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