Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Prawns, Penne Pasta and Butter Lettuce Salad


I haven't made spaghetti for weeks! That's never happened before and this is one of the reasons.  My favourite Mezzetta Tomato Basil sauce is unavailable so I've had to innovate.  Mitchell's grocery store has a nice organic tomato sauce from Tree Of Life products.  It's the second best tomato sauce I've come across. The Mezzetta is just a little brighter tasting. Probably slightly more acid. Tree of Life is denser, I don't have to cook off the water before serving it, so it's better from that perspective.

I started with a shallot diced and sweating in the pan.  To that I added a teaspoon of ground garlic (I was out of fresh). Next I added a pad of butter and the raw prawns with a little salt.  I cook them till they change colour then turn them over. I take them from the pan before they are done.  They finish cooking in the sauce and don't turn to rubber if you don't over do them. Add the sauce.  The prawns go back in a minute before serving so they finish cooking.

I washed and spun the butter lettuce. One tomato diced and two inches of cucumber thinly sliced.  For a dressing I used 1 tablespoon of walnut oil (any good tasting oil will do) and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Salt and black pepper. Whisk and toss the salad in it. 

I cook the pasta for 12 minutes, a bit more than el dente. Serve the sauce and prawns over the pasta and top with fresh grated Parmesan.  A meal that used to be a plate of spaghetti has matured into this tasty treat. A big improvement.



Sunday, December 29, 2013

Pineapple Coconut Turkey Curry


I started with rice. 2 parts water, 1 part rice, salt, fat. Put in microwave, press Rice and Start. Hard to screw that up! (Panasonic Genius)

I diced and sweated a shallot, carrot and stick of celery.  Then I added the mushrooms and seared them. I sprinkled a teaspoon of flour and a tablespoon of curry powder a bit more oil so it wouldn't burn. Then a teaspoon of Asian oyster/fish sauce to give the umami flavour and tone down the sweetness. Turkey stock next, an ounce,  and then half a can of coconut milk. A splash of pineapple juice. Frozen peas and I had some frozen sweet peppers, 2 tablespoons of those too. Once the frozen vegetables are thawed, add the turkey.  Stir it all and let it finish cooking.  Serve next to rice. A garnish would have turned it into a pretty and tasty dish!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Tomato Basil Turkey Rotini


I forgot to take a photo again so it looked like this but with turkey instead of prawns. Also I used a different tomato sauce which wasn't as watery. I started with a diced shallot from the garden, sweated. Then I added a teaspoon of flour and cooked it a moment. An ounce or two of turkey stock, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp dry basil,  a 14oz can of tomato sauce and salt to taste. I cooked off the excess water and added the turkey meat. Let the meat heat up, then serve over rotini pasta. They'll think you worked on it all day!

For a salad I sliced up white mushrooms and took the stems off some spinach.  A dot of Dijon mustard, 1 tablspoon oil (I used corn but any nice tasting oil will do), 1 teaspoon lemon juice; whisk, taste, adjust. Salt and black pepper. Whisk it all up and toss the salad in it. Wonderful simple dressing.

This was very good, I may do it with chicken occasionally.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Turkey Dinner


Oddly enough, after working all day, I didn't remember to photograph my plate when I finally sat down. At this point, I really don't care. My stuffing wasn't great, not terrible but not great. The squash didn't cook in time. Tim dropped it off because he couldn't use it all. Looks like I can't either. The mashed potatoes were great. The peas and turnip were excellent. The Brussels sprouts were a little over done. The gravy was very good. The turkey I estimated would take 4 hours to cook, took 3. I left an extra hour because these things always take longer, so the turkey was ready 2 hours early. I kept turning the heat down till it was at 150ºF. The turkey wasn't dried out so it worked. 

Everyone left full and happy. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Eggnog Cookies



I wanted to make some kind of Christmas cookie but sugar cookies always seem like something is missing.  So I decided to try Eggnog Cookies, since eggnog is my favourite seasonal beverage.  I looked on the internet at a few recipes for eggnog cookies, there are some so that probably means they can be good. Rather than follow someone else's recipe I decided to just wing it. Pretty much any cookie can be started with 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup sugar.  To that I added an ounce of milk, an egg, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 cups of flour.  I put 1/2 tsp baking powder on top of the flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp nutmeg. Salt might have helped but I forgot to add it. I tasted the batter and it was good, tasted like eggnog. I added a bit more flour until the dough didn't stick to my hand then made a ball, wrapped in plastic and put in the freezer for 20 minutes at least. When it's firmed up, place between floured parchment and roll to 1/8th inch thick. Cut into cookies. Two drops of red food colouring with 2 tablespoons sugar, stir it up and sprinkle with a sieve over the cookies. Bake at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden. 


