food: nicoise salad

i don’t know if this is in any way unusual or noteworthy, but until last night neither my husband nor i had ever had a nicoise salad.
i mean… we’re not french… but we do like salads.  and seafood…. so… ya.

anyways.  in addition to working on paring down everything about our lives, the food budget is definitely a giant blinking light on the list.  we like food and 100% believe its worth the money to buy quality food.
but we also are living on the BC working man’s paycheque.  which means it can’t be all sablefish and spot prawns.

canned tuna and canned salmon are two things we’ve really taken a shining to lately.
it’s economical, relatively speaking, although you pay a premium for the ethically caught options, but its worth it…
and it’s tasty, fast and easy for those times when standing over the stove just isn’t your idea of a good time.
but one can only eat so many fish cakes (untrue – that shit is delicious) and so we’ve been hunting around for new ideas.

this nicoise salad really made itself.
my husband came home with bags of produce on monday and among them were lovely green beans, little red potatoes, baby heirloom tomatoes and 2 giant heads of romaine…
and also this genius idea.


we made a dressing of olive oil, anchovy, olive brine, lemon and white wine vinegar with some tarragon and garlic for flavour and whisked it together by hand.
the cooked potatoes and blanched green beans were tossed in it and the rest was drizzled on top.

for the tuna, we used one can packed in water and drained and one can packed in oil with jalapenos in it and mixed them together so it had oil, but not too much.

garnished with perfectly hard boiled eggs sprinkled with a few grains of coarse salt, tomatoes, olives and capers and it was ready for eating.

except for for mine, of course.  thats my husband’s plate above.
mine is the picky and much smaller plate below.
which was still equally as delightful.



food: new and exciting

i’ve been eating solid food for over 30 years now.  and while i wouldn’t call myself an “adventurous eater” necessarily, i’d say with confidence that i’ve eaten or am least aware of eating a wide variety of food.

so when i’m presented with something that i’ve never seen eaten, but it makes total sense, i do a facepalm and an “of course!”

we live in a very chinese neighbourhood.  well, that could be said for most of the metro vancouver area, but in our area of coquitlam, there is definitely a very large asian community including japanese & koreans as well, but mostly folks of chinese decent.
which means a few things, including a delightful presence of pretty authentic chinese, japanese & korean restaurants… but also grocery stores stocking ingredients that you otherwise wouldn’t see in a “western” grocery store.

we also have a solid persian community here.  which again, means persian markets and a handful of restaurants.
which is awesome.  because persian folks that i know have informed me of some little culinary secrets, like that halal meat is grass fed.  so all those months i spent feverishly searching for grass fed meats, they were right under my nose for cheaper than i thought.  although halal is not a guarantee of quality of life for the animals (and there is a very divided view on the slaughtering of the animals), so my preferred purchases are still from the farm, but in a pinch, its good to know there’s options.

we try to soak up as much knowledge as we can… whenever we see a vegetable thats unknown, we also whip out our phones and try to figure out what it tastes like and how (or if) you cook it.
vegetable adventures are fun to me.  because at the very worst, its just a vegetable.
i can’t claim to be *quite* as adventurous when it comes to mystery animals found in the exclusively asian targeted grocery stores.
frankly, i’ve come to the conclusion that in many other parts of the world, asia in particular, people will eat parts of animals that us north americans just haven’t quite wrapped our heads around yet.  and i’m not entirely sold that we need to, lol.
organ meats in particular just don’t jive for me.  *shudder*

but i digress,  because this is a story about vegetables.

over the past year, i can think of 3 new vegetables that we’ve “discovered” that i had previously never known.
one was a whole new thing altogether and the other 2 were just other parts of plants i already knew.

brand new to me: fenugreek.

i was familiar with fenugreek as a spice, but until last year had never seen (or noticed) it being sold as a vegetable.
so, thanks persians in my neighbourhood!

apparently fenugreek has long been used as a milk stimulant in lactating mothers and a libido enhancer.
but i just ate it as a tasty vegetable.

we enjoyed it in salads and also cooked down by lightly sauteing with butter, garlic & lemon.
it was peppery, flavourful and cheap.  and entire big bag of fenugreek leaves was about $1.50 and lasted us for several meals.
so while this is a very prevalent ingredient in persian cuisine,  it was totally new to me.

