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Starting Out (August 30, 2013)

Sun-Dried Tomato, Kalamata, and Tuna Tapenade
Baby Beet and Goat Cheese Salad
Honey-Citrus Glazed Salmon with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes
One-Pan Roast Deviled Chicken with Carrots, Turnips and Parsnips
Spinach, Ham and Cheese Strata

On your own for the first time? You just might need some expert advice, especially in the kitchen! We've got just the cookbooks for you; they'll keep your budget intact, give you the perfect recipes for a first dinner party and show you how to use those new appliances while learning to make delicious, healthy meals from the beginning! Read on...

Canadian Living has just come out with The Affordable Feasts Collection, budget-friendly meals. It's a great collection of wonderful recipes that won't break your bank; many are perfect for a beginner's dinner party! In typical Canadian Living style, the recipes are clear, with ingredients easily found in today's supermarkets. Wow them with Sri Lankan Devil's Chicken or Pork Chops with Peppered Apples. You'll also love all the divine pasta dishes and hearty soups, stews and vegetable recipes that deliver. This book will be on your A-list shelf forever.

Here at last is The American Heart Association's updated Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook, a delicious collection of 200 low-fuss, good-for-you recipes. Don't be put off by the good-for-you phrase; this is far from a boring, low flavour assortment – we find Flank Steak Fajitas, Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spinach, Moroccan Chicken Thighs with Raisin-and-Carrot Couscous, and a Decadent Chocolate Pudding Cake... among delicious others! True to form, the AHA has provided excellent information on Understanding How Slow Cookers Work, Maximizing Flavor with Minimum Effort, and – very importantly for the kitchen novice – Keeping Food Safe. This is a must-have cookbook for all of us.

In The First Real Kitchen Cookbook, sisters Megan and Jill Carle have written a complete reference for new cooks which includes navigating the kitchen and the grocery store, an overview of kitchen essentials and how to stocks a kitchen with equipment and basics. Recent college graduates themselves, they've been cooking for years and they know just what to do to get a meal on the table. Start planning your first dinner party; all the instructions you need are in this excellent book!

We love One Pan, Two Plates, a new cookbook by Carla Snyder. The subtitle says it all: More Than 70 Complete Weeknight Meals for Two. Who could ask for more! Yes, says author Snyder, it is possible to make fresh, cooked-from-scratch weeknight meals and still have time to savour every bite. The best part: each recipe can be prepared in one pan. The range of foods is delicious: pastas and grains, plus protein-packed meat, chicken and seafood. Think Lemony Risotto with Asparagus, Hungarian Beef Goulash and Thai Red Curry Chicken, just to name a few. Dig out that cast-iron skillet Uncle Ralph gave you when he downsized – it's going to be your best friend for making dinner!

The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Diane Phillips answers the "But what will I do with it?" that everyone askes when presented with a pressure cooker. Yes, this thing that used to make an anxiety-inducing hissing sound in your mother's kitchen is back with improved features that make it easy to get those amazing slow-cooked flavors reliably, safely and – best of all – quickly. This excellent cookbook contains more than 300 family-pleasing recipes, proving that less cooking time doesn't have to mean less delicious meals! Who knew pressure cooking could relieve so much pressure? We know now.

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (185 KB)


Sun-Dried Tomato, Kalamata, and Tuna Tapenade

The joy of a slow cooker is the no-attention ease; this mightily flavored tapenade will be the hit at your next gathering, and you hardly did anything to pull it together! Serve over whole-grain Melba toast, thin slices of toasted whole grain bread or even slices of chilled boiled red potatoes. Better have a second batch on hand – this will disappear immediately!

From The American Heart Association's Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Makes 12 servings of 3 Tbsp per serving

Slow Cooking Time: 3½ hours on low or 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours on high

  • Cooking spray
  • 8 sun-dried tomato havoes (about 1 ounce), cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (yellow preferred)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 12 kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 ounces canned very low sodium albacore tuna, packed in water, rinsed in cold water, drained, and coarsely flaked

Lightly spray a 2-cup heatproof glass measuring cup with cooking spray. Put the sun-dried tomatoes, 1 cup grape tomatoes, the onion, water and garlic in the measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in the slow cooker. Cook covered on low for 3½ hours or on high for 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours or until the sun-dried tomatoes are very soft.

