Thursday, July 31, 2008

An Ode (or Shell??) To My Mom

When I was a little girl, growing up in the big city, my mom always used to wistfully talk about Italy and escaping for a good holiday. (In fact she used to say the same things about Greece....probably just a symptom of winters in Canada). This year, it was my turn to head to Italy, while she and my family back home went to Cape Cod for their summer break (and were super sweet, celebrating my birthday with a cake and fun in my absence, but making a video of it so that I could join in the family birthday fun!).

Needless to say, it has been 8 months since my last trip home, and my feet won't land on Canadian soil for another 2 months (yes, I am painfully aware of the huge carbon footprint made by my trips home, something I try to atone for with biking and tramming to work), so, I thought that while being in one of her favourite spots, that a way to cure my case of "I miss my mom" I would make one of her best recipes that she always does vegan for me when I come home: Baked Shells.

Now, with the absence of tofu ANYWHERE that I have looked so far, and with me lacking in any real urge to munch on the soy product, I substituted some of her ingredients and made a dish that was just as wickedly delicious as hers - but soya free. .

I cooked the shells, the stuffing and the sauce separately from each other and then baked the shells for about 20 minutes at the end. All of the ingredients are local, and all but the tomatoes and pasta shells came from the market in the next town over.

Claudia's Soul Soothing Baked Shells
(way to have an Italian name mom!)

2 tiny eggplants - diced
2 tomatoes - diced
1/2 of a white onion - diced
4 of the biggest white mushrooms you have ever seen - diced
1 red pepper diced
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 red chili pepper
4 cloves of garlic
Pasta shells

Shells pre-saucing

I cooked down all of the stuffing ingredients in a pan, while cooking the shells, and K tackled the sauce (he had actually offered to make dinner, but I felt like I had to tackle this one). When the shells were ready, I gave them a good stuffing and lined them up in a baking dish. I covered them all with the yummy sauce and popped them in the oven.

So that helped get rid of the 'I miss home' blues, but I am still missing my mom - probably will until I get home in October. This stretch will mark the longest time I have been away from home. I am so thankful for everything that moving to Europe has given me (espeacially the proximity to the love of my life), and I do love being here, it is a great continent, filled with amazingly unique countries, languages and cultures. But, I do miss Canada - with all of its lovely rules and driving expectations. I miss the friendly people and the social services. I miss the country's (attempted) commitment to the environment and the communities of people who work together to fight oppression, poverty and to uphold the rights of women and refugees. I am sure that a lot of this stuff is happening in Belgium, in fact, I know it is. But, being an expat all of those things are a little further away from me.

I did more than miss my mom yesterday, we also made it down to the beach (though we didn't hit the sand or the water, just wandered around looking for a vegetarian restaurant that was closed) and found a really yummy pizza for was HUGE. The plate that they served it on wasn't even capable of holding the whole thing. They had two vegan options (cool!) and it was the thinnest crust ever, which left room for other treats later on.

We also made another batch of baked fruit....found some peaches at the market in Montalto and couldn't resist pairing some fresh walnuts with them. Another great day in the Italian sunshine.

This little vegancowgirl is going to crank up her CBC and read the Globe and Mail online! Thank heavens for the internet. I love you mom!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I went to Assisi and all I got was this mug....and a piece of vegan pizza.

Took our lives in our hands today as we headed up and over the mountains to Assisi, where we were able to see a huge array of Medieval and Early Italian Renaissance frescoes at the Basilica created to honour the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi. There were quite a bit of tourists, nothing quite as bad as the line ups for the ROM when they reopened, but still. The paintings were amazing, and I bought the cutest pair of handmade mugs - perfect for tea when we go back to the land of the dark and damp. We did manage to find a pretty good slice of pizza (my first since coming to Italy). K was gross and ate something with spinach and meat on the inside, but mine was yummy with just a nice tomato sauce on top.

