Category Archives: Food

Coffee Pods

coffee pods in drawer-photo-d-stewartKeurig coffee – wonderful. The K-cup – not so much. Concern about the plastic coffee pods started almost as soon as the Keurig coffee maker came on the market. Each one is very small. But add up one household’s consumption, then another’s, in a week, a month. Doesn’t take long to have a mountain of them.

Coffee pod manufacturers responded. You can now buy many types of pods packaged various ways. They are recyclable and compostable, in part or whole. But you have to read the box, and the pods.

pods-recycling-numbers-photo-d-stewart
Left pod marked “w” and middle “6” are not recyclable, right one marked “5” is recyclable

The plastic casing is the problem. That casing seals in the coffee, thereby keeping it fresh. Many were not made of recyclable plastic. Some still aren’t. Recycling services that I know of accept only numbers 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 plastics. So those marked No. 6, like Tim Horton’s, still go in the garbage. And pods without a number – who knows? Again, garbage.

An increasing number now are marked No. 5. So recyclable. But, despite what the box says, not with coffee grounds still in them. You have to separate the plastic from the coffee and filter bag.

How to separate coffee pods

remove-foil-lid-photo-d-stewart1. Hook your fingernail in the little hole in the foil cover and pull it off.

2. Squeeze pod upside-down over compost container to loosen coffee

3. Dig your finger into pod and pull out as much coffee as you can

filter-removal-photo-d-stewart4. Holding pod in one hand, grab a bit of netting with thumb and forefinger of other hand and pull until it rips. Then pull all the way around until the coffee and netting are detached from the plastic pod.

5. Rinse plastic pod well and try to pull off leftover netting.

It’s not easy, but you  get better at it with practice. And sometimes, when you see you’ve grabbed a non-recyclable pod, you say a fervent hallelujah as you toss it! I found a tool that separates the pods (see Amazon box below). Might be easier on the fingers.

Compostable Pods

compostable-pods-photo-d-stewartThese are much easier to deal with. A ring and filter made of plant-based materials and paper lid,  the whole thing will compost as is – eventually. But they still come to you in packaging. Either individually wrapped in plastic or grouped in a foil bag. The foil bags say “rinse and reuse”. But I haven’t figured out anything to reuse even one for.

composting-coffee-pods-photo-d-stewartMy preferred choice so far is the individually wrapped compostable pod. Jumping Bean, from Newfoundland (available on Amazon.ca and excellent coffee!) The plastic wrapper probably isn’t recyclable but at least it’s little.

Reusable pods

Obviously, reusable is best. Soon after buying our Keurig, and realizing the amount of garbage produced by the pods, I bought a reusable-pod-photo-d-stewartrefillable pod. What a misery! You must replace one whole mechanism with the other, so it’s not easy to switch back and forth. My refillable one went to the back of the drawer where it sits in silent witness to the traffic in easier, but wasteful, coffee pods.

There are refillable pods available that look easier to use (see Amazon link below). Maybe I’ll try again!

Fish Cakes

A can of tuna and presto, you’ve got fish cakes. Quick and easy, they make a simple or dressed up dinner or lunch. Tuna, bread crumbs, an egg, and onion. That’s all you need.

tuna fish cakes photo d stewart

Tuna + breadcrumbs = fish cakes

Open a 170 gram tin of tuna and drain the liquid. (Pour it into your cat or dog bowl and they’ll love you forever.) Put it in a medium size bowl and flake it with a fork. Add:

  • finely chopped onion (maybe 1-2 tbsp),
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs,
  • 1 beaten egg,
  • salt and pepper and whatever herbs or spices you like. Basil or rosemary works. Parsley flakes or finely chopped fresh. Cumin.

Mix everything well.

Heat a frying pan with a bit of oil in it at medium-high heat. Take a handful of tuna mixture in your hands and shape it into a small patty. Put it in the frying pan and repeat. You’ll get probably 5 patties.

Fry the patties a few minutes on one side then carefully with a spatula turn them over and let the other side cook. Both sides should be browned and a bit crispy.

Alternatives and serving

You can also use canned salmon or crab meat. Also salt cod, smoked salmon or fresh fish. (With salmon, I pull off the skin and larger bones and give them and the liquid to the cats and dog. It’s messy to pick out but I don’t like it and they do.)

Fresh fish must be cooked first. Just put the fillet in a frying pan and lightly fry it while flaking it at the same time. Leftover mashed potatoes works instead of bread crumbs as the filler. Or cracker crumbs.

