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

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Vacation Cooking - Eggs Three Ways (methods)

We decided to lounge around the condo for the mornings before going sight seeing. The entire day on Sunday (January 20th) was spent in and around the condo as well to enjoy the view, sit around the pool and watch football. Well, he watched football while I amused myself playing Monopoly on my PDA and watching the ever changing view from the balcony. When renting a condo location is key! The fact that you get kitchen facilities is an added bonus. Being on vacation means not a lot of home cooking and working with equipment or lack thereof can really put a damper on what you can prepare. This is one of the few times that I will use pre-made convenience foods but I still prefer to pick up baked goods from a bakery. It's also I time that I rely on basics for whatever cooking I'm doing.

We seldom eat a hot breakfast at home with the exception of Sunday mornings. So a hot breakfast is one thing we like to indulge in when travelling or on vacation. I picked up a dozen eggs. 1/2 lb butter and pound of bacon for the week. The eggs weren't free range so didn't have quite the depth of flavour but they were tolerable.

The croissants were bought from Giorgio's Bakery & Bristo in Hollywood, Florida. They were delectable! I will be trying to duplicate these at home. My husband and I have very different taste in eggs. The only things we really agree on with respect to eggs is free range is preferred and is scrambled is a last resort. He likes his easy over or poached both with runny yolks. I like mine sunny side up, yolks runny and normally showing their bright yellow.

I added slices of fresh papaya. The papaya I bought was nothing like I can get at home. The flavour is so much deeper and richer, juicier, more robust. I so wanted to take a few home but my husband already thought we were pushing it with the coconut and he was concerned over crushing the fruit. So we filled ourselves with the lovely flavour of the tropicals vowing to visit again.

Method Poached Eggs: [A bit of vinegar is recommended in the water for poaching but my husband does not like that. Vinegar will cause the egg white to stay together while cooking.] Bring about cups of water to a boil then reduce heat to keep a high simmer. Stir the water to form a bit of a funnel. Drop each egg in one at a time while the water is funneling. Carefully dip a slotted spoon under each egg to ensure they do not stick to the bottom. Watch for the yolk to cloud over. Carefully dip a slotted spoon under each egg and remove from the simmering water. Tilt to drain then plate.

Method Sunnyside Up Eggs: Place about 1 tbsp olive oil or oil of your choice in a non-stick fry pan. Heat the pan on medium high. Crack eggs into the pan. Cover checking oven to remove the lid when the yolks are still yellow or if you like a firmer yolk allow the white to cover over the yolk. Remove cover and plate the eggs.

Macadamia Nut Cookies

We picked up six lovely macadamia nut cookies from Giorgio's. Now my husband is not fond of nuts so when he wanted these I was quite happy. Giorgio's smelled absolutely wonderful! I could have stayed there all day but I digress. I've been introducing more nuts into our diet but have been met with some resistance. Aside of peanuts, pistachios and occasionally cashews as snacks, nuts only appear in a few deserts and entrés. These cookies looked every bit as good as they tasted so they are another on my list of to try at home. They were nicely flavoured with a bit of chewiness accented with the nut pieces yet almost melt in your mouth. Now I just have to find a good recipe so I will be reporting back on my attempts. It is going to take a really good recipe to beat these cookies!

Lasagne

A prospect stay in day meant I went right back to the typed of food we would eat at home even though we were in the sunny south. We picked up a ready made salad with three little cups of dressing. The salad was the normal greens with peppers, onions, tomatoes and cucumbers. There was only one choice for the dressing, honey mustard but it was quite pleasant. A frozen family size (5 servings) lasagne completed the meal. The lasagne actually was made in Canada then sold in Publix in Florida. There were instructions for warming from frozen in the oven or microwave. It was was no where near to the taste of home made but it allowed us to have a leisurely evening meal while watching the ocean.

Egg Muffins

Refrigerator rolls make for quick sandwiches with little fuss making them an ideal food for vacation cooking. Egg muffins are easy to make using refrigerator rolls and slices of cheddar cheese. For best flavour do not use American processed cheese slices.

Method: Bake the refrigerator rolls as per instructions on the container. Remove from oven and cut in half. Heat a non-stick fry pan with a little oil. Fry eggs lightly turning for easy over. Place an egg on the bottom of each roll. Top with cheese and top of roll. Enjoy!

