Make-Ahead Soup Mixes

Soup Mixes in a Jar

So according to the weatherman, this afternoon with the Humidex it is supposed to feel like 39°C, or 102°F. For those of you that don’t know what a Humidex is, you are SO lucky! Humidex is the humidity index, that takes the actual temperature, and then adds the humidity factor, so it tells you that while it may only be x degrees out, it feels like the surface of the sun. In Toronto, we’re fortunate enough to have both the Humidex in the summer and the Windchill in the winter, which calculates how much colder the lake effects wind makes it seem, so again, it may be x degrees out, but now it feels like the dark side of the moon. What can I say, we can’t seem to win here… except for our falls (autumns) which are pretty awesome. Oh well, one out of four ain’t bad. (yes it is, it’s very bad.)

So continuing on our theme of prepping ahead, and making it look like we are uber organized, I thought today in honour of the heat, we’d hit up some soups. It may seem strange, but trust me, when the days start getting cooler, you’ll appreciate being able to open your pantry and see these beautifully layered, labelled jars of soupy goodness. Again, these also make great hostess gifts or last minute grab-n-give ideas for a friend who has a cold. I’ve even included a recipe for the traditional condensed “Cream of _____” soup. You know what I’m talking about. You come across a recipe that calls for cream of mushroom, or celery or asparagus, and at least here in Canada, it’s pretty hard to get a decent kosher one. With this recipe, you will have the base for any flavour “Cream of” soup you want. You’re welcome.


Beef & Barley Vegetable Soup Mix

Ingredients:
½ cup barley
½ cup dried split peas
3 teaspoons beef bouillon powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, leaving the bay leaf on top, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound stew meat, cut in 1″ cubes
6 cups water
1 (796ml) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 jar Beef Vegetable & Barley Soup Starter Mix
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil and add the meat, sautéing until the meat is browned on all sides. Add the water, tomatoes, and soup mix. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the celery and carrots. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Discard the bay leaf.  Serve with Cornbread or biscuits.


Beef Chili Soup Mix

Ingredients:
½ cup dried red kidney beans
½ cup dried navy beans
½ cup dried black beans
⅓ cup dried minced onions
2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dried cilantro or parsley flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried minced garlic

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds ground beef or stew meat
6 cups water
1 jar Beef Chili Soup Mix
1 (1.36 L) can tomato juice

In a large pot, heat the oil and add the meat, sautéing until the meat is browned. Drain any excess fat that has come off the meat, then add the contents of the soup mix, plus the water and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Add the tomato juice, and bring back to a boil, then reduce heat again, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with Cornbread or biscuits.


Colourful Soup Mix

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon beef bouillon powder
¼ cup dried minced onion
½ cup dried split peas
½ cup uncooked macaroni
¼ cup barley
½ cup dry lentils
⅓ cup long-grain white rice
1 cup uncooked tri-colour spiral pasta

Measure all of the above ingredients, except for the tri-colour pasta and macaroni, into a re-sealable jar or bag, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Put the pastas in a separate smaller baggie, and then put the baggie in the larger container with the rest of the soup mix. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 tablespoon oil
1 pound ground beef or stew beef
12 cups water
1 jar Colourful Soup Mix

In large pot, brown the ground beef or stew beef the oil. Remove the pastas from top of jar and set aside. Add 12 cups of water and the remaining jar contents to the pot. Bring the soup to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Add tri-colour pasta and simmer 15 minutes more. Serve with your favourite bread or rolls and a tossed salad.


Country Soup Mix

Ingredients:
½ cup barley
½ cup dried split peas
½ cup uncooked white rice
½ cup dry lentils
2 tablespoons dried minced onion
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon lemon pepper
2 tablespoons beef bouillon powder
½ cup uncooked alphabet pasta
1 cup uncooked macaroni

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 jar Country Soup Mix
3 quarts of water
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage* (optional)
2 large tomatoes, diced

*Click here to learn how to clean cabbage.

