Archive for January, 2011

It’s that time again my friends. Today it’s Sunday and that’s reason enough to make me happy, but here are a few other things I’m loving right now:

Do: Sunday grocery shopping with Paul

Sundays are blissful. Being the the only day of the week that is reserved for spending time together doing lovely domestic things, Paul and I adore them. Along with laundry and sleeping in, Sundays were made for grocery shopping. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true seeing as there are typically massive line ups at the store, but such is life. There’s nothing quite like starting the week off with a full fridge and plentiful pantry. Yay food!

Listen: The Decemberists – The King is Dead

I love the Decemberists and I love their new album even more. It is mellow and heart-felt and makes me feel strangely nostalgic for things I’ve never experienced like dusky barnyard dances and stolen kisses under starlit corn fields. Colin Meloy’s voice is so distinct and this album seems more pared down than their last few. It is honest and beautiful and you all should hear it.

Click: Hellodenj.com

Not only is my good friend Danni Dengerink an extremely talented textile designer (the above image is one her new creations), but she is also an adorable fashion blogger. Check out her pretty and colourful site for fabulous outfit posts, sartorial inspiration and more of her beautiful patterns- click click!

Watch: Winter’s Bone

If you haven’t already seen this gritty Oscar contender, add it to the top of your to-do list. Although not a feel-good movie by any means, Winter’s Bone will certainly make you feel good about being in a warm and cozy living room. The film’s setting is utterly bleak and its palate consists of dreary greys and cool blues. Yet, the riveting plot and point-on acting make this movie one for the books. Jennifer Lawrence ‘s performance as Ree Dolly is compelling as she manages to capture her character’s strength and desperation in equal measure. Although I agree that no one can hold a candle to Natalie Portman in Black Swan, it’s a shame that Lawrence likely won’t win the Oscar for this one. She is amazing and so is this movie!

photos by pwisenberg, pattern by ddengerink

Buy: Kuhn Rikon can opener

I know, it’s just a can opener. But it’s like no other can opener you’ve ever known! Swiss company Kuhn Rikon has hit the nail (can?) on the head with this one. Gone are the days of prying jagged-edged lids from half-open cans, this ingenious little gadget does all the work for you. There are no sharp edges in sight and there’s a handy hook that does the prying for you. It also doesn’t hurt that it comes in lime green and has a handle resembling the nose of a basset hound. Yes… I’m excited about a can opener.

Well folks, I’m off to endure Ty Pennington’s incessant yelling on the television gem that is Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (I mock, yet somehow wind up watching each week). Happy Sunday to all!


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Bean there, done that

I made this soup for lunch yesterday for my friend Miss Sarah Burd(ie) and I. Despite a few battles with the immersion blender and the fact that my corn puree looked suspiciously like scrambled eggs, this dish was fabulous! I feel like soups can be quite a precarious endeavour- far too often are they under-seasoned, unsatisfying, or just plain boring. Lucky for me, this black bean beauty was none of these things! It is hearty, flavourful and affordable to boot. Serve it with this sweet and spicy corn puree and homemade baked tortilla chips and you’ve just whipped up a healthy and impressive meal on a budget. It also pairs nicely with with cold beer and good conversation… Now get cookin’ my friends, what are you waiting for?

Black bean soup with sweet corn puree and homemade tortilla chips
Serves 4-6

Sweet corn puree

1/4 of a large onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
1 tbsp oil from jarred/canned jalapenos (feel free to add the peppers for extra spice but this will detract from the jolly yellow colour of the puree)
2 1/2 cups frozen sweet corn
juice from 1/2 a lime
1/4 cup vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the onion and garlic in the vegetable and jalapeno oil over medium heat until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the corn, lime juice and veggie broth. Bring to a boil and remove from heat to cool. Puree using either a blender or an immersion blender, there will likely still be a few chunks of corn, but hey texture adds personality.. right?

Homemade tortilla chips

6 small whole wheat tortillas
roughly 1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 lime wedge

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Brush tortillas with vegetable oil. Stack and slice into eighths. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne pepper. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown and slightly soft in the middle. When done baking, squeeze fresh lime juice all over chips. Resist the urge to eat them all before serving. So good.

Hearty black bean soup

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chili flakes
juice of 1 lime
2 cups vegetable broth
1 small yukon gold potato, peeled and diced (optional, used as a thickener)
2 cans black beans, drained and lightly rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
lime wedges and sriracha hot sauce to garnish (if you can take the added heat)

In a large pot, sautee the onion, garlic and carrot over medium heat until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the next 5 ingredients and stir to combine. Pour in the veggie stock and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all the flavours have combined, about 20 minutes. Puree and garnish with a squeeze of lime.

Serve soup with a dollop of sweet corn puree, a spiral of sriracha for colour and the freshly baked tortilla chips. Yum!

