meatless monday

The recipe swapping with lovely friends A and K continues. We traded last Monday — K offered up butternut squash and pear soup, and A made veggie chili. Here’s what I made, one of my personal faves and something new …
I love falafels, and this recipe is the best I’ve tried. I think it’s the fresh cilantro. So tasty.
Baked Falafel
Makes about 21 balls

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
1 small onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I press my garlic; I find the flavour is distributed better this way)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped (I don’t use fresh in this case because I never have it; I use dried instead)
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped (Fresh is a must here)
1 teaspoon lemon juice (Fresh squeezed is preferable here, too)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon coriander (I skip this because I’m not a fan)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Put in a medium sized bowl and smash with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Form into small balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and slightly flatten. Place onto an oiled baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes on each side, until nicely browned.

Then, to accompany the falafels, I made homemade tortillas for the first time. I found this recipe via Suzie the Foodie.
2 cups flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable shortening or 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used the shortening option)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup warm water or 1/2 cup milk (may possibly need to add more, up to 3/4 cup) (I used warm water)

Sift the flour, salt & baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Into the dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, or add oil if you are using this option, & mix with your fingertips to combine.

Add the milk or water, working the liquid into the dough until a sticky ball forms. Wrap in plastic and let rest for at least 30 minutes. Divide the dough into 8-10 balls (for small tortillas) or 6-8 balls for larger ones, cover them again with the damp cloth.

Lightly dust a counter with flour and roll out each ball of dough into a circle or oval approximately 1/4″ thick. If you want nicely rounded tortillas, trim off any ragged edges and discard.

Heat a dry griddle or heavy skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Cook the tortillas 30 seconds on each side or until the dough looks dry & slightly wrinkled & a few brown spots form on both surfaces. Do not over cook or they will be hard. Roll up and wrap in damp tea towel to keep warm as you cook the other tortillas.

These were easy to assemble, but cooking them was definitely a two-man job — Husband rolled them out while I tossed them in and out of the pan. Keeping them in the damp towel is definitely important, and they seem to continue to cook within the steamy wrap. Not something I’ll make on a regular basis, mostly because it’d be tough to not eat them all.
Have you cooked any new meatless meals lately? Share with the class.

meatless monday

I can’t believe I’ve never done this before. My neighbour-friend K and Miss A (J’s to-be babysitter in one week!) and I did a freezer-friendly veggie meal swap today. It’s as simple as it sounds — we all made three portions of a vegetarian dish that would freeze well, and this morning we all swapped, giving us each three ready-made meals. So today, I have spicy chic peas with rice for lunch (which I portioned into seven lunch-sized portions in the freezer – thanks, Miss A!) and we’re having zucchini-eggplant lasagne for supper (thanks, K!). And the best part? I don’t have to cook! Simply brilliant.

So here I share with you the recipe I made. These are my Gram’s stuffed shells. Totally and utterly delicious. In the spirit of our low-fat-ish, vegetarian theme, I changed this up a bit from the original, and they were definitely just as tasty.
Stuffed Shells
One box of large shells (It doesn’t take a whole box though; I used two boxes and made four pans of shells to freeze with approximately 22 shells in each portion)
Cook shells until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.
Combine in a bowl:
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (I used low fat)
1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (I used low fat)
1 container of ricotta (Again, I used low fat)
1/4 cup bread crumbs (I use the Italian kind because they’re extra yummy)
1 egg
2 Tbsp. parsley
A few pressed cloves of garlic, depending on your taste
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Stuff mixture into each shell.
1 jar of pasta sauce (I used a low calorie version — blue label Our Compliments mushroom and garlic from Sobeys. For extra veg, I added a cup of grated zucchini and carrot to the sauce.)
Pour enough sauce into 9X13 baking pan to cover the bottom. Arrange stuffed shells in pan. Cover with remaining sauce. Bake at 375F for nearly an hour or until hot and bubbly all over.
So, so good.
(Photo here.)
Our swap worked so well that we’re going to do it again in another two weeks! I’m thinking a Mexican dish next time. Have any freezer-friendly veggie recipes to share?

pancake supper?

Settle a disagreement?

I am very pro breakfast-for-dinner. Husband is not. To him, there are certain things a person eats in the morning, like bagels and eggs, and certain things you eat at night … namely, not bagels and eggs.
But sometimes a girl just craves pancakes. Like the ones pictured here. Can you blame me?
What do you think? Breakfast-for-dinner: a do or a don’t?
And if you side with me, do you have any tasty recipes to share?

meatless monday: turkey dinner

Meatless and turkey doesn’t exactly go together in one thought, but bare with me. I recently made turkey dinner. I know what you’re saying, “You cooked a turkey in your oven in the summer? Are you mad?” It really wasn’t so bad. I put it in the oven early in the morning on a day that was cool-ish and rainy, and it was ready by noon, so the house didn’t get overly hot.

