Thursday, December 15, 2011

Split pea soup with bacon, if you're into that sort of thing

Even though it's unseasonably warm for December (low of -1ºC on December 15? Really?) I'm already craving soup like crazy. This is something I threw together with a bunch of ingredients from my house.

1 cup dried split peas, rinsed very well
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
1 medium onion (peeled)
1 medium carrot (washed and peeled)
1 medium potato (washed, unpeeled)
4 cloves garlic (peeled)
dash of summer savoury
salt to taste
dash of balsamic vinegar
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped up raw peameal bacon (Canadian bacon, for you non-Canadians)

Let's do it!
After rinsing the peas VERY WELL (otherwise they'll be bitter), throw them in a soup pot with a well fitting lid with enough water to cover it, plus an inch. Add the bay leaf and mustard. I didn't measure the water because you will keep adding it as needed throughout the cooking process. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 20 minutes, slightly covered, stirring every few minutes or so.

While that's going, prepare your veggies and chop them coarsely. Put them in a food processor and chop as finely as possible. If you don't have a food processor, buy one. Or chop them finely by hand. Or grate them on a cheese grater. Put a little oil in a pan and fry up the bacon, then add the veggies and fry that up for a few minutes. You don't need to cook it through, just enough to deepen the flavour. Or something. Hey, maybe this whole process is unnecessary. I don't know.

Put the veggie and bacon mix into the simmering soup, add a dash of summer savoury (maybe 1/3 tsp?) add enough water to cover everything plus a bit more, then cover and let it simmer for an hour or so. Make sure you check every once in a while to stir it and add water if it gets too thick.  

Season with salt and a bit of balsamic.

Lunch it up!
The husband is not a fan of soup, so I have this stuff all to myself! Mwahahah!!

After letting this cool in the fridge overnight, I separated it into three containers, containing about 2 servings each. Two of the containers are meant for the freezer, and one is meant for lunch. In the freezer ones, I put cling wrap tightly on the surface of the soup and pushed out any air bubbles. This will help it keep from being freezer burnt. Then I wrote in dry-erase marker* what it was and the date. If you're lucky enough to have access to a freezer at work, these are great to have in a pinch. If you're unlucky enough to have coworkers who steal food, maybe write "special diabetic meal" or something on it. Either way, ready to eat soup in the freezer can be a real godsend.

I know this says "ham", they're close enough for this purpose, nerds.

The soup would go well with some toasty bread or a salad. Or nothing. It's really good on its own.

*If you have wet-erase markers, use those, as the dry erase rubs off too easily.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Less lazy Vietnamese Sub

As promised, here is a recipe for a less-lazy Vietnamese sub, otherwise known as Banh Mi. If you live in a city that has Banh Mi, you are very lucky. When I was a kid, my mom used to be able to get them for a dollar each from Chinatown. She would buy them by the grocery bag full so that my brother and I could stuff our little faces when we got home from school. From my understanding as a non-Vietnamese face-stuffer, it seems that these subs have a few key ingredients: Vietnamese-style bun made with both wheat and rice flour, liver pate, mayonnaise, protein of some sort, pickled vegetables and fresh cilantro You can also hit it with some sriracha if you like it spicy.

I've decided to make mine with roasted pork belly as the protein.

1 Vietnamese bun
1 heaping teaspoon of liverwurst (the only pate in the store without dairy)
1 heaping teaspoon of mayonnaise
3 slices of pork belly (recipe to follow)
some pickled daikon and carrot
handful of fresh cilantro

Pork belly ingredients: 
a piece of raw pork belly that was maybe 12" x 6"
1 tbsp 5 spice powder
1/2 tsp salt

Let's do it!
Pork belly takes about an hour and a half - two hours to cook. It's worth it.

Take the pork belly, rinse and dry it with paper towel. Cut off some of the fat from the bottom (meat side) if you want. There is a ton of fat on the skin side, but we need it.

With a sharp knife, score the skin in a 1" criss crossed pattern, but don't cut into the meat. Make sure your knife is sharp, you probably want to use a chef's knife, not a serrated one. This is a really annoying process, but necessary if you don't want a big piece of hardened skin you can't eat. Mix together the salt and spice powder, then rub into the meat.. all around it, into the crevices... Just get it in there. Place the meat on a pan and roast in the toaster oven (or oven). If you have the option, set it on broil (only the top burner going) at 400ºF. Roast for one hour. After one hour, check with an instant read thermometer to see if the meat is at 160ºF. If not, roast it for another 30 minutes at 350ºF. Keep doing this until it reads 160ºF.

Let it cool on the counter, then cut it into slices.

Lunch it up!

Cut the bun in half and take some of the inside bread out to make more room for deliciousness. Spread pate on one side, mayo on the other. Fill with cilantro and wrap up in foil. Put the pickled daikon and carrot into an airtight container. Put the pork in another container. I like to heat up the pork a bit before putting it in the sandwich. By all means, you can put this all together if you like, but I sort of like to keep things separate. I also only made pickled daikon because I'm not a huge fan of pickled carrots.


Friday, November 18, 2011

A poor excuse for an entry... a link to someone else's recipe!

So lately I've been too busy to make anything spectacular. I've been pretty much falling back on all the recipes I've already put on this site.

So here's something interesting that someone else did that is perfect for the busy person:

Salad in a jar. 

Make a bunch at the beginning of the week, grab and go.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dairy-free butter chicken

Okay, I used actual butter. I try not to think of butter as dairy. To me, it's a fat. A non-dairy fat. If you are serious about your dairy allergy, you can use butter-replacer.

4 chicken thighs, fat removed and separated by drumstick and thigh

1/2 cup plain, unsweetened, non-dairy yoghurt (I used Wildwood Soyogurt)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne/red chili powder
1 tsp tandoori masala
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
a few squeezes of lime, I just squeezed half a lime a bit. I didn't completely squeeze it dry.

Sauce (separated by steps):
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 tbsp garlic, chopped roughly
1 tbsp ginger, chopped roughly

1 can whole tomatoes, drained and seeds rinsed out (rip each tomato open with your hands and pull/rinse out the seeds)
1 tbsp tomato paste

1-2 bay leaves
2-3 cloves
2-3 cardamom pods (crushed a bit)
1 tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Demerara sugar (you can use any non-white sugar)
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
black pepper
salt to taste

Let's do it!

To make the marinade, buzz all the spices and salt in a spice grinder until it's powdery. If you're old school, use a mortar and pestle. Mix all the ingredients together and put it in a container with the chicken, stirring well to incorporate. Put this in the fridge and let it sit for at least an hour.

To make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a big pot under medium-high heat. Add the onion and cumin seeds. Let soften for maybe three minutes, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another couple few minutes, then transfer in a slotted spoon to a blender and blend. Try to leave as much butter in the pot as possible. This is your onion paste. Put it aside.

Add the tomatoes to the pot and let them saute in the butter for a few minutes. When they look softer (they're already cooked, really) transfer them with the slotted spoon to your blender. I didn't wash it in between, so it still had onion paste in it. I don't think this is a problem. Blend it into a puree.

Add the bay leaves, cloves and cardamom pods to the pot. There should still be plenty of butter in there. This is NOT a healthy recipe. Fry for about a minute, then add the chicken, reserving the marinade. I tried to brown it a bit, but I lost my patience and just dumped the rest of the chicken in there, and covered it with the remaining marinade, onion paste, tomato puree and the tomato paste. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes.

Add the turmeric, red chili powder, cinnamon and sugar and let cook for another 15 minutes, covered.

Swish the almond milk in the marinade container, the blender and the thing you put the onion paste in to get every single little bit of the marinade and pastes, and pour it into the pot. Stir and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

Hit it with some black pepper at the end. Salt to taste.

Serve with rice.

I am RIDICULOUSLY pleased with this dish. It may be one of the most indulgent, delicious things I've made in a while, and it's (mostly) dairy-free!!  Wheeeee!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

An easy, but time-consuming recipe. For some reason, I have 4 boxes of arborio rice in my house, so I figured I'd make this.

