Deliciously Simple – Green Beans with fresh ginger and black bean sauce



I love vegetables. The fresher, the better. I didn’t even try bottled salad dressing until I was well into my teens, and my idea of dressing a salad was drizzling olive oil, fresh lemon juice, teasing it with a pinch of salt and calling it a day. But sometimes, especially if you’re trying to take advantage of an unexpected but welcome abundance, doing things the same way can get a little boring.

I used to turn to cookbooks to find alternatives when this sort of thing happened, but more and more I find myself turning to the internet for inspiration. This recipe from Fine Cooking met all my requirements; fast, easy, delicious, and an ingredients list I can a/ pronounce and b/ don’t have to go to 3 different grocery stores for. I’m already planning on tweaking it to lower the sodium, and I’m intrigued at trying this with other veggies:

  • 1 Tbs. reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs. Chinese black bean sauce
  • 1 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lb. green beans trimmed
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. minced ginger
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced

If you already know this, just smile and nod and carry on, but if you’re a new cook, do yourself a favour and visit your local farm market or produce place for fresh ginger, green beans and garlic, and then prep everything ahead of time. I’ve yet to find a frozen or packaged product that replicates fresh, even if it does say so on the bag.

The moment I cut into the ginger its rich, sharp scent permeated my kitchen (and the cat, who was watching with interest), and made me yearn for some slightly soft, melt in your mouth ginger cookies.

  • In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, black bean sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar, and set aside.
  • Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a straight-sided sauté pan until shimmering, then add the beans, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt, and cook, tossing occasionally, until most of the beans are browned, shrunken, and tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the ginger and garlic; cook for about 45 seconds.
  • Add the soy sauce mixture to the pan, cook for another 30 seconds, until the beans are coated and the sauce is warmed through, and serve.

The recipe specifies a straight-sided sauté pan; don’t make my mistake and use a wok, as the curvature of the wok base meant not all the beans were cooking at the same rate. Silly me.

Also 45 seconds really is enough time to infuse a dish with the flavours of garlic and ginger. Garlic tends to burn easily, so if you’re tempted to go longer before adding the soy sauce mix, don’t. Picking burnt bits out of dinner should never be part of the part.


Monday Morning Love List – 04/29/2013

ARTIST: Olly Moss

Love – That this weekend proved it’s time to put away the winter sweaters. Yeah spring! Now where’d I put the cute skirts and shoes?

Love – That the week after the week away has not been enough for me to lose my perspective.

Love – That my week off included indulging in new music, some local, some not. I’m really looking forward to seeing Hey Ocean! and Pacifika live some time before the end of the year, and sad that I missed Ben Howard‘s Vancouver show.

Love – That I have a few new projects demanding I give them my attention.

Love – That today is a blank slate, and this week can be whatever I make it.

What do you love?

Every Day, Something New

I’ve taken a week off from the world to hide out in a cabin with my sweetheart, and even here I’m getting schooled (or reschooled. I’m a slow learner).

  • Old school Cuban music is excellent music to cook to.
  • Most of the things that put a frown on my face are first world problems.
  • There is something intrinsically wonderful about connecting with someone who is excited about what they are working on.
  • The best thing you can do for yourself when you find yourself in a situation where you think you don’t have the necessary tools to do a job, is to get past the obligatory bitching as quickly as possible (or skip it altogether) and adapt.


6:30-something in the morning.
It was dark, dreary, windy, and I was listening to Debussy…

You’d think that in a setting like this one might, as my partner so eloquently put it, “suddenly want to wear a beret and talk about Sartre in a French accent.”

I’d probably be up for it on any other day. Who doesn’t want to play the starring role in a sultry French movie? This morning though… this morning was a fitting background for how I was feeling over the previous night’s baking debacle.

See, yesterday I craved a particular set of flavours and textures – I wanted coffee cake. Preferably with cinnamon streusel. I flipped through my collection of recipes, and nope – no recipe on file. Flicked through the stack of magazines I’ve collected. Nothing. Still craving. So I went online, narrowed down options, found one that appealed and decided – why not?

I can laugh about it now, but this morning I had the answers to the why not question, and was seriously wondering why I’d thought I would take up baking again. For one, the amount of time it took the bake the cake was double what was posted. It came out way drier than I expected. Also heavier than I expected – pound cake heavy. I gave it a 2 out of 5 and seriously wanted to toss it out.

Tonight I found out it went quite well with a light slathering of apricot jam.

Monday Morning Love List – 03/11/2013

ARTIST: Olly Moss

Love – That today is beautiful, I have a few hours to enjoy as I like, and the possibilities are endless.

Love – that there are signs of spring everywhere, and Vancouver’s Cherry Blossom Festival is coming up fast. I see a photowalk in my future.

Love – That the Aurora Golden Gala apple is showing up in stalls at Granville Island again. This apple was years in the making, and is worth the trip if you’re an apple fan. If you’re the type to want details (many, many details), this link should make you very, very happy.

Love – that my local street vendor has tulips again. $5.00 isn’t too high a price for a bouquet of beauty, is it?

Love – That Vancouver has a sense of humour about itself.

Love – that I’m back to my yoga practice, and full of gratitude for DVDs when a trip to a studio isn’t on the menu. Can’t wait for Eoin to do classes in Vancouver again.

Love – That today is a blank slate, and this week can be whatever I make it.

What do you love?

Read Your Labels

I was recently checking out Galloway’s Specialty Foods website and stumbled across their FAQ. I have to admit, their note about MSG scared me a little – my partner gets severe headaches from this ingredient, and we try to avoid it as much as possible. What’s a girl to do when there are so many ways they can sneak it in there? (Textured protein? Autolyzed yeast? Yeast extract? Sodium caseinate? Ew!)