In a large pot, combine all of the above ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour, until the veggies are tender and the barley and peas are cooked through.


Cream of Anything Soup Mix

Ingredients:
1 cup powdered milk
⅓ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons pareve chicken/beef/vegetable bouillon powder
1 teaspoons dried onion flakes
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
¼ teaspoon freshly grated black pepper

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. This makes the equivalent of 4 cans of Cream of “Something” soup and can be stored for up to a year. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
⅓ cup cream mix
1 cup water
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
½ cup minced or chopped “______” Choose one or more for whatever “cream of” flavour you need: onions, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, celery, etc.

In a pot, melt the butter and sauté the “something” that you are using (mushrooms, onions, etc.). Cook until translucent, then add the cream mix, and stir to combine. Add the water, and whisk gently over a low/medium heat until thickened.

This can now be used directly in a recipe that calls for a can of condensed “Cream of ___” soup or you can dilute it with milk and water to make “Cream of ____” soup.


Layered Bean Soup Mix

Ingredients:
½ cup kidney beans
½ cup split yellow peas
½ cup black beans
½ cup red lentils
½ cup small red beans
½ cup split green peas
1 tablespoon dried sweet pepper flakes
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon powder
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery seed
4 tablespoons brown sugar

Measure all of the above ingredients, keeping the spices separate from the beans, peas and lentils. Put the spices in a separate smaller baggie, and then put the baggie in a larger contain with the rest of the soup mix. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 jar Layered Bean Soup Mix
1 (796ml) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
10 cups water, divided

Rinse the beans and place in large stock pot. Pour 4 cups boiling water over beans; cover and let soak overnight. Drain the beans and return to the stock pot. Add 6 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until beans are almost tender. Add the tomatoes and seasoning mix. Stirring occasionally, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Uncover beans and continue to simmer about 1 hour longer or until beans are tender and soup thickens. Serve warm.


Mushroom Barley Soup Mix

Ingredients:
½ cup barley
¼ cup dried mushrooms
2 tablespoons dried minced onions
¼ cup dried carrot slices (optional)
2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons dried dill
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, leaving the bay leaf on top, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 jar Mushroom Barley Soup Mix
1 quart water
2 carrots, sliced (if you didn’t use the dried variety)

In a large pot, add the carrots and soup mix to 1 quart boiling water and simmer until the barley and carrots are tender. Remove the bay leaves before serving.


Sun Dried Tomato & Penne Soup Mix

Ingredients:
2 cups penne pasta
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
½ cup dried shiitake mushrooms (or other variety)
¼ cup dried onion flakes
¼ cup dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

Measure all of the above ingredients into a re-sealable jar or bag, and seal, trying to get as much air out as possible. Attach a tag with the following instructions:

To Use Add:
1 jar Sun Dried Tomato & Penne Soup Mix
8 cups vegetable broth
1 (796ml) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 (540ml) can cannelloni (white kidney beans) beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, combine all of the above ingredients, except for the beans. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover and simmer until the pasta and veggies are tender. Add in the beans and simmer an additional 15 minutes or so. Taste, and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

One-Pot Creamy Southwest Pasta

Creamy Southwest Pasta

Okay for the last slot in our tour of one-pot pasta meals, we’re heading to the Southwest for this rich and creamy pasta. You can adjust the heat level on this dish by upping or leaving the jalapenos out all together. As is, this dish will serve 6-8 people, but if you want you can switch it up by leaving out the cheese and adding cooked chicken pieces to the dish. No matter how you make it though, it will be delicious! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 (454g) box of rotini (or any pasta you like)
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 medium green bell pepper cut into thin strips
½ medium red onion, sliced
¾ (796ml) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup sliced pickled jalapeno peppers (optional)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (540ml) can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
½ cup cilantro, chopped*

* Click here to learn how to clean cilantro.

