Friday, January 29, 2010

More Olympics Planning

I was reviewing my freezer contents yesterday as I looked for something for supper and discovered I already have 2 meals done for my Olympic menu! Spanish Paella and British Shepherds Pie. The only way I can do international meals every day during the Olympics is to have at least half of them already in the freezer. Even though it's the Olympics, life will go on as usual for those 2 weeks. And since I eat out of my freezer at least 50% of the time, I can't imagine trying to cook every single night! Once you start cooking more when you do cook and stockpiling your freezer, it becomes the only way to cook. Cooking nightly becomes a thing of the past!

Tonight I'm doing Greek Stuffed Peppers and getting the Chinese BBQ Pork in to marinate. The Pork will be used in a 2 part meal. First I'll have some of it with some stir-fried Bok Choy this weekend and then I'll freeze the leftovers and they will be ready to go for a Pork Noodles Soup during the games.

I'm finalizing the list so stay tuned!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I just had an idea! I'm getting pretty excited about the Olympics. I left out my Christmas Lights after the holidays so that I could light them up during the Olympics as we Canadians are being asked to do! I'm also going to knit myself a pair of red mitts. The red mittens that are being sold by the Olympic committee here in Canada are lovely but lined with polyester which I'm allergic to. Then I came up with another brain storm to get involved and show support!

During the Olympics I'm going to make meals based on countries participating in the games. This idea dawned on me this morning when I had a passing urge for Swedish Meatballs. I was thinking how I never had them in Sweden when I used to travel there quite regularly even though it's touted as the national dish. I was thinking about the ground beef I bought yesterday for Greek inspired stuffed peppers. As I mentioned, once I got home I realized that I had some mild Italian sausage that would work in the stuffed peppers. So now I'm thinking I'll do the stuffed peppers with the sausage in honour of Greece's participation in the games and make Swedish Meatballs in honour of the Swede's participation in the games.

Here's a preliminary list of countries and meal ideas:
China - BBQ Pork Noodles soup
Hungary/Austria - Goulash (I have an authentic Austrian cookbook so I'll find something good in it)
Sweden - Swedish Meatball (I also have an authentic cookbook from Sweden!)
Greece- Stuffed Peppers
Japanese - still to be determined
Spain - I have Paella already made and in the freezer!
Jamaica - I'll do something Jerk!
Switzerland - I'm thinking a fondue/raclette meal
France - Perhaps a onion soup
Belgium - mussels and fries
Mexico - fish tacos
Poland -perogies and Kielbasa would be fun!
Germany -maybe spatzle and schnitzel

Some other countries I have to investigate and determine what I can make that represents their cuisine:

If anyone has ideas or if there is a country I'm not including in my list and you know of a recipe I should try from that country - please let me know! This is going to be so much fun! Stay tuned, the blogging should be interesting....

And as per my usual flare - some of these meals will be make aheads. The Olympics run for 2 weeks and life will go on as usual for most of us. There won't always be time to cook every night so we'll get some meals in the freezer now so we can pull them out during the Olympics. I'm already planning!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Grocery Store Finds!

I just got back from grocery shopping. As I go through the store I typically keep a running tally as I add things to my cart. It's just rough, I round up, I don't keep an exact tally with a calculator or anything. But it is amazing how many things you'll pass over when you are watching your total add up. It's a great way to stop yourself from overindulging in extras that aren't on your list!

HOWEVER, I do encourage you to pick up unplanned bargains in the veggie aisle. I got a good deal on 4 packs of peppers. So on the spot I changed my plans and added Stuffed Peppers to my menu. I grabbed some lean ground beef (I didn't have any ground meat at home.... although now that I think of if I did have some lean mild Italian sausage that I could of used. oh well) and some feta to make some Greek inspired stuffed peppers. I'll share the recipe when I make it. I'll also roast and freeze some of the peppers since I picked up a pack of red and a pack of green for a total of 8 peppers.

They also had the most wonderful looking baby bok choy.

So now I'll add something Asian to my menu. I have been hankering for a Chinese noodle soup....

The point is that it is better to build your meal plans around what looks good and is priced well at the store instead of setting down a plan and then ending up overpaying for less than best produce. And don't forget frozen this time of year. I hit a few good deals on some frozen veggies too. Best part about buying frozen? I don't have to worry about using them before they go bad!