Ingredients (I don't really measure anything, so this is my best guess)
1/2 cup arborio rice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic minced
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1 cup sliced chanterelle mushrooms
1/4 cup dry white wine
1L or so chicken stock
salt to taste
2 tsp butter

Let's do it!
Pour the chicken stock into a pot on the stove and keep warm.

Heat up the oil on medium low in a deep, large saucepan and throw in the onions. Cook until soft, then add the garlic and mushrooms. Saute until everything is soft and brown, roughly 20 minutes.

Add the rice and saute until the rice is translucent. Add wine and stir until thick.

Ladle in some warmed chicken stock and stir. When the sauce starts to dry up, add some more and stir. Continue until the rice is cooked. Yes, this will require tasting. Lots of tasting.  This step takes a while, so pour yourself some wine and turn on the radio. You don't need to continuously serve it. I would pour some stock in, stir it around, then load the washing machine. Then I would come back, put some more stock in and empty the dishwasher.

When the rice is done, fold in the butter.

That's it! You can top with some chives or parmesan if you like. It's an easy, filling meal that works well for lunch the next day. Serve with some other veggies to round out your meal. I sauteed up some zucchini and baked a sweet potato to add some much needed nutrition and variety to my lunch.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sick at Home Edition: Lazy pho

Okay, it's actually Saturday, but I've been feeling like crap all week and I've decided that the only thing that could fight off this flu/cold is bowls and bowls of hot, spicy pho (rhymes with "whuh?".

Traditional pho takes almost 20 hours and a whole bunch of ingredients that I can't deal with right now, like beef thigh bones, carrots and other stuff to make the broth. Being of compromised health, I decided to cut out the whole broth thing (sacrilege, I know) and just buy it.

This recipe makes a lot of broth. Cook the noodles and beef as you need to throughout the day.

1 carton/900mL beef broth (I used President's Choice organics brand)
1 sirloin steak
1 serving vermicelli (you can buy packs that have them portioned into servings. It's pretty great)
1 small onion
1 hot pepper (or more, or less)
2 star anise
1" piece of ginger, peeled
5 cloves
3" stick of cinnamon
5 black peppercorns
a few splashes of fish sauce
1 lime
Fresh basil (or mint, if you don't have basil)

Note: I was really arbitrary about the spices. Don't worry about being too exact.

Let's do it!
First, bring the broth to a boil and add the star anise, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and fish sauce. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered,  for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak the vermicelli as per package directions.

After 20 minutes of simmering, taste and adjust flavour. If this is purchased beef broth, it's probably going to be pretty salty already, so lay off the salt. Add the onions and hot pepper a this point if you prefer your onions soft and your broth spicy.

Slice the beef thinly. I only used half the steak for my lunch and am saving the rest for dinner.


Turn the heat up to a low boil and add the vermicelli. Stir until cooked, a few minutes. Scoop the noodles into a bowl, and add the beef. Boil until cooked to your liking (I like mine rare). Place that into the bowl and top with broth, basil/mint and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!

Note: I have omitted the raw bean sprouts that usually come with pho because I just don't like them.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Note, the white things are leftover brown rice thrown in.

Fajitas are always a winner in our house, due to the husband's fondness for wraps. They're also pretty easy to make. Here's a recipe I made yesterday that yields about 4-5 servings.

3 large red peppers, seeded and sliced into strips
1 large green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
2 medium red onions, peeled and sliced into strips
2 chicken thighs, deboned and sliced into strips
1 cup diced smoked sausage
3 tablespoons or more of Tex-Mex seasoning mix (recipe to follow)

Tex-Mex seasoning mix:
1 part paprika
2 parts cumin
1 part cayenne
1 part oregano
2 parts garlic powder

Put it all in a jar with a tight fitting lid. I like to keep a batch of this in the kitchen to quickly throw together tacos, fajitas or chili.

Let's do it!
Put the meat in a container with a tablespoon of Tex Mex powder. Mix well and let marinate while you're cooking the veggies.

Heat a large pot/wok to medium high and add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. 

Throw in the veggies and saute, stirring until really soft. This took an agonizing amount of time because I started with low heat. Don't make my mistake. Start high and keep stirring! I also threw the bones in with the veggies for added flavour.

When the veggies are soft, throw in 2 tablespoons of seasoning and stir until well mixed. Add the meat and cook until cooked, maybe another 10 minutes. At this point, taste and adjust for salt and seasoning. Add hot peppers if you like it spicy.

Lunch it up!
I pack the fajita mix in a tight-fitting container and put a couple of tortillas in a ziploc bag. To eat, heat them up separately. The tortillas take about 10 seconds, the filling will take about two minutes, since it's got meat in it.

Optional: If you're a fancy pants, bring along some sprigs of parsley, a couple wedges of lime and an avocado (cut it up at work to reduce grossness)


Friday, September 2, 2011

Lainey-Style Beefaroni

Sometimes I crave the garbage-food of my youth (okay... early 20s). The problem is, since I'm allergic to dairy, I can't just pick up a can of Chef Boyardee and go to town on it. No, I have to MAKE it. So what is normally a 3 minute convenience food for many becomes an hour-long process0 for me, just to satisfy that one little craving.

Enter, Lainey-Style Beefaroni. All the gooey goodness/badness, none of the dairy, and somewhat less preservatives.

Tomato sauce
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 package Daiya mozzarella shreds
4 cups or so of cooked Kraft Dinner macaroni noodles, substitute with good pasta if you want.
Bread crumbs

Let's do it!
Brown the ground beef in a skillet and drain. Add to the tomato sauce and simmer while making the pasta.

A note on the pasta: The reason why I have KD macaroni in the house is because my friend came over, planning on dropping off a bunch of food at the grocery store in the donation box. The grocery store didn't have a donation box for some reason, so he ended up leaving it at my house. I noticed that the KD was past its expiry date, meaning they probably wouldn't take it. So I threw out all the seasoning packs and put all the noodles into a plastic container to cook myself. I use these noodles every time I want some garbagey pasta.

Put the pasta in an oven-proof dish with most of the Daiya and the meat sauce. Mix well.

Top with a thin layer of breadcrumbs and the rest of the Daiya.

Place in the oven (or toaster oven) on broil for about 20 minutes. You don't NEED to do this, but I like having some crispy portions to the otherwise soft mess that is this dish.

This isn't nearly as garbagey as the canned stuff, but the processed taste of the Daiya cheese mixed with the beef and tomato sauce hits the right spot for me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bean Salad. WITH BARLEY!

I love barley but I never make it. Heck, unless it's in a soup, I never eat it. Today I decided to go into my first foray into making barley as a major part of a meal.

Enter: Bean and Barley Salad

This salad is crunchy, chewy (in a good way) and filling. It's also incredibly cheap. All these ingredients cost maybe $15, and you wont be using nearly all of it for this recipe. The most expensive ingredients, the vinegar and oil will last for MONTHS.

1 can of mixed beans
1 cup of cooked barley (cook according to the package)
1/2 cucumber diced
2 tbsp diced red onion
1 handful of chopped cilantro
big handful of grape tomatoes, cut in half
balsamic vinaigrette
salt and pepper
baby spinach
Optional: whatever other veggies you might like... hot peppers, olives, maybe a green apple?

Let's do it!
Throw the beans, barley, and veggies (except spinach) plus maybe about 2 tbsp of vinaigrette and a squeeze of lemon into a leak-proof container. Give it a taste. Season with a dash of salt, and more lemon, pepper and vinaigrette as needed. In an effort to use less salt, try adding more balsamic or lemon instead. What you're looking for is a nice, full flavour, without destroying your kidneys. Let this marinate in the fridge. Shake it up every couple of hours to really let the flavours meld. Or eat it right away, whatever.

If you've never made balsamic vinaigrette before, it's very simple. 1:1 ratio of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Put in a jar and shake. Because my coworkers don't steal food, I have a bottle of both balsamic and olive oil in the cupboard. I put them in a jar and shake before pouring over my salads. Yes, you're also supposed to add some mustard, chopped garlic and salt, but I don't always do it and it ends up just fine. I tend to put a little more balsamic than olive oil, but only because I love sour flavours.

