Turkey, black bean & sweet potato chili

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive oil
2 md yellow onions, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 whole fresh jalapenos, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp dried oregano
2-2.5 tbsp chili powder
0.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato paste
1.5 lb ground turkey (extra lean)
2 28oz tins of diced tomatoes w/ juices
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2-3 cups of black beans (cooked) (use cans or pre-cooked beans)
1 tin corn niblets

Grated cheese, chopped cilantro and diced avocado to serve.

Procedure

  1. Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large (6qt) dutch oven or cast iron pot. Saute onion over med-low heat for 5 mins to soften. Add garlic and jalapeno and saute for 5 mins.
  2. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder and pepper. Stir and saute for 2-3 mins. The pot will seem really dry at this point, but it’s ok. We’ll fix that in a minute.
  3. Add tomato paste and stir, then toss in uncooked ground turkey.  Stir occasionally until turkey is cooked through. This can take 10-15 mins on med-low.
  4. Add one and a half tins of diced tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil, then lower to simmering. Let this simmer for 5-10 mins.
  5. Add the diced sweet potatoes and stir to combine. When this comes back to a simmer, cover and let cook over low heat until the sweet potatoes are almost cooked through (20-25 mins).
  6. Add beans and corn, stir to combine, then let simmer for another 10-15 mins over low. Add the rest of the tomatoes if it seems too dry.

At this point the chili is done, but it will sit indefinitely.  Eventually the sweet potatoes will disintegrate, but that’s no big deal.

Serve with crusty bread & butter, top with cheese, fresh cilantro, and some diced avocado.

This isn’t super hot (unless you’ve used a hot chili powder), so feel free to add hot sauces or whatever if you like.

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Tuna & White Bean Salad

This is really simple and yummy. Can be a side dish or a main with baby spinach or field greens.

Ingredients

  • 1 med clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 shallot, minced (about 1 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tin white kidney beans, rinsed and well drained (low/no salt)
  • 1 tin flaked tuna, drained

Method

  1. Mix garlic, shallot, capers, parsley, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk well to make a simple vinaigrette
  2. Add beans & tuna and mix well
  3. Let sit for 15-20 minutes for the flavours to meld a bit

Serve as a side dish or just as a simple meal. Squeeze more lemon juice over if you’re into that sort of thing.

Sole stuffed with herbs & garlic, baked with beans & tomatoes

Sole is pretty boring, generally, so I decided to jazz it up a bit. The ingredients list makes this look way more complicated than it is. Takes about 15-20 mins to prepare, and 25 mins to bake. I also totally failed to take a picture of this, but will next time.

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp parsley, minced
  • 2 tbsp chives, minced
  • 2 tbsp tarragon, minced
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 4 filets of sole, no skin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 med shallot, minced
  • 1 tin white kidney beans, well rinsed and drained
  • 1 tin diced tomatoes (low sodium)
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat oven to 325.
  2. Mix the parsley, chives, tarragon, lemon zest, and half of the garlic together in a small bowl.
  3. Heat a saute pan over med heat and heat the olive oil. Toss in the shallot, thyme, and the rest of the garlic & saute for a minute or two.
  4. Add the beans to the pan and continue sauteing for 3-4 mins. Add the tomatoes and heat until simmering. Stir in the lemon juice, and some salt and pepper to taste. These should simmer for 8-10 mins or so while you’re preparing the fish bundles.
  5. While the beans and tomatoes are simmering, lay filets out on a cutting board, skinned side up. Spread the dijon over each in a thin layer (this should use up all the mustard). Sprinkle the herb/zest mixture over the filets. Drizzle the garlic butter over the filets, including all the garlic. Roll the filets up into bundles, starting at the tail end, and secure with 2-3 toothpicks each.
  6. Pour the tomatoes and beans into a glass* 8″ x 8″ baking dish. They should be in an even layer and slightly soupy.
  7. Nestle the 4 sole bundles into the tomatoes and spoon tomatoes and beans over each so the fish won’t get dried out. Grate fresh pepper over it all and bake for 20-25 mins.