This is the last of pictures and commentaries of foods cooked in the condo during our vacation. Only a small portion of the foods we experienced on vacation were made in the condo. If you are considering renting a condo as part or all of your vacation accommodations a considerable amount of money can be saved if you cook the majority of your meals there even if you buy convenience and pre-made foods. However, as I found out ask ahead of time what types of cooking utensils and cookware there is. This will vary greatly from one condo owner to the next. Items lacking in the condo we rented were sharp knives, baking sheet, medium saucepan, small saucepan and phone book. Ask too whether items you are used to using such as food storage containers or tinfoil are included for storing any left overs. Ask if there are laundry facilities and a dishwasher and if so bring detergent with you if that is not included. If not you can pick up enough for your vacation at a dollar store then leave whatever is left behind especially if you are flying. When grocery shopping buy only what you can use during your stay. You will more than likely have to buy basics like sugar, salt, pepper and any spices you wish to use along with butter and oil. With the exception of butter, all could be brought with you even if flying if properly packaged depending on room in your luggage. This is a good opportunity to use up some of those left over restaurant condiment packages kept for just in case as well. Other than that keep your cooking simple, kick back and relax!


Monday, January 28, 2008

More Vacation Foods in Florida

We left Key West just after 10 am on Thursday (January 17, 2008) stopping at a cute pub called Don's Place where we waited for the Mac store to open. Island life is just a bit slower paced :) From there we travelled to my husband's aunt and uncle's on No Name Key. Now this is just a really pretty place to visit! They are totally solar powered and they gather their own water. So I had to share a little on this stop. Our final destination for the night was the condo in Hallandale, Florida. Upon arrival and getting settled, we did a little grocery shopping then settled in on the balcony to watch the ocean.

Coconut Palm

As many of you know I love to garden. It influences my cooking style so when we stopped at my husband's aunt and uncle's place I was in seventh heaven! Their gardens were amazing. They are totally solar so that in itself really impressed me and you can be sure I will be asking more questions on that but the gardens were like a magnet. They had a few coconut palms all loaded and along with some lovely looking tomatoes and herbs were star fruit, papaya and figs as well as other tropical plants. They take the boat out fishing catching fish I can only buy and offered to take us out fishing knowing we would have kitchen facilities but we had to meet the owner of the condo so could only stay a short time. After a lovely and relaxing visit we left with star fruit, figs and my much coveted coconut. His aunt offered more coconuts but my husband was firm that only one would be allowed. With visions of moving to an island like this where we could grow produce year round we headed up US 1. We saw three Key deer and even though we were travelling slow they were a blur when photographed.

My Coconut!

My coconut weighs in at 5.75 lb but that's with the husk. My husband took one look and hinted several times as to how to rid ourselves of the coconut but I was determined to bring it home. His concern was the weight since apparently someone (rolling eyes, shrugging shoulders, looking very innocent) packs too much. My concern was getting it through Canadian Customs which ended up be no problem. Now I have this gorgeous coconut that needs to be husked then I am going to find something special to make. As soon as I figure out how to break the baby open you will hear about it. I brought a tin of cream of coconut in the Key West and already had a tin of coconut milk at home, I think a Pina Colada type of desert might just be around the corner.

Bruschetta

Friday afternoon we stopped at Giorgio's Bakery & Bristro at 800 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood, Florida. This was a short drive up from our condo on the intercostal. There is indoor seating but we opted to sit at a table outdoors right on the water. It was a beautiful, bright sunny and warm day. We watched the boats come in and out as we basked in the sun.

We ordered bruschetta with roasted garlic, homemade mozzarella, vine ripe tomatoes, garden fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil as an appetizer. The bruschetta was a half loaf of their fresh made bread topped with cheese, tomatoes, garlic and very lovely tasting fresh basil drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. That touch of balsamic really made the flavours burst! This is definitely a must try at home!

Not pictured was my husbands Phily Cheese Steak (apparently he has developed quite the liking for these) and my smoked salmon wrap with herb cheese and cucumber. Both were exellent! On the way out I bought dinner rolls and coissants from the bakery. I took pictures of the bakery as well. So many wonderful looking foods and the smell was incredible.

Condo Kitchen

This is a photo of the condo kitchen. It was a small "L-shape" with seating for two but it was clean and bright. I really liked the ceiling that doesn't show in this photo. The appliances were all medium range GE but more than adequate. I'm not sure of the problem but the fridge freezer seemed to be icing where it shouldn't. The sink had a garburator but we didn't use that. The oven while being self cleaning was very small, about a third the size of my home oven. The stovetop was smooth glasstop that gave me a few times trying it out. Whether I will by a glasstop module for my stove is still up in the air. There were things I liked about the glasstop and things I didn't. What was rather neat was the microwave as it had a browning element in it so you could microwave the food then brown the top. The Salton coffee maker had an option to make espresso something we might consider for home.

