Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rigatoni With Spicy Pork

I like to shop at the farmers markets where I can meet the farmers and ask questions about the food they grow and produce.  But, as the winter months close in it’s harder to find fresh produce.  So after wandering around the stalls last weekend, I came home with PORK.  Yep, it’s something I wouldn’t typically buy but I’m glad I did. I ended up making the following Spicy Pork Ragu. I highly recommend you try it.

Rigatoni with spicy pork
Rigatoni With Spicy Pork

Rigatoni With Spicy Pork

A tasty Ragu to serve over pasta.  If you like spice, then purchase spicy instead of mild sweet Italian sausages.  Serve with a green salad.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bottle 690 ml (23 fl.oz) tomato puree
2 cups of water
1 pound hot or mild sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 pound ground pork
450 grams rigatoni
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon until browned, about 4 minutes.  Add ground pork, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up until no longer pink, about 3 minutes.  Remove pork to a bowl using a slotted spoon.

Add onions and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, carrot and celery and sauté about 5 more minutes until nicely brown.  Add oregano leaves, red pepper flakes, tomato puree, cooked meat and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally until al dente.  Drain.  Serve pasta in bowls, top with meat sauce and the grated Parmesan cheese.

Cabbage Roll Casserole Recipe
Cabbage Roll Casserole

Looking for another easy dinner recipe to try?  Check out this Cabbage Roll Casserole Recipe.  

Tired of Cooking Everyday?  Try Meal will save you time, money and reduce the boredom of home cooking.  Check out our FREE course, "How To Meal Plan For the Everyday Home Cook" and take the stress out of daily cooking. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Spicy Lentil Lamb Dal With Vegetables

I cheat.  It’s true, I admit it.  I try to eat a “healthy diet” but every so often, I get sidetracked.  There are times I just have to eat chocolate.  I can’t explain it.  When I get the urge I dive into the secret stash that I conveniently buy for my husband.  He likes it, so I kindly buy it (for him) and I hide it (from me) in the cupboard… as if that works!   Do you ever have days when you get an irresistible desire to eat some dark, luscious and yummy chocolate?  

Girl Eating Chocolate
Sometimes you have to eat chocolate!
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I carry an abundance of guilt on my shoulders about eating chocolate and all other things unhealthy.  The guilt started 30 years ago when I was told to change my diet for health reasons.  You see, I inherited a type of gene that causes sky-high levels of cholesterol, which apparently is not good. So, when I start chowing down on the secret supply I become overwhelmed with a blanket of remorse. It’s a pretty good deterrent and it’s why my husband’s secret stash never totally disappears. Lucky I have that guilt thing.

When I was told to change my diet I slowly started cooking more vegetarian meals (before vegetarian was even a thing).  I remember one day I decided my whole family should enjoy a vegetarian dish with me.  This was a bold counter-culture proposition back then.  

I was reading Frances Moore Lappé’s  book, A Diet For A Small Planet, and picked one of her soybean recipes. I was excited!  I soaked and boiled the soybeans, and made a bland, and very boring stew for that night’s dinner.  

What can I say? It was the 80’s and cooking with herbs and spices was not the norm.  So I used just salt and pepper.  The family sat in polite silence, the awkward kind you feel after someone says something embarrassing.  They valiantly tried to eat my “Food For Hippies” which, needless to say, was not a big hit.  

I continued to cook vegetarian meals and eventually spices from around the world found their way into my everyday cooking. Vegetarian meals became interesting, tasty and appetizing.  

Fast forward to 2019, and vegetarianism is now the norm.  There are a variety of reasons for this: health, budget concerns, the taste, animal husbandry issues, and for saving the planet (raising cattle is a large contributor to green-house gases).

This Spicy Lentil Lamb Dal with Vegetables is a not-quite-a-vegetarian-dish. To make it a vegetarian meal, just leave out the meat. I found the recipe on the Food and Wine website… and no, it does not include chocolate.

