Cooking Classes


Lentil Chili and Biscuits

Never go out without your makeup, that's what I say. You don't get a second chance at a first impression. I know, I know. But sometimes I am lazy. That doesn't mean I am less beautiful or engaging. Well, extrapolate to taking pictures of my food. Sometimes I am just in a hurry. That is what happened with my lentil chili. I was not expecting big things. The avocados are not nicely slice or placed. I just snapped a quick one so I could get on with the day. If this picture was more scintillating you would be all over this recipe. It is so good.

The story behind the chili...

I have a sack of organic green lentils from a farm about an hour down the road. I planned to sprout them and add them to my bread, however, they don't sprout very well. Now I have 20 kg of organic green lentils sitting in my cold room.

I am catering a little luncheon and thought I should use some of these lentils. It's winter and chili is warm. Everyone loves biscuits. So that is what brought me to seek out a recipe for lentil chili. My recipe is a combination of many that I read. This recipe is vegetarian and vegan.

This recipe will make enough for 20 servings. It freezes well. If you don't have a crowd to feed just freeze individual servings for quick lunches. Green lentils worked very well. They become tender but not mushy and hold their shape nicely.

This is my entry for a main dish recipe in the Canadian Lentil contest that runs until April 7.  Follow them on Facebook by clicking on this link. Don't forget to like me on their Facebook page to help me win. You can also leave a comment here, on my blog.

Lentil Chili
2 tbsp. sunflower oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

Saute until translucent. Then add

3 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. green lentils
1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin, ground
1 1/2 tsp. sugar

Stir well. Add

2 c. diced fresh tomatoes
1 - 19 fl. oz. can diced tomatoes
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
6 c. water

Simmer until done, about 2 hours. Add more water if necessary. Add salt to taste. When the lentils are tender, add

3 c. cooked black beans

Serve with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions.

Buttermilk Biscuits
1/2 c. butter, small dice
4 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1  1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to a bowl. Stir to mix. Add butter and cut in until texture of coarse oatmeal. Whisk eggs with buttermilk and add to flour mixture. Lightly mix to incorporate all ingredients.  Turn out onto counter top and knead 2 or 3 times. Roll to 1 inch thickness and cut biscuits. Reroll the scraps and cut more biscuits.

Place biscuits on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes and rotate pan and bake another 8 - 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


Chana Dal with Curried Chicken

I don't remember which came first, the chana dal or the curried chicken. I believe it was the chicken. I am on a mission to use what is in my freezer and I found a bag of chicken legs. I also had a jar of Chatty's Curry Paste. Chatty's Indian Spices has been producing their yummy mixtures in Saskatchewan since 1996. This was the opportunity to try it out. Good pairing, I thought. No recipe here. Just remove the skin from the legs, put in a slow cooker, add jar of curry paste and a cup of water. Cook for 3 hours on low.

My cold room offered up chana dal peas and the menu was set. Chana is a split chickpea. The dal doesn't become as creamy thick as other lentil dals. This recipe is stellar. I like to spoon dal over my rice or scoop it up with a chapati.

An Indian meal is not complete without chapatis. I thought they would be beyond my ability but I tried this recipe. It provides a step by step tutorial and a recipe. I highly recommend it. I remember when I visited my sister while she lived in India. The women in the house laughed at her square chapatis. Well, they might be perfectly round in the tutorial but that is not easily accomplished. However, they still taste good.

I used my hard white spring wheat flour. It made a chapati that was more substantial than using white flour but without the stronger flavour of whole wheat flour made from hard red spring wheat.

Chana Dal

    ¾ cup chana dal
    2 1/2 or 3 cups water
    ¼ tsp turmeric
    2 medium sized tomatoes
    ½ cup chopped onion
    1 inch ginger, finely chopped
    4-5 garlic, finely chopped
    1 green chili, chopped
    ¾ tsp cumin seeds
    ½ tsp red chili powder
    ¼ tsp turmeric powder
    1 tsp coriander powder
    1 or 1.5 tsp kasoori methi  or dried thyme
    2 tbsp butter or ghee
    salt as required
    a few coriander/cilantro leaves for garnishing

    Pick and rinse the dal well.
    Soak the dal for an hour.
    Drain and pressure cook the dal with water and turmeric powder till they are soft and well cooked, about 10 minutes.
    Meanwhile, heat butter or ghee. Add the cumin first and fry for a few seconds. Add the garlic and fry till they become light brown. Now add the onions and fry till they get golden. Add the tomatoes, ginger and green chili.
    Stir and add all the dry spice powders.
    Saute till the tomatoes get cooked and the oil starts to leave the side of the mixture.
    Add the kasoori methi and fry for some seconds.
    Pour this mixture on the dal. Stir and simmer for 5-7 minutes till you get medium consistency of the dal. The dal is neither thick nor thin.
    Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve the hot with basmati rice or rotis or bread.
Saffron Basmati Rice
         by Sunny Anderson

