Monday, February 24, 2014

Superfast Cornbread

Some friends of mine spent two years teaching in Malawi.  While there, they came across an old Peace Corps cookbook put together by various expats living abroad.  Some of my best bread recipes come from that book.  This recipe is a version of one that was passed on to me from that book.

The best thing about this recipe is that it is so quick and easy that it can be made on a weeknight.  Alternatively, it freezes very well, so it can be made ahead of time and then thawed when needed.  I slice it and then freeze two-piece portions in sandwich bags so that I can easily pull out what I need for a weeknight supper.  Leftover chilli with a couple of pieces of cornbread makes a quick and filling meal.

Makes one loaf or one 8x8" pan.


3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg
1/4 cup organic canola oil

1 cup wholegrain spelt flour
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 Tbsp baking soda
2/3 tsp salt


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal and the milk together and let sit for 10 minutes.  This step is the most important one because it prevents your cornbread from being too crunchy.

3. Mix the oil and egg together and add to the cornmeal and milk.

4. In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir.

5. Transfer the batter to a loaf pan or square pan.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  Transfer to a rack to cool completely.


1. The original recipe calls for white flour instead of spelt flour and white sugar instead of coconut sugar.  It will rise higher if you use white flour, but will be healthier if you use whole flour.  You could always use a combination for the best of both worlds.

2. You can add 1/2 cup thawed corn kernels and/or diced jalapeño pepper for more kick.

3. For a vegan version, substitute almond or soy milk and use 1 tbsp ground chia seeds mixed with warm water (let stand for 10 minutes) instead of the egg.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Tuna Melt Casserole

A long time ago, Scott decided to make supper from the recipe on the back of the condensed mushroom soup can.  Surprisingly, the six-ingredient meal was quite tasty, and as I've previously said, I'm a sucker for a good casserole.  Wanting to make the dish a bit healthier so that we didn't have to use the condensed soup, this recipe was born.  It is even more flavourful and delicious than the original - go figure...

Serves 4 - 6.


340 grams bowtie pasta

2 cloves garlic
3 leeks
8 ounces mushrooms
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper

300 grams light ricotta cheese
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup fresh dill
salt, pepper

1 cup frozen corn

2 cans flaked tuna in water, drained

1 cup grated cheese of your choice (I used marble).


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Boil the pasta in salted water for one minute less than the package directions indicate.  When done, drain and set aside

3. Pulse garlic and leeks in a food processor (or chop finely by hand).  Sauté in olive oil for about 4 minutes in a large frying pan.

4. Meanwhile, pulse mushrooms in food processor (or chop finely by hand) until small bits.

5. Add mushrooms to the pan and continue to sauté for 8 - 10 more minutes.

6. Process the ricotta, yogurt, milk, eggs, dill, salt and pepper in the food processor (or beat by hand) until combined (it will be quite runny).

7. Remove the onion and leek mixture from the heat.  Add the frozen corn to the pan and combine. Then, add the drained, flaked tuna. Then, add the cooked and drained pasta and stir.  Finally, add the sauce and combine thoroughly.

8. Pour the pasta mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 13" pan.  Top with grated cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes and then broil for 4 minutes.  Enjoy!


1. Buy high quality tuna (usually the one that is the most expensive).  If it smells like cat food, it will taste like cat food.

2. Buy whole mushrooms as they are cheaper and easier to clean.  A lot of sliced mushrooms still have dirt on them.

3. Make sure to clean the leeks thoroughly by running them under cold water after cutting them in half lengthwise.  Hold them top side down when you do this so that the dirt runs out of the leek.

4. Ricotta cheese is sold in a tub in the deli section.


1. You can sauté the garlic, leeks, and mushrooms ahead of time.  You can even do a double batch  and freeze the extras for next time.  This will save you a lot of time and clean up the next time you want to make this.

2. You could also make this with leftover chicken.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Creamy Chard and Mushrooms on Toast with Poached Egg

Several years ago, I took a leave of absence from work to go to Vancouver and get my culinary arts diploma.  Why?  I'm not really sure, but it felt like the right thing to do at the time!  During the program, we had to do a black box test.  We were told a few ingredients ahead of time, but we didn't know which ones we would get.  All I knew was that one of them could be swiss chard.  In the past, I had sautéed it with mushrooms and balsamic vinegar as an accompaniment to my steak, but I wasn't sure how I would use it in other preparations.

The weekend before the exam, a bunch of us from class were at the house of another student when we decided to make brunch.  Each person grabbed a bunch of ingredients and made something for the communal table.  Since no one had taken the mushrooms from the fridge, and there was fresh chard in the garden, I decided to whip together my good old stand-by.  Since it was brunch, there was toast, and someone had soft-boiled a bunch of eggs.  It was then that kismet happened on my plate.  As I piled some of the chard and mushrooms onto my egg-soaked toast, the perfect medley occurred, and it was then that I knew what I would do for my black box if swiss chard were to appear.

