Health and Wellness
Recipe Rescue: January 2014
There are occasions in every household and fire hall when stepping into the kitchen to prepare a meal seems like a burden – a mundane daily task filled with questions such as: What should I make?
By Patrick Mathieu
There are occasions in every household and fire hall when stepping into the kitchen to prepare a meal seems like a burden – a mundane daily task filled with questions such as: What should I make? What can I make? And what do I even feel like making? It is usually during these times of doubt that we break down and search for takeout menus. The solution to the burning question “What do I make for dinner?” is easy: keep it simple! It is time to find the simple quality
ingredients hiding in the pantry, freezer and refrigerator just waiting for their time to shine.
During the winter months when fresh options have dwindled, it is the pantry that needs to be stocked with nutritious and healthy options in order to cook at home. Here is my Top 10 list of items that are must-haves in the kitchen. These ingredients have excellent shelf lives, are inexpensive and all have the ability to transform a regular meal into an extraordinary dish.
- Garlic: A wonderful super food that not only inhibits infection but also is so versatile that it is found in almost every type of cuisine.
- Canned tomatoes: Tomatoes are the exception to the rule that the fresher it is, the healthier it is. Your body absorbs more of the antioxidant lycopene from cooked tomatoes than it does from fresh ones.
- Stocks and broths: Nothing beats homemade soups during the winter months. Any time you think about using water for cooking, substitute stock to maximize the flavour.
- Whole wheat pasta/rice and grains: A nutritious and satisfying meal is never far off when you have a good base. These items can be used as a side or a main dish, and topped with an endless array of options.
- Baby clams and canned tuna: Baby clams make a great gourmet addition to sauces and casseroles. Tuna is not just for sandwiches; it provides a start for winter comfort food in tuna melts or breaded tuna patties.
- Dried herbs and spices: Spices such as ginger, paprika, turmeric and garam masala are rich antioxidants and are great for your heart. They transform bland ingredients into flavour bombs!
- Nuts: When it comes to nutrition, nuts such as almonds (high in calcium, magnesium and fibre), walnuts (packed with omega-3 fatty acids), pecans (full of vitamins B6 and E), and pine nuts (one of the best sources of protein in the nut family) rank at the top of the list.
- Mustards: I love the flavourful mustards such as Dijon. Try brushing mustard on your favourite meat/fish before cooking.
- Olives: Besides being a source of healthy fats, olives have an intense flavour that goes a long way.
- Frozen berries: While fresh berries have a better taste, even frozen ones are antioxidant powerhouses. Use berries in smoothies, pancakes and muffins; as salad toppers; in sauces and reductions and, of course, for dessert!
By stocking up your kitchen with these nutritious, quality ingredients you will look like a hero at home and in the fire hall by saving time, money, your health and your sanity! The decision about what to make for dinner will soon become simple and you will never sacrifice presentation and great taste. Try these recipes that include my favourite kitchen staples.
Linguine with spicy red clam sauce
Pancetta and rosemary Yukon Gold flatbread
Patrick Mathieu is a 13-year veteran of Waterloo Fire Rescue,
where he is acting captain. He has won several cooking competitions and
has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities by auctioning
gourmet dinners at the fire hall. Contact him at