Keep it simple!

Sometimes when you’ve had a long day, it can seem onerous to make homemade food. That’s when something like a one-pot or oven dinner comes in handy. Also, if you’re really tired, the best thing for you is to get some fresh air and exercise, so you’ll be able to sleep when the time comes.

Earlier this week we combined both of these – after a long day’s work, we walked up the street to our friend Mark’s butcher shop, and picked up a couple of pork chops and some fresh Ontario asparagus. We circled back home for this tasty oven dinner:

First, heat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment. Then scrub your potatoes and slice 1/4″ or a little less than 1cm thick. Brush with olive or canola oil (we use canola, because it’s Canadian). Press a sage leaf into the top of each slice and place on the pan in a single layer. Sprinkle sparingly with salt, if you like, although they are very tasty with just the sage.

To prepare the pork chops, we brushed them with some fig mustard from Kozlik’s, and put them in their own parchment-lined pan.

Lastly, we took a sheet of foil and put the washed asparagus on it. This could probably have cooked less, but we didn’t want to fuss with it. We chopped a couple of cloves of garlic and added this along with the zest and juice from half a lemon. Wrapping the packet securely, we put it on the sheet pan and added all the dishes to the oven for half an hour.

That’s it! While we were waiting, we enjoyed a beer from the latest batch we bottled at Fermentations  on the Danforth. Charles and his team can match the flavour of your favourite beverage, or help you create wine from juice or actual grapes.

We’re feeling pretty fortunate with all of the great food and drinks we can find within a short walk or streetcar ride. Thanks for letting me share.

Veggie Mushroom Chili, Step-by-Step

I love a traditional, spicy chili, slow-simmered. This is a vegan-friendly version, designed to simmer in the oven while you watch a movie, chase your kids around, or finish that report you need to get written. I hope you enjoy it. Since I get requests for recipes, I’ll walk you through it. You can most definitely adjust the proportions – this makes a large Dutch oven full, which is dinner, plus lunch, for two, and several more meals’ worth for the freezer, or just enough for a big crowd for dinner.

You’ll need:

Olive or canola oil (I am using canola these days because it is produced in Canada)

2 onions

2 cloves garlic

3 stalks celery

2 large carrots

1 green and 1 red bell pepper

1 jalapeno

2 cans or l large bowl of cooked beans, as you like (kidney are traditional, but we had chickpeas and black-eyed peas on hand)

2 cans diced tomatoes stewed without salt (large cans, 28oz.)

1 T/15ml each of chili powder, oregano, smoked paprika

1 chopped chipotle in adobo (or another jalapeno and a bit more smoky paprika)

1/4c/60ml red lentils (split peas will also work, but take longer to cook)

If you’re working alone, chop everything, then start. If you are working as a duo, chop the onions and garlic, and the other can stir and manage the cooking while one chops.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Turn the oven on to 350F

Add the onions and garlic:

Stir and sweat these until they start to get shiny, then add the celery:

 

 

 

 

 

You can use a machine to chop, but honestly, the time to chop each vegetable gives just about the right gap for the prior one to cook a little. Now for the carrots – these aren’t a traditional chili vegetable, perhaps, but they have the tremendous effect of adding a little sweetness to the chili, as do the onions as they sweat down more and more.

 

After the carrots, the peppers, the most tender of the vegetables, come last. Use any colour, but red and green give a great combination. Continue to cook until this mixture of vegetables (the “holy trinity plus” or a mirrepoix) have begun to soften nicely. Now you’re ready for the rest of the ingredients.

Tomatoes come first, then the beans. Stir everything well so you get a good mixture.

Canned beans are easy and fast, but they often have a lot of added salt, which most of us don’t need any more of in our modern diets. We get enough naturally. In the EAT section of this blog you can find a recipe to cook your own; they can also be prepared very nicely in a pressure cooker.

Adding a few red lentils will help it thicken and contribute to the meatier texture some people prefer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bring this to a simmer over medium heat, then put it all in the oven uncovered for at least an hour. 

 

It will cook down and thicken considerably; you can let it carry on for as long as it takes until you are ready to serve. Sometimes we will make a batch of cornbread on the side, but it really didn’t need anything else. Enjoy!

I’m always grateful for the opportunity to cook together with friends or family and to have a warm, low-maintenance dinner at the ready. Freeze whatever you don’t need, and remember it’s always better on the second day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Tart and Tasty

Holiday weekends always result in us pulling out the old family recipes. But this one, slightly adapted, hardly needs a recipe. It’s easy to make and delicious. If you want some protein, eat it along with a handful of nuts. Great for breakfast, or as a side with lunch, or dessert. Grammy Gladys would never have used the blood oranges, and sometimes added a spoonful of sugar, but truly, you don’t need it.

Use one orange, one grapefruit, and one blood orange per person.

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Cut off the peel – use for  something else if you like, or compost.

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Cut the fruit into bite-sized pieces, removing white pith. You’ll probably need to dump some juice from the cutting board into the bowl during this process. No one said family recipes weren’t messy.

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Stir in, at most, a tablespoon (15ml) of sugar or maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like your citrus.

