A grouse salad recipe for the Grouse Grind!

Grouse, means by definition a mumble, mutter, complain pettily. However in our ‘Aussie slang’ it means awesome!

So given this evening my husband is about to step up to the challenge of the Grouse Grind, I thought I better make a grouse aka awesome salad for dinner which would not only be satisfying and full of flavour but high in protein too. I have included the recipe below.

The Grouse Grind is a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain, commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster” except you are on it for about 1.5-2 hours! (Sourced from www.grousemountain.com). It is located in the North Shore region of Vancouver, you stay right on the Capilano road over the Lion’s Gate Bridge from Downtown Vancouver.

The first hikers recorded on the mountain was in 1894 when a hunting party shot a blue grouse bird and named the mountain in the bird’s honour. It wasn’t until the 1920’s and early 30’s that it became a popular spot for adventurous hikers.  It is a steep climb with rugged terrain up an approximate 56 percent slope (30°) which starts at the Valley Station of Grouse Mountain and finishes at the Peak’s plateau.

This is a boy’s night out for my husband as he and a mate will be doing the evening hike after a day’s work, so I’m not sure what the motivation is; the excellent aerobic fitness workout or soaking up the view with a beer up top!

Atop the mountain, there are plenty of activities to do and I will talk about that next in my following post as I experienced it ‘without’ the stairmaster workout with my son, girlfriend and her children arriving by gondola which was one of the best days ever since arriving in Vancouver.

Ok, so here’s the salad I have made for dinner…it is not one of my own creations but I think this will do the trick to get my husband comfortably to the peak with loads of energy minus the sluggish feeling.

One of the food magazines I worked on in Australia called Good Taste published this fabulous recipe in the January issue, 2010 which is right in the middle of summer so it’s very suitable right now that we are starting to get the warmer temperatures here in Vancouver.

Quinoa salad with asparagus and feta (serves 4)

Ingredients

500ml (2 cups of water)

150g (1 cup) quinoa, rinsed, drained

Olive oil spray

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 4cm lengths

1 large red capsicum, halved, seeded, coarsley chopped

75g (1/2 cup) crumbled reduced-fat feta

40g (1/4 cup) sunflower seed kernels

4 shallots, trimmed, thinly sliced (These may be referred to as white onions in North America and I have included an image below)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh continental parsley (flat leaf)

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons honey (I used a Fraser Valley blueberry honey I picked up at the Kitsilano farmer’s markets, Vancouver)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

100g baby rocket leaves (arugula)

Method

1. Combine water and quinoa in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, preheat a large chargrill on high. Spray lightly with olive oil. Cook the asparagus for 2-3 minutes or until tender and crisp. Add the asparagus, capsicum, feta, sunflower seed kernels, shallot and parsley to the quinoa.

3. Whisk the lemon juice, honey, oil and paprika in a small bowl until well combined. Add the dressing and rocket (arugula) to the quinoa mixture. Season with pepper and toss to combine.

There you have it, a ‘Grouse’ aka awesome highly nutritious protein packed dinner – Enjoy!

Please note: Image of shallots which could be termed white onions in Canada.

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Sunday sunshine + coffee = a smile on my face

We are loving Vancouver. People are friendly, the city is beautiful (as I have mentioned previously), homeowners take pride in the appearance and state of their homes, there are lots of activities to participate in for children and adults, and living here has had a profound effect on our health and fitness levels.

The truth is, we did not journey all this way for the weather specifically and every Vancouverite keeps telling us that this (coincidentally the year we are here), happens to be the coldest and well…the wettest on record for a while.

So after our wet adventure last night and the not so sure sky above, we did step out this morning prepared with rain jackets to go for a leisurely Sunday walk. Just as we hit the street, the sun appeared! I have taken some pictures of homes around the Mount Pleasant area for you to all get a feel for the house proud nature of the neighbourhoods.

So when the sunshine shows its bright glowing face, it is a time to rejoice and appreciate how this place can be even more gorgeous and amazing – and just a tip for those who have not travelled or lived here, you need to seize the moment immediately because it can change within minutes!

