Happy Halloween (2018)

Thought I’d post a Halloween themed dessert … chocolate panna cotta garnished with chocolate meringue “bones”.

Presented by my friendly, home made witch. Who really deserves a name.

Ideas?

Happy Halloween!!

 

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Indian Menu for 4 … At Home

I came home last week with a tray of four skinless, bone-in chicken breasts and decided to include them in an Indian menu that I had planned for the weekend.

I was originally going to make a chicken curry/biryani but switched over to chicken tikka instead. Two chunks of spicy and tender chicken are often part of an appetizer combo, along with a couple of samosas and a couple of pakoras, but I threaded five onto soaked bamboo skewers and turned them into a main dish. The spiciness of the tikkas are toned down by serving them with a minty yogurt dip (raita).

Since this is a ‘dry’ dish, I made a couple of ‘wet’ dishes … matar paneer (pea and paneer cheese curry) …

… and a vegetarian chana masala (chickpea curry) … to go with it.

For a bread, I made aloo paratha, spiced mashed potato mixture stuffed into a whole wheat flatbread. Because I’m not fond of all whole wheat breads, I used (a bit more than) half all purpose flour and half whole wheat. And, I halved the recipe I found on line to only make four parathas. Because I didn’t have any fresh coriander leaves called for in the recipe, I defrosted some thinly sliced green onion tops and added them in their place.


And, of course, I made some basmati rice to sop up all that tasty sauce. Plain because I was tired and couldn’t be bothered coming up with anything more elaborate.

BONUS

To use up the rest of the chicken, rather than freezing it away, I took the largest of the chicken breasts, took it off the bone and spread the top with about a teaspoon of Hellman’s mayonnaise. Then, the mayonnaise coated breast was dipped into a few tablespoons of Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. I roasted the breast along with all four of the ribs. Since I left quite a bit of meat on the ribs, I let them cool and then put them in a freezer bag. Later in the week or the week after that, I’ll make a small (four cup) batch of chicken stock with the ribs and use them in a pot of chicken noodle soup. I even have egg noodles in the pantry to add to the soup.

Since the boneless breast was so large (~350 gm) I cut it in half and will have two meals.

The smaller breast and other trimmings were ground up (I had about 400 gms of meat) and turned into three chicken patties/burgers.

Pretty economical for an investment of $6.35 and some time.

Memories of Taco Bell

My first exposure to Mexican food was at a local Taco Bell restaurant.

I know, I know … but it’s the only Tex-Mexican restaurant locally. I had to cross the Canadian-US border before I was able to get anything more ‘authentic’. And, since my passport has been expired for some time, I haven’t been back in ages.

My last Taco Bell visit is more recent … 2 or 3 yrs, I think.

But, I DO still eat Tex-Mex food.

This weekend, I made a batch of flour tortillas and used them for beef and bean burritos and shrimp quesadillas.

Some of the changes/tips in  making the tortillas from the original recipe.

Trial 1 (10/20/2018): 1/4 cup lard, less water, made 10 8-9 inch diameter tortillas. I ended up with ~420 gm of dough so I made 10 40-42 gm balls of dough and rolled them out using as little flour as necessary to prevent sticking. My cast iron frying pan gets HOT so I preheated it over a setting of 3-4, wiped the pan with a folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Each tortilla was fried for a total of 1 min 15 sec … about 45 sec on the first side and then another 30 sec on the second side. Since there were lots of bubbles during baking the first side, I used the bottom of a thin metal spatula to ‘pat down’ the bubbles.

The tortillas are nice and thin and the edge was a bit fragile. A change from the sourdough flour tortillas I usually make, which are more sturdy.

Beef and Bean Burritos

Beef and Bean Burritos – makes 8 burritos, serve 2 per person

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp sauteed onion
1 tbsp dry taco seasoning mix
1 cup refried beans
1/4 cup salsa, medium or hot

8 9 inch flour tortillas

Add-ins
avocado, diced
shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)
salsa, medium or hot
sour cream
diced green onion

In a large saute pan, preheat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and the sauteed onion and fry until the ground beef is cooked through and slighly browned. Break up the beef as much as possible. Drain off any excess oil. Add the dry taco seasoning mix and stir through. Add the refried beans and salsa and cook through until the mixture has tightened up a bit.

Warm up the flour tortillas so they’re more pliable. Add about 1/8th of the filling to each tortillas as well as any add-ins. Wrap up the bottom, and then both the sides. Enjoy

I also thawed the last of the corn tortillas from my freezer and enjoyed a few spicy shrimp tacos.