Caarefully remove the measuring cup from the slow cooker. Pour the mixture into a shallow dish, such as a pie pan. To serve at room temperature, let stand for about 1 hour. To serve chilled, cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. The tapenade will thicken as it cools.

Just before serving stir in the remaining ingredients except the tuna. Gently fold in the tuna.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Muscadet, Chablis, Vernacchia di San Gimignano


Baby Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

You know it takes forever to cook beets, so you don't do it very often. The answer is the pressure cooker, which will give you ready-to-eat beets in 12 minutes! This recipe, which combines beets, young greens, goat cheese and toasted walnuts, make an elegant salad, especially when tossed with a raspberry vinaigrette. From The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Diane Phillips.

Serves 6

  • 1 cup water
  • 16 baby beets, preferably in a variety of colors, trimmed and scrubbed. (see note below)
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups mesclun
  • 1½ cups crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 cup tosted walnuts
  1. Pour the water into the pressure cooker. Arrange the trivet and steamer basket in the bottom and put the beets in the basket. Lock the lid in place and cook at high pressure for 12 minutes.
  2. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid, tilting the pot away from you to avoid the escaping steam. Insert the sharp tip of a knife into the center of a beet to make sure it is cooked through; the knife should go all the way through without resistance. If they are not done, leave them in the steamer basket, replace the lid and allow them to steam off the stove top for an additional 5 minutes. Let cool while you make the dressing.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallot, sugar, salt and pepper until blended. Peel the beets and quarter them. Pour some of the dressing over the beets and toss to coat. Arrange the salad greens in a large bowl, pour some of the dressing over the greens, and toss until the leaves are coated. Arrange salad greens on individual plates, top with the beets and sprinkle with the crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. Serve any leftover dressing on the side.

NOTE: If baby bees are not available, it's fine to use medium beets. Cook them at high pressure for 15 minutes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc for the Loire or Ontario


Honey-Citrus Glazed Salmon with Caramelized Onion Mashed Potatoes

Oh, they'll be sure you sneaked in a caterer with this dish; fish is often intimidating to new cooks and it shouldn't be. Salmon is always a crowd pleaser, and so easy; in this recipe it takes on the flavor of the marinade, yet still retains its own flavor. The slightly sweet result when paired with the caramelized onion mashed potatoes makes a fabulous meal! Send out those invites. From The First Real Kitchen Cookbook.

Serves 4

    Mashed Potatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 2 lbs russet potatoes (4 or 5)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 orange
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • Four 5- to 6-oz salmon fillets

To prepare the mashed potatoes: Peel, halve and cut the onion into slices 1/4 inch thick. Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into medium chunks. Put the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water and cook over medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until soft. Drain off the water and return the pan to the stove. Add the remaining 1/4 cup butter and the milk to the pan and cook over medium heat until the milk comes to a boil. Smash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher until fairly smooth; stir in the caramelized onions and season with salt and pepper.

To prepare the salmon:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Finely grate the zest of the orange and put it in a small glass bowl. Squeeze the juice from the orange and add it to the bowl. Add the honey and microwave on high heat for 30 seconds to soften the honey. Stir until combined. Put the salmon fillets in a foil-lined baking pan and brush with the glaze. Bake the salmon for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the insides of the salmon are just barely translucent.
  3. Put the remaining glaze in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minutes, or until warm.
  4. Place one salmon fillet on each plate and spoon on the remaining sauce. Place some of the potatoes on each plate and serve immediately.
  5. Note: Zest is what the colored outside of citrus fruit is called once it has been peeled or grated. When grating be careful not to get to the white pith that is under the zest as it is bitter.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Off-dry Riesling or off-dry Vouvray


