Monday, 1 October 2012

September Foodie Pen Pal Reveal!

The Lean Green Bean

Time for Foodie Pen Pals!!  This month past I was paired up with Kara.  Kara lives not too far from me - about a 45 minute drive from me.... in Justin Beiber's hometown for a reference. 

Anyway she sent me an amazing package of items from Ontario... but they were all things I had not tried before.

The first thing, I could smell even before I saw what was in the parcel was chocolate... not just any chocolate but...Chocosol this kind was hemp and sea salt.  It was as expected... delicious!  I managed to make the chocolate bar last me a whole week... talk about self control.

The second item was Arvinda's madras masala.  I've never tried this spice blend before.  I've looked at them many times, but never tried it before.  I didn't have time to try the suggested recipes, but I did add it to pumpkin seeds before roasting them.  These spices were amazing and so much better than the masala spices I had been cooking with before a perfect blend of spice and a little bit of heat.

The third item was Barrie's Asparagus pasta.  Kara said that this was what she was most excited about sending.  I couldn't agree with her more.  I made a pasta dish combining tomatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms and a bunch of other stuff turning it into this...

the pasta was delicious - I tried some before I added the sauce as well.

Thanks again Kara - awesome goodies!

Weekly Menu Planning

Laura at Mommy Run Fast and Jill at Fitness, Health and Happiness have created a forum for everyone to share their weekly menu planning ideas.  I've started to get back into the habit of planning out my family's weekly dinners simply because it makes life a lot easier and prevents me from ordering take out.  So win-win healthier meals and saving some money.

I also have a few wrinkles in meal time preparation because I am vegetarian but my husband and oldest daughter eat meat and my youngest just told me this week past that she doesn't want to eat meat.  So a bit of a balancing act.. I need to teach my youngest daughter that if she is not eating meat, she needs to make sure she eats the proper amount of protein and not solely from cheese.

Right now I am only going to plan dinner, not breakfast and lunch.  I am going to incorporate leftovers and salads into my lunches and typically oatmeal or cereal for breakfast.  I don't know about you, but I often go through stages where I will have smoothies everyday for breakfast for about two months then switch to something else.  Currently my breakfast of choice for those of your who are interested is apple, cinnamon oatmeal - it is so good even my husband a non oatmeal eater loves it.

But back to the weekly menu...

Monday - vegetarian chili - for everyone (wish me luck) with salad and tea biscuits
Tuesday - chicken, rice and green beans - I run so I usually eat later and will eat leftovers or a salad
Wednesday - stuffed shells and salad
Thursday - pumpkin soup & grilled vegetable sandwiches
Friday - build your own pizza (based on this recipe)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Summer's over... or is it?

I finished off the last long weekend in a blaze of sucking up the final moments with absolute gusto.

Friday night we packed the kids and one extra into our car and headed here....

ahhh the drive in... I had a few dates here while I was in high school.. but that's a whole other story.  The evening was perfect for sitting out and there was a blue moon... it looked much cooler in real life.

On Saturday Dan and I headed to Toronto for an evening. 

It was our anniversary earlier this week so we decided to celebrate.  In the afternoon we hit the shops on Queen Street West.  I also picked up some much needed new workout clothes from Lululemon.

We spent the night at The Grand Hotel which was fun, I have stayed in hotels which have larger rooms, but they had great customer service, excellent parking locations, free breakfast and wi-fi so I was happy.

For dinner we went to George Restaurant and had an amazing dinner.  Dan and I both had the tasting menu... Dan had the 5 course and me vegetarian.  We were so happy to go somewhere that offered a tasting menu for both carnivores and vegetarians.

My first course was salad, grated carrots on cashew cream and some other stuff - I didn't take a picture.  It was OK, but a bit bitter.  The next course (no picture either) was delicious.  It was quinoa topped with greens on yellow gazpacho. 

This was the third course, which I thought was my main.  Grilled artichokes, mashed carrot topped with farrow.  The grilled artichokes were so tender and perfectly flavoured.  The farrow included almonds and were perfectly balanced with the carrots.

Then surprisingly for Dan and I we were presented with our main course...

I was pretty full at this point, but I managed to eat everything.  This was grilled tofu, vegetable falafels and grilled zucchini rolls topping citrus infused spatzle.  I'd never had spatzle before and this was so delicious.  The falafels were pleasantly crispy on the outside and creamy and almost cheesy tasting on the inside.  The tofu was grilled to perfection as well.

