Recipes to whip up while you plan out your diet
It never fails. The moment I say it’s diet time, the very minute I stock my fridge with good-for-me clean-living foods, in the nanosecond after I’ve marked my calendar with no-excuse gym days, something comes along to bash my plan to smithereens.
For instance, around this time last year I was about to follow the Biggest Loser diet when I was chosen the Biggest Winner of a year’s supply of Doritos from those friendly folks at Subway. Yep, they sent me 52 coupons good for 52 free bags of those salty, spicy, cheesy, crunchy, tantalizingly tasty triangular chips. I gave a few coupons to friends, but really, come on, I never win anything. I hoarded most of those freebies for myself.
And although I say I never win anything, I should learn to never say never. Because shortly after the Doritos award, I claimed a prize in a chocolate bar contest. The first prize was a trip to the Super Bowl. The second prize was a free Snickers bar. I won the second prize.
Recently a visit to the doctor for my yearly physical yielded all good results, save one. Doc didn’t exactly lace her speech with words like “obese,” “overweight” and “fatty,” but she did send me home with a copy of the Mediterranean Diet, an exercise plan and a request to see me again in six months.
And there you have it — I’m Adipose Rex, the Happy Chunkasaurus, lumbering through life with a filled appetizer plate and a wine glass.
I will — I promise — get onto that diet, just as soon as the holidays have come and gone. Meanwhile, the following are some of the foods I’m cooking right now. For my hips.
caesar flank steak
This is a take on the great Canadian Caesar, made with Clamato juice and vodka. Serve with a side of crisp celery, green olives, cubes of sharp cheddar cheese and sliced tomatoes. To marinate the steak, use a 1-gallon food-safe plastic bag or a glass casserole dish.
2 cups Clamato juice
1/2 cup vodka
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp horseradish
Juice of one lemon
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
4 tbsp olive oil
1 flank steak
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except the flank steak. Pour half the marinade over the flank steak and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Refrigerate remaining marinade separately.
In a saucepan, bring the remaining marinade to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer until reduced, about 10 minutes.
Preheat a ridged cast iron skillet over high heat. Remove the flank steak from the marinade. Discard marinade. Pat steak dry with paper towels. Sear on both sides in hot skillet.
Lower heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes for medium-rare. Let steak rest 5 minutes. Slice against grain and serve with reduced marinade.
Match: Serve with vodka, of course.
pork braised in milk
This is a meltingly tender pork roast with a creamy sauce of onions and milk. There are several prep steps before the roast goes in the oven, but your first bite will tell you it was really, truly all worth it. Don’t remove any fat from the pork before cooking. This is one dish where a fatty cut of meat yields the best flavour. Cut away fat before serving. The puréed sauce is traditionally served as a soup in small cups before the main dish.
4 tsp olive oil, divided
3 lb boneless fatty pork loin
Sea salt and black pepper
4 cups whole milk
4 bay leaves
4 large onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and add to Dutch oven, browning on all sides.
In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook milk with the bay leaves until steaming. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer gently 10 minutes.
In a separate skillet, heat remaining 2 tsp olive oil over medium low heat. Add onions and cook until golden and softened.
In a small bowl, season thyme and garlic with salt and pepper. Mash together with fork. Add mixture to pan of onions. Cook until garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.
Remove bay leaves from milk and pour milk over pork roast. Add onion/garlic mixture.
Roast pork, covered, 1 hour at 375˚F. Reduce heat to 325˚F and roast, covered, for 1 1/2 hours longer. Milk may appear curdled but will be smoothed with immersion blender.
Remove roast and purée sauce with an immersion blender (or purée in batches in blender.) Reheat sauce if necessary.
Serve part of the sauce in small cups as a creamy onion soup starter. Thicken remaining sauce with a beurre manié: Knead together 1 tbsp softened butter with 1 tbsp flour. Whisk into sauce and cook until thickened.
Match: While some folks claim this recipe is from Normandy, others say it is Bolognese in origin. Let your own taste buds be your guide: Serve with a Loire Valley dry rosé or with a Barbera d’Alba.
garlic parm chicken wings
I’m a stickler for using fresh garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano in most recipes, but in this case, jarred minced garlic and the cheap sawdusty parmesan sold on the grocery shelf next to the pasta will impart the most authentic flavour and texture, thus making this a super easy dish to pull together after a cold November night of Christmas shopping.
3 lb chicken wings
1 cup melted butter
3 tbsp jarred minced garlic, or to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange wings on baking sheet in single layer. Roast, uncovered, 30 minutes. Using tongs, turn
each wing and roast 20 minutes longer or until cooked through and tender.
In small bowl, mix butter with garlic. Let garlic steep in butter for 10 minutes. Pour over wings.
Sprinkle each wing with Parmesan cheese. Roast 5 to 7 minutes longer or until cheese is golden.
Match: Wings call for a good Canadian beer, your choice.
makes about 40
Making pâte à choux sounds daunting, but it’s almost as easy as making instant mashed potatoes. Boil seasoned water, stir in flour, then eggs. Voilà! A choux pastry fit for a king. While many recipes call for piping with a pastry bag (and I give directions here,) you can do as I do and just drop dollops of dough onto the baking sheet with a spoon. Easy! Cheese gougères are great on their own but can be stuffed with curried chicken, savoury ham salad or sautéed beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce.
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 tsp kosher salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup water
11/4 cups flour
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère or cheddar cheese, or a combination of both
1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
In a medium saucepan, bring butter, salt, nutmeg and water to a boil, stirring until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add flour and stir to combine.
Return pan to stovetop. Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, about 2 minutes.
Continue to cook, stirring, about 2 minutes longer. Remove pan from heat, set pan on damp dishtowel, and cool about 2 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, mix in eggs one at a time, incorporating fully between additions. The dough will curdle at first and seem to fall apart, but watch for it to pull together before adding the next egg. Mix in cheese, salt and pepper.
Scrape dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2” round opening and pipe 1” rounds about 2” apart onto 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Or use a spoon to form 1” dollops of dough on parchment-lined baking sheets. Whisk egg yolk and 1 tsp water in a small bowl; brush puffs with egg mixture.
Bake gougères until puffed and golden and dry in the center (they should sound hollow when tapped), 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or cold, plain or stuffed.
Match: Uncork Champagne or Pinot Noir for these delicate puffs.
cinnamon apple galette
Rustic and delicious, galettes are an easy way to serve pie without all the fuss. For ease of preparation, use a store-bought pie pastry. Freeze the second crust for later use.
3 McIntosh apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 pie pastry, thawed
2 tsp sugar
Vanilla bean ice cream
Preheat oven to 375˚F.
In a large bowl, mix apples with sugar, flour, cinnamon, vanilla and cranberries. Transfer pie crust to baking sheet. Scoop apple mixture onto centre of crust, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold pastry border up, pleating to fit around the filling. Sprinkle crust with 2 tsp sugar. Bake 45 minutes.
Match: Serve with vanilla ice cream and sparkling wine.