Supermarkets as well as local grocery stores release their flyers and advertise deals on Thursdays. This isn't an accident, retailers know most people buy their groceries on the weekend. I know, shopping the flyers sounds so 1970’s but I’m happy to have the savings in my pocket.
Pork shoulder makes awesome Pulled Pork and is often on sale. It's such a great choice as it feeds a crowd and it freezes really well, so nothing needs to go to waste.
Boneless chicken breasts and thighs are another popular protein that is frequently on sale. Chicken is just so versatile, pair it with fruits and vegetables that are in season and it will bring variety to your meals.
2. Cook what’s in season
Not only are fruits and vegetables that are in season cheaper they also taste better. If you are lucky enough to buy local, even better. Of course this isn’t always possible, lemons are on my list every week, I can’t live without them. But I live in Canada, where lemons aren't a local product. Many fruits and vegetables fall into this category, just decide the ones you must have and factor in the cost.
Root vegetables are a staple in winter (carrots, potatoes, turnip) they keep well and roasting brings out their natural sweetness. Nothing screams comfort food more than roast beef and mashed potatoes!
Spring asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables, it’s both cheaper and tastier in late March and April. I like to roast it with garlic and parmesan cheese. Roasted Asparagus is a great side dish with roast chicken. A frittata with leeks, asparagus and goat cheese turns Easter Sunday brunch into Yum!
Roasted Asparagus with garlic & parmesan cheese
3. Make a meal plan
Meal planning is such a part of my weekly routine, I can't remember not doing it. Once you get in the habit it saves time, money and can improve the nutritional content of your meals. Build your meal plan based on what’s on sale in those flyers. Thinking about meals once, for the entire week means you won't need to shop daily or every couple of days. It minimizes that 4:00 stress of ‘What’s for Dinner?’.
Most of us don't know what’s in the fridge or pantry on the drive home from work resulting in buying food already in the cupboard. This is costly, both in dollars and the amount of food that ends up in the trash bin.
4. Search Recipes
No longer do we need to own a stack of cook books and magazines. Unless you're like me and love them.
There are so many credible cooking websites out there. Two of my favourites are www.epicuirious.com and www.eatingwell.com. You can search by meal, by food (chicken, leeks) or by diet choice such as vegetarian and vegan. There really is something for everyone.
5. Shop your fridge & pantry
Once you have the recipes you’ll need for the week, its time to shop your fridge and pantry.
Check off the ingredients you already have so that you don't repurchase them. This also lets you know when something should be discarded and what you’re running low on. You will be amazed the amount of time this one activity can save you at the grocery store.
6. Take the grocery list with you & stick to it
This one task is sure to save you money. It decreases impulse buying. We’ve all been told that shopping on an empty stomach increases spur of the moment spending. I agree, but if I don't know what to buy I tend to put more items in the cart than when I have that list.
7. Reinvent leftovers
Cooking once and reinventing food for another meal not only saves time but also grocery dollars. When creating your meal plan decide what and how to reinvent turkey, chicken or beef and it doesn’t have to be as a sandwich.
Taco’s can be made with every protein including fish. Chicken & broccoli bake and enchilada’s are always a quick and delicious weeknight dinner.
When searching for a recipe just type in leftovers and you will be amazed at what you will discover.
Yellow onions are probably the most common and easiest to find. And even when they aren't in season they are one of the most cost effective vegetables to be had. They create the flavour foundation for just about everything I cook. The humble onion is the foundation for sauces, soups, stew & broths.
For me & especially my husband, there is nothing better than carmelized onions smeared over a grilled steak. Don't throw out the left overs, a steak sandwich is a fantastic way to make sure nothing goes in the green bin.
2. Bell Peppers (green, red, yellow)
Peppers can be eaten raw or cooked and are part of the holy trinity (onions, celery, pepper) when you want to layer flavour. Mexican, Cajun and Italian dishes often call for these three ingredients to get the cooking started. I can’t imagine marinara sauce, fajita’s or gumbo without at least one of these peppers. One of my favourite appetizers is to saute´ all 3 types of peppers with onion and garlic. When they soften, top with goat cheese and serve on a bit of toasted Italian bread. I promise you will think you died and went to heaven.
