Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Frozen Homemade Yogurt

Once I tasted homemade yogurt and realized the store bought stuff was just a pale imitation, I knew frozen yogurt wasn't far off.  The other day I made a fresh batch of yogurt and I made an entire liter so I could put half of it in frozen yogurt. (my Yolife yogurt maker has a low lid for those baby food bottles and a high lid to make up to 4 liters at a time.) I simply replaced heavy cream with homemade yogurt in the ice cream recipe and added a little extra sugar.  I used 1% milk throughout.

Frozen Homemade Yogurt

1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups homemade yogurt
1 cup milk

Churn as for ice cream. The texture is a bit lumpy so I'll have to work on that but the flavor is out of this world.  There is little fat so it is light like a sorbet.  The flavor of fresh milk is transformed and made better by the culture which also adds an acid tang. I served it with an oatmeal cookie. Fern took one spoonful and started waving his arms expansively saying "Wow, this is incredible!"  

His reaction was so over the top I thought he was being sarcastic but no, he LOVED it! So did I, this is something to take to Chef Dave at the Laughing Oyster. He doesn't have time to experiment so he is quite happy to share in my discoveries. I gave him food toys (pre gelled starch, xanthan gum) for Christmas with instructions how to use them. He loved them.  He phones us to offer free buffet if he has musicians but not many reservations because he knows we'll tip the servers and musicians. This is a perfect example of how generosity pays you back. A lesson it took me too long to learn.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal cookies are really good when done well.  This recipe, Quick Oatmeal Cookies, is from Joy of Cooking. For those without this cookbook here is the recipe:

Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350º.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp milk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

I bake mine on a rectangular pizza stone, not preheated, covered with parchment. Drop the batter onto the parchment to make 2 dozen cookies.  The recipe says 12 minutes cooking time but the stone takes longer, at least 15 minutes. These were in for twenty minutes and the other sheet took 25. This makes them very crisp with a satisfying snap when you bite into them.

I haven't tried preheating the pizza stone because it would be difficult to transfer the sheet of cookie dough and I'm not sure it would make a difference in the finished product.

Prawn and Chicken Curry

What to do with one chicken breast, 9 prawns and 2 hungry mouths. A curry! Dice an onion and caramelize it in a large pan. Cut a chicken breast into bite size pieces and shake in plastic bag of 1 tablespoon flour and a pinch of salt.  Remove onions from pan, add more oil and add the floured chicken.   Sear all sides of every piece then remove from pan.  A bit more oil and add the prawns.  A minute each side is enough, remove them from the pan.  The chicken and prawns will finish cooking in the sauce.

I added about a 1/4 cup of diced mixed peppers and seared them for a moment.  Next 3 tablespoons of curry powder and 1/4 tsp cayenne. Add enough oil to make a paste and cook briefly.  Add 1/4 cup chicken stock, more if it's still too thick.  Add 1/2 can pineapple pieces and 1/2 can coconut milk. Bring back to simmer and add frozen peas if you like them.  Simmer for a minute or two then add the onion, chicken and prawns back in. Add a little salt if needed. My sauce was a bit thin but boiling moisture off would turn the prawns to rubber, so I sprinkled a little instant blending flour over the curry and mixed it in. That did the trick.

Serve over basmati (or your favorite) rice.  Usually I make this with only chicken but the raw prawns were the end of a bag in the freezer, the pineapple and coconut milk were leftovers too for that matter. The meat could be turkey or pork if that's what you have in the fridge. In any case this dish is easy, fast and delicious.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Roast Beef with Artichoke Appetizer

My favorite grocery store has started a new kind of special, everything in the bin is one price, in this case $10.  The bin was full of sirloin tip roasts priced from $12 to more than $17 so of course I bought the biggest one. With such a big roast I had Fern invite Kevin over for dinner.  

The other day I picked up a bag of 4 artichokes for 99 cents. This would be a great time for an appetizer so I looked up what to do with the artichokes. Cut the top inch or so off  and the tips of the leaves.  Remove the small bottom leaves and cut the stem off. Put the artichokes in a steamer for about 35 minutes. Serve with garlic butter. 

Garlic Butter

1 clove garlic (crushed and chopped)
1/4 cup butter
a few grains of salt

Over medium heat melt the butter, add the salt and garlic then cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve individual dipping bowls. Sorry I forgot to get a photo. To eat, peel off a leaf, dip in butter and scrape stem end off against front teeth. When all leaves are gone cut away and discard the furry top of the heart and eat it.