Fish is cooked through when it’s 130-140 on an instant read thermometer, or opaque all the way through. Serve in pasta bowls, removing the toothpicks, with plenty of the tomato & bean mixture.

* glass is vital for baking anything with tomatoes in it — a metal pan or dish will just taste weird and tinny and don’t do it. Don’t be like me.

Menu planning for the holidays

Grocery shopping gets a bit tricksy this time of year because there’s often a surfeit of food, a metric crapton of people out shopping for that food (& gifts & booze & all the rest), and the stores are closed for at least a few days right in the middle of it all.

To avoid last minute grocery dashes (and crowds) as much as I can, I’m planning the next couple of week’s worth of menus now. This is what the current working list looks like:

Big fancy dinners

  • Turkey breast roast & all the fixin’s
  • Beef tenderloin roast, sauted mixed wild mushrooms, garlicky bitter greens, potatoes gratin

Regular ol’ workaday dinners

  • chili & toast
  • beef curry, rice, channa dal
  • roast chicken w/ lemon & thyme, cauliflower & broccoli gratin, wild rice
  • pork loin roast, braised brussels sprouts, baked potatoes
  • ground pork & cabbage szechuan noodles
  • seafood chowder
  • carnitas, guacamole
  • baked salmon w/ lemon & capers, spinach, boiled new potatoes
  • spicy shrimp stir fry w/ snowpeas and cashews
  • pan-seared rib eye, salt-baked potatoes, caesar salad

Lunches will largely be made up of leftovers, and breakfasts probably be more extravagant/leisurely than normal, including stuff like bagels w/ smoked salmon, baked french toast, frittata w/ spinach and mushrooms, etc etc.

Sausage & Veggie Pasta

blurry photo of sausage & veggie pasta

Made this for dinner tonight (blurry, oversaturated pic courtesy my iPhone). Tasty, but feel free to adjust the garlic and red pepper flakes as you see fit. We like us some garlics.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 mild or hot Italian sausages
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1-2 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 med zucchini, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1 med red onion, chopped into rough chunks
  • 1-2 tsp fresh oregano (or 1/2-1 tsp dried)
  • 1 large tin diced tomatoes (796ml, 28oz)
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Penne or other chunky pasta
  • Fresh shredded parmesan to serve

Method

  1. Fry the sausages in a saute pan over med heat. When done, slice and throw the slices back in to the pan to brown up a bit more. The trick here is to get all sorts of nice brown bits all over the sausages because that makes ’em yummy.
  2. Leave the sausage rounds in the pan and add the olive oil. Then toss in the minced garlic, shallot, and red pepper flakes. Saute that all together for a couple of minutes.
  3. Throw in the zucchini, pepper, and onion. Saute those for a couple of minutes, then add the oregano and a few gratings of fresh pepper. Stir a few times, then add the diced tomatoes with all the juices and stuff.
  4. Bring up to simmer, and let that go for 10-15 mins…the idea is to let the tomatoes cook down and become more of a sauce. This is a matter of taste, really, so you can cook it for as long as you like, just don’t totally overcook the veggies.
  5. While the sauce simmers, bring a big pot of water up to boil and cook your pasta when the sauce is almost done.
  6. Serve in big ol’ pasta bowls with lots of parmesan cheese and fresh pepper.

I think that’s it. I just kinda make these up as I go, so feel free to riff on this. Sometimes I’ll add a tin of white kidney beans, or other veggies, etc.

Generic Universal Grocery List

grocery store by Andrew Bain
Photo by Andrew Bain

Over the past couple of years I’ve developed what I call my Generic Universal Grocery List. It covers breakfasts, lunch, and dinner for two people for a week (give or take), and allows for enough flexibility to make a whole bunch of different things. Note: we both work from home, so we prepare and eat the vast majority of our meals there.

