Category Archives: soup

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.

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.

Hybrid Basil Pesto Couronne (Crown), Asparagus and Broccoli Soup and Sesame Seed Crackers

ETA (06/21/2016) : Sesame Seed Cracker Recipe

When you’re a grown-up, you can’t play with Play-Doh but bread dough is just as much fun. And you get to eat it afterwards. Which is why I made this couronne (crown) or wreath filled with basil pesto. I briefly considered adding sun dried tomatoes to the mixture but then didn’t bother. Maybe next time.

You can make sweet versions too filled with everything from Nutella, chocolate spread or nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) to dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), with or without a glaze.

The ‘crumb’ or inside of the crown

Hybrid Basil Pesto Brioche Couronne (Crown) – makes 1 loaf

3- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup basil pesto, home made or purchased
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish with another 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn your risen dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper, flatten and roll out into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch clear on the top and bottom of the long edge. Roll up, pinch the seam tightly and turn the roll over so it’s seam side down. With a pizza cutter, cut the roll in half. Turn the roll halves, cut side up and braid together, making sure you keep the cut side up. Form your braid into a circle, pinching together the 2 edges.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg. Fahrenheit.

Lightly cover the crown with a sheet of food wrap and let rise for 30-45. If you poke the dough gently, it will spring back up when it’s risen sufficiently. Sprinkle another couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the crown.

Bake the crown for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom is browned and set. (Check carefully after 10-12 minutes and if the top is getting too browned, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil.)

I was really pleased with the oven spring I got on the crown.

Serving a wedge of this flavourful bread with a bowl of soup is a perfect pairing. I had a small bundle of fresh asparagus (and some broccoli stems in the freezer) so I made a small pot (3 servings) enriched with half and half. No potatoes and I strained the pureed veggies through a sieve so I ended up with a thin soup. The asparagus tips were blanched and added to my soup for texture.

Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

If you don’t want to make the bread, some home made crackers (sesame seed in this case) are a nice accompaniment to the soup. I’ll post the recipe later.

Sesame Seed Crackers cut into 1 inch squares and baked for 16 minutes.

Crispy Sesame Flatbread/Crackers – makes 12 flatbreads

1 2/3 cup / 200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp each of black and white sesame seeds
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup / 120ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

In a bowl add in the dry ingredients, mix and then add in the wet ingredients. Mix and knead with your hand until it’s a smooth dough. You may have to add a bit more water or flour to reach a perfect non-sticky dough like in the photo.

On a lightly floured baking sheet roll out the dough as thin as possible. Make sure it’s evenly thin so it bakes evenly.

Cut around the frizzy corners with a pizza cutter and then divide the dough into separate flatbreads. You can make them bigger, longer or whatever you want!

Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until they get crispy and golden spots).

Serve for example with some homemade hummus or with soups. Enjoy!

Storage: Store them in an air-tight jar or zip-lock bag (after letting them cool off completely) to keep them crispy!

Mushroom Miso Soup with Butternut Squash Ravioli

You can whip up a great soup in 15 minutes with a few simple pantry and fridge/freezer ingredients, like this white miso soup with fresh mushrooms and frozen butternut squash ravioli. A sprinkle or two of green onions and you’re all set.

Mushroom Miso Soup with Butternut Squash** Ravioli – serves 3, generously

6 cups chicken, vegetable or dashi stock (6 cups water and 2 tsp dashi powder)
2 tbsp white or red miso paste
1 tsp dried wakame (seaweed), soaked in 1 cup cold or warm water, thinly sliced
5-6 sliced white button mushrooms
9 frozen butternut squash ravioli
1-2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced as garnish
salt and pepper to taste

** Use whatever kind of ravioli, tortellini or wontons you have available

Place the miso in a small bowl.

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium sized soup pot. Add the soaked seaweed and mushrooms to the pot. Season with about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper.

With a ladle, transfer about a cup of the hot liquid to the miso in the bowl and mix gently with a spoon or whisk to dissolve the miso.

