Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Late September and the plums are still plentiful

I love plums. We had an Italian prune plum tree in our backyard when I was growing up, and my most vivid memory of any first day of school was always the warm, sticky, gently bruised plums at the bottom of my brown paper bag. Yuck. OK, granted, not a good way to sing the praises of this fruit, but they were never intended to travel around in a thin, paper sack! Instead, they should be plucked off the tree or out of the fridge and eaten standing up or, better, lying flat on your back on the grass.

They are a lovely mix of sweet and tart, between the slightly honeyed flesh and the squint-provoking skin. This year, the plums we bought at Cherry Lane Farms, a local source here in Richmond, are the best I have ever had. So sweet and flavourful, not a watery one in the box. I have processed most of the 40 pounds into stewed fruit, frozen flat in freezer bags and stacked now in both freezers. The rest are tucked away in my fridge's crisper - they will ripen quickly if left at room temperature - once they are starting to soften they are sweet and should be stored in a cooler spot.

So what are plums doing on a cancer recipe blog? Well, funny you should ask. These little puppies are powerful good at fixing a whole bunch that ails you. They are high in vitamin C, helping your body both ward off infection and absorb iron. They also contain vitamin A and beta carotene, vital for a healthy body and good eyesight. Even more relevant for us, in recent years they have also been linked by some studies (here and here) to cancer prevention, including breast and gastrointestinal. The skin contains the same powerful antioxidants as blueberries, so wash but don't peel them. Do I also need to remind you about their fibre content? Any of you going through chemo right now need to remember this if you are having any, um, bathroom issues.

I urge you to get some before they are gone. I am off this weekend for another big box! And when you get sick of eating them raw, here are some inspiring recipes for adding plums to your diet.
  1.  Grilled plum porridge from Butterfly Food's Ashley Colbourne via Style At Home.
  2. Roasted plums with Greek yogurt, honey, and almonds. Two peas & their pod.
  3. Spicy plum salsa for serving alongside grilled salmon, prawns or chicken. Martha Stewart.
  4. Roasted plum and spinach salad. So pretty. Chatelaine.
  5. Plum, beet and arugula salad. Lots of cancer fighters here, especially with the addition of walnuts or switching in watercress for the arugula. Best Health.
  6. Stone fruit slaw. Ginger, vinegar, curry, red pepper and firm stone fruit. Earlier in the summer, try peaches or nectarines. But right now, use slightly under ripe Italian prune plums. Bon Appetit.
  7. Roasted pork loin with poached plums. For our meat eaters. Epicurious.
  8. My stewed plums. Easy. Just halve and pit many plums and put them with a little water in a heavy bottomed, large pot over medium heat. Sometimes, I add chopped apples, especially firm ones that don't fall apart - they add nice texture to the finished sauce. Stir to prevent the fruit from sticking and burning, and continue to cook until the plums are soft. I usually add raisins part way through the cooking process, and they plump up nicely from the warm juice. I also add a splash of vanilla and cinnamon to taste, near the end of cooking time. Taste before adding sugar - this year the fruit were so sweet I added NO SUGAR. Serve warm or cold, lovely with warm toast. This freezes beautifully. Bunny loves them for breakfast with a bit of toast on the side. 
Have a great week.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Recipe links - what's making my socks roll up and down this week!

    1. Roasted chickpeas - yum, yum, yum. A great snack while watching TV, a satisfying addition to most salads, or just a simple side at dinner time. Easy and quick. Mark Bittman. 
    2. Gazpacho from Vancouver food icon Diane Clement. We are at the height of tomato season so grab some at the local stand or farmers market and try this recipe. Eat Local Be Local.
    3. Deconstructed fish tacos - these are beautiful - perfect for company on a warm end-of-summer evening as we try to squeeze the last bit of sunshine from the season. Or, throw them together for your family just because they are tasty! And good for you - the recipe was part of Mele Cotte's fifth annual Cooking to Combat Cancer drive this past spring. Mele Cotte.
    4. Tuscan white bean stew. I hate to say it, but we are quickly approaching the days when a nice warm bowl of this will really hit the spot. Sigh. Mayo Clinic.
    5. Salmon fish cakes and everyday green chopped salad are simple but tasty ways to put the boot to cancer tonight. Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
    6. Mussels with zucchini and basil is a nice twist on simple steamers. And you probably know someone who is trying to fob zucchini off on you these days. Coconut and Lime.
    7. Potato crusted wild pacific salmon. Five ingredients plus salt and pepper gets you a company worthy dish with a weeknight's effort. From Arsenal Pulp Press' As Fresh as it Gets via Food Network Canada.
    8. Finally, just a reminder. This list of cancer fighting foods and spices is worth printing off and taping to the inside of a kitchen cabinet. Look at it often to ensure you are filling your diet with them. The Cancer Cure Foundation.

      Monday, July 18, 2011

      Grilled salads from the Today Show

      Last week,  I included a post on the dangers of eating lots of grilled foods. If you are looking for ways to decrease your grilled meat dishes at your next bbq, consider these great salads featured on the Today Show this morning.

      My favourite of the two - Panzanella Salad. I have loved every one I have ever made. And this one by chef David Creamer is full of great colourful vegetables and vibrant flavours. I'll try this one later in the summer when my heirloom tomatoes are at their peak. Right now, I'm tempted to roast and dice some beets from the garden to add after the salad has been dressed and tossed. Watercress also works well mixed with the romaine.

       

      Panzanella salad

      from chef


      • 1 cup chopped romaine (add red oak or other speciality greens if desired)
      • 2 anchovies, filet
      • 1/8 cup roasted red tomatoes
      • 1/8 cup roasted yellow peppers
      • 1/2 pieces of fresh lemon, half a lemon juice and zest
      • 1/4 pound ciabatta bread
      • 4 fresh basil, leaves
      • 1/8 cup Italian olives
      • 1/4 cup olive oil
      • 1/8 cup parmesan reggiano
      • Salt and pepper to taste
      Vinaigrette
      • 4 garlic cloves
      • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar
      • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano
      • 3 tablespoons dried oregano
      • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
      • 1 tablespoon honey
      • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 3/4 cup olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
      • 2 tablespoons onion powder
      • 1/3 cup Dijon mustard
      Instructions:
      To make the oregano vinaigrette: Combine the garlic, vinegar, oregano, parsley, honey and salt in a blender.
      Blend until smooth, while motor is running slowly add the oil and process until emulsified.
      Put the mixture into a 10 to 12 inch salad bowl and add it to the fridge to chill.
      To make the salad: Brush ciabatta bread with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper and place on grill, be sure to let some carbon build up on bread to add flavor to salad.
      Once bread has been grilled, cut into 1 inch pieces.
      In a medium bowl add chopped romaine and red oak, anchovies, roasted red tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers, fresh lemon(Squeeze juice from half of a lemon and zest), fresh basil, olives, ciabatta grilled crotons and salt and pepper to taste with 3 ounces of your freshly prepared oregano vinaigrette.
      Toss making sure to coat greens and vegetables evenly. Place into bowl and top with fresh shaved parmesan cheese.

