Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pinch me, I must be dreaming...

...because that’s what it felt like yesterday. A lovely, hundred proof dream.

It started like any typical morning

But often dreams are quite mundane in the beginning. Like all those dreams you have of waking up and going through your morning ritual. You actually think you’ve woken up for real until you go into the kitchen and there’s Oscar Wilde making chocolate chip & pumpkin pancakes and your dining room has turned into an underwater petting zoo.

I hate it when I have those repeated waking-up dream cycles. They leave me cagey for the rest of the day because I’m half expecting the floor to turn into vat of hairy scorpions.

Anyways, my typical morning oozed into a typical early afternoon by the time I finished work. As I pondered over what to do with a sunny afternoon, DH asks me, “ Do you want to go up a couloir?”

Yes. Yes. Yes. YES. YES!!!!!

In lightning speed we packed while stuffing calories down our belly and zoomed out of there, leaving our friend Pete, who’s staying for a few nights, to hold down the fort.

By 3pm we were at the trailhead to Mt. Cokely and Mt. Arrowsmith, where we had our pre-anniversary romp on Sunday. Armed with our ice axes, headlamps and an lean assortment of gear, we headed up.

A view of the Alberni Inlet

Unlike Sunday’s snow and wind, the sun was beating down on us and back at us as it ricocheted off the brilliant white snow. The air was so clear, you could see the whole Alberni inlet.

The climbing was a hoot! We hiked up to the base of Cokely and had our choice of couloirs to play in. Every time I looked over my shoulder, the view just kept getting better and better. When the clouds rolled in, the view was filled with drama and grace.

A truly radiant view of the Alberni Inlet

That's me heading up slopes.

That's me topping out onto the ridge.

Time slid by as we made our way up the coulior and onto the ridge. The snow was fun with just enough steep bits to keep me on my toes and plenty of rompy stuff to play on. On the other side of the ridge was an equally breathtaking view of the east side of the Vancouver Island and the mountainous mainland.

The view of the east side of Vancouver Island.

That's the mainland on the other side of the water.

With sunlight at a premium, we made our way down and back to the car as the last drops of sunset were being squeeze out of the horizon. It was perfect timing, we made it back to our car by 8pm without the help of our headlamps. This is one of the useful benefits of daylights savings time.

One last look at the sunset. On the left is bottom of Arrowsmith and one of our favorite ice climbing crags. It's looking a bit lean now.

Our spirits and minds satiated, our bellies were empty. As much as I loved spending the day playing, I didn’t look forward to scraping up a dinner for us at 10pm. I hadn’t anticipated this climbing day so I didn’t prepare any dinner to return home to. I also hadn’t had a chance to do groceries. I guess it’s scrambled eggs and bagels for dinner.

But it was not to be. When we arrived home, not only were we welcomed into the arms of our friends and house guests, Nat and Pete, they had dinner waiting for us!

Pete had made pasta from scratch and a homemade fresh tomato sauce with sautéed spinach and ricotta cheese. It was spectacular. I didn't take any photos of it because I was just too hungry and it tasted too good to stop eating.

He had trepidations about cooking for me but I assured him that I was grateful to have anyone cook for me at any time but to have some make such an amazing meal when I was so in need of a home-cooked meal was loving, mindful and absolutely freaking brilliant of him. I love that concept, guests coming over to cook real food meals for me. I gotta get more folks onto that bandwagon ;)

Take it from me, chefs, professional or otherwise, love being cooked for. There are some that are a bit snarky and culinary chauvinists who can’t bring themselves to appreciate a lovingly made meal, but don’t worry about cooking for them. They’re already too full of themselves to have room for dinner, let alone dessert ;P

Talk about a dream of a day. An afternoon of snow fun with my honey and home filled with great friends and a delicious home-cooked meal waiting for us. Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Just to spoil me completely rotten, tonight we’re going over to our friend Karin & Dave’s house for a dinner and some quality time with their brood of felines.

Have a great day!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

And so begins the third year...

Wake up seedlings! It’s a bright, blustery day on the Rusty Coast.

If you look closely, you can see the mountains on the mainland:

What’s that infernal racket?

EEK! It’s the garbage truck!

I’ll be back in a minute.

