Egg’s Anytime? Yes, Please!

What to make?…Where’s the recipe??…Cooking can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be…In today’s world, recipes for anything and everything are at your fingertips and it’s never been easier for home cooks to elevate their dishes to near gourmet levels.  But don’t stress about it! You don’t have to make things complicated to create delicious, healthy and visually pleasing meals in a relatively short amount of time. If you’ve done some thoughtful food shopping, just have a look in the fridge…

To balance your meal, you need:

  • Protein
  • a grain
  • veggies and maybe a fruit…

If you want it to look appetizing, think;

  • colour
  • texture…
  • and flavour, of course!

I’m not a dietician or a chef or a scientist…this is just what our Moms taught us and even with all the micro-information of today, balancing food groups is still a good rule of thumb to get a healthy and nutritious diet.  And, it can also be fun and visually pleasing if you take a minute to think about it!  

Anytime Egg Plate
Anytime Egg Plate

 

One of the easiest, fastest cooking, star ingredients to a meal is eggs.  They can be the jewel of the dish if you make it so. In today’s world eggs are a simple and complicated food.  The simple part is that eggs are quick to cook, versatile and tasty. When I was growing up, eggs and bacon was a common weekend breakfast.  Next came the complicated part…we started to hear about cholesterol being a health issue and the comfort of that eggs and bacon breakfast was disrupted.  Eggs were identified as being potentially harmful because they were high in cholesterol. As time went on, egg whites came on the scene as a readily available food.  I have been using egg whites for my weekend omelettes for over a dozen years. I have learned to love their light flavour and I do not miss the whole eggs at all when I make omelettes.  I have yet to eat scrambled eggs whites, although I know those who do. For me, the colour and texture is all wrong. But, I do find egg whites are great for omelettes. In fact, I now prefer egg white omelettes to whole egg omelettes.  But, for those of you who still prefer the over easy, sunny side up or poached eggs to dip your toast into the creamy yolk, there is good news. There is some recent research to suggest that the problem cholesterol may not be from the eggs after all, but from the fatty bacon and sausages that were typically eaten with the eggs….again, I am not a dietician, so therefore not an expert on this…I am merely offering commentary on things I have read and observed.

Although I did love bacon as a teen and young adult, I found it messy to cook once I was responsible for my own cooking, and once I heard it wasn’t super healthy, I didn’t mind finding ways to leave it out of the weekend breakfast.  I know that eggs have some very healthy benefits, so I didn’t want to give those up completely. In the last 10 years, I have found ways to enjoy eggs for breakfast and lunch without the salty, fatty meat that was the traditional accompaniment.  And, when eggs are on the menu, you don’t need a fancy recipe…just have a look in the fridge and think food groups, colours, and textures and you’ll come up with an eye-pleasing, tasty, balanced meal!

One of my lunches from last week was what I called the Anytime Egg Plate.  I chose that title because as I was eating it, I thought that is would be a lovely meal for any time of the day.  This dish was created when I scanned my fridge and found eggs, veggies and bread and leftover rice. Toast is an easy accompaniment to eggs, but I was making lunch and thought that toast felt more like breakfast.  I haven’t typically served eggs with rice, but then I remembered that my niece, “A”, who is a wonderful cook has made plates with eggs and rice and has eaten rice for breakfast…why not? Brown rice is a delicious and healthy food, that can have a mild flavour or be dressed up with herbs and spices for interest at dinner…So, I opted for the leftover brown Basmati rice instead of the toast.  Here is what I did:   Continue reading “Egg’s Anytime? Yes, Please!”

Friday Night Favourites

For many of us Friday night signals the end of the weekly routine and a chance to do things differently than you’ve been doing all week. Maybe you’re going out for dinner, getting takeout and meeting friends for drinks, or ordering pizza for the family and watching movies. It’s all good, as you lessen the work responsibilities and focus a little on time for being with family and friends more intensely for a few days.