Lunch it up!
If you're going to eat your lunch within maybe 4 hours, you can throw your spinach in a container, then top with the bean salad and some more dressing. The dressing will season the spinach without making it too soggy. If you love your spinach crunchy, package it in a separate container. If you can, bring some vinaigrette in a jar so you can season it to taste when you get to work. I tend to drench my salads in dressing, particularly balsamic vinaigrette, thus my salad-dressing supplies at work.

There you have it, a healthy lunch that combines whole grains, protein, dark greens and vitamin C! This recipe will yield about 4 servings, which makes it a great thing to make on a Sunday night and eat throughout the week.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bob Blumer's 5-Minute Turkey Dinner

(Yes, I wear pearls to work. But no makeup. I like to keep them guessing.)

I haven't posted much since I've been too busy to make anything different. I've been sticking with all the basics, or going out.

In an effort to save some time, I tried a recipe online that worked pretty well, Bob Blumer's 5-Minute Turkey Dinner. I paired it with some brown rice and sauteed veggies and it was a great lunch. The gravy part didn't work out very well for me, as I didn't have marsala, or any other wine, in the house. Just beer, which though refreshing, does not make a great gravy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Garlic aioli.. semi lazy style

I still have some corned beef left from this post, so it's sandwich time. But not any ordinary sandwich.. my supremely lazy take on Vietnamese subs (in the future, non-lazy Vietnamese subs. I promise.) The star of this sandwich is the garlic aioli, which gives it an intensely savoury flavour, plus a delicious smell that makes you want to rip into your sandwich even though you're sitting in the dentist's waiting room (I didn't).

Garlic Aioli
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp grainy dijon mustard (I use the President's Choice brand)
2 heaping tbsp mayonnaise - do not cheap out here, Miracle Whip and "Mayonnaise-style dressing" do NOT count.

Let's do it!
Peel the garlic and chop it finely. Transfer it to a mortar and pestle (I don't know which one is the bowl) and go to town with it. Mash it up really well. You want it to be a paste. Mix the garlic paste with the rest of the ingredients in a sealable container. I have no idea how long this keeps for, we usually use it up pretty quickly.

Some thinly sliced cucumber
Sliced canned corned beef
Fresh basil
Garlic aioli
Vietnamese sub bun (different from regular buns as it uses rice and wheat flour)

Let's do it!
I don't need to tell you how to do this, do I? Okay fine.

Cut the bun in half lengthwise and spread a thin layer of the aioli on both halves. Cucumber on the bottom, corned beef in the middle and basil on top. Now you have a garlicy, savoury and crunchy sandwich! Roll it up in some parchment paper and secure with a rubber band. Now you're good to go.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fried Vermicelli with Canned Corned Beef

Canned corned beef. The food of my childhood. It's comforting, easy, and cheap. If I see it on sale, I usually buy a couple of tins because I really like having it around.

1/2 pack thin vermicelli, cooked according to directions, drained and rinsed with cold water
1/2 can corned beef, cubed
1 large shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, grated

1/8 cup fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp turmeric
squirt of Sriracha (a mild hot pepper sauce with a rooster on it. Found in Asian grocery stores, or in the International aisle of conventional grocery stores)
2 drops sesame oil

A handful of chopped, fresh Thai basil

Let's do it!

Cook and rinse the vermicelli. I used Y&Y brand, the green one. Let it drain in the sink while you do everything else. You want it to be pretty dry. Take some kitchen scissors (or regular, clean scissors) and snip the noodles until they're all roughly 2 inches long at the maximum.

Mix all the sauces, turmeric and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a wok to medium heat. Fry the garlic for about 30 seconds, then add the shallots. When things start to turn colour, add the corned beef and carrots. Stir fry until the corned beef is soft and comes apart easily.

Dump in the noodles and turn up the heat to high. Stir quickly until everything is mixed well. Add the sauce mixture and keep frying. If the noodles are drained enough, it shouldn't stick. Keep frying until it's all dry and you hear a crackling noise. Stir in basil. Taste test, and adjust the flavour to your liking.

You can stop stirring every once in a bit if you want crunchy parts, but this is where I get lazy and just throw it into a lunch container.

Diagnosis... delicious! I've never made this before and I looooooved it. I might put some more turmeric so the colour is brighter, and add some chopped up chili peppers in it, since I like things hot, but I'm definitely making this again. Here's hoping the husband likes it, too.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Roast Chicken - The meal that spawns more meals

Roast chicken is the perfect Sunday dinner. Throw together some veggies on the side, like steamed carrots or peas, a grain, like brown rice, and you're DONE. After dinner, you can sit in front of the tv and shred the meat off by hand and put in a container for lunches for the week.

Here are some basics on how to make a roast chicken

There is some conflicting thought about how effective brining is for keeping moisture in your chicken. I like to do it. Here's how:

In a small pot, boil some water.
1/4-1/2 cup of salt (I don't measure this, I just dump salt in)
1/4-1/2 cup sugar
a few bay leaves
some peppercorns
dried or fresh thyme, rosemary and sage (once again, I don't measure. Maybe I use 1/2 tsp of each)

Boil for a few minutes and let cool a bit.

If your chicken came trussed, cut the strings. They will slow down the cooking. Think about it: do you want a pretty chicken, or a half overcooked, half undercooked chicken?

Place your chicken in a sealable container that will hold the whole thing. Fill halfway with cold water. Pour in the brine mixture and add more cold water until it covers the chicken. Put the lid on and let the chicken sit overnight (or at least 6 hours)


Set the oven for 350ºF.

Drain and rinse your chicken. Pat it dry with paper towels. Cover the chicken breast with two layers of greased tin foil.

(I realize that all these pics look kind of gross, I blame it on the chicken being frozen before cooking. I found chicken on sale and didn't have a plan for it right away!)

Place the chicken in some bakeware that will fit it. If you like, you can roughly chop some carrots, celery and onions to sit the chicken on. That adds to the deliciousness and gives you chicken-flavoured veggies as well.

Roast the chicken for 30 minutes for each pound. Every half an hour, open it up and turn it 180º so it cooks evenly. When it's halfway done (according to your calculations), take off the foil.

Half an hour before you think it's done, take the dish out and tip it towards the opening. If the juices come out clear, it's done. If it's still bloody, it's not. Put it back in. Ideally, you have an instant read thermometer and use that. Stick it in thigh, close to the body. It should read 150ºF. If so, take it out and let it rest on the counter (on a trivet!) for about 15 minutes to finish.

That's it. Roast chicken. Time consuming, but ultimately easy, and ultimately delicious.

You can use the chicken in the following LLL recipes:
Chick'n Chicken Salad
Crunchy Chicken Salad Sandwiches
or dress up just about any salad or pasta. In the top pic, I just threw the chicken on some field greens, chopped up some avocado and poured balsamic vinaigrette over it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chicken and Red Peppers with Rice and Sauteed Asparagus

I don't want to alarm anyone here, but I need to tell you all something very important: it is currently asparagus season. Asparagus is woody and gross the rest of the year, but in June, it is amazing. Go buy some now!

This recipe is a way simpler Chicken Basquaise, though it would seem that it takes the same amount of time. But, I stress, that it's still way easier.

Chicken and Red Peppers
1 chicken thigh
3 red peppers, seeded and sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp paprika
cooked rice. I should note that this was my first successful attempt in making basmati rice. The key? Read the package and follow the directions. What a crazy world!

Heat some oil in a pan on low and throw in throw in the red peppers, onion and garlic. We want to caramelize these, so keep the stove on very low and stir it every once in a while. This step takes maybe 30 minutes. If you have the confidence, go read a book or something, but keep your ears and nose sharp for loud sizzling or a strong pepper smell. This means that it's burning, or very close to it. If it's about to burn, add some water to the pan and scrape up the brown bits. Actually, you're going to want to do this the entire time.

When everything is nice and soft, and the onions are little tangled messes, stir in the paprika and put in your chicken, skin side down. If everything looks very dry, add maybe 1/4 cup of water. Cover and let this slowly cook for about 10 minutes. Check for burning and turn the chicken every 10 minutes until cooked, maybe another 30 minutes. It should be falling off the bone.

When that's done, extract the bone (I used a pair of tongs and a fork) and shred the meat a bit. Stir it around so that it's covered in sauce. Serve with rice!

