Monthly Archives: December 2016

Some Things I Inherited From My Mother

NOTE: I hope to take pictures of some of my mom’s vast doily output and the crocheted tablecloth I made one of these days, after which I’ll post them.

My mom left any formal education behind early and spent much of her life working on the family farm in Yugoslavia near the Romanian border. Her family raised chickens and pigs and grew various vegetables and grapes. Besides working in the field alongside her parents, in the growing season, and helping out in the kitchen year round, she spent the winter months knitting and crocheting. There weren’t any pattern books to follow but samples were shared among the women she knew and copied.

Crocheting … I never really saw the attraction of most of the items my mom crocheted. One can only have so many doilies, regardless of the patterns. I DID like the afghans she made though. They were lovely and warm to wrap around oneself when the weather got nippy to keep you warm, while reading a good book. The rugs were pleasant to step on when you walked into the tiled bath room in your bare feet. Though she DID make slippers as well from odds end ends of yarn. They wore out quickly from the heavy use and I miss them.

Salmon Shawl

Afghan – You can just see one of the few doilies I still use under the lamp

I have no idea what this piece of crocheting was for. Maybe to be attached to something as a decorative finish.

Knitting … Sweaters and scarves were always useful. I remember making myself a pair of mittens. They were a bit misshapen, to be honest, but they fit and they were warm. Buying them as I have for the last 40yrs seems like cheating, somehow, but I’ve never had the urge to make myself another pair since. I found this gray sweater that my mom made for my dad, when I was clearing out their cottage, and brought it home. It fits so I wear it.

Macrame … When I was about 20, my mom got it into her head that she wanted to learn to macrame so I bought a bunch of pattern books. Since she didn’t really read English very well and translating the instructions was hard even for me, it took a while to translate the instructions into Romanian for my mom. Especially since I didn’t have the Romanian vocabulatry to really explain what to do. But we managed and she made some pretty impressive pieces. I use one of my mom’s smaller macrame projects every day. It’s an ugly looking brown toothpaste (I put my comb in the sleeve instead) and toothbrush caddy and still hangs on a hook next to my sink. I give it a quick hand wash every 5 yrs or so. The big plant holders she made were relegated to the attic, when we moved into our current home. There just wasn’t any place to hang them.

Looms and knitting needles – I can’t remember what was made on those looms. I think it was flowers on the round ones. I should really donate everything.

Along with these tangibles, I’ve inherited my frugal nature, my ability to be happy with what I have rather than what I DON’T have, my fondness for savoury rather than sweet, and my tendency to put on weight regardless of what I eat. Three out of four isn’t bad, right?

Hokkaido-Style Corn, Chicken and Milk Miso Soup

A recent purchase of a bundle of kale and a sparse pantry led to some net surfing where I ran across a recipe for this hearty version of miso soup.

It’s similar to a corn chowder, which can be kept vegetarian with tofu as the protein instead of the chicken the recipe called for. I included both as I had some diced tofu in my freezer, as well as what turned out to be 6 oz of diced chicken breast. The recipe called for cabbage as the vegetable. Funnily enough, kale is considered a member of the cabbage family. (I did NOT know that.)

Hokkaido-style Corn, Chicken, Milk and Miso Soup – serves 5

4 cups of water and 1 vegetable stock cube (or 2 tsp dashi powder)
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1 cup white cabbage, finely shredded (or kale)
1 green onion, white only, finely sliced
1 cup of fresh, canned or frozen corn
1 tbsp butter, vegetable or sesame oil
6 oz (~ 200g) chicken breast or leftover cold chicken, cut into pieces (or firm tofu, TVP or quorn)
1 tbsp dried seaweed, soaked in 1/4 cup warm water, drained and julienned
~1/2 cup of white miso** (adjust for taste)
salt and pepper (white or black) to taste
green onion tops, sliced thinly, for garnish

** All I had was red miso paste so that’s what I used

Heat up the water in a pot and dissolve the vegetable stock cube or the dashi powder in it.

Prepare the veggies while the water comes to a boil.