Directions:

In a large pot, add the pasta noodles and the rest of the ingredients except for the beans, goat cheese and cilantro. Add the broth last, pouring it over everything. Drizzle the oil over all of the contents.

Cover your pot and bring the contents up to a boil. Once you’ve reached a boil, remove the lid and give the contents a good stir, to help keep the pasta from sticking together. Return the cover and reduce the heat to a steady simmer (medium to medium-low heat). Cook for an additional 12-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and al dente. There should be ¼ to ½ an inch of liquid in the bottom of the pot when it’s done.

Remove the pasta from heat, and stir in the beans and goat cheese. Let the pasta rest for 5 minutes to give the beans a chance to warm up, and the cheese to melt, absorbing any excess liquid. Serve hot, garnished with the chopped cilantro.

One-Pot Thai Pasta

Thai Pasta

Love Thai food, but hate takeout? Or maybe you don’t have Thai takeout in your area? Here’s the fix for that my friends! This easy one-pot Thai pasta will serve six and cook up quickly! Wanna add some protein to the mix? Heat up some left over chicken or fish, and toss with the pasta before serving. Just note though that if you do add chicken to this dish to read up on the use of Worcestershire Sauce and meat by clicking this link. This dish will serve at least 6. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 (500g) box dry fettuccine or other long noodle
6 ¾ cups vegetable broth
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 ½ red bell peppers, julienned
6 green onions, sliced thinly*
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons fresh minced ginger**
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce**
1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemongrass paste or minced*
¾ teaspoon fresh chili paste, like Sriracha (to taste)
¾ teaspoon turmeric
1-2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
½ – 1 lime, juiced
crushed peanuts, for garnish
chopped cilantro , for garnish*
sesame seeds, for garnish

* Click here to learn how to clean green onions, lemongrass and cilantro.
** Click here for tips on peeling ginger and using Worcestershire sauce.

Directions:

In a large pot, add the pasta noodles, breaking them in half if needed to fit, and then the rest of the ingredients except for the lime juice, peanuts, cilantro and sesame seeds. Add the broth last, pouring it over everything. Drizzle the oil over all the contents.

Cover your pot and bring the contents up to a boil. Once you’ve reached a boil, remove the lid and give the contents a good stir, to help keep the pasta from sticking together. Return the cover and reduce the heat to a steady simmer (medium to medium-low heat). Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and al dente.

After this time, the noodles should be al dente. Uncover and allow to cook for another few minutes, stirring occasionally, until there’s only about ½ inch of sauce on the bottom (or however much sauce you prefer). Remove from heat and stir in the lime juice. Serve hot and garnished with a liberal amount of crushed peanuts, chopped cilantro and sesame seeds.

One Pot Pasta Alla Puttanesca with Chickpeas & Artichokes

alla-puttanesca

So this spicy, red pasta dish is a favourite for those that like spicy, briny, salty dishes. While the meaning of the name can denote different things, depending on which part of Italy you come from, in the end it is a delicious, hearty meal that is sure to please. While some recipes call for the use of anchovies, this recipe, in its one-pot format, does not. It also does not call for cheese, however a sprinkling of parmesan over top at the end is always a hit in my book.

Two items to note in this recipe for 6, the artichokes and the amount of broth needed. There is great debate over the use of artichoke bottoms or hearts in the kosher community. Some lucky cooks can find canned artichokes with reputable hechshers, but for the rest of us, I find using the bottoms found in the frozen section a good substitute. With regards to the type of pasta used, you may find that you have to add more broth when using whole wheat compared to regular pasta. I say start with the lower amount, and as it’s cooking, you can add more if needed. Please note though if you add more broth, make sure it’s hot, so that it doesn’t delay the cooking time of the rest of the dish.