(inaudible muttering and cursing, running down front steps in my Mashimoro jammies, garbage truck pulls up just as I get the garbage to the curb, smile sheepishly, realize what I'm wearing, blush and scamper back up the front steps, muttering and cursing some more.)

Excuse me while I battle the swarm of pollen that’s attacked my eyes and lungs

Who’s stinking idea was it to have all the trees in a mass orgy all at the same time? It’s a botanical bacchanalia out there. A girl can’t go to put out the trash without getting in the line of timber jizz. I'm constantly amazed at how much mucus my body is able to produce during allergy season. It's like Slimer has taken over my body. Next thing you know, Stay Puft Marshmallow man will take up shop in my brain.

On that note, we had our 2nd wedding anniversary dinner last night. Supposedly the traditional gift for the 2nd wedding anniversary is cotton. We opted for beer and wine instead ;)

Here’s the wall of empties from last night’s anniversary dinner:

We had our friend P. come over to help us celebrate. He, as usual, brought over a great selection of local brews to contribute to the meal.

Dinner was homemade grubs, otherwise known as gnocchi, with local chorizo and greens from the garden.

The gnocchi was made with russet potatoes from Saanich, True Grains’s sifted organic flour and a couple of Shady Mile’s free-range eggs. It was the first time P. had ever had gnocchi and I’m glad I was there to be part of this momentous gastronomic discovery for him. Gnocchi is such an easy and versatile pasta to make and one of our favorite comfort foods.

Our anniversary dinner stretched all the way to nearly midnight as we finished off the evening with a local cheese and fruit plate and enjoyed a few more bottles of beer and wine. P. is a fellow lover of local cheeses and we waxed poetic about the wonderful cheeses we’ve been trying. It’s gotten me yearning for a trip down to Cowichan Bay to pick up a wedge of Hilary’s Sacre Bleu and a small round of his version of Camembert.

BTW, there’s rumors of someone growing grain in the Campbell River region for scotch whiskey. If anyone has any idea who’s doing this, please send me a note via the comment box. I guess it can’t really be called scotch, since we’re not in Scotland. I don’t care as long as it’s good.

Enjoy the day!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wrapped Up Weekend

What an awesome, non-stop weekend!

I hope everyone else had a great first weekend of spring. The whole world seems to be blooming mad right now. It’s one spring chore after another. Who in the world put a freaking revolving door on my to-do list???

I got the silly notion that the windows are a bit meh and next thing you know, not only am I washing the windows, I’m also doing the floors, polishing the bathroom fixtures, mending fences and scrubbing down our front porch. And that was only Friday afternoon. I used the remainder of Friday evening to finish getting ready for this weekend’s fiber fair and to put the final finishing touches on my Arachne capelet:

For more about the fiber swap and sale and my capelet, check out 100 Mile Fiber Fest.

Right now I’m running on fumes. Friday night was a bed tossing insomnia riddled night and as soon as I dozed off, the alarm went off. I tumbled out of bed and to help set up for Saturday’s fibre sale. I managed to keep myself semi-chipper and awake throughout the day thanks to a steady supply of coffee and enthusiasm where ever I turned. Once back home, I remembered that I was supposed to drop something off downtown after the fair so I put my tired feet back into my shoes and trundled back downtown. I can’t remember the walk except that it was really low tide at the seawall. The only reason I remembered that was that it was really stinky.

Finally back home, I put my feet up and do some knitting. My body had other ideas and within minutes I was out cold. DH woke me up when he returned from his Saturday dealings and adventures just in time for me to realize that had I no idea what to do for dinner.

Thank goodness I squirrel away food during my less sleep-deprived periods. I pulled out a package of homemade whole wheat torillas, made with True Grain bakery’s flour, and a packages of bison smokies from Island Bison. I threw the whole deal into a couple pans and popped them into a preheated oven. I had just enough energy to crack opened up a jar of pickled spicy veggies I canned over the summer and we had ourselves a simple but filling meal.

In celebration of our wedding anniversary today, we went out for anniversary wander up to the ridgeline of Mt. Cokley on Sunday. It was pouring rain at sea level but up there, it was snowy and windy and a brisk –2C. The snow pack was perfect and I got to work my French technique step work on some pretty steep slopes. It was also my first full-on play day with my Valentine’s Day present, a Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe (so very sexy). The axe is absurdly light. It even got to see some ice time as we traveled up some ice covered bluffs.

