Friday, July 11, 2008

RECIPE: Quick Crustless Quiche

A glance in our CSA share bin this week, and you know we are heading for midsummer. The bounty included kale, lettuce, salad mix, green onions, Swiss chard, cabbage, zucchini, mushrooms and potatoes.

I admit it is still sometimes a challenge to use up all my greens even after all these years as a CSA shareholder!

One of my favourite ways to use up a whole bunch of chard or spinach is to toss them into a quiche. To keep things super simple, I often make a crustless quiche (no fiddling around with a pastry crust!)

Quick Crustless Quiche
This is a truly crustless quiche - not like the other "crustless" variety that forms a crust while it bakes. Serve this with a tossed salad and you will use up lots of salad greens too.

Time: 60 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of spinach or chard, chopped
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
4 slices regular or turkey bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


1. In a large frying pan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add spinach or chard and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until greens are wilted.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and milk together. Add bacon, cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and spinach mixture, stirring gently until well combined.

3. Pour into a greased 9" pie plate and bake at 375° F for 30-45 minutes or until golden brown on top and knife inserted in centre comes out clean.

P.S. My new camera arrived today, so photos shall return to the blog next week!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Swimming in Strawberries

Right about now I'm wondering if I'm up for another round with the berries. I've safely processed, prepared or consumed the entire 18 quarts our family picked on Canada Day. I absolutely adore strawberries, and nothing can compare to the taste of a freshly picked, sun-warmed berry; however, any sort of serious berry picking effort means a large commitment in the days afterwards since berries will only last a couple of days in the fridge. We may go back and pick another 24 quarts if we can squeeze it in by the end of the week. Our local farm offers a deal that if you pick six 6 quart baskets over the course of the picking season, you get the seventh free, and the frugal part of me doesn't want to miss out on getting $10 worth of free berries!

Here are some of my favourite ways to enjoy one of the great tastes of summer:

Jam - I made 3 batches this year. Once you have some experience, you can whip up a batch in about an hour. I use the standard Certo recipe; for some reason everyone tells me my jam is fabulous and wants to know my "secret". I just follow the directions, LOL!

Muffins - Strawberries are a great substitute for rhubarb in these muffins! If you are lucky enough to have both strawberries and rhubarb handy, use half and half for a scrumptious strawberry-rhubarb muffin.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad - always a hit for a potluck dinner

Strawberry Shortcake - I bake the old-fashioned kind, in one large pan, rather than individual biscuits. I prefer to add very little sugar to the strawberries themselves - just a sprinkle to draw out the natural juices.

Once I've got the jam all safely tucked away, and we've all eaten our fill of fresh berries, I freeze the rest on cookie sheets overnight, then transfer them to plastic freezer bags for long-term storage. Frozen berries are perfect for a fresh-tasting smoothie all winter long!

Image courtesy of

Friday, July 4, 2008

RECIPE: Colourful Cabbage Salad

This recipe is a family favourite and one that I prepare on a regular basis year-round. One thing I love about it is that I can make a large batch and it will keep in the fridge well for 3-4 days (although it's rare that it lasts that long around here). You could easily substitute whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand for the peppers and carrots. Moat of the prep time for this salad is chopping the vegetables. Use a food processor to shred the cabbage - this will speed your prep time considerably!

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6-8 as a side dish

1 *small* cabbage, shredded (or approx. 1/2 a large cabbage)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1/2 a medium red pepper, finely chopped
6 strips regular or turkey bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled (optional but tasty!)
3/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut into small (1/2" or less) cubes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey mustard
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine

1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, carrots, red pepper, bacon and cheese.

2. In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

3. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture and stir until vegetables are well coated with dressing.

4. Transfer to serving dish. Can be served immediately or prepared up to 24 hrs in advance.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A Quick Picnic

Summer is picnic season and we had our first family picnic last night (at It's Your Festival, a weekend-long Canada Day celebration).

Many of our picnics are spur-of-the-moment affairs, so I like to be able to pull some inexpensive yet tasty treats on short notice.

Here's what was in our cooler yesterday:

Lime and Garlic Chicken

Potato Salad with Bacon and Garlic Scapes (recipe below)

Tossed Green Salad (veggies from our CSA share)

We didn't pack any dessert, since we planned to enjoy our traditional festival chocolate-soft-serve cones. Otherwise, I would have packed some quick homemade bars or cookies. I'm planning to try these Lemon-Cornmeal Cookies from Cooking Light magazine soon; Gingersnaps are another picnic-perfect family favourite (no chocolate chips to melt all over the place on a hot day!)

We usually bring a family-sized thermos jug of lemonade along, but yesterday we just had ice water as the kids had already polished off our lemonade (which reminds me, I need to stock up on lemonade again when it's on sale).

Potato Salad with Bacon and Garlic Scapes
I decided to toss the garlic scapes from this week's CSA share into my potato salad, with delicious results. You could substitute fresh green beans for a similar texture and flavour.
[Sorry no photo - still no digital camera!]

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6 as a side dish

6-8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
4 strips regular or turkey bacon
1 bunch garlic scapes, chopped into 1" pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, sliced
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp honey mustard
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


1. Cook potatoes and onion together in boiling water until potatoes are tender. Drain potatoes; refill pot with cold water and set aside to let potatoes cool.

2. While potatoes are cooking, cook bacon until crisp; cool and crumble.

3. In same pan used to cook bacon, saute garlic scapes in olive oil until tender-crisp (if you used regular bacon, you may have enough bacon drippings to skip the olive oil).

4. In large mixing bowl, combine bacon, garlic scapes, garlic, green onions, mayonnaise, mustard, salt and pepper.

5. Drain potatoes thoroughly and add to dressing mixture; stir well to combine. Serve warm or chilled.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RECIPE: Hummus & Veggie Wraps

These wraps appear regularly on our warm-weather menus. They are much heartier tasting than you might expect. My favourite vegetable combination is included in the recipe, but you can use any seasonal veggies you have on hand. A hearty tossed salad rounds out this meal very nicely!

