Monthly Archives: April 2015

Picspam: End of April Odds and Ends

My dad’s flowers are still coming up bravely year after year. I put together a small vase of daffodils, narcissus and grape hyacinths so I could enjoy them in the house. When they’re gone, weeds will take over until the fall when the Naked Ladies bloom.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of starting some herbs from seeds this weekend.

Other things to do this weekend … bake. I’m thinking butter tarts, or a lemon meringue pie. Maybe I’ll just make some lemon curd and use it to make another pan of limoncello tiramisu with the last of the mascarpone in my freezer. We’ll see.


With some flowers on your kitchen table, even a tuna sandwich and a glass of milk can look elegant.

Breakfast or lunch … I made a sandwich out of one of the leftover sweet potato biscuits I made to go with the soup, a couple of home made breakfast sausage patties and a slice of American cheese and paired it with fried diced potatoes and sunny side up fried eggs. Better than any breakfast you could order at McD’s.

I’m still trying to get some consistent waffles out of my ancient waffle iron. I’m almost there.

I had thought I’d make a raspberry pastry cream tart with the berries above but got too tired to do so, so I turned 2 cups of fresh raspberries into a sauce to spoon over the last of the vanilla ice cream in my freezer. Or, I can put some on my next batch of waffles or crepes


Pan fried boneless pork loin chop lightly coated in bread crumbs, kale salad, corn and stuffing

Jerk boneless pork loin chop, kale salad, baked beans and peas


Basic Quiche: Ham, (Mushroom) and Broccoli

I’ve made quiches with at least three different pie crust bases (Zsuzsa’s pie crust, Allison’s Vinegar pie crust and Ann’s No-fail pie crust, which I used here and posted below). I’ve even made a crustless version. But whatever the base, and whatever the filling you are using, quiche is a tasty, relatively inexpensive dish to make ahead, freeze and serve at your convenience. Or, pre-bake a few pie shells and freeze them away for when inspiration strikes.

ETA: I was sure I had made a salmon quiche but I couldn’t find the post. Guess that’s something I should remedy soon.

The quiche below is a simple version with leftover ham (and crispy bacon) from yesterday’s ham and potato soup, broccoli florettes and Canadian Swiss cheese. At $12.99 a pound, it’s cheaper than its imported cousin, Gruyere ($21.99 per pound), but nowhere near the sale price of cheddar ($4.99 a pound). Use whatever you like or what your budget allows for. I didn’t have any mushrooms in the house so I just increased the amount of broccoli I used a bit.

Basic Ham, Mushroom and Broccoli Quiche – fills a 9 inch pre-baked pie shell

3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup cheese, grated (cheddar & monterey jack mix; swiss cheese; gruyere)
1 cup broccoli (cut into florets and pre-cooked)
4 oz cubed ham (or 5-6 strips cooked diced bacon)
1/2 cup sliced white mushrooms
dash tabasco (optional)
salt (~ 1 tsp) and pepper (~ 1/2 tsp) to taste
1 9-inch Pre-baked pie shell

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the baking dish with the pre-baked shell on a baking sheet, in case of overflow.

Mise en place for quiche

In a large bowl, whisk (or beat with a fork) together the eggs. Stir in the flour, mixing well, and then add the milk and nutmeg. Add salt and pepper to taste remembering that the ham, bacon and cheese already have some salt in them. Add as much tabasco or hot sauce as desired.

Pre-baked quiche shell

Layer the cooked broccoli, mushrooms and ham into the pre-baked pie shell.

Sprinkle about 3/4 cup of the cheese over the vegetables and meat.

Pour the milk and egg mixture carefully over the ingredients. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top.

Bake at 350 deg F for 45-50 min.  Let stand another 10 min before cutting.

Ann’s No-fail Pie Crust – enough for a 8-9 inch top and bottom or 2 bottoms

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup shortening or unsalted butter (or half of each)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
water as needed (~1/4 cup)

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening with a pastry blender.

In a 2 cup measuring cup beat together the egg and sour cream and add enough cold water to make a total of 3/4 cup liquid. Stir the liquid into the dough using a fork. If a hand full of dough holds together when squeezed, the dough is wet enough, otherwise, fork in an additional tablespoon of water and try again. Repeat.

Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate until needed or roll to 1/4″ thickness.