I wanted to share last night's dinner, because it was unusual. Unusual only by token of what I put in my tummy. Pasta. I am not a big pasta eater, I think this derives from residual post traumatic stress symptoms of eating spaghetti for dinner one too many times as a kid (no offense mom), but, last night, after our long hike up Mt. Sibilli, which was both terrifying and exhilarating, I was a little on the starving side - given that our attempt at an after-hike lunch, with my elementary-at-best Italian skills and the propensity of most restaurants in the smaller towns to wait until dinner time to fire up their ovens, I ended up with a none too appetizing crusty piece of bread for lunch (yum). So, I was hungry. I didn't have a world of pasta, not even half a bowl, but the bit I had, whole wheat spaghetti noodles, hit the spot on the fill up portion of the meal, but the taste was by far engineered by the chickpea and tomato stew I filled my bowl with.

I decided that the photo of the fresh veg was well worth the share....

Again, mostly garden ingredients with bursting flavours and extraordinary freshness. Lots of fresh herbs and a great bottle of wine. Nummmmy in my tummy. After dinner we decided to bake some fresh plums (night three of baked fruit thank you very much), and booked some eurostar tickets to London for an end of August back to work shopping spree....whoopppeeee.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Does the backgarden count as local?

Stayed put at the farm all day yesterday. Read, ate, wrote, ate - that was the order of the day, and I can say it was all quite fulfilling and I never once felt lazy. There are some massive zucchini in the kitchen garden that beckoned to me - it seems that since coming to Italy, the zucchini family and I have made amends (we had been on the outs since a soggy stir fry situation). I wasn't entirely sure what we would end up with, but I knew it was going to be stuffed, and that I wanted to use up the mushrooms that were in the fridge. K set to work making a potato and tomato sauce dish, while I went to work on my stuffing. The result was delicious - I baked the skin of the zucchini while preparing the stuffing, resulting in a juicy little number. We also decided that the barbecued figs of Saturday couldn't go unchallenged, so we baked up what proved to be some pretty descent competitors by making a batch of baked pears that were scrumptious.

Big Green Yummy Monsters
1 massive zucchini
1 white onion - diced
2 tsp of olive oil
5 oyster mushrooms - diced
pepper, oregano and sage to taste

I cut the zucchini in half and hollowed out the middle, reserving the insides for the stuffing, and set them to bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. The stuffing was quite simple, and included dicing the remaining ingredients into small chunks, adding them to a warmed up and oiled pan and letting them brown through. Finally, I added the stuffing to the zucchini 'skin' and baked the whole big delicious party for another 20 minutes.

Baked Pears

8 tiny Italian pears
a handful of walnuts
2 tsps of maple syrup

Again, as simple as the recipe from Saturday: slice the fruit, add it to a pan, cover in maple syrup and bake for about 40 minutes. I added the nuts half way through this time, rather than right at the end. They were a bit more caramelized and much tastier.

While I was upstairs grabbing the desert, K decided to go for a quick walk around the animal lodgings that are adjacent to our outdoor dining spot. He said hey to Hootie, talked to the chickens and then noticed that one of the black cats was looking at him with that "oh crap, I have been spotted look". K's lensed eyes noticed that a little yellow streak was dodging clay pots and newly transferred plants in the nursery beds that the cat was sneaking around escaped duckling, not even 36 hours old, was being harassed by this big black feline. Kevin alerted the proper authorities and has now been crowned the patron saint of ducklings (we are in Italy thank you). How much more can a vegancowgirl ask for than have a future husband who goes around the Italian countryside saving the lives of ducklings?

*Please note that I am by no way ignoring my pledge to use local products in my use of maple syrup. I bought it on Saturday and have no intention of letting it go to rot. I think that might just be a bit too antithetical to my whole reason for being a vegan in the first place.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

And the award goes to......

Thanks loads to LadyLirel of The Vegan Grindhouse for awarding the VeganCowGirl with the Brillante Award. Much thanks!

