Tag Archives: recipe

Curried Lentil Soup

Last night my friend Janelle requested a soup recipe so that she could have something hearty to eat during her long hospital shiftwork this week. I’m not envious of nurses for many reasons, particularly because they have to handle needles, catheters and are exposed to dangerously high levels of Jello. My poor stomach couldn’t handle the ever-changing meal schedule, week to week, of rotating shift workers. Even with the time change of one hour a few weeks ago, my stomach was left gurgling in confused exasperation for much too long.

During my cleanse a few weeks ago I made this delicious lentil soup twice within a matter of days. Lentil soup is one of my favourites – I love its consistency, colour and wonderful earthy flavours. I also feel very self-righteous when eating something as nutritionally rich as lentils. This is a spicier version of a basic lentil recipe, which gives a slight tingle to the esophagus on the way down. Not in a reach-for-the-pepto-bismal kind of way, but rather like the sensation of eating chicken tandoori; the subtle heat has an addictive quality and the curry powder nicely complements the lentils. You may want to double the batch to be safe, as it will go quickly.

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I-Can’t-Believe-its-Not-Pasta Spaghetti Squash Casserole

My parents are liars. I just found out that they used to feed me spaghetti squash when I was a kid under the guise of it being pasta. What trickery! All that I believed to be true in this world has been shaken and questioned. What other facts of my life, once the foundation of my existence, are also untrue? Was my dad’s famous Chicken Cacciatore really just cleverly disguised rutabaga? Was he really a boiler Engineer by day as we were all led to believe, or was he an international spy or arms dealer?

I don’t yet have children, but I wonder if I’ll perpetuate the same little white food lies in the name of tricking young, picky palates with healthy foods – a kind of veggie Trojan Horse to lower their irrational defences. I probably will, as I’ve been told we all fall prey to the same devices as our well-meaning parents. I forgive you, Mom. Had I known your were trying to feed me a vegetable, I would probably have feigned insult or nausea and fallen out of my high chair in disgust. I know my childhood diet of Lucky Charms cereal and Captain Highliner Fishsticks must have been difficult to overcome.

It’s easy to see how my unsuspecting brother and I could have been so easily duped. Spaghetti Squash is true to its name in that it really does pass for pasta. Italian children, likely possessing a more evolved appreciation for pasta, would probably smell the ruse a mile away and push their plates away with a haughty air – “Ma-ma, what eez zis sporcizia?!” (unfortunately, all my ethnic impersonations end up sounding Parisian).

When prepared right, the taste is uncanny and offers a healthy, low carb alternative to pasta. When cooked, its flesh falls away like strips of spaghetti.  Last weekend I witnessed this firsthand during a family visit to Saltspring Island, where my mom and I prepared this healthy squash casserole. No matter how you cook it though, you may still want to call it spaghetti if serving to kids. And don’t forget to hide the peas in the mashed potato, while you’re at it.

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Healthy Indian Chickpea Curry

I spent this weekend on Saltspring Island visiting my folks and playing with their new Suffolk lambs that were born last week. Lambs are very docile within the first few weeks, letting themselves be picked up and cuddled; but they’re voraciously hungry, nibbling on clothing, shoelaces, an extended finger, or the dog’s tail. Thankfully, my mom’s sheep are for wool only, not for serving with mint sauce. She would just as soon make a stew from her Golden Doodle than send her sheep down the Green Mile.

My sister has been sick for a few days, so my mom proposed a cooking marathon on Sunday to prepare some healthy food to bring over. Cooking there is always a pleasure, except when baking is involved; my mom’s Aga stove, with its many compartments of varying temperatures, perplexes me and thwarts any attempt to adhere to standard cooking times. She has an immense, well-lit kitchen with ample counter space and breath-taking ocean views. Every few hours a ferry will trod past, weaving in and out of the Gulf Islands, or a pair of eagles will careen in the wind as they eye up waterfowl.

Aga stove: each compartment is a different temperature which I still can't figure out

This healthy and tasty meal has loose ties to a recipe my mom found in the Flat Belly Diet book that’s she’s been carrying around like a holy text. She’s been on a fitness kick for the past few months and has been very proud of the results. The epitome of modest, when someone comes to visit she’ll say something like “Feel my arms,” as she flexes her biceps and scowls. “The beach is that way.”

We’ve added the yogourt here, for a healthier alternative to coconut milk, and the pineapple gives the dish a surprisingly sweet taste that compliments the heat of the curry. Enjoy!

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Homemade Strawberry-Raspberry Jam

Jam is so easy and pleasurable to make that it’s a wonder why everyone doesn’t do it. The smell of strawberries cooking can transform a kitchen and for me it is reminiscent of childhood. It brings back a stream of happy, unrelated summertime memories: of lying listlessly in the dusty baseball field, knees scraped after a game; of running barefoot through an un-mowed lawn chasing my brother; of brachiating through tree branches like a simian; or of trading baseball cards, marbles and double-dare handshakes after spitting into our palms, which is really the only way this kind of handshake can be considered legit.

Store-bought jam is just jam; it is devoid of sentiment and symbolism. It is the one-night-stand of preserves. Homemade jam, on the other hand, carries with it a sort of precious timelessness. In this world of racy politics, recessions, earthquakes and grey hair, there is something almost medicinal in taking twenty minutes to stoop over the rolling boil of cooking berries and be swept back in time.

