Since midway through this summer our family has been all about using real foods in our recipes and avoiding a lot of the additives and preservatives in packaged foods. It's also cut out a lot of the excess sodium and sugar (read: corn syrup) in our diets. While we would have once used sauce from a jar, this chicken recipe is fully flavoured from ingredients that are fresh and delicious. It got adapted from using white sugar to a bit of maple syrup but otherwise it's still true to form. A delicious dish filled with natural flavours and real ingredients that my kids absolutely went crazy for. Serve over white rice or roasted potatoes and watch them gobble it up!
For the marinade: Place all ingredients in food processor and puree. Transfer half of marinade to a resealable bag, add the chicken and marinate overnight. Store the other half of the marinade in the fridge.
In a wok heat maple syrup and vegetable oil over medium to high heat. As soon as syrup begins bubbling add chicken and allow chicken to brown on all sides (approximately 5 minutes per side).
Add onions, tomato and Worcestershire sauce, stir. Add stock and bring to a boil.
Add reserved marinade and reduce to medium heat. Cook for 40 minutes, season with salt to taste and remove from heat.
Garnish with cilantro before serving.
Look, I'm all for cooking for the kids and getting dinner to the table as quickly and as easily as possible. But sometimes, say every 3 years, I get the urge. The urge to labour over a dish and spend a large portion of my day nurturing and caring for it. To have my food be a labour of love. There is no better tasting dish than one you worked for so long. The brisket you smoked for 8 hours. The homemade ketchup you spent a weekend making. The chicken bouillabaisse that took an eternity.
So I've been holding onto this risotto recipe for years waiting for the right time to cook it. Knowing that you can't throw rice in a pot with water and make risotto. You have to watch it, and stir it, and nurture it.
The resulting dish was absolutely delicious. A risotto is creamy and satisfying and fulfilling in a way that only comfort food can. Print this recipe up and hang on to it until the kids are at camp, or watching a movie and then pull it out for a wonderful, food of love experience. Crack open a bottle of your favourite wine and enjoy!
Buttercup Squash Risotto
1 buttercup squash
7 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly grease a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet. Cut buttercup squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and discard. Place squash cut side down in pan and bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Scoop out flesh and puree in a food processor.
In a saucepan over medium heat bring stock to a gentle boil and keep simmering over low heat.
In a large saucepan heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir until each grain is coated with oil and mostly translucent but with a white dot in the middle, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until completely absorbed.
Add simmering stock one ladle at a time, stirring constantly with each addition until almost completely absorbed. Be sure rice doesn't dry out during this process. Add next ladle as soon as you see the previous one is just about absorbed by the rice. Continue until a few tablespoons are left at the end. Set aside. This process will take about 20 minutes.
When the rice is almost completely tender and is creamy stir in the squash. Cook to heat, about 30 seconds, remove from heat and stir in the butter and reserved stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
Cooking for my kids is one of my favourite things to do. They are the perfect panel of taste testers. Varying degrees of pickiness, different like and dislikes with a sprinkling of brutal honesty. I know they're going to let me know right away whether they like a dish or not.
Recently it was making me crazy that their favourite pasta dish included ginger ale and ketchup in the ingredients. I'm too embarrassed to even link to the recipe for you... but it's one that we've always made and my kids fell in love with it. So much sugar and garbage in a dish that should be simple, nutritious and delicious. I decided to set out on a mission to make them a homemade pasta dish I could be proud to serve them and that they would love.
My younger two will immediately shy away from any sauce with visible vegetables in it so I started off by grating all of the vegetables and cooking them down before starting on my meat sauce. This way I could be sure it would be healthy but by cooking down the vegetables in grated form they conceal themselves in the sauce and get gobbled up by my kids who are oblivious that they are even there. Daddy 1 - kids 0.
Next problem: my kids give me the stink-eye if they find ANY fresh herbs in their pasta sauce but I didn't want to give up all of that great flavour. I decided to put my tea infuser to good use. This way I can get all of that great fresh herb flavour into my sauce but then easily dispose of them when I'm ready to serve.
Lastly, the sauce also HAS to be delicious if I'm going to try and go head-to-head with the sugary jarred spaghetti sauces. An important note for the recipe below: make sure you brown both the vegetables and the beef. Not simply cook the meat until it's no longer pink. The beauty of Bolognese is the simplicity of its ingredients but you have to let those ingredients shine! Think of the difference in flavour between boiled vegetables and oven roasted vegetables or the difference between boiled meat and a grilled steak. If you don't take the time to elevate the flavour of your ingredients by browning them then you will miss a lot of the potential depth of flavour that this dish possesses.
This version of Bolognese was a complete success and I'm so happy to share this recipe with you all knowing it has healthy ingredients and that your families will love it as much as mine does!
2 carrots, peeled
1 stick celery
1 large yellow onion
1/2 orange pepper, seeded
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups red wine
2 800ml cans of whole tomatoes
1 350ml can tomato paste
2 tablespoons fresh herbs (e.g. parsley, basil, bay leaves, rosemary), chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
300g dry spaghetti
Parmesan cheese (optional), for serving
Using the large grate of a box grater, grate carrots, pepper, onion and celery.
Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil and once heated (about 30 seconds) add garlic and grated vegetables. Saute vegetables stirring occasionally until browned (about 15 minutes.) Salt and pepper your vegetables to taste.
Add ground beef to the pot and cook until browned (about 15 minutes). Once browned salt and pepper to taste then pour in wine and allow to cook off for a few minutes.
Pour in tomatoes with their liquid and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Place chopped herbs in a tea infuser and lower into sauce. Cover the pot, turn the heat down and allow to simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally (As your liquid cooks the tomatoes will easily break up with a wooden spoon.) Salt and pepper to taste.
While your sauce is cooking prepare the pasta and cook until al dente. Remove tea infuser from sauce, and serve sauce over spaghetti with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.