Greek Salad (made with mostly local ingredients)

Island Hot House Sweet Bell Peppers

 This time of the year, Greek salad  is a staple on our supper table.  The veggies are fresh and local.  The garlic is from this year (especially if we have been to Salt Spring Island!  The best garlic!  I usually buy two braids and that gets us from September until about April).  The local cheese places all do their own version of Feta cheese.  And sometimes we even get some local goat feta (but it costs twice the price for half as much!).  And the oregano is from our own patch.  Both dried and fresh.
Unfortunately, we don’t have local lemons…we don’t have local Olive oil and we don’t have local olives…And greek salad just wouldn’t be the same without it.  Oh well, another reason I have a really hard time with that 100 Mile Diet!
I have read a number of recipes for Greek Salad and some use lemons and some don’t.  For me, it just doesn’t taste right without the acid added to the dressing.

Long English Cukes, from Port Alberni

Paradise Island Feta Cheese
Fresh tomatoes

Chopped veggies ready for dressing

 The recipe for Greek Salad is very simple:
3 tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 large sweet pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 long english cucumber, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives (from the deli counter, not from a can!)
125 grams of feta cheese, coarsely chopped.

Veggies tossed, ready for dressing

Then you are ready to make your dressing:
Juice of 2 lemons (juice lemons at room temperature, you will get more juice)
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I grate mine)
1 heaping tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste (go easy, you will get salt from the olives and the feta)
Good extra virgin olive oil…1/4-1/3 cup depending on how juicy your lemons were.
Combine all ingredients except for oil.  Mix or whisk until well combined.  While still whisking, add olive oil, in a steady stream.  Whisking while adding, helps to bring the dressing together.
Pour over veggies.  Toss.  Add olives and feta.  Serve immediately.  Usually serves 6-8 people.  Unless one of them is my husband, in which case, it serves 5.

Maybe just a bit more garlic…

local garlic!
Best way to get all the juice out…Citrus Remer

Ready for the feta

Save some for the salad

Ready to serve!

They don’t grow them here yet…

Use this salad with chicken breast and homemade tzatziki in wrap.  So yummy!  (if you have any leftovers!)
Head over to What’s cookin Wednesday and check out some more delicious eats!

Happy Packing!



Eating Locally

My favourite form of eating locally, is straight out of the garden in your own backyard. When I was young, we had a small garden in the backyard, for green onions and tomatoes, beans and potatoes.  Both of my grandfathers had large vegetable gardens.  Even though one lived right in the center of the city of Sherbrooke, he grew corn and squash and tomatoes and peppers, and lots of zucchini.   As a child, I loved sun-warmed tomatoes (and couldn’t stand fried green tomatoes!), eaten out of hand like an apple, while still standing next to the plant that raised it.  Raw green beans…and even better, after sitting on the stoop, topping and tailing those beans, getting to eat a whole plate full, dripping in butter.  Or, the ultimate childhood harvest…Sitting just off the path through the field near our house, in grass that tickled the backs of my knees, hunting for wild strawberries.  The kind you just pick and eat, no need to carry them home.  Occasionally, a few might make it back to the kitchen counter, a little worse for wear, a few strawberry stains on my hands.

Eating some of Grandpa’s green beans

Farm on Grand Marais in Chateauguay Valley

We didn’t live in the country (although I would have loved that!), just a small suburb off the Island of Montreal, in what is now known as the Monteregie region of Quebec, and home to mostly rural communities.  So there were many trips to the countryside, the Chateauguay Valley, the unofficial Corn capital of Quebec.  Now, I believe one of the main crops is Soy, and celery.  Yes, if you live in Canada (east of the Rockies) and you eat celery grown in Canada, it was likely grown in the Chateauguay Valley.

Where we live now, there is ample space for a lovely vegetable garden, raspberry patch, blueberry bush or whatever.  Heck, we even have one of the best climates  for growing stuff here on Vancouver Island.  I have some friends who have great backyard gardens with way smaller spaces than we do.  And many of them are ready to share their bounty with friends and neighbours.  Recently, one such friend provided us with an abundance of raspberry canes, complete with raspberries getting ready to ripen.

Yes, they were in our yard not more than 24 hours,
and they looked like this:

…Because of these guys (and yes, they are guys, although the gals are equally responsible for the eating of some items, just didn’t catch them in the act this time)
  This year, there are 8 males travelling together, and they range in age from 2 up to about 6 or 7, and they eat EVERYTHING!  Well, almost, they seem to ignore the dandelions and a few other nasty little weeds.  
So, I am starting to think that rather than accepting free deer food  so lovingly cultivated, from friends, I should be trading venison for vegetables…
Happy Packing!

