30 April 2008

Chicken in Cream Sauce with Whole Wheat Spaghetti and a Salad

A while back I was cooking my way through a cookbook called... i think Fixing Dinner, which is about family meal planning and that sort of thing. Which, whatever, but I was interested in the recipes. I kind of went off track and got distracted by other things, but this is one of the recipes I hadn't tried yet.

I had planned to cook something from a Gordon Ramsay cookbook, but I took out chicken by mistake, rather than pork, so I needed to find something else, and this was something I had all the ingredients for. It was really quite easy to cook this, which is part of the point of Sandi Richard's book, and it tasted very good.

And I'm sort of falling asleep here, so I'm going to be off to bed, rather than taking time to think of more to say.

Fried Fish with Roasted Potatoes and Green Peas

This is a couple days old now, but I think I didn't post it in favour of going to bed and then I just never got around to it the next day. I also didn't really get around to eating it.

Well, that's not quite true. I did try eating it, but I didn't like the fish very much. It was somehow watery tasting, and the texture was sort of watery as well. Damp, almost, like eating flaky jello. So maybe I prefer firmer fish, or something. I don't know. Anyway, I wound up throwing away the fish after a few bites.

The potatoes were nice, if very basic - just parboiled, then roasted with fresh rosemary and garlic. And the peas, which were meant to be mashed, were heated with a little white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper.

The three recipes came from a cookbook I picked up a little while ago, Fast Food by Gordon Ramsay. When I was at the grocery store, I couldn't remember what sort of fish I needed for the recipe, so I picked up sole because it looked nice and it was cheap, but the recipe does suggest something else... cod or haddock, I think, so I do think I'll try it again someday with a different type of fish. With any luck, I'll like it better.

27 April 2008

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Fingerling Potatoes and Russian Salad

This isn't the best photo of this (though it's better than the last one I took almost a year ago) but beef and mushroom stew is one of the best things I cook. Yum. I wish I could remember where I found the recipe, because I've been working off a much reduced version of it and I know I don't do all the steps or use all the ingredients and someday I'd like to try it as it's meant to be. At any rate, it's very good.

These were the first fingerling potatoes I've ever bought, but I'm not much impressed. I had to peel most of them because they were a bit green skinned. But that's not the potatoes' fault. I blame President's Choice. (And why, anyway, is there a brand name on my potatoes?)

26 April 2008

Spinach and Feta Turkey Sausage with Potatoes and Corn

So... first dinner in the new house. Or first dinner cooked by me in the new house. My brother in law made a couple things I'd have liked to photograph but didn't because the camera was packed. It's a bit too bad this wasn't something nicer looking or more interesting than a sausage and potatoes, but it's a Saturday night and I'm gearing up for a long night at work, so more effort than that is not something I wanted to expend.

So, the sausage is maybe the last stop on my previously never ending quest to find a healthy sausage. I think, by definition, sausages are nasty. Mostly made of the fatty, leftover bits of "meat" and then spiced so you don't realize you're eating the second most garbagey of the garbagey bits (hot dogs being last stop, I'm convinced).

This sausage, and I've thrown out the packaging a couple days ago so I can't check the brand name, clocks in a low 110 calories with... I think it was 4 or 5 grams of fat. Which tells me that either they're lying - and Canadian law allows for something like a 20% margin of error in nutritional tables, so who knows - or that they're actually made of the good bits. (Which would explain the price. Which wasn't exorbitant, but higher than average, I think.) A point in favour of my guess that they're made of the good bits is that even when I pierced it, very little fatty liquid came out. They weren't dry, but not nearly so oily as you'd normally expect.

It was a different sort of taste, good, but not quite what I imagined. I'm not sure what I imagined, but I didn't get any flavour of feta at all and the spinach was only a mild presence. It'll be a while before these are gone (since it was quite a large package and I really don't eat sausage all that often) but I think I'll definitely buy these again in the future.

The rest is pretty standard. I microwaved the corn, because I didn't want to dirty another pot, and the potatoes are just boiled and then dressed with a little butter and herbes de provence, which was probably not the best way to use the herb mix, but I only recently bought it and wanted to see what it would taste like against something without much flavour. It was nice.

17 April 2008

Montreal Smoked Meat with Mustard Cream Cheese on Foccacia

Okay, one last picture before I move. This is my new favourite sandwich that I've been making and taking to work all week for lunch.

Basically, you mash a bit of whole grain mustard and ground pepper into (low fat!) cream cheese for the base. Then Montreal Smoked meat or pastrami. Then pickles. It would have something green and leafy, but I didn't want to buy any more food before moving, so I've been doing (happily) without.


The idea for this came from a new cookbook I picked up recently, Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food. (I forget what parts of his recipe I didn't use. He definitely uses pastrami and I think he uses arugula or something similar as the greens. At any rate, if I get nothing else from the cookbook, this sandwich is worth it. (Well, maybe not worth twenty-odd dollars, but pretty close.)