I find celery often gets overlooked. Most of us think of it as a snack with PB and raisons that we either had as kids or fed our own. Celery can add quite a bit of personality to many dishes and the leaves are packed with goodness. So, like onions and bell peppers I most often use celery as a flavour base in soups and stocks.
Flavour Base for Soup
Garlic is found in abundance in North America. It is one of the easiest local vegetables (cousin of the onion) to find at grocery stores and markets. So look for local! Because it is so inexpensive most of us can even afford organic. Many people believe that once garlic has sprouted it’s past its prime. Not so, but it has lost some of its flavour and health benefits. Just make sure you remove the stem before dicing and mincing.
I use garlic in almost everything I cook from pasta sauces (red and white) to sautéing spinach to vinaigrettes. For me it’s one of the most versatile ingredients. It adds a unique flavour regardless of how you decide to use it.
Ginger is a common ingredient in both savoury and sweet dishes. Can you imagine pumpkin pie without ginger? I didn't think so. Gingerbread cake and ginger crinkle cookies are two long term favs in my family.
Ginger Crinkle Cookies
Looking for a bit of heat, add fresh ginger when cooking. It can be used sliced, but I prefer it minced so that it mixes into the dish and is the background flavour that makes you say yum, what is that? Ginger is particularly good in Indian and Asian cooking. I love to use ginger in marinades combined with soy sauce, garlic and a bit of orange juice. Fresh ginger can be stored in the freezer and grated as you need it.
How many types of mushrooms are there? Too many to count!
The oyster, lobster and shiitake all have their place in the kitchen but for everyday cooking I suggest the button or cremini (baby portobello). I particularly like the character and meatiness of the cremini. If I’m going meatless, this mushroom adds the substance often needed when converting a recipe from carnivore to vegetarian.
Because mushrooms are about 90% water, be patient when sautéing to allow the water to evaporate and for them to turn that lovely shade of brown that results in fantastic flavour. Use fried mushrooms in stews and as a base for marinara sauces. Because mushrooms pair so well with onions try them with that leftover steak sandwich.
For me a pantry staple is canned tomatoes. I suggest buying them whole and unsalted. This allows you to control the amount of salt in your cooking. Why whole? Who needs to pay extra for processing when it is so easy to break up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.
Most of us know canned tomatoes are the base for pizza, spaghetti and lasagne sauces but they can do so much more.
Tomatoes can transform traditional chicken soup into something completely different. Add some oregano, basil, thyme and a hand full of rigatoni and you have a mediterranean style minestrone. For a quick weeknight dinner, break a couple eggs into a skillet on top of leftover marinara sauce, add a bit of hot sauce and bake in the oven for 4-5 minutes and dinner is on the table.
Marinara Sauce with Beef
Prep Time: 30 minutes ( simmer time : 1 hour)
1 Tbsp canola oil 1 onion, diced 1 green pepper, diced 1 red pepper, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced 8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1 Tbsp oregano 1 Tbsp basil 1 Tbsp thyme 1 tsp cayenne pepper pinch red pepper flakes 6 oz tomato paste pinch fresh ground nutmeg 1 tsp sugar 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 2 28 oz can whole tomatoes 4 bay leaves
Instructions Heat a large dutch oven & add oil,
When hot add onions and saute´ until translucent about 3 minutes. Add peppers and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, add mushrooms and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add oregano, basil, thyme, cayenne, red pepper flakes and cook stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook until brickish red colour about1 minute.
Add the canned tomatoes breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add sugar, nutmeg, worcestershire sauce, vinegar and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, lower heat & simmer for at least 1 hour but as long as you like. I make the sauce in the morning and leave it on the back burner for the day. Use for lasagne in time, spaghetti, pizza or any pasta. Remove bay leaves before serving.
Keeps in the fridge for a couple days or store longer in the freezer and thaw as needed.
Cooking with butter adds a wonderful nutty flavour to sauces and dishes that you just can't get with any other fat. Yup, I admit it, butter is a fat, about 80%, but most recipes don’t usually call for a whole pound. One tablespoon has about 100 calories. The biggest benefit for me, is I get to control the amount of salt I’m using. The main reason a manufacturer adds salt is to prolong the shelf life. If you’re using salted butter I suggest that you try reducing the salt a recipe calls for by half and then give it a taste and add more salt (or not) to suit your taste. The final seasoning of the dish is then still up to you.
