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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.

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Breakfast, Snack, Dessert and Drink Odds and Ends

Breakfast for lunch (aka brunch) or dinner (aka brinner) is one of my favourite meals.

Bacon, eggs and cream cheese …

… sometimes the eggs get scrambled and the cream cheese gets spread on toasted sourdough bread. There’s usually bacon in the picture though.

Two thick cut slices of sourdough bread soaked in a mixture of 1 whole egg, 1/3 cup of milk and a splash of vanilla extract and fried in unsalted butter makes a delicious if not diet friendly serving of French toast (pain doré) with lots of real Canadian maple syrup. And on the side … BACON!!!!!!!!!!!

Snacks

Genoa salami and home made crunchy sourdough flatbreads

Before cooking – gochujang sourdough tortilla, guacamole and shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Desserts

I hate throwing away egg whites, though I have often done so. If I had a decent sponge cake recipe, I’d try to make a small version but I only have a full sized sponge cake pan and my last attempt at the full size (many years ago) was a miserable failure. And don’t get me started on macarons. I’m not THAT desperate. So, I’m stuck making meringues. As often happens, I FORGOT to let the egg whites come to room temperature. And they may have been ‘aged’ longer than advised. Still, even a somewhat grainy meringue bakes up to a tasty treat. I sprinkled toasted coconut on some of the meringues before baking. And I beat in espresso powder on the last third of the beaten whites so they deflated. Who cares?

The last of the home made puff pastry rectangles filled with espresso sweetened whipped cream with a cup of coffee … cause you can never have TOO MUCH caffeine.

I bought an unripe mango and cut it too early so it was hard and somewhat tasteless … no problem. Peel and dice and add 1 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup of yogurt, sugar or honey to taste and about a tbsp of fresh grated ginger. Whizz it up in your blender and you get three refreshing servings of mango smoothie.

Drinks

Mango Smoothie

Happy Easter! (2018)

Happy Easter!!

Dinner

Cheddar cheese sourdough loaf

Creamy broccoli and potato soup

Lamb shoulder chops, potato wedges and carrots drizzled with duck fat and sprinkled with dry rosemary before being roasted

Creamed spinach served with above

Dessert

Cream puff filled with sweetened vanilla bean whipped cream and trimmings from an Easter fudge

Easter Fudge –  1 pound of chocolate fudge topped by half a pound of pink vanilla fudge, with jelly beans and sprinkles over the top

World Down Syndrome Day – Rock Your Socks!

March 21st, 2018
is

World Down Syndrome Day

 

The S.T.E.P.S. (Skills To Enhance Personal Success) program at one of our local high schools is fundraising by selling socks as part of the LOTS OF SOCKS campaign.

Here are 2 of the patterns I bought to support the effort

Wear your craziest pairs of socks and help raise awareness of what Down syndrome is, what it means to have Down syndrome, and how people with Down syndrome play a vital role in our lives and communities.

Pie Crust – Blind Baking Techniques

Lots of pictures but I think the results are worth it.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

First, I want to say that I HATE blind baking.

I know how to do it. I HAVE done it. I have a jar of chickpeas set aside for the purpose. A single layer of the chickpeas over a round of parchment paper works pretty well.

But I don’t LIKE the concept.

I’ve attempted the alternative … DOCKING.

Here’s what I started with. Now, using the tines of a fork, prick the pie crust all over. The base AND the sides. (Sorry, I didn’t take a picture.)  And then bake as long as your recipe calls for. Then cool and fill.

And here’s the result … shrinking and bubbling up of the pie crust resulting in a shriveled up pie shell. NOT pretty.

But there’s a THIRD option. I found the technique on the King Arthur Flour website.

Blind baking using  a second pie pan of the same size and laying it over the pie crust.

Then you FLIP THE TWO PANS OVER and bake.

Here’s a picture of a mini aluminum pie plate and a regular sized metal pie plate ready to go into the oven.

After your chosen bake time, flip the two pans back over, remove the pie plate on top and THEN dock. (I forgot to do this in this case.) And complete baking. I covered the full sized pie crust with a round of parchment paper to prevent sticking to the pie plate on top

I probably baked this a bit too long but I forgot that it continues cooking when you take it out of the oven.

Flip/dock or just docking … which would YOU use?

Cheese Spaetzle

Sometimes I run across recipes posted in the blogs I subscribe to that I have to make ASAP because they look and sound amazing.

Like this Cheese Spaetzle from Masala Herb.

I only had about a cup of leftover spaetzle/nokedli in the freezer, so I had to estimate the amount of cheese (old/sharp cheddar) that I used and cut up the smallest onion I found in my mesh bag of onions. I used real butter, rather than margarine, to cook the onion, as the recipe recommended, and tried to slice the rings as evenly as possible so that they would cook at the same rate. As the thinner rings caramelized, I removed them from the frying pan to try to avoid any burning. (Well, I tried.)

It took less than a minute under the broiler to melt the cheese … and then I dug in.

I had intended to leave half of the dish for the next day but ended up finishing the pan cause it was just THAT good.

Vin’s Same Day Sourdough Bread and Broccoli Potato Soup

I’ve only been baking with sourdough for a few years and though I’ve had more than a few great bakes, it’s the failures that nag at me. One of my peeves is the inability to get good oven spring. So, this loaf made me very happy.

The original recipe was posted on a sourdough FB group but I also found it on the web here.

The Facebook post has different baking instructions (see below) and it was THOSE that I used.

