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Braised Pork Stew

27 Jan

Because I just can’t stop buying cookbooks, Michael Smith’s latest, Family Meals, has appeared on my shelf. I’ve always liked Smith: he was my gateway into cooking fish for the first time and his recipes (while sometimes a bit short on the salt for my taste) never fail me. I like his philosophy that a recipe is simply somewhere to start, a thing to be played with, an idea upon which to expound. I feel the same way: when I come across a new recipe, I’ll generally leave the fundamentals alone but will alter things like seasoning and heat levels to suit my taste.

This particular book has some fantastic slow cooker recipes and quite a few vegetarian recipes that look enticing. I tried out the slow-cooked pork shoulder stew this weekend it’s a keeper. We added a few dashes of hot sauce to our bowls but kept it out of the main pot to avoid burning foodNURDling’s little tongue. It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t have a ton of ingredients. It’s hearty, filling and healthy. This recipe also makes a TON so you will definitely have leftovers. Cook once, eat many times. Works for me.

Serves 4


3lb pork shoulder, halved
salt & pepper
2 tb vegetable oil
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 potatoes, chopped
2 carrots, peeled & chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 ts dried thyme and/or rosemary
2 ts salt
7c water
1c white wine (or, if you don’t want to use alcohol, skip it and add 8 cups of water instead of splitting it)


1. Preheat your oven to 300F.
2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pan (a Dutch oven is perfect) to medium-high heat. Add the oil and watch for it become shimmery. Season the pork generously with salt & pepper and the two pieces of pork to the pan, searing on all sides until nicely browned.
3. Add in the celery, potatoes, carrots, onions, herbs, salt and liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cover with  a tightly-fitting lid and place in the oven for 3-4 hours.
4. Remove the pot from the oven. The pork will now be fork-tender; shred or cube the meat. Serve and enjoy!


Vietnamese Pork & Vegetable Lettuce Cups

5 Jun

With the weather taking a turn for the better, the desire to eat a little lighter has kicked in. These lettuce cups are a little bit labour intensive – nothing hard, just a lot of vegetable chopping – but they pack a lot of flavour in each bite. The sauce is salty and spicy; the filling is crunchy and satisfying. The recipe is very adaptable: you can make it vegetarian, spicier, milder, switch up the fillings, use tortillas instead of lettuce, etc. You can certainly substitute the pork for turkey, chicken or beef and use whatever vegetables you have in the fridge.

Serves 4.


3 tb vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sweet peppers, diced
3 carrots, diced
handful mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch asparagus, diced
1 pkg ground pork
4 ts chili paste (I used sambal oelek)
2 tb fish sauce
2 ts brown sugar
juice of 3 limes, zest of 1 lime
1 head of butter lettuce, washed & separated
1 bunch of mint leaves, torn


1. Heat 1tb of oil in a large pan or a wok to medium-high heat. Add in the garlic and 2ts of chili paste. Sauté for 1 minute.
2. Add in the pork, onion, peppers and carrots. Break up the pork with a wooden spoon. Cook 5 minutes and then add in the mushrooms and asparagus. Cook 3-4 more minutes until the pork is no longer pink. Allow it to cool a bit.
3. In the meantime, whisk together the remaining oil, chili paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice & zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
4. Scoop the filling into the lettuce cups, then top with some sauce and garnish with mint. Should you like your food on the spicy side, you can also top with a little more chili paste or hot sauce.

Turkey Meatballs w/ Vegetables & Rice Noodles

26 Sep

New house, new kitchen, new recipes! Tried this one out last night and it was a whole pile of filling, healthy deliciousness. Definitely give it a whirl: it’s easily adaptable and pretty quick to make. J pickled the red onions and cucumbers that he served and it added a great sour bite to the sweet and spicy sauce that accompanies the dish.

You could also serve the meatballs as an appetizer, serving the sauce on the side as a dip.

Serves 2.


1 lb ground turkey
1 egg, beaten
1 tb sesame oil
1 tb chives/green onions, finely diced
2 ts cornstarch
1 pinch chili flakes (optional)
1 ts salt

1 tb hoisin sauce
1 tb rice wine vinegar
1 tb oyster sauce
1/2 tb Sriracha sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tb soy sauce

bell peppers, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1/2 red onion, juilenned

2 green onions, sliced
1 handful cilantro, finely chopped
2 lime wedges

1-2 packages rice noodles, cooked according to instructions


1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients. Do not overmix. Refrigerate for anywhere from 2 – 24 hours.
2. Preheat your oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with foil. Dampen your hands and roll out roughly 16 meatballs. Bake 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs and preheat your broiler. Cook for 5 more minutes.
3. Meanwhile, if you plan to stir fry the veg, heat a pan with 2 ts of olive oil to medium and sauté for 4 -5 minutes. If you’re pickling them, however, you can skip this step.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce. Adjust flavouring to taste – some people like it hot, some salty, some sweet.
5. Place the noodles at the bottom of a bowl and layer in the vegetables and meatballs, topping with green onion, cilantro and a lime wedge for garnish. Either pour the sauce on top or serve on the side.