Saute the cabbage and onion in a large saute pan with the butter or oil until it’s just turning limp. Add  the chicken cubes if added raw and brown briefly. Add the corn and briefly saute at the same time.

Add the soup stock to the saute pan and simmer until the chicken is just tender.

Place the miso paste in a small bowl and add about 1/2 a cup of hot stock. Mash up the miso as much as possible. Add an additional 1/2 cup of stock and stir until the miso paste is dissolved.

Add the milk to the saute pan, and bring up to a simmer. (Add the cut up chicken if using leftover chicken and heat through.)

Add the dissolved miso and drained seaweed to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Garnish with green onion tops and serve.

Christmas Sweets – Chocolate Chip Cookies and More Fudge

I don’t know many people who don’t like to munch on freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. I ran across some Christmas themed chocolate chips in my pantry last week so I made a small batch using a recipe that Dana Mears shared to FB.

If you don’t want to be tempted by having the cookies around, freeze balls of the cookie dough and bake off a half dozen or so when you get a craving for freshly baked cookies.

After a bit of a break, I only made two kinds of fudge for Christmas … chocolate-mint, decorated with crushed candy cane, and eggnog. I started with the basic vanilla fudge recipe and added in shaved dark chocolate and mint extract, or French brandy, shaved white chocolate and nutmeg, for the two kinds of fudge, respectively.

Christmas Duck Dinner (2016)

Christmas for one doesn’t have to be dull and boring. I always set the table for two. This year, I used my mom’s Christmas china … I bought it for her at Canadian Tire many, many years ago. The turkey platter (only $10) picked up at the same place is perfect for this year’s duck. I found the old linen tablecloth tucked away under a stack of ‘good’ dish towels in the bathroom closet.

Duck and orange is a classic pairing but, instead of an orange sauce, I added oranges to my kale salad and dressing. Or rather, Kraft did.

Drippings from roasting the duck made a tasty base for gravy.

Bread pudding made with leftover Nutella, chocolate and pecan babka, Bree Drummond’s easy caramel sauce and a scoop of French vanilla ice cream

I spent a bit over $13 CDN for the duck (2.3 kg) but there’s enough meat for at least 4-5 servings. And the carcass (not in the picture) will end up as stock.

Date Nut Quick Bread (Repost from LJ)

I was gifted with a 2 pound tub of dried dates this week and while searching for a good recipe ran across my own post on LJ from February 2015. I didn’t start posting seriously to this blog until the following month and I started by reposting a few older recipes/posts that I was particularly proud of. This simple quick bread wasn’t considered worthy of inclusion, at that time, but I’ve grown to appreciate its merits, so here you go.

Date and Pecan Quick Bread – makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf, or two – 8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch (20 x 10 x 6.5 cm) loaves

8 oz (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans or walnuts
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter a loaf pan or spray it with a nonstick vegetable spray.

Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper. (NOTE: I used disposable aluminum pans and just sprayed with PAM, no parchment paper needed.)

Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake at 350 deg F for about 8-10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the diced butter and using a pastry blender, cut in until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the chopped walnuts.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.

Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen.

NOTE: I divided the mixture evenly among 2 aluminum pans and baked for a total of 40 minutes, rotating the pans after 20 minutes.

Simple Spaghetti Sauce/ Sunday Gravy

A while ago I bought a big (100 fl oz) can of peeled, whole San Marzano tomatoes with the intention on making Marcella Hazan’s tomato sauce with onion and butter. But you know what they say about ‘intentions’.

And then, a couple of days ago I was brainstorming an idea for a “Sunday sauce”, a pasta sauce that varies with the household making it. I was going to throw in some ground beef, a couple of pork chops, even a chicken breast, all of which transform a simple pasta sauce into a ‘gravy’. Then I realized that that pound of ground beef that I had in my freezer … wasn’t there after all. And I didn’t want to just use the chops and breast.

