The culinary adventures of a 20-something woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

The culinary adventures of a 20-something year old woman navigating the wonderful world of food!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cabbage Roll Casserole

           One of my favourite places to eat is Perth County Food Co, in Stratford Ontario. It is a gem of a deli that always has cabbage rolls available. Now that I don't live or work in Stratford it is increasingly difficult to get my hands on these delicious babies. Solution? Make them. Well, sorta.....
           Cabbage rolls are time-consuming, even though the result is totally worth it. But what to do when you want cabbage rolls but lack time? The lazy man version: cabbage roll casserole. Prep time is only about 15 minutes, and after an hour in the oven you have the deliciousness that is cabbage rolls without the effort. You are welcome :)

1 lb ground beef (or pork)
2 cloves garlic
1 large onion, diced
1 can tomato soup
1 (28oz) canned tomatoes, no salt added, including liquid
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
ground black pepper
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
1 cup brown rice
4 cups shredded cabbage

1. In a large frying pan over med-high heat, brown ground beef with onion and garlic.
2. Add tomato soup, canned tomatoes, salt, sugar, pepper, italian seasoning, wine, water and rice.
3. Combine well and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Grease a 3-qt casserole dish. Put 1/2 the cabbage in, and top with 1/2 the ground beef mixture. Add remaining cabbage then remaining beef. Make sure to get all the liquid.
5. Bake at 325F for 1 hour. Check after 35 minutes to see if there is enough (or too much) liquid for the rice. Add more water (1/4 cup at a time) or rice (1 tbsp at a time) accordingly.

Southwest Chicken Salad

           As you have noticed lately, I am big on 'meal salads.' It is all part of the preparation of being able to fit into a bikini on my pending trip to Mexico! To keep things interesting, I am constantly trying new dressings, combinations and toppings for salad so that I don't scarf down Kraft Dinner instead :)
          Last month I had a fabulous salad at the Cheesecake Factory in Florida. I wanted to re-create this combination while staying mindful of calories and fat. I am happy to report that I have succeeded! This Southwest Chicken Salad is fabulous!

Ingredients for 2 large servings:
4-6 cups torn romaine lettuce, washed & dried
1/2 red or orange pepper, sliced
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 tomato, cut into chunks
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crispy fried onions
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded
3 tbsp calorie-wise ranch dressing
3 tbsp barbeque dressing

1. In a small bowl, combine ranch & barbeque dressing. Mix well.
2. Combine dressing with lettuce and chicken, toss well.
3. Arrange lettuce and chicken on a plate. Top with peppers, tomatoes, black beans, and sprinkle cheese & fried onions on top.

Nutritional Information: About 300 calories per large serving. 5 Weight Watcher points.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cashew Beef Stir-Fry

It's that time of the year when we are all trying to incorporate more veggies into our diet. I'm pretty good about eating salad, but like most people who live in Canada in the winter, its hard to get enough vegetables.
Problem solved - stir-fry! You can use fresh OR frozen veggies, and one meal easily has two servings of vegetables, if not more.  Plus, its delicious. And the husband loves it.
I always debate about what cut of beef to use for a stir-fry. I didn't have to think about it today, as I had four perfect-looking striploin steaks in the freezer. Its going to be WAY too cold to barbeque them for a while, so this is a good option. Plus - they have just enough fat to keep the beef from getting tough as it cooks.
Be careful not use steak that is too lean - it needs fat to keep it flavourful and juicy. If you are worried, marinate it longer - even overnight - to let the juices and flavour set.

1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
juice from 1 orange (or 2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup veg oil

4 steaks
6 cups veggies (I used zucchini, carrot, broccoli, and pepper)
1/3 cup cashews
1 medium onion, chopped
rice or noodle of your choice, cooked

1. Whisk marinade ingredients together.
2. Slice steak thinly. Spread in baking dish and pour marinade over-top. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
3. Heat oil in wok. Add onion, garlic and beef, including marinade sauce.  Stirfry until beef is browned, but do NOT overcook.
4. Remove beef and keep warm.
5. Add vegetables to pan (if needed, at a bit more liquid - see below) and stir-fry for about 5 minutes, until cooked but still crisp.
6. Add beef back to vegetables and stir in cashews. Cook for about 2 minutes to ensure it is hot.
7. Serve over hot noodle of your choice.

