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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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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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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cream of Asparagus Soup, Salmon Cakes & Lemon Cheesecake

Winter just seems to be hanging on even though it is officially spring. I was feeling a bit creative today and wanted to make something a bit different for dinner, nothing fancy just different. So I went shopping in my pantry and came up with a couple of jars of home canned asparagus and a can of salmon as something we haven't had in awhile.

Asparagus Soup with Salmon Cakes

Canned asparagus does not compare texturally to fresh so I only can up a few jars each year. It is ideal as an ingredient or a quick start for soup. I decided a cream of asparagus soup would go nicely with the salmon cakes I planned to make.

Pictured is the cream of asparagus soup served with niblet corn and salmon cakes. The dinner was a refreshing change from red meat and pork yet it was very filling. Salmon cakes are a tasty budget stretching meat. A large can of salmon made 8 large patties. Adjust the seasonings in the salmon patties to your tastes.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
2 tbsp butter
500 ml (2 c) beef stock
500 ml (2 c) milk
250 ml (1 c) 1/2&1/2 cream
2 - 500 ml jars home canned asparagus
1 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in sauce pan. Stir in onion and garlic. Sautee until onions are transparent. Stir in beef stock and asparagus. Warm through. Use a stick blender to blend the vegetables and stock. Stir in milk, 1/2 & 1/2 and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Mix the flour with a little milk. Slowly pour into the soup while stirring constantly. Allow to thicken slightly. Ladle into soup bowls.

Salmon Cakes

4 medium potatoes
1 - 14.55 oz (418 g) can pink salmon, drained
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1 egg
1 tsp garlic/onion seasoning mix
2 c seasoned bread crumbs

Wash, peel and cube the potatoes. Steam until tender then mash. Allow to cool somewhat. Stir in the onion, seasoning, egg and salmon. Mix well. Form into 4 - inch patties about 1/2 - inch thick. Place each patty into the seasoned bread crumbs and press slightly. Turn over and press. Remove from bread crumbs. Fry in a medium hot pan in melted butter.

Lemon Cheesecake

I decided to make a lemon cheesecake recipe I found in the current issue of What's Cooking. This baked cheese cake promised to be refreshing and creamy, with just a hint of lemon. I thought this cheesecake would round out the meal nicely and I wasn't disappointed. I modified the recipe slightly. Next time I make this cheesecake I'm going to add just a bit of mint, not much just enough to enhance the lemon. I also think that substituting an orange for the lemon would make a lovely cheesecake as well.

Lemon Cheesecakesource: Kraft, What's Cooking, Spring 2008. Pp. 15

2 c graham cracker crumbs
6 tbsp melted butter
4 pkg (226 g) cream cheese, softened
1 c organic sugar
1 c sour cream
4 eggs
1 lemon, grated peel and juice

Melt the butter and mix with the graham cracker crumbs. Reserve 1/8 c of this mixture. Press the rest of the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking pan. Preheat oven to 325ºF (165ºC). Beat the softened cream cheese and sugar on speed setting 3 of KitchenAid® stand mixer or medium speed of hand mixer until well blended. Mix in sour cream, lemon peel and juice. Mix well. With mixer on setting 3 add one egg at a time, mixing until just blended. Pour the cheese mixture over the crust. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 40 minutes or until centre is almost set. Refrigerate 4 hours before serving.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Beef Stew Presentation

We all get into a rut with cooking. Sometimes it's because we are too tired to be creative and other times it is easier to fall back to what we know works. This is one reason I have never got into regular menu planning other than Friday's dinner is either fish or homemade pizza. Simply changing the presentation of foods can keep them from becoming boring.

Tomato Soup

One of my favourite recipes for home canned tomato soup was posted last year. For those who do not can this recipe can be frozen. Once you taste the soup you will never go back to store bought condensed tomato soup again. I don't pay for tomatoes so a batch costs me $1.57 to make including the electricity. The yield is 14 - 500 ml (pint) jars at a cost of 11¢ per jar so it is significantly less expensive than store bought. But even paying as high as 99¢ per lb for tomatoes it is still a good deal. Home canned tomato soup can be used as is in other dishes or add milk or water for soup.

Tired of the same old soup? Spice up the presentation with a simple garnish. Serve with an open faced sandwich to make the meal feel different. Pictured is the tomato soup garnished with dried parsley and open faced grilled cheese sandwiches. The parsley was from my garden. This meal took less than 15 minutes to prepare! When I was growing up this was the only grilled cheese sandwich I knew. They were always made with real cheddar cheese never American processed cheese slices. I make them the same way today.

