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One-pot cooking makes meal prep a snap

Award-winning cookbook author offers tips on cooking from scratch

See Jan Scott's One-pot Baked Beefaroni recipe below.

Getting a healthy home-cooked dinner on the table night after night can be a challenge for busy farm families. Thanks to an award-winning cookbook from Stratford, Ontario’s Jan Scott, this task just got a little easier.

Scott’s Oven to Table cookbook features more than a hundred “mess-free, stress-free” delicious one-pot recipes that can be made using basic pots and pans that most of us already own — a casserole dish, Dutch oven, sheet pan, baking pan, skillet and roasting pan.

These recipes “have stood the test of time and proven their worth” and “can go from stove to table in an instant,” says Scott. And using just one pot or pan makes prep and cleanup quick and easy.

Scott’s inspiration for the cookbook started when she recognized that, like her, few people have the time or desire to cook every single day. Although her many kid-friendly recipes will appeal to families, Scott’s approach also works for today’s diverse farm households where some of us are university students, some have long commutes, some are caregivers, etc., but all need simple, healthy and economical dishes.

Now, as well, more of us are having to cook at home every day because of the pandemic, which means cooking fatigue has set in, so the 2019 cookbook is seeing another jolt of interest.

“Simple recipes are having their moment right now,” says Scott.

People are more inclined to cook if it only involves one pot, she says. Not only are the recipes easy to make but they also call for easy-to-find ingredients so you don’t have to shop at specialty stores. Although Scott was living in Toronto when she was developing the recipes, she didn’t want to have to go to multiple stores with her toddler in tow. She made it her goal to use only ingredients you could find in a basic grocery store anywhere in Canada.

Image: Penguin Canada.

But that doesn’t mean that just any old ingredients will do. Scott’s recipes are not short on flavour. “Simple food with fresh flavours appeals to eaters of all ages,” Scott says. “Buy the freshest and finest ingredients.”

Oven To Table won gold in the single-subject category of the Taste Canada Awards this past November. Since 1998, this not-for-profit organization has presented awards to the best Canadian food writers in both official languages. According to the Taste Canada website, “Cookbooks are not only great cooking tools, they are filled with rich narratives about food, travel and the people who grow food, cook food and eat food.”

The single-subject category includes books about a specific food, beverage, cooking method or meal. Or they target a very specific audience. In addition to the single-subject category, there are categories for Culinary Memoirs, General Cookbooks, Regional/Cultural, and Health and Special Diet. The jury is comprised of volunteers from Canada’s culinary profession appointed by an independent selection committee.

More than just recipes, Scott’s book also provides detailed advice for purchasing and caring for cookware and kitchen tools based on her many years of experience working as a caterer and recipe developer, and also from cooking for a family of three boys.

Jan Scott’s tips to make cooking from scratch faster and easier

Jan Scott. photo: Supplied

Wash, prepare, chop and measure all ingredients needed for a dish before you begin to cook. This is what is referred to as setting your “mise en place,” a French culinary term that literally means “put in place.”

Always take the time to read each recipe before you start. You don’t want any surprises, like finding the pizza dough needs 12 to 18 hours in the fridge to rise.

Use a potato masher to crumble ground meats.

Before cutting chicken, beef or bacon, place them in the freezer for 10 to 20 minutes, or just until they start to firm up, to make for easier slicing.

Brown meat before you add other ingredients for a better tasting meal.

Use an oven thermometer to check the accuracy of your oven temperature. “Few ovens actually run at the temperature they are set to.”

Recipes are only guidelines. Feel free to replace one ingredient for another with similar traits.

Keep your cupboards, refrigerator and freezer sufficiently stocked. (Scott provides a list of ingredient essentials in her book.)

If you don’t already have all six of the cooking vessels Scott uses in the book, she suggests adding to your kitchenware arsenal over time. “Start with an inexpensive sheet pan and multi-purpose Dutch oven and build up your collection from there.” Prices for Dutch ovens vary depending on the brand but “some are known to last a lifetime and are worth the investment.” A medium-sized Dutch oven (4 to 6 quarts) is suitable for most recipes.


One-pot Baked Beefaroni

Serves 6 to 8

  • 2 small onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch (8 cm) pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 3-inch (8 cm) pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
  • 1 pound (450 g) medium ground beef
  • 3 cups (750 ml) whole chicken broth or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth
  • ½ cup (125 ml) red wine
  • 1 can (28 ounces/796 ml) crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) tomato paste
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed and chopped
  • 1 pound (450 g) macaroni pasta
  • 1 cup (250 ml) grated mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup (125 ml) grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving (optional)

1. Place the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until finely chopped. Remove the cover and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the cover and pulse 4 to 5 more times.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). In a large Dutch oven (7 to 9 quarts/6.6 to 8.5 l), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the oregano, red pepper flakes and salt and cook 1 minute more.

3. Crumble the beef into the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until meat is browned. Stir in the broth, wine, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, basil and pasta. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, for 11 to 13 minutes or until the pasta is nearly cooked but firm to the bite.

4. Sprinkle the mozzarella and Parmesan over the pasta. Bake the beefaroni for 10 minutes or until the cheeses are melted and the pasta is cooked through. Remove the pot from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with the parsley, if using, and serve.

One-Pot Baked Beefaroni recipe provided courtesy of Jan Scott from Oven to Table: Over 100 One-Pot and One-Pan Recipes for your Sheet Pan, Skillet, Dutch Oven and More (Penguin Canada)

Resources

If you’re looking for more Canadian cookbook inspiration, there’s a list of cookbook entries and award winners going back to 1998 on the Taste Canada website. In Canada, print cookbooks continue to be strong sellers.

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Helen Lammers-Helps

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