Beef Rub

1  1/4  tablespoons paprika
1   tablespoon kosher salt
1   teaspoon garlic powder
1/2   teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2   teaspoon onion powder
1/2   teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2   teaspoon dried oregano
1/2   teaspoon dried thyme

Coat all sides of the roast with the rub then sear all sides on a hot burner with plenty of oil.  Set on a rack in the oven at 250ºF till the internal temperature reaches 150ºF. One and a half to two hours for my 1.3kg (2.8lb) roast.

Ordinary mashed potatoes don't need comment.  Turnips take almost an hour to cook and I put a couple of carrots in when they were half done.  Mashed the turnip and carrot with a little butter and salt.

I took the roast out of the oven and set it on the cutting board under foil to rest. We had the artichokes first.  Fern initially said Kevin wouldn't like artichokes but they needed to be used so I served them anyway.  Kevin liked pickled artichoke hearts but had never had fresh.  He loved them! He's going to buy them himself when they go on special! 

The roast was delicious despite not being Angus beef. I like a little horseradish with mine.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chicken Fried Rice with Chop Suey

I like a good stir fry and it's a great way to get plenty of fresh vegetables. This plate included green pepper, mushrooms, bean sprouts, celery and onions. I cubed up  two chicken breasts and put them in a plastic bag for later. I prepped all my vegetables and sorted them into two rows, one for each pan.  A little green pepper and celery in the rice row, remainder in the chop suey.  Half an onion diced large and half the mushrooms in each row. I washed the bean sprouts and set them to drain. I got rice going, usually rice is cooled before frying but I didn't get started early enough.  The rice quality will be a little less but not unpalatable.

I put two tablespoons of flour in the bag with the chicken, opened it wide to get as much air as possible then twisted it shut at the top.  I shook the bag till every piece of meat was evenly coated.  Each handful of chicken had to be shaken to get the excess flour off.  If I had any more chicken to do it would have been worth using the sieve. Two large frying pans with oil and a few drops of sesame oil.  Plenty of hot oil in the rice pan when I put the chicken in it.  I browned all sides then put the mushrooms in this pan and also in the other pan for the chop suey. When the mushrooms had a good sear I added the onions and celery to both pans.  Gave them a minute to soften before adding the green pepper to both and bean sprouts to the chop suey. Soy sauce in both pans before I added the rice to the chicken Finally, just before everything was done I added a teaspoon of Oyster Sauce to the rice and a tablespoon to the chop suey. More soy sauce if needed and plate the dishes.

Oyster or fish sauce sound and smell awful but just a little can bring a depth of flavor to a dish that can't be found any other way. I added just enough to deepen the flavor of the rice but not enough to taste the oyster.  The chop suey had enough to taste the oyster, but it didn't overwhelm the dish. Each dish managed to maintain it's own identity despite similar ingredients.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Yogurt Butter Tarts

I decided to make butter tarts before checking to see if I had any cream, usually I do for the ice cream maker, but this time the fridge was bereft of cream.  Hmmm. I could use the rest of the homemade yogurt instead, it should work, so that's what I did. 

Pie Crust - 2 layers

2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup shortening

1 large egg
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vinegar

Cut the shortening into the flour and salt till it is oatmeal textured.  In a separate bowl whisk the egg, water and vinegar.  Slowly add half the liquid to the meal and stir with a fork.  Continue adding liquid till all the flour is taken up but don't get the dough wet and sticky. Cover and put in the fridge for 30 minutes at least. 

Yogurt Butter Tart Filling - 12 tarts

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup yogurt or 10% cream

Flour the work space and roll out half the dough to nearly 1/8 inch (3mm) thick.  Cut it into rounds with   something large enough.  I'm using a Wilson's 12 muffin pan and a 500ml yogurt container cuts just the right size circle. Something more rigid would be better but that is all I have. Lay the round over the pan depression and push the edges towards the center so it falls down into the mold. Gently press the sides and bottom down. If I lay a round and press in the center it tends to poke a hole in the dough. Brush the inside of each tart with melted butter then fill them all. Preheat oven to 400ºF and put the tarts in.  Immediately turn the heat down to 350ºF and bake 20 minutes.  When the pastry has browned some they are done.  If they aren't done there will be raw pastry at the bottom, bleck.