This bread was baked in an oven preheated to 500 deg F. (The dutch oven, lid included, was pre-heated at the same time.) Once the bread had been place into the oven, the oven temperature was reduced to 450 deg F, and the bread was baked for 25 minutes covered. Then, the lid was removed, the temperature was reduced to 400 deg F, and the bread was baked for another 20 minutes, or until the crust was as browned as I wanted. I don’t like it overly dark.

After all the stretches and folds, the shaped dough was flipped over and placed, bottom up, into the towel lined colander and proofed in the oven with just the light on, for 1 hour.

Then, the risen dough was transferred to the fridge, for 40 minutes. After its rest in the fridge, the dough was flipped over onto a sheet of parchment paper and slashed.

The baked loaf … ears and GREAT oven spring.

The crust of this bread was hard and crunchy when it came out of the oven but as it sat cooling on the rack, it softened a bit while still remaining nice and chewy.

The crumb … spongy … and the bread itself was very tasty.

I enjoyed it plain, with jam and dipped in a bowl of broccoli and cheese potato soup.

I had about 150 gms of active sourdough starter left and wanted to use it up so I added it to a batch of my usual pizza dough. (I reduced the dry yeast from 2 1/4 tsp to 2 tsp.) Since I had committed to six hours of making the same day recipe with stretches and folds over 3 hours, and wasn’t sure exactly when the oven would be free, I kneaded my pizza dough for 10 minutes and then wrapped it up and placed it into the fridge to cold proof. Two hours later … I saw this.

The pizzas are for work lunches and a couple of slices staved off my hunger enough to be able to hold off on cutting into that hot loaf until it was room temperature.

Green Onions … Take 2

You can often find those little bundles of green onions on sale … 2 for 99 cents …  in your grocery store.

But if, like me, you’re on your own, you may be hesitant to buy them, because they don’t keep their crisp texture long before they start to wilt from the outside in. And there’s a lot of wastage, even if you wrap the green onions in paper towels, bag them, and keep them in the vegetable crisper drawer of your fridge.

However, there ARE ways to extend the lifespan and usefulness of your green onions.

Options for using your green onions

1. Use immediately – Just trim off the roots, slice up the green tops and white bottoms and use.

a) saute just the white bottoms and use in place of 1-2 tbsp required by your recipe
b) use the pretty green tops as a garnish in place of fresh parsley, coriander, mint etc

2. Freeze – Place the leftover sliced onion (top and bottom) in an air tight container and freeze. Use a tbsp or more as required by your recipe. They may not be as pretty a garnish as the fresh thing but sprinkle some of the frozen pieces over the top of a bowl of hot chili, stew or soup. They will thaw quickly and you can stir them into your dish before eating.

3. Grow hydroponically – Cut off the green tops and one or more of the bottoms if required by your recipe. The rest of the bundle … place it into a large glass or small jar filled with water and place it on your windowsill. Replace the water every few days so the water and roots don’t get too slimy. The roots will produce new stems once, even twice.

NOTE: Harvest the green tops often or they’ll get top heavy and flop over. The older outer stalks will be thicker and chewier than the tender shoots in the center.

You can cut the green stalks down a bit farther than I did. As you may be able to see, the roots are getting quite big. I HAVE trimmed the roots back when they got too long but that can be a shock to the plants and they’re unlikely to be very productive from that point. This leads to your final option.

4. Replant – Plant the stubby bottoms in a pot of soil. Place in a sunny area in your house, if it’s winter, or outside in the spring/summer, and you’ll have your own green onion plants to use.

The Three P’s (Pineapple, Pizza and Pork) … Pineapple Ice Cream Topping

The cold weather has returned to south-western Ontario, breaking the streak of above average temperatures we’ve been enjoying. Another reason to stay in and cook. This weekend I made sourdough thin crust pizza dough, roasted a boneless pork loin and then made a pineapple ice cream topping/sauce.

After opening up a can of crushed pineapple to make a Pineapple Margarita, I was left with the pineapple (~ 1 1/3 cup) and the remaining pineapple juice (~1/3 cup). I had thawed a boneless pork loin and considered making a marinade and/or basting sauce for the roast using the pineapple. However, I woke up late, and then spent an hour shoveling the wet snow that had started falling yesterday and continued sporadically until earlier this morning. By the time I staggered into house, too tired to do more than put one foot in front of the other, to make my first cup of instant coffee, I had to change my plans.

A single scoop of ice cream in ice cream pedestal bowl from the 70’s

Pineapple Ice Cream Topping – makes ~ 1 1/2 cups of topping

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 can crushed pineapple (~1 1/3 cups)
1 tsp unsalted butter

Drain the pineapple juice and reserve the crushed pineapple.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, syrup and pineapple juice to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the contents for 5 minutes. Add the drained pineapple and the butter and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Pour the pineapple topping into a scrupulously clean 2 cup glass jar and seal. Listen for the seal on the lid to pop as it cools. Once the jar has reached room temperature, refrigerate. Good for 1-2 weeks.

 

February and Love and Loss

February is the shortest and, arguably, the coldest month of the year. Although it is now associated with love and romance and Valentine’s Day, with its pink and red themed hearts, seen everywhere in the western world, in ancient Rome, it was originally located at the end of the year and associated with death and purification.

 

In fact, its name is derived from the Latin word ‘februum’ a thing used in ritual purification. Check out the preceding link for more interesting information.

And for a moving song about love and loss and renewal, listen to Josh Groban’s “February Song”.

For me, February is my birth month and, though I used to get quite excited at the thought of another birthday, the magic is pretty much gone as the aches and pains of growing older (and better … yeah, not so much) become more evident.

 

I thought I’d do something special for myself this year to celebrate. I haven’t decided on what it’s going to be yet. All the best to my fellow February-ites.