Note - If you need more liquid for extra sauce, mix together and add to veggies:
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp corn starch
dash of orange juice

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Simple Sweet Potato & Lentil Soup

I love sweet potatoes, and I love lentils. I love them SO much that I have another soup already on this blog!  This one is a bit different - much simpler, and the ingredients do not get pureed. It resembles a traditional vegetable soup more than the previous recipe. It is loaded with fibre and vitamins, so its perfect for this time of year when most of us are on diets & detoxing post-holidays.
I used dried lentils, but you could certainly used canned. If you do choose to use the latter, make sure to rinse them well, and add them about 10 minutes before serving instead of letting them boil with the rest of the soup.

1 large sweet potato, peeled & diced (about 1 cm pieces)
1 cup dry red lentils (or 2 cups canned)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf

1. Heat oil in large saucepan. Add onion & garlic and cook until translucent.
2. Add sweet potatoes and lightly brown, about 3 minutes.
3. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Remove bay leaf.
5. Serves 6

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This recipe is so simple it really doesn't deserve a blog post. But I thought I would share as it is a fabulous side dish, and sweet potatoes are in-season around here. I usually serve them with grilled chicken and asparagus, or steak instead of regular baked potatoes.

2 large sweet potatoes (about 2lbs)
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
2 tbsp oil
1/4 cup onion, diced

1. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut into small pieces.
2. In large boil, mix all ingredients.
3. Pour onto lightly greased baking pan and bake at 400F for approximately 25 minutes - longer if you prefer them crispy.

Tip: To change things up, you can also use 1 packet of dry onion soup mix instead of the salt & pepper and onion.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thai Mango Chicken Salad

My mother-in-law makes the BEST salads. She is the Queen of salad-making. So when she mentioned that she had a good recipe for a Thai Mango Chicken Salad, I knew we were in for a treat.
This is definitely a main-course salad. It stands on its own two feet without being some type of appetizer for another meal. I paired it with fresh bread and white wine and it was the perfect light meal.


1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanuts
2 firm, but ripe mangoes 
1 large sweet red pepper (could also use yellow, orange, or combination)
2 carrots, coarsely grated
6 cups mixed greens torn (I like spring mix or “baby spinach”)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh mint
4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded (could also use pork or shrimp)

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable oil 
1 tsp grated lime rind
2 TBSP fresh squeezed lime juice
1 TBSP fish sauce or soy sauce
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp minced hot pepper OR 1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/4 tsp each salt and pepper


  1. In skillet toast peanuts over medium heat until fragrant and dark golden (about 8 minutes) and then set aside.
  2. Peel, pit and thinly slice mangoes lengthwise. Seed, core and thinly slice red pepper
  3. Mix together mangoes, red pepper, carrots, mixed greens, green onions and mint.
  4. In a large bowl, wisk together oil, lime rind, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, hot pepper, salt and pepper.

Toss the salad with dressing to taste, then sprinkle with toasted peanuts. This recipe serves 4 for a main course salad.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Poulet Endormi

       The temperature here today is supposed to be -10C. Minus TEN. If I can get away without leaving the house, I will. That is way, way too cold for me. 
        When it gets that cold outside, I am a huge fan of "comfort foods" - casseroles, stews, soups, and chilli. Meals that can be made in one-pot with little fuss. This recipe for "Poulet Endormi" (chicken on a bed of rice) is one of those recipes. It is easy to make, and uses ingredients that most of us would have in our fridge or cupboards on a regular basis. 
         I used frozen peas and canned tomatoes and everything was perfect. Feel free to modify one or two ingredients to suit personal taste.
          I don't have a photo for this because pictures of casseroles never do them justice - you will just have to trust me that I only blog recipes that are fabulous!!

3-4 chicken breasts, boneless, cut into pieces
Fresh ground salt & pepper
Sprinkle of paprika
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2-4 cups chicken broth or bouillon
1 cup white wine (reduce broth accordingly)
3 cups tomatoes, canned or fresh
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup sliced carrot
1 cup peas (I used frozen)
1 cup rice, uncooked
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. Season chicken with salt, pepper and paprika. Heat oil and butter in skillet and brown the pieces of chicken on all sides. Remove and keep warm.
2. In the skillet put the onion and garlic and saute until onion is tender. Add 2 cups of chicken broth, wine, tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Add rest of ingredients except parsley and combine well. 
3. Scrape all ingredients into a baking dish,  put the chicken on top.
4. Cover tightly and bake at 325F for 1 hour. Check after 30 minutes - it may need up to 1 cup more of chicken broth (rice being the greedy ingredient that it is!) 
3. Sprinkle parsley on just before serving. Serves 4.