brand new to me last year: garlic scapes.

hello gorgeous!
i LOVE garlic scapes.  LOVE THEM.
contrary to what they may look like, they’re not super curled green onions.
think of them more like a fresh green bean or asparagus with a mild garlic taste.  aka – fucking delicious.

we came across these last spring at the farm market and bought them on the advice of the vendor.  he said to chop them and saute them in butter and nom down.
so we did.  and we’ve never looked back.

now they’re one of those items that if we see them, we buy up as many as possible.
they’re extremely seasonal.  and you’d only ever see them if you shop at good farm markets.  this is certainly not a big grocery store item.
and sadly for me, garlic scape season has passed with the spring.
but next year i’ll be prepared – i’m going to grow my own.

anyways, it seems that most people (on the internets) use the scapes raw in a pesto.  i liked mine raw too, but one of my favourite methods was to rub them with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper and throw them in the bbq like i do my asparagus.
you end up with a very similar texture, but a yummy garlic flavour, like you’d seasoned them.

they’ve proved to be as versatile a vegetable as the asparagus to me.
when raw, they can be slivered and added to salads, soups, as garnish, whatever…
and they saute, steam, roast or grill wonderfully.

if you’ve never had them, i can’t recommend them enough.
and bonus – they are also pretty cheap.  usually $1.50 to $2 a bunch.

and lastly, brand new to me as of 2 days ago: pepper leaves.

yes.  like the actual LEAVES of a pepper plant.
and here’s my internal self conversation:  “you can eat those?  of course dummy, why *wouldn’t* you be able to eat them?”
it was just not a thought that had ever occurred to me.
but those clever and waste-less folks at the local chinese owned produce market schooled us on them.

this is information i wish i’d had years ago.
i’ve grown many pepper plants over the years.  and while my actual pepper production has been spotty… there were always at least leaves.
and i wish i had known they could have been eaten.

my husband was at the market and picked up a bag of dark green leaves and asked “what are these?” and was told by the staff that they were pepper leaves and were really good.  he asked if you eat them raw and they kind of chuckled at him and said “no, we saute them, like stir fry them.”
so alright.  home they came.

last night we chopped them up and used equal parts pepper greens and kale and sauteed them with a touch of butter and coconut oil, garlic and lemon juice.
and they were GOOD.
slightly spicy and peppery (duh) but with a nice spinach meets kale texture.

this whole pepper leaves thing especially is now making me question my garden.
what else could i be eating that i’m not?
how much is hitting the garbage that should be hitting my plate?
this may require some further investigation.

food: sablefish with zucchini salad

well, it’s summer.  so it’s really that time of year when i think, gee, i should try and exercise and eat healthy and maybe put in a little effort to looking good in my bathing suit.
and then i remember thats a lot of work.  and just sip my coffee while contemplating all the things i should be doing.

but, the nice weather does put me in the mood for some fresh healthy-type meals.

yesterday i requested a fish.  but beyond that, i was not particular.
my husband came back with an amazing recipe from the newest Taste Magazine (thanks liquor store) for Grilled Lemon Oregano Halibut over Zucchini Salad.  which obviously sounded crazy yum.
buuuuut… we’re really trying to focus on sustainable seafood and also i have a crapload of basil growing right now… so it became Grilled Lemon Basil Sablefish over Zucchini Salad.
which was in no way a sacrifice or compromise.

it is essentially a marinated zucchini salad tossed with lettuce before serving and then the marinade/vinaigrette is also used over the fish.  and then we also bbq’d some local baby tomatoes and some green onions.

so here’s our version of the recipe – also pared down for 2 people.