When they were cooled down I tasted them.  They were less rich thanks to no cream and the yogurt left a little acid that I think enhanced the flavors, still up for debate though. I think my dough was a little too wet and that's why some of the tart pastry looks exploded. It still tastes good though! 

Pork Chop with Savoy Cabbage

I was breezing through my alternate grocery store's bulk bins and spotted corn flake crumbs.  I had a pork chop breaded with corn flake crumbs once and remember liking it.  So I bought some and headed to my usual grocery haunt. The meat counter only had bone in chops on special, the dogs will be happy about that, so I picked up a couple. I bought a 10 lb box of apples to use with the cabbage and have for fresh fruit.

I got the potatoes on first and sliced up a couple of carrots.  I cut the thick stems from the cabbage leaves and chiffonade cut the remainder.  In a plastic bag I put 1-2 tbsp flour, 1/2 tsp salt, leaves from sprig of thyme and needles from some rosemary chopped up.  I cut the fat off and shook each chop in the bag and set them aside.  I whipped up an egg, a little flour and some milk to dip the chop in.  I emptied the bag of the remaining flour and put 1/4 cup corn flake crumbs in the bag.  I dipped each chop in the egg and shook it with crumbs then laid it in a hot frying pan with plenty of oil.  I seared both sides on medium high heat to seal the meat in then turned the heat down to medium so the corn flake crumbs wouldn't burn.

I steamed the carrots half way then put the cabbage in.  The cabbage was steamed till about 3/4 done then the steamer was held under running water to stop the cooking. I emptied the water from the steamer and turned the burner to medium low. The chops were thick so I rotated and turned them over to cook them evenly. When the chops were about 5 minutes from ready I put the carrots and cabbage in the steamer bottom with extra virgin olive oil. I cored and diced an apple and put it in with the cabbage.   

I had to cut into the bottom of a chop to tell if it was done.  The crispy coating masked the press test and I don't have a lot of bone in cooking experience. It was too pink so I gave it 5 more minutes. I kept tossing the cabbage and drained the potatoes.  I mashed the spuds and added a little salt and milk. The water for potatoes is supposed to be well salted so they don't need more but I never seem to quite get there. In any case, if I may quote the chef at every failing restaurant where food is an issue, "It tastes good to me!"

Finally the chops were done so I set them on the warm plates I had ready.  A dollop of mashed potato and a serving of savoy cabbage with apples and carrots and dinner was ready. I added a few drops of lemon juice to the cabbage before serving. I put  2 tbsp of Fern's homemade ketchup on my chop, Fern dressed his own.

It's really hard to find the bone when the whole chop is coated like this.  From now on I will only batter boneless chops. Otherwise the chops were good. Fern didn't like the cabbage with apples, too sweet and he didn't like the carrots mixed in. Double 'not' on the vegetables, definitely don't make that again.  I think I'll try savoy cabbage with walnuts next ..... year. The mashed potatoes garnered no complaints. Oh good, at least I can boil water!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sole with White Wine Lemon Sauce and Savoy Cabbage

Fern said, "anything not fatty." 
I looked at beef tenderloin, pined a moment and went to the fish counter. I was in the mood for crab cakes again but they didn't have any good imitation crab.  The cheaper stuff tastes almost as good but it doesn't have the right texture. So I decided on the fresh sole. Fresh green vegetables are expensive right now so I'm experimenting a little.  I tried savoy cabbage successfully once before and cabbage is all that's affordable right now so I'll have another go.  

I looked up a sole recipe with a white wine sauce on the internet. It called for battering the fish which I'd never tried in a frying pan before so I decided to have a go.  I got potatoes going on the stove.

Batter for fish or anything else

1/2 cup flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup milk 
1/2 tsp salt

I put the fish in a plastic bag with flour and salt to coat them before dipping in the batter. I laid them on the counter till everything else is done.  The fish cooks in a minute or two each side so once everything else is ready, start cooking the fish. 

Lemon Sauce (not a particularly good one)

1 tsp flour
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 lemon juiced
1 cup white wine

Before starting the sauce I put a pad of butter in the sauce pan and browned the sliced almonds. Actually I burned them the first time so I threw them out and did them again. I took them out and put them aside. In the sauce pan put the flour and oil and mix them on medium heat.  Cook the flour taste off but don't brown the flour.  Remove from heat and add the wine, lemon juice and salt. Whisk lumps out. Put back on low heat and let it thicken.