The eggnog flavour was mostly lost during cooking but the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg still made a cameo appearance. Unfortunately cinnamon and nutmeg cookies aren't entirely delicious. I've had worse cookies, they aren't awful, they just aren't delicious. Next time I'll make ginger snaps, Joy of Cooking has a wonderful recipe.

update: People have been dropping in and trying the cookies.  So far everyone has liked them, maybe I'm too critical.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fried Banana on Banana Bread


I had a banana getting ripe and lonely and some banana bread and I felt like more than banana bread with butter on it. I tried to make a caramel sauce, it didn't work, again. Eventually I'll figure it out but not tonight. I just fried the banana in butter and put some brown sugar over it. I poured all that on a piece of banana bread and it was fairly good and satisfying. A little whipped cream would have picked it right up into 'dessert'.

Banana Bread

4 ripe bananas - mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour
optional:
1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix wet ingredients, then dry.  Line loaf pan with parchment, lightly spray with oil, add batter and bake 1 hour or until a toothpick in center is clean of batter, crumbs ok. It finishes baking outside the oven, so if it's perfect when it comes out of the oven, it will be dry by the time it's cooled. It should come out of the oven when a crumb still sticks to a toothpick, then it will be perfect when it's cool.




Pineapple Coconut Curry Prawns


I decided to try my curry with prawns instead of chicken. It's wonderful! This was fairly quick to put together too! First, put rice on to cook.  Next, put 6-8 frozen raw prawns per person in a sieve or colander and run under cold water to defrost.  Let them sit in cold water while you make the curry. I take the tails off before cooking them, that's optional. I don't like taking curry covered tails out of my mouth with my fingers while I'm eating. Or tomato covered for that matter.

I sweated an onion with a couple of cloves of garlic smashed and chopped. When the onion is translucent add the prawns with a little salt and cook till they change colour but don't cook them right through.  Turn them over and do the other side then take them from the pan.  They should still be rawish in the middle, they'll finish cooking in the sauce.

Sprinkle a tablespoon of curry powder over the pan and cook it a moment then take the pan off the heat.  Add an ounce of chicken stock and half a can of coconut milk. If there are solids in the coconut milk put half of it in the pan and it will melt. The coconut milk needs to reduce and thicken, while it's doing that it can steam the broccoli and cook the frozen peas.  I also added frozen sweet peppers and some pineapple juice. 

When it has thickened and cooked the vegetables add the prawns and pineapple pieces. Heat everything through and serve over rice. Fern went to town overnight so I made this for myself. It was easy to make for one person and well worth the trouble. Broccoli doesn't have to be in there, peas alone would do fine. It's a tasty, easy, versatile meal. Very much comfort food.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rib Steak


Fern wasn't feeling well so I headed off to the store intending to buy chicken and make some chicken soup.  Naturally, the grocery store had plans as well. Where the chicken breasts usually are there were rows of whole chickens. There were no chicken breasts with bone in skin on at all. There also were no small packages of chicken. The smallest piece of chicken I could buy was a whole chicken. So I gave up on chicken, we had pork last night so beef was the only other choice. 

I have been trying to make a salad more often, Fern isn't getting enough fibre so spinach and mushroom salad should help.  I only cooked one vegetable because there is a salad. I cooked the steaks on the BBQ in 2x2x2x2 minutes to get crossed grill marks, but because the steaks were a little thinner I cut a few seconds off each side.

The mushrooms were cooked in oil and butter with salt and pepper. Plain white rice and broccoli steamed and finished in olive oil. The only thing that's changed lately is I don't spray oil on the grill any more. I brush oil onto the meat instead.  The salad dressing was 2 teaspoons of oil and 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar, a dot of Dijon mustard, salt and black pepper. I grated a little parmesan cheese for the top. A simple but satisfying meal.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sole with Almonds and Lemon Sauce


This dish is fast and simple. Get everything else ready first before cooking the fish. I started with two plates in the oven to warm.  I did the carrots and broccoli in the steamer then finished them in olive oil. (steam till outside softens then run under cool water to stop cooking. Put olive oil in pan and toss vegetables in it. Finish cooking the vegetables in the oil.) The potatoes were plain mashed with salt and butter. Put a pad of butter and a tablespoon of sliced almonds in a small pan on the stove.  Brown them slightly then add a teaspoon of flour.  Cook this roux a bit then add chicken stock till it thins to a sauce. Add a few drops of lemon juice and keep adding till it tastes savoury, lemony and delicious. It tastes awful with too much lemon.

Season the sole with salt then dust with flour.  Fry quickly in a hot pan browning both sides.  Serve on or under the lemon sauce.  I originally planned to put lemon sauce on the broccoli which I did even though I incorporated the almonds in the sauce.  It worked but I'll keep the sauce and nuts separate next time.


Beef Stew with Ciabatta Bread


I finally made a Ciabatta entirely by hand.  This time I noticed how the texture of the dough changed while I was kneading. It became smoother and stretchier. This makes a small loaf for two.