This isn't a terribly nice looking picture - I didn't even pick the sandwich up off the cutting board and it's all messy looking and I just kind of folded the meat to show the cream cheese and folded the meat to make it look more... meaty (since I'm pretty chintzy with meat on sandwiches; I don't like a big layer of the stuff) and yes. It's not pretty, but it is tasty.

15 April 2008

Cucumber-Cream Cheese Foccacia Sandwich

This is probably the last thing I'll post for the next week or so, until we're moved and settled into the new house. It feels a bit boring for a last post before a big change, but I had exactly that much energy in me for cooking tonight. (In other words, no energy at all, but couldn't quite justify take out or fast food.)

I used to make cucumber and cream cheese wraps all the time, sometimes with tomato and sometimes without, but I never really tried it on a sandwich like this. I made it a bit more like a Greek salad this time, with the red onion, and probably that would be pretty fantastic with Feta in place of the cream cheese, though I'd need to drizzle it with a little oil and vinegar so that it wouldn't be too dry. (But not too soggy, either.)

Anyway, it was really good, if a bit light for a dinner.

13 April 2008

Chili with Cheese

This is a very pointless post because I'm only updating to point out my pretty new dishes. I haven't been letting myself look too closely at anything anywhere in a while because I always want to buy the plates and bowls that catch my eye, but I don't really need them. I fell in love with the colour of these, though, so I had to have them.

The chili itself was only so-so. I don't understand what went wrong with it, but you couldn't even taste the chili powder or cayenne or hot sauce or cumin or anything else that I put into it. You could feel a tiny hit of heat on your tongue, but it just was like bland tomato sauce on beef. I really hope the leftovers tomorrow will have some flavour, but I'm not holding out hope just now.

12 April 2008

Pork and Sweet Potato with Spicy Orange-Thyme Sauce

I've been sitting here for a couple minutes trying to decide what to say about this one, but I haven't really got any ideas in particular. It's a recipe that I tore out of some magazine or other - I don't remember which, but I found it in a stack of papers when I was doing some packing today. How convenient that I had pork and a lonely, aging (but still usable and tasty) organic garnet yam in the cupboard.

The sauce, which wasn't so much a sauce as just... something to cook the potatoes in and that I reduced until it was just a sticky mess on the bottom of the pan, was a bit too sweet for my tastes, so I think if I try this again, which I think I will, I'll have to try it with something else in place of the orange juice. I don't know if it needs that sweetness at all, so maybe I could do it with just chicken stock, but then the orange flavour wouldn't be there. Or maybe I can just reduce the amount of orange juice as compared to water in the recipe. (It uses equal parts of both.)

Anyway, it wasn't as spicy as I'd hoped, so I think I could add a bit more zing to the recipe as well, and maybe that might help to cut a bit of the sweetness. My brother in law thought maybe serving it with something like asparagus would help, so that the slight bitterness of the vegetable would help pull it back.

Tasty, though, so I think I'll try to make this again and see how it goes.

09 April 2008

Spicy Chicken on Rice Pilaf with Edamame and Tomato

A week or so ago I picked up a new magazine (well, the second edition of) called Clean Eating. It's mainly full of recipes, with a handful of articles about health and healthy living. And the rice and chicken recipes came from it. Both were good but not spectacular. I could eat both again, but wouldn't likely go out of my way to make them.

I do like the idea of the chicken - it's sort of marinated in a dressing made of low fat plain yogurt with spices, but since it didn't get time to sit in the mixture, the flavour didn't travel beyond the surface of the chicken. And too, it only had chili powder and garlic in it (and lime juice). The lime juice was nice, but it was a bit... boring. I think most people could come up with a more interesting flavour mix with a well-stocked spice rack and a blindfold on than that.

The rice.. it didn't really taste of anything. It had cumin and oregano in it, but it just sort of tasted like damp brown rice. I wouldn't mind to try it again, but... differently. I think I'd use a different method to cook the rice, and then separately sauté the onions with the spices and stir them in after. Not quite the same, but it might work better (for me)

07 April 2008

Roasted Tomato Pizza with Garlicky White Bean Puree

Another pizza experiment, and my final one at least until I've moved. (Not buying anything that'll have to get chucked in the freezer; we're trying to use things up, rather than add to them.) This isn't at all the pizza I'd planned to make with my last pizza shell - it was going to have roasted zucchini and eggplant and bell peppers and mushroom and onion and feta cheese on it. But I used up all my feta cheese yesterday with that Greek salad, so I had to change plans.

I decided to do a version of this salad instead, just without the artichokes and olives. I had already packed the cookbook, though, so I had to figure out a way to translate the concept without even the recipe as a reference.

So I came up with the idea of a bean puree as the base. I didn't want it to be too blandly beany, so I heated the beans in a bit of oil with a lot of garlic, (dried) basil, salt and pepper, then mashed them up with a potato masher and used them in place of a sauce. The tomatoes were roasted with oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. I peeled off the skins when I put them on the pizza, so they wouldn't hold their form so strongly (those little tomatoes had strong, thick skins).

I was going to do it as a cheese-free pizza, with an egg cracked over the centre and baked on (to reference the hard-boiled eggs from the salad), but I chickened out and just used a bit of mozzarella cheese instead.

