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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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Friday, December 31, 2010

Harry's Seafood Bar and Grille, Lakeland, Florida

As many of you know we have a vacation home aside of our primary residence.  One thing we love doing when at our vacation home is eating out.  It's a great way of finding inspiration for home cooking in trying to duplicate the dishes we enjoyed at home.  One of our priorities when eating out there has been finding family friendly restaurants.  Our kids and grandkids will certainly be visiting our vacation home so we developing a list of good restaurants we can go out to when they visit.  I should note that our grandkids while still quite young have very discriminating food tastes.  They definitely are not the plain hot dog on a bun type of kids.  Part of that is due to the fact that they are surrounded by lots of great food all the time and they are exposed to foods that many adults would turn their nose up at.  So Grandma and Papa are making a list for when they visit.

Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille, Lakeland, Florida
Harry's Seafood Bar & Grille is located in the heart of downtown Lakeland, Florida at 101 N Kentucky Avenue.  They also have locations in Gainesville, Ocala, St. Augustine and Tallahassee.  The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and extremely friendly.  This restaurants is a New Orleans style restaurant.  They are family friendly with a children's menu for those under 12 years of age.

We arrived on a Thursday evening during the very busy holiday season.  The restaurant was quite busy and it was during happy hour yet we were seated promptly.  The wait staff here are some of the very best you will ever come across!  Not only were they fast, courteous and beyond friendly to the patrons they treated each other the same way.    I got the distinct impression they really enjoyed their jobs as much as we enjoyed their company.  So major kudos to Harry's for fostering this type of work environment!

bacon wrapped scallops chef's special
My husband ordered the bacon wrapped scallop Chef's special as an appetizer.  This was a special that wasn't on the menu.  You just can't go wrong with scallops although I can recall a time I did not care for scallops at all.  Now I find they have a rather delightful sweet flavour.  We make bacon wrapped scallops at home some I'm always interested in how restaurants present this wonderful appetizer. 

The scallops were wrapped in bacon then placed on a bed of grits,  topped with a light citrus glaze and garnished with a baby lettuce mix.  It was a delighful presentation that tasted every bit as good as it looked!

she crab soup
My husband ordered She Crab soup.  She Crab soup is a cross between a bisque and a chowder made with blue crab meat and crab roe.  The soup is accredited to the Scottish settlers who arrived in the Carolinas in the 1700's.  One bite of this soup and it was instant delight.  The soup is actually sweet due to the crab meat.

My husband just raved about the soup!  It was that good.  I found an authentic she crab soup recipe that I will be trying at home.  It is a fairly straight forward recipe with ingredients I shouldn't have much difficulty finding at home.  I'll report back on my results.

baked stuff shrimp
My husband had the baked stuffed shrimp entrée.  The shrimp was stuffed with lump crab meat finished with Louisianna beurre blanc and garnished with parsley.  The stuffed shrimp was served in the cast iron pan it was baked in.  Seasonal sides completed the dish.

Louisianna beurre blanc is also known as lemon butter sauce.  I have not made this sauce at home yet but found this beurre blanc recipe to try at home.  This recipe is straigh forward made with ingredients found in most kitchens.  I think it will be quite a lovely addition to the many broiled and pan fried dishes we enjoy at home. 

blackened tilapia
Tilapia is a mild white fish.  Harry's offered it seared, fried or blackened.  I ordered the blackened tilapia that came with a choice of one side and lemon sauce.    The lemon sauce was rather interesting as it was rich and creamy, accenting the fish nicely.  The creamy mashed potatoes were accented with red onion, potato pieces and garnished with parsley.

The guys enjoyed a Big Easy which is an impressive looking tropical drink made with Captain Morgan's Original Spiced Rum, Southern Comfort, Amaretto, Banana liqeur, midori, pineapple and sour.  This cocktail can easily be duplicated at home.  Our meal with beverages (alcoholic/non-alcoholic), and dessert for the little one came in at $85 for 3 adults and an 8 yr old.  We enjoyed this restaurant so much that we bought a $100 gift certificate taking advantage of a bonus $30 gift certificate with the purchase.  Harry's has made it onto our must visit when in the area restaurant list!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Measuring Boiling Water

kitchen quick tips

Some recipes call for a specific amount of boiling water to be added.  Boil the water first then measure out the amount needed.  If you measure the water before boiling it can lose as much as an ounce when coming up to a boil through evapouration.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jimmy's Fish House and Iguana Bar, Clearwater Beach, Florida

There are very, very few times that I will ever bad mouth a restaurant.  The reason being is normally if we do not like something about a restaurant, we simply don't go back.  Oh sure we may say something to friends or family but other than that, we just don't go back.  If there is a minor problem in one area of the restaurant, I will mention it here.  In this case though, this is a restaurant to avoid at all costs!

Jimmy's Fish House and Iguana Bar, Clearwater Beach, Florida
My husband went online and found Jimmy's Fish House and Iguana Bar to stop at after spending a full day at Busch Gardens.  Jimmy's is located at 521 S Gulfview Blvd. in Clearwater, Florida.  It is a restaurant within the Holiday Inn there.  Signage is rather limited and since the restaurant is located towards the back of the motel it is rather easy to miss. 

We visited on a Friday late afternoon with one of our friends and his 8 yr old daughter.  We had tickets to another event starting at 7:30 PM so had made sure we had enough time to stop and dine while still getting to the other event in plenty of time. 

open patio dining
The restaurant consists of a cosy, indoor sitting area with bar.  The outdoor patio is two tiered on the Gulf coast.  With such a beautiful setting we had high hopes of a gorgeous dining experience.  Wrong!

It was quite apparent from the start that the waitress was more intent on gabbing with her co-workers than attending patrons.  We sat a good 20 minutes with absolutely no attention from the waitress when finally our friend went up and asked for drinks.  The waitress finally showed up about 10 minutes later.  At least we were able to enjoy the view. 

all you can eat grouper
We ordered the all you can eat grouper that came without cutlery of which we had to wait another 10 minutes to get.  There were no condiments on the table so I finally went in and asked for salt, pepper and malt vinegar.  By the time all this was said and done our food was beyond cold!  The guys ordered a second helping of fish only and believe it or not, the extra fish took 34 minutes to appear.  The food itself might have been good had we been able to try it while still hot.

This restaurant seriously gets a two thumbs down in terms of service!  I honestly could not believe how horrible the service was at this restaurant.    There honestly is not one good thing I can say about this restaurant other than to avoid it like the plague!  It took us almost a half hour just to pay the bill.  To add insult to injury, due to the dining delays we ended up not being able to attend the other event of which we had already bought tickets to entertain our friends so we were out not only the price of the food but also the event that cost $40. 


