Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tomato, Basil, Garlic Prawns on Rotini Pasta

Fern is away so I'm cooking for one and experimenting a little. I'm using up those cheap, lesser quality prawns I bought.  With lots of salt I managed to get a hint of prawn flavor out of one of them. The sauce is a great innovation. I really liked the tomatoes Fern canned last summer, packed with flavor.  Unfortunately I used up the last jar.  I did not consider using 'Hunts Tomato Sauce' or other ready made because it would not have the flavor I'm looking for. Instead I planned to use 1/2 can tomato paste.

To start I caramelized a diced onion, then added celery and garlic to sweat. I took the vegetables out of the pan, added oil, some salt and put the prawns in to cook.  I just barely cook them so they'll finish in the sauce.  If they are fully cooked then put in the hot sauce for several more minutes they'll become rubbery. Put the cooked prawns with the onion, etc.

Put pasta on if it isn't already, it'll take 12 minutes. 1 cup per serving.

Put 1 teaspoon flour in the sauce pan and enough oil to make a paste.  Cook the flour for at least a minute to cook the flour taste off then remove from heat and add 1/4 cup chicken stock. Whisk to remove lumps and add more stock if needed to make enough sauce for the pasta. Add half a can of tomato paste and whisk in then put the pan back on medium low heat.  Heat the sauce and add stock or turn heat up and reduce if it's too thin.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  A teaspoon of dry basil or tablespoon of fresh chopped go in about 4 minutes from pasta.  Add the prawns and veggies back in and thoroughly mix. Everything should be ready when the pasta is done so drain the pasta, add it to the sauce and toss or plate the pasta and sauce over top. I'm cooking for one so I don't need to impress myself with my plating style.

The tomato sauce from paste idea worked great! Not as good as home canned tomatoes but much better than ready made tomato sauce. The prawns were still flavorless but at least that's what I expected this time. Now back to my new chicks.  4 Ameraucana day old chicks arrived this morning. By mid September they'll be laying green eggs!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Lamb Shoulder Chops

I have always enjoyed lamb when I've tried it in a restaurant so I was hopeful when I found a couple of shoulder chops for under $4. I found a simple recipe online that called for seasoning then searing the meat and sweating garlic, onion, carrot and celery.  The lamb was added back in with the sweated vegetables and covered with a splash of chicken stock and plenty of white wine. The recipe called for fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce, none of which I had so I decided to try tomato paste. It worked! Half a can made all the sauce I needed.  Tonight I'll use up the rest.

I boiled potatoes and steamed the Brussels Sprouts then finished them in xv olive oil on low heat.  I served the lamb and sauce right over the potatoes.  The sprouts were wonderful.  The lamb was kind of good and kind of not.  I'm not sure if I under seasoned it or was it not a particularly good lamb to start with.  The sauce wasn't nice either so I think I put too much in it. I had thrown in a sprig of rosemary and one of thyme that weren't called for in the recipe and I think that muddied the flavor. Here's the recipe I used:

Braised Lamb Shoulder Chops

Sear chops all round.  Sweat a carrot, stick of celery, two cloves garlic and half an onion all diced. Add tomatoes and some white wine. To all of that I added chicken stock, rosemary and thyme which didn't help at all so don't do it. Simmer 45 minutes. 

No great lamb but I think that was my fault.  Not a bad dinner overall though!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cajun Chicken Ceasar

Fern wanted chicken on a Caesar salad for dinner.  He's never that specific so there is no leeway here. I set about boning the chicken and putting the skins in a frying pan to crisp for the dogs.  I put oil and croutons in a pan and browned them with salt and pepper for the salad.  I needed an egg yolk for the salad dressing so I separated an egg and put the yolk aside.  I added a tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, two tablespoons of flour and a tablespoon of milk  to the whipped egg white and whipped it in.  I pounded the chicken to double in size and coated it in flour then dipped it in the Cajun Batter. Immediately into a hot frying pan with plenty of oil.

Caesar Salad Dressing

1 egg yolk
1/2 cup oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 anchovy fillet - optional

I use half rice oil/half extra virgin olive oil because I find the taste of xv olive oil too overpowering in mayonnaise.  Add the oil to the egg yolk in 1/2 tsp amounts and whip it in, till all the oil is taken up. Crush and chop the garlic and anchovy.  Add them with the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Whisk into sauce. Wash and spin the romaine lettuce.  Toss the lettuce in the dressing, then add the croutons and toss. Finally the grated parmesan. Toss.