DiGiorno Pizza

One of the neat things about travelling is you can try foods you normally wouldn't at home. Even if you are cooking them in a kitchenette or condo you still will be making easy to prepare foods and likely relying more on convenience foods. And there is nothing wrong with that as after all you are on vacation. However, do try to keep it relatively healthy.

After much discussion we decided on a DiGiorno pizza for a snack Friday (Jan 18) night. We had bought a few groceries and this was one of our convenience splurges. The condo amenities simply did not lend themselves for cooking from scratch much so this was a close second. I have to admit it wasn't bad especially since it had spinach as one of the toppings. I will be adding chopped spinach to my list of toppings for homemade pizza.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

More on Key West Food

Today I was pouring through the 640 pictures taken during our Florida vacation. Surprisingly there are less pictures of the foods we ate that I thought. Unfortunately I did not take pictures of the food at the last two places we ate at in Key West. In fairness we arrived in Key West just after 9 pm on January 15 (Tuesday) and left at 10 am January 17 (Thursday) so there really wasn't a lot of time so I was obviously caught up in the excitement of seeing as much as possible in a short period of time.

Sloppy Joe's Bar

Sloppy Joe's Bar is on the corner of Greene and Duval streets. It has been in business since 1933 and has the reputation of being Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar. Of this author's works I have only read Old Man and the Sea but seeing his house and visiting the bar he liked somehow seemed just right.

Sloppy Joe's is really a pleasant place with open walls to both streets. The bar has a relaxing atmosphere with live entertainment starting at noon. They offer a nice menu as well. We ordered a quesadilla to share as a snack since we had enjoyed a substantial breakfast at Cypress House. The quesadilla was quite large, folded in half and cut into three pieces. It came with spicy salsa sauce and sour cream. The filling was simply melted cheeses, onions and black beans. Now my husband wasn't very pleased at the prospect of black beans but he tried them and ate a few of them. I really enjoyed the black beans. [I'm already thinking of ways to serve black beans at home!]

While sightseeing we made several stops including the southernmost point of the United States. We bought Key West Scooter Hot Sauce, Jolly Roger Hot Sauce that promises to bleach your bones, and key lime juice. The nice thing is I can purchase these products online if we run out before we get back to the area.

Rum Barrel

After an afternoon of sight seeing on the scooter we headed back to Cypress House to park the scooter for the night. Then we headed to the Rum Barrel for dinner. To the right when you enter there is a small dining room where we ate. One thing that quickly becomes apparent is eating heavy foods in Key West is not as appealing as eating snackier types of foods but that is likely because we came from a cold climate so had a bit of wanting something different or it could be we were too tired to eat a larger meal. I ordered the Creole Gater Bites [sorry no picture] served with Creole honey mustard for dipping and a side salad. My husband ordered a Real Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. The prices were more than reasonable.

The Philly Cheesesteak was quite large, filled with generous slices of thinly sliced beef and cheese served on a large bun. The garter bites were interesting and yes my husband even tried one. They came battered with the Creole honey mustard on the side in a dipping bowl. Be warned the honey mustard does have a bit of a nip to it. The alligator has a texture a little firmer and heavier than frog legs with a bit more chewy. It does not taste like chicken either! I would like to recreate this appetizer at home so will be looking for an online source for fresh or frozen alligator.

After dinner we moved to a table in the bar section under the Rum Barrel sign in front of the window closest to the meter except the windows were open that night. We settled in for the evening to listing to the live music of Jeff Clark's band. The band members and our mixologist autographed our daily specials menu. It was a nice way to spend our final night in Key West.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Vacation Eats

We arrived home to cold, snowy weather after our much needed break in the sunny south, Key West and Fort Lauderdale to be specific. This was our first trip with the exception of staying in a motel the night before flying out that we decided to not motel it at our destinations. We rented a cute little red convertible in Fort Lauderdale then made our way to Key West where we got around by scooter, back to Hallandale after a stop at No Name Key finally arriving at Fort Lauderdale to fly back home. Aside of soaking up a few of the sun's rays, sight seeing and walking along the beach we enjoyed a lot of great foods. If you are interested in the non-food side of our vacation I'll be making several entries with photos on my personal blog over the next week or so. To orient you, we stayed at Cypress House a lovely, historical bed and breakfast in Key West where we enjoyed breakfasts at the inn and ate out. Then we made our way back up to Hallandale where we stayed at a wonderful condo on the 14th floor of the Sian Ocean Condo Residences with ocean and intercoastal views. The kitchen was slightly different than pictured in the ad so I'll post pictures of that later. We were on vacation and I insisted on cooking a few meals more because taking it easy in the morning, sipping coffee while enjoying the ocean view and relaxing was nicer than rushing to get ready to go out for breakfast. I'll be sharing some of the foods we ate during our vacation foods and places we enjoyed eating over the next few posts, as always with my commentaries.