2. Olive Oil
Olive oil is widely known as the heart healthy fat because it’s so high in antioxidants & nutrients. It’s an excellent choice but cooking it on high heat can result in a loss of flavour, as well as lowering some of its health benefits. I like to use olive oil for salad dressings and sautéing on medium to medium-low heat. Olive oil has a calorie load similar to butter at about 125 calories per tablespoon.
3. Wine Vinegar (Red or White)
Red and white wine vinegars can easily be substituted for each other. White wine vinegar is the milder cousin of red vinegar. Just keep in mind red wine vinegar has a stronger, tangier flavour, so you might need to adjust the amount if you are using it in a recipe that calls for white. Both vinegars have a long shelf life of approximately 2 years when stored properly. These versatile vinegars are great in vinaigrettes, soups, stews, sauces and marinades.
4. Dijon Mustard
Dijon is a mustard unlike any other. It has a bit of a bite and a stronger flavour than yellow mustard. I first heard about it watching Julie Child, you know that wasn’t yesterday! Dijon makes wonderful homemade mayonnaise and vinaigrettes. When added to sauces and marinades the result is a dish with both personality and zing.
Honey is a natural sugar and can be substituted in any recipe that calls for the white stuff. There are many types of honey on the market. My two favourites are raw honey and wildflower honey. Local honey is readily available at grocery stores, just check the label to make sure all your getting is honey, it doesn't need chemicals to prolong its shelf life. It lasts for quite a while even after it’s opened. I like to use honey in vinaigrettes, sauces like marinara and it adds that something extra and slightly decadent to tea.
Lemons are one of the most versatile foods in the kitchen. Although lemon meringue pie is the first thing that comes to my mind, I would be lost without lemons when I’m cooking. They are always on my grocery list. The juice adds flavour and a brightness while the zest is all about the taste. Every part of the lemon gets put to work, nothing wasted. Store lemons on the counter, you’ll get more juice from a room temperature lemon than from a cold one. Use in marinades, hummus, sauces, pesto and as a finishing touch to any dish.
Why not try this easy & delicious vinaigrette on your next salad. It’s especially tasty on a greek style salad!
Prep Time: 5 minutes Makes: 1/2 cup
1/4 cup white wine vinegar juice of half lemon 1 Tbsp dijon mustard 1 Tbsp honey 1/2 tsp oregano pinch cayenne pinch kosher salt 1/3 cup olive oil
Instructions Whisk all ingredients (except oil) in a small mason jar. Slowly add the olive oil and shake well. The dressing will separate as it rests, just give it a shake before tossing on the salad.
Pork Shoulder is a delicious, economical and versatile cut of meat. My all time favourite way to prepare it has to be pulled pork. It has fabulous flavour, I can make it for supper on Sunday, add a couple ingredients and it’s reinvented for a quick and easy weeknight supper. It doesn't even feel like I’m eating leftovers. Not only does it save time, it can save grocery dollars by keeping food out of the green bin. It’s freezer friendly, even after it’s cooked. So go ahead and throw it in the freezer for another day. I know, pulled pork is traditionally for BBQing during the summer. I get it, it’s an awesome way to prepare pork shoulder. The results are tender fall off your fork pork, add a great BBQ sauce, some creamy cole slaw and it really is just a little bit of heaven.
here to edit.
Charcoal BBQing isn’t such an easy thing to do during the winter months in Canada. So, when it’s February and I’ve been longing for a touch of summer, slow roasting pork shoulder in the oven lets me pretend and the results are equally scrumptious.
You do need about 6-8 hours in the oven for perfect results but you don't need to babysit it. The oven does all the work. Well, most of it.
First preheat the oven to 250°F. Season the pork all over with kosher salt & some pepper rubbing them into the surface. You can add any seasoning you like, but I like to keep it simple, it really doesn't need anything elaborate. Place the pork in a roasting pan, get it into the oven and just leave it alone to do it’s thing. By the end of the day your kitchen will smell wonderful. I promise your mouth will be watering.