Ciabatta Bread 

2 cups flour - I use All Purpose with 2 tbsp replaced with Vital Wheat Gluten
1 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
220ml - bit less than a cup - water
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Use a dough hook or a fork to gather all ingredients into a ball. It should be almost sticky moist. Let the dough hook beat the dough for 5 minutes or knead it by hand for that time.  The dough needs to be stretchy and smooth. Keep pulling it out and slapping it down to trap air inside the dough. This gives it the characteristic large bubbles. If it's too wet add a little flour. When it's been worked for 5 minutes or you're too exhausted to continue, brush the inside of a bowl with olive oil, place dough inside and brush outside of dough with olive oil. Let rise in a warm spot till it doubles in size. About an hour in a warm kitchen. Carefully tip the dough out onto a baking sheet and put in the oven. Immediately turn the oven down to 400ºF and bake for 35 minutes.

The stew was fairly simple.  Dice and sweat an onion, 2 cloves garlic, 2 carrots and 2 sticks of celery. Take all that out and put aside.  Salt the meat and flour it. Put in the pan with hot oil. Sear all sides, then remove pan from heat.  Add an ounce or two of beef stock and whisk, adding more stock till it thins into gravy. Put everything back in pan and add 6-8 ounces red wine. Add a turnip diced, 4 potatoes diced, 16oz can diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper, bay leaf, fresh rosemary twig and two tablespoons paprika. Add more stock to cover everything, bring to a boil and simmer for hours.

Once the meat is tender it is ready, about 3 hours. During the last hour the lid can be left off to let water reduce. If it's still too wet add some flour to thicken the gravy.

This was my best beef stew so far, definitely worth trying.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Prawns and Pasta with Spinach Salad


I feel like I'm cheating with this meal but this time I spent a little more time and got an even better result. I defrosted and de-tailed a handful of prawns each.  This time I used cooked prawns because that is what I accidentally bought, they clearly said 'Cooked' so it was my fault. I put butter and garlic in a shallow pan, waited for them to cook a minute then tossed in the prawns.  The prawns immediately released gallons of water each into the pan so I had to boil that off. That overcooked the prawns so they could not be missed in the sauce. So rubbery they chewed back!

I boiled off the excess water in the sauce too and this time Fern did not empty water from his plate before sitting down to eat. Except the rubber prawns it was great!  The salad was baby spinach and sliced mushrooms tossed in mustard vinaigrette with parmesan on top. Fern and I discussed salad dressings before dinner and this is my version of Fern's Family Favourite. Fern makes it with mustard powder and I find it bitter.

Mustard Vinaigrette - for 2

Stir a jar of Dijon Mustard with a teaspoon. Shake mustard off spoon into jar then tap a small dot of mustard in the bowl.
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
black pepper

Whisk and taste.  Too bland add a little salt, too dull, add a little mustard. Toss with the salad and top with fresh grated parmesan.

This dressing and a bag of baby spinach means we'll have a lovely salad every day! Fern didn't have water on his plate so I actually improved the product I thought was better than mine!  That is confidence building.

Ham and Corn Chowder Again!


I made it just the same way as last time and it was terrific!

The chowder recipe is from TheDancingCook web site and I added red pepper for colour, chicken stock to broaden the flavour profile and white wine for a little acid.

Ham and Corn Chowder

2 celery stalks diced
1/4 cup onion diced - I used one shallot
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 oz chicken stock
3 cups milk
2 cups cooked ham diced
2 cups diced potatoes - par boiled
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 can creamed corn
2 oz white wine
1/4 of a red pepper diced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp salt

Par boil the potatoes for a few minutes then drain. Sweat the onion in the butter, then add the celery and red pepper. Add the flour and cook it slightly then add the chicken stock and part of the milk and stir the lumps out.  Add the remaining milk and all the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil then simmer for at least twenty minutes.  I sprinkled more flour over top to thicken it. I used 1% milk for this and no cream so it's fairly lean too.

I'm having a bowl for lunch, can't wait!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Home Made Mozzarella Wrapped in a Chicken Breast


I was out of chicken stock so chicken for dinner was practically a foregone conclusion. The home made mozzarella was left over from a failed pizza, I'll detail making cheese next time, maybe.  I boned the breasts and fried the skins for the dogs and used the bones for stock.  Usually I use the chicken fat from the skins to baste the meat while it cooks but this time decided to try putting it in the rice.  The carrots and broccoli were steamed and finished in olive oil.

I put all the chicken fat in the rice before putting it in the microwave to cook. Fat tends to carry flavour and some fat is really tasty but chicken fat isn't one of them.  If I had used only half the fat, the rice might have been really good. As it was, it was ok but not a taste treat.  The breast I pounded flat then rolled it up around a ball of mozzarella with a bit of mozza sprinkled on top.  I should have seasoned the flattened breast before rolling it up but didn't think of it. So I seasoned the outside and that worked well enough. I used salt, mixed pepper and poultry seasoning on the breast. 