You can add celery, olives, green or red pepper too, just finely dice everything so the pieces don’t make your patties too lumpy.

Serve your fish cakes with, well, anything. These ones are with steamed broccoli and penne with pesto. But they also go well with rice or any kind of potatoes, salad, potato or pasta salad. If you want twice as many patties, just double the ingredients.

Ratatouille

ratatouille-on-riceOne thing I thank a long ago boyfriend for is introducing me to ratatouille. He used the Joy of Cooking recipe, but added ground beef and cumin. That radically changes it from the vegetable casserole in the Joy. Both are equally, but differently, delicious. The Joy describes it as looking “like a very successful Braque still-life” (Rombauer & Becker). So here is the original recipe with changes in italics and strikethroughs.

Joy‘s Eggplant Casserole or Ratatouille Provençale

(8 servings)

Peel, slice and salt* 1 medium eggplant (2 1/2 cups diced)

eggplant slices salted*To get of excess moisture: slice eggplant cross-wise, about 3/4-1 inch thick. Lay slices on paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Leave about 10 minutes, then turn over and salt the other side. Let sit another 10 minutes. Rinse, pat dry, then dice. (I do not peel the eggplant.)

Put in a deep skillet 1/4-1/3 olive oil

Sauté until golden:

  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 2 cloves garlic (pressed or minced)

onions-and-garlic fryingAdd 1 lb (1/2 k) lean ground beef and brown. Pour off excess grease.

Add:

  • 1/2 cup whole pitted black olives
  • 4 julienned green (and/or red) peppers, seeds and membrane removed
  • 3 cups zucchini in 1/2 inch slices (about 3 medium)
  • 2 cups skinned, seeded, quartered tomatoes (or whole, fresh or cooked)

Add drained eggplant. Sprinkle the mixture with olive oil.

vegetables-and-beef in potAdd 1/2 tsp oregano or 2 tsp chopped fresh basil (Joy says optional, I say either or both, fresh or dried.)

Add 2-3 tsp ground cumin, more or less, to taste.

Simmer covered over very low heat about 45 mins. Uncover and continue to heat 15 mins. longer to reduce the amount of liquid. Add salt and a grating of fresh pepper.

cooked-ratatouilleWhile it’s cooking, make steamed rice. Serve hot – on a bed of rice – or cold with cultured sour cream.

Apple Chutney

Apples left over from a good crop this year from our trees. As much apple chutneyjelly and juice as I could handle making, apple crumble too. Maybe apple chutney? Lots of recipes on line. But most called for raisins, which I did not have and don’t actually like in chutney. One, however, fit the bill: myheartbeets Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney.

So Google told me an Instant Pot is a fancy pressure cooker that does everything except eat the food it cooks. Not having one, I improvised – with one ordinary cooking pot. I don’t know how mine compares to that made in an Instant Pot, but I like it. Delicious, easy to make and versatile.

Instant Pot Indian Apple Chutney (adapted)

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (didn’t have them, so omitted)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 10 curry leaves (I used 1 dried bay leaf)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (my addition)
  • 4 red apples (approx. 1½ lbs) cored and quartered
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder (I used 1 tsp minced fresh ginger root)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne, adjust to taste
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

add later:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp Kashmiri chili or paprika (for colour), optional
How I made it

apples-ready-to-cook1. Core and cut up apples. Sprinkle them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. (Also, in looking for substitutions for curry leaves, I read that they are kind of citrusy. So lemon juice would not hurt.) My apples were small so I just quartered them. If I were using large apples, using my method, I’d chop the quarters again. The way, the peel in the chutney would not be overly large.

2. Put oil in a medium size saucepan and allow it a minute to heat up. Then add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves to the pot. Once the cumin seeds begin to brown, add the apples and remaining spices (turmeric, ginger, salt, cayenne). Give everything a good mix, then add the apple cider vinegar.

3. Cook for 15 minutes at medium high heat.

apples-cooked-15-mins4. Mix well and mash up apple pieces. My apples pretty much did this themselves, so I just stirred it a bit. If need be, purée with an immersion blender, or pour in a blender and purée, then pour back in the pot.

5. Add sugar, cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened. I only cooked it maybe another 5 minutes.

apple-chutney-paprika added6. Stir in Kashmiri chili or paprika, if you wish, and cook another minute or two. I used 1½ tsp paprika.

7. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to a month. I got a 16 ounce container full (about 475 ml).

Ready to use, or can it

I think this would can nicely – although it really is so quick to make that you could just make a container full as you need to. However, jars of it would make a lovely gift – and make you look like a really good cook.

So far, we have tried it on cheese and ham sandwiches – wonderful! chutney-with-beefMy husband also used it as the sauce in a stir fry. Sliced beef, cauliflower, red pepper and sliced cooked potato. 3 tablespoons of chutney and ¼ cup water added. Heated through, and served on rice. A bit of spicy heat in it, but delicate and light. Perfect.

Zucchini Noodles

thin zoodlesWhen only a giant zucchini will do: to make zucchini noodles. Zoodles some call them. Use them the same way you use pasta. They taste great, and they are gluten free, wheat free and carb free. Also you don’t need to think about what vegetable to serve. They are the “something green” in your meal.

fettuccine style zucchini noodles
Fettuccine style zucchini noodles

Here are two kinds of zucchini noodles I have made, using two blade plates of a mandoline slicer. For thin ones, use the mincer (the one with close-set cutting teeth). For thick fettucine size noodles, use the cutting or julienne blade (with teeth about ¼ inch apart).

1. Slice zucchini noodles

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. If it’s wider than the base of your slicer, cut in half lengthwise again so that it will fit. One half a giant zucchini (say 12″/30 cm) makes enough noodles for two servings.

slicing zucchini with mandolineThen, carefully, slide the zucchini the full length of the slicer. Keep it as flat as you can. Continue this, turning the zucchini around as needed to keep making nice long noodle strings. Stop when you reach the inner part. The seedy, soft part middle will not slice well.

2. Cook zucchini noodles

frying-zoodlesYou can sauté, microwave or boil the zoodles. I heated a tbsp or so of olive oil in a pan and sautéed them a few minutes. Stir and flip them often. Water will come out of the zucchini. That’s good. After another couple minutes, your pile of noodles will shrink in size and they will look cooked. And they are.

3. Plate, top, serve

thin zucchini noodles alfredo with garlic bread
Thin zucchini noodles

Put noodles on plates, draining as much water off as you can. Add your topping. I used alfredo sauce, microwaved straight from the jar. Enjoy.

Using a mandoline is quite labour intensive. Your arm gets tired. So if you are making dinner for eight, even four, you might want a method that is easier and faster. Maybe that’s where a spiralizer or some specialized tool would be worthwhile. See Downshiftology for much more information on zucchini noodle making.

Cheese Stuffed Zucchini

A zucchini that escaped, hiding under foliage in order to grow huge. cheese stuffed zucchini with dinner rollStuff it. With what? What about a cheese stuffing? Something light and summery for the last days of summer. Light cheese. Maybe egg too. Below is what I used, but other combinations of cheese and herbs would work just as well.

Ingredients

1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise
1-2 tbsp chopped onion
1/3 cup (100 g) cream cheese
1/3 cup (100 g) ricotta or cottage cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
salt, pepper
fresh or dried herbs
turmeric, garlic (options for taste)
cheddar cheese, grated

Recipe for stuffed zucchini

Scoop out zucchini insides and keep. I left about a half inch of zucchini in the shells. Set them aside to fill later.scooped-zucchini

Take seedy parts out of the zucchini pulp and discard. Chop up the rest of it.

sauteeing-zucchini Melt a bit of butter in a frying pan and add zucchini pulp, onion, salt and pepper. I added about 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric for colour. Garlic would probably be good too.

A lot of water will come out of the zucchini. Drain it and put in a bowl.

cheese added to zucchiniAdd one large egg, beaten.

Add 1/3 cup each cream cheese and ricotta to zucchini-egg mixture. Blend with a fork.

You can use any kind of hard or soft cheese, alone or in combination. I thought the cream cheese and ricotta I had on hand would make a light, almost fluffy filling, and it did.

zucchini egg breadcrumbs and herbsMix in 1 cup breadcrumbs. I added fresh herbs – parsley, basil and rosemary – and green onion, chopped coarsely.

Put a bit of olive oil on zucchini boats and fill with mixture. I added cherry tomatoes on top and grated cheddar cheese over them.

zucchini-ready-to-bakePut them on a baking sheet and add a bit of water to the pan so they don’t stick. Bake at 350°F for about 40 minutes, until cheese on top is nicely browned and zucchini on the sides is soft.