I let the chicken cool before slicing it and topping the salad.  A little grated parmesan over all. It was  a bit under seasoned but wonderful anyway.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

We had spaghetti from a previous batch of sauce, so no dinner to describe. Well, I suppose I could.  I boiled spaghetti pasta for twelve minutes and reheated sauce in a pot on the stove.  I did grate fresh parmesan cheese to top the dish, so I did do a little more than reheat, but not much.

I decided to make cookies at 10:20pm as I hadn't bought any and munchies were knocking at the door. Working as fast as possible with a cut finger, I set to work on oatmeal cookies. This recipe is from Joy of Cooking and is a good starting point for variations

Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal flakes
1/2 cup raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, Bertie's Every Flavor Beans or whatever

Cream butter, then cream white, then brown sugar. Add beaten egg, milk, vanilla and mix.  Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix.  If a recipe calls for both baking soda and powder, measure the soda first because there is baking soda in baking powder so it won't be contaminated by the spoon. 

 Add the oatmeal flakes and raisins. Mix and spoon the batter onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake at 350ºF for 12 minutes or until browned. I use a rectangular pizza stone as a cookie sheet which gives much better results than steel sheets, but they must cook for about 17 minutes. The parchment prevents flavor transfer from food to stone. I had these cookies out of the oven before 11pm. They are wonderfully crisp and high fibre!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Easy Sweet'n Sour Chicken

I got the rice going first then got the meat and vegetables out of the fridge. Before I could do anything else I swiped the crumbs off the cutting board. Unfortunately my index finger caught the tip of the knife and cut it right to the bone. Ouch!!! The same finger I cut with the X-acto knife last week. How am I going to make pineapple chicken now? I'll just make sure everything is cooked and promise the flavor in the next meal.

I managed to get everything prepped and even pounded the chicken flat so it would cook faster, I seasoned it with flour, salt and pepper. I got the vegetables in the steamer, the chicken in a hot pan with plenty of oil and realized I had enough time to make a sauce with the chicken.  I had half a can of pineapple pieces in the fridge so I poured the liquid into the pan.  I watched the sugar syrup reduce for a few moments then thought "If I put some tomato ketchup in that I should have a sweet and sour sauce." So I squirted some ketchup into the pineapple juice and mixed it thoroughly.

Canned pineapple pieces aren't improved by cooking so reserve them for the last minute when they are tossed in the pan to warm but not cook. I put soy sauce on my rice but Fern prefers his white, that is why I usually do nothing to rice.  When the vegetables were almost done I ran them under cold water to stop cooking then put them in a pot with xv olive oil to warm up and finish cooking.

Considering I had given up on having any kind of flavor in the meal it turned out really well. Fern loved the sauce and would be quite happy to have the dish again. So there it is, the easiest sweet'n sour chicken ever!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Breaded Chicken Breast

Boneless chicken breasts were on special and I just made stock the other day so I didn't need bones. My plate looks a little sparse but it's an oversize plate and I'm giving myself smaller portions to try to match my food intake with my energy expenditures. I didn't pound the meat flat this time, it was rolled in flour  and salt, then dipped in egg and finally tossed in bread crumbs. I added poultry seasoning to the bread crumbs. Mashed potatoes were plain and mixed vegetables were done in the microwave in a little chicken stock to give them a little more flavor.

The meat was under salted. I thought I put lots in with the flour but it didn't stick to the meat. Salt in the bread crumbs tends not to stick either so maybe I have to season the meat in the pan when it's floured. The potatoes and vegetables were properly seasoned so I'm making progress, but I still don't know how to get salt to stick to the meat under all conditions. On the other hand I had a temperature of 101ºF so that I got anything on a plate was a miracle.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Beef Tenderloin

We both still have the last shreds of flu, this one really hangs on.  I wanted red meat but didn't want to work for it so I splurged and bought beef tenderloin. Broccoli and carrots with mashed potatoes round out the plate.  I steamed the vegetables, ran them under cold water and finished them in  xv olive oil on medium low heat. Mashed potatoes had salt, butter and milk. I seasoned the steaks with salt and black pepper and cooked them in a frying pan, about 4 minutes per side. Simple fast and delicious if a little pricier than usual.


Everyone's favorite comfort food. It doesn't feel like a week has gone by if we haven't had Spaghetti. This is probably the same as most peoples sauce so I'll be brief. I started by caramelizing a diced onion. To that I added a stick of celery and a carrot both diced small.  I chopped up a couple of cloves of garlic and put that in too.  When it was all sweated I took it all out of the pan and put the meat in.  I used 1.5 lbs ground beef and 1.5 lbs mild Italian sausage removed from skins. I browned the meat and made sure most of the water was cooked off. Then everything went back in the pot and one 16 oz can tomato sauce and one 8 oz can Aylmer tomato soup.  If Aylmer brand tomato soup isn't available then use tomato paste instead. A different soup will not produce a good result.