There are a lot of ways to make asparagus, but first, some basics. When buying asparagus, try to get the thinnest ones. Also, make sure they are nice and green, and don't look like they're going to crumble in your hand as soon as you get home.

When you're ready to cook them, break off the bottom ends. This will ensure that you actually break off the woody parts, otherwise you'll be chewing this stuff forever. I like to give the stems a good peel, as well.

Heat a pan with some oil and toss the asparagus in. Toss to cook evenly, sprinkle with a dash of salt and put on a nice plate. You can also cook these on a grill or in the oven. Squeeze some lemon on it before you're ready to eat.

I like it chopped up in salads, or just as a nice side dish. Just make sure you're not giving any urine samples in the next couple of days, or you will make some lab technician's job even more unpleasant than usual.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Beef and pepper tacos

I know what you're thinking. "How could you possibly have crispy tacos at work? Do you work at Google?!" The answer is "No, but I do work in a place that has a toaster!" There's a trick to making tacos at work, which I will reveal later on this post. But first, the filling.

1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 steak (or any other meat)
1 tbsp chili powder
salt to taste
hot sauce to taste

taco shells

Optional: Sour cream, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, avocados, etc. I am extremely lazy so I had none of these.

Let's do it!
Heat a non-stick pan (I use a seasoned wok, no teflon) with oil on medium high and throw in the peppers. Fry for about 10 minutes to soften. While this is happening, pound the steak with a meat mallet (heh) to soften it up. Cut into thin slices. Toss in the onion and garlic (these burn easily, which is why you see these black bits in my taco filling) and fry until soft. Add the chili powder and sautee for another minute or so. Add the beef and cook for about 5 minutes, or until done. Season with salt and hot sauce.

Lunch it up!
Throw in a container and bring some taco shells to work. We're going to do this!

If you have a toaster at work, then you can have some nice, crispy tacos. If not, bring some flour tortillas. Turn the toaster to the very lowest setting. Put one taco, open side down so that the two sides go into each slot. Watch this carefully, when it starts to turn colour, pop it out. Do the same with the other taco (I'm assuming you're eating two.)

When that one's finished, put them both into each slot, fold side down. Again, watch carefully. When it's done, it might be tricky to get them out. Use a wooden chopstick if you can, or a knife, but BE CAREFUL. Apparently people get electrocuted by putting metal things into toasters. I've never seen it happen in real life, but there were a few PSAs about it when I was a kid.

Next step: fill taco and consume.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Salami and Bean salad

Last week I almost exclusively ate salami sandwiches for lunch. It was a mix of laziness and a weird craving I was having. I still had a little left over, and wanted to make something somewhat healthy and easy so here it is: Salami and Bean Salad.

1 can mixed beans, drained and rinsed well
5 slices of salami, chopped
some olives
a handful of mint leaves, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tbsp finely minced onion
1/4 tsp dried oregano

Let's do it!
First make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients into an airtight container and shake shake shake!

Then mix the salad ingredients. To chop the mint leaves, place them all on top of one another, roll lengthwise and chop into little slices. You can also add ingredients like red onions, tomatoes, edamame, spinach, whatever.

Lunch it up!
I kept the salad and dressing separate, since I didn't use all the dressing for the salad. I like to make extra and just have it in the fridge at work.

The salad was actually quite good, the mint was a nice touch, as was the spicy/salty salami. It's still probably not the healthiest thing I could have eaten, but the leftovers had to go.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Lemon and Soy Dressing

There comes a day every summer where you realize that you really really need to start taking care of yourself. I call it the Day After the Canada Day Long Weekend. This weekend usually involves more booze, bbq and nachos than any one person should be consuming over a three day period. There's only one way to make up for your transgressions: eat nothing but salad for a week while watching weight-loss reality TV. And exercising. Obviously.

1/2 cup raw, drained quinoa
a handful of baby spinach
1/4 cup dried cranberries (DO NOT OMIT, this MAKES the salad. You can also replace with sultanas, or sweet fruit, or fresh berries)
2 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1.5 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp each finely chopped fresh chives and mint

Let's do it!
Put the eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Put on the stove on high until the water boils. When the water boils, cover and put the pot aside for at least 10 minutes. The eggs will be hardboiled after this time.

Put the drained quinoa in a slow cooker and add 1 cup of water. Turn on.

Lunch it up!
I had the dressing in an airtight container, the quinoa in another, and everything else together in yet another container.

To eat, chop up the egg and arrange with the spinach and cranberries on a plate. Top with quinoa and top that with dressing.

Like I said, you do not want to skimp on the sweet stuff (dried cranberries or fruit), otherwise this will be a soul-suckingly boring salad. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Egg and Bacon Salad Sandwich

If you have high cholesterol, you should really not make this sandwich. Everyone else, prepare for deliciousness!

I don't have a photo of this sandwich because when I ate it, I was super hungry and just couldn't take the time. Sorry. But it looks exactly the way it sounds.

Ingredients for 2-3 servings
4 eggs
2 slices of bacon
1 tbsp sweet relish
1/2 tsp grainy mustard
1/4 minced onion
1 tbsp mayo or more
Optional: Minced celery, capers, any other veggies you may have laying around that you want to use up.

Let's do it!
Put the eggs in a small pot and cover with water. Put on the stove on high until the water boils. When the water boils, cover and put the pot aside for at least 10 minutes. The eggs will be hardboiled after this time.

Heat up a pan on medium high and put the bacon on it. Turn over when it starts getting curly. Cook until crisp, then lay on paper towels to drain. When it's dry and cool, crush it up into little pieces.

Peel the eggs, chop them and put them in a bowl along with everything else. Mix well, taste and add more mayo, salt, ground pepper as needed. Put between two pieces of bread (whole wheat, preferably) with some lettuce or spinach or whatever.

Quick note: The best way I've found to peel eggs is to crack the egg all around the middle of it (the top being the narrow part, the bottom being the wider part). Peel away the middle, then pull the two remaining halves apart. You may need to rinse the egg after. There's also this method but every time I try it, I feel like I'm going to explode my ear drums.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Robert Rodriguez's Puerco Pibil

I saw this video a while back (warning: not safe for work/children) and wanted to make it. It looked simple enough and I had pretty good results, though I think I might tweak the recipe the next time around. Here is the recipe with my tweaks.

5 pounds pork butt, cut into 2 inch cubes
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoons salt (original recipe says two)
8 cloves garlic
2 habanero peppers, chopped (seeded as well, if you're a wuss)
juice of 5 lemons
1 tablespoon tequila

Annatto paste, in a coffee grinder finely grind:
5 tbsp annatto seeds
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp black peppercorns
8 pieces allspice (or 1/2 tsp ground)
1/2 tsp cloves

Banana leaves

Let's do it!
Make the annatto paste and put in a blender with OJ, vinegar, salt, garlic, tequila, and peppers. This is your marinade.

Chop up the pork butt into 2 inch cubes and place in a ziploc bag. If there's a big bone in it, keep it, that's good for flavour. Add the marinade and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

Set your oven to 325ºF. Add the lemon juice (keep the seeds out!) to the marinade. Take a nice deep oven-safe dish, preferably one with a lid. Make sure the dish holds a volume at least 20% more than that of the pork right now, as there's going to be a ton of liquid released. Line with some banana leaves, and line it in a way so that you can fold the leaves over the meat when you put the meat in. Pour in the meat, bone and marinade, cover with the banana leaf flaps and put the cover on, or cover tightly with tin foil.

Let it cook in the oven for at least 4 hours, according to the recipe. Something may be wrong with my oven, because it took more like 9 hours to cook. The dish is ready when the meat is nice and soft.

That's it! Serve over rice!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Chicken Nuggets!!

Did you know that McDonald's chicken nuggets have dairy in them? They do. And I LOVE chicken nuggets. My mom used to buy frozen chicken nuggets by the bag that we could heat up ourselves after school. But all chicken nuggets have dairy for some mysterious reason. And they all probably have some gross preservatives as well. Here is an easy recipe for ones that don't.

