Dinner Ideas

Vegetable and Barley Soup



Once you have your stock made; any soup is an option. I have a few soups listed under Recipes or there are a few hundred million listed online to choose from.

By the way, while I’m here, I’ve discovered something about Pinterest. Pinterest is incredibly wonderful for some things but not good for food. From time to time, I’ve found something interesting on Pinterest that I want to make and it never works out. I realize that’s because people are pinning things to try; they aren’t tried and tested recipes. Maybe I’m a bit late to the game but I thought I’d share my “duh” moment with you. Food52.com is a great site that is way more reliable. As is allrecipes.com and epicurious.com.

A vegetable and barley soup is a hearty meal that will boost your immune system and keep you satiated. It has beans in it, making it a complete protein; you can add in some whole grain bread to soak up the bowl. Add a little butter and you have a delicious meal.

Vegetable and Barley Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
4 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery with leaves, diced (reserve leaves separately)
3 bay leaves
½ tsp dried thyme
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
28oz can plum tomatoes, with juice
¾ cup pot barley
3 cups thinly sliced kale or spinach (optional)
19oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Dash hot sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper(to taste)


Heat oil in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring constantly, until vegetables are soft and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add bay leaves, thyme, stock, tomatoes with juices and barley. Stir, breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If using, stir in kale or spinach and simmer for a further 10 minutes, or until leaves have wilted. Stir in beans, celery leaves, hot sauce and seasoning.

Discard bay leaves and thin soup if necessary with more stock or water. Raise heat to high and cook for about 2 minutes or until beans are warmed through.

Recipe adapted from The Toronto Star


Happy March 1st!


It’s finally here. March is finally here. Just one more week until we “spring forward”. Now there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this is welcome news, we still have a long way to go and getting through the Spring we need to ensure that our immune system is up to scratch to protect from those Springtime bugs that come up with the flowers as the temperature rises.

The best way to improve the the immune system is to eat whole foods and avoid processed foods. Garlic, onions, mushrooms, ginger and honey are all fabulous. As well, some spices such as oregano, cinnamon, cloves and turmeric.

How to incorporate as many of these as possible is to make a soup, perfect for this time of year. Using your own stock is even better and will fix up any sniffles over the next few weeks.

Start a day earlier by roasting a chicken. A whole lot easier than it sounds. In a baking dish, drizzle the bottom with olive oil and place the chicken on top. In the cavity, put in some salt, pepper, lemon quarters and whole garlic cloves. On the outside, rub some salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil under the skin and on top of the skin. Cover with foil and place in a preheated oven (350ºF) for 1 hour. Remove foil and cook for a further 15 minutes until the chicken is browned and the juices run clear.

Save all the bones from the roast chicken. If you are not making the stock right away, save the bones in the fridge. When you are ready, place the bones in a pot and add in a carrot, roughly chopped onion, garlic cloves, salt and pepper and whole sprigs of parsley. Cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. Cool and strain into a jar and keep in the fridge.

This is the best stock you can use for soup, a guaranteed flavourful soup full of immune boosting nutrients.

Top up your immunity further by taking a good quality probiotic in the morning, a drop of vitamin D (1000IU) and a teaspoon of pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

Then. Get Ready for Spring!

What do I do with …… Greek Yogurt?

My favourite yogurt is – and I’m not making this up – 2% plain organic yogurt. You can’t get simpler. Yet it’s incredibly difficult to find. I hunt through shelves and shelves of flavoured, zero fat, conventional brands before I find what I want. On the other hand, organic and yogurt have both exploded so much in recent years that it is possible, with the customary hunt of course, to find them everywhere, even Walmart.

I embarked on a hunt yesterday and came away proud that I’d found what I wanted in a short time. Remember, I almost always have 2 kids trailing me so time is of the essence. Here’s the product I bought:

Greek Yogurt

Plain? Check
2%? Check
Organic? No. But it definitely perceives itself as organic and caught me out.
Regular? No. It’s Greek. It’s all Greek these days. I never even noticed this point.

