Monday, December 30, 2013

Dad's turkey soup

This is my dad's turkey soup, made with homemade turkey stock and lots of veggies. I didn't take down the recipe, but it's a delicious mixture of celery (stalks and tops), carrot, red pepper, kale, onion, garlic and herbs, and of course turkey :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chicken cacciatore

This is Giada de Laurentiis' chicken cacciatore recipe. It's from my favourite cookbook of hers, Everyday Italian. It has red peppers, onions and capers, a really nice combination that cooked down into a luscious sauce. The way the peppers tasted reminded me of ratatouille. I modified the recipe in several ways: I added some sliced mushrooms towards the end of the cooking time that I had sauteed separately in butter and fresh thyme. In addition, I used six boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of the four thigh/two breast combination in the original recipe. Finally, I added some red pepper flakes and bay leaves for extra flavour.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Stuffed mushrooms

Seven mushrooms may seem like a strange amount to base a recipe on, but that's all the fungi I had in my fridge. You can modify this recipe for however many mushrooms are in your fridge.

Stuffed mushrooms

7 large cremini mushrooms
olive oil for drizzling
1 shallot, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp white wine
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 400.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel. Gently pop out the mushroom stems, chop them into a fine dice and set aside. Rub the tops of the caps in olive oil and place the caps bowl-side up in a square baking pan.

Heat a frying pan on medium-low heat. Add some olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallots and garlic and saute for a few minutes until soft. Add the chopped mushroom stems and wine and saute for another few minutes. Take the mixture off the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg with the milk.

To the mushroom-stem mixture, add the breadcrumbs, parsley, parmesan cheese and egg-and-milk mixture. Stir to combine all of the ingredients into a stuffing.

Drizzle some olive oil into the cavity of each mushroom cap and then spoon the stuffing into the caps, mounding them up. Drizzle more olive oil (a scant 1/4 teaspoon) or better yet, place a small pat of butter over the top of each mound.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until the tops are golden.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sweet potato and kale hash with fried egg

I love any supper that involves fried eggs so this lovely recipe from Laura Keogh over at Sweet Potato Chronicles caught my eye at once. The maple syrup made the kale and sweet potato so sweet and delicious that I forgot I was also eating something very healthy and fortifying. Yum yum. Another recipe for my "workweek dinner ideas" file. I gave some of the potatoes and kale to the babies and they scarfed it down with gusto. Yet another reason why it's such a keeper.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Salmon patties

Worried that the babies were getting sick of scrambled eggs every day for lunch, I decided to try something new. Quick salmon patties to the rescue, recipe courtesy of Kidspot Kitchen. They liked them and so did I! It made a nice change from eggs. Now off to find even more lunch ideas ...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tomatoes Provençal

I've been watching videos of French Food at Home and reminiscing about my trip to France several years ago. We ate many memorable meals in Provence. So, while the babies were napping, I made this classic — tomatoes Provençal. The tomatoes are cooked for so long they are almost candied and full of herbs, garlic and breadcrumbs.

Tomatoes Provençal

3 ripe medium tomatoes
sea salt
cracked black pepper
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
4 Tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp dried herbes de Provence
4 Tbsp breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 400.

Core the top of each tomato as shallowly as possible. Cut in half crosswise. Gently squeeze each half over the sink and use your fingers to remove the seeds and pulp from each cavity. (Discard the seeds and pulp.) Place the tomatoes cut side up in a square baking pan (mine is 10" by 10"). Sprinkle the tops with salt and pepper.

Assemble the dressing ingredients in a bowl — garlic, shallot, herbes de Provence, parsley and breadcrumbs — and mix together. Mix in two or three tablespoons of olive oil to bind the dressing together.

Stuff each tomato with the dressing, pressing some into each cavity, until you have a small mound on top. Put each tomato back in the baking pan. Drizzle the tomato tops with more olive oil.

Turn the heat down to 375 once the tomatoes are in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the tops are browned and the tomatoes are tender and caramelized.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gratin of haddock with tomato sauce and spinach

This is a wonderful dish, an Annabel Karmel's recipe in Superfoods. Friends recently cooked this for lunch and everyone — four adults, two toddlers and two babies — just loved it. We ate it with baguette and butter.

