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Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

Vegan Challenge – Week 2

Well, as of yesterday, I have completed fourteen days without animal product.

Yep.

I’ll admit I’ve been a bit miserable without my cuppa “real tea”.   I’ve been trying to make do with substitute items, but nothing compares.

People…..I won’t say who……have tried to alleviate my misery by encouraging me to just cheat a little on this, or cheat a little on that…..trying to convince me that it won’t hurt.

But that’s not the point.

I could very well have anything I want at anytime……I’m a grown person with a will of my own.

I’m not doing this as a punishment or even a “diet” or out to prove something…..

I simply want to see if it makes me feel better.  And I can’t very well know unless I actually DO it!!

It was like when I was in nutrition school and learned that peanuts have a substance in them that is a low-grade allergen to many people.

And anyone who knows me well……knows that I LOVE peanut butter.  But I gave it up for one FULL year…..just to see if it actually made a difference in my health.   I was happy to report, that it didn’t make one LICK of difference and I have never forsaken it since!!

I DO feel like I have been sleeping better, but that could just be from the lack of caffeine!!

And my blood pressure has dropped considerably compared to when I started.

Coincidence?

Don’t know.

As for the Chef?  Well, he’s doing the best he can with it.   We eat Vegan at home and then he eats whatever he needs to eat when he is at work.

Last night he made me a wonderful “Cheffy” Vegan meal.

Grilled Vegetables and brown rice  with Panang Curry sauce.

With dishes like this, who needs meat??

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Different Salads

I suppose a staple of the Vegan diet is salads.

All shapes, sizes and colours.

To be honest, you can pretty much chop up anything, put on a little dressing and call it a “salad” these days!  And why not?

One of my favorite meals, Vegan or not, is what I call my “Mediterranean plates” where I just make a bunch of flavorful piles of stuff that go nicely together.

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Here’s tonight’s group:

First I got started with a nice batch of roasted yams and roasted cauliflower.

Get them started.

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Then I went to a white bean and kale with lemon salad:

In a glass or ceramic bowl add:

  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • juice of 1 lemon ( but zest it first and put aside)
  • 1/2 salt
  • 1 large handful of chopped green kale ( hard stems out)

Mix the kale down into the lemon juice and cover well and let sit in the acid until it gets a little wilted.

Then drain and rinse a can of white kidney beans and add to the bowl.

Then add:

  • 1 tbsp dried or fresh chopped sage
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a pinch more salt and some fresh cracked pepper.

Mix thoroughly, top with the lemon zest and set aside to rest while you perform your other duties.

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Next we have a nice Cous Cous salad.

Again, in a glass or ceramic bowl ( but preferably with a seal-able lid) start with your dressing on the bottom.   I just used more lemon juice, a little olive oil and some fresh herbs.

Then to the bowl I added some left over grilled vegetables, peppers, asparagus, Portobello mushrooms, zucchini.   If you don’t have any grilled veg and don’t feel like making any, raw ones would work just fine too but try and keep them of the more delicate nature, not hard things like raw carrots.

Toss these in the dressing.

Meanwhile and this is just something I do for added flavour, but by no means essential……

I like to dry toast the couscous in the bottom of a heavy pot or fry pan till they get just a little bit brownish.

Then toss the DRY couscous in with the vegs and dressing and toss them in well.

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Then pour boiling water over the whole thing ( amount according to couscous directions) and then seal the bowl with a lid or place a plate on top and let stand for about 10 minutes.

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Then I whipped up a nice little Tahini sauce to pour over things:

  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt & pepper
  • water as needed

Stir this all up in a bowl adding water as needed to get to the consistency you are looking for.  Tahini tends to cease up when you mix it with other things, so you may have to keep adding water for a bit.

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So now with our yams and cauliflower roasted.

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Our couscous absorbed and fluffed.

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Our beans and kale marinated.

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We are ready to put it all together!

Maybe drop a few spinach leaves or mixed greens on the bottom to “green ” it up a little and then pile on the good stuff!   And drizzle with a bit of tahini sauce!

Yummy Vegan Salad night!!

Or anytime really!   In fact this combo cold the next day made a great work lunch!

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Oh and …….note use of home-made bun now as toasted garlic bread!!!

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Pulled chicken tacos

I seem to have gone taco crazy lately.

Not sure why I haven’t enjoyed them more in the past?  I always tended to be more of an enchilada type girl before, but I am finding the taco experience so much lighter and fresher.

Here are some super easy chicken tacos to try.

Start with a good size heavy skillet and add:

  • 1 onion chopped into small cubes

Saute in a little oil till they are nice and translucent

Then I added four frozen  boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( the frozen part was poor planning on my part).  However boneless chicken of any sort will do just fine.  Then I add just enough water to cover them about half way, then put a lid on  and let them simmer a spell.

If you are using fresh chicken, I would brown on all sides and then follow the rest of the recipe.

Once the (frozen) chicken has thawed in the water and turned white it is time to add the rest of the ingredients:

  • 1/2 jar ( or more) of store bought salsa of your choice
  • equal part of water or stock
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar

Mix that in evenly and cover again for about 15 minutes at a slight boil, to make sure the chicken is cooked thoroughly.

