Nothing makes me feel more connected with nature than harvesting my own food and cooking up something delicious with it in my own kitchen. So on my latest culinary adventure (inspired by Radical Homestead), I went in search of wild grape leaves! They are surpisingly easy to find growing along the edges of bushes and fences once you start to search them out.
Here is a fun and tasty idea of what to do with them: stuffed wild grape leaves (dolmas). Dolmas are a popular snack in the Balkan countries including Greece. I have made these before with grapes leaves that I bought in a jar stored in brine. The brine is very salty and these preserved leaves need to be rinsed very well to remove most of the salt.
I picked these grape leaves myself along the edges of the park where I walk my dog almost every day! I brought them home, blanched them by pouring boiling water over them and then took them out and lay them to drain on a couple of dish towels while I prepared my filling. The recipe I used is below. Make them the day before you plan to serve them because they need to marinate in the fridge overnight. You will need about 40 leaves for this recipe.
Stuffing for Wild Grape Leaves
1 cup of brown-rice cooked in 2 cups of water
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 plum tomatoes, chopped (I used canned)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup raisins or currants
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. allspice
Pepper to taste
Saute onion in olive oil until translucent. Add tomatoes and garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in oregano, raisins, salt and pine nuts. Add cooked rice and allspice and mix until well combined. Allow to cool.
To stuff the grape leaves, spread one blanched leaf, patted dry, vein side up on a flat surface. Add 1 to 1/2 Tbsp. stuffing. Fold lower edges and sides in and roll like a cigar. Repeat with remaining leaves. Place all rolled dolmas in a glass lasagna pan packed closely together.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare the marinade. Mix 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice with 1/3 cup of olive oil and drizzle over the dolmas. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and cook for 40 minutes. Allow to cool and then place them in the fridge overnight covered to marinate.
Serve them warm or cold with my dairy free tzatziki.
Do you use any wild foods in your kitchen?
When I first tasted Veggie Lox at a restaurant in Montreal, I fell in love. How could vegetables taste so much like smoked salmon?? When we make that decision to stop eating meat for whatever reason, there are often some tastes that we miss. This was a big one for me. So when I tasted this, I couldn't stop myself from asking the waiter: "What's in there?" "Do you have a cookbook?" Of course what I wanted was the recipe. Unfortunately they were not serving that up on the menu. But I could not get that taste out of my head! I obsessed about it. And after much experimentation in the kitchen, I finally perfected my own Veggie Lox recipe.
Since then I have shared this amazing spread up over and over again at many catering events, parties, and trade shows. And people just can't seem to get enough! This spread was a huge hit at VegFest, 2013. I gave out hundreds of samples and sold out on the first day. And I was asked several times where can I buy this? So I got in touch with one of my favourite health food stores in Ottawa.... Herb and Spice on Bank St. and asked them if they would be interested in selling my Veggie Lox in their shop. I was surprised to hear that one of the managers had been at VegFest and tasted it!
To make a long story short, you can now purchase Zengarry's Veggie Lox at Herb and Spice on Bank St. So what do you do with it when you get it home?? This is the actual topic of this blog post. Here are some ways that you can get creative with my Veggie Lox in YOUR kitchen!
Now it's your turn! How do you serve your Veggie Lox?? Leave your ideas in the comments section below!
Do you ever find yourself in the same situations over and over again longing for change? Albert Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I have to agree!
I was recently talking to one of my coaching clients and explaining that our bodies are simply an indicator of our habits. If we change our habits, we change our bodies. It's that simple. People see the results of this every time they go on a 'diet'. They will change their habits for a while to achieve a goal and then once they have achieved their goal, or tired of trying to reach it, they slip right back into their old habits and see their bodies go back to they way they were before. But I digress... this post is about stepping outside of our comfort zones.
I thought I would share a recent example of this in my own life. So many times people have said things to me like: 'You seem to have it all together' or 'how do you get it all done?' Maybe it will help you to get a little taste of what goes on behind the scenes and know that we all have the same fears, no matter how together we seem on the outside!
I have been growing my business slowly in my little corner of the world, and dreaming of expanding into different areas. So one day, in a burst of enthusiasm, I registered to be a vendor at VegFest in Ottawa. I had been to VegFest first as a visitor, then as a volunteer and I loved everything about it; the vendors, the food, the presentations, the crowds, the food, the potential, what it stood for.... and did I mention the food? It was so comforting and exciting to see this huge group of people with similar beliefs come together to support each other and learn about the services and products available in our area. As inspiring as it was I still felt like a tiny seed in the big forest.
After the excitement had waned and reality set in, I began to panic. My mind raced with thoughts of 'What am I doing?' 'Why would they want to talk to me?' 'What if nobody comes to my table?' etc. As time passed and the date approached, I became more and more nervous. And then I got the vendor map that placed me between Zen Kitchen and Terra 20. These are two awesome businesses that I hugely admire, and I was going to be set up beside them with my little table and pamphlets. What on Earth was I doing? I even had thoughts of not going! I knew I wouldn't get my money back, but the potential for humiliation intimidated me!
I took some deep breaths and told myself that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyways, so I went anyways. I calmed myself with thoughts like: I will just be flattered to be a part of this movement, to participate in this important event. And it was great. I later learned that over 5000 people attended this year's VegFest and they raised almost $7800 for the National Capital Vegetarian Association and Prevent Cancer Now. This event is growing yearly and is completely organized and run by dedicated volunteers. I highly recommend you check it out next year if you missed it this year.
I spoke to so many amazing people. I was able to share my vision and my enthusiasm, and by halfway through the first day, I felt like I was a part of it, like I belonged. I was thrilled that I stepped out of my comfort zone, faced my fears, and put myself out there. When I think about it, this is a huge part of growing a business, and of growing as a person: trying new things, being afraid and doing it anyways.
To me, cooking is a little bit like this. We can get stuck in ruts and make the same meals over and over again, or we can throw caution to the wind and try something completely new! Change a recipe and make it our own. What's the worst that can happen? Your family won't like it? This happens to me ALL THE TIME! My kids are my worst critics. But if I just stick to the things I already know they like, I'm depriving them as well as myself of the opportunity to learn to love something new.
So as a reward for listening to my ramblings, here is a new recipe for you. The local strawberries are at the absolute peak of ripeness now. We love them in desserts and even sometimes salads, but here is a delicious, healthy way to expand your love of strawberries to the main dish!
Strawberry Avocado Salsa
1 cup of strawberries, hulled and diced
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 to 3/4 cup of cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 tsp. sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt
juice from 1/2 a lime
1 tsp. agave nectar
pinch of ground black pepper
Mix all ingredients except strawberries and avocado and then carefully fold in strawberries and avocado. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lime juice.
I topped some Portobello mushroom caps with this strawberry avocado salsa and served it with a side of asparagus which is in season now here in Ontario and it was tangy and delicious! There is a great mixture of sweetness from the strawberries and spiciness from the jalapeño. For an even fancier version try drizzling it all with some strawberry balsamic reduction! Oooo la la!!
This would also be great served with nachos! A sure kid pleaser!
Do you have an example of how you stepped out of your comfort zone in the kitchen? We would love for you to share in the comments section below!
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