any of you going through chemo right now need to remember this if you are having any, um, bathroom issues.

I urge you to get some before they are gone. I am off this weekend for another big box! And when you get sick of eating them raw, here are some inspiring recipes for adding plums to your diet.
  1.  Grilled plum porridge from Butterfly Food's Ashley Colbourne via Style At Home.
  2. Roasted plums with Greek yogurt, honey, and almonds. Two peas & their pod.
  3. Spicy plum salsa for serving alongside grilled salmon, prawns or chicken. Martha Stewart.
  4. Roasted plum and spinach salad. So pretty. Chatelaine.
  5. Plum, beet and arugula salad. Lots of cancer fighters here, especially with the addition of walnuts or switching in watercress for the arugula. Best Health.
  6. Stone fruit slaw. Ginger, vinegar, curry, red pepper and firm stone fruit. Earlier in the summer, try peaches or nectarines. But right now, use slightly under ripe Italian prune plums. Bon Appetit.
  7. Roasted pork loin with poached plums. For our meat eaters. Epicurious.
  8. My stewed plums. Easy. Just halve and pit many plums and put them with a little water in a heavy bottomed, large pot over medium heat. Sometimes, I add chopped apples, especially firm ones that don't fall apart - they add nice texture to the finished sauce. Stir to prevent the fruit from sticking and burning, and continue to cook until the plums are soft. I usually add raisins part way through the cooking process, and they plump up nicely from the warm juice. I also add a splash of vanilla and cinnamon to taste, near the end of cooking time. Taste before adding sugar - this year the fruit were so sweet I added NO SUGAR. Serve warm or cold, lovely with warm toast. This freezes beautifully. Bunny loves them for breakfast with a bit of toast on the side. 
Have a great week.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Recipe links - what's making my socks roll up and down this week!

    1. Roasted chickpeas - yum, yum, yum. A great snack while watching TV, a satisfying addition to most salads, or just a simple side at dinner time. Easy and quick. Mark Bittman. 
    2. Gazpacho from Vancouver food icon Diane Clement. We are at the height of tomato season so grab some at the local stand or farmers market and try this recipe. Eat Local Be Local.
    3. Deconstructed fish tacos - these are beautiful - perfect for company on a warm end-of-summer evening as we try to squeeze the last bit of sunshine from the season. Or, throw them together for your family just because they are tasty! And good for you - the recipe was part of Mele Cotte's fifth annual Cooking to Combat Cancer drive this past spring. Mele Cotte.
    4. Tuscan white bean stew. I hate to say it, but we are quickly approaching the days when a nice warm bowl of this will really hit the spot. Sigh. Mayo Clinic.
    5. Salmon fish cakes and everyday green chopped salad are simple but tasty ways to put the boot to cancer tonight. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
    6. Mussels with zucchini and basil is a nice twist on simple steamers. And you probably know someone who is trying to fob zucchini off on you these days. Coconut and Lime.
    7. Potato crusted wild pacific salmon. Five ingredients plus salt and pepper gets you a company worthy dish with a weeknight's effort. From Arsenal Pulp Press' As Fresh as it Gets via Food Network Canada.
    8. Finally, just a reminder. This list of cancer fighting foods and spices is worth printing off and taping to the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Look at it often to ensure you are filling your diet with them. The Cancer Cure Foundation.

      Monday, July 18, 2011

      Grilled salads from the Today Show

      Last week,  I included a post on the dangers of eating lots of grilled foods. If you are looking for ways to decrease your grilled meat dishes at your next bbq, consider these great salads featured on the Today Show this morning.

      My favourite of the two - Panzanella Salad. I have loved every one I have ever made. And this one by chef David Creamer is full of great colourful vegetables and vibrant flavours. I'll try this one later in the summer when my heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. Right now, I'm tempted to roast and dice some beets from the garden to add after the salad has been dressed and tossed. Watercress also works well mixed with the romaine.


      Panzanella salad

      from chef

      • 1 cup chopped romaine (add red oak or other speciality greens if desired)
      • 2 anchovies, filet
      • 1/8 cup roasted red tomatoes
      • 1/8 cup roasted yellow peppers
      • 1/2 pieces of fresh lemon, half a lemon juice and zest
      • 1/4 pound ciabatta bread
      • 4 fresh basil, leaves
      • 1/8 cup Italian olives
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 1/8 cup parmesan reggiano
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      • 4 garlic cloves
      • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
      • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
      • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
      • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
      • 1 tablespoon honey
      • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 3/4 cup olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
      • 2 tablespoons onion powder
      • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
      To make the oregano vinaigrette: Combine the garlic, vinegar, oregano, parsley, honey and salt in a blender.
      Blend until smooth, while motor is running slowly add the oil and process until emulsified.
      Put the mixture into a 10 to 12 inch salad bowl and add it to the fridge to chill.
      To make the salad: Brush ciabatta bread with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper and place on grill, be sure to let some carbon build up on bread to add flavor to salad.
      Once bread has been grilled, cut into 1 inch pieces.
      In a medium bowl add chopped romaine and red oak, anchovies, roasted red tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers, fresh lemon(Squeeze juice from half of a lemon and zest), fresh basil, olives, ciabatta grilled crotons and salt and pepper to taste with 3 ounces of your freshly prepared oregano vinaigrette.
      Toss making sure to coat greens and vegetables evenly. Place into bowl and top with fresh shaved parmesan cheese.