Hot chocolate is a staple around here, but we sometimes get tired of the usual cocoa mix (cocoa + icing sugar) swirled into warmed milk. Since we’re all fans of peanut butter and chocolate, years ago I tried swirling a spoonful of creamy peanut butter into hot chocolate, and it was a hit. Rich and delicious, it’s enough of an energy boost to take with you in a Thermos to the ski hill, skating, or when you come inside after some snow shovelling or snowman-building.
Banana bread is a staple at all of our houses, but we always like to sneak in a nutritional boost wherever we can. This loaf is made with overripe bananas (the ones that tumble from the freezer whenever you open the door) and barley flour – along with regular all-purpose flour, it adds a delicious nuttiness and boosts fibre even more than whole wheat flour would. You can find it alongside the other flours in the baking section of most grocery stores, and once you try it you’ll find yourself using it in pancakes, cookies, muffins, cakes – and as a bonus, it’s Canada’s third largest crop (after wheat and canola), and more than half the barley grown in Canada is right here in Alberta.
My sister works with plenty of great cooks, but Samarna stands out as a truly exceptional home cook – she invited me to her kitchen earlier this year to cook, and made the most amazing ground meat kebabs – like large meatballs she shaped in the palm of her hands. They were simple, but delicious – you could make them with ground beef or lamb, and mix together a quick tzatziki to dip them in or dribble overtop. The perfect kind of food when you have a few extra people at the table.
With so many veggies at their peak in the fall, it’s a great time to make a hearty bowl of chowder. This recipe makes great use of leftover roasted turkey and stock, too – often we’ll just use a meaty stock that has not been strained, rather than measure out leftover roast chicken or turkey. This soup is equally delicious with leftover chopped ham in place of the chicken.
As with most soups, ingredients can be played with and measurements are approximate – use what you like, add more carrots if you like carrots, add a handful of baby spinach (we did, when we reheated the leftovers) or chopped kale or chard. Soup is infinitely versatile, inexpensive, and can be frozen for a quick meal down the road.
- 1/2 cup dry bulgur (cracked wheat)
- 1 cup boiling water
- big handfuls of fresh parsley and cilantro, leaves pulled off the stems and coarsely chopped (a bunch or two)
- a smaller handful of mint and/or dill
- a small handful of chopped toasted walnuts
- juice of a big, juicy lemon
- a good drizzle of good olive oil
- if you like: tiny tomatoes, crumbled feta, shaved cucumber
- Put the dry bulgur into a bowl and pour the boiling water overtop; cover with a plate and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Pour off any water than hasn't been absorbed (I like to do this in a sieve, shaking it to make sure all excess moisture is gone) and transfer to a bowl and set aside or in the fridge to cool.
- Add the herbs, squeeze over the lemon juice and a good glug of oil, toss and add the toasted walnuts (and anything else you think would taste good). Serves 4-6ish.
Many people overlook fresh herbs as a potential salad ingredient – classic Middle Eastern tabbouleh is a notable exception, loaded with flat-leaf parsley, grains and typically cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s a perfect candidate if you have all three growing in your back yard (or at their peak at the farmers’ market), but if you want to make use of a wider variety of herbs, this leafy, herb-heavy bulgur salad is packed with green goodness: parsley, cilantro, mint and dill, but you could use anything you have on hand and love.
This salad is simple to make – bulgur is simply soaked in boiling water, so you can plug in the kettle and don’t even need to put a pot on the stove. A squeeze of lemon gives it a brightness and brings out all the green, herbal flavours, and a drizzle of olive oil adds richness, healthy fats, and smooths everything out. We added a handful of chopped toasted walnuts, but pine nuts would be delicious too. Feel free to add tomatoes and cukes to make it more like a classic tabbouleh.
Need a new idea for a crunchy Thanksgiving salad using wintry vegetables? Sure, you could go the kale route, but why not try chopped napa cabbage and thinly sliced or shaved jicama or kohlrabi? Both are fresh and crunchy; kohlrabi is a brassica vegetable and once peeled, tastes like the inside of a broccoli stalk. Jicama is a root vegetable that doesn’t look like much, but is so snappy and fresh tasting you’ll find all kinds of uses for it, from veggie platters to salads.
Measurements here are up to you – use as much of each ingredient as you like, depending on your taste and how many you have to serve. If you like, top with chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, too.