Turkey meatbals

NYT Project: Elizabeth Frink’s Roast Lemon Chicken

28 Nov

With so many ways to roast up a chicken, sometimes I find it a little overwhelming to choose one. Fortunately, the NYT Cookbook had a recipe that looked both delicious and simple. I think I may have used a bit too much salt in seasoning the bird, as the pan juices, when reduced, were overly sodium-ized. (Sure…that’s a word.) I tend to err on the side of using more seasoning than less as I’m disappointed when bland food arrives at the table. However, because flavours intensify when you reduce them, the salt flavour increased in the pan juices and even after cutting them with more water, I still couldn’t use them. Ah well – next time!

The bird itself, though, was fantastic. The vibrant lemon flavour came through and the meat was tender and juicy. I used cilantro instead of parsley, as that’s what I happened to have in the fridge and what I prefer to use in general. Either parsley or cilantro work well with chicken, lemon and garlic, so feel free to use either. I predict this recipe will be rotated in to my regular rotation!


1 3lb chicken
1/2 ts salt
1/4 ts black pepper
2 lemons
6 cloves garlic
2 tb unsalted butter
2 tb olive oil
1 tb flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped, plus extra for garnish


1. Preheat your oven to 325F.
2. Place the chicken in a large baking dish and season inside and out with salt and pepper.
3. Remove the skin from one lemon with a peeler and rub the skin over the outside  of the chicken. Quarter the rest of the lemon and squeeze over the chicken. Place the lemon pieces and garlic cloves inside the bird.
4. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a small pan. Pour about one-third of the mixture inside the chicken.  Tie the legs together with kitchen string and pour the remaining mixture over the chicken.
5. Roast the chicken for 90 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 165F, basting every 15 minutes with the juices from the pan. Half an hour before the bird is done, pour juice from the second lemon over it and sprinkle with parsley.
6. When done, transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let it sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour 1/2c water/broth into the roasting pan and place it over high heat. As it comes to a boil, scrape up the pan drippings with a wooden spoon. Reduce the juices to the desired consistency and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7. Carve the chicken and serve the sauce on the side.

*side note – the leftovers make for excellent chicken sandwiches – assuming you’ve got any chicken left!

Christmas: Accomplished.

31 Dec

Yes, it’s several days past Christmas now and I’m just getting around to writing about the first Christmas dinner at our place. It’s taken that long to absorb it all, really. Eight people, one dog and gobs of food. The turkey came out very nicely, if a little earlier than I anticipated. (The oven cooks turkeys faster than I think it should and chickens slower. Weird.)  I brined it over night this time and you could definitely tell a difference in the texture and moisture levels. I will certainly be doing that again as it really helped to keep the bird tender and juicy.

In attendance on Christmas were my parents, my brother, my in-laws and the always fabulous Hot Biscuit. Mom and Dad were in charge of cranberries and the ever-tempting trifle; my brother brought ooooooooodles of hors d’oeuvres including some stellar bacon-wrapped water chestunuts; my in-laws brought – as requested – rice & beans and, as an extra, creamed corn; and the HB made her delicious mandarin & sugared almond green salad. As I posted last week, we did The Bird, cornbread stuffing, roasted vegetables and potatoes, citrus & sesame asparagus and the gravy. (Oh. And Dad brought homemade fudge, a Christmas tradition that had been put on hiatus for a few years. I was giddy when I saw the container!)

So, as you might imagine, we had so. Much. Food. While I’d love to say that I totally kept my cool through the whole preparation, I must give credit to J who kept me calm when faced with an unexpected problem in the kitchen. Quick thinking and a cool head saved the day! On that note, a word to the wise: if you lose the liquid that accumulates from the turkey while it cooks, you can tip the turkey right-side-up and let it drain into the pan. This is exactly what happened to me and that was the solution which worked quite well! We still had the beautiful – but now caramelized – liquid but not as much as I would’ve liked. Regardless, the turkey juice (and doesn’t THAT sound appealing!) worked like a charm and with the addition of chicken stock and red wine, it all came out!

We ate, we drank, we gorged. We also had a few rounds of Wii sports in between dinner and dessert which gave us (okay, J) a chance to do some dishes and, perhaps more importantly, a chance for everyone to digest a little! Would I do Christmas dinner again? In a heartbeat. Am I glad that it only comes once a year? Unquestionably. But I learned a lot, spent an evening with my family and friends and can’t wait to try my hand at it again!

And all that was left…

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