Monday, December 31, 2012

Turkey Fricassee

I wasn't sure where I was going with this dish when I started.  I had 1/3 of a turnip to use up so I diced it small and put it in a wide deep sauce pan of boiling water.  I did the same thing to some potatoes and carrots and put them in with the turnip when it was half done. When those three were nearly cooked I took them out of the pan and emptied the water.  Plenty of oil in the pan and put diced onion in to brown.  When the onions are almost done put a diced half celery stick in to sweat.  Empty everything from the pan. More oil and put 3 (all I had) sliced mushrooms in to sear.  When they are done take them out, put more oil in and put the pieces of turkey in.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over the meat and stir it to cook it a bit.  Add 2 ounces of white wine and 2 ounces of turkey stock, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp poultry seasoning, 1 tablespoon paprika and ground pepper to the pan.  Cook off the liquid and add more stock.  I want to concentrate the flavor in the stock.  Add all the ingredients back in the pan and 1 ounce whipping cream.  Boil it down to the right thickness or add stock to thin it and serve, preferably with a baguette. I didn't know I'd need one when the store was still open so we had soda crackers.

When I served it I said it was turkey chowder but once he tasted it Fern said it's a Fricassee, so there you go. And he liked it.

Reheated Turkey

I just wrapped some meat and stuffing in foil and put it in the oven at 200ºF for half an hour.  Served with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.  Fern made pickled beets this year so we had those on the side, quite good! When the vegetables were almost cooked they were finished in extra virgin olive oil and butter before serving.  The gravy I made from turkey stock.  One tablespoon of flour and one of oil mixed and cooked in a sauce pan.  Add an ounce each of turkey stock and white wine.  I boiled that down till it was getting thick then added more stock and continued boiling.  I added stock twice and boiled it down to concentrate the turkey flavor. This was almost as good as the first day, the white meat was just a little drier.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Roast Pork with Roasted Potatoes

In a brief break from left over turkey, I made roast pork.  This time I didn't brine it as usual and it definitely suffered as a result.  I diced up the potatoes and carrots and tossed them in oil in the roasting pan before the meat went on top.  Then the meat on a trivet covered with salt, pepper, several bay leaves, a sprig of rosemary and a large pinch of thyme. Insert meat thermometer and put in a 350º oven.

I didn't want a huge feast so instead of cooked greens I made a fresh salad of spinach, crisp bacon, edam cheese and toasted walnuts.

Salad Dressing

1 tbsp oil
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or white vinegar with 1/2 tsp of sugar)

Served with homemade apple sauce it was good but a bit bland.  Even a short brining really brings out the flavor so I won't be lazy again. That salad is a real treat though.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Turkey a la King with fresh fettucine

Turkey a la King is a natural leftover meal at Christmas, for me anyway. Today I wanted fresh pasta so I got out my new KitchenAide attachments and got to work. Fresh pasta is a snap with a machine doing the hard work.

Fresh pasta for 2

2/3 cup of flour
1 large egg

use a fork to mix the egg into the flour and work it into a ball.  It should not be sticky so if it is, add some flour and work it a bit more. When you have a fairly consistent ball of dough, wrap it up and chill it for half an hour.  Each time the dough is passed through the machine check it for moisture.  If it's sticky rub flour over both sides and put through machine again. When it's rolled out to the desired thickness, cut it to length, then run each segment throught the cutters. Dust with flour when it comes out of the cutters so it won't stick together.

In a large sauce pan brown a diced onion.  Add a finely diced stick of celery and a smashed clove of garlic.  Add the diced green and red peppers.  Sprinkle 2 tsp flour over everything and cook it off a bit. Add 1/4 cup turkey/chicken stock, 1/2 cup milk and optionally 1/4 cup heavy cream.  Bring to a boil and add some frozen peas.  Add 1 tablespoon paprika.  Get the fresh pasta boiling.  When the pasta is ready the peas should be cooked. Plate and serve. Delicious.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom White Wine Sauce

I did a turkey yesterday but totally forgot to photograph it.  The only remarkable thing was that I managed to keep it moist even in the white meat. Chef Jamie Oliver suggested roasting the bird upside down until the last hour then turn it over for the last hour.  This was easier than it sounds since I had a 10lb bird, but wear oven mits and just do it. It'll work. Starting with a fresh, not frozen, turkey of course.

I worked all day Christmas Day serving dinner to the less fortunate then yesterday made turkey dinner at home so by today I was pretty tired, but hungry again. So I picked up some crimini mushrooms and a bottle of white wine.  I put some white rice on to cook and got a carrot going in the steamer.  When they were half done I added the peas.

I 'Frenched' the pork tenderloin by cutting it into about 2 inch lengths and pounding it flat.

Pork Seasoning

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground mixed pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp brown sugar or honey

I put the coating in a plastic bag and shook the medallions of pork then fried them in a nice hot pan.

Meanwhile I sliced up three mushrooms and fried them in some oil and butter an a small sauce pan.  Once they had a nice sear I sprinkled flour over them and cooked the taste off.  I added some turkey stock and white wine then let it boil down a bit.

I cooled the veggies under running water before they were done.  Then I finished them with butter and extra virgin olive oil in a pan on a medium low burner. When they were hot I plated the rice and veggies and spooned mushroom sauce over the meat and rice.  I put only half as much mustard and sugar in my mix and it was a bit anemic. The stated recipe should give better flavor. One thing I did do right was to cook the tenderloins on medium high heat.  They remained tender inside even though they were fully cooked.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve Pasta Lesson

We had our friend Kevin over for dinner this evening. He was alone in his trailer which is a bit dingy after his smoking in bed caught it on fire. He is on a disability pension so has limited resources and food is sometimes a problem.  So tonight I thought I'd see if I could alleviate that problem a little.  I asked him to come and learn how to make pasta. Start with room temperature ingredients.

Pasta for 2

1 egg
2/3 cup flour

Make a well in the flour and crack the egg into it. Place a fork in the middle of the egg and stir, slowly taking in more flour until it is all taken up.  If it's sticky it's too wet so add some flour and work it in till it is a firm dough that is not sticky. Cover in plastic and put in the fridge for half an hour, it won't roll out properly if you don't let it chill. When it has chilled it can be rolled out by hand and cut into noodles with a knife. No fancy machine needed to make basic pasta.

Kevin said, "It's that simple to make? I can't tell you how many times I've had an egg and flour and nothing to eat. I could have made pasta. I'll never be hungry again."