Beef Stew

March continues to be March with blustery winds and a snow storm predicted for tonight. Last night was also cold, damp and blustery so I made beef stew. My stew is always a bit different because I add extra vegetables in depending on my mood so it is never really boring. What I decided to do instead of serve the stew with fresh baked bread is to serve the stew in a bread bowl.

I made the dough for basic white bread using the KitchenAid® stand mixer instead of the breadmaker. The method that is working well for me when using the stand mixer is to mix all the dry ingredients on speed 2 then mix the wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup and slowly pour into the dry ingredients while continuing to mix of speed 2. Then I knead the dough on speed 2 until smooth and elastic, remove the dough hook, cover the bowl and let the dough rise either in a warm spot or in my oven on bread proofing setting until doubled. I punch down the dough then form into desired shape, let rise again until doubled then bake.

Once the dough was finished the first rise I divided it into four equal sized pieces. Then I formed the dough into large rounds and left to rise again. I was a little concerned as the mini loaves looked a bit on the flat side but they rose nicely while baking. When the loaves were golden brown and sounded hollow, I removed them from the oven and while still hot cut a rounded portion out of the top. Then I hollowed out the bottom leaving about 1 - inch of bread forming a bowl. I was a bit worried the stew would leak through so I sat each bowl on a plate lined with baby spring mix greens. I ladled the hot stew into each bowl and served with the top. This presentation was a huge hit with my husband!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hard Boiled Eggs, Deviled Eggs and Scallop Potatoes

Two foods say Easter, eggs and ham. Hard boiled eggs are a must especially for decorating since soft boiled and raw eggs tend not to fare too well for Easter egg hunts or decorating. I have to tell you I cook a lot of hard boiled eggs throughout the year with only about a dozen being used for Easter eggs. Even though ham is seen as an Easter meat, I have to tell you it is popular here year round. Still ham is our traditional Easter Sunday meal.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs form the basis of many dishes and are not difficult to make. Three problems can result with hard boiled eggs. A hard boiled eggs needs to be cooked long enough to ensure the yolk is cooked all the way through. A dark green discolouration can form on the yolk that is aesthetically unappealing when the yolk will show in the final dish. The green (ferreous sulphide) forms from a chemical reaction of the sulfur from the amino acids in the egg white with the iron in the yolk when the egg temperature exceeds 158ºF. The longer your eggs cook, the greater th chance of this discolouration forming. Finally, an extremely fresh egg will not peel easily so if hard boiling plan on using these eggs for something like egg salad. Two week old eggs make for the easiest to peel hard boiled eggs. Hard boiled eggs will keep in the refrigerator a couple of days if peeled and up to one week if unpeeled.

Method: Place the eggs in a single layer in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat. Cover pot and let sit 20 minutes. Immediately cool in cold water to prevent the yolk from discolouring. Peel*

* Save the egg shells for use in the garden.

Deviled Eggs

Deviled eggs are a classic when it comes to appetizers. They can be plain or fancy but either way they are quick and easy to make and are always a crowd pleaser. Deviled eggs are almost a comfort food.

Method: Prepare hard boiled eggs as above. Use a sharp knife to cut each egg in half. Wipe blade after each cut. Carefully pop the yolk out of the egg into a separate bowl. Break up the yolk with a fork. Stir in 2 finely chopped green onions, ¼ tsp sea salt, ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper and enough Miracle Whip or mayonnaise to blend nicely. Spoon the mixture back into the egg whites. Garnish with a pinch of dried parsley and a pinch of Spanish paprika.

Glazed Ham

Ham is the traditional meat of choice for Easter in North America because of the early curing processes. Meat slaughtered in the fall if not consumed during the winter was cured for spring. Since curing took a long time, the first hams were ready around Easter. Today we can simply go to our local grocery store or abbatoir's for a ham or we can cure and smoke the ham at home. During the Easter season when hams are often on sale, it makes good sense to buy one or two for the freezer.

I bought a small Vienna Smoked Black Forest Ham for $1.88/lb ($4.14/kg) totaling $7.6 with the intentions of canning the ham. We had Easter dinner at our kids so I fully intended not cooking Easter Sunday. My husband spotted the coveted ham destined to be canned the declared that ham with scalloped potatoes would be great. Dang! I put the ham in the oven at 200ºF with a glaze of ½ c maple syrup and 1 tsp Dijon mustard. It was moist and tasty.