I want to pass on the award to the following bloggers:

1. Selina who writes: Vegans Rock. Check out her beautiful garden photos.
2. An old grad school friend writes Vegan Miscellanies: a great blog filled with some excellent sustainable living and vegan concepts.
3. Sarah Jane from Vegan. Chicks. Rock.
4. For some of the sexiest vegan food porn EVER check out Ashley's photographs on Love Like a Vegan
5. A communications prof writes an interesting blog on Vegan Chai
6. Charmichael on Vegan Headonism, because they have a garlic tattooed on their body.
7. And, one of my favourite vegan cake makers: Steph at PoopieBitch. I love your recent tv spot. Great way to bring yummy vegan realities to the whole world! You go vegan-girl!

The rules are that you now have to share the award with 7 other blogging folk!

I'm A Quitter and You Can Be One Too!!!

I have spent more time than usual with nature and animals this week, which has prompted to me take up a challenge that I found with unusually perfect timing. Last night Kevin and I were sitting outside ruminating about the difference of taste in locally grown produce, and how much nicer it is to make dinner with veg we just plucked out of the garden.

In light of those thoughts, and being smacked in the face by the vulnerability of our environment and what it is capable of producing when humans stop being advantageous jerks who can't stop for a second to think about the future (or, in these dire times - the present), I decided that I was going to make a few more tweaks to my life that will have, though be them small, impacts. Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings happens to be "holding the torch" for the Quit Now Challenge, which comes from a sustainable and ethical living blog.

Jennifer talks knowledgeably about the obvious end of oil as a resource, and the awareness that we have to cultivate in ourselves NOW rather than in the future. She makes some suggestions for participating in the Quit Now Challenge in her most recent post, including: ditching non-local produce, not eating out, and other oil sucking practices.

I feel that I can commit to a number of these pledges, and without discomfort to my quality of life. I get frustrated by folks who, when they find out I am vegan, say: "God! How do you eat? Where do you find your food? You must be so hungry all the time...." I think this is part of the doesn't destroy some over imagined westernized vision of quality of life to, say, buy ethical products, eat local food, shop at the market, buy organic. It doesn't tire me out or steal time from my days. It makes my body, my mind and my little vegan soul feel great.

So, here are my pledges:

1. No more bananas (ok...that one is hard, I love my nanners). But, what I really mean, is no more fruit/food/sundries that are flown in from Kalamazoo (shite, that means no more maple syrup from Canada until I get home in October).

2. No more food stuffs that use non-recyclable packaging. I admit to buying rice cakes that come in plastic that looks about as environmentally friendly as the captain of the Exxon Valdez.

These are two little statements, but, I hope they cover quite a bit. Being in Italy for two more weeks is going to help me with the local commitment for SURE.

When I need a little motivation, (come on, who doesn't like nanners drenched in soy milk), I am going to look at this picture of these artichoke in full technicolour bloom.......

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Flaming Figs

This is Hootie. He is a Hungarian Long Haired Pig. He lives on the farm we are inhabiting.

I had impressions of being knocked over by the sights in Italy; the paintings, the sculptures, the churches. And I admit, everything, from the squares and the gelatto, to the cute little towns and the ancient roman ruins has been wonderful. But, tonight, after a fantastic picnic lunch on Fermo's hill top, I almost died and went to vegan heaven due to the meal that we pulled off in a joint effort of indelible proportions.

Fermo is a beautiful little city, with a story similar to most of those in and around the Marches. Pre-Roman history, a variety of attempted and successful takeovers, a number of unlikely hero-myths and a whole slurry of sunbaked skin. Prego. We wanted to see if the market was something to write home about, and even if it wasn't, we did manage to get some big fat peppers.

We also found a cute shop that sold us some yummy lunch-time fare that filled us up for our afternoon of more mundane holiday fun: shoe shopping (...hey, a girl needs more than one pair of vegan hikers thank you very much), and finally triumphing in a hideous supermarket in the week long hunt for soy milk.

After winding our way home, I split a free hour of time between painting and reading my new bookclub-book: Gunter Grass's Peeling the Onion, which I can not get enough of.

And then....we made the most brilliant dinner ever...and I mean EVER. It wasn't just the aubergine and parsley salad, it wasn't just the grilled peppers, it wasn't just the barbecued figs for desert or the homemade, homegrown wine, it was that all of these dishes were brilliant AND the food was local, mostly organic and all of it cooked over an open flame.

