Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cassoulet-Style Chicken

I made this prior to the baby being born to stock in our freezer, but am only getting around to posting it just now. This recipe comes from Reader's Digest. My husband, being French, loves cassoulet. I don't think that I've ever had a true 'French' cassoulet. But I figured I would try this to see what he thought... and he told me that it was nothing like a French cassoulet... so don't make it hoping to replicate a real one. But we enjoyed it nonetheless.

For the smoked bacon, we used President's Choice's Italian pancetta, which is as close as we can find in Canada to 'lardons', which are typically used in a cassoulet in France. I also used 6 boneless chicken breasts instead of the 12 thighs, as I didn't have any thighs. It worked well, but the chicken needed to cook for an hour before putting on the bread crumbs instead of for 30 minutes.

If I were to make it again, I might just leave off the bread crumb toppings altogether and put in a full can of chopped tomatoes.

2 tbsp. olive oil
60 g smoked bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
12 skinless chicken thighs (bone-in)
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can (250 mL) chopped canned tomatoes
4 C cooked white kidney beans (2 540 mL tins, drained and rinsed)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 C dry white wine or chicken stock
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 1/2 C bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 C olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or chopped fresh rosemary)

1. Heat oil in a deep wide skillet. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove and reserve. Discard all but a few tablespoons of oil from the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown well - about 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan.

2. Add onions and garlic to pan and cook 5 to 8 minutes, until browned. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add beans and heat thoroughly. Add salt, pepper, wine or stock and thyme. Add chicken pieces back to pan. Sprinkle with bacon. Cover and bake 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees Farenheit.

3. Meanwhile, combine bread crumbs with garlic, olive oil, salt and herbs. Sprinkle over the cassoulet. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes longer until bread crumbs are crisp.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Creole Black Beans

When we were in Cuba a few years ago I was in love with all of the different bean dishes and searched out a bunch of recipes that were somewhat similar to what the hotel had been serving. This recipe comes from the cookbook Fix-It and Forget-It Lightly. Since it's made in the slow cooker, it takes absolutely no effort and it freezes well. I've always used diced ham instead of sausage and don't bother browning it. I usually buy a ham and dice the leftovers and freeze it in small bags for quiches. For a vegetarian version, omit sausage/ham and perhaps use an extra can of black beans. This goes well served with steamed rice.

3/4 lb. lean smoked sausage, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces and browned
3 15 oz. cans black beans, drained
1 1/2 C chopped onions
1 1/2 C chopped green bell peppers
1 1/2 C chopped celery
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 bay leaves
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 C water

1.  Combine all ingredients in slow cooker.

2.   Cover. Cook on low 8 hours or on high 4 hours.

3.  Remove bay leaves before serving.

- for a different consistency, you can substitute a 14 1/2 oz. can of low-sodium stewed tomatoes for the tomato sauce.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Random thoughts

Bob had forwarded me a list of random odd food-related tips when I started this blog and I'm only getting around to sharing them with you just now (figured it was now or never with baby less than 2 weeks away...). I haven't tested any of these out to know if any of them work... but here goes...

1. Peel a banana from the bottom and you won't have to pick the little 'stringy things' off of it. That's how the primates do it.

2. Take your bananas apart when you get home from the store. If you leave them connected at the stem, they ripen faster.

3. Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and will not mold.

4. Peppers with 3 bumps on the bottom are sweeter and better for eating. Peppers with 4 bumps on the bottom are firmer and better for cooking.

5. Add a teaspoon of water when frying ground beef. It will help pull the grease away from the meat while cooking.

6. Add garlic immediately to a recipe if you want a light taste of garlic and at the end of the recipe if you want a stronger taste of garlic.

7. When you buy a container of cake frosting from the store, whip it with your mixer for a few minutes. You can double it in size. You get to frost more cake/cupcakes with the same amount. You also eat less sugar and calories per serving.

8. To warm biscuits, pancakes or muffins that were refrigerated, place them in a microwave with a cup of water. The increased moisture will keep the food moist and help it reheat faster.

9. Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill with hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry cup. Next, add your ingredient, such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out.

