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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

For Your Information

Please watch this area for important information like updates, food recalls, polls, contests, coupons, and freebies.
  • [January 15, 2016] - It's National Soup Month so this month's posts will focus on soups. Yum!
  • [February 1, 2016] - An interesting report on why you should always choose organic tea verses non-organic: Toxic Tea (pdf format)
  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Catching Up from Chrismas

One of the best parts about Christmas aside of family is the wonderful abundance of food. It is everywhere! There's all kinds of foods that only seem to come out at holidays. I've done minimal cooking yet am surrounded by an excess of food so needed to preserve. At the same time I wanted a couple of lighter dishes because a lot of the holiday meals this time of year are rich and heavy.

Kibby

One of our Christmas traditions is kibby. Traditionally this is made with lamb but our family makes it with thrice ground extra lean ground steak. The meat is always fresh ground the day of making it. This is very important because the majority of it is eaten raw usually served in pita bread with a little olive oil and cumin. Making kibby is more of a knack so I don't have an actual recipe. It is passed down from mother to daughter or daughter-in-law in our family. I used 5 lb of meat to make the kibby this year. The following evening I baked it as kibby will not keep longer than a day. Because it is so lean I pour a bit of olive oil over the meat before baking. After baking I let the meat cool then slice thin and freeze.

Vacuum Sealed

Our traditional meat for Christmas dinner is turkey with all the fixings. This year's turkey was 22 pounds served with stuffing, gravy, fancy mashed potatoes, home canned green beans and home frozen corn nibblets. I didn't make an official dessert because there were so many cookies and sweets already out on trays. Despite nine for that meal there were a lot of left-overs. I left enough out for snacking and dinner the following day then packaged up the rest for the freezer. I ended up with a good sized turkey breast (1), turkey in gravy (2) and turkey slices (3) so that isn't too bad. I also vacuum sealed the kibby slices (4). Vacuum sealing is really the way to go but if you've been reading this blog you already know that.

Turkey Stock

Turkey stock is a given anytime I roast a turkey. Again I don't have an actual recipe.

[Method] What I do is put the carcass in a large stock pot then cover with water. I add a couple of carrots and celery stocks cut into large chunks along with a large unpeeled onion cut in half. Then I bring it to a boil and reduce to simmer for about 3 hours. The resulting is then either canned or froze.

This turkey stock batch resulted in 9 L of stock. Doing the math that works out to 15 cents per litre so to all those who ask if cooking from scratch or canning is worth it, my cost says definitely. Homemade also can be salt and preservative free so you end up with a better quality product. Now, many foods look wonderful in the jar but most stocks aren't. There will be a bit of a fat layer and more of one if you don't defat. However by carefully pouring the stock you can eliminate any of this fat.

Garlic Pasta with Shrimp

I've been doing rather simple meals to break up the monotony of turkey. I've posted how I make garlic pasta with shrimp before. This time I took advantage of extra shrimp on hand for the holidays. So the shrimp was larger but the effect was the same. Garnished with Parmigiano Reggiano and parsley flakes and served with a tossed salad it was a delightful change from some of the heavier holiday meals.

What I did differently this time was to purposely cook and season enough angle hair pasta for left-overs for the following night's meal. Purposely creating left-overs sounds different but I do this quite a bit because the planned left-overs give me a basis another meal. To me this simply makes good sense.

Spaghetti Pie

Spaghetti pie is oh so simple to make! All you need is left-over spaghetti or in my case angel hair pasta and something to fill it with. Basically you end up making the pasta into a crust. Cut into wedges for a lovely presentation. I used garlic buttered pasta for this pie but you could plain pasta. A bit of butter will help.

The end result is a wonderful dish that is served in wedges. I used home canned barbeque pork topping home canned green beans. Then I topped with home canned mushrooms and three cheeses. This really is a simple meal that just doesn't taste simple.

Method: Beat two eggs and blend into the pasta. Form the pasta into a nest coming up the sides of a round baking dish. Fill as desired (see above). Bake then cut into wedges and enjoy.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gingerbread Spritz Cookies & Glazed Chicken

I decided to finish up my Christmas cookie baking today as I will have little time tomorrow. The two most requested cookies for Christmas are shortbread and peanut butter which suits me just fine. So I start off with a few fancier cookies for entertaining and finish off with the shortbread and peanut butter signaling the end to my holiday cookie baking.

I made a batch each of Classic and Gingerbread Spritz cookies this morning. This afternoon I made large batches (10 dozen each) of shortbread and peanut butter cookies. What really helps when making larger batches is my KitchenAid® stand mixer. Don't get me wrong as it makes short work of smaller batches but I really appreciate how well the KitchenAid® stand mixer works for larger batches.

Gingerbread Spritz Cookies

A cookie press is ideal for making several dozen cookies in a short amount of time. If you haven't tried a cookie press you will be pleasantly surprised. They are easy to use and practically fool proof. The smaller yet nicely shaped cookies are a delight.

Now if I made gingerbread cookies my family would make the expected ohs and ahs then ask for peanut butter cookies. However, gingerbread is a Christmas tradition so I make gingerbread and gingerbread spritz cookies. Our family enjoys both and I'm sure you will too.

Gingerbread Spritz Cookies
source: Manual for Wilton Cookie Master™ Plus, downloaded from http://www.wilton.com

1 c butter, softened
⅔ c dark brown sugar
1 egg
3 c unbleached flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 375°F (350°F convection). Cream butter, egg and sugar using KitchenAid® stand mixer on setting 6. Stir together flour, salt and spices in separate bowl. Gradually
add to creamed mixture, mixing on setting 4 to make smooth dough. Do not chill. Shape dough into small logs and place in Cookie Max™. Using desired disk, press shapes onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned around edges; remove cookies from
sheet. Cool on rack.
Makes 6-7 dozen cookies

My Notes: The gingerbread spritz dough is a bit stiffer than the classic dough so expect a bit more resistance when pressing the cookies. The resulting cookies are not quite as spicy as other gingerbread cookies.

Glazed Chicken

During the busy holiday season I like to keep the meals rather simple. This past week boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale so we took advantage of that. Last night's dinner was a very simple and frugal meal made under 30 minutes. I served the chicken with home canned green beans and baked potatoes topped with a little butter and chopped parsley.

Method: Place 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a medium hot pan. Sear on both sides. Season with lemon pepper or seasoning of your choice. Continue cooking 5 minutes on medium. Pour in 1½ c chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking at a simmer 10 minutes. Add a good dash of Worcestershire sauce and about 1/2 tsp browning. Mix a cornstarch slurry. Slowly pour into the liquid in the pan and cook just until thickened. Stir the chicken to coat with the glaze. There will not be a lot of glaze, just enough to give a nice coating with a little extra.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Divinity aka Pink Clouds

Of all the holidays, cookies and candies seem to be in high demand. They are great for gift giving and holiday entertaining. It not like I don't make cookies though out the year but for Christmas, I tend to go all out with familiar family favourites as well as new recipes. However, the Christmas season is the main candy making time for me.

Pink Clouds

Divinity is a lovely, melt in your mouth treat. I've made it many times. This was the first time I used the KitchenAid® stand mixer to make divinity. I turned my attention away from the mixer for one second so ended up with a slightly thicker mixture but the candy still tastes great so I've named them pink clouds. One of our kids who is my official taste tester this season has given them the seal of approval.

