Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Lettuce Wraps

January 3, 2011

Well I guess the holidays are over and it’s back to the grind tomorrow morning. Did Christmas really happen? Is someone playing a joke on me? Seriously?

In all honestly, I really needed the break. From catching up on glorious sleep to spending time with family and friends, I’m feeling pretty good.

One of the highlights of my Christmas break was having the chance to catch up with two of my favourite people, Maija and Anna. For dinner I decided to make my version of Asian Lettuce Wraps, inspired by a meal that I had ordered from a restaurant a few days earlier. While the restaurant version was really great, I definitely thought that it was something I could easily replicate at home. With a simple marinade and some fresh veggies, the meal came together really nicely.  It was so good and so easy, that I made it again for dinner tonight.  


  • 4 tbsp soya sauce
  • 2 tbsp Chinese black been and garlic sauce (found in the Asian section at the grocery store)
  • 2 tbsp Oyster sauce (found in the Asian section)
  • 3 tbsp Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section)
  • 1 tbsp ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 chili or 1 jalapeño, chopped (discard the seeds if you don’t like the spice)
  •  Juice of 1 lime


  • Thinly sliced chicken or beef (shrimp also works well, but needs less marinating time)

Toppings (use whatever you like)

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Carrots, julienned
  • Cucumber, julienned
  • Cilantro
  • Rice
  • Chili or peanut dipping sauce (store bought)

Stir the marinade and add your sliced protein. Mix to coat. Let the meat marinade in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

When ready to cook, simply heat some oil in a frying pan (or wok) and place the meat (with the marinade) in the pan. Cook through and serve with your favourite toppings. Roll this all up in a lettuce leaf and you are good to go!

***I added sliced peppers to the mix and cooked up some rice so that I can have a killer stir-fry lunch tomorrow at work.

 Countdown to my next vacation is on! And GO CANADA GO!


Pulled Pork and Winnipeg

November 7, 2010

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Winnipeg, a little confused about what time it actually is. With the extra hour of sleep and change to Central Standard Time, I’m just feeling a bit off. With an early morning Breakfast Television segment, I also should probably be sleeping. I’ll suffer the consequences for my actions tomorrow at 5am.

I’m also here watching reality TV and eating a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. Pretty low, I know. Please don’t judge me.

I’m typically the type who loves taking the opportunity to venture around new cities, test out the local grub, but it’s dark and deserted out there. At no disrespect to the city (I’m sure that you are lovely), I’m going to sit this one out.  

As I sit here shamefully stuffing my face with junk, I thought I’d at least try and do something productive and put up a post. This one’s pulled pork, another Sunday night favourite in our house. Pulled pork is an incredibly easy recipe, just needs many hours to cook down. Here’s how it goes…

Spice Rub

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp oregano

Trim off all the extra fat from a pork shoulder (best cut for this). I actually like to trim as much as possible. Mix all these ingredients together and rub them all over the trimmed meat. If possible, refrigerate with the rub on for a few hours, or overnight.

Cover the bottom of a large frying pan with a thin layer of oil and heat on high. Sear the meat on all sides so that the shoulder is a golden brown (even a bit black) all around. Place in a slow cooker or in a 325 degree oven for an hour to continue building a crust.  

After an hour, add 2 cups of beef broth and 1 1/2 cups of your favourite BBQ sauce and cover the Pork Shoulder with foil. Let cook for another 3 hours. After 3 hours, the meat should start to fall apart at the touch of a fork. I like to cook it for another 1-2 hours after this, for ultimate “pulledness”.

Don’t forget to top your sandwich with some homemade creamy coleslaw.

Sure beats a bag of chips…

Baked (Not Fried)

May 20, 2010

Thank you Mother Nature! Warm sunshine and blue skies are finally upon us. I live for the summer and can never get enough heat, dresses, sunglasses, ceasars and patios. What else could a girl want?

Summer weather also means bikinis, tank tops, shorts and lighter meals. Taste, however, does not need to be sacrificed! By choosing to bake things instead of frying, you can really control the amount of fat that you put into your meals.

I’m a huge fan of Asian food and more specifically, dumplings. I personally believe that the wonton wrapper is one of the greatest inventions in the world. The super basic mix of flour and water has infinite possibilities and I find that pretty amazing. Believe it or not, my grandma was the first to introduce me to these delicious wrappers by making a Latvian-Asian fusion dumpling stuffed with ground meet and onions, toped with mustard and vinegar (sounds weird I know, but a true comfort food for me). Now, I think I go through at least two of the double packages of wontons every month.

