I always like to get a cookbook for Christmas, and this year I was happy to receive the latest from the Barefoot ContessaCooking for Jeffrey. This is the first recipe I’ve tried, and it’s a winner! Onion and fennel are sautéed with sausage and spices, simmered in a tomato-cream sauce, tossed with cooked pasta and baked. You can also make it ahead.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for sausages, Parmesan, tomato paste and spices with no colour or preservatives added. I used a white wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Frogpond Farm organic winery that contains only naturally occurring sulfites.

Saute fennel, onion and sausage

Toss cooked pasta with sauce and press into baking dish, topping with Parmesan

I refrigerated the dish for several hours and then baked it until it was heated through and brown on top

Ingredients:

3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil

3 cups (750 ml) chopped fennel (1 large bulb)

1½ cups (375 ml) chopped yellow onion

1¼ lb (565 g) sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed

2 tsp (10 ml) minced garlic

½ tsp (2.5 ml) whole fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle

½ tsp (2.5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cup (250 ml) dry white wine

1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)

2/3 cup (150 ml) half-and-half

2 tbsp (30 ml) tomato paste

1 lb (454 g) dry rigatoni

½ cup (125 ml) chopped parsley leaves

1 cup (250 ml) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel and onion and sauté for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the sausage and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, crumbling it with a fork, until nicely browned. Add the garlic, crushed fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, 2 tsp (10 ml) salt and 1 tsp (5 ml) black pepper and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine, bring to a boil, and add the heavy cream, half-and-half and tomato paste. Bring back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 2 tbsp (30 ml) salt and cook the rigatoni according to the directions on the package. Drain and add to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the sauce. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and ½ cup (125 ml) of the Parmesan. Press into a large shallow baking dish, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve. To make ahead, refrigerate for up to a day and then bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C).

From Cooking for Jeffrey by Ina Garten

Even if you don’t want to make the pork chops in this recipe, be sure to try the roasted peppers and onion, which are tossed with oil and herbs, topped with feta cheese and roasted until tender. They are delicious! The pork chops are also great — just be sure not to overcook them.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check the labels of the Italian herb seasoning and feta to make sure they don’t contain colour or preservatives. Look for a brand of balsamic vinegar that contains only naturally occurring sulfites. I use PC old-fashioned Dijon mustard, which is all-natural.

Toss peppers and onion with herbs and oil, top with feta and roast

Sprinkle chops with salt and pepper before cooking

Honey balsamic pork chops with roasted peppers

Ingredients:

1 red onion, cut in 2-inch (5 cm) pieces

2 red peppers, cut in 2-inch (5 cm) pieces

4 teaspoons (20 ml) olive oil

1 ½ teaspoon (7.5 ml) Italian herb seasoning

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) salt and pepper

1/3 cup cubed feta cheese (about 50 g)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) liquid honey

1 tablespoon (15 ml) balsamic vinegar

2 cloves garlic, finely grated or pressed

2 teaspoons (10 ml) Dijon mustard

4 bone-in centre-in pork loin chops (about 850 g total)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley

Preparation:

In large bowl, toss together red onion, red peppers, half of the oil, the Italian seasoning and half each of the salt and pepper. Arrange in single layer on generously greased rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with feta. Roast in 425°F (218°C) oven, turning once, until veggies are tender and golden, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir together honey, vinegar, garlic and mustard. Sprinkle pork with remaining salt and pepper. In large nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat; cook pork, turning once, until just a hint of pink remains inside, 8 to 10 minutes.

Pour honey mixture over pork chops; cook, turning to coat, until glazed, about 1 minute.

Divide pork and vegetables among 4 serving plates; sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4.

From Canadian Living

If you’re tired of your roast chicken recipe, try this new take on it from Food and Wine. Remove the backbone of the chicken, flatten it and brown, skin-side down, in a skillet on top of the stove. Then roast it in the oven. Meanwhile, roast carrots and mushrooms and toss with farro, a hearty grain similar to barley.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Use freshly squeezed lemon juice and make sure the nuts do not contain preservatives.