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ribeye Steaks with Take-out Baked Beans

We buy beef on the hoof to stock our freezers at our primary residence so by far that is the beef we eat.  The exceptions to this if I find an excellent sale on meat or if I need a specialty cut from the butcher shop.  It is not feasible for us to bring beef from our primary residence to our vacation home due to the travel time and customs restrictions.  I'm sure we could figure out a way to bring a small cooler full with dry ice but honestly it is easier to buy our meat fresh when at our vacation home.  So far we have not found an actual butcher shop but one of the grocery stores has a meat counter where they will custom cut meat.

ribeye steaks
We certainly love our beef regardless where we are.  My husband is rather picky about how he likes the meat cut for steaks.  More specifically he likes the steak cut 1 - inch thick.  This gives a nice steak that can be grilled to perfection every time to rare or medium rare without the risk of over cooking.

Steaks should be removed from the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temperature for grilling.  This allows the internal temperature of the steak to increase enough that the steak can be grilled nicely without burning.  My husband seldom uses a marinade or rub as he prefers the flavour of the meat itself to shine.

ribeye steak dinner with take-out beans
I served the ribeye steaks with our favourite zucchini melody and the take-out baked beans we brought home from Mike's Smokehouse BBQ and Grill.  The baked beans with the added bits of BBQ pork are some of the best I've ever tasted.  I will certainly be working on a clone recipe for them!

The store bought tomatoes at our vacation home are very much like the store bought tomatoes we are forced to buy at home during the off season.  They are hard and quite lacking in flavour.  We came down in September right in the midst of the tomato harvest at home so I had been canning tomatoes and picking tomatoes from my garden.  I was so disappointed in the tomato quality at our vacation home!  If we come next September I am going to ask at at US Customs if we are allowed to bring tomatoes into the US.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Dried Beans

Frugal Kitchens 101
Years ago I participated on a frugal forum where one of the underlying themes was saving on the cost of meals.  The general consensus was that if you didn't eat rice and beans at least three times a week, you weren't being frugal enough.  Now, in terms of frugal, the definition actual means to get the best value for your dollar not the cheapest.  So a $5 item that last 6 months then needs to be replaced is not as frugal as one that cost $100 but will last your lifespan.  When it comes to frugal with respect to food the main criteria is nutritional value for your dollar.  In this regard, dried beans are a frugal choice.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses dried beans and why they are a frugal choice. 

  • cost - In general dried beans are quite inexpensive depending on your location.   A bag of kidney beans cost about $1.29 here.  If I home can these I end up with 7 - 500 ml jars at a total cost of 24¢ per jar.  The price per pound is attractive.  For example, store bought bagged beans 25 lb small red beans at $24.15 works out to 96¢ per pound.  However, bought in bulk beans are cheaper than bagged store bought beans.  In general 1 pound of dried beans equals 2 c dried beans that will give a yield of 4 to 6 c cooked beans depending on the variety.  So if dried beans cost 96¢ per pound and yields 2 lb cooked the price per lb cooked weight is 48¢.  Allow ½ to 1 c per person.  At 96¢ per lb with a cooked yield of 2 lb would give 16 cups or 16 to 32 servings at a cost of 3¢ to 6¢.  It's easy to see how inexpensive dried beans really are.
  • variety - Dried beans are available in a wide variety of types ranging from the small mung, red and turtle beans to the larger kidney and lima beans.  Each variety differs in colour and flavour as well. 
  • nutrition - Cooked dried beans are high in fiber, iron, magnesium and protein, low in fat and cholesterol. 
  • versatility - Dried beans can be used as a meat extender, meat substitute or as a side dish.  They can be used in soups, chilis, stews, main dishes, salads, wraps, casseroles, or appetizers.  Dried beans once cooked can be frozen or they can be soaked then home canned for convenience.  Dried beans can easily be sprouted for use in salads, sandwiches and stir frys. 
  • storage - Dried beans will store for years in a dry, dark, cool location.  Store in large covered bins or large glass jars with lids to protect against insects, rodents and humidity. 
Bon Appétit!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Mike's Smokehouse BBQ and Grill, Tampa Bay, Florida

I have been in the market for a smoker for quite some time.  As a result we have had the great pleasure of checking out a lot of BBQ featuring smoked meats, mainly pork but also chicken and beef.  Smoking adds characteristic flavour and colouring to the meat.  In general there are two types of BBQ, dry or wet.  Dry BBQ starts off with a dry rub that the meat may sit in for a period of time to absorb the flavours before long, slow smoking.  A sauce may or may not be mopped on during the final hour of smoking.  The ideal temperature for smoking is 225ºF to 250ºF.

Mike's Smokehouse BBQ and Grill
Mike's Smokehouse BBQ and Grill is located at 7117 N US Hwy 301, Tampa Bay, Florida.  The restaurant has been extended from the original trailer that housed it.  Mike's is a small two level, family friendly, restaurant packed full of a lot of character.  There is outdoor seating available.  It is casual dining set in a friendly atmosphere.  There is a kid's menu for the little ones.  Daily specials keep the prices quite low.  Catering and take-out are available as well.

Mike's features slow smoked BBQ ribs, chicken and the usual BBQ sides and appetizers.  One appetizer looked rather interesting - BBQ nachos made with BBQ pulled pork.  That would be an easy one to duplicate at home so we chose the gator basket as an appetizer.  Unfortunately we did not get to meet the pit master but the waitress was extremely friendly.  Of note, the only alcoholic beverage served at Mike's is draft beer at $1 per draft all day long.  Beer pairs nicely with BBQ.
  
gator basket
The gator basket (pictured) consists of a generous portion of breaded alligator pieces served with a spicy dipping sauce.  Although alligator is sold frozen as ribs, steaks or fillets we have yet to have found it in any form other than deep fried, breaded nugget style.  It is usually paired with a rather spicy dipping sauce as well. 

Alligator is a white meat with a texture and flavour similar to frog legs.  The one word everyone in our group used to describe the texture is rubbery.  The meat does have a bit of resistance similar to lobster although it lacks the sweetness of lobster.  I rather like it as did my husband and the kids so it would be a meat I would try cooking at home.

bbq ribs
We of course ordered the ribs.  Everyone ordered a side of baked beans.  We also ordered sides of baked beans and BBQ corn on the cob.  They were dry BBQ using a tasty dry rub then long smoked until tender with just a little resistance.  They had a wonderful flavour.  The ribs were a little fattier as they weren't baby back ribs but that just added to the flavour.  The BBQ corn on the cob was a real treat!  It was the smaller kernel, hybrid white sweet corn.  The flavour was a tantalizing mixture of sweet and smokey.  The baked beans were amazing!  They had a deep, rich smokey flavour.  What was different about these baked beans is the addition of pulled pork giving them extra flavour and texture.  We ended up bringing home a 32 oz. container of the baked beans.  They were that good.

