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sweet potato red lentil dhal

sweet potato dhal Vegan, nutrient dense and as good as my favourite Indian take out, I serve this sweet potato dhal with a side of whole wheat roti or over basmati rice. I love it near the end of winter as a break from all the meat I crave during the colder months. To fancy it up a bit garnish with toasted sliced almonds, fresh cilantro, a dollop of plain balkan yogurt or a crumble of feta.  Like soup, every dhal is a little different and freezes amazingly well. I plan to stock my freezer with a batch before our little one arrives this spring. Enjoy!

sweet potato red lentil dhal

Ingredients:
olive oil to coat the bottom of a soup pot
1 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp butter (use coconut oil if vegan)
5 cups water
1 large (or 2 medium) sweet potato peeled and roughly cubed
1 cup dried red lentils rinsed and drained
1 cup packed greens like spinach, swiss chard (optional if you have it handy)

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot and saute the onion and carrots for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, curry, cumin, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes and butter and stir. Cook spices for a few minutes until fragrant. Pour in the water and sweet potato chunks. Simmer for 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir in the red lentils, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Gently stir all the way to the bottom so the lentils don’t stick every 10 minutes or so. If you’re adding greens (and I only do if I have them hanging out in the fridge and needing to be used) toss them in to wilt in the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.

caramelized onion + date chutney grilled cheese

IMG_3198 IMG_3183 IMG_3222 IMG_3257 Can you tell I am embracing the end of winter and comfort food? Just a bit. I love how the addition of chutney and some regular cooking onions slowly caramelized takes this grilled cheese to a new level. It was a perfect easy Saturday night dinner. A few weeks ago the folks at McEwan’s approached me to have some fun with one of their date and raisin chutneys. I bopped up to the Don Mills location to have a grocery shop, one of my favourite past times. A fabulous store where I found the cheese, meat and fruit and veg to be outstanding. Since then this date and raisin chutney has proven itself a bit of a staple. Delicious on seared pork tenderloin as well as dipping samosas and Indian food. Back to the recipe, hope you like it as much as I did. Serves two.

caramelized onion + date chutney grilled cheese

Ingredients for caramelized onions:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cooking onions cut into half moons
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Heat oil to low-medium in a heavy bottom skillet. Saute onions 25 mins stirring occasionally. Low and slow. Can’t rush these guys. After about 10 mins add the black pepper. At 25 minutes stir in the small amount of brown sugar and take off the heat. Taste for salt and pepper.

Ingredients for the grilled cheeses:
4 slices light rye or sourdough bread
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup grated aged white cheddar
2 heaping teaspoons McEwan’s date and raisin chutney
2 heaping teaspoons of the caramelized onions (use the leftover chutney and onions in an omelette, stuffed in a chicken breast, crostini or on a cheese board)

Heat a cast iron or heavy bottom pan. Butter the outside of the bread. Top each slice of bread with a heaping teaspoon of chutney, cheese and then onions. Press together both pieces and cook for 5 minutes a side or until golden brown. You can visit McEwan’s at Shops at Don Mills, 38 Karl Fraser Rd, Toronto, ON (647) 557-4853.

flank steak + chimichurri sauce

chimichurri sauce IMG_3145[1] What is more Canadian than barbecuing in the winter?
Last week Neil and I were lucky to get invited to a Weber Grill Academy event. The recently open academy made us feel like we were on Top Chef Canada in the shiny kitchen stations! We mastered smoking chicken wings, cedar plank salmon, grilled potatoes (maybe my favourite vegetable) and more. We’ve owned a Weber for years and it’s the best barbecue out there. I was inspired last weekend to forge into the snowy backyard make a comforting favourite on the barbecue. Flank steak served sliced with chimichurri sauce, a pureed sauce of fresh herbs, lemon and garlic that’s tastes amazing on grilled meats. The recipe serves four and I always plate it with a simple salad and roasted potatoes or rice so the meat and sauce can shine. Big love for Latin American flavours when it is -30 and blistery here in Toronto. Enjoy!

flank steak + chimichurri sauce

Ingredients:
1 cup packed flat leaf parsley and cilantro (half of each)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon hot sauce (vinegary, like Frank’s)
1 shallot chopped
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
5-8 ounces of flank steak per person

Blitz all sauce ingredients until smooth. Let stand for minimum of two hours before serving so flavours can marry. Allow steak to come to room temperature. Lightly coat meat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place on direct heat grill or hot cast iron pan on barbecue for four minutes a side for medium rare. Let rest for ten minutes before serving. Slice against the grain and check the sauce for seasoning before you serve. We may have also used the sauce to dip our roasted potatoes too…

chicken marabella

IMG_3093 Taught to me by an old friend when I lived on the west coast, this chicken marabella is exotic and warming in the winter‎. The cumin, lemon and hint of cinnamon reminds me of what I ate during North African backpacking adventures years ago, although the origin of the recipe is Spanish. It can be made the day of, or evening before and is aromatic, sweet and salty all at the same time.  Serve alongside rice, couscous or quinoa.

chicken marabella

Ingredients:
1 chicken cut into pieces (or 2-3 pounds of chicken breasts, drumsticks or thighs)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 red pepper chopped into large chunks
1 onion sliced
4 cloves garlic chopped
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar
salt and pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons capers with some juice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 dried figs halved and stems pinched off
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into baking dish. Can be made up to 12 hours in advance to marinate. Place chicken pieces all skin side up. Bake for one hour. Stir once. Hint: it’s a forgiving recipe, feel free to replace figs with prunes, or capers with green olives. This version is just my favourite. Enjoy!

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

 
IMG_3009 Who knew refried beans are so easy to make at home? Just grab a can of pinto beans and off you go. Packed with protein, I love these quesadillas for a weeknight meatless meal. Make more than you think. We fought over the last one. Serves two with leftovers.

refried bean and cheese quesadillas

Ingredients:
1 can pinto beans
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
pinch cumin and chili powder
juice of half a lime
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
4-6 corn or flour tortillas
1 cup grated monterey jack cheese
hot sauce, chopped cilantro, salsa, plain yogurt for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans. Chop the garlic and combine beans, spices and water in small pot. Simmer on low for 10 mins stirring often. Remove from the heat and mash. Stir in sugar and lime, and more salt and pepper if needed. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Assemble quesadillas by layering beans and then cheese on tortillas. Heat each side until warm and brown. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until serving and slice into quarters with a pizza cutter. Great warm or cold for lunch the next day.

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