An expression of praise to living off the land

Living off of the land is a beautiful gift!
This was taken in 2015 when my mom met Ava for the first time in San Francisco.

This was taken in 2015 when my mom met Ava for the first time in San Francisco.

A couple weeks ago, during one of our regular Skype chats with Portugal, my mother paid me a compliment. She has always been generous and kind with her words so this wasn’t out of character in any way – but – it was the way she said it. There was a tenderness in her voice; a sense of pride was very much present. In Portuguese, she told Ava that she was a lucky little girl to have a mama that took such good care of her, a mama that spent time with her, and played with her. A mama that made an effort to provide her with wholesome food, food that took love, thought, and effort to prepare. She turned to me and told me that I was a good mama.

Sometimes I feel as though I have no idea what I am doing as a mother, and other times, well, I feel like a superhero. Bam! Those are the great moments – those superhero moments. More of those, please!

What an amazing acknowledgment from an extraordinary woman, my mom. Seriously. A woman who dreamt things for me before I could see them for myself. A woman who always put my needs first, who made room for my plans before her own. Of course, it got me teary-eyed and feeling all fuzzy inside. It was a huge compliment!

After our conversation, I began reminiscing - taken to my own childhood. More specifically, how the food I was given as a child influenced me and shaped me into the woman I am today.

Before moving to Portugal at a young age, I had the privilege of spending my first seven years of life in the most beautiful part of British Columbia, Canada, the Okanagan Valley, also known as wine country. My family owned an orchard, acres of land, filled with glorious fruit trees from apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, the most delicious fruit I have ever had. We also had a vegetable garden (including some fruit of the berry variety) that would yield fresh organic produce to keep the family fed.

The memories of this time are endless! I enjoyed playing in the orchard – playing in large fruit bins when I was a wee girl and then venturing off with our dogs to see what we could find in the orchard. There was always something fun to do and explore like running around barefoot and having the fallen cherries squish between my toes. The late night canning of fruit and vegetables to last us for the entire year. Canned peaches and pears that we would have with vanilla ice cream, canned cherries, pickled onions, beets, carrots, cucumbers, cabbage, peppers, and the list went on. We had a grand selection of fruit jams – apricot was my favorite and still is! There were also the hot green peppers that my dad would have with my mother’s soup. Her soup was good too. Maybe that is where my love of pickles comes from – we had a cooler room full of them and the best pickles ever! In fact, everything from that cellar was incredible. And then there was the smell of my mother’s fresh bread out of the oven, I can still taste that warm bread with the melted butter. So much freshness and so much goodness - does it get any better than that? Not for me.

I plan to one day have our own garden and maybe even a few fruit trees – okay, maybe the fruit tree part is a little far-fetched but still, I will continue to keep that dream alive as living off the land is a beautiful gift, a more sustainable one, and one that I love. Before all of that, though, I want to acknowledge my mother and thank her for her teachings that I can now pass on to my little girl. Thank you, Mom. Thank you for everything.

 

Leek and Spinach Lasanga

Dark leafy greens like spinach provide protein, iron, vitamins and minerals.

I remember growing up and having amazing meat lasagnas as a child. Once I became a vegetarian at 16, those lasagnas quickly became a distant memory. Over the years, I may have made vegetable lasagnas a handful of times but it was only until recently, making this leek and spinach one, that my love for lasagna resurfaced. It has also become a great way to get some more leafy greens into Ava's diet - a sure way to get her to the table! Keep in mind that this is a freeze-friendly meal so you can make it ahead of time, or even make mini ones, so you can take it out when you need something quick and easy.

Ingredients
Olive Oil
3 Large Leeks, thinly sliced
1 Medium Red Onion, thinly sliced
A Bunch of Spinach (300g approx.), washed and chopped
Ricotta Cheese, 16oz – 454g
Tomato Sauce, 1 litre (Ideally I would love to make it fresh but lately I have been using the Sonoma Gourmet Plum Tomato Marinara or the vegetable one – Both organic and no water or sugar added), 25oz – 709g jar, I use about 1 and a half of another (approx..)
1 Packet of Organic Brown Rice Pasta Lasagna Sheets, or whatever your preference is
Fresh Mozzarella, 8oz – 226g (it comes in a log form so you will need to slice to place evenly on top)
Fresh Parmesan (I use Stella Asiago), grated
Freshly Ground Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Method
Preheat oven to 420F
Heat large saucepan or pot and add a splash of olive oil. Add leeks and red onions and let sweat slowly until soft and translucent. Add chopped spinach and allow it to wilt down. Turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly and then drain any excess liquid. Add ricotta into the mixture (leek, onion, and spinach) and season with fresh ground sea salt and pepper to taste.
Cook lasagna sheets as instructed on box. I cook them for about 9-10mintues approximately.

Now it’s time to put the lasagna together! Get an oven safe dish (mine is 12 x 8.5”) and pour a quarter of the tomato sauce in. Add a layer of pasta sheets (about three go across in mine), add half of the ricotta mixture, add another quarter of the tomato sauce, add another layer of pasta sheets, then the remainder of the ricotta mixture, top with another quarter of the tomato sauce, add another layer of pasta sheets and top that with the remaining tomato sauce (I always find that I need more tomato sauce so I always use more than 1 jar). Finally, top with grated parmesan and fresh mozzarella. It’s now ready to go in the oven :)

Bake for 45minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top. It should also be sizzling! Enjoy with a green leaf salad.

Roasted Almond Coconut Granola

A great way to get your Omega 3’s!

Breakfast! A bowl packed full of goodness. Shown above is organic everything and one favorite way to start our day. Strauss Plain Yogurt, Blueberries, Ava + Mum's Roasted Almond Coconut Granola, Nutiva's Hemp hearts, and a nice drizzle of Dark Amber Maple Syrup.

If you are a granola lover, below is the recipe for our Roasted Almond Coconut Granola. I have experimented with the ingredients in the past but always come back to this one as it seems to be a winner in our family every time. 

Enjoy!

 

Ingredients
1 cup of Whole Roasted Almonds (Whole or Sliced depending on preference)
1 cup of Unsweetened Coconut Flakes (Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup of Honey or Dark Amber Maple Syrup
2 1/2 cups of Rolled Oats (Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free)
1 tsp of Cinnamon Powder (or more depending on preference)
1/2 tsp Sea Salt (Optional) 
2 tsp of Vanilla Extract
1/4 Coconut Oil (Nutiva)

Method
Combine almonds, oats, coconut and cinnamon in a bowl. Melt coconut oil in small pot on low. Once liquid, add honey and vanilla and then mix into the almond and oat mixture. Mix well.

Pour into a baking sheet or pan and spread mixture evenly. Bake in oven at 350F for a total of 30 minutes making sure you mix the granola at the 15-minute mark. You will know when it's done as you will have a nice golden looking batch of granola.