As fate would have it, swiss chard did appear, and I invented a much more sophisticated version of that Sunday brunch for top marks.  I have since created this version, which is much more do-able for a quick brunch or light supper.

This recipe serves 2, but could easily be doubled to serve 4.


4 pieces of crusty toast

4 poached eggs

1Tbsp olive oil
1 leek, washed, quartered, and chopped
8 oz of mushrooms, washed and sliced
2 large swiss chard leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup cream
salt, pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Remove the stems from the chard and chop finely.  In a large pan on medium-high heat, sauté the chard stems, leeks, Italian seasoning, and mushrooms in the oil until mushrooms are brown and stems are tender - about 8 minutes.

2. Put another shallow pan on the stove and fill with water, salt, and a splash of white vinegar (if desired to help keep the egg whites together).

2. Slice the chard leaves in ribbons and add then with the garlic to the pan.  Sauté on medium low until leaves are wilted and pan is dry.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Break an egg into a small cup being careful not to break the yolk.  If the yolk breaks, save it for another use and break a new one.  When the water is simmering, slowly and carefully pour the egg into the water being careful not to break the yolk.  Add the remaining eggs in the same way.  Set the timer for 4 minutes.

4. While the eggs are simmering, put the toast down.

5. When there is about 2 minutes left in the cooking time for the eggs, add the balsamic to the chard mixture and cook until the pan is almost dry.  Add the cream, turn the heat to low and adjust the seasoning.

6. When the toast pops, put two pieces on each plate, top with the chard mixture, and an egg on each  piece of toast.  Lightly sprinkle each egg with salt, pepper, and a touch of cayenne pepper.  Enjoy immediately.

Shopping Tips:

1. Swiss chard can be red, white, or yellow at the stem.  Any one will work as there is little difference in the taste.  For more detailed instructions and pictures about using it, refer to the instructions for kale on this recipe.

2. For more information about washing and cutting leeks, refer to this recipe.

3. Go here for another recipe that uses Italian herbs and balsamic vinegar.

4. You can use whatever cream you prefer: full fat or half and half.


1. Instead of the leeks, you could use shallots or finely sliced onions (if you have to).

2. To the mushrooms, you could add diced bell peppers.

3. Instead of poaching the eggs, you could soft-boil them for 5 minutes in boiling water.

4. Instead of toast, you could put the chard mixture and the egg on a bed of whole grains.

5. Layering fresh tomatoes between the chard and the egg tastes great too.

6. As stated above, the chard mixture is great on its own with steak.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spinach, Cauliflower, and Feta Quinoa Cakes

I'm always looking for new and delicious ways to incorporate grains into my meals.  Whole grains are delicious and nutritious, but rarely is a pile of whole grains on the side of the plate appetizing or appealing.  These quinoa cakes are a great way to add a new and exciting food to your plate as a side dish or even on top of a salad for a bit more substance.  They can be made ahead of time and reheated or eaten at room temperature as a filling snack-on-the-go.  Scott likes them plain with Dijon mustard on top.

This recipe makes about 10 - 11 cakes.


1 cup dry quinoa
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
1 large handful of spinach, washed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp basil, chopped
4 eggs
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (use garlic and herb if you like)
1/4 cup flour of your choice
1 tsp salt
pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp coconut oil or organic canola oil


1. Cook the quinoa by simmering in salted water on low heat for about 15 minutes.  Drain and cool to room temperature.

2. Chop the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces or pulse in a food processor.

3. To the cooled quinoa, add the cauliflower and remaining ingredients except for the oil.

4. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to set.

5. Heat 1Tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan.  Form the patties either by hand or using the lid of a wide-mouthed canning jar (this method makes perfect-sized cakes, and the cakes can be slid off the lid and into the pan).  Fry the patties in batches on a medium heat.  Fry for 3 - 4 minutes on one side and 2 - 3 minutes on the other side or until golden brown. Use the remaining tablespoon of oil for the second batch of cakes.

6. When patties are cooked, transfer them to a paper towel lined plate.  If you are saving them for later, put another paper towel overtop and cover with plastic wrap.  Enjoy!

How to ensure perfectly formed cakes: 1) pack the canning lid full, 2) fry until crispy on the bottom (you will see brown around the edges), 3) do not turn them more than once, 4) use coconut oil which doesn't absorb into the cakes as quickly.

Shopping Tips:

1. Quinoa may come pre-washed or not - check the side of the bag.  If it is not washed, it is important to rinse thoroughly before cooking to get the natural saponin (soap-taste) off.

2. Cauliflower comes in orange, purple, green, and white.  Often these varieties are available in the summer at the farmers market.  If you can find them, orange, purple, and green are healthier and add an interesting contrast to the patties.


1. As previously stated, these can be eaten warm or cold.

2. Kale can be easily substituted for the spinach.