I fried several pieces of bacon till crisp and put them out on paper towel. Drained the grease out of the pan and put a layer of water in the bottom.  I chiffonade (cut in strips) the cabbage and toss it in the water.  When it has softened I drained the water and put it back on medium low heat with extra virgin olive oil. Keep tossing it.   The potatoes are done so drain and add butter salt and milk.

Dredge fish in batter and put in hot oil in frying pan.  I filled the pan and washed the batter off my hands.  I turned the fish over and broke the bacon into the cabbage. while I turned it in the pan.  Plate the fish, potatoes and cabbage.  Put some toasted almonds on the fish and pour lemon sauce over top. Call the dogs.

Making a batter and putting lemon sauce on it just results in soggy batter. I knew that, why I went ahead and did it I don't know.  I guess I thought because it was in a recipe it would magically work. The sauce wasn't particularly good compared to my own concoctions so I'd just leave it out next time.  If I want a sauce I won't batter the fish, just flour it. The almonds are a nice touch either way.

The cabbage with bacon was delicious, so was the fish for that matter.  I should have cut the stems out of the cabbage, they don't cook. The whole meal was inexpensive local fresh food, which is nice to have in northern hemisphere January. (almonds and lemons don't count) The winter molt is over and my chickens are laying again. I need to start using up eggs again!

Banana Bread

Whenever bananas go on sale for .49 per pound I buy a bunch for banana bread.  Last time I made it I used 4 bananas instead of 3 and really liked the result.  This time I had 3 large and 1 average size banana, overall a bit more than I had last time.  I went ahead with the regular recipe and when I took it out of the oven it had a nice crest, which subsequently fell.  It wasn't completely cooked.  Unfortunately it was cooked on top where I would have checked with a toothpick.  It wasn't quite done at the bottom where all the moisture had migrated.  Fortunately not fully cooked banana bread dough tastes great anyway so no harm done.  I don't know how to check for doneness at the bottom of the pan though.  Next time I'll try pressing on the top see how much it compresses.

Banana Bread

4 average size bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
1 egg beaten
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Mix wet ingredients, then dry.  Bake in a parchment lined bread pan at 350ºF for 1 hour.  Test with toothpick.  If a few crumbs stick to pick it's done. Comes out clean, might be overdone and dry. If I had tested this I might have gotten a little dough on the pick to indicate it wasn't done, but not necessarily.  Hopefully experience will enlighten me.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Chicken

Recently I have been trying new foods.  I never really noticed it before but I always choose from foods my mother knew how to cook. I rarely try anything else. In an effort to change that I've been trying new things, today it's spaghetti squash.  Fern doesn't really like squash but I do and I'm hoping he was unhappy with past preparations and not so much the taste of squash.

I microwaved the squash for one minute on high before slicing open and removing the seeds.  An article online suggested this so I did it but all it did was make the squash a tiny bit warmer. I don't know if it was easier to clean. I scraped the seeds and membranes out with a spoon then I put the squash face down in a shallow pan of water and put it in the oven at 350º for about 30-45 minutes.

Mashed potatoes shouldn't need explanation.  But just for fun 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.

Frozen peas:  Put in a glass microwave dish with a little water, not swimming. Microwave on high for 3 or 4 minutes and check for doneness.  Or in a pot bring water and peas to a boil, boil softly for 2 minutes then check for doneness.  Peas, and vegetables in general develop best color just as they are fully cooked.  They quickly lose that color as they overcook. With a little experience I've learned to tell when they are cooked just by color. Other wise use a fork.  Take vegetables off the heat before they are completely done because they continue to cook as they cool and will go mushy quickly.

That leaves just the chicken.  In a plastic bag I put:

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
a few dried sage leaves that didn't add any flavor.  Use more or none.
2 tsp flour

In another bag I flattened the chicken breasts to double in size then shook them in the seasoning bag.  Into a pan with plenty of oil on just over medium heat. If the pan isn't hot the seasoning will stick to the bottom and burn.  Fry till golden in color and the meat is firm, about 4 minutes per side. Raw meat will stay depressed if you poke it.  Cooked meat will bounce back. That is how to tell when the chicken is done. 

I scraped the cooked squash out of the rind and added butter, salt and pepper.  Fern didn't like it, he just doesn't like squash. Everything else was good, especially the chicken. I liked the squash but I could live without it too.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Mild Italian Sausage Ravioli in tomato basil sauce

I succeeded in making ravioli this afternoon.  I broke the task into two parts.  Make the ravioli, take a break, make sauce. I had the mild Italian sausage cooked so I cut it into bite size pieces. with that I was going to put caramelized onions. So next I got the onions cooked and started making pasta dough.  

