Sunday, July 20, 2014

Corn and Black Bean Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette

Oh my.

A friend at the lake decided to surprise his wife with a party for her 50th birthday. And by "party" he meant dinner for 43 people in their home.

A sit down dinner.

As a surprise

Guests supplied salads and desserts to go with the German sausages and beef tenderloin and roasty toasty potatoes he threw on the BBQ. I can't believe Karl pulled it off, actually. He faked a back injury (had a massage, took Advil) and sent Mary-Anne off on a 2 hour boat ride, claiming his back was just too painful to allow him to go. Then he enlisted the help of some stalwart friends who rushed over to set up the tables and get everything ready. We all jumped out from behind the house and yelled "SURPRISE!" (which never, ever gets old.)


I needed a salad to feed a crowd. 

When I found the recipe for this salad, it said a similar version of it (with lime cilantro dressing) was a real crowd pleaser and one of the most asked for recipes. It is referred to as "Veggie Crack" which, I discovered, is accurate.

Here it is, with my twists. If you go to the website, you'll see I doubled the recipe. I used frozen organic corn from Costco, not corn on the cob. (Purists could do as the recipe says and cook fresh cobs then cut off the kernels, etc. These are the same people who make their own yogurt and almond milk and churn butter and spin wool.)  I just threw in a bunch of frozen corn, probably 4 cups worth if not more. And I used 3 chipotle peppers which gave it bite without making people splutter.  I also added chopped cherry tomatoes, and substituted basil for oregano, because I hate oregano. Well, hate is a strong word. Actually no, I really do hate oregano. And I doubled the number of avocados because unlike oregano, they are divine.

So here is my version.



4+ cups of frozen organic corn
2 cups of chopped red onion
2 (14.5 oz) tins of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 red peppers, diced
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro, diced
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 avocados

Place everything except the avocados in a large bowl. Move on to the dressing.


4 TBSP red wine vinegar
4 TBSP lime juice (3-4 fresh limes)
4 TBSP honey
3/4 cup oil (I used canola)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp basil (or oregano)
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Place the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and whirl until mixed.

Pour the dressing over the salad, mix well, cover and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge. Right before serving, dice up the avocados and gently stir them in. Can be served cold or room temperature. Garnish with more cilantro if you wish.  Put the leftover chipotle peppers in the freezer!

Friday, June 20, 2014

On Today's Walk in Montreal

Overheard on my walk today to the post office. 
A young father pushed his little girl in this giant pram. She couldn't have been more than three, curly-haired, cute as a bug, and she was not so much sitting in it as lounging, resting her head on one hand. 
As they passed I heard him ask her, "I'm sorry, did you just say you want to fly to Vegas?" 
She heaved a big sigh and said,
I died on the spot, as did the father.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Flutter-bys in Arizona

When I was little, I called butterflies "flutter-bys" because in my tiny, unformed brain, that was easier to pronounce. However, I maintain it's because it is more accurate than referring to them as flying butter.

I also called high heels "hee hiles" and the couch (chesterfield) was a "fester-eedle" but I digress.

I visited the butterfly museum in Arizona a couple of weeks ago, and it was pretty special. Except for the 102F temperature outside and extreme humidity inside the atrium where the butterflies lived. And the sweaty tourists with freaked out kids who kept ducking and swatting the butterflies like they were missiles.

And of course, this was the trip I did not bring my good camera. However, I had my trusty point and shoot. Settle yourself on the nearest fester-eedle, put your hee hiles up and take a gander, if you're so inclined.

Blue Morpho, the most beautiful one in my opinion, but also the most difficult one to photograph because they never stopped moving. Except this one. Which got tired. Or maybe it was on its last legs.

The King of Butterflies, the Monarch.

Parthenos Sylvia or Clipper Butterfly. I'd like to decorate a room in these colours. I find them very soothing.

Banded Peacock.

Another view of the Blue Morpho.

Arched-wing Cattleheart

This looked like it was made of plastic. It's called, appropriately enough, Greta Oto, the Costa Rica Clearwing.


Friday, May 30, 2014

On today's walk

On my walk today with Buddy, I spotted a woman perched on a large, twisted root of an old tree. 

It was unusual to see someone sitting there, as this was not a park but the front lawn of someone's house in an upscale neighborhood. She was dressed in fine clothes, all in black, resting her hand on a folded umbrella, though a gentle rain had begun. She looked to be in her 60s, but very well preserved, red hair pulled back in a chignon and pale blue eyes. 

I pulled Buddy to the other side of me, so I could pass her on the narrow sidewalk without him bothering her, but she took no notice. Something in her expression made me stop to ask if she was okay. I wondered if she had maybe felt faint, and that's why she stopped to rest on this tree. 