We got home half past late and I still had some tortillas leftover from the night before so I made up some fajita filling with a moose steak, also from the freezer’s belly. I broiled the moose for 4-5 minutes each side. While that was cooking, I sautéed up some local onions, peppers and mushrooms. A pinch of chipolte pepper, cumin, salt and pepper was all the seasoning it needed.

To end it all off, some chocolate-blackberry sorbet made with an organic bittersweet chocolate, organic cocoa powder, a couple shots of Cherry Point’s blackberry dessert wine and some diluted simply syrup.

I’m off to make gnocchi for my anniversary dinner. DH has promised that he was going to return with stinging neetle for tonight’s meal.

Have a delicious day!


Friday, March 23, 2007

Eric Praline would be horrified

Don’t tell Mr. Praline but I think I ate one of his pets for dinner. On my way home, I picked up a whole halibut from the store. From the pile of halibut, intuitively picked the one that was the least flat. I couldn’t tell for sure if it was Eric the Halibut since it had been decapitated.
I hope he won't be too upset. I have a quarter of a slug (such a tragic lawnmower incident) for him if it will make him feel better ;P

I love that Monty Python skit. I actually started humming “Eric Half a Bee” when I saw the halibut in the cooler. For all those that have no idea what I’m talking about or think that I’m looney, just watch Monty Python’s ‘Fish Licence’ episode. It’s my favorite Eric Praline episode. Yes, I like it more than the ‘Dead Parrot’ episode.

Fresh Pacific halibut is one of the many yummy signs that Spring is here. Like other fish, I only buy halibut whole, thanks to my Chinese upbringing. Fortunately for me, the halibut they bring into the store are a bit on the measly side, a mere 10-12 lbs compared to the honking 400 pounders that can be found out there.

Buying fish whole also is cheaper in the long run. The initial cost of buying that much halibut can be a wallet bender but it does work out to huge savings for a fish like halibut. Look for flesh that is firm and skin that is relatively unscarred and intact. If the head is still on, check to see that it’s squished together eyes are clear. I have the fishmonger cut it into steaks for me and squirrel away what I don’t need right away into the freezer.

I didn’t get to making dinner until 9pm. I don’t know what happened. Someone must have taken time and put it into the washer and dryer and shrank it. Between getting ready for tomorrow’s Fiber Swap and Sale, chasing away an looming work deadline, dealing with the riff raff, and looking for my favorite pair of socks it got late. I didn’t realize how late until DH started giving me hungry puppy dogs looks and started whimpering for food.

Luckily fish cooks up fast and within 15 minutes I had dinner on the table:

In another 15 minutes, this is what was left of dinner:

LOL! I didn't realize how hungry I was until I started eating :)

Halibut is best prepared simply, IMHO. No fancy sauces, no shmancy preparations. Nothing more than salt & pepper and a sprinkle of seafood rub (if you want) onto the halibut before pan-frying it , 4 minutes per side. Along with some organic barley and garlicky kale from the garden it was a tasty end to the day.

As mentioned, I’m going to be held at the Nanaimo Fiber Swap and Sale on Saturday. It’s being at St. Paul’s Church in downtown Nanaimo from 10am to 2pm. Drop by the 100 Mile Diet and Fiber table and say ‘hello’.

Also, tomorrow is Shutdown Day.

So shutdown your computers and go out and enjoy spring's arrival.

Have a great weekend everyone!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

100 Mile Fiber Fest

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Keep your hands off my buns!

Everyone once in a while I get the yearning for sticky buns. Sticky, gooey, so ilicit that the Marquis de Sade would blush, insulin rollercoaster, hose me down afterwards, yummy buns. Buns made from scratch with real brioche dough and stuffed with cinnamon and brown sugar and whatever goodies float your kayak.

Making sticky buns is a simple task that only needs high quality basic ingredients, patience and a good standing mixer. That and a bit of planning, which I’m always in short supply of, which is why I rarely make them.