After our main course, we were served our cheese and fruit course.  I had a 10 year raw milk cheddar which was again delicious.

Between this course and dessert we had some time to digest our meal.... thankfully. 

My dessert was white chocolate mouse on a chocolate sponge topped with ginger and chocolate chip cookies and presented with a lovely message.

I also had the cucumber grapefruit mojito which was the perfect blend of refreshing grapefruit and cucumber and mint.  Nothing was too overwhelming in this drink.

The food was phenomenal and the service was impeccable.  My only complaint with this restaurant was our table.  We were seated in the middle of the restaurant which did provide me with a view of the kitchen and was very interesting to watch.  Dan however was watching the wine preparation.  We had a lot of traffic around our table.  However, we have been married for 14 years with two children and we have eaten in New York on several occasions and have become quite skilled at tuning distractions out around us during meals.

Busy table or not, I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants a fantastic evening out with fabulous food.

My fun continued throughout the rest of the weekend... Sunday evening we spent the evening on a patio listening to great live music.... and we squeezed in one last camp fire complete with s'mores.  All around A+ weekend...

but its not quite over for most kids school starts the day after Labour Day.  But for some absurd reason my daughter's school board decided to schedule a P.A. day on the 'first' day of school... meaning one more day of summer.  So we are hanging out today just having fun.. lucky us!

Monday, 27 August 2012

Camping Re-Cap

I'm back off vacation : (  Actually I've been back for a few days, but cleaning up, doing mountains of laundry and all of the other not so fun real life stuff.

I had intended to post while I was away, but I didn't have reliable service to I was pretty much unplugged for almost two weeks.  Aside from not being able to write every now and then - I didn't mind the reduced screen time.

We camped - in a tent trailer - so not 'real' camping, but I don't think I would have lasted the first week if I was only in a tent.  We had intended to camp in Bonnechere Provincial Park for the first week then head to Driftwood Provincial Park for two nights and round our trip out with three nights at Arrowhead Provincial Park.... but our plans changed.

We started off our first week in Bonnechere - it was beautiful...  I was also very well displined exercise wise... I ran 5k every morning and swam for about 20-25 minutes.  The beach at this park was perfect for kids and adults too.  We had a site with river access.  If I camp at this park again - I would only camp on sites with river access.

Bonnechere beach

The river was perfect for canoeing or kayaking in.  Also - although I don't partake - the girls and Dan had some great fishing.  They each caught several fish and different species.  The park is nice and small as well - you can easily bike or walk anywhere you need to go.

The next leg of our journey took us to just outside of Deep River at Driftwood.  Driftwood is located north of Algonquin Park and is on the Ottawa River, which resembles more of a lake than a river at the location of the park.  When we booked our original site months ago we made sure we had direct water access at our site, however, when we arrived there were issues with our site and caution tape was blocking our beach access.

We were quite disappointed and almost left a day early.... but after climbing over the tape we went for an early morning paddle and had coffee on the beach we changed our minds. 

 It was then when we realized what an absolute find this park was.  After a check at the main gate we switched sites - to a better location and stayed for the rest of the week.

This site was perfection.  I felt as though I was staying in a quasi mountain resort... can you believe my view from my picnic table! 

The girls were able to swim and play on the beach everyday - all day right from our site... and this was completely private. 

I'm not sure if its the distance or the time of year but for most of our stay we didn't have neighbours to either side.  It was so quiet.

Anyway paradise has been left behind and reality beckons... but this was the best camping vacation I've been on and I hesitate to say.... the most relaxing vacation I've had - ever.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Long Weekend Wrap Up & Gluten & Sugar Free Peach Custard Pie

I am wrapping up a picture perfect long weekend with some pretty fun cooking and not so fun work - boo.  Yes - I have had to bring work home on my long weekend and have had pretty mixed feelings about where my priorities should lie... but that's another post for another day.

All in all - its been a great weekend.  It started with a terrific horse show...

My daughters were in horse camp this week and learned voltige of all things... I had no idea you could do gymnastics on a horse.  They had never been on a horse before this week - I am so proud of them!

And aside from my whine about working I did get together with friends for a pot luck...

We're a pretty difficult group to cook for - vegetarian, dairy and gluten intolerance's and diabetic... hey let's get together and eat air!  Actually - we manage quite well.