Mike's is definitely not on the expensive side.  Our total came to $59.51 for four adults including the take-out container of baked beans.  This is another restaurant that has made it onto our must visit when in the area.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas! 2010 - Our Christmas Dinner Menu

holiday greetings 2010


From our kitchen to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas!

Our traditional Christmas Day foods include kibbeh, crab meat dip, crudites, a variety of Christmas nuts, trays of cookies and a bowl of clementines.  Our dinner menu is usually turkey with stuffing and gravy, fresh cranberry sauce, Swedish potatoes, whole kernel corn and sweet potatoes followed by lemon meringue and apple pies.  As our family grew with more at the table for the Christmas feast we added prime rib roast.  This year our Christmas dinner menu has taken a new direction as there will only be four of us the entire day.  Our big Christmas gathering is being held in January.  We will have various snacks throughout the day along with bowl of clementine oranges gracing the table.  There is a story behind the oranges from my early childhood so they have been a must have in our home every holiday season.  This year we are adding  hickory smoked ham,  port wine jelly, and cheesecake to our traditional menu. 


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Luxury Box, Tampa, Florida

We like going to sporting events.  Usually we stop to eat at a restaurant before going to the event rather than eating at the event.  The reason for this is two fold.  First eating out tends to be part of our entertainment experience.  Second a nice meal is generally less expensive than eating at the event.  Oh sure we still get a snack or two during the event but in many cases the meal is more than enough.  It has become part of the fun to check out different restaurants near whatever event we are attending.

The Luxury Box
The Luxury Box  located at 498 Channelside Drive in Tampa, Florida across from the St Pete Times Forum opened in 2010..  The restaurant features new American cuisine that includes sushi, sashimi, salads, chicken wings and grilled sandwiches.  The atmosphere is cosy and friendly, casual dining with tables in the lower section, raised bar style tables in the upper section and an outdoor eating area.  There is live entertainment as well.  The Luxury Box is a little more expensive but not prohibitively so.  Our total bill with tip for four adults including beverages was $100. 

salmon maki
The Luxury Box features freshly made on site sushi and sashimi.  Who can resist that?  I ordered the salmon maki pictured.  Maki is a sushi roll with the rice on the outside.  The salmon maki was garnished with a dollup of wasabi and thinly sliced salmon.  Unlike other sushi rolls I have enjoyed the salmon in this roll was raw.  The salmon maki was quite tasty, something I would definitely order again.

Many think that sushi always means raw fish but that isn't  the case.  Rather sushi refers to the method.  There is a higher risk of food borne illness when consuming raw meats or fish so it is important that the food be prepared fresh.  The sushi rolls were prepared at a sushi station in full sight of the patrons.  It was very interesting to watch them being made. 


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Homemade Icing Comb

kitchen quick tips

An icing comb is used to add a decorative side on frosted cakes but if you don't make a lot of frosted cakes there's no point in buying one.  Instead, cut a wedge from a plastic lid (eg. sour cream container) using pinking shears.  Drag the wedge along the side of the frosted cake to create a raised design.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Theme Park Funnel Cake Presentation

I recently wrote about making a popular country fair snack, the funnel cake, at home.   This sure to please, tasty snack is quite easy to make at home.  Pouring the batter into the deep fryer using a squeeze bottle or funnel takes a little practice but the technique is easily mastered.  For best flavour serve warm with desired toppings.

funnel cake
Funnel cakes at some fairs tend to be on the plainer side simply sprinkled with icing sugar.  I ordered a funnel cake at a theme park where there were several additional toppings available.  Toppings included icing sugar, banana slices, chocolate sprinkles, apple pie filling, and glazed strawberries.   Just look at the beautiful presentation! 

The glazed strawberries are easy to duplicate at home as well using instant Clear Jel®.  [Note that this is not the cooking Clear Jel® used in canning pie filling.]  Instant Clear Jel® and similar glazing products can be found in the produce aisle of most grocery stores.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deli Meal

During the busy holiday season there is a greater tendency to eat out or pick up take-out.  The premise is this saves the time of cooking.  At the same time is covers dinner on those nights where an unexpected delay occurs or you are simply just too tired to cook.  The problem with eating out is the expense and time it takes.  The problem most take-out is you spend a lot of time in long lines waiting for your food so you don't really save any time.  There is also the expense and the fact that most take-out food is laden with excessive fats, sodium and calories.  An alternative that puts a quick, home style cooked meal on the table at a fraction of the cost of most take out is deli take-out.  Save time by making the grocery store or superstore with a deli counter the last stop of the day and simply bring the meal home with your other purchases without having to make a separate stop.

deli meal
Did you know that KFC is the top take-out food over the holiday season? 'Tis true!  While KFC is tasty, it is high in fat and calories as well as having lactose as an ingredient in the form of milk solids in the coating.  It is also expensive with a 20 piece bucket going for $31.99 (15 pc - $25.99, 10 pc - $19.99) and a 20 piece meal for $46.99 (15 pc - $39.99, 10 pc - $29.99) in our area.  Extra sides of course will cost you extra as well.

Consider though that a comparable meal from the deli counter for a family of 4 costs about $12.  A rotisserie chicken costs about $6 if not on sale and each side depending on the size cost about $3.  The food is closer to home style cooking and there is a larger variety of sides (including leaf salads) than available at KFC.  In the end you can have a healthier, less expensive and more convenient take-out meal by taking advantage of the deli counter.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Butter Verses Margarine

Frugal Kitchens 101

In recent years there has been a huge debate over butter verses margarine.  The primary reason has become health concerns because quite frankly butter is higher is saturated fats (7 g vs 2 g per tablespoon) and cholesterol but butter is higher in trans-fatty acids.  At the same time there is a cost concern for those wanting to save a bit of money in that margarine tends to be cheaper than butter.  Then there is the often misspoken quote from purists that margarine is one molecule away from plastic.  Our preference is for butter for a lot of reasons.  In many ways, butter is the more frugal choice but that depends on how you are using it as well.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 focuses on the topic of butter verses margarine and some of the myths.