Since the dough needs to rise in the fridge for several hours, I usually make my dough the night before and let it chill overnight. The dough I used was a basic brioche which is fancy schmancy talk for eggy rich bread dough stuffed with butter ;) I used Shady Mile’s free range eggs which has gorgeous saffron yellow yolks that gave the dough a rich sunshiny colour. My Kitchen Aid mixer did most of the work of incorporating soft butter in the dough as I sipped my tea and planned for what I could make the next day with my brioche dough.

I decided I would use half the dough to make good old fashion sticky cinnamon buns. The other half would be used for bitter chocolate and cranberry rolls. In the morning I filled and rolled out the buns and let them rise before popping them into the oven.

Here’s what came out:

The sticky cinnamon buns and one of the batch of chocolate cranberry rolls were baked in a pool of brown sugar ‘sticky’ mixture. The extra sticky mixture hardens nicely into toffee-like confection so I usually just pour it all out onto the baking sheet and save it for sprinkling onto ice cream or into cookies.

It’s a good thing that it takes a bit of planning to make these or else I’d be making them all the time and before long, I wouldn’t be able to fit in my climbing harness ;)

I also make them smaller than what the recipe calls for and much smaller than commercial cinnamon buns which rival commercial bagels for oversize absurdity. These are so rich and flavorful that you don't need a huge one to satisfy your sticky bun craving.

I also made a batch of 'non-sticky' bittersweet chocolate & cranberry rolls, one of my favorite breakfast buns! Simple brioche wrapped around chunks of bittersweet organic chocolate and frozen local cranberries, oh, this is what the devil uses as bait. The rolls aren’t very sweet but buttery rich accented with the bitter chocolate and tart cranberries. A more grown-up variation of a sticky roll that goes ever so well with a cup of coffee on a damp, cold early spring day.

I had a minor heart attack during the baking process. As the buns were halfway through their baking, smoke started coming out of the oven! EEK! My precious sticky buns were ruined! Had I turned the oven on too high? Did the timer go off & I didn’t hear it?

Luckily, it was only some of the brown sugar mix that had fallen onto the oven floor and started scorching. Whew! I opened up all the kitchen windows and doors to get rid of the smoke, made myself a cup of tea and sat in front of the oven, & kept watch that the buns made it through the baking process unscorched. I'm not taking any chances people. I don't have it in me to make another batch and who knows when the sticky bun spirit will move me again.

Now I only have to find a safe and secret place to hide them before DH wakes up. What do you mean share? Sharing is for kindergarteners.

Update - To answer Stephanie's comment: Drats! I guess I'll have to wait until your other car is fixed before I bait the trap again ;)

I do freeze them. I just wrap them in foil and toss them in a freezer bag. I do them in 2-3 bun portions so I can pull them out the night before and have just the right amount ready for the next day. The buns do keep for a couple days and a quick zap in the nuke box or a quick oven reheat and they come right back to their yummy, soft selves.

Happy Eating!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

100 Mile Fiber Festival

I’m launching the 100 Mile Fiber Fest blog!

Inspired by the 100 Mile Diet, I’ve been looking for other local products to utilize to help support the local community & economy and to help the environment by cutting down on transport miles and about a gzillion other reasons. Becoming more of a 100 mile knitter was a no-brainer. I’m blessed to live in a thriving local fiber and texile community that is surrounded by alpaca and sheep farms. There are also many local yarn producers that make a mélange of hand-dyed yarn, many of which are also naturally dyed. I also have access to stinging nettle and cedar bark and other plant materials for fiber. I’ve even seen folks use dried bull kelp to make baskets!

I’ve done a few pieces in the past utilizing local fibers but now I’m making a more conscious effort to use local fibers more consistently. I get most of my local alpaca and sheeps wool from fiber swaps, fairs and from the farms themselves.

