The Cooking Chronicles: Lunchable Leftovers

Not five years ago, I was perfectly happy with cold lunches. Most days, I would make do with a slice of banana loaf, single-serve yogurt and a juice box. Now, lunch doesn’t seem complete without reheated leftovers! A sandwich just doesn’t cut it for me anymore.

So the name of the game for us most weeknights is to cook up enough food to double as lunches – big batches, here we come!


Scrolling through 2014 food trend predictions, I came upon one writer’s call that shakshuka would be appearing on menus all over New York. What was shakshuka and why was it so hot?

I eventually came to Smitten Kitchen’s shakshuka recipe, where she explained that it was an Israeli dish made up of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It was the perfect weekday meal – quick, filling, and would yield leftovers.

I ended up slightly overcooking the eggs, and next time, I’d make sure to have feta on hand. Still, paired with warm pita bread, it was a satisfying supper.



Silky Mushroom and Feta Fusilli

I don’t actually mind standing in line at the grocery store, because it usually gives me a few minutes to flip through aisle magazines for recipe ideas. This Canadian Living recipe for silky mushroom and feta fusilli was one such inspiration.

It was incredibly simple, with a light but creamy consistency lent from the addition of milk and pasta cooking water. That said, it was the final touch of lemon juice and zest that made the dish sing.

Silky Mushroom and Feta Fusilli

Silky mushroom and feta fusilli

Happy lunching!

Culinary Q & A with Meaghan Baxter

Meaghan Baxter

Occupation: Dish Editor/Staff Writer at Vue Weekly

What did you eat today?

Granola and yogurt for breakfast, a steak and goat cheese wrap for lunch and tilapia with steamed vegetables and rice for dinner.

What do you never eat?

I’m always open to trying new things when it comes to food, but I can’t say I’m a fan of tomatoes when they’re by themselves. There’s just something about the texture that I don’t enjoy. If they’re incorporated into something like a pasta sauce, I’ll eat them. Strange, I know.

What is your personal specialty?

I would say either stir-fry or different pasta creations, like lasagna.

Complete this sentence: In my refrigerator, you will always find:

Fresh produce, yogurt, eggs and almond milk.

What is your weekday meal standby?

To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty terrible about cooking big meals for myself during the week due to a busy schedule, so it’s usually something quick—but still healthy.

What is your favorite kitchen item?

The kitchen and I have only become closely acquainted with one another in the last year-and-a-half (I was a college student prior to that and cooking ranked low on the priority list), but I would say the KitchenAid mixer.

World ends tomorrow. Describe your last meal.

That’s a tough one. I would either go all-out on sushi or anything my mom cooks—she’s fantastic. For dessert, It would have to be her chocolate raspberry torte hands-down.

Where do you eat out most frequently?

I don’t really have a go-to place when I go out to eat. I like to spread things around and try out different places.

Where’s the best place to eat in Edmonton?

It’s so hard to choose one because Edmonton has such a diverse range of restaurants and so many of them have fantastic things to offer. However, I really enjoy TZiN and XIX when I’m able to make it down to the far south end of the city.

If you weren’t limited by geography, where and what would you eat?

I spent a month in Europe during the summer of 2011, and I would go back to Italy and France in a heartbeat. The food was fantastic, particularly macarons, pastries and duck a l’orange in Paris, as well as gelato, traditional Neapolitan pizza or pasta dishes in Italy, where it seemed as though you couldn’t go wrong with anything you ordered.

You can check out Meaghan’s writing in Vue Weekly’s Dish section every week.

The Cooking Chronicles: Thai Green Curry

Every Friday, I ask Mack a question he dreads, “What do you want to eat for dinner next week?” It ensures we have a meal plan for the week, but more importantly, helps us generate a shopping list for our routine stop at the farmers’ market on the following day. Most of the time, Mack falls back on old favourites, but last week, he was adamant about satisfying a craving for Thai green curry.

Though we have made coconut milk-based curries in the past, we’d never experimented with more authentic recipes. By chance, Chef Elaine Wilson, Thai cuisine enthusiast, was featured in the Journal that same week, so it was meant to be!

