I keep coming here with the intention to write a big long spiel about stuff and things and life… and then I get here and just stare at the page, pick at my cuticles, sigh heavily, and walk away.
I’m not sure if it’s a result of a busy few weeks or if I’m actually just getting really boring. I’m hoping it’s the former, because my cuticles are pretty ravaged. The thing about writers block is that it doesn’t just go away… at least not in my case. I tend to just write through it despite not having all that much to say. This isn’t always beneficial when you have readers who expect a certain caliber of writing… so I apologize in advance for the lack of intelligent thoughts, but I promise that block or no block, I’ll always share recipes that make up my shortcomings.
So, like, you know… here are some falafel. They are really good. So good that I ate about 6 of them in one sitting, popping them into my mouth like they were grapes. The creamy, citrus-spiked buttermilk and avocado dressing, which has all the texture of a decadent dressing but is relatively healthy if you’re not afraid of good fat, was perfect with the earthy, herbed falafel. I dunked them into the dressing and enjoyed them as simply as that. But you can absolutely stuff them into a pita or a lettuce wrapped filled with your favourite produce, herbs and sauces.
So make a batch this weekend. And have an intelligent conversation on my behalf, because I will probably be fumbling over my words for a few more days.
Almond Mint & Arugula Falafel with Lemony Avocado Buttermilk
recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
makes 1 dozen falafel
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 cups loosely packed arugula leaves
1 cup toasted almonds
2 cups canned chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ small red onion, diced
pinch red pepper flakes, optional
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp flour (whole wheat works!)
1 tsp baking powder
Creamy Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing, recipe follows
Lemon wedges, to serve
Place the herbs and almonds in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until herbs and chopped and almonds are almost ground, a little texture is good.
Add the chickpeas, garlic, red onion, red pepper flakes, olive oil, cumin, flour and baking powder to the bowl and blend until well combined. It’s ok to have some texture and chunks of herbs/chickpeas/onion etc. No need to be TOO picky.
Preheat oven to 350.
Roll about 1 1/2 tbsp scoops into an oval shaped ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cook for 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes so they brown evenly on all sides.
Serve on their own with the dressing, or stuff into pita or lettuce wraps with tomatoes, extra herbs, dressing and extra avocado. Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.
Creamy Buttermilk-Avocado Dressing
1-2 tbsp lemon juice, depending on taste
1/4-1/3 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth. Add a bit of water (or more buttermilk) to thin, if needed. Taste and add more salt or lemon, if needed.
Things have been sad this week. A close loss that’s left many feeling a constant aching numbness.
It never feels completely real - and leaves us all feeling slightly less invincible and secure of our place in life. I’ve been through a few of these by now, and I’m familiar with the unique numbness that only a death can cause a family, their friends, and their friends friends. The hurt and pain that seems to expand as wide and long as an ocean, tremendous and gaping, filled with grief and sadness.
My place in life, to be sure, is the mother hen. Always doting, always trying to offer comfort, whether needed or not, always acting out in hopes of a smile or even the slightest upturn of a frown. I have an unquenchable need to be needed, which can be a downfall at the best of times. I yearn to make others feel at ease, to usher away the bad thoughts and tears. Death is a hardship I am left defenseless against. It makes no mind of life plans or kindness paid. It’s ugly and mean and howls irrationally in the face of logic and love. It changes every single thing, in a mere blink.
Without being able to help or provide any lasting comfort, I’m finding myself increasingly lost. In moments of scattered thoughts, I turn to my kitchen, the only other thing that makes sense in a world of uncertain timing and premature endings. I’ve spent much time toiling in there this week, trying to make sense of life, to wrap my head around the why’s and the how’s. Of course, there will never be an answer - but it feels right to be surrounded by the beautiful ingredients, sun streaming through my dusty kitchen windows, everything placed on the counter with purpose and meaning. My kitchen is my joy. My truest happy place.
Life is far too short. Love hard and long, linger a while in the moments of happiness (and sadness), forgive quickly and find your joy, wherever it may rest.
Lemon-Yogurt Linguine with Arugula, Sugar Peas and Roasted Hazelnuts
A pasta made for my fellow lemon-lovers. Tangy, bright and tart balanced with peppery arugula, sweet sugar peas and a deep, toasty crunch from the roasted hazelnuts.
If I may, try to find some locally-grown arugula - it’s flavour is incomparable to that found at the super market.