      Thursday, July 7, 2011

      Up next in the garden, strawberries....

      ...cause, heck, they're ripe! And I really have to act quickly 'cause I am losing the war against the slugs...and the racoons...and the dog. Aaaaaagh!

      If you took a look at EWG's dirty dozen, revised and re-released for 2011, strawberries are number 3 on the list. Non-organic strawberries, that is. And the ones I have growing in my garden haven't been touched by anything other than homemade compost and water. And, um, slugs, racoons and a dog...but say it with me - "NO MAN MADE TOXINS!" Organic baby.

      I will be honest, I am also buying the dirty, dirty non-organic ones. I wash them well, but I know that only removes a fraction of the pesticide. But until my ship comes in, I can't afford to manage my strawberry habit on only organic ones. So, non-organic in moderation and backyard berries until they're gone.

      In addition to being yummy dipped in chocolate or piled with whipped cream onto biscuits, strawberries are also good for you (though not necessarily prepared these ways). They are high in antioxidants (way up there with blueberries) and vitamin C, and are good sources of magnesium and potassium. They also are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. So win-win-win.
      1. A Christmas Green Smoothie Dessert - Strawberries, Baby Spinach, Aloe Vera, Bananas and Dates from the Green Smoothie Queen. This one you can make all year - keep some berries in the freezer.
      2. Fresh Strawberry Salsa from Jeanette's Healthy Living.
      3. Healthy Strawberry Oat Squares with Homemade Jam from Oh She Glows.
      4. Avocados with Strawberry Salsa and Crispy Tortilla Strips from Epicurious.
      5. Strawberry Pecan Salad from Canadian Living. Try subbing in roasted pumpkin seeds for the nuts if, like me, you are allergic to tree nuts, or if you don't have any pecans around. They are fantastic in salads.
      6. Strawberry and Ricotta Pancakes from Delicious Magazine.
      7. Strawberry and Leek Quesadillas from Sprouted Kitchen.
      8. Roasted Strawberry Tomato Salsa from Great-Salsa.com
      9. Strawberry Soup I from All Recipes. Chilled, it has just a touch of cardamom and smells amazing.
      10. Finally, the one I am most excited about, Strawberry Salad with Speck and Halloumi from Jamie Oliver. Speck is a juniper-flavoured ham from the Tyrol area that bridges Austria and Italy. I'm substituting proscuitto 'cause I don't have a shmick where I'd find speck around here.

      Tuesday, June 7, 2011

      Our garden recipes - next up, rainbow chard

      This week I am going to wax poetic about the prettiest little fellow in my garden, at least for now: rainbow chard. It is truly gorgeous. Rich green leaves with brilliantly crayon coloured gold, red and orange stalks. Here's what mine looks like right now.  


      And it just gets better and better looking, unless some pesky bugs come and start chowing down. Note to self: buy ladybugs.

      Rainbow chard is not just pretty - it's an important part of an anti-cancer diet. All varieties of Swiss chard are packed with vitamins C, E, and K, carotenes, chlorophyll, and fiber. They are all excellent sources of potassium, magnesium, iron, and manganese and good sources of vitamin B6, protein, calcium, thiamine, selenium, zinc, niacin, and folic acid. A veritable roll-call of wee but mighty anti-cancer soldiers.

      I urge you to pick some up if you see it at the produce stand or farmer's market. To help get you going, I have selected a range of promising recipes, but chard will substitute for spinach in almost any recipe you already like. The young leaves are mild and sweet tasting; once the plants are more mature they are, while still yummy, stronger in flavour. And, as with any green, if the centre spine of the leaf is tough,  remove it during prep.
      1. First, a basic recipe for rainbow chard, from Dr. Oz, as featured in The Anti-Cancer Diet.
      2. Seared Rainbow Chard with Leeks from Epicurious.
      3. Rainbow Chard and Radicchio Sauté from Bon Appétit.
      4. Rainbow Chard Salad with Raisins and Walnuts from The Kitchn at Apartment Therapy.
      5.  Rainbow Chard with Garlic and Olive Oil from Livestrong. A good, simple, fast recipe.
      6.  Rainbow Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta from Real Simple.
      7. Fettuccine with Rainbow Chard and White Beans from MyRecipes. Try looking for beans packed in non-bpa cans like those packaged by Eden. Or consider soaking and cooking dry beans. Way cheaper...just sayin'.
      8. Here's a similar one, Rainbow Chard with White Beans and Bacon from NYC Food Blog. Mmmm, bacon.
      9. French Lentil Soup with Barley and Rainbow Chard from Jeanette's Healthy Living.
      10. Italian White Bean, Turkey and Rainbow Chard Soup from Livestrong.
      11. Rainbow Chard and Coconut Soup from Tastebook.
      And, before we get too far into the growing season, consider planting some food in your backyard or on your balcony, deck or porch. One pot and a little sunshine can let you produce salad greens, herbs, even tomatoes, beets or carrots. Not much work and the payoff is very rewarding.

      Have a great day!

      Monday, June 6, 2011

      Monday's recipe links

      1. Green Pea Soup from the sublime Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks.
      2. Also from Heidi, Mostly Not Potato Salad, via Serious Eats.
      3. Greens with Fruit and Mustard Vinaigrette from Mark Bittman.
      4. Asparagus in Bed, adapted from Cucina Simpatica by Johanne Killeen and George Germon, by Matthew Amster-Burton of Roots and Grubs and Spilled Milk fame.
      5. Brown Rice Salad with Citrus-Thai Basil Dressing from Saucy & Bossy.
      6. So pretty. Green Beans with Apricots and Serrano Ham from food52.
      7. Finally, Gordon Ramsay's Crispy Salmon via You Tube.

      Monday, May 30, 2011

      Monday's recipe links

      Happy Memorial Day to my American friends and family! I hope you are sharing some good weather, good food and good times.
      1. Quinoa with Currants, Dill, and Zucchini from 101 Cookbooks. 
      2. Barley with Cucumber and Yogurt-Dill Dressing from Mark Bittman.
      3. Lentil and Kohlrabi Salad from Chocolate and Zucchini.
      4. Spring Salad with New Potatoes from Smitten Kitchen.
      5. Squash Blossoms Two Ways from Tartelette.
      6. Roasted Baby Leeks with Thyme from Jamie Oliver.
      7. Fresh Strawberry Granita from epicurious.
      8. Lemon and Watermelon Granitas from The Telegraph.
      9. Chocolate Gelato inspired by Saveur but perfected by Cafe Fernando, Istanbul.
      10. And in honour of my lovely step-daughter teaching English in South Korea, Kimchi Fried Rice from Orangette.