We adapted her recipe for Thai green curry with chicken. It was the first time I’ve encountered instructions on how to separate coconut milk (leaving the can in the fridge overnight, opening it from the bottom, then draining off the coconut water). This seemed to make all the difference, in terms of the resulting creamy, thick sauce. The kaffir lime leaves (which we bought frozen from Lucky 97) were also key, lending telltale citrus notes to the coconut base.

Mack somehow had the impression that green curry could only incorporate green-coloured vegetables, so we substituted blanched broccoli, green pepper and green beans for the eggplant (and peas). Next time, we would double the amount of sauce to accommodate the quantity of vegetables we threw in.

Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry

The curry turned out wonderfully – the heat was manageable and the broccoli florets, as Mack noted, was perfect for soaking up and retaining the sauce.

Thai Green Curry


I’m pretty sure the next time I ask Mack what he wants for dinner next week, “Thai green curry” will be his response.

The Cooking Chronicles: Back to Smitten Kitchen

After a few weeks away from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, I returned to it again for dinner inspiration. The recipes didn’t work as well as I’d have hoped, but they did get us out of our routine!

Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves

We loved Deb’s recipe for baked chicken meatballs (which we have made more than a few times), so this week, decided to try the tomato-glazed meatloaves in the book.

We were a bit surprised at how many pots and bowls this recipe required, given Deb’s proclamation on her blog of her aversion to unnecessary dishes. I didn’t think the food processor was necessary, as well as the extra step of cooking the vegetables. I also decided against the extra step of browning the butter and just made regular mashed potatoes.

Unfortunately, the Sunshine Organic beef was probably too lean for this recipe, given it didn’t call for the inclusion of ground pork, bacon, or anything with a bit of fat. As a result, the flavour was lacking in the meatballs themselves. The silver lining was the tomato glaze – I loved the sweetness, and in the future, I would likely double the amount of glaze.

Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves

Tomato-glazed meatloaves over mashed potatoes

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

Deb’s recipe for linguine with cauliflower pesto was intriguing. A “sauceless” pasta, it involved putting together a pesto made of raw cauliflower crumbs, garlic, red pepper flakes, almonds, Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes, parsley, olive oil and sherry vinegar.

I’ve never handled cauliflower in this way before – pulsing it in the food processor to create couscous-like crumbs. They were light and airy, as the recipe promised.

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

Cauliflower crumbs

The pesto wasn’t as cohesive as traditional pestos, though I’m sure I could have added more pasta water to encourage the sauce along. But I was hoping the cauliflower flavour would come through a bit more – it was overwhelmed by the ground almonds. It probably also could have used a bit more acid or a sprinkling of fresh herbs for some pop.

Linguine with Cauliflower Pesto

Linguine with cauliflower pesto

With some tweaking though, this recipe would make a great casual vegetarian entree.

Discover Your Roots: Eat Alberta 2013

I can’t believe we’re already on our third Eat Alberta! The hands-on food conference, an opportunity for consumers to learn about how to grow, forage and prepare food from some of Alberta’s most knowledgeable food personalities, will be taking place again this April.

What: Eat Alberta 2013
When: Saturday, April 20, 2013
Time: 8:30am-5:30pm
Where: Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, 11762 106 Street

We are thrilled to be returning to the kitchens of NAIT, which turned out to be a brilliant venue for the event last year.

Eat Alberta 2012

Owen Petersen and his Sourdough 101 class

Our keynote speaker this year is Jeff Senger of Sangudo Custom Meat Packers. Jeff will be sharing his story of transition from an urban to a rural lifestyle, one that pulled him from his desk-bound accounting job to a labour-intensive career as a butcher.

We are happy that some of our former instructors are back to share their wisdom with a new group of students this year, including:

  • Sourdough 101, led by Owen Petersen of Prairie Mill
  • Knife Skills, led by Kevin Kent of Knifewear
  • Cheese Making, led by Chef Allan Roote of NAIT
  • Artisan Sausage Making, led by Allan Suddaby of Elm Cafe
  • Vinaigrettes: More Than Just Salad Dressings, led by Chef Elaine Wilson of Allium Foodworks

Eat Alberta 2012

Kevin Kent of Knifewear

But of course, we are also welcoming many new presenters, who will be teaching some exciting sessions, including:

Eat Alberta 2012

Making gnocchi at Eat Alberta 2012

Undoubtedly, hands-on sessions are the most popular, and past feedback has indicated that we needed a better system of ensuring a fair distribution of these sessions. So this year, we have organized different “tracks” made up of four session each, the majority of which include two hands on sessions, one guided tasting and one presentation. We know that all of our presenters are passionate and engaging, so we are confident that no matter which track you choose, you will not only learn a lot, but will have a great time in the process!

