Tangy White Bean Dip

Ever since my toddler learned to say the word “dip” he has been requesting it with every meal, including breakfast! He loves dunking breadsticks in hummus, apple slices in vanilla yogurt, and French fries in ketchup. Not only is the dipping activity good fine motor practice for him, but it gives him a little taste of independence while giving me a little freedom to do other things while he is feeding himself—like eat my own meal! Today I experimented with a tasty new healthy dip, which he enjoyed eating with sesame breadsticks and celery. Make that two of us; I liked it too!

bean dip1 can (19 oz.) white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp. chopped garlic (or 2 cloves)
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. plain yogurt (I like Astro Balkan style)
1 tbsp. dried dill
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. paprika
1 tbsp. honey
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Serve with breadsticks, crackers, and/or veggies. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Unrolled Cabbage Stir Fry (Stew)

cabbage stir fry

If you enjoy the taste of cabbage rolls but, like me, are too busy to assemble them, you’ll love this quick and easy stir fry! It has all the flavour with only one pan to clean up. The consistency is almost like a hearty cabbage stew. Even my toddler loves this!

1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large head green cabbage, chopped in thin pieces
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup whole wheat couscous (or rice or quinoa)
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook couscous according to package directions.

In a large nonstick pan on medium high heat, cook ground beef with onion and garlic until meat is almost fully cooked. Add mushrooms if using and continue to fry until meat is browned. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for one hour.

Serve in bowls with freshly baked bread.

NOTES: Rice or quinoa could be substituted for the couscous if you prefer. I just like to use couscous because it has a fine consistency that blends well with the other ingredients, stretching the dish without being too conspicuous. (I use it instead of rice in my stuffed peppers too and always get compliments!) I added mushrooms on a whim because I love mushrooms and had some that I wanted to use up, but you can leave them out if they’re not your thing.

Chicken Satay: Oven Method

Just because it’s too cold to grill outside (plus our propane tank is empty and we won’t refill it until next spring) doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy dishes like this one, with flavours that remind us of warmer climates. The chicken is marinaded in a lime and curry mixture, then broiled and served with a creamy Thai peanut sauce, which gets its kick from sriracha.

Traditionally, the chicken pieces are threaded onto skewers for grilling. I decided to do without them this time for convenience’s sake.

Oven Broiled Chicken Satay with Creamy Thai Peanut Sauce

3 tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
Crushed peanuts (optional)

Peanut sauce:
2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sriracha hot pepper sauce

Mix lime juice, curry powder, honey, coriander, cumin, salt, and garlic in a resealable plastic bag or shallow dish with a lid. Add chicken and stir to coat with lime juice mixture. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Whisk together peanut sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Warm on low heat while you broil the chicken.

Set oven control to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray. Spread chicken pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet, and brush generously with the marinade. Discard any remaining marinade. Broil about 3 inches from heat for 10-20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink in centre. Serve chicken with peanut sauce, additional sriracha, and crushed peanuts if desired. Goes well with noodles or rice.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Canadians are giving thanks this weekend. In honour of the occasion, I ceremoniously picked the first ripe pumpkin from my garden and cooked it like I always do. Time to dig out Mom’s old pumpkin pie recipe and roast some pumpkin seeds!

Mom’s Pumpkin Pie

Pastry for 9″ pie
1 cup milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
(preferably fresh, but canned will do)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 heaping tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
Additional nutmeg for garnish
Whipped cream (optional)

Combine all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Pour into pie crust and sprinkle with additional nutmeg. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour. Cool completely and serve with whipped cream if desired.

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (about what you get from 1 small pie pumpkin)
1 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 drop hot pepper sauce (more if you like it spicier)

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Remove large chunks of pumpkin flesh from the seeds. Leaving small traces of pumpkin is ok; it adds flavour to the seeds. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin seeds and melted butter. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Spread seeds evenly over the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 mins. until crispy. Watch them carefully so the seeds don’t burn. You’ll know they are done when the sugary mixture on the foil turns brown. If it turns black, you’ve baked them too long.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet (if you can resist eating them all when they’re warm and crunchy from the oven). Savour the sweet and salty flavours—the perfect balance. Then say to yourself, “See, this is why you were wise to choose a real pumpkin for your pie this year, instead of that canned nonsense.”

In the unlikely event of leftovers, store roasted completely cooled pumpkin seeds in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Blueberry Banana Bread

I’ve heard of adding chocolate chips or nuts to banana bread… but blueberries? I had two mushy bananas sitting on my counter and decided I had to do something with them. Since I happened to have a bag of blueberries in my freezer, I threw them in on a whim.

The verdict: I’d definitely make this again. The blueberries add sweetness and moisture to the bread, which smells heavenly while it’s baking. Blueberries, bananas, vanilla, and nutmeg all have pleasing aromas on their own; put them together, and you have a delightful combination.

If your home is air-conditioned and you are able to turn on the oven during the summer, this bread would be a great way to use freshly picked blueberries. Otherwise, you can use frozen blueberries any time of year.