At this point, test to see if the chicken is done inside by taking two forks and “pulling” the chicken apart.  Resulting in the “pulled chicken” part.

If the chicken comes apart easily, then it is time to add the herbs and spices.   But if you like you can shred up the chicken first, or leave it in the larger pieces and shred it later.  Doesn’t really matter too much.

So then I added and this is just a suggestion, what ever you have, or what ever you like better is fine, but this worked well:

  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp smokie paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder ( the kind that is more flavour than hot)
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ( more or less) of chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • salt & pepper to taste

And if you wanted to take it up just a notch,  add a couple of tsp of brown sugar.

Mix that all in well, cover again and let simmer about another 10 minutes until you are ready to serve.  Add a little more liquid if it gets too dry.

Now you are ready for assembly

I prepared a bit of a “taco bar” so we could dress our own.  Some possibilities are:

  • fresh made guacamole
  • sour cream ( I added chopped cilantro and hot sauce)
  • grated cheese
  • salsa
  • chopped tomato
  • chopped cilantro

Start with the tortilla of your choice ( warmed or not) and start piling on the fixins!

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Pulled chicken tacos

Happy times!

Salad Wraps

I love, love, love these!

They are easy, tasty and another favorite way of hiding the veggies!

So what you will need for wraps:

  • rice paper
  • mixed greens salad mix or other lettuce
  • cilantro leaves
  • veg cut into strips   ( your choice is endless)

Some choices being:

  • cucumber
  • peppers
  • zucchini
  • carrot
  • jicama
  • basically anything you can cut into a strip
Prepare all of your vegetables before you start.  Then place everything out ready for assembly.
Get a flat, big enough to hold the wrapper, sized bowl of warm water, a cutting board with a clean tea towel on it.
Dip the wrapper in the water for a few seconds till it goes limp.   Practice makes perfect on this.
Lay it out on the the tea towel and line the middle with salad greens then top with your favorite veg.  Being careful not to stuff them too much that you can’t roll them.
Feel free to sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts or sesame seeds or the like.  And the cilantro leaves.
Then roll them up like you would a burrito.  Fold over covering the filling, then sides in, then roll.

Meanwhile………..and this is only a suggestion.  Feel free to use the dipping sauce of your choice…….there are many!

For sauce:

  • 1/2 cup raw soaked cashews  or 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cilantro
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy or Bragg sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes

Whiz this up in the food processor.  Add a little water if it is too thick whiz again.  Repeat till you get the consistency you like.

These make a great snack or lunch or make a bunch ( smaller size ones) and they make a great party snack!

Salad rolls with dipping sauce

Citrus Chicken

As I have mentioned many a time before, I am allergic to shell-fish and for that reason I avoid most Asian style restaurants because the abundance of shell-fish is just too high risk.

But this doesn’t mean to say that I don’t LOVE some of the foods one might get there.  Before “the trouble” ( because I wasn’t always allergic) I used to frequent many a Chinese buffet!

One thing I particularly miss is Lemon Chicken.

So today I thought I’d try my own version, only without the crispy batter of course.

Here is what you will need:

  • boneless skinless chicken breast cut in bite size cubes
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • aprox 1 inch minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 orange pepper in thin slices
  • juice of half a fresh orange
  • juice of 1 fresh lemon
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar ( or sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
  • 1/4 water or stock

In a hot skillet, add about 1 tbsp of oil and then brown the chicken.   Then add the garlic and ginger, toss well and cook till they are well sweated.

Then add all of the other ingredients, mix well and bring up to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

At this point, it can be ready but the sauce will be thin.   OR you can do like real Chinese food and add some cornstarch to thicken it up and give it that glossy look.

Put 1 tbsp of cornstarch in about 3 tbsp of water and mix into a thin paste, then add to the chicken dish and mix in well.  It should take a short time for it to thicken up.

Then it is ready to serve.  Top with some green onion and maybe some toasted cashews?

Citrus Chicken

Singapore Noodles

Back in the day, I used to eat a LOT of Singapore Noodles! 

Back when I lived in Montreal, I used to work as a Stage Manager in live theatre, so every Thursday night, I would call in the order from the lighting booth and then after the show,  we would swing by the Kam Shing restaurant on Cote des Neiges Blvd to pick up a big order of Singapore Noodles and General Tso Chicken.

Those were the days!   I could still eat shrimp back then.  In fact, it was while eating those noodles every week that I started to notice “the trouble”.  I always dread the thought that I may have over eaten shrimp to the point of being allergic!!

Oh well……so now I make my own, without the shrimp of course!

Feel free to add shrimp if they are no trouble to you.  Or substitute with chicken or tofu or like in this particular version, there is nothing at all!

Firstly, you will need:

  • 1 pack thin rice stick noodles (rice vermicelli)

Then, thinly slice up:

  • 1 red or green bell pepper  ( or half of each)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot into match stick size bits
  • 2 cups Napa cabbage
  • 3 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 cup of mung bean sprouts ( but I didn’t use any)
  • 2 green onions

Then for the sauce mix together:

  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar  ( or favorite sweetener)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  ( or 1 tsp soy sauce )
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, or to taste

Start by boiling some water for you noodles, either in a pot or a kettle.  When the water boils, turn it off and add the noodles or pour boiling water over noodles in a bowl, stir to soften them.