Add the frozen ravioli to the remaining hot liquid in the soup pot, cover and cook for 5-6 minutes until the ravioli are tender.

Take the soup pot off the heat, and stir in the dissolved miso. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.

Spoon a couple of cups of soup into each bowl and add 3 ravioli per person. Sprinkle green onion over the top and serve.

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans) Soup Redux

I first made this soup 5 years ago. It’s very similar to a minestrone soup in terms of ingredients, but I like this one better as the protein (ground beef in this case though you can use Italian sausage as well) makes it a heartier meal. You can use canned kidney beans for convenience but I prefer cooking my own from scratch. The recipe purports to be a copycat of the Olive Garden soup. I’ve never tasted the original version but this soup is a tasty one and the recipe below makes about 12 cups.

Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli

Half Batch – makes 4 1/2 quarts

1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb lean ground beef
6 ounces/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 ounces/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 ounces/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 ounces canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
1 cup cooked white kidney beans (or 2 cups red)
44 ounces beef stock (or 2 beef bouillon cubes and 5 cups water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 ounces/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce**
4 ounces/ 1/2 cup small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)

** I used a jar of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic spaghetti sauce.

Saute beef in oil, in a large 5 qt dutch oven until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, black pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired (~1 tsp).

Add chopped parsley. Simmer till celery and carrots are tender (about 45 minutes).

NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.

Butternut Squash – Ravioli and Soup

I hadn’t picked up a butternut squash in ages, so when I happened to spot a heap in my grocery store, before Christmas, I brought one home. And then forgot about it until I ran across it while looking for something else. The question was … what to do with it. I wanted to be creative but after the Christmas eve day and Christmas day meal preparation, I didn’t want to get TOO complicated.

And then I did.

(When I throw together the recipe for the soup, I may post it below. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.) DONE

Butternut Squash

Wash off the outside, cut into half. Scoop out the seeds and then cut each half into quarters. Place in a microwave safe bowl with about 1/4 cup of water and microwave on high for 5 minutes at a time until tender. (15-20 minutes should do it.) Peel and then puree.

I turned part of the pureed squash into a filling for home made ravioli.

Butternut Squash, Stilton Cheese and Bacon Ravioli in an Aglio e Olio (Garlic and oil) sauce

Easy Ravioli Dough – makes enough dough for 15 3 inch diameter or square ravioli with some leftover dough

1 cup flour
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

Knead the dough for a few minutes, cover with food wrap and let sit on the counter at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Roll out to a thinness of 6 (out of 7) on pasta maker.

Butternut Squash, Stilton and Bacon Ravioli Filling – fills 15 3 inch diameter or square ravioli

4 oz/ 1/2 cup butternut squash puree
2 oz Stilton cheese, crumbled
4 strips bacon, fried to crispy and chopped
pinch of salt
grind or 2 of black pepper

Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce/Aglio e Olio

1 clove garlic, finely mince
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
pinch or two of hot red pepper flakes (optional)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

Mix the above together. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Fill ravioli and boil for about 2 minutes from fresh.

Saute minced garlic clove in extra virgin olive oil until just golden. Add cooked ravioli and toss to coat. A pinch of red pepper flakes may be added for a bit of a kick. Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese.

The rest of the pureed butternut squash (~2 cups) became a curried sweet soup with the addition of some leftover poached pears.

Butternut Squash and Pear Curried Soup

Butternut Squash and Pear Curried Soup – serves 4

1 tbsp butter, unsalted
2 cups butternut squash puree
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1-2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 heaping tbsp caramelized onions
1/2 cup sweet potato, coarsely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1 pear, peeled, cored and finely chopped*
sour cream to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

* used ~1/2 cup leftover poached pear puree (cranberry mead, honey, sugar, vanilla pod, cinnamon stick)

In a large saute pan, fry the ginger, garlic and caramelized onion in butter, over medium heat until the garlic is translucent. Add curry and cumin powder and fry for about 1 minute more.

Add 2 cups of stock, sweet potato, pear and butternut squash puree. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potato is tender.