Spicy Lentil Lamb Dal With Veggies
Spicy Lentil Lamb Dal With Veggies

Spicy Lentil Lamb Dal With Vegetables

by Fine Cooking

This is a delicious meal loaded with flavour and veggies.  It can easily be turned into a vegetarian dish by leaving out the lamb.

Serves 6

1-pound boneless leg of lamb cut into 1-inch cubes
5 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder (divided)
2 teaspoons salt (divided)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled, chopped fine, (from a 2-inch piece)
1 jalapeno pepper, stems removed, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (divided)
1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1-1/2 cups red or green lentils, rinsed well
1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut into 1-1/2 -inch pieces (about 3 cups)
6 cups of water
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 oz. each), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (1-1/4 cups)
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, mix the lamb with 2 teaspoons of the garam masala, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  In a food processor, pulse together the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeño pepper until finely chopped but not too mushy.  Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a 6-quart pot over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds.  When the seeds begin to pop, about 1 minute, stir in the remaining 3 teaspoons garam masala, the onion mixture, lentils, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, turmeric, 6 cups of water, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to simmer.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat and brown the lamb in batches, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to the pot of dal.  Deglaze the skillet by adding 1/2 cup of water.  Turn up the heat, let it reduce by half, while stirring, and add this liquid to the dal.  Simmer until the vegetables and meat are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with pepper and stir in the cilantro.  

Lentil Curry Soup
Lentil Curry Soup

Looking for another lentil recipe to try?  Check out our Lentil Curry Soup recipe.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Apple Muffin Recipe

After being told my cholesterol was too high, I set out in search for alternative solutions.  My quest led me to a faded pink waiting room.  I checked in with the busy receptionist then sat and waited, watching the streams of people coming and going.

When it was my turn to meet the "doctor," I was ushered into a poorly lit office the size of a small walk-in closet.  I sat on a utilitarian grey office chair surrounded by piles of books, papers and magazines.  Even the examining bed was converted to a table top.  The slim doctor bounced into the room like a wind-up toy.  Excited and full of energy, his arms flailed at the prospect of sharing his wisdom.  

"Doctors tell you to eat poison," he stated in an evangelical way.

"They talk and talk - where's the proof?  No proof!" he stated.

"Apples is what you need.  You eat two apples a day - two apples!" he screeched.

He sent me home with his advice and a brown bag full of mysterious vitamins.

Apples do contain soluble fibre which helps remove blood cholesterol from your body.  They also contain phytochemicals.  These are protective or disease preventing chemicals.  Phytochemicals allegedly help prevent heart disease and certain types of cancers and may improve lung function for asthmatics.  Apples also contain vitamin C.

Since my enlightening visit, I've been eating apples every way you can imagine: apple muffins, apples in my salad, apples in my oatmeal, apple cake, apple coleslaw and of course, apple crisp.  Apples do keep well in the refrigerator, so there is no excuse for not living up to my new motto...two apples a day, that's the minimum!

Apple Muffins
Apple Muffins

Apple Muffins

An easy muffin to make that's super tasty.  If you don't have buttermilk, squeeze 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice into 1/2 cup milk and let sit for 10 minutes. 

Makes 12

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large apple, finely diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add apples and raisins and toss to coat.  In a small bowl whisk together eggs, oil and buttermilk.  Add to flour mixture and stir until just blended.  Spoon into muffin cups and bake 15-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Carrot Muffins
carrot muffins
Looking for another muffin recipe to try?  How about these yummy Carrot Muffins with raisins and pineapples.  

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Delightful Couscous, Garbanzo Bean Salad

Couscous Garbanzo Bean Salad Recipe
Couscous Garbanzo Bean Salad

A tasty salad that can be served with many dishes.
Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup cucumber, diced small
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
3 green onions, chopped
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 cups garbanzo beans, canned, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl whisk together oil, vinegar, garlic and dried herbs and set aside.  Place 1 cup couscous in medium-sized bowl.  Pour boiling water on top.  Cover with a plate and let stand 10 minutes.  Remove plate and fluff with a fork.  