I should have browned the mushrooms before the meat but I forgot so I just sliced them up and put them in the pot at this point. The sauce had two more hours to simmer before dinner so all the flavors would be fully developed and the mushrooms fully cooked. I served it on Barilla pasta with fresh grated parmesan on top. Delicious!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crab Cakes with Asparagus and Hollandaise

We are fighting off the last of the flu and I felt fishy today so I decided on crab cakes.  Asparagus was on special and I have lots of eggs, the girls have been laying feverishly lately, so I decided right in the store that we were having hollandaise. 

I decided to have a rustic plate with yellow flesh potato, skins on. I got the potatoes on and the steamer set up for the asparagus.  To prep asparagus just hold the stem end between thumb and index finger and bend the top down. It will break where the fibrous stem ends. Steam a few minutes till a fork enters with a light push. Asparagus turns to mush if overcooked. Run steamer under cold water to stop cooking.  A few minutes before plating put cooked asparagus in pan with xv olive oil and warm up over medium low heat.

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt

Whisk yolks while slowly adding melted butter, just like making mayonnaise.  When all butter is taken up add lemon juice, water and salt.  Put over boiling water and whisk till thickened or if in a glass dish put in microwave for 20 seconds, whisk. Microwave 10 seconds then whisk. Continue cooking and whisking in 10 second intervals until thickened. A pot of boiling water is much easier though.

Crab Cakes

1/2 lb crab (I use imitation with 3% real crab)
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of salt
3 egg whites (use whole eggs, this wasn't great)

I decided to use the whites from the hollandaise eggs instead of using whole eggs in the crab cakes.  This lost fat content took away from the flavor so I would use whole eggs instead.  Also, I had too much egg. One large egg or two small ones is plenty. Break the crab up first then thoroughly mix it with the flour, this helps the cakes hold together. Add the garlic powder and salt, mix. Add beaten eggs and mix.  Drop four cakes into a pan of medium+ hot oil. Brown both sides and serve.

Using only egg whites was definitely a detractor, next time I'll find something more appropriate to do with them. The crab cakes were good despite the egg whites, Fern didn't notice the missing yolks, so it wasn't a failure or a home run.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pineapple Coconut Curried Chicken

We are both still sick so nothing too demanding for dinner, we just gotta eat. I put rice on to cook and diced an onion.  I caramelized the onions while coating the diced meat in flour and salt. The chicken pieces went into the pan with more oil and I got a little brown on all sides. Next I added two or more tablespoons of curry powder and a pinch, or as much as you want, of cayenne. Roll the chicken in the curry powder to coat it all then add one can coconut milk. I was using a 10 in deep pan which made reducing the coconut milk fairly quick. The chicken should finish cooking while the milk is reducing but it shouldn't be overcooked and rubbery. The meat can be removed from the pan and put back in when the sauce has thickened, but it's great if that extra work can be avoided.

I started my peas in the microwave. When the sauce had thickened, added 1/3 can drained pineapple pieces. I plated the rice, then the curry overlapping and the peas last. I didn't add any chicken stock and the dish suffered for it.  The stock gives depth of flavor to the dish as a whole.  In any case, not a bad meal for a cook with a fever of 101ºF.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Molasses Banana Bread

I had bought about five pounds of ripe bananas for $.99 so there were plenty left for another banana bread.  The first one I used half a cup of brown sugar and half white sugar.  The recipe called for one cup white sugar but I wanted to see if brown sugar improved the flavor. It did.  This time I first reached for the brown sugar but stopped and instead added white sugar and one to two tablespoons of fancy molasses. That made it sweeter than the first but it had a new undercurrent of flavor than surprised and delighted. Here is the complete recipe.

Molasses Banana Bread

4 medium bananas mashed
1/3 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg beaten
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a bread pan with parchment paper. Mix wet ingredients then add dry ingredients and mix well.   Pour into parchment and bake seventy minutes. If it isn't done the raw part will be at the bottom center and I'm not sure how to check that so I just cook it longer next time. If it's dry, cook it less.

Pork Tenderloin on a plate

We're still suffering the flu and I needed a simple hot dinner that wasn't chicken. I picked up a pork tenderloin for under $4.  I had three mushrooms and a piece of cauliflower, fresh carrots and frozen peas. I put rice on to cook while I cut the pork into one and half inch lengths, but was too sick to bother pounding them flat. I seasoned and coated them with flour and put them in plenty of hot oil.

