Preparing for vacation in late February, we went through the inevitable process of eating ourselves out of fresh food. The final dinner before we left, all that was left in our refrigerator was 8 mushrooms, a bit of cheese, 4 eggs, half a cucumber, a bit of onion and 3 slices of raw bacon.  A quick look through the freezer brought up a bag of hash browns- something we never buy (I honestly have no idea how they got there).

Sometimes great dishes are stumbled upon by accident. This is one of those dishes.

Bacon, Egg & Mushroom Hash
Hollandaise from The Kitchn
serves 2 for a generous main meal

3 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
1/4 large white onion, finely diced
8 mushrooms, sliced
3 cups of frozen hash browns or diced, cooked potato
salt & pepper
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated cheddar
4 eggs
parsley or chives
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tsp lemon juice
1Tbsp unsalted butter
kosher salt cayenne pepper

In a large nonstick pan, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon and reserve all of the resulting fat. Add onions and cook, over medium low heat, until softened (~7 minutes) and set aside with bacon. Add half the bacon fat to the pan, heat over medium heat until hot and add mushrooms. Saute until browned (while they are cooking, prepare a saucepan with boiling water to poach the eggs) and set aside with bacon and onions. Add half of the remaining bacon fat (a quarter of the total) to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add hash browns, stir well to coat with fat and spread out to form an even layer; season generously with salt and pepper and cook 5–7 minutes until crispy and golden brown. Drizzle uncooked side with remaining bacon fat and carefully turn over. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then top with onions, bacon and mushrooms, and leave to cook for an additional for 2-3 minutes. When the potatoes are golden on the second side, stir the mixture well, lower temperature to lowest setting, sprinkle cheese and cover, leaving the cheese to melt while the eggs poach.

When the hash browns first go into the pan, prepare the mock hollandaise: whisk the mayonnaise, Dijon, and lemon juice until blended and very smooth. Melt the butter and stir in quickly to suspend it in the mayonnaise. Season with pinches of kosher salt and cayenne pepper.

Divide the hash over two bowls and serve topped with two poached eggs, a drizzle of hollandaise and a sprinkle of fresh parsley or chives (not pictured but lovely). The first time I made this, we had it with sliced cucumbers on the side, a tradition we can’t seem to shake. Sliced tomatoes are nice as well. The freshness of cucumber or tomato is a great balance to the richness of the hollandaise and eggs. It’s certainly richer fare than we usually eat- not the kind of thing to have every day but delicious and comforting on a dreary day.





Cuenca De Quinoa

We’ve been eating LOTS of rice bowls this winter with Thai, Indian, and other Asian flavours. A few weeks ago, a friend made this one-pot Mexican quinoa dish that hit just the right note on a rainy evening. It’s simple, quick, delicious and has us falling all over again for Mexican flavours. The spicing here is very mild- feel free to jack it up to your preferred level of heat. These photos don’t include the avocado topping- don’t skip it because it completely rounds out the dish.


Cuenca De Quinoa Mexicana (Mexican Quinoa Bowl)
adapted from here, here, here, here and my friend A
serves 6 as a main dish, more as a side

2 tsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 small onion (or half a large one), finely diced
1 carrot, cut in small cubes
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 1/2 c. quinoa (red, white or a mix)
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
2 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 c. whole kernel corn (frozen is fine)
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
juice of 1 lime (~2 Tbsp)
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
3 avocados, roughly chopped

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, celery and carrots, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent and the mixture is wonderfully fragrant, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to high and add quinoa, chili powder and cumin, stirring well for ~30 seconds. Add broth, beans, corn, tomato, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium and cook 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is done. Stir in lime juice along with cilantro. Serve topped with a generous helping of chopped avocado (~ half an avocado per serving).

I’ve often thought of adding ground beef, turkey or pork but the dish feels complete as is and fits well with our goal to eat meatless dinners at least once a week. Leftovers also freeze well.


Hungarian Mushroom Soup

We tend to prefer lighter soups with lots of vegetables but every once in a while, something richer is a nice change. This fits the bill, beautifully… if you like mushrooms.

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Hungarian Mushroom Soup
serves 4

4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, margarine or olive oil
1 pound (4 cups) fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cups diced onions
1 Tbsp. paprika
2 teaspoons dried dill2016-01-09 020
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk or soy milk
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream (I use tofu sour cream if I’m making this dairy free)

Melt the a tablespoon of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Increase heat to high and saute half the mushrooms until caramelized and cooked through. Repeat with remaining mushrooms and a tablespoon of butter. Lower heat to medium low and add two remaining tablespoons of butter. Add the onions and paprika, stir well and reduce heat to low. Slow cook for 20 minutes or until onions are golden and soft. Stir in the dill, soy sauce and broth, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the milk and flour together. Pour this into the soup and stir well to blend. Cover and simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cooked mushrooms and simmer 10 minutes more.

Just before serving, stir in the salt, ground black pepper, lemon juice, parsley and sour cream. Mix together and allow to heat through, about 3 to 5 minutes, making sure not to boil. Serve immediately with crusty bread and salad.