Spicy Shrimp Tacos

While firming/warming up the corn tortillas in the oven, I … lost track of time, and ended up with some very crisp (tostada type) tortillas. So, I decided to use some of them to make a copycat Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme. I used my beef and bean burrito filling in place of the meat but scaled down the Nacho Cheese recipe so it would make only four wraps.

I had to break the edges off the corn tortillas so I could wrap the flour tortilla around the package.

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme – makes 4

4 9-10 inch flour tortillas
4 corn tortillas, crisped up, or tostadas

1 recipe Nacho Cheese (recipe below)
1 cup Beef and Bean burrito mixture from above
1/2 cup shredded lettuce
4 tbsp sour cream
2-4 tbsp diced tomatoes (or salsa)

Nacho Cheese – enough for 4 crunchwraps

2 tsp butter
2 tsp all purpose flour
1/3 cup milk
2 slices of American cheese, roughly torn
1/8 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Pour in the milk, a bit at a time, while whisking until you’ve added all of the milk and the mixture starts to thicken. While whisking, add in the salt and cheese. Continue to stir until the cheese melts and the mixture is smooth.

Spicy Shrimp Quesadilla

Viennese Whirl Cookies

I don’t remember eating a lot of desserts growing up … crepes, cream puffs, apple strudel, walnut torte with chocolate butter cream icing. Occasionally, my mom would make small crescent shaped cookies with ground walnuts in the dough. It may have been because she just wasn’t that fond of sweets. My dad, on the other hand, had a great sweet tooth. Unfortunately he didn’t bake so desserts were a rare event.

One of the first things I ever ‘cooked’ for my dad, that he loved, was Rice Krispie squares. The microwave made throwing together a pan so easy that I could have made them weekly but I didn’t make them often which made each pan that much more appreciated. (And the no bake cheesecake with Whip and Chill whipped cream, cream cheese, a crumb base, and canned cherry pie filling. My dad LOVED it.)

Over the years, I’ve expanded my dessert repertoire, and recently, UK/British ‘biscuits’ or cookies have become a small obsession.

After some previous successes, I’m iffy on the the most recent biscuit … Viennese whirls. I think it was the ‘idea’ of the cookie that inspired me. Tender shortbread cookies piped into a swirl and baked and then a butter/icing sugar filling and raspberry jam was sandwiched between two of the cookies.

I did some research, watched a few videos, picked a nice simple recipe and made a batch this weekend.

There were challenges in piping the dough which was quite stiff, even after I added some milk. And the cookies used up a LOT of the dough. I was able to pipe sixteen cookies, with which I could only make EIGHT sandwiches. The dough spread on baking so that the two inch cookies I piped out ended up about three inches in diameter. (PS: I had to increase the baking time of the tray of cookies to 20 minutes, because the tops/edges of the cookies remained pale, even after 15 minutes. The underside was a light golden brown by the end.) Handling the cookies was a challenge too since they were so tender and crumbly that the edges broke off when I tried to move them.

Which made filling the cookies a nightmare. When I tried to press down the top cookie to make a sandwich … it crumbled. By ‘smooshing, the buttercream filling down with an offset spatula, I managed to assemble a half dozen, more or less, nice looking cookie sandwiches. The cookies themselves were barely sweet but the filling made up for the lack. The jam (I used the last of my strawberry jam since I didn’t have any raspberry) almost seemed tart in comparison. I sifted icing sugar over the top, since that’s a feature of the cookies, but it’s NOT necessary.

REVIEW: The cookies are edible but, to be honest, you can barely get through one because they’re so BIG. And sweet. I’m sure they’d be appreciated by a lot of people. They just weren’t to my taste.

In conclusion, if I were to make something similar again, I’d try a different recipe and technique for making the cookies. The round ‘mound’ (top left in the picture directly above) I made using the dough scraps spread nicely and was a tasty nibble. No piping or filling necessary. If piping, small (1 inch) rosettes might work as they’d spread during baking, resulting in much smaller and thinner cookes to construct the sandwiches with. A recent post on FB resulted in the suggestion to reduce both the flour and the cornstarch by 25 gm each.

Chicken and Dumplings … with Rolled Noodles (Trial #2)

Rarely have I made a dish that was as satisfying in the preparation as it was in tasting the finished product.

