Category Archives: soup

Ham, Potato and Corn Chowder, Chicken Breast Duo and Honeycomb

It’s fall time again and with the nip in the air, and my kitchen, I’m planning more substantial cooking projects that will warm me up.

Like this ham, potato and corn chowder I found on someone’s blog. The ingredients are similar to a previous soup I’ve posted, other than using a roux to thicken it up to the consistency of a chowder. You can add whipping or half and half cream if you want to add richness to the dish. And don’t mind the extra calories.

In the meantime, however, I thawed out the last of the boneless, skinless chicken breasts from my freezer (1 pound in total) and turned them into chicken and kale pesto spaghetti

… and a fast and tasty marinated Middle Eastern dish on skewers called chicken tawook.

Both are dishes I’ve made before so no recipes.

I recently got a late afternoon craving for something sweet and whipped up this variation on a peanut brittle. Honeycomb is a nut free toffee in which, similar to a brittle, baking soda is added to a caramelized sugar mixture. The sugar used and, most importantly, the amounts of baking soda added vary. The extra baking soda used in the honeycomb creates lots of bubbles resulting in a sponge-like texture that shatters in your mouth as your crunch down on it. I started with a brittle recipe but added an additional teaspoon of baking soda. Next time, I’ll make a traditional honeycomb with brown sugar and molasses in place of the white sugar and corn syrup I used.

NOTE: DO NOT disturb your molten sugar mixture once you’ve poured it out onto your buttered or greased baking pan in order to even it out. You’re flattening out all of those lovely bubbles if you do so.

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Odds and End Meals

When cooking for one, you end up with a lot of leftovers especially if, like me, you make big pots of some dishes. When my freezer fills up to a certain point, I stop cooking and start putting together the odds and ends and come up with meals.

I try not to have too many desserts in my freezer, cause I snack when I’m bored, so I give away as much as I can of the more successful results. But this means I get stuck with some things that aren’t suitable for gifting. Like a tray of peach crumble bars that were mostly crumble and very little peach. A while back, I bought a clamshell of mostly bruised and tasteless peaches that I had to throw away. So I ended up with a lot less fruit than I needed … which I didn’t realize until I was in the middle of baking with nothing else to add in to make up the shortage. A bit of apricot jam (ran out of ice cream) is making the bars a bit more palatable, at least.

Right now, I’m adding soup as often as I can to my meals. Biscuits or bread are a good filler.

Of course, I DO make new dishes. I snagged a double package of sausage filled tortellini on sale and cooked one up in a blush sauce. On its own, the pasta dish isn’t very filling, and I didn’t have any greens for salad in the house, so I served it with a savoury plate of polenta.

The rest of the polenta was patted out into a buttered 8″ by 8″ glass dish and refrigerated, prior to being fried up as a base for a jarred spaghetti-pesto sauce.

Chicken drumsticks are often found on sale. A bit of Italian seasoning sprinkled on top and unattended baking time and you’ve got the start of a great meal.

A bit of barbecue sauce and a different starch, and you’ve got a new meal.

Things get a bit tight just before payday or in the case of supply teachers, with no paycheques for 3 months, so a tuna macaroni salad with pasta and canned tuna bought on sale is filling and tasty too. I’d usually throw some diced celery into my salad but in this case, diced raw carrots made for a nice, crunchy bite and a bit of colour too.

Whenever I have coleslaw in the house, I’m tempted to make okonomiyaki, a Japanese pancake. Another inexpensive and filling dish.

Bean Sprouts … what to do with them?

Whenever I make Pad Thai, I always have about a pound of bean sprouts to use up in a couple of days, before they go bad.

Usually, I make hot and sour soup, because I have things in the pantry to make it with. Like a can of bamboo shoots. Dried seaweed I can rehydrate in five to ten minutes. And diced tofu in the freezer, where I keep it for a quick pot of miso soup. I THOUGHT about making chop suey but, I didn’t have any protein thawed and limited time available, about half an hour.

Of course, summer rolls (the ones with the rice paper you have to soak) or egg rolls are a possibility too, but you have to plan ahead for them. And then there’s the frying with the latter.

What do YOU do with your bean sprouts if you buy them?

Stuffed Pepper Soup with Albondigas

I was planning on sleeping in on Sunday and then doing a quick run to the city market to buy some things I need for next week’s cooking. Well, I picked up a couple of goodies for lunch too, and something NOT on my shopping list.

At around 2 pm, I was bored so I decided to get started on the cooking early.