The chicken was really good.  Fresh mozzarella is quite different from store bought. It tastes more like fresh milk in solid form. The rice was over powered by the chicken fat.  It tasted acceptable but wasn't delicious. The vegetables were perfect. I'm getting much better at finishing them properly without over cooking them.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Beef Tenderloin


I was prevaricating at the meat counter and landed on Beef Tenderloin. I had bacon in the fridge so I fried that up to put on top. The potato was cooked in the microwave then sliced open and a piece of cheddar and pad of butter were inserted.  The potatoes were then wrapped in foil and put on the BBQ to finish cooking. Wrapping tenderloin in bacon never seems to work well for me.

The steak was done on the BBQ in 2x2x2x2 minutes to get crossed grill marks. The vegetables were steamed and finished in olive oil. A really nice meal.  Not sure how to fix the plating.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

All Purpose Flour - Simple White Cake Experiment


In my quest to continually improve the quality and flavour of my food I have been looking into flour. It's easy to buy all-purpose flour or bread flour but cake and pastry flour is harder to come by. First of all, what is the difference between them? Gluten is the protein in wheat and different flours have varying amounts. Basically it's like this:

Cake & Pastry Flour - about 8% protein
All Purpose Flour - about 10% protein
Bread Flour - about 12% protein

To turn All Purpose Flour into Bread Flour add Vital Wheat Gluten. For a two cup ciabatta replace less than 1/4 cup flour with Vital Wheat Gluten. I'm not sure what % that ends up with but the bread is much better so it's enough.

To Turn All Purpose Flour into Cake & Pastry Flour add Corn Flour. Corn Flour is the starch from corn without protein so it reduces the overall protein content. Again I used less than 1/4 cup, maybe 1/8 cup corn flour exchanged for wheat flour. Fern thought this was a crazy idea but when he tasted the cake he said it was better. It had softer texture and a hint of the sweetness of corn. In fact it was a little crumbly so I'd use a little less corn flour next time. Here's the adjusted recipe :

Simple White Cake

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 3/8 cup wheat flour (hint: 8 ounces in a cup)
1/8 cup corn flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt

Cream butter then cream sugar into butter.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, flour, salt, milk and baking powder. Line pan with parchment. Pour into 9x9 or loaf pan and bake at 350ºF 30-40 minutes.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sirloin Tip Roast


We haven't had a roast beef for a long time and since there was a perfect little sirloin tip roast on special, I picked it up.  I seasoned it with Montreal Steak Spice over all the outside.  Inserted a meat thermometer and put in the oven at 300ºF. The mashed potatoes were ordinary and the vegetables were steamed and finished in olive oil. I'm getting much better at that, not over cooking them.  When the roast was at 150ºF in the center I took it out and set it to rest under foil.

The gravy was made in the roasting pan.  2 teaspoons of flour cooked off in a little butter then stock till it's the right consistency.  It should have enough salt from the roast so it only needs a dash of Worcestershire Sauce.

Horseradish is the condiment and it was a wonderful meal.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Macaroni and Cheese


Fern suggested mac and cheese for lunch so I got out the extra old Balderson's cheddar, a pot of water for pasta and put 2-3 teaspoon of butter in a sauce pan with a teaspoon of flour.  Cook the flour taste off then add 1/4 cup chicken stock.  Whisk smooth and add 3/4 cup milk, whisk smooth again. Grate 100 gm cheese and add to sauce pot. When pasta is cooked, drain and toss with cheese sauce.  Salt was added to the pasta but not the sauce, cheese has enough salt.

A grind of pepper and a line of tomato ketchup adorn my plate. I've loved ketchup on mac and cheese since I was a kid. Fern thinks it's weird.

Pork Cutlet


In trying to be more local I picked up a couple of breaded pork cutlets at Mitchell's. It's been a while since I bought meat seasoned by someone else, I was half expecting it to be better than mine. Wrong! Not enough salt and not much of anything else. No only that but the breading didn't brown evenly so the chops didn't look particularly good either. To top it off I over cooked them.

I made mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  At this time of year broccoli is $1.49 one day and $2.49 the next. It was the next day so I opted for winter vegetables; onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms and frozen peas all cooked up with a little chicken stock gravy. To make gravy sprinkle a teaspoon of flour over the vegetables, a thick layer will turn into awful dumplings! Stir the pan so the flour gets cooked a bit then add 1/4 cup chicken stock to the pan. Stir. When it cooks down to a nice gravy it's ready to serve.

The condiment on the cutlet is Fern's ketchup. The cutlet was bland and dry. The breading came off too easily and wasn't particularly good anyway. Lessons learned: if I didn't season it myself I can't assume someone else did it correctly. I should trust the skills I've learned, my breaded pork cutlet is much better than this. That is not a criticism of Mitchell's, if I'm too lazy to season my own meat I deserve whatever I get. Mitchell's probably gets positive feedback or the cutlets wouldn't sell.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chicken Chicken with rice pilaf


I needed fresh stock so I bought some breasts to bone.  I made stock then put some in the rice. Half stock, half water. I put some rosemary and thyme in the pilaf and some salt and mixed pepper. The broccoli was steamed and finished in olive oil. The chicken. I salted it and floured it then dipped it in egg and milk and rolled it in bread crumbs with poultry seasoning.  The chicken skins I fried up for the dogs and the fat from that I used to brush over the bread crumbs on the chicken.  I baked it at 350ºF for 35 minutes.  I put a line of mayo on it, Fern had his plain. It was wonderful, crunchy and tasty. 

