Hot Weather Eating – A Cottage Cooking Club Catchup


I’ve been eating simple meals all summer – we’ve had dry, hot weather and it’s been hard to contemplate using the oven or the stove much. Next year, I think I’m going to add a small grill to our outdoor equipment, because cooking outside is all I’ve been wanting to do.

Luckily, summer is full of fruit and vegetables freshly harvested and perfect for simple preparations. The salad at the top of this post is typical of what I’ve been eating lately, along with some very lightly prepared accompaniments.

New Potato Salad “Tartare”


One of my favourites this summer has been this salad, which gets away from the mayonnaise-soaked version you so often get in Canada and the U.S. Instead, it relies on herbs, cornichons, and a mustardy vinaigrette for flavour. It’s refreshing to have a bracing sourness underlying the dressing on a hot day.

Tomatoes with Herbs


I had so many cherry tomatoes that I made this two ways, one of which I’ll tell you about at the end of the month. This is the simplest way to enjoy tomatoes, with fresh herbs from the garden, a little balsamic, and a good olive oil. I had enough to satisfy us, share with our neighbours, and still had some to spare. I slow-roasted those and froze them. They’ll be brightening up my winter meals.

Tomorrow is going to be cloudy and mild (fingers crossed for some much-needed rain). I’m going to take the opportunity to put my oven and stovetop to work. So, you’ll be seeing a few more catch up recipes on the 28th of this month, along with August’s Cottage Cooking Club selections.

I’ve missed cooking along with all my CCC colleagues and I’m looking forward to catching up on your blogs.


A Promising Month


Just a short post tonight, with an update on what you can look forward to in April on the blog, including the Roasted Squash and Shallots with Merguez Chickpeas from River Cottage Veg that you see at the top of the post.

Every Thursday this month, I’ll have a cookbook review for you. And next Tuesday, I’ll let you know how your local supermarket can help you make better decisions about your health and the way you eat.

Along the way, there will be more of the dwindling store of French Fridays recipes, a Cottage Cooking Club update, anticipation of summer farmers’ markets, and an exploration of the Vancouver Biennale.

Who knows what else this month may hold in store?

Cottage Cooking Club – March 2015

Stir fry

We’ve reached the halfway point of the Cottage Cooking Club’s exploration of River Cottage Veg and the group is taking this month to catch up on recipes they may have missed in previous months. As for me, I’m just glad my new copy of the book has arrived. Inexplicably, my first copy of the book disappeared during the great re-piping project in January and no amount of looking has turned it up. I suspect that I will find it, now that I’ve got another copy. At least I hope so, because I have a lot of notes in the margins of the original.

As a result, I missed last month and this month I’ve only got one recipe on deck – Winter Stir-fry with Chinese Five-spice. This is the sort of recipe I’d like to say that I make regularly, but really need a reminder to undertake. I used to make stir-fries all the time in my youth. Now I spend so much time exploring new recipes, that I forget about the kitchen skills I’ve carried for years. To be fair, in those days I also spent a lot of time on political marches, taking university courses, and dancing in clubs.

Things change, though perhaps we shouldn’t leave so much behind. There are political matters that are just as urgent today, life-long learners get more satisfaction from their lives, and those who dance into their twilight years seem happier than the rest of us. Stir-fries, too, shouldn’t become just the stuff of dinners out – they are the epitome of the healthy, well-seasoned home cooking that’s being encouraged by food advocates everywhere.

Seasoning is the key, along with paying attention to how much cooking each vegetable requires. Some of my youthful attempts at stir-fry were a little ham-fisted and needed a little more care than the lashings of soy sauce and lemon they suffered. It took time and practice to get the hang of it and I think that helped me to become a better cook overall.

This stir-fry is simple, relying on five-spice powder, soy sauce, and rice wine for flavour, with a finish of fresh lime juice. It’s also a good choice for that in-between season when spring gardens are only just being planted. Carrot, parsnip, and mushroom give substance to the dish, while shredded Brussels sprouts are nice alternative to the usual wilted greens.


I’d also like to say thank you to Andrea, our fearless and talented leader, who blogs at The Kitchen Lioness. She was kind enough to send participants an Easter gift and you can see some of the lovely ornaments she included, above. This group has been a wonderful way to connect with more talented and interesting bloggers. It’s also been a great way to explore my partner’s newly-vegan diet with him. We choose from each month’s offerings together and the group’s recipes have become staples in our everyday eating.

