Sunday, March 28, 2010


I recently went shopping for a dutch oven.  Dutch ovens can be used for stews, soups, casseroles, roastsb braising and no knead breads.   I wanted a dutch oven to use in slow cooking a beef roast.  I have talked about the cookbook by Dee Drummond – The Pioneer Woman and she makes this wonderful beef roast using a dutch oven.   I wanted to make her recipe so I needed to find a dutch oven.  Her recipe can be found at this site:

I have a lot of roasters and I do have a dutch oven made by Emile Henry that I have been using for making no-knead bread.   

But I was curious about a cast iron style of dutch oven versus a ceramic dutch oven which is what the cooking line of Emile Henry is made from.   Cast iron retains and redistributes heat for long periods of time.  Cast iron is heavy, therefore the pots are heavy to lift and carry around.  Cast iron has been used for cooking utensils since the Middle Ages.

There are a number of different companies who make dutch ovens.  I was focused on three of them – Staub, Le Creuset and Emile Henry.  Products from all three of these companies are expensive.  I believe that Emile Henry is a bit cheaper.

Staub cookware is made from cast iron.  Staub is a family owned business in Alsace France, where Francis Staub designed his first cocotte in 1974. The company has gone on to develop a vast line of quality enamelled cast iron cookware. The self-basting spikes underneath the lid ensure continuous and natural basting. 

Le Creuset has been making cookware and bakeware for over 80 years and is made from enameled cast iron. The Le Creuset factory is at Fresnoy-Le-Grand in Northern France and they make their cookware through a method of hand-casting molten cast iron in sand molds.

Emile Henry was founded in 1850, and is located in Marcigny, a small town in the province of Burgundy, France.  Emile Henry manufactures its products using ceramic cookware from Burgundy clay.

I also spent some time searching sites that compare the three brands.  The few pointers that I learned include the following:

Le Creuset versus Staub:

In the design of the lid handle, Staub is better; the lid sits a bit higher.  Staub doesn’t stain like a Le Creuset does.  The dimples on the underneath of the Staub lid makes a difference in cooking when braising meat. Staub browns food better.

Emile Henry versus Le Creuset and Staub:
Le Creuset and Staub will do the best job of retaining heat.  They are both available in many colors and sizes and will last for many years.  But they are very heavy and a bit more expensive.   
Emile Henry's flametop model wear usually comes only in a rusty red or a black color.  It's 30% lighter, and does a respectable job on the stovetop.

After reading the various reviews I knew that I should look for a dutch oven made by Staub or Le Creuset.  I also wanted an oval shaped versus round dutch oven.  The store that I went to carried both lines and I ended up buying a Staub because of the available stock that the store had and I also liked the lid better.  The slowed cook beef roast using the dutch oven turned out wonderful.   

Friday, March 26, 2010


Last Summer I bought the book “The end of overeating.  Taking control of the insatiable North American appetite” by David Kessler, MD.   Dr. Kessler has had an impressive career including serving as the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, dean of two medical schools and is a pediatrician.   He wrote the book to explain why we have a difficult time resisting certain foods, why it is easy to overindulge and how the food industry has used layering of sugars, fats and salt in food products to stimulate our appetites.

Dr. Kessler describes how the food industry has created products that are very palatable and stimulate our appetite, why you can’t just eat one potato chip or one chocolate chip cookie, why we just can’t say no to food, how we reward ourselves with food, our culture of overeating and how to get control over what we eat and how much we eat.

I found this book to be interesting because of the focus on the food industry, what has been done to develop food products and steps needed to stop overeating..  The book provides multiple descriptions of foods with their layers and combinations of sugar, fat and salt that results in stimulating us to eat more and makes the food product more palatable.   I offer several examples:

Buffalo wings – deep fried wings served with a creamy or sweet dipping sauce that is heavily salted.  Sugar on salt on fat on fat on fat.
Spinach dip – high fat, high salt dairy product.  Salt on fat.
White chocolate mocha frappuccino – coffee diluted with a mix of sugar, fat and salt.
Chocolate chip ice cream sundae topped with cookie crumbles, fudge sauce and whipped cream – multiple layers of sugar, fat and salt.

