Category Archives: sides

Homemade Savoury Boursin … Spread and Pasta Sauce

I recently found a recipe for boursin, a soft and creamy cheese, posted on “The Frugal Hausfrau” website and knew that I had to give it a try. It makes an amazing spread but it also works as part of a creamy pasta sauce. I made a change to the original recipe … I substituted purchased crispy fried onions for the dried chives since I didn’t have any.

Roasted chicken and creamy boursin and mushroom fettuccine

Creamy Boursin and Mushroom Pasta – serves 2 or 3

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 – 2 cups (~227 gm) mushrooms, halved and sliced (white and cremini)
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup boursin cheese spread (purchased or home made*)
salt and pepper, to taste
200-210 dry pasta, cooked according to package directions, reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking water to add to the sauce in case it tightens up before serving.
2-3 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

* See recipe below

In a large saute pan over high heat, add the oil and butter. When hot, add the mushrooms and saute until lightly browned. Turn the heat down to medium/medium-high and add the whipping cream and cream cheese. Stir gently until the cream cheese melts into the sauce and the cream starts to bubble a bit. Add the cooked pasta and stir through. Serve with some chopped parsley on top, for garnish.

Savoury Boursin Cheese

Savoury Boursin Cheese – makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp crispy fried onion

In a medium sized bowl, cream together the cream cheese, butter, salt, white pepper and garlic powder with a hand mixer. Stir in the parsley and fried onions by hand.

Transfer to a small bowl or ramekin, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate so that the flavours will marry. Remove from the fridge 1 or 2 hrs before serving so that the boursin will be soft enough to spread.

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Cauliflower Tots

Tater tots, mini bites of grated and deep fried potatoes, are a convenience food that make a tasty and fast side dish. A healthier version may be made with “cauli-rice” …  cauliflower florettes briefly pulsed in a food processor. The recipe below is a simplified adaptation of the various techniques and ingredients found on line. Though I DID add a ‘variation’ that seemed more extravagant. I haven’t tried it yet. Mainly because I didn’t have either the bacon or the peppers on hand. However, I have two packages of raw cauli-rice in the freezer. Maybe I’ll make them for Christmas. Or New Years.

Baked Cauliflower Tots

Baked Cauliflower Tots – makes 10-12 ‘tots’, 4-6 per serving

2 cups/250 gm ‘riced’ cauliflower florettes*
1 large egg
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup raw onion, finely minced or 2 tbsp crispy fried onions
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs, plain or Italian seasoned
salt and pepper to taste
cooking spray or vegetable oil

*Break down a whole head of cauliflower into florettes. In a food processor, 1/4 of a head at a time, briefly pulse the florettes until they’ve broken down into roughly rice kernel sized.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the riced cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, with lid, and cook 1-2 minutes on high. Let cool enough to handle. Place the cooled cauli-rice into a fine weave tea towel and squeeze out the excess water. (NOTE: I managed to extract about 3 tbsp of liquid out of this batch.)

Spray a nonstick cookie sheet with cooking spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, combine all of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon about 2 tbsp of the mixture in your hands and roll into small oval shaped tots.

Place on the cookie sheet 1/2 inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes. Turn and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Both sides should be nicely browned and firm but still retain some bounce.

Remove and serve as a side dish. Or, as an appetizer, serve with ketchup, pesto, hummus or your preferred dipping sauce.

For an even more decadent appetizer, stir in the items below.

Twice Baked Potato Variation: 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup finely minced bell pepper and 1/4 cup finely chopped crispy bacon

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving (2018)

Happy Thanksgiving

 

I went a little overboard this year and bought a pre-cooked 5 kg honey-glazed spiral cut ham for my Thanksgiving meal. It cost me $22 CDN and I figure I’ll get at least ten meals out of it so it was definitely a good purchase, price wise.