Grilled Lemon Basil Sablefish over Zucchini Salad

  • 2 Sablefish fillets – aprox 6oz each
  • 1 medium green or yellow zucchini
  • 1.5tbsp chopped pitted green olives
  • 1.5tbsp chopped fresh dill
  • 1 cup washed salad greens (we used romaine & lambs lettuce – recipe calls for arugula)
  • 2 tbsp roasted pine nuts


  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 1/6 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped basil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  1. using a mandoline or knife, trim zucchini and cut into paper thin rounds.  In a large bowl, toss zucchini with tbsp of vinaigrette.  set aside to marinade for 20 minutes to 1 hour.
  2. Pre-heat grill or grill pan to medium high.  Brush fish fillets with vinaigrette and grill until just cooked through.  Meanwhile stir olives into remaining vinaigrette.
  3. when ready to plate, toss dill, pine nuts and greens into zucchini mixture.  Divide among plates and top with fish fillets.  spoon remaining vinaigrette over fish & salad.  Serve immediately.



sablefish is probably my favourite thing that comes out of the ocean right now.
it’s rich and buttery and so fucking delicious.
if i see it on a menu, its what i’m ordering. as long as it’s local and line caught, naturally.
because sablefish is so buttery (seriously – its the best possible word to describe it) and high in fats, it can withstand the bbq/high heat really well.  which is good, because its a bottom feeder and should be cooked through.

but, further to this recipe… honestly, neither my husband or i like olives and we’re really working on it… and these green olives that he found were actually really good.  also, chopped up in the dressing made a big difference.
i’m on a 3 year plan to train myself to like olives.  i’m slowly getting there.

another win about this dish was that it was a zucchini meal that my husband actually enjoyed.
i love zucchini all the time, prepared any way… but he’s not a fan.  but, he’d never had it raw.
and this marinaded salad was almost like a quick pickle.  so he was sold.
which is good, because i have 3 zucchini plants growing on my patio this summer, so inevitably at some point we’re going to have a lot of zucchinis around.

this new issue of taste magazine has a whole mess of amazing looking meals.  you’ll be seeing a few more of them show up here.  i promise.

travel: las vegas hiking adventure

a few months ago i won a hefty gift certificate to Intrepid Tours.  they are kind to travel agents and so this essentially meant i had a free trip to take.
the problem, is timing.
initially we were going to use this for our italy trip, but it didnt work out… and really, the idea of going on another trip before italy just isn’t realistic… but i have to use it before the year ends or it expires.

so i’ve been feverishly searching through brochures for something i could do in november or december that wouldn’t cost me a fortune in airfare.
and i have a winner!

this is called canyons & indian lands.

Highlights: Learn about the traditions of the Navajo people, Be mystified by the lunar landscapes of Monument Valley, Witness the epic scale of the Grand Canyon, Weave between the rock spires of Bryce Canyon, See the bizarre city of Las Vegas, Revel in the peaceful beauty of Zion National Park, Hike to the serene Emerald Pools


i’m pretty excited about it.

las vegas is a perfect start/finish city because the airfare is affordable…
and it’s 7 days/6 nights, so it won’t require too many days off.
so i’ve submitted my name and hopefully i get approved.
and if you’d like to join me, i can make that happen.  it’s a pretty affordable trip and there’s 3 spaces left.  (they only take 12 people, so you’re not on a giant bus)

i’m pretty excited to take a thousand pictures of amazing landscapes.

Days 1-2 Las Vegas/ Zion National Park

Start the adventure in the heat of Las Vegas, NV. Arrive early to indulge in the many delights of ‘Sin City’ before escaping to the tranquillity of Zion National Park. Follow the parks many trails through sandstone cliffs and discover hidden waterfalls and pools nestled in the shade of Zion’s soaring rock formations.

Day 3 Bryce Canyon National Park

Get swept up in the beauty of Bryce Canyon, a mind-bending collection of natural spires that glow a deep shade of orange in the hot Nevada sun. See this ecological oddity in all its glory on the Rim Trail or get up close and personal with the red sands of the canyon floor on the challenging Peek-a-Boo Loop Trail.

Day 4 Monument Valley

Enter the spiritual home of the legendary Navajo people, an otherworldly landscape of massive rock formations and blood red plains. Watch the sun move across this dramatic setting and take an optional jeep ride into remote areas of the Navajo Indian Reservation. Learn about the culture and traditions of these proud people that have inhabited this land for centuries.

Days 5-6 Grand Canyon National Park

Journey to the epic grandeur of the Grand Canyon, a monument worthy of the Gods. Soak up awe-inspiring views while hiking the South Rim Trail or splurge on a thrilling helicopter flight to see the scale of this unimaginably vast canyon from a different perspective.