I’m looking forward to cooking through the rest of the book, barring any more disappearing cookbooks.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – January 2015

Early spring

Spring is a few weeks ahead of itself here. The blooms that start popping up in February have been appearing everywhere around the neighbourhood over the last two weeks. It’s a welcome sign of renewal.

I’ve been experiencing renewal in a slightly less pleasurable way since the turn of the year. Our building was completely re-piped over the last few weeks and it was disruptive enough to throw off my blogging schedule (among other things). Half of my kitchen’s contents were piled on the other half and the rest of our place was uneasily accommodating the contents of our storage and coat closets, along with the substantial contents of a big built-in bookshelf.

There are no more holes in the wall and in their place, there are bright new coats of paint. We’re slowly organizing and putting away the things we’re keeping and working on getting rid of the rest. (One of the advantages of this sort of project is that it inspires you to purge unneeded belongings.) One of the disadvantages of work of this kind is that it saps creative energy, so we’ve been existing on some pretty utilitarian cooking lately and writing inspiration was a little hard to come by.

But that’s all over with, so I’m back in the kitchen and at my desk and will be catching up on some promised posts soon. For now, I’m glad I only committed to one Cottage Cooking Club selection this month, though all of them looked like things I’d love to try.

Curried Bubble and Squeak

Bubble and Squeak

Just before the chaos began, I made a big batch of this bubble and squeak. The traditional version has been a comfort food favourite of mine for many years, but one that I don’t often remember to make. This curried vegan version, which uses leftover cooked cabbage and potatoes, is economical and delicious. (And as a bonus, it reminded me that simply sautéed shredded cabbage is a delicious side dish all on its own.) I added chickpeas to the dish, for a little protein and fibre boost, but otherwise followed the recipe. My only quibble is that curry powder is such an imprecise description. I’m going to be playing around with curry spices as I make this dish again, until I get a combination I really love.

I also made the fennel and celeriac soup with orange zest, which was delicious, but that was when the work in our kitchen began and I neglected to get a photo. I love this sort of soup, especially when the weather is cold or rainy. Citrus and fennel have bright notes that help to make up for sunless days and celeriac has the same sort of earthy heft as potatoes, which braces against the cold. A perfect winter soup.

Now, we can move on to February. It’s a cold and dark month in many places, but here in Vancouver, it’s often full of spring.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – December 2014


One last hurrah from the year that has passed, with some deeply warming winter dishes that were a contrast from the frivolity of much of the holiday food we consumed all month. It’s the time of year for drinking endless cups of tea and thinking about healthy winter eating. These two dishes are great examples of vegan choices that will warm and nourish you.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

This soup was quick and simple, perfect for a month in which I’d bitten off a little more than I could chew, while trying to fit in all the holiday fun I could manage. I usually think about Thai flavours when I use coconut milk, but this soup reminded me that it is equally wonderful with Indian spices. I skipped the yogurt (to keep it vegan) and the cilantro (because the stuff in the store was wan and unappetizing), instead dipping toast into my bowl. Kevin just ate it straight up and loved it, though he’s usually not a fan of sweet potatoes.

The sharpness of the lime and ginger, the smoothness of the coconut milk and pureed sweet potatoes, and the spiciness of the curry and chiles make for a balanced and delicious soup. There’s also a variation listed for curried red lentil soup. I think that one might be on the agenda soon.

Roasted roots

Roasted Roots With Apple and Rosemary

Roasted roots are something I always think I should make more often, so I was glad that this dish was one of the choices. I used carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnip, but any winter root will do. They are roasted until they are softening and starting to brown, then apple wedges and fresh rosemary are added for the final fifteen minutes or so. The results are as good as a holiday stuffing, but more substantial. It’s meant to be a side, but I ended up making my lunch from the leftovers. I won’t be forgetting about roasted roots for the rest of this winter.

I was also planning on making the Leek risotto with chestnuts, but December just got away from me and there was no more time (nor has there been since). January is going to be another hectic month and then I’m hoping there will be a little breathing room thereafter.

How is your 2015 shaping up so far?

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

A Year-end Round-up

Favourite Posts

A round up of popular posts on the last day of the year may be a blogging cliché, but it’s nice to look back at what’s resonated with people, especially when some of the top posts of the year reach farther into my blog’s history.

