Big Crunchy Winter Salad with a Maple Balsamic Dressing

Big crunchy winter salad on a square white plate with maple dressing.I can’t stop eating crunchy things lately. The other night I had a late-night dinner of barely roasted green beans and sea salt and the following day I was eyeing all the crunchy ingredients in my fridge, wondering how I could combine them all into one ultra-crunchy meal. This big crunchy winter salad is the result of all that wondering; composed of red cabbage, raw kale, broccoli stalks, apple slices, pomegranate seeds, celery, and toasted almonds this salad really lives up to its name. I know fruit in salad is highly contested, but I love the combination and ended up topping the salad with a maple balsamic dressing and a sprinkling of chunky sea salt. Ordinarily I would have used dried apricots in this salad, but I had a bright orange apricot and almond cheese plate add-on that I forgot to use so I chopped it into thin strips and used that instead. This salad will keep with its dressing on for several hours in the fridge so feel free to periodically nibble away on it until it’s totally gone.

big crunchy winter salad:

About 1 1/2 cups of thinly sliced or grated red cabbage

About 1 cup of very thinly sliced kale, ribs removed (give them a good massage with some olive oil and lemon juice if they’re particularly tough)

3 celery ribs, very thinly sliced on a diagonal

1 broccoli stalk, peeled and julienned (I used my handy-dandy julienne peeler for this)

1/2 an apple, very thinly sliced (dip in lemon juice to prevent browning if the salad will be sitting out for any length of time)

1/2 cup of toasted almond slivers or slices

5-6 dried apricots, cut into matchsticks

1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Layer all of the salad ingredients on a large serving platter or in a salad bowl. Drizzle with the maple balsamic dressing and add a sprinkling of chunky sea salt such as fleur de sel on top of the salad before eating.

maple balsamic dressing:

1 Tbsp, maple syrup

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

3 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher or sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Whisk together the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar before slowly drizzling in the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Big crunchy winter salad on a white plate.

As a writer I find myself alone a LOT of the time during the day, which means I seek out audiobooks and podcasts when I’m not doing work that requires constant attention to order and word arrangement. There are also times when I’m by myself and I need to listen to something that will pump me up, usually in the form of a one-person dance party in my kitchen – and this is a good example of music that keeps me going when I’m feeling lonely. The Knife can be pretty inaccessible but damn, when they’re on they’re on!

The Knife – Silent Shout

Harvest Salad Bowl with Roasted Vegetables, Pistachios, and a Creamy Lemon Basil Dressing

A white square plate full of mixed raw and roasted vegetables on an orange and blue background.

Canadian Thanksgiving has come and gone and once again we celebrated with a non-tradional beef tenderloin in lieu of turkey and, while that particular bird has never been a family-favourite, we still stick to a routine of roasting whichever autumnal vegetables look best at the grocery store. This explains why I now have an abundance of roasted brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets just begging to be added to big and beautiful salad bowls such as this one. The sky’s the limit when it comes to ingredient options, I picked these ones because they make me feel as though I’m eating a rainbow and frankly, I already had them in my crisper. The pistachios could be any salted nut or seed, their saltiness against the sweetened roasted vegetables is the really important thing (which is why I’ve added a small crumble of feta to the dressing). You could really use any sort of dressing but I think the creaminess of this particular version really complements the roasted vegetables and provides a pleasant contrast to the crisp raw vegetables.

harvest salad bowl with roasted vegetables and pistachios:

An assortment of leftover roasted vegetables, especially brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and beets (or choose from a long list of other options including yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, squash, mushrooms, or new potatoes)

About 1 cup of shredded purple cabbage

1 carrot, grated

4 grape tomatoes, quartered

1 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1 Tbsp. pistachios, chopped

2 scallions, thinly sliced

creamy lemon basil dressing:

1 heaping Tbsp. Greek yogurt

1 heaping Tbsp. sour cream

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. olive oil

About 2 Tbsp. crumbled salty feta

A couple of basil leaves, cut into a fine chiffonade

Juice of half a lemon

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake until completely emulsified.

