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Ratatouille: a simple classic

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With holiday entertaining just around the corner, I love this ratatouille for its simplicity, presentation and better yet, low maintenance. All you need to do is slice, stack, and bake. The majority of the time spent for this dish is in the baking, which frees you up to do other things – like preparing other parts of your feast or getting ready to look your best! Either way, it’s a win win.

Ingredients: (serves 4-6)

  • 1 Japanese eggplant (you can use regular eggplant too, I like the Japanese eggplants as they’re bigger in girth, which works better for stacking)
  • 4 medium tomatos
  • 1 large zucchini or 2-3 small ones
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, or fresh if you have it
  • Fresh basil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

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Pot au feu: A winter retreat

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For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, winter is definitely here. With the shorter days, blustering winds, occasional snow, and sub-zero temperatures, this kind of climate calls for food of a heartier kind that warms both body and soul. So earlier this week, with that in mind, I made pot au feu, a traditional French beef stew and also the origin and inspiration behind the much loved Vietnamese phở noodle soups (also pronounced the same way). Not only is pot au feu hearty, but it lends itself well to communal eating as well… if you wish.

At its heart, pot au feu is made from stewing a combination of different cuts of meats and bone. It’s up to you what you use, there really isn’t a wrong way. Select both fatty and leaner cuts of meat, along with cartilaginous bone and you’ll have a great pot au feu on your hands. You’ll also be using seasonal root vegetables to round out your stew. Again, it’s up to you what you put in. I like the combination of carrots, turnip, and onions – potatoes and celery are also popular additions.

Ingredients: (serves 4-5)

  • 1 lbs. of beef shoulder roast (preferably with the bone), leave whole
  • 1 lbs. of beef round roast, leave whole
  • 1 oxtail and or 3-5 pieces of bone marrow
  • 0.75 lbs. of beef sirloin or other lean meat, leave whole
  • 7 small to medium carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 large turnips or 4 to 5 small turnips, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium spanish onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 leek (the white part only), coarsely chopped
  • 1 bouquet garni made with thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves (Go easy on the rosemary as a little goes a long way. You should have a loose bundle of mainly thyme with about 8 to 10 small to medium stems, 1 to 2 stems of rosemary, and about 2 to 3 bay leaves, depending on the size of your leaves.)
  • 4 cloves or 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cloves if you don’t have the full ones
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • coarsely ground pepper, to taste

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A chilled reprieve: Zaru Soba

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It’s been a hot week. Sticky hot. The kind of hot where a walk down the block leaves your skin glistening, heart working a little overtime, and feet feeling a couple beats heavier. But it’s also been the last week of August and where we are, that may signal (possibly) the last of our summer. I really hope not. Some may call it denial, I like thinking of it as a hopeful optimism. So in anticipation of a little more summer spilling over into the September we kick off today, I’m posting on Zaru Soba: chilled buckwheat noodles. The perfect meal to satiate the lesser appetite that often comes with a stifling heat that also offers a little reprieve. Best part, it’s very fast and easy to make.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 200 to 250g of dried soba noodles (1/2 of a larger 500g package)
  • 1/2 cup of mentsuyu (you can purchase this in a ready-made bottle, or make your own homemade version – I’ll be posting the recipe up tomorrow.)
  • 1/3 cup of seaweed, shredded (about one sheet of nori sliced up)
  • 1-2 green onions, finely chopped (also called scallions)
  • wasabi
  • 2 teaspoons of white or black sesame seeds (optional)

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My love for Pad Thai

pad thaiPad thai is one of my favourite dishes that I can rarely get enough of. While in Thailand, my husband and I would frequently walk down the street from where we were staying to get dishes upon dishes of homemade pad thai made before our very eyes. The ingredients would vary slightly depending on the lady cooking for us, but the result was always delicious. What’s more, the dishes usually cost around $1 to $2 CAD. It inspired me to try to make my own.

The other night, I finally tried my hand at making it. This recipe outlines how I made my pad thai and is simple to follow and straight forward, but does take some time. I’d recommend setting aside about 2 to 3 hours for prep and cooking time if it’s your first time making it – about 1-2 hours once you become more practiced.

Ingredients: (serves 5)

  • 3/4 of a package of dried pad thai rice noodles (package will say “pad thai” on it)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of dried tamarind powder or 3 tablespoons of pulp (add more if you like a touch more of a tangy, sour flavour in your pad thai)
  • 1 cup boiling hot water
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha
  • 1 bunch of green onions (sometimes called scallions), chopped to 1 to 2 inches in length
  • 1/2 a large carrot, finely sliced into strips or quarters
  • 5 shallots, finely sliced in thin strips
  • 1 package of firm tofu (or deep fried tofu), cut into inch-long strips
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (you can also use a full cup of either peanut or vegetable oil)
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained

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Pineapple potato tacos

potato tacosOne of my favourite meals while my sister and I were in Mexico were the street tacos (Vine video at the bottom of this post). We had no idea what the different options were, and weren’t able to find out past “carne” (meat) or “pollo” (chicken) with the language barrier. So, we would point to one of the delicious looking options… and devour the result. Of these options, the one that surprised me the most was one that looked highly-textured that turned out to be potatoes and pineapple. I liked it so much that when we got home, my hubby and I tried to replicate it. This is his recipe.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 medium sized red potatoes, chopped
  • half a pineapple, chopped (or one can of pineapple nibblets, mostly drained)
  • 1 medium sized white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a small can of tomato paste
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine (if you’re not vegan, you can use butter)
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable stock
  • Soft-shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • Grated cheese of your choice (we used Okanogan’s Soy Co. vegan mozzarella)
  • Salsa
  • Guacamole
  • 1/4 of a lime

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Pulled pork tacos

My hubby-to-be and I were having a couple friends over for dinner this week, and wanted to have something fun to eat that was communal, and also hearty for the winter months. In the end, we settled on pulled pork tacos. What’s better than sitting together, assembling our own tacos? (Okay, possibly a fondue or Chinese hot pot, but that’s for next time.)

The most labour-intensive part of this recipe is the pork, which I’d recommend making the night before you want to eat it. The longer you cook it, the softer and tastier the pork becomes. What’s great about this recipe is that it practically makes itself. All you need is a slow cooker or a thermal cooker. I use a thermal cooker for all my slow cooking and soups, which is probably one of my most highly recommended (and well-used) kitchen items I have. It keeps the heat, and cooks without requiring electricity or monitoring. More on the thermal cooker in a future post.

Ingredients: (serves 6-8)

  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped coarsely into eighths
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of chicken stock
  • 1/2 can of crushed tomatoes (which usually come in a large can)
  • 1 (3 pound) boneless pork butt, cut into large 4-inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • 1 orange, halved and juiced
  • 1 lime, halved and juiced
  • 1 package of soft shelled tacos

Garnish:

  • 1/2 sweet onion, peeled, chopped into strips
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/4 ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon, cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups of finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1-1/2 cup of grated cheese of your choice (we love mozzarella or gruyère)
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole (optional)

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