The 100 Mile Fiber Fest blog is dedicated to showcasing the wonderful creations folks are making with fibers grown or raised within a 100 miles of where they live. It’s open to any sort of creative vehicle including spinning, weaving, knitting, crocheting, felting, basketry and whatever else you can make with naturally grown fibers. Just send an email with an account of your wonderful 100 mile fiber creation, some info like where you are from, what sort of fibers you used, where you got your fiber and any tips and techniques you’d like to share. Photos in JPEG form can also be sent within the body of the email (no attachments please) and please keep them to a reasonable size. You can send in your 100 Mile Fiber account to

Now, my most recent 100 Mile Fiber knitting creation was inspire by a visit with Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses' this past weekend. I had come across one of my favorite myths, the showdown between Athena and Arachne. I know that most interpreters paint Arachne as a boastful, brash young woman who needed to be brought down a notch for bragging that she was a better weaver than Athena. In my alpaca fuzz filled mind, however, Arachne is a proud, strong minded and self-confident young woman who worked hard at becoming the best weaver she could be, though she could have benefited from a bit of humility. She did not shirk from her talents or play the modest maiden like women back then (and even to this day) were told to do. She dared to challenge the goddess Athena to a weaving contest and she beat the disguised Athena fair and square. Unfortunately, Athena was a sore loser. When Arachne realized that she had disrespected the goddess, her shame led to her suicide.

I was inspired to make an Arachne lace capelet. In the myth, Athena sprinkles the juices of aconite, or Wolfbane, onto the Arachne to loosen her suicide’s loose and turn her into a spider. Wolfbane shows up often in mythology and folklore as a plant with special powers, often deadly powers. So I tried figured I’d use plant motifs as the background pattern for the capelet. I tried to recreate the leaf of the Wolfbane in body of the capelet but I won’t know if it works until I block it. I'm using the perennial favorite 'Fallen Leaves" for the bottom border.

I’m using locally raised alpaca yarn that I purchased at the Duncan fiber fair and some at a farmers market last year. I’m also going to knit up Arachne in gold handspun wild silk yarn that I purchased from Trish Moon at Indigo Moon Studio on Gabriola Island. Wild silk coccoons are gathered after the moth has left, instead of being steamed to death in thier coccoons like cultivated silk. I’m using a modified version of Barbara Walker’s Arachne pattern.

So far I have this much done:

I’m hoping it will be done so I can wear it for the Nanaimo Fiber Swap and Sale, which is being hosted by my Weavers and Spinners guild. The Fiber Swap is being held on Saturday, March 24th from 10am to 2pm at St. Paul’s Church Hall at 100 Chapel Street in downtown Nanaimo. There will be a wide variety of local fiber, fleece, yarn and equipment. The guild is also selling baked goodies and lunch there.

Along with being one of the hostesses for this event, I’m also going to be running the 100 Mile Diet & Fiber table. Pop by and say ‘Hello’.

Have a great day!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shank you very much!

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. Last night’s dinner has brought about a bad case of gastric punsters reflux.

We continued our St. Patrick’s Day weekend with an impromptu 100 Mile Diet potluck featuring another lamb dish last night, Moroccan Lamb Shanks. Actually, I didn't even ask our dinner guests to make their contributions 100 mile diet specific, they just knew me well enough and there's certainly plenty of local culinary goodies to bring for a potluck. So lucky to have such kindred dinner companions! (Thanks M,P&R for wonderful evening!)

One of our guests brought over a great selection of locally made artisan cheese from both Natural Pastures cheeses and Little Qualicum cheeses, a few locally grown apples and a pears for cheese & fruit plate. Our other guests contributed a couple bottles of Zanatta’s Ortega wine, a luscious full-bodied white wine that went very well with the spicy Moroccan dinner.

Instead of Guinness we opted for some Phillip’s Black Toque IPA, brewed down in Esquimalt. Before you start throwing Leprechaun scat at me, all my Irish friends and anyone who’s visited Ireland insists that Guinness that is sold here is nothing compared to the Guinness that comes out the taps in the pubs in Ireland. I will make sure I will have a pint or 10 of Guinness when I visit the Emerald Isle. Until then, there is no lack in tasty dark beers from our local microbreweries. Phillip’s Black Toque IPA is the older, more intriguing brother of their light IPA. It has a deep malty flavor with hints of licorice, at least according to my taste buds. Anyways, it was a great beer to sip away as we chatted our way into the wee hours of the night.