One-Pan Roast Deviled Chicken with Carrots, Turnips and Parsnips

One Pan, Two Plates is the book we've all been waiting for, and this recipe is one of the main reasons. Author Carla Snyder says "The 'simple is best' maxim resounds in this roasted chicken and vegetable dish. One of the reasons it tastes so good may be that these days we rarely eat chicken cooked with the bone in and skin on anymore, and have forgotten how delicious chicken can be. The mustard coating seals in flavor and contributes tang to the sweet vegetables that lie below, bathing them in the chicken-y goodness. Remember the sublime roast chickens broiled over potatoes sold on market day in French towns? This will bring it all back, and in your kitchen yet!"

Serves 2

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed
  • 1 small yellow onion cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 new potatoes, scrubbed and each cut lengthwise into 8 wedges
  • 2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and then into 8 pieces about 2inches long
  • 2 parsnips cut in half lengthwise then into 8 pieces about 2 inches long
  • 1 turnip, each cut into 8 pieces about 2 inches long
  • 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp Dijon or whole-grain mustard
  • 1/3 cup beer, chicken broth or water
  • 2 tsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pat the chicken dry and sprinkle all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Place 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil shimmers, add the chicken, skin-side down, and brown it for about 4 minutes. Don't try to turn the chicken if it's stuck to the bottom of the pan, it will release once it is sufficiently browned. Turn the chicken with tongs and brown the other side for about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate. (It won't be fully cooked at this point, but the skin should be nicely browned.)
  3. If the pan seems dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the onion, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, turnip, rosemary, 1/2 tsp salt, and a sprinkling of pepper to the hot pan and sauté, stirring every now and then, until the vegetables beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Spread the skin side of the chicken pieces with the mustard and lay them on top of the vegetables, mustard-side up. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes. Pour the beer into the pan and roast everything until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender and browned, about 10 minutes longer. Pierce the chicken with a fork to check to tenderness and check the thick part of the breast with an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165°F.
  4. Divide the chicken and vegetables between two warmed plates, sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.

Extra hungry? Add a salad of romaine lettuce, diced apple, dried cranberries, walnuts, a splash of cider vinegar and a slug of olive oil.

Tony's wine recommendation:
White Burgundy, unoaked Chardonnay


Spinach, Ham and Cheese Strata

Having friends over Friday night for supper? Got to stay at work until 6 pm? No problem, as you were smart to do this crowd-pleasing dish up to 24 hours ahead and it's finished, just waiting for you to pop in the oven. Stratas are a savoury type of no-fail bread pudding; almost any combination of ingredients works well. From Canadian Living's Affordable Feasts Collection.

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch (10oz 280g) spinach, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp each, salt and pepper
  • 6 cups cubed (1 inch/2.5 cm) sourdough bread
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped sliced ham
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
  1. In skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, sauté spinach, garlic, salt and pepper until spinach is wilted and no liquid remains.
  2. Stir together spinach mixture, bread, green onions, cheese and ham. Spread in greased 8-inch (2 L) square baking dish.
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk and mustard; pour over bread mixture and let stand for 20 minutes. (Make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.)
  4. Bake in 375°F (190°C) oven until puffed and golden, about 45 minutes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Beaujolais or Alsace Pinot Gris


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and recipes:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Chronicle Books, San Francisco, for:

  • The First Real Kitchen Cookbook by Megan and Jill Carle. Text © 2011 Megan Carle and Jill Carle. Photographs © 2011 Sheri Giblin.
  • One Pan, Two Plates by Carla Snyder. Text © 2013 Carla Snyder. Photographs © Jody Horton.
  • The Easy Pressure Cooker Cookbook by Diane Phillips. © 2011 Diane Phillips.


Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc, New York, for The American Heart Association's Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook. © 2012 the American Heart Association. Photographs © Ben Fink.


Transcontinental Books, Montreal, and Random House Canada for The Affordable Feasts Collection. © 2013 Transcontinental Books.



Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (185 KB)

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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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