31 January 2008
Over the weekend, I saw tangelos at the grocery store and bought them on a whim. And then yesterday my sister was trying to talk herself out of cooking because her recipe seemed too complicated and I made the orange salsa for her so that she couldn't use the excuse. Well, I cut up the tangelos for her salsa (since the oranges we had didn't look as nice) and with the cilantro on it, it was so good! So I had to make my own citrus salsa for dinner today.
The tangelos at my work looked awful, but while I was looking for oranges I found blood oranges! I'd never actually seen one before, so I had to buy a couple. And then one of the produce guys told me he'd get some Cara Cara oranges out of the back for me to buy as well. They're a bit like a pink grapefruit in colour, but are very sweet and so good, even to a non-citrus lover like me.
29 January 2008
The beige stuff up top is a mushroom cream sauce, without the cream. It turns out both cartons of cream in the fridge expired a couple days ago, so I used non-fat milk instead. It was quite good anyway. The mushrooms were cooked in a bit of butter and over it all I grated some weird cheese stuffed full of green peppercorns. (I don't know what sort of cheese it was - I would guess it's about the same hardness as a Cheddar, but it didn't have any of the flavour of a cheddar cheese.) Anyway, it added a nice little spark to the mushroom sauce.
Good stuff all around.
28 January 2008
At any rate, this is the last of the Christmas baking, and only one month too late. (Almost to the day. I baked them on the 26th.) I took them all to work - half for a friend, and half I fed to the night crew - so fortunately they're all gone and I can't just sit around and eat chocolate cookies with mint chocolate chips until my tummy bursts.
These cookies are actually the exact same recipe as these Chocolate Toffee Cookies that I made a while back, but this time I used mint chocolate chips in place of the toffee, and I added a touch more oil and water. They were much nicer this time, a bit chewy instead of crunchy.
Super easy, anyway. Here's how:
1 box chocolate cake mix
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup chocolate chips
Mix together all the ingredients except the chips until just moistened. Stir in chips. Spoon out 1 tbsp of mix onto greased baking sheets, placing cookies about 2 inches apart. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are set. Cool, eat, enjoy.
You should get about 48 cookies. I got 42, plus a bit of raw cookie dough in my tummy. Yum.
I still think it might benefit from a bit of strong coffee, just to bring out the taste of the chocolate, but that'd probably be better if I weren't using mint chips.
Anyway, I kind of used a generous 1/2 cup of oil and a very generous 1/4 cup water. It wasn't runny, at all, but it wasn't such a dry mix as it was the first time I tried it.
27 January 2008
At any rate, I wanted to post the recipe so that I don't lose it. I kind of cobbled it together myself from a few different places and have been adjusting bits of it and I'm pretty happy with it, so I'd hate to lose it now.
Mixed Bean Soup with Ham
Makes about 10 cups.
1-2 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 lg onion, diced
3 carrots, diced, sliced or chopped
3 celery stalks, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 dried bay leaves
1 tbsp + 1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground sage
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp marjoram
1 tsp cilantro
1/8-1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 19oz/540ml can mixed beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (reduced sodium!)
1 19oz/540ml can crushed or diced tomatoes
4oz/110g cooked ham, cubed
2oz/60g Swiss cheese, cubed (optional)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish, chopped (optional)
1. Cook the onions, carrots, and celery in oil until softened. I tend to leave the vegetables with a little bit of a bite to them, but they probably cooked (today) over medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. If you do it for that long, you can just add things as you chop, you don't need to have it all prepped before starting. Keep the heat low enough that the onions don't burn. Once the onions, at least, are softened, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. I gave a range for the oil because I'm not really sure what I used. I started with probably a little less than 1 tbsp, but I added more when I added the celery (that was the last thing I chopped) because it seemed a little dry. Also, I have a tendency to be chintzy with oil, so you might want to use more.
2. Add all the herbs, stirring to coat the vegetables. I didn't have any oregano today, so I used basil and parsley in place of it, and that tasted quite good. Before the mixture dries out too much, add in the rinsed beans. Stir to coat them with the spice mixture as well, and let cook for a couple minutes - it'll add a nicer flavour to the beans than if you just pour the stock in straight away.
3. Add stock, crushed tomatoes, and diced ham to the vegetable base. Bring up to a boil, then let simmer for as long as you want to wait for supper. I probably leave it about 30 minutes before eating. Taste before serving, adjust seasonings and add black pepper. Garnish with a little grated Swiss cheese or chopped cilantro or both or neither.