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas ( or a19 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained)
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (optional)
2-4 tbsp olive oil

1 medium sized zucchini, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
1 onion, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Four 10" flour tortillas (we like whole wheat)


1. In food processor, combine chickpeas, garlic, peanut butter, cumin, lemon juice and parsley. Process until mixture is semi-smooth. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until hummus is desired consistency.

2. In medium frying pan, saute vegetables in olive oil until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. While vegetables are cooking, warm flour tortillas in oven or microwave.

To assemble:
For each wrap, spread 1/3 - 1/2 cup hummus on flour tortilla, then top with sauteed vegetables. Fold in ends and roll together tightly. Slice in half and serve.

I shared this recipe at Tasty Tuesday.

Friday, June 20, 2008

An Early Summer Feast

This week's share of the harvest included asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, lettuce, salad mix, radishes and potatoes.

We had quite the early summer feast for dinner last night:

Turkey Burgers
Baked Potatoes
Sauteed *mushrooms and onions
Moroccan-Inspired *Carrot and *Parsnip Salad (recipe below)

*from our CSA share

Local strawberries with vanilla ice cream
(I was dismayed to see that the local strawberries were priced $1.00 higher than the U.S. imports!! Please buy them anyway!)

I will use the spinach to making more Lemony Chicken and Spinach Pasta - for which my husband will thank me profusely! I think the zucchini may become zucchini bread - or possibly chocolate zucchini cake, depending on how ambitious I feel on the weekend.

Moroccan-Inspired Carrot and Parsnip Salad
This is mildly spiced - if you like it hot, add more paprika and cumin. I used green onions in this dish because I still had plenty on hand from last week's CSA share, but you could use 1/4 of chopped fresh parsley instead.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

5 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced into coins
3 green onions (scallions), chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange juice
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp honey mustard
1/4 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


1. Cook carrots and parsnips in boiling water until carrots are tender-crisp (don't overcook the carrots - they should still have a bit of "crunch" to them; the parsnips will be a bit softer). Drain.

2. While carrots and parsnips are cooking, combine remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over cooked vegetables and mix well.

3. Chill before serving (tastes best if refrigerated overnight to allow flavours to blend).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

RECIPE: Rhubarb Muffins

Judging by how quickly these are disappearing from my kitchen, this one is a winner! The rhubarb is from our CSA share.

Time: 20 minutes prep
20 minutes baking

Makes 12 muffins


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon


1. In a medium bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, soda, powder and salt. Mix well.

2. In a separate small bowl, combine egg, vanilla, oil, buttermilk and rhubarb.

3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add rhubarb mixture and gently stir until just moistened.

4. Spoon mixture into greased muffin cups.

5. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffin tops, pressing topping lightly into muffin batter.

6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched.

"Use What You've Got" Tip:
-If you don't have buttermilk on hand, put 1/2 tbsp vinegar in the bottom of your measuring cup, then add regular milk to make 3/4 cup
-I've also used half milk/half plain yogurt or half milk/half sour cream in place of buttermilk with good success (in baked goods)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

RECIPE: Freeform Supper Salad

We had this for dinner last night. This is the perfect summer meal for times when you want to pull together a quick dish that's cool and refreshing (yet still satisfying). There are endless variations on this - use whatever you have on hand!

Time: 20 minutes (quicker if you're using leftover meat)
Serves: variable

Lime and garlic chicken, sliced (or use any cubed/sliced leftover meat)
Salad greens (lettuce, spinach, salad mix)
chopped/sliced vegetables (cucumbers, sweet peppers, carrots, broccoli, etc)
crumbled bacon (about 1 slice per person)
cubed cheese
parmesan cheese
salad dressing of choice

For each serving, arrange salad greens on plate. Sprinkle chopped vegetables, bacon, and cheese cubes over greens. Arrange chicken slices on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Drizzle with dressing of choice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Value of Cooking Creatively

Cooking from scratch is almost always cheaper than eating out (unless you're cooking lobster and filet mignon at home!) But I think the skill that sets the really frugal cook apart from the rest is knowing how to "cook on the fly" and use what they've got on hand. This skill is the difference between always having to run out for one or two missing ingredients and easily substituting with what you've already got. It's also the difference between using up all those little bits and pieces hanging around in the fridge, or letting them all go to waste. Meredith at Like Merchant Ships recently commented on this when she was faced with astronomically priced celery and a desire to make chicken salad. What to do? Get creative!

In order to be really creative in the kitchen, a cook needs to be experienced enough to know what flavours and textures will work together well, and which will yield a less-than-edible result. Starting out with small substitutions and working towards more major ones will allow you to gradually test the waters and learn as you go without wasting too much food in the process.

Last night I was rooting around in the fridge and realized I still had quite a bit of my CSA veggies left from last week (and it was time to pick up more!) So my goal for dinner was to use up the most-likely-to-spoil-soon candidates and still produce something tasty. I had half a bag of spinach and 1/3 bunch fresh basil, as well as a bit of whipping cream lurking in the back of the fridge about to expire. I also had about half a dozen boneless, skinless chicken drumsticks I had bought on sale that I wanted to use up.

A plan started to develop as I surveyed my ingredients. I recalled a dish I had made several years ago from Anne Lindsay's Lighthearted Everyday Cooking that had similar flavours, but used scallops instead of chicken. Quickly rummaging through my cookbook pile, I located the recipe. Yes, it used spinach. I could sub chicken for scallops. The basil would work well with this combination. The original called for cream cheese and chicken broth, neither of which I had on hand (yes, they're both on my Pantry List, but I'm overdue for a grocery shop!) I combined the whipping cream with a bit of coffee cream, and figured that would be a reasonable substitution taste and texture wise since heavy cream will cling to pasta nicely. I decided to add some garlic (if you haven't noticed yet, I can't really live without it!) and more parmesan cheese than originally called for (only 2 tbsp!)