Using a stick or counter blender or food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. Return to saute pan if not using the stick blender and taste, adding salt and pepper to taste. If it’s too thick, whisk in additional stock and warm.

Stir in sour cream, if using.

December Round-Up: Bread, soup and a bunch of other stuff

I’m sorry but I’ve been a bit distracted and haven’t kept up with my posts this month. Here are a couple of recipes for buns, 3 for soups and a lot of pictures of meals I’ve made to make you salivate. I hope to do better in 2016.

Bread/Buns

  1. Pretzel Buns

Crumb

Pretzel Buns – makes 6-8 buns

200 ml warm water
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil (ie sunflower oil)
2 1/2 cups (about 300g) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
4 tbsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
sea salt for sprinkling

Add the sugar to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it rest for 5-10 minutes (it should be foamy).

Put the flour and salt in a medium bowl then pour in the yeast and oil and mix well with a spoon. When it’s well combined, knead the dough with your hands for several minutes. If needed, add more flour. The dough shouldn’t be sticky.

Once ready, shape into a ball and brush lightly with oil. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and then with a towel. Leave it to rest somewhere warm. This would take about 1 hour. The dough will double in size.

When it’s ready, take it out of the bowl and knead it again a little bit on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 6 (or 8) pieces and shape them into balls. Cover the balls with a light towel and leave them to rest. This time for about 30 minutes.

Now it’s time for the part that will give these buns their appetizing crust.

First, prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 liters (6 cups) of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda little by little (it’s going to foam, so don’t just dump all of the soda at once, because it will overflow and turn your stove into a mess). Place back on heat.

Place 2 or 3 of the buns in the water and poach them for 30-40 seconds on each side. Take them out with a slotted spoon and put them on the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C (395-400 deg F).

Brush the buns with the beaten egg, sprinkle some sea salt (or pretzel salt, if you have). Make several cuts on top of them with a sharp knife.

Bake the buns for about 15-20 minutes or until they’re a nice brown colour.

Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.

      2. Easy White Buns for Xmas

Debra C’s Easy White Bread – makes 1 loaf of bread (in 8″ x 4″, 9″ x 5″ or 13″ Pullman), 2 free form loaves, 15 dinner rolls  baked in a 9″ x 13″ pan.

1 1/4 cup warm water
3 tbsp sugar
5 tsp active dry yeast
1- 1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour

Put warm water, yeast and sugar in medium sized bowl and stir until dissolved. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes or until foamy.

When yeast blooms/bubbles, add salt and oil/butter, stir until salt is dissolved.

Start adding flour slowly (1/2 cup at a time) and stir with spoon until you can’t stir any more.

Flour your hands and turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and keep adding flour as you knead. This is going to take several minutes, adding just a bit of flour at a time. After adding flour just form a ball and cover with your bowl.

Let rise 5 minutes in the bowl, covered.

Roll out or gently press with your knuckles, until it becomes a rectangle (10″ x 14″).

Roll up and place the dough, pinched seam down, into a greased loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes or until double in size in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cut a slit in the top of the bread. Brush with a little egg glaze or milk.

Bake approx. 20-30 minutes until done.

Cool before cutting.

For rolls – Divide into 15 equally sized portions and shape into balls. Place into an oiled 9×13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish and let rise.

Brush with egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp of cold water) and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let rest in dish for about 10 minutes and ten remove to cooling rack or the bottoms may get a bit soggy.

Soup

  1. Kale and Hot Italian Sausage Tri-Colour Gnocchi Soup

Kale and Hot Italian Sausage Tri-Colour Gnocchi Soup – serves 4-6

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 links hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced (optional)
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (and stems removed, if desired)
1 pound potato gnocchi, tri-colour … for colour
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt (1/2 tsp) and pepper (1/4 tsp), to taste starting with amounts noted

optional toppings: freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage and onion until the sausage is browned, breaking up as much as possible. Drain out as much of the excess grease as possible.

