Paula Roy’s Favourite Foods Season 2, Episode 4 recipes

A flavourful Mediterranean-inspired meal!

I haven’t met too many people who don’t love the flavours of the Mediterranean region. Dishes brimming with garlic, tomatoes, herbs, onions, olive oil and more seem to have almost universal appeal. For this episode of my cooking show on Rogers TV Ottawa, I’ve put together a fun menu that is packed with fresh, tasty ingredients. Each dish is so simple to prepare and this meal would be great for a quick family supper but also creative enough to serve to friends at a casual dinner party.

Pizza meatball casserole

a piping hot dish of meatballs, pizza sauce, vegetables and cheese makes an excellent dip

Fennel, orange and arugula salad with pistachios

fennel orange and arugula salad with pistachios and vinaigrette

Greek-style tomato, chickpea and spinach stew

Greek-style tomato, chickpea and spinach stew

easy and delicious Mediterranean-inspired recipes

To view recipes from Season 2, Episode 1, click here.

To view recipes from Season 2, Episode 2, click here.

To view recipes from Season 2, Episode 3, click here.

Use the search function on this site to access recipes from Season 1.

Stay tuned for more delicious inspiration as additional new episodes roll out over the weeks ahead.

 

 

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Super crispy French toast

A great twist on a classic breakfast favourite!

In the French toast versus pancakes debate, I am always on team French toast. There’s something so appealing to me about the eggy, soft inside and the crispy outside. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of pancakes (and waffles, too) but my preferred breakfast vehicle for maple syrup is definitely French toast. Coating the egg-dipped slices in cornflake crumbs prior to cooking is a true game changer; it adds a layer of crunchiness and flavour that completely enhances the French toast experience. A few tips about this recipe: be sure to use a bread (regular or gluten-free) that’s not too dense so that the egg mixture can soak in well. As for the cornflakes, you can buy them already crushed or take your favourite corn-based cereal, put it in a bag and crush it with a rolling pin. If you need a gluten-free option, be sure to check the cereal label carefully. Corn Chex are a great option as are several varieties of flakes. Last but not least, take the time to preheat the oven to keep the French toast warm while you cook the whole batch, so that the crispy outside stays crispy. I’m thinking of trying graham cracker crumbs next time for another flavourful, crispy twist!

recipe for super crispy French toast coated with corn flake crumbs

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) table cream (18%), or light cream or milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups (500 mL) corn flake crumbs
  • 6 slices regular or gluten-free bread
  • Butter, for frying
  • Fresh fruit and maple syrup, to garnish

Method

  • Place a wire rack over a baking tray and preheat the oven to 325F.
  • Crack eggs into a broad, shallow bowl. Whisk thoroughly then add cream, vanilla and cinnamon and whisk again. If you don’t like whisking, you can combine these ingredients in a blender instead, then transfer to a bowl.
  • Place cornflake crumbs in a second broad, shallow bowl.
  • Heat a broad skillet over medium heat but do not add the butter yet.
  • Dip one piece of bread in the egg and cream mixture; let it sit for about 30 seconds then flip it and let sit for 30 seconds more.
  • While bread is sitting in cream mixture, add a tablespoon (15 mL) of butter to the hot frying pan.
  • Transfer the dipped bread to the dish of cornflake crumbs. Press gently on the top then flip and press again. Both sides should be thoroughly and evenly coated with crumbs.
  • Transfer the dipped and crumbed bread to the hot frying pan and repeat with one or two more bread slices (depending upon how many pieces you can fit in your frying pan, with room to flip them.
  • Cook the first side of the bread for 3 – 5 minutes, until golden brown. As you lift each piece up out of the pan, and add a bit more butter to the empty space in the pan before you flip and return the French toast to the pan. Cook 3 – 5 minutes more until golden then transfer cooked pieces to the wire rack covered tray and place in the hot oven.
  • Repeat with remaining slices of bread. Serve hot with maple syrup and fresh fruit.

Serves 2 – 3; recipe can easily be multiplied.

recipe for super crispy French toast with corn flake crumbs

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Crispy baked egg rolls

All the flavour with none of the fuss or mess!