I was a bit hasty in throwing together the dough for the pie plate … I should probably have re-rolled it. 🙂

For an empty shell, bake 12-15 min in a 400 deg F oven. For a filled shell, bake 15 min at 400 F, then reduce temperature to 350 deg F and bake an additional 25-30 min or until the contents are set.

If the edges get too brown, cover them with a strip of aluminum foil.

Remove the baked pie from the oven to a cooling rack and let cool for about 3 hrs before serving.

Sour Cream, Ham & Potato Soup and Sweet Potato Biscuits

I have several containers of ham stock/broth in my freezer and, rather than the usual ham and bean soup, I decided to make a ham and potato soup for a change. My only regret is not doubling the recipe.

Sour Cream, Ham & Potato Soup

Sour Cream, Ham & Potato Soup – serves 4-6

2 slices bacon, diced
1 very small (1/4 cup)  finely chopped onion
4 cups ham stock, divided (reserve 1/2 cup to mix with flour)
3 medium (3 cups) potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large (1 cup) carrot, cubed
1 stalk (1/2 cup) celery, cubed
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup (or more) cubed or shredded leftover ham
1 1/2 tbsp flour
salt / pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large saute pan or soup pot, render the diced bacon over medium heat until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon to a small bowl with a slotted spoon, and save for garnish. Saute the diced onion in the bacon fat for 4-5 minutes, or until translucent and lightly browned on the edges, over medium heat.

Add 3 1/2 cups of the ham stock, potatoes, carrots and celery to the saute pan. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the corn and diced ham and cook for an additonal few minutes in order for the soup to return to a simmer.

Whisk together the 1/2 cup of reserved ham broth and flour until smooth. Pour into the soup in a small stream while stirring, to avoid lumps. Let the soup simmer for 3 more minutes until the soup is thickened and the corn is cooked. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the saute pan from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes. Add the heavy cream, then the sour cream, stirring very well to combine. Do not let the soup boil after sour cream is added, to prevent thinning or curdling.

Serve with a few strips of crispy bacon on top.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sweet Potato Biscuits – makes 4-6 biscuits

1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup milk (fat free or 2%)
1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, diced**

** Shortening used cause that’s what I had handy

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and milk; let sit for 5 minutes to make buttermilk.  Add the sweet potato and stir until smooth, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chopped rosemary.  Add the butter and cut into the flour with a pastry blender or two forks until the butter is -pea-sized.  Make a well in the center.  Pour the sweet potato mixture into the flour and stir until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface.  Knead together 3-4 times, then form into a 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick round.

Use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to stamp out as many biscuits as you can, reforming the dough scraps as needed.

Transfer to the prepared sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes, until the biscuits are set and the tops are golden.

Serve hot.

Once cooled, store in an air-tight container for up to one week on the counter or two weeks in the refrigerator.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Patties

I recently dug through my upstairs freezer and AGAIN, ran across a one pound package of extra lean frozen ground pork.

So, I finally decided to do something with it.

There were several choices but I settled on these easy homemade breakfast sausage patties. The sausage meat was so lean that for the 2nd batch in the cast iron frying pan, I snuck in a teaspoon or so of vegetable oil which helped the patties brown much more quickly. And then, so as not to be wasteful, I turned the fried bits on the bottom of the frying pan into gravy with a bit of bacon fat to make up to 1 tbsp for 1 tbsp of flour and 1 cup of milk.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage Patties – makes 20-22 1/4 inch thick, 3 1/4 inch patties

1 kg (2.2 lb) minced or ground lean pork
1 1/2 tsp dried sage
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3 tsp light brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use more if you like it hot)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg (pre-ground would be just fine)
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
pinch of ground cloves

Combine all the the ingredients except for the ground pork in a small bowl and mix well.

Place the pork in a large bowl and sprinkle all the spices over the top. Mix well with a wooden spoon or your hands.

Form into patties and fry in a skillet on medium heat for 4-5 minutes per side or form into 2 one lb logs, wrap them up in food wrap and place in the freezer until needed.

NOTE: I rolled the sausage mixture 1/4 inch thick between 2 sheets of parchment paper and cut out the patties using a a cookie cutter tuna can with the top and bottom removed. You can freeze these patties in a single layer and then bag them until needed, or fry them immediately.

Unlike my previous attempts at sausage or pan/country gravy, this batch turned out much darker. I wonder if it was due to the sugar used in the sausage mixture.