Scallop Potatoes

Scallop potatoes marry nicely with ham. I've seen so many recipes for scallop potatoes but not really like my mom's. Her's was rich, creamy and unpretentious. They take the very minimal of what most cooks have in their pantry at all times. Don't let their simplicity fool you as these are wonderful scallop potatoes sure to please. Oh, and they will make a mess in your oven so do make sure you place the casserole dish on a tray to prevent dripping.

Method: Peel about 8 medium potatoes. Slice thinly using a mandolin. Liberally butter a casserole pan. Place one layer of potatoes on the bottom. Sprinkle with finely chopped onions, about 2 tbsp flour, salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a few small dabs of butter. Continue layering in this fashion ending with an onion, flour and butter layer. Sprinkle with chopped chives. Pour about 2 cups of scalded milk over the potatoes or enough scalded milk to bring the milk to just under the final potato layer. Bake at 350ºF until potatoes are browned on top, soft and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven.

Ham Dinner

Ham is ideal in that there is very, very little waste even if it is a bone in ham. The bone from a bone in ham can be used for soup or beans. A boneless ham has virtually no waste. This was a boneless ham so all meat. The ham was moist and tender with just enough glaze left over to use a small amount as a sauce. I served the ham with Old Fashioned Vermont beans, scallop potatoes and steamed spinach.

Steamed spinach has to be our favourite method for cooked spinach. Steaming gives a nice texture while keeping the nutrients in the spinach. Steaming also results in a brighter green. This is the method I use whenever cooked spinach is called for in a recipe.

Method: Wash the spinach. Place in steamer basket. Put about 1 - inch of water in the pot and place steamer basket over it. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. The steam will finish cooking the spinach. Remove from basket and allow to drain. Stir in butter if desired.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

Marbled Eggs and Hot Cross Buns

I would like to announce that I am now a member of The Foodie Blogroll community. This blogroll is a large and growing list of blog links with one thing in common. Members add their blog link to the list then insert a code into their blog to tell others where to find the list of blogs aka blogroll. The blogroll becomes a convenient way to find other blogs of similar interest. Visitors to the blogroll website can easily visit several blogs from the main blogroll website. So now you know what a blogroll is, why join a blogroll? A blogroll gives greater exposure to your blog. Members visit other members blogs and comment or leave suggestions. It is a great networking tool that helps bloggers meet other bloggers with similar interests. At the same time it is a way for bloggers to get ideas to improve their blogs. It is also a way for readers to easily find more blogs related to the topic of interest. It is a win/win for bloggers and their readers.

The commonality of The Foodie Blogroll is food. There is currently 1237 food related blogs on the blogroll. Jenn aka The Leftover Queen runs The Foodie Blogroll. She is a travel writer, creative cook, food critic and professional foodie also has a wonderful website call The Leftover Queen. If you are looking for creative ways to use leftovers be sure to visit her website. If you have a food related blog that is at least 1 month old with at least 5 posts and at least 80% of the posts are food related, then consider joining The Foodie Blogroll. The information for joining is in the side bar. Please stop by Jenn's site and say hi. While there check out the many food related blogs for lots of food related fun!

This is Good Friday so dinner of course is beer battered fish and chips from a local eatery that holds a special dinner each Good Friday. Early tomorrow morning we will make the journey to our kids and grandbaby to celebrate Easter. One of our kids will be coming with us while the others will meet us there. Our second grandbaby is due April 4 so this will make it easier for them not having to travel. I'm really looking forward to it. So I've spent the day making homemade dinner rolls and hot cross buns to take tomorrow. I also made a marbled egg tray.

Marbled Eggs

Pictured is the marbled eggs I made today and yes I did remove the background. I was in such a rush to take the picture I ended up with a lot of clutter in the background that I didn't see until I sat down to blog so thanks to a bit of Photoshop work, you see the lovely eggs and not the cluttered background.

Marbled eggs are so easy to make. They make a perfect tray for Easter entertaining. The muted marbled colours are very spring toned. Leave them whole on a bed of greens for snacking. I used beet juice for the pink eggs, coffee for the yellowish eggs and blue food colouring for the blue eggs.

Marbled Eggs

12 eggs or desired number
1 c beet juice*
1 c very strong coffee**
food colouring (optional)
1 c warm water per colour (if using food colouring)

Place eggs in large sauce pot. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Cover and let sit 20 minutes. Run under cold water. If using food colour, drop several drops of desired colour into 1 c of warm water. Mix. Line the colours you are using in a row for easy handling. I used three colours in total. Remove one egg from the cold water and dry. Hit all over the egg shell with the back of a spoon to make several cracks. Place the egg in the colour for about 3 minutes. Remove and let dry enough to carefully peel off the shell.

