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Nicoise Salad (my way)

I’ve been doing all I can to drag myself away from my all new favourite salad obsession,  the Kale, Chickpea, Marinated Artichoke Hearts with Feta Salad so this was a bit of a leap for me. But I was encouraged by my sister-in-law’s pronouncements of its greatness and I do trust her taste buds so  I decided to make this my way – which is to say with anchovies and without tuna.

And wow, what a good decision that was. So long Kale!  I’ve definitely made this before but it’s almost in the same category as cheese fondue and has been relegated to the category of ‘recipe of the past’. Not anymore. I loved this! This isn’t a recipe per se as much as an exhortation to prepare a Nicoise salad for a nice summer evening meal.

This is what I did:

  • Organicy- lettuce – you know the kind that isn’t iceburg or romaine – artfully display on an individual plate
  • sliced sweet baby tomatoes
  • grilled salmon or tuna ( I prefer salmon)
  • cooked baby new potatoes
  • anchovies
  • boiled eggs
  • a handful of steamed (grilled) asparagus
  • a handful of steamed green beans
  • a handful of Nicoise olives
  • thinly sliced Spanish onion
  • vinaigrette (I used garlic, dijon, olive oil, honey, fresh lemon and salt and pepper.)

I made this for two people. It was super easy and very tasty. Thanks to the French for this awesome salad.

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Lebanese Hummus – gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian

Those of you who know me, understand my passion for hummus. I have searched high and low for the perfect home-made and commercial recipes. My friend at the Mediterranean deli on Commercial Drive takes the prize for the best fresh made hummus available in a store and Fontaine Sante takes the second prize for mass produced commercially made hummus. But how about the hummus you make at home?

I finally came across this recipe right here at food.com which I love. I also came across this awesome blog called , yes, The Hummus blog. It might be possible that there are people out there who love hummus almost as much as I do. Based out of Israel, The Hummus blog, brings the full cultural weight of hummus’ cultural history to the fore and with it you’ll read some wonderful comments on the history and origins of hummus.

But for now, here is the recipe for Lebanese Hummus.

Directions:

Prep Time: 5 mins 

Total Time: 5 mins

  1. Using a blender, blend the first six ingredients.
  2. Serve in a large flat bowl.
  3. Sprinkle paprika over the finished product and serve with bread.
  4. If needed, add more lemon and salt to increase a tartier tastes.
  5. For softer texture, add more oil.

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Falafels (Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten-free, Dairy-free)

*This also offers the regular wheat version of the original recipe.

I have loved Falafels for as long as I can remember. The combination of the crispy, savoury falafel, smothered in a wrap with tahini sauce is enough to send me to heaven and back, and then back again. I haven’t eaten a falafel since I started my wheat-free diet several years ago and truthfully they always seemed terribly exotic and mysterious so I never even thought to try.

Then I bought the Canadian Living Vegetarian Collection Cookbook and there they were completely demystified. I made them last week and they were delicious. And here forthwith gluten-free falafel lovers is  your very own recipe to make this wonderful dish at home. Don’t be frightened wheat eaters, you can easily use the original recipe which calls for flour and use wheat-flour wraps or pita pockets.

One little note before you start. This recipe calls for dried chickpeas which means you have to plan ahead and soak them for at least 4 hours if not longer. You also have to refrigerate this recipe for up to two hours so this definitely isn’t a last-minute kind of meal.

I used canned chickpeas and it still worked beautifully.

Here goes:

1 cup dried chickpeas (I used 1 can)
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup gluten-free flour or 1/2 cup wheat flour
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp lemon juice
11/2 tsp salt
Vegetable oil for frying.
Thinly sliced radishes and tomatoes and shredded lettuce.

24 mini pitas or regular wheat wraps for full serving pitas. I used Food For Life Brown Rice wraps from Wholefoods for mine.

If you’re using dried chickpeas, place in bowl and pour enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Soak for 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.

