Rhubarb BBQ Sauce by Dinner With Julie

Our guest for today is Julie Van Rosendaal food writer, stylist and columnist frequently featured in Parents Canada, Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, a contributor to the online cooking series Good Bite and co-host of It’s Just Food on Viva Network.

Julie is a real foodie and her passion for good food goes beyond simply enjoying it. She shares it. Her blog, Dinner With Julie, is a compilation of recipes that run the gamut from appetizers to dessert, all indexed for easy search and execution. But here’s the thing. Even though she’s an accomplished gastronome, she’s a real mom. She knows that even with our best intentions to meal plan, we end up staring into the fridge trying to make sense of a disjointed collection of potential ingredients . . .some approaching their expiration date. She knows this, because she’s one of us.

For one less worry, bookmark her blog to figure out what’s for dinner or follow her on Instagram for meal inspiration.

Thank you Julie for sharing your recipe for Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. A summer condiment that is the perfect pairing for grilled meats and may even be sourced from your garden. Just remember, only the stalk of a rhubarb plant can be eaten, the leaves are poisonous.
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

2-3 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup water
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pure maple or golden syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, until soft; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer; cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender or cool and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use as you would any barbecue sauce – on grilled meats, in baked beans or drizzled on burgers.

Makes about 2 cups.

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Souper Douper!

Photo by cogdogblog on Flickr. Used under a creative commons licence.

Name a food that is (a) easy to prepare (b) healthy and (c) inexpensive to make?

My husband reminded us of one last week.

Soup.

But not any old soup. Homemade chicken rice soup. From scratch.

I know! It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Soup is soup. It has sustained people for generations. Yet, how many of us regularly make our own chicken broth? There was a time when I made chicken soup all the time, but I fell out of the habit of it, given that there are so many easy (read: canned) alternatives that can be ready in slightly less time than it takes to press a couple of buttons on a microwave. So why make your own? You just have to eat one bowl of freshly made soup, and the reasons become obvious. Homemade chicken soup is one of those foods that is easy and cheap to make, and infinitely better from scratch than anything that comes out of a can. It’s just nicer. And it’s better for you, too. As someone who avoids gluten, I know what’s exactly in my soup when it’s made at home. And it makes me happy. We should all eat what makes us happy.

Peter’s become the designated chicken rice soup maker around our place. Here’s how he does it:

At the grocery store I decided to buy the pack of 4 chicken breasts on the bone (around $11 vs $20+ for boneless). Boning the meat isn’t hard; however not being an expert I didn’t fret getting every last bit off the bones. However, I’d paid for the things so I didn’t want to throw them out. So I made soup. To the bones-with-meat I added 1 finely chopped onion, 2 biggish carrots, 2 stalks celery (with leaves even!), peppercorns, 1 large bay leaf, some thyme and 2 whole cloves of garlic plus water to cover, and simmered for 2 hours. After a night in the fridge, I skimmed the fat, took the meat off the bones, and added a cup or so of rice (and cooked for 20 min) and salt to taste. Awesome and simple. Boning the meat-5 min; chopping onions, carrots and celery-5 min; picking meat from bones and skimming-5 min; everything else-5 min. We had enough for 6 good sized bowls that blew away any store-bought soup, plus 4 good sized breasts that we cooked up the first night.

Four chicken breasts. Two meals, and one of them is soup. Of course, chicken soup freezes really well, but only if you have leftovers to freeze in the first place!

Dinner, Solved!

Today, Colleen de Wit of I Heart Cooking, shares her favourite cooking tips and two easy-peasy recipes (so easy in fact, that I can make them!).

Don’t be scared. I’m not here to lecture you on mapping out your dinner plans in a spreadsheet for the next 2 weeks. Dinnertime doesn’t need to be complicated, and can even be * gasp * yummy and exciting. Here are my top dinner tips along with two of my favourite recipes.

Menu planning doesn’t need to be rigid. If you’re not a “list person”, make a general plan for the week. Buy groceries for 5 meals, but don’t have them planned for any particular day. Or maybe you’ll just decide what type of meat you’ll have all week (3 fish, 1 chicken, 1 pork) but you’re not sure which recipe you’ll use till 5pm that day. Or maybe you’re only going to plan 1 meal a week, on your family’s busiest day. Plan your meals in the way that suits your household.

Cook dinner at a time that works best for you. There’s no rule that says that dinner must be made in one continuous motion starting at 5pm. I have been known to chop vegetables at 9am, because that’s when my son is less likely to be attached to my leg. If you have a moment in the day (or evening), try to do some prep on your dinner. Every little bit helps.

Write down your meals on the calendar. That way, if you’re stuck for a dinner idea, scan through the past few weeks to get a bit of inspiration. (or if you forget what you’ve planned to eat for dinner, you can easily find the answer)

Use helpful kitchen appliances. Rice cookers and vegetable steamers are great gadgets that can save you time and energy. Although they usually take a bit longer to cook food than the traditional stovetop method, you don’t have to hover over the stove and most have an automatic shut-off feature. No more burned rice or soggy veggies!

