Vegan (or not) Garden Pesto

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By Corinne

Basil is amazing. I am so in love with basil in the summer I can hardly help myself from adding it to everything. Basil in every salad, basil on sandwiches, basil gently rubbed between my fingers just to smell every time I go outside on my deck… Ah! Well, enough with this summer reverie. It’s February and the days (while getting longer) are still short and dark and cold and we’ve just had two weeks of -20C without a break. I’m craving summer in a bad way!

This pesto is infinitely versatile- in the summer I use much more basil than other greens, but in the winter good basil is hard to find and pricy! Tonight when I made it, I used about 15g of basil and 15g of parsley(a small handful of each)- the rest was spicy arugula, so I omitted the pepper.

While I’ve historically always used cheese, I decided to give nutritional yeast a try for this recipe. I probably could have thinned it out a BIT more, but it actually emulsified easier than the cheese version, was smoother, and as a bit of a shock to both myself and my taste tester, was the preferred version!

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Time: under 10 minutes

Makes: about 1/2- 3/4 of a cup 

You will need:

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or other oil of your choice (I used sunflower oil)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, outer skin removed
  • 1 ½ cup(lightly packed down) fresh herbs such as basil, parsley or greens such as spinach, kale or arugula
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt – to taste
  • pepper – to taste

In a food processor or using an immersion blender(I usually use my immersion blender as this is a relatively small batch and I have a large food processor), combine the herbs/greens and garlic and process for 15 seconds.

With the food processor still running, add the oil SLOWLY until the mixture is smooth – you want it to emulsify. The mixture should look almost matte, and not oily. If your pesto looks oily you rushed the emulsification process and added too much oil at once.  You are looking for the mixture to be loose, not chunky but not watery or runny at all.

Add the nutritional yeast or cheese and process for ten seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You can see in the picture that I did a better job of emulsifying the one version on the left than the one on the right today. I’m going to blame using a different container than I usually use!

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Toss with warm pasta, put on pizza, spread on a pork tenderloin or chicken… pesto is delightfully easy to use! This will stay good in the fridge for about a week. 

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Chicken with Chardonnay Cream and Pancetta

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By Corinne

I love cooking with wine! You don’t have to buy a super expensive bottle, but you should buy one that isn’t horrific or that makes you gag. I often use Grey Fox Chardonnay from California for cooking, as it’s inexpensive but also not the worst if you’re going to have a glass to finish the bottle.

This recipe was inspired by one in Niagra Cooks by Lynn Orgryzlo, but has been adapted. I wanted it to be gluten free, with more sauce, and a few less steps. A grainy mustard also works well here, though will give the finished sauce a slightly different texture. I have made it before with 1/2 and 1/2 cream, if you do this, you will need more time for reducing and definitely need to finish by thickening with corn starch.

Time: about 35 minutes

Serves: 4 

You will need:

  • 4 chicken cutlets (about 1.5lbs or 0 .66kg)
  • 4 slices of pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup (about 1/2 a large onion) finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  •  1.5 cups chardonnay
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp corn starch + 2 tbsp broth, water or wine
  • a few tbsp safflower, or canola oil
  • salt and pepper

Cook pancetta until crisp in the pan you will be cooking the chicken in. Only cook pancetta over medium/medium low. It will get quite smokey if you do it on a higher heat.  Remove pancetta, add butter to pan. Add minced onion, cook until softened and starting to get golden, about 7 min. Add minced garlic and cook for about 1 more minute. Remove onion and garlic from pan, but leave any residual oil.

Add enough oil to the pan so that the bottom is covered in a thin layer. Turn up heat to medium high. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Add chicken to pan, it should sizzle loudly. You want some nice browning action so the pan has to be hot (though it should not be smoking). Cook 3-4 min on each side, turning once, until cooked through. If you are not using cutlets and are using rather thick breasts, brown both sides and then finish in a 400F oven until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F. You may have to cook in batches. Remove when cooked and keep warm in oven.

Add the chardonnay to the pan, scraping up any browned bits. Add the onions you cooked earlier. Let reduce for a few minutes until reduced by about a 1/4. Add chicken or vegetable broth and cream. Allow to simmer for 3-4 minutes. If sauce requires additional thickening, mix together 1/2tbsp corn starch with 2 tbsp broth, wine or water. Mix into sauce.

