Sunday, May 1, 2016

Spinach Beef Cheddar Taco with Guacamole, Refried Beans and Sour Cream Topped with Fresh Salsa

Fern doesn't generally like mushy, saucy sloppy plates of food so it's got to be really good when I serve him one. This fit the bill. Guacamole started with a fresh very ripe avocado and fresh lime juice. Mash with a fork, add some salt, a tablespoon of sour cream and a few drops of Tabasco Sauce. Whip it with a fork. The acid in the lime juice keeps it from turning black but if you make it ahead, keep it in the fridge with plastic film on it.

Refried beans are Old El Paso brand which taste good on their own. All they need is a little lime juice, a quarter cup of sour cream and a few drops Tabasco Sauce to elevate them. The beans are the most expensive part of this meal but cheaper ones just don't cut it. So until I learn how to make good tasting refried beans from scratch, expensive tins are the only option.

For the taco I diced an onion and caramelized it then added a couple of cloves of garlic diced. Next I added half a red pepper, half a green pepper and a stick of celery diced. (Fern loves celery so that's why it's in there, but it does add a nice flavour) 400gm of ground beef were broken in next and browned. I sprinkled salt, vegetable stock powder and a tablespoon of taco seasoning over the meat while it browned. I would have used beef stock but was out so I used vegetable, once the meat was cooked I added half a cup of water and cooked it off till I had a nice moist filling. I heated the shells in the toaster oven for a few seconds before laying grated cheddar, then filling and rolling them up. I use bulk taco seasoning from the grocery store, it's just as good as the expensive packaged stuff.

The sour cream was just that. Can you elevate sour cream? Probably, somehow.

Salsa was simple:

2 tomatoes diced
1 jalapeno diced
1 slice red onion diced
1 tbsp parsley diced (Fern doesn't like cilantro or I'd use that but a bit less)
juice from half a lime
black pepper
2 tsp olive/canola oil

Toss and serve.

I sprinkled diced parsley over the plate because I had some left over, it does seem to dress the plate a bit. A bit of grated cheddar left over went on the beans. Twice while eating Fern stopped to say how good this was. He didn't used to like tacos at all.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cajun Snapper with Cabbage Tomato Slaw

It's Friday so typically Mitchell's has fresh fish, usually snapper and I think it's local. There was also half a cabbage on sale so I picked it up. I got started cooking late so I didn't start out ambitious but it tasted that way by the time I was finished! First I got the rice on. Salt, olive oil, lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco Sauce then into the microwave. If my microwave didn't have a 'Rice' button I'd have a rice cooker. Next I got the bones out of the filet and cut off the extra bits of skin. I was afraid I over salted the snapper but it was delicious so I guess I found the sweet spot. After salt I sprinkled Cajun spice over it. Put plenty of oil in my pan but didn't get it hot yet.

The slaw started out with a handful of chives from the garden chopped into the bottom of the bowl, maybe a tablespoon or so. Then I diced up a stick of celery because it's Fern's favourite vegetable so I always try to work it into the meal. Next I took thin slices off the head of cabbage till I had about a cup of shredded leaves, I picked out the chunks. Then I diced up two tomatoes. I looked at the salad bowl and decided two tomatoes would overwhelm it so I added only one. Next I diced up over a tablespoon of fresh parsley and added that. I had more stuff in the fridge but wasn't sure more would be an improvement so I stopped there. I drizzled about two teaspoons of olive oil over the salad and one of canola oil. Salt, probably about half a teaspoon. Mixed black pepper and several drops of Tabasco sauce. Juice from half a lemon. I tasted it, it was interesting, not necessarily good. I left it for a bit while I got the pan hot for the fish and put it on to cook. 

When I turned the fish over in the pan I added the second diced tomato with a pinch of salt to the sides of the pan and spread it out so it would cook a little. I plated the tomato on the side but Fern mixed his into his rice and said it was fantastic that way, so I did it and he was right. The Tabasco, tomato and snapper pan flavours brought the rice to life. Definitely going to do that again. I drizzled more lemon juice over the snapper on the plate and turned to plate the slaw. I looked at the bowl for a second and thought, the cabbage really needs a little sweetness so I sprinkled about half a teaspoon of sugar over the bowl and tossed it again before serving. This is dangerous because Fern doesn't like 'sweet' meals but if I don't use too much it's usually an improvement. 

I'm not sure if I got the salt perfect or the fish just tasted better than usual but it was unusually good. Paired with the tomato rice it was a delight to eat. The slaw was absolutely amazing! We both really enjoyed it and look forward to it again. That really surprised and pleased me.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chicken Fajita Cranberry Lake

I forgot to buy taco shells so wasn't sure what to call this but it sure was good! Refried beans, Old El Paso brand reheated with a teaspoon of lime juice and 1/4 cup sour cream, wonderful! In the centre is a chicken breast that was salted and coated with taco seasoning, brushed with oil and BBQ'd. Plain basmati rice cooked with a few drops of lemon juice. A ragout of red and green pepper, red onion and celery were sweated then a splash of chicken stock, 1/2 teaspoon of taco seasoning then strips of chicken stirred in. All that was topped with a fresh salsa.


