Good things to eat

Posts tagged ‘comfort food’

A little taste of comfort

It’s that time of year again.

When all we want is to snuggle up with something warm and comforting to put in our bellies!

This remains one of my Fall / Winter favorites.

Give it a try and see what I mean.

Click here for instructions

stuffed-cabbage030

Bacalao – soup, stew or casserole?

We had the pleasure of dinner at a friend’s last night where she served us Bacalao which she described as a Brazilian dish.

It was a tasty  casserole consisting of alternating layers of salt cod, thinly sliced potato and onion, sort of like fish scalloped potato.  Baked until cooked and then topped with sliced hard-boiled egg and olives.

It was delicious and comforting.

The trouble is, I was pretty sure I myself had made a dish that went by the name Bacalao but was NOTHING like this dish.

I looked back through my old blogs and sure enough I found my version of what I believed to be the dish which is definitely more of a soup style offering and what I believed to be a Portuguese dish.

[Click here to see my version]

So then thoroughly confused I of course went to the internet for some clarification and found many pictures of Bacalao but only to find that there are pictures of what could only be described as BOTH of our versions and many more!

So please, tell me what YOU know about this dish?  Do you have a different version?

Which ever version you do happen to make, with summer’s end rapidly approaching, you might want to think about bringing it back into rotation.

Cod

Cockle Warmer

Well we all knew it would happen sooner or later, that the weather would turn on us! I hope not as bad for you as it has been for some!

Now that we have changed the clocks back to standard time here in North America,  it is time to turn to our comfort food.

The “Cockle Warmers” if you will.

Here’s a little impromptu dish I whipped up for a dreary night.

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I started with the base of my “Butter Chicken” recipe but went the lazy route.

Here is what you will need:

  • boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 inch minced fresh ginger

Start by browning the chicken is a deep skillet.  When the chicken is no longer pink, toss in the onions, garlic and ginger and keep stirring around till everything is looking a bit “sweaty”.

Now I just happened to have some grape tomatoes that were about on their last days so I tossed them in.   But you could use any chopped or canned tomato if you like.

Keep cooking till the tomatoes get a bit wrinkly looking.

Then add your spices.  Curry type dishes can be very personal from heat to intensity.   I hate to admit but I really have no rhyme nor reason to my combos.  I have a big drawer full of old pickled artichoke jars that I fill with my herbs and spices.  I open the drawer and see what takes me.   On this occasion I added, more or less a “good sprinkle of”:

  • cumin
  • coriander
  • chili flakes
  • turmeric
  • commercial curry powder
  • smokie paprika
  • garam masala
  • salt & pepper

Sprinkle all of those over the chicken and then stir in thoroughly till you can smell them.

Then add about 1/2 cup or more of cream.

Stir that in well and then cover and let simmer for at least 10 minutes till the flavours get good and acquainted.

You COULD stop here.

But I also happened to have some left over chick peas in the fridge that I tossed in and then some nice kale that I chopped up and added in at the last minute.

Put the lid back on for a few minutes until the chick peas heat and the kale wilts.

Then you are good to go!   Just add it to some rice or your favorite grain.

Or in my house, we even put this sort of thing on pasta!

I quickly whipped up a little cucumber salad to have something fresh along with it.

Finely slice either by hand or on a mandolin slicer some:

  • Cucumber
  • red bell pepper
  • red onion

Toss them in a little rice wine vinegar with a drizzle of something sweet, sugar, honey, agave etc and a little salt and pepper.    Let the vegetables sit in this for a little before serving.   But I like to leave as much of the liquid behind when serving.

And there you have a quick Wednesday night type dinner that was very easy and you can hide all sorts of good for you things in there!!

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A little help from my friends

One of the best things about the blogging world is all the lovely people who you meet, even if only in the virtual world,  and all the things that they share with you!

So here is a wonderfully warming meal that is made up of dishes I got from other people!

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So let’s start with the Masoor Daal because that is the one that takes the longest to make.

This recipe comes to us from my friend at Peri’s Spice Ladle, a delightful blog of exotic dishes.