I didn't want to microwave the vegetables and I didn't want to fuss either so I decided to risk putting all the veggies in the steamer at one time. Cauliflower, carrots and frozen peas. Broccoli would have turned to mush before the carrots were cooked but Cauliflower takes a little longer so this worked for me this time. I sliced up my mushrooms and fried them in butter.  When I plated everything I put soy sauce on my rice, Fern likes plain white rice.  There was nothing special about the meal but it was good and we cleaned our plates. 

Our temperatures are both down this morning so we are finally on the way to well.

Flu Soup

I didn't get a photo of the chicken soup but it looked just like it was supposed to. We both have the flu and feel terrible, a nice soup wouild really help.  I cubed a chicken breast, salted and coated it in flour and browned the pieces in a pot. When they were browned all round I took them from the pot.  Next I sweated a carrot and stick of celery, all finely diced.  Everything back in the pot and add one liter or quart of chicken stock and a bay leaf.  A little salt and pepper and if it's available anise seed. Add some type of egg noodles and when they are tender, serve the soup.

Not a cure, but definitely a comfort.

By mid afternoon I didn't feel much better and needed something for dinner.  I decided a nice soup again so I picked up some yellow split peas.  The bag of peas says rinse and soak for hours or overnight. No time for that! I rinsed them really well in a sieve. 

I caramelized an onion, then browned a couple of slices of diced ham. Then I put the peas in and sweated them a bit.  Not sure if that helps dried peas but it didn't hurt.  I added two packets of chicken stock powder because I used all my stock at lunch.  I added a quart or two of water, a couple of bay leaves and brought it all to a boil. It simmered for 2 hours before I served it and Fern and I both loved it.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Breaded Chicken Breast

It was a chicken night and I was tired of being creative. It's hard thinking up new ideas every night. I was going to keep it simple so I got out three bowls, flour, egg and bread crumbs.  So much for simple. I put salt, pepper and paprika in the flour and poultry seasoning and salt in the bread crumbs.  This time I didn't pound the meat flat, I left it whole and plump. First I coated it in flour, dipped in egg then rolled it in the bread crumbs.  I laid it in a hot frying pan, browned one side and turned it over.  I browned that side just a minute then put the pan in the oven at 350 ºF for 30 minutes.

Plain white rice and frozen peas with fresh carrots. Butter on everything. At least that part was simple. I served mine with 'ketchup' a tomato, onion, pear chutney Fern makes. The chicken was crispy, moist and delicious. If I had dolled up the rice and peas this could easily be a restaurant meal. 

Ham and Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce

Cauliflower is on sale for $.99 per pound while all the other greens are sky high. What to do with cauliflower? This dish from Fern's childhood stars cauliflower and is simple to make.  It took me 30 minutes to prepare and 60 minutes to cook. Preheat oven to 350Fº.

Thinly slice about 1 1/4 lbs ham and cut into 1 1/2 inch strips.  Thinly slice 4 or 5 potatoes and cut the cauliflower into florets. Cover the bottom of a lasagna pan with sliced ham.  Cover the ham with potato. Cover the potato with cauliflower.

Cheese Sauce

2 tsp flour
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cup or more milk
1/4 lb extra old cheddar cheese (cheap is awful, good quality is delicious. Kraft should be bottom of list)
pinch of salt

Put flour and oil in sauce pan, mix and cook the flour taste off but don't brown the flour. Remove from heat and add chicken stock, whisk to smooth then add milk and whisk. Put back on heat and add thin sliced or grated cheese. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn on the bottom and add more milk if it's too thick.   Water will come out of the cauliflower, potato and ham while it cooks so the sauce needs to start a little thick. When cheese is melted pour sauce over cauliflower, cover with foil and put in oven for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool a few minutes so all the moisture doesn't steam off as soon as the foil is removed.

I was worried that it would be bland but there was enough salt in the meat and cheese to carry the dish. I could have added a little more milk so sauce covered everything but it tasted fine the way it was.  Fern doesn't like a plate swimming in cheese sauce so a little thin is better than too much. This is another comfort food although it is good enough to sit on a fine buffet. The quality of the ham and especially the cheese determine how good this dish will be.

Pierrette's Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is our comfort food, this sauce was made last week and frozen. We get two meals and maybe a lunch or two from a batch.  Barilla pasta is finally available in my favorite grocery store.  I found it has the best taste followed closely by Catelli. Unico is not good quality in my opinion, but it is cheaper! I'm not sure home made pasta in this dish would work.  A plate of Spaghetti needs to evoke memories of the warmth and safety of home. To achieve that, similar commercial ingredients must be used even if home made would be better.  Spaghetti needs to match the best memory, not the best recipe. This is Fern's mother's version.

