Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lentil Moussaka

It would appear that I'm officially in the dog house.  Why you may ask?  Well favourite son in law has been cooking up a storm over the past while and I've become the designated blogger for his creations.  "R" has been "gently" reminding me that he's not seeing enough blogging happening.  He's right - we've been either busy for real or procrastinating.  At least Psychgrad has an excuse - between sleep deprivation, a toddler and a newborn, having a shower is a luxury.  

This time when "R" gave me one of his "gentle" reminders, the tone had changed somewhat.  He compared my not posting his cooking to continuously withdrawing from your bank account.  Eventually you're in the red.  Ugh!!!

With Christmas around the corner and Hanukkah in full swing, one might think that we'd be making lavish meals and incredible desserts.   Not so much.  Truth be told, I'd rather have a vegetarian moussaka than cheesecake anyway.   This dish is the full Canada Food Guide all in one dish.  Although a tad time consuming, the result is just so satisfying that it pays to take your time enjoying it.

*** Did I mention that "R" couldn't remember where he got the recipe from so if we've insulted anyone by not giving them credit for their recipe - my humble apologies,

3/4 cup whole green lentils
1 eggplant sliced
4-5 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large carrot, diced
4 sticks celery, finely chopped
1-2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 tsp soya sauce
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium potatoes, cooked and sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced


2 Tbsp vegetable margarine
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 3/4 cups milk
1 egg, separated
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp nutmeg
fresh herb sprigs to garnish

  • In a saucepan, cook the lentils until soft but not mushy.  Drain reserving the liquid in a separate bowl.
  • Fry the eggplant until lightly browned, drain on a paper towel
  • Saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery with a little of the lentil liquid.
  • Simmer with the lid on , stirring occasionally until the vegetables soften.
  • Add lentils, herbs and diced tomatoes simmering for 4-5 minutes.  Add the soya sauce and ground pepper.
  • Place a layer of the lentils in a large casserole dish and cover with half of the eggplant.
  • Cover the eggplant with half the potato slices and all of the tomato slices,
  • Repeat with the rest of the lentils and the other half of both eggplant and potatoes.

For the sauce:

  • Melt margarine and add flour.  Lift the pan from the heat stirring vigorously to create a roux while making sure the flour is well incorporated.  Slowly add milk, stirring constantly to make sure you achieve a smooth consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to add the egg yolk and nutmeg.  If you don't cool the sauce, you'll have cooked egg - not pretty.
  • Whisk the egg white until still and fold into the sauce.
  • Pour the sauce over the moussaka covering the whole surface.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until golden brown.   Garnish with herbs and serve.

Chef's notes:
Don't overcook the potatoes otherwise they'll just fall apart.
Use a large enough casserole that's reasonably deep to avoid spill overs


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Welcoming K

This post is really overdue.  Ironic, since K wasn't   I expected to be post date with the birth, since E was 10 days overdue.  But, K (the new little man in my life) came on his due date.  That's why I got to experience, first hand, labour denial: I am not in labour...these contractions are going to stop...don't get the look on your face (I said this to R when he looked excited about our baby's impending arrival)...

After irregular, mild contractions that started around 10pm, I figured I should get back to the computer and try to finish some work.  Eventually, I went to sleep and slept through mild contractions throughout the night.  The next morning, I debated calling in sick (I was already working from home) -- so I just sent an email saying that I wasn't feeling great and would work as possible.  I also debated whether to cancel the cleaning lady that I had arranged (we don't have a regular cleaning lady, but I decided to splurge twice to get the house fully clean before baby arrived).  Even with contractions getting stronger, I was still skeptical and didn't want to change my plans.  Babies know not to come before you're ready, right?   I was semi-convinced that if I wasn't ready, my body wouldn't let me go into labour.  Plus, I wasn't feeling the urge to nest.  No water breaking (as it had to start my labour with E).  None of the other signs that you learn about.  Just contractions.  OK....maybe that's a big sign.  But, maybe it's just Braxton-Hicks.

Still not committing, I asked R to go into work late so that he could take E to daycare.  Then, I figured I would just set up the birth pool.  If anything, it wouldn't hurt to try it out.