Divinity (Pink Clouds)
source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies, 1972. Pp. 79.
modified: by author

2½ c granulated sugar
½ c light corn syrup
½ c water
¼ tsp salt
2 egg whites
1 tsp pure white vanilla
1/2 c chopped nut (optional)
food colouring (optional)

Cook the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt to hard-ball stage (260ºF) stirring only until the sugar dissolves. When the temperature reaches 250ºF, beat 2 egg whites until stiff peaks form on setting 8 of KitchenAid® stand mixer. When the syrup reaches 260ºF, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream. Continue whisking on setting 8 for 1 minute. Add vanilla and food colour. Reduce to setting 4 for 20 minutes (KitchenAid® manual) [my note: This is too long! It really only took about 5 minutes as per original recipe]. Stir in nuts if desired. Drop candy mixture onto wax paper. Swirl top.
Makes 40

My notes: Even though this candy works well if over beat, ideally you want to beat just to the point where the candy loses it's sheen not dry as the KitchenAid® manual indicates. Then work quickly to form the candy.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Orange & Cranberry Jellies, Shortbread Cookies, Parmesan Chicken

The kitchen continues to be a busy place, filling the house with mouthwatering, tantalizing smells. I've been busy making holiday treats for the upcoming entertaining as well as gift giving. You would think with all the canning I do that I could take a couple of weeks off during the holidays. I could and I have but sometimes the spirit just moves me. So it is this year.

Orange and Cranberry Jellies

Homemade jams and jellies are ideal gifts from the heart, sure to please. Yesterday I made orange and cranberry jellies. Both of these jellies are used as condiments. The orange jelly goes nicely with whitefish, cod and haddock while cranberry jelly pairs with poultry. Both jellies can also be used as glazes by themselves or in combination with other ingredients.

Jelly making is quite easy and can be done year round using either homemade or purchased juices. What causes the jelly to gel is pectin. Many are familiar with pectins such as Certo® which relies on sugar to gel. This tends to make jellies almost too sweet to be used as condiments. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin that relies on calcium instead of sugar to gel. This means considerably less sugar or alternate sweetener is needed. In fact jams and jellies can be made with no sugar using this pectin! Pomona's Pectin can be ordered online from their website as well as purchased in some health food stores. Don't let the price scare you as per batch this pectin works out to be a lot cheaper than other pectins and it keeps indefinitely. This combined with the reduced amount of sugar used make the end product less expensive than jellies made with other pectins. The nice thing about using this pectin is you can easily create your own recipes. The basic directions and recipes can be found on Pomona's website. My recipes and method follow.

Cranberry Jelly

4 c prepared cranberry juice
4 tbsp lemon juice*
1 c sugar
4 tsp Pomona's pectin
4 tsp calcium water

Orange Jelly

3 1/2 c prepared orange juice with pulp
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 1/2 tsp Pomona's pectin
3/4 c sugar (can substitute ½ c honey)
3 1/2 tsp calcium water

Method:
Measure prepared juice into a large saucepan. Add lemon juice (optional for both) and calcium water. Stir well. Measure sugar or cold honey into a bowl then thoroughly mix the proper amount of pectin powder into the sugar or honey. Bring the juice to a boil. Add the pectin-honey or pectin-sugar and stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes or until the pectin is dissolved. Return to a boil and remove from heat. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe the rims. Adjust 2 piece lids. Process in boiling water bath 5 minutes. Let jars cool. Check for seal. Label and store.

Note: The pectin does not fully gel until the jelly in completely cooled.

*Lemon juice is required for low acid juices and fruits. I used it to increase the tartness a little.

Wilton Push 'n Print

The vast majority of the cookies I make are not decorated. They are simply cookies usually peanut butter or shortbread. Fancier cookies are sugar or spritz. I tend to avoid rolled cookies not because I can't make them just because they always seem like more work even though they aren't and because I don't care for the icing and decorating. Well, grandmas are supposed to make neat cookies with decorations and icing so I'm biting the bullet.

I found this rather interesting gadget from Wilton. Their products are quite lovely to work with so I bought it figuring I could have decorated cookies without all the extra sweet of icing. I also thought they would make very interesting cookies for ice cream sandwiches. Basically the ring cuts the round cookie shape then you press down on the plunger which presses a design into the cookie. It's dishwasher safe, easy to use and inexpensive.

Shortbread Cookies

I have a favourite shortbread cookie recipe that I've used for years. It takes three ingredients only (click shortbread link above). The Push 'n Print came with a shortbread recipe so I decided to try it instead.

This recipe looked a lot different and I have to admit being doubtful over using egg yolks. The dough was almost finicky to work with but that is to be expected with any high butter dough. The Push 'n Print was very easy to use and as you can see resulted in nicely decorated cookies. One of my kids thinks I should still add icing but I'll do a batch of sugar cookies with icing instead. The cookies pair nicely with Tim Hortons® English Toffee Coffee!

Shortbread Cookies
source: Wilton Push 'n Print insert, modified method by author

1 ½ c softened butter
1 c granulated sugar
½ tsp salt
6 egg yolks
2 tsp pure white vanilla extract
4 c unbleached flour

Cream butter, sugar and salt in KitchenAid® stand mixer setting 3. Mix in eggs and vanilla on setting 3. Mix in flour. [Wilton says to divide dough in half then refrigerate at least 2 hours. I omitted this step which is likely why the dough was a little harder to handle.] Preheat oven to 350ºF convection (177ºC convection). Roll dough ¼ inch thick. Cut dough then with cutting still in place press the plunger to imprint. Carefully transfer cookies to an ungreased cookie sheet leaving 1 inch in between. Bake 14 to 16 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and cool completely.
Yield: about 2 doz [My yield was 3 dozen.]

Parmesan Chicken

The kitchen is a whirlwind of activity this time of year and more so as holiday activities draw closer. We have parties and entertaining every day Dec. 22 to 26 with us hosting three. That means cookies, candies, appetizers and meals so the kitchen is quite busy. This is where simple easy to prepare meals come in handy but that doesn't mean they have to be boring.

Sunday's dinner was baked Parmesan chicken in roasted tomato sauce (home canned) served with hot buttered egg noodles and salad. [I apologize for the glare on the picture. These are my new plates and are proving a tad difficult to get good pictures without a glare. I'm working on it!] Prep time for this meal was minimal.

Method: Sear 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a hot fry pan. Place into a baking dish. Sprinkle with ½ chopped small onion. Pour a 500 ml (2 c) jar of roasted tomato sauce or store bought sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle about grated 1/2 c Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bake at 350ºF (177ºC) 20 minutes or until sauce is bubbly. Cook egg noodles. Drain. Stir with butter. Sprinkle fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano on noodles. Garnish with parsley.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Buttery Peanut Brittle and Eye of Round Roast

The Christmas season is always filled with a wonderful assortment of foods! The tantalizing aromas of cookies baking wafts through the house. Bowls of oranges and nuts join the never empty fruit bowl. Jars of homemade candies are added to the pantry ready to refill the candy bowl as needed.

Buttery Peanut Brittle

Homemade candy is perfect for gift giving. Buttery peanut brittle is a Christmas favourite. I seldom make it any other time of the year. The rich, buttery candy is sure to please. It's very easy to make too so be sure to make a lot.