* beet juice gives a lovely pink colour
** strong coffee will give nice yellowish marble compared to yellow food colouring that barely shows up

Hot Cross Buns

Pictured are dinner rolls using the modified basic white bread recipe and hot cross buns cooling. Any bread recipe can be made into buns and by far our favourite one is the basic white bread. However, hot cross buns are special. Even though I could easily make them other times of the year, they tend to be an Easter treat. Hot cross buns are an Easter must have for Easter brunch but are a family favourite throughout the Easter celebration. Like most breads I make hot cross buns from scratch. The enticing aroma tantalizes the taste buds. These hot cross buns are at their finest when fresh from the oven!

Hot Cross Buns

1¼ c milk
¼ c butter
⅓ c sugar
1 lg egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
3½ c unbleached flour
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 c raisins
3 tsp instant yeast

Place dry ingredients into mixing bowl of KitchenAid® stand mixer. Mix at stir speed to blend. Mix milk, egg and butter together. While on sstir slowly pour into the dry ingredients. When dough leaves sides of bowl, increase to speed 2 and knead until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove dough hook. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth roll. Place each roll on a lightly greased baking sheet or use a Silpat. Let rise until double. Slash top of each bun to form a cross. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double. Bake at 375ºF (190ºC) for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle the cross with icing sugar glaze while hot.

Icing Sugar Glaze

¾ c sifted icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 drops almond flavouring

Combine ingredients and stir until smooth.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easy Homemade Sausage

Not only are home cured meats less expensive they are very easy to make. You control the quality of the ingredients and can adjust the seasonings to your own tastes as well. The two basic methods for curing are brining which uses a salt solution and dry curing that uses a mixture of curing salt and sugar. Both methods usually include using spices as well (eg. corned beef) but some like peameal bacon do not. and sausage. Sausage can be uncured (fresh, eg. chicken sausage) or cured and unsmoked or smoked. Fresh sausage must be refrigerated and cooked thoroughly before eating. Cured sausage can be either cooked (usually smoked) or dried. The basic method for curing sausage is to mix the cure ingredients and spices well with the ground meat then wrap tightly in foil or stuff into casings, refrigerate for a short period of time then oven cook, hang to dry or smoke.

Oven Cooking

This easy homemade beef sausage is wrapped in foil and refrigerated for curing then it is cooked. It is important to make sure the sausage is wrapped tightly for the curing process. Shown here is one sausage roll during the cooking process. To cook, place the roll(s) on a lined baking sheet as there will be some leakage. This is normal but will make a baked on mess if the baking sheet is not lined. The easiest liner to make is a shallow tin foil box as the foil will hold the up turned sides nicely. To make the box, fold each long side by about and inch then open so they rise from the sheet. Repeat with the two narrow ends. Pinch the corners together tightly. This will keep your baking sheet clean while keeping the liquid contained.

Easy Homemade Sausage

Pictured is the easy to make homemade beef based sausge I finished yesterday. The curing period is 24 hours. There is no filler in the sausage so the beef flavour shines through and while very similar to salami is not as spicy. The texture is firm for easy slicing. This tasty sausage is perfect for snacking or using as an appetizer. It pairs nicely with cheeses and mustards. I prefer making the roll about 2½ inch diameter for pairing with cheese and crackers however the roll can be made in a larger diameter for sandwiches.

Easy Homemade Sausage
Notes: The ingredients are for one pound of sausage. Multiply as needed for the quantity of beef being used. The sausage can be vacuum sealed then froze for up to 6 months.

1 lb lean ground beef
1½ tsp Morton's Tender Quick
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp liquid smoke
½ tsp mustard seed
½ tsp garlic onion seasoning mix
1½ tbsp water

Measure the ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix well with your hands. Form into a roll about 2½ inch in diameter. Place on a sheet of tin foil. Form foil into a tight pocket by folding long edge together tightly until it reaches the top of the meat roll. Twist ends tightly. Refrigerate the roll for 24 hours. Pre-heat oven to 300ºF (150ºC). Place the roll onto a lined baking pan. Cook for 2 hours. Cool.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corned Beef with Cabbage

Everyone wants a little luck of the Irish on St. Patrick's Day. What better way to celebrate than with a hearty Irish meal. Corned beef and cabbage while thought to be a traditional Irish dish is more likely an Irish-American dish originating from the Jewish and Irish immigrants living on the Lower East Side of New York City who wanted their traditional Irish bacon. They learned to corned beef as a substitute. It has now become a traditional meat served on St. Patrick's Day. Corned beef is one of the most popular delicatessen meats (Rueben sandwiches). Pastrami is smoked corned beef.