Monday, January 25, 2010

Beef and Barley Soup

I had picked up some sirloin when it was on sale a couple of weeks ago. It's the dead of winter in these parts and soups are still high on my priority list. Sunday was Conference Championship day for the NFL. When I'm watching football I want something either in a pot or in the oven, ready to go. I didn't intend to blog about this because it was just plain old beef and barley soup but it had such a fantastic flavour it ended up being totally bloggable!

When you make soup with barley it will continue to thicken as it sits. So if you are going to freeze it, when you defrost it you will have a gloopy soup. Add water when reheating. Simple. However, if you don't want to dilute the flavour add some of the flavour essentials once the soup has cooled down before you put the leftovers in the freezer. Then when you add the water you will still have the great flavour you had the first time around. I put a little dab of Dijon, a squirt of Worcestershire sauce and a sprinkle of Emeril's Essence in each single serving container before I popped them in the freezer. I keep one out in the fridge and treated it the same. It too will need water added when I reheat it.

Beef and Barley Soup

Serves 8


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 13/4 - 1 lb beef, diced
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 40 shots/shakes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Emeril's Essence
  • 2 cloves garlic, fresh or roasted, minced
  • 2 tsp Montreal Steak spice
  • 2 tsp fresh Rosemary, chopped
  • 9 oz can of tomatoes
  • 3 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2/3 cup pearl barley
  • 3/4 cup turnip, small diced (I used frozen)
  • 1 1/5 cup butternut squash, small diced (I used frozen)

  1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat
  2. Saute the onion, celery and carrots until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the beef and brown a bit, 3 - 5 minutes
  4. Add the next 9 ingredients from Dijon mustard to water and let simmer for 30 - 60 minutes
  5. Check for taste and add salt and pepper as necessary
  6. Add the barley and simmer 30 minutes.
  7. Add in the turnip and butternut squash and simmer 10 minutes, if using frozen. Cook until tender if using fresh, about 20 minutes

Friday, January 22, 2010

Paella (versus Jambalaya)

Check out my entire Olympic menu and recipes here.

Paella. Sigh.... seriously delicious dish. I'm also a big Jambalaya fan which is not really different from Paella. They are variations on the same dish, one Spanish and the other Creole. The basic ingredients are the same. The differences are the Spanish Paella typically uses Chorizo sausage, smoky paprika and Saffron. The Creole Jambalaya uses Andouille sausage and Cayenne pepper. Either way, awesome dish! Super to make for a big crowd; for the big game, after an afternoon of skating or an elegant evening in with good friends, a nice bottle of wine and a roaring fire. A perfect make ahead meal so it's ready to go when you are. Damn I'm hungry. Luckily I have some waiting for me for lunch. Oh and did I mention the leftovers are great for lunches and it all freezes beautifully?!

You can use any combination of seafood, poultry, ham or sausage. If you are using shrimp or mussels, add them just before serving so they don't end up over cooked and rubbery. I leave out the mussels for any of the leftovers I'm freezing.

This is also a great recipe to substitute brown rice for white rice. The dish is so rich and flavourful that you'll never notice the difference. I don't always like to use brown rice especially in dishes that are mild. It can change the flavour too much but in heavily seasoned, sauced or flavoured dishes, brown rice works perfectly. I'm like that with whole wheat pasta too. It's hard to change over completely when you were raised on white rice and pasta but we all do what we can. ; )

One more tip, I find that freezing dishes with peppers in them tends to make the pepper bitter. Try using roasted peppers. You can buy them in a jar or I make my own. Just toss them in the oven (I use my toaster oven). Place them right on the rack close to the top burner element with the oven set on broil. Rotate them all around as they get black on each side. Typically it takes about 20 minutes. Put the peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once they have cooled the skins peel off easily, remove the seeds and voila! You have roasted peppers. I do up a bunch when peppers are cheap and wrap them up individually and freeze them. Or you can just buy a jar.....