As I was doing that and R was dropping E off at daycare, contractions got stronger.  So I figured that maybe it was the real thing.  Crap!  My house is a mess and I have two projects to finish still.  To add a little bit of a stress to the mix, the adapter that I have bought to hook up the hose for the birth pool to the sink wasn't connecting properly.  WTF?!?  I had tested it earlier in the week and it went on easily.  Images of filling buckets up with water were running through my mind.  This is not the home birth I had envisioned!!!

The urge to clean everything was in full force since I knew I was too far along to have the house cleaner come in a couple of hours.  I debated it, but decided it wouldn't be fair to her to have to listen to me in labour.  Gotta say, it's still easier to clean a house in labour than it is to clean a house with a toddler.  We got the place in acceptable condition pretty quickly and R finally got the hose hooked up.   I was able to relax a bit.  Thankfully this coincided with contractions getting increasingly stronger.  Among the contractions that still sticks out is one I had on my yoga/labour ball.  First and only contraction on there -- man that hurt.  

At R's suggestion, we asked the doula to come over.  I didn't want to waste her time in early labour.  But, R's arms were getting tired from the hip squeezes (I think I told him to "suck it up" a few times).  Shortly after my doula arrived, I got into the birth pool.  It felt good to be in there.  I had a small fan on me, along with a cold cloth on my forehead.  I spent pretty much the entire time leaning forward over the edge of the pool.  

Unlike last birth, I felt pretty aware of what was going on.  I could tell that I wasn't in transition yet.  I  knew immediately when my water broke.  We called the midwife at that point.  My doula asked about how I felt about the pain level and I said it was manageable, but not fun.  She and R squeezed my hips from alternate sides, which brought the pain level down by a lot.

Shortly after telling my doula that I wasn't in transition, I'm pretty sure transition started.  That phase was quick too.  I told when her I felt the baby drop lower.  My midwife arrived somewhere around that time.  About ten minutes later, I felt the urge to push.  With E, I was too freaked out to feel the baby's head coming out.  But, this time I needed to guide my pushing.  The second midwife hadn't arrived yet and my midwife started to get a bit concerned about that.  I didn't care.  After about 5 minutes of pushing, K was out.  It was all kind of surreal.  I wasn't even in labour -- why is there a baby in my arms?!

OK -- so I guess I was in labour.  It all went really quickly.  I'd estimate about 2 hours of active labour.  Born at 7 lbs, 6 oz, K was quite a bit smaller than E.  

A couple hours after K was born, R picked E up from daycare.  Originally, we weren't sure if we would keep her home for the birth.  But, it became clear to me that having her there was going to be too difficult.  She was being whiny and was starting to get upset with my condition.  She came home and was very excited to meet her new little brother.  Some of her thoughts were that he was hungry (for chocolate...according to E), that he was going to roll over (because his arms were flailing around) 

All in all, a really good experience.  Having a baby at home was so much easier than going to the hospital mid-labour.  After delivery, I was able to just walk down the hall and sit in my bed while my doula and midwives emptied the pool and cleaned up.  Of course, there's always a risk of a hospital transfer.  But, research shows that outcomes for home births are comparable to hospital births.  I was also really happy with the level of intervention -- no medications, no checking for dilation, no one counting while I pushed, immediate skin-to-skin and continued skin-to-skin for a lengthy period afterwards.  I also decided to have my placenta encapsulated (making it into a pill) this time, which I think contributed to avoiding baby blues all together.  It seemed a bit "out there" for me first time around, but I figured I'd give it a try.  The pills have no taste, no smell, etc.

Fast forward two (and a bit) months later, we're settling into being a family of four.  It's all encompassing, but very rewarding to see them grow and thrive.  Now, I'm looking forward to watching them interact as K becomes more aware of his surroundings.  So far, E has not shown any jealousy and, without any prompting, she is very protective of her baby brother around other kids.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

E's Second Birthday

When E turned one, I had debated throwing a birthday party for her.  It would be high on the cuteness factor, but primarily an event for the enjoyment of the parents, since she was still a bit young to play with other kids and understand the idea of a birthday.

Instead, we let her destroy a cake (something I wanted pictures of) and Skyped with family in other parts of the country.

