Monday, March 29, 2010

Dish of the Day: Green Soup

The other day it was cold, and the fridge was full of green veggies just begging to be eaten. I decided to make some Green Soup. I am a lazy cook, and this is fast one-pot wonder. I forgot to add in little pasta stars to make the soup more fun for the kids, but they loved it anyway.

What follows is not a recipe, just a quick easy way to turn veggies into a delicious soup in 30 minutes. You can use any leafy greens,

Green Soup
This is best with 3 or more different vegetables, to provide a richer flavour. I used:
- 1 bunch of kale, or chard
- 2 large leeks (just the white stalks, chopped into rounds)
- 1 russet potato peeled and cubed
- 1 sweet potato, cubed, peel on
- 1/2 head of garlic, cloves peeled
- 1/2 cup leftover asparagus
- 1 veggie bouillon cube
- 2 tsp Better than bouillon chicken
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup milk

- Wash the kale and leeks well. Take the large bony stem out of the middle of the kale and rip the leaves into pieces. Chop potatoes and cover with the wet kale.
- Put your olive oil in the bottom of a large stockpot and bring to medium heat. Throw in your garlic, then add your chopped leeks. Stir once a minute, and keep on the heat for about 5 minutes.
- Throw your leafy greens and potatoes into the pot. Add in your dry (veggie) boullion cube now too.
- Add enough water so that vegetables are floating a bit. For a stockpot filled with vegetables, add about 3 cups of water. If it's 2/3 full, try adding 2 cups of water. You don't want to throw any water away, as there will be lots of nutrients in this water once the veggies have boiled in it.
- Bring pot to a boil and let simmer (a gentle boil) for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are soft. Remove from heat and let cool slightly - especially if you will mix in a blender
- use a hand mixer or a blender to puree the soup completely. You'll now add in the wet bouillon, any fresh herbs and just enough milk to bring a creaminess to the soup. This is now the time to add in any previously-cooked veggies to the soup.
- Place pot back on the stove and bring to a boil and then immediately shut off. Serve hot.
- If your soup is quite wet, and so you cannot add milk you could either boil the soup for another 15 minutes with the lid off to get rid of some of the water; then add your milk. Or, serve with a dollop of sour cream, which when stirred in will make the soup very creamy.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of March 29th

This week's weather report is full of rain, so for us, that typically means lots of soups and warmer meals.

MONDAY Baked salmon (rubbed with 1/2 tsp mayo), brown rice and broccoli [lunch: leftover homemade pasta shells with turkey bolognese and kale]
TUESDAY Rosemary lamb with pita and greek salad [lunch: leftover broccoli added to Amy's Lentil Vegetable soup, w/ multigrain toast]
WEDNESDAY Pork tenderloin with mixed frozen veggies and butternut squash soup
[lunch: leftover greek salad with chicken salad sandwich]
THURSDAY Veggie pizza (we buy Dr. Oetker's Spinaci) with sauteed shrimp and salad greens [lunch: leftover soup, leftover pork sandwich with spinach leaves and pesto]
FRIDAY Japanese chicken curry with carrots, potatoes, and fresh cucumber slices [lunch: shrimp salad with hard-boiled egg and crackers and cheese]

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snack of the Day: Carob Bars

I modified a recipe I found online and we're gobbling it up. I felt the original had too much sweetener in it; after all, carob powder is pretty sweet on its own. I also wanted a crunchier texture and felt that just plain oats was too boring/limiting for this type of snack. This is now a recipe that you can vary each time you make it, and is an inexpensive way to make homemade granola bars. The Bug is proudly saying "I made it", and it's true, she helped measure out and add the ingredients when the pot was no longer on the stove.

Rich Carob Bars

- 1/3 cup milk
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup carob powder
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, or almond or cashew
- 1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1 1/2 cup your favourite low-sugar crunchy cereal (Bran nuts, Fibre 1), I used Kashi GO LEAN which is definitely not sweet (not the Crunch version)

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, add milk and butter until melted. Then add in carob powder and honey and whisk together with a fork. Bring this to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. It will resemble molasses.

2. Remove saucepan from heat, and add vanilla and the nut butter.
3. Now add in the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Spread evenly into a greased 8 x 8 inch pan. Use a piece of parchment, foil or whatever you used to grease the pan to pat down the top your bars so that they are flat.
4. Chill and eat!