10. To get rid of pesky fruit flies, take a small glass, fill it with 1/2 an inch of apple cider vinegar and 2 drops of dish washing liquid; mix well. You will find those flies drawn to the cup and gone forever (this one's for you, Heidi!).

11. To get rid of ants, place small piles of cornmeal where you can see the ants. They eat it, take it 'home' and can't digest it, so it kills them. It may take a week or so, especially if it rains, but it works and you don't have the worry about pets or small children being harmed.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maple-Almond Granola

This recipes comes from the January/February 2005 edition of Cooking Light magazine. I had ripped it out way back then, and only got around to making it for the first time this week. The only thing is that I think I'll have to half the recipe next time, because there's no way that the two of us will get through all of this in a week... I'll also probably cook it a little less than the recommended 35 minutes, as I found it a bit overcooked and too crunchy. We've been enjoying it with either milk or yogurt mornings or for a snack.

4 C regular oats
1/4 C slivered almonds
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 C water
1/3 C honey
1/3 C maple syrup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 C minced dried apricots (I used dried cherries, as I had no apricots)
1 C raisins

1. Preheat over to 325 degrees Farenheit.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Combine water, honey, syrup, sugar and oil in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour over oat mixture; toss to coat. Spread oat mixture on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray (or parchment paper). Bake at 325 degrees Farenheit for 35 minutes or until golden, stirring ever 10 minutes. Place in a large bowl; stir in apricots and raisins. Cool completely.

Yield: 6 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup).

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Note: for a nut-free version, omit the almonds and substitute more dried fruit.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Garlic and Cumin Potatoes

I had been talking to Heather about this recipe and promised her that I'd get it up on my blog before the baby comes. So I made these to accompany dinner the other night. This recipe comes from the June 2004 edition of the Betty Crocker Grill It! magazine. Although the recipe below says to cook these on the bbq, I tend to make them in the oven by cooking them at 450 degrees Farenheit for 35 minutes, turning them halfway through.

For some odd reason, I've never used the fresh cilantro, even though this is an ingredient that I rarely leave out of recipes. They're pretty good without, but I'm sure they'd be even better with the added flavour of the cilantro. I made a double batch and kept leftovers in the fridge to heat up with dinner all week.

12 unpeeled small red potatoes, cut into fourths
2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted (I use 1 tbsp. butter/margarine and 1 tbsp. water)
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. peppered seasoned salt
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Place potatoes in large bowl. Add remaining ingredients except cilantro; toss to coat. Place in grill basket.

2. Cover and grill potatoes 4 to 6 inches from medium heat 10 to 15 minutes, shaking basket or stirring potatoes frequently, until tender.

3. Sprinkle potatoes with cilantro; toss to coat.

Make 4 servings.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Almond Blueberry Biscotti

I scrounged the internet for this recipe one day awhile back after Katie had been talking to me about making chocolate hazelnut biscotti (which still sound better than these, but anyhow...). These are quite yummy nonetheless. And I've never been someone to even really like biscotti in a café or whatever. But these are a nice change. I've only ever made the dried apple/cinnamon variety, though the original recipe sounds good too. Or I was thinking that dried cherries would also be a nice alternative, though I've never made them.

2 C white flour (I use whole-wheat)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C unsalted butter
1 egg
1/2 C milk
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C dried blueberries
3/4 C unsalted bleached almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Mix together the flour, baking powder and sugar with a mixer. Add the butter and mix until crumbly.

2. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix again. Mix in the blueberries and almonds.

3. Form two rolls, each approximately 25 cm (10 inches) long. Place the rolls on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cook for 35 minutes.

4. Take out of the oven and let cool for 20 minutes.

5. Cut diagonally with a sharp bread knife. Slices should be 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick. Place the slices on the baking sheet again and cook for 25 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time. Let cool.

- chocolate chip and pistachios
- dried apples and cinnamon
- white chocolate chips and orange zest, etc.

