Sunday, 4 November 2012

Baby, it’s finally cold outside!

There is an anonymous quote that says: "Bad weather always looks worse through a window." And yes, I totally agree.

The cold weather is finally upon us after a late start to a wonderfully warm and elongated summer. My poor grass is finally getting the water it craves and my garden is once again turning green and not a nice shade of brown. I welcome this cooler weather and I have to say that this is my favourite time of year and I love pulling out my sweaters and boots for walks in falling leaves and broody skies.

I do not get much snow where I live – if at all – and so when it rains or gets chilly, I turn to making stews, soups and hearty comfort food. My first stew of the season was a chicken stew that I made the other night and it is from a recipe my mum gave me. It’s a quick one and easy to make if you come home from work and do not know what to do with some leftover chicken, or you purchased an already roasted one from the market. This recipe is so simple; you will end up making it a lot through the winter.
And leftovers are even better the next day.

I usually serve this with rustic bread or sometimes garlic bread. If I make dumplings, I don’t do the bread as you do not want to have a carb overload. It’s great for lunches the next day and freezes well. Enjoy!

Here is what you will need:

1 whole roasted chicken, shredded (bones disposed of)
4 – 5 already cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, shredded
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (or to taste; I sometimes add a half a bulb)
1 10 ounce package of mixed veggies
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 14 oz. can of chicken stock or bouillon made according to package directions (equalling water amount below)
3 – 4 cups water
¼ cup of flour
1 cup of milk
Dumplings (optional):
2 cups of flour
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ cup of milk
  1. Put in broth, veggies, onion, water, pepper and basil into a large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are firm, but not frozen.

  2. Combine flour and milk.

  3. Put in chicken and flour mixture. Bring to a boil again for about 5 minutes or until thickened. Serve with rustic bread.

  4. Reduce heat to low if adding dumplings. Mix your flour, baking soda and milk until combined. Drop in tablespoon fulls of mixtures around pot. Cover with lid and simmer for 10 minutes. DO NOT lift the lid during this time. Serve hot.
Onions and basil in.

Mixed veggies, water and stock.

Milk and flour mixutre and chicken in.

Dumplings dropped in and ready to cook.

The finished maserpiece!

Ready to eat!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Less Sodium? Yes Please!

Monsieur Cuisine and I have decided to consume less sodium in our diet. I think this is a good start on the road to eating more healthy.

So, to start, we have decided to make our own tomato sauce. I usually do this anyway, but I do keep a back up bottle of pasta sauce handy just in case I do not have time to make sauce. But I've decided that I will not purchase bottled pasta sauce and make my own from now on.

I roasted some tomatoes today and have turned them into marinara sauce which will then go into the freezer for the next time I need it. I figure that if I do this every week for the next few weeks, I will build up enough of a supply of marinara and pasta sauce that I won't even notice that I don't have a back up bottle of pasta sauce in the cupboard. I have my back up in the freezer instead!

To roast tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters and lay on greased sheet (non-stick spray is best - lessens the calories). Take extra virgin olive oil and drizzle over top of tomatoes. Drizzle, not soak. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of coarse sea salt over the pieces and then grind fresh pepper over them. Place on preheated oven of 425F. Roast for 45-50 minutes.

When making your marinara, you can add garlic, onions and mushrooms if you like; I do sometimes. Make sure you soften them in a bit of olive oil and butter. Or, you can just leave the sauce plain. Make sure when transferring the roasted tomatoes to a saucepan, you remove the skins. Don't worry, they'll come off easily. Add fresh or dried oregano and basil with a by leaf or two and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let the sauce simmer gently for the next two to three hours. Once finished, remove the bay leaves and discard. Either serve with cooked pasta or put in containers and freeze up to four months.

I can use this sauce for not only spaghetti or other pasta, but also for lasagna or stuffed manicotti. Oh the possibilities are endless! I am looking forward to making this every week.

Ready for the oven with coarse extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

Fresh out of the oven, steaming and juicy!

Looks delicious!
Softening the onions. Takes about 8 minutes. Don't brown them!

Add mushrooms about halfway through.

Add the garlic after the tomatoes so it doesn't burn and adds its great flavour.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

How to wreck boiling water - by Frere Cuisine

My second brother (I have three) called me the other day and asked, "Sister, is it possible to wreck boiling water?" Pause. "Hello?"