It’s not a surprise that this top 16 draws primarily from my cooking community posts and from posts with a local focus. Those are the twin pillars of my blog, after all.

I’m looking forward to where this blog will take me in 2015, but looking back, I’m quite happy with where I’ve been so far. A very happy New Year to you all. I hope 2015 brings you health, happiness, and adventure.

And so to the list:

16. FFWD – Tuna Rillettes

I’m starting out at the bottom of the list, in true late December countdown fashion. Sixteenth of over 350 posts is still pretty impressive, though. This post is about one of my favourite Dorista snacks of 2014. Tuna rillettes are addictively good, whether used as a dip or a spread.

15. FFWD – Sablefish with Double Carrots

Most of the Doristas who made this came away enamoured with the carrots cooked in carrot juice that anchor the dish. This post also includes a primer on sustainable seafood and a rich, cocktail snack of a quick bread.

14. The Bounty of the Valley

The Fraser Valley isn’t just the place where chefs, bakers, and makers get their ingredients. These days, there are more and more businesses springing up that are making the Valley a destination (or keeping Valley foodies closer to home). The Fraser Valley Food Show has become a showcase for some of the best the Valley has to offer.

13. FFWD – Celery-Celery Soup

The name of this soup piqued my interest, so it makes sense that readers would be curious, too. If you don’t know what to do with the celery root you see in the markets, this would be a good place to start.

12. West Coast Christmas Show

Another event in the Fraser Valley, proving you don’t have to commute to find great, local goods.

11. FFWD – Chanterelles with Cabbage & Nuts

One of my favourite 2014 French Fridays dishes, this is going to appear on my table every fall when the wild mushrooms start showing up in the markets.

10. FFWD – Visitandine

A simple cake and a great way to use up egg whites, especially if you’re making lemon curd. I make sure there’s always one of these in my parents’ freezer in case they need a dessert on the double.

9. FFWD – Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake

This is one of the very first posts I made on the blog and it’s been in the top ten ever since. The cake has become a favourite in my family and beyond, making rum a more prized commodity around here than it ever was before.

8. Vegetable Quinoa Soup with the Taste of Little India

The photos for this soup are about as Pinterest-y as I get, which is why I think this one made the top ten. Besides, who can resist the promise of the name?

7. Eat Local: Kingfisher’s Waterfront Bar & Grill

I love talking about the local food scene and Kingfisher’s has a great food philosophy – two of the reasons I think this post was popular. The third? You got to meet my brother, Kingfisher’s Executive Chef.

6. Patate Alpino

I’ve been experimenting with working with brands a little bit on the blog and this is a post I’m rather proud of. A recipe inspired by the Italian side of the Alps and some French Fridays leftovers, this dish could become a dangerous habit for anyone in reach of a good Italian deli.

5. Cottage Cooking Club – October 2014

The Cottage Cooking Club, organized by the wonderful Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness has become a highlight of each month for me. Cooking through River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gets me out of the rut of my usual approach to vegetarian cooking, which is how I like to eat at least 60% of the time. I think more people are getting interested in meatless meals, so I’m not surprised this post made the top ten.

4. Happy Birthday, Dorie! A French Fridays Celebration

The French Fridays crew is in the last few months of cooking through Around My French Table, so when our fourth anniversary of cooking together lined up with the release of Dorie’s new book and her birthday, we decided to celebrate. With previews of recipes from Baking Chez Moi, birthday wishes, and fond reminiscences, this was part of a very special round up of posts.

3. Almond-Orange Tuiles – A French Fridays Fail

It’s a commonplace that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. I think that’s why this post climbed so high into the top ten, along with the fact that we can all relate to less-than-perfect results in the kitchen and everywhere else.

2. FFWD – Brioche and Nutella Tartine

This post from early 2012 has been consistently popular, perhaps because the word Nutella is a magnet or maybe because braided brioche is the cutest bread ever. I know I like the reminder of what a good team brioche, marmalade, and Nutella make.

1. Baking Chez Moi – We Begin!

My post on the kick off of another round of Tuesdays with Dorie was my most popular post of the year. How could it not be? Delicious cookies, a re-energized community, and a visit with Dorie Greenspan – no wonder it’s Number One.

Cottage Cooking Club – August 2014


The drops of rain on this dahlia mark the end of our sunny streak in Vancouver and possibly an early end to summer here. The recipes for this month’s Cottage Cooking Club inhabit the transitional space between summer and fall, as well.