Spanish Style Mish-Mash

Give this recipe a chance to prove its deliciousness. I was skeptical at first, but once I made this it has become one of my favourites. Don’t forget the parsley!

½  pkg of frozen, uncooked medium sized shrimp (get the peeled kind to make your life easier)

2 hot Italian or chorizo sausages

1 onion

1 tomato, coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ tsp hot chili flakes (or 1 jalapeno finely chopped if you so desire)

¼ c sliced pimento stuffed green olives (I omit these when I make this recipe)

1 ½ tsp oregano

1 tsp paprika

10 oz can chicken broth

1 cup couscous

¼ c chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley

Place shrimp in a colander and rinse under cold water until thawed. Pat dry with a paper towel. Thickly slice sausage. Oil a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Add sausage to pan and stir often until lightly browned (about 4-5 minutes). Coarsely chop onion and add to sausages. Stir frequently until onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes.

While the onion and sausages are cooking, chop the tomato, garlic, olives and jalapeno (if using). Add to pan along with the oregano and paprika. Stir occasionally until tomato starts to break down—about 2 minutes. Add broth and shrimp, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil. As soon as shrimp turns pink, stir in couscous. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and sprinkle with parsley.

Tex Mex Sloppy Joes

Not your usual sloppy joes. Great flavour and slightly fancier with the addition of crusty bread and avocadoes.

1 lb ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves minced

1 700mL jar of pasta sauce, preferably spicy (like spicy red pepper)

1 cup salsa

1 tbsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp tabasco (optional)

grated cheese

sour cream

avocado

tomato

shredded lettuce

Crusty bread (French bread, ciabatta, etc)

Lightly coat a large saucepan with oil and set over medium heat. Crumble beef into pan. Sprinkle with onion and garlic. Using a fork, break up and stir meat until its no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain off excess liquid.

Add sauce, salsa, oregano, cumin and tabasco. Stirring often, bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and gently simmer about 10 minutes. Spoon sauce over slices of crusty bread. Top with cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado and tomatoes.

*Colleen won the Home Ec award in 8th grade and never looked back. She is the owner of I Heart Cooking, where her aim is to boost your confidence and abilities in the kitchen. Check out www.iheartcooking.ca or www.facebook.com/iheartcooking.ca

Guest Post: Patsy Spanos on Zoning in on Happiness

Sitting on the beaches of Greece with my family this summer, I rarely had to make a conscious effort to reach calm, diaphragmatic breathing – the kind of breathing you reach at the end of a yoga class. Yes, yes, an easy task to achieve when you are smelling the calamari on the grill, feeling the white warm sand pressing against the heels of your feet and watching the Agean sea glitter under the sun.

Looking for your pulse is usually the goal when you are in this setting…Oh wait! Here we go, I just found my heart beat– easy to do when you see your eight year old boy tackling one of your five year old twin boys and screaming out at the top of his lungs….”I’m going to fart on your face!”

Tune them out, tune them out. Now, where was I? Oh yes… drinking sweet nectar amongst the Greek gods, feeling the state of complete Utopia. George Clooney comes out of nowhere and asks, “Do you want me to put some sun screen on your back?” I know! I know! What does Clooney have to do with Greece? But this is my day dream in my day dream it’s Clooney smothering the coconut oil on my shoulder blades…Okay!

In the faint distance I hear my husband’s voice overshadow Clooney’s…”Honey!, Honey! Where is my beach towel? I can’t find my beach towel anywhere? Did you pack it?”

Travelling with four boys this summer (my husband included) had its hairy moments, but overall I have come back home to Stouffville, Ontario calmer, and most importantly, healthier than ever. Being in Greece all summer, I dove into the Mediterranean diet and life stlye.

image: wikipedia.org

When I say life style, I mean the carefree attitude the Mediterraneans live by. There is a Greek Island called Ikaria.  This island is a “Blue Zone” spot: a part of the world where people live the longest. Time is relative on this Greek island. People show up to events and occasions whenever they feel like it. Living in this manner means you never increase your heart -harming stress hormones. You know those hormones all too well…The ones that take over your body and send you into a frantic state because you and your child are running ten minutes late for a play date.

Now I’m not by no means suggesting you commit social suicide and take off your watch and show up late to every meeting and get fired, but I am implying that as mothers we should all be a little more kind to ourselves if we are running a bit late.

Following a Mediterranean diet for two months has made me feel like an Olympian athlete ready for the games. Getting my three boys ready for school in the mornings is pretty much equal playing ground. By Mediterranean diet, I don’t mean eating on the Danforth and treating yourself to a big plate of souvlaki with Greek salad and tzatziki…No! No! Meat is a once  a week treat…you must focus on whole grains, fish, beans, veggies, olive oil, and plenty of healthy greens.