Potato Skins

Once the suitcases are packed and loaded into the car, vacation mode sets in. We generally stay overnight before winter flights simply to remove the possible delay due to weather. The night before our flight we stayed at a Four Points by Sherridan motel. I don't know what it is but I always have to try something from their menu simply because. So while my husband lounged in the room, I headed down to the motel bar where anything on the menu could be ordered. The bar consisted of a large oval bar with bar stools, table seating to the left and casual, comfy seating to the right. The staff were very friendly. Pondering the menu I decided on potato skins then patiently waited while people watching. Six well topped potato skins quickly arrived for me to take back to the room. These were quite good, very cheesy at at $7 a rather inexpensive appetizer. The next morning we woke to snow thankful to be heading south. This motel included park & fly and had a shuttle to the airport where we arrived bright and early to enjoy breakfast about three hours before our flight.

[sorry, no photo] Our experience has been that airport food can be quite good but sometimes it can be touch and go. We've been at this particular airport bar/restaurant on several occasions so know what to expect. We each ordered scrambled eggs (the only choice), sausage, home fries and toast. It was an average breakfast served on plastic plates with plastic utensils. However, the eggs were real eggs, the sausage was nicely browned and the toast was sourdough! In general the airport bar/restaurant combo serves higher quality foods than the airport fast food ones but even that varies from airport to airport.

Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville

Landing in Fort Lauderdale was slightly delayed and it took ages to get our luggage (a good 40 minutes!). A shuttle took us to the car rental then finally we were on our way towards Key West at just about 4:30 pm. We were on a time schedule to get to Cypress House before the office closed at 9 pm. Well we were warned about US 1 being tedious. As we neared the 8 pm mark the innkeeper called to see where we were and to make arrangements for us to pick-up the key if we arrived after 9 pm. Well we pulled in front of Cypress House just as the innkeeper was locking the front gate so all was well. The only stop we had made on the way down was through a drive through at Wendy's for a snack. Most of you know how I feel about fast food restaurants but we hadn't eaten since breakfast. After settling in we walked down Duval Street to Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville where we enjoyed a Cheese burger in Paradise ($8.95 each), key lime pie ($4.95 shared), a couple of drinks and live entertainment. My husband tried a Rum Runner ($6.95), a Keys favourite. This is a must eat at restaurant in Key West! Our waiter was one of the best. Although we took several photos I must have been too tired to remember taking pictures of the food only so thanks to our waiter we appear in several of the photos. A Jimmy Buffett burger comes with all the toppings including the Heinz 57. Strolling along Duval to Caroline then up to Cypress House, I vowed to take more pictures of the food as the warm breeze brushed my shoulders.

Continental Breakfast

The following morning we enjoyed the continental breakfast served from 8 am to 11 am at Cypress House. The breakfast is laid out in the kitchen of the main house. The cabinetry and appliances are modern but in keeping with the historical atmosphere. And I really loved their Viking stove! Unlike many continental breakfasts Cypress House has hot offerings as well as the standard cold cereals, fruits and breads. I do have to give them two thumbs up for their coffee as well that was rich bodied and full flavoured. The photo is of the main cold foods serving area in the kitchen. To the left not pictured is their prep area and that lovely Viking. Before the chair at the bottom is a bank of counter where the hot beverages are. To the right is the hot foods. On this particular day there were hot biscuits with sausage. The following day they had hot apple pancakes.

Once you load your plate, it is only a short walk out the kitchen door into the green space where you can enjoy your meal on the pool side covered patio. The atmosphere is calming as the palm trees rustle slightly in the wind. Other guests give a friendly greeting as does the resident pets. What's nice too is you can always take your plate back to your room then enjoy breakfast on one of the verandas off the room. Sitting on a wicker rocker gently rocking while sipping good coffee is a wonderful way to start the day!


Monday, January 14, 2008

A Brief Cooking Hiatus


January 14 - 24, 2007


Friday, January 11, 2008

Truly Canadian eh! - Poutine

Living in North America it is often hard to identify a truly Canadian dish. There are more than you would think and with this posting will make at least three uniquely Canadian dishes posted on this blog. I plan to post more of a Canadian influence for 2008 so you will be seeing more Canadian dishes in the future. Poutine is one of our favourites even though we do not indulge in it often. Poutine is a true comfort dish well worth making and one that will become one of your favourites as well.