      Thursday, May 26, 2011

      Our garden recipes - up first, beets!

      My mother-in-law makes what must surely be among the world's best borschts, so I wasn't entirely surprised when my husband suggested we add beets to our garden plot this year. I was on board, but the boys took a little more convincing. They know that anything we grow in our garden is going to end up on their plates, so it was with what can only be described as modest enthusiasm that they agreed to help me plant them.

      I get that beets aren't everyone's favourite vegetable. But they are one of mine. I love their earthy taste when they are roasted, their tart bite when they are pickled, the way they pair with orange, honey, dill, blue cheese or lemon. And you can't beat the beautiful colours of the roots, vibrant reds and golden oranges, and their deep green leaves.  They are worth growing simply for their lush beauty as you pull them from the soil.

      Now as I do my cancer prevention research, I learn wonderful things about beets, both the roots and the greens. They are packed with folate which helps build strong bones.  They are a good source of potassium, an important mineral for heart function which may also decrease one's risk for stroke and osteoporosis. They contain magnesium, a mineral vital for maintaining bone health, and are loaded with the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene. They also contain betacyanin, a phytochemical that may have anti-cancer properties.

      So if I haven't convinced you to give them anther try by now, you are one tough cookie. Maybe some recipes will soften you up?
      1. First up, a great selection of recipes at Canadian Living. How about Beet and Orange Salad, Beet Risotto with Rapini, Beet, Apple and Spinach Salad, Honey Lemon Beets, or Sesame Wilted Beet Greens?
      2. Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Feta from Epicurious.
      3. Grated Beet Salad with Blue Cheese from the kitchn at Apartment Therapy.
      4. Beet Greens from Simply Recipes. A touch of bacon, some garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a splash of cider vinegar make this a worthy side dish for your next roast chicken or poached salmon.
      5. Finally, Eating Well's best beet recipes which includes Roasted Beet Crostini, Borscht, Beet Carpaccio, Salmon and Roasted Vegetable Salad, and Roasted Halibut with Pickled Beets.
      Convinced you yet? I will just ask you what I ask the boys - promise me you'll just try them. You never know!

      Thursday, May 19, 2011

      Today's unlikely cancer warrior...rhubarb!

      In February of 2010, researchers at a British university released their findings that rhubarb showed signs of being a potent cancer fighter. The key, they said, were the polyphenols found in this and many other red vegetables. These polyphenols only get more concentrated with baking, something most rhubarb recipes call for. If you've ever chomped on a raw rhubarb stick, you'll understand why!

      I love rhubarb. My husband loves rhubarb. I have said before that I am suspicious of people who don't. Except children. I will acknowledge that most people aren't born loving rhubarb. But once you do, you will learn to look forward to spring for it as much as for the change in the weather.

      I hope you have a good source nearby. Check your farmer's markets and produce stands. The season isn't long so if you are a true nut like me buy extra and freeze it.  Fair warning - most of these recipes are high in sugar, so consume in moderation!

      1. Mark Bittman's rhubarb crisp. I've mentioned it before but it is worth mentioning again. Yum.
      2. Canadian Living compiled a great list of tested rhubarb recipes. Included are: rhubarb compote, strawberry rhubarb sorbet, rhubarb frozen yogurt, and rhubarb strawberry macaroon cobbler.
      3. Rhubarb coffee cake from the Carbone Cancer Centre at the University of Wisconsin.
      4. Rhubarb and orange compote from the World Cancer Research Fund.
      5. Cranberry rhubarb chutney from Diana Dyer, MS, RD and cancer survivor.
      6. Best rhubarb bars from Krumkake at Group Recipes.
      7. Grandma's strawberry and rhubarb pie at the Food Network.
      Happy cooking!

      Monday, May 16, 2011

      Monday's recipe links

      1. Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw from Mark Bittman.
      2. Lentil and Kohlrabi Salad from Chocolate and Zucchini.
      3. Asparagus Artichoke Salad from Simply Recipes.
      4. Slow-baked Salmon with Carrot Cucumber Salad from Canadian Living.
      5. As part of my never-ending search for healthier Thai recipes, Thai-Style Chicken Soup with Basil, Thai-Spiced Watermelon Soup with Crabmeat, Stir-Fried Pumpkin with Chiles and Basil, and, now that some believe coconut milk in moderation may actually be good for us, Thai Chicken-Coconut Soup. Epicurious - so check out the user ratings and comments.
      6. And the best roast chicken in the world. Alice Waters via Ladies' Home Journal. Add lots of garlic and serve with roasted sweet potatoes and sauteed greens. Or that Asparagus Artichoke Salad up there!

      Tuesday, May 10, 2011

      Recipe links

      I have been an inconsistent poster of late. Sorry regular readers! I blame my travelin' man and rambunctious monkeys.

      1. Heidi Swanson's Spiced Coconut Spinach on 101 Cookbooks. Still on my spinach bender - I must be going through 4 to 6 cups a day! Note: on this recipe, at the time of my posting, Heidi has forgotten to indicate when to add the shallot/garlic paste. I would do it just before toasting the spices. I'll try it and let you know if that works.
      2. Oooooh, pretty. Ribboned Asparagus Salad with Lemon at Smitten Kitchen.
      3. Easiest Bean or Grain Salad on the Planet Recipe. A very flexible recipe and good guidance for those of us looking to increase our bean and whole grain consumption this spring. Mark Bittman.
      4. Also from Mark Bittman's site, Halibut Steaks with Creamy Saffron Sauce.
      5. Melissa Clark's Olive Oil Banana Bread via xo breakfast. Whole wheat flour, dark chocolate, lemon and olive oil together with potassium packed bananas? I think I could get my doctor to prescribe this!
      6. And because we are closing in on strawberry season, another Heidi Swanson recipe, this one from her new cookbook. According to the interview she gave to Design Sponge, it's her favourite recipe in the book - Roasted Strawberries.

      Tuesday, April 19, 2011

      Monday's recipe links...um...on Tuesday

      1. Coconut and brown rice pudding. Mark Bittman
      2. A fantastic way to use up leftover pasta and extra greens and avocado, Heidi's Spring Pasta. 101 Cookbooks
      3. Barley Salad. Some barley, cucumber, feta, mint...what a fresh start to spring! Cookstr
      4. Vegetable Biryani. My husband has been in India for a week and a half and just announced today he has hit the Indian food wall. :-) I'll have to wait a few weeks before I try this recipe! Cookstr
      5. Asparagus, two ways.  Food52
      6. Also from Food52, also asparagus, Absurdly Addictive Asparagus, 'cause that is the best recipe name I've come across in weeks.
      7. Strawberry scuffins.That's a scone crossed with a muffin and another Kim Boyce whole grain recipe via the Washington Post and xo breakfast.
      8. And finally my own favourite breakfast recipe this week, poached egg on spinach. Lots of spinach, sauteed and seasoned with good salt (I use Maldon) and some fresh lemon juice. Top with an egg poached to your liking. A little pepper. Bada bing bada boom.