Buttery Peanut Brittle
2 c granulated sugar
1 c light corn syrup
½ c water
1 c butter
2 c roasted peanuts
1 tsp baking soda

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large sauce pan. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. When the syrup boils, stir in the butter. Stir frequently after the mixture reaches 230ºF (110ºC). Stir in the nuts when the temperature reaches the soft crack stage (280ºF/138ºC). Stir constantly until the temperature reaches the hard crack stage (305ºF/152ºC). Remove from heat and quickly stir in the baking soda. Pour onto two cookie sheets. Allow to cool. Loosen from pans as soon as possible. Break into pieces. Store in an air tight container.
Yield: 2 ½ pounds.

Eye of Round Roast

Roast beef is the perfect cold weather meal! I slow roasted an eye of round roast topped with sliced onions, Worcestershire sauce and Diana sauce (original flavour) at 250ºF (120ºC) for 4 hours. I increased the temperature to 350ºF (177ºC) for the last 10 minutes of cooking. The result was a tender, medium rare, nicely browned roast (1). I served the roast with golden potatoes (2). Golden potatoes are rich and creamy while being low fat.

Method: Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into cubes. Wash and peel two large carrots. Cut into chunks. Combine potatoes, carrots, two cloves garlic and one half chopped onion. Bring to a boil and cook until vegetables are tender. Drain. Pour about 1 cup of defatted chicken stock. Mash to desired consistency.

The left-over roast beef was refrigerated over night then thinly sliced (3) and divided into three equal amounts. Two of the amounts were vacuum sealed for freezing (4) with the rest used for sandwiches.

Grilled Cheese & Roast Beef Sandwich

During the busy holiday season it is nice to rely on simpler meals as well. Roast beef slices between two slices of Ziggy's Internationale® medium cheddar cheese on 7 Grain bread then toasted makes for a tasty and quick meal. I don't actually grill these sandwiches. What I do is assemble them the butter the two outer sides then toast on each side on medium heat in a non-stick fry pan until golden brown and the cheese in melted. Actual cheese slices rather than American processed cheese gives a nicer result. Serve with a bowl of steamy, homemade tomato soup for a frugal, comforting winter meal.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Mini Cheesecake Delights

Christmas is fast approaching as is the birthday party we are hosting for grandbaby's first birthday. That means I'm depending on some tried and true appetizers/dessert type snacks as well as trying out a few new ones. At the same time I am relying on no fuss, comfort meals. I know everyone is looking for new Christmas treat ideas to try so the Mini Cheesecake Delights are presented first.

Mini Cheesecake Delights

I picked up a bag of Hershey's® New York Cheesecake Kisses for the Christmas candy dish. On the back of the package was a recipe I thought would do nicely for entertaining. These decedent little treats are simply a delight! There is a bit more to the recipe so plan a little extra time but trust me these mini cheesecakes

The recipe as printed on the package was not as clear as it should be. I've modified the instructions for clarity. I substituted vanilla sugar* for the granulated sugar. I used ½ c of butter instead of ¼ c butter and ¼ c shortening. Be sure to use pure vanilla extract. I also substituted the Hershey's® Special Dark Chocolate using Ghirardelli Chocolate instead.

Mini Cheesecakes Delights

dough:
½ c butter
½ c vanilla sugar
1 egg
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp Ghirardelli Chocolate
1 c unbleached flour
½ tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt

filling:
1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese
¼ c vanilla sugar
1 egg

garnish:
24 Hershey's® New York Cheesecake Kisses

Preheat oven to 350ºF (177ºC). Line mini (1¾ inch) muffin cups with paper liners. Beat the butter until fluffy using KitchenAid® stand mixer on setting 3. Beat in sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Blend into butter mixture gradually. Drop a heaping teaspoonful of the dough into each prepared muffin cup. Push the dough up the sides with the back of a spoon to form a crater. Proceed with the filling.

Beat the cream and sugar on setting 3. Beat in the egg, vanilla and salt. Fill the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheesecake is just set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Top each cheesecake with a Hershey's® New York Cheesecake Kisses

*vanilla sugar: Place one whole vanilla bean in a 500 ml (pint) mason jar. Cover with granulated white sugar


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tomato & Wild Rice Soup and Wonton Appetizers

Quite often people will ask what I do with all my home canned foods. For some of the foods, the use is fairly obvious but I think many are surprised by some of the more novel ways I use my preserves. One of my goals as a busy mom has always been to create home made convenience foods. These are canned, frozen or dried home made foods that are meant to help put quick but healthy meals on the table.

Tomato & Wild Rice Soup

Soup is always one of my first choices for a quick meal. I can up several jars of various soups that can be simply heated and served along with a few soups that are similar to commercial concentrated soups so need milk or water added. The concentrated soups are nice by themselves but are also nice with rice, noodles or barley added. These ingredients do not can well at home so are best left out then added later.

Tuesday I started with on 500 ml jar of tomato soup then added almost 500 ml of 2% milk and about 2 cups of left over organic wild rice mix. I warmed this to the boiling point on medium heat stirring often then reduced the heat and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes. A simple sprinkle of dried parsley served as the garnish. This was a nice, flavourful soup that used up left over rice. The basic tomato soup recipe is lovely and quite easy to make. If you don't can, do consider making a batch of this soup and freezing it. You certainly won't regret it!

Wonton Appetizers

We are hosting at least four larger events (more than 20 people) this month. That has left me with doing a bit of experimenting for appetizers. So I'm flipping through a magazine and came across wonton appetizers. Immediately I thought I could easily use any filling I wanted and the wonton wrappers. I figured I could make them sweet and dessert like or savory meal like tid bits. This was a trial run but got very good reviews from my most demanding critics, my family. These appetizers will be appearing at our first major event this weekend. I'm going to do this as a method instead of a recipe because honestly you could fill these cups with anything!

Method: Lightly spray regular sized muffin tins. Push one wonton wrapper into each hole. Do not try to make these look perfect. I simply pushed them into the hole and smoothed the bottom just a little. Bake at 177º C (350ºF) for 5 minutes or until wontons are turning golden brown on edges. Do not over bake. Spoon filling* into cups then bake another 5 to 7 minutes.

* Filling: I mixed 4 oz cream cheese, about ½ c home canned salsa and 1/2 c home canned seasoned ground beef together then spooned into the wrappers. Then I topped with shredded sharp cheddar cheese.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Canning Green Beans

Asparagus, Yellow Wax Beans,
Kentucky Wonder Pole Beans, Herb Glazed Carrots, Corn
Natalie made a comment on yesterday's entry requesting* a write-up on canning green beans that included both the method and tips. Pictured are asparagus, yellow wax beans (1) and Kentucky Wonder pole beans (2) harvested from my garden at our previous house. I'm not canning beans at the moment but will if I find them for a good price. If you've been following this blog you already know I didn't have a vegetable garden this year so had to depend on purchased produce with the exception of tomatoes. When canning produce from your garden it is always a good idea to can more than you think will be needed. My goal is two year supply. This gives a bit of protection against a less than ideal growing season the following year reducing the amount of produce you have to purchase. When canning purchased produce based on seasonal availability or sales, I aim for a one year supply. Of course when the opportunity presents itself, I always try to take advantage of it.

* If you have a request for a particular dish/food or method, please leave a comment. I can't make any promises but if I've made the dish/food or know how to, I will try to help you out with a more detailed write-up. I may even try out a requested dish if I haven't made it then give my feedback.