Poutine

In some areas poutine is called "ugly fries". I'm not sure why as the fries are quite good and certainly are not ugly! There are three rules for making poutine: fresh hand-cut fries (sorry nothing else will do), real beef or chicken gravy (not canned, not powdered, the real McCoy!), and cheese (fresh white cheddar, ideally curds). Trust me on this, get the curds if at all possible (easily available in Canada, less so in the US). They have a slightly saltier flavour and chewier texture than grated cheddar that just really makes this dish. Ok so I had two out of the three but not the cheese curds. There are two simple rules for eating poutine: forget calories and enjoy!

Poutine is a simple dish to make. Simply deep fry the fries, top with cheese curds or in this case shredded cheese the pour over the hot gravy. I used left-over gravy from the eye of round roast. Please don't use anything but real gravy. At best you will get a sluff-off of poutine even though some sites tell you to use powdered gravy. Nope, use the real gravy for best results!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Take-out & Stuffed Manicotti

January is always a rough month for me as I'm burnt from the holiday preparations and entertaining combined with the after effects of the dull, grey days of November. It is one of the few months where finding the motivation to cook can be a challenge. Thank goodness for the food channel! With the holiday hustle out of the way, our holiday quickly approaching and bulk beef on the way, the main goal is eating from the freezers. So I'm doing an all out of using foods from the freezer for each meal but Saturday we deviated from that for dinner by ordering out. Sunday I was back into cooking mode!

Ordered-in Food

We all have those days when take-out or ordered-in food makes a perfect meal. For us that works out to once or twice a month. Our only ordered-in food tends to be a large pizza with 2 lb wings with take-out being Chinese. The pizza is usually half one kind of topping and half the another. The wings come with a option for different sauces so we always get medium hot and honey garlic sauce. Now, this doesn't mean that we can't sit down to a nice meal. There are times when we eat the pizza out of the box but most times it is plated to be enjoyed as any other meal. I usually make some kind of salad while waiting for delivery. More often than not the salad is left-overs from the night before as it was Saturday night when we ordered in.


Stuffed Manicotti

There is an endless possibility for pasta dishes. Stuffed manicotti takes more prep work but the results are well worth it. You can stuff manicotti with anything you want but usually a meat, cheese and vegetable mixture is used. Once stuffed the manicotti is topped with tomato sauce and cheese then baked.

Trust me on this one, unless you use a piping method you will get your hands dirty on this prep. I stuff the manicotti using a spoon. It works nicely if you work slowly. I used a pork, cheese and spinach mixture to stuff the manicotti then topped with roasted tomato sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Served with a simple salad sprinkled with lemon juice and cheese 'n' onion bread it made for a nice meal.

Stuffed Manicotti
edited January 14, 2007 - forgot the spinach!

pasta:
1 250 g package manicotti
water
dash of oil
1/2 tsp sea salt

filling:
1 ½ lb ground pork
1 tbsp bacon fat
½ medium onion, chopped fine
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp crushed oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
1 c grated mozzarella cheese
2 c ricotta cheese
dash fresh ground pepper
1 ½ c steamed spinach, chopped
2 eggs slightly beaten

topping:
2 500 ml jars roasted tomato sauce (or tomato sauce of your choice)
½ c Parmigiano Reggiano
½ c mozzarella cheese

Brown the ground pork in the bacon fat. Drain and set aside. Steam the spinach, chop and set aside. Chop onion and stir in spices, cheeses and eggs. Mix well into the ground beef. Stir in the spinach.

Bring the water, salt and oil to boil in a large sauce pan. Stir in the manicotti. Cook until just flexible. Drain. Spoon filling into the manicotti. Place manicotti into a large baking pan. Pour roasted tomato sauce over the manicotti. Sprinkle cheeses over the sauce. Cover with tin foil and bake 180ºC (350ºF) for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more. Remove from oven. Garnish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Cheese 'N' Onion Bread and 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Today was warm for the season and it was rainy. That meant it was good for the heating bill but not so good for things like making bread. The weather plays a huge role in cooking, baking and home food preservation something that many fail to take into consideration. For example, low front days or rainy days are not good candy making days. High humidity or too dry days will affect bread dough even if with air conditioning and heating. So the next time you try cooking or baking something and it doesn't turn out as expected, consider the effects of weather.

I wanted to bake breads today so that meant adjusting for the weather. With any bread recipe I always measure out about a half cup of flour. Once the bread is mixed the extra flour is added just enough to get a dough that is not sticky. On damp days like today more flour is needed. I ended up using the bread proofing setting on my oven, something I seldom do. Even with that the bread was sluggish taking longer to rise. Had it been only one loaf of bread I could over looked the weather but when both were tried and true loaves, behaved poorly with needing extra flour and longer proofing time I knew it was the weather. Problems aside, I ended up with two lovely tasting loaves even though they would not have won awards for symmetry but both were perfect for sandwiches.