Ingredients:

1 (500g) box whole wheat or regular long noodle pasta
½ – 1 cup sliced black olives, such as Kalamata
1 ½ bags frozen artichoke bottoms, mostly defrosted and chopped (total amount of 21 ounces)
¾ (540ml) can canned chickpeas, low sodium
3 tablespoons capers
1 medium white or yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¾ (796ml) can diced tomatoes, low sodium
1 ½ tablespoons dried oregano
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (reduce to ¼ teaspoon if sensitive to heat)
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper (reduce to 1/3 teaspoon if freshly ground)
4 ½ – 6 cups vegetable broth (you may need to add more broth depending on what type of pasta you use)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

Directions:

In a large pot, add the pasta noodles, breaking them in half if needed to fit, and then the rest of the ingredients, pouring the broth over everything last. Drizzle the olive oil over the whole dish.

Cover your pot and bring the contents up to a boil. Once you’ve reached a boil, remove the lid and give the contents a good stir, to help keep the pasta from sticking together. Return the cover and reduce the heat to a steady simmer (medium to medium-low heat). Cook for an additional 8-10 more minutes, stirring every couple of minutes, until the pasta is cooked through and al dente.

If you find that there is a bit too much liquid in your dish, let the pasta sit for a little bit off the heat, and the pasta will absorb the excess liquid. If you have leftovers, I suggest tossing them with a little olive oil before storing in the fridge.

One-Pot Pasta Primavera

One Pot Pasta Primavera

This creamy, saucy pasta overflows with spring green veggies and cooks up in a single pot! You can definitely play up which veggies you use in this dish, just remember some might have longer cooking times, so you’d want to par cook them first, by either boiling them a bit first on their own or nuking them in the microwave for a minute or two before adding with the rest of the vegetables. To see what is fresh and in season, you can check out your local food guides. Here is a link to the availability guide in Ontario, showing you which fruits and vegetables are freshest each month. This dish will serve at least 6 people, so enjoy!

Ingredients:

6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
12 ounces linguine, uncooked
1 large onion, halved and sliced thin
1 ½ pounds broccoli, cut into large florets (about 3 cups)*§
2 ¼ pounds asparagus, ends snapped off and cut into 2-inch pieces*
6 ounces sliced white button mushrooms (about 1 ½ cups)*
6 large cloves garlic, minced
⅓ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (less for milder heat; more to increase heat)
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ¼ cups frozen peas
1 medium handful fresh parsley, chopped (about ¾ cup chopped)*
⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest**
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Additional Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

* Click here to learn how to clean these vegetables and herbs.
** Click here for my tips on zesting lemons.
§ If you are using frozen broccoli florets for this dish, then add them about halfway through your 7 minute “tossing” window, instead of at the beginning (see directions below).

Note: If you want to make this pasta dish non-dairy, you can substitute the heavy whipping cream with non-dairy creamer and leave out the parmesan.

Directions:

Add the broth, pasta, onion, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to a large pot set over high heat. Drizzle the olive oil over the top.

As soon as it comes to a boil, set the timer for 7 minutes and start tossing with long-handled tongs. Continue boiling and tossing it every minute or so (You’re doing this so that they noodles do not stick and clump together). As soon as the 7 minutes is up, add the peas, parsley, heavy whipping cream, Parmesan, and lemon zest and continue cooking, tossing constantly, for 1-2 more minutes, until the pasta and veggies appear tender. Remove from heat.

Note that much of the liquid will have evaporated, but not all. And that’s okay! Let the pasta sit for a couple of minutes to cool; the sauce will continue to thicken during that time. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Garnish with additional Parmesan cheese.