Make ahead: I cooked the tomato sauce the night before and put the spinach in the fridge to thaw so it would be ready to go the day of cooking.

Gratin of haddock with tomato sauce and spinach
(adapted from Annabel Karmel's Superfoods)

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 400-mL can of diced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
1 300-g package of frozen spinach, chopped
10 oz haddock (or other white fish fillets), skinned
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and saute the onion for five minutes until glassy and soft. Add the garlic and saute for two more minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaf and herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Thaw the spinach in the fridge. When thawed, take out a handful at a time and squeeze out the juice. (Chop up the spinach finely if using whole leaf.)

Put the flour in a large plastic freezer bag. Add the fish fillets and coat them in flour. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the fish for one-and-a-half minutes per side — seasoning each side with salt and pepper as you go — until lightly cooked.

Spread the spinach over the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Layer the fish fillets on top. Pour over the tomato sauce and sprinkle grated cheese over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked all the way through.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Slow cooker chicken tacos

This is such a nice, quick no-fuss recipe that Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh of Sweet Potato Chronicles did for Cityline. I've mentally filed it under "workweek dinner ideas" for when I go back to work full-time. It inspired me to pull out my slow cooker that I really only use for two recipes — pulled pork and French onion soup. Now I'm happy to add a third to my repertoire :) I just love the fresh coriander and lime juice in it. I added more toasted whole spices that just cumin — one teaspoon of whole coriander seeds and half a teaspoon of whole fennel seeds. I'm going to keep adapting the recipe to my tastes and will keep you posted.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Spaghetti with meat sauce

Spaghetti with meat sauce
If this recipe wasn't so delicious, I'd stop making it because it makes me feel old. It's the first substantial dish I learned to cook on my own and it has been a trusty standby for years. Well ... ahem ... decades. Of course it's evolved since I made it almost every week as an undergrad. Now I use whole wheat noodles and add some kale, making this a much healthier version than the one I cooked as a student. If I cut up the spaghetti then the babies like it too, which is always a bonus nowadays. How things have changed.

Spaghetti with meat sauce

1 box (454 g) whole wheat spaghetti
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small zucchini, diced
1/2 cup kale, chopped and stems removed
1 package (~454 g) lean ground beef
1 tsp each of salt and pepper
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
1 rind of parmesan
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chicken stock or water (optional)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Put a large stock pot of salted water on the boil for the spaghetti. Cook it according to package directions, about 12 minutes. Drain the spaghetti and put it back into the stock pot. Set the stock pot aside off the heat. 

In a Dutch oven or a large high-sided frying pan, heat up the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute five to seven minutes until glassy and soft. Add the garlic, herbes de Provence and red pepper flakes, and saute two minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the zucchini and kale and cook another three to five minutes until the zucchini has softened. Scrape the vegetable mixture onto a plate and set aside. 

Return the pan to the hot element and add the ground beef, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook it, stirring often, until mostly done. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add back the vegetable mixture and fold it into the ground beef. 

Add the pasta sauce, bay leaves and parmesan rind. Add half a cup of chicken stock or water if you need more liquid to cover all of the ingredients. Mostly cover the pan (leave an edge open for the steam to escape) and simmer the spaghetti sauce for about 20 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and stir.

Add a cup of the pasta sauce to the pasta noodles in the stock pot and stir to loosen them up. Slide the cooked pasta into serving bowls and top with another ladle of sauce and a sprinkling of  grated parmesan cheese. Serve with salad or garlic bread.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spinach, mushroom and red pepper frittata

The babies and I eat scrambled eggs almost every day for lunch. They love the taste. They can pick them up and eat independently. I can make them really fast. Everybody's happy. But once in a while I make a frittata for variety. I put in all sorts of precooked veggies and sprinkle grated cheese over the top. After the frittata has cooked, I slice one half into thin strips and then small squares for them, and then keep the other half for myself.

For this recipe I used red pepper and baby spinach, but you can add any combination of vegetables you like. In the past I've done red pepper and zucchini, and sweet potato and spinach, which are both nice combinations. Use a saucepan that you can put under the broiler for a few minutes (ideally all-metal and without a long handle, but do what you can — mine is non-stick and has two small handles).