Greeks consume daily these wild greens that grow in fields and sides of the road. They are incredibly tasty and are full of nutrients and have more antioxidants than green tea or wine. The more popular healthy green is “Vlita” (otherwise known as amaranth), and it can be found in specialized fruit and vegetable markets here in Canada. Vlita is simple to make. Thoroughly clean them, boil until they are soft, pour some olive oil and lemon juice over them, sprinkle some salt and opa! Ready to serve.

Eating and living healthy is the best daily spa a mother can give to herself.

Whether you live in the city of Toronto, a small town in Ontario or the Greek island of Ikaria, living healthy and making smart choices when eating is the key ingredient to living a long and happy life.

Start by making a simple fish dish for the family.

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

4 servings

ingredients

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces of boneless salmon fillets
two tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
two cloves of garlic, crushed
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper
4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350F. Place aluminum foil on baking sheet and brush it over with a tablespoon of oil. Place salmon fillets skin down. In a small bowl put a tablespoon of oil, garlic, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of thyme and mix. Spread the mixture equally over the salmon fillets. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Marinade for 10 minutes. Then bake salmon for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the fish looks visibly cooked and flakes easily with a fork. Place the lemon wedges on top of the fillets and they’re ready to serve.

Surviving 6 p.m.

Dinner time.

These two words strike fear in the heart of working parents everywhere. I’m sure someone out there has mastered the art of getting a nutritious, inexpensive and quick dinner (that everyone in the family will eat!) on the table every night, but it sure isn’t us. Given our schedule and after-school activities, dinner needs to be more or less prepared by the time we get home; or at the very least, ready within 20 or 30 minutes. The more we can do in advance to prepare, the better.

Here are some of ways to maximize your time with a little bit of planning:

  • if you buy big club packs of meat for the freezer, package your chicken breasts or pork chops in meal-sized portions and add your favourite marinade to the bag (bottled will do)before you freeze it. The meat marinates as it defrosts;
  • whenever possible, cook extra, especially when cooking on the weekend. It takes as long to make two chickens as one, and then you’ve got chicken for the week.
  • use a menu-planning service. We’ve just started using Six O’Clock Scramble.  Having someone else do the shopping list is a lovely perk;
  • as Nathalie suggests, breakfast for dinner is your friend.  Peter makes a big batch of waffles every weekend and freezes them — a couple of those with some sausage and sliced fruit make a perfectly decent dinner.
I’m also always on the lookout for ways to maximize the nutritional punch of anything we cook. Here’s a recipe for a sauce that I made this weekend that does just that.  It’s nothing fancy — just a standard tomato sauce that you can rely on for any number of meals: pasta, chicken parm, or meatball subs.  I feel a bit guilty suggesting that you use canned tomatoes when the stores are full of bushels of beautiful Roma tomatoes just begging to be made into sauce, but such is life. Unlike those homemade tomato sauces, this one can be on the table in just over half an hour.  I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m guessing it can also be easily doubled or tripled; the proportions should be about right for everything except the oregano. No one needs that much oregano!

Sneaky tomato sauce

1 onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup dry red wine (Technically optional. Skip as your conscience dictates).

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 stalk celery, diced

2-3 Roma tomatoes (optional — when in season)

1 398 ml can low salt tomato sauce

1/2 can tomato paste

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped, or marjoram if you prefer. You could also use basil, but I despise dried basil, so I don’t)

salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until the onions are soft and start to take on colour — about 8-10 minutes. You want them on the verge of caramelization, not scorching, so turn down the heat if they go too fast. When the onions are browned and softened, add the wine (if using; if not, skip to next step) and stir until the wine is reduced by half.

Stir in carrots, celery and tomatoes if using.  Reduce heat and cook covered, stirring occasionally until the carrots are softened.  At this point, add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, oregano, sugar, and salt and pepper, cover, and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes until the carrots are completely softened.  Remove from heat and let cool for five minutes.

Here’s the sneaky part: at this point, carefully transfer the sauce to your blender, or use an immersion blender to process the sauce until smooth. Once blended, season to taste. The carrots and celery lend a nice sweetness and thicken the sauce so that you don’t have to cook it for hours.  Serve as you would any other tomato sauce.

Budding Gourmet in the House?

This is how I know I’m a lucky Mom:

This is my six-year old, Sebastian. He made dinner for me last Saturday night. Peter and Daniel were out of town this weekend, so Sebastian decided that he’d look after making a meal for the both of us.  From scratch  and  by himself, more or less.  I looked after getting the baking sheet in and out of the oven. I cut the chicken, too. But he supervised, “to make sure I didn’t  cut myself.”

His menu: crunchy homemade chicken fingers, asparagus, and potatoes.

He set the table, and wouldn’t let me into the dining room until it was ready.

Hot chocolate for him. Milk for me, on his insistence.  Because it’s good for me.

I think I should let him cook more often.