I called it Chicken Chicken because it's bird with poulty seasoning. It sounds dumb but Poultry Chicken sounds even worse. 

The salad is grated carrot, cucumber and julienne iceberg lettuce.  I whisked some oil and rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper and tossed it all together.  A bit more vinegar next time I think. 

Liver and Onions


I always liked liver. This was very thinly sliced from the butcher, at bit too thin but nicely cleaned of sinew and vein.  I fry the onions first then take them from the pan.  Next I salt and flour the liver then lay it in hot oil.  When the liver is almost done add the onions back in to warm up and serve the liver on the onions.  I like ordinary ketchup on my liver, Fern thinks that is weird.

Mashed potatoes, fresh carrots and snow peas complete the plate. The vegetables were steamed and finished in butter.

Sole with Almonds and lemon sauce


Sole is probably the simplest fish to cook.  Don't buy frozen sole, it turns to mush. There are small bones in sole that are impossible to remove but they cook into crunchy bits so don't pose a problem. Salt and season the fish then coat with flour.  Lay in hot oil and cook the flour crisp on the edges. When both sides are crisp lay it on lemon sauce and top with butter roasted slivered almonds.

Lemon sauce: 

1 tsp flour
1 tsp butter
chicken stock
lemon juice

Cook flour taste off and add chicken stock whisking till it's a smooth sauce.  Add a few drops of lemon juice till the sauce is tangy and delicious.

The brussels sprouts were steamed and the rice was cooked with paprika. Simple but delicious.



Roasted Chicken Breast


Possibly the best part of that ciabatta bread is the bread crumbs it makes.  I boned the breast, salted and peppered it then rolled it in flour.  I dipped it in beaten egg and finally bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning.

The rice is basmati with rosemary and thyme.  Frozen peas and a fresh carrot.  The white stuff on the meat is mayonnaise. Simple and tasty.

Ciabatta Bread


This is an easy bread recipe I found online. Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a mixing bowl combine:

2 cups flour (bread flour or all purpose with 10% flour swapped for wheat gluten)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
220ml water
1 tbsp olive oil

Fix the dough hook to the machine and let it run at least five minutes after a ball forms to kneed the dough.  When the dough is soft and stretchy enough, pull it out and fold it over to trap air in the dough. Keep stretching, folding and trapping air in the dough till you get tired.

In a clean bowl wipe olive oil around the inside and up to the lip on one side. Place the dough in the oil and brush oil all over the dough.  Put in a warm space for an hour or until it doubles in size. Tip out onto a baking sheet, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 400ºF. Bake 40 minutes.


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Meat Loaf


This has been the most difficult post to write so far.  I nearly killed us with this but learned an extremely important lesson. I was using beef, pork and turkey for the first time so I wasn't sure how it would look when done. I decided to use the rest of a small jar of pizza sauce brushed over the meat loaf. There was a bit more than I needed but I thought it would mostly evaporate while the loaf cooked so I poured the whole jar on. I brushed it a bit to make sure all sides were covered but left a thick blob on top.  I thought it would melt and run down the meat as it heated up. I inserted the meat thermometer into the centre of the loaf and put it in the oven.  It took about an hour and a half to reach 165ºF so you would think it must be fully cooked once the centre is done. I served up some slices and Fern said it's far too pink, it's not done. "It got to 165ºF in the centre, it has to be done." I had an end piece and a centre cut. Fern had the two in between.  The two end cuts were cooked but the top of my centre cut was raw. How could that be?

I went back and examined the meat loaf.  The blob of pizza sauce was still a blob of pizza sauce unchanged from it's application. It has stabilizers and thickeners that don't melt so instead it formed insulation to top of the meat and prevented it from cooking. I put the loaf, sans sauce, back in the oven and finished cooking it.  I was extremely lucky we didn't get sick. I think that speaks to the cleanliness and quality of the meat I bought at Safeway. Once it was cooked it was wonderful, maybe my best so far. From now on I won't assume meat must be cooked, I'll take it's temperature if it doesn't look right.

I like meat loaf and we haven't had it for a while so I bought ground pork, beef and turkey (instead of veal). Fern asked for mashed potatoes, I guess we've had rice quite a bit lately. I wanted broccoli and carrots but when I reached in the fridge for the broccoli, it was gone. Frozen peas instead. 

I sweated to golden a diced onion and a few cloves of garlic. I mixed up the meat and seasoned it with salt and black pepper.  I chopped up about a tablespoon of fresh rosemary and added a tsp or two of dried thyme. I mixed in the onion and garlic, formed into a loaf and covered with tomato sauce. It would have  been difficult to sear the sides without breaking the loaf so I didn't try.