In food processor, coarsely chop chickpeas, onion, parsely and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add flour, cumin, baking powder, lemon juice and salt: pulse until blended. Shape by heaping 1 tbsp into 24 balls ; flatten to 1/2 inch thickness. Arrange in single layer on waxed paper-lined tray: refrigerate for two hours or up to 12 hours. *this part is pretty key otherwise they’re too mushy.

Pour enough oil into wok or Dutch over to come about 2 inches up the side of the pot; heat to 350 degrees using deep-fry thermometer…I don’t have one so I tested by placing a bit of the mixture in to see if it sizzled. Drop falafels in the oil in batches. Deep-fry, turning once, until golden and cooked through, 3 minutes. Drain on paper towel-lined tray. To reheat bake on greased baking sheet in 350 Degree oven (I microwaved mine) for 5 to 10 minutes.

Tahini Sauce
I made my sauce without yogurt. I simply added a little more lemon juice and a bit of water to make it less thick. Simply whisk all the ingredients together and voila!

Stuff wraps or pitas with falafels and sauce. I added shredded lettuce and tomato to ours.

The Vegetarian Collection Cookbook from Canadian Living is a great cookbook full of fabulous recipes. Check it out.

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Re-calibrating My Post Christmas Digestive System

Echhh. It’s that time of year again where I make a promise to be good to myself. Being a stomach sufferer for most of my life I have come to know what makes my stomach happy and what doesn’t. For starters, anything with wheat in it does not make me happy. Anything with cow dairy definitely doesn’t make me happy. But finally I have also found that when I eat too much sugar or anything that processes like sugar and yeast (for example potatoes, mushrooms, miso), that that doesn’t make my stomach happy either. The holidays, are of course, the hardest time of the year to try and manage this kind of diet. Besides who can resist truffles, cookies, gorgonzola and a fine glass of wine. Not me. But generally I pay for it.

What are the symptoms? Well for one thing, I become bloated, my stomach is distended and it hurts, I become extremely tired and irritable, my skin gets blotchy with itchy spots. I get miserable and depressed. This year I tried to not get too carried away. Eating an entire stollen made of kamut (I can eat kamut which does have gluten in it) didn’t help. I did eat cow cheese and I definitely drank wine and toasted the season joyously. But I didn’t go crazy.

I didn’t go crazy mainly because I didn’t want to have to do the full-on anti-candida, no wheat (non-gluten) no yeast, no sugar, no dairy, barely any fruit diet. I did it for about 6 months a few years ago when I had gotten really sick and it was worth it. Now I live a modified version of that diet. On the original diet I couldn’t eat any wheat, kamut, or spelt, absolutely no dairy product whatsoever, no meat, nothing with sugar in it including alcohol, miso, soya sauce, Bragg, vinegar, processed foods, no bananas, oranges, mangoes or grapefruit, no broccoli, potatoes mushrooms or garlic and eeekkkk no coffee.

As I started introducing things back into my diet I finally found a balance of foods that allowed me to maintain my stomach health. On a regular basis I can eat: kamut, I eat all fruits and vegetables and legumes, I eat limited fish (salmon, mussels, Seawise prawns and scallops), I eat some but limited amounts of goat cheese (usually once or twice a week)  because if I eat too much it still affects me. I avoid all condiments especially things like ketchup and HP sauces which are full of sugar. I also avoid things like cookies, muffins and cakes because they tend to be packed with sugar.  I now eat Bragg, miso, mushrooms etc… the main thing I try and control is my dairy and sugar in-take. Throughout the year when I’m maintaining I will occasionally have things like a muffin or my mother-in-laws amazing veggie/rice noodle lasagna loaded with all kinds of cheese, and I also drink wine mostly on the weekends but I’m always striving to maintain some kind of balance in my diet.

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Conversations with my mother: Oh Tessie, isn’t this great!

