My hale and hearty kale super summer recipes – Part 2

3. Recovery kale summer salad two ways (serves 4-6). This salad is designed to be either a wholesome side dish or meal on its own…its entirely up to you. It presents well with popping colour and therefore is a good choice for those summer barbecues with family and friends. Summertime for me means lots of fresh delicious food, most often in their raw form. Some of my favourite foods to use in salads when the warmer months arrive are macadamias (first discovered in Australia), mango and of course lots of greens!  This salad has a touch of home/Australia and a little Canadian maple syrup in it, but mostly is a superb energy booster and even more power packed if you include the addition of a barbecued protein like fish, chicken or steak. With kale being the hero, either way this salad makes you feel really good…  especially if you’ve had a particularly long draining week; with children or at work!

I felt this recipe needed a page of is own with all is wonderful goodness and I’ll start by explaining the ‘two ways’ to make this salad to your taste.

Terra Way – For barbecued poultry or red meat, I prefer my pine nuts and potato balls option. An example of this is pictured below.

Oceania Way – For barbecued fish like tuna or a firm white fish, I prefer mango and macadamias.

Ingredients – Base salad

1 bunch of kale

1 cup of quinoa

2 1/4 cups of water

1 capsicum finely sliced strips cut in half

6 shallots (finely sliced)

1-2 teaspoons of lemon thyme

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5-6 tablespoons of extra virgin fruity olive oil (cold-pressed)

salt and black pepper

Method
1. Wash the kale as per my tip in my kale recipes part 1. Chiffonade all washed leaves (fine strips or ribbons by rolling up), and put aside in a large bowl.
2. Bring the two cups of water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, rinse the cup of quinoa in a fine mesh colander. Place into boiling water and turn heat down to medium with lid on top. Cook for 12-15 minutes until cooked and transparent and let cool.
3. For the dressing, mix the maple syrup, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar with a whisk in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in olive oil to thicken and add the shallots and lemon thyme. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
4. Mix dressing through the kale and then toss capsicum and quinoa in there.
Option – Macadamia and Mango
2 mangoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup raw unsalted macadamia nuts, crushed
Gently toss through salad and serve.
Option – Pine nuts and potato balls
I was inspired by Valli Little the Food Editor I used to work with on delicious. magazine who  produced these hot fried mozzarella balls in a salad a few years ago. I don’t want too much cheese in my salad, but still want a creamy addition so here is my addition.
3/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups cold mashed potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grape seed oil for frying
1. Place mashed potatoes in a large bowl and ensure they are room temperature when ready to work with them (approximately 20 mins).
2. Mix the egg, cheese and potato together and shape into small balls. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat them fully.
3. In a wok or deep-frying pan, heat oil at high temperature and then fry a few balls at a time for three or four minutes until golden brown.
4. Handle carefully and place on paper towel to drain.
5. Gently place balls and sprinkle pine nuts on salad and serve.
I really hope you love this as much as I do, but the sky is the limit with the substitutes you can use in the salad to give it that summer kick. Think avocados, almonds, apple and more to create your own – Enjoy!

Our little bed of green babies are growing and thriving…

A follow-up on our little green babies growing in the garden. My husband has really become the green thumb and is filling up our neat little patch with a few more edible items. It is wonderful to see my son also witnessing first hand how seeds grow, flourish and then see them make a journey into the kitchen and then magic – a delicious green dish arrives to greet him at the dinner table!

The new additions to the family are:-

1. Sugar snap peas – Just one cup of these are you are well on your way with 21 percent of the RDA for Vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes, skin and essential for vision. These peas are a rich source of Vitamin C, 150% more than garden peas. They are also lower in calories than green shelling peas.

2. Romain lettuce – These are a heart healthy green with high levels of Vitamins A, K and C at the top of the charts as well as a great source of folate. It plants well and stores well with sturdier leaves and a courser texture than other lettuce varieties.

3. Leaf lettuce – This is an essential for your trusty garden salad. With a mild flavour and bright green colour, it also provides many health benefits such as folate.

4. Dill – Is a very good source of calcium, manganese, iron, fibre and magnesium. It has healing components in it which can help neutralise toxins in the body. It has a wonderful flavour which suits fish, soups, sauces, salads and even spicy dishes.