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Seared Tuna with Mango-Lime Mojo

I’ve finally found my Mojo. No, not the Austin Powers kind, but the saucy citrusy kind that originates from Cuba. It’s pronounced “mo-ho”, not “mo-jo”, the libido giving force made popular by shag carpet-chested Mike Myers, so you shouldn’t get too many strange looks when you tell people what you had for dinner as long as you say it right. Mojo is a tangy sauce made of citrus, garlic and traditionally lots of oil; though I’ve made a healthier version here with less oil and a welcome addition using my favourite fruit, mango. I love mangoes; I eat them dried, candied, juiced, frozen, in sorbets, and have even had them freshly fallen from a tree. From the small house in rural Thailand where I lived one summer, I remember hearing periodic bangs on the corrugated roofs of neighbours, which marked the sound of ripe mangoes being shaken from the trees by hungry children with long wooden sticks, clamouring for dessert.

This sauce is a delightful accompaniment to grilled pork, prawns or fish. I picked up tuna flank from the grocer this afternoon and marinated it in herbs and oil before sauteeing it very briefly, slicing and then serving with a generous drizzling of mojo.

Mojo is actually short for Mojito, which is unrelated to the drink – though the drink would be a perfect, refreshing beverage for this meal.  Continue reading


Curried Barley Salad with Apples and Pecans

Today I had an intervention with myself. Lately I’ve been feeling lethargic, unmotivated and frankly a little flabby, so I decided that tomorrow I will wipe clean the slate of my eating habits and detox with a 7-day cleanse. No more muffins during coffee break and no more sneaking handfuls of Hershey’s Kisses in the afternoon when I’m in need of a pick-me-up. I’ve given myself at least a day to prepare mentally for the challenge and to also finish off any remaining bacon, Fig Newtons or dark chocolate in my house so that my rumbling belly won’t be tempted in the days to come.

Tomorrow I will fill my fridge with green leafy things and stock up on essentials like yams, beets, quinoa and even the black wild rice that tastes like twigs. I will wash the grime from my unused water bottle and make an effort to actually drink from it throughout the day, instead of only using it to fill my iron or to water hard-to-reach houseplants.  I’ll freeze any leftover bread, as it will be forbidden fruit to me over the next 7 days, as will be my Monday morning emotional crutch and companion – coffee. I pity my poor coworkers on Monday.

The cleanse I bought is the ReCleanse Herbal Cleanse and Detox. It is probably very mild compared to others on the market and it’s suitable for someone like me who needs to consume enough calories in order not to throw a tantrum from low blood sugar whenever Microsoft Outlook acts up. It requires taking mild herbal pills, drinking enough water to substantially lower one’s productivity at work, and refraining from eating certain foods such as bread products, dairy (except natural plain yogourt), alcohol, coffee and refined sugars. I do this cleanse a few times a year, usually when the seasons change, and after seven days I feel stronger, happier and healthier. It usually also sets my eating patterns on the right course for another few months and saves me money from not splurging at the coffee shop across the street from work.

The secret to making it through till the seventh day is to always have healthy snacks at the ready. I’ve got such little food willpower that this is integral for me. To help get me through the first few days, tonight I made a delicious batch of curried barley salad with apples, cranberries and pecans.  It tastes fine warm, but even better as a cold lunch the next day. Enjoy!

Pearl Barley

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How to Make Peanut Butter

While I am typically not a huge fan of peanuts, unless I’m eating them off of a countertop with a pint of beer, I could live quite happily off peanut butter.

A friend of mine who is a chef at a local restaurant forbids bringing peanut butter into his house out of principle. I’ve seen him become red-faced and indignant at the mere mention of it, as he thinks it unsophisticated and barely passable for food, like Cheese Whiz or Twinkies. He may not be alone when it comes to this contentious legume and its creamy spread. Allergies have given peanuts such a bad rap that they are banned from schools and office buildings as if they were something illicit or leprous.  It’s true that they’re not as sexy as the macadamia or as versatile as the almond, and in assorted nut mixtures, they’re always picked last – the fat kid of nuts. But don’t be so quick to judge the lowly peanut.

I always carry a large, Costco-sized container of peanut butter in my cupboard. As a runner, I find it a quick, energy rich food for before or after a workout. As an oft-lazy weeknight cook, I’ll whip together a peanut butter jam sandwich, or will plop down on the couch after work, spoon in hand, and eat directly from the container as if it were a tub of Rocky Road ice cream.

Not from fiscal necessity, but rather out of curiosity, I wanted to see how easy it would be to make my own peanut butter at home.  I’m not  a huge fan of the crunchy, thick stuff they sell in health food stores, so I decided to dispense with the “all natural” and add a bit of sugar and oil for increased taste and added creaminess. The ingredient list is sparse: roasted peanuts, salt, oil and sugar, though if you prefer natural peanut butter perhaps leave out or reduce the last two ingredients.

I picked up a bag of peanuts at the grocery store tonight and felt a little self conscious, like I was buying a Playboy or tampons for a girlfriend. After all, no one buys peanuts anymore except old ladies with purple-dyed hair who feed squirrels in the park.

This recipe couldn’t be more satisfying and was well worth the arched-eyebrow look from the pale-faced cashier tonight. In less than 5 minutes I had a cup full of creamy peanut butter that cost pennies and tasted as good as anything store-bought. Kids, try this at home. Continue reading