Pulled Pork Sandwich with Cole Slaw
After about 4 hours start checking the internal temperature, you want it to reach 205°F. I know that’s quite the temperature but the collagen and fat need to disintegrate for the best flavour and for shredding. Remove to a plate and tent with foil, let it rest at least 15 minutes. I like to use 2 forks to shred the meat but go ahead and use the tools that work best for you.
You can use any sauce that hits your fancy. I go for a traditional Kansas BBq sauce but Louisiana style and choptle sauces are fantastic options as well. I encourage you to create your own with your favourite spices (of course you can use your favourite bottled sauce too).
I like to add some of the sauce to the pulled pork and toss it all together before making sandwiches or sliders. Whichever type you choose I guarantee you will be licking your fingers.
We always have leftovers at my house and a bonus with pulled pork is how many different ways it can be reinvented. I love it in an omelet, it’s a great way to change up eggs benny and adds something special to frittatas. My husband and I both have a weakness for diner food, pulled pork makes a delicious hash, the pork crisps up in the skillet and there’s nothing more decadent than topping it with an egg or two.
Use pulled pork to recreate snacks and side dishes. Empanadas, tacos, nachos and poutine are a few ideas that turn the routine into lip smacking treats.
Pulled Pork Hash
Pulled Pork Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time 6-8 hours Serves: A crowd
Preheat oen to 250°F 1- 4- 5 lb pork shoulder kosher salt pepper
Instructions Adjust the oven rack to the middle of the oven. Season pork all over with salt & pepper rubbing into the skin.
Place in a roasting pan and cook until fork tender and the internal temperature has reached 205° F about 6 hours.
Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest about 15 minutes before shredding.
Prep Time: 25 minutes Makes: 4 cups
1 Tbsp canola oil 1 onion, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 6 ounces tomato paste 1 cup ketchup 1 cup water 1/4 cup brown sugar 1/4 molasses 1/2 apple cider vinegar pinch red pepper flakes pinch smokey paprika 1 Tbsp dry mustard 1 Tbsp worsteshire sauce 1 Tbsp soy sauce 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar 1/8 tsp fresh nutmeg 1 tsp garlic powder 1/4 cup Jack Daniels or bourbon(optional) 1 tsp Kosher Salt 1 tsp Pepper 1 bay leaf
Instructions Heat a medium saucepan, add oil and when hot add the onions & saute´ until soft & beginning to turn brown about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook stirring for 2 minutes. Add remainder of ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes to concentrate the flavours.
Although the Jack Daniels/bourbon is optional it really does add something special to this sauce.
Winter has settled in and I find I spend a bit more time bundled up at home than at other times of the year. Cozying up with a good book and blanket with a fire going are a few of my favourite things. Add in some comfort food and I’m in heaven. Is there anything better than roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy to conjure up those warm and fuzzy memories of a down-home family dinner?
The downside to beef is in recent years it has become a pricey investment! Never before has choosing the type of beef been so important. There are just as many cuts as there are price points. The type of beef you purchase will determine the way you need to prepare it.
A tenderloin, is the most expensive roast you can buy. In my house this cut of beef is absolutely saved for special occasions. Because it lacks fat it should be roasted quickly so that it doesn't become tough and chewy. A blade roast, which is much more affordable, has both fat and connective tissue and should be cooked low and slow in order to be both flavourful and tender. My favourite is a top sirloin roast. It has great flavour and tenderness but doesn’t break the bank. And there is usually plenty leftover to get together a quick supper during the week.
Roast Beef Dinner
One of the problems with the big Sunday night dinner is what to do with those leftovers? Hot roast beef sandwiches are a bit ho-hum and are reminiscent of 1975. So, here are a couple ideas to upgrade roast beef leftovers. Beef sliders, panini's & wraps make for quick and easy lunches or a week night supper. Pair them with potato wedges, sweet potato fries or some cut up raw vegetables. One of the great things about sliders & panini’s is they are delicious on any bun that you love. The condiments and toppings are limited only by your imagination. Carmelized onions pair well with mayonnaise that has been mixed with a bit of dijon mustard to give a nice kick. This combo is one of my most loved. If you’re dreaming about a wrap, try adding roasted red peppers or an avacado - goat cheese spread. And of course every sandwich goes better with cheese. Any cheese!