I implore everyone across the world to try the barbecued fig recipe. I could have risked not fitting into any pairs of lululemon pants ever again if it meant that I could just keep eating the juicy erotic looking maple syrup drenched goodies.

Flaming Figs

6 fresh figs (picked from the tree on the lawn) - sliced down the middle
2 tablespoons of Maple Syrup
3 tablespoons of walnuts - crushed

Add the figs to a tin foil pan (or wrap them gently in tin foil) and stick them on the top of your barbeque after it has already helped you make a wicked meal (so it will be a bit cooler and won't overcrisp your figgies). We let them sit on the grill while we ate dinner. Top with desired creamy goodness.

Topping of your choice: I went with a vanilla soy pudding type 'thing' due to the scarcity of soy-esque products and the total lack of silken tofu.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I had the chance to meet all the animals on the farm last night, and had a full tour of the grounds. Stunning. This is a wonderful way to spend a holiday stretch - I highly recommend it. Last night I made an eggplant and chickpea stew using herbs from the kitchen garden, which satisfied me after a longish day of exploring the most brilliant of little towns I have yet to see on our trip.

The town, Riptrasone, has been inhabited since prehistoric time, and has a satchel full of interesting stories about invasions from the Spanish. One of the most interesting tales is of a woman in the 13th century who managed to rally the citizens of the town against an encroaching army of Spanish, getting them to defend their little piece of heaven. They boast, amoung other bits of curiosity, the tiniest lane in all of Italy, measuring a whole of 43 cm. I had a fleeting moment of Niagara Falls fun house type fear as I made my way through the alley, making it out alive to head back to the coast for yet another soy treat.

When we made it home, we sat in the garden for a while, K with his beer and me with my paints. What a great day.

My Eggplant Exegesis:

1 medium eggplant - diced
1 white onion - diced
1 chilli pepper - seeded and slivered
2 cups of chick peas
2 cups of tinned tomatoes
fresh rosemary, basil, parsley and oregano
2 tablespoons of olive oil

I simmered the onions for a wee while and added the rest of the ingredients, leaving it all to simmer away for about an hour. Yummy.

For desert I watched 1 episode of my (not so secret) dirty secret - The Tudors. I know, I know. The writing isn't that great, and there have been some ridiculously silly moments, but, hey - give me a break.

I have found some quite well done resources for vegan/Italy - mainly this little search site: VeganHome (which provides links and contact info for a whack of vegan resources by region) and Vegetariani, which is a little heavier on the 'what is a vegan' side of things, but has some useful links as well. Tomorrow night, if all goes to plan, we are hoping to check out a vegan restaurant/house in our district. Today - we head for the ancient city of Urbino, which boasts a number of bio shops - fingers crossed for finding some fu. I was on a real asian spree before I left belgium, and I don't think the desire for stir fry has been quenched by my recent tomato and eggplant binge.

I also want to share my salad from Wednesday night. We used up the rest of the Betolli beans, mixing them up with some fresh parsley, lemon juice and white wine. We had the salad with some oven baked vegetables - a mixture of peppers, eggplants, onions from the markets and the garden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Birthday Update

So K managed to make us a brilliant dinner last night. I have honestly never been so impressed with his culinary skills. The two dishes were both divine - simple, satisfying and the flavours were spot on. K has a couple of things going for him in the kitchen: 1. He has quite a remarkable sense for flavours, and 2. He is patient. Unlike this vegancowgirl he really takes his time with everything in the kitchen (which is why HE is stirring the palenta right now and I am writing this post).

The beans were to die for. The taste was deep and rich, and yet the beans didn't hide the light flavours of the herbs or tomato sauce. He used a mixture of berlotti beans and chickpeas. It was magnificent. I couldn't recommend it more.

The tomato salad was a mix of tomato and parsley with a liberal sprinkle of dried Rosemary. We are currently undertaking the task of making a mushroom stew for some polenta we picked up in town last night.

