Monthly Archives: June 2018

“Best” Oatmeal Ever

I didn’t grow up eating oatmeal for breakfast but, over the years, I’ve periodically given it a try in the interest of healthy eating.

My pantry door can barely close and, often, when I open it, things fall out. (Not that that’s a new occurrence.) Still, I DO try to clear things out periodically. So, when I ran across a mostly full jar of bulgur wheat, from making kibbeh, and a couple of jars of quick cooking rolled oats, I decided to do some net surfing and find a dish that would use them both.

And that’s when I ran across this recipe for what was called the “Best Oatmeal Ever”.

I don’t know whether I’d go that far in praise of the result, but it’s pretty good and it’s relatively fast and easy to make. I tried a half recipe and will refrigerate the second portion to see how it reheats. Cornmeal is also an ingredient in the recipe. Next time, I must remember to pour it in S-L-O-W-L-Y to avoid lumps. The oatmeal is already ‘lumpy’ from the rolled oats, but there’s no reason to be sloppy in your cooking technique.

Brown sugar and maple syrup, raisins and fresh strawberries were my add-ins and toppings before serving.

Asparagus and Mushroom Rice

Having a bank of fast, easy and economical side dish recipes is a boon to the home cook and this dish is tasty as well.

Asparagus and Mushroom Rice – One cup of raw rice is enough for four servings and, with the addition of 1/2 lb of mushrooms and about 1/4 lb of asparagus, you’ve got your vegetable allotment as well.

If you have leftovers, you can freeze them in single serving portions and thaw and reheat with minimal effect on the texture.

Delicious with BBQ’d pork chops or roasted chicken breast

 

Asparagus and Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo with Greek Yogurt

Work’s been good this past month so I was feeling a bit ‘spendy’ when I went grocery shopping.

My grocery list had ONE item on it … MILK … but I ended up spending $60 on various extras including a box of ice cream drumsticks. (SO bad … but it was a PROMO sale.)

I decided to skip replenishing my stock of potatoes so meals in the week ahead are going to feature pasta and rice side dishes. I was going to start with a chicken Alfredo. Unfortunately, it turned out that that carton of whipping cream that I was sure I had in the back of the fridge … wasn’t there.

Substitution time.

A fast search on the net and I ran across a recipe for an Alfredo sauce using Greek yogurt. I also added a couple of ounces of cream cheese and, of course, Parmesan cheese, to the sauce.

Greek yogurt … I had strained it previously because I wanted a nice thick yogurt for something else, so I had to add more pasta water than expected to thin it down enough for the recipe below.

The result was delicious, and I didn’t miss the whipping cream at all.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus and Chicken – serves 4

300 gm fettuccine, linguine or spaghetti pasta
1/2 pound (~230 gm) chicken breast, cubed**
1/2 pound (~230 gm) asparagus stalks, cut into 1 1/2-2 inch pieces

** I had a couple of chicken cutlets that I had prepped and frozen, so I used those.

Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain in a colander over a bowl. Reserve about a cup of the pasta water for use in the Alfredo sauce below. You’ll start with 1/4 cup but if your sauce tightens up you may need to add more.

NOTE: An easy way to cook your asparagus is to add it to the pot of pasta for the last 3 minutes of cooking time. It will be tender but still have a bit of crunch and retain its green colour.

Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper (use white pepper if you want a whiter sauce)
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine (or pasta water, vegetable broth or chicken broth; the broth will make the sauce less white)
2 oz (~60 gm) Philadelphia cream cheese, cubed
1 oz (~30 gm, 1/2 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt

Additional grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Melt the butter and olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced chicken and asparagus and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top. Saute until the chicken is lightly golden and no longer pink inside and the asparagus is tender, but still a bit crunchy. Remove the chicken and asparagus to a small bowl and reserve.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium and add the minced garlic. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine (or pasta water) and scrape the bottom of the pan to bring up the fond (bits of browned chicken and garlic). Whisk in the cubed cream cheese until it melts into a ‘sauce’. You may want to add a bit more pasta water at this point to help. Remove the pan from the heat and let it sit for 2 minutes to cool enough that the yogurt won’t curdle.

Whisk in the yogurt and the grated Parmesan cheese and then return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat. Add the reserved chicken and asparagus and stir constantly until the Parmesan is mostly melted into the sauce, 3-4 minutes. Do not let the sauce come to a simmer or boil as this could cause it to curdle.

Add the cooked pasta to the saute pan and stir so that the sauce will coat the pasta. Add additional pasta water if needed to thin the sauce.

Serve and garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Strawberry Lemonade

If you have an excess of sweet (or not so sweet) strawberries on hand, make a big jug of strawberry lemonade this summer and enjoy it under a shady umbrella in your favourite outdoor spot.

Strawberry Lemonade – makes 5-6 cups of lemonade

Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup water, boiling
1/4 cup sugar, plus more sugar if needed

In a saucepan on the stove, or in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave, bring water to the boil and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Let cool slightly.

Strawberry Puree
400-425 gm (~2 1/4 cup) chopped strawberries
1/2 cup cold water
2 tbsp (1/8 cup) sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups cold water

5-6 fresh strawberries, for garnish

In a stand/bar blender, puree the chopped strawberries, water and sugar.

In a large jug, add 1 1/2 cups water, sugar syrup, strawberry puree and lemon juice. Stir well, taste, adding more sugar if needed (another 2 tbsp at a rough estimate) and refrigerate.

