Feast your way through February

Meatballs make a hearty casserole. PHOTO: Flickr

February is the time of year when we crave food to keep us warm – especially after outdoor activities. We want something to spice up our taste buds and take notice – and of course, a flavoursome recipe easy to prepare that will be popular with everyone. Try these suggestions from Foodland Ontario. They are fast, nutritious and ever so tasty!

Carrot and Farro Salad

This hearty salad is packed with nutrition, colour and taste. It is delicious as an accompaniment to a main course but leftovers make a substantial lunch the next day. Look for the grain, farro, in the Bulk Barn or in large supermarkets. Farro is available as a whole grain, semi-pearled and pre-cooked. It can take 10 to 30 minutes to cook depending on the type you buy. Semi-pearled means that some of the outer, tough bran layer is removed. If farro is unavailable, you can substitute barley in this recipe.

Tip: Although shallots are readily available, if you don’t have them on hand, simply substitute a small diced onion and crushed garlic. A member of the onion family, they have a mild flavour with a hint of garlic.

1 cup (250 mL) semi-pearled farro, or barley

2 cups (500 mL) diced carrots, about 2 large

1 can (19 oz/ 540 mL) black- beans or favourite bean drained and rinsed

3/4 cup (175 ml) crumbled feta cheese

1/3 cup (75 mL) finely chopped green shallot or green onion

1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped fresh parsley


1/4 cup (40 mL) cider vinegar

1 tbsp (15 ml) liquid honey

1 1/2 tbs (7 mL) Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and pepper

1/3 cup (75 mL) vegetable oil

Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add farro and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until tender but somewhat chewy, adding carrots in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Meanwhile, in large bowl, whisk together vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper, gradually whisking in oil until blended. Drain farro mixture and add to bowl; toss with dressing to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. Stir in beans, cheese, shallot and parsley; toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Baked Meatball Casserole

This casserole is bound to please, especially if the young cooks help in the preparation. Get them involved by shaping the meatballs, shredding cheese and combining the sauce. An ice-cream scoop helps in shaping the meatballs and making them a consistent size. If “passata” is unavailable, simply puree a can of diced tomatoes in a blender or food processor. The recipe doubles easily if you are making it for a crowd. It may also be frozen once cooled, simply cover with plastic wrap and overwrap with foil. Date, label and freeze for up to 2 months.  Serve with garlic bread, pasta and a green salad.


2 cloves, crushed garlic

1 egg

1/4 cup (50 mL) milk

1/4 cup (50 mL) dry breadcrumbs

1 tsp (5 mL)    dried basil leaves

1/4 tsp (1 mL) each, salt and pepper

1 lb (500 g) lean ground beef


1 bottle (685 mL) passata, strained tomatoes

1 carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded

1 small onion, peeled and grated

1 clove, crushed garlic

1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried basil

1/4 tsp (1 ml) each, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup (250 mL) shredded Mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup (50 mL) fresh basil leaves, torn (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 F (220 C). Spray 11 x 7 inch (2 L) baking dish with baking spray; set aside. In large bowl, using fork, stir together garlic, egg, milk bread crumbs, basil, salt and pepper. Add beef to this mixture and combine just until blended. Shape into 12 even sized meatballs. Arrange in baking dish and bake 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, stir together tomatoes, carrot, onion garlic, basil, salt and pepper until evenly blended. Pour mixture evenly over meatballs and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20- 30 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through and cheese has melted. Top with fresh basil leaves if available and serve immediately. Casserole may be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated. Re-heat in a preheated 350 F (180 C) oven for 30 – 40 minutes or until heated through. Makes 4 servings.


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