Peppery Goodness


Last night we were craving comfort food after a day of digging – preparing the garden for a first year’s veggie-growing in the new house. It was chilly out, so stuffed peppers fit the bill.

The oven was set to 350F.

We started by hollowing out two peppers and taking a tiny slice as necessary to make them sit straight. Then we sautéed the chopped pepper tops and a couple of stalks of celery, as well as an onion, in chili garlic oil. Next we added some frozen corn til it was a bit toasted. Lastly, we stirred in black beans (home cooked and frozen until needed – defrosted in the microwave) and some cooked brown rice (same story).

We filled the pepper shells and poured 60ml or 1/4 c of marinara on top. They were baked in a lidded, foil-lined casserole for 45 minutes. Then, removing the lid, we grated some extra old cheddar on each. 10-15 more minutes to melt, and they were ready, along with a fresh salad.


Steak and Red Potato Garlic Smash

Yesterday we were at Fermentations to bottle some lovely Malbec. As we often do, we ducked next door to pick up something good from The Friendly Butcher. As always, we were spoiled for choice and almost couldn’t figure out what to do! But we settled on these delicious, tender steaks. Grilled just right (rare, thanks)…we served them with red potatoes boiled together with a clove or two of Ontario garlic, then smashed. Steamed green beans and yellow bell pepper rounded out the plate. Fresh, local, and delicious. Dinner doesn’t get any better than that.

PS, a disclaimer. Although we’re walkable, we did not try and walk home carrying two dozen bottles of wine and our steaks. But if pushed, we could!

Poached Perch Dinner

Dinner in a hurry! We had a long day yesterday, and needed dinner, fast. In the freezer were a package of perch fillets we had picked up earlier this summer.

There were a couple of potatoes in the bin, and some yellow and green beans we found at the farmer’s market. Here’s what we did:

We peeled the potatoes and put them to boil in the bottom of a steamer pot. Then we put the zest and juice of a lemon, with half a cup (125ml) of water in another pot, and set it to boil. We snipped the beans and added them to the top of the steamer. Finally, we put the frozen fillets in the pot with the lemon, and turned it down to a point where just the occasioal bubble arose from the pot. Within 10 minutes, it was all done. Deliciously!

There's a Reason to Freeze your Beans!

Remember back in the spring, when we were baking and freezing batches and batches of beans? This was one of them – white beans with rosemary. Fast-forward to a blisteringly hot day, and those frozen beans came in handy. We put them on the counter to thaw in the morning, and stuck them back in the fridge when they were slightly icy, around lunchtime.

About half an hour before dinner, we mixed up a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a tablespoon of creamy Dijon, and some olive oil. We blanched some green beans, peas, and asparagus, then chilled them quickly in an ice-water bath.

We chopped in a litte oregano from the garden, and a green onion. Then we diced a couple of farmer’s market tomatoes. We grated in some cheddar from Montforte. Then we tossed it all together in a big bowl with some salt-cured olives from Plank Road Market.

Pair it with a light, bright, summer wine, and the heat will suddenly seem more bearable.

Smokin' Bean Salad with Sprouts

Many years ago, when our kids were young, I copied a recipe from Lucy Wing for a delicious bean salad. Over the years, it’s been changed, adapted, and adjusted (and lost!) to the point where it doesn’t even resemble the original recipe any more. But I think fondly of the days when we were discovering our “family foods”. This one gets tweaked a little every time. Here’s today’s version:

Whisk together in  a large bowl, 15ml Dijon mustard (1T), 30ml cider vinegar (2T), and 15 ml olive oil (1T). Trim and blanch very slightly, a good handful of green beans. Plunge into cold water, and cut into bite-sized piecees. Rinse about 500ml (2c) of bean sprouts and add to the bowl. Then dice a large tomato and put that in. Pit and chop (large or small, your choice) some black olives. Add 500ml (2c) of cooked white beans (I used Great Northerns, which I had cooked with onion and rosemary, earlier in the week). Lastly, cheese. something sharp. Feta works, or an aged cheddar. In this case, Plank Road had some delicious applewood smoked cheddar. For a large bowl of salad, you don’t need much – 60g (a couple of ounces) will do. Grate it in. Stir everything together, and let stand in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour (although it gets better overnight!). You can serve it as a side, but it’s really a meal. Add some homemade wholegrain bread, and you’re set!

We did have a little trouble finding bean sprouts on short notice. Next time I might just pick up some mung beans or lentils from Better Bulk and sprout my own.

Big? Small? Veggie Curry for All…

Next on the agenda? Veggie curry.