      Monday, April 11, 2011

      Monday's recipe links

      1. Spring vegetables in parchment from The Wednesday Chef.
      2. Also from The Wednesday Chef, Molly O'Neill's roasted carrot and red lentil soup.
      3. Butter glazed radishes from Orangette. Ok - that may sound odd, but Molly has never let me down before.
      4. Raw beet salad from Mark Bittman. Yum.
      5. Kim Boyce's oatmeal pancakes from xo breakfast. Kim Boyce wrote Good to the Grain, a much-loved in Foodie Land cookbook on baking with whole grains.
      6. Also from xo breakfast, a ridiculous sandwich. Like, in a terribly good way. Avocado, lettuce, tomato, fried egg and monteray jack cheese. Lord above. Pop on some bacon and I may have to marry it.
      7. And what I'm making for my boys today, whole wheat chocolate chip skillet cookies. 101 Cookbooks.

      Monday, April 4, 2011

      Monday's recipe links

      1. 7 ways to make lentil soup. Mark Bittman
      2. A new take on granola with a tropical twist. Coconut & Lime
      3. Outstanding recipe collection - editors' picks for beans and grains at Food 52.
      4. The parsnip soup featured on Spilled Milk from Molly and Matthew. Orangette
      5. Chickpea salad with lemon, Parmesan and fresh herbs. Epicurious
      6. Baked white bean dip with rosemary and Parmesan. Pinch My Salt
      7. And a little chuckle from Cake Wrecks.

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Chicken and chickpea soup

      I had some bone-in chicken breasts and some chicken stock that needed to get used up. What to do? I didn't much feel like doing a boring chicken noodle soup (I pass no judgment if your particular version is the sexy kind of chicken soup that flashes its boobies at Mardi Gras - my chicken noodle soup wears cotton undies and sensible shoes). So I googled chicken soup with chickpeas. Weird - yes, I will give you that. I don't normally think chickpeas when I think sexy soup. But I have been on a bit of a chickpea bender of late, and I was keen to try out the new way I had found on Chow Hound to soak them (it's a Nigella tip where you add a slurry of baking soda, flour and salt to the soaking water).

      What I found was a promising Martha Steward recipe from Everyday Food. Cumin, cinnamon and coriander, garlic, lemon and cilantro...it looked appealing on a cold day.

      So I gave it a shot. Verdict? We have a winner. The chickpeas were tender and creamy. The chicken was not too dry (thighs would have been perfectly moist). And the flavours were just Moroccan enough to feel exotic on a cold March day. The finishing touch of minced cilantro tossed with garlic and lemon juice was gor-geous.

      Here is my adaptation.

      Chicken and chickpea soup
      Adapted from Everyday Food.

      Ingredients:
      • 2 teaspoons olive oil
      • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or 2 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
      • Coarse salt and ground pepper
      • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced or 2 medium leeks, light green parts only
      • 3 teaspoons minced garlic
      • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
      • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seed
      • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
      • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
      • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or approximately 1/2 to 2/3 cup dry, soaked overnight (see note) and cooked until tender
      • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
      • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
      Note: Pick through the dry chickpeas and remove any twigs or stones. Put in a pot and add water to cover by several inches. Mix together 1 teaspoon baking soda with 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon salt. Add a bit of water and stir to make a thin paste. Stir this paste into the soaking chickpeas. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.

      Instructions:
      1. In a large, heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Season chicken with salt and pepper and cook, skin side down, until skin is browned and crisp, about 6 minutes. Slightly more if you are using large chicken breasts. Flip chicken and cook until browned, 6 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
      2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from pot. Add onion or leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons garlic and spices; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in carrots and return chicken to pot. Stir in broth.
      3. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a medium simmer, partially cover, and cook until chicken is falling off the bone, 50 minutes.
      4. Remove chicken from soup. When cool enough to handle, tear chicken into large pieces, discarding skin and bones. Return meat to pot. Add chickpeas and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. In a small bowl, stir together 1 teaspoon garlic, lemon zest, and cilantro; sprinkle over soup before serving.
      Serves 6.

      Wednesday, March 16, 2011

      Cauliflower soup - yum yum yum!

      Back in January I supplied my first set of recipe links. Last night, I finally got around to making the cauliflower soup from The Wednesday Chef. What was I waiting for?! Months have gone by during which I could have been filling my belly and waxing my virtuous soul with this elixir from the gods. Sorry. I'm embellishing a bit. But this is a really good soup. And you know what the sign of a good soup is? My husband doesn't like soup  - he loved this soup.

      The bonus: it's good for you in a way lots of cauliflower soup isn't. It gets all its yumminess from healthy things - no added cream or cheese. Just leeks or onion, cauliflower, water, olive oil, salt and lemon juice. That's it! It also calls for a finishing touch of a dusting of piment d'espelette. That's a ground Basque red pepper that has a mild heat. I don't have any so substituted plain paprika though next time I might use the hot, or even my smoked sweet. Luisa Weiss, the Wednesday Chef blogger suggests also adding croutons but I didn't miss them. (Although we had toasted pita with a little cheddar melted on them on the side. And a shrimp avocado salad.)

      I'd show you a picture but it got eaten up too quickly for me to stage a shot. But it pretty much looked like the shot on Luisa's website. I mean, it's cauliflower soup.

      Cauliflower Soup


      Ingredients:
      1 leek or 1 onion
      3 tablespoons olive oil
      1 cauliflower, green leaves and trunk removed
      Water
      Salt
      1/2 lemon
      Piment d'Espelette, optional
      Homemade croutons, optional

      Instructions:
      1. Peel and clean the leek and cut into thin slices, discarding the tough green tops. If using the onion, peel and thinly slice. Warm olive oil in a heavy pot and gently sauté the leek or onion in the olive oil until wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. In the meantime, wash the cauliflower and slice thickly. Add the cauliflower to the pot and stir to combine. After 2 to 3 minutes, add enough water to cover the vegetables.
      2. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, purée until smooth and creamy. Add salt to taste and the juice of the 1/2 lemon. Taste and, if your socks don't roll up and down, add the juice from the other half. I had to keep adding juice a squeeze at a time and then finally, kaboom, it was perfect. You could also pass extra lemon wedges at the table.
      3. Serve dusted with piment d'Espelette or homemade croutons.

