I’d forgotten how much I love this time of the year. I love that stillness in the mornings that wasn’t there weeks before and the breezy cool sunny days.
It’s this time of year too that I start yearning for my favourite ‘comfort meals’ again; maybe it’s the cool evenings or the insight that we’re about be plunged into cold dark nights, but there’s something about this time that has me craving big hearty salads and soups.
I love lentils… sometimes to a point of silliness; I swear I could eat lentils for breakfast, lunch and dinner without complaint – it’s pretty evident from the amount of lentil recipes I have on this blog.
I love this time of year for salads like this wonderful quinoa and lentils with vegetables, it’s comforting, hearty and filling, and comes together quickly.
I’m all about easy to prepare meal; especially during this time when there’s still light out to bring dinner down to the beach or eat out on the balcony.
This is a well-rounded salad that can be adapted to include your favourite vegetables and legumes; use peas instead, or carrots or roast your fennel first for caramelized sweetness – I did this a few weeks ago.
I usually precook the lentils and quinoa and store them in the fridge, and reheat them when I’m ready to make the salad.
I use whatever vegetables I have on hand; with this salad it’s shaved fennel, carrots, red onions and sundried tomatoes, finished off with a tangy mustard vinaigrette.
I make plenty so there’re leftovers for the rest of the week because I love this salad more after a day or two, it gets even more wonderful when the ingredients have had a chance to get to know each other better.
Quinoa, Lentil, Carrot and Fennel Salad
- 1 cup quinoa (preferably mix of white and red)
- 2 cups vegetable stock or water
Pinch of salt (optional)
- Using a fine mesh strainer, rinse quinoa thoroughly under running water
- On Stovetop- In a medium pot with lid, combine quinoa with vegetable stock or water and add a pinch of salt to taste.
Bring to boil over medium heat, then lower heat and let it simmer until fully cooked and liquid is absorbed.
Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool
- Rice Cooker – Put rinsed quinoa in rice cooker with vegetable stock or water, add a pinch of salt to taste, stir and set to cook per machine instructions
Fluff with fork when your rice cooker shuts off and set aside to cool
- 1 cup Puy/French lentils
- 3 cups water
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- Rinse lentils thoroughly and combine with water in a pot or saucepan and cook over medium-high heat
- Cover, bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 20 – 25 minutes until tender. (Add water as needed to ensure lentils have enough water to cook in)
- Add salt, reduce heat and let lentils cook for an additional 5 minutes
- Drain water from lentils, discard garlic and set aside to cool
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- In a small bowl, whisk the mustard and lemon juice and honey together
Drizzle in the olive oil to make an emulsion.
- Add the garlic powder, lemon zest, pepper flakes and salt, and ground black pepper, to taste.
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 small bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, grated or spiraled
- 2 – 3 tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped or handful cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat leafed parsley, plus more for garnish
- Combine quinoa and lentils in a large bowl
- Add onions, bell pepper, fennel, carrots and sundried tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), and mix
- Add dressing, toss gently to coat and add parsley
- Allow salad to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes
Taste and adjust seasoning (salt, pepper, lemon juice etc.) to taste
There’s something wistful about the start of September.
It’s filled with subtle changes; the days get shorter and there’s a moodiness in the air, the leaves start turning and there’s an early morning chill signaling summer’s inevitable end.
I’ve always loved this time of year; it feels contemplative as we shift focus from hazy summer days to the drearier days ahead.
There’s also a lightness to this time of year, bursts of perfect sunshiny days reminding us that summer isn’t quite over.
This is the time we ease back into the kitchen; roasting vegetables, baking and cooking decadent porridges again.
We fired up the oven this evening, slow roasting okra with hatch peppers and heirloom tomatoes.
I save cornmeal muffins for this time of the year; they’re summery and breezy, easy to whip up on cooler evenings when turning on the oven doesn’t feel stifling.
Aromatic flavours wafts through my tiny kitchen as it bakes and makes my heart happy.
These muffins are sweet, with hints of nutmeg and cardamom for warmth and topped with a sprinkle of pearl sugar to boost the cornmeal’s nutty crunchiness.
They’re just right for evenings around here, these delicate muffins, served warm with a pot of tea and a good book.
It’s perfect for lingering as darkness falls… as the sounds of the seagulls filter away and the 9 O’Clock Gun goes off in the distance.
There’s a touch of lightness and warmth to these muffins that is a little like this time of year.
- 1 cup almond milk or other nut-milk of choice
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 cup all-purpose flour or white whole-wheat flour
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal or dry polenta
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- 1/2 cup corn oil or other vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sweet yellow corn kernels (I used frozen corn)
- 1/4 cup pearl/nib sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line muffin pan with liners
Combine almond milk with apple cider vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes to curdle
- Sift flour, cornmeal and corn starch together in a large bowl, add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cardamom, and mix
- In a separate bowl, mix almond milk mixture with vegetable oil and sugar
- Add vanilla extract and corn kernels
- Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir until batter is smooth
- Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan to about 3/4th full each
- Sprinkle pearl sugar evenly over the muffin batter
- Place in the oven and bake for 18 – 25 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin just comes out clean
- Allow muffins to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
Café sign and abandoned car in the woods
We hopped on the ferry and skipped over to the Sunshine Coast a few weekends ago.
