As I near the halfway point with pregnancy #2, I’ve been trying to imagine how I’ll do certain things with two little ones in tow. No joke — at each store I’ll try to figure out where I’d park and if I’d put one kid in the cart and carry one, or stick the carseat in the cart, or if Marcus would maybe be responsible enough to walk quietly beside me (one can dream!). Sometimes I feel a little panicky, but then I remember my mom had five kids under 9 at one point. We may not have gone out much but we weren’t hermits. Just like toting one kid around was an adjustment, two will be too — but with God’s grace we’ll get there.
One of the concerns I had when I was pregnant the first time around was if I’d have time to cook and bake. I’ve always enjoyed preparing dinner and considered it a relaxing part of the day. To be honest, it’s taken me longer to “figure out” how to cook with a kid than it has to bake with one (because I usually just wait until my husband is home before I attempt any involved baking). And by “figure out” I mean that I haven’t really. As soon as I think I’ve got a schedule down, something changes — first it was Marcus not napping at that time, then it was him starting to climb on things whenever I was in the other room. You get the idea. If I’ve learned anything in the past 18ish months it’s that parenthood requires constant adjustment. No matter how many kids we end up having I’ll never have it “figured out,” and that’s ok. As my mom told me early on, when I was voicing my frustrations about not having enough hands: “Oh, you know, sometimes the house just won’t be clean. You do the best you can.”
Hopefully I haven’t painted this bleak picture where it sounds impossible to get things done with a kid! It’s just different, and I’m still learning. Some of the adjustments I’ve made since having a kid:
- Divide meal prep into 15 minute increments. Chop vegetables during naptime; prepare marinades/sauces while the kid is eating; etc.
- I don’t freeze a lot of cooked meals, but if I cook a batch of beans I’ll make a triple portion and freeze extras for quick additions to soups and stews.
- Make batches of hard boiled eggs and granola at the start of the week for quick meals.
- Always have frozen dumplings on hand.
- Have a recipe base of quick meals that you can easily customize with whatever ingredients you have on hand. (Notice how many times the word “quick” has shown up? Lol.)
Curry is one of those quick meals that shows up in some variation on our dinner table every couple of weeks or so. We live right next to a little Japanese grocery store, so we always have a box of Japanese curry roux in the pantry. Most of the time we eat it over rice, but the other week I decided to switch it up and make it with udon noodles (another constant pantry item). It. Was. So. Good! The preparation was slightly different, but about as quick as how I make curry over rice. For the udon version I use less curry roux but dashi stock instead of water — this makes for a slightly thinner but still flavorful sauce that easily coats the noodles.
- 3 cups dashi stock (homemade, or using dashi powder)
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 onion, sliced
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- About 1/2 in. ginger, peeled, sliced, and minced
- 1-2 c sliced vegetables of choice (my favorites are carrot, celery, and mushroom)
- 3/4 lb your choice of meat/seafood, sliced if needed (I usually use chicken or a package of fish/beef balls)
- 1 Tbsp. mirin
- 2 pieces/blocks of Japanese curry roux
- 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or to taste)
- Salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste
- 1 green onion, chopped, for garnish (optional)
- 3 packages udon noodles (about 600 grams)
- Prepare your dashi stock.
- In a large frying pan or saucepan, heat oil on medium high. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add remaining vegetables, season lightly with salt and sugar, and saute another 3-4 minutes. If you’re using an uncooked protein, add it at this point and increase the heat to high. Saute until the meat/seafood is almost cooked through.
- Add the dashi and mirin and bring to a boil. (If I’m using beef/fish balls, I add them once the stock has come to a boil.) Skim off any fat or scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the curry roux. Once the curry has dissolved, put the pan back on medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened to your liking. Stir occasionally to make sure the curry doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- Taste and add soy sauce, salt, and white pepper if desired.
- Prepare your udon noodles according to the package instructions. Serve curry sauce over the udon noodles and garnish with green onion, if desired.
My husband is an excellent cook, and he had always planned on wooing his future wife with creamy, New England-style clam chowder. So when he found out while we were dating that I was lactose-intolerant his dreams were dashed. However, determined to produce some type of chowder I could enjoy, he came up with a leek and potato version that has become a wintertime staple in our house. It’s quick and hearty, and enjoyed by both the lactose tolerant and intolerant. Because the ingredients are quite simple, the key to success with this soup is to season in layers and to not overcook the potatoes — they should be tender, but still have some body to them. You can puree this soup if you want it smooth, but I prefer to just mash it with a potato masher, leaving it a bit chunky.
