Skillet Chili Pasta

By Corinne

For a long time I had mixed feelings about chili. I don’t care for kidney beans. Sometimes people put mushrooms in their chili, and mushrooms happen to be one of the few things that I REALLY don’t like. I’m a bit picky about my ground beef. But one of the glorious things about making things yourself is you can do it how you like it. I usually make chili with stew beef rather than ground beef, but though I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, I have been inspired to make more plant protein based meals. This chili is a riff on something between my regular chili, and the chili mac from Thug Kitchen 101. It is vegan as long as you stick to vegan ‘toppers’ to finish.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp safflower or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped (I often use red onion, but yellow onions work fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 1 large stalk of celery (or two small)
  • 1 jalapeño finely minced (use half if you are cautious about the heat, it is always easier to add more than to try and adjust it if you’ve made it too hot for your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups (500ml)  of a plain tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes (I usually use my ones I canned from my garden until I run out!)
  • *2 tbsp (30 ml)- 1/2 cup tomato paste the amount of tomato paste needed will depend on the tomato sauce you use and whether you used just canned tomatoes or an actual sauce
  • 1 can of beer
  • 2-3 cups (750ml) of vegetable broth (start with 2, add more water if needed for the pasta to cook)
  • 3 cups of small pasta (about 240g) (today I used a tri-colour rotini, but I also love small shells for this)
  • 1 can (540ml 19 fl oz) of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp lime juice + zest from one lime
  • any or none of the following to finish – cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado, lime wedges, additional jalapeño. This dish is vegan as long as you stick to vegan add ins.

In a large skillet, add  2 tbsp oil and chopped onion, celery, carrot, bell pepper,  and jalapeño pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until veggies are fragrant and getting tender. Add garlic, coriander, cumin and paprika and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Add tomato sauce, veggie broth, and beer. Cover and bring to a simmer. Add pasta, cover and cook until pasta is a bit before al dente.  The amount of time here will depend on the size of your pasta, but about 7 minutes should probably do it. Add lime juice and zest, maple syrup and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serve topped with any or none of the the suggested toppings. Do you have any toppings you love for chili that aren’t mentioned here?

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Maple Balsamic Slaw and Sausage

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By Corinne

If ‘coleslaw’ makes you think of mayo- banish it from your mind!  This is not your mayo based coleslaw for sure. Red cabbage is beautiful, inexpensive and an excellent source of vitamins C, K, and A. You could do all red cabbage for this slaw, or all green if that’s all you can find, but I like a combination of the two for the colours. In the middle of winter it can be difficult to find good produce that is reasonably priced. This colourful meal checks a number of boxes- easy, fast, healthy and economical!

RANDOM SCIENCE FACTS AND FUN HOME LAB FOR KIDS– skip this and scroll down if you want to straight to the foods!

You can also make an AWESOME natural indicator with red cabbage. An indicator is a substance that changes colour depending on pH. Red cabbage contains a pigment molecule that is an anthocyanin- this is what is responsible for the colour changes. Want a fun little science lab you can do at home?  I have done the following MANY times with my science students. I usually have them test a variety of ‘mystery liquids’ with both pH strips and a few drops of the red cabbage indicator. They are always surprised with the variety and brightness of the colours produced.

To make the indicator, boil some chopped red cabbage(about a cup or cup and a half) with a half a cup of water for about 5 minutes- it doesn’t matter too much proportions, but you want to end up with a dark purple liquid – that being said, the colour of the liquid will very much depend on the pH of your tap water and how close to neutral your  water is. Strain and cool (keep tightly sealed in the fridge) Once cooled, you can test a variety of household substances.

Start with something you know is acidic- lemon juice or vinegar and something you know is basic- bleach for example, so you have a baseline and know what colours to expect from acids and bases. In science class we use spot plates and pipettes, but you can just place a few drops of your testing liquid onto a plate. You want just a few drops of the substance you are testing, and then place a few drops of your indicator into it and record your observations.

If you drip this liquid into a substance that is basic, it will turn green, and if you drip it into an acid it turns bright pink. (Neutral solutions will stay purple). Have fun checking a variety of household liquids!

Time: 40 minutes for the sausages, about 15 minutes for the slaw or less if you are using a food processor.