We spent today hanging out in Ascoli Piceno, the ancient city in the southern most tip of the region we are currently inhabiting. A nice little spot steeped with history and some beautiful art. Lunch was a bit of a disaster...ordered stewed spinach and got a mouthful of bacon. But, after a bit of a cry in the art gallery for the piggie I accidentally swallowed, I did what I did in my trips through China: accepted it as a part of the culture and got over myself.

We had a great drive home, finding a number of organic vineyards in the region. Lots to drink and enjoy tonight!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Turning Thirty in Thirty Degree Temperature

What a wonderful birthday. I woke up about two hours before K and had my green tea (brought all the way from Brussels in the fear of not being able to nab any) all by myself while staring out the window at the most stunning of views. While I was watching the birds, a little sheep popped its head out to say hello, and a cat wandered by on its way to some sort of evil excursion. Who could ask for a better start to their birthday? When I finally roused K from his slumbers I was a little hungry and opted for a fresh fig from the field below, and some slices of the 10 kilo (!!!) watermelon that I picked up yesterday.

We set off not long after breakfast to check out a weekly market that was in a town a drive away. I was surprised with the abundance of cheaply made clothes and the scarcity of food stuff. We did eventually, after fighting off some taffeta dresses and beating back some attacking plastic shoes, find some amazingly inexpensive fruit and veg. We grabbed some beautiful looking beans at a stall where I was spoken dramatically and emphatically to by a woman who wanted so badly for me to understand her. But, I could do nothing more than look ignorantly into her eyes and plead for her forgiveness.

After the market we headed straight for the coast and stopped for lunch. The menu was limited for me, but that didn't stop me from enjoying some roasted veg. After a trundle on the sea shore, which was surprisingly vacant for an Italian seaside, we found our way to my birthday gelato. I was so excited to see the THREE different soy flavours that were at my picking. What a luxury. I admit to sampling every one of those suckers and loving them all - vanilla, coffee and chocolate. Fantastic.

K's cooking something for dinner....great I am sure, but still in the works. He has polenta, dried mushrooms, white wine and all of those beans!!! Who knows what will be in store for this now-30 year old vegan.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Broadcasting Live From Italy

One of the less pleasant aspects of adjusting to life in Brussels is learning to put up with administrative realities of time - something which, runs like molasses in January during 10 months of the year, to then, grind to an incomprehensible halt during the summer months. One is actually told that their phone can not be hooked up because "we are all on holiday and there is no one to drive the trucks". To ask a question that our good friend Andrea broached during a great Indian dinner this past Tuesday - "This is the capital of Europe, right?"

Hence my lack of posts. Funny, now that we are nestled - literally - on a little hill side in the quietest bit of Italy - where the closest human contact is the herd of leathery-skinned old men who are roosting in the middle of the otherwise unused square - we have wireless internet. We are staying on a farm, YES a farm!!! complete with so many animals it is going to take the next three weeks of posting to introduce them all to you - and have just gotten home from a day of hiking and town-exploring.

Before we left for our holiday, we did manage to settle into our fantastic new apartment, and between cleaning up the last place and trying to sort ourselves out, I was back in the kitchen and doctored up quite a few delicious yummies, of which I will just share the photos.

Stuffed Peppers

GreenBeans with Mushrooms
Chickpea Mashup

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Belgian Frites and Gooseberry Crumble

Brussels is a soaking wet cat of a city today, although not quite as wretched as London, which, according to the BBC, is experiencing monsoon-like conditions tonight. This weather equals - no moving. No way is this vegan cowgirl going to mess with her coiff. I have Leonard Cohen to see tomorrow night. So, rather than shifting boxes and cd containers, some baking and our vegan version of Brussels' famous frites are on the cards for tonight's activities.

Earlier, after leaving K at the campus, I headed home. Poor K was staring forlornly at his soggy looking cheese sandwhich (chesse!! I can't believe I kiss you with these lips), while I came home and chomped on some really fresh carrots, tomoato and my favourite - cauliflower. It wasn't all rawtastic, I had a little pot of hummus to keep the veg company in my belly.