For my mom, the little Dutch girl.

Often when I was a young girl my mother would look at the incredible dinner we were eating and say, “Ohhhh Tessie, look at this. This isn’t so bad at all. If only they could see us now!” I never knew who the “they” were but just that someone “out there” should witness this incredible feast we were having. You see my mom was a single mother with very limited resources. And while I never lacked for anything my mother’s circumstances made me aware from a young age of the value of things.

Rosie’s joy in these triumphs both large and small gave me a sense of celebration. New shoes, ‘Yippee let’s celebrate”, a great dinner,” Woo hoooo I want the world to see this.” Beautiful sunny day,  “Wow, Tess can you imagine.” Or, “Nobody wants to hire me mom.” What? ”  she’d say in genuine shock. “Who wouldn’t want you? All in good time. There’s a reason for everything. Trust me.” Or she’d look around her small two bedroom apartment and say, “Look at this. It’s so cozy isn’t it. Look at those paintings. You know I just look around and I love it. I love everything in here.” My mom talked about that apartment like it was a palace. And to her it was.

So I’m going to try and apply her innate ability to celebrate life as a glass half full rather than half empty to this last year in my own life.

I would say that having a health scare and losing my job don’t even register as negatives in view of facing the biggest loss of my life which is the loss of my mom. I would also say that the wrenching pain of losing my Rosie yielded a different kind of beauty than I would have ever anticipated. That I have a more intimate knowledge of the word bitter and sweet. That these bitter moments in life also yield life’s greatest sweetnesses. That through this journey with my mother and my family I came to know her in a deeper and better way. That I watched my brother and sisters rise to the occasion even in their weakest moments, that I saw generosity and forgiveness. That I saw my nieces and nephews literally surround my mother with their love and their liveliness, that I saw them take her hand and love her. That I saw them not be afraid even if they were a little. That I saw that my mother had created a family of love and joy. That we all sat in her room with the liveliness and sense of celebration that we got directly from her and which she passed on to us.

That she was the creator of this family  that seems to have passed on the gene of experiencing life in all of it’s bittersweetness as more than half full. That when my husband said last year at Christmas “Let’s make room for the prettiest girl in the room.” that the dance floor parted with all her grandchildren and children surrounding her and dancing with the joy that somehow in spite of everything we have managed as a family to foster and grow and pass on.

So this year I lost my mother. But this year I saw more clearly what her gifts were and I see them everywhere in my family. And for that I am eternally grateful and will try and honour her ability to experience life as always more than half full. Cheers mom.

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Conversations with my mother: How Grief is Like a Super Nova

Apt. 301 371 Lakeshore Road West

Today is December 1st 2010. Today is also the day that a new person will be moving into Apt.301 371 Lakeshore Road West, my mother’s apartment. It feels weird to think that 40 years of living have drawn to a close in that little apartment. It’s where I grew up and it’s where my mother found her peace. It’s like the mecca of our family. The fulcrum, the centre. It’s where I can lie on the green leather couch that fits me perfectly and relaxes me. It’s where I watch Dancing with the Stars with mom, it’s where we have a glass of wine, where we laugh and have serious life talks and nothing talks. It’s where we irritate each other, where we laugh and where we cry. For all of us that apartment represents something different but for me it’s what I have always called home. Home is where my mother is. It’s where we watched over each other as we grew up and it’s where I watched my mother grow older. You never know when you start a journey where or when it’s going to end. Life offers no end point until you’re living it.

Grief I’ve decided works in weird ways. Each stage you pass through is like a super nova. It creeps up on you. You’ll never call it a stage or recognize it as a stage but suddenly it grabs you like a wall of fire, like a shooting star, like a super nova. It holds you tight and you feel loss like you’ve never felt it before in your life. And shock and more shock and sadness, anger, grief, and the endless shock that runs like a single narrative through these luminescent balls of fire. And then all of a sudden you feel normal and you find yourself laughing spontaneously, your guilt is unchecked until it comes back to remind you that you’ve lost your centre, your mother, your home.