Slider with Carmelized Onions
Beef pot pies on the surface might appear daunting but there are a couple of tricks to make them easier. You don't need to make the crust. Store bought pastry works just fine Why not try puff pastry which is great alternative to the traditional topping. One of the bonuses with pot pies is they freeze really well and you can pop them in the oven straight from the freezer. There really isn't anything much better than a pot pie on a cold winter night. When making pot pies, shop your refrigerator so that you can use up those bits and pieces of vegetables you already have on hand. A couple of carrots, half a butternut squash, a few mushrooms are all great choices. It can save on the grocery bill while minimizing the food that gets thrown in the green bin. Keep in mind to use vegetables that don't disintegrate when cooked. A starchy potato (russet) is a better choice than a waxy potato (fingerling).
Beef Pot Pie
Any recipe that calls for steak, which after all is beef, you can substitute leftover roast beef. It speeds up both the prep and cook time. For beef fajita’s saute´ some onions and peppers, add the beef at the end just to warm it through and you have dinner on the table in under 20 minutes!
Preheat oven to 350°F (Heat a rimmed baking sheet with 2 Tbsp olive oil in the oven as it warms up)
2 Tbsp olive oil 1 onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, diced 1/2 cup celery, diced 1 small red pepper, diced 1 small green pepper, diced 1 cup broccoli florets 1 cup butternut squash, diced 1 cup sweet potato, diced 1/2 cup russet potato, diced 1 cup carrots, diced 1/2 tsp oregano 1/2 tsp thyme 1/2 tsp kosher salt 1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups roast beef, cubed 2 cups gravy
1 egg wash (whisk 1 egg with 1 tbsp water) 1 pie dough or puff pastry
Instructions Combine all ingredients and toss onto hot baking sheet and roast until fork tender, turning every 10 minutes, for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
In a casserole dish combine cooled vegetables, roast beef and gravy. Roll out either pie dough or puff pastry and place on top of the mixture. Brush with the egg wash. Be sure to slice a couple vents in the dough. Bake uncovered until golden brown about 30 minutes. This is a versatile recipe and the vegetables can be changed based on what you have in your pantry and fridge. (mushrooms, corn, yellow peppers)
Whether you are hosting a Christmas get together or need to take an appetizer to a holiday celebration, most of us want to make something that is easy and tasty. For me, the goal is to create an appetizer that can be eaten in one hand while sipping from a glass of eggnog in the other.
Christmas Eve The month of December is all about food. There are just so many opportunities to bake, cook and eat! At my house Christmas Eve is the main event when it comes to appetizers. There are a few staples that appear year after year and have become a bit of a tradition.
My husband looks forward to scallops and bacon and it wouldn’t feel very festive for him if they weren't on the menu. Mostly, I go pretty low key, I wrap the sea scallop in a piece of bacon and roast them in the oven until the bacon crisps up. The key is to not over cook the scallop. Just par cook the bacon before wrapping around the scallop and they will be juicy and delicious. As an added treat sometimes I drizzle maple syrup or some brown sugar before roasting. Not for the faint of heart!
Bacon wrapped scallops
Race dip is my son in laws favourite and really is the only food he requests over the holidays. Well, except for turkey & stuffing sandwiches. We call it race dip because for years I have been making it for the Daytona 500 race. It’s really just a layered nacho dip served with good quality nacho chips. They need to be strong enough to hold a decent amount of dip without falling apart. There are loads of recipes to be found but check out the recipe section for my version. This one gets devoured pretty fast.
Layered Nacho Dip
The tradition that my daughter & I love is finding something new to change things up. This year we are having spanakopita and a charcuterie board, which makes it easy to eat with one hand while lending variety to the menu. Charcuterie boards are so versatile and easy to customize. Epicurious has some great tips http://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-build-a-charcuterie-board-like-a-pro-article. This year we decided to have a couple of cheeses, olives, sliced meats and homemade crostini. But, I think everyone is really looking forward to the spanakopita. I turned my hand to making these tasty triangles last winter and they have quickly become a family favourite.