      Serves 4 to 5 (or, um, 3)

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Chickpeas!

      Most of us are happy to indulge in garlicky hummus and pita chips when they are offered at a cocktail party. But when was the last time you included them in your evening meal? If you are thinking about including more vegetables and cutting back on red meat in your diet, chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a great part of your new plant-based diet. They are full of fiber, protein and healthful nutrients. And, they are surprisingly flexible, finding a happy home in dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even sweets!

      Case in point:
      1. Tunisian chickpea breakfast soup from Martha Rose Shulman, one of my favourite cookbook authors.
      2. Italian breakfast chickpeas from Vegetable Matter.
      3. Garbanzo-oat waffles from Mr. Breakfast. It calls for garbanzo flour. Click here to find out how to make your own if you can't find it in your grocery store.
      4. Jane Mendel's Chickpea soup with crisp croutons from The Wednesday Chef.
      5. Smashed chickpea salad from Smitten Kitchen.
      6. Gordon Ramsey's flatbread, feta and chickpea salad. Includes a video. 
      7. Chickpeas with baby spinach from the New York Times.
      8. A great selection of chickpea recipes from Canadian Living. Like kale and chickpea soup and cheesy mac and chickpeas.
      9. From Jamie Oliver, summer chickpea salad and something a little more timely, chickpea and potato curry.
      10. Braised cod with chickpeas from Leslie Beck.
      11. Chickpea ragout from the wonderful Jacques Pépin.
      12. Chickpea cookies also from Leslie Beck. 
      13. Chickpea blondies from Have Cake, Will Travel.
      14. Chocolate chickpea spread from Bitter Sweet .
      Sorry, one more note. I love hummus. And have been known to make a pretty good one. If I can pass along some hints, I have successfully made rockin' yummy hummus with very little added fat. Although I traditionally use canned chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and sometimes a touch of cumin and red pepper flakes, I have on occasion cut way back on the olive oil and tahini and instead loosened up the chickpea puree with water, low fat plain yogurt or vegetable stock! As long as I have a good quantity of lime juice and garlic, it's an easy way to make a yummy spread or dip without all the extra fat.

      Friday, March 4, 2011

      Pumpkin soup with a southwest twist

      Can I keep blaming chemo brain? The other day, I confidently reached my hand into the cupboard, hauled out a big can of whole tomatoes and opened it. Something just felt wrong. It took me a second, but when I finally looked at the can in my hand, I realized it was a can of pumpkin. Pumpkin!? Seriously? Crap. I put it to one side and carefully bent over, looked in the cupboard and pulled out the intended can of tomatoes. As I opened all I could think was, "What the heck am I going to do with pumpkin."

      Soup. Of course soup. My husband was voting for pie (my family does a kick ass pumpkin pie - seriously, take a step back if you think yours is even close) but I knew there was no way pie was happening in the middle of a busy week in March. So soup it was.

      I don't have a go to pumpkin soup recipe so I decided to take a quick scan on the web. I couldn't find an interesting one...too many curried versions. Then I happened upon a conversation thread for a recipe in Epicurious. That and a couple of turns around my kitchen cupboards and I came up with the following:

      Pumpkin soup with corn and black beans

      Ingredients:
      3 tbs olive oil
      2 tbs butter
      2 medium to large onions, diced
      4 cloves garlic, minced
      2 tsp cayenne pepper
      2 ½ tbs brown sugar
      2 tsp cumin
      1 tsp chilli powder
      ¼ tsp nutmeg
      6 cups vegetable stock
      1 cup milk or cream
      1 large can pumpkin
      2 cups frozen corn (or more depending on taste)
      1 can black beans, rinsed
      Salt and pepper to taste
      Optional toppings: 
        Chopped cilantro
        Sour cream
        Salsa
        Diced avocado
        Mexican hot sauce

      Instructions:
      1. Heat oil and butter in a dutch oven or heavy bottomed stock pot.
      2. Add onions and cook on low, approx 15 minutes.
      3. Add garlic, cayenne, brown sugar, cumin, chili powder and nutmeg and cook another 15 minutes or so, until the onions are caramelized.
      4. Increase heat to medium. Add stock and milk or cream and allow to come to a simmer.
      5. When hot, whisk in the pumpkin.
      6. Puree either in batches in the blender (remember to take care when blending hot liquids) or with an immersion blender.
      7. Add in corn and beans. Heat through. Taste and add salt and pepper.
      8. Serve warm with optional toppings of chopped cilantro, sour cream, salsa, diced avocado and/or hot sauce.
       Serves 6 to 8.


      Yum. :-)

      Wednesday, March 2, 2011

      Cooking with coconut oil

      Yesterday my sister asked me what I knew about cooking with coconut oil. She too had heard rumblings about the seeming shift in public perception of this once vilified fat. Today, it popped up again in an article in the New York Times. Time for a closer look.

      Previously lumped in with other scary fats like palm oil, coconut oil has been growing in popularity in the past five years. And users are getting support from the research community. Seems scientists are rethinking their original statements about what the fat does in our bodies.

      For details on the science, here's an excerpt from the article:

      Marisa Moore, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, a nonprofit association of nutritionists, said, “Different types of saturated fats behave differently.” 

      The main saturated fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid. Lauric acid increases levels of good HDL, or high-density lipoprotein, and bad LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, in the blood, but is not thought to negatively affect the overall ratio of the two. 

      She went on to say that while it is still uncertain whether coconut oil is actively beneficial the way olive oil is, small amounts probably are not harmful. The new federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10 percent of total dietary calories a day come from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s about 20 grams. 

      Alternative medicine guru Dr. Andrew Weil is still waiting for definitive evidence that it is a good fat to include in your diet, although he does point to its topical benefits in skin care. Conversely, Dr. Oz  has made the switch to coconut oil from butter in his kitchen (allegedly...the link I have included has broken since I added it - check out this link to hear him talk about coconut oil on his show.)

      At this point, there still isn't consensus on some of the sexier claims made about it: that it has antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral properties. But from the New York Times article, it does look like, if used in moderation, it is a perfectly fine fat to integrate into some of your recipes.

      So, why would you want to use it? Vegans like it because it can be used in place of butter in most recipes, so it serves as a great substitute in baking and other "solid fat" applications, like icing. Other cooks like the subtle coconut flavour it brings to dishes, like sauteed greens, roasted sweet potatoes, and popcorn.

