Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FNCCC - Paula Deen

Paula Deen is the chosen Food Network host for this weeks Food Network Chef Cooking Challenge. Oh Paula. You crazy crazy woman you.

I went over to her own website for inspiration and found a recipe for sweet and sour meatballs. I LOVE sweet and sour meatballs and as luck would have it, I had a bag of frozen meatballs in the freezer and all the sauce ingredients in the pantry, so I made it for dinner that very night.

I am a fairly frugal person in the kitchen. I don't like to waste food. I hate having to buy a big bunch of cilantro when I only need a teaspoon. Cause you know it's going to go bad before it all gets used up. I don't like recipes where you cook noodles in broth and then toss out the broth. I don't do it. I just cook them in water. So imagine my shock when I'm reading the recipe I've chosen, and it calls for 4 cups of ketchup. For one pound of meatballs. FOUR CUPS OF KETCHUP! Does that not sound just a wee bit excessive? Four cups of ketchup plus 2 cans of pineapple, and a truckload of other ingredients, for a measly one pound of meatballs? Four cups of anything is a lot and I just couldn't bring myself to use four cups (4!) of ketchup. So I halved all of the sauce ingredients, and also didn't pre-cook the sweet and sour sauce since everything was going to be in the oven for an hour.

And it looked pretty good when it was done cooking:

Aside from the day glow color of the photo, you'll see that there is p-l-e-n-t-y of sauce to go around for all those meatballs. I honestly can't imagine needing any more sauce. It was good, very good. I might make it again, but I am always on the lookout for new sweet and sour meatballs recipes.

Please visit Sarah at I Thank My Mother to see who else took part and what they made.

Recipe: Shane’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grocery shop, March 28

I've been trying to use what's already in the freezer and pantry more often, especially since Scott cleaned up the deep freeze and unearthed a bunch of stuff I'd forgotten I'd even bought. They don't lie when they say you lose your brain after childbirth.

I planned lunches and dinners for today to Thursday, and all I needed to buy was the following

It cost me $19.95, with the bell peppers being the most expensive item at $3.91. I'll be using some ground beef, noodles and canned beans that I've already got here, and I won't have to go back to the store until Thursday to shop for the weekend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Udon Lunch

Udon lunch at the Japanese Cultural Centre, 160 Vernon Ave. Next lunch April 23. Reservations 250-376-9629 to reserve or for information.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

FNCCC - The Neeleys

Patrick and Gina Neeley's shows aren't shown on food tv here in Canada. They've shown a couple of specials in the past year or two but that's it. I went searching on the Food Network website for a recipe, and found one I knew Scott would like, a Memphis Monte Cristo.

This Monte Cristo has ham, turkey, gouda cheese, and bbq sauce.

These sandwiches are easy and fast to make. Scott did love them. I thought they were only ok. The bbq sauce, which usually I love, pushed it over the top. I think there was just too much going on in this sandwich for me. But I would definitely make these again and just leave the sauce off mine.

You can see the recipe here.

And please go visit Sarah, the creator of the FNCCC, to see what other delicious meals were made this week!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bread Baking Babes - Gluten Free No Knead Hearty Seeded Sandwich Bread

This month the Bread Baking Babes venture into new, uncharted territory - Gluten Free Bread.

Our Kitchen of the Month this month is Mary, and she chose for us to bake
Gluten Free No Knead Hearty Seeded Sandwich Bread
from Nancy Baggett's Kneadlessly Simple.

I've never made gluten free bread before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We used a variety of flours, including white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, and ground flax seed.

This is a 2 day bread, with a rather soupy dough spending some time in the fridge and on the counter before having the last few ingredients added in. I admit I had some trouble, as I often do, gauging if I had added enough flour or not. At the time I thought I had, but after baking I'm not so sure.

The bread did not rise above the edge of the loaf pan, and the top was sort of lumpy and cracked. It smelled absolutely amazing, and had a nice earthy flavor. The texture was a little more crumbly that I expected, but then again this is my first gluten free loaf, so I really don't know what I should have expected.

Sort of a funny looking bread.

Please head over to Mary's for the recipe. If you are interested in being a Bread Baking Buddy, you've got until March 31 to get your posts to Mary.

And as always, please head over to the sites of the other Babes, listed over on the right, to see their breads.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Roast beef success! and 2 with no photos

We've started buying the majority of our meat from the butcher shop. We're doing this for 3 reasons. First, there is a butcher and a small grocery store about a 5 minute drive from our house. I can go there unshowered, with my hairy legs and spit-up covered yoga pants and no one notices. And the chance I will run into anyone I know is very slim, unlike the other day when I was dancing and singing to Paxton while pushing his stroller in Costco and looked up and saw someone I knew staring at me. Second, price. If I need only one chicken breast, I don't have to buy a pack of four. If I need only a pound of ground beef, I don't have to buy 2 packages of 3/4's of a pound each. And third is quality. This stuff is gooooood, much better quality than the grocery stores.