One of my all-time favourite snacks is a baked wonton wrapper. Simply brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil, lay the wontons on the baking sheet in a single layer, brush a little more oil on top of them and sprinkle with salt (I like sea salt for this). Bake in a 425 degree oven until golden and crispy and dip them in your favourite sauce. It really does not get any easier than that.

The recipe below uses the same concept, but adds a few extra steps. These mini eggrolls are stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and veggies and makes the perfect appetizer or side dish.


  • 1 small package ground beef (or chicken, turkey, pork, whatever!)
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • ¼ onion, chopped
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 3 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 3 tbsp soya Sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp hot chili sauce (optional)
  • 1 double package wonton wrappers

Start by chopping all your ingredients so that you have everything prepped and ready to go. Brown the meat in a frying pan and drain off any excess fat. Add all the chopped veggies (be sure NOT to add the bean sprouts) and sauté on medium high until they soften. Add all the sauces and sauté for another couple of minutes until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit. Stir in the bean sprouts right at the last minute and turn off the heat.

Now it’s assembly time!

I like to work on a cutting board and be sure to keep a cup of water beside you to seal all the wonton edges after you stuff them with the mixture.

Place a tbsp of the mixture on a wonton, dap the edges with water and fold them in. For different folding techniques, just search eggrolls in YouTube. It’s really easy and you can just use whatever method works for you (even create your own!).

Similar to the wonton chips, just brush a baking sheet with a bit of oil, place the finished eggrolls in a single layer and bake in a 425 degree oven until golden brown. A definitely crowd pleaser!  

Protein Salad

May 19, 2010

Howdy y’all!

Thank you to everyone who has been asking about the status of my blog and requesting updates! It’s been quite the hectic month and unfortunately, I had to put my Garden of Eat-in on the back burner. From coast-to-coast work travels and countless events to house searching and family, I just haven’t had the time to get anything up.  I really hope to get back into the normal swing of things as things settle down a little.

To keep the energy levels up and the heart happy I highly recommend making super simple salads with lots of veggies and proteins (especially as the weather gets warmer). In the salad recipe below, I used toasted walnuts (one of the best plant sources for protein and antioxidants) and edamame (for extra protein and isoflavons). You can’t go wring with this one!

Super Simple Dressing:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey

 Add on’s:

  • Sliced Red Peppers
  • Toasted Walnuts
  • Edamame (I buy the kind already shelled and frozen – just boil them in salted water for about 4 minutes and drizzle a tsp of sesame oil and lime juice on them for extra flavour)
  • Cucumbers
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Romaine

Mango Salad

February 10, 2010

It’s catch up time. I have a ton of posts that have been sitting on the back burner and this is one of them. It’s been awful battling this stomach virus and am glad that I can finally start thinking about food again.

A few weeks ago I was craving Thai. I love Thai food, but haven’t been able to master the fine art of Thai cooking quite yet. On this particular evening, I didn’t have much time and decided to try out one of the Pad Thai kits that you can get at the grocery store. The end result wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. After buying all the ingredients to make it, I figure you may as well just go support your favourite Thai restaurant and get an order for takeout. This is what I’ll be doing from now on, until I master Pad Thai cooking myself.

I can, however, successfully make a fresh Thai mango salad (at least I think I can). To be honest, it’s super simple to make. With just a few ingredients, a regular salad becomes something a little more exotic.

Mango Salad

  • 2 Semi-ripe mangos (regular mangos OR green mangos…I portion 1 mango per serving)
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • A few slices of finely sliced red onion (green onion also works)
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp rice wine vinegar (optional)
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tbsp chopped peanuts
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Place everything in a bowl and toss gently. Couldn’t get any easier!


January 29, 2010

I’m going to try to not rub it in too much, but I had such an amazing day!!!

I had a much-needed day off work that I devoted entirely to myself. I slept in until 9, laid on the couch until 10, had a coffee and went to Body Blitz. For all of you ladies out there that haven’t heard of (or been to) Body Blitz yet, you are missing out! I spent two hours doing the water circuit before my hour-long massage. Maybe it’s my European roots that crave saunas, steam rooms and cold plunges, but it was pretty friggin fantastic. You walk out of this place feeling like a million bucks (and it cured my two-day headache that Advil could not). Check out the website for more info

I stopped off at the market on my way home and picked up some pizza dough from the Italian pizza place (not sure what the name is, but it’s on the first floor towards the back on the west side). I’ve tried going through the process of making my own dough several times and it just never tastes as good as the one I get from the market.