Canning beans either string or wax is rather straight forward. As produce goes, there isn't a lot of prep work for canning. Wash the beans and trim ends. Remove the string. Cut into about 1 - inch pieces. Beans can be either hot pack or raw pack. I prefer raw packing as I think the beans have a better texture. The processing times are the same for either method. Pay particular attention to the headspace requirement as anything less than 1 - inch will cause the lids to buckle and the jars to loose liquid. Salt is an option and can be omitted entirely if desired.

To hot pack: Place the beans in a large stock pot. Cover with water. Boil the beans 5 minutes then fill hot, sterilized jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add salt if desired, 1 tsp per 1 L (quart) or 1/2 tsp per 500 ml jar (pint). Cover with the boiling cooking liquid leaving 1 - inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim. Adjust the two piece lids. Process 500 ml (pints) for 20 minutes and 1 L (quarts) for 25 minutes at 10 lb pressure**.

To raw pack: Boil water. Pack the raw beans tightly into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add salt if desired, 1 tsp per 1 L (quart) or 1/2 tsp per 500 ml jar (pint). Cover with the boiling water. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim. Adjust the two piece lids. Process 500 ml (pints) for 20 minutes and 1 L (quarts) for 25 minutes at 10 lb pressure**.

**Processing time is for weighted gauge pressure canner at 0 - 1,000 feet above sea level. Be sure to adjust is you are above this altitude. Use 11 lb pressure if you have a dial gauge and adjust for altitude if necessary.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Tilapia & Butter Tart Squares

Well, the best laid plans tend to go astray and so it was this past weekend. We travelled with the intentions of staying at the home of one of our kids Saturday night and then visiting another on Sunday. Mother Nature kicked in and cut our plans short so I didn't get the cooking done at their houses that I had planned. I managed to make raisin bread before grandbaby tuckered me out. What a total sweetheart grandbaby is! The storm hit overnight and by morning with the threat worsening weather we made the decision to head home early. It was a good thing as it took us an hour and half longer to get home due to road conditions.

Tilapia

We eat a fair amount of local fish but also enjoy fish from other sources. Tilapia is a very mild tasting fish to the point that there is almost no taste. Many chefs find this mildness a flaw but for those who want the benefits of eating fish without a strong fish flavour, tilapia is ideal. I find myself siding with the chefs so tilapia is not often served.

The mild flavour of tilapia lends itself well to a variety of seasonings but I wanted to highlight the mildness. I pan fried the tilapia fillets in grapeseed oil and seasoned lightly with lemon pepper. The sides were a long grain/wild rice blend cooked in chicken stock and home canned green beans. The meal was light but filling.


Butter Tart Squares

Anyone who knows me or who reads this blog will know that desserts are not my strong suit. We don't include desserts as a normal part of our dinners. From time to time, I splurge and make a dessert. Tonight's dessert was butter tart squares. Butter tarts are a Canadian treat, a staple of Canadian pioneer cooking. They are of Canadian origin. The ingredients are simple staples found in every pantry. So when I came across this recipe for butter tart squares I had to try it to see how close it came to actual butter tarts.

This picture really doesn't do justice to the squares. The squares are made in two steps and I used the KitchenAid® stand mixer for both. The topping forms a thin crust. Now this dessert is oh so sweet! Anyone with a sweet tooth will be in seventh heaven eating this.

Butter Tart Squares

1 c all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sifted icing sugar
1/3 c butter

2 eggs
1 1/2 c lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 c melted butter
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 c dark raisins
1/2 c chopped nuts

Combine first 3 ingredients until crumbly. Press into a greased 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Mix the remaining ingredients well. Place on top of crust and bake for 25 minutes or until set and browned. Place on wire rack to cool. Cut into squares.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Perch & Pickerel Fish Fry


Perch & Pickerel Fish Fry
November 30, 2007

I've quite busy in the kitchen the past week catching up on the basics like making yogurt and peameal bacon as well as freezing several pounds of acorn squash, rutabagas and sweet potatoes. On the canning front, I canned six 500 ml jars of homemade spaghetti meat sauce and the same amount of carrots. Wednesday I experimented with pressure cooking pork hocks to make a tasty soup with dumplings but it needs a bit more tweaking before I write about it. Thursday's dinner was home canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches made with real cheddar cheese. So even though there was a lot going on there wasn't a lot to write about. Last night a group of us went to an all you can fish fry fund raiser.

Food events are always a lot of fun and this was no exception! This fish fry was part of a series of food events put on by this group. The setting was a small hall in a very rural area about a forty minute drive away. The fish did not disappoint. I really should have labelled the fish. The pickerel was deep fried (top) or pan fried (right) and the perch (middle) was pan fried. Sides included French fries, corn, peas & carrots and coleslaw. There were cheese, raw vegetable and gerkin platters. The choice of drinks ranged from alcoholic to non-alcoholic. Afterwards there were two meat draws and it was some really nice looking cuts of beef. One from our group won tow T-bone steaks. These were a good inch and a half thick! So if you get a chance, do check out the smaller food events in your area. They tend to be excellent value for your dollar. Most are quite good and an enjoyable way to spend an evening.

We are off shortly to visit a couple of our kids and babysit grandbaby :) so will be gone for the weekend. I'll be doing a little cooking while away with a couple of special things planned so be sure to check back Monday.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Roasted Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

There's nothing more comforting than a hot, steamy bowl of homemade soup on cold, wintery days. We have our tried and true family favourites but it is always fun trying new soups. Quite often we will find one we like enough to add to our family favourite recipes. So it was with the roasted chicken and wild rice soup.

Roasted Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

The weather has turned colder here. We've had wet snow flurries but no accumulation yet. Friday night we made roasted chicken and wild rice soup. This is another great recipe from our soon to be daughter-in-law. Like all recipes, I made a few modifications. The end result was a rich, creamy soup with a lovely flavour. I think turkey could easily be substituted for the chicken for an equally tasty soup. This one is a definite keeper!

Roasted Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

3 c cooked organic long grain and wild rice mix
1 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ c chopped red onion
1 c chopped celery
1 c carrot coins
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c sliced mushrooms
¼ c unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp Herbs de Provence
2 c water
2 tbsp dry Sherry*
2 L homemade chicken stock
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
3 c roasted skinless chicken cut into small pieces
3 drops Natural Hickory Liquid Smoke**

Cook rice in rice cooker and set aside. Prepare vegetables. Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Stir in onion, celery, carrots, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté about 5 minutes until onion is tender. Stir the flour and Herbs de Province into the onion mixture. Cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Add water, sherry, broth and evaporated milk. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes or until slightly thing. Stir in cooked rice and chicken. Cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

* I used Bright's Classic Cream Canadian Sherry. This is a smooth "round" sherry that has been matured in small casks.
** Go easy with the liquid smoke as it can be overpowering if you add too much so it is best to add one drop at a time, stir and taste before adding more. Repeat until you get the desired effect.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Raisin Bread

I make a lot of yeast breads and while all are enjoyed, raisin bread has to be one of my husband's favourites. I've modified most of my yeast bread recipes to be able to make the dough using the KitchenAid® stand mixer. I find I am getting better results using the stand mixer for all breads. I'm also getting better results because I finally chucked all of my Baker's Secret bakeware and replaced it with Wilton. I honestly got tired of the Baker's Secret non-stick coating flaking off and then having to replace it under normal use. The Wilton bakeware is non-stick but is quite heavy but more important it results in a lovely loaf of bread. Metal loaf pans give better results than silicone loaf pans so do use metal when baking bread.

