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The Humble Baked Potato … Gets Dressed Up

The classic baked potato with sour cream and butter. Delicious. But it can be so much more.

Like twice baked potato skins. Which I’m going to make too. In the meantime, here are some other toppings for that baked potato.

Broccoli and Cheddar Baked Potato – A simple bechamel (white sauce) becomes a mornay sauce when you stir cheese into it. Sharp/old cheddar cheese adds a nice punch but you can use whatever kind you prefer. Microwave some broccoli florettes just until tender, chop them up coarsely and then stir them into your cheese sauce.

The result … like having a bowl of cream of broccoli and potato  soup but with a lot more substance. Makes a tasty side dish to a pork chop or a piece of roasted chicken.

Dress up a pan of baked potatoes with various toppings for game day.

Chili Baked Potato – chili con carne, sour cream, shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese, green onion

I was going to make and post each of the toppings below but I got distracted by other things so I’m sending this out into the LJ/blogging world. I may make and post pictures at some point … but I’m not making any promises.

Other Baked Potato Toppings

1. Pulled Pork – bbq sauce, shredded pulled pork, coleslaw, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions
2. Breakfast Sausage and Gravy – pork sausage gravy
3. Tex-Mex – spiced meat (ground beef or turkey) mixture, salsa, queso fresco (or paneer cheese)

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Leek Duo … from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The first time I ever tasted leeks was in soup made from a packet of “Knorr Cream of Leek”. It was creamy and subtly flavoured and became my ‘standard’ of a leek soup. This soup surpasses that in flavour, nutrition and, time wise, it’s not bad either.

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

I didn’t use any thickeners (cream, cornstarch or flour) to make this soup, other than the two diced potatoes. Although I was tempted to use bacon fat to sautee the 1/2 cup of diced onions, one clove of minced garlic and one large sliced leek, I decided to use 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper to highlight the subtle flavours of the leeks. I wish I had had some home made chicken stock, but I didn’t, so I used a tablespoon of low sodium “Better than Bouillon” to 4 cups of water, which isn’t bad at all. The thickness of the soup was perfect for me, but if you find that as your soup cools, it gets too thick, you can thin it out with some extra chicken stock, or even just some water, in a pinch. Check for seasoning before serving, in that case.

I often make pizza dough from scratch but, having a package or two of flatbreads or flour tortillas, in the freezer, is convenient for quick, last minute meals.

Shiso Pesto, Roasted Leek and Paneer Flatbread Pizza

I ran across some tasty pizza topping ideas using leeks in my recent web search and adapted them to what I had on hand so the leeks sauteed in white wine and cream became leftover roasted leeks with a base of shiso pesto, from the freezer. And, instead of goat cheese, I crumbled some home made paneer cheese, also from the freezer, over the leeks. A sprinkle of green onion for a fresh touch was added, about half way through the baking process and, before serving, grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled over the top.

Leeks (Roasted) … A Versatile Veg

My Saturday grocery shopping had been skipped and there wasn’t much chance that I was going out on Sunday either. I had chicken drumsticks marinating in a spicy Korean mixture with gochujang, garlic, ginger, honey and some other goodies for a type of ‘stew’. And, I had some leftover plain white rice that I could serve them with. But what veggie dish could I include, was the burning question?

A recent purchase of three beautiful leeks meant that after making a pot of mapo tofu, I had two more leeks to use up.

So I went net surfing and found great ideas for using leeks. Some weren’t useful immediately, because I was lacking critical ingredients (or I wasn’t in the mood to go outside and grill on the bbq) but I COULD adapt others. I’m writing down a a few ideas and links from the former category, by the way, for the next time I have leeks. This is the simplest vegetable side dish with leeks that I could find. Simple is GOOD, yes?

Yes, leek soup WAS one of the recipes I found but I don’t have any potatoes for thickening.

Roasted Carrots and Leeks with Fresh Thyme

It’s cold outside but my hardy little thyme plant is still alive so I went out and cut a few sprigs. Salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil over the top, then the carrots were roasted in the oven, while the chicken drumsticks were braised. I only removed one of the outer layers of the leek, so it was a bit “chewy” like with unpeeled older asparagus stalks, but still very tasty.