I had a wonderful lie in this morning, and hadn’t done the math needed to figure out how long it would take to re-heat this monster, ahead of time. It turned out to be almost THREE HOURS, with the enclosed glaze being brushed on for the last half hour. Next time I’d up the temperature to AT LEAST 300 deg or even 325 deg, from the 275 deg F written on the wrappings, because, even after the maximum roasting time recommended, it was still only lukewarm inside. So I sliced off and reheated the portion I ate in the microwave. By this point, it was 6 pm. And I was VERY hungry.

The ham was tasty and moist, but the potato and onion gratin was the star of the show, in my opinion. I started out with this recipe, and then made some changes. Because I was starved, I served myself about one quarter of the dish and by the time I was finished, I was so full, that I almost didn’t have room for dessert.

ALMOST

Cause this was a great looking dessert.

I wanted to make some sort of seasonal fruit dessert for Thanksgiving, but all I had in the house were three apples (Red Delicious) in the crisper drawer, and some blueberries in the freezer. I decided on an apple crumble (with sliced almonds in the crust because I didn’t have any rolled oats in the pantry) with a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries added for a bit of colour. I’ll post my recipe for an individual apple crumble in a future post. As well as for an individual blueberry pudding cake I made.

Potato and Onion Gratin

Potato and Onion Gratin – serves 6-8

1 medium (~300 gm) sweet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick *
1 medium white/yellow (~100 gm) Russet potato, peeled, halved and sliced about 1/4 inch thick*
1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced (1/8-1/4 inch thick)
~4 oz (125 gm) cream cheese, cubed
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
4 strips of cooked bacon, thinly sliced (about 1/4 inch thick)

* Use all sweet potatoes or white potatoes, if preferred, or if that’s all that you have available.

Topping

1/2 cup grated old cheddar cheese
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup fried onions

Combine topping ingredients in a shallow dish.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil a medium sized baking dish with a neutral oil like canola. (Spray with a cooking spray if you prefer.)

Cover the base of the baking dish evenly with about 1/3 of your sliced potatoes. Scatter about half of the sliced onions over the potatoes. Make another layer of potatoes, and then scatter the remaining onions over the top. Finish with the last of the potatoes.

Place the cubed cream cheese in a medium sized, microwave safe bowl, and warm just long enough to soften the cheese. Whisk/stir in the flour and the dried thyme. Slowly whisk in the chicken broth, a bit at a time, until it’s smoothly combined with the cheese and flour mixture. Whisk in the milk.

Pour the cream cheese/broth/milk mixture over the layered potatoes and onions. Scatter the bacon over the top. Put the lid on the casserole dish and bake for 45 minutes.

Take the lid off the casserole dish, scatter the topping evenly over the casserole and return to the oven. Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Let rest for 10-15 minutes, then serve.

Pantry/Freezer Clearout – Shrimp Pesto Risotto

I bought a box of Arborio rice several years ago, to make risotto, and it ended up in the back top shelf of my pantry until this weekend. There was slightly under half a cup of rice left, just enough for two servings. I decided on a pesto risotto and referred to several recipes on line for ingredient amounts, proportions and technique for assembly. This is what I came up with.

Shrimp Pesto Risotto

Shrimp Pesto Risotto – serves 2

Sauteed Shrimp

12 large shrimp, peeled except for the tail
a pinch or two of salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Sprinkle the salt and pepper over the shrimp and set aside in a small bowl.

Add the butter and olive oil to a medium sized saute pan. Place over medium heat and when the butter melts and starts to bubble a bit, add the shrimp. Saute until the shrimp just start to get pink, turn over to the other side until it changes colour as well. Remove the shrimp to a clean small bowl, cover and reserve.

Continue with the recipe for the pesto risotto, using the same saute pan.

Pesto Risotto

1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp white part of green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Arborio rice
2-3 cups warm chicken broth
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup basil pesto, room temperature **

** I used shiso/mint pesto

Add the oil to a medium skillet. Add the onion and saute over medium heat for a few minutes, until it gets soft and just begins to pick up some colour.

Add the rice and toast until lightly golden brown, another couple of minutes.