Arrange the salad ingredients in a shallow bowl, layering the pistachios, scallions, and pomegranate seeds on top. Drizzle with the creamy lemon basil dressing and enjoy the rainbow of fresh flavours that is your harvest vegetable salad bowl!

A small white bowl full of salad dressing and garnished with a small basil leaf on an orange and blue background.

This song has a way of making people happy very quickly. A few years ago I was in Ontario visiting my dad and stepmom and we were driving around running errands when this song started playing from my iPod. We ended up driving around the block about ten times so my dad could get in repeated listenings and sing-alongs. We also played this song at our wedding, which (and I’m not trying to brag) was one of the best dance parties ever and people went crazy. I have it on a playlist full of very random songs and whenever Heart and Soul comes on it’s almost impossible not to have an in-the-moment one-person dance party right there and then, especially if you’re in the kitchen chopping vegetables.

Huey Lewis and The News – Heart and Soul

Fantastic Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Pot roast in a narrow serving vessel with a glass of red wine and a small white bowl of mashed potatoes.

My slow cooker, my friend. And a worthy friend at that! I can roughly chop a bunch of ingredients up, throw them in my slow cooker, and 4-8 hours later I have a meal that is comforting, delicious, complex in flavour, and almost always yields leftovers. Pot roast is an especially rewarding slow cooker meal, the final product being akin to actual kitchen alchemy with very little effort on your behalf. All you need to do is brown the roast on all sides and then pop it into your crockpot, add a few flavour enhancers, and then nestle in a bouquet of winter vegetables to complete the meal. I know that lots of people like to add potatoes to their pot roast, which you should do if that sounds appealing. Personally, I prefer my potatoes made separately – mashed with butter and Greek yogurt until perfectly whipped and fluffy. You can add all sorts of vegetables to your slow cooker, besides the options presented below; I am particularly fond of celeriac, parsnips, mushrooms, pearl onions, fennel bulbs, and turnip. Just make the vegetables are cut up in a fairly uniform size, although the risk of undercooking anything is rendered impossible due to cooking times. This is also a very forgiving recipe and in fact a very good one to use if you’re trying to clean out your fridge drawers of somewhat wilted vegetables. You can omit the red wine and use all broth, or omit the broth and use all wine. The fresh herbs could be substituted with dried (use less in this case), you could also add some puréed tomatoes to make an exceptionally savoury ragu for pasta. Alternately, you could serve this pot roast on freshly toasted rolls with thin slices of mozzarella for a rustic take on the good old fashioned Sloppy Joe (one of my favourite ways to use up leftovers). I don’t think pot roast requires that you make complementary sides, but a big green salad and steamed broccolini with chopped garlic and olive oil wouldn’t be remiss.

fantastic slow cooker pot roast:

3-4 lb. pot roast (I generally use deboned roasts)

2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup of red wine

1 cup of beef broth

2 stalks of celery, cut into thin half moons

1 large red onion, cut into fat wedges

3 large carrots, peeled and cut into generous, uniform pieces

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small rutabaga, sliced into thick half moon pieces

1 fresh sprig of rosemary

3 fresh sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

1-2 Tbsp. flour or cornstarch

Generous amounts of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

  1. In an large skillet or Dutch oven brown the roast in the grapeseed oil on each side. Transfer to your slow cooker.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the flour or cornstarch, and cook on high for 4 hours or 8 hours on low.
  3. Towards the end of the cooking time remove some of the gravy from the slow cooker and whisk in the flour or cornstarch before returning the mixture back to the slow cooker. Stir the mixture back into the contents of the slow cooker and heat for another half an hour or so, stirring occasionally to prevent lumps.

I’ve been revisiting Sparklehorse lately, which is like wrapping yourself in a big blanket of sadness. The real life tragedy behind Sparklehorse is all too real is and seeps into their music as thick as any depression I can remember, which is odd because I generally find myself listening to Sparklehorse when I feel the lights turn on in my own life.