Rice vermicelli noodles

Then in a skillet or a wok, heat some oil then add, peppers, carrots and ginger. 

Once they get a head start, add the cabbage and if using, bean sprouts.  Add a bit of the sauce to help cook down the cabbage.

Drain the noodles and add to the skillet, toss into vegetables.

Add the remaining sauce and the green onions, toss quickly till noodles are completely coated.

Singapore Noodles

Serve immediately.  I garnished with some chopped cilantro and black sesame seeds.

Ah the memories!

Lamb and lentil stew

We get good lamb around these parts.

It is my feeling that if you are going to eat meat, then you need to at least eat the best quality of products.  From farms that treat the animals ethically and under the best circumstances.

And I am also of the feeling that you can eat meat, without having to eat a LOT of meat.

This lamb and lentil stew is a perfect example of that.

I started with a fairly small amount of meat, about a pound, cut into bite size chunks and brown them in your Dutch oven in a little olive oil.

Once well browned, all a large onion coarsely sliced and or chopped so that you have nice big pieces.

Stir those in with the lamb meat.  Cook until then are wilted down and even a little brown is okay because it adds flavour.

Then add about a cup of rinsed green lentils and stir them into the mix.

Now add the flavouring.  This is what I used, but feel free to come up with your own:

  • 2-3 minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smokey paprika
  • six dried dates finely chopped

Add all of these and mix in well.  Then add:

  • one can of tomato paste

Stir in to coat everything well.

Then add about 4 cups of water or stock of your choice.

Stir well and then put on high and cover till it comes up to the boil.  Then turn down to a low simmer.

The longer you can leave it the better, but keep checking it and adding more liquid if you need it.   Cook until the lentils are tender and you have a nice thick sauce.

We had it on a bed of couscous.

Very comforting.

Baba ghanoush

Or eggplant dip.

I love most food that originates from the Mediterranean.  

A friend and I were at a local Mediterranean eatery the other night and we started with an appetizer platter that contained baba ghanoush and then I remembered just how much I enjoyed it and thought I best try to make some at home!

Start with an eggplant, wash it and put it on a baking sheet and then poke it with a fork all over.   This is so when it bakes the steam will escape and it won’t explode in the oven!!

poke eggplant with fork

Ideally, the best way to make this is on the bar b que or if you have a gas stove, on the open flame.  You are supposed to char the outside first and then bake it till it’s cooked in the middle.

But if you can’t char it, just bake it in the oven at about 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, in the food processor, whiz up:

  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3-4 table spoons of tahini
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt & pepper

And then my personal secret ingredient 1 tsp of smokey paprika

Then when the eggplant is baked and let to cool enough to handle, cut it down the middle and scoop out the innards into the food processor and whiz it all up.

Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with some chopped parsley.

Eat alone with crackers or as part of your own Mediterranean appetizer platter!

Mediterranean appetizer plate

Add baba ghanoush to a plate with tzatziki, feta cheese,  roasted cauliflower, domalas and pita for dipping.

Oscar nachos

We didn’t have an Oscar party, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have some sort of party like food while you watch…….does it?

I whipped up a batch of nachos!  What better and easier, to stuff your face with while you yell at the TV?

First I started with making some fixins to go with them.   The beauty of nachos is that there are really no rules, so you can put anything you like on them!

 

Nacho fixins

I chopped up some red onion, green onion, tomato.   Then I grated some cheese and squished up some avocados into guacamole.   And then I added a few drops of my favorite Chipolte tabasco sauce to some sour cream.

I took a baking sheet and put down a layer of nacho chips ( use your favorite kind, I used white corn) then I added some left over chili I had kickin around in the fridge.  But make sure you heat it up first to make sure it is properly brought back up to temperature.

 

I spread that and some pickled hot peppers and then sprinkled some grated cheese.   Then added a few more chips and did the same again.   That way you don’t get that big melted mess in the middle.

 

Toss them in the oven under the broiler for…..as long as it takes……..just long enough to melt the cheese and the outside chips start to get slightly brown…..or to your taste…..but KEEP AND EYE ON THEM!!

 

 

Oscar nachos with all the fixins

 

Add some fixings and serve immediately.

Vegan Vegan Vegan!

Okay, after yesterday’s Pot Roast, I just wanted to prove that I can be open-minded and versatile and am just as comfortable eating the “non-meat” meals as any respectable Vegan!

I don’t think I have ever had as many vegetables in one meal at one time as we had last night!

Please indulge me as I try to recall the list:

  1. Arugula
  2. Asparagus
  3. Beets ( red and golden)
  4. Brussels sprouts
  5. Carrot
  6. Chives
  7. Garlic
  8. Leeks
  9. Lettuce
  10. Mushrooms
  11. Onions ( red and white)
  12. Peppers ( red and yellow)
  13. Squash
  14. Tomato

Add to this, three kinds of lentils, two kinds of nuts, couscous and rice!

