Friday, April 27, 2012

Southwest Chicken with white wine gravy

Southwest spice is slightly different than Cajun, it has cumin and coriander, but for my purpose yelling 'YeeHaaa' while lightly sprinkling Cajun on the chicken will suffice.  I seared both sides in the pan then popped the breasts in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 375º.  I had the potatoes bubbling lightly and the veggies were in the microwave (I just made stock in the steamer so I had nuke).

For the gravy I browned half a diced onion in oil and a little butter for flavor.  When it was golden I sprinkled a teaspoon of flour over it and stirred that in. Next I added stock till it was runny and then a splash of white wine.  A dash of Worcestershire and some salt and pepper. Taste, adjust, taste again. With the spice already on the chicken, that should be pretty good. It was, I plated it and scarfed it down in a few minutes.

I also made banana bread this afternoon which I'm going to enjoy right now!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roast Pork with Roasted Potatoes

Today the little "Manager's Special" sign was still up on the pork sirloin claiming the sale price of $5.49/kg.  Each roast was priced at $12.79/kg so I picked a nice sized one with a price just under $10 and asked the meat counter Manager if he could price it at the sale price displayed on the shelf.  He retrieved the sale sign  as it was not supposed to be there but he repriced the roast for me and I only paid $4.36 for it. A deal always tastes better.

It was too late to brine the roast so I rubbed it with salt and pepper then painted it with a teaspoon of molasses. It wasn't as good as brined pork but it was very tasty. I tossed the potatoes and carrots in oil and seasoned them before putting the roast on a rack in the center and putting it all in the oven. The broccoli was microwaved, old habits die hard.  The condiment is homemade 'ketchup'. The roast was cooked in a 375ºF oven for about 1.5 hours using a meat thermometer.   I let the roast rest under aluminum foil for 15 minutes before cutting into it. If you cut into a roast too soon all the moisture escapes as steam making the meat cold and dry.


Everyone prefers spaghetti sauce the way their mother made it. It's almost always some variation of brown a diced onion then the meat.  Add garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and maybe some basil. Add a can of tomato sauce.  Maybe some tomato paste and possibly a can of Aylmer tomato soup (no other brand will do). Possibly a green pepper diced up and maybe some sliced mushrooms and a finely diced carrot. Top that with fresh grated Parmesan and you have everyone's favorite comfort meal. Even a better tasting sauce cannot replace the warm and fuzzy feeling imparted by mom's spaghetti. The only way to get a better sauce accepted at the table is to make the pasta too. Next time I do that I'll document it for sure.

Corn flour pork cutlet with Arugula salad

Pork cutlet tonight, a tenderized one, cheap but tasty. I like corn flour on my chops so I mixed up 3 tablespoons corn flour and 1 tablespoon corn meal.  To that I added salt, pepper, fresh oregano and fresh marjoram.  I dredged the meat directly in the flour mixture with no dipping in milk first. Then put it in hot oil in a frying pan.  I've found that I can watch the meat change color and texture as it cooks from the bottom up.  When the cooked meat reaches the middle, turn over the chop and finish the other side.

The pork is served with homemade French-Canadian 'Ketchup'.  My partner makes it but I'll document it in the fall because it is such a wonderful condiment.  Ordinary mashed potatoes and carrots and frozen corn. I had no green on the plate so I made a small rocket ( arugula ) salad/garnish with sesame oil dressing.  I thought I could enhance the hint of sesame in the rocket by adding sesame oil to the dressing.  All it did was make it too strong and add a bitter taste. The salad was still nice to eat since there wasn't enough oil to completely overwhelm the white balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frozen Yogurt with Strawberries and Tarragon Leaves

My partner's doctor said all that ice cream would give him another heart attack.  So I immediately started making frozen yogurt.  I used 1 cup greek krema yogurt, it's about 9% Milk Fat to 2 cups 1% milk.  A teaspoon of vanilla and 3/4 cup sugar.  We use 1% milk so overall the fat is about the same as whole milk. That makes a nice smooth frozen mixture that has a little tang but tastes good. For a fruity version use 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1/4 cup fruit.  Use the immersion blender or food processor to fully macerate the fruit.  If you have little pieces of strawberry for example, they become frozen rocks, not fun to eat.