Spinach, mushroom and red pepper frittata

1 Tbsp olive oil
half an onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red pepper, minced
handful of baby spinach, julienned
6 mushroom, sliced
3 eggs
1/2 tsp sugar
pinch of salt

Heat a dry saucepan on medium heat on the stove. Add oil once it's hot.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl or measuring cup. Add the sugar and salt, and a little bit of water (a couple of tablespoons). Whisk everything together and set aside.

Fry the onion in the saucepan and stir until soft and glassy, about five minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the red pepper and mushrooms, stirring and cooking another three to five minutes. Add the spinach and cook for two minutes until just wilted. Once the vegetables are cooked, spread them evenly around the bottom of the pan.

Preheat the broiler.

Gently pour the egg mixture into the frying pan and let it swirl around the vegetables to evenly coat the bottom of the pan. Don't stir. Turn down the heat and let cook for a few minutes until the bottom has set, then sprinkle grated cheese over top.

Put the whole saucepan under the broiler for a few minutes until the top has cooked through and the cheese is bubbling.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Spicy cheese triangles with Cajun seasoning

These are Canadian Living's spicy cheese triangles. These little Cajun bites were the perfect accompaniment to our chili supper!

The recipe is very simple: lightly spread four pieces of whole wheat bread with mayonnaise, sprinkle over some Cajun seasoning and then some cheddar cheese. Bake in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes.

I made my own Cajun seasoning with the following ingredients:

2 Tbsp paprika (I used a mix of 1 Tbsp normal paprika, 1/2 smoked and 1/2 sweet)
3 Tbsp herbes de Provence
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp white pepper

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gourmet macaroni and cheese

This is my favourite way to cook mac-and-cheese. I love to top it with buttered breadcrumbs for a crispy golden crust. It's rather gourmet because of the addition of zucchini and sundried tomatoes, great ideas courtesy of Dana McCauley's mac-and-cheese recipe in Pantry Raid.

Gourmet macaroni and cheese
(serves six)

4 cups macaroni
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
3 Tbsp sundried tomatoes, minced
2 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
1 1/2 cups cheese sauce
2/3 cups breadcrumbs (I use Panko)
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.

Put a large stock pot of salted water on the boil for the macaroni. Cook it according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the macaroni. Drain the macaroni and put it back into the now-empty stock pot. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Warm the cheese sauce in a saucepan or make it from scratch

In a large frying pan, heat up a glug of olive oil. Add the onions and saute five minutes until glassy and soft. Add the garlic and saute two minutes. Add the zucchini and thyme, and saute five minutes or until the zucchini is soft. Add the sundried tomatoes and stir for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Heat the butter in a separate saucepan until melted. Add the breadcrumbs and parsley and stir until moistened. Take off the heat and set aside. 

Add the zucchini mixture to the stock pot full of macaroni. Stir in the cheese sauce. Scrape the macaroni mixture into a large casserole dish. Top with the buttered breadcrumbs. 

Cook for 30 minutes or until golden. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cheesy chicken pasta stars

This is a typical supper that I often batch-cook for the babies. They get about four dinners each out of it. It's an example of my baby food system of combining cheese sauce with a couple of boiled vegetables and a cooked meat.

Cheesy chicken pasta stars

1 cup stelline pasta
1 cup cooked broccoli florets
1 cup cooked carrot pieces
1/2 cup cheese sauce
1/2 cup cooked cubed chicken breast

Put a pot of salted water on the boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 10 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta and set it aside.

In a frying pan, gently heat the broccoli and carrot for a couple of minutes. Add the cubed chicken and stir for a minute or two. Add the drained pasta and a couple of tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Add the cheese sauce and stir to combine and heat up. Serve at the appropriate temperature for babies.

You can see in the photo below that there are many pots on the boil in preparation for this dish. It's a sort of assembly line, but well worth the effort considering the amount of baby dinners I can get out of it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Broccoli, potato and cheddar soup

Unfortunately I over-steamed our broccoli yesterday. When I checked it, it was way past the desired state of bright green and tender-crisp. In these situations, why not turn your lemons into lemonade or in this case, broccoli soup!