Pasta Dough

2/3 cup flour
1 large egg

Make a well in the flour and drop the egg in.  Use a fork in a circular motion to pick up flour into the egg. Continue until all the flour is taken up.  If needed, wet fingers can add extra moisture the pick up the last bit. Form into a ball and refrigerate for 20 minutes at least.  

Take the larger half of the dough and run it through the roller to get a crumbly sheet.  Sprinkle a little flour over it so it isn't sticky. If the dough is sticky always put flour on it. Sticky dough will stick to itself and ruin everything. Fold the dough and run it through again. It takes a few times folding, running it through, flouring till it is a good texture. Start rolling it thinner, each time dusting with flour on both sides.  I rolled mine to 4 of 8 on the machine dial and it was far too thick so at least 6 next time. 

The pieces of sausage would have pierced thinner pasta so don't use chunks. The caramelized onion were easy to put on each side. I ran a wet finger tip along the rim so the pasta will fuse, it may not be necessary. Then the top sheet

I was using a manual pasta maker till I got the kitchen-aid attachment for Christmas. Needless to say pasta will be fresh much more often.  The powered roller makes it so easy for one person to make pasta. Santa got the roller, spaghetti cutter and fettuccine  cutter online for $118 Cdn.

The sauce was simple. I used the rest of the sausage and onion with some crushed tomatoes canned from the garden.  Two cloves of garlic, sweated in the pan first and a tablespoon of dried basil thrown in the pan before the tomato. Salt to taste and boil it down a bit, sprinkle flour over the top the thicken it a bit.  When the raviolis are cooked toss them in the sauce and serve. Grate fresh parmesan on top and indulge. Absolutely delicious, well worth the trouble, for a few select friends.

Instant Yogurt Peach Tart

I have to keep using up my yogurt so here I tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to make quick tarts. I wanted to see if I could use graham crumbs for a crust so I mixed some crumbs, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter and pressed it into muffin tins. It's winter so I put the pan out on the back deck to firm up.  Then I took 1/2 cup of my homemade yogurt which is a bit runny and added a few drops of vanilla and 2 tsp of sugar. Next is a little molecular gastronomy.

Xanthan gum is a food additive that makes liquids more viscous. It is derived from the cell wall of xanthan bacterium if I understand correctly. It has a slimy texture on it's own so pre-geled corn starch is added to give it visual texture and smooth mouth feel. Xanthan gum is available at two of the four supermarkets in my small town so it should be easy to find. Pre gelled or pre cooked corn starch may be harder to find but it is easily available online. Health food stores often stock these ingredients as they are used to make many substitute ingredients for people with allergies and they are natural products. 

I sifted together 3/8 tsp xanthan gum and 1 tsp instant corn starch hoping to cut down on the lumping. I sprinkled it over the yogurt and stirred it in.  It helped, there were a fewer lumps but for presentation I'd use an immersion blender to smooth it out.  It was a nice pudding consistency so I brought my shells in and half filled each tart.  Then I took some leftover canned peach pie filling and filled the tarts. Let them set for a few minutes and try to get them out of the pan. Not so easy. 

I could have used more butter and gotten a better result but there is too much crust to filling so the crust predominates. Graham crumb tarts are not a good idea.  They aren't terrible, but pastry would be much nicer.  As for the yogurt, it was just like instant pudding but it was fresh homemade yogurt so it tasted great. The peach pie filling came from a can and tasted like it. The yogurt was the star for sure. It was wonderful and I"ll just have to use it in a better way to really show it off.

Mild Italian Sausage with Onions and perogies

I had 3 cooked mild Italian sausages to use up and I was going to make ravioli but three was just too many sausages so I needed to use up two. The sausages were an experiment, I'd never tried them. They're wonderful! I decided to caramelize some onions then put the diced sausage in that.  When the perogies were done I drained them and put them in the pan with the onion and sausage. Then the perogie pot was free to toss the steamed broccoli in some extra virgin olive oil on medium low heat. That was it. Dinner for one. Considering it's simplicity, it was surprisingly tasty and satisfying.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chicken with acorn squash and perogies

Fern is away at his mother's funeral. It was a beautiful service so everyone is satisfied.  Good, he'll come home in good mood.  I'm still cooking for one or three if you count the dogs.  Fern doesn't like perogies so when he goes away that's one of the foods I indulge in. Also the store only has Vancouver Island potatoes right now.  If you try to cook a Vancouver Island potato, once the water approaches the boiling point, the potatoes start to dissolve. By the time the center is cooked, the rest is watery mush. I don't know why they bother growing potatoes on Vancouver Island, it's too wet! BC mainland potatoes are acceptable but Idaho or PEI are better. For the time being, I'll have perogies, pasta and rice. If I get desperate I can go to the other grocery where the produce manager agrees me about Vancouver Island potatoes, he won't have them in the store.

