Monday, November 25, 2013

Avocado Toast 2.0

Every morning for breakfast, I eat avocado on toast.  There are a couple of different variations, but two things always remain the same; avocado and toast.  Breakfast is one of the most enjoyable parts of my day.  The house is quiet, everyone has left, and I get to sit with my toast and tea and watch all the dog walkers out my front window.  I occasionally watch old episodes of River Cottage on YouTube as well (a guilty pleasure of mine...).

I didn't use to eat breakfast, but after travelling to New Zealand and being served breakfast every morning from the families I was staying with, I came to realize what an important part of the day it is.  When I tried eating breakfast in the past, it was never satisfying enough, so I just ended up snacking or being hungry.  But, avocado on toast is so filling that it keeps me full until lunch without need for even a morning snack.

The chia seeds in this recipe are great for Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  They are also full of fibre and help to keep you fuller longer.

One of the most important parts of this meal is the bread.  It is very important to pick a hearty whole-grain preservative-free loaf.  If you are lucky enough to live in Edmonton or Calgary, you have a Prairie Mill Bakery that sells amazing loaves with different daily specials.  If you live in a different city, seek out real bakery bread - it is more nutritious and more filling.

This week, I am featuring two recipes: avocado toast - the original and avocado toast 2.0

Avocado Toast - The Original

2 slices mediterranean olive bread (or regular bread)
butter or mayo
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
salt, pepper

Toast bread, slather on butter or mayo, top with avocado slices, sprinkle with chia seeds, salt and pepper.

Avocado Toast 2.0

2 slices ancient grain bread (or regular bread)
coconut butter (or coconut oil)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced
1 Tbsp toasted shredded coconut
a few cilantro leaves
salt, pepper.

Toast bread, slather on coconut butter, top with avocado slices, sprinkle with chia seeds, add coconut, cilantro leaves, salt, and pepper.

I realize that this is not much of a recipe and is more of a list of ingredients, but believe me, if you try it, you will love it.  Personally, I'm addicted.


1. Sometimes instead of butter or mayo, I will use cashew cream to lighten the calories and make it vegan.  To make cashew cream, soak 1/2 cup cashews in water for 4 - 8 hours.  Rinse.  Puree in a blender (or "bullet") with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp onion powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and a splash of water.  Add enough water to make it the consistency you want.  It will last in the fridge for about five days.

Shopping Tips:
1. Buy avocados 2 - 3 days before you will need them.  They are ripe when they are just starting to give.  Cut the avocado in half around the pit and then twist to separate.  Hit the pit with the heel of your knife and twist to remove the pit.  Cut the half into quarters and peel the skin off.  If you are only going to use half of the avocado, keep the half with the pit in it in a container in the fridge to keep it from going brown.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Squash Salad

A friend of mine was able to grow 61 (!) squash in her garden this past summer.  So, it came as no surprise when she asked me if I would like some.  What I didn't know was that I was soon to be the unsuspecting recipient of an entire cloth shopping bag of squash.  Fortunately, though, many of the squash she gave me were delicata squash, which are now my favourite winter squash.  The nice thing about them is that they are small, so you won't always have leftovers, and you don't need to peel the skin off them.

This winter salad was inspired by a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and feeds four.


2 delicata squash
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of cubed feta cheese
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 clamshell of mixed greens

3/4 cup apple juice
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp shallots
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Cut the squash into half-moons, toss with oil and salt and place on a parchment covered baking sheet.

3. Roast for 15 minutes, turn and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Browning is good. Let cool to room temperature. Cut each ring into three pieces.

4. In a dry skillet, toast pumpkin seeds until they start to pop. Toss in a small amount of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Let cool.

5. To make the dressing, combine apple juice, maple syrup, shallots, and vinegar in a small sauce pan.  Boil and reduce until you have about a 1/4 cup worth.  Remove from heat.  Add mustard, salt, pepper.  Whisk in oil in a thin, steady stream.

6. On a platter, arrange the lettuce, squash, feta, cranberries, and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Drizzle dressing over top.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Delicata squash can be found in some grocery stores in late October, early November.