Raisin Bread

Raisin bread smells heavenly baking, making your mouth water before it is taken from the oven. It is the perfect breakfast and snacking bread. It also makes wonderful toast. Raisin bread really almost falls under the category of comfort foods. We like raisin bread nice and warm with a little butter or cream cheese. A loaf never last long and is one of the first to be requested especially during the colder months. Life is good curled up on the couch, munching on raisin bread while the snow creates a blanket on the ground!

Raisin Bread

1 ⅔ c milk
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp organic sugar
1 ½ tsp sea salt
⅓ c raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
4 ¼ c unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp instant yeast

Place the dry ingredients except raisins in the stand mixer bowl. Mix on speed 2 for 30 seconds. Add butter to the bowl and mix on speed 2 for 30 seconds. Continue mixing while slowly adding milk. The dough should clean the sides of the bowl. If not add just a little extra flour until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Knead on speed 2 for 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Reduce speed to 1 and slowly add in raisins until well mixed. Turn off mixer and remove dough hook. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until double. Punch down and form into a loaf. Place in loaf pan and let rise until double. Bake at 205ºC (400ºF) until golden brown and loaf sound hollow when thumped with the back of a spoon. Turn the loaf out onto a baking rack to cool.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pressure Canning & Pressure Cooking - Pork

After a very busy weekend, yesterday was a catch-up day for preserving. Once I decided on how I was going to use the food, things progressed somewhat smoothly with the exception of a glitch for dinner. I started with two sweet potatoes, four acorn squash, one rutabaga, one pumpkin, two lb lean ground beef, about a 4 lb ham, 4 chicken thighs with backs attached and about 10 lb of apples. The goal was to get as much processed and use some for dinner.

Unfortunately all did not go according to plan but a good portion got done but the rest will get done shortly so all is well. I managed to process the squash and half the rutabaga for freezing in individual serving sizes. The rest of the rutabaga went for dinner. The ground beef was used for a canning test batch of meatloaf while the ham was canned along with the resulting stock.



Pressure Canners & Cookers

I've talked quit a bit about pressure canning yet have mentioned little about pressure cooking. There is some confusion over pressure canners and pressure cookers. To qualify as a pressure canner according to the USDA there must be a holding capacity (different than total volume) of 4 - 1 quart jars with the ability to adjust the pressure to 5, 10 or 15 lb pressure. So, a pressure canner can be used as a pressure cooker but not all pressure cookers can be used as pressure canners.

I have two pressure cookers (1, 3) that can be used for pressure cooking only. One is a Jasi 6 qt (1) and the other a Fagor 4 qt (3). The Jasi is a first generation, rocker control model whereas the Fagor is a second generation, regulator in the handle model. I find both easy to use but the Fagor is quieter. My two pressure canners (2, 4) are huge beasts. One is an older All American 21 quart (2) and the other a Mirro 22 qt (4). When it comes to pressure canners the quarts stated is total volume not the number of actual jars you can process. At full capacity for either the total number of quart jars that can be processed is 7. With stacking they can process 36 - 250 ml (half pints), 26 - 500 ml (pints) standard or 20 - 500 ml (pints) wide mouth jars. During the busiest canning season, the canners run at full capacity but the rest of the year at half capacity or less.

All pressure canners and cookers with the exception of the All American require gaskets. Weighted gauges (4) do not need to be checked if using for canning but dial gauges (2) do. Gaskets need to be replaced as well for either so be sure to check the availability of replacement parts. With proper care, pressure cookers and canners will give you years of dependable service. Both will save you time and money so are a worthwhile investment.

Canned Meatloaf, Ham & Stock

I belong to a few preserving groups as well as running my own group. There has been some discussion on canning meatloaf so I decided to try it using the 2 lb of ground beef. I canned 3 - 500 ml jars of meatloaf (5) using my normal recipe along with 2 - 500 ml jars of ham (6) and 5 - 500 ml jars of ham stock (7).

Method (meatloaf): The meatloaf was mixed then packed raw into hot, sterilized 500 ml wide mouth jars leaving 1 - inch head space. Wipe the rim. Adjust the two piece caps. Process 75 minutes at 10 lb pressure.

The canned ham once again came out nice looking in the jars but I was not pleased with the look of the meatloaf. This is one reason why test batches are beneficial when preserving foods. When in doubt and before committing a large amount of food to any preserving project, always do a test batch! Test batches allow you to troubleshoot as well as taste the finished product before committing. As far as the meatloaf goes, I haven't opened a jar yet. It definitely will be considered as a convenience food on my pantry shelves. There is little that can be done about the looks in the jar so as long as it tastes good it will be on the pantry shelves. Aesthetics is likely one reason commercial food processors tend to favour tin cans since the consumer is much more likely to buy the product if it doesn't look unappealing.

Pork Chops with Vegetables

A pressure cooker saves both time and money. It is one piece of kitchen equipment that I highly recommend. Unlike other quick cook methods, you can have a nice meal on the table from start to finish within 30 minutes. Unlike slow cookers or microwave ovens, you can brown the meat giving it not only flavour but visual appeal. One of the best online resources for pressure cooker recipes is Miss Vickie's Pressure Cooker Recipes, a site dedicated only to pressure cooking.

I had decided on pressure canning the chicken for dinner but fate stepped in the way. The chicken that was purchased Saturday was off! So I did a quick adjustment using 1 - inch thick pork chops and continued with the meal plan. I paired the meat with rutabaga, onion, potatoes, carrots and corn. When pressure cooking a liquid is needed. For this meal I used 1 c water and 1 c apple juice. I thickened the liquid with a corn starch slurry for serving. This meal from start to finish took 5 minutes for the pressure cooker to come to pressure, 15 minutes cooking and less than 10 minutes prep time so qualifies for an under 30 minute meal. If you want to save the time at the dinner hour, prep the vegetables earlier in the day. Either way you do it, you will quickly appreciate the value of a pressure cooker.

Method:

Brown the pork chops in a little olive oil in the pressure cooker bottom, lid off. Prepare the vegetables. Choose vegetables with similar cooking times. Chop the vegetables and pour over the meat. Pour in at least 1 1/2 c of desired liquid. Shut the lid and bring to pressure. Reduce heat to where pressure can be maintained. Cook at pressure 15 minutes. Depressurize using quick method. Serve.

So if you don't have a pressure cooker or are debating whether you need one, get yourself down to the nearest store and pick one up. If you have one sitting on the shelf collecting dust, get it out. These are the ultimate time savers! I think they are better than slow cookers or microwave ovens too.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Grilled Ham Steaks

We are awaiting our half pig. The meat itself is ready but the cured meat won't be ready until near the end of this week. Ham is a favourite meat here and a frugal meat choice so when I had the chance to pick up four ham steaks for $14 at Sam's Club I did. My intentions was to have enough for one steak each and one extra. It didn't quite work out that way but with ham it was still a win-win outcome!

On the Grill

One of the ham steaks was cut into cubes and canned giving two 500 ml jars of ready to use ham for the pantry. The remaining three steaks were grilled. The largest one was enough for three. One was cubed and frozen and the remaining steak was used for snacking and wraps. The end result was enough ham for 12 plus generous servings making this a rather frugal choice of meat.

Grilling ham steaks couldn't be easier. Heat the grill. Grill the steaks about 3 minutes per side. Sauce can be brushed on each side then lightly caramelized if desired. I didn't use any sauce for these steaks.