My husband and I both had very busy jobs and often worked long hours, so we looked forward to ordering pizza Friday nights and having a glass of wine as we tried to let go of the busy week and think about what we might do on the weekend. This routine worked really well for us for many years. A couple of years ago my work location changed and I was only 10 minutes from home. This shortened my commute considerably, so I was home earlier in the evening and found myself with more energy on Friday nights. This enabled me to return to thinking about planning favourite Friday night meals that my Mom used to make that were simple, delicious, quick, and different from what we were eating during the week. In a future blog post, I’ll feature a bunch of my Mom’s kid friendly Friday night favourites.

One of the things my Mom and Dad loved to eat on Friday nights was Vermicelli all ’aglio e olio often with anchovies. I would never eat it as a kid, but as an adult I have come to enjoy a similar dish – Linguine Vongole (Pasta with Clam sauce).  It’s a quick and easy recipe and tastes and looks fancy, so you can serve it for company too.  This is a great example of what I mean when I say simple at-home dishes can have a gourmet taste and feel.  You can use fresh clams for this too, but the canned baby clams are very good and easy to keep on hand to satisfy your craving for this classic Italian dish.

linguine with clams
Linguine con Vongole in Bianco

The recipe I use is from my favourite cookbook –  Recipes from Pasquale’s Kitchen, published in 1984 by Doubleday Canada.  I have a number of cookbooks that I enjoy very much, but this one got me into cooking in my early 20’s. Pasquale Carpino was a chef we used to watch on Tele Domenica on CFCF-TV in Montreal in the 80’s and 90’s. He was entertaining and seemed to really enjoy cooking, and was one of Canada’s first celebrity chefs.  He sang Italian Opera songs while he cooked, and his food looked delicious! I’m a big believer in the idea that when you cook with love and happiness the meal will always turn out well (or you’ll think of a way to recover it!). Here’s a picture of the book… … Continue reading

The Daffodils Should be in Bloom…but We’re Still Warming up with Soup in my Corner of the World!

Normally on April 15th in my corner of the world, we are looking at daffodils in bloom and looking forward to the rest of the spring to come.  Instead, here’s was the view outside my door today!

Snow in April 2018
Notice the unhappy spring planter in the bottom right of the photo!

 

 

We’ve had two days of freezing rain and snow here, which is unusual for this time of year.  If you saw my Instagram post from three days ago, you would have read that Mother Nature has not yet turned her calendar to spring in my city.  It’s been cold, but for the last two days, Mother Nature has sent us some unrelenting and unwelcome winter weather.  So, for me, that means it’s still time for comfort food and so soup is once again on the stove!

 

I have this great recipe for low-fat cream of broccoli soup that I have been making for more than 20 years.  It calls for skim milk, chicken broth and flour as the thickening agent instead of cream.  It is delicious, but about 3 years ago I wanted to reduce the number of steps in the recipe, and eliminate the dairy and flour to make it more friendly for one of my family members who follows a gluten-free and lactose-free diet.  Continue reading “The Daffodils Should be in Bloom…but We’re Still Warming up with Soup in my Corner of the World!”

Tasty ‘Bookends’ to our Fun Family Easter Dinner…good food never goes out of style!

Easter is one of my favourite family holidays.  I enjoy it because it has close to the same festive atmosphere as Christmas, and allows you to focus on just being together and sharing good times and a good meal.  That’s probably because the Easter ‘season’ is much shorter than the Christmas season and it’s without work parties, neighbourhood parties, presents, baking, decorating, etc.  I do enjoy the Christmas prep and Christmas season, but I have to say, I love the simplicity of Easter and the fact that it takes place mostly in Spring weather. Everyone is cheerful and looking forward to brighter days, and there is a short window to get the family together for a festive time, but minus the big lead up…it’s a slower pace to a similar end goal.

When I was a kid, my very large extended family lived in close proximity and we were a party of over 20 people every Sunday, as well as Easter Sunday.  As kids, my siblings and I loved these fun family times with grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As individual families grew and everyone’s life got more complicated maintaining these large gatherings that often was not possible, but the big family still connects for major events.  And, our smaller family of parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and grandchildren on both my side and my husband’s side of the family make our best efforts to connect for the holidays and regularly throughout the year. My husband and I love to host both our families whenever we can. For this year’s Easter dinner we hosted my husband’s family.  The question at this time for hosting is usually “Do we serve turkey or ham?”. We did go with turkey this time and tried to lighten up the side dishes with lighter, spring flavours such as grilled asparagus and roasted cauliflower. (In a future blog post, I’ll feature my Mom’s classic Italian Easter dinner, which is based on foods her Mom used to make at Easter…lots of eggs are involved in that!!)