Turkey Pot Pie with Cheesy Drop Biscuit Topping

A while back I broke down a turkey and prepared the breasts and legs separately. One of the roasted breasts was taken off the bone, wrapped up and frozen for another day.

Today was that day.

I made the classic turkey pot pie with cooked diced turkey, cooked carrots and peas in a combined bechamel/veloute sauce. Sometimes, I’ll add dried French onion soup mix to the sauce but this time I didn’t bother. Instead, I went a bit fancy with a cheesy drop biscuit topping rather than my usual biscuit/scone topping. I’ve included both biscuit recipes below so you can use whichever you prefer.

Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie with Onion Gravy – serves 6

2 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey meat (mixture of light and dark)
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp butter (or margarine)
1 cup milk
1 cup chicken or turkey broth
1 tbsp French onion soup mix (optional)
1 cup cooked carrots
1 cup frozen peas, thawed or canned
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Warm up the milk and stir in the onion soup mix.

Melt butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for a few minutes and then whisk in the milk, a little at a time. Then add the broth. Continue stirring until the entire mixture comes to a boil and then cook for an additional minute.

In a large casserole dish, mix together chicken, carrots and peas.

Pour the onion gravy over the top and stir gently so everything is combined.

Bake for 45 minutes. Raise the heat to 425 deg Fahrenheit and place the biscuit circle on top of the turkey mixture in the casserole dish and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the underside is set. **Or, cut the biscuits into individual wedges and bake on a buttered baking sheet.

Biscuit topping

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (or margarine)
2/3 cup milk (or buttermilk)

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Using two knives or a pastry blender cut in the butter til it’s the size of peas. Pour in the milk and fork together til it starts to form into a ball. Knead gently 10-12 times in bowl. Pat out into a circle that will fit snugly into the casserole dish over the pot pie mixture. Place the crust on top of the meat/veggie/gravy mixture.

Bake til the bottom of the crust is set, which should take another 12-15 min.** (Or, butter a baking sheet, cut the biscuit circle into 6 wedges, put the wedges on the sheet and bake there instead.)

To serve, cut through biscuit crust and scoop out appropriate amount of filling. Or put a wedge of biscuit on a plate and serve the filling on top or alongside the biscuit.

You can also make this in 6 individual 1-cup ramekins, cutting biscuit dough into rounds to fit on top.

NOTE: Check the underside of the crust to make sure it’s done at the bottom. If the crust is too thick, it will remain uncooked while the top is browned so you may have to cover it with foil and continue baking for at least another 15 minutes. For this reason, baking the crust separately is the safer method.

Drop Biscuit Alternative

Cheesy Drop Biscuits – makes 12-16 drop biscuits depending on size of spoon used

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (or cheddar cheese)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk

NOTE: This recipe assumes you’re baking your pot pie in a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet. If you’re using a casserole dish you’ll have leftover biscuit batter and your biscuit layer will be thick enough to need to be covered and baked another 15 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 450 deg Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, cheese, baking powder, sugar and salt. Whisk to combine well. Add butter and milk. Stir to combine.

Drop biscuits by the rounded tablespoon full on top of pot pie.

Place the casserole dish or cast iron skillet on a cookie sheet and then slide into the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until biscuits are golden brown. (Test to see if underside of biscuits are done. If they need additional baking, cover with a sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side up, and continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. Let sit covered for 5 minutes before serving.)

Sprinkle with fresh parsley, serve and enjoy.

I had some leftover breast that I didn’t use in the pot pie (as well as some turkey gravy) so I ate this the day before.

Salted Caramel Sauce

Spring seems to have finally arrived. The daffodils my dad planted years ago have bloomed, which adds a lovely note of colour to the front of the house.

I’ve been busy working and, by the time I get home, I’m too exhausted to do much more than throw something in the microwave. On the weekends, I do the bare minimum of housework, mostly laundry, and spend the rest of my time sitting in front of the computer monitor reading and resting for the week to come.

I usually have a container of ice cream in my freezer, for quick desserts, but ice cream is a little bare bones, so I made this salted caramel sauce to dress it up. The recipe was posted several years ago as an accompaniment to a pumpkin pie cheesecake that was … to die for. Since I’m not fond of pumpkin, that’s a great compliment from me.