We have also added an MC to help facilitate the day, none other than Jennifer Crosby of Global TV. Jennifer is a farm girl from Northern BC, and is a regular contributor to Taste Alberta. And in place of a plenary panel to end the day, we are introducing a series of two-minute “lightning talks” as a way to connect attendees with other food-related resources and organizations in the community. At the end of the day, although we have changed a few elements this year, we stayed true to our commitment to highlighting food skills and connecting consumers with local and regional products.

Tickets are $135 each, and include 2 plenary sessions, 4 concurrent sessions, breakfast, lunch and a wine down. Tickets for Eat Alberta will go on sale next week, but in the meantime, make sure you sign up for the mailing list on the website. We will be sending out a notice to let you know when the tickets go live!

I hope to see you out at Eat Alberta!

Culinary Q & A with Robyn

robynOccupation: Certified Management Accountant

What did you eat today?

Home-made banana bread for breakfast and home-made chicken soup for lunch. For dinner, my mom was trying out a new recipe from Serious Eats, The Ultimate King Ranch Casserole.

What do you never eat?

Eggs— well, I eat them in things, like cookie and cakes, but I just can’t stomach eggs by themselves. I really wish I liked them, but I just don’t!

What is your personal specialty?

I love to make a big home-made Italian dinner “feast” from scratch; garlic bread and Caesar salad, with Chicken Picatta and angel hair, Spaghetti Bolognese or some sort of other delicious pasta creation.

Complete this sentence: In my refrigerator, you will always find:

Siracha, yogurt, milk and some bananas in the freezer for my morning breakfast smoothie.

What is your weekday meal standby?

A smoothie for breakfast almost every week day. Does that count?

What is your favourite kitchen item?

My Henckels Chef’s knife, but I also really love any sort of tiny kitchen utensil, like my tiny whisk or spatula. Cute and functional!

World ends tomorrow. Describe your last meal.

My mom’s prime rib dinner complete with mashed potatoes, gravy and yorkshire pudding. For dessert, probably my mom’s homemade hot fudge sauce over vanilla ice cream.

Where do you eat out most frequently?

Probably La Pagode for Vietnamese food.

Where’s the best place to eat in Edmonton?

Right now, I would say Corso 32 and Sofra are my favourites.

If you weren’t limited by geography, where and what would you eat?

I really want to go everywhere and eat everything, but if I had to pick just one thing right now I would go to the little Trattoria we called “Mario’s” in Cortona, Italy. I did a semester abroad in Italy and I think Mario’s might have had the best food in all of Italy. So simple and delicious! I would order the Spaghetti Aglione, Tiramisu and nice big glass of red wine.

Check out Robyn’s blog at Life is Better Red.

The Cooking Chronicles: Random Recipes

I do my best to try and group the random series of recipes that I decide to make from week to week, and sometimes it is a great stretch to connect two seemingly diverse dishes. This time, I won’t even try!

Tuscan Kale and Farro Soup

I think I’m in love. With farro that is. We had great success with a salad recipe that incorporated the chewy, nutty grains together with a variety of fresh produce, but even better was a Rachael Ray recipe that called for farro to be served in broth.

This Tuscan kale and farro soup was not only healthy, but substantial, packed with white beans, tomatoes and kale. But it was the farro that made the dish – it was hard to think about serving this soup without the grain that added texture and a depth that no pasta or rice could accomplish. Like farro, this recipe is a keeper!

Tuscan Kale and Farro Soup

Tuscan kale and farro soup (yes, that is steam fogging up the camera lens…)

Swedish Meatballs

In the fall, I made a loose commitment that 2013 would be the year of the slow cooker for me. I had bought a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen, which, unlike most slow cooker bibles, features colour photographs of every recipe. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realize until I took a closer look at the book was that many of their recipes involved several steps that preceded the use of the slow cooker, or, a technique of cooking part of the dish in a foil packet that would rest on top of the bubbling mass. I wasn’t too comfortable with the latter; baking in parchment is one thing, but cooking for a prolonged period of time in foil is another.