I was there a couple of days ago and they had some little tenderloin roasts on sale. I picked one up and regretted it right away, as I am crappy at cooking roasts. But why be negative, so I gave it a go.

First I took the roast out 30 minutes before cooking and unwrapped it and let it sit at room temperature.

I made a rub of
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper

and rubbed it on the roast. I heated 2 tb of vegetable oil over medium heat in a pan and browned the roast on all sides.

Then I put it in the oven at 400' for 30 minutes.

It came out around medium-ish. A little more done that I would like, but about what Scott prefers.

It was delicious; the roast was tender and the rub added nice flavor. I was pretty proud of myself and will feel more confident with roasts in the future.

I cooked a recipe from one of my notebooks. This is from Bon Appetit, Grilled Chicken Thighs. I marinated the chicken for a couple of hours before I broiled them. I love anything teriyaki, and these went over very well.
Recipe: Grilled Chicken Thighs.

And from my recipe list I made Mongolian Beef and I agree that this is quite a wonderful dish. I sauteed a sliced up orange bell pepper and a sliced zucchini to the pan for the final simmering. It was fabulous and quick and full of yum.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

FNCCC - Nigella Lawson

This weeks Food Network host for the FNCCC is Nigella Lawson, a favorite of mine. I've cooked a ton of her recipes and loved almost all of them.

I was looking for something easy to cook for Sunday lunch and remembered that Nigella's book Forever Summer has a lot of simple recipes that I haven't tried yet. I chose her Rigatoni Al Pomodoro E Prezzemolo - tomato and garlic sauce.

Delicious and easy!

Visit Sarah at I Thank My Mother to see what other Nigella recipes were made.

Rigatoni Al Pomodoro E Prezzemolo
Nigella Lawson

6 Tb extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, cut into thin slivers
1 3/4 cups (14 oz) canned chopped tomatos
1/2 cup vegetable stock
bunch fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 pound rigatoni

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta.
Heat the oil and gently fry the garlic over low to medium heat. When it begins to take on a golden color add the tomatos and turn up the heat. Stir in the stock and let it bubble away, reducing the sauce until it becomes quite lumpy and oily; this should take no more than about 10 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and (just before serving) add the parsley. Taste for seasoning.
Meanwhile, cook the rigatoni following the instructions on the package then then toss the pasta into the sauce in the pan. Combine everything well and serve straightaway.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A soup kind of day

We have had an incredibly mild winter this year - very few cold days, hardly any snow.....quite frankly it's been a dream season for us and the baby. No worrying about having to take him out in freezing cold temperatures. No driving on snow and ice covered roads. No major snowstorms to shovel out of while pregnant or recovering from surgery. I'm sure we're in for a bad summer with such low snow levels and that sucks but still. It was good for us.
Which was why yesterday morning was such a shock when we got a 2 inch snow dump in just a few short hours. It was cold (well, below zero) and by the time I was done shoveling I was exhausted and my back was screaming in pain. Out of practice, I guess.

Early last year, or maybe even in 2008 we saw an episode of a Jamie Oliver show where he cooked a leek and chickpea soup. I made a note in one of my notebooks about it -

leek chickpea soup
jamie oliver

dry cpeas

I'd recently stocked up on canned beans at a grocery store sale so I picked up a couple of fat leeks late last week. Yesterday was definitely a soup kind of day.

I didn't follow his recipe exactly; here's what I did:

Leek and Chickpea Soup

2 tb oil
2 large leeks
4 cloves garlic
1 medium or large potato
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup or more grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Cut the roots and the dark green ends off the leeks, and cut them down the middle lengthwise. Rinse very very well under running water to get rid of all the dirt. Shake off excess water and roughly chop. Add to the pot, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, until the leeks are soft and just start to color. Chop the garlic and add to the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes. Dice the potato and add to the pot along with the chickpeas, water and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the potatos are tender. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cheese and let melt, then taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and more cheese if desired.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ma Po Tofu

This is by far my favorite recipe I've tried so far out of my new Mark Bittman cookbook. I've made it 3 times since getting the book last month. Dishes like these keep me happy enough to almost forget that I've had Vietnamese food only once in the past 2+ years. Almost.

I love this because it's simple, fast and delicious. You don't really need to measure the ingredients, just eyeball and add to taste. The recipe in the book calls for 1/4 lb of ground pork (the recipe in the link below calls for 1/4-1/2) and I've never made it with that little amount - Scott could eat 1/4 lb of meat by himself easily. I made it again 2 nights ago with a full pound of meat and have been enjoying leftovers for lunch ever since.

I've been trying to work on my time management skills, meaning that when the baby naps instead of collapsing into a heap in front of the tv or computer, I try to get cleaning or laundry or cooking done. I started this in the afternoon while the baby was sleeping but only got to adding the green onions and water before he woke up, but it was actually a perfect place to make ahead to. That night when the rice was almost done, all I had to do was bring the pork back to a simmer and add the tofu and soy sauce. I also like to add a little bit of hoisin to my bowl, but I am addicted to that stuff.