It was really tasty. The taste of the garlic was quite strong in the puree, and I really liked the texture of the soft mashed beans. The tomatoes were exquisite. But I should have learned from my last go around with bean puree on pizza that it doesn't look nice once it cooks. The edges dry out so much.

Maybe if I try it again, I should pre-cook the pizza shell with a bit of olive oil or something, or a sauce (though I really wanted to use the beans in place of a sauce), then pile the hot bean puree on top, add the rest of the ingredients and only just give it a quick few minutes under the broiler to melt and brown the cheese.

06 April 2008

Roast Beast with Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Carrots and Two-Dollar Tomatoes

Yum. We've been doing a lot of family dinners lately - every Sunday, as part of the Empty-the-Freezer quest - and it's been quite nice having a big proper dinner together. (We're running low on roasts, finally, as we've now only got two left, one pork roast and another beef roast.)

This was a pretty simple roast. The recipe book called it 5 Minute Roast, by which they mean the prep part takes less than five minutes. My sister did most of that, but I'd guess that was about all the time we put into it before putting it into the oven. It maybe came out a touch dry - the thermometer wasn't registering properly. (It was reading 85 degrees, but you can see plainly that it's well done, and so should have read nearer to 160.) But it tasted very good and with a little of the juices spooned over top, it didn't seem dry at all.

That's some more of my delicious tomato. I was going to eat it with some mozzarella slices, but the cheese smelled like it had gone off, so I chucked it. Alas. Anyway, that tomato is so good that it was maybe nearly a crime to have doctored it with salt and pepper.

Question, though: what turns mashed potatoes into a gluey paste? The last two times my brother-in-law has made them, they've come out with the most bizarre texture.

Greek Salad

This is a pretty standard thing, just tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, goat feta and a homemade dressing. But it looked and tasted phenomenal. I could eat that every day. But only with tomatoes that good.

This is the dressing I made:

1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
a splash of white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and black pepper, to taste (go easy on the salt if you are using it with feta, since it's so salty on its own)
1/4-1/2 tsp dried oregano (it's nicer fresh, but I always wind up throwing out most of the package, so I don't buy it often)
1/4 tsp dried thyme

Whisk all the ingredients together until it emulsifies. It should look almost creamy, with the flavouring bits suspended in the dressing. If you let it sit - which really improves the flavour by making the garlic punch through, but isn't necessary - you'll need to whisk it again before you put it over the salad. Taste to check the proportions before using it - you might like more olive oil than I've used. (I think most recipes use something closer to a 2:1 or 2.5:1 proportion of oil to vinegar, but I prefer a really lemony taste.)

This makes, I guess, about 3 tbsp dressing, which is more than enough for one huge dinner sized salad (like the one in my picture). That huge salad is comprised of about 1 large tomato (it's a 1/4 of a big tomato plus 3 or 4 cocktail size tomatoes), 1/2 an English cucumber, 1/4 red onion, 1.5 oz (~45g) goat feta. There was about 1 tbsp of dressing leftover on the plate.

Anyway, I was a bit surprised to find these tomatoes at the grocery store yesterday. They always get hothouse tomatoes (which these are, but they're also local to Alberta) but usually only the standard varieties - grape and cherry, cocktail, mid-sized on the vine, and the regular large round tomatoes. These ones were interesting enough (and smelled good enough) that I had to buy them. (Even though that one single big tomato cost me $2 on its own. The tub of Sweet Zebrinos only cost 90c though.)

They still smelled like they were just plucked off the plants today. So. Good.

04 April 2008

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

As a part of my Empty-the-Freezer quest, I finally decided to use up some of a Mediterranean vegetable mix that I've had sitting around for quite a long time. I didn't really have any specific ideas about how to use the vegetables, but came up with an idea over the last few days for a pasta salad with tuna in it and lemon. It tasted quite good, but it was a little dry, so I think I need to work on it a bit more to get it to work out a little better.

I was really impressed with the taste of the goat's milk feta. I'd never tried it before and I was worried about how pungent and goaty it would be, but it really is quite mild compared to Chèvre, which I'm not always a huge fan of. I'm so used to cow's milk feta, but this had a much more delicate and light flavour, and it wasn't over-powered by the salty brine.

At any rate, this was (for me) a really interesting take on pasta salad, since the one I grew up on was more... pasta with ham and celery and mayo and surely other things I've forgotten. There was a lightness and freshness to the flavour that I really enjoyed, though I do need to tweak the sauce to be... more saucy.

01 April 2008

Souffléd Cheese Omelette

Another recipe from my favourite vegetarian cookbook, Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. According to the book, it's a sort of combination frittata and soufflé, which seems to be a pretty good description except that it can't support the weight of the things that are normally packed into a frittata - this just contains cheese and some ground black and red pepper. It was meant to have blue cheese in it, but I don't really like that, so I used a shredded blend I already had in the fridge - cheddar and Monterey jack with jalapeño and tomato.

It was delicious and fluffy and light and cheesy and wonderful.

If I'd been a touch less lazy, I'd have made a salad to go along with it, which would have been nice for the picture. But I was that lazy.