So I went to the market and ended up with five pounds of medium ground beef. At which point, I was faced with a variety of culinary possibilities. Three pounds were immediately portioned into freezer bags of one pound each and stored away for the future. I browned off the other two pounds and made a quick spicy beef burrito filling with half.

The second pound of cooked ground beef was drained well and frozen as well.

And now back to that can of tomatoes … I took out my dutch oven and sauteed a finely diced onion and a large clove of garlic slowly, over medium heat, in 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp of unsalted butter until they were soft but not coloured at all. Then, I added about a teaspoon of dried basil (as I didn’t have any fresh), a half teaspoon of salt and a heaping teaspoon of sugar, and half the can of the tomatoes, crushed by hand and roughly seeded, along with their liquid. I had a bit of Parmesan cheese rind so I threw that in as well. After simmering the tomatoes, covered, for an hour …

… I pureed them with a hand blender and then simmered the sauce for another hour. Taste for seasoning. You might want to add another pinch or two of sugar if the sauce is too acidic.

The result was amazing.

Serve the sauce over pasta or polenta, as a dip for bread or pizza rolls/bites, dress a meatball sub or chicken parmigiana or use as an ingredient in a decadent pan of lasagna.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Simple to make, with a crisp texture and just a bit sweet, a batch of these cookies can be put together while your oven preheats and the butter is melted.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies – makes 5-6 dozen cookies

NOTE: 2nd amount is for a half recipe

2 cups oatmeal (rolled oats)                                  / 1 cup
3 cups Baker’s Sweetened Coconut                     / 1 1/2 cups
2 cups flour                                                                 / 1 cup
2 cups sugar, white                                                  / 1 cup
2 tsp baking powder                                                / 1 tsp
2 cups (4 sticks) melted butter**, cooled        / 1 cup
2 eggs, slightly beaten                                           / 1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract                                                 / 1/2 tsp

** used salted butter

Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients and make sure everything is mixed together. The dough will be wet and sticky.

Place teaspoonfuls of the batter on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. The cookies will spread so only add 12 cookies per sheet.

Bake for 12-15 until the cookies are golden brown around the edges.

Let cool on baking sheet for 10 min then transfer to a cooling rack using a thin flexible metal spatula.

* * *

Trial 1 (cookies on the left): Cookies were baked right after the dough was mixed. It took 15 min for the edges to brown and the bottom to be golden. Spread quite a bit.

Trial 2 (cookies on the right) : In an attempt to reduce the spreading, the rest of the dough was shaped into 1 inch balls and refrigerated for 30 min. A second tray was baked at that point. Butter was observed to ooze out and pool around the cookie after about 5-10 minutes. As the cookies were not done after 15 min, they were baked for an additional 5 minutes. During this time, the butter disappeared. Next time, I might reduce the butter used, by 2-4 tbsp on a half recipe.

* * *

Sourdough Flour Tortillas

I have a package of flour tortillas in my freezer for when I want to make wraps or quesadillas but a recent post on a sourdough baking group on FB inspired me to make my own with discard sourdough starter.

The recipe below has been scaled down from the original and the directions have been rewritten with a bit more detail.

Samantha Sunshine’s Sourdough Flour Tortillas – makes 8 x  6-7 inch diameter tortillas

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1/4 cup water
3 tbsp vegetable oil or melted lard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix all the ingredients above together in a large bowl and knead to form a soft dough. You may have to add a bit more flour so it’s not sticky.

Wrap the ball of dough in a sheet of plastic food wrap and rest on the counter for a few minutes.

Divide into 8 portions and roll into balls. Pat each ball down gently to flatten and then roll out to a diameter of 6-7 inches.

Heat a cast iron frying pan or grill pan to medium high heat. Lightly oil the pan, add the tortilla and cook for a few seconds on each side. If you’re concerned about burning, lower the heat a bit (to between medium and medium high) and cook the tortilla for 20-30 seconds on each side. You’ll find the tortilla puffs up in places and the bubbles may char.

NOTE: According to a comment on the FB group, if you let them rest 24 hours wrapped at room temperature, you’ll have a true fermented flour tortilla. I only waited about an hour.