Spanakopita Making spanakopita is loads of fun and the only tricky part is using the phyllo dough but with a few tips its anot s difficult as it seems. Melt butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter stops foaming add the spinach in batches, tossing and stirring until wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set in a colander to cool, about 10 minutes. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Coarsely chop spinach and place in medium size bowl
Melt the remaining olive oil in the same skillet and sauté onions until softened but not brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the onions to the spinach. Then add the feta, nutmeg, lemon zest, lemon juice, pepper and beaten eggs to the spinach & onion mixture. Stir to combine. Melt butter and cool slightly and set aside.. Divide the phyllo into 4 sections. Work with 1 section at a time, keep the remainder in the fridge covered with a damp paper towel. You will only need 2 sections of the phyllo or half the package of phyllo, double the recipe to use all of the phyllo. These greek triangles freeze really well.
Take 1 sheet of phyllo from the section and lay on work surface, phyllo dries out quickly so cover the remainder with a damp paper towel. Brush the sheet of phyllo with butter, place the next sheet on top of the first and brush with butter, do this a with sheet number three.
Put a heaping teaspoon of the spinach mixture on the bottom of the buttered phyllo sheets. Fold corner of phyllo to enclose the filling and forming a triangle. Continue folding strip (like a flag) maintaining the triangle shape.
Spinach Mixture on phyllo
Forming the triangle
Place triangle seam-side down on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Continue making triangles.
Spanakopita ready for baking
The spanakopita can be frozen at this stage and when ready to eat, take directly from freezer brush each triangle with butter and bake in 375°F oven for 20-25 minutes or brush with butter and bake immediately for the same amount of time or until golden brown. Cool on rack. Serve at room temperature, hot or cold. These are delicious regardless of the temperature.
Baking for the holidays reminds me of my childhood. My mother always began her Christmas baking with fruitcakes in early November. I have never enjoyed eating fruitcake but the smell of them baking in the oven is Christmas for me. It seemed that every week from then on, some new delectable was in the oven, filling the house with smells that I now associate with the season. Is there anything better than the smell of cinnamon and vanilla wafting through the house?
Everyone seems to have a favourite treat that puts them in the holiday mood. Recreating that best loved gingerbread cookie or pumpkin pie might make you feel overwhelmed but it doesn't have to. Recipes exist for everything from light as a feather shortbread cookies to melt in your mouth cherry pound cake. There are a few tips and techniques that can help you be successful.
Tips for Success Reading the recipe all the way through will help you decide if you have the skill to complete the task. Most recipes will provide tips and techniques for success, so don't skip over this section. Starting with the best ingredients you can afford is really important. There are some items that make a bigger difference in the final result than others. The two most important ingredients for me are real butter and vanilla. The flavours that these two ingredients give to baked goods cannot be replaced by margarine, shortening or artificial vanilla.
Gathering everything you need before you start, lets you make sure you have everything you need. As a rule of thumb ingredients should be at room temperature, unless stated otherwise in the recipe. The most common exception is when making pie dough, the ingredients should be as cold as possible.
The Truth about Common Ingredients Can all purpose flour be used in every recipe? Why do most recipes call for unsalted butter? And what is it with all those types of sugar? All Purpose Unbleached Flour If you can only have one flour in your kitchen, it should be unbleached all purpose. It is the work horse for baking and cooking. Why make sure you have unbleached flour? Because bleaching flour is accomplished by adding chlorine or benzoyl peroxide, not what I want in my food! And the price is the same regardless of whether it is bleached or unbleached. Be sure to sift whichever flour you choose to use. All purpose flour is used for cakes, cookies, bread, pastry and gravies.
