Saturday, February 27, 2016

Rainbow Trout with Asparagus and Hollandaise

Kevin, our gardener and good friend caught an extra trout on his fishing trip the other day so he gifted us a nice one. It's the largest trout I've ever seen, it could easily have fed 4 people. It was cleaned and head off so I just stuffed diced onion with salt, pepper and dill in the cavity, drizzled a little olive oil over top of it and put it in the oven at 325F for about an hour.

Mashed potatoes were standard. Peel, chop, boil, drain, mash, butter, salt and a little milk. The only thing to say about mashed potatoes is don't over process them, it turns them into a thick paste no one will be able to eat.

Asparagus, you eat the end with the proto flowers. Hold the cut end in your fingers and bend the stalk over. It will snap at the right place. Below the snap to the cut end is fibrous, use for stock only. I have an asparagus cooker which is a tall narrow pot with mesh insert. The asparagus stand up and steam in it. Works great. Any steamer will work or just boil them lightly in a little water.

Hollandaise Sauce

1 egg yolk
1/3 cup butter
1/2 lemon juiced
1 tsp water
pinch salt

Melt the butter but don't get it hot. Slowly whisk the butter into the egg yolk as for mayonnaise. When all the butter is taken up the sauce should be thick. If it's runny, butter went in too fast and broke the sauce. Fix it by getting another yolk and slowly adding the broken sauce to the fresh yolk. Go slow, don't break it again.

Add lemon, water and salt. Bring to a simmer on medium low heat or over a double boiler. Whisk continuously. If it's too thick add 1/2 tsp water. Pour over fish and asparagus. Garnish with a little chopped parsley.

It was every bit as good as it looked!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Breaded Chicken Breast with Mushroom White Wine Sauce

Fern requested chicken with mushroom white wine sauce so I paired that with broccoli and basmati rice. Mine is completely submerged but there is a breaded chicken breast under all that sauce. All I did was put 1/4 cup bread crumbs in a plastic bag with 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning and fresh ground mixed pepper. I shook the breasts in the bag, laid them on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 20 minutes at 325F. They were a bit small so took 5 minutes less time than usual. The rice was done in the microwave with salt, olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice. I also put a few drops of lemon on the broccoli, which was steamed, cooled and reheated in olive oil.

For the sauce I seared 5 sliced mushrooms with some fresh crushed garlic. When the mushrooms had a sear I sprinkled two teaspoons of flour over all. I stirred that in and let the flour taste cook off most of the dish. Then I turned off the heat and whisked in a cup and a half of white wine. Turn the heat back on and bring to a simmer. Turning off the heat while adding the liquid usually avoids lumps. It needed half a cup of milk too. It still needed something, I added a teaspoon of chicken stock powder and that filled out the flavour. I let it simmer till it was reduced by about a third, maybe a little more. I added salt, pepper and 1/2 a teaspoon of thyme.

Fern doesn't like anything on his rice so there was sauce left in the pot. After dinner Fern got mad at me for not putting the excess sauce on his rice because it was really delicious. I really can't win.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pizza with fresh Mozzarella and Hand Made Crust

Not often I started making dinner yesterday but I bought a gallon of milk speculating that I could make a batch of mozzarella cheese. When I got home and looked up the instructions, it was quite doable.

Mozzarella Cheese

4 litres milk
1 1/2 tsp citric acid - my pharmacist had this stuff, vinegar might work too
1/2 enzyme tablet
1/2 cup water
salt - probably 1/2 tsp but not sure yet 

Warm the water to 35C and put the enzyme tablet in it to dissolve for 10 or 15 minutes. Warm the milk to 35C and add citric acid and the water with the enzyme in it. My instructions didn't mention salt but it needs it. I don't know yet if it can be added at this time. Anyway, that's it. The tablet instructions say wait 5 minutes but I found 10 to 15 is better or even longer. I think once the enzyme is used up it stops and nothing else happens so it shouldn't over work itself even if you leave it an hour.

Once it's set the whey will be clear and the milk solids will be gelled. Cut the curd into one inch squares, put the pot back on the stove and slowly heat to 40C stirring gently. Remove from heat and continue stirring gently for 2 to 5 minutes. Gently lift the curds out with a slotted spoon into a bowl. Periodically empty water from the bowl that weeps from the curds. Gather all the curds you can with the spoon but do not strain the remainder. What is left is soggy, not gelled, doesn't taste good and doesn't have a nice texture. Pour it out. If needed heat the curds up in the microwave till almost too hot to handle and start stretching it. Pull it out, fold and stretch again. This smooths out the texture in the cheese. You can tell when it's done, it's nice and smooth.  That's it, mozzarella!

