Quick & Easy Grilled Potatoes

Quick & Easy Grilled Potatoes - potatoes on the barbecue

I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here, it is unseasonably hot! I am not complaining, as I love sunshine and heat.  But the extreme heat does mean I am doing lots of cooking outdoors.  Yep, I’m looking at you barbecue.  Grilling is my cooking method of choice right now.

Grilling is probably my favorite way to cook. Not only is it a great way to keep the house cool, there are no pots and pans to wash after the meal.  Add the fact that grilled food tastes great, and it’s a win-win-win (grin).

When grilling, you aren’t limited to just meat. Potatoes and vegetables prepared on the barbecue are also wonderful, and quick to prepare.

Quick? Potatoes on the barbecue are quick?  Yes, I hear your disbelief.  If you are wondering how potatoes done on the barbecue are quick, it’s probably because you are preparing them the way I did in the past.  Whole potatoes wrapped in foil.  It’s true; those types of potatoes don’t cook quickly.  Not even when you start them in the microwave first. But I promise you, yes, grilled potatoes can be done quickly.

The trick to quick and easy grilled potatoes is to slice them before putting them on the grill. This way, lots more surface area gets heated, and the cooking time is dramatically reduced.

I started grilling my potatoes this way last year, and I won’t go back. Not only do they cook quickly, but these potatoes have so much more flavour than the wrapped in foil style ones.  I wish I had figured this out years ago. No more need to start the potatoes super early.  This way, the potatoes grill in about the same amount of time as any meat you might also be grilling.

The microwave is still your friend here. I give my potatoes a head start in the microwave.  They get a few minutes on medium high, I let them cool for several minutes (to avoid burnt fingers) and then cut them into ½” thick slices.  Brush a little oil on both sides of the potato slices, add some salt, other seasoning like Italian seasoning, and then cook them on low heat directly on the grill for about 5 minutes per side.  The results are potatoes that are fully cooked, with nice grill marks, and flavour like a cross between a roasted, baked and twice baked potato.

Quick Easy Grilled Potatoes with Sour Cream and Chives

You can top these anyway you like. We are partial to sour cream and chives, but grated cheese is very tasty too.  Or you can leave them naked.  They are great that way too.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

Recipe: Quick and Easy Grilled Potatoes

Easy Grilled Potatoes Quick to prepare on barbecue

 

Ingredients:

  • Medium size potatoes, 1 per person
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream per potato (optional)
  • 2 sprigs fresh chives, finely chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat gas barbecue.
  2. Wash and scrub potatoes, keeping skin on, but removing any eyes or other blemishes.
  3. Use a fork to poke holes all around potato. The holes will allow moisture to escape potatoes while in microwave.
  4. Microwave potatoes on medium-high for about 3 minutes (could be longer if you have lots of potatoes.
  5. Let potatoes cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then cut into ½” thick slices.
  6. In a medium size bowl, add canola oil, Italian seasoning and salt. Add potato slices and mix well to coat potatoes evenly.
  7. Reduce heat for burners you are using to low, and place potatoes in single layer directly on grill. Cook about five minutes per side.
  8. Remove from grill and serve. Top with sour cream and chives before serving if desired.

 

Households Waste $1500 of Food Each Year

How Much Does Food Waste Cost You Each Year?

Food waste. It’s something I’ve thought about more and more in the past several years.  It slowly started to dawn on me that I was throwing out a lot of food, especially fresh (or not so fresh anymore) produce.  And that all the produce that was going into the garbage (more recently the green bin for composing) was costing me money.

When I thought about it some more, I realized that resources were being wasted too.

  • The water used to grow the crops.
  • The fertilizers and pesticides applied on the fields to grow the food I wasn’t eating.
  • The fuel used in the machinery to harvest the food.
  • The materials used to produce the packaging for the food, and the energy to power the plant that makes the packaging.
  • The gas in the trucks that transports the food from Southern Ontario, or California, or Mexico, to my grocery store in Ottawa.

Once I really thought about it, the waste was so much bigger than the uneaten or spoiled food that was going into the garbage.