Over the past twelve months, E has developed a lot socially (as would be expected).  She enjoys playing with other kids, talks about wanting to play with her friends and is a big fan of birthday cake (her daycare provider makes cupcakes for each child's birthday).  In fact, "birthday cake" is synonymous with anything birthday related (birthday cards, birthday parties, presents, etc.).  So, we decided to throw E a 2nd birthday party.

I wanted to keep the party low key, so we invited friends with kids around the same age to join us for snacks and cake at a splash pad.  I spent some time looking on Pinterest for ideas for toddler birthday parties (note to self: do not look at Pinterest for inspiration when planning a low key party).

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes (E loves chocolate) with sprinkles.  She was very eager to help.  At one point, before starting to bake, E starting crying about wanting "bacon", so I put my recipe search on hold to make us some eggs and bacon for dinner.   I later realized, after she finished dinner and still wanted "bacon" that she was actually saying she wanted "baking".

Sure, it was messy, including when I spilled a bowlful of ingredients on the ground (and E said, "Oh...that's too bad" -- not sure where she picked that up from) and when E turned the mixed on full blast on the liquid ingredients (still finding random chocolate splatters to this day).  But, it was fun.

Chocolate Lovers Cake
3/4 cup butter
2 eggs
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup boiling water
2/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 cup g

Directions ( for cake - see link for instructions on making this into cupcakes)
  1. Let butter and eggs stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together cocoa powder and boiling water until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla; set aside. In medium bowl stir together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F. In a mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars; beat until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Beat in one-third of the flour mixture on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat in half of buttermilk mixture. Mixture may look curdled. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally, the remaining flour mixture.
  3. Divide batter between prepared pans, spread evenly. Bake about 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans. Let cool on wire rack. To assemble, place first cake layer on a serving plate. Spread 1-1/2 cups frosting over the top of the layer. Top frosted first layer with second cake layer, top side up. Frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining Chocolate Butter Frosting.

Chocolate Frosting


cup milk
teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. In a very large mixing bowl, beat butter, softened, and unsweetened cocoa powder with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually beat in 2 cups powdered sugar until well combined. Gradually beat in milk and vanilla until well combined. Gradually beat in 6 cups powdered sugar. If necessary, beat in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to reach spreading consistency.

We had the party at a the splash park, which is great because it's free and doesn't require cleaning up my home (before and after the party).  Now, almost two months later, E is just understanding that every birthday is not a party for her birthday.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Potato and Spring Onion Soup

Life has been incredibly busy in so many good ways.  The only problem with being so involved in many things is that making meals sometimes just takes a back seat.

We spent this past Thanksgiving long weekend at the cottage.  This was our second annual effort at the cottage and it was incredible.  The leaves are in full colour and temperatures are changing  A 20 lb turkey had hardly any leftovers and the whole family togetherness was so meaningful.  We laughed alot this past weekend.  My sister makes her own wine so needless to say wine was in great supply.
My friends used to say to me that being a grandparent is the best club in the world to join.  Intellectually it's easy to understand so agreeing with my friends was pretty natural.  I just returned recently from visiting Psychgrad, "R" and the babies.  I would often sit, play with or watch the grand babies and think to myself "you know, it really IS the best club in the world".  Nothing makes me laugh as hard, worry as much or love as deeply as being able to be part of their lives.   It amazes me how much work being a parent of a toddler and an infant is.  I guess as time goes by we forget, especially so when it's a labour of love.

"R", with all his teasing is really an amazing husband and dad.  He's always looking for new and healthy combinations and loves his soups   He loves the hearty and thick soups that are a meal in a bowl.  R's new recipe came from Saveur ; Potato and Spring Onion Soup and it looks like a keeper.

A thick slice of fresh rye bread and this soup for dinner would for sure do it for me.  Tell me you wouldn't want a bowl?  The pureeing, although it makes a lot of soups look alike is a great way to pack the veggies in especially for a toddler who doesn't like vegetables AT ALL.



2 bunches spring onions (scallions), trimmed
4 tbsp. sunflower or vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Cut scallions in half crosswise, dividing white and green parts. Coarsely chop white parts and set aside. Finely chop green parts and set aside separately.

2. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and chopped white parts of scallions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add potatoes and stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft, 30–35 minutes.

3. Allow vegetables and stock to cool slightly; then, working in batches, purée them together in the jar of a blender or the work bowl of a food processor until very smooth. Return purée to pot and cook over medium heat until hot. Adjust seasonings. Garnish soup with reserved scallion greens.


Saturday, September 13, 2014


Actor Boy has this idea that doing a theatrical piece with his mother is an interesting work to create.  We started this voyage with a simple improvised stage piece that we (he did most of it) performed for small theater festivals locally and on the west coast.  It was reasonably successful and we had alot of fun comments about how cool for a mother and son to go on stage together.

Not enough.  Actor Boy decided we should do another piece.  Our ancestry is from Poland so his idea was to travel back to Poland and research our geneology and find our Polish roots.  It's been quite a ride and I just returned from our second trip to Poland.  The first trip in November 2013 was about research.  We drove all around Poland's countryside, went to both my parents' home towns, were able to find documents and history, met alot of people and ate alot of Polish food.  It was good.  This trip was slightly different.  We spent 2 weeks in a theatre that was entirely black (they call it a black box theatre - imagine that), working on creating a piece of work, or part of it and then performing for a couple of audiences who would give us feedback and suggestions.  We would start early in the morning and work until about 8 p.m. and start all over again the next morning.  That shattered any notion of this being a trip to a foreign country being even remotely romantic.

The one thing I managed to salvage for my own interests was learning more about Polish food.  Most local food is heavily meat laden but since I was travelling with 6 other people, most of whom were either vegetarian or vegan we didn't spend much time sampling local meat meals.  I did learn to take some meat meals and adjust them and learned a whole lot about salads.

My favourite salad, a potato type salad is called Sawata.  I had to come home and make it right away.  It's a little time consuming with all the tiny chopping but so worth it and I even found some shortcuts.


3-4 potatoes boiled in their jackets and cooled
3-4 hard boiled eggs
2-3 dill pickles, diced small (I used Vlasic pickles)
peas and carrots - I used 1/2 bag of frozen peas and carrots - worked great
(if you prefer you can boil 4 carrots with the potatoes, dice small and add canned,drained peas at the end)
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 heaping Tbsp dijon mustard
3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise


1.  Boil potatoes and cool before peeling
2.  Dice potatoes, eggs, dill pickles really small and add to bowl
3.  Add 1/2 bag or more (1 1/2 cups) frozen peas and carrots
4.  Add mustard and mayo and gently combine all finishing with the chopped parsley.

So so good.  This salad is a staple for all Polish celebrations.  There's really no set way to make it and I've seen it with boiled parsnip in it as well - equally as good.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cream of Potato Soup with Garlic Scapes and Swiss Chard

I mentioned in my last post that my favourite son in law will occasionally send me an email asking for new recipes.  I'm glad that he enjoys cooking and actually he's pretty good at it.  What I particularly like about R's style is that he doesn't cut corners.  He reads the recipe, gives it consideration, makes sure he has all the ingredients and if he doesn't, goes out to get them and spends the time and gives the energy into creating his works of art.  A good attitude goes a long way so I'm always happy to help resource what he's looking for.

This time R sent out an SOS because they had an overabundance of scapes.  I went through my Pinterest boards and sent him about 6 or 8 links to chose from.  After consideration, he chose
Cream of Potato Soup with Garlic Scapes and Swiss Chard.

Now, in my last post I also mentioned that R goes to great lengths to get to me.  For That Girl's sake
I'm sharing R's response to me after he sent me a link and a picture and suggested I post it on the blog..

Your last post was mediocre. It didn't capture the emotion or the spirit of the salad. In order to mitigate the the risk of another mediocre post, I am instituting creative control on all future posts about my meals. Please prepare the post for my approval within three working days. Also, I want 80% of the revenues related to posts about meals I prepare.

In spite of the fact that I'm leaving the country tomorrow for a couple of weeks I did promise R to have this up before I left.  When he told me that this soup was a total keeper I was thrilled and am happy to share it with you.  It does look pretty delicious, if I say so myself.

