Monthly Archives: February 2018

Green Onions … Take 2

You can often find those little bundles of green onions on sale … 2 for 99 cents …  in your grocery store.

But if, like me, you’re on your own, you may be hesitant to buy them, because they don’t keep their crisp texture long before they start to wilt from the outside in. And there’s a lot of wastage, even if you wrap the green onions in paper towels, bag them, and keep them in the vegetable crisper drawer of your fridge.

However, there ARE ways to extend the lifespan and usefulness of your green onions.

Options for using your green onions

1. Use immediately – Just trim off the roots, slice up the green tops and white bottoms and use.

a) saute just the white bottoms and use in place of 1-2 tbsp required by your recipe
b) use the pretty green tops as a garnish in place of fresh parsley, coriander, mint etc

2. Freeze – Place the leftover sliced onion (top and bottom) in an air tight container and freeze. Use a tbsp or more as required by your recipe. They may not be as pretty a garnish as the fresh thing but sprinkle some of the frozen pieces over the top of a bowl of hot chili, stew or soup. They will thaw quickly and you can stir them into your dish before eating.

3. Grow hydroponically – Cut off the green tops and one or more of the bottoms if required by your recipe. The rest of the bundle … place it into a large glass or small jar filled with water and place it on your windowsill. Replace the water every few days so the water and roots don’t get too slimy. The roots will produce new stems once, even twice.

NOTE: Harvest the green tops often or they’ll get top heavy and flop over. The older outer stalks will be thicker and chewier than the tender shoots in the center.

You can cut the green stalks down a bit farther than I did. As you may be able to see, the roots are getting quite big. I HAVE trimmed the roots back when they got too long but that can be a shock to the plants and they’re unlikely to be very productive from that point. This leads to your final option.

4. Replant – Plant the stubby bottoms in a pot of soil. Place in a sunny area in your house, if it’s winter, or outside in the spring/summer, and you’ll have your own green onion plants to use.

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Creamed Spinach … and Pan Fried Pork Chops

Vegetable side dishes are few and far between on this LJ/blog and I can’t claim that this one is particularly healthy. But it tastes SO good. And it’s easy to make with a package of frozen chopped spinach and some inexpensive and easy to source ingredients.

The basic recipe is a copycat Boston Market recipe, which is itself an adaptation of a bechamel (2 tbsp all purpose flour,  2 tbsp butter and 1 cup milk) with a few additions.

Creamed Spinach – serves 3

2 tbsp butter or margarine
2 tbsp minced onion (1 very small onion)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 cup milk, 2 % or whole
2-4 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, roughly cubed**
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
water, if needed

** The lesser amount (2 oz) of cream cheese is enough, but I had some extra, and didn’t want it to go to waste.

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, saute the onion until it starts to pick up some colour. Add the garlic and saute for another minute or two.

Add the spinach and stir to combine with the onion and garlic.

Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir through to coat the spinach.

Pour the milk over the contents of the saute pan, add the cubed cream cheese and the Parmesan cheese and continue stirring until the cream cheese has melted. Taste and add salt, if needed, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve. If it gets too thick, add a bit of water to thin it down.

Serve with fried chicken or pork chops.

Experiment: Mini Cheesecakes

Recently I had a cookie fail … a type of spritz cookies (ETA: they’re actually called meat grinder cookies) from a Hungarian recipe. I used an old cookie press that I inherited from my mom, but the dough was so stiff that I almost broke my thumbs trying to push it through the decorative nozzles. I finally gave up after forcing out about a dozen of each kind of cookie and threw away the rest of the dough. (I had added red gel food colour and cocoa powder to equal portions of the dough.) Even worse, the finished cookies were dry and tasteless.

In an effort to turn lemons into lemonade, I decided to grind up the cookies and use the ground crumbs as a base for individual cheesecakes.

I had about 1/2 cup of chocolate cookie crumbs to which I added 3 tbsp sugar and 3 tbsp of melted butter. After distributing the crumbs (3 tbsp each) among four 4 inch diameter disposable aluminum pot pie tins, I tamped the crumbs down with the base of a glass and baked the crusts for 8 minutes at 350 deg F, filled the cooled crusts with the cheesecake mixture made from one 8 oz package of cream cheese (I used the cheesecake recipe on the Philadelphia cream cheese box) and baked the cheesecakes until set (~20 min at 350 deg F). The chocolate half of the cheesecake based had 1 tbsp of sifted cocoa powder stirred into the mixture and I found the resulting mini cheesecakes somewhat dry compared to the vanilla cheesecakes. I decided to be economical and only fill the tins half way up, assuming that the cheesecake batter would souffle up during baking but it remained decidedly flat.