Linguine with Roasted Red Peppers, Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Brie

Pasta with Roasted Peppers, Sundried Tomatoes and Brie

So for the past 10 days, my home was filled to the brim with guests. While it was a good thing, and for a good occasion, all of that cooking, cleaning and preparing to host a plethora of people takes a lot out of a person. My mother gets the credit for the mitzvah (good deed) as it was her house and she is definitely the hostess with the mostess. Now that it’s all over though, the thought of cooking is enough for me to go on a starvation diet. My stomach however does not agree. So what to do? How about a delicious one-pot pasta meal that takes almost no time to make, and is good to the last slurp? So, with that in mind, this week is going to be one-pot pasta week. Recipes that are all made in one pot, in one go. Easy to cook, easy to clean. Today’s recipe will hit all the right notes with rich and creamy brie, the smokey tartness of roasted red peppers, and the earthy richness of sundried tomatoes. This recipe will serve 6. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

500g box of linguine, broken in half
1 ½ cups packed basil leaves*
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped roasted red peppers**
¾ cup sliced oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
4 to 5 large garlic cloves, pressed
6 ¾ cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth***
3 tablespoons oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes (or regular olive oil)
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
340g brie cheese, rind removed and cut into pieces
grated parmesan, for serving
good-quality olive oil, for serving

* Click here to learn how to clean basil.
** Click here to get a great easy recipe for roasted red peppers.
*** If you are using broth instead of water, make sure to get the low-sodium version, as there is already a lot of salt in this recipe and with the tomatoes. If you cannot find low-sodium, then reduce the amount of salt added in the recipe, and use olive oil, rather than the oil from the jar of tomatoes.

Directions:

Combine linguine, basil, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic in a large pot. Add the water/broth, sundried tomato oil/olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of black pepper and bring to a full rolling boil over high heat.

Using tongs, stir and turn the pasta frequently to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente, approximately 9 to 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. (If there is still a little bit of cooking water, pour some — but not all — into a separate bowl.)

Add the brie and toss with tongs until creamy and melted. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. The sauce will naturally thicken up after a couple of minutes. Serve with grated parmesan and a swirl of good olive oil. (If the pasta does seem to need liquid, add back a few splashes of reserved cooking liquid.)

Butternut Squash with Cumin Couscous

Butternut Squash Couscous

When people are talking about alternatives to rice or potatoes as a side dish, they often list couscous along with grains such as barley, bulgar and buckwheat. But yes, I know, couscous is not a grain. It just looks like one ’cause it’s all cute and tiny. In reality couscous is actually grains of semolina, which is durum wheat, and is the same stuff that makes up pasta. So technically couscous is just unformed pasta? Well, that is something I’ll leave up to the food debaters (yes, there are such things as food debaters). For our purposes, this yummy dish will serve 6-8 people. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne
⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
⅓ cup dark or golden raisins
4 ¼ cups vegetable broth
1 (540ml) can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 ½ cups couscous
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves*
¼ cup (1 ounce) almonds, chopped

* Click here to learn how to clean parsley.

Directions:

Halve and peel the squash. Remove the seeds and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ½ teaspoon of the cumin and cook for another minute. Stir in the squash, tomatoes, raisins, broth, chickpeas, and 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until the squash is tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring 1 ½ cups water and the remaining cumin and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Cover, remove from heat, and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Once the liquid has absorbed into the couscous and it is tender, fluff it gently with a fork.

Divide the couscous among individual bowls and ladle the squash over the top. Sprinkle with the parsley and almonds.

Asparagus and Brie Tartlets

Asparagus & Brie TartletsThis is lovely as an hors d’oeuvre, or two per person as an appetizer. You can par-bake the wonton wrappers ahead of time, just make sure to weigh them down with something so that you retain the cup shape. I suggest dried beans or pie weights. This recipe will make 12 tartlets, but can easily be doubled. You can even make this into one large tart by layering the wrappers on the bottom of a tart pan, and then just topping with all of the filling and brie. I would suggest slightly cooking the tart first though, before adding the filling, so that it can crisp up a bit.