It won't be spicy at all with the amount of chipotle chili powder I've suggested, but it should have a smoky flavour. If you want a spicy soup, add more chili powder (though maybe just a regular one, rather than chipotle, since I find the smokiness can be overwhelming if you use too much) or some cayenne pepper or add a pinch of red pepper flakes to the mirepoix.
If you happen to have old dried out Swiss cheese, this is a really nice way to use it up. Chop it up and toss it into the soup along with the ham and it'll kind of get stringy and lovely in the soup, but doesn't completely dissolve or melt into the soup. (That's what I did today.) If you have fresher Swiss, use it as a garnish or stir in just before serving. If you have no Swiss (or don't like it), just skip that bit.
Also, this works really well as a vegetarian or vegan soup - just leave out the ham/cheese and be sure to use a vegetarian vegetable stock. You'll probably need to add salt, though, since the ham does the job of adding salt to the non-veg. version.
23 January 2008
In some of the cases, her results look a bit disastrous -- her butter chicken looks completely disgusting and the ingredients list doesn't really resemble ANY recipe I've ever seen for butter chicken -- but this one is really very good. I wanted to eat it all, even though it was way more food than I really wanted or needed to eat.
21 January 2008
I find it sort of... odd and distracting that the lentils, which start out red, cook up yellow. But they're a fantastic shade of it, at least. I wasn't really sure what to expect when I decided to try out this recipe, but I think I imagined something a little more thick than it turned out. It's a bit like a very thick soup or a very thin stew. It could have used a bit more salt, and I think I'd like it a touch spicier, but it was really good.
There's such a big pile of caramelized onions on there (half an onion, actually) but they're so lovely, I don't think there could be enough. The rice was cooked with a stick of cinnamon in it. I thought maybe it'd colour the rice a little, but it didn't at all. It makes only a subtle change in the taste of the rice, but it was nice.
At any rate, in light of my laziness, I decided I should do something a little more put together than toasted cheese sandwiches with ketchup. So on Sunday, I made this.
The ham is just one of those pre-cooked ones you can buy for $12 anywhere, but my work had them for $5 for a couple days last week. So, honey ham. I didn't do anything to it besides re-heat it in a bath of pineapple juice.
I'd found a colcannon recipe a while back, in a cookbook of mine, and decided that I needed to try it sometime when cooking for my sister and her husband. They're both mashed potato fiends, and they're both cabbage fiends. Seemed a recipe made in their version of heaven. I wound up using a different recipe (found here). I didn't quite follow the directions - I only crisped up one side, gave it the flip and crisped the other, rather than doing it in two layers with a crunchy layer on the top, bottom, and middle - but did use his basic proportions for things.
I always wonder when I make things like this, that are so culturally specific, if I'm making them the way they're "supposed" to be made. But I suppose that's a bit of a ridiculous thing to be concerned about, since probably every Irish cook out there makes a slightly different variation on the theme. Like trying to find the definitive apple pie recipe. Anyway, it was quite good, so authentic or not, I'll probably make it again.
17 January 2008
At any rate, this isn't the nicest looking dinner. I was too lazy to trim the fat off the pork and so it left that nasty looking scum in the barley stuffing and I think that it should be seared before being baked so that the top of the meat would brown up a bit. The stuffing had a lot of fruit and nice flavours in it that worked well with the meat, though, and it had a really nice flavour.
The potatoes came from a bag. I was feeling lazy last night. It'd be cheaper and just as tasty to peel my own potatoes and roast them, though.
16 January 2008
I don't like baking. I'm not vegan. I didn't want to eat cake.
Somehow it seemed like the best thing to do at that moment. So I baked a cake. And it turned out beautifully. And deliciously.
However, a plain chocolate cake does not a pretty picture make, so it turned into a whole saga of how to decorate a chocolate cake when you have no icing sugar. Well, I had a half bag of frozen mixed fruits, so I made myself a very simple (and tasty) fruit glaze.
But the pictures were awful. They came out terribly dark and the sauce was the same colour as the cake. (Alas, that's what happens when your mixed fruit is really just a bag of frozen blueberries with a few strawberries and some peach slices thrown in as an afterthought.) So I threw out almost a quarter of the cake (from wasted photo attempts) and put the rest away and bought myself some chocolate icing today. (The icing is probably not vegan. I didn't look, but I don't really care because I'm not vegan anyway.)
I didn't really want to ice the cake because I didn't want the sweetness that icing invariably adds, but it does make for a better picture - there's some contrast in the colour, at least - and it was cheaper than a bag of icing sugar.