On the positive side, the cheesecakes were more palatable than the cookies. Though they won’t replace the mini cheesecakes I make with ‘Nilla wafers bases.

Edited: Chicken and Dumplings (Trial #1)

Chicken and dumplings were on my bucket list … sort of. As in, I have wanted to make them, for some time, but I didn’t actually write them down on my ‘official’ bucket list.

Recently, someone posted a picture on FB and, since I had six chicken drumsticks thawing in the fridge, and all the other ingredients needed, I thought I’d finally give it a try.

The dish is a soup but I’ve seen a thickened version which is almost stew-like. I found a nice simple recipe online … and then I messed with it by deciding to thicken it with a ‘beurre manie’, a flour and butter paste. I combined a tablespoon each of the two until it formed a paste and stirred about a third of the mixture into my chicken soup. But then, I said what the heck and stirred in a bit more. At the end, I had added the entire thing. A bad move it turned out.

I had concerns about the dumpling part of this dish, too. There are two versions. A batter that’s scooped onto the top of the simmering soup and allowed to steam with the lid on until set. And a rolled out thick ‘noodle’ which cooks in the broth. You need both a big pot of soup stock for this latter version, and time to roll it out and cut it. Neither of which I had. So I went with the steamed batter version. At least this part of the dish turned out well. Another possible problem, along with thickening the soup too much, was my choice of cooking vessel. I used a large (11 inch diameter) saute pot which meant that the soup level was fairly shallow and the large surface area meant that a lot of the liquid evaporated even with the lid on.

While steaming the dumplings, I lost even more liquid to the dumplings, and the thickening soup stuck to the bottom of the pan and scorched. I couldn’t lift the lid but I shook the pan several times to free any dumplings. The dumplings didn’t stick … but the ‘soup’ did because by that point I had something that was more like the filling for chicken pot pie in density.

On the plus side, it was all edible. Even the scorched bits.

It was also saltier than I would have liked.

Oh well.

Chicken and Dumplings

NOTE: The recipe below doesn’t use a thickener for the soup.

Chicken and Dumplings – serves 3-4 people

Chicken Soup

2 tsp vegetable oil
6 chicken drumsticks
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, medium dice
2 celery stalks, medium dice
1 clove garlic clove, peeled and smashed but still intact
4-5 cups chicken stock, divided (edited: increased from 3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp ground black pepper to start)
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tbsp dried parsley

Over medium heat saute onions, carrots, celery and garlic clove until the onions start to caramelize on the edges. Remove the vegetables and brown the chicken drumsticks on both sides.

Return about half of the veggies to the pot (retain the rest of the veggies until the last 15 minutes so they’ll still have some texture), four cups of the chicken stock, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and parsley. Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes, turning the chicken at least once.

Remove the garlic clove and discard.

Remove the drumsticks to a large bowl and take the meat off the bones. Discard the skin and bones and shred the meat. Return the meat to the saute pan along with the reserved vegetables. Simmer for another 15 minutes. If the soup looks like it’s reduced too much, add the reserved cup of chicken stock.

Make the batter for the dumplings and spoon rounded teaspoonfuls over the top of the soup, leaving some space between the dumplings so they can swell during cooking.

Place the lid on tightly and steam for 15 minutes, shaking gently a few times to reduce the chance of scorching.

Dumplings – makes 12 dumplings, serves 3-4

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp butter or margarine

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and parsley.

Cut in the butter.

Stir in the milk just until the flour is moistened.

Drop heaping teaspoonfuls batter on top of chicken mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 12-15 minutes. (I steamed them for the full 15 minutes.)

Serve the chicken and dumplings topped with additional chopped parsley.

Pork Roast ChilaMigas with Red Kidney Refried Beans

A hearty ‘morning after’ breakfast full of protein and assembled from odds and ends. This is a combination of two classic Mexican dishes, chilaquiles and migas, so I called it “ChilaMigas”.

Breakfast Pork Roast ChilaMigas – serves 2

NOTE: amounts are estimates based on availability and hunger level

1 tsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup leftover pork roast, diced (use leftover pulled pork or shredded rotisserie chicken if you prefer)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup salsa, spicy or medium (or mild)
1 cup refried beans**
2 handfuls of corn tortillas, crushed lightly
handful shredded Monterey or Jalapeno Jack cheese (use cheddar if you prefer it)

For Garnish … use as many of these as you have or want
fresh cilantro or green onion tops, thinly sliced
diced tomatoes
diced avocados
feta cheese (use Cotija cheese if you have some)

** I used my own home made red kidney bean refried beans

In a small bowl, combine the eggs and the salsa. Reserve.