Serves 6 -8

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 -3 chorizo sausages, diced or casing removed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 chicken breasts, bone in, cut into 4 -5 pieces each
  • 2 chicken thighs, bone in, cut into 3 -4 pieces each
  • Pinch of Saffron
  • 1 Tbsp smoky Spanish or Hungarian paprika. I used half sweet and half spicy paprika
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme and rosemary or 1/2 dried of each
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 large red and/or green peppers
  • 32 oz, 798ml can of diced tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups of brown rice
  • 2 cups or more of water
  • 1 lb shrimp, shells removed
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. You want something with a large bottom. Either a large saute pan or a wide pot.
  2. Add in chorizo and onion and brown, about 5 minutes
  3. Add in and saute chicken pieces until brown
  4. Add in the saffron, paprika, thyme, rosemary, peppers and garlic and cook until the peppers are softened, about 2 - 3 minutes
  5. Toss in your tomatoes, rice and water, reduce the heat and simmer until the rice is tender. Keep an eye and add more water if necessary. This can take 20 - 30 minutes, depending on your rice.
  6. Add in your shrimp and cook until they are opaque and cooked through.
  7. Toss in the peas, mix and serve.
You can use boneless chicken for quick convenience but the flavour from cooking with meat on the bone is lost. I use boneless when I'm in a hurry but when I'm making a big pot for entertaining, I use the bone on.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beef and Broccoli Lo Mein

I made this recipe based on an old Cooking Light recipe. I'll say it one more time, if you want a great recipe resource - pick up Cooking Light Magazine! It's a great resource and an even better value.

This recipe was so good that next time I'm going to double it. As it is, I had seconds last night and only have enough for a lunch today (which I can not wait for!)

The list of ingredients looks long but you can take some short cuts, buy bottled, minced garlic and ginger or those frozen cubes. Pick up either pre-cut broccoli or use frozen. I used frozen last night and it tasted great. Pre-mix the soya mix the night before. The longer the brown sugar has to melt into the sauce, the better. And last but certainly not least, when you make pasta make extra and freeze the leftovers for an occasion just like this!

Beef Broccoli Lo Mein

Serves 3- 4


  • 2 cups cooked spaghetti
  • 1/2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
  • 3 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp garlic chili pepper sauce (more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped or minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or minced (I used roasted garlic for a sweeter, milder flavor)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 lb or 225g of beef , thinly sliced

  1. Heat oil in a wok or saute pan over medium high heat
  2. Mix the soya sauce, brown sugar, oyster sauce and garlic chili pepper sauce
  3. Saute the ginger and garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds
  4. Add the onions and saute until soft
  5. Add in the broccoli and cook until vibrant green
  6. Toss in the beef and saute until cooked through
  7. Toss in the spaghetti and soya sauce mix until heated through


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Reusable Grocery Bags

Here's a important tip for those of us being environmentally conscience and using the reusable bags. These bags get dirty. And I don't mean on the outside. I mean on the inside! They have tested some of these bags and found traces of nasty bacteria like salmonella. Yikes! Most people will wash out their bags if they spill something in them but even if you are keeping your bags clean, you should make sure you do a proper washing of them regularly.

I don't mean you need to wash them every week. That would defeat the purpose of an 'environmentally friendly bag' if you used a lot of water (a non-renewable resource) and energy to clean them all the time. But I do recommend washing the cloth ones in the machine and thoroughly soaking the plastic ones in a sink of hot soapy water ever couple of months. Be sure to wash out any spills immediately. When buying meats or fish, wrap them in plastic before putting them in the bag. That plastic can then be put in your recycling bag when you get home and you'll still be a good little environmental doobie.

My cloth bags said to wash them by hand and hang to dry but really that's not going to kill the bacteria. I did a full load in a hot wash with a cold rinse and then dried them in the dryer. The logo on the front of some of them started to peel but a proper wash is necessary. If you don't use a good bit of hot water you won't kill the bacteria. The heat from the dryer also gives the bacteria a run for it's money. Hanging the cloth bags to dry only provides an environment for any bacteria or mould to flourish.

After soaking the plastic bags in hot soapy water, I turn them inside out and dry them with a towel then place them in the sun. Do it right when you do it and you shouldn't have to wash them too often. I'll keep you posted if I hear of any more findings.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Quick and Easy Thai Coconut Curry Sauce with Shrimp and Pasta

I could not believe how easy this recipe was. And the taste was unbelievable!! I used some shrimp and salmon but you could use just one or the other. If you want to make it super easy, just toss in some frozen Asian veggie mix. You can use any medium pasta or rice.