After lunch I headed to the gym, and I couldn't help but laugh at myself as I followed my chest workout with a hilarious bike ride. Picture this - Lynnie sweating her heart out on a stationary bike, getting all huffy and puffy at the end of my 25 km ride, WHILE watching the Tour de France...I looked down at my distance counter...18km...I look up at the T.V......153 km. Hilarious.

After a walk in the rain, and a quick shop stop at Shanti, we settled on showing the Belgians how to do one of their specifialities vegan-style. Tonight's quick, but, healthy meal, is frites avec pumpkin burgers. I admit to having no hand in this little cultural challenge, choosing to stick with the baking component of tonight's noshing.

For the first time, I snipped off the ends of some gooseberries, and added them to some blueberries, oatmeal and some maple syrup. A nice warm treat for my tummy. Before now, my only experience with Gooseberries was teaching the immensley dense Anton Chekov short story entitled Gooseberries. Can I just say that I abhorred teaching that one liked it, not even me....I couldn't wait until I could re-write that syllabus.

Update: Gooseberries are by far the most delcious little berries to pop out of the molten lava of our Earth's interior...ok, so it isn't really molten lava, more like, really hot nickel and iron and some bubbling rocks...but, let's not split hairs. They are brilliant - all pink and white in their transparent, but, colourful way. Sweet and sour, hard and squishy. Little contradictions. The crumble turned out wonderfully. I am not tooting my own gooseberry-baking horn - it was all them and their great flavour. The photo turned out much too blurry for my liking, but I will share it anyway....just because.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Some Soup and a Summation

The weather in Brussels has been to my liking this past few days, a little rainy, a little dark and cool enough for my fleecy sweater. To compliment this fantastic atmospheric condition I cooked up a little chinese soup for our dinner last night. The slow encroachment of Brussels' summer hours (ie...closed) in most shops has finally enveloped my darling Tsampa. No longer a Lundi option (or Dimarche for that matter), I had to suck it up and head to the non-seasonal land of the conventional grocery store. But, as luck would have it, a shipment of Chinese vegetables had just arrived and supplied me with enough ingredients to make a soup that lacked nothing...except flavour.

Yes, this good looking lady of a soup, had all the right moves, but left little impression. Sesame oil, the lemon grass that I bought but forgot to throw in, or some good old P.C. hot sauce could have helped her out....oh well. Next time I suppose.

Not So Hot Soup
-cubed extra firm tofu
-slivered carrots
-soy sauce
-rice vinegar
-yellow onion
-broccoli cut into little trees
-chinese cabbage
-pea pods
-whole wheat and adzuki bean noodles

In other news, I was asked to review Gillian McKeith's new book, entitled Food Bible: A Complete A - Z Guide To A Healthy Life. I have spent a few agonizing minutes thinking about what to do with this request, and the accompanying hardback book, and I have come to this conclusion - I can't review it. I don't agree with the text, and to review it would be to slander the work of someone who thinks that she is doing the world a favour by providing us with this text.

I have never before felt that an author/life-style guro was more pushy, ostentatious or audacious in his/her writing, and I am also more than a little skeptical of the information or 'facts' that are offered throughout her recent title. I was appalled by subsequent articles and transcripts that show her as harassing people about their body weight and lifestyle behaviours in a way that made me feel nothing but sadness for the people that had encountered this woman on their road to healthy habits. Yikes.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blueberry What????

goodness to share from the kitchen of this The weekend has been packed, quite literally, with all things Ikea. Being the super geeks we are, we, of course, moved most of our books over to our new home before even considering much else. Given the shifting and moving of the weekend days, there is very little home cooked goodness coming out of the kitchen of this vegancowgirl. To be honest, it was K who came up with the spledtastic meal this weekend. Despite having heaved and lugged two billion gallons of science text books down some stairs, into our car and into the new home, his muscles were still coerced into stirring up a fantastic squash and cauliflower curry. It was gobbled up to plate licking standards while we finished off the last ten minutes of Sunset Boulevard...if I ever look like Norma Desmond please, please send me off to some really cozy hospital.