Shown is Vanilla frozen yogurt with fresh strawberries tossed in icing sugar.  A few leaves of licorice flavored tarragon makes a tasty contrasting garnish.

Steamed Vegetables

Cajun chicken again but this time it's on the BBQ and I steamed the vegetables instead of microwaving them.  The broccoli definitely prefers being steamed, the carrots don't seem to care. So in future if I have time I'll steam the vegetables. Yellow flesh potatoes have a little more flavor but it doesn't make a big difference in mashed.  Fried the yellow flavor really stands out. I've started crinkle cutting the carrots but the plate still looks a lot suburban.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ginger Beef with Broccoli and 5 Spice Chop Suey

Time to use up the leftover roast beef.  On the left is Ginger Beef with Broccoli and on the right is 5 Spice Chop Suey.  Under all that is brown and red basmati rice with a bit of pearl barley for extra flavor. I cooked the rice with half stock half water and a little salt. I used two frying pans to create the meal.  I started with a diced onion and half of it in each pan.  When that was golden I added half a carrot and half a stick of celery with a bit chicken stock to steam the carrots.  When the liquid was gone add a bit more oil and cook the mushrooms and add a diced green pepper to the chop suey pan.  When they are done add your ginger to one and a half teaspoon of 5 spice powder to the other.  I par cooked the broccoli in the microwave before adding it and the beef to one pan and the bean sprouts to the 5 spice pan.  If the pan is quite moist you can shake some instant blending flour to thicken it.  When all the vegetables are almost cooked add soy sauce to taste in each dish.

The 5 spice has not been well received in stir fries so I won't be using it again that way. Ginger beef and broccoli never seems to get tired.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

First Arugula of the season

Dinner was ham, sliced potatoes and cauliflower covered in a cheese sauce and baked. It was good but nothing to write about, comfort food from partners childhood. The salad however was quite worth writing about.   I harvested the first of the arugula (rocket), tore it up and tossed it with diced tomato, feta cheese and white balsamic vinaigrette.  The rocket tasted of sweet burnt sesame which was just delightful after frozen vegetables yesterday. In a few days when the plants have recovered I'll harvest more and try sesame oil in the dressing.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cajun Chicken with frozen vegetables

Broccoli is on special but we had it last night and I felt like something else.  I like peas and corn and I have them both frozen but I haven't tried 2 frozen vegetables on the same plate. So why not? I do frozen vegetables in the microwave which gives fairly consistent results. My partner doesn't like mixed vegetables, they should be separate so I had to find a way to cook them together but not mixed.  A divided glass dish would be perfect but I've never seen an appropriate one.  I decided to put the corn in a plastic bag and put the bag in the glass dish with the frozen peas so both vegetables will be ready at the same time.  I put a little chicken stock in with the peas and the corn.  It worked great, I strained out the corn and put it in a bowl with some butter and salt.  I drained the peas and added a pad of butter, some salt and pepper.

I had mashed potatoes and the chicken breast coated in my Cajun spice. That Cajun spice is really versatile but I really need to develop another different but equally easy recipe, I'll have to keep an eye out for good candidates.  In the mean time this makes a tasty easy meal in about 35 minutes for less than $3/person.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ginger Beef with Broccoli

I forgot to take a picture but a stir fry looks like a stir fry.  Tonight was leftover roast beef, one of my favorites.  I picked up some mushrooms and ginger at the market and got the rice going when I got home.  I started with a quarter cup of brown basmati rice. Then covered the bottom of the quarter cup measure with brown basmati, added a layer of pearl barley and filled the measure with red thai or red basmati rice.  For the liquid I used half chicken stock and half water, added some salt and pepper and put it on to cook.