Here's what I came up with:

[My apologies for the rather ghastly photo - I found out my camera batteries were dead when I went to snap a pic. This was the best I could do with my hubby's cell phone camera!]

Lemony Chicken and Spinach Pasta

This ended up being a phenomenal hit with my husband - he gives it his highest rating! In case you're wondering (since there are 4 of us here) I made spaghetti with plain tomato sauce for my older son who is vegetarian (and doesn't like spinach, lol!)
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 3 (could easily be doubled)


1/2 lb spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
6 boneless, skinless chicken drumsticks, chopped into approx. 1/2" pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream (if you don't have quite enough, you can add milk to get the right volume)
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
2 cups shredded spinach
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente, drain.

2. While spaghetti is cooking, saute onions and garlic in olive oil for 1-2 minutes. Add chicken and cook until no trace of pink remains. Add basil and cook 1 minute longer, then add cream, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until hot and bubbly.

3. Add spinach and Parmesan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until spinach begins to wilt. Remove from heat.

4. Toss sauce and pasta together and serve immediately.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Cooking to Beat the Summer Heat!

An early heat wave has me shifted right into summer cooking mode (40-degrees-Celsius-with-the-Humidex will do that!)

We cook and eat much differently in the hot summer months than we do the rest of the year, for a few reasons:
-we plan our meals based on locally available produce like our CSA share
-we generally prefer to eat much "lighter" meals in warm weather
-we're too busy enjoying the great weather to come inside and cook
-we desperately want to avoid heating up the kitchen!

The result of all of the above is that we don't eat as many cooked/hot foods as we do the rest of the year. Obviously, barbecuing is a favourite summer cooking method, but tossing steaks (or even burgers) on the BBQ a few nights a week can increase your food bill in a hurry!

My basic strategy is to keep a variety of different salads on hand in the refrigerator, which when served together with a small portion of meat from the BBQ and some homemade bread, will make a satisfying summer meal.

I try to keep the fridge stocked with at least one of each of the following:

-starchy salad (potato, pasta, or rice based)
-green salad (self explanatory I hope!)
-high protein salad (bean, tuna, tofu, egg - although no one likes egg salad around here!)

Many salads fall into more than one category - pasta salad with a peanut sauce dressing or bean and rice salad are both high protein and starchy. There are no hard and fast rules (of course - you know I have no rules, right?) but thinking in these terms helps keep a balanced variety of salads on hand so that it's easy to create a quick meal with a variety of textures and flavours.

Since most of these foods are served cold, it also allows me to do the food preparation during the cooler parts of the day (early morning or late evening) and avoid cooking during the intense afternoon heat.

This basic strategy has worked very well for our family for several years. I will be sharing all my favourite summer salad recipes over the next few weeks!

Friday, June 6, 2008

A New CSA Season Kicks Off!

Picking up the first share of the season always feels like a momentous occasion to me! Every week is a new surprise as I'm never exactly sure what will be waiting in our bin when I arrive.

This is our vegetable booty for the week:

Boston lettuce, spinach, basil, rhubarb, cucumber, green onions, parsnips, bok choi, asparagus and arugula!

The greens and cucumber will all get used up in salads. I will make either muffins or a cake with the rhubarb. I had planned on roasting the parsnips with some other vegetables, but after being unseasonably cool for the past few days it's shot up to 30 degrees Celsius today ("feels like" 38!) Luckily the parsnips will keep just fine until this little heat wave passes by. We had the asparagus stir-fried last night to accompany baked fish and vegetable pilaf.

Garlic - Sesame Asparagus

Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4 (as a side dish)


1 bundle of asparagus
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


Trim asparagus ends and cut into 1" pieces. In a small frying pan, saute the garlic and sesame oil for 20-30 seconds, then add the asparagus, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp (5-10 minutes). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good Old-Fashioned Recipe Organization

"Now what the heck did I do with that recipe for Great Aunt Martha's favourite chicken salad?"

If you're anything like me, you probably have tons of recipes stashed away in drawers, folders, books, computer files and assorted random piles. And when the moment of truth comes, you can't quite remember where to find the recipe you so desperately need.

These days, there are a myriad of options for organizing our recipes, both on- and off-line. I've tried a variety of approaches over the years (and as a result, gotten into the mess of having more than one system in place at the same time, leading to even more chaos!)

I've found online options really don't work all that well for me. If I had a laptop on my kitchen counter, maybe this would be a better solution. I don't own a laptop, and even if I did, I don't think I'd feel comfortable having it on the kitchen counter while I was in the middle of cooking up a storm (too much potential for spilling stuff on the computer!)

In the end, I have developed a very simple system that works well for me. I refer to it affectionately as the Big Blue Binder Recipe Management System. The system is divided into two basic components:
1. a large 2" binder full of plastic page protectors that I have divided up into categories (main dishes, salads, desserts, etc)
2. a file folder for each category in my filing cabinet.

As I acquire new recipes I want to try, I add them to the appropriate file folder. Then, when I'm inspired to try out a new main dish or dessert recipe, I rifle through the folder until I find something I want to cook.

Every time I try a new recipe and it's a hit, it goes right into the binder. If it's not worth making again, it gets tossed into the recycling bin.

This works well because every time I find a new recipe I want to try online, I print it off onto a full-size sheet of paper (in a nice large font so it's easy to read when I'm cooking!) If a recipe happens to be on an index card or newspaper clipping, once it's gained "make it again" status, I take a couple of minutes to type it up and print it out.