Am I sounding like a sales person yet?

Anyways, I rolled out this dough, tossed it around a little bit and topped it with some of my favourite toppings (pretending I was Chef Pasquale). With a little pizza sauce and cheese, this pizza was definitely the perfect end to my perfect day!

*I topped my pizza with fresh Prosciutto, sun-dried black olives and hot peppers.

Cabbage Rolls

January 16, 2010

What a lovely Saturday!

We woke up somewhat early, did a little cleaning and went for a stroll around town. I can’t believe that  it’s mid-January and +4 degrees out. Us Toronto folk really can’t complain too much about winter thus far. I know I have been guilty of complaining  myself, but with the sun setting later and the days getting longer, life in Canada really ain’t so bad. Only a couple more months until Spring is officially here!

I love weekends for many reasons. A break from work, extra sleep time, chance to catch up with friends and most importantly…do whatever it is that you feel like doing. Freedom is bliss!

Weekends are also great for cooking. I like to choose dishes that are easy, but ones that may take extra cooking time that I often don’t have during the week.

Today I wanted to cook up a bunch of food for my dad and freeze it in individual sized portions. I don’t get to cook for him often and wanted to make his life a little easier by filling up his freezer with some homemade grub. I haven’t made cabbage rolls before, but have seen my grandma and mom do it a handful of times. Having European roots, this dish was a pretty traditional meal in my household. I didn’t mind though, because it’s one of my top favourites.

*For the non-cabbage lovers, the filling also makes for a tasty stuffed pepper. I had a bit of extra filling, so I made both cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers.

Cabbage Roll Filling:

  • Ground sausage (I used 4 sausages that I took out of their casings)
  • 1 package ground beef, pork, chicken or turkey
  • 2 cups rice, already cooked
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 4-6 cups tomato sauce

Remove the core of one green cabbage and place it in salted, boiling water. Cover and boil until leaves become tender. Remove leaves and let dry. Use the outer, tough leaves to line a baking dish. This will make sure that the cabbage rolls don’t  stick to the pan. Pour a bit of tomato sauce to coat the cabbage leaves.

In a pan on medium high heat, sauté the garlic and onion in a bit of oil or butter until tender. Add all the oregano, basil, salt and pepper to the onion and garlic and let cool a bit. 

In a bowl, combine ground sausage, ground beef, egg, breadcrumbs, rice, tomato paste, onion and garlic mixture, and a few spoonfuls of  tomato sauce. Use your hands to mix everything together. The mixture is now ready to be stuffed into halved peppers or cabbage leaves.

With the cabbage leaves, make sure to cut the tough stem out, which is at the bottom of the leaf. Lay the leaf flat, fill with about 3 tbsp or so of the mixture and roll up like you would a spring roll. Fold in the edges as you roll so that the filling stays inside.

Place each roll seam-side down in the cabbage  lined pan. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on top. I also like to add about 1 cup of the cooking water from boiling the cabbage to help steam the cabbage as it cooks. Cover with foil and make in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Here’s a shot of my cabbage roll with my stuffed pepper. I added a slice of provolone on the stuffed pepper and put it under the broiler for a few minutes for a little something extra. I think my dad will enjoy these!

Say Cheese!

January 11, 2010

Hello Monday…we meet again! I must say that I’m very much looking forward to saying goodbye (well…at least until next week). 

I guess that I was feeling a little cheesy yesterday. I went to visit with some family that I haven’t seen in a few years and my mom asked me to bring an appetizer. I had a late night the night before and woke up craving something delicious. At this point I had no idea what that would be, but knew it wasn’t going to be a “low cal” type of treat.

I wanted cheese!

As you can probably tell by now, I consider cheese  a very special food group. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out one of my favourite posts so far: mac and cheese.

Anyways, I decided to make my first ever cheese ball by combining ingredients that I thought would go well together (and did they ever!). This is something that I’ll definitely be making again (and sooner than later).

In moderation, I really don’t think that this recipe is that bad for you. I did try to use low-fat (or light) substitutions, which should count for something…right?

Cheese Ball

  • 2 Containers light cream cheese
  • 2 Cups cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 Cups swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp Light mayo
  • 2 tbsp Light sour cream
  • 3/4 Cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 tbsp Onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp (or less) Garlic powder
  • 1 Cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*About 10 drops of Worcestershire sauce adds great flavour as well. I omitted it this time, so that the vegetarians can still enjoy the cheese

Bring the cream cheese to room temperature for easy mixing. In a frying pan or in the oven, gently toast the pecans or walnuts to bring out the nutty favours. Once you can smell them, they are ready!