In my largest frying pan I browned a diced onion till it was golden in some oil with a few drops of sesame oil.  Then I added the sliced mushrooms and browned them.  The meat went in next, which was a mistake, I should have waited till the end to put it in. I shook a bit of flour on the browning meat so it will thicken the sauce. Next went in the carrots and celery for a quick sweat.  Next a tablespoon of stock in the frying pan to make a little sauce. I had the broccoli crowns steaming so when they were almost done I drained and added them to the frying pan.  Add the peeled finely chopped ginger root, I used a piece about the size of my thumb.  Toss it all together, add some soy sauce to season and it's done.  Plate over the rice and enjoy a delicious gingery meal.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Medical Marijuana Butter legalized, how to make it

Medical marijuana users have just succeeded in striking down the portion of the law limiting use to smoking it in Canada. Here is how to make your own butter:

Take a known amount of pot, eg enough to make 20 joints and put it in a large pot filled with water. Drop in a pound of butter and bring to pot to a boil. Simmer for several hours then it sit to cool.  Put it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning you'll have a layer of butter on top. take it out, clean the scum off the bottom.  You can use it now but it will taste pretty awful and it comes out in small pieces.  I put it in a small tall pot of water and bring it to a boil again then let this cool and put over night in the fridge.  In the morning you will have a fairly pure easy to clean puck of butter. Use it in place of a portion of the butter in a recipe.  My Walmart Brownies almost hide the strong fodder taste of the butter. From the number of joints you started with you'll know about how many portions to make with the butter.

Cajun Snapper

We're eating a lot more fish and snapper is one of our favorites.  It's fresh, firm, tasty, local and sustainable so it's good all the way round. Two important things to know about snapper.  You need a pair of needle nose pliers to pull the bones out. If you raid the work bench give the tool a good wash with soap and water before you use it with food. The bones are thick and run up the center of the filet half way to the tail. Grab the end of a bone with the pliers and put your fingers in front of them to strip the flesh off the bone as you pull.  There's usually five or six of them. Feel the whole filet to make sure you haven't missed any.  A bone on the plate bothers everyone.

The other thing you need to know is that snapper skin has a very unpleasant fishy taste that you do not want to experience. There usually is a little bit of skin here and there so be sure to trim it all off.  If there is a lot you'll need your sharpest flexible knife to shave the skin off the filet. Careful shopping can save you a lot of time here.  Once it's all clean season it with Cajun spice and lay into a hot oiled frying pan. You can actually see the texture and color of the fish change as it cooks from the bottom up.  When it gets up to the middle of the thickest part, turn it over.

I've been crinkle cutting my carrots which makes them prettier but I haven't really found any better plating arrangement. Taste is great though.

Roast Beef with Ratatouille

It wasn't Angus beef but it was enough for two dinners for two for $6 so I figured we could live with it.  Since the roast wasn't going to be the star I needed the vegetables to carry more of the flavor load. I had everything but mushrooms so I picked up 6.

I used my beef rub on the meat, seared it and popped it in the oven.  Mashed potatoes. I don't remember if I ever described how to make them so here goes.  Peel them, rinse them, cut them into less than one inch pieces, cover them with cold water in a pot with half a teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil then turn down to gentle boil. When a fork pierces them easily, drain them, mash them, add a pad of butter and a little salt.  With a fork stir in an ounce of milk, add more if it's too dry. I would have added chives on top but I was running late due to the ratatouille.