2 cups basmati rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
3 to 4 threads saffron
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 to 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup almond slivers, toasted
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the rice in a colander under cold water until it runs clear, picking out any little pieces of grit or debris. Shake off the excess water. Heat a pot over medium heat, and then add the rice, oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper. Stir and toast the rice until the cayenne and saffron are fragrant, about 4 minutes. Shake the pot to level out the rice, and then add the chicken stock to fill about 1/2-inch over the rice. Bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer and cover to cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice stand another 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with a fork. Stir in the almond slivers and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and serve.


Pheasant Cassoulet

With my oven still out of order I am experimenting more with stovetop and slow cooker versions of my favourites. Actually this is a recipe full of experimentation. I set my slow cooker to cook for 4 hours on high heat. This was the setting most appropriate on my cooker. I allowed it to preheat while I prepared all the ingredients.

Cassoulet is a classic casserole from the south of France. It is slow cooked and my favourite has a crusty top. Achieving this in a slow cooker is a challenge but not totally impossible. It usually includes a duck, goose or wild bird confit. It almost always has white beans.

After combining all the ingredients, I cooked it for an hour with the lid on. I checked it and found it to be quite watery so I removed the lid for about an hour. This allowed the excess liquid to evaporate and make it thicker.

Most recipes call for a breadcrumb topping. These would soak up too much moisture in the slow cooker so I substituted grits. I thought they might plump up a little in the steam but they didn't. They made quite a nice crust on the top.

I found a couple of wild pheasants in my freezer. I am always saving special things for special occasions but I have saved these long enough and freezer burn will soon set in. I also came across cacciatore lardo that I purchased from Salt Food Boutique in Regina. All charcuterie and sausages are house made.

The lardo is a curious looking sausage. It is uncooked sausage meat that is surrounded by a thick layer of fat or lardo. I cut it into cubes and browned it along with Pine View Farms naturally produced smokey bacon.
Now it is ready to add to the preheated slow cooker. I am setting the slow cooker on high heat for 4 hours. That's just the setting most appropriate on my pot.

 It 'baked' beautifully in the slow cooker. I carefully cut out pieces and transferred them to preheated cast iron ramekins for serving. Without an oven, I used a pot with a little water to preheat my ramekins.

Pheasant Cassoulet in a Slow Cooker

1 pheasant, deboned and cut in cubes
1/4 lb. cacciatore lardo
2 slices smokey bacon
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 c. navy beans
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 c. pheasant stock
1/2 c. white grits
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped

Add the navy beans to a pressure cooker and fill pot halfway with cold water. Place lid on cooker and put on stove top on high heat. When full pressure has been reached reduce the heat to maintain the pressure and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool naturally. Drain and discard cooking water. Add beans to slow cooker.

Meanwhile, prepare the pheasant, lardo and bacon. Brown lardo and bacon then add to slow cooker. Add pheasant to the same pan and when it is browned add onions and garlic. Continue to saute until the onions are soft. Add this to the slow cooker.

Add remainder of ingredients, except the grits, to the slow cooker. Stir to mix ingredients evenly. Sprinkle the grits on the top. Set the cooker on high heat for 4 hours and let it cook for about an hour before checking.

After about an hour open the lid and check how much liquid remains. If it is a lot, continue to cook for about an hour without the lid. This will thicken the cassoulet so that it is more like the traditional baked in an oven. Replace the lid and cook for another hour or until the pheasant is tender.

Serve with a green salad. Serves 8.


Everything Old is New Again - Wedge of Iceberg Salad

I have posted this previously but it is so good that it deserves a repeat. Val at More Than Burnt Toast has chosen a retro theme this month. I love this new take on the old wedge of iceberg lettuce salad. It is showing up on menus everywhere.

This classic salad is back in fashion and I am glad.  I love this salad and now that I can have it when I eat out, makes me even happier.  I am using crispy, salted duck cracklings rather than the pancetta.  I found a nice little wedge of Maytag Blue Cheese (sells for $18.99/lb) at Fresh Market in Knoxville.  It is so good, not too strong and very creamy.

Check out these interesting reduxes on retro favourites...