Two chicken thighs, deboned, deskinned, defatted and cut into equalish-sized pieces
1 cup bread crumbs
A glug of olive oil
Seasoning - I used Montreal chicken spice, but you can use whatever spice mix you like, or make your own. The holy triumvirate of chicken spices is rosemary, thyme and sage. If you're making your own seasoning, make sure to add salt.

Let's do it!

First thing, mix the seasoning, chicken and olive oil together and let marinate for at least half an hour. I put them in a ziploc bag, pressed the air out and mixed it around.

After marinating, set your toaster oven (or regular oven) to 350ºF. Take each piece and dip it in the bread crumbs and put on a toaster-oven safe dish, or a baking sheet if you're using an oven. Set the timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 10 minutes. After that, put the thing on broil for maybe 5 minutes to crisp them up all nice.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bitter Melon and Beef

I had quite a weekend a while back and my friend, Steph, the earth-to-plate food master, suggested a concoction of bitter melon, cucumber, green apple and some other stuff in order to detoxify myself. Raw bitter melon. For some reason, Asian grocery stores no longer sell bitter melon one by one, instead they sell them packaged in threes or fours. Annoying. I love bitter melon (cooked) so I decided to make a favourite of mine for lunch. Oh, I haven't tried the concoction yet.

1 piece of beef, a bit bigger than my hand, I buy the cheapest steak I can find, usually. If you like more meat, go for it. If you like less, you can do that, too.
2 medium bitter melons

2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 tsp honey
1 tbsp Shao-Hsing wine, a cooking wine that you can get in the Asian grocery store. It has a red label.
1.5 tsp sesame oil
1.5 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water

1 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Let's do it!
Bitter Melon:
Chop off the sharp ends and slice in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out all the seeds and pith. Slice diagonally into thin slices. Sprinkle with salt liberally and put in a strainer for 30 minutes while you prepare the other stuff.

After the 30 minutes, rinse off the salt and squeeze the excess liquid out. Boil some water and blanch the melon for a couple of minutes to get even more of the bitterness out. Strain and rinse with cold water. Now it's ready to go.

Mix together all the stuff in the middle group of ingredients except for the cornstarch and water. Take the beef and tenderize with a meat hammer (which I didn't do, but wish I did). Slice thinly and mix into the marinade and stick in the fridge until you're all done with the winter melon prep.

Putting it all together:
Heat some oil in a wok. When it swirls around the wok quickly, add the black beans and garlic. It WILL splatter, so make sure you're wearing pants or at least an apron. Trust me on this one. Add the beef without the marinade and mix well. After a couple of minutes, add the bitter melon and mix well. Mix up the cornstarch, water and marinade until the cornstarch is all dissolved. Add this to the mix and stir fry until the mixture thickens. Taste and adjust for saltiness/sweetness.

Serve over rice and enjoy the detoxifying effects of the bitter melon.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

DIY Dishwasher Detergent

Update: this worked well for the first few loads, but then less and less well as time went on. I'm not sure why. The glasses got cloudy and it just wasn't cleaning like it used to. Apparently one needs to tweak it a bit to get the right amount of acid to everything else ratio. Hopefully you guys have better luck! I no longer have a dishwasher so I can't experiment!

I know this isn't food, but it's good related and it worked so well that I have to share it.

If you haven't gathered already, I'm incredibly cheap, and the environment is kind of a big deal to me, so after finding that green automatic dishwasher detergents suck, and conventional dishwasher detergents are full of terrible chemicals, I set out to find a recipe for some dishwashing powder. This stuff is less than 10 cents a load and so far, works GREAT. I did ensure that I scraped off the plates before putting them in, though, which is something I never did before. The glasses came out clear, and there wasn't any little food bits still clinging to the plates and on the undersides of cups.

Before using this and the rinse aid, make sure to run an empty cycle (with the Jet-Dry® lid off) to wash out all the old soap, or else you could get some weird reaction happening in there.

Dish Detergent:
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
1/4 cup citric acid
1/4 cup kosher salt

Put this all in a container and shake shake shake. It will clump because of the citric acid, but you can chip away at it when you need it. Alternatively, you can put in one of those dry packs they put inside instant noodle packages.

You only need 1 tablespoon of this per load

Rinse aid (otherwise known as Jet-Dry®):

That's it, just fill it up with vinegar. This will ensure that your glasses don't come out cloudy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chick'n chicken salad

I really wanted to have some nice Asian-style chicken with my salad in an effort to slowly wean myself off the bad eating I've been doing lately. I mean, grilled chicken is pretty good for you, right? So what if it's a thigh piece and you don't trim ANY of the fat off?


1 chicken thigh, bone removed
1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
splash of sesame oil

2 handfulls baby spinach
some white onion, thinly sliced
some cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 a tomato, cut up
1 hard boiled egg

Your choice of dressing. I used 1:1 white vinegar and veggie oil, which was kind of gross, even after I squeezed half a lime into it. I mean, I was still able to eat it and all, but it wasn't as awesome as I'd like. Next time I'm using vinegar and olive oil. That always seems to work.

Let's do it!
Chicken: Put the soy sauce, honey and sesame oil in a shallow dish and stir. Taste and adjust to your liking. Place the chicken in the dish and poke some holes in it with a fork. Let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Grill on a panini press (if you're lucky enough to own one) for about 15 minutes.. I really wasn't keeping watch. Maybe 10 minutes? I don't know. I pierced it to make sure it was cooked all the way through. If you don't have a panini press, you can bake in the toaster oven at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes, or fry on the stove. Let it rest on a cutting board for about 15 minutes or cool enough to handle. Slice into... slices.

Egg: For perfect hardboiled eggs, cover the eggs with cold water in a small pot. Put the pot on the stove on high, uncovered. As soon as the water boils, turn off the stove and cover the pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

I'm certain you're smart enough to put the rest together. I put all the veggies in a dish with the spinach, and all the meat in another dish while transporting to work. The salad dressing is applied at the very end so it doesn't get all mushy.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Spinach and other stuff salad

In an effort to detoxify my body after a bit of a french fry (and let's face it, booze) binge, I decided to have spinach salad for a few lunches. The great thing about spinach salad is that all you need is a box of baby spinach, some protein, some quinoa (which keeps very well in the fridge), some fruit and some dressing. Basically, I kept everything in the work fridge (separately) and assembled the salad every day.

Two handfuls of baby spinach
1/2 cup of chickpeas
1 mango, diced
1/4 cup cooked quinoa
homemade balsamic dressing

Let's do it!
I don't really like prepared salad dressings, so I keep a little jar of 1:1 balsamic dressing and olive oil with a dash of salt in the work fridge. The olive oil solidifies in the fridge, so you need to take the jar out of the fridge for maybe 15 minutes before you eat it. Or you can hold it under the tap.

Basically, I threw everything into a plastic container, shook it up and dumped it on a plate. The mango really elevates this salad from torturous to delicious.

This is the ultimate healthy lunch when you have a grocery store nearby and don't feel like splurging on prepared restaurant food. For the protein, you can also bring canned salmon (make sure it's one of the SeaChoice picks), hardboiled eggs, other beans, or meat. You can obviously also add whatever other veggies or even fruit you like.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Elaine's Mom-style Chinese Chicken Curry

I love my mom's curry. It is amazing. But since I am not my mom, I can only make half-amazing curry, despite following her every direction as she hovers over me in the kitchen. Someday she will bequeath whatever secret she has to amazing curry (it better not be love) and I will be able to do it. But until then, here's how I make mine.

1/2 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled. Sliced, if you don't mind finding all sorts of ginger in your food
2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1" cubes
8 chicken wings including tips, separated into the three chicken wing pieces
1 can coconut milk
1-2 tbsp yellow curry powder. Like soy sauce, I have 4 kinds of curry in my house. I use Jamaican yellow curry for this recipe
Roughly 1-2 tsp fish sauce or soy sauce to taste

Let's do it!
Stir fry the onion, ginger and garlic in some oil in a pot with a lid. Stir fry until the onion is soft.

Add potatoes and fry for a little while longer.

Add curry paste and stir around for a couple of minutes. Everything is going to start to stick to the bottom of the pot. Add coconut milk, stir, scraping the bottom of the pot (with a wooden spoon, obviously) and cover. Simmer on low until the potatoes are half done.