I feel so good. What a wonderful Christmas gift he's given me!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Haunted Basil

I seem to have developed haunted basil.  See the basil on the right with the lid lifted? A moment before it was down like the others and no one touched it. It's been happening for a day or so that I can recall. I pushed it down and started preparing dinner. I kept glancing up at it as I worked. It was normal. normal. normal. normal. UP!!!!!!! What is doing that? Does basil off-gas enough to pop the top repeatedly? Fern's mother passed away 2 days ago so last time I was in the kitchen I pushed the lid down and said, "If it's Pierrette doing that, lift them all up."
I'll see what happens.

None of the others popped up, so it's not Pierette and is basil specific. I turned the basil 90º to see if the same corner relative to the shelf would pop. The same corner relative to the jar popped up. It has popped up while I've been working in the kitchen and I don't hear it go pop.  If it was a buildup of gas, I would expect it to POP when it is forced open. It makes no sound, so I am at a loss to explain this. I don't like unsolved mysteries.

Jan. 4, the lid has stopped popping up so whatever was causing it has stopped. I wonder if that means there is no flavor left in the dried Basil? I'll have to check.

Pork Tenderloin with Spinach Salad

Pork tenderloins were on special, 2 for 1 so I bought 2 and cooked 1.  This time Fern asked me to try cutting the loins into 2 inch pieces then standing them on the end, pound them flat.  It worked great! They spread out easily and were much faster to cook.  I seasoned them with

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp mixed ground pepper

Dry mustard is bitter so the little bit of sugar cuts that edge, it worked great and produced a wonderful flavor. I fried some bacon for the salad first then put the pork into the hot fat to sear it both sides. Then turned the heat down to let it cook through.

Mashed potatoes and cauliflower, how difficult can it be?  I overdid the cauliflower so it was more like caulimush. The potatoes were good. The salad was baby spinach, 3 strips of bacon crispy and about a fluid ounce of toasted walnut pieces.

Salad Dressing

1 tbsp xv olive oil (if your oil has a bitter after taste, use 1/3 xv olive to 2/3 other vegetable oil)
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

I suppose I could have pureed the cauliflower to rescue it but I didn't think of it. It was a great meal anyway, we both ate with gusto.

Chicken with Thyme and Rosemary

Last minute shopping, stores crowded, elderly lady takes huge shopping cart of grocerys through the express lane and asks for a price check on every item? Yes, she actually did that.With some people, it's easy to see why they were murdered.

Anyway, it was time for chicken and I was already tired and frustrated.  I decided to flatten it, season it and throw it on the grill.  I wanted some brown and red rice but Fern didn't like it last time so I tried half regular basmati and half brown and red basmati.  So the regular basmati absorbed all the liquid and the brown and red basmati remained crunchy.  We need more fibre in our diet so it would be nice is I figured out how to make this stuff really delicious.  This was clearly not the way.  The vegetables were steamed and finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil.

I sprayed the chicken with oil and mixed up

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary

coated both sides of the breasts and put them on the BBQ.  I considered frying but the BBQ is easy.
I used Fern's tomato pear ketchup as the condiment. Except for the crunchy rice it was great!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Fillet of Sole with Lemon Almond Sauce

I didn't go to the store with the idea of seafood again but I really didn't feel like boning chicken breasts. I can't serve beef two days in a row, Fern doesn't want it that often. Pork immediately after beef isn't usually applauded either so my choices were bone chicken breasts or make some kind of seafood.  I looked at the fish counter, nothing interesting on sale.  I continued on and in the packaged fresh fish there were a few sole fillets on special.  I recently bought sliced almonds and I had lemons in the fridge so the meal practically made itself. One caveat. Don't buy frozen sole, only fresh.  Frozen sole cooks up like mashed potatoes. Not at all appealing.

I peeled potatoes and a carrot and put the potatoes in a pot to boil and the carrot in a steamer.  When the carrots were half done I threw in some frozen peas.  I had a large frying pan with plenty of oil on medium high heat. I put 1 tablespoon of flour in a plastic bag with 1/2 tsp of salt and some fresh ground mixed pepper. I shook each fillet in the bag to coat it and dragged it in the deepest oil in the pan then pulled and dropped it onto to the dryer side. That way each fillet cooked enough in the deep oil so it didn't stick. When I saw browning at the edge I turned them over.

In a small sauce pot I put a couple of tablespoons of butter and 1/4 cup of sliced almonds. I cooked the nuts until they started to take on some color then I took them out of the pot.  I put a tsp of flour in the butter and cooked the flour taste off.  I added an ounce at most of chicken stock and the juice of half a lemon.  Whisk to smooth and put the almonds back in. Add a pinch of salt and taste. It needed a bit more lemon juice. Taste again, excellent.

Sole fillets cook very fast because they are thin.  It helps immensely to have everything ready or almost ready before cooking the fish. Despite it's simplicity it was a very good meal.

Black Cherry Fruit Salad Molecular Gastronomy

The 11pm news was coming on soon and I felt like a little sweet fruity something, to eat. There was some fruit salad on it's last legs in the fridge. I need to hide it in something. Black cherry juice. Can I gel that with xanthan gum? Let's find out!

I measured a cup of cherry juice into a bowl and put a couple of tablespoons of sugar in. Tasted, added a bit more sugar and decided it tasted good.  I previously experimented with some milk and found it took 3/4 tsp xanthan gum to gel 1/2 cup milk. So I should need at least 1 1/2 tsp gum for 1 cup cherry juice.  Also the milk experiment taught me how much xanthan gum likes to lump up. So I got a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon and held the spoon above the whisk so each stroke knocked the spoon. This worked fairly well and there weren't too many lumps in it.  If I used the blender on it I think it would get full of air so I didn't want to risk it.

Xanthan gum makes a consistency like jam instead of like gelatin so I wouldn't expect it to hold a form. It also has the appearance of a slimy goo, not pretty to look at.  A teaspoon of pre-gelatinized corn starch imparts the smooth look and mouth feel that xanthan gum lacks.  A jelly mold won't hold but parfait works great! I put a layer of tired fruit on the bottom and covered it with black cherry gel. More fruit on top of that and topped off with some fresh whipped cream.  To garnish I used the potato peeler to shave some Walmart Waterbridge dark chocolate over top. It is by far the cheapest source of quality chocolate easily available.