Having one recipe per page makes it really easy to group similar recipes together (like different types of cheesecake in your dessert section), even when you're constantly adding new material to your binder. It also makes it easy to remove recipes that are no longer of interest! You can also find the recipe you're looking for easily with a quick flip through the appropriate section, since all the titles are at the top of the page.

I've been using this system for a few years now, and it has worked far better than anything else I've ever tried.

So, if you're still struggling to maintain an organized recipe collection, why not give it a shot? It only takes a few minutes to set it up, and once you've got it going, it maintains itself!

Monday, June 2, 2008

RECIPE: Zesty Turkey Burgers

It's barbecue season and that means lots of burgers! If you buy a lot of pre-made patties, it can eat into your food budget in a hurry. This recipe uses only 1/2 lb of ground turkey to make six good-sized, flavourful burgers. You can substitute chicken or beef for the turkey if you want to shake things up.

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6


1/2 lb ground turkey
1/3 cup salsa
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 egg
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
1/2 - 3/4 cup quick cooking oats

6 hamburger buns (I prefer whole grain ones!)

Condiments as desired


In a medium bowl, combine the turkey, salsa, onion, egg, cumin, salt and pepper. Gradually add oats until the mixture holds together well. Shape into 6 burger patties.

Grill or pan-fry patties until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. Serve on warm buns with your choice of condiments.

These burgers are great served with baked potatoes or oven fries and creamy cucumber salad.

Friday, May 30, 2008

7 Tips for New Community Shared Agriculture Shareholders

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been a CSA shareholder for almost a decade now. I have learned quite a few things over the years! With the recent surge in interest in eating locally, more and more people are signing on for shares with a local farm. Admittedly, choosing to participate in a CSA is not quite as quick and simple as grabbing items off the shelf from the grocery store. For the minimal investment of time and effort that is required, I feel the rewards are well worth it!

Here are a few tips to make the CSA experience as enjoyable as possible:

1. Know the rules/requirements of your CSA.
While most CSAs work in a similar manner, there are slight differences from one farm to another. Make sure you know if you are supposed to bring your own bags to the pick up depot, or if bags/bins are provided by the farm. Familiarize yourself with cancellation policies if you will be out of town (most farms provide credit to carry over to subsequent weeks if they are notified in advance that you will be away, but don't give credit if you simply forget to pick up your share!)

2. Set aside time on share pickup day to "process" your share.
Not only will you need to go pick up your share (unless you are getting home delivery!) but you will need to do something with it once you've got it. CSA vegetables are usually dirtier than grocery-store vegetables, and they don't come packaged up ready to go in the fridge! I usually need to spend about a half hour sorting and cleaning our weekly share (I don't wash greens until I am ready to use them, but items like Swiss Chard I trim to make storage easier)

3. Make space in your refrigerator.
You will be receiving a large quantity of vegetables at one time - they are NOT all going to fit in your vegetable crisper (trust me!) I usually leave the bottom shelf of my fridge open so I have plenty of space to store my weeks' worth of veggies. You don't want to have to cram them into a too-tight space; that will crush delicate items such as greens, and they will decay faster.

4. Store everything properly.
Nothing is more annoying than having to throw out half a share's worth of spoiled vegetables (I speak from experience here!) I have had great success using large Ziploc freezer bags to store my vegetables in. They are large enough to accommodate the generous amounts of each veggie typically received in a CSA share, and I can easily see what's in each bag when it's in my fridge. Most items will stay fresh for at least a week when stored this way. I wash and reuse the bags, so it's been more than a year since I've had to buy a new box! If I know in advance that we won't be able to use up all our items that week (for example, if we will be out of town part of the week), I will freeze a few items (usually greens like spinach and chard) so they won't spoil. As a bonus, at the end of the season I have some local organic vegetables already stored in the freezer to see me through the beginning of the winter.

5. Prioritize your eating.
Each week, after I finish processing our share, I make a list of all the vegetables we have received. I put the more delicate items (such as greens) at the top, and the hardier items (like root vegetables) at the bottom. I then focus on using up the "top of list" items earlier in the week, so that nothing goes to waste.

6. Be willing to experiment with unfamiliar vegetables.
When I was new to the CSA experience, I was confronted with a lot of vegetables I had never eaten before - arugula, mizuna, Swiss Chard, and garlic tops to name a few. It was a bit intimidating at first, but I've learned how to prepare all these "strange" vegetables over the years. Most CSAs provide recipe suggestions for their shareholders. There are even some cookbooks out there written specifically for shareholders, such as Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables and many others focusing on seasonal vegetables, such as The Garden Fresh Vegetable Cookbook. I have gotten a lot of mileage out of a 25-cent copy of the Joy of Gardening Cookbook that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago! If you get to know your fellow shareholders, they are likely to have some suggestions as well.

7. Enjoy your seasonal eating experience!
It is a real pleasure to enjoy the changing contents of my CSA share over the course of the growing season. I feel more connected to the whole process, and my kids (who were babies when we signed on with our first CSA) have always had a good understanding of what eating seasonally is all about.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Learning to Embrace Leftovers

I am always surprised when someone expresses their utter disdain for leftovers. I have been a long-time fan of them, myself, for many reasons. Firstly, I can use them to help put together a meal faster than usual on a night where I don't have much time or energy. In addition, the wise and creative use of leftovers means that nothing is going to waste, keeping my grocery bill down! And I admit I feel more than a little satisfaction in creating something delicious out of items a lot of people might have just tossed in the garbage.

A few evenings ago, my husband was out at dinner time and my motivation for cooking for myself and my two boys was running low (sometimes it's hard to muster up my cooking enthusiasm when I know they'd be just as happy with a peanut butter sandwich!)

