Growing Sprouts

By Corinne

I don’t remember what originally inspired me to grow my own sprouts, but it’s so easy and economical that I’m continually surprised it’s not more popular. Why should  you bother? Well, other than being simple and cheap, it’s also fun, and it seems like it would be a fun thing to do with kids. In terms of effort, its only a few seconds a day, and no matter how many times I’ve done it, I’m still amazed at the changes you see everyday. Once they are ready to eat, sprouts are a yummy addition to salads and wraps, or really anywhere where you might use lettuce.

In terms of nutritional benefits, it seems sprouts may have beneficial enzymes that are part of this early growth. If you do a little googling, there are a lot of claims about just how amazing sprouts are, however, I’m a little skeptical of some of them since few of the sites making these claims back them up with any sort of evidence, references, or studies. That being said,  a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables is well established as being beneficial, and sprouts are a fun way to get a little more variation.

There are a few cautions though – it is important to source seeds that are meant for sprouting and raw consumption. Often seeds meant for planting in the garden are treated with fungicides and other things that you don’t want to be eating, or can even potentially be contaminated with salmonella. I order my seeds from Mumm’s, though there are certainly other reputable sites.  My favourite mixes of seeds I’ve tried so far are Spicy Lentil Crunch mix and Crunchy Bean mix.

Equipment

You can buy a special sprouting jar, tray or sprouting bag. But you really don’t need to. If you buy a sprouting jar it will come with a mesh top, but an elastic and piece of cheesecloth work just as well. I use a 1L jar (2 pint), you can use a smaller one, but ensure you reduce the amount of seeds you put in. A wide mouth jar would probably be a good idea, though I generally don’t have too much trouble getting them out of the one I use.

Process

The amount of time it takes to get your sprouts to edible form depends a bit on the type of seeds. Most packages will give you both instructions for sprouting and the number of days it will take to sprout. In general, many are about 5 days, though some seeds take less time, others take more. General directions and helpful hints below.

Step 1. Place 2 tbsp of sprouting seeds into a 1L jar. Cover top of jar with cheesecloth and secure with an elastic. Cover with water and allow to soak overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Step 2. Drain water and refill with cold water, swirling seeds around to rinse and drain again. If there are a lot of seeds stuck to the cheesecloth, just give them a little flick with your finger to knock them down. Sort of roll the seeds around in the jar so they aren’t all clumped up together- as seen in the middle photo below. Lay the jar on an angle and place it out of direct sunlight.

Step 3. Rinse and drain sprouts twice a day for the next 4-6 days, leaving jar at an angle between rinsing.  For the last day of sprouting you may wish to place the jar somewhere it will get sun for a few hours for the sprouts to green up.

Step 4. When your sprouts are ready for eating, take the cheese cloth off and rinse and discard the seed hulls. Depending on your jar, you may find it easier to put sprouts into a large bowl and skim the hulls off the top. You don’t need to worry about getting them all.

Step 5. Allow sprouts to dry for a few minutes on a clean cloth or piece of paper towel. They can be stored in a covered container with a piece of paper towel in the bottom. They are best if eaten sooner rather than later – I often plan to use them the day I know they will be ready, but they can be stored in the fridge for about 3 days.

As you can see in the above photo, 2 tbsp of seeds made a lot of sprouts, about 4 cups as they are really packed into that jar!  I probably could have let them grow for another day, but I wanted to use them in Harissa Chicken Wraps with Hummus.

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The photos above are all of the Spicy Lentil Crunch mix. Below are photos featuring the Crunchy Bean mix.

Three Cheese Spinach Dip

By Corinne

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it seems everyone is having a party. What do the best parties include? Amazing apps of course – oh, and of course wonderful company, music, etc. But back to the food. Appetizers of all sorts abound in the Christmas season, and at the suggestion of a friend, I’ve decided to round up some of my favourites over the coming week.

This spinach dip is easily my favourite hot dip. One of the things I love about it is that even once it cools down, it’s still amazing, though it rarely lasts long enough to cool on the table! Speaking of cool though, if you’re looking for a non-heated dip, smokey caramelized bacon dip is amazing, can be prepared a few days in advance, and won’t take up any precious pre-party oven space.

If you’re feeling as though there is already quite enough cheese in the dip itself, you can skip topping with additional cheddar but unless you have a really good reason you shouldn’t skip it! Just stir twice in the same amount of baking time.

I always make a double batch of this dip and freeze half of it as it reheats well. It can be prepared a few days ahead (without the heating step!) and then popped in the oven when needed.

Time: Prep 10 min* bake 25 min

*depends on if you are using a food processor or hand mincing and mixing all ingredients. 10 minutes with food processor, at least 2o without.