Oven: 400F

Serves: 2-3

You will need:

  • 350 g (about 4 cups) red cabbage thinly sliced
  • 200 g (about 3 cups) green cabbage thinly sliced
  • 140 g (1 large) carrot grated
  • 3 salt and pepper sausages (can be found at Maltese if you are in Thunder Bay) or 3 mildly flavoured sausages of your choice
  • 1 clove garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) safflower or olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (37 ml) pure maple syrup (don’t use maple flavoured whatever!)
  • 1/2 tbsp (7 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp (10 ml) smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/2 shallot, finely minced (about 1.5 tbsp)
  • 1 clove of garlic finely minced
  • a few grinds of fresh pepper

Heat oven to 400F while you make the dressing.

Whisk together all dressing ingredients. This makes about 1 cup of dressing.

Thinly slice cabbages and grate carrot. I used a food processor today, but have often just sliced by hand. Dress slaw in half of the dressing and refrigerate and reserve the other half of the dressing. (This is fine made ahead, but ensure you don’t add the toasted sesame seeds until serving)

Add 1 additional clove of garlic to the reserved dressing. Place sausages in a small casserole dish with the half cup of reserved dressing. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping them over periodically and basting in the dressing.

In a small frying pan, add the sesame seeds and toast over medium heat, shaking them up until golden- about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add a generous amount slaw to each plate. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, slice on the bias and place on top of slaw. Sprinkle with a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame seeds.

 

Magic Muffins – Maple Blueberry

By:  Julie

Time:  35 min

Serves:  12-15 large muffins

It’s time for another edition of Magic Muffins!  Last week I was on a blueberry yogurt parfait kick for breakfast.  This week it’s mini-wheats.  I don’t like blueberries on my mini-wheats, so I had some blueberries to use up.  Combine that with a trip to the sugar bush last week and BOOM BABY! Maple Blueberry Muffins.

You Will Need:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup applesauce (or oil if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups of blueberry
  •  1 cup of shredded apple

Prep

Preheat oven to 350F and grease your muffin pans.  You can use paper liners if you wish, but I prefer the slight crisp on the outside of the muffin when they are baked naked.  This recipe removes easily from the baking pan with just a slight coating of cooking spray.

Mix The Wet Ingredients

Whisk the sugar, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and applesauce together in a large bowl until smooth.

Mix The Dry Ingredients

Stir flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Combine and Bake

Mix the dry into the wet ingredients until just combined.  Fold in the blueberries, apple, and raisins.  Bake for 20-25 min for extra large muffins (full muffin cups, see picture).  Mine baked for exactly 23 minutes and they were perfect.

Maple Dijon Pork Tenderloin Medallions

 

By Corinne

You know when you have no time to make something for supper? And you don’t even have time to throw on a bit of a garnish to make your picture look pretty because you got home late and someone is leaving for a rehearsal in 40 minutes? This is a supper for those nights.

Cous cous is one of my favourite sides because it takes all of 5 minutes to make- and it even comes in a delicious whole wheat version. It’s springtime and the asparagus is no longer being trucked in all the way from Peru so I don’t feel bad about buying it, and it also takes all of 7-10 minutes to broil in the oven. This supper is a crowd pleaser and goes well with all sorts of vegetables and starches.

 

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Servings:2-4 depending on sides

Time: 20 min or less

You Will Need:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup flour + 1 tbsp **see note
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp smooth dijon mustard (I love the President’s Choice brand), or 1 tbsp smooth dijon, 1 tbsp grainy dijon
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup chicken broth OR 1 cup water 1 tbsp veggie bouillon

Season 1/2 cup flour with salt and pepper. Preheat pan on medium/medium high depending on your stove. Cut pork tenderloin into 3/4 inch medallions and dredge in seasoned flour. I usually flatten them out a little by hand as I do this.

Add 3 tbsp of butter to pan. When melted, add medallions, cooking 3-4 min on each side until browned and cooked through. Remove pork from pan, whisk in the 1 tbsp of flour, then add the one cup of broth and let reduce and thicken for a minute or two. Add the 2 tbsp each of mustard and maple syrup. ** when serving this with rice or cous cous I sometimes prefer to leave the sauce thinner and omit the extra tbsp of flour, while when I serve with oven fries or potatoes of some sort I always add it to make the sauce more gravy like.

Add the pork medallions back to the pan to cover in sauce or to reheat if you’ve taken an excessive amount of time reducing your sauce  due to answering the door or the phone or any number of things that can distract you while making supper.