Ingredients:

24 wonton wrappers, thawed
2 ½ tablespoons butter, divided
24 asparagus spears, cut into 1” lengths (about 2 bunches)*
1 shallot, diced*
¼ cup white wine or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
4 oz. (120g) brie, sliced into 12 pieces/wedges
salt and pepper, to taste

* Click here to learn how to check these vegetables.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt about 1 ½ tablespoons of butter in a microwave or small saucepan. Brush each wonton wrapper with the melted butter and press two wrappers into each mould of a muffin tin. When placing the wrappers I find it easier to align them first out of the tin, then press them in. You should have one wrapper square in front of you, with the flat edge facing you, and then another wrapper on top, but turned 90 degrees, so that the point is in front of you.

In a saucepan, melt remaining butter on medium heat and cook asparagus for 2 minutes. Remove the asparagus with a fork or slotted spoon to keep the melted butter in the pan. In the same saucepan, cook the shallot for about 2 minutes. Add the white wine, and let it simmer until it has reduced by half. Add vinegar and reduce once again by half.

Pour the shallot/wine/vinegar mixture over the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Divide asparagus and Brie among the muffin moulds lined with wonton wrappers. Bake on the bottom oven rack for 15 minutes or until wonton wrappers are golden brown. Serve warm.

White Fish Étouffée

fish etouffeeSo here is another classic Cajun dish called Étouffée. Most commonly prepared with shellfish like crawfish or shrimp, it was back in the 1950s that crawfish etouffée was introduced to restaurant goers in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, however the date of invention of this dish has been shown as early as the late 1920s. Originally crawfish étouffée was a popular dish mainly just in the bayous and backwaters of Louisiana amongst Cajuns in the area, but in the early 80’s a popular Bourbon Street restaurant called Galatoire’s brought the crawfish étouffée dish into the limelight. Even amongst the French Creoles this Cajun dish was a hit. Our recipe uses firm white fish, rather than shellfish, but is just as good! This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 ½ tablespoons flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches green onion, sliced*
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 pound firm, white fish, cut into large chunks (like Cod, Halibut or Flounder)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
1 ⅔ cups vegetable or vegetarian chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
rice to serve

* Click here to find out how to clean green onions.

Directions:

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, stir in the flour until dissolved, and keep stirring until it turns a rich reddish-brown colour. Add the garlic, onion, green onions, green pepper and celery. Sauté until the vegetables become transparent, about 5-10 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, cumin and Cajun seasoning. Once combined, add the chunks of fish, being careful not to break up the fish too much. Cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the broth into the vegetable-fish mixture, taste for salt and pepper, and then let simmer until thickened, about 35 minutes. Serve over rice.

Freekeh Chicken with Root Vegetables and Prunes

Freekeh ChickenHere’s an easy one-pot meal with freekeh, chicken, parsnips, carrots, prunes, rosemary, thyme, tons of garlic, and broth. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic cloves that this recipe calls for though. Because the cloves are left whole, you get a more mild garlic taste, plus the whole cloves become sweet when braised. The prunes made a rich marriage between sweet and savoury, plus the tender chicken and chewy grain give you all the great texture!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup freekeh*
3 ¾ cups broth, vegetarian or chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ medium onions, diced
6-8 carrots medium, chopped
4-6 parsnips depending on size, sliced
9 cloves garlic, whole
1 ½ cup pitted prunes*
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme to taste*
sea salt, fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 tablespoon (or so) olive oil

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 345 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, or any oven proof pot with lid, pour the freekeh and broth in. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven (careful, it will be hot!) and add all of the remaining ingredients in the pot making sure that some of the prunes and onions get into the liquid below the chicken. Drizzle a little olive oil on all ingredients. Place lid on and put in the oven on the middle rack.

Drop the heat down to 200 degrees F and cook for 1 hour. Check on it, give it a stir, and cook until the chicken is fully opaque, and vegetables are tender. This is usually only about another 15-20 minutes. Note: Cooking times vary. For added browning, remove the lid for a few minutes during the final cooking stage. If you notice the freekeh becoming too dry, you can add more broth or oil at your discretion.

* To learn how to properly clean and check grains, prunes, rosemary and thyme, click here.