I brought what I've named the Salad of Summer 2012,

 a chocolate torte from Oh She Glows,

 and my latest creation.... Peach Custard Pie - diary, gluten and sugar free!

Gluten & Sugar Free Peach Custard Pie

by Denise Boyd Dunlop
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 30 min
Keywords: bake dessert gluten-free sugar-free vegetarian pie
Ingredients (serves 8)
    For the Crust
    • 1/2 cup walnuts
    • 1/2 cup gluten free oatmeal
    • 1/2 brown rice flour
    • 3 tablespoons apple juice
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    For the Custard
    • 1/4 cup splenda
    • 3 tablspoons corn starch
    • 2 1/4 cup milk (I used almond to make mine dairy free)
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 2 eggs
    For the toppings
    • 3 peaches peeled & sliced
    • juice from 1/2 lemon
    • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
    For the Crust
    In a food processor, process walnuts and oats until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add brown rice flour and blend together. Add wet ingredients and continue to process until mixture begins to form a ball.
    Gather dough together and press into a pie plate. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges are golden. Set aside and let cool.
    For the Custard
    In a pot whisk together splenda and corn starch. Stir in milk. Heat milk mixture until it begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Continue to stir eggs while pouring in about half of the milk mixture. Stir well. Repeat the process adding the egg and milk mixture back to the remaining mixture in the pot. This process prevents the eggs from 'cooking' in pieces and creates a smooth custard.
    Return the pot to the stove and continue to cook the pudding on the stove over medium heat stirring constantly. Once the custard has reached the desired consistency remove from the stove. Stir in the vanilla and cinnamon.
    Pour the custard into the cooled pie crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the custard to prevent from forming a skin. Allow custard to cool completely.
    Putting it all together
    Toss the peeled peaches in the lemon juice to prevent them from browning. Arrange the peaches and blueberries on the custard. Chill until ready to serve.
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    Saturday, 4 August 2012

    Bar-b-qued Pizza

    A couple of weeks ago, I posted a grilled pizza in my What I Ate Wednesday post.  I've being making grilled pizza for a few years now and it has become a summer time staple at our house.

    These pizzas are perfect for families or groups with different topping preferences as each pizza can easily be customised.  Here are a few tips that make grilled pizza much easier to prepare that I've picked up.

    You can either buy pre-made dough or make your own.  If you have a bread machine you can pre-program the machine to have the dough ready for when you get home from work - I do this a lot.  I've included my favourite recipe for pizza dough.

    I like grilled vegetables on my pizza and included instructions, but you can feel free to use whatever toppings you like.

    So onto the tips...

    1 - Divide and shape your dough in the kitchen before you head out to the grill. 

    2 - Lightly coat your dough with oil.  Unless you have a very well seasoned grill, your pizza dough will stick to the grill and you will have a giant mess and you will probably be cursing me for suggesting to place uncooked dough on the bar-b-que racks.

    3 - Have all of your toppings ready before you place your dough on the racks.  The dough cooks quickly and your life will be much easier if you aren't running inside on out grabbing ingredients.  Plus you will feel a bit like a cooking show host with all your little prep bowls at the ready... or is that just my daydream.

    4 - Once you're ready to grill, make sure you have plenty of space between the individual pizzas to flip and to ensure the edges of your dough are cooked.

    5 - After you've flipped the pizza dough so the cooked side is up, move quickly.  It doesn't take long to cook the bottom and you run the risk of burning the dough.  Once the toppings are on, closed the lid so your bar-b-que heats like an oven.

    6 - Enjoy your efforts - when it comes to cooking in the summer, there is nothing I enjoy more than being outside.

    Bar-b-qued Pizza

    by Denise Boyd Dunlop
    Prep Time: 1 1/2 hours if making your own
    Cook Time: 15 minutes
    Keywords: grill entree
    Ingredients (serves 6-8)
      For the dough
      • 1 1/2 cups water
      • 1 tablespoon sugar
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
      • 4 1/4 cups flour
      • 2 teaspoons yeast
      For the Toppings
        Grilled Veggies
        • 1/2 red pepper chopped
        • 1/2 sweet onion chopped
        • 1/2 cup mushrooms halved
        • 1 tablespoon olive oil
        • 1 teaspoon sea salt
        • juice from 1/2 lemon
        • shredded mozzarella cheese
        • crumbled feta cheese
        • tomato sauce
        For the the dough