Anyway, now that it's all iced, it's sitting in the fridge waiting for someone to eat it, but since I'm the only chocolate eater in the house, it'll probably get tossed before it's done. Still... that's the easiest scratch cake I've ever made in my life, and it came out better than pretty much any cake I've tried to make. So I'm pretty impressed with my single bout with vegan baking. Who knew it'd be so easy to make a good cake without using any eggs?
14 January 2008
13 January 2008
I'm glad I had cucumber and tomato in the fridge to add a little colour to the plate though. If I'd had a red chili, I'd have sliced that up to sprinkle on top to help things out as well. I'm not sure that using a black bowl was the brightest idea - I never quite like how the food looks against it and can never decide where to take the picture, on my usual black coffee table (where you can't distinguish between plate and table) or on the red tablecloth covered table (which throws off the colour of the food on the plate) - but it's probably a much better idea than my favourite white plate. The gold on white would have probably been worse.
Don't get me wrong though, this is delicious. Coming from a position of someone who loves cooked cabbage, of course, but there isn't a real taste of cabbage so much as the chili-garlic sauce that gives it its kick. And the salty crunch of peanuts. I'm glad there are leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
12 January 2008
This was good, and ridiculously easy. It's basically just steamed Chinese noodles that've been fried in a bit of oil until it holds its shape, with boy choy that's been stir-fried with garlic, ginger, and a sauce made of hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, water and black pepper.
I'm going to be cooking mostly vegetarian foods most of the week, for no real reason except that I started flipping through a vegetarian cookbook and marked a ton of things to make. The book, which I've recently posted a recipe out of - A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen - is one of those loosely vegetarian books. He cooks with butter and tons of eggs and all kinds of dairy. So really he's not vegetarian so much as he doesn't seem to eat the flesh of animals.
Anyway, this particular recipe is delicious. I don't think I've ever used Hoisin Sauce before, so I wasn't sure what sort of flavour to expect. A little sweeter than I imagined, but good.
08 January 2008
I've made this chicken before, though this time I had to use chipotle chili powder (as we tossed the plain chili powder), which changed the flavour in a subtle, but very nice way. It was quite smoky this time, and though I was worried it wouldn't be as good, I think it came out pretty well.
For Christmas this year my mom picked up some strange Victorian Epicure spices for my sister and I. One of the ones she got for me was a Harissa blend (it comes with instructions on making the paste that most recipes seem to use). I don't really have too many ideas about how to use such a thing, but fortunately my mom asked for some recipes. The quinoa recipe is one that she got by way of a VE salesperson up in Yukon or NWT. I didn't really follow the recipe, but it gave me the bones of what ended up on the plate. It was quite tasty, really.
The leftovers of the chicken are going to be diced up and mixed into part of the leftover quinoa for lunch tomorrow. Yum.
07 January 2008
Most of the recipes I looked at wanted me to blend everything, but I don't have an immersion blender, and pouring it all into a blender was too much hassle for me. So I didn't follow a recipe and came up with this on the fly. I sautéed carrots, onion and celery, then added garlic, a whole lot of herbs, the beans, diced ham, chicken stock, and the tomatoes. Usually I like recipes because then if it tastes funny, I have someone to blame other than myself, but this came out really well, so it's all good. (I wish I'd had a can of crushed tomatoes to use rather than diced, though.)
I really wish I could figure out the trick to plating and photographing soup. I suppose I could help myself out a fair bit by not traipsing around the house sloshing the soup around the bowl (so I wouldn't get the gross looking rim of soup scum). And I shouldn't have shot something with so much red in it against the red tablecloth.
1/4 cup chopped pecans
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
1medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed in a fine strainer under cold running water
3 cups water
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the pecans in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the nuts, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Set aside on a plate.
2. Add the oil to the empty pan, raise the heat to medium-high, and heat briefly. Add the onions and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and ginger and stir-cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the quinoa and stir-cook until toasted, about 1 minute.
3. Carefully add the water to the pan - it will sputter - and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the parsley and toasted pecans and adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
This makes 3-4 main course servings. I didn't find that the onions caramelize particularly well in this cooking time, so you might need to add a bit more time for that to happen.
The cookbook this recipe is from is one of my favourites - there's such a wealth of information in it, aside from the recipes themselves, which have all (that I've tried...) been delicious. It's a massive book, making it a bit unwieldy for actually using, but every time I flip through it, I find something else I want to make.