When I presented it to Fern he grimaced. He doesn't like whipped cream a whole lot and some sweet goo didn't appeal but he humored me and dug into it.  "Oh, there's fruit in it! Mmmmmm. What is that red stuff?"
"Molecular gastronomy. It's black cherry juice, sweetened and gelled with xanthan gum and pre-gelatinized corn starch."
A quizical look, "It's good, I felt like some fruit and that did it."

If Fern likes it, it's good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Surf'n Turf

The Appy Hour daily half price special was lobster tails but they were small and I'd need two, I'll keep looking.  I got to the meat department and there was a nice Angus strip loin steak marked down half price too.  Half a steak and a lobster tail would make a really nice meal!

I decided on mashed potatoes, carrots and broccoli.  I toyed with the idea of baked potato, but we were out of sour cream. I got the potatoes on to boil and carrots into the steamer.  I've finally started to prefer steaming the vegetables because they turn out so delicious. Once the carrots had a head start I put the broccoli into the steamer also.  When it was about 3/4 done I ran it all under cold water to stop cooking.  Then I have time to finish everything  else. When I'm almost ready to  plate, I put the vegetables back in the pot with butter and extra virgin olive oil.  The burner on medium low, if the oil gets too hot it becomes very bitter, but if you cook it just a little, it takes on a wonderful sweet flavor.

On the steak I put my

Southwestern Seasoning

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

and sprayed them with oil.  The lobster tails went on as is at the same time.  I did the usual 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done on the steaks and tails. Getting ready to plate I noticed one of the tails didn't seem to be cooked thoroughly so I put it in the microwave for a minute and that firmed it up.

I put a slab of butter and two cloves of fresh garlic in sauce pan on the burner to cook a little, for the lobster. I plated everything then poured garlic butter over the lobster and a little over the potatoes and steak too.  It was a really great meal!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ham, Bacon, Brussels Sprouts with Cheese Sauce

I was thinking of fish today but all they had on special was scallops, which Fern doesn't really like. So I picked up a nice black forest ham instead. That would go well with the Brussels Sprouts on special. I wanted to do a version of the Ham and Cauliflower Quebecois dish with Sprouts instead.  I also wanted to use up some bacon so I put six strips of bacon in a frying pan and started them cooking.  I prepped all the sprouts and peeled the potatoes, put potatoes on to boil and the sprouts on to steam.  I had the oven warming up to 375º while I put a tablespoon of flour in small sauce pan.  A tablespoon of oil with the flour and mix to a paste.  Cook off the flour taste then put in an ounce or two of chicken stock and half a cup of milk while whisking the lumps out. Add half a cup of shredded cheddar or mozzarella or whatever is in the fridge.

When the bacon was done I drained it on paper towel. The sprouts were 3/4 done so I drained them.  I covered the bottom of a 9x9 pan with thinly sliced ham. Over that the Brussels sprouts with the bacon on top.  I poured cheese sauce over all and put it in the oven for 20-30 minutes. It was quite good, I'll do that again.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Chicken Stir Fry

I usually buy 4 chicken breasts in a family pack and use 2 that day and the remainder 2 days later. Even though the best before date is still 2 days away I have found some chicken starts to smell a bit ripe by day 3. If it is I rinse it a smell again. If it smells ok then it was just on the surface and it's safe to cook and eat. That hasn't made me sick so far. Even so, it's still a small risk so I've started using the chicken up 2 days in a row, see how that works.

I haven't done a simple stir fry for quite a while.  I was out of sesame oil to begin with, but I now have oyster sauce, so that will give a new twist to the old flavors. I diced up half an onion and cut the remainder in larger chunks. Celery and mushrooms sliced and some of Fern's frozen sweet pepper pieces.  They don't cook up as nice but they have much better flavor so I'm happy to have them.

I made basmati rice, I use it for everything but risotto.  While the small diced onion was searing in a large frying pan, I cubed the chicken and put a tablespoon of flour on it. When the onions were half done I put the mushrooms in with plenty of oil.  When I had a nice sear on the mushrooms I removed both from the pan.  I tossed the meat in the flour to coat it and put in the the frying pan.  Extra oil all over because the flour will cook it off. I get an even sear on everything but the center is still raw.  I splashed half an ounce of chicken stock in the pan and cooked it off.  Then I add the remaining vegetables and the onions and mushrooms.  I added a tsp of oyster sauce and a tablespoon of soy sauce to the pan.  Stir frequently.  When the vegetables were done I served it over the rice. It was wonderful and didn't taste anything like the chicken from the BBQ last night.

Chocolate Fudge with Deluxe Mixed Nuts

I was surprised how easy it is to make really good fudge! Basically, bring sugar, cocoa and milk to a boil and cook it rapidly till it gets to 114ºC/237ºF plus a bit to be sure. Then take it off the heat and beat in the butter and nuts. Keep stirring as it cools, add the Vanilla and keep stirring till it first loses the glossy sheen then pour into parchment lined 9x9 inch pan. It needs to be stirred continuously until it gets below the crystallization temperature of sugar.  If it is poured out too soon it will have large sugar crystals. It should be smooth. If it is poured too late, it will break apart when it's cut. Practice makes perfect. This is the best batch so far, and it's still not perfect, but tastes great anyway!

Chocolate Fudge with Deluxe Mixed Nuts

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1/4 cup mixed nuts
4 tablespoons butter (bit less than 1/4 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium pot combine sugar, cocoa and milk. Bring to a hard boil and keep boiling till temperature reaches at least 114ºC/237ºF. Remove from heat and stir continuously to prevent large sugar crystals. Add the nuts and keep stirring. Add the butter and finally the Vanilla.  When the sheen is gone, pour it into an oil sprayed parchment lined 9x9 pan. Cool as long as possible before cutting. It helps a little to butter the knife before cutting. Bet you can't eat just one!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Blu Ray Chicken

No, I didn't cook it in a Blu Ray player, I spent the afternoon setting up my new Blu Ray player and threw dinner together at the last minute. I had to bone the chicken breasts, roast the bones and I fried the skins for the dogs.  Once the bones were roasted I added a carrot, celery stick, shallot, bay leaf and filled the pot with water.  Bring that to a boil and simmer for 45 mins-3 hours. Strain. Use to make soups and sauces.

The boned chicken breast I put in a plastic bag and pounded flat to double in size.  The basmati rice has salt, onion powder, garlic powder, mixed pepper and poultry seasoning cooked into it.  The veggies were steamed to almost done then cooled quickly and finished in a pot with butter and extra virgin olive oil on low heat. The chicken was coated with a mixture of salt, mixed pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and poultry seasoning.  It was sprayed with oil and cooked on the BBQ over low heat for 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done. The condiment is one of Fern's ketchup.