Pour in the warm chicken broth, half a cup at a time, stirring occasionally, until the current batch of stock is absorbed, every 5-6 minutes or so. (Keep the chicken stock warm in a covered saucepan on the stove.) Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the rice is just barely tender.

Take the rice off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, pepper, and pesto. Stir to combine and serve immediately.

Serve each portion of the risotto on a large flat plate and place half of the shrimp on top.

Pork Rib (Japanese Cabbage) Waffle Dinner

Pork ribs are tasty when they’re hot and fresh off the bbq, especially when slathered with bbq sauce. But, on reheating, they always seem to fall flat taste-wise. So I decided to try to cook them in a way that would get more flavour INTO the meat instead of just on top.

A recent purchase of a St. Louis style cut strip of ribs seemed well suited to the experiment. I tasted my current jar of barbecue sauce and although it was ‘just right’ in terms of smokiness, sweetness and tang, it was missing a bit of the spicy back note that I was craving. So, I dressed it up with some chunky chipotle in adobo and ground cumin. I thought the flavour profile would also marry with the leftover Mexican rice (plain long grain rice cooked with a package of Sazon’s Arroz con Azafran) that I was going to serve with the ribs.

Pork Spare Ribs – serves 3-4 portions, 3 bones a piece

1 1/4 kg St. Louis style ribs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup French’s mustard
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup barbecue sauce*

* Add 1 tbsp pureed chipotle in adobo and 1/8 tsp ground cumin to the barbecue sauce and place in the refrigerator to allow the flavours to marry until the next day.

Peel off the membrane on the underside of the ribs. Combine sugar and mustard and rub over the ribs. Place in bag and let marinade in the fridge for 2-3 hrs or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the strip of ribs onto a large sheet of aluminum foil, folding it up around the sides to form a shallow tray. Pour the vinegar over the top of the ribs. Cover the ribs with another large sheet of aluminum foil and seal all four sides tightly so the contents don’t leak during baking. Place the foil pouch onto a large baking sheet and bake for 1 hr 45 min to 2 hrs, or until the meat is tender enough to pull off the bone easily.

(If you don’t have time to let the ribs marinate overnight, combine the brown sugar, mustard and vinegar, and brush over the ribs, top and bottom, pouring the remainder over the ribs. Continue with baking instructions above.)

Open the foil, spread the barbecue sauce (reserve 2 tbsp) over the top, return to the oven and continue baking, uncovered, for another 20-25 min.

Cut into 3-4 bone portions and serve with your favourite sides and the reserved barbecue sauce.

As sides for pork ribs, I usually go with the traditional … baked beans and coleslaw.

By chance, I recently watched an episode of the cooking show, “You Gotta Eat Here” which featured a restaurant that topped their waffles in various ways, including one with pulled pork shoulder. And then I remembered that there was a savoury pancake with shredded cabbage in the batter … the Japanese “okonomiyaki’. If I made my pancake in a waffle maker, I would have a very tasty fusion dish.

The idea was brilliant, even if my first attempt was flawed. I was tired, hungry and impatient and when my wonky old waffle maker got hot, I neglected to brush it with oil before pouring in the batter. The waffle STUCK so badly that I needed to chip most of it out of the waffle maker. I shaped the chunks into a rough rectangle, put my ribs on top and dug in.

A chunk of tender rib dipped into some of the reserved bbq sauce, a bit of the waffle, some of the sweet baked beans and I was in heaven. I made a nicer waffle the next day for the post. Cause that’s just the kind of food blogger I am.

Okonomiyaki Waffle

Waffle/Pancake Okonomiyaki Base – makes 1 waffle

1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup all purpose flour *
1/8-1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp water or dashi broth
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vegetable oil **
3/4 cup cabbage, shredded (or bagged coleslaw mix)
2 stalks of green onion, green part only, slice into 1/4 inch rings

* For a southern/south-western pancake, use 2 tbsp all purpose flour and 2 tbsp finely ground cornmeal

** If sticking is not an issue in your waffle maker, omit the vegetable oil.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt, with a fork. Add the water, egg and vegetable oil and mix just until the flour is moistened. Avoid big lumps of flour but don’t worry about getting it perfectly smooth. Add the shredded cabbage and green onions and fold through.

