Spicy Pickled Beans

4 09 2012

This is my 131st post. Amazing. Not surprising, as I look back and start to draft this post, what I have to say is similar to previous years at this time. The cycle of life continues; the garden grew, now it’s harvest time, final yard projects on the go and prepping for next year, boxes of BC peaches to slice and freeze, apples from the in-laws to cook down, Plum Clafoutis in the oven and… life goes on.

Blogging is interesting. I am not sure how much of it is for me to capture my recipes and experiences or for the benefit of others. I’d like to think that people get something out of what I put into cyberspace. I see the hits and the comments. I especially like when I see hits and get comments for recipes and stories that are traditional. Right now the trending post is for Hungarian lesco, that’s very cool and so seasonal. I have spent most of my kitchen life learning from the women around me, my mom and my grandmothers. I guess I paid attention (or didn’t have much choice ;-)). In fact, as I get older and see the world changing, not always for the better, I pay closer attention to the function of things and how I might be more self-sufficient. In the absence of little people of my own, this blog is my way of putting these teachings out there. Cyberspace has provided a new way of foraging, I think this is good, as long as we develop the disciplines to look beyond the headlines and dig a little deeper.

My recent cyber-foraging brought me to pickled beans. I found this recipe on The Naked Kitchen. I have been meaning to start canning, but I didn’t make time for it again this year. I feel like it deserves more than just a quick session. I want to give it my good solid attention and get the right gear. However, I have known you can pickle without the canning fuss, so when this recipe popped up on Twitter, it was perfect timing because I had a container full of green beans (and T is known to eat a jar of pickles in one sitting, it’s legendary in his family, so I should learn to pickle things). It took me all of 5 min to do this, I waited 5 days to eat them. T says they go great in Caesars ;-).

Spicy Pickled Beans, adapted from The Naked Chef

  • 2 glass canning jars – mine were larger than the recipe (and old ones from my grandma) so I ended up doubling the ingredients. Measure the volume of your canning jars first to see if the vinegar, water and ingredients are enough. If so, go with these ingredients
  • About 1 pound Green Beans – I trimmed the little ends off, but you don’t have to
  • 2 cloves Garlic, peeled and whole
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper, cut in half, no seeds (I used a hot pepper from the garden, forget the name, it was hot!)
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 4 fresh Dill or 2 tsp Dill Seed
  • 1 1/2 cups White Vinegar (NOT my favourite ingredient and I’d like to investigate pickling with other vinegars. Any ideas? Let me know)
  • 1 1/2 cups Filtered Water
  • 2 tbsp Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Stand the beans up in the jars, add half the garlic, mustard seeds, dill, red pepper flakes and jalapeno to each jar. Bring the vinegar, water and salt to a boil on the stove. Pour into the jars, place the seal and lids on. Let cool to room temperature, overnight is fine. Place in the fridge. Wait. 5 Days or so. Eat.

I’m going to pickle everything now.

Eat well, Be well,


I {Heart} My Neighbourhood

12 08 2012

How are you? Busy summer? I always feel like we try to cram a bunch of stuff into the summer and already the days are feeling shorter and the mornings cooler. Ah well, enjoy it while it lasts. The sun has been blasting down on the garden and the bounty is looking good. The lettuce varieties have been abundant. Each day is fresh pickings of swiss chard for green smoothies and I’m hopeful the tomatoes turn into something edible (minus the one my little friend John picked early this week 😉 ).

I don’t brag about much, but recently my neighbourhood, Southwood, was voted #7 in the city as per Avenue magazines’ annual survey. Last year we were somewhere in the 30’s I think. I know it is a reader based survey, but more readers are living in and around Southwood and must love it as much as I do. I’ve been here 13 years and have seen it change. Lot’s of my friends were building new homes in new neighbourhoods and living in hipster neighbourhoods closer to downtown, I rode it out in Southwood. Our friend who is a real estate agent said something like, people stay in a home an average of 7 years – based on how many times I’ve updated and now doing a full renovation, with each completed phase it’s like a new home every year! I guess that keeps me average. Seriously though, I don’t see us moving. We have an amazing home we designed and created, mature trees and a great garden with tons of sun and a retired neighbour lady that likes to be naked outside May to September. What more could one want!

Yesterday I ran out for errands, this is what I did and why I {heart} my neighbourhood:

First stop, Aviv Fried’s Sidewalk Citizen Bakery for some incredible baking. I have been meaning to get there for so long (I’ve sampled often after yoga as baking turns up there now and then). This goes into the ‘it’s a staple’ category. You know when you travel and there is something that just can’t be beat and you’ll search with no luck elsewhere? Like a croissant in Paris or a curry in India? Well the cheese sticks at this bakery are KILLER. I’ll be back (apparently they come in gorgonzola as well, ah oh).

I popped up to Britannia to pick up some books from Owl’s Nest Books and ran to the bank, open on Saturdays, nice. After that to my favourite market, Kingsland Farmers Market for the weekly produce I don’t grow myself. In and out in 15 minutes, cause I know what I need and I visit the same growers and shops each week. I picked up some aged gouda from Springbank Cheese (to go on the green olive herb bread I just got). Checked out the bulk fruit for sale. I’ve frozen blueberries so far, but next is peaches…not this weekend though. Gotta run.