Mom's Chili

For whatever reason, I find that I'm making a ton of recipes with ground beef these days. Which is a bit odd, as we don't typically eat a ton of beef. But they're all recipes that freeze really well, which is perhaps part of what is guiding my choices of meals to make for post-baby days. I am going to try to make some other chicken and vegetarian meals before the baby comes so that we'll at least have some variety to choose from. But the freezer is slowly getting packed and I'm running out of containers to freeze things in, so we'll have to see...

This is another childhood recipe. It's yummy, filling and freezes super well. In winter, I often serve it with a bun of sorts and a soup or salad. But my husband likes it served on top of homemade oven fries... maybe in an attempt to re-create chili fries?? Which I don't think either of us have ever had... but anyhow... it's his little creation.

I remember making this when living in France years back, when I was really just learning how to cook. Jerome didn't have any chili powder, so I figured that I could just substitute cayenne pepper... clearly anyone who knows anything about spices knows that this was not a good idea. It was probably the spiciest chili I've ever had in my life... Anyhow, here's the recipe:

1 lb. ground beef
1 C chopped onion

Brown in a frying pan, transfer to a large pot and then add:

1 lg. can tomatoes
1 7 1/2 oz. can tomato sauce
2 cans kidney beans, drained
2-3 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 bay leaf

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lamb Keema

I made this recipe for dinner the other night. We don't frequently eat lamb, but both love it. Despite the long list of ingredients, this is quite quick to make, since it's made in the slow cooker. I simplified its preparation even further by cooking only the lamb and onion together and then dumping the rest of the ingredients into the slow cooker instead of pre-cooking them for a minute in the pan, as the instructions said.

I cooked this on low for 10 hours and then left it on the 'keep warm' function for about an hour, as I was out all day. But this was a bit much, as it became a bit crunchy around the edges.

1 tbsp. vegetable oil (I omitted this)
2 lbs. ground lamb
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. gingerroot, minced
1 to 2 serrano chilies, finely chopped
1 piece cinnamon stick, about 2 inches
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cumin seeds (I substituted ground cumin)
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cracked black peppercorns
pinch ground cloves
1 bay leaf
1 can (798 mL) tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 C frozen peas, thawed
1/2 C plain yogurt (optional)
hot cooked rice

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Drain off liquid.

2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened. Add garlic, gingerroot, chili pepper, cinnamon, coriander, cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, pepper and cloves and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add bay leaf, tomatoes and lemon juice and bring to a boil.

3. Pour mixture over meat. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 10 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours, until hot and bubbling. Add peas. Cover and cook on high 15-20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Just before serving, stir in yogurt, if using. Serve immediately.

Variation: for beef keema, substitute 2 lbs. ground beef for the lamb.

Serves 6 to 8.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whole-Wheat Yogurt Biscuits

I usually make these biscuits for breakfast or snacks and love them with peanut butter (what don't I love with peanut butter??). But I made them tonight in a pinch when I realized that dinner was going to be ready in about 10 minutes and I no longer had enough time to make rice. Although they have a bit of honey in them, they're not overly sweet and went well with dinner as well.

1 C whole-wheat flour and 1 C white flour (I use 2 C whole-wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 C butter or margarine
1 C plain nonfat yogurt (thicker style works best)
2 tbsp. honey

1. In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.

2. With the back of a large spoon, blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

3. Add the yogurt and honey, stirring just until moistened. The dough will be very sticky. 

4. On a floured surface with floured hands, pat or roll the dough out to 3/4 inch thickness. Cut with a glass or biscuit cutter. Arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. (I find this step to be too time-consuming, particularly given how sticky the dough is. I usually just drop it by large spoonfuls onto the baking sheet).

5. Bake at 425 degrees Farenheit for about 10 minutes. Watch very carefully, as they burn easily.

Makes 12 biscuits.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mexican Burgers and Spinach Salad

Mexican Burgers

This first recipe comes from the cookbook Barbecue Party, which was a gift from my mother-in-law. You probably can't find it in Canada. This recipe is a nice twist on a classic burger. When I made it, I only used about 500g of beef, as that's all I had. And I used a can of kidney beans. I have no idea how close to 310g that is... but it worked.