I was going to make a big pot of stuffed pepper soup since I had a couple of peppers in the crisper and I had bought extra ground beef … and then I had a BRILLIANT idea. Why bother using up a pound of ground beef that I just bought, when I had almost 2 dozen perfectly good cooked albondigas (Mexican meatballs with rice) in the freezer. So, I made the rest of the dish and added the albondigas and 1/2 cup of raw long grain rice for the last 20 minutes of cooking.

A hour later, I had 6-8 servings of an amazing soup hearty enough to be a meal. All it needs is some bread for dipping into it.

Kale … Glorious Kale

I’ve been neglecting my ‘abc’ tagged posts. I had been debating between kale, kirsch and kefalotyri but I finally committed. I’ve used kirsch but I don’t think I made a big deal of its inclusion and, until I decide on a Greek menu, I won’t be buying kefalotyri for the ‘saganaki’ appetizer.

For someone who doesn’t care for most veggies … kale is a recent add that I love. It’s hearty enough to add to soups and stands up to freeze/thawing without turning into total mush. My latest bundle got turned into the dishes below.

Kale and White Miso Soup, which you’ve already seen posted.

For a heartier kale soup … a copycat Zuppa Toscana with Potato Gnocchi. I’ve made this soup, before with a package of tri-colour gnocchi (and called it something more generic) so when I spotted one pound packages of fresh potato gnocchi for 99 cents, I grabbed two and threw one in my freezer.

I threw shredded carrot and diced red pepper into the soup along with the kale. Hot Italian sausage give it a nice kick.

Kale Pesto … finally, I made the kale pesto I’d meant to post last time. I threw some Italian basil (and about 1/4 cup of Thai basil too) into the pesto for added flavour. It’s a great way to extend pricey basil, especially during the winter if you’re buying those little bundles of fresh herbs. I was going to use walnuts as my ‘nut’ but I only had about a tablespoon of walnut pieces left in a bag in the freezer. So, I made the trek to the basement and measured out 1/2 cups of pecan halves. They’re a lot ‘meatier’ than pine nuts and match the bold flavour of the other ingredients. Instead of Reggiano Parmigiana, I used the last of the Grana Padano I found grated in a little tub in the freezer. I’m saving about a 1/2 inch thick wedge of rind for something special along with the rind from my current Reggiano. NEVER EVER throw away the rind from your pricey Italian cheeses.

I’ve got 4 ciabatta buns in the fridge and one that I’d sliced open to show the crumb in an earlier post was a bit ‘dry’ so I slathered both pieces with some of the kale pesto mixed with margarine, since I’m out of butter.

I spread some spaghetti sauce and a slice of Provolone cheese on one half and then I put both halves of the bun under the boiler for 2 1/2-3 minutes. It’s a great snack, appetizer or even a lunch if you’re too tired to make something more substantial.

I’m going to freeze the rest of the pesto in 2-3 tbsp portions to keep the fresh flavour. And there’s MORE kale in the fridge.

International Cooking

What country/nationality’s cooking, other than your own, do you enjoy?

I live in Canada and other than poutine and butter tarts, I can’t really claim that I cook anything that is particularly CANADIAN. Throwing maple syrup into a dish doesn’t make it Canadian, does it?

I enjoy a variety of national cuisines. This past week … I made Chinese (kale and white miso soup), Japanese and Tex-Mex dishes.

Donburi, or Japanese rice bowls, are a great way to use up leftover sushi rice. Chicken is one of my favourite proteins to top the rice bowl. The beef version was a new one for me though I didn’t have the paper thin fatty beef that is usually used and ended up with some chewy strips of sirloin steak. It still tasted good, though.

Chicken katsu (cutlet) with scrambled egg poached in the simmering sauce …

… and gyudon (beef) with egg. In Japan a raw egg is broken over the hot rice bowl but our eggs aren’t safe to eat raw so I poached mine. Paper thin cut fatty beef is preferred for quick cooking time and flavour. I garnished the rice bowl with shredded pickled ginger and green onion. And the pink, white and green colours looked pretty too.

I made a half dozen crab stick and avocado hand rolls with the rest of the sushi rice.

As for Tex-Mex … well, it’s better than going to Taco Bell. (Even if it IS an occasional guilty pleasure.)

Beef fajitas

Tamales are more Mexican than Tex-Mex but I’m going to throw them into the mix.

And, lest I forget … an iced Thai coffee to beat the heat. One of these days, I’ll make a more expansive Thai menu.

Iced Thai Coffee

Make double strength coffee and let cool to room temperature. If you like cardamom, a pinch or two added to the coffee while you’re brewing it is tasty.