Next I hit up the Wild Bird Store to get food for the yard pets, had a deep discussion about Finches and how my new feeding apparatus is keep the squirrels away. Victory.

On the way home a quick stop at Planet Organic for the rest of our food needs. Done. All in 1 hr 15 min. Now I know I didn’t walk to each of these places, that would be ideal but they are all in a 5 Km radius, that’s good. Even better, I get to drive around in our 1967 Beaumont (in which my dear friend Em today called a land yacht, hardly ;-)). 

What do you love about your ‘hood? Vote for it at Avenue’s survey for 2013 here.

Eat Well, Be Well,


Banana Ice-Creamy

16 07 2012

We just finished some hot, hot days, feels good. Garden is growing. Been picking spinach and swiss chard for my morning green smoothies. I have a bunch of pok choy I have to do something with. Strawberries are a daily treat and I froze a bunch of soska (sorrel) for soup later in the season. Again, I planted my radishes too late, oh well. Grandma Anne dropped by (she’s 86) and we did a garden tour and assessment. Comparing tomatoes, rhubarb and sorrel and my plans for the perennial bed in the front. I already miss my peonies, they’ve all bloomed, they are my favourite.

Hot days warrant ice cream and on one of those hot days I remembered one of the first raw food recipes (if you can call it a recipe) I learned was banana ice cream. It is so ridiculously easy it’s just worth a try. For vegans, it is spot on. Seriously, try it.

Take ripe to over ripe bananas, slice them up, freeze. Once the bananas are frozen, take them out of the freezer and leave them on the counter for about 5 minutes, so the pieces easily come apart and soften ever so slightly.

Put the bananas into a food processor (I haven’t tried this in my Vitamix, but I imagine it would work, maybe not as smooth, not sure). Turn it on, let it go. Stopping now and then to push the bananas down on the sides.

Your done. If it’s too soft, I pop mine back into the freezer for another 10 minutes to harden up.

You can add other fruit, flavouring, honey for sweetness, but it’s perfect on its own. In discussing this with some fellow Health Food Junkies on the weekend, I’ll try adding some unsweetened cocoa powder and unsweetened shredded coconut next time. So go and cut up some bananas for the next hot day (it’s a bit dreary here now, but much needed).

Eat well, Be Well,


Being Sustainable

23 06 2012

What is sustainable anyhow? The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says:

: of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques><sustainable agriculture> b : of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

I listened to an episode of Q on CBC yesterday that attempted to debate the need or not for sustainable agriculture and the locavore. Besides the fact that both authors were clearly lacking expertise in their said areas the debate speaks to the complexity of the ecological and food production systems. We are living in a time that doing good = creating change. What we don’t have is a deep understanding of the issues at hand and how to wrestle with them. Agriculture is inter-related with governance and policy, capitalism, trade and business as well as the justice and law system. Although attempting a sustainable life-style is a practice to continue – it’s not enough. If we stop at the romantic (as one author described it and I agree) ideal of eating local and being personally sustainable we miss understanding the bigger picture (the part he clearly misses).

It will take those in positions of influence and power to understand the relationship between systems like economics – politics – policy – eduction – business – agriculture – justice – ecology etc. to create adaptive levels of development and integration between them. Making personal choices about food isn’t enough, speaking out and demanding understanding and change is better. Change in food production in isolation of any of these systems results in GMO foods to keep up with production needs and a predictable collapse of mono-crops in the Western Hemisphere; and the continuation of millions of starving people in the Eastern Hemisphere because Western practices are infiltrating the same systems which can not sustain these practices. They are seeing the collapse already from not “harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged” as per Merriam-Webster’s definition above. The issues are not that simple of course, stress of climate change, lack of diversity, population strain, decades of civil unrest and more are certainly a part of it.

An article that points us closer to the problem and how the current fashion of buying local, learning to garden etc can be seen as some personal green washing: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/12-4. If you are passionate about living well and being responsible to the future of our planet and generations to come, give it 10 minutes of your time to read and give some considerations to the systems at play.

We should all be careful not to stop our thinking at our own actions, this is limiting. The solution is not easily in reach, but if we all operated in a narrow frame of ‘self-fulfilling’, ‘feel good’ action the systems at play will win, keeping us exactly where they want us to be.

How’s that for a Saturday morning rant? Time to go to my local market and tend the garden 😉

Eat well, Be well,


Spicy Black Bean Dip

10 06 2012

A dip, a spread and filling all in one. This dip is delicious. I was looking around the internet to make a simple bean dip for a gathering and found one, but once I mixed the ingredients together, it was, well, bland. I changed the measures and added some spice and here we are.

