All the Delicious Things I Cooked This Weekend

CC BY 2.0. Marco Verch -- A bowl of minestrone soup

With the outside world coated in ice, I holed up in the kitchen and restocked the fridge.

Ontario was blasted with ice and snow this past weekend, so my family and I stayed home, played multiple rounds of Bananagrams, drank a lot of tea, and cooked like maniacs. Weekends are our usual food prep time for the busy workweek, and with little else to do, we just prepped all the more. The result is a fridge bursting with delicious goodies and, best of all, peace of mind. There's no wondering what we're going to eat this week.

1. Cream of asparagus soup

Creamed vegetable soups are so easy to make. I generally choose a featured vegetable -- in this case, asparagus, but it could be broccoli, cauliflower, peas, squash, zucchini, even spinach -- and start by sweating some onions in a pan with olive oil. They cook at a low temperature until softened and translucent, then I add 1-2 chopped carrots, some celery, garlic, 2 peeled and diced potatoes. The potatoes add creaminess later without needing actual cream or milk (good for vegans or people like me avoiding dairy). Then I add the main vegetable, just enough stock to cover them, some spices and salt, and let it simmer. Use an immersion blender to puree it all. Thin with water or cream, if desired.

2. Minestrone soup

Can you tell it was a soup-y kind of weekend? This is a hearty main dish soup that I've loved all my life. I sauté a vegetable base that includes onions, carrots, red and green peppers, celery, zucchini, and whatever else I want to use up. Then I add a large can of tomatoes, stock, old Parmesan rinds, generous spoonfuls of dried oregano and basil, and let it simmer. Next go in kidney beans, shredded cabbage, sliced olives, marinated artichokes, and some tiny pasta like ditali, unless I get fancy and pre-cook cheese tortellini. Sausage is a tasty addition, but not necessary. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan on top.

3. Quinoa-Black Bean-Mango Salad

This recipe is from "Vegan for Everybody" by America's Test Kitchen, and I can't stop making it! It's a perfect big-batch salad that keeps well in the fridge and makes every lunch easier to pull together. The recipe features a zingy blended dressing made with lime juice, cumin, and jalapeño pepper that adds fabulous flavor to ingredients that can otherwise be somewhat bland.

4. Granola bars

It was my birthday last week, so a friend made dinner for my entire family and brought it to our house. (Please note: This is the most amazing present ever.) One of the things she brought was a pan of homemade granola bars. They disappeared within hours because we couldn't stop eating them. Since then, I asked for her recipe and have made them twice -- one pan for us, another for a friend who just had a baby. Here's how to make them:

Melt together:
1 cup nut butter (peanut, soy, sunflower, tahini)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 honey or maple syrup

Mix in bowl:
2 cups large-flake oats
2 cups Rice Krispies
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup other additions, like dried cranberries or chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Make sure the nut butter mixture is very hot. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir well. You want the chocolate chips to start melting, as this makes them tastier. Press the mixture into a parchment-lined 9x13 pan and put in the fridge. Let set, then cut into bars. Store in fridge.

5. Rosy Chicken

My family doesn't eat much meat anymore, especially chicken, which is very expensive when purchased from local organic farmers. This weekend, though, I splurged because I was cooking for the aforementioned friend with a new baby. I made two large pans of this delicious braised chicken, courtesy of Food52's fabulous cookbook, "A New Way to Dinner." It's made by layering sliced garlic, sliced tomatoes, and chicken, then topping with cherry tomatoes and pouring over rosé. It braises for an hour till the cherry tomatoes have begun to blacken and split, the skin is crispy and brown, and the house smells divine. It keeps well and will provide my family with three dinners.

6. Roasted zucchini with chile-mint sauce

The second part of the braised chicken menu included this roasted zucchini. Zucchini isn't a vegetable I usually think to roast, as it cooks so easily on the stove, but it's a real time-saver (and mess-reducer) to put zucchini halves in the oven when something else is baking. Topped with a slightly spicy vinaigrette that features fresh chopped mint, it's a wonderful side dish.

7. Old-fashioned coleslaw

I've had a giant head of cabbage rolling around the fridge for weeks, so finally I decided to deal with it. One-quarter went into the minestrone soup, and the rest got turned into coleslaw, which -- did you know? -- keeps FOREVER. I packed it into a large jar and we'll have an instant side salad anytime we need for the next two weeks.

Recipe: Grate into a large bowl, mix with shredded carrot and chopped scallions. Meanwhile, simmer 2/3 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup vegetable oil. Pour the hot dressing over the cabbage and stir to combine.

8. Lemon yogurt cupcakes

Last but not least, there was another birthday in the family this week, so we had to do some baking. I am fussy about cake, despising dryness and that half-hearted chocolate taste that seems to accompany most store-bought cakes, so my go-to recipe is a lemon-yogurt cake that's moist, dense, and flavorful. It never disappoints! Topped with a quick homemade lemon-buttercream frosting, it's the perfect finish to a celebratory meal. (I can't find the exact recipe I use online, so here's a link to a recipe that's very similar.)

How about you? Did you cook any fun, interesting, delicious meals this weekend?