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
zest from 2 lemons
1 1/2 tsp good quality Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2lb linguine (I used whole wheat)
1/2 cup starchy pasta water
2 big handfuls arugula
1/3 cup hulled sugar peas
1/3 cup Roasted Hazelnuts (recipe to follow), crushed
Fresh Ground Pepper
For the Sauce:
In a bowl, whisk the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice + zest, Dijon, salt and a few grinds of pepper together. Set aside.
For the Pasta:
Cook the pasta to Al Dente according to package instructions. Before straining, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy cooking water. Strain and return to large pot.
Add 1/2 the pasta water to the yogurt sauce and whisk well. Pour into the pasta pot and toss well until the pasta is coated. Add the arugula, peas to the pot. Taste for seasoning, add more salt and pepper if needed. If the pasta is dry, add more of the starch water to loosen it.
Divide the pasta among plates and garnish with the crushed hazelnuts and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Move nuts to a kitchen towel or paper bag and cover (or seal) for 5 minutes. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.
It’s become blatantly obvious over the past few months that I have a terrible curse. One that affects not only myself, but whomever happens to be with me. A breakfast curse.
Ottawa has been gifted with many wonderful restaurants that serve creative and enticing brunch menus to the masses that show up from open to close on the weekends (and likely during the week as well, but brunch doesn’t exist during the week as far as I’m concerned. It’s just easier that way.)
What could possibly be the issue, then?
Let me tell you. Every time I am asked out to brunch, or take Mr. GL (who isn’t the biggest brunch fan in the first place) out, we end up waiting over an hour to get our food while everyone around us receives theirs almost immediately. Customers come and go as we sit, tummies grumbling. Every time. And as if that weren’t bad enough, I usually end up getting the snarkiest, most unhelpful waiter in the joint. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a reality I’ve come to accept. Brunch spots and I just don’t mix. Maybe I’ll give it a few years and try again. Maybe.
Instead of sulking at home eating roasted chicken and potatoes with gravy for breakfast, I’ve been experimenting more with some brunch options that are easily made in advance and can be cooked in the morning for a quick and satisfying breakfast that doesn’t require waiting in line, waiting an hour to be served, or being barked at by wait staff.
I brought this Strata to my girlfriends place last weekend and was so thrilled at the simplicity of it. It was beautiful to look at, delightful to eat, and easy to make. And as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get much better than that. Add a few homefries, some fruit salad and coffee for a full brunch that you don’t even have to brush your hair or get dressed to enjoy.
Aged Cheddar, Spinach & Arugula Strata
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Tip: I made the mistake of using a too-tiny dish and ended up with raw eggs all over the floor, counter, and myself. It’s probably best you try to avoid that.
1 large onion, chopped
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 10oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeeze of all excess liquid
2 large handfuls arugula
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
8 cups crusty bread, cut into cubes
3 cups good quality aged (I used 4yr) cheddar
2 3/4 cups milk
9 large eggs
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 the salt, 1/2 the pepper and nutmeg and saute for another 2 minutes. Add the spinach and arugula and cook until arugula is soft.
Butter a 3-qt gratin dish and add half the bread cubes. Cover with half the spinach mixture and half of the cheese. Repeat again.
In a separate dish, whisk the eggs, milk and dijon and remaining salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, up to a day.
This was immediately before the eggs spilled onto everything. Thankfully, I got the photo just in time.
The next day, let the dish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes while you’re preheating the oven to 350.
Bake, uncovered on the middle rack, until puffy and golden brown on top, 45-55 minutes.
Pour yourself a coffee, grab the newspaper and enjoy!
I’ve been feeling pretty lazy lately.
Not the sort of lazy that restricts you from cooking a three course meal, but rather, a deep set-in lazy that has me dreading walking to the kitchen, let alone doing anything once I finally get there.
Granted, I have been a little under the weather and feeling some stress from that, but generally that doesn’t stop me. I feel at ease in the kitchen and can usually work my way through any stresses or problems while concentrating on putting a meal together. Often, I don’t even have to focus on the issue at hand for it to instantly dissolve into the cutting board in front of me.
This past week, however, I haven’t even had the urge to do so much as boil pasta and add a jar of sauce. There have been a lot of visits to restaurants, a lot of take-out, and a shameful amount of snacking. And today I decided the party was over. Time to get back to business before I wake up in two months, poor and bloated from one too many greasy slices of pizza.