Add the mixture to a pre-heated waffle maker and cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions. Mine took 5 min to cook through.

I shot a picture of the waffle ‘naked’ but you might want to top it with the barbecue sauce, as in the traditional okonomiyaki.

Inside the shredded cabbage waffle

REVIEW: I’m iffy on how much MORE flavourful the leftover pork ribs were (they were ok) but the waffles were an unqualified success.

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

 

Cauliflower-Rice

Reducing or avoiding carbohydrates in the diet is important for many people so, even though I enjoy mashed potatoes, rice, noodles or spaetzle/nokedli as a base for a dish of roast or paprika chicken, I decided to finally try ‘rice’ made out of cauliflower. Since cauliflower is not one of my go-to vegetable options, I had some concerns.

It turns out that the concerns weren’t warranted. Buy the cauliflower when it’s on sale, prepare and freeze for a fast (<15 min) side dish from frozen.

Cauliflower head with green leaves and stem trimmed off.

Quarter the head of cauliflower and pulse each quarter until the florettes are broken down into coarse rice-sized and shaped pieces. Bag and freeze. No blanching necessary. Each bag held a bit over 300 gms … enough for 2 servings.

Mint Chimichurri Butter Maryland Chicken with Cauli-Rice

Paprika Chicken over Cauli-Rice

Basic Cauli-Rice – serves 2

300 gm cauliflower rice, frozen
1 tbsp sauteed onion
~1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp vegetable oil or drippings from roasted chicken

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, combine the oil or drippings with the sauteed onion.

Add the frozen cauliflower rice and break it up as much as possible. Add a tablespoon or two of water and cover with a lid. Let steam for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, break up the cauliflower, sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top and combine the cauliflower with the oil/drippings. Cook for a few minutes until the ‘rice’ chunks are separate and have a bit of colour. Taste, adding more salt if needed and serve.

Steamed Artichokes with Chipotle Yum Yum Sauce

How hungry was the first person who tried geoduck, or the first person who ate a raw oyster?

I was thinking the same thing when I first ran across the artichoke. I watched video after video of the way to prepare (and eat) this vegetable, but it wasn’t until this past week, when I saw them on sale at the grocery store for 99 cents a piece, that I decided to actually buy and cook them myself. Of course, stuffed artichokes were the recipe I saw posted most often, but I didn’t have any Parmesan cheese in the house, and it’s not on this month’s grocery budget, so steamed artichokes seemed to be the way to go. Especially as I already had dip (leftover chipotle yum yum sauce) made to serve with them. Digging out the ‘choke’ on the raw artichokes also put me off.

(Over) Cooked artichokes, ready to eat with chipotle yum yum sauce

Things I forgot … you have to put your prepped artichokes in acidulated (lemon juice) water because, once cut, like with peeled apples, they’ll turn brown as they sit. And, it’s always a good idea to test the item you’re steaming BEFORE the maximum cooking time (25-30 min) suggested or you’ll over-cook it. Leave about an inch of the stem below the bulb as some of it is edible.

You can see the browning edges of the top (discarded) and the base already in the picture below. All the stuff on the top left is wastage from that one artichoke.

The inner side of each artichoke leaf is where you find the ‘meat’. In the second picture you can see the very small amount that was edible and scraped off with your bottom teeth. The amount of ‘meat’ increases as you get closer to the center. (Watching a video on how to eat an artichoke really helps I found.)

The hairy ‘choke’ under which you’ll find the tasty artichoke ‘heart’ needs to be scraped off.

The cleaned ‘heart’ … cut it up into small pieces, dip and enjoy the whole thing. It broke while I was cleaning because it was over steamed.