        Place the dough ingredients in the order given into your bread machine. Select the dough setting. When dough is finished remove from bread machine, lightly coat with olive oil and place in a bowl, let rest for 15 minutes.
        For the Grilled Vegetables

        Preheat grill and grill basket to 450 degrees. Toss vegetables, olive oil, salt and lemon juice in a bowl. Pour vegetables into basket and spread evenly. Stir vegetables every 2-5 minutes closing lid on grill each time. Remove from heat once the vegetables are softened and beginning to brown at the edges - about 7-10 minutes.
        To make the pizza

        Preheat bar-b-que to 450. Shape the dough into individual pizzas, 6 - 8 small disks. Make sure that each piece is lightly coated with oil to ensure the dough does not stick to the grill. Place dough directly on the grill and close the bar-b-que lid. Once the bottom of the dough has cooked - about 5 minutes, flip each pizza over so the uncooked side is facing the coals.
        Working quickly, spread the sauce on the cooked side of the dough. Add toppings and close the bar-b-que lid. Remove from heat once the bottom of the pizza is cooked and the cheese has melted - about 5 minutes.
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        Sunday, 29 July 2012

        Weekend Wrap Up

        We're back from the cottage and have had an amazing weekend.  The weather was perfect for both swimming and sleeping.  A very rare combination at the cottage... often on days when we have beach weather all of the heat from the day stays in the cottage and sleeping is difficult. But not this weekend!

        We had 4 trips to the beach - Friday and Saturday the waves were huge and perfect for playing in.  Today the water was calm which meant Dan and I could sit on the beach while the girls played in the water.

        I feel so well rested... enough to make it through until my real vacay : )  It was great to walk on the beach, play endless games of Uno and Yahtzee, do some light baking and just sit and think while listening to the waves.  Here are some snapshots of the weekend!

        With the last minute change in plans, I didn't have the solitude I thought I would nor did I eat as healthy or exercise as much as I should... but the last two images sum up why this weekend was worth way more than any trip into the interior of Algonquin.

        Friday, 27 July 2012

        Change of Plans... off to the beach!

        So like I mentioned earlier in the week, the interior trip in Algonquin is cancelled... but lucky for us... the family cottage was open!  This cottage is shared with Dan's whole family - Aunts and Uncle's included so its pretty awesome to have a weekend free! 

        As much as I'll miss the Canadian shield, loons and solitude to the open lakes this weekend, I am thrilled at the thought of the big water in Lake Huron and the cozy surroundings at the cottage.  The first time I went to the cottage was with Dan and his parents, while I was there, Dan's mom commented that she had never seen me so relaxed.

        I am absolutely going to do that this weekend... sun, sand, a good book.... after teaching 30 classes in 27 days its time to recharge.

        After my last class with my semi private group this morning, the girls and I made this breakfast.

        Its my pancake recipe with delicious blueberries. The perfect way to kick off the weekend!

        I'll be posting pictures of the beach, special recipes and other fun stuff from this weekend next week.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!

        Tuesday, 24 July 2012

        Lemon Feta Pasta with Grilled Vegetables

        Its summer people!  That means a few things on the food front.... salads, things on the barbecue and 'lighter' flavours all around.  But sometimes I miss pasta so I came up with a bit of a combination of summery cooking with the satisfaction of a bowl of spaghetti.  Grilled veggies, bright lemon and salty feta... the result a bowl of yumminess!

        Feta Lemon Pasta with Grilled Veggies

        by Denise Boyd Dunlop

        Prep Time: 30 minutes

        Cook Time: 15 minutes

        Keywords: grill entree vegetarian

        Ingredients (serves 4)

        • 1 zucchini
        • 1 red pepper
        • 1 cup mushrooms chopped
        • 1/2 sweet onion
        • 2 tablespoons olive oil
        • juice from a lemon divided
        • 1 teaspoon sea salt
        • 1 teaspoon pepper
        • 1/3 cup feta cheese
        • spaghetti for four people


        Preheat grill or barbque and bring water to boil for spaghetti. Chop zucchini, pepper, mushrooms and onion. Toss vegeatables in olive oil and juice from 1/2 of the lemon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook vegetables in preheated grill, set aside when ready.