  • the one molecule away argument - I'm sorry but this one really doesn't cut it as an argument.  One could easily argue that wood alcohol (poisonous) differs slightly from grain alcohol (alcoholic drinks) while not a molecule away is very different and quite frankly one molecule can make a difference to begin with.  Many poisonous substances are one molecule away from a non-poisonous substance so really this argument is a moot point.
  • calories - An ounce of butter contains the same amount of calories as an ounce of margarine.  Sorry but in this respect there is not a better choice.
  • cholesterol - Butter is higher in cholesterol but it is important to realize the cause for high cholesterol levels in most cases in not dietary.  In many cases it does not matter if you eat butter or other high cholesterol foods as you will still have a high cholesterol level due genetics.  In perspective, many with a tendency towards high cholesterol inherit that trait so other than choosing your parents a bit more wisely, dietary cholesterol is not going to change the outcome.
  • cost - Oleo, the precursor to margarine became popular during the Great Depression when butter was expensive.  The current price per ounce of butter is still in many cases more expensive than margarine.  Where you save using butter is the flavour.  More flavour means you use less butter similar to using fresh verses dried Parmesan cheese, butter becomes the frugal choice.
  • natural vs manufactured - There is no doubt that butter is a more natural product.  It is less processed than margarine but make no never mind it is still a processed product unless you churn it yourself from raw cream.  What is important to point out though is you can find certified organic butter but not margarine, just something to consider.
  • baking - Hands down, butter gives the flavour that margarine simply does not have regardless of how much manufacturers try to mimic the flavour.  While this is a personal choice the fact is you can get more flavour using less butter than you can margarine.
The short on the butter verses margarine is in my opinion butter is the frugal choice for us.  We are a margarine free home and have been ever since our kids who are now adults were quite young.  We very seldom use butter as a spread but we do use it for cooking and baking.  Butter gives us that rich flavour which means in the end we use a lot less of it so we are at least saving on calories.  The final answer on the butter verses margarine debate is really to do what works best for you.  Eliminating either as a spread is a good idea anyway.  Then go for flavour and desired results.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tangerines

The best snacks come already packaged by Mother Nature!  Tangerines are a citrus fruit with a loose skin that is easy to peel, perfect for snacking.  They are smaller in size than an orange.  There are several varieties of tangerines available with one of the most popular in our area being the clementine.  Clementines are shipped in small wooden crates usually from Morocco starting in early December ready for the holiday season.  I look forward to clementines for both snacking and home canning.  While these are quite tasty, they are not as flavourable as fresh picked tangerines.

tangerines
Citrus fruits are an important cash crop where our vacation home is.  Like all produce there is a season so for best flavour citrus fruit should be picked within that season at the peak of ripeness. Citrus fruit that will be shipped to other locations like where we live in Ontario is picked slightly under ripe to avoid spoilage during shipping.  As a result the fruit while good never develops as much flavour as a fruit picked fully ripe.

We bought fresh picked tangerines from a rather quaint fruit stand.  These were larger than clementines and a bit smaller than oranges.  The deep orange skin was thick and pebbled rather than thin and smooth.  The stem end was quite pronounced.  They were very easy to peel.

Tangerines can be enjoyed simply peeled as a snack.  The segments can be dipped about half-way in melted chocolate for a nice fruit tray presentation.  Segments can be used whole or chopped in salads and desserts.  Like clementines they can be home canned to be enjoyed as is or in desserts.  The peel can be zested to add flavour to a wide range of foods and the zest can be dried then powdered as a natural flavourant. 


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hooters' Chicken Wings

Chain restaurants have become the norm and for good reason.  Folks unless adventurous foodies was consistency in the foods they order out.  Some reason that at least they know what they are going to get whether on the east or west coast, the food is the same.  They tend to be good restaurants to stop at when traveling in an area where you are unfamiliar with good local restaurants.  Hooters is an international franchaise featuring mainly pup grub style food.  It is a fun place to go with a nice, friendly atmosphere.  Orders are shot into the kitchen on a clip, the waitresses skate around on roller skates and one or more sports games are on the televisions scattered throughout the restaurant. 

Hooter's wings
We stopped at Hooters with a friend and his young daughter (age 8).  The chicken wings are available as bare or breaded with a variety of sauces.  We ordered hot bare, parmesan breaded, Louisiana breaded, spicy garlic breaded wings and the kids chicken strips.  There were 10 wings in each flavour served with carrot and celery sticks, blue cheese and ranch dressing.  Sides included sweet potato fries and curly fries. 

This is a meal that could easily be duplicated at home but every once in awhile it is nice to indulge.  We make sweet potato fries, French fries and chicken wings at home.  Some gourmet style kitchen stores sell the cutters to make curly fries if you don't want straight fries.  The cutter ranges in price from $20 to $250 depending on the style. 


Friday, December 17, 2010

Chicken in Mushroom Sauce (Slow Cooker)

I am still on my quest in learning to use my slow cookers more effectively.  One of the complaints I've had about cooking is a slow cooker is lack of browning.  Browning adds a lot of flavour.  There are two ways to achieve browning in a slow cooker.  The first is to pan sear the neat then transfer the meat to the slow cooker to finish cooking as desired.  The second method is to use liquid browning.  Quite often I used condensed mushroom soup as a sauce usually with pork or chicken that has been pan seared.  The soup is added directly to the pan the meat was seared in thinned just slightly with milk and allowed to cook on low heat on the stovetop until the sauce turns a wonderful golden colour full of lovely flavour.  The meat is always melt in your mouth tender.  This method is not always practical as the dish cannot be left unattended while cooking and it adds heat to the kitchen during the summer months.  I decided this would be a dish to try using the slow cooker.

slow cooker chicken in mushroom sauce
I placed four unseared boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker and poured about ¼ cup of home canned chicken stock over them.  I set the slow cooker on low allowing the chicken to cook for an hour.  Then I stirred in 2 tins of condensed mushroom soup and home canned mushrooms and continued cooking on low.  I served the chicken topped with mushroom sauce, buttered orzo with parsley and sweet baby peas. 

In comparison to the stovetop method, the results were different but still The meat was tender and juicy.  Searing would have added more flavour as would have using sautéed mushrooms.  The sauce was not as thick as it is when cooked on the stovetop and it didn't take on the golden hue but it was still quite tasty.  With a bit of tweaking cooking this dish in the slow cooker will be a good substitution when stovetop cooking is not convenient.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Recycling a Spice Bottle

kitchen quick tips

If you are wondering what to do with an empty spice bottle, use it to measure spaghetti.  Stand spaghetti on end in the bottle to fill the 1 - inch diameter opening.  This is the perfect amount of spaghetti for two servings.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rickard Ridge BBQ, Caryville, Tennessee

One of our favourite events to attend are ribfests.  These are competition events where ribbers compete for the title of best ribber with the public having the opportunity to taste some of the best ribs around.  Many of the ribbers come from across Canada and even as far away as Texas to compete in the ribfests.  It is always a great pleasure to find a competition ribber with their own restaurant to enjoy award winning BBQ. 