Thai Coconut Curry Sauce
Serves 4

  • 12 ounces dried medium pasta
  • 1 can of light coconut milk (you need a minimum of 1 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • Vegetable oil to coat pan
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 3 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • 1 pound of shrimp, salmon or a combo of the two
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup of snow peas, sliced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  1. Put the water on to boil the pasta as per the package instructions
  2. Combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and set aside
  3. Prep the veggies, peel the shrimp if necessary
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or saute pan over medium high heat
  5. Saute the ginger and curry paste until fragrent, about 30 seconds
  6. Add in the coconut mixture and bring to a boil
  7. Toss the remaining ingredients and simmer until the shrimp are cooked, 3 - 5 minutes
  8. Serve over the drained pasta.
Simple but so tasty! To make it more authenitcally Thai (which is spicy, spicy, spicy!!) add in some dried or fresh red chilies, finely diced with the ginger and curry paste in step 5.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sales Flyers and a Cheap Pasta Dinner

Yesterday I hit the sales at the grocery stores. I saved over $85! Checking out the sales flyers and stocking up on what's on sale is an important step in managing your food budget. Now you don't have to stock up like the Great Depression is about to hit. It's not necessarily budget savvy to buy more items than you can use within the next 6 months. And watch expiry dates, it's not good to buy 5 blocks of cheddar at half price if you will only go through 2 of them before their best before date. Even frozen goods are really only good for about 6 months max in your freezer and this includes meats.

Once you hit the sales, let those sales items dictate your menu. Pasta was crazy cheap this week. And now that the anti-carb insanity is over (no, really, it is soooo over) pasta is a great meal. Especially if you are trying to lose a few pounds. You can easily portion control your meals, it freezes well for leftovers, it's filling, cheap and hearty for the dead of winter. 1 cup is a serving size. At $1 - $1.50 for almost 2 pounds (900grams) of dried pasta, that's a lot of meals for your buck!

Here's a quick, cheap, easy, healthy pasta recipe.

Pasta and Tomatoes
Serves 4 (double and freeze!)

  • 3/4 lb - 345g dried pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 32 ounce/798ml can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions
  3. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan with olive oil over medium high heat
  4. Saute the onions until soft, add in the garlic and heat for about 1 minute
  5. Add the tomatoes and oregano and simmer while the pasta cooks, 5 minutes or so
  6. Drain the pasta and put back in the pot.
  7. Add the tomato mixture to the pot and toss
  8. Serve with the cheese sprinkled on top.
You can add more veggies, throw in some meat, play with the seasoning.... have fun. The point is though, you can do a simple meal, you don't have to be a gourmet goddess to put a nice healthy meal on the table. Cheap meal, did I mention 'cheap?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Leftover Mashed Potatoes

I warned you that this one was coming!

Salmon Cakes
Serves 3-4

  • 1 can salmon, skinless and boneless
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed potatoes
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil
  3. Mix all the ingredients together
  4. Bake 20 -25 minutes until browned
The mixture may be pretty loose depending on how creamy your mashed potatoes are. Don't worry, the cakes will still set up nicely.
You can saute these up in a pan but it's nice to just toss them in the oven and forget about them until they are done. I never like to stray too far from a saute pan on the stove top so baking is easier when you've got other things on the go! Steam some veggies and dinner is done. Any leftover salmon cakes?! Serve with an over easy egg for breakfast. Very Maritimes!
Potato and Leek Soup
Serves... well that depends on how big your pot is!
Ingredients (yes, the list is this short!):
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Chives or parsley (optional)
  1. Now how do you figure out the proportions? Take your big pot, fill it 1/4 with potatoes, 1/4 with chopped leek, fill almost to the top with water and throw in a bit of salt.
  2. Simmer until the potatoes and leeks are tender, about 30 minutes over medium/low heat
  3. Puree the soup with a stick blender, stand blender, food processor or your average, everyday potato masher.
  4. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and your herbs, taste, add a bit more if necessary. If you are using a big pot you could add up to 1/2 cup of butter. Don't panic, you want to taste a hint of butter and if your pot is really large and you get about 10 servings, it's not that much per serving!
  5. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. This recipe is really about your taste.
This is a great starter to warm you up while you are waiting for supper to come together and it's filling so you'll eat less in your main course. I like it for lunch. I made a big pot and it freezes beautifully so I have some ready to go for the rest of the winter!

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Here's another one to add to the "quick, cheap and healthy" list! Veggie Enchiladas. I shook the cupboards and this is a result of what fell out. I'm eating some of the leftovers for lunch as we speak. Yum! It's a nice change from all those holiday meals. This makes a big dish so you`ll have lots of leftovers!