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On a sweeter note

photos by me

When it comes to desserts, I have to admit that my creative juices tend to run dry. Don’t get me wrong, I can follow a recipe like nobody’s business, but don’t expect any original winners from this birdie. I’d been wanting to try this lovely little dessert ever since I got Alicia’s Silverstone’s book The Kind Diet- I know I know, a celebrity cookbook, please don’t judge- and boy am I glad I did! With under 5 ingredients, these crispy peanut butter treats are incredibly easy and don’t even require any baking. And let’s face it people, when peanut butter is involved don’t we all eschew any sense of self control? Or is that just me? Hmmm, well anyhow here is the recipe for Alicia’s delicious dessert (more from her here)- I tweaked it slightly by increasing the amount of peanut butter (go figure) and by opting to dust half the final product with icing sugar and half with cocoa powder. Delightful to look at and even more delightful to share with the sweeties in your life!

Crispy peanut butter treats with chocolate chips
Makes about 25 squares

1 box brown rice crisps cereal
1 3/4 cups brown rice syrup (available at specialty stores like my personal fav The Big Carrot)
A generous pinch of sea salt
1 cup all natural peanut butter (I chose chunky, but smooth works too)
1/2 cup nondairy chocolate chips
Icing sugar and cocoa powder for dusting

Pour the entire box of rice crisps into a (very) large bowl (I wound up having to use two). Heat the syrup with the salt in a small saucepan until liquefied. Add the peanut butter and stir to combine. Pour mixture onto rice crisps and mix well. Once completely cool, stir in the chocolate chips. Spread mixture evenly into baking dish (again, I needed two) with a slightly wet wooden spoon. Let cool for one hour. Dust with sugar or cocoa, cut into squares and enjoy!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Hungry Birdie xo

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Keen on quinoa

photos by pwisenberg

If you know me at all, you know I’m a huge fan of quinoa (today’s veritable “it-girl” of health foods). This little gem of a recipe is a staple in my house and can be varied slightly by adding whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. For me, the red quinoa paired with the bright green soy beans creates the perfect combination of both texture and colour. Besides that, I usually go nuts with the other ingredients- the more colour the better! The lemony-dill dressing with a hint of garlic ties the whole thing together and the dish winds up light, crisp and totally tasty. And so, my little birdies, I’m thrilled to share the recipe for my super-fantastic-never-let-you-down rainbow quinoa salad.

Rainbow quinoa salad
Serves 4-6

2 cups red quinoa
2 cups frozen shelled soy beans (bring to a boil, simmer for 4 minutes, drain, season)
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons
1/4 red onion, finely chopped

Lemon-dill dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
zest and juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Add quinoa to 3 cups water and bring to a boil (tip: the best ratio for cooking perfect quinoa is 1 1/2 cups liquid for every 1 cup of quinoa). Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 17 minutes. Take off heat and let stand a couple minutes before adding additional ingredients. Meanwhile, prep soy beans and fresh veggies. Next, whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing. Once quinoa has cooled, combine it with the beans, bell pepper, tomatoes and onion. Dress the salad and top each serving with a swirl of cheerful carrot ribbons. Can be enjoyed warm or cold, yum!

P.S. Don’t be afraid to go back for seconds (read: thirds), because this baby is guilt-free!


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Winter picnic

photo by me

I don’t know about you, but when I think potato salad, I think summer. And right about now I think we could all use a healthy dose of warm weather. While I cannot make sunshine manifest for you my friends, I can deliver a super simple and delicious recipe for the perfect winter potato salad (picnic on the living room floor optional but strongly suggested). While making this, I was inspired by the flavours of traditional bread and herb stuffing: think thyme, sage, parsley, nutmeg and, my personal favourite, a pinch of cinnamon which adds a subtle hint of heat to the whole thing. And to make up for the ghastly amount of work required in the last recipe I posted, this one is so easy and can be made in less than half an hour. Do try.

Winter potato salad
Serves 4

Roughly 3 cups of small potatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or any nut you happen to fancy)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup green onions, chopped


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp thyme, fresh or dried
1 tsp sage, fresh or dried
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp dijon mustard
juice from 1/4 of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, add potatoes to boiling, salted water and cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients, pour into bowl with walnuts, cranberries and green onions. Add cooked potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle everything generously with coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper. Serve warm or cold.

That’s it, super simple, extremely quick and incredible tasty. This dish can be enjoyed as a dinner side or even a light lunch. So bust out the tupperware and brace yourself for swooning co-workers.

Pffft..whoever said you can’t make friends with salad?



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Sometimes, there’s just nothing left to do but make a list.  And so, I thought I’d share some of the things that are currently making this girl one very happy birdie (and no, it’s not all food, all the time). Here are my current favourite ingredients:

Read: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I recently finished reading this book and it was fabulous. Despite it’s in-your-face title, it actually offers a balanced and refreshing take on the issue of eating meat. Foer eloquently presents both sides of the argument and includes testimonies from family farmers, slaughterhouse builders, and animal activists. Highly recommended.

Eat: Chili garlic sauce

Obviously chili garlic sauce needs no explanation (nor does it’s equally potent relative, Sriracha). It goes with anything and adds a spicy bite to even the most tame of dishes. The fiery heat ensures it’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but hey, who needs those wimps anyway?