In a tall glass, add a few ice cubes, 1-2 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk depending on how sweet you like your coffee. Pour the coffee over the ice cubes.

Hot and Cooking Boring Stuff

No recipes … just lots of pictures. If you want recipes for something, let me know.

It’s been really warm and humid, and the A/C is labouring to deal with it all,  so I have been doing minimal cooking.

In fact, I bought a giant (28 piece) cheese and pepperoni shreds pizza and have been eating 2-4 pieces for lunch or dinner over the last week, while playing with some aspect of tried and true recipes.

Like trying a substitute for chicken stock in the form of a jar of “Better than Bouillon low sodium organic chicken base” and then using it to make egg drop/flower soup. The pinch of turmeric didn’t make the soup appreciably more ‘yellow’ than my usual recipe even though it’s supposedly a Chinese restaurant trick.

And then there was the boneless chicken breast that I sliced in half horizontally, pounded thin, and panko-breaded. I ended up with a cutlet and some chicken fingers which I baked. The twist was combining the egg/flour breading steps into a batter flavoured with mayo and mustard. The end result was super crunchy.

Chicken Finger/Cutlet Batter

1 egg
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard (or any other mustard of choice)
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper

Place the Batter ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until combined.

I pounded a boneless pork chop thin and treated it in the same manner.

I also made a batch of crepes (must remember to re-season my cast iron frying pan cause there’s a sticky spot), a dozen cream puffs and a half recipe of pastry cream. Instead of baking the cream puffs at the usual temperature (350 deg F) I tried the high/low combo that the classic recipe calls for. They looked great but about half the tray fell and I can’t account for it.

NEON PASTA ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And, finally, I attempted the classic Italian pasta dish egg-yolk ravioli (Uova da Raviolo). I used beet pasta from the freezer, cause I didn’t want to bother making a fresh batch of plain pasta dough. I rolled the dough a bit too thin and, while I was cooking the ravioli, the fragile pasta tore open. I managed to salvage the 2 ravioli (that’s all I made) and, after dressing them up with a browned butter-bacon-sage sauce, ate a delicious dish with a perfectly cooked egg yolk.

The effort is worth the fuss. I used the rest of the ricotta-Grana Padano cheese filling to make some regular ravioli which I froze away.

I kneaded a bit more flour into the pasta from the trimmings used above for these ravioli giving me a paler colour.

All in all, it’s been a fun week. 🙂

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.

Sad Anniversary and Happy Memories

Last weekend was the sixth anniversary of my dad’s passing. As we’re planning on bulldozing the old bungalow in the county, especially after six years of unfettered mouse invasion, I made a last pass through to see if there was anything left salvageable.

I found a 4 piece set of cranberry coloured dishes that my SIL had bought them years ago and that they had barely used, a couple of baking dishes and a large Japanese made chef’s knife. The ceramic snowman is a salt and pepper shaker set … and there’s home made rakija (home made fruit brandy) in the brown glass decanter.

I put aside some other dishes and glassware that can be donated. And bagged a lot of clothes only suitable for burning

I also found a gray sweater that my mom had knitted for my dad and a multi-coloured woven scarf which I’ll wear in the winter.

In the past week, I’ve eaten off the dishes, and made an apple pie in the blue glass Pyrex baking dish and baked macaroni and cheese in the white ceramic dish.

And this weekend, I made one of my dad’s favourite soups, ham and white bean. Although he liked this soup more like a stew in texture, I went for a thinner version which could be used to soak up some good home made bread. And that sharp chef’s knife did a great job on the veggies. I also made a red version of this soup for a change of pace.

Rain/snow mix, income tax, sourdough bread and some soup … Oh My!

I lost 2 hrs of work on this post due to a dumb mistake so I hope it’s better on the second attempt. (MUST remember to save.)

I made this bread a couple of weeks ago but just got around to sharing. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten to include anything crucial in the write-up of the recipe.

My reconstituted sourdough starter has finally gotten nice and lively (Sluggo no more) so I risked an entire loaf made JUST with starter. NO commercial yeast at all. And … success!! I could have let it rise a bit more, but after 3 hrs it HAD doubled. At least to my anxious eyes. So I baked it off.

This is an adaptation of Debra Collins‘ “One Day Sourdough” recipe, though I’ve rewritten it to reflect the changes I made … hand kneading, changed amounts of starter and water and different baking temperature.