Veggie Enchiladas
Serves 8 - 10

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Large jar of salsa, your choice of mild, medium or hot
  • 798ml can of black beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 cup (or more!) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 9 whole wheat tortillas (I had these in my freezer)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Put the chopped onion in a bowl, cover with water and microwave on high for 2 minutes
  3. In a 9 X 13 inch lasagna style pan, spread a layer of the salsa
  4. Top with a single layer of tortillas, breaking up pieces to ensure you have the layer fully covered
  5. Spoon on half of the beans, corn, onions, red pepper, salsa and 1/3 of the cheese
  6. Top with another layer of tortillas
  7. Spoon on the rest of the beans, corn, onions, red pepper and salsa and 1/3 of the cheese
  8. Top with the final layer of tortillas
  9. Bake for 20 minutes then sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 10 minutes longer
  10. Let stand for 5 minutes

Monday, January 04, 2010

Back to Reality....

You know the holidays are officially over when you put away the decadent holiday cookbooks and pull out the "healthy meals in minutes" cookbooks in your collection. Well that's what happened to me this morning. No more cookies for breakfast. No more shots of alcohol added to mid afternoon drinks. No more blatant disregard for fats or lack of veggies. I bought a lot of butter in my holiday prep shopping but, happily I still have most of it. Butter keeps for quite a while in the fridge and freezes beautifully so I'm well stocked until about mid- summer.

Leftover Mashed Potatoes:

I wanted to mention another idea for leftover mashed or boiled potatoes. SOUP! Now hang on, I know I talked about using leftover veggies in soup but this is an another take on the idea. Mashed potatoes can be used in any puree type soup or as a healthy thickener in a chowder. Having light soups on hand this time of year is a great way to get back on track after all that holiday binge eating. I'm going to take some leftover mashed potatoes and make it into a potato leek soup. Toss some into pureed broccoli soup for a creamy finish. Got boiled potatoes... just mash them up!

Another great use for mashed potatoes is cakes. Fish cakes, veggie cakes, crab cakes, cakes for everyone! Can of salmon mixed with some finely diced green onion, mashed potatoes, little of your favorite seasoning and voila! You have fine salmon cakes. Add a salad or veggies on the side and dinner is done! Gotta love leftover mashed tatties.

Super Quick Dinner!

Cheap, easy and tasty at the end of the day? Here's one I bet you've forgotten about. All you need is fresh or frozen spinach, eggs, cheese and a little finely diced red onion and garlic powder if you're feeling frisky. Saute your onion and spinach until soft, pour on your beaten egg and sprinkle with garlic and cheese. Diner's ready! Add a slice of multigrain bread and a some fruit and you have a beautiful balanced meal. Oh, and if you bought a bag of fresh spinach... the remaining spinach is great on the side with those salmon cakes I mentioned above...

Time Tip:

Whenever I grate cheese I grate more than I need and then I have it on hand for omelets, sandwiches, to top soups or throw into dishes. I eat a lot of cheese so instead of grating it a few times a week, I grate once and eat often. Sounds simple but so often we forget to make the effort. It's the little things that make our lives run smoothly!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Winter Brunch - Stromboli!

This year for Christmas morning I had prepared a stromboli the night before. This is a great brunch idea for after winter skates, fuel before a game of shinny or snuggled around the fireplace.

All you need is either some frozen pizza dough and the fillings of your choice. Here's what I used.

Breakfast Stromboli
Serves 6 -8

  • 1 frozen pizza dough
  • 1 cup diced ham
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tbsp honey mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder

  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Saute the onions until soft
  3. Add the eggs and scramble
  4. Roll out the dough to form a rectangle about 1/4 inch thick
  5. Smear the dough with honey mustard
  6. Sprinkle the ham, spinach, egg and onion mix and top with cheese along the centre of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the dry mustard on top of the filling.
  8. Wrap dough up to form a log.
  9. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

You can have this all ready the night before. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Let sit at room temperature for 20 -30 minutes before putting in the oven.



One thing I love in the winter is Fireball. For those of you unfamiliar with this tasty elixir, it's like winter warmth in a glass. Cinnamon whiskey!

Here is a great cocktail to try on these long winter nights. Take a highball glass, fill it with ice, toss in a shot of Fireball and top up with cranberry cocktail. Wowzers!

Another one of my favorites is hot chocolate with Irish Cream. Not all that original but definitely worth a mention. Whipped cream anyone?!

Right now it's snowing here, calm peaceful snow. There is something about snow that is so cozy... Happy New Year!