Toad's Kitchen

(mostly) healthy recipes for the family

Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Adrian’s Tomato Sauce

One of the mainstays of our family’s diet is pasta. It is usually served with this tomato sauce, which is worth making in quantity because it can be used in a variety of other dishes, saving time, effort and money.

As anyone in the family knows, Adrian is a very “selective” eater and this sauce makes the grade for him…hence the name 🙂

The version below is the “basic” recipe…feel free to add grated carrots, zucchini, or mixing and matching veggies as is your taste. The only real constants are the garlic and onion.

The versatility of the sauce is great – I will post recipes “starring” it, to follow.

In the meantime, bon appétit!

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

1 large white sweet onion (like Walla Walla – I am really into cooking with them right now)

2 cups mushrooms

1 red or green pepper, chopped

1-28 oz can stewed tomatoes

1-14 oz can tomato sauce

1-2 tsp. EACH dried basil, oregano, thyme (can use fresh but increase amounts accordingly)

1-2 tsp. fennel seeds (this is optional but very tasty)

1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (or good dash Tabasco sauce)

2-3 bay leaves (do not crumble, leave whole and remove when sauce has finished cooking)

salt and pepper to taste

pinch sugar

1/2 cup or so red wine (if you have any open)

Saute two of the garlic cloves and the onion in the olive oil until beginning to soften. Add the vegetables and cook for a few minutes longer until everything is nice and soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, herbs and seasonings, and wine if using.

Cover with a splatter screen and simmer over low heat for an hour until liquid is slightly reduced. When sauce has finished cooking, stir in the remaining raw garlic (or taka-taka, as it is known in our house) – this gives a really fresh garlicky hit to the flavour.

Serve over pasta, with freshly grated cheese if desired (parmesan for the purists, but also delish with cheddar – a Gramma Jean touch!) 🙂


Garlicky Hummus

Most people I know love hummus. It lends itself to all kinds of dipping vegetables and crackers, pita bread (of course) and is lovely when flavoured with other things such as pureed roasted red peppers, and our favourite, garlic. It is also good in sandwiches and wraps.

This is super easy to make and so superior to bought hummus, and the best thing is that the ingredients are those which are in most people’s kitchens.

1-19 oz can chickpeas, drained (keep liquid in a measuring jug, do not discard)

4-5 large cloves garlic

juice of one lemon

1 tsp. cumin seeds, ground

1 tsp. each salt and pepper

3 heaping tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

olive oil for drizzling

2 tbsp parsley, chopped, and one sprig for garnish along with a lemon slice for glamour

Place 3 garlic cloves, lemon juice seasonings and tahini in blender jar and blend until combined. Add chickpeas and maybe 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. Whiz in the blender, adding more liquid a little at a time if the consistency of the hummus is too stiff.

Correct seasoning and put into serving dish. Chop remaining garlic and sprinkle over top, then drizzle olive oil over all. The oil will absorb the garlic taste while it sits, for extra garlic flavour.

Put it in the fridge to “mellow” for a few hours. When serving, stir the oil into the hummus and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Cut lemon slice almost all the way across, place on side of bowl and tuck parsley spring into it. Now your hummus is dressed for guests 🙂

Best Scrambled Eggs – Dairy Free!

Most people, including myself, have held the notion that eggs need to be scrambled with butter and milk or cream, in order to be creamy. Interestingly, that is not the case. The way to achieve this is to not use ANYTHING other than the eggs. Cooked this way, they will taste rich and buttery on their own.

By cooking the eggs over a very low heat, stirring constantly, they become smooth and creamier than any eggs done with milk or cream. The trick is to beat them very thoroughly and cook them over the lowest heat, which will take a few minutes, stirring constantly.

The key to success with eggs is to cook them over low heat, no matter which way you cook them – you will get a much better result.

Although the stirring and (relative) waiting might seem might more “work”, the results are worth it! 😀

For each person:

2 large or 3 medium eggs

1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped (dried okay)

salt and freshly ground pepper

Break the eggs into the pan and whisk them vigorously with a fork until they are yellow and pretty much blended. Cook over *very low* heat, stirring constantly (this may seem like it is taking too long, but resist the urge to turn up the heat – doing that will cause the egg to dry up and create large curds quickly). Break up any small curds with your spoon as they form. Be patient and keep stirring continuously, and the eggs will start to bind together. How long this takes depends on how many eggs you are cooking – six eggs will cook in about ten minutes. As always, remove from the heat slightly before they are done to your liking, as they will continue to cook in their own heat for a minute or so. Stir in the chives and seasonings.

I prefer the eggs to be on the creamy side, but if you cook them a little bit longer and “dry” them out, the results will still be superior than eggs scrambled “dry” with milk.

Delicious on good quality ham, and a very special treat when served on smoked salmon (lox).

Creamy Gobi Dhal Curry

My father used to say that if a curry didn’t make you sweat, it wasn’t up to snuff. Well, that is not really true…there are many curries from different areas in India that are mild, but just as delicious as the fiery ones. He would have loved this one – fairly spicy, but not “rip your face off” hot, and you might be pleased to know the heat is adjustable for those “not quite up to it”.