In a large non-stick pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the leftover pork and brown a bit until heated through. Add the refried beans, stirring until warmed. Add the egg/salsa mixture and the crushed tortillas, stir and continue cooking until the eggs are almost set.

Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top and let it melt a bit.

Serve in a bowl with your preferred garnishes on top. You can eat this with more corn tortillas or a fork as it’s a bit thick.

PS: A can/bottle of Corona or Dos Equis with a wedge of lime would be a perfect accompaniment.

Sourdough Thin Crust Pizza Dough

A recent request by someone on one of my FB groups for a thin crust pizza recipe got me thinking.

I’ve made a delicious thin crust pizza using sourdough tortillas as a base but, was it possible to use the sourdough starter directly to get similar results?

I used the Genius Kitchen recipe, with some minor adjustments posted below, for my first attempt.

Underside of the pizza crust on the metal baking sheet (not preheated)

Sourdough Pizza Crust – makes enough dough for 2 12 inch pizzas

1 1/2 cups (365 gm) fresh sourdough starter*
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus another 3-4 tbsp more for brushing the crust with before pre-baking and before topping
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (154 gm) all purpose flour**, more as needed

* If possible, make sure your starter has been freshly fed, 2-4 times if possible, before using it, if you’re keeping it in the fridge, like I am.
** Start with one cup of the flour if your starter is on the thick side

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, mix together one cup of flour and the salt. Add the sourdough starter and the EVOO and stir together until it forms a homogeneous mixture. Gradually stir in more flour, as needed until the mixture starts to gather into a ball. Transfer onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead until you get a pizza dough consistency.

Cover your ball of dough with the bowl you used to make it in and let rest for 30 minutes, so it will be easier to roll out. (It won’t rise much, if at all, but will get a bit softer.)
Roll the dough out into a circle using the minimum amount of flour needed to prevent sticking.

Brush with extra virgin olive oil and use the tines of a fork to dock (prick all over the dough) to prevent excess bubbling up of the crust during prebaking.

Bake the crust for 5-7 minutes, depending on your oven’s performance. (I decided to pull the crust out after 5 min.)

Remove the crust from the oven and brush on a bit more oil to prevent the toppings from soaking into the crust and making it soggy.

Add the desired toppings and bake the pizza until the crust browns on the top and underside, and the cheese melts, ~10 minutes.

REVIEW: The dough was very tasty. I fed my starter with a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour early on in rehydrating it from dry, so the texture was nice and chewy. The dough could have been rolled out a bit thinner but the amount of dough used (260 gm) was pretty much spot on. I didn’t get dark brown spots on the edge of the crust, like in a wood burning pizza oven, but it was crispy enough on the underside for my taste, even without a pizza stone or preheat the baking sheet, a cheap black pan that’s more than 30 yrs old.

The second half of the pizza dough was baked without prebaking. The result: The crust was NOT as crispy without prebaking. Perhaps because the toppings were fully cooked after 10 minutes so the total baking time was only 10 minutes compared with the 15 minutes total for the prebaked crust. And, even though it was expected that baking the pizza with the toppings on (without prebaking or docking) would prevent the formation of bubbles, that was not the case. Four large bubbles developed during the 10 minute baking period. They deflated somewhat once the pizza was removed but did not disappear completely.

Boneless Pork Loin Roast

A simple recipe that will give you a moist and tender pork roast with minimal hands on time.

Pork Loin Roast with pan juices, quinoa, roast carrots and salad

Perfectly Moist Pork Loin Roast – serves 4-6

3 lb boneless pork loin roast
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp pepper
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine one tablespoon of the oil, the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika. Stir together until you get a somewhat runny paste than can be brushed on the roast with a silicone brush. You may need to add some more oil.

Trim off as much of the fat as you wish from the pork. Cut slashes about 1/2 inch deep, and cross-hatches 1 inch apart into the pork. Brush the seasoning mixture on the bottom, ends, and top of the roast. Place in roasting pan fat side up.

Cook at 400 degrees for 10 min.

Lower the heat to 350 degrees and cook for 20 minutes per pound, or  until internal temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

NOTE: If you wish, you may add 1 inch cubes of potatoes and/or carrots to the roasting pan. Lightly sprinkle with some salt. The pork juices will further flavour the vegetables.

Remove the pork roast and put a piece of foil loosely on top. Let the meat rest for 10 min before slicing to serve.

A couple of half inch thick slices will be plenty per person. If the vegetables need more time to become tender, return the roasting pan to the oven.