On the whole, my novice cooking attempt was successful and I don’t regret making it. I’d give myself a solid 6 out of 10 for the result. The taste of artichokes is pretty mild, mostly dependent on the dip you serve them with, so it shouldn’t turn anyone off from giving them a try. On the other hand, prep time and wastage before and after cooking may be more than you want to deal with. It’s not something I’d order if going out to eat with people I want to impress however. (I wouldn’t order lobster in those circumstances, either.)

More Wastage

In conclusion: Tasty and with a good texture, especially if you don’t over cook them but, if I have an artichoke craving in the future, I’ll buy canned artichoke hearts and add them to a dip.

More Ducky Treats … Shredded Duck Tortilla Stack and Duck Crackling Croutons

If you’re on a tight food budget, minimizing waste is important. The dishes below are re-imaginings or by-products of previous dishes.

I occasionally bake sourdough breads but, in the meantime, I store the sourdough starter in my fridge. It’s fed only once a week the minimal amounts to keep it going. Nevertheless, it DOES accumulate so, every 6-8 weeks, I make a batch of flour tortillas, leaving only enough starter behind to keep the culture going. The tortillas freeze well and make great wraps for sandwiches and crusts for individual pizzas. And you can flavour them with various dried herbs, pureed spinach, finely minced sun-dried tomatoes and pastes like pesto, tomato paste, chipotle in adobo and even, cocoa powder.

I happened to run across the last of a tub of gochujang (Korean chili paste) in my fridge recently so I added two rounded teaspoons to a batch of the tortilla dough for a mild spicy flavor and pretty orange colour.

Gochujang Sourdough Flour Tortillas

 

My duck ragu was delicious but I wondered if I could use it in another interesting way, similar to the way I used pulled pork, combined with barbecue sauce, as a topping for flour tortilla pizzas. But I didn’t WANT pizzas. A Mexican tortilla stack came to mind even though tostadas or corn tortillas are usually used for that. I ended up with something that was delicious and let me clear out more items from the fridge (an avocado that was past its prime) and a scant cup of home made refried beans from the freezer. Monterey Jack cheese, recently bought on sale, was shredded and added to the creation. The rest of the cheese, ungrated, was bagged, labelled and dated,  and tossed in the freezer.

Shredded Duck Tortilla Stack with Salsa Rice

Shredded Duck Tortilla Stack – serves 2 or 3

3 7-8 inch diameter flour tortillas (bought or home made, regular or sourdough)
1/4 cup shredded duck ragu
1 cup refried beans
1/4 -1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 tbsp sour cream
diced avocado and green onion sliced on the diagonal, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Line a pie dish with a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around your tortilla stack.

Spread half of the refried beans on two of the flour tortillas, spread one tablespoon of sour cream over each stack and then top with half of the duck ragu. Sprinkle a tablespoon or so of grated Monterey Jack cheese over the top.

Place one of the stacks in the prepared pie dish and then place the other stack on top of the first. Top with the last flour tortilla and wrap the aluminum foil around the stack. Bake in the oven for half an hour.

Take the pie dish out of the oven, unwrap and top the tortilla stack with the rest of the grated cheese. Return to the oven and bake uncovered until the cheese melts and is bubbly.

Remove from the oven, cut into desired serving portions, top with the diced avocado and sliced green onions and serve with Mexican rice and salad for a complete meal.

Duck Crackling Croutons

When I made the duck ragu, I removed the thick, fatty skin from the breast, and wrapped it up and then refrigerated it. Since I had the oven on today, I cut the skin into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide, made shallow cross-hatched cuts across the surface of the skin for easy drainage of the rendered fat, and placed the strips of skin on a baking dish. Then I put them in the oven (350 deg F) along with my tortilla stack. Periodically, I drained off the melted fat and, when the strips were nice and crunchy, I removed the baking dish from the oven and let the duck crackling strips cool. Then I diced them and sprinkled them on a Caesar salad in place of croutons.

Caesar Salad with Duck Crackling Croutons

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.