Plated

Meals need not be fancy or expensive to be good. All you need is good, old fashioned, down home cooking.The basics of this are meat, potato and vegetable. If you want to dress it up a bit, add a tossed salad and simple desert. So it was with this meal. I served the grilled ham steak with oven baked potatoes and mashed rutabagas along with a simple tossed salad. It was a simple meal but very good!


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Seafood Fettuccine

Quite often when I'm creating in the kitchen I start with just an idea of what I want the finished dish to be. The ingredients are chosen based on what I think will go together nicely. So it was on Friday when I decided a rich, creamy and comforting dinner would wipe the greyness of the day away. A seafood pasta seemed like just what I was looking for.

Seafood Fettuccine

Pasta always says comfort food and a bechamel sauce says creamy so I had the basics to work with. I decided on a bechamel sauce with seafood and fettuccine noodles. Fettuccine means little ribbon. It is a flat, thick egg noodle perfect for a bechamel sauce. Rounding out the dish was cheese. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese combined with Asiago cheese sounded like a good choice. The end result with seafood and seasoning added was nice and creamy, definitely comfort food.

Seafood Fettuccine

3 c milk
1½ c sea scallops (30-40 ct)
2 c pre-cooked shrimp, tails removed (41-50 ct)
3 green onions, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley flakes
1 c grated Parmesan cheese
½ c grated Asiago cheese
1 package fettuccine
sea salt

Cook fettuccine in boiling water seasoned with sea salt until al dente (cooked through but not mushy). Drain. Place the milk and scallops in a sauce pan. Bring to a low boil and cook scallops until opaque. Reduce heat to medium low. Stir in seasoning, garlic, onions, parsley and cheeses. Slowly stir in cornstarch slurry and continue cooking on medium low until sauce thickens. Stir in shrimp. Pour sauce over fettuccine and mix well. Serve.
Serves 6

My Notes: This is a recipe in progress. The end result was rich and creamy with a nice flavour. I think adding a bit of crab meat and perhaps small pieces of broccoli or sweet peas would really add to this dish.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Maple Oatmeal Cookies & Oatmeal Banana Muffins

Today was dull and grey, threatening to either rain or flurry making it an ideal day to experiment in the kitchen. I decided to try out two new recipes, one for cookies and the other for muffins. Oatmeal was the theme. The smells wafting from the kitchen were heavenly!

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

Canadian maple syrup is graded into two classes (Canada #1, Canada #2) that are divided into four colour classes (extra light, light, medium, amber [Ontario amber]). The flavour ranges from very delicate to strong. Canada #2 maple syrup either amber or Ontario amber is best suited for baking or cooking.

Maple syrup gives this oatmeal cookie that little extra something! They are chewy in the middle but firm as they cool. These cookies get the seal of approval from my family.

Maple Oatmeal Cookies
source: Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association modified by me

1 ½ c organic sugar
½ c shortening
2 eggs
⅓ c pure Maple Syrup
1 ¾ c unbleached flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 c quick cooking oats
1 c raisins
½ c chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 375ºF (350ºF convection). Combine sugar, shorten, eggs and Maple Syrup in KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Mix on setting 4 until well creamed using the flat beater. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl and mix with a fork. Set the mixer to setting 2 and slowly add the dry ingredients. When mixed, remove the bowl. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake until light golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool.
Yield: about 4 doz cookies

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

What better way to great the morning than fresh homemade muffins? I have a few tried and true family favourites but am always looking for a new muffin to add. Since I was baking with oatmeal it seemed logical to make an oatmeal based muffin.

These tender, scrumptious muffins have a lovely banana flavour. Serve them hot from the oven or re-warm for a nice breakfast treat! The recipe yield was 12 muffins.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins
source: Jean Paré, Company's Coming Muffins & More (1983), Pp. 12., modified by me

1½ c unbleached flour
1 c quick cooking oats
½ c organic sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp sea salt
2 eggs
¼ c vegetable oil
¼ c milk
1 c mashed bananas*

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Stir with a fork to mix well. Make a well in the centre. In a small bowl mix the eggs, oil, milk and bananas. Hand whisk. Pour the mixture into the well of the dry ingredients. Stir until just moistened. The batter will be lumpy. Spoon mixture into greased muffin tin or silicone muffin pan 3/4 full. Bake at 400ºF (375ºF convection) [200ºC/190ºC convection] for 20 minutes or until centre tests clean with toothpick.
Yield: 12 muffins

* about 3½ medium very ripe bananas


Two Left-Over Meals

It's true that sometimes the best laid plans fall through not for lack of planning but because of those little curve balls life tosses your way. So it was this past week. Apparently my husband felt the need to share his cold with me before his trip. There has been a lot of illness going around likely because we still haven't had a hard frost yet! I've been inside since last Friday so not even a spur of the moment trip to the farmer's market, best under the circumstances. While I've done a bit of experimenting, some canning and went through a lot of recipes deciding what I want to try next, I did not get accomplished as planned. So meals this week have been more of spur of the moment, this looks like it will work, using up left-over meals.

Venison Chili Fries

I made venison chili for my husband to take with him and kept out enough for a couple of meals. Venison chili is wonderful as is with a slightly different flavour and texture than chili made with ground beef. There was enough venison chili left over for one person but needed to feed two Monday night.

Venison chili makes very nice chili cheese fries! I deep fried store bought French fries in the deep fryer. These are handy to have in the freezer for those times you don't have the time or don't feel like make French fries from fresh potatoes. The entire meal took less than 15 minutes to put together. While the fries were frying, I warmed the chili, grated cheese and chopped the onions. The final assembly was a layer of French fries covered with venison chili, grated cheddar cheese and chopped onions.

Tonight's Dinner

Tonight's dinner was a direct result of seeing a vacuum sealed package of pre-cooked steak in the freezer and a craving for broccoli. When we grill steak, we always grill extra. Some will be used the following day and the rest froze as slices or whole steaks. The beauty of vacuum sealing pre-cooked steak or any other meat is reheating does not cause the meat to dry out if you heat it in the bag. I find it best to put the frozen bag into a pot of boiling water but reheating can be done in the microwave if desired. There will be a lot of steam in the bag so do take caution when opening. Steamed broccoli and oven baked potatoes topped with sour cream and roasted garlic rounded out the meal.


Monday, November 05, 2007

No Bake Cheesecake, Home Canned Stew Beef & Ham

Well my husband is off to hunt camp and because I made a smaller lasagna and extra venison chili while preparing foods for his trip I didn't have to worry about cooking dinner over the weekend. I had and still have a lot of cooking plans except, yesterday morning I awoke feeling quite under the weather. So it has not been the cooking frenzy start I had planned. I made a no bake cheesecake, one of my kid's favourites yesterday. There's little to it but is a definite tried and true recipe, can't fail recipe. Then I decided to put the new to me All American pressure canner through its paces.

No Bake Cheesecake

Years ago my sister-in-law made a desert my husband and kids raved over. It appeared at every family get together and she was the only one who made it. It was a cheesecake that was rich and creamy topped with blueberries. I finally broke down and asked her for the recipe. It was a no bake recipe that was oh so simple there was no way of making a mistake. Now before you scoff at this, there is a very nice, upper end restaurant we frequent that has this very desert on their menu and it is one of their most requested desserts. I use home canned cherries or other fruit for a topping but honesty it still goes over nicely without any fruit topping.

