Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lentil Shepherd's Pie

This is a quick meal to put together after a busy day. Serves 4.

Peel equal amounts of white and sweet potatoes, cut in chunks, and boil in salted water until soft.

At the same time, cook 1 cup of green or brown lentils in salted water until tender or use 1 tin of prepared lentils.

In a wok or dutch oven, add a little oil and sauté;-

2 onions
2 cloves garlic
1 large carrot, diced
1 cup frozen peas
Seasonings to taste- i.e. oregano, herbes province, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper

You could add any other vegetables you want such as cauliflower, mushrooms, corn or green beans or just use a couple of cups of frozen mixed vegetables. Cut the vegetables in a uniform size.

Add some vegetable broth and simmer until vegetables are tender so you have a stew-like consistency. Add the cooked lentils and stir everything together.

Mash potatoes with milk of your choice, butter or sour cream if desired, and season to taste.

Serve the lentils over the mashed potatoes or make a casserole with a lentil base and potato topping.

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, salsa if you want.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Masala Poutine

We visited Quebec City in September and were advised to try a restaurant called Le Chic Shack which is located just below the Plains of Abraham and Château Frontenac in the old city. It was September 13th, the anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham where the French and British troops fought in 1759. Le Chic Shack is locally famous for its poutine, a calorie-laden French Canadian dish of french fries with cheese curds and gravy.

 I chose masala poutine, a spicy East Indian version that did not disappoint! The potatoes were roasted, curry sauce was used rather than gravy, and the potatoes and curds were garnished with chutney, cherry tomatoes and hot peppers. The restaurant also serves burgers and chicken but I don't know how a person could eat the hearty poutine and a burger in one sitting.

This was a dish that had to be re-created at home. We ate the most successful version tonight, which is significantly modified from the original. It still features the complex flavours of curry and cheese with potatoes. I used this recipe from Kimchi Mom as a starting place for experimentation.  I found a mild Indian Curry Sauce at Farm Boy which is low in calories (50 calories per 1/2 cup) and very flavourful. It works perfectly for the gravy. My next experiment will be reproducing the curry sauce.

Spice Mixture:

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1-2 cloves freshly pressed garlic (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F

Cut 3 pounds of potatoes in wedges or chunks and lightly toss with olive oil. I used half white potatoes and half sweet potatoes. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the potatoes and mix with a spoon until they are evenly coated. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet and roast until tender- about 30 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting you can make this optional fresh chutney. If you want it to be hot, use the entire pepper, otherwise remove the seeds.


1 large bunch of fresh cilantro, stems and leaves (3 cups) washed and drained.
1 jalapeño pepper
zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 ripe avocado (optional but delicious!)

Pulse the chutney ingredients in a food processor or blender until pureed. The chutney keeps for a week or so in the fridge and can be used as a condiment for other dishes.

When the potatoes are tender you are ready to assemble to dish. It can be made as spicy or mild as desired.


Grated "melty" cheese or curds
Curry sauce or gravy, heated
Cherry tomatoes, halved or chopped fresh tomatoes
Other vegetables- we added a few steamed brussels sprouts today
Sliced jalapeños, fresh or pickled
Sour cream
Fried onions

Enjoy! This is an ultimate, one dish comfort meal.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Lentil Mushroom Tacos

These are so delicious that you will never miss the meat. Even the household meat-lover agreed. We teamed up and made fresh corn tortillas while the lentils and other vegetables were cooking, and the meal came together in 40 minutes. The meal could be made in 20 minutes if you purchased tortillas and canned lentils.

