Category: Grains and Legumes

Husband’s Choice: Pulao with Turkey

turkeypulao5This week I experimented with two brand new recipe ideas for dinner. The first was a desperate act to use up the last of the turkey from Easter dinner (I am now referring to this dish as Turkey 4.0 as it was the fourth turkey dish in as many days) and the other was an attempt to get as far away from turkey as possible. Funnily enough, both dishes are Indian in flavour. Go figure.

Husband really loved the Indian pulao (basically a South Asian rice pilaf) to which I added diced leftover turkey (not authentic… don’t judge) and heaped into portobello mushroom caps and baked. My favourite was Indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes (which I will share with you shortly).

I know I just said that Indian pulao is basically Indian rice pilaf, but instead of plain rice I used a mixture of 11 different rices/grains/lentils that I buy at my local grocery store (T&T for anyone who is interested). It’s very healthy and tasty. I like to undercook it slightly so the grains keep some of their nice chewy texture. Your cooking time and amount of liquid may vary depending on what rice or grain you are using. My grains took about 30 minutes and I had to add another 1/2 cup of water. If you are using basmati rice, it should take less than 15 minutes to cook with no extra liquid.

You can easily make this recipe vegetarian by leaving out the turkey of course. If you still want to make a full meal of it, bake it in portobello mushroom caps like I did, or just serve it as a tasty side dish. I love recipes that are adaptable, don’t you?

2 cups of rice (basmati, wild, or a mix of grains, rice, and lentils), rinsed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 TBS butter
3 TBS chopped almonds
3 TBS golden raisins
glug of oil (vegetable or peanut)
1 large onion, halved and finely sliced
1 cinnamon stick
5 green cardamom pods
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 TBS finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup water to deglaze
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional, replace with water if not using)
2 cups of water
1 cup diced turkey or chicken (optional)
1/4 cup frozen peas, thawed
portobello mushroom caps, stem and gills removed (brushed with a mixture of oil and balsamic or soy sauce, optional)

Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat and toast cumin seeds until fragrant (about a minute). Remove to side dish.
Add butter to same frying pan and fry almonds and raisins until starting to brown. Remove to separate side dish.
In the same pan, heat the vegetable or peanut oil and add the sliced onions and fry until dark golden brown (about 10 minutes), then remove to side dish with almonds and raisins.



Again, in the same pan (don’t you love that we’re only dirtying one pan?!) add toasted cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, sugar, turmeric, ginger and salt. Toast, stirring constantly (a minute or so) until aromatic. Deglaze the pan by pouring in 1/2 cup of water and gently scrape up any brown bits stuck to the bottom.



Add the rice and/or grains, coconut milk (if using) and the rest of the water. Cover and gently simmer until the rice and/or grains are cooked to your liking and the water has evaporated. Check as you are cooking to ensure that the filling doesn’t dry out before it’s cooked… this will depend on what you have used for the rice and/or grains. If necessary, add more water a quarter cup at a time until done to your liking (about 15 minutes for white rice, 30 minutes or longer for whole grains/legumes). Add the peas and diced turkey if using. Stir in reserved almonds, raisins and onion. Heat through (2-3 minutes).


You can serve “as is” at this point or if you wish, brush portobello mushroom caps with a mixture of oil and balsamic or soy sauce to increase the flavour, roast cap-side up in a 400F oven for 15 minutes. Remove caps and turn over, spoon in filling, and return to oven for another 15 minutes or until mushroom is roasted and filling is heated through. Enjoy!

(Pretty Healthy) Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Curry

slow chicken curry finishRemember this? One of my favourite dishes from one of my favourite restaurants. I own all of Vij’s cookbooks. Many of the recipes have become favourites and now you get to try another one… sort of. This recipe is based on Vij’s Family Curry but I have adapted it substantially to make it healthier (subbing in chickpeas for a large portion of the meat and cutting back on the fat), and easier (hello boneless skinless chicken thighs and sloooooooow-cooker). Don’t worry, it still has the same deliciousness as the original, but with much less hassle.

The original version of this recipe is a regular “birthday-dinner” request of my second-oldest Niece. I wish I still lived close enough to my “middle” nieces to cook for them on a regular basis but since I don’t, I’m hoping my take on one of their favourite meals is so much easier that they will someday make it for themselves (do teenagers cook for themselves? I’m not sure but maybe they’ll give it a try). This makes 4 servings (Husband and I for dinner with leftovers) and you can easily double the recipe if you wish.

glug of vegetable or canola oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 TBS fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 14-oz can good quality whole tomatoes (use 1 28-oz can if doubling)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 TBS cumin seeds, ground
1 TBS coriander seeds, ground
1 TBS garam masala
pinch cayenne pepper or a shake of chili pepper flakes
1 14-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chicken stock (can be made with good quality stock paste such as Better Than Bouillion)
1/2 pound (approximately 4) boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/3 cup sour cream
chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

In a large pan heat oil on medium heat, add onions and cinnamon stick and sauté until the onions start to turn slightly golden (about 5 minutes). Add chopped garlic and saute another minute.

slow chicken curry onion

slow chicken curry spices

Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne or red pepper flakes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring a couple times and breaking up the tomatoes with a spatula. Stir in the chickpeas and the chicken stock.