Corned Beef

Corned beef gets its name from the term corning which is a form of curing. In Anglo-Saxon times before refrigeration pellets of salt, some the size of corn, were rubbed into the beef to preserve it. Corned beef is usually made from brisket but sometimes round or silverside is used. Today brining (salt water) has replaced dry salt curing commercially but the name remains the same. Spices are added during the cure to give corned beef its distinctive flavour. These spices vary regionally but common ones are peppercorns and bay leaf.

Corned beef is most often pre-seasoned in vacuum packs ready to cook. It's as simple as following the instructions on the package for cooking. It can also be found canned in the grocery store and can be home canned as well. However, corned beef can also be home cured either by brining or dry salt curing (Morton's Salt) both of which are less expensive than store bought. I prefer the dry salt curing method.

The most common way of preparing corned beef is to cover with water then bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer then simmer 3 to 4 hours. While simmering removing any scum that forms. After the simmering period add the vegetables and cook about another hour until meat and vegetables are tender. However, I used a pressure cooker to tender meat and vegetables in considerably less time. I used the 5.5 L (6 qt) Jasi pressure cooker

Method: Place the corned beef on a rack in the pressure canner. If you don't have a rack for your pressure canner, use canning jar lids for a make shift rack. A small cooling rack will work as well. Pour 1 cup or the minimum amount for your pressure cooker. Close the pressure cooker and put the regulator on. Bring the pressure cooker to pressure on high heat. When the steam is first released, reduce heat to medium low adjusting so that steam is released 2 to 3 times per minute (10 lb pressure). Continue cooking one hour. Turn off heat and allow the pressure cooker to depressurize by itself (about 10 minutes). Remove lid. Reserve 1/4 c of the cooking juices for mustard sauce (recipe follows). Add enough water to the remaining liquid so there is at least 1 c of liquid in the pressure cooker. Add vegetables* and bay leaf. Put the lid back on and bring the pressure cooker to pressure on high heat. When steam is released reduce heat to medium low, adjusting so steam is released 2 to 3 times per minute. Cook at 10 lb pressure for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and depressurize by placing the cooker under cold water. Remove lid. Remove vegetables and corned beef. Allow the corned beef to rest 5 minutes before slicing.

I used the following amounts to fill my pressure cooker to the maximum 2/3 full level.
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
1/2 large cabbage, cored, cut into half wedges
6 medium potatoes, cut into large chunks
20 baby carrots

Mustard Sauce

Making your own mustards is very easy with the main components being dried mustard, vinegar and thickener. From there you can tinker with types of vinegar for different flavours. Sugar when added can easily be modified to using another sweetener like honey, maple syrup or brown sugars. So a basic mustard recipe can take you in a lot of directions so don't be afraid to experiment.

A deli style mustard with a bit of kick accents corned beef nicely. I decided to make a deli style mustard sauce to accompany the corned beef. It was a good choice!

Mustard Sauce

¼ c juices from corned beef
¼ c white vinegar
4 tsp dry mustard
4 tsp organic sugar
1 egg

Whisk egg, mustard and sugar together. Whisk in vinegar and corned beef liquor. Heat to simmer on medium while whisking. Do not boil. Remove from heat. Spoon into small serving dish or individual dipping cups just before serving. Can be served hot or cold.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Friday, March 14, 2008

Using Left overs & Roasted Pork Chops

Using left overs so they don't taste like left overs can be a challenge however, with today's rising food prices it is more important than ever. For me it is not so much of a price thing but more of a "I can't stand wasting food" thing. That's not such a bad thing with words like recession and famine being tossed around in the media. The reality is both of these could easily be a possibility meaning everyone should be very conscious of wasting food at any level. Ok so I'm off my soap box. One reason aside of being frugal for using left overs it results in a low preparation meal that can be on the table with little effort. The trick is to make a left over dish that differs from the original meal. Some of my favourite ways to use up left over are soups, stews and casseroles but frittatas, omelettes and quiche also come into play. My rule of thumb is to always cook extra. Always keep in mind what you can use the left overs for as well as adding to your freezer quick starts.