After assuring him I was still on the line, I asked him to clarify what he meant by wreck boiling water. He explained he has a new girlfriend and wanted to impress her with his (lack of) culinary skills and so decided to make her - yup, you guessed it - mac and cheese. From a box. While I turned my nose up in disdain whilst simultaneously holding the phone to my ear, and glad he could not see my face, I asked him, "So what happened?" He said he put the water on to boil, with the heat on max and walked away. He got distracted and promptly forgot about it and set off the smoke detector when the water had boiled down and scorched his saucepan. Oh dear.

"Well," I said, "Your first and only mistake was to walk out of the kitchen." He agreed. I asked him what he did for dinner that night and he said that he feigned that his stove was on the fritz and took her out instead. Nice work.

Maybe you can wreck boiling water. I didn't think it was possible. I guess it is true that some children inherit genes from their parents and some don't. Frere Cuisine definitely did not inherit the cooking gene as my mother, my grandmother and great grandmother is, and have been, excellent cooks and I learned from each of them. Obviously, he did not.

In dedication to my brother, here is a picture of inspiration.

In the end, I went to his place, made a bunch of food for him, put it in the freezer and wrote instructions on how to heat up. And yes, the instructions included not to walk out of the kitchen while heating up his dinner. ;)

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Greek food is the best!

I love Greek food. It has got to be one of the best cuisines in the world in my books. So, for my husband's work BBQ last weekend, I made indvidual spanakopitas and Greek salad. It was a vegetarian theme, so I think this will fit the bill quite nicely. The only thing that will not be homemade is the phyllo. Too tedious for me on a hot day to spend in the kitchen making phyllo. Store bought will do me just fine. And of course I did not grow the spinach myself.

My mum gave me this recipe and I've used it for years. You will need two packages of chopped frozen spinach that is thawed and drained. Fresh spinach will not do in this recipe as there is too much water and the frozen spinach works quite nicely. You will need dried dill (about 2 tbsp. or to taste) and about a half pound of feta - depending on how much feta you like to put in. I like a lot! Makes it really tasty. You will also need one large onion chopped, and olive oil for the pan and extra for brushing the phyllo with. Sometimes I use butter for brushing the phyllo for extra flavour, but if you are watching calories, use the olive oil. And finallly two large eggs to bind it all together.

First, put your olive oil in the pan at heat it over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and saute until soft - about 6-8 minutes. Next, add your thawed and drained spinach and saute for another 6-8 mins until warmed through and mixed well with the onions. Remove from heat, add the dill, mix well and let cool for about 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, add the feta and two eggs and mix well.

During this whole time, make sure your phyllo is thawed and ready use. Lay the phyllo flat on a work surface (a cool surface works well like a marble slab) and take two to three sheets at a time and brush inbetween layers with olive oil or butter. Cut into 5-6 thick strips. Place about 1-2 tablespoons of mix onto phyllo strip and fold into a triangle. Fold either corner up to the opposite side and then again the other way and continue folding until the strip is used and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until your mix is used up.

Once your baking sheet is full, brush tops of triangles with olive oil or butter and place in a preheated oven at 400F for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown on edges and tops. Serve immediately with tzatziki. Pair with greek salad, grilled chicken breast and a Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Either will pair nicely.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Cheese and wine!

My BFF came over for a visit this last weekend and we had a fabulous time catching up. We decided to stay in and have some girl time and gossip over a delicious cheese plate and imbibe some great 2009 Shiraz from Jacob's Creek winery in Australia along with some water and butter crackers. Before we knew it, it was four hours later, the bottle was empty and the cheese was almost gone. The cracker plate had maybe half a dozen left on it. I did luckily take a picture of the plate before we descended upon it.

It contains a ripe Brie, a smoked Gouda and of course, garlic and herb Boursin - because no cheese plate is complete without this soft garlicy, herby goodness! So delicious paired with the fruit and wine.

My friend and I both come from backgrounds that conversation always centres around food and wine, and even though we had not seen each other for some time, it was like we saw each other only the day before. I so enjoyed my time and it made me realise I need to slow down and enjoy my time a little more. So that means! Da da da! More time in the kitchen! Because that is where I really enjoy being. In the mean time, enjoy the pic!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

C is for Cookie

I love cookies and I love making them as much as I love eating them. Tonight I made a big batch of chocolate chip cookies and they are scrum-diddly-umptious! I mixed milk chocolate chips and peanut butter chocolate chips.