I remember being quite impressed when my mother decided that she and I were going to start making egg rolls at home when I was quite young. I suspect the impetus was simply that she loved eating them and we were a family who rarely dined in restaurants or ordered takeout. Whatever the reason, it seemed quite an avant-garde thing to be making in the early 1970s. It was quite the production, with all the chopping, sautéing, filling, wrapping and deep frying and I remember being very messy and exhausted by the time we finally got to eat them. Nevertheless, a few times each year, we’d do it again. My mother is now almost 90 years old and still loves egg rolls, as do I. In her honour, I decided to see if I could eliminate the part of egg roll making that I like the least, which is the deep frying. My husband declared these ‘the best egg rolls he’s ever eaten’, so there’s a resounding endorsement. I like that they are healthier than their deep fried cousins and they don’t get soggy if you plan to cook them in advance and reheat before serving. I haven’t tried freezing them yet but I expect you could freeze them uncooked, then increase the cooking time when baking from frozen. If you try it, let me know!

egg rolls baked in the oven instead of deep fried are crispy, delicious and healthier, too!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound (454 g) lean ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) soya sauce
  • 4 teaspoons (20 mL) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) canola or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) finely shredded cabbage
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) grated carrots
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • 1 package six-inch (15 cm) square wonton wrappers *
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Olive or canola oil, for brushing
  • Plum sauce, for serving

* look for wonton or egg roll wrappers in the produce section of your grocery store or find at Asian specialty markets

Method

  • In a medium bowl, combine ground pork, soya sauce, cornstarch, pepper, ginger, allspice and garlic. Stir to blend well (or mix with your hands).
  • Heat sesame and canola or olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add seasoned pork and cook, stirring often and breaking up clumps with the back of a spoon, until no longer pink, (about 7 – 10 minutes).
  • While pork is cooking, bring a large pot with ½ inch (1.25 cm) of water to a boil. Place cabbage and carrots in a steamer, tossing to combine, and cook (covered) over the boiling water until just tender, about 4 – 5 minutes. Transfer cooked vegetables to a colander or sieve and press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out excess moisture and set aside. The purpose of this step is to keep the filling from getting soggy.
  • When pork is cooked, add the cabbage and carrot to the pan, along with the chopped green onion. Stir and remove from heat. Let cool, stirring often, for about 10 – 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and put in the freezer to speed up this step.
  • Preheat oven to 425F. Place a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

it's surprisingly easy to fold up wonton wrappers over egg roll filling

  • To assemble, place one wonton wrapper on a clean work surface. Place 3 tablespoons (45 mL) of the pork filling in the centre. Working with the wrapper in a diamond shape in front of you, fold up the bottom corner over the filling.
  • With your fingertip, brush a little of the beaten egg onto the remaining three corners.
  • Fold the side corners into the middle.
  • Pressing firmly on the centre of the egg roll to compress the filling, roll it up towards the top corner, pressing gently to seal.
  • Place completed egg rolls on a clean plate.
  • When you’ve assembled 3 or 4 rolls, brush or spray them with olive or canola oil while they are still on the plate. The objective is to coat them lightly but thoroughly. Place oiled egg rolls, seam side down, on the wire rack placed over the baking sheet, spaced about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) apart.
  • Finish assembling and oiling remaining egg rolls and place them on the wire rack.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. With two forks or tongs, carefully flip the egg rolls and bake for 3 -5 minutes longer, until golden brown.
  • Let cool 5 minutes before serving, with plum sauce on the side.

Makes 18 egg rolls.

egg rolls baked in the oven instead of deep fried are crispy, delicious and healthier, too!

 

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Carrot cake cookie sandwiches with maple cream cheese frosting

A not-too-sweet treat the whole family will love!

I’ve always been a fan of carrot cake although for many years I deluded myself into believing that it’s actually healthy because it has vegetables in it. Of course, I was wilfully ignoring the fact that most carrot cake recipes are loaded with sugar and fat. As a conscientious new mom, I even served carrot cake at my son’s first birthday. By the time his younger sister turned one, I had realized cake is cake….and she got chocolate. Nevertheless, despite this previous naiveté, I am always keen to find desserts that are just a teensy bit healthier, and these carrot-filled treats do the trick for me. The cookies themselves are low in fat and very lightly sweetened so if you ate them on their own you could feel quite virtuous. But…what’s a carrot cake cookie without a little cream cheese frosting, right?

recipe for carrot cake cookies with maple cream cheese frosting

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) instant (not quick) oats (don’t pack them down as you measure)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) salted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) maple syrup
  • 1 egg, at room temperature *
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) peeled carrot, finely grated

* if you forget to take an egg out of the fridge to warm up, just place it in a dish of lukewarm tap water and let it sit for 3 minutes before cracking and adding to the melted butter mixture.