I rooted around in the fridge for a couple of minutes, and came up with: 2 baked potatoes (leftover from burger night), half a carton of sour cream, a few strips of bacon and a jar of salsa with a few spoonfuls left at the bottom. I also had some garlic chives poking up in the veggie garden. Inspiration struck and I came up with the following:

Spicy Potato, Bacon, and Onion Hash

2-3 strip of bacon
2 baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp canola oil
3-4 tbsp salsa
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
sour cream and garlic chives for garnish

In a small frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pan. Saute the potatoes and onion in the oil until onions are tender and potatoes turn golden brown. Add salsa, salt and pepper and mix well. Crumble bacon and add to potato mixture. Cook for a minute or two longer. Spoon out onto serving plates and garnish with sour cream and garlic chives.

To round out our meal, I scrambled up some eggs and toasted the last few slices of homemade bread we had on hand. This turned out to be a deliciously satisfying meal!

I hope I've convinced you that leftovers are a good thing - they can be the springboard to a tasty, something-for-almost-nothing culinary creation.

Friday, May 16, 2008

RECIPE: Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie

I was recently inspired to "spice up" one of my favourite comfort foods. The day I created this dish, it received rave reviews from my whole family. I'll be making this one often!

Time: under 60 minutes
Serves: 6-8


6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp canola oil
1 lb ground beef, chicken or turkey
3/4 cup salsa
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
19 oz can corn, drained
1/2 cup sour cream
milk (as needed)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese


1. Boil potatoes until tender (about 20 minutes).

2. While potatoes are cooking, in a medium frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in oil until they start to soften. Add ground meat and cook until no trace of pink remains.

3. Add salsa, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and corn. Cook until hot and bubbly.

4. When potatoes are done, drain well and add sour cream. Mash until smooth (add a bit of milk if needed to get desired consistency).

5. Pour meat mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes evenly over top.

6. Sprinkle with grated cheese and place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly (5-10 minutes)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Favourite Smoothie

It's time to dig out my blender - smoothie season is here! Now that the warmer weather has finally arrived, I am starting to crave refreshing, cold drinks again. I love smoothies for lots of reasons; not only are they incredibly satisfying, they are filling enough to serve as a snack, they are quick and easy to make, and the variations are as endless as your imagination (and the contents of your fruit crisper).

Here is my personal favourite:

Raspberry Coconut Smoothie
This is equally fabulous using strawberries!

Time: under 5 minutes
Serves: One large or two small servings

3/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 - 1/3 cup coconut milk

Toss all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Add more juice if necessary to get desired consistency.

It's easy to create your own "custom" smoothie by choosing different combinations of fruit and juice. For best results, at least 50% of the fruit used in your smoothie should be frozen to give it that characteristic thickness. Milk or yogurt can be used in place of the coconut milk.

Make homemade Popsicles by pouring the smoothie mixture into Popsicle molds. My kids can't get enough of these! At ages 8 and 10, they are able to do most of the prep work themselves and just need a bit of help pouring the mixture into the molds.

Money Saving Tips:
-Use the juice left over from canned fruit in your smoothies.
-Smoothies are perfect for using up over-ripe fruit!

Monday, May 5, 2008

The "Magic" Bread Solution - Refrigerator Bread Dough

Baking your own bread is one of the best ways I know to stretch your food budget. Our family can easily go through a loaf a day, and at over $2 a loaf even for the "cheap" bread, that eats up a major percentage of our monthly grocery budget. While making your own bread on a regular basis *can* be quite time consuming, there is a way to make from-scratch homemade bread without a lot of time or effort: Refrigerator Bread Dough! This is one of those golden recipes that feels like it changed my culinary life. I can easily have bread ready-to-go whenever I need it without feeling like I'm chained to the kitchen. If you've never tried making your own bread before, rest assured that it's actually pretty simple as long as you attend to a few key details. This dough is incredibly versatile and forgiving. I will be sharing lots of different ways to use it in the future, but let's get started with the basic recipe:

Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough

15-20 minutes

5 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 cups whole wheat flour
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar. Let stand 5-10 minutes or until yeast is thick and foamy. (Note: This is the most critical step for beginners! If you don't get a thick, foamy solution after 10-15 minutes, your yeast is not active - either it's too old or the water temperature was too hot or cold. You'll need to try again!)

2. Add mashed potatoes, oil, egg and salt. Mix well.

3. Gradually add the whole wheat flour, stirring until well combined.

4. Slowly add all-purpose flour as you begin to knead the dough. Knead for 5-8 minutes, adding flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic (it should no longer feel sticky).

5. Place dough in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in fridge.

It's all done until you're ready to use it! The dough will complete its first rising in the fridge and will keep for about a week. There is enough dough for 3 loaves of bread.

To make loaves:

Time: Hands on prep:5 minutes shaping
Waiting: 1 hr rise, 25 minutes baking

1. Divide dough into three equal portions. You don't have to bake all three loaves at once, so if you only want to make one or two loaves, return the remaining portion or two of dough to the bowl, cover and store in the fridge; dough will keep for up to a week from the day you made it. For each loaf you're making, roll out a portion of dough into a rectangle, approximately 9"x12".

2. Roll up, starting at longer edge of dough. Pinch seam together to seal. Turn seam side down. Tuck edges of loaf under (so that the loaf is the same length as the baking pan).

3. Place loaves in greased loaf pans. Place in a warm location and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size.

4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

5. Cool on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pan to finish cooling.


-Buy yeast and flour in bulk to keep the cost as low as possible (bulk yeast can be stored in the freezer)

-This is a great way to use up those leftover mashed potatoes you might have in your freezer if you've been keeping up with your Sunday Night Fridge Cleanout

-I don't usually have enough leftover mashed potatoes to keep up with the demand for bread dough, so I'll cook up a big batch of potatoes, mash and freeze in 1 cup portions to have on hand for dough making

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Speed Up Your Baking with a Baking Station

Baking from scratch rather than buying store bought is one of the key ways you can reduce your grocery bill. A lot of people opt for the "convenience" of store bought because there seems to be a prevalent misconception that baking requires a lot of time and effort. If you're making a wedding cake, maybe it does, but everyday baking can certainly fit into a busy cook's schedule if you have your kitchen set up to facilitate it.

