Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vegging out

Not to be a total geek, but this week's post is a double, no make that triple entendre*

Entendre #1:
Yesterday was a P.A. day for most Toronto schools.
Fact one: P.A. stands for Professional Activity.
Fact two: No one specified which of my "professions" required activity. Get your mind out of the gutter...by professions I mean a) teacher or b) mother.

I chose B.  With a TON of recess thrown in.  And I feel it was well deserved.

My week was in-sane. I ran two track meets and Billy's play was on Thursday night.  Not too bad, you say?  Are you kidding me?  Well, for your information, those track meets required me to be at the stadium while the sun was still rising, set up about 60 hurdles (among other things), do no less than 300 squats in the pouring rain to measure standing long jump, distribute over 200 kids to their respective exchange stations for the relay race, and have to tell a well-intentioned 10-year-old that she was disqualified from her race because you cannot pass everyone else on the track by running on the interior astro-turf (heartbreaking).

As for the play?  It wasn't just a show-up-at-the-theatre one night thing, it was also six months of after-school rehearsals, two nights of dress rehearsals 'till 10pm, and an after party for the cast that I got to help chaperone because "I am better at that kind of thing" (thanks, hubby) until almost midnight.

So on Friday moring, when I finally had no pressing reason to get up and go and, for the first time in 7 days, the sun was out, there was no freakin' way I was going to hunker down with 10 tons of work and do report cards.

I decided to just veg out(side).  I went for a long, lovely walk, took the kids out for lunch, and then after they were both happily at playdates, headed down to Fiesta Farms, bringing me to...
My happy place:  The Garden Centre at Fiesta Farms on Christie and Dupont.
I prefer buying organic plants here vs. another "unnamed" store which labels their tomato and other plants as "gigantico".  What are they exactly doing to those plants to make them gigantico?  That sorta scares me...

Entendre #2:  Vegging out in the garden.

It started about 9 years ago when we moved into a tiny little bungalow that was formally inhabited by the most dedicated amateur Portuguese farmers.  At that point in my maternal career (one kid down and one on the way) I was not interested, so we sodded over their garden.  But we couldn't get rid of it all; for the next 3 years, we had more raspberries, apples, pears, apricots, and mint than I knew what to do with.  When we moved into our next house, I found I missed that homegrown goodness and within a year, I had set up a pretty awesome herb garden and had found out that it is insanely easy to grow your own squash and zucchini.  Three years later, we moved into my dream home: a house with a pool.  And as much as I love having a pool and admired the perfectly manicured flower garden the previous owners establised, I missed my edible garden.  The next summer, I created a potted garden on our patio.  The next summer, I started to uproot the flowers and replace them with tomatoes, leeks, peppers, and arugula. When my husband jokingly suggested that this summer, we forego the flowers all together and start a full-fleged farm, I agreed (much to his horror) and now we have a rain barrel, 100 pounds of topsoil, and a huge assortment of fruits, veggies and herbs freshly planted and vegging out in the backyard.  And in my opinon, it is much prettier than hundreds of pink forget-me-nots. And if it goes as well as I am hoping, perhaps by the fall, I will be able to fulfill what I have been trying to do for almost 3 weeks, which brings me to...
Hochberg Family Farm
In case you missed it, its the tiny sliver of brown in between the pool, flagstone, and giant dining table.
Notice the topsy-turvy growing a pepper plant.  With limited horizontal space, I had to start making better use of the vertical space.

Entendre #3:  Vegging out from meat

For the last two weeks, I have woken up on Sunday morning, declaring that this week, I am going to try to not eat meat.  Its not that I'm morphing into a granola-munching, Grateful Dead-loving, yoga freak with dreadlocks (for the record, I do love yoga, have been known to munch granola but do not like The Dead or tangly hair), its just I didn't really feel like I had a choice.  My kids have threatened mutiny if I try to make chicken even one more time yet it's unhealthy to eat steak and/or hamburgers every night.  I decided in the interest of eating a well-balanced diet and, as an added bonus, reducing our carbon footprint (if you have no idea what that means, read this), I would make an effort for just one week to get our protein in a semi-veg way.  By semi I mean that I would still eat animal by-products (that sounds gross but its true) like dairy and eggs, but not actaul "meat".