Broccoli, potato and cheddar soup

2 overcooked broccoli heads and stems
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carton chicken stock (about 900 mL)
2 bay leaves
1 parmesan rind
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
a pinch of nutmeg
1 cup cheddar cheese
salt and pepper

Pour a glug of olive oil into a stock pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and saute for three minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another few minutes. Add the herbes de Provence and stir to combine.

Add the diced potatoes, chicken stock, bay leaves and parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.

Remove the bay leaves and the parmesan rind. Add the broccoli pieces and top up with water if needed. Add the nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil again just to heat up the broccoli. Then take off the heat. Blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth (make sure the bay leaves are removed!).

Stir in the cheddar cheese until it melts. Serve.

Canadian Living has a nice suggestion for an accompaniment: spicy cheddar triangles. (It's below their broccoli soup recipe). I must try that sometime.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Missing summer already

Here's a throwback to the bounty of summer. We bought these multi-coloured carrots at the farmer's market and I roasted them in olive oil, fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. This photo was taken before cooking and I don't have an after shot so we must have been hungry! Those are roasted broccoli florets beside them. They're just done with olive oil, garlic slivers, and salt and pepper. Already missing warm summer mornings at the market ... sigh.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Salade Niçoise

I'm obsessed! I made the same recipe as before, except that I used white wine vinegar in the dressing instead of red just for kicks. The dressing tasted a bit milder, that's all. Same tasty salade!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A smoked salmon bagel brunch

My brother visited this month and we did a smoked salmon bagel brunch with all the trimmings. (Thanks for the inspiration, K and O!). This brunch was so fun to shop for because I got to visit all my favourite local independent grocers. I bought Montreal-style sesame bagels from Kettleman's and smoked salmon from LaPointe Fish. We had them with cream cheese and capers. I also bought some colourful olives and marinated mushrooms from La Bottega. Rounding out the table was a bowl of fresh raspberries and Strub's pickles, and also two big wedges of cheese — a medium gouda and Cambozola. We lingered for a couple of hours catching up and discovered that the babies also like smoked salmon. Fourteen months old and they're already foodies!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Butternut squash and sage pasta for babies

I've made this recipe twice for the babies. The first time they loved it. The second time one did but the other only ate the pasta. One out of two isn't bad! I'll keep offering it because it's tasty and nutritious and makes a great lunch with some fruit or chicken on the side.

Butternut squash and sage pasta for babies
(inspired by a similar recipe in Annabel Karmel's First Meals)

900 g cubed butternut squash (I use a ready-to-steam President's Choice package similar to the one pictured below)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, finely sliced
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup ditalini rigati pasta
a handful of grated cheese (optional)

Put a pot of salted water on the boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 12 minutes. Reserve half a cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta and set it aside.

Steam the butternut squash in the microwave according to package directions. Mash the squash with four or five tablespoons of the pasta water.

In a medium-hot frying pan, melt the butter and cook the sliced sage together for two or three minutes. Add the butternut squash and mix together until combined. Add the cooked pasta and if needed, up to a quarter cup of the pasta water to loosen up the squashy sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of grated cheese if you want.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Good pasta shapes for babies

I have a tip for all the moms out there feeding older babies past the mushy stage of life.

I've tried offering mine big pastas, such as shells or rotini cut in half, but they'll have none of it. Little people like little pastas, and mine like these two kinds in particular — stelline (little stars, pictured left) and ditalini rigati (grooved beads, on the right). I buy them at La Bottega, an Italian grocer in Ottawa.

I add them to diced boiled veggies, diced meat and cheese sauce to make a complete meal.

They love them. The only drawback is you tend to find little stars all over the place for a few days afterwards. These of course are the pieces that have been tossed overboard during the meal. I'm sure you moms know what that's all about!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Cheese sauce

Homemade baby foods. From top to bottom they are squash and sage pasta, chicken with peas and red pepper in cheese sauce, and carrots and broccoli in cheese sauce.
Lately the only way I can get the twins to eat vegetables is to smother them in cheese sauce! This post is all about the cheese sauce, but here's how I use it. Once you have cheese sauce, add finely diced boiled vegetables and a finely diced cooked meat, such as pork tenderloin or chicken breast. Mix together with the cheese sauce. Voila — baby food. 