Believe it or not, turkey dinner is one of my very favourite meals, even though I don’t partake in the star attraction. For me, it’s all about the fixin’s. Here are recipes for a few of my faves:

Squash Casserole

3 cups squash, lightly salted and cooked until just tender

1 medium grated onion

1 medium grated carrot

1 cup sour cream

1 can cream soup (I usually use cream of mushroom and garlic)

Dash of pepper

Top with:

1 box Stovetop stuffing

1 stick margerine, melted

Drain squash well. Add the next 5 ingredients and stir. Melt margerine and add Stovetop package. Add 1/3 of stuffing mix to squash mixture, combine. Turn into greased casserole and add remaining stuffing to top. Gently press. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Green Bean Casserole

This isn’t an exact science. Here’s how I do it:
1 bag of frozen French-style green beans
2 cans cream of mushroom and garlic soup
1 can French’s fried onions
Mix it all up, saving a handful of the delicious crunchy onions for the top. Bake, covered, until hot and bubbly. Take the over off for the last few minutes to crisp the onions.

This last one is new to me. Turns out, after consulting with my Ma, that this is my great grandmother’s recipe. I love these tried-and-true treats.

Molasses Cake

1 cup molases

½ cup sugar

4 Tbsp margerine, melted

1 tsp salt

½ tsp ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp all spice

2 cups flour

Mix all of the above. Add to batter: 1 cup boiling water mixed with heaping tsp baking soda. Mix well. Bake at 350 until springy.

So tasty! Enjoy!

meatless monday: strawberry rhubarb sauce

I seriously can’t type the name of this recipe without drooling. I love the combination of strawberry and rhubarb. Sweet and tangy. Delicious.

This delight comes to you courtesy of Suzie the Foodie, one of my fave local bloggers. I get so much culinary inspiration from her posts. This time I just had to try her strawberry rhubarb sauce, which she used for crepes and I used for pancakes.

– two heaping cups of hulled strawberries
– one heaping cup of chopped rhubarb
– 3 Tbsp. sugar
– 3 Tbsp. water

I did exactly as Suzie suggested, I started with the water and sugar in a large pot. I added the rhubarb, brought it to a boil and then turned it down and let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the rhubarb is soft. Then I added the strawberries and cooked for about 10 more minutes.

Hold on to your hats; this is where things get exciting. I used my new immerson blender to zip this into a smooth, saucy consistency. Yes, it was saucy. The best part? This handly little appliance cost $7. Thanks to K for spotting this and picking one up for me!

We drizzled this over our pancakes and it was so delicious. Even Baby J got to try some and he loved the sweet-and-sour blend. I’m already thinking about what else I could pour this over … waffles, crepes, angel food cake, biscuits …

This is a must-try!

cook’s question

You know when you Google for a recipe and about half a million hits come up with all kinds of ideas? How do you know which to choose? Sites like and allow users to upload their own recipes. This makes me think of a potluck where you don’t necessarily know all of the people/their cooking habits/the cleanliness of their kitchens/what kinds of ingredients they’d use. Can you really trust these kinds of recipes? I usually trust or, since they’re compiled by chefs and the like, but often these recipes include little bits of weird ingredients and I don’t want to have to go out to buy a $8 jar of spice/herbs/magic ingredient just to use a quarter teaspoon. So then I end up substituting ingredients and I can never be 100% sure what the original recipe would’ve really tasted like. That, and I rarely think to record my adjustments, so next time the recipe won’t be the same. And I know, you’re saying, “Be more organized! Write crap down! Use that adorable cook’s journal that your sweet Grammie gave you for Christmas two years ago that is perfect for these exact scenarios!” Are you kidding? If I remember to bring my cellphone, wallet and office key card with me to work five days a week, then I think I deserve an award.

So my question is this, which websites do you trust for dependable recipes?

meatless monday: vegetarian chili shepherd’s pie

One of the great things about being home on maternity leave was being able to make supper. Sometimes I’d cut veggies or make side dishes from scratch when the babe was napping. I’d scan cookbooks or Google new meal ideas.
Now that I’m back to work, I find I automatically jump to whatever meal choice is going to be easiest. Husband, who is spending his summer off from teaching with our boy, often plans dinner, but I still cooking for my family.
Enter: the slow cooker.
This is a highly underused appliance in my kitchen, but really it should be a regular player. How simple is it throw ingredients in and come home to a hot, homemade meal? The trouble is, I’ve never really made anything in my Crock-pot that I actually liked very much.
So with the help of another blog, A Year of Slow Cooking (so may great ideas here!), I’m trying a new recipe:

So simple.
Stir together in slow cooker:
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-ounce) package frozen corn
1 small onion, diced
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Sprinkle with:
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Cover with:
2 cups mashed potatoes (leftover, fresh, from a box– your choice!)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, or on high for 3-4. Uncover the slow cooker near serving time and let cook uncovered on high for 20-30 minutes to cook away any collected condensation. The potatoes will brown on top a tiny bit and begin to pull from the sides.