After it's second stint in the oven the meat was finally cooked.  Ordinary mashed potatoes and fresh carrots with frozen peas completed the plate. I used one of Fern's 'ketchup' condiments, anything tomato based will be fine.

I'll definitely make this loaf again but pizza sauce won't find it's way into my cart again.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pineapple Coconut Chicken Curry


Finally, no more ham! I avoided pork entirely at the grocery store. I really felt like chicken and I had pineapple tidbits in the fridge so a curry was screaming to be made. Peas always go great with curry but frozen peas while nice, aren't as good as fresh. So I bought a pack of snow peas as well. I had 3/4 of a red pepper in the fridge so I didn't need anything else.  

I wanted to see if I could put this on the table in under an hour.  First I put the rice on to cook and washed the pepper and peas. Then boned the breasts and put the skins on to fry crispy for the dogs. I cut the meat into cubes, salted it and sprinkled flour over all.  I tossed the chicken pieces in the flour to coat them evenly.  I cut up a shallot, took the tips off the peas, julienned the pepper and everything was ready to go.  

I put the shallot in the pan first and sweated it to translucent, then I added the peas and pepper. I added a splash of chicken stock to steam them briefly then removed all from the pan.  More oil and in went the chicken.  I kept adding oil as the pan dried out so it didn't scorch. The chicken needs to be seared on all sides to seal it. When the sear was done I added a tablespoon of curry powder and rolled the meat around in it. Next a half can of coconut milk went in and the heat brought up to a serious boil.  The coconut milk needs to reduce a bit or the dish will be curry soup.

When the curry has thickened add the vegetables back in, add some pineapple pieces and a teaspoon or two of oyster (or fish) sauce. I bring this umami ingredient into the dish to broaden the flavour base. Serve the curry over the rice and take a bow. It took a couple of minutes less than an hour to go from opening the fridge to serving the meal.

This was one of my best curries.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Hawaiian Pizza


I finally used up the last of the ham in this pizza.  (Actually I couldn't get all the ham on the pizza so the dogs finished the very last scraps. Just so I don't have a Mayor Ford sometime in the future.) The cheese is fresh made mozzarella and I made the crust as well. The cheese was my first batch with the microbial rennet and I didn't get it quite right because the taste was good but the texture was not quite right. So I won't document the cheese yet. The pizza crust was wonderful though. 

Pizza Dough

1 1/4 cup flour (I use all-purpose with 1/8th cup exchanged for wheat gluten)
1/2 cup water - luke warm
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Mix together salt and flour. Combine water, honey and yeast, let stand a few minutes. Pour liquid into flour and mix with dough hook or a fork. If it's sticky add flour, if it's too dry add a teaspoon of water. Form into a ball and kneed for what seems like 5 minutes. Swab the inside of a bowl with olive oil and put the dough in it.  Place in a warm spot for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.

I had limited success tossing and spinning the dough but pulling and stretching it by hand worked just fine. Once it's pulled into shape brush the inside with olive oil.  Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the olive oil.  Spread thinly sliced ham around and a layer of pineapple bits (from a can, fresh is too acidic). Finally, generously spread grated mozzarella over everything. Bake at 400ºF for twenty minutes or until the cheese is browned. 450ºF might be better if the cheese texture is correct. I'm still experimenting. Fern bought me a pizza stone from All-Clad and a wooden pizza paddle. The two tools together make baking pizza a lot easier.

The pizza was terrific.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prawns and Pasta with Secret Sauce (Mezzetta Tomato Basil)


I must admit this photo is not last night's dinner, it is the last time I took a photo of this dish. I don't make the sauce so I don't always photograph it. I decided to write about it since it is becoming a regular. All I have to do is thaw out a few frozen raw prawns, fry them in butter and garlic, add a jar of Mezzetta Napa Bistro Tomato Basil Sauce.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and add to the sauce. Toss and serve grated parmesan on top. Pretty much anyone can put this together and wow their guests. I make it when I'm home late, it's fast and delicious.

To thaw out prawns just soak in cold water. Running water speeds it up a bit but may wash away flavour. Buy black prawns, they have better flavour. I get a kilo bag of the same prawns the restaurants use from the butcher. We don't have a fish monger in town.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Ham and Corn Chowder with Beef Tenderloin


One would think beef tenderloin would be the star of any meal including it but here it is out shone by leftovers. I'm still using up the leftover ham and tonight's dish is Ham Corn Chowder. Since there is potato in the chowder I decided to forego a starch on the plate. Good thing too as when I ate this I was quite full, otherwise I would have had another bowl of chowder. 

I decided to make chowder first then I decided what to have with it, so this is possibly the first meal where I've chosen each component to go with all the others. I went shopping knowing I was making chowder and needed beef to go with it, only the cut was left to decide. Tenderloin turned out to be the best value today. I wanted broccoli with the beef and I always seem to manage to get carrots on the plate too. The corn chowder is sweet and so are the carrots so care had to be taken not to end up with a savoury dessert! The tenderloin was done on the BBQ in 2x2x2x2 minutes to get crossed grill marks on both sides. It was seasoned with salt and black pepper. The vegetables were steamed and finished in olive oil. I didn't over cook them this time so I'm quite proud of myself!