The key to keeping baking as effortless as possible is to make sure you've got everything you need in the place you need it. I have one area of my kitchen established as my "Baking Station" and it is the main reason why baking happens around here so regularly.

Here are the elements of an efficient Baking Station:

1. Countertop: This needs to be a nice clean counter that is kept free of clutter! Clearing clutter off the counter can take more time than doing the actual baking, so be vigilant about this one. If you can, establish your Baking Station close to the fridge, so all your perishable ingredients are close at hand.

2. Cupboard storage: The cupboard should ideally be either directly above or below the designated Baking Station countertop. This cupboard should contain all the dry ingredients used for baking (flours, sugars, other grains, baking soda and powder, cornstarch, cocoa, chocolate chips, coconut). I also keep extracts (vanilla, maple, peppermint, etc), molasses, corn syrup, and canola oil here.

3. Spice drawer/cabinet: Spices should be kept handy to the Baking Station since you'll use them often. I have mine in a drawer immediately under the countertop. If you're going to use a wall-mounted cabinet or rack, it should be hung right above the Baking Station countertop. You can also keep your spices right in the Baking Station cupboard if that's more convenient. Wherever you choose to keep them, they should be easily accessible and WELL LABELLED!

4. Small equipment and tools: You will need knives, forks, spoons, wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, metal spatulas, measuring cups (for both wet and dry ingredients) and measuring spoons. These should all be within arm's reach of your Baking Station, so you don't have to move to get anything. I have a wall-mounted unit with little "buckets" from IKEA. They have a great selection of inexpensive wall-mounted organizers for the kitchen that are perfect for a Baking Station.

5. Large equipment and tools: Larger items like mixing bowls, mixer, baking pans and cookie sheets should all be nearby. A cupboard directly above or below your Baking Station counter is ideal. Make sure it's not cluttered in there so you can easily grab out what you need.

It doesn't take very long to get a good Baking Station put together, and it's well worth the effort! I'm willing to guarantee that you'll bake more often, and with far less hassle, once you've put together a well-organized Baking Station in your kitchen.

Monday, April 28, 2008

RECIPE: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

It's easy to get stuck in a breakfast rut (cold cereal and bagels, anyone?) but with just a tiny bit of effort, you can enjoy something much more scrumptious. These are guaranteed to fill your kitchen with a delicious aroma - your family will thank you! You can get these ready for the oven in about 10 minutes. I get these baking before I jump in the shower - by the time I'm done, they are just about finished. You can also make the batter up the night before and refrigerate, then bake the next morning.

Time: 10 minutes prep, plus 20 minutes baking
Makes: 1 dozen muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats (NOT instant!)
½ cup wheat germ
½ cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
¼ cup cooking oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup mashed bananas
1 cup chocolate chips

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, oats, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder and soda. Make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, milk and bananas until well combined. Add banana mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just moistened. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes or until golden and tops spring back when lightly touched.

Tip: When your bananas get over-ripe, toss them in the freezer as-is. When you're ready to bake with them, partially thaw, then slice the banana open lengthwise to remove it from the peel.

Friday, April 25, 2008

RECIPE: Spicy Chickpea Pasta

This is a great recipe to pull out when you're overdue for a grocery shop and need to dig deep in the pantry! This dish is vegetarian as long as you use vegetable rather than chicken stock.

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

10-12 oz rotini pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 a sweet pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
Half a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
19 0z can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tbsp dried parsley (or about 1/4 cup fresh chopped)

1. Cook the pasta in boiling water.

2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large frying pan, saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil until they start to soften. Add the sweet pepper and cook until tender.

3. Add the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, chickpeas, green beans, lemon juice, chili powder, cumin, parsley, salt and pepper. Cook until hot and bubbly and the green beans are completed heated through.

4. Pour sauce over cooked pasta and serve!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

12 Ways to Make the Most of Grocery Day

Good grocery shopping habits are instrumental in minimizing your grocery bill down and maximizing your kitchen efficiency. If you take the time for a well-organized effort, the rest of your time spent in the kitchen will be much more enjoyable! I usually grocery shop once every one to two weeks, and this whole process takes about an hour and a half at the most.

Steps to make the most of your grocery shopping experience:

1. Keep a running list of what's needed. As you use something up (or notice you're running low), add it to the list.

2. Do a quick scan of your pantry "zones". Quickly check the cupboard, fridge, and freezer to see if you are running low of any items on your pantry list. This step is necessary because lots of times family members eat the last of something and don't add it to the running list! Also check if any of your basic supplies (parchment paper, cling wrap, aluminum foil, paper towel, masking tape) are running low and add them to the list as needed.

3. Scan the sale flyers. Make note of any good bargains, particularly on items you're running low on or use a lot of (when cheese is on sale, I buy a LOT since we eat a lot and it doesn't go on sale that often.)

Now you're ready to head to the store...

4. Keep an eye out for unexpected bargains. You can often find marked down produce, bakery items and meats if you look for them. These items are near the expiration date and have been reduced for quick sale. Even though it's a bargain, you should still only buy it if you KNOW you're going to use it.

5. Stick to your list! Unless you find a truly good bargain as in point 4, don't be tempted to buy lots of stuff you don't really need and probably won't use.

Back home again...

6. Put everything in its place. Once you have an organized pantry, fridge and freezer, everything should have a spot to live in. Put it in its place as you unpack and it'll stay organized (and you'll always know where to find everything).

7. Look for expired items. As you're unpacking, toss anything that's lurked in the depths of the cupboard or fridge for too long and is no longer edible. If you do this consistently, after a few weeks you shouldn't be tossing much of anything.