I finally attempted a recipe that fell into the first category – even though I resented it almost the whole way through (why was I “slaving away”? how many dishes is this going to take? wasn’t the slow cooker supposed to do the heavy lifting for me?). The recipe for Swedish meatballs involved browning the meatballs in a hot oven first, and preparing a gravy. I halved the recipe – 60 meatballs seemed a little much for two people, even for leftovers. After the fact, I found that it was a great technique to help render out some of the fat, and it wasn’t as time consuming as I originally thought.

Swedish Meatballs

Baked meatballs

In hindsight, I should have kept the originally specific amount of gravy – the final product was a little dry. The meatballs themselves had a good flavour profile – the allspice and nutmeg really came through – though both Mack and I commented that they didn’t have that telltale processed “springiness” of Ikea’s Swedish meatballs.

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish meatballs, made with First Nature Farms beef, served with Erdmann’s mashed potatoes

I’m not sure the time in the slow cooker really showed, though I’d have to compare it with a straight baking technique to be sure. This recipe might come in handy for entertaining, but otherwise, I will be sticking to other meatball recipes in the future!

The Cooking Chronicles: Grab and Go Salads

My preference for both dinner and lunch are hot meals, but I have to say, throw together room temperature salads full of fresh vegetables, legumes and grains are really starting to grow on me. It’s not only a nice change-up, but they do make for an easy lunch – no need to queue for the microwave (maybe not an issue at your workplace, but it usually is at mine!), and in warmer weather, they would make the ideal portable picnic lunch.

Orzo Salad with Chickpeas, Spinach, Lemon and Feta

I bookmarked this recipe for orzo salad from Spilling the Beans (which has seemed to be my go-to book lately for dinner inspiration). It was perfect as a throw-together meal on a busy weeknight, taking less than thirty minutes from stove to table.

It combines silky orzo, chickpeas, slivered spinach, red onion and feta cheese with a dressing of lemon, olive oil and rice vinegar. The spinach was a bit of a pain to slice, chiffonade-style, but it was worth it in the end, the ribbons adding some visual appeal to the salad. I was also surprised how great the rice vinegar tasted as part of the dressing – I’ve never used it like this before in such a prominent way, and the flavour was refreshing but not overwhelming. Mack definitely approved – his serving was gone by the time I turned around to look. We’ll definitely be making this again!

Orzo Salad

Orzo salad with chickpeas, spinach, lemon and feta

Lentil and Farro Salad

We turned again to Spilling the Beans later in the week when I was hunting for a recipe to use up the rest of the feta I had in the fridge. The lentil and wild rice salad was appealing in a different way, featuring a laundry list of fresh vegetables, plus an opportunity to substitute my new favourite grain into the mix.

The salad tosses celery, bell pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, grated carrots, dill and parsley together with du puy lentils and farro (in my case). Everything is dressed with lemon, olive oil and a dash of sugar, leaving the vegetables to sing for themselves.

This took a little longer to put together, as I didn’t have any cooked lentils or farro to turn to, but I was able to prep the produce while they simmered away on the stove. The final product was enjoyable – even Mack, ever the salad-hater, gave a thumbs up! My only improvement would have been to double the grain content – but then again, I love the chewy nuttiness that farro brings to any dish.

Lentil & Farrow Salad

Lentil and farro salad

Given our success with these salads, I think more grab and go salads will be in our future!

The Cooking Chronicles: One Bowl Meals

Though it’s not exactly the same thing, my penchant for one pot meals extends to one bowl meals as well, as generally, for the kinds of recipes I am drawn to, means comfort food. For me, it’s what I want to look forward to eating at the end of a long day.

Black Lentil Soup

In Luisa’s introduction to Rajat Parr’s black lentil soup, she mentions that her desire to use up black Beluga lentils was what led her to the recipe in the first place. For us, it was the opposite – we had to scour the city to find black lentils, let alone beluga lentils.