So there you have it, our 14 green babies sitting peacefully in their rows doing their thing. Oh and you’ll be pleased to hear that my son who has been watching his pea pot intensely over the last week has seen it shoot! On its way, is the little green pea.

Oh, and if anyone knows an ‘organic’ solution for looking after an edible garden I would love to hear it? I want to keep away the mites from tomatoes, bugs and caterpillars away.

Chambar restaurant…

hadn’t changed much appearance wise following my first visit in 2008. It is located on a “character strip” of Beatty Street, Crosstown which is between Yaletown and Gastown. The interior has a stylish industrial feel of exposed brick and piping juxtaposed by the elegance of chic lighting, splashes of red and chocolate leather seating with wooden tables.

This time around I was delighted to learn that Chambar became a carbon neutral restaurant in 2011. The menu is an ‘Ocean Wise’ restaurant (as recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium as an ocean-friendly seafood choice) too. Established for nine years, Chambar is a socially and environmentally responsible restaurant and are leaders in sustainability.

Just for a diversion from my usual posts, I am going to provide my first critique of a restaurant experience I’ve had in Vancouver.

On both occasions, I was greeted warmly on arrival and without fuss seated at our table. To commence the celebrations, a cocktail or two was in order and I promptly ordered a ‘Hogarth’s Mistake’. The name didn’t thrill me, however I have a penchant for gin and this was an earl grey infused gin complemented by Chambar’s house made cinnamon lemon syrup and orange zest. It was beautiful, served in a martini glass and the balance of flavours created a smooth and silky finish. It was an aperitif I could equally enjoy curled up on the sofa watching a favourite foreign film.  I also sampled the ‘Veloso’ which was a perfect sip into summer with cachaca, passionfruit, plum and citrus. It was refreshing without the wow factor but still a great way to kick off the evening.

Now on to the service, overall I felt it was just a bit lacklustre. I couldn’t put my finger on it  but the sparkle and magic was definitely missing compared to my last visit. It was almost like we were invisible despite being seated right opposite a waiter’s station and the kitchen. Eventually staff noticed our requests and took our orders and refreshingly the kitchen restored the balance with prompt delivery of fresh and tasty food.

As a starter, I preferred to choose a seafood dish. The Tartare de thon rouge was delicately presented on plate and the vibrant colour of the wasabi gazpacho was inviting. It was a sizzling refresher should I say and stimulated my palette to move straight to the petite crackers with tuna tartare. This was complemented by a crisp dry floral ‘arneis’ white wine from Langhe, Italy.

On the previous visit, we had chosen the signature Moules Frites and also a duck main which is often a preferred option as I have a weakness for duck and other gamey meats.

This particular evening, I had mentioned to one of our friends at the table that there had been an absence of our premium ‘Aussie lamb’ from my diet since we had arrived. When I sighted the Tajine d’aziza à l’agneau on the menu and discovered it was sourced from Australia, the desire to fight this choice was too strong.

It was suitability impressive, with this highly fragrant lamb falling away piece by piece from the bone. The comforting pairing of honey, fig and cinnamon flavours put a smile on my face. A bowl of zalouk was served on the side; this is a delicious cooked salad generally made with eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and spices. This addition ensured that this exotic dish remained savoury and not too sweet, finished off with a garnish of zesty cilantro/coriander.

I always need to order some greens at the table and chose the asparagus, vincotto and parmesan side as well as the pommes frites. These as an accompaniment were a little disappointing and felt both could have been firmer and crunchier. The pommes frites tasted like they needed a little less cooking fat to achieve this.

After drinking a powerful red Van Zellers ’06 from Douro, Portugal I needed something adequately refreshing with a bit of punch. I shared a Tarte au Citron with my husband, which presented as a beautiful composition of a frozen lemon soufflé, coconut daquoise, toasted meringue and pie crust ice-cream. It had a good balance of textures, a luscious creaminess while still retaining a wonderful tang in this dessert.

All in all I would recommend this restaurant to anyone wanting a fun night out with a satisfying choice and eclectic variety on the food and wine menu. I respect and admire a restaurant that is true to it’s philosophy of ‘non-pretentious fine dining’.