Chard and New Potato Curry


Swiss chard is one of those amazing vegetables that shows up in the spring and keeps on producing right through until winter’s almost begun. Along with some potatoes picked when they’re small and a sauce that’s lightened with yogurt and heightened with Indian-inspired spices, this is a stew that’s welcome in any season. We both loved this curry, eating it without accompaniment on the first night and warming up the leftovers to serve over rice. It’s also one of those recipes that can serve as a template, allowing you to use whatever’s freshest or on hand. We’ll be having this one again and again.

Tahini-Dressed Courgette and Green Bean Salad


This dish hearkened back to my first experiments with vegetarian dishes, when I was in university. We all had jars of tahini in our refrigerators and Moosewood cookbooks on our shelves. Nowadays, I’m more likely to use tahini in Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cooking, but I enjoyed this slightly hippyish salad, especially with the addition of salad greens and tromboncino squash from my garden. The harvest from my first set of green bean vines is over and I’m awaiting more from the second set I planted, so I substituted snap peas, instead. They worked well. I can see myself making variations of this salad for myself (just me – unfortunately, Kevin wasn’t a fan) or using the dressing to marinate vegetables, lamb, or chicken before grilling or baking.

Caramelized Carrots with Gremolata


I couldn’t resist buying some heirloom carrots to use for this dish. These carrots were a deep purple on the outside, with a core of orange – we ate them up too quickly for me to get a shot of that, though. This is another dish I think I’ll be making often, using whatever root vegetables I have on hand. The freshness of the gremolata against the caramelization of the roasted carrots was lovely.

Asian-inspired coleslaw


And lastly, there’s this salad that’s almost like a quick pickle. We loved the combination of flavours in this salad – sweet, tart, earthy, spicy. It felt summery, but the cabbage, carrots, and onions can be obtained at almost any season – this would be a wonderful way to brighten up a late winter meal, too.

Next month, we’ll be exploring vegetarian flavours to pull us into the cooling of the year. I’m eating as much of summer’s bounty as I can, but I admit that autumn’s flavours are on my mind more and more.

Intrigued by this month’s recipes? Buy the book and join us.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – July 2014 (with some June catch ups)

I missed last month’s Cottage Cooking Club, so this month I decided to take on only one new recipe and try and catch up on the June recipes I’d chosen.

Marinated Courgettes (Zucchini) with Mozzarella


My pick for this month was one I knew Kevin and I would both like. Zucchini is one of our favourite vegetables and this marinated salad is perfect for a hot summer’s evening. Even if it requires turning on the stove for a short while. The zucchini is supposed to be cut into long, thin strips, but I picked up some zebra-striped courgettes at the market and didn’t want to lose the stripey effect, so I cut them into thin medallions instead. My favourite part of this salad was how intense the lemon zest and garlic become once infused into the olive oil. Those flavours permeate the zucchini, along with the basil I’d picked from my garden. I also enjoyed the contrast of the cold bocconcini (in place of buffalo mozzarella) against the room temperature salad.

Once my own zucchini moves beyond the blossom stage, I’ll be making this salad often.

My June was busier and more eventful than I’d like, so cooking and blogging had to take a bit of a back seat. I didn’t have time to make all of the dishes I thought I would, but here’s a short round up of the ones I did get to try.

Vegetable Tempura with Chilli Dipping Sauce


First up, gluten-free vegetable tempura. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for tempura, substituting a gluten-free flour mix, and then served the tempura with the River Cottage dipping sauce. You can read about my mishaps in this post, but the tempura, once we were able to sit down to it, was a hit. I loved that Kevin had an opportunity to eat something he hadn’t had since having to go gluten-free, but I’m not a fan of deep-frying, so I don’t think we’ll be revisiting it any time soon.

Honey Roasted Cherry Tomatoes


I’m a huge fan of simple treatments for summer produce. It comes and goes so quickly, why hide its flavour? That said, I can always get behind a technique that doesn’t mask flavour so much as intensify it. Roasting tomatoes does just that. The River Cottage method is simple, tomatoes tossed in a bit of honey, olive oil, and garlic, then cooked in a slowish oven. But what you get is even more amazing than the tomatoes straight off the vine. I used cherry tomatoes, unseeded, and got a lot of delicious juice with my roasted tomatoes. That’s something you might want to avoid with bigger tomatoes, but here it was a gift.

