Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tents & Tahini

 I love camping.

 That being said, I do realize there's a lot of you folks out there who disagree with me to say the least. I empathize with all the reasons you could have. I do. It is a lot of work. It's not the most comfortable night's sleep. The whole process of showering (more for the ladies) isn't the best, and you can't control the weather.

 All that aside, I just love it. I was going through pictures today and came across some from our trip last summer with friends. We camped at Elora Gorge Conservation Area in Elora Ontario, Canada.

 It was the first time I had gone camping since I went with my Dad as a little girl. I loved going with my Dad. I was so excited to be going again.

 I found myself enjoying the preparation. Googling camping lists and loading up rubbermaid bins. Bringing way to much stuff as I always have on trips. But this trip was different, this time I got to bring everything! Cooking, living, sleeping, first aid, entertainment, personal care, clothes, everything! The thought that I could get to our destination and get through the weekend and have every single thing we could need camping and never say, "I forgot the _____" or, "I wish I had _____" was the best challenge ever. For an example of how far I took this challenge: Izzy's rechargeable night light. As much as I get frantic and anal and probably annoying I really do love the planning and packing and order of it all.

 I ended up not even able to fit it all in my Ford Focus Hatchback, and borrowed my Mom's brand new Jeep at the last minute. Thanks Mom! I even had meal plans and portions figured out and all the food with us. I have heard people go shopping once they get there but this thought didn't appeal to me. As much as camping isn't exactly "relaxation central" in the first place, I felt it necessary to at least have everything we needed with us and no need to do any more work than was already ahead of us.

 We didn't get to camp until nightfall. We used our headlights to set up camp. I rearranged my carefully laid out meal plans and decided on sandwiches, to which I had roasted turkey and buns and good cheese only to have the kids want peanut butter and jelly, (which I had! ;) ) and realized within the first hour that  I was probably going home with a lot of food.... and I did.

 We had campfires, s'mores, guitars, singing, laughing, hiking, sightseeing, antiquing (in town), rain, tarps, wine, scrapes and bruises, early mornings, late nights, french pressed coffee, dirty... everything, smiles and tears. We had FUN.

These are the looks I get already!

 My outstanding friend Joel managed to salvage our whole campsite while we all ran off to the showers before the rain got any worse, not even realizing that by doing that the rain would in fact, get worse and soak everything. By the time we got back he had put everything in the tents and cars that could be damaged, put a tarp over the picnic table all on this own and was teaching Leigh how to play backgammon. We felt horrible to say the least. Joel had saved the day.

So there the 7 of us sat at the little picnic table, under the tarp in the pouring rain with our little lantern and candle (brought that too).

........... and you know what? 

It was the best night of the whole trip. 

 I'm sitting here trying to think what to tell you "it" is about camping that makes it so great. I think that the work and the scrapes and bruises and rainy huddled up nights under a tarp make you leave with more than you would going to a five star resort of your choice. It brings you closer and the memories are stronger and that's what I love about camping.

Now onto the tahini. I really wanted to name this blog, 'Tahini Treat' but I didn't want to differ from the "____ & ____" that I've been going with thus far.

 So I'm trying this whole healthy thang and so I decided on making my own dressing for the first time. You know what? It's the easiest thing I've ever made in the kitchen. You know what else? I know exactly what's in it!

 I got my recipe from Alicia Silverstone's 'The Kind Diet' but I'm sure the recipe is similar anywhere you get it.

This recipe is to be taken very loosely. I did what it said and then added more garlic, lemon juice, and almost double the water to get it to a "drizzleable" consistency. I found a little jar I wasn't using and just shook it all up in there after blending. It only lasts a few days so put it on lots! Salads, vegetables, over rice, noodles, on sandwiches, whatever.


Makes a little over a cup.


Just combine 1/2 cup tahini (raw or roasted), juice from 1 1/4 lemons, 1 - 2 teaspoons shoyu (or tamari), 1/4 clove of garlic (I used a whole clove since I like garlic), dash cayenne (optional), 1 teaspoon umeboshi vinegar (optional, I used rice wine vinigar) and 1/2 cup water in a blender and puree until very well combined. That's it!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sunny Days & Spaghetti Squash

 I just Googled myself. My blog. I was there!

 It made me happy.  I'm  Googleable. That's pretty cool.