Pizza Crust - turn oven light on, it warms oven perfectly for rising bread and making yogurt

1/2 cup water
1 tsp yeast
2 tsp honey
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Warm liquid to 41-46 degrees C. Add yeast, let stand 5 minutes. If using stand mixer put water, yeast and honey in bottom, then flour and salt on top. Start and stop the mixer until all the flour is taken up then let it run on medium speed to kneed the dough. Or you can kneed by hand for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and supple. I usually use the machine then finish by hand for best results. It will be soft and run like molasses when it's ready. Put it the oven to rise till doubled, about an hour. Punch down twice and start stretching to shape on parchment paper. I assemble the pizza on my pizza paddle which happens to be the same size as my pizza stone. Put it back in the warm oven to finish rising. 

Pizza Sauce

1 12-14oz can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic - crushed
1 onion diced
fresh or dried basil 

Caramelize onion, add garlic, basil and tomato. Bring tomato sauce to simmer and reduce volume by half. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 425F 
Grate the whole chunk of mozzarella.

Brush olive oil all over the inside of the pizza crust. Spread tomato sauce over it evenly. Lay thinly sliced ham around. Sprinkle pineapple tidbits around, don't use too many or the crust will get soggy. I sliced a green pepper thinly and put rings around the pizza. Finally spread the cheese evenly over all. I slide paper and all onto the stone to cook. Bake for 20 minutes or till the cheese and crust are browned.

I noticed how much I've mixed up metric and imperial units. When I was in high school the Liberals made Canada metric. That would have been great if it had been left that way, but the Conservatives came to power and changed the law so both systems could be used. 45 years later we are still doing the same thing. It's insane.

The pizza was insanely good however.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Corned Beef and a Cheese Scone

The corned beef is from Mitchell's, Brian makes it up there himself so it's as good as making it myself. I simmered it for 4 hours this time instead of 3 hours and that made a difference, it was soft as butter and a delight to eat. I served it with a dollop of Dijon Mustard.  Mashed potatoes and frozen peas on the side. 

Cheese Scone - Preheat oven to 425F

1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt


1/4 cup butter

Cut butter into the flour with pastry cutter till it is like oatmeal. 

3 tbsp sugar
1 cup grated cheddar
1/3 cup milk

Add the milk and use a fork to lift the flour into the milk all around the bowl. Keep mixing till all the flour is taken up. If it's too dry add a little more milk a teaspoon at a time. Form into a ball, flatten and cut into 6 wedges. Place on parchment and bake 13 minutes. Watch them, they are done just before they scorch.


I bought a bag of coleslaw cut up so all I had to do was make a dressing. I decided to go with mayonnaise based so I got an egg out and separated the yolk. I Whisked in 1/3 cup of oil to make the mayo then added juice from 1/2 a lemon, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp Cajun spice mix and a little pepper. It wasn't bad but it was screaming for some fresh garlic. Had I added some it would have been a really good slaw. As it was, we ate it, but neither of us said, 'this is really good!'

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cajun Snapper with Mashed, Broccoli and Lemon Beure Blanc

Friday Mitchell's tries to bring in fresh fish. It's local so it's usually snapper, which we both like. I simply salt and season the snapper with Cajun spice mix then put it in hot oil in a frying pan. The potatoes were boiled, drained, mashed, buttered, milked, salted and stirred with a fork. The broccoli is steamed, cooled under cold water and reheated in olive oil. It sounds complicated but you steam the broccoli early when you have time then leave it cold till the fish is on it's second side, then put the broccoli into the pot with olive oil.

Cooking fish seems a bit daunting when you've never done it. The first thing to do is pull the bones out. They are mostly near the head end in the centre inside of the fillet. You have to feel up the whole piece of fish to find them all. When you find one, grab with pliers and hold your fingers around the bone so you scrape the meat off as the bone comes out. Next, cut off any bits of skin still on the fish and there might be a strip of white fat along the top edge, I cut this off too as I find it unpleasantly fishy tasting.