Serve with a few spoonfuls of sauce on cous cous (as pictured), with rice, or  oven fries. It would probably be delightful with mashed potatoes, but I rarely make them so can’t say for sure. Good veggies to go are steamed broccoli, asparagus, or roasted brussels sprouts. All of these veggies are complemented by the maple dijon sauce and are pretty and green on the plate.

Browned Butter and Maple Apple Crisp

By Julie

Time: 75min:  30min prep, 45 min baking

Serves 4-6

I love everything about apple crisp.  The tangy tartness of the apples, the sweet buttery crumb of the crisp, the syrupy sauce that only forms in the careful slow baking of pectin, sugar, and a little flour.  My grandmother used to put rhubarb in it, which I love even more, but sadly it’s December and I have long since used up my stash of frozen stalks.  However, not to worry, because it is the season of liquid gold (maple syrup) so we will give it a staring role in this dish.

A fruit crisp is a great way to bring a taste of summer into the long winter months.  It works great with fresh or thawed frozen fruit, and it’s a super quick desert to make.

Since I love everything about apple crisp and also have a slightly unhealthy addiction to browned butter, I decided that it would probably be heaven to combine the two.  Tyler brought home a cooler full of crisp, tiny apples of unknown variety from work and I needed to use them quickly as they are not waxed.  I do not hold their anonymity against them though for they are super crunchy, sweet, and delicious.  If you don’t have awesome anonymous apples, Gala works nicely here.

This is the first dessert I made without a recipe.  It took me several tries to get it the way I envisioned it, so we ate apple crisp for a week and one of them was completely inedible.  It is now, honestly, art.  The best crisp I’ve ever had, it’s frequently requested by my family.  I am dying for July fresh peaches so I can try them too. I’m not a super sweet dessert person, I like buttery sweet/salt combinations and my preferences are discernible in this recipe.  It works best in a small deep dish 1.5 quart casserole dish.  If using an 8×8 you need to double the recipe and use a deep pan.

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • enough apples to fill your dish.  About 7.
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup oats (rolled or quick, whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

This magic happens in a slow 350 degree oven.  Preheat now.

First, Brown the Butter!  You could skip this step.. if you wanted to… you would be CRAZY.. but you could.  But don’t.  So, brown the butter.  Put a whole stick, or half a cup, into a small sauce pan over medium low heat.  On my burn-o-matic stove, it’s really low, but for you, it should be about the temperature that you use for pancakes.  DO NOT DESERT YOUR BUTTER!  For it happens quickly.  The butter will melt and turn a sunny yellow colour, foam and darken slowly, then the magic happens.  The butter solids separate and brown, turning your butter into something the colour of:  well, brown.  It will smell nutty, the solids will be sitting at the bottom.  Brown as much as you dare… don’t burn it.  Burned butter is bitter and not yummy at all.  As always, taste it to make sure.  It should taste slightly salty and caramely. If it’s bitter, you broke the rule, deserted it, and it’s burnt.  Start over.  Remove from heat immediately, transfer to a small bowl to halt the cooking process and put in the freezer to harden while you finish prepping. You want to be able to cut it into the crumble instead of just pouring it on.

Peel the Apples:  If you have a peeler, by all means use it.  I do.  Because I hate peeling apples almost as much as I hate doing dishes.  I used 7 small apples, but you want to fill your pan nearly to the top.  Slice thinly and top with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning. Place in a 1.5 quart baking dish, and toss with 1 tbsp of flour.   Add enough maple syrup to coat.  About 1/4 of a cup.  Toss and level the apples in the pan.

Make the Crumble:  In a medium bowl, combine:

  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Then add the brown butter, using a pastry blender to combine the butter with the dry ingredients until a crumbly mixture forms.  If it got too hard in the freezer feel free to soften it for a few seconds in the microwave but you want it cold.  Don’t melt it. Try not to eat it.

Assemble and Bake:  Double check to make sure your oven is preheated to 350F.  Spoon the crumble on top of the apples and press down lightly.  Pop in the oven and bake for 45 min.  Your sauce should be starting to bubble up around the edges and the top should be golden brown.  Serve warm as a dessert, add cream, or be brave like me and put it on a pancake so you can call it breakfast.  Because, well there’s fruit and syrup and why wouldn’t you?

Other Ideas: Please leave a comment and let me know how this worked for you.  Feel free to change, create, and inspire.  My only advice is don’t try granola… I did, and it would have been lovely, but raisins can only take so much punishment and 45 min on top of a crisp exposed to the heat was more than their shriveled skins could take.  I’ve also tried raisins in with the apples, fantastic, and dried cranberries.  Also fantastic.  Use what you have available and create something delicious to share.