Scary, right? But do you know the scariest part?  I am not alone.  I am, in fact, perfectly ordinary.  According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), North American consumers waste an average of 115kg (253lbs) of food each year.  That’s per person!  That’s just the food that we bring home from the store.

The price tag attached to this food waste? In Canada, it’s $1,500 per household each year.   Think of the vacation your family could enjoy with that money.  Or the day camps for your kids.  Or how much faster you could pay off your student loan…

In Canada, this consumer food waste accounts for almost half of all food wasted.  Half!  And it adds up.  To $14.6 billion annually wasted by consumers in Canada alone.

But food waste isn’t limited to the consumer.

Sources of Food Waste in Canada

Farms account for 10% of the waste, most of it from fruits and vegetables. This can be due to:

  • rejecting produce that isn’t “pretty” enough for consumers;
  • fruits and vegetables that are the wrong size (too big or too small for that basket of peaches, too long for the bunch of carrots, etc.);
  • produce that is too ripe to be transported across the country; and
  • produce being trimmed to fit the bag (think outer stems of celery stalks, outer leaves of heads of romaine to make romaine hearts).

Food wastes is costly to us all. It adds about 10% to your grocery bill.

If we stopped throwing out food, the average Canadian household would save $1,500 per year. If food waste in all the stages from farm to retail were eliminated, we would spend about 10% less buying it in the first place.

Love Food Hate Waste
The cost of food waste extends beyond our pocketbooks. It takes a toll on the environment too.  Resources such as water go in to growing food that ultimately doesn’t get eaten.  Globally, the amount of water used to produce food that doesn’t get eaten is equal to the amount of water flow of the Volga River, the largest river in Europe.

And where does the food we toss out end up? Most of it ends up in landfills, where it breaks down and emits greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane.  So much food ends up in landfills that this is a major source of methane production worldwide.  With all the concerns about greenhouse gas emissions, isn’t it crazy that we could all help reduce them simply by wasting less food?

The fact that almost half of food waste occurs at the consumer level is actually good news. It means you have the power to reduce food waste. You don’t have to wait for businesses or government to act.  You can waste less food.  You control what you buy and what you throw away.  You can save $1,500 per year for your family, and help the environment at the same time.  Now that’s a win-win.

Next week I’ll share some tips on how you can reduce your food waste (and save money).

 

Carrot Spice Muffin Recipe

Carrot Spice Muffins - nut free, egg free recipe

I love carrot muffins, but for some reason had never made any of my own.  I think some of my hesitation may have been due to a reluctance to grate “a whole pile” of carrots, which is what I thought it took to make carrot muffins.  I was wrong about that. It only takes a few carrots.  I regularly grate carrots for salads, so I know grating carrots is really no big deal.

Last month I was out and had a spice cake for dessert.  Well, that was it.  That cake lit a fire under me.  I had to figure out how to make carrot muffins that would create the comforting sensation I had while eating that cake.

It’s taken a number of tries to get these carrot spice muffins just right.  We’ve eaten a lot of carrot muffins around here the past six weeks or so. They were all good.  But I kept adjusting, because they weren’t quite right.

But this recipe?  It’s the one.  It’s just what I wanted my carrot spice muffins to be.  These muffins are light, yet satisfying, moist and full of rich, warm spice flavour.  These muffins are worth the effort I’ve put in to getting the recipe right.

Recipe Carrot Spice Muffins

As you read through the recipe, you will see that it requires both ground and fresh ginger.  No, it’s not a typo.  In the many trials for this recipe, I went back and forth between fresh and ground ginger, and the muffins were always missing something.  That is, until I decided to use both forms of ginger in the same batch.  That was the missing piece of the puzzle.  Using both forms of ginger hits just the note of spice I wanted.

This carrot spice muffin recipe is both egg free and nut free.