She looked up and said something in an accent - Ukrainian? Russian?- that I couldn't quite hear. 

"I'm grieving," she said, barely above a whisper, as though the effort of speaking was too much. "I'm grieving," she said again. 

And with those simple words, my heart broke for her, because her pain showed so clearly in her eyes. A parent? A child? A friend? I don't know. I could only reach down, and stroke her arm a few times, and tell her I was sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry... Then I moved on in the rain with Buddy, and left her alone with her grief.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chocolate Cheesecake with Strawberries, also Gluten-Free!

This is adapted from The Canadian Living Cookbook. I made it gluten-free. It was delicious and despite its good looks, really easy to make.


1-1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup gluten-free gingersnaps, crushed to crumbs (or other plain cookie)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter


3 oz. (90g) semisweet chocolate
1-1/2 lbs (750g) cream cheese, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

2 cups strawberries
3 oz or more semisweet chocolate

For the crust, in a small bowl, stir together pecans, crushed gingersnaps, sugar and butter. Pour into a well greased 10" (25cm) springform pan. With fingers or the bottom of a glass, press into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

For the filling, melt chocolate in the microwave or over simmering water. Let cool slightly and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese at the lowest speed until smooth.Gradually beat in sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Stir in sour cream, vanilla and salt. Transfer 1-1/2 cups of the batter to a small bowl. Fold in the cooled, melted chocolate.

Starting with the light coloured batter, alternately layer large spoonfuls of the two batters over the crust. Using a table knife, cut down through the batter and swirl into large spirals. Be careful not to hit the crust and DO NOT OVERMIX. A very light touch is needed here or the contrast will be lost.

Bake in a 325F oven for 40 minutes or until firm around the edge but still shiny and soft in the middle. Remove from oven, and immediately run a knife around the edge to prevent cracking as it cools. Let cool completely on a rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours. Remove sides of pan.

Wash and dry the strawberries. (Make sure they're completely dry or the chocolate won't stick.) Dip each one in melted chocolate and place around the edge of the cheesecake.. The smaller the berry, the smaller each slice will be because everyone wants a strawberry with their piece.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Caramel Cheesecake topped with Butterscotch and Toffee? Yes please.

I made two cheesecakes for Easter brunch last weekend. The chocolate cheesecake (at the bottom of the page) I've made before, but the caramel toffee one was a new recipe and unlike many of my experiments, it turned out great. I made them both gluten-free and you would never have known the difference.

Here is the caramel one, if you be wanting the recipe.

Caramel Cheesecake with Crunchy Toffee Topping

(adapted from Allrecipes Toblerone Topped Caramel Cheesecake)

1 1/4 cups gluten-free ginger snaps, crushed to crumbs
1/4 cup butter

3 (250g) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 TBSP good vanilla
3 eggs

1/2 cup or more caramel ice cream topping (I used PC Old Fashioned Butterscotch)
200g crushed dark chocolate covered toffee (I used gluten-free but you can try Skor bars, or Toblerone)

Heat oven to 350.


Crush the gingersnaps using a food processor, or in a plastic bag with a rolling pin if you need to work out your ya yas, as a friend used to say. (I pounded mine with the rolling pin. Make what you will of that.) Place in a small bowl. Melt the butter, and mix it into the crumbs. Pat the crust into a Teflon 9" springform pan, pressing it flat with the bottom of a glass. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
* If your pan isn't Teflon, you might want to spray it with a little Pam. (Seriously, who thought that product name was a good idea?)


Soften the cream cheese in the microwave if necessary. In a large bowl, just beat it, just beat it, (sorry) with the sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add eggs one at a time at low speed, just until blended. Pour over crust. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the centre is almost cooked. I had to add another 10 minutes because my gas oven is the son of Satan.

Immediately and carefully run a knife around the edge to prevent it from cracking as it cools, but don't remove the rim until you're ready to serve it. Cool, then refrigerate it for at least 4 hours.

Just before serving, spread the caramel topping on the top in a thin layer, almost to the edge, but not quite. You don't want it oozing down the sides. Sprinkle the top with the chopped toffee bits. Remove the rim and cut yourself a slice before the boys discover it because it's game over after that.

Here's the chocolate one I made. Let me know if you want the recipe for that one. It ain't hard, honest. It just looks impressive.

Monday, April 7, 2014

On gratitude

My brother-in-law sent this reminder.

We should, we must open our hearts to the many gifts and blessings, big and small, which are available to us every day.

It could be something as simple as a smile.

And when you do this, "then it will really be a good day."