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Recipe Swap: It’s spring (no, really)!

T.S. Eliot said April is the cruelest month, but the American poet and playwright didn’t live in Manitoba. 

March is meaner and just because we’re done with winter, doesn’t mean winter is done with us. Teased one day with rising temperatures, we’re punched down the next with more snow and ice. Meanwhile, spring is a tantalizing spectacle of pastels and fresh budding trees — somewhere else. We remain buried to our armpits (no exaggeration there) in snow on a day the calendar absurdly calls the first day of spring.

“Just 280 days until Christmas… and the snow won’t likely be gone by then, either,” a cheerful chap in the coffee shop remarked last week. 

Here’s the thing. Complaining about a hard winter is as futile as trying to do something about it. Some of us take a different tack. Like Esther Hofer, who sent me a photo last week of a half-dozen fellows shovelling tons of snow off a roof, saying she and others had a good laugh watching them.

Then there’s the invitation that arrived from Ev Janzen for the La Riviere Raptor Festival, a community-inspired event coming up Saturday, April 6 when they bring in magnificent, live red-tailed hawks, American kestrels, great horned and burrowing owls; host a photo contest; and offer fun activities for the kids. They’re not whining about winter in La Riviere either. They’re already celebrating spring. 

A thought on food and eating this time of year — food writers on other planets are gushing about homegrown greens, fiddleheads and edible flowers. Ignore them. We’re still smack dab in the midst of hot soup season, the comfort food-craving, ‘carnivory’ part of the year. Let’s not chew on the leather straps of our summer sandals and wish — or try to eat — as if we were living some place else. When that first, delicious day of a true Manitoba spring does arrive, we’ll be asking ourselves, “who’d want to” anyway.

Here’s a couple of warm, filling recipesto keep you stoked during these first(har, har) days of spring. 

Hearty Chicken Soup

  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1-1/2 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 medium potatoes, skin on, cubed
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 c. chopped cooked chicken
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 1-3/4 c. evaporated milk (skim or 2%)
  • 2 tbsp. flour

Melt butter in a soup pot. Add onion and curry powder and stir-cook over medium heat until onions are softened. Stir in potatoes, carrots, celery, oregano, parsley, chicken and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes). Mix evaporated milk and flour until free of lumps. Pour into soup and stir-cook until slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with whole wheat soda bread (see recipe). Freezes well.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4 to 6

Source: Manitoba Chicken Producers

Whole Wheat Soda Bread

  • 2 tbsp. vinegar
  • 2 c. milk
  • 2-1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1-3/4 c. white flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted

Stir together vinegar and milk and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Put oven rack on the middle shelf and heat oven to 400 F. Grease a large pie plate. In a large bowl, stir together flours, baking soda and salt until there are no lumps. Stir melted butter into milk mixture then add it to flour mixture. Mix until the dough holds together in a ball (about two to three minutes). Transfer dough to pie plate and gently pat down. Using clean scissors or a sharp knife, slice an X across the top, edge to edge and about one-half inch deep. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the bread makes a hollow sound when tapped (or digital thermometer inserted into bread reads 190 F). Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing. Can be made a day ahead.  Freezes well.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Serves: 8

Source: Manitoba Chicken Producers

Root Vegetable Gratin

A delicious side dish!

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 c. potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 c. rutabaga, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. parsnips, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 c. sodium-reduced beef broth
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 6 oz. Canadian provolone,* sliced

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large, oven-safe baking dish or in individual gratin dishes, layer the vegetables, alternating with half the sliced provolone. Mix the beef broth with parsley and pepper. Pour into dish. Top with remaining cheese and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in oven 60 minutes, remove foil and continue cooking for another 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender and the cheese browned.

Note: For even thinner slices of vegetables, use a mandoline.

*Or try Canadian cheddar, mozzarella or Swiss cheese.

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves: 6 to 8

Source: Dairy Farmers of Canada

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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