Despite the late start and rush job it was a fairly good meal.  Fern actually said 'Delicious!' at one point.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Molasses Brined Pork Loin Roast

We hadn't had a nice roast pork with artery clogging roasted potatoes for a while so I picked up a small loin roast.  Around 11 am I mixed up the brine:

Pork Brine

per cup water add:
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp molasses

Immerse pork loin in brine for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.  I put it in the oven around 5 pm so it had about 6 hours to brine.  Once it was brined I put it on a rack in a roasting pan and put potatoes and carrots, well oiled, all around.  I inserted a meat thermometer, placed sprigs of rosemary, thyme and bay leaves on top and put it in the oven. That left only the broccoli to steam and finish in the pan with butter and extra virgin olive oil. The condiment is home made ketchup. It was a wonderful meal I'd almost forgotten how much I enjoy it.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Salisbury Steak

Somewhere under that pile of mushrooms is nearly half a pound of Angus beef goodness.  I was in a beef mood but nothing good was on special.  Ground Angus has lots of flavor so I bought the smallest pack, which was over a pound. I picked up some mushrooms and decided to use chicken stock and forgo red wine in the sauce. I used a little cooking wine and a little red wine vinegar to give it a tang.

I took a shallot, half a stick of celery and two cloves of garlic and chopped them finely.  I sweated them in the frying pan then took them out and put the mushrooms in. While the mushrooms were browning I put a teaspoon of flour and a tablespoon of oil in a small sauce pan and set it on medium to cook the flour. I put the meat in with the shallot, celery garlic and added 1/4 cup bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp salt, black pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme and mixed it thoroughly.  I formed the meat into patties and took the mushrooms out of the frying pan into the sauce pan with the flour and oil.  I put the meat in the frying pan with more oil.

The mushroom sauce got half a cup of homemade chicken stock. If I had to use commercial stock I would have used beef. That is why the gravy looks a little thin, the stock isn't very dark to start with but it sure tastes good. Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables rinsed in cold water to stop cooking, then finished in the pan with butter and extra virgin olive oil.

The patties took at least 10 minutes a side to cook but they were still moist and delicious.  A humble meat but a good meal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Southwest Chicken

Chicken done on the BBQ with southwest spice sounded good.  I was tired of peeling potatoes so I made rice.  I used half chicken stock in the rice and put 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp poultry seasoning in to liven it up.  I microwaved the carrots and corn together in chicken stock and added some extra virgin olive oil, butter, salt and black pepper when they were done. After pounding and seasoning the breasts I sprayed them with oil then put them on the BBQ.

Southwest Spice

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

Simple, fast and tasty!

Midnight Munchie Salad

We didn't have a salad with dinner last night so after the late news I went to the fridge for an apple. I put the apple on the cutting board and thought, I really feel like a salad. A dessert salad. What do I have that goes with an apple?  Baby spinach? Extra old Cheddar? Walnuts? Definitely! I put some walnuts in the toaster oven to roast and got the spinach and cheddar out of the fridge. I took the stems off the spinach and tore the larger leaves in half so it's easier to eat.  Two slices of cheddar cut into small cubes.  The apple was cored and diced.

 The dressing was 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil and 2 tsp regular oil.  I'm using Berio olive oil which has a bitter after taste so I don't use it full strength. 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar, some mixed ground pepper and a good pinch of salt. Whisk and dress the salad. Fresh, sweet, crunchy, creamy and delicious! A wonderful late night treat.

Southwest Rib Steak

After successfully putting out delicious crab cakes again, I felt I earned a tasty steak. I didn't want to pay full price for Angus beef, it was imitation crab after all, so I carefully chose from the 'regular but good' section.

I started the potatoes, PEI russets only available around this time. I steamed the carrots, then added the broccoli until they were almost done.  Then ran them under cold water to stop cooking.  The steaks I seasoned with my Southwestern spice rub and BBQ'd them.

Southwestern Seasoning

2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp paprika
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tsp kosher salt (1 tbsp + 1 tsp)
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp cayenne

I seasoned then sprayed the steaks with oil.  Brushing would have worked almost as well. Then put them on a hot grill for 4-5 minutes per side.  It's taken a while a but I'm getting much better at telling how cooked meat is just by pressing it a bit. If I remember to rotate them half way through each side I'll get nice grill marks too.

I put the vegetables back on the burner in butter and extra virgin olive oil on medium low heat during the last minute of the steak on the BBQ.  I want the steak to rest and the juices to settle back into the meat while the vegetables reheat and finish cooking.  I added milk and butter to the mashed potatoes, they had enough salt from the pot water. I served it all on warmed plates.

The steak was wonderful! The Southwest rub is even better than my beef rub on steaks at least. Even Fern liked his steak, usually he doesn't like fatty red meat, but this was lean and tasty enough to overcome his dislike.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Crab Cakes Again

They were so good I decided to make crab cakes again.  Same 3% real crab, 97% something else, but it tastes good and costs $3 for half a pound.  I did actually look for fresh crab meat today but they didn't have any.  I'm not surprised.

I sweated a diced shallot and diced half celery stick.  Cooled down then mixed with

1/2 lb crab wannabe
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup (at most) flour
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 egg beaten

Mix and form into four patties.  Fry on medium+ heat  till golden.

Tartar sauce

2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tsp sweet green pickle relish

I served them with green cauliflower, green beans and mashed potatoes. I think we'll be having this fairly regularly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chicken Cordon Swiss

I had some sliced ham left over from sandwiches and I found some gruyere cheese drying out in the fridge so Chicken Cordon Swiss was a natural dinner choice.  Since I've been pounding chicken breasts flat anyway it wasn't much extra work.  Once the breasts were flattened I laid a piece of ham on it and rolled it up around a small piece of cheese.  I put them in a plastic bag to coat with breading.

Chicken Breading

1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup bread crumbs

I sprayed the breaded breasts with oil so they'd brown. I should have used more, but they took on a little color. I only made carrots because I had a spinach salad on the side.  Spinach, sliced mushrooms and real bacon with a dressing of 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp regular oil, 1 tsp red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.  Whisk and pour over salad.  Toss.

I served mine with ketchup because hollandaise is just too rich. Also, the chickens are molting so the egg laying has reduced dramatically.  I don't want to have to buy eggs! It all worked somehow.

