When I get sick, nothing helps me feel better than the warm comfort of Chinese congee. I used to think it was the nostalgia of my childhood when my parents would nurse me back to health with bowlfuls of it, but more recently, I’ve found out there’s science behind the old tradition. Congee is not only high in fluid content, which your body needs plenty of when you’re sick, but is also high in electrolytes from the rice. (Italians have a similar concoction, only it’s boiled pasta and the starchy water is drunk afterwards. Same principle.)
I will make congee regularly around the year, but never at a higher frequency than when I’m sick. This week was no exception. Having picked up an ugly virus, I gathered up the pot, rice, and chicken broth for my congee. That is the beauty of congee. That’s all you need. My basic recipe will make a large pot of plain congee that will last one person about two or even three days, which is great when you’re sick and don’t want to be cooking multiple meals.
Whenever the snow is blustering outside and winter seems to be showing its bad side, nothing seems more comforting than a few extra hours spent in bed on a Saturday. Sadly, when it’s mid-week and braving Old Man Winter is your only option, a simmering pot of something on the stove could very well be your next best friend.
A generous helping of chili con carne (taken from Spanish means “with meat”) has been a lifesaver when I’ve been short on time and needed a pick-me-up. It doesn’t need a babysitter and the longer these ingredients stay in the tub, the better. I like my chili with a bit of a kick, but feel free to add less or more spice according to your own tastes. You can also throw in your favourite chili peppers for extra bite. So, if you’re in the mood for more spicy meal ideas to chase away those winter blues, you’re in luck!
splash of olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, deseeded and diced
4-5 white mushrooms, sliced
0.5 kg (1.1 lb) extra-lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can kidney beans
1 tablespoon chili powder, to taste
1-2 tablespoons cumin, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons paprika, to taste
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and ground pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (optional)
From an early age, my brother, sister, and I have shared an insatiable fondness for hot and sour soup. Every Sunday, we would eagerly wait to see if mom and dad would be treating us to a lunch out that week. If we were so lucky, we knew we would likely be going to one of our favorite local Szechuan restaurants. Upon our arrival, our parents would ask us what we wanted to have – even though they already knew the answer. It was always the same: “Hot and sour soup!”
To this day, hot and sour remains one of my favorite feel-great, classic Chinese soups. The amazing part is that although it may not look it, hot and sour soup is actually quite simple to make. The hard part is finding the ingredients, which vary depending on regional differences.
Here is my variation on this old classic (serves a family of 4-6… for 2 days):
12 cups (or 3L) of homemade chicken or vegetable stock (If you don’t have stock, you can also use 500mL-1L of chicken or vegetable stock in combination with 8-10 cups of water)
1 pork tenderloin (this is usually around 15 oz., or 0.45 kg), minced
1 to 3 pieces of wood ear fungus depending on the size of the pieces (they may also come under the name black fungus or cloud ear fungus)
I consider my mother the goddess of all things soup – especially Chinese soups. When I moved out many years ago, this was one of the things I missed the most: her delicious, nutritious homemade soups.
One of the things she has taught me over the years is that every good soup starts out with a good soup base. And by “good”, we mean fresh, homemade, and healthy. It may take a little more time, but in the end, it’s worth it. Your soups will taste better, and your body will thank you for it too. So you don’t need to buy those artificially preserved broths – you can make your own!
As an aside, of course sometimes the reality is that when you have no time, you just have no time. If you’re in a crunch and need a quick soup stock solution, we always recommend the Campbell’s broths in the carton over any of the canned varieties. Most of the canned soups, including Campbell’s, have MSG in them, whereas the cartons are MSG-free.
Ultimately, all soup stocks are the same. They are made by adding ingredients like meat, bone, and/or vegetables to water and simmering them to extract the flavour and nutrients from them. Continue reading →
Before trying my hand at this dessert, I always had it in my mind that it was a daunting task that came with a disclaimer. Everyone had a different version: only egg whites, no eggs, heavy cream… and the list goes on. Where to start?
This is my quick version (of many!) that has been a lifesaver when I’ve needed a sweet fix:
The colder weather of the winter season always brings out the cravings for hearty, hot foods. One of my favorite seasonal ingredients to cook with is squash.
Not only is squash high in nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B, and antioxidants, but its versatile flavour and dense texture makes it a great complement to pretty much any main dish. It’s all in how you prepare it. My own preference: baked maple-glazed butternut squash. And all you need are a few simple ingredients.
1 butternut squash
1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil, to taste
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme (or 1-1/2 teaspoon of fresh thyme)
1/4 teaspoon of dried or fresh rosemary (if you’re using fresh rosemary, chop the rosemary or bruise it with the back of your knife. This will release the essential oils from the rosemary.)
1 to 2 tablespoon maple syrup (or 3/4 tablespoon of brown sugar if you don’t have maple syrup)
Sometimes, the simplest ingredients can turn into the best meals or in our case, a tasty starter. Tapenade is one of the easiest things to make and it’s perfect for an evening in when no one wants to do the dishes. You can also dress it up (or not…) for guests. All you need are olives and a few other staple ingredients.
Capers and anchovies are commonly found in tapenade, but I like to switch them up for basil or sundried tomatoes.
Here’s my basic variation:
1 to 1-1/2 cups black olives (about 27), pitted - green ones can also be used if you prefer them