1 tomato diced
1 jalapeno seeded diced
1/2 small red onion diced
1/2 lime juiced
black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp cilantro chopped

This was absolutely wonderful and I didn't have to make Fern a salad!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Pork Cutlet with Fresh Apple Sauce and Greek Salad

Breaded pork cutlet from Mitchell's. They're cheap and taste pretty good fried in olive/canola oil. I boiled potatoes and finished them with butter, salt and milk. The carrots were cooked for a minute on high by themselves and then the peas were added and I hit the Frozen Vegetables button on the microwave. Peas and corn survive freezing and microwaving fairly well. Most everything else turns to mush. I had half a Granny Smith apple so I peeled it and cut it up into a small sauce pot with a tablespoon of butter and one of brown sugar and a pinch of salt. Put a lid on it and bring it to a boil, turn heat down and simmer till it's soft or the pork is plated. Serve.

Greek Salad

3 inches English cucumber
1 tomato
green onions
black olives
1 stick celery
feta cheese - I use cow feta
olive/canola oil 
lemon juice
mixed pepper

That makes enough for two salads. It was a good meal. I liked the fresh apple sauce, much better than any canned or jarred.

Cajun Chicken with Red Pepper Pesto and Broccoli

I started demolishing the upstairs bathtub today so I didn't have the energy put out a huge meal. A chicken breast that I can salt, season, oil and BBQ is as easy and fast. Rice done in the microwave with salt, oil and few drops lemon juice. The broccoli was steamed, cooled and reheated in olive oil with a bit of salt.

While all that was going on I did have enough time to look at my jar of Roasted Red Peppers and wonder if I could make a little pesto for the chicken. I had a taste of Roasted Red Pepper Pesto years ago and never encountered it again. I loved it and always remembered it so now that I can cook a little bit, it's worth giving it a try.

Red Pepper Pesto ( not particularly successful )

2 roasted red peppers, skinned
5 pecans
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 tbsp olive oil
few drops lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

I stuck the immersion blender in and processed it. It tasted ok, not great. I put it on the plate and Fern said it was delicious but I think he was being kind. It did taste better with the chicken. The spice improved it, which is what I was after but it should be the pesto improving the chicken, not the chicken improving the pesto.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chicken Cordon Swiss and Asparagus under Hollandaise with boiled potatoes

It was Fern's idea to have boiled potatoes with sauce on them so that gave me the idea for the plating. The chicken is assembled at Mitchell's Grocery here in Cranberry Lake. Any butcher can also make them up or just get thin sliced black forest ham, put chicken breast in a plastic bag and hammer it flat. Lay it out and lay ham on it and a nugget of cheese in the centre. Roll it up, roll in salted flour or flour and corm meal with a little butter in it. I also spray them with oil on the roasting sheet so they'll brown. Roast at 375F about 20-25 minutes till the cheese starts to leak out.

Asparagus is easy. Hold the root end of the stem and bend the stalk away. It will snap where the fibrous part ends. Put ends in stock pot or discard. Steam asparagus for 4 minutes.

Hollandaise Sauce

1 egg yolk
1/4-1/3 cup butter
1/2 lemon juiced - use a fresh lemon, the reconstituted juice is flavourless next to fresh
1 tsp water

Separate an egg. Just wash the egg white down the sink with lots of cold water. Put yolk in small sauce pot or glass bowl to use the microwave. Melt the butter but don't get it hot. Slowly, one tsp at a time, whisk the butter into the yolk. A silicone sheet holds the pot or bowl steady and helps enormously here. It will get thicker as butter is added. If you add too much butter at once, the sauce will break and separate. Once all the butter is taken up, slowly whisk in the lemon, water and pinch of salt. Put pot on induction burner at 3 or 4 or over boiling water. Alternatively put bowl in microwave and cook on high for 20 seconds. Whisk. If using pots, keep whisking. As soon as it thickens, it's done. In the microwave, cook 10 seconds at a time then whisk till it's thickened.  Sauce everything.

I liked the potatoes that way. It was all wonderful with rich buttery lemony goodness. The produce manager said the asparagus was particularly sweet and delicious and she was right. 

Roast Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes and Jalapeño Jelly

Pork loin was on special so I picked one up and brined it. I heated 1/2 a cup of water in the microwave and added 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon molasses, 1 tablespoon sugar. Immersion blender to mix that up then add 1/2 cup cold water, blend. Put brine and pork in a small bowl, make sure the pork is covered with liquid. Add water if not. Salt water if it needs a lot. Let sit in the fridge at least 2 hours.

Remove from brine. Coat diced potatoes and carrots in olive oil, salt and ground garlic. Put roast on rack in centre of potatoes. Lay bay leaves and fresh rosemary sprig on meat. Roast 2.5 hours at 325F or till meat thermometer says pork is done. Let rest under foil 10 minutes minimum out of the oven. This lets the juices cool so they don't escape as steam and dry the meat when it's cut.

The broccoli was steamed, cooled under running water and reheated in olive oil. 

The condiment is neighbour jillian amatt homemade jalapeño jelly.

It was quite wonderful. I invited Martin across the street to join us and he particularly liked the potatoes. The jalapeño jelly worked great instead of apple sauce too.