Meyer Lemon Cake

As you can see in the photo my glaze had pox!  I forgot to sieve the icing sugar and I know better!

Last week Meyer lemons were on special so I bought a bag to see what they were like.  I cut one open and we tried eating it like an orange, not such a good choice. They aren't as sour as a lemon but they aren't sweet as an orange either. The lemon flavor is prominent so they are a promising ingredient. I googled 'Meyer lemon cake recipe' and this recipe is the top of that list.

Lemon Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 3 Meyer lemons
2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp cream
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

Cream butter, slowly add sugar while beating. Add eggs one at a time, then the vanilla and lemon zest.  Mix the salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour and separately the lemon juice and cream. Alternately add portions of the flour and cream beating each in until all is combined. Pour into an oiled and floured or, even better, parchment lined loaf pan. Bake at 350ºF for 40-45 minutes.  Cool ten minutes then poke holes in top of cake and pour lemon syrup over cake.

Lemon Syrup

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice

Heat mixture till all sugar is dissolved.

Let cake cool completely.

Lemon Glaze

1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice

Pour the glaze over the cake and fold the parchment back up to hold the glaze to the cake. Slice and serve. It was really good.  I've found the lemon flavor can get cooked out of baked goods so this idea of adding a syrup after baking is brilliant!  I'll have to try the same technique for a maple cake. This cake is dense like a pound cake, or mine was. It was not soggy at all.  I made a small well in the batter which seems to have survived baking, not sure why.

Fricassee from Leftover Roast Beef

That huge roast from the other day finally got cut up into a wonderful stew.  I started with an onion diced and browned in oil. Then I sweated the finely diced celery.  Next I put in all the meat and gave it a nice brown all round. I added 2 tbsp of flour and cooked the flour taste off for a minute or two then added garlic, turnip, carrots, more celery cut larger and frozen corn.  I added enough stock to cover most ingredients in the pot, then some salt, pepper, paprika, Worcestershire Sauce  and dried oregano.

I simmered it for about 2 hours then added potatoes and in the last half hour some frozen peas.  It cooked at least 3 hours over all and the meat was melt in your mouth tender.  The gravy was thick and full of flavor. If I hadn't forgotten to get a baguette it would have been perfect!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Roast Beef with Cauliflower and Cheese Sauce

An inside round roast, not angus beef this time, but the regular road kill. Normally I would pass but this was an 'any roast for $10' sale and this huge chunk of meat would have sold for over $17 so I just couldn't pass it up. I coated it with

2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cloves
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp chilli powder

Then seared it all round on the stove before putting it in the oven at 250º  for about 2 hours but I use a meat thermometer.  I let it rest out of the oven for twenty minutes under foil. The carrots and cauliflower were steamed and a cheese sauce covers the cauliflower and potatoes.  I ran out of horseradish so I had to use HP Sauce. It wasn't that bad.

The cheese sauce was simply 1 tsp flour and 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Cook the flour taste off it but don't brown it. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock then slowly add 1/2 cup milk whisking out any lumps. Add more milk if it's too thick.  Add 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (I would have used cheddar but we were out!) stir to melt.

It was all pretty good and I have enough beef to make a stew and a chilli!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Pineapple Coconut Chicken Curry

This is an extremely easy dish to make despite it's exotic sounding name. For 2 people you need 300gm or about 3/4 lb of chicken cut into 3/4 inch cubes and dusted with flour. Half a can of pineapple pieces, drained and half a can of  coconut milk (shake both ends hard before opening. If there are big lumps in it they melt out.) and a quarter red pepper.( I used half a cup of diced mixed sweet peppers Fern froze from the garden)  Half a stick of celery and a shallot finely diced. Two tablespoons of curry powder, quarter teaspoon cayenne and half a teaspoon of salt.

Start by putting half a cup of rice on to cook Next I started sweating the shallot and celery.  I removed them from the pan and put the chicken in.  Once there was a nice sear all over the chicken, add the curry powder and cayenne.Add more oil if it dries out.  Add the peppers and pineapple pieces and salt. Stir that up and add the coconut milk. Let it boil down to thicken a bit and finish cooking the chicken. Serve over the rice.

It was absolutely delicious!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crab Cakes

I was in the mood for something fishy tonight and crab cakes came to mind.  I've never made crab cakes so this would be a first try. I bought imitation crab with 3% real crab.  It tastes good and should hide well in a crab cake. Not to mention it cost less than $3. I bought the prawns on clearance in case the crab cakes were a disaster.  I needn't have worried.

I got the potatoes peeled and on the stove and the carrots and beans ready for the steamer.  For the crab cakes I was adding a finely diced shallot and half a stick of celery also finely diced. I sweated the shallot and celery on the stove before putting in the bowl to cool.

The guacamole  was just a ripe avocado mashed, salt, tabasco and lime juice. A hot dish would have been a better complement but I was flying blind. By this time the sweated vegetables were cool and I broke the half pound of crab up into the bowl.  I put about half a cup of bread crumbs, from Alpine bread in and less than a quarter cup of flour. I want the flour as a binder not as a dough. To that I added 2 teaspoons onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon paprika. I mixed it all thoroughly then added a beaten egg, mixed again and made 4 patties. I dusted them with flour before putting in the pan.

The patties browned nicely and I plated them while the prawns heated up with some garlic.  I plated the mashed potatoes and vegetables then put the prawns over top.  Finally I finished with a dollop of guacamole between the patties.  Tartar sauce would have been better but I had to use up the avocado.

The crab cakes were sweet and delicious. What a relief.  I thought the guacamole was a nice condiment with the crab cakes but Fern felt it didn't belong. The prawns were great and the fresh beans were a nice treat.  I'll definitely make crab cakes again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pork Chop with Green Cauliflower on Polenta

I went to the store today with the idea of buying purple cauliflower on special.  Of course it was gone and only green left, same price, probably look better anyway. Instead of making carrots with it I wanted to try making polenta.  So I got the potatoes peeled and boiling, pared the cauliflower into the steamer, put 1/3 cup chicken stock and 2/3 cup milk on the stove and got out a plastic bag for the pork.

Pork Rub

1 tbsp flour
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne

Put in a bag, crush the lumps out, then put the chops in one at a time and shake to coat.  There is enough for 3 or 4 chops.  Put  the coated chops in a frying pan and rotate 180 degrees half way through this side to get an even sear. It was at least 4 minutes a side, really depends on the chop thickness. When I turned it over I put 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary over the chops.