 

Recipe: Carrot Spice Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

Carrot Spice Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2/3 cup (165 mL) milk
  • ½ cup (125 mL) pure maple syrup (see recipe notes)
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) plain yogurt
  • Zest of one large orange
  • Juice from one large orange (about ¼ cup, 60 mL)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cups grated carrots (about 3 or 4 large carrots)

 

Directions:  

  1. Preheat over to 375 F (190 C).  Grease muffin pan or line with paper liners.
  2. In large bowl, mix together whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, maple syrup, canola oil, vanilla, yogurt, orange zest, orange juice and ginger until well blended.
  4. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and add grated carrots.  Stir just until moistened. Over stirring the batter will make the muffins tough.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin tins.  Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, or until tops of muffins spring back when lightly pressed with finger.
  6. Let cool in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

 

Recipe Notes:

Use pure maple syrup, not maple flavoured table (pancake) syrup.  If you don’t have maple syrup, you can substitute with honey.

Fettuccine in Creamy Tomato Sauce with Kale and Bacon

I love pasta.  Pasta dinners have been a staple in my house most of my life.  Lately, I’ve found myself in a pasta rut.  I always find myself making one of two tomato based pasta sauces.  I love both sauces, but sometimes I want to change things up.

I wanted to find a way to include more vegetables in my pasta dishes.  But I didn’t want to abandon tomatoes altogether, as I regularly have access to fresh, vine-ripened, locally grown tomatoes.  The solution was simple, really.  Creamy tomato sauce.

Creamy tomato sauce is actually quite easy to make.  You start by building a regular tomato sauce, and then add cream and Parmesan cheese at the end.  These two ingredients totally transform a simple tomato sauce into something smooth and creamy, but not too rich.

Kale is still abundant at the grocery stores and at the farmer’s markets which have just opened up again for the new season.  It seemed like the obvious vegetable to use.  And if I was going to use kale, then of course I needed to also include kale’s favorite buddy, bacon.  Bacon and kale are fantastic partners.  They should be used together as often as possible.

Pasta in Creamy Tomato Sauce with Kale and Bacon

I used half and half cream, which is 10% cream.  You can use a heavier cream if that’s what you have.  It will make your sauce a bit richer than mine.

The brown sugar mellows out the acidity of the tomatoes.  It gives the sauce a smoother finish.  If you like the acidic bite of tomatoes, or are trying to avoid added sugar, you can omit it.

This fettuccine in creamy tomato sauce was a big hit at my house.  Plus, it’s easy to make.  Creamy tomato sauce has been added to my pasta rotation and will grace our dinner table often.

Kale and Bacon Fettuccine in Creamy Tomato Sauce

 

Recipe:  Fettuccine in Creamy Tomato Sauce with Kale and Bacon

Recipe adapted from Julia’s Album

Makes 4 servings

Easy Pasta Dinner Fettuccine in creamy tomato sauce with kale and bacon

Ingredients:

  • 10oz (280g) fettuccine noodles
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 medium onion, small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 medium size fresh red tomatoes, small dice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 bunch kale (about 10oz or 280g), washed, stems removed and sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 cup (250 mL) half and half (10% cream)
  • ½ cup (125 mL) grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In large pot, bring water to a boil and cook fettuccine according to package directions.
  2. In large pan, on medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook bacon in two batches.  Keep bacon drippings in pan, but transfer cooked bacon to a plate, break into large pieces and reserve for later.
  3. In pan with bacon drippings, on medium heat, add onions and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until onion start to soften. Add garlic to pan and cook one minute more, until garlic fragrant.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes to pan. The liquid from the tomatoes will deglaze the pan. Scrape up the browned bits into the tomato mixture as they will add flavour to the sauce.  Add salt, Italian seasoning, paprika and brown sugar.  Stir well.
  5. Add kale to pan. Stir until kale wilts, about 3 to 5 minutes. Cover pan and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes and kale cooked.
  6. Add half and half cream to pan and bring to a boil. Add Parmesan cheese.  Reduce to a simmer and stir, about 1 to 2 minutes, until cheese melted.  Remove from heat.  Add ¾ of bacon pieces to sauce.
  7. Add cooked fettuccine noodles to sauce and toss until well coated.
  8. Serve pasta on individual plates, and garnish with reserved bacon and extra Parmesan cheese if desired.