Cheese 'N' Onion Bread

Breads do not need to be plain and while white and whole wheat tends to be the most common, there are so many more varieties. Any white bread can be changed by a few additions. This recipe started out as it was meant to be, not a white bread. I modified it significantly for when I made the loaf in a bread machine then again for the stand mixer.

Cheese 'n' Onion bread is a good way to use the homemade dried onion pieces I have spoke with in earlier entries. Extra sharp cheddar cheese packs a punch of flavour. Be sure to use a good quality cheddar for best flavour. If you want the top crust soft, brush with butter while the loaf is hot as I did with this loaf. Also, if you let the bread sit and cool as in the picture the bottom will be quite soft because of condensation. This is fine for pictures but for best results move the bread on the rack over a half sink or sit above a cake pan to give more air circulation allowing the bottom crust to cool without becoming too soft.

Cheese 'N' Onion Bread
ABM recipe modified for KitchenAid® stand mixer

1 ⅔ c milk
3 tbsp organic sugar
1 ½ tsp sea salt
4 tsp dried onion
1 c extra old cheddar cheese, grated
4 ½ c unbleached flour
2 tsp instant yeast

Place the dry ingredients in the stand mixer bowl. 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 as is not sticky. Knead on speed 2 for 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. 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.

*Always make sure the mixer is unplugged before attaching or removing attachments.

The original recipe for this wonderful whole wheat bread started as a bread machine recipe but I was never happy with the results so I did a lot of tweaking. Many bread machine recipes use water and skim milk powder. That is so you can use the delay setting. However, actual milk gives a much nicer result. Milk adds a softness to the bread as does oil and honey. The original recipe called for using shortening. Now there are times when shortening is the only thing that will work but this isn't one of them. Shortening also adds softness but no flavour so butter is a better choice since it adds flavour and it makes more sense given that I insist on as natural as possible ingredients.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat bread is a good breakfast and sandwich bread so I try to make a loaf a week. This particular loaf has a lovely flavour. The flavour comes from all natural ingredients. A longer rise time is well worth the taste of this loaf.

Whole wheat flour can result in a shorter, denser loaf of bread because of a lower gluten content. There are two ways to increase the volume of the bread. The easiest way is to add 1 tbsp gluten flour for every 3 c of whole wheat flour. The second method and the one that should be used by those on gluten-restricted diets is to use a longer knead time along with a longer rise time. If using the second method the rise time can be as much as doubled so plan on making the bread earlier in the day for dinner or later afternoon for breakfast the next day.


100% Whole Wheat Bread
ABM recipe modified for KitchenAid® stand mixer

1 ½ c milk
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp local honey
2 tbsp fancy molasses
2 tsp sea salt
4 c whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp gluten flour (optional)**

Place the dry ingredients in the stand mixer bowl. Mix on speed 2 for 30 seconds. Mix wet ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Continue mixing on speed 2 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.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Important Canning Note & Last Night's Dinner - Sweet & Sour Pork Loin Ribs

Things are a little slow in the kitchen right now so a bit of housekeeping and chit chat.


An Important Note on Canning Recipes: Altitude Adjustments
It has been brought to my attention that I haven't mentioned the need to adjust processing times if using a boiling water bath (BWB) canner or pressure canner at altitudes higher than 1,000 ft (305 M) above sea level. This is an oversight on my part based on the assumption that anyone using my recipes would know to adjust the processing if they live at a higher altitude. We live below 1,000 ft (305 M) above sea level so like many canning recipes found online, mine are written to be processed at that level. At higher altitudes, the length of processing needs to be increased BWB canning and the pressure needs to be increased for pressure canning.

I created the altitude adjustment chart image in Photoshop CS2 using USDA recommendations and information from the charts found here. I liked the incorporation of both Imperial and Metric measurements for a universally useful resource. I will be going through the archives to note the canning recipes with a link back to my chart but this will take some time. I will also be adding a link in the sidebar to the altitude adjustment chart.

Tossed Salad

A good portion of the meals entries on this blog don't include pictures of sides like salads and the other foods that go into making our meals. Salads are one of those sides that are usually served at most dinners and quite often are served by themselves for dinner. This time of year really makes me yearn for fresh picked salad greens. Being in a cold winter climate that isn't always possible unless you grow a few pots of salad greens on a windowsill. Unfortunately I don't have salad greens grown but have herbs planted in containers. I started one larger pot of mescalin mix so hopefully will be clipping that in another couple of weeks. So we are relying on store bought greens for salads.