8. Make note of items you've missed. Even the most organized shopper will sometimes get home and realize they forgot to buy something they need. If you notice this while you're unpacking, jot things down on your running list so you can't forget them on the next trip!

9. Freeze grains and pasta for 24 hrs after purchase. This will keep them from getting "buggy"(particularly important if you buy in bulk and will take a few months to use up your supply). I end up leaving most of my grains and pasta in the freezer until I'm ready to use them, since I have enough extra space.

10. Portion out and freeze meats. I buy meat in "club" packs, so once I get home I divide it up into meal-sized portions (i.e. a club pack of chicken will be enough for 2 or 3 meals' worth).

11. Capture your inspiration. I don't know about you, but I usually get my best meal ideas while I'm at the grocery store, and while I'm unpacking. Once it's all put away, I tend to forget all the good intentions I had. So, if you had a particular meal in mind, make note of it so you won't forget!

12. Plan to use the most perishable items first. I know, I know, this should be a no-brainer, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's ended up with moldy strawberries and bean sprout mush at the bottom of my crisper because I forgot to use them. These highly perishable foods should be eaten in the first day or two after a grocery shop, so plan accordingly!

I have found that following the above system makes grocery shopping about as fun as it can possibly be. I also feel good knowing I'm not wasting much food or spending money on items we don't need. It's much more pleasurable to cook in a well-stocked, organized kitchen!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Emergency Meals

Emergency meals are for those nights when you are just plain exhausted, overwhelmed, sick, or super-short on time. Every cook should have a few emergency meals in their repertoire for nights when the going gets rough. It's been a week like that around here. I was in bed with a virus for a few days, and when I finally started to feel better I had a lot to catch up on around the house, plus a couple of days with a fairly hectic family schedule. Emergency Meals to the rescue!

Here is one of our family's favourites:

Western Omelette Wraps

Time: less than 15 minutes
Serves: flexible

You can get these done in under 15 minutes if you're not feeding more than 4 people (it'll take a little longer if you need to make more than 4 omelettes).

INGREDIENTS (to make 4 wraps):
4 large flour tortillas (we like whole wheat ones)
4 slices bacon
1-2 tbsp canola oil
8 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup each chopped onion and red pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper
mayonnaise, mustard, guacamole, or ranch salad dressing, as desired

Cook bacon until crisp, crumble and set aside.

In a small bowl, beat 2 eggs, 1 tbsp milk, 1 tbsp each onion and red pepper, 1/4 of the crumbled bacon, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Heat 1-2 tsp of oil in a small frying pan or omelette pan. Add egg mixture to pan, making sure mixture evenly coats bottom of pan. Cover and cook over medium heat until eggs are set.

While omelette is cooking, heat flour tortilla in microwave or on "warm" setting of oven.

Spread warm flour tortilla with mayonnaise or desired spread. Carefully slide finished omelette out of pan and onto flour tortilla. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Roll up tightly,tucking in ends, then slice in half. Repeat process 3 more times to make 4 wraps.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pantry Principle

It's commonly advised to make a menu plan every week and stick to it, if you want to stay organized in the kitchen. For a few years I forced myself to make a weekly meal plan (most of the time) but even when that plan was in place it was a rare week that we actually stuck to it every day. Life happens and on any given week there are some unexpected events that throw a wrench into the best laid plans.

Over time, I developed a new strategy that's worked much better for me - the Pantry Principle. Instead of shopping every week for items to make specific dishes, I have determined all the food items I need to have around to make all the meals we like to eat. I simply make sure our pantry always contains these items, and I'm good to go to make whatever we like whenever we want it!
I use the word "pantry" loosely here, as I'm referring not only to what's in my cupboards, but what's in my fridge and freezer as well.

I've found this works a lot better than menu planning for a number of reasons:

1. Flexibility: I can change my mind more easily about our dinner plans when I know I've always got the ingredients to make a wide variety of meals on hand.

2. Makes shopping the sales easier: Because I have a standard list of items I keep on hand, it's easy to see when I'm running low on a particular item and need to stock up. It also saves me from buying so-called "bargain" items that will end up going to waste because we either didn't like them, or they didn't fit in with our usual eating habits.

3. Allows me to focus when evaluating new recipes: If I read a recipe in a magazine or cookbook that uses a lot of items I don't normally keep on hand, I just skip right on by it. I know it's not too likely I'll ever make it if it requires a special trip to the store.

4. Minimizes food wastage: By keeping only "high turnover" foods that we frequently use in the house, there is little chance that any particular item will hang around long enough to spoil.

5. Makes ALL food prep easier, not just dinner time: Traditional meal planning usually focuses only on what's for dinner, leaving you wondering what to do about all those breakfasts, lunches and snacks. The Pantry Principle is more inclusive, making sure you have everything you need to meet your family's food needs all day long, every day!

I should note that it doesn't take a lot of space to have a well-stocked pantry. I have a modest amount of cupboard space, a regular size fridge with freezer, plus an apartment size (7 cubic foot) freezer that easily holds everything we need. Once you root out all the stuff that's just taking up space (but never getting used), you'll probably find you have plenty of space to store the items you actually need.

If you'd like to get started organizing your own pantry, you can find my standard pantry list here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Night Fridge Clean Out

It's hard to cook when you have no idea what's in your fridge or where to find it. Fortunately, it's not difficult to keep things organized in there if you stay on top of it regularly. A quick once-a-week romp through the depths of the fridge should be enough to keep the science experiments at bay. This should take about 15 minutes. If your fridge is a total disaster, just work on it 15 minutes at a time, every day for 1 week and you should get it under control.

Remove any spoiled food and toss in compost, green cart, food disposal or (last resort!) garbage.

Found stuff that's still edible?

