All You Can Eat Sushi

As I’ve gotten older my ability to eat vast amounts of sushi has decreased but I try my best. So this past Saturday, I skipped breakfast and lunch and planned on a sushi dinner feast.

I started with a bowl of hot and sour soup followed by a bunch of apps … tempura scallops, shrimp, squid and yam washed down with a pot of tea. And then there were some deep fried dumplings and chicken and beef skewers.

And a plate of crispy chicken wings. No dip is offered with them which is surprising.

A couple of pieces of sashimi – salmon and red snapper. No nigiri as I was cutting back on the rice.

And then there was my favourite salmon pizza. I like the eel pizza too.

The presentation of the Deep Fried Mountain Roll was a disappointment. It was NOT the roll I wanted on reflection. I noticed that they’ve reduced the variety of offerings so that may account for it.

And, since I was stuffed by that point, I had a small scoop of mango ice cream (no pic taken) and left having paid ~$25 CDN plus tip.

Dim sum (March break)

Before March break, I treated myself to a belated birthday meal of dim sum. All my usual favourites and a couple of my nephew’s as he’s been away at school so our regular get-togethers have been eliminated. My nephew usually orders the steamed sweet filled buns but I gave them a pass. I think I only had 9 dishes instead of my usual 10-12 as there are no steamed or baked bbq’d pork buns pictured, for example.

Stuffed green peppers with a black bean sauce. I usually order a plate … it’s my ‘healthy’ green dish.

Taro and mixed meat dumpling … it looks like a fuzzy football when the taro fries up. My nephew loves the bacon wrapped shrimp with mayo dipping sauce. We have to order two plates when we go together, cause he doesn’t like to share. Sometimes, he takes a plate home for his mom.

Beef short ribs and bean curd wrapped steamed rolls

Steamed shrimp rice noodles and garlic squid. Another type of roll in the back but fried. A close-up of the squid … I usually gobble it up piping hot and have been known, on rare occasions, to share but usually it’s all for me.

Steamed sticky rice packages and the fried rolls mentioned earlier.

Nostalgia (Picspam)

I’ve been making some tasty food lately … beef bulgogi, beef and broccoli in black bean sauce, Cinco de Mayo burgers, chicken mapo tofu and chicken mole tamales, jerk pork ribs, pan fried pork chops with pan gravy, walnut brownies, orange curd/whipped cream mousse, espresso panna cotta. I just haven’t had the energy or, frankly, the interest, to post them so … if you’ve got some free time, you can check out some of my past posts and food pics.

I’ve been uploading the pictures to Fridgg. I find the site/archive much more useful than Pinterest.

If you’re curious, check them out here.

PS: I may add the pics to this post in the next week or so … probably.

Pretty Dishes and Food Inspiration

Over the years, my mom’s accumulated a lot of odds and ends of serving and baking dishes and glasses.

I’ve cleared out a lot of it since she passed because I just don’t have the room, and charities like Canadian Diabetes can always sell them off. Most recently, I posted pictures of some cranberry dishes that I brought home and then just had to use.

But there are some things …

I don’t remember if I’ve ever used these in my posts. They’re pretty, I guess, but they’re really not to my taste, so I don’t know why I keep holding on to them especially as there aren’t enough for even one complete place setting. I think some have even been thrown away.

Crown Ducal Gainsborough – Charm Pattern

And there a few of these plates as well, which don’t really go with anything else I have.

Nostalgia, I guess.

Maybe I’ll make something soon that will look perfect on them.

April Clear-out

I haven’t done much cooking in April, certainly nothing post-worthy, but I thought I’d share some of the tasty things I made.

Barbecue meal of giant hamburgers and sausages, with mac and cheese and corn side dishes, and a Mexican beer to wash it down.

Burgers (ground beef and pork) and sirloin tip steak, chicken breast basted with Jamaican barbecue sauce and Grill ’em sausages

Baked chicken drumsticks with the jerk bbq sauce, mac and cheese, onion rings and raw broccoli with ranch dressing

Oven baked pork chop and baked potato

Hot Italian sausage and broccoli over pasta

Thin crust pepperoni and mozzarella pizza

I picked up some frozen chicken cutlets and used them in several dishes including a Chicken Alfredo salad and a Mexican chicken and rice wrap with Taco Bell hot sauce.