Roast Beef Casserole

As promised here is the casserole made from our roast beef dinner. I had a little roast beef, gravy, corn and garlic mashed potatoes left over. I added fresh sauteed mushrooms, steamed spinach and home canned corn. This type of casserole appears on the table anytime I have left over mashed potatoes and meat. The basic idea is to use the starch (mashed potatoes), meat and gravy along with any left over vegetables and make a casserole. At the same time introducing one or more ingredients makes the meal different from the original. Here I combined left overs with new ingredients to make a filling casserole. Serve with a salad and home baked bread.

Basic Method: Cut meat into bite size pieces. Mix with any left over gravy. Place into a casserole dish forming one layer. Layer vegetables on top then finish with the starch layer. Bake at 350ºF until the casserole is warmed through.

Roasted Pork Chops

A half or whole pig custom cut is always a good deal. If you have read this blog you will know that is the way we buy the majority of our pork. Pork chops are always cut 1-inch thick. The reason for this is the way we cook pork chops and that tends to be one of four ways: breaded, roasted, grilled or in mushroom sauce. Thick pork chops are a must for these applications. I roasted thick pork chops in the countertop roaster then served with steamed broccoli and roasted potatoes topped with home canned chili sauce, recipe here.

Method: Place 4 - 1 inch thick pork chops in the roaster. Add 1 ½ c water. Chop 1 small onion and sprinkle over the pork chops. Tuck in bay leaf. Splash liberally (about 2 tbsp) with Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle on about 2 tbsp Herbs de Provence. Cover and roast at 250ºF until pork chops are cooked through. Add whole, unpeeled potatoes. Continue cooking fro about 20 minutes. Stir in quartered fresh mushrooms. Continue cooking at 250ºF for 15 minutes. Increase the temperature to 350ºF for about 15 minutes. Remove pork chops and potatoes from roaster. Stir in a slurry consisting of corn starch, water, salt, pepper and 1/4 tsp browning (optional).

Pork Chop Casserole

This left over casserole was put together in layers much like the roast beef casserole except I used 1½ pork chop from the night before and the gravy. Originally I was going to add the left over potatoes but since I wanted to use pasta decided against that. I poured the solid contents of a 500 ml jar of home canned beans and the same in home canned niblet corn over the pork chop in gravy. Then I topped with cooked elbow macarroni. I mixed one tin of condensed mushroom soup mixed with one half tin of milk then poured that over the noodles and topped with ¼ shredded cheddar cheese and ½ shredded provolone cheese. I baked the casserole tented with tin foil at 350ºF until hot through then removed the tin foil and allow the cheese to brown. Served with a simple baby greens salad topped with lemon juice it was a nice way to use up left overs.


Garden Gnome

Monday, March 10, 2008

Weekend Cooking

I was to host a baby shower for our soon to arrive second grandchild Saturday afternoon and my husband was hosting a poker game Saturday night so I began preparing foods on Friday. By early Saturday morning it was clear that the weather was not going to co-operate. The kids called just after 9 am to say they had spun the car out and while they were not injured the car was more than likely totaled. Being so close to the due date a trip to the hospital was necessary. So without the guest of honour and the worsening weather, I spent a bit of time calling all the guests to say we had cancelled the baby shower due to weather conditions. Meanwhile, a couple of our kids along with grandbaby arrived having travelled Friday night before the storm hit. The weather also resulted in a much smaller turn-out for the poker game.

The breakfast bar was lined with foods. There were 36 decorated cupcakes on the table and the refrigerator was threatening to burst at the seams. I had planned on making chili for dinner first thing Saturday morning but with the cancellations decided to make a change of plans since my husband had his heart set on roast beef. The white out conditions combined with the howling wind and rising snow drifts didn't seem so bad as the house filled with the tantalizing aroma of the roast. Now I'm left with a lot of extra food, some of which needs to be used up quickly.

Spinach Dip

Spinach dip in a hollowed out loaf of pumpernickel bread has become a classic party dish. It is quick and easy to make. This dip is inexpensive and travels well. However, the dip is also perfect for dipping vegetables. There are likely several variations of this spinach dip but I think most use a vegetable soup mix. I've modified the dip recipe from the original.

I made a large vegetable tray with spinach dip in the centre. The vegetables consisted of carrot sticks, celery sticks, red and green pepper slivers, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms. I used the remaining half of the spinach dip for a tray with pumpernickel bread slices cut into quarters.