750g medium ground beef
210g red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, chopped
2 hot red peppers, finely chopped
1 tsp. hot paprika (I just used regular, as I didn't have any hot)
1 tbsp. tomato paste (I usually open one and put the rest in the freezer for future use)
whole-wheat hamburger buns

1. Mix the beef, kidney beans, onions, hot peppers, paprika and tomato paste together in a bowl. Divide into 6 even parts and form into patties. (I crushed the kidney beans a bit before mixing them together, as we find the patties sometimes fall apart on the bbq and that this helps to keep them together better. I also got 7 patties out of 500g of beef, so I figure I'd get even a few more if I'd used the full 750g of beef. But I guess it depends on how big you like your burgers).

The burgers are then ready to grill on the bbq. They recommend serving it with guacamole on top, which is exactly what we did, as I randomly happened to have some in the fridge. Delicious...


The burgers are freezer-friendly once cooked.
Spinach Salad

The second recipe is one of my mom's and is a summer favourite. It's not quite as good now as it is in summer, when the fruit is ripe and local. But still yummy. I usually only make the almond topping when we're having people over for dinner. But my doctor has told me to avoid nuts while breastfeeding, due to my family history of nut allergies. So I made them tonight as a special treat, even though it was just my hubby and I, since I won't be able to make them over the summer. They only take a few minutes to make and are a fabulous way to top off the salad for guests.

I didn't have any cantaloupe and my kiwis weren't yet ripe enough, so I just used strawberries and mandarin oranges. But in the middle of summer, I use whatever fruit I have on hand, including blueberries, mangoes, etc.

baby spinach
mandarine oranges
2 tsp. dried onion
1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 C canola oil
1/4 C raspberry vinegar

1/4 C almonds
1/4 C sugar
a knob of butter
2 tsp. water

1. Mix the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside. Do not pour over salad until you are ready to eat.

2. Cook the ingredients for the almonds over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Sprinkle over the salad.

Blueberry Oat Muffins

I made these quite awhile back and am only getting around to posting them now. Mine didn't work out super well, as I put in extra blueberries and they fell apart, since there wasn't enough muffin to hold everything together with all those blueberries. So I don't recommend putting in more than the recommended cup....

1 C rolled oats
1 C buttermilk or sour milk
1 C flour (I used whole-wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C lightly packed brown sugar (I used 1/2 C brown sugar Splenda)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 C melted butter
1 C blueberries (or 1/2 C chocolate chips)

1. Combine oats and buttermilk in small bowl. Let stand.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar in mixing bowl.

3. Add egg and melted butter to oat mixture. Mix well.

4. Add oat mixture all at once to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened.

5. Gently fold in blueberries. Fill greased muffin cups 3/4 full.

6. Bake at 400 degrees Farenheit for 15 - 22 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched.

Makes 12 muffins.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Ground Beef Stroganoff

I originally got this recipe from my dad, and though it's good, I haven't made it in quite awhile. I had given it to my friend Brandi awhile back and she made it the other day, which reminded me of it. So I made a batch to stick in the freezer for post-baby days. You can then just add it to freshly cooked noodles or potatoes. I probably should have doubled it to have more leftover. But anyhow...

1 tbsp. cooking oil (I leave this out)
1 C chopped onion
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 tbsp. flour (I use whole-wheat)
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
canned sliced mushrooms, with liquid (10 oz.)
condensed cream of mushroom soup (10 oz.)
1 C non-fat sour cream

1. Heat oil in frying pan. Add onion and ground beef. Fry until onion is soft and no pink remains in beef.

2. Mix in flour, garlic salt, paprika, salt and pepper.

3. Add mushrooms with liquid and soup, stirring until boiling and thickened. Stir in sour cream.

Makes 4 cups.

I usually serve it over mashed potatoes or whole-wheat noodles.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blueberry Lemon Loaf and Lemon Curd

Blueberry Lemon Loaf

This recipe originally comes from Andrea Baynton. Mom made it at my shower and a few people asked for the recipe, so I thought I'd stick it up on my blog. Though mom's bread seemed to have many more blueberries in it than mine did, so I suspect that she put in more than the recipe called for (as I should have!).