Breakfast burrito with a pepperoni omelette, home fried potatoes, Mexican rice and avocado

Sushi – fake crab legs and avocado or cream cheese filling. I also made an attempt at a Caterpillar/Dragon roll with a garnish of spicy Mayo with flying fish caviar.

Orange curd and …

an orange loaf cake

Cheddar cheese straws and bars

Sad Anniversary and Happy Memories

Last weekend was the sixth anniversary of my dad’s passing. As we’re planning on bulldozing the old bungalow in the county, especially after six years of unfettered mouse invasion, I made a last pass through to see if there was anything left salvageable.

I found a 4 piece set of cranberry coloured dishes that my SIL had bought them years ago and that they had barely used, a couple of baking dishes and a large Japanese made chef’s knife. The ceramic snowman is a salt and pepper shaker set … and there’s home made rakija (home made fruit brandy) in the brown glass decanter.

I put aside some other dishes and glassware that can be donated. And bagged a lot of clothes only suitable for burning

I also found a gray sweater that my mom had knitted for my dad and a multi-coloured woven scarf which I’ll wear in the winter.

In the past week, I’ve eaten off the dishes, and made an apple pie in the blue glass Pyrex baking dish and baked macaroni and cheese in the white ceramic dish.

And this weekend, I made one of my dad’s favourite soups, ham and white bean. Although he liked this soup more like a stew in texture, I went for a thinner version which could be used to soak up some good home made bread. And that sharp chef’s knife did a great job on the veggies. I also made a red version of this soup for a change of pace.

Rain/snow mix, income tax, sourdough bread and some soup … Oh My!

I lost 2 hrs of work on this post due to a dumb mistake so I hope it’s better on the second attempt. (MUST remember to save.)

I made this bread a couple of weeks ago but just got around to sharing. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten to include anything crucial in the write-up of the recipe.

My reconstituted sourdough starter has finally gotten nice and lively (Sluggo no more) so I risked an entire loaf made JUST with starter. NO commercial yeast at all. And … success!! I could have let it rise a bit more, but after 3 hrs it HAD doubled. At least to my anxious eyes. So I baked it off.

This is an adaptation of Debra Collins‘ “One Day Sourdough” recipe, though I’ve rewritten it to reflect the changes I made … hand kneading, changed amounts of starter and water and different baking temperature.

One Day Sourdough by Debra Collins – makes ~800 gm dough

3 tbsp sugar
1 cup warm water 105 degrees**
1/2 cup active sourdough starter**
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
3 – 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour, divided

** Used 3/4 cup each, warm water and sourdough starter

In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir to mix. Add the oil, sourdough starter and the warm water/sugar mixture. With a wooden spoon, beat together until you have a smooth batter.

Gradually stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time until it’s too thick to stir any more. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on your work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead for about 5 minutes, using only as much flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Shape the dough into ball and cover with a large bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover the dough and knead for an additional 5 minutes.

Return the dough ball to the bowl you made it in, cover with saran wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, covered.

After the rest, turn the dough out onto your work surface again and roll out or gently press with your knuckles, until it becomes a rectangle 10 x 14 inches. Roll up and place the dough pinched seam down into a greased 9 x 4 inch loaf pan or 8 x 4 loaf pan. Cover with your saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, in a warm place. Be patient as this will take several hours. (I poked the dough after 3 hours and it sprang back quickly so I baked it.)

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Brush with a little egg glaze or milk. You may also sprinkle the top with sesame or poppy seeds and cut a slit in the top of the bread.

Bake for about 25 minutes until done. (After 20 minutes the top had gotten as dark as I wished so I covered the loaf with a large sheet of aluminum foil and baked for an additional 5 minutes.)

Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature before you cut it.

I’m very happy with the results. Nice flavour, not too sour, firm enough texture that I could slice it for sandwich bread but soft enough for good mouth feel.

We’ve had 3 days of rain/snow mix this weekend starting on the Friday so that meant I didn’t run as many errands as I had planned. Leaving me plenty of time to cook. Saturday morning, after getting my income tax done (yay for getting money back), I went grocery shopping, and later that day, used up all the sourdough starter I had on making some pancakes (love those bubbles) for the freezer and a pepperoni and cheese pizza for supper.

