Scrumping It

When Jess and I were living on the boat we did a lot of scrumping. Scrumping is the act of taking unwanted or unused fruit from trees. Those trees may be in a public park or in someone's yard. Some may call this stealing. We called it budgeting.

When we were in the Southern United States, there were fruit trees blooming everywhere. Edible delights were taunting us every time we turned a corner. To most they were innocent fruit idly hanging from the trees, but we heard their jeers. Oranges boldly dared us to pick them, while lemons were more subtle. They would whisper amongst themselves about our inability to harvest readily available fruit. Well we showed them. Every chance we got we picked them. At first it was under the cover of darkness and then we got braver and started picking in broad daylight. It was worth every freshly squeezed glass of juice.

My neighbour has a peach tree in his front yard. They are elderly so they wouldn't give much of a chase. If they did catch me, I think I would win even if his wife jumped in. Ah, the arrogance of youth. Or maybe it's the realism of middle age. I could just go buy my peaches at the store. I am not as fiscally restrained as I was on the boat, but that doesn't seem like it would be as much fun as scrumping.

Grilled Peaches with Balsamic Reduction

6 fresh peaches, halved and pitted
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup honey, optional

Heat BBQ to medium high heat. Grill peaches on both sides until grill marks appear and they are slightly warmed. Meanwhile, heat balsamic in a pot on high heat. Whisk constantly so as not to burn vinegar, and until balsamic has reduced by half. Arrange peaches on platter with insides facing up. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. If reduction is not sweet enough, reheat pot of balsamic and add honey to the reduction until it is fully mixed in.



There is a farmer's market up the street from me every Monday. I just love it. It may not be the cheapest place to shop but it is the freshest and pretty darn tasty too. If bacon says no, I may ask the farmer's market to marry me. No it's official, I will ask him to marry me. I'll make him a ring out of bacon which will not only make bacon feel like a fool for rejecting me, but also make my offer irresistible.

There is a very cool program called FarmStart that helps farmers start small scale farms. A few of them at our market participate in this program. They are urban farmers. They live in Toronto and commute less than a hour to Brampton to farm their land. Through FarmStart they are able to rent land for very little, which enables them to actually make a living by farming. One of the biggest pitfalls for farmers is the debt they incur due to the land they need to buy. This way they can learn their trade and do what most of them love to do.

It certainly got us thinking. I've already contacted them to see if we can rent land simply to grow food for our family. We were denied, but I have a feeling that FarmStart or a similar program lies somewhere in our future. We will have to wait and see.

This is a recipe that one of the Brampton farmers gave me when I bought fenugreek from him. If you can find fresh fenugreek, make this dish. It is divine.

Methi Aloo

2 large bunches of Fenugreek
3 potatoes, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed red peppers
2 tsp oil
1/4 to 1/2 cups of water

Remove fenugreek leaves from stem and discard the stems. Heat oil in pan, add onions and cook until soft. Add potatoes and water and cover pan for 5-7 minutes or until potatoes are cooked. Add tomatoes, fenugreek, salt and red peppers and cook until all water has evaporated. Serve hot with pita or naan bread.



For all of those living in Ontario, I'm sure it's been said many times but I'll say it again; it's stinking hot out there. I haven't heard from some of my friends in a few days. There is a good chance they may have melted last week. Or maybe they just went to their cottage. I would like to escape to my chic little cottage in the woods and go jump in the lake to cool off. Unfortunately that will only happen in my dreams.

I signed up two of my girls for soccer Monday nights. Every game there is a half game snack of watermelon and then, win or lose, there is the ultimate prize. It's the commercial made popsicle. The kind that stains your face and makes everything you touch so sticky that it could be a substitute for crazy glue. You could call it crazy popsicle but it doesn't really have the same pizazz. If you asked my girls if they liked soccer they would kid swear up and down that it's the best game ever. But really it's all about the sugary treat after the game. I almost signed them up for soccer camp but realized they'd hate it because no where on the program does it list popsicles from the corner store as an activity.

My poor, poor girls have been raised on homemade juice popsicles and other versions like the ones below. Try them out. It may not make your kids like soccer but it will make you feel better about eating popsicles.

Avocado Fudgesicles or Pudding

1/2 cup of water
8 pitted dates
1 cup of almond milk or any other milk
2 large avocadoes
1/2 banana
7 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of salt

Let dates soak in water for 30 minutes. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Put in popsicles molds and freeze for a minimum of 4 hours.

For pudding, place in small glasses and refrigerate. Serve with grated white chocolate.


in minutes.

My garden is overgrown with mint and chives.

I use the term "my garden" fairly loosely, since it will soon belong to someone else - which is why it is so overgrown.

I have no complaints about the mint and chives, though - they are two of my favourites, and I am happy to have them in abundance, at least for the time being (my new garden is lovely and lush, but also very well-ordered; so, for this growing season, anyway, there will be no invasive herbs running amok).

Between the mint and the heat, our meals have been largely inspired by the Mediterranean - a lot of grilling, quite a lot of olive oil and garlic, some rosemary, some lamb.

I am now at the point of almost constantly fantasizing about my new kitchen and all of the things that will happen in it: long, lingering conversations, slow cooked dinners, multi-course breakfasts (really!).

But until we get there, the order of the day is meals in minutes.

I am aiming generally for luscious, robust things that will fill me and cheer me, and can be made in the amount of time it would otherwise take to scoop some ice cream into a bowl.

I found this dish fit the bill admirably.

Lunch in minutes

I used a grilled eggplant leftover from a previous meal, which is why this took so little time for me to cobble together; but if you don't happen to have any leftovers on hand, the grilling only adds a few minutes to your prep time.

1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise and grilled
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp wine vinegar
100g feta, crumbled

Cut grilled eggplant slices into cubes.
Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl , toss gently, and serve.

Serves 4, as a side dish



I've always wanted to go to Mexico. My friend Beth lives there. She married a Norwegian, and now runs a school in a little town in Mexico. The morning is for paying students and in the afternoon it's free for the poor local kids. She spends 8 months in Mexico, a few in Oslo, and then helps run a school in London, England in the summers. She does all this with her cute little one year old.

It's funny where choices take you. I went to high school with Beth. We did similar things. We were room mates in University, and both traveled afterward. Somehow her path led her to a life of international travel in far away countries. Whereas mine led me right back to my hometown. I only live 5 km from where I grew up. I still hang out with people I met in grade school.

Now don't get me wrong. I love my life, my husband and kids. I'm right where I want to be. I just find it interesting how two people can have similar upbringings but end up with completely different lives.

So here's to Beth and her wildly exciting life. I hope she'd eating some carnitas down South.

Beer and Tequila Carnitas

4 pounds bone in pork shoulder
2 cups diced white onion
4 poblano peppers
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsp kosher slat divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper or to taste
3 cups diced seeded tomatoes, fresh or canned
1 cup tequila
2 12 ounce bottles of dark beer
20 corn tortillas, warmed

Trim enough fat from pork to yield about 1/3 cup diced. Cut pork into 1" cubes. Heat heavy pot and add fat until a thin layer covers the bottom, about 10 minutes. Increase heat and add onions, peppers, garlic and 1 tsp salt. Cook until onion is translucent.
Add pork and cook stirring frequently until enough liquid is released to cover vegetables and meat. Reduce heat to medium low and cover for 15 minutes. Uncover and bring to a lively simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick paste, about 30 minutes.
Stir in tomatoes and return to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add tequila and and cook until the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add beer and simmer about 40 minutes until liquid has evaporated . Season with remaining salt and pepper . Transfer to a platter and let guests assemble their own tacos with warm tortillas and taco garnishes.