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Today, as I drove home I listened to a tribute to Stuart McLean of the Vinyl Café playing on CBC radio. It was a show about love stories, encounters, and friendships. It was all about companionship. One of the stories was about a couple who had magical chemistry, and they would send each other photos of them eating cookies. It reminded me of what role food plays in many of our lives. Not only is it what sustains us, but it is often something that brings people together. Often it is not necessarily the food itself, but the fact that it is shared, that makes it special.

I can remember even when I was a very small child looking forward to meals with our family in France. It was always special. Meals often took hours, but we didn’t notice the time going by.

When I was in undergrad, meals brought friends together, many of whom are still very near and dear.

When I lived in The Gambia, not a day went by without food being shared. I could never keep up with the enormous generosity of the village where I lived, until one day I learned that I could share the food that was brought for me. We would nurture each other.

These past few weeks I’ve had a lovely time in a clinical rotation, working with a special team dedicating themselves to providing the best possible care for their patients, at a level which I have rarely seen. Witnessing such dedication, I wanted to give back, so I made these delicious cookies to help fuel us through the day. I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as we did, and that it serves as a backdrop to many tea parties, work afternoons, or any other pick-me-ups you might need.

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Ingredients – for approximately 40 cookies

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unsalted and softened butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups oatmeal – I use old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until fluffy. I use a stand mixer but you can also beat it by hand. Add eggs and vanilla and beat for a few more minutes, until pale and well incorporated
  4. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, and mix
  5. Stir in cranberries, coconut and chocolate chips
  6. place spoonfuls of the dough in your hand and roll into a ball. Place on cookie sheet 1.5 inches apart and bake for 13-15 minutes
  7. Cool on wire rack

Hope you enjoy these little treats!

Sitelle

Snow, it’s now everywhere in Ottawa. It’s beautiful. And it made for a heck of a bike ride last Monday! With the arrival of winter, I am now switching into winter craving mode. I want my meals to warm and rich, enough to fuel me through my long days, and to keep me warm on the cross-country ski trails.

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A few weeks ago I did my quarterly Bulk Barn run, to get my granola ingredients. As I was strolling through the isles trying to remember all the things I had once said we needed but had yet to get around to getting, my eyes were caught by a beautiful dried bean I had never seen before, Appaloosa beans. I couldn’t resist, so I bought a few cups and threw them into the pressure when I came home. Later that night, I had ended up making a bean stew inspired by the flavours of beans I’d had in Belize. They are delicious on their own, with nachos, or with rice!

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Ingredients: for a meal that serves 6-8

  • 2 cups Appaloosa beans, or any other dried bean, cooked in the pressure cooker (or you can skip the cooking and use 4 cups cooked beans)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 scotch bonnet or other red hot chili pepper (optional, choose one that is within your taste of spice – scotch bonnets are very spicy!)
  • 4 cups broth (chicken or veggie), simmering
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro plus more for garnish

Directions:

  1.  Cook beans in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes in a 3:1 ratio of salted water:beans
  2. In a dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. In a medium size saucepan, bring broth to a simmer and leave covered.
  3. Add ground coriander, chili powder, and nutmeg. When it bubbles (after a few seconds), add the onion and cook for 3-5 minutes, until everything is well sautée’d and the mixture is fragrant
  4. Add the garlic, hot pepper and Bay leaves and sauté for another minute
  5. Add the beans and stir, coating them in the oil mixture
  6. Add the hot broth and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Uncover, stir, and taste. Remove the hot pepper if it is spicy enough. Add the juice from the lime and the chopped cilantro. Simmer for a further 10-15 minutes uncovered, or more, until desired consistency is achieved
  8. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with nachos, rice, or tacos!

Sitelle

It’s been a busy few months for me! I’ve moved to a new city and started a new job.  Most recently, my job took me up to Moose Factory, Ontario. It’s primarily a Cree community about 10 kilometres south of James Bay (the southern-most section of Hudson’s Bay) on the Moose River.  It was just gorgeous, truly a winter wonderland from mid-November onwards!