Rickard Ridge BBQ
Rickard Ridge BBQ is located inside Cove Lake State Park at 131 Goose Lane in Caryville, Tennessee (I-75, Exit 134).   The restaurant overlooks Cove Lake with a view of the Cumberland Mountains.  Rickard Ridge BBQ is owned and operated BBQ Pitmaster Mark Rickard.  The restaurant is well known for it's BBQ.  Signature dishes are chicken thighs, baby back ribs and pulled pork all slow smoked.  Live Bluegrass music is featured every Monday and Thursday starting around 6:30 pm.  Every Thursday night all you can eat catfish is featured for only $11.99.   The restaurant does not serve alcoholic beverages which helps keep the meal prices quite affordable.  They currently offer catering and wedding packages as well as group take out specials.  The restaurant is planning expanding their service by offering their signature BBQ dishes ordered from their website sent directly to your door.

baby back ribs
My husband ordered a full rack of dry rub baby back ribs slow smoked  Memphis style, a signature dish of Rickard's Ridge BBQ.  The rib rub is a secret blend of spices developed by Mark.  No BBQ sauce is used during the cooking process.  Rather their homemade BBQ sauces are available on the side for dipping if desired.  The meal came with a choice of two sides and a dinner roll.  His sides were baked beans and French fries.  My husband declared the ribs some of the best he has ever had.  I tasted them and oh my gosh, to borrow a phrase from Guy Fieri "that's some good Q!"

pulled pork BBQ
I ordered the pulled pork bbq, another of the restaurant's signature dish.  I chose a baked potato and baked beans as the sides.  The pulled pork is rubbed with a secret blend os spices.  It is hickory smoked, long and slow to perfection.  The tender, melt in your mouth pulled pork had an amazing flavour!

Both meals were served very much competition style containers, something that reminded me of the ribfests we so enjoy attending.  Our total came to $30.55 which was certainly a reasonable price.  We brought the left-over ribs and pulled pork to enjoy the next day.  The meat reheated quite nicely.

small smoker
Mark has been part of an award winning competitive BBQ team for several years.  I asked the waitress if it would be possible to see the smokers.  Mark proudly showed us the smokers and he should be proud of these beauties that are the bones behind the restaurant.  The smaller one (pictured) was happily smoking away filling the chilly night air with a mouth watering aroma.

Even the small smoker is an impressive size.  I know from seeing the ribber competitions that problems can happen with the smokers in the cooler weather.  True to form, like most ribbers Mark has his smokers sheltered from the wind which is important when doing a long, slow smoke where keeping the cooking temperature constant is a must.  Ideally the temperature should be between 225ºF and 250ºF.  The cooking time is about 6 hours for ribs.  When fully cooked the meat will tear from the bone with a little resistance.

large smoker
Mark also has two larger smokers big enough to each hold a whole pig!  They were not in use during our visit but it's the off season with cooler temperatures.  It is quite apparent that he is a very knowledgeable and talented BBQ pitmaster!  We really enjoyed him taking his time to show us his smokers and tell us a bit about them.

The Rickard Ridge BBQ  has made it onto our list of must stops when in the area.  If you are in the Caryville, Tennessee area on I-75 be sure to stop by for some of the best Q you will ever taste!  Do say hi for us and that we will be visiting again soon.  Kudos to Mark Rickard and thanks so much!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Free Rib Steaks!

We support a lot of local service organizations by attending their special events like fish fries and chicken or steak dinners.  It is a wonderful way to show community support!   A lot of the local food events we attend have door prizes and raffle tickets.  Prizes are usually some type of food but sometimes there are non-food prizes as well.  Raffle tickets for donated food items are sold as a fund raiser for the organization holding the event to help supplement the cost of the event as well as pad their kitty a bit.  Trust me the only way these service organizations make a little money off of a food event is through the generous folks that volunteer their time and skills to do the cooking and serving as well as those businesses who donate a food gift.   At best a food event like the fish fry we recently attended would make about $200 if they are really lucky but give the economic downturn and considerably lower attendance for these events the reality is they will be lucky to break even. 

rib steak cooked on indoor grill
My husband bought his customary $20 worth of raffle tickets.  That may sound like a lot but really that it becomes the same as giving the organization a donation.  It helps them out and helps to keep these kind of events in our community.  He ended up winning two lovely rib steaks.

The following night we grilled the steaks to medium rare on the stovetop indoor grill.  Baked beans and baked potatoes finished off the entrée.  It was a simple yet easy meal with a quick clean-up which was quite appreciated as we hosted a larger get together that night.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - My Underlying Principles for Saving on the Cost of Food

Frugal Kitchens 101

I firmly believe that good food does not have to cost a lot.  The problem is the food industry has so brainwashed consumers to believe they need a lot of the expensive, nutritionally poor foods then the fast food industry takes over from there telling people it is too time consuming and difficult to cook.  Throughout mankind, people have been able to feed themselves without relying on the food industry or fast food industry for a good portion of their foods.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 addresses some of my underlying principles for cooking good but inexpensive foods.  These principles and practices are used extensively throughout this blog.  

  • realize that cooking does not have to take a lot of time or effort 
  • refer to older cookbooks especially those from the Great Depression era and pre-1970's that use simpler ingredients to create great dishes
  • avoid all packaged foods except for dry pastas, dried beans and basics like flours and sugars, rices and some baking needs that you might not be able to find in bulk
  • make your own convenience mixes (eg. store bought cake mix 99¢, homemade about 17¢)
  • make your own seasoning blends (eg. store bought poultry seasoning $3.29, homemade about 30¢)
  • avoid buying herbs and spices in the grocery store especially those expensive little bottles; buy herbs and spices in bulk from a bulk food store, Amish store or similar type of store where you can control the amount you want to buy
  • home food preservation can save a considerable amount of money and it is not difficult to learn or expensive to find the necessary equipment
  • avoid buying pre-chopped, pre-made anything with the exception of phyllo dough, olives unless you live where they grow,
  • pasta, rice and beans are your true budget stretchers so keep a lot of varieties of each in your pantry so your meals don't get boring
  • try to plan as much as possible for leftover meals by cooking a bit extra for the planned leftover meal while cooking the first meal
  • reserve freezer space for the expensive foods like meats, fish, some vegetable rather than the cheap foods like breads
  • copykat recipes (clone recipes) are a great way to enjoy your favourite take-out food without the expense or leaving your home
  • grow whatever you can grow including any vegetables, fruits, herbs and meats like backyard chickens and rabbits
  • waste not, the vast majority of kitchen waste from peelings to packaging can be reused in some fashion


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Perch and Pickerel Fish Fry

I have mentioned in previous posts of some of the local food events we attend.  These are put on by local service organizations, manned by volunteers and are some of the best food events you can find.  We recently attended a local all you can eat perch and pickerel fish fry.  As always the organization did an outstanding job!

fish fry dinner
You just cannot beat the all-you-can-eat homestyle cooking food events these organizations are capable of putting on.  The perch and pickerel at this event is lightly coated then pan or deep fried so you have your choice of fish and cooking method.  It is served buffet style with a variety of sides like creamy coleslaw, whole kernel corn, baked beans and French fried potatoes.  Crudites, pickles, cheese slices and dinner rolls are also available.  When it comes to an all-you-can-eat meal, very few places would ever lose money on me given that one plate is usually too much.  However, my husband has been known to make up for my appetite deficits!

cleaned pickerel
The sad thing about a lot of these small, hometown food events is they really are being affected by the economic downturn.  Attendance is down and yet the organizers have to buy on previous attendance because running out of food for something like this is not a good idea.  After the raffle draw the organizers announced they had an abundance of raw both perch and pickerel that they would sell for 20 pieces for $10.  Oh gosh, like I really needed that temptation! 