Cake Flour Used when making delicate cakes and pastries. You can usually substitute all purpose flour. One big disadvantage I have found is it can be hard to find unbleached cake flour at the grocery store. The most common time I use cake flour is when baking pound cakes. Because cake flour has a low gluten content it’s not a good idea to use for baking bread. Butter Does it matter if you use salted or unsalted butter? Well, they are both butter so you can use either one. Salted butter has the salt already in it, usually to prolong its shelf life. Typically recipes call for unsalted butter, if you are using the salted version, the recipe will need to be adjusted. If you only have salted butter, try reducing the salt in the recipe by 1/4 tsp for every 1/2 cup butter. The price for unsalted butter tends to be slightly more but it is one of the ingredients that is worth the few extra pennies, as it allows you to control the amount of salt you are using. Shortening I am partial to butter because of the improved flavour it lends to cakes, cookies and muffins. It’s true, everything is better with butter! Although butter and shortening can be substituted for each other, you do need to keep in mind that they don't have the same liquid content, so the recipe will need adjusting. Shortening does have its place in baking. Pie pastry is the one time I use shortening. I choose a combination of both. The butter provides structure and flavour while the shortening results in a wonderfully tender and flaky pie crust. Sugar The darker the sugar the more intense the flavour and the richer the final product. You can substitute one brown sugar for another but the flavour will be different. If substituting brown sugar for white you may need to adjust the amount of the dry or liquid ingredients. For best results, I find it’s safer to use the type of sugar called for in the recipe. If the type of sugar isn't specified use granulated sugar.
Granulated White This is the sugar readily available at the grocery store and is what we all have in our cupboards. Most common sugar used in baking.
Confectioner Granulated sugar with a bit of cornstarch added to it and has been ground to a superfine grain. It can easily clump together so sift before using. Used for icings, frostings and added to whip cream.
Superfine Granulated sugar that has been ground into finer crystals, readily available at the grocery store, but is easy to make at home by placing regular white sugar in a food processor and pulsing to the desired consistency. Use when you want a finer crumb that is fairly delicate such as angel food cakes and meringues.
Brown Light brown (golden) has less molasses and is lighter than dark brown which is a bit heavier and has a more intense flavour. Frequently called for in cookies, pastries cakes.
Turbinado orRaw A fairly dark sugar that is course and has a crunchy texture. Often used as a finishing touch, such as on top of a pie or puff pastries.
The Christmas season is fast upon us! This year my whole family will be together, so we are all very excited. Our family has grown over the years to include our children, their spouses, two grandchildren, three dogs and a cat. We are so happy that everyone will be together and now the fun of thinking and preparing for the food festival that will certainly happen has arrived. To my delight there have already been several conversations about what we will feast on Christmas Eve Night as well as for the Boxing Day Buffet.
There are so many occasions to celebrate during the holidays and in my family they seem to all involve food. The first step is always to make a plan. Start by creating categories; baking, candy, appetizers, and meals (cooking) and then list the foods that need to be prepared under each heading. Starting in early November allows the time needed to consider dietary restrictions and food preferences, ensuring there is something delicious for everyone.
Creating a list and a timeline for when cookies, pies, appetizers etc. can be prepared helps make those hectic days in December a bit more manageable. First, decide which items can be made in advance of the big day, after all, time spent with family and friends enjoying holiday celebrations is the best part of the season.
Most candies can be made before hand and stored in air tight containers for at least a month. Pie dough can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until ready to be rolled out, filled and baked. Many cakes, cookies and squares also freeze very well. Plenty of appetizers can be pre-made, frozen, thawed and reheated as needed.
Planning Can Save Food Dollars. Once the list is created and recipes are decided upon, inspect the pantry and cupboards to determine the ingredients that you already have. Don't forget to check to see if they have expired and need replacing. Be sure to look at the back of cupboards and shelves, it’s easy to overlook items, such as spices, resulting in repurchasing something that you already have. Ensure what you do have, has enough of the ingredient for what you will be making. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of preparing a dish and there isn’t enough for the recipe!
Stocking up during the month of November and into early December, allows time to take advantage of ingredients that go on sale. Purchasing what you need over a few grocery orders, spreads out hard earned dollars. Buying everything in one large grocery order can be a bit of a shock to the wallet.
Common Ingredients for Holiday Baking & Cooking Baking soda Baking powder Spices: nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, ginger Sugars: brown, white, confectioners Vanilla Flour
A fast meal for those days when there isn't much time
Eating healthy meals is a challenge at the best of times but can be even more so when life is hectic. Often when we think of quick meals that use only one pot or pan our minds go to the plethora of pasta dishes that are available. Well, fish is another option that can be prepared using one dish and I do like to think of it as the original fast food.