Click: Jezebel.com

I already follow far too many blogs, but when I stumbled across Jezebel.com I couldn’t resist adding another to the daily roster. This hilarious website is intended exclusively for women and basically includes all of my guilty pleasure in one convenient location: trashy celebrity gossip, cute animals and baby videos (and baby animal videos- obviously the best kind), fluffy fashion posts, and awesome of-the-moment news stories. Disclaimer: do not go to Jezebel.com if you have something to do, somewhere to go, or someone to meet. Highly addictive.

Listen: Sufjan Stevens’ new(ish) EP, All Delighted People

Sigh, can Sufjan do no wrong? … Actually, some of his original Christmas tunes are pretty brutal (“Christmas in July”, really Sufjan?), but that’s beside the point. All Delighted People only has 8 tracks but it generously provides its listeners with one hour of awesome other-worldly music. The EP is anchored by Sufjan’s epic ballad by the same name (offered in two styles- the original or the classic rock version for those who dare). It’s hard to choose a favourite song, but I always find myself hitting repeat on the hauntingly beautiful “The Owl and the Tanager”. I recommend making a pot of herbal tea, hitting the lights, and sitting back to let Sufjan’s angelic voice and eerie imagery take you away. Seriously, do it.

birdie drawing courtesy of the lovely Lindsay, photos by me

Try: Chalkboard paint

I always loved the idea of using chalkboard paint somewhere in the apartment, but being the lowly renter that I am, I figured it wasn’t in the cards for me. Turns out it’s super affordable, easy to apply, and can be painted over when we move! Added bonus? I have a really cool landlord who didn’t mind one bit. It took a couple of coats and a good three days before we could write on it, but then, voila! It’s so much more convenient than scrambling for a post-it and pen that actually works when a much needed grocery item suddenly comes to mind. Chalkboard paint- the fun, easy way for your friends to tell you they love you by coming over and drawing pictures of cute birds in the margins. Whoo!

There you have it, five little things presently bringing me joy. So tell me friends, what are your favourite ingredients?

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Aubergine dream

photos by pwisenberg

You know those recipes that somehow come together in an easy, effortless way?  Well so do I and this is not one of them. I made this on a lazy Sunday, but I’ll admit that it took a lot of prep work. That being said, it is totally worth the work! Not only did this layered number turn out looking exquisitely chic, but the savoury flavour of the white bean and basil pesto paired perfectly with the crisp tomato sauce and the hearty eggplant. Added bonus: the recipe yields leftovers, which means all the taste, none of the work for me on night two, yipee!

Paul and I get a bi-weekly produce box delivered from Front Door Organics, a great little Toronto company that ensures its customers get nothing but the most seasonal, local produce possible. This week, amongst other things, we received the most quintessentially perfect looking eggplant (they really are such a beautiful hue, no?). And so, the brainstorming commenced. I wanted to emulate something akin to chicken parmesan… minus the chicken and the parmesan of course. The eggplant is coated in panko breadcrumbs, pan-fried and layered with pesto and tomato sauce. Mmm!

Crispy eggplant with white bean basil pesto and tomato sauce
Serves 4-6

White bean and basil pesto

2 cups fresh basil
1 cup fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 14oz can of cannelli beans, drained and rinsed
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup veggie stock
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Crispy eggplant

1 large eggplant, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips and salted
1 cup milk of your choice (I chose soy)
1 cup flour
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups panko (Japanese) breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for pan-frying, amounts will vary

To make the pesto, blend all of the ingredients in a food processor, while slowly adding the olive oil. Set aside until ready to serve.

For the sauce, begin by sauteeing the onion, garlic, bell peppers, chili flakes and oregano until slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add the veggie stock and simmer for a minute or two. Next, add the tomatoes and simmer until flavours have combined, about 10 minutes. Puree the entire thing with an immersion blender. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.

To begin making the eggplant preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Set out 3 shallow pans, these will become your breading station. The first should contain the milk, the second will combine the flour and cornstarch, and the third will have the panko bread crumbs. To begin coating, dip the eggplant in milk, then move onto the flour mixture. Continue doing this will all of the slices and let them rest for 5-10 minutes in order for the milk, flour and cornstarch to become a glue of sorts. Next, quickly dip each slice into the milk again and then give each one a generous coating of panko. Allow the now-coated eggplant slices to rest in the fridge for another 10 minutes (be patient my friends) before pan-frying. Heat oil in pan until a pinch of flour immediately sizzles when dropped in. Fry 2 slices at a time so as not to crowd the pan (adding more oil when needed), they should only take about 2 minutes per side. Once golden brown, sprinkle with sea salt and transfer to a paper towel so any excess oil can drip off. Keep cooked eggplants warm in the oven as you finish frying the rest. Work efficiently and serve immediately.

To plate this stunner, layer the pesto, sauce and eggplant, forming a small tower of tastiness. Now marvel at what you’ve just created and enjoy!

Oh, and make sure someone else does the dishes.

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