Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Heb 12:1-2 (NLT)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pork Tenderloin and Bacon

Ease: 3.5/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 5/5     Time: 4/5

Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 8 minutes

I recently discovered tenderloin and think it might very well be my favorite meat right now. It's so, well, tender! And quite lean, too. This recipe was a crowd pleaser. I will definitely be making this one again.

For tips and tricks on selecting and preparing pork, see here.

What you'll need:
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
  • 12 slices thinly sliced bacon, about 3/4 pound
Trim any excess fat and silver skin from the tenderloins (see here to find out how).

Cut the tenderloin into 1 1/2 inch pieces (about the same width as a piece of bacon). Season with salt and pepper.

Wrap a piece of bacon around each piece of pork and secure with a toothpick. The bacon should overlap at the ends by no more than 1 inch.

Grill the pork over direct medium heat until the pork is barely pink in the center and the bacon is fully cooked (~12 - 15 minutes), turning once. If flare-ups occur, move the pork temporarily to indirect medium heat.

For another great tenderloin recipe idea, check out pork and apple pitas. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tips and Tricks for Grilling Pork

I recently discovered pork tenderloin. I have no idea why it took me so long, but it is quite possibly my most favorite meat to cook and enjoy. You really can't go wrong - it will nearly always come out juicy and tender!

I looked up some tips and tricks when it comes to selecting, preparing, and cooking pork since besides frying bacon and roasting the occasional ham, I previously didn't do much with pork.

What to look for:
  • Meat should be light to redish pink. Avoid anything pale or grayish. 
  • The fat should be creamy white and smooth. 
  • The meat should feel firm to the touch, with a fine, smooth grain. 
  • If the pork is packaged, there should not be much moisture in the package, and what there is should be clear. 
To prepare pork:
  • Remove the sinewy layer on the surface (silver skin) by slipping the tip of a sharp, thin knife under one end of the silver skin. Grab the loosened end with your fingers and slide the knife away just under the skin at a slightly upward angle. 
  • Spareribs and baby back ribs have a thin, tough membrane attached to the bone. Use a blunt tool such as a flathead screwdriver to get under the membrane and remove it so that seasonings and sauces can penetrate. Once under the membrane, slide the tool around under the membrane to loosen it. Using the tool, stretch the membrane up to open up a flap. Using a paper towel, get a good grip and peel the membrane off the ribs (sounds yummy, no?)
  • Pork is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F, however many believe this is overdone (I cook mine to 170 because I'm meat-paranoid), so many cook pork to an internal temperature of 150 to 160 degrees F (when there is still a light shade of pink on the inside).
Tender cuts for grilling include rib chop, loin chop, center-cut chop and tenderloin. 

For a fresh and quick tenderloin recipe, click here.

Reference: Weber's Real Grilling by Jamie Purviance

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fish Fillets in Paper Parcels

Ease: 4/5     Kid-friendliness: 3.5/5     Taste: 4/5     Time: 3/5

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

As I've mentioned before, I'm fussy when it comes to fish. I'm trying to "teach" myself to appreciate fish for fish, but until then, I like recipes that sort of mask the fish. This one was nice.

My husband said to score this recipe high for taste but low for "bang for your buck". In other words, he had to wait a while for what he felt was a small portion.

For tips and tricks for cooking with fillets, see here.

What you'll need:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 peppers, (I used 1 green, and 1 red), seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 8 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp chopped mint
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 skinless fish fillets (I used sole)
  • 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 sheets of baking parchment or foil (I used parchment)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and peppers and fry until tender but not browned. Stir in the tomatoes and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Using a round plate, cut 4 rounds of paper (or foil), each the size to easily wrap a fillet. 

Put a spoonful of the pepper mixture on one half of each piece of paper (or foil) and set a fish fillet on top. Spoon some of the pepper mixture over top of each portion. Scatter the cheese on top.

Fold the paper (or foil) over the fish, and fold the edges over several times to seal. Set the parcels on a baking sheet. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the fish is cooked (for tips on checking the doneness of fish, see here). If you used paper, you can serve the fish in the parcels but remove if you used foil. Ta-da!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Egg Foo Young

Ease: 4/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 3/5     Time: 4/5

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

I love eggs. I love their versatility. This dish makes a nice lunch but if you don't care for bean sprouts, then you probably won't like it.

