Roasted Potato and Mushroom Salad

Roasted potato and mushroom salad on spinach and arugula with hemp seedOne of my favourite things about trying new dishes in restaurants is attempting to recreate the ones I enjoyed at home (not always with success, unfortunately).

On a recent girls’ lunch in Toronto, celebrating 10 years of an amazing friendship, I had the opportunity to vist Harvest Kitchen, a place where vegetarians bring their meat eating friends (in their own words). Although I am a carnivore through and through, the beautiful veg-based options bowled me over and I tried quite a few!  The ones that stood out for me immediately were the ‘Meatless Meatballs’ and the ‘Mushroom French Fry Salad’. I definitely thought the latter was worth recreating at home.

The resulting salad, my version, was a huge hit with the boy. A mouthwatering mixture of warm crisp potatoes and salty mushrooms on a bed of fresh greens. It has now become a staple of our Meatless Mondays and I thought I’d share it with you all. With a few substitutions you can make it truly vegetarian or gluten free.

3 large yukon gold potatoes
2 Tbsp duck fat (substitute olive oil for vegetarian version)
1/2 lbs of button mushrooms
1 tsp soy sauce (substitute tamari for GF version)
2 cups baby arugula 
2 cups baby spinach
2 Tbsp of mayo (substitute for vegetarian version here
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 clove garlic (grated)
1 tsp hemp seeds (optional for garnish)
Prep time: 10-15 minutes     Cook time: 35-40 minutes (mostly roasting time)

1. Place roasting pan in the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees Celsius.

2. Peel and roughly cube potatoes into small uneven pieces.

3. Remove the roasting pan from oven and add 1.5 Tbsp of duck fat, spreading it around the pan. Then throw in the potatoes, coat with fat, and return to the oven.

*Roasting time will depend on your oven but may take approximately 40 minutes. Don’t forget to stir the potatoes once or twice during roasting for even crisping.Roasted potatoes 4. Slice mushrooms and place in pan with 1/2 Tbsp of duck fat and the soy sauce on medium heat. Keep cooking until all liquid evaporates and continue to caramelize and brown the mushrooms.Roasted mushrooms in a pan5. Wash the spinach and arugula and place in mixing bowl.Baby spinach and arugula in a bowl6. Place mayo, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and grated garlic in a small bowl and stir to combine. Olive oil and garlic mayo dressingMixed mayo and olive oil dressing7. Once the potatoes are roasted and mushrooms are browned, combine all warm ingredients in a bowl with the greens and cover with dressing. Roasted potato and mushroom salad topped with dressingTossing roasted potato and mushroom salad8.Toss to combine and plate. Sprinkle with hemp seeds for a little extra protein.Roasted potato and mushroom salad with hemp seedsI want to dedicate this post to two special ladies that always keeping me laughing. And yes, my smile does sparkle that much when I’m with these two!Cobblestones and Cappuccinos and friends.I hope you enjoy and give this delicious salad a try. And if you’re in Toronto, pop into Harvest Kitchen for those meatballs!

Sundried Tomato and Shittake Pasta

Italian Food | Pasta Recipe - Sundried tomato and shittake pasta ingredientsWhen the weather gets cold outside I have a tendency to indulge in warm, comfort food. Soups, stews and roasts feature heavily in my menus. There are few things more comforting than sitting under a blanket with a good book, snow swirling outside the windows, and delicious smells drifting from the stove. The steam envelops the room in warmth and my belly grumbles in anticipation of things to come.

However, all my comforting meals usually have a heavy meat component. All that meaty goodness is not so great on my digestion (and my waistline!!!!). So I have decided to keep trying to add more veggie based dishes to my winter repertoire. I’ve come up with this pasta dish because the shittake mushrooms still give me the meaty texture and the cream cheese allows for the comforting creaminess without being too heavy. I hope you give this a try as well.