Those moments of normality are so incongruent with the emotional trajectory of grief and loss.First you can”t believe that the world is marching on. Doesn’t everyone know you’ve just lost your mother? And then it becomes less of that and more your own embrace of normality that makes you feel a bit like a traitor. Don’t you know you just lost mom?

The hardest journey is from being able to embrace real life flesh and blood that you can hold and hug to having nothing but a few things and a lifetime of memories. The memory of a home, of all my mom’s special things, her clothes, the way she had this just so. It feels cruel to dispense with these things that meant so much to someone and now mean so much to me. Dismantling a home feels like dismantling a life.  Is this really all that’s left of this home? Just these things? I know that my mom is so much more than just things.

Today is the close of one chapter in the life of Apt 301 and the beginning of another one. Life without Rosie has truly begun. Finding my way home now is no longer getting on an airplane and making my way to Rosie at Apt 301. The crazy explosions of emotion that have engulfed me these last few months are subsiding and when I think of my mom I think of a spark, a star,  a super nova and I’ll find my way back through the lifetime of great memories she has given me. I love you mom.

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Vij’s Mung Beans in Coconut Curry with Tomato and Onion Chutney and Beet Greens Sauteed in Ginger, Lemon and Cumin

It turns out that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks. This year for my birthday I received a copy of Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey which I promptly was going to return as I’m loyal to only one Asian cookbook and have been for years and that’s the  All Asian Cookbook by Jacki Passmore.

Anyways, in pursuit of open-mindedness I cracked the spine and made dinner combining Mung Beans in Coconut Curry along with Beet Greens sautéed in Ginger, Lemon and Cumin with a little side of Tomato and Onion Chutney. I tried to make the Tamarind Chutney but failed miserably. I actually loved it when I tried it at a friend’s house but something went drastically wrong when I made it. Continue reading

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Conversations with My Mother: Things I’ve learned from Rosie

My mom died in the amazing Dorothy Ley Hospice on Saturday October 9th in the late afternoon. It was a brilliantly beautiful fall day and she had her family by her side. Dorothy Ley lies somewhere just outside Port Credit where my mother lived and Sherway Gardens, Rosie’s favourite mall of all time.  My mom once said of a friend’s house in Kits, “This is nice but where’s the mall?”

I feel as though I have been on a journey with my mother. At first I thought it was the journey of these past few months but now I realize that it has been a journey of a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to see our mother’s as people or as anything outside their roles as our mothers.  But now when I try and disentangle myself as my mother’s daughter I feel like I can better understand the quirks she developed as a result of some of the hard knocks she had to take in life.

My mother married twice. Both times she married men who liked to take things from her. Her children, her safety, her children’s safety, her things, whatever she had they wanted and they took without asking or without scruples. Abusive men will change your life and the life of those around you forever if you give them the chance.

When husband number two left my mother high and dry it was the best thing he could ever have done.  My mom never was allowed to work but suddenly at the age of 43 she had to figure out what she could do. And she did. She cleaned houses and eventually she took care of other people’s children.

I don’t think in all the years of knowing my mom she ever complained of the things she had to do or the things she didn’t have. She just did it. And when we had a particularly good meal  she always looked at me with a mischievous smile and say, “If only everyone could see us now!”

Eventually my mom got a job at Eaton’s where she worked at the accessories counter for 10 years. She loved that job. Always a clothes horse, she would get dressed up, make her lunch and off she’d go to have coffee with the girls before work.

There is no doubt that my mother had her quirks. She was brutally honest, sometimes unkindly so and she could have a hard edge. She could make a dollar stretch like nobody I know because she had to.

Sometimes even in the last few months I had this idea that my mother didn’t live her life to its fullest potential. I felt badly that she never had another partner or that she wouldn’t take risks or adventure far beyond her beloved apartment in Port Credit. It upset me that television had become her world (especially Dancing with the Stars and the Olympics!)

