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Dinner in a skillet

The dinner rush is a daily reality so having a few quick recipes that don’t use a lot of bowls, pans and utensils are lifesavers. Less dishes mean a faster cleanup.

Skillet dishes are one option.

A skillet is one of the most useful tools in the kitchen. A basic skillet or fry pan has flared sides, which make them ideal for quick cooking techniques like searing, sauteing and stir frying.

A saute pan is similar to a skillet but with a large flat bottom and straighter sides. It is great for browning meats and recipes with more liquid or sauce that need to be cooked down.

A grill pan has a wide bottom with ridges and shallow sides that make it perfect for cooking meat or vegetables. The ridges act like a grill and also allow excess fat to drain away while cooking.

These skillets come in various sizes and finishes such as cast iron, cooper, non-stick or stainless steel.

Non-stick skillets are relatively carefree but there are a few tips to get the best results and extend the life of your pan.

First, don’t use cooking sprays. Additives in the sprays can build up on the pan and cause foods to stick.

If your pan does have buildup from cooking sprays, gently scrub it with a dishcloth and equal parts baking soda and water. Never use a metal or harsh scrubber.

Season it by rubbing in a small amount of vegetable oil. When it’s time to cook, start by adding a small amount of fat or oil to create a layer of fat before the other ingredients are added. It will prevent sticking and is a good tip regardless of the type of pan you are using.

Use wood or silicone utensils to prevent scratching the non-stick surface.

Wash your pan by hand because high heat and dishwashing detergents cause premature wear. Once your pan surface starts to peel or pit, it’s time to discard it.

Stainless steel skillets can be seasoned like cast iron skillets. The best tip is to add fat or oil before starting to cook and allow it to heat up to prevent sticking.

If food does stick, add soapy water and heat to a boil, allow to cool and then wash off food residues.

Hand washing is best. If you would like to try seasoning your stainless steel pan, start by heating it over medium-high heat until it is hot, then add one tablespoon (15 mL) of vegetable oil.

Choose one with a high smoke point such as canola oil. Swirl the oil to coat the pan. Continue heating until the oil starts to smoke, turn off the heat and allow the oil to cool completely. Discard any extra oil and wipe the surface of the pan with paper towels.

Copper itself is not food safe so copper pots must be lined with a layer of nickel or stainless steel. Maintain the lining to ensure your pots are neither pitted nor developing a blue cooper patina (verdigris). If this happens, the pans are no longer safe to use. If food does become stuck on after cooking, soak the copper pan and use a non-abrasive cloth or scrubber to remove it.

Copper is prized in cooking be-cause it offers the most even heat. It conducts heat so well it cooks differently then other kinds of pots. A good rule of thumb is to use about half the heat you would normally use and never heat an empty copper pan.

Cast iron pans take longer to heat but then retain their heat for longer than other pans. Be careful not to heat too fast or too hot because it will take some time to cool off the pan.

They also require seasoning. To season a cast iron pan, wash with hot water and dry thoroughly. Preheat your oven to 450 F (230 C).

Apply a thin layer of canola oil to the inside of the pan making sure to coat the sides. Use a cloth or paper towel to rub in the oil, then place the pan in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off heat and allow pan to cool. Repeat the seasoning process two or three time and then as needed.

To wash a cast iron pan, use hot water to remove the food and dry thoroughly to avoid rust. Never soak a cast iron pan.

I put my cast iron pan in a hot oven for a few minutes after washing to ensure it is totally dry and often add oil to ensure that the pan is well seasoned.

For tough messes, use coarse salt as a scrub. It is not a good idea to cook acidic foods like tomatoes using a cast iron pan because they can react with metal, causing off flavours.

Skillet recipes often call for them to be finished in the oven so make sure to choose an oven-proof skillet. Use utensils that won’t scratch your pan such as silicone or bamboo. Also, try a splatter screen or lid when searing food to avoid greasy splatter on your stovetop.

Enjoy these skillet recipes.