I’m not a fan of Greek so this bothers me. I like to mix my yogurt with agave nectar and flax seed and pouring it over chopped fruit. You add flax seed to greek yogurt and you’d need a knife to cut it. Leave it for a few minutes and it would turn into  a brick.

Now I have this container of Greek yogurt in my fridge that I’m wondering what to do with. It’s actually a very healthy food, despite the fact that it isn’t organic. Greek yogurt is much higher in protein while significantly lower in sodium, carbs and sugar. It is higher in fat which explains the enormous selection of low-fat and fat-free varieties. I prefer the versions with some fat since fat helps the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium which can sometimes be the sole reason that some people eat yogurt.

It is also very frequently dressed up by manufacturers in the Food Industry. So many varieties I see contain artificial flavours, artificial colours, preservatives, GMOs or added sugar. One variety I found in the store contained 26 grams of sugar in one serving. No, that’s not a typo. It’s unbelievable.

So please be careful of what you choose and make sure you read the ingredients and the sugar levels. Once you’ve done that, Greek yogurt, with its thick creamy tang, can be used in many dishes.

— Try it in potato or pasta salad instead of mayonnaise.
— Add garlic, dill and parsley to taste and serve as a dip with crackers or raw vegetable sticks.
— Substitute it for sour cream in taco or burritos.
— Use it as a sandwich spread

With my container, I’m going to use some as a marinade for chicken pieces. The yogurt acts like a tenderizer resulting in great flavour and texture. Simply mix the marinade ingredients together and toss over the chicken pieces for 2 hours or overnight. Then grill or bake up the chicken as normal. Delicious!

Yogurt marinaded chicken1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
1 grated lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp salt



A day for curried parsnips

I’m wondering what to make for dinner and as I do I gaze out of the window. And watch the snow fall.

The snow fall.

The snow fall.


It’s March 27th.

Suddenly I lose all motivation. I can’t believe it’s still snowing, it feels like the winter will never come to an end.

There’s only one thing for it. Curried parsnips for dinner. Which is about as close I can think of to get to eating candy for dinner without actually eating candy.

To accompany our sweet parsnips, I throw a lentil and walnut loaf I hav in the freezer in the oven to offset nutrient deficiencies without requiring any effort on my part.

The parsnips don’t require much more effort;


1lb parnsips, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Transfer dressed parsnips to a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, checking and turning regularly at 375ºF.

Close the blinds, pretend the snow isn’t happening and enjoy your parsnip candy.


Keeping the Whole Family Happy

One of the reasons “Zoë’s Kitchen” was born was because I was tired of a turned up nose every time dinner time came around. It’s been a wonderful project to have both of my girls more involved in the preparation of dinner and they do appreciate the food more.

However, I still hit a wall when I try to serve them some kind of salad. They don’t do lentils in any form, barley is a no-no unless it’s in a soup and beets are way too brightly coloured to be sensible food (don’t talk to me about brightly coloured crayons, I don’t have an answer to that).

Still, I refuse to stop making salads. I know how important it is for the girls to see what we eat and enjoy and their tastes will develop as they grow older. In the meantime, I have to include something on the table that they will like with the ultimate goal being able to sit and enjoy dinner with the whole family without having to get up. Haven’t achieved it 100% yet but ever hopeful!

Tonight’s dinner was Barley and Lentil Salad with Beets. It’s a one-pot sustaining dish that is yummy but the girls, I know, wouldn’t touch it. So I defrosted some soup I had in the freezer and served it alongside a basket of bread. Following the principles that Ellyn Satter outlines in her books, it’s important to have something on the table that everybody will eat. Even if it is bread – be patient and the bread will become boring and the interest for the salad will pique. I’ve seen this happen in my older daughter – who will now venture into a green salad – but that’s not to say I wasn’t doubtful along the way. It’s hard to imagine, but rest assured – it will!