Cheese sauce
(recipe given to me by a friend)

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Slowly melt the butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour and mustard powder.  Cook this for a minute or two while stirring, until smooth. Slowly add the milk, whisking out any lumpy bits after each pour until smooth and combined.  Gently cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened.  Take off the heat and gradually add in the cheese, stirring until smooth.  Stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Freeze in quarter cup measures for later use. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Chicken stock

Seasonings for chicken stock
I made a batch of chicken stock using bones from ready-made grocery-store rotisserie chickens. This is a favourite sequence of meals of late that all start with a rotisserie chicken: a quarter-chicken dinner with fries and Swiss Chalet dipping sauce from a packet. I love eating this in front of the TV on Friday nights! Then I freeze all the bones and make chicken stock when I've got a decent amount. I pick the meat off the bones and save them for chicken soup or for making a baby food casserole, and then I use the chicken stock to make French onion soup.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Baby's first cod casserole

Our babies are finally done with purees! Hooray! Now we can move on to real recipes (although still in mushy form, but that's okay). One-year-old babies can officially join in on family meals, but I find I'm still cooking their food separately because they like everything well cooked and still quasi-mushy. No tender-crisp veggies here, thank you very much!

I made this cod casserole with cheese sauce, peas, broccoli and cauliflower. In three separate pots I poached fish, made cheese sauce and boiled vegetables, then assembled everything together at the end. It's a bit of an effort, but so worth it. First of all, they ate it (always a triumph) and they got three dinners each out of this batch, so I didn't have to cook again for the next couple of days.

Since the babies discovered fruits, veggies have been poo-pooed something serious. But cheese sauce does the trick! They loved this dish.

Baby's first cod casserole

cod, one fillet
1/2 cup frozen peas
one head broccoli
half a head of cauliflower

cheese sauce
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp butter

court bouillon (poaching liquid for cod)
4 cups water
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
2 parsley sprigs
8 whole black peppercorns

To poach the fish, put all the ingredients for the poaching liquid in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes uncovered. Add the fish and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Remove the fish from the liquid and break into bite-sized pieces. You can strain the poaching liquid and freeze it for the next time you poach fish.

To boil the veggies, bring a pot of water to a boil. Chop the broccoli and cauliflower into baby bite-sized pieces and simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Add the frozen peas during the last five minutes of cooking time. Drain the vegetables and set aside.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir in the flour and cook it, while stirring, for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the milk and whisk away any lumps of flour. Bring slowly to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheddar cheese.

Combine the veggies with the flaked fish and cheese sauce. Serve immediately and refrigerate the rest for future meals.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crostini, tartines, pinchos!

These are white bean and arugula crostini, a recipe from Jill Dupleix's cookbook Very Simple Food. They're made with brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce, which give them a delicious smoky sweetness.

The Italians have their bruschetta and crostini, the French have tartines and the Spanish their pinchos and montaditos. They're all essentially the same thing: mini open-faced sandwiches made with what you have around, such as cheese, cured meats, mushrooms, etc.

Here are some nice flavour combinations that I've found in cookbooks and during travels online:
  • white bean and grilled eggplant
  • peas, garlic and parmesan
  • pear, prosciutto and radish
  • artichoke and cannellini bean
  • goat's cheese and roasted red pepper
  • tomato, basil and bocconcini 
  • smoked trout and cucumber
  • fava beans with mint and goat's cheese
  • smoked ham and coleslaw
  • black olive tapenade with tomato and basil
  • grilled eggplant and parmesan 
  • apple, caramelized onions and thyme
  • sauteed mushrooms with garlic and parsley
For further reading:'s page on montaditos tapas

Laura Calder's tartine recipes on

Giada de Laurentiis' 17 crostini recipes on

Jill Dupleix's website

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Portuguese fish stew

I'm working on a recipe for Mediterranean seafood risotto and I'm in the stage where I'm trying out similar recipes from all my cookbooks and seeing how they turn out. This is Portuguese fish stew from one of my favourites cookbooks — Jill Dupleix's Good Cooking. It tasted really nice. Next, I'm going to try a recipe that uses white wine and peas. I'll post my own take on this dish as soon as I've customized it to my tastes. In the meantime, I just wanted to share the photo!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Flatbread pizza with caramelized onions, sausage and pine nuts

We had some friends for lunch and I made two pizzas - a traditional all-dressed and special one with caramelized onions, sausage and pine nuts.