      They included some interesting recipes with the article:
      1. Coconut oil roasted sweet potatoes
      2. Coconut oil poundcake with almonds and lime zest
      3. Sauteed shrimp with coconut oil, ginger and coriander
      4. Chocolate shell ice-cream topping.
      And here are a few I rounded up:
      1. Jamaican veggie patties from one of my favourite recipe blogs, 101 Cookbooks.
      2. Vegan chocolate chip cookies from London Foodie in New York.
      3. Vegan cupcakes from All Recipes. Gets great reviews.
      Check out vegan cooking blogs and you will find a lot more.
      Ultimately, I think I'm going to use this information to relax a little about cooking with coconut milk, like in Thai curries. Whether or not you want to start using coconut oil in your kitchen, I think you all can make up your own minds!

        Sunday, February 27, 2011

        Monday's recipe links

        Soup. I love soup. Especially on a day like today where there is slush melting in the driveway and water dripping off the eaves. Did I mention the wind and the frigid air? OK - I need some soup.

        1. Rapini, leek and rice soup from Coconut and Lime.
        2. Potato, leek and cauliflower soup, also from Coconut and Lime.
        3. Soupe au pistou from David Lebovitz.
        4. Celery root soup, also from David Lebovitz.
        5. Butternut squash apple soup from A Cozy Kitchen.
        6. White bean chowder from A Communal Table.
        7. Coconut red lentil soup from 101 Cookbooks.
        8. Cauliflower soup with gorgonzola, also from 101 Cookbooks.
        9. Armenian apricot soup, also from 101 Cookbooks. Sorry, she really knows her soup.
        10. Real mushroom soup from Jamie Oliver.

          Friday, February 25, 2011

          No way - these recipes look too yummy to be healthy

          I got my new issue of Eating Well magazine today and I was shocked at the number of recipes I couldn`t wait to try. Wow, how times have changed. Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I tended to associate health food magazines with boring articles and brown rice. And kombu, fermented bean pastes and, of course, tofu. And weird goddess drawings. Now, I look at them and am shocked by the plethora of beautiful pictures and interesting recipes...when did they change? Funny what the fear of death does to one's perception. :-)

          After half an hour or so of bookmarking recipes, I thought I should share. The common element is simply this - I would try this recipe even if I wasn't eating like my life depended on it. Now, I will warn you, there are many references to brown rice...but if you want to substitute white rice now and then, I won't tell. (But honestly, if you didn't know it was better for you - and if it didn't take so much longer to cook - wouldn't you choose it over white some of the time?)

          I'm going to pour myself a glass of wine and try a couple of these out! I might even make some brown rice.
          1. Balsamic and parmesan roasted cauliflower
          2. Leek, potato and spinach stew (OK this isn't an exciting recipe for everyone, but I have always loved leeks and potatoes together - and this one gets great reviews)
          3. Brothy Chinese noodles
          4. Elise's sesame noodles
          5. Grilled salmon with tomatoes and basil
          6. Shrimp saganaki
          7. Chicken sausage with potatoes and sauerkraut
          8. Thai chicken mango stir-fry
          9. Seared steaks with caramelized onions and gorgonzola 
          10. Oven sweet potato fries or spicier chile-garlic roasted sweet potatoes
          11. Layered mashed potato and mushroom casserole
          12. Swirled cheesecake brownies

          Thursday, February 24, 2011

          Sorry for the blackout

          As I have noted over on my main blog, I am not out of town or in a funk. I am just having trouble posting because of my wacky computer. We hope to be back up to speed in a jiff.

          Cheers!

          Monday, February 21, 2011

          Monday's recipe links

          This week, a bunch of great winter, plant-based recipes. Many of them are associated with the Meatless Monday`s movement where you give up meat on just this one day. Baby steps right? Do me a favour, try one, just one, of these dishes this week.
          1. Stir fried lentils, mushrooms and caramelized onions. Mark Bittman.
          2. Black bean chili with butternut squash. Bonne Appetit via Epicurious.
          3. Broccoli soup with leeks and thyme. Easy peasy. Also Bonne Appetit via Epicurious.
          4. Green bean salad with pickled red onions and fried almonds. Smitten Kitchen.
          5. Spaghetti with braised kale from The Kitchen Sink Recipes. Adapted from a Molly Wizenberg recipe for Bon Appetit.
          6. Sweet potato with warm black bean salad as part of Meatless Mondays at Eating Well magazine.
          7. Crockpot Mexican chili. Ridiculously easy. I would serve it with some cheese, low-fat sour cream and diced avocado at the table. From the Meatless Mondays website.
          8. Broccoli soup with quinoa and basil oil, halfway down the page in an article on the Meatless Mondays movement in the Star Telegram. Just remember to wash your quinoa before adding it; they neglect that in the directions and you will end up with bitter soup if you don`t.
          9. One pot kale and quinoa pilaf from food52. It also has goat cheese, walnut oil and toasted pine nuts. Yum. I`ll leave out the walnut oil (but those of you without a nut allergy, enjoy!).
          10. Finally, not entirely plant-based but because I am always on the lookout for a new and better way to roast a chicken, a gorgeous recipe that incorporates lots of veggies (parsnips, carrots, fennel and fingerling potatoes as well as onions). Lemon and onion roast chicken also from food52.

          Wednesday, February 16, 2011

          I think you'll love kale

          A little while back, I shared a list of ten super foods and number 9 was kale. It wasn't until recently that I discovered how much I loved kale - for the longest time I just lumped it in with all the other dark green leafy vegetables that can be a little, well, strongly flavoured. I recently read an article from a like-minded individual who said if you like spinach (and I do) you will like kale because it isn't bitter at all, but sweet and mild. You don't even need to load it up with butter, bacon or garlic. It is lovely (yes, I used the word lovely) on its own or added to other dishes. Lately I have been adding it to soups and stews and sauteing it quickly before using it to top a baked potato. Favourite new use? Julienned and layered between roasted tomatoes and shredded mozzarella on a thin crust pizza.

          Sorry - do I need to mention again that it is a full-out, cape wearing anti-cancer super-veg? Give it a shot and start adding it to your regular vegetable rotation (it kicks zucchini's butt).
          1.  365 Days of Kale is the blog of Diana Dyer, wife, mom, dietitian and cancer survivor. She knows kale. Recently, she was asked what her favourite recipes were and these are the ones she makes again and again: Garlic Kale Sweet Potato Soup, Kale Chips, Spicy Lentil Kale Sweet Potato Patties, Kale 3-Bean Salad and Garlic Scape Kale Pesto
          2. I've written about kale chips before, and included Diana's above, but next I'm going to try this recipe from Chow - lemon kale chips.
          3. Kale and apple salad with molasses vinaigrette and lovely sugared pecans. How pretty is that? I can't do pecans though (nut allergy) but I may try it with sugared pumpkin seeds. Won't have the lovely contrast that the shiny, caramel-brown nuts would against the dark green kale, but it beats anaphylaxis shock. From Design Sponge.
          4. Roasted kale greens tossed with a champagne vinaigrette. An elegant side to salmon or stuffed chicken breasts. From the Baltimore Chop.
          5. Here's a great collection from Canadian Living magazine, including: lemon kale with chickpeas, kale and pancetta quiche,  and gemelli with kale, sage and potatoes.
          6. Kale and cheddar gratin, looks yummy and is nice way to make kale more accessible for people who are still getting used to the idea of eating greens! Plus, as an added bonus it has a hit of turmeric in it - feel free to increase it.
          Have a great day!