Pierrette's Spaghetti Sauce

1 16 oz can tomato sauce (hunts is our favorite)
1 can tomato paste
1 can Aylmer tomato soup (if Aylmer is not available, there is no substitute)
1 onion
1 carrot
1 stick celery
2 bay leaves
1/3 lb ground pork
2/3 lb lean ground beef (bison is a nice variation)

Caramelize the diced onion, then sweat the carrot and celery.  Remove all from the pan and brown the meat.  Add everything back plus all the cans and bay leaves.  Simmer 2 hours. We cook our spaghetti 12 minutes and we are 400 feet above sea level. Fresh grated parmesan on top. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Crab cakes again, yay!

The grocery store finally had more of that Louis C. Kemp imitation crab.  It contains 3% real crab and it is closer to the same taste and texture of real crab. While Fern was away I tried the Alaska King Crab flavored pollock which has taste vaguely reminiscent of crab and the texture of pre chewed bubble gum. Not a good crab substitute at all.  

I was going to use ready made mayonnaise for the tartar sauce but the jar was empty so I had to make some.  I had been using Berio xv oil but it has a bitter after taste so I switched to Bertolini and this was the first time making mayo with it.  With Berio I used 1/2 vegetable oil to give it a lighter taste but since Bertolini isn't bitter I used it straight. Mistake! Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor that is very pleasant in small amounts but overbearing in large. The oil overpowered the sweetness of the pickles and the tang of the lemon juice. It didn't taste bad, it just didn't taste wonderful. This recipe corrects those deficiencies.


1 egg yolk
1/5 cup xv olive oil
1/5 cup vegetable oil - less than 1/2 cup total
pinch of salt
2 tsp lemon juice

Mayonnaise is an emulsion which means two normally immiscible liquids blended by suspending one in the other. This is achieved by slowly adding oil to egg yolk while whisking vigorously. The emulsion thickens as more oil is emulsified. If too much oil is added at one time, the sauce will 'break' and release it's oil. Once an emulsion is broken it can't be fixed. The only way forward is to start with a fresh egg yolk, slowly add the broken sauce while whisking. Don't over pour again! When the broken sauce is taken up slowly add the remaining oil. When the oil is all taken up add the salt and lemon juice.

Tartar Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp sweet pickle relish
lemon juice
maybe salt

Taste and adjust.  

Crab Cakes

1/2 pound crab (real $8, Kemp $2.25)
1 tbsp flour
1/4 cup bread crumbs
half stick celery diced
slice of onion diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed, diced
1-2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

I should have put flour in the crab first to coat it all but I left it out and the egg didn't want to adhere to the crab so the cakes were crumbly. I lightly caramelized the onion then sweated the celery and finally the garlic.  I took that out of the pan and let it cool.  I reserved half the bread crumbs on a plate for coating and added half the bread crumbs to the crab and flour. Next I added the cooled vegetables, salt and one egg. Mix.  If the mixture is crumbly add another egg. Roll the finished cake in bread crumbs to coat.

I paired the cakes with yellow flesh potatoes, boiled and served with butter, salt and fresh chives. Carrots, steamed and served with butter and salt. I fried the cakes on medium+ heat till firm. The crab is ready to eat so it's only the egg that needs to be cooked.

Plate and dive. Mine were bland so this recipe should be better but keep the salt close by. My all xv olive oil mayonnaise overpowered the tartar sauce.  Now that I think of it I might have improved it with a little sugar. My meal wasn't bad but it could have been so much better if I'd followed this recipe using mixed oil, flour, an extra egg and more salt.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Honey Garlic Chicken Breast

I definitely needed to make chicken stock so I was happy to be boning chicken again. Had to wear a rubber glove on the injured digit, but that worked fine. I pounded the breasts flat to double in size and seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and flour to help them brown. I put the seasoning in the plastic bag they were pounded in, filled it with air and shook to coat them. Fresh carrots and frozen peas for the vegetables and plain basmati rice fill out the plate.  The chicken was fried and everything else was done in the microwave.

Boning a chicken breast is easy.  Take a sharp narrow knife and slide it down between the thickest meat and breast bone.  Slide the knife along the bone and cartilage to the tip of the breast.  Then slide the knife along the rib cage to separate the meat from the bones. Work around to the shoulder joint and try to get all the meat with as little white tendon as possible. Half the wish bone is still in the breast, just below the surface.  Slice along the top of the wish bone then cut underneath it with the tip of the knife from both sides to release it from the meat. Pull the skin off. The skins I fry crispy as dog treats and use the chicken fat to make the sauce.