I’ll be back to give you the verdict on taste tomorrow.
Have any slow cooker recipes that you love? Do tell.

a carby experiment

Husband and I got lucky with the home we rent — it’s actually part of a house, we live on the ground level and the owners live in the top two stories. We enjoyed their company right away and knew it would be a comfortable living situation for all of us. But wait, it gets better. This time last year, when we applied to live here, we told our potential new landlords that we were expecting a baby … and they were, too! Their daughter Laughlin and our boy Jacob were born just four days apart.
(Read: built-in play dates … for babies and moms, too!)
And the newest addition under our collective roof?
Colour me jealous. K recently acquired this drool-worthy mixer. She’s been baking up a storm ever since, and last week she suggested we try our hands at bread making. I’ve only done it once and it worked out pretty well. That time I used my Mum’s go-to brown bread recipe, so this time I went with Grammie’s variation, which uses shredded wheat instead of oatmeal. This one’s from the Barbour Cook Book, so it comes from the hands of experienced New Brunswick bakers, and this is the recipe verbatim:
Shredded Wheat Bread
1 yeast cake; 2 Shredded Wheats broken up; 1 cup scalded milk; 1 cup water; 1/2 cup molasses; 3 tsp. butter; 1 tsp. salt.
Put Shredded Wheat in water and scalded milk, add molasses and salt.
Add yeast, which has been dissolved in lukewarm water. Add flour, knead, and proceed as with white bread.
Really? Proceed as with white bread? How do you scald milk? What the heck is a yeast cake? Ummm, what about the flour? Well, that calls for an email to Grammie. After a few shared emails filled with my clueless hahas and her sympathetic lols, I was back on track.
K chose a whole wheat recipe from the cookbook that came with her mixer.

Whole Grain Wheat Bread
1/3 cup, plus 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 cups warm water (105-115 deg F)
2 pkg (4.5 tsp.) active dry yeast
5-6 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup powdered milk
2 tsp. kosher sea salt
1/3 cup oil

Dissolve 1 Tbsp. brown sugar in warm water in small bowl. Add yeast and let mixture stand.

Place 4 cups flour, powdered milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar and salt in mixer and mix on speed 2 for 15 seconds. Continuing on speed 2, gradually add yeast mixture and oil to flour mixture and mix about 1 1/2 minutes longer. Scrape bowl if necessary. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Knead on speed 2 about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in greased bowl, turn to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm, draft free place about 1 hr or until doubled in bulk. Punch down dough and divide in half. Shape into loaf and place in greased 81/2X41/2X21/2-inch loaf pan. Cover and let rise in warm place 1 hr or until doubled in bulk.

Bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 350F and bake 30 minutes longer. Remove from pans immediately and let cool on wire racks.

Well now, that’s a bit more comprehensive, isn’t it?
So, what we decided was to make both kinds — using the mixer and bread hook for the latter, and the old-fashioned way for the former recipe.
Here are the cellphone-quality photos of the event:

The verdict? Both delicious! The hand kneading wasn’t hard, and the recipe had fewer steps, so ultimately it was ready for the oven sooner. It was also great to be able to add the ingredients of the wheat bread directly into the mixer bowl and let it do its thing. That said, even with the mixing taken care of, K still had to roll out the dough and roll it up before putting it into the pan.
Do you know what this means? One house of people ate FOUR loaves of bread in less than a week. Maybe this isn’t an experiment we’ll be trying often …

vegan for a week: post mortem

Due to being MIA (on vacation) for more than a week, I still owe you a Vegan Week wrap up. If you missed it, you can catch up here, here, here, and here. Here’s how it went …
* Seven days — No milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese or anything containing animal bi-products, which includes a surprising number of items in my pantry.
* Challenges — It was tough to think about the ingredients of everything I put in my mouth, and I occasionally slipped up. It wasn’t easy to eat the same meals as my omnivore Husband. I had issues eating out in a restaurant, too.
* Successes — I became pro at reading nutrition information labels and have continued to do so since finishing vegan week. I was still able to use coupons for some of my vegan staples, like soy milk.
* Total weight loss — 4 lbs.! This was totally unexpected. Admittedly though, I did feel less full/bloaty when I was eating vegan foods.
* Verdict — I’m very glad I tried this. It has really changed the way I think about food … not in the know-where-your-food-comes-from kind of way, but rather about what is in my food. For me, eating vegan meant eating more fresh foods and forced me to up my fruit and veggie intake, which I’ve been wanting to do anyway. I’m not a complete convert, but it did make me feel really good, so I’m going to attempt to eat vegan a few days each week.