Chicken and dumplings is a hearty comfort dish … a glorious chicken stew with a creamy texture filled with tender shredded chicken and vegetables. The ‘dumplings’ may be either drop biscuits, which I’ve made before, or rolled noodles. In both cases, the starch is added to the stew in the last 10-15 minutes and cooked. Achieving the perfect balance of dumplings/noodles and stew may be a challenge. On my first attempt I didn’t account for the amount of stock that would be absorbed by the dumplings during steaming. The result was unsatisfyingly dry even if the dish itself was delicious.

This trial was perfection. (I had extra stock in reserve, just in case.)

I started with a whole fresh Prime chicken, bought on sale at my local Freshco, and meant for roasting. After cutting the chicken into pieces, I used the two breasts, wing tips and the back for making the stock. The two legs and the wings were set aside for roasting.

The recipe I used was one I found on YouTube for “Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings”. It was based on an Emeril Lagasse recipe according to the accreditation given there. After reading the comments, I halved the amount of roux (1/4 cup butter and 1/3 cup flour) I added to the stew, because I didn’t want it to be overly thick to start with. And, since I knew there were going to be leftovers, I didn’t want the inevitable thickening to adversely affect the dish.

I rewrote the recipe and am sharing it here in case anyone has difficulties accessing the version on YouTube.

Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings – serves 4-6
Adapted from an Emeril Lagasse recipe for chicken and dumplings.

For the chicken

2 split chicken breasts, on the bone with skin, about 3 lbs*
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 celery stalks, medium dice
3 carrots, medium dice
1 medium onion, medium dice**
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter***
2/3 cup AP flour***
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup frozen peas

* I used two split, bone in chicken breasts, the back and the tips of the two wings

** I didn’t have any onions so I used the white part of four green onions, sliced about 1/3 of an inch thick which gave me about 1/4 cup of onions.

*** I thought that the amount of roux used made the chicken and dumplings look too thick in the video so I reduced the butter to 1/4 cup and the flour to 1/3 cup.

Cooking the chicken

In a large pot or dutch oven, add in the chicken, water, salt and bay leaves. Bring to a medium boil, skimming off the scum as it rises to the surface, cover and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes. Don’t boil too hard, or too much water will evaporate. (NOTE: You can cover the pot and avoid the issue altogether.)

Prepare the vegetables and dumplings while this is happening.

For the dumplings

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk

Shredding the cooked chicken/adding the veggies

After the chicken has cooked for 45 minutes, remove it to a plate and let cool before shredding. Discard the skin and bones. Remove the bay leaves from the stock and discard.

Add in the chopped vegetables and cook for 10 minutes.

Making the dumplings

In a glass measuring cup, heat the milk and butter just until butter is melted. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the milk and butter mixture and stir with a fork just until combined. Dough should be soft. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead just a few times to make it come together. Don’t over knead or your noodles will be tough. Roll out the dough to 1/8″ thick and cut into 1″ strips and then into 3-4″ pieces. If you think you’ll be waiting for more than 5 minutes or so to add the noodles, cover them with a damp towel.

Making the roux

In a separate small saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Cook over medium heat for a minute or so, stirring constantly to create a roux. Gradually add in about half a cup of stock at a time until you’ve thinned out the roux a bit.

Add roux mixture to the stock with the vegetables and whisk until no lumps remain. Add in the whipping cream and frozen peas.

Adding the dumplings

Bring the stew to a light boil and add in the dumplings, one by one. Stir gently, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until dumplings are tender and done.

Finishing up

Take the pot off the heat and add the shredded chicken back in. Stir to heat the chicken through, TASTE for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if needed, then serve.

As I placed the cherry red dutch oven on the kitchen table for serving, I wished that my small family was gathered around, empty bowls and spoons in hand, ready to dig in.

Sourdough Bagels

My sourdough starter jar was getting a bit full (relatively speaking, as it was in a BIG jar, rather than my usual 2 cup one) so I had planned on refreshing the contents by making a batch of sourdough flour tortillas.

And then I was inspired by a themed post on a FB group I belong to to make sourdough bagels. After posting a request for a recommended recipe, I decided on the simplest of the bunch, which I actually found by net-surfing. And it only made eight bagels, which was perfect as my upstairs freezer is getting VERY full, again. I used up the last drop of starter in the jar (though I’ve got a couple of jars of dried starter in the pantry) so I won’t have to do weekly starter feedings for a while.

The results were very tasty, dense and chewy in texture. Breaking out the stand mixer to knead the dough was a smart idea as that’s a tough dough to knead by hand. And, although the bagels weren’t shaped as nicely as I’d hoped, none of them came undone during the boiling step even though I used the “sealed rope” method of shaping. The hydration of this dough meant that the two ends stuck together during the shaping, especially as I didn’t use additional flour when rolling out the dough into a rope.