Ready to roast at 350 deg F for 45 min or until tender and slightly caramelized.

Spicy Korean Braised Chicken Drumsticks – thighs are good too, skin on or off

Sushi Rice Creations … Cream Cheese and Lox Onigirazu, Philadelphia Roll and Okaka Onigiri

My favourite starch sides are potatoes, pasta and rice … in that order. Since I haven’t had any potatoes in the house for almost two weeks, I’ve been relying more on the other two in my cooking. Especially rice.

Whether long, medium or short grain, rice is quick to prepare and a fitting neutral base for many flavours and add-ins.

Sticky, short grain rice brands, like the Nishiki ($2.20 / lb), Calrose and Kokuho Rose varieties, available locally, are something I’ve only been eating for about five years, mostly in sushi dishes, though you can make a great sweet rice pudding with them too. And risotto, usually made with Arborio and Carnaroli, can also be made with ‘sushi’ rice brands.

To switch things up, I decided to make “onigirazu”, a type of sushi rice sandwich wrapped in a full sheet of nori. Like the rice balls, “onigiri”, I posted a while ago, this is a portable sushi food item often found in bento boxes.  Depending on the fillings, the onigirazu may be served cold, room temperature or warmed slightly.

Okaka Onigiri and Cream Cheese and Lox Onigirazu

I’ve been putting off making this dish because I made the mistake of buying a package of (400) half sheets of nori, a while ago, and am too ‘frugal’ to buy more before I use them up. However, I’ve made thicker sushi rolls using two overlapping nori half sheets, so I thought I’d use that technique and attempt this dish.

Another variation/adaptation of the regular onigirazu is that instead of making a square block of rice on top of the nori sheet, placing the fillings on top, then covering it with the same amount of rice, shaping that into a square block and wapping the whole with the nori sheet, I used a mold into which the sushi rice would be placed etc. This is similar to the technique I used to make the Spam “musubi” some time ago. Since I didn’t have a square mold, I thought I’d use a short tin can with the top and bottom removed. An English muffin ring may be used if you have one. About 1/3-1/2 cup of rice is used for both the top and the bottom of the ‘sushi rice sandwich’.

A few pictures of how to assemble the onigirazu … start with a sheet of food wrap over your assembly area then lay down your sheet of nori and center your mold on the sheet.

Cream Cheese and Lox Onigirazu

    

    

I really like smoked salmon so I went with two layers.

Philadelphia Roll – there are several versions of this roll but they all include smoked salmon and cream cheese. Other ingredients include sliced avocado or julienned cucumber.

 

Okaka (dried bonito flakes moistened with soy sauce) Onigiri – ingredients needed for this include about a cup of cooked sushi rice, 2 tbsp of bonito flakes, enough soy sauce to moisten, a 1-1 1/4 inch strip of nori and a large pinch of salt to flavour the rice.

Add the soy sauce a few drops at a time to your bonito flakes and stir them in, repeating, until most of the flakes are moistened.

 

Baker’s Dozen of Onigirazu Filling ideas

… as found on various web sites especially “Just One Cookbook”. Nami makes her many Japanese recipes accessible to the western home cook and her website is a valuable resource for new ideas and adaptations of classic dishes.

1. Spam, fried egg, iceberg lettuce (for crunch, you may also use the more tender butter lettuce)
2. Chicken or pork katsu, finely shredded lettuce, mustard and tonkatsu sauce
3. Beef bulgogi, sauteed mushrooms and shredded carrot, blanched spinach and bean sprouts, and fried egg
4. Sliced ham, cheese and Japanese sweet rolled omelette (tamago)
5. Tofu – plain or marinated (sweet teriyaki, spicy BBQ, dijon mustard and garlic or honey mustard, lemon herb) and grilled
6. BLT (bacon, lettuce and tomato)
7. Western Omelette (diced ham, green bell pepper, and onion)
8. Clubhouse (sliced cooked chicken or turkey, fried bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise)
9. All Veggie – romaine lettuce, julienned carrot, thinly sliced English cucumber, tomato, red onion, avocado, red cabbage, mustard and mayonnaise
10. Chicken, egg or tuna salad sandwich
11. Teriyaki salmon and grilled asparagus
12. Avocado and lox (smoked salmon)
13. Hot dogs and lettuce

Pork and Leek Mapo Tofu Ramen … and other Porky Dishes

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, pork is one of the most inexpensive proteins available in Ontario. At less than $2 a pound, on sale, you can get a lot of good meals out of a pork butt (transformed into pulled pork) or a brined loin (peameal bacon roast).

