Avocado Toast with Pomegranates and Chillies

Toast on an orange plate topped with avocado, pomegranate seeds, and red chillies.

This particular version of avocado toast is such a bright and happy way to start your day. Outside was a solitary sheet of grey today, it was raining so hard that large pools were flooding at intersections all of the leaves that were left in the trees are now firmly littered all over the street. I try to keep my writing space and general home environment sunny and I’m a huge fan of big pops of vivid colour to bring a certain radiant ambience to an otherwise neutral room. Meals like these are an extension of that design principle, they serve to bring light into a dark day. The chillies are what really make these flavours all come together, its addition was inspired by one of my favourite fancy cheese condiments (the Pomegranate Hot Pepper Jelly from Artisan Edibles). Don’t skimp out on the salt either, you need it to complete the holy trifecta of sweet, salty, and spicy!

avocado toast with pomegranate and chillies:

Really simple: mash one avocado and spread it over two pieces of toast (I like whole wheat because it’s nutty and sweet on its own). Scatter a generous amount of pomegranate seeds over the avocado and finish with dried red chillies and kosher or sea salt (Maldon salt is particularly nice to have for this one). Press down lightly so that the pomegranates don’t roll off as you’re trying to eat it. Enjoy right away while the toast is still warm.

Stack of colourful crochet blankets.

I was so sad to hear about Carey Lander’s passing. I’ve always loved Camera Obscura, ever since I first heard their debut album Underachievers Please Try Harder. Her voice was so clear and luminous, like a shining projection of happiness over an underlying sadness. This remains one of my favourite songs ever; it’s so simple and hopeful, a moving tribute to the future that lies ahead.

Camera Obscura – Eighties Fan

Autumn Salad with Roasted Golden Beets and Cauliflower

Plate full of salad with roasted cauliflower and golden beets.

I’m entirely in love with the autumn we’ve had in Vancouver this year. It actually feels like a season of its own and not just an immediate onset of grey and never-ending rain (which I do love, I’m not complaining), but a breathtaking and bright extended autumn. It feels like I’m back in Ontario for my favourite time of year, just without the quiet threat of impending snow and cold. This warm salad is an ode to the seasonal fruits and vegetables of autumn, its bright colours mimic the foliage of October in Vancouver. It’s a vibrant contrast between green pine trees and palm trees against the firework display of deciduous leaves, often nestled delicately amongst the former. You could use turnip, parsnip, sweet potatoes, yams, or carrots in place of the golden beets and the apple could easily be a pear. Go ahead and use regular beets but beware their shocking hue, your salad will go from multicoloured to deep red as soon as you toss it. I also like this salad the next day wrapped up in warm pita bread or naan with a drizzle of hummus that has been thinned with tahini and lemon juice.

autumn salad with roasted golden beets and cauliflower:

5 golden beets, scrubbed and quartered

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into small segments

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Half an apple, I like Pink Lady or Honeycrisp

2 small stalks of celery, cut into thin quarter moons

About a third of a red onion, diced and then soaked in juice of 1 lime and water for at least 15 minutes

2 cups of baby spinach, torn

Half of a pomegranate

for the dressing:

1/4 cup of olive oil

1 1/2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1 Tbsp. honey or 1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. dried chilli flakes

Freshly cracked pepper and kosher salt to taste

1. Toss the beets with olive oil and generous pinch of salt and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Add the cauliflower pieces and another drizzle of olive oil, roast for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to come to room temperature.

2. Put all of the salad dressing ingredients into a jar and shake vigorously. Set aside.

3. Cut the beets into thin slices and combine them with the cauliflower, apple, celery, red onion, spinach, and pomegranate seeds in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss well to coat the salad. Let sit for at least 15 minutes before serving while still warm.

Who knew a song about a dying goldfish could be so pretty? Something meaningful and nostalgic for a warm day on the couch in front of the fire.

Pinback – Penelope

Acorn Squash and Brown Rice Crockpot Risotto

Serving dish full of acorn squash risotto with pomegranates.

Today was a perfect example of why I love my crockpot: I can put everything in it and then have a cozy afternoon nap. This isn’t a true risotto by any means, but it has all of comforting properties of a proper stovetop version. One acorn squash is the perfect amount for this recipe, but any other firm squash would work well and the yam could be substituted with the equivalent amount in diced carrots. The pomegranates are an added colour and nutrition boost, providing some crunch in an otherwise very creamy risotto. If I’m home I’ll generally have it in the crockpot three to four hours, but I’ve left it cooking while I’m at work on low for eight hours by adding an additional half cup of vegetable stock to the recipe. I like to serve this with a really crisp chopped salad full of crunchy ingredients like radishes, fennel, romaine hearts, and iceberg lettuce.

acorn squash and brown rice crockpot risotto:

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

1 medium sized acorn squash, diced

1 small yam, peeled and diced

3/4 cup of brown rice

4 cups of vegetable stock

3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Kosher salt to taste

2 Tbsp. pomegranate seeds

1. Soften the onion and celery in olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to brown. Add to crockpot.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the crockpot, stir to combine. Set the crockpot to cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, checking to make sure it doesn’t overcook and become dry. Serve with extra fresh thyme and pomegranate seeds.

