It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Menu Monday

First course: corn niblets
Main course: Spaghetti and veggie ‘meat’balls
Dessert: canary melon

First course: salad
Main course: Veggie burgers
Dessert: apples

First course: carrot salad
Main course: basil coconut chicken
Dessert: clementines

First course: broccoli
Main course: tortilla chicken soup
Dessert: pineapple chunks

First course: veggies and dip
Main course: peanut butter sandwiches
Dessert: peanut butter balls

As always, if you see a recipe you’re interested in, just ask!

December 16, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

First course: raw veggies and dip
Main course: Singapore noodles
Dessert: applesauce

First course: ratatouille
Main course: Fish provencale and rice
Dessert: cantaloupe

First course: Vegetables with peanut-butter sauce
Main course: Cheesy vegetable galette
Dessert: clementines

First course: Vegetables with sesame sauce
Main course: lentil-rice cakes
Dessert: apples

First course: beet-carrot salad
Main course: stuffed green peppers
Dessert: peanut-butter balls

As always, if there are any recipes up there that interest you, just ask in the comments, and I’ll post them.

December 9, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 1 Comment

Ginger-baked Tofu

This is always a hit with the kids. They eat it as finger food, and there are never any leftovers. Cooked 45 minutes, you get firm sticks. Baked longer — as long as 90 minutes — and they get almost crunchy on the outside… but are harder to chew. (I can’t survive in a kitchen without my timer, obviously. Good thing this wasn’t a full-on disaster!)

Block of firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 2 dozen sticks.
2 T lemon juice
2 T mirin, or rice vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
2 T soy sauce
2 T oil
1 t sesame oil
1 T maple syrup
1 T minced fresh ginger*
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch cayenne

1. Press tofu for at least 30 minutes. (This removes some moisture and makes it absorb the marinade better, but can be skipped. We pressed it. The kids thought squashing the tofu was pretty funny.)

2. Mix all ingredients but tofu.

3. Arrange tofu sticks in a 9 x 13 pan. Pour the marinade over. Let sit for at least an hour (and up to overnight), turning once.

3. Bake in the marinade at 375F for about 45 minutes, till liquid is absorbed.

Can be eaten hot or cold. It’s also nice diced into small cubes and used as high-protein ‘croutons’ in a salad.

*Ginger: Rather than mincing, which is tedious, I prefer to freeze my ginger (scrubbed, but with the skins on). I put smallish pieces (bigger than a cherry, smaller than a walnut) in a ziploc bag in the freezer. When I need some minced ginger, I take a frozen knob, and grate it on a fine grater, skins and all. Perfect!

May 22, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 2 Comments

Menu Monday

First course: coleslaw
Main Course: Spaghetti and ‘meat’balls
Dessert: muffins

First course: vegetables, apricots and mint in orange vinaigrette
Main course: Veggie stew
Dessert: banana dipped in walnuts

First course: roast beet slices with balsamic vinegar or sour cream
Main course: Falafels in pita, yogurt dressing, shredded lettuce and carrots
Dessert: apple slices

First course: pan-stewed zucchini
Main course: ginger-baked tofu on rice
Dessert: muffins

First course: veggies and dip
Main course: black bean soup and cornbread
Dessert: dried apricot sivers

March 11, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , | Leave a comment

Meal Planning

Morgyn asked: How long does it take to make these lunches?

A good question, and one I didn’t have a quick answer to. I did a little calculating, though, and discovered the answer: Not as long as you might think!

For starters: With few exceptions, these lunches are what my family had for dinner the night before. I make enough to feed my family plus five small people, so daycare lunches add little if any prep time.

(Does this mean that I’m eating the same meal twice, dinner on Monday and lunch on Tuesday and so on through the week? Well, it would if I did, but I can’t be eating two full-size dinners every day unless I want to be a somewhat more than full-sized woman! So I eat my largest meal with the daycare, and in the evening, I eat the vegetable course. A large salad, a plate of roasted beets, that sort of thing. I gather it’s healthier to eat your largest meal earlier in the day, so that’s what I’m doing.)

Secondly: In Mary’s house, Sunday is Food Day. That’s when I make the weekly menu and from it the weekly grocery list, which I hand off to Wonderful Husband to take to the store. I started doing weekly menu plans perhaps two years ago, and WHAT A WONDERFUL THING IT IS!!! You think you don’t have time? HA!

It helps me enormously to have the week’s menus worked out in advance. If I have to stand in front of my open fridge and stare down the contents at 5:30, trying to come up with a meal to place on the table at 6:30?

TOTALLY DEMORALIZING. I hates it, precious, yes I does.

That’s how I used to do it. I’d get to the end of the day, I’d send the daycare on their way, and then there I’d be, in front of my fridge, pacing the kitchen, opening and closing cupboard doors, and just generally turning into a panicky, fatigued, stressed-out, put-upon, resentful MESS. Feeding people! It NEVER ENDED!! My family kept wanting to EAT, dammit, meal after meal. So demanding. Relentless, they were. So there I’d be, evening after evening, staring into the fridge, willing something edible to leap out at me, fully formed.


But! To brew myself a nice pot of tea, and sit down first thing Sunday morning, pencil and paper at the ready, with my recipe file of family favourites, a cookbook or two, and a couple of favourite food websites?

Soooo relaxing.

And at the end of every day? I don’t have to think. I don’t have to be creative. I just have to look at the list, and do it.


So. Anyway. The husband takes my grocery list and brings home the bacon bulgar. And often, wine too! In the afternoon, with all the lovely fresh food, I make most or all of the side dishes.