What you'll need:

  • 3/4 C finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 C finely diced celery
  • 1 C fresh bean sprouts, coarsely chopped
  • 6 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
Lightly grease and warm a medium sized pan over medium heat. Make sure the pan is good and warm. 

Combine the above ingredients. 

Fry by 1/4 cup fulls. Keep patties shaped with a pancake turner by pushing the egg back into the patty. When set and brown on one side, turn and brown the other side (~3 minutes). Nice served with hot rice, rice cakes or some raw veggies or fruit. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chicken and Spinach Pesto Pasta

Ease: 3/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 4/5     Ease: 3.5/5

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

I love pine nuts. Love them. And pesto. And my family loves pesto. So I thought I'd try my hand at making some homemade pesto. On the plus side, my husband (my biggest critic), said it tasted better than the jarred stuff (YES!). On the downside, I found it a bit high maintenance. Any recipe that requires me to use a blender, a pot AND a pan, is a lot in my books.

This pesto has a nice mild flavor.

What you'll need:
  • garlic, 1 small clove
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 1 1/4 C baby spinach
  • 1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 C olive oil 
  • 2 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lb whole wheat rotini noodles (really, any noodle would work)
  • 2 C cooked chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 C feta cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a blender (or food processor), combine the garlic, pine nuts, spinach, and 1/4 C of the parmesan cheese. Chop. You will have to stop a couple of times to scrape down the edges. With the machine still running, gradually add the oil from the hole or spout in the top. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and a couple of grindings of ground pepper.

Add 1 Tbsp of salt to the boiling water. Add the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally until al dente, according to package directions (~14 minutes). Drain; reserving ~ 1/2 C of the cooking water. Add the chicken to a large serving bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, over medium-high heat, melt the butter or margarine. Add the chicken and cook, until heated through and no longer pink (~ 5-8 minutes). Add the chicken to the serving bowl along with the pesto, feta cheese and remaining 1/4 C parmesan cheese. Toss, adding as much cooking water as required to make a nice consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve!

Adapted fromWilliams-Sonoma The Weeknight Cook: Fresh and Simple Recipes for Good Food Everyday, chicken and arugula pesto pasta recipe.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Minute Veggie Kabobs

Ease: 4/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 5/5     Time: 4/5

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

I recently returned from two weeks of camping in British Columbia. Got to enjoy some beautiful scenery.

Returned with a realization how much I appreciate the simple things. Things like real plates, clean clothes, a bedroom door, hot water and my kitchen! Of course, I came back with a nice tan but very little food and no energy to get groceries. But I had some onion, a green pepper, and 1 pear left from our trip. I decided to make a quick marinade and put my meagre ingredients on kabobs.

What you'll need:
  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C clubhouse Italiano seasoning
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 pear, cut into chunks
  • kabob skewers
If using wooden kabob skewers, soak the skewers in water for 20 minutes. 

Mix the olive oil and Italiano seasoning in medium bowl. 

Toss the vegetable and pear chunks in the marinade and let sit for 20 minutes while the kebob sticks are soaking. 

Preheat BBQ to medium high heat. 

Thread the veggies and pear on to the skewers. Keep any remaining marinade. Lightly oil the grill. Place skewers on the grill and cover. 

Grill, turning occasionally and basting with the reserved marinade, 8 - 10 minutes until tender. 

I had a little leftover chicken breast and threw that on my kabobs too. A quick easy meal!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cuban Beef Picadillo

Ease: 3.5/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 3.5/5     Ease: 4/5

Prep: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: ~25 minutes

Okay, so I had to google "picadillo". According to Wikipedia, it is a traditional latin-american dish comprised of ground meat, tomatoes, and other ingredients depending on location. And that's exactly what this was. Maybe if we had been served food that tasted like this when we visited Cuba, I'd feel more inclined to return.

Moving on, I was surprised my kids liked it so much. It's not spicy, but it is distinctive.

The raisins were like a nice little "hey there!".