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Sunset on the banks of the Moose River

But the food situation could only be described as dire.  I was shocked at the prices and the resulting food insecurity (not to mention the boil water advisory on the reserve).  I saw families at checkouts with only canned food in their cart as that was all they could afford! I’m lucky to have a decent salary and was only buying for myself, but even something as simple as a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce quickly added up to $10-15!  Here’s some prices from my grocery shop in Kashechewan, a community nearby Moose Factory:

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The frighteningly high food prices of Kashechewan, Ontario

All to say, when I got home to Ottawa this past weekend, I was craving a big and varied veggie stirfry.  I decided to make one of my favourite recipes, Lotus Land Linguini from  rebar: modern food cook book.  This medley of crisp veggies with a delightful spicy & creamy peanut sauce continues to be one of my absolute faves.   In it’s original form it’s vegan, but as a special treat I added some shrimp.  And to keep with the Asian theme, I served it with rice noodles instead of linguini (making it gluten-free too!).  I have yet to meet a friend or family member who hasn’t asked for the recipe.  Just the culinary treat I needed!!

– Bon appetit!

Catherine

 

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Crisp veggies in the wok!  Oh so delicious 

It’s been many years that I’ve anticipated getting the wonderful cookbook Plenty, by Ottolenghi. Last weekend, the book in my hands, I poured over every recipe with so much excitement.

As a busy student in my 4th year of medical school, and my fiancé in his first year of residency, we sometimes stall when it comes to creative ways to cook delicious vegetarian meals. We get a weekly local food box, which is wonderful, but we sometimes lack the creativity that we used to have. This cookbook has completely turned that around, helping us come up with fantastic delicious and realistic ideas.

Pulses are a wonderful alternative to meat protein. I tout their benefits to many people who ask me about ways to increase fibre or to those who are looking to increase the amount of alternative proteins. They fill me up, so that if I am on my feet all day long, I am still able to function at the end of the day.

This recipe is particularly flavourful, with nutty richness and crunch, the surprise hints of mint, and the buttery celeriac. I cannot recommend it enough!

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Directions – serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup puy lentils
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 small celeriac, peeled and cut into 1/2 cm wedges
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp hazelnut oil
  • 3 Tbsp Sherry Vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp chopped mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 275, toast the hazelnuts for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool. Chop coarsely.

In a medium pot, combine the lentils, water, bay leaves, salt and thyme, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils become cooked but remain slightly chewy. Drain with a sieve.

In the meantime, bring lots of salty water to a boil in a separate pot. Boil the celeriac 10-12 minutes until soft.

While things are cooking place the oils, vinegar, mint and some salt and pepper at the bottom of a serving bowl. When the lentils are drained pour them into the serving bowl and stir to coat with the dressing. Place the celeriac, 2/3 of the chopped hazelnuts as well as 1/2 the chopped mint in with the lentils and stir until mixed in. Serve with crusty bread and sprinkle the remaining mint and hazelnuts on top.

Hope you enjoy!

-Sitelle

A magazine clipping featuring beautiful cheddar pretzels has been pinned to my refrigerator for the better part of two years (All You Need is Cheese). I had promised to make these for my partner one day. One day. And finally, last Friday, I took the time to bake them. I baked them in celebration of his finishing his medical studies, marking the end of an era and the beginning of another.

I was surprised to discover how little work these cheesy pretzels took, for a very tasty outcome. They took me less than 1.5h to make, most of that time for rising. Now, knowing how easy they are, I will not wait another two years before making them again!

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Ingredients – makes 8 pretzels

  • 1 1/3 cups milk, warmed 90 seconds in the microwave
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp instant yeast (1 package is 11g which is just a tiny bit more than 2 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2-2 cups sharp cheddar, grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • coarse salt, for sprinkling

Directions

Heat the milk, and meanwhile mix 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, the yeast and the salt in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or in a bowl with a wooden spoon.

Add the warm milk and mix at low speed until fully incorporated. Gradually add the rest of the flour and most of the cheese (about 3/4 of it overall). Mix until the dough forms and rolls off the sides of the bowl, and does not stick to your fingers.

