The Return of the Foodie PenPal

Those of you who have been around for awhile may remember the Foodie Penpal program. Basically, it’s like the pen pal thing you did when you were a kid. But for adults. Who like food. As adults it seems that it is far too infrequently we do something just because. No reason other than because it is fun and we want to. Well, the Foodie Penpal program is one of those things for me. Fun. Just because. Continue reading

The terrible two’s, a Blogiversary & a contest.

Two years ago I started this blog. I wasn’t totally sure why, I just knew it seemed like the right thing to do. Life was changing and that called for a new adventure. Ah, be careful what you wish for…. In two years life has changed a lot. I stopped personal training and left a job I had been doing for several years, I began volunteering with three different food based community organizations, I started tap classes (after almost 25 years!), and I got a greenhouse. Friends have gone to school, changed jobs, had children be born and move out (not the same child), divorces have happened and weddings are planned, I’ve made new friends and rediscovered old ones. And, I acknowledged that a lot of what has worked for me health and fitness wise for the past 40ish(cough) years really doesn’t work for me anymore. And while yes, this is a random selection of happenings, it highlights that life keeps moving on and I’m testing the waters.

Audrey testing the water

Life lesson: when testing the water always wear a life jacket

In thanks to all of you who have been part of my journey I’m giving away some presents. Three lucky people will get a mostlynoodles gift pack containing some homemade goodies! Here’s how to get in on the celebration:

  • Comment below telling me your favourite post or recipe in the last two years;
  • If you’re on Facebook or twitter send me some love (I want to double my followers this year!);
  • Don’t be related to me or live somewhere other than Canada (you actually have to do one of the first two to qualify… this is just a random rule).

Then on July 1st (I figured I’d choose another holiday to celebrate) I’ll put the name of everyone who qualified in a mixing bowl and have a draw. (Yes, I get that this might not play according to official lottery rules, but heck, how many lotteries give away jam and pickles?)

So please, let me know what you liked, what you didn’t like and what you want to see more of as the next year unfolds. I am honoured and humbled that you have joined me on this journey so far. You have all made the two’s not that terrible after all.

but always, mostlynoodles

but always, mostlynoodles

UPDATE: Thanks so much to all of you beautiful and generous people who commented (not many), tweeted (lots) and posted (tons!) on Facebook about my blog. Sadly, at least as far as the giveaway was concerned, most of you weren’t Canadian (I find that odd). But, in a highly unofficial and random draw names have been chosen and winners will be contacted soon. Here’s to another year filled with food, friends and family.

Pantry Staples, Holidays and Spices.

There are certain things that go with holidays. Sunburns, gin and tonics, tired feet, sand in your shorts, and tacky souvenirs. It’s true. Admit it. Hidden around most of our homes we can probably find little mementoes that meant something then, but now are just dust collectors. Chackas as my Jewish friends would say. And because holidays bring out the best in most of us we don’t just bring stuff back for ourselves. Oh no. We bring them back for others too. Everything from t-shirts, to snow globes, to shot glasses (Hi Sis!).¬†Now if the souvenir merchandise of a place reveals a bit about who a culture is, heaven help us all. However, thankfully, the food of a culture often is more revealing and says much, much more.

How do I bring this back?

How do I bring this back?

Probably my favourite part of travel is discovering what the locals eat. Trying new fruits and vegetables and overeating delicious things I can’t get at home. So it makes me happy that lately I’ve been noticing that I, and others, have been bringing back food stuffs from holidays as souvenirs and gifts. Pasta from Italy, olive oils from Israel, vanilla from Mexico, and spices from all over. Especially spices.

Just a few gifts from friends and family!

Just a few travel gifts from friends and family!

I tend to use a lot of spices. They are an integral part of my kitchen. Aside from bumping up the taste of food without the addition of fats and sugars many have highly beneficial health properties. And, while I haven’t figured out how to grow my own vanilla or cinnamon you often don’t even need to go to the store to get them. Herbs are easy to grow and you don’t need much room to do it.

container herbs

So I decided, for fun and because I’m a bit of a geek, to keep a list of what spices I used over a two week period. I realized that, not including condiments, vinegars and oils, my spice usage seemed to have three levels. Daily, weekly and occasionally.

My tier one spices are the spices that I use on almost a daily basis. Garlic (mostly fresh but sometimes dried) with pretty much every meal but breakfast; freshly ground black pepper on everything; sea salt, sparingly but when needed to enhance taste; chili flakes (and powder) on everything including even eggs for breakfast; and cinnamon daily in my coffee.

garlic

Tier two spices usually make an appearance at least once a week. Fresh rosemary; basil; curry powder; ginger (mostly fresh); oregano; dried mustard for salad dressings; fresh sage; and cumin.

Tier three spices don’t get loved often, but when they do they add amazing flavour to meals. I would include spices such as¬†chinese 5 spice powder, thyme, cilantro, lovage, nutmeg, parsley, paprika, summer savoury, star anise, and cardamom on this list.

The trick with spices is knowing when to keep it simple and when to tart it up a bit. Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up and get a more complex flavour. For those moments, here are a couple of my most used, make ahead, spice mixes.

Fajita/Mexican Spice

A versatile mix. It can be used on fajita’s, devilled eggs, as part of a salad dressing, or as a marinade for chicken or fish.

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne
1 tsp cane sugar (regular would work too)

Middle Eastern Spice Mix

Try this on a sweet potato, with grilled vegetables, mixed into yogurt for a cooling balance to a spicy main course, or as the base for a meat marinade.

1 Tbsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp turmeric
1 Tbsp black pepper
3/4 Tbsp ground coriander
1/3 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cardamon (optional)

Note: if you don’t have ground spices , just toss them into a coffee grinder and blend them together.

Drying herbs

Next up I’m going to track my condiment, vinegars, oils, and other kitchen essentials. What are yours?

Kale salad with Gado Gado dressing.

We’ve all heard of the actor who is an overnight success despite the fact that in reality they have been slaving away in summer stock, movies of the week, and children’s theatre for decades. Kale is kind of like that. Relegated for years as one of those vegetables that the “healthy” types eat, over the last few years it has been making a resurgence and, dare I say it, become rather trendy.

Hmmm….there’s a lesson in there. Just keep doing your thing, work hard, keep your head down, be honest and genuine and it will happen for you. Like the actress. And kale.

IMG_5314

I love kale (which is a good thing since it seems to be the one thing I can reliably grow in my garden) and eat it quite frequently. I steam it, make chips and add it to soups and stews. Lately though I’ve been eating it raw. My favourite variation to date is in a simple chopped salad with beans and a spicy peanut dressing. It has shown up so frequently at meal times lately I might even be tempted to call it an overnight success.

How do you eat kale?

For the dressing:

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 4 Tbsp. crunchy peanut butter
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tsp. Braggs (or low sodium tamari)
  • 4tsp dried ginger (or grated 1″ piece of fresh)
  • red pepper flakes to taste
  • Optional: splash of fish sauce

Method

Simply mix all ingredients together in a mason jar (or other sealable container). Refrigerate. Remove from fridge at least one hour prior to use to allow peanut butter and coconut milk to liquify. The dressing will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

For the Salad:

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of mixed kale, cored and chopped
  • Gado gado dressing
  • Sprouted chick peas
  • toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds

Method

Wash, rinse and finely chop kale.
Place kale and chickpeas in bowl and lightly toss with dressing.
Sprinkle with seeds. Add salt, pepper and chili’s to taste.

Kale salad