Oven: 400F

You will need:

  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach (300g package)
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup minced red pepper
  • 2 250g pkg of cream cheese (2 cups)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup grated fresh asiago or parmesan
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar + more for topping
  • 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp cayenne

Thaw and drain frozen spinach, squeezing out all excess moisture.

Using a food processor, mince 1/2 cup of red onion and remove from processor. Mince 1/2 cup red pepper (about half of a pepper) and remove from processor. Add 2 bricks of cream cheese and 1 cup of sour cream and the cayenne pepper to the food processor. Process until smooth. Add 3/4 cup grated cheddar and 3/4 cup asiago and the drained spinach. Pulse in food processor until mixed.

Remove spinach and cheese mixture from processor and stir in the red onion and red pepper by hand to avoid over processing them.

Portion into  two oven safe dishes and bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 400F. If you portion the whole amount into one dish, the baking time with be longer. Baking time is accounting for the dip being portioned into two dishes.

At 15 min, stir the dip and top with a generous portion of grated cheddar.

Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Serve hot from the oven with pita bread or tortilla chips.

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Curried Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup

By Corinne

Lately I’ve been having a bit of an autumn love affair with parsnips. They are one of those vegetables we didn’t eat growing up, so I’ve come to this love rather late in life. At our local market there are a few vendors who sell them but for some reason I’m particularly enamored of these.

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I don’t even think they’re ugly. They’re sort of adorable. Can vegetables be adorable? Mostly though, they are delicious.

This soup is creamy and smooth, without being heavy. Most of the creaminess comes from the pureed vegetables rather than an excessive amount of cream.

Time: 30-35 min.  10-15 min prep, 20 minutes cook.

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 2 stalks celery- diced
  • 2 cups parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups small florets of cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 cups diced potato (I left the skin on mine, whatever you prefer)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic- minced
  • 1 chili pepper (if desired) minced
  • 7 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth, or veggie broth.
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin *I toasted and freshly ground my cumin- if you don’t, you may need to add more than this and adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste (if needed – I didn’t)
  • freshly chopped cilantro

Add 2 tbsp of butter to pot on medium heat. Dice onion and celery and add to pot once butter has melted. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While onion and celery are cooking, prep other vegetables.

When onion and celery are softened and beginning to get some colour, add the garlic and chili (if using) and stir for about one minute until garlic is fragrant – do not allow the garlic to burn.

Add the broth slowly, scrapping up any browned bits from the bottom of pot.

Add the diced parsnip, cauliflower, and potato and increase the heat to medium high to bring to a boil.

Keep at a gentle boil for about 20 minutes until veggies are soft. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Taste and add salt if needed – though this will depend on the saltiness of the broth you used.

Stir in cream and serve with fresh chopped cilantro.

Spaghetti Squash with Goat Cheese and Garlic

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By Corinne

I came to spaghetti squash late in life and skeptical of any one who claimed it was ‘just like’ spaghetti. While I quite like it, could possibly even wax poetic about my love of it, I still think it only superficially resembles the pasta it’s named after.

I love this dish as a side for just about anything (pictured here served with veal cutlets), and have also been known to eat it as a vegetarian main served with a nice crusty bread and a salad.

Serves: 4 as a side dish

You will need:

  • 1 medium/large spaghetti squash
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
  • about 70g or 2.5oz of soft goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut stem ends off of spaghetti squash, scrape out seeds (roast like pumpkin seeds if you wish, they are super yummy!) and cut in half length wise.

Place cut sides down on a cookie sheet and place on middle rack in oven for 45min. At 45 min flip over and check to see if strands separate easily from the skin. If they do not, put back in oven for another 15 min (you can leave cut side up). When squash is tender, remove from oven and use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and to separate the flesh into strands. You can either use the skin as a bowl or put it all into a separate bowl for serving.

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and mix in the chopped fresh parsley. Mince or press garlic into the butter. Give it a good whisk. When squash is finished cooking and you have scraped it into ‘spaghetti’, drizzle with butter/parsley/garlic mixture and sprinkle with goat cheese for serving.

 

Chili Lime Roasted Acorn Squash and Black Bean Wraps

By Corinne

My husband is a wonderful person to cook for. He is ever appreciative, isn’t picky and loves ALMOST everything. In fact, even things he doesn’t LOVE he will eat and then when asked for a review of our meal, he will say that it’s, “not my favourite”.

Among things that fall into the ‘not favourite’ category, are any of the sweet vegetables. He doesn’t generally care for cooked carrots, no matter how savory you make them, and generally isn’t a fan of any of the squashes except spaghetti squash, as all the others fall into the ‘sweet vegetable’ category.

But even knowing this, I sometimes can’t help myself at market. I buy squashes because they are beautiful and I like eating them. And I am sure that if do it just right, he won’t notice what he’s eating, and sometimes I’m right 😉 This was one of those meals.

I made my own tortillas, but certainly store bought ones will work just fine.