I’m calling it the Vancouver diet…

as we have only arrived a little over ten weeks ago, I wanted to share an exciting discovery with you…I fit back into my ‘Nudies’ – Yay! These were, or should I say still are my favourite jeans which were given to me as a present by my husband just prior to falling pregnant. Needless to say, its been almost three and half years and I am finally reacquainting myself with them again. They have travelled around with me ever since; three house moves later and I was almost ready to give my denim friend a burial service and lay them to rest.

All the outdoor activities, scenic landscape and green living are certainly reasons why I am loving Vancouver, however this is a benchmark to demonstrate the difference its making in more ways than just feeling better!

Yes, it is a triumphant day and I will celebrate by enjoying some of my favourite chocolate.

If my Mother is reading this now, she might be rolling her eyes with a wry smile knowing very well I don’t have the greatest self-discipline when it comes to chocolate…especially Lindt or Green & Black’s. My Mother has always shared the adage with me “everything in moderation”. Okay, so I’ve already had a square or two prior to writing this but I must note to my Mother in the Southern hemisphere that I have the three-thirty-itis right now!

I am also enjoying a creamy coffee and what its missing is Lindt flakes which I can’t locate anywhere in Vancouver. My Mum will also know that item is going to be on my wish list for when she comes to visit as it was ‘she’ who bred my addiction by adding it to the top of our cappuccinos in the morning.

So, I created the closest I could by finely chopping up a Lindt milk chocolate square to make flakes.

Even if my jeans are feeling a little taut, I will sip my coffee with a sweet smile on my face.

My hale and hearty kale super summer recipes – Part 1

Ok, so I’m ready to glow for Summer! With the support of my loving husband who has seen much green fly around this kitchen lately, he might actually think I have gone Kale Krazy, but I have a result which will benefit all of us. I am going to publish them in stages, otherwise there might be some kale backlash in our household! You could prepare a couple of these recipes over the course of the week to ensure you are topped up with your recommended dose of greens!

Tip: How to shop for and prepare kale. Always look for rich deep bluish-green leaves, never yellow or with holes in them. There are many different shapes and varieties out there. The younger or smaller leaves taste better. You can consume the stems, however in some recipes the texture is better to remove them. Never store in fridge pre-washed, wash as you use it. It is preferable to eat within 2-3 days of buying however 5 days is usually fine. To wash, fill up a bowl or your salad spinner with warm water and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or another acid based product like apple-cider vinegar and leave for 5-10 minutes then rinse. To discard tough stems, cut out in a V shape style.

1. Kale smoothie (serves 2). This is a perfect pick me up or breakfast on the go, its delicious and filling as well. You can substitute dairy for non-dairy ingredients too. If you want to make this for children, it is better to use the dark berries that hide the kale, and exclude the flax seeds. Oh and one tip, check teeth immediately afterwards!

Ingredients – Two options (one is non-dairy and the other dairy)

1 cup coconut milk / 1 cup of organic milk

1 banana frozen chopped

3-4 Kale leaves chopped (must strip leaves, remove stems and wash well). I also prefer using a non-curly variety for this one.

1/2 cup packed mixed blackberries and blueberries (or any combination; raspberries, strawberries etc).

1/3 cup coconut yoghurt / organic plain yoghurt optional

1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup to taste

2-3 teaspoons of flaxseed

Method 

1. Blend all ingredients together in food processor or powerful blender

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2. Crunchy kale pesto (serves 6 portions approx). I have to make this every week as my toddler loves it! He thinks he is eating ‘green caterpillars’ as I add them to spiral pasta. It is dairy free so you can add shaved parmesan afterwards if you like that extra rich flavour. We all enjoy this family favourite and I feel good knowing my son has stuffed himself with green goodness.

Ingredients

2 1/3 cups kale or 1 big bunch of kale (choose any variety or a combination).

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

1/4 cup pine nuts

Lemon zest from half a lemon

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 small cloves garlic crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 180 C / 350 F. Once hot, place sunflower seeds and pine nuts on a tray and roast for 3-5 minutes and remove.

2. Chop kale and use leaves only which have been separated from the stem. Cut in a crosswise direction, roughly chopped. You do not need to pre-wash with this recipe.