 

A.W. Campbell Conservation Area Maple Syrup Festival

By Julie

Today we took a walk in the woods in search of some history and some delicious local maple syrup.  Luckily, we found both.  The A.W. Campbell Conservation Area outside of Alvinston, Ontario hosts an annual maple syrup festival.  They have displays of historical ways of processing sugar maple sap, and also a modern operation which uses a series of plastic tubes to run the sap to collection tanks.

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My favourite part was a story about how early natives discovered maple syrup. The story told to us by the tour guide was that youths were practicing with their tomahawks and one got lodged in a tree. The youths left it behind, stuck deep into the tree, scarring it and releasing the life blood of the tree, the sap.  The next day, a maiden was walking to collect a bucket of water and stopped to rest beneath the tree.  She fell asleep, and when she woke, her bucket was overflowing with clear water!  She happily returned to her village and used the water to cook bear meat.  The sap boiled, cooked the bear meat and became maple syrup.

We had a demonstration of the native method… hot rocks placed into the sap in a hollowed out log.  It looked… ashy.

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The tour was wonderful, and very informative, but then there were pancakes.  Cooked by firemen.  And man, they were the best pancakes on styrofoam plates I have ever had.  Did I mention the local fresh maple syrup?  I wanted to lick the plate.  Even the breakfast sausage was local.

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This is my new friend Jake Halls.  He works for the Alvinston fire department and was selling an assortment of completely legal, sweet, addictive, liquid gold.  There was maple butter, and syrup – oh the syrup –  in everything from tiny bottles to two liter jugs.  Who wouldn’t want that?

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I made it out of there without buying the entire counter.  Barely.

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Watch for some sweet maple treats while we celebrate the season of liquid gold.

Magic Muffins – Zucchini!

By: Julie

Time:  30min:  10min prep, 20 min cook

Serves:  16 – 20 large muffins

Introducing Muffin Mondays!  Every Monday for the next several weeks we will bring you a new muffin post.

I like my muffins to taste like muffins.  I like them to be moist and slightly sweet, but not cakey or deserty.  I think the muffins that come from Tim Hortons these days don’t resemble anything we should be eating for breakfast, so I make my own.

I call these magic because they seem to work out no matter what I do to them.  They are my choose your own adventure muffins.  I use applesauce instead of oil and the stayed moist for five days.  FIVE DAYS.  That’s what makes them magic. I keep the basic ingredients the same and swap out the flavors regularly. You will see several variations of these over the next several weeks to get a sense of what you can do with them. I frequently use this recipe to get rid of leftover fruits, jams, nuts and flours. Have fun with it.

Today’s adventure is with zucchini!

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A neighbor friend of mine, the lovely Lynsey, was kind enough to drop off some giant zucchini last summer.  These are not much good for grilling, but shred them and they are terrific for baking.  Sadly, this is the last batch.  Zucchini will keep shredded for up to 6 months.  Longer if you’ve packaged it well.  And the raisins… a number of you will say you don’t like raisins in your muffins but I say you can’t have a muffin without a raisin.  Bring on the raisins.  You can omit them.  If you must.  But you shouldn’t.

You Will Need:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp of baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup applesauce (or oil if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups of shreded zucchini

Prep

Preheat oven to 350F and grease you muffin pans.  You can use paper liners if you wish, but I prefer the slight crisp on the outside of the muffin when they are baked naked.  This recipe removes easily from the baking pan with just a slight coating of cooking spray.

Mix The Wet Ingredients

Whisk the sugar, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and applesauce together in a large bowl until smooth.

Mix The Dry Ingredients

Stir flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

Combine and Bake

Fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  You know the muffin rule, NEVER OVER MIX.  There should still be bits of white flour.  The rest will work itself in when you fold in the zucchini and the raisins.  On that note… fold in the zucchini and the raisins.  I used a large cookie scoop and used heaping portions, filling the muffin cups nearly to the top.  If you use a bit less you can make up to 24 smaller muffins.  Place the muffins in the oven for 20min.  If you’ve made them smaller check them after 15.  Poke with a wooden skewer in the center to make sure they’re done.  The skewer should be clean or with a few crumbs.  Remove from oven an let cool for 10 min before removing from pan to cooling rack.  Enjoy warm or cold.  Even butter isn’t needed, but it is delicious.