Despite the fact that I still don’t feel quite myself, I’m ready to try and find my way back the only way I know how. Which, as I’m sure you guessed, is in the kitchen, standing steady in front of the cutting board, camera in one hand, knife in the other. My lingering want to hang out on the couch and watch endless re-runs of Criminal Minds made it necessary for me to ease in slowly lest I run screaming from the kitchen, knife in hand. Nobody likes crazy Kelly. She’s definitely an acquired taste.
After a few laps around the kitchen, peeking in cupboards, opening and closing the fridge as if somehow something new would appear each time, I decided on a simple pasta dish of linguine, artichoke hearts, arugula, lemon and some mustard spiked breadcrumbs. All things I had on hand, which certainly made the task slightly less daunting. I was pleasantly surprised at the resulting dish. It was something I’d expect from a two-weeks ago version of myself, rather than the sour-faced-lump-on-the-couch version that types before you. Maybe this was just what I needed to get back on track. I’ll let you know after this next episode of Criminal Minds, ok?
Lemony Linguine with Artichoke Hearts, Arugula and Dijon-Breadcrumbs
I used canned artichoke hearts, but you’re welcome to use hearts you’ve cooked yourself, or marinated jarred ones. Whatever you have on hand will be just fine.
1 lb linguine
4-5 artichoke hearts, cut into bite sized pieces
3 garlic cloves, rough chopped
1/2 - 1 tbsp red pepper flakes (depending on your spice tolerance)
Zest of one lemon
3 handfuls arugula
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Dijon mustard, grainy or smooth
3/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add linguine and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups pasta water. (You may only use one cup, but better to have more than not enough)
While pasta is cooking, add a few glugs of olive oil to coat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil starts to ripple, add the artichoke heart pieces, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the artichokes are just starting to brown.
In small skillet over medium heat, add the butter and cook until melted. Add the Dijon and whisk to combine. Add breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Let cook, stirring often, until they are lightly browned and crisp. About 7-8 minutes.
Add strained pasta back to the pot. Add artichokes, lemon, arugula, parmesan and 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss to combine. If it’s too dry, add more water until desired consistency.
Serve pasta with breadcrumbs and fresh grated Parmesan.
And then promptly return to your spot on the couch, and flip on your favourite show. Bon Appetit!
Cut the crusts off 4-5 slices of your favourite bread (I used a 12-grain). Place in blender or food processor and pulse until they resemble a soft sandy texture.
Brinner. Breakfast for dinner. Have there ever been more delicious words uttered?
I’m sure almost everyone can remember how exciting it was to have pancakes or french toast for dinner on a busy weeknight when you were a kid. Unless I just happened to be a part of the coolest family ever.
Brinner is not only fun and exciting (to us boring folk?) but also a rather economical way to eat. This take on breakfast for dinner comes in at under $10/serving and is perfect for those of you, like myself, who like to pile a little bit of everything on your plate into one bite. It’s the perfect fork-full of all things breakfast.
Because it is slightly light to have all by it’s lonesome for a dinner-type meal, I would suggest serving it with your favourite roasted potatoes/hashed browns, a fruit salad, or even some roasted autumn veggies.
I guess you could serve this for normal, run of the mill breakfast as well. But it won’t taste nearly as special, I can promise you that. So invite your favourite guy or gal over and have your breakfast for dinner.
Note: this makes it perfectly ok to eat leftover macaroni and cheese for breakfast. I hereby give you permission. Go on, now.
Baked Eggs with Spinach and Bacon
adapted barely from Bon Appetit
8 slices thick-cut bacon
3 large handfuls spinach, arugula, or your favourite green (I used spinach and arugula as I like the peppery flavour it adds)
1 English muffin, sliced in half and toasted
2 eggs, free-run/organic if possible
2 tbsp heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400.
Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove bacon and place on paper towels to cool. Drain bacon drippings into a jar and set aside.
Reduce heat to medium and add your greens to the bacon skillet. Saute until they’re wilted and bright green, about 5-6 minutes.
Brush some of the bacon drippings into two 1-cup ramekins. Add 1 half of the toasted english muffins, cut side up, into each ramekin. Cover with a layer of sauteed greens, and crumble cooled bacon strips over top. Using the back of a spoon, make a little well in the middle of the greens/bacon. Break one egg into the well of each ramekin, being careful to keep the yolk in tact. Pour 1tbsp of cream over each ramekin and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Bake at 400 for 15-16 minutes until egg whites are opaque but yolks are still soft.
Pack it on your fork. Cram it in your mouth. And raise a fresh squeeze glass of OJ to the almighty brinner.