Sorry R, I don't have 3 working days for you to execute your creative control .  AND, you can have 100% of all the revenues since there aren't any.
2 Tablespoons Butter (or olive oil for vegans)
5-6 Garlic Scapes
2 cloves regular garlic, minced
3 russet potatoes unpeeled, diced
4-5 Cups homemade vegetable stock (enough to cover potatoes)
1 bunch of Swiss Chard, stemmed
1 stem of fresh Oregano
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 of a Lemon
Kosher Salt to taste
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup of Sour Cream (optional, but highly recommended)

Saute Garlic Scapes in butter for about 2 minutes. Add minced Garlic and diced potatoes. Stir and saute in butter or olive oil another 2 minutes, add some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Add vegetable stock, bring to boil. Turn to low and cover- let simmer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, check to see if potatoes are done. They should easily be pierced with a fork. It's okay if they are a little over cooked because they are going to get pureed anyway. Add fresh Oregano, parsley, and chard. Let simmer on low another 5 minutes. Turn off heat. 

With an immersion blender, puree the potato soup, leaving some lumps. 
Season with Juice of 1/2 a lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/4 cup of sour cream.
Garnish with any combination of the following: fresh parsley, chive flowers, fresh ground black pepper, crispy bacon crumbles, or crunchy onions.

The picture would look even better if you used the good camera and not your Iphone :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Quinoa Chickpea and Feta Salad

My favourite son in law "R" (he's also my only son in law) and I have this rather interesting relationship.  The banter between us (zinging is probably a better word) is pretty ongoing.  He loves to get to me and two of his favourite topics are usually around our well known mayor Rob Ford or how dedicated we are to posting on the blog.  He probably cares very little about each topic and when I give it right back to him, he'll turn to whoever happens to be in the room and say "you see what I have to put up with".

Occasionally I'll get an email from him asking if I have any good recipes.  He's always attracted to the healthier vegetarian recipes and he'll review what I send him and surprisingly will find something that interests him and he goes ahead and makes it.  Pretty impressive.

Recently he went on one of his rants saying he'll be doing a guest post and make sure he puts both Psychgrad and me to shame.  The rant goes something like this:

R:  I haven't seen you post anything lately.  What's going on???

Me:  I posted not long ago.

R:  I take pictures and nobody ever puts up what I make.

Me:  You want me to put up something you made?

R:  Well, don't you think you should be? .... you get the idea.

I recently sent him a blogpost for Quinoa Chickpea and Feta Salad and he made it.  I asked him where the picture was and he actually had taken a picture and sent it to me.  WOW!!  So "R" here's your post. Your salad looks pretty darned amazing.

1 cup quinoa (beige or red or black)
1 cup water
1 can chickpeas, rinsed, drained
1 1/2 chopped unpeeled cucumbers
1 pint cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 cup sliced baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
To taste Salt and pepper

Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, spinach and about half of the feta.

Gently toss in the cooled quinoa; do not overmix or stir.
Whisk vinegar, salt, honey and smoked paprika in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Drizzle over the combined salad ingredients; toss gently. Add vinaigrette; avoid overdressing. Top with feta; serve immediately.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Tuna Patties

Norene Gilletz's  The Pleasures of Your Processor is only one of the "Norene" cookbooks in my collection.  I've said it before - I raised my kids on her recipes and I can't remember ever having a fail. Her recipes are easy to follow and easy to execute (not the killing kind).

The hardest part of this whole recipe is opening the cans of tuna.  For meatless Mondays this is a treat and also approved by "baba" who has sworn off meat.  I've actually heard alot of my contemporaries tell me their parents have more difficulties digesting meat.  Try these as an alternative and the great thing is that they're freezer friendly.

1 medium onion, halved
2 - 7 oz tins tuna, drained
4 eggs
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
oil for frying

Process onions until minced, about 6-8 seconds.  Add remaining ingredients except oil and process until mixed, about 10 seconds.

Shape into patties.  Heat oil to a depth of about 1/8" in a large skillet.  Brown on all sides over medium heat.  Drain well on paper towels.

