It’s not that I haven’t been cooking… it’s that I haven’t been cooking anything good! I tried to make some falafel burgers the other day, but they didn’t turn out too well. The patties are made from a pretty random mix of chickpeas, bulgur, red onion, Italian parsley, breadcrumbs, herbs and spices, and they’re just a touch too dry. I’ve been eating them out of whole-wheat pitas with some sauteed cherry tomatoes and a sauce made from Greek yogurt, tahini, lemon, garlic and honey. The flavours are all there, but the texture just isn’t. However… that’s what the internet is for! If you’re looking for a quick and simple recipe for falafel, why not try the falafel burgers from Can You Stay for Dinner?, or for a fresh, fun new twist try the Herb and Pistachio Falafel from Greek Kitchen Stories. Don’t bother with my version!
It’s been a long time since I’ve posted! I am going out of town tomorrow so I’ve been eating with the goal of cleaning out my fridge and pantry, not the goal of eating delicious, healthy foods! Some of the things I’ve been eating include a Mexican-inspired “casserole” with brown rice, black beans and lots of veggies, and omelettes to use up all the other vegetables in my fridge! I had some chocolate almond “milk” and vanilla yogurt that I needed to finish up, so I combined them with cherries that I’d pitted and frozen earlier this season to make Chocolate Cherry Smoothies! They’re great as-is, but if you wanted to make a more complete meal you could add some chocolate or vanilla protein powder.
Chocolate Cherry Smoothie (Serves one.)
- 1/2 cup pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup unsweetened chocolate Almond Breeze (almond milk)
- 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
- Optional: ice cubes, protein powder
Put all ingredients into your blender and blend! Drink up!
Nutritional Information (as made with 3.2% fat organic vanilla yogurt): 228 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams protein. 11% Vitamin A, 50% Vitamin E, 20% Calcium.
This soup has been a favourite of mine for the past six or seven years. Like so many other recipes I love, it’s from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook. Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, Rosemary and Feta is the perfect lunch or dinner treat- full of protein- and iron-rich lentils, tart lemon juice and creamy feta cheese. I’ve made this recipe so many times I don’t even have to pull the cookbook off the shelf anymore, but the recipe is so simple that a first-time cook could do it easily (and a seasoned cook should be able to read the recipe once, remember the basic premise, and whip up their own version according to their tastes). And hey, if you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, feel free to halve the quantities and go with dried! I like to serve this soup with some pieces of grilled or toasted pita bread.
Greek Red Lentil Soup with Lemon, Rosemary and Feta (Serves five.)
- 2 cups red lentils
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 8 cloves garlic, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 3 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 2 tbsp fresh oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 cups veggie stock
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tsp fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and drain lentils.
In a stockpot, saute onion and pinch of salt until translucent.
Add garlic, carrot, pepper, chili, rosemary, oregano and bay leaves. Saute until tender.
Add lentils and stock, boil, then simmer until lentils begin to disintegrate, about thirty minutes.
Remove bay leaves. Puree if desired (I personally don’t desire!).
Add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.
Top with feta, rosemary and pepper before serving.
Last week, the grocery store had packages of wraps on sale- buy one, get one free. So, I bought a package of “salsa” flavoured wraps and did them up Mexican style this week, but I also need something to fill the pretty red tomato-basil wraps this week. Nothing says “tomato basil” like Indian food (joking!), so I decided to whip up some simple samosa wraps (not joking). My version of samosa wraps uses lots of things I already had in my kitchen, and would be easy to change up according to your taste preferences. However, I knew I had to top my wrap with my favourite spread- Tomato-Ginger Chutney from the Rebar Modern Food Cookbook.
Samosa Wrap Filling (Serves five.)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tsp cumin seed (or dried ground cumin)
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp garam masala (or curry powder)
- 3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 2 tsp tumeric
- 4 (relatively) large yellow potatoes, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled grated
- 1 cup peas, frozen
- Water or stock as needed
Heat the olive oil and add the cumin seeds. Stir occasionally until seeds begin popping, then add the onion and garam masala. Saute until the onion is soft.
Add in the tomatoes and tumeric, and cook until the tomatoes are soft.
Add the potatoes, carrots and water or stock to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer until vegetables are just cooked.
Add in peas and stir. Return to a boil (add more liquid if needed) then reduce heat, cover and simmer until peas are cooked.
If the mixture is still watery, take off the lid and cook until the liquid evaporates. Once almost all the liquid is gone, use a fork to gently mash some of the potatoes.
Serve inside a wrap or pita, or on top of rice, or as a side dish for an Indian meal!
Tomato-Ginger Chutney (Five condiment-sized servings.)