Serve cutlets with a generous scoop of sauce, and a piece of pancetta crumbled over top. Delicious sides that go well with this sauce include rice and almost any vegetable, though tonight I made twice baked broccoli potatoes- which also worked well 🙂

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Hominy with Kale and Chicken

By Corinne

Living here in the great white north I’ve only recently been introduced to hominy.  After a bit of looking around on the internet, it seems like canned hominy is easy to find and can usually be found near beans in the grocery store. Most sources recommended using canned rather than dried, and if you can find them, it will certainly save them a step. If you’re living in Thunder Bay, I haven’t found canned hominy anywhere (though word on the street is that Bulk Zone has brought in some canned hominy now!) and the only place I’ve found whole dried hominy is Renco’s Foods on Court St.

Once you’ve figured out the hominy part, this is an easy supper.

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Time: about 35-45 minutes (depends on the thickness of the chicken you are cooking)

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cups of hominy* (rehydrated and cooked) or probably one can drained will do
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 6 cups of washed and finely chopped kale leaves – no stems
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of cherry tomatoes (I used mini san marzano because they are my fav)
  • 1/4 tsp red chili flakes, or one crumbled red chili
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Juice of one fresh lemon
  • 1/4 cup white wine or chicken broth. I used white wine.
  • Salt and pepper

*If you can find canned hominy, by all means, use that. If using dried hominy, start this recipe the day before by cooking the hominy. I skipped the soaking overnight step and cooked it in the slow cooker on low overnight. It still took until early afternoon before kernels were tender and had popped. I cooked the whole bag of dried hominy and froze what I didn’t use in two cup portions so that I won’t have to do this step again for a while.

In a large pan heat 1 tbsp canola over medium heat. Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and add to pan. If your chicken breasts are quite thick, you may wish to cut them in half to reduce cooking time. Cook for about 15-20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your chicken) until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Remove chicken from pan.

Add 1 tbsp canola to the pan and turn up the heat a bit to medium high. Add the hominy and stir and cook for about 10 minutes until some of it is getting a bit browned on the edges. Add the onion and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.

Slice the chicken breasts and add back to pan with the other ingredients. Add the chili flakes, thyme, garlic and kale. Add the white wine and the lemon juice. Stir until chicken is reheated,  kale has wilted and the liquid has been mostly absorbed, about 5-7 minutes. Some of the tomatoes may have just started to break down, that’s ok, but if they’re all still whole that’s ok too. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Left-over Chicken Fettuccine In A Light Cream Sauce

The other night I made some delicious Turkish Chicken and have been having a creative food-fest with the leftovers.  Yesterday I made some Chicken Salad and today, pasta!  Yummy, yummy pasta.  I have to start by telling you I don’t really like Alfredo sauce.  I find most of it sweet and rich and too thick.  I have never really had an Alfredo Sauce that made me stop and swoon the way I’ve seen some of my girl friends do.  Hence, I’ve never made it.  This sauce is sort of like Alfredo, but since it doesn’t use heavy cream it is not as sweet and rich and also not as fatty.  You’re very sad, I know.  I like light sauces, I almost always pick a tomato based sauce over a cream sauce, with the exception of some white wine creations which I love.

Don’t have any leftover chicken?  Slice and saute a chicken breast and set aside before starting.

You Will Need

  • 10oz of fettuccine
  • 2 tbsp pasta water
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups of sugar snap peas
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 leftover chicken thighs, chopped
  • 100g of smoked Gouda (or any other favourite)
  • 1 cup of half and half cream
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Prepare pasta as per package directions, reserve 2 tbsp of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.  Heat butter and olive oil over medium heat and add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook 2 or 3 minutes until softened, add peas and red pepper.  Cook until tender crisp, about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook 1 min more until fragrant.  Add cheese, cream, pasta water and chicken and bring to a simmer. This needs some salt and a generous amount of ground pepper.  Don’t be shy with the pepper, you won’t be sorry.  Add pasta and simmer until slightly thickened.  Serve immediately and garnish additional Parmesan.