Spinach Dip

198 g (7 oz) fresh spinach
1 - 8 oz package cream cheese
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
1½ c sour cream
¼ c Miracle Whip
3 green onions
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix

Steam the spinach and allow to drain. Roughly chop spinach. Finely chop the green onions. Grate the Parmesan cheese. Combine all of the ingredients in KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Mix on setting 2 until creamy.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

My husband had declared roast done in the countertop roaster with mushroom gravy his new, must have meal. I'm very pleased with the performance of the roaster as well as the energy savings. My oven has a 2600 W element so costs 31¢ per hour whereas the roaster is 750 W that costs 9¢ per hour. Energy conservation is something that should be practiced in the kitchen wherever possible.

I decided to make mashed potatoes but wanted them fancied up just a little. There are many entries on this blog about the things I can, freeze and dry. I left the potatoes unpeeled then added roasted garlic and bacon pieces. You can find the method I use for roasting garlic here. I keep several vacuum sealed packages in the freezer to use for dishes like this. Each package is about 2 tbsp. I purposely made extra mashed potatoes for left-overs for tonight's dinner of roast beef pie. I'll post on that tomorrow.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

10 lb potatoes, washed and cubed
1 lb bacon
2 tbsp roasted garlic
1 small onion, finely chopped

Cut bacon across the slices to form small pieces of bacon. Fry until almost crispy. Drain well on paper towel, dabbing to remove any excess grease. Set bacon aside. Bring the prepared unpeeled potatoes to a boil and cook until tender. Drain. Put the half the potatoes into KitchenAid® stand mixer bowl. Slowly pour in enough milk to make potatoes somewhat smooth while beating using flat beater on speed 2. Note, the skin will make the potatoes a bit lumpy. Pour the first half of the potatoes into a large mixing bowl. Repeat with the other half of the potatoes. Add the second half of the potatoes to the mixing bowl. Add the bacon pieces, onion and roasted garlic. Mix well with a large spoon.

Tortilla Chips

Tortilla and nacho chips are family favourites for dipping. With the cancellation of the baby shower and fewer guys coming I found myself with 48 corn tortillas. I was going to freeze them but one of my kids suggested deep frying them to make chips. I normally buy ready made tortilla chips so was interested in how the home made would compare. What a difference! I will definitely be making fresh tortilla chips again. They are so fresh tasting with a nice crunch. The nice thing with making your own is being able to adjust the seasoning or salt. I added home canned salsa for dipping.

Tortilla Chips

48 6-inch corn tortilla shells
oil for frying
sea salt

Cut the tortilla shells into quarters. Heat deep fryer to 365ºF or put deep fryer on French fry setting. Fry the tortilla quarters in small batches about 20 seconds. Drain. Season with sea salt or other seasoning if desired. Seal in an air tight container if storing.


A frittata is simply an open-faced omelette with the extra ingredients mixed into the egg mixture. It is an ideal way to use up bits and pieces from the refrigerator. A previous entry on frittatas can be found here. I had extra chopped vegetables left-over from the vegetable pizza appetizer made for the guys. The recipe for making this appetizer can be found here. Sunday morning I decided to make a frittata for breakfast to use up a few of the vegetables and sliced mushrooms. I also added home canned ham. Home canned ham is a definite, must in my pantry. It is oh so easy to can and can be used for so many dishes!

This frittata differs in the cooking method. Normally I cook on the stove then finish in the oven in a cast iron fry pan. However, I started out thinking I would make fancied up scrambled eggs but ended up making a frittata cooked on the stovetop. The stovetop method worked nicely.


Saute mushroom slices in butter until cooked in a deep sided, non-stick fry pan. Stir in chopped vegetables. I used red pepper, a small onion, broccoli, carrots and green onions. Continue cooking on medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Add home canned ham pieces (500 ml jar, meat only). Whisk one dozen eggs in a mixing bowl. Pour eggs over the vegetables. Stir lightly to mix the vegetables and ham into the eggs. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover the fry pan with tin foil. Continue cooking until eggs are set. Sprinkle about 1½ c shredded provolone cheese over the egg mixture. Cover and continue cooking until cheese is melted. Remove from heat. Cut into wedges for serving.


Garden Gnome

Monday, March 03, 2008

Twelve Grain Bread

There has been a lot of talk about the cost of bread rising and sadly that is true. Not only has the price of wheat increasing costs of other ingredients, transportation and labour costs are driving the increase. According to one Canadian source, the price of bread will be increasing by 25 to 30 percent. While the price of flour will also increase it will still be possible to save money by making your own breads. However, saving money is just a nice little bonus when making your own breads. The mouth watering aroma of homemade bread baking is one of life's simple pleasures.