When the milk and stock is boiling whisk in 1/3 cup corn grits and turn the heat down to low. Add 1/2 tsp salt, keep it stirred and put a lid on so it doesn't get too dry. It takes about 20 minutes to cook.

I managed to get the cauliflower out at the right time, running it under cold water. I put butter in the pot and put it back  on the burner on low so it would be hot when the cauliflower goes back in.  I poured extra virgin olive oil over the top and cooked it for a few minutes before serving.

I plated the potatoes and polenta with the cauliflower on top. The polenta was nice, it could have used a lot more flavor, but I liked it.  Fern didn't.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pan Fried Chicken Breast

I still had the maple cake in the oven when I started prepping dinner so I wasn't planning anything amazing. Chicken breasts pounded flat to double in size has become the standard treatment.  It cooks faster and more evenly so it's worth the trouble to put them in a plastic bag and pound a little. The spice rub didn't contain any garlic powder and it was really noticeable in the taste. Garlic seems to give a platform for the other flavors to play on. Onion powder and poultry seasoning alone didn't bring it to life.  It did have a nice crunch on the outside though, so it wasn't all bad.

I managed to over steam the broccoli too so they were a bit soft.  Plain white basmati rice with soy sauce for flavor. Fern likes plain white rice so I compromise by putting soy on mine. It was a satisfying meal though not the most flavor packed.

Maple Cake with Cinnamon Walnut Streusel

I love maple syrup so a maple cake sounded really good.  The recipe called for 1/4 cup maple syrup and some maple flavoring as well so it should taste pretty good.  This one was disappointing so I'm not including the recipe but describing the process can be illuminating.

The recipe was for a square pan but I just bought a bundt pan I was determined to use.  The recipe called for a layer of cake batter then a layer of streusel, the remaining batter and topped with the remaining streusel. Since I wanted to turn the cake out I did it in reverse order. Above is how it looked straight out of the pan. When it was cool I melted 1 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 cup icing sugar in a pan and poured it over the cake, pictured below.

I made a mistake with the ingredients.  The recipe called for baking powder and baking soda but I missed the baking soda.  Fortunately it called for more powder than soda so the cake rose anyway but it was a little bit heavy. As can be seen above I didn't put enough streusel in the bottom of the pan and I put too much batter on top of that.  Despite that the cake was still moist and had a fairly good texture.  The only real problem, where this recipe fails, is in flavor.  It just doesn't taste mapley enough. I have made a maple cake before by modifying a vanilla cake recipe into a maple cake.  I used the same amount of maple syrup as this recipe and got very similar results.  Maple flavor does not seem to survive cooking very well.  My grocery store sells a really mapley cake from a specialty bakery so I know the flavor can come through, I just have to figure out how to achieve it.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Beef Tenderloin with Spinach Salad

Beef tenderloin was on special so I splurged a little.  The steaks were less than $5 each so within my food budget anyway.  I had mushrooms in the fridge but I had to buy a bin of baby spinach. The salad was just baby spinach, boiled egg and real bacon bits. The salad dressing:

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp oil
2 tsp fresh lime juice

I fried the mushrooms in butter and served them over the steaks.  I put sour cream on my potato but not fake bacon bits as I have real ones in the salad. I seasoned the steak with my beef rub and it was absolutely delicious.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fillet of Sole with Tartar Sauce

I was in the mood for beef, Fern was in the mood for anything but.  So I settled on nice fresh fillets of sole and fresh green beans.  I got my potatoes going for the mash and put the carrots on to start steaming.  The sole was dredged in a mixture of:

2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika

and fried in plenty of oil. I cut the ends off the beans and steamed them whole with the carrots.  Just before they were done I drained the water, turned the burner to low  and put the veggies back in with butter, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. While they were finishing I made a condiment.

Tartar Sauce

3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
juice of 1/4 lemon
a good pinch of salt

Mix and slop on the fish. I also put sour cream on my mashed potatoes with artificial bacon bits. I drizzled lemon juice over the fish after plating.  It was every bit as good as it looks, unless you're a cardiologist!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Pork Chop, mashed potato, peas and carrots

Pork chops tonight.  I shook the chops with the rub in a plastic bag and fried them. Fern has been bugging me to sear at higher temperature so this time I did and burned them nicely.  The burnt part didn't affect the taste that much. They were MMMMMM instead of  WOW! Mashed potatoes with sour cream on top.  Those are artificial bacon bits on the sour cream.  I saw, I used. The vegetables were done in the microwave since the peas were frozen anyway. Fern's homemade ketchup is the condiment.  Apples, onions and tomatoes with herbs and spices, it's to die for!

Pork Chop Rub

1 tbsp flour
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prawns on Fresh Pasta

Prawns were on special and I was in the mood for pasta.  Pasta is surprisingly easy to make but it takes time and a little muscle.

Pasta (per serving)

1 egg
2/3 cup flour

Put the flour in a bowl or a mound on the counter and make a well in the center.  Drop the egg into the well and use a fork moving in a slowly widening circular motion to take up the flour.  Keep moving the fork until all the flour is incorporated.  Turn the dough out onto the counter and kneed a bit to develop the gluten.  Take up  all the bits and add more flour until the dough is not sticky. Cover the dough and put it in the fridge for half an hour or more.

I cut the dough into single servings so it's easier to work with. If I didn't have a pasta roller I would use a rolling pin or piece of broom stick or a bottle to roll the dough out. Then cut it into fettuccine with a knife.  Dredge the freshly cut pasta in flour so it doesn't stick to itself.

The prawns had tails on so I held a knife edge on the meat at the tip of the tail and pull the prawn away from the shell.  For the tomato sauce I used a can of our own tomatoes which were canned ripe and full of flavor.  There are few ingredients so each one must be top quality or the dish will be mediocre.