Add in the chicken stock, salt, pepper and diced roasted red peppers (if using), and bring the mixture to a simmer (still over medium-high heat). Once it reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and add the kale and gnocchi and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi are cooked through and tender. Stir in the heavy cream.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serve warm with desired toppings.

NOTE: If you can’t find hot Italian sausage, use mild and add a sprinkling of crushed, dried red chili pepper flakes.

    2. Turkey Wild Rice Soup

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup – serves 6-8

4 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 2 tbsp chicken soup mix)
2 cups chicken breast (cooked, and cubed)
4 oz long grain and wild rice blend
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced or 2 tbsp dried onion soup**
1 cup corn, canned or frozen (optional)
1/2 cup whipping cream
~1/2 cup water

** What I used

In a large sauce pot, saute the carrots, celery and onion in the butter over medium heat.

After a few minutes, add the flour, stir into the butter and cook for 3-4 minutes to cook out the rawness in the flour.

Stir in the chicken broth a cup at a time until it’s all been added to the pot. Add the corn (if using), onion soup mix (if you didn’t use onion), black pepper, cubed chicken and rice blend. Bring to a boil then cover the pot and reduce the heat until the soup is simmering and cook for 25 min, or until the rice is tender.

Whisk in the whipping cream and check the thickness. If too thick, add the additional water. Taste for seasoning. If too salty due to using the dried soup mix, you may wish to add a bit more water.

    3. Chicken Chile Verde Soup

Chicken Chile Verde Soup – serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water, divided
1 cup masa harina
1/2** – 1 cup cup green enchilada sauce
1/2 jalapeno pepper**, diced or 1 4 oz can diced green chiles
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or old Cheddar** cheese
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

Garnish: additional Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips for topping, if desired

** What I used

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the chicken broth.

Combine 2 cups of the water with the masa harina, whisking until smooth. Pour into the pot along with the remaining cup of water, enchilada sauce, and jalapeno or green chiles. Season with the salt, chile powder, cumin and pepper to taste. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in the Monterey Jack and cream cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking if needed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.

Serve topped with additional Monterey Jack cheese and crumbled tortilla chips, if desired.

NOTE: This soup will get thicker upon standing. If you like a thinner soup, use more water or chicken broth to thin it out.

Miscellaneous Meals

Mushroom Alfredo and chicken cutlet

Chicken cutlet, mashed potatoes

Pizza – Italian sausage and mushrooms

Meatloaf, baked beans, onion rings and coleslaw

Roasted chicken breast, baked beans and coleslaw

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, coleslaw

Pan fried pork chop, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, corn and salad

Romanian-Themed Christmas Eve Supper: Fasole Batuta (Mashed White Beans) and Bacalao (Salt Cod)

My mom did 99% of the cooking at our house. However, one dish that my dad could, and did make, twice a year, was the white beans that were featured in this menu. I’ve not been able to find it in any of my google searches of Romanian dishes so I wonder if the pairing of mashed white beans (Great Northern, navy, or cannellini) and soaked salt cod was unique to our family.

Pieces of dry, salted cod would be soaked overnight in several changes of cold water, placed in the bottom of a baking dish and then the pureed cooked and seasoned beans would be layered on top. The dish would be baked at 350 deg F for about half an hour, and then my dad would pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil flavoured with fried onions and paprika over the top and serve large spoonfuls to each of us. A white bean and noodle soup, made with the bean cooking liquid and a cup or so of mashed beans, would precede the beans and cod.

I decided to break up the pairing and instead serve 3 separate dishes: the soup mentioned above, a mashed white bean dip/spread and salt cod cakes. And because I thought I might still be hungry, I made a quick pasta dish with jarred sauce and a seafood medley.

Appetizers/Bread

Fasole batuta cu ceapa caramelizata (Mashed White Beans with Caramelized Onions)

I made the rolls from a recipe posted on a FB bread baking group I belong to.

Salted Cod Cakes

Soup

White bean and noodle soup

Main/Pasta

Florentine Seafood Medley over Fettuccine

Memorial plate … buns and dried Romanian sausage

Waiting for Mos Craciun (Santa Claus)