The Three P’s (Pineapple, Pizza and Pork) … Pineapple Ice Cream Topping

The cold weather has returned to south-western Ontario, breaking the streak of above average temperatures we’ve been enjoying. Another reason to stay in and cook. This weekend I made sourdough thin crust pizza dough, roasted a boneless pork loin and then made a pineapple ice cream topping/sauce.

After opening up a can of crushed pineapple to make a Pineapple Margarita, I was left with the pineapple (~ 1 1/3 cup) and the remaining pineapple juice (~1/3 cup). I had thawed a boneless pork loin and considered making a marinade and/or basting sauce for the roast using the pineapple. However, I woke up late, and then spent an hour shoveling the wet snow that had started falling yesterday and continued sporadically until earlier this morning. By the time I staggered into house, too tired to do more than put one foot in front of the other, to make my first cup of instant coffee, I had to change my plans.

A single scoop of ice cream in ice cream pedestal bowl from the 70’s

Pineapple Ice Cream Topping – makes ~ 1 1/2 cups of topping

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 can crushed pineapple (~1 1/3 cups)
1 tsp unsalted butter

Drain the pineapple juice and reserve the crushed pineapple.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, syrup and pineapple juice to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the contents for 5 minutes. Add the drained pineapple and the butter and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Pour the pineapple topping into a scrupulously clean 2 cup glass jar and seal. Listen for the seal on the lid to pop as it cools. Once the jar has reached room temperature, refrigerate. Good for 1-2 weeks.

 

Hawaiian Style Ahi Tuna Poke … Appetizer or Quinoa Bowl

I’ve been wanting to try this Hawaiian dish ever since I ran across mention of it in some readings I was doing for other Hawaiian cuisine … the classic or Spam loco moco, and Spam musubi come to mind. However, whenever I had had good quality ahi tuna on hand, I always ended up making something else. A month or two ago, I bought a one pound package of ahi tuna, individually vacuum packed in quarter pound portions. Today’s freezing cold and light snow seems a strange time to make something that’s native to Hawaii’s sun filled shores but it seemed to be perfect for me.

Some recipes use a lot of acid (lemon or lime juice) and marinate the raw tuna for a couple of hours, creating what is an essentially a ‘ceviche’ … where the fish is cooked by the acid. In this version, the pretty pink cubes of tuna are lightly dressed with the marinade and served as soon as possible. A half hour wait in the refrigerator, at most, is acceptable

Appetizer/Starter/First Course … if desired, place the tuna in a shallow bowl and eat with crunchy wonton wedges or tortilla chips

Light Lunch version Quinoa Bowl

Hawaiian Style Ahi Tuna Poke – serves 4

1 pound sashimi/sushi grade ahi tuna, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch cubes
3-4 green onion tops, thinly sliced, reserve some for garnish

Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seed oil
1/2-3/4 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed (adjust the amount to your preference)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds (black, white or mixed), plus more for garnish

Optional
1 tbsp dry wakame seaweed, soaked in boiling water until rehydrated (~15 min), drained and thinly sliced
1 tbsp dry hijiki seaweed, soaked in boiling water until rehydrated (~15 min), drained
togarashi (dry Japanese chile pepper mixture) or furikake (Japanese sushi rice seasoning)

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup. Whisk together. Taste and adjust the sweet/salt/tang level.

Place the tuna and green onions in a medium sized bowl. If using seaweed, add at this point.

Spoon the dressing over the top and toss gently. Divide among serving dishes.

For a pretty appetizer, spoon the tuna into champagne coupe glasses. Sprinkle the garnishes over the top … sesame seeds, more sliced green onion, togarashi etc.

For a light meal, place a half cup of cooked quinoa (or rice) in a bowl and top with the dressed tuna. Garnish.

February and Love and Loss

February is the shortest and, arguably, the coldest month of the year. Although it is now associated with love and romance and Valentine’s Day, with its pink and red themed hearts, seen everywhere in the western world, in ancient Rome, it was originally located at the end of the year and associated with death and purification.

 

In fact, its name is derived from the Latin word ‘februum’ a thing used in ritual purification. Check out the preceding link for more interesting information.

And for a moving song about love and loss and renewal, listen to Josh Groban’s “February Song”.

For me, February is my birth month and, though I used to get quite excited at the thought of another birthday, the magic is pretty much gone as the aches and pains of growing older (and better … yeah, not so much) become more evident.

 

I thought I’d do something special for myself this year to celebrate. I haven’t decided on what it’s going to be yet. All the best to my fellow February-ites.