Tomato Sauce

1 500ml - 16oz can whole or crushed or stewed tomatoes or 2 cups fresh tomatoes
1 shallot
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt (if needed)
pepper to taste

In a large saute pan sweat the finely diced shallot and garlic in some oil.  Add the prawns and make sure both sides of all the prawns are almost fully cooked. Take the prawns out of the pan and put them aside.  If the tomatoes are whole, use an immersion blender or whatever is available to liquefy them. Add tomatoes to saute pan and cook off some of the water.  When the sauce is about the right consistency add the prawns and finish cooking.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Boil the pasta for 3 to 6 minutes in salted water. Strain, plate and spoon sauce and prawns over the pasta.  Serve with parmesan cheese over top and take a bow.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Angus Rib Steak

Fern had to go to Vancouver overnight so I was Home Alone!  One thing can always be counted on when Fern goes away, I'm having fatty red meat for dinner! I paired my Angus rib steak with baked potato and mushrooms and zucchini. The steak was seasoned with my beef rub and done on the BBQ for 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes, turn over, 2 minutes, rotate, 2 minutes and they're done. While the steak was on the BBQ I fried the mushrooms and removed them from the pan then did the zucchini.
When the zucchini had a nice sear I put the mushrooms back in and finished cooking everything together.  The baked potato was done in the microwave.  A tasty meal to keep the lonely's away.

Beef Rub

1  1/4  tbsp paprika
1   tbsp kosher salt
1   tsp garlic powder
1/2   tsp ground black pepper
1/2   tsp onion powder
1/2   tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2   tsp dried oregano
1/2   tsp dried thyme

Coat beef with rub and spray or brush with oil.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Which Extra Virgin Olive Oil to buy?

When I shop I don't look for the cheapest price, I look for the best value.  Sometimes the most expensive option is the best value, but not often. For extra virgin olive oil, I don't use vast amounts so the best tasting one is the best value. The two top end products here are Bertolli and Philippo Berio. Bertolli is $2 or about 15% more expensive but is it better?  I put a few drops of Bertolli on a plate and a few drops of Berio beside it.  I dipped my finger in the Bertolli and tasted it.  A mild flavor, no after taste. I drank a little water to cleanse my palate and dipped my finger in the Berio. It had  a stronger flavor and a distinct bitter after taste. That solves the dilemma, Bertolli tastes better so it is the better value even though it is the more expensive. Too bad I just bought a bottle of Berio!

Meat Loaf

The meat counter's gourmet meatloaf was half price and looked interesting so, after interrogating the maker, I bought one. It smelled good cooking and tasted great!  I over cooked it a bit and half the mozzarella leaked out of the center but it wasn't dry. This product made in store from good quality ingredients, I'd buy again, if it's half price.

Sweet Pepper Chicken

It wasn't as bad as it looks, but it isn't worth writing about except to say, "Overconfidence on a plate."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ham and Cauliflower Quebecois

Fern brings this recipe from Trois Rivieres, Quebec where it was a family favorite. It's very simple, ham, potatoes and cauliflower in a caramelized onion cheddar cheese sauce.

Start with cooked ham, par boiled potatoes and a steamed head of cauliflower.  Take several 1/8th inch thick slices of ham. Lay them in the pan overlapping slightly so sauce can get under the meat. Next spread the sliced potatoes over the ham. Break the head of cauliflower into florets and slice the large ones in half.  Spread the cauliflower over the potatoes. Now the cheese sauce that ties it all together.

Thinly slice an onion so there are even width strips and caramelize in a sauce pan with a tablespoon or two of oil. When the onions are golden sprinkle 2 heaping teaspoons of flour over them and toss the lot to coat.  Cook briefly to remove the raw flour taste then remove the pan from the heat.  Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and 1/4 cup milk and stir to smooth out the lumps. Add more milk a little at a time till you have added a cup and 1/2 and put it back on medium heat. Add a bit more if you think you need it but not too much or it won't thicken. If it's too thick add milk. If it's gluey add chicken stock. Now it's ready to add the cheese!

Slowly add 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese, stirring occasionally till it's all melted.  Taste the sauce and add a pinch of salt if it needs it. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and put the pan in the oven at 350º. It only needs to heat through so twenty to thirty minutes is plenty.  Serve it up and enjoy this delicious comfort food.

Chicken Chicken

I've been getting tired of Southwest and Cajun rubs all the time so I decided to just use some basic herbs tonight.  Poultry Seasoned Chicken sounds like a pretty boring dish but Chicken Chicken leaves it open to some speculation.  Fern wanted just plain white rice and I was serving it with spinach salad instead of cooked vegetables. Chicken Chicken seasoning:

in a mortar crush:

1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt

I have learned to always pound chicken breasts flat before seasoning and cooking.  It makes cooking faster and more even and gives more surface area to take on flavor. I sprinkled the rub on, but shaking the breasts and rub in a plastic bag would have done a better job. In any case, spray the seasoned meat with oil and BBQ or just fry in some oil.

The vinaigrette for the salad was

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
juice of a lime I found at the bottom of the fridge (lemon works too)
whisk and quickly toss the salad in the dressing.

Fern initially grimaced at the thought of lime salad dressing but on spinach and mushroom it worked quite well. I served white rice and put a bit soy sauce on my own.  I wonder if sour cream helps rice the way it does potatoes? Maybe one day I'll find out.  The chicken was delicious and the salad a surprise.  Sometimes just plain old white rice is what you're hungry for. I could have garnished the plate to make it more appealing but the meal overall was exactly what we felt like eating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Banana Bread

I really like banana bread and make it fairly often.  This recipe produces the moistest, most delicious cake I've tried. It's quite simple too.

Banana Bread

In a bowl mash:

4  bananas
add and beat:
1 egg
add and stir:
1/3 cup melted butter (melted not hot)
1 tsp vanilla
add and mix:
1 cup sugar
add and mix:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Line a bread pan with parchment paper and spray or brush with oil. Pour batter into pan and bake at 350º for 1 hour. When a toothpick comes out with no batter it's done (cake crumbs are okay).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Garlic Oregano Pork Tendeloin

I moved the oregano and other herbs inside the sun room and they perked right up.  I used about 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano and 2 cloves of fresh garlic. In a bowl I put the herbs, half a cup of oil, juice of one lemon, one teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. I cut the tenderloin into about one inch pieces and tossed them in the marinade.  I put the lot in the fridge for about 3 hours.

At dinner time I made basmati rice in the microwave while I BBQ'd the pork. I did the corn on the stove top and the peas in the microwave when the rice was done. I like a little soy sauce on my rice if I didn't help it at all.  Fern likes plain white rice so I make it for him. The meat was delicious even though the rest was basic as can be.