Makes: about 7 or 8 wraps, depends a bit on how full you make them. They are quite filling.

Time: about 10-15 min prep, 25-30 min bake

You will need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 tbsp canola or olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used marble for these pics because I happened to be out of cheddar, but when I have cheddar, that’s what I use)
  • about 2 cups of greens of some sort, romaine works fine, I used a spicy radish mix from the market

For the dressing:

  • juice of three limes – about 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup canola
  • 3 tbsp minced cilantro
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 thai chili pepper if desired

Preheat oven to 450F. Halve squash lengthwise, cut off stem ends. Remove seeds and roast if desired (if you like roasted pumpkin seeds, do this! They are delicious!). Cut squash into 3/4″ wide wedges. Brush lightly with canola and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast squash for 15 minutes, and then flip. Roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. While squash is roasting, prepare the ‘dressing’. Juice limes, mince garlic, cilantro, and chili pepper (if using) and whisk together with canola and lime juice and set aside.

At the 15 minute mark after you’ve flipped the squash, add 2 tsp of canola or butter to a pan. Chop onion and add to pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes, then add the can of drained, rinsed black beans.

When squash is finished roasting, you have two options. You can leave the skin on, or peel it off the slices after  you’ve let them cool for a few minutes. I don’t mind leaving the skin on, as it is generally pretty thin and I don’t mind eating it. In fact, even when I take it off, I umm…generally eat it as I do so.   I find the variegated variety of acorn squash does tend to have an even thinner skin so am more likely to leave it on, but I removed it tonight.

Drizzle about 1/4 cup of the dressing over the baked squash.

Pour the rest of the ‘dressing’ into the black beans and onions.

Cook black beans and onions for about another 5 minutes until dressing has reduced a bit. Using a potato masher, give black beans a few mashes, you aren’t going for a perfectly smooth texture, you just want them to be broken up enough that they won’t be rolling all over the place.

Place your wrap on a plate, sprinkle some grated cheese down the middle, a few tbsp of the mashed black beans, a few pieces of the roasted squash and some greens. Fold up from the bottom, then fold over the sides (I always do right side first, tuck it in, then left, but the opposite works just as well!) and poke in a toothpick to keep it together. Eat and enjoy!

 

Corn and Tomato Pasta Skillet

By Corinne

I love fresh summer sweet corn and am always looking for ways to appreciate it while it is in season. This is a simple supper with a short ingredient list that comes together quickly. We had it as a vegetarian main, but if you wished it would go well with a serving of sliced Italian sausage or smokey.

Time: 5 min prep, 15-20 min cook

Serves: 2 generously

You will need:

  • 2 ears of corn, remove kernels from cob
  • about 1.5 cups of mixed cherry tomatoes (I just used what I had, a few more would have been welcome)
  • 2 tbsp garlic infused oil (or regular oil)
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta of your choice – I used orecchiette but any similar sized pasta would work
  • juice of one lime
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper if desired

Boil water for pasta, pasta water should be salted for optimum flavour. While water is boiling, shuck corn and remove kernels from cob. In a cast iron or other heavy bottomed skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. When water is boiling, add pasta to water, and corn and tomatoes to skillet.

Stir vegetables every couple of minutes, allowing some of the corn and tomatoes to brown/blacken a bit. When pasta is finished(about 10 min), drain and add to skillet with corn and tomatoes. Mix and add 1 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar, juice of one lime and fresh cilantro. Serve garnished with additional cheddar and cilantro if desired.

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Dilly Summer Bean Soup

By Corinne

Sometimes I feel we lose appreciation for seasonal foods when they are available at the grocery all year round. That being said, anyone who has ever had a fresh summer strawberry still warm from the sun knows there is an entire world of difference between it and it’s sad, long travelled winter counterpart. This is my favourite summer soup that I’ve been making for years. I only make it in the summer with fresh garden beans and I look forward to it every year.

This soup is quick enough to prepare for lunch, but filling enough for supper too.

Serves: 3-4

Time: 10 min prep, 30 minutes simmer

You will need:

  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 small/medium potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cups mix of yellow and green beans cut into ~1 inch pieces
  • 6 cups V8 + 1 cup V8 if desired
  • 2 tbsp snipped fresh dill + more for garnish
  • sour cream for garnish
  • grind of pepper if desired

Melt butter in pot and add onion and celery. Cook over medium for about 5 minutes until vegetables are softened and then add the garlic for one minute more. Add the 6 cups of V8 2 tbsp of fresh dill and the potatoes. Bring to a gentle boil. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of beans and allow to simmer for another 10-15 minutes until beans are tender. You may wish to add an additional cup of V8 to thin out the soup as it will have lost some liquid in the simmering time- I like a rather thick chunky style soup, but if you prefer one a little more brothy, add some additional liquid. Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and additional fresh dill.

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