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Sunday cooking

Sunday quote

Sunday is our day of rest and often, indulgence. Sunday brunch, full of rich creamy dishes and comfort food – an excuse to jam all the best parts of breakfast and lunch into one occasion, not to mention allowing cocktails and dessert as part of the menu as well, just because, well, it’s Sunday 🙂 Then there’s Sunday dinner: the roast beast and all the trimmings. Granted, most of us are used to having this meal with numerous family members (not always good for the digestion) but a larger group allows for economies of scale in cooking… and it makes for good sandwiches in the coming week! Sunday roastIt often means a few more calories consumed, but we’ll be back at the workouts on Monday, won’t we?

At Rabbit Hollow, we often work Sundays, so the brunch happens whenever we have a day off, which might just as easily be Tuesday. With only the two of us for family close by, we don’t tend to do a large dinner either. But I often take on baking projects if I’m not out in the garden on a Sunday, so I thought I might share some of those favourites during the Spring Break season. With kids home all week, you could even take on these recipes on a weekday!

A fun item to add to any breakfast or brunch is a muffin, and I have a great, healthy (but tasty!) recipe – Banana Bran Muffins. Leftovers are great to take to work with coffee, too.

I made Chocolate Coffee Cake this week. A friend posted a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens blog, one of their most popular items. I thought why not? Martin, my husband, loves coffee cake. Well, it’s an all-afternoon project with dough that needs rising, but if you don’t mind the start-and-stop, the result is pretty wonderful. He loved it for brunch this morning.

Cookies are always good to have on hand, and fun to share at the office or with friends. One of my faves is a recipe I kind of made up, Tropical Delight Cookies . If you are feeling down about not getting away to a more exotic destination, these might help lift your spirits. This is an easy recipe that the kids can make, too – just in case they are driving you crazy being underfoot at home.

exotic Sunday brunch

If you’re more the savoury type, but you still want to feel that exotic sense of wonder, how about Chicken with Cinnamon & Dates ? It’s a great way to jazz up any night’s dinner.

A tradition that we had when I was growing up was for each of us kids to cook one meal a week. Spring Break is a good time to start that if you haven’t already… Sundays work well, too. Kids can start out chopping veggies or assembling salad, and then as they get older (and taller) they can work their way up to preparing dishes for the oven, or cooking at the stove. Carrots with coriander and caraway is a great first recipe for kids – simple, fast and tasty.

Even something as straight-forward as flavoured popcorn can be a family cooking experience. If Sunday brunch or dinner seems too much, try just getting everyone together for a pick on Netflix and then adding a bit of zip to your popcorn or pretzels or nuts. Spice blends are fun to play with – you can try the ones in your cupboard (cajun popcorn or pretzels? smoked salt on toasted almonds?) by just adding a drizzle of butter or olive oil. Toasting nuts a bit first really brings out their flavour – about 5 minutes at 400F will usually do it. If you don’t have any mixes, think of flavours you like – spicy hot? herbs? (rosemary popcorn is fun). Cheese is a fun addition too – the powdered parmesan you get works great (look for real cheese, not the processed stuff in a can). You can mix it with other flavours or just add it on by itself.

Any effort you make in the kitchen is worth some quality time – it might just be a moment with a cookie and a glass of milk or a cup of tea, but especially if you can share that moment with a friend you have a chance to connect and catch up. In our busy world, that’s worth a few calories any day, if you ask me.

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Comfortable food

We have all heard the phrase “comfort food” but it has become something that has guilt attached to it now. Despite many of us languishing in the biting cold of the latest winter storms, feeling like we need a little love 😉 we are now programmed to feel badly if we have stew AND biscuits for dinner, as that is overly hearty. For a while it was okay if you simply added a glass of red wine with the meal (you have to love that French paradox !) but now the wave has shifted and popular opinion generally says you should eat lighter. So, in the interest of responding to this trend, I suggest a new variation: comfortable food.

Since moderation is something that doesn’t often go out of style, I propose that portion size might be an integral part of converting rich comfort food favorites to our new, healthier comfortable food. Simply serving up a smaller amount of a rich dish and perhaps adding a salad as a side dish ( instead of biscuits) is a wonderful way to enjoy just enough of a good thing instead of too much. How about having salad for dinner on its own? Composed salads, containing a bit of protein in the form of nuts, cheese or fish, are a light dinner that can help you recover from the sins of  yesterday or tomorrow.

Another idea is to look at new alternatives, and here is where we can really have some fun. I am not suggesting we need to go to slurping clear broth on its own, but if it’s flavorful then there is no punishment in that. Often spices can substitute for cream or butter when you want flavor intensified, so ethnic recipes can offer many options. Seasonal flavours also tend to be more intense – tomatoes in winter never taste nearly as glorious as they do in summer. Instead of chicken stew with dumplings how about Thai green curry with jasmine rice? You could change up fruit salsa on your fish for that buttery sauce (citrus salads as are fun in winter). Even desserts can be a bit lighter… How about an angel food cake with your fruit, and yogurt instead of custard for a shortcake? Having a sense of adventure can lead you down new paths and create new opportunities. This is a great way to enrich a child’s palate too, with new flavours and taste combinations.

Another healthful alternative and a great education for kids is to avoid processed foods. You can get more nutrients from foods without preservatives, and often you will save on sugar too. Even something as simple as making your own vinaigrette for salad can send you down a healthier path. Getting kids involved in the kitchen is the first step to a healthy and fun life of enjoying food.

When one of the popular TV chefs announces that they have diabetes it reminds everyone that none of us is immune. The good news is every little bit counts. A news report this week announced the obesity rate in the U.S. has dropped by half a percent to 26.1 percent of the population. That’s not a sweeping change but it’s a start. Hopefully Paula Deen will show us some of the lighter alternatives she chooses for her rich Southern recipes.

So, just because you put on your sweatpants this weekend, doesn’t mean you need to fill them out. Enjoy the taste, not the quantity, of the food, and think about how much extra comfort you really need.

Happy cooking!

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