Cumin chick pea salad with garlic-yogurt dressing (inspired by a Sudbury favourite)

There’s this great place in Sudbury called the Laughing Buddha.

Thanks for the shot, Google Street View. I love the Buddha so much that I’ve chosen to overlook its choice of signage font.

It’s one of the best hangout restaurants in town, complete with a pizza and sandwich menu that will make you drool and an imported beer list that will have you convinced you can drink all 64+ varieties throughout the course of the summer.

A night’s worth of beer selections at the Buddha (with friends, don’t worry). The beginning of summer – we had such high ambitions!

I first discovered the Buddha back in high school when it was no more than a hole-in-the-wall. Seriously, it was the size of a slightly wider-than-usual alleyway. Its signature pizzas were made in one of two clay (or maybe wood?) ovens and as a result took forever to make. Luckily they were worth it. I used to go with my mom and sit in the dim light and plot the future photography exhibits I would host on its walls.

I returned to town after my first year of university and voila! A new patio. Twinkle lights adorned the overhanging branches and lantern-like mechanisms tall as trees emitted a warm ripple in the air on chilly evenings. The music was the sound of large freight trains clunking along across the street.

A Sudbury-ism. Pin courtesy of We Live Up Here, a really awesome local project that you should check out by clicking this photo

Today the Buddha is big. In addition to the aforementioned patio, there’s a new back room where I experienced the most fun of DJ sets a few weeks ago. Yes, there is room to dance. Pizza and dancing. Heaven is swell, thanks for asking.

Let’s talk patio again. Since it is one of three patios in downtown Sudbury, it is the Friday evening watering hole for the entire city, from hipsters to professionals, toddlers to moms on mom dates. Just as the city’s lone Starbucks was the place to bump into everyone you knew during high school, the Buddha is the destination of choice for the 20-something crowd.

And let’s face it, alcohol > an Americano, just about any day of the week.

Whenever I go to the Buddha on a lunch date with friends, I consistently coerce them into buying the chick pea salad while I stuff my face with the usual suspects (normally the Llama Rama pizza). I then distract them with my wit and charm (hah!) and proceed to pleasantly request that I try their salad. Multiple times. Yes, we would like an extra fork, please and thank you.

Today I was big-time craving this salad. I thought my at-home adaptation was pretty spot-on and I crammed spoonfuls into my mouth like a starving Oliver Twist. I can still taste the garlic and it is absolutely wonderful.

Because dinner tastes better with a side of Instagram, right? Sorry for being that person.

Also: it’s amazing how a good meal can cheer me right up. I was feeling grumbly after lugging a pile of groceries home on my bike, and this ready-in-a-jiffy dinner was exactly what I needed.

Because really, who needs a car?

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Rosemary pork chops with homemade crab apple sauce and sweet potato, celery and apple salad

*homemade, but not by me, more on that below

Hi there. It’s non-vegetarian Hilary speaking. Remember me? Maybe not. You haven’t seen me around these parts for a bit as I’ve been off on summer holidays to avoid the sweltering heat. But the nippy fall breeze is back (ok, maybe not so much this past weekend, but it’s coming!) and so am I. Good to see you again.

Kale and quinoa – favourite summer foods (well, also sweet potato, but it managed to sneak into this dinner…I can’t quit my hot weather food cold turkey, after all) – be damned! Carnivore Hilary is rearing her ugly head.

The entire basis of this meal was formed around a condiment: the apple sauce. This wasn’t your average run-of-the-mill, eat-with-peanut-butter-on-toast (actually very tasty) apple sauce. This was homemade crab apple sauce made by our web editor, Wendy.

I know! Crab apples! Yes, you’re thinking of the right food, those tart little half-sized apples you used to throw at the kids on your block. The ones that you would pitch like a soft ball and hit with a tennis racket. They are one in the same.