 

Orange Sesame Beef Recipe

Orange Sesame Beef stir fry recipe

Stir fry is one of my go-to choices for weekday diners. It’s easy to make, relatively quick, and super flexible.  No matter what vegetables I have in the fridge, I can usually whip up a stir fry. As for meat, beef, chicken and pork have all found their way into my wok at one time or another.  Even leftover meat gets a second life in my wok.  Leftover steak, roast beef or pork tenderloin have all been transformed into stir fry in my kitchen.

Although I have my ‘usual’ stir fry, lately I’ve been branching out and trying out different flavours. I have some toasted sesame seeds in the pantry that have been catching my eye a lot lately.  So a stir fry featuring the flavour of sesame seeds seemed appropriate.  And what better to pair with sesame than orange?  The result is this orange sesame beef stir fry.

This orange sesame beef is a bit sweet, has lots of sauce, and big bites of crisp vegetables. I like to use medium width rice noodles as the base layer for this stir fry as the noodles are the perfect vehicle to pick up all the saucy goodness.

Beef Stir Fry Recipe Orange Sesame

I used round steak for this recipe, which has lots of nice beefy flavour, but many cuts of beef would work, including sirloin steak, skirt steak or flank steak.

My family doesn’t like crunchy broccoli, so I cheat a bit when making stir fry. I microwave the broccoli for two minutes on medium high heat (with a bit of water in the bowl) before adding it to the wok.  It gives the broccoli a head start, making it a bit more tender, but still keeping its shape and a nice bright green colour.

You will note that in this recipe, the sesame oil doesn’t get added until the end, and the wok gets removed from the heat right after that. Sesame oil has a high smoke point, so it is safe to stir fry in it, but it also has a very intense flavour.  Using it as the oil to fry in would bring too much sesame flavour to the dish.  A little sesame oil goes a long way to adding that rich sesame flavour to food.

 

Recipe: Orange Sesame Beef

Serves 4

(recipe adapted from Orange Sesame Chicken from Clean Eating Magazine Nov/Dec 2013 issue)

beef and vegetable stir fry orange sesame

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 lb round steak (or other steak suitable to stir frying), sliced into ¼” strips
  • Brown rice vermicelli noodles, medium
  • 1 small onion, large dice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into 1 ½” pieces
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets*
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. In medium bowl, whisk together orange juice, soy sauce and flour. Set aside.
  2. In large wok, heat canola oil on medium-high. Stir fry beef until almost cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. If wok too crowded, cook beef in batches. When cooked, transfer beef to a plate and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare rice noodles according to package directions.
  4. In wok used for beef, still on medium-high heat, add onion and stir fry for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add red pepper and broccoli and stir fry another 5 minutes, until vegetables are tender but still crisp.
  5. Add ginger and garlic and cook 1 minute.
  6. Add cooked beef to wok. Pour in juice mixture and cook until sauce thickens, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add sesame oil and stir entire mixture. Remove from heat.
  7. Drain rice noodles, and divide among bowls. Top each bowl with beef and vegetable mixture and sprinkle with green onions and sesame seeds.

*If you prefer your broccoli a bit more tender, place in a microwave safe bowl with a bit of water, and microwave on medium high heat for 2 minutes before adding to the wok.

Roasted Cabbage with Ginger Peanut Vinaigrette Recipe

recipe roasted cabbage Asian vinaigrette ginger peanut

This winter cabbage made frequent appearances in my vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) box.  Green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa cabbage, Savoy cabbage, they all took turns.  I had to become resourceful and find ways to prepare cabbage other than slaw in order to not waste it.  It doesn’t actually take a lot of cabbage to make coleslaw, so one head of cabbage goes a long way in a household of two.

red cabbage in quarters

One day I decided to try roasting the cabbage.  I roast pretty much any and every vegetable, so why not cabbage?  I knew one could grill romaine hearts, so the leap to roasting cabbage seemed pretty reasonable.  I am soooo glad I roasted this vegetable.  The roasting softens the flavour (especially for red cabbage) and makes it sweeter.  The darker, crispy bits give a bit of smoky flavour.  Roasted cabbage tastes very different than raw cabbage, but retains some crunch.  Roasted cabbage is definitely a keeper in my vegetable repertoire.