Val – Main – Bolognese Meatloaf
Susan – Appetizers/Hors D’oeuvres
 Endive stuffed with Crab

Jerry – Green Bean Casserole with Madeira Mushrooms
Sandi – Gingery Banana Pudding

Iceberg Wedges with Creamy Bleu Cheese Dressing          serves 4
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 T buttermilk
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 large head of iceberg lettuce, each cut into quarters
1 green onion, chopped
4 slices pancetta, prosciutto or bacon

Whisk mayonnaise, 1/4 cup blue cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, and vinegar in medium bowl until almost smooth. Mix in remaining blue cheese. Season dressing generously with cracked black pepper. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Cut the pancetta (prosciutto or bacon) into bite size pieces and saute until crispy.  Arrange lettuce wedges on 4 plates. Spoon dressing over lettuce. Sprinkle with green onions, pancetta and additional black pepper and serve.


14 Food Goals for 2014

I normally don't make New Year's resolutions. It doesn't make any sense to me to set out a list of things...on January 1...that  I would like to do differently. I make lists like this all year long. Sometimes they result in changes but most often not.

Valerie at A Canadian Foodie has issued this as a challenge in our ongoing Canadian Food Experience project. I am already doing many of these things but sometimes I get lazy or complacent. Time for a tune-up. Check here for a full list of participants.

14 food goals for 2014:

1. Continue to eat LOCALLY produced foods as much as possible.
As much as possible means that I won't be giving up my sea salt, chocolate or coffee any time soon. It means that I will forego seafood on the prairies. It doesn't taste as good so why bother.

2. Be more aware of the SEAFOOD Watch.
I just said that I would forego seafood on the prairies. However, that doesn't account for eating out and temptations at friends' homes. It does not account for the possibility I might find myself by the sea. Who doesn't find shrimp on menus everywhere and at friend's parties. No more shrimp.

3. Less JUNK food.
Restaurant choices are limited in my town so often I just grab a burger or fried chicken when I am starved and in a hurry. I leaned on this a little too often last year. A clean up is required.

4. SCRATCH cooking.
I am already doing this but I want to be sure to continue. I will continue to promote scratch cooking through my blog and writing.

5. Explore VEGETARIAN and be more creative in my vegetarian choices.
One of my sisters has been vegetarian for 35 years. Even though she has access to a vast array of choices, she still lacks a certain creativity in her meals. Don't we all, vegetarian or not.

6. Expand my GARDEN.
The summer is so busy for me. I am a farmers' market vendor and it consumes my time. Last year my garden suffered. I don't want that to happen again this year.

7. Amp up my NUTRIENT intake.
I am aware of the nutrients in foods but rarely make choices based on their nutritional value. The past couple of winters I have suffered more with colds. It is time to make some changes to improve my immune system.

8. Continue to TEST recipes for local super foods...
... like sea buckthorn and haskap. I have tons of these in my freezer. I make jams and jellies but I don't eat jams and jellies very often. It is time to bring them into my everyday menus that do not include desserts. Einkorn and kamut flour are nutritious and I have not taken the time to work with them.

9. Work on BREAD recipes for the farmers' market.
I like providing new things over the summer.

10. Be CREATIVE with the presentation of food.
I like to think I am but I am also falling into a rut in how I present food. This can be seen in my food photography.

11. Focus on SIMPLICITY in meals and recipes. I think this will be a trend this year.

12. EXPAND my circle of food-centric people.

13.  READ books relating to food.

14. SEEK out more wild food. I want to forage for mushrooms and other edible plants indigenous to my area.

My recipes this month will help satisfy Goal #5 - explore vegetarian options. Black rice and amaranth are my two new ingredients. Why would I want to include these two in a vegetarian meal?  (Source: Whole Grains Council)

In 2003, researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada found that amaranth can be a rich dietary source of phytosterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties.  Just a few years later, in 2007, Russian researchers drew from the 1996 study to determine whether or not amaranth would also show benefits for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD).  Patients who presented with coronary heart disease and hypertension not only showed benefits from the inclusion of amaranth in their diets, researchers also saw a significant decrease in the amounts of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol. 

In addition, amaranth is a good source of protein containing the essential amino acid lysine which is absent in other grains. It is also naturally gluten-free. 

Black Rice Rivals Blueberries as Antioxidant Source

Scientists working with Zhimin Xu at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center have found that black rice (sometimes called “forbidden rice”) contains health-promoting antioxidants called anthocyanins, at levels similar to those found in blueberries and blackberries.
August 26, 2010 presentation at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, Boston MA

Black Rice Bran Protects Against Inflammation

S.P. Choi and colleagues from Ajou University in Suwon, South Korea tested both black rice bran and brown rice bran for their effectiveness in protecting against skim inflammation. In mouse tests, they found that the black rice bran did suppress dermatitis, but the brown rice bran did not. The scientists suggest that black rice may be a “useful therapeutic agent for the treatment and prevention of diseases associated with chronic inflammation.”
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, August 23, 2010.

