Category Archives: Uncategorized

RIP: Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

RIP Aretha

 

Never Gonna Break My Faith

My Lord
I have read this book so many times
But nowhere can I find the page
That change what I experience today

Now I know that life is meant to be hard
That’s how I learn to appreciate my God
Though my courage made me try
I can tell you I won’t hide

Because the footprints show you are by my side
You can lie to a child with a smilin’ face
Tell me that color ain’t about race
You can cast the first stones, you can break my bones

But you’re never gonna break
You’re never gonna break my faith

Songwriters: Eliot Kennedy / Bryan Adams / Andrea Ramada
Never Gonna Break My Faith lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Baked Meatballs … and Stuff

I’m so bored that the dozens of pictures that I took over the last month or so are languishing on my hard drive, unlikely to ever see the light of day. And the July clear-out post of pictures, scheduled to drop, eventually, is probably going to be deleted, as there’s nothing really new in them.

The most exciting thing I’ve made since my last post (NOT yesterday’s Italian bread post) is a batch of baked beef meatballs which I combined with jarred mushroom spaghetti sauce and rotini pasta for today’s supper. I toasted a couple of slices of the bread for garlic bread.

A few days ago I thawed the last of the hamantaschen pastry from Christmas. Today, I rolled out the pastry, cut out 2 inch circles and shaped them into a sort of ‘bow-tie’ cookie filled with mincemeat, also leftover from Christmas. Tasty but otherwise … meh.

In a recent ‘conversation through blog comments’ with a blogging friend I mentioned my last culinary shopping splurge, at the local LCBO … a bottle of Niagara Pinot Grigio and a bottle of sake. The Pinot was slated for risotto and/or mussels in a white wine and tomato sauce, and the sake was supposed to be paired with something sushi related. It didn’t happen. In the middle is a bottle of Polish made mead in a ceramic bottle gifted to me by my nephew. I’ll have to do something creative with it, one of these days.

And that’s about it, folks.

Bulk Impulse Buys … Jarred Pasta Sauce

Freezer clear-out is going well with about eighty percent of the contents of the upstairs freezer having been transferred to the basement freezer. However, meals are going to be pretty unimaginative this coming week, as I scrounge out previously made and frozen mains and sides. The same old dishes are making an appearance so I thought I’d wax poetical on one of my recent big purchases.

Even though I usually make out a grocery list for my week’s shopping, late Wednesday evening when the online grocery store flyers are posted, impulse buys are my weakness. Sometimes though, you have to take advantage of an unexpected really GOOD sale.

Recently, I had occasion to visit a nearby Freshco grocery store for a few odds and ends, since it is conveniently located at the same mini mall where I just got my hair cut. While walking down the pasta/sauce aisle, I spotted a sale on my favourite pasta and pizza sauce … Prego. Since this brand isn’t available at Food Basics, at all, and there was none at Metro, my usual place to buy this, on my last visit, I decided to snap up a few bottles. Especially since the price was $1.99. Usually, this is product is $3.49 or even more. A sale price of $2.49 is really good and this was even better than that.

As I was checking out, the cashier noted the four bottles she was ringing in and asked if it was a good product. Of course, I said yes and she mused that at 99 cents she should pick up a jar or two herself. 99 cents?? A DOLLAR 99 cents, I corrected her … to have her point out that it was ringing in at 99 CENTS.

I took my groceries to the car, turned around and went back in for six more bottles and a wedge of Parmesan cheese as well as a few other things that I knew I could use.

Convenience and good flavour at a great price is worth going over your planned budget if possible.

Here are a couple of quick dishes made recently using the jarred sauce:

Tagliatelle using whole wheat pasta … for a meatier topping, add some cooked hot Italian sausages (previously bbq’d and frozen, in this case) to the sauce when warming it up to add to the pasta.

Individual pizzas made with sourdough flour tortilla

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.

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.