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May 27, 2015

Canadian cheese, potato and bacon soup {gluten-free}

Use Canadian Oka cheese, or fontina, in this creamy potato and bacon soup.

My (Canadian) husband Ted often remarks that I don't include enough Canadian recipes in my cooking repertoire. He's not wrong. The truth is that I've never really been able to define Canadian cooking. We've enjoyed classic French-influenced food in Montreal; smoked oolichans in British Columbia; Chinese and Greek food in Toronto; lobster cooked every which way on Prince Edward Island. Is one cuisine more Canadian than the others? Still, when I create recipes for Ted that bring together Canadian flavors, I gravitate toward the trifecta of Yukon Gold potatoes, bacon, and cheese. This soup marries all three. If you can find Oka, a mild semi-firm cheese from Southern Ontario, please use it here. Easier to come by at my local cheese shop, Fontal, an Italian cheese, makes a sublime substitute, as will Danish Fontina, which is readily available here in almost any supermarket. If ever there were comfort food in a bowl, this creamy smooth cheese, potato and bacon soup is it, and you don't have to be Canadian to fall in love with it.

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March 25, 2015

New Orleans-style red beans and rice, with shrimp {gluten-free}

New Orleans-style red beans and rice, with or without shrimp, makes every day Mardi Gras!

In the final weeks before we moved from the log house to our city space, we dipped into the pantry almost every night to use up ingredients before the move. Some of our from-the-pantry creations were winners, others not so much. This red beans and rice variation, one of the keepers, came together quickly after I soaked dry beans overnight and then cooked them in the pressure cooker (I'd already run out of canned beans, which would be a fine substitute). Typically, the rice would be prepared separately, but I cooked it right in with the beans. If you omit the shrimp and use water instead of chicken stock, you'll have a hearty vegetarian main dish. Try to use homemade stock if you are gluten-free, but again, you can swap in store-bought low-sodium chicken stock. Don't wait until next year's Mardi Gras to enjoy this New Orleans-style recipe; make dinner a celebration, at any time of year.

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March 22, 2015

Lighter chicken and black bean enchiladas

Lighter chicken and black bean enchiladas, fun to make with the kids!

In the house where I grew up, nary an enchilada graced our dinner table. In fact, we never ate any Tex-Mex or Mexican food at all. (A deprived childhood. I know that now.) In my own kitchen, I love to create pans of enchiladas with leftover bits from the Thanksgiving table, and sometimes I make the classic combos, too. This version of the popular creamy chicken and black bean enchiladas is a little bit healthier without losing any of the gooey goodness that makes them crave-worthy. Use whole wheat low-carb tortillas, low-fat cheese, and nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream in the filling; you won't miss a few calories and carbs. I love my own crazy mixed-up red enchilada sauce, which gets its light, bright flavor from sofrito; a good-quality canned sauce will be fine if you don't have time to make your own. The small amount of green chiles doesn't make these very spicy, but you can leave them out if you wish. Let your kids help you fill and roll the enchiladas for some family fun in the kitchen.

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March 11, 2015

Crazy mixed-up red enchilada sauce

There's nothing traditional about this easy homemade enchilada sauce!

As I organized the pantry shelves in my new kitchen, grouping all of the tomato-related products together -- canned chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, Ro*Tel -- I realized I didn't have any cans of enchilada sauce, which is pretty much a fixture in my perfect pantry (and which isn't usually made with tomato, but that's where I'd look for it). However, I did discover a bunch of ingredients I thought would make a perfect, if not perfectly traditional, sauce for enchiladas, and I tossed them a pot. The result was this rich sauce with just a hint of cilantro from a jar of storebought sofrito (you'll find it in the Latino foods aisle). Depending on the filling I use in my enchiladas, I might stir in a teaspoon of adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers with adobo), to add some smokiness to the sauce. If you like your enchilada sauce thinner, just add a few teaspoons of water. I prefer mine with a bit of body. It's an easy recipe to double, and you'll want to stash some sauce in the freezer for burritos, flautas, soup, beans, pasta, meatloaf, or just about any type of enchilada you can dream up. A jar of homemade enchilada sauce makes a great hostess gift, too.

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January 21, 2015

Slow cooker shredded beef chili with beans

Slow cooker shredded beef chili, topped with guacamole and lime. Sublime!

On a cold day a few weeks ago, my husband Ted and I had pre-theater dinner with our friends Mary and Mike at our favorite across-the-street-from-the-house restaurant. We shared an appetizer-sized portion of short rib chili, just a few heavenly rich and sweet bites for each of us. When I decided to make my own version, I knew I wanted something a bit leaner; after all, some of the amazingness of the chili came from the fatty short ribs. So, instead, I used my stand-by, brisket. Coffee and cocoa give this chili a deep Mexican mole undertone. A hit of fresh lime juice at the very end is an absolute must, and a blob of guacamole on top makes the dish just about perfect. The chili freezes well, so make the full recipe and you'll be all set for weeknight dinners or that upcoming big football game.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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