What you'll need:
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 3/4 C beef broth
  • 2/3 C raisins (or currants)
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • steamed rice, for serving (optional)
In a large deep pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent (3-4 minutes). Add the beef and cook, stirring to break up any clumps, until the meat begins to brown (7-8 minutes). Rinse off excess fat.

Add the garlic, chili powder, and cinnamon, stirring frequently for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, raisins, tomato paste, and vinegar. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium, and cook, uncovered until thickened into a stew-like consistency (~10-15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Chicken & Capocollo

Ease: 3/5     Kid-friendliness: 3/5     Taste: 4/5     Time: 5/5

Prep: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 7 minutes

Isn't capocollo a fun word? (According to Wikipedia, capocollo is cured ham from the neck or shoulder of a pig, by the way).

This is a recipe that attempts to jazz up chicken breasts. I have a tentative relationship with chicken. I have a tendency to cook the life out of it leaving me with a dry cardboard-like substance resembling a former chicken breast. During both pregnancies, I developed strong aversions to chicken that has only improved with time. I still get cold-pricklies when handling raw chicken. I thus usually eat chicken in stir-frys or casseroles but find it is so time-consuming to chop it up. So I've been trying recipes that will hopefully add some life to chicken breasts served in this household. Baked parmesan chicken was another good recipe.

What you'll need:
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise (effectively making 8 pieces)
  • salt and pepper
  • Mrs. Dash
  • 3 Tbsp margarine
  • 8 thin slices swiss cheese
  • 8 slices extra-lean capocollo
Preheat the broiler. Season the chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Mrs. Dash.

In a large frying pan, heat the margarine over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until brown (~3 minutes). Turn and cook until opaque (~3 minutes). Transfer chicken to a greased baking sheet. Top each chicken piece with 1 cheese slice and 1 capocollo piece. Cook under the broiler until cheese is melted (~1 minute). Rice and green beans made for nice sides. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe was inspired by the Chicken Saltimbocca recipe found in Williams-Sonoma The Weeknight Cook: Fresh & Simple Recipes for Good Food Everyday

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grilled Steak Sandwiches with Melted Onions

Ease: 3.5/5     Kid-friendliness: 2/5     Taste: 5/5     Time: 2/5

Prep: 10 minutes (1 hour if you count marinating time)
Cook: 45 minutes

Who doesn't love a great steak sandwich every now and then? The onions took a long time to cook, but they were melt-in-your-mouth good! Next time, I would turn the baguettes into garlic bread.

The recipe is from HeartSmart: The Best of HeartSmart Cooking. A little tip from the cookbook: if you grill a whole steak and slice it after, rather than cooking individual ones, it often turns out juicier. You can use diced leftover steak in a salad, stir fry or wrap.

What you'll need:
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp coarse ground pepper
  • 2 lb (1 kg) sirloin steak, 1 1/2 in thick, trimmed of fat
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 whole wheat baguettes (16 in long)
  • 1 bunch of spinach, trimmed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 C balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine sugar, garlic, salt and pepper. Pat steak dry, brush with oil and rub with sugar mixture. Marinate for 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in refrigerator.

Onions: heat 2 Tbsp oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions. Cook for 10 minutes without stirring, until the onions begin to brown. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes. Onions should be very brown. Add sugar and vinegar and cook gently, adding water if necessary until onions are very tender. Season with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Cut each baguette into four pieces and then cut each piece in half horizontally. Top with spinach.

Grill steak until desired completeness (~7 minutes for medium). Lay steak on baguettes and top with onions. Serve on the patio with a cold beverage!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Rice cakes with Raisins

Ease: 5/5     Kid-friendliness: 5/5     Taste: 5/5     Time: 5/5

I am always looking for new ideas when it comes to healthy, tasty but quick and simple snack ideas for my kids. This one fits the bill. Get your child to help put the raisins on.

What you'll need:
  • rice cakes
  • peanut butter
  • raisins
Spread a layer of peanut butter over one side of a rice cake. Top with raisins. Would also taste great with honey and granola spread on it, or nutella and cranberries. Can it get any simpler? 