However the people of Vancouver, BC and beyond are tougher, more outgoing and positive I think when it comes to the weather, as rain, hail, wind, snow or shine they will go out anyway and have some fun.

We spotted the newly opened 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters cafe (their second cafe location), 2902 Main Street last weekend at the car free festival. I thought what better way to ease into our day than a cup of possibly the best roasted beans in the city. The place has a really cool industrial fit out, my husband and I particularly loved the garage style doors that … and exposed beams.

It was too tempting not to order something sweet to complement the coffee as a window of Lucky’s Doughnuts was staring me down at the counter. We ordered our standard cafe lattes, a mango square doughnut and almond pistachio croissant.

Followed by some park time in the sun, here I was, sitting and smiling with my family on a sunny Sunday.

Stanley Park miniature train ride, Vancouver

On Saturday afternoon, we visited the seasonal attraction of the Stanley Park miniature train ride. Our good friends here invited us to join them as they have two boys too.

We set off on bicycle which I might add might have been a little ambitious as it was a 45 minutes each way. There was the right amount of breeze to stay cool on this mission and a little sun out so cycling conditions were good. When we arrived all I could think of was throwing back a cold lager. Alas, that would have to wait till later and I went with the sensible choice of hydrating with water and topping my energy stores up with popcorn.

The entrance to the Klahowya Aboriginal Village was marked with a colourful designed eagle board leading us into where the ‘spirit train’ is situated. This is a great way to learn about the legend of the ‘Sasquatch’ or Bigfoot.

For a family with children under four years of age, a group ticket is the best value at $25. The train ride is approximately 10 minutes long. The train is a replica of the Canadian Pacific Railway engine #374. This engine was made famous by pulling Canada’s first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s.

There was the story, song and dance as we weaved around the forest track and tunnel seeing animals like the eagle, bear, frog and Sasquatch. I also learnt that they have a special Halloween themed train ride and Christmas lights themed ride as well which sounds wonderful.

A relaxed way to spend the afternoon…until the way back. One huge black cloud loomed and just as we jumped on our bikes it started to rain, a little, a lot … then we were drenched! Of course, this was the day we left over enthusiastic and under prepared without any rain gear.  We hightailed it half the way until we made it to the safe haven at Steamrollers – 437 Davie Street at Homer, Yaletown. They are seriously quick and healthy burritos, not to mention so delicious! They are a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR = fast food), which only uses steam to cook their food, preventing shrinkage, locking in moisture and nutrients supposedly. They even provide kid’s options on the menu which got the thumbs up from our little guy.

Ok, so a little damp later we made the dash again to the Canada line down Davie Street and jumped on with our bikes to get us as close to home as possible. Dare I say, this an accomplishment even a local Vancouverite would be proud of!

The evening ended with a warm bath and finally a good lager! I highly recommend the Calico Brown Ale by Tenaya Creek, Nevada. It goes without saying that after all that the household was very peaceful as we all slept really well.

Please note: The photos represented here are not my own (sourced from google images).

 

My hump day dish…Pasta e broccoli

So it has been a long week, or couple of weeks I should say. On the good side there has been birthday celebrations, Father’s Day and more cars free day festivals. On the not so good side there has been the physically exhausting exercise of moving house. Ok, although we were only moving up two floors in the same building, I soon realised you can accumulate quite a few items in three months!

So I apologise especially to family and friends for not keeping you in the loop with our adventures, but finding some focused minutes or hours in the day to write has been a challenge…anyway back on track now.

When even making dinner sometimes is perhaps one of the last things I want to do after all I’ve packed into a day, this meal is easy to prepare and my go to dish takes minutes to prepare.  Before you know it you are sitting down to a satisfying meal and a cold crisp glass of wine!

My hump day pasta dish (serves 4). This recipe has been a favourite of mine for years. It is particularly good I feel when I am craving comfort food. Surprisingly my son likes it as well, perhaps he is a salt fiend too. This is inspired by the rustic Roman dishes I enjoyed while travelling around Italy (on a shoestring budget) in my early 20s. Broccoli is the hero here for green goodness!