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We ate ours with some peanuts – a slice of almond butter or peanut butter toast is lovely as well.

Possibly the world's easiest lunch…

  
Veggies with a light, fluffy hummus…

People always ask why our hummus tastes so good. It’s mainly from using home-cooked chickpeas, which have no salt. This lets the real flavour shine through, and also making it in the food processor gives a light and fluffy result.

We make a big batch of chickpeas and freeze, then pull out a container a few hours before we want to make this, or make some straight away. 

To cook the chickpeas:

Place dried chickpeas in a Dutch oven or casserole that is also stovetop safe. Why do extra dishes? They should fill no more than 1/3. Cover with 1-2″ water and soak overnight or all day while you are at work. How much water depends on how long the chickpeas have been hanging around, feeling parched.

Preheat oven to 250F

To cook, add more water to cover about an inch or the depth of the top segment of your thumb. Throw in a few peeled cloves of garlic, and a good shake of cumin. Bring to boil on top of the stove, cover, and put in the oven for 2-1/2 hours. 

Cool and use or freeze with their cooking liquid, or aquafaba.

To make the lunch: 

Buzz the zest of a lemon with  2 cloves garlic in a food processor. Add a couple of cups of chickpeas and liquid, the juice of the lemon, another good shake of cumin, and a tablespoon or so of tahini. Process until smooth and fluffy, adding a little water if necessary.

Enjoy!

Chicken Parm…ish

  
When you’ve had a long day and just want to decompress, take a few minutes to get this going, and have a glass of wine while you wait! 

For two:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (not the frozen ones with added salt!)

1 egg

1/4 c 1% milk

1 c whole wheat bread crumbs

1/2 c no salt marinara 

4 T Parmesan, fresh grated

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a cookie sheet or lasagne pan with parchment.

Mix egg and milk together in a pie plate.
Put crumbs in another pie plate.

Dip each piece of chicken in egg wash, then in crumbs, patting to coat. Place in pan and put in the oven. 

After 30 minutes, turn chicken over. In 15 more minutes, spread  marinara on top of each chicken breast and grate on Parmesan.

Bake 3-5 minutes until cheese melts.

Lunchovers?

Call them what you will, one of the best ways to stretch your grocery bill is to incorporate leftovers or things that need using up into your lunch. 

We’re off to run a couple of errands before the Super Bowl and we were smart enough not to eat the two extra lamb chops in the grocery store package (on sale last week and held in the freezer). We broiled the lot last night and sliced the leftovers for lunch. They’re served on a bed of local baby greens and cukes, both hothouse-grown.

  
For the dressing:

1/4 c / 60ml homemade wine vinegar

2T / 30ml olive oil

1oz / 30g crumbled feta

1T / 15ml Dijon

1T / 15ml dried oregano or basil 

6 dry-cured olives, chopped

Sprinkle on top:

1T / 15ml chopped sundried tomatoes 

Saturday, and the Living is Easy

Weekends are a great time for a relaxing breakfast – but this easy oatmeal recipe takes so little effort, we often have it on weekdays, too.

  
For two:

Put in a microwaveable glass  or ceramic casserole:

1 diced Apple

3/4 c large flake or steel cut oats 

A sprinkle of cinnamon 

1/2 c chopped nuts or seeds (we used hazelnuts and black sesame seeds for this version)

1-1/2 c water

No need to stir!

Microwave uncovered on high for 3 minutes, and on 50% power for 5 more minutes.

Stir and serve with maple syrup and some milk or nut milk.

Delicious!

Just Poachy!

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It looks like spring but feels like winter this morning. What a glorious burst of sun. So what better way to start the day than with a breakfast stack like this one: whole wheat English muffin, Rowe Farms ham, fresh yellow Ontario hothouse tomato, all topped with a fresh poached egg.

The Potato BBQ Thing

Baked potatoes are nice. And all sorts of side dishes are great. But there are lots of days when you just want to put something on the grill, slice up some tomatoes (maybe dress them up “Jamie style”) and eat.

When that happens, we fall back on the “BBQ Potato Thing” as a real go-to dish. This recipe originally came from our friend Helena, but it’s been changed and adapted a bit over the years.

Start with two large pieces of foil, laid out on the counter in a cross (probably about 24″ long, each).

Onto these, slice up some red potatoes, skins on, about 1/4″ thick. (Peel them if they’re unsightly old potatoes!). I use one potato per person. Add a sliced onion (or two, as you like) and a diced bell pepper (or two, depending on the number of people. Give it a good grinding of pepper, and a little salt. Toss in chopped herbs if you have some (the other night, when we took this photo, we used tarragon). Drizzle with olive oil – not too much, maybe a couple of tablespoons at the most.

Toss this together, then wrap – fold one piece of foil and roll the ends together, then use the other piece and do the same, the opposite way, to form a strong package.

Put this on the gas grill while you’re preheating, turning once. Leave it on the grill while you prepare some chops or chicken breasts, turning occasionally. By the time the meat is done, the Potato Thing will be, as well – and when you serve it up, it will look like you worked a lot harder than you did.