2. Dried cranberries and sometimes pumpkin seeds can be found in the bulk section, so you don't have to buy more than necessary.


1. If you can't find delicata squash, you can use another hard winter squash such as butternut or kobocha.

2. Instead of feta cheese, you could use chèvre or parmesan.

3. Instead of lettuce, you could use spinach.

4. Instead of pumpkin seeds, you could use walnuts.

5. Instead of maple syrup, you could use honey or brown sugar.


1. Store each component of the salad separately to keep the salad for a couple of days.  I made this the night before and took it to work for a potluck.  I just let the squash and dressing come to room temperature first.

2. You will have extra dressing.  It will keep in the fridge for about a week.

Enjoy this autumn/winter salad for the next couple of months for lunch or as an accompaniment to soup.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pantry Party Casserole

It's time to admit that there will be a day in the not so distant future where the temperature will be minus 30 before windchill, the snow will be up to your shins, and the last thing you will want to do is leave the house.  This recipe is perfect for that day (and any other winter day when you are feeling lazy).

I first made this recipe when Scott and I were living in England.  We started out with only a hot plate to cook on, but luckily graduated to a gas range (hob) and oven a couple of months after settling in.  I have fond memories of making this dish after a chilly February day of showing my parents around London.  I still think of that day every time I make this dish, which is often, and remember my mom's worried look when I was (god forbid) putting garlic, of all things, in the pot.  This dish was responsible for helping her get over her fear of garlic just like a few of the previous recipes have been responsible for helping her get over her fear of basil.  God only knows what adventures await her next!

I use three pots at once in order to speed up the cooking time.  The first day you eat this, it will be soupy and is great to sop up with crusty bread.  The leftovers will be significantly drier.  Don't get turned off by all the steps, it's a really simple recipe, and after you make it once, you probably won't need to use the recipe again.  It is a good idea to make it when someone else is on clean-up duty, though...


1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or organic canola oil
1 small white onion
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp dried Italian seasoning
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 can artichoke hearts, packed in water
1 can chickpeas
4-6 medium red potatoes
3/4 cup grated gruyere cheese
salt, pepper
fresh basil (optional)


1. Put a large, a medium, and a small pot on the stove.  Take out a casserole dish.

2. Chop the onion and garlic and put them in the medium pot with the oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning.  Saute on medium heat for about 8 minutes.

3. Cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.  (You can leave the skins on).  Simmer them in the large pot in salted water until they are tender, about 20 minutes.

4. Add the diced tomatoes with their juice and the tomato sauce to the onion pot and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thicker.  Add more salt and pepper, if needed.

5. Rinse the chickpeas under cold water and put them in the small pot.  Cover them with water and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes until soft.

6. Preheat the broiler.

7. Drain the artichokes and quickly rinse in water, if you want.  They are okay if they are not rinsed, but they have a briny flavour.  Cut each heart into eighths.  Add to the tomato pot when the potatoes are almost done cooking.

8. Grate the cheese.

9. When the potatoes are finished cooking, drain them and let them sit for a couple of minutes so that all the water is gone.  Put them back into the large pot.

10. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the potato pot.  Pour the tomato/onion/artichoke mixture over the potatoes and chickpeas.  Stir carefully so that everything is mixed together.

11. Pour everything into the casserole dish and top with the grated cheese.

12. Cook under the broiler for 3-5 minutes until the top is golden brown.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.  Top with fresh basil, if desired.  Enjoy!

Shopping Tips:

1. Like I said, this is a great pantry recipe, so buy double the tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and chickpeas so that you have them on hand the next time you want to whip up something from what you have in the cupboard.


1. This recipe is very flexible.  It can be made with any kind of cheese except maybe blue cheese.  If you don't have Italian herbs, just use dried oregano, dried basil, dried thyme, or a combination of what you have.  If you don't have fresh garlic, use garlic powder.  The point of this recipe is to use what you have on-hand, so feel free to experiment.

My method for making this is a bit unconventional because I don't want to wait for it to bake in the oven, and I prefer sautéing the onions instead of putting the into the casserole raw.  It makes for a much better flavour.  If you want to bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees instead of broiling it, you can and it will be less soupy, but I like the sauce - it's great with bread...