Fried Egg, Bacon and Cheese Bagel Sandwich

Bagel Pizzas

Sourdough Bagel Pictorial

Dough was kneaded in a stand mixer for 10-15 min on medium speed, rested, shaped and proofed at room temperature for 3-4 hrs until puffy and then cold retarded for 4-8 hrs before being boiled and baked. The cold retarding develops flavour and lets the bagels harden enough to be easily picked up and transferred to their boiling water bath without deformation. (Especially if you don’t crowd your fridge and end up dropping a container on top of a couple of your bagels.)

Even though the bagels spread during refrigeration and I was sure I was going to end up with bagel pancakes, oven spring during the baking gave them a nice lift so they were plump and lovely.

Crumb – Sliced into while still warm, because who can resist a bagel fresh out of the oven? I know I can’t.

Single Serving Apple and Blueberry Desserts

My pantry is rather sparse in terms of dessert ingredients, other than the basics. And my fruit crisper drawer is limited to a few apples (Red Delicious), so when I was planning on a seasonal fruit-based dessert for Thanksgiving (I don’t like pumpkin), the pickings were slim.

I decided on a single serving dessert that could be made and served in a cup sized ramekin.

I was intrigued by two possibilities and, rather than decide, I made them both. I included blueberries from the freezer in the apple crumble for colour and bit of extra flavour. The original apple crumble dessert recipe also used rhubarb.

Blueberry Pudding Cake

Blueberry Pudding Cake – serves 1

Blueberry Base

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries*
1 tsp lemon juice

* If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw.

Cake

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tbsp sugar**
2 1/2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp melted butter or margarine

** I tried 2 tbsp and thought it needed a bit more sugar next time.

Topping

1 tsp cornstarch
2 – 2 1/2 tsp sugar
1/3 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Use a ramekin that holds a bit more than 1 cup. Place onto a baking sheet for ease of transport and in case of boil overs.

Place the blueberries in the bottom of the ramekin and sprinkle the lemon juice over the top. Stir a bit to coat the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. Stir to combine. Add the milk and melted butter and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened. Gently spoon the cake batter in a layer over the top of the blueberries.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Spoon evenly over the top of the cake batter.

Carefully pour the boiling water over the top, then place the baking sheet with the ramekin on it into the oven. (NOTE: This was the tricky bit for me as the water threatened to overflow the ramekin. I had to pour some water in, wait for it to trickle down through the edges of the batter and into the blueberries below, finding any available spaces, before adding some more. There was a bit of overflow during baking, making the baking sheet underneath a smart idea.)

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or pouring custard/Creme Anglaise.

Apple-Blueberry Crumble

Apple and Blueberry Crumble – serves 1

Filling

1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tbsp blueberries
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tbsp brown sugar

Crumble

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
2 tbsp rolled oats or sliced almonds*
2-3 tbsp sugar

* I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry so I added the almonds for texture and bulk.

Preheat the oven to 350-360 deg F/180°C. Lightly oil a 1 cup ramekin with a neutral tasting oil like canola. Place the ramekin onto a baking sheet for ease of transport and in case of boil overs.

Place the prepared apple and blueberries in a bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top of the fruit; add the brown sugar and stir through. Place the fruit into the ramekin, packing down a bit as needed.

Place the flour, butter,  sugar and oats in a medium bowl. Use your fingers or a fork, rub in the butter until it’s well combined and large crumbs form.

Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the topping is golden and bubbling.

Serve with sweetened whipped cream, ice cream or pouring custard/Creme Anglaise.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving (2018)

Happy Thanksgiving

 

I went a little overboard this year and bought a pre-cooked 5 kg honey-glazed spiral cut ham for my Thanksgiving meal. It cost me $22 CDN and I figure I’ll get at least ten meals out of it so it was definitely a good purchase, price wise.

I had a wonderful lie in this morning, and hadn’t done the math needed to figure out how long it would take to re-heat this monster, ahead of time. It turned out to be almost THREE HOURS, with the enclosed glaze being brushed on for the last half hour. Next time I’d up the temperature to AT LEAST 300 deg or even 325 deg, from the 275 deg F written on the wrappings, because, even after the maximum roasting time recommended, it was still only lukewarm inside. So I sliced off and reheated the portion I ate in the microwave. By this point, it was 6 pm. And I was VERY hungry.