3. Fill a bowl with iced water. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch kale for one minute only and then drain and place directly into iced water. Once cooled, drain and dry kale with paper towel.

4. Add half of the kale, half the pine nuts and sunflower seeds, lemon juice, zest, garlic, sugar, salt and half the olive oil to a food processor to finely mix. Once mixed through, add remaining ingredients and process again

5. Add remaining oil, sunflower seeds, pine nuts and process again until fine throughout.

Note: Variations can include substituting half a cup of kale for half a cup of fresh oregano leaves which is wonderful too!

Serving suggestion:- Spiral pasta mixed through pesto with cracked black pepper and more lemon as desired.

Presto! Perfect crunchy pesto ready to eat; can be mixed through pastas, spread on bread toasted bruschetta style with roasted tomatoes, as a side with breakfast or brunch recipes. Store in refrigerator for 3-5 days.

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Ok, so back to the kitchen with my kale to work on the next few…Enjoy!

Vancouver Aquarium

Back in 2008 when I first visited Vancouver, I made a trip with my husband and a friend to the Vancouver Aquarium in Stanley Park. At the time, the biggest buzz was around the new baby beluga whale who was only 7 days old and were looking for a name.

This time around I have neglected to mention the place even though it is one of Vancouver’s favourite tourist destinations. Probably because I am not a tourist here this time around. However this time around I have a child and I have ‘the rain’ which I was sure didn’t exist in Vancouver last time (was just sunny everyday) and I find myself making multiple trips to the Aquarium…my son loves it! It’s quite amazing to see how quick little people memorise things, even after three visits he can pretty much lead you to any one of the exotic animal displays. In this setting, it is worth your while to buy a membership which makes it great value per visit.

The Vancouver Aquarium first opened in 1956 and is a non-profit society dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life. They are open 365 days of the year.

It makes for a great escape when the weather is failing this beautiful city and children can spend hours in there. In fact I usually need to wait until my son is about to pass out for his midday nap before we can leave as he has so much enjoyment there.

Today, we all went as a family with a new exciting exhibit open – Penguin Point! Given my son adopted a plush penguin at six months who is not so plush anymore as his comforter, I knew this would be a winner. I am pretty certain ‘Buboo’ my son’s penguin is a species from the Antarctic. What I didn’t know until I arrived was that there are 18 species of penguins in the world. The exhibit was welcoming a huddle of African penguins which are the only species known to live along the southern coasts of the continent and have black feet and pink patches above their eyes. I learnt that their bare skin patches turn pink when they are hot. It’s a way for them to cool off as they live in a sub-tropical climate. I do want to note though, they were awkwardly statuesque and were perhaps unsure whether to perform or not for their new audience. They may have a bit to learn from their Antarctic cousins like the little blue fairy penguins from Australia and NZ who love to swim lots and keep active.

I personally love the Beluga whales, I can watch them glide for what seems like hours – they are so graceful. Kavna, Aurora and Qila are all females and are the only three at the Aquarium. Kavna is the oldest about 43 years old and came to the aquarium in 1976. Aurora was born in 1987 and had her daughter Qila (KEE-la) in 1995. What I didn’t anticipate on a weekend after mid-week opportunities of choosing prime position minutes before the show is going to start was the herd of people (not whales) that were all staking out their position 20 minutes before-hand. It is best to try an avoid weekends if after that upfront experience.

So, an otter, a pair of dolphins, spring of sea lions and a school of ‘Nemo’s’ later we were into the Amazon area with the main attraction being the least active or should we say non-active mammal; the sloth. The beautiful colours of all the butterflies fluttering about is always a treat for me who loves their shape and free spirit however my husband has a thing about heat so was happy to make a quick exit out of the steamy rainforest conditions.

All in all, the Vancouver Aquarium is a must and I will enjoy playing host to any friends and family members who come to visit us by taking them there.

Our 10 green babies

I now know why there are so many beautiful people in Vancouver…they are all obsessive about Kale! Vancouver is quite the active, healthy city and not only does it buzz and glow, the people do as well. There’s kale all over the grocery stores, on the menus in healthy take out shops/cafes, restaurants – if we didn’t know what kale was before arriving we do now!

Kale has become so popular in BC that in some places it’s selling off the shelves within minutes. It also grows well here in the BC climate too, certainly preferring cooler conditions.