          Tuesday, February 15, 2011

          Learn more about food at Cooking Up a Story

          If you are interested in the food you eat (and if you aren't, shame on you) you will find a great resource in Cooking Up a Story (CUpS), an online television series and blog about people, food, and sustainable living.The site provides an easy to navigate collection of short form videos on America's food system. The videos are organized into 7 shows: Food Stories, Food News, Growing Food, Cooking Fresh, Small Bites and CUpS Talks (think TED Talks about food). You will find original documentaries on farmers, ranchers, food artisans, and others involved in the sustainable food movement. Come here to get informed about the science, politics and culture of food, growing your own food, and cooking what you reap. 

          Interested in a sampling? Click on the links to learn more about food swaps, making cheese at home, cake decorating with fondant, barbecuing championship ribs, designing thermal banking greenhouses, open pollination, and the high cost of cheap food.

          Monday, February 14, 2011

          Monday's recipe links

          Happy Valentine's Day! If you are cooking for someone you love tonight, you might be looking for some spectacular recipe right about now. In the interest of giving you some healthy options, I thought I'd share what I have been looking at as I make finale plans for my own supper with my three guys tonight.
          1. Eating Well magazine has put together a great list of healthy, impressive recipes.
          2. Heart healthy recipes from Everyday Food magazine. The baked beet chips are beautiful - not sure the kids would go for them, though.
          3. Still with Martha but this time it's her tv show, another heart healthy meal. This one features a really lovely looking tuna recipe.
          4. Gluten-free Valentine's recipes from Elana's Pantry. Lots of lovely little nibbles for those of you who have broken up with flour.
          5. But I'm tired and Jon is off to play Ultimate tonight - so I'm going to fall back on a sentimental favourite - heart shaped pizzas (what Jon and I had on the snowbound at home Valentine's Day he proposed to me). This Fine Cooking recipe for pizza dough in the food processor is great - I do 1/3 whole wheat flour. Add slow roasted tomato sauce (cooling on the counter), really good mozza (trip to store) and some fresh basil (trip to store) plus a salad on the side and you don't need much else. OK - and a nice bubbly.
          Hope you all have a wonderful day.

          Friday, February 11, 2011

          Reject fastfood and get back in the kitchen with Cookstr

          A lot of us are having trouble cooking meals at home these days. Work, kids...ok, this is nuts, you know why you are busy. But the solution to this does not need to be eating fast food.

          If you have or had cancer, are caring for someone going through treatment, or just want to have a long healthy life, eating well is an important part of your defence against disease. The key to doing this is creating an environment that allows you to cook healthy meals even on the busiest days. For that you need to keep basic ingredients on hand, staples as well as the extras that you need to make your meals interesting. To figure out what those extras will be, you need to start gathering together recipes.

          A lot of us already have a few favourite recipe websites. Epicurious has long been at the top of my list. But I have found a new one - Cookstr. This new site does on the web what I do at the library. Basically, they take cookbooks by both established and up-and-coming chefs and authors and pull out the recipes you would want to try if you were paging through them. The result is a huge supply of recipes from a wide range of cuisines, just a click away.

          In celebration of my new find I am going to share the love. Below are what I pulled out doing a quick scan for quick, reasonably healthy recipes. Any of these dishes can be prepared with a reasonably well-stocked fridge and cupboard in less time than it takes to order in or drive-thru. Honestly.

          1. Jamie Oliver's Classic Tomato Spaghetti from his Food Revolution cookbook. Fast and yummy. Plus once you get the hang of this technique, the possibilities for tweaking it are almost endless. Jamie offers some suggestions around shrimp, tuna, and peas. You could also add sauteed peppers, mushrooms or zucchini, pesto, olives, smoked salmon or sliced turkey sausage.
          2. Another pasta, 'cause pasta is quick! This one is Linguine with Bacon and Onions (i.e. Carbonara) from Lidia Bastianich's cookbook Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. If you find slab bacon, buy extra and store it, in portions this size, in your freezer. It also works with thick cut bacon from the grocery store. But again, if you freeze it in portions about this size, it is faster than thawing the whole package (and you don't end up with a big chunk of bacon in the fridge that you might be tempted by later in the week!). Make it healthier - use whole wheat pasta. Or, serve a smaller portion with a big side salad or steamed broccoli.
          3. Nigella Lawson's Chicken Noodle Soup from Nigella Express. Next time you're shopping, buy some udon noodles to keep in the fridge and you can whip this up in a blink. Thaw the chicken breast in the fridge during the day and customize based on the vegetables you have. Another great Nigella recipe - Curry in a Hurry. The secret is a good stash of frozen vegetables, and canned curry paste and coconut milk. Holy crap - I need to go buy some chicken thighs - I'm making this tonight with my frozen kale! :-)
          4. When the weather warms up, try Rick Bayless' Ceviche Salad with Avocado, Cilantro and Green Chile from Mexican Everyday. Use salmon, tuna, snapper or shrimp that you have either picked up at the fish market on the way home (if you are so blessed like we are in my neck of the woods) or thawed in the fridge during the day. It goes together very quickly, way faster than stopping for takeout!
          5. Ellie Krieger's Garlic Basil Shrimp from her cookbook So Easy. Make this even easier and keep peeled and deveined shrimp in the freezer ready to thaw quickly in a colander under running water. If you don't have fresh basil, a swirl of pesto will do the trick.
          6. As an alternative to McDonalds, Nutricious Nuggets from Mom-a-licious author Domenica Catelli. Not far off how I make mine, with the addition of brewer's yeast. Blend a wee bit of dijon in with a scoop of mayo and a dollop of honey, or stir a bit of garlic into some yogurt with a bit of dill and you have quick dipping sauces. Or, honestly, just squirt a big ol puddle of ketchup on their plates and let them attack.
          7. Finally pizza. Normally I would give you a good pizza dough recipe here, but I found a very cool alternative from one of my all-time favourite chefs, Jacques Pepin. His Margherita Pizza from Chez Jacques is made on...tortillas! You could also use other flatbreads - keep a couple of packages of naan or pita in the freezer, or tortillas, and you could have supper on the table in 12 minutes.
          Happy cooking!

          Thursday, February 10, 2011

          Hope for the future of food production

          In recent years, we have been reading increasingly scary news about the future of our food production system. Suddenly I am not so fearful for our future.  Click here to see Birke Baehr speak on this topic at Ted Talks.

