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Overnight Carrot Soup

by Jane Wangersky December 18th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions, Soups & Stews
bowl of carrot soupI really didn’t think this one was going to be a keeper. Maybe months later, I thought, I’d look back and laugh and write about it as one of my near misses (read: disasters). When I took my first taste of this soup I’d just invented, all I got was bitterness. But I’m the kind of person who really hates to throw away food when it’s technically edible, so I just put the whole pot in the fridge to postpone the final decision till the next day. And when I tasted it then, I ended up eating half of
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Southwestern Pork Stew

by Jane Wangersky December 11th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions, Soups & Stews
pork stew (400x400)This is a stew recipe for people who don’t like making stew. With a limit of four ingredients, I needed to make the process simpler too, and you can’t get much simpler than this.  No flouring the meat, no measuring spices, no need for stock or broth, no thickening the gravy, you don’t even have to peel the potatoes. The liquid, vegetables, and seasoning all come out of one can -- of flavored diced tomatoes, the beginning cook’s friend -- and still this is very much a homemade dish.

I found the pork shoulder for sale already cubed, labeled “sweet
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Winter Green Soup with Garlic

by Jane Wangersky December 4th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
winter green soup (400x400)No, I’m not talking about the herb wintergreen, as in wint-o-green Lifesavers. (Though they’re one of my favorite flavors, and yes, they do shoot sparks if you crunch them in a dark room.)  I’m talking about cabbage and spinach, two of those old reliable, unexciting green vegetables that stay with us through the winter.

And I’m talking about soup because it’s the cold, dark, sometimes discouraging season for it. Soup is not only comforting. It fills you up, often with fewer calories than solid food, and hydrates you. It also keeps all its nutrients instead of losing them when the
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Thanksgiving Improv: Spinach Pinwheels

by Jane Wangersky November 27th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
spinach pinwheels (400x400)Happy Thanksgiving! Though if you’re reading this on Thanksgiving Day itself, you probably have some last-minute gap in your holiday dinner. Not to worry -- so did I, and I’ll tell you what I did.

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving comes in October. This year, unfortunately, it also came just after I’d been sick for several days. I had the turkey, cranberries, stuffing ingredients, and sweet potatoes, not to mention (almost) everything for pumpkin pie -- but I hadn’t been able to go out for fresh vegetables, and everyone else was too busy. So there I was on the morning of
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Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar Carrot Stuffing

by Jane Wangersky November 20th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
sweet potato (400x400)Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping are a holiday food that cause just about as much disagreement as fruitcake – maybe more, because lots of people actually like this sweet potato dish. Others . . . well, I remember reading a Thanksgiving cookbook whose author had meant to put in a recipe for them, but, as she wrote, just couldn't bring herself to do it.

Still, for many families, sweet potatoes in some form are just part of Thanksgiving. And of course there are other ways to cook them. You can always just bake them like regular potatoes, but there are
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Cranberry-Ginger Relish

by Jane Wangersky November 13th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
cranberry relishAs Thanksgiving gets nearer (for those of you in the U.S., anyway -- in Canada, we had it last month, so you get the benefit of my recent experience), you probably know you’re expected to serve cranberries in some form. You may think your only choices are canned cranberry sauce, shaped exactly like the inside of the can, or homemade cranberry sauce, which you carefully concoct from fresh cranberries and boiling syrup. But there’s another option that’s fresh, homemade, and no-cook: Cranberry relish.

I discovered cranberry relish a few years ago while writing reviews of Thanksgiving cookbooks. You’ll find recipes
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Easy Stuffed Eggplant

by Jane Wangersky November 6th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
eggplantEggplant is one of those foods, like fish, that people think they don’t like, but it’s really got a lot going for it -- a mild taste that goes with countless other foods, a shape and texture that can be transformed into almost anything you want, a Mediterranean background, plenty of fiber, relatively short cooking time -- and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t really have to salt it or squeeze out the juices to make it palatable. With all this in mind, I hit on eggplant when I was looking for some fresh ingredient to bring
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Sugar and Smoke Ham

by Jane Wangersky October 30th, 2014| Simple Solutions
hamUsually, the only reason I buy cooked ham is to slice it up for sandwiches -- unsliced ham is half the price of sliced -- but the last time I went grocery shopping, bone-in cooked ham was on sale, so it was time to figure out how to turn it into a dinner. Actually, I had done that before with boneless ham, but always by cutting the ham into nice neat slices, or cubes to scatter over pasta, and browning it quickly. The bone was going to make that more difficult -- might as well just leave it in.

A
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Quick Beef Stroganoff — From Scratch

by Jane Wangersky October 23rd, 2014| Simple Solutions
file4531272158954Beef Stroganoff has taken lots of different forms over the past 150 years since the recipe was first published. The only constants have been -- obviously -- the beef (cubes, strips, even ground beef) and sour cream, whether just a little or a lot. Those are the two tastes everyone expects from a dish by this name.

Though you can make quick versions of beef Stroganoff from mushroom soup, or even, ahem, Hamburger Helper, this recipe is just as quick and much shorter on processed ingredients. (Yes, it uses powdered beef bouillon. If that bothers you, try using a few
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Lemon Pepper Tuna Cakes

by Jane Wangersky October 16th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
file00041689699Canned tuna has a lowbrow reputation -- we think it's good mainly for quick lunches, especially to take to work or school, or maybe retro casseroles swimming in canned soup. But if you read Tin Fish Gourmet by Barbara-Jo McIntosh, you’ll see that tuna and other canned fish has way more potential. Here’s a simple dish I’ve been making for years; it varies according to what I’ve got in the house, but this version makes a nice end-of-summer supper.

If you like crab cakes, these are much more affordable. If you’re secretly craving something at the other end of the
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Essential Chili: The 4 Things You Really Need

by Jane Wangersky October 9th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
chiliI’ve got several time-honored, long-cooking, big-batch chili recipes that use chunks of beef and about 10 kinds of spices. This isn’t one of them. But it’s quick and easy, it tastes good, and you can build on it till it’s almost like one of those more ambitious chilis.

Keeping it to four ingredients, I had to find the essence of chili. Having lived in Texas, I know some people will take issue with that essence containing beans rather than meat. If you feel this way, hey, use meat instead -- I’ll talk about that and other variations in just a
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Simple Spicy Meat Loaf

by Jane Wangersky October 2nd, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
meat loafLast spring, I wrote that everyone and his dog had their own ideas of what made a good meat loaf. My own family has several different ideas, and today I’m going to share one of them.

Early fall can be a tricky time to plan meals. You never know whether it’s going to be a burgers-in-the-backyard kind of day or a meat-roasting-in-the-oven kind of day. Plan on this dish and you’ll be ready for either. If it turns out warm and sunny, you can just buy some hamburger buns, make a salad, and grill the sausage patties on
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