This week we had beets, coleslaw and green salad as sides, as well as pesto, which can keep quite a while in the fridge. Roasted beets (by far my favourite way to cook them) take time but no attention. (Wrap them in foil and roast at 350 for an hour or so. Lots of recipes suggest topping and tailing, or adding oil and/or balsamic vinegar. I don’t do any of that. Just bung ’em in foil and ignore.) The coleslaw, pesto, and salad were made while the beets cooked. Pesto takes about 5 minutes to whizz together in a food processor, and salad is quick and easy — 15 minutes, maybe? The coleslaw was a little more finicky, even with a food processor and a mandoline, but even so, it didn’t take longer than the beets cooked to make all three. So, time on weekend, to make three side dishes: less than an hour, but we’ll call it an hour.

As for the rest of them… they varied from 10 minutes for pesto and pasta (since all I had to do was cook the pasta), 30 for rice and dahl, to about an hour for the stews (which breaks down to 20 minutes chopping/prep and 40 minutes simmering. In fact I probably simmered them longer than 40 minutes, but they could easily have been eaten after 20 minutes. If you have time, longer simmering makes them tastier, that’s all. You could use the long simmer time to clean the kitchen or organize your tax files.

Or you could put your feet up and enjoy a glass of wine. Aaaaah.

When do I prepare meals? Usually after hours. I’m trying to get into the habit of cooking real food with the tots, but this week I forgot. Silly of me: it would have been super-easy to make the pesto with them, for example, or to have them wash and wrap the beets. Oh, well. Next week!

I’d say my three ‘secrets’, which are not secrets at all, are

1. Double-duty meals: Family dinners are daycare lunches. (Cooking in bulk, in essence.)
2. Menu Planning!!! Cannot say enough about the stress-reducing virtues of menu planning.
3. Sunday side dish prep time (Some prep on the weekend, some on weeknights. Divide and conquer!).

And the occasional lunch of peanut butter sandwiches.


Add that all up and you get about 3 hours 40 minutes prep. Let’s round that up and call it four hours. For ten meals. (Five dinner, five lunches.)

That works out to … roughly 25 minutes/meal, and that’s with me rounding up in a couple of spots. Twenty-five minutes for home-cooked, nutritious, delicious, interesting food.


March 5, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , | 4 Comments

Menu Monday

First course: green salad
Main course: Chickpea-vegetable stew
Dessert: muffins

First course: roasted beets with balsamic vinegar
Main course: pasta with spinach-cilantro pesto
Dessert: berry fool

First course: coleslaw (rutabaga-cabbage-carrot)
Main course: Morroccan chicken on rice
Dessert: pineapple chunks

First course: carrot salad
Main course: rice and dahl
Dessert: muffins

First course: raw veggies and dip
Main course: Peanut butter sandwiches
Dessert: bananas

March 4, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | 2 Comments

Menu Monday

Vegetable: Green salad
Main: chicken pot pie/chickpea pot pie
Dessert: granola muffins

Vegetable: green beans and tomato*
Main: beet-rice bowl
Dessert: apple and pear slices

Vegetable: orange-ginger broccoli*
Main: Egg noodles with mushroom/red wine sauce*
Dessert: baked apples*

Vegetable: cauliflower with cheese sauce
Main: Curried couscous*, ginger-baked tofu
Dessert: stewed pears with shredded coconut

Vegetable: veggie frittata cups
Main: Caribbean rice and beans*
Dessert: bananas

*All recipes marked with an asterisk come from Michael Smith‘s new cookbook Fast Flavours, which I received for Valentine’s Day!

As ever, if there’s a recipe you’d like to see, just ask!

February 18, 2013 Posted by | food | , , | Leave a comment

Cauliflower au Gratin

Simple and yummy! The kids all had several helpings.

a head of cauliflower, chopped in bite-sized pieces. (Include the stems. Cauliflower stems are just as yummy as the florets! Unlike broccoli, you don’t even have to peel them.)

butter (about 3 tablespoons, and yes, you can use margerine)
flour (I add it a tablespoon at a time, up to about 4 of them)
milk (I start with a cup, and add more as I go, up to about 2 cups)

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 – 1 cup grated cheese of your choice

1. Put cauliflower in largish pot, cover with water, bring to boil. (When it reaches a boil, turn to steady simmer.)
2. Meantime, preheat oven to 350F. Butter a medium-sized casserole dish.
3. Make white sauce:
— melt butter over medium heat
— slowly whisk in flour till you get a thick paste of butter and flour
— add milk gradually and steadily, whisking all the while
— raise heat to med-high, keep stirring. It will thicken quite quickly, within three minutes or so. Remove from heat. (It will keep thickening the whole time it’s on the heat, so if you want more sauce, keep on the heat and just add more milk. When you get the amount and consistency you want (about two cups), remove from heat.
4. Drain cauliflower, put in casserole dish
5. Pour white sauce over cauliflower, stir once or twice
6. Combine bread crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle over top.

Bake 10 minutes, till top is melted and a bit crunchy.


January 30, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , , | 3 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Meatloaf, salad, mashed potatoes

Tuesday: No-noodle vegetarian lasagna, garlic bread

Wednesday: Stuffed peppers, cauliflower au gratin

Thursday: No-crust veggie quiche, veggie fritters (Mine fritters based loosely on this recipe, but we’ll be using zucchini, carrots and onions. Veggie fritters are a great way to use up vegetables. I also bake, rather than fry, them, not so much for health reasons as that baking is so much tidier and less work!)

Friday: Cheese quesadillas, braised eggplant

January 28, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , | 1 Comment

Menu Monday

Monday: Peanut butter sandwiches, cucumber slices

Tuesday: Vegetable soup, biscuits

Wednesday: Lentil-beet salad

Thursday: Egg-fried rice with many, many vegetables

Friday: Farmer’s omlette, braised kale

January 21, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , | Leave a comment