Remove backbone from chicken, flatten and brown, skin-side down

Toss vegetables together and roast

Roast chicken in oven and let it rest before carving

Mix roasted vegetables with cooked farro

Pan-roasted chicken with warm farro salad

Ingredients:

One 4-pound (1.8-kg) whole chicken, backbone removed and chicken cut in half

5 tablespoons (75 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and pepper

2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter

3 sage sprigs

½ pound (226 g) small (not baby) carrots

1 pound (454 g) mixed mushrooms, chopped, any tough stems discarded

1 ½ cups (375 ml) farro

1 tablespoon (15 ml) fresh lemon juice, plus wedges for serving

½ cup (125 ml) chopped toasted hazelnuts

Chopped parsley, for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 450° F (232° C) Set racks in the middle and lower thirds of the oven. Rub the chicken all over with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron skillet, melt the butter. Add the sage sprigs, then add the chicken, skin side down, and cook over moderately high heat until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, basting occasionally, until cooked through.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Reserve the pan juices but discard the sage.

While the chicken is cooking, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots and mushrooms with the remaining 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables on the lower rack of the oven until golden and tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice the carrots. Transfer the carrots and mushrooms to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the farro until al dente, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well. Add the farro to the vegetables along with the lemon juice, half of the hazelnuts and ½ cup (125 ml) of the reserved chicken pan juices; mix well. Transfer to plates, top with the remaining hazelnuts and garnish with parsley. Carve the chicken and serve it with the farro and lemon wedges. Serves 4.

From Food and Wine

This hearty soup from Canadian Living’s Best Soups and Stews is a perfect lunch or light dinner after you’ve been outside enjoying the wintry weather. Brown sausage, add vegetables, spices, tomatoes and stock and simmer. You can make keep this in the fridge for two days and it also freezes well.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check the sausage, spices, tomatoes, chickpeas and stock for additives, preservatives and colour. I used “Free From” mild Italian sausage, Imagine stock, Blue Menu chickpeas and Unico tomatoes.

Use any kind of sausage you like

Brown sausage and vegetables

Add tomatoes, spices, chickpeas, stock and simmer

Ingredients:

1 lb. (500 g) fresh turkey sausage or any sausage you like

1 tsp (5 ml) vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

2 jalapeno peppers, sliced thinly or chopped

1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin

½ tsp (2 ml) ground coriander

½ tsp (2 ml) paprika

¼ tsp (1 ml) chili powder

¼ tsp (1 ml) pepper

1 19 oz (540 ml) can tomatoes or chopped tomatoes

1 19 oz (540 ml) can chickpeas

3 cups (750 ml) chicken stock

¼ cup (50 ml) fresh coriander or parsley, chopped

1 avocado

2 limes

Preparation:

Remove casings from sausage; cut into slices or break into chunks. In large pot, heat oil over medium heat; cook sausage, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and celery; cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened and sausage is cooked through. Skim off any excess fat.

Stir in jalapeno peppers, cumin, ground coriander, paprika, chili powder and pepper; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes (breaking up with a spoon if using whole tomatoes). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse chickpeas; stir into pot along with stock and 2 tbsp (25 ml) of the fresh coriander. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Halve avocado and remove pit. Cut through flesh to skin lengthwise and crosswise to dice; with spoon, scoop out cubes into bowl. Squeeze juice from one of the limes and toss juice with avocado. Slice remaining lime into 8 wedges. Garnish each serving with avocado and lime wedge. Sprinkle with remaining coriander. Makes 8 servings.

From Canadian Living’s Best Soups and Stews

This recipe from Food and Wine calls for marinated artichoke hearts and meaty green olives. After browning the chicken thighs, transfer to a baking dish and scatter artichoke hearts, olives, garlic, lemon slices and thyme on top. Bake and serve!

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Look for artichoke hearts and olives that are preservative-free. I use Imagine brand stock and Cock brand fish sauce.

Olives, lemon, garlic and marinated artichoke hearts flavour this dish

Flatten chicken and brown, skin side down

Place chicken in baking dish and scatter other ingredients on top

Braised chicken thighs with marinated artichoke hearts

Ingredients:

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (3 ¾ pounds/1.7 kg)

Sea salt and pepper

1 tablespoon (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

15 ounces (425 g) marinated artichoke hearts, plus ¼ cup (60 ml) brine from the jar

1 cup (250 ml) green olives

1 head of garlic, halved crosswise

1 lemon, thinly sliced

6 thyme sprigs

1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock or low-sodium broth

½ cup (125 ml) semidry sherry, such as amontillado

1 tablespoon (15 ml) Asian fish sauce

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper. In a large cast-iron skillet or black steel pan, heat the oil. Add half of the chicken skin side down and top the pieces (not the pan) with a pot lid; cook over moderate heat until browned and crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer skin side up to a large baking dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken. Scatter the artichoke hearts, olives, garlic, lemon slices and thyme in the baking dish.

