Category Archives: drinks

Fun Cooking … Roasts/Sides, Puddings, Condiments etc

As my LJ says, “Cooking is Fun … Really”.

You can make big flashy dishes like a rosemary and garlic rubbed boneless lamb shoulder roast ($4.99/lb)  …

… with roast veggies.

Or this bbq sauce glazed peameal bacon (Canadian bacon) roast  ($2.99/lb) …

… with sauteed spinach/pine nuts, baked potatoes/sliced onion and roasted asparagus.

But you can also make simple things like this rich and creamy home made blender mayonnaise without any artificial ingredients, to use in your egg, potato or tuna salads. It’s also a great base for an aioli with the addition of roasted and pureed garlic.

Or, a basic home made pudding like a classic chocolate, which I’ve posted in the past. (I’m reposting the recipe for convenience.) Spike it with rum, bourbon, whiskey or Grand Marnier or Cointreau for a grown up version.

Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding – serves 4

2 cups milk
3-4 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar (can increase from 1/4 to 1/3 cup if desired)
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp good quality cocoa
1 tsp vanilla

Scald 1 1/2 cups of milk in a heavy saucepan (look for tiny bubbles around the edge).

Mix together the cornstarch, sugar, salt and cocoa, add the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and stir until well blended.

Stir in the scalded milk and blend well. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Stir in the vanilla, spoon into serving dishes.

And a butterscotch pudding variation.

Butterscotch Pudding Variation – serves 3

1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla

Scald 3/4 cup milk.

In a saucepan, whisk together brown sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolk. Stir in 1/4 cup of cold milk until smooth.

Whisk in the warmed milk, very slowly. Place saucepan over medium heat and cook until thickened. Let the pudding boil for one minute while stirring briskly. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and let cool for a few minutes.

Whisk in the butter, a cube or two at a time until melted.

Whisk in the vanilla and then spoon into serving dishes.

Even a watermelon lemonade when your seedless watermelon turns out not to be as sweet as you hoped.

And remember that spaghetti meat sauce made with leftover odds and ends like green peppers and sauteed mushrooms? I tossed it with some large pasta shells. You can dress up the dish with grated Romano cheese or down with some leftover sweet and milky home made paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese).

Albondigas (Mexican Meatball) Soup and Cafe Bombon

I had planned on a Greek themed cooking weekend inspired by a package of phyllo dough in my freezer … galactoboureko and spanakotheropita and dolmathes. (I keep seeing those jars of brined grape leaves in the grocery store). I even wrote them down on a piece of paper.

And then I picked up a two pound package of fresh lean ground beef on sale at Freshco and decided to make albondigas (Mexican meatball) soup since my friend Spikesgirl58 had shared her recipe with me earlier in the week. Well, I started with her recipe.

And then I made a few changes.

Are you surprised?

I figure that about 90% of the recipe is hers.

I thawed the rest of the 1 pound package of home made Mexican chorizo to add to the meatball mixture, and picked up some other items on Saturday morning, including baby spinach, fresh cilantro and limes.

Spikesgirl’s Albondigas (Meatball) Soup – makes 6 – 8 main-dish servings

Meatballs – makes 40-44 meatballs, use half of the meatballs in soup below

1 1/2 – 2 pounds lean ground beef (or half beef and half raw chorizo sausage**)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1** – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro**, mint** and oregano), coarsely chopped
2 tbsp – 1/4 cup** rice

Soup

6 cups chicken stock
4 cups beef stock or consommé
1/2 tsp dried oregano (Mexican or Greek)
1 medium sized onion coarsely chopped
4 medium /6 small carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned with liquid (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
1/2** – 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1/2** – 3/4 pound baby spinach
2 to 3 limes, cut into wedges

** Amounts I used

Combine ground beef/chorizo, bread crumbs, rice, garlic, red pepper flakes, chopped herbs, salt and egg. Form into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter (~2 tbsp).

In an 8 quart kettle, combine the chicken stock with the beef stock, onions and oregano.

Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Drop the meatballs into the stock.

Simmer meatballs for about 5 minutes, then spoon off any fat. (THIS IS IMPORTANT … I didn’t do it and ended up with a layer of fat on top of my soup.)

Add the carrots and potatoes. Continue simmering, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender to bite.

Meanwhile, clean spinach discarding the tough stems. Wash leaves and chop the large ones in half. Add to stock along with corn/peas and tomatoes and cook, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.

“Ladle into bowls and pass limes,” according to Spikesgirl.

* * *

I used the second pound of ground beef for some spaghetti sauce and threw in some other leftover items from my freezer including sauteed mushrooms and pureed tomatoes.

Cafe Bombon

I thought this coffee drink would pair well with a Mexican soup as it has Spanish/Mexican roots … being equal parts sweetened condensed milk topped with piping hot espresso. Serve in a tall clear glass with a spoon so your guests can admire the layers and then stir and sip this VERY sweet drink. It cools quickly by the way.