Cream cheese frosting:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) butter, softened
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 mL) maple syrup
  • Few drops maple extract (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) powdered sugar plus more, if needed

Method

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, vanilla, maple syrup and egg until well blended.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the liquids along with the grated carrots and stir just until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
  • Place a cover over the bowl and refrigerate the cookie dough for 1 hour, to allow the flour and oats to become fully hydrated. Chilling will also firm up the mixture, making it easier to scoop out onto the baking sheets.
  • Preheat the oven to 325F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Drop the cookie dough by small portions no bigger than 1 tablespoon (15 mL) each onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten slightly using your fingertips or a spatula.
  • Bake for 9 – 10 minutes until just beginning to turn golden brown at the edges. You want the cookies to still be soft in the middle, for a more cake-like texture.
  • Cool on the baking sheet for at least 10 minutes before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • While the cookies are baking, make the frosting. With an electric mixer (or a whisk and some human power), beat the cream cheese and butter together for about 2 minutes, until well blended. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and maple extract (if using) and beat again. Add the icing sugar, 1/4 cup (60 mL) at a time and keep beating until smooth. Add a bit more maple syrup if it seems too thick to spread between the cookies.
  • To assemble, place a generous teaspoonful of frosting on the bottom side of one cookie  (facing upwards) then place another cookie, bottom side facing downwards, on top. Gently press together so frosting fills the space between the cookies.
  • Cookie sandwiches can be assembled then placed in an airtight container up to 24 hours. Remove from fridge for 30 minutes to allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Refrigerate leftover cookies for up to 4 days.

Makes 12 cookie sandwiches; recipe can be doubled.

carrot cake cookies with maple cream cheese frosting recipe

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Triple the taste grilled cheese sandwich   

Nifty trick for the cheesiest comfort food in town!

If I were asked to name my family’s favourite food, my answer would definitely be cheese. We share a love of many different varieties of cheese and as a result, it gets incorporated into my cooking on a very regular (ok, daily) basis. One of our all-time favourite meals is grilled cheese and while many people tend to think of it as a lunch option, we quite enjoy it for breakfast too. The add-ins are different every time; sometimes it’s sliced apples or pears; other times, it’s onions and bacon or spicy salami. We’ve even been known to cut a grilled cheese sandwich into little squares and use them as croutons on soup or in salad.

However you like to prepare grilled cheese, be prepared for a mind-blowing (or at least taste bud-blowing) twist. I’m now making my sandwiches with cheese on the inside AND the outside! I was pleased to work with Canadian dairy powerhouse Armstrong Cheese to develop this flavourful, protein-packed recipe. If you think my love of cheese is strong, you should learn about theirs! Remember, you need great-tasting cheese to make a memorable grilled cheese sandwich; Armstrong’s been making quality, natural cheese since 1902 so you know you just can’t go wrong with any of their products. Follow the steps below and discover an innovative new way to boost your love of grilled cheese and if you enjoy this recipe, check out this pulled pork beauty on the Armstrong Cheese website.

recipe for a better grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients for one sandwich

  • Two slices of bread *
  • 1 slice of Armstrong Monterey Jack with Jalapeno (or other sliced cheese)
  • Butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) Armstrong grated Cheddar, divided

* use whatever bread your family prefers; if the loaf is dense, it’s better to slice it a bit more thinly so the cheese in the middle will melt more efficiently.

Method

  • Preheat non-stick frying pan over medium heat.
  • While pan heats, lightly butter one side of each bread slice (the outsides, if you fit them together so they match in terms of shape).
  • Place one bread slice, buttered side down, in the preheated pan. Lay the sliced cheese on top. Cover with the second slice of bread, buttered side up.
  • Cook for 3 – 4 minutes until bottom of sandwich is golden brown and cheese in the middle is beginning to melt. Flip and cook for 3 – 4 minutes more, until other side is golden.
  • Lift sandwich out of the pan and sprinkle 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the grated cheddar into the pan, approximately in the shape of a bread slice. Lay the sandwich on top of the grated cheese. Reduce heat to medium low.
  • Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, until grated cheddar is melted and getting crispy, then gently loosen sandwich with the edge of a plastic or silicone spatula. Flip sandwich then lift out of pan and add remaining grated cheddar to the centre of the pan. Lay sandwich over top and cook for 2 -3 minutes more.
  • Remove sandwich from pan, cut in half and serve immediately with your favourite accessories. I won’t judge if you select ketchup, but pickles > ketchup. Always.

Note: I received product and compensation from Armstrong Cheese to develop this recipe and blog post but opinions expressed are, as always, completely my own.

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Plant-powered pasta sauce

A delicious option for vegans and omnivores alike!

In my quest to wean my menfolk off their long-standing habit of eating meat every day, I’ve learned a few tricks that are proving quite effective. First and foremost is that I never announce when the meal we are about to enjoy is vegetarian or vegan. If I did, I know they’d be putting up mental roadblocks, even before they’ve tasted their first bite. This pasta sauce is a perfect case in point. It’s delicious, satisfying and filled with familiar flavours; the lentils, carrots and mushrooms also add a nice bit of texture that an unsuspecting eater might assume comes from ground meat. I’ve put this dish into regular rotation and have had zero complaints so I guess that means they haven’t figured out yet that what they’ve been consuming with gusto is plant-powered. If this dish is a hit, you might want to check out my vegan shepherd’s pie – another sneaky meatless family favourite.