More Soup

One of our favourite soups is one I found more than a decade ago. It works with almost any vegetable combination and the end result is a smooth and velvety bowl of deliciousness that we never tire of. I’ve shared the recipe in our favourite version below but feel free to vary the amounts and types of root vegetables. Coconut, Ginger, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Coconut, Ginger, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Canadian Living
*updated December 2017

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 medium sized sweet potato or yam, peeled and cubed
6 large carrots, cut in 2″ chunks
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 sweet red, yellow or orange pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, stems and leaves divided and each chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, peeled and diced
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 Tbsp soy sauce or fish sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
1 can coconut milk
2 tsp. lime juice
1 pound of shrimp, cleaned & deveined (optional)

Optional first step: mix squash, sweet potato and carrots with 2 Tbps. olive oil and a generous sprinkling of sea salt. Mix well and roast on large pan at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. Use a large enough pan that the vegetables will not be crowded.

Heat olive oil over medium high heat until hot. Add onion, celery, sweet pepper and cilantro stalks and immediately reduce heat to lowest setting. Add garlic and cook the mixture slowly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is aromatic and the vegetables have softened. Add squash, sweet potato and carrots- if they were not roasted, cook in the onion mixture for a few minutes. If these vegetables were roasted, follow them into the pot with the stock, water, soy/fish sauce, sugar and pepper.  Simmer, on low heat, for 25 minutes. Remove from heat, add cilantro leaves and puree with immersion blender until soup is very smooth. Return to heat and stir in coconut milk and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

The original recipe calls for the addition of 1 pound of shrimp, added with the coconut milk after the soup is pureed – we usually pan fry a few shrimp at a time to add to the top of each bowl of soup (~6-8 large shrimp per bowl) when we serve. It’s a lovely addition. We also enjoy the soup very much without the shrimp, particularly with a sprinkling of sunflower seeds or with a slice of crusty bread for lunch on a rainy day.



Conquering Soup

Until last year, I dreaded making and eating soup. What changed? Flavour. First was discovering how much flavour is added by roasting poultry bones before making stock. Second was reading Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked” (thanks W!) and learning that when mirepoix (the standard starter mix of onions, carrots and celery) is cooked SLOWLY, magic happens.  These two techniques have radically changed my approach to soup making and for the first time in my life, I’m confident that my efforts will be considerably better than the bland dishwater I used to turn out.

These two techniques are best highlighted in classic chicken noodle soup.

Chicken Noodle Soup | Life On Van Island

Chicken Noodle Soup
from my own trial and error
serves 4 as a main meal

2 tsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
fist full of fresh parsley, stems and leaves separated, both finely diced
1/2 tsp. coarse saltChicken Noodle Soup | Life On Van Island
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dried aniseed or fennel
8 cups roasted poultry stock
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
100 grams (4 ounces) uncooked egg noodles or instant stir fry noodles
1 pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Dice vegetables and put parsley leaves aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, celery, parsley stems, salt, thyme, and aniseed/fennel, stir well and immediately reduce heat to very low temperature. Allow the vegetables and spices to cook slowly for about 25 minutes (the pot will lightly steam but not boil) until onions are translucent. Add stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cooked chicken and noodles and cook 5 more minutes or until noodles are done. Remove from heat and add a pinch of cayenne, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with reserved parsley. Enjoy!


This year has been a fantastic year for raspberries here on Vancouver Island. We have eaten ourselves so silly with these little red jewels over the past month that the last bucket we picked needed to go somewhere other than directly into our bellies. I like jam that actually tastes like fruit and have been reticent to try out jam recipes in the past for fear they would be too sugary sweet. This batch turned out beautifully.

Raspberry Peach Jam
adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yield: 8 half pint jars

6 cups raspberries (or mixed berries)
41/2 cups peaches, peeled and chopped
2 cups sugar
1 package liquid pectin
juice of half a lemon

Combine fruit and sugar in a large pot. Stir over medium-high heat until the sugar melts and the fruit has released its juice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the end of the cooking time, if the fruit has not cooked down to the consistency that you like for jam, mash it with a potato masher. Skim off the foam, add the liquid pectin and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, then top with lids and screw caps. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath. Jeff loves jam on fresh pretzel buns (a Saturday morning tradition here) while I like a dollop stirred into plain Greek yogurt for a little fruity zip. Enjoy!

Summer Food

Our summer menu is pretty simple- a salad with some grilled meat, fish or vegetables on the side. Our summer treat? Burgers. Lately, we’ve been eating chicken burgers. These ones are simple and so very much tastier than anything that comes in a box.

Chicken Burgers
adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook

1 pound ground chicken
1 Tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely diced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Form into 4-6 patties (don’t worry if they are a little wet and sticky). Place foil on surface of barbeque and coat with a little olive oil OR preheat a frying pan to medium heat. Cook burgers until they are cooked through and golden brown on the outside (~6 minutes per side). Enjoy!