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.

Baked Chinese Buns and other stuff

WARNING: Picture Heavy Post

I’ve been doing quite a bit of cooking from my freezer these days due to necessity. No money and free time means I can get creative.

I love dim sum and one of my favourite dishes is char siu bao or Chinese bbq’d pork buns. I was going to use the Korean pork tenderloin for a filling but I was too lazy to do so when I had a  container of Jamaican beef patty filling in the freezer, so I used that instead. I ended up making 2 batches (24 buns total) to use up all the thawed filling. Next time I’ll try for something more traditional with my own Chinese bbq’d pork. The buns were a definite winner.

Char Siu Bao Dough – makes 12 x 1 1/2 oz buns

2 1/4 tsp (1 package) of dried yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups (280 gm/10 oz) plain flour
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp cold water

Shaping the Buns:

Place the sugar and warm water in a small bowl, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and leave it for 10 – 15 minutes until it becomes all frothy.

Sift flour into a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture, beaten egg, oil and salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with a fork or your hands.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. Use as little flour as possible for kneading. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 – 2 hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

Once dough has doubled in size transfer to a working surface over which you’ve scattered some flour. Deflate the dough a bit and divide into 12 equal portions. Shape into round balls.

You can use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to approximately 8cm (3 inches) in diameter. Then pick the piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge to about 10cm (4 inches) in diameter. (By doing this it keeps the dough slightly thicker in the centre. This means that when your buns are cooking they won’t split on the top.)

Place a good sized tbsp of filling on the dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun.

NOTE: Alternatively, press the ball of dough down with the heel of your palm, put the stretched dough into your left hand and add the filling. Use the thumb of your left hand to press down on the filling while using the thumb and first two fingers of your right hand to draw the edges of the dough up around the filling.

Place the bun sealed side down on your baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough. (You can press down on the balls gently so the bun won’t be too bread-y on the top and the filling will more centered. See picture below. ) Once all the buns are finished, brush the surface with egg wash.

Place in a preheated oven of 400º F for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

The buns went well with a freshly made bowl of creamy turkey and wild rice soup.

A few other goodies made this month: Raisin butter tarts and a couple of mini pies, coconut panna cotta with a blueberry sauce or a simple apricot jam base and a quince paste garnish.

I used the extra blueberry sauce for a filling for a couple of blueberry-raspberry mini pies. The filling for the fruit pies was thickened with a cornstarch slurry and cooked together with a handful of frozen raspberries before being allowed to cool. The pastry for the tarts and pies were made with Tenderflake lard pastry from the freezer.

And lest you think it was all about the sweets … here are some other tasty dishes.

Chorizo sausage, jalapeno cheese and cheddar cornbread … with leftover turkey potato gnocchi soup

Salmon in roasted tomato and pesto marinara over fettuccine

Pork chops – either simmered in a cream of mushroom gravy or breaded and pan fried

And then, there’s always a pizza or two. In this case, the last of the whole wheat sourdough dough from my freezer.

Washed down with a refreshing beer, in this case a Japanese Sapporo.

M is for Mint … from soup to nuts (pine nuts)

I bought a big bunch of fresh mint at the city market a week ago and had to come up with some quick ideas for ways to use it up.

This was ONE of my favourites … Spinach, cheese and pine nut phyllo squares (see link to recipe at the bottom)

Of course, there’s the classic Mojito.

Classic Mint and Lime Mojito – serves 1

1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
10 fresh mint leaves
1 1/2-2 oz white rum (or golden but NOT spiced rum)
ice cubes
club soda or Sprite/7-Up
mint sprig and/or wedge of lime for garnish

In a tall glass, add sugar, lime juice and mint leaves. Use a muddler or the handle of a wooden spoon to crush the mint leaves.

Add the rum.

Fill the glass with ice cubes and fill up the glass with club soda or soda pop if you want a sweeter drink. Garnish and enjoy.

A simple mint tea with honey is tasty as well. I gave my iced mint tea an extra kick by steeping fresh mint leaves along with a Moroccan loose leaf mint tea blend. The lighter cup in the picture on the right is tea made from steeped fresh mint leaves while the darker cup has the dried tea blend.

Youvarlakia or beef and rice meatballs to be added to Avgolemono soup. You can find the soup recipe here.

And, finally, Spinach, cheese and pine nut phyllo triangles. I used this basic recipe but simply shaped the phyllo differently. I had no fresh parsley so I used dried as well as some dried dill weed but I used LOTS of fresh mint and green onions. I love ‘phyllo’ … whether sweet or savoury, you can find so many ways to use it.

I added ~1/2 cup of home made paneer cheese crumbles to a generous cup of feta cheese, 1/4 cup of roughly chopped pine nuts, the herbs (fresh or dried), 3 eggs, salt and pepper for a tasty filling.