1 garlic clove chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
3 shittake mushrooms sliced
3 sundried tomatoes sliced
1/4  cream cheese brick
2 cups pre-washed baby spinach leaves
pappardelle or other ribbon pasta (cook according to package directions)
1/2 cup of pasta water reserved 
Prep time: 10 minutes     Cook time: 10-15 minutes

1. Add olive oil to a saute pan and turn the heat on medium. Put the garlic and sundried tomatoes into the pan and gently fry to flavour the oil and warm the ingredients.

Stirring garlic and sundried tomatoes for Italian Pasta dish

2. After about 2-3 add the sliced shiitake mushrooms. Keep frying them until they soften and release juices.

Stirring in shiitake mushrooms into my easy pasta recipe

3. Add the cream cheese to the pan and stir to form a creamy sauce. Use the reserved pasta water to thin out if the sauce becomes to thick,

Cream cheese added into pan into my italian pasta dishStirring in the cream cheese into my pasta sauce

4. Place half the spinach into the pan and stir into the sauce to wilt down.

Stirring in the spinach into my easy Italian pasta recipe

5. Add the second half of the spinach, then the cooked warm pasta and combine into the sauce.

Pappardelle added to the pan into my sundried tomato, shiitake mushroom and cream cheese pasta recipeCombing ingredients and pasta - pappardelle, shiitake mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and cream cheese6. The dish is ready to plate when the ingredients are all combined and warmed through. Don’t forget to garnish with some parmigiano after plating.

Italian Food - Recipe for shiitake mushroom, sundried tomato and spinach pappardelle pastaThis pasta dish tastes very luxurious because of all that creaminess and the flavours are strong and burst in your mouth. With this one, a little goes a long way…your taste buds and your waist line will thank you!


Weekend Edition

Black squirrel among fall leavesThe last few days have brought some unprecedented sunshine and warmth to this end of October. Autumn is here and I’m not letting a change in season stop me. Like this little guy, I’m planning on getting out and enjoying the new colours. If you don’t have a chance to get away, here are some suggestions for your weekend enjoyment.

  • Christine Kim shares her perspective on fall…in Paris! I wouldn’t mind wandering the alleyways of Jardin des Tuileries and kicking my feet up in to soak in the sunshine.
  • I share something in common with the gorgeous Mimi Thorisson, a keen interest in mushroom picking (you can check out my post here). But you don’t need a haul of wild mushrooms to try her mouthwatering recipe.
  • Sarah Jessica Parker‘s unique sense of style is no secret to fashion lovers all over the world but here are 73 things you never knew about her (including a sneak peak into her home)!

5 Remedies to the Zombie Apocalypse, AKA The Common Cold

Bed side table with tea and flowersThe zombie apocalypse is here. I’ve joined the hoards of red-eyed, drooling, moaning undead spreading the virus to anyone that gets in its way. Suffering from sneezing, coughing, and a stuffy nose, I’ve fallen victim to long nights of little sleep, a snowy mountain of crumpled tissues and a red nose that Rudolph would give his jingle bells for. In short, I have a cold.

But unlike a zombie virus, this one will have a happy ending. It may take a week or so but those symptoms that make me look as good as I feel will begin to fade. And although I hope to never see another cold again, it’ll be back. I don’t know how or when, but it will be there when I least expect it. And I’ll be ready with a few secret cold hacks up my sleeve!

Over the course of one too many afflictions I’ve learned two things; there is nothing that will shorten the course of a cold (although the amount of time per person may vary between 7 to 10 days); you don’t have to give yourself up to the symptoms.

Here are my 5 remedies to the common cold:

1. Do Some ‘Shrooms

Everyone, and their mom, will tell you to eat garlic at the first sign of a cold. The antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties can’t be beat. But adding mushrooms to your garlic will double the immune fighting properties.

If you can get your hands on some shitake, maitake, or even button mushrooms, fry them in a bit of butter, adding loads of raw garlic. The garlic should be as raw as you can handle so add it toward the end of the cooking process. Sprinkle with pepper, salt and parsley and you have the perfect cold busting snack! Repeat as often as you can.