Divide the dough into 8 equal sized pieces. Roll each one to 50-55 cm or so, on a surface that is not floured (if it is, as I learned, it will not roll easily into a long cord of dough). Once it is rolled, make a loop and twist the ends one full time in the shape of a pretzel. Place on a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Continue rolling and folding the remaining dough.

Place a clean tea towel on the unbaked pretzels, and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until they have roughly doubled in volume. Then preheat oven to 400F, while brushing the egg onto the pretzels, followed by sprinkling with the remaining cheddar and a small amount of the coarse salt.

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Eat warm or cold, with butter or cream cheese, or anything you like on a pretzel. The next day, they are delicious toasted!

-Sitelle

I love this vibrant salad from its bright colours to its burst of herbal flavours. It’s light enough to enjoy on a hot summer day, yet with the rice and beans, hearty enough to be the star of a meal.   And the jalapeno pepper adds a nice kick.

This recipe comes from Bonnie Stern’s Simply HeartSmart cookbook. It’s a family favourite at the cottage and in the middle of winter, when I need something that reminds me of the freshness of spring, it’s a go-to recipe.

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Black Bean, Corn, and Rice Salad

(Makes 8 servings)

 

Ingredients

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup basmati rice

2 cups cooked corn niblets, either frozen or canned

2 sweet red peppers, diced

1 jalapeno, finely diced

1 bunch arugula or watercress, trimmed and chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup chopped fresh basil

2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives or green onions

 

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions

Cook rice until tender as per package directions. Cool by spreading on plate and placing in freezer for ~15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine cooled rice with black beans, corn, red pepper, jalapenos, arugula, cilantro, basil, mint, and chives to salad.

To make dressing, whisk together vinegar, pepper, garlic, and salt. Whisk in olive oil.

Toss dressing with salad. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

 

Bon appetit!

– Catherine

While I love my organic vegetable box, I am apt to find myself overloaded with root vegetables come winter. And as much as I love eating carrots, beets, carrots, carrots, turnips, carrots, parsnips, and carrots yet again, I find they easily become boring mid-winter. I’m always looking for new ways to make them more exciting.

While planning a dinner for friends (and trying to use up my accumulated root veggies collection…), I remembered a simple, yet delicious dish my aunt and uncle served me most recently at Thanksgiving (thanks Liz&Dan!). They make a fabulous 7-veggie roasted root vegetable mix, combining the earthy combination of onions, celergy root, turnip, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips. To dress up the veg, they toss them not only in oil prior to roasting, but also balsamic vinegar, which results in a delightful glaze.

This dish is easy to prepare, but requires some time to peel and chop the root veg. My aunt and uncle usually leave out beets, as the vibrant red stains other vegetables, but beets are one of my favourites, so I tried this recipe with candy cane beets.  It worked out great if you can get your hands on some (no staining!) or golden beets would also be a good work around. I’m also a fan of roasted brussel sprouts, so included them in my mix.  Feel free to use whatever mix of vegetables you love. The leftovers are great reheated or served cold with some leafy greens.

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Balsamic-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables

(serving size varies depending on the number of veggies you choose to include in the mix!)

Ingredients

Selection of root vegetables, peeled and cut into ~2 cm cubes:

  • Onion
  • Celery root
  • Turnip
  • Sweet Potato
  • Potato
  • Carrots
  • Parsnips
  • Beets (to avoid staining other veg, use candy cane or golden beets)
  • Brussels sprouts

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt & pepper to taste

Mix of your favourite herbs, dried or fresh, finely chopped:

  • basil
  • thyme
  • oregano
  • rosemary
  • parsley
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Veggies ready to roast! 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Prepare root veggies by washing, peeling, and then chopping them into ~2 cm (3/4 inch) cubes. If using, clean and trim the Brussels sprouts and leave whole or halve if large.

In a large bowl, toss veggies with oil and vinegar and herbs to taste. Transfer to a large baking dish (e.g. 8×13 Pyrex) and bake for ~75-90 mins, or until vegetables are baked through and sides are browned. Stir roasting veggies every 20-30 minutes to cook evenly.

 

Bon appetit!

 

Catherine