Some other foodies moments from the weekend included my breakfast option for Saturday morning, not, not toast. A little Swedish gem we picked up at Ikea on Friday night. K was super happy with himself when he came trotting over to me with a carton of BLUEBERRY SOUP in his hand. The best part was the ingredients list: Water, Sugar, Blueberries, thickening agent. And the warning: this product contains 6.3 % didn't take long to convince me of the truth in this bio hazard tasted of pure sugar. I ended up slicing up the last mango for Saturday morning treats...leaving the blueberry soup for K to experiment with.

Apparently my fruittastic frenzy wasn't quite complete, yesterday, given that we have a couple of root veg in the fridge and not much more, we stopped at a local, but never before visited (for breakie) cafe and I grabbed a fruit salad...which K admonished for its monochromatic behaviours....I didn't complain. In fact, I quite liked it.

But, it really was his curry that put all other food stuff to shame. It was amazing rich, without being heavy or gross. I helped dice the squash, while he made flavour magic. I am pretty sure he included: butternut squash, onion, red curry paste, coconut milk, coriander, cauliflower and some tomatoes. Amazing stuff. I am the luckiest girl in the world.

In other important world is two weeks until my thirtieth birthday! My mom sent a gift, but has left it in K's good taunts me every time I pass by the fire place, where it sits perched - pretty with its silver wrapping and perfect tape job. Damn it. It is also t-minus 13 days and counting until we load up and head for our 12 hour drive across the continent to ITALY! I can NOT wait.......

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Unexpected Delights

The fridge is in that wretched pre-moving status. Just bits and pieces of yummies that wouldn't usually find each other in the same recipe. But, it seems that under this potentially dangerous dinner pressure, I was able to whip up three of the most lovely dishes I have turned out in quite some time.

The first dish is something that I have never attempted before - a warm salad. In the first few moments of inception this green goddess of goodness was heading towards the land of tabbouleh. However, with the recent couscous downturn (aka - I packed it in an unnamed box) in my pantry, and the four lonely left over taters hanging out in my wicked cool veg. hanger (I love you ReUse Centre in Burlington, I will be back one day....) I ended up with the following:

Warmest Summer Salad

4 taters: chopped, boiled, fried off with some olive oil
3 cups of chopped parsley
3 tomatoes
1 red pepper
lemon juice from one lemon
3 spring onions
5 sprigs of mint

The next dish was described by K as "This is guacamole meets hummus meets Japanese car crash"

I had to verify that this was a compliment...and, yes, it was! I admit, this dish was on the burning lips side of warm, but it was tasty. Next time (and there will be a next time) a little less wasabi.

Cultural Car Crash Dip

1 ripe avocado
1 tin of garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon of wasabi paste
1 squeeze of lemon

Whip and Dip!

Itty Bitty Berries and Cream

There was no way that I was letting the fresh little berries go to rotting food heaven, and they were already mega ripe when I lovingly scooped them up at the market last night. I covered the bottom of two ramakins with oats, agave syrup and a little bit of arrow root. I added the berries (black and raspberry), a bit of maple syrup, and more arrowroot. I topped the warmed-through dessert with some almond milk.


K and I are in the process of getting our lives tied up nice and neat before heading off to Italy for some well deserved (if I might say so) rest and relaxation. We have rented a house in The Marches (anglosized), which is a non-tourist location between the Sibillini Mountains and the coast. We are both really looking forward to the food markets, outdoor cooking opportunities and the loads of cool eats we will be able to experience. We don't head until the 19th, but with the move and all of this 'foot' stuff 'stuffed' in between now and the 19th - it does feel as though it is creeping up quickly. We get the keys tomorrow night!!

Oh, the other neat thing we are trying to finish up is a wedding website for all of the out of towners...have played with a couple of platforms - still not sure......should be neat though.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Pantastic Canada Day Pancakes

My Canada Day was over six hours before my family's but that doesn't mean that we didn't celebrate in style! To commemorate the wonderfully multicultural world of urbanized Canada we had a great dinner last night, which was topped off with my own little edible pillar of honour - "to the lumber jacks" I say!