Did you know: the origin of the word “curry” comes from the Tamil word “kari”, meaning “sauce” or “relish for rice”. There is such thing ad a curry plant, but it has nothing to do with Indian cooking, as far as I am aware. I am not trying to “curry” favour by posting this, and can assure you no horses are involved 😉 …I love puns as much as I do messing with recipes – which is what I did with this one with the addition of the coconut milk…the authentic one is not “creamy”, although the sauce can be kept runnier by the addition of more broth. You might want to thicken it with a bit flour or cornstarch in water if it is too watery.

8 oz. /250g red lentils, dried

2 tbsp. oil (or ghee, if you have it)

2 medium onions, sliced

2 tsp. turmeric

1-1/2 tsp EACH cumin seeds AND coriander seeds

1 tsp. red chili pepper flakes (or to taste)

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 largish head cauliflower, chopped into chunks (no core, just florets)

1/3 cup dessicated unsweetened coconut

1 tsp. salt

Juice of one lemon

2-1/2 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth

2/3 cup raw almonds, cashews or unsalted peanuts

1-400mL can coconut milk

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped for garnish (optional)

1 cup basmati rice (cook in 2 cups water or according to directions)

Rinse and pick over lentils, drain well and set aside. Heat oil over medium heat and saute onions until soft. While onions are cooking, grind chili pepper flakes, cumin and coriander seeds together (always use whole spices and grind as you need them using a mortar and pestle…soooo much better!). When onions are translucent, add all the spices and cook for a minute. Add lentils, stir to coat with spices. Add cauliflower, lemon juice and broth, stirring well. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and add coconut, coconut milk and nuts. Mix together well, and simmer for 20 minutes or so until cauliflower is tender.

Cook the rice while curry is simmering.

Serve curry over the rice, garnished with coriander leaves if desired. Good with beer, especially a nice IPA…

Sliced bananas are a nice condiment, they help counteract any excessive “heat” 🙂

Quinoa Salad, My Way (apologies to Rob Feenie)

One of my favourite places to eat is Cactus Club Cafe. Admittedly, although I had heard of them, I had never eaten in one of their restaurants until Dane started working there! After that, I was hooked. Their “food architect”, Rob Feenie, has recently published a cookbook and Dane is putting some of the recipes up on the restaurant’s blog. They all look delicious, but I cannot resist tampering with recipes 😀

This is a recipe that I tweaked to suit us better…the original can be found at:

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well

1-1/2 cups water

2 tomatoes, chopped

1 bell pepper, any colour, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped

4 green onions, chopped

3 medium carrots, peeled and grated

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

2 tbsp. capers

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

3/4 tsp. salt

Lots of freshly ground pepper

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lemon

3 tbsp. toasted pecans

Bring quinoa and water to a boil and cook for ten minutes or so, or until water has been absorbed. Fluff with fork and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, combine vegetables, capers and basil in a salad bowl, and when quinoa has cooled, mix it in.  Toss with oil, lemon juice, seasonings and pecans. Will keep in fridge for two days. Makes 4 servings.

Quick and Easy Shrimp Coconut Curry

This recipe combines some of my favourite flavours, and is made from stuff most of us have in stock…so it is great as a quick dinner after work, etc. You can dress it up with a rice bed (I would use basmati rice) which would stretch it to feed more people, but we like it just as a thick soup. You can serve Naan bread on the side. It is certainly not authentic but came about when looking for something yummy and fast 🙂

1 tbsp. Oil
1 small onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
Handful raw almonds
1-2 tbsp. medium curry powder
Turmeric, dried ancho chili powder, Old Bay seasoning (all opt.)
Good pinch salt
1 pound / 500g raw shrimp, shelled
I-14-oz/400mL can coconut milk (NOT coconut cream, which is sweetened)
1/3 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut

1 cup frozen peas

Chopped cilantro leaves to garnish, if desired

Heat oil in large frying pan or wok and saute veggies over medium heat until soft, a couple of minutes. Add curry powder and cook for a minute or so. Add shrimp, cook for a minute or two until they start to cook, and then add the almonds, coconut milk and coconut.  While shrimp are cooking, taste sauce to see if it is spicy enough for you. If not, add a small sprinkle of any or all of the “optional” seasonings, until it is just right. Add peas, as shrimp are almost done – not to cook, just to defrost and heat them.  Shrimp are cooked when they curl and are pink – don’t overcook them.

Serve as is, or on rice. Garnish with cilantro if you wish.
Serves 2-3, or 4 if you serve with rice.

Savoury Carrot Salad

This recipe comes from Dane and Brittany, and is a souvenir of their trip with Robert and Krisalyn aboard Lagu!

4 carrots, washed, peeled and shredded
1/3 cup of chopped toasted nuts
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano (or more to taste)
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp of Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon style mustard
1 fresh garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, put the shredded carrots, toasted nuts, and fresh oregano. Lightly toss together.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a measuring cup and whisk well. Pour over the other ingredients and toss until carrots are coated.

Taste and adjust as needed.

Serve right away, or chill.

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