Twelve Grain & Basic White Breads

I baked twelve grain and basic white bread today. Multi-grain bread like twelve grain are denser, lower rising loaves but they high in nutrition and fiber as well as being quite filling. Making wholesome and healthy breads is quite easy when you use a pre-mixed multi-grain flour. It eliminates all the measuring of various grains and flours. I use two pre-mixed organic multi-grain flours for breadmaking, 7 grain and 12 grain. The twelve grain flour used in this recipe consists of hard whole wheat flour, whole spelt flour, kamut flour, granola oats, ground brown flax seeds, quinoa seed, amaranth seed, barley flour, whole rye flour, dark buckwheat flour, hulled sunflower seeds and hemp seeds.

Twelve Grain Bread

2 ⅔ c unbleached flour
1 ⅓ c 12 grain flour
2 tsp sea salt
4 tsp organic brown sugar
1 tbsp instant dry yeast
4 tsp canola oil
1½ milk

Mix dry ingredients together on speed 1 of KitchenAid® stand mixer. Mix oil and milk together then slowly pour into dry ingredients while mixing on speed 2 until well mixed. Cover and let rest 15 minutes. Knead on speed 2 until dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise until double in a warm area. Shape into loaf. Place on baking sheet or in loaf pan. Cover and allow to rise until double. Bake at 390ºF (200ºC) for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Garden Gnome

Kitchen Update and Blade Roast with Mushrooms

No, I have not dropped off the face of the earth. As you know we are renovating our kitchen and as with all renovations things seldom go one hundred percent according to plan. The focus of the renovation is the cabinet doors and the countertop. All the doors are in very good condition except for about five. The problem stems from neglect by the previous owner but the solution is not as easy as it first appeared. The cabinets are stained to match the wood ceiling and wainscotting both of which carry on into the family room. Replacing the cabinets is not an option without affecting the ceiling of both rooms so onto plan B. I ordered a finish restorer mid February that still isn't in so this weekend I picked up another product to try. However, after much discussion later as to how refinishing likely will not give the desired results we have now decided to replace all the doors and refinish only the cabinet frames. The new sink has not arrived either. On the bright side, the tile for the countertop along with the thin set, grout and tools are all sitting in the kitchen waiting to be installed as soon as the frames are refinished and sink arrives. Basically we are keeping the counters as bare as possible while we work. Drawings of alterations and new locations decorate the old countertop. The down side is the frames have to wait until after this weekend because we have two large get togethers here so I don't want the doors off the cabinets just yet. At the same time we are finishing up one accent wall on the upper level and prepping what was the good livingroom for painting on the upper level.

I'm not doing a lot of cooking at the moment aside of basic meals although I did make a large batch of spaghetti sauce and canned half of that last week. The canners will be out of commission for a couple of weeks. Cooking will continue as normal as possible around the renovation work. The weather has warmed a bit so the grill will be called into action as well.

Blade Roast

The cut of meat determines the cooking method. While any cut of meat can be cooked using any method, certain cooking methods give better results with certain cuts of meat. A blade roast is a cut of beef from the shoulder (part of the chuck) with lots of connective tissue so it is a cheaper cut. However it is also a flavourful, juicy and tender roast when cooked at lower temperatures. It is a perfect cut for a pot roast.

I put a blade roast (about 3 lb) into the HamiltonBeach® countertop roaster, seasoned it with Montreal Steak seasoning and sliced onions then poured about 1½ cup of water into the roaster. The roaster was set at 200ºF. I added small whole and halved larger fresh mushrooms when the roast had cooked for an hour and a half and allowed the roast to continue cooking at 200ºF for a half hour then turned the temperature to 350ºF. Then I stirred in a slurry of cornstarch, water and ¼ tsp browning to thicken the juices.

The roast was melt in your mouth tender and juicy with a wonderful flavour. The mushroom gravy was nice an rich just perfect for ladling over baked potatoes or the meat. I rounded out the meal with sweet peas, a side salad and dinner rolls.

The nice thing about this meal prep was the roast was cooked in the roaster outside of the main kitchen. We were doing a lot of measuring and pulling a few things apart so the stove was covered. When my oven is on there is an automatic power venting. Covering would interfere with the venting. The countertop roaster made it possible to use an oven without using the main oven or the gas grill. I really must admit to being rather impressed with the performance of the countertop roaster.