In a big bowl add the couscous, cucumber, bell pepper, carrot, green onions, cherry tomatoes,  cilantro,  parsley and garbanzo beans.  Add dressing and mix all together.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Looking for another salad to try.  How about a Greek Salad Recipe 

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Monday, January 7, 2019

Is The Recipe Dead?

I own many cookbooks - too many actually.  Some women have boxes of shoes hidden in their closets. For me, it’s cookbooks and cooking magazines.  When we recently moved, boxes of them mysteriously disappeared, including some cherished 1970 Gourmet magazines given to me by my mother.  She thought it sacrilegious to throw them in the recycling bin.  And to alleviate her guilt, I gladly took them.  Sadly, they magically vanished when my husband took a stack of boxes from the garage to the dump before the move.  Hmmm, I guess that’s one way of downsizing cookbooks!

It’s a mystery why I own so many cookbooks.  I read all of them, but I don’t necessarily cook from each one.  I think I enjoy discovering the story behind the cook who spent hours creating and testing each of the recipes.  I drool over the pictures, and analyze the ingredients and the directions.  However, it’s rare for me to then dive into the kitchen, recipe in hand, and whip up a meal.  But you never know, I just might need one of those recipes one day!

Recently, I pulled from my collection a pink and checkered, 65-year-old cookbook written by “Better Homes and Gardens” (another of my mother’s relics).  I was surprised at how similar the home cooking topics were then, as they are now.  The manual (that’s what it felt like) told the home cook (a woman in a skirt, high heels and a frilly apron) how to set up her kitchen, how to meal plan, set the table and cook recipes for a wholesome diet.  But what was noticeably missing was talk about star nutrients, or super foods like kale.  There was no mention of specialized diets, GMOs or food waste. It seemed simpler.  Food has gotten so confusing now with all the trends, marketing ploys, guilt around food waste, and food shaming.

The other day I was listening to the podcast “Is the Recipe Dead?” by the Kitchen Show.  The hosts were talking about how people just don’t have time to cook these days or they don’t really know how to cook.  And this is probably the real reason they don’t need recipes.  People lack kitchen confidence and don’t want to risk precious time cooking meals that may not taste good. It’s easier to buy prepared food and take the chance it tastes better than their own home cooking.

Unfortunately, there’s some truth in this idea.  Of course, I don’t mean that people can’t cook great tasty meals, they can absolutely.  It’s just that food manufacturers are sadly making it too easy for us not to cook.  Food is big business and companies trick us into thinking that they can feed us better, with all the nutrition our bodies need, with satisfactory taste and at a reasonable cost.

But here’s the thing: it’s not true as Michael Moss, a best selling author and New York Times reporter writes in his book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us.  He  describes how food manufacturers purposely design food with just the right amount of salt, sugar and fat to make it irresistible  and so, we eat too much.  The cost to our health from all the hidden sugar, salt and fat is tremendous.

I say we fight back and take control of the recipe and the kitchen.  Cook in protest and prove to big business that they’re wrong.  When we cook our own food, we eat better and we're healthier.  It's delicious and costs less.  The recipes don’t have to be fancy, just tasty.  They don’t have to be complicated, just easy.  Find a few simple recipes that always work and add them to your recipe box. Then find other recipes, perfect them, and increase your collection.  Build on your successes and you’ll find pride in your home cooking, plus your friends and family will love you.  Time will always be on your side when you take back your kitchen.

To get you started, here’s a very simple and easy Honey Curry Chicken recipe. Serve  with brown rice and some colourful veggies or the couscous recipe below. Save the recipe if you like it (which I’m sure you will), and add it to your collection.  Enjoy.

Honey Curry Chicken Recipe
Honey Curry Chicken

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Honey Curry Chicken

Honey Curry Chicken Recipe
Honey Curry Chicken

A fast and simple recipe that is sure to be a family favourite!  Serve with rice and a big green salad.

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon, fresh grated, peeled ginger
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Place chicken in a 9”x13” x 1” baking dish.  In a small skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add ginger and garlic and sauté 1 minute.  Add butter, honey, Dijon and curry powder. Season with salt and paper.  Pour sauce over chicken, turn chicken to coat well.  Spoon some sauce on top of each breast.  Bake for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked and no longer pink (to 75° C or 165° F).