 

Harissa Chicken Wraps with Hummus

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By Corinne

I am generally not one for buying spice blends, though I do enjoy when my friends visit exotic places and bring them back for me! Harissa is a Tunisian (though variants are found throughout north Africa and the Mediterranean) blend of of chilies, garlic and other spices such as mint. It’s often found as a paste rather than as the dry spice blend and either will work in this recipe. I picked up this Harissa blend on a bit of a whim, though I did receive a cookbook for Christmas that calls for harissa in a few recipes. I made my own wraps for this, but you can certainly use store bought tortillas or pita breads.

Makes: about 6-8 wraps

Time: about 30 minutes, more if you make your own flatbreads

You will need:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • about 1 tbsp of harissa spice blend
  • about 3/4 cup of hummus (mine was very garlicky!)
  • veggies you like- I used sprouts, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and red onion- other options might include red peppers, lettuce, baby spinach, mushrooms or any other veg you like in a wrap
  • wraps or pitas (I found this was enough chicken to make about 7-8 wraps, but I used a lot of veg in my wraps) I used Homemade Flour Tortillas, but certainly store bought is fine

Sprinkle both sides of chicken with harissa spice. I cut my chicken breasts in half lengthwise as they were fairly thick and I wanted to reduce the cooking time. Set chicken aside and allow to marinate for a bit while you prep any of your veggies you will be using with your wraps.

Add a little oil to pan if necessary. Add chicken to pan and cook for 5-7 minutes on each side.  When chicken is fully cooked, remove from pan and slice into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Since these wraps are delightful with the chicken warm or cold, you could certainly prep the chicken the day before, and they are awesome for lunch the next day.

To assemble, spread about 2 tbsp of hummus on centre of wrap (or more or less as you like it!) and place chicken and veggies of your choice down the middle. Fold up from the bottom, then wrap both sides around. You can pin it all together with a toothpick.

 

 

 

 

Italian Chicken Soup with Quinoa and Spinach

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By Corinne

Doesn’t this sound like some sort of hipster healthy living type soup? Well. Sure it does. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it can’t also be filling and delicious! If you don’t love quinoa, then feel free to use a small pasta instead.

This recipe calls for a parmesan rind. If you haven’t started using fresh parm (or asiago) I highly recommend it. While it’s more expensive than the stuff that comes in a can, it also has a great deal more flavour, since you know, it’s not mixed with sawdust. One of the best things about using fresh cheese is saving the rind for soups. When you get down to the rind, just throw it in a bag and put it in the freezer until you need it. It adds an incredible amount of flavour to soups and stews. It generally doesn’t dissolve fully in the soup, but does get softer. If your soup is at a full roiling boil it may somewhat dissolve, and I’ve accidentally forgotten to take it out before pureeing soups. Oops.

Serves: 3-4

Time: about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how long you let the soup simmer

You will need:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 pound (250 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs – about 3
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, basil
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 cup white navy beans -I used dried, which I rehydrate and freeze. 1 cup is more than half of a standard can – you can probably just use a whole can if you’re using canned beans, unless of course you have a use for your leftover beans!
  • 1 can (28oz, 794g) tomatoes -I used whole and smushed them up, but diced would work great as well
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie stock – I used my favourite Homemade Veggie Bouillon
  • 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white, if you happen to have some open, it’s awesome to deglaze the pot with after cooking the onion/celery/chicken, but it’s ok to omit
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • grated parm or asiago for garnish if desired
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry) – to be added to individual bowls
  • handful of chopped fresh spinach- to be added to each bowl

Dice onion and celery, add to a heavy bottomed pot with a few tbsp of butter or oil. Chop chicken into small pieces and add to pot with onion and celery. Allow to cook until the vegetables have some colour and the chicken is cooked. Add the minced garlic and stir around until fragrant, but don’t let the garlic burn.

If you are using wine to deglaze – pour a little in the pot and scrape up all the delicious browned bits.

Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, beans, thyme, basil, oregano, pepper and parmesan rind. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, but longer if you have time.

While soup is simmering, rinse quinoa well in a small mesh sieve to remove bitter saponins. Cook quinoa in a 1:2 ratio of water – if you are using half a cup of quinoa, use 1 cup of water. If you are using 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water etc. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes. When liquid is absorbed and quinoa has ‘popped’ it is ready.