Yield:  6

Note:  If you want to avoid the oil, prepare in a teflon skillet and a little spray.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Israeli Eggplant Salad (Hazilim)

I've been accused of watching way too much CNN and these days it's pretty hard not to stay informed.  I won't get political other than to say that the loss of so many innocent lives is beyond horrific.  It doesn't matter where this happens, whether it's a downed plane, a war in the middle east or the kidnapping of innocent children, terrorism is just beyond my scope of understanding.

Rather than stay glued to the set, I felt like making something that I know is delicious and comforting and great as either an appetizer, snack or even main.  Add some pita and you're good to go.  There are so many different varieties of eggplant salad and this one is one of my very favourites.

2 large eggplants, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
​4 large garlic cloves, chopped
Salt, pepper, and sweet paprika to taste
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pan.
  2. Add the eggplant and cook until tender. Set aside on a plate.
  3. In the same, now empty, pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Once warm, add the red and yellow bell peppers, onion, and scallion.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes until the veggies begin to become tender.
  5. Add garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
  6. Fold the eggplant into the veggie mixture along with tomato puree, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and paprika, and cook for another 2 minutes. Do not stir and let the mixture sit and simmer until the liquid has cooked off.
  7. Set the veggies aside and let them cool. Place them in a storage container and refrigerate for at least an hour, or until chilled.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie

Sheperd's Pie?  I remember loving it many years ago and somehow it landed into retro culinary. I'm eating so little red meat that the memory of sheperd's pie was a more interesting memory than anything.  That was until I saw a recipe for Lentil and Sweet Potato Sheperd's Pie over at One Ingredient Chef

Bonanza!!! I had all the ingredients and that was the end of that.

4 medium sweet potatoes
1/2 cup diced onions
1/12 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced carrots
4 1/2 cups prepared lentils
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes (I used 1 large 28 oz)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp basil and more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped spinach
2+ Tbsp non-dairy milk
Sea salt to taste

1.  Peel and chop the potatoes and boil on medium for 15-20 minutes.
2.  Prepare the onions, celery and carrots and add to large skillet with two tablespoons of water (I used the water that I was cooking the lentils in)  Heat on medium to soften the vegetables.
3.  Add the prepared lentils to the vegetables and cook together  for a few minutes.
    NOTE:  You can use any lentil you like.  I used about 2 cups of dry lentils with 4 cups of water;      bring to a boil and simmer to soften the lentils (about 30 minutes); drain
4.  Add diced tomatoes, basil and spinach together with soy sauce.  Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium low.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

5.  Mash sweet potatoes with a couple of tablespoons of non dairy milk (I used coconut milk) until smooth.
6.  In a 9x13 casserole, add the lentil filling mixture and top with mashed potatoes.

7.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown slightly.

I did add a little garlic and some chopped red pepper to suit my taste and I believe you can either boost or minimize this recipe however you like.  Both delicious and nutritious.  Your body will thank you.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


About 7 months ago, R found out that he had credits with Porter Airline that were going to expire that evening.  We had to either book a trip or let them go.  Not ones to make quick decisions, we were both caught off guard with having to decide if and where to travel.  

We took a look at Porter's flight locations and narrowed the list down to Boston, Burlington (Vermont), Myrtle Beach or Chicago.  We decided to go with Chicago because we had both been to Boston (albeit not recently for me and only for work for R), Myrtle Beach was further and far more expensive than our credit and Burlington seems like a place we could drive to from Ottawa with stops in various small towns along the way.

So, Chicago it was!  We picked spring hoping that we'd have nice weather and in consideration of other summer plan.  Turns out, April is a bit hit and miss for nice weather.  But, it was an enjoyable trip none-the-less.

We got a good rate through Hotwire for the Kinzie Hotel.  We were both quite pleased with the place -- they have a large continental breakfast set up on each floor and evening happy hour, with a small but fresh buffet of appetizers.  

On the first day, we went for deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati's and walked down the Magnificent Mile. E was quite happy to play in the Disney Store and Lego Store.  

Don't be fooled by this innocent expression.  This is the face of someone who is about to start throwing overpriced little pieces of lego all over the place.

The next day, we got out early to walk to the Navy Pier.  

