When The Weather Outside is Frightful…

A few days ago we were meandering down the street, coming up with new walkable feasts. The weather was mild, though windy. It seemed like spring was finally on its way. When we arrived home we raked up the garden and started prepping for the day when our urban farm will be ready for transplanting.

Then, overnight, pow! Cold, gray drizzle. Bitter winds. Wetness all around. The walkable part didn’t seem quite so tempting. On top of that, we had a meeting to attend, so we needed dinner in a hurry! When that happens, Piperade to the rescue. Whether you need a quick meal with ingredients you probably have on hand, something to feed unexpected brunch guests, or a substitute for your meal plan when it’s suddenly no longer barbecue weather, Piperade is a great choice.

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Real Food to Start Your Day

oats spelt apples cinnamon walnuts raisinsOK, so the yogurt and berry breakfast from earlier this week was good. But it’s drizzling outside. The wind is blowing. We need something to keep us going! If you’re working out, you need protein for re-building. If you’re losing weight, you need fibre. This delicious breakfast gives you some of each.

We started with a mixture of rolled oats and rolled spelt (but any large flake oatmeal will work just fine). For breakfast for two, put 3/4 of a cup or 175ml of these grains in a microwavable casserole. Add a tablespoon or so (15 ml) each of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, as well as chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts are great with apple). Dice in an apple (don’t peel, just wash it well). Then put in 30 ml or 2 tbsp. of raisins or dried cranberries or cherries. Don’t have those? Chop up some prunes, or dried apricots.

Sprinkle the whole thing with a teaspoon or so (5 ml) of cinnamon. Add 1-1/2 cups or 375 ml of water.

Our microwave has an automatic setting for oatmeal, so I just “fire it up”. Otherwise, cook on high for 5 minutes, then another 3-5 minutes at medium, depending on the power of your microwave. It’s easy. (Even though it’s April 1st, we’re not fooling!)

Divide into bowls. Top with a little brown sugar or maple syrup or honey (about 5 ml or a teaspoon each). Add half a cup or more of milk or soy milk or rice milk.

Enjoy!

But What About Breakfast?

Better Bulk, aka "The Bulky"We were at Better Bulk (aka around our house as “The Bulky”) the other day and picked up some awesome Hewitt’s yogurt. We started buying their skim milk yogurt a couple of years ago when the two of us collectively lost 60 pounds on the “eat less move more” diet.

When we first started eating it, we would add honey. But we’ve found this and a few other organic yogurts are so creamy and delicious, they don’t really need a sweetener, just some fruit and other tasty additions.

strawberries in bowlsWe start with about 1/2 a cup (125 ml) of sliced strawberries.  They usually have some at Jerry’s, or Kelly’s, or Plank Road Market. Then we add 1/2 cup or 125 ml of the yogurt.

Top each serving with a sprinkling of cinnamon – it tricks your myogurt and strawberries topped with nuts and cinnamonouth into tasting “sweet”. Sprinkle with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or chopped nuts (a tablespoon or two – 15 to 30 ml – altogether). To round out your breakfast, have half a whole-wheat English muffin with some crunchy peanut butter. A delicious healthy way to start the day!

Oven Baked Fish and Chips

Oven baked fish and chipsWe had some frozen fish in the freezer, and there were some great red potatoes on sale down the street. What better than oven baked fish and chips. Now agreed, if you like that fried, delicious batter, these fish fillets are different. But they’re good. And they’re healthy. And they are way faster to prepare than it takes me to walk to the fish and chip place! (Bonus, I can watch t.v. or read a couple of chapters or knit or talk on the phone while they cook).

End of Season Vegetarian Chili

The long, cold winter is finally winding down. Mostly this is a time for jubilation. For celebration because spring is finally on our way (the tomato plants are started for the urban farm)! However it’s also a chance to enjoy that classic winter warmer: chili. This vegetarian chili is a great option on a meatless meal day, or if you’re a vegetarian. For us, it wouldn’t be the same without cornmeal muffins – a classic cornbread taste in an easy-to make format. If you have leftovers, they freeze beautifully – but good luck getting them to the freezer before the snackers get to them!

Want to save on sodium? Use beans you’ve cooked yourself, and frozen, without salt. The kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas in this recipe all started their journey to our house from Better Bulk (see our blogroll!)

