Saturday, November 03, 2012

Harvest Autumn Chili

I've been holding on to this recipe from the September 2007 edition of Chatelaine.  It was the inspiration for this dish.  Seriously worth the wait.  Totally hit the spot on this chilly fall Saturday that was spent watching college football all day long (yup, I'm grinning from ear to ear - perfect day!!).

Harvest Autumn Chili
Serves 4 - 6

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb pork sirloin, cut into 1 inch chunks (2cm)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp chipotle chili powder (add more if you like it spicy!)
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder (more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup diced can tomatoes
  • 3 apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp chicken broth powder and 1 cup water or 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch/ 2cm chunks
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced (I use jarred roasted red peppers but you can use fresh)
  • 1 19 oz/540ml can of red kidney beans
  • 3 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat with the vegetable oil drizzled in the pot.
  2. Brown the pork and toss in the onions, cooking until soft.
  3. Add the garlic, chipotle, chili, cumin and cinnamon, heat for 30 seconds.
  4. Add in the tomatoes, apples and chicken broth.  Stir and reduce heat to medium low.
  5. Simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
  6. Add in the sweet potatoes, red pepper and kidney beans. Increase heat to medium
  7. Stir, bring back to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cilantro and serve.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coq au Vin

Holy moly I whipped up some lovely Coq au Vin this weekend.  Quite a while ago I made this dish in my crock pot and I was totally disappointed.  And I had to take the dish to a potluck.  I wasn't very 'gourmet goddessy' that day!  This version redeems me.  I had to refrain from licking the dish.  (I was having leftovers at work)

Be sure to use a red wine that you would drink.  Something light and fruity goes well here.

Coq au Vin
Serves 4 - 6

  • 2 Tbsp each, butter and olive Oil
  • 2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 5 chicken thighs and 2 breasts, bone in and skin on is best.  I remove any fat clumps I find just to lighten it up a bit.
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 - 3 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh sage or 1/2 tsp dried
  • 1/4 tbsp fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp dried
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  1. Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat in an ovenproof shallow saucepan with a lid or dutch oven.
  2. Add the bacon and saute until crispy. Remove from pan and set aside
  3. Place the chicken in the pan and cook until brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add the onions to the pan and cook until softened and lightly brown.
  5. Toss in the mushrooms and garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in the thyme, sage and rosemary and cook for 30 seconds
  7. Add the flour and whisk until fully mixed in
  8. Slowly pour in the wine, whisking to blend it with the flour mixture
  9. Stir in the chicken broth and tomato paste.
  10. Place the chicken and bacon back in the pan
  11. Cover the pan and place in oven.
  12. Bake (actually you are braising at this point) for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the chicken starts falling apart. Serve with potatoes and something green like brussel sprouts or steamed broccoli. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

I whipped this up the other night.  I LOVE leftover soup for lunch and it needs to be interesting, tantalizing, and full of flavour because I work around some of the best restaurants here in Halifax.  The temptation to go out for lunch is full on most days. But this soup could go up against the best out there. 

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup still in the pot!
Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
Serves 4 -6

  • 1 tbsp veg oil
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 cups seafood or veggie broth (you can make your own seafood broth by taking the shrimp shells and boiling them for 15-20 minutes, drain and there you go - seafood broth!)
  • 14oz can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp garlic chili sauce
  • 1/2 roasted red pepper chopped
  • 2 cups edamame (without the shells)
  • 3 cups chopped green onions
  • 3/4 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

  1. In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium high heat
  2. Saute the celery and onions until soft, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the garlic, ginger and coriander and saute for 30 seconds until fragrant
  4. Pour in the seafood broth and the next 6 ingredients through to the garlic chili sauce. 
  5. Heat until simmering. 
  6. Toss in the red pepper, edamame, green onions, and shrimp.
  7. Simmer until the shrimp are opaque.
  8. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nicoise Inspired Lunch

Welcome to back to school season.  I know it can be tough, getting back into the routine but we all have to do it.  For me, September is about renewal.  It's the start of the year for me, time to establish new habits.  While I haven't been writing much about food I sure have been thinking about it, the eating more so than the cooking.  I totally get why people don't feel like cooking at the end of the day.  So here's a big hint - when you do cook make lots for leftovers, freeze what you can or take the rest as lunches.  Let me tell you about a salad I take for lunch pretty regularly these days.

This creation is inspired by the French Nicoise salad and is a great way to use the leftover veggies we see at the market this time of year. 

Nicoise Salad:
Any of the following or whatever else interests you at your local market these days
  • a couple of boiled, bbq'ed or roasted potatoes
  • handful of green beans, cooked or raw depending on how you like them
  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • peppers
  • olives
  • hard boiled egg, peeled and cut in quarters
  • tuna, leftover chicken or shrimp
  • beets, pickled or roasted cut in quarters.

  • Balsamic, Italian or Sweet Onion vinaigrette
  1. Place each item in it's own section on your plate or lunch container.  Yes, they can touch but you don't toss them together (but you could really, I won't be by to check...)
  2. Place the dressing in a separate container and drizzle it over everything just before you eat.

That's it.  It's that simple.  Great way to use leftovers! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken and Peaches

This may be the simplest main dish ever made.  Seriously - 6 ingredients and you have the most lovely dish.  I love to cook with peaches when they are in season and currently they are in season!  YUMMMM

Chicken and Peaches Served with Roasted Potatoes
Serves 2

  • 2 chicken breast halves with the bone (more flavour and less chance of drying out on the BBQ!)
  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp bbq sauce + extra to baste the chicken, I use one for chicken and ribs but you could use your favorite.

  1. Preheat BBQ to high
  2. Preheat a sauce pan to medium high and spray with cooking spray
  3. BBQ the chicken on the BBQ for 30 -35 minutes, depending on how thick the breasts are.  (you can also roast some nice potato wedges at the same time!)
  4. In the sauce pan toss the onions and cook until browned
  5. Reduce the heat on the pan to medium and add the peaches
  6. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes
  7. Add the soya sauce and bbq sasuce and simmer on low for another 10 minutes
  8. Add water by the tablespoon if the sauce is too thick for your liking
  9. Baste the chicken with the extra bbq sauce during the last 5 minutes of cooking time
  10. Serve the peach mixture over the chicken.  And the potatoes if you roasted some.
With the soy sauce and bbq sauce there is plenty of salt in this dish so don't add any unless you really need it at the table.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's summer time and the livin is easy.

Truer words were never spoken.  Lately I've been grilling some meat or fish and serving it along side some farm fresh steamed veggies usually tossed with butter or maybe a salad from the lettuce and tomatoes out of my garden.  There really is only one appropriate summer cooking method - KISS - Keep it Simple Silly! 

I finally found some soba noodles at the grocery store recently so I thought I'd make some of those wonderful snow peas into a Japanese inspired stir-fry.  And the leftovers for lunch would be awesome.  I toasted up some sesame seeds in a dry wok first and removed them from the pan.  I made a sauce out of hoisin, soy, chili sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger and water. I was psyched. 

I set a pot of water on to boil the noodles.  I figured I'd cook the whole package since it indicated it was for 4 people and I wanted leftovers for lunches.  Once the water was at a rolling boil I snipped the top off the package and dumped the noodles in the pot.

Anyone see what's coming?

Yeah soba noodles come tied up in bundles with a thin paper wrap around each one. These paper wraps were now keeping my noodles together in an nice organized fashion as they twirled around in the pot.  I said a few swear words, grabbed my tongs and started grabbing bundles of noodles out of the pot.  Not only were the noodles starting to soften but they were also friggin hot.  I managed to get the paper wraps off but not before the noodles started to stick together forming noodles gluepy noodle masses.  Back into the water they went and I called for back up. 

Mom tried to seperate the gluepy masses while the noodles finished cooking in the pot.  Never to throw food away, I finally said "enough" and I pulled the looser ones out of the pot and tossed them in the stir-fry. 