For the vegetables I wanted max flavor so I diced an onion and fried it golden then removed it from the pan.  Next I fried the mushrooms to give them a nice sear and put them aside. Then the crinkle cut zucchini got some color and was taken out.  Finally I put the carrots and celery in to sweat a little then I added some chicken stock and boiled it mostly off.  This dissolved the residue from all the searing and brought all that flavor back into the dish.  Put everything back in and add a diced tomato and keep tossing till it's hot. Add a little salt and pepper and serve. It takes a few minutes extra to sear the vegetables individually but it gets the best results so it's worth it if you have the time.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cajun Halibut with Fries and Artichoke Heart Salad

Fresh halibut was on special today, it was still $3.49/100gm so two small pieces was almost $10! No wonder I don't buy it often. I decided to do what I knew so I got out my trusty Cajun spice and a good frying pan. I really like fish and chips and it had been a while since I had the deep fryer out so that's what we had.  These were yellow flesh potatoes and they were quite good fried. Mashed they aren't all that special but deep fried the flavor really came out. That's ordinary ketchup on the fries.

The condiment is simply mayonnaise with sweet relish and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, some salt and pepper. It was surprisingly good. The salad is compliments of my partner Fern. It is roasted sweet peppers, artichoke hearts, English cucumber, black olive, red onion and feta cheese. Dressed with extra virgin olive oil and red balsamic vinegar. He found the roasted peppers kind of slimy in the salad so he'll leave 'em fresh next time.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Cajun Chicken with Rice Pilaf

Cajun Chicken again but done on the BBQ for the first time this year.  Plating didn't get any attention because cleaning the BBQ wore me out a bit. Taste was there though.  I made the rice with half chicken stock and half water then added a few fresh chives just before serving. Delicious. I find if I make a really good stock I don't need anything else in the rice to lift it up. I should start steaming the veggies instead of microwaving them but the convenience is hard to give up. In any case, a quick, delectable meal.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Roast Beef again, so good it doesn't get tired

Lucky us! I had beef in mind for dinner and when I got to the meat counter there was a small angus sirloin tip roast marked down to clear.  To me that means it's aged a little longer to develop more flavor, so I snapped it up.

I mixed up more beef rub with fresh oregano that's finally growing again and coated the roast.  I seared all sides, inserted the meat thermometer, then put it in a 250º degree oven for about 1.5 hours. My garnishing kit arrived so I have crinkle cut the carrots.  I can do a little radish rose now so I'm on the way to prettier plates although this train hasn't quite reached that station.

Now I am confident I can produce a delicious roast every time. The only thing that bothers me about this method is the pan drippings are too salty to make into gravy. I'll probably try to do something about it with my next roast.

I bought 10lbs of yellow flesh potatoes to see if they have better flavor than russets.  I'd have to say "yes, a little, but not enough to justify the extra cost."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cajun prawns with ginger broccoli

Sorry no photo this time but picture a stir fry with spicy prawns,  broccoli and carrots on rice and you should be spot on.  I was supposed to get snapper but it was all gone when I got to the store.  I was tired of snapper anyway.  I looked over everything and decided to risk the prev froz prawns on special. I had one soupy sole dinner to turn me off frozen fish, but maybe prawns can handle freezing. I knew I had broccoli for the vegetable but had no idea what I was going to do with the prawns.

I started cleaning the prawns, I like to take out the digestive tract and remove all the shell. While I was doing that I thought cajun prawns in a stir fry. So when the prawns were clean I laid them out  on the board and seasoned them with the cajun spice.

I heated the pan with some cooking oil and sesame oil and added a diced onion.  I wanted the onion golden before putting the broccoli and crinkle cut carrots in.  When they were in I added some stock to steam them a bit. When the broccoli was almost done I added the prawns to the center of the pan, turning them when they were half done.  When the prawns were almost done I added the finely chopped ginger and stirred everything into the broccoli with some soy sauce.  I plated the rice and the stir fry over top.

The prawns were good, not a bad texture but they definitely weren't like fresh.  They also lacked some of the delicate flavor of fresh prawns.  So in a pinch frozen will do but they won't produce the best results. Otherwise the dish was quite enjoyable.