Add chicken wings, add a pinch of salt and cover and simmer until the chicken is done. Add soy sauce/fish sauce to taste.

Serve over rice.

This recipe is pretty easy, and not very spicy (unless you get spicy curry). It's one of my comfort foods. I particularly enjoy mashing the potatoes into the rice.

Unfortunately, my husband is not into curry, so UNFORTUNATELY I have to eat it all by myself. Right now I have some in the freezer. I'll let you know if it freezes well.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Basic fried rice

Fried rice is another one of those recipes that use up all the leftovers in the fridge. All you really need is rice, soy sauce, veggies, protein and oil. You can have an endless amount of combinations. I have yet to make a combination that tastes bad, but that doesn't mean this recipe is infallible. Think before you mix. If I'm using leftover meat, I won't use any meat that's got a sauce on it. In terms of veggies, I had a cucumber in the fridge, but thought it might not mix well with the other flavours. Plus, cooked cucumber? Gross.

3 servings of cooked rice, cooled (preferably overnight)
1/2 onion, diced
1/2" slice of ginger, peeled and left intact (Unless you like eating ginger)
2 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in water, stems removed and diced. Water reserved
1/4 tsp shrimp paste
1 egg, beaten
1 serving meat (I used frozen smoked sausage), diced
1 tsp light soy sauce (or more, to taste)
Optional: any other kind of veggies or meat you have diced. I tossed in some chives from the garden, though green onion would make more sense.

I'm sure there's some kind of science around why you want the rice to be old and cold. I don't know it, but it's a tip I got from my brother and it seems to get good (i.e. not mushy) results. If you're not using brown rice (and why not?), you can rinse it after it's cooled, to rinse out any residual starches.

In terms of the dried mushrooms and shrimp paste, they're not completely necessary, but I find that they really elevate the dish from rice that's fried to FRIED RICE. Both can be found in an Asian grocery store (but not the Asian area of any grocery store that I've been to) or on the internet. Shrimp paste smells like rotten shrimp, but is a fantastic addition to a lot of Asian dishes.

Let's do it!
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a wok on medium heat. Pour in the scrambled egg and let sit until it's mostly cooked. Turn it over to cook on the other side. Slide out of the pan and chop it up into 1" x 1/2" slices, or diced, or whatever you want. Put aside.

Throw the onion and ginger in the pan. Saute for about 4 minutes, until the onions start to soften. Throw in the other veggies (mushrooms, and whatever else you have). Cook for another 3 minutes to meld the flavours. Add the meat and cook for another 3 minutes.

Turn the heat up to medium high and throw in the rice. Stir fry it. Mix 1 tbsp of mushroom water, the shrimp paste and soy sauce in a bowl until it's blended well. Add it to the wok and mix everything well. Add the egg. Taste the rice. Is it salty enough? If so, you're done. If not, add a bit more soy sauce.

That's it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chinese-style pork, broccoli and brown rice with pickled cucumbers

I’ve sort of been craving Cantonese pork ribs lately, but really didn’t want to mess with the bones at work, so I went with pork chops. Sorry about the grossness of the picture. It’s biking season and everything sort of got bashed around.

Chinese-style pork

2 pork chops, sliced into strips
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
½ tbsp cooking sherry/rice wine (you can find this in Asian grocery stores)
a small splash of sesame oil
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch mixed in water for later

Let’s do it!
Mix all the sauces and sugar together and taste. Adjust for sweetness/saltiness. It’s okay if it’s pretty salty, it will be mixing in with pork, and later rice.

Marinate the pork while you’re making the broccoli.

Heat a pan/wok, pour in some oil and fry the pork and marinade until cooked. Add in the cornstarch and water at the end. Stir until thick. That’s it.

Stir-fried broccoli with garlic and ginger

1 head broccoli, rinsed
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
½ inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks

Let’s do it!
Chop up the broccoli: peel the thick skin off the stalk, and cut the bottom of the stalk off. Slice the stalk into thin rounds until you get to the florets. Take the florets apart with your hands (you will lose less of them this way) for any florets with thick stalks, slice only the stalk, then pull it apart with your hands.

Heat up a wok with some oil. When the oil is shimmery, add the garlic and ginger. Fry until golden. Move it around a lot, or it will burn. Add the broccoli and stir around, flipping them. Add ¼ cup of water and cover, letting it steam for maybe 10 minutes until dark. That’s it.

Pickled cucumber

1 cucumber, seeded and sliced thinly
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
dash of salt

Let’s do it!
Mix all this stuff together and let marinate for at least an hour.

Lunch it up!
Put the pork and broccoli on a bed of brown rice in a microwavable container. If you like to keep things separate, then do so, but I would warn against heating stuff up in plastic containers. If you're a guy, you'll get boobs. If you're a girl, you'll get an extra uterus.

Keep the pickles separate, obviously. For some spiciness, I added some sriracha to the pork and broccoli at the last minute.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Vegan kale lasagna

Thanks to a Mother's Day family bbq (and let's face it, laziness), I've been eating leftovers for the past 2 days, therefore no new posts. Now that mom's delicious noodle salad (a post for later when I attempt it) is all gone, I'm back in full force.

This recipe is a variation of Chow's Winter Greens Lasagna. It was such a hit among the non-vegetarians at my friend, Steph's dad's 60th birthday, I had to try to make a non-dairy version. Seriously, her family, much like my own, doesn't consider it a meal unless 4 different kinds of animal are served. They LOVED this dish. And despite being allergic to dairy, I allowed myself one incredible, luscious bite. So worth the pain. One note on that recipe: if you can eat dairy, make the creme fraiche yourself. It's totally worth it.

4 layers worth of lasagna noodles, cooked to package directions
About 8 cups or so Basic tomato sauce. Actually, err on having more sauce. It'll keep for a few days.
6 cups kale (roughly one bunch)
1/2 tub Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1 package Daiya mozzarella flavoured cheese-like substance
400ml can of coconut milk, shaken vigorously
1 tbsp butter, or vegan substitute for butter (I've tricked my body into accepting butter)
Olive oil
Salt to taste

Let's do it!
Rip the kale leaves from the stems and rinse. Chop finely, or chop in a food processor in batches (which is what I did)

Heat some olive oil in a saucepan and throw in the kale. Sautee until dark, roughly 10 minutes. Yes, I like to cook the ever living crap out of kale, when I do decide to cook it. Add butter, cream cheese and a short pour of coconut milk, roughly 1/4 cup. Stir until the cheese melts. Add enough coconut to make the mixture like a thick batter. If you're using the kind of lasagna noodles you don't precook, add enough milk to make it like a thin batter. Add salt until it's really really good. I added almost 1 tsp. Hey, this is vegan, I didn't say it was HEALTHY. Everything in this is fake except for the kale and tomato sauce.

At this point, you should probably preheat your oven to whatever the lasagna package says you need to put it to.

Ladle a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a casserole dish. Layer with noodles. Ladle 1/2 the kale mixture and spread flat. Sprinkle on 1/3 of the Daiya and top with more tomato sauce. Repeat this once more, then top with tomato sauce, Daiya, and some coconut milk in a criss cross kind of pattern. Bake to lasagna package instructions.

When the lasagna is done, I like to keep enough for one meal for both of us, then freeze the rest in single serving portions, for those (increasingly common) days when I'm too lazy to cook. It reheats pretty well.

Diagnosis: Delicious!
Holy hell, this lasagna is tasty! If you can't have dairy, and enjoy the taste of Daiya cheese, you will lose it over this.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Donburi... type thing

The problem: Leftover rice and other stuff in the fridge
Difficulty: Don't want to make fried rice, despite being Chinese and that being my most common fallback.
X-factor: Don't need to make lunch for husband, so I can be as crazy as I want with this.
Solution: Donburi, or a variation thereof. A Japanese dish that is basically a bowl of cooked rice with some other food served on top of it.

This was a favourite of mine in college, where I could get a vegetarian donburi from the food court that would fill me up for about $5. Rice, soup, protein, veggies, how can you go wrong?

