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.


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Pizza with pizazz (Spicy mango pizza with black beans and zucchini)

I am so fortunate to have consumed some truly wonderful pizza this week.

Ever since deciding to disembark from the generic “pepperoni and cheese” pizza train, my taste buds have been consistently wow-ed by the incredible combination of pizza toppings that exist in this fine universe.

This week’s pizza bender started in Ottawa last Monday. For those who are familiar with the city, you’ll likely know about The Works and ZaZaZa Pizza, two Ottawa-born sweethearts in the food scene. The first – The Works – is home to some truly unique, gourmet burgers. My favourite involves four types of cheese, sliced avocado and an onion ring. Yes, on the burger. The second – ZaZaZa’s – has always been on my radar, but I never got a chance to visit when I lived in the Capital (the original location was across town from Carleton/my house). That’s why I was so excited to see that the Glebe (a close-to-downtown Ottawa neighbourhood) was getting its very own ZaZaZa’s. But malheureusement, it opened after I left.

Thank heavens my two lovely friends Freya and Tara were willing to try it out with me.

I could gush forever about these pizzas (really!), but I’ll keep it simple. I ordered the “Crazy Horse” pizza, with pesto oil, spinach, mozzarella, mushrooms, chicken, caramelized onions, pine nuts and goat cheese. How’s that for gourmet?

Equally as awesome were Freya and Tara’s pizzas, including toppings like brie, pear, eggplant and shrimp.

So that was gourmet pizza inspiration, take one.

Take two came in the form of the pizza pies from one of my favourite Sudbury haunts, The Laughing Buddha. Just a little hole-in-the-wall darling when I was back in high school (pizza orders used to take FOREVER because they only had two stone ovens), the Buddha has expanded to become the go-to spot in town for eclectic eats, a killer imported beer menu and a relaxed atmosphere (not to mention one of the only patios in the city). I didn’t take a picture of my pizza from Friday night, but please know that it was great, as per usual. If you live in Sudbury, go there now. If you’re from out of town, please come visit and stop by after you finish with your Big Nickel photos.

In other news, last night’s kitchen dance party was sponsored by the movie Dirty Dancing, which I curled up on the couch to watch in a tangled cocoon of blankets. It was also inspired by my hippie-esque trip to Sudbury’s Northern Lights Festival Boreal this weekend (I high-fived the members of one of my favourite Canadian band, Yukon Blonde!). What does this mean for my dance moves? Well there was a lot of hip action, pretend partner dancing and artistically flailed arms. I also acted like a wannabe member of Monica Bill Barnes and Company and conducted an orchestra with a rolling pin.

All I can say is that I hope none of my neighbours ever look into our kitchen window when supper is being prepared.

I was so excited to eat this pizza that I forgot to add the cilantro and green onion that I so finely chopped. Perhaps I’ll just have to make this again later in the week…?

Thank you to Kiersten of Oh My Veggies for this pizza recipe! It was brilliant. No. Beyond brilliant. I know it sounds like a weird combination of toppings, but trust me, it’s oh-so-good.

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Sweet potato and kale macaroni and cheese

Being at home alone means something different to everyone.

To me, it means absolute post-work freedom. Last night, that freedom took a variety of forms: going vegetarian for dinner, eating chickpeas and strawberries (not together) while making said meal, obsessing over episodes of my new favourite show (Girls on HBO), fantasizing about homemade Popsicle flavours, buying pasta that is shaped like tiny radiators, drinking my favourite craft beer brought back from Ottawa, and dancing to music in the kitchen while picking away parts of the roast chicken I bought at the grocery store.

Radiators, kitchen dancing, Girls (season one: finished), map-hanging, chicken eating

Yes sir, it was a good night.

There’s nothing like a dose of might-as-well-be-Monday macaroni and cheese to chase the post-long weekend blues away. I won’t whine, but I will say that I am always a little bit sad when I return from a few days in my old home, Ottawa. This weekend was absolutely brilliant, and filled with patio word games, human-chain crowd weaving and rental bike cruising. More on that later.

My Tuesday doubts were doused by this delectable dish.

The sweetness of the potato contrasted perfectly with the sharpness of cheddar. Both were balanced by the crunch of the breadcrumbs and the tender, chewy kale. The orange hue and crumby exterior made me feel like I was eating sweet potato tempura and, let’s face it, any healthy dinner that can be compared (visually or in taste) to a sinfully marvellous deep fried appetizer deserves to be applauded.

Also: let’s talk kale for a minute.