It's chicken tonight and I pounded the breast flat.  I seasoned it with 

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

and put it in a frying pan with plenty of oil.  When it was well on the way I added the onions.  I put the perogies in the bottom of the double boiler and peas in the steamer.  When the perogies were done I drained them and put them in with the onions.  The peas went into the empty pot with some butter and extra virgin olive oil.  The acorn squash was roasted with salt and butter at 350º for 1 hour.  It would have looked better if I had mashed it but it tasted fine the way it was. 

The chicken seems to scorch with just dried spices on it so I wonder if I can get a better result by mixing  the seasoning with flour.  I'm going to try that next time and see. Otherwise it was a great big meal.  I managed to eat only 1/3 of this and the rest went to the dogs. They loved it!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Butternut Squash and angus rib eye steak

Fern is out of town so I'm eating alone.  That means I can have all the things Fern doesn't like! Angus rib eye steak with sauted mushrooms and zucchini. Baked potato with homemade yogurt and bacon bits and something I've never tried before, butternut squash.

I've been told the skin of Butternut Squash is edible but I had more than enough squash with less than half the flesh so I threw out the skin.  I cooked the whole thing and the other half still has skin if I want to experiment tomorrow.  I cut the squash in half, cleaned out the seeds and brushed the inside with walnut oil.  Chef David Bowes mentioned walnut oil while I was helping him make Christmas Dinner for clients of the Community Resource Center where Fern volunteers. I can't remember what he said but I think it had to do with vegetables so I picked up a bottle to try. I placed the oiled halfs cut side down on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 350º for 45 minutes. When they were done I let them cool a little then scooped the squash out into a bowl with butter, salt, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. It's a small amount of squash so just a sprinkle of the last two.  Mix it up and plate with the potato baked at the same time and the vegetables fried in one pan and the steak done in another.

The steak has my Southwestern Spice on it which also has a touch of cinnamon so the flavours go together well. The homemade yogurt instead of sour cream, it's way better and much lower in fat. The concession to fast food was the bacon bits.  I like them and it's easier than trying to keep cooked bacon on hand at all times.

So what did the butternut squash taste like? More like pumpkin than acorn squash. It's heavier than acorn squash so serve less. Overall it's nice but I like other squash better.

Crab Cakes

Now that I know how to make crab cakes I want to make them often because they are so good!  Dinner alone tonight so these ingredients are for one portion. Fresh carrots and frozen corn for vegetables, microwaved together.  I made Uncle Ben's traditional sage stuffing instead of rice or potatoes.  Fern doesn't like it but I do once in a while so he's away and it's easy to make.

Crab Cakes

150 gm crab or imitation crab
1 oz bread crumbs (3 tbsp)
1 oz flour
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp glarlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 shallot
1/3 stick celery
1 egg

Dice a shallot or very small onion finely.  Take 1/3 of a stick of celery, split down the middle then diced.  Put the shallot and celery in a frying pan with oil and cook to translucent. Take the vegetables out and put them in a bowl to cool.

The stuffing was simple, follow the directions on the box.  The vegetables were done in the microway in chicken stock then finished with butter and salt. Break up the crab into the bowl of shallots and celery.  Add the flour and mix, add the bread crumbs and mix, add seasonings and mix then finally add the egg and thoroughly mix.  Make into two large or 4 small crab cakes. Cook over medium high heat till browned. Plate the crab cakes and sprinkle fresh lemon juice over them or mix a little sauce.

Tartar Sauce

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sweet pickle relish

 and put a blob on or beside the cakes. Delicious!

Garlic Honey Chicken

I know several ways to  make really good chicken but there is always room for more variety.  So this time I tried a new approach on the frenched (flatened) chicken breasts.