We found urad lentils at the Spice Centre on the south side, and given they were the only black lentils we had seen thus far, we figured it was close enough. They cooked up to taste like a cross between lentils and beans – the small pods burst open and were chewy in nature. Paired with the tomato-based broth and a handful of Indian spices, it was a very tasty soup. I would recommend adding a few chopped tomatoes for texture and sweetness (it helped balance out the spice), and should have heeded Luisa’s advice in pureeing half of the soup to thicken it out.

Black Lentil Soup

Black lentil soup

But all in all, a great dish ideal for our cold nights.

Potato and Kale Hash

When I told Mack that we were having potato and kale hash (loosely based on this recipe) for dinner, he asked what made it different from the poached eggs over warm lentil salad. There were a few key differences – potatoes instead of lentils, a chicken broth-based sauce instead of a red wine vinaigrette – but really, it is one of those dishes that can be modified based on what you have on hand, or to taste.

We ended up with a base of potatoes from Erdmann’s, onions from Kuhlmann’s, red pepper from Doef’s and kale. We threw in some roasted pork we had in the fridge (though a bit of bacon, or shredded chicken would have worked just as well), simmered the mixture in a bit of chicken stock, and topped it all off with poached eggs from Sunshine Organic.

Potato and Kale Hash

Potato and kale hash

The leafy kale stood its ground against the softened potatoes and sweet peppers, and I was surprised at how much flavour could be extracted from just a bit of stock. It was a surprisingly satisfying dish that ended up being much more than the sum of its parts. We will be making this again!

Culinary Q & A with Gail Hall

Gail HallOccupation: Chef, Educator and Food Writer

What did you eat today?

It’s Saturday and I love sleeping in and going to Credo for an American Misto and one of their fabulous raisin bran muffins. Also had some homemade granola with Greek yogurt (Liberté is one of my standby yogurts) topped with homemade stewed rhubarb. An early dinner of Battista Calzones (pesto chicken and Italian meat and shared with my husband) and accompanied with a homemade Caesar salads. The salad is one of my favourites and uses a dressing that I’ve been making for over 30 years!

What do you never eat?

Head cheese!

What is your personal specialty?

This is a difficult question to answer as I love cooking and baking anything. But I guess my specialty would be developing recipes from dishes I’ve discovered when hosting my International culinary tours to ones back home using local ingredients!

Complete this sentence: In my refrigerator, you will always find:

Lots of condiments (mustards, hot sauces, chutneys, marmalades), local cheeses, local organic eggs, goat milk, organic juices, fresh fruit and vegetables.

What is your weekday meal standby?

An omelette or homemade soup.

What is your favourite kitchen item?

My Haruyuiki Tsuchime knife from Knifewear.

World ends tomorrow. Describe your last meal.

Oh goodness…it’s going to be a combo of foods I remember from childhood and remarkable dishes discovered on my culinary tours. Here goes:

Crostini using Baguette from Saigon topped with Rocamadour goats cheese from les Causses France (you could twist my arm here and I’d be happy to use Fairwinds goat cheese or The Cheesiry’s Fresco!) with a glass of Prosecco

Arancini stuffed with spinach or ragu and a side of Eleonora Consoli’s Caponata from Sicily with a glass of Pinot Grigio

My mom’s beef knishes

Cassoulet from Carcassonne with a black wine from the Cahors

Dessert would have to be my mom’s chocolate marble cake – it was always the mainstay at our birthdays growing up and it always makes me smile when I think of it (especially when I could lick the icing off the beaters!)

An Americano Misto from Credo

Where do you eat out most frequently?

We don’t eat out a lot, but if I did, it would be Corso 32, Tres Carnales and Sofra.

Where’s the best place to eat in Edmonton?

Ah….for me that would be Corso 32! Check back with me in a few months and I’m sure there will be more added to the list as great local restaurants are popping up everywhere in Edmonton!

If you weren’t limited by geography, where and what would you eat?

Italy will always be my favourite country to travel to and it not just about the food – the people are so genuine, kind and so proud of their food. Definitely lots of antipasti like the arancini and caponata mentioned above, prosciutto di Parma with cheeses from the area…some fresh pasta topped with anything you’d find on pasta in Italy…fresh fruit and gelati and a shot of Lemoncello for dessert.

You can find Gail’s cooking class and food tour information on Seasoned Solutions.