The Main Menu: January is the time for hearty, inexpensive meals for winter

Red lentil soup is a hearty and inexpensive meal for the winter.


The news is full of depressing information of rising grocery costs, as if we need to be reminded. Each shopping trip is a surprise. Each grocery bill reflects ever increasing costs.

With that in mind, I turned to “experts” in keeping costs down, my grandmother Ada Cargill, a product of the depression with three hungry boys and a husband to feed on a shrinking or non- existent pay cheque and my friends who have long known the value of pulses — the most nutritious but most reasonable protein available.

You don’t need to feel hard done by with these recipes. They are perfect for winter: hearty, satisfying and tasty. They also have the added advantage of being inexpensive!

Ada’s Corn Chowder

This was a favourite winter warmer my mother used to make from a recipe of my grandmother.

My mother served it with a hearty loaf of oatmeal bread or soda bread. Recipe follows.

Please note evaporated milk whether whole or skim is an excellent source of calcium with the taste and feel of cream but with none of the fat. Due to the evaporation process the milk seems richer and creamier than milk.

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated or finely chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated or finely chopped
1/4 cup (75 mL) barley
Water to cover
1 bay leaf
1 can 19 oz/540 mL creamed corn or 2 cups (500 mL) corn Niblets
1 can 354 mL/ evaporated milk
1/4 tsp ( 1 mL) black pepper
Paprika (optional)

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven combine onions, carrots, potatoes, barley and water. Bring to the boil; reduce heat to simmer and cook until barley is tender, about 30 – 35 minutes.

Stir in bay leaf, creamed corn or corn, milk and black pepper. Simmer until hot, (but do not boil) about 5 minutes. Ready to serve. My grandmother always sprinkled the chowder with paprika to make it seem “fancy.” Makes 4-6 servings.

Whole Wheat Soda Bread

This simply made bread goes together in minutes producing a satisfying loaf in an hour, an ideal companion to soup.

For easy slicing, allow bread to cool. Bread may be wrapped well and frozen for up to 6 months.

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
2 cups (500 mL) whole wheat flour
1 cup (250 mL) quick oats
1/4 cup (50 mL) seeds: poppy, sunflower or sesame
2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) milk mixed with 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice OR mixture milk and natural yogurt
1/3 cup (75 mL) honey or molasses

Line a 9-inch (23 cm) loaf pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 (180 C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, oats, seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Stir in milk and honey just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 50 – 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack. Remove from pan and discard parchment paper. Makes 1( 9-inch loaf) about 12 slices.

NOTE: If you prefer, soda bread is frequently shaped into a disc, scored with a knife then baked in a circular free-form shape on a baking sheet. It may reduce cooking time by a few minutes.

Lentil Soup

Red lentils in this soup dissolve to produce a thickened, creamy soup – there are numerous versions of this soup depending on the country of origin and your personal preference. Whichever recipe you choose, know that lentils are a wonderful source of inexpensive protein and are high in fibre.

Make sure you rinse your lentils thoroughly before cooking them. The rinse water should be clear before you add the lentils to the soup.

Serve with a slice of the whole grain bread and you have a budget friendly meal!

2 tbsp (25 mL) olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup (250 mL) red lentils, thoroughly rinsed
2 tsp (10 mL) oregano
1 bay leaf
1 L (4 cups) chicken stock, additional water if necessary
1 can (28 oz/796 mL) diced tomatoes
1 tbsp (15 mL) wine vinegar
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt and black pepper

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high. Cook onions and garlic until softened about 3 minutes. Stir in carrots, lentils, oregano, bay leaf and chicken stock. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes until lentils are soft.

Stir in tomatoes, wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Continue cooking another 10 minutes to blend flavours. If soup is very thick add water to desired consistency. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Discard bay leaf. Ladle soup into serving bowls.

Makes 6 servings.

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