Ingredients

1 medium head of broccoli cut into small florets, (I like using the centre of stalks sliced too).

350 gm of spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic

6 anchovies

1 tablespoon of salted capers (drained if in vinegar)

1 small red chilli (de-seeded and chopped finely)

1/2 cup of roasted breadcrumbs (can make a day ahead – takes 3-5 minutes under grill).

2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, preferably a high quality aged one as it is less acidic and has a more caramelised flavour.

1.5 Tablespoon of premium extra virgin olive oil (cold pressed)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Handful of baby rocket leaves and/or parsley

Pecorino cheese and black pepper to taste – optional

Method

1. Place spaghetti into a large pot of boiling salted water on high heat. In the last four minutes throw in broccoli florets.

2. In a medium frypan, heat 2 tablespoons of EVOO (not cold pressed) and crushed garlic cloves on a medium heat. You do not want to brown the garlic, just heat for 1-2 minutes till fragrant. Add anchovies, capers and chilli for another minute or two.

3. Add balsamic vinegar, and you should see a slightly thicker caramelised consistency.

4. Mix in the breadcrumbs for another minute or so on heat and remove.

5. Drain your pasta, then in the same pot you boiled the pasta, use premium extra virgin olive oil to coat bottom and toss spaghetti, broccoli, breadcrumb mixture and lemon juice together.

6. Add rocket leaves or parsley for extra texture, pecorino and black pepper and serve.

Pour your glass of wine and enjoy!

A Sunday cycling down commercial drive on Italian day.

It has been a big day. We set out on bicycle today to Commercial drive, on the east side of Vancouver for the ‘Italian day’ festival. The roads are closed off between Parker Street and East Third Avenue between noon and 8pm. The Italian community first opened business on the Drive in the 1940s and ’50s. There are numerous ethnic restaurants, cafes, cakes, bakeries and sports bar type places lining the street.

Co-incidentally, the Euro Cup opening cup match between Italy and Spain was on and in the final minutes of the game when we arrived. The final score ended up being a tie at 1-1 which meant that spirits weren’t dampened, but also fortunately not crazy on the streets given the crowd of about 60,000 that attended.

We arrived a little early at around 11am and after a twenty-five minute ride in the freezing cold, we well and truly deserved a coffee/hot chocolate. We stopped into Prado Cafe at 1348 Commercial Drive (on the corner of east fourth). Prado means open spaces in Spanish. It was the large windows, minimalist decor and overall look of the place that was inviting enough for me to want to stop in and fortuitously they were serving some of the best coffee available in Vancouver; 49th Parallel Roasters!  The vibe was laid back with really friendly staff who wanted to ensure a perfect coffee upon our first experience.

It felt really good to walk or do a slow cycle on a Sunday sans cars.  people watching, checking out what foodie treats were on offer, listening to the Italian music harmoniously blending into the happy atmosphere that surrounded us.

Our toddler needed to burn off some energy after drinking a reasonable amount of his hot chocolate, and we were again lucky enough to be metres from beautiful Grandview Park, 1657 Charles Street (at commercial drive) for a play. There was a fantastic play area with equipment set up with shady maple trees amongst the space. There is even a log table which comes from a 537-year-old cedar tree which blew down in Stanley Park.

Next stop, lunch at Biercraft Tap and Tapas at 1191 Commercial Drive. It was conveniently placed on the corner near Grandview Park.

We ordered from the brunch menu which was open on festival day till 3:30pm and ordered the Caesar Salad with a zesty lemon & Asiago dressing and grilled filone crouton, Fish and Chips, beer battered seasonal catch with Belgian frites & house made tartar and the Pulled pork sandwich, twelve-hour slow roasted pork shoulder with Grimbergen barbeque sauce, white cabbage coleslaw on a warm bun. I enjoyed it immensely and guilt-free too, knowing I had to also ride another twenty five minutes back home.