No Bake Cheesecake

2 c graham cracker crumbs
4 tbsp melted butter
2 - 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 c granulated sugar
2 c Cool Whip topping

Pour the graham cracker crumbs into a 9" x 9" x 2" baking dish. Melt the butter and drizzle over the graham cracker crumbs. Mix the butter into the crumbs until well blended. Pack down evenly. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Place cream cheese and sugar in KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Blend on speed 3 until well creamed. Blend in Cool Whip on speed 3. Remove bowl from stand mixer. Spoon mixture evenly over the graham cracker crumb crust. Chill 30 minutes. Spoon fruit filling over the cheese mixture. Chill well then cut into squares for serving.
Serves 9

Home Canned Stew Beef and Ham

Home canned meats are wonderful to have on the pantry shelf for quick meal starts. The meat is already cooked so only needs to be used as is as an ingredient for another dish or drained and added cold. As mentioned previously I do not can up a lot of meats but like to have a variety. I was taking my new to me All American pressure canner for its maiden run so decided to can up 5 - 500 ml jars of stew beef (1) and 2 - 500 ml jars of ham (2). Seven wide mouth 500 ml jars gave me a half canner load. The two jars of ham were a test run to see how I liked the results.

Method:
(1) Cut the stew beef into 1 - inch pieces. Place the stew beef along with 1 small chopped onion into a sauce pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the centres of the meat pieces are no longer pink. Spoon into wide mouth 500 ml jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce and 1 tsp Montreal Steak Spice per jar. Pour cooking liquid over the beef leaving 1 - inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust two piece lids. Place in pressure canner.
(2) Cut a ham slice 1 - inch thick. Cut across the slice to form 1 - inch cubes. Cover the cubes with water and bring to a boil. Spoon into wide mouth 500 ml jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Pour cooking liquid over the beef leaving 1 - inch headspace. Wipe rims and adjust two piece lids. Place in pressure canner.
To Process: Process at 10 lb pressure for 75 minutes. Allow pressure canner to depressurize. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. Check for seal. Wipe jars, label and store.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Dinner Rolls

My husband leaves for hunt camp early Saturday morning. The hunt camp tradition is to bring part of last year's kill to bring luck for this season's hunt. I made a large batch of venison chili yesterday for the camp with enough for us for dinner as well. To go with the chili, I made dinner rolls.

Dinner Rolls

These dinner rolls were a perfect accompaniment to the venison chili. The dinner roll recipe came with my breadmachine but I modified both the ingredients and method. The result is a nice, soft, flavourful dinner roll that goes well with any meal.

Dinner Rolls

1 ¼ c milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp organic sugar
1 ½ tsp sea salt
3 ¼ c unbleached flour
1 ½ tsp instant yeast

Place sugar, salt, flour and yeast in KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Mix on speed 2 for about 30 second. Continue mixing on speed 2 and add butter. Slowly pour in milk and continue mixing until dough cleans the side of the bowl. Knead dough on speed 2 for about 3 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove dough hook. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until double. Divide dough into 9 pieces. Roll the pieces into smooth balls and place on baking sheet. Cover with a tea-towel. Let rise until double. Bake at 375ºF until golden brown.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Twice Baked Potatoes

Folks have been emailing asking for menu suggestions. Unfortunately, unless it is a special occasion I simply don't do menus and never have. Most people are quite surprised to hear I don't do menus. There a few reasons why. With a well stocked pantry and freezers menu planning isn't a real must. I can walk into the pantry and something will strike my fancy so that night's dinner will be based on that. Other times the inspiration will come from the Food channel or a find from the farmer's market. Sometimes my husband will call with "I'm in the mood for for dinner tonight". Then there are times like this past week when my husband and son were down with nasty colds that homemade chicken noodle soup was a must have. So by not doing menu planning I have a greater opportunity for creativity (aka mussing) in the kitchen.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Yesterday was a mussing day as I looked for a couple of different things to try. We eat a lot of potatoes most often baked, steamed or grilled and they usually are undressed with the exception of a little butter and salt or chili sauce in the winter. So yesterday I decided to fancy up the potatoes a bit. The end result was twice baked potatoes served with glazed country cut pork ribs and home canned carrots. The potatoes were a big hit!


Twice Baked Potatoes

6 medium sized potatoes
¼ c cream cheese
¼ c plain yogurt
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp milk
3 strips bacon
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
½ c steamed broccoli

Bake the potatoes at 350ºF until they give when pinched. Cut across the strips of bacon to form small pieces. Fry the bacon and drain on paper towel. Steam the broccoli until tender. Cut across the flowerettes to form small pieces. Cut potatoes in half. Scoop out the centres of the potatoes leaving about ¼ - inch of flesh on the skins. Place the scooped out portion of the potatoes in the KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Add cream cheese, yogurt, butter and milk. Mix on speed 3 until well blended. Scoop or pipe mixture into potato skins. Top with cheddar cheese, bacon and broccoli. Bake at 350ºF until cheddar cheese is bubbly.
Yield: 12 halves


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Deluxe Sugar Cookies

The last week of October is traditionally the week I try out different cookie recipes. This gives me time to decide what ones I want to make for Christmas. It's a nice change from the heavy canning season. My family looks forward to the taste testing and giving their in put as to their new choices that will join out family favourites for the year. I decided to try a fancy version of sugar cookies after dinner.

Deluxe Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are versatile as they can be cut into any shape, decorated for any occasion or left simple with just a sprinkle of granulated sugar or left completely plain. Children love these cookies to fine tune their cookie making skills. Plain sugar cookies are perfect with a steaming cup of green tea like I served to my husband tonight. He's feeling quite under the weather with a nasty cold. Hot tea and homemade cookies is just what he needed for a bedtime snack.

Deluxe Sugar Cookies
source: Betty Crocker Cookbook (date unknown), Pp. 149, modified by Garden Gnome

1 c butter, softened
1 ½ c icing sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp clear pure vanilla extract
2 ½ c unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
granulated organic sugar (optional)

Combine butter, icing sugar,egg and vanilla in KitchenAid stand mixer bowl. Mix until creamed on setting 3. Blend flour, baking soda and cream of tartar together in a separate bowl. Slowly add in the dried ingredients while mixing on setting 3 until well mixed. Remove dough from the mixing bowl. Shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Heat oven to 375ºF (convection 350ºF). Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 3/16 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes. Sprinkle with granulated sugar if desired. Place on baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until a light brown on the edges.
Yield: About 4 doze 3 inch cookies.

My Notes: I modified this recipe to use the KitchenAid stand mixer. I also modified the ingredients. The dough is very soft so does need to be refrigerated before using. When rolling out the dough and cutting, try not to handle too much as handling will soften the dough. I found the dough a little tempermental when rolling but going slow helped. The next time, I will chill the rolling pin as well.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Home Canned Cranberry Sauce & Pantry Pasta

Saturday morning I decided to complete two small canning projects before the kids and grandbaby arrived. The first project involved using the pressure canner did not go according to plan so I was not impressed! After much frustration I moved onto the second project, cranberry sauce using a boiling water bath (BWB) canner. Dinner was a simple pasta casserole made with home canned foods.

