Starting all over

Cynthia Stone
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It physically hurt to type “2014” just then. The years are flying by in a way that my elder relatives have always described but that I never appreciated before quite recently. Does that make me the elder relative now?

I know I need a lot more time to recover from celebrations than I used to. And if I were smarter than I am, I’d eat better all the time.

No, this isn’t a resolution column. I can’t be anyone else’s conscience anymore. But if you want to take me up on a couple of these more modest recipes than you’ve been enjoying recently, I’m only too pleased to share.

Asian-Maple Glazed Salmon

I don’t know about you, but I’m a little tired of the kitchen and I’ve not settled into the slow-cooker winter yet, so this is the recipe for me tonight. Quick, easy, satisfying and nutritious, salmon will never let you down when you’re feeling just a little less than adequate.

Allow 5-oz. per portion, although this is absolutely fantastic left over, even cold, so don’t hesitate to buy a bit extra when it’s on sale.

4 salmon steaks or fillets, skin left on but scales removed

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder, available in most grocery stores

1/2 tsp. sriracha hot sauce, or other hot sauce you like

Line a baking dish with foil and coat with non-stick spray. Lay salmon, skin side down, in a single layer on the foil. Combine maple syrup, soy sauce, five-spice powder and sriracha and spoon on top of the salmon.

Bake at 425 F for 5 minutes. Spoon the sauce that’s in the bottom of the pan over the top of the fish and continue baking for 10 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with a fork but is not dry.

Serve with noodles or rice and fresh broccoli.

Weeknight Chicken Soup

Soup doesn’t have to be an all-day affair. I make this one after I get home from work and it’s ready by the time I’ve fed the dog, changed my clothes, watched the news and washed up any breakfast dishes in the sink.

This is nutritious and delicious and you will feel like you’ve done yourself and your family a big favour by putting it on the dinner table.

You don’t have time to develop tons of flavour, so you must up the quantity of ingredients to get the most out of them. Naturally bone-in chicken makes better broth, but this isn’t the time to fuss over that — boneless skinless is the way to go.

This amount serves four, but keeps well for lunches in the fridge for a few days.

2 medium carrots, divided

2 ribs celery, divided

1 medium onion, unpeeled, quartered

6 dried bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)

1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups boiling water

4 cups chicken broth (or decent instant bouillon)

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

3 baby bok choy

1/2 cup orzo, ditalini or other small pasta

Wash one carrot, one celery rib and the onion. Don’t bother peeling them, just hack them up into half a dozen pieces each and dump in a soup pot. Add bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Add boiling water and broth and bring to a boil. Cook for as long as you have, although any more than 30 minutes is a bonus.

Add the chicken breasts, just as they are, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Fish everything out of the broth with a slotted spoon or strain in a colander. Peel and finely chop the second carrot and celery stalk and add to the pot liquor; boil 15 minutes. Chop the stalks of the bok choy fairly finely and the leaves coarsely. Add to pot along with pasta.

Shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add back to the pot. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as necessary. When the pasta is cooked through, serve.

Spicy Supper Quesadillas

These make me feel like I’m on vacation. They’re perfect for a weeknight, especially if you’re in the mood to eat in front of the TV. The kids will love these, too, but reduce the heat by cutting back on the hot peppers if that’s a concern.

Black beans will keep quite a while in a sealed container in the fridge and you can add them to just about any casserole or soup. They also freeze well to keep for a pot of chili later.

You can make the filling the night before, although it only takes a few minutes to open a couple of cans and do a little light chopping. If you do prepare it in advance, leave out the cilantro until just before you cook these.

My preference for quesadillas is corn tortillas, but they are a little harder to find, so feel free to use flour if that’s what you have. This amount of filling makes about eight quesadillas, plenty for the family, maybe even with some leftover.

1/2 19-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained well

1 small can corn kernels, drained well

1 green onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeno peppers

2 cups shredded Mexican style or sharp cheddar cheese

2 tsp. chili powder, hot or mild

1 tsp. cornstarch

1 handful fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (optional)     

1 cup each bottled salsa and sour cream

Combine beans, corn, onion, jalapenos and cheese. Stir together chili powder, cornstarch and cilantro and sprinkle over bean mixture.

Combine thoroughly and divide among 8 large tortillas. Fold each one over to enclose the filling and fry in oil until golden brown on one side; flip and brown on the other. Serve with salsa and sour cream on the side.

Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.

Organizations: The Telegram

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