The recipe that I use came with my mixer and it only uses butter as the fat. I love it. It makes the most delicious cookies and they come out perfectly every time. I'm eating while I'm typing this and a cool glass of milk will wash them all down afterwards. Here are a few pics of them. Enjoy!

Fresh out of the oven and just perfect.

Mmmmm! These are so good!

Piling up to make room for the rest.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Lasagna - quintessential food any time of year

Tonight I'm making lasagna for dinner. I'm making the sauce from scratch so will be in the kitchen most of the afternoon. To get me through, I'll keep a picture in my head of a petite Italian woman with a flower print apron buzzing around her kitchen making her children's favourite dish and making everything from scratch. While I won't make everything from scratch, I will wear a similar apron and buzz around the kitchen filling the house will the smells of a saucy, cheesy lasagna and accompany it with garlic bread.

My mouth is watering as  I write this. Sauce is cooking away on the stove and I am ready to eat now. So much for my diet! I just should not try anymore....

I'll post pics later of my creation. For now, you'll have to content yourself with wanting to lick this picture of a saucy spoon. Enjoy!

I've add these new photos of my lasagna and I've made a couple more since! It wa the best lasagna I've ever had. Seriously! If you have the time to make your own sauce, do. It is so worth it.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Gnocchi - not as hard to make as you think

I have been remiss! My apologies for not writing for almost two whole months! Yikes!

To make up for lost time, today I write about making potoato gnocchi. I made some this week and it turned out even better than I thought it would and it really was quite easy to do. I always thought that making gnocchi was hard and was an all day affair - not so!

It only took me a few hours and I made enough to freeze for a later dinner - BONUS! I didn't rush either which amazes me as I'm always in a rush - story of my life!! The recipe was not hard to follow since it only had four ingredients. Especially helpful when you've got a nice glass of sauvignon blanc close at hand and some old standards playing - you just never know what is going to happen!

Anyway! Here are a few pics of my bounty! Enjoy!

Monday, 20 February 2012

More cold nights, more soup

I love soup. Especially on cold nights in the winter time. My last post was about soup - specifically beef barley with mushrooms. It was delish! This last weekend I made chicken barley soup with carrots, celery and spinach. This soup was absolutely delicious! This recipe is very easy to make and does not take long at all. This time there's not roasting - you just pop everything in a pot. Serve this with a rustic, crusty bread and you've got a great meal on a cold night! Mmmm....

Onions, celery and carrots first with olive oil. Then add chicken.

Add fresh thyme, stock and barley after about cooking chicken for 2 minutes.

After barley cooks, add spinach.

Stir in spinach and then serve. Delicious!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Soup on cold nights

On those cold, cold nights in winter, nothing warms you like a hearty soup. One of my favourites is beef barley with mushrooms. What I like to do though, is roast the beef, mushrooms and onions. The best recipe I've found is this one on Martha Stewart. Roasting really brings out the flavours in the mushrooms and beef and makes one great tasting soup!

Lay the ingredients in a single layer on the sheet and toss in coarse salt, fresh cracked pepper and extra virgin olive oil. This is by far the best beef barley soup I've ever tasted. This particular recipe uses shallots and makes the flavours more intense which is what I love. Serve with some rustic bread and - badda bing! You've got a hearty, tasty, stick to your ribs meal. You'll stay warm all night!

Ready to roast.

Use cremini mushrooms for more flavour.

Love this shot! Had to share.

Cooking. Use pearl barley - it cooks quicker.

Soooo good!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Comfort Food on a snowy night

I've been stuck in my house all day as it's been snowing and I don't get new tires on my car till Friday. Anyway! I decided to leave the fire on all day and put my hands to work in the kitchen by making some sort of comfort food.

I opened my cupboards and realized I should change my name to Old Mother Hubbard. Hardly anything to pique my creativity. So I checked the fridge and all that came together in my head (that wasn't frozen) was mac and cheese. Oh yeah.

I whipped it up and decided to make a side chopped salad with spinach as the leaf with a honey dijon dressing. I made the mac and cheese in individuals bowls and they looked so yummy and cute. Yes, I said cute. Food can be cute. Homemade breadcrumbs for the topping. So easy, but takes time - which I had thanks to the snow. Now, what do I make tomorrow?

Here are some pics of the process.

The butter goes in.
Making the sauce.
Just mixed and ready for bowls.
Fresh out of the oven.
Ready to serve and eat!