Pausing for a moment of nostalgia....I remember with the clarity watching the Logdriver's Waltz 'cartoon short' that CBC played during the 80s in their never ending attempt to convince the general public that we are considerate of all that has come before. It was always on between The Raccoons en Francais and Mr. Dress Up. For those of you who are in need of a refresher course on this little icon of Canadiana, or for those of you who are marrying your favourite Canadian vegan next year and need a little introduction (the lyrics to this song will be on the Canadian Citizenship quiz....) here you go!

Here is a little addition....
K sent me this little survey from the Globe and Mail.....see how you do!

K's Great Canadian Stir Fry
-Tofu (which he managed to crisp up superbly)
-sprouted: chickpeas, adzuki beans, peas
-diced onion

After his fancy stirfrying styles, K popped his allotment into two tortilla shells (I suppose in an attempt to continue his mirroring of Canadian cultural inclusion), while I just enjoyed mine with a crispy rice cake on the side. Please excuse the sewing machine in picture.....the apartment is officially in moving-nightmare status.

L's Pantastic Myrtle Topped Pancakes
-1 cup of 100% whole wheat flour
-2 tsp of baking powder
-2 tbsp of veg. oil
-pinch of salt
-1 tbsp of cane sugar
-1 cup of soy milk
- water as needed
-1 pint of blueberries (myrtles - the French word is just so much better...yes, K, I know I spelt it wrong...again, just cuter....I will appropriate and meld as I please...this post is celebrating Canada after all).

These turned out better than I was hoping for (after a couple of pancake disasters earlier this year). I suppose the stars aligned, and with a miracle similar to the one I hope Dione is granted this fall when, according to Mansbridge et all, we will see another election, I made a delightful and delicious stack of whole wheat yumminess! Tahhhh Dahhhhh!!!! (Who says you can't have your breakfast for dessert?)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day!

My little bit of Canada arrived last night - well, it was picked up at the TaxiPost depot last night, it actually arrived quite a bit ago, but the Belgian postal service isn't as efficient as one might hope.....My mom sent me some goodies from home, including a couple of pairs of pants that I had left behind at Christmas, a new pair of converse (!!!!!), some organic cocoa and vanilla they picked up while vacationing in the tropics, groovey 'I love Canada' stickers/buttons, a magazine, and....a very prettily wrapped birthday present that Kevin is expected to hide from me until the Belgian National Holiday - otherwise known as my birthday.

I used the cocoa to indulge in a pityparty recipe last night. I had a physio appointment yesterday, which I biked over to (gouging out a good chunk of my leg in the process), where I found out that I have some serious stuff going on with my feet, knees and hips. I actually have a stress fracture in my left foot, which the doctor suggested has been there for two years.....I was pretty depressed with his diagnosis, prognosis and the suggested treatments (bone breaking, resetting, casting, no more running EVER) and decided to be a sulky little brat. Here is what I ate:

1 cup of almond milk
1 banana
5 dates
1 teaspoon of cocoa
2 vegan ginger snap cookies crushed up

It was amazing....cookies and cream vegan style....and cured me of the most evident status of despair.

Moving backwards, I had a great little bread and olive treat for lunch that I filled up with loads of fresh lettuce and funky (not in the stinky sense) green tomatoes from the all knowledgeable bio fellow from the Ixelles Sunday market.

Dinner was actually much of the same: hummus, salad, olives, rice cakes, tofu steaks.

Sorry for the bellyaching about my doctor's appointment - just a bit nervous about it.

K had a brain wave in Tsampa last night - vegan pancakes and Canadian Maple Syrup for dinner tonight! Hell yes. He got a huge belly laugh out of his discovering a huge vat of maple syrup in the fridge of a Canadian friend on Sunday when we were around checking out their new slick apartment. It is true, maple syrup is actually what all Canadian babies are bottle fed on
for the first 10 years of life, and of course, we all pay homage to the Maple Tree goddess with every cycle of the moon. And...we bleed Tim Horton's Double Doubles (made we vegan cream of course).

So be sure to keep your eyes peeled for a post on my Canada Day Vegan Pancakes....they are on their way.....Oh, Jens Lekman signs a great song about vegan pancakes.