There’s Nothing Like Hot Soup on a Cold Day

Soup, it’s delicious, right? And a fantastic way to use up whatever has been hovering around your kitchen. There’s a scary side to soup, though, especially if you’re starting with a powdered or canned variety. It can hide a LOT of sodium. A good rule-of-thumb is to keep the milligrams of sodium equal or less than the calories. Check out any soup in your grocery store, even the “healthy menu” types, and you’ll find there’s four (or more) times the sodium in most varieties. Not so healthy, after all. Sure, in a pinch, they can work. But with an hour or two while you’re working on something else or even sitting in front of the tube, you can cook up one or two huge pots of soup, and freeze the results to last for months.

So if you’re stuck inside in the cold, and you’ve got some vegetables, an onion or two, and beans, or meat, rice, pasta, or potatoes, you can make soup. Your body will thank you. Here’s one to get you started.

Meal Planning and More…

 Just walk. Sounds simple enough, right? But as the streets get colder and icier, it can be more of a challenge. We’re lucky to have a gym in our building, so I can commune with my old friends Rower and Treadmill, but if you’re not so fortunate, here are some other places in Toronto where I can get in a walk without going into the great outdoors:

Walk the Eaton Centre (warning: if you’re instituting “no-buy January”, this can be a challenge).

Walk the PATH – it’s especially interesting during off hours when there are few workers hustling and bustling on their way.

Live in a highrise (or even a lowrise)? Take the stairs. As many as you can. Repeat.

There are lots of great apps to help you fit in exercise, too – one I’ll be trying in January is 8fit. I’ll report back, but so far, I’m enjoying the variety of exercises offered, and the app asks me to rate the difficulty, so it can adjust to suit what I need to push myself.

Here’s another week of meal plans for you, starting next week. That should leave you time to shop. How are you doing with your healthy eating? After starting the year with a week of visitors, it’s good to keep focused with a plan.

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Sunday January 14th Pizza Egg – 1 slice of leftover pizza topped with a poached egg. Otherwise, a poached egg with 1 toast and a sliced tomato Cooking Light Cashew, Coconut and Cabbage Slaw Veggie Chili – I’ll make enough for 3 meals, including one with Turkey
Monday January 15th Banana Kale Smoothie Apple Kale Salad Tofu Stir Fry
Tuesday January 16th Apple Nut Oatmeal Homemade Turkey Soup with 1 whole grain bread and 5ml butter Veggie Chili
Wednesday January 17th Carrot Cake Smoothie EatingWell Vegetarian Taco Salad Weight Watchers Vegetable Quesadillas, plus cheese
Thursday January 18th Apple Nut Oatmeal Homemade Turkey Soup with 1 whole grain bread and 5ml butter EatingWell Turkey Curry
Friday January 19th Beet Kale Smoothie EatingWell Stetson Chopped Salad Weight Watchers “Fried” Catfish with Potato Sticks

I had a note from a reader this week, looking for bread recipes. To see my own recipes, check the EAT tab on the blog.

Have a healthy week!

Granola, Granola, We Love Ya, Granola…!

About five years ago, we went off breakfast cereal entirely. We had been working on our diets, lowering our sodium, increasing fibre, and generally getting rid of things with excessive sugar or additives. Around that time I started experimenting with various recipes – some were too sweet, others were too fatty, but bit by bit I found what works best for us.

I often get asked, “what’s the recipe?”, and the truth is, there isn’t exactly a recipe. Here’s what I do:

Preheat oven to 350F, and line two cookie sheets (whatever size you have, which is why it isn’t a recipe…) with parchment paper. This eases cleanup and makes sure nothing sticks.

On each sheet, put a layer of large flake, old fashioned rolled oats. Not the quick cooking kind! Sprinkle with some dried fruit, probably half a cup or so is enough. Some recipes suggest you stir it in at the end, but I like the toasty, caramel-y flavour it gets if you bake it in. Next, add a sprinkling of nuts or seeds. In these photos, the top one has raisins and pumpkin seeds, while the bottom one has dried apricots and walnuts. Sometimes I’ve added coconut or dried bananas; these up the calories but it’s your call!

Drizzle each sheet with 2T (30ml) of pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup, please!) and 2T of canola oil. Other oils will work but this oil is Canadian and doesn’t change the taste. Sprinkle each sheet with cinnamon and stir all of it together. I’ve made this in a bowl before, but I’m lazy about doing extra dishes, even with a dishwasher. You could make a single sheet, but if the oven is going I figure I  should use the energy wisely.

Put the sheets in the oven around the middle rack (not too high, not too low…but you know your oven best). Set the timer for 10 minutes and stir. Depending on humidity and lots of factors, the granola will take more or less time. You want  a nice toasty golden colour.

Cool this, put in mason jars and store. You don’t need a lot – a serving is about 30g or an ounce if you’re watching your calories, topped with a banana or some berries. We use soy milk on ours. It’s also lovely sprinkled on ice cream or yogurt.

Enjoy!

 

We Grew 1001 Balcony Tomatoes (OK, Quite a Few)

fresh tomatoes Fresh, ripe tomatoes, warm off the vine. You might think you need a plot of land, or at least a large-ish garden to make this happen, but we have been happily surprised with the productivity of our condo garden this first year. We have planters on our balcony, as well as a metre-square plot in the building’s communal roof garden (a yard, if you’re using imperial measures).