I currently have a container full of glumpy noodles sitting in my fridge.  I intend to freeze them and use them later in a soup.  I figure they'll work well there. Waste not, want not!  And now I'll go back to simple grilled meats and fish with sides of farm fresh steamed veggies for what's left of our summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The realities of a working girl

I just violated one of my golden rules.  I heated up my lunch in a plastic container.  Do you know how many chemicals are released when you heat plastic?! And who in the hell eats soup in July?!  Well I like to keep the office on the cool side so.... Yesterday I went over to Pete's Frootique for a nice bowl of soup cause I was cold at lunchtime.  I had already eaten my leftover slice of pizza and little salad so when they gave me a roll with my soup I thought "now what am I going to do with this?".  So last night I grabbed a soup out of the freezer (Lentil soup from October 2011 - hope I blogged the recipe cause it's quite tasty and I'd love to make it again.) to go with my roll for today's lunch.  I couldn't throw out a perfectly good roll...  although now that I took the roll out of the plastic bag it was in I'm realizing it's got little mold spots on it.  yup, it's stall.  Seriously?  For what Pete's charges for a bowl of soup the rolls should be fresh daily!  I'd take it back but that would entail going outside and it's way to nice to tempt myself by going outside.  No way would I come back to the office.

That's right I'm working full time  - again.  Gone are my mornings on the couch flipping through cookbooks planning the evening meal.  I've got a piece of salmon taken out for dinner.  I've also got some Swiss Chard I picked out of my garden on the weekend to go with it.  Actually that sounds pretty good.  I was going to go on about how my eating habits have changed from gourmet'esgue to quick and more that occasionally, processed.  I'm reheating in plastic and eating prepared foods. Reality bites.  Except for tonight.  Tonight sounds pretty good and I know I have white wine in the fridge ready to go with it.

Now I primarily cook on the weekend, planning meals I can add to my freezer collection and/or things that can translate into sandwiches or salads for the week.  Eggs for dinner rock it (super quick, super easy) and whenever there is a sale on my favorite frozen pizzas I stock up (dinner and lunch the next day).  Last evening I was checking out the lettuce in my garden and all I could think was "oh man picking that and getting it ready to eat would be too damn much work".  See I do know what it's like to be a busy/lazy working person.  I know at the end of the day you don't want to cook (or pick and clean lettuce).  This is why I harp about being organized.  At least I was able to pull out a nice homemade soup from my freezer last night.  Even if I now have to go around and try and scrounge up a roll or some crackers would do.... Glad I had a boiled egg for morning snack (don't judge me, it's a long time between breakfast and lunch).  At least Pete's give you a big napkin with your purchase.  It's lasted me 2 days so all is not lost.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Russia - Shashlyk

Sounds fancy doesn't it.  Well Shashlyk is simply kebabs, marinated for at least 6 hours but overnight it better.  The research I've done has shown the marinade to be pretty simple.  The most important part is to grate the onion instead of chopping it.  Seems this is standard procedure for most eastern European cooking and really releases the onion flavour (I think this will become my new standard for marinades and sauces!) 

The rest of the Euro 2012 menu is here.

Russia - Shashlyk
Serves 4

  • 1 lb beef or pork
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. Cube the beef into 1 inch/2 cm cubes
  2. Dice 1 onion into 1 inch/2 cm cubes
  3. Grate the remaining onion and garlic, place in a shallow dish
  4. Add remaining ingredients to the dish and mix well
  5. Toss in the meat and onion cubes
  6. Marinate overnight covered in the fridge.
  7. Heat the bbq, grill or grill pan to high heat.
  8. Place the meat and onion cubes on skewers, alternating meat and onion
  9. Grill the skewers on all sides until seared and browned.
  10. Serve with steamed root vegetables like turnip and carrots and some pickled veggies like pickled beets.

I enjoyed mine with steamed turnip, pickled beets and some bottle bbq sauce on the side. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Denmark - Smorrebrod (Open Faced Sandwiches)

Smorrebrod literally means 'butter bread'.  These recipes are wonderful for snacking on during the game or for a light meal.  I don't normally do this but this post covers the topic so well that I'm simply going to link to it. 

NPR Kitchen Window:  The Art of the Danish Open Faced Sandwich

You can pick and choose which sandwiches you would like to make.  I'm making the smoked salmon fish cakes but I'm going to use smoked trout instead of salmon and I think I'll also make the blue cheese, bacon and apple sandwich. 


The rest of the Euro 2012 menu can be found here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Greece - Greek Burgers and Salad

Tonight's meal is super simple since I had done up Greek burgers and froze them a couple of weeks ago. 
The rest of the Euro 2012 menu is here.

Greek Burgers
Serves 4

  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried mint (I dry my own so the leaves stay whole and maintain a nice flavour.  You may want to try fresh mint, use 2tbsp - 1/4 cup)
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • more feta, lettuce, tomato, yogurt, tzatziki, hummus to top
  • buns or pita

  1. Mix beef through to crumbled feta together, divide into 4 equal portions and make into patties
  2. Grill or pan fry until cooked through, about 15 - 20 minutes
  3. Serve with more feta, lettuce, tomato, yogurt, tzatziki and/or hummus
  4. I like mine in a pita!
Greek Salad
Serves 4

  • 1 red and green pepper
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 green onions (scallions)
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • black olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta

  1. Dice the peppers, onions and cucumber into 1/2 inch pieces.  Add in the olives if using
  2. Mix the oil through to lemon and pour over the veggies (or use a nice bottled Greek dressing if you like)
  3. Stir in the feta.
  4. This salad is nicer the longer it sits.  I like to make mine a couple of hours ahead of time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

England - Chicken Tikka Masala

Many people will say that this popular Indian dish has become the unofficial dish of England.  I'll play along.  I love Indian food, any shape, any size but when it gets a little westernization then it's just fun on the tongue.  I have some serious Indian cookbooks and love to cook authentically.  Most East Indian people I know are Vegetarians so I always get a little chuckle at the meat recipes.  This is an excellent recipe for the western palate.  It's comfort in a dish, perfect for those who haven't been very adventurous when it comes to trying new things.  For all the fish and chips in the UK, it's amazing how many people love 'a curry'.  This particular recipe is deadly simple. 

Add more chili powder if you like it spicier!

Simple Chicken Tikka Marsala
Serves 4

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" /1 cm cubes
  • 1" fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ cup/small handful fresh cilantro, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
  • Juice and zest 1/2 lime
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup light cream or plain yogurt
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1/4 lemon

  • Instructions:
    1. Mix the chicken with the ginger, garlic, cilantro, lime and 1 tbsp of the oil. Let sit for 1/2 - 2 hours (I like a long marinate time)
    2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a saute pan or wok and saute the chicken until cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside
    3. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in the same pan and cook the chili powder and onion until the onion is tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the turmeric and cumin and cook another minute.
    4. Add in the cream/yogurt and simmer 5 minutes.  Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper and lemon.  Simmer another minute.  Add the chicken back and cook another minute
    5. Serve with basmati rice and sprinkle with cilantro. 
    The rest of the Euro 2012 menu is here.

    Spain - Tortilla (Spanish Omelet)

    Getting ready for Italy V Spain.  Should be a big game.  Crap where is Torres?  He has got to make a turnaround in his career.  I know he's capable...  Just saw Italian fans dressed like Venetian boats' men.  Holy crap that's funny.  Gotta love football fans! Sergio Ramos got a haircut.... looking seriously yummy!! I think it makes him look taller...

    Tonight's meal is in honour of Spain.  Usually a traditional Spanish Tortilla is made with just potatoes but there are versions with the veggies as I've done below.  I like to sneak in veggies wherever I can.  This is usually served as a tapas, cut into cubes or slices and served with toothpicks.  Great for snacking on during the game....

    The rest of the Euro 2012 menu is here.

    Spanish Tortilla
    Serves 4 as a meal or 8 as a snack or appetizer

    • Olive oil
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    • 1 green and red pepper, chopped
    • 11/2  cup cooked and diced potato (mine are new so I didn't peel them but it's up to you)
    • 5 eggs
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 6 ounces/175 g shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese (if you can find a Spanish cheese use it!)
    • 3 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
    • salt and pepper to taste
    1. Heat oven to 375F, prepare a 8" X 11" pan or a round quiche dish by spraying it with some cooking spray and set aside (you can also do 4 individual dishes if you making a main course)
    2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. 
    3. Saute the garlic, onions and peppers until tender, about 10 minutes. Let cool
    4. Add the potatoes to the cooled pepper mix
    5. Beat the eggs, sour cream, cheese and chives together.  Add in the potato mix and salt and pepper as needed
    6. Pour the whole mixture in the prepared pan.
    7. Bake 30 - 40 minutes. 
    8. Remove from pan and serve sliced in cubes if serving as a snack, slices if serving as an appetizer or 4 sections if serving as a main.