The meal started with a salad trio:

Salad one:

Roasted beet, thinly sliced red onion, walnuts on a bed of mixed lettuce

Salad two:

Arugula bundles, tied with chives, topped with pine nuts and a lemon & oil dressing

Salad three:

Shredded brussel sprouts with thinly sliced red and yellow peppers.

Salad Trio

The next course consisted of:

Mushrooms stuffed with couscous, carrot,  mushroom stem, carmelized onion and roasted garlic

Roasted asparagus topped with carmelized onions and sliced red and yellow peppers.

Roasted asparagus and stuffed mushrooms

The main course was:  stuffed cannelloni and spaghetti and “meat balls”

Stuffed cannelloni

cannelloni “shells” of  rounds of steamed leek stuffed with black, red and green lentils with carmelized onions and couscous.   Baked and then topped with organic tomato sauce.

Leek “cannelloni” shells

Three kinds of lentils

Lentil stuffed leek “cannelloni”

 Spaghetti and “meat balls”

Roasted spaghetti squash topped with “meat balls” made of black Thai “forbidden rice” , carmelized onion, roasted garlic and rice flour to bind.

cannelloni with spaghetti and meat balls

See, TOTALLY Vegan and not a DROP of tofu in sight!!!Veggies do not have to be boring!

Pot Roast – Vegans look away

Doesn’t it sound romantic?

They always seemed to be making “pot roast” on all those shows from the 60’s.  Laura Petry and Mrs. Cleaver always had one on the go.  In fact, didn’t even Alice on the Brady Bunch always seemed to be worried about hers being over done?

Whatever the case, to me, pot roast just sounds homey.

But to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually had one.  It wasn’t something my own mother cooked.  And quite frankly, I’m not even really sure what it is, other than the obvious of course.

So I asked the Chef what pot roast was made of?  Normally I enjoy his long lessons in the proper use of cuts of meat, but not necessarily at breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Whatever cut of meat you choose, it must be a braising cut.

Most meat is to be cooked one of two ways.  Wet or dry.  So like a steak would be cooked on dry heat and a pot roast with wet heat.  Make sense?

So after may lecture, I decided to go with a hunk of brisket.  Brisket is also what they make “smoked meat” with back in my home land of Montreal, home of the infamous “Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich”, but that’s something for another time.

I started with my hunk of meat in the roast pan on TOP of the stove. 

Hunk of meat

I got it really hot and then seared the meat on all sides to lock in the goodness.

Once it was nicely browned on all sides, I tossed in a few “aromatic” vegetables like celery, carrots and onions.  You could also add a few herbs and spices, but if I were you I’d look up a recipe for exactly what kind of flavour you are going for. 

I put in some pepper corns, some hot chili flakes, some dry mustard and a bit of pumpkin spice!!  I know, that’s crazy, but I wanted that “warm” flavour to it.

Pot roast ready to be braised

Then I added some home made vegetable stock I had, to about half way up the pan.  Then covered it tightly with tin foil and put it in a 350 degree oven.

Give yourself at least 4 or so hours to cook this puppy properly!   That’s why it’s a nice Sunday afternoon project and it makes the house smell very friendly.

I’d say every hour or so, take him out, turn him over and add more liquid if necessary.  Keep doing this till he looks good and done and starts to pull apart when you poke at him.  In the last half hour or so, I added about a half of a tin of tomato paste to the liquid to give the “sauce” a nice sort of bar b q look to it, but you don’t really need to do this unless you want to.

Braised beef pot roast

I served him up with some beautiful butter milk mash potato and some of the vegetables fished out of the bottom of the pan!

Pot roast with butter milk mash potato

This was a very comforting Sunday in February dinner.

Butter Chicken Wrap

The BEST thing about making a really good dinner…….is having left overs to use for your lunch the next day!! 

( See yesterday’s post if you are just joining us)

I am one of those people who, due to my schooling and my own research,  can NOT knowingly eat microwaved food!  There, I said it.  But obviously you will need to be the judge of that for yourself.

So I am always looking for something interesting to take to work for lunch that doesn’t need heating.  And unfortunately left over dinner items usually fall into that category.

The Chef suggested that I mix a bit of the rice with the butter chicken and put it in a wrap!

Well, “why not?” I thought.

So while the chicken and rice were still warm I wrapped it up in a big tortilla.  If you do it while it is warm it is easier to work with and makes the tortilla more pliable.

Then put it in the fridge over night and take it with you in the morning.   It will firm up nicely in the fridge and that way won’t squish out when you eat it.

But when you get where you are going, don’t put it back in the fridge.  Keep it out so that it comes up to room temperature by lunch time. 

This will make it much more pleasant, and you are perfectly safe to do that if it is just a few hours.

In fact, that was always one of the original uses of curry powders, to preserve things in places without refrigeration!

Made a yummy yummy lunch!

Butter chicken wrap

Not so buttery Butter Chicken

Imagine my surprise when I found out that there isn’t actually any butter IN Butter Chicken!

But don’t get your hopes up because it still isn’t exactly “skinny friendly”!