This plant powered pasta sauce is packed with lentils and loads of vegetables

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 cup (250 mL) diced onion
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) diced green pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced garlic
  • 2 cups (500 mL) finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup (250 mL) finely shredded carrot
  • 2 cups (500 mL) finely shredded zucchini
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) red lentils, rinsed and checked for stones
  • 1 can (796 mL or 28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup (250 mL) passata (seedless tomato puree) or tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) dry red wine or water
  • 1/8 teaspoon (.65 mL) baking soda *
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) each dried oregano, basil, thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) each salt, pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) tabasco / hot sauce (or to taste)

* I put a little bit of baking soda in all my tomato-based sauces; it helps to neutralize the tomatoes’ natural acidity

To serve:

  • 6 servings (uncooked) spaghettini or other pasta shape
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • To garnish: fresh basil or parsley, chopped; fresh grated Parmesan-style cheese (dairy free or regular)

Method

  • Have all vegetables prepped before you begin cooking.
  • Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and let warm for a minute. Add onion and green pepper and cook, stirring often, for 3 – 4 minutes, until onion has softened. Add garlic plus a little more oil if pan looks dry and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes more.
  • Add mushrooms to pan and increase heat slightly. Cook, stirring frequently, for 4 – 5 minutes, until mushrooms have released their moisture and are beginning to soften.
  • Add carrot and zucchini; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  • Add lentils, canned tomatoes, passata or tomato sauce, baking soda, seasonings and wine or water. Stir to blend then let come to a boil. Cover pot then reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 25 – 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Check the sauce a few times during cooking and add another tablespoon or two of wine or water if it looks like it’s getting thicker than you prefer.
  • When lentils are soft, taste cause and adjust seasonings as needed; reduce heat to minimum and keep covered.
  • If making ahead, sauce can be refrigerated or frozen at this point and reheated when pasta is cooking.
  • When sauce is ready, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt as it is warming up. Add pasta and cook until just al dente (time will depend upon shape of pasta you use). Just before draining cooked pasta, scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the sauce.
  • Drain pasta, top with sauce, chopped fresh herbs and cheese and serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

This delicious pasta sauce is packed with loads of vegetables plus lentils for protein

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Laotian-style chicken Larb bowl

A healthy, flavourful meal that takes just minutes to make!

The more I learn about Asian cuisine, the more impressed I am by what a flavour party so many dishes are. This meal is a great case in point. Before we move on to the recipe, I’m going to share a little secret: this dish was inspired by something I saw on a recent episode of Queer Eye. I don’t watch much television, preferring books to screens in my leisure time, but that show is one of my guilty pleasures. Larb (in Lao: ລາບ) – a seasoned meat salad typically served in lettuce leaf cups – is often called the unofficial national dish of Laos and has counterparts in many other cuisines including those of Thailand, Myanmar and the Yunnan region of China. It’s simple, flavourful and so satisfying. We tried this dish two ways – in lettuce cups and in bowl format – and decided we preferred the bowls because they were a lot less messy to eat. Note that you can definitely cook the meat ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it then reheat at serving time.

seasoned ground meat served with fresh herbs and pickled onions

Ingredients

Seasoned ground meat:

  • 2 cups (500 mL) thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) rice or cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 lbs (900 g) ground chicken (can use turkey, pork, beef or lamb if you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) finely minced garlic
  • 6 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
  • 1 – 2 red chili peppers, thinly sliced (remove seeds to reduce heat, if desired)
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free version)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) sambal oelek or sriracha (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) maple syrup

To serve:

  • 2 cups (500 mL) cooked white rice (optional but makes the dish more filling)
  • Bibb, Boston or Butter lettuce leaves (from 1 – 2 heads); washed, dried and chilled
  • Lime wedges
  • Fresh cilantro, basil and mint leaves
  • Additional sambal oelek or sriracha, if desired

Method

  • Place the sliced red onion in a broad shallow dish. Heat the vinegar in the microwave or a small saucepan and pour over the onion. Toss the mixture with two forks and set aside to pickle the onions, tossing again every 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the oil to a large, broad saucepan placed over medium heat. Let warm for a few minutes then add the ground chicken. Stir to break up clumps and cook, stirring often, until chicken is no longer pink.
  • Add garlic, green onion, sliced chilies and black pepper to the ground chicken; stir to blend well and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, sambal oelek and maple syrup; stir to blend well.
  • Continue to cook uncovered, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes or until liquid is almost gone.
  • While mixture finishes cooking, drain the pickled red onions and set out garnishes out so guests can assemble their own bowls.
  • To serve, line 6 broad bowls with lettuce leaves. Place 1/3 cup hot cooked rice (if using) in the centre of each bowl and top with cooked meat.
  • Invite guests to squeeze fresh lime over top and add pickled onions, herbs and additional sambal oelek if desired.

Serves 6.

seasoned ground meat with pickled onions, lettuce and fresh herbs

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