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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

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Three One Dish Budget but Comfort Meals and Oven Baked Ribs

By now anyone reading this blog knows we were on vacation in the sunny south. I shared a few foods we ate there but since the majority of the food pictures include my husband and I smiling broadly, playing tourist before we indulged a lot of the food pictures I took won't appear here. We arrived home to very nasty weather that took twice as long for us to make the final drive home. It was early morning and I was ready too cook but being tired caught a few z's then went about catching up. Thankfully one of our kids who was housesitting had picked up a few fresh vegetables for us as there wasn't a chance I was going out in that weather. If you recall, I'm working through a lot of freezer foods to make room for the beef that will arrive shortly, considerably shorter time frame than anticipated. Apparently the beef will be ready the first part of next week! Yikes!

Ok, so it was cold and we were tired so comfort foods were a must. At the same time, easier to prepare meals that used foods from the freezer were and continues to be the primary dinner fare. I should note that all the following meals were served with side salads. Heavy dressings were replaced with simple, fresh lemon juice that really enhances the flavour of the vegetables without adding calories.

Chicken Stew

The first day home I was running on about three hours of sleep but was anxious to get things back to normal. Vacations result in a different kind of tired and there's always the extras like laundry, putting away luggage and restocking the fresh fruits and vegetables. We were lucky as one of our kids restocked the kitchen for us just before we arrived home. While we were away condensed soups were on sale and even though I don't use a lot of these the price was where our kid thought a case was warranted as well. Our first meal was chicken stew using what was on hand. The chicken and bacon were pre-cooked in the freezer so ready to use. The end result was a rich, creamy one pot meal.

Chicken Stew

4 washed, unpeeled and cubed potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 bag steamed spinach (about 14 ounces)
1 c homemade chicken stock*
1 can (10 ounces) condensed mushroom soup*
1 ½ c cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
½ c cooked bacon pieces
1 tsp Tone's garlic and onion seasoning
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

Prepare the potatoes, steam and drain. Clean and steam spinach. Cook chicken and bacon**. Combine all of the ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a casserole pan. Bake at 350ºF until slightly browned and warmed through.

* Substitute about 2 c of homemade cream of mushroom soup, slightly thickened.
** Use pre-cooked from your freezer stores.

Chicken Pot Pie

Any kind of stew base can be used for making pot pie. My normal pot pies have a bottom and top crust. However, flipping though a couple of magazines during the flight gave me the idea to use store bought puff pastry for the top crust. This was an ideal dish because it used up three packages of food from the freezer, a jar and half of home canned food from the pantry, a can of condensed soup and it was oh so easy to prepare. I actually started out following a recipe then went off on my own tangent. As always please read my notes on this recipe.

Chicken Pot Pie

3 chicken breasts, bone and skin removed
1 c clarified home canned chicken stock
2 c condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 c home canned carrot coins
1 c frozen peas
1 c frozen niblet corn
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 10"x10" sheet puff pastry

Thaw the puff pastry according to instructions on the box. Cube the chicken and brown. Stir in the stock and soup then add the rest of the ingredients except the pastry. Mix well and warm through. Pour into baking pan. Place the puff pastry over top. Cut four holes in the crust for venting. Bake at 400ºF until pastry is golden brown. Remove from oven. Rest for 5 minutes then cut and serve.

My notes: The flavour of this pot pie was wonderful. It was rich and creamy playing a lovely contrast against the crust. The next time I will thicken the filling a bit as I thought it was just a bit too runny even though the pie got two thumbs up from all.
Pork 'n' Noodles

In keeping with the theme of using foods from the freezer while making comfort foods, I made a filling dish aptly named pork 'n' noodles. It really was a one pot meal almost a home made version of boxed meat extenders.

Method: Cut the pork into cubes then brown in a little olive oil in a large sauce pan. Stir in about 1/2 c of water to deglaze the pan. Add enough water to bring the level about 2 inches above the meat. Toss in 1/2 chopped onion and broad egg noodles (about 450 g). Cook the noodles until el dente. Stir in about 1 c each of frozen peas and corn niblets. Stir in 2 cans condensed mushroom soup and 1/4 c chicken broth. Mix well and heat thoroughly. Plate.

Oven Baked Ribs

Ribs are one of my favourites so I have a few ways of preparing them. I've previously gave my methods for grilling (my favourite method) and crockpot ribs. With several inches of snow on the ground and more threatening to come down, I decided to do oven baked ribs. Now the real secret to delectible ribs is slow cooking. You want low heat and a long cooking time. Oven baking gives a much nicer result than using a crockpot. I served the ribs with frozen peas, steamed cauliflower and a side salad.

Method: Place a rack of ribs in a large roasting pan. Add about 1 1/2 c of water. Add a few thin slices of onion. Cover. Bake at 250ºF for about 3 hours. Remove from oven. Drain most of the liquid leaving about 1/4 c and remove onion slices. Pour barbeque sauce of your choice over the ribs covering entirely. Cover and return to oven for 1 hour. Increase the temperature to 350ºF for about 1 hour. Remove the lid and lightly caramelize. When done properly the meat will literally fall off the bones!

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