Monday, March 21, 2011

A Taste for Everyone

Tonight's meal was going to be nice an light. Some roasted fish with dried herbs and garlic and some zucchini "fettucine" with tomato sauce from the freezer. Outside... there was a snow storm and to be honest, I really didn't feel like a light dinner, I felt like having greasy pub food. And I heard that little voice in my head saying "the boys won't eat that roasted fish. They will come home, ask what's for dinner and say yuck". Then I had a flash of inspiration! 

I first met Jennie (@really_life) on Twitter last fall when I was tweeting for advice about what to do with all my apples. She is the one who introduced me to the crockpot apple butter recipe and showed me how to can my butters (see September post: Apple Overload!). Last night I was reading her most recent post about challenges for personal improvement. The one thing that really jumped out at me was this: 

-Try one new recipe that contains ingredients that in theory EVERY member of your household will eat. Aim for it being a healthy recipe.

So mom? What's for dinner? (Beer-battered) Fish sticks and zucchini "fries"!!! Ok, well, I admit, fried food is not healthy but lets start with baby steps. I don't have a deep-fryer (yet!) so I used a large frying pan. The way you know if your oil is ready is to put in a 1 inch piece of bread. If it turns golden within 20 seconds, it's hot enough. For the zucchini "fries" I only used the recipe as a guide, I liked the idea of sprinkling them with with the flour mixture in advance. I had plenty of batter for 2 large fillets cut into 8 servings plus one good size zucchini. I fried everything in small batches (starting with the zucchini) and once the pieces were drained on the paper towels I transferred them to a baking stone in a warm oven (170 F). Everything remained crispy, I was very impressed!

I didn't have any tartar sauce so I made my default "homemade cheater aioli". Here's the recipe:

 1/3  to 1/2 cup store-bought mayonnaise (I prefer the one that is made with free-range Canadian eggs)
Juice of half a lemon (fair-trade or organic if you can)
3 cloves of finely chopped garlic (if you can make a paste with the side of your knife, even better)
1 Tbsp olive oil

 Mix all ingredients to combine and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes so that the ingredients all blend together. If you're making this recipe for a veggie platter dip or a sweet potato fry dip, I suggest you double it ;)

Of course, not everyone appreciates garlicky mayonnaise so out comes... the ketchup! (Side note: just realized that although my ketchup is organic, it is not made from Ontario tomatoes... Going to have to take a good look at my jars...)

So, the verdict: Not only did all the boys eat everything on their plate, JJ & Mac had extra servings of fish, fought over the last piece and tried to sneak leftovers off daddy's plate!! I couldn't believe it. There were absolutely no complaints, the boys were super happy and chatty and told us about their school day.  I need to make this (not so slimming) dish more often!! 

Thanks for the challenge Jennie! We really enjoyed our family dinner :)

Read Jennie's "challenge yourself" post here:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Winter Is Almost Over Soup

Spring is just around the corner and the boys are outside playing with the last piles of snow in the backyard (or at least they were when I started typing this sentence but they have since come in and want to paint...)

I really want to have a nice bright soup and finish up all the winter vegetables I have hanging around because it won't be long before we see some green!! 

Recipe for Coconut Curried Turnip Soup

1 ugly-looking inexpensive local wax turnip
1 local sweet potato (if you don't have local sweet potatoes, you could use a local white potato and a local carrot)
2 local cooking onions
1.5L homemade chicken stock (or enough to cover the vegetables + a bit)
1 can (400 ml) coconut milk - not local but also not locally available - buy organic or fair trade if you can 
Curry powder (likely not of local origin)
1 Tbsp Olive or Vegetable oil

Cut vegetables into small chunks. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high. Add the onions and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Once you can smell the onions, add the turnips and sweet potato chunks. Turn heat to medium, fry them up for a bit so that they start to sweat. Don't let them stick to the bottom or burn so stir them a few times. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cook until the sweet potato and turnip are soft (you'll probably have to turn the heat back down to medium or medium-low). Turn off the burner, remove from heat and use a hand blender to make a puree. Stir in the can of coconut milk and add curry powder to your liking. I use about 1.5 tsp. If it needs a bit of salt (which can be the case if you use homemade stock) then go ahead and add some but I like the sweet curry taste of the soup.

You could top with a dollop of plain yogurt if you like the hot/cool combination.

Tip: turnip takes longer to cook than sweet potato so cut the pieces smaller.