I picked up 2 trays of pork chops while grocery shopping and processed them for the freezer and future meals. And a package of Canadian bacon (they ran out of the sale regular bacon) which I fried up for Sunday brunch. I cooked a couple of pork chops for Sunday dinner.

And then I made a BIG pot of spicy vegetable beef soup. I added barley to part of the soup for a total of 12 (8 of the former and 4 of the latter) servings. The recipe below won’t make quite as much. I scaled my actual soup making up as I had a bit over 2 pounds of beef to work with and I wanted to use some of a bag of barley that I had picked up that morning.

Spicy Vegetable Beef Soup – serves 8

1-1 1/4 pound rump roast
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups pureed tomatoes
2 cups diced tomatoes
4 cups water, water and 2 beef bouillon cubes or beef broth, plus more water as needed
1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed*
1 stalk celery, medium dice
1 medium carrot, medium dice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or hot sauce to taste
6 ounces ditalini or other small soup pasta**

salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper)

* Substitute with 1 cup each frozen corn and green peas in last 10 minutes of cooking so as not to lose colour and texture of the peas.
**Substitute with 1 diced potato or 1/2 cup picked and rinsed barley. The barley will take 40-45 minutes to cook until tender.

Trim fat from roast and cut into 1 inch cubes.

Place meat in a large pot over medium-high heat with oil and cook, stirring, until meat is browned. You may need to do this in batches removing each batch of seared meat before adding another batch. Add more oil as needed.

Remove the meat to a large container and add onion and garlic, sauteeing at medium heat until the onion is tender. Return the meat to the pot.

Pour in the water/broth, tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir in mixed vegetables, carrot and celery. Season with oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, cayenne, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 75 minutes. (After half an hour add the barley if using instead of pasta. You’ll need to stir the contents well to the bottom as your barley will settle and stick as it swells up and absorbs the liquid. More liquid may be needed at this point.)

The barley version of the soup

Stir in pasta and cook 10 minutes more, until pasta is tender.

Freezer clearance is an endless project. This time I located a couple of chicken cutlets at the bottom of the freezer, along with some trimmings from a batch of bone-in chicken breasts, so I breaded and pan fried the cutlets, topped them with some melted mozzarella and served them with pasta dressed with a simple jarred spaghetti sauce.

I added the rest of the chicken to a bowl of off the cuff egg noodles dressed with a spicy jarred pad Thai sauce. I wish I’d had more chicken as I could see eating this dish often.

Well, I think I’m all caught up now.

Happy Easter!

After a modest meatless Good Friday meal, Easter is a celebratory occasion and this meal reflects that.

Soup was re-purposed from the salted cod, cannellini bean dip with the addition of egg noodles and ham broth.

Ham glazed with a plum balsamic reduction, mashed potatoes and peas with cherries jubilee

Washed down with strawberry lemonade.

I made a batch of crepes and paired them with the cherries jubilee sauce.

And drunken strawberries (strawberries macerated in sugar and Cointreau) over crepes with French vanilla ice cream.

And then, cause I had some cream puffs in the freezer and fresh strawberries, I sliced half open and filled them with sliced strawberries and sweetened whipped cream. I made a chocolate glaze to finish the presentation. Pretty but a bit messy to eat.

So, I piped the whipped cream into the rest of the cream puffs and served them with chocolate dipped strawberries.

Pick the one you want or eat one … or 2 of each.

Good Friday Meal Pan fried Panko breaded sole fillets, sauteed kale and a re-purposed white cannellini bean dip over dried salted cod. (No recipe cause I’m still working on getting it as good as my dad’s. After last year’s under-seasoned dish, this year, I didn’t soak the cod long enough and the dip needed to be baked longer as it was a bit too watery from the moisture in the cod. Eaten with the semolina sourdough bread, however, the saltiness was reduced somewhat. I started the meal with clam chowder.

Semolina Sourdough Bread

Yes, this is another sourdough recipe.

(WARNING: DO NOT buy or create a sourdough starter. It’s addictive to play with.)

After using up some excess sourdough starter for the hot cross buns, I was left with the remaining jar staring me in the face every time I looked toward the top of the fridge. I’m still searching for the perfect starter only/no commercial yeast recipe but ran across a recipe for a semolina sourdough bread. Semolina is a golden, very high gluten flour used mainly for pasta. The recipe still used commercial yeast but I have had this semolina in my pantry for a couple of years so I decided to use it up.