This was certainly the case when my husband cycled up to the local nursery with my wish list of herbs and kale of course to plant at the time when I was told it was delivered; around midday on a Saturday. Around 1pm he arrived safely to pick up most of the green items on the list and more,(he loves tomatoes) with one item still pending…the kale! Much to his amazement, there was a sudden burst of commotion when he realised there was only one tray left! He was successful at picking up the last of it so it could journey to its new home – our new herb and vegetable garden.

When trying to work out what to plant, I researched what grows well here in terms of climate, time of year, what’s easy (for novice gardeners like me) and what I use frequently that have real health benefits. I also want to ‘glow’ so I think Kale will need to be on the list.

This is the list I have come up which is suitable as a start and here it is:-

1. Kale (redbor variety) – Has many health benefits, there are over 45 flavonoids in Kale which combine both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. It is a detoxifying green and can provide cholesterol lowering benefits when steamed as well as it being extremely high in Vitamin K, A, C, manganese, calcium, many B group vitamins and more. The leaves have an earthy flavour and can absorb other flavours as well as being extremely versatile and nutritious green leafy vegetable to use in many different recipes.

2. Oregano – Is aromatic, can be added as a flavour enhancer to a large number of dishes and also is named as a ‘super food’ on many different lists I have researched. It is also high in vitamin K, why is K important you might ask? Vitamin K quite simply is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps protect your cardiovascular system (among several heart related benefits, K may help keep calcium out of your arteries). Oregano also has beneficial anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant oils in the leaves so much better to use the fresh variety. For the size of their tiny little leaves they are also high in minerals like iron, manganese and others important for health.

3. Flat leaf/continental parsley – Humble as it is, parsley also contains many anti-oxidant properties as well as a number of B group vitamins, A, K and C. The essential oil Eugenol has been found to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics but further research is being done in the role it plays in cardiovascular health. The chlorophyll content in parsley can also counterbalance breath odour too.

4. Coriander/Cilantro – Is a fantastic detoxifying herb, known to help remove heavy metals and other toxic agents from the body. It has a positive effect on our inner digestive tract with antimicrobial properties as well.

5. Basil – Is wonderfully fragrant, and is easy to use in many dishes; especially mediterranean recipes. It also has many benefits, similar to some I have noted above and just tastes delicious! It also will help keep the mites away from our tomatoes so it’s a protector in our garden bed as well.

6. Thyme – Fresh leaves are packed with rich sources of potassium, iron and manganese. Thymol (an essential oil) in the leaves is found to have anti-fungal and antiseptic characteristics too. It is a versatile herb and great with staple dishes like potato, breads, cheeses, stuffing, soups and more.

7. Lemon Thyme – With its beautiful lemon scent, it makes an aromatic tea and also has decongestant and relaxant properties in this herb. It also suits risotto and seafood too.

8. Tomatoes – Are an outstanding source of lycopene. Lycopene is important for bone health, and the many antioxidants in tomatoes are great for heart and cholesterol health. It is very high in vitamins, C, A and K. There is a link for tomatoes lowering the risk for prostate cancer too. There are so many benefits of this fruit and most people love them – especially my husband, so they were really on his wish list!

9. Spearmint – The least pungent and subtly fragrant of the mint family, it also has good concentrations of iron, manganese and calcium in its leaves as well as vitamin A especially. It can help if you have a spot of indigestion or perhaps even a headache. It is easy to grow all year around and also makes for a great repellant to mosquitos and other insects!

10. A pea, my son’s pea – I’m not sure how big this pea will get or how many we’ll yield, but my son is intently watching the tub of soil each morning and night waiting for it to shoot out. I never ever liked peas when I was his age; well let’s say for about 25 years! Maybe, watching this pea grow will encourage him to eat his peas more often than not now. They are also an environment friendly food and classed in the “nitrogen-fixing” crops, taking nitrogen gas from the air and converting it into more complex and usable forms. So they are good for the garden as well as our tummies.

The task of planting was left to my boys and they went about their work with great care of these little green babies. We will all nurture them each and everyday until they flourish.   My job? To remember to water them and start working up delicious recipes to use them in! I am now working on my ‘Super Summer’ kale recipes.