I followed this recipe exactly except for one thing, I didn’t add the Bay leaf, because I didn’t have any.  And as a friend of mine likes to say “I’ve never met anyone who while commenting on a dish, say ‘this would be good, it only it had a little more Bay!'”  So if you don’t have any, let me assure you, it is just as delightful without!

And I made the crock pot version so the aromas could permeate the house all afternoon!  Splendid!

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Next on the list is Chapati bread.

This one comes from my friend at Soul of Spice, whose blog is filled with warming and comforting creations!

I unfortunately didn’t have quite as much luck with this one, but through no fault of the instructions!

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been trying to live a gluten-free lifestyle so I took it upon myself to try and make the Chapati with chick pea flour instead.

In theory, it probably should have worked, but I think I had my ratios off and they were terribly sticky to work with and I ended up probably using 3 times the flour called for.

They actually had good flavour, but they were a little hard…..and heavy.

But I definitely vow to try them again!

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And then to round off the meal, I made a batch of my own Roasted Cauliflower which always adds a little comfort to anything you have it with!

Add to all this, a little steamed brown rice and a little tahini yogurt sauce and you have yourself a VERY comforting and satisfying meal!

A new twist on “Pork n Beans”

The weather finally took a turn.

Hasn’t rained since June and now it hasn’t stopped raining for three days!

Time to get back to some more “stick to the ribs” kinda food to help with the beginning of the hibernation process!

This dish is certainly NOT your gramma’s Pork & Beans by any means.

I started with the basic concept of my old favorite go to dish Nelson’s Beans but then added a few twists and turns.

Pork n Beans

Heat a  heavy skillet, add a little olive oil and then:

Sear off one pork tenderloin, quickly cooking on all sides.

Once it is done on all sides ( don’t forget the ends) add:

  • 1 large onion sliced in full rounds
  • 2 – 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 bell pepper of your choice
  • 1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper

Keep stirring till the vegetable are well sweated then add some favorite spices:

  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp smokie paprika

Mix those in well to your cooking veg, working around the pork.

Then add 1 tin of crushed or diced tomato AND 1 tin of tomato paste.

And then add a little water if there wasn’t enough juice in the tomatoes.

Stir that all well and then put a lid on it for about 10 minutes till it is all well heated and the pork cooked.

Then the last thing you will add is one or two ( depending on how much you are making) tins of beans.  Nelson’s beans call for Pinto but for this I just used navy.

Stir them in well to everything else and heat for another 5 minutes.

When you are ready to go to the plate, remove the pork loin from the beans.

Slice the pork into nice attractive disks.

Spoon out a few spoonfuls of beans on to the plate of your choice and then top with a few rounds  of pork and then sprinkle with fresh cilantro and a good squeeze of lime juice!!

Now THAT is a stick to your ribs kind of dinner!!

Roasted Squash Soup

The Chef and I have taken up yoga.

Well, to be honest, I’ve done yoga for years, but the Chef, not so much.

I give him an A for effort!  And I think he is somewhat comforted ( and so was I frankly cause this is the first time this has ever happened!) by the fact that there are actually a few other dudes in the class too!

My only complaint is with the when to eat situation.

You don’t really want to eat before going, what with the twisting and squeezing and upside downness of it all because you will end up with indigestion, or worse.

But because class is in the evening, you don’t want to be eating too late and then having trouble sleeping or what have you.

So I needed to come up with a solution.

How about a nice hearty soup after class.  Substantial enough to sustain but not too heavy to interfere?

And now that the weather is finally starting to feel a little like Fall ( people were still in shorts and T-shirts last weekend at Thanksgiving!!) it is time to return to the comfort food!

Roasted Squash Soup

So here’s what you will need to do.

Start by turning on the oven to 400 degrees.

I had a butter nut squash, but I imagine any nice winter squash will do.

Cut it in half and remove seeds and debris and then lay both sides cut side down in a greased baking dish.

Pop them in the heated oven for about half hour ( depending on size) and give it a head start baking.

Meanwhile chop up:

  • 1 yam ( skin on)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 5 -6 cremini mushrooms

After about half an hour poke the squash with a knife to check doneness.   If they are almost done, carefully cut them into smaller pieces ( like 3 to 4 pieces per half) and then add the chopped vegetables to the dish with the squash.  Add a little olive oil to coat and a bit of poultry seasoning, toss well.