Cut each baked zucchini boat in half, which gives you four servings.cheese-stuffed-zucchini

Alternative suggestions

My husband said the zucchini stuffing on its own would make a great casserole. Its texture is almost like a soufflé. So if I try that, I’d scrape out the whole inside of the zucchini. Then, his suggestion, put the mixture in ramekins for individual servings.  If you want to stick with stuffed zucchini boats, but heartier ones, you can use a thick pasta sauce. Here is how I make  those. And you can buy zucchini corers! (See Paderno’s below) Who knew?

Fruit Cobbler

rhubarb cobblerIn my never-ending spring search for things to do with rhubarb, I found a Robin Hood Flour cobbler recipe in my recipe scrapbook. A cobbler has fruit on the bottom with a cake-like topping. It looks impressive but is actually quite simple. That’s what you want if, like me, you can’t bake. I found this recipe especially easy.

Bumbleberry Cobbler

fruit-mixture(Bumbleberry just means a mixture of berries and fruit. So I used what I had. Rhubarb, frozen cherries and half a jar of apple butter. I just added it up to the same quantity – 7 cups – of fruit.)

Fruit

4 cups (1 L) thinly sliced peeled apples (or not peeled)
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen strawberries, halved
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup (125 mL) Splenda granular (I used same of sugar)
1/3 cup (75 mL) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (50 mL) orange juice or water

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Spread in greased 9″ (2.5 L) square cake pan or baking dish.

Topping

1 2/3 cups (400 mL) all purpose flour
2 tbsp (30mL) Splenda granular (I used sugar, same amount)
4 tsp (20 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) milk (or buttermilk)

*Combine flour, sweetener, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl.

*Cut in butter with pastry blender (or fork) until mixture is crumbly.

*Add milk, stirring until moistened.

*Drop spoonfuls of batter over fruit, spreading lightly to cover surface.

Place pan on piece of foil (or baking tray) to catch any drips that boil over.

Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden. Serve warm. (Especially good with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top!)

Tip: Vary the berries to suit your personal taste and what’s in season.

Avocado Time

Any time is avocado time, but sunny summer days especially. Here are two really easy avocado side dishes. The first you may not have thought of. The second you likely know well, maybe even dream of.

1. Avocado half with oil and vinegar

avocado time - half with dressing photo d stewartA side salad, of a sort. Elegant and delicious. So even though your observant guest will know you didn’t do much, it looks impressive. The one pictured here is just in a plain bowl with an ordinary spoon. Imagine how pretty it is in a glass bowl with a small fancy spoon.

  • Cut an avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit
  • Shake a bit of salt, pepper and lemon juice on surface
  • Fill the cavity with oil and vinegar dressing

2. Guacamole

  • 1-2 very ripe avocados, mashed finely with a fork
  • 1-2 tbsp finely chopped onion or scallion
  • 1/2 finely chopped tomato
  • (2-3 tbsp finely chopped green pepper – optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro (best) or 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (dab of sour cream, plain yoghurt or mayonnaise – optional)

Guacamole-with-corn-chips-Popo-le-Chien-2016-wikicommonsMix all ingredients together, put in bowl, garnish with paprika and/or chopped parsley. Cover with Saran wrap to prevent avocado browning.* Chill, adjust oil amounts, lemon juice, salt and pepper for taste.

Serve with tortilla chips, crispy pita bread or crispy crackers. Also good as a taco topping, or on almost anything. It’s avocado time, after all.

From The Joy of Cooking, adapted a bit by me.

*Thanks to Popo le Chien’s photo on Wikimedia Commons, I learned that putting the pit on top of your guacamole keeps it from browning.

(You can grow your own avocado tree too. Suspend the pit over a glass of water with toothpicks, or try the pot system below.)

Beef Stew

beef stew with garlic bunBeef stew is one of the easiest things to make. Brown meat cubes, add veggies and liquid and let it cook slowly. Plan on a couple of hours of cooking time. Stew can be a one-pot meal, with potatoes in it, or served on a bed of rice, noodles or mashed potatoes.

eye-of-round-steaksI like round or eye of round steaks for stewing beef. They have very little fat and you can easily slice or cube them. You can, of course, buy stewing beef. I find it’s more work because I remove the fat and cut the pieces smaller. However, any cheap cut of beef works, a blade roast or steak for example. The long cooking time makes the meat tender.