For the childhood reasons listed above, crab apple sauce would normally not appeal to me. But because Wendy, a whiz with all things food, made it, I knew it had to be good. Wendy told me it was like your everyday apple sauce but with a kick; more cinnamon and – you’ll never guess so I’ll just tell you – a whole bag of marshmallows melted into the batch!!! Crazy, right? According to Wendy, the marshmallows were to serve as an alternate sugar supplement and were also used to thicken the sauce. Sneaky marshmallows. I love it.

So right, when it comes to dinner food, I always associate apple sauce with pork chops. As it happened, I had some leftover sprigs of fresh rosemary in the fridge, perfect to top off these chops.

Pre-oven
Post-oven

And, as is always the case when I cook meat, I underestimated the time it would take to cook. So here I sit (this is past Hilary speaking), typing out this blog post, eating spoonfuls of apple sauce and listening to my stomach growl. Please don’t even remind me of the homemade pizza my mom made for her dinner, the leftovers of which are sitting idle in the fridge, threatening to turn my saliva glands into miniature geysers.

Anyways, I also made this sweet potato, celery and apple salad to accompany the chops. I thought it would nicely balance the heaviness of the meat. Raw sweet potato is a recent revelation and allowed me to divulge in the fleeting days of my summer foods. If you are a loud chewer such as myself, do not make this salad for any occasion where you need to impress, since the sound of it crunching in your mouth will sound like bones being broken. And I know this is the biggest first world problem EVER, but julienning sweet potatoes = my own form of personal hell.

Sorry the photos aren’t up to my usual standards. It is getting dark oh-so-early and I’ve yet to find the ideal nighttime photo location.

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Cold Asian soba noodle salad (with edamame, mango, peanuts, cucumber & everything else that is good in the world)

Hello, I’m back. This past week I traded blogging efficiency for journalism efficiency. At this point in time, the two cannot be done in tandem, apparently, which is certainly something I am going to have to work on.

That being said, this salad was made a millennium ago. But it was so good that the need to blog about it transcends the boundaries of space and time laid out by The Internet.

One of the problems with blogging after the fact is that it is challenging to remember all the funny little narratives that accompany a meal. Like how I tried to make my brother pretend he was bowling with the purple cabbage (because really, doesn’t it look like those kid-friendly bowling balls you used to use at grade two birthday parties?) and then predict my fortune using the same cabbage as a crystal ball. Anyways, moral of the story here is that it is always best to simultaneously blog and cook. That way nothing goes forgotten.

Sad baby brother

I was nervous about this salad. Wendy, our fantastic web editor at CBC, is a fellow food-lover, and we usually extensively discuss my meals both before and after making them. Wendy had me on high-alert with this salad, flagging soba noodles as something of which she isn’t particularly fond. I cautiously proceeded.

One of the many things I enjoy about trying new foods is that I get to discover fun facts about them (someone needs to create a food trivia game, stat). All I knew about soba noodles prior to this meal was that they were the skinny opposite of those thick, tube-like, wheat-based udon noodles that I used to eat in really bad, 2 a.m. first-year-residence stir-frys. I promptly learned that soba noodles are made of buckwheat (soba is, in fact, the Japanese word for buckwheat) which is, WAIT FOR IT, in the same food family as…rhubarb. Neat, huh? Needless to say, Wendy and I spent 15 minutes before story meeting one morning Google imaging flowery fields of buckwheat.

When the opportunity presents, I really love sharing food, and this salad was the ideal dish to package up in Tupperware and transport throughout the downtown core. Wendy got some (good news: she changed her mind about soba noodles!), my friend Liz (of former outdoor picnic fame) had some delivered to her office, and my friend/owner of Café petit gâteau, Yoshi, also got some. Yoshi gave me a fresh herb and gruyere scone in exchange, which was one of the best things that happened to my day.

Special lunch deliveries

Anyways, in the end this salad had so many good things in it. I think it could be classified as a “kitchen sink” / “crisper clearer” dish, because of the oodles of leftover items it used. My health levels are reaching new peaks just thinking about it.

PS: frozen edamame beans = popcorn.