Fern made the sauce from his own tomatoes! It was extra yummy. He just pointed out he also shredded the cheese and had to go on a 2 hour ferry ride to get the pasta. (he had to take the ferry to see a doctor, the shopping was a free extra!)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Lemon Chicken

I thought I'd try my hand at lemon chicken, how hard can it be? I pounded my breasts flat, sprinkled salt and a little brown sugar down on an oiled pan.  I laid the breasts on top and seasoned the top the same way.  I laid lemon slices over all the chicken, covered the pan in foil and put it in a 350º oven for 50 minutes.  That was much too long as it turns out.  Thirty minutes then take the foil off and put them back in if they aren't quite done would have been perfect.  So they were dry and over done but they did taste lemony! I steamed the veggies and made ordinary mashed potatoes.  Not a restaurant quality meal, but it wasn't terrible either.

We had lunch in a restaurant where the chef just went home sick, someone else hadn't shown up so the dishwasher was cooking.  We waited an hour for our food. My sandwich had so much dijon mustard on it, even after scraping as much off as I could I still couldn't eat it. I ate the fries, which I couldn't taste because my mouth was burned out by the mouthful of mustard. So the restaurant didn't win any prizes today either.

Venison Liver

Fern cooked dinner tonight and it was delightful.  Friends had a very successful hunt, 6 deer, so we were gifted with a fresh liver. That part of living in a remote area is great.  The grizzly bear killed at the public beach down the street last summer, not so much. If you get a chance at a fresh deer liver, take it!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Agar Gelled Milk with Fruit Cocktail

We were out of yogurt and there wasn't enough ice cream for two. What to do? A vanilla pudding might be nice. I can use the agar agar to gel some milk and put fresh fruit on top.  I put one cup of milk in a pot on the stove and added half a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 5 teaspoons of sugar and about 1/3 teaspoon agar agar powder. The instructions called for 1/2 tsp agar per cup liquid but I found this produced a grittiness in the finished product. The lesser amount produced a smooth clean gel. In any case simply bring the liquid to a boil, give it a stir to make sure all the agar is dissolved and pout it into molds or dishes.  I put the dishes outside to cool but it's such a small amount, only the white at the bottom is gelled, they could have cooled on the counter.  As soon as the liquid cools below the melting temperature of agar, it gels. It isn't necessary to wait till it's cool.  Once it is set it's good to go.

On top of the gel I put fresh cut fruit and topped it with chocolate sauce.  The chocolate sauce was going a bit too far but here's the recipe.

Chocolate Sauce

1 tsp cocoa powder
3 tsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp milk or cream

Stir and add more milk or cream if it's too thick.  Pour a small amount over the fruit, unlike the chocolate swimming pool I created, less is more.

The gel was smooth but light, not creamy, which was preferred in this situation. The liquid from the fruit formed a layer over the gel but it ate with the gel just fine. I put too much chocolate, it might have been better with just a dusting of icing sugar. I'll definitely make more gels though, this was simple and fairly fast.

I found agar agar and gelatin at the health food store for considerably less than the grocery store so it's worth shopping around a bit.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Corn Breaded Cat Fish

I felt like fish for dinner and at first I dismissed the Basa (Cat Fish) because it was previously frozen. The only other choice would have been Sole, which was fresh.  Then I thought for a minute. I think I had thawed basa before and it was good so I decided to take a chance.

Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil complete the plate. I have a big dollop of sour cream on my potatoes so that's why they look so white. To coat the fish I put 2 teaspoons of flour in a plastic bag followed by 1/2 tsp salt, mixed ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne and 2 teaspoons of corn meal/grits.  I resisted the urge to add more herb in case I spoiled the taste of the fish. I shook the fish in the bag then fried it in hot oil and mostly managed to keep the coating on the fish. It was delicious, we both loved it, so did the dogs! I'll bet fresh cat fish is REALLY great!

Carrot Cake

I had half a can of pineapple left over in the fridge from the curry several days ago.  I decided to make a carrot cake and since my recipe makes way too much cake for two people, I'll only make half. So here are the halved instructions:

Carrot Cake

2 eggs
add and mix:
3 ounces vegetable oil  (hint: 8 ounces in a cup)
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated carrot
1/2 can pineapple tidbits
add and mix:
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
add and mix:
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional but they really help, specially pecans!)

Pour into a parchment lined bread pan and bake at 350ºF for 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

The pictured cake was made with exactly half the flour of the original recipe which wasn't quite enough for the eggs and oil so this recipe has the correct amount of flour. Also when I sliced the cake with my new slicer I set it too high. Live and learn.

Butter Cream Icing

1 cup soft butter
add and cream:
1 to 2 cups sifted icing sugar
add as much as needed for the right consistency of:
1 tablespoon whipping cream or milk
It should be stiff but easy to work.

I put a dollop in the center of the cake and work it out to the edges. Put top half of cake on and apply icing as before. I put the excess in a pipping bag and had  some fun with it!

Beef Stew Fry

I had some left over roast beef but not enough for two.  So I went to the store to fill the rest of the plate. My hopes for a surf and turf were quickly dashed.  Nothing appropriate on the fish counter so I continued to the Angus Beef counter.  There was a nice sirloin tip steak for $2.97 that would fill out my left over roast nicely. I snapped it up and headed home.

First, I put the rice in the microwave. Then I diced half an onion, a carrot and a stick of celery.  Next I sliced a zucchini and some mushrooms and chopped the rest of the onion in one inch pieces. The meat, roast and steak was cut into 1/8th inch thick strips.

I put oil in the pan and put it on medium high heat and put the diced onion in the sizzling pan.  I fried them to golden and took them out of the pan.  Next I did the mushrooms, then the zucchini and finally the celery. When the rice was done I put the carrot in the microwave to precook it a bit.

I put the raw beef in the frying pan to give it a good sear.  When it was almost done I put the rest of the roast beef in to warm it up.  Finally, I put all the vegetables back in, sprinkled a little flour over everything and stirred it up.

Fern doesn't want anything with soy sauce so it has to end up with some kind of gravy instead. That's where stew fry comes from.  I don't make beef stock and I don't like opening a one liter $4 box for 25ml of stock.  So I used a little chicken stock instead because I needed something. When it was all hot, fully cooked with a thin gravy I plated the rice and stew fry over top for me and beside for Fern.   I hadn't put any herbs in, just salt and pepper so it had good flavor but nothing special. A 1/2 tsp of garlic powder or even some fresh garlic would have brought some extra flavor to this dish.

Some days I just can't seem to hit all the flavor bases on the fly. I guess this speaks to consistency.  Adding basic seasonings should be automatic so I 'll have to work on that. Over all it was a very good meal I'd make again, with a little added effort.