Here’s my Fast & Dirty recipe for Moroccan Lamb Shanks. The prep only takes about 15 minutes to do. It’s a slow cooking dish and definitely has me thinking again about getting a slow cooker. While it cooked away, I also roasted a local organic squash. Nothing more than cut it open lengthwise, gutting out the seeds and placing the halves cut side down into a roasting pan. I then added a scant inch of hot water into the pan and let it roast beside the lamb shanks. It took about an hour to roast. It should be soft and scoopable.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks

1 large lamb shank or 2-3 smaller ones

2-3 yellow onions – cut into 1/8ths

4 cloves of garlic- chopped coarsely

3 cups of diced vegetables – I used local carrots, parsnips, russet potatoes

handful of morrocan salt-cured olives – pitted and chopped coarsely

1 litre chicken stock

olive oil

2 tablespoon coriander seeds – toasted and ground up

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoons curry powder

cilantro or parsley chopped – for garnish

1-Preheat oven at 300F.

2-In a oven-proof pot (dutch oven or similar style pot), heat up a couple glugs of olive oil over medium-high heat. Once hot enough, sear all sides of the shanks. Simply place them in the hot pot, let the heat do it’s magic. For crying out, don’t mess around with every 10 seconds. Just let it sit on the hot surface for 4-5 minutes and turn. Repeat until all sides are golden brown.

3- Remove shank from pot and throw in onions and garlic. Add more oil if needed. Bring heat down to medium and sauté until onions are translucent. Throw in the rest of the vegetables, except for potatoes, and let them cook for a few minutes.

4-Dump in spices and let them coat the vegetables. Add the shanks back in. Add in the olives and the stock and water. Don’t worry if it doesn’t totally cover the meat.

5-Cover pot with foil or lid. Throw it into the oven and forget about it for about 1hour or so.

6-An hour later, throw in the potatoes. Turn the meat over. Again cover it, throw it back into the over for another hour or so.

Garnish with cilantro or parsley

The meat should fall easily off the bone. The key is to cook it slow and at low heat. I literally torn the meat off the bone with my hands with little effort. Again, there really isn't much work involved, just sit back and bask in the inticing aromas. Such a wonderful and savory way to end the weekend!

Happy Eating,


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Friday, March 16, 2007

Drunken lamb stew and canned summer

Just a quick update on my pre-St. Patrick Day’s dinner party last night. For the main course, I made up a lamb version of the bison carbonnade.

I used lamb stewing meat from Horizon Heritage Farm in Qualicum Beach, a bunch of roasted local veggies, a bottle of Phillip’s Double Chocolate Porter and some beef stock. The recipe pretty much follows the bison carbonnade recipe. This time, I didn’t bother thicken it as much because I wanted a ‘slurpable’ soup. It’s just seems more satisfying to slurp your way through a intense, meaty broth on a cold and rainy night, IMHO. I also planned to use the leftovers for a lamb and noodle soup.

The stew was delicious. I even impressed myself :)

The meat was tender and flavorful and worked wonderfully with the porter. I let it braise for 1 ½ hours at 300F. You could cut the lamb with a spoon and it had just enough at that unique lamb flavor to give the stew character without being overpowering. Definitely much better than any New Zealand lamb I’ve had to work with in the past. Even DH who isn’t much of a lamb fan loved it and if we didn’t have dinner guests, I think he would have licked his bowl clean. Instead, he had to resign to simply wiping away the last drop of stew with a homemade cheesy biscuit. The biscuits were a basic biscuit recipe with the addition of grated
Rathtrevor cheese from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks. The nutty flavor of the cheese complimented the intense and savory stew.

I forgot to take a picture of the biscuits. They went pretty fast ;)

BTW, I got the lamb from Horizon Heritage farm as part of their lamb sampler package. Check out the Nanaimo 100 Mile Diet for info about getting some yourself yummy meats and for other farm gate sales. There’s a resource guide at the bottom of the page.

For dessert, I made a fast and dirty peach and apple crisp with fresh local apples and local peaches that I canned last summer. The peaches were so sweet that I didn’t bother adding any sugar to the fruit. Only a couple teaspoons of cornstarch, the juice of half a lemon and some cinnamon.

I topped it with a crumble topping made with 1/3 cup True Grain’s kamut flour, a couple tablespoons of butter, spoonful of organic cane sugar and pinch of cinnamon. Combine the mixture until it resembles coarse sand and sprinkle over the fruit. Pop it into a 350F oven for 30-45 minutes or until the topping is browned and the fruit is soft. If the topping is starting to brown too much before the fruit is cooked, simply cover your dish with some foil.