        While vegetables are grilling, cook pasta until desired 'al dente-ness'. Once pasta is cooked, strain and return to pot. While pasta is still warm toss with feta and lemon juice. Add grilled vegatables. Serve with a sprinkling of chili peppers.

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        On another sad note - for me anyway... I'm pretty sure the interior trip I had planned for this weekend is off.  Algonquin Park is under a complete fire ban - interior and car camping.  Not that the ability to have a fire determines my trip but its a nice to have.  I'm a bit disappointed as I was really looking forward to some isolation this weekend... but not to worry there is still a ton of fun to be had!

        Sunday, 22 July 2012

        Riverboat Fantasy... in Bobcaygeon

        Last weekend we rented a house boat and took the girls and my parents for a tour around the Trent Sevren waterway. I've never really been on a boat before, with the exception of my canoe - so this was an entirely different experience.

        On the first night when we were anchored next to a marsh I could totally get the appeal of boating.  It was beautiful.

        On Saturday morning we searched and searched for a sand bar to swim at.  After an hour of looking, we finally found it.  This was so cool - we were at least 2km from shore and swimming in gorgeous water.  We had the entire area to ourselves for over an hour.

        After that, we headed off to Bobcaygeon and the locks.  I will say two things about our experience going through the locks... 1 - very stressful experience to manouvour around really expensive boats and 2 - the owners of the very expensive boats are very friendly and amazingly helpful.  And to add a third - the operators at the locks are also very helpful and patient.

        Bobcaygeon was quite pretty, but there was no room to stay so we headed back out to anchor next to a rather remote island where the girls and my dad were able to fish while I hid inside the boat and tried not to think too hard about the fish being pulled out of the water by their mouths.

        We also saw other wild life...

        This was a really fun trip.  I love hearing loons in the evenings and mornings.  The boats are a great way to get around, but I was happy to not be driving.  Thankfully my husband and father both have their boating licenses and were happy to be behind the wheel. 

        Monday, 9 July 2012

        Camping in Killbear

        A couple of weekends ago we packed up the kids and headed north to Killbear Provincial Park.  We have camped a lot over the years, but have never been to Killbear, opting for Killarney instead.  This year, however, I am determined to see new things while travelling.  So all new camping locations of us this year!

        Now back to Killbear - this park is huge and very popular.  Killbear is located on Georgian Bay, and is about 45 minutes outside of Parry Sound.  While not quite as rugged as Killarney, it has several beautiful sand beaches and at least two great hiking trails - that I can speak for.  

        We booked a site that backed onto the beach.  It was a rock beach, but kept the girls occupied for hours.

        We took in a beautiful sunset....

        So aside from hiking, exploring and swimming while camping the next big thing to consider is FOOD.  I think its the fresh air combined with extra effort to do simple things - like getting water or trips to the bathroom that make everyone much more hungry than normal.

        One of the meals we have on almost every camping trip is what we refer to as 'The Campfire Meal'.  This involves cooking our entire meal in the coals of our camp fire. (I know many people who camp cook all of their meals over the campfire, but we typically use a camp stove or mini bar-b-que.)

        This meal was invented during a trip to Killarney when we were camping during a very bug infested summer... I don't know how it happened but we experienced - mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies in AUGUST!!!  As an effort to ward off the bugs, my husband built a campfire very early in the afternoon.  Not wanted to see the massive coal bed go to waste, I decided to cook our dinner in the coals - resulting in one of the best dinners ever!

        We always cook potatoes for this meal.  I chop the potatoes into cubes, add onions and whatever other vegetables I have on hand,  season with salt and pepper, toss in oil.  Double wrap in tin foil and place in coals.  I flip and rotate the package frequently to ensure even cooking.

        For vegetables - my daughter picked corn for this meal.  I coated each cob in butter, sprinkled with a bit of salt and again double wrapped with tin foil.  The corn was added to the coals and flipped and rotated as well. 

        For the 'meat' - I had the girls help me roast pre-cooked sausage over the fire and I had a veggie sausage.

        I've cooked all kinds of vegetables this way - carrots, zucchini, mushrooms - you name it. The best vegetable I cooked was during  an autumn camping trip where I roasted a turban squash - amazing.

        We're planning a larger car camping trip later this summer.  I'll post more action shots of the process then.  I'm also planning an interior camping trip at the end of the month and still debating about taking the girls or not.  Either way I'll post about the trip and itinerary and food!