    Saturday, June 09, 2012

    Germany - Wiener Schnitzel and Potato Salad

    Welcome to day 2 of the Euro 2012.  If today's games are half as good as yesterday's games (and they should be with the group of death playing!) then we're in for some excellent football!  Wowzers.  It is sad that when they introduced the refs for the Russia-Czech Republic game I said "hey, I know him!" ?!  I think I'm officially an international football fan when I recognize the refs... 

    Okay on to today's meal.  If it is hot and steamy where you are you could just through some nice German sausages on the BBQ and serve the potato salad cold.  As it is here the temp is 12C (56F) on my deck and it's raining to beat the band.  You know it's raining hard when 2 hardy Bouviers (dogs, see pic on right) won't go outside.  So I'm not BBQing!  I love Wiener Schnitzel and this recipe is really simple.  Traditional recipes call for veal but veal can be hard to find around here so I often use pork sirloin which works perfectly in this dish.  It's actually part of my regular menu rotation, just steam some veggies on the side for a super quick weeknight meal.

    Here's the rest of the Euro 2012 Group Stage Menu

    Wiener Schnitzel
    Serves 4

    • 1lb pork sirloin cut into 4 equal portions
    • 2 eggs
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1 cup bread crumbs
    • 2 tsp butter
    • 2 tsp sunflower oil (or any neutral tasting oil)
    • 1lemon, cut into 4 wedges

    1. Place pork between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or place in zip lock bag.  Pound pork out until it's 1/4 inch thick
    2. Beat eggs in a shallow dish
    3. Place flour in another shallow dish
    4. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish
    5. Dip pork in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs, set aside
    6. Place butter and oil in a skillet and heat over medium high heat.
    7. Saute the pork portions until golden on each side.  They shouldn't take long, 4 minutes or so on each side.
    8. Serve each piece with a wedge of lemon. 
    Potato Salad
    Serves 4

    • 3 cups diced potatoes (new potatoes work wonderful here) peeled or unpeeled, your choice
    • 4 slices bacon
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
    • 2 tbsp water
    • 3 tbsp sugar
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • Grainy Dijon mustard

    1. Place potatoes in a pot of water and bring to boil.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
    2. Meanwhile heat a skillet over medium high heat and add bacon.  Cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove the bacon and let drain on some paper towel. Crumble when cool enough to handle.
    3. Cook the onion in the bacon grease until tender.
    4. Add the vinegar, water and sugar.  Simmer until the sugar is dissolved
    5. Toss in the potatoes and bacon and heat through. 
    6. Serve with the Grainy Dijon mustard on the side.
    Add some additional veggies, preferably something green to make this a complete meal!'  Ill be adding a side of brussel sprouts.  Yum!

    Thursday, June 07, 2012

    Euro 2012 Menu

    As most of you know, I love to make international sport events into culinary events.  It's nice to give your menu meaning and it makes menu planning a little more interesting.  Food and sports.... yeah, pretty much my happy place.  Join me.

    I love international Football (or soccer to us North Americans) and Euro 2012 should be a be a blast.  I was just starting to go into sports withdrawal as the NHL playoffs wind down and we're a ways away from the start of NFL, EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A,.... well you get the idea...  There is that Olympics thingy happening later this summer.  Thanks Goddess!

    Okay here's the menu for the 12 day group round.  I'll link the recipes as I make them so you can check back to this page and get to whatever info you want.  Since there are 2 games a day I added 'simple' to the theme of this menu!  The meal matches one of the teams playing that day.  I know, I'm a little kitchy...

    Euro 2012 Group Round Menu
    1. Poland (since it's one of the hosts, might as well start with Polish cuisine!) - Kielbasa, Perogies and Greens.  No recipes, just saute diced kielbasa with perogies and toss in some greens.  Done
    2. Germany - Wiener Schnitzel and Potato Salad
    3. Spain - Spanish Omelet/Tortilla
    4. England - Chicken Tikka Masala
    5. Greece - Greek Burgers and Salad
    6. Denmark - Smorrebrod (open faced sandwich)
    7. Italy - Pizza (frozen or take out - everyone needs a day off...)
    8. Sweden - Toast Skagan (Shrimp on toast and one of my faves!!) I've claimed this dish to be Danish for the FIFA 2010 World Cup but it's on most menu's in Sweden...
    9. Russia - Shashlyk (kebabs) and Turnip
    10. Croatia - Brodet (Braised Fish on Polenta)
    11. Ireland - Corned Beef Sandwiches and Coleslaw (Summer version of Corned Beef and Cabbage!)
    12. France - Crepes with whatever veggie is freshest at the market and some nice cheese
    There is also this Croatian dish of Swiss Chard called Blitva that I might try one of these nights.  I'll keep you posted...

    As per usual - when Canada is not involved I cheer for Sweden.  Sverge, Sverge, Sverge!

    Bravo to Disney!

    Have you heard the news?!  Disney is taking a stand against junk food by eliminating all advertising on it's various media outlets and in it's theme parks by 2015 (delayed due to current ad contracts already in place).  This is HUGE. They are also looking at improving the health value of the food offerings within their theme parks.  Disney is a highly successful brand and they're setting a new standard. Here's to hoping many follow. 

    Now the question is, will they follow a fresh, natural approach or will they go with a highly sponsored, well advertised 'healthy' processed food approach?  This is the bee in my bonnet that continues to permeate our culture.  Packaged foods with 'blue' labels claiming to be healthy, being low in fat while high in salt or claiming to be low in sodium but high in fat.  Never mind the processed ingredients in these products.  It's been interesting to watch the development of the packaged "healthy" foods market.  And it will be interesting to see what direction Disney heads.  Remember - shortest distance between Mother Nature's hands to your mouth is always best!

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Food Revolution Day!

    Jamie Oliver has become a strong voice in the fight for real, healthy food on every table in every home and school.  He's challenged governments to rethink what they serve their kids in schools.  He's challenged people to think about what they eat in their own homes.  Today he has declared it Food Revolution Day.  Today is a day to think about what we eat, where is comes from and what food choices we are making daily.  It's time to celebrate local food.  Time to celebrate the simple act of cooking (and it can be very, very simple!).  Time to celebrate one of the single most important things we do every single day - EAT!  It's the fuel that keeps our minds and bodies going.  And if we continue to gunk up the works with crap then well..... we won't be functioning to our optimal level.  Never mind the long term implications... 

    So today instead of grabbing that frozen snack or meal, or something from the fast food joint around the corner, make an omelet, toss a salad, boil a little whole wheat pasta and mix in some of your favorite in season veggies.  If it's not too late head over to your local farmers market.  I spent $21 CAN this morning at my local farmers market.  $6.25 of that went to some plants, lettuce, swiss chard and eggplant to go in my garden for veggies later on.  The remaining $14.75 was spent on some lovely leaf lettuce, spinach, eggs, turnip (which make great turnip fries on the BBQ), a garlic onion loaf that I use for croutons in salads and some whole wheat hamburger buns for our holiday Monday pork burgers.

    At the very least, take a little time today and think about where your food is coming from.  Do you know?  And what about your favorite restaurant?  Do they support local farmers which is not just good for your local economy but also for the environment as the less shipping produce and food product has to travel the less fuel is used, less pollution, etc.?  Does your favorite chef use as little processed food as possible?  Is he or her making things from scratch?  Investigate a new ingredient that you haven't eaten or don't eat often and don't really know how to cook.  We are always hearing about new things that are good for us... know what quinoa is?  or how to cook it?  (hint it's easy, cheap because a little goes a long way, and super healthy!)

    Most of all today celebrate good, real food.  Really want to celebrate?  Try a local beer or wine to go with it.  After all it is a holiday around these parts and the kick off of summer so - Cheers!

    Saturday, May 05, 2012

    Eggplant Parmesan on Spinach Polenta with Homemade Tomato Sauce

    Once again there are no pictures as the meal was so good it was devoured before I could get any...  There are a few steps to this recipe but it's worth the effort, fancy enough for company and deadly cheap!  I've made homemade tomato sauce before, check here but I'll share what I did today.  I wanted something light.  Mostly I was trying to use up the fresh basil I bought last week before it wilted.  Geez I love fresh basil!