It’s certainly nice to have homemade local canned peaches on hand. It's a delicious and much bit of delayed summer gratification in a jar for these caliginous (oh, how I love that word) days.

Have a great weekend!


Nanaimo’s 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Quickie for lunch

Now that I have your attention, let's talk lunch!

I usually talk about the 100 mile diet dinners I make so I thought I’d talk about lunch today. I work from home and most folks assume that would mean I have all this extra time to make lunch. Well, some days I do but even so, I don’t really want to be messing about in the kitchen for an hour making a lunch everyday. Unlike the Barefoot Contessa, I don’t have a wonderful country estate with lovely country estate friends that visit me for lunch so it is a solo affair. It is one that I delight in. Just because I don't want to spend much time making it, doesn't mean I can't spend time enjoying it. It's often the only chance I get to take a break during the day. I hate eating lunch on the run. I need to sit and enjoy. Even if I'm out and about I will chill out and enjoy a packed lunch. I have found that if I do spend 20-30 minutes mindfully lunching that I don't have all those crazy snack urges a few hours later.

Lunch is dinner leftovers most days. Sometimes I only have leftovers of a side dish like roasted veggies or sautéed greens. These can easily be turned into a quick meal by tossing in some diced tofu or bits of leftover meat, reheating it and topping it all off with some nuts and a few drops of flavor powerhouse like a good balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of lime, a hit of ponzu sauce or fish sauce and a few drops of sesame seed oil or some grated hard cheese. A piece of bread or other starch rounds off the meal.

If I have leftover stir fry I’ll usually use that as a base for a noodle soup. Nothing more than heating up some stock, dropping in some a package of udon noodles and the leftover stirfry. A bit of soy sauce, oyster sauce, black bean sauce, miso or fish sauce will punch it up.

I always make extra portions of dinner for lunch the next day. Of course, the best laid plans get eaten up by unannounced dinner guests or my own never-ending appetite at the end of a day of play. But with a few BC mushrooms, a scrap of salami or smoked bacon, a bit of cheese and couple of local free-ranged eggs, I can have a yummy frittata or a really fancy scrambled eggs.

At times I make a big batch of soup that carries me through my lunches for most of the week. That’s what I did this week.

After returning from my top secret super hero business, I have not been in the mood for spending much time cooking since I was resident cook in the super hero clubhouse. Let me tell you, super heroes can be super picky eaters. I wanted to putter in the garden, knit and read in my corner, take walks around the lake, hang out with my DH and generally enjoying having my own space again. After building a fortress of solitude around the house to keep the riff raff at bay, I managed to get around to all those wonderful activities. Though some tried to knock down my fortress of solitude, I managed to keep it pretty intact. Heck, a girl’s gotta be able to put her feet up and relax in peace ‘n quiet between super hero gigs.

Most of our meals have been pulled out of the freezer and the garden this week since I didn’t feel like dealing with the grocery store. Looking for something for lunch this past Tuesday, I excavated down through the strata of frozen homemade dinners and found a couple of packages of frozen roasted pumpkin that I put away last fall. It was like finding treasure!

After a quick thaw in the microwave, I dumped the contents (6 cups of roasted pumpkin in total) into a pot with a cup of water, a couple tablespoons organic peanut butter, a ½ teaspoon of sambal oelek and some roasted garlic leftover from the night before. With my trusty hand blender, I whizzed the whole concoction into a creamy soup and brought to a slow boil while stirring regularly.

A drizzle of Auld Alliance farm’s pear balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of local hazelnuts and we have a great lunch soup. If you don’t like vinegar and nuts, a dollop of yogurt or crème fraiche would also be great. Along with it, I’ve been nibbling my way through some smoked local salmon (also excavated from the freezer) and slices of English cucumber, BC grown of course. Lunch ends usually with a either a square of good, dark chocolate or a sliver of local cheese depending on my mood. A civilized and thoroughly satisfying way to end any meal!