I bought 2 bags (40 pieces) of pickerel then realized they had been previously frozen.  The ladies said refreezing would not be a problem but quite frankly in terms of food safety it is a problem.  So we called a couple of our kids and invited them to a homemade fish fry.  Pictured is one bag of the pickerel ready for coating.  Note how nice and meaty the fish is?  Pickerel is one of our favourite local fish.

coated pickerel pay frying
My husband loves pan frying fish.  Now this is a good thing and a bad thing.  The good thing is the fish is always excellent.  The bad thing is the mess!  Pictured is the first batch of pickerel frying in the new silicone coated wok.  I have to tell you I am really liking that silicone coating over the standard non-stick coating.

Fish coatings are always and issue in our house.  We eat a lot of fish!  Aside of homemade fish coating, my husband is always bringing home a fish coating to try.  The premise is I will clone the coating if we like it.  The fish coating on this batch of pickerel was Zanaran's southern coating.  The coating went over well so I will certainly be cloning this coating mis.  Doesn't it look yummy?


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beef and Cabbage with Dumplings

A good portion of the home-style meals I cook have no recipe.  Rather the meal is based on something that caught my attention while in the pantry or freezers.  The number one kitchen utensil I rely on especially for starting soups, stews and chowders is a pressure cooker.  The reason for this is a pressure cooker is the fastest way to make a rich stock while giving tender results for the meat.  All that is needed is to remove the bones and initial stock flavouring vegetables for a lovely base perfect for any soup, stew or chowder.  A couple of days ago it was cold with very light snow flurries so I thought a soup would be a good idea for dinner.  It evolved from a soup to an one pot entrée.  That is another great benefit to using a pressure cooker in that the meal from start to finish can be easily cooked in the same pot.

beef and cabbage with dumplings
I actually started this meal out with the intentions of making a beef based soup.  That is one of the beauties of not following a set recipe.  I put 2 frozen beef soup bones, a carrot, stalk of celery, a small onion and bay leaf into a pressure cooker then opped with water to the ⅔  mark.  It is important that a pressure cooker not be filled above the ⅔ mark to prevent over pressurizing the cooker.  Once the pressure cooker came to pressure, I reduced the heat to maintain pressure and cooked at pressure for 40 minutes.

Once the meat and stock were cooked I removed the bones and vegetables.  I seasoned with Worcestershire sauce, sea salt and fresh ground pepper with just a touch of browning.  Then I stirred in about a quarter wedge of cabbage cut into strips and about 2 cups of a frozen carrot and green/wax bean mixture.  I could have stopped there for a nice hearty soup with adding perhaps rice or pasta but I decided to dumplings add instead.  Dumplings thicken any liquid but they are ever so good!  The end result was a very, very tasty dinner!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Pea Meal Bacon Dinner

Every home cook has a meal that they turn to as a quick comfort meal.  For me that tends to be a meal based on pea meal bacon for the meat.  I cure a piece of pork loin once a month or more for pea meal bacon.  This home cured meat is perfect for pan frying when sliced or can be cooked as a roast in the oven.  It is a quick, easy to prepare and low fat meat sure to please. 

pea meal bacon dinner
The weather is now rather cold so a little extra heat in the house from cooking is very much appreciated.  A little comfort food is also very much appreciated.  The real beauty of comfort foods is they aren't  labour intensive to prepare.

I cooked the pea meal bacon roast in the oven along with the potatoes.   Steamed carrots and   home canned cream style corn rounded out the meal.  The steamed carrots were a real bargain.  One of the local grocery stores had 10 lb bags of carrots, beets and onions on sale for $2 each.  Well you just know I had to buy a bag of each at that price!  Cream style corn is really nice spooned over baked potatoes as a topping anytime but especially more so on a cold winter's evening. It was a nice comfort meal to enjoy watching the wind whip white caps over the water's surface.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Don't Toss That Bacon Grease!

kitchen quick tips

After cooking bacon drain the meat and reserve the grease.  Allow to cool slightly then pour into a container and store in the fridge or for longer storage in the freezer.  Use it to add flavour when frying other foods.  Pop a teaspoon of bacon grease into bean soup to enhance the flavour.


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Shrimp Cocktail

I've talked before how grocery sales run in cycles, usually about 12 weeks apart.  This is the time of year shrimp (frozen: raw, cooked, shrimp ring platters) tend to go on sale and stay on sale for the most part until the end of the year.  The reason for this is the higher demand for shrimp during the holiday entertaining season.  We enjoy shrimp year round so this is the perfect time to stock the freezers. 

shrimp cocktail with homemade seafood cocktail sauce
Shrimp cocktail is usually served in a chilled seafood cocktail glass or on a bed of lettuce when ordered in a restaurant.  The serving size normally is 6 to 8 good sized shrimp surrounding seafood sauce.  The grocery stores sell frozen shrimp rings as well that only need to be thawed and served in the tray provided.

At home I serve shrimp cocktail simply on a plate surrounding a small jar of homemade  seafood cocktail sauce, sometimes on a bed of leaf lettuce but often not.   Pictured is thawed tail on 36/45 shrimp served as an appetizer.  The numbers refer to how many shrimp per pound so in this case there were 36 to 45 shrimp per pound.  This is a nice appetizer size but is also nice for garlic shrimp or adding to a quick stir fry.  Since the shrimp is already cooked it can be served cold or just warmed through making it rather versatile for appetizers and other quick dishes.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Another Beef Noodle Bowl

A couple of weeks ago I posted about a beef noodle bowl I had made.  Noodle bowls quickly became a family favourite.  I think one reason for their success is the versatility.  This dish is just such an easy, low cost, and very quick to prepare meal that is about as frugal as it can get.  At the same time noodle bowls are very much comfort food. Stuffed full of long, stringy noodles they are sure to please - not quite a soup, not quite a pasta dish with sauce but an entirely different dish somewhat in between.

another beef noodle bowl
My husband arrived home safe and sound from hunt camp.  While he had a wonderful time with the guys they were unfortunately unsuccessful this year.  Not to worry though as we have venison on its way from one of our good friends.  I knew they would be spending most of the day traveling home but had no ETA so did not plan on any type of dinner.  This time of year it is so easy to run into weather that can delay travels.  I also didn't know if they would be making pit stops for food along the way so I decided to play it by ear.  [Oh I could have texted or called him but quite frankly my texting thumb was sore and I figured if there were any delays he would let me know.]