And it was a much more successful bake than previous ones.

I had a nice rise in the final proof … even if oven spring was so-so. I’d probably try a higher temperature (400-450 deg F) on a future attempt. Even 500 deg F. I was concerned about the baking because I forgot to proof my yeast (the original recipe called for the dough to be made in the bread machine with instant yeast and I wasn’t paying attention when I made it by hand with regular dry yeast granules) and I still found yeast granules in the dough before the first proof. I ended up kneading for a second time after letting the dough rise for one hour in a warm locate and then letting it rise for a second hour. And then I deflated the dough and shaped and proofed for a third time. That probably accounted for my poor oven spring.

I wrote up the recipe as I would do it next time with the yeast proofing instructions.:)

Semolina Sourdough Bread – makes 1 x 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups #1 semolina flour
3/4 cup sourdough starter

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp cornmeal, to coat proofing bowl
1 1/2 tsp sesame or poppyseeds (optional)

In a medium bowl, add warm water and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the semolina flour and salt. At the proofed yeast mixture and sourdough starter. Stir well.

Transfer to a working surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil, add the ball of dough to the bowl, rotate a bit to coat the dough, cover with saran wrap and place into a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hrs until doubled.

Turn the risen dough onto the working surface, punch down and form into a round shaped loaf. Dust a bread rising basket with the cornmeal and place your loaf into it.

Preheat oven and a pizza baking stone (or a metal baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone) to 375 degrees F

Cover dough with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place, about 1 hour or until double in size. You can sprinkle the top with sesame seeds, if you wish.

After dough has risen, carefully turn it out onto the hot pizza stone and bake. (I turned it out onto a sheet of parchment paper, scored and then transferred the bread, paper and all, onto the preheated metal baking sheet.)

Bake for about 45 minutes. Check that it’s done by knocking on the bottom of the bread and listening for a hollow sound.

Nice, golden brown bread loaf bottom on the metal baking sheet

Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

I like the IDEA of hot cross buns better than the ones I’ve had, even those bought from a bakery. So this year, I decided to try to make my own. I threw in a half cup of sourdough starter because I had it handy.

Generally, my first tries of new recipes have been spot on but that’s not always the case.

This recipe is a work in progress for various reasons ie. I chose to reduce the amount of sugar asked for in the recipe I used. I was too lazy to grate fresh nutmeg when I ran out so I used half the amount called for. It turned out that my jar of allspice was empty so I left it out. I KNEW I shouldn’t use the full tablespoon of ground cinnamon called for (I started with 2 tsp) but decided to compensate for the nutmeg/allspice. Next time … I’m only using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.:)

In the interest of full disclosure, it was a tasty hot cross bun. I’ve paid good money for worse. But it’s not a recipe I’d make again. I’d try something else first.

That said, someone else might really enjoy the sweetness level and cinnamon amount so I’m including the recipe below.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns – makes 15 buns

3 – 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar (use the full amount next time)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 – 4 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1 – 3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice (didn’t have any)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup dried cranberries, soaked overnight in 1/3 cup rum
~1 tsp finely minced candied orange peel.

Soaked fruit and peel

For the flour paste

1/2 cup all purpose flour
4-5 tbsp cold water

For syrup glaze

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish or spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs, and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Add spices, drained raisins and cranberries and minced candied orange peel. Stir well.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Cut the dough into 15 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball.

Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean damp towel and let them rest for another 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Making the flour paste for the cross

Place the flour in a small bowl and add the flour a tablespoon time until you form a smooth, pipeable paste. Stop with the 5 tablespoon and wait a while for the mixture to loosen up before adding another tsp or so. (I added a sixth tablespoon right away and ended up with a mixture that was thinner than I would have liked.) Pour the paste into a small freezer bag. Seal and cut an 1/8th to a 1/4 diameter hole in the bottom. Pipe straight lines horizontally and vertically

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Making the sugar syrup

While baking make the syrup by mixing the sugar with the water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Continue boiling for 4-5 minutes or until syrup thickens a bit. Set aside.

When the buns are out of the oven, brush with the sugar syrup.