Nestle chicken thighs into the sauce. Cook for a more couple minutes, turn over thighs and cook for a couple more minutes. Your goal here is to warm the chickpeas and start heating the thighs to give the slow cooking a bit of a head start.

slow chicken curry chicken

Add all the pan ingredients to your slow cooker and turn on low for 4 hours.

At the 3 1/2 hour mark (30 minutes before you plan to eat), put the sour cream into a small bowl or measuring cup, scoop a couple spoonfuls of the hot tomato-y sauce from the slow cooker into it and stir well (you’re tempering your sour cream so it won’t curdle when heated). Add the sour cream mixture into the slow cooker and stir.

slow chicken curry cooker

Continue to cook for another 30 minutes. When you’re ready for dinner, pull the chicken apart in the curry with a couple of forks. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with naan or rice.

White Bean Soup

bean soup finishI’m baaaaack! I had an amazing time in Paris with my best friend and then in Venice and Rome with Husband. I saw my favourite painting again (I will never tire of sitting in front of it), found the third Statue of Liberty, explored two new (to us) cities, and walked until we thought our feet would fall off. We had some incredible food (that minted pea soup in Paris… I will never be the same), and ate in a 3-star Michelin restaurant. I have tons of new recipe ideas but, today, I am seeking comfort food. Fall somehow arrived while we were away… how did that happen?!?! I need a food hug to help get over the jetlag, my disappointment that summer is over (wahhh), and the fact that I have to go back to work (blechh).

I’m not using a recipe… just winging it with some basics picked up on our 7:00am trip to the grocery store (one thing about jetlag, it does make you efficient) and what I have at home.

This is your chance to use whatever herbs you have growing in your garden as well as that parmesan rind you have sitting in the freezer. If you don’t have a parmesan rind, you can substitute 2 TBS of finely grated parmesan into the soup at the end (but, Lordy, please not the stuff in the green can).

1 pound dry cannellini beans
12 cups water
1 meaty smoked ham hock (mine was so big, 3 pounds, I had the butcher cut it in half, but you can use a 1-2 pounder)
Fresh herbs to taste (I used several small sprigs of thyme, 3-4 sage leaves and a small handful of oregano. Use whatever you have in the garden. Fresh Italian parsley would also be good.)
2 medium carrots, medium dice
2 medium stalks of celery (I like to peel mine to get rid of the strings), medium dice
1 medium union, medium dice
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1-2 bay leaves
1 parmesan rind or 2 TBS finely grated parmesan cheese (optional)
1 tsp sea salt, plus more as needed
1/4 tsp hot pepper flakes (optional)
juice from 1/2 lemon to finish

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak overnight. Alternatively, you can boil a pot of water, remove from heat, add the beans and allow to soak 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Put ham hock and 12 cups of water in a large, heavy-bottomed pot on high heat. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to simmer gently for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, add the soaked beans, the fresh herbs and bay leaf to the pot. Continue to simmer until the beans are almost tender (they will cook more later), approximately 45 minutes. During this time, skim the surface with a spoon if any scum forms.

bean soup simmer

Add diced carrots, celery, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt to the pot (add the parmesan rind here as well, if using). If it looks like too much water has evaporated, feel free to add another cup to the pot at this point. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans and vegetables are tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Approximately another 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

bean soup simmer2

Remove the ham hock to a cutting board and let sit until cool enough to remove and dice the meat from the bones. Discard the skin and bones. Remove the thyme stems, bay and other leafy greens, and parmesan rind from the soup. If you didn’t use a parmesan rind and want that wonderful, deep umami flavour, add a couple tablespoons of finely ground parmesan cheese at this point.

Using a potato masher, lightly mash some of the beans and vegetables to thicken the soup to the consistency you want. Stir in the diced pork. Squeeze in juice from 1/2 lemon. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper.

bean soup with meat

Italian Chopped Salad

chop saladI thought I had a real winner last night. A summer pasta dish based on one of my favourite summer salads. It was simple but had lovely ingredients, corn charred on the BBQ, tossed with the first summer tomatoes, fresh basil from my garden, and feta. Husband said it was…


Wait, what?!?!

This is a man who, on one of our first dates 20 years ago, took me to an Indian restaurant (granted, my choice) and had beads of sweat running down his forehead and off the tip of his nose… and it wasn’t even spicy! “Bland”?!?! I thought it was light and tasty… a perfect way to eat pasta on a hot summer evening. Admittedly, a much softer-flavoured dish than my usual but… “bland”?!?! Ugh.

I still think the idea has promise. I’m going to try it again, next time adding garlic and perhaps charring some jalapeno peppers on the BBQ with the corn and tossing them, chopped, into the pasta. In the meantime, I will share with you a salad recipe that has some real kick. A crunchy, texture-filled, one-dish meal with with deli meat and cheese, all tossed with a vinegary, garlicky dressing. So there!