I tried using my smart watch to take videos while the fish was cooking. It's a bit wobbly but shows how the fish turns from translucent when raw to opaque when it's cooked. In the video I say it's turning translucent but I meant to say it's turning from translucent to opaque. As the fish cooks the meat becomes opaque on the bottom, moving up through the fish to the centre. When it reaches the centre, turn the fist over.

Then I turn the fish over and watch the meat turn opaque up to the centre and it's done.

That leaves the butter sauce. Squeeze juice from half a lemon into a small pot. Add a teaspoon or two of water, a pinch of salt and bring to a boil briefly. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter. Once it's melted, whisk it into an emulsion. Pour the sauce over the fish and broccoli.

Fern loved the fish tonight, I got it just right.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Pork Sausage on Fresh Pasta with Cauliflower in a cheese sauce.

The store made sausages from Mitchell's are a nice inexpensive change. I was going to fry them and serve them on fresh pasta with a red wine reduction gravy kind of sauce. I wanted beans or peas on the plate beside them but cauliflower was half price and I just couldn't pass it up. I originally imagined the cauliflower steamed with grated cheddar melted over the top. That probably would have worked but I was running out of time so I threw together a cheese sauce instead.

Somehow I managed to crank out an eggs worth of fresh pasta and cooked it in the bottom of the double boiler the cauliflower was steaming in.

I caramelized a couple of diced onions then added a diced celery stick and a few small cloves of garlic. I sprinkled a teaspoon of flour over all and sweated it together . In a sauce pan I put 1.5-2 cups red wine, brought it to a boil and reduced it to about 1/3 volume. I added caramelized onion mixture to it. I added a teaspoon of beef stock powder, a tablespoon of water, salt and pepper. It was a little anaemic so I added a tablespoon of milk for body. A little more instant blending flour on top to thicken it and let that bubble for a few minutes to cook the raw flour taste off. It tasted good but the colour was completely off putting. Maroon food just doesn't look appetizing unless it's borscht.

The cheese sauce was butter and flour cooked for a minute then milk slowly whisked in and finally slices of cheddar melted into it. I knew before plating that red gravy mess with cheese sauce is not going to plate well. Fortunately both sides tasted good on their own, they just didn't belong on the same plate. If I had ditched the cauliflower and nuked some peas the plate would at least have looked cohesive and probably tasted better over all.

I ate everything on my plate, cauliflower first, then the pasta. The dog ate some of the pasta too so it wasn't too bad. He's super fussy and only eats the best people food. The sausage and pasta tasted much better than it looked and the cheese sauce was great on it's own. If I'd plated the pasta on one plate and put the cauliflower in a bowl and called it cream of cauliflower soup I probably would have had a winner.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Salisbury Steak with Mushroom gravy

Ground beef is affordable and easily chewed, an important consideration for ageing teeth. We've both had teeth break around fillings and 30 year old caps fall off. It takes a month to get in to a dentist to get it fixed so it is a problem that can go on for months. Here I have about 365gm of ground beef that I added 1/4 cup bread crumbs too, fresh chopped garlic, salt and pepper. Form it into 2 patties and fry to a good sear on both sides then put in a 325F oven for 15 minutes.

Potatoes I peeled and boiled up for mashed. Broccoli was steamed, cooled in running water and reheated in olive oil. The gravy was a diced onion caramelized, stick of celery sweated and sliced crimini mushrooms fried to a nice sear.  Then a teaspoon of flour was sprinkled over top and the pot tossed to spread the flour and cook off the flour taste. Add 1 teaspoon beef stock powder. Take pot off the burner and added 1/2 cup of milk. Stir that in and add 1/4 cup water, cook that down and if it becomes too thick add a little more water. Add salt and pepper and serve over the meat and potatoes.

The gravy flavour is developed cooking the onion, mushrooms and celery and so that is where to spend the time doing it right. This is an easy and delicious meal that doesn't cost too much. The meat, broccoli and mushrooms were less than $8 for two people.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Cajun Chicken, Risotto and Spinach Salad

Take boneless skinless chicken breast, sprinkle with salt and Cajun spice, brush with olive oil and put on the BBQ over medium high heat for 25 minutes, turning 4 times so they cook evenly.

Risotto is just rice, chicken stock and white wine stirred while cooking. Then grated parmesan is stirred into the cooked rice. I didn't have an open bottle of white wine so I tried using a few drops of white wine vinegar and it didn't do the same job. It wasn't bad but just didn't taste quite right.