06 January 2008
On Thursday I made the ginger pork, just because I didn't want the meat to go to waste, but I couldn't taste anything and it hurt to swallow, so I wound up throwing it out. Friday, fortunately, I felt a fair bit better, so I decided to make the meatloaf. We always go out for dinner on Fridays, though, and I decided to make burgers instead as they'd cook faster and I didn't want to be stuck with food in the oven when my sister and brother-in-law wanted to leave.
I had to cut one apart to be sure they were cooked since our meat thermometre seems determined not to read anything above 100F, so I took a bite of that cut one that day. And oh my god, so good. Both pictures since have been microwave reheated, which is not my favourite thing to do to meat, but these burgers were so moist and juicy that even the microwave couldn't sap the goodness out of them.
So this recipe is kind of a hack job, taking parts of a meatloaf recipe from Sandi Richard's The Dinner Fix and adapting parts of a chicken recipe from YOU: On a Diet. Richard likes to cook with jams and chutneys and things like that, but I can't and won't buy one of every flavour of jam out there just so that when her recipe asks for plum sauce mixed with peach jam I'll be set. So I decided to use the topping from this chicken recipe. It was a smart move, I think.
8 dried apricots
1 tbsp + 1tsp olive oil
2 tbsp white wine
1/4 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon
Chop up the apricots and shallots, making them fairly fine. Add ingredients to a hot frying pan and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has cooked away. Set aside. If you want, you can process or blend the mixture until smooth, or just leave it chunky as in the picture. (I processed it when I used it as a chicken topper.)
I didn't have white wine, so I used a tiny little splash of white wine vinegar and 2 tbsp of water. I don't know what difference that makes for the recipe, but it would probably be better with the wine. It uses a lot of oil, which comes directly from YOU, and I considered using less, but I used it all anyway because I thought it maybe helps keep the burger moist. A fair bit of the oil cooked off in the oven, and it doesn't taste or feel oily, so I don't think it hurts to use it all.
Burgers or Meatloaf
1 lb extra lean ground beef
salt, fresh ground black pepper
1/4 c fine breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp Madras curry paste (I used Patak's brand, which is quite spicy, but I imagine you could use whatever type and brand of curry paste you like or already have; the recipe asks for Tandoori curry paste, but I had Madras, so that's what I used.)
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Shape into a long flat meatloaf or into four burgers. Place on a baking sheet. Top with apricot topping. Bake in a 350F oven until cooked through. It's done when a thermometre reads 180F. (My burgers took about 25 minutes, but we've an oven liner in the oven at the moment that seems to add to the cooking time. Though it does keep the oven clean. The recipe, which is for a 2-lb meatloaf, says it requires a 50 minute cooking time.)
My burgers were moist and juicy and delicious. A little bit spicy and a little bit sweet and just really good.
05 January 2008
I'll post a bit more about it, and a recipe, tomorrow. Because it's that good and if anyone ever tries anything I've put up here, I hope they'd try that.
01 January 2008
It pushed me to try harder. In the kitchen, I mean. I love cooking, but a lot of the time I found cooking for one a little bit overwhelming. I don't like or want to eat leftovers for three days after making anything... but so many cookbooks are designed for 4-6 serving recipes.
What I've discovered is that it is a lot easier to cut recipes down for one than you'd expect. I've maybe just gotten good at it, but I can tell now when and where I need to adjust amounts. I've figured out what things don't adjust well. I've learned a lot about what can be frozen. I've discovered that I eat more healthy more often when I change things up a lot.
I have a tendency to fall into ruts when I get tired of cooking - I used to eat toast for dinner for a week straight, sometimes - but one of the rules I had for myself is that I'd not post duplicate pictures. (I've broken that rule a couple times when I've changed things or much preferred the later photo.) Not posting duplicates meant that if I wanted to keep up a fairly steady posting schedule, then I had to keep trying new things. And trying new things makes it much harder to fall into a rut because there's always some new plan coming up.
Anyway, I didn't really want to post some long year in review type thing and now I've gone and done it.
So, the food.
This recipe is one that I found on another food blog, Culinography. (Her picture is much prettier than mine - see here.) I've been craving carbs a lot lately - my last four picture-worthy meals have been pasta dishes, and for lunch today I had a sandwich - and today I'm not feeling especially great, so this recipe was perfect for me. Quick, easy, and a little bit carby.
I think my carb craving is maybe something to do with winter (or something to do with having eaten so many of them over the Christmas holidays and now I just don't want to go back to my usual light-on-the-carbs diet) and this was a bit too light to be a good solid winter dish. But that's probably a good thing, since I need/want to put the kibosh on eating heavy foods for a while anyway. (I shall promptly follow up that statement with a dinner of meat and potatoes later on this week. But never mind that.)