Monday, July 5, 2010

Baked Potatoes with Apples

Ease:  4/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 3.5/5     Time: 3.5/5

This dish makes a great side and would be a great accompaniment to pork roast or pork tenderloin. Since both my kids like sweet potatoes, this is an easy option. To save on prep time, you could use a bag and a half of McCain's frozen sweet potatoes.

What you'll need:
  • 1 Tbsp butter or margarine
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 Tbsp apple juice
  • 575 - 700g (1 1/4 - 1 1/2 lbs) sweet potatoes, thickly sliced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a baking dish. Scatter the onion and apples, and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the apple juice. 

Lay the sweet potato slices over the onion and apples. Cover with foil or a lid. Bake for ~20-25 minutes (until sweet potatoes are soft). Uncover and dot with butter or margarine. Continue baking uncovered, for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ham and Split Pea Soup

Ease: 3/5     Kid-friendliness: 4/5     Taste: 4/5     Time: 2/5

Prep: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

As I was endlessly chopping up the vegetables for this soup (which takes extra long these days as I have to chop them extra fine so that my eleven month old can eat them too), I couldn't help thinking that I really don't like making soup. But after I enjoyed this hearty soup's flavor and packed away enough left-overs for lunch plus some for the freezer, I remembered why I do.

This recipe makes a nice thick gravy-like soup that is a little less messy for kids to eat.

What you'll need:
  • 10 C chicken broth
  • 2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 C diced red bell pepper
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 1 large celery stalk, thinly sliced, with tops
  • 1 lb dried green split peas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb lean thick-sliced smoked ham, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • slat and freshly ground pepper to taste
Place 1 C of the broth in a large soup pot, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. 

Reduce heat to medium and add the onions, garlic, bell pepper, carrot, and celery. Cook uncovered ~15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. 

Gradually stir in the remaining 9 cups of broth. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat just to a gentle simmer, and add the split peas, potatoes, ham and seasonings, stirring to mix. 

Partially cover the pot, and continue to simmer for 1 hour, or until the peas are very soft and the soup is quite thick. Stir often to keep the soup from sticking to the pot (I didn't stir it often enough, and was left with a difficult pot to wash!). 

Remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Stir and serve. Makes 8 servings. 

Adapted from Karen Bellerson's Ham and Split Pea soup recipe in Low Fat, No Fat Cooking 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meatballs on a stick

Ease: 3/5     Kid-friendliness: 5/5     Taste: 4/5     Time: 3.5/5

Prep: 10 minutes (45 if you chill your meatballs, which I did not do)
Cooking time: 8 minutes


Any recipe with "on a stick"in the title, has got to be good in my books. Especially in the summer. And doesn't meatballs on a stick just spell "festive" to you, on this, my country's birthday? (For my American friends, today celebrates the July 1, 1867 enactment of the British North American Act (today called the Constitution Act, 1867), which united two British colonies and a province of the British Empire into a single country called Canada - our equivalent of the fourth of July). Must be some throw back to a childhood memory of corndogs at a fair or something. Speaking of which, the Calgary Stampede (the self-proclaimed "greatest outdoor show on earth") gets underway July 9th, so really, meatballs on a stick could not be more appropriate. And for no other reason, these meatballs are just plain fun and make a great appetizer.

What you'll need:
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 1/3 C bread crumbs 
  • 3 Tbsp whole milk 
  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard (I didn't have any, so substituted 1 tsp of mustard powder)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I just used sea salt - maybe it's the same thing?)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp tabasco sauce
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 C ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt (or sea salt if you're me)
In a medium bowl, combine the meatball ingredients. Using your hands (yay!), gently mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. 

Wet your hands with cold water and shape the meat into balls, ~1 inch in diameter. Try not to overwork the meat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 45 minutes or until very cold (anyone know why? I didn't do this step since I pick recipes last minute and they cooked fine and tasted great to me). 

To make the sauce, whisk together in a small bowl the sauce ingredients.

Lightly brush or spray the meatballs with oil. Grill over direct high heat until the meat is cooked but not dry (6 to 8 minutes), gently turning occasionally with tongs. Arrange the meatballs on a platter with toothpicks. Serve warm with the sauce. Makes 25 - 30 small meatballs.

Recipe from Weber's Real Grilling: Over 200 Original Recipes
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This work by www.lucyssoupcan.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License