by Kathy Humphrey
The first of May brings a number of arcane folk sayings and traditions, giving us all something to occupy our minds while unravelling ourselves from the May Pole. One that pops to mind is the British chestnut “Cast ne’er a clout till May is out,” which must bring great relief to clouts everywhere, whatever they are.
May day is also International Workers Day, a time to honour workers all over the world. May Day is more than a day on the calendar, it is also an internationally recognized distress call— “Mayday! Mayday!”—sent out from sinking ships in a desperate bid for rescue.
Finally, May (busy little month that it is) brings us Mother’s Day, a traditional reminder to take some time and show some love to the mamas in our lives. Hmmm, I sense a theme developing (especially as I have a sneaking suspicion that a clout is a dishtowel of some sort).
Take May’s invitation to spread the work around and give some help to the one who, statistically speaking at least, often does the bulk of it. Let’s move families into the kitchen, cooking together, and lighten the mother’s load by sharing the mother-lode of chores—meal preparation and clean up!
Another Quick Pasta Dish
1/2 package penne pasta (or other pasta, similarly shaped and sized)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (more if using vegetarian option below or turkey)
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, finely sliced
4 spicy sausages (Italian mild or hot, turkey or not, or veggie substitution), cut into 1"-long chunks
2 red peppers, seeded and finely slivered
1 green pepper, prepared the same
3 large tomatoes, diced (or one 14-ounce tin)
1-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried basil (or 1/2 tsp caraway seeds)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, cubed
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, if desired
Prepare penne as per package directions. In a separate deep skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add onion; stir frequently, until soft and golden. Stir in garlic, then add mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are golden and wilting. Stir in peppers. Sauté with other vegetables until softened. Scoop onion mixture to one side of the skillet. Add sausage pieces to the rest. Cook, until browned, turning every few minutes so that the pieces cook evenly. Stir into onion mixture. Add tomatoes. Mix well. Add basil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and ingredients have melded together. Remove from heat: stir in mozzarella cubes. Toss with drained pasta, and serve. (Pass Parmesan at the table, if using.)
Pat’s Bowl Noodle Soup (for 4)
2 packages udon noodles
1 litre chicken/vegetable broth
4 handfuls spinach leaves (about 1/2 small clamshell package)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
1 carrot, julienned
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
chicken filets, or 1/2 package tofu
4 Tbsp soya sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
Heat broth. Add 2 Tbsp soya sauce. In small skillet, heat vegetable oil: stir fry garlic and ginger, add chicken/tofu. Stir 2 Tbsp soya sauce and sesame oil while cooking. Set aside. Place spinach leaves at bottom of 4 large bowls. Break apart noodles, stir into broth, with broccoli and carrot over top of broth on steamer. Steam for 8-10 minutes or until tender-crisp. Spoon equal portions of broth, noodles and vegetables into each bowl. Top with tofu or chicken: serve.
4 whole wheat soft tortillas
1 tin refried beans
1 cup salsa
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 carrot, finely grated
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small zucchini, grated
1 cup mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 package medium tofu, or ground beef or turkey
1 cup grated cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2-3 Tbsp chili powder
3 tsp cumin
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
salt and pepper
sour cream to serve, if desired
In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions: cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes or until softening. Meanwhile, in bowl, mix refried beans with 1 Tbsp chili powder and 1 tsp cumin. Add garlic to onions: cook for several minutes. Add carrots, zucchini and mushrooms: cook, stirring often to combine. If using meat, brown in separate pan over medium-high heat. Stir 2 Tbsp chili powder, 2 tsp cumin and cayenne into the vegetable mixture. Mix well, ensuring seasonings evenly distributed. Stir in tofu, mashing slightly with a fork (alternately, add meat from other skillet now). Cook for 3-4 minutes, until mixture has come together into cohesive mass. Taste: adjust for seasoning, adding more chili powder if necessary. Remove from heat: stir in salsa. Spread each tortilla with thin layer of refried beans. Spoon 1/2-1 cup (depending on size of tortillas) of vegetable mix over beans. Top with cheese: fold tortilla together. Serve with sour cream if desired.
Kathy Humphrey lives in Victoria with her husband and two children. She tries to see cooking for a family not as a chore but as a creative outlet.