To make 

Chicken Stock

1 onion
1 carrot
1 stick celery
2 bay leaves 
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
chicken bones

Cut the onion in half and everything else in large pieces, put in pot and fill with water.  I think it's a 2 or 3 liter pot I'm using. Bring to a boil and skim the grey impurities that form on the side, they make the stock cloudy. Once it's cleared the heat can be turned down and the stock simmered for 30 to 45 minutes. Strain and use a slice of fresh bread to soak the fat off the top. Refrigerate for up to 5 days.

The magic in this dish is the sauce.  I put 1/2 tsp flour and 1 tsp chicken fat (from the fried skins) in a small pot and cooked the flour taste off. I added 2 cloves crushed, chopped garlic and sweated them. Next, an ounce of chicken stock, 1 tbsp of honey and 1 tsp soy sauce.  If it's a bit too sweet add a little salt. If it gets too thick add stock. Serve over the chicken breast and the rice if you like.

I really liked this, it tasted of cooked garlic and honey but wasn't too sweet.  Fern said it needed a little mustard to fill out the flavor profile.  I think he's right, 1/4 tsp mustard powder would improve the dish.

This meal is so simple it's almost a tv dinner yet it's absolutely delicious. We'll definitely be having it again.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Prawns in tomato basil sauce on fresh pasta

We had surprise guests for dinner last night so I decided prawns and pasta would be nice and easy enough. I didn't have time to photograph the plate so I'm cheating a little and using the photo from last time I made this. Last nights plate looked better than this so I'm really cheating myself here.

Pasta - 2 servings - 1 if you're a Yeti

2/3 cup flour
1 large egg

Use a fork to stir the egg into the flour and form a ball.  Cover and chill in fridge for 30 minutes. Cut ball in half and start working dough.  Pasta dough should not be sticky, if it is at all sticky, dust with flour and fold it in. Keep adding flour and working the dough till it is uniform and not sticky. Cut into fettuccine. 

Tomato Basil Sauce

2 tbsp oil in pan to sweat shallot and garlic
1 tsp flour
2 tsp oil
1 shallot diced
2 cloves garlic crushed, chopped
8-10 prawns per person
2 or more tbsp chopped fresh basil
16 oz/500ml tomatoes
black pepper

I started the sauce by lightly caramelizing a shallot in two tablespoons oil, sweating the garlic and removing it all from the pan.  Next I cooked the prawns with a little salt then removed them from the pan. To the empty pan I added the flour and oil.  Mix and cook the flour taste off. Add the tomatoes, mix and cook for a few minutes.  Add all ingredients to pan and test for seasoning. Add salt and/or black pepper to taste. Put pasta in boiling water.  Everything should be ready at the same time. Drain pasta and serve with parmesan cheese grated over top.

When I finally sat down to eat I was delighted with the flavor I had developed. I remarked with satisfaction to our guests that this was a restaurant quality meal.  

"Better than restaurant!" they chimed in, "We don't get food this good when we eat out."

Now that made me feel good!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Absolutely fabulous pork chops

I managed to slice into my finger with an x-acto knife so I've been out of the kitchen for a few days. Well, I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday but with a mixer it's hardly work.

I wanted mustard on the pork chops but didn't want to burn it on.  Instead I put 

Pork Rub

1 tsp flour
1 1/2 tsp salt (I've been under salting my meats)
mixed ground pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

in a plastic bag and coated the 3 chops.  Then I fried them in plenty of oil so they had a good sear. I put a sprig of rosemary and thyme on each chop while it cooked. When they were almost done I brushed one side with a tsp of dijon mustard and honey. I cooked it in a little then turned the chop over so both sides get some mustard cooked in.  

The carrots and asparagus were steamed, run under cold water and finished in extra virgin olive oil with a little salt and pepper.

Yellow flesh potatoes boiled and finished in extra virgin olive oil complete the plate. I forgot to add a few chives, darn!

These were the best pork chops I've ever cooked! The secret was adding the honey mustard at the end.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Meat! Flat Iron Steak!

I've seen them sitting there before but was afraid to try in case Fern hated them. This is my last night alone so my last chance to try. Glad I did! I bought a pack of Flat Iron Steak also known as Top Blade Steak. I had to read up on what to do with it.  It has a big silver skin membrane in the middle that does not soften with cooking, it has to be removed. Fortunately it was no more difficult than boning a chicken breast so I had them out in no time.  Just slide the knife along both sides of the silver skin and cut it out. It results in two strips and it's easier than it looks. I salted the strips and seasoned with my 

Southwest Spice

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

Yukon Gold potatoes were on special 5lbs for $1.99 so I couldn't resist.  I like them with skins on and just butter and chives to impress everyone that I learned how to garnish. I steamed the asparagus and finished it in butter, lemon juice and salt.