Meanwhile, the Lentil and Barley Salad was delicious. It wasn’t based on a strict recipe – as salad so isn’t but it’s something like this:


1 cup pot barley, cooked*
1 cup lentils, cooked*
1 cup cubed beets, cooked*
1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup sliced red onion
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1/2 fennel, chopped (optional)
3 miniature sweet peppers, alternative colours, chopped
2 cups shredded arugula
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
6oz chopped goat cheese

Salad Dressing:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp mustard
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/8 cup flax oil (can substitute with extra-virgin olive oil)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Set your ingredients out so everything is ready to mix together.

Set your ingredients out so everything is ready to mix together.

Always keep an eye on toasting nuts. Pine nuts can go from pale to burnt in seconds

Always keep an eye on toasting nuts. Pine nuts can go from pale to burnt in seconds

In a stainless steel skillet over a medium heat, brown pine nuts, then set aside to cool.









I love my Magic Bullet for making dressings.

I love my Magic Bullet for making dressings.

Make salad dressing using a blender or chopping all ingredients finely and shaking vigorously in a mason jar. Set aside.

Chop vegetables (carrot, celery, fennel if using, onion and peppers). Set aside in a small bowl. Prepare torn arugula and cilantro and set aside.

Mix cooled barley and lentils together in a large bowl. Pour in enough dressing to coat and flavour ingredients. Add in cubed beets and mix until pink hue spreads evenly. Add in pine nuts, carrot, celery, onion, peppers and cilantro.

Distribute salad on a serving platter and sprinkle crumbled goat cheese over top.


Colourful, nutritious and delicious salad.

Colourful, nutritious and delicious salad.


Note: Flavour intensifies over time so make sure you save some for tomorrow’s lunch. These types of salads are even better the next day.

* Cook barley in salted water for 45 minutes, then drain. Cook lentils until soft (30-40 minutes) in salted water, drain. Scrub beets and roast with skins in 400ºF oven for approx 1 hour. Let cool slightly before peeling and chopping.

An alternative to juicing

Carrots, Beets, Apple

I’ve been wanting a juicer for a long time. But I have neither the budget nor the counter space to accommodate one. So I continue to pretend it doesn’t matter because I have my blender and make plenty of green smoothies in it.

I realized tonight that as I looked a beet, some carrots and an apple on my counter (3 very popular juicing ingredients), that I could grate them with the grating attachment on my food processor (you can also do it by hand if you have the patience).

Homemade coleslaw is the bomb. And so, so, so much better for you and tastier than the store bought stuff. Make it at least an hour before you want to eat it and all the raw vegetables soften up, sweeten up together and are so yummy. Probably better than a juice!

Food Processor Coleslaw

This is  my favourite coleslaw recipe but feel free to cut out the red cabbage and bump up the beets and carrots.

Coleslaw Recipe

Zoë’s Kitchen – Fajitas

Eating as a family has been studied and proved to increase children’s vocabulary, concentration and behaviour. It’s also a great form of downtime where everybody can enjoy each other’s company and feel connected.

Even though we eat dinner every night together, engaging the kids in their meal can sometimes be a challenge. So building their own food gives even the Zoë’s Kitchen concept a further step forward.

Fajitas are always a favourite with kids. Simple to prep, they do the legwork at the table and keeping them occupied cuts down on the whining that often comes with dinner.

Whether it was the autonomy or the recipe, I don’t know. But I’m not sure I care too much. This dinner was a hit!

Chicken Fajitas

Zoe's Kitchen - Fajitas

4 large tortillas
2 chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 large onion, sliced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lime, juiced
1/2 tsp each of: sea salt, cumin, chili pepper
¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
Sliced peppers, red, orange or green
1/2 can black beans dressed with vinaigrette
Mixed greens
Sour cream

Marinade chicken strips in onion, oil, lime juice, spices and cilantro.

In a skillet, sauté chicken and onions until cooked, 5-10 minutes. Warm tortillas in skillet (keep the chicken warm) or in an oven. Prepare toppings in individual bowls.

Fill each tortillas as desired. Roll up and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes Food and Cooking Blog