Last Sunday, the Chef and I were busy and running around trying to get everything done and both realized that neither of us was particularly keen on being in charge of dinner.

In fact neither of us could even think of what we might like to eat.  I’m sure you’ve had days like that, where nothing really appeals.

I just knew that I wanted something warm and comforting in my belly after a long day of errands and could picture some nice bowl of something or other while watching the Grammys.

Then I got the bright idea that I would like some Indian take out!  No one has to cook and it’s warm and comforting!  But….trying to find something like that on a Sunday afternoon around these parts can be a challenge.  We stopped by a few of the regular suspects but they were closed on Sundays or wouldn’t be open till much later.

Fine.

I guess I would just have to make my own damn butter chicken and like it!

As it turned out…..we LOVED it!  Unfortunately it was probably one of those magical alchemy scenarios that I will never be able to recreate exactly again……but thought I’d write it down for you while it’s still fresh.

So it isn’t “technically” a recipe, but it’s what I did at the time and hopefully you can recreate or make your own version even better!

Start with:

  •  skinless, boneless chicken ( as much as is appropriate)

Cut it into 1 x 1 inch chucks and add to a hot skillet or dutch oven with about 2 tbsp olive oil.  Cook on all sides till you no longer see any pink on it.  Then this is where the need for magic spicing powers comes in.  The only thing I can say is a “sprinkle” of each of these in a way that looks like enough.  Does that help?  No.  Well then, anywhere from 1 tsp to 1 tbsp according to taste, of the following:

  • Ground cumin
  • Ground coriander
  • Paprika
  • Tumeric
  • Garam Masala
  • Chili powder
  • Chili flakes
  • salt

In no particular order.

Keep cooking and tossing till all the chicken bits are well coated and then transfer to a heat safe bowl.

Chicken sautéed in spices

Then in the same pan….DON’T clean it….cause you want all the tasty bits from the bottom……toss in:

  • 1 coarsely chopped red onion

Chunky red onion

Cook for a few minutes till the onion starts to get wilty.  Don’t worry if anything sticks or even seems a bit burny because anything stuck will come off later and add a bunch of flavour.

Once the onions have worked a little then add:

  • 3 -5 cloves of minced garlic ( or whatever your garlic tolerance is)
  • aprox 1 inch fresh ginger peeled and minced

Toss those around and get them real friendly with they onion.

carmelizing onion, garlic and ginger

Then add a tin or jar of diced tomatoes.  I have to admit that I only had half of a can that was left over from something else, but I’d wished I’d had a whole can.

The other thing is I had about a tablespoon of dried oregano in with the tomatoes because I bought too much at the bulk section and it simply wouldn’t fit in the jar and I didn’t want to waste it!!  So the oregano is optional, because it isn’t really a traditional Indian spice, but then again, might have been the thing that made the dish!  Hard to tell.

Mix the tomatoes in well with the onions, garlic and ginger.   This is where you are gonna want to start scraping the tasty bits off the bottom of the pan.   Try to get as much of them up at this point.

Let that simmer up a bit and then……..here it comes…….the “no butter, butter” of the dish……..you will need to add:

  • 1 cup heavy cream ( or more depending on how much you are making)

Stir all the other bits well into it and then bring the whole pot up to a boil then turn it down a little and let it “reduce” as the Chef likes to say.

Reducing the sauce

Once it gets to a nice creamy consistency, turn it down and the add the chicken back in.  Give it a stir and then put the lid on it and let simmer a bit to make sure the chicken is well cooked and all the elements have exchanged phone numbers!

So that’s all fine and dandy but what are you gonna do, just sit there with a big old bowl of butter chicken?  Well, I mean I know I could but…….

Butter chicken

I had some plain old small potatoes in the pantry so I quartered them and boiled them up in some salted water, just to the point of cooked but not so soft that they were ready to mash……if you know what I mean?

While they were boiling, I chopped up some baby spinach and some garlic and added them to a heat safe bowl with some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.   Then mixed that stuff up together before adding the boiled potatoes.   This way it would coat the potatoes evenly and with less wear and tear on the potatoes which might be a problem if I added things the other way around.

When the potatoes are done, drain them and toss them with the garlic and spinach mixture then let them sit.

Meanwhile, put on your rice.  Eating Indian food is one of the rare occasions that I actually eat white rice, although I am getting used to the brown basmati rice too.   When cooking the rice, to give it an extra zing, I try to add a few cloves and a couple of pods of cardamom.  But it helps to fish them out again before serving, biting down on either of those can be quite startling.

When your rice is almost ready, heat up a skillet and toss in your potatoes just to warm them up and give them a little colour here and there.

Spinach garlic potatoes

When everything is done, put it all together, and you got yourself one FINE little meal.

Butter chicken with spinach potatoes and rice

 
 

Spinach crepes with mascarpone

I found myself with a grave dilemma.

I had a tub of mascarpone cheese in the fridge that I had been “saving for something special” which I simply never got around to and now was faced with a looming expiry date!  And that stuff isn’t cheap, not that ANY cheese these days cheap!  So I had to come up with something to do with it and fast!

But it was just a regular week night, no company was coming, I didn’t feel like making some involved dessert, so WHAT to do??