This recipe is based on a Smitten Kitchen recipe here but I have made a few changes, one being to roast the chickpeas. I prefer the more meaty, slightly crunchy texture of roasted chickpeas in this salad. And you shouldn’t feel hemmed in by the instructions as to the exact amounts and what size to cut the ingredients. It’s a chop salad so the pieces should be smallish but, other than that, feel free to adjust the size and amount to suit your taste. This serves 2 as a main for dinner.

Oregano dressing
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS lemon juice, or juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup good, fruity olive oil

Salad and assembly
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
4 oz smoked gouda or provolone, sliced into bite-sized batons
4 oz salami, peeled, sliced into bite-sized batons
4 medium or 8 small pickled pepperoncini, sliced into rings
8-12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved, or large tomatoes diced into bit-size pieces
1/2 cup of your favourite olives, pitted or not, your preference
1 small or 1/2 large head romaine lettuce, halved, leaves cut crosswise in 1/2-inch ribbons
1 small or 1/2 large head radicchio, halved, cored and leaves cut crosswise in 1/4-inch ribbons
Optional – thinly sliced red onion

Rinse chickpeas well and let sit in strainer to dry. Heat oven to 400F. Toss chickpeas in a bowl with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour onto baking sheet and bake in oven for about 20 minutes, tossing occasionally, until starting to crisp. Remove from oven and let cool.

chop salad ingred

chop salad deli

Make the dressing: Add all ingredients into a bowl except olive oil. Mix well. Drizzle in olive oil and whisk until well combined. Dressing will be a bit watery… that’s ok!

Put all salad ingredients into a bowl. Add half the dressing and gently fold. Taste for seasoning and add more dressing to your taste (I used it all!). Happy eating!

chop salad bowl

Split Lentil (or Split Pea) Curry

lentil curryAfter 2 weeks of basically eating and drinking almost anything I wanted, it’s time to get back to healthy. Vacay is over, and it’s time to put on my big-girl pants. But it’s pouring rain today and I don’t feel like salad. I need a “food hug”. Something warm and comforting, but easy. Curry? Yes, please!

This dish is based on some loosey-goosey verbal instructions given to me by a work colleague a number of years ago, which I’m sure is no longer anything like the original, but it’s perfect for a rainy Vancouver day.

This recipe feeds 4, or 2 people for 2 meals (yay leftovers!).

2 cups split lentils or peas (red, green, yellow, white, etc.)
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 scant tsp turmeric

glug of vegetable or canola oil
2 tsp whole coriander, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
2 tsp whole cumin, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
pinch (scant 1/4 teaspoon) asafetida powder (optional)
1 large onion (small dice)
2 TBS finely chopped or grated ginger
2 large garlic cloves (thinly sliced)
sprinkle of hot pepper flakes (to taste)
1 28-oz can good quality tomatoes

Sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, or chopped arugula to finish.

In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to boil with salt and turmeric. Add lentils or peas and simmer, occasionally skimming any foam that gathers on top, until just tender. Do not cover.

As the lentils are boiling, warm oil in a separate frying pan over medium-high heat. Add coriander, cumin and asafetida powder (if using) and cook until until fragrant (30 seconds).

lentil curry spiceslentil curry asafetida

Add onion and saute, stirring regularly, until light golden brown (about 10 minutes). Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes (if using) and continue to cook for another minute.

lentil curry onions

Add tomatoes and adjust heat to let simmer for 10-15 minutes. When lentils are just tender, add to tomato curry. I like my curry a little bit “loose” at this stage (it will continue to thicken) but if you think there is too much water left in the lentils, drain them first. Continue to simmer until the lentils are tender and the curry has thickened to your liking. This usually takes another 5-10 minutes for me. Adjust seasoning; I find I usually have to add a bit more salt and if my tomatoes weren’t very sweet, a sprinkle of sugar.

lentil curry pan

Garnish with green onion, chopped cilantro, arugula (or just about any green you have in the fridge). Serve with bread or pita.

Husband says to finish the meal with cake.

I am not having cake.

Asian Grain Salad

Asian grain saladHusband and I had a great time in Seattle last weekend. A belated birthday dinner for me at an amazing restaurant and some shopping. The deals aren’t so great for Canadians anymore with our slumping dollar but the selection is still so much better than I can seem to find here. When the airlines started charging for checked luggage, I bought myself a new (very small) piece of carry-on luggage. I am not sure how I am going to travel in Europe this summer with about 6 square inches of clothing but that is a hurdle I have yet to cross. My most recent hurdle was finding the perfect “personal item” to go with my new (very small) carry-on luggage. It needed to be big enough to fit my purse, book, iPad, airplane snacks, plus any items that don’t fit into my regular (very small) carry-on luggage (for me, this usually means a couple more pair of shoes), while still maintaining the size parameters of a “personal Item”.  It also needed to be expandable in case I bring anything back from my travels that don’t fit into my (very small) carry-on luggage. It’s a tall order but I finally found the perfect bag in Seattle.

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