You could just whip up a big batch of plain pumpkin soup and dress it a bit differently each day. A spoonful of pesto for Monday, shaving of parma and some torn proscuitto and a drizzle of walnut or hazelnut oil for Tuesday , a drizzle of Thai It Up sauce for Wednesday, a dollop of tapendade on Thursday and for Friday, a sprinkle of curry powder and some chutney. Roasted veggies and even bits of meat also work well in this soup base. Treat it as you would a butternut squash soup. There are so many possibilities

Tonight I’m cracking open the fortress and have invited a few friends over for dinner. In the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day I’m planning an Irish stew with local lamb and Irish soda bread. Not quite sure what dessert will be. Perhaps a fruit galette or simply a fruit crisp.

Have a great day and happy eating!


100 Mile Diet Nanaimo

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Wake up sleepy bears! Time to shake winter out of your rusty bones. Spring is springing all over the place.

I returned from my extra-top secret superhero business to pollen infested rusty coast. Achoo!

Well, it isn’t all runny noses and itchy eyes. There are some good things about the coming of spring, like this:

Except for a garden shanty that my DH erected during one of the snowstorms, not much energy had to be put into the winter garden after the initial planting. That’s one of the best parts of winter gardening, no bugs and no weeds. Of course, now with spring around the corner, there is a bit of weeding to do. But with yesterday’s sunny break, it was grand to be digging about and mucking around. It’s been awesome to have fresh greens available through the winter. Even some of the red lettuce managed to hold on.

It seems the media is finally getting onto the local food bandwagon. Time magazine has a cover story on the benefits of locally grown food over other foods, even organics, grown far away. Check it out here.

For a local slant on the 100 Mile Diet and local food issues, check out the new issue of Synergy. Sean O'Connell, head super-chef of the Equinox Cafe, has a column on the 100 mile diet for the March/April issue.

For an extra boost of food system literature, I'm making my way through the 'Omnivore's Dilemma' by Michael Pollan. It's an entertaining look at the question "What should we have for dinner?" The author traces the food chain that sustains us through various narratives that range from visits to cornfields to food laboratories.

Warning: Knitting talk ahead. Proceed with caution!

I finished off the Honeymoon sweater a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I was sans phototaker gizmo for the last few weeks. They don’t like phototaker gizmos in superhero land. So here are some photos of the final product:

The back was done with a mix of techniques for the tree. I wanted a smooth line for the tree limbs and found that twisted stitches was the best and easiest method for that. The background colours was acheive by taking apart a couple different colourways of Noro (Kureyon and silk garden), most of them leftover from other projects, and recombining the colours to echo to colours of the the sunsets that blessed our honeymoon in Kyuquot Sound.
It falls to about mid-thigh and it’s just the punch of colour I need for these last few grey and gloomy weeks. It gives my wardrobe just the enough fun, vibrant colouring without making me looking like a Rainbow Bright doll on crystal meth.

Since finishing that, I’ve started on a lighter weight sweater for the rest of spring. I’ve been reading up on weaving and have always been taken with baroque brocade patterns but have found most brocade patterned clothing looks like someone turned grandma’s curtains into a frock. Just a tad stuffy for me. So I’ve been working out a more contemporary brocade pattern for a spring sweater. I call it 'Broken Brocade' since the white background is broken up with bits of colour.

The white and the variegated colour is from Lorna Laces sport weight. The variegated is their Seascape colourway. So lovely. The eggplant is from the super fine Gems line by Louet. Yeah, I know, the last time I used fine yarn to make a sweater I drove myself to the suburb of insanity. Let’s see if I can get through this one without ending up on the expressway straight to the knitting nuthouse.

I’m also getting together a 100 Mile Fiber blog for spinners, weavers, knitters, crocheters and basketmakers to share their creations made from fibers grown from within 100 miles of where they live. I’ve got a whole sheeps fleece coming my way soon and I have a batch of local alpaca that I’m designing to make a shawl with. I also have a batch of cedar bark that’s about ready to be used to make a basket with.

It’s going to be a busy spring!

Have a great day and happy eating!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Spring Fever

I've been called away for extra-secret superhero business. I'll be back next week. Until then happy planting and take time to enjoy the lovely cherry blossom trees and other spring lovelies blooming.

Take care and happy eating!


Nanaimo's 100 Mile Diet Challenge