Lean ground pork sometimes goes on sale as well, but other than pork and shrimp wontons/potstickers (wonton wrappers needed and more time than I wanted to invest), I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make. And then I remembered that I hadn’t made mapo tofu in some time. So, I bought a package of tofu (silken for a change) and a bundle of leeks and made a pot. I used some of the meat/veggie/tofu mixture for ramen soup and then thickened the remainder and topped plain long grain rice with it.

ETA: Instead of pork, ground chicken or beef may be used in this dish. Or just leave out the meat entirely. Mushrooms, broccoli or bok choy may be substituted for the leeks.

Mapo Tofu Ramen – Not sure how to deal with this gorgeous bowl of soup? Pile some of your noodles, meat and veggies into your little spoon for eating neatly and then sip the broth. Repeat until it’s all gone.

 

For ramen soup … you need ramen noodles. And those cheap (2 for $1) individual dry noodle soup packages are convenient. Throw away the seasoning packet inside.

I mean it.

Throw it away!

If you’re not planning on having leftovers, feel free to use silken tofu, which practically melts into your hot soup, for the mapo tofu. However, if you’re going to have some left for a second meal, use medium-firm or firm tofu which stands up to reheating in the microwave. Only a few changes are needed to turn your mapo tofu into mapo tofu soup. Use 3 cups of chicken stock instead of only one. And, you won’t need that cornstarch for thickening your meat/veggie/tofu.

Omurice – One or two egg omelette wrapped around pulled pork fried rice and garnished with ketchup. The pulled pork came from the freezer.

 

Peameal bacon roast – I haven’t roasted one of these tasty lean cuts of pork for quite some time. Sliced and served for supper it’s delicious. Leftovers may be quickly pan seared to reheat/brown and served for breakfast along with fried eggs, hashed browns or whatever you prefer.

 

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon)

A quick and simple noodle dish with few ingredients, and, if you already have some egg noodles in your pantry, you just have to cook the pasta and assemble the dish.

Túrós Csusza (Hungarian Pasta with Cottage Cheese and Crispy Bacon) – serves 1

3-4 strips of crispy bacon, coarsely chopped
1 tsp of bacon fat, melted
1 serving of cooked egg noodles
1/4 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Cook your pasta according to package directions. Drain and combine the hot noodles with the melted bacon fat, then stir in the cottage cheese. (If your noodles have cooled, you can add the cottage cheese and warm them in the microwave just long enough to warm up the cottage cheese. You DON’T want to cook the cottage cheese.) Stir in the chopped bacon leaving some for garnish.

Season with salt and pepper and serve, sprinkling the last of the bacon over the top.

I had the day off so I decided to make fresh egg noodles rather than cooking dried ones from my pantry.

Re-post of Old Standbys

PICSPAM BELOW:

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to research/cook/post new recipes. So I dig out the tried and true recipes of the past. Pork is featured in some form in almost everything below, except for the chili.

Like pork crackling biscuits.

I use bacon fat instead of lard or butter for the lamination.

You don’t need to cross-hatch the top of the dough before cutting out the biscuits, but it does make them pretty.

Ham and bean (pinto) soup flavoured with bay leaves and thyme

Chili topped tostadas

Debrecener (Hungarian style pork) smoked sausages served over sauteed coleslaw flavoured with balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I just fry the sliced sausage rings and serve them with fried eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast.

Pizzas made with Greek flatbread

… or with my regular white bread/pizza dough. Half of the dough was used to make a 12 inch diameter pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza and the rest was shaped into buns for work lunches.

Nice fluffy crumb in the pizza crust

Underside of the buns – baked for 20 minutes at 400 deg F then basted with melted butter

AYCE Sushi at the Restaurant … again

PICSPAM BELOW:

I think it’s been about six months since I last went out for ‘all you can eat sushi’ at a nearby restaurant and I missed it. I enjoyed the dishes that I had on this visit, though, to be honest, I over ordered and ended up stuffed. I finished with a scoop each of mango and green tea ice cream which isn’t pictured below.