 It's a gorgeous day out today. I have the windows open as well as the back door so my cats can roam freely in and out. I do love this weather for that. I like watching Emma who is always so tense rolling around on the pavement (That Izzy has drawn on with sidewalk chalk and leaves Emma's normally white chest, pink). In the time she is outside, she is carefree. Ruby, who needs the door open at all times, so there's always an "out", or "in" as it should be. She makes me laugh when we're outside. Finally Lucy, the youngest. Who only last year we couldn't really let outside without her hiding under the deck for the day. Having to coach her out with treats, now has a calm about her. A calm that turns sporadically neurotic, but a little bit of calmness in Lucy is a lot for her.

 Isn't it so cool how we know our animals? I have talked to a few friends who speak for their animals using a voice they're sure their pet would sound like, with a personality to match.  We do this with our three cats. It's almost like a household inside joke. No one would ever be as amused as us with it. There's something nice about that too.

 I have been somewhat absent in the blogosphere the last couple months and I think it has to do with some changing going on. Small, but change nonetheless.

 I found myself wanting information on healthy eating for the first time in my life. I feel I am, and have been capable to make what are for the most part balanced meals up until now but started really wanting to know more about vegetarian living, even vegan living. I don't think I want to necessarily be vegetarian but I feel as though vegetarian living, cooking and recipes is the way to go if you really want the dirt on the best of the best, bang for your buck in the way of healthy meals.

 So I went to Chapters and hunkered down with some books and I came out with, Alicia Silverstone's 'The Kind Diet - A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet', Kim Barnouin's 'Skinny Bitch - Ultimate Everyday Cookbook', and Green Guide's 'Grow Your Own Vegetables'.

 The first two books are half information and half recipes. I have to say, I loved the info. Have you ever heard of 'Night shade vegetables', Seitan, Tempeh or Shoyu? I hadn't! I love learning new things about food.

 Last Friday, I found myself in a salon with my friends Erika and Nancy gabbing about all of the above. I actually went home that night and thought what a great day that was. Just sitting with the girls laughing and learning. I left with new bangs and a new knowledge of food. I actually went home that night after having some amazing tea from Taloola Cafe with Erika, where her husband Dave runs the kitchen, going to the new Mexican Grille in our city, also with Erika, her husband and my friend, Dave; and thought..... "What a great day. I have the coolest friends."

 Within a day I had an email from Nancy with facts on tofu, marinades for tofu, and a recipe for sunflower seed pate (so good, it tastes like Thanksgiving) and tofu egg salad.

 I went out that day and bought Veganaise, Earth Balance butter flavoured spread and some smokey bacon flavoured tempeh just to give it all a whirl. The Veganaise and Earth Balance are really good. You can barely tell a difference, really. The tempeh was okay but something I would need getting used to.

 It was all so exciting to me. There's something to be said about getting recipes from vegan and vegetarian friends, books and sites. I could decide to eat healthy and eat a salad every night, or cut my portions, or eat only fruits or a smoothie every morning. But really, that's not the way to go in the way of proper health and in just plain excitement in your diet. I could be making 'Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes', 'Moroccan Couscous with Saffron', or "Beet & Cheese Napoleon Salad with Candied Pecans and Shallot- Balsamic Vinaigrette' for god sake! These are the things that are going to keep me interested, excited and wanting more. What about you?

 On today's menu is 'Spaghetti Squash with Roasted Tomatoes'. I am baking the squash as I type. The smell of the squash alone is pretty yummy.

 I am going to enjoy the rest of this gorgeous day with my daughter and our cats in the backyard. Maybe I'll plant some of the seeds from the spaghetti squash in the garden and see what happens.

I threw in some pictures of beautiful days I have taken to get the mood flowin' in here. The last one is to hopefully make you laugh. :)

 Take care & Have fun.


 Here's the link for the recipe:

- 1 spaghetti squash, (2 ½ lb/1.25 kg)
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 4 cups grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp hot pepper flakes
- 1 can (540 mL) white kidney beans or navy beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1. Halve and seed squash. Bake, cut-side down, on greased baking sheet in 400F (200C) oven until flesh is tender when pierced, about 1 hour. Using fork, scrape strands into bowl; stir in half each of the salt and pepper. Keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, in 13- x 9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish, toss together tomatoes, garlic, oil, vinegar, hot pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Roast in 400F (200C) oven for 30 minutes.
3. Stir in beans and parsley; roast until beans are heated through and tomatoes are shrivelled, about 10 minutes. Mound squash on platter; spoon tomato mixture over top.
Extra tip: For an extra nutty, cheesy flavour, stir ¼ cup (60 mL) grated Parmesan cheese into the cooked and shredded squash.
Serves 6