Bake in the oven until everything is nice and roasted.

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While that is going on in the oven.   Get out your heavy pot and add:

  • 1 finely diced carrot
  • 1 rib finely diced celery
  • anything else that seems to go…I used some chopped kale

Wilt those up in a little olive oil.

Then add the roasted vegetables ( make sure to take the skin off the squash at some point before putting in the soup!).

Then add water, or the stock of your choice.

I then added:

  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice

But that’s the kinda crazy chick I am!  A little salt and pepper will do fine too.

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Let that simmer for a bit till you are sure all the various vegs are nice and cooked and then turn it off.

Make sure to let it  cool a bit before blending with the hand blender so if you should get splattered, it won’t hurt as much.

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Then when you get back from yoga class, just reheat ( shouldn’t need much cause it probably hasn’t fully cooled yet!).

And then I added a CRAZY topping!!  Instead of croutons, I added a little of the left over turkey stuffing from Thanksgiving!  I KNOW!!  Crazy stuff, but it worked!  And then a little chopped toasted hazelnut ( cause it happened to be on the counter!)

But a dollop of plain yoghurt or sour cream would do well too.

Warm, satisfying, FULL of vegetables and doesn’t make you feel bad before bed!!

Namaste indeed!

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Kinda lasagna sorta

The worst part about moving of course, is trying to find anything!

All the best and most organized packing in the world can still result in a lot of things being “misplaced”.  That is what is so disruptive about moving and makes you feel so unsafe.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but they say moving is up there with the top 10 most stressful happenings in life……up there with divorce or deaths!!

And when you are packing, you tend to do crazy things that must seem a good idea at the time and perhaps even logical.  But on the unpacking end you often find your self asking “WHAT was I thinking there??”

So this past weekend was the first time the Chef and I have both had the whole weekend off together and been able really get a handle on the new place.  Most of the stuff has been unpacked for a bit, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is in the right place.

I kid you not, we spent almost four hours arranging and rearranging the living room.        We purchased some new furniture that will be arriving in “two to four weeks” so it is even harder when you don’t even really know what things will look like.

We had already had a number of configurations that we had tried for a week or a few days at a time, but nothing felt right.   But I think we finally found one we can work with……until the furniture comes and then we have to start all over of course!

But we did manage to finally arrange the pantry.

It’s been hard to cook or eat because we didn’t know where anything was….or if you thought of a dish you might only have half the ingredients, but then only to discover in a different cupboard the other stuff you would need.  It’s been chaos!

So after a long day of “arranging” neither of us felt like going out to a store, nor did we really feel like cooking but…….you gotta eat right?

So this is what I came up with.

Baked cabbage with cheese and veg

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I present this as only a guideline of what you can do with a bunch of random stuff.  Please feel free to substitute or omit  as needed.

First I cooked up a pot of green lentils.  At first I thought I would make some sort of lentil dish fried up with onions and veg on rice etc.

But then I found a cabbage in the fridge.  When I say “found” you know what I mean, a recently purchased one, not one that came with the fridge!

And so I thought I’d really like to use that too.

There were also some nice Portobello mushrooms and some red peppers.

Hmmm….what next?

Okay.

So in a large skillet with a little oil add:

  • 1 -2 chopped onion
  • 1-2 cups sliced mushroom
  • 1 red, green, yellow or combo sliced pepper

Cook those down until nice and soft, feel free to add any herb or spice flavours that inspire you.

When these are cooked, toss them into a flat baking or lasagna style dish and spread them around.

Then add in the cooked lentils and mix them in well.

Meanwhile, in the same skillet, add a little more oil then add finely sliced cabbage.  Sliced very thin like you are making coleslaw but don’t stuff the pan too much.

I used a whole small cabbage.  But cook it in batches so that it cooks down nicely and it is okay if it gets brown bits on it.  Adds flavour!!

As you finish each batch of cabbage, add it to the baking dish and continue to mix it in with the other vegetables.

Once you have done about half the cabbage, sprinkle with a layer of good melting cheese like mozzarella or other cheese you might use in a lasagna or pizza.