In a food processor, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, swiss cheese, mayo, sour cream, onion, parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Mix until everything looks smooth and combined.

Transfer mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the cheese and green onion (I like to do it this way, as opposed to in the food processor so that these ingredients stay whole…I think it looks nicer).

Once mixed, line a small bowl (that will fit all the mixture) with plastic wrap. Transfer the mixture to this lined bowl and refrigerate overnight. I didn’t have time for this, but did find that 1-2 hours in the freezer worked just as well and allowed enough time for the cheese ball to set.

Flip on a serving plate and garnish with the toasted walnuts or pecans (or both!). I think that candied nuts and added chopped herbs would be great too!

Say cheese!

Spaghetti Night

January 3, 2010

Who doesn’t love pasta?

As a kid, I always remember eating spaghetti when my brothers had soccer. Carbs = energy. It was also a meal that I think we all enjoyed and quick and easy to make. I think that almost everyone can think of a childhood memory eating spaghetti with family or friends.

A few months ago, I saw one of Jamie Oliver’s most recent tv specials that revealed a few harsh realities about store-bought spaghetti sauce. Most of the sauces on the market are full of preservatives and copious amounts of sodium. This combination of ingredients is really not good for anyone.

Since its January and the beginning of a new year, I’m going to try to make a few positive (and easy) changes with the food that I eat and make. My spaghetti tonight was inspired by Jamie’s 20 minute tomato sauce, which I encourage everyone to try. It is super easy, delicious and much healthier for you. It also provides you with the opportunity to customize it the way you like it.

Here’s how I did mine tonight. I had the time to simmer it for a while, which isn’t necessary, but does help reduce down the flavours a bit more.

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 pkg lean ground beef
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (whole plum tomatoes work better…I just didn’t have any on hand)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, chopped finely
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned  
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes (use less if you don’t want the heat)
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

In a blender or food processor, blend the can of diced tomatoes until smooth. In a saucepan heat about 1 tbsp olive oil and gently sautee the onion and garlic to release the flavour. Add blended tomatoes. Add all the spices and tomato paste and simmer gently.

In the meantime, brown the ground beef and drain off any excess fat. When ready, add the ground beef to the tomato sauce. Simmer on medium low for 1-2 hours (or longer if you want).

About 5 minutes before serving, add the bell peppers. This will ensure that they stay crisp and delicious.

Serve with garlic bread and pasta of your choice. I used whole wheat spaghetti tonight. 

Well it’s back to work tomorrow…with some great leftovers!

Mac and Cheese

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year y`all!

What better way to start 2010 than some southern home cooking. Mac and Cheese pretty much combines many of my great loves all in one single dish. Cheese, pasta, butter and some more cheese. How can you go wrong with that?

I will also argue that Mac and Cheese does not have to be a high calorie, fat drenched dish. I used Skim Milk in place of cream and limited the amount of butter. The end result is still heaven on a plate.

I am also the proud new owner of some fancy new dishes and a 12 megapixel camera. Plating is just going to keep getting better. Thanks Santa(s)!

Mac and Cheese (to feed a crowd…6-8 people)

  • 1 litre skim milk
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ of an onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed but kept whole
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Half a bag of elbow macaroni (about 500 grams)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the Breadcrumb Topping:

  • 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
  • 1-2 tbsp butter, melted

Start by lightly sautéing the roughly chopped onion and garlic in a little bit of butter or oil. Once soft (about 2 minutes), add in the milk, bay leaves, cream cheese, sour cream, mustard, salt and pepper. Simmer the milk mixture on medium low for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Try not to let the milk boil, a gentle simmer to infuse all the ingredients is what works best.

Cook elbow macaroni until al dente in salted water, drain and set aside. Grease a baking dish and heat oven to 425 degrees.

Pour milk mixture through a strainer to get the onion, bay leaves, etc. out and then pour back into the pot. Combine the butter and flour with a fork (butter needs to be room temperature) and then add into the milk mixture, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Gently cook until the sauce thickens, add the shredded cheddar cheese. Toss in the macaroni and then pour into the baking dish.

Melt the butter for the topping and mix together with the breadcrumbs. Sprinkle on top of the macaroni and bake until golden brown (about 15 minutes).

I served the Mac and Cheese with some homemade creamy coleslaw. Delish!