Recipe: Mark Bittman's Ma Po Tofu

Monday, March 08, 2010

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I love to be in the kitchen. I love to cook and I've really enjoyed working on bread baking the past couple of years. In fact, before I went on maternity leave I informed Scott that we would no longer be buying bread from the store; I would be making bread a couple of times a week. He agreed that was a wonderful idea but talked me out of buying the 25lb bag of flour from Costco. More worried I think, about me trying to haul it home myself while 8 months pregnant. (Of course I am not baking bread a couple of times a week. I was a fool to think I could. A FOOL!)

But! Perhaps you've heard of a little book that came out a couple of years ago called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It exploded off the shelves with rave reviews and made it simple to bake great tasting bread. And now Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg have followed up with a second book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day. They've turned their skills to healthy breads this time around - whole grain, gluten free, and more.

So what is the secret to their system? A large batch of dough is mixed up and left in the fridge. When you're ready to bake a loaf all you need to do is cut off the correct sized piece, shape it, let it rise, and bake it. And you've got practically effortless bread.

There is a ton of variety in the book - 100 recipes - covering everything from a basic whole wheat loaf to fancier specialty breads like pumpernickel and brown rice. You can make a loaf, baguettes, or buns, and there are even recipes to turn some doughs into doughnuts, muffins or crescent rolls. Savory, sweet, traditional and innovative..... more breads than you could imagine.

Before jumping in, make sure you read the first four chapters which cover techniques and advice, ingredients and equipment. This is all both fascinating and of course extremely helpful. Then wade into the various bread chapters and start making the tough decision of what to make first.

I started off with the basic whole grain dough. The recipe makes enough dough for 4 one lb loaves, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 14 days. The recipe turned out lovely, hearty loaves and it really did require minimum effort. In addition to loaves, I also made buns and garlic knots, delicious as well. The longer the dough sits in your fridge, the more of a sour tang it will acquire. I made 2 batches of this one, as the first did not last long enough to see how the dough lasted. The last bread I made with dough that had sat for 14 days had a great taste but hardly rose at all, in contrast to other loaves from that batch. But dough is so tempermental who knows what the cause may have been.

I also tried the Pumpkin Pie Brioche. The ingredient list was longer but the dough was still easy and smelled incredible. Sadly though we didn't think that much of it once baked. The texture and rise of the dough were fantastic, but the flavor fell way flat. Another piece of the dough was turned into crescents filled with sugar and more spice, which were fine, but the last piece was tossed as this dough was only good in the fridge for 5 days.

The 100% Whole Wheat Bread with Olive Oil was also delicious, but with enough dough to make 4 one pound loaves but only with a fridge life of 7 days, we also lost a piece of this one.

I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone of any bread baking ability. While the equipment list in the book is a little long and perhaps intimidating, the only 2 "special" pieces of equipment you really need are vital wheat gluten (available at natural food stores) for the dough, and a container large enough to hold the dough in your fridge. The recipes are very well written with delicious introductions and all instructions are clear.

If you're a single or small family and feel intimidated by the large amounts of dough these recipes produce, fear not; most recipes can be halved for smaller more manageable amounts of dough.

Next up for me: the Avocado Guacamole Bread!

Visit Zoe and Jeff's website at Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

the kindness of strangers and my mighty life list

I received the most amazing email yesterday.

Jen, a lovely soul and the author of Chaotic Chef and waiting is fullness, had come across my Mighty Life List. On my list (#75) is to have a header designed for my blog.
Jen made a header for my blog. How kind is that?

I still can't believe it. Isn't it beautiful? I LOVE it and am beyond thrilled.

I am touched by her generosity more than I can say. Thank you again Jen.

Please head over to her post here where she makes designing a header sound so easy.

First thing crossed off my list!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Mighty Life List - 3 things for March

The other day Maggie from Mighty Girl added a few more items to her Life List. I had a few more things on paper that I hadn't added to the list, thinking that the list couldn't have more than 100 things on it which is silly. It's my list, I can add as much as I want! So I've added a few more. You can visit my list here if you'd like.

And then today Maggie announced she'll be crossing off 3 more items from her list this month and challenged us to do the same.

I can't lie, I've been feeling pretty blue the past while and can't seem to shake it. It's a variety of things, some logical and some not. A couple of times last month I re-read my Life List, thinking why did I bother, that many of the items most likely won't ever get crossed off. And while it's true that some of them are long shots, that's no way to think. And live. So I'm taking Maggie up on her challenge.

In March I will cross off the following 3 items off my Mighty Life List -

14 Give blood Update - I am not able to give blood until the summer, says Red Cross
62 Learn to make towel animals
75 Have a header made for my blog - Done! March 6, thanks to Jen.
103 Make paper

I will update as they get crossed off.

How about you? What's on your list? What will you cross off this month?