Once all the cabbage is added then add a tin of tomato  or prepared spaghetti sauce and thoroughly mix through everything.  I only had half of a tin on hand, but it really needed a whole one!

Once it is well mixed, layer with another layer of the melting cheese and then a bit of what ever other cheese you might have just as an accent.  I used some orange cheddar and some blue cheese.

Then bung it in the oven at 350 for about half hour ( it’s mostly all cooked just need to heat and melt cheese) and then pop it under the broiler for a few minutes till the cheese on top starts to brown a little.

There you have it!

Kinda lasagna sorta

Now I will admit, if I had to do it again, there would be a few things I would do differently.  Like make sure I had enough sauce.   And I would probably put some extra fried onions on top.  Or even better, those old school crispy onions that Grandmothers seem to like to put on green bean casseroles at the holidays!!

It would make a fine Vegetarian supper with a salad and some nice bread.  Or actually it would do fine as a side dish.

The point is, you can usually make something out of nothing when you have to!  Be creative!

We did end up getting to have some Thanksgiving Turkey dinner after all and it went very well, just missing a couple things…..like the gravy ladle.

It will show up….with the damn blue lampshade I can’t seem to find.

Chicken Biryani

For the longest time I have wanted to make Chicken Biryani.

I’ve seen it on menus at Indian restaurants, but always end up ordering the Butter Chicken…..cause that’s the kind of girl I am.

And then in Canada we have a food product line called “President’s Choice” which is associated with a chain of grocery stores and so The President……who’s choice I’m assuming these products are……who seems like a fun enough guy, is always doing these funny commercials for his stuff.  And lately he’s been flogging the President’s Choice frozen Chicken Biryani.   So I’ve REALLY wanted to eat some!

Then I went on-line to just “look up” a recipe!  Easy enough!  Only it seemed that every recipe I seemed to find was a long drawn out ordeal that I just couldn’t be bothered with!!

Then along came my blog friend at Frugal Feeding with a lickedy split recipe for Chicken Biryani that will knock your socks off!

Well, let’s just say, you’ll really like it!

I followed his recipe to the “T”  (except for the Bay leaves, which I never seem to have and find tedious)  which, if you are a regular visitor to this blog, you know I sometime can find sticking to recipes a bit challenging!  But this one was great!

The Chef and I ate this…..till we could eat no more!!

Chicken Biryani

A turn in the weather

It’s disappointing  that I feel the need to write a blog like this in July, but it really has been a weird weather summer  all around.   Scorching heat and drought some places while others are cold, raining and flooding!

I remember that when I lived back east in Montreal or Toronto I would cherish a summer day like this.  We would usually have suffered weeks of blistering heat, so a cold rainy day would be very welcome.   We never get “blistering” heat here in Victoria but summer is usually a good solid “nice”.

But why not make the best of it??   Actually I couldn’t be happier with this kind of activity!

First I popped a batch of  BREAD IN A POT into the oven that had been “festering” over night and will take it out in a few minutes.

And then why not have a nice bowl of soup to cheer you up!

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I had some left over spicy Italian sausage from my STUFFED PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS the other day so I started with that.

Heat up your Dutch oven or sturdy pot and then add in the sausage ( loose sausage not in casing) and stir it around until it is well browned.   Then add:

  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 carrot finely diced
  • 1 stock of celery finely diced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 green CABBAGE shredded

Add those to the sausage and stir them up until well wilted.

Once they are all well acquainted I tossed in a handful or two ( 1/2 cup) of my favorite legumey soup mixture.    It comes from the bulk section of my grocery store and is a combo of  green and yellow split pea, barley, lentil and maybe a bit of rice for good measure.  I really enjoy this combo because some of the items cook down while others keep their shape.

So toss that in and then stir making sure the legumes are well covered with all the juices etc of the sausage and veg.   Let that go for a few minutes and then add enough stock or water to just cover everything.

Bring it up to a boil, then turn it down to a nice simmer.  It will need at least 45 minutes to cook but that’s why it’s a good “go about your business” kind of dish.   But do check on it and stir it from time to time.

Then about 10 minutes before you are actually ready to eat it, toss in a very large handful of chopped kale.   This step IS optional, but you know me……..KALE is our friend!!

Let that cook in and then you are ready to enjoy!!