Salmon is my go to fish when I’m in a hurry. I feel like it’s been given a bad rap for years. My husband insisted he hated salmon (all fish actually) because it was dry, slimy and stinky. Over the years I have been able to convince him this isn’t the salmons fault! The way fish (like anything else) is prepared impacts its final texture and flavour. Salmon treated properly can be scrumptious and melt in your mouth with a buttery texture that can make your heart sing.
I am lucky enough to live on the east coast and am able to purchase salmon that is local and fresh. If you have to buy salmon from your local grocery store checking for freshness is easy. Just look for nice pink meat that is shiny & moist and doesn’t have any fishy smell. Yes, smell your fish. Salmon can even be purchased in individual portions, so you don't have to think about serving size (4-6 ounces/person).
This salmon recipe is perfect for any weekday meal that needs to be quick but also delicious and healthy. Dinner can easily be on the table in under 30 minutes. Prep time is 5 minutes but being organized helps, gather all your ingredients before you get started and this will actually save you a couple minutes. cuts down on the running back and forth between your work space and the refrigerator. If you are going to serve the salmon with new potatoes get them in a pot to cook while you take care of the main event.
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add the olive oil and heat before adding the leeks, carrots, red pepper and zucchini. Sauté for a couple minutes just to get the cooking started.
Place the salmon on top of the vegetables, pour the wine (if using) and chicken stock over the salmon. Season with salt & pepper. Cover the skillet with a tight fitting lid and bring the liquid to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the fish is cooked through. This should take about 10 minutes.
Be sure to check the temperature of the fish with a thermometer. The temperature you are going for will depend on how you like it. For fish that is completely cooked it should read 145°F. I’ve found that fish cooked to 135°F is perfect and allowing it to rest for 5 minutes before serving results in the best texture and flavour. What you are looking for is the fish to be firm when you press it, the interior should be flakey and opaque in colour.
2 leeks, sliced lengthwise (white and pale green part only) 3 carrots, julienned 1 red pepper, julienned 1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1 Tbsp Olive oil 2 Tbsp dry white wine (optional) 1/2 cup chicken stock 12 ounces of salmon (2- 6 ounce fillets) S & P
Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate all that is good in our lives. Those of us who live in Canada have so much to be grateful for. Our families, easy access to healthy food and our freedom are the first things that come to mind. However, roast turkey with all the fixings is also at the top of my list for October. There is nothing like the smell of turkey cooking in the oven. Oh wait, I think pies baking might give that turkey a bit of competition.
Leftovers don't need to be boring
Why are there so many leftovers when everyone was stuffed to the gills leaving the dinner table? Although I do love the traditional leftovers, like turkey sandwiches with dressing and cranberries and who doesn't dream of turkey soup but there are alternatives to these staples that can be tasty and have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes.
For a fast and easy weeknight supper why not try turkey quesadillas or enchiladas? Both of these dishes are nutritious and the kids will not even be thinking turkey, let alone that leftovers were involved! For the recipe go to the recipe tab on the main page.
Try substituting turkey for any pasta recipe that involves chicken. The bonus is that the turkey is already cooked and waiting for you in the refrigerator. A couple of my go to recipes are turkey & chorizo linguine, the spanish sausage gives this pasta a nice little kick and turkey fettuccini alfredo is always a hit at my house.
For those nights that I am feeling a bit more adventurous and have more than 30 minutes to spare, say a leisurely hour to get dinner on the table I love to make risotto. There are so many variations but my go to risotto after thanksgiving has to be saffron turkey risotto. It's one of those dishes that is true comfort food, especially on a chilly October night.
Saffron Turkey Risotto
What can you do when the turkey is coming to the end and there isn't enough for a suppertime meal? A couple of ways to reinvent turkey is to make southwestern turkey wraps or turkey, cranberry & dressing phyllo triangles (similar to spanakopita). These triangles are a great choice. They can be any size from appetizer style to a sandwich size and they are fantastic hot or cold. If phyllo dough seems a bit daunting switch the phyllo dough out for pastry or pizza dough and make a turkey pizza pocket.