To me, kale was an unknown variable, the “x” in the equation that has yet to be solved. Tonight, I finally manned up and solved that problem and was most happy to discover that the answer was: x = awesome. I used a bag of frozen veggies packaged up by this Canadian company called Cookin’ Greens.

Their website says things like “the new fast food” and “from farm to freezer in six hours or less” … both of which seem pretty stellar to me as we continue to live in a society that doesn’t put enough value in local food or healthy eating. God knows we could all use some more dark and leafy greens in our life. The kale was the perfect supplement to this meal and I can’t wait to use my “designer mix” (spinach, collards, rapini, yellow beans and onion) later in the week.

Oh yes, and one more perk to being home alone? So many leftovers!!! Initiate lunchtime excitement.

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Red lentil burgers with aioli

At this very moment (Sunday afternoon, 3:08 p.m.), my kitchen is a cacophony of smells. I’m studying for the final exam (Natural History of Ontario, literally a bird course (you wanna know anything about sandpipers or warblers? Come at me.) of my undergraduate degree and taking a break in between every lecture to bake/cook something. This, dear friends, is why I should not be allowed to study at home. As a result of my “study breaks” the smell of these burgers, pumpkin cupcakes, and fancy chocolate chip cookies is now wafting up my nose and into the parts of my brain that are trying to focus. Focus failure. Blog instead.

It turns out that cleaning out your cupboard provides plentiful opportunities to get creative with vegetarian burgers.

Out of all that’s left in my pantry, a huge bag of red lentils has been the most difficult to use up. I only ever put them in one thing, and that’s this spicy sweet potato peanut soup (more delicious than it sounds) that for whatever reason I’ve never blogged about. Since I went peanut soup crazy this past winter, I bought loads of red lentils to stock up. TOO MANY.

Another thing: A very upsetting thing has happened. My beautiful non-stick pan (the love of my life, second only to my bicycle) is no longer completely non-stick. I’m not sure when it happened, though it was likely sometime in between the accidental use of metallic objects on the surface and the multiple times when it has rested unclean on our stovetop, adorned with little bits of fried egg. Whatever combination of things caused it, the pan has now managed to nearly destroy quite a few things, including my should-be-flawless black bean burgers.

So I was cautious when I made these. I brushed the pan ever so lightly with a silicon brush dipped in oil. I was patient. And even after one of my burgers crumbled into two (part my fault, part the pan’s), I fixed it up gently.

When life gives you sad, broken burgers, make pictures that show-off said burger's innards

Sometimes when things fall apart, you just need to take a deep breath and put them back together again.

Making vegetarian burgers: synonymous with the lessons of life.

These were very, very good.

PS: these photos were taken in great haste. My camera battery was bleeping a threatening red and my stomach was grumbling. Sorry!

Operation Clear Cupboard: 3/4 cup red lentils, bread crumbs

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Spaghetti with spinach walnut pesto

I first discovered my love of pesto the summer after second year when I lived with Natalie (yes, this is a blog plug – she just started a new site, visit!).

Natalie is allergic to tomatoes (didn’t click her blog? Do it now because you feel bad that she can’t eat ketchup! KETCHUP, guys!), meaning that she eats a hell of a lot of this basil-pine nut-olive oil deliciousness. And, in proper roommate brainwashing form, she made me obsessed with it. I make pita pizzas with pesto and cheddar cheese on a regular basis.

But enough with my love of normal pesto. I thought I would mix up the Hilary-pesto relationship a bit. We’ve been together a long time. Now we’re experimenting.

SPINACH + WALNUTS (+ a decent sprinkling of kosher salt at the end)

Lets discuss how much I adore the font Futura. I'm feeling very Wes Anderson-esque

I was flip-flopping with dinner plans yesterday. I knew I wanted spaghetti, and also knew that I was too cheap and resembled too much of a bedroom hobo to venture to the grocery store to get any sort of appropriate pasta toppings. Then, as often happens when one is forced into a situation where it seems like there is no way out, something brilliant happened.

I discovered that spinach pesto was a thing. I always have spinach. Mostly because I never make salads ever. It’s a problem. I also happen to have an inordinate amount of nuts lying around. The recipe  just presented itself.

One Magic Bullet party later and voila! A new and healthy dinner creation. I packed the pesto-coated spaghetti into my medium-sized food ring and made a cute little carb cube. This was really good, inexpensive, and used up half my walnuts and spinach. Guess what I’m making again tomorrow?

PS: anything with lemon zest or lemon flavouring will always, always taste like birthday cake batter to me. I blame you, Dorie Greenspan. You and your perfect party cake recipe.

Operation Clear Cupboard: walnuts, one bottle of olive oil

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