G is for…Garden

What starts with G…?  My dear hubby came up with this one.  Although it was with a bit of a snicker.  Not because he thinks I am a hopeless gardner (well, okay, so perhaps I am), but because we really have no garden to speak of!  Not the kind with things planted in it, at least!  We have a huge backyard, and an assortment of wildlife that wander through on a regular basis.  But no garden.  However, there is a beautiful one in my head!  And jotted down on countless scraps of paper, drawn and doodled with notes about “raspberry canes from Jennifer”, and rhubarb liking “wet feet”.  A couple of blueberry bushes and of course a big ole fence to keep the deer out!  And netting to keep the birds out of the strawberries, copper wire to keep the slugs and snails out.  And a big list of all the flowers the deer “don’t eat” (yeah, right, I have found many a daffodil flower head in the grass, and I would put money on it that some little deer took a chomp and then didn’t like the taste).
I would love to have a vegetable patch one day and a flower garden too.  There is just one thing that has to happen first…Two HUGE fir trees need to come down.  They sit at the back of our property, along with a third Douglas fir (but that one can stay), and they really need to be taken down.  If we get another heavy wind storm, they will come right through the middle of my kitchen.  One time, my Dad explained to me how to measure with your thumb as to how far the tree might fall, and I ended up laughing, because the top of the tree was WAY past my thumb and Dad just said, “Yeah, it’ll hit your house.”  But really, who wants to take down a tree?  Especially one that is that big and that old?  “At least a hundred ” was what the first tree guy said who came to look at them and give us a quote…That was 11 years ago and the quote was $4000.00 for the three big ones in the backyard.  I don’t even want to know what it might cost to do just two of them now.  I will just keep enjoying my “paper” garden and enjoy berries from my friends and veggies from my neighbours, and pray  that the wind blows the other way.

 Happy Packing!

Gone looking for inspiration…

   This past Christmas, I received two gift cards for Chapters/Indigo booksellers.  I was delighted.  My first thought was that I could go out and buy myself a new novel or two…I couldn’t wait.  Something to read that was just for me.  Not a parenting book or a children’s book, not even a cookbook.  I perused the Globe and Mail best sellers list…maybe I would get the new non fiction…I really wanted to read Stevie Cameron’s book…Or perhaps the new Giller Prize book…
   I made a list (surprise!) and off I went, BY MYSELF~  First to the Coffee counter for an extra-hot non-fat half-sweet Chai Latte (I can be as high maintenance as the next customer if I don’t have a van full of kids with me), a nice change from my typical long pour Americano with cream.
   The Stevie Cameron book was easy to find, so I picked it up and carried it around with me while I browsed.  I love the feeling of new books in my hands, just waiting to be opened and read, an e-book reader, I am not.  I looked at calendars and flipped through the best sellers, including the Giller Prize winner, but I put that one back, no longer sure that I wanted it.  Then I came upon the middle table filled with cookbooks.  Hardcover ones, with the Boxing Week sign about 30% off.  And there was Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, right on the top.  I had wanted that book for such a long time (yes, even before seeing the movie “Julie and Julia”, but that had only made me want it more)…30% percent off, and a gift card…You do the math!
   Within a few moments, I had made my way to the cookbook section in search of Gordon Ramsay books.  There was one I had been wanting to look at.  I spied it, in another woman’s hands.  I scanned the shelf and realised that she was holding the only one.  Before I could say anything, she walked away with it, saying something to her daughter (or at least the young girl who was with her) about 30% off, and heading towards the cash line.  Oh well.  I still had Julia Child and Stevie Cameron, Gordon Ramsay could wait for another day.  Maybe I was done looking at books.  I was certainly done with the Chai.  So, I too headed for the line up, and then home to make Quiche.  Mmmmm…

   A few weeks ago, I discovered that “Better Food for Kids” had been released in second edition, and was now for kids ages 2 to 10 (the previous edition is ages 2 to 6).  I went online and found it.  And I still had a gift card left.  So, I browsed (albeit without a tasty chai in hand), and found two more books I wanted.  Unfortunately, for my comfy chair, neither of them were novels.  Nope.  They were (you guessed it) cookbooks.  The Zuni Cafe (a San Fran eatery gone cookbook) and (wait for it!)…Dieticians of Canada, “Cooks!” pub. 2011  (what was it that they were doing in the first five books?)…What?  Were you expecting Gordon Ramsay?  Yeah, well, I would bet that his wife would use the D of C cookbooks.
And I have to tell you, the new D of C “Cooks!” is awesome!!!  And they don’t use nearly as much butter as dear Julia.  In ten minutes of browsing through the book, I found four recipes that I could have made right then and there without a trip to the grocery store.  And a few more where I was only missing one or two ingredients.  I made “Greek Chicken” out of it on Saturday night, with some steamed potatoes  on the side and their recipe for Tzatziki.  All gone at one sitting.  Even my fussy 9 year old ate everything (and I don’t think that had anything to do with the promise of dessert).
There are great soup and lunch recipes inside it, plus desserts and breakfast recipes as well as dinners and sides.  Healthy eating tips, local eating tips, storing tips for fruits and veggies.  All kinds of great stuff.  And all for under $20.00.  If you are looking for some easy inpiration in the kitchen, this book gets my recommendation!  Five stars!

Happy Packing!