Quick Leek and Potato Clam Chowder (Dairy-Free)
- 4-5 medium leeks, rinsed and white parts chopped into half-moons (about 6 cups, chopped)
- 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
- 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 quart chicken broth, preferably low-sodium
- 1 10 oz. can baby clams, liquid included
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Olive oil
- Salt, sugar, and pepper
- Dash of Worcestershire sauce
- Dash of Old Bay
- Chopped scallions
- Bacon bits*
- Sour cream
- Heat a couple glugs of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onions, celery and garlic and saute until the onions are softened, 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, sugar, and pepper.
- Add the leeks in 3 portions, seasoning each batch generously with salt, sugar, and pepper and letting it wilt down before adding the next batch.
- When the leeks are softened, add the potatoes, broth, juice from the clams, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn to low to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
- If you want a smooth soup, puree using an immersion blender or food processor. If you prefer it chunky, use a potato masher to mash the soup to your desired consistency.
- Add the clams, Worcestershire sauce, and Old Bay. Taste to check for seasonings.
- Serve with optional garnishes, a green salad, and a loaf of crusty bread.
*Note: if serving with bacon bits, I will first fry the bacon until crisp in the soup pot; then use a portion of the drippings to saute the vegetables.
Congee, or rice porridge, is my cultural version of chicken noodle soup. It’s a light, soothing meal that is perfect for chilly evenings and those days when you’re feeling under the weather. I’d guess that every Chinese family has their own version of congee. At the root congee is extremely simple: just rice simmered with a lot of liquid until it gets creamy. But you can jazz it up any way you like — by changing the stock base (we favor homemade chicken stock), adding in some whole grains, or popping in some seasonal produce as this version does.
I first had pumpkin congee when I moved back to Toronto a few years ago. As much as I love my hometown of Seattle, I have to give Toronto the edge in the Chinese food department. There’s just a lot more of it here, and the quality and variety is extremely high. I’ve seen this at a few dim sum restaurants in the area, and I order it whenever it’s available. This is our best attempt to recreate it at home.
A few notes:
- At least four hours before you make this, wash, rinse, and drain your rice; put it in a ziplock; and stick it in the freezer. This helps break down the rice faster and your congee will cook in less time. You can definitely make this with non-frozen rice; you will just need to increase the simmering time by at least 45 minutes or so. You can also use brown, red, or black rice — just note that the simmering time will be a bit longer.
- You can certainly roast and puree your own pumpkin; I had a partial can hanging out in the fridge so I used that. You can also add in chunks of pumpkin during the rice simmering stage if you prefer more texture.
- People vary wildly on how thick / thin they prefer their congee. I usually start out with about 8 cups of liquid and adjust towards the end of cooking time by adding more stock / water if needed. If it’s too liquidy, just keep cooking it until it reaches your desired consistency.
- If you don’t like seafood, feel free to sub in chicken or leave it out completely.
Pumpkin and Corn Seafood Congee
- 3/4 cup uncooked white rice, rinsed and frozen for at least four hours (see note above)
- 7-10 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade, or water
- 4 slices fresh ginger
- 2 Tbsp dried scallops (optional)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
- 1/2 lb firm white fish, cut into 1 inch chunks, seasoned with salt and white pepper
- 1/4 lb bay scallops
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- Finely chopped green onion
- Fresh ginger, cut in thin matchsticks
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
- In a large pot with a lid, add your stock/water, pumpkin puree, and ginger slices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.
- When the liquid is boiling, add your rice straight from the freezer. Keep at a boil, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Then turn down to low, add the dried scallops if using, and cover.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally (make sure to stir from the bottom to keep the rice from sticking), for about 15 minutes or until the rice has broken down and a creamy consistency is achieved. Add liquid a 1/4 cup at a time if you prefer a thinner consistency.
- Add the fish, scallops, and corn, and cook just until seafood is opaque (2-3 minutes). Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve topped with desired accoutrements. Enjoy!
Last week, David and I enjoyed dinner at Canoe to celebrate our first anniversary (yay!). It was a lovely meal, from the 54-foot high view to the attentive service. One of the highlights for both of us was the mushroom soup, which we ordered as an appetizer. It was earthy, incredibly mushroom-y, and — best of all for lactose-intolerant me — dairy free (except for a small garnish of creme fraiche). I am a sucker for anything with mushrooms (I haven’t met a mushroom I didn’t like; we even successfully grew some oyster mushrooms this summer) and was eager to replicate this soup at home. Fortunately, the Toronto Star helped me out by having this recipe in its archives. We tried it today and have declared it part of our soup cycle.
This recipe is fast (less than 45 minutes!), healthy, vegetarian (can easily be made vegan if you omit the yogurt/cream garnish), and most importantly — delicious.