The chowder recipe is from TheDancingCook web site and I added red pepper for colour, chicken stock to broaden the flavour profile and white wine for a little acid.

Ham Corn Chowder

2 celery stalks diced
1/4 cup onion diced - I used one shallot
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1 oz chicken stock
3 cups milk
2 cups cooked ham diced
2 cups diced potatoes - par boiled
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 can creamed corn
2 oz white wine
1/4 of a red pepper diced
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp salt

Par boil the potatoes for a few minutes then drain. Sweat the onion in the butter, then add the celery and red pepper. Add the flour and cook it slightly then add the chicken stock and part of the milk and stir the lumps out.  Add the remaining milk and all the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil then simmer for at least twenty minutes.  I sprinkled more flour over top to thicken it. I used 1% milk for this and no cream so it's fairly lean too.

I was blown away by how good this is, I can't wait till lunch so I can have some more. The steak and vegetables were perfect but even so they paled next to the chowder.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spaghetti


We haven't had our old standby for a while.  An onion, few cloves of garlic, a bay leaf and a carrot sweated in the pot then ground beef and two mild Italian sausages  browned.  A can of Hunt's tomato sauce and a can of Aylmer tomato soup.  If you can't find Aylmer tomato soup then use nothing or tomato paste. A different brand of soup will not work.

I sliced up some mushrooms and added them to the pot. It simmered for a couple of hours at least.  Rod the Yeti dropped in for a visit and stayed for dinner.  He thought the sauce was terrific. I guess I'm getting jaded because to me, it's just spaghetti.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Chicken Cordon Cheddar


I needed more chicken stock and we hadn't had chicken in a while so I picked up a couple of breasts.  I boned the breasts for stock and put the skins in the frying pan to crisp up for dog treats. I pounded the meat fairly flat and spread some leftover ground ham on it. Then I laid a small brick of Baldersons Extra Old cheddar. There is no point in doing all this work then putting no-name bargain bin cheese in it. Use your favourite. I rolled up the chicken and covered the outside with corn flour, forgetting that corn flour doesn't brown like wheat flour. I should have added white flour and pan seared the meat before putting it in the oven. Live and learn, again.

Fern isn't big on rich sauces so I left out the hollandaise and served with sweet vegetables instead. Fern also likes plain white rice but since I wasn't using a sauce I felt I needed to flavour the rice. I added 1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning to the rice and put it on to cook.  When the rice was done I tasted it and the seasoning was front and centre with no supporting background, not particularly good. Also a bit dull, it needed some acid. I had some white wine in the fridge so I put about an ounce in the rice, mixed it and left it on the warm stove to hopefully infuse the rice. It's not always successful to put uncooked wine on cooked food so I kept my fingers crossed.

Fern tasted the rice first and said it's really good! Whew! I pulled that one out of the fire.  He liked the chicken too except he would have preferred some of the Brie instead of cheddar. He didn't mention the vegetables, but that's better than a negative comment!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ham and Parmesan Ravioli with Avocado and Crab Salad


I've been waiting for something good to make raviolis with and the ham was a great candidate.  I ground the ham up, a bit over half a cup.  I grated 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and mixed it into the ground ham.  

Fresh Pasta 

1 small egg
2/3 cup flour

Use a fork to mix the egg into the flour. When it can be made into a ball take it out and kneed it till it's mostly smooth. It should be very firm and not sticky.  If it's sticky, add flour.  Put in the fridge for half an hour at least. As the pasta is rolled out it gets sticky so small amounts of flour must be dusted on it as it's rolled. I roll mine to the second last stop on the machine. The last stop is so thin it's impossible to work with (or was when I was a newby).  I lay a piece over the mould, drop meat mixture into each pocket then lay another piece of pasta on top.  Gently press down the pasta to get the air out then use the roller to seal and make the edges. If you don't have a ravioli tray then simply put a teaspoon of meat on a piece of pasta, put pasta on top, press the air out and seal with your fingers.  Cut the raviolis out of the strip.

The sauce was simply Mezzetta Napa Valley Tomato Basil sauce. I can only make better sauce in late summer when the tomatoes are at their best. Just opening a jar of sauce does seem like cheating so I sliced up cremini mushrooms, fried them in butter and added them to the sauce. That was it for the pasta. The sauce always seems to let go of it's water on the plate but it sops up while it's being eaten.

The salad started out as crab, avocado and alfalfa but my sprouts were 2 days too late so I used a stick of celery instead.  An avocado, stick of celery, tablespoon of chopped fresh chives, olive oil, lime juice, salt, pepper and a can of crab all went into the salad. I tossed it up and served. I put a dollop of sour cream on mine just to see if it worked. Fern loved his salad as it was. I liked both, with and without sour cream.  Fern doesn't like creamy stuff too much so I wouldn't serve him the sour cream version. 