1 cup dry green/brown lentils- I prefer the smallest ones I can find

Rinse the lentils. Add them to a saucepan with 4 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and boil until tender- about 30 minutes

In the meantime, sauté

2 chopped onions
1 diced jalapeño pepper with or without seeds depending on your heat preference
8 oz chopped fresh mushrooms
2-3 minced cloves of garlic
2 diced plum tomatoes

Season with

1 tablespoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
dried oregano to taste

Drain the cooked lentils and add them to the sautéd vegetables

Serve with garnishes of your choice;- Avocado, diced tomato, shredded lettuce, salsa, sour cream, etc

Serves 4-6

Friday, 1 July 2016

Partridgeberry Squares

Today is Canada Day, the 149th anniversary of Confederation. It is also my father's 84th birthday and we are not able to travel 2000 km to his birthday party. So we made a sweet treat at home to celebrate both events.

We visited Newfoundland last summer and enjoyed Partridgeberry Squares at cafés in Trinity and St. John's. The squares were served with butter icing or cream cheese icing which is not featured in the picture above. We found a "Newfie" store in Cambridge ON that sells frozen partridgeberries at a reasonable price. They are very similar to, if not the same as lingonberries that are sold at Ikea stores.

Here is the very simple recipe. It also works well with wild blueberries. The squares are similar to brownies or blondies.


1/2 cup softened butter
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1teaspoon vanilla
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
2 cups coconut
2 cups partridgeberries

Cream cheese frosting:

1 250 g package cream cheese
1 and 1/4 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla. Add flour and milk stirring well until smooth, then mix in coconut and berries. There is no added salt or leavening in this recipe. 
  • Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan. Bake in 350 degree oven, 30 to 40 minutes, the longer time if using frozen berries. Cool.
  • Spread frosting on cooled squares
Here is my daughter's take on the squares via Snapchat :-)


Sunday, 5 April 2015

Hot Cross Sourdough Loaves

I have kept a healthy jar of sourdough made with just flour and water for almost 2 years now. It needs to be fed weekly so I make sourdough flatbreads, injera with teff flour, or whole wheat sourdough loaves on the weekend.

In the beginning it took two weeks of daily feeding and fermentation to develop the natural yeast so that it could be used for bread. I followed S. John Ross' instructions on this page and use his recipe for my bread. Natural yeasts take longer to rise but the fermentation provides a number of health benefits including a lower glycemic index, a break down of starches and gluten, and the presence of beneficial bacteria. Due to its acetic acid content, it is resistant to developing mould.

This weekend I planned to make hot cross buns but the dough was slow to rise due to cool temperatures overnight. In a rush this morning, I made 2 loaves instead and the results were even more gratifying than expected. I read a few recipes for hot cross buns using instant yeast and modified my standby sourdough bread method.

Ingredients and method for 1 loaf:
  • 2 cups developed sourdough sponge (1:1 water and flour with 1/4-1/2 cup starter from jar)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • you could add 1/4 cup powdered milk if desired. I added 2 tablespoons of 10% cream.
Mix these ingredients together until well blended. Gradually add
  • 3 cups Graham flour (or white/whole wheat blend)
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon or powdered chai spice- mix the spices in 1 cup of the flour
The amount of flour is approximate and can vary from week to week. Add flour until you can knead an elastic ball of dough that is not sticky. You don't want to add too much flour either so add it gradually at the end. 

Flatten the kneaded dough into a rectangle and sprinkle it with 
  • 3/4 cup of raisins, craisins, candied peel or whatever you want. You can add some grated orange or lemon rind for extra flavour. Fold the dough up and knead until the fruit is distributed evenly.
At this point I let the bread rise overnight in my wok that has a lid. Today it did not rise well because it was cold so I turned the oven on briefly to100 F and put the wok in for a couple of hours. Do not leave the oven on. 

When the dough has risen to at least double, knead it down and form into a loaf. Place in greased loaf pan and cover with a tea towel while the the dough rises again.  This rise usually takes less time.

When the dough has doubled again you can make the cross. 
  • Combine 1 tablespoon white flour with 1 tablespoon water and pipe the shape of a cross on the top of the loaf. I put the mixture in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off to squeeze it out in a controlled way. 
Place loaf in oven and set to 350 F. (I do not preheat the oven) Bake for 40 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and place on a rack. Brush the top of the loaf with some warmed honey. 