Well, at least the memorization skills I picked up in grade school aren’t going to go waste…

To see the full list, check out Galloway’s FAQ here, and while you’re at it, check out their blog here.

** This great BC company has been around since 1936, and I have fond childhood memories of their downtown store. Time to visit one of their  locations and get my fill of healthy goodies!

A Disclaimer

Darling cats & kittens, I think this whole site deserves a disclaimer. Something along the lines of “The views held by this writer should not to be considered anything but one opinion among many, on subjects she enjoys but has no official credentials for, other than being a human who likes her pleasures. They are purely subjective, and should be taken in that spirit.”

And while I know that would cause some people to land on this page and then leave, there may be some people who choose to stay. Why? Because they have no credentials either, but plenty of opinions on what they do and don’t like.

That’s part of the reason I’ve come back to blogging after a handful of years. For now, and hopefully the foreseeable future, it’s possible to share thoughts, ideas, inspirations, what-have-you, in the manner of your choosing. So if you think this site has no reason for existing, it’s all good, there’s something else better suited for you out there. If you want to stay and engage, that’s all good too. In fact, as long as we all play nice it’ll be grand.

Pechakucha #25

Pechakucha_25 Last year I made a short list of things that happen in Vancouver that I really wanted to attend or be a part of. On that list: PechaKucha Vancouver. The idea of a group of people coming together to share ideas, to enlighten, to activate, to energize and mostly, to engage those who want to be engaged.

The night started off with the folks from Cause + Effect saying a few words (quite well), about what was about to happen. As a total newb, I appreciated that. Then the lights dimmed and we were off. I’m totally uncool, so throughout the night I took random notes on my iPhone – things I didn’t want to forget, such as my answer to James Glave’s question about how we felt as children when we engaged in dangerous play (exhilarated!), to people I simply must find out more about because their minds interest me, like Julian Thomas and his dial-a-park idea.

The night’s roster:
David LookEngine Digital
Gaby Eirew – Record me now
Georgia Morley – Whitelightchef
J. Joly – CineCoup
James Glave – Clean Energy Canada at Tides Canada
Jonas Woost – CBC
Julien Thomas – Social artist
!Kona – NubianImp Projects
Mickey McLeod – Salt Spring Coffee
Thomas Anselmi & Ernesto Gomez – Formerly Waldorf Productions
Zack Embree – The Überdrop

I was lucky enough to share the experience with a couple of people, which brings me to my first impromptu rule of PechaKucha – Don’t go alone. Followed quickly by my second impromptu rule – don’t rein in your enthusiasm. Seriously, I was vibrating by the end of the night, and it was fantastic to have other people with me who were on the same energy high. And that energy? It carries forward, and changes everything. Just ask your local physics geek.

Added to the list of events I want to attend: PechaKucha New Westminster, which I would never have found out about if I wasn’t a coffee addict who followed Kevin McConnell on twitter. Oh social media, how you lead me on…

Want to know more? Check out Ariana Scott’s post on Vancouver Weekly, Lynn Doan’s post on The Pink Wars, or make use of your google-fu and type in PechaKucha Vancouver. I dare ya.

Yes Mr. Beaton

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
~ Cecil Beaton

I read things like this and I say YES!

But making it an actuality – that’s a more daunting task to take on.

A wee bit selfish and not a smidge guilty

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will drop from the compartment above. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.

 ~ Airplane Safety Speech, as given by a flight attendant too long ago to guess

I have no idea why that part of the airplane safety speech has stuck with me all these years, but it’s an excellent metaphor for one of the things that my good friend M and I have batted about for years – the idea of selfish self-care. You can’t take care of someone else (such as a child, or someone acting like a child) if you don’t take good care of yourself.

To that end, I dredged up a list I wrote eons ago, and took a good long look at it. I still think it’s relevant, but unfinished. What do you think it take to take good care of yourself? What would you add?

  • Get sufficient sleep. A good portion of the population is chronically sleep-deprived (myself included) and the ill side-effects of this are well documented. Not only do you increase your chances of gaining weight, having a dumb moment (ie ‘cognitive difficulties’)  you could shorten your lifespan. This is one time that giving in to the unrequited love you may be harbouring is a good thing. Just ask my pillow.
  • Feed yourself well. This doesn’t mean eat only the things that (for the moment) are deemed acceptable. It also means enjoying (in moderation) meals that make you feel satisfied at the end of it, in the “that was fantastic and perfect and the company was wonderful” way. Food is one of the great seducers – so why not choose who you want to be seduced by? Will it be the equivalent of someone with no game at all (a cheeseburger from a fast food place, for instance), or someone who woos you with something thoughtfully planned and possibly exciting to the palate?
  • Choose carefully. The people you spend time with, the books you read, the things you do with your time – they all have an effect on your health’s bottom line. Just like you wouldn’t willingly ingest poison, you might want to rethink allowing a person who makes you suffer stay in your life.
  • Edit. If there are activities in your life that aren’t adding to it in a positive way or leave you feeling drained, and they AREN’T mandatory commitments, ask yourself  “Why the heck am I still doing this?!?” If you can’t come up with two good reasons (because really, one is easy – two is harder) edit it out of your life. You’ll be glad you did. Somewhat tougher is applying this rule to the people in your life, but if they’re already there and aren’t a positive, it might be time to edit them out. Which leads to the next item…
  • Allow for some negative space. Not every part of your home needs to be full. Neither does your life. Allowing blank spaces to happen allows new things to enter. It also gives you breathing space, and who doesn’t need that?