Pour off the fat from the skillet. Add the artichoke brine, stock, sherry and fish sauce; bring to a boil. Stir in 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt, then pour the mixture around the chicken. Cover tightly with foil and braise in the oven for 1 hour, until the chicken is very tender.

Uncover and increase the oven temperature to 400° F (204° C) Roast the chicken for 15 minutes longer, until the skin is crisp.

Discard the thyme. Transfer to plates and serve. Serves 4-6.

From Food and Wine

This luscious pasta from Bon Appetit is definitely dinner party-worthy. Cook prosciutto until crisp, brown mushrooms, add shallots, thyme and stock and simmer. Add the cooked pasta and some of the prosciutto, add cream and butter and serve, topping with more thyme and prosciutto. Enjoy!

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Make sure the prosciutto does not contain preservatives. I use Imagine brand chicken stock.

Cook prosciutto until crisp

Brown mushrooms, add shallots, thyme and stock and simmer

Toss with pasta, cream, butter and serve, garnished with thyme and prosciutto

Ingredients:

¼ cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

2 ounces (57 g) thinly sliced prosciutto (about 6 slices)

1 pound (500 g) mixed mushrooms (such as chanterelles, maitake, oyster, crimini, and/or shiitake), torn into bite-size pieces

2 medium shallots, finely chopped

1 teaspoon (5 ml) thyme leaves, plus more for serving

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 cup (250 ml) chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

12 ounces (340 g) pappardelle or fettuccine

⅓ cup (75 ml) heavy cream

2 tablespoons (30 ml) unsalted butter

Preparation:

Heat ¼ cup (60 ml) oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Arrange prosciutto in a single layer in pot and cook, turning once or twice, until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Heat remaining 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) oil in same pot over high. Cook mushrooms, tossing occasionally, until browned and tender, 5–8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add shallots and 1 tsp. (5 ml) thyme, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until shallots are translucent and softened, about 2 minutes. Add stock and reduce heat to low. Bring to a simmer and cook until only a thin layer of stock coats bottom of pot, 5−7 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 3 minutes less than package directions.

Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with mushrooms and add 1 cup (250 ml) pasta cooking liquid. Crumble half of prosciutto into pot. Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream, return to a simmer, and cook, tossing, until pasta is coated, about 1 minute. Remove from heat, add butter, and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt if needed.

Divide pasta among bowls. Top with more thyme and crumble remaining prosciutto over; season with pepper. Serves 4.

From Bon Appetit

This stir-fry from Canadian Living uses a slightly different technique — the beef is tossed with egg yolk, garlic, cornstarch, salt and pepper before cooking. It works well, giving the steak a great sear. The recipes calls for onion, mushrooms, broccoli and red pepper, but you can use whatever you have on hand.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

I have never been able to find additive-free oyster sauce, so I make my own by combining 3 tablespoons of tamari sauce with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 3 teaspoons of cornstarch. I use regular Tabasco in place of the chili garlic sauce.

Toss beef with egg yolk, cornstarch and garlic

Mix together sauce ingredients

Brown beef and set aside

Stir fry mushrooms and onions

Add other vegetables, then beef and sauce

Steak and broccoli stir-fry

Ingredients:

1 lb. (450 g) beef flank marinating steak

2 tablespoons (30 ml) oyster sauce

1 teaspoon (5 ml) chili garlic sauce

¼ teaspoon (1 ml) each salt and pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons (10 ml) cornstarch

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1 onion , thinly sliced

3.5 oz (100 g) shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

12 oz (350 g) bite-size broccoli florets (about 6 cups)

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

Preparation:

Place beef in freezer until firm, about 20 minutes. Thinly slice across the grain.

Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, half each of the salt and pepper and 1/3 cup (75 ml) water. Set aside.

In bowl, toss together beef, garlic, egg yolk, cornstarch and remaining salt and pepper.

In large nonstick skillet or wok, heat 1 tsp (5 ml) of the oil over medium-high heat; stir-fry half of the beef mixture until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to plate. Repeat with 1 tsp (5 ml) of the remaining oil and the remaining beef mixture.

In same pan, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat; stir-fry onion and mushrooms until onion is golden and mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli, red pepper and 2 tbsp (30 ml) water; stir-fry until broccoli is tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Return beef and any accumulated juices to pan. Stir in oyster-sauce mixture; cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

From Canadian Living

This dish from Bon Appetit can be made with regular cod, black cod or any other firm white fish. Mix up the chermoula — a Moroccan sauce — and spread it over the fish. Sprinkle some cherry tomatoes over and bake until the fish is done and the tomatoes are beginning to burst. Colourful and delicious!