    Eggplant Parmesan on Spinach Polenta with Homemade Tomato Sauce.
    Serves 6

    Tomato Sauce
    • 1 tbsp/15 ml olive oil
    • 1 red onion, diced
    • 2 dried red chilies, crushed
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 28 ounce/ 796 ml can of diced, no salt added tomatoes (check the italian brands, they usually don't have any salt added)
    • 3 tbsp/45 ml tomato paste
    • 1 tbsp/15 ml sugar
    • splash of red wine vinegar
    • 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    • pinch of salt as needed
    Eggplant Parmesan
    • 1 large eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
    • 2 tbsp salt
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 egg
    • 2 cups bread crumbs
    • 3/4 cup grated parmesan
    • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 3 1/2 cups water
    • 1 cup cornmeal
    • 3 cups chopped spinach
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • pinch of salt if needed
    Tomato Sauce
    1. Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat.
    2. Saute the red chilies and onion until tender
    3. Add in the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and red wine vinegar
    4. Simmer for 20 minutes
    5. Toss in the fresh oregano and basil.  Salt as needed
    Eggplant Parmesan
    1. Slice the eggplant and sprinkle with lots of salt.  Let sit on paper towels for 20 minutes, wipe and turn.  Let sit another 20 minutes.  Pat dry.  This is an important step - do not skip it!
    2. Heat the oven to 350F and place a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and sprayed with cooking spray in the oven
    3. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat sprayed with cooking oil
    4. In one plate place the flour, in another plate beat the egg, in another plate toss the bread crumbs with the parmesan.  Dip each slice of eggplant in flour, then egg then bread crumbs.
    5. Brown each eggplant slice on each side in the frying pan and place in the oven on the baking sheet.
    6. Cook the eggplant for 10 minutes and then top with the mozza, bake until the mozza is melted
    1. Heat the water in a pot over high heat. 
    2. When it starts to simmer slowly add in the cornmeal while whisking quickly and continuously.
    3. Continue whisking until the polenta thickens.  About 5 minutes
    4. Whisk in the spinach and then the parmesan.  Toss in the butter and stir until blended.
    5. Taste and salt if needed.
    Scoop 1/2 cup of polenta on each plate
    Top with a slice or 2 of eggplant
    Spoon tomato sauce on top.  Sprinkle with a little more parmesan if you wish.

    Thursday, May 03, 2012

    Migraine, Allergies and Food Triggers

    I want to talk about migraines, allergies and processed foods.  There is a connection.  Now just to be clear - not for everyone, not everyone fits into nice cookie cutter definitions when it comes to the human body.  It`s a complex entity that often defies current theories.  However there have been some triggers identified that may be the cause of migraines in some people.  Processed foods and allergies are 2 of them.  Or as my doctor pointed out... could be a combination of the two...  I like my doctor, she doesn't stick to a black and white view of modern medicine.  Yesterday I went to see her to get some meds to fight the migraines.  I haven't had a migraine in at least 6 years.  And it's so frustrating to have them come back.
    I'm not just having migraines with their tell tale auras, light and sound sensitivity, I'm also having some amazing throbbing in my sinuses.  Ever feel like your eyeballs were on fire?!  Holy mackerel, it's brutal.  And then last night I had some nice hives develop on my eyelids.  Oh when it rains it pours, doesn't it?  The thing about hives around my eyes is that it takes 12-24 hours for the swelling to really go down and my eyes feel foggy until it does.  If it weren't for the fact that the dogs keep making me laugh and NJ beat Philly last night (NHL) I'd be one cranky camper.  But I digress.

    So what started all this crap?  I was fine.  I fight with my allergies year round and take 2 different pills and a nasal spray daily to keep them under control.  Anyone who reads this blog regularly has heard me rant and rave more than once about eating food that has followed the shortest distance between Mother Nature's hand and your mouth.  (In other words - with as little human intervention or 'processing' as possible)  These days we're hearing more and more about the evils of processed foods.  So there can't possible be any of that evil foodstuff in my house, right?!  Hey I can get sucked in just like everyone else as I make my rounds at the grocery store - lean, low fat, low cal - sounds great!

    First thing my doctor asked me when I went for my appointment was if I had identified any triggers.  She emphasized that identifying the triggers would be the most beneficial in fighting migraines but she also acknowledged that it might not be easy.  The fact I hadn't had any is so long was a pretty good indication that my triggers were something I recently bought and brought into the house.  I had already thought of this.  The only things I've had different in the house are beer (for the playoffs!) and processed meat, some turkey bacon (bacon is bad enough but what kind of processing do you think it takes to make turkey into 'bacon'?!?!) and some deli meat.  Even though the deli meat was nice and lean...  Still it's 'processed'.

    I've also been wondering about the chemicals on the apples I've been enjoying lately.  Just because it's fruit doesn't mean its innocent.  Apples are one of the worse fruits for chemical pesticide residue.  Lately I've been enjoying some really nice ones from the market.  But could those chemicals be causing my migraines?  It stands to reason that they could be.  I'll eliminate them too just to be sure. 

    Last night I had 2 beers and today I'm fine so I'm going to cross beer of the possible trigger list (amen!).  Tomorrow maybe I'll try an apple...  Then we'll try to turkey bacon or deli meat....  If you really like deli meat for lunches try roasting up some extra turkey breast, chicken breast, roast beef or even pork on the weekend and thinly slicing it for sandwiches during the week.  You can season it any way you can!  One of these days I'm going to get a smoker and make my own bacon and ham...  Ah a girl can dream...

    ps. my blood pressure was 114/74 or to quote my doctor "perfect"!  It's worth bragging about.

    UPDATE:  I've tried all the possible triggers I could think of but have yet to have another migraine.  While that is good news it is a little frustrating not to know what caused them.  I guess the doctor was correct when she suggested it could be a combination of a couple of things.  However in the future if I have another migraine I will make notes of the things I have eaten and done before hand and I will note the time of year, weather conditions, etc.  I've heard of thunderstorms and drastic weather fluctuations causing problems for some people.  Of course now that I have medication and am prepared it's unlikely I'll have another migraine.  It's just Murphy's Law!

    Tuesday, May 01, 2012

    A variation on Mu Shu Pork

    I just finished a lovely meal of Mu Shu Pork.  Geez I love a little Mu Shu.  There are no pics cause it's all gone!  In this version I used portabello mushrooms instead of shitake, Tatsoi instead of chinese cabbage and tossed a bit of chopped cilantro on the mixture at the end (cause I had some fresh on hand and I luv cilantro).  I could only get portabello mushrooms at the market this week and I picked up some Tatsoi cause I was feeling frisky.  I had no idea what it'd be like but it looked like a cross between bok choy and spinach.  It's actually quite tasty, mild.  My point here is, and I do have one... you can make some adjustments to this recipe depending on what is accessible to you.  And don't forget to serve with some Hoisin sauce on the side.  I could seriously swim in that stuff.... mmmmm.

    Here's my original Mu Shu recipe.  Enjoy!

    Saturday, April 28, 2012

    Spring Minestrone (actually Minestrone seems to be seasonless)

    It is freakin' cold around here.  It got all the way up to 4C today (that's about 40F for you non-metric types).  And the wind is bitter.  April in the Maritimes is my least favorite time of year.  After a chilly run to the market and Dave's Veggie and Fruit store I wanted to put on a heart warming soup.  At the market the greens are making their seasonal reappearance (can I get an 'amen'?!?)  I picked up spinach, swiss chard, tatsoi which I have no idea what it tastes like but thought I'd give 'er a go.... basil, dill, cilantro, radish greens and arugula.  Yeah, you can get these things in many grocery stores year round but these are from the local farmers and I love to support our local folks.  ps. everything tastes better too ; )  So what kind of soup was I going to put together?  It feels like Minestrone.  I know I blogged about one not that long ago (back in January) but this is my own recipe and incorporates some of my market finds from this morning (the greens and herbs) and some from last week (the carrots and the turnip)

    Spring Minestrone
    Serves 8 - 10

    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 large onion, diced small
    • 2 celery ribs, diced
    • 11 ounces diced chicken
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 large carrot, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
    • 1/4 (about 1 cup) diced turnip into 1/4 inch cubes
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 14 ounce can of tomatoes, diced, no salt added
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 tsp dried thyme
    • 1 tsp dried sage
    • 3/4 cup whole wheat elbow macaroni
    • 19 ounce can of white kidney beans, no salt added
    • 5 cups of swiss chard, chopped
    • 1 1/2 cup spinach, chopped
    • 1/2 cup basil chopped
    • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat
    2. Saute the onion and celery until soft
    3. Add in the chicken and brown
    4. Add the turnip and carrots and saute for 5 minutes
    5. Toss in the garlic and saute for 30 seconds
    6. Add in the wine and scrap the brown bits off the bottom of the pan
    7. Add in the tomatoes, water, thyme and sage.
    8. Simmer until the turnip and carrots are tender (about 10-15 minutes)
    9. Make sure the soup is boiling, add in the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes
    10. Add in the white kidney beans, swiss chard, spinach, basil and red wine vinegar, simmer until the greens are bright and tender (just a couple of minutes)
    11. Taste!  Add salt and pepper as necessary.
    12. Serve with a good sprinkle of parmesan

    This soup freezes okay but you may have to add more water/chicken broth after you defrost it as the pasta keeps absorbing liquid.  I have frozen it in the past and it tastes great.