Sparklehorse – Painbirds

 

Simple Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian slow cooker chili in a shallow white bowl. The chili is topped with an egg, sliced avocado, and scallions.

This simple slow cooker recipe for vegetarian chili is reliable, comforting, and very adaptable. I realize it doesn’t follow any of the strict guidelines that a truly authentic chili would, but I think that’s what gives this recipe a sense of fun and spontaneity. I dreamed this version up while I was taking an early morning train from Seattle to Vancouver. The sun was just beginning to come up, bouncing across the steely water and turning the waves gentle shades of lilac and rose; Mt. Rainier was a constant blink of gold in the distance. The tracks would briefly touch on forested areas that were coated with softest white, Puget Sound weaving in and out of view as we got closer to the Canadian border. The quiet of the early morning train was welcome as I read my new copy of Niki Segnit’s Flavor Thesaurus, a superbly witty and informative read that I warmly recommend to anyone curious about pairing and truly tasting food. If you’re anything like me you find it impossible to read about food without planning meals in your head and by the time we got home to Vancouver I was in a state of absolutely needing to cook something nourishing and wonderful. My plan was to make something in my slow cooker, so that I could take a nap and then get up to the smells of simmering vegetables. I decided on vegetarian chili, which for some reason I have always made instead of a regular chili with meat, so I felt comfortable riffing on tradition. If you want to try different vegetables I would recommend frozen corn, poblano peppers, diced carrots, celery, cremini mushrooms, roasted peppers, eggplant, or butternut squash. It’s very important to cook the onions and other aromatics together first in a skillet, the onion flavour loses some of its intensity and the spices gain focus before they’re added to the slow cooker. I’m particularly fond of topping my chili with a crispy fried egg and avocado, both lend a soothing creamy component that is only further enhanced by a quick application of Sriracha.

simple slow cooker vegetarian chili:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed and minced (or seeds in, if everyone is in agreement on their heat tolerances)

2 Tbsp. chili powder

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cocoa powder or 2 small squares of dark chocolate

2 tsp. cumin

1 small zucchini, cut into thin quarter moon slices

1 green pepper, diced

1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into a small dice

1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes and their juices

11/2 cups of tomato juice (or Clamato if you’d like the Canadian version of this recipe)

1 Tbsp. salt

Generous amount of freshly cracked black pepper

Potential toppings: crispy fried egg, sliced avocado or guacamole, sliced scallions or radishes – maybe lightly pickled in some lime juice, Greek yogurt, creme fraiche, sour cream, shredded cheese, crumbled feta or Oaxaca cheese, cilantro, fresh basil, shredded carrot, salsa, Sriracha, salsa, roasted tomatillos, lime wedges, roasted corn, parsley, torn spinach, shredded Iceberg lettuce, diced tomatoes, corn chips, pickled jalapeños, chopped olives, and anything else you can think of.

  1. Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the diced onion, garlic, and jalapeño until soft. Add a pinch of salt and the chili powder, cinnamon, cocoa or dark chocolate, and cumin. Stir for 2 minutes or until the spices become very fragrant. Remove from heat and reserve for future use.
  2. Combine the cut up vegetables, bean, tomatoes, tomato or Clamato juice, salt, and pepper to taste in a large slow cooker. Add the cooked onions and other aromatics and give everything a good stir to combine.
  3. Cook for 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Serve with the toppings of your choice and hearty buttered bread. This chili is even better the next day, when any excess liquid has had time to be absorbed and it keeps well in the fridge for 3-4 days. Freeze any remaining chili for up to 6 months.

I’m so excited for Wild Nothing’s new album, Life of Pause, to come out in February; each of their songs always feel like a sharp and smart breath of fresh air. These new songs have so much energy, lots of shoegazey influences, and just the perfect touch of Bryan Ferry – all of the suitable components that make an ideal music for Ashley trifecta.

Wild Nothing – To Know You / TV Queen