Oliver & Bonacini’s Mushroom Soup
Serves 4 | Original Source
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped yellow onions (about 1 small)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Chopped leaves from 1 sprig thyme
- 6 cups (1.5L) diced assorted mushrooms (such as shiitake, oyster and king oyster — I used cremini, oyster and reconstituted dried shiitakes and used the soaking liquid as part of the water)
- Kosher salt + freshly ground pepper
- 4 cups (1L) water
- 1 bay leaf
- Truffle oil
- Chopped chives / parsley / cilantro
- Trimmed enoki mushrooms
- Plain yogurt / sour cream / creme fraiche
- In large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium. Add onions, garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, 6 minutes, to soften, reducing heat if onions start to brown. Add mushrooms in 4 batches, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper and stirring constantly. (This allows each batch to cook down slowly.) Add water and bay leaf. Raise heat to high; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Discard bay leaf. For coarse soup, purée using hand-held immersion blender. For creamy soup, purée in blender.
- Return to pot over medium heat. Taste; adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately, or refrigerate overnight to let flavours develop.
- If desired, top each serving with a drizzle of truffle oil, sprinkling of chives, several enokis and a dollop of yogurt.
Makes 4 servings (about 4 cups/1L).
I love making stews in winter. They’re easy, hands-off, and they make the house warm AND delicious-smelling. What’s not to like?
While back in Seattle we ran across a brand of heirloom beans called Rancho Gordo. I used their Rebosero beans (a Mexican variety that is sort of a cross between red and black beans) for this recipe, and they worked great. (I prefer the texture of freshly cooked beans, but you could easily substitute canned for this recipe if you’re short on time.) What I really liked about this recipe was the use of molasses and orange zest, which provided a complex sweetness that wasn’t overpowering or cloying. You can adjust the heat to taste by raising/lowering the amount of cayenne or jalapenos. Rice/tortillas and guacamole make fine accompaniments for this hearty one-pot meal.
Southwest Pork and Bean Stew
Adapted from Simply Recipes
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 pounds of pork shoulder or butt, trimmed of excess fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1-2 jalapeños, more or less to taste, seeded, stems removed
- 2 Tbsp cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 1/2 tablespoons molasses (I used blackstrap)
- 2 long 1-inch wide strips of orange zest
- 1 cup water
- 1 15-ounce can black or red beans, liquid included OR ~2 cups cooked beans + 1/2 cup water or bean broth
- More salt to taste
- Juice from 1 – 2 limes
- Cilantro for garnish
- Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt over the pork pieces and let sit while you prep the other ingredients.
- Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a thick-bottomed stew pot on medium high heat. Add the pork pieces to the pot and brown them on all sides.
- Once the pork pieces have browned, add the chopped onions to the pot with the pork. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the onions are translucent, about 7-10 minutes more.
- As the onions are cooking, work on the garlic spice mixture. Place the garlic and the jalapeños in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced. Then add the oregano, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and cornmeal and pulse everything until ground.
- Once the onions are cooked, add the spice mixture to the pork and onions. Add the molasses, orange zest, and water to the pot. Bring it to a simmer and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover and let cook until the pork is completely tender, about 2 hours. Stir occasionally and scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
When pork is tender, remove the orange zest and add the beans to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more on low heat. (Note: if using freshly cooked beans, add ~1/2 c. water or bean broth.)
- Remove from heat, and stir in the lime juice. Add more salt to taste.
- Serve garnished with fresh cilantro. Great with rice and fresh guacamole.
I don’t like peas.
As a child, I’d put up a fuss every time peas and carrots were served for dinner. I hated their mealy, mushy texture and ability to make everything else on the plate taste and smell like peas.
So I was skeptical when, back when we were dating, my now-husband mentioned that he wanted to make me “delicious” Canadian pea soup. In my mind, “delicious” and “pea soup” were not compatible phrases, even when love was involved.
Anyways, David waited until we were married before testing out this recipe on me. And…I was surprised. It was, indeed, delicious pea soup. HOWEVER, it was not green pea soup. It’s yellow split pea soup, a traditional French Canadian dish. I haven’t tried looking for yellow split peas anywhere besides Toronto, but here they are readily available in the bean aisle in your average supermarket.
This soup is homey and hearty — just the thing to warm you up in subzero Canadian winter weather. It’s also a forgiving recipe — I’ve altered the number of veggies, depending on what I have on hand. And though traditionally made with a ham hock, I’ve also substituted smoked pork bits and leftover ham with good success. It’s also super easy — just pile the ingredients in the pot, bring it to a boil, then simmer til delicious!
Canadian Pea Soup
- 1 ham hock (or meaty ham bone, or ~1/2 lb. ham)
- 2 cups dried yellow split peas
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
- 8 cups of water
- 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the top.
- Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 2-3 hours or until peas begin falling apart and the ham meat is cooked and falling off the bone.
- Remove from heat. Remove meat and set aside. Remove bay leaf and thyme sprig and discard.
- Puree soup in batches in a food processor / blender (or use an immersion blender) to desired consistency.
- Chop meat and return to pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste.