Pineapple and Blueberry Smoothie

picture of a large glass of a Blueberry Pineapple Smoothie

I woke up this morning to the smell of fresh spring air; wet and heavy with the omnipresent perfume of the cherry trees and damp earth. I wanted something for breakfast that would reflect the abundance of colour outside of my apartment right now, the ground is just bursting with Technicolour blooms right now. All of the plants look neon in contrast with the charcoal soil and I’m left wondering how I could ever forgot the sheer enthusiastic intoxication that is springtime in Vancouver. So I opened my balcony doors wide open and made these fuchsia hued smoothies out of frozen blueberries and leftover pineapple from the night before. I find that if I add chia seeds to my smoothies, or anything really, they make me feel fuller, longer compared to a smoothie made without. They also thicken the texture, giving the smoothie more bulk and heft, which is particularly useful if you’re taking it to work and need it to get you through until lunchtime. I had my regular morning cup of tea with my smoothie, as well as a toasted pistolette roll with salted butter. This was such a nice way to start my day, which included such impressive feats as a short nap and a long walk along Kits beach with my mom and her tiny dog (and a lovely surprise bouquet of sunflowers from my husband).

picture of cherry blossoms against a blue sky in Vancouver

pineapple and blueberry smoothie:

(makes 2 generous smoothies)

1 1/2 cups of diced pineapple, frozen or freshly cut

1 1/2 cups wild blueberries, frozen

1 ripe banana

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 cup of coconut water

2 tsp. chia seeds

Place everything in a blender and blitz until completely emulsified. Pour into 2 large glasses and enjoy.

picture of pink flower petals on the ground in Vancouver

I’ve been listening to Wild Beasts almost nonstop for the last couple of days. When I’m struggling with depression, which is how I would describe myself right now, I often will play only one album or one musician over and over again until it begins to feel like armour. Everything is so overwhelming right now, I can’t think past the moment I’m in or I feel full of panic. Wild Beasts is good music and good armour. They’re parts slithery Jeff Buckley, Future Islands, Of Montreal; sexy, moody, sombre, and dark.

Wild Beasts – Deeper

Peach and Blueberry Salad with Fresh Chèvre

Yes, I know, another recipe with blueberries featured prominently in the ingredient list. I can hardly describe this as some sort of culinary crime though, blueberries are so refreshingly versatile in their ability to transform from the achingly sweet to the deepest savoury warmth (try them nestled into the pan with roasted duck or some other game bird that is happy to be paired with berries and other fruit.) I have been faced with a self-inflicted over-abundance of these small cobalt jewels for the past few weeks and have been gleefully forced to incorporate them into many of my culinary efforts. This salad, to me, is an eternal synaesthesia  snapshot of the best parts of August; eat it outside with the lightest of white wines – nothing too sweet, allow the fruit to be the star here, the dryness with cut nicely with the creamy  chèvre.

peach and blueberry salad with fresh chèvre:

(for one personal sized salad)

About 2 cups of green lettuce or baby spinach

1/3 cup of fresh blueberries, rinsed and allowed to dry on a clean tea towel

1 small peach, sliced into half moons

6 grape tomatoes, cut in half

1.5 oz. fresh chèvre (something really light tasting and creamy, you don’t want anything super goaty for this salad; I like to use locally made Happy Days  chèvre)

A small handful of toasted pumpkin seeds

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. neutral tasting olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

Kosher salt to taste

Lots of freshly cracked pepper to taste

A large fistful of fresh basil, torn

1. Combine the lettuce or spinach, blueberries, peach slices, tomatoes and chèvre in a pretty salad bowl. Whisk together the salad dressing ingredients until fully emulsified, tasting as you’re whisking until you’re happy with the amount of salt and pepper in the dressing (I love this salad really peppery, I sometimes use my mortar and pestle instead of a pepper grinder for ultimate fiery pepper flavour.)

2. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss using either your hands or a pair of spoons. Arrange the basil leaves and toasted sunflower seeds on top, add a final crack of pepper and devour in the sunshine (or, due to decreasing August sunlight, watching a marbled purple and magenta sunset.)

I have so many seemingly random playlists on iTunes and a common denominator amongst most of them is Chapterhouse, primarily because they’re like shoegaze chameleons – ranging from The Swirlies to Slowdive in influence; this song is loudly pretty and reminds me of a combination of both of these bands.

Chapterhouse – Breather

Blueberry and Lemon Yogurt Muffins

If I had to choose between a lifetime of cooking or a lifetime of baking I would without hesitation reply that my fate was to cook always from there on in. My baking repertoire therefore consists of items that don’t require very much patience and that almost always without fail, despite my lack of precision upon execution, come out perfectly each time I make them,. These blueberry and lemon yogurt muffins fall neatly into each of these categories – the lemon Greek yogurt ensures a dense, cake-like crumb (very appropriately as these are good muffins to have for dessert or with Earl Grey tea.) I am now blissfully surrounded by local blueberries that are deep navy blue and somehow sweetly tart when you bite into them – the brief sojourn in the oven intensifies the sweetness and makes them taste like a blueberry preserve. I like these hot out of the oven with some good salted butter or at room temperature with a cup of the aforementioned Earl Grey tea with lemon.

blueberry and lemon yogurt muffins:

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup of lemon flavoured Greek yogurt

1/3 cup of canola oil

The zest and juice of 1 large lemon

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 cup of white granulated sugar

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line or butter a 12-cup muffin tin.

2. Combine the lightly beaten egg, yogurt, oil and lemon juice and zest in a large bowl and whisk until mixture is glossy and smooth. In a separate bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder/soda and salt with a fork until completely mixed.

3. Pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ingredients and stir in the blueberries. Very gently and with as few strokes as possible combine all the ingredients until the batter reaches a slightly undermixed yet cohesive whole.