I decided to go with a savory route and make it into a dinner item.  Why not make some spinach crepes and stuff them with some sort of delectable mascarpone filling??

First I whipped up a batch of spinach pancake mix.   ( click here  ) for Kale pancakes and exchange the kale for  spinach and add a little extra liquid so the batter is a bit runnier.

Then put that aside.

Then for the filling heat some oil in a skillet and add:

  • 1 medium onion sliced ( or shallots would be nice if you have them)
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms ( any kind)
  • chopped or dried herbs of your choice ( thyme, parsley etc)
  • salt & pepper

cook these up till nicely wilted then put aside in a bowl to cool a little, but don’t clean out the skillet because you want to save the flavour for making the crepes.

So once the filling has cooled a little, mix it with about 3/4 of the mascarpone.

Now to the crepes.

In the same skillet, heat some oil and then pour some batter into the pan.  You will have to experiment with amounts depending on the size of your pan.  Pour the batter in and quickly swirl it around till it covers as much of the bottom of the pan as you can manage.

Let it sit until you see the bubbles or tell tale holes form on top and then it will be time to flip it.  Be careful, this is always a high risk procedure!

Once it is done on both sides, transfer to a flat surface, like a baking sheet or cutting board or something.  Then pour another pancake.

Once the first one has cool enough to touch, spoon in a few shots of filling to the centre of the crepe and roll it up and then put it in a baking or casserole dish, seam side down.

Repeat till you run out of ingredients.

But before you use up all of the filling, put aside about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the mixture into a sauce pan, add the remaining mascarpone and about 1/4 cup of milk.   Slowly heat these up, stirring frequently till you have a nice topping sauce.

Once you have made all the stuffed crepes put them in the oven ( don’t put on the sauce yet) at  350 degrees for about 15 minutes just to make sure everything is nice and heated again.

Then serve them up with a bit of sauce and some side salad and you’ve got a nice little meal.

Now I’ll admit that I did a bit of a bushwhack job on these because we just wanted to eat, so my sizes were all over the place and my sauce a bit sloppy.

Spinach crepes with mascarpone filling

But if done with care, these could actually be quite a fancy dish to be served on a special occasion.

Just sayin.

New Years Eve in Seattle

We pulled into Seattle in late afternoon and went straight to the hotel.

We were staying at the Hyatt Olive 8, a shiny new state of the art eco-friendly “green” hotel in downtown Seattle.  We choose the Olive 8 not only for the whole green thing, but also because we would be having dinner in the restaurant downstairs.

Urbane

“The menus at Urbane change frequently to reflect the seasonality of local ingredients including fish and shellfish native to the Pacific Northwest. Says Chef Lopez, “Preparations are traditional and simple allowing ingredients to complement each other without compromising how the food was intended to taste.” Chef Lopez selects the finest fresh foods from celebrated local Seattle resources that include:

  • Beecher’s Cheeses
  • Uli’s Sausage from Pike Place Market
  • Produce from Willie Green Farms
  • Salumi Artesian Cured Meats from Pioneer Square.
A commitment to local, organic ingredients doesn’t limit Chef Lopez’s range of creativity in the culinary arts. True to our regional focus, the wine menu at Urbane exclusively showcases fine Pacific Northwest wines. Enjoy tantalizing regional specialties at our Seattle downtown restaurant, such as:
 
  • Walla Walla’s Thundering Hooves’ pasture-finished bone-in Rib-eye
  • Pan-seared wild Arctic Char served with Butternut Squash Hash
  • Tempting desserts include Toffee Pudding topped with ice cream infused with Mount Rainier honey”

We made sure our reservation was late enough because we wanted to be able to stay up for midnight!  We’re old now so it’s hard to last that long!!

After a quick run around of the big downtown department stores ( we live in Victoria so getting a chance to be in the big city is a real thrill for me!) before they shut down for the big holiday, we went back to the room to rest up a little before dinner.

Finally it was time to go downstairs for dinner.  There also happened to be a big New Years Eve party going on in the ballroom at our hotel, so the place was just teeming with people all dressed up…..with somewhere to go!

We were shown to our table that was perfectly located right next to the window so we could watch all the action outside while we ate.  And imagine our surprise, when at the very table next to us, was the former Mayor of Vancouver, BC, Sam Sullivan, there enjoying New Years Eve dinner with some people!

Originally we thought we were going to have to order off the set menu that they had shown for the evening on-line.  But much to our delight, we were allowed to choose off the fixed menu or the regular dinner menu.

We both started with a salad. 

The Chef got:

caesar | grilled romaine | bacon | croutons |

While I got:

roasted beets | quillisascut blue | pistachios | greens |

Both were very nice.  Then for our main courses…..

The Chef got:

lavender seared duck breast|  cherry sauce | apple fennel salad | lentils |

And I ordered:

steelhead salmon| spaetzle | kale | browned butter |

Mine was SO good.  I’m not a fan of duck so I didn’t try the Chef’s dinner but he was very pleased with his too.