    Monday, April 23, 2012

    Wonton Soup

    I wanted to so a version of my noodle soup but I had some wonton wrappers I had bought.... So I decided I'd attempt wontons.  Oh. My. Goddess.  So worth the effort.  And a lot easier than I thought...

    Wonton Soup
    Serves 8 -10

    • 30 wonton wrappers (typically this is the amount in a single pack)
    • 8 ounces/250-300g pork sirloin
    • 2 green onions
    • 2 tsp grated ginger
    • 2 tsp hoisin sauce
    • 2 tsp sesame oil
    Soup Base:
    • 6 cups chicken broth, low sodium
    • 6 cups water
    • 4 tbsp soy sauce
    • 4 tbsp hoisin sauce
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 2 tbsp lime juice
    • 2 tbsp grated ginger
    • 3 eggs, beaten
    Veggies for the Soup:
    • Your choice!  But I used the following
    • 3 carrots, thinly sliced
    • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
    • 1/4 green cabbage thinly sliced
    • 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced
    • 3 cups bean sprouts
    1. Either finely chop all the ingredients for the wontons or put them in the food processor and process until well blended
    2. Prepare a tray or baking sheet with a dusting of cornstarch and have a damp cloth or paper towel on hand.  Put some water in a small bowl
    3. Take a wonton wrapper out of the package and close the package so the wrappers don't dry out.
    4. Put 1 tsp of the pork mix in the centre of the wrapper
    5. Dip you finger in the water and wipe it along the edge of the wonton wrapper.
    6. Fold the wrapper in half and press close, making sure there is no air trapped inside
    7. Place on the tray and cover with the damp cloth.
    8. Repeat until they are all done!
    9. Refrigerate until ready to toss in the soup
    Soup and Veggies:
    1. Heat all the soup base ingredients together and bring to a boil
    2. Add in your veggies and simmer until the veggies are just tender
    3. Add in your wontons and simmer for 3 minutes.

    The finished product with bean sprouts, celery, carrots, cabbage, green onions and a couple of beaten eggs.

    Friday, April 20, 2012

    Thai Chicken Burgers and Peanut Sauce

    UPDATE:  This is what happens when I blog and watch Coronation Street at the same time...  A little adjustment, use the leftover sauce to baste the burgers and I added a tbsp of chopped basil to the sauce at the last minute.  I have frozen chopped basil done up in ice cube trays then popped into ziplock bags.  Then I have them ready to go all yearlong and they were perfect in this recipe.  The recipe is updated and corrected below.

    PS. these are just as awesome cold, all by themselves as the leftovers have disappeared today...

    I just had the most lovely burger and I thought I'd share it right away.  It got rave reviews.  Chicken burgers are such a great way to extend your burger repertoire without overdoing it on the red meat!  This recipe calls for Chili Sauce.  Since I picked some up I must say it's my new favorite ingredient.  And with bbq season coming up I think I'll be pulling it out of the fridge quite often....

    Thai Chicken Burgers with Peanut Sauce
    Serves 6

    • 3 tbsp natural peanut butter
    • 3 tsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 2 tsp lemon zest
    • 2 tsp grated ginger
    • 1 1/2 tbsp chili sauce
    • 1 tsp garlic chili pepper sauce (the Thai stuff)
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 1 tsp chopped chives
    • 2 tbsp hot water to loosen the sauce
    • 1 tbsp chopped basil fresh or frozen
    • 3 tbsp sauce
    • 1 cup bread crumbs
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp chives, chopped
    • 2 green onions, finely chopped
    • 1 - 1 1/4 lb ground chicken
    • 2 tbsp mayo mixed with 2 tbsp chili sauce
    • Spinach
    • Red Onions, thinly sliced
    • Sliced Tomatoes
    1. Mix the sauce ingredients and set aside
    2. Mix the burger ingredients and divide into 6 burgers, refrigerate for an hour or so to set but then take out the burgers and let sit at room temp for 15 - 20 minutes before grilling.
    3. The burgers will be loose.  I did mine on my griddle pan on the stove and as long as you put them on the heat and then don't touch them for at least 8 minutes, they shouldn't fall apart!
    4. Cook the burgers for 20 minutes until cooked through, basting with the leftover sauce on each side.
    5. Serve on the bun of your choice with a smear of the mayo/chili sauce spread topped with spinach, red onion and tomatoes. 

    I served mine with turnip fries tossed with a sprinkle of ground coriander and turmeric. They were super tasty with the mayo/chili sauce for dipping.

    Saturday, April 14, 2012

    Pulled Pork Sandwich

    Can you be naughty and still be nice?  This is the question I asked myself as I seared the pork this morning while prepping my slow cooker for pulled pork sandwiches.  I started with a Weight Watchers recipe so it should be nice.... however by the time we add the bun, coleslaw and some side dishes, I end up with a naughty dish.  The point of eating healthy is that we want balance.  But what happens when you want something really good and naughty?  How do we balance that out?  I'm trying to make the whole meal healthy by using whole grain buns, a coleslaw recipe from the Looneyspoons Collection and baked sweet potato and turnip fries.  Still by the time you add it all up it's a lot of calories (or points if you're into that sort of thing).  ps. the smell coming out of my slow cooker is rockin' this house and causing quite a bit of drool...

    Balancing out the day, that's the answer!  (At this very moment I'm having an apple)  I started my day with a cup of whole grain, high fiber cereal with skim milk.  Soup or salad would be perfect (I did salad with avocado) for lunch.  Snacks are all about fruit and yogurt.  Tonight during the game I think I'll either have some shrimp cocktail with just a smidgen of cocktail sauce or air popped popcorn.  Yeah, I can feel nice about my day overall and I get to be naughty.  (I just pulled the pork apart and had a little taste - YUMMMMM)

    I used pork sirloin for this dish.  It's one of my favorite cuts of pork, full of flavour and cheap!  Plus it's easy to trim the fat when using it as chunks in such dishes as souvlaki, kebabs or in this dish.  You can use any lean cheap cut in this dish.  Often you'll see shoulder used for pulled pork.  It's a fatty cut of pork.  I'm sure you've heard the saying "fat equals flavour".  I know you people...  Big fan of the philosophy but in this instance the meat simmers so long, the sauce is so flavourful, you just don't need all that fat.  Lean is mean baby!  I would not use tenderloin in this dish.  Too expensive and tender to waste on a dish that simmers like this one. 

    Pulled Pork
    Serves 6-8 (at least!)

    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 - 1 1/2lb pork sirloin, trimmed of fat and cut into 3inch chunks
    • 1 1/4 cup ketchup
    • 3/4 cup chili sauce
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 1/2 cup hickory or mesquite bbq sauce
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp each chipotle and ancho chili powder
    • 1 tsp garlic chili pepper sauce
    • 2 onions, sliced
    1. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium high heat
    2. Brown the pork on all sides
    3. Toss all the ingredients from ketchup through to garlic chili pepper sauce in the slow cooker and mix well.
    4. Add the pork and toss to coat with the sauce
    5. Set your slow cooker to high
    6. In the frying pan saute the onions until soft.
    7. Add the onions on top of the pork mixture in the slow cooker.
    8. Cook for 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low (It depends on whether I'm home or away - away I go slower and lower since I'm not on hand to turn things off)
    9. Take the pork out of the cooker and 'pull' it apart with 2 forks.
    10. Taste test the pork.  If you like a little more heat add more pf the chili powders and/or garlic chili pepper sauce.
    11. Add the pork back to the cooker and mix well with the sauce.
    12. Cook on low for another hour or so.  You can actually let it sit and keep warm until you're ready to eat.  The flavours will just keep simmering into the meat.... yummmm
    Serve the pulled pork on whole grain buns, flat bread buns or even in a pita! Top with coleslaw ( I won't give you the recipe here - go buy The Looneyspoons Collection - seriously, what are you waiting for?  You won't be sorry.  It will be your go to cookbook for years to come!)

    I'm going to freeze the leftovers to use in a pulled pork shepard's pie type dish with the pork on the bottom, veggies in the middle and a topping of cheesy polenta.  Drooling?  Yeah, I'll blog that one when I make it.  You can also toss the leftovers with whole wheat pasta and some veg for a quick meal.