Portabello Mushrooms stuffed with 3 Rice Pilaf
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup brown basmati rice
1/2 cup black rice
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Cook rice in separate pots until tender. Drain and combine in large bowl. Saute onion until clear, add almonds and continue to sauté until they are toasted. Add dried cranberries. Stir and add to cooked rice. Toss to mix.
Prepare mushrooms by removing the stem. The stem can be chopped and added to onions when sautéing, if desired. Remove gills of mushroom. Stuff the cap with the rice mixture. Place on baking sheet and bake in 375F oven for approximately 30 minutes or until tender.
Amaranth Tabouli
Tabouli, a mid-eastern salad usually made with bulgur wheat, makes light, refreshing, warm weather fare. I am using amaranth for a new taste.

1 cup amaranth
1 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup scallions, chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tomato, diced
lettuce leaves, whole

Simmer amaranth in 2 cups of salted water for 12-15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

Place remaining ingredients except lettuce in a mixing bowl and toss together lightly. Chill for an hour or more to allow flavours to blend.

Wash and dry lettuce leaves and use them to line a salad bowl. Add tabouli and garnish with more diced tomatoes.


Millet Scallion Pancakes ... vegetarian, gluten-free and tasty

It is January 1 and many of us are making resolutions regarding food and health. Give these recipes a try and see what you think. I love these savoury pancakes. They are delicious served with a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream alongside a crispy salad. I would not necessarily match it with this buckwheat salad but I am recipe testing and this is what I am making today.

Millet is traditional in many cultures. Studies have shown that it effectively reduces blood triglycerides and probably is effective in combating cardiovascular disease. It helps in combating high blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It is a good choice for a diabetic eating program and is high in antioxidants.

Although it is naturally gluten-free certain random samples have found gluten cross-contamination. Be sure to read the label carefully if you require gluten-free foods.

Buckwheat on the other hand, also gluten-free, showed no cross-contamination.  Buckwheat also lowers blood glucose levels.

I served these to my vegetarian sister and she loved them both. Her comment, "I feel like I am eating in a health food restaurant."

Millet Scallion Pancakes

These cook up similar to regular pancakes. There are bubbles that burst when it is ready to turn. My dough was quite soft but worked well. Scoop by large spoonfuls and press to flatten. Brown rice or quinoa can be substituted for the millet however, I have not tried it myself.

    ¾ cup millet
    1½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
    ⅓ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
    3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
    2 teaspoons sugar
    2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
    1 teaspoon Sriracha
    8 scallions, thinly sliced, divided, plus more for serving
    2 large eggs
    6 tablespoons buttermilk or yogurt
    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
    6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cook millet in a large saucepan of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until tender, 15–20 minutes; drain, shaking off as much water as possible. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
Meanwhile, whisk soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, sesame seeds, Sriracha, and ¼ of scallions in a small bowl; set sauce aside.
Whisk eggs, buttermilk, cornstarch, sesame oil, and 1½ tsp. salt in a medium bowl. Fold in millet and ¾ of scallions.
Working in 3 batches, heat 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet or well-seasoned cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add heaping spoonfuls of millet batter to skillet, press to ¼” thickness, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side; transfer pancakes to a paper towel–lined plate.
Garnish pancakes with green onions and serve with Greek style yogurt. Serves 8.

Millet can be cooked 2 days ahead; cover and chill. Millet batter can be made 6 hours ahead; cover and chill. The cooked pancakes can be frozen and crisped in a hot pan before serving.

Nutritional Information per serving
    Calories (kcal) 220
    Fat (g) 15
    Saturated Fat (g) 2.5
    Cholesterol (mg) 55
    Carbohydrates (g) 18
    Dietary Fiber (g) 2
    Total Sugars (g) 2
    Protein (g) 5
    Sodium (mg) 670

Warm Buckwheat Salad with Roasted Shallots, Apples and Lettuce

1 cup coarsely cracked buckwheat groats or kasha
5 large shallots, peeled and quartered
2 tart-sweet apples such as Gala, cored and cut into 1/2-in. wedges 
lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1 cup lettuce pieces
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add buckwheat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Slice apples into thin wedges and squeeze lemon juice over to prevent browning.
Preheat oven to 425°. Toss shallots with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper and 1 tbsp. oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes.
Whisk together remaining 4 tbsp. oil, remaining 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, the vinegar, mustard, and honey in a large bowl. Add reserved buckwheat, apples and shallots, lettuce, parsley and toss gently. Serve.

Nutrition Information per serving
    Calories: 257
    Calories from fat: 41%
    Protein: 4.2g
    Fat: 12g
    Saturated fat: 1.6g
    Carbohydrate: 37g
    Fiber: 4g
    Sodium: 324mg
    Cholesterol: 0.0mg