The steak was fried on medium+ heat for a couple of minutes on both sides and it's nice to get a little sear all round. It didn't rest long but didn't need to because it was strips, not a thick chunk of meat.

The steak was out of this world.  Better than rib steak. Full of flavor and surprisingly tender. I'm not sure tenderloin would be any more tender. The potatoes were perfect with this meat and the asparagus was just crisp enough. 

Dinner for one, done. Next time we have beef we're having Flat Iron Steak.

Breaded Chicken with Pineapple Pasta

Maybe I'm watching too many episodes of Chopped, but I decided to try to clean out the fridge in a Chopped style cooking challenge.  I had a chicken breast, cauliflower, bit of homemade pasta and half a can of pineapple pieces. What to make with all of that?

I decided I rather liked breading on my chicken so I was going to do that again.  I wanted more flavor in the breading so I put poultry seasoning in the bread crumbs. The breast was first dusted with 

Chicken Rub

1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp salt
mixed ground pepper
1 tsp flour

I pounded the breast flat then put the rub in the bag and shook to fully coat.  I had an egg whipped up to dip it in then a bag of Alpine bread crumbs with poultry seasoning in a second bag.  I put the breast into a hot pan with plenty of oil.  I had to turn the heat down to just over medium and the crust still scorched a bit but fortunately didn't taste bitter. Medium is probably the hottest this should be cooked at so it browns without burning.

The pasta was cooking and I had cauliflower in the steamer, when it was almost done I ran it under cold water and drained it fully.  Then put the cauliflower in the pot on medium low heat with extra virgin olive oil and salt to finish.

I had looked up pineapple sauces on the internet and a simple one can be made from pineapple juice, salt, soy sauce, molasses and lemon juice. I wasn't sure how that would all taste but I started with a tsp of flour and a tbsp of oil in the sauce pan.  I cooked off the flour taste and added the pineapple juice. I had just enough juice to make a good consistency that would thicken a bit as it cooked.  I added a tsp of soy sauce, a good pinch of salt and 2 tsp of molasses. The soy sauce gave a savory taste to the sauce but it was still too sweet.  A tsp or two of lemon juice brought the sweetness under control and produced a nice tasting sauce. I added the pineapple pieces back in before everything else was quite ready.  That was a small mistake because as the pieces cooked they released water which thinned the sauce too much.  I had to turn up the heat to boil it down.  I think the pineapple would have been better if I'd put it in just before serving.

The pineapple pasta was actually pretty good and the sauce was a nice counterpoint to the poultry seasoning on the chicken. The cauliflower managed to hold it's own with the sauce so overall, it was a pretty good meal. Now I understand the trepidation judges have just before the first bite of a dish on Chopped! Will it be delicious or disgusting?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Prawns in Tomato Basil Sauce on Fresh Pasta

Still home alone, dinner for one again.  I was in the mood for seafood and it was time for pasta so I decided to use fresh tomatoes to make a sauce and put it on fresh pasta. I'll see how fast I can whip up pasta for one.

Turns out it still takes about 45 minutes of solid work.  Two people working together could cut down the time to probably 15 minutes and make enough for a table. 

Pasta for One (or maybe two if the eggs are huge like my chickens lay)

2/3 cup flour
1 large egg

Make a well in flour and drop in the egg. Starting in the center, move a fork in a circular motion picking up the flour until it is all absorbed. If the dough is still wet add more flour till the dough is not sticky. Cover and chill 25 minutes.  Start rolling the dough and dusting it with flour on each pass. The dough should  not be sticky and should have a velvety feel. When the dough is thin enough, cut it to length and run each piece through the cutter, then dust the noodles with flour so they don't stick together. I used to try to cut to length after the noodles were made, which is really hard to do.

My grocery store has two kinds of frozen raw prawns.  Two pounds for $19.99 and two pounds for $16.99.  I tried a bag of the expensive ones when they were on sale for $10 and they were delicious. Neither was on sale so I decided to try the $16.99 prawns. (That $3 difference as all the flavor, the cheaper prawns had none.)  I put a serving in cold water to defrost quickly.

Tomato Basil Sauce for one

3 tomatoes
1 shallot diced
6 basil leaves chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
1/2 tsp salt
mixed ground pepper
1 ounce chicken stock

First I put some oil in the sauce pan and added the diced shallot. After a minute I added the garlic and sweated them both.  Add a little oil and butter and the prawns.  Cook the prawns to almost done then remove them from the pan.  If they stay in the sauce while it cooks they turn to rubber.

Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and chicken stock to the pan and bring to boil, turn down to a fast simmer and boil off some of the water.  When it's lost enough water put the lid on, turn the heat down and simmer it as long as possible. A few minutes before serving the sauce add the basil and prawns so they finish cooking in the sauce. 

My pasta took about 3 minutes to cook. I put the cooked pasta in the sauce pan, mixed and turn out onto a warm plate.  I dusted the pasta with fresh grated parmesan and sat down to eat.  The prawns were an immediate disappointment.  No flavor.  To add insult to the injury the tomato sauce wasn't nearly as flavorful as Fern's made from his own fresh tomatoes.  I think I'll keep in mind that I'd like to have 50 500ml jars of tomatoes canned by fall. That will keep us in delicious tomato sauce all year. If Fern said at the beginning of the year he wanted to make 50 cans of tomato sauce I would have said he was crazy and I'd be wrong again.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Pot Roast for One

Fern is still away and it is a fish or beef day. There wasn't anything interesting at the fish counter. The only beef that seemed compelling was a little pot roast for $3.98. So I picked it up.  Asparagus was on special so I bought a bunch as everything else is very pricey right now. I had the cauliflower from a few days back.  

First I seared the roast all round in hot oil. Add 1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 stick celery, 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper and cover with water.  Add an ounce or two of red wine, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 3 hours.  Turn the meat over every 30 minutes or at least once during cooking. Boiled potatoes just seem right with pot roast so that's what I made, just butter and salt on them.  I steamed the cauliflower and asparagus together and finished them in extra virgin olive oil on a medium low burner. A little grated parmesan over the cauliflower and a few drops of lemon juice on the asparagus. Horseradish is the condiment on the meat.

Despite having to cook this meal for 3 hours, it wasn't all that much work. The meat was wonderful and  everything tasted great together.  The plating isn't pretty but the flavor is fully satisfying. I definitely recommend making pot roast for one, it's well worth while.

Braised Pork Ribs

I love pork ribs with BBQ sauce on them and I wanted to see how pork does braising in the oven.  I cut my ribs into pieces and laid them out in a 9x13 pan.  I put Kraft Original BBQ Sauce on them which is my favorite.  Fern's doesn't like it so I was using up the rest.  I wasn't sure if I had enough but it's just tomato paste and molasses with a few herbs and spices so if I need more I'll mix it up.  As it was, half a bottle was enough. A bit of seasoning on  the ribs, BBQ sauce on top and aluminum foil over the pan.  I put it in a 225ºF oven for 3 hours.  The rice was a mixture of brown basmati, red thai and a little pearl barley. I cooked it in chicken stock with a little salt and pepper. Frozen corn because I like corn with pork. 

I was worried that there wouldn't be enough moisture in the pan but when I took it out of the oven the ribs were floating in a wonderful sauce. The pork fell off the bones in rich juicy mouthfuls. The rice was really nice and a bit of welcome texture.  The corn was a nice match but left me wanting a little something green on plate.  I think a little green salad, garnish size, would have completed the plate nicely.

$.89 crab cakes

The fish counter hasn't had any of the Louis Kemp imitation crab which I find so good in crab cakes but the Alaskan King Crab flavored Pollock was on special for $.89/100gm (about 1/4 lb) so I picked some up.  It doesn't have the texture of crab but it might have enough flavor.

I tried chopping it up into crab like pieces but that wasn't successful.  So I just sweated some onion, celery and Fern's frozen mixed peppers.  I added an egg, some bread crumbs and flour hold it all together.  Salt, pepper and paprika for seasoning.  They cooked fairly well and I served them with some tartar sauce made from sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt. For some reason I had a craving for potato salad so that's what I made at the back of the plate.  A little too much lemon juice made it a bit too thin. More of that carrot garnish.  I just can't seem to finish that stuff!

The crab cakes were vaguely reminiscent of crab flavor but in no way tasted like crab. They didn't taste bad, but they didn't taste good either.  The texture is completely wrong. Rubbery. In my opinion, it doesn't matter how cheap Alaskan king crab flavored pollock is, it is simply not good enough to be worth eating. (the dogs loved it!)

Rib steak

Fern is away for a week so I get to eat everything I love and he hates.  Rib steak is right at the top of the list and this is my first meal alone so I went all out.  I seasoned the steak with salt and pepper and fried it.  Mashed potatoes paired with cauliflower and green peas for the vegetables and a little carrot vinaigrette for color. I even managed to garnish with some chives and chopped parsley. It doesn't look pretty but it tasted good and the dogs loved the bones!