Flatbread pizza with caramelized onions, sausage and pine nuts

1 flatbread, frozen
6 onions, sliced
2 sausages, casings removed
1/4 cup pine nuts, toastedsliced mozzarella cheese, enough to cover your flatbread
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a saucepan, make the caramelized onions and set aside. Let them cool before spreading them on the flatbread.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a different saucepan and add the sausage meat, breaking it up with a spoon. Stir and saute for seven minutes or until cooked. Set aside.

Take the flatbread out of the freezer and baste both sides with olive oil. Top with the mozzarella slices first, then caramelized onions, then sausage meat and finally toasted pine nuts.

Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top golden brown.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Minestrone soup - second take

Still working on the perfect minestrone! I like this version better than my first attempt. It has some nice fresh vegetables such as zucchini and green beans and isn't as thick. I ate this with some little parmesan croutes for dipping.

Minestrone soup

2 onions, finely diced
2 celery stalks, large dice
2 carrots, large dice
2-3 strips of bacon, sliced into paperclip-sized strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
one can of white kidney beans
1 zucchini, large dice
2 handfuls of green beans, chopped into one-inch pieces
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz)
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp herbes de Provence
half a cup of shell pasta
olive oil for frying
parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

Fry the bacon in the bottom of a stock pot on medium heat. Drain off and discard all but one tablespoon of the fat. Add a bit of olive oil to the pan. Add the onions and garlic and fry seven to 10 minutes until softened but not browned.

Add the celery and carrots, stirring for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken stock, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaves and herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and add the white kidney beans, green beans and zucchini. Simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the pasta during the last eight to 10 minutes of cooking.

Take out the bay leaves and discard. Ladle into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mâche salad with chicken, egg and tomatoes

I made this for lunch using leftover meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. I just added a hard-boiled egg, some tomato, an interesting lettuce leaf called mâche, and tossed it in a simple red wine vinaigrette, the same one I used for salade niçoise.

Mâche salad with chicken, egg and tomatoes

serves one

a handful of mâche leaves
one hard-boiled egg, quartered
one tomato, sliced into eighths
one chicken breast, sliced

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
a pinch of Dijon mustard
one clove garlic, minced
a shake of cracked black pepper
100 ml olive oil 

Mix the vinaigrette and set aside. Wash and dry the mâche leaves and place in the salad bowl. Add the tomato and chicken to the salad bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss the salad. Plate a single serving and top with the hard boiled egg slices. Season with salt and pepper and serve. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Roasted tomato soup

This is a five-ingredient recipe and the oven does most of the work roasting the tomatoes. All you do to finish the soup is take a stab blender and whiz it all up. The apartment smelled delicious with the aromas of tomato, balsamic and garlic wafting around.

Roasted tomato soup

21 roma tomatoes
two cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In the bottom of a big roasting pan, add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil and crushed garlic. Tip: It's good to crush the garlic (not mince it) so that it stays in large pieces and doesn't burn in the oven.

Wash the tomatoes and quarter them, adding them to the roasting pan. When all the tomatoes are in the pan, toss them around in the marinade. I just use my hands for this.

Put in the oven for 50 minutes.

Transfer to a stock pot. Blend with a stab blender and reheat. Ladle into bowls and top each with a pinch of basil chiffonade.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Banana bread

One of my goals while on maternity leave is to teach myself how to bake. I had a massive fail with chocolate chip cookies the other day. I thought it wasn't possible to screw up chocolate chip cookies but if anyone will find a way, it's me. Anyways, the banana bread I made on Wednesday turned out really well! It's a Joy of Cooking recipe and has walnut pieces and lemon zest. It has renewed my confidence in baking. Not sure yet what my next effort will be but I'll keep you posted!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Salade niçoise

The other day I watched an episode of Poirot where he ate a salade niçoise to "nourish the little grey cells" (The Tragedy at Marsden Manor for all you fans). I had to make it! I assembled it on Saturday morning and we ate it for lunch.