All washed down with a beer from their extensive list. My husband ordered a bottle of Canadian Bête Noire which was a smooth and creamy black ale, with notes of coffee, chocolate and roasted malts. I ordered a Tripel Karmeliet which was a beautiful clear gold sweet and fruity taste with layers of citrus, spice and caramel to finish it off. I didn’t take any notice of the alcohol content which was almost double my husbands! I am glad I was not responsible for cycling our ‘precious cargo’, aka our son, back home.

A couple of hills home and I probably only burned off about ten Belgian frites, but when we opened our front door I knew I had earnt a well deserved Sunday siesta.

It was a really enjoyable way to wrap up the weekend and I think we’ll be heading back for more fun the following weekend for car free day on Commercial Drive.

My hale and hearty kale super summer recipes – Part 3

My husband and I have an exercise routine in the morning that usually consists of running around our sofa ten times to catch my son just to change him when he is waken up…its just a big game to him. Then after breakfast, one of us need to run around the sofa another ten times just to change his nappy/diaper. Let me emphasise that this is before the real activity starts! For example, Saturday mornings involve approximately 20 laps around the sofa, followed by soccer and then swimming. This might put the little guy’s energy at bay for say half the day, but then there is the entire afternoon remaining!

So, sometimes my only remedy is to put my faith in food to deliver abundant energy sources and the addition of a little coffee (as you might have read from an earlier post).

For those days when you need to load up on energy stores or a little comfort in a hearty meal, here is a fiery dish to get your day underway.

The first is inspired by one of the best breakfasts I have had…ooh, going back about sixteen years or 5,840 breakfasts ago! It was in Budapest, Hungary and I was invited to a friend of a friend’s home for breakfast/brunch. It was a typical hungarian spread; crusty bread, scrambled eggs with the flavours of paprika, peppers, salami, tomatoes or should I say lecsó. Lecsó is a hot and spicy dish of tomatoes, peppers, onions, paprika, garlic, sugar, salt and there are many varieties. I was in heaven and this was so exotic compared to anything I had enjoyed for breakfast back home that it made an impression needless to say. It is though rather simple and really hits the spot.

I will just note though, that my breakfast is the ‘healthy version’ as the condition of my arteries is more important to me than it ever was in my early twenties! I have included something called ‘bacon dust’ in my recipe which all credit for this idea goes to Valli Little, Food Director of delicious. magazine again because she is well – AWESOME!

The other recipe is a no fuss canapé for summer entertaining. They are not only beautiful to look at but are light and almost guilt-free. You can prepare them ahead of time and serve them at room temperature or simply re-heat slightly for a crisper texture.

4. Kale lecsó and scrambled eggs (serves 4).

Ingredients

Lecsó (This can be pre-prepared a day or two in advance and warmed up. It is best to add the kale fresh though).

1 bunch kale (stems removed)

2 rashers of bacon with fat removed and cut into small pieces

1/2 small brown onion sliced

1-2 peppers (yellow and orange) sliced finely

2 ripe roma tomatoes finely chopped

3 tablespoons of tomato puree

1 garlic clove crushed

2.5 teaspoons of sweet paprika

1 teaspoon of sugar

4 pinches of salt

1 tablespoon of water

Scrambled eggs

6 large eggs

2 rashers of bacon

1/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon butter

Sourdough bread

olive oil

Method

1. Wash kale and leave to soak in warm water with some lemon juice. After 10 minutes remove and dry.

2. Add bacon to frying pan for a few minutes to soften on medium heat. Add onions and peppers for 15 minutes on low heat.

3. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, garlic sugar, salt, paprika and cook over medium heat until peppers are soft and tender. Add a the water if a little dry before peppers are soft.