Spinach salad was one tablespoon of olive/canola oil, two teaspoons lemon juice, 1/4 tsp mustard powder, salt and pepper. Whisk it up and add spinach, sliced mushrooms, chopped pecans and blue cheese. Toss and dive in!

Breaded Pork Cutlet with Broccoli and Tasty Tasters

Cutlets from Mitchell's, taters from McCain. The cutlets are made in store and taste pretty good. Taters are made in a factory somewhere and don't taste as good as I remember. The apple sauce was from a jar so the only thing I actually prepared was the broccoli. Nice job on it! 

Once in a while I like to buy prepared food so I remember why I take the trouble to cook.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Chicken Cordon Suisse with Asparagus and Hollandaise

Fern is having more tooth problems so I'm having to find things that stay soft when cooked. These store made Micthell's chicken portions are pounded so they stay tender when cooked. Asparagus was on sale so I grabbed a bunch of it and headed home. Fern asked for potatoes so I made mashed. The Asparagus was steamed. The chicken was roasted at 325F for 25-30 minutes till the cheese starts to leak out. 

Hollandaise Sauce

1 egg yolk
1/3 cup butter melted
pinch salt
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp water

Slowly whisk the butter into the yolk then add the salt, lemon juice and water. Put on medium to medium low heat and bring to a simmer. Turn down and let cook for a minute, taste for balance, adjust  and slather over everything on the plate. Dive in.

You can't beat this meal for easy, fast and delicious! It cost about $13 to prepare two portions so it's not too expensive.

Cinnamon Currant Scones with Vanilla Ice Cream

These scones are so versatile, add cinnamon and fruit for a dessert biscuit or grated cheddar for dinner biscuit. The ice cream is the quick type with no custard so it's lighter.

Ice Cream

2 cups whipping cream
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix with immersion blender and pop in the ice cream maker. This is fast, easy and makes ice cream with larger ice crystals so it's harder out of the freezer. Leave it on the counter for a few minutes to soften or put it in the microwave for 10 seconds then serve.

Basic Scones - Preheat oven to 425F

1 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup milk


1 tbsp sugar - brown sugar works well too
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup currants

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. Use pastry cutter to cut in butter to oatmeal consistency. Add sugar, for this batch I'm adding an extra tablespoon of sugar so 3 tbsp all together. 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon. 1/2 cup currants or raisins. Mix with a fork. Add the milk and mix with the fork till all the dough is evenly moist.  Try squeezing the dough into a ball, if it holds together it's ready. If it crumbles apart either put it in the fridge for a few minutes or add a little extra milk, just a few drops at a time. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten to 1 1/2 inch thick disk, cut into 6 segments and bake on parchment paper for 11-13 minutes.

It takes me less than 30 minutes to make these from start to cooling on the rack. So they can quickly be whipped up any time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cheddar Ham and Cauliflower Casserole with French Bread

The first bite of this plate I said, "Oh my God this is absolutely delicious!" and put my fork down and took a picture 'cause I forgot to before I dug in.

French Bread - turn on oven light, it warms the oven perfectly for rising bread and making yogurt

2/3 cup water - warmed
1 tsp yeast

Stir in the yeast and give it a couple of minutes to get started then add:

1 2/3 cup flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix it into a dough by hand and kneed it for 10 minutes or use a dough hook and start slow, stop intermittently, then turn it up once the dough is made. The machine can slap the dough around and kneed it beautifully if you have just the right water content. I found I couldn't add water after the dough is made so it is easier to carefully measure the water and flour to get it right. This time I had to kneed it for 4-5 minutes by hand to get a nice soft dough. I had just a little excess flour.

Coat dough with olive oil and let rise in oven with light on for an hour or till doubled. Punch down once, form into baguette and put back into oven to double again. When it's risen, remove dough. Heat oven to 400F and bake for 25-30 minutes till browned.

Cheese Sauce

1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp beef stock powder
2-3 cups milk

In medium sauce pan melt butter and mix flour into paste. Turn up heat and let it bubble a little to cook off the flour taste. Turn off heat. Whisk in beef stock powder, two tablespoons of milk, then two more till you have two cups or more milk and it's not lumpy. Put back on heat and bring to simmer. If it's too thick add a little more milk. 

1 1/2 cups grated extra old cheddar ( Armstrong is good )

Add cheddar to sauce, stir it in till it all melts and smooths out. 