In the chapters spent on changing our behavior and eating less and making better food choices, Dr. Kessler describes the rules of disengagement.   Just having willpower is not enough.   Willpower is about your temptation to resist.   We have to stop viewing overeating as an absence of willpower.  Setting rules to keep us from overeating or making poor choices helps us take the steps to reverse our habits.  Rules are guided by higher brain function and need to be kept in mind to help us with unconscious actions.  Rules also provide context for the reasons needed to not give in to our impulses and the positive consequences.  Over time the rules established to guide our behavior become second nature.

To change the way we eat, we need a plan, we need to focus on how we approach food, and we need to recognize that making progress is incremental and requires effort.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


My usual recipe for cooking ground lamb is to make burgers.  I went looking for another idea and found it in one of Anne Lindsay's cookbooks.  Her cookbook, "The Very Best of Anne Lindsay" has almost a dozen recipes using lamb.  For this recipe you can substitute lean ground beef or pork for lamb.  I adapted the recipe from the cookbook and found it to be an easy and quick recipe to make.  


1 pound ground lamb
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp cumin
3 good handfuls of fresh spinach or 10 oz package of frozen spinach
salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato diced
plain yogurt


In a large frying pan, heat the oil and sauté over medium heat the onion, garlic and celery for several minutes.  Add the lamb, cumin, salt and pepper and continue cooking for five minutes or until the lamb is cooked and the vegetables are tender.   If there is liquid in the pan, drain off the liquid.  Add the spinach and tomato.  Cook for three minutes until the spinach is wilted.  Serves three to four.

Serve over rice and top with several teaspoons of plain yogurt.   If you have feta cheese, you can crumble some feta cheese over the meat before you add the yogurt.  I didn't have any feta cheese in the fridge.  My DH added some soya sauce to the meat mixture along with the yogurt and he liked it.  I decided to just add the plain yogurt.  

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Hummus is a traditional Middle Eastern dish made from chick peas, tahini, olive oil and garlic.   Hummus is often used as an appetizer with cut up vegetables or crackers.   There are many variations  including adding red pepper, spinach or olives.   I look for hummus that is lower in fat which means using less olive oil.  Making hummus is very easy but you do need a food processor or blender to get the smooth texture.  If you don't have tahini you can substitute peanut butter.  For a mid morning snack at work, I often have cut up vegetables with hummus and if I am really hungry when I get home after work I will take a stalk of celery and fill it with hummus.  The dog even likes hummus and I will share the end of the stalk of celery with him.  Of course it has to have hummus on it for him to be interested in eating celery.  I don’t always make my own hummus and there are several brands that I purchase which are lower in fat content.  I am providing two recipes – the traditional recipe that uses chick peas and a second recipe that uses beets instead of chick peas.  I am very impressed with the beet hummus and plan to make it again.  It is good enough to eat right off of a spoon and not bother with cut up vegetables or crackers.



1 large can or 2 cups of chick peas
1 clove of garlic, minced
5 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
½ cup plain yogurt
ground pepper


In a food processor or blender, add all of the ingredients and puree.  Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Makes over 2 cups.  Will keep up to 5 days in the fridge.



3 medium sized beets
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp tahini
5 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cumin
ground pepper to taste


Wash the beets, cut off the tops and place in a pot with water, turn heat to high and once it starts to boil simmer until the beets are easily penetrated with a fork or knife.   Peel the beets once they have cooled.

Place all if the ingredients into a food processor or blender and puree.   Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.  Makes over 2 cups.  Will keep in the fridge for several days.  You can freeze it for longer storage.

Thursday, March 18, 2010



Pasta e Fagioli is an Italian term used to describe a pasta and bean dish.   The following recipe is easy and quick to make especially when you are late getting home from work and you are not feeling ambitious to cook an elaborate meal.  It is also low fat and high in fiber.   I used orzo for the pasta but you can use other small pasta or broken spaghetti noodles.