4 Roma tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (not oil packed)
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp cumin, roasted and ground
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 pinch cinnamon
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
I firmly believe in recipe-less cooking. I like to just throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope for the best- maybe takings some inspiration from something I saw in a photo, or in a cookbook, or at a restaurant. For every one thing I screw up, I make a hundred that are good! The dish that got me hooked on cooking this way is quiche. I’m sure I ate a few slices of quiche as a child, but it was only after a few memorable lunches at a restaurant called El Midi in Guanajuato, Mexico that I re-discovered my passion for this easy vegetarian dish. At this restaurant serving dishes from the south of France, every day they served a different quiche- the one shown below was full of delicious fresh herbs and roasted tomatoes. Served alongside a salad and some vegetables (El Midi’s garlicky potatoes are to die for!), quiche makes a perfect lunch or dinner. It’s even popular at brunch time; just mix up the ingredients a bit!
The recipe below calls for four servings of cooked vegetables. Just a quick Google search for “quiche” gives you an idea of how many different combinations you could include. Epicurious has recipes ranging from Mushroom and Fontina Quiche to Spinach, Red Pepper and Feta Quiche, all the way to Cabbage Caraway Quiche. I love steamed broccoli with sauteed onions and sharp cheddar cheese. I also love slow-roasted tomatoes with fresh basil and goat cheese. In the fall, try roasted butternut squash with fresh sage and caramelized onions. In the photo above, I’ve used a roasted red pepper and sauteed leeks and zucchini, with lots of Italian seasoning. Really, it’s almost impossible to go wrong (okay, maybe the licorice-venison-espresso combination might not be appealing… but you never know!).
Recipe-less Quiche (Serves five.)
- 1 frozen deep-dish pie crust (or make your own, just don’t ask me how!)
- Four standard-sized servings of cooked vegetables, chopped and cooled
- Fresh and dried herbs to taste
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2/3 cup 2% milk
- 100 grams grated cheese (optional)
Blind bake the pie crust as per box instructions. If no instructions are given, pierce the frozen pie shell with a fork a few times then bake at 375 for about twelve minutes, or until the crust begins turning golden brown.
In a bowl, mix the cooled bite-size vegetables, eggs, milk and cheese. Pour into the pie crust and bake until set- about fifty minutes at 350 degrees. Cook time and temperature are flexible.
Remove from oven and let sit for at least ten minutes before serving. I cool it, slice it, put the slices in reusable containers, and eat them over a few days. In the photo above, the quiche is served alongside steamed vegetables that were tossed in lemon juice and sea salt.
The final component of our Greek Dinner is hummus. You can spell it how you like (I would put an “o” in there but it makes Firefox’s spell check unhappy), just as you can make it how you like. It annoys me to no end when people rave about store-bought hummus… it is so cheap and easy to make your own at home, whether you like it lemony, roasted red peppery, or garlicky! (Or something else entirely… chocolatey?) Here’s how it’s done.
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup tahini
- Water or olive oil as needed
- Salt and pepper to taste
The secret to super-creamy hummus is this! In a blender, puree the lemon juice, garlic cloves and tahini first! Yup, that’s all there is to it!
Once you’ve pureed those ingredients, slowly add in the chickpeas, keeping the blender’s motor running. You might need to add some liquid to keep things moving- try water or olive oil (obviously the latter will have way, way, way more calories).
Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to sprinkle my hummus with a bit of sumac, because it really adds to the lemony flavour (and it looks pretty!). You definitely don’t have to do this!
If you wanted to add something in, do it along with the chickpeas. Try some strips of roasted red pepper, or some fresh parsley or cilantro. You could replace the raw garlic with an entire head of roasted garlic! If you like olives, add some! What about sun-dried tomatoes? In Arabic “hummus” simply means “chickpeas” (they would refer to this recipe as “himmis bi tahina”, or chickpeas with tahini), but I think it’s okay to swap out the chickpeas for something else entirely (white cannellini beans, black beans, etc.) and still call it hummus!
When I was studying abroad in Mexico, another exchange student in my program used to refer to cacti as “tequila plants”. The only logical Greek interpretation of her chain of thought is that Greek yogurt is merely “tzatziki base”. Now that fat-free Greek yogurt (or should I say, fat-free tzatziki base) is readily available in Canada (took you long enough, dairy farmers!), everyone can make tzatziki all the time. This creamy dip is perfect with pita bread- you can dip your bread right in, or smother it inside a pita before you fill it with other ingredients (like Greek salad, mock chicken strips, lettuce, tomatoes, white bean “burgers”, etc.). Don’t leave out the tzatziki when you make your own Greek dinner!
- 1 tub fat-free Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cucumber
- 4 sprigs dill
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
Start by preparing the cucumber. Peel it and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop the seeds out, and gently rub some salt over the scooped side. Turn upside-down and place in a colander to drain for thirty minutes.
While cucumber drains, rinse and finely mince the dill. Mince the garlic cloves. Combine dill and garlic in a bowl, and cover with lemon juice.
When cucumber has drained, grate it using a box grater. Add to other ingredients, along with any desired salt.
Empty the entire tub of yogurt into the bowl with the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Return to yogurt container and refrigerate overnight (this gives the flavours time to combine).