    Monday, April 09, 2012

    Why do we do this to ourselves?

    Welcome to the end of my Easter weekend.  I'm so full.  And I only got 2 bits of chocolate!  I'm full of ham, mustard tatties, prime rib, turkey, eggs bennie, french toast,bacon, sausage, mussels and what can best be described as warm fried dough balls of yumminess.  Oh and lets not forget the carrot cake and apple pie.  All of that was just my intake during  the last 2 days!  Good Friday we had a lovely whole rainbow trout with steamed carrots and turnip with curry cabbage followed with the first serving of fresh homemade carrot cake. 

    The ham I cooked up today was one I got from our local market and it was perfection in a smoked dress.  While it was quite a bit more expensive than just grabbing a ham from the grocery store the taste more than outweighed the extra cost.  I really do want to get all my special occasion meats/roasts from local farmers.  It's hard to afford it for everyday meats but wowzers is it worth it for holidays/special occasions. 

    Now my life will be filled with fruits, veggies and well, leftover ham....  Is it sad that I'm already thinking about a snacking on the leftover ham and it's not even cooled off enough to go into the fridge yet?!  Lord give me strength!  (oh damn, I should have gotten some cauliflower this weekend to make this great ham and cauliflower casserole recipe)

    Happy Spring!

    Thursday, April 05, 2012

    Sprouts! And Sandwich Spread

    I read somewhere that to welcome Spring the people of Provence often start a container of lentil sprouts on their windowsill.  What a great idea.  It's wonderful to watch the lentils sprout as I wait for the outdoors to warm up and get green.  Once they get a little taller I'll use them in salads or sandwiches.
    Speaking of sandwiches... (how'd ya like that segue?!)  I just had the most lovely wrap and thought I'd share a little tip. 

    I'm a mayo gal.  I love mayo but today I swapped it out with a heart healthy avocado spread with excellent results.  Just mash 1/4 avocado per sandwich, add a pinch (like 10 grains) of salt and spread on your sandwich.  If you're making a wrap you can mash it up right on the tortilla since you can't really mush a tortilla.  I topped mine with tomato, extra old cheddar cheese, lettuce and a little squirt of ranch dressing.  Super simple and super tasty.  The good fat in the avocado will help you feel full. 

    I can't wait to make my next sandwich with my sprouts!

    Monday, April 02, 2012

    Veggie Chili - The Best Ever!

    Awesome!  That's all I can say.  To quote my mother "this one's a keeper!" So I'm blogging it right away.  You need to follow the ingredients exactly except for the roasted pepper.  I have a jar of them in my fridge but if you don't you can use fresh red pepper diced.  Oh, and this recipe is... you guessed it, cheap, simple, easy and freezes beautifully....

    Surprisingly Filling YUMMY Vegetarian Chili
    Serves 6-8
    Weight Watchers Points Plus (before the cheese and sour cream) 5

    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 medium onions, diced
    • 2 ribs of celery, diced (save the leaves for later!)
    • 1 large carrot, diced
    • 12-14 cremini mushrooms (or baby porties)
    • 1 large roasted red pepper (from a jar is fine)
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 19 ounce can no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 19 ounce can no salt added red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
    • 2 cups frozen corn
    • 1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • 2 tsp pepper paste (Hungarian) or ground paprika
    • 2 tsp dried oregano
    • salt to taste
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (this is the really important bit!) and any leftover celery leaves, chopped.
    • shredded cheddar and monteray jack cheese
    • light sour cream

    1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium high pot
    2. Saute the onion, carrots, celery until soft
    3. Add the mushrooms and red pepper and saute another 3-5 minutes
    4. Add in the black beans, red kidney beans, tomatoes and corn
    5. Stir in the spices and oregano, let simmer for 5 minutes, have a taste and add chili powder and chipotle chili powder if you want it spicier.
    6. Add a bit of salt if you think it needs it.  Remember you can always add more but you can't take it out so add a little at a time, taste, add more if needed.
    7. Let the whole bit simmer for 20 minutes.
    8. Just before serving, toss in cilantro and celery leaves, stir.
    9. Serve with cheese and sour cream on top of each bowl.

    YUM, YUM, YUM. Seriously YUM

    Tuesday, March 27, 2012

    Leftover Noodles? Let's Make Noodle Soup!

    Just like rice, I always make extra pasta and freeze it.  It's great to have on hand for super quick meals.  I made up this soup recipe last night and it was excellent.  Simple, light, quick, awesome!  Also great for using up leftover meat.  I make my own chicken broth and freeze it in 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cup and 6 cup portions.  You can use store bought broth if you like, just be sure to get the reduced sodium kind!  You can also use any variety of veggies.  Cabbage, mushrooms, green beans, peas, frozen mixed, etc. 

    Seems like a light meal but I promise you you'll be full!

    Asian Noodle Soup
    Serves 4

    • 2 -3 cups cooked whole wheat spaghetti, fettuccine or linguine
    • 6 cups chicken broth
    • 2 tbsp soy sauce
    • 2 tbsp hoisen sauce
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 1 tbsp grated ginger
    • 2 carrots, sliced thinly diagonally
    • 2 cups broccoli, cut into thin stalks
    • 2 green onions sliced on the diagonal
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 2 cups sliced cooked pork (I used leftover roast, you can thinly slice pork, chicken or beef from raw if you don't have leftovers)

    1. Heat the broth, soy sauce, hoisen sauce, sesame oil, lime juice and ginger in a large soup pot until it comes to a boil.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
    2. Add in the carrots, broccoli and green onions, simmer until the veggies are tender.
    3. If using raw meat add now and simmer until cooked.
    4. Add eggs and stir until cooked
    5. If using cooked meat add now and heat through
    6. Place 1/2 cup noodles in each bowl, top with 1-1 1/2 cup of the broth veggie mix.
    Enjoy!  If you have leftovers, store the noodles and the broth veggie meat mix separately and heat them separately so the noodles don't get soggy.

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Leftover Rice? Let's Make Rice Bowls!

    Here is a simple, quick dish I whipped up the other night out of leftover rice.  I always make a big batch when I make rice so I have some ready to go for the next few meals.  It freezes well and is better than the processed stuff they call 'instant'!

    You can use whatever meat, veggie and herb mix you like.  This is also a great use of leftover meat since it's already cooked.  All you have to do is add it in with the rice to heat through.

    Rice Bowl with Veggies and Shrimp
    Serves 2

    • 2 cups brown rice
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 8 ounces peeled shrimp
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 medium onion, diced fine
    • 2-3 cups frozen peas
    • 2 tsp curry powder
    • 1 tsp turmeric
    • 1/4 tsp ginger powder

    1. Cook rice as per package instructions if you don't have any leftover on hand.
    2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat
    3. Cook shrimp until pink, toss in garlic
    4. Remove shrimp from pan
    5. Saute onions until soft
    6. Add peas, curry, turmeric and ginger, heat until the peas are just bright green
    7. Add in rice and shrimp, heat through
    8. Serve!

    Yup, that's it. Tasty!

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Low Sodium Asian Stir Fry Sauce

    I've been a little gobsmacked about the amount of sodium in Asian foods, even the recipes I make at home.  Here's a sauce that takes the sodium down to just 250 mg per serving!  Enjoy!

    Be sure to cook this sauce for a couple of minutes to let the cornstarch do it's thing and thicken.  If you don't want to cook the sauce then leave out the cornstarch.

    Stir Fry Sauce
    Serves 4

    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp water
    • 1 tsp garlic chili sauce
    • 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

    1. Mix everything together and let sit until the sugar dissolves. 
    2. Remix before pouring into your dish to make sure the cornstarch is well blended

    As I mentioned it works out to 250mg of sodium per serving!

    Saturday, March 17, 2012

    Happy St. Patty's Day!

    Why yes I am part Irish, what gave it away?!  When I went back to my natural hair colour after years of highlighting it to within an inch of it's life, I kept passing the mirror and thinking to myself "holy crap can you see the Irish in me now!".  This was due to the reddish brown tones mother nature gave me.  I'm English-Irish and can trace my family roots back 7 generations.  We may be dull but we're consistent.  It's only in this generation that anything other than English-Irish has entered our gene pool!  How's that for dull?!  While I live in New Scotland (Nova Scotia) I have not a lick of Scottish in me.  So today is extra special as we Irish take over Nova Scotia and call today ours. 

