My photo
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!

Popular Posts

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