Most homemade granola-type bars need to be kept in the fridge because they don't contain the same stabilising and preserving agent that commercial bars do. Cut them into squares and store in the fridge in snack bags so they're easy to pop in your lunch, or your mouth.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dinner Planner for week of March 21

This week's Dinner Menu is all about using up what's in my pantry. We've got a lot of stuff in the fridge and freezer (bought when items we like went on sale) and it's now time to start using it.

MONDAY Roasted garlic and Asiago fresh pasta from Old Country with leftover roasted chicken and rapini, in olive oil and garlic sauce.
TUESDAY [lunch: salmon salad from the weekend and leftover celeriac soup] Homemade beef burgers, with boiled rapini and asparagus
WEDNESDAY [lunch: hamburger patty with salad] Pan-seared haddock with kale and Annie's Naturals Whole Wheat macaroni and cheese
THURSDAY [lunch: kale mac n' cheese] Chicken strips homemade purple sweet potatoes and fresh veggies (note: cook Butternut squash in oven)
FRIDAY Whole wheat gnocchi, spinach and butternut squash in turkey bolognese sauce

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dinner Planner for Week of March 14th

I'm starting a new feature called Dinner Planner which will list my own Dinner Menu Planning for each week. To cut down on grocery costs I've been planning weekly dinner menus on the weekend based on what's arrived in my vegetable bin and what's on sale at my local grocers. I try to make two or three meals out of what I cook by making extra some nights, such as grilling an extra chicken breast to cut up and use in pasta the next day.

Hopefully this will give you some ideas about how to come up with a variety of nutritious meals from week to week. I always have some form of protein on the plate with starch taking a much smaller role. Starches are always whole-grain. With my family's meals, I always ensure the vegetable portion takes up a third or more of the space on our plates.

Here's what we're eating this week:

Sunday - Roast chicken with purple potatoes and collard greens
Monday - Make your own pizzas with whole wheat pita and leftover chicken, bell peppers, olives, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and cheese [lunch: chicken salad on multigrain, green salad]
Tuesday - Snapper with basil butter, brown rice, asparagus, fresh tomato slices with basil leaves and olive oil
Wednesday - Free range ground beef meatballs with whole wheat spaghetti and red chard [lunch: egg salad sandwich and asparagus steamed in silicone steamer at work]
Thursday - Turkey dogs and leek and pea soup [lunch: last night's pasta with added green peas]
Friday - Veggie stir-fry with bell peppers and snow peas [lunch: turkey weiners and brown beans and raw veggies and dip]

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Free Java Won't Buy My Loyalty

McDonald's is offering free coffee for the first two weeks of March and I took the bait the other morning. Their coffee isn't bad. Their cups are a bit odd. Doesn't it look like the cup is smiling up at you? I feel a bit odd locking lips with my cup each time I take a swig.

I suppose the idea is that if they're going to rival Starbucks and others for your morning coffee dollars, they need folks to know that they have good coffee. And they seem to. But I want to choose my milk, and have an option besides white sugar to sweeten my coffee. Also, I know that McD's is trying to "healthy up" to win back customers who've been conscious of their waistlines. But even their breaded chicken breast nuggets and healthy salads are not enough for me to want to really eat there. I can find better fast food. Not to mention, there are plenty of local businesses to support with less contentious histories.

While I appreciate the campaign and I did enjoy the coffee (though not the guilt I felt slinking out of there), I think I'll stick with my favourite choices: Starbucks, Hazelmere Organic beans, and the little Portuguese cafe up the street on weekends.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dish of the Day: Kale Bake


This scrumptious recipe goes out to my good friend Jen C!

Recipe for Kale Bake

Serves four as a side dish
1 large bunch kale, stems removed and washed in a large bowl of water; make sure leaves are ripped into small pieces
1 large bunch of fresh spinach chopped and washed 2 times in a large bowl of water, or 1 block frozen spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 eggs
¼ cup of whole milk
1/3 cup sharp cheese, grated or chopped
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, add the kale and boil for 4-5 minutes. If using fresh spinach, add this in the last 1 minute of boiling time. If using frozen spinach, add at the same time as the kale.
2. Transfer to a colander, rinse with cold water, then drain and squeeze out as much water as possible. Using a sharp knife and fork, ensure the greens are chopped into small pieces, not clumped together, or they will not mix well with the eggy mixture.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously oil or butter a 8” x 8” glass pan or glass pie dish.
4. Beat the eggs with the milk in a bowl, and then stir in the cooked vegetables, herbs, and cheese. Add in 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and then salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and scrape it all into the baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top, and drizzle on the remaining olive oil.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm and starting to brown on the top. Serve hot or warm.
This will keep for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Adapted from Martha Shulman