The thing about hunt camp is the guys take a lot of food with them and they bring a lot of food back.  Don't ask me how it happens it just does and I have to figure out how to use the foods brought back up.   Once he was home and we had the coolers unloaded I went about making a beef noodle bowl for dinner.  I used the remaining beef broth and a half cup of frozen vegetable mix, a half cup of frozen niblet corn, a half cup of cooked beef,  then topped the noodle bowl with chopped fresh tomatoes and onions.    My husband loved it!


Monday, December 06, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Frugal Produce

Frugal Kitchens 101

On of the biggest complaints with respect to fresh fruits and vegetables is their expense.  Fresh fruits and vegetables can be expensive depending on your location and where you are purchasing them.  However, there are a lot of excellent produce deals out there if you know what to look for and where to look.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 discusses how to find a few deals on fresh produce that won't break the bank.

  • shop in season -  Produce is cheapest is bought locally in season BUT for imported produce (eg. clementines, mangos) they are cheapest according to their local season.  That means in our area if I want the best prices for clementines I buy them in late October to late November and again late December to mid-January.  If I want the best prices in mangos I look for them in the grocery stores mid to late July when they will go for 14/$3.99 verses 99¢ each throughout the rest of the year.
  • shop locally - The best produce prices will always be produce grown close to home, quite often well under the 100 Mile Radius of your home.  
  • know local produce - It goes without saying that if you don't know what is available locally you can't take advantage of it.  When it comes to produce the following are very inexpensive here:  peaches, pears, plums, apricots, apples, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage, squash, rutabaga, beets and strawberries.  Mid range priced produce includes: tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, blueberries, green/wax beans.  High priced produce includes: corn, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, blackberries.  This is based on our local availability and local prices which will differ significantly depending on your location.  At our summer home citrus fruit is extremely low priced in season but a lot of other produce I'm used to getting inexpensively is quite pricey.
  • grow what you can - Honestly growing whatever produce you can is a huge help.  Focus on growing produce that is more expensive to buy or produce you can't easily buy in the stores.  Don't waste space growing low yielding crops like corn and potatoes in a home garden.  
  • buy in bulk - Normally potatoes will go for $7.99 for 50 lb or 16¢ per lb here in season but at the same time a 10 lb bag will go for $1.99 or 20¢ per lb.  The better deal is the 50 lb bag but only if you preserve some of them for use during the late winter when potatoes here will creep as high as 30¢ per lb.  The same savings can be had for a lot of vegetables!  
  • know your grades -  Number One or Grade A apples means no blemishes; number twos have minor blemishes and wind fallen are exactly that, wind fallen apples that will likely have bruising from falling.  A bushel of number ones at our prices will cost about $8 depending on the variety but number twos will cost about half that while wind fallen less than number twos.  If you are using the apples for juice or sauce there is no need to buy number ones.  Even number twos are great for eating so again there's no need to buy number ones.  Windfallen apples can be used for juice and sauce as well so again knowing the grades can help determine use and seriously the bottom line is unless you want almost picture perfect apples, number ones are a waste of your money.  The same thing applies to most fruits and vegetables and while there are times number ones are what you want in most cases number twos will give you the same time while saving money.  
  • know how to preserve in season produce - My rule of thumb for any produce coming into the house unless grown or acquired for a particular reason is ⅓ to ½ is preserved to later use.  In this way I am constantly adding to my pantry stocks.  Preserving includes canning, freezing, fermenting and drying when it comes to produce


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Potato and Leek Soup with Ciabatta Bread

Our kids grew up with a plethora of homemade soups especially in the autumn months so it is only natural that they make their own homemade soups now that they are adults.  The beauty of homemade soups is even with starting out with a few common ingredients the soup can take a whole direction of its own.  The end result is an entirely new creation!

potato and leek soup with ciabatta bread
We recently took a day to go visit our grandkids in two Ontario communities.  One of our kids made a lovely potato and leek soup for lunch.  It differed from my potato and leek soup in that no stock had been used to make the soup.  Yet the soup was rich, creamy and full of flavour!

The soup was served with ciabatto bread.  Ciabatto means slipper.  According to the kids this bread is all the rage in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).  The modern version has only been made since 1982 and it was introduced to North American in 1990s by the Cleveland firm, Orlando Bakeries.  The bread has crisp crust with an open, airy appearance with a dense crumb.  The characteristic flavour and appearance is from the sponge the bread starts with, similar to sourdough bread.  I will be testing a couple of ciabatto recipies this week so watch for that recipe with my comments. 


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Radiatore al Basil with Chicken

Pasta comes in so many shapes and sizes it is hard to get bored with.  During our turkey runs this year I bought a box of 100% durum semolina radiatore pasta.  Radiatori are small, squat shaped pasta with a ruffled edge that resemble radiators.  This shape works well with thicker sauces.  Tonight's dinner was inspired by a recipe on the back of the radiatore box called Radiatore al Basil.  Rather than a side dish I went with the basil theme to create an entrée.

radiatore al basil with chicken
When cooked the tight curls of radiatori reminded me of snails so I think it would be a fun pasta for kids.  This would be an excellent pasta to use with any cheese sauce too because there are so many nooks and crannies to hold all the sauce.  I was quite pleased at how well the radiatori held the basil pesto giving the pasta a lovely under note to compliment the fire roasted Italian tomato sauce.  This really was a delightful entrée!

Radiatore al Basil with Chicken

16 oz pk radiatore
2 c fire roasted Italian tomato sauce with mushrooms
2 small chicken breasts
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp per serving basil pesto

toppings:
small onion, diced
sliced olives
cherry tomatoes, halved
fresh grated Parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper

Cook the radiatore in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain.  While pasta is cooking pan fry the chicken breasts in the olive oil.  Remove from pan and cut into bite sized pieces.  Stir desired amount of basil pesto into the radiatore.  Scoop pasta onto dinner plate.  Ladle a generous amount of the fire roasted Italian tomato sauce with mushrooms over the pasta.  Add desired toppings.


Friday, December 03, 2010

Chicken Strips

In recent years one of the most popular finger foods has become chicken nuggets with the juvenile crowd while their parents like chicken strips.  Homemade chicken nuggets and chicken strips are ever so easy to make.  Homemade can be deep fried or oven baked.  The homemade versions are a lot healthier than the fast food version as well. 

chicken strips
I used homemade shake & bake chicken coating to coat smaller boneless, skinless chicken breasts for chicken strips.  I left the chicken breasts whole as they were on the small size however, had I been making the strips for for the grandkids I likely would have cut the chicken breasts into thirds.  If turning into chicken nuggets I would have cubed the boneless, skinless chicken breasts into about 1 - inch cubes.  The homemade chicken coating works wonderfully well especially in the oven.  They are very good served with local honey for dipping.