The original recipe asked for a 2/3 cup cilantro, I left this out as not everyone at the gathering likes cilantro. Cilantro is one of those herbs that you should ask before adding to a recipe, especially as garnish. With or without cilantro, this bean dip is yummy. I spread it on whole grain wraps, folded in half and grilled to make a quesadilla for lunch. I just let it cool, cut it into three triangles and stored in the fridge.

  • 2 cups cooked Black Beans (1.5 14oz cans – save the rest for a salad)
  • 1-2 cloves Garlic (optional, I added a bit of garlic powder)
  • 4 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Chipotle Pepper sauce or powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp Ground Coriander
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/4 cup filtered Water

Add all of the ingredients into a food processor, blend until smooth. Taste and adjust for flavour and add extra water if you want the consistency a bit thinner, I didn’t have to. If you want to add the cilantro, add with the rest of the ingredients before blending or just stir in chopped cilantro once you’ve blended the rest.

Eat well, Be well,


Freezer Fruit, Quick Tip and some Aloha

13 05 2012

Well another season of growing has sprung. We’ve done our spring cleaning, prepped the garden and planted a few cool weather crops like radish and lettuce. A new home for the composter means new possibilities in the garden and space which we needed badly. The rhubarb is over a foot tall already, in its new home in the fresh tilled garden (we added our favourite sea soil again this year + our home made compost). The sorrel is a few inches tall and also has a new home in a sunnier location.

Frozen fruit ready for oven

In all this prepatory garden work, I realized I hadn’t eaten half of what I froze last year! I’ll have fresh rhubarb in weeks and bags of it in the freezer still. The past couple of months I’ve been baking fruit to make room in the freezer. Crumbles are such an easy and healthful dessert, they are a common write up here. The last one I made was a delicious mix of Okanagan peaches and blueberries and rhubarb from the garden. Just take the fruit out of the freezer, let it defrost for 30 min or so. Remember to freeze cut fruit and berries on cookie sheets first, easy to pull apart later. Here are some recipes: Rhubarb Crumble with Walnuts, Rhubarb Peach Apricot Cobbler and Blueberry Peach Cobbler.

Travel has limited my kitchen time. I have been sticking to old favourites and well buying lunch quite often, which I don’t love doing. I have discovered a place to get veggie chilli, and that got me through an entire week once. Last week I pulled a fast one – put together a quick version of my quinoa salad for lunch.

  • Bought a large container of quinoa salad from Planet Organic.
  • Added chopped and deseeded cucumber, diced yellow pepper, diced carrot and celery from my favourite market KFM and a can of chickpeas.
  • There was enough dressing and flavour in the salad from Planet – so I mixed it together and enjoyed for a few days.
  • Nice! Lunch for days in 5 min.

I hinted at Aloha last blog…here is a short food tour through Maui…I cry when I leave Maui, I love it there. From the moment we land we seek out the best fish tacos. My pescatarian diet flourishes near the ocean, fresh seafood everywhere. We have a favourite, Paia Fish Market. I think T loves those tacos more than me for brief moments ;-).

I also had the best veggie tacos filled with grilled Portobello mushrooms at Fred’s (thanks Joanne for the tip).

Each morning on the way to practice with Nancy Gilgoff, you’d drive past the sugar cane fields. They burn them to harvest, eek. We visited the museum last time, lots to consider. Sugar has taken over other less profitable and natural crops and has huge historical impact.

On the road to Hana, you gotta stop and pick up toasted coconut ‘candy’. 4 bags for $20, leave your money in a box and take the flavours you like, it’s an honour system. I grabbed vanilla, regular and candied ginger as well, which you may need if you get car sick on the way to Hana. 

Mmm and the Hawaiian purple sweet potatoes, so good. We ate at a new place in Kihei a couple of times, Three’s, we highly recommend it.

Mmm fish tacos (and a beer) on the beach.

Eat well, Be Well and Aloha


Top it with Tahini

9 04 2012

I just ate this and I don’t think I was breathing while doing it:

It was good while it lasted but I think I am having heart palpitations now. Have you read the recent articles on sugar addiction. 😉 No joke.

Good thing we have healthy recipes to bring us back to life. A popular recipe on this blog is the Tahini dip/dressing, go here to read again. It is so good on so many things. My last post was about an experiment with sea kelp noodles, go here to check it out. If you made that recipe (or used brown rice instead to make that yummy bowl of veg and tofu), you should have had tofu left over. What to do with it? Grill it up and serve over a chopped salad and drizzle with tahini dressing.

Make enough tahini dressing to use again. Next day, make or buy some falafel’s and warm them up, throw them onto a salad with tahini dressing and fresh cracked pepper.

And another way to use the tahini, spread it on a whole grain wrap, add veggies and tofu (these are the tofu snacks from Planet Organic) and roll up and press in a Panini press or warm it on a stove top grill pan. Its a good quick lunch. Finally, here is another tahini recipe from 2010. So many ways with tahini…what’s yours?

3 tbsp Tahini
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp Maple or Agave Syrup (or jaggery if you have it, asian sugar cane)
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil (or olive oil if you don’t have it)

Hope you had a nice long weekend,

Eat well, Be well & Aloha (more on that later),