Cooked rice
1 tbsp Organic red miso paste
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 c Japanese soy sauce (yes, there is a difference. At home I have four kinds of soy sauce. God only know how many my mom has.)
2 raw eggs
Raw spinach (or field green salad mix, which is what I had in the fridge)

Let's do it!
Boil maybe 2 cups of water on the stove. Mix the miso paste with some water in a bowl until it's blended, then add to the boiling water. Add the mirin and soy sauce and simmer for maybe 5 minutes. That's pretty much it until you get to work.

Lunch it up!
Pack the soup in a non-spill container, pack the rice in another container, and the greens and raw eggs in yet another container. Yes, this is another lunch that will bring ridicule from your workmates, but it will smell/taste delicious and they'll all be jealous. So there.

At work I boiled the soup in the microwave, cracked the two eggs in and covered it for a few minutes. Then I cooked the rice in a bowl, threw the greens on top, then threw the soup on it. A real donburi doesn't have this much soup at all, but whatever. I wasn't going to throw it out.

Not the best thing I've ever made, but not the worst. I think it might need some tweaking in execution and ingredients. Spinach would have been a better choice than field greens (which were mostly lettuce. Soupy lettuce = gross) and the rice should have been cooked more. The soup was okay, but it was too sweet (I actually used a ton of mirin, best use 1 tbsp or adjust the sweetness at home, which is not what I did). I will make this again, but maybe not be so haphazard about it next time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Chicken Basquaise on Rice

This recipe can be described as one of the greatest hits in this house. Nathan's a fan, I'm a fan and it reheats really well. It's based on this recipe from Chow. It consists of chicken cooked in a pipérade.


2 strips of bacon, chopped
1 onion, peeled and sliced into thin strips
2 red peppers sliced into thin strips
3 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thymee
2 tsp paprika

1 chicken leg, deboned, bone reserved

Cooked rice

Let's do it!
Heat the bacon in the pan to extract the oil.

Cook the onion in the oil for about 5 minutes.

Add peppers, herbs, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add chicken bones, cover and simmer until peppers and onions are soft.

Add chicken meat (chopped), cover and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until it's cooked.

Lunch it up!

Put some rice in a container and top with the sauce, taking out the chicken bones and bay leaf.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chicken and bean tacos/rice

No exaggeration, I got a phone call from my coworker, demanding that I tell her what I was having for lunch, since it smelled so delicious. Let me tell you, it tastes as good as it smells.

1 chicken leg (or big chicken breast, whatever), skin separated and reserved, meat diced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves chopped
1/2 cup pinto beans
2 tbsp chili powder
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup tomato sauce

cooked rice and/or tortillas

Let's do it!
Mix the meat, chili powder, cilantro, oil and a bit of salt in a bowl and set aside to marinate (in the fridge, preferably)

Heat a pan on medium and put the chicken skin in it. Cook until the fat renders out and you have some oil for frying everything else. (If you're thinking "ew", perhaps you should know that the key to making things delicious is salt and fat. Because you're getting some fat in you, your body will probably register as fuller earlier and for longer.) Throw in the onion, green pepper and jalapeno. Stir fry until soft. At this point, you can take the skin out and toss it. Unless you're a disgusting person like me, in which case you will keep it in to keep the fatty goodness in the meal.

Add the garlic and beans and saute for another few minutes, until the garlic takes on a goldish hue. Apparently cooking the beans longer takes the gassiness out of them. I don't know if this is true, but beans don't seem to result in hilarious gas with me as they seem to do in popular culture.

Add tomato sauce and chicken mixture and saute until the chicken is cooked.

Lunch it up!
If you're me, then you will pour this mixture over some cooked wild and brown rice. If you're my husband, you will wrap it up in a flour tortilla (mixed with rice, maybe? For fibre? Who am I kidding? It's probably going to be processed cheese slices.). Either way, this is a great way to get a ton of veggies in you with the delicious savouriness of meat, without going meat crazy. I had mine with some field greens in balsamic vinegar and oil, just to get the dark leafy green content in.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Easy pasta salad

My plan today was to buy sushi for lunch. This morning, my cheapness overcame my laziness and I made one of the laziest, but still satisfying, meals I had in my arsenal.

Working Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: roughly 10 minutes


Pasta, cooked as per directions on package (also a great recipe for leftover pasta)
Diced cucumber
Diced red onion
Black olives
Chopped sundried tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp oil of your choice
Optional: any veggies or leftover meat laying around the house. Originally, I was going to put in some baby spinach, but I forgot.

Let's do it!
Cook the pasta as per specifications and prepare the beans. For this recipe I used a rainbow farfalle. Generally I stick to the non-long type pastas, as it's easier to get spoonfuls of pasta and veggies together. I used frozen soy beans so I tossed them into the pasta during the last minute. You can use canned beans, or nuts even.

Chop up everything and throw into a container with a lid. Add the pasta and shake shake shake. Sprinkle with salt.

Pour the oil (I used veggie oil because I get sick of olive oil sometimes) and vinegar into a jar and screw the lid on very tight.

Lunch it up!
This one's easy. Shake up the dressing vigorously, then pour some (or all, if you like a ton of dressing) into your container. Shake shake shake some more, and you have a good, balanced lunch!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fish Tacos

If you were able to read that title without giggling, then you are a better person than I am.

This is one of my favourite recipes ever because it's easy, it's tasty and I just plain love Mexican food. This recipe is based on this recipe on Epicurious. It's totally worth it to the full Epicurious recipe, but this one has less steps and less going on.

Working time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

2 white fish filets. (I used frozen basa from the Asian grocery store because it was $2.99 for two large filets! Enough for three meals!!)
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chili powder
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped (omit if you're not a spicy food fan, though jalapeno is really not that spicy. Maybe this is a good place to start?)

Note: Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap after handling the jalapeno. I have a friend who didn't do this after making stuffed peppers and had to endure burning hands for hours. Luckily he didn't touch any other parts of his body.

Let's do it!
Mix the cilantro, two tbsp of oil and garlic in a large bowl. Place the fish in this mixture and let marinate for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir it around so it's evenly marinating.

Heat up a pan with some olive oil on medium/high. Stir in red onion, green pepper and jalapeno for about 10 minutes, until everything is soft and browned. Put this mixture aside.

Fry each filet in this pan for about 3 minutes each side. The fish is cooked when it flakes easily. When both the filets are cooked through, toss everything back in the pan, including the marinade and break up the fish with the spatula. Mix and sautee for another two minutes. Taste and season with salt if needed. That's it!

A delicious topping (found on the original recipe) is finely sliced red onion with diced jalapenos in red wine vinegar. Super delicious. I have it on mine above there. In my opinion, it totally makes the dish, but it's up to you if you want it.

Pack it up
Obviously, pack the fish separately from your tortillas. You can also chop up some lettuce and tomatoes if you're into that. I like to have some fresh lime to squeeze over this. Also, be prepared to eat this cold if your workplace is dead set against microwaving fish.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Quinoa and Other Stuff Salad

Otherwise known as the "Quinoa and whatever else I have laying around" salad.

Quinoa is supposed to be super good for you, so I try to make it as often as I can.

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
3/4 cup water
Any veggies, beans, etc. you have laying around
1 lemon or some kind of vinegar
Same amount of some kind of oil

Let's do it!
Throw the quinoa and water in a rice cooker and turn it on. If you don't have a rice cooker, boil the water, throw in the quinoa, simmer and cover. Drain if necessary.

Rinse/chop any veggies you have laying around. I had frozen edamame, chickpeas and tomatoes.

Measure up 1:1 lemon or vinegar and oil in a glass jar. Put in some salt. I also tossed in a bit of dried basil. You can use fresh basil or whatever light herb you like. Shake shake shake!

Mix everything up in a container with a lid.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Wild Rice Stuffed Turkey Roast - Dinner edition

Today's lunch was leftovers from our Easter meal, so here's the dinner I made for my family-in-law on Friday. Please note, I made WAY too much food. All this was enough for maybe 10-12 people. Also, this recipe is not for the lazy, you need to be ambitious for this!