Blueberry Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 or 3)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Cream butter and sugar together. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Add banana and vanilla; mix well.

In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Add to banana mixture, stirring just to moisten. Fold in blueberries.

Transfer to a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let stand 10 mins. before removing from pan to cool.

Mandarin Orange Salad

I like this summery salad for several reasons: the crunchy toasted almonds, the juicy sweet mandarin orange segments, the colourful appearance of all the ingredients tossed together. I also love the fact that since it’s so easy to make, it allows me to spend more time relaxing on the deck with the people I care about. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any summer BBQ menu.

Mandarin orange saladMandarin Orange Salad

3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 package romaine hearts
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 bottle Kraft mandarin orange with sesame dressing

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time. Allow toasted almonds to cool to room temperature.

Wash and dry the romaine; tear into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large serving bowl and top with oranges and toasted almonds. Serve immediately with orange sesame dressing.

Strawberry Mango Smoothies

Perfect for a rainy Saturday morning! I intend to make some as soon as I’m finished writing this.

Strawberry Mango Smoothies

5 large fresh or individually frozen strawberries, not thawed (approx. 1 cup)
1 cup fresh or frozen mango chunks, not thawed
1/4 cup plain yogurt (I like to use Astro Balkan Style)
3-4 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract (optional)

Place first 5 ingredients in a blender. Add milk to the 0.5-litre line. Process on the smoothie setting (high), adding more milk if necessary, to desired consistency. Pour into 2 tall glasses and serve.

New Books, New Recipes!

I love my job!! Yesterday while I was unpacking some boxes of new books for the library, I came across three shiny new recipe books. Talk about perfect timing: they were all slow cooker recipe books! Must be a trend. Anyway, I couldn’t wait to bring them home and devour them.

Slow Cooker Revolution

by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen

“One test kitchen. 30 slow cookers. 200 amazing recipes.”

That lasagna on the cover sure looks tempting. There are some intriguing recipes inside too, like Loaded Baked Potato Soup, Lamb Vindaloo for you Indian food lovers like me, and even some jam and marmalade recipes. Not to mention some yummy desserts and fondues.


Slow-Cooker Quick Fixes

by the Editors of Southern Living Magazine

“15 minutes, ready to cook”—so the cover of this colourful, eye-appealing volume claims. I love the Slow-Cooker Secrets that are sprinkled throughout the pages—handy little tips like: don’t add dairy products till near the end of the cooking time, or else they will curdle. And did you know that browning ribs in the oven first will help make your sauce thicker? That’s news to me! I’ll have to keep that in mind the next time I make ribs in the slow cooker.

More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

by Stephanie O’Dea

I enjoyed Stephanie O’Dea’s first slow cooker recipe book, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow. I loved the conversational way she described her recipes and her family’s reactions to them. At work, we have little coloured stickers for the staff to stick on our favourite books, so library patrons will know what we’ve enjoyed reading. Mine are purple and say, “Leanne’s Picks.” Well, let’s just say that Make It Fast, Cook It Slow got a purple sticker on its cover! I’m sure this second volume will deserve one too.

Slow Cooker Favourites: Part 1

Planning your Easter menu? If you want to serve the traditional ham and scalloped potatoes (I shared my recipe in a previous post), here’s a simple and delicious version. It gets its great flavour from the juicy sweet pineapple chunks and Dijon mustard glaze. Enjoy some quality time with your family while it simmers on your countertop. And feel free to serve it any time of year, not just on Easter.

Slow Cooked Ham With Pineapple

1 ham (approx. 1 kg / 2 lbs.)
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 can pineapple chunks with juice

Grease the inside of the crockpot or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Place ham inside.

Combine brown sugar, honey, and mustard in a small bowl; spread over ham. Add pineapple with juice. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. (Ham is done when its internal temperature reaches at least 160 F.) Slice the ham and serve hot with the pineapple and the liquid from the slow cooker as a sauce.

Serves 4.

My Crockpot, My Friend

Whoever invented the slow cooker, I would like to shake your hand. Being able to cook delicious meals without physically being in the kitchen, or even in my house for that matter, is truly marvellous, especially when I’m at work all day. In April, I’ll share a few of my favourite slow cooker recipes. For now, here is a great book to whet your appetite!

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two

by Beth Hensperger

I found this unique cookbook at the library. It has some delicious-sounding ideas, like salsa chicken, ginger-plum pork, and chicken mole (which I’ve never tried before, but which my sister-in-law informs me is an amazing Mexican dish). You can even make overnight oatmeal for breakfast. (Now that sounds a lot better than my usual bowl of cold cereal!)

The cauliflower soup with leeks in it sounds tempting. Hopefully it’s as good as the leek and potato soup my grandma used to make. Honey barbeque ribs — my husband will definitely love those. And watermelon salsa served alongside pork tenderloin — I’ll have to try that one this summer.

Now excuse me while I go copy some of these recipes and add them to my can’t-wait-to-try pile!