I made these for my parents, taking a little taste for myself. The tomatoes reminded me of a honeyed sauce and that’s how Mom and Dad used them – they made a big pot of pasta and tossed it with the tomatoes, juice and all. A heart-healthy, flavourful meal.

Frittata with Summer Veg and Goat´s Cheese


This is my favourite dish from River Cottage Veg so far. I used a big pile of spinach, along with radish leaves, garlic scapes, thinly sliced radishes and green onions, and fingerling potatoes. I added some rosemary and thyme, then finished it with goat cheese. There’s nothing better for brunch than frittata, as far as I’m concerned. This one was so full of vegetables, it didn’t need any accompaniment, really, but I served it with salad from the garden, anyway.

I love how easy it is to eat healthily in the summertime, don’t you?

Intrigued by this month’s recipes? Buy the book and join us.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.

Cottage Cooking Club – May 2014

Today brings something new to my blog, which will be happening monthly over the next ten months or so. I’ve teamed up with a few of my favourite bloggers to cook our way through River Cottage Veg. Our little group has been organized by the wonderful Andrea of The Kitchen Lioness and you can join us at the Cottage Cooking Club. Each month, we’ll be cooking up to ten recipes from the book and sharing our versions of the dishes. What we won’t be sharing is the recipes, unless there they’ve been shared online by the author or publisher. Some of us may also provide recipes inspired by the month’s choices.

This group came along at the perfect time for me, as my partner is moving toward vegetarian, and ultimately vegan, eating. I’ve always incorporated a lot of meat-free meals into my life, but it’s great to get some new recipes into my repertoire right now and see which ones appeal to Kevin the most.

This month, I chose six of the recipes to try. I probably won’t make that many of them every month, but there were a lot of favourite ingredients on this month’s list.

Arugula, Fennel, and Puy Lentil Salad

Lentil Salad

First up is a salad so good that I couldn’t help but share it with the group of bloggers who participated in the Canadian Lentils #LentilHunter Twitter chat that happened a few weeks ago. I loved the vinaigrette that was mixed into the lentils and then used to dress the greens. Kevin’s not a salad dressing fan, though, so I just squeezed lemon on his. We were both happy.

This is the sort of recipe I’ll revisit often, changing the ingredients according to the season. I used the organic French green lentils that I always have on hand, but this would be really special with authentic Puy lentils.

Try it for yourself – you can find the recipe here.

Quinoa with Zucchini and Onions

Zucchini and Quinoa

Not a hit for Kevin. I liked it, but would use less onion and perhaps a wider variety of veggies. I sauteed the garlic in butter before adding it, added a bit of balsamic at the end, and forgot the nuts. I think with a bit more experimentation, this could be a better dish for us.

Radishes with Butter and Salt

This one is a summer tradition for me. The bite of raw radishes is a perfect match for the soothing creaminess of butter. And salt just makes everything better. I did this with the first radishes from my garden and completely forgot to take a picture. I’ll add one the next time I do it. Shouldn’t be long.

Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Pizza

I didn’t get a pretty photo of this one, but I loved it, ugly or not. I used a frozen gluten-free crust instead of the homemade pizza dough made with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Magic Bread Dough. Next time, I’ll make it for gluten-eaters and use the dough, as Kevin wasn’t that keen on this dish. He would have preferred a traditional, tomato-based pizza with steamed asparagus on the side.

Roasted Eggplant Boats


I was surprised that Kevin didn’t like this one more – eggplant is one of his favourite vegetables. One of the things we came up against in a lot of the recipes I’ve been trying lately is that he’s not a big fan of sauces or dressings. The plainer the better is his motto. So, I finished this on my own. I enjoyed it, but it won’t be replacing Ottolenghi’s roasted eggplant as my go to any time soon.

Stir-fried Cauliflower


This dish was the winner of this month’s selections. We both loved it. This time, it made a great late night snack. Going forward, I think it will be a nice side for almost any Asian-influenced fare. I skipped the cilantro and added a little five-spice, but I would have been just as happy with the recipe as written. It’s easy to put together and I would be lying if I said I won’t be making this again for a lazy lunch or snack, all on its own.

Intrigued by this month’s recipes? Buy the book and join us.

Here are the links to the rest of the group’s posts for this month. I encourage you to check them out – you’ll meet some wonderful bloggers and get some great inspiration for vegetarian eating.