Rainbow sushi roll – inside out roll (fake crab leg, julienned cucumber and avocado) topped with alternating strips of avocado, red snapper and salmon

Nigiri … salmon, red snapper, shrimp and eel

and hand rolls (temaki). Fake crab leg and salmon

bbq’d eel and tempura shrimp

Salmon pizza

Chicken and beef skewers

Chicken and beef teriyaki

Pork cutlet (tonkatsu)

Spaghetti Squash … Various

I remember trying spaghetti squash at least five years ago and not being impressed. As I recall, I microwaved the squash and served it very simply with a marinara sauce on top. I thought it was watery and fairly bland. Not really a substitute for pasta, but it was part of my attempt to introduce new vegetables to my diet.

A few days ago, I went grocery shopping and decided to give spaghetti squash another try.

I stabbed the small, whole squash (<800 gm) with a paring knife and then par-cooked it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Then I cut the squash in half, removed the seeds, sprinkled it with some salt, and baked it, cut side down, at 375 deg Fahreheit for 30 minutes, until a fork inserted into the squash met little resistance.

After letting the squash cool, I used a fork to scrape out the flesh.

First impression: The resulting squash strands looked fine but there wasn’t a lot of them. A scant 3 cups, I’d estimate. Of course, I had picked the smallest squash on the pile ($1.49) so you have to take that into account.

Spaghetti Squash topped with jarred spaghetti sauce (sausage and pepper) – Tasty but still a bit watery. Possible solution is to drain the spaghetti squash strands a bit and make sure the spaghetti sauce is thicker. At least now I know it’s not JUST due to the cooking method ie. microwaving.

Spaghetti Squash topped with cheese, sour cream and chili con carne with beans – After hand squeezing the remaining half of the squash, about 1/4 cup of liquid was expelled. The resulting dish was much less watery than the previous serving with meat sauce.

Baked squash seeds for snacking

The seeds were picked free of the surrounding squash flesh, rinsed and simmered for 10 minutes in salted water. I used paper towels to get most of the water off the seeds, placed them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and drizzled them with a bit of canola oil and sprinkled them with fine sea salt and a shake of paprika. Then the seeds were baked at 350 deg Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, turning them over after 5 minutes, to ensure as even baking as possible.

Early October Wrap Up

I haven’t had a lot of inspiration for cooking in the last couple of weeks, and I’m just getting over a bad cold. A woman’s got to eat, however. Luckily, I threw a few things together before it got too bad.

I used the same basic dough recipe that I made those pumpkin and kaiser-shaped rolls with, but I left out the ground oats and threw in an egg and 1/4 cup of sugar. About 1/3 of the dough (300 gm) was rolled out and cut into six strips to wrap around Jumbo hot dogs … for pigs in blankets.

NOTE: Shaping and baking instructions found at link above.

I was going to make caramel rolls with some of the remaining dough but it turned out I didn’t have any caramel sauce in the fridge (just fudge sauce). So I got creative with the leftover cranberry sauce in my fridge and some quince jam from the pantry.

  

I transferred some of the cranberry sauce onto the quince jam portion, cause there was just too much sauce to roll up without it all oozing out. Originally, I was going to make two distinct fillings.

Icing sugar, softened butter and milk glaze

Close-up of crumb inside the rolls

Pantry chili with veggies from the crisper drawer and canned small red kidney beans and diced tomatoes (with herbs and spices). Served over or with those piggy buns.

   

Pasta is always a quick meal like this Shrimp aglio e olio over leftover linguine.  Sometimes finely minced garlic sauteed in olive oil is all you need to dress your pasta. And a sprinkle of pepperoncini (dry hot red pepper flakes). Cooking the pasta takes longer than cooking the shrimp and making the sauce.

Brunch – I love fried eggs over easy and bacon. For breakfast, lunch OR dinner. And some sort of dairy … like cottage cheese, or cream cheese if I can’t get that. Sometimes I pile it on top of toasted home made bread.

  

Red pepper hummus with home made sourdough tortillas for a quick snack or part of brunch

There’s still the weekend left for more cooking, but I think I’ll wrap things up here.