4. Add kale leaves to frying pan to soften for a few minutes, remove from heat and set aside.

Scrambled eggs

1. Place two rashers of bacon in frying pan on medium heat until crispy. Dry on paper towel to remove all moisture.

2. Place bacon in food processor until it resembles a fine consistency or dust.

3. Crack six eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly adding milk half way through.

4. Place butter into clean frying pan on low-medium heat.

5. Add eggs to pan and start with a wooden spatula, gently push outside edges into centre   until you start to see eggs looking creamy and thickening (approx 3 minutes). In the last minute, break up carefully and remove from heat.

6. Serve eggs with sprinkled bacon dust on top, kale lecsó on the side with lightly toasted sourdough bread. Drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil on warm lecsó.

5. Potato and kale nests with smoked salmon  (makes 24).

Ingredients

250gm white or yukon gold (starchy varieties) potatoes peeled

12 leaves of kale

1 egg

40gm butter, melted and cooled.

1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise (I use an organic whole egg variety)

1/3 cup light/fat free sour cream

2 tablespoons fresh dill

150gm cold smoked (lox) sockeye salmon

half lemon

sea salt and cracked black pepper

olive oil spray

dill fronds or coriander leaves to garnish

Method

1. Preheat oven to 390F/200C. Lightly grease a 24 capacity mini muffin tray with olive oil spray.

2. Using a mandolin, thinly slice potatoes (please watch fingers!) and then finely cut small matchstick size; about 4mm thick and 6-7cm in length. They certainly don’t need to be perfect match sticks, I just stack my slices and then cut lengthways into the strips.

3. Chiffonade the washed kale leaves and blanch them in almost boiled water for 15 seconds and then place in cold water, drain and dry with paper towel.

4. Place in a large bowl the egg, butter, potato and combine well adding some salt and pepper to taste. Add kale at end.

5. Press approximately a tablespoon into muffin tin to create a nest and bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool.

6. Combine sour cream, mayonnaise and chopped dill in a bowl. Squeeze juice of half a lemon over salmon.

7. Spoon a small amount onto nests and top with smoked salmon. Garnish with coriander leaves or dill fronds.

Enjoy!

It’s a green-light day.

I am literally going to shine the light on my own bad behaviour around our household.

Right now, our mud room light is on, door is open, kitchen light on, dining room light on and living room light on. Ok, so I would normally use the excuse of something like ‘well we are living in a place with minimal natural light…it makes me feel warmer, safer, more comfortable etc’.

Another thing I am very aware of is that each day when I feel the cold, and yes I feel it much more in Vancouver given that Spring time here is like our Aussie winters, I notice that the heat dial I have turned up mysteriously ends up turned right down, well off actually whenever I next walk past! This is not to mention the labyrinth of wires and cables hidden behind our television and other gadgets with flashing lights and all on…ok so I am not the tech head in this family but given I still live here I am responsible too for the amount of plug-ins that are running constantly.

Almost 30% of all our greenhouse emissions come from our houses. Just under 5 million people spend more than 10% of their incomes on energy and therefore classed as “fuel poor”.

I am trying very hard to introduce these new changes into my life to reduce my carbon footprint, make ethical choices as a consumer and being more respectful of the beautiful environment that surrounds me. Next step, being energy-efficient – well that’s one of my biggest weaknesses! This is going to be one of my biggest challenges yet…

I am going to take simple steps and try to be as conscious as possible to do this everyday:-

Replace lightbulbs with low energy lightbulbs.

Turn all lights not being used off.

Unplug as many appliances as possible overnight; TV, DVD, computer, toaster, kettle and coffee maker.

Also, today on June 4th I have just discovered that Canada’s major environmental organisations, together with leading charities, unions, bloggers, and others will darken their websites and join thousands of Canadians like you to Speak Out in defence of nature and democracy.

Right now, Canada’s parliament is pushing through a bill to weaken many of the country’s most important environmental protection measures and silence the voices of all Canadians who seek to defend nature.

My goal today may not have a lot to do with this new bill, but it is awareness that counts right? It’s ideas, it’s thinking, it’s doing, its positive changes right?
6. Sixth green action – START REDUCING MY HOUSEHOLD’S ENERGY CONSUMPTION AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY.