Creamy Italian Dressing

Creamy Italian Dressing
As I have noted here before, Lisa's Kitchen never contains any pre-made salad dressings. There is simply no comparison between fresh made dressing from home and the store-bought, preservative-filled variety. This easy to prepare creamy Italian dressing has a wonderful fresh and vibrant flavor, and goes well with any combination of greens or vegetables.

Read this recipe »

Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad

Wild Rice and Asparagus Salad

Asparagus is one of the first tastes of spring in Ontario, and the season for fresh local asparagus is right around the corner. But I can never properly wait for the local growings to arrive — as soon as the weather warms up, I'm reminded of this sweet, tender full-flavored delicacy. Fortunately a nearby store has top quality and astoundingly fresh imported produce all year round — it may be cheating a bit, but who's going to be upset about that?

This simple-to-prepare wild rice and asparagus salad is something that I make every year. The earthy flavors of the wild rice, lentils and mushrooms are accented perfectly by the sweet and crisp asparagus and the tart warmth of a balsamic vinegar dressing. For the vegans in the audience, simply leave out the Parmesan cheese.

Read this recipe »

Classic Mattar Paneer


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mattar Paneer

One of my favorite Indian creations is mattar paneer, the classic paneer cheese and pea curry. I never fail to order the dish when dining out at Indian restaurants because I am fascinated by the multitude of variations and can rarely resist pleasurable mouthfuls of tender paneer and peas, cooked in an aromatically spiced tomato sauce. The following version of mattar paneer is adapted from Yamuna Devi's wonderful Lord Krishna's Cuisine.

The addition of fresh mint makes this an especially unique and appetizing version, and I highly recommend using fresh herbs instead of dried. But the best part of this recipe is frying cubes of paneer cheese until a golden brown chewy crust surrounds the creamy milky inside. Yum! Do take to cook the peas just to the point where they will pop in your mouth with every delectable bite.

Read this recipe »

Cheddar Dijon Biscuits

Cheddar Dijon Biscuits

Biscuits are a simple solution for filling out a meal. These biscuits have a delicately crusted exterior surrounding a melt-in-your mouth fluffy interior of Cheddar cheese, accented by parsley and Dijon mustard. They taste especially good when made with a sharp aged Cheddar.

Read this recipe »

Quinoa with Mushrooms and Scallions

Quinoa with Mushrooms and Scallions

Recipes for quick and tasty side grain dishes are a great thing to have on hand to complement main courses, and this quinoa with mushrooms and scallions fits the bill on both counts. Quinoa is a wonderfully versatile grain that goes with almost any vegetable or seasoning, and it takes very little time to cook.

Read this recipe »

Asparagus and Feta Cheese Frittata

Asparagus and Feta Cheese Frittata

Frittatas are thick, sturdy Italian omelette pies that can be loaded with any vegetable, herb or cheese according to the season or taste. This frittata is a springtime favorite as a breakfast or lunch dish — it's not only filling and nourishing, but it's absolutely delicious. But what else would you expect from eggs, asparagus and Feta cheese?

Read this recipe »

Yellow Lemon Rice with Fried Cashews


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Yellow Lemon Rice with Fried Cashews

Rice is a nutritious and versatile food that has been a staple around the world for millenia. It is easy and fast to prepare, depending on how creative the cook is feeling. The possibilities are endless and rice is tasty on its own with just a little butter or you can spice it up a bit like I did with this easy to prepare yellow rice with toasted cashews. For an especially satisfying meal, I suggest you serve this rice with spicy chickpea koftas and mushroom curry.

Read this recipe »

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins

These cornmeal and blueberry muffins are a slightly sweeter and moister version of the cornmeal muffins I usually make. The sugar content is the same, but the addition of plump blueberries make these an extra special treat.

Read this recipe »

Chana Masala


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Chana Masala

Chana masala (or chole masala) is a very popular Northern Indian dish originating in Punjab. There are many variations, though the dish typically includes onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chilies, coriander and turmeric and of course, chickpeas. This is one of the versions of chana masala that I make using homemade chana masala powder, although you can find commercial blends of chana masala powder as well as the other ingredients in this recipe at your local Indian or Asian grocer.

Read this recipe »

Lemon Sponge Pudding

Lemon Sponge Pudding for Two

Tonight I made a soft lemon sponge pudding for two. The light and creamy pudding has a perfect delicate balance of lemon and sweetness that will melt right in your mouth. These little sponge puddings make a perfect dessert for a couple because this recipe makes just two small servings.

Read this recipe »

Chai Spice Oatmeal

Chai Spice Oatmeal

Oats are the perfect grain for starting the day, naturally sweet and soothing, and a terrific source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, fiber and B vitamins. Samuel Johnson once noted that oats are "a grain used in England to feed horses and in Scotland to feed the populace," which might be why there were so many splendid specimens of English horses and Scots. Oatmeal porridge was a staple breakfast food of older Canadians, and it's so quick and easy to make there's no reason why it shouldn't become a staple for a new generation as well. Avoid instant oats, because most of the nutrients are lost during a high temperature precooking stage, and they also contain preservatives and artificial sweeteners. The time saved is a matter of mere minutes, compared to a significant loss of taste and nutritional value.

Read this recipe »

Tasty Dog Biscuits

Tasty Dog Biscuits
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody presents some dog biscuit recipes that will make your mouth water. I don't have a dog, which is all the more reason to make these tasty looking treats, because I won't have to share.

Indian-Style Fried Egg and Potato Cake


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian-Style Fried Egg and Potato Cake (Aloo Omlate)

This Indian-style fried egg and potato cake — or "aloo omlate" — is a simply wonderful brunch idea for a Sunday when you've got a little extra time, although it's perfect and filling for any breakfast, lunch or dinner as well. I've adapted this recipe from my essential copy of Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. The delicious aroma will linger in your kitchen for hours and keep you hungry for more.

Read this recipe »

Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Chana Masala Powder


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Homemade Chana Masala Powder

Chana masala powders are used for a tart, tangy, spicy and fragrant finish to Indian chickpea curries known themselves as chana masala or chole masala. Whenever possible, I prefer to make my own spice blends at home. Quality pre-blended varieties are available at Indian grocers, but it's much more fun to concoct your own mixture to complement your culinary creations and the flavors and aromas of seeds and spices crushed and ground right in your own kitchen can't be beat. I made this chana masala powder in preparation for the chana masala I will be featuring this week.

Read this recipe »

African Bean and Peanut Soup

African Bean and Peanut Soup

This is an easy-to-prepare and hearty soup that is delicious spiced mild or hot. The warming peanut flavor and earthy black-eyed peas make it reminiscent of west African cooking, and I like to serve it with other African-flavored dishes like northeast African millet patties.

Read this recipe »

Gingerbread Muffins

Gingerbread Muffins

Spring in Ontario has been overtaken by winter, which is a good excuse to turn on the oven to heat the place up and produce some home baked goodness. I was in the mood for something different today, so I made up a batch of ginger muffins. The delicious aroma of these miniature ginger cakes baking still lingers in my kitchen. These nicely spiced muffins contain very little sugar, and make for a satisfying morning or afternoon snack, or a fulfilling addition to lunch.

Read this recipe »

Northeast African Millet Patties

Northeast African Millet Patties

Millet is one of the oldest grains known to be cultivated by humans, and is one of the staple foods in many parts of the world like India, northern China, Korea, Japan, Russia and eastern Europe, and of course Africa where it is thought to have originated thousands of years ago. Although in North America it's primarily grown as livestock fodder, millet is a highly nutritious grain for humans, as well as non-glutenous and non-acid-forming to make it one of the most easily digestible and least allergenic of grains. It is nearly 15% protein, contains high amounts of fiber, B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin, the essential amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E. It is also particularly high in the minerals iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. The only drawback is that its hull is rich in phytic acid, but a good soaking overnight in water at room temperature allows enzymes to break down the phytic acid.

These easy-to-prepare millet patties are a great way to enjoy the mildly sweet and nutty flavor of millet. This recipe has been a staple in my kitchen for many years, and I never tire of it when I need an easy and nourishing food.

Read this recipe »

Mushroom Curry


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mushroom Curry

Mushroom Curry
I enjoy cooking with mushrooms. The possibilities are endless and generally they are very easy to prepare. This spicy mushroom curry side dish goes well with any Indian meal. I recommend serving them with spicy chickpea koftas and a simple lemon rice.

Read this recipe »

Classic Nanaimo Bars

Classic Nanaimo Bars

These rich and decadent no-bake chocolate custard bars originated in British Columbia, Canada in the 1930s. This is my version of the traditional recipe.

Read this recipe »

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

Oatmeal Apple Pancakes

Nothing warms up a cold morning like hot homemade pancakes with fresh butter and pure maple syrup… especially when I've just returned home with a jug of my parents' own homemade syrup! These oatmeal apple pancakes are my favourites — they're ridiculously easy to make, and they make a perfect start to a weekend morning. Enjoy!

Read this recipe »

Simple Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Simple Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice

Curry leaves, lemon and black mustard seeds give this rice dish an inviting delicate flavor and aroma. It's a great accompaniment to rich curries. I served this with mung beans and paneer cheese.

Read this recipe »

Spicy Baked Chickpea Koftas


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Baked Spicy Chickpea Koftas

There are thousands of varieties of vegetarian koftas, some made with vegetables, some with cooked dals, and always with herbs and spices. What these "meatballs" usually have in common is that they are fried in oil, but they can be baked in the oven as well, which is what I've done here. These spicy and filling chickpea and potato koftas have a flavor and texture resembling falafels, and are delicious served with a tomato chutney.

Read this recipe »

Quick and Easy Tomato Chutney


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Quick and Easy Tomato Chutney

Chutneys or relishes are widely used in Indian cuisine. There are thousands of different varieties, both cooked and uncooked. They are typically used as a condiment and so versatile, they go well with any meal. I made the following cooked tomato chutney to serve with my spicy chickpea koftas. Homemade chutneys will keep for a few days if stored in a covered container in the fridge.

Read this recipe »

Good Friday Scramble


Pan-Fried Mushrooms
Eggs are the perfect food for everyone, but especially for vegetarians. It's not an exaggeration to say that eating 10-20 eggs a week will do a body good — excellent protein, essential fatty acids, and pretty much the whole gamut of nutrients that contribute to the health of the brain and nervous system. I have two or three locally produced free-range and flax-fed eggs for breakfast almost every day, usually gently soft boiled or fried at a low-heat to keep the yolks soft to preserve their nutrients, along with some sourdough toast with butter, and some fruit. Simple and quick… but it can get just a little boring some days. Fortunately eggs are about the most forgiving ingredient for combining with just about anything you like, so a good tasty scramble with my favourite vegetables and spices livens things up and are just about as quick and easy as cooking the eggs plain. I find that eggs go especially well with hot spices, onions, mushrooms, celery, and almost any member of the nightshade family of vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes and peppers), and to make things even quicker in the morning any or all of these added ingredients for a scramble fry can be cut up and refrigerated the night before.

Print this postPrint this post

For this Good Friday I made an scrambled eggs with all my favorite scramble ingredients: mushrooms, celery, green onions, jalapeno peppers, and cayenne powder. Just fry up sliced white mushrooms in butter at medium-high heat until the moisture is gone and they're nice and brown. Turn down the heat, add some more butter to replace the butter absorbed by the mushrooms, and add lots of finely chopped up jalapeno peppers, the white parts of the green onions, and celery to give the scramble some crunch. While this is frying, break some eggs in a bowl and add plenty of yoghurt or milk, cayenne powder, the green parts of the onion, and whisk the mixture until well combined. After a few minutes, add the egg mixture to the pan and stir-fry until the eggs are cooked. Sprinkle on some sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, toast and butter some slices of Irish soda bread, and you've got a fantastic breakfast feast.

Good Friday Scramble

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

As the name suggests, Irish soda bread is a traditional bread originating in Ireland in the 1800s. It is a fairly dense bread, and if you have never tried it, think of it as a cross between a scone or tea biscuit and a muffin, though it is not very sweet, which makes it a satisfying addition to any meal or breakfast. There are many variations on the traditional recipe, and some bakers add raisins, caraway seeds and even whiskey.

Read this recipe »

Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup with Rosemary

Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup with Rosemary

The following dish is based on a recipe appearing in Delia's Vegetarian Collection, a cookbook compiled by Delia Smith featuring over 250 mouthwatering recipes. The photographs are orgasmic, and each recipe could easily be featured in the finest gourmet restaurant. If you have a creative flare for cooking and like to experiment with a variety of foods, this is the cookbook for you. Cheese lovers in particular will treasure this book throughout their cooking career. Though many of the recipes require a time commitment in the kitchen, especially if you are feeling ambitious and looking to cook up a three or four course meal, the directions are very easy to follow and well worth the effort. This selection is one of the easier dishes to prepare and a favorite in my home.

Read this recipe »

Homemade Maple Syrup from Muskoka


Muskoka Sugar Shack

A visit to my parent's home in Muskoka this past weekend coincided with the annual running of the maple sap, the short period when temperatures climb above freezing during the day and fall back below again at night that heralds every year the end of the long, cold and dreary Muskoka winter. As a child, the beginning of the Muskoka spring was a special time when my brother and I put on our winter boots and tramped about helping our folks to gather the clear sap from the hard sugar maples scattered among the beeches, cherries, oaks, birches and hemlocks of their hilly 95-acre wooded property. Turning the bountiful sap into pure delicious home-made maple syrup was an annual treat! It's been a thirty year tradition in my family, and although I've missed out on the occasion for many years now since I moved to London, I was fortunate to once again help with the syrup … even if I mostly just stood around taking photographs, enjoying the tantalizing aroma of boiling sap, and asking questions so that I could share the process and experience with my readers.

Sugar Maples
Pure maple syrup isn't just a tasty way to dress up pancakes and ice cream; it's a far healthier alternative than refined sweeteners like sugar and corn syrup. It takes about forty gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of syrup, so the syrup is in effect concentrated tree nutrients — calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium and even iron, as well as trace amounts of B vitamins and essential amino acids. In fact, 1/4 cup of pure syrup has more calcium than the same amount of milk and more potassium than a banana. And all of these nutrients remain in the syrup during the boiling, concentrating and filtering stages, so here's a sweet that shouldn't make you feel guilty.

The sap

Collecting the Sap
As soon as the days start to climb above freezing temperatures, usually around mid- to late-March, my dad goes about drilling 2 to 2 1/2 inch holes in good well-grown hard maple trees that are at least 10 inches in diameter. These days he taps about sixty trees not too far away from the syrup shack. When my brother and I were little, he'd tap over 100 trees. Wherever possible, he drills the holes on the south sides of the trees where the sap runs faster, although the holes must be drilled at least 6 inches away from the scars of previous years' drilling. After drilling, a stainless steel spout is tapped into the hole from which the sap runs into a galvanized steel pail hanging from a wire hook on the spout. The best sap runs occur when the temperature is about -5°C at night followed by a quick warming in the morning to about plus 5 or 6°C. The sap won't run when it's either too cold or too warm, but every season yields at least a couple of weeks worth of good days. On an ideal day, one tree might produce almost a gallon of sap, and over the course of the syrup season, usually about three weeks, an average maple tree will give about 10 or 12 gallons from each tap hole.

Fresh Maple Sap
To make quality maple syrup, the sap must be fresh and cold, which means it must be gathered and boiled in the same sugarbush. If the sap is allowed to collect too long before boiling, it will sour and spoil. As soon as there's enough sap in the buckets, the pails are collected and carried to the syrup shack built by my dad, and collected into large containers. After skimming off any dirt, twigs or insects that surface at the top, the maple sap is ready for boiling.

The boil

Firing the Woodstove
It takes a lot of time and fuel to boil a large volume of sap into concentrated syrup, and so the process is usually started in the morning. Like most traditional sugarmakers, our family burns wood cut from our own woodlot to boil the sap and evaporate the water content. A large, shallow 40-gallon steel pan sits on top of a wide iron-cast woodstove, both made by my grandfather. Once the fire is going, the raw sap is poured into the pan and the rest of the process is pretty much simply, as my father says, "boil, boil and boil." The smell of the boiling sap is heavenly, and I can stand for minutes with my head in the steam just inhaling the delicious vapors.

Boiling the Sap
As the liquid in the pan goes down through evaporation, more raw sap can be added throughout the day. One good day's pan-full can take twenty-four hours to boil away into syrup, and wood is added to the fire occasionally to maintain the boil. More dirt comes to the top in the foam, and the foam is skimmed off once in a while. A small forty-gallon batch won't be done until the evening, but most batches are just allowed to sit covered up overnight before firing up the stove again in the morning and finishing off the maple syrup.

The syrup

When the sap has been reduced and starts to thicken, a thermometer is added to the mix. As the sap concentrates, the boiling point rises. Finished syrup boils at 7° Fahrenheit above the boiling point of water, and as the temperature of the boiling sap approaches this point, the boiling is carefully watched to prevent burning and overheating. The maple syrup is done when the temperature reaches 218° Fahrenheit — but that's the temperature for our sugarbush, as the boiling point varies with altitude and barometric pressure, so sugarmakers should always check the boiling point of water when they're making syrup and add 7° to find out when their syrup is done.

Pouring off the Syrup
As soon as the boiling point has been reached, the maple syrup is drained off into large pails through filters made of felt to remove any last suspended particles and to improve the appearance of the syrup. After filtering, we bring the syrup into the house to cool down just a little. The maple syrup is bottled while still warm.

Print this postPrint this post

I just brought some home with me, and I can't wait to try it again. Commercial syrups simply don't compare with the real thing — they're usually made with corn syrup, artificial flavors and additives, and only sometimes with a little real maple syrup. I think I'll whip up some of my famous oatmeal apple pancakes this weekend and pour on some fresh real maple syrup. I'll make sure to pass on the recipe.

Homemade Maple Syrup

Mung Beans with Paneer Cheese


Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Mung Beans and Paneer Cheese

Paneer cheese is one of my favorite foods. Soon I will be making my own, but if you don't have the time or inclination, you can easily purchase a block of paneer or a bag of pre-fried cubes at your local Indian grocery store. The following recipe is a flavorful combination of buttery soft mung beans, paneer cheese, tomatoes and spices. It goes very well with subtle rice dishes like Pulao Rice. I've adapted the dish from Lord Krishna's Cuisine by Yamuna Devi.

Read this recipe »

Quinoa Soup with Corn

Quinoa Soup with Corn

Quinoa Soup with Corn
This simple soup has long been one of my favorite recipes for quinoa, a nutrient-packed and intense flavoured grain that was the staple food in the South American Andes for thousands of years. As a grain, it has no rival for its nutritional value — not only does it have the highest and most complete protein profile of all grains, it has more calcium than milk and is a very good source of lysine, iron, phosphorus, B vitamins and vitamin E. Best of all, its slightly sweet and sour and nutty flavor makes it absolutely delicious, and this easy-to-make soup takes full advantage of all of its goodness.

Read this recipe »

Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Vegetable Stock

Homemade Seasoned Vegetable Stock
Many recipes call for vegetable stock instead of water. It's easy to make your own and a good way to use up vegetables that have lost their freshness. The use of vegetable stock enhances the flavor and nutritional value of soups, dals, stews and other dishes. Pretty much any vegetable can be used, including scraps and trimmings, though it is best to avoid vegetables that have a strong flavor, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and radishes. Use roughly equal amounts of vegetables and water.

Read this recipe »

Cheddar and Parmesan Stuffed Tomatoes

Cheddar and Parmesan Stuffed Tomatoes

I like to try different recipes, and while visiting my parents this past weekend I prepared these delicious baked tomatoes stuffed with herbs and cheese. Goat cheese can be used in place of the Cheddar and Parmesan.

Read this recipe »