We’ve been incorporating fresh tomatoes into our menu for a couple of weeks now, and have even canned a couple of jars. Small-batch canning is easy cooking tomatoesenough; you really just need a big poaching eggs in tomatopot of boiling water that is deeper than your canning jars. I’ll blog about that another time.

Today’s recipe is for a favourite breakfast of ours. Simply chop a big bunch of tomatoes. Add herbs if you like; we had a bit of basil and also a smoky chipotle in adobo which we chopped and put in the pot. Get the tomatoes really simmering. Once you’ve got them bubbling away, crack in a few eggs, one or two per person. I find the easiest way to do this is to crack them one at a time into a small bowl or cup, and gently pour into the tomatoes. Cover with a lid, turn the heat to medium-low, and check every couple of minutes until they are poached as you like. (Probably 5 or 6 minutes). Typically this is just enough time to make some toast.

This is an easy lunch or brunch dish, or a hearty, healthy, low-fat breakfast.

Eggs tomatoes and sourdough

Grammy's Onion Pork Chops – 2016 Style

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It starts with some simple sliced onions – in this case a yellow onion, but any colour or type will do. For two, we used half a very large onion.

These are browned in a pan with some olive oil (Grammy would have used butter, but it’s much more inclined to burn).

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Don’t be afraid to use a regular (not non-stick) pan – it will give much better colour to the dish. Cook the onion until it is a little more caramelized than these, then add the pork chops. We bought the onion and the chops from our local butcher, Mark, at St. Jamestown Steak and Chops. We don’t eat much meat any more, so when we do, we like to make sure it’s good quality.

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Raise the heat a bit, and brown the chops on both sides. When they have some good colour, and the bits in the bottom of your pan are turning a nice brown, deglaze with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of wine or vermouth. We used vermouth. Grammy would have used neither. She also would have used a lot more salt, but we love the natural taste of the meat and the onions.

Next, add about 1/2 a cup of water, cover and simmer about 20 minutes over low heat – your chops will relax and become very tender.

Stir in a tablespoon or so of cornstarch that you’ve dissolved in a bit of water. Raise the heat to medium and stir, just until the juices become clear again and a delicious, oniony gravy has formed.

We served ours with mashed sweet potatoes and a simple salad of local hothouse mixed greens and cucumber, dressed with equal parts walnut oil, Kozlik’s Old Smokey, and homemade white wine vinegar.

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DIY Delicious…

It’s everywhere! Messages touting packaged foods that will make my life easier and, it’s suggested, better. Truly, I can’t imagine how. Cooking delicious food is absolutely satisfying. Fortunately, there are lots of counter-messages out there, including those from Michael Pollan (“Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”) And I credit my fellow blogger and Twitter sister, Anne-Marie Bonneau, aka the Zero Waste Chef, with an inspiring house rule,  which I’ll paraphrase as “Sure, you can have that treat, but you have to find a recipe and make a homemade version”.

In our family we are very fortunate to have raised kids who can both cook and bake. They experiment with their own recipes. Adults now, we are provided with delicious things to eat whenever we visit their homes. Do yourself and your family a favour, and make something from scratch this weekend. Your health will thank you.

  

You reap (and eat) what you sow…

Today we’re headed out to the plot to do some compost maintenance and give the gardens a general walk-around before some visitors arrive this afternoon. Our fuel for the endeavour consists of local harvest foods, some of our own, and some from others nearby.

We cooked a melange of veggies – potato, onion, celery, peppers, mushrooms in a tiny spoonful of bacon fat (vegetarians, canola oil is fine, or a nice herbed olive oil if you have one). When they were nearly tender enough for our taste, we broke in some fresh eggs, lidded the lot and let them poach until just softly done. This is our tasty result:

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We do eat more than breakfast. Really!

Looking over recent posts was very revealing. So much breakfast! Perhaps it is because that is when there is time to write. Who knows? So today, once again, a report on the start of the day.

The chill is in the air, a harbinger of fall. Heather and thistles bloom in the garden. I don’t want to face autumn, but it will come, regardless. So we might as well do it with a full tummy. This morning’s egg features mushrooms, some chopped chard and tarragon from our garden, and a little cheddar cheese. The jam on the toast is local, too…made here at home.

This isn’t our only meal of the day, though. Tonight we’ll be joining our friends at Ratinaud for Les Saucisses en Folie. Real local charcuterie…you can’t get much better. Perhaps a reason to love the end of summer, after all. Unfortunately tickets are sold out. But you can taste their delicious wares at the Kitchen Table on some Friday or Saturday soon, and we are sure they will be worth the wait.

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Summer is nearly here!

We have lived in other jurisdictions where the middle of June seems like an unlikely start to summer. It’s already been hot for ages. But here in Atlantic Canada, even when the temperature is in the 20s (70s or 80s, my Fahrenheit friends), the wind is sufficient that it rarely feels hot.

But today we had an awesome, sunny, warmish day. And so we barbecued. This is the result. Veg from our garden, except local tomatoes and spuds.

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Chicken Chickpea Curry Soup

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Always looking for ways to use what’s on hand…this soup was waiting to be made from ingredients in our fridge. For two:

Bring 750ml/3c homemade stock to boil, and add:
125ml/1/2c sliced red onion
1/3 yellow pepper, diced
1 large cremini mushroom, sliced
2 grilled chicken thighs, diced
100g/3oz cooked chickpeas
5ml/1t curry paste

Simmer until veg are tender. With a glass of 1% milk each, under 500 calories.