It was New Years Eve so we HAD to order some dessert.   This time we ordered off the special NYE menu and got:

 chocolate trio| frozen mousse | stout gingerbread | white chocolate cherry bar |

Ah what a meal, definitely worthy of a celebration like New Years!

Somewhere during our meal, from our window seat, we noticed a lot of sudden action outside.  Fire trucks and ambulances and a gaggle of police on bicycles all appeared and sped around the corner.  We didn’t think too much of it, not wanting to look like small towners, I mean we have both lived in big cities before……..

After our wonderful dinner we went back upstairs to rest for a few minutes before we got changed and bundled up to walk down to the Space Needle where there was a big midnight celebration and fireworks display.  We turned the TV news on for a few minutes, to see how celebrations were going around the world and imagine our surprise to see footage from outside our hotel!!   Seems there was shooting RIGHT outside our hotel, just around the corner!!!  Seems that’s what all the hubbub during dinner was!   How exciting!   How I miss the big city!

We got bundled up, although I have to admit it wasn’t actually that cold out and headed down in the elevator.  We stopped on a few floors and picked up many revellers who were already in quite “festive” states.  

You know girls….if you are gonna get that drunk…..you really should re-think the wardrobe choices before hand.  Perhaps some lower heels and dresses that don’t hike up dangerously when you fall over……just a suggestion.

So we walked over to the Space Needle with the thousands of other people just in time for midnight.

It was quite a spectacular display and it was really fun to be in the streets with all kinds of people that we don’t even know! 

A fine way to wrap up a very enjoyable trip!  Tomorrow we would head home!

Space Needle Seattle

New Years Eve celebration in Seattle

 
 
 

Fireworks over the Space Needle in Seattle

 
 
 
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Sushi Lessons

My Scotland relatives who now live in California that we were visiting for Christmas are very hard to shop for.   But the one thing we knew they enjoyed was eating.  

And sure we cooked while we were there, which they always enjoy, but why not teach them some cool stuff that they can do on their own once we are gone?

It isn’t every day that you get a professional Chef coming to stay, so why not take full advantage of the situation?   So we decided to give them an “Asian party snack starter kit” and a coupon for a cooking class with the Chef!

It was a basket filled with all the fixins and tools to whip up some sushi, gyoza and assorted other things.

The lesson was well attended and the pupils fast learners!

Then we feasted on the fruit of the labour.  Which was really nice to have a break from freakin turkey!

Sushi lessons

If you’d like to make some sushi of your own,  click here  to check out an old posting of mine where I give you the blow by blow.

Or  click here   for the gyoza lesson.

The gift of food always seems welcome!

The Very Next Day

Well obviously we couldn’t eat ALL that food at one seating!!  No matter HOW hard we tried!

So what to do with it the next day?

I mean after the compulsory turkey sandwiches and what have you, we still had to eat didn’t we??

So the Chef whipped up a wonderful dish with the left overs.  A fantastic Turkey Pot Pie!

He started by lining the bottom of the casserole dish with those cute little piped potatoes because those are made by making mash potato, piping them on to a tray and then baking them slightly so they keep their shape and get a nice toasty bottom.

So they made a nice base for “innards” that would go in on top.  

Next he diced up the roasted root vegetables and turkey meat into nice bite size or smaller chunks then added the left over gravy and mixed it all together and heated it in a pot on the stove.   Once that was done, he poured it over the potatoes in the dish, leaving space at the top for the puff pastry.

Now HERE is where things get crazy!

He gently removed the puff pastry coating off of the left over Beef Wellington.  Reheating Wellington doesn’t do justice, the meat will be over cooked and the pastry soggy.   But as it was the pastry was still perfectly good, not only that, but if you know what’s in a Beef Wellington, you’ll know that on top of the beef is a delicious layer of  “mushroom duxelle”  and then the residual beef flavours of course.

Then the pastry is added to the top of the cassarole and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes just to make sure everything is heated enough.

Voila!  A turkey pot pie the likes of which you’ve never tasted!  Layer upon layer of flavour!

Christmas dinner left over Turkey Pot Pie

But I know what you’re thinking.  He used up a whack of left overs for that one dish but what became of the beef?   Well don’t fret, that went to good use too.   He cut it up into small bits and with the left over UN-baked puff pastry from the fridge, made a whole bunch of mini party snack beef Wellington that he then froze and bagged up for my relatives to enjoy for weeks to come!!

Nothing went to waste!

The Main Event

Finally we reached the big day.  The day of the big feast.

Like we haven’t already eaten enough to replenish our fat stores for winter!  But you know, tis the season to over indulge!  And now that it is mid January and the turkey hangovers have finally subsided, I thought it might be okay to discuss it again.

My relatives that we were visiting in California for Christmas are originally from Scotland, so some of their Christmas feast traditions are a little different from our North American ones.

Most notably is that they don’t use bread in their stuffing, or dressing or whatever you call the stuff you put inside the turkey.  They use sausage meat.

I remember years ago when I first reconnected with these relatives after they moved to California, I hadn’t seen them in years since I had visited Scotland.  So I was coming to stay with them for the holidays this particular year and so they told me later that their biggest fear about my visit was that, God forbid, I might be a vegetarian!  The horror!