Working time: 1-1.5 hours
Cooking time: 2.5 hours altogether

5 turkey thighs, bone in
8 servings of cooked, wild rice and brown rice blend (2 cups of uncooked rice, cooked to package instructions, I bought the President's Choice brand)
4 celery stalks, cleaned
2 onions
4 carrots
5 cloves of garlic
2 cups of mushrooms (whichever kind you want, I had white and cremini) diced
1 cup of dried cranberries
1/2 cup of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
fresh or dried rosemary (maybe 1tsp dried, 1 tbsp fresh)
2 tbsp flour

Tools: A sharp knife, a giant bowl, one or two big baking/lasagna trays, kitchen string cut into 15" lengths, cling wrap or parchment paper, a meat mallet, an instant read thermometer, a friend who doesn't get grossed out about raw meat.

Let's do it!

Gravy part 1 and meat prep
Debone the turkey thighs. Make sure you have a sharp knife. I used my chef's knife. If you have a sharpening stone, sharpen the knife before you start. If you don't, use a sharpening steel, followed by the rough underside of a ceramic cup, wipe the side of the blade along it, both sides. In fact, even if you have a sharpening stone, make sure to do this stuff after, too.

Quick tip: If you don't have a sharpening stone and a good knife and you love to cook, save $100 and buy them. A good chef's knife can be purchased for about $80, and it's worth every penny. My mom bought me a Victorinox as a housewarming gift 10 years ago and I use it every day, for everything. Henkel's twin series is also a good brand. DO NOT skimp on this. If you cook a lot, you need to have a good sharp knife. Otherwise, you're going to give yourself a lot of fatigue and random cuts. There's nothing more dangerous than a dull knife when you're working in the kitchen. In terms of the stone, I mean stone. Get the kind that has two sides, a course and fine side, not the sharpening gadgets. This is a heavy block of rock I'm talking about.

Feel along the underside of the meat, you will feel  the meat come apart along the bone. Follow this with your hands. Rip it apart, slide your knife against the bone to cut the meat away at it. Try to get as much meat off the bone in one piece as you can. Leaving a little meat is fine, the stock (coming up later) will be more flavourful.

Use the bones, garlic, 3 of the carrots and celery, and one onion all chopped coarsely to make the stock. Find a container that will fit all of the meat. Pour in the sugar, salt and rosemary. Dissolve with water and put the meat in. Fill the container until the water covers the meat, and stick it in the fridge, covered with cling wrap, or a plate or whatever. This is called brining. Some people say it helps the meat stay moist and juicy. Some people say that's a load of crap. Personally, I find it works, so I always do it.

Peel the leftover carrot and onion and dice finely, into 1/4 inch cubes. Do the same with the celery and mushrooms. Heat some oil in a big wide saucepan or wok and fry everything until the onion is translucent, and the mushrooms are dark and cooked. Mix this with the rice and cranberries.

Put it all together!
Drain and rinse the turkey. Dry it off with some paper towel. One by one, place the meat skin side down on a cutting board, put cling wrap or parchment paper over it and beat the living hell out of it with the mallet, until it's flattened a bit (but not all mashed up and falling apart). One by one, place the turkey thighs lengthwise (tall) in front of you. Get your friend to cover the bottom 2/3 with a thin later of stuffing (they get the clean job). Press the stuffing down. Roll up the meat and have your friend tie it tight while you hold the roll in place. Put the roll seam down in a baking tray (no grease necessary, it will make enough of its own). Repeat with all the thighs. Make sure you have at least an inch or  two of breathing space between them so they cook evenly. Put the remainder of the stuffing into an ovenproof dish.  Bake the roasts at 350ºF.

After half an hour, I like to turn everything around to make sure it bakes evenly. It's a good idea to keep an eye on the stuff after half an hour, I was using a convection oven and it baked perfectly in an hour. Put the stuffing in when you turn the trays around. All ovens are different, so make sure you check every 15 minutes after the first half hour. They're ready when the thermometer reads 165ºF in the middle. Take them out and move them to the serving dish. Let them sit untouched while you make the gravy. Turn off the oven and let the stuffing (and any sides you made) sit in the hot oven.

Gravy part 2

Quick tip: My mother-in-law showed me the most brilliant way to skim the fat. You put all the stock, juices and fat into a glass dish and let the fat float to the top. Then you take a turkey baster and suck up all the stock and juices and put it in another container, leaving all the fat at the top! Genius!

Pour 2 tbsp of the fat into a saucepan or pot on medium heat. Throw in 2 tbsp of flour and stir around for maybe 4 minutes. Do not let the flour burn. If it's burnt, just start all over. You do NOT want burnt gravy. Pour in the juice/stock mixture in bit by bit, stirring to thicken. Keep going until it's all incorporated. If you're like me, the gravy will be thin at this point, because you don't know how to make thick gravy. But it will taste good, and that's all that matters.

Cut the string off the roasts and slice into medallions. Put the gravy on the table. Bask in the compliments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Basic soup stock

Do you ever find yourself at home in the evenings with nothing to do? No? Well turn off the TV, then. NOW you have spare time, don't you? Why not spend that time doing something really good for yourself, like making stock? (Don't worry about missing the latest episode of House. Here's the plot: Someone comes in with a mysterious illness. The team thinks it's one thing and give them treatment, the treatment makes it worse. House deduces that the patient is lying about something. Someone on the team is somehow emotionally involved with this case and disagrees. More treatments, the patient keeps getting worse. They break into the patient's house. The patient's lie is found out through a family member or friend. They still can't cure him/her. Something happens in House's life to set off an epiphany. The patient is cured.)

Why make stock? I realize that stock is really cheap in the grocery store, but it's also full of salt, preservatives and sometimes the dreaded MSG. When I'm cooking something, I save all of the bones (yes, ALL of them. My freezer looks like a fricking crypt) in a large freezer bag. When the bag gets pretty full, I get started. You can also do the same thing with veggies and fresh herbs that are almost on their way out. They won't retain their texture, but they will retain their taste.

Cooking time: 1 hour
Working time: 30-40 minutes

1-2 Onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
2 Celery, roughly chopped
2 Carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped (I don't bother peeling for stock)
Leftover meat and/or bones (unless you're making veggie stock)

1-2 Bay leaf
10 or so whole peppercorns
Salt to taste

Optional: You can add other herbs depending on the flavour that you want. Thyme and rosemary go well with poultry and pork. If you want to make it sort of Thai style, you can also add in ginger, star anise and cinammon sticks. Otherwise, you can keep it simple and use the stock as a base for a variety of stuff.

Let's do it!
Place the meat/bones into the pot and pour in enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil and take it down to a simmer. Watch the soup and skim off any oil and gray/brown sludge from the surface. My mom bought me this oil/sludge skimmer from an Asian grocery store, and it works very well for this job. Keep watching and keep skimming until it's all gone. This should take maybe 20 minutes. Feel free to walk away for a few minutes at a time to watch your precious House on PVR.

Toss in the veggies and herbs, and more water if needed to cover everything. Put a lid on it and let simmer for half an hour to an hour. Apparently, at this point veggies no longer impart flavour, so it's time to get it all out. I usually take a large, fine meshed drum sieve and place it in another soup pot. Then I ladle all the meat and veggies out of the soup and into the sieve. (You only need to try pouring everything in the sieve from the pot once to figure out how bad of an idea that is) Press down to extract all the liquid. Toss out the meat and veggies. Pour the rest of the liquid in the pot through the sieve to get any small fragments, herbs, etc.

Simmer the stock uncovered until it cooks down to a concentration of flavour you like. Season with salt and let cool. If there's fat on top, skim it, but I usually find that the initial skimming gets everything out.

Quick tip: A lazy way to skim fat is to put the stock in the fridge overnight. The fat will all rise to the surface and congeal, where you can easily spoon it off. Remember, never pour fat down the drain. We pour it into a jar, and when the jar is full, pour that into a bag (always double or triple bag) and throw it in the garbage. Congealed fat will really mess up your plumbing.

At this point, I'll pour some of the stock into small freezer bags and sterilized 500ml mason jars (and do all the stuff you need to do to preserve soup). The ones in the mason jars will last a couple of weeks in the fridge, and the freezer bagged ones last a few months in the freezer, though I usually go through it all within a couple of months, particularly if I'm on an instant noodle kick.

There you have it! A delicious, healthful stock that you can use for soups, risotto, gravy, stews, etc. without all the sodium and crap in the grocery store ones!