Let the bread cool and enjoy!

I used Graham flour and Mangal tea masala for the spice

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Mexican Christmas Punch

This recipe is based on one found on Mexicrave for Ponche Navideño. My daughter made this for me last month and I really enjoyed it. I do not have access to fresh guavas, tejocotes or sugar cane so this is a Canadian version. It is served warm with a spoon so the fruit can be eaten after you finish the drink.


Makes 10-12 cups

10 cups water,

1/2 cup loose hibiscus tea

3 tamarind pods, shells removed

1 orange, cut into quarters, skin left intact

1 red apple, chopped into small cubes

2 pears, chopped into small cubes

7-10 pitted prunes, chopped

handful of raisins

3 or 4 cinnamon sticks

3 cloves

1 cup brown sugar


Put 10 cups of water in a large pot. Add peeled tamarind pods and hibiscus tea. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the pods and loose tea petals

Add the cut up fruit, cinnamon, cloves and sugar.

Cover pot and let simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Stir very well to make sure the flavours and sugars combine.

Ladle into heat proof mugs and serve warm.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Chai from Scratch

Last week I forgot to put a tea bag in my lunch bag and ended up going to the cafeteria to get a hot drink. I had a choice of decaffeinated tea (uggh!) or a chai tea bag in hot water. The chai was weak and watery unlike the creamy and delicious drinks I have been served at Indian restaurants. This week I experimented with masala chai recipes and came up with one that is versatile and inexpensive. Vanilla beans are the most costly item but they are optional. The best way to make vanilla chai is to add vanilla syrup as your sweetener. My vanilla syrup recipe is here. The cinnamon sticks in the ethnic section of our supermarket were less than half the price of the cinnamon sticks in the baking aisle. The other spices were purchased at a bulk store. I like the heat of ginger and added a generous amount but any of the spices can be increased or decreased according to preference or availability. Assam tea is traditionally used and a bold black loose tea is my choice. Green tea or rooibos tea can also be used.

This recipe is based on one found at Crunchy Betty's epic guide to making your own chai. I like a stronger brew and increased the amount of tea and some other spices. It is worth reading the information about chai at this link.

  • 7 cinnamon sticks (3 inches long), broken into smallish pieces
  • 15 green cardamom pods  (crushed/cracked with a mortar and pestle)
  • 15 whole cloves
  • 5 allspice berries coarsely crushed
  • Ginger root- 2-3 inches, cut into slices
  • 1 tsp black or white peppercorns coarsely crushed
  • 2 vanilla beans, sliced open (optional)
  • 9 cups of cold water
Combine the above ingredients in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes on the stove. Remove from the heat and add

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed (or anise seed) 
  • 4 tablespoons black tea leaves or equivalent amount in tea bags
  • 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
Let the tea steep for 15 minutes (less or more time according to preference) and strain into a jug.
You now have 8 cups of chai concentrate which can be kept in the fridge. When you are ready to have a drink, heat the chai and add warmed milk and sweetener of your choice. I like a ratio of 3:1 tea to milk and add 1 spoonful of honey to a 12 ounce mug.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Black Bean Soup

The temperature this morning was "minus double digit" cold again even though it is March. This relentless winter pushes one to hibernate or fill up on warm comfort foods. This morning I put the high fibre cereal box back in the cupboard and heated some delicious black bean soup left over from dinner last night. With a freshly made sourdough whole wheat tortilla and a cuppa tea, I was ready to face the day.

In a large pot add
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 1/2 large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until onions are starting to brown.

  • 2 cups broth
  • 1/2 cup fresh salsa (I used Costco's fresh salsa)
  • 4 cups black beans
  • 1/2 cup corn (optional)
  • Additional seasonings like basil, oregano, cayenne, red pepper flakes, chili powder to taste
Simmer until vegetables are tender and then crush 2 cloves of garlic in soup.
Put half the soup in a blender and process until smooth. Add blended mixture back into the pot. Stir and serve. Garnish as desired with sour cream, lime, tortilla chips.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lentil Curry

I made this tonight in 30 minutes and it was a warming, nourishing meal before we went out to shovel the snow that fell today.

