Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mexican pile-up and love

This summer it will have been 9 years since Jamie and I met, working at a summer camp called Camp Medley.  He worked in the office and I was a camp counselor.  I was seventeen, he was twenty-four, the handsome older guy who was way out of my league.  I had a crush on him all summer.  But, oh joy, he did eventually notice me.  There was some flirting.  

Jamie and I on backwards day at Camp Medley

Then one night we had "The Talk" out on the picnic table under the stars, and floated our way through the last two weeks of camp before we started officially dating.  The first time we held hands was while walking down to the wharf for fireworks on the last night of camp. The rest is history!  

One hallmark of that summer was a meal we had every week which quickly became everyone's favourite: Mexican Pileup.  All the deliciousness of tacos, all the joy and abandonment of a pile of food on a plate.  
For us this meal is a staple of our regular menu and it goes all the way back to that summer when we first fell in love.  Excuse me while I go reminisce...

Ah, young love.  He's my man and I love him even more than I did then.  Like a fine wine, love really does get better with time.  

So, back to the totally un-romantic recipe, making this meal is easy as making rice, cooking hamburger and chopping veggies.  It's essentially tacos but without bothering with trying to keep it all in the taco.  Everyone knows it all falls out anyway...  Its a losing battle. Just make it a Pile. 
Here is what you do:

Mexican Pile-Up

1 tbsp olive oil (use this spicy oil if you like)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb hamburger
3 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1 1/2 cup rice
1 green pepper, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
5-6 mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup grated cheese
sour cream

refried beans
nacho cheese sauce

Put your rice on to cook, however you usually do that.  Brown rice is healthiest.
Heat oil in a skillet, toss in the onions. Brown for a few minutes then add the garlic, cooking for about 5 minutes. Add beef and spices and mix well.  Cook until brown and deliciously taco-ey.
While your beef is cooking, chop your pepper, tomato and mushrooms. Oh and grate your cheese while you're at it.

There are those who prefer to put a layer of chips first, but my husband believes he has perfected the art of the pile-up by putting rice first, so it doesn't slide around.  I for one find the chips get soggy underneath and prefer to use the chips to scoop it up.  So, rice, meat, then cheese so it will melt a bit.

Now top with veggies. 

Generous dollops of salsa and sour cream complete this pile of Mexican awesomeness.

Jamie likes to mix his up.  I prefer the un-sullied look of a clean pile.  This really is a subjective science, but a science nonetheless.

Enjoy with tortilla chips or homemade pita chips like we did the other night!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Garden Project: The Great Outdoors

I have plants in my garden!  (I say it with the same pomp and circumstance as one would say "man has walked on the moon!") Remember those teeny, tiny little baby plants that I started indoors two months ago?  Well they have grown into teenagers who have just left home to start life on their own in the great outdoors.  It is so exciting to watch them grow big and strong, all from a little seed!  The miracle of growing things never ceases to amaze me.  

About a month ago we started planning our garden.  After much thought I decided to bite the bullet and build raised beds.  Planting in a raised bed minimizes weeds and gives more yield per square foot, and I thought we might as well start this thing off right. 

We bought 8x8 hemlock planks which my dad and husband made into these lovely beds.  

This is what my backyard looks like.  Four beds measuring 4x8 feet, with mulch in between.  
Recipe for my soil:  1/3 empty soil from the garden centre store
                              1/3 free aged manure from a friend
                              1/6 bagged potting soil
                              1/6 random organic matter laid down last year (seaweed, grass, hay, etc...)

Let's hope the plants like this particular blend. 

Here is what I have so far: 

The basils have since made it into the garden, but grew nicely indoors up until a few hours ago.

 Can't wait to have me some fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden!

Lovely lettuce.

Mini spinach 

Kholrabi (if you've never heard of it, check it out)

About 12 tomato plants! Both normal and cherry tomatoes.

Teeny tiny cherry tomato




9 little hot pepper plants.

Can't wait to make some spicy deliciousness with these peppers!

This is a half-barrel that I found in the woods and filled with soil to plant my peas.

Climb, little peas, climb!

Stay tuned, soon there will be edible things to take pictures of before I nom them all!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chia sprouts

When I used to hear the word "chia", first I would think of chia pets, then I think of the natural foods section of the grocery store, where you would find organic chips and acai berries.  It was when I was looking for an egg substitute I came across these spunky little seeds which it turns out you can put in just about anything and jack up the healthiness.  Chia seeds have the unique ability to make liquid around them turn gelatinous, or more specifically (here's a fun word) mucilaginous, which is what makes them an ideal substitute for eggs. They have been touted as a new superfood because they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, tons of antioxidants, dietary fiber and calcium.  They can help you lose weight, give you more energy, the whole bit!   Apparently they absorb some of the liquid in your stomach and help to slow down the digestion process, and help to carry out toxins as they go.  Read more about them here.

So how do you use these little suckers?  You can toss a tablespoon in a smoothie, on your cereal, in salads... the list goes on.  I stir in a few tablespoons in a glass of fruit juice to add some pizazz. The great thing is you don't even notice them because they're smaller than a raspberry seed. 

Here are a couple recipes using chia seeds:
Substitute for 1 egg: soak 1 tbsp chia seeds in 3 tbsps water

Last week I tried sprouting chia seeds. Sprouting something gives it that extra nutritional punch that comes with eating something fresh and living instead of dried.  Here is what you do: 

Lay a paper towel on a plate and get it nice and wet.  Sprinkle on 1 tbsp chia seeds, well spaced out. (Unlike mine)

Cover with another plate until they have begun to sprout, then put in a bright window. Make sure the paper towel stays wet. 
Day 1 - See the jelly-ness?

Day 3 - I try not to think of how much they look like tadpoles...
Day 5

Day 7 - Teeny tiny microgreen chia sprouts!

Once the leaves are green, just take some scissors to them and snip them above the root, and add to a sandwich, wrap or salad.  (Toss the paper towel in the compost)
I did find these a bit bitter on their own, but when added to a salad they just added texture and flavour to the whole thing.