Looking for another family friendly recipe?  Try the Chicken Enchiladas Recipe Or Chicken Cacciatore Recipe

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Cranberry Crumble With Fall Fruit

Cranberry Crumble With Fall Fruit Recipe
Cranberry, Crumble With Fall Fruit

Cranberries have a lot going for them. They’re colourful, full of flavour and add excitement to baking and to the holiday season. Here’s a cranberry crumble recipe that will sure to be a star attraction at dinner time.

Serves 6

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cups sugar
zest from 1 orange
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
4 apples
2 pears

3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

In a medium size saucepan simmer 2 cups cranberries with the sugar and orange juice, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved and berries burst.  Remove pan from heat and stir in the remaining cranberries, zest, apples and pears.  Spoon into a 2 1/2 quart baking dish. 

Topping:  In a bowl mix together oats, flour, and brown sugar.  With fingers rub butter in, until mixture is the size of small peas (or put in a food processor and pulse ingredients together).  Sprinkle topping over fruit and bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees F or until topping is golden and filling is bubbling.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Cranberry Muffin Recipe

cranberry muffins

These delightful muffins are both tart and sweet….how good is that?  If you can get fresh cranberries, that’s awesome. But if not, frozen cranberries are just as good. Make sure to brush each muffin generously with the lemon glaze, it’s well worth the effort.  If you can’t eat them all within a couple of days, then freeze them for another day to graze on.

Makes 12

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest from 1 medium-sized lemon
1 cup coarsely chopped, frozen or fresh cranberries
2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons, fresh, squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line muffin tin with paper cups. 

In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest and cranberries.  Mix well.  Lightly beat eggs in a small bowl. Add eggs, melted butter and milk to the flour mixture and stir until all is combined.   Do not overmix.  Spoon equally into muffin tin and cook for 20 minutes or until done.

While muffins are baking, stir the lemon juice and sugar together until the sugar dissolves.  When muffins are cooked, generously brush the tops with the glaze.  

Other muffin recipes you may like to try:  Bran Muffins with wheatgerm or Pumpkin Walnut Date Muffins

Monday, December 10, 2018

Zany Black Bean Salad

Black Bean Salad
Black Bean Salad

A fun, tasty and sweet-ish dish.  It may not be the prettiest but trust me, this dish tastes better than it looks!

Serves 4

Boiling water
8 dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 - 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup  chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper 

Pour boiling water over dates in a small bowl and let stand 15 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a blender.  Add lime juice, oil, water, oregano, honey, cumin and coriander to the date puree.

In a medium bowl combine the beans, bell peppers, onion and cilantro.  Toss with dressing, to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Not your salad?  Try the Kale Salad With Dried Cranberries, Feta and Green Grapes Recipe or Salad with Roasted Beets and Feta.

Monday, December 3, 2018

How To Set A Table

table setting to impress

You may find yourself entertaining relatives or friends at a sit-down dinner at home.  Here’s a refresher on how to set a table to impress.

  • Plan everything at once. Think about whether you will have a tablecloth or simply place mats. Will you have linen or paper napkins?  Candles or a centre piece (not too tall, so people can converse), water glasses, wine glasses, and what plates will you serve the meal on?  If you can have things match, you’ll have a harmonious look. Or mix it up for a curated look.

  • Line up cutlery in the order it will be used.  Knives and spoons go on the right of the plate.  Forks on the left. Always place the pieces you’re going to use first on the outside.  So if you’re starting with soup, the soup spoon will go to the right of the other spoons.  Turn the sharp edge of the knife towards the plate in readiness for cutting.  Dessert utensils should be placed horizontally above the plate, or can be brought in later, with the dessert.

  • Place water glasses at the top right above the knives. Wine glasses are set to the right of the water glass in order of use.

To make entertaining easier, try to meal planning ahead of time.  Check out our free course How To Meal Plan For The Everyday Home Cook.  It includes a video and meal planning templates.