Salted Caramel Sauce – makes ~ 1 1/2 cups

1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream (35 % butterfat or whipping cream)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch coarse salt (reduced from the 1 tsp recommended)

Add the sugar to a medium sauce pan. Drizzle the water around the edges of the sugar so it washes towards the center of the pan and does not stick to the sides. Heat the sugar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat and simmer it until it turns a medium amber colour. Do NOT stir the mixture in the sauce pan.

Remove from the heat and carefully pour in the heavy cream.

Return to heat and cook until smooth, stirring with a wooden spoon. Stir in the butter.

Allow the sauce to cool for a few minutes and stir in the vanilla extract and salt.

Let the sauce cool and transfer it to a glass jar or other lidded container and refrigerate.

Store your leftover sauce in the fridge and warm it up briefly, in the microwave, before pouring it over your ice cream. Too warm, and it will melt your ice cream … too cool, and it won’t flow well. It’s tricky but even if it doesn’t LOOK pretty, it will be delicious. I used my home made whisky vanilla extract in the sauce, cause that’s the way I roll when I want to indulge in a decadent dessert.

Indian Weekend Feast

On the way home from work on Friday, I stopped in at the Indian grocery store and picked up a pound box of sweets. Which served as the inspiration to this weekend’s menu. I also picked up a few other goodies to round out the meal.

Menu inspiration: back row (rasgulla and gulab jamun), front two rows (various burfees or Indian fudges)

I’ve made Indian foods from scratch before, but sometimes, you need a break, so buying one or two items to add to your meal isn’t a bad thing. Nor is using prepared pastes, chutneys or even breads.

I was going to make mattar paneer but I didn’t have enough milk in the house to make my own paneer (cheese), and I blew the budget with the other items, so I couldn’t BUY it. Still, I think the menu was good enough, even if it was one of the easiest I’ve made in a long time.

Samosas, easy chicken vindaloo, cheater’s chickpea curry (or chana masala), basmati rice, roti and various sweets.

Chicken vindaloo – a very spicy chicken and potato stew made with a jarred paste mixture and served over plain basmati rice with some cooling yogurt or a cucumber or tomato raita (yogurt based dip)

Close-up of the interior of the samosa – potatoes, peas, toasted spices in a crispy pastry, served with a mint chutney

Two of my favourite Indian sweets – rasgulla (left) and gulab jamun (right)

Both of these sweets are milk based and soaked in a sugar syrup. Cardamom is a flavouring that’s sometimes used in the syrup. The rasgulla is made with kneaded fresh paneer cheese poached in a sugar syrup. When you bite into it you get the  squeaky texture of biting into fresh cheese curds. The gulab jamun is made with milk powder and butter or whipping cream, kneaded into a ball and deep fried and then soaked in the sugar syrup.

Closeups of Indian sweets – various burfees (fudges)

Weekday BBQ … Warm Sweet Potato and Couscous Salad

You just got home in the middle of the week too exhausted to cook anything elaborate. And you have a craving for bbq.  (Or at least, I did.)

So, what do you do?

If you have a freezer, and you planned for just such an event, you can take some of the lamb kofta kebabs you’ve bbq’d previously out and warm them up. For a side dish, this warm couscous salad is mostly hands off, fast and filling. Put it on a pretty plate with a couple of tablespoons of home made or purchased tzatziki, and you could serve it to company.

Dessert … a scoop or two of butterscotch ripple ice cream.

Warm Sweet Potato & Couscous Salad – serves 4

1 cup couscous
1 cup (250ml) hot chicken stock seasoned with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 (400g) sweet potato, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch (2 cm) cubes
1 tbsp vegetable oil (optional if roasting sweet potatoes)
2 tbsp (300g) pine nuts**
2 tbsp (40ml) orange juice
2 tbsp (40ml) olive oil
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1-2 green onions, sliced on the diagonal
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or 2 tsp dried parsley

** If you find you’ve misplaced your pine nuts, 1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds work just as well.

Place couscous into a heatproof bowl. Pour the hot stock over couscous, cover and allow stock to absorb for about 5 minutes. Gently fluff with a fork.

Cook sweet potato in a saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain.
(Or, if you have the oven on, drizzle some vegetable oil over the cubes, and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 deg F for 25-30 minutes, turning after about 15 minutes until the outside is golden brown and the inside is tender.)