The ham was tasty and moist, but the potato and onion gratin was the star of the show, in my opinion. I started out with this recipe, and then made some changes. Because I was starved, I served myself about one quarter of the dish and by the time I was finished, I was so full, that I almost didn’t have room for dessert.

ALMOST

Cause this was a great looking dessert.

I wanted to make some sort of seasonal fruit dessert for Thanksgiving, but all I had in the house were three apples (Red Delicious) in the crisper drawer, and some blueberries in the freezer. I decided on an apple crumble (with sliced almonds in the crust because I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry) with a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries added for a bit of colour. I’ll post my recipe for an individual apple crumble in a future post. As well as for an individual blueberry pudding cake I made.

Potato and Onion Gratin

Potato and Onion Gratin – serves 6-8

1 medium (~300 gm) sweet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick *
1 medium white/yellow (~100 gm) Russet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick*
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (1/8-1/4 inch thick)
~4 oz (125 gm) cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
4 strips of cooked bacon, thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)

* Use all sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if preferred, or if that’s all that you have available.

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup fried onions

Combine topping ingredients in a shallow dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized baking dish with a neutral oil like canola. (Spray with a cooking spray if you prefer.)

Cover the base of the baking dish evenly with about 1/3 of your sliced potatoes. Scatter about half of the sliced onions over the potatoes. Make another layer of potatoes, and then scatter the remaining onions over the top. Finish with the last of the potatoes.

Place the cubed cream cheese in a medium sized, microwave safe bowl, and warm just long enough to soften the cheese. Whisk/stir in the flour and the dried thyme. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, a bit at a time, until it’s smoothly combined with the cheese and flour mixture. Whisk in the milk.

Pour the cream cheese/broth/milk mixture over the layered potatoes and onions. Scatter the bacon over the top. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the lid off the casserole dish, scatter the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then serve.

Eye of Round – Pt 1 Small End Roast

I rarely buy large pieces of beef/steaks due to the price, but Freshco had a ‘sale’ this past week on whole fresh eye of round roasts so I picked up a relatively small one  (2.7 kg) and cut it into four pieces for future cooking. I ended up with two roasts (1 kg and 0.63 kg), four quarter inch thick steaks for braciole (0.45 kg) and a small bag of beef cubes (0.30 kg) for some sort of stew.

Using a high heat roasting technique, I cooked the smaller of the two roasts to medium/medium-rare and used the meat for supper and work lunches. I was pleased with the results though it could have been a BIT rarer. I’ve been advised to keep the high heat roasting time the same but reduce the oven standing time to achieve that result. Something to try next time.

High Heat Roasting Technique

Preheat oven to 500 deg F.

Let meat come to room temperature about an hour before you want to roast.

Rub with olive oil and seasonings in a wet rub using garlic powder, onion powder, dried basil, oregano, rosemary, etc., Roast at 500 deg for 5 minutes per pound/0.454 kg.

Shut off the oven and roast an additional hour per 2.2 pounds/1 kg, but do not open the oven for any reason during that time.

When the time is up, remove the roast from oven, cover and let sit for 15-20 min.

Roast beef, loaded baked potato and Caesar salad

Black Pepper Shrimp

I’m cooking more dishes for one or two these days, rather than pots of ‘stuff’. This black pepper shrimp makes a fast work day supper served over plain rice or noodles.

Black Pepper Shrimp with Udon Noodles

Black Pepper Shrimp – serves 1

4-6 oz/113-170 gm peeled, headless raw shrimp, tail on
1 rounded tsp whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 clove garlic, finely minced or 1/8 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine, or dry sherry or dry white wine
1 tsp sugar
pinch (1/8 tsp) of salt
1 tbsp green onion tops, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Lightly pound the black peppercorns using a mortal and pestle until they are coarsely cracked. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put the peppercorns in a sturdy freezer bag and crack with the smooth side of a meat tenderizer. Don’t leave any whole peppercorns but you don’t have to pound the peppercorn to a powder.)

Heat up a skillet or wok over medium/medium-high heat and add the butter. Add the garlic and black pepper and saute until you smell the aroma of the pepper, then add the shrimp and stir to combine. Add the oyster sauce, stir a few times before adding the wine and sugar.

Stir fry until the shrimp are cooked.

Plate, sprinkle the green onion over the top and serve immediately.

NOTE: This is a fairly dry preparation (no sauce) so you can stir cooked noodles (ie udon noodles or spaghetti) into the skillet as soon as the shrimp are cooked to coat them with the butter and any juices released by the shrimp. If serving over plain rice, season the rice with some soy sauce.

Black Pepper Shrimp with Plain Rice