1 cup uncooked orzo
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped,
1 clove of garlic, minced
5 baby carrots, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 tsp in total of dried basil, rosemary and oregano
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheeses
plain yogurt


In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta until tender.  Meanwhile in a large sauce or frying pan, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil on medium heat.  After several minutes add the carrots.   Cook for five minutes and then add the tomato, chickpeas, artichokes and herbs.   Simmer for several minutes. 

Drain the cooked pasta and add to the frying pan.  Mix the pasta into the bean and vegetable mixture and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, according to taste.  Serves 4 to 5.  You can serve this dish in soup or pasta bowls.  Add grated parmesan cheese to the bowls and then top with a tablespoon of plain yogurt. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Recently I came across some recipes for granola bars and cookies.  It has been many years since I have made granola bars.  The ingredients in this recipe can easily be substituted. For example, you can include some mashed banana, you can use cranberries instead of raisins, and whole wheat flour instead of white flour.  If you want to jazz up your morning oatmeal, you can take part of a bar and crumble it into your bowl of oatmeal.


         2 cups rolled oats
         1/3 cup packed brown sugar or Splenda
         1/2 cup wheat germ
         1 tsp ground cinnamon
         1 cup flour
         3/4 cup raisins 
         3/4 tsp salt
         1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
         1/4 cup peanut butter
         1 egg, beaten
         1/4 cup vegetable oil
         2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Generously grease a 9x12 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, raisins and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (27 minutes in a convection oven) in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.  Makes about 24 bars.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


There has been some recent articles in the newspaper and online on the merits of exercise and whether you can lose weight by just exercising.  Exercise has many benefits and some major studies in the United States have shown that people who have lost weight and keep it off include exercise as part of their daily routine.  These individuals also weigh themselves on a regular basis and are careful in not being complacent and slowly putting the pounds back on.  They do keep track of what they eat. 

The recent articles go into detail on how much exercise you have to do to lose a pound – how many miles walked or jogged and knowing that walking one mile burns 100 calories so you would need to walk 35 miles to burn one pound. But if you decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories a day, you will lose one pound a week.  This is also based on that you are maintaining your weight and you are not in a gaining mode.  Using averages based on a job that does not require heavy labour, and is more sedentary, her age, height and weight, the average middle aged women would likely need about 2,000 calories a day to maintain her weight.  To lose a pound a week, she would need to consume 1,500 calories a day.  It is interesting when you start to track what you are eating each day and what it would take to find that 500 calories.  For myself, I can target food that contains sugar, nuts, breads, starchy vegetables or pasta to find the 500 calories.  The other way to find the extra calories is the portion sizes we consume.  We need to eat smaller portions and less food, especially high caloric food.  A food scale and a one cup measuring cup are handy tools to remind us on the quantity of food we are consuming.  I like using a measuring cup to track my consumption of pasta or rice.     

If you are looking to lose weight, just exercising won’t incur a weight lose.  You do need to decrease your caloric consumption.   I do think that there are many benefits associated with exercising – toning and strengthening muscles, burning calories, relieving stress, is good for your heart, you get to be outdoors, increases endurance and capacity, is fun, provides a sense of accomplishment and increases your metabolism.   One of the best motivators for exercising and to get outside is to get a dog.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Quinoa, originally from South America, is a small seed but is used by many people as a grain because of the way it cooks.  It is gluten free, easy to digest and has a nutty flavor.  The seed has a variety of colours and the most popular colour is white or yellow but it can also be pink, red, brown and black.  Quinoa has about twice the protein content of rice, it ranges from 12 to 18 percent, and is a complete protein as it has 8 essential amino acids.   When you cook quinoa, you can use a similar cooking method to rice.  In the following recipe I used red quinoa which I bought in bulk at a local health food store.  Quinoa can be used in a number of recipes from salads to soups to casseroles and as a substitute for oatmeal.   During the summer months, I make a number of salads that uses quinoa.