Stew Process, in short

  1. Brown meat cubes
  2. Add liquid
  3. Add barley, dense vegetables and dried herbs
  4. Let cook 30-40 mins, add delicate vegetables
  5. Cook an hour, add wine and fresh herbs
  6. Let cook 30-40 mins. (Cook stew ‘bed’ if needed)

Stew Process, long version

Put a bit of oil in a deep wide pot, let it heat up, and add chopped onions and garlic. When they have started softening, put the meat cubes in. Stir to get them browned on all sides. (If it’s a teflon pan, you don’t need oil.)

Browning the meat

A) Put it in the pan as is or (b) coat it in seasoned flour first. If you do (b) put maybe 1/4 cup flour on a plate or in a plastic bag. Mix a bit of salt and pepper in. Put the meat pieces in the flour and stir around or shake to completely coat them. Then put the coated meat in the heated oil in your pot. Stir to ensure all sides are browned.

Add liquid, barley, dense vegetables

Start with a cup or two. Any vegetable or beef stock is best, but water will do. The cooking veggies and beef will make their own stock. But using stock adds to the flavour of your sauce.

Stir a handful of barley into the liquid. It needs a long time to fully cook. Barley thickens stew wonderfully. I don’t add barley if I’m putting the stew on top of a starch. It makes it too dense.

Add potatoes (cut up if large or whole if very small) and chopped carrots. They take the longest to cook. Add any other dense vegetable, like brussels sprouts, now as well.

If you want a tomato-ey stew, add a can of whole or diced tomatoes.

Dried herbs, seasonings

Put in 1 or 2 bay leaves. Add dried herbs like basil or oregano as well. If you’re using fresh herbs, leave them until the final half hour of cooking. Add salt and pepper, a few shakes of Worcestershire Sauce and a dollop of ketchup. Simmer for 30-40 mins.

Add soft vegetables

beef-stew-cookingBy now, the potatoes and carrots should be softening. Time to add your other coarsely chopped vegetables. Celery, green and/or red pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini – whatever you fancy. If you’re using fresh tomatoes, either cherry or chopped, add them too. I add these vegetables later because they are softer and more delicate. You don’t want to cook them to mush.

Now just let it cook for maybe an hour. Add more liquid if it needs it or if you want a thinner sauce.

Red wine, fresh herbs

This is the time to add red wine, both as a flavour agent and a source of liquid. Also add fresh herbs.

If the sauce is too thin, mix up a couple teaspoons of flour in a tablespoon or so of cold water. Stir well to remove lumps and mix slowly in the stew. Or shake in some blending flour, stirring to avoid lumps.

Let it cook another 30 minutes, and it should be done. You’ll see a thin film on the top, almost like a glaze.

Stew more or less cooks itself and it’s remarkably versatile. You can add whatever you have in the way of vegetables. Or if you like meaty stew, you can leave all vegetables out. I’d still put in onions and garlic, though. You can make chicken stew instead of beef, or leave out the meat entirely and make it vegetarian or vegan. Just change the type of stock you use.

Tamale Pie

tamale pie with saladWith salad or garlic bread on the side, tamale pie makes a perfect winter’s night meal. It’s a Tex-Mex type of shepherd’s pie or baked polenta with tomato sauce. My husband uses his mother’s recipe, but has adapted it.

Jim’s Tamale Pie Recipe

“Basically, you make taco filling and put corn meal on top.”

Ingredients

1 clove garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp chili powder
dash cayenne
2 1/2 cups canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 1/2 cups corn (frozen, or 1 14 oz. can)
1 cup black olives

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt

1 cup grated cheese (Monterey Jack or cheddar)

Directions

Sauté garlic, onion, celery, peppers and ground beef in a frying pan. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Add seasonings, tomatoes, corn and olives. Simmer 15 minutes. Oil a deep casserole dish and transfer mixture to it. (Or, if your casserole dish is stove top safe, use it for the frying as well.)

Mix corn meal with 1 cup cold water. Put 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Add salt and cornmeal mixture. Cook and tamale piestir until thickened. Reduce heat, cover pan and cook over low heat for 10 mins. Stir occasionally.

Pour over meat mixture. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake in 350°F oven about an hour. Serves 4 or 5.

Marji’s recipe

tamale-pie-recipe card 2I don’t know who this recipe card originally came from. It is not in Marji’s handwriting. I think she likely adapted it much the way he has. Cut down the salt, increase the ‘heat’ with jalapeños and eliminate the fat. However, Jim says that bacon fat would make it more flavourful. You can click the images for a larger view.