6 medium potatoes peeled, thinly sliced
3 onions thinly sliced
1 cauliflower cut into florets
600gm ham cut into small pieces

Cook the potatoes till softened but not mushy, drain. Steam cauliflower till softened but not mushy, drain. Fry the onions till caramelized.  In lasagne pan spread potatoes evenly across bottom. Spread caramelized onions over the potatoes. Spread ham over the onions. Spread the cauliflower over the ham. Pour cheese sauce over all and put in the oven at 375F for 30-40 minutes.

Today I also set up my new Patriot Node wireless hard drive & file server. Went to the library to get a book I'm using to teach my neighbour to draw and bought him art supplies to get started and went grocery shopping. So this meal really doesn't take all day to make!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chicken with Couscous and Beans

We had a late fast food lunch so neither of us wanted a big heavy meal.  Small chicken breasts with fresh veggies and something other than potatoes or rice or pasta. In my pantry that left couscous again but this time I knew how to make it taste good! I seasoned the breast with Cajun spice mix and brushed it with oil. Onto the BBQ for about twenty minutes total, turning 3 times. The beans were boiled, drained and finished with celery in salt, pepper and butter. 

The couscous was instant stuff from bulk bin. I used 1:1 for water and a pinch of salt. I diced up three roma tomatoes and a handful of parsley. I boiled the water and added it to the couscous. Then I heated a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pot and added the tomatoes to it. I heated them up but didn't stew them. I added the couscous to the tomatoes, turned off the heat and stirred in the parsley. I added fresh lemon juice, about two teaspoons. That made it quite acid but it tasted good. I should have tasted it without the lemon juice to see if it was already acid enough. Next time.

A bit too acid but good flavour. Now I have another alternative to potatoes. Yay!

Cajun Snapper with Couscous and Broccoli

Fresh snapper at Mitchell's today. I got one nice big fat fillet. I boned it, salted and Cajun spiced it then fried it in oil. Fresh broccoli steamed, cooled quickly and reheated in olive oil. The couscous I added a little beef stock powder to the water, pepper and dried thyme. I added a few drops of lemon juice but it wasn't enough.  When I squeezed the lemon on the fish on the plate, some of the lemon drained into the couscous and the flavour was immensely better. The secret unleashed! Couscous needs lemon or at least acid.

The fish and broccoli were excellent. The couscous made it through the meal with a little help. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cat's Away Rib Steak

Fern drove a friend into Vancouver overnight so I had dinner alone. That means I can have anythinig I want and that means a rib  steak! I paired it with Crimini mushrooms fried in butter with black pepper and garlic. Broccoli steamed and finished in olive oil and black pepper.

The steak I salted, peppered, brushed with oil and cooked on the BBQ in 2x2x2x2 minutes on high heat to get perfect crossed grill marks. They're covered in mushrooms but trust me, they're beautiful.

The potato was poked with a fork, microwaved and finished with butter, sour cream and green onions.

It was wonderful, the whole meal.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Apricot, Cinnamon, Date, Pecan Maple Sticky Buns

I couldn't find a recipe I liked so I found a recipe for machine egg bread and used that for the dough. 

Egg Bread

3 oz water - warm it for 10 seconds in the microwave to lukewarm  
1 tsp yeast - add to water, let stand 5 minutes

Add water to mixer, add remaining ingredients

1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tsp butter
5 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cup flour

It can help to pulse the mixer on and off a bit at the beginning to get a good dough going. Once the dough is made the machine usually does a great job of stretching it in lieu of kneading. I didn't think the machine did a good enough job so I kneaded it by hand till it was soft and supple. Then into the oven with the light on, it makes it just right for rising bread. Probably work for making yogurt too but haven't tried it yet. Wait till it doubles in an hour or so.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (at least)
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup chopped pecans. (I used too much)
1/4 cup chopped dates

Working from underneath gently spread the dough out into a rectangle about 12-14 inches long and about 8 inches wide. Spread butter over the dough. Sprinkle plenty of brown sugar over all the butter. Shake cinnamon over all. Spread apricots over cinnamon. Roll the long side up on itself. Cut into three equal pieces, then each of those into three so you have nine. Place in a parchment paper lined square pan. Let it rise to double or fill the pan.


1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Bring to rapid boil for a minute or two. Spread pecans and dates over buns. Pour sticky over all. Bake at 325F for 30-40 minutes till top is browned. Cool completely.

The apricots inside go really well with the cinnamon and the dates and pecans give the outside a special richness crowned with maple syrup. These are really good.