Each week, it started off great; I would make a gorgeous vegetarian meal on Sunday night, have a slightly less exciting meal Monday night, and by mid-week, was back into full-fleged animal flesh.  The first week, it was a Big Mac (I had no choice, it was McHappy day and all the proceeds from the Mac went to children's charities...I felt it was my moral obligation).  The second week, it was The Frankies meatballs with spaghetti.  I'm a sucker for those delicious little bites of heaven.  And this week?  Well, I didn't even make it to Monday.  I bought all the fixins for another Sunday veg meal but before I could say "barley is a complete protein", Maya requested we go out for ribs.  You see, at the tender age of 8, she is getting full braces next week and has declared this week the farewell to the soon-to-be outlawed foods week.  Last night it was chicken wings, tonight ribs, and sticky gum and caramels throughout the week, culminating with an evening of Doritos on Friday, her all-time favorite treat.  So another week bites the dust.  Maybe next week...


In between all that weakness of the flesh for the flesh, I did make some pretty wicked meals.  If there's one thing I'm not, its a quitter (unless you count last year's marathon, most classic novels, and grade 12 finite math which I dropped out of after my math teacher said some girls just don't have a mind for math...but I regress).

Here are a couple:
Mixed Mushroom Pizza
makes 2 single-serve pizzas
This recipe is based on one in The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, a book every aspiring vegetarian should own
2 cups mixed mushroom cleaned & chopped into 1-inch cubes...sort of
1 shallot chopped
1 tsp garlic
2 whole grain tortillas
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup arugula
1.  Heat 1/2 the oil in the pan.  Add the shallot, garlic, and mushrooms, and some salt.  Cook for 3-5 min, until the shallot is soft and the mushrooms have lost all their liquid...it is only at this stage that they become major flavour machines and have good texture.  If you don't cook them long enough they taste like nothing and make you feel like you have a slug in your mouth.
2.  While this is going on, brush the rest of the olive oil on the two tortillas, sprinkle with s & p & toast at 350 until they start to crisp and brown.  BE CAREFUL!
3.  Spread 1/2 the yogurt on each of the tortillas, cover with arugula, and then the mushrooms and then serve.  YUM!

Chickpeas and Peppers a la Christine Cushing
This recipe is pretty much the exact recipe from Christine Cushing's website except for a few importat details:
1.  I added in a cup of cooked quinoa to make it a more substantial dish that I served along with fancy shmancy grilled cheese sandwiches
2.  I substituted a roasted red pepper sauce for the chipotles in her recipe since the kids (including the hubby) don't do too well with spice.    Feel free to do your own thing.
3.  I garnished with chives instead of coriander because a) it needed the green colour and b) I HATE coriander and c) I am pretty proud that I grow my own chives.
here is her recipe:
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (45 ml)
  • ½ tsp cumin seed, ground (2.5ml)
  • 1 red pepper, sliced,
  • 1 yellow pepper, sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped chipotle (in adobo) or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • 1x 19 oz can chick peas (540 ml)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup chicken stock (125 ml)
  • fresh chopped coriander to taste
In a large skillet on medium, heat olive oil.  When just hot, add the cumin and peppers and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until just beginning to soften.  Add the garlic and chipotle and continue to sauté for 1 more minute, until the garlic is just golden but not brown.   

Add the chick peas, chicken stock, lime juice and season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for 3-5 minutes until peas have absorbed most of the liquid.  Remove from heat and add the chopped coriander
Happy Sunday!

* for those of you who slept through grade 9 English, Entendre literally translates to "meaning", thus, double entendre literally means "double meaning."

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