    For dinner tonight I'm making a Shepherd's Pie.  There are lots of great recipes out there so I won't bother sharing mine.  However I did want to mention the Beef Broth.  I make mine from scratch.  It's deadly simple, way taster than store bought and healthier.  I put no salt or fat in mine, making it a neutral addition to any recipe.  I can always add more fat or salt when I use it later. 

    Beef Broth
    Makes 8 -12 cups

    • 1-2 good size beef marrow bones
    • 1 rib celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    • 1 onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    • 1 carrot cut into 1/2 inch pieces
    • 2 sprigs rosemary
    • 2-3 springs thyme (or about 2 tsp dried)
    • 2 tsp dried oregano
    • a good dash no salt added steak spice or Montreal steak spice
    • Cover everything with water, to about 1/2 inch from top of pot.

    1. Throw everything in a large soup pot.
    2. Bring to a boil
    3. Simmer 3-4 hours (or you can use your crock pot on high 5 -6 hours)
    4. Strain the liquid, toss out all the solids as they are tasteless now.
    5. Let cool, skip any fat off the top and freeze in 1 cup containers. 

    I'll be using some of mine tonight to make the gravy/sauce base for my Shepherd's Pie.  I'll stir in some Worcestershire Sauce and a ketchup, about 1 tbsp each to add dimension to the flavour.  That will also up the sodium content so it's good to have that broth base be neutral..


    Also known as Fancy French Beans and Wieners.  Really, that's all it is.  The key to this dish is to use really good ingredients.  I use a local European style sausage and Jacob Cattle Beans but you can use whatever sausage/meat and bean combo you like.  If you can't find a decent sausage try lean ground pork with lots of sage, thyme, rosemary and garlic.  Great Northern Beans are often used in more traditional recipes.  White kidney beans would also work nicely.  Remember if you are using canned beans to watch the sodium level.  If you are using dried beans be sure they are the consistency you want before you add any juice, tomato or wine since adding acid will stop the cooking process leaving you with hard beans. 

    Keep this dish low sodium by using reduced sodium bacon, ground pork, dried beans or canned beans with no salt added, no salt added tomatoes and homemade or low sodium chicken broth.  I often use regular bacon and a really good quality sausage (moderate sodium), dried beans, no salt added tomatoes and my homemade chicken broth which I don't add salt to so I can control the salt when I use it in recipes.  And I NEVER salt a dish until the end once everything is added and cooked together.  Then I see if the dish needs seasoning (salting) or not.  You'd be amazed how little salt I add this way.  I constantly amazed at how rarely I need to add salt and how little it takes when I do. 

    Okay I'll get off my soapbox now and get down to the recipe.

    Serves 6-8

    • 2 cups dried Jacob Cattle Beans
    • 3 cups water
    • 2 slices bacon, diced
    • 5 Toulouse sausages, (French herb and garlic sausages)
    • 2 onions, diced
    • 3 ribs of celery, diced
    • 5 medium carrots, diced
    • 1 medium parsnip, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp dried thyme
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 14 ounces diced tomatoes
    • 1/2 cup white wine or apple juice
    • salt and pepper as necessary

    1. Heat beans and water in a saucepan, bringing to a boil.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for an hour.  This can vary depending on the beans so check them often.  Don't overcook them.  At this point you just want them to be starting to plump up but still quite firm.
    2. Heat a large dutch oven pan over medium high heat. Add in bacon and cook until crispy.  Add in the sausage and cook until the sausage is browned
    3. Add the onion, celery, carrots and parsnip and cook until tender, about 15 minutes
    4. Add in the garlic, thyme, chicken broth and beans.
    5. Simmer until the beans are the right consistency, 2-3 hours approximately
    6. Once the beans are as you like them, add in the tomatoes and wine/juice.  Let simmer for another 20-30 minutes.
    7. Check the seasoning.  Add salt and pepper if necessary. 

    Some traditional recipes use breadcrumbs on the top and place the whole pot in the oven to crisp it up the top.  Sometimes I do this and sometimes I skip it.  It thickens up the dish but often I don't find this necessary.  It's up to you.

    Friday, February 24, 2012

    Leftover Veggie Hash

    Okay, this might seem like a no brainer but it's worth a discussion.  Tomorrow morning I'll head to the market to stock up on veggies and fruit.  This means I need to  empty out as much space as possible in my fridge.  It's Friday night.  Perfect night for Steak. So I'm combining my needs with my wants and making a Swedish inspired Pytti y Panna which is just a hash topped with a sunny side up egg on top. 

    Here's some hash basics
    All your veggies should be cooked or par cooked.
    Dice everything up in 1/4 -1/2 inch squares, including your meat.
    Heat some butter and olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.
    Toss in your onions and meat first and cook until browned. 
    Don't overcrowd the pan!  You can always do separate batches, just take out the finished food, keeping it warm while you do the rest of the food.
    Take all the food out of the pan and use it to cook the eggs instead of dirtying another pan plus you get the leftover yummy flavour bits in the eggs.

    Some items you can put in a leftover veggie hash:
    Onions, Potatoes (I know, how obvious), beets, turnip, carrots, parsnip, squash, cabbage.
    Use whatever meats you have on hand, precooked or not... beef, pork, chicken, sausage, bacon, ham...
    Top with a sunny side up or poached egg!
    Serve with Worcestershire Sauce, A1 or steak sauce, pickled beets and/or veggies.
    Oh yum!

    If you're making a hash out of holiday leftovers toss in the cranberry sauce - seriously, it's delish!  And top with leftover gravy! 

    Ravioli Soup

    Want a simple, quick, cheap soup to make next week?  Well here you go.  You're welcome.

    Disclaimer!  Because you open a bunch of cans and packages to make this dish it has the potential to be VERY high in sodium (as in like... you're entire daily content!) so be sure to use no salt added tomatoes and black beans and low sodium broth (I made homemade with no added salt so I can control the overall sodium content when I use the broth in dishes). 

    Ravioli Soup
    Serves 4 -6

    • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (low or no added salt)
    • 19 ounce can of black beans (low or no added salt), drained and rinsed
    • 900ml or 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
    • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning, or a mix of oregano, thyme and rosemary
    • 350g cheese ravioli
    • 2 cups fresh spinach or 5-6 chunks of frozen spinach (the frozen spinach I get comes in chunk!)
    • Parmesan cheese to top each bowl

    1. In a large saucepan heat the tomatoes, black beans, broth and seasoning over medium high heat until it comes to a boil
    2. Add in the ravioli and boil until the ravioli comes to the top, about 3 -5 minutes
    3. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the spinach. 
    4. Serve in bowls topped with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese.

    This soup does not keep really well as the ravioli will continue to absorb liquid.  I have had luck with it in the fridge for a couple of days but eat it quickly!  Luckily it's very popular as a lunch item around here.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012


    The life of a blogger...
    I caught Julie and Julia last night on the telly.  I wonder, do people still get famous from their blogs?  Do all of us foodie bloggers hope we'll magically get a book deal?!  Or better yet, a tv show on the food network?   I started my blog hoping for all those wonderful things but alas, fame did not come knocking.  Instead my blog became a place I could send people when they asked for a recipe.  I still do that but these days I keep my blog more for me than anything or anyone else.  It's become my recipe database.  One of the biggest complaints my mother used to have was that I'd make a dish out of my head and then it was never to be seen again so I started writing them down so I could recreate my own dishes.  Thankfully the techno world intervened and now instead of going through mountains of paper (okay, I have all my handwritten recipes in a binder, all neat and tidy but still...) I can use that handy dandy search tool right up there in the top left corner.  I may never be famous but I'm a heck of a lot more organized.  I keep a knitting/craft blog too but I'm way more slack about updating it.  And guess what... I tend to forget what I've made for whom because I don't blog it!  My blogs have become my memory bank!  Awesome.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog entry.

    I made some enchiladas this week and they were really tasty, cheap and healthy (seriously full of fiber!).  All my requirements for a recipe to repeat so here it is.