Taking Stock

If you really want to save money and eat healthier foods, make your own stock! Most bouillon cubes or even organic pre-packaged stocks contain a lot of salt, as a preservative. If you use the rule-of-thumb that a packaged food shouldn’t have more milligrams of sodium than it does calories, you might be disappointed when you read the label of your favourite prepared stock.

Stock-making is simple. One trick I learned from Ken Kostick. He suggested that as you peel carrots, onions, take the stems off aromatic herbs, and so on, that you should put them in a zipper bag in the freezer. (Give them a rinse first!) When the bag is full, it’s time to make stock. Sometimes I roast this mixture, other times I just use it “as is”. I like to use one of those pasta pots with the strainer-type liner, just to make it extra easy.

Put the vegetables in the bottom of the pot. Cover with cold water. If you haven’t used too many herbs during the week (really?) add some dried herbs – tarragon is nice, or savory, bay leaves…or some minced ginger is good, too. Bring this mixture to the boil on top of the stove and then turn down to a simmer, so it’s just slowly bubbling along. Let it simmer while you watch a favourite television show, or do a load of laundry, whatever. Check now and then so it doesn’t boil over.

Let it cool, and strain or if you use a pot like I do, lift out the liner. Package it up in convenient sized containers and store in the freezer. If you make some up in ice-cube trays, you can use those for times when you just need a tiny amount.

More on meat and fish stocks, another day. If you don’t feel like using this stock today…save it til tomorrow, throw in some cooked beans or chickpeas, onions, and whatever vegetables take your fancy. Simmer for half an hour or so, add a handful of whole-wheat pasta and simmer til tender and voila…delicious vegetable soup!

Delicious Artichoke Pizza

So we had good intentions of posting last night’s dinner, Black-eyed Peas with Pasta, but we got wrapped up in Earth Hour, playing SCRABBLE by candlelight, and other goings-on, and we forgot. Usually we spend the Hour on a walk around our neighbourhood, with candle lanterns. When we get home, we sit on the porch and make some (acoustic!) music. But this year it was unseasonably cold…not good for the guitars or the people. Hence the SCRABBLE!

So in lieu of that, today we’ll share the recipe for Megann’s Artichoke Pizza, featured on our first post. It’s a classic “Weekend Special” around our house.

Friday Fish Chowder

Whether you’re abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, or just looking for an easy fish recipe for a busy night, this chowder is simple to make. Whenever we cook a large whole fish we use the bones to make a batch of fish broth, but if you don’t have fish broth on hand, use vegetable broth, it’ll still taste great.

This soup is a family staple for us – it’s great on a cold night, and it’s a go-to recipe made from ingredients that we always have around the house.

On a Cold Night, Something to Warm You

After getting a taste of spring last week, we’re back in the deep freeze. So we were happy that, for whatever reason, we’d put Parmesan Chicken and Rice on our menu plan yesterday.

It has all sorts of things going for it – it’s light, tasty, healthy…and warm! The chicken came from Royal Beef (they’re about more than beef!) and the brown rice from Better Bulk. But both were in the freezer, waiting for one of those days when you’ve already shovelled twice and don’t want to venture out again.

(But just to show we’re hopeful spring will return…a salad with balsamic dressing)…

Enjoy!

Breadmakers for All!

Old-fashioned breadmakerEvery time I tell someone I’m making bread, they answer, “Oh, do you have a  breadmaker?”

“Yes”, I answer, “This is it”.

I make bread the same way your grandmother made bread. (Assuming your grandma made bread). Two hands, some flour, and the best therapy money can buy. Old recipes are best – unlike the breadmaker, most of these are designed to make four loaves at a time. Of course they need some adaptations for today’s modern diet. Shortening or lard can be replaced by a more heart-friendly oil – olive if you’re making a savoury bread, or something with a milder flavour, like canola. Salt (which used to be vital when yeast was more volatile) can now be cut down dramatically, or eliminated from the recipe entirely.

This is a batch I made earlier this week.

Old Fashioned Porridge Bread

I know, I hear you…who has time?! Well, while this bread was on the go I did some cleaning. Worked on my French homework. Watched some television.  Not to mention that other than the oven to bake it, the only energy used was mine.

It’s full of delicious, tasty things. (I substituted some rolled spelt flakes and whole wheat flour).  The last loaf has some dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds in it. Those things, plus white flour, yeast, and some brown sugar, came from Better Bulk.

So get your breadmakers working – it’s faster than a breadmaker. You get more bread. And the kneading is the best therapy money can buy.