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Check the tomato paste and herbs for additives and colour. Look for a red wine vinegar with no added sulfites, such as Eden Organic brand.

Make the chermoula

Spread chermoula over fish and then scatter tomatoes over

Roast until fish is done and tomatoes are soft and starting to burst

Slow-roasted cod with red chermoula

Ingredients:

¼ bunch cilantro, leaves and stems separated, stems finely chopped

1 Fresno chile, seeded if desired, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely grated

¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil

1 tablespoon (15 ml) tomato paste

1 teaspoon (5 ml) paprika

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon (2.5 ml) honey

¼ teaspoon (1 ml) ground allspice

1 tablespoon (15 ml) Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar, plus more for drizzling

1½ pounds (680 g) skin-on black cod or cod fillet

4 cups (1 L) cherry tomatoes, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 300° F (148° C) Mix cilantro stems, chile, garlic, oil, tomato paste, paprika, red pepper flakes, honey, allspice, and 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside 3 Tbsp. (45 ml) chermoula for serving.

Place fish in a 3-qt. (2.8 L) shallow baking dish. Cut 2 cups (500 ml) of tomatoes in half and scatter around fish along with remaining whole tomatoes. Spoon remaining chermoula over tomatoes and fish, spreading across the surface with the back of the spoon. Season with salt and pepper and roast until fish is cooked through and tomatoes are soft and some have burst, 20–30 minutes.

Transfer fish to a platter, breaking into large pieces. Remove and discard skin. Spoon tomatoes and roasting juices over and around fish. Top with reserved chermoula, then cilantro leaves; drizzle with more vinegar, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.

From Bon Appetit

This ratatouille recipe from Style at Home is a great way to use up the tomatoes and zucchini in your late-summer garden. I also added some leftover eggplant. Use a canned or jarred pasta sauce, your favourite homemade version, or make this one from Mario Batali.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

If you use a purchased tomato sauce, check it for preservatives. Make sure your dried herbs don’t contain colour or anti-caking agents.

Slice tomatoes and zucchini (I also used eggplant)

Cover bottom of dish with tomato sauce

Layer tomatoes and vegetables over sauce and bake until tender

Ingredients:

½ cup (125 ml) pasta sauce

1 tbsp (15 ml) tomato paste

¼ tsp (1 ml) each dried oregano and pepper flakes

2 small green or yellow zucchini sliced ⅛-inch thick (0.32 cm)

1 tbsp (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

½ tsp (2 ml) salt

¼ tsp (1 ml) pepper

1 small plum tomato sliced ⅛-inch thick (0.32 cm)

2 tbsp (30 ml) thinly sliced fresh basil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425 F (210 C). Spread pasta sauce in bottom of 5- cup (1.25 L) oval casserole dish. Stir in tomato paste and half of oregano and hot pepper flakes.

In large bowl toss together zucchini, tomato, oil, salt, pepper and rest of dried spices.

Arrange zucchini and tomato slices in casserole dish in overlapping, concentric circles. Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with basil before serving. Serves 4.

From Style at Home

This salad from Chatelaine is supposed to serve four, but it was so good the two of us ate it all in one sitting. This is a great way to use up the green beans, cherry tomatoes and fresh oregano from your garden.

Avoiding Additives and Preservatives

Use a red wine vinegar with no sulfites added, such as Eden Organic brand. Look for shrimp and feta with no additives or preservatives.

Whisk dressing ingredients together in a large bowl

Cook the beans in boiling water until tender-crisp

Keep the cherry tomatoes whole if they are small

Cook the shrimp until pink, about 3 minutes

Toss everything together and enjoy!

Ingredients:

3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil

2 tbsp (30 ml) red wine vinegar

1 tbsp (15 ml) chopped oregano

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups (500 ml) trimmed green beans

12 oz (340 g) frozen peeled shrimp, thawed

4 cups (1 L) thinly sliced romaine lettuce

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup (250 ml) crumbled feta

1 cup (250 ml) cherry tomatoes, halved if large

Preparation:

Whisk oil with vinegar, oregano and garlic in a large bowl until combined. Season with fresh pepper.

Boil a pot of water. Add green beans and cook until tender crisp. Drain and rinse under cold water and pat dry. You can boil the shrimp in the same water or sauté them in a pan with oil. Cook until shrimp turns pink, about 3 min.

Add beans and shrimp to dressing, along with romaine and onion. Toss until coated. Add feta and tomatoes. Serves 2-4.

From Chatelaine

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