Life threw a wrench in the works this week – our microwave went on the blink. Now we don’t use the micro for much, mostly for starting baked potatoes for the grill, melting and thawing. Therein lies the problem. In our quest to avoid sodium, we like to make big batches of beans and keep them in the freezer. Same goes for brown rice. But we’re not always good about getting stuff out of the freezer early on. So we’ll start with directions:

If you didn’t get the beans out in time, and you don’t have a microwave: About 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour before you need them in a recipe, sit the container you froze them in, in a larger container of lukewarm water. This will help them thaw faster. Check from time to time. When they can be broken apart, they can be added to the recipe. This method also works for the rice; to reheat the rest of the way, add a tablespoon or so of water, and heat over low heat on the stovetop, in a non-stick pan. Or use a little oil and some diced celery, onion and mushrooms, and make it fried rice.

To make today’s veggie curry we started by baking a butternut squash. You cut the squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Turn cut-side-down on a piece of parchment, on a cookie sheet. Bake half an hour (depending on the size, you may need ten more minutes) in a 400F oven. When you can pierce with a fork, it’s ready. Let it cool a bit so you can handle it.

Meanwhile, cook an onion, a stalk of celery, a chopped bell pepper, a couple of sliced carrots, and some mushrooms in a medium-sized pan. Add a couple of cups of cooked kidney beans (check out our bean recipe in the recipe pages). De-glaze with a splash of wine. Pour in a bit of broth (not too much, maybe half a cup). Scoop in half of the squash and save the rest for a delicious soup…within a couple of days, or freeze for later.

Two tablespoons of curry paste are great for our hardy lot…but do it to taste. Use curry powder if you prefer. Or some garam masala, turmeric, and chili powder. Throw in a few green beans or asparagus – whatever’s handy and in season.

Let it simmer until it thickens. Serve with the rice. Your tummy will thank you.

Change of Plans

Sometimes in a busy household a change of plans can make the day’s meal plan impractical. Or fresh foods can spoil a little faster than anticipated. In our case, some spinach that ended up not being used on Sunday, became the basis for dinner on Monday.

It was one of our usual go-to meals: some vegetables and beans (or cheese) tossed together with a whole-grain pasta. In this case, some spelt penne was the pasta star. While it cooked we sauteed an onion, and added half a dozen mushrooms. A splash of red wine, a packet of baby tomatoes, and the spinach in question came next, followed by a couple of cups of cooked beans. This simmered over low heat until the pasta was done. Then we tossed everything together and covered it, on low heat, for 4-5 minutes just to let the flavours come together. Finally, a sprinkling of feta for a salty-sharp accent. A casual, comforting end to a long day.

Magic Beans!

Easy vegetarian meals often call for canned beans. But in our efforts to watch our weight, we started to learn a lot more about label reading. One thing we’re really careful about is sodium – it makes a huge difference! A rule of thumb we learned was to read the calories per serving on the nutrition label. Then, if the milligrams of sodium per serving is higher than the calorie count, avoid it! Sounds easy, right? Unfortunately it’s the dirty secret of lots of canned foods – they have a lot of sodium. Even healthy choices like beans or soups are a problem. So we make our own beans now, on days when we’re busy working around the house, doing chores, laundry, or whatever. A few weeks ago we made some black-eyed peas…and they’re the star of today’s recipe. We grabbed a one-cup tub out of the freezer at breakfast time and let it thaw for the day…

Then we started dinner by putting some whole wheat pasta on to cook in a big pot of unsalted water. (Two ounces or 60g of dried whole wheat pasta per person is plenty!)

Then, while the past cooks…start a little onion (one small one) and garlic (two cloves) in a couple of teaspoons (10ml) of chili oil. We also chopped in a sweet, sweet pepper we picked up at Plank Road, around the corner. Next, some sliced mushrooms for texture, just rinsed and sliced. Keep stirring as you add the veg.

After the pepper, a good big handful of spinach, washed and chopped, and a diced fresh  tomato go in the pot. Put the lid on, and turn heat to low for about 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.

Finally, it’s time for the beans. Dump them into the pan, along with about a tablespoon (15 ml) of pesto (check the types and buy the one with the least sodium!) . Pop the lid back on and simmer all of this until it is bubbling hot and ready to receive the pasta – just a few minutes should do. Then tip in the pasta, stir, sprinkle with a little cayenne, and lid the pan again. Let it simmer over very low heat for the flavours to meld.

Finally, when the flavours have had a chance to come together, serve! If you want, shave a little sharp cheddar on top, but you won’t need too much. An ounce or so should do between the two plates (that’s about 30 grams). Happy eating!