As you may have read in my January 5, 2018 post, I always cook the turkey a day ahead, so we followed that plan for this dinner too.  It’s a lot of work no matter when you cook the turkey, but doing it a day ahead means you have time and energy to socialize with your guests on the day of your dinner.  And, if you follow the tips on my post, your turkey will be moist and tasty even when cooked a day ahead.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely a person who is interested in food and cooking, so like me, you probably have lots of food at every dinner you host and are just looking for a few tips and ideas to prompt your own creativity for meal preparation.  Even though we did a mostly traditional turkey dinner (turkey, stuffing, gravy), we lightened up the side dishes for spring with grilled asparagus, roasted cauliflower and baked mashed sweet potato with a drop of maple syrup to signal spring flavours.

The ‘bookends’ to our meal were our appetizer plate and a moist, delicious chocolate cake made by my sister-in-law, L.  Dessert is one course of the meal that I can always skip, but I can never resist L’s chocolate cakes! This time she decorated it with gourmet chocolate Easter eggs.  It was a big hit as usual!

Our appetizer plate was fresh with prosciutto, a delicious Chianti salami, sheep and goat’s milk firm cheese, asiago cheese, simple crackers along with multi-grain breadsticks, olives, grapes and dried apricots.  Often, we will roll the prosciutto around the breadsticks, but this time we left them on their own and un-fussy. Whenever we had family get-togethers in the 70’s and 80’s my parents would serve plates like this…they were always tasty and it’s quite amusing to see them being trendy again.  Call it a cold cut platter, call it a charcuterie board….no matter what you call it, good food never goes out of style! I hope you are enjoying some time with your family this spring. Leave a note and share details of your family’s spring festivities! Happy cooking…eat well and be well…

A Nod to My Irish/Italian Heritage

While scanning the grocery flyers last weekend, I was inspired by the offering of a seasoned corned beef brisket for St. Patrick’s Day weekend.  As I may have said on this blog before, I grew up in an Irish and Italian household.  Most of the food we ate was Italian, but my Mom frequently made some of my Dad’s Irish favourites.  My Dad never did any cooking, but was definitely an enthusiastic diner of all my Mom’s dishes! He was effusive in his praise and you always knew how much he enjoyed the food and the company.  As a kid, I can’t say I enjoyed the corned beef and cabbage, but I did learn to appreciate it once I was an adult.  It’s been a long time since my Mom has made this, and I had never made it on my own before, so I was inspired to try it this past weekend.  I didn’t love the idea of boiled cabbage because I don’t find the flavour to be that interesting, but I do love when my Mom makes her Italian Style Sautéed Cabbage, so I decided to combine the two.

Corned Beef and sauteed cabbage March 2018
Corned Beef with Italian Style Sautéed Cabbage

I did the seasoned brisket according to the directions provided, which were to simmer the brisket in boiling water for 2 to 3 hours!  (It’s a good thing I read the directions when it came home from the grocery store so that I could plan enough time to have it ready!)  Preparing the cabbage is much simpler!   Continue reading “A Nod to My Irish/Italian Heritage”

“I want to cook ahead…where to start”?

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of doing a little cooking ahead so you can enjoy delicious, healthy meals all week without a huge effort.  I know some people have a hard time knowing where to start with that, so here are two easy tips that I use when I don’t have a ton of time to cook ahead:

  1. Cook rice ahead.  Brown rice is nutritious, low in fat, and a delicious base for any meal.  And, it’s naturally gluten-free, so if you have someone in your family who needs to follow a gluten-free diet, it’s a great choice.  Rice can take a while to cook, so if you are getting home from work and are in a rush to get dinner on the table, you are likely to skip this delicious addition to your meal.  But, if you’ve got some already made that you just need to heat up, you’ll have a lovely dinner in no time.  If you are in a huge rush, just add a tin of tuna, or some cooked chicken to the rice – or even some canned chickpeas or black beans for protein.  No time for chopping vegetables?  Have some baby spinach on hand and throw it in…it can be hot or cold.  Slightly wilted spinach is still tasty and beautiful.  Of course, you can cook any type of rice you like.  My favourite is brown rice with wild rice.  The wild rice is a little expensive, so buy it in the bulk section of your grocery store if you can.  Cook the rice in chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavour.  I add chopped vegetables when I have the time.  Adding the vegetables to the rice is not only nutritious, it makes the dish go farther and fill bellies more easily.  But, even if you don’t have time to do that, the brown rice and wild rice looks very appetizing on it’s own.  Take a look at the recipe and photo in this link.

2.  Unpack and bag your meat individually and marinate before freezing.  We often buy chicken, meat, and fish in large packs to create value for our hard earned dollars.  Rather than freezing the entire pack, we usually bag the pieces in servings of 4, 2 or 1 to give us flexibility for using the items in different cooking situations.  How many times have you bought a big pack of chicken thinking it was a great deal, thrown it in the freezer and then weeks later, wondering how you are going to use that pack, or unsuccessfully tried to separate the rock-hard frozen pieces?  Taking a little time to bag things in smaller quantities will save you time, frustration and money down the road.  Many years ago, my husband and I went to SupperWorks a number of times to have a fun way of cooking together.   One of the time-saving tips we learned from those outings was that you could marinate your meat, chicken or fish before freezing it.  That never occurred to us before.  How many times have you defrosted some chicken before leaving for work and then got home and thought, “now what am I going to do with it?”.  Marinating before freezing makes the decision for you and makes it more likely that you will be motivated to cook delicious, healthy meals during your busy weeks, rather than opting for take-out, or frozen food.  One of our favourite things to marinate ahead is Maple BBQ Salmon.  This recipe is my own version after searching a number of recipes on-line years ago.  Doing your own marinating and seasoning means you can control what goes into it.  Many store prepared marinades are high in salt, sugar and have other additives that your body doesn’t need.  Check out the recipe here.  We mostly do this on a cedar plank on the Barbeque, and it also works very well in the oven.

So, if you are looking to improve your nutrition by cutting down on store bought meals, start with the two tips from this blog entry  – or maybe just one!  Be kind to yourself – try it out, and congratulate yourself for the steps you are taking!  By the way, if you have a SupperWorks in your area and haven’t been, check them out.  It’s a fun outing for those who like to cook together, whether you are a spouse, friends, or with your kids.

Happy cooking!  Be well!

Soup for Cold Days – Part 2

In last week’s blog, I talked about the glories of soup on a cold day.  February is a great month to focus on soup!  Maybe you’ve already tried the Hearty Tomato and Grain Soup recipe I posted.  I hope you enjoyed it!  One of my favourite soups was always my Mom’s homemade Chicken or Turkey soup.  She always made her own broth and it was so delicious.  I always try to make some time to make a broth with the carcass of a chicken or turkey I’ve roasted.  It’s not hard to do, but you do need to have about an hour to monitor the simmering pot.  For me, this is also one of those aromas that creates the comfort of home.  Even if I don’t have a plan for the broth right away, I make it and freeze it to use at a later date.  I find it interesting that ‘bone broth’ is such a trending phrase now because my Mom’s generation and many of us have been doing this for decades!  Goodness is always in fashion and doesn’t need to be a trend!

As I said last week, prepared and condensed soups you buy in grocery stores can be tasty, but read the labels.  There are many things listed on those labels that should make you think before using this food as a regular part of your weekly meals.  Focus on eliminating salt and additives in your diet little by little and your palate will adjust to healthy food that is tasty too!

This week’s soup, pictured below, was made using the broth I made from the turkey we roasted at Christmas.  There are no big secrets to making delicious, healthy broth from chicken, turkey or beef bones that you have collected after a lovely roast.  Here is the recipe for delicious, healthy broth that will turn into a lovely soup or stew: Continue reading “Soup for Cold Days – Part 2”