This tossed salad was made with iceberg lettuce as a base. Iceberg lettuce while popular for the crunch has very little nutritional value. It's not something that I grow or use very often. When I do, I like pairing it with darker raw green vegetables like sweet peppers and broccoli. Cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and just a little cheddar cheese completed the toppings. A sun dried tomato and oregano dressing was the finishing touch.

Sweet & Sour Pork Loin Ribs

On my quest to use one food item from the pantry and another from the freezer, I decided on pork loin ribs. These are large meaty ribs with no bones so ends up being a rather frugal choice for meat. It reheats well and can easily be froze.

This was a rather large package of pork loin ribs at just under 11 kg (5 lb). I decided to use a sweet and sour sauce on the ribs much the same I do with chicken wings. This is a slow cook process. The sweet and sour sauce is ideal for chicken or pork and works just as well in a slow cooker as a roaster although it does not caramelize to the same degree in a slow cooker.

Method: The meat goes in a covered roaster with just about a 250 ml (1 c) water at 135ºC (275ºF) for about 3 hours. It is important to leave the meat alone without lifting the lid. At the end of 3 hours, remove the roaster and drain most of the liquid. Reserve the liquid for cooking rice. Mix the sauce (recipe follows) then pour over the meat. For this amount of meat I used 2.5 times the recipe amounts. Increase temperature to 150º (300ºF) for about one hour. Increase temperature to 177ºC (350ºF), remove lid and continue cooking for about 30 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan to a serving platter. Drizzle sauce over top.

Sweet & Sour Sauce

1 c ketchup
¼ c vinegar
¼ c brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ finely chopped onion
1 tsp prepared mustard

Mix together. Pour over meat and bake or roast.
*Recipe easily doubles.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Venison Loin Chops and Cheese Stick Appetizers

The weather remains quite cold here even though we have had no new snow accumulation for the past twelve hours. I decided to experiment a bit with venison for dinner. We only have a little left and it needs to be used up. We also need to free up freezer space for the soon to arrive beef so I'm back to preparing meals with at least one or more foods from the freezer as much as possible. Later I fried up cheese sticks served with ranch dressing. Overall this effectively used up eight venison loin chops, side pork and a half package of cheese sticks from the freezer.

Venison Loin Chops

Venison loin chops are small but quite filling. Don't let what appears to be a small amount of meat on the plate fool you. Venison is very low fat and can have a tendency towards being tough and gamey in flavour. So, I always pair venison with pork of some kind. It is best could much the same way you would tougher cuts of beef, long and slow or in liquid.

In this case I used about 1 tbsp of bacon grease and four strips of side pork. Side pork looks like bacon but has a very different flavour because it isn't cured or smoked. I marinated the venison loin chops in sun roasted tomato and oregano dressing then placed on top of the side pork and bacon grease with a little of the marinade to slow roast. Accompaniments were Calrose rice cooked in chicken stock, home canned yellow wax beans and steamed asparagus. It wasn't a fancy meal but it met the goal of using two foods from the freezer.

Cheese Sticks

During the holiday season it is surprising how many little extras you end up with. Some of these like cheese sticks while not a regular part of our diets make for nice snacks. I had a half bag of cheese sticks left over from entertaining so decided to make an evening snack. These can be bought already breaded and ready to fry. One of these days I will try making my own from scratch but for now I had these to use up. The trick to frying cheese sticks is to use hot oil then fry until you can just see a bit of cheese oozing out. Remove from the fryer, drain on paper towels then arrange on sandwich plates or a platter. Individual serving bowls of Ranch dressing go nicely with cheese sticks.

Today's cooking wasn't particularly creative but it was good and used up three foods that freed up freezer space. Sometimes this style of pantry and freezer cooking is a necessity. Be sure to check back here as I share other pantry and freezer cooking ideas.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Dinner, Vegetable Pizza Appetizer, Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup

We were invited to a house party for New Year's Eve. I took a new appetizer and peanut brittle to the party. The weather had turned nasty with high winds, blowing snow and reduced visibility, definitely not good conditions for the increased potential of an encounter with a drunk driver so decided to stay overnight. The weather continued to worsen the following day but that didn't stop us from our New Year's Day tradition of grilling steaks. Unfortunately our plans for including lobster were dashed due to availability. Snow continued to fall most of today so I decided to modify my potato and leek soup recipe for dinner. Soup is always perfect for snowy, wintery days!

Vegetable Pizza Appetizer

Easy to make appetizers are always in high demand but more so during the holiday season. Three of the events we attended had both the layered taco dip and spinach dip in a bread bowl. These have become party classics. I wanted something different yet easy to make so poured through my cooking idea journal. A vegetable pizza appetizer was just what I was looking for.