Chicken strips are good served with a dipping sauce.  Make it easy choosing honey or a prepared barbeque sauce.  It makes for an easy, low fuss meal that even kids like :)


Thursday, December 02, 2010

Kitchen Quick Tips - Easy Bacon Cooking Cleanup

kitchen quick tips

Line a baking sheet with foil wrap.  Place bacon directly on the foil wrap or on a wire rack for self draining.  Bake or grill at 400ºF until cooked.  An alternative a friend recently showed us is to cook directly on the grill without the pan.  Both methods will cook a lot of bacon in a short period of time with very little cleanup afterwards.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fruit Filled Turnovers

I have the habit of going through cookbooks marking the recipes I want to try.  Prior to the advent of post-it notes I used little strips of torn paper for marking.  As a result all of my cookbooks look like they have feathers!    When I'm  looking for something different to cook I grab which ever cookbook strikes my fancy at the time.  Then I pick one of the flagged recipes to finally try.  I have stumbled upon some great recipes this way!

prepared dough and turnover shaper
So it was with the fruit filled turnovers in the rolled cookie section of the Betty Crocker's Cookbook (1969).  I decided to finally try this recipe.  Rather than form the turnovers by hand I used a hinged turnover form that flutes the edge.  The other side cuts a perfect sized circle for the turnover form. 

The dough was quite rich and a bit on the difficult to work with side even when well chilled.  I found that keeping all surfaces well floured was key for not only rolling and cutting but also to get good release from the turnover form.

Fruit Filled Turnovers
source:  Betty Crocker's Cookbook, 1969. Pp. 150.

½ c shortening
1 c organic sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2½ c unbleached flour
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp baking soda
assortment of jams for filling*

Mix the shortening, sugar, eggs and vanilla together in bowl of stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  In a separate bowl combine flour, salt and baking soda.  Mix well.  Pour into the egg mixture the blend until smooth.  Scrape the dough onto a sheet of wax paper.  Form into a ball then wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.  Heat oven to 205ºC (400ºF).  Roll dough ⅟16  inch thick on lightly floured board.  Cut into 3 - inch circles.  Place a dough circle on the fluted side of the turnover form or if not using a turnover form leave on the cutting surface.  Spoon about a teaspoon of jam on one half of the dough.  Fold the dough over the filling and seal using the turnover form or by hand.  Place each filled turnover onto a Silpat® or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Brush with milk.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and immediately remove from baking sheet.

*The original recipes has 4 separate fruit filling recipes however, I used my homemade strawberry jam.  It's easier and just as good.  Jam is the perfect substitute for these types of fillings.

baked fruit filled turnovers
The cookies came out quite nicely despite the difficulty working with the dough.  They were quite tasty!  I thought the dough portion would be more of a soft bread style  but instead it is a harder cookie style with a texture similar to sugar cookies.  Pictured are the cookies after they cooled.  A few if them had cracks with a bit of the filling oozing a little but surprisingly the filling didn't run much due to the heat of the oven. 

The nice thing about these cookies is you really can use any jam or jelly for the filling.  You don't need to make them all the same either.  The light sprinkling of sugar on top is a nice added touch as well.  


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November's Keeper Recipes


It would be nice if I could look back over a month's worth of meals and say they are all keepers.  The reality is many are tried and true keepers to begin with while the rest are new recipes or new ways to cook a tried and true dish.  I thought I would introduce a new feature called monthly picks to highlight two new dishes or new cooking methods I tried that have made it into the keeper category.  That doesn't mean other dishes I made throughout the month aren't keepers only that the two chosen really impressed me in some way.  November's picks are beef noodle bowl and slow cooker rib roast.
  • beef noodle bowl - What really struck me about this dish was the versatility.  It was quick, easy and low cost to put together and yet easily modified.  This dish itself definitely falls into the category of comfort food.  It was rich with noodles and flavour, a definite family pleaser!
  • slow cooker rib roast - I make a lot of roasts using the oven, countertop roaster, grill and pressure cooker.  I had never used a slow cooker to cook a roast mainly because I am not a fan of slow cookers.  However, replacing our old slow cooker with a newer model has me learning a lot more about slow cookers.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that beef rib roast came out quite nice using a slow cooker!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - A Easy Soup Week

Frugal Kitchens 101

Soup is like one of the most frugal, homemade meals you can make.  It is inexpensive if not downright cheap!  Many will make a huge pot of soup then serve that soup several times throughout the week.  While this is very cost effective it can get rather boring.  Now don't get me wrong as this method does work and is extremely frugal but I have developed an variation that keeps the soup from ever getting boring.  In fact you can have a different soup nightly simply by modifying a few ingredients once you have the basics in the refrigerator.  This week's Frugal Kitchens 101 shares how to create variety in soups without breaking the budget.

My husband was away at hunt camp.  I wanted homemade soup but the idea of eating the same soup for the rest of the week wasn't very appealing.  True I could have canned or froze it but I wanted something warm and comforting for dinner but the last thing I wanted was boring even though it was soup based on many of the same ingredients.  The key to making this work is to keep the prepared ingredients separate until making the actual soup of the day. 

Cooked ahead:

  • broth - I made the beef broth like stock in the pressure cooker using 2 large soup bones.  I browned them first in a little olive oil then added the other ingredients as for stock but added 12 c of water and cooked in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes.  Once cooked I moved removed the soup bones with meat, strained the broth and set aside to cool for defatting.  You can use any type of broth you like as long as it is defatted.
  • meat - I cut the meat from the bone, shredding and removing fat as necessary.
  • pasta or rice or barley - Each night that I added pasta or rice or barley to the new soup pot.    All can be cooked quickly ahead of time the first of the week then the desired ingredient added to the soup pot.  At most make only 2 cups of either or 1 cup of each.
Prepared ahead:
  • frozen vegetables -  I used 2 c of a broccoli, cauliflower and carrot mix but any frozen vegetables can be used.  Pour the frozen vegetables into a food storage bowl and place in the refrigerator.
  • fresh vegetables -  Chop fresh onions, cherry tomatoes or any other desired fresh vegetable to sprinkle over the soup.  Place in a food storage container and put in the refrigerator.
  • beans - I used home canned black beans for one soup variation but you can use and canned bean desired.
Seasonings:
  • Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Maggi, salt, pepper as desired
Garnishes:
  • green onion, chives, grated Parmesan, or any other desired garnish
There should be at least 5 storage bowls for the refrigerator at this point.  Basically what you've set up is a mix and match system.  Now here is where it gets fun.  The first night add a few ladles of broth to a medium sized sauce pan,  stir in about 3 tbsp of meat and a 1/2 c of frozen vegetables.  Warm to just a low boil. Stir in 1/2 c or more of desired prepared pasta, rice or barley.  Stir in 2 - 3 tbsp beans as desired.  Season as desired with one listed or one of your choice.  Garnish and enjoy!  The next night start with broth then add desired ingredients perhaps changing out one or omitting one or changing the seasonings or garnishes.  When done this way you should be able to get five types of soup out of these ingredients depending on the number of people being served.