1/3 C melted margarine
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 C milk
1 C sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. grated lemon peel
3 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 C fresh or frozen blueberries
2 eggs

1. Beat the margarine, sugar, lemon juice and eggs until smooth.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into egg mixture alternately with the milk. Fold in lemon peel and blueberries.

3. Bake in a greased loaf pan at 350 degrees Farenheit for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

4. Optional: squeeze the lemon juice from lemons used after getting the lemon peel over the top of the loaf (yum!).

I also took out a jar of some lemon curd that I had made and canned about a year ago, as I thought it would go well with this bread. The stuff is absolutely delicious, but because my husband doesn't really like lemons, I find that it goes to waste whenever I open a jar, as I usually have it once or twice and then it goes bad before I get back into it again. I've started freezing some of the leftovers in smaller portions, but probably won't make it again since it doesn't get eaten enough. But if you love lemons, this is a great recipe for a special treat (and makes a nice gift).

Lemon Curd

1/2 C unsalted light butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C fresh lemon juice (definitely use fresh for this recipe)
3 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
pinch of salt
6 large egg yolks

Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the sugar, lemon juice, zest and salt. Whisk in the yolks until smooth.

Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickens and leaves a path on the back of a wooden spoon when a finger is drawn across it; do not allow the mixture to boil.

4. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve (will keep for a month in the refrigerator and about 3 months in the freezer).

Makes about 1 1/2 C.

I can't quite remember how I processed this for canning, but if you search on the internet how to process acidic spreads, I'm sure you can find directions.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Greek Potatoes

I think that I randomly found this recipe on the internet awhile back, but have no idea anymore where it originated from. I don't make it often, as there's lots of oil in it and I have healthier recipes for potatoes. But these are delicious and accompany the lamb roast that I made for Easter dinner tonight super well (happy Easter to everyone, in passing!!).

I didn't bother peeling the potatoes, as we like them with the skins on, used way more garlic than the recipe called for and put in the juice of 2 full lemons instead of 1 - 1 1/2 because I love lemons. Ours won't be quite as golden-brown/crispy as they should be, as the lamb had to cook at a lower temperature, so I had to compromise (wouldn't a second stove come in handy some days??). Everything is in the oven cooking as I write this and my mouth is watering from the smell. Though I'll wait to get a picture before actually posting this. I should run and get some veggies on before everything else is ready.

8 large potatoes, peeled, cut into large wedges (about 6-7 wedges per potato)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C olive oil
1 C water
1 tbsp. oregano
juice of 1 - 1/2 lemons
sea salt
ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. Put all of the ingredients into a baking pan large enough to hold them. Season generously with salt and pepper.

2. Bake for 40 minutes. When a nice golden-brown crust has formed on the potatoes, given them a stir to bring the white underside up, season lightly with a bit more sea salt and pepper and just a light sprinkling of oregano. Add 1/2 C more water if pan appears to be getting dry and put back in the oven for another 40 minutes. Don't be afraid of overcooking the potatoes.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

Wow... it's been awhile since I've been on here. Life has just gotten busy as I wind down my last few weeks of work (yipee!!). We've been eating out of the freezer for the last little, bit by bit diminishing the stock of food I'd prepared for the baby's arrival. Good thing I've still got a few weeks to fill it back up.

This recipe is one of our staples. We don't eat it super frequently, but there is always a batch in the freezer to go to in nights when we're in a pinch for something homemade. It makes a huge batch, which is perfect, since even with a large family, you're bound to have plenty of leftovers. And though it takes a long time to simmer, it's quite quick to make.

2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 bay leaf
2 10 oz. cans mushroom stems and pieces, including liquid
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 C chopped onion
1 28 oz. can tomatoes, pureed
1 28 oz. can Bravo spaghetti sauce
2 5 1/2 oz. cans tomato paste
2 7 1/2 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. basil
1 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/3 C grated Parmesan cheese 

1. In a large pot (the largest one you have), cook the onion, ground beef and bay leaf until the beef is cooked. Drain any excess fat.

2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer steadily, uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.


Yield: 13 cups