2. Give the Clown Nose a Rest

To soothe the burning redness and dry flaking skin on my nose I use an antibiotic ointment instead of regular lotion or plain vaseline. Normally made for scratches and cuts on other parts of the body, the antibiotic works well on healing the skin around my nose, while the gel soothes and smooths the skin.

3. Blowing Sucks

A stuffed nose is not caused by mucus but by the inflammation of the nasal wall and expansion of blood vessels. Irritating the nasal passages by blowing too hard will only cause it to feel more stuffed. Instead, I try to pat my runny nose when I can. But when I have no choice but to blow, I hold each nostril shut as I gently blow out of the other.

I also add cold compresses to my nose to ease the inflammation and constrict the blood vessels. You’ll find that hot foods and direct steam will actually make a stuffed nose feel worse.

4. Soup On Steroids

Hot chicken soup is good for the soul and the stomache at any time. But when I have a cold and my throat is sore, amping up this homemade remedy is key.

I simmer chicken broth (you can use homemade or carton) with carrots and garlic until they are soft enough to smoosh with a fork. I mash them gently in the soup with a potato masher. Then I add honey, lemon juice from a whole lemon, ginger, and a pinch of cayenne. I drink this warm concoction throughout the day to soothe my throat and keep hydrated.

5. Fake It Til You Make It

When I feel my worst, I try to look my best. A big believer in the power of positive thinking, I try to make the best of my sick days, even when I’m home-bound. I take a shower, put on a little makeup, get into some cute lounge wear and take a little time to indulge in something enjoyable. Pretending I’m not sick can do wonders – I’ve seen my Mom do it her whole life.

And there you have my 5 remedies for the common cold. So go ahead, give these a try the next time the “zombie” virus has you in its clutches!



How to find dinner in the woods

Sun streaming through the trees near Stratford OntarioThis past weekend I went on a nostalgic romp through the woods…looking for dinner. As the leaves turn colour and the weather notches lower on the thermometer, I hear the call of my European roots to head into nature in search of some edible treasures. So I grabbed the boy, a basket and some rubber boots and made for the wilds of Southern Ontario.

Walking through the trees near Stratford OntarioThe foraging caravan - foraging for mushrooms near Stratford OntarioJust so we are clear, I had no idea where I was going or what I was looking for. And I had a hard time quieting the boy’s concern that my lack of knowledge might kill us. To calm both our fears I decided to call for reinforcements. Step in Peter Blush, master forager from Stratford and founder of Puck’s Plenty, a foraging tour company. Peter is a renaissance man of sorts. A former news correspondent for the Viet Nam war who moved to Quebec to run a B&B, then turned to a new interest in foraging while becoming a writer with a novel short listed for the Robertson Davies Prize. In short, the most perfect and knowledgeable guide I could find.

Speaking with Peter Blush - Guide of the foraging tourPeter, along with his dogs Liam and Faolan, leads foraging events every weekend pretty much year round. Although there is a cost involved, he never lacks participants and most events sell out quickly. On this sunny morning, he led a group of ten, most of whom turned out to be European, in search of mushrooms, wild leaks, and wild ginger.

A stream in the woods while on a foraging adventure in Southwestern OntarioGiant Puffball MushroomWild leaks found while foraging in Southwestern OntarioWild ginger plant near Stratford OntarioOn the path with a dogKeeping my eyes peeled for goodies spread out by mother nature under our feet, I breathed the fresh crisp air. As the wind played through the woods rustling the leaves and making the trees creak, I stomped bravely through mud and streams mindful of the path set by our guides.

Dogs in the trailMushroom hunting in a forest near Stratford OntarioDog by the streamWyldwood Conservation areaOur patience and efforts paid off. We returned home with a bounty of puffballs, blewit mushrooms, gem studded mushrooms and wild leaks. No words can describe the taste of a dinner so hard won!

Wild mushrooms and leak bulbs