To toast pine nuts heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until slightly golden. Transfer to a bowl immediately as nuts will continue to cook.

In a small jar with a lid, shake together the orange juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked sweet potato, sliced green onions, toasted pine nuts and parsley to the couscous. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and gently combine.

Serve warm.

Picspam: No Knead Bread

Would you invest 8 hours to eat THIS?

This is what  it looks like inside … under all that butter. 🙂

Some years ago, I ran across an article about no-knead bread. Well, it sounded too good to be true, but I thought I’d give it a try. I had the Dutch oven (my Le Creuset) and, after reading the warning about needing to replace the phenolic knob due to its temperature limitation, I spent the $15 for a metal knob and shipping. So, I was all set.

But I put it off … until now.

I used the recipe Eva (of Kitchen Inspirations) posted this past February. Other than having to add some more flour to the dough, since it was more like a batter after the 4 hour fermentation, I got a great tasting loaf of bread that looked a lot like the ciabatta that I made years ago in my now defunct bread machine. (NOTE: I’ll be increasing the flour to 3 1/2 cups/ 525 g next time.)

The only drawback is the waiting time. It takes at least 6 hrs before you can put the bread in the oven to bake, 45 minutes to bake and a good hour to cool and cut into.

I guess you could put it together the night before and then shape and let rise for 2 hrs the next day. It’s something to think about. One thing I DO know though, I will be making this bread again.

I <3 Onions – Beef Burgers and Lamb Kofta Kebabs

The first barbecue of the year was a successful one. I threw whatever I could find in my freezer on the grill … hamburgers, lamb skewers and a package of Oktoberfest Grill ‘Ems. But first, I had to do a bit of preparing of the ground meat.

I enjoy the taste of onions with my burgers but I don’t care for the texture of raw onions so I usually saute some diced onions and add it to my meat mixtures.

After frying the onions and prepping the meat on Saturday, I was too hungry to wait til the next day to bbq, so I pan-fried a couple of the smaller hamburger patties and threw them into this sesame seed bun. There’s melted cheese between the two and some ‘healthy’ lettuce on the bottom. 🙂

Beef Burger

Cross-section through the burger

Barbecued Hamburgers – Word to the wise … do NOT bbq burgers made with regular hamburger meat! The flames are scary.

Ok, the simplest recipe for a hamburger is just to throw some salt and pepper at ground sirloin or other high quality beef, form it into a patty and throw in on a grill, but some of us have limited budgets, so we buy the lean ground beef at the market  … NOT those ground meat chubs at the grocery chains cause I have SOME standards left. And when I first looked up a ‘recipe’ for a hamburger, it told me to use bread crumbs (soaked in milk for moisture) and an egg for binding. So that’s what I’m posting below. Do whatever you want. It’s your burger.

Basic Hamburger – makes 8 4 oz patties

2 pounds lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely diced and sauteed in 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp dried bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten well

Sauteed onions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Divide into 8 portions and shape into patties. You can do it by hand or by using a handy patty press like this one, complete with instructions in case it’s too high tech for you to figure out on your own. The press holds exactly 4 oz.

I’m cheap frugal so I used food wrap.

Pan fry, grill or barbecue.

Ground Lamb Skewers (and some Grill ‘Ems)

Lamb Kofta Kebabs or Ground Lamb Skewers – makes 8 skewers, serve 2 per person

1 pound ground lamb
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried mint
1 1/2 tbsp minced dehydrated onion
scant tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander

Mix lemon zest, dehydrated onion and all the herbs and spices together. Sprinkle over the ground meat and knead in well.

Cover and refrigerate the meat mixture overnight to allow the flavours to meld.

About 45 minutes before you want to cook the kebabs, soak 8 bamboo skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Divide the meat into 8 portions and shape into a ball. With damp hands, insert the skewer into the ball of meat and shape the meat around the skewer into a 2-3 inch sausage shape.

Grill or barbecue the kebabs for about 8-10 minutes over medium heat until golden brown and cooked through, rotating ever few minutes.

Serve 2 kebabs with spicy yogurt sauce (recipe below) drizzled over them.

Spicy yogurt – makes 1 cup

1 cup Greek style yogurt
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp each ground cumin, coriander, and mint
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients for spicy yogurt and refrigerate until ready to use.