Serve over a tall glass filled with ice cubes. Garnish with small to medium strawberries with a small slit in the base.

NOTE: The strawberry lemonade will look somewhat pink when first made due to all the air incorporated into the strawberry syrup during pureeing. As the bubbles burst and the foam dissipates, the lemonade will darken in colour.

Hard lemonade: Add 1 oz of vodka to each glass of lemonade.

BBQ’ing for the Week Ahead – Beef and Pork

Meal planning at my house usually involves starting with the protein and figuring out what sides (starches and vegetables) are available and will take the least amount of preparation time. If feeling energetic/creative, I’ll pick a cuisine or flavour based on whatever jars of sauce or spices I’ve got. And I’ve got a good assortment of sauces and bottles of spices and spice blends.

If barbecuing, I let the smokey flavour of the grilled meats star and keep the sides plain.

I went into a bit of a carnivore frenzy on my last visit to the grocery store and came home with a large tray of hot Italian sausages and a family pack tray of lean ground beef.

Since I already had sausages in the freezer (for making a fast meat sauce), I skewered and bbq’d the entire tray. The ground beef were turned into mini meat loaves and four 1/3rd pounder hamburgers, since that’s the size needed to fit into those giant sweet potato hamburger buns I made. I also dug a steak and a package of two pork chops out of the freezer.

Vegetables … well, I picked up a bundle of fresh asparagus since they were on sale. A bit of salt, a drizzle of oil (vegetable or olive) and a few minutes on each side and you’ve got tender but still crisp stalks of delicious asparagus to nibble on.

BBQ: Before and After

Beef

Pork

Most of the meat loaves and burgers went into the freezer for quick future meals. The main portion of the steak was reserved for a steak and mushroom sandwich so supper was the bits trimmed off and some of the grilled asparagus.

One of the mini meat loaves was turned into a wrap with creamy guacamole and a home made flour tortilla

Strawberry “Cheesecake” Crepes with Strawberry Sauce

Thanks go to Eva of “Kitchen Inspirations” for posting her strawberry sauce recipe (link posted below) and inspiring this ‘amazing’ crepe dessert. The finished dessert itself was based on a recipe from the Allrecipe website. I happily ‘borrow’ ideas and components for dishes from wherever I find them. I used my mom’s recipe for the sweetened crepes.

I scaled down and adjusted the recipe to serve two people generously and posted the revised recipe below so that the construction of the recipe was in one place.

Strawberry Cheesecake Crepes – enough filling for 4 9 inch crepes, serves 2

4 9 inch sweetened crepes

Cream cheese filling

2 oz cream cheese, softened
6 tbsp (1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp) sifted icing sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup whipping cream, whipped (add 2 tbsp of icing sugar after the whipped cream has formed soft peaks)
4-5 large strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped for garnish

Strawberry sauce (location of the recipe)

In a medium sized bowl, whip together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup icing sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Gently fold in the sweetened whipped cream.

Divide the filling among the crepes, reserving about 1 tbsp for garnishing the finished crepes.  Add about a tablespoon of strawberry sauce on top of the cream cheese filling and some of the diced fresh strawberries.

Roll up the crepes and top with a small dollop of the cream cheese filling, a few more chunks of diced fresh strawberries and some more of the strawberry sauce.

Dig in.

Bacon Wrapped Mini Meat Loaves with Crispy Fried Onions

Shopping the sales at the grocery store is something that I’ve done for years. This week’s flyer had ‘family pack sized trays’ of lean ground beef prominently displayed. I came home with about 1.4 kg of the ground beef and then did some net surfing. Even though Sloppy Joes were tempting, I didn’t have any green peppers which were needed for the recipe I intended to make, so I ended up with third-pounder sized hamburgers for the barbecue and a tray of mini meat loaves.

The recipe I’m posting below has BOTH elements of the two mini meat loaf experiments I made and was inspired by this recipe.

Bacon Wrapped Mini Meat Loaves – makes 6 mini meatloaves

Mini Meat Loaves

750 gm lean ground beef
1 egg
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp diced, sauteed onions
1 tsp salt
shake or two of garlic powder, if desired
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup seasoned Italian breadcrumbs

6 strips bacon, for wrapping

Topping

1/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp prepared French’s mustard
2 tbsp brown sugar

~1/4 cup fried onions, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Line a baking sheet with a strip of aluminum foil or parchment paper to make clean-up easier.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the meat loaves, except for the strips of bacon. Divide the meat mixture evenly into six portions and shape into round or oval patties. Wrap a strip of bacon around each patty so that they meet or just slightly overlap.

In a small bowl, combine the topping ingredients. Spoon a scant tablespoon of the topping onto each patty and place onto the baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the topping is bubbly and the bacon wrap is crispy.

If desired, after about 40-45 minutes, remove the baking tray from the oven, sprinkle some of the fried onions on top and return to the oven to finish baking. (Adding the onions at the beginning of the baking is liable to result in burnt onions. Even though I waited until I had baked the patties for 40 minutes … 20 minutes left … the onions were a bit crispier than I would have preferred.)

Bacon Wrapped Mini Meat Loaf – I wasn’t sure how crispy the bacon wrap would get in the allotted baking time, so I didn’t put the topping on a couple of the meat loaves

Topping and Crispy Fried Onion Mini Meat Loaf – The other four meat loaves had both the topping and the fried onion … but no bacon wrap.

Serve with a generous scoop of your favourite creamy mashed potatoes.

The inside of the meat loaf looks a little dry in this picture but it wasn’t