          Please watch this. Did I mention, Birke is 11?

          Those of you on Facebook can follow Birke there.

          Monday, February 7, 2011

          Monday's recipe links - today's feature: quinoa

          Today I bring you all things quinoa! There must be something here to make you want to start adding this super food to your diet.
          1. A good basic recipe for preparing quinoa including instructions on washing it. Always wash your quinoa before cooking it to remove its bitter coating.
          2. Beets, spiced quinoa and yogurt. The New York Times. 
          3. Delicious big bowl. Quinoa mixed with potatoes, walnuts, asparagus and onion. 101 Cookbooks.
          4. Quinoa stir fry with kale, chili and nuts from UK food writer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The Guardian.
          5. Tricolour quinoa featuring goat cheese, pine nuts, cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, basil and parmesan. Pretty! Canadian Living.
          6. What I'm making this week - Black bean and tomato quinoa. Epicurious.
          7. Or maybe I'll make this - Moroccan quinoa salad. 20 Minute Supper Club.
          8. Quinoa and turkey patties in pita with tahini sauce. Martha Stewart.
          9. A great quinoa cookbook - Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood.
          10. Lastly - a story on the impact of the growth of quinoa's popularity on Boliva.The article also links to the below recipes. NPR. 

          Sunday, February 6, 2011

          Mollie Katzen's Chilaquile Casserole

          The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen was my second vegetarian cookbook and my first introduction to vegetarian food as something one would make and actually look forward to. My first cookbook had lovely recipes for baba ghanouj and tofu fritters, but I cooked them mostly out of an interest in bonding with my university roommates. The Moosewood Cookbook introduced me to vegetarian dishes that made me swoon and celebrate for their, well, taste as well as their meatlessness! My next vegetarian cookbook was, naturally, Mollie Katzen's next one, Still Life with Menu. And it was this cookbook that produced the single casserole recipe I have cooked most in my life: Chilaquile Casserole.

          It is everything I look forward to in a winter dish: comforting, good for you (depending on what you add to it) and easy. The bonus with this dish is the nice warm heat you get from the chili peppers and hot sauce. You can make it your own by adding a variety of extras based on what you like or what you have in the pantry. My sister and I have experimented with the optionals over the years; I have settled on always adding cumin, garlic, black beans and some type of vegetable. Last night, it was kale, but I also tossed in some diced ham (next time, I'll saute the ham with some onions before adding them).  I am looking forward to leftovers for lunch today and, fingers crossed, tomorrow!



          Chilaquile Casserole

          Ingredients:
          • 12 corn tortillas (the small ones) or 6 flour tortillas (the large ones)
          • 1 medium chili pepper, chopped and seeded, or 1 4-ounce can of green chilies
          • 2-3 cups grated cheese - cheddar, jack or another favourite
          • 4 eggs
          • 2 cups buttermilk (see note 1)
          • salt and pepper to taste

          Optional additions:
          • cooked beans like black, pinto, white and kidney or chick peas
          • sauteed onions and/or garlic
          • sauteed diced or chopped vegetables like zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, leeks, kale or spinach (see note 2)
          • shredded chicken or diced ham - for a non-vegetarian version
          • diced or thinly sliced tofu
          • cumin, oregano, basil
          • hot sauce or 1 to 3 teaspoons of diced canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
          note 1: If you don't have any buttermilk, you can add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 2 cups of milk (minus 2 tablespoons to allow room for the vinegar). Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken slightly and then use.
          note 2: Sauteeing does more than soften the vegetables and carmelize their flavour, it also gets rid of a lot of extra moisture. I have found that raw vegetables give off a lot of water during cooking, making it hard for the custard to set properly.

          Instructions:
          1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
          2. Butter or oil a 2-quart casserole dish. Tear half the tortillas into bite-sized pieces and spread them evenly in the dish. Spread half the chilies and half the cheese on top. Add in any of your optional additions, if you are using them. Tear the remaining tortillas and layer them on top. Top with the remaining chilies and cheese.
          3. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and the four eggs Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the casserole, pulling the tortillas aside to allow the mixture to spread evenly throughout the ingredients.
          4. Bake for 35 minutes, uncovered. 
          5. Serve with sour cream or yogurt, salsa and/or guacamole. Makes a nice meal with a salad.
          Serves 4 to 6.

          Thursday, February 3, 2011

          Smile

          Learning to Cook from xkcd




































          Amazing how true this is even for those of us that can cook.

          Wednesday, February 2, 2011

          Bittman`s Food Manifesto for the Future

          In the New York Time`s opinion pages today, Mark Bittman has published a call to action on the state of food in the United States. If you care about your own health or that of the planet, please read it. And if you don`t, what the heck is wrong with you?

          Tuesday, February 1, 2011

          Meatless Borscht

          While I love borscht, I don't make it very often. My mother-in-law makes fantastic borscht, and it's kind of a hard act to follow. But our new plant-based diet has changed the way I look at food. If we are going to be successful with this new way of eating, we should be turning more often to vegetable dishes we love to help us miss meat less. Well, as I have already stated, I love borscht. So, here goes nothing.

          I turned to Chowtimes for my inspiration. Chowtimes is the very informative and entertaining food blog of Richmond, BC husband and wife Ben and Suanne Yap. If my husband and I want to know where to go in the lower mainland for the best dumplings or pho, this is where we look first. On top of that, they have great recipes.

          About this time last year, they posted a good basic borscht recipe without any meat. I adapted it a bit to suit my own preferences and what I had on hand. If I do say so myself, it was spectacular. The key may have been my substitution of  Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar for the apple cider vinegar in the original recipe. That and an extra splash of plain champagne vinegar to cut the sweetness even more. If you don't have a Trader Joe's near you, or someone who can hook you up, a splash of orange juice with a splash of a good white wine, champagne or sherry vinegar will help give it that extra dimension.


          Meatless Borscht

          Ingredients:
          • 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
          • 6 medium or 4 large beets, peeled and diced
          • 1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
          •  large carrot, peeled and diced
          • 3 - 5 cups finely chopped red or green cabbage
          • 2 small or 1 large onion, chopped
          • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock (I used diluted chicken bouillon)
          • 2 cups water
          • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
          • 2 tablespoons Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar plus an extra splash of a plain, champagne or other, vinegar
          • salt, pepper and sugar to taste
          • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill or dry dill to taste
          • low fat sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
          Instructions: 
          1. Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add beets, potatoes, carrot, cabbage and onion and saute until cabbage softens, about 5 minutes.
          2. Add stock, water and tomato paste. Reduce heat to medium low and cook 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Stir often.
          3. Add vinegar, salt, pepper, sugar and dill to taste.
          4. Serve hot with an optional dollop of sour cream or yogurt. 
          Serves 6.