So I wasn’t that startled by the sausage stuffing.  Although I did find the addition of Beef Wellington and black pudding a bit of a surprise.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

  • Seared scallop and black pudding with mustard dressing

Main course

  • Roast turkey with sausage stuffing
  • Roasted root vegetables – beets, carrot, parsnips, celeriac
  • Piped potato
  • Beef Wellington
  • Home made cranberry sauce
  • gravy

Dessert

  • Chocolate cake and ice cream
  • Fruit flan sponge cake

All followed by the mandatory “lie down”!!  Why oh why do we do it to ourselves??

For some reason I don’t have any pictures of the appetizer course.   Perhaps it was because there was a lot of commotion at that time what with getting people settled and getting the event under way.

But more likely it’s because I didn’t partake of that particular course.  I don’t eat scallops anymore because I am allergic to shell fish.  And even though a scallop is technically a mollusk and not a shellfish, I’m not willing to risk it.  And then the black pudding, well, click on it to see the pictures of it, or google it yourself and then decide if it is something you would eat……..

But those at the table who either knew what it was and love it or didn’t know what it was so they ate it, all enjoyed it very much.  Perhaps I just don’t know what I am missing!!

Then it was time for the main event, all set out, serve yourself style.  Which is always dangerous when you let to your own accord.

Time to load up our plates

Piped potato and roasted root vegetables

Turkey, white meat and dark

The infamous sausage stuffing

The beautiful Beef Wellington

Add some gravy and cranberry and you have the full meal deal!

 
 
And then when it seemed that we couldn’t possibly eat any more.  We ate some more.
 
 

Chocolate cake

Fruit flan sponge cake

 
 
 
 

A fine time was had by all

Cabbage rolls on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon coast is one of the most breath-taking areas around and I like to take Highway 101 down the coast any chance I get.

After Portland we cut off the I-5 and took Highway 18 West till we hit the coast again at Lincoln City.  I often make a pit stop in Lincoln City because there is a big outlet mall and of course on sales tax in Oregon so you can often pick up a deal or two.

The trip along the coast took a little longer than planned because we made a lot of stops to look at everything.  Then as we grew hungry, it was so hard to choose what to eat because every little town seems to have somewhere interesting to stop.  But we kept saying “just one more town and then we will stop for lunch”.  Before you knew it we found ourselves at almost 3:00 in the afternoon.

We pulled into a town called Reedsport and saw they first place on the left, looked kinda like a light house.  This is the place!  We can go no further!

We didn’t really have much expectations because it just looked like a road side coffee shop but were surprised to see so many cars there this late in the afternoon. 

Harbor Light Restaurant

Inside, it was very charming and had that “coastal town” theme of a lot of fish related decor.  But the atmosphere was friendly and the waitress extremely pleasant.

We went for the special of the day which was a cabbage roll dish.

What arrived were two huge plates of food.  Beautiful home-made tasting cabbage rolls topped with a zesty merinara sauce and a big portion of salad with dressing that definitely didn’t taste like it came from a bottle.

All the other customers seemed very pleased with their dishes as well.

When I looked up the Harbor Light Restaurant on restaurant review sites there appeared to be only great comments.

Well done Harbor Light, you were a beacon in our day!!

Fish tacos

Two things that I really don’t like the smell of in the house are fried and fish.  So you can only imagine how much I would dislike “fried fish”!    ψ

We’ve been watching a lot of the Food Network’s ” Eat Street“.  A show about various food carts or street food all over the place.  They really come up with some great ideas and I would love to eat at least 95% of everything they have on there.  The other 5% usually involves shell fish of some kind which I am allergic to and therefore must avoid.

But something I’ve been dying to try is Fish Tacos!

I tried looking up some recipes but most of them call for frying the fish.  Which I’m sure tastes great, but brings me back to the problem of smelly stuff in the house, but I found a way around it!  I BAKED the fish instead!  Worked great.

You will need some firm white fish.  Although I imagine you could use salmon too but that is a much stronger flavour.  On this occasion I used haddock and it worked great.

I chopped it into bite size chunks, put it in the dish and drizzled it with a bit of olive oil.  Then sprinkled it with cumin, chili powder and some pre-packaged “Cajun spice” that I had.

Then I put it into a 400 degree oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or until it is nice and opaque.

Baked haddock

Meanwhile, I got my toppings ready.

First I took sour cream and mixed it with chopped fresh cilantro, Chipolte Tabasco sauce and S&P.  Put that aside and let it get acquainted.

Then I chopped up:

  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves

While all of this was going on, I wrapped a few tortillas in some tin foil and popped them into the toaster oven.  Make sure you cover them up or they will get very dry and nasty.

So, when the fish is cooked, the tortillas warmed, the garnish chopped, it is time to assemble.

First lay down the tortilla.

Then a dollop of the chipolte cilantro sour cream

Then a few pieces of fish

Then top with tomato, red onion, avocado and a few leaves of cilantro!

There you have it, a beautiful, non fried, fish taco!!

Fresh fish taco

Roll it up and eat it!

Oh and for a little extra zing and some vitamin C, add a splash of fresh lime juice over top!

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