  1. Make the lentil bean filling. Splash canola oil into a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Toss in onions, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Saute until vegetables soften and the spice flavours brighten, three or four minutes. Stir in lentils, beans, water and salt. Bring to a slow, steady simmer.
  2. Cover tightly and continue slowly cooking until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes. Stir in the hot sauce.
  3. Assemble tacos by placing a full leaf of lettuce into the shell. This will hold the fillings in when the hard shell inevitably breaks. Fill each taco with a heaping spoonful of lentil bean filling. Pack with cheese, salsa and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges.
  4. Source: Chef Michael Smith and www.lentils.ca.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Grease a nine-inch (22 cm) cast iron skillet or square baking dish with two tablespoons (30 mL) butter. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream remaining butter and sugar on high speed until light, about two minutes, scraping down sides a few times.
  6. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on high for two minutes until fluffy, scraping down sides a few times. In a separate bowl, combine flours, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into butter mixture, then stir in apples and lentil puree until smooth. Scrape this into prepared pan, smoothing the top.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs clinging.
  8. Serve warm, with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
  9. Source: www.lentils.ca.
  10. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting any salt or fat.
  11. Meanwhile, whisk together canola, mayonnaise, sherry, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  12. Heat one teaspoon (5 mL) canola oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Tilt skillet to coat bottom lightly.
  13. Cook beef three minutes and set aside on a separate plate. Heat one tsp. (5 mL) canola oil, add onions, and cook five minutes or until just beginning to richly brown, stirring frequently.
  14. Scrape onions to one side of the skillet, add remaining one teaspoon (5 mL) canola oil, and add mushrooms. Cook four minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown on the edges, stirring frequently.
  15. Add beef and any accumulated juices. Cook 30 seconds or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  16. Remove from heat and stir in mayonnaise mixture until well blended. Serve over drained noodles. Sprinkle with additional black pepper, if desired.
  17. Source: www.canolainfo.org.
  18. Using a sharp knife, slice tenderloins into bite-size pieces, set aside. In a one cup measuring cup, whisk together rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sambal oelek, sesame oil and cornstarch mixture. Set sauce aside.
  19. In large skillet or wok, heat canola oil over high heat about one minute. Add pork and stir fry until meat begins to brown, about five minutes. Reduce heat to medium.
  20. Add garlic and ginger, stir fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  21. Add bell pepper, stir to combine. Briefly re-whisk sauce, then add to skillet or wok.
  22. Toss until all ingredients are well coated with sauce. Simmer until thickened, about three minutes.
  23. Serve kung pao over hot cooked rice, and garnish with green onion and toasted cashews.
  24. Serve immediately. Serves six.
  25. Source: Manitoba Pork, SaskPork.
  26. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, thyme, paprika and lemon pepper. Rub spice mixture on both sides of fillets.
  27. In a large skillet, set over medium heat, heat canola oil. Add fish fillets and cook until browned on both sides and fish is opaque in the centre, about four minutes per side.
  28. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immed-iately with lemon or lime wedges.
  29. Source: www.canolainfo.org.
  • Pulse filling:
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly
  • sliced
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder 15 mL
  • (heap spoon to taste)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin 5 mL
  • 1 c. green lentils 250 mL
  • 19 oz. can of your 540 mL
  • favourite beans or
  • chickpeas, rinsed
  • and drained
  • 2 c. water 500 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. your favourite 2 mL
  • hot sauce
  • Taco toppings
  • 1 head Bibb or iceberg lettuce
  • 12 hard taco shells
  • 3 handfuls of grated cheddar
  • or taco blend cheese
  • salsa
  • large bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges

Pork Kung Pao

  • 2 Canadian .375 kg each
  • pork tenderloins, well
  • trimmed, about 12 oz. each
  • 1/3 c. rice vinegar 80 mL
  • 4 tbsp. sodium-reduced 60 mL
  • soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. honey 15 mL
  • 2 tsp. sambal oelek 10 mL
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil 5 mL
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed 15 mL
  • with equal part water
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil 30 mL
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger root 5 mL
  • 1 large red bell pepper,
  • cut into chunks
  • hot cooked basmati
  • or jasmine rice
  • 4 green onions, thinly
  • sliced on a diagonal
  • 1/3 c. cashews, 80 mL
  • chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp. ground cumin 7.5 – 15 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. thyme 1 mL
  • 1 tsp. paprika 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon pepper 2 mL
  • 1/2 tbsp. canola oil 7.5 mL
  • 1 lb. white fish fillets 500 g
  • (walleye, halibut or cod)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped parsley 30 mL
  • lemon or lime wedges

Cumin Crusted Fish

  • 1 c. (4 oz./125 g) dry no-yolk egg noodles 250 mL
  • 1/4 c. canola oil mayonnaise 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. dry sherry (or 1/4 c. water 60mL
  • and 1-2 tsp. balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 tsp. beef bouillon granules 10 mL
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. coarsely ground 2 mL
  • black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 tsp. canola oil, divided 15 mL
  • 3/4 lb. boneless sirloin steak, 350 g
  • very thinly sliced
  • 1 c. thinly sliced onions 250 mL
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms 250 g

Creamy beef, mushroom and noodles

  • 1⁄3 c. +2 tbsp. unsalted, 115 mL
  • butter divided
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar 175 mL
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 5 mL
  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour 125 mL
  • 1 tsp. baking soda 5 mL
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon 10 mL
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 2 mL
  • 2 c. small chopped 500 mL
  • apples
  • 1/2 c. lentil puree 125 mL

Spiced Apple and Lentil Skillet Cake

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