Make a plan to use it in the next 24 hrs (i.e. tomorrow's lunch or dinner)


Freeze it for future use (make sure to label it clearly with the date and type of food- trust me, you won't remember what it is 2 months from now when you find it at the back of the freezer!)
If you have leftover mashed potatoes, freeze it in approximately 1 cup portions (we'll talk about what to do with them later.) If there are little bits of a few different cooked vegetables lying around, you can freeze them together if they seem compatible (e.g. green beans and carrots) - they can be tossed into a soup, stew or other dish later. If you have leftovers of an entire dish (like a casserole or soup) portion it out into single servings for future use when quick lunches or dinners are needed.

If you do a once-a-week clean out faithfully, you'll always have a good idea what's in your fridge, and you'll drastically reduce the amount of food waste in your home - and the amount of money you're spending on groceries!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

RECIPE: Creamy Cucumber Salad

Quick to prepare, and a family favourite!

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

1 1/2 to 2 English cucumbers
1-2 tbsp salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
herb of choice - parsley, mint, or chives

Slice cucumbers in half lengthwise, then slice into 1/4" chunks. Place cucumber pieces in a bowl and sprinkle with 1-2 tbsp salt, stirring to mix well. Let stand 15-20 minutes while you prepare dressing. Dressing: Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Add herb of choice (about 1 tbsp dried or 3 tbsp fresh chopped). Once cucumbers have stood 15-20 minutes, turn into a collander and rinse well to wash off salt. Drain well, then add to dressing and mix until well combined.

RECIPE: Easy Oven Fries

I know I'll have a happy family on my hands if I make oven fries for dinner! We like them cut really chunky but you can slice them finer if you prefer.

Time: 45 minutes
Serves: flexible

Approx. 2 medium potatoes per person
Olive oil (approx 1-2 tbsp)
Sea salt (approx 1-2 tsp)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes and cut them into desired size pieces. Place potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, stirring until potatoes are uniformly coated. Sprinkle with sea salt (add more salt if you like them really salty) and mix well to distribute evenly amongst potatoes. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, spread potatoes out evenly onto cookie sheets in a single layer. Place on middle rack of oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip fries over and bake about 10 minutes more or until golden brown.

RECIPE: Lime and Garlic Chicken

This is one of my most favourite foods! It's super quick and easy to make, tastes great, and the leftovers (if you're lucky enough to have any) are incredibly versatile. You can use either boneless or bone-in chicken pieces for this recipe. Use as many as will fit in your large frying pan!

Time: 20 minutes

9-12 chicken thighs (or about half as many breasts), skin removed
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper

In large frying pan, saute garlic in olive oil for about a minute or until it starts to turn golden (be careful not to burn it!) Add the chicken pieces in a single layer, and cover the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then flip over chicken pieces (they should be nicely browned). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pour lime juice over top. Cover again, and cook for 5 more minutes or until browned on the bottom and pieces are cooked through.

Lime-Garlic Chicken is great served hot or cold (perfect for picnics!) Use leftovers to make chicken wraps or fajitas, add shredded or diced chicken to soup, or dice finely to make a chicken salad.

We had this for dinner last night with Easy Oven Fries and Creamy Cucumber Salad and everything disappeared off the plates!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

RECIPE: Sausage and Apple Saute

Although spring weather is finally starting to arrive, it's still chilly out by suppertime. We've been enjoying a last taste or two of our winter comfort meals, knowing that asparagus and other fresh seasonal produce is coming soon!

We had this for dinner last night:

Sausage and Apple Saute
Chopping the veggies and apples is the most time-consuming part of this recipe. It all comes together quickly after that!

Time:30 minutes
Serves: 4

1 cup rice, uncooked
4 turkey sausages
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped.
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1. In a large saucepan, combine rice with 2 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until rice is tender and water is evaporated, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, with a serrated knife, slice sausages into 1/2" rounds (this is easiest if they are partially frozen).

3. Combine garlic, onions, and peppers in a large frying pan with the olive oil. Cook over medium-high heat until onion begins to soften.

4. Add sausage and apple. Cook until no trace of pink remains in the sausage.

5. In a small bowl, combine chicken stock, brown sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to sausage mixture.

6. Cook, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened and bubbly.

7. Serve sausage mixture over rice.

Friday, April 4, 2008

My Food Philosophy

My food philosophy is summed up as follows:

FAST: As a general rule, I want to get a meal on the table as quickly as possible. Most of my recipes can be prepared in 30 minutes or less. Some of them take 45-60 minutes, but generally no more than that. If it takes longer than an hour, it usually merits "Special Occasions Only" status around here!

FUN: I think cooking and eating should both be fun and enjoyable activities. So, I do my best to streamline my recipes as much as possible (recipes that end up with 19 dirty bowls and skillets leave me with a throbbing headache AND a big mess to clean up!) I like to eat fairly simple foods, nothing too fancy or "gourmet", so what you'll find here is mostly good old-fashioned homestyle cooking. I love many different ethnic cuisines (Thai, Indian, Mexican and Middle Eastern are some of my favourites) so you will find echoes of those flavours in many of my recipes.

FRUGAL: I like to keep our grocery budget as low as possible (while still enjoying plenty of good food!) so my focus is on using minimally processed, inexpensive foods. You won't find recipes calling for tuna steaks or scallops since they're not in my budget (except for special occasions). I also cook using a lot less meat and a lot more legumes (beans and lentils) than many people. Don't let that scare you away - this is definitely not a "vegetarian only" blog. I was vegetarian for several years, though, so I will offer up vegetarian versions of recipes where possible.

FABULOUS: When it comes right down to it, it doesn't really matter if a recipe meets the previous three criteria unless it also tastes great! I will only publish recipes that my family and friends have found satisfying and tasty. Of course, not everyone's tastes are the same, so it's not possible to guarantee that you'll love everything we do. At the very least, my recipes should inspire you to create a personalized version that will meet with your family's approval!
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