½ cup quinoa
1 tsp canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup cooked or frozen corn kernels
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced


In a saucepan bring 1 cup of water to boil, stir in the quinoa.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

Heat the canola oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Makes about 4 servings.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I enjoy exploring the grocery shelves in the stores where I buy our weekly grocery items.  Sometimes I go looking for specific products I have heard or read about.  Not everything I make is from scratch!  One source of information that I use is a monthly newsletter that I receive called Nutrition Action Newsletter.  This nutrition newsletter is a great read and offers tips, articles and reviews on a variety of food and heath issues.  In the March 2010 edition, there is an article called Whole Grains - finds and frauds.  One find that the authors like is Bob's Red Mill 10 grain pancake and waffle mix.  Yesterday, while at the grocery store I found this particular food item.  This mix has no refined grains and the ingredients include buttermilk, flaxseed mill and the following flours - whole wheat,  whole grain corn, rye, triticale, oat, rolled oats, soy, millet, barley and brown rice.

This morning I made pancakes from this mix.  I know I did not make pancakes from scratch as some of you may, but making pancakes from scratch using 10 different grains is more challenging.   These pancakes turned out fluffy, were not heavy and were quite tasty.  From one cup of mix I made 10 pancakes.  You have to be careful and not use a large amount of batter for each pancake as they do rise and grow while cooking in the frying pan.  Once the pancakes land on my plate, I like to spread some peanut butter or almond butter on them, followed by some jam or maple syrup or agave syrup.  I will definitely be making these pancakes again and may use the mix to make waffles.  Bob's Red Mill makes over 400 products and you can find more information on them at

Another product that I have been buying at a local organic food market that I frequently go to is thai coconut soup by Happy Planet Foods (   I didn't know about this product or company until I saw the soup in the cooler section of the store.   The company is located in British Columbia and produces about half a dozen soups and also juices.  This soup is made using coconut milk, baby corn, bamboo shoots, carrots, tomatoes, red pepper, cilantro and thai chilies.  It is gluten free and has no preservatives or additives.  It is also low in fat and sodium.  You can add shrimp, chicken or other protein sources to the soup.  I haven't bought any of the other soup varieties that this store carries as I have enjoyed this soup and keep going back to it.  It does have a bit of a bite but it is not overpowering.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I am always on the lookout to buy locally raised lamb versus lamb imported from Australia.    Some of my favorite cuts are chops and leg of lamb.  Of course I always need to include mint sauce or mint jelly as the side condiment with the chops or a roast.    Chops or roast are much easier to make as broiling, baking or roasting is the usual method for cooking.  I found this recipe for lamb stew on the internet and made a few adjustments.    What I like about this recipe is the flavor.   It is not tomato based as a number of stews I usually make are.  I particularly like the combination of garlic, thyme, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and red wine.  It is a keeper.



2 pounds boneless lamb stew meat
1/3 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper

vegetable oil for sauté
1 large onion, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped fine or minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cups red wine
2 cups beef broth


In a bowl toss the lamb with the flour until well coated.  In a stock pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat and add about half the lamb.  After browning for several minutes, remove this batch of lamb and transfer to a side plate.  Add the remaining batch of lamb and brown.  Add more oil if the meat is sticking.   Remove meat from the pot.

Sauté the onions and garlic in the stock pot in a little bit of oil until they are soft.   Add the carrots, celery, brown sugar and the spices and cook, stirring for about one minute.   Add the wine, lamb and broth.  Simmer for about 2 hours.  

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I  have yet to meet anyone who does not like avocados.  Avocados are a really versatile fruit that is used in salads, appetizers, sandwiches, dips, and also eaten just sliced up by itself.  Avocados have about 75 percent fat but it is heart friendly monounsaturated fat.  Avocados are rich in carotenoids, minerals and vitamins.   If you are watching your caloric intake, 1/4 to 1/2 avocado per day is sufficient.   The recipe below is simple and fast to make.  You can add cooked shrimp to this dish if you want to make this more of a main dish versus a side salad.  What I particularly like about this dish besides the avocado is the lime and cilantro.  I also like to eat sliced avocado on its own with a squeeze of lime.  

Avocado Salad

         2 avocados - peeled, pitted and diced
         1 sweet onion, chopped
         1 green bell pepper, chopped
         1 large ripe tomato, chopped
         1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
         1/2 lime, juiced
         salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine avocados, onion, bell pepper, tomato, cilantro and lime juice. Gently toss until evenly coated. Season with salt and pepper.  Serves 6