Don't forget to remove the bay leaf! I like to bake with it in the casserole instead of removing it before it goes into the oven.

Adapted from Edna Staebler - More Food That Really Schmecks

Grandma's Ginger Snaps

         Many of you have had Grandma's Lemon Loaf, and know that it is the best lemon loaf recipe in existence. Well, this recipe for ginger snaps is another one of those. Every time I share the cookies, I get asked for the recipe. It is really, really good. 
         There are a few ways you can do the white sugar on top - before or after they bake. I would experiment and do a tray each way and decide what you (and your oven) likes best. I strongly encourage no substitutions unless you are an expert baker.
          I used these cookies in my Cookie Tins at Christmas - I handed out about 25 tins, and was asked for this recipe from a record 14 people!! I actually quadrupled the recipe and it worked fine. I found the best method for getting perfect cookies involved rolling the dough into a "log"; putting it in the fridge overnight and cutting into perfect circles in the morning by slicing 1/4" pieces from the log. I sprinkled with sugar before I baked, and added a tiny bit after. 

3/4 Cup Crisco shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp molasses
White sugar for dusting - about 1/3 cup

1. In a large bowl sift together flour, soda, and spices.
2. In a medium bowl, cream sugar with Crisco. Add egg and molasses and mix well. 
3. Mix wet & dry ingredients until well-blended. 
4. Form into a log and wrap tightly with saran wrap
5. Put dough into fridge all night or at least 4 hours until baking.
6. Spray a non-stick cookie pan with Pam and cut cookies about 1/8".
7. Sprinkle lightly with sugar - if you have trouble getting the sugar to stick, lightly indent cookies with a fork.
8. Bake at 350 F approx 9 minutes.

When you remove the cookies from the oven, dust with more white sugar. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm so Tardy!!

I have been quite neglectful of this blog throughout the month of December. Well, I had good reason as the husband and I were on holidays!! We ate the most delicious food throughout our travels and of course I just HAD to take photos! Here is a sampling of some of my favourite dishes:

Warm Goat Cheese in Phyllo Pastry with Cranberry & Toasted Nuts

Bibb Salad Wrapped in Cucumber

Original Cheesecake with Strawberry by Rudi Sodoman

Watermelon Pie (Raspberry Sorbet with Chocolate Chip "Seeds")

The Dutch Dessert Extravaganza by Holland America

Welcome to the Neighbourhood Pumpkin Bread

      As most of you know, I often give away Grandma's Lemon Loaf when someone moves into the neighbourhood. It has become a massive hit amongst those on Lakeview Drive. However, with fall upon us, and an abundance of pumpkin; I decided to change it up a bit.
        I wanted to test it first, since 'welcome to the neighbourhood' bread must be perfect. I made a loaf for our neighbours whom are dear friends - and brutally honest (they are from New Jersey, enough said). I knew if it wasn't good they would tell me, something along the lines of "dear, next time could you make the lemon loaf?"
         The response was hilarious: "dear, I don't even LIKE pumpkin bread and this loaf is F-A-B-U-L--O-U-S!!! Could we get the recipe?"

        So, my pumpkin bread will be the fall welcome, and the lemon loaf for the spring. You can decide what you prefer, and since there is a house just down the street for sale, give me my answer :)

1 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup sugar (I used half Splenda)
2 eggs
3/4 C canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup applesauce (or oil)

1. In large bowl, mix flour, soda, salt, powder & spices. In a separate bowl, mix sugar, eggs, pumpkin, vanilla & applesauce together.
2. Combine & mix well (but do NOT over-mix).
3. Pour into a 7x3 loaf pan that is greased & lightly floured.
4. Bake in pre-heated oven at 375 F for 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.

Nutritional Information:
Per slice (loaf makes 10-12 slices) Approx 200 calories
Weight watchers: 4 points