Chicken Rub

1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp salt

Pound the breasts in a plastic bag till doubled in size, skin side down (skin removed).  Coat both sides of the chicken and lay in a well oiled medium high heat pan.  Get a good sear on but don't allow any burnt spots, they are bitter. When the first side is done turn over the breasts and drizzle 2 tsp honey over the breast.  When the other side is done turn it again and put some honey on the other side. Plate the chicken. Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil complete the plate.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Butter Tarts

I love butter tarts but have never attempted to make them, always thought they were hard to make. Not true! These were easy and only took a few minutes to throw together.

Pie Crust

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup lard
1 egg
2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp vinegar

Sift together the flour and salt then cut the lard into large pieces and drop in. Cut the lard in until the flour has the consistency of course meal.  Beat the egg, water and vinegar together and pour in 3 parts into the flour, using a fork to fold the liquid into the flour. Pull it together into a ball and cut it in half.  Wrap the halves and put in the fridge while making the filling.  Turn on the oven to 375º.

Butter Tart Filling

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup 10% cream (I used half whipping cream half 1% milk)
1/2 cup raisins

Whisk it up and get all the lumps out of the brown sugar before adding the raisins. Generously flour the largest available flat surface.  Put a blob of pie dough on it, flour that and start rolling it.  Keep flouring it so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin.  Roll it to about an 1/8 of an inch thick then cut it into rounds with a 500ml yogurt container or similar sized round thing.  Press into muffin pan and poke the bottom and sides with a fork.  Next brush melted butter on the inside of the tart then fill.  Bake for 15 minutes or until filling is bubbling and pastry has some color.

It took less than an hour to make a dozen. I'm eating them almost that fast!

Honey Dijon Mustard Pork Tenderloin

Pork tenderloin was on sale today and I was in the mood for pork so I picked up a nice one for two. We had rice last night so it's pasta or potatoes today, mashed will do.  Peas and carrots steamed and finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil complete the dish. I started with two strips of bacon in the frying pan and cooked them till crisp, then put them on paper towel to drain.  In a small bowl mix

Honey Mustard Sauce

2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt

French the pork tenderloin by cutting it into 2 inch lengths then standing on end and pounding flat.  Produce department clear plastic bags work great for this. Coat one side of each piece with sauce and put them sauce side down in a hot pan with plenty of oil.  Coat the other side with remaining sauce. Get a good sear on both sides and serve with a piece of bacon over top. I love pork done this way because it tastes great and is easy to make. This whole meal from start to serving took only 45 minutes and I wasn't working quickly.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Apple and Cantaloupe with Homemade Yoghurt

Home made yoghurt actually tastes good all on it's own. Store bought doesn't. Who knew? I still put a tablespoon of sugar and a few drops of vanilla in a 6 oz jar for a dessert. In this case I put a tira misu cookie in the bottom of the bowl just to see what happened. then I put apple and cantaloupe pieces in and covered it all with the yoghurt mixture. I took a dark chocolate bar and used the potato peeler to shave off some onto the yoghurt. Finally I put a mint leaf in which actually went well with it all. It was great and I'm really glad I bought a yoghurt maker.

Pan Seared Chicken with Mushroom White Wine Sauce

Chicken was preordained today, the only question was how to cook it.  I now french (pound flat) all my chicken breasts in a plastic bag then put the seasoning in the bag.  The breasts cook quickly and evenly and every bite has seasoning on it. So frenching isn't a fancy extra, it improves the dish in every way and saves a lot of work on the stove. I find the heavy gauge plastic bags in the produce department work best for two breasts at a time.  I pound them to double in size with the smooth skin side of the breast down.

Chicken Spice

1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp flour
fresh ground mixed pepper

Normally I'd add salt too but I'm putting bacon in the sauce and I'm cooking the breast in the salty bacon fat so it should have enough.  The carrots and broccoli are done in the steamer and finished in butter and extra virgin olive oil.  This time I kept the broccoli crunchy and it stayed warm longer on the plate. The rice was white basmati with oil, salt, paprika and poultry seasoning done in half chicken stock half water. That gave it a grey look so next time I'll put the poultry seasoning in the Chicken Spice. Tasted good though.