Day 7 Las Vegas

Return to the neon wonder of Las Vegas where the Canyons and Indian Lands journey comes full circle. Why not take a stroll along the Strip or catch one of Las Vegas’ famous shows to end the trip in style.

food: larabars, chickpeas and oil. not together.

hi friends. the last week has been busy which has led to some serious food-time lazies.
i did get my homemade larabars done and they are quite a delight.

i know they don’t look that exciting, lol…


but they are honestly really tasty.
and very filling.  i’ve been eating one for my mid-morning snack or breakfast and its been keeping me full until lunch.  and since making my own was so damn economical, i feel okay with this.

i ended up using a base of just dates which i had to do in batches in my new mini food processor.
and i used walnuts, almonds and cashews for the nuts.  and coconut, natch.
and that was basically it.

i did add a spoonful or chocolate almond spread just because i had it around and it seemed logical… but also because that stuff is so damn sweet, like eating icing, and i don’t know what to do with it.

i wouldn’t add it again.  it made the bars crazy sweet and the dates alone add loads of natural sugar.
but honestly, i wouldn’t buy that spread again either.  so, ya.  needless to say, i need to stop shopping at trader joe’s before lunch.

but besides that learning lesson, i was damn happy with the results.
and this weekend i’ll be making a trader joe’s run and will stock up on other dried fruits to try out some new combinations.

my other culinary adventure this week was roasted chickpeas.
this was born of some late night munchies and the absence of popcorn which would normally fill this void.

see… i think i’m being clever when i don’t buy snack food because then i won’t be able to eat it… but really, it just means i end up cooking or baking something different.  which i guess is an okay trade off too…

anyways, i wanted a snacky salty carb.  and right now, the pickin’s are pretty slim for that in my house.
so after about half an hour of opening the cupboard, opening the fridge, opening the freezer, opening the cupboard again, back to the fridge… you know how that goes…
i finally came up with the idea to roast the can of chickpeas.

i knew i’d seen it online somewhere, so i did a quick google and came up with some ideas and a temperature guide.
i drained and rinsed the chickpeas and dried them off.  then i tossed them in olive oil, fresh garlic, rosemary, paprika and sea salt.


and then roasted them for about 20 minutes at 400.

they turned out pretty delicious, but the garlic & most of the rosemary burned.
after some further google research, it seems that a lot of people will dry roast them and then toss them in an oil/butter/herb/whatever mixture after they’re cooked to avoid this issue.
next time i’ll try that.

but, at the end of it all, my salty carby snack was achieved and all was well with the universe.

the absence of carby snacks is my paleo downfall.
but, i figured that somehow, eating a chickpea seems better than eating a corn chip.  and i stand by my logic.

i read a really interesting and scary article about eating vegetable oil last week and its stuck with me.
Why you should NEVER eat vegetable oil

this article was very WOW for me.
it’s long, but it’s very thorough and i appreciated that.  it sites real references and just plain made sense to me.

it also made me go to my fridge and assess exactly how many products we own with vegetable oil in them.  because we don’t buy bottled salad dressings, thats not a worry… but we do use mayonnaise.
and there’s a few sauces & such that we have in the fridge that contain vegetable oils.

so my project for this upcoming week is going to be making my own mayo and seeing how we like it.
my husband uses mayo on his daily sandwich, so he gets to make the ultimate decision, but he was down to ditch the veg oils too if possible.
it seems that i can make mayo out of any oil, but olive oil is the most common choice… so that will probably be my first try.  but i do have this lovely hemp oil that has a great grassy flavour… and my walnut oil might make a nice add in too.  so i’ve got some ideas.
i’ll try this mayo thing and report back.
also, its a great excuse to play with my cute new mini processor

which is filling the void until this KitchenAid architect series food processor magically shows up in my kitchen.

sooooo… if anyone can make that happen, that would be super….

restaurants: the mac shack

ever since i first heard whisperings on twitter about the mac shack, i’ve been planning a visit.
in fact as one of their first followers, i even earned myself a free meal (sadly, it expired before i could use it)
and as a life long mac & cheese addict, this just seemed like the best restaurant ever.