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The Joy of the Blog

So what’s the best part of being in the blog world?   Getting to read all the wonderful stuff out there.

It’s fine to sit and write about stuff yourself, but I think it is WAY more fun to read about and try other people’s stuff!

But how do you FIND other stuff?  Well, I didn’t get it at first, but then I caught on.  When people read YOUR stuff……and goodness only knows how they came upon it………but then they hit the “LIKE” button or better yet, they leave a comment, then you see them there.

And then you get curious as to just WHO is reading your stuff…..so you hit the link to them and get to their blog…..then you check out their stuff.  

And around and around it goes!   It’s fascinating really!  It’s  like having friends all over the world who share your interests or turn you on to stuff you never knew about!

So it happened the other day that someone from the blog                         

HEALTHY MODERATION  said that she liked one of my posts, so of course I went to visit her!

And she is a girl after my own heart who enjoys the Lebanese food and has posted some lovely recipes. 

I found one that I had never heard of called Mjadara that I just HAD to try!

Most Lebanese food that I am familiar with has big strong flavours from spices or garlic and lemon but this dish is very gentle and mild, very comforting and hearty.

Actually it reminds me of a Lebanese version of an Ayurvedic ( ancient  Hindu system of traditional medicine) dish called Khichdi, an East Indian rice and lentil comfort food dish.  But it is also used in healing.  People with maladies would eat nothing but this, or be on a “khichdi fast” because it is so gentle it helps to restore health.

But then she paired the Mjadara with Cabbage Salad with Mint and Garlic which added such a  fresh and wonderful balance to the dish.   Truly delightful!

And the best part is, I stumped The Chef!  He had never had either of these dishes before and found himself quite pleased by them.

So may I suggest that next time you are reading a blog, even this blog, to go to the bottom and see who “Liked” it or made a comment and go and visit their blog.   You will be AMAZED where you can find yourself!

At the very least you could find yourself with a great idea for dinner tonight!!

Mjadara and cabbage salad

Just Because

I don’t really have a very good reason for writing this particular post other than the fact that I have a nice picture to go with it.

The Chef always seems to be very concerned about what I will have for “lunch”.  I haven’t the heart to tell him that most days I don’t actually eat “lunch”  per say.

But he made me these lovely sandwiches.

Don’t you find that sandwiches ALWAYS taste better when someone else makes them??

And don’t sandwiches somehow taste better when presented nicely, with fancy toothpicks and condiments.

Maybe it’s a childhood thing, from when we used to get cute crustless gems.

I don’t know.

Enjoy your sandwich.

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a damn fine sandwich

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A Soup Accident

Let this be a cautionary tale to all who venture into the culinary world.  Not only to those of you who feel that you know your way around, but especially to those who are timid in the kitchen.   For let it be known, that it doesn’t matter HOW good of a cook you think you are, mistakes CAN happen!

I had the day off and it was a bit miserable out so I didn’t really feel like venturing out to the store and thought that a nice soothing bowl of soup would be in order.

I always have the usual suspects on hand, carrots, onions, celery, the base of any good soup.   I also had some nice cremini mushrooms to use up and had a nice jar of split yellow peas.

So I set out to make a nice curried split pea mushroom soup.

Into the Dutch oven tossed diced:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 stalks celery ( leafy ones if you have them)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

I stirred those and let them cook till they became a bit wilted.  Then I added:

  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms
  • 1 cup rinsed yellow split peas
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp curry powder

This was stirred well and cooked for a few minutes then I added about:

  • 3 -4 cups of water ( or enough to completely submerge everything else)

Stir again, bring to a boil then turn down to a lower temperature to simmer.

Simple soup.

But  I felt I would be a little more ambitious because I thought this is what we will have for dinner so I better make it a little more substantial.

So I called The Chef at work.  “Hey, do you have any meat in the freezer?”

Whenever we eat roasts or whatever, and there are left overs ( rarely but it happens) The Chef wraps them up and tosses them in the freezer for “your soup”.  

I am often just as guilty with brocoli butts or ends of asparagus, wrapped up and tossed in the freezer.

So our freezer is filled with a lot of weird little frozen bags of stuff waiting to become “soup stock”.