Chop a handful of fresh spinach for each bowl, ladle in hot soup, and then add a few tbsp of cooked quinoa to each bowl. Garnish with grated parmesan or asiago cheese if desired.

Roast Chicken and Stuffing For Two… And A Half.

By: Julie

Time:  2 hrs – 30 min prep and the rest is wait time.

On Sunday night I made the best roast chicken that I’ve ever had.  It was juicy and flavorful and amazing.

I love to cook big meals and I love to entertain.  However, sometimes I like to spoil Tyler without all the fuss so we can enjoy it together, just the two of us.  Just the two of us and busy toddler that thinks the knobs on the gas stove is a game that no one will let her play.

I wanted to make a meal that didn’t take a lot of time, but still tasted like a Sunday Dinner should.  once you prep this meal you have a whole block of time in the middle to either make fun sides, or build a Lego castle while singing the alphabet song for the eighteenth time.   Also, a whole, fresh chicken was only $6 dollars.  It’s difficult to find two boneless-skinless chicken breasts for that.  We each had a breast for supper and saved the legs and the thighs for lunch for tomorrow (plus extra for the tiny human).

The stuffing is a faster version of my holiday stuffing. It doesn’t have any sausage and I’ve left out a few other things to make it a little easier and less time intensive.  My holiday stuffing I usually prep the night before but this one can be whipped up in minutes.

You Will Need:

For The Chicken

  • 1 stalk of celery – broken into 3 pieces
  • half an onion, peeled
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp of thyme
  • 1/2 tsp of paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp of pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3-4lb chicken

My dad once told me that to have the perfect juicy turkey, stuff the cavity with onion and celery instead of using stuffing or leaving it empty.  I am happy to tell you that this is correct.  I do this every time and it works just as well with chicken.  I never cook my stuffing in my bird, the bread absorbs moisture and flavour out of the chicken.  I want that juice to stay in the bird.

Preheat the oven to 400F and mix the spices together in a bowl.

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That being said, stuff the celery, onion, and sprig of rosemary into the cavity of the chicken.  If you can, just tuck the legs through the fat at the bottom of the chicken.  Mine was ripped so I used a skewer and a raw potato to keep the legs of the bird together.  Drizzle the olive oil over the breast, rub it into the skin and legs.  Then add the spice rub and make sure to get it everywhere.

It will look something like this:

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Place the chicken in the oven in the center rack and roast for 20 min.  Then reduce to 325F and continue roasting for another 60-80 min, until the thickest part of the bird reaches 175F.  I check temp about every 20 min.  When the chicken reaches 150 I remove the foil so it browns nicely.  Once you take it out it needs to be covered to rest for at least 10 min to absorb the juice back into the meat.  Temp will rise another 5 degrees and the chicken actually continues to cook outside of the oven.

For The Stuffing

  • 3 slices of stale bread – I used bran, whole grain bread adds extra flavor to your stuffing.  Cubed into half inch pieces
  • 1 stalk of celery – diced
  • 1/2 medium onion – diced
  • 1 small apple – diced
  • 1/3 cup of dried cranberries
  • 1/4 tsp of sage
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil – plus more for bread cubes

Mix the herbs together and set aside.

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Toss the bread cubes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper and throw it in the oven with your chicken for 10 min to toast them.  They should be lightly browned, but not hard.  Prep the rest of your ingredients while they are toasting.

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In an oven-friendly pan, melt the butter and the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and the celery and saute until softened.  Add the apple, cranberries, and spices and stir to combine.  Add the white wine, the bread, and half of the broth.  Only add half the broth to start.  You want the bread to be wet, but not soggy.  Add the other half if necessary.  Set aside and cover with foil.  You want to put the whole pan in the oven when your chicken has about 20 min left.  It’s very forgiving so don’t worry too much.  You just want to make sure the apples have time to cook through.

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Remove the chicken from the oven when it reaches 170-175F.  Cover with foil and let rest for a min of 10 minutes.  I leave the digital thermometer in mine, stabbing it through the foil.   When the temp stops rising and starts to fall, I know it’s done cooking and has rested enough.

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Carve and enjoy.  I cut along the breast bone and then horizontally just above the wing to remove the whole breast, a trick my mom taught me.

I served this with some Cran-apple Marmalade I made and a nice green salad.  It was amazingly juicy, just how I pictured.

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