I first came across this appetizer at an outdoor event several years ago. It was filed in my idea journal yet I had not tried it. This appetizer is served cold, travels nicely and is just a bit different. It was a huge hit! The short cut here is refrigerated croissant rolls which is what I used for the two pizzas I made. It was a real time saver but I want to tweak the recipe to use a homemade base. I was flying by the seat of the pants on this one trying to recreate what I remembered.

Vegetable Pizza Appetizer
recipe by: Garden Gnome

2 tins refrigerated croissant rolls
2 pk. 8 oz softened cream cheese
1 tbsp Herbs De Provence
3 tbsp Kraft ranch dressing
¾ c Miracle Whip

topping:
½ c finely chopped broccoli
½ c finely chopped green onions
½ c finely chopped raw carrots
¼ c finely chopped celery (optional)
¼ c finely chopped red pepper (optional)

Open refrigerator croissant rolls and carefully open the dough to lay flat. Place the first package on a large cookie sheet with silpat or parchment paper. Divide the other package in half leaving 4 croissants to be baked separately. Press the dough together to form a solid sheet. Bake at 400ºF until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Carefully remove from the pan (dough will be fragile) and place onto a tray for topping.

Mix the cream cheese, Miracle Whip, herbs and dressing until smooth on setting 4 of KitchenAid® stand mixer. Spoon the mixture onto the croissant base and spread evenly. Chop vegetables finely. Stir together to well mell. Sprinkle the vegetables evenly over the cheese layer. Cut the pizza into 2-inch by 2-inch pieces. Keep refrigerated until serving.


Grilling in Winter

Yes that is snow around the grill and yes it was snowing while the steaks were being grilled. The crisp, cleans smell of the snow mixed wonderfully with the aroma of the grilling steak. The water was calm as the snow fell softly to the ground so the sizzling of the steaks seemed to be slightly amplified. Anticipation of the first bite of a mouth watering heightened. Everything seemed magical!

We grill year round regardless of the weather. If you live in an area that experiences snow or colder temperatures in the winter and you have never tried grilling outdoors in the winter, you don't know what you are missing. True you can grill indoors and we do but grilling outdoors is just so much better. Grab a jacket and fire up the grill. It is an experience you won't forget! You will be glad you tried it.

New Year's Day Dinner

I have made several entries on how we cut our own New York Strip steaks for grilling. We like them cut thick, nicely grilled to medium rare for myself and rare for my husband. I took the New York Strip roast from the freezer before we left for the party so it could defrost while we were away. It was sliced shortly before grilling.

The steak was neither marinated or seasoned, simply grilled to perfection allowing the full flavour of the steak to shine. The star of the meal was the steak. Normally sauteed mushrooms or onions grace our steaks but not this time. Even my favourite steak sauce was kept off the table. I kept it very simple to accent the steak. Accompanying the steaks were baked white and sweet potatoes along with home canned green beans. What a wonderful meal to welcome 2008!


Potato & Garlic Soup

Soup is always a good choice when the weather is cold and snowy. Today was just begging for hot woup to warm the tummy. Tonight's dinner was a modified version of my potato & leek soup. By the time I was finished tweaking it was a very different soup. This flavourful soup was rich and creamy. Roasted garlic added a nice balance to the soup. The soup was garnished with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley flakes.

Potato & Roasted Garlic Soup
recipe by: Garden Gnome

2 L homemade turkey stock
1 medium onion
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 bay leaf
white pepper to taste
sea salt to taste
1 roasted garlic cube (size of an ice cube)
1-2 drops liquid smoke

4 medium potatoes, peeled, diced and steamed
3 green onions chopped
½ lb side pork, cut to form small pieces, fried and drained
2 tbsp chives, chopped
1 c half & half cream
½ c instant potato flakes


This is a two part recipe. Prepare the 4 medium potatoes then steam. At the same time prepare the side pork by cutting across the strips to form small pieces. Use one full pound of bacon the remaining can be froze or refrigerated for bacon bits on salad. Set these ingredients aside to be used later. Chop the chives and green onions. Set aside.

Prepare the 6 medium size potatoes and onion then put into a large saucepan. Add the turkey stock, salt and pepper to the vegetables. Add bay leaf, roasted garlic and liquid smoke. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf. Using a stick blender, blend these ingredients until creamy smooth. Return to heat on low setting. Add the prepared potato pieces, side pork, green onions and chives. Slowly pour in the cream while stirring. Continue heating until soup is desired serving temperature, stirring to prevent the soup from burning. Slowly stir in instant potatoes until the soup is the desired thickness. Remove from heat. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and parsley flakes.