“Yes, there is a bag with a few beef short ribs in there, just enough to beef up some soup.”  The Chef replied

I hung up the phone and went to the freezer.  I grabbed the first bag I found of hard brown squares.  Perfect.  I unwrapped it and dropped the frozen together hunk into the already simmering soup.  Didn’t matter that they were frozen solid, they would thaw quickly and cook up in the soup. 

I went on about my business.

About a half hour later I went back to stir the soup and make sure the meat had loosened up so I could stir it properly through the soup.

Imagine my surprise, when there was NO meat to be found!!!    What the WHAT??

“Oh no” I thought as I got a sinking feeling in my stomach.   That wasn’t the short ribs was it?

From time to time The Chef will go all “Haute Cuisine” on me and will spend the day making the Fancy French Stuff!

For instance, he will spend a day, painstakingly making demi glace.  A process cooking meat down and down further to make an exquisite nectar used in fancy sauces.   Then he will put it into ice-cube trays and freeze it for later use.   Do you see where I’m going with this??

This is the kind of stuff that only a cube or two would be required to add eminence flavour to your dish.

So yeah….I dumped a WHOLE bag of frozen demi glace cubes into my soup.

Is that a problem you ask?   Well, firstly I just wasted a very precious product in plain old soup and I just made the soup SUPER rich!

Oh well.

I kept digging in the freezer and finally found the meat I was looking for.  Good thing, because now with the rich beef flavour of the soup, I might as well actually have meat in it!!

I have to admit, it was some fine tasting soup but………I’m gonna be in trouble when The Chef goes to use his demi glace!!

Blueberry Crumble Cake

The other day one of my fellow blogger friends at Frugal Feeding, posted this very enticing cake recipe.

What with blueberry season just around the corner, I thought why not try it out and be prepared!  Blueberries ARE a superfood after all!!

So I started with his original recipe  ( click here to check it out ).

Now I have to confess, that even though we use the metric system in Canada, I have no idea how much any of these measurements are.  Nor did I have the patience to look up the conversions so I just kind of “winged it”.

If you cook / bake a lot you will have a general idea of ratios of things and can get away with it.  But if you are serving it to other people and NEED it to be right……I suggest you look up the conversions if you don’t know them.

I followed everything as instructed.  The only differences and they are barely note worthy is that I added a bit of cinnamon and flax seeds to the “crumble” mixture        ( mostly cause I didn’t have quite enough oats).  And then instead of adding the blueberries to the “crumble” mixture, I added a layer of them to the top of the “cake” portion and then covered them with the “crumble” mixture.  And then tossed a few random berries on top for show.  This was mostly because I had a lot of blueberries to use up.

It turned out VERY tasty!  We nearly ate the whole thing!!

I am hoping there will be some left when I get home to enjoy with a lovely cup of tea!!

Thank you Frugal Feeding!!

Where’s the veg?

I try very hard to love vegetables!  I really do.  They are so good for me and filled with nutrients and ALL that good stuff!

But the truth of the matter is, sometimes I think they just taste like dirt!

So I am always looking for ways to hide them.

One of my favorite things to do is hide them in soup.

Sometimes at the end of the week I find myself with a lot of left over bits and bobs of stuff that were part of very satisfying meals .  The Chef likes to diligently pack away the three mouthfuls of whatever might be left from dinner and tell me “it will be good for your lunch” knowing very well that I don’t take that sort of thing for my lunch because I won’t use a microwave and that’s the only means of warming things at the office.

So by the end of the week, there can be some strange combos left in the fridge.

Time to get out the dutch oven and make us some soup!

I always have a combo of fresh veg and some “left over” something or other hanging around.  It is good to use a bit of both so you get a wide range of nutrients!

Today I have some left over veg strips from the “Salad Wraps” and some left over roasted veg from Sunday dinner.

Left over roasted veggies

I also diced up and onion, a carrot and a stick of celery and started them off first in the pot with a bit of olive oil.

Once they were nice and sweated I added all of the left over veg items.

Cook that up really well, then add the liquid of your choice.  Anything from water or stock or even a bottle of crushed tomatoes.  Seriously, whatever you have!

Add your choice of favorite herbs and or spices and then bring it up to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer, for at least half hour till everything is cooked nicely.