Cranberry Sauce

I don't can a lot of cranberries since I usually make fresh cranberry sauce from scratch as needed. However, we have a half of pig on the way so I need to free up some freezer space. A few jars of cranberry sauce in the pantry The small bag gave a yield of three 250 ml jars just perfect to accompany one or two meals.

Cranberry Sauce

1 pk fresh whole cranberries
1 c sugar
1 c water

Mix ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until berries pop. Ladle cranberry mixture into 250 ml jars. Wipe rim and adjust caps. Process in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner. Allow to cool. Check the seal. Label and store.

Pantry Pasta

If you've read this blog you will know I do a lot of home canning. I share pictures of the food I can as well as the recipes and methods. One common question is "What do you use for?" so I like sharing the different ways I use some of my home canned foods.

This casserole used home canned ground beef with onions and roasted vegetable sauce. If you do not home can, both of these can be frozen for use as quick starters for meals. The casserole turned out rich and creamy, perfect for a cool and grey day. I served it with tossed salad and hot dinner rolls.

Pantry Pasta
note: click on the links for recipes and method

1 - 500 ml jar home canned ground beef with onions
2 - 500 ml jars roasted vegetable sauce
½ c extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
½ c mozzarella cheese, shredded
⅓ c Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 - 375 g package broad egg noodles
2 c sauteed mushrooms

Bring water to a boil, salt and add noodles. Cook until noodles are el dente. Saute mushrooms. Drain noodles. Pour noodles into large mixing bowl. Stir in vegetable sauce, ground beer, cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Spread evenly into a large casserole pan. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Spread a layer of sauteed mushroom over the top. Bake at 350ºF until warmed through.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sweet Potatoes & French Bread Revisited

Alona, of the US Potato Board's new blog, The Potato Underground wrote me a lovely email after visiting my blog. She invited me to try out some of their recipes and share them with my readers. Well now, potatoes have to be one of our most favourite vegetables so how can I refuse an offer like that. I will be adding a link to their blog in my side bar. Please check back for some of their recipes and my report on them in future.

I love stopping at the farmer's market any time of the year but during the fall there is always an abundance. The one I frequent is a small, family owned market. They grow most of the produce themselves. They also have a nice freezer section and local crafts. Yesterday I stopped there and gosh did I ever get some good deals: 3 lb stuffer mushrooms, 1 lb portabellos, 2 huge sweet potatoes (2.75 lb & just shy of 4 lb), 2 large rutabagas, 20 lb large cooking onions, medium cabbage, 1.75 lb bananas and 9 kg (20 lb) bag of bird seed all for $23.37.

Sweet Potatoes

Many people use the terms yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably. In fact, the sweet potatoes were labelled as yams at the farmers market. However, yams and sweet potatoes are two different, unrelated vegetables. Yams are tubers of the tropical vine Dioscorea batatas. They have brown or black skin that resembles the bark of a tree with off-white, purple or red flesh. Sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are yellow or orange tubers that have elongated ends tapering to a point. The yellow skinned sweet potato has a pale yellow flesh that is not as sweet with a dry, crumbly texture. The orange skinned variety is often called a yam. It has a thicker, dark orange to reddish skin. The flesh is a vivid orange with a sweet flavour and moist texture. Sweet potatoes are rich in fiber and vitamins A, C and B6.

The sweet potatoes were enormous! I couldn't resist so bought two. One was 2.75 lb and the other just shy of 4 lbs. I decided to can some of the sweet potatoes, have some for dinner, perhaps keep enough out for sweet potato pie and freeze the rest. The canning method follows the stock canning method.

Canned Sweet Potatoes & Chicken Stock

Homemade stocks are incredibly easy to make and inexpensive. Their taste is well worth the effort! There are no preservatives, MSG or extra salt, just a nice, rich meat flavour. Stocks are made using the bones and broths are made using the meat. They can be defatted or left as is. Either can be canned for a convenient, ready to use pantry item or frozen so be sure to make lots and keep on hand. Think beyond chicken stock as well. Other stocks to have on hand include fish, beef, turkey, pork ,mushroom, vegetable and game (venison, etc). Save the bones until you have enough to make a big batch of stock. This batch of chicken stock was from the left-overs and bones of the chicken I canned the day before. I ended up with 5 - 1 L (quarts)* jars of partially defatted stock.

Note: I put the Canadian measurement first followed in brackets the American measurement for canning instructions.

Canning Stocks
Make your favourite stock or use my basic chicken stock recipe. Ladle the hot stock into hot 500 ml (pint) or 1 L (quart) jars leaving ½ - inch headspace. Wipe the rims and adjust two piece lids. Process 500 ml (pint) 20 minutes, 1 L (quart) 25 minutes at 10 lb pressure.

Canning Sweet Potato

Wash sweet potatoes. Cut into 1 - inch strips and peel. Cut across the strips to form 1 - inch chunks. Place the sweet potatoes into a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Boil 2 minutes. Pack the hot sweet potatoes into wide mouth 500 ml (pint) jars leaving 1 - inch headspace. Cover with boiling water leaving 1 - inch headspace. Add 1/4 tsp salt if desired. Wipe rims. Adjust two piece lids. Process 65 minutes at 10 lb pressure.


French Bread

I've been fine tuning the French Bread recipe using the KitchenAid® stand mixer. I find a longer knead time produces better results as you can see from this batch of bread. This is a recipe I've used several times in the breadmaker then modified to use the stand mixer. I have to tell you the results with the stand mixer are far superior to dough made in the breadmaker.

Dinner

I bought two of the family sized packages of chicken thighs on sale at Meijer's. Last night we grilled the other package of ten thighs. The intention was using some for dinner and the rest deboned then sliced for freezing. The thighs were grilled then glazed with Dianna Sauce during the last 15 minutes. They were served with steamed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes and French bread. It wasn't an exactly low carb meal but it was low fat. Both potatoes were lightly seasoned with a little butter and sea salt allowing their natural flavours to shine. It sure was quite a tasty meal!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Beef Noodle Soup

As the weather gets gradually cooler, the soup pot becomes more enticing. I decided to make a pot of beef noodle soup yesterday. Most of the soups I make start with a vague idea of what I want then choose ingredients to get that result. The ingredients are always based on what I have on hand in the pantry and freezers. I used home canned carrots and beans to make this hearty soup.

Beef Noodle Soup

There is something comforting about any soup with noodles. Beef noodle soup is rich and flavourful, filling for the tummy and soothing for the soul. Pair with a hearty homemade bread and side salad for a wonderful cold weather dinner. This soup is very versatile so add what you have on hand then sit back and enjoy!

Beef Noodle Soup

1 large soup bone
2 lb stew beef
1 unpeeled onion
1 carrot
2 stocks celery
1 bay leaf
olive oil

2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tbsp Montreal Steak spice
1 - 500 ml (2 c) jar carrot coins
1 - 500 ml (2 c) green beans
2 c nibblet corn
1 chopped onion
¼ c tomato paste

Cut carrot and celery into thirds. Cut onion in half. Place soup bone, bay leaf, onion, celery and carrot in medium size stock pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer until meat is tender. Remove bone. Pour stock through a strainer and return to stock pot. Top with water so stock pot is a little over half full. Cut meat from bone and return both meat and bone to the stock pot. Brown stew beef in a little olive oil. Cut meat into bite size pieces then add to the stock pot. Bring the meat and stock to a low boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer about 30 minutes. Remove soup bone. Add remaining ingredients except for noodles. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Continue cooking until noodles are cooked.