Category Archives: Recipes

Asparagus Casserole

asparagus casserole photo d stewartThis baked asparagus and cheese casserole is my mother-in-law’s recipe. It was one of her potluck favourites because it travels well and easily warms up in a microwave. And if it can’t be warmed up, it still tastes good.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2/3 cup grated cheese (your choice;  I used extra old cheddar)
1 lb fresh asparagus or 2 cans asparagus tips

optional: sliced or slivered almonds,
– thin strips of red pepper,
– crushed Ritz crackers or cornflakes

Asparagus

chopped asparagus photo-d-stewartChop washed asparagus into 2-3 inch pieces. Use 2/3 to 3/4 of stalk, leaving woody ends. Microwave pieces about 1 1/2 minutes, or steam on stovetop for 3 minutes, to partially cook them. Distribute evenly in a low greased casserole dish (I use an 8 x 8″ one).

Cheese sauce

white-sauce-photo-d-stewartMake white sauce by melting butter in small saucepan, add flour, stirring in well. Turn heat down and continue to stir for about 2 minutes until roux bubbles and thickens. Slowly add milk, stirring often to prevent lumps. When it starts to thicken, add cheese slowly and stir until smooth. Turn off heat.

Combine in casserole

pouring sauce over asparagusPour cheese sauce evenly over asparagus in casserole dish. Top with crunchy bits and red pepper if you wish. I added all of them here: a small handful of crushed cornflakes, red pepper strips and sliced almonds.

Bake at 350° for 25-30 mins, until bubbly. Serves 2 as main dish or 4 as side. You can double the recipe, using a larger dish.

pork-chop-asparagus-potato-photo-d-stewartAsparagus needs nothing extra to make it glorious. But baked in a cheese sauce adds flavours and textures that make it a meal all on its own. If you want it vegan, replace the dairy with soy products.

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.

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.

Cauliflower Cheese

I made baked cauliflower cheese with cherry tomatoes for supper cauliflower cheese with tomato-photo-d-stewartone night. It was so pretty that I had to take a picture. It tasted so good that I thought I should make it again right away while I could remember how I did it. I still had half a cauliflower but no cherry tomatoes so I used mushrooms instead. Just as good.

Cauliflower Cheese recipe

  • ½ cauliflower head, cut in bite-size florets
  • 1-2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 tbsp onions, chopped
  • 6-10 small mushrooms or cherry tomatoes
  • (1-2 tsp pesto, if you like)
  • breadcrumbs or croutons
  • Parmesan cheese

casserole-ready-to-cook-photo-d-stewartMicrowave cauliflower florets about 2 minutes, so they’re partially cooked. Put them and all other ingredients in a greased 8×8 inch casserole. Pour cheese sauce over veggies and gently mix it in with a spoon.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs or croutons on top. Add a bit of grated parmesan if you wish. Bake at 350℉ for about 30 mins until the top is nicely browned and the cheese sauce is bubbly.

Cheese Sauce

¾ – 1 cup marble or medium cheddar (melts well) cut in small cubes
1 cup milk
2 tsp flour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water (or blending flour without water)

partially-made-cheese-sauce-photo-d-stewartPour the milk in a large enough microwaveable bowl. Mix the flour paste in, then add cheese cubes. Microwave for 3 minutes at 70% power, stir, then nuke another 1½ minutes at 80% power. (More in ‘Microwave Magic’ near bottom of Helpful Hints)

You can also make cheese sauce on the stove top or pour it ready-made out of a jar. Use about 1½ cups.

baked cauliflower casserole-photo-d-stewartIf you like the idea of this meal but it seems like too much work, there’s an even easier way of making cauliflower cheese. Steam or microwave the cauliflower pieces fully and pour cheese cheese over them. Ta-da! You’re done.