At this point it is usually very lumpy.   I let it cool a bit so I don’t get burned and then use the hand blender on it.  But you could put it in a real blender, but I always find that a bit of an ordeal.

 

Once it is nice and smooth, you are ready to go.  You could eat it like this or add some left over beans or chili or cooked potatoes.

Seriously….whatever is around that needs used up and is useless on its own.

And there you have a wonderfully hearty soup or even stew like item if you use less liquid!

Enjoy!

“Left Overs” soup

Chicken and Broccoli bake

I had a roommate long ago who used to make something like this.  It was very comforting and I often try to recreate it, but haven’t quite figured it out.

This version does the trick though.

I started with some frozen chicken breasts.   But don’t fret, we can use that to our advantage!

I popped them into a sauce pan with about 4 cups of water, give or take, with a shot of olive oil and about a table-spoon of “poultry seasoning” and a pinch of salt and then put them on to boil.

Meanwhile, I chopped up a nice size onion and browned it up in a bit of oil in a large skillet with a clove or two of chopped garlic.

When they were brown enough, I poured them into a good size casserole dish and spread them evenly on the bottom.

Then I fished the chicken breasts out of the boiling water ( which is now very much like chicken broth!) and popped them into the skillet with the onion flavours still lingering!

Brown the chicken breasts to give them a little colour and a lot more flavour.

While those are browning, wash and chop up a head of broccoli, in hind sight, I would have chopped it smaller than I did, but if you like bigger bits of brocoli feel free to chop them to  the size you like.  Spread them into the casserole over the onion.

I then added a few handfuls of fresh chopped parsley to help give it some colour.

Meanwhile back at the chicken……

As they browned up, I fished them out of the skillet one by one and sliced them into 2-3 bite size morsels then tossed them back in the skillet and repeated till all were cut.  Then I added about 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to zing it up a bit.

Meanwhile, add two cups of short grain brown rice to the casserole dish and toss everything together making sure everything, especially rice, is coated with any juices or flavours going on in there.

Then arrange  the chicken bits in the casserole in some sort of evenly distributed pattern.

Then get about four cups of the left over “chicken water”  ( thought we were just gonna waste it didn’t you??) and pour it all over everything, making sure that most of the stuff, at least all the rice anyway, is submerged.

I think my roommate used to use a can of “cream of something” type soup in hers and that’s what made it so much more creamy or saucyer than mine.  Feel free to experiment, but just make sure you have double the liquid to whatever the rice amount is.

Then cover tightly with tin foil and place into a 375 oven for at least 45 minutes.

After that time take it out and test the rice to see if it’s done.   If it is, sprinkle the top of everything with a good few handfuls of your favorite grated cheese.   I used smokey cheddar and then replace in the over UNCOVERED under the broiler and turn it up to 500 degrees and watch it closely.   It should only take about 5 minutes or less to melt and brown the cheese.

Your done!

Serve at will!

What’s good about this stuff is, it works well the next day as a work lunch, either re-heated ( but I don’t use micro waves) or at room temperature  it is just as good!

Chicken and Broccoli Bake

Bread in a pot

I had some bad news over the weekend.

And what’s the best thing to do when you get bad news?  Well, make bread of course!

I saw this technique while I was “stumbling” on the internet recently and thought “Hmm…that looks interesting” and believe me, it IS!!

The original recipe  Click Here

I followed the instructions exactly as they are written, no adding my own little this or that!  Except for the additional flavours, instead of any of her choices I used fresh chopped cilantro, lemon zest and dried garlic, cause that’s why I happened to have around.

I was also THRILLED to finally find a use for this cast iron dutch oven I have.  I had bought it a couple of years ago because I thought I was going camping……but as it turned out……I didn’t…..and actually have never been camping!  But I had this pot, which I like, but I don’t know if you know this but you can’t really cook things with tomato in plain cast iron.  Something to do with a reaction of the two that causes some unpleasant taste, and seeing as I envisioned it as my “chili pot”…..well…..it didn’t work out and it has been sitting on the shelf waiting to be used.

Well this was the pot’s chance to shine!!

So, like I said, I followed everything exactly.  Prepared the dough late in the  afternoon, and let it sit over night and then baked it in the morning.