One Day Sourdough by Debra Collins – makes ~800 gm dough

3 tbsp sugar
1 cup warm water 105 degrees**
1/2 cup active sourdough starter**
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or melted butter)
3 – 3 1/2 cup all purpose flour, divided

** Used 3/4 cup each, warm water and sourdough starter

In a medium sized bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Stir to mix. Add the oil, sourdough starter and the warm water/sugar mixture. With a wooden spoon, beat together until you have a smooth batter.

Gradually stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time until it’s too thick to stir any more. Sprinkle some of the remaining flour on your work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead for about 5 minutes, using only as much flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Shape the dough into ball and cover with a large bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Uncover the dough and knead for an additional 5 minutes.

Return the dough ball to the bowl you made it in, cover with saran wrap and let rise for 30 minutes, covered.

After the rest, turn the dough out onto your work surface again and roll out or gently press with your knuckles, until it becomes a rectangle 10 x 14 inches. Roll up and place the dough pinched seam down into a greased 9 x 4 inch loaf pan or 8 x 4 loaf pan. Cover with your saran wrap and let rise until doubled in size, in a warm place. Be patient as this will take several hours. (I poked the dough after 3 hours and it sprang back quickly so I baked it.)

Preheat the oven to 425 deg F. Brush with a little egg glaze or milk. You may also sprinkle the top with sesame or poppy seeds and cut a slit in the top of the bread.

Bake for about 25 minutes until done. (After 20 minutes the top had gotten as dark as I wished so I covered the loaf with a large sheet of aluminum foil and baked for an additional 5 minutes.)

Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool until room temperature before you cut it.

I’m very happy with the results. Nice flavour, not too sour, firm enough texture that I could slice it for sandwich bread but soft enough for good mouth feel.

We’ve had 3 days of rain/snow mix this weekend starting on the Friday so that meant I didn’t run as many errands as I had planned. Leaving me plenty of time to cook. Saturday morning, after getting my income tax done (yay for getting money back), I went grocery shopping, and later that day, used up all the sourdough starter I had on making some pancakes (love those bubbles) for the freezer and a pepperoni and cheese pizza for supper.

I picked up 2 trays of pork chops while grocery shopping and processed them for the freezer and future meals. And a package of Canadian bacon (they ran out of the sale regular bacon) which I fried up for Sunday brunch. I cooked a couple of pork chops for Sunday dinner.

And then I made a BIG pot of spicy vegetable beef soup. I added barley to part of the soup for a total of 12 (8 of the former and 4 of the latter) servings. The recipe below won’t make quite as much. I scaled my actual soup making up as I had a bit over 2 pounds of beef to work with and I wanted to use some of a bag of barley that I had picked up that morning.

Spicy Vegetable Beef Soup – serves 8

1-1 1/4 pound rump roast
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cups pureed tomatoes
2 cups diced tomatoes
4 cups water, water and 2 beef bouillon cubes or beef broth, plus more water as needed
1 (16 ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables, thawed*
1 stalk celery, medium dice
1 medium carrot, medium dice
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper, or hot sauce to taste
6 ounces ditalini or other small soup pasta**

salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper)

* Substitute with 1 cup each frozen corn and green peas in last 10 minutes of cooking so as not to lose colour and texture of the peas.
**Substitute with 1 diced potato or 1/2 cup picked and rinsed barley. The barley will take 40-45 minutes to cook until tender.

Trim fat from roast and cut into 1 inch cubes.

Place meat in a large pot over medium-high heat with oil and cook, stirring, until meat is browned. You may need to do this in batches removing each batch of seared meat before adding another batch. Add more oil as needed.

Remove the meat to a large container and add onion and garlic, sauteeing at medium heat until the onion is tender. Return the meat to the pot.

Pour in the water/broth, tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir in mixed vegetables, carrot and celery. Season with oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, cayenne, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 75 minutes. (After half an hour add the barley if using instead of pasta. You’ll need to stir the contents well to the bottom as your barley will settle and stick as it swells up and absorbs the liquid. More liquid may be needed at this point.)

The barley version of the soup

Stir in pasta and cook 10 minutes more, until pasta is tender.

Freezer clearance is an endless project. This time I located a couple of chicken cutlets at the bottom of the freezer, along with some trimmings from a batch of bone-in chicken breasts, so I breaded and pan fried the cutlets, topped them with some melted mozzarella and served them with pasta dressed with a simple jarred spaghetti sauce.

I added the rest of the chicken to a bowl of off the cuff egg noodles dressed with a spicy jarred pad Thai sauce. I wish I’d had more chicken as I could see eating this dish often.

Well, I think I’m all caught up now.