Fern said several times through the meal how good it was. He particularly liked the crab salad, which really surprised me. He said the raviolis were perfect and tasted wonderful. Never before have a I tried two new dishes in one meal and had them both succeed. It feels good to see that.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Honey Garlic Chicken with Ham Fried Rice


I have to keep finding new ways to use up that ham Fern bought. I found a recipe using ham in fried rice so I decided to try it. I cut up a slice of ham, stick of celery, shallot and several mushrooms.  To go with it I decided to make honey garlic chicken.  I bought skinless boneless chicken thighs because they were the best deal and the meat is the best tasting on the bird. I cut up the meat, salted and coated it with a little flour, ready to go in the pan.

I started by sweating the vegetables for the fried rice in rice oil and a little sesame oil and browning the chicken in it's pan. I added the ham to the vegetables and tossed them together.  I kept turning the chicken so it didn't burn. Once the chicken was browned all over I added a clove of smashed garlic and the rice in the other pan.  Add soy sauce to the rice while tossing.  Add a splash of stock, teaspoon of lemon juice and tablespoon of honey to the chicken. When the honey has reduced to a thick sauce serve beside the fried rice.

We have a very good Vietnamese Restaurant in town and the distinguishing characteristic of it's food is that each dish tastes different. That is what I achieved here without really trying.  It was definitely ham fried rice, no mistaking that flavour.  The honey garlic chicken was good, not too sweet and tasted completely different from the rice. The only criticism I have is the chicken should have had a little cayenne for a bit of heat, then it would have been perfect.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ham, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Onions Baked in a Cheese Sauce


Fern bought a ham yesterday, 2kg for $10, a really good deal! I bought a cauliflower and I already had shallots and Balderson's Extra Old Cheddar and of course, potatoes. I thinly sliced the potatoes and laid them on the bottom of 9x13 pan. I laid 2 shallots diced over them and mixed them in a bit.  Then I covered the potatoes with a layer of thin sliced ham.  Over that was a layer of cauliflower and then I poured cheese sauce over everything. I covered it with foil and put it in a 375º oven for half an hour then took the foil off for another 45 minutes.

Cheese Sauce

1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chicken stock
1-2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt

Melt butter and flour together and cook for a few moments. Remove from heat and add stock, whisk. Add milk, whisk, add salt, whisk. Back on the burner and when it's hot add the cheese.  When the cheese is all melted pour over the cauliflower, cover with foil and put in the oven.

This is comfort food so it doesn't have to be pretty. It does look a bit anaemic on the plate. I suppose a little parsley sprinkled over the top would have prettied it up a lot. A few green peas on the side would have looked nice too. By itself it tastes great and I just get lost eating it and forget the lack of colour.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cajun Chicken on Beet Green and Rice


I boned the two chicken breasts and made stock.  The skins I cooked to crispy for the dogs.  I salted then seasoned the breasts with Cajun rub. I had beet greens left over from the borscht.  Frozen corn. The rice I did in the microwave with salt and olive oil. The beet greens I steamed in a bit of chicken stock then sauteed with olive oil.  Butter and salt went on the corn when it was done.  The chicken I did on the BBQ for 25 minutes total cooking time.

The olive oil in the rice and beet greens brought them together and the cajun spice on the chicken brought it all into focus.  Fern and I both said several times while we were eating how good it was, I sucked mine up in no time.

This was really easy to make and it tasted great.

Cajun Spice Rub

2 tbsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp paprika 
1 1/2 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Borscht and Ginger Beef with Broccoli


Good thing I wasn't creating a menu to impress someone, borscht and stir fry? Well, Fern came home from the farmers market with a bunch of beets.  I don't like beets as a vegetable but I love borscht so it was almost pre ordained. I was planning on some kind of beef stew but when I got to the store the best value was some stir fry beef shavings.  Beef, ginger and broccoli is a favourite we haven't had for a while so I picked up some bean sprouts (Fern likes them), broccoli, mushrooms and ginger as well. I put some sour cream in my basket and headed out with not a single thought to the menu I planned.

When I got home I realized I was pairing Ukrainian and Asian dishes. I thought about the two flavour profiles and decided if I used only sesame oil, soy sauce and ginger in the beef the flavours wouldn't clash. So that's what I did. I sweated a shallot and a clove of garlic then added salt, paprika and the cubed beets and covered them with beef stock. I let that simmer for an hour then serve it with a dollop of sour cream. Simple and satisfying.

Next I sweated a shallot and two cloves of garlic. Then I seared the sliced mushrooms followed by the beef.  I had the broccoli steaming so it could be added at the last minute and rice cooking in the microwave. I put the bean sprouts in with the beef and tossed it together. I sprinkled half a teaspoon of flour over the pan to thicken it a bit. I added soy sauce and grated ginger to the pan and finally the broccoli.  I served over the rice. It was very good. I wouldn't say it was a harmonious pairing but it wasn't obnoxious either and we both finished full. The dogs loved both the food and the more food.