If you asked her she would wave her hand and say “What for? Why would I want anyone in my life? They’d make me cook and clean. Forget it. I’m happy. Tessie, I’ve lived more than you would ever know.” I guess the thing is I heard this but I didn’t understand it.

In the last few months my mom would look at her place and say, “Isn’t this cosy? Don’t you love all the pictures and all the things in here. I love this place. I love Port Credit.”  My mom lived in her apartment on Lakeshore Road for 40 years. Once she managed to escape the craziness of life with husband number two she decided to build a life for herself where nobody could take anything away from her. Where she could feel safe. Where she could have peace and be happy.

It was from this safe place that my  mother executed her witticisms and divined her essential Rosiness.

  • I’ve learned from my mother to take from life what you can.
  • To keep laughing in spite of it all.
  • To be silly and laugh even through the worst of it.
  • To love the people around you.
  • To give even if you don’t have much.
  • To not bemoan what you don’t have.
  • To not let lack of money ruin your sense of peace.
  • To create your own safe place.
  • To understand that there is nothing about dying that is undignified.Whatever the cruelties that old age and sickness impose on you, they have nothing to do with dignity.
  • That regardless of anything Rosie’s amazing spirit shone through adversity and kept us laughing and on our toes until the very end.
  • That just being there and holding someone’s hand is the most important thing in the world.
  • That old age never compromises a mischievous fun-loving spirit.
  • That when you look at older women understand that they have lived every age and their entire being is comprised of that. They have been daughters, sisters, lovers, wives, girlfriends, adventurers, nurturers. They’ve loved and they’ve lost.
  • That love can make you do things you never thought you could.
  • I  believe that Rosie’s spirit lives all around me and is a part of me.

I hope that wherever my mother is, it’s as peaceful as 371 Lakeshore Road West, Port Credit.

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Dying isn’t for the faint of heart

The truth is that dying hurts. It hurts for the person who is dying and it hurts for the people around that person.  I’ve learned that it’s hard watching the body of a person with an alert, active mind, slowly fall apart. I don’t know because I haven’t experienced it first hand, but I imagine it’s equally as hard to watch someone lose their mind to illness. It doesn’t matter if you lose someone who is young or old, loss possesses a unique sorrow for each and every one of us.

It’s true what they say…that you go through stages. From the time I could first remember I dreaded the thought of losing my mother. I swear I used to worry about it in bed when I was eight years old and I would pray to god that nobody in my family would die. And then I would list all of their names and if I missed anyone  I took that as an omen of doom. I was prone to suspicion as a kid and these thoughts plagued my small mind.

Now years later that I’m faced with it I’m thankful for the stages…because they’re true. I think you have these stages because letting go of someone is a process. It forces you to focus on now. More importantly it forces you to focus on your heart and your mind.

I am visiting my mom right now in my old home town where I grew up. She stayed and I left. This is something I think about a lot. When I wander around at night after visiting her in the hospital I feel the memories of this place where I grew up collapse into a single evocation of so many moments and feelings in my life. I feel the past pulling me as hard as the present.

My mom says to me that she likes to be with her memories. I wonder if this is her way of letting go.

The thingI like about her at this stage in her life is her honesty.  I like very much that she talks directly about dying. About the things she is facing. About the finality of her life. About the fact that she just isn’t into this anymore.  I don’t know if this is courage or just the honest truth spoken plainly by a dying woman. But I feel it is helping to prepare me.

The other things I worry about are that people won’t see beyond her body. That she will be consigned to the invisibility of old age. I want them to see the rich life she has led. Her sorrow and her joy. Her love and her broken heartedness. The young dutch girl, the married woman, the mother, the wife, the friend the dancer, the harmonica player, the laugher, the prankster.

That’s what I worry about.

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