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Dinner in a jiffy: Red quinoa and kale salad

As much as I love spending an hour in the kitchen preparing a meal (god I hate how disgustingly domestic/40-year-old I sound), there are days when you need a good meal fast.

For me, those days of the week are either Wednesdays or Thursdays, depending on when my recreational baseball game is. In addition to feeding myself on these nights, I’ve also started bringing one of my CBC colleagues and fellow baseball team member, Martha, dinner at every game, since she doesn’t get off work until 6 p.m. (she is our superstar afternoon newsreader!) and has expressed baseball-induced hunger at one time or the other. Everyone needs supper. And trust me, our team needs all the extra energy it can get.

Food-wise, I feel like such a recipe copycat lately, but the Internet is such a good stomach to supper matchmaker that I can’t help but be inspired. This recipe came from Taste Food Blog, and was adapted a teensy bit by yours truly to fit my needs and serving size.

Since the term “jiffy” was an integral part of this slaw, I was pleased to have some leftover Cookin’ Greens kale to use up. You know, it’s that kale that I used for the sweet potato and kale mac and cheese a few posts back. In case you don’t remember, it comes pre-chopped and flash frozen, and was super easy to measure out, cook up on the stove and toss into this salad.

The refreshing zing of lemon vinaigrette plucked at my tastebuds and that tender chew of kale gets me every time. You can eat this salad warm (as I did for dinner), but it really is more delicious after a night of refrigeration to allow the flavours to sing.

I washed down dinner with a batch of homemade almond milk. One of my favourite bloggers (she’s Canadian, too!), Sarah from My New Roots, posted this beautiful and informative video a while ago and I have been trying to find time and an excuse to make it ever since. The resulting drink – let’s just call it “health juice,” shall we? – was refreshing and actually so easy to make. There’s something extremely badass about taking a solid and making it into a liquid (also, soaked almonds are just so cute and plump after they sit in water all night). It’s like grade five science glass all over again. Plus it made me feel like an accomplished hippie chick which, to be honest, is what I totally try to be sometimes.

The almond milk-making process

I took the pictures you see below after my baseball game was done, as the final slits of light from my favourite part of the day shone through the kitchen window. Who says straws can’t have halos?

I ate my leftovers (+ sandwich) on the patio of my favourite Sudbury bakery, Café Petit Gâteau, and watched as people enviously eyed my lunch from the YMCA across the street.

Foodstagram

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Moroccan chicken salad (& my personal journey conquering couscous)

I know how to make quite a few different kinds of food, but couscous is not one of them.

Or at least it wasn’t up until Wednesday night. Yes, couscous is known as one of the most simple foods to cook. That is beside the point. And completely FALSE on my part.

In the past, my couscous has always turned out looking quite sad. Perhaps it was a poor water-to-couscous ratio causing drowned over-saturation or because I always “fluff” the resulting starch with a little too much enthusiasm.

See the picture below? What a nice little pile of mashed potatoes, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG. This is me when I was learning to cook two summers ago. The couscous resembled mashed potatoes and the pork “medallions” resembled chicken wings (fun fact: I have never even attempted to make chicken wings…summer mission?). I was so mortified by other similar experiences that I’ve put off trying to make couscous again for some time.

I held my breath when preparing the couscous this time around. And it worked! The couscous did what it was supposed to!! I meant to take a picture of the resulting fluffiness, but I was too hungry and ecstatic and forgot.

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in the most recent issue of Canadian Living. Remember that cooked rotisserie chicken I mentioned in my mac and cheese post? Well I bought it for this meal, and I figured I should probably use it up before I died because of chicken-snack consumption.

Wednesday evening was stiflingly hot, and this salad provided a great, non-cook meal. Though this weather makes you sweat as though you’re running a marathon with every step, it also provides me with a great challenge in the kitchen – get creative, taste fresh and stay cool. Dessert? Popsicles.

Oh yes! And leftovers were brought to a picnic I had in the park with my friend and former first-year roommate, Liz. She brought some delicious iced tea from tea & bloom and it was fun.

Meet Liz!

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