I cooked two strips of bacon in the frying pan and put the crispy bacon on a piece of paper towel.  I put butter in the sauce pot with a little oil so it didn't burn.  I seared the mushrooms in that for the sauce then took them out.  I put a teaspoon of flour in the pan and enough oil to make a paste. Back on the heat till it was bubbly nicely then took it off the heat. I let it cool while I put the chicken in the frying pan the bacon had been in.  Then I put an ounce of chicken stock in the sauce pan and whisked it smooth.  Then I put 1/2 cup white wine in and let it boil down.  I added more when it got a bit thick. When the sauce was a nice consistency I put the mushrooms and crumbled bacon in and started plating.

It was quite delicious and the sauce has no cream in it so lactose intolerant will enjoy it. Fern doesn't like creamy sauces so I have to be creative.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Leftover Pork Stir Fry

I still had pork left over from the roast pork and also from the rack of pork so a stir fry to use it all up was in order.  When I went shopping I only picked up crimini mushrooms, which were on sale. I had onions in the fridge along with celery, carrots and frozen peas. Looking at it now I see I completely forgot Fern's frozen sweet pepper medley, but I didn't miss it while eating so no harm. The dish is served on a mound of basmati rice.

I started by slicing the meat up into 1/8th inch thick mouth sized pieces. Next slicing the mushrooms up and getting them in the pan first. I cooked the mushrooms with some butter and oil to give a nice flavor.  When they were done I took them out of the pan and put the onions in. Once they were almost cooked they came out of the pan and in went the carrots.  I put 1/2 an ounce or so of chicken stock in with the carrots to help steam them, it also leaves lots of flavor in the pan. The celery went in before the carrots were done and the frozen peas went in after them.  More stock to cook the peas. When the peas were almost done I put the meat in with all the sweated vegtables.

I added a few drops of sesame oil because I forgot to at the beginning, then some soy sauce and a tablespoon of fancy molasses.  It was a bit too wet so I sprinkled 1 tsp of flour over top and turned everything over on it.  That made a nice sauce so I cooked off the flour taste and plated it over the rice. It was delicious and refreshing after weeks of meals heavy on turkey and comfort food.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

I gave Fern a yogurt maker for Christmas.  I researched them a bit and bought the most versatile machine, Yolife.  It has a low and high lid so it can make small or large batches of yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche or buttermilk. Making reasonably priced creme fraiche is appealing, might be nice on baked potatoes just to start. I bought a six pack of yogurt starter and this variety doesn't gel fully, it remains fairly watery.  Thick yogurt may have had the whey drained off, time and experimentation will tell. I used a Mandarin orange in each bowl and my yogurt was flavored with 2 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp vanilla. I tasted the yogurt plain and it was tangy but nicer than store bought yogurt. I tried to make yogurt without a yogurt maker and it didn't work at all, it's impossible to keep the temperature exactly where you want it on a stove top.

I've tasted the yogurt several times and read a bit more on it.  I never really liked plain yogurt but this homemade batch is much better tasting.  It is sweet with a little tang from the acid and quite runny.  Commercial yogurts have thickeners in them. I have thickeners too so I'll try that next time.  At least I now know I like the taste of fresh homemade yogurt, that's a surprise.

Rib Steak

We haven't had beef for a while so I picked up a couple of Angus rib steaks on mark down.  I seasoned them with my

Southwest Rub

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 cooked them on the BBQ.  Mashed potatoes and steamed vegtables complete the plate.  The veggies were finished in a pot with butter and extra virgin olive oil. Fern's steak was a bit thinner and despite being cooked on the cooler part of the grill, it was a little overdone.  Better watch that next time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rack of Pork

My regular store was closed today so I had to shop at another.  I saw the frenched rack of meat and immediately said, "rack of lamb". I perused the remaining counter and the lamb looked like the best bet so I picked it up and went over to get some mint in the produce section.  It wasn't till I got home and took the meat out of the bag that I noticed it was pork. Rack of Pork? Who makes that? Too late now.

So I had to make it work. I got out a small bowl and added 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp mustard powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp oil, 1 tbsp molasses and 1 tsp stock.  I mixed that up and painted it over the entire roast, put two bay leaves and a sprig of rosemary on top, then put it in the oven at 375º. When the meat thermometer started chiming I took the roast out and covered it in foil on the counter. I had the potatoes boiling on the stove and the veggies in the steamer.  When the potatoes and veggies were done  I whipped up the mashed and put the carrots and cauliflower in the steamer pot with butter and extra virgin olive oil on medium low heat. Toss the veggies in the oil to coat them and cook the oil a little. I plated the meat with a dollop of homemade apple sauce and served it.  For unbrined last minute pork, it wasn't bad at all.