How can you not feel happy? Frantic, spirited, and just the right amount of twee for a misty Sunday afternoon.

Air Miami – Definitely Beachy / Bubble Shield (Reprise)

Happy Friday! Pomegranate Sunrise Cocktail

Pomegranate Cocktail

This beautiful sunrise coloured cocktail is just the perfect pick-me-up on a Friday after work; it’s pink and sunny yellow and otherwise very much a happy drink. I have also tried substituting tequila for the gin with equally promising and cheerful results. Cin cin!

pomegranate sunrise cocktail:

1 1/2 oz. gin

1/2 oz. Triple Sec

1/2 oz. Granada or other pomegranate liquor

1 oz. pomegranate juice

1 oz. orange San Pellegrino or Orangina

Squeeze of lime juice and a wedge for the glass

Pour all of the ingredients over ice in a highball glass, stir gently to combine and garnish with a lime wedge. Alternately, change the measurements as required and make it in a pretty glass jug to serve as a punch for a very lucky crowd.

And listen to something ridiculously fun, something that’s impossible to ignore, something that throws you into the middle of a one lady dance party!

Phoenix – If I Ever Feel Better

Crunchy Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad

Brussels sprout salad

Winter is the perfect opportunity to force yourself into practicing more creative salad making habits, something about the persistent grey makes the produce aisle look not quite right, all the summer vegetables looking off in colour and shape in the middle of December. I offer this recipe as inspiration to think outside of the traditional salad box; it’s crunchy and sweet and crisp and warm all at once.  I’m a late convert to Brussels sprouts, they’re much like beets and fennel in that they seem more palatably accessible when roasted until golden brown and crispy around the edges. I grew up with a Brussels sprouts loving mother and most times I would at least try them with a sincere desire to enjoy those weird little tightened green cabbages and it wasn’t until she roasted them for me about 5 years ago that I grew to appreciate their sweet and tender mustard spicy interiors that appear after being exposed to high heat for a short amount of time.

for the roasted brussels sprouts:

(for 1 personal salad)

2 cups of halved and trimmed Brussels sprouts (they’ll shrink down considerably as they cook)

2 Tbsp. canola or grapeseed oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Meanwhile, carefully toss the halved Brussels sprouts with oil in a medium-sized bowl. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and roast for 15-20 minutes.

3. As soon as the Brussels sprouts turn a lovely shade of caramel brown take them out the oven and immediately pour the lemon juice all over the hot vegetables (it will sputter a little bit.) Salt generously and set aside while you make the salad.

for the salad:

2 cups of spinach, washed and dried

1/2 green pepper, diced

2 stalks of broccoli, peeled and diced

5 grape tomatoes, halved

2 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds

1 Tbsp. fruity olive oil

Juice of the other 1/2 of the lemon used with the roasted Brussels sprouts

1 Tbsp. raw or roasted pepitas (or try sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

1. Arrange spinach on top of a large plate and begin piling the other salad ingredients on top, adding the roasted Brussels sprouts last, before drizzling with the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the pepitas on top and check to see if any salt is needed before adding roughly cracked pepper.

Another song with a slow buildup and insanely catchy second half, I have my sister Gabrielle to thank for this recommendation a couple of years ago. This song is really fun to listen to when you’re running, too – the song has such a satisfying arc that it motivates you to keep going despite feeling tired.

Sunset Rubdown – Shut Up I am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings

Quick Pomegranate and Cucumber Salad

When Vancouver returns to its natural state of rainy grey I find myself turning to food for brightness, this isn’t particularly difficult when purple-green winter kale, electric mandarin oranges and pomegranates resembling the imaginary seeds of blood red roses flood the grocery store produce aisle. Both the cucumber and pomegranate seeds provide the most satisfying crunch as the salad is being eaten so pair it with roast lamb or crispy falafel stuffed pitas (or eat a massive bowl of it by itself.)

quick pomegranate and cucumber salad:

1/2 of an English cucumber, cut into a thin dice

1/2 of a pomegranate’s worth of seeds, do this easily by whacking the outside of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon so the seeds fall directly into your bowl

Small handful of curly parsley, chopped finely

Zest and juice of half a lemon

A generous drizzle of fruity olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Place all ingredients in your prettiest bowl and lightly toss to combine. Let rest 15 minutes before serving to let the cucumbers achieve a lightly pickled effect.

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of music that Ian and I listened to when we first started dating almost 9 years ago. Thus Blonde Redhead’s Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons remains an oddly nostalgic album for supper preparation, bus rides and walks to the library.

Blonde Redhead – In Particular