It saves time if you already have hard-boiled eggs and cold cooked potatoes in the fridge. I tossed almost every ingredient separately in some of the vinaigrette before composing the salad.

Salade niçoise is a composed salad, meaning ingredients are placed beside each other instead of tossed. I think it's a more interesting way of eating because it turns the salad into a more tapas-like experience. Composed salads have also been the subject of some very engaging culinary writing. I found this article in The Guardian and this one in the NY Times

It might be hard to tell by the picture but it was a very big salad and we surprised ourselves by eating the whole thing in one sitting!

Salade niçoise
serves two

two handfuls green beans, topped and tailed
10-12 cold cooked little red potatoes, halved
two tomatoes
half a red onion, sliced
two eggs
handful quartered marinated artichoke hearts
handful marinated Kalamata olives
four anchovies from a jar
flaked tuna from a jar
one Boston lettuce head, leaves lightly torn

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
a pinch of Dijon mustard
one clove garlic, minced
a shake of cracked black pepper
100 ml olive oil

Mix the vinaigrette and set aside. Fill a big bowl with ice and water.

Blanche the green beans for two minutes in boiling water until bright green. Remove from the boiling water with a sieve spoon and put in the ice water to stop the cooking process. Set the beans aside.

Using the same pot of boiling water, skin the tomatoes. Cut a small "X" in the skin at each end. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water for 30 seconds. Then put them in the bowl of ice water for a minute or two. Peel away the skins. Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Set aside.

Hard boil the eggs. Peel and halve. Set aside.

Wash the lettuce and dry the leaves, tearing the big ones in half.

Put some vinaigrette in a bowl. Add the salad leaves and lightly toss. Place the leaves in the bottom of a shallow serving dish. Toss the beans, then the potatoes, and lastly the tomatoes and onions together in the vinaigrette before placing each ingredient on top of the lettuce. Finally, arrange the remaining ingredients on the leaves: tuna, olives, artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies. Serve with crusty bread.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Minestrone soup

This is the first time I've made minestrone. The highlight for me was the cannellini beans. I'd like to keep working on this recipe and make it with no potatoes next time so I can freeze it. I freeze my bacon strips so it's easy to slice them into a paper-clip size when needed. I have to remember to make this in summer when the vegetables will be in season!

Minestrone soup

2 onions, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2-3 strips of bacon, sliced into paperclip-sized strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
one bunch Swiss chard or kale, ribs discarded and leaves chopped
one can of white beans
one can of chickpeas
piece of parmesan cheese, diced
8-9 cups of chicken stock
2 bay leaves
chopped fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary, parsley
two cups of small new potatoes, halved
two cups of rotini pasta
olive oil for frying

Fry the bacon in the bottom of a stock pot on medium heat. Drain off and discard all but one tablespoon of the fat. Add a bit of olive oil to the pan. Add the mirepoix - celery, carrots, onions - and garlic and fry seven to 10 minutes until softened but not browned.

In the meantime, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with some of the chicken stock. Set aside.

When the mirepoix mixture has softened, add the Swiss chard, whole beans, chickpeas and potatoes, stirring for a couple turns around the pot after adding each ingredient to combine. Add the chicken stock, blended beans, parmesan, bay leaves and herbs. Bring to a boil and let simmer bout 45 minutes. Add the pasta at the beginning of the last 12 minutes of cooking.

Discard the bay leaves before eating.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Chicken fried rice

This is a dish from my childhood. My mom used to make it for dinner all the time when I was growing up. I didn't appreciate it enough back then, but now I crave it. Here's our family recipe, which is simple and delicious. I try to remember to make extra rice with the previous day's meal in order to have some cold cooked rice ready to be crumbled in.

A note on the amounts — these are really approximate. Feel free to increase the chicken, mushrooms and rice if you want to feed more people.