Early prep: Soak 1 cup of brown or green lentils overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft but not mushy. OR- use 3 cups canned lentils

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp crushed cumin seeds
1-2 tbsp minced ginger (I used some from a jar)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1-2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 medium onions coarsely chopped
2 large portabello mushroom, diced
2 large potatoes, diced
1 cup water
6 oz coconut milk (small tin)
3 cups cooked lentils
a couple of large handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Heat oil in a wok and add crushed cumin seeds, onion, ginger. Cook onions until translucent. Add other seasonings. Add portabello mushrooms and potato and toss until coated with spices. Add water and simmer with lid on until potatoes are tender. Add lentils, coconut milk and spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Adjust seasonings adding more salt if desired.

Serve on rice or with a flatbread. Serves 4 generously.

Options: This recipe would work well with diced carrots, cauliflower or sweet potato instead of the other vegetables. Other greens could be used instead of spinach.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Cardamom Rice Pudding

I had a couple of bags of milk that needed to be used up before their expiry date and decided to make rice pudding on this cold and blustery day. I usually make rice pudding in a double boiler with short grain rice, milk, eggs and raisins but decided to try a version I had tasted in an Indian restaurant. After reviewing a few online recipes I used these ingredients to make a very comforting and aromatic pudding.
  • 4 cups milk- I used 1% cow's milk but a combination of cream, coconut milk and other milks can be used
  • 1/2 cup white basmati rice
  • 8 cardamom pods crushed with pestle. Remove the seed hulls and crush the black seeds. You could use 1 teaspoon ground cardamom instead.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup white sugar or other sweetener to taste (optional)
Combine ingredients and cook them over boiling water in a double boiler until rice is very soft. This takes about an hour. Stir mixture occasionally. When it is starting to thicken up add:
  • 1/4 cup diced apricots or raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds or pistachios
  • 1/4 cup flaked coconut (optional but tasty)
  • a dash of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Let the pudding simmer for another 10 minutes or so without letting it get too thick and dry. Remove from heat and let it cool before serving. I like it warm or chilled.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Chocolate Avocado Pudding

This is creamiest chocolate pudding ever! Put four ingredients in a blender and dessert is ready in less than 5 minutes.

Serves 4

2 large ripe avocados peeled and quartered
1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)

You can also add a little vanilla or flavouring of your choice.

Blend until smooth and serve.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Easy No-Bake Coconut Cocoa Cookies

I made these cookies twice this month. The first batch was a tasty disaster, edible only if frozen. It is important to use quick cooking oats rather than large flake oats and the milk/sugar/butter mixture must boil for 3 minutes before adding the other ingredients. I doubled the recipe from the link below but cut the sugar down to 3/4c (1-1/2 cups in the double recipe). I had these at a local buffet and they were served as squares rather than as drop cookies. In either form they are easy and delicious.

What's Baking in the Barbershop?!: Easy No-Bake Coconut Cocoa Cookies: This week is all about bringing you recipes that don't require the oven. The first no-bake recipe I shared this week was on the hea...

Here is the recipe in case the link above goes dead. The sugar amount has been decreased


-1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter (or coconut oil)
-1/4 cup milk (I used 1%)
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 cup quick cooking oats
-1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 tsp. vanilla
-pinch of salt
-approx. 2/3 to 3/4 cup shredded coconut (optional)


Line two cookie sheets with wax or parchment paper. Put butter, milk, and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Let the mixture boil for 3 minutes; this is important! Set a timer to be sure it boils for 3 full minutes. After 3 minutes, take the pan off the heat, and stir in the oats, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt. If using, stir in the coconut. Drop mixture by spoonful onto the wax or parchment paper. Let cookies sit until they are set and easily come off the paper. Store in airtight container. Makes about 20 cookies.