    Serves 4 -6

    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 2 mexican sausages
    • 4 green onions, chopped and separate the white parts from the green parts
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 cup corn
    • 1 roasted red pepper (you can use fresh, red or green), diced
    • 1/2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 2 tbsp lime juice
    • 6 whole grain 6-7 inch tortillas
    • 1-2 cups of salsa (I didn't measure so I'm guesstimating here)
    • 2 cups shredded cheddar

    1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
    2. Heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat
    3. Remove the outer casing from the sausage and break it up in the pan.  Cook until browned
    4. Add in the white parts of the onion and garlic. Saute for a minute.
    5. Add in the rest of the ingredients up to and including the lime juice.
    6. Cook for a minute or two until blended and heated through
    7. Divide the mixture into 6 portions
    8. Pour a bit of salsa in the bottom of a 8 X 11 inch baking pan, just enough to barely cover the bottom.  Add a tablespoon or two of water if your salsa is really thick.
    9. Spread each portion in a tortilla, roll it up and place it seam side down in the baking dish
    10. Top with a good spread of salsa over each enchilada
    11. Sprinkle with the cheese
    12. Spray the shiny side of a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray
    13. Cover and bake for 20 minutes
    14. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly.
    15. Serve with some sour cream, guacamole, avocado slices or a drizzle of ranch dressing.

    ps. the leftovers freeze really well!

    Thursday, February 02, 2012

    Superbowl Chicken Drumsticks and Sweet Potato Fries

    Here are my first thoughts on my Superbowl menu.  I keep getting emails, watching cooking shows and visiting websites that are full of ideas for Superbowl eats.  But I have all the ingredients for these dishes so I'm trying to stick with them.  Did you know that in the US Superbowl Sunday is the second biggest eating day after Thanksgiving?!  That's some serious eats!

    You have to marinate the chicken overnight so all you have to do on game day is toss them on a pan.  You can prep the fries in the morning so come game time you can just toss them on a pan.  Nothing more than "tossing" to be done when you're busy with the games and/or guests!

    Tandoori Drumsticks
    Serves 4

    • 1 - 1.5 lbs chicken drumsticks (at least 2 per person)
    • 1cup yogurt
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp coriander
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric
    • 3 cardamon pods (or 1/2 tsp ground)
    • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • red food colouring (optional)
    • juice from one lemon
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

    1. Remove the skin from the chicken drumsticks
    2. Mix the yogurt through red food colouring in a dish big enough to hold the drumsticks
    3. Toss in the drumsticks and marinate overnight
    4. An hour or so before you are going to put the drumsticks in the oven, mix in the lemon juice to the marinade and drumstick dish
    5. Preheat the oven to 425F
    6. Remove the drumsticks from the marinade and place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil
    7. Bake until the drumsticks are cooked through, about 50 minutes
    8. Sprinkle on the fresh chopped cilantro and serve!

    Sweet Potato Fries
    Serves 4

    • 1.5 -2 lbs sweet potato, scrubbed clean and cut into 1/2 inch thick strips
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 beaten egg white
    • 1 tsp curry powder
    • Ranch dressing for dipping

    1. Preheat oven to 425F
    2. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or cover the bottom with parchment paper
    3. Toss sweet potato strips in a bowl with the olive oil, egg and curry powder
    4. Spread the potatoes on the baking sheet
    5. Bake for 10 minutes, turn, bake another 10 minutes. 
    6. Serve with the ranch dressing on the side for dipping

    Sunday, January 29, 2012

    Chicken and Leek Pie

    Two blog posts in one day?!  This recipe was soooo delicious that I absolutely had to blog about it right away.  I was just going to comment on Jamie Oliver's website but then I started reading the 200+ comments.... In the future I will use the comments to verify how good an online recipe is.  I didn't need to add my "holy crap this was awesome", it was already well said. 

    So here's the basic recipe.

    And here's what I did differently.
    I used 2 1/2 Chicken breasts, diced up and tossed in to cook with the leeks. 
    I added Summer Savoury since it just screams comfort, roast poultry dinner to me
    I halved the liquid (2 c) since I don't have a decent sieve to drain it with and didn't really want the extra work.
    Right before I put the leek/chicken in the baking dish I added in 6 small grated carrots.  I used rainbow carrots.  The purple ones turned the mixed dark and the meat a bit pink which was just interesting really.
    I just used the plain puffed pastry, leaving out the chestnuts and sage. 

    No way will this serve 6.  It was so good I went back for a second half portion.  And I NEVER go back for seconds.  I might get 4 servings.  You have got to try this one.  Seriously.  It's unbelievable.  I'm not kidding.  Really. 

    The Weeks Menu

    One of the things about doing a "reset" menu is that it should get you back on track for healthy eating.  It seems I sort of petered out on week 2 but I didn't.  I've incorporated the ideas from the menu or 'reset' into my dailyliving .  Or you could say I'm back on track.... yup, that was the point of the whole thing.

    Now this being said, yesterday I could not figure out what to have for dinner.  Luckily it was market day so I was hoping I would come across something to inspire me.  You wouldn't think I'd find much inspiration in the limited offering at the market in the dead of winter but yes indeed!  Not only was I inspired for last night's supper but I came up with a whole menu for the week as I wandered around the market.  I love it when a plan comes together.  

    Here's my week.  I hope you find inspiration and healthy eating too.

    Maple Sausages with Fingerling Potatoes, Swiss Chard and Golden Beets.
    Chicken and Leek Pie with Rainbow Carrots
    Souffle with Farm Fresh Free Range Eggs and a Large Garden Salad
    Shepard's Pie with Ground Lamb and Pork and Potato and Butternut Squash Topping
    Pad Thai with Shrimp and Tofu
    French Onion Soup (from my freezer) with Garlic and Onion Bread Toasts and A Salad
    Spaghetti Bolognese with Free Range, Grain Feed Ground Chicken.

    For lunches I bought some fresh whole wheat pita bread.  I'll make some hummus for hummus, veg and feta pitas.  Plus I have some leftover Minestrone soup. 

    Happy Eating!

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    Winter Minestrone and The Looneyspoons Collection (my new fav!!!)

    I've got a pot of Minestrone on the stove.  It fits perfectly into the cancer fighting menu I was following as part of the "Detox/Reset" menu I was using to get back on track.  Beans, greens, veggies of colour and some whole grain pasta! Superbly balanced and super healthy.  Here's the recipe (it's under Day 4). I used Turnip instead of squash because I had a turnip that needed to be used.  The leftovers will be lunches over the weekend (and maybe into next week!).   Mmmm, soup is going to be awesome since it's cold, rainy and miserable here.  The idea of a "reset" has been great.  It's been great to refocus my eating habits just to be sure I'm getting a good balance and a pre-set menu made it so easy. 

    Last week I got a late Christmas gift - The Looneyspoons Collection cookbook.  It's fantastic!  It includes updates on my favs from the Looneyspoons cookbook back when we thought low fat was the only way to go and disregarded good fats and carbs.  Plus it has the recipes the ladies had developed for Readers Digest.  There were some real gems in that mag.  The nutritional info is up to date and complete.  The book is well indexed which is a real treat, not just by recipes but the nutritional tips and info too.  If you have any bridal showers, baby showers, graduations or weddings coming up this year I highly recommend this as the perfect gift for everyone who should be cooking!

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Detox/Reset Menu Week 2 - Day 2

    One thing I'm noticing with this menu I'm following is that there are a lot of beans as well as whole grains.  I've always prided myself at how much fiber I get on a daily basis but this menu really had it covered!  One thing I've learned is that adding a tbsp of beans to a salad is an easy was to up the daily intake and that's a good thing.  I love it when I pick up a new and easy healthy habit!

    Week 2 - Day 2

    English Muffin with Natural Peanut Butter, Clementine, 1 cup Skim Milk

    Leftover Turkey Rice Soup

    Grilled Salmon, Braised Red and Green Cabbage, Polenta and Garden Salad
    Braised Red and Green Cabbage
    • Slice up about 1- 1 1/2 cups of cabbage per person, both red and green
    • Heat 1 tsp per serving of butter and olive oil in a saucepan
    • Toss in a few fennel seeds and 1/4 tsp dried thyme per serving
    • Once the butter is melted add in some sliced red onion and saute until soft
    • Add in the cabbage and about 1/4 cup veggie or chicken broth per serving
    • Reduce the heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes
    • Add a couple of splashes of balsamic vinegar per serving, turn heat up to medium high, leave lid off and simmer until the liquid is reduced and the cabbage is tender and sweet. About 10 minutes

    • Grill salmon on bbq or in grill pan on the stove (crispy skin is really tasty - give it a try!)
    • Follow the directions for the polenta
    • Mix a salad with romaine, tomato, cucumber, mushrooms, red onion, peppers, white kidney beans. Top with light balsamic vinaigrette.
    Last night I had popcorn from my air popper (I love my air popper!) Tonight I'll probably have some edamame in the shell, microwaved for 3 minutes then tossed with a little salt. Tasty!