The pier itself is under construction, so it wasn't much of a draw at that time.  But, our main reason for visiting was to go to the Children' Museum.

The busload of school kids arriving around the same time was a bit scary.  The museum was definitely packed.  But, it is probably the nicest children's museum I have seen.  They have several distinct theme areas that are really nicely developed.  E's favourite was the bubble area.  It reminded me of something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

After grabbing bubbles for a long time, E had tonnes of fun "painting" a mirror with soapy water.  This would be an easy craft to replicate at home.

After the museum and a nap, we spent some time walking around downtown and visiting the famous Cloud Gate.

The next day was a Saturday and we were warned that the lineups for Willis Tower might be long, so we got there early.  

Even still there was an hour long line up.  But, it was much shorter than the line up when we left.

The place was packed.  But it was a nice clear day with good views. 

E perfectly timed her nap and passed out from the time we walked out of Willis Tower, through our walk around downtown and train ride to Wrigley Field.

It was colder than we expected (note to self: get seats in the sun early on in the season).  R was thrilled to be able to include a ball game in our itinerary.

On our last full day in Chicago, we had great weather.  So, we decided to walk along the waterfront to the aquarium.  When we got there, the line deterred us, so we opted for the Field Museum instead.

The building itself is very impressive.  The quality of the exhibits varies, in my opinion.

After a full morning of walking, I was ready to be transported back to the hotel for a break.
Of course, E had other plans in mind about how quickly we should get back to the hotel.  Ever try to walk what is normally a 45 minute walk with a toddler?  Here she is below pointing out what direction she thought we should go in (i.e., the direction we had just come from).

Overall, a great trip!  If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't change much.  Maybe just move the date of our trip back by a month (we went early April) to catch warmer weather.  


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Steak Fajitas

My Pinterest boards are beginning to overwhelm me.  I love going through it all the time and finding dishes that I would, under normal circumstances, not think to cook.  I'm also not a big fan of beef but when I happened upon a recipe for Steak Fajitas by Apples and Sparkle, I had an inspiration and memory of smell that motivated me.

Do you ever go to a restaurant, wonder what to order and then see a server walk by with these sizzling fajitas that smell so delicious?  More than once when I didn't order the fajitas I thought I really should have and tried to think of what made me change my mind.  I don't have an answer other than it felt safer to stick with what I know.  Not this time.. I took the quantum leap and decided to give it a shot.

1/3 c. canola oil
1/3 c freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 c. low sodium soya sauce
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. cumin
1 t. chile powder

about 2 lb. skirt steak or flank steak
2-3 bell peppers, ends trimmed, cored and seeded, cut into a couple large pieces
1 large white onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-3/4-inch slices (keep the slices intact)
18 6-inch flour tortillas
lime wedges 
toppings of your choice such as, cilantro, salsa, cheese, sour cream, avocados or guacamole

1. Get the marinade prepared: Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve about 
1/3 cup of marinade for the vegetables. Place the steak in a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Add the remaining 
marinade. Seal the bag, pressing out any excess air, massage the marinade into the meat a bit. Refrigerate 
anywhere from 3-10 hours. 

2. After meat has finished marinating, remove steak from marinade and wipe off excess marinade with
paper towel. (I also cut the steak into a couple of more manageable sized pieces, for easier turning on the
grill). brush the vegetables with reserved marinade. Heat your grill to high. Scrape the grill grate clean 
and oil the grate. Add the steak to the super hot grill and grill, covered about 2 1/2 minutes per side
(for medium/medium-rare), or until steak reaches desired doneness. Remove steak to a clean plate
and cover with foil ,let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Why was I so reluctant to make these at home?  They're so delicious and just as good as leftovers.

3. Add the peppers and onions to the grill and grill, turning occasionally until cooked, peppers should 
take about 5 minutes and onions will take about 10. Remove from grill. Briefly add the tortillas to the grill, 
a couple at a time and grill until warmed and lightly charred around the edges. Wrap the tortillas in foil 
to keep warm.**

** I put them in a cast iron skillet to brown (vegetables too) and then into the oven for 10 min. at 425 F)

4. Thinly slice the steak, against the grain. Slice the onions in half and

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