all they serve pretty much is mac & cheese.
this, my friends, is a magical idea.

i snatched up a groupon for this place that was soon set to expire, so on sunday, my husband and i made the almost 1 hour drive to kerrisdale to chow down.

the upside of this drive is that it allowed time to contemplate the menu offerings and decide on a mac & cheese.
i was happy to see a gluten free option on the menu, but wasn’t sure i was going to order it until i found out what they used… i’m not a massive lover of the rice pasta, which tends to be mushy and corn pasta is pretty good, but can sometimes have a texture issue too.
but then when i arrived, i was rewarded with quinoa pasta. a most excellent choice.

i went with the quinoa pasta with goat cheese and double-smoked bacon added.
my husband decided to stick with a more traditional offering for his first go and ordered the 4 cheese with good old fashioned white flour pasta.

the results were the following:




and yes, it was as good as it looked.
both dishes had pasta cooked to perfection and velvety cream sauce and enough cheese for add good flavour and gooey goodness, but not enough to make it too heavy.

my bacon was nicely cooked, not crunchy and cooked to all hell.
and the goat cheese on top was lovely.

we ordered the ultimate size, which it says feeds 1-2 people and thats about right.
i got to this point and then packed it up for leftovers.


and i gotta say, it was even better the next day.
my husband agreed that his was better as well.

so, i paid $21 for my groupon and ended up shelling out an extra $2.48 upon ordering.
we had 2 meals each out of it plus a salad and a boylan’s root beer each.
and also “bread dippers” which i could have definitely lived without, but we were short by $1 to make our groupon value, so we figured, why not.


fine work mac shack.
i’ll be back most definitely.

food: new addiction

while as a general rule, i avoid any sort of “meal bar” type foods… i’ve found myself recently indulging in larabar for when i’m out and on the go without a proper meal.

man, those things are tasty.
and expensive.

but when i look at the ingredients, there’s only 5 things or so in most of them…
my current obsession is the chocolate coconut chew that contains dates, walnutes, almonds, coconut and cocoa powder.

which inevitably led me to think… gee, these must be dead easy to make.

and sure enough, a quick google gave me a bazillion recipes for making your own larabar in the food processor.

roadblock 1: i don’t have a food processor.
its on my list of kitchen gadgets to get and increasingly over the last few months i’ve really been able to make a case for having one.  so i think this weekend, i’ll get one.

roadblock 2: actually, no other roadblocks exist.
according to the recipes, they can be made in minutes, with no baking or special processing required.
so really, the only other roadblock is my own laziness.

my nom nom paleo ap for my ipad has a recipe for “liar bars” which are their version of larabar and they look pretty simple… and then this post- how-to-make-homemade-lara-bars had all sorts of recipe variations that sound awesome.

so i think i need a trip down to trader joe’s to stock up on some dried fruit without sugar in order to mix myself up some tasty treats.

my other food obsession lately is coconut.

this one is by no means new… i’ve always been a fierce coconut lover, but lately, it’s been super serious.

everything i cook in oil is in coconut oil or coconut mana… coconut milk goes in my soups and stews… coconut water is my bottled beverage of choice… and just plain coconut is finding its way into my mouth at every given opportunity.

i totally believe this may be nature’s perfect food.
and if not, it’s definitely one of nature’s most delicious ones.

a friend posted a few links last week that i thought were interesting reads that gave me some good ideas on how to further use this superfood.
160 uses for coconut oil
healing properties of coconut water

if you’ve ever had a bad hangover and drank some coconut water, you’re probably already sold on its healing properties, but i always enjoy a little science.

but beyond the nutritional value, it’s damn tasty.
especially when fresh.
if this can be my meal accompaniment, then its happening.

also, just looking at that picture of shrimp truck food from hawaii is making me hungry.
thats from the north shore of oahu on my trip in 2010.  yum yum.

but anyways… my point is that its not unusual to see me like this on vacation:

and if you really want to get crazy, then you also throw some rum in the coconut and it makes you very happy.

anyways… coconut obsession is full on right now.
so if anyone has any amazing coconut recipes that they’d like to share, please, bring them on!

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