4. Using 2 spoons drop the muffin batter into the muffin cups, there should be enough for each cup to receive a large scoop of the mixture. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a fork comes out clean when inserted into the centre of a muffin.

Happy twee summer music at its best; I started loving this album in grade 11 and I have loved it ever since. For each season I tend to justify a reason to listen to this album over and over again but I really do think it’s most appropriate for an August Sunday afternoon spent baking muffins and drinking iced black coffees.

Belle and Sebastian – Ease Your Feet in the Sea

Carrot and Blueberry Salad with Za’atar dressing

This year I resolved to not only bring my lunch to work as close to every day as possible, but also to make lunches that extended beyond a sandwich and a piece of fruit. This resolution has opened up a world of midday meals that include cold cereal and milk with berries, ravioli soup with spinach that is constructed before popping in the microwave, coconut milk curries and what seems like endless salads. I certainly don’t mean endless as a pejorative, in fact my favourite lunches are carefully (or haphazardly) prepared combinations of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, seeds and nuts. This carrot and blueberry salad was engineered in several stages; first came the carrot and parsley, then the toasted almonds, then the blueberries and finally the mint – the za’atar dressing has always been non-negotiable. Although this combination of ingredients might sound cacophonic at first glance I can assure you that the combination of sweet, crunchy, astringent and citrusy flavours marry together to produce a melodious euphony of texture and taste. This salad will keep for about 24 hours before the mint starts to brown, of course this could be remedied by adding the mint as you eat (although I rarely find that this salad lasts longer than a supper and then lunch the following day.) The za’atar lends a crucial and intense earthiness to the dressing and somehow pulls the different ingredients together into a unified whole; za’atar can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery store or speciality spice shop.

carrot and blueberry salad with za’atar dressing:

1/2 pint of blueberries, washed and allowed to dry

5 medium-sized carrots, washed and shredded (I usually leave them unpeeled)

1 bunch of curly parsley

1/2 bunch of fresh mint

1/3 cup of slivered almonds, toasted

2 lemons, juiced (this makes the dressing very lemony, so act judiciously according to taste)

1 tsp. za’atar

2 Tbsp. grapeseed or mild olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

1. Combine the shredded carrots and blueberries in a large bowl. With a pair of sharp kitchen scissors snip the parsley and mint over the salad. Add the slivered almonds and the za’atar. Pour the lemon juice and oil over the salad and gently stir with a large fork to thoroughly combine. Eat immediately or within 24 hours.

I love Stereolab and I love Atlas Sound; this song hasn’t diminished in beauty for me since hearing it for the first time on the 401 in Ontario on a snowy night with my sister and my mom. I remember it was past midnight and the snow was like the blue ice you see in underwater photos of the Arctic. This song is gorgeous and it’s lush and it’s long, listen to it on your headphones loudly or quietly in your apartment while you cook – everything you do when you’re listening to this song becomes precious and real and ultimately good.

Atlas Sound – Quick Canal (featuring Lætitia Sadier of Stereolab)

Brownies/Blueberries/Belly

These brownies are intense (I mean, intense) because they are all cocoa and no melting chocolate. I wouldn’t call them bitter, even bitter sweet, but they do have a definite edge that most other brownie recipes seem to lack. A single layer of frozen blueberries sandwiched between two great walls of almost-black chocolate provides you with some quick respite from the potency of the cocoa. I think that dusting some powdered sugar over top is a lovely way to create some contrast (it also looks like snow, and I’m missing Ontario snow right now so there’s that to also consider.)

BLUEBERRY COCOA BROWNIES:

9×13 inch baking pan

Parchment paper or aluminum foil

1 1/2 cups of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

2 1/2 cups of white sugar

1 3/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

4 eggs

3/4 cup of all purpose flowers

A heaping cup of frozen blueberries

Powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 making sure there is a rack in the bottom third of the oven.

2. Line the pan with parchment paper or foil making sure that there is some overhang to work with  as you’re eventually going to be removing the paper and its contents from the pan.

3. Over a double boiler melt the butter, sugar, salt, and cocoa powder together until completely combined and warm to the touch. This will take a while and it definitely takes a lot of arm power, I think I spent almost 15 minutes with this step. It will continue to look sandy in texture until you add the eggs so don’t worry about the batter’s appearance.

4. Making sure that the cocoa mixture isn’t too hot (as in, you can stick your finger in without it getting burnt) begin stirring in the eggs one at a time until the mixture has become glossy. Add the flour and vanilla and stir until all the ingredients are well combined.

5. Pour half of the brownie batter into the pan. With a spatula, smooth the batter to the edges and try to keep the surface level. Scatter a single layer of blueberries over the entire surface and then pour the rest of the batter over the blueberries spreading evenly to coat.

6. Bake for 30 -45 minutes. I have found that for this particular brownie recipe it really depends on the how juicy the blueberries are; start checking at 30 minutes and then again at 5 minute intervals until a knife comes out clean after being inserted into the centre of the batter.

7. Let the brownies cool and then, flipping them upside down carefully onto a cutting board, peel the parchment paper or aluminum foil away. Sift powdered sugar on top of the brownies and then cut into however many pieces you feel like. These brownies are a match made in heaven with Earl Grey tea and a small scoop of fresh blueberries.

I have wanted to be Tanya Donnelly since I was 15. Her musical track record involves a lot of really important and influential bands from the early and mid-nineties including The Breeders, Throwing Muses, and Belly as well as being on one of my favourite ever record labels, 4AD. Belly was the soundtrack to the conception of these brownies because, like brownies, they are always slightly whimsical and a pleasure to consume.

Belly – Feed the Tree (I realize that the video won’t embed so you’ll have to click over to Youtube to listen to this very worthwhile and lovely song.)