I swear, I really DID try to let it cool!!

But the smell was too overwhelming.  It took all our strength to not gobble down the whole loaf!  Warm and soft on the inside and golden crispy on the outside.  Few pats of delicious butter………it was heavenly!

And just what you need when you are feeling a bit sad!

And then it made great toast the next day and even better croutons for the Caesar Salad!

Sorta Miso Soup

I say “sorta” because it is my version and not traditional Miso soup.

Then again, just by vertu of containing miso……doesn’t that constitute Miso soup??

I started with some vegetable stock I had in the fridge.   As I prepare various vegetables during the week, I always seem to have butts and stems and bits that are perfectly good food but they just don’t go with what I’m making.  Like the bottom of the broccoli or asparagus or the middle of a cabbage that isn’t quite as perky as it should be.  I save all this stuff up and then once a week or so I toss them all in a pot with a chopped carrot, onion and celery, or whatever is laying about and needs used.   I cover them with water and add a bit of salt and maybe a little poultry seasoning ( which is mostly sage and such) and simmer them up till they give up their goodness.  I strain it off and then I have lovely vegetable water to do things with!

So I started with some of that, about 2 cups, in a pot and brought it up to a boil.

Then I added:

  • about 1/3 of a block of tofu cut into cubes
  • 2-3 thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 a carrot cut into match sticks
  • 1/2 small red pepper cut into tiny cubes
  • 2 stocks of kale, ribs removed and finely chopped
  • what ever else you feel like adding

Bring that up to a boil and let simmer a few minutes till the veg gets a bit cooked.

Then turn off the heat and add:

  • 1 – 2 tbsp of your favorite miso paste depending on how salty you enjoy

Stir it in quickly and serve. 

It is important to NEVER boil miso.   Heating it too much kills all the good fermented enzymes in it and defeats the purpose.  I mean it isn’t dangerous or anything, but  you aren’t getting the bang for your buck!!

I topped it with some sliced green onion.

This is a great soup to eat after you have over indulged in some way.  It is very calming and makes you feel good.

Miso Soup

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.

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.

Chili con carne

There must  be millions of recipes for chili.

Everyone family and even every person has their own version.  There are chili cook-offs and festivals and so on all over the world.  Chili is a big deal.  Do you know why?  Because it is so dang easy!  That’s why.

So on this blustery day, I’ve whipped up a batch of my own.

Here’s what I used:

  • 1 pound or so of lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 of one red pepper and 1/2 of one orange pepper diced ( cause that’s what I had around)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tin red kidney beans ( rinsed)
  • 1 tin diced tomato
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes ( more if you like)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper

So out comes the ol Dutch oven.  Heat it up and add just a drizzle of olive oil to keep things from sticking.  Then add the ground beef and cook until you no longer see any pink bits.

Then add the onion and mix through.  Let that cook a bit and then add the peppers and jalapeno.

After that has cooked for a while and the onions and peppers look a little sweaty, make a hole in the middle of the pot to expose the bottom.  To this hole, add all of your herbs and spices and let them “toast” a little.  This helps release their oils and flavours.  Then stir everything together.

Add the vinegar, mix in.

Then add the tin of diced tomato, mix up and then bring up to the boil but turn it down to a simmer as soon as it does boil.  Let this cook awhile like this, the longer the better.

When you are getting close to serving time, like half an hour out, add the beans.  You could put them in at the same time as the tomatoes, but if you leave it till the end they don’t get as mushed.

Then about 10 minutes before serving, add the tomato paste ( and maybe the tomato paste can full of water to get out the bits at the bottom and add a little liquid ) and the chopped garlic.  Stir these through till completely mixed.  Then turn off the heat completely!!

I know, sounds crazy, but this will thicken it up nicely and if you don’t cook the garlic too long it will have more flavour AND retains the medicinal properties!!

Chili con carne

 

I’ve served it up with some nice corn tortilla chips and some chunks of avocado with a few squeezes of lime juice.  Always need to try to have something “alive” with every meal because that’s where the enzymes are that help digestion!

Chili night

 

I suppose I should have waiting for “Spanish Class Night” for this but we needed this tonight!

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