Chicken fried rice with egg on top

serves two

1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
a few leaves of Napa cabbage, chopped into small strips (optional)
4 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup of shredded cooked chicken
soy sauce
hot sauce (my mom uses Louisiana; I use Sriracha)
a few handfuls of cooked rice
olive oil for frying
fried egg for topping (optional)

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Fry garlic and onion until glassy. Add the hot sauce and chicken and stir. Add cabbage and/or green onion and stir. Add mushrooms and stir. Crumble in the rice and stir. Turn the heat down (around 3.5). Add soy sauce, salt and pepper and stir. Serve topped with a fried egg.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Niku dango (Japanese meatballs)

We make niku dango every couple of weeks. It's a beFOODled favourite and a family recipe. The meatballs are made from minced pork and made even more delicious by cooking in a sweet and sticky soy sauce. They are perfect over rice. Sometimes I add a layer of spinach or arugula in between the rice and meatballs to sneak in some veggies. Lately I've been making extra rice so that we can have fried rice the next day.

Niku Dango (Japanese meatballs)

500 g ground pork
one onion, minced
one inch piece of ginger, minced
4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (optional)
1 tsp dijon mustard (optional)
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying

5 Tbsp each of sugar, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
a little cornstarch for thickening

In a bowl, combine the meatball ingredients: pork, onion, ginger, mushrooms, sugar (and breadcrumbs and mustard, if using) and salt and pepper. Gently combine the ingredients using a fork. Form into two-inch meatballs.

In a large wide-bottomed frying pan or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium heat. Add all of the meatballs, turning several times to brown the outsides on two or three sides.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a pitcher and stir. Add enough water to make the sauce up to two cups.

When the meatballs have browned on three sides, pour all of the sauce into the pan. Stir to coat all the meatballs. Bring to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat to simmer for five-10 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

Serve five meatballs with a little sauce on top of rice with chopped green onions for garnish. You'll have lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

French onion soup

From the archives ... but pic is new!

I've blogged about French onion soup before (here's the recipe) but just had to mention it again. I make this soup often and always take lots of pictures because it's so photogenic. Here's a shot with a tempting spoonful just ready for a lucky someone (in this case S) to take a bite.

I make this soup in the slow cooker and we get about three meals each. Lately I've been making extra croûtes with the Gruyère so that we can keep dipping once the top layer is gone.

This soup is so delicious and always reminds me of our culinary vacation in France, where we learned Provençal cooking and which I documented on this blog over several posts in the fall of 2008. I did my very best to eat French onion soup every day, at least during the few days that we were in Paris where it seems to be on every menu. To this day, we still reminisce about our trip to France over French-onion-soup days

Friday, January 11, 2013

French lentil soup with sausage and potato

I've taken to making a big batch of this thick, hearty soup quite regularly. It makes a nice hot lunch for S to take to work and also fortifies us for lifting heavy babies. A big pot lasts us a week and is great value for the cost of the ingredients, most of which are common pantry items.

I use a chunk of parmesan in place of salt because it adds flavour as well as saltiness. I usually make this soup with either potato or chickpeas, but I've listed both here for an extra-chunky, winterized version. I hope you find this recipe as delicious as we do. S is not big on veggies let alone lentils, but even he loves the flavour parade this soup brings out.

French lentil soup with sausage and potato

2 Tbsp olive oil for frying
2 medium onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lentils de Puy
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp herbes de Provence
2 bay leaves
1 chunk (or rind) of parmesan cheese
8 cups water
1 package “Little Gems” new potatoes, quartered, or 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
meat from 2 sausages (chorizo, mild Italian or hot Italian are nice)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
chopped parsley

Put the lentils in a bowl and rinse with cold water four times or until the water runs clear. Set aside.

On the stove, warm the olive oil in the bottom of a big stock pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions, celery and carrot. Stir until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic after five.

Add the rinsed lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, herbes de Provence, parmesan and water to the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

If using chickpeas, drain them in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

Score the sausages lengthwise with a sharp knife to separate the meat from the skins. Discard the skins and set aside the meat. I usually crumble it in by hand when it's time to add it to the soup.

After the soup has simmered for thirty minutes, add the potatoes and/or chickpeas and chunks of sausage meat. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, topping up with half a cup of water if needed.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and serve. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

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