A quarter of a cabbage is a pretty big vegetable portion, so even though we eat a lot of vegetables, I don’t usually serve other veggies with this.  To make it more like a wedge salad, I decided it needed some vinaigrette.  I went with Asian inspired flavours for the vinaigrette, and developed a ginger peanut sauce.  The sauce is a great complement to the roasted cabbage.

Roasted vegetables Roasted cabbage with ginger peanut sauce

A note about the oils used in this recipe.  I use light olive oil on the cabbage as it has a high smoke point (even higher than canola oil) and works well for roasting vegetables at high heat.  Don’t use extra virgin olive oil, which has a low smoke point.  If you don’t have light olive oil, canola oil works too.

Canola oil works for the vinaigrette, as it has a neutral taste that won’t clash with the Asian inspired flavours of the sauce.

The sesame oil is used in small quantity as it has a strong flavour.  It’s distinct flavour adds depth to the vinaigrette, so I highly recommend using it.  You will find many uses for it in Asian flavour inspired dishes.

If you find yourself with cabbage in the fridge, and just don’t know what to do with it but don’t want to waste it, try roasting it (or grilling it) and serving it with this vinaigrette.  It’s a quick way to eat a cabbage, and it’s pretty tasty too.

 

Recipe: Roasted Cabbage with Ginger Peanut Vinaigrette

Serves 4

Recipe ginger peanut sauce on roasted cabbage

Ingredients:

  • 1 cabbage (any type), quartered
  • 1 tablespoon light olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 F (400 F if convection oven).
  2. Place quartered cabbage on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Liberally coat each quarter cabbage with light olive oil, and sprinkle with salt.  Roast cabbage for 15 to 18 minutes, flipping cabbage once halfway through cook time.
  3. While cabbage is roasting, make ginger peanut vinaigrette. Place fresh ginger, garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, peanut butter and sesame oil into small bowl and whisk until peanut butter is blended.  Gradually pour in canola oil while still whisking, and whisk until well blended and creamy.  Alternately, you can use an immersion blender to mix the vinaigrette, but in this case, place all ingredients in a tall container and blend until vinaigrette has a smooth consistency.
  4. To serve cabbage, place on plates, drizzle each quarter with about 1 ½ tablespoon of ginger peanut vinaigrette, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

 

Leek Potato Soup Recipe

Leek Potato Soup Recipe

On a rainy day like today, I crave a bowl of soup.  Soup is so warm and comforting; it’s just what I need on a cool, gray, rainy Monday.  Leek potato soup is Greg’s favorite. A batch of it goes quickly in our house.

Leek potato soup is a classic for a reason.  The mild onion flavour of leeks boosts the taste of potatoes, and the potato brings a smooth, velvety texture to the soup.  Add some garlic and thyme to enhance the flavours and a great bowl of soup can be savoured.

I like to use bacon when making leek potato soup.  It adds a depth to the flavour and some texture to an otherwise smooth soup.

leeks, onions, red potatoes

Any type of potato can be used in the soup, but I prefer red potatoes.  They are a bit less starchy than white or yellow potatoes and give a smoother texture to the soup, without it being too thick.  I use whatever type of onion I have on hand, but my favorite kind to use is a sweet white onion.

Recipe:  Leek Potato Soup

Makes 5 servings

 

Recipe Leek Potato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and finely chopped into half-moons (about 2 ½ to 3 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 ½ cups (900 mL) no salt added chicken broth
  • 2 medium red potatoes (about 2 cups chopped)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a large pot on medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. When bacon cooked, remove from pot and set aside.  Keep bacon drippings in pot.
  2. Add onion and a bit of salt to pot and sauté. If there are not enough bacon drippings in pot to keep onion from burning, add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Cook onion for about 10 minutes, until translucent and starting to brown.  Add thyme and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add leek and one tablespoon olive oil to pot. Sauté leek about 5 minutes, until translucent and soft.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.
  4. Add first ½ cup of broth to pot to deglaze it. Scrape up browned bits, as they will add flavour to the soup.  Add remainder of broth, salt and potatoes to the pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, decrease heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from heat, uncover and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Use immersion blender directly in the soup pot to blend soup and create a smooth texture.
  6. Break bacon reserved from step 1 into medium size pieces and sprinkle into each bowl of soup.