I love these mini summer pilgrimages to the Sunshine Coast; it’s a quick forty-minute ride away but feels like worlds away from the hectic city life.
Life here relaxed and charming, perfect for a day’s jaunt to gather one’s self.
We spent the day driving the Sunshine Coast Highway, exploring scenic seaside communities in the Lower Sunshine Coast.
Robert’s Creek Mandala/Rocky beach at Sechelt/Rooibos latte from 1902 Tea House/Gibsons Landing Marina
We had breakfast in the loveliest teashop in Gibsons, found a quiet beach in Robert’s Creek while checking out this year’s fascinating mandala, then collected seashells and driftwood in Davis Bay.
In Sechelt, we had a small picnic and explored galleries.
We stopped at Ruby Lake; we always stop at Ruby Lake to dip our toes in the water.
Skookumchuck Narrows trail/Boat on the water/Brown Lake/Mossy forest
We veered off the road at Egmont and took the winding road to the Skookumchuck Narrows trail.
We hiked through the enchanting moss and fern covered forest and caught the rapids – the tide was low but still pretty cool.
And then we drove back with just enough time for dinner and to catch our ferry.
Rocks at Robert’s Creek/Sechelt/Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park/Egmont
I’ve probably made about a million variations of rice and beans, it’s an easy meal to throw together at a moment’s notice, especially if you have some plain rice and beans cooked already.
I thought about this spiced rice and beans on a long exhausting ride home on one of those activity-filled unending summer days, we had nothing home except for leftover rice and a jar of black beans that was to go into a salad.
I’m particularly drawn to this kind of food whenever I’m little stressed or fatigued, perhaps it’s the turmeric, or maybe it’s because it’s filling and sates my hunger.
I swear I think up the most scrumptious meals when I’m tired and hungry, on that journey I craved a simple and tasty dish that would also be satisfying and nourishing.
A modest of rice and beans enlivened with a melange of flavours and unique spices – rustic mustard seeds, fragrant coriander, warm and nutty cumin and earthy turmeric.
I tossed in a few vegetables and finished off with zesty lemon and cilantro.
It’s a great lunch or quick weeknight meals, or an awesome contribution to a potluck picnic, like the one I’m going to this long weekend, it makes a wonderful side-dish at summer barbeques.
There are a few ways to prepare it; when I have time to spare, I brown the rice with the sautéed spices and vegetables and cook it in vegetable broth, it takes more time but it’s so flavourful!
This is my ultimate comfort food!
Spiced Rice and Beans
- 1 cup long-grain white or brown rice
- 1/2 cup wild rice
- 1/2 cup dried black beans, soaked overnight – optional (or 1 16-oz canned black beans, rinsed and drained)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Combine long-grain rice and wild rice, and rinse thoroughly. Add salt to taste and cook in a rice cook per machine instructions or cook on stovetop using this guide
- Rinse and place beans in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan and cover with an inch and the half of water
- Cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil
- Let the beans boil for about 15 – 20 minutes
- Reduce heat and let beans simmer until they start to become tender, stir and taste occasionally
- When beans are tender, add salt to taste and cook until beans are as tender as you like them
- Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large skillet or saucepan
- When oil is hot, add mustard stir and cook for about a minute until seeds start popping
- Add cumin, turmeric, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook for another minutes until spices become fragrant
- Add garlic, onions and bell pepper and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until onions are softened
- Add cooked rice and drained black beans, cook for about 3 – 5 minutes stirring occasional to make sure it doesn’t burn
- Stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and cilantro
- Check seasoning and add salt to taste
- Let the rice and beans cook on low for another 2 – 3 minutes for the flavours to blend
- Sprinkle with more cilantro and serve with freshly ground black pepper
I’ve probably told the ‘marmite story’ a million times, of how my sister was anaemic when we were kids and marmite was one of the foods her doctor had recommended… It’s the story of how the dark spread came into my life.
I don’t recall liking marmite that much as a child; my mom would spread it thinly on toast and we’d eat it like it was medicine.
Years later when I tried marmite again, it tasted salty and savoury and bitter, and a little like nostalgia.
It grew on me halfway through the jar; I liked the salty savouriness, the yeasty, deep umami flavours reminiscent of reduced vegetable stock (vegetable demi-glace).
We’re steadily eating our way through the few jars of marmite we got last year, it’s mostly my mom, she likes a dab in her morning Milo or hot chocolate.
I was over the moon when I discovered marmite snacks, we can’t get them here unfortunately so that just means I have to be creative.
I’ve been making marmite-y nuts for a while now, these nuts are so tasty even marmite haters love them, marmite adds an extra depth of saltiness and savouriness to the roasted nuts.
And these oven baked marmite cashews spectacular, by far my favourite marmite nuts; the cashews turn out creamy and buttery, and salty and that addictive umami taste – It’s so hard to stop eating them!
Oven Baked Marmite Cashews
From Good Housekeeping UK
- 1 teaspoon marmite
- 1 1/2 teaspoons water
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- Pinch of salt and pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line baking tray with parchment paper
- Mix marmite and water in a frying pan
- Add nuts, and salt and pepper and heat gently and stir until nuts are coated with marmite mixture
- Empty nuts into baking tray and roast for 12 – 15 minutes until nuts are fragrant and golden
- Let nuts cool completely before serving or store in airtight container for up to two weeks.