This list evolved over time, really — I started by doing meticulous menu plans then cobbling together lists based on those, etc. I started to notice patterns developing, so rather than building a from-scratch list every week, I’d pull up the previous list and just edit that. Finally I made the GUGL, and I’ve been using it every week for a few months. It works for us, but it’s still an ongoing work in progress — we still end up throwing away more produce than we should, so I’m still tweaking things.

How to use the list

It’s important to realize that we don’t buy everything on the list every time. We:

    1) Make a fresh copy of the list each week
    2) Go through and delete stuff we don’t want or need this time around
    3) Check and add any needed staples (oils, vinegars, flour, etc)

So, here’s the pre-edited list with some inline notes. Where there are multiple items separated by a slash, we’ll pick one of those and delete the rest. This is also ordered according to where things generally are in our grocery store, if you’re wondering why it seems a bit random at times.

Generic Universal Grocery List

Produce (enough for 6 meals, snacks & sandwiches)
* coleslaw (pre shredded cabbage mix)
* baby spinach/salad greens
* lemons
* limes
* apples
* bananas
* blueberries/raspberries
* avocado
* tomatoes
* zucchini
* scallions
* leeks
* potatoes
* onions
* shallots
* garlic
* ginger
* mushrooms
* peppers
* napa cabbage/bok choy
* squash/yams

Sandwich stuff, Dips, Pasta (mostly lunches)
* sandwich meats & cheese
* fresh tortellini/ravioli
* parmesan cheese
* hummus

Bakery
* sandwich/toast loaf/panini buns
* english muffins
* pitas/tortillas

Meat (usually 3 meats + eggs)
* salmon/shrimp/scallops
* chicken/turkey
* pork/sausages
* beef/veal
* bacon
* eggs

Dairy
* butter
* milk
* yogurt (plain)
* yogurt (flavoured)
* cottage cheese
* shredded cheese
* cheddar
* orange juice
* apple juice/cider

Staples & Other
* coleslaw dressing (can’t be bothered making my own)
* olives
* diced tomatoes
* tinned beans
* rice/quinoa
* dried pasta
* chicken stock
* beef stock
* cereal/oatmeal
* coffee cream
* maple syrup
* sugar
* ginger beer

Non-food (mostly reminders to see if we need ’em)
* tinfoil
* parchment
* coffee filters
* laundry detergent
* dishwasher detergent
* dish detergent
* garbage bags (blue)
* garbage bags (green)
* paper towels
* toilet paper
* handsoap

Baked salmon with lemon & tomatoes

This is my standard method for cooking salmon for a weeknight dinner. It’s fast and crazy easy — start to finish is about 40 mins, including prep time. You can do a bunch of different variants as well, but this is what we’ve had the last few times. This version feeds 2, but the math is pretty straightforward.

Ingredients

  • 2 salmon filets
  • 1 lemon
  • 12-16 cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper

Equipment

  • 2 sheets of tin foil, each large enough to fully & loosely wrap a filet
  • Baking sheet

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 375.
  2. Lay the two sheets of tinfoil out on the counter, and pour a bit of olive oil in the center of each.
  3. Place the salmon skin-side-down on the oil.
  4. Grate fresh pepper over the salmon — not a whole lot.
  5. Slice the lemon so you have 8 slices, not including the end bits. Put 4 slices across the top of each bit of salmon.
  6. Slice the tomatoes in half and put those on top of the lemon slices, cut side down.
  7. Carefully fold the tinfoil up to contain everything, and tightly seal the edges so steam and liquid won’t escape. It’ll end up as a sealed packet with air inside over the salmon.
  8. Place these on the baking sheet and cook for 25 mins or so